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Harvey Wasserman writes: "What's peaked now, as Fukushima melts and burns and dumps its radioactive poisons into the air and the oceans and the people of this planet, is one financial reality: even with all its subsidies, nuclear power can no longer stand in the market place."

An anti-nuke flag is displayed at a protest in Kouenji, Japan, 04/10/11. (photo: SandoCap/Flickr)
An anti-nuke flag is displayed at a protest in Kouenji, Japan, 04/10/11. (photo: SandoCap/Flickr)



Are We On the Brink of Burying Nuke Power Forever?

By Harvey Wasserman, Reader Supported News

16 June 11


RSN Special Coverage: Disaster in Japan

 

his may be the moment history has turned definitively against atomic energy.

To be sure: we are still required to fight hard to bury reactor loan guarantees in the United States. There are parallel struggles in China, Indian, England, France and South Korea.

The great fear is that until every single reactor on this planet is shut, none of us is really safe from another radioactive horror show.

Thus the moment is clearly marked at Fukushima by three reactors and a radioactive fuel pool still untamed after three months, with the horrific potential to do far more apocalyptic damage than we've seen even to date.

That image includes Japanese school children being issued Geiger counters to carry with them 24/7.

And Fukushima's radiation raining down on the United States, with links to reports of a heightened infant death rate in Seattle.

And by countless other on-going disasters and near-misses at reactors everywhere on the planet. Included is Fort Calhoun, in Nebraska, which got zero corporate media coverage as it was nearly flooded and did lose power to its radioactive fuel pool.

From well-reasoned fear, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Israel and other critical players have announced they will build no more reactors. Some will start shutting the ones they have.

Japan and Germany are the third and fourth largest economies on Earth. Japan has long been at the core of the reactor industry. Germany's economy is the largest in Europe. Some European nations are rumbling about an alliance to shut the reactors among their nuclear neighbors.

All this could be happening merely in reaction to yet another Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. The corporate media has attempted to induce a coma over Fukushima by simply refusing the cover the on-going disaster.

But the worsening realities are as utterly relentless as they are terrifying. In the age of the internet, there is simply no way to totally suppress the horror of what is happening to our Earth, especially at its lethal, festering wound at Fukushima.

But what truly sets this moment apart is not just the radioactive nightmare. There have been others. There will certainly be more.

What's unique about now is the Solartopian flip side. It is the irrepressible fact that we have finally reached the green-powered tipping point.

For the first time in history, the financial, industrial and trade journals are filled with pithy, number-laden reports declaring the moment has come - and this can not be overemphasized - that solar power is definitively cheaper than nuclear.

It is an epic moment that future economic and technological historians will note as a true turning point.

In real terms, Solartopian technology - wind, solar, geothermal, ocean thermal, bio-fuels, wave, current, tidal, efficiency, conservation - has always been cheaper than nukes.

The "Peaceful Atom" has always been a creature of subsidies, a happy face painted on the Bomb. Its true health, safety and environmental costs can never be reliably calculated.

What, after all, will be the true price tag on Fukushima? How do we begin to calculate the costs in human agony and ecological destruction?

Already Japan is being torn apart by who will pay: the utility (it doesn't have enough assets), the government (it could go bankrupt) or the victims (who else?). The only thing certain is this once-powerful industrial nation will never recover.

It's no accident the reactor industry cannot get private capital for new reactor construction, or private liability insurance of real consequence, and cannot solve its waste problems without the federal government taking responsibility - which, in truth, even it cannot do.

The true installment cost of the US reactor fleet can't even be calculated, as much of the liability was dishonestly wiped off the books in the deregulation scam of 1999-2002.

What we're left with worldwide is 440 uninsured ticking time bombs, potential Chernobyls and Fukushimas, every one of them. There are 104 in the US. The only real question is when the next one will go off and how long it will take to actually hear about it.

Atomic energy also feeds global warming. Who will account for the enormous heat still rising from Fukushima? How much did Chernobyl spew? Carbon emissions come with the mining, milling, enrichment and ultimate disposal of radioactive fuel, not to mention the building and dismantling of the reactors themselves.

For yet another summer, nukes in France, Alabama and elsewhere must close because the infernal machines that "fight global warming" must shut shy of heating the rivers they use for cooling to 90 degrees Farenheit.

What's peaked now, as Fukushima melts and burns and dumps its radioactive poisons into the air and the oceans and the people of this planet, is one financial reality: even with all its subsidies, nuclear power can no longer stand in the market place.

The first option, of course, has become natural gas, whose price has plummeted. But the gas boom is based in large part on fracking, an unsustainable environmental disaster. Its momentum is huge, but so is its threat to the waters we need to survive.

In the long term, the future is with renewables. They are often subsidized as well. But the scale is not comparable, and does not fully compensate for the hidden realities of atomic power's uninsurability and its inability to solve its basic waste, health and eco-impacts.

Were the nuclear industry forced to fully insure itself, or were it charged the true cost of its invested capital, or what it does to the planet and the humans who live on it, not a single reactor owner could afford to keep a reactor running for a single day.

Small wonder Wall Street has long been more anti-nuclear than Main Street.

The numbers are now easy to find. WorldWatch has just issued the definitive End of Nuclear by Mycle Schneider, laden with charts, graphs, tables and all the financial data anyone needs to confirm the case. The Rocky Mountain Institute has long had similar material on file and at the tip of Amory Lovins's tongue.

Now we see Forbes, the Wall Street Journal and the core corporate press conceding the obvious.

In short, the bottom line has now become the bottom line. Reactor costs have doubled and tripled in the past few years even before Fukushima. Green energy costs continue to plummet.

The last barrier is that to understand how a Solartopian economy works, you have to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Base-load power is readily available from geo-thermal, bio-fuels and a broad mix. One does need to balance the various intermittent sources - wind, solar, tidal - to keep the glass full.

But Fukushima has shown that nukes are also intermittent in the worst imaginable way.

Any sane for-profit player with the bucks enough to build a new reactor will now put them into renewables. Witness Google, now investing $280 million in a fund for installing solar panels on home rooftops, and millions more for undersea links to offshore wind farms.

The dream of a Solartopian future has become the capitalist present. Germany and Japan would not be committing to a green-powered future if its large corporations - Siemans, Enercon, Mitsubishi, Sharp - whose CEOs have run the numbers and decided nukes are a loser. And that the real profit center for the long-term energy biz is in green power.

What remains for us is to get the government out of the game. The $36 billion in loan guarantees Obama wants in the 2012budget must come out. We need to call the White House and Congress constantly until this happens.

Then we need to find a way to get the Chinese, Indians, Koreans, Brits and French to join Germany, Japan and the rest of us in a post-nuclear world.

How soon this gets done is up to us. Our fervent hope - and greatest incentive - is knowing this must be done before the next Fukushima strikes.


Harvey Wasserman's "Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030" is at www.solartopia.org. He is senior advisor to Greenpeace USA and the Nuclear Information & Resource Service, and writes regularly for www.freepress.org. He and Bob Fitrakis have co-authored four books on election protection, including "Did George W. Bush Steal America's 2004 Election?," "As Goes Ohio: Election Theft Since 2004," "How the GOP Stole America's 2004 Election & Is Rigging 2008," and "What Happened in Ohio."

 

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-3 # Monty Gee 2011-06-17 00:06
Black humor not intended, but there's a sort of poetic justice in the only nation to have suffered two devastating atomic bombs spewing nuclear toxins into the air and into the vast Pacific!
 
 
+1 # gina 2011-06-19 08:44
it seems to me that this was almost gayas (spelled wrong I know) revenge for japans assault on the environment
 
 
-4 # James38 2011-06-17 01:33
I am as pleased as Mr. Wasserman with the latest reports of progress on renewable energy. Particularly the possibility of fuel production by microorganisms using atmospheric CO2 would be an excellent advance. However, he gets some facts and emphasis incorrect. Two statements by him summarize the problem areas:
The first is, “Base-load power is readily available from geo-thermal, bio-fuels and a broad mix. One does need to balance the various intermittent sources - wind, solar, tidal - to keep the glass full.”
This is a wild exaggeration if you consider the lead time necessary to produce globally significant amounts of base-load power, and the power lines to distribute it. The potential is there, but building the facilities large enough and quickly enough will be a huge effort, and it will also involve just as much, and very probably more, greenhouse gas production, and a much larger environmental footprint than nuclear power plants. It also cannot be done nearly as rapidly as building new nuclear plants, which can also be located near the places where the power is needed. This leads us to the second issue:
“But Fukushima has shown that nukes are also intermittent in the worst imaginable way.”
This statement neatly summarizes the outrageously exaggerated criticism of nuclear energy that has become widespread since the Fukushima incident.
 
 
-5 # Zol 2011-06-17 10:52
Excellent comments, James38. Note to other readers. Please read all of James38's comments before reacting. He is trying to present a balanced approach to the extreme need to replace oil and coal burning base-load power plants. This is essential to preventing major climate change disasters.
 
 
+3 # universlman 2011-06-17 11:39
our local public power utility is dead-set against wind (massive gearbox failures) and solar (wrong solar angle) and conservation (must sell the excess power anyway at lower wholesale price.)

james38 is using the same old argument against change - his comments are an excuse not to change our thinking rather than a challenge to figure out how - we should expect much resistance from our stubborn and slow-to-change utilities who are heavily invested in base-load and light on real ideas leading to a better cleaner energy future
 
 
-6 # James38 2011-06-17 15:14
Universalman, I am not arguing against change. I am for development of all non-fossil-fuel power sources, which you would know had you bothered to read my posts. It is also not being against change to recommend that we use the latest nuclear reactor designs in a global effort to eliminate more CO2 pollution. Since the newest reactor designs can use current stockpiles of Nuclear Waste for fuel, they are not only a means to clean power, they eliminate a major problem we have left over from poor practices and design of the past. You need to do some real research. In the name of being "green" you wind up restricting progress and shooting yourself in the foot.
 
 
+4 # Texas Aggie 2011-06-18 08:57
While it is certainly true that oil and coal burning base-load plants need to be replaced, why do you assume that nuclear plants are part of the answer? Why not replace them with something a lot less hazardous? It isn't as if there were only a couple options after all.
 
 
+3 # mhogjones 2011-06-17 13:39
"Let's take the most toxic substance on earth, distribute it along faultlines and coastlines around the Earth with no viable plan for disposal or safety, make sure it never turns a profit, and then lay the management and responsibility of the most toxic substance on Earth on the people where the reactors reside!" Dr. Evil to his Evil Cohorts? No..the nuclear industry and james38 to we-the-people! Clime back under your boulder, schill!
 
 
-3 # James38 2011-06-17 15:19
The jury is out about what is the most toxic substance on earth, but the radioactive effluvia of coal burning plants is certainly on the list. Many people do not know that there is significantly more radioactive material in coal burning residues, smoke and ash, than there ever is around a properly functioning reactor. Thousands of people die prematurely every year in the US from the toxic effects of coal smoke. Nobody has ever died from any effect of a properly functioning reactor. So, which is more toxic? Coal mining is devastating to the environment. The dust that blows off trainloads of coal is a major problem along rail lines. Coal is, in short, a very toxic mess, from mine to ash heap.
 
 
0 # Texas Aggie 2011-06-18 08:53
And how is the statement that nuclear energy is "intermittent in the worst imaginable way" an exaggeration? What would be worse than what has happened in Japan?
 
 
-5 # James38 2011-06-17 01:35
Forgotten is the fact that Fukushima is an example of the older type of nuclear reactor that was designed to rely on external power sources (line or emergency generator power) for control and shutdown in case of an emergency. These older shutdown systems were complicated and were not fail-safe. However, Fukushima also suffered from two additional dangerous unnecessary and outrageously stupid features. One, it was built near the ocean, and two, it was built close to a large and active fault zone. How engineers could have been stupid enough to build a nuclear or any other type of power plant in such a completely wrong place is hard to imagine. However, since this disaster, I seriously doubt that anyone would commit the same errors again. Already other old type nuclear plants that were equally foolishly located near the ocean are being reinforced to prevent similar tsunami damage. One interesting note is that in the area of Fukushima, stones bearing the inscription “Do not build permanent structures below this point” were erected well up the hillsides hundreds of years ago all along the coastline of Japan. They were put in place by wise elders who understood the potential of tsunami damage. If only the engineers of Fukushima and other projects had been wise enough to heed this obvious and essential warning.
 
 
+3 # Texas Aggie 2011-06-18 08:27
Where in Japan are you going to find a place that is NOT "One, ... near the ocean and two, ... close to a large and active fault zone."?
 
 
+3 # Gurka 2011-06-17 01:36
Strong words - each and one of them true, unfortunately. This article is a great synopsis and a bold prediction of immense value. It will show - when it will be read some 20 years from now - that there ARE people today who really know what the nuclear folly really means. It will make it hard for everybody, including the habitually ignorant politicians, to say "We didn't know". It should be curriculum in all education from high school and up. I'll send it to all my friends, asking them to spread it. Having worked against nuclear power plants since the early seventies I have experience enough to say that the essential knowledge is to be found here. Bye bye, Nuclear! Hello, Sanity!
 
 
-8 # James38 2011-06-17 01:38
Understanding all that, we need to do a proper analysis of Nuclear Power plant design. Modern designs do not rely on any external power to shut down. They are fail-safe designs, and the likelihood of a major meltdown is reduced to essentially zero. In spite of that safeguard, they have additional features that make them even more secure. Therefore, to say that Fukushima shows anything at all about the actual safety of modern reactor design is completely untrue, and amounts to propaganda – as does using the word “nukes” to refer to nuclear power plants. Ignoring these facts, and using an emotionally loaded word that is associated with nuclear weapons to refer to Nuclear Power installations, simply shows that Mr. Wasserman is indulging in propaganda and is presenting a biased opinion as if it were factual analysis.

This is a terrible thing to do, since the world needs to stop burning fossil fuels as rapidly as possible, and Nuclear Power is clearly one of the most important sources we have for base-load power to replace oil, gas, and coal. In spite of Mr. Wasserman’s shrill emotional diatribe, Nuclear Power may indeed be the best way we have to rapidly replace base-load power.
 
 
+4 # Gurka 2011-06-17 08:43
How much does the nuclear lobby pay you to put in their old cliches and never ending propaganda here?
 
 
-7 # James38 2011-06-17 10:12
Do some serious study before blindly repeating propaganda, Gurka. Should I ask how much Greenpeace is paying you for repeating their "party line"? Automatic rejection of nuclear energy by organizations trying to present themselves as rational defenders of the planet is absurd. They defeat their own purpose, and make themselves look ridiculous to people with actual knowledge.
 
 
-6 # James38 2011-06-17 01:40
There are other important facts about modern reactor design that Mr. Wasserman is ignorant about, or ignores. One is that the modern reactor designs are far more efficient at extracting energy from a given amount of fuel. They are also capable of using existing stockpiles of “nuclear waste” as fuel. Doing so will provide a huge amount of energy while eliminating the waste problem altogether. The only waste products left over are very small in volume and remain radioactive for a much shorter time. Storage will no longer be an issue of any difficulty.
There is enough uranium already mined; as ore, as waste, and as concentrated material up to and including weapons grade material in existing stockpiles, to provide world energy needs for some time. Another fact he ignores is that modern reactors can use Thorium as fuel, and that element is much more abundant and safer to mine than Uranium. Modern mining methods also reduce the amount of environmental damage and radiation danger. Modern reactors can be designed so that weapons grade material cannot be extracted or produced. They are smaller and less expensive to build than the former designs, and with their higher efficiencies are therefore significantly less expensive than Mr. Wasserman claims.
 
 
-7 # James38 2011-06-17 01:41
There have been three major Nuclear Reactor disasters. Chernobyl was a reactor so poorly designed as to hardly qualify as a realistic facility. It also had no containment structure. Even so, the disaster there was only caused by poorly trained technicians making a series of mistakes. Three Mile Island was better designed and built, but had the old type complicated cooling and shut-down systems. The problem there was also caused by operator error. Nobody has been able to understand why the technicians decided to shut off the cooling water when they did. Had the reactor design, old as it was, been allowed to function as intended, the meltdown would not have occurred. However, even though the reactor melted down, no significant radiation was released. Fukushima collapsed because it was hit by a Tsunami. Even the earthquake would not have been enough to cause that disaster. It was the ridiculous location that exposed the reactor to the tsunami. It should be obvious that turning the negative results of these poorly designed reactors into a criticism of modern reactor construction is completely ridiculous.
 
 
-9 # James38 2011-06-17 01:42
When you compare the monstrous amount of environmental damage done just by mining (e.g. mountain-top removal) and burning coal, the emissions and waste products of which cause thousands of premature deaths each year in the US alone, you will realize that the costs and environmental damage Mr. Wasserman blames on Nuclear Power pale by comparison. Coal is the dirtiest fuel in use, and instead of reducing its use, the world is increasing it. Also, he ignores the deaths and environmental devastation caused by uncontrolled coal mine fires, refinery explosions and fires, and the notorious British Petroleum disaster in the Gulf of Mexico last year. Oil production in Nigeria has caused massive pollution and health problems there. Perhaps he needs reminding of the Exxon Valdez disaster, and the almost countless other major and minor oil spills that constantly have occurred over the past century. The toxic waste of fossil fuel production is only rivaled by the amount of bias in Mr. Wasserman’s article.
 
 
-8 # James38 2011-06-17 01:43
It is obvious that building all forms of base-load power facilities must be pursued rapidly, but to make attempts, such as this one by Mr. Wasserman, to frighten people away from one of the best available sources of immediate base-load power does all of us and the planet we live on a disservice.

I hope Mr. Wasserman, and others who are concerned about the need for immediate replacement of gas, oil, and coal burning power plants, will get inspired to do honest and realistic studies of the alternatives available to us. Modern Nuclear Power is one of the best we have available. It can serve us well and safely for many years, and can provide global base-load power for centuries if necessary. Properly considered, we can determine which mix of power sources to use. We must remember that calm and honest discussion is needed. Mr. Wasserman will hopefully join that effort soon.
 
 
+7 # Ken Hall 2011-06-17 02:44
Environmentalis ts have been saying for decades that nuclear energy is not safe, less expensive, sensible, or environmentally friendly. Let's give credit where credit is due, they were right, the nuclear "experts" were wrong. Humans, who oversaw and planned every facet of the nuclear energy plants, from siting and design to construction and operations, are notable for their fallibility. Fallibility in this case means long term contamination of the earth, resulting in death, disease, birth abnormalities, etc., far into the future. The risk assessment for nuclear energy is lopsidedly dangerous. Time to shut them down and invest in renewable, sustainable energy sources.
 
 
+2 # diacad 2011-06-17 05:03
If it were not for the drawbacks of
uranium cycle plants (waste products, danger of meltdown, production of
weapon-grade substances, etc.), nuclear energy would be the ideal answer to the
"energy crisis". Thorium-based reactors supposedly minimize or eliminate these problems. India and China have working reactors based on this principle, so I am led to believe. What is the problem, besides existing investment in uranium technology, that keeps thorium out of public discussion in the US? Even a recent issue of Scientific American explaining alternative nuclear energy proposals avoided mentioning it. Is there something I am missing? See:
http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/348/ - also
http://nextbigfuture.com/2008/08/indias-thorium-nuclear-reactor-and.html
 
 
+4 # Gurka 2011-06-17 08:38
Maybe the thorium thing isn't in the center of the discussion because it may have some faults? Hah, tens of thousands of used radioactive thorium balls... just the visualization of that is a nightmare. And know what? Over 2000 of such balls are already missing in Germany. Thorium is not the future. Craving for instant energy gratification in not the future. Rethinking about our way of life, planning slowly and intelligently is the only way to go - without nuclear, which in all its forms will keep the human family away from real progress.
 
 
-2 # James38 2011-06-18 09:02
Gurka, the only reference to lost thorium I could find was in an old fiction story. To my knowledge, thorium "balls" have never been used for anything. Thorium is not very radioactive, and can not sustain a chain reaction. Do you have a reference for your claim of 2000 missing balls?
 
 
0 # Gurka 2011-06-18 11:37
Quoting James38:
Gurka, the only reference to lost thorium I could find was in an old fiction story. To my knowledge, thorium "balls" have never been used for anything. Thorium is not very radioactive, and can not sustain a chain reaction. Do you have a reference for your claim of 2000 missing balls?


Sorry, we have to do with different time zones on different continents, so I did not see your posting before now.
Never heard of Thorium being used in reactors? Well here is some news for you, about Thorium balls in reactors, about some of them missing. You may use Google Translate this into English. I haven't time to do translations for you, but you may try Google translations.
http://www.kernfragen.de/kernfragen/technik/04-Reaktortypen/4-06-Der-Thorium-Hochtemperaturreaktor.php
http://www.wdr.de/themen/politik/nrw04/atomkraft/110402.jhtml
http://www.contratom.de/2011/04/04/2285-brennelementkugeln-verschlampt/
 
 
-1 # James38 2011-06-20 22:49
Thanks for sending the reference, Gurka. I will read and comment when I have a chance. However, as to your statement that I have never heard of Thorium used in reactors, that is odd. You have responded to posts of mine in which I mention that Thorium will be the fuel of choice in future Modern reactors. What I had never heard of was "Thorium Balls", missing or not. Could you possibly mean "pellets"? That is a term I would have found familiar. The fact is that Thorium can not sustain a chain reaction without being activated. One design uses a beam of neutrons without which the reaction stops. One organization is doing research into more efficient fuel rod design. See http://ltbridge.com/technologyservices/fueltechnology/thoriumuranium

Here is a quote from their site: "Lightbridge-de signed all-metal fuel technology can provide up to 30% power generation increase in current and next-generation pressurized water reactors. As a result, the initial capital cost per megawatt and the annual operations and maintenance costs per kilowatt-hour, which, in combination, typically account for over four-fifth of the total cost of nuclear power generation, are expected to be reduced."

The amount of research being done in modern reactor design is amazing, and everyone interested in this discussion should look up some articles on the subject.
 
 
-2 # James38 2011-06-21 19:14
Gurka, I have begun to look into the information you sent, and I understand now what you mean by the balls. I still have not found the reference to any of the fuel balls being lost. Obviously it would be incredibly stupid to lose radioactive fuel balls, but that would just be another indication of the need for better organization of the entire fuel cycle. Again, these problems do not indicate that the modern reactor designs are not safe and effective. Thanks again for the references.
 
 
+1 # Gurka 2011-06-22 14:53
The number of the missing Thorium balls is 2285. Together the will contain 2.2 kg Uran 235 and 23 kg Thorium 232 - enough for more than one "dirty bomb". If they have served in the reactor they will also contain Plutonium.
The balls were used in a research reactor in Jülich, Germany. 290.000 of those balls were used in the Jülich research facility between 1967 and 1988. They are still there on the site, stored in so-called Castor containers, awaiting their end deposit - which has yet to materialize. The research facility is now being dismantled. The scandal of the missing balls is a hot political theme in Germany.
http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-77855731.html
 
 
-1 # James38 2011-06-23 03:34
Hello, Gurka. I hope others are still reading this discussion, since it is proving quite interesting. I surmise from your use of Uran for Uranium, and a few other instances that your first language is German. If so, I congratulate you on your English. It is excellent. My knowledge of German is rudimentary, although I speak Spanish and some French. About the balls, I note that 2285 is about 0.78% of the total number of fuel balls at the facility, or the total number of balls multiplied by 0.0078. Since I do not know what happened, if I were to investigate this matter, my first question would be, “Is this an accounting error?” Did someone make a simple mathematical error, or did this relatively small number of balls just get counted wrong, and they may actually physically still be at the facility? Perhaps you know the answer, but whatever it is, it falls in the category of arguments for better controls, and not in an argument against the potential use of modern nuclear power. Making, as you say, the “scandal of the missing balls” “a hot political theme in Germany” is an example of the use of an inappropriate and minor issue to drum up emotional reactions. If the balls are actually missing, their potential use in a dirty bomb would be serious, but it only points out a need for better controls.
 
 
-1 # James38 2011-06-23 03:37
For example, did the facility have detectors installed at all exits to determine the presence of radioactive material? Any person or vehicle leaving the facility could easily be checked for the presence of unshielded balls, and for containers with enough shielding to prevent the detectors from reacting. Detectors in the facilities where the balls were handled and stored certainly could have prevented the removal of any balls, either shielded or not. The proper functioning of the detectors would be checked at the beginning, middle, and end of all shifts by the simple expedient of passing a small quantity of radioactive material through them – say something that would emit about 0.001% of the radiation of one ball. If the facilities were built during a time of more relaxed ideas of security, the procedures should certainly have been improved as the world political situation changed and became more dangerous.

These are among the lessons we must learn from events that have occurred in the nuclear industry to the present. To say that the disasters and problems that have occurred must be interpreted as requiring the decision to eliminate future nuclear power development is absurd. That would be like saying that the necessary response to any future airplane crash must be to abandon all passenger flights immediately and forever.
 
 
0 # James38 2011-06-23 03:41
As an aside, why don’t you look up the total number of civilian casualties from plane crashes, and compare that number to the number of people actually killed by nuclear accidents. I already mentioned the awful number of people killed every year in passenger car crashes, yet we continue to drive them. You also might look up the number of people killed in coal mine accidents and from the pollution produced by the burning of coal. That should result in the immediate cessation of the mining or burning of coal. If you add in the increased development of global warming due to CO2 from coal, you will have a strong case for eliminating the use of coal immediately. Coal is a vast danger to the whole planet, in a way that future Nuclear Power plants simply are not and could never be. It seems to me that if you clearly look at these facts, you will understand that arbitrarily eliminating the future use of Nuclear Power just does not make sense. In terms of simple practicality, and including the costs and dangers of it and all the alternatives, Nuclear Power comes out looking remarkably good. It looks even better when you add in the capacity to convert all stockpiles of existing nuclear material, including the famous balls, into usable energy, and nuclear electricity does not require building long new transmission lines.
 
 
0 # James38 2011-06-23 03:42
It gains even more points when you add up the huge investment and time required to actually supply the world with base-load power from other sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, wave, tidal, biomass, etc. I am hopeful that some new development will prove faster and easier than Nuclear Power, but those possibilities are still out of reach of practical development. We simply do not have time to wait. The suggestion was made that modern nuclear plants be built to consume the existing stockpiles of “nuclear waste” as a first step, either toward eliminating nuclear problems and programs altogether, or possibly to prove that modern reactors are actually sufficiently safe to be acceptable as part of the solution of our future power needs. I wholeheartedly support this idea.
PS You say that the experiments using the balls were run between the years 1967 and 1988. Those were early years for fast neutron reactors. The latest designs are much more efficient and much safer, and use more sophisticated fuel and cooling systems.
You suggested more arguments in a post below. I will continue the discussion there.
 
 
0 # James38 2011-06-23 03:46
PS The reference to Der Spiegel did not produce the lost balls article.
 
 
-4 # James38 2011-06-17 10:06
Thank you diacad for making the essential suggestion that actual study of facts be done on this issue. There is an intensely emotional fear-reaction to the mysteries and dangers of radiation. It is causing otherwise genuinely concerned people to react without thinking to anti-nuclear-en ergy propaganda as if the propaganda were fact. This article by Wasserman is a classic example of appealing to these fears by repeating exaggerated negative statements and ignoring actual analysis. Most technology has dangers, but we continue to use it for its advantages. The passenger car is responsible for more death and mayhem by far (every year) than nuclear reactors ever were, but these anti-"nuke" folks are used to cars and ride around in them every day. Please note in my posts above that the new designs of reactors cam use nuclear waste as well as Uranium or Thorium as fuel, solving the storage problem. Also they are designed so they can not be used to produce weapons grade material, and they are designed for fail-safe shutdown in the event of any problem. The latest designs are truly safe and far superior to the older designs. Look up http://www.euronuclear.org to see new construction. France is safely operating 58 plants, and several are under construction in various countries. This is a major contribution toward eliminating coal and oil for base-load power.
 
 
+4 # universlman 2011-06-17 11:56
james38 doth protest too much methinks
 
 
+1 # Gurka 2011-06-17 12:23
You say: "Please note in my posts above that the new designs of reactors cam use nuclear waste as well as Uranium or Thorium as fuel, solving the storage problem." If ever there was a mercenary in the war against Reason, that must be you, mr. James38. Solving the storage problem, my A$$.
 
 
+3 # mhogjones 2011-06-17 14:01
I agree, let's not allow some schill to guide the debate here; the real debate is whether to never build another and shut down the existing ones gradually, or to never build another and shut them all down now!
 
 
-4 # James38 2011-06-17 15:28
Gurka, you are substituting name-calling for thinking. It is a fact that the present stockpiles of nuclear waste can be used for power generation, and eliminated as a storage problem. That is a major positive act - to turn a problem into a resource.

And, mhog, the word is shill, and you are exactly that for mindless repetition of propaganda. How about some facts to support your arguments? If you really look at the facts, you will be surprised at how different they are from the canned anti-"nuke" stuff you are repeating.
 
 
+1 # mhogjones 2011-06-17 13:48
Wouldn't the maintenance and security of such dangerous elements and the waste they produce guarantee the need for a centralized/mil itarized government state for say, oh I don't know...THE HALF-LIFE of plutonium!?! Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there a global terrorist threat lurking in the shadows amonst us?
Talk about job security for the Nuke industry/fascis t security state!
 
 
-3 # James38 2011-06-17 17:17
mhog, if you will take the time to read the processes of modern nuclear power, you will discover that the radioactive elements are confined to the reactor core, and during the reactions, the "dangerous" elements, including plutonium, are broken down into smaller and mostly non-radioactive elements. The energy is produced during these reactions. When a batch of fuel is spent, or consumed, it is removed and there is very little radioactive waste left over. Any unreacted heavy elements are separated out and returned to the reactor core for further energy generation. At no time is there a problem with storage and the waste is consumed in the power generating process. You should look up articles on the latest reactor designs. They are very elegant and interesting - and safe.
 
 
-1 # Gurka 2011-06-17 18:28
Yeah, sure - nice and tidy. Like in Fukushima, right? It's the New Reactor Design that is gonna solve all problems, right? Either you really believe this nonsense, or you are a robot poster run by the nuclear lobby.
 
 
-3 # James38 2011-06-17 19:04
Gurka, I quote my second post: "Forgotten is the fact that Fukushima is an example of the older type of nuclear reactor that was designed to rely on external power sources (line or emergency generator power) for control and shutdown in case of an emergency. These older shutdown systems were complicated and were not fail-safe. However, Fukushima also suffered from two additional dangerous unnecessary and outrageously stupid features. One, it was built near the ocean, and two, it was built close to a large and active fault zone. How engineers could have been stupid enough to build a nuclear or any other type of power plant in such a completely wrong place is hard to imagine. However, since this disaster, I seriously doubt that anyone would commit the same errors again. Already other old type nuclear plants that were equally foolishly located near the ocean are being reinforced to prevent similar tsunami damage. One interesting note is that in the area of Fukushima, stones bearing the inscription “Do not build permanent structures below this point” were erected well up the hillsides hundreds of years ago all along the coastline of Japan. They were put in place by wise elders who understood the potential of tsunami damage. If only the engineers of Fukushima and other projects had been wise enough to heed this obvious and essential warning."
 
 
-4 # James38 2011-06-17 19:13
Gurka, It will be very helpful for a real discussion if you will simply take the time to read what has been posted. Since you did not bother to do so, you felt free to make critical comments that were totally irrelevant. (Does posting a comment that only expresses your irrelevant and uninformed opinion qualify as being robotic?)

If you take the trouble to read all of my posts, as I have done in responding to you, you will see that I do not limit my ideas to one topic. I recommend using all appropriate energy sources. Reading what the other person has said is just common courtesy, and is essential for a thoughtful discussion of an important topic.
 
 
0 # Gurka 2011-06-17 22:54
I certainly have read your posts, Mr. James38, and what I have seen is gullibility beyond redemption.
 
 
0 # James38 2011-06-21 03:28
Gurka, my reply to this observation of yours is a few posts down.
 
 
-2 # James38 2011-06-21 13:44
In case you come back, Gurka, thanks for the laugh. I am afraid it was at your expense, however. What appears to you to be gullibility is simply an attempt to pass on some information which I have gathered from numerous sources over the course of some years of study. I appear gullible to you because of your ignorance and your irresponsibilit y in not doing some research of your own before trotting out your "faith based" opinions. You have swallowed the pronouncements of the "High Priests" of the anti-nuclear religion without bothering to check the actual validity of their statements. This is what the leaders of religions want you to do - to be uncritical believers in their fairy tales. They encourage you to think that sincere belief is a valid substitute for knowledge. The next time your car breaks down, try just sitting there and believing with all your power that it will fix itself. Let us know how it works. It doesn't count if you just had a vapor lock. Waiting for it to cool off will usually cure that one. And if God shows up and fixes it for you, be sure to pay him the going rate. Good mechanics are hard to find.
 
 
+1 # mahoganyjones 2011-06-17 18:47
I'm quite sure you've not answered the meat of my question...
 
 
-3 # James38 2011-06-17 21:13
mahoganyjones, you said, "Wouldn't the maintenance and security of such dangerous elements and the waste they produce guarantee the need for a centralized/mil itarized government state for say, oh I don't know...THE HALF-LIFE of plutonium!?! Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there a global terrorist threat lurking in the shadows amonst us?
Talk about job security for the Nuke industry/fascis t security state!"

1. Since plutonium and the other heavy elements are broken down into smaller elements, and none are left in the small amount of waste that remains after modern nuclear processing, the radioactive half life is short, the amount is small, and the storage problem is minimal. No fodder for excessive government. Also, Nuclear energy is used globally, and regulations must be global. France is running 58 reactors now, and has reduced its carbon footprint greatly. It gets 75.2% of its electricity from Nuclear Power. The Russian Federation has 32 active plants and is building 11 more.
See http://www.euronuclear.org/info/encyclopedia/n/nuclear-power-plant-europe.htm
for the global picture. We must not hide our heads in the sand and try to ignore the potential and reality of Nuclear Power. We can and should do major research to improve the efficiency and safety of the world nuclear industry. Refusing to participate is not the answer.
 
 
+3 # Texas Aggie 2011-06-18 08:38
Plutonium 239, a by-product of fission in a nuclear reactor, has a half life of over 24,000 years. It is one of the most hazardous components of nuclear waste primarily because it mimics calcium in the human body causing bone cancer. It is not broken down into smaller elements and nothing you do to it is going to affect the half life, so it will still be there in reduced quantities when humans have gone extinct. Trying to claim that nuclear waste can be rendered harmless is deceitful at best.
 
 
-1 # James38 2011-06-20 21:49
Aggie, you are simply ignorant of the nuclear fission processes that take place in modern reactors. The reactions proceed in steps. Non fissile uranium and thorium are converted into plutonium which is then broken down into smaller elements, producing the energy from the reactor. The end results of modern reactors have short half lives and are of small quantity. Please take the time to do some simple and basic research before you make more ignorant comments. I never said all of the waste would be "rendered harmless". What I did say is that the half life of the waste from modern reactors would be of short half-life,and of small quantity, presenting no serious storage problems. You still wouldn't want a bucket full of it in your living room, even though a bucket full would account to the entire waste from a lot of power generating.
 
 
-4 # James38 2011-06-17 21:27
As to the terrorist threat, if we actively participate, as we have done in helping to secure nuclear supplies in Russia, we will limit the terrorist threat. What is needed is better international agreements, for example to eliminate possible weapons development in Iran and North Korea. Obviously solar and other renewable resources are safe, but they have limitations also. They require massive construction and use a lot of space and long transmission lines. If we participate in developing international nuclear standards, we will reduce the threats, not increase them. The basic problem we all face is global climate change. To reduce that threat we must rapidly replace all carbon base-load power with non-carbon sources. Nuclear Power is already part of the mix, and should be used as long as needed to eliminate stockpiles of long-life waste, and to supply base-load power until other sources can be built. Human societies need to learn to cooperate globally in order for all of us to have a reasonable future for our children and grandchildren and on. We are the ones who must make the correct decisions that will allow the future to survive in reasonable comfort. If you see any other problems to discuss, by all means mention them.
 
 
+2 # Texas Aggie 2011-06-18 08:50
And then I read about problems with waste storage and why Yucca mountain remains a battleground. Rusting containers of nuclear waste in pools of water creating hazardous conditions and your statement that no radioactive elements leave the reactor are not both possible.
 
 
-1 # James38 2011-06-20 21:54
Aggie, the WIPP facility, a storage proof of feasibility project in Southern New Mexico, has established safe long-term storage methods. Yucca Mountain may have been a mistaken operation from the beginning. All persons interested in an excellent discussion of the history and future of Nuclear power should read "Power to Save the World" by Gwyneth Cravens. This is one of the best books available on the subject.
 
 
+2 # adam1 2011-06-18 01:39
based off what i see here, if Mr. james38 new reactors can run sully off "spent fuel" which is more like "unspent fuel" because less then 5% of it is actually used, is it not? then maybe we should build a limited amount of them only to harness the left over fuel and reduce the pile of toxic waste we already have just sitting around. (that is a good thing) at the same time (now) start the phase out of all existing reactors and start building our Geo-thermal and other future base-load green power devices, and for f@
 
 
+2 # Texas Aggie 2011-06-18 08:46
That's assuming that james38's statement that nuclear plants can "sanitize" nuclear fuel to render it harmless is true. I suspect he's the only person in the world who actually believes that, although I did read a letter to the editor once by a student nuclear engineer who said he would eat a pound of radioactive waste to prove it was harmless. People wrote back encouraging him to try.

But your statement that we should get on with building green power devices is spot on. It's something that should have been done before nuclear energy ever got going. If we had started then using the resources that have gone into developing nuclear plants, by now we would be way ahead of the game instead of running desperately to catch up.
 
 
-2 # James38 2011-06-21 03:48
By the way, Aggie, while this discussion has been primarily focused on nuclear power, I have mentioned a few times that I am definitely in favor of rapid development of other non-polluting energy sources. They come with their own problems. Use of lots of space, use of rare and scarce elements in the large magnets for wind generators, need for building long transmission lines, lack of practical storage facilities to make intermittent power sources work as base-load power, heavy ecological footprint, etc. In many cases these problems can be dealt with so that the power gained is worth the investment, but it is not a slam dunk. Since we need to eliminate the use of fossil fuels as rapidly as possible, it makes sense to use nuclear power as part of the mix. It is the only technology I know of thus far that could supply global base-load power in a reasonable amount of time. I will be very happy if someone comes up with an energy source that is simpler, cleaner, and as effective. For one group working on just such an idea, go to Generalfusion.c om for a truly original approach to clean sustainable fusion power. Several nuclear experts think they have a real chance to succeed.
 
 
-1 # James38 2011-06-20 22:02
Adam, your suggestion is excellent. We definitely should build modern reactors using the "spent fuel", because as you say, only a very small percentage of the available power is actually used in the older reactors. I agree that the older reactors should be selectively retired, starting with the most worn and unreliable ones. Replacing them with modern reactors using the "spent fuel" would be the ideal process. I suggest that after a few of these reactors have been in service for a few years, the safety and advantages of them as base-load power sources will calm the fears of most people. Watching how they perform will provide a chance for people to see and understand the actual science and benefits of modern reactor design.
 
 
-1 # mhoganyjones 2011-06-19 18:42
http://nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/International/18-Jun-2011/US-orders-news-blackout-over-crippled-Nebraska-Nuclear-Plant-report

I wish I could say this is a unique, one-time occurrence; but this is the Nuke-pukes' M.O. ....power and profits before people! The public got along fine without them before and we'll get along fine without them from here out. BAN THE NUKE (and make them pay to clean up their own messes)!
 
 
0 # James38 2011-06-20 23:02
Gurka, thanks for the laugh. I am afraid it was at your expense, however. What appears to you to be gullibility is simply an attempt to pass on some information which I have gathered from numerous sources over the course of some years of study. I appear gullible to you because of your ignorance and your irresponsibilit y in not doing some research of your own before trotting out your "faith based" opinions. You have swallowed the pronouncements of the "High Priests" of the anti-nuclear religion without bothering to check the actual validity of their statements. This is what the leaders of religions want you to do - to be uncritical believers in their fairy tales. They encourage you to think that sincere belief is a valid substitute for knowledge. The next time your car breaks down, try just sitting there and believing with all your power that it will fix itself. Let us know how it works. It doesn't count if you just had a vapor lock. Waiting for it to cool off will usually cure that one. And if God shows up and fixes it for you, be sure to pay him the going rate. Good mechanics are hard to find.
 
 
+1 # Gurka 2011-06-22 16:49
You mention my ignorance and irresponsibilit y in not doing some research of my own before trotting out my "faith based" opinions." What you want, Mr. James38, is apparently technical discussions about modern vs. old reactor designs and sundry technical/chemi cal aspects of nuclear power plants and other energy producion. Who doesn't enter such discussions has "... swallowed the pronouncements of the "High Priests" of the anti-nuclear religion". Yours is the well known discussion technique preferred by the nuclear zealots: The fearful ignorant lay people vs. the knowledgeable, rational and cool engineers. Yawn.
We all should ask: what kind of society do we want? What costs are connected with blind continuation and augmentation of today's energy policies - in the dimensions of Economy, Environment, Politics home and abroad? Some problems you have mentioned, but without showing in-depth awareness of the almost insurmountable complexity we have to deal with in order to learn from your mistakes and make the right decisions for the future.
 
 
0 # James38 2011-06-23 03:48
Gurka, you say, “Yours is the well known discussion technique preferred by the nuclear zealots: The fearful ignorant lay people vs. the knowledgeable, rational and cool engineers. Yawn.”
In the first place, I am far from being a “nuclear zealot”. For some years I was just as vehemently opposed to nuclear power as you. I have some scientific training in Nuclear Physics, and several other sciences, and I felt I knew enough to be certain that nuclear power was too dangerous and polluting to be used. However, by further study, I gradually found that my previous opinions were founded on incomplete information, and I was forced to change my opinion by the simple pressure of overwhelming evidence and facts. I did not let go of my previous opinions easily. They had to be chipped away bit by bit, but they were finally broken down as I checked and double checked the new facts I was learning.
The problem of how to communicate with “lay people” does exist, but there are some good books written by people who understand how to present the scientific information in a clear way for the reasonably intelligent non-scientist. Unfortunately there are also a plethora of books written by persons who fully intend to encourage lay people to become “fearful lay people” in order to advance their own opinions.
 
 
0 # James38 2011-06-23 03:50
The author of the article that started this whole discussion, Mr. Harvey Wasserman, is just such a person. The “facts” as he presents them are not clear or correct. He is either ignorant of the real situation, as I once was, or he is deliberately distorting the presentation in order to advance his agenda. I do not know enough about him to say which. However, I recommend to him, and to you, that much more serious study is needed before you continue to slam nuclear energy – and incidentally to slam a person such as myself, who has the courage to enter the lion’s den and speak of cooperation. (I say this as a humorous reaction to discovering that RSN readers seem to be rather strongly tilted toward an anti-“nuke” position.)

I find it amazing that a country as apparently well-educated as Germany can be so swayed politically by anti-nuclear propaganda that the entire country is about to make a decision to eliminate the industry. I particularly feel deep sympathy for your Prime Minister, Ms. Merkel, who as a person trained in Physics herself must feel excruciatingly caught between a rock and a hard place. She appears to know full well that Nuclear energy is viable and important to the nation of Germany and to the word in general, but she must compromise her knowledge because she simply does not have time to both survive politically and to re-educate the public.
 
 
0 # James38 2011-06-23 03:50
Greenpeace, which is an organization Mr. Wasserman works for, and other groups are frenetically flooding the German mind with as much anti-nuclear propaganda as they can muster, and no time is left for rational discussion before the wrong political decisions are made. I hope that the real information can be slowly presented, and understood and assimilated by the German Public, soon enough so that the country can rejoin rational progress toward a balance of new power sources as required by the onset of global warming. It will be a shame if skilled German nuclear engineers are forced either to find work in other fields or to emigrate to get positions in their specialties; and the universities where nuclear energy is being studied will suffer as well.
“Yawn”, you say? Please, Gurka, as a person with the intellect to understand facts, take a step back from the involvement you have with the idea that your present negative opinions about Nuclear energy are complete and fully correct. Take the time to do more research. I am very sure that you will be surprised, as I was, to find that the emotional response you feel is justified now, is actually built on a foundation of sand. Dig deeper and you will find the bedrock of truth.
 
 
0 # James38 2011-06-23 03:52
I was, until recently, a contributing supporter of Greenpeace. My wife had signed up while working in Hawaii, and I was not familiar enough with the organization to know about their rabid anti-nuclear stance. When I found out, I was horrified. I called Greenpeace, and had quite a discussion with a very pleasant, if somewhat condescending, young woman. I told her that I could not continue to support Greenpeace until they changed their position on Nuclear Energy. Her response subtly but clearly told me, “Sure, when hell freezes over”. I suggested to her that she should read the book, “Power to Save the World” by Gwyneth Cravens (one of the excellent books that present - in lay terms - much information about the history and potential of nuclear energy). Her response was “Oh yes, we know all about Ms. Cravens.” I said, “I am sorry to hear you say that, because it indicates to me that you simply did not understand her book.” I could feel her pause a moment, considering that. I think what was indicated is that the young lady had not read the book herself, but was reacting as suggested by one of her “High Priests” who had told her that Ms. Cravens’ book was terrible, useless, pro-“nuke” propaganda. I think that, because as you read the book, you discover a very clear discussion of the past problems of nuclear energy and the military background of nuclear weapons.
 
 
0 # James38 2011-06-23 03:59
The book does not make any attempt to gloss over anything. The fact that its conclusion is in favor of nuclear power is simply that the facts lead one to that conclusion - when you actually look at the facts. The discussion of Chernobyl, in particular, is very revealing. Ms. Cravens spoke with the US and European experts who were hired by the Russian Government to sort out the confusion that had surrounded that disaster and its aftermath. (Recently French Engineering firm Novarka has been contracted by Ukrainian officials to construct a huge movable steel structure that will cover the damaged reactor, replacing the temporary structure that was erected immediately after the disaster.)
So - “Yawn?” Gurka? Take another look. Read Ms. Cravens’ book, for starters. I think you are intelligent enough so that you would really prefer to have opinions based on the complete facts, not on emotional energy fueled by a well-oiled propaganda machine. Many societies have been led down very destructive paths by propaganda. Italy is also being overwhelmed by the emotional and irrational rush to abandon nuclear energy. The folks at Greenpeace and other misguided organizations must feel quite pumped-up and excited by their “success”.
 
 
0 # James38 2011-06-23 04:01
This is very sad, because in this case, if we are to save the entire planet from major catastrophes due to climate change, we simply cannot afford to be led astray again. There is one hopeful note. I seem to see that the Sierra Club is beginning to shift toward a reconsideration of Nuclear energy. If the Sierra Club can emerge from the cocoon of warm fuzzy false certainty about the “evils” of nuclear energy, there may be hope for Greenpeace, and the planet. Mind you, I do not mean to say that, had we begun twenty years ago to make a full scale conversion to other energy sources, we could not have done it without nuclear energy. Perhaps we could have. The obvious problem is that we did not heed the warnings of the pioneers* in understanding the peril of Global Warming and Climate Change. The worse problem is that the world’s leaders are still not heeding the warnings. Where they are not just ignoring the problem altogether, they are initiating “greenwash” programs, such as Cap and Trade schemes that simply will accomplish nothing but making money for some scammers, while actually not reducing CO2 levels at all.
 
 
0 # James38 2011-06-23 04:03
I fear that a real panic about the need to act will only begin when our coastal cities and coastlines begin to experience a foot or two of ocean rise – unless the acidification of the ocean killing off the Great Barrier Reef and dissolving the shells of mollusks cause crashes in fish populations or some other major disasters begin to have their effect. When those things happen, preventing mass hunger and even starvation will become difficult or impossible. Of course, another problem being rather studiously ignored by world leaders is the monstrous overpopulation of the planet by humans. In order to feed the numbers that now exist, we have instituted practices that are destroying nature and ecosystems, and overpopulation itself is the root cause of global warming – and the end of population growth is not yet in sight.
If we wait that long, Nuclear Power will be even more essential as part of the attempt to save human society and the planet than it already is. But at that point, the real question becomes, will there be time to ward off major additional disasters – by any means? The massive global scale of the problems we face are beyond the comprehension of most people. This is another education challenge those of us with the knowledge are facing now – akin to the one you brought up about how to speak clearly to lay people about nuclear energy.
 
 
0 # James38 2011-06-23 04:04
*One of the pioneers is Dr. James E. Hansen, eminent climate scientist with NASA. He has written a book, not about nuclear energy, but an extremely good book about the science behind the understanding of Climate Change and Global Warming, and why we are in imminent peril. The book, “Storms Of My Grandchildren” should be read by all concerned persons.
 
 
0 # James38 2011-06-21 13:07
Here is some latest news on the problems of the aging reactors:
AP IMPACT: Tritium leaks found at many nuke sites
The fact is that many of the older Nuclear Reactors need to be replaced. The reluctance to do so comes from several sources. One is that the power is needed, and the US nuclear program has been terribly slow to approve new reactors, in part because of the opposition we have been discussing here. Of course the companies that own the reactors are reluctant to shut them down, especially if it is difficult for them to get permission to build a replacement reactor. If they cannot build a replacement, their business is essentially ended.
This does not excuse poor maintenance policies, nor does it excuse extending the lifetime of an older reactor that needs to be retired. As I have said before, better regulations are needed, not just in the US, but Globally.
Of course there is another force involved, and that is profit. Keep the old facility running as long as possible, since the original investment is paid off, and the operation has become a cash cow. It is important to realize that this problem is not just a characteristic of the Nuclear energy industry; it is a problem of many industries, notably Coal Power.
 
 
0 # James38 2011-06-21 13:10
The big coal power companies are doing everything they can to keep old plants running. They have managed to get an exception to the air pollution regulations that allow the older plants to keep running without needing to be upgraded. This was intended to be fair, but has turned into a ridiculous loophole, as the coal companies keep expanding the old plants and patching them up well beyond the time they should have been retired. Of course the huge problem with this is that Coal is the most polluting of all power sources, and these companies are deliberately seeking higher profit at the expense of the entire planet.
That is short-sighted greed taken to an outrageous extreme. At least the Nuclear industry can “only” be accused of putting a relatively small area of the planet at danger, not the whole planet. Of course that is no excuse, but I mention all this so people with an anti-“nuke” attitude will not forget to see the whole picture. The report on Tritium leaks describes the terrible situation people with property near an old and leaking reactor are faced with. I have total sympathy with them. There is no excuse for continuing to operate a reactor without keeping it in perfect condition, since a properly run reactor has absolutely no radiation leakage problem. If a reactor is too old to keep in perfect repair, it absolutely needs to be retired and replaced.
 
 
0 # James38 2011-06-21 13:14
The answer to all these problems is to recognize that the real issue is quitting the use of all fossil carbon fuel use as rapidly as possible. This means using all means to construct non-polluting base-load power facilities of every possible type. Modern Nuclear Reactors are a major part of the solution. Many problems associated with older reactor designs are eliminated in the new ones. For example the whole network of cooling water pipes will not be needed. Auxiliary generators for shut-down will not be needed. The latest designs use the stockpiles of “nuclear waste” as fuel. The advantages are many. We need to insist that the government institute rapid research and construction programs for all new base-load power plants, including nuclear. Maintenance regulations need to be improved and enforced all across the power generation industries. Many lives would have been saved if the oil and coal industries were better regulated, and much pollution would have been avoided.
Many countries are proceeding with nuclear programs. France is an excellent example, running 58 reactors producing over 75% of their electricity. If the US joins Germany and Italy in the rush to eliminate nuclear reactors, the world will suffer. We need to assume leadership in this industry, since ultimately, protecting the planet from further CO2 pollution is the most important issue of all.
 
 
0 # LEE LOE 2011-07-07 10:29
Regarding the long distances that wiring from solar source to receiver, why not put the panels on the buildings -- business and residentual -- that already exist and do it locally, not in deserts miles for the source of use? And no matter what you do you need the uranium from the ground which is distructive.
 

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