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Out of all major energy sources, nuclear is the safest (ourworldindata.org)
655 points by mpweiher on July 31, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 638 comments

Before Chernobyl blew up, nuclear energy proponents promised us, nuclear energy was safe.

When Chernobyl blew up, it was obviously a stupid Soviet design, with stupid operating personnel. But now we've got new reactors, they are safe! Nothing could ever happen!

Then Fukushima blew up. That was obviously okay, because it was a Tsunami in conjunction with a few other improbable acts, and we obviously can't expect the nuclear industry to plan for that!

So we're now in the next round. Again, we're totally safe. We've got passive reactors. Really disruptive (g) tech!

I'm sorry, I said it before and I said it again: proponents of nuclear energy have either been lying to us every single time over the last decades, or they can't really manage nuclear energy.

I don't care which one it is, and I don't care whether they believe nuclear energy is safe now. They have been playing with catastrophes of a magnitude we can't really comprehend, and the best they manage to do is "it could have been even worse" and "we promise this was the last time".

As far as I'm concerned, I'm all for making sure it was the last time.

Are you aware that the Fukushima reactor was actually 6 years older than Chernobyl?

Chernobyl's RBMK design is so dangerous that I'd call it borderline criminal - the experiments done in the night of the accident were the apex of recklessness, and the government's response was.... well, Sovietic.

Of course no matter how well you design it, people will fuck up and use it the wrong way and ignore maintenances and safety margins. And this only accounts extreme stupidity and dysfunctional management - it does not even consider deliberate attempts to blow the damn thing up (actually the Chernobyl tests could be considered that, but i mean an absolute nightmare scenario like a takeover by technically competent terrorists)

Which is why you need to take all these chances into account, add a level 9 tsunami, a comet, a once in 100000 years quake, Godzilla, a zombie apocalypse, Stuxnet, wanacry, the second coming of Christ, the Rapture, North Korea, Dr Strangelove and a dangerously bored Trump, and you engineer everything to be still impossible to blow up.

Which is what we have actually been doing. They're not getting built because certifying a new design is horribly expensive, and the anti-nuclear opposition would limit their deployment, making them anti economical, but no, we haven't stopped improving them.

Unfortunately we still run the old ones, which, like a car built in the 60s, would be so much less safe to not even be legal nowadays, but you need to take into account that they're on the road.

China is deploying some new ones, and that might cause them to be adopted in the western world (I hope).

We badly need something to bridge the gap between now and when renewables+batteries can completely fulfill demand, because meanwhile fossile fuel plants get deployed instead, and we are really fucking up the planet with those.

> Chernobyl's RBMK design is so dangerous that I'd call it borderline criminal...

Here's an old comment backing this up with sources: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13349940

> China is deploying some new ones, and that might cause them to be adopted in the western world (I hope).

If the Chinese end up leading the way to a fission-powered future, it will be a great thing for the world. Don't forget the safety features!

> Chernobyl's RBMK design is so dangerous that I'd call it borderline criminal

Good thing that companies in the US never do anything that's borderline criminal.

The default alternative to using more nuclear energy is to use more fossil fuels. Maybe we'd like to use less energy, or switch to wind, solar or similar, but that isn't a viable option in the short term in a lot of cases.

We know that using fossil fuels will kill a few people every day, eventually adding up to a large number, as well as causing widespread, low-grade damage to the environment. On the other hand, nuclear has the potential to kill a moderate number of people at once if something goes horribly wrong, and cause severe damage to the environment of a small area.

It seems to me that a preference for more deaths and environmental damage overall because they happen a little at a time instead of in a catastrophic event is not rational.

It may not be rational under your belief system (and that's a totally valid position), but you should realize that most people see it differently.

Many people are afraid of terrorism and plane crashes and sex crimes, but are still driving to work in a car.

People seeing it differently does not mean they are rational actors.

That said, this kind of risk response might be an evolutionary adaption. Better have a threat that slowly kills individual members of the tribe (allows escape or replacement of losses) than something that is outside your control to respond to and wipes the whole tribe.

Yes, and those same people who drive to work in a car are willing to do so even though there's a tiny chance that they'll suddenly have an epileptic seizure and plow into a crowd of pedestrians on the sidewalk. So it's clearly not true that people only care about worst-case possibilities, without regard to the level of risk.

I do think that for someone living in the US, Canada, western Europe, Japan or other stable, low-violence parts of the world it is irrational to devote significant mental energy to concerns about terrorism or rape by strangers. It is more irrational to give up time, money or civil rights to assuage such fears.

Just because people "see it differently" doesn't mean that the statistics behind it are flawed…

To be fair this article doesn't say nuclear energy is safe - rather that it is the safest relative to other sources.

You mention Chernobyl and Fukushima - but those only stand out because the effects were concentrated in time and space (happened all at once and afflicted specific geographical regions).

The deleterious health effects of coal, oil, and natural gas are more diffuse. They don't make such good news stories and there's really no way to build an interested narrative around them. The effects evolve over time, the geographic impact is not as concentrated, and importantly there is a much stronger probabilistic element - the human brain has a hard time processing this, but it has an easy time processing nuclear dangers.

it's not irrational to prefer probabilistic, long-term problems to maybe once or twice having to evacuate new york or tokyo

i dont think climate change is considered probablistic anymore.

no, but the impact of something like, reducing coal by 10% and increasing nuclear by 10% is. the advantage is a slight reduction in emmisions and a slight increase in the possibility of a severe nuclear disaster. that's certainly a debate to be had, but one side isn't "more rational" than the other.

This reasoning is really closed minded and nonsensical. I've never seen the literature where people said "they are safe! Nothing could ever happen!". In fact melt downs are in many hollywood movies so I'm not sure how anyone could ever get this narrative.

Also, Chernobyl and Fukushima never "blew up". There are myths that many still believe today that a nuclear power plant can explode like a nuclear bomb (it can't). You seem to be attempting to stroke that fear with your wording whereas what you really mean is "melted down" or "failed".

Regardless, each generation of nuclear power plant is safer than the last. Some of the newest designs require reactions to be explicitly maintained and when that stops or fails it stops the reaction. What you seem to be suggesting is that, because there were past failures that have caused damage to surrounding areas and people, that we should never try to make further progress.

"Also, Chernobyl and Fukushima never "blew up". There are myths that many still believe today that a nuclear power plant can explode like a nuclear bomb (it can't)."

A failed nuclear power plant can indeed explode like a nuclear bomb and it is generally believed that explosion #2 (there were two major explosions) at chernobyl was the result of a criticality and analogous to "the explosion of a fizzled nuclear weapon.":

"The force of the second explosion, and the ratio of xenon radioisotopes released during the event, indicate that the second explosion could have been a nuclear power transient; the result of the melting core material, in the absence of its cladding, water coolant and moderator, undergoing runaway prompt criticality similar to the explosion of a fizzled nuclear weapon.[63] This nuclear excursion released 40 billion joules of energy, the equivalent of about ten tons of TNT. The analysis indicates that the nuclear excursion was limited to a small portion of the core.[63]"

(from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster#Experiment_...)

Consider: in a meltdown, which you refer to, the fissile material could accumulate in arbitrary dimensions, many of which could achieve criticality. At that time it becomes a (very crude) atomic weapon. If that criticality is not interrupted it will indeed explode.

> A failed nuclear power plant can indeed explode like a nuclear bomb and it is generally believed that explosion #2 (there were two major explosions) at chernobyl was the result of a criticality and analogous to "the explosion of a fizzled nuclear weapon."

Your statement seems to oppose itself. Fizzled would not be like a nuclear bomb so I don't quite understand what you're trying to refer to here. There is a reason the paper uses the word "fizzled". A nuclear power plant does not contain the necessary materials or force to create a nuclear fission explosion.

Remember, the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima was 13,000t to 18,000t TNT but the explosion at Chernobyl released some radiation and exploded with 10t TNT.

There are a few orders of magnitude between "fizzled nuclear weapon" and a "nuclear bomb".

"There are a few orders of magnitude between "fizzled nuclear weapon" and a "nuclear bomb"."

In magnitude, certainly - but the process (explosion resulting from criticality) is the same.

Your notion that nuclear plant accidents do not cause explosions (they have) and that those explosions cannot be similar to atomic bombs (they can be) is incorrect.

I am not categorically opposed to nuclear power. I just think it's worth getting these things right - especially when the well known details of the highest profile nuclear accident are in opposition to your claim(s).

There's actually a big difference between coolant-based explosions caused by runaway reactor heat and a nuclear weapon. The process is not the same, even when they are both driven by criticality. And where the difference lies in terms of time-scales and pressures involved, and thus our ability to contain and protect against them, equating the two in this context is not honest. You may as well be comparing grenades and firecrackers.

> In magnitude, certainly - but the process (explosion resulting from criticality) is the same.

No, this is not true. The uranium isn't enriched enough to do this in a nuclear power plant. Check out your own citation above it's a great read.

> Your notion that nuclear plant accidents do not cause explosions (they have)

I never stated this. In fact we talked about the explosions at chernobyl above in this comment chain.

> that those explosions cannot be similar to atomic bombs (they can be) is incorrect.

Define similar.

The explosions were not similar in that they were not explosions using uncontrolled fission material to cause a reaction in enriched uranium.

They were similar in that an explosion occurred that tossed up lots of fission material, similar to what a nuclear weapon would do when exploded but uranium did not itself explode.

> especially when the well known details of the highest profile nuclear accident are in opposition to your claim(s).

The two well known disasters, chernobyl and fukushima, were very, very old power plants. Fukushima, as far as I can tell, was not fully updated to any of the standard designs in the past 2-3 decades (only retrofitting here and there).

Given that I'm not sure what you are referring to or how those two accidents are in opposition to any of my claims.

Fukushima was constructed well before the Chernobyl disaster. It was not a new, safer design; No lessons learned from Chernobyl were incorporated.

"They have been playing with catastrophes of a magnitude we can't really comprehend"

Did you even read the article? Statistics show you that nuclear is safer. Coal/oil/etc actually kill about 1000× more people than nuclear per TWh generated.

No, you're wrong. The statistics are based on "what happened so far" and "what we think could happen if things got really bad".

The last part has been proven untrue time and again. Every single time nuclear proponents said "that cannot happen" and after it happened they found a new fallback position "okay, that could happen, but it cannot ever get worse".

You do realize it actually is not getting worse? Fukushima barely killed any people, while Chernobyl has ~100 casualties. The radiation of areas around Chernobyl is bigger and more lasting than those of Fukushima.

Not to mention these are 50yo plants, and new ones are just better (whether or not you believe the tests/physics behind that).

It is disingenuous to claim nuclear plant safety is getting worse.

No. Statistics are based on actual deaths. They don't extrapolate "what could happen in the future". Go read the actual source, table 2 of: http://www.scotianwindfields.ca/sites/default/files/publicat...

So if you played Russian roulette a couple of times and lived, it must be safe, right? Probability is events over trials, zero events in two trials means probability of dying is 0/2=0%.

We have been operating thousands of nuclear generators for 60 years.

Based on that information, what is the probability of a nuclear power plant accident making a large city near it uninhabitable?

How many people died in all of those? Now compare to the particulate pollution coal releases, which would force evacuation of neighborhoods if we treated them as nuclear plants.

The US Navy has operated hundreds of reactors for decades 24/7.

The point is not how many people have died, but how bad the impact can be. Even if nobody dies, the need to evacuate a large city like New York or Tokyo because a nuclear power plant nearby underwent rapid unplanned deconstruction might easily wipe off all economic gains from the nuclear energy, and then some.

As opposed to...the entire planet being affected, like it is with fossil fuels?

Solar, wind, hydro do not affect the entire planet. Even burning fossil fuels might be ok, if combined with CO2 sequestration.

But this is irrelevant. I'm just saying that you do a comparison, you need to take into consideration risks, too. Otherwise buying any kind of insurance looks pretty irrational.

Wind is bad for birds.

Ionizing radiation is bad for birds.

What's a worse accident then Chernobyl in terms of release? Evacuation is frequently not necessary as people willingly live in places with quite high natural radioactivity.

Only about 3.5% of radioactive material from one reactor was released (there were four reactors). Also no large city happened to be close enough downwind.

Some of the areas within 30 km exclusion zone still have levels of radiation too high for people to live there, and will remain high for hundreds of years.

It doesn't matter how many have died in the accidents so far.

It matters what the worst-case outcome is. I don't downplay it with some statistic about how rare it would be.

Doesn't this go both ways, though? You've discussed the worst-case outcome of using nuclear power at length. But I've yet to see you address, anywhere in this thread, the worst-case outcome of not using nuclear power and using greenhouse gas-emitting power sources instead.

"X power generation method isn't safe" just isn't a legit form of argument unless you can meaningfully compare it to 1)other power generation methods or 2)not generating that power. Climate change really is a catastrophe of a magnitude we can't really comprehend, and is what nuclear plants are most often replaced with. Nuclear accidents are really bad and really scary, but they've happened before and we at least understand (more or less) the worst case scenarios.

Efficiency and conservation is actually always overlooked, negawatts are basically always the cheapest/safest option, but both the free market and government intervention underinvestment in them.

In my view, most of the environmental disaster that was caused by Fukushima has nothing to do with the tsunami itself but with complete disregard for safety during the incident response.

Exactly, we cannot believe all those pretty statistics about how safe nuclear power is, because (inter alia) precisely this disregard for safety is never factored in.

Nuclear power is always sold on the best case or average case calculation. Because the worst case is probably so bad that it dominates the whole calculation.

Your argument doesn't make sense to me. Nuclear proponents have argued that nuclear power is safe for decades, and the statistics that show they've been right so far are somehow proof that they've been lying this entire time?

Apart from the waste.

We really don't know what to do about it other than bury it and leave it for a few tens to hundreds of generations in the future to deal with with the hope that they will know what to do.

So it's the safest option. But only for now. We might just be dooming our descendants to deal with the mess and they might be in a worse state than we are now.

Breeder reactors have been around since the dawn of nuclear energy and are extremely efficient, re-using the bulk of harmful waste material as fuel. If we built more of those waste would be far less of a problem.


Hell Thorium-based reactors could theoretically generate the same energy while being much safer and producing orders of magnitude less waste. But as of yet support for actually building one has been tepid at best. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium-based_nuclear_power

The issue is nuclear energy is so risky that only nation-states are willing to underwrite the creation of plants. As a result regulations on plant design tend to be extremely conservative, so innovation is brought to a crawl. On top of that the origins of nuclear energy is weapons research, the waste was the original objective. So the most proven model of reactor is the one that produces the most waste. Put the two together and we're left with the simplest, least efficient design: light-water reactors.

Nuclear can be viable, but the government will have to grow some balls and take some extra risk. We could really use another Musk or Bezos to take on Nuclear Power the same way the former two are taking on space.

Nobody builds breeder reactors (except for generating weapons-grade materials) because they are seriously unsafe. I'm not anti-nuclear, but the idea of using breeders for civilian power generation is lunacy. There's a very good reason no one does that.

The lack of production thorium reactors, over half a century since the first experimental reactor was built, suggests to me that there are serious complications that thorium proponents are missing out on. On paper, it seems ideal. So why has nobody built one? Don't wave silly treehugger regulations at me, because it's not just the US and Europe - Russia and China, with rather less concern for safety and rather less regulatory process than us, aren't building them either. Even India, with a third of the world's thorium, is just now in the process of bringing on their first thorium reactor.

The problem isn't "grow some balls". The problem is taking an honest look at the situation and ditching the wishful thinking.

That breeders are unsafe is simply wrong as a general statement.

A Thorium or Uranium based liquid fuel molten salt reactor is incredibly save and highly viable for civilian power generation.

> The lack of production thorium reactors, over half a century since the first experimental reactor was built, suggests to me that there are serious complications that thorium proponents are missing out on.

You massively underestimate the political and economical problems of these things. There are many different types of reactors and other ideas that have never managed to get to market.

Until very shorty it was basically impossible to develop one in the US. The Department of Energy would not grant anything, not even use of labs to anybody who wanted to research it. Much of the research itself was basically lost for a long time.

> Don't wave silly treehugger regulations at me, because it's not just the US and Europe - Russia and China, with rather less concern for safety and rather less regulatory process than us, aren't building them either.

China is massively investing molten salt reactors, including liquid fuel thorium. They plans are pretty big.

Also, there are simple not that many people who do this kind of stuff. The early research was done in the US and most other piggyback of that and have continued to make marginal improvements.

> Even India, with a third of the world's thorium, is just now in the process of bringing on their first thorium reactor.

India has tried earlier but failed. The reason was that they did not have the advanced science, not some fundamental problem. The went in another direction because they felt it was easier. The same problem did not apply to the US.

I was a big fan of the idea of Thorium reactors years ago, until I found one of the reasons they aren't being actively pursued. I don't see it mentioned but briefly on Wikipedia, but there are really serious engineering challenges around the corrosiveness of the fuel. Take all the properties of normal salt, add fluoride, make it radioactive, and then make it really hot.

There are materials that can handle it, but they are expensive and IIRC they still need to be replaced regularly. Imagine having to replace most of the plumbing in a reactor every decade or whatever number of years.

The engineering challenges don't stop there, but that was the one that made me go, "Oh, ok, I get why they aren't being taken seriously yet." Our materials science just isn't advanced enough yet.

On the plus side, China may be pursuing them more seriously: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_prit...

Ah, that makes sense. I've always assumed there's some powerful technical limitation, and it didn't seem to be in the reaction itself or the availability of fuel.

Exactly - at which point I love to mention Thorcon Power and the amount of obstacles that they faced in the US only to have to go abroad and start building their absolutely incredible design and test reactor in Indonesia. Sad.

Wow, I have to try to meet these folks. As an US expat here, I think Indonesia seems to have a promising future.

If you do, let me know. Wish them all the best.

Apart from the waste. We really don't know what to do about it other than bury it and leave it for a few tens to hundreds of generations in the future to deal with with the hope that they will know what to do.

We could do like we do with coal, and just release the radioactivity into the atmosphere. That industry disposes of a lot of radioactive material that way.

I live in Idaho, and something that comes up fairly regularly is whether to accept more nuclear waste shipments to be stored at the https://www.inl.gov indefinitely.

To me, nuclear power is not good or bad (it just is), but I have a very low level of confidence that humans can manage it over the long term. Power companies don't seem to be willing to spend the money needed to encapsulate waste for thousands of years. That would basically mean revisiting all the waste that is currently stored and freeze it in glass or whatever. If the industry did that for all existing waste and proved their expertise in that area, then I think more people would entertain the notion of more reactors.

> Power companies don't seem to be willing to spend the money needed to encapsulate waste for thousands of years.

The "Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982" charged utilities a 0.1 cent/kwh fee for disposal of nuclear waste, and the DOE was supposed to take receipt of that waste. There is $31 billion in reserve for waste disposal...


Meanwhile we have people fighting for coal power plants even though their waste disposal plan for things like mercury and arsenic is basically "dump it into the air and hope it doesn't kill too many people." And that stuff stays dangerous until the heat death of the universe, not merely thousands of years.

We really don't know what to do about it

Another myth. Of course we do: breeder reactors.

Hint: why is nuclear waste dangerous? because there is still loads of energy in it.

And then we put the breeder reactors into abandoned mines.

Breeders aren't the solution, they have waste products too, and those waste products are also radioactive.

The good news is breeder waste is a mix of very short half lives and very long half lives. The very short ones decay to safe levels quickly, and the very long ones have a low level of activity.

This. Conservation of energy/matter applies. If there's a lot of energy output and a fixed amount of input the duration must be small. You can visit the Chernobyl exclusion zone. You just can't spend a good chunk of your life there there.

I'd be totally for "Yucca Mountain OHV park"

Tricky to use breeder reactors in a way that doesn't upset the non-proliferation balance

It's not a solved engineering problem.

It's likely that planned reactors would work, but they are also likely to be really expensive.

> why is nuclear waste dangerous? because there is still loads of energy in it.

I though it was because of γ-radiation and long half lives? Are those properties unique to matter with high energy potential?

I will try to explain it as best as I can.

Radioactive material decays as particles are emitted. If it has a long half-life, that pretty much means that the energy is being released rather slowly. In other words, just don't go poking at it and you'll be fine.

On the othe hand, stuff with a short half-life means that atoms are decaying rapidly. Particles are being knocked off with great rapidity. That stuff is much more dangerous, in the now. It is transferring energy, in a harmful form, quickly.

A long half-life means don't go poking at it for a while. A short half-life means you probably should consider containing it really well. We store both safely because we know people like to poke stuff, and it is harmful. It's just that the scary long half-lives only tell part of the story and many people seem to think those are the more problematic.

Disclaimer, I'm a mathematician, not a physicist. However, I've taken a whole lot of physics courses. Someone can probably explain this better than I.

[Same here]

From what I remember, the energy released by γ-radiation is quite low. I'm still not convinced that just because something emits γ-radiation, short or long half life, it has an inherently meaningful energy potential. α- and β-radiation: sure. But γ? It's harmful to humans for very different reasons than fissile material is a useful energy source, isn't it?

Or am I completely misremembering this all?

Correlation is not causation sure. But "spent" nuclear fuel has plenty of energy left in it that a breeder can extract.

The energy of the radiated γ-photons has to come from somewhere. In the first approximation the fission reactor is device for releasing this energy faster while converting it into more mamageable form.

(Pure fission and Teller-Ulam bombs are about releasing said energy as fast and as completely as possible)

Even if the waste starts to leak, it will be just local problem and not big catastrophe. Compared to global warming, burying nuclear waste is more responsible solution for the future generations sake.

Nuclear waste leaking into an aquifer or the ocean will not be a local problem.

Not necessarily. Ocean disposal of nuclear waste used to be an option, but was banned in 1993. Studies of disposal sites in use before then seem to indicate that any problems found were very local[0].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_disposal_of_radioactive_...

Either it will be local, or it will be dilute enough not to matter.

until it doesn't and it does.

i'm sure that its safe to dump small amounts of radioactive material into the oceans, but if you start to build more reactors and dispose of all the waste into the ocean, the dilution will soon cease to be enough to offset a global ... disaster.

Nope. Unless we start importing uranium from off-planet, there just isn't enough material to make the whole planet significantly radioactive.

What does significantly radioactive mean? If I am a single individual, a single particle of Cesium or whatever could give me cancer. It's not an averages game when you're talking about real lives.

There's natural amounts of radiation that people are exposed to. Taking a commercial airline flight or handling a banana are good comparable measures - if it's less than those, it's not really worth worrying about.

Do you know how much uranium coal plants release into the air?

How concerned are you about cosmic rays?

If safe storage is really the goal (I think part of the thinking is that we might someday have a use for the "waste") it seems highly technically feasible to encase it suitably, and drop it on the subducting side of the Mid-Pacific Subduction Zone.

Since the containers would be very dense, they'd embed deep into the sediment, many thousands of feet underwater. Over geologic time, subduction would draw them deeper and deeper, eventually into the Earth's mantle.

Problem solved, if permanent disposal is truly the goal.

Lots of industrial processes create dangerous chemical wastes which remain dangerous forever. Why are you so worried about nuclear waste which is only dangerous for 10,000 years?

I'm worried about both!

One thing to look at is, how much waste is actually produced? When I was reading about this IIRC all of the nuclear waste we have produced in the US over the life of our nuclear programs could be stored in an area the size of a football field.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

> One thing to look at is, how much waste is actually produced?

A lot of the generated waste is not the used up fuel itself, but contaminated construction materials etc. So lower radiation, but still not something you have to bury somewhere. In the region I live in an old nuclear plant gets deconstructed for over two decades now because its tricky to seperate uncontaminated from contanimated material. The whole deconstruction costs an estimated €5 billion by the way.

That depends on what you qualify as waste. As for the actual otherwise unuseful radioactive reaction byproducts this might very well be true.

But in the industrial meaning nuclear waste also includes various stuff that can not (or could not at the time) be economically separated from the waste althought it is either not dangerous at all or useful as nuclear fuel. And also stuff that is simply radioactive and has nothing to do with nuclear reactors per se.

You could argue that it's actually our social and legal system which is causing problems, rather than a deficiency of technology.

Not in the sense that people are being irrational, but in the sense that we don't have a good framework for dealing with liabilities -- like nuclear waste -- for extremely long periods of time. We could probably store it pretty well if anybody was motivated in paying the direct and indirect costs of doing so properly.

It's also possible that if those costs were correctly tallied, then nuclear power would not be economically viable (assuming it even is without them).

We found it in the ground, we're just putting it back in the ground when we're done with it.

Not in the same state and not in the same concentration. I'm not anti-nuclear in the least but let's not spread disinformation (or "fake news" in modern parlance).

That's why a lot of people see it as the lesser evil and a good stop gap before we move to 100% renewable.

We should shoot the waste into to sun.

It's actually easier to leave the solar system than it is to hit the sun.

(Earth orbits the sun at 30 km/s [1]. That means you need -30 km/s of ∆v to kill the energy we're born with. The escape velocity for our solar system from Earth's orbit, meanwhile, is about 42 km/s [2]. So you just need 12 km/s of ∆v to skip town.)

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth%27s_orbit

[2] sqrt((2 * 6.7E-11 * 2E30) / (150 * 10^6)) given G~6.7E11 [a], mass of the sun is about 2E30 kg [b] and the Earth orbiting the Sun from about 150 million km [b]; for escape velocity [c]

[a] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravitational_constant

[b] https://hypertextbook.com/facts/2000/LeonVaysburd.shtml

[c] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escape_velocity

That's good calculation there, but the number we're concerned with is the amount of ∆v that the spacecraft has to generate itself. If you just get close enough to the sun, a spacecraft could use the solar wind and solar magnetic field to shed more velocity, until it is close enough to aerobrake in the sun's atmosphere.

Once you're out in the Oort cloud on the way out, you can't exactly deploy a solar sail to get another push (unless you make it impractically large).

The outermost layer of the Sun ends at 0.1 AU [1]. To put that in perspective, Mercury orbits at between 0.3 and 0.5 AU [2]. (It costs about 13 km / s to get to Mercury exiting from LEO.)

It's much cheaper to fling things out of the Solar System than into the Sun.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun#Atmosphere

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_(planet)

Again, you are thinking in terms of propellant carried up from Earth.

Thrust available to a spacecraft using a solar sail is a function of distance to the sun. The sail is a fixed cost, but it may be presumed to degrade over time. It has no propellant that costs additional money to launch.

If you go in, the ever decreasing efficiency of the sail is offset by the greater available energy from the solar wind, and you may still be able to complete the mission (more slowly) with a damaged sail. Your available thrust increases with every kilometer closer to the sun.

If you go out, the decreasing efficiency of the sail compounds with the lesser total energy available to the sail, and if the sail is damaged, you may never reach escape velocity at all. You will never have more thrust than the instant the sail deploys.

That is hard (there was an article on HN about exactly this a while ago). You need a large amount of energy to cancel out our orbit or you just end up sending it into its own solar orbit (which will intersect with ours, to boot).

Why we can't we just use Venus or Mercury?

1) Extreme costs. 2) Chance for disaster in case of launch mishap.

2 Is a valid point. For 1, it would be a global win as we reduced costs IMHO.

I don't think you understand how much energy would actually be required to launch the waste into the sun. Costs would have to be reduced by a couple orders of magnitude to make launching any significant amount of material into the sun viable.

My bad peeps, not a rocket scientist here... Way harder then I first thought.


You can't simply drop something into the sun. The effort required is approximately the same as to lift it all the way up there.

Not a lot of fun if the transport rocket fails.

Go play Kerbal Space Program.

There are a couple of things everyone should know when it comes to energy production:

1) Energy investment is primarily driven by cost, not perceived/actual safety. Safety regulations do affect cost, but not enough to significantly change investment (at least in the US, with the current conditions).

2) Base load power and intermittent (e.g. solar/wind) power are not the same thing, and are not comparable. The concept that "solar and wind will save us all" by themselves is fundamentally incorrect, and actually they make things worse in many ways.

Nuclear fear mongering has resulted in high levels of regulations around nuclear power, but even without that natural gas has an edge in $/kWh. There just hasn't been demand to build nuclear. On top of that, nuclear needs to run 24/7 to amortize high capital costs. With solar/wind, there is high variability in grid supply, so nuclear is significantly less cost effective, and is getting phased out in favor of low-capex plants (i.e. natural gas).

Barring some energy storage miracle, we'll eventually end up with ~35% renewables, 15% hydro, 50% natural gas in the US, with HVDC interconnect. No nuclear, no coal.

(source: I work in a Climate and Energy R&D group)

> The concept that "solar and wind will save us all" by themselves is fundamentally incorrect, and actually they make things worse in many ways.

Sure, this comes up a lot in these discussions. We don't need to rely 100% on any one type of plant, and we don't even have to eliminate coal plants completely. In the end, we're going to have to use a variety of options to fight climate change, and some of the major ones (like increased efficiency) aren't even going to deal with energy production.

I agree that we'll likely have a mix, but the point I was trying to make was:

Before, we had low variability in demand, so things like nuclear, hydro, and geothermal ("clean" methods of producing base load power) had a chance to compete.

Now, we have high variability in demand, so all of those solutions are out (though hydro is a special case), unless externalities like future-cost of CO2 is priced into production cost via taxes or cap&trade.

Wind/Solar + Storage is too expensive, so the market will shift to wind/solar + natural gas. We'll end up burning possibly more fossil fuel, or roughly the same.

>Base load power and intermittent (e.g. solar/wind) power are not the same thing, and are not comparable.

>Barring some energy storage miracle, we'll eventually end up with ~35% renewables, 15% hydro, 50% natural gas in the US, with HVDC interconnect. No nuclear, no coal.

Does this scenario look any more promising with a massive government project to build HVDC? That reduces the intermittent aspect of solar/wind (weather comes in band and sun and wind are somewhat anti-correlated, more true over larger distance). Could we push that renewable percentage up higher and use gas more for peaking?

Sort of

Without HVDC, renewables will probably peak lower (15%) than the 35% I mentioned.

HVDC and UHVDC is getting fairly cost effective now, so I don't think we'll need huge government subsidies to see adoption there, and it can be driven by utilities.

You can amortized wind really well with interconnect (unlike solar, which is strictly diurnal), so we'll see a trend back to wind in the renewable space.

However, I don't think we'll get beyond 50% renewable/hydro. Wind is built in areas where it is cost effective, which are the areas already taken. As you get HVDC, that area expands slightly, but I don't see us getting to 300GW of average wind capacity.

>HVDC and UHVDC is getting fairly cost effective now, so I don't think we'll need huge government subsidies to see adoption there, and it can be driven by utilities.

I've been told by people trying to build these things that there are some pretty terrible incentives discouraging HVDC.

States without access to good wind sites may still oppose HVDC because they would prefer to build either different power sources or less efficient windmills in their own state to capture the tax revenue (or to use federal subsidies that might go unused), so they prefer not to be able to buy power form a farther away state.

And even the reverse can be true. Localities with extremely cheap energy prices can sometimes oppose a HVDC market expansion because if local sources were able to sell to more consumers it would raise their local prices (the market changed over time or was estimated incorrectly, etc).

Natural gas (and coal) will have to be CO2 taxed soon if we don't want the worst case scenario in global warming.

My understanding, which is admittedly drawn from HN "napkin math" , is that at current prices for solar and wind, nuclear is a non-starter. That trend is only intensifying. It seems to me that nuclear could have been a good option, but because we've neglected it for so long, squashed innovation with regulations (not necessarily complaining that it didn't need the regulations!) it is uncompetitive economically and will likely stay that way for the near future. Amazingly enough even coal is uncompetitive in many parts of the world now too. The future is starting to turn green under the invisible hand of market economics.

Solar and wind has a lot of 'negative externalities' though that are generally borne by the grid or other operators. I think the economics really work against it at high% penetration (30-40%+).

The problem is that solar and wind requires backup generation, usually CCGT natural gas.

This is ok until you scale higher and higher. You end up having CCGT only producing 20-40% of the time (to fill in for wind and solar blips). This massively increases the capex of CCGT plants, as you're only producing rarely. This would get more and more extreme with more solar+wind penetration.

Another massive problem is solar+wind overproduction, which is really hard to solve and is starting to really hit the German, UK and California grids. On very sunny AND windy days you get massive energy overproduction. You then have to either:

a) Turn off solar+wind remotely (often very expensive to retrofit to existing installations as the Germans found out) b) Pay other (natgas, coal, nuclear, etc) operators to shut down, which can be very expensive c) Hope that negative electricity prices make more demand. This is unlikely to happen as industrial users can't switch on extra production quick enough to respond to this.

This is made worse by feed in tariffs being paid at any energy price, incentivizing solar+wind to continue generating even if electricity price is negative (say it is -€0.05kWh spot, but your FIT is €0.20/kWh, you are still going to produce as you will net 0.15euro per kWh.

The two 'solutions' which are often mentioned are battery storage and HVDC long distance transmission.

Battery storage is still horrendously expensive on a kWh basis. It may come down, but this is an enormous problem. I am personally not sure there is enough lithium left that is easily extracted to make this viable at the scale (billions of kWh) required.

HVDC connections I also am suspicious of - if it's sunny and windy in Germany, it is likely to also be the same 1000km away more or less.

Weirdly, every story I read about this as it starts to happen on windy/sunny weekends and holidays is headlined "Excess solar/wind blah blah" and when you read the story, there's still coal and gas powered electricity production happening at the same time.

Even in your entirely hypothetical example you say they're having to pay natgas and coal to stop production.

Is it just me or is that really weird?

I mean turning off coal and gas is kind of the point, isn't it?

Coal can't be shut down easily, it's incredibly expensive and inefficient to dial it up and down. Natgas is easier but still quite a slow process.

If you could turn gas and coal up and down in a few minutes, then perhaps you would have a point. But coal can take 6-24hrs and natgas 1-4hrs. It won't suddenly stop when you have a massive gust of wind.

Wind and solar generation are highly predictable on those timescales, you can find predicted and actual generation graphs from various sources. They're certainly more predictable than demand.

More realistic excuses I've heard are long term contracts, potentially with minimum run times for fossil plants. Which are therefore the actual problem at the moment.

> Turn off solar+wind remotely (often very expensive to retrofit to existing installations as the Germans found out)

If we're talking about problems that show up when wind/solar becomes an order of magnitude more prevalent than it is now, why would you care about the cost of retrofitting anything?

This is problem that happens in the German/European electrical grid right now, not at some point in future.

Right, but in the context of a world where 30-40% of the grid is solar/wind, it's easy.

I would assume that all-DC grid would happen before that (and solve the issues with grid stability). Extrapolating from the rate at which Europe migrated from 110V AC to 230V AC you are looking at at least 50 years for that to happen.

It's not. Germany is having to do this right now - hitting 30-40% and it's really expensive.

Because they apparently didn't anticipate this and now have to retrofit the equipment. If you're building out new stuff, you don't have to retrofit.

Yes but little to no new stuff is getting fitted with this when installed outside of Germany. It significantly puts the price of installs up. You have to dump the power somewhere and it's not cheap/easy to.

Even leaving aside the question of how much insurance should be required and how to underwrite that, as well as what kind of reserve should be mandated for cleanup and long term waste storage, the economics of nuclear are very rough.

The lion's share of the costs are upfront and the break even period is measured in decades. What is the energy landscape going to look like in 30 years? That's a question that you need to be able to answer with high confidence if you want to correctly price bonds that will be used to construct a nuclear power plant to be paid off from the revenue of the plant. If the potential bond buyers can't answer that question with high confidence then they don't know what interest rate is appropriate for the bonds and they probably won't want to buy them.

You still need to provide base load capacity. Wind and Solar can't do that. Hydroelectric can, but can't be put everywhere and has its own environmental impact story.

Grid-scale storage is one possibility, but more work needs to be done to make it viable. For technologies that exist today, nuclear looks the best for base load capacity.

Keep in mind that coal is uncompetitive because of natural gas being so cheap, not because of renewables. Renewables are not supplanting natural gas at a reasonable rate.

While natural gas is better than coal, it's still not good from an emissions perspective compares to nuclear.

This report seems to discount the tail risks involved with potential future nuclear accidents. Lets ignore the very complicated question of risk tradeoffs vs other sources for the moment.

Nuclear power has extreme tail risk that is hard to quantify based on the few examples of it happening. For the thee major events we can reference how do we know we didn't simply get lucky?

With fukushima for example, "Japan's prime minister at the time of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami has revealed that the country came within a “paper-thin margin” of a nuclear disaster requiring the evacuation of 50 million people." [1]

Clearly the lack of deaths directly attributable to nuclear accidents does not accurately capture the risks.

So what exactly is the risk of a catastrophic event that has thankfully never happened but could? Its not clear but rather than rolling dice with those risks we can actually make better systems without those unquantifiable risks in the first place. That takes us to the tradeoff calculus.

Just in the realm of nuclear power there are far better approaches we should be investing in as opposed to traditional plants such as LFTR [2] which does not have proliferation, waste or meltdown risk.

Picking on coal is a little unfair at this time because coal is being supplanted by much cleaner natural gas purely on market forces and solar and wind are growing dramatically. Of course there are issues with these as well, scaling issues and their own kind of impacts but they do not harbor the same kind of unquantifiable massive tail risk of traditional nuclear.

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/1218411...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_fluoride_thorium_reacto...

The discussion I have seen so far on this thread go something like this:

1. Nuclear is really safe. The best. 2. Someone brings up an incident that actually happened. 3. Apologists excuse the incidents that happened because a. It wasnt designed right b. It was due to corruption c. It was bad planning. etc.

We live in the real world here. You dont prove nuclear is safe by excusing every accident and actually using the disaster to prove how safe it is.

"2. Someone brings up an incident that actually happened"

Generally an "incident that actually happened" in which no one was actually, you know, killed.

The ironic thing is, and I'll probably be downvoted for even positing this, but Chernobyl was the best thing that ever happened to that local environment, at least when you look how local wildlife has bounced back since it's been cordoned off as an exclusion zone.


I get your point, but I think it should be clarified. What is good for "the environment" and what is good for mankind are very different things. Wild boar in Bavaria have less reasons to be eaten by humans, now that they are radioactive. For us humans it is of course less beneficial to live in a regions where we should not eat game and mushrooms.

Been talking about this for years. Yes nuclear has some scary dangerous factors. But in the real world example of things going horribly wrong the long term damage just isn't as bad as what people talk about.

Unless of course all that wildlife is getting crazy amounts of cancer that I don't know about and I am wrong.

Let's cut a crap, shell we? We can't solve climate change problem which might be acute for last 20 years, yet we believe somehow that we are able to solve storage issue of nuclear waste for next 100 000. Egyptian pyramids are ONLY 5000 years old! And we are not 100% sure what is written in there.

How do you warn next generation after 10 000 years, that some particular site is dangerous/radiaoctive? How do we keep something safe for 100 000 years? Is our Earth look same after 20 000 years, 50 000 years, 70 000 years? Will there be new volcano or shift of tectonic plates? Ice age? How do you keep such waste safe?

Even as of today, there is no final storage solution for spent nuclear fuel. There is one know being built in Finland, and it is just for waste produces in Finland. BTW, there is very nice movie about it: Into Eternity. You should look it!

I find this line of reasoning a little misleading. Looking at nuclear's safety record isn't entirely the correct measure, its that the potential consequences are so extreme.

Consider Fukushima. In some ways Japan got lucky, it was entirely possible that an additional reactor on the site could have melted down and the holding pond could have breached. Because of this they were having to consider evacuating areas on the outskirts of Tokyo. Obviously, if that had happened we wouldn't even be having this conversation.

I don't claim that we have considered the risks appropriately, have a sensible nuclear policy, or are considering nuclear correctly wrt climate change. But to claim nuclear is the safest because direct deaths to date are lower is not the full story.

Got lucky? I think the opposite: Chernobyl was unlucky. I mean, you're basically calling all these nuclear incidents "lucky". That doesn't statistically hold. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_nuclear_disasters_and...

Chernobyl was not unlucky. This was organisational failure and technical failure - few to none knew about xenon pit and that positive void coefficient was a compromise at the time to fulfill the demands.

Fukushima? I'd say ignoring the known geological situation and dangers (no excuse for that IMHO) and the design of the backup cooling system that fails on a flood is also not unlucky.

It's compromises to save cost and ignore dangers both times.

We also have rotting reactors here in Europe: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tihange_Nuclear_Power_Station

Imagine you were behind the scenes of the Fukushima crisis. You have to begin planning for the evacuation of the outskirts of Tokyo because you have been told that the situation on the plant site is uncontrolled, there have been multiple meltdowns and explosions and there's the possibility for things to get worse. At that point the game has changed around the calculation of risk. A few days later the situation is declared under control. How do you feel? I can think of no appropriate feeling aside from "lucky".

The point is that the error bars around nuclear power operation are so large that perceptions of risk are not the same as for conventional power.

Its interesting to think about the role of luck for Chernobyl. A grossly unsafe design combined with a bunch of incompetents performing live tests with multiple safety systems disabled, not much luck there. Was there luck in consequences of what followed? Possibly.

Two important points:

1. What about wind and solar?

2. The death/unit energy misses out the fact that we spend a lot more to keep nuclear safe because we are worried about it. If we spent a fraction of the same amount on other energy, we might get similar safety results.

Indeed, it also fails to mention hydroelectric. Nor is there any mention of how much it costs per TW/h, especially when you factor in the insane cost from just a single accident or the fact that the waste has to be safely and securely stored for a very long time.

Hydroelectric depends too much on orography. Not all countries have waterfalls, and if they have, they could be in inaccessible regions where it is very costly to build, let alone transport.

> 2. The death/unit energy misses out the fact that we spend a lot more to keep nuclear safe because we are worried about it. If we spent a fraction of the same amount on other energy, we might get similar safety results.

this seems extremely hard to quantify.

How can nuclear (fision) energy be safer than wind/solar/hydro? New efficient solar cells should be enough, environment friendly, and safer than other alternatives as long as the manufacturing of these are environment friendly as well. Also, everyone can setup their own solar plant at home, I almost did so, but the price of the materials and the setup are too high for me.

I'd like you to consider if nuclear material is useful for something apart from generating energy. It may be useful for other things we don't even know right now, and in the future we may have consumed all the resources.

The manufacture of solar panels is not as safe or as environmentally friendly as you might hope, just like how buying a new Prius to replace your car is probably a net loss for the environment unless your existing one is already near the end of its useful life.

You have to look at the whole market. When you buy a new car the old one gets resold to someone else, which causes yet another even older car to be resold and so on through the market until the oldest, broken-est car actually exits the market (assuming the total market size is static, if it's growing then you need to compare the Prius against the other new cars that would enter the market) so as long as you're replacing existing usage then you're probably doing good.

Yes, that's what I'm afraid of. Building solar cells might not be as environment friendly as I'd like, but hey, we can optimize these processes later on. Building a nuclear plant would also be very unfriendly when it comes to ecology.

I believe it us due to the installation deaths. Typically solar cells are installed on rooftops, which are non-trivially dangerous places to work. Multiply the risk by tens of thousands of installations and we get fatalities due to solar power.

Yep. Installing solar arrays at ground level is even safer than building a fission plant.

You serious? And building an hydroelectric/atomic/coal plant is not dangerous?

It's not a too dangerous place, when the people who set these up are professionals who are following a security guideline. I see lots of people working on their roof, so, at least for me, this is a nonsense argument to discredit solar energy.

You have to look at statistics, not just declare that installers are professionals so it's nonsense.

Yes, building power plants is dangerous too. The question is, how do they compare?

Wikipedia has some stats: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_accidents#Fatalities

Rooftop solar is vastly better than anything fossil fuels, but worse than nuclear, wind, and first-world hydropower.

The number should fall as solar becomes something that you add when a roof is constructed, rather than retro-fitted, since that roof work is already being done.

Working on the roofs of homes is extremely dangerous. This makes residential solar much more deadly than utility-scale solar, for example.

YCombinator was investing in nuclear energy recently, so an update may be nice here, both at short and medium term level. Thanks in advance.

I'm something of a fan of nuclear power, but there's no way it's safer than a solar panel array.

Ah, they didn't include renewables. Colour me surprised.

Renewables solve a different problem though. There aren't great ways of storing energy on a large scale. So you end up needed two components to a grid - a baseline that you can scale up whenever (coal, natural gas, nuclear), and a renewable component. Saying that nuclear is the safest in regards to a baseline energy load is a valid argument to make.

Mechanically we have the perfect solution to storing power - reverse hydro. Pump up into a reservoir while the grid is full of renewables that you drain through turbines when the renewables drop off. All the logistics are solved problems, it is mostly a matter of just paying to transition to it:

* The grid itself would need a dramatic rework. It needs renovation for renewables in the first place, but introducing a hydro base load solution increases pressures on existing infrastructure.

* You need enough solar / wind volume to justify a sizable centralized investment in such a power solution. But broad wind/solar causes problems involving peak grid load well before you even start building these things, along with the aforementioned grid updates, make a real chicken and egg problem.

Hydro storage facilities are also vulnerable to extreme climate, take a long time to build (especially in countries where bureaucracy makes building anything take 10x longer than it should) and aren't expandable.

But they would work, easily, to solve the power storage problem. Hail potential energy!

That's a valid argument. The one in the article misses out that rather important nuance.

Is it the safest when projecting for increased usage? While also taking into account modern threat vectors to a nuclear plant? I have no idea, just thinking out loud.

The brain is not designed to understand statistics. Nuclear accidents are theatrical and fun, and therefore get a lot of play on the media when they happen. Look no further than the media circus surrounding Fukushima to confirm.

Everybody is scared to death of Sharks, yet sharks killed only 1 person in the US last year. Cows killed 20, 75% of which were deliberate attacks, but almost no one is afraid of a Cow.

Meanwhile 17,775 people died in traffic accidents, yet people jump in cars like it's routine. You're literally 17,000% more likely to die in your own car than you are by a shark, but again, brains don't understand that.

I've encountered thousands of cars today. I've yet to encounter a single shark in decades. I'd expect very high danger in the presence of a shark. I've not yet been injured by all the cars I've seen in my life.

People understanding of stats is fine. They understand that the pre-requisite to being attacked by a shark is super-extremely low. That does not make sharks safe. I'll put my hand on the hood of a car any day instead of on a shark.

Your reasoning about Fukushima shows the same kind of problem: it's because of all the urgent actions after the accident that there's not been more consequences. Your argument would show that a house on fire is not dangerous because after people were evacuated, no one died of burning. It's the evacualtion of of a fire that saves life, it's not the lack of danger of a blazing inferno.

Oh I love that analogy, I thought I would figure out where it came from. Most people reference the times story [1] which talks about 20 cows a year, however that story references a CDC study [2] which talks about 21 cows over 5 years. Which makes it actually about 4 people a year (average) being killed by cows. Which is still more than death by Sharks at about 1 every other year on average according to [3].

[1] "The image of cows as placid, gentle creatures is a city slicker’s fantasy, judging from an article published on Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reports that about 20 people a year are killed by cows in the United States." -- https://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/31/dangerous-co...

[2] "A total of 21 deaths met the case definition for 2003--2008 (Table 1). Four fatalities occurred in 2003, two in 2004, six in 2005, and three each year during 2006--2008." -- https://www.cdc.gov/mmWR/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5829a2.htm

[3] https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/fish/isaf/contributing-fac...

People and their egos crave control. With something like driving, you feel at least somewhat in control of your own destiny. Coming face to face with a shark does not afford the same sense, same with an unstoppable chain reaction occurring deep in a nuclear reactor and the ensuing fallout.

You're correct, but there's only been a few failures like that in the entire history of Nuclear energy, one of which was a ridiculous test far beyond the scope of logic and reason (Chernobyl), one of which was a completely safe and designed failure that killed no one and did nearly nothing in terms of actual damage (3 Mile Island) and one that was the result of a plant being hit in the exact wrong spot by a natural event that it had not been designed to withstand in the first place, and despite that, still failed in a largely predictable and contained way.

And not to mention, the much wider used coal plants and natural gas plants kill way more people in a lot less theatrical ways, largely through disease of the lungs and skin. Again though watching someone die of black lung isn't nearly as interesting as watching someone die of radiation sickness, so we don't hear about it.

Plus, our reptile brains has deeply ingrained fear of wild animals, cars are too new invention to be able to affect our instinct the same way sharks do.

I really think you're just spitting out numbers.

Where are you getting these numbers? Particularly the cow one (deliberate killings only).

Generally intrigued.

> yet people jump in cars like it's routine. It is routine. Time spent driving is much, much, much higher than time spent swimming near sharks. So...

My brain understands that if I refused to go skydiving, then I can not die from a skydiving accident. Which is about as likely as going for a swim instead of a drive to get to work.

ABC has an article about the killer cows (which cites data from the CDC, though I've yet to find the data): http://abcnews.go.com/Health/shark-versus-cow-deadlier/story...

British cows are apparently similarly deadly: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/cows-official...

Thanks for pointing this out.

Whoa, now I'm very concerned about snails.

Schistosomiasis is largely a disease of poverty. When drugs and treated water are available, it is easily controlled.

Shark attacks in the US. Having a hard time finding anything recent, even to average out to one death every other year.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/06/0613_050613_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fatal,_unprovoked_shar...

Also, closer to 30k+ traffic fatalities (last reported year is 2015, so far it seems) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_i...

Still can't find cow numbers.

On the other hand, IIRC nuclear has a reverse bell curve, where it's most dangerous at the very start and end of its' lifetime. And if you take nuclear plants that are not quite at the end of their lifetime, then average the deaths over their last 40 years, and compare that average to solar (the majority of which are 3 years old or less - at the start of their lifetime), then you can make nuclear appear an order of magnitude safer than they actually are.

People don't handle statistics well, but statistics are also easily manipulated and therefore potentially completely unreliable (Mark Twain quote here). It's not quite as simple as "people need to listen to the statistics".

Also, people go to the beach way less often than they go near roads. If most people only go to the beach 1 day a year and go on roads every day, then it's more like "you're 50x more likely to die by car than by shark". That's a far cry from 17000x.

That said, I've always thought that stat could be abused to push car safety - "Imagine you're attacked by a shark - now, cars are like that but TIMES FIFTY! Drive safe, look both ways, etc".

1,700,000% more likely actually :)

I can't math good apparently, heh.

Can anyone explain to me why "deaths/tWh" is even a meaningful measure?

Of course nuclear energy has one of the highest Wh outputs, no-one is disputing that. However, what does that have to do with the risk of use? That seems like a measure very skewed to make arguments in favour of nuclear power.

I might as well argue that car drivers are safer than pedestrians because the average deaths/horse power is vastly lower.

Also, why did they leave away hydro, water and wind power in those "deaths per x" charts?

How is it skewed? It's a cost-benefit analysis. tWh is the benefit, deaths are the safety cost. In other words, if your country needs X amount of power, and you know the deaths/tWh for each energy source, then you can figure out how many people would die if your country used that energy source to produce its power.

> I might as well argue that car drivers are safer than pedestrians because the average deaths/horse power is vastly lower.

This is a bad analogy. A good analogy would be: if you had to travel 1000 miles, it would be safer to do it by car than on foot because car is safer per mile travelled.

> Of course nuclear energy has one of the highest Wh outputs, no-one is disputing that. However, what does that have to do with the risk of use? That seems like a measure very skewed to make arguments in favour of nuclear power.

Erm, wtf? The world's energy requirements are a more-or-less fixed number of tWh, no? Like, if 1 nuclear reactor produces as much energy as 10000 wind turbines, comparing the deaths that would be caused by 1 reactor to the deaths that would be caused by 10000 turbines seems like the obviously correct comparison to make.

Wikipedia has some numbers. Hydro has caused the largest single-event catastrophe.


Relevantly, some nuclear plants are paired with hydro schemes, in order to make the flat output of nuclear plants economically match the bumpy daytime peak of consumer demand.

The reason why many nuclear plants are colocated with hydroelectric dams is that the dam is good source for cooling water in 3rd cooling loop and that it is good backup power source for black start of the nuclear plant. Ability of nuclear plant to scale its output power according to demand is usually significantly higher than of hydro.

It's meaningful because it provides a rational basis for comparing the risk of various power sources. It's the same as comparing deaths/mile to evaluate self-driving cars.

People are overwhelmingly bad at risk assessment, which is why one can be anti-nuclear and afraid of terrorist attacks (both lower risk), while happily driving to work at a coal mine (both higher risk).

Terawatt-hours are a direct measurement of what we want from an energy source, namely, energy. The equivalent for transportation would be deaths/mile, which is indeed a commonly used metric of transportation safety. Deaths/TWh is very meaningful.

It's not a perfect measurement, as Nuclear is similar to solar in that it provides power to it's own schedule. Normally this will mean gas or coal being throttled below their capacity. It's possible that this affects their deaths/TWh negatively, though perhaps not as maybe the sourcing of the fuel is the big problem with those plants, but e.g. if it's 5 people who die building the nuclear and gas plant, and then the gas plant throttles down overnight because the nuclear plant can't, then the nuclear plant wins unfairly.

It's the absolute opposite of skewed. It's fair and representative. If a country needs XX TWh/year, this is exactly how many deaths will be caused by the various production methods.

You car analogy is on the other hand completely wrong: the death/HP is a meaningless indicator. How about deaths per mile travelled? Check out the values at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micromort which has a section for traveling (named Additional)

I'm only aware of two deaths specifically caused by wind power, when two engineers were caught on top of one when it caught fire. It's likely such a negligible number that it wouldn't even show up on the graph.

According to this, there are multiple fatal accidents in the wind power industry each year: http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk/accidents.pdf

Wikipedia's stats on energy production fatalities have wind being pretty decent, at 150 deaths per PWh (rooftop solar is 440, US hydro is 5, US nuclear is 0.01, and fossil fuels are in the thousands), but if the number is negligible it's only because wind power itself is negligible: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_accidents#Fatalities

Given that the point of the graph is to show nuclear at the bottom, wouldn't that especially be a reason to include wind power in the graph?

What about falls? They don't happen often but it seems clear enough that they are attributable to wind power.

Why do you think it's not meaningful? What would be the alternative?

Here are a few measurable statictics that Nuclear would win hands down:

* Square miles of uninhabitable land produced/tWh

* Fishing industries destroyed/tWh

* Agricultural land destroyed/tWh

* Peoples displaced/tWh

* Lethal toxic waste produced/tWh

* Clean up cost/tWh

I'm pretty sure hydroelectric would actually win statistics 1, 3, and 4 "hands down". It'd also be a serious contender for 2 and 6.

This is of course excluding coal, which I'm 92% sure makes even hydroelectric (let alone nuclear) look like a peaceful meadow full of fairies and butterflies by comparison.

When you say "win," do you mean be worse? Because I think the others mean it as being better, and I'm getting confused.

"Win" was (I'm guessing) used in a negative context to mean "worse", so I used it in a similar way. Kind of like how Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot tend to "win" competitions for murdering the most people.

You think so? I thought they were using "win" to say that nuclear was good, since fossil fuels are much worse on most if not all of those measures.

All I can say is I'd rather be spending time catching fish on a lake created by a hydroelectric system, then cooking those fish at night in the camp site by the lake, than doing the same anywhere inside the Chernobyl 30 km Exclusion Zone or the Fukushima 20 km Exclusion Zone.

If it's fishing you want, the water reservoirs for nuclear power plants make for good spots. I used to live over by the Rancho Seco plant, and its backup water reservoir (and the surrounding land) is still maintained as a public park even decades after the plant shut down (and was maintained as such even when the plant was operational, from what I understand). Good trout over there.

The Chernobyl 30 km Exclusion Zone is actually not that bad, apart from the slight radioactivity. Since there's no human interference, it's essentially a sanctuary for local wildlife.

Deaths per capita within 100 miles of generation.

Do you think coal mining deaths should not be counted if they occur 200 miles away from the power station the mine supplies? What about if the deaths occurred a continent away?

Isn't cancer one of the main risks of radioactive pollution? These deaths/X metrics don't account for disease.

Well because in the end the amount of power is what matters? I'm not sure I understand your point.

If you replace nuclear with renewable (or the other way around) you'll have to produce the same amount of power, all other things being equal.

Yes, however this assumes that number of deaths of any technology would linearly scale with its energy output.

e.g. if I built n times more wind turbines to match the energy output of nuclear energy then, according to this measure, I would also get n times the number of wind-power-related deaths.

I see no basis for that assumption, especially as nuclear energy has known risks that e.g. wind power doesn't.

> I see no basis for that assumption, especially as nuclear energy has known risks that e.g. wind power doesn't.

But why do the risks matter? One would expect that two turbines or nuclear power plants would kill twice as many people, on average…

Fission power's bad rep is bad for fusion power, the latter being way more safe in any respect.

Anyway, although it is a serious issue, to this day no cities had to be evacuated permanently because of air pollution.

Regretfully, nuclear energy has an aura of doom, and investment in nuclear power plants wrongfully reek of hubris.

Even if it isn't a renewable source, fission power is one of our best allies in tackling CO2 emissions. At least it may buy us some time before fusion power and the dissemination of renewables.

Arguments for nuclear power tend to ignore a few things:

- They talk about ideal power plants, but not actual power plants. Are they assuming that when the world switches to nuclear, that every country will build these ideal types of plants and maintain them well?

- Pro-nuclear arguments don't talk about inevitable wars. When nuclear power plants are scattered across the world in countries that will eventually become unstable, the potential outcomes look different. We are living through an amazing time for peace in many countries, but it isn't a given that things will remain peaceful like this.

- Radiation has a cultural effect as well, and those plants and storage facilities make likely targets, since radiation disasters tend to cause people to panic.

- After there is no more power from given plants or fuel, there is less incentive to take care of the waste and cleanup.

I'm not entirely against nuclear power, but I think that it's more complicated of an issue than most nuclear proponents claim.

Energy efficiency and use reduction are two other areas to consider. If it's possible to change behavior and opinions around nuclear energy then it should be possible to change behavior and opinions about efficiency.

Before we even get to the safety, and the disposal of the nuclear waste, we have huge difficulties with the basic economics and construction of nuclear in the US.

The two plants under construction, Summer and Vogtle, have been plagued by construction difficulties and cost overruns. The Summer plant was just finally cancelled today. It seems that the Vogtle plant is going to follow the same route.

The management competence and institutional knowledge needed to build these large, insanely expensive projects seems to have disappeared. The time for nuclear in the US is done. Other options are cheaper, faster, and more responsive. And that's ignoring the political aspect of it all.


> The management competence and institutional knowledge needed to build these large, insanely expensive projects seems to have disappeared.

And whose fault is that? Not the fault of nuclear-power supporters and advocates! Nuclear didn't die, it was killed.

Hold on, there's more than enough blame to go around.

Westinghouse Electric Company's bankruptcy and lies to Toshiba [1] weren't caused by nuclear's opponents. That's all on the heads of Westinghouse's management. And if management was competent, perhaps Summer would have been closer to being on budget.

It's not as though the AP1000 is impossible to build, other countries are doing it just fine. It's just impossible for US contractors to pull through, apparently. That's not the fault of nuclear's detractors.


I'm not surprised that Westinghouse behaved idiotically; they've always struck me as the Ford of washing machines, and I can only imagine what they're like at utility scale...

It sounds like the best course of action is to bring in foreign firms to construct reactors in the US; but that'll probably have to wait for the 2020 election... if it happens at all, that is.

Westinghouse built something like 25% of all nuclear reactors worldwide. That they are failing for just 4 more reactors is a bit shocking to me, honestly, and I would not have expected it.

If it takes 10 years to plan and build a new reactor, I simply can't see the point of trying it in 2020. Sizing our solar and wind resources to cover our needs during seasonal lows, building HVDC, and adding storage at 2030 prices seems like a far smarter move economically.

Unless there are improvements that halve the cost of nuclear, and make it so that it's only a $1B gamble instead of a $10B gamble, I simply can't see why anybody would put up capital. There are lots of government backed loans on these things, but even then it's going to be a hard sell to investors. Everybody has been burned by these projects.

Ctrl+F "Solar", "Wind". No matches found.

That's weird, huh? I'm all for a rational assessment of risk, but shouldn't they be on the list?

Actually, I've seen such comparisons, and solar and wind do pretty well. They don't kill anyone from air pollution and global warming, but manufacturing and maintenance isn't risk-free. When you install things on roofs, sometimes people fall off.

Most solar installation these days however are utility scale deployments in empty fields. It's pretty low risk, plus the same pollution and AGW benefits that nuclear benefits from.

As an aside, I wonder if anyone has done the math on storing high-level nuclear waste on the Moon, now that a fully reusable SpaceX Falcon Heavy is almost here. That might be cheaper than the financial and political costs of places like Yucca Mountain.

I'd be surprised if the biggest source of injury from solar wasn't from installers falling off roofs.

You can't count all of those injuries against solar itself, though, as roofing injuries will happen regardless, and putting up solar panels greatly extends the life of a roof, so the amortized total injury to installers doesn't go up as much.

Plus with Tesla's solar roof, you might say that the additional risk of solar is zero, since it's (probably, I'm guessing) no more dangerous to install than any other roof.

And if it lasts longer than a tar-asphalt shingle roof, which seems reasonable given the materials involved, it will actually reduce deaths.

Right. Great point. It could cut risks in half if it lasts twice as long.

We'd need long term statistics to fully develop a model of risk. I.e., (admittedly, anecdotally) within the first year or two of having his monocrystalline setup, Dave[1] suffered damage to one panel (aerial debris) requiring a service call to replace the unit. If this happens on a semi-frequent basis (i.e. one panel per ~3 years per install) the risk profile changes not insignificantly.

[1] https://player.fm/series/eevblog/eevblog-844-solar-panel-rep...

I've had workmen on my roof for damaged slates due to high wind, so again, with a Tesla roof this could conceivably be a negative death rate of the solar tiles are stronger than standard tiles, which they claim they are.

Probably true, though for what its worth OSHA[0] (yeah yeah "nanny state" and all) dictates pretty clearly the federal obligations on training and equipping roof workers with full body harnesses, lanyards, and proper anchorage points to effectively eliminate fall related injuries. Whether or not the employe(e|r) adheres to these regulations[1] is another issue, but the risk can effectively be mitigated almost entirely (the "total fall distance" is to be no more than 6 feet with a safety factor to the ground of no less than 3 feet)[2].

RE: Grandparent - the production of solar panels isn't as "green" as you may think. See: IEEE[3].

RE: Wind - The standard horizontal-axis blade design (i.e. what Siemens and other major commercial institutions offer) have ecological impacts on wildlife[4].


[0] Forgive the US centric analysis.

[1] I.e., cell-tower deaths are notorious for these sorts of violations -- both due to the endemic sub-sub-sub-contracting strategy that Verizon, et al, uses to distance themselves from the bad PR and litigation, as well as the employee these jobs tend to attract (risk takers/adrenaline junkies) who, even if given the proper gear will neglect to use it often due to machismo. Following full protocol, the injury risk decreases quite notably.

[2] https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3755.pdf

[3] http://spectrum.ieee.org/green-tech/solar/solar-energy-isnt-... Rare earth metals, processing with hydrofluoric acid, all the usual suspects one would expect. And this isn't a Koch-brothers funded gas/oil funded piece of propaganda. For goodness sakes, this is the IEEE -- about as pro-green (while keeping the science legitimate) as you can get.

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_wind_p... - Just playing devils advocate here, offshore wind is basically the closest to a panacea IMO. There are events where 100% of the Dutch utility grid is powered entirely by their offshore wind. Their trains are 100% 'green' too (see: https://futurism.com/all-dutch-trains-now-run-on-100-wind-po...)

One factor in Tesla's favor then is their stated objective of handling the solar roof installation in house. Unless they resort to the same shady practices that Verizon uses for tower installation, direct control (and responsibility for) their installers should lend itself to mandating best practices on the safety angle.

Everything has risks. Yes solar panel installers can fall off roofs. I'm sure there have been fatalities in the mining for the elements required for solar panels or making turbines for wind. Those are honest concerns that should be taken into account when comparing different energy sources.

However this article did not of that - it just pretended that they did not exist. I believe the publisher of this article has an ulterior motive, something related to supporting the nuclear industry. So in oder to make its point it needed to leave it out. The title of this article is not just 'misleading' it is completely and deliberately dishonest.

Nuclear "waste" can actually be used as fuel again, we just need to research that technology. You still need a lot more plastic and rare earths for solar and wind compared with nuclear (per watt). I think solar and wind are a good intermediate step but not for long-term.

Maybe. I saw a Google X talk a couple years ago from some grad students at MIT that wanted to build a nuclear power plant that closed the fuel cycle loop. (which is what you're talking about). They made some very grand promises about how this would solve the HLW problem.

Unfortunately a few years later they had to issue a correction, because older (more experienced) engineered stepped in and showed them where the mistakes in their work were, and they couldn't eliminate nearly as much HLW as they thought with existing technology.

In other words, a closed nuclear fuel cycle doesn't exist. We could be better than we are currently with investments in molten salt and fast reactors, but I don't think we know how to get to zero HLW using fission.

Considering that HLW lasts for a million years, that's imposing too high a cost on too many of our descendants, IMO.

My personal belief is that solar and wind are the best way to go for now, and if we ever get zero-HLW fission or aneutronic fusion working, cool.

You're referring to the Transatomic 2-student company's claims that their epithermal-neutron molten salt reactor could burn nuclear waste as fuel without additional fissile feed stock. Professor Kord Smith and others pointed out their error.

However, that their whimsical concept didn't live up to its hype is no reason to claim that the closed nuclear fuel cycle doesn't exist. Breeding more fuel than you consume in an advanced reactor was proven in the Experimental Breeder Reactor-1 near Arco Idaho in the early 1950s. The physical concept of breeding and closing the cycle is well-proven and 100% proven possible. No one debates this.

People do debate how much it costs vs. the status quo of just mining uranium. Uranium is cheaper than recycling spent fuel, so we mine uranium. It's that simple. If we decided uranium was running low and drove prices up, reprocessing waste would become more economical and more people would do it.

It's almost as if you can frame a 'data-driven' argument and limit the universe of what people imagine to be possible, while pretending to be 'rational' and 'scientific' the whole time!

Of course it cuts both ways. A better headline would have been "Nuclear: sure it's dirty but are you really trying to tell us coal is safer".

As the article makes clear, this another technology that might be useful in the future, but is currently unusable thanks to the problem of the waste generated from it. There are no safe options for storing nuclear waste right now.

It really is time that we start looking at cutting back mindless generation and consumption of energy and that mostly means a big shift in lifestyle for North American and European consumers.

Either that or else you can all explain to your children and grandchildren (whom you love very much and would do anything for etc.) that you decided that living an hour's drive or more from work and commuting in every day while eating fresh dragonfruit and shrimp flown from the other side of the world was just fine.

Reduce. Re-use. Recycle. Time to start actually working on the first of those.

I'm against centralized power generation of any kind. Make a household fusion generator that's safe and maybe I'll consider it, but until then I'm for solar because it can be deployed in a decentralized network (with batteries), and it's clean.

That leaves the problem of the mining and manufacture, which is still centralized. This problem can be solved with GM organisms. We engineer fungi and bacteria to grow on roofs and generate electricity. They'd use CO2 in the growing process too. We can grow batteries in a similar way. Bacteria, yeast and viruses can do anything. They're the ultimate nanotech, we just need to learn how to program them.

Came here to say more or less this. A centralized power grid was perhaps unavoidable, but now that decentralization is a possibility, the sooner the better. Nuclear is a good option when compared to big gas or oil plants, but what we really need is an energy paradigm shift, and there is little room for fission power in a decentralized grid.

I have not skimmed but didn't see wind, solar or hydro?

Trying to understand risk by looking at historic data alone is wrong when you're talking about catastrophic ruin and uncertain tiny probabilities. Add the word weapon in the headline quote to see what I mean,

"Contrary to popular belief, nuclear weapons are the safest modern weapon"

Arguments that nuclear power are safe need to prove that while assuming the worst-case scenario, since the probability of such a scenario is a-priori unknown despite what much of this comment section seems to be claiming.

Solar is knowingly much safer because it is much easier to reason about.

China is charging ahead with nuclear in order to replace their outdated coal dependent energy infrastructure.


As they develop and improve their reactor technology their plan is to export safer, more efficient fission reactors to the rest of the world.

While I mostly agree with the article's risk assessments, it unfortunately leaves out one major risk factor: Nuclear proliferation. If more and more countries have access to nuclear power plants, then they also have the possibility to divert significant quantities (SQ) [1] of fissile materials towards nuclear weapons.

I cannot find the source right now, but a talk given by non-proliferation experts outlined how accounting for fissile material in a reactor is about 99% accurate. But even 1% of nuclear fuel, on a nuclear-powered-world scale, is equivalent to hundreds of SQs per year, assuming current genration and next-generation reactor technologies.

A nuclear conflict, even if regional (only a few dozen discharges) can potentially have dire, world-wide consequences. The article should have at least touched on those.

[1]: http://nsspi.tamu.edu/nssep/reference/technical-safeguards-t...

[misleading headline]

> Here we limit our comparison to the dominant energy sources—brown coal, coal, oil, gas, biomass and nuclear energy; in 2014 these sources accounted for about 96% of global energy production. While the negative health impacts of modern renewable energy technologies are so far thought to be small, they have been less fully explored.

Renewables aren't as reliable or powerful as fossil fuels or nuclear reactors; one simply cannot power a grid with only renewables. And the one exception, hydroelectric dams, are geography-dependent and can cause massive floods during any rapid unplanned deconstructions.

Most people who I've talked to about their fears over nuclear energy say they wouldn't want to be in the blast zone in case of a meltdown or near a potential terrorist target. Then I pull up the map of existing nuclear plants and more often than not they already live close to one. I've found its a fear thing for most people.

The quoted statistics are interesting, but irrelevant when it comes to the actual use of nuclear. Furthermore, why are solar and wind energy missing from these stats? They account for 90% of new power in Europe in 2016 [1], and I'd assume similar for the major world economies. I'd like to know who funded this study. It screams of nuclear industry backing...

For anyone still being in disbelief of nuclear being made obsolete: Why has not a single (!) private insurer been willing to fully insure a nuclear facility without government backing?! The reason is simple: the risk is too high, even for insurance companies worth billions.

TLDR: nuclear has, as yet, not worked using private financing.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/09/new-ener...

The linked article just screams "last decade's energy mindset". Its conclusion may have been true then but it's certainly not true now in the age of cheap and widespread solar/wind.

There needs to be more awareness of this. If nuclear power was so amazingly safe, private insurance companies should have no problems insuring it. But they won't.

One thing is simply missing from the piece. You can't really distinguish between the civil use of nuclear power and the military use.

Maybe there is some reactor design which can fix this but the reactors which are currently being build are not those designs. Also they are build for 60+ years. A lot can happen in 60 years.

Discussing an energy source just by pointing about future developments is not the answer. The EPR reactors in Finland and France are several times over budget and took much longer than planed to build. In the time you could have build wind turbines and solar cells all over the country with an equivalent or higher amount of power output. And according to the current statistics every added kilowatt would have been cheaper than the last one.

Also you might now say, but solar and wind are not always available. But at the same time you think that all problems with nuclear can be overcome but not the storage of electricity?

While the threats from coal and gas are regularly distributed through time (near constant rate of pollutants) the threat from nuclear energy are sporadic (ie meltdown, terror) and are thus harder to model and assess. Also agree with others that wind and solar are being discounted unfairly despite their growth factors.

I've come to the conclusion that nuclear energy is a good thing when done correctly, sadly we seem to be plagued by 60 year old power plants with severe safety problems still running because the power companies don't care about safety, they just want to run them as long as possible until they fail.

Nuclear energy is only as safe as the people operating it. Admiral Rickover demanded a high personal standard for reactor personnel, and there was ZERO reactor accidents[0] because of those standards.

IMO Natural Gas/BioGas powered turbine generators are better option to augment wind and solar power generation. The GE LM6000 [1] gas turbine (based on a 747 GE CF6 engine) can produce 40MW+ of electricity. They could even recycle a surplus CF6 engine to reduce manufacturing resources required.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyman_G._Rickover#Safety_recor...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Electric_LM6000

I wonder how much nuclear suffers from PR. Clearly statistics are not really effective at changing opinions. But what would happen if popular Elon Musk/Steve Jobs type of public figure get into the lobby game with a nuclear company? Could that swing perception either way?

It suffers a lot from bad PR since the start. In public view, nuclear anything is usually related to atomic bomb and mushroom clouds and such stuff, although most reactor designs are inherently incapable of sustaining uncontrolled supercritical fission (excluding for example Chernobyl's RBMK).

Flying used to much more dangerous than it is now. But we improved the technology and now it's safe enough that most don't think twice before getting on a plane.

Discussions of nuclear power somehow ignore the fact that, like any other technology, current reactor designs are not the final iteration. They can be improved upon.

Look the Chinese Pebble Bed reactor: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/600757/china-could-have-a...

If everyone aside from the Chinese ignore nuclear power, then the Chinese may be the ones making a fortune selling their advanced reactor designs to everyone else.

Not true. In the short run, solar is the safest. A massive spill of solar energy is just called a nice day. In the long run, it's the most dangerous. The sun may eventually consume the Earth and much later, go nova.

> In the short run, solar is the safest.

The externalities of the production and disposal of solar panels cannot be ignored in this kind of assessment.

Logical arguments do not apply in that scenario. Other energy forms might kill people a slow, invisible death. But when a nuclear reactor melts down the pictures of death and drama will go around the world.

Now that is an introduction!

>The production of energy can be attributed to both mortality (deaths) and morbidity (severe illness) cases as a consequence of each stage of the energy production process:

A lot of people here may know what mortality and morbidity mean straight off, but I want to share this article as much as possible, and it does a great job reaching out to laymen. I also like how it starts right off with "more energy is good, here's a link demonstrating why, let's move on."

Can anyone comment on if the LFTR is legit?


It isn't. Molten salt is highly corrosive.

As a person who actually likes nuclear energy:

The issue I have with Nuclear is that we have not managed to fix the waste issue, and nobody seems to want to talk about it.

I'm not a huge fan of "salting the earth" for 10,000 years.

And when you say "it's safe", you're inherently ignoring that you basically have this toxic waste that is too costly to shoot into space and too dangerous to keep anywhere on earth for 10,000 years where it wont eventually harm the ecosystem.

Most relevant sentence from article

"Here we limit our comparison to the dominant energy sources—brown coal, coal, oil, gas, biomass and nuclear energy;"

A great documentary about this is "Pandora's Promise". In it quite a few previous sustainable energy (wind, solar) advocates lay out the problem: sustainable has too far to catch up and in order to get the developing world to high quality of life they need high energy consumption per capita fast. Only solution to this is a safe version of nuclear.

We should try to use as much as possible renewable resources and save precious, expensive, rare elements to be used only for scientific research purposes and space missions (propulsion and power plants). We have many alternatives on earth but we don't have energetic alternatives on other planets and outer space. We are just wasting the opportunity to go far.

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