Do Not Read This If You Are Anti-Nuclear Energy

There’s been a good bit of back-and-forthing on this blog about nuclear power, most notably regarding a Times Magazine column we wrote recently about the past and future of the nuclear industry.

In a nutshell, we posited that the U.S. anti-nuke revolt in the 1960s and 1970s may look misguided in retrospect since it helped thwart the proliferation of nuclear power (clean but risky) while encouraging coal-fired electricity (dirty and, with global warming in mind, perhaps even riskier).

There is by now a pretty long list of environmentalists who used to be anti-nuke and are now in favor of it. They include Stewart Brand, James Lovelock, and Patrick Moore. If a new book called Power to Save the World is half as good as this Wall Street Journal review says it is, expect that list to get much, much longer.

It is written by Gwyneth Cravens, a “novelist and former New Yorker magazine fiction editor … a sometime antinuclear activist … and a determined organic vegetable gardener who spent her childhood in 1950s New Mexico having atom-bomb nightmares.” Dr. Richard “Rip” Anderson is “another lifelong greenie, a man with a doctorate in organic chemistry who grew up on an Idaho ranch without electricity and whose day job, over the course of a long career, has included pioneering something called probabilistic risk assessment (the underpinnings of climate-change analysis, but that’s another story).”

Together they set off on “a grand tour of the nuclear-power world, from dust-blown uranium mines to the depths of a pilot facility for Uncle Sam’s waste deposit at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.” And they come back raving — in favor of nuclear power. The review’s author, Spencer Reiss, sums things up nicely here:

It’s hard not to read Ms. Cravens’s book as a 400-page indictment of the nuclear power industry’s tragicomic inability to tell its own story. Going all the way back to Three Mile Island (1979) and Chernobyl (1986) — disasters that look a lot less disastrous in retrospect, as Ms. Cravens discovers — the industry has swapped missionary zeal for a hair shirt and a defensive crouch.

In other words, even if you end up pro-nuke, you can still find something to blame on the nuclear industry. (I have always found this argument shaky, especially when put forth by journalists: that the nuclear industry didn’t tell its own story well. When a besieged industry does “tell its own story well,” it is said to be manipulating the media; and when it doesn’t, it’s not the media that’s at fault, but the industry itself.)

That said, it sure feels as if the tide is turning on nuclear power, at least in terms of the American public perception. And if you think public perception isn’t important, just think back to how severely the perception of the Three Mile Island accident changed nuclear power’s future.

Addendum: I received the following e-mail from Gwyneth Craven, correcting an error in the original post (now appended above) and offering some further insights:

I appreciate your good words about my book. I am wondering if you can fix one thing, though. Dr. Richard “Rip” Anderson, the chemist, oceanographer, and expert in risk assessment who took me on a tour of the nuclear world, is actually married to another environmental and community activist, Marcia Fernandez. She came along on the Nuclear America Tour. (Together they saved an airstrip in Albuquerque from development and turned it into a sanctuary for migrating birds and other wildlife.) I am married to Henry Beard, the humor writer.

Good point about the media’s tendency to blame industry, one way or another. I did not intend the book to be an indictment of the nuclear industry, although I do criticize it for handling some matters clumsily, a history of lame P.R., and its partnership, through utilities, with the fossil fuel industry.

To me the book is about prejudice based on wrong assumptions and what Richard Rhodes calls “secondhand ignorance.” In the book (p.184) there is a graph based on a study by Bernard Cohen, Prof. Emeritus, U. of Pittsburgh, about stories by the New York Times of different types of accidents between 1974-78 (prior to Three Mile Island). He compared their frequency with the annual fatalities caused by these accidents. Cohen writes:

On an average, there were 120 entries per year on motor vehicle accidents, which kill 50,000 Americans each year; 50 entries per year on industrial accidents, which kill 12,000; and 20 entries per year on asphyxiation accidents, which kill 4,500; note that for these the number of entries, which represents roughly the amount of newspaper coverage, is approximately proportional to the death toll they cause. But for accidents involving radiation, there were something like 200 entries per year, in spite of there not having been a single fatality from a radiation accident for over a decade.

Another problem, especially in TV coverage, was use of inflammatory language. We often heard about “deadly radiation” or “lethal radioactivity,” referring to a hazard that hadn’t claimed a single victim for over a decade, and had caused less than five deaths in American history. But we never heard about “lethal electricity,” although 1,200 Americans were dying each year from electrocution; or about “lethal natural gas,” which was killing 500 annually with asphyxiation accidents. (Bernard Cohen, “The Nuclear Energy Option,” pp. 58-59.)

People may have skewed risk perceptions, as you have pointed out in your writings, but the media helps that process.

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COMMENTS: 133


  1. Oscar M. says:

    Check out http://carma.org/ to compare the CO2 emmissions of nuclear vs ocal plants.

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  2. Oscar M. says:

    Check out http://carma.org/ to compare the CO2 emmissions of nuclear vs ocal plants.

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  3. Silvanus says:

    “That said, it sure feels as if the tide is turning on nuclear power, at least in terms of the American public perception. And if you think public perception isn’t important, just think back to how severely the perception of the Three Mile Island accident changed nuclear power’s future.” – last paragraph of the post

    And the empirical evidence for this statement is where? Do you have a Zogby poll perhaps? A Rasmussen? A Pew? Something? Other than two self described environmentalists changing their minds on one particular policy of the United States energy industry?

    Mr. Dubner seems to be insinuating that anti-nuke (or how about Pro-Radiationless?) people will not like this column. Funny, how narrow minded the “pro-nuke” people are… never any mention of Tokamak’s success.
    http://www.pppl.gov/projects/pages/tftr.html

    Or the next generation of fusion reactors- Iter.
    http://www.iter.org/

    Oh, and don’t forget to do your part to consume less energy. Because you know, lowering demand is one of the tools in our toolbox- like that protractor you never picked up and instead tried to eyeball the angles.

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  4. Silvanus says:

    “That said, it sure feels as if the tide is turning on nuclear power, at least in terms of the American public perception. And if you think public perception isn’t important, just think back to how severely the perception of the Three Mile Island accident changed nuclear power’s future.” – last paragraph of the post

    And the empirical evidence for this statement is where? Do you have a Zogby poll perhaps? A Rasmussen? A Pew? Something? Other than two self described environmentalists changing their minds on one particular policy of the United States energy industry?

    Mr. Dubner seems to be insinuating that anti-nuke (or how about Pro-Radiationless?) people will not like this column. Funny, how narrow minded the “pro-nuke” people are… never any mention of Tokamak’s success.
    http://www.pppl.gov/projects/pages/tftr.html

    Or the next generation of fusion reactors- Iter.
    http://www.iter.org/

    Oh, and don’t forget to do your part to consume less energy. Because you know, lowering demand is one of the tools in our toolbox- like that protractor you never picked up and instead tried to eyeball the angles.

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  5. Mathieu F says:

    How about the fact that coal-fired electric plants generates MORE radioactivity than nuclear plants…

    http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html

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  6. Mathieu F says:

    How about the fact that coal-fired electric plants generates MORE radioactivity than nuclear plants…

    http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html

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  7. Jonathan says:

    Well, let’s hope the tide will turn. It’s definitely time to look for realistic alternatives. Given the improvement of technology since the last issues arose anywhere, it seems like a workable solution to an pressing problem.

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  8. Jonathan says:

    Well, let’s hope the tide will turn. It’s definitely time to look for realistic alternatives. Given the improvement of technology since the last issues arose anywhere, it seems like a workable solution to an pressing problem.

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  9. Paul O. says:

    Dear Dubner,

    You should be blogging for the WSJ! You have an high proportion of blog entries from their pages.

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  10. Paul O. says:

    Dear Dubner,

    You should be blogging for the WSJ! You have an high proportion of blog entries from their pages.

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  11. Peter says:

    golly – i’m all for studying data and making common sense decisions, but if we had any idea of the true effects of Chernobyl and other disasters, there’s no way anyone would be considering nuclear.

    and this line is great:

    “disasters that look a lot less disastrous in retrospect”

    I guess Vietnam looks a lot less disastrous in retrospect, too – especially if you’re not one of the millions of murdered civilians around to tell _your_ story anymore.

    plus, lamenting an entire industry’s inability to sell itself? does that not strike anyone as a bit, what’s the word i’m looking for, unbalanced? self-serving? crooked?

    and, to be at all useful, any discussion of this subject has to include the fact that these people and other flip-floppers are choosing the lesser of two evils – with an explicit recognition that the U.S. is in no meaningful sense, a democracy – that the oil/gas/coal industries (a few major companies) control U.S. energy policy, and the citizens of this country have no real say in energy policy.

    what these nuclear-heads are arguing for, in effect, is that only taking a 30% chance that millions of (poor) people will suffer and die as a result of nuclear experiments gone awry is a much preferable alternative to the 80% chance that global energy companies (ExxonMobileDieselWhatever, etc.) will plunge the nations of the world into an Orwellian never-ending war of resources for profit, and that in such a case, a few non-poor people might die – they were able to prevent the nuclear sites from being built in their backyards, but global war doesn’t discriminate.

    But, I’ll read the book. After seeing ‘Who Killed the Electric Car?’, I suspect the oil and car companies might have had something to do with the demise of nuclear.

    Oh yeah – Band of Horses.

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  12. Peter says:

    golly – i’m all for studying data and making common sense decisions, but if we had any idea of the true effects of Chernobyl and other disasters, there’s no way anyone would be considering nuclear.

    and this line is great:

    “disasters that look a lot less disastrous in retrospect”

    I guess Vietnam looks a lot less disastrous in retrospect, too – especially if you’re not one of the millions of murdered civilians around to tell _your_ story anymore.

    plus, lamenting an entire industry’s inability to sell itself? does that not strike anyone as a bit, what’s the word i’m looking for, unbalanced? self-serving? crooked?

    and, to be at all useful, any discussion of this subject has to include the fact that these people and other flip-floppers are choosing the lesser of two evils – with an explicit recognition that the U.S. is in no meaningful sense, a democracy – that the oil/gas/coal industries (a few major companies) control U.S. energy policy, and the citizens of this country have no real say in energy policy.

    what these nuclear-heads are arguing for, in effect, is that only taking a 30% chance that millions of (poor) people will suffer and die as a result of nuclear experiments gone awry is a much preferable alternative to the 80% chance that global energy companies (ExxonMobileDieselWhatever, etc.) will plunge the nations of the world into an Orwellian never-ending war of resources for profit, and that in such a case, a few non-poor people might die – they were able to prevent the nuclear sites from being built in their backyards, but global war doesn’t discriminate.

    But, I’ll read the book. After seeing ‘Who Killed the Electric Car?’, I suspect the oil and car companies might have had something to do with the demise of nuclear.

    Oh yeah – Band of Horses.

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  13. Craig says:

    “Do Not Read This If You Are Anti-Nuclear Energy” is the exact wrong title for this post. Anyone who is already pro-nuclear energy doesn’t need any more convincing that it’s a good idea. Those against it may change their minds if they see enough evidence to do so.

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  14. Craig says:

    “Do Not Read This If You Are Anti-Nuclear Energy” is the exact wrong title for this post. Anyone who is already pro-nuclear energy doesn’t need any more convincing that it’s a good idea. Those against it may change their minds if they see enough evidence to do so.

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  15. Michael D says:

    So there is a silver lining to the global warming scam!

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  16. Michael D says:

    So there is a silver lining to the global warming scam!

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  17. MoeZoo says:

    Maybe one day we will read that global warming was overhyped and that the gw ‘deniers’ did’t tell their story well either. I don’t know, anything is possible.

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  18. MoeZoo says:

    Maybe one day we will read that global warming was overhyped and that the gw ‘deniers’ did’t tell their story well either. I don’t know, anything is possible.

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  19. Lawrence H Oswald says:

    Tell me where the nuclear waste goes and I will swing over. Until then I want more efficiency. Urban planning. Public transportation. Bicycle lanes. Lowered expectations. And finally a single politician who is willing to discuss POPULATION GROWTH.

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  20. Lawrence H Oswald says:

    Tell me where the nuclear waste goes and I will swing over. Until then I want more efficiency. Urban planning. Public transportation. Bicycle lanes. Lowered expectations. And finally a single politician who is willing to discuss POPULATION GROWTH.

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  21. KC Brian says:

    Not to come off as a Socialist but state run nukes in France have been successful and without incident. I believe part of the problem with Nukes in America is that they are run for profit, presumably at the expense of safety. Remove the emphasis on profit and focus efforts on continued safety and I’m confident Americans will once again warm up to Nukes.

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  22. KC Brian says:

    Not to come off as a Socialist but state run nukes in France have been successful and without incident. I believe part of the problem with Nukes in America is that they are run for profit, presumably at the expense of safety. Remove the emphasis on profit and focus efforts on continued safety and I’m confident Americans will once again warm up to Nukes.

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  23. D F says:

    Please no more about profit being achieved at the expense of safety. An argument used extensively to justify public ownership of airlines in the UK before privatisation, but surely with zero credibility now.

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  24. D F says:

    Please no more about profit being achieved at the expense of safety. An argument used extensively to justify public ownership of airlines in the UK before privatisation, but surely with zero credibility now.

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  25. jeson says:

    Good Article.

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  26. jeson says:

    Good Article.

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  27. Mario says:

    Of course nuclear is now the cleanest option we have that can be deployed everywhere at the capacity required – it is not a perfect option as accidents can and will happen but no alternative is perfect either
    Nuclear is no pipe dream, France which is not a tiny country produces 75% of their power with nuclear and the country does not glow in the dark nor people have 8 toes
    At the same time we should of course use public transport and save as much energy as possible and explore other methods – it is not one or other as some posts say but all of them
    I personally would rather produce what we need with nuclear and hydro and stop using coal and gas and oil whihc has the added effect of making us less dependent on corrupt mid-east governments

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  28. Mario says:

    Of course nuclear is now the cleanest option we have that can be deployed everywhere at the capacity required – it is not a perfect option as accidents can and will happen but no alternative is perfect either
    Nuclear is no pipe dream, France which is not a tiny country produces 75% of their power with nuclear and the country does not glow in the dark nor people have 8 toes
    At the same time we should of course use public transport and save as much energy as possible and explore other methods – it is not one or other as some posts say but all of them
    I personally would rather produce what we need with nuclear and hydro and stop using coal and gas and oil whihc has the added effect of making us less dependent on corrupt mid-east governments

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  29. synapticmisfires says:

    Maybe Dubner titled the post the way he did hoping to keep away the people who will take one sentence out of context and beat it to death. Clearly he failed.

    Coal is not “safe”. Nuclear is not safe. If we treat the waste responsibly, it will remedy the fossil fuel crunch and slow greenhouse gas production. It’s a net-positive, that’s all there is to it.

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  30. synapticmisfires says:

    Maybe Dubner titled the post the way he did hoping to keep away the people who will take one sentence out of context and beat it to death. Clearly he failed.

    Coal is not “safe”. Nuclear is not safe. If we treat the waste responsibly, it will remedy the fossil fuel crunch and slow greenhouse gas production. It’s a net-positive, that’s all there is to it.

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  31. Steve says:

    Any thoughts on the economics of nuclear power in a free market without government subsidy?

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  32. Steve says:

    Any thoughts on the economics of nuclear power in a free market without government subsidy?

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  33. Jeff says:

    RE:#16 – Comparatively better than all other baseload energy alternatives.

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  34. Jeff says:

    RE:#16 – Comparatively better than all other baseload energy alternatives.

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  35. mathking says:

    First off, I would rather live near a nuclear plant than a coal one. But “How about the fact that coal-fired electric plants generates MORE radioactivity than nuclear plants…” is not true. What the article said is that people living near coal fired plants are exposed to more radiation than those living near nuclear plants which meet government regulations. This is kind of an important distinction, because, as Lawrence H Oswald posted, we need to know where the waste is going to go before we start a nuclear building binge.

    As for Steve’s comment about government subsidy, nuclear power is far and away the most heavily subsidized in the U.S. Nuclear plants are very expensive to build and maintain. And in this era of global terrorist threats, who really thinks this is going to change?

    One of the things that has always struck me about those who still call global warming a hoax or scam is the utter hostility to efficiency, conservation and alternative energy sources other than nuclear. Whether you believe in global warming or not, the world is facing a significant economic problem: demand for energy is increasing far more rapidly than is our ability to obtain more fossil fuels to supply that energy. The measures that we need to take if global warming is in fact happening are essentially the same ones we need to take in order not to have our economy decimated by lack of an increasingly scarce but essential resource.

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  36. mathking says:

    First off, I would rather live near a nuclear plant than a coal one. But “How about the fact that coal-fired electric plants generates MORE radioactivity than nuclear plants…” is not true. What the article said is that people living near coal fired plants are exposed to more radiation than those living near nuclear plants which meet government regulations. This is kind of an important distinction, because, as Lawrence H Oswald posted, we need to know where the waste is going to go before we start a nuclear building binge.

    As for Steve’s comment about government subsidy, nuclear power is far and away the most heavily subsidized in the U.S. Nuclear plants are very expensive to build and maintain. And in this era of global terrorist threats, who really thinks this is going to change?

    One of the things that has always struck me about those who still call global warming a hoax or scam is the utter hostility to efficiency, conservation and alternative energy sources other than nuclear. Whether you believe in global warming or not, the world is facing a significant economic problem: demand for energy is increasing far more rapidly than is our ability to obtain more fossil fuels to supply that energy. The measures that we need to take if global warming is in fact happening are essentially the same ones we need to take in order not to have our economy decimated by lack of an increasingly scarce but essential resource.

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  37. Paul says:

    Safe so far does not mean safe forever.
    And it’s only going to take one accident at a nuclear power plant with a major city or any city downwind for public opinion to swing hard the other way.

    Perhaps after that accident the proponents of nuclear power should have to live in the contaminated area.

    At the very least they should have to visit the relatives of the dead and dying.

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  38. Paul says:

    Safe so far does not mean safe forever.
    And it’s only going to take one accident at a nuclear power plant with a major city or any city downwind for public opinion to swing hard the other way.

    Perhaps after that accident the proponents of nuclear power should have to live in the contaminated area.

    At the very least they should have to visit the relatives of the dead and dying.

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  39. Bill says:

    I wonder what would have happened if the “pilots” of the highjacked planes on 9-11 would have chosen Three Mile Island as their target.

    Centralized power, whether coal, nuke, whatever – has other issues – transmission distances, NIMBY syndrome, etc. Perhaps for the next generation of energy sources, we should be looking to a more distributed network of small-scale, community-based power generation.

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  40. Bill says:

    I wonder what would have happened if the “pilots” of the highjacked planes on 9-11 would have chosen Three Mile Island as their target.

    Centralized power, whether coal, nuke, whatever – has other issues – transmission distances, NIMBY syndrome, etc. Perhaps for the next generation of energy sources, we should be looking to a more distributed network of small-scale, community-based power generation.

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  41. TheGreenMiles says:

    You’re right, 40 years ago if we factored in global warming, the nuclear vs. coal argument might have been different. But now it’s not just nuclear vs. coal — it’s nuclear vs. coal vs. solar vs. wind vs. tidal vs. biomass. I’m not anti-nuclear, I’m just pro-renewables.

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  42. TheGreenMiles says:

    You’re right, 40 years ago if we factored in global warming, the nuclear vs. coal argument might have been different. But now it’s not just nuclear vs. coal — it’s nuclear vs. coal vs. solar vs. wind vs. tidal vs. biomass. I’m not anti-nuclear, I’m just pro-renewables.

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  43. SoberlyStoned says:

    Nuclear Power is a Six-Sigma problem, right? Only a 3.4 in a million chance!
    How about people explore geo-thermal power (available in plenty, and less likely to damage Gaia in a similar time-span)? Or what about flying Ben Franklin’s Electric Kite? Or floating Tidal-Flow Platforms (they float oil rigs, AND drill while they’re doing so, don’t they)?
    I mean, is this a subject for discussion at all, until Nuclear Fusion can get off the ground?

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  44. SoberlyStoned says:

    Nuclear Power is a Six-Sigma problem, right? Only a 3.4 in a million chance!
    How about people explore geo-thermal power (available in plenty, and less likely to damage Gaia in a similar time-span)? Or what about flying Ben Franklin’s Electric Kite? Or floating Tidal-Flow Platforms (they float oil rigs, AND drill while they’re doing so, don’t they)?
    I mean, is this a subject for discussion at all, until Nuclear Fusion can get off the ground?

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  45. Jed Christiansen says:

    The United States Government has been operating nuclear reactors safely for over fifty years in far more harsh environments than normal reactors… at sea!

    If the US Navy, with 18-20 year old enlisted men on key watchstations, can safely operate reactors under extraordinary demands with no accidents, I’m sure that civilian nuclear reactors will be fine.

    I too would love it if renewable energy could provide for our needs, but it’s not going to happen in the next 10-20 years. Nuclear is a sensible option until renewable energy scales.

    Thank you for a balanced and sensible post on the topic!

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  46. Jed Christiansen says:

    The United States Government has been operating nuclear reactors safely for over fifty years in far more harsh environments than normal reactors… at sea!

    If the US Navy, with 18-20 year old enlisted men on key watchstations, can safely operate reactors under extraordinary demands with no accidents, I’m sure that civilian nuclear reactors will be fine.

    I too would love it if renewable energy could provide for our needs, but it’s not going to happen in the next 10-20 years. Nuclear is a sensible option until renewable energy scales.

    Thank you for a balanced and sensible post on the topic!

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  47. EvilCornbread says:

    #19: The reactors that we can build today cannot catastrophically melt-down. Their failure case is to simply turn off, and runaway reactions are not possible.

    Are you visiting the relatives of those dead and dying due to the avoidable pollution that non-nuclear facilities are spewing into our air?

    #20: Only those on the planes would have died — reactors are built to withstand impact by an airliner. Why do I get the feeling that anti-nuke folks think nuclear reactors are capable of generating mushroom clouds?

    #21: Renewables are great, but they have their own environmental-impact issues and aren’t even close to being capable of supporting the energy needs of the US.

    As far as waste disposal, Yucca Mountain is fine — it’s simple NIMBY in effect there. The nastiest stuff also decays the most quickly, which is rarely mentioned by the “what about the waste!” folks.

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  48. EvilCornbread says:

    #19: The reactors that we can build today cannot catastrophically melt-down. Their failure case is to simply turn off, and runaway reactions are not possible.

    Are you visiting the relatives of those dead and dying due to the avoidable pollution that non-nuclear facilities are spewing into our air?

    #20: Only those on the planes would have died — reactors are built to withstand impact by an airliner. Why do I get the feeling that anti-nuke folks think nuclear reactors are capable of generating mushroom clouds?

    #21: Renewables are great, but they have their own environmental-impact issues and aren’t even close to being capable of supporting the energy needs of the US.

    As far as waste disposal, Yucca Mountain is fine — it’s simple NIMBY in effect there. The nastiest stuff also decays the most quickly, which is rarely mentioned by the “what about the waste!” folks.

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  49. Rod Adams says:

    Lawrence Oswald said, “Tell me where the nuclear waste goes and I will swing over.”

    Nearly all of what is currently considered to be “waste” from nuclear plant can be recycled. My answer, therefore is that the waste gets carefully stored and monitored – just like it is today – until such time as it makes sense to recycle it. There is no rush, the material discharged from a reactor large enough to supply a city of a million people would only fill up a moderately sized parking lot over a 60 year lifetime. There would be about 120 dry storage containers full of slightly used fuel, assuming no immediate changes.

    Now let me ask my question – even if we reduced energy use by 50% in the US immediately, where would the coal industry put the waste from burning 700 million tons of coal per year? That is half of what we currently burn.

    Rod Adams Editor, Atomic Insights

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  50. Rod Adams says:

    Lawrence Oswald said, “Tell me where the nuclear waste goes and I will swing over.”

    Nearly all of what is currently considered to be “waste” from nuclear plant can be recycled. My answer, therefore is that the waste gets carefully stored and monitored – just like it is today – until such time as it makes sense to recycle it. There is no rush, the material discharged from a reactor large enough to supply a city of a million people would only fill up a moderately sized parking lot over a 60 year lifetime. There would be about 120 dry storage containers full of slightly used fuel, assuming no immediate changes.

    Now let me ask my question – even if we reduced energy use by 50% in the US immediately, where would the coal industry put the waste from burning 700 million tons of coal per year? That is half of what we currently burn.

    Rod Adams Editor, Atomic Insights

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  51. ho says:

    “There is by now a pretty long list of environmentalists who used to be anti-nuke and are now in favor of it. They include Stewart Brand, James Lovelock, and Patrick Moore”

    And may I ask, who pays their salaries nowadays, Mr. Dubner?

    May I ask, why is a proven liar Christie Whitmann (of WTC fame) missing from that lineup?

    And where is that FREE solar energy stuff GE brags about via its PR agents?

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  52. ho says:

    “There is by now a pretty long list of environmentalists who used to be anti-nuke and are now in favor of it. They include Stewart Brand, James Lovelock, and Patrick Moore”

    And may I ask, who pays their salaries nowadays, Mr. Dubner?

    May I ask, why is a proven liar Christie Whitmann (of WTC fame) missing from that lineup?

    And where is that FREE solar energy stuff GE brags about via its PR agents?

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  53. Jeff W. Eerkens says:

    The article is absolutely right. Nuclear Fission Energy will become the Big Mother of All Prime Energy Sources. By 2030 we will see severe shortages of oil and by 2050 it will all be gone if we keep burning oil as we do now and keep our heads in the sand. The new deep-sea reservoirs of oil in the gulf of Mexcico will be burnt up by the US in one year. An honest evaluation of solar and wind energy shows that these energy sources,while helpful, are inadequate (and four times more expensive) for supplying the base-loads required for sustaining our heavy industries and to manufacture the enormous quantities of future synfuels needed to replace oil and coal. Coal, besides being an enormous polluter of the biosphere, must be preserved for our progeny as a raw material for making plastics and other organics when oil is gone. Only green nuclear energy can save us and overcome the upcoming economic calamities, provided we build 6 to 9 times more nuclear power plants worldwide than we have now. With introduction of fast breeder reactors (GenIV) in a few decades, we will burn up all the uranium and plutonium and have enough to sustain us for 2000 years. Also waste levels wil be reduced by a factor of 30 and the Yucca mountain repository will be able to accomodate residual useless wastes for many centuries (not decades). The anti-nukes have distorted and misrepresented (if not outight lied about) almost every nuclear issue. Read my book: “The Nuclear Imperative – A Critical Look at the Approaching Energy Crisis”, Springer (2006);ISBN 1-4020-4930-7.
    Jeff W. Eerkens, PhD

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  54. Jeff W. Eerkens says:

    The article is absolutely right. Nuclear Fission Energy will become the Big Mother of All Prime Energy Sources. By 2030 we will see severe shortages of oil and by 2050 it will all be gone if we keep burning oil as we do now and keep our heads in the sand. The new deep-sea reservoirs of oil in the gulf of Mexcico will be burnt up by the US in one year. An honest evaluation of solar and wind energy shows that these energy sources,while helpful, are inadequate (and four times more expensive) for supplying the base-loads required for sustaining our heavy industries and to manufacture the enormous quantities of future synfuels needed to replace oil and coal. Coal, besides being an enormous polluter of the biosphere, must be preserved for our progeny as a raw material for making plastics and other organics when oil is gone. Only green nuclear energy can save us and overcome the upcoming economic calamities, provided we build 6 to 9 times more nuclear power plants worldwide than we have now. With introduction of fast breeder reactors (GenIV) in a few decades, we will burn up all the uranium and plutonium and have enough to sustain us for 2000 years. Also waste levels wil be reduced by a factor of 30 and the Yucca mountain repository will be able to accomodate residual useless wastes for many centuries (not decades). The anti-nukes have distorted and misrepresented (if not outight lied about) almost every nuclear issue. Read my book: “The Nuclear Imperative – A Critical Look at the Approaching Energy Crisis”, Springer (2006);ISBN 1-4020-4930-7.
    Jeff W. Eerkens, PhD

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  55. tucker says:

    re: economics of nuclear power. The biggest issue to me seems to be that there are a ton of negative externalities associated with all kinds of power generation. Depending on the type of plant those externalities are easier or harder to internalize. For nuclear power the externalities are safety and waste, both of which are relatively easy to internalize and have been mostly internalized, driving up the cost. For hydro-electric the largest externality seems to be ecological disruption, which is harder to internalize, but the capital costs are larger. The biggest externality previously for coal was large particle emissions which have been internalized by mandating filtering smoke stacks. For fossil fuels overall the externality we need to address is greenhouse gas emissions. A tax system or cap and trade system would internalize this external cost and if this happened it would put coal and natural gas actually on an equal footing with other power sources. It is certainly possible and even likely that some sources would become more economic if the externalities for all sources were internalized.

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  56. tucker says:

    re: economics of nuclear power. The biggest issue to me seems to be that there are a ton of negative externalities associated with all kinds of power generation. Depending on the type of plant those externalities are easier or harder to internalize. For nuclear power the externalities are safety and waste, both of which are relatively easy to internalize and have been mostly internalized, driving up the cost. For hydro-electric the largest externality seems to be ecological disruption, which is harder to internalize, but the capital costs are larger. The biggest externality previously for coal was large particle emissions which have been internalized by mandating filtering smoke stacks. For fossil fuels overall the externality we need to address is greenhouse gas emissions. A tax system or cap and trade system would internalize this external cost and if this happened it would put coal and natural gas actually on an equal footing with other power sources. It is certainly possible and even likely that some sources would become more economic if the externalities for all sources were internalized.

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  57. Logan says:

    An illuminating graph of US energy is shown here:
    http://junkcharts.typepad.com/.shared/image.html?/photos/uncategorized/govt_sankey.png
    (Don’t let the ‘junkcharts’ put you off.)

    What’s remarkable is how much is lost overall: most of it. I’ve got no problem with nuclear power, but I’m not planning on living next to a plant. The further away you put a plant, the higher the conversion losses.
    Let’s not forget the ‘yuk’ factor can have practical repercussions.

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  58. Logan says:

    An illuminating graph of US energy is shown here:
    http://junkcharts.typepad.com/.shared/image.html?/photos/uncategorized/govt_sankey.png
    (Don’t let the ‘junkcharts’ put you off.)

    What’s remarkable is how much is lost overall: most of it. I’ve got no problem with nuclear power, but I’m not planning on living next to a plant. The further away you put a plant, the higher the conversion losses.
    Let’s not forget the ‘yuk’ factor can have practical repercussions.

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  59. Nina says:

    #7 – Craig
    Couldn’t agree with you more. It was the first thing that occurred to me when I read the title.
    Being pro-nuke myself, I felt that the title drew negative attention to a great post.
    It’s like the hate-Britney or hate-Angelina sites: the majority of people who enter those sites are going there for the exact opposite reason: to defend the celebrities that they like.

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  60. Nina says:

    #7 – Craig
    Couldn’t agree with you more. It was the first thing that occurred to me when I read the title.
    Being pro-nuke myself, I felt that the title drew negative attention to a great post.
    It’s like the hate-Britney or hate-Angelina sites: the majority of people who enter those sites are going there for the exact opposite reason: to defend the celebrities that they like.

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  61. Leonard says:

    #29 The large proportion of “conversion losses” in the figure referenced is caused primarily by thermodynamic losses, the inability of the heat energy in the fuel to be converted to mechanical energy needed to turn the generator.

    The “conversion losses” do not go up the further away you put the plant. The losses that go up with distance are the “T&D losses” (third arrow down on the right hand side, these are the Transmission and Distribution Losses)

    The updated figure for 2006 can be found on the US Energy Information Administration website:
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/diagram5.html

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  62. Leonard says:

    #29 The large proportion of “conversion losses” in the figure referenced is caused primarily by thermodynamic losses, the inability of the heat energy in the fuel to be converted to mechanical energy needed to turn the generator.

    The “conversion losses” do not go up the further away you put the plant. The losses that go up with distance are the “T&D losses” (third arrow down on the right hand side, these are the Transmission and Distribution Losses)

    The updated figure for 2006 can be found on the US Energy Information Administration website:
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/diagram5.html

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  63. Eike says:

    Maybe i did not get the ironic part of your headline “Do Not Read This If You Are Anti-Nuclear Energy”, but i think this makes people, who are against Nuclear Energy read this article even more. And I think you know that, and as your blog is kind of popular, you dont need such headlines to back it up.

    To Nuclear Energy: I think saying, that Nuclear Energy is not dirty and maybe even not that risky is choosing the lesser of two evils. Politicians might use that argument for using Nuclear Energy and it might hinder them from putting all their focus on how to get by without BOTH of them.

    Cole-fired Energy is, of course, something we can’t hang on, but with Nuclear Energy it is just the same. As “perhaps even riskier” implies, we can’t say what effects this Energy might have in the future, and that is why we should find a way to drop that opportunity as far as possible.

    Eike from Germany

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  64. Eike says:

    Maybe i did not get the ironic part of your headline “Do Not Read This If You Are Anti-Nuclear Energy”, but i think this makes people, who are against Nuclear Energy read this article even more. And I think you know that, and as your blog is kind of popular, you dont need such headlines to back it up.

    To Nuclear Energy: I think saying, that Nuclear Energy is not dirty and maybe even not that risky is choosing the lesser of two evils. Politicians might use that argument for using Nuclear Energy and it might hinder them from putting all their focus on how to get by without BOTH of them.

    Cole-fired Energy is, of course, something we can’t hang on, but with Nuclear Energy it is just the same. As “perhaps even riskier” implies, we can’t say what effects this Energy might have in the future, and that is why we should find a way to drop that opportunity as far as possible.

    Eike from Germany

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  65. logan says:

    the company i work for has worked on the construction of nuclear power plants in the chicagoland area in the past. they’re like icebergs; what you see aboveground is only 10%. they are overbuilt to death, no expense is spared. there is redundancy for the redundancy on everything. the insurance required just to step foot in the plant starts at 2 million and the people building the plant cover over 2 million up to a billion (that’s right, a billion dollars worth of insurance), and the company i work for grosses less than a million a year.

    i think anyone who could grasp the construction of one of these would be thoroughly impressed by how safe they are.

    and as a side note; during WWII aircraft carries got about 6 inches to the gallon on diesel (which contains more BTU’s than gasoline per gallon) traveling at around 25 knots. todays aircraft carriers go about 10-20 years without being refueled with uranium while traveling at around 50+ knots (the actual speeds are classified). think about that.

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  66. logan says:

    the company i work for has worked on the construction of nuclear power plants in the chicagoland area in the past. they’re like icebergs; what you see aboveground is only 10%. they are overbuilt to death, no expense is spared. there is redundancy for the redundancy on everything. the insurance required just to step foot in the plant starts at 2 million and the people building the plant cover over 2 million up to a billion (that’s right, a billion dollars worth of insurance), and the company i work for grosses less than a million a year.

    i think anyone who could grasp the construction of one of these would be thoroughly impressed by how safe they are.

    and as a side note; during WWII aircraft carries got about 6 inches to the gallon on diesel (which contains more BTU’s than gasoline per gallon) traveling at around 25 knots. todays aircraft carriers go about 10-20 years without being refueled with uranium while traveling at around 50+ knots (the actual speeds are classified). think about that.

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  67. Rod Adams says:

    Facts are stubborn things. In the United States, about 50% of our electricity comes from burning coal, 19% comes from nuclear power plants and about that same amount comes from burning natural gas. Between those three sources we produce nearly 90% of our electricity.

    In Germany, the planned closure of nuclear power plants is leading to plans for construction of up to 150 new coal fired power plants plus a new pipeline from Russia to deliver natural gas.

    Making reasonable choices means truly understand and quantifying the issues. Nuclear reactors are safe, clean, reliable power generators. The only people that should be afraid of them are those who sell coal, oil and natural gas or who provide services and supplies to that industry.

    Unfortunately for the rest of us, those particular groups are very powerful and fully capable of extensive deception campaigns that distract us from the real issue of energy source competition.

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  68. Rod Adams says:

    Facts are stubborn things. In the United States, about 50% of our electricity comes from burning coal, 19% comes from nuclear power plants and about that same amount comes from burning natural gas. Between those three sources we produce nearly 90% of our electricity.

    In Germany, the planned closure of nuclear power plants is leading to plans for construction of up to 150 new coal fired power plants plus a new pipeline from Russia to deliver natural gas.

    Making reasonable choices means truly understand and quantifying the issues. Nuclear reactors are safe, clean, reliable power generators. The only people that should be afraid of them are those who sell coal, oil and natural gas or who provide services and supplies to that industry.

    Unfortunately for the rest of us, those particular groups are very powerful and fully capable of extensive deception campaigns that distract us from the real issue of energy source competition.

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  69. Susanne says:

    Is any state willing to store spent fuel?

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  70. Susanne says:

    Is any state willing to store spent fuel?

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  71. Joe says:

    fossil fuels have become an outdated energy source. We clearly have a source for greater energy with much less risk in nuclear power. The United States needs to continue moving forward in order to prevent an energy and environmental crisis.

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  72. Joe says:

    fossil fuels have become an outdated energy source. We clearly have a source for greater energy with much less risk in nuclear power. The United States needs to continue moving forward in order to prevent an energy and environmental crisis.

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  73. John Busby (UK) says:

    Half of the US nuclear generation is provided by the Megatons to Megawatts US Russian agreement terminating in 2013. In the meantime Canadian and Australian primary natural uranium mining declined 15% and 20% respectively in 2006 over 2005, bringing the US and France in competition for diminishing nuclear fuel supplies. Indigenous mining in the US provides only 1,500 tonnes of a 20,000 tonne requirement, while the mines in France which imports 13,000 tonnes are exhausted. We can soon expect some of the lights in the US and France to “brown-out”. Global mining in any case provides only 60% of the demand (39,000 t/y out of 65,000 t/y) and the secondary sources which fill the gap are expected to end in 5 years time. The nuclear proponents should detail where the fuel for the “renaissance” is coming from – it looks like being still born.

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  74. John Busby (UK) says:

    Half of the US nuclear generation is provided by the Megatons to Megawatts US Russian agreement terminating in 2013. In the meantime Canadian and Australian primary natural uranium mining declined 15% and 20% respectively in 2006 over 2005, bringing the US and France in competition for diminishing nuclear fuel supplies. Indigenous mining in the US provides only 1,500 tonnes of a 20,000 tonne requirement, while the mines in France which imports 13,000 tonnes are exhausted. We can soon expect some of the lights in the US and France to “brown-out”. Global mining in any case provides only 60% of the demand (39,000 t/y out of 65,000 t/y) and the secondary sources which fill the gap are expected to end in 5 years time. The nuclear proponents should detail where the fuel for the “renaissance” is coming from – it looks like being still born.

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  75. infopractical says:

    KC said:

    “I believe part of the problem with Nukes in America is that they are run for profit, presumably at the expense of safety.”

    What reason is there to presume that nuclear power in America is less safe than it is in France? Are you extrapolating from a single data point? Or is there some engineering research to back this statement up?

    The last thing we need clouding an issue like this one is randomly exaggerated political ideology.

    Today’s reactor technology, across both nations and relative nationalizations of industry, is far far safer than that of several decades ago. The chances of catastrophe are thankfully slim and diminishing.

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  76. infopractical says:

    KC said:

    “I believe part of the problem with Nukes in America is that they are run for profit, presumably at the expense of safety.”

    What reason is there to presume that nuclear power in America is less safe than it is in France? Are you extrapolating from a single data point? Or is there some engineering research to back this statement up?

    The last thing we need clouding an issue like this one is randomly exaggerated political ideology.

    Today’s reactor technology, across both nations and relative nationalizations of industry, is far far safer than that of several decades ago. The chances of catastrophe are thankfully slim and diminishing.

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  77. oznog says:

    Yes, we need less coal fired power but nuclear is at best a very partial solution.
    Problem 1. We can not wait the many years it will take to build a new generation of nuclear power plants.
    Problem 2. There is a very limited amount of fuel for nuclear power plants.

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  78. oznog says:

    Yes, we need less coal fired power but nuclear is at best a very partial solution.
    Problem 1. We can not wait the many years it will take to build a new generation of nuclear power plants.
    Problem 2. There is a very limited amount of fuel for nuclear power plants.

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  79. Merus says:

    One thought I have on the nuclear power safety issue that I rarely see brought up is that Chernobyl was built by the Russians. They don’t exactly have a hot track record in the engineering required to build a safe nuclear reactor. As I understand it, Three Mile Island’s still in operation, as well, so I guess even with a meltdown we can engineer the reactor to be safe enough to continue operating after an accident.

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  80. Merus says:

    One thought I have on the nuclear power safety issue that I rarely see brought up is that Chernobyl was built by the Russians. They don’t exactly have a hot track record in the engineering required to build a safe nuclear reactor. As I understand it, Three Mile Island’s still in operation, as well, so I guess even with a meltdown we can engineer the reactor to be safe enough to continue operating after an accident.

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  81. JimHopf says:

    #37′s arguments assume that we will never find any more uranium, despite the fact that we’ve barely started looking for it. Yet you read about new uranium veins being discovered every week (if not every day). Uranium is a ubiquitous metal in the earth’s crust.

    The amount of effort (money) spent so far to find uranium is a tiny fraction of that spent for oil & gas. Uranium’s discovery cost (per unit energy) is 300 times less than oil. Back in the 1920′s, when we had spent about as much time looking for oil (as uranium today), the known reserves were ~100 times less than what was subsequently discovered. Also, since uranium ore cost is only a few percent of nuclear’s total cost, much higher cost ore could be used, which increases the recoverable inventory by orders of magnitude.

    There is enough uranium in the ground to last for hundreds of years, even w/o breeding, and even with a large increase in nuclear power. This is more than enough time to develop alternatives, such as breeder reactors, fusion, or some combination of renewable sources.

    This is an issue that can be left to the market (i.e., the utilities) to judge. These plants are expensive, and are only worthwhile if they can be operated for a very long time. If utilities weren’t sure there was amply long-term supply, they wouldn’t be building them.

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  82. JimHopf says:

    #37′s arguments assume that we will never find any more uranium, despite the fact that we’ve barely started looking for it. Yet you read about new uranium veins being discovered every week (if not every day). Uranium is a ubiquitous metal in the earth’s crust.

    The amount of effort (money) spent so far to find uranium is a tiny fraction of that spent for oil & gas. Uranium’s discovery cost (per unit energy) is 300 times less than oil. Back in the 1920′s, when we had spent about as much time looking for oil (as uranium today), the known reserves were ~100 times less than what was subsequently discovered. Also, since uranium ore cost is only a few percent of nuclear’s total cost, much higher cost ore could be used, which increases the recoverable inventory by orders of magnitude.

    There is enough uranium in the ground to last for hundreds of years, even w/o breeding, and even with a large increase in nuclear power. This is more than enough time to develop alternatives, such as breeder reactors, fusion, or some combination of renewable sources.

    This is an issue that can be left to the market (i.e., the utilities) to judge. These plants are expensive, and are only worthwhile if they can be operated for a very long time. If utilities weren’t sure there was amply long-term supply, they wouldn’t be building them.

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  83. Chris says:

    Re #27: Oil will not be gone by 2050. Cost of extracting it will be much higher, but substantial reserves will remain.

    Re #33: 57 MPH on an aircraft carrier? Yeah, right.

    Point one: Depending on who you believe, 25% to 50% of electric power generated is used for lighting. We are just a few years away from cost effective LED lights. When LED lights for home and industrial use make economic sense, the implications for the power generating industries?) will be sizable. (LED = disruptive technology)

    The reduction in heat produced by lights will have serious benefits as well.

    In addition to what’s headed our way with lighting, we may be less than a decade away from display monitors (TVs and the like) being illuminated with LEDs. Energy benefits in addition to blackness and cripness improvements will be remarkable.

    Point three: It’s been a few years since I’ve been around nuclear power plants, so things may be different today. My eight years on nuclear submarines suggests that nuc plants can be operated safely with good leadership and excellent training.

    Self proclaimed experts with no personal experience and real knowledge is nothing new. Many of the comments preceeding this provide evidence of this truth.

    Point four: Today’s approach to power generation and use is unsustainable. This point cannot be seriously questioned. Equally undebatable: Economic growth will require more energy.

    Consequently, you (we) have a choice: (a) Build additional capacity using other technologies, (b) pay far more for energy, (c) go to war over energy, (d) conserve where it makes sense (e) all of the above. Or suffer the economic consequences, a choice most will find unappealing.

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  84. Chris says:

    Re #27: Oil will not be gone by 2050. Cost of extracting it will be much higher, but substantial reserves will remain.

    Re #33: 57 MPH on an aircraft carrier? Yeah, right.

    Point one: Depending on who you believe, 25% to 50% of electric power generated is used for lighting. We are just a few years away from cost effective LED lights. When LED lights for home and industrial use make economic sense, the implications for the power generating industries?) will be sizable. (LED = disruptive technology)

    The reduction in heat produced by lights will have serious benefits as well.

    In addition to what’s headed our way with lighting, we may be less than a decade away from display monitors (TVs and the like) being illuminated with LEDs. Energy benefits in addition to blackness and cripness improvements will be remarkable.

    Point three: It’s been a few years since I’ve been around nuclear power plants, so things may be different today. My eight years on nuclear submarines suggests that nuc plants can be operated safely with good leadership and excellent training.

    Self proclaimed experts with no personal experience and real knowledge is nothing new. Many of the comments preceeding this provide evidence of this truth.

    Point four: Today’s approach to power generation and use is unsustainable. This point cannot be seriously questioned. Equally undebatable: Economic growth will require more energy.

    Consequently, you (we) have a choice: (a) Build additional capacity using other technologies, (b) pay far more for energy, (c) go to war over energy, (d) conserve where it makes sense (e) all of the above. Or suffer the economic consequences, a choice most will find unappealing.

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  85. Dennis F. Nester says:

    The aim of nuclear power is spent fuel rods (nuclear waste) from
    which weapons are made. Atom bombs, easier are dirty bombs,
    so-called depleted uranium ordinance, not electricity, That is why
    40 sovereign countries have nuclear power.

    Dr. John Gofman says there is no safe dose of man-made ionizing
    radiation. We should not add to it with new nuclear power plants.
    Nuclear power is the most dangerous form of electricity. It is the
    heat which makes steam that powers electric generators. Albert
    Einstein once said, “Nuclear power is one hell of a way to boil
    water”.

    Liability is paid by the tax payer under the Price/Anderson Act.
    Electric rate payers subsidize nuclear power and waste disposal.
    There is big money and political power in nuclear waste, in killing
    people, in a toxic regime. Nuclear power pollutes the environment
    and will not stop global warming according to studies.

    http://members.cox.net/theroyprocess
    http://nuclearwaste-theroyprocess.blogspot.com/

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  86. Dennis F. Nester says:

    The aim of nuclear power is spent fuel rods (nuclear waste) from
    which weapons are made. Atom bombs, easier are dirty bombs,
    so-called depleted uranium ordinance, not electricity, That is why
    40 sovereign countries have nuclear power.

    Dr. John Gofman says there is no safe dose of man-made ionizing
    radiation. We should not add to it with new nuclear power plants.
    Nuclear power is the most dangerous form of electricity. It is the
    heat which makes steam that powers electric generators. Albert
    Einstein once said, “Nuclear power is one hell of a way to boil
    water”.

    Liability is paid by the tax payer under the Price/Anderson Act.
    Electric rate payers subsidize nuclear power and waste disposal.
    There is big money and political power in nuclear waste, in killing
    people, in a toxic regime. Nuclear power pollutes the environment
    and will not stop global warming according to studies.

    http://members.cox.net/theroyprocess
    http://nuclearwaste-theroyprocess.blogspot.com/

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  87. Kent Scheidegger says:

    “…the U.S. anti-nuke revolt in the 1960s and 1970s may look misguided in retrospect…”

    In retrospect? It looked misguided at the time to people with common sense.

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  88. Kent Scheidegger says:

    “…the U.S. anti-nuke revolt in the 1960s and 1970s may look misguided in retrospect…”

    In retrospect? It looked misguided at the time to people with common sense.

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  89. Peter says:

    “fossil fuels have become an outdated energy source.”

    somebody tell China, quick!

    if the oil/gas industry wasn’t so heavily subsidized with my tax dollars, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place. to start getting us out, let’s just have these massive corporations pay for their own investments. pretty simple, really – something even an honest capitalist could agree with. …oh. my bad.

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  90. Peter says:

    “fossil fuels have become an outdated energy source.”

    somebody tell China, quick!

    if the oil/gas industry wasn’t so heavily subsidized with my tax dollars, we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place. to start getting us out, let’s just have these massive corporations pay for their own investments. pretty simple, really – something even an honest capitalist could agree with. …oh. my bad.

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  91. E Dewhirst says:

    Hmmmm – how much uranium do we have? hmmmm could we run out of that too? hmmmmm No no there is endless Uranium out there – I just know it! I don’t have a clue nor have I taken a single course in Geology or mining – but still – bahh – there has to be lots! I read an article saying they are finding more every day. And if not then the market will figure it out!

    I am usually on the Freakonomics side but this time I am not. One bad non-renewable resource to another. How about this for a change – let’s put our focus on Solar, Wind, Tidal power. These have been pretty stable for a while now.

    Trust me I have heard the other side – I grew up in a family of economists – they can rationalize any bad decision in the name of XYZ “Ohh Solar and Wind and all that stuff – bahh – that will never work. Economies of scale bahh – will only provide 1% of our demand. Market forces will lead us in the right direction and furthermore I can’t stand to see all those windmills ruining my landscape.”

    Short sighted economists making decisions for the future is a bad idea. And putting gun to the head of environmentalist and saying choose – “Coal or Nuclear” – which one – do it – choose which one! is just dirty pool.

    Bottom line for an economy and a society to function it needs energy and the more it grows the more energy it needs and if you bet your society on a supply of energy that is diminishing then you are putting a gun to the head of society.

    Sorry for the rant but if economists could see a bit more than 30 years out – how about this look your young children in the eyes and say that you are 100% sure that we have enough non-renewable energy that when they have grandchildren they will have nothing to worry about. Now that is a trap because economist can’t say 100% because there is no model that fits 100% so they spin – it’s all about the exceptions – spinning in exceptions – ohh yeah the tides rising and falling, the wind blowing, the sun shining is close to 100% – but still nahhh – we could be taken out by an Asteroid.

    Rationalize away and drink your lattes but the rest of us have to come up with a real solution for our great grand children. Ohh yeah we are the market force 100 years from now – let’s not listen to them until we have really screwed it up and our great grandchildren have no other options – now thats convenient.

    Eric
    Ottawa, Canada

    The devil doesn’t need an advocate. The brave need supporters, not critics. (Seth Godin)

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  92. E Dewhirst says:

    Hmmmm – how much uranium do we have? hmmmm could we run out of that too? hmmmmm No no there is endless Uranium out there – I just know it! I don’t have a clue nor have I taken a single course in Geology or mining – but still – bahh – there has to be lots! I read an article saying they are finding more every day. And if not then the market will figure it out!

    I am usually on the Freakonomics side but this time I am not. One bad non-renewable resource to another. How about this for a change – let’s put our focus on Solar, Wind, Tidal power. These have been pretty stable for a while now.

    Trust me I have heard the other side – I grew up in a family of economists – they can rationalize any bad decision in the name of XYZ “Ohh Solar and Wind and all that stuff – bahh – that will never work. Economies of scale bahh – will only provide 1% of our demand. Market forces will lead us in the right direction and furthermore I can’t stand to see all those windmills ruining my landscape.”

    Short sighted economists making decisions for the future is a bad idea. And putting gun to the head of environmentalist and saying choose – “Coal or Nuclear” – which one – do it – choose which one! is just dirty pool.

    Bottom line for an economy and a society to function it needs energy and the more it grows the more energy it needs and if you bet your society on a supply of energy that is diminishing then you are putting a gun to the head of society.

    Sorry for the rant but if economists could see a bit more than 30 years out – how about this look your young children in the eyes and say that you are 100% sure that we have enough non-renewable energy that when they have grandchildren they will have nothing to worry about. Now that is a trap because economist can’t say 100% because there is no model that fits 100% so they spin – it’s all about the exceptions – spinning in exceptions – ohh yeah the tides rising and falling, the wind blowing, the sun shining is close to 100% – but still nahhh – we could be taken out by an Asteroid.

    Rationalize away and drink your lattes but the rest of us have to come up with a real solution for our great grand children. Ohh yeah we are the market force 100 years from now – let’s not listen to them until we have really screwed it up and our great grandchildren have no other options – now thats convenient.

    Eric
    Ottawa, Canada

    The devil doesn’t need an advocate. The brave need supporters, not critics. (Seth Godin)

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  93. Shawn Kasych says:

    Dubner, you genius, you.

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  94. Shawn Kasych says:

    Dubner, you genius, you.

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  95. Justin Ritchie says:

    We’ve missed our chance on nuclear. The plants take so long to build, and the Co2 emissions have to be curbed within the next 20 years to only result in a 1 degree C global temperature rise that by the time that our first round of nuclear plants get built it will be 2021.

    I’m a big fan of nuclear power, it is just not the answer for global warming. The other concern with nuclear is water. France has been in trouble recently because nuclear evaporates so much water. With water shortages becoming more prevalent, especially in the southeast US, it wouldn’t be wise to build more nuclear there either.

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  96. Justin Ritchie says:

    We’ve missed our chance on nuclear. The plants take so long to build, and the Co2 emissions have to be curbed within the next 20 years to only result in a 1 degree C global temperature rise that by the time that our first round of nuclear plants get built it will be 2021.

    I’m a big fan of nuclear power, it is just not the answer for global warming. The other concern with nuclear is water. France has been in trouble recently because nuclear evaporates so much water. With water shortages becoming more prevalent, especially in the southeast US, it wouldn’t be wise to build more nuclear there either.

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  97. Bob McNaughton says:

    If all of the energy needs of the world were suddenly switched to Nuclear sources, the world would have a 40 year supply of uranium. So, in the end, we will have to go with renewables anyway. The question is, do we want to do it now, or in 40 years with a whole bunch of toxic waste that will be dangerous for a very long time?

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  98. Bob McNaughton says:

    If all of the energy needs of the world were suddenly switched to Nuclear sources, the world would have a 40 year supply of uranium. So, in the end, we will have to go with renewables anyway. The question is, do we want to do it now, or in 40 years with a whole bunch of toxic waste that will be dangerous for a very long time?

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  99. Johnnyb says:

    @#49

    Not true Bob. Thorium + Breeder Reactors & MOX. We have only used about 1/2 of 1% of the nuclear fuel that we have been burning for the last 50 years, that we have already dug up and enriched. We would be fine for another 500 years and never have to lift a mining pick.

    Nuclear fuel IS renewable!

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  100. Johnnyb says:

    @#49

    Not true Bob. Thorium + Breeder Reactors & MOX. We have only used about 1/2 of 1% of the nuclear fuel that we have been burning for the last 50 years, that we have already dug up and enriched. We would be fine for another 500 years and never have to lift a mining pick.

    Nuclear fuel IS renewable!

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  101. Frank Kandrnal says:

    #50 you are absolutely right.
    When reading the posts I already thought no one will mention Thorium. It just shows you how ignorant the anti nuclear bunch is. Public knowledge of energy in general is appalling. When it comes to nuclear power, the public knowledge is worse than mediocre, in other words nearly non existent. You would think these anti nuclear activists would educate themselves before flaping their mouths.

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  102. Frank Kandrnal says:

    #50 you are absolutely right.
    When reading the posts I already thought no one will mention Thorium. It just shows you how ignorant the anti nuclear bunch is. Public knowledge of energy in general is appalling. When it comes to nuclear power, the public knowledge is worse than mediocre, in other words nearly non existent. You would think these anti nuclear activists would educate themselves before flaping their mouths.

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  103. Luke Gessner says:

    Even if uranium isn’t, by definition, renewable, one would hope that within the next few thousand years, we would be able to perfect fusion or some even more exotic and ideal source of energy. And might I just say that it’s so telling that while people that are for nuclear power admit that solar and wind have there part to play, the so-called “environmentalists” are completely unwilling to even discuss the possible inclusion of nuclear energy in a future energy plan.

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  104. Luke Gessner says:

    Even if uranium isn’t, by definition, renewable, one would hope that within the next few thousand years, we would be able to perfect fusion or some even more exotic and ideal source of energy. And might I just say that it’s so telling that while people that are for nuclear power admit that solar and wind have there part to play, the so-called “environmentalists” are completely unwilling to even discuss the possible inclusion of nuclear energy in a future energy plan.

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  105. mike says:

    wow, all this talk about nuclear power is making me feel radiant. Just a few questions. Would any of you nuclear advocates live by a nuclear plant? Next question- how much money would if it cost to put a nuclear plant online? How long does it take to put a nuclear plant online? How much money does it take to maintain a nuclear plant over its entire lifetime? And how much money will it take to take a plant offline after its life cycle is up? Now tally all those costs and give me a total. Now tell me this, what would happen if we spent all that money in building a pv (photo voltics) plant? Oh, and how about giving those nuclear subsidies to the truely renewable energies and see what the industry would look like after that? Final question- which of you nuclear buffs would live next 2 a PV plant vs a nuclear plant?

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  106. mike says:

    wow, all this talk about nuclear power is making me feel radiant. Just a few questions. Would any of you nuclear advocates live by a nuclear plant? Next question- how much money would if it cost to put a nuclear plant online? How long does it take to put a nuclear plant online? How much money does it take to maintain a nuclear plant over its entire lifetime? And how much money will it take to take a plant offline after its life cycle is up? Now tally all those costs and give me a total. Now tell me this, what would happen if we spent all that money in building a pv (photo voltics) plant? Oh, and how about giving those nuclear subsidies to the truely renewable energies and see what the industry would look like after that? Final question- which of you nuclear buffs would live next 2 a PV plant vs a nuclear plant?

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    • Albert Rogers says:

      It has been computed that the death toll to put up enough rooftop PV arrays to get a lifetime of gigawatt-year of electric energy per year, even in moderately sunny places, will exceed the death toll from a 1000 MW nuclear plant, counting in even the accidents at TMI and Fukushima. I believe that even Chernobyl, where deaths actually occurred, rather than merely being predicted, was included in the averaging.

      The point is that in full sun, with optimum but fixed arrays of photovoltaics, the average daily output of a 300 kW array is 100 kW, for trigonometric reasons. It takes a vast area to collect 300 MW even at midday, and rooftop installation of anything is intrinsically quite dangerous. I have a good friend who fell from a third story ladder, while volunteering his labor to Habitat for Humanity. He counts himself fortunate to be alive and able to walk, but I’m sure he’s a stoic about the pain.

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  107. clyde h stagner says:

    Antinuclear.net under its section,World Safety, shows the nonfiction book,”Goodbye Phoenix Hello Tucson”, with the editor`s comments. This cites four million reasons to go green without nuclear power-unless thorium becomes feasable.

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  108. clyde h stagner says:

    Antinuclear.net under its section,World Safety, shows the nonfiction book,”Goodbye Phoenix Hello Tucson”, with the editor`s comments. This cites four million reasons to go green without nuclear power-unless thorium becomes feasable.

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  109. Cliff Gardner says:

    It has been about six decades since Hiroshima – and still no solution to spent nuclear waste! I’m aware that Plutonium is a man-made element listed on the atomic chart of elements. It doesn’t occur naturally all by itself. And I’m also aware that inhaling just one atom of Plutonium will spawn lung cancer.

    Last night on CNN I witnessed a TV commercial by the Nuke Industry claiming that “it is the clean air solution.” Give me a break!!! I wonder IF the general public can be so easily convinced herein now that petroleum-derived gasoline is $4 and crude oil is $139/bbl.

    Please – don’t let some of that invisible radioactive plutonium with a half-life of about 500,000 years escape to the water-laden atmosphere. And when/how ‘they’ find a place to bury it – think about the consequences of keeping the Plutonium tightly wrapped for 500,000 years. And let’s not let terrorists get their hands on just a little bit of it to release in the subway… Oh my!

    I’ve asked pro-nuke people if creating even a thumbprint of plutonium in exchange for the electricty to cook their family’s morning breakfast was worth it? Once you try to get your hands around what 500,000 years a of poisonous half-life actually is – then there is no logical answer except NO NUKES. I believe even Spock would agree with this logic!

    Next step. Since JFK’s assassination just 4.5 decades ago – world population has more than doubled. We’ve fished out the continental shelves while emitting bizzions of tons of greenhouse gasses due to inefficiencies of oxidation combustion. The coral reefs are bleaching and there is something really happening with climate phenomenah.

    Like Rumplestiltskin, there is a sleeping green giant awakening now – it employs magic oxygen derived from boiling H2O into steam as it’s essential ingredient and will likely become this planet’s newest, low cost, biodegradable liquid fuel. Biodegradability is the key here – and liquid combustion energy for cars, trucks, airplanes and power plants must be water soluble, thus dilutable in order for nature’s micro-organisms and all living green plants to consume it as a free lunch. Stay tuned…

    –Cliff

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    • Albert Rogers says:

      “still no solution to spent nuclear waste” Actually there’s a very good one, and part of it has been adopted by the French.
      There is also a solution to the problem of sulfur, nitrogen, and carbon oxides from coal burning. We presently just ignore them, or when the EPA demands that the coal burners at least diminish the more acid of these (NO, N2O, SO2, maybe SO3) the solution is to lobby Congress about how many “jobs” it’ll cost. Wake Up, Cliff.
      No, there is no solution to the wastes from coal. By the time they’ve blasted the top of the mountain into the valley, there can be no talk of “clean coal” and the same applies to underground methane and its cohorts. It took 64 million years to sequester the carbon that we’re burning at such a prodigious rate.

      You are quite wrong in writing that one atom of plutonium can give you lung cancer. there are Avogadro’s number of atoms in 239 grams of plutonium. Avogadro’s number is 6 times ten to the power 23. One atom of plutonium has one chance in two of firing one alpha particle at some unlucky cell of your lungs, if it has 24,000 years to choose from.
      Radon is a naturally occurring gas, because it’s a decay product of radium, which is a decay product of uranium. But 6 million atoms of radon, one over ten to the power 17 of 222 grams, will blast your lungs with 3 million alpha particles in 3.8 days. Every such decay will leave a residue that releases another two alphas in a few hours.
      Plutonium is only slightly radioactive compared with the natural radioactive gas that you might find in a basement not too far from naturally occurring uranium, which includes granite.
      Right now, if you are in good health, your body contains enough potassium that its trifling quantity of potassium 40 is irradiating you internally at a rate of over 4000 particles per second. The DNA you inherited from ancestors before the rise of the vertebrates, has built in correction capabilities for that. But you have no way to deal with sulfur dioxide in the air, so anything that gets rid of coal burning is indeed a clean air solution, and it takes nuclear reactors to replace 1000 MW coal burners, or their cousins the gas turbines.
      Wind, sun, biomass, and even hydro just won’t do it. And geothermal is nice, but living next to the Ring of Fire is risky. It’s nuclear powered too, by ancient, long-lived radioactivity.

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  110. Cliff Gardner says:

    It has been about six decades since Hiroshima – and still no solution to spent nuclear waste! I’m aware that Plutonium is a man-made element listed on the atomic chart of elements. It doesn’t occur naturally all by itself. And I’m also aware that inhaling just one atom of Plutonium will spawn lung cancer.

    Last night on CNN I witnessed a TV commercial by the Nuke Industry claiming that “it is the clean air solution.” Give me a break!!! I wonder IF the general public can be so easily convinced herein now that petroleum-derived gasoline is $4 and crude oil is $139/bbl.

    Please – don’t let some of that invisible radioactive plutonium with a half-life of about 500,000 years escape to the water-laden atmosphere. And when/how ‘they’ find a place to bury it – think about the consequences of keeping the Plutonium tightly wrapped for 500,000 years. And let’s not let terrorists get their hands on just a little bit of it to release in the subway… Oh my!

    I’ve asked pro-nuke people if creating even a thumbprint of plutonium in exchange for the electricty to cook their family’s morning breakfast was worth it? Once you try to get your hands around what 500,000 years a of poisonous half-life actually is – then there is no logical answer except NO NUKES. I believe even Spock would agree with this logic!

    Next step. Since JFK’s assassination just 4.5 decades ago – world population has more than doubled. We’ve fished out the continental shelves while emitting bizzions of tons of greenhouse gasses due to inefficiencies of oxidation combustion. The coral reefs are bleaching and there is something really happening with climate phenomenah.

    Like Rumplestiltskin, there is a sleeping green giant awakening now – it employs magic oxygen derived from boiling H2O into steam as it’s essential ingredient and will likely become this planet’s newest, low cost, biodegradable liquid fuel. Biodegradability is the key here – and liquid combustion energy for cars, trucks, airplanes and power plants must be water soluble, thus dilutable in order for nature’s micro-organisms and all living green plants to consume it as a free lunch. Stay tuned…

    –Cliff

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  111. Pat says:

    Cliff-

    Really? The escape of invisible radioactive plutonium into the atmosphere is an inevitibility of nuclear power? No wonder people are dying left and right from the 102 nuclear power plants currently operating in the United States.

    You clearly have not read a single other comment, because everything you bring up has been addressed. It’s funny how posts like yours that have 1) poor grammar, 2) a non-sensical progression of arguments, and 3) irrelevant tangents (JFK’s assassination… what??) are more often than not supporting the anti-nuclear energy faction. Makes sense, considering the mindless digestion of fallacies that are being spread about the nuclear industry (ex: post #24′s comment about post #20) likely goes hand in hand with illiteracy.

    -Pat

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  112. Pat says:

    Cliff-

    Really? The escape of invisible radioactive plutonium into the atmosphere is an inevitibility of nuclear power? No wonder people are dying left and right from the 102 nuclear power plants currently operating in the United States.

    You clearly have not read a single other comment, because everything you bring up has been addressed. It’s funny how posts like yours that have 1) poor grammar, 2) a non-sensical progression of arguments, and 3) irrelevant tangents (JFK’s assassination… what??) are more often than not supporting the anti-nuclear energy faction. Makes sense, considering the mindless digestion of fallacies that are being spread about the nuclear industry (ex: post #24′s comment about post #20) likely goes hand in hand with illiteracy.

    -Pat

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  113. Henry Gibson says:

    Every plant or animal that ever lived on the earth ingested natural radio-active potassium from conception to death. They also were exposed to natural radiation from the earth and the universe.

    We humans can clearly survive built in radio-activity and additional amounts from earth and sky; there is no reason to fear radio-activity from fission power plants. The radiation of one ten feet below your house would not be noticed in the amount of natural radiation in the soil. Coal power plants release much more. The Chinese are extracting uranium from coal ash piles at power plants. Some coals have more energy in the wasted uranium than in the coal.

    Uranium or Thorium or Plutonium fission reactors do not create a net weight of radio-active atoms, but they split one pound of long lived radio-active atoms into nearly one pound of stable or much shorted lived radio-active atoms for each 3 million pounds of equivalent coal heat energy.

    Because it is very costly to separate uranium isotopes and the fuel must be enclosed in inert metal rods, there is more than 25 pounds of fabricated fuel for each pound of used fuel. The average percapita consumption of coal electricity in the US is 20 pounds of coal a day. This translates into 0.00016 pounds of fuel rods a day. This amounts to six pounds over a hundred year lifetime; less than %4 of the weight is used or four ounces. But with reprocessing to remove the fission products, the amount of waste would be less than a quarter of a pound. If it were like water it would fill one half cup, but it is likely to be much smaller. The actual uranium used would fill only a spoon because it weighs 20 times as much as the same volume of water. The volume is about the same as four quarters.

    Uranium was selling for 10 dollars a pound a few years ago, but with speculation the price is now about $100. Nearly 200 pounds of uranium are needed for one pound of fuel used, so the maximum raw uranium cost for a persons life time electrical use is 50 pounds or $5000 dollars. The coal price of $100 a ton at 20 pounds a day is one dollar a day or $36500 for a life time. If coal were delivered free to power plants the price at the meter would not drop %20.

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  114. Henry Gibson says:

    Every plant or animal that ever lived on the earth ingested natural radio-active potassium from conception to death. They also were exposed to natural radiation from the earth and the universe.

    We humans can clearly survive built in radio-activity and additional amounts from earth and sky; there is no reason to fear radio-activity from fission power plants. The radiation of one ten feet below your house would not be noticed in the amount of natural radiation in the soil. Coal power plants release much more. The Chinese are extracting uranium from coal ash piles at power plants. Some coals have more energy in the wasted uranium than in the coal.

    Uranium or Thorium or Plutonium fission reactors do not create a net weight of radio-active atoms, but they split one pound of long lived radio-active atoms into nearly one pound of stable or much shorted lived radio-active atoms for each 3 million pounds of equivalent coal heat energy.

    Because it is very costly to separate uranium isotopes and the fuel must be enclosed in inert metal rods, there is more than 25 pounds of fabricated fuel for each pound of used fuel. The average percapita consumption of coal electricity in the US is 20 pounds of coal a day. This translates into 0.00016 pounds of fuel rods a day. This amounts to six pounds over a hundred year lifetime; less than %4 of the weight is used or four ounces. But with reprocessing to remove the fission products, the amount of waste would be less than a quarter of a pound. If it were like water it would fill one half cup, but it is likely to be much smaller. The actual uranium used would fill only a spoon because it weighs 20 times as much as the same volume of water. The volume is about the same as four quarters.

    Uranium was selling for 10 dollars a pound a few years ago, but with speculation the price is now about $100. Nearly 200 pounds of uranium are needed for one pound of fuel used, so the maximum raw uranium cost for a persons life time electrical use is 50 pounds or $5000 dollars. The coal price of $100 a ton at 20 pounds a day is one dollar a day or $36500 for a life time. If coal were delivered free to power plants the price at the meter would not drop %20.

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  115. xoddam says:

    I’m an environmentalist, I think greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced, and I’m against nuclear power. I’ve long been aware that nuclear power is safer and cleaner than coal-fired electricity but I still have no compunctions opposing it.

    It’s simply too expensive, in the face of competition from cheaper, more quickly-deployed techniques, on the energy-demand side as well as electric power generation. Insulating a building enhances the energy supply at a far lower cost than building a large power station of any kind.

    http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/06/02/nuclear_power_price/

    Moreover, most discussions of renewable energy tend to ignore the biggest renewable of all — biomass. Firewood supplies over 15% of human primary energy usage, most of it using very primitive technology and therefore with an enormous scope for improvement.

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    • Albert Rogers says:

      Biomass enough to power a city of million vehicles getting 30 mpg and doing 15,000 miles a year, assuming the complete conversion of wood or grass (bamboo, sedge grass etc.) to alcohol, on a renewable schedule (Short rotation coppicing of willow is quite good), would require a circle about 30 miles in radius entirely devoted to the plantation. Rotation coppicing cuts one third of the trees down to stumps, leaving the roots. The roots sprout again, and can be pruned to a suitable number of withes or bigger multiple trunks.
      The unfortunate fact is that the “biggest renewable of all” is indeed woodland, and it mostly does not get renewed. Not even on Aku-Aku, which the natives denuded before the Europeans arrived and called it Easter Island.
      The chances of finding a solar-based (wind, rain, biomass, or direct sun) alternative to the alternative that ousted these a couple of centuries ago (remember the ugly steamers replacing the beautiful tall ships?) is improbable.

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  116. xoddam says:

    I’m an environmentalist, I think greenhouse gas emissions should be reduced, and I’m against nuclear power. I’ve long been aware that nuclear power is safer and cleaner than coal-fired electricity but I still have no compunctions opposing it.

    It’s simply too expensive, in the face of competition from cheaper, more quickly-deployed techniques, on the energy-demand side as well as electric power generation. Insulating a building enhances the energy supply at a far lower cost than building a large power station of any kind.

    http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/06/02/nuclear_power_price/

    Moreover, most discussions of renewable energy tend to ignore the biggest renewable of all — biomass. Firewood supplies over 15% of human primary energy usage, most of it using very primitive technology and therefore with an enormous scope for improvement.

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  117. Anthony says:

    “But for accidents involving radiation, there were something like 200 entries per year, in spite of there not having been a single fatality from a radiation accident for over a decade.”

    Does that include all the children being born with leukemia in Iraq for the depleted uranium the US is using in weapons over there?

    Where does nuclear waste go? Into our war zones.

    Google depleted uranium and you can read all sides of the issue.

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  118. Anthony says:

    “But for accidents involving radiation, there were something like 200 entries per year, in spite of there not having been a single fatality from a radiation accident for over a decade.”

    Does that include all the children being born with leukemia in Iraq for the depleted uranium the US is using in weapons over there?

    Where does nuclear waste go? Into our war zones.

    Google depleted uranium and you can read all sides of the issue.

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    • Albert Rogers says:

      You have an excellent point about the wickedness of using depleted uranium for warfare. But the answer is that we could let Iraq go to wherever Allah chooses to send them, if we were independent of petroleum.
      Generation IV nuclear reactor designs, including the still unbuilt one that TerraPower, funded by Gates’s millions, has even discussed with the Chinese Academy of Science, are perfectly well able to consume depleted uranium, by turning it into reactor grade plutonium. Bomb grade plutonium requires a far shorter exposure to neutrons than it gets in a civilian reactor run for efficient energy production.
      Deaths in a war zone, in which the pyrophoric chemical nature of uranium is a useful way of slaying the crew of a tank, are not in any way accidents. Not even if they are leukemia caused by ingesting uranium oxide dust. Like deaths caused by the bombing of cities, they are deliberate.

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  119. Khaoula Nouri says:

    Hello every body, I am first year student studying English from Algeria I really enjoyed this Topic too much, But i have a research work on “How the youngest people of America conceive of thier future in this world Nuclear Power” and I am lost. Anyway thank youvery much for this article, ’cause I learned many things from it.

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  120. Khaoula Nouri says:

    Hello every body, I am first year student studying English from Algeria I really enjoyed this Topic too much, But i have a research work on “How the youngest people of America conceive of thier future in this world Nuclear Power” and I am lost. Anyway thank youvery much for this article, ’cause I learned many things from it.

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  121. Clyde H Stagner says:

    A thorium reactor uses nuclear waste. Our scientists and industry made the nuclear bomb detonate according to specifications-do the same with thorium using spent fuel and safety for our citizens. Who is against the development of a thorium nuclear reactor generating electricity?

    -Clyde H Stagner

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    • Albert Rogers says:

      “A thorium reactor uses nuclear waste” — no it does not. Thorium is a metal that is somewhat commoner than uranium, radioactive, but cotains essentially no fissile isotopes. Uranium conatins 7 part per thousand of U-235, which is fissile.

      BUT, if you have a starter source of neutrons (a reactor using U-235 or even Pu-239), Th-232 becomes P1-233 then U-233, which is fissile, and from then on the reactor consumes U-233 and produces rather more than a gigawatt-year of electrical energy for a ton of fuel. That produces a ton of nuclear waste, which is short-lived and therefore highly radioactive at first. The enthusiasts even point out that quite soon some of the fission products, if chemically extracted, are free from radioactivity and valuable. Neodymium, used for high strength permanent magnets, is one of these.

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  122. Clyde H Stagner says:

    A thorium reactor uses nuclear waste. Our scientists and industry made the nuclear bomb detonate according to specifications-do the same with thorium using spent fuel and safety for our citizens. Who is against the development of a thorium nuclear reactor generating electricity?

    -Clyde H Stagner

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  123. Jonathan Katz says:

    Nuclear power isn’t risky. It is expensive.

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    • Albert Rogers says:

      As a matter of fact, the fuel cost of nuclear power is negligible. The capital cost is low enough that the French government could borrow money to build its reactors and sell cheaper than any of the EU energy companies could match – not even Germany’s Ruhr coalfields.

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  124. Jonathan Katz says:

    Nuclear power isn’t risky. It is expensive.

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  125. Kody says:

    where everyone says that the 3 mile incident was ahuge issue. nobody died. and nobody died from long term radiation

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  126. Jorn Rash says:

    USA Radiation Plume Maps

    I am working on a new site nuclearpowerdanger.com I have created some radioactive plume maps based solely on wind. Working on

    more specific map methodology.

    http://www.nuclearpowerdanger.com/plume-maps/sitemap-nuclear-power-plant-plumes-25mi.php

    These are existing plumes of radiation caused by “normal” releases.

    My methodology is outlined here

    http://www.nuclearpowerdanger.com/plume-maps/methodology.php

    I welcome feedback.

    Jorn

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    • Albert Rogers says:

      Please do the same, with details of actual toxicity, for the plumes of toxic acid gases, lung irritant particulates, and mercury vapor (a neurotoxin) released by burning coal for the same electrical output as the nukes. You should find yourself reassured that the nukes are trifling compared with what they could replace.

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