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Out With Windmills – In With Nuclear


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Out With Windmills – In With Nuclear by Floy Lilley

 

Britain buckles down to real energy. The UK will change out an established wind farm for a new nuclear power plant. This rational move will boost an anemic average of 1.3 MW of zero emissions wind generated power to a robust average of 1300 GW of zero emissions nuclear power. The manufacturer of wind turbines will be cutting jobs, blaming the government for failing to support the sector.

 

Britain has learned the hard way that their headlong green rush into medieval technology has been wasteful and foolish. They spent time and money trying to force a technology to do what it simply can’t do. Despite what Boone Pickens says, wind’s optimum use is only as backup and it can’t supply more than twenty percent of required loads. Pickens is a subsidy hunter, promising a 25% return on a 4,000 MW windmill farm in Texas, based entirely on federal tax credits. Have you ever seen how much land wind power requires? Pickens’ project will need 1,200 square miles. But, none in his backyard, please. He thinks the wind towers are too ugly to be on his large ranch.

 

Real, productive people need real, industrial-sized power. And, don’t even mention conservation. Conservation is no energy policy. Conservation is no more an energy plan than fasting is a food supply. Sure, greater efficiencies save energy, but we immediately have more uses for it. Only when the economy tanks do we use less energy. Nonetheless, I don’t consider that to be our current depression’s silver lining.

 

So, lead us Britannia. Let us, too, seize the day, the sense, and the cents. Let us, too, use peaceful-atom energy technology, which can do all that we need it to do. Why aren’t we doing just that? Why do we fear the best, most natural power provided on earth by earth?

 

Is nuclear really saddled in the U.S.A. with insurmountable risks?

 

I grant that things didn’t get off to a smooth start with nuclear power. Think about it. Would there be any electricity today at all if the first electrical product had been an electric chair? Electricity would have been dead on arrival after such a market launch. So, what can you do when your initial product is an atomic bomb? That pretty much set the stage for nuclear energy’s dismal reception.

 

The curtain fell on that stage before stardom was attained. At the Three Mile Island Nuclear Station near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in the spring of 1979, a hanging tag obscured a warning light. This human error consequently led to the damage of 70 percent of the core and 100 percent of the forward momentum of the nuclear power industry. There was, after close inspection during nine years, no unusual incidence of ill health in the public found, but the utilities experienced cardiac arrest. Public abuse, skyrocketing financial risks, draconian commission demands and required government-led evacuation plans sounded the death knell for the truly grand promises of nuclear energy. The response was a rational and complete upgrade to nuclear training, led by the Institute for Nuclear Power Operation and inspired by Admiral Hyman Rickover, father of the nuclear navy.

 

Still, nuclear’s potential went unrealized. By 1998 a company called Entergy stepped up and began buying unpopular nuclear reactors and began making immense improvements. All 104 nuclear reactors in the country were upgraded and beginning to perform to potential by the millennium. Since 1990, nearly one-third of our country’s electrical growth has been met by this upgraded performance. Nuclear now is the source for 19.8 percent of total electricity provided, while it makes up only 9 percent of our generating capacity. Our nuclear reactors achieve an all-time low in production cost of 1.68 cents per kWh. The reactors operate 24/7 for close to two years without interruption. The new fuel rods that are required about every eighteen months can be handled with gloves. The U-235 content of reactor-grade fuel is only 3 percent and cannot explode under any circumstances. Have these sound safety facts reassured our unscientific culture? Not much.

 

Public fears about radiation have persisted while there have been few fears about that other transmission of energy – electricity. Like I said, expect marketing challenges when your introductory product is a bomb.

 

But how well founded is hysteria over radioactivity? Did we really not notice that our blue home planet is a natural atomic energy reactor itself? We might not know that every second of our lives we are struck by 15,000 particles of radiation. We even might not be aware that own bodies are naturally radioactive. But, did we really not notice that the sun’s radiation is the source of our life? Have we really not noticed that it is always the dose that makes the poison, rather than the mere presence of a single photon or atom? We certainly are arbitrary about what we choose to be frightened of.

 

I was representing the American Nuclear Society in Manchester, England, in 1991 when I first realized that the very rules written to regulate against risks were, themselves, creating much of the hysteria over radiation with which the general public was infected. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was saddled with a supposition that said that if a large amount of something could cause you harm, then a single molecule of it could and would cause harm. That concept is called LNT – the linear no-threshold hypothesis. LNT disregards thresholds and proclaims that there is no safe dose. It is not scientific. It is false. But this false LNT is the reason workers around nuclear materials are suited up in spacesuits. That’s much more than a waste of money; it’s a truly scary signal. And, it’s unwarranted.

 

Low doses of radiation have exhibited positively beneficial effects upon health. That foreign concept is called hormesis. Another foreign concept could go a long way to putting the energy back into the nuclear energy industry. It is "use 95 percent of the fuel rod rather than just 5 percent." The French do it, along with Canadians, Russians, English, Japanese and others. We even did it until 1970.

 

Let’s do it again. Let’s use 95 percent of the fuel rods by reprocessing and use the remaining 5 percent in radioactive isotope applications for health medicine and industrial applications. Let’s have excess energy to sell, as the French do. Let’s gear up for nuclear plants so we, too, can have them produce 80 percent of our electricity, as the French do.

 

What do we do? We Americans use only 5 percent of our fuel rods, then fight like crazy to prevent the 95 percent "wasted" rod from being buried in Yucca Mountain.

 

Nuclear energy power isn’t just tilting at windmills. There are good reasons for it to be replacing them.

 

May 2, 2009

 

Floy Lilley [send her mail] is an adjunct faculty member at the Mises Institute. She was formerly with the University of Texas at Austin's Chair of Free Enterprise, and an attorney-at-law in Texas and Florida.

 

Copyright © 2009 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

 

 

Links referenced within this article

 

Floy Lilley

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig9/mailto:fl...y@bellsouth.net

new nuclear power plant

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009...es-nuclear-powe

blaming the government for failing to support the sector

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/047cfe4a-3445-11...144feabdc0.html

send her mail

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig9/mailto:fl...y@bellsouth.net

 

 

Find this article at:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig9/floy8.html

 

Copyright © 2007 LewRockwell.com

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No source of energy is good enough for the greens though. Windmills kills birds and bats, takes up huge amounts of space, and they bitch about running power lines from the windmills to the places that need it. Nuclear produces toxic waste and of course, might melt down. Solar again takes up a lot of spce and can't be used in many places. Forget anything with carbon in it, natural gas/oil/coal. Hydo power kills fish and blocks rivers natural flows so that's out. Bunch of fucking morons that'll never be satisfied unless everthing is run by foot power and then they'll bitch that people eat too much.

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There are even nuclear reactor designs that produce more fissile fuel than they consume. With an initial charge of slightly enriched Uranium, the excess neutrons from the fission of the U-235 in the fuel are captured by the U-238, which accounts for most of the uranium in the fuel rods (and >99% of naturally occuring Uranium). U-238 is not fissile itself, but once it captures a neutron it beta decays twice into Plutonium-239, which is.

 

After running a reactor for a certain amount of time on just slightly enriched Uranium, you end up with more fuel in the reactor than when you started. :)

 

Breeder Reactor

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Given the population of the U.S. and our energy requirements, I just don’t see how anyone can take nuclear power off the table. I hate the fact that we have no permanent solution for the waste, but what choice do we have? I just don’t believe that wind and solar will ever be able to pick up the slack.

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Guest Marty

Is it so hard for us to aim a rocket at the sun? I'm serious about this. I do not see why we could not just load up a rocket every couple of years or however long we need to and shoot it into the sun. The sun would completely burn up that nuclear waste, along with the rocket and everything else. Is there something I'm not considering about this? It would probally be expensive, but other than cost, is this not a perfect solution to disposing of nuclaer waste?

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I am a big fan of nuclear power. And they make much safer reactors these days. Anyone ever heard of a pebble bed reactor?

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Is it so hard for us to aim a rocket at the sun? I'm serious about this. I do not see why we could not just load up a rocket every couple of years or however long we need to and shoot it into the sun. The sun would completely burn up that nuclear waste, along with the rocket and everything else. Is there something I'm not considering about this? It would probally be expensive, but other than cost, is this not a perfect solution to disposing of nuclaer waste?

 

What if it blows up in the atmosphere?

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So what?....there have been open air nuclear explosions before, it did not alter life on this planet and it would not again. I say worth the risk.....

 

When they blew up over populated areas the results were pretty devastating.

 

 

I say bury it. Or better yet, reprocess the rods and extract what can be extracted. Some of those isotopes have got to have some industrial application somewhere. Nuclear medicine, maybe? And what can't be used in the waste ought to be buried. Closing Yucca Mountain is a huge mistake.

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Closing Yucca Mountain is a huge mistake.

 

Dormant volcano next to a high water table, cracks in the ground, etc. We Nevadans know all about it. They originally wanted to put it in a giant salt cavern in west Texas, which according to a geographer friend is about as ideal as you're gonna get, but the ranchers protested so they decided to stick it in Nevada, the nation's nuclear receptacle. Pure politics.

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Closing Yucca Mountain is a huge mistake.

 

Dormant volcano next to a high water table, cracks in the ground, etc. We Nevadans know all about it. They originally wanted to put it in a giant salt cavern in west Texas, which according to a geographer friend is about as ideal as you're gonna get, but the ranchers protested so they decided to stick it in Nevada, the nation's nuclear receptacle. Pure politics.

 

Burying the waste in a salt cavern is an ideal way to store highly toxic waste. I was under the impression the salt caverns and Yucca Mountain were one and the same....I must have gotten those sites mixed up.

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Burying the waste in a salt cavern is an ideal way to store highly toxic waste. I was under the impression the salt caverns and Yucca Mountain were one and the same....I must have gotten those sites mixed up.

 

The patch of desert between Nevada and far eastern California, as well as down in chunks of New Mexico, is something along the lines of a "National Sacrifice Zone."

 

The Tainted Desert

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Is it so hard for us to aim a rocket at the sun? I'm serious about this. I do not see why we could not just load up a rocket every couple of years or however long we need to and shoot it into the sun. The sun would completely burn up that nuclear waste, along with the rocket and everything else. Is there something I'm not considering about this? It would probally be expensive, but other than cost, is this not a perfect solution to disposing of nuclaer waste?

 

What if it blows up in the atmosphere?

 

So what?....there have been open air nuclear explosions before, it did not alter life on this planet and it would not again. I say worth the risk.....

 

Maybe the open air nukes didn't alter life for you, but they did alter life for others. But that isn't the problem. A nuclear weapon is the implosion of a few pounds of plutonium. Some of which is consumed and some of which is vaporized. But in order to get rid of nuclear waste in the above manner the risk of vaporizing 1000's of pounds of nuclear waste per launch, a very large dirty bomb.

 

Anyway it costs about $10,000 to get one pound of useful stuff into earth orbit. It costs a great deal more to get that pound of payload to leave earth orbit and go someplace else.

 

All that money would have to come out of your taxes. :pureevil: Maybe the government would have to raise taxes to do it.

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Pebble bed reactors all the way! Even harder for those to fizzle then the reactors we run in the US right now. Only issue with fission reactors is that we will put ourselves in the same dilemma as fossil fuels, it will only last another 100 years. Assuming that we only use Uranium.

 

Nuclear fission is the only way to go right now. Until we finally get fusion power. I know they have been working on it for 40 years, but it is some very hard science. We know its doable though. The sun exists.

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We know its doable though. The sun exists.

 

So what are the obstacles?

 

Figuring out how to contain a 100,000,000 degree burning plasma, while all the while extracting several gigajoules of energy per second from it. :)

 

Actually, we already *almost* know how to do it. We've been building Tokamaks for the past 30 or so years and are getting better at it all the time. The next big reactor to be built in Cadarache, France (ITER) should achieve better than break even (produce more fusion power than it takes to run the reactor) by a factor 10. And if that goes well, we'll build a demonstration fusion power plant in Japan after that, which will be in the mid 2030s. See DEMO.

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And if that goes well, we'll build a demonstration fusion power plant in Japan after that, which will be in the mid 2030s. See DEMO.

 

Mid 2030s!? I'll be in my mid 40s by then! Jesus, can't we expedite that shit?

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Is it so hard for us to aim a rocket at the sun? I'm serious about this. I do not see why we could not just load up a rocket every couple of years or however long we need to and shoot it into the sun. The sun would completely burn up that nuclear waste, along with the rocket and everything else. Is there something I'm not considering about this? It would probally be expensive, but other than cost, is this not a perfect solution to disposing of nuclaer waste?

 

Unfortunately, doing that would be prohibitively expensive. A better idea I've heard has been to bury the waste in subduction zones, although it is not without it's problems and currently international law is preventing that from happening. Or better yet, we could just not throw it away at all.

 

"Greens" can sometimes follow their dogma just as irrationally and crazily as the worst fundamentalist Christians!

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"Greens" can sometimes follow their dogma just as irrationally and crazily as the worst fundamentalist Christians!

 

Ever been to the Cato Institute website? Norman Mailer described them as the mirror opposites of Trotskyists: the only difference being the political economic philosophy. In other words, fundamentalists come in every flavor.

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20 years is not that long.....Hell...I am in my mid 40's. It was not that long from when I was in my mid 20's...LOL...just wait until you are in your mid 40's. LOL

 

Dump a massive shit-ton of US Government cash-money on the necessary R&D and I guarantee you it'll get done in the fraction of that time. Yes, it would be worth it. We do not spend enough on science, engineering, and infrastructure. The Soviets were laughing their asses off at us while sending men into space. Guess who was laughing when we beat them fuckers to the moon? What happened to all that momentum? How did we get so lame?

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20 years is not that long.....Hell...I am in my mid 40's. It was not that long from when I was in my mid 20's...LOL...just wait until you are in your mid 40's. LOL

 

Dump a massive shit-ton of US Government cash-money on the necessary R&D and I guarantee you it'll get done in the fraction of that time. Yes, it would be worth it. We do not spend enough on science, engineering, and infrastructure. The Soviets were laughing their asses off at us while sending men into space. Guess who was laughing when we beat them fuckers to the moon? What happened to all that momentum? How did we get so lame?

 

You're right. We almost have the know how to build a working fusion power plant now; all we lack is one last test reactor to fine tune some of the details and parameters of an operational fusion reactor (that's the purpose of ITER), but then we should be able to build a working power plant. It wouldn't even cost that much. About $15 billion for the test reactor/associated facilities and a few years of work. That's peanuts compared to what we spend on war in a single year. We could have fusion power by 2020 if we got our shit together and really set our minds to it. Even sooner if we're willing to spend a lot more.

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We could have fusion power by 2020 if we got our shit together and really set our minds to it. Even sooner if we're willing to spend a lot more.

 

 

Well god damn! What can we do, aside from writing letters to our congress persons?

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I'm afraid there really isn't much that can be done other than letting Congress know that fusion is something you care about. I'm a member of the American Physical Society's Division of Plasma Physics, and occasionally I'll get these letters from them about funding fusion science that I'm encouraged to forward to my congressperson/representatives. And I have sent some of them, but it's just not an issue that they seem to care anything about. Not as long as oil and coal are as cheap as they are, anyway.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The only problem I have with nuclear energy in North America is the fact that the reactors will be held by privately-owned corporations. This inevitably means that profits will come before safety. Oh, they go on about how safety is "Job #1" and all that rhetoric, but I've seen enough to know it's lip service. Safety comes first right after profitability, and you know the waste will get dumped in whatever 3rd world country needs the money. This is okay when talking about conventional means of producing power, but nuclear power? No thank you. Any nuclear power plant should be publicly owned, like bridges and other infrastructure, and operated in a very transparent manner.

 

With new technology that works just as well and consumes less power, combined with cheaper modern solar cell and battery manufacturing methods, I envision an array of solar panels being used in place of shingles on the rooftops of homes, providing all of the electrical needs for that household. Nuclear power can then play a smaller role in delivering the power needs of the manufacturing industry...that's assuming that North America will even have a manufacturing industry left after the economic meltdown. Meanwhile, I envision a transition back to steam power. In fact, I know of at least one manufacturing facility that still uses steam power and huge boilers for all of its energy needs; it's the Goodyear plant.

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The only problem I have with nuclear energy in North America is the fact that the reactors will be held by privately-owned corporations. This inevitably means that profits will come before safety. Oh, they go on about how safety is "Job #1" and all that rhetoric, but I've seen enough to know it's lip service. Safety comes first right after profitability, and you know the waste will get dumped in whatever 3rd world country needs the money. This is okay when talking about conventional means of producing power, but nuclear power? No thank you. Any nuclear power plant should be publicly owned, like bridges and other infrastructure, and operated in a very transparent manner.

 

With new technology that works just as well and consumes less power, combined with cheaper modern solar cell and battery manufacturing methods, I envision an array of solar panels being used in place of shingles on the rooftops of homes, providing all of the electrical needs for that household. Nuclear power can then play a smaller role in delivering the power needs of the manufacturing industry...that's assuming that North America will even have a manufacturing industry left after the economic meltdown. Meanwhile, I envision a transition back to steam power. In fact, I know of at least one manufacturing facility that still uses steam power and huge boilers for all of its energy needs; it's the Goodyear plant.

....because the government takes such wonderful care of infrastructure? Ever hear of bridge collapes, ancient sewage systems, roads filled with potholes. Yeah, just what I want, more government incompetance and black hole funding.

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