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46 Comments

  1. That was a good discussion, thanks for pointing it out. Too bad they couldn’t do full hour.

    I am fairly sure you and David Sirota would not agree but it would be interesting to see a discussion with him. He brings up the usual anti-nuclear issues David Roberts at Grist and Amory Lovins hammer away on but Mr. Sirota has not made a living off of those issues as has Robers and Lovins.

  2. Nice to see one of these things where the lone pronuke isn’t being jumped on by a panel packed with anties.

    I have one nit to pick with David Sirota: The precautionary principle is an approach to risk management that has been developed in circumstances of scientific uncertainty, reflecting the need to take prudent action in the face of potentially serious risk without having to await the completion of further scientific research. It is not a philosophy of ;do no harm.’

    Properly administered the precautionary principle assumes that there is an ongoing process to refine understanding such that more rational actions will be taken later in the light of better understanding.

    Now it is clear that Sirota is parroting the antinuclear party line, and most of these silly objections are easily dealt with. However I have a real problem with some random journalist redefining a engineering/safety principle for his own ends, and I am disappointed that someone in that show didn’t shove it back down hid throat.

    1. I think Mr. Sirota believes in expertise by association. His dad was a doctor, so he must be one too.

  3. I can’t find a reference to the “precautionary principle” in the cited column by David Sirota.

    What he is citing is known as the “Hippocratic oath”.

    That makes his position much more difficult to defend. The “precautionary principle” would be satisfied with a statement like “low level radiation might turn out to be harmful, so let’s proceed as if we knew it is”.

    His position, in contrast, requires him to say “we know low-level radiation does harm, so let’s stop that practice of harming people knowingly”.

    I leave it as an easy exercise to the reader to refute both of the above statements. There is ample proof that low-level radiation harms no one.

    The precautionary principle actually also works in favor of nuclear energy. If there is a possibility that climate change kills everyone on the planet by Venus syndrome, the precautionary principle requires assuming exactly that worst case.

    Which in turn strengthens the case for nuclear quite dramatically.

  4. The goal of risk management is scientifically sound: cost-effective integrated actions that reduce risks while taking into account social, cultural, ethical, political and legal considerations. It is very important for business confidence and for public credibility that throughout government there is a consistent approach to risk management. This is what is missing from the nuclear debate. Risk is assumed higher for nuclear than for any other mode of generation not just by the public, but by governments and regulators, this in spite of hard evidence that other modes are in fact more dangerous, and are doing long term harm right now.

    This is not just political stupidity or hypocritical posturing at work here, but it can only be seen as a campaign designed to elevate public fears of nuclear energy for some other ends.

  5. Detractors? What the deuce? Last time I checked, people do have a right to voice their beliefs. I guess Fukushima and Fort Calhoun are waking people up to the nuclear fantasy. Just wait until they get to who pays for the nightmare. And forgive me for not bothering to watch the video, I ran across this link through a sitee actually shredding like this video is doing but only there are now hundreds of people voicing their concerns.

    1. Yes, people certainly have a right to voice their beliefs. Just like Rick Santorum can voice his belief that there is no anthropogenic forced climate change and we should drill everywhere now. Mr. Santorum could just as easily be right, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the way that he came to his conclusion; through ideology, political expediency and greed, not careful evaluation of the data and analysis done by climate scientists. The same is true for many nuclear detractors. They ignore the science as well seek out faux studies that support their position.

      1. Did I write anything about climate change? That is always a weak argument especially when it is used by the nuclear industry. People call it greenwash.
        Back to the point, without massive federal subsidies and huge ratepayer investment, not even the nuclear industry could build a nuclear plant by itself. Like you said about greed, the shareholders would want their dividends increased as payment for holding such a toxic investment.
        Instead of arguing over the nuclear thing-a-ma-boppers, our energy policy should focus on cleaner energy that doesn’t involve contaminating water or air or land or people. Far as I know, nuclear stations would be built by the Japanese and Chinese, and that, to me, is so anti-American as to be bordering on treason to the ideals of this great nation.
        And without sounding like some conspiracy theorist as your reply came off as, wind and solar energy have made enormous advances, all without huge public investment…the last item I’ll point to is that there is no electricity shortage, there is only a lack of great minds that can work together so we don’t poison our future…

      2. igmuska – It is painfully apparent that you nether read the lead article of watched the video before launching into you tiresome little rant. You will not be taken seriously here unless you can bring something new to the table. All you are doing is going over the same stale points that have been discussed here and elsewhere in detail and found wanting.

        If you have something new or if you have a new perspective on these issues we will give them due consideration. If you are going to vomit a lot of rubbish without backing it up with anything else but your say-so you will be dismissed as an idiot not worth engaging with.

        Your choice.

      3. But at least you took the time to respond to my tiresome, worn-out rant with your even more worthless, boring cry.
        Here is the case, the reality, all around this country, teachers are getting laid off, people are becoming homeless through foreclosures, and now the effort to cut off the farm subsidies and other welfare programs, then to think of the audacity of your industry sticking its handout to the government for hard earned taxpayer money; that will never happen. That coffer is dry, that easy money went out the door. Your beloved industry is getting left behind in the dust by wind energy, by solar energy.

      4. @igmuska,

        You are posting to a group of highly educated and motivated professionals who probably have over 1000 YEARS of collective experience in all areas of nuclear power plants. There are also people here who have little to no experience with nuclear power plants but have come to the conclusion that nuclear power is required for the future. So your Greenpeace groupthink won’t go far here.

        This is not some HuffPost type of blog nor is it a “MSNBC” versus “FOX” type of political blog. This is a blog about the politics, money and technical issues involved with nuclear power and its place in the generation of 20% of our nation’s, and approx 15% of the world’s, electrical needs.

        You are either brave, foolish or have a complete lack of understanding about energy politics and energy financing. I will give you the benefit of the doubt for now and go with a lack of understanding but that is looking like the wrong assumption on my part with your last comment.

        EIA data (which is linked here within Rod’s website)

        Big Wind and Big Solar are subsidized at approx $22-24/MW-hr

        Nuclear subsidized approx $1.59/MW-hr.

        Both in 2007 dollars. Since then ARRA money has provided even more to wind and solar. One form of that increase is a 30% immediate cash payout if the projects are started by the end of this year.

        No money has actually changed hands from the taxpayer to new nuclear despite all the Greenpeace headlines Yet BILLIONS (with a B) have been loaned to questionable wind and solar projects for up to 80% of the project’s value, something not granted to the nuclear industry.

        Wind and solar also require natural gas which isn’t factored into the costs of 24/7/365 operation. But that is a whole other issue.

        I grant you one point and that there is no shortage of power. However, when politicians try to dictate accounting, physics and engineering to utility companies by enacting renewable portfolio standards that have no technical or economic basis, then the utility markets become skewed. When a utility is forced to spend more on power costs due to politics of wind and solar then there are only two losers: Ratepayers and Taxpayers.

        See Lewis County PUD in Washington state for their explanation on why their rates went up last year. It wasn’t due to nuclear loan gaurantees. It was due to I-937 that is forcing them to buy expensive wind power that they DO NOT need.

        So next time you come here speaking Greenpeace groupthink be prepared to either be ignored or be ready for many of us to tear your comments apart. We do not always agree with each other but there is one thing that will bring many of us together and that is soundbite-type anti-nuclear comments. They have no place in this forum. You can be anti-nuclear here but do not expect to change anyone’s mind especially if you are using pages from the Greenpeace playbook.

        Typos do not matter as long as the intent of the comment can be understood but weak logic is considered very bad form as many of us have learned.

      5. I wither under your nuanced and fully reference reply so typical of your class.

        I’m sure both the regulars here and any other readers will be so impressed at how you skillfully dismissed everything that has been written on this site in support of nuclear power by offering your unsupported opinion.

        As to why I bothered to respond the first time, I always like to probe the commenters that come out against nuclear to see if they are worth trying to reason with. As your reply proves you are not one of those, but only a fool without a clear understanding of this subject, full of hate and wistful thinking.

        I will not be engaging again with you.

      6. @Bill Rodgers I am not impressed by your hundred years of collective intelligence as it is still not enough to change a light bulb at McDonalds. Nuclear energy has become as extinct as did the pencil-sucking accountant replaced by Quickbooks. You change shake your fist at change but it is inevitable.
        As for you granting me the benefit of the doubt on trying to argue with totally irrelevant details on costs when in reality, you and your professionals got snookered into believing you were necessary. Just recently I remember the argument they told you would be sufficient, that of saying how nuclear energy was better than coal in terms of environmental impacts. We know the truth of that, don’t we? Every spoke of the nuclear cycle is just plastered with all sorts of toxic wastes including carbon. And why do they need a coal plant for nuclear fuel manufacture? Because in simplest terms, cutting a dollar in two doesn’t make two dollars or using nuclear-generated electricity increases the costs of that type of fuel or they have use nuclear-generated electricity to do so long ago if it really was so cheap.
        Like I wrote earlier, your own industry sold you out like duck hunting decoy. The very same industry you support are the ones doing all the investing into cleaner and safer wind energy.
        The moment they improve the transmission lines in the Great Plains and those states continue their push into wind energy, probably then you’ll remember my words here, that you got played.
        The economy can’t afford nuclear energy. And throughout all of my statement, not once, did I use the death knell of nuclear energy: Fukushima Daiichi…

        1. @Igmuska – Last year, the “extinct” nuclear energy industry in the United States produced more than 800 billion kilowatt hours of electricity at an average production cost of about 2.03 cents per kilowatt hour. That figure includes all salaries, maintenance, license fees, fuel, and fuel disposal fees.

          Not a single dime has flowed from the government to the production plants in at least 20 years, but a whole supertanker full of dimes have flowed in the other direction. Even with regard to new construction, there has been far more money from the industry to the government than vice versa. For example, the cumulative total of fees paid to the NRC for the service of reviewing new license applications is in excess of half a billion dollars. Not one of the well publicized loan guarantees has provided any resources for any new construction – those guarantees are contingent upon the project receiving a construction and operating license from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

          The politics of that licensing process are becoming more apparent as the Chairman inserts as much delay as possible into the process for reasons that might best be understood by looking at his employment history before his appointment to the Commission. The only jobs he ever held were in congressional or senate staffs for politicians who have histories of antinuclear actions.

      7. Well, at least this igmuska Bozo is somewhat amusing, in a sad way.

        Carbon is toxic?!

        Perhaps someone should explain to him that his body is 18% carbon.

    2. Riddle me this there igmuska,

      If T. Boone Pickens was so hot to trot on wind why did he walk away from his massive multi-million dollar project after spending several years hyping it everywhere including Jon Stewart’s show?

      Why are those windmills procurred by T Boone Pickens for several Great Plains states now on their way to Canada instead of supplying intermittent power to ERCOT and its counterpart in Oklahoma?

      Answer: He couldn’t get someone to pay for all the transmission infrastructure. IOW he couldn’t get the state or federal governments(otherwise heretofore known as taxpayers) to pay for the transmission infrastructure required to connect windmills scattered across hundreds of miles of the Great Plains. And since his real business is to sell natural gas not deliver wind power, he walked away from the multi-million dollar deal despite the massive tax breaks the deal would have provided him. Wind power allows him to sell more fossil fuel then ever before, which is the only reason he is on the wind bandwagon.

      On a different note:

      I can understand why you believe that many here are brainwashed into being little nuclear robotrons. At least that is how I am interpreting your “duck hunting decoy” comment. That is the mindset required to be a true Greenpeace believer. We humans use what we are familiar with to describe something we don’t initially understand.

      (As an aside: I could be wrong with my interpretation of the duck hunting decoy comment since there was some confusing, ridiculous comment about coal power being needed to help fabricate nuclear fuel. However since coal power is also used to fabricate windmills and sun collectors I am sure that comment was a throwaway one at best. If I am confused let me know. I am always looking for “enlightment”. End aside)

      Some people, however, continue on with their quest for knowledge and broaden their horizons by realizing not everyone follows their belief system. These people are able to analyze new information and come to their own conclusions. For example claims they considered “facts” like the world is flat or “nuculur” or “nucleeear” or even straight ahead nuclear power has caused or will cause millions of cancers and kills children by the hundreds which are then later shown to be untrue. These individuals accept the new information as valid and reestablish their own internal belief systems based on these new “facts” (they aren’t really new “facts” though since the world was never flat and nuclear power has never caused millions of people to develop cancers).

      Others of course do not. They cling to their belief systems for a variety of reasons: Lack of knowledge, fear, propaganda funded by fossil fuel interests, fear, belief in magical solutions, fear of the unknown, etc.

      It is apparent you can’t understand why we believe in nuclear power which based on your frame of reference as a Greenpeace robotron must mean we are robotrons ourselves. Nothing could be further from the truth.

      To support nuclear power in this environment of the past 30+ years actually requires several key traits that no robotron can have such as the ability to absorb technical information and come to verifiable conclusions in the face of numerous critics. Other traits include a willingness to listen to inane engineering and science discussions from individuals who resisted taking any engineering or science class in high school or college and instead rely on TV scientists or science fiction for their basic knowledge (and not even good TV scientists at that as well as some really horrible science fiction that is out there, not all but some).

      So for you to assume or indicate that we are brianwashed robotrons at the mercy of our corporate overrulers is a very simplistic argument that does nothing to further your attempts to prove how nuclear power does not have a future. But in actuality is somewhat humorous from my standpoint considering some of the people I know who work in nuclear power. They just don’t fit into any convenient mold and are about as unconventional as can be.

      Now while this has been a mild form of entertainment for me, I do have an employer that expects me to do my job of designing and fabricating power plant equipment. So it is off to do my overlord’s bidding and maintain my position as nuclear robotron #505,678,342 so I can then pay the financial overlords (or it could be #243,876,505 since it is tattooed on my forehead, I’ll have to go check again)

  6. I’m not sure where to put this, but can someone speak to a recent Guardian article that explained why the UK also recommended people stay at least 50 miles from the Fukushima reactors?

    “… prompting immediate fears that nuclear fuel in the reactors could melt through their pressure vessels and drop onto the concrete floor beneath, causing a “corium explosion” and a major release of radiation. There were similar concerns over hundreds of spent fuel rods packed into storage pools above the reactors.”

    In the first week, advisers wrestled with conflicting information on the amount of spent fuel at the Fukushima site, but settled on a figure of 4,500 fuel rods in six ponds, or enough to power eight reactor cores. A separate fuel pond, known as the common pool, was “full to the gunnels,” one unnamed adviser wrote.

    A fear raised in one document was that spent fuel rods might overheat, melt and slump to the bottom of their storage pools where enough could gather to “go critical”, that is, restart nuclear reactions. The likely result of that, the paper states, would be releases of fresh radioactive material, “which could continue for some time”.

    In further statements, government advisers admitted insufficient expertise to work out how high an explosion might blast radioactive material, but warned that an explosion at one reactor or fuel pond could trigger a domino effect as other reactors and the spent fuel ponds became too dangerous to deal with. The “reasonable worst case scenario” envisaged ruptures at all three reactors in operation before the earthquake, and radiation leaks from six spent fuel ponds at the Fukushima site.

    The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate estimated this would release 10% of the radioactive caesium-137 and iodine-131 in the cores and one third of the caesium-137 in the spent fuel ponds. Under that scenario, wind currents carried the plume directly towards Tokyo at a speed of five metres per second. Had the event happened, it could have released the equivalent of 9.92 million terabecquerels of radiation from iodine-131 into the open air, nearly double the 5.2 million terabecquerels released by the fire at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in Ukraine in 1986.

    Even in this worst case scenario though, the accident was expected to cause less harm than Chernobyl, where the reactor’s burning graphite core threw radioactive material high into the atmosphere, and local populations were not evacuated quickly or barred from consuming contaminated milk and other products.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/jun/20/japan-earthquake-and-tsunami-japan

    1. @Kyle – the UK government has a “special relationship” with the US government with regard to atomic energy that dates back to agreements made during the Manhattan Project. My guess is that when US politicians (not nuclear technical experts) made the determination that they would embarrass the Japanese by expanding the evacuation zone to a completely unsupportable 50 miles the UK received a call to inform them of the expectation that they would go along to get along.

      I have written about the methods used by the Chairman of the NRC to impose his politically determined agenda on a number of occasions. The use of his aggressive methods to impose his will (or that of his political handlers) has not been limited to issues associated with Yucca Mountain, but also include the use of emergency powers and actions associated with Fukushima and the 50 mile evacuation order.

      The scenario that you describe with regard to fuel pools and criticality is total and complete bunk from a nuclear engineering perspective. Low enriched uranium cannot achieve criticality without moderation – a lump of melted corium cannot be moderated because there is no water inside the lump. Therefore, there is no way for such an event to occur – especially when you include the effects of the belt and suspenders approach used by the nuclear industry that adds boron and other neutron absorbers into spent fuel pool racks.

    2. “I’m not sure where to put this, but can someone speak to a recent Guardian article that explained why the UK also recommended people stay at least 50 miles from the Fukushima reactors?”

      It didn’t. The Foreign Office accepted the zone as promilgated by the Japanese government

      http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=News&id=566406782

      “Following the explosion at Fukushima nuclear plant, the Japanese government has advised all people between 20 and 30kms of the plant to stay inside and keep windows closed. The 20km exclusion zone remains in place. The UK Government advises all British citizens to follow this guidance. ”

      Sorry, Rod, we were a little more sensible than you chaps this time – stiff upper lips, and all that…;-)

  7. “Back to the point, without massive federal subsidies and huge ratepayer investment, not even the nuclear industry could build a nuclear plant by itself. ”

    I’ll add to Bill’s point. On this side of the Atlantic, our subsidies have the virtue of being transparent.

    Onshore wind, and other technologies are subsidised via the “Renewables Obligation” scheme (the “ROS”).

    Each years ROS payments are published annually. Last year they were £53.06/MWh. Wholesale prices for baseload electricity were in the order of £50/MWh.

    An onshore wind generator’s income is therefore around 51% subsidy.

    Our last government raised that to 1.5x the basic credit for offshore wind developments. Those levels proved insufficient to attract significant investment in offshore wind, other than in the most favourable locations. It was therefore increased to 2x. That has added some more sites, but no commitments to far-offshore wind – most analysts expect that 2.5x or 3x will be required.

    2x is a subsidy of £106/Mwh. That means about 68% of the income of an offshore wind operator is subsidy.

    We have good figures, now, for the costs of building such a scheme. The “London Array” scheme is costed at £3Bn per GW (nominal). Assuming a 7% cost of capital, 3% O&M costs and 26% capacity factor, it is loss making even at the 2x RO subsidy. It has been built only because one of the investors, MASDAR the Sovereign Wealth fund of AbuDhabi is willing to accept below market rates of return.

    for some forms of energy, the subsidy is not delivered via the ROS. It’s done in the form of “Feed In Tariffs” – a guaranteed price rather than a subsidy per se. Those for large scale (over 0.5MW were recently cut from £300/Kwh to £85/KWh.

    All of the schemes that were in planning have been cancelled – which leads to an assumption that they’re not viable at £85/MWh.

    We continue to subsidise smaller schemes. Householders who install solar panels are to receive £410/MWh, irrespective of whether they use the electricity themselves, or it’s sold into the grid. Take up to date is minimal.

  8. “Every spoke of the nuclear cycle is just plastered with all sorts of toxic wastes including carbon”

    Carbon is toxic?

    and there was I thinking we were a carbon-based lifeform….

    Rob, Bill, I think we should try to keep this one – he’s truly special. Special, as in having “special needs” (or hasn’t that euphimism made it to yoour side of the pond?)

    1. Try putting a plastic trash bag over your head, then tell me CO2 is not poisonous. As for carbon, try eating a few ashed BBQ briquettes.
      And no name calling, what kind of idiots are you?

      1. Try putting a plastic trash bag over your head, then tell me CO2 is not poisonous.

        In that case, asphyxiation results from the lack of oxygen, not the overabundance of CO2. Idiot.

        As for carbon, try eating a few ashed BBQ briquettes.

        Activated charcoal is one of the best ways to treat poisonings and overdoses following oral ingestion.

        The more you post, the dumber you look. Please continue.

      2. And here we go…ad hominem attack mode, go ahead, be my guest, call me names. I’ll save you from having to focus on the topic of this whole issue of thoughtful discussion on nuclear energy brought up by Mr. Adams.
        I am Mr. Joe Public, and you haven’t convinced me of anything except the nuclear industry is plagued by evil and ignorant Mr. Dudley Do-Rights.
        And in that light, why did the Japanese kicked out the NRC, leaving a small staff in Tokyo that provide assurances that everything is alright by sticking a Rad counter out the window and pointing towards the nuclear catastrophe. Why did TEPCO choose AREVA/COGEMA over the US nuclear industry? AREVA even went so far as to sell them the failed water filtration system for $1. Because they have absolutely no confidence in the US nuclear industry, who will probably spend years pointing at the catastrophe, then endless meetings but not once risk radiation exposure by entering the nuclear catastrophe zone.

      3. And here we go … igmuska apparently insists on taking his embarrassment to new heights.

        FYI, there is no “AREVA/COGEMA.” COGEMA was absorbed into AREVA years ago.

        Next, AREVA is part of the US nuclear industry. The French company that was incorporated into what is now AREVA started buying up parts of US nuclear companies back in the late 1980’s.

        Who am I to call you an idiot, when you are doing such a good job of exhibiting yourself as such?

      4. That is like calling the kettle black…and whatever the case, it is still just selling out of America to foreign interests. I remember not too long ago, while at the NRC in Rockville, I watched as American sell-outs, working for Canadian companies, were sucking up to this tall Chinese fellow. Every word he shredded was written down, and all 30 of those fellows were waving papers in his face. I could see his disgust for begging…

      5. igmuska,

        Apparently you are xenophobic, in addition to being idiotic. Nice touch.

      6. Poiinting out your gross errors isn’t an ad hominem attack. And do you know the old saying about stones and glass houses?

  9. Rod:
    Is there anyway you can host a live YouTube “Nuclear Challenge” show where you openly invite top anti-nukers to take you (or rotating hosts from this blog) on? It would put their facetious arguments on record which can also be used to challenge main media anti-nuclear pundits. It’d be a great morale booster for students who get beaten down for having pro-nuclear views in green school systems too. I understand teens use laptop videos all the time for similar “party lines”. I’m just tired of these anti-nuclear turkeys puking their spiel totally unchallenged toe-to-toe anymore!

    James Greenidge

    1. Great suck up job, dude…Nuclear challenge? What is that? A great opportunity to update your Wikipedia article?
      The important point about the public is that once your argument starts relying on the nuclear thing-a-ma-boppers or on pages of technical details, your argument is lost. Any nuclear challenge you might think would be beneficial to your hopeless cause will be lost to the people.

      1. @igmuska – Il n’y a pas de plus grand plaisir que de passer pour un idiot au yeux d’un imbécile.

      2. “igmuska”,

        I’m going to regard you as just another high school troll getting his jollies off ticking people off with specious mentions turning this discussion of energy into St. George vs the big evil dragon which is an easy lazy anti-corporate concept simple enough for some to grasp and rally around, let not facts spoil the fun. If not, you’d better start learning to think and research for yourself instead having passionate pious Pied Pipers lead you. The prime reason people are unreasonably frightened witless by nuclear energy is because the nuclear energy industry was long sleeping — and still are — at the public education switch and allowed WWWIII frets and B-movies and tree-huggers to “educate” the public as what radiation can do. I will admit one thing; I doubt Rod or anyone else of the same caliber on this blog would find any anti-nuclear takers for such a show because it’d be the end of their cry wolf careers. I’ll let their response to such a TV challenge talk for me. Invite your messianic green-tinted white hats to take true facts and experience and proof by the horns with the crew on this blog. Do roaches scatter from light? Really, if you’re so sure you’re right then sic one of your Save the Solar System heroes on Rod & Company. So until you cough one up to substantiate your supposed off the wall anxieties, I’ll not further respond to trolls.

        James Greenidge

  10. Brian,
    !!!! You took confined space training didn’t you? You forgot then, the basics, CO2 (that is, for those taking notes ‘carbon AND oxygen chemically bound together) will kill you way before your run out of Oxygen.

    The problem is the term “toxic” in the sense that it’s a form of pollution, where like NOx, reacts with air and creates smog (poison) or dust particles from coal that kill you through respiratory distress at some point. There is no dangerous accumulation of CO2 in atmosphere cause by humans burning fossil fuel that will ever become particularly dangerous. Thus it is not pollution in anyones book if they are serious.

    That it can cause a greenhouse effect, and result in massive climate change which can then be harmful is true, IMO, but that doesn’t make it a “pollutant”. I don’t like when people refer to it as such. I prefer ‘effluent’ which is more chemically…and toxilogically…neutral.

    David

    1. David – If you put a plastic trash bag over your head you will suffocate! That is, you will die because of a mechanical obstruction to the entry of air into the lungs. It’s as simple as that. The lack of oxygen will kill you long before you will suffer the effects of any carbon dioxide that you happen to exhale during the process.

      By the way, the original claim was that carbon (not carbon dioxide) is toxic, which is utterly absurd, since most of what we eat is full of carbon, and fortunately so.

      1. Brian,
        Given a closed atmosphere like a plastic bag over your head (or a submarine with no functioning atmosphere control equipment), built-up of CO2 will kill you LONG before lack of oxygen becomes an issue.
        Your point that “carbon is toxic” is utterly absurd is, of course, spot on.

      2. Chuck,

        Sorry to be so pedantic on such an off-topic point, but you are incorrect. Yes, it’s true that in environments with a very large inventory of oxygen, such as a tunnel or a submarine, the build up of CO2 over a fairly long amount of time is the greater hazard. However, when a bag is placed over the head, there is not enough time for hypercapnia to cause death. The oxygen in the bag drops below 5% within minutes. The person first suffers from hypoxia and eventually dies of asphyxia.

        The role of CO2 is limited to only the instinctive panic that results, if the person is still conscious.

  11. Thanks for the replies.

    I assumed the “special relationship” angle, but I can’t see how the US or UK can get away with that analysis and not have many nuclear experts come down on it.

    1. @Kyle – I hate to say this because I do not want to insult some of my esteemed colleagues, but the fact of the matter is that many nuclear professionals are political wimps who refuse to engage in public disputes. On the other hand, I am a loudmouth who has spent a lifetime in a career where wimps need not apply.

      I have taken a number of whacks at the 50 mile evacuation order here and will keep looking for venues for further engagement.

  12. It is one thing to be a wimp and quite another to
    just make up a story about what could have happened at Fukushima. But I remember at one point you wrote that some scientists think an explosion could occur. Are they talking about a 1 in 1,000 chance while you maintain zero chance? UK’s science advisor Sir Beddington told the British Embassy that in a worst case scenerio, TEPCO wouldn’t be able to keep cooling with water (why would that happen?) and an explosion would result releasing radioactive particles 500 meters into the air but that the problem would still be only within a 20 mile zone.

    Also, I’m curious what motivation you think the U.S. had in trying to embarrass the Japanese government.

    Anyway, Jazcko needs to be held accountable for the 50 mile radius decission.

  13. In the long term nuclear power is inevitable as once the fossil fuels become scarce the choice will be NPPs or “Lights Out”. California has already given us a preview of what happens when electrical generating capacity is restricted by neo-Luddites (otherwise known as “Greenies”). Your neighbors are presented with a wonderful opportunity to do a little price gouging. Prices as high as $750/MWh!
    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf65.html

    Taking this idea to the next level, let’s assume Germany is serious about decommissioning their nukes. Until they are able to build enough fossil fuel plants to replace them they will have to import more electricity from France and clearly that will drive the price up. It is simply a case of “Supply & Demand”.

    At least Germany has vast coal reserves whereas the Japanese will have to import more and more fossil fuels if they follow the “No Nuke” approach. Even worse, as an island nation there are few neighbors in a position to sell them electricity via cables.

  14. On 9:22 EST 06/29/11, CNN instituted its latest “Fright and Panic and Disaffect the Public Against Nuclear Power” news feature starring infamously green Prof. Michio Kaku who called the current nuclear plant flood situations “Fukushima in slow motion” and denigrated New Mexico firefighters after their commander cited they were trained and aware of the Los Alamos depository by saying “well, they’re not really trained for sophisticated incidents”, which is just a tactless way for him and nodding CNN to call New Mexico firefighters bumpkins. Between Kaku explaining how the fires were going to “pop” the casks and drums and poison babies in half the state if it ever reached that far, the CNN woman commentator just couldn’t get enough injecting that it was the “birthplace of the atom bomb” and atomic and hydrogen bombs are “no longer stored there but…” before thanking Kaku for his insights “as usual”.” I ask all here to join me emailing CNN to ask them why there was not a shred of non-alarmist appraisals nor regard for the safety and containment procedures being implemented by Los Alamos in that “news” report, and just how did they come about picking Kaku as their nuclear consultant (NYC invites him to occasionally “speak” at our schools for petesakre!) — and how about interviewing another expert this side of midnight, well, CNN?

    James Greenidge

    1. If you value the advancement of human knowledge brought to us by the Cassini space probe that explored Saturn, keep in mind that it never would have launched if it was up to Michio Kaku. He worked hard to prevent the launch because Cassini had scary plutonium onboard.

      When Apollo 13 returned to Earth, the lunar lander still carried the plutonium fueled RTG that would have powered experiments to be left on the moon. That RTG now rests, intact, on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean after the lunar lander burned up in the atmosphere. If that mission had happened today, I wonder if Kaku would have argued that the three should not be allowed to return to earth. He’s obviously willing to sacrifice scientific knowledge to placate anti-nuke fears. Would he sacrifice lives to placate them as well? I wonder.

    2. Kaku’s actions irritate me considerably. I was watching a show about how stars were made on the Science Channel recently, and Kaku was on it. On that program, he seemed nothing but happy, talking about fusion within stars. He seems to be either a fusion or particle accelerator guy, which is about the only place I can think of other than just being paid outright that I suspect his extreme (and intellectually dishonest) anti-fission, extreme alarmist position comes from.

      He’s obviously an extremely intelligent and well-spoken guy, which is probably why he gets so much air-time. He needs to be given a reality check on what the effects are of his shouting about worst-case effects that don’t line up with reality.

  15. I’m from Germany and I can say that Sirota either doesn’t know what he’s talking about or is a strict liar. Germany is in a process of deindustrialisation. Chancellor Merkel made a political maneuver after the vicious media here made an onslaught on the nuclear industrie with verifiable lies, lot’s of Tschernobyl reports and a frenzy against an industry in which no one ever died at one of the plants, ever, in this country. Not even from a heart attack. Germany is on a suicide pact. And I don’t see why the ancient medical principle “first, do no harm” applies to anything. Doctors put you open if the benefits seem higher than the potential risk. With that stupid argument you have to stay in bed all day, but then again, the roof could come down today… this constant repetition of idiotic arguments really bothers me. The Germans are already in an ideological frenzy. Nuclear is BY FAR the safest method of producing energy. Nobody can make an argument against it based on safety. It’s simply fact.

    1. A friend of mine from France is pretty happy that Germany will lose its stronghold on Europe’s economic destinies.

      He can’t wait to see them eat some humble pie in a few years when energy will no longer be a commodity in Germany.

  16. I didn’t take the time to read the entire thread, but did manage to make one observation…igmuska could spend his time more wisely harping on nuclear weapons than nuclear energy.

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