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Readers Comments (Updated): Three-Mile Island (TMI), Chernobyl and Now Fukushima Dai-ichi – Is This the Last Nail in Nuclear’s Coffin?

March 23, 2011

My posting on “TMI, Chernobyl and Now Fukushima Dai-ichi – Is This the Last Nail in Nuclear’s Coffin?” generated many comments and stimulated several debates on both sides of the equation.
 
For your benefit, these comments are listed below, “as received.” Only the last names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Feel free to add your own comment.

To read the original article, please visit: http://tinyurl.com/barry-stevens183

Readers Comments:

Sarah. D. has just left a comment on your application update:

“Barry – Just in case your wondering what I think about nuclear power plants. Go read my thread http://lnkd.in/QQKvTY

Barry Stevens has a new blog post: Three-Mile Island (TMI), Chernobyl and Now Fukushima Dai-ichi – Is This the Last Nail in Nuclear’s Coffin  posted with WordPress

Let me begin by saying, I am both advocate of nuclear energy and an evacuee of TMI.  Our house was 14 miles from TMI. After a relentless media barrage of the potential explosion of the hydrogen bubble, on Friday, March 30, 1979, I left with my wife and 8 month old son to our parents’ […]

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Author : Pierluigi C.

Comment:
I really hope that this incredible and unnecessary tragedy will be eventually a starting point of discussion, for safer and cleaner energy production.

I though have a feeling that too many interests are involved and powerful lobbies will not let this happen.

The only chance we have here is a massive awareness and collaboration with other parties sensitive to this matter.
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Rhetorical question: what are the alternatives 

Posted by Peter. C.
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Author : Michael B.

Comment:
The nuclear energy industry has problems that will doom it to a dark place in history.
1. There is no answer for the millions of tons of nuclear waste that is sitting all over in holding areas at existing nuclear plants.
2. There is no way to insure the human miscalculation factor which have been proven time and time again to be one of the biggest factors. The humans make predictions of worst case scenarios and mother nature laughs.
3. Mankind has not control of mother nature and those who are not intelligent enough to follow the documented records of changes in the earths atmosphere, and completely missing the valid scientific scenario of the issues with climate change.
4. Most politicians who make the rules on these situations have been bought off and lobbied to death with special interest money. Look at GE, This company that pays little if any US Taxes. designed and manufactured the Plants. They dump a few million into the Japanese Relief Fund hoping to green wash the results of their poorly designed, outdated Deadly Machines, they kept in operation, long beyond their serviceable time.
5. Every nuclear plant expecially the 4 operating in California should be phased out immediately. Their placement near known and documented Earthquake Zones, and their Proximity to the prospective damage by Tsunami, as we have just witnessed in Japan, should show anyone with a shred of common sense that their existence is idiotic.
6. The politicians who allowed these systems to go the way of Privatizing the Profits and Socializing the liabilities should be packed up in a plane and sent over to Japan to help Japans NRC, pour cement on the burning pile of spent nuclear fuel rods that have melted into a bubbly pile of boiling nuclear black deadly soup, that is leaking into our oceans and being dispersed into our atmosphere for all to share. We all breath the same air, and drink the same water. Its not Republican or Democratic or Independent air its that of our home ,planet earth. We all have to share the consequences of these actions.
7. This is by far has the potential to be the worst nuclear disaster in the history of our planet. Those fuel rods that are simmering in the soup on the edge of one of the most important fishing grounds on the planet, and while I could go on here, but I will give you my opinion as to what will happen because of this in 8.
8. The effects of this on the county of Japan will be long lasting. Those who push nuclear power will find it hard to gain the support it needs to move forward. A giant change is about to take place as those who have been responsible for pushing this nuclear calamity have been brutally, bitch slapped by mother nature, unfortunately these people have also caused all of humanity to be treated the same way. How you say  The Oceans and Atmosphere, which is shared by us all, has been urinated and defecated in by the actions of these few greedy corporations and thew few that economically benefit by their actions. Unlike people corporations do not face the death penalty. They should face it like people do, if they as per Citizens United have the same rights as people. Why don’t they  They have made this so we the people of the United States of America and the World have to pay for their transgressions. A few billion dollar limit on liability put on these disasters by our
politicians is unacceptable. Here we go again with the Montra. Privatize the Profits, Socialize the Liabilities. We pay for the liabilities of Nuclear Power industry, we reap far fewer of the benefits due to the outrageous costs and environmental liabilities for thousands of years. Not facing these undeniable facts to corect these problems is complete irresponsibility.
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If you are willing to go back to the horse and buggy, it may be!!

Posted by Richard Wagaman
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Peter, we may have some unexpected alternatives – from Large Hadron Collider. It can born a fountain of new discoveries and technologies, including new nuclear-quark-whatever energy generators. We can’t even predict. If you ask me – the Large Hadron Collider is the most promising factor in today’s grim situation with our planet.

Let’s look at the history. At the beginning of 20th century we had a full speed industry, started to build cars, planes. Scientists felt like they understood everything. If you were asking an engineer at that moment – how to produce more energy – the answer was: “burn more coal”. Research of Marie Curie and others at the beginning of 20th century quietly prepared the ground for “unexpected” nuclear reactors. The same is today with Large Hadron Collider.

Posted by Arie Kahn
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Check out the Polywell (Aneutronic fusion power) – This is a type of fusion power with very little radiation hazard and uses much safer fuel [p-11B]. Dr. Bussard was close to completing the technology. It is unfortunate the approach has not received much press or funding compare to some of the other research.

Posted by Tomas B.
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Tomas, how do you know that this is a good technology  If you feel confident in this thing – you can PUSH it here, on Linkedin, on this group and on other appropriate groups. You can influence now. This is the power of social networks. Egyptian revolution was started by one guy on Facebook. If you talk about something promising, you can bring attention, then discussion, then even more attention, and eventually funding.

Posted by Arie K.
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Thomas and Arie,
I am convinced that U.S. policy makers really do not want nuclear or any other form of alternative energy. The oil lobby got them in the bag. If we really want a non-fossil fuel economy the regulatory pathway would not be an insurmountable hurdle and we have much more today than a token 3-4% of our net electrical production by renewables. Yes, nuclear constitutes about 20% but stagnant since TMI in 1978.

Barry S.
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Barry, I am sorry you lost your home that way.
But the question I want answered is just as valid for now for Japan as it was for then for the USA.
Why was it that they weren’t using thorium reactors instead

After all just one of the many many advantages thorium reactors have is that they can’t go into into a meltdown condition. Well that is true for LFTR (Liquid Florine Thorium Reactors) anyhow. I believe it is true for several other thorium reactors as well.

India and China are going ahead with them full speed ahead but once again we lag behind.

Posted by Steven I.
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The costs of nuclear are currently externalised to the rest of community, either those who live close by, or the national community, who have to pay the hidden subsidies/ the clean up costs/ the storage of waste costs; or the worldwide community, who accept, willy-nilly, both the risk of damage (*Chernobyl- Three Mile Island style) and the actual costs of mining and transport of base ores.

Also, nuclear generated electricity is intrinsically inefficient (Low temperature steam turbines) which is only slightly important, and is a continuation of the central generation/ remote distribution model, which has its own loss inefficiencies, and is a continued drain on the money wealth of individuals/ communities who partake of this model (very important).

We need to rethink our energy usage, reduce waste, need less, spend less money as a portion of income. That is achievable with a more ‘distributed’ energy collection matrix, including grid connection, but with a major part of an individual’s or family’s needs coming from as locally as possible. Small(ish) local wind generators, solar heat collection, intensive effort on heat insulation, heat engines driving other needs (air conditioning, refrigeration, electricity generation), solar PV, wood & brush biomass, anaerobic digesters. More local food consumption. Revised transport models. Large wind turbines offshore, where the wind energy is strongest & steadiest, and is of minimised environmental impact.

It only takes 6 months to set up solar or wind farms, 6 years to build transmission lines and 17 years to build nuclear power plants in the United States.

A standard nuclear facility might be of 1 GigaWatt capacity, and more than $2 Billion to build. A solar thermal farm of equivalent capacity, and generously oversized to account for the hours of darkness, is of comparable price. But has a low environmental impact, in relative terms.

For a secure energy matrix, see RE Smalley, paper on ‘The Terawatt Challenge’

http://cohesion.rice.edu/NaturalSciences/Smalley/emplibrary/120204%20MRS%20Boston.pdf
In this paper ‘The Terawatt Challenge’, he pointed out that if you could build a new generation plant (nuclear  ), EVERY DAY, for 27 years, you would not quite reach the goal of 15 Terawatts energy generation capacity. (You would have 10 Terawatt capacity)

Nuclear doesn’t ‘work’.

Just consider the economics of the case.

You will have to pay one of a small number of companies for the construction, US French, British, German or Japanese (probably) So whatever your price for construction, ($2 Billion- $3 Billion ), most of that will stay with the corporation. (Except for construction wages, less than 20%  ) The fuel even though low cost at present, will inevitably rise, as demand for U238 rises (or any other fission material) and will eventually become several times its initial (cheap) cost. The lifespan of the station will be ~ 50 years, and then will have very large decommissioning costs. So, the overall cost of operation and profit will not be that pretty.

As a counter example, wind or wave or solar machines would be made mostly in local (state) economies, with an existing skill base of engineering. With existing companies capable of the work. To achieve a similar output (*to this nuclear plant), say 12 TWH per year, would require a similar amount of money, say $2 Billion +, but nearly all that investment would stay in the local economy. The same statement can be made of solar thermal machines; the normal amount of sun in sunbelt USA is ~ 200 W per sq meter, of insolation, across all 8760 hours (averaged for hours of darkness)

Zero fuel costs, low environmental impact (by comparison) after first construction, maintenance at a cost level of < 5% (I mean that as design objective) Similar 40 – 50 year life, low recycling costs.

How much generation capacity (nuclear) can you build over 10 – 20 years  200- 400 stations max, worldwide

It doesn’t do the job.

Posted by  Colm M.
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Colm,
Why does Nuclear work for other parts of the world
Barry
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Author : Roman

Comment:
Barry, it seems that you are a pro-nuclear energy comentator, and that is ok, everyone has an opinion.

While we, as scientists, like to think that if anything is done well, there should not be any problems, history has proved us wrong time and again.

Insurance companies make money by assessing risk and defining how much a client should pay in premiums to cover the risk. They (the true risk manager profesionals) will not touch the nuclear industry with a 10 foot pole. The risk is just not worth it, the uncertainty is too high and the consequences too catastrophic to even consider the possibility. The tax payer, as usual, has picked up this tab.

We should learn something from this group of very rich risk managers and not be blinded by our “scientific logic”. We have many other alternative sources of energy with lower risk (insurable….), let’s invest in them
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Few realize that there are “twin” tracks in nuclear – civilian and military. much is known about civilian side – little is discussed about the military side…

I think a lot of real industry leaders agree with Barry… and that is why the majority of any real advances in nuclear power have gone offshore. China HAS to solve this problem – so they may end up developing the technology and leading.

I STARTED school in nuclear engineering.. got out in 1978… Yeah… you’re right Barry!

–jerry

Posted by Jerry R.
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Hi Barry:
 
Was discussing the nukes in Japan with a friend and realized the analogy you used for safety in transportation is good, but a better analogy is for other forms of energy. For example, the gas line explosion in San Bruno did not stop people from using gas.  Refineries have fires – and explosions – and people are killed – but we don’t panic and stop refining gasoline. Despite the loss of life and hype over the deep water Horizon spill in the gulf – we still drill for oil and the locations are in dispute – but not the concept of drilling.   Coal miners are killed all the time and mines collapse (as in Peru) but we don’t stop using coal.  And whole communities are damaged by imploding coal mines – but we don’t infer from those events that houses that are not above coal mines will suddenly collapse. 
 
There are hundreds of thousands of dangerous industrial processes and dangerous workplaces, and a quick review of OSHA statistics shows that annually there are between 4500 and 6500 fatalities in the workplace. This is nearly the death toll for the entire event in Japan (hopefully) and nearly double that of 9-11 but passes un-noticed. http://stats.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cfch0008.pdf
 
I think the difference is the comfort we have with these technologies having grown up with them and not because they are inherently safe.  
 
There are no free lunches and no danger-free sources of energy. 
 
Gay G-B.
 
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Author : Gay G-B.

Comment:
More analogies about relative risks of nuclear accidents vs other risks.

For example, the gas line explosion in San Bruno did not stop people from using gas. Refineries have fires – and explosions – and people are killed – but we don’t panic and stop refining gasoline. Despite the loss of life and hype over the deep water Horizon spill in the gulf – we still drill for oil. The locations are in dispute – but not the concept of drilling. Coal miners are killed all the time and mines collapse (as in Peru) but we don’t stop using coal. And whole communities are damaged by imploding coal mines – but we don’t infer from those events that houses that are not above coal mines will suddenly collapse.

There are hundreds of thousands of dangerous industrial processes and dangerous workplaces, and a quick review of OSHA statistics shows that annually there are between 4500 and 6500 fatalities in the workplace. This is nearly the death toll for the entire event in Japan (hopefully) and nearly double that of 9-11 but passes un-noticed. http://stats.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cfch0008.pdf

I think the difference in our attitudes is the comfort we have with these technologies having grown up with them and not because they are inherently safe.

There are no free lunches and no danger-free sources of energy.
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Author : Mike

Comment:
If I understand you correctly Barry, you agreed with majority of the folks on this planet that using radioactive material is the irresponsible, wrack less, counterproductive, brainless , criminal, …. way to boil the water. I don’t want to sound apocalyptic buy mark my word, things will be mutch, much worse for Tokyo, San Francisco and Detroit before they will be close to normal.
Don’t take my word for it just follow air stream jet path from Tokyo to California and Great lakes, speed 140-100M/H. If you plan to buy Pacific salmon instead of Atlantic to avoid high content of Mercury, first pull from your attic Geiger counter and Bon appetite. I hope you understand you will have to be watchful for the next millennium. Amount of radioactive material that become airborne after Nagasaki and Hiroshima is drop in the bucket compare to amount of radioactive material that will become airborne for duration of the crisis from 1-2-3-4-5-6 melted down and boiling Uranium Zirconium Iodine pots. Well I hope as civilize human, you agreed with majority of the folks on this planet that using radioactive material is the irresponsible, wrack less, counterproductive, brainless , criminal, …. way to boil the water
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Arie – there is a pretty active group of folks still pushing for polywell research. Dr. Bussard did a video presentation at Google right before he passed away. I highly recommended to watch it. http://video.google.com/videoplay docid=1996321846673788606# – “Should Google Go Nuclear ”

Posted by Tomas B.
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Watching it now.

Posted by Arie K.
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Michael,
You missed the boat on this one: two points are noteworthy:
 
1.       Your first incorrect statement; “If I understand you correctly Barry, you agreed with majority of the folks on this planet that using radioactive material is the irresponsible, wrack less, counterproductive, brainless , criminal,
….. I have no idea how you deduced that from my discussion. You are 180 degrees off as you understanding of my sentiment towards nuclear energy.
 
2.       You made this statement “you agreed with majority of the folks on this planet that using radioactive material is the irresponsible”
….. Again, you are totally wrong on several points; a) what I agree on, and b) what the world agrees on.
 
….. As of July 2010, the world population is given as (in millions)
Total World                                 6,892
More Developed                     1,237
China                                             1,338
Less Developed (excl. China)4,318
Least Developed                      857
 
Giving the benefit of the doubt that all of the more developed nations and half of China’s population agree with you, and all the less and least developed nations along with the other half of China’s population do not care or agree with you, the numbers become:
 
Share your belief                     1,906 (28%)
Do not share your belief       4,987 (72%)
 
It is very dangerous to be so absolute in your thinking. When you speak for me or the world, please do your homework.
More developed regions, following the UN classification, comprise all of Europe and North America, plus Australia, Japan, and New Zealand. All other regions and countries are classified as less developed. The least developed countries consist of 49 countries with especially low incomes, high economic vulnerability, and poor human development indicators. The criteria and list of countries, as defined by the United Nations, can be found at www.unohrlls.org/en/ldc/.
 

Best regards,
Barry Stevens, PhD
Presdient, TBD America, Inc.
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Externalities: This is where estimating the levelized cost of various power generation technologies gets very interesting.

While the EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2010 noted that the levelized cost for coal-fueled electricity (LCOE) from newly constructed power plants would be between $0.11 and $0.13 per kWh, a recent Harvard study (published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences) noted that external costs associated with coal amount to $175 to $500 billion annually. If factored in, these costs would double to triple the levelized cost of coal-fueled electricity. That would set the LCOE range at $0.22 to $0.39 per kWh (more expensive than non-incentivized solar).

I imagine the same kind of analysis could be developed for nuclear energy. The EIA AEO 2010 for LCOE for nuclear power plants was $0.12 per kWh. But that figure only incorporates the cost of construction (capital), operating and maintenance, fuel, and investment in new transmission. Factor in waste storage (still completely unresolved), and costs of disasters like Fukushima Dai-ichi (including long-term health costs) and suddenly that that $0.12 per kWh looks ridiculous.

Posted by John W.

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Simply Small energy. Smaller Nuclear Plants not Mega Ones. If a disaster happens it is not Mega Disaster. Spent Fuel is not Piled up for 10 Years in Mega storage. If cooling Fails a single Firetruck is enough to submerge in Cooling water. Unless man get’s away from “Megalomania” and also “Everlasting for Eternity” mania no solution for sustainable living. Science of Bio-Mimicry teaches us Nature has built everything to change and replenish itself – we have Leaves , Photosynthesis , seasons the evidence of this is everywhere. We have Built this MEGA infrastructure and MEGA energy Transport for what , Come natures needling in form of a Tsunami we have Millions without basic needs – MTBF – Mean Time Before Failure is very high if we have very large plants and Large transport infrastructure. Small is Beautiful , ever-sustaining is better than everlasting.

Posted by Suprit Pal Singh
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Let’s just look at it as a lesson in economics. The disasters in Japan should be putting focus on the external costs associated with nuclear power.

Externalities: This is where estimating the levelized cost of various power generation technologies gets very interesting.

While the EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2010 noted that the levelized cost for coal-fueled electricity (LCOE) from newly constructed power plants would be between $0.11 and $0.13 per kWh, a recent Harvard study (published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences) noted that external costs associated with coal amount to $175 to $500 billion annually. If factored in, these costs would double to triple the levelized cost of coal-fueled electricity. That would set the LCOE range at $0.22 to $0.39 per kWh (more expensive than non-incentivized solar).

I imagine the same kind of analysis could be developed for nuclear energy. The EIA AEO 2010 LCOE for nuclear power plants was $0.12 per kWh. But that figure only incorporates the cost of construction (capital costs which are trending upward), operating and maintenance, fuel, and investment in new transmission. Factor in waste storage (still completely unresolved), and costs of disasters like Fukushima Dai-ichi (including long-term health costs) and suddenly that that $0.12 per kWh looks absolutely ridiculous.

Bottom line is that nuclear power generation is costly when we figure in external costs. Perhaps not as high as coal, but certainly higher than natural gas. By the way, when was the last time we heard of a disaster at a solar power plant 

Posted by John W.
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Simply Small energy. Smaller Nuclear Plants not Mega Ones. If a disaster happens it is not Mega Disaster. Spent Fuel is not Piled up for 10 Years in Mega storage. If cooling Fails a single Firetruck is enough to submerge in Cooling water. Unless man get’s away from “Megalomania” and also “Everlasting for Eternity” mania no solution for sustainable living. Science of Bio-Mimicry teaches us Nature has built everything to change and replenish itself – we have Leaves , Photosynthesis , seasons the evidence of this is everywhere. We have Built this MEGA infrastructure and MEGA energy Transport for what , Come natures needling in form of a Tsunami we have Millions without basic needs – MTBF – Mean Time Before Failure is very high if we have very large plants and Large transport infrastructure. Small is Beautiful , ever-sustaining is better than everlasting.

Posted by Suprit Pal Singh
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A solar energy plant in the sahara could supply all of Europe if not more. The problem is to find a reliable, sold win / win agreement between EU and the countries owning the Sahara who also need to find an agreement between themselves as south shore countries of the Mediterrean.

Posted by Anne-Caroline Tanguy
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Barry, is my reply ‘lost in system’, or is it not worth discussion 

Posted by  Colm M.
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Hi Barry,
‘The job’ is to move away from our (societal) dependence on fossil fuels, and still have an energy rich society, at least in relative terms.

Petroleum & coal have been a great ride, very energy dense fuels, powering our industrial society, making the IC engine possible, all the wonderful gadgets and production we have in this 21st century, but we have to stop now, because the pollution is too great.

So we need replacement models of energy production & use.

Electricity is going to be an important part of those models; I understand there are ~ 440 nuclear generating plants, worldwide. For a convenient benchmark, I take that as a total electricity production of ~ 440 GW, continuous.

For the human population to stabilise, its necessary that all have access to a high amount (relatively speaking) of cheap energy.

In Smalley’s paper, he suggests 15 Terawatts of energy supply, by implication of electricity.

The timeframe for building nuclear, even if ramped up, could not exceed 400 stations, over 20 years; say 400 GW,+ the remaining stations currently in use, say 200 residual. Total, 600GW, worldwide.

Current usage, all sources, is ~ 12 Terawatts. (*12,000 GW) ~ 80 – 90% of that is from fossil sources, at present. Requirement, by 2050, with human population of 9.5 billion, is ~ 19 TW, (absolute minimum) assuming a minimized waste profile, where energy is recognized as too valuable to waste, and measures of buildings insulation, vehicle use, are in place to use energy productively, non-wastefully.

Since nuclear doesn’t even get to 1 Terawatt, even though it costs huge investment, and carries large risk of environmental (& business) damage; it ‘doesn’t do the job’.

Consider also the economics of nuclear energy generation of electricity; Less than 10 corporations, worldwide, who can make these machines  (I’m making assumptions, feel free to correct me)

5 years minimum to complete a station (Actual times vary from 5 – 20 years) Total number of people involved in this production; 1,000 to 2,000. (All activities) Alternative, low tech (& medium tech) production, distributed production, persons involved, 100 to 500 technicians/ producers per 10,000 of population  Total of industry, not less than 1 million worldwide.

1 milion wages, & 2 billion hours of production effort per year. I think that ‘works’ better.

Posted by  Colm M.
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I am sorry, but a 40 year old reactor with known issues does not represent all of the nuclear industry. I remain convinced that nuclear energy is the lowest cost and safest energy model for base electricity generation available to us, until storage and irregular production is addressed for the solar and wind industries they will remain small players (IMHO).
Lets look at the actual health issues from nuclear generation, and include 3 mile island, Chernobyl and the current issue are acpped at about 5000, the deaths from coal mining in China alone are estimated at 250,000 since 1949, 30+ a year from Mining in teh US – plus numerous articles on breathing problems etc.
Make nuclear as safe as you can, and it is a non carbon emitting energy source that can supply base load power without fossil fuels and at a reasonable price in terms of unit cost and potential human cost (excluding global warming risks attached to coal and natural gas).
I dont know of any other technologies that come close – note that I am all in favour of wind, tide and solar – they just do not compete for base load right now as best I understand them
Would like to hear other opinions
Robert

Posted by Robert Turnbull
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Ann-Caroline:
I’m a huge supporter of solar energy, but my knee-jerk first reaction was that while solar plants in the Sahara are a great idea, the intermittency issue of solar power means that we will always need some other form of generation (coal, natural gas, or nuclear) to deal with the 25% capacity factor of solar PV.

However, if recent developments in Spain can be replicated economically, then baseload 24/7 solar power can be provided. See “Baseload (24/7) Solar is here!”:

http://blog.cleantechies.com/2011/03/15/baseload-247-solar-is-here/

Using molten salt energy storage technology (MSES), a new Gemasolar 17 MW solar power tower plant outside of Seville will be able to produce electricity around the clock with a 75% capacity factor (putting it within range of coal and natural gas plants).

So, maybe you are right.

Posted by John W.
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Barry,

What costs were accounted for in your assessment of nuclear electricity generation, production at “around $0.08 per kWh”

Is it fair to assume that the cost structure included: Acquisition of land, the design & approval process, the costs of works associated with the plant, the reactor itself, the cost of fuel over its lifetime, the costs of operation (wages) over its lifetime, the opportunity cost of the money invested, the costs of disposal of spent fuel

But do not include the cost of insurance against contamination/ pollution risk as in Japan  Or the costs of deconstructing the reactor, in 40 years  Or the long term storage costs of spent fuel  Or the costs (there is not a profit) of reprocessing into MOX pellets  Or the environmental costs within the mining district for the raw oxide

Up to 20 years ago, the nuclear industry was really, in a fundamental sense, underwritten by the national community, as a part of a defense strategy. The ‘need’ for the weapons persuaded soldiers & politicians that these costs should be all borne by the public. There is a flywheel effect to this large MIC, such that this military application doesn’t just shut down, when the Cold War rationale for its existence has faded.

But, leaving aside all such military geo-political concerns; focusing (for the moment) purely on the energy requirement;

Will the price of fuel change if capacity / fuel demand was doubled  Tripled  (Relatively unimportant, but part of your cost structure)

How does nuclear get to a capacity of producing 15 Terawatts of electricity, within 40 years 
How many nuclear plants can we build (worldwide) over 20 years  And 40 years 

Posted by  Colm M.
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Barry:
The numbers I used for coal and nuclear are from an exhaustive and comprehensive report by the US Energy Information Agency. I was using numbers from the AEO2010. I’m now updating to the AEO2011. See:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/electricity_generation.html

This portion of the report calculates the LCOE (levelized cost of energy) for a new, built to current standards, generation plant coming on-line in 2016. That is why the LCOE for a new conventional coal-fired plant is $0.0948/ kWh, significantly higher than rates charged by utilities selling electricity generated by 20 to 50 year-old coal-fired plants like the ones in my home state of Kentucky.

The AEO2011 notes the following LCOE’s:

Conventional Coal: $0.0948/ kWh
Advanced Coal with Carbon Control and Sequestration (CCS): $0.1362/ kWh

Conventional Combined Cycle Natural Gas: $0.0661/ kWh
Advanced Combined Cycle Natural Gas with CCS: $0.0893/ kWh
Advanced Combustion Turbine Natural Gas: $0.1035/ kWh

Advanced Nuclear: $0.1139/ kWh

On-Shore Wind: $0.097/ kWh
Off-Shore Wind: $0.2432/ kWh

Solar PV: $0.2107/ kWh

Geothermal: $0.1017/ kWh

Biomass: $0.1125/ kWh

Hydropower: $0.0864/ kWh

Remember: These numbers are for new plants. The LCOE rates do not include any incentive programs (no federal 1603 grants, tax credits, rebates, SREC sales) but they also do not include any externalities (like that pesky Harvard study that doubles to triples the real cost of coal-fueled power).

I’ve got to thank you for getting me to update my numbers. Perhaps the most amazing thing for me to see in the AEO2011 is that the LCOE for solar PV dropped from $0.3961/ kWh to $0.2107/ kWh (based on the downward trend in solar capital costs due to increased product efficiencies and manufacturing processes, and economies of scale for large installations). A similar but not as dramatic drop in LCOE occurs for wind generation.

Of course, the Marcellus Shale natural gas bonanza for the big fossil-fuel guys has also led to a drop in the LCOE for natural gas generation.

My big question is: What is the level playing field for electricity  The AEO2011 report/ analysis takes into account capital costs, O

Posted by John W.
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Anne and John, Solar is already the plan for North Africa to supply 40% of the power to Europe. They are already laying down the underwater power cables. The transmission lines will be complete in 2015. The biggest impediment is and has always been political instability in North Africa. With all the shuffling of the cards (political Unrest) currently underway, the dust should settle in 3 years. The 5 Maghreb countries sit right on the equator. Best solar sites in the world. With the next gen (5 junction – 50% efficient) Concentrated PV coming out 3 Qr of 2011, solar will become the cheapest form of energy generation, beneath (Hydrogen gen from water to SOFC).

The combination Solar at peak with hydrogen to SOFC in the Off-Peak is a home run. Zero pollution, zero fuel consumption, unlimited potential.

Posted by John D.
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Author : John W.

Comment:
Let’s try to back up and look at this issue from a purely economic standpoint. Maybe those nails are already in the coffin but we’ve been refusing to see them.

Is it possible to compare how much power generated from various sources actually costs (LCOE: Levelized Cost of Energy)  And, is it possible to clearly factor in external costs (Externalities: Each stage in the life cycle of fuel source – extraction, transport, processing, combustion, etc. – generates a waste stream, carries multiple hazards for health and the environment, and has a very real quantifiable cost)  Finally, once we have leveled the playing field, will simple dollars and cents be enough to tell us what makes sense
EXTERNALITIES:

This is where estimating the levelized cost of various power generation technologies gets very interesting. 

While the EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2011 noted that the levelized cost for coal-fueled electricity (LCOE) from newly constructed power plants would be between $0.0948 and $0.1362/ kWh, a recent Harvard study (published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences) noted that external costs associated with coal amount to $175 to $500 billion annually. If factored in, these costs would double to triple the levelized cost of coal-fueled electricity. That would set the LCOE range at $0.1896 to $0.4086/ kWh. If the high end figure is correct, coal-fueled electricity is perhaps the most costly method for electricity generation; more expensive than non-incentivized solar PV and off-shore wind.

I imagine the same kind of analysis could be developed for nuclear energy. The EIA AEO 2011 for LCOE for nuclear power plants was $0.1139/ kWh. But that figure only incorporates the cost of construction (capital), operating and maintenance, fuel, and investment in new transmission. Factor in waste storage (still completely unresolved), and costs of disasters like Fukushima Dai-ichi (including long-term health costs and environmental remediation) and suddenly that that $0.1139/ kWh looks ridiculous.
LEVELIZED COST OF ENERGY:

LCOE represents the present value of the total cost of building and operating a generating plant over an assumed financial life and duty cycle, converted to equal annual payments and expressed in terms of real dollars to remove the impact of inflation. The figures I am quoting come from an exhaustive and comprehensive report by the U.S. Energy Information Agency. See:



http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/electricity_generation.html



The report calculates the LCOE (levelized cost of energy) for a new, built to current standards, generation plant coming on-line in 2016. That is why the LCOE for a new conventional coal-fired plant is $0.0948/ kWh, significantly higher than rates charged by utilities selling electricity generated by 20 to 50 year-old coal-fired plants like the ones in my home state of Kentucky (all sectors average, December 2010: $0.065/ kWh).



The AEO2011 notes the following LCOE’s:



• Conventional Coal: $0.0948/ kWh

• Advanced Coal with Carbon Control and Sequestration (CCS): $0.1362/ kWh



• Conventional Combined Cycle Natural Gas: $0.0661/ kWh

• Advanced Combined Cycle Natural Gas with CCS: $0.0893/ kWh

• Advanced Combustion Turbine Natural Gas: $0.1035/ kWh



• Advanced Nuclear: $0.1139/ kWh



• On-Shore Wind: $0.097/ kWh

• Off-Shore Wind: $0.2432/ kWh



• Solar PV: $0.2107/ kWh



• Geothermal: $0.1017/ kWh


• Biomass: $0.1125/ kWh


• Hydropower: $0.0864/ kWh



Remember: These numbers are for new plants. The LCOE rates do not include any incentive programs (no federal 1603 grants, tax credits, rebates, SREC sales) but they also do not include any externalities (like that pesky Harvard study that doubles to triples the real cost of coal-fueled power).

Perhaps the most amazing thing for me to see in the AEO2011 is that the LCOE for solar PV dropped from $0.3961/ kWh in 2009 to $0.2107/ kWh in 2010 (based on the downward trend in solar capital costs due to increased product efficiencies and manufacturing processes, and economies of scale for large installations). A similar, but not quite as dramatic, drop in LCOE occurs for wind generation. Of course, the Marcellus Shale natural gas bonanza for the big fossil-fuel guys has also led to a drop in the LCOE for natural gas generation.

The full EIA AEO2011 will not be available until 26 April 2011. Here is the full AEO2010 (all 221 pages of it…somewhere in there is the description of the LCOE methodology):

http://www.eia.gov/oiaf/archive/aeo10/pdf/0383(2010).pdf

The AEO2011 “Levelized Cost of New Generation Resources” is based on national averages. As has been pointed out to me, the LCOE for various generation types will vary from region to region. As one would expect, regional variations for coal, natural gas, and nuclear are significantly less than with solar and wind.

The most significant variables for new coal, gas, and nuclear generation will be regional construction costs and fuel transportation. With solar PV, it is obvious that LCOE in high insolation regions like the Southwest will be significantly lower than the national average ($0.1587/ kWh versus $0.2107/ kWh). Equally obvious is the fact that in regions like the Pacific Northwest the LCOE for solar PV will be significantly higher than the national average: $0.3239/ kWh.

As a national average analysis, the EIA calculations do not drill down into specific solar LCOE issues as carefully as SunPower proposed in their 14 August 2008 white paper “Levelized Cost of Electricity for Utility-Scale Photovoltaics”:

http://us.sunpowercorp.com/downloads/SunPower_levelized_cost_of_electricity.pdf

As I understand it, SunPower proposes to further differentiate with a range of installations; from a 20% efficiency dual-axis tracking silicon panel system to an 11% efficiency fixed-array thin film system. I’d like to see their current LCOE figures (2008 is a lifetime ago in the U.S. energy world, pre-Marcellus Shale and pre-$0.75/ watt First Solar thin-film pricing).
DOES THE MAGIC OF THE MARKETPLACE TELL US WHAT TO DO

Not entirely. There are still way too many other variables and as far as I know, no one has done the detailed externalities study for nuclear power or natural gas. However, I do believe that if we make a rough guess and double the LCOE for nuclear-fueled electricity due to externalities, the cost of nuclear-fueled electricity will be over $0.22/ kWh, more expensive than on-shore wind, solar PV, geothermal, hydroelectric, and (of course) natural gas. When all is said and done, it may be true that only coal generation and off-shore wind is more expensive than nuclear-fueled generation.
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@ John & John : Thank you both for your highlights. I agree the main problem is political instability as we can witness right now regarding the events. Energy and environmental concerns require more than ever a worldwide concerted win/win game plan. The future of our kids is at stake.

Posted by Anne T.
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The latest Polywell experiments show the reactor had problems they could confine the ions as long as they wanted. The DOE doesn’t expect nuclear fusion to be practical till 2045. Fusion will generate a lot less radioactive waste than fission reactors, 1/10 as much. But that’s still a lot of waste to dispose of. The aneutronic boron-proton reaction reactor is the holy grail of fusion reactors, it wont generate radioactive waste at all but it is much harder to ignite fusion from those fuel elements.
Solar and wind are ready now.

Posted by Neil F.
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How many nations stopped using airplanes after the third one crashed 

Posted by Thomas L.
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Barry:
The full EIA AEO2011 will not be available until 26 April 2011. Here is the full AEO2010 (all 221 pages of it…somewhere in there is the description of the LCOE methodology):

http://www.eia.gov/oiaf/archive/aeo10/pdf/0383(2010).pdf

The AEO2011 “Levelized Cost of New Generation Resources” is based on national averages. As you note, the LCOE for various generation types will vary from region to region. As one would expect, coal, natural gas, and nuclear regional variations are significantly less than with solar and wind.

The most significant variables for new coal, gas, and nuclear generation will be regional construction costs and fuel transportation. With solar PV, it is obvious that LCOE in high insolation regions like the Southwest will be significantly lower than the national average ($0.1587/ kWh versus $0.2107/ kWh). Equally obvious is the fact that in regions like the Pacific Northwest the LCOE for solar PV will be significantly higher than the national average: $0.3239/ kWh.

As a national average analysis, the EIA calculations do not drill down into specific solar LCOE issues as carefully as SunPower proposed in their 2008 white paper. As I understand it, SunPower proposes to further differentiate with a range of installations; from a 20% efficiency dual-axis tracking silicon panel system to an 11% efficiency fixed-array thin film system. I’d like to see their current LCOE figures (2008 is a lifetime ago in the U.S. energy world, pre-Marcellus Shale and pre-$0.75/ watt First Solar thin-film pricing).

I’ll try to put all this together into something coherent and drop it into your blog.

Posted by John W.
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Yes Neil, but again it is still using nuclear energy to boil water.
When you add up all the costs; To prospect, recover and refine the fuels, the cost of constructing and maintaining the plants over their relatively short lifespans, than having to dispose of not just the waste , but all of the contaminated equipment and infrastructure. Not even considering the damage to the environment and risks to Human heath. The cost is extremely high. Too high to even waste our time considering.

In my opinion it is Nuclear only has two real values – the necessary ingredients for weapons development(if you even consider that a value) and nuclear material for medicine and research. There are dozens of better ways to boil water.

I know that Billions of dollars have been spent in the development of Hot Fusion, and that many many thousand of researchers and workers are depending on the continuation of that funding, but their efforts could be better spent elsewhere.

Don’t even think you can use the old nutmegs “ this what we have always done” or “20% of the power in the US is produced by Nuclear, we depend upon it” or “it frees us from dependency on foreign oil” to defend the idea of building new ones. We have a choice now. One that we did not have 30 years ago. There are a dozen less expensive and safer alternatives than Nuclear.

240 plants around the world are the same as the ones in Japan, based on a cobbled military design from Nuclear Subs. Most (including the ones currently melting down in Japan) use MOX (mixed oxide) fuel rods that contain spent plutonium. This was a convenient way to dispose of aging weapons ordinance. No one is mentioning that the radioactive release in Japan contains plutonium (much more dangerous than Cesium).

Posted by John D.
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We have to get that 20% and reduce it to nothing.

Posted by Neil F.
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Neil, agreed, but that is not possible. In order for the US to maintain its huge arsenal of Nuclear weapons. We need power-plants to help provide the necessary ingredients. Without a source of them our warheads essentially become dirty bombs.
Reductions will come, but one step at a time. The quickest way will be not to renew the licenses of the older facilities that are coming up for renewal and to have viable alternatives to replace them.

Where I live, in New York, our Governor is focusing his attention on Indian Point, which happens to be sitting on a geological fault line and is only 15 miles from NYC. It’s license is coming up for renewal. There are many alternatives to replace it including wind. I was part of a town hall meeting discussing wind, 4 years ago. Unfortunately the proposal was turned down. If it hadn’t Indian Point would already be decommissioned.

Posted by John D.
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What a coincidence, my mother was talking to me about the same thing this morning. Why wont they decommission Indian Point if its sitting on an active fault 

Posted by Neil F.
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On a flight to Chicago I happened to be sitting next to the fellow from Entergy who had just been assigned to take over management of the plant. He was very gung-ho about the project so I did not want to burst his bubble. It makes quite a bit of money for them. I know people who have worked there and it has been fraught with problems for years. There are cracks and leaks all over the place. Its kind of like a big pink elephant in the room that everyone dances around. When it does get dismantled, heads will roll for having all these problems and no accountability. Its a political hot potato, but now with what is happening in Japan, there is a window of opportunity to put it out of its misery.

Posted by John D.
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John:
I’ve been using the line “there are better ways to boil water” all day. Very simple, but very true.

If we could get the powers that be to stope subsidizing the external costs and/or putting off the reckoning of those costs, then the actual cost of electricity generated by coal and fossil-fuel fired power plants could no longer be economically justified. The costs for healthcare, environmental remediation, waste disposal, and security are simply not a part of the kWh price we pay. Factor them in and the game changes.

Posted by John W.
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I agree with most of the posters above.

Nuclear has so many benefits, and minimal drawbacks. Despite people blowing each ‘disaster’ way out of proportion, nuclear power has a stellar track record as far as safety goes.

3 Mile Island, one of the worst disasters on record, had maybe a handful of indirect casualties, if you accept the most dire estimations, and minimal environmental impact.

It is clean, and it is cheap overall (though has fairly large up front costs).

Trying to compare the price of large-scale renewables to nuclear is almost laughable. We KNOW renewables are not currently economically viable on a large scale. Nuclear is. A major reason for that is the simple economics.
If it were otherwise, we’d be seeing a lot more renewables, not just a niche heavily subsidized because they are popular. Hopefully, in the future, we’ll have more wind, solar etc. power, and hopefully more nuclear power as well.

It’s too bad a lot of people immediately think nuclear bomb when they think nuclear power, and get all uptight and irrational about it.

Posted by Steven W.
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Thomas Lofft, when early planes crashed, how many people died, or were negatively affected from a health pov

If an airliner crashes today, of the 300 + fatalities, what other economic dislocation takes place  And what amount of economic loss is present  Total, $700 million

By comparison, the Japanese people are down for many billions of $, just on the nuclear front.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/world/japan-nuclear-reactors-and-seismic-activity/

The nuclear industry is on an aggressive ‘damage limitation’ PR mode. They are lying.

That industry is too dangerous to continue. The most badly sited/ oldest reactors should be stopped within this year, the others over a 40 year period. It is legitimate to continue research on (so called) 4th generation nuclear, but research only, until its a proven safe technology, maybe to use up the thousands of tons of existing nuclear waste.

Posted by  Colm M.
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If nuclear energy was truly cheap and safe, then there would be no need for the U.S. federal government to have in place the Price-Anderson Act, which sets an unrealistically low limit on liability for nuclear utilities. Without the Price-Anderson Act, nuclear utilities would be nearly uninsurable.

Uninsurable means that nuclear plants would not be built. Nearly uninsurable means that insurance premiums would lead to a much higher per kWh rate for electricity from a nuclear plant. Nuclear energy is only cheap if the federal government is on the hook for the catastrophic damages.

Posted by John W.
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There is another option to generate power other than nuclear or fossil fuels. WATER is an abundance resource that has been proven to generate all the power we need without any harm to our environment. Green Renu Energy Services is the resource for water based generation.

Posted by Rick I.
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Hi Guys
Let me say I believe nuclear to be one one of the best ways forward for a considerable time to come. But we should also look to many other solutions to share the load and not consentrate on this one alone is my view.
I began reading this conversation and many of the coments are valid, but I then found myself hopeing someone was going to mention the one draw back as far as I am concerned. Location ! who would choose to build something this dangerouse so close to a known fault line    or did they not know about the fault  I am also concerned as they told us that this reactor had succesfully shut its self down the moment the earth quake hit. If so how come the unit is still building heat, OK the cooling pumps need power what happened to the diesel backup for the pumps. Why was the switch gear not designed to be protected from a tidal wave in a known tsunami risk area of the world.
OK we should not kick them while they are down but   What were they thinking safety wise. It is clear if well positioned, designed and built it can be the very best way forward at this time.

Posted by Kevin A.
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Steven, How do you “KNOW renewables are not currently economically viable on a large scale. Nuclear is. A major reason for that is the simple economics”

How much does a nuclear plant cost  What is the LCOE (as offered above by John Whitney Jr) of nuclear produced electricity

What do you assume for cost of solar thermal  And solar PV

(btw, it is counter intuitive to say ‘not economically viable on a large scale’. Scale normally aids economic viability)

Posted by  Colm M.
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If nuclear energy was truly cheap and safe, then there would be no need for the federal government to have in place the Price-Anderson Act, which sets an unrealistically low limit on liability for nuclear utilities. Without the Price-Anderson Act, nuclear utilities would be nearly uninsurable.

Uninsurable means that nuclear plants would not be built. Nearly uninsurable means that insurance premiums would lead to a much higher per kWh rate for electricity from a nuclear plant. Nuclear energy is only cheap if the federal government is on the hook for the catastrophic damages.

Let’s level the playing field.

Posted by John W.

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Repeal Price Anderson.

Why dont you go to the media and tell them about the failing condition of Indian Point? They might give you money.

Posted by Neil F.
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Every resident of the Hudson Valley knows about the poor conditions at Indian Point. I just dont get it. It is as if New Yorkers consider themselves invincible.

In any case, If Dr. Rossi’s discovery works we won’t need plants like Indian Point ever again.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/mar/17/nuclear-future-beyond-japan/

Posted by John D.
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One thing, it becomes true; both plants were blasted due to coolant systems failures. Chernobyl blasted due to mica was unable to sustain the enormous temperature. Fukushima plant failed due to various reasons, like tsunami hit the deck. Reactor level was constructed just above the sea level. More over, all genset was sunken since it was not on elevated level. So, we need 3rd generation reactors.

Posted by Ramkumar G.
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The U.S. currently has 71,862 tons of nuclear waste at sites in 30 states. We add 2,200 tons to that pile every year. 75% of the waste sits in cooling pools like those at Fukushima Dai-ichi. 25% are dry-stored in concrete and steel containers rated for 100 year life spans.

We have 104 operating nuclear reactors on 65 sites in 31 states. There are another 15 reactors permanently shut-down.

The federal government (not the utilities) has spent $9.0 billion developing (but not building) the Yucca Mountain permanent storage facility. That project has been shut down after fierce opposition from the citizens of Nevada.

Utilities have successfully sued the federal government for funds to pay for temporary dry storage cask facilities because Yucca Mountain has not been completed. A 75 ton concrete and carbon steel cask costs $1.5 million. Assuming that each cask holds 60 tons of nuclear waste means that the federal government (taxpayers, not utilities) is on the hook for at least another $1.5 billion in temporary storage.

See HuffPost Green for the full article from the Associated Press:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/23/us-nuclear-waste-radioactive-storage_n_839438.html

We’ve been kicking this can down the road for over 50 years.

Posted by John W.
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John , you have hit another nail in the coffin , imagine “mission nightmare” when these 100,000 tons odd of nuclear waste is moved to permanent facility. something tells me that this in itself would be dangerous engineering task. Nuclear is a “half baked technology” as any technology which man develops and which has no consideration of closing of the “life cycle loop” is half baked and hence we should not even consider it as useable “energy technology” at the moment. Would love to have Nuclear Fission or fusion or fast breeder etc provided it becomes a full life cycle think it through technology by the Industry. Only reason it survives is because it has and had side benefits in weapons technology where it gets subsidized by governments around the world. Yes it is Cheap , because it is today Cheap does not mean we have to mortgage the future for the same.

Posted by Suprit P.
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Discussion: Is Nuclear Power the Answer to Climate Change?

I have a strong bias againt the concept that nuclear power can be the ultimate solution to prevent global warming.

In college, I studied under a PhD who served what is now the Nuclear Regulatory Commision when 3 Mile Island occurred. That release was miniscule compared with Chernobyl with one reactor or Fukushima with six reactors.

But it is not the power generation where I have concerns. If we wanted to, we could use distributed, small liquid sodium nuclear power plants similar in design to those used in America’s Nuclear fleet. You drop in the control rods and the unit cools off naturally until the sodium hardens and the only way to open up the unit is in a special facility. Sodium reacts with air, so any fool getting a hod of a nuclear cube can’t do much with it.

It is the mining, the transportation from the mine to the processing plant, to the reactor, and the transportation & storage of waste I have the greatest problems with. The graduate student teaching one of the energy production/conservation classes I talked of earlier came from a town in Colorado downwind from the mines where the US extracted uranium to build up the nuclear industries (weapons & power). The mine tailings wer not “very” radioactive, but they killed a significant number of people, and even made it into the Colorado River and into the water supplies of major cities like Los Angeles.

I had a friend who hiked 7 collected rocks in his youth downstream of the Rocketdyne nuclear plant at Santa Susana. He died two years ago after suffering a strange disease which caused symptoms similar to “stiff man’s syndrome”. The strontium and radioactive iodine levels in his blood were through the roof.

The trains and trucks carrying nuclear materials to and fro will pass through highly populated areas and will be terrorist targets. Since the US has no nuclear waste storage site or coherent strategy, waste from the past 30 years is presently stored “on-site” at every nuclear power plant in this nation.

Nuclear material stored near each other, regardless of where or how, heat up and require “parasitic” cooling which robs a greater and greater portion of the avialable energy to run our society the longer we generate and accumulate more nuclear wastes.

Therefore, I prefer energy conservation used hand in hand with extremely high efficiency solar power to satisfy our energy needs in a carbon neutral manner. Hydrocarbon fuels can be manufactured with excess electricity from solar & other renewable energy sources. The process recycles the cabon already in the atmosphere.

All the technologies to achieve this are either developed or within five to ten years of marketability. What is required is the political willpower to incentivize responsible behavior and raise costs reflective of all the unseen costs the behaviors which are irresponsible.

But funny, corporations have been given more power today with the recent Supreme Court decision reversing 150 years precidence of seperations between politicians and corrupt money.

Funny too that the coporations that will fund these changes required for the survival of mankind don’t yet exist and so can not contribute to political campaigns, lobbyists or run commercials.

The momentum of our humantity is hard to change, particularly when the fat-cats are driving the bus.

Posted by Carlos Z.
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New comment on your post “Is Nuclear Power the Answer to Climate Change?”
Author : Mark S.

Comment:
A provocative query ;-)

Based on the [at present] unproven premise that climate change is “Anthropogenic” and that nuclear power can in some magical manner alleviate Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW).

The world also faces a “crisis” (AGW) with the United Nations going so far as to label carbon-dioxide “a toxin”.

This is where AGW, in my opinion, starts to falter and stumble.

The world population is such that we cannot feed it at present levels. It is also growing at a previously unheard of rate: more births and people [in general] living longer.

Given that our advances in medicine and science will continue to extend human longevity, the world population will continue to grow.

As a direct result of this, the demand for food will also increase and the food shortfall will only get bigger.

My limited college-level “biology” still tells me that plants take in carbon-dioxide from the atmosphere and water and nutrients from the soil to grow the plant and then release oxygen back into the atmosphere.

We also know that increased levels of atmospheric carbon-dioxide increase plant growth rates.

Ask any horticulturist with glasshouses full of tomato plants how they use carbon-dioxide to “manage” their crop. Look also at the carbon-dioxide experimentation being done on maize crops to accelerate growth and increase crop yield.

Surely then we should be ACTIVELY SEEKING increases in atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels? Even if only to feed the growing world population?

So, is nuclear power the answer to climate change?

No, because it increases climate change.

Just ask the ex-residents of Chernobyl. Nuclear power certainly changed their climate and not for the better. Ask the people of Japan where the Fukushima region was a large food producer, but now there are radioactive traces in milk and other foods from the area.

There may be places where the “bang-for-your-buck” makes nuclear power a valid option AND where the geology is stable enough to not risk the people because of a natural disaster.

But we seem to miscalculate the “real” cost of nuclear power (and hybrid cars for that matter) by carefully ignoring the fabrication of the power station (or hybrid) itself and all of its components.

For example, even if there is a small amount of aluminium in a nuclear power plant, it was produced in a smelter where electrolysis produces [hot] diatomic oxygen at the anode, which then combines with carbon from the anode to give [you guessed it] CARBON DIOXIDE!

Anyone for a can of beer? Thought not :-))

This “real cost” includes disposal of the “hazardous waste” – in the case of the nuclear power station, this is the fissile waste and, for a hybrid car, the batteries with all of their heavy metals.

All up, nuclear power plants have a much bigger “climate change” effect than other forms of power production.

That said, a century and a half ago, we did not “need” electricity like we seem to today and, just maybe, that wasn’t all bad…
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New comment on your post “Is Nuclear Power the Answer to Climate Change?”
Author : Westie B.

Comment:
Hey, before you go too far you may want to check out some actual science from Christopher Monckton (3rd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley):

How much carbon dioxide does it take to raise the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere by one degree Celcius?

So far, not a single tree-hugger has been able to answer this question. Surely they would know?

Answer: one trillion [metric] tonnes – yes that’s 1,000,000,000,000 tonnes

It’s a pretty big number in anyones language.

So, the obvious next question: how much does mankind produce from all of our endeavours including breathing?

No tree-hugger knows the answer to this one either :-))

Answer: thirty billion [metric] tonnes per year – that’s 30,000,000,000

Yup, that’s pretty big too. But not as big as the “change it by one degree” number.

Grab your calculators folks!

How long would it take for mankind at the present output level to change the average temperature of the atmosphere by one degree Celcius?

Answer: 1,000 / 30 = 33 1/3 years

Well that’s not too long!

So, to stop the temperature increasing by one degree Celcius, we only need to halt carbon-dioxide emissions for 34 years.

Cool!

Easy even!

No fires, no cars, no CO2 fire extinguishers, no electricity where CO2 is produced, no industry where CO2 is produced, no commerce where CO2 is produced and, finally, no breathing.

That should about do it…
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Discussion: Nuclear and Human Waste – Facts and Fiction!

What we are seeing in Japan is a mere a Trailer of a Film Produced by Mother Nature. Too many directors and silent viewers. Any Title for the Movie?

Posted by Jitoo P.
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Discussion: Nuclear and Human Waste – Facts and Fiction!

The nuclear energy is a great source of energy, and as everything else in he world – with values comes the price. However, as stated in the end of the article, this is the same as fire – we need to learn how to use it and how to use it safely.

In my opinion instead of attacking nuclear entry we need to attack the building regulations and standards of nuclear plants. As stated in the media, I don’t remember where exactly, there was a report saying that in the case of severe earthquake in Japan there will be a problem with the nuclear plant. However none worked to find a solution.

It is the way nuclear energy is contained should be attacked, and not the nuclear energy itself.

Out of the context – I believe more in sunlight energy, hope we can make a good use of it.

Posted by Ira C.
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Group: Energy and Alternative Energy financing
Discussion: Nuclear and Human Waste – Facts and Fiction!

If I understand you correctly Barry, you agreed with majority of the folks on this planet that using radioactive material is the irresponsible, wrack less, counterproductive, brainless , criminal, …. way to boil the water. I don’t want to sound apocalyptic buy mark my word, things will be mutch, much worse for Tokyo, San Francisco and Detroit before they will be close to normal.
Don’t take my word for it just follow air stream jet path from Tokyo to California and Great lakes, speed 140-100M/H. If you plan to buy Pacific salmon instead of Atlantic to avoid high content of Mercury, first pull from your attic Geiger counter and Bon appetite. I hope you understand you will have to be watchful for the next millennium. Amount of radioactive material that become airborne after Nagasaki and Hiroshima is drop in the bucket compare to amount of radioactive material that will become airborne for duration of the crisis from 1-2-3-4-5-6 melted down and boiling Uranium Zirconium Iodine pots. Well I hope as civilize human, you agreed with majority of the folks on this planet that using radioactive material is the irresponsible, wrack less, counterproductive, brainless , criminal, …. way to boil the water

Posted by Michael F.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: Energy and Alternative Energy financing
Discussion: Nuclear and Human Waste – Facts and Fiction!
Michael F.

I agree one does not need fission and the multiple harmful wavelengths of radiation just to boil water. Water itself has a great deal of energy stored within its H-O-H bonds when you break these bonds you release and electromagnetic pulse (bosons), heat energy in the form of “Light”. An light energy pulse “Heat” that is released into a system of water molecule that will aid in the breaking of other H-O-H bonds.

We no longer need fission to boil water we can simply use the water and light that will create more light, as a liquid laser, las the water molecule itself and you will find all the energy you need.

That is what my invention the THOUPA Generator does, extracts the energy within water using light to create more light.

A star in a water bottle.

A new age is here!!!

Posted by Nolan H.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: Global Renewable Energy Network (GReEN)
Discussion: Is Nuclear Power the Answer to Climate Change?
Noteworthy article by a series journalist

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/03/18/3167818.htm?WT.mc_id=newsmail

Posted by David S
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New comment on your post “Is Nuclear Power the Answer to Climate Change?”
Author : Arno E.

Comment:
Barry, thank you for posting this interview.
For an even better understanding of the whole process of making electricty out of nucelar power, all readers of your blog are kindly invited to just have a look here:
http://www.hydrogenambassadors.com/background/facts.php#electricityfromnuclear

You can see all comments on this post here:
https://barryonenergy.wordpress.com/2011/03/20/is-nuclear-power-the-answer-to-climate-change/#comments
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New comment on your post “Is Nuclear Power the Answer to Climate Change?”
Author : Allen G.

Comment:
Issues that are not addressed:
1. While the dollar cost for building a reactor is estimated, what is the total energy cost and CO2 footprint for building a reactor especially when compared to other forms of renewable energy sources?
2. Production of nuclear fuel is a dirty industry resulting in environmental pollution (just like coal). Also, like coal, nuclear waste cannot simply be disposed and has an environmental and energy cost. How do we ensure that nuclear waste can be safe from geologic disturbances for hundreds of thousands of years? Burying it has the risk of global contamination of the ground water. What is meant by acceptible risk here?
3. Finally the earthquake and tsunami in Japan amplifies the environmental and health risks faced by nuclear power. The reactors in California are near the coast in earthquake zones and are at risk of being impacted by tsunamis. The reactor 40 miles or so north of NYC poses a risk to 20 million people in the NYC metropolitan area. In the event of a problem with that reactor, how will 2o million people be evacuated?
4. The title of this report suggests that climate change is a question. Climate change is not a question and therefore what is the question that nuclear power is the answer to? Note: this is a serious point in that the question has to be formulated very carefully. We cannot go around solving problems without a clear definition of the problem is being addressed. There are at least two separate but related issues: climate change and energy. There are a number of ways to address these issues. Many of those involve changes in life-style and global cooperation. It seems however, that technological solutions are offered to address human problems.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: CleanTech

Discussion: Is Nuclear Power the Answer to Climate Change?
see my comment at the end of the Barry Stevens article

Posted by Allen G.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: CleanTech

Apart from Global Warming there are other possible problems with more CO2, acidification of the oceans is one, this may be another:
Effects of CO2 on Mammalian Organisms Report of a Workshop, 5-6 June 1980, Bethesda, Maryland USA, published Dec 1982 by the US Dept of Energy, ref CONF-800249 (with disclaimer) 24 US and one European scientist attended. (Undersea Medical Society Inc, 9650 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, Maryland, 20014, USA). Page 10-3 possible effects on enzyme systems which are pH dependant ? Pages 10-6 to 10-13 Malignancies reference to lymphoma and mammary gland lymphoma effects. (12 references). Page 12-2 possible changes in blood pH.

Posted by ferrand s.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA)
Discussion: Is Nuclear Power the Answer to Climate Change?

A country like Denmark where some islands have become carbon-negative for their power needs is a much better scenario. The use of Wind Turbine (Whatcom had several builders wishing to install such — unfortunately it was “not in my backyard” killed), tidal power, solar power, geothermal and storage of energy as water pumped up to valleys (as done in Scotland) when energy is not needed.

Denmark is further north then Bellingham and can do it.

Posted by Kenneth L.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: Sustainability Professionals
Discussion: Is Nuclear Power the Answer to Climate Change?

It’s an interesting question. There is some debate about the life-cycle emissions of nuclear power versus fossil-fuel power, but there is also the question of heat emissions, which some scientists say have an even bigger role in global warming than GHG’s. It is not only about GHG’s retaining heat, it is also about the amount of heat produced in the first place.

The heat emissions from nuclear power could in fact exceed coal, since nuclear plants tend to run at lower steam pressures, which translate to lower turbine efficiencies and hence more waste heat per unit of power generated. Spent fuel is also responsible for additional heat pollution.

Corrrelation does not necessarily equate to causality. The correlation between CO2 emissions and temperature may have something to do with the waste heat produced in generating those emissions rather than the emissions themselves. This poses interesting questions to the backers of some “clean” or “low-emission” technologies, not only nuclear. An abstract of some work in this area can be found here: http://inderscience.metapress.com/app/home/contribution.asp?referrer=parent&backto=issue,23,24;journal,7,7;linkingpublicationresults,1:121488,1

Posted by Craig W.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: White House
Discussion: Is Nuclear Power the Answer to Climate Change?

Nuclear Power is only part of the answer to reducing green gases pollution in the atmosphere. Other sources of fuel for transportation will be more important. Hydrogen has shown promise. Battery power vehicles in the future will be another piece to the solution. The problem has to be solved with solutions that not only are focused in controlling emissions, but, also in solutions that can make possible the removal of pollutants from the atmosphere. I envision, for example, a form of titration process initiated by exploding missiles with chemicals that can make green gas pollutants heavy and fall to Earth from the atmosphere or catalysts that can be introduced from satellites and causing chemical reactions that neutralize the gases. Even robotic vehicles that can scoop the ofending gases from the atmosphere…our imagination and ingenuity need to be unleashed…the sooner the better.

Posted by Omar F.
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LinkedIn
MESSAGES
Robert G. wrote:

Good discussion Barry. Thanks for starting it.
>> Barry Readers Comments: Three-Mile Island (TMI), Chernobyl and Now Fukushima Dai-ichi – Is This the Last Nail in Nuclear’s Co…
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: CleanTech

They could make a deal with Quebec hydro and buy up more of their electricity to replace the Indian point plant.

Posted by Neil F.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: The Renewable Energy Network

The impact of what is happening in Japan is unfolding and the tragic consequences may surpass Chernobyl. We underestimated the power of mother nature and question the wisdom or lack of in building near the ring of fire. We need to build safer nuclear plants and to eliminate the possibility of another disaster. We also need to maximize the use of renewable energy, wind and solar, to help reduce risk.

Posted by Larry B.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: The Renewable Energy Network

From an Associated Press article: “U.S. Nuclear Waste Increasing With No Permanent Storage Available”, see:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/23/us-nuclear-waste-radioactive-storage_n_839438.html

The U.S. currently has 71,862 tons of nuclear waste at sites in 30 states. We add 2,200 tons to that pile every year. 75% of the waste sits in cooling pools like those at Fukushima Dai-ichi. 25% are dry-stored in concrete and steel containers rated for 100 year life spans.

We have 104 operating nuclear reactors on 65 sites in 31 states. There are another 15 reactors permanently shut-down.

The federal government (not the utilities) has spent $9.0 billion developing (but not building) the Yucca Mountain permanent storage facility. That project has been shut down after fierce opposition from the citizens of Nevada.

Utilities have successfully sued the federal government for funds to pay for temporary dry storage cask facilities because Yucca Mountain has not been completed. A 75 ton concrete and carbon steel cask costs $1.5 million. Assuming that each cask holds 60 tons of nuclear waste means that the federal government (taxpayers, not utilities) is on the hook for at least another $1.5 billion in temporary storage.

Posted by John W.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: The Renewable Energy Network

From an Associated Press article: “U.S. Nuclear Waste Increasing With No Permanent Storage Available”, see:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/23/us-nuclear-waste-radioactive-storage_n_839438.html

The U.S. currently has 71,862 tons of nuclear waste at sites in 30 states. We add 2,200 tons to that pile every year. 75% of the waste sits in cooling pools like those at Fukushima Dai-ichi. 25% are dry-stored in concrete and steel containers rated for 100 year life spans.

We have 104 operating nuclear reactors on 65 sites in 31 states. There are another 15 reactors permanently shut-down.

The federal government (not the utilities) has spent $9.0 billion developing (but not building) the Yucca Mountain permanent storage facility. That project has been shut down after fierce opposition from the citizens of Nevada.

Utilities have successfully sued the federal government for funds to pay for temporary dry storage cask facilities because Yucca Mountain has not been completed. A 75 ton concrete and carbon steel cask costs $1.5 million. Assuming that each cask holds 60 tons of nuclear waste means that the federal government (taxpayers, not utilities) is on the hook for at least another $1.5 billion in temporary storage.

Posted by John W.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: The Renewable Energy Network

To Rick, hydro power is a fantastic option, but I disagree with the claim that its been proven to provide all the power we need without any harm to the environment. The reason hydro is not more wide-spread, I believe, is because there are only so many dammable rivers (that would provide enough power to make it worth it). And damming rivers has wide-scale economic effects, so its not clear that if it were more wide-spread that it would be so environmentally costless.

To Colm, the numbers are widely available. While not the first source one would go to, a convenient one is wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source which lists several estimations of costs . Also note that you have to factor in capacity factor, for which wind and solar have very low rates. There is a reason that solar and wind power have to be so heavily subsidized. It’s got promise, but it cannot realistically replace the current infrastructure at this time.

The thing about scale is that solar and wind power is limited. Firstly, it is location sensitive. The more you build, the more you have to utilize sub-optimal conditions. Also, because of their intrinsic variability, solar and wind have to have a much higher capacity the greater the percentage of total power production that they represent. If you have a base of coal plants, for example, with a steady production, utilizing solar or wind as an addition is acceptable, even if you can’t guarantee a certain power provision at any given time. If you make it the primary source, though, you need a lot more generation capacity.

Posted by Steven W.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: CleanTech & Renewable Energy Finance Forum

I just read some of the comments and I must say I am surprised at the lack of understanding of the facts and the overall hysteria towards Nuclear energy. Consider just some facts:
1. The Plants in question are 35-40 years old and were about to be de-commissioned.
2. These plants pretty well withstood one of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded.
then they were hit by the largest tsunami in recorded history.
3. despite all this they are basically still standing.
4. These plants are not the Generation Three plants which are the ones being built today, with far better fail safes.
5. Making comparisons with Chernobyl is absolute stupidity: Chernobyl was an uncontained explosion due to human error – deliberately overriding all safety mechanisms, in a reactor that was built WITHOUT a containment dome, unlike the Japanese reactors.
6. How many people died as a direct consequence of Chernobyl???? 56. That’s right, two intensive American research studies have determined that 56 people died because of the accident….not 56,000 or more in countless coal mining accidents, or from coal mining related diseases.
Time to wake up and smell the future and believe in the ingenuity of mankind to solve problems. There is nothing to gain without taking some risks and pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. Otherwise lets all go back to living in caves.

Posted by Roger G.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: The Renewable Energy Network

Eye watering figures.

And for the economic effects on agriculture in Japan:

http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/58088/

Posted by Colm M.

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LinkedIn Groups
Group: CleanTech

Belated comment on political instability for the solar power station in Africa. Is this any worse than relying on petroleum from equally unstable regions in Africa? At least the solar power will be cleaner to generate and transport. And we’re talking about a vast expanse. If one region becomes unstable and disrupts production, it’ll be easier to build new solar plants in an adjacent region – easier than exploring and drilling new oil rigs.

Posted by George F.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: CleanTech

The instability there makes it too uncertain to fund the DESERTEC project.

Posted by Neil F.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: CleanTech & Renewable Energy Finance Forum

Roger:
Not hysterical, rational.

New nuclear energy power generation is too expensive, especially when you factor in the external costs that the industry has managed to push off onto governments (taxpayers).

And it is dangerous. In the U.S. we have over 70,000 tons of spent fuel, most of it in containment pools, in 31 states.

And we don’t know what to do with it. The federal government has allowed the utilities to pile up this dangerous waste for over 50 years with absolutely no viable plan for how to safely secure it.

Expensive, dangerous, and blindingly short-sighted.

Nuclear power plants make sense if you can make them cheap, safe, and provide a secure way to store the waste. Do that and I’m all for it.

Posted by John W.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: The Renewable Energy Network

To sum up Colm’s linked article:

As far as the disaster in Japan, we don’t know all the details yet, and the government has taken certain precautionary measures until we know everything, but so far it seems clear that there is really nothing to worry about.

Posted by Steven W.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: The Renewable Energy Network

I suppose it all depends on how you view things. I saw it differently:

“are well below the threshold that would pose an immediate risk to the local residents. But reports of radionuclides in soil, water and food products are raising concerns among consumers and importers alike. While the levels of radioisotopes being detected in soil and crops are above legal standards, they are still below dangerous levels, according to most reports. The United States became the first country to block the import of milk and fresh produce from the areas around the plant, however, followed quickly by Hong Kong. What does this mean for Japan’s food industry, as well as the local flora and fauna?”

Read more: Fallout at Fukushima — Part 3 – The Scientist –

Posted by Colm M.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: The Renewable Energy Network

The one problem with nuclear is it IS inherently dangerous, you CANNOT design for every eventuality, that is just the way things are and no matter what you say you simply cannot beat the odds, there will always be problems that cannot be foreseen.

As for LCOE it is by its own title a whole life cost including insurance risk and clean up / decommissioning if they are not included its not LCOE, I would like to see LCOE costs that include this and waste storage.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not in theory against nuclear but it is dangerous and I’m still undecided wether that is too big a risk.

I do however think that I’d the amount of money that has been spent on nuclear if invested in Renewables would surely bring some massive advances.

Posted by Phil R.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: The Renewable Energy Network

Enough! Enough with the calculations and numbers. I am a mechanical engineer and make a living quantifying and analyzing. Nonetheless, the nuclear power question is not a question of what is the best business case or the true meaning of the EIA AEO2011 report. Whether one is in favor of nuclear power or not, I am sure that there are enough published studies to support a strong argument on either position based on numbers and calculations.

Until there is a workable plan for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel rods and power stations, all of this analysis begs a question that each of us must anwer personally. “Should the present generation knowingly engage in activities that result in a (radioactive) debt that our children must pay?”

If the majority of Americans believe that passing radioactive trash to our children is responsible behavior, it will be done, and someone will find the numbers to justify it.

Posted by Joe L.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: The Renewable Energy Network

While I agree with you from a moral pov, Joe Lenzi, I think proving its non-viability from an economic, engineering, and productivity view, is a safer route to the heart of American business and political class, than just relying on morality.

Posted by Colm M.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: CleanTech & Renewable Energy Finance Forum

John, if we want the power, we have to pay the price, otherwise don’t use the power, or become much more efficient. The reason we are in the global warming predicament is because of laziness over the last 30 years; pressure groups and easily bought politicians have taken the easy cheap options like coal, instead of thinking 50 years down the track. France is 80% nuclear, and does not have problems. Yes, there is a lot of nuclear waste, which can be stored very safely with current technology, and it will remain as waste until easily bought politicians are forced to put funding into R&D on how to use the waste. Then, through man’s ingenuity, a solution will be found and all of a sudden, this waste will be worth a fortune. Don’t worry, I prefer to use other forms of energy, but with the numbers of people in the world today, we have to be realistic more than idealistic.

Posted by Roger G.
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LinkedIn Groups
Group: CleanTech & Renewable Energy Finance Forum

Flooding – nuclear plants are build near large sources of water – rivers, lakes, or an ocean – for cooling. The Cooper Nuclear Station in Nebraska was built on a 100 year flood plain but with extensive dikes and levees to protect it from much higher flood levels. However in 1993 those dikes and levees failed during a large Missour River flood and the reactor had to be shut down.

A 100 year flood has a 26% chance of happening in 30 years – that’s why you have to buy flood insurance with your mortgage if your house is in a flood plain. This doesn’t mean that your house is protected from flooding, just that public insurance will pay for the damage. And that is why the nuclear industry insists the federal government (i.e. the taxpayer) back insurance for their industry – who else will?

A 100 year flood has a 1% probability of occurring in a given year (i.e. 1 chance in 100) and is thus described as a 100-year flood event. This suggests the common but mistaken notion that there should be an interval of 100 years between such events. In fact the probability of having two 100-year floods within 10 years is almost 10%.

Nuclear plants have additional dikes and levees for protection designed for the 500, 1,000 year or higher flood. With over 100 nuclear plants in the U.S., and the average age of over 30 years, what are the chances that at least one of them will experience a major flood in a given year????

Dikes and levees made New Orleans feel safe.

Posted by Robert Y
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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 29, 2011 9:24 AM

    See SSPP Blog Post: “Apocalypse Now! The Fukushima Reactor and Environmental Rhetoric”

    “…More broadly, what is the role of apocalyptic rhetoric in environmentalism, particularly regarding climate change?”
    http://ssppjournal.blogspot.com/2011/03/apocalypse-now-fukushima-reactor-and.html

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