Nuclear energy and society

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by Keln, Feb 4, 2011.

  1. billvon Valued Senior Member

    I agree! So what's worse - dumping tons more nuclear waste into the atmosphere and on the ground, or dealing with a far lesser quantity of waste in a manner such that none is released into the air or water?

    Personally I'd rather have less nuclear waste in the air I breathe. How about yourself?

    Right. We should be pushing alternatives instead of just increasing the coal mess as quickly as possible.

    Google Centralia, PA. Our very own Chernobyl from the coal power industry.

    That would be great. But right now one doesn't exist.

    Consider the following conversation between a doctor and a patient:

    Doctor: Your LDL levels are through the roof, and you are showing early signs of coronary artery obstruction. You have got to start exercising and dieting or you are headed for a heart attack.

    Patient: That's pretty inconvenient. What are my other options?

    Doctor: Well, statins can reduce your HDL's, and combined with diet . . .

    Patient: Whoah! Statins sound like they could be dangerous. I think I'll wait until a cheaper, safer alternative comes along.

    Would such a decision be a wise one?
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2011
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  3. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Wish I had the choice. So far, there is no such manner of dealing with nuke waste. They're storing it on top of earthquake faults on islands in the major river systems of the continent, that's how far they are from figuring that one out.

    They can't even manage coal, and you want to entrust them with nukes?
    Exactly - peanuts, by comparison. And that's as bad as it gets.

    One of many thermal solar plants. You could go with Stirling cycle, if you like - that's more cutting edge, but looks good.

    Cheaper and safer, currently available.
    No, it isn't. It's cheaper than nuclear, total cost - the latest thermal solar is getting competitive with coal, even.

    And that's without pro-rating a percentage of the military costs associated with India's bomb, Pakistan's bomb, or the looming Iranian bomb. That's without the related infrastructure costs and hassles. Just for starters.
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  5. twr Registered Senior Member

    I really think it's obvious why I don't want a fission plant within a zillion miles of my house. Even if the plant doesn't fail there's still a lot of radioactive waste to deal with, and we don't have a real method for doing that yet (You can argue if you want, but it's basically an elaborate landfill at this point, and the money we spend developing new facilities could be used to research cold fusion)

    Speaking of which, I am extremely interested in Fusion as a technology. If it could be developed, I'd be all over the idea without hesitation, as I'm sure everyone else would be, too.
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  7. twr Registered Senior Member


    Solar is competitive with coal and oil, the problem is that coal is subsidized by mining states and oil is subsidized by the Feds.

    If we really needed a quick fix we could just go with gasoline (But of course I'm sure the Global Warming types would have strong objections to that)
  8. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

    iceaura said, about wind power :

    "No, it isn't. It's cheaper than nuclear, total cost - the latest thermal solar is getting competitive with coal, even"

    The problem with this is that it is bulldust. Back to my reference.

    Gas is cheapest. Hydro, geothermal and nuclear follow. Wind 50% more costly, and solar way more costly.

    Iceaura, denying facts is not the way to win a debate.
  9. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    The problems with your references and assumptions have been pointed out to you, with links to better info and clear explication.

    As you have found yet another DOE handout to pass on as holy writ, a couple of comments without details:

    The real life capital costs of building and decommissioning a nuke are not visible - complete decommissioning remains to be accomplished - and as subsidies are not included much of the waste disposal cost is off the books there.

    Australians can build thermal solar plants at a total levelized cost per Mwh about one third of the DOE's estimates - see the table below the DOE fictionalization.
  10. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

    Still trying to win a debate by denying data. Not good!
  11. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Yes, there is. The proof is that there are no nuclear fuel leaks.

    A US town utterly destroyed - hundreds of people sickened - children swallowed up by the ground - thousands of acres made uninhabitable for 250 years - that's peanuts? If that's the case, then a US nuclear accident wouldn't even be peanuts. We're good to go.

    Cool, I'm all for that. Solar by day, nuclear at night.

    Not so much at night.
  12. adoucette Caca Occurs Valued Senior Member

    Source please?
    Specifically about a measurable increase in background radiation in the air we breathe because of these TONS of nuclear waste being added to the atmosphere by Nuclear Power plants. I presume this data should be easy to find because radiation is one of the easiest things to detect/measure, indeed they measure the air at the perimeter of every NPP in the US continuously.

    The TOTAL cost to relocate the residents was a paltry $42 million and the cause of this had to do with a poorly constructed land fill and volunteer fireman dumping burning material into a deep pit where coal seams were known to exist, not with anything actually to do with coal mining (the coal was there naturally and the fire was not specifically related to the mining activity).

    To equate this relatively TINY problem, resolved for a small amount of money, and one in which no one was even injured, to the many deaths and huge costs associated with Chernobyl is friggin unbelievable.

  13. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

  14. billvon Valued Senior Member

    There is no radiation being added to the atmosphere by nuclear power plants. There is no exhaust.

    However, there IS a lot of radiation from coal fired power plants. Here's a SciAm article about the issue:

    An excerpt:
    At one extreme, the scientists estimated fly ash radiation in individuals' bones at around 18 millirems (thousandths of a rem, a unit for measuring doses of ionizing radiation) a year. Doses for the two nuclear plants, by contrast, ranged from between three and six millirems for the same period. And when all food was grown in the area, radiation doses were 50 to 200 percent higher around the coal plants.

    The fire started because the dump was dug through coal mine shafts, giving the initial fire access to air.

    So the destruction of a US town, and a disaster rendering it uninhabitable for 250 years is a TINY problem. And the Three Mile Island incident, where no one was injured, no one had to relocate, and no contamination occurred, is an apocalypse.

    This goes back to the original question. Why do people have such irrational and emotional responses to nuclear power while giving more dangerous forms of power a free pass? What is it about nuclear power that causes some otherwise intelligent people's brains to shut down? It's an interesting question.
  15. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Compared with Chernobyl, or the potential of Three Mile Island, or several other obvious possibilities hanging over everyone's heads right now, it's peanuts - yep.
    Nuclear plants go off line frequently, and often without warning. If you can't deal with a regular and easily handled cycle of power production, you certainly can't deal with the sporadic and far more serious hassles of nukes.

    I think it's because our minds don't handle probability, chance, or statistical matters, easily. We are built to impose structures of cause and effect. And everyone wants a free lunch.

    The same human characteristics that have been enriching the casino owners in Vegas for decades, interfere with a sane estimation of the costs of nuclear power production.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2011
  16. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Or consider the rest of the Mojave installations:

    which have a combined capacity of almost 400 MW - roughly the equivalent of 4 nuclear power plants - and slated to double in capacity with the introduction of new facilities near Las Vegas in the next few years.
  17. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Again, comparing imaginary disasters to real ones is pretty much a non-starter. It's like telling someone in a floodplain they should drop their flood insurance and buy meteor insurance, because meteors are a lot scarier.

    Yep. So do coal, natural gas and hydro plants. Such events often cause blackouts before additional generation capability can be brought on line.

    Now compare that to, say, solar. A guaranteed blackout every night. Unless you have other baseline sources available to take up the slack - like, say, nuclear.

    Very true.

    Also agreed. The irrational hope of winning even when the statistics indicate you will not - or the irrational fear of dying in an imaginary disaster - can cause people to make foolish decisions.
  18. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

    Not quite true.
    Nuclear power plants have a strong 'economy of scale' rule. For this reason, in the main, nuclear power plants need to be 1000 MW or more to become comfortably economical. 100MW nuclear plants do not get built because they are not economic.
  19. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    The situation is more like telling someone on a floodplain that they should buy bicycle accident insurance instead of flood insurance, because they haven't seen a flood in years, but bike accidents are common.

    Floods are just imaginary, see - until they happen.
    Not really - and not indefinitely, or catastrophically, with no warning at all.

    Solar would be even more reliable than that. Nukes are too complex and centralized to ever be that dependable.
    Most people just recommend storing enough power to tide you over. It's a lot cheaper and safer.
    Which leads to concentration of economic and political power, combined with increased vulnerability to very large scale disasters.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2011
  20. Skeptical Registered Senior Member


    The world has seen one (count it - one) significant accident with nuclear power. The world's top experts, the international atomic energy agency - says the total of all deaths from Chernobyl will come to 2500.

    Hydroelectricity and coal power have both killed vastly more than that. By comparison, nuclear is positively benign.

    The view that nuclear is a terrible threat is largely imaginary. Emotional paranoia.
  21. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    The world has seen dozens of significant accidents, but only one disaster. So far.

    Barring the economic ones, of course - the stuff is extremely expensive, the industry full of cons and thieves.

    Maybe our luck will hold. Maybe not. The more nukes we build, the farther we push it.
    Tell that to the Ukrainians.

    One of the virtues of the adult mind is its ability to avoid disaster by foreseeing it - to learn by reason and consideration, rather than only by misfortune and error.
  22. Skeptical Registered Senior Member

    To iceaura

    Every means of generating electricity has its drawback. No-one is saying nuclear is 100% safe. What we are saying is that it is as safe or safer than alternatives. Coal burning kills literally hundreds of thousands per year from respiratory ills and releases far more radioactive waste than nuclear power plants. Hydroelectricity kills by a range of methods, but one single dam burst in India in the 1960's killed 10,000 people - four times more than Chernobyl's total.

    All of which puts nuclear into the realm of the relatively 'safe'. Those who say it should be banned should, by reason of the statistics, be pushing for the banning of hydroelectricity, gas burning and coal burning as well. Once that happens, we can all light our cooking fires, and our whale oil lamps and get on with our primitive lives.
  23. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Until the day it isn't. Which will apparently come as a surprise to its proponents - being deaf and blind, or something.
    We keep overlooking the thermal solar stuff. Why?

    Last I checked the verdict was that Chernobyl alone in one week released more radioactivity than all the coal power plants on the planet have since WWII. By a factor of more than twenty.

    And Chernobyl is not over. The reactor core is not contained - the shell is cracking, and it's still melting down.

    Meanwhile, we are stuck with all those horrible dams, coal plants, etc, regardless - nukes are too expensive to replace anything.

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