Nuclear Power

Way back in August 1988 on Usenet I wrote:

Waste heat does not contribute significantly to global warming. It is all
(if it’s really happening – we probably won’t be sure until its too late)
caused by the greenhouse effect. I agree with Brad – burning fossil fuels
could well be more harmful to the environment than nuclear power.

The evidence I’ve seen since then has convinced me that it is almost certain that greenhouse gases are causing warming and that burning fossil fuels is more harmful than nuclear power.

Fran Barlow kicked off a discussion on nuclear power in the open thread with this comment, concluding:

Frankly, I believe we do have to factor in very substantial amounts of nuclear energy if we are to have any realistic hope of avoiding a human catastrophe. This course is not without its risks, but then, this is true of any system configuration we can adopt. What seems inevitbale though is that if we become stuck in old arguments about what is natural and what is not, about big centralised technological fixes and small local ones, we may authort a future in which no substantial part of our vision is capable of realisation, and that, I take it, would be self-evidently paradoxical. If we leftists continue to block with the enemies of nuclear power, then the big winners will not be wind and solar thermal, but dirty coal and dirty liquid fuels and the losers will be all of working humanity.


We ought, I believe to propose an immediate plan of replacing the 1000 worst coal fired power stations with the best equivalent nuclear replacements. This one line item could cut the output of CO2 from coal fired electricity by about 72% and likewise cut emission of toxic particulate by whatever the antecedents were producing in the fuel cycle. A whole brace of coal miners would lose their jobs, but their lives and health and those even of their children would be extended. That latter is surely something over which every leftist could feel a warm inner glow, particularly since the bulk of these deaths would be avoided in places where the said miners are poorest.

Barry Brook argues that fourth generation reactors will eliminate most of the drawbacks of current nuclear technology:

This is the technology of the future. And it solves a lot of other problems that are currently associated with nuclear power. One of the biggest is, we’ve generated all of this nuclear waste in the form of spent fuel that we have to manage for 100,000 years. Well the rather neat thing about the new technology, which is called generation four nuclear power is that it takes that waste and uses that as fuel.

Here at Scienceblogs we have Matt Springer and Ethan Siegel in favour and Benjamin Cohen against.

Comments

  1. #1 Dave Andrews
    September 9, 2009

    trril,

    As you say that is exactly the reasoning behind a dirty bomb.Mark, meanwhile, doesn’t have the first clue about what he is saying>

  2. #2 D. C. Sessions
    September 9, 2009

    After all, the object of terrorism is to create terror.

    In which case, “dirty bombs” are the most effective weapons in history: they have cost trillions of dollars, major social disruption, loss of civil liberties, environmental destruction, etc. — all without one even being built!

  3. #3 Marion Delgado
    September 9, 2009

    BMS, addicted to the buzzer, said:

    My numbers (which I included above) come straight from the International Energy Agency, and I have far more confidence in them than some out-of-date numbers from a random Wikipedia page

    Any reading whatsoever of Wikipedia policy or even overview would have immediately revealed that Wikipedia pages are almost never “original content.” The source for the figures was not, in fact, the random Wikipedia page. For the C02, it was a study by a division of the US Department of Energy, conducted for the United Nations. That data has been updated for 2006 here

    And the 2004 GDP data is from the International Monetary Fund here

    Since the comparison is CO2 to GDP and CO2 has been updated for 2006, we should use 2006 GDP, available from the IMF here.

    The data is thus:
    {CO2 = thousands of metric tons per year}
    {GDP = billions of USD }

    Nation  CO2             GDP        ratio
    US      5,752,289       13,244.550 0.0023
    France  383,148         2,231.631  0.0058
    Denmark 53,944          276.611    0.0051 
    

    Leaving Denmark – STILL – better than twice as efficient in GDP per emission of C02 volume.

    As for the ever trustworthy International Energy Agency:

    The IEA has systematically underestimated the potential of renewable energy sources like wind and solar, “because of its ties to the oil, gas and nuclear sectors,” Energy Watch, a group of scientists and politicians, charged in a January 2009 report. Swiss parliamentarian and Energy Watch member Rudolf Rechsteiner said that IEA was “delaying the change to a renewable world. They continue touting nuclear and carbon-capture-and-storage, classical central solutions, instead of a more neutral approach, which would favour new solutions.”

    The Energy Watch report documented that IEA has dramatically underestimated wind power capacity over the past decade. IEA’s 2008 World Energy Outlook “predicts a fivefold increase in wind energy from 2006-2015, but then assumes a rapid slowdown” without explaining why “the wind sector should suffer such a crisis by 2015 and after.” IEA, which refused to comment on the report, draws “senior staff from the fossil-fuel industry.”

    Maybe BMS can find out for the IEA why wind will stop blowing worldwide in 2015. He should get the Economics Nobel Peace Prize for Medicine in Physics, if so. I think Monckton got one of those.

    Renewable Energy world hopefully says

    The International Energy Agency was formed out of the oil crisis of 1973 as a fossil-energy consumers union for developed countries. Because of its origins, the IEA has not historically been a strong supporter of renewable energy. But that is changing as a new crisis emerges: climate change.

    But change in some quarters is a very gradual process, given they’re still fudging the data to promote nuclear power and attack renewables. They were, by the way, grossly under in their estimates of wind power to date. Every year. So their 2015 cutoff, while insane and bizarre, is par for the course.

  4. #4 Marion Delgado
    September 9, 2009

    I certainly didn’t say dollar value per ton of C02, since my unit (our crude, insanely market fundamentalism-biased unit of productivity, GDP*) is a per capita one. But on everything else, BMS was simply wrong, and miggs was simply correct. The IMF, US DOE, etc., miggs and I are on the same page, and the fossil-fuel industries**’ “International Energy Agency” and BMS are the odd ones out.

    *RFK was challenging the GNP measure, but most of that applies just as well to the GDP.

    **But forward-looking, for former fossil fuel executives.

  5. #5 BMS
    September 9, 2009

    Marion:

    I certainly didn’t say dollar value per ton of C02

    Of course not, I never said that you did. In fact, I unequivocally stated that you did not say this. Please explain this to Mark.

    Nevertheless, I have no idea what you are talking about when you claim that your unit is “a per capita one.” “Per GDP” and “per capita” are two completely different beasts.

    But on everything else, BMS was simply wrong, and miggs was simply correct. The IMF, US DOE, etc., miggs and I are on the same page, and the fossil-fuel industries*’ “International Energy Agency” and BMS are the odd ones out.

    No, that is simply not true. You have cited nothing but a stupid Wikipedia page. Meanwhile, I can cite the statistics from not only the IEA, but the US DOE (Excel spreadsheet) as well. These figures are taken from the latest (2006) numbers in the DOE spreadsheet [the units are “Metric Tons of Carbon Dioxide per Thousand (2000) U.S. Dollars”]:

    United States: 0.52
    Denmark: 0.33

    Sorry, Marion, but you and miggs simply don’t have a clue. Both the International Energy Agency and the US Department of Energy stand by the figures that I cite.

    In the future, please reference something other than a Wikipedia page, if you want to be taken seriously.

    Dave Andrews:

    Mark, meanwhile, doesn’t have the first clue about what he is saying

    I couldn’t agree more. Add Marion to the list.

  6. #6 BMS
    September 9, 2009

    Marion – I’ll just add that, unlike the IEA and the Department of Energy’s EIA, “Source Watch” and “Energy Watch” are accountable to no one. They are simply propaganda farms, putting forth unsubstantiated nonsense and misinformation on the internet to promote the interests of “renewable energy” scams such as wind and solar.

    Only crackpots such as you take these transparently fake and partisan groups seriously.

    Now, care to tell me again how the US DOE stands behind the claims that you cite?

  7. #7 Mark Byrne
    September 9, 2009

    A tip to those pushing the pushing the “until you solve the storage problem” meme, or the “it can’t provide baseload” meme.

    You aren’t going to convince knowledgeable people with false or irrelevant memes.

    1.) It is always sunny somewhere, the wind is always blowing somewhere, waves etc, etc. It comes down to a question of the economic renewable capacity in various regions, how well different renewables complement each other, and the economics of connecting regions.

    2.) The economics in point 1 change with experience, technology and the cost of competing alternatives.

    3.) There are numerous storage options available today, thermal, kinetic, chemical, electro, and potential energies. It comes down to a question of the economic storage capacity in various applications and the economics of combinations of storage options.

    4.) The economics in point 3 change with experience, technology and the cost of competing alternatives.

    5.) Integration/Connectivity (point 1) mediates the need for storage (point 2). And Storage mediates the need for larger integrated areas of connectivity. The balance is to be determined by capacity and economics. And the economics change with technology, experience and infrastructure (and competing alternatives).

    6.) Demand management and load shifting mediates the scale of need for either or both storage and intercontinental transmission.

    A question to those (if anyone is) arguing that we can get to 350ppm CO2e with renewables alone: It might be possible, but is it economic? What will it cost? What do governments need to be establishing right now to give this any chance of coming together? What will the ecological cost be?

    If renewables advocates don’t address these questions, then nuclear advocates will.

  8. #8 Marion Delgado
    September 9, 2009

    One step at a time:

    The ultimate sources of my list were not “some random Wikipedia page.” Wikipedia lists are not sourced to Wikipedia authors but from external sources.

    The CO2 part of that list (List of countries by carbon dioxide emissions (now 2006)) came from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, a division of the US Dept. of Energy, as I said.

    The source for GDP for that “random Wikipedia page” was the International Monetary Fund.

    Here is CDIAC’s list*
    The comparison had not been updated from 2004 in Wikipedia’s co2/gdp list, as they said.

    The first document my CDIAC search turned up was a list of nations by per capita GHG 2006, so I divided each entry by its 2006 IMF per capita GDP which is why that was my dividing unit. I came out with units of C02 (expressed as carbon) over unit of GDP. The formula is GHG=PC.GHG x Pop, GDP=PC.GDP x Pop, GHG/GDP=PC.GHG/PC.GDP. When I use ratios, it’s nice to have both quantities already adjusted for population – makes it easier to see whether you’re ballparking things correctly.

    If you wish to check it, CDIAC’s gross carbon emissions by country 2006 is here

    The IMF’s 2006 GDP list is here.

    And keep in mind, all of this simply to validate Wikipedia, which listed the sources of its list. Properly and accurately.

    From DOE’s CDIAC: US 2006 per capita emissions: 5.18 metric tons of carbon. Denmark 2006 per capita emissions. 2.71 metric tons of carbon.

    From the IMF: US 2006 per capita GDP: 44,118.967. Denmark 2006 per capita GDP: 50,509.251

    (Denmark GHG/GDP)/ (US GHG/GDP) = 0.457 which is LESS THAN HALF.

    I note on BMS’s cited source that Bush’s DOE usedGlobal Insight” a private market forecaster, for GDP instead of the IMF. Perhaps the Energy Information Administration right hand didn’t know what its CDIAC left hand was doing in that case.

    I also note that the International Energy Agency is an energy company think-tank staffed by the fossil fuel industry which consistently underpredicted renewable energy especially wind. For some reason, for instance, the IEA predicted wind power would stop growing in 2015. I see they used the same document from the DOE, but I repeat, I don’t trust “Global Insight” to be as accurate as the IMF.

  9. #9 Marion Delgado
    September 9, 2009

    One last thing, and I mean last. The US DOE now does stand behind what I said. If I had had the ability to grill them, in, say, a congressional hearing, I believe I could have forced them to stand behind what I say even back when BMS’s report was generated. But that’s speculation.

    And miggs was right, BMS was, and is, wrong. And it’s over such a trivial point. Not WHETHER non-nuclear Denmark emits fewer units of carbon per GDP. Nope. BMS is going on and on trashing us because he quibbles about the DEGREE to which that is true.

  10. #10 John Morgan
    September 9, 2009

    Stephen:

    >So where have extremely radioactive metals been seperated electrically in a remotely operated factory environment?

    >Anyway this is not really the point as imaginary technology cannot be counted on to solve the world’s problems.

    It isn’t the point, but the objection on these grounds is raised often enough that I feel I ought to address it.

    There is a large difference between engineering process development based on existing practice, and new process discovery. One is relatively hard, and one is relatively easy. The separation by pyroprocessing is a combination of well understood existing engineering processes, and as such is a process that can be developed by cranking the usual handles of an engineering development programme.

    A number of existing large scale and long-deployed industrial processes are in use that exemplify one or other aspect of this process module. The proposed IFR separation process is metal ‘electrowinning’ from a high temperature molten salt bath, under an inert argon atmosphere, under remote handling, and the metal is highly radioactive. There is also preprocessing and postprocessing of the fuel assemblies, ie separation from casings, chop and melt down to remove volatile fission products (like iodine and xenon), then recast fuel rods from the melt.

    As I said above, the molten salt bath electrolysis process has a very long process history in producing metallic aluminium and metallic sodium, amongst other products. These are obviously done under inert atmospheres.

    You’re right to point out in the case of the IFR the products are extremely radioactive, and this changes things. However, the experience of the LFTR development (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor), and related work, provides the necessary materials science and engineering handling body of knowledge to support molten salt electrowinning of intensely radioactive materials. Consider, the LFTR reactor core is an intensely radioactive solution of thorium and other fluorides in a molten fluoride salt, which is basically the material being dealt with in the pyroprocessing bath. We have excellent knowledge of the material properties, the material compatibilities, pumping, valving, actinide solubilities, electrochemistry, phase diagrams, etc. Complex handling operations for such a fluid have already been used. Basically all we’re talking about is sticking some electrodes in it.

    The EBR-II breeder reactor – the IFR prototype – did fuel reprocessing by remote handling in an argon capped ‘hot cell’ attached to the reactor building, which involved separating the fuel assembly, melting down the intensely radioactive metallic fuel, driving off and recovery the volatile fission inhibitors, recasting new fuel rods and creating new fuel assemblies.

    Remote handling, automation, and control are an industrial commonplace, and now considerably more developed than at the time EBR-II was operating (up to 1985). EBR-II lacked the electrolysis step, but this is specced out in the PRISM design, based on solid engineering experience.

    The IFR development might fail for various reasons, primarily commercial or political. If it does, what you won’t read in its obituary is that “attempts to commercialize the IFR failed due to unforeseen and intractable problems with the pyroprocessing concept”.

  11. #11 Stephen Gloor
    September 10, 2009

    D. C. Sessions@66 – “Because the wind doesn’t always blow at night.

    I’m all for research into the storage problem, but until the “100% renewable” partisans solve it, we need base-load power. Which means either nuclear or fossil fuels [1].”

    The storage problem has been solved and it works. Look at Solar Two. Molten salt storage was tested in working conditions and it worked perfectly. It is now in a production prototype in Spain called Solar Tres.

    Nuclear power plants don’t generate power when they are being refuelled either. The point is all power systems have capacity factors lower than 100% and all need backup of other systems because of this.

    We don’t need base load power stations as these are inflexible dinosaurs. What we need for a smart grid to work better is more intermediate and peaking plants that can interact automatically with renewables to achieve the lowest emissions possible.

  12. #12 Stephen Gloor
    September 10, 2009

    John Morgan – “It isn’t the point, but the objection on these grounds is raised often enough that I feel I ought to address it.”

    It is the point because I never said anywhere that it could not be done, just that these exact conditions of extreme radioactivity and electrochemical processing has not been done before. Because it has not been done on an industrial scale it will require considerable time to implement and debug the process which will also not be cheap to do.

    Blees imagines, and I have talked to him on this, that the IFR complete can be rolled out in 5 years which is completely ridiculous. Just the processing part could take 10 years of work to get to a point where a turnkey processing plant is ready to go let alone the PRISM design which has to be certified first.

    The point is that the IFR is at least 20 years away from making any sort of difference to CO2 emissions even if the concept correctly scales up from the lab to the industry. Wind is currently growing at 30% per year, solar is starting to take off with solar storage now mainstream and other renewables are waiting in the wings with much lower lead times that the IFR. Also there are no problems with energy efficiency as all the technologies required are tried and tested.

    Whey wait for imaginary technology when we have the required technology that is already making a difference?

  13. #13 Mark
    September 10, 2009

    > If renewables advocates don’t address these questions, then nuclear advocates will.

    > Posted by: Mark Byrne

    But as implied with your opening statement:

    > A tip to those pushing the pushing the “until you solve the storage problem” meme, or the “it can’t provide baseload” meme.

    > You aren’t going to convince knowledgeable people with false or irrelevant memes.

    and later on, these ARE being answered by renewables proponents.

    And maybe some nuclear power could be used, for example, for powering military installations. After all

    a) they can’t really afford even a minor risk of a powerout

    b) they generally have very high power demands

    c) they are already secure locations

    d) if a terrorist gets on there and away with some Uranium, there are more problems than a dirty bomb to look into

    etc.

  14. #14 Mark
    September 10, 2009

    > Of course not, I never said that you did. In fact, I unequivocally stated that you did not say this. Please explain this to Mark.

    And I never said you did.

    I said that you were using a different measure and that your “Huh?” was therefore unwarranted and that responding to Fran’s point with a REPEAT of the wrong measure was not a response to Fran’s point.

    YOU then started the strawmaking process.

  15. #15 Mark
    September 10, 2009

    > Mark, meanwhile, doesn’t have the first clue about what he is saying

    > Posted by: Dave Andrews

    Coming from the guy who regularly shows he couldn’t find a clue with a team of sherpas and a map, I take this as a compliment.

    If I can’t find a clue that DA thinks is there, I MUST be on the right track.

    > Depends upon your definition of “work.” After all, the object of terrorism is to create terror.

    It does.

    And a dirty bomb isn’t a bomb. In just the same way as DHS is “security theatre”, this isn’t a bomb and if ever used for real would demonstrate that. So it won’t work.

    A blank from a gun makes a heck of a noise, but if you get menaced by a gun and they actually *try* and use it, the loud bang scares you and then you find you’re still alive and without holes. Then that “scary” gun becomes a poorly proportioned club.

    Not nearly so scary.

    So they don’t work unless you stop thinking and WANT to be scared.

    That’s not terrorism, that’s cowardice. Like all the USians who were too frightened to get on a plane to the UK. Including macho men like Sly Stallone.

    That wasn’t terrorism (go to Israel, there’s terrorism: you really CAN lose your life to it). It’s cowardice (where you’re afraid of something that isn’t going to kill you).

    The dirty bomb doesn’t work.

    You allow it.

  16. #16 el gordo
    September 10, 2009

    Good points Mark and using military bases for starters is probably the safest option in a dangerous world.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/mar/16/nuclearpower-nuclear-waste

  17. #17 Mark
    September 10, 2009

    I disagree with the “for starters”, but thanks.

  18. #18 Dunc
    September 10, 2009

    The point is all power systems have capacity factors lower than 100% and all need backup of other systems because of this.

    Indeed. The largest single generation failure in the UK was when Sizewell B abruptly droppped off the grid last May (May 27th, 11:30 am to be precise), resulting in 1,200 MW disappearing essentially instantaneously. It’s hard to come up with a realistic scenario in which the failure of renewable generation could cause such a severe balancing problem.

  19. #19 trrll
    September 10, 2009

    A blank from a gun makes a heck of a noise, but if you get menaced by a gun and they actually try and use it, the loud bang scares you and then you find you’re still alive and without holes. Then that “scary” gun becomes a poorly proportioned club.
    Not nearly so scary.

    So after 20 years or when people find that they still aren’t dead cancer, maybe they will decide that they weren’t actually hurt by the dirty bomb, and stop being afraid to go into areas “contaminated” by the dirty bomb, or fearful of the terrorists responsible for it. Gee, I’m greatly reassured that a dirty bomb will not create fear, massive economic disruption, and massive cleanup expense.

    So they don’t work unless you stop thinking and WANT to be scared.
    That’s not terrorism, that’s cowardice. Like all the USians who were too frightened to get on a plane to the UK. Including macho men like Sly Stallone.

    You can sneer all you want at the people who are afraid of radiation, and who suspect the government of lying to them when tell them that the levels are much too low to be significantly dangerous. But your sneers won’t stop huge numbers of people from being fearful, from fleeing the area of the attack, and from demanding the government spend whatever is necessary to reduce counts of radiation in the affected area all the way down to background (on the bright side, the radiation detector industry will experience a huge boom).

  20. #20 Dave andrews
    September 10, 2009

    Mark,

    The point about a dirty bomb is that it doesn’t have to work particularly well in any conventional sense. If you explode a device in Wall Street that spreads plutonium you shut down a large part of the US economy for a considerable time. Environmental groups etc would insist that there had to be rigorous clean up, costing God knows what, whilst many people would simply refuse to go into that particular area again.

    I campaigned against nuclear weapons for 25 years and in that time came across numberless people who had a totally irrational fear of radiation. No amount of discussion with them could shake this fear – indeed any discussion with them on this was likely counterproductive as their fear of radiation was often much greater than their fear of nuclear weapons. (And this is campaigners I am talking about, not ordinary members of the public).

    As an anecdotal example, a knowledgeable and prominent anti nuclear campaigner preferred to go to an anti Bush demonstration in London, shortly after the 7/7 terrorist bombings there, rather than visit Sellafield (the UK’s reprocessing plant) on a fact finding mission because of fears of radiation.

  21. #21 GRLCowan
    September 10, 2009

    I campaigned against nuclear weapons for 25 years and in that time came across numberless people who had a totally irrational fear of radiation. No amount of discussion with them could shake this fear – indeed any discussion with them on this was likely counterproductive as their fear of radiation was often much greater than their fear of nuclear weapons. (And this is campaigners I am talking about, not ordinary members of the public).

    Andrews seems confused about his own past intentions. If he was campaigning against nuclear weapons, fear of radiation was helpful to his campaign, and to be counterproductive for that campaign a discussion would have to reduce that fear, not, as he says, shake it.

    Similarly, the distinction between campaigners and ordinary members of the public naturally is in the direction of those members of the public being less fearful.

    As an anecdotal example, a knowledgeable and prominent anti nuclear campaigner preferred to go to an anti Bush demonstration in London, shortly after the 7/7 terrorist bombings there, rather than visit Sellafield (the UK’s reprocessing plant) on a fact finding mission because of fears of radiation.

    Because of professed fears of radiation; because of his or her occupation, that claim would be made regardless of whether it was true or not, and conveys no information.

    What’s illuminating, in cases like those, are cases where the walk doesn’t match the talk; for instance, Greenpeace researchers routinely getting about the Arctic on a nuclear icebreaker.

    (How fire can be domesticated)

  22. #22 James Haughton
    September 10, 2009

    MBS @ 38,

    The agency I was referring to, having had time to look it up, was the Atomic Energy Commission, headed up by Oppenheimer. Its functions were later absorbed by the DOE.

    It’s hardly controversial that leaks and safety concerns at civilian nuclear facilities have often been covered up. Just check the wikipedia pages on civilian nuclear accidents.

    I was unaware that the IAEA’s mandate covered safety standards as well as nonproliferation. Ta. I still think that national-level audit/ombudsman style officers would be needed to reassure the public.

    Finally, please stick your accusations of psychopathic paranoia back in the diseased rectum they appear to have been spoken from.

  23. #23 Steve Chamberlain
    September 10, 2009

    As the old bumper sticker has it, “Ynni niwcliar? Dim diolch!”

  24. #24 Chris O'Neill
    September 11, 2009

    If you explode a device in Wall Street that spreads plutonium you shut down a large part of the US economy for a considerable time….

    I campaigned against nuclear weapons for 25 years and in that time came across numberless people who had a totally irrational fear of radiation.

    There are far more accessable redioactive materials for making a dirty bomb than Plutonium. For example, material could be stolen or otherwise obtained from medical isotope sources. The only thing special about Plutonium is that one of its isotopes can be made in pure enough form (i.e. relatively free from other Plutonium isotopes by specially controlling a nuclear reactor) to make a fission bomb. Dirty bombs, radioactive or otherwise, can be made much more easily using materials other than Plutonium.

  25. #25 Fran Barlow
    September 11, 2009

    Not to mention the fact, Chris@124 that any number of other chemical or biological toxins would be a lot easier to contrive, hide your tracks, particularly if panic is mainly what you are after.

  26. #26 Mark
    September 11, 2009

    > The point about a dirty bomb is that it doesn’t have to work particularly well in any conventional sense.

    Then it’s not a bomb, is it, any more than airdrops of leaflets on opposing troops is carpet bombing.

    It’s propaganda and it only “works” if the victim makes it.

    That’s hardly working, is it.

  27. #27 Mark
    September 11, 2009

    > So after 20 years or when people find that they still aren’t dead cancer, maybe they will decide that they weren’t actually hurt by the dirty bomb

    Or, like Swine Flu or Avian Flu, find out that after a few weeks, nothing was anywhere near as dangerous as made out and it will never work again.

    If someone blows up a dirty bomb and nothing bad happens (a few people get a bit ill) then a few weeks later, there’s NO FEAR of the dirty bomb. Another “dirty bomb” goes off and feck all happens because it onlt works if you’re afraid of it and that’s destroyed by actually meeting it.

    Didn’t work, did it.

    Fear is the mind-killer. I will face my fears and they will disappear. Only I will remain.

    It’s why we face our fears. Because we often find that there wasn’t anything to fear.

    So the dirty bomb only works as long as you don’t use it.

  28. #28 trrll
    September 11, 2009

    Or, like Swine Flu or Avian Flu, find out that after a few weeks, nothing was anywhere near as dangerous as made out and it will never work again.
    If someone blows up a dirty bomb and nothing bad happens (a few people get a bit ill) then a few weeks later, there’s NO FEAR of the dirty bomb.

    Assuming that nobody tells them that the primary hazard of radiation exposure is cancer, years or decades later…

    You really think people are going to stop worrying about their kids coming down with cancer when it doesn’t happen after a few weeks?

  29. #29 trrll
    September 11, 2009

    The point about a dirty bomb is that it doesn’t have to work particularly well in any conventional sense. If you explode a device in Wall Street that spreads plutonium you shut down a large part of the US economy for a considerable time. Environmental groups etc would insist that there had to be rigorous clean up, costing God knows what, whilst many people would simply refuse to go into that particular area again.

    This is true, and it doesn’t even require plutonium if the primary purpose is to spread fear. All you need is radiation hard enough to be picked up by a geiger counter. Any one of a number of radioisotopes widely used for research would do the trick.

    Which also means that nuclear power does not appreciably increase the risk of a “dirty bomb” attack.

  30. #30 Dave Andrews
    September 11, 2009

    GRL Cowan,

    Yes I was campaigning against nuclear weapons but I also believe in telling the truth.

    Your remark that a ‘fear of radiation’ would have been helpful in the campaign gets to the heart of the problem with many environmental and single issue groups. That is, essentially, the end justifies the means as far as they are concerned, and just like politicians, they will spin the facts for their own purposes. This is a very slippery slope and if you don’t see it you are part of the problem not the solution.

  31. #31 Dave Andrews
    September 11, 2009

    Chris O’Neill,

    I was using plutonium as an example and would agree that other materials are easier to come by. Their resonance with the public would not be as great, however.

    Fran Barlow,

    Chemical and biological agents could indeed produce panic but their effects would generally be short lived in comparison to radiological agents, especially in the minds of the public.

  32. #32 Fran Barlow
    September 11, 2009

    Yes Dave, but the object is always to create fear within a definite political cycle. It doesn’t really matter if people are still scared 30 years later, but it does matter if they aren’t worried 3 years later.

  33. #33 Chris O'Neill
    September 11, 2009

    Their resonance with the public would not be as great (as Plutonium), however.

    Just wait till the hysteria gets beaten up. It doesn’t take long. As far as hysteria goes, Plutonium is just a name. There’s no reason why the same level of hysteria couldn’t be built on any other accumulating radioactive poison.

  34. #34 Dave Andrews
    September 12, 2009

    Chris,

    You may be right as far as Australia is concerned. All I can say is that here in the UK, and probably most importantly, the US plutonium has always been seen as the greatest danger.
    This relates directly back to both countries ‘status’ as nuclear weapons states.

    You are also absolutely correct in saying, in any situation, how the hysteria is whipped up matters a lot.

  35. #35 Paul UK
    September 14, 2009

    Tim has suggested in the initial post that warming caused by nuclear energy use will not be a problem. Eric Chaisson pointed out that large scale use of nuclear (and geo-thermal) could pose a problem.

    Something to think about:

    [Chaisson, E.J., “Long-term Global Heating from Energy Usage,” Eos transactions of the American Geophysical Union, v 89, no 28, p 253, 2008](http://www.tufts.edu/as/wright_center/eric/reprints/eos__agu_transactions_chaisson_8_july_08.pdf)

  36. #36 Paul UK
    September 14, 2009

    Apologies for the duff Chaisson link, here’s an alternative tiny URL: http://www.tinyurl.com/d75q23

  37. #37 Paul UK
    September 14, 2009

    GRL Gowan said:
    >What’s illuminating, in cases like those, are cases where the walk doesn’t match the talk; for instance, Greenpeace researchers routinely getting about the Arctic on a nuclear icebreaker.

    What nuclear ice breaker is this??
    And when did these events occur?

    This sounds like an unfounded rumour started by someone with a vested interest. eg. a lie.

    Greenpeace has it’s own ice breaker and it isn’t nuclear powered (pretty obvious really).

  38. #38 Tim Lambert
    September 14, 2009

    Actually I said that it isn’t causing warming at present. Chaisson has continued exponential growth in energy use for hundreds of years until we use 300 times as much energy as today — then it will make a significant contribution.

  39. #39 Bernard J.
    September 14, 2009

    There has been much said, here and on Barry Brook’s threads, on both the pro-nuclear and the pro-renewables sides regarding what is ‘practical’, and about ‘numbers’.

    I will admit that I started from a pro-renewables point of view, but I am becoming less convinced of their capacity for complete replacement of fossil fuels as the latter are currently used around the globe. Conversely, although I am less antagonistic toward nuclear-generated energy that I was in the past, I remain very unconvinced that it is able to serve as a long-term and ubiquitous source of energy for the whole of humanity, in the place of fossil fuels.

    I have grave doubts that even in combination there would be a solution, based on the current growth in global per capita use of energy.

    The real problem for me though is one that I have mentioned previously, and which I feel has never been adequately addressed and solved. And that is, if humanity is able to replace its reliance on fossil fuels with another source, whether such a source lasts for one hundred years or one thousand, how does this create a sustainable planet?

    As Jeff Harvey has discussed many times on a number of threads, humanity has already co-opted significant proportions of the planet’s water, arable soil, fisheries, forestry and sundry other resources, and at the expense of the very ecosystems that ultimately sustain all life on the planet. Even if we humans do not increase our total annual energy usage beyond today’s consumption, at the rate that our current energy use permits us to exploit the other biological and non-biological resources there will soon be serious shortfalls in other materials required for the sustenance of Western society, and most likely for the sustenance of large numbers of people at even a subsistence level.

    The common chestnut that we need several planets to live at our current level of resource use is not wrong: there has been much said about how much of the planet’s resource base is required for maintaining the wealthiest 20% of the planet’s human population. How will a maintenance of the current energy-consumption affect the planet’s resources, ignoring Chinas’ and India’s (amongst others) rushings to join the fray? How would a provision of the Chinas and the Indias of the planet, with our current profligate level of energy use, exacerbate the pressure on planetary resources?

    And this is all in addition to the inevitability that humans have already missed their best opportunity to mitigate the impacts of AGW. Even a screaming optimist would have to acknowledge that both nuclear and renewable replacements for fossil fuels are a decade, if not several, away.

    The best option that humans have as a species would be to follow Ted Trainer’s approach and embrace a profound cultural shift in the pattern of our energy (and consequently, of other resource) use: in so doing the problems of bottlenecks for many resources might be reduced. I seriously doubt though that any of the major carbon emitting countries in the world will demonstrate a significant drop in their rates of emissions in the same time frame, just as they are very unlikely to voluntarily reduce their consumptions of other resources.

    I know this sounds very ‘Club of Rome’, but I challenge anyone to point to ‘the numbers’ that scientifically and comprehensively demonstrate how there will not be critical shortages of certain resources in the future, and just how the various ecosystems of the planet will maintain their integrities.

    Up until about 12 or 18 months ago I was still optimistic about the future, but as I continue to observe the inertia and malaise that our species demonstrates in its responses to the inevitable problems of this century and beyond, I grow ever more despondent. Yes, there has been much improvement in ‘green’ technologies and cultures over the last several decades, but in comparison with the inexorable decline in the many indicators and functions of the globe’s ecosystems, I suspect that our efforts are more likely just shifting the time-frame of the approaching kick-in-the-arse, rather than altering its magnitude.

    I would dearly love for someone to point me to a detailed analysis/deconstruction/reconstruction of energy, biotic, and abiotic resource uses – in the context of future global population and social/cultural trends – that shows how we will, for more that several more generations, maintain a global society of anything like that which we currently have.

    Sadly though – naivety, Denialati, and sundry nutters aside – I doubt that anyone could produce such a study: else we would already be seeing improvements is systems that are relentlessly degrading.

  40. #40 Mark
    September 14, 2009

    > This is true, and it doesn’t even require plutonium if the primary purpose is to spread fear.

    True, but the political scaremongering requires something scary.

    Likke nuclear radiation.

    Therefore the status quo political figures want to maintain fear of a nuclear rogue state.

    Using nuclear power worldwide means breaking that fear in favour of practicalities.

    Which isn’t going to happen until those in power are no longer going to be affected. A generation at least.

    And to ensure more fear, the effect of binary liquid explosives is overblown (pun unintended), since they don’t want people afraid that the UK/US nuclear power is so easy to get hold of: if they do, then there would be more pressure to avoid nuclear power. And there’s a lot of concentrated money in nuclear power.

    Neither require a real bomb and, because of the limited (if any) effect of such mechanisms, they cannot be used, only threatened to be used, they don’t actually work: to work they need to explode. And that removes most of its power: the fear.

  41. #41 Nomen Nescio
    September 14, 2009

    Greenpeace has it’s own ice breaker and it isn’t nuclear powered

    be a lot better if it were, really. oil-powered ships burn a lot of fuel oil, after all. then again, finding qualified engineers for a nuke-powered ship can’t be entirely easy — i imagine they’d have to recruit amongst recent retirees from the U.S. Navy, essentially.

  42. #42 Ian Gould
    September 14, 2009

    “….An IFR is quick to build. …”

    I’m very interested in this exciting new technology.

    Could you tell me about some of the doubtless numerous examples already operating or about to go into operation?

  43. #43 Paul UK
    September 14, 2009

    Nomen Nescio:
    >be a lot better if it were, really. oil-powered ships burn a lot of fuel oil, after all.

    Agreed. But i forgive them because I think they have made some progress, especially in getting some industries to change.

  44. #44 Paul UK
    September 14, 2009

    Re: Tim and Chaisson.

    Agreed that Chaisson is making a prediction.

    My problem with nuclear is that it just encourages the myth continued resource abundance and growth in the use of resources.

    I think if we just satisfy demand the human train will end up hitting another buffer in the future (nuclear being the current instant solution to the current ‘climate change’ buffer).

    Chaisson just points out one of the potential issues, one assumes some sort of trekkie paradise world with abundant nuclear fusion fueling every human desire. One where everyone is obese probably!

  45. #45 G.R.L. Cowan
    September 14, 2009
  46. #46 Luv an Exp
    September 15, 2009

    Ray Kurzweil argues that solar energy is following an exponential path for price performance like many other technologies. It appears that the doubling time is 2 years and in 8 doublings it will be more than competitive.

  47. #47 Paul UK
    September 15, 2009

    GRL Cowan No. 145

    To be precise about that trip. The two scientists ‘teamed’ up with Greenpeace. Greenpeace and the Arctic Sunrise remained in Greenland.

    Greenpeace have have provided the blog site for the two scientists to use.

    http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/media/press-releases/explorers-begin-historic-arctic-ocean-crossing

  48. #48 Pongoland
    September 15, 2009

    Well said, Paul UK. It took 144 comments to get there, but that is the really inconvenient truth.

    We are in an age of depletion. More energy will only hasten the end.

    We need to manage a descent to a steady state economy or face global resource collapse.

    Stabilising and then reducing the world’s population will make it a whole lot easier.

  49. #49 Dave Andrews
    September 16, 2009

    Pongoland,

    “We need to manage a descent to a steady state economy or face global resource collapse.”

    What have you been taking today?

  50. #50 valuethinker
    October 4, 2009

    1. nuclear power is not cheap under any circumstances.

    Since the ‘nuclear renaissance’ began in the late 90s, the estimated cost of a new nuclear plant has risen from c. $2.5bn USD to nearly $6bn. That’s a standard estimate across a wide range of estimates (some higher, none less than $5bn). Moody’s, for example, the credit rating agency, has a recent estimate in that range.

    At $4500 per installed Kw (1300MW stations) this is just not going to be cheap power. That’s 4.5 times a gas fired station, 3 times a kw of wind power, 2.5 times a new coal-fired station etc.

    There will need to be massive government intervention to get these things built and to guarantee returns to investors.

    2. 4th Gen is a chimera. The cost savings come from doing away with the containment vessel, and in the age of 9-11, who would be willing to do that? Bury it underground and you have all the issues of risks to groundwater, plus you have to dig it up to decontaminate.

    the ‘graphite pebble’ doesn’t work: if a pebble breaks up in the recirculation system, then you have a completely ruined reactor with no way to decontaminate.

    It has taken us nearly 50 years to develop a ‘dominant design’ for a nuclear reactor (pressurised water) that we are fairly happy with and understand many of its complexities of design,construction and operation. We just are not going to junk that technology this side of 2050.

    The reality is if we are building new nukes, they will be Pressurized Water Reactors (because that is what the US civilian programme chose in the 1950s, and it did so because Rickover and his boys had made that work in submarine technology) from the 3rd Generation.

    Then there are the 3rd Gen safety risks:

    – the original plan was to be ‘inherently safe’ aka negative power flux and reliance on passive safety. To scram the reactor, you simply shut down and the water does the rest.

    However it turns out that doesn’t work, economically. It works for a 650MW reactor, but to be economic you need a 1300+ MW reactor.

    So the AEC has agreed to allow the Westinghouse and GE designs to go forward with fewer ‘active’ safety systems, but untested passive safety systems.

    The EPR (French) reactor is a little different. It still has 4 key active safety systems, a double-walled containment vessel (in case history repeats, and someone rams a 767 into your powerplant, or fires an anti tank missile into it, as was done at Super Phenix). And it has ‘the catcher’s mitt’ which is intended to stop ‘the China Syndrome’ in a meltdown (but we don’t know if it will work).

    So we are going to proceed on the 3rd Gen without a good idea how well it will work in emergency, just a wing and a prayer that it will be better and cheaper and safer than a 2nd Generation reactor.

    It will need to be, as there is more uranium in that core (twice as much?) burning hotter.

    3. many discussions about Australian aluminium. Nobody will build an aluminium smelter powered by nuclear generated electricity– it’s just too expensive. The French had one at Dunkerque when they had a surplus of electric power, but I believe even that one has closed.

    You build aluminium either where there is cheap hydro power (Canada, Norway, Iceland, Russia), or cheap gas (Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Russia, Qatar etc.). Despite conversations above, so far the Icelandic smelters are hydro-powered NOT geothermal.

  51. Barry Brook argues that fourth generation reactors will eliminate most of the drawbacks of current nuclear technology.Well the rather neat thing about the new technology, which is called generation four nuclear power is that it takes that waste and uses that as fuel.that’s great.i don’t believe but i am satisfied Barry Brook argues.

Current ye@r *