Nuclear fission energy is superior to other energy sources
Guest article by Charles Forsberg.
The below originally appeared on April 28, 2011 in a Bulletin of Atomic Scientists roundtable discussion titled “Is nuclear energy different from other energy sources?” Charles’s contribution was titled “Mutually assured energy independence.” It was so good that I contacted Charles and obtained his permission to share his thoughts with a different audience.
Every energy source has unique characteristics that deserve careful consideration and comparison. Renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines and solar panels, do not emit greenhouse gases but produce power intermittently and require large areas of land. Oil and gas are convenient and easily stored but are concentrated in limited locations, particularly in the Persian Gulf. Coal is abundant but massive quantities of materials must be processed, resulting in large-scale land disturbances and climate change.
For nuclear energy, its most unique characteristic is the massive energy output embodied in each kilogram of uranium fuel—nearly a million times the energy density of fossil fuels. Most of nuclear energy’s advantages (such as its relatively small waste volumes) and disadvantages (such as its potential use in nuclear weapons) are a consequence of this characteristic.
Only 200 tons of milled uranium are needed to fuel a 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactor for a year. That makes the cost of uranium fuel only two to four percent of the final cost of the electricity. Low fuel costs and high energy density enable a country to affordably stockpile a couple years’ worth of nuclear fuel in a space no larger than a small warehouse. That can assure a country’s energy independence, which has major implications for war and peace.
Fighting over oil. Throughout the industrial age, nations have waged wars to gain control over energy sources. During World War I, the British fleet converted from coal to oil. But the British Empire had very little oil, so the British Indian Army invaded the northern Persian Gulf and in 1920 carved Iraq out of the Ottoman Empire. The newly formed state was strategically located halfway between British India and the British Suez Canal.
America’s introduction to energy security came on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Japan was short on oil and concluded it had to take over Asian oil fields, but feared the US might block its actions. To prevent that, Japan launched its preemptive attack on Pearl Harbor, precipitating the US entry into World War II.
In 1953 America was drawn into the Middle East when the democratically elected government of Iran responded to a series of oil-company scandals by nationalizing all foreign oil holdings. The United States and Britain reacted by organizing a military coup, overthrowing the Iranian democracy, and establishing a monarchy.
In 1979, Iranian anger with the Shah and his foreign backers fueled the Iranian Revolution and the country’s anti-American sentiments. US alliances with other Arab monarchs, and with Saddam Hussein of Iraq, have had similarly troubled outcomes. US military forces are in the Middle East because Iran and Saudi Arabia each have the equivalent of about 300 billion barrels of recoverable oil and gas; Iraq has about 140 billion barrels; and Qatar has 180 billion barrels. These reserves are controlled by national oil companies where price and availability are political decisions. By comparison, Exxon Mobil and BP have combined reserves of less than 28 billion barrels.
Why is this relevant to nuclear energy? Japan’s nuclear power program can be traced to World War II, after which the Japanese concluded that war was not the right route to energy security. Similarly, the French nuclear power program is a consequence of the Algerian war, after which the French concluded that only fools would bet their future on Mideast oil. France and Japan chose nuclear energy, a difficult technology, not because it was popular but because the alternatives were worse. Nuclear power in these countries is part of a larger policy that includes high-speed electric trains, efficient vehicles, and other measures to reduce oil and gas consumption.
Environmental impacts. The high energy density of uranium not only makes it an affordable option for countries seeking energy independence, but also produces relatively small quantities of waste. Relative to the price of electricity, radioactive waste from power plants can be disposed of in geologic repositories at low cost; currently, this technology is used to dispose of hazardous chemical waste in Europe, and defense-related transuranic radioactive waste at the US Energy Department’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico. With energy sources such as coal and gas, it is not possible to dispose of all waste — there is simply too much of it.
Nuclear energy’s environmental impacts can be more closely monitored than the impacts of other energy sources, because it’s easy to measure radioactivity at orders of magnitude below the levels hazardous to human health. The ability to detect radioactive contamination cheaply and quickly — and thus avoid it — is why no one has died of radiation in the Japanese accident; why the public health effects will be small; and why the Japanese will be able to fully clean up after the accident.
If measurements could be taken of the hazardous fallout from a chemical-plant fire, or the mercury emitted by coal-fired power plants, there would be a public outcry as those contaminants spread around the world. Hazardous non-radioactive fallout is noticeable, however, only when large numbers of people are visibly sickened. People are content to let scientists and epidemiologists sort out why some communities have high cancer levels — and whether chemical fallout might be responsible.
Power and weapons. Along with concerns about public health, opponents of nuclear power also legitimately worry about the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Historically nuclear weapons have been developed independently of nuclear power programs. Nuclear weapons technology is now more than 65 years old, and advances in every field — from computers to carbon composites for aircraft — are lowering the technological barriers for entry into the arms race.
History suggests that nuclear power can be a force for peace, by removing energy demands as a cause for war. Western fears about oil supply have repeatedly led the United States and other nations into interventions in the Mideast. If the United States was not so dependent on oil, the country might not have intervened in Iran and neighboring countries — and the Middle East could be a very different place today.
The potential coupling of nuclear power and weapons can be reduced with strategies such as fuel leasing. Under this approach, major countries would produce nuclear fuel, lease that fuel to smaller countries, and take back spent fuel for disposal. Such a strategy requires international commitments to provide nuclear fuel to any country that meets nonproliferation obligations — not just current friends. To be successful, a fuel-leasing strategy also requires domestic waste-management systems that can accept small quantities of foreign spent nuclear fuel.
Comparisons of different energy sources show the total risks for nuclear power are lower than the alternatives—even after considering accidents. The concern about accidents follows from the concentrated wastes that are a consequence of a concentrated energy source. Accidents can never be eliminated, but they will become less likely as people learn from experience. Nuclear fuel is not controlled by unfriendly and unstable regimes. Only small amounts of nuclear material need to be handled to assure large quantities of energy. These are the fundamental characteristics of nuclear power, and remain the strongest argument on its behalf.
Dr. Charles Forsberg is the Executive Director for the MIT Nuclear Fuel Cycle Study. Before joining MIT he was a Corporate Fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). He is a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Forsberg received the 2002 American Nuclear Society Special Award for Innovative Nuclear Reactors, and in 2005 the American Institute of Chemical Engineers Robert E. Wilson Award in recognition of chemical engineering contributions to nuclear energy, including his work on reprocessing, waste management, repositories, and production of liquid fuels using nuclear energy. He holds 10 patents and has published more than 250 papers.
He doesn’t even need to mention global warming to present this convincing argument, and the French didn’t think of that when they built their reactors either.
That’s right. However, why not mention something that makes the argument even stronger and, more importantly, broadens the appeal to people who might otherwise not give nuclear energy a chance.
IMHO the main proponents of having nuclear advocates remain silent about the possibility that CO2 emissions have reached a level at which they are doing irreparable harm to the climate and the world’s oceans are seeking unilateral disarmament. They know that the people who are rightfully concerned about global climate change (global warming) are strong activists that might actually make a difference in global energy markets once they figure out that nuclear energy is a powerful tool.
I’ll say it loud and proud – if you are worried about global warming, you owe it to yourself to learn more about nuclear energy. The more people learn about nuclear fission, the better they like the technology. They may still dislike some of the companies and still think that historical industry performance needs vast improvement.
Rod — I can’t help but wonder if you were aware of the latest report and findings from CERN regarding solar activity, cloud formation and global warming? This article by Dr. Forsberg (a good Scandinavian name, indeed) covers a lot of territory. I’d like to see some compilation of the radioactive emissions from coal-powered plants.
The other aspect in the article is the relative lack of use of oil in electricity generation. In light of this, would it not be helpful in discriminating between electricity generation, industrial process heat, chemical feed stocks and transportation fuels?
There is a good reason why there is a relative lack of use of oil in electricity generation – it has mainly been replaced by atomic fission already. Up until 1978, fully 14% of the US electricity supply came from oil while only about 7% (at that time) came from nuclear. As nuclear grew to 20%, oil shrank to about 3% and then continued shrinking to the point where only Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and Puerto Rico use much oil for electricity in the US. France had a power supply that was about 50% oil, Japan’s was 20-30% oil, Taiwan’s was 20-30% oil and South Korea also used a lot of oil.
Even today, there is substantial oil used for electricity in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Italy.
Nuclear fission generates heat. We know how to use heat engines to turn heat into motive power for generators or propulsion plants and how to use heat in industrial processes. The only markets where I see no utility for nuclear generated heat is in autonomous automobiles and aircraft. All other markets are fair game for nuclear energy systems designed, built and operated by creative problem solvers.
Rod, I was thinking that it was mentioned in some of the Shoreham documentary that Long Island still uses some oil for electricity. Is that incorrect?
Rod: As you know, I’m not worried about global warming. It’s more likely that we’re heading into a new Ice Age, according to the long-term astronomical cycles.
Furthermore, we are right now in a period of the highest cosmic ray flux of the space age, and
an extreme solar minimum and decline in geomagnetic field strength. These are the areas we need more knowledge about (instead of cutting the budget for satellites that monitor our space environment). We should also be putting more funding into predicting earthquakes and other natural disasters, and preparing for them.
Science is a question of truth, not consensus. Nuclear power should be supported on its merits, chief of which is that it has the energy-flux-density required to power an industrial society and support a growing world population. It is also emission-free, which is indeed a good thing.
For the past several decades, I have closely followed the environmentalist movement and supported fission (and fusion). Global warming and the anti-nuclear movement have the same ideological parentage: Malthusianism.
I’ve posted this link before, and I can supply others if anyone is interested.
@Marje – as you know, we agree about the importance of fission. There are few other topics in science or politics on which we agree. For example, global climate change (global warming) is a reality that puts survival of modern society at risk. Long term astronomical cycles and the emission of SOx and ash particle might be obscuring the temperature rise, but dumping 20 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year is causing an inexorable rise in its concentration and an inexorable change in the pH of the world’s oceans. Both of those trends are dangerous; we need to work to get CO2 emissions back within the moderation ability of natural, sustainable CO2 sinks.
Fusion is a distraction frequently supported by fossil fuel interests who know that it will never dent their market share or harm their profitability. The environment is important and worth active efforts to protect, even if some of the larger groups happen to be run by people who are cynically accepting fossil fuel money as part of the greenwash campaign to make “natural gas” the acceptable choice to coal.
Rod, with Forsberg granting this permission, I am reminded of the call back in July from Steve Kirsch and others to debate the conclusions of the MIT Nuclear Fuel Cycle Study.
Any updates on that front?
Now that the academic year has started, I plan to pull the string on this one. MIT professors are interested; my hope is that they will host a broad range of energy focused researchers some of whom focus on markets and publish their thoughts in the more than peer-reviewed space called the Internet on blogs with a reasonable comment publishing policy.
Sounds good, Rod.
Perhaps some type of focused campaign should be started at some point, calling out the unreasonable, completely anti-First Amendment comment publishing policies employed by some anti-nuclear sites.
While censoring comments on a blog certainly goes against the spirit of the First Amendment, this addition to the US Constitution applies only to actions by the government to limit free speech.
A better campaign would focus on the theme: what do they have to hide?
In any case, these outlets are mostly echo chambers, designed to provide talking points and “factoids” of disinformation for those who are already on their side.
What really needs to be done is to get out some harsh criticism of the mainstream journalists who have the numbers of PR folks from NIRS, Greenpeace, Public Citizen, Union of Concerned “Scientists,” etc., in their Rolodex, but who can’t be bothered to give a quick call to a professor of Nuclear Engineering at the local university before running an article or a news clip on a highly technical subject.
Actually, I might be a little too harsh on the journalists themselves. After listening to Fiona Fox, the Director of the Science Media Center in the UK, in the WORLDbytes video featured last month on this blog, I think that perhaps the pressure should be applied to the editorial staffs of these news outlets, who have much more control over what gets published.
It would also be neat to point out that Uranium reserves will outlast the sun and yet we are left out of the renewable bandwagon.
You may be counting the 3 ppb in seawater, but I don’t know that the Uranium dissolved in seawater would technically count as “reserves”.
Looking into the future, I see no way the seawater concentration of Uranium would be diluted to even 3.2999999 ppb prior to reactors being developed and deployed successfully utilizing thorium breeding and creating enough U-233 to start-up new thorium-powered reactors for future energy needs, rendering “mining” Uranium from the ocean obsolete.
NOTE:I am using that as a figurative value, since I don’t know the actual average all-oceans-wide concentration to more than 2 significant digits, but am using 3.2999999 to represent 0.000001 ppb less than the present, naturally-occurring concentration)
Regardless of all that, though, any concerns about Uranium costs being a primary monetary concern in utilizing atomic energy are dwarfed in light of the true concern (in the U.S.): the cost and amount of time required to get a plant sited, designed, built, and licensed to operate within the present regulatory paradigm (see: the NRC).
Present U-concentration in seawater is 3.3 ppb according to the following link.
Never mind thorium, there is plenty of DU that could be feedstock for the proper breeder already above ground and refined. And that’s not counting “used fuel” that could be be used as well.
That already depleted uranium doesn’t equate to anything close to the billion-year-scale of the sun. It may not even be much (if any) more than a hundred-ish year time-scale, depending on what percentage of the teens of TWs of energy used worldwide will be assumed to be coming from nuclear fission.
Well I think it is clear to all that the phrase: “Uranium reserves will outlast the sun,” is hyperbole. The point is that one way or the other, availability of uranium fuel will not be a significant limiting factor in the wide scale adoption of nuclear energy.
Agreed. I am simply trying to pre-empt any wannabe debunkers.
Well, it’s pretty accurate if we, as a species, are collectively too stupid to make use of them.
Hyperbole ? I think Bernard Cohen is a reliable source when it comes to uranium supplies and nuclear energy.
Here is what he thinks:
How much uranium is there in seawater?
Seawater contains 3.3×10^(-9) (3.3 parts per billion) of uranium, so the 1.4×10^18 tonne of seawater contains 4.6×10^9 tonne of uranium. All the world’s electricity usage, 650GWe could therefore be supplied by the uranium in seawater for 7 million years.
However, rivers bring more uranium into the sea all the time, in fact 3.2×10^4 tonne per year.
Cohen calculates that we could take 16,000 tonne per year of uranium from seawater, which would supply 25 times the world’s present electricity usage and twice the world’s present total energy consumption. He argues that given the geological cycles of erosion, subduction and uplift, the supply would last for 5 billion years with a withdrawal rate of 6,500 tonne per year.
The crust contains 6.5×10^13 tonne of uranium.
He comments that lasting 5 billion years, i.e. longer than the sun will support life on earth, should cause uranium to be considered a renewable resource.
We are constantly discussing how to change people’s attitude towards nuclear. Let’s discuss the fact that Uranium is abundant and will outlast the sun. That is if we can rely on Bernard Cohen’s logic and knowledge.
Nuclear energy will outlast renewable. That’s a paradigm shift.
It’s one thing to use a catch phrase; it’s another thing to go to far trying to justify it. Potential reserves of gas and oil are also several magnitudes greater than will ever be practically recoverable as well, yet this does not imply that these fuels will never be in short supply, or be so expensive as to be impossible to support a functioning energy economy.
It is important to keep in mind that in the forum of public opinion, we will be facing opponents that will be quick to exploit every means to disparage everything that we say, and one of the fastest ways to hand then a stick to beat us with is to engage in arguments over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It is more that sufficient to assert that uranium reserves with last several thousand years, rather that to posit arithmetical arguments showing that they will last billions.
With regards to gas and oil reserves, it is true we will never totally run out of them because they become harder and harder to extract as the reserves that are easy to exploit are depleted first.
Daniel shows that using the reserve of uranium in sea water does not deplete the reserve since natural erosion is constantly replenishing it faster than we might reasonably use it. As the natural cycle runs now, uranium is at solubility limit in sea water, and the additions from erosion cause an equal amount to precipitate out. One might even reasonably expect that uranium could be extracted faster than the natural addition, and the precipitate re-dissolve back into the sea water solution.
Seemingly large amounts of water need to be handled, but IIRC the amount of uranium in the ocean cooling water for a nuclear power plant could supply about 20% of its fuel if it were a breeder. Getting to 100% of the fuel is not a big leap.
The experiments by the Japanese involve no pumping at all, only immersing specialized plastic sheets in ocean currents.
The success of using the oceans as a source of uranium depends on the “goodness” of the extraction process, not on the quality of the oceanic reserve of uranium.
Again you are missing the point. It is not an issue of uranium reserves, but rather how this is presented to the public.
quote: “As the natural cycle runs now, uranium is at solubility limit in sea water, and the additions from erosion cause an equal amount to precipitate out.”
I always wonder where it is precipitating out. Maybe it is precipitating out in equal distribution. But maybe there are conditions that are conducive to this process. Temperature, pressure, presence or absence of other chemicals. And where these conditions coincidently come together, there should the uranium preferred precipitate out.
Could it be that there are somewhere under the sea vast amounts of uranium ores in a rather high concentration waiting for us?
Has anyone ever studied that question?
One of the places it winds up is in phosphate deposits (which are once again a uranium resource due to a new recovery process).
The next wars will be fought over water. Nuclear plants to desalinate water will be strategic assets for peace.
we need fresh water to stp the desert and produce more food for billions of people
Nawapa & Nuclear power to develope a to save the world, fire Obama and the Banksters!
Forsberg’s writing is excellent.
Advanced nuclear can provide energy cheaper than from coal — the only way to dissuade all nations from burning coal. Global warming protesters should recognize that global carbon taxes will never be instituted.
Another benefit of energy cheaper than from coal is ending energy poverty. Affordable electric power is essential for developing countries to reach a level of prosperity and lifestyles that include fewer children. Current unsustainable population growth leads to resource conflicts and war.
Energy cheaper than coal will also end acid rain, mercury poisoning, and respiratory deaths from coal plants.
Safety – Safety – Safety.
All pro-nuke commentators, even you, Rod, should be frequently mentioning the inherent safety of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTRs)designs in their commentary mixes.
IMHO, you would be able to bury the primary circuit of a 100 MWe LFTR in the middle of Yankee Stadium and be hard pushed to design an accident that would expel radiotoxic substances to the endangerment of a capacity crowd. Gravity is the only force acting upon the molten reactor core of a LFTR and nothing short of a direct hit by an asteroid or a ‘bunker-buster’ will move stuff upwards and out.
LFTRs are the future of the nuclear industry and their inherent safety is the quickest way to get the voting public onside, for wholesale acceptance of nuclear energy as the predominant energy source.
I can predict that Rod’s response to this post is going to be to point out the impeccable safety record of western LWRs (ie non-RBMKs) and that fossil fuels are the enemy of fission reactors and that it might be almost detrimental to nuclear advocacy in general to point out that MSRs possess safety advantages over LWRs.
If David LeBlanc sees your comment, I suspect that his response (on this blog, at least) will/would include pointing out that the safety advantages you are mentioning are inherent to MSRs not necessarily to LFTRs and that utilizing thorium in MSRs will not be any kind of significant advantage for MSRs versus LWRs anytime soon, considering how small a portion fuel cost is of the overall levelized cost of generating atomic energy.
I generally agree with both Rod and David (and with Kirk Sorensen @ Energy from Thorium and Flibe and Charles Barton @ Nuclear Green). The time-frame and target markets that these guys look towards are where the differences come in in where they focus. Rod is pretty focused on the U.S. and a shorter time-scale, whereas Rob Hargraves (comment above) and Kirk and Charles are looking at a longer time-scale and at a world where people all over the world can be lifted out of poverty by having access to adequately affordable atomic energy.
Uranium is presently far from being tapped out as a resource, but it will continue increasing in price as worldwide demand increases as China ramps up their usage of LWRs. In light of Fukushima, the time-frame for this price ramp up may get pushed back by close to a decade considering Germany and Japan’s reactionary decision-making, but China is still sitting there with their 1.3 – 1.4 Billion people that will have cell phones and computers to charge and high speed rail to ride.
Rod will also add that there aren’t any presently operating commercial MSRs anywhere in the world, whereas there are 400-something LWRs.
Safety – safety – safety.
IMHO, what concerns the voting public is, above all else, safety.
Anti-nukes make sure LWRs are perceived as ‘blowing-up’ once a decade and can readily deflect the pro-nuke ‘propaganda’ of next-generation LWRs being safer.
Every pro-nuke, shouting from the rooftops about the predicted safety of LFTRs might just be the quickest way of getting one built and approved and proving the proof of the safety is in the operation.
> Colin Megson
Safety – safety – safety.
IMHO, what concerns the voting public is, above all else, safety. <
The keystone for nuclear power public acceptance is not new reactor designs or hawking Thorium or molten-salt reactors or what have you, but;
Media, Media, Media!
Stop the anti-nuclear monopoly on the media with aggressive challenges at the media for equal time and education. Getting the info and reasonable word out to the public of the advantages of nuclear energy — despite accidents — is the lynchkey for its acceptence. Our enemy in this is a rabidly non-neutral media and a vehemently anti-nuclear Hollywood/TV "Science" programming — the main source of most people's "education" on things nuclear. For Petesake, much of the U.S. public thinks radiation is some kind of creeping glowing fog out to zap any living thing! I can understand the passion of those into alternate reactor types, but they must understand that the public is not that discriminating; _Any_ Nuclear is Same Nuclear to them, and splitting up the fight to enlighten the public about nuclear power by injecting a confusion of pet projects into the mix only works against our interest. Get the public to accept our current batch of nukes and the more advanced ones will follow far easier. What is truly crippling public acceptance of nuclear energy is that there's no single respectable popular face to the issue, like Carl Sagan was for astronomy. We potentially had one in actor Paul Newman who saw the light by visiting Millstone in his home state of Conn. but unfortunately he passed away before anything came of that. But all nuclear supporters MUST be on the same page advocating _general_ nuclear power and not split the message with alternate nuke design issues. The public is bewildered enough as it is; don't drive them into the arms of "simpler" energy sources like wind.
It’s also worth pointing out that both the EBR-II derived LMFBRs and MSRs are immune to the problem scenarios which affected both TMI unit 2 and Fukushima.
And it’s detrimental not to, because the antis can truthfully say that you’re hiding something.
The cost of storing and disposing of spent fuel is considerable (7 mills per kWh). Both IFR-type LMFBRs and MSRs have a considerable advantage in waste volume and other attributes than solid-fuel LWRs.
@Engineer-Poet – It is also worth pointing out that gas cooled pebble bed reactors have demonstrated through physical tests that they are also immune to the kinds of loss of coolant pressure and coolant flow that resulted in core damage at TMI and Fukushima.
However, modern light water reactors are also immune. They take advantage of natural circulation and large volumes of water inside pressure vessels that do not leak with small enough piping penetrations so that there is no probability that the core will be uncovered for many hours after a piping break.
Where did you get your estimate of the cost of storing and disposing of used fuel? The current fee is only 1 mill per kilowatt hour and even with all of the wasted expenses at Yucca Mountain, the fund accumulates a nice surplus every year.
It receives nearly $800 million per year. If the cost really was 7 mills per kilowatt hour, we would have $5.6 billion per year available for the exercise of storing used fuel. That is an enormous sum of money for producing dry storage casks and buying a few modest sized tracks of land.
From my faulty memory. I would have corrected it but there’s no edit function.
Still, 1 mil/kWh isn’t the cost of disposal, it’s the price the government is charging. That’s a very different thing. UO2 rods in Zircaloy may be more easily interred than recycled (and TRISO fuel even more so). Pyroprocessed FBR fuel and MSR waste streams are pre-separated and much of the work is done already, which has to affect the economics of reclamation.
Fission products include a substantial amount of platinum-group metals. Some of these are radioactive, but I can’t help but wonder if they wouldn’t still be useful as industrial catalysts. At some price point the cost of isolating the catalysts and shielding the equipment is less than buying natural Pt and Ir. Enough uses like that, and the “cost” of waste disposal could go negative.
Thank you for publishing this here. I was worried it was going to wallow away in the world of Bulletin readers. That publication has unfortunately turned into a breeding ground for non-proliferation dilettantes who know very little about nuclear energy and it’s technology potential. It is a real shame as it used to have very credible contributors. If you want a nice healthy dose of indigestion, I suggest you read Kristin Shrader-Frechette’s piece.
Ed – I read it. I did not even consider asking her permission to republish it here.
Ed – I failed to heed your warning and read Kristin Shrader-Frechette’s response. It’s like reading Karl Grossman, Harvey Wasserman and the UCS all wrapped up in one big, inaccurate, deceitful, exaggerated piece of nonsense.
I got a chuckle from your expression “non-proliferation dilettantes.”
I noticed that some of her work has hyperlinked references. Some of which are a real stretch for her to be using as reference (the forbes article related to a manigerial disaster was referencing conditions over 30 years ago). However, many of her statements are not in any way referenced, for instance, there is not a single reference to the “multiple independent university-based analysies” related to full fuel cycle emissions.
Frankly, even with the 30 page resume posted on the Notre Dame website, I question this bit of artwork.
“Relatively little waste” that is extremely dangerous for several thousand years. If you check the fuel cycle, you will see waste all along the way and we are paying for it dearly (financially and health-wise).
Uranium is not renewable…it is a finite source and we would be dependent on foreign sources, much as we are dependent on foreign oil.
Nuclear plants are outdated, outmoded and, if left truly to compete (no huge government loans or subsidies) in the “free” market, it is too expensive and can’t compete.
We must start with conservation and create an “Apollo mission” for alternatives. We have the best minds, the best colleges and the best entrepenurial system around.
“Nuclear plants are outdated, outmoded and, if left truly to compete (no huge government loans or subsidies) in the “free” market, it is too expensive and can’t compete.
We must start with conservation and create an “Apollo mission” for alternatives.”
Forget the ignorance in your your first comment (ALL energy sources are subsidized in some shape or form whether it is PTC’s, tax breaks, etc…), do you not see the ridiculousness in these two statements? Oh I get it, renewable energy sources which mankind has been utilizing for centuries is “new and ripe for opportunity” while the current LWR technology, which was commercialized a decade or two after the discovery of fission, is the best we can do.
It’s funny how those outdated, outmoded, previously completed plants in Germany were willing to pay an exorbitant fuel tax simply to be allowed to continue to operate (indicating that they would have been profitable even with that tax tacked on), prior to all the knee-jerk, reactionary decision-making about the accident in Japan that is geographically/geologically impossible to be re-created in Germany.
Karl, You are a gnat among condors here. You may be excused for being ignorant and encouraged to update your hard drive, for a while. Even though I am in solar and battery back-up systems, I do not suffer fools easily; nor do I suffer the delusion that intermittent, diffuse, uncontrollable, unreliable inputs provide the on-demand energy for a modern society. As a stop-gap for remote, rural, off-grid applications that can’t (and morally shouldn’t) wait the decades it may take to deliver on-demand power? Possibly.
Do your homework and rejoin the conversation.
I am missing somehing here. In what way are we paying dearly for nuclear waste health wise? Fuel stored on site in spent fuel pools or dry cask storage is very well controlled and results in virtually no health cost. Unlike carbon based fuels with simply disperse their waste to the atmosphere where we can all enjoy the health benefits in the form of smog and other reductions of atmospheriec quality.
We do not have to rely on foreign sources for uranium, however at the present time it is less expensive to get it from foreign sources, most of which are friendly to the US such as Canada and Austraila.
Mark Lynas just came up with a risk assessment paradigm for those who live in exclusion zones in Japan.
If everyone living in the exclusion zone (and other severely-contaminated areas) could be persuaded to give up driving (and to eschew smoking, which presents a massive lifetime risk of 100 in 1000 of causing lung cancer) then everyone could in theory be allowed to return with no additional loss of life to the impacts of radiation. The risks could simply be traded off each other. One could also make a strong case that people living in the Fukushima exclusion zone would still be better off statistically than those in heavily-polluted city centres, near coal-fired power stations and in industrial zones, which likely present higher carcinogenic risks.
The new Prime Minister of Japan has a chance to show leadership. He can follow the findings of science and set his permanent office at the 5KM limit of Fukushima, just like it is prescribed by the IAEA for evacuation zone in case of nuclear accidents.
There are areas on the 5 KM radius that don’t even go to 1 msv a year. A piece of cake. A kill shot. Then you would have a Prime Minister that would last more than a few months unlike his 5 predecessors.
But name me one politician who has what it takes today ?
The concept of used nuclear fuel as “nuclear waste” is a fiction created by the opponents of nuclear energy. Used nuclear fuel isn’t waste at all, but a renewable resource that can be reprocessed into new nuclear fuel and valuable isotopes.
When we entered the nuclear age, the great promise of nuclear energy was its renewability, making it an inexpensive and efficient way to produce electricity.
It was assumed thatthe nations making use of nuclear energy would reprocess their spent fuel, completing the nuclear fuel cycle by recycling
the nuclear fuel after it was burned in a reactor, to extract the 95 to 99 percent of unused uranium in it that can beturned into new fuel.
This means that if the United States buries its 70,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel, we would be wasting 66,000 metric tons of uranium-238, which could be used to make new fuel. In addition, we would be wasting about 1,200 metric tons of fissile uranium-235 and plutonium-239, which can also be burned as fuel. Because of the high energy density
in the nucleus, this relatively small amount of U.S. spent fuel (it would fit in one small house) is equivalent in energy to about 20 percent of the U.S. oil reserves.
About 96 percent of the spent fuel the United States is now storing can be turned into new fuel. The 4 percent of the socalled waste that remains—2,500 metric tons—consists of highly radioactive materials, but these are also usable. There
are about 80 tons each of cesium-137 and strontium-90 that could be separated out for use in medical applications, such as sterilization of medical supplies.
Using isotope separation techniques, and fast-neutron bombardment for transmutation (technologies that the United States pioneered but now refuses to develop), we could separate out all sorts of isotopes, like americium, which is used in
smoke detectors, or isotopes used in medical testing and treatment.
Right now, the United States must import 90 percent of its medical isotopes, used in 40,000 medical procedures daily.
The diagram shows a closed nuclear fuel cycle. At present, the United States has no reprocessing, and stores spent fuel
in pools or dry storage at nuclear plants. Existing nuclear reactors use only about 1 percent of the total energy value in uranium resources; fast reactors with fuel recycle would use essentially 100 percent, burning up all of the uranium and
actinides, the long-lived fission products.
In a properly managed and safeguarded system, the plutonium produced in fast reactors would remain in its spent fuel until needed for recycle. Thus, there need be no excess buildup of accessible plutonium. The plutonium could also be
fabricated directly into new reactor fuel assemblies to be burned in nuclear plants. —
>James Greenidge: The keystone for nuclear power public acceptance is not new reactor designs or hawking Thorium or molten-salt reactors or what have you, but;
Media, Media, Media!
The anti-nukes don’t monopolise the media; loss-of-coolant, core meltdowns, radiation, evacuations, exclusion zones, etc., etc., dominate media coverage. Inherent safety and the virtual impossibility of blasting stuff up and out into the environment makes pretty bland news.
Getting a LFTR up and running and into the politicians’ faces will do more for the progress of widespread adoption of nuclear technology than a lifetime of learned opinions from the pretty insipid pro-nuke lobby.
The point regarding the absence of a driving force within an atmospheric MSR to disperse radioactive materials outside of the plant is a salient point.
This aspect of MSRs should someday eventually allow having plants that can essentially be privately insured, without a need for the Price Anderson Act (excluding the likely necessary security costs which will still be present since nuclear material will be involved).
I would be happy to see such plants online in the U.S. within the next 10-15 years. We shall see.
I agree that nuclear energy is superior to other forms of energy because it produces less waste,does not emit CO2,NO2 and most importantly it does not contribute to Global Warming,that means it is eco-friendly.With nuclear energy countries can resolve their electricity problems without much ado.
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