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Nuclear power is the fastest way to slash greenhouse gas emissions, decarbonize (nytimes.com)
712 points by jseliger 17 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 712 comments



Can we just get something straight about the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant?

Although it was a 1960's design, the reason it failed the way it did was because of one design flaw...

Its backup generators were not placed up on the hills above it. Rather, the backup generators were situated below sea level underneath the reactor buildings. DERP.

Fukushima Dai-ichi survived the Magnitude 9 earthquake. It did not survive the tsunami because said tsunami overcame the tidal wall in front of it, and then the backup generators got flooded. But for that one event, if the generators were placed up on higher ground, the outcome would have been so much different.

I have first-hand knowledge, due to..

1) Knowing the area. I lived in my Japanese father-in-law's mountain house, situated 1.5km out of Miyakoji-machi, Tamura-shi. That town was just inside the 20km evacuation zone from the power plant, the mountain house was just outside at 21km - myself and my family lived in our own house in the outskirts of Koriyama city.

2) My (now deceased) Japanese father-in-law was president of the Hitachi subsiduary company which built Fukushima Dai-ich No.4 reactor, which wasn't operating at the time of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami but did suffer an explosion thought due to hydrogen gas from the spent fuel situated in the Spent Fuel Pool in its upper level.

3) Mentioned in point (1) above, I owned a house in Tobu New Town on the Eastern outskirts of Koriyama city, and I was working at Flextronics in Koriyama at the time the M9 quake occurred - things got a tad 'exciting' at the time. I should write a book.

My point is that nuclear power is safe, as long as all disaster scenarios are taken into account - in Fukushima Dai-ichi's case, for some reason (possibly financial?), it was decided that the tsunami barrier was sufficient (it wasn't) for the job, and at some point in time it was decided that placing backup generators underneath the buildings was sufficient - that unfortunately did not turn out to be the case :/

And lastly, I still fully support the idea of nuclear power.


> My point is that nuclear power is safe, as long as all disaster scenarios are taken into account

I don't know if you are old enough to remember it, but that's exactly what nuclear energy proponents said in the 70s.

Since then, actual experience showed that about every 20 years, there has been a big incident with global impact, and it will take decades if not centuries until the affected area is usable again. And the latter is something that might be tolerable in less densely populated countries or locations (Chernobyl), but in very densely populated ones it would be a major catastrophe.

And so far we've only seen disaster scenarios caused by human error and force of nature, and there's a third one (human malice), which thankfully hasn't happened yet, but which is impossible to guard against.

So my conclusion from reality is that no, we can't make nuclear power completely safe: The consequences of a disaster are too great, the monetary incentives are all wrong (it's not the nuclear companies which pay in case of the disaster, the state takes over; and the costs of the risk are not factored in into the actual running costs; and safety measures are expensive, so economics will always lead to, say, putting the backup generators NOT on the hill, because that would have cost more).

And then there's the problem that in some countries using nuclear energy and producing nuclear waste, the problem of actually storing that waste safely for the next few centuries is still not solved. Even after 50 years of producing it. And that is just insane.

I wish we could make nuclear safe. It would be a great way to reduce carbon emissions. Looking at reality, I can only conclude that we can't, and it's wishful thinking. (Yes, I know, that opinion is not popular, and the nuclear fanboys will be all over me, but so be it).


I feel like it's bad to talk about safety of nuclear without comparing it to another option. What's the safety of fossil fuels? What bar would have to be met for nuclear to save lives when compared to alternatives?

For the most part nuclear falls victim to the same human reasoning flaws that make us more worried about flying on a plane than driving even though driving is way riskier.

For more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_accidents


Seeing the number of "nuclear energy is our saviour, and will solve all our problems, and is the only option" posts on the Internet, yes, the first step is to talk about the safety of nuclear without comparing it to other options.

And no, the comparison to plane vs. car is not appropriate: In both kinds of accidents, a number of people get injured or killed. In case of a nuclear accident, a sizeable area becomes inhabitable for centuries. That's on a completely different scale.

(And just for the record, I'm neither worried about flying in a plane, nor I am worried about driving a car. I am also not worried that the nuclear power plant near me will explode next.)

If we can agree that nuclear is not safe in the long run, and should eventually be abandoned, then we've made progress in the discussion.

It's also not "nuclear or coal". That's another thing in those discussions that bugs me. Fossil fuels (not only coal) are not the answer, either: they'll eventually run out, and they contribute to global warming.

And comparing them by "counting deaths" and "how many lives can be saved" is completely missing the point. Neither nuclear accidents nor coal usage immediately kill people. And it gets totally ridiculous when people try to argue that "there are accidents during wind power constructions; people have fallen to death. So wind power is mucher more dangerous than both nuclear and coal (if you only count the deaths)."

So in the long run, we need alternatives to both nuclear and fossil fuels. If those who say "nuclear is the only solution, it's so great" get the upper hand, we'll never develop those alternatives. And that's the point.

As for the short run, I don't really care. If we can efficiently stop global warming by shutting down all coal plantes and keeping the nuclear plants for a few decades, I'm all for it. Though I doubt that will be enough to stop global warming; we must also drastically reduce energy usage; up usage of renewables, redesign the electric grid, and efficient means of storage to it, restart projects like Desertec, etc., etc.

There's enough we can do. but arguing "let's just bet everything on nuclear, it's totally safe" is the wrong thing to do.


>a sizeable area becomes inhabitable for centuries

Well no, reactors in chernobyl remained operative until 2000 ,and chernobyl is not inhabitable look at all the animals that live there , the level of radiation is low.Regarding fukushima people are already returning in evacuated zones


While I agree mostly what you are saying, I would want to add that one thing we should have in mind and it’s that most of our current risk assessments of nuclear power are done on current technologies. And also the other technologies we could use aren’t risk free either. I think it’s too early to give up on all of the our energy sources, but coal/oil. Unless we find a way to contain all of the emissions immediately.


Dang, I’m going to have to remember “if we can all agree with my thesis, we’ve made progress in the discussion” for my next argument! That’s a great and intellectually valid way to participate in a debate, for sure.


I agree with you that I don't think we can make nuclear safe. But if the choice seems to be between millions of deaths from global warming or thousands of deaths from nuclear, isn't the latter vastly preferable? Shouldn't we set out and build out nuclear to steer us away from the edge, and then worry about better solutions once we're safe?

I suspect the reason people don't buy this argument is that they don't truly believe global warming is as bad as they say. We have a history of solving problems in the past, so we'll solve this one too. There's no need to panic.


Can you provide a timeline and justification on "millions of deaths from global warming".

Why can't be invest the money in better alternatives and save the same "millions of lives" with actually sustainable tech that doesn't produce what you are describing as "thousands of deaths"


The book Six Degrees by Mark Lynas is a good start. It has extensive references to peer-reviewed papers on the effects of climate change.

We've already had thousands of deaths from heat waves that probably wouldn't have happened in the absence of global warming. By three degrees warming we'll have massive food shortages and hundreds of millions of climate refugees.

I find a lot of anti-nuclear renewables advocates really underestimate the scale of the problem we're facing. This book is a great start to seeing what we're really up against.


How much money and time would it take to research battery technology that could put coal and nuclear plants out of business?

We know how to build nuclear NOW. Let's do it. We can turn all the plants of the second someone finds out to store terawatts of power produced by renewable means in a cost-effective manner that doesn't rely on some geological anomalies.


I bet, we will develop that technology in much much shorter time than we need to store nuclear waste.


There’s little need to store nuclear waste. Reprocess it and use the remaining fuel.


This does nothing to the fission products. And reprocessing only lets you destroy the actinides if you burn them in a fast reactor. Fast reactors have, so far, been even more expensive than thermal reactors.


That's only because the US stopped all R&D on them under Carter.

Again, the only reason we're not all nuclear today is because of politics.


Fast reactors have been disappointing all over the world. The harder neutron spectrum is more damaging to materials, and liquid sodium has serious drawbacks. Fabrication of fuel elements with mixed actinides is also difficult. Fast reactors also require a higher density of fuel (due to the lower fission cross section at high neutron energy), which presents safety issues.


The French reprocess all their fuel as I understand it. We could do the same, we choose not to.

That's probably the wrong choice.


The french choice was clearly the wrong one. It's a net economic loss for them. It was predicated on the use of the separated Pu in fast reactors, but their experience with fast reactors was dismal.


It's not about whether it makes money.

It's a way to drastically reduce the waste from the process.


If they weren't going to use the plutonium immediately, reprocessing was stupid. Spending the money they didn't have to, in order to make Pu they didn't need, just to have the Pu sit around, made no economic sense. And no, it doesn't improve the economics of waste disposal.

Understand where reprocessing came from. Way back then, the story was that nuclear was going to be dirt cheap, but would ultimately be limited by the cost of uranium. The solution was breeding, to provide all the expensive fuel those thousands of cheap reactors would need. Reprocessing was needed to close this fuel cycle.

But this story bears no resemblance to reality. Reactors turned out to be expensive, the number of installed reactors was far below projections, and uranium is not in short supply.

One still hears echoes of this old narrative from people who don't really understand where it came from, and why it doesn't apply.


Again, the point isn't to save money. The point is to reduce waste.


No, the point is to minimize the cost of dealing with waste. Reprocessing doesn't do that.

But let's stipulate that they want to destroy the waste. What's the cheapest way to do that? If they wait to reprocess the fuel, and destroy the actinides in the future, it comes out cheaper than if they reprocess now. That's because reprocessing, and developing and building fast reactors, is quite expensive, and the net present value of that cost is minimized by moving it off into the future. Moreover, reprocessing becomes easier as the fuel cools off.

So, reprocessing NOW is a pointless waste of money, even if ultimately you want to do it. The ONLY reason you'd want to reprocess now was if you needed the actinides now for use in energy generation. And no one needs them for that.


No. You're missing the point of the entire discussion.

The point is to deal with the waste. The whole argument is that we can't go to nuclear power because "waste". So deal with it.

No one cares about the cost of it -- it's far cheaper to deal with it now than to manage it for a thousand years anyway -- especially in political capital with a bunch of nimbys who think nuclear power is scary.


>but that's exactly what nuclear energy proponents said in the 70s.

And how many plants failed that were built after the 70s?

>The consequences of a disaster are too great

Even with the disasters, it kills fewer people than coal even without taking into account the damage from global warming.

It’s like refusing to fly because plane crashes stick out in memory and then choosing to drive instead, despite how much more unsafe it is.


No, it's nothing like that - although it might be like refusing to fly in a 737 MAX.

First, any coal analogy is out of date. Only the coal lobby wants to continue burning coal. Everyone else is like "No, that's stupid and self-harming, let's just not."

Secondly, plane crashes don't make entire areas uninhabitable for long periods.

Third, the problem with nuclear isn't the engineering, it's the management. The nuclear industry has proven time and time again that it can't be trusted with nuclear technology. The long list of smaller accidents, cover-ups, and outright lies make it clear that trust has not been earned.

Four, the waste problem still hasn't been solved. I'm not sure how a technology that creates waste that remains toxic for thousands of years can be considered "clean", but the very curious pretence that is somehow clean - or that it can always be buried under a "Keep Out" sign that will somehow remain in place for many centuries - is a handy example of the toxic rhetorical pollution the nuke industry generates.

Fifth, if you remove all subsidies and include end-to-end clean-up costs, nuke power is actually uneconomic, and becoming more and more so.

Apart from that, it's a great idea.


> Only the coal lobby wants to continue burning coal. Everyone else is like "No, that's stupid and self-harming, let's just not."

How I wish that was true.

What they actually do is preferring to not burn coal, but when the choice is between blackouts or burning coal for power even the most environmentalist governments in Europe prefer burning coal.

As an example, when the choice is between being cold in Stockholm (Sweden) or burning coal, the citizen of Stockholm rather burn the coal until the water heating plant has been replaced sometimes 2022 (to be burning other fuels). It is only used in the exceptional cases when the other systems are not enough, and yet it stands for 20% of the total pollution of the city.

> Fifth, if you remove all subsidies and include end-to-end clean-up costs, nuke power is actually uneconomic

If we include the use of burning fossil fuel when renewable energy is not delivering, then the cost of renewable is uneconomic and very polluting.

We have not solved the continuously supply problem for renewable energy. Hydro is not enough, large scale battery technology is not a reality yet, adaptive energy policy has never been attempted at a global scale. People want continuously energy 24/7. They will pay for clean and cheap energy when they can, and burn coal when it is not available. The only current clean alternative is to have nuclear when solar and wind is not producing, but the marginal cost of running the nuclear plant is low enough so it will most likely also run when wind and solar is running. A little more environmental friend strategy is to lift up the rods to save fuel and reduce waste, but that means the whole cost need to be recouped during low production periods.

> Apart from that, it's a great idea.

The great idea is to have a full ban on burning fossil fuels for electricity and heat. A full stop. How people then want to solve the problem of continuous power is road full of issues. It is a bit strange political situation where those in favor of renewable do not want a full ban of burning coal, gas and oil, while those in favor of nuclear do want it.


>How I wish that was true.

>What they actually do is preferring to not burn coal, but when the choice is between blackouts or burning coal for power even the most environmentalist governments in Europe prefer burning coal.

It is true.

Germany has already built its last coal fired power plant and has already mandated the closure of all 84 plants by 2020.

Germany is already shifting to generating by renewables, demand shifting to deal with fluctuations in the cost of power, overproduction and pumped water / batteries to make up the rest of the difference.

>It is a bit strange political situation where those in favor of renewable do not want a full ban of burning coal, gas and oil, while those in favor of nuclear do want it.

It'll happen eventually. Nuclear is in no position to make it happen any quicker than renewables are though.


Germany will just continue to cheat and import from France during lulls. Either that or they will just burn natural gas. Renewables (excluding dams because they aren’t supported by zealots) for base load are a complete fantasy. Pumped storage and batteries are so inefficient that we can’t switch without quintupling electricity costs for everyone.

>It'll happen eventually. Nuclear is in no position to make it happen any quicker than renewables are though.

Renewables are not competitive with nuclear for base load, at all. That’s why “environmentalists” conveniently allow the burning of coal and gas for the base load while they sit around waiting on a miracle for storage. Nuclear is a solution that works now. Hoping for storage tech 50 years from now is just stoking the fossil fuel burn.


Convenient to exclude hydro to make your argument where its what powers the existing the 100% renewable countries (either completely or nearly so).


Hydro is fantastic and we should use it wherever we can. Problem is the last part. We can't use it everywhere.


Convenient to exclude the fact that hydro requires a specific geology and willingness to destroy river ecosystems for it to work.


Hydro is finite... When you've harnessed 80%~90% of the potential, that's about it.

If you are mainly looking at an energy source for the downtimes, then there is currently enough hydro being generated to do that.


No, there is absolutely not enough hydro for baseload. Where did you get that idea?


There are countries which are 100% renewable right now using hydro to do so, so yes.


These countries do not exist. There is no county getting by without burning fossil fuels or using nuclear for baseload somewhere. The 100% you might be thinking of are countries that import fossil/nuclear baseload during lulls and export spare renewables during high generation times for a “net 100% renewable”. This is a start, but it’s marketing bullshit because it’s not actually sustainable for all countries to do that. Someone needs to provide baseload.


Which countries? The closest I know of is Norway. But they do burn some gas and also import from Sweden (and others). Even if they didn't have gas I don't think it is fair to say that a country runs on 100% renewables if they import energy from a country that isn't 100% renewable.


>The nuclear industry has proven time and time again that it can't be trusted with nuclear technology.

You can count these events on your hands. The same can’t be said for aviation accidents caused by incompetence. Thousands of deaths have been caused by bad management/bad engineering/bad operations/bad pilots and yet we still fly more and more every day.

>Fifth, if you remove all subsidies and include end-to-end clean-up costs, nuke power is actually uneconomic, and becoming more and more so.

Only if you make up arbitrary numbers for cleanup costs. See what happens to solar if you remove all of the subsidies for the panels as well as the required storage batteries as well as the cleanup costs for the mines providing all of the materials and it won’t be “economic” either.



And here is the wiki page to answer how many since the 70’s (hint, it’s a lot): https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_and_radiation_accide...


I count 18 after the 70s. Do you realize how irrelevant that is given the millions per year coal is killing?


I've been trying to figure out this problem. It seems like people understand the dangers of nuclear (with some overstatement[0]). The problem I see is that people don't understand dangers of other sources. Like even solar kills more than nuclear (on a per kilowatt basis, and including predicted deaths from cancer of Fukushima and Chernobyl). Or they don't understand how small the waste is in comparison to other sources (~soda can a year compared to train fulls a day (coal)). I don't know if this is due to fear or humans having a hard time comparing large numbers. Or some combination.

[0] example being that meltdowns make a place inhospitable for centuries. Fukushima's exclusion zone is shrinking fast. And only Chernobyl and Fukushima have exclusion zones. Plus, those ares have thriving wildlife and vegetation.


Yes, but what about having to evacuate the area for decades / more to come? And the radioactive waste problem?


The counter risk is having the entire planet rendered uninhabitable for human life, right? Let's see, some area rendered uninhabitable versus the planet rendered uninhabitable... I'm going with A.


The worst of the lies about nuclear is that it can somehow help create a carbon-neutral economy.

Of course it wouldn't. Designing a carbon-neutral economy is a much bigger problem that requires much broader strategic thinking.

The levelized cost of renewables is already cheaper than the equivalent for nuclear power, with much smaller capital costs, much faster start-up and build costs, and no concerns about long-lived waste.

And the trend lines are clear.

There is simply no case for nuclear power now - economic, political, or environmental.


>The levelized cost of renewables is already cheaper than the equivalent for nuclear power,

Not if you want electricity when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. If renewables were competitive for providing constant load, nobody would be having this fucking conversation.


Who says nuclear is carbon neutral? It definitely has a footprint. But so does solar, wind, and hydro. All 4 of which are extremely small though. The advantage nuclear has over the other two is that it can generate power 24/7, it can vary its output, and it has a small footprint on land usage per kilowatt-hour it produces.

AFAIK there are no high energy producers that are end-to-end carbon neutral (or negative). Doing so needs some type of sequestration.


The levelized cost of renewables with enough battery storage to make reliable carbon-free power is higher than nuclear, except in areas where lots of hydro or geothermal is available.


>The worst of the lies about nuclear is that it can somehow help create a carbon-neutral economy.

Of course it wouldn't

nope


Why are you arguing that the only options are the end of the planet or building nuclear reactors?


Not claiming those are the only options. I'm comparing the advantages with the risks. It just seems easier to watch a thousand tons of spent fuel than to dim the sun or remove a trillion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere.

If you know of a baseload power source with similar carbon emissions to nuclear, I'm listening.


Sounds like a false dichotomy to me


> Since then, actual experience showed that about every 20 years

That's not really a good metric. What you need to do is a time varying analysis and consider the total number of reactors (globally).

Eg. if we hold danger of reactors constant but we increase the number of reactors over time then you'd see disasters being more frequent (but the opposite is true).

Alternatively if we hold the number of reactors constant and pretend that all new reactors replace old reactors you can determine if new reactors are more, the same, or less dangerous.

But to do a real analysis you have to combine both of these (and some more stuff). Otherwise you're pretty much just saying that the average of the set {1,2,3} is 2. That 20 year thing is a bit contrived and I'm surprised it has popped up a few times.


This is interesting because you blame human error or malice on the failure of a reactor causing a potentially global issue. For about 60 years now we’ve had nuclear powered ships without a single issue (with exception to the russian subs rusting and decaying while waiting for decommissioning). Wouldn’t malice or human error be more of an issue here vs a land based reactor? I think most enemies would rather bring down a military naval ship over a land based reactor unless causing terror is their goal. Either way, the reactors generally manage themselves, get replaced every few years but overall are very stable and safe. Nuclear is here to stay in ships and the potential to irradiate the world is much higher when you’re floating in water.


Tack onto this you’ll have eras of better and worse regulation and privatization (with the accompanying emphasis on profit over all else), depending on which parties are in office.

I think it’s inevitable you will have bad disasters. The human race is not smart nor mature enough.


>but that's exactly what nuclear energy proponents said in the 70s.

And they broke ground at Fukushima in the 60s. We've come a long way in reactor design in 50 years.


Are you unaware that more nuclear waste enters the environment from burning coal than from all nuclear plant incidents combined?


I think the debate is now shifting from nuclear vs. coal to nuclear vs. solar/wind. In that context, this argument doesn't help. Especially recently, people have been really bullish about solar and wind power, and I think that has lead to weakening of the support for nuclear power.


You need to tell China and India that.


China is extraordinarily bullish on renewables. From wikipedia: "China's renewable energy sector is growing faster than its fossil fuels and nuclear power capacity. ... In 2017, renewable energy comprised 36.6% of China's total installed electric power capacity, and 26.4% of total power generation, the vast majority from hydroelectric sources."


China's CO2 emissions are growing, not declining.

Nobody wants to burn more coal except people who own stocks in coal. In other news being beat with a stick sounds like a better alternative to being blown up but most of use would prefer a massage.


The Germans seems to prefer coal to nuclear. Oh, maybe they thought lowering nuclear would increase the renewable? The renewable sure did increase, but it doesn't compensate the decrease in nuke power. What did is the other fossil fuels.

Of course, most Germans would deny that. But the fact is, reducing nuke power leave us only two alternatives: increase the consumption of coal/oil etc, or decrease energy consumption period. Solar and wind are all the rage, but they're still very little compared to nuke.

And good luck with significantly reducing energy consumption: energy is more or less the limiting factor in our economy, so decreasing it decreases the GDP. So it would mean a big fat, long term recession. Now it doesn't have to be bad, but it sure needs a significant overhaul of our societies.


Renewables today produce twice as much power as nuclear plants back when Germany had twice as much nuclear than it has now and the share is growing by 4-5% per year. By the time a new nuclear plant is done Germany would be at 90% renewables.


Your numbers are a bit off (2018: 155TWh solar+wind; 65TWh biomass+hydro; 2006: 158TWh nuclear as of [0]), but I'd agree with your conclusion. The biggest disappointment in those graphs is the near constant use of lignite, but politicians seem still very resistant giving up the jobs of that industry.

[0] https://energy-charts.de/energy.htm?source=all-sources&perio...


How is that?


We burn a tiny amount of fuel to get a lot of nuclear energy, and we burn a huge amount of coal to get a lot of thermal energy.

You need to consume orders of magnitude more coal than atomic fuel to get the same amount of energy; so the trace elements in coal become a big deal.

The radiation from coal isn't even the worst contaminant, you get all sorts of trace elements. Sulphur (causes acid rain around the power plant) leaps to mind, and there are other really nasty impurities. It is hard to understate the tiny, tiny nature of the nuclear waste 'problem'. Storm in a teacup stuff. It is barely an industrial quantity of dangerous material, and the energetic bits are Very Likely to be recyclable as diluted fuel for a more advanced reactor.


> the energetic bits are Very Likely to be recyclable as diluted fuel for a more advanced reactor.

~17% of France's electricity comes from recycled nuclear[0]. Just the recycled part (75% is from total nuclear).

[0] https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-pr...


Pretending nuclear waste isn't an actual problem basically means your entire analysis is disastrously wrong. Consider contributing after doing further analysis.


It means my analysis is informed by a working knowledge of how we treat existing risk factors that affect human society. Everything I've seen suggests that in practice the macro-scale threat posed by radioactive material is similar to that posed by lead, but easier to deal with because the volumes are so tiny we can afford to isolate it completely from the biosphere.

We produce tiny amounts of waste, I can't find a great source but the numbers seem to be of the order of 10,000 to 100,000 m^3 of material that needs special handling and a much larger quantity that can be scientifically measured to have come from a nuclear plant if you have the right equipment. Those are tiny numbers compared to what industrial processes working with waste have to deal with (for scale, 1 small mine open pit coal mine would move that much material a week).

People are trying to protect the world from smaller risks than the environment already faces. It isn't rational, and it isn't very clever either. The volume of the problem is truly tiny compared to stuff we just walk on by as a society.


Your numbers seem way off. My first google results [0] mentions a single plant producing more than 100,000m³ waste requiring special treatment. Most of it on the less bad end, though. Or are you just talking about fuel waste and conveniently ignore everything else?

[1] compares solid waste from different power sources. Little info for solar/wind. Both nuclear and coal seem bad. But none of us wants to build coal plants anyway. But i sure as hell also don't want lots of public resources spend for new nuclear that is decommissioned a few years later once more environmentally friendly alternatives go online. Especially if those resources could accelerate renewables in the first place. I have no problem with keeping existing nuclear plants running as long as they are safe.

I'd love read better concise summaries from official sources, if you can recommend some.

[0] https://inis.iaea.org/collection/NCLCollectionStore/_Public/... [1] https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2017/01/f34/Environm...


I don't have any decent sources on waste. I wasn't ignoring decommissioning, but what I was trying to and failing to communicate was per-annum figures (comparing per annum production vs. the storage required over the same time period).

From a volumetric perspective compared to what we know how to handle industrially the numbers are tiny. I strongly suspect the only reason we treat the waste with such care is because there is so little of it that that sort of care is feasible.

I've seen a big lead mine in operation. I wouldn't live anywhere near to one of them, containing the waste is basically impossible. With nuclear waste, there is so little we could literally ship worldwide waste production to the middle of the Sahara and just dump it there. 100,000m³ just isn't that big a number - I mean, we wouldn't because it is a silly idea, not because we can't. It isn't a very responsible approach, but in practice it would work. The volumes are small enough that in my view world-wide nuclear waste storage crosses the boundary from a technical issue to an economic and political issue.

There are lots of uninhabitable wastelands that have been created here and there by industrial processes. One more in a location chosen to be remote would make literally no difference given the scale of the benefits. There are a lot of deserts out there.


> Your conclusion is different than mine, therefore you are talking nonesense. Consider coming back when you get closer to my level of knowledge.

Be careful about how you know what you think you know. How informed are you about these matters? Have you taken a good look at the numbers? I know I haven't. How trustworthy are your sources? Why do you trust your sources? Are they expert or something, or do they happen to appeal to you emotionally?

This is a problem at the global scale we're talking about. We need good solid numbers. The number of articles in the newspaper for instance is not a good solid number. Emotion is not a good number.


It's a huge issue that I work with an international team on. It's also almost politically impossible to address in the us. Technology (for safe isolation of waste) is not the problem. Democracy is. So, it collects in aging leaky dams around each plant because it can not be moved and can not be centrally disposed of.


> in Fukushima Dai-ichi's case, for some reason (possibly financial?), it was decided that the tsunami barrier was sufficient (it wasn't) for the job,

Plate tectonics was not understood or scientifically described until 65-67. It was not a widely accepted theory until later, at least the 70s. By that point, Fukushima had already been permitted and built.

Without plate tectonics to create the plate shift earthquake which resulted in the tsunami which caused the disaster, the only mechanism to create tsunamis known was underground rockfalls from steep slopes. Afaik the builders of the plant studied the bathymetry around the area, and saw limited risk of tsunamis.

The primitive science of the time ruled out the possibility of a tsunami overcoming a tsunami wall that was X feet tall. So they built a tsunami wall that was X+k feet tall, and called it a day. When later scientific theory showed that larger tsunamis were not just possible, but inevitable, the plant was not retrofitted to deal with the new reality. Oops.


> When later scientific theory showed that larger tsunamis were not just possible, but inevitable, the plant was not retrofitted to deal with the new reality.

You are saying the process of risk assessment and mitigation was not regularly actualized with new scientific knowledge. How is that possible ? Is there communication issue between different fields ?

For our information, does someone know : As soon as the engineers / executives were informed of this new risk, what was their decision at the time ? (Maybe this was asked during a court hearing)


You typically don't have a design engineer actively monitoring safety features that are permitted by the regulator, built and maintained to standard. In a dynamic environment where the situation changes regularly there is a little more defense for catching that type of thing. In a static environment like fixed plant it could well be they just weren't ready for that sort of change.

That style of hazard, where existing controls passed through a rigorous system but become insufficient with time, are really insidious. It is certainly easy to understand why they would have missed it; even though it isn't an acceptable outcome. Especially given that communication in the 70s/80s involved a lot more talking to people and reading the right journals.


Indeed!

And so goes hindsight.

And we (the human race) have learned.


> And we (the human race) have learned.

yet, this is specific to this one incident, one specific threat.

The issue is more likely to be systemic. Once a production system is up and running, it is not consistantly being improved and iterated upon, but instead left to stagnate technologically (and in this case, in safety in light of new research etc).

But the argument is that such level of continuous improvement/iteration is costly, and the owners would not recouperate the costs! And so hence the economics goes, and so does the human condition continues to revolve around profit and loss.


Thus regulate mandatory re-certified every 10 years. Also that such process must involve meeting or exceeding //current// engineering standards and safety, with the potential for limited exceptions if approved by need and actively in progress plans for achieving the specifications.


Can't a new president quickly overturn such regulations?


Also, wasn't fukushima tsunami the 'biggest' in recent centuries ?


The tsunami which hit Fukushima was 43-49 feet tall. For seismic originated tsunamis, this is near the upper limit.

Not all tsunamis are caused by earthquakes though. On July 9th, 1958, there was a rockfall in Lituya Bay, Alaska. A cliff face broke off, and fell 3000 feet into the ocean. This resulting in a tsunami which stripped vegetation at up to 1720 feet in the surrounding areas.

https://geology.com/records/biggest-tsunami.shtml


In Japan? Maybe. Globally? Not even close. As recently as 2004, there was a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that caused over 200,000 casualties (compared to the 15,000-20,000 casualties of the 2011 Japanese tsunami).


Sorry if it seemed insensitive, I didn't mean the most harmful, but the most powerful in terms of physics, as an engineering reference point if you will.


Death toll really isn't a good number to use for gauging the risk to nuclear reactors. Indonesia was more vulnerable to tsunami damage and deaths than Japan for basically the same reasons why Japan has nuclear power plants and Indonesia doesn't.


I grew up near Chernobyl. My parents still work on CNPP (which was closed in 2000 but still needs personnel). In my opinion nuclear is the only reallistic solution to solve global warming. Per kw produced it is safer than even solar or wind and modern reactors are even safer. I now live in bay area and have high end solar panels. While this is a nice thing, looking at their output - it is just not enough (covers our family consumption at about 70%, this is house plus electric cars, but, obviously, not including products consumed and long distance travel. And this is California)


>Per kw produced it is safer than even solar or wind

how do you define "safer"?


less deaths. I was myself surprised when I learned this, but apparently people fall off while installing solar and wind; combine that with much smaller energy output and you'll get nuclear to be the safest


Rooftop solar is quite different to industrial solar plants. The latter is on the ground, for example. Also, the installation of the latter is less ad-hoc and not done by small scale operators. I don't think the safety of a large power plant vs lots of home power installations is at all a fair metric.


The people falling off is just one example of death, not the only. You have to include total solar, industrial and home. But you get numbers that show that per kwhr nuclear results in less deaths (even when including predictions of deaths caused by future cancer incidents from Chernobyl and Fukushima). It honestly is a surprising result.


The definition of "safer" is fewer people killed per kilowatt hour of energy generated. By that very reasonable metric, nuclear power is objectively less deadly than rooftop solar or wind turbines.


People are usually more ok with predictable risks that can be mitigated by the parties involved. Example taking proper safety precautions against falls vs oops we melted down and gave you cancer 10 years later.


> People are usually more ok with predictable risks

This ignores the point of above comments which is to educate people about which energy is safer per kWh generated.

It's not like solar/wind installations are done w/out safety precautions already.

Per kWh generated, nuclear is safer.


Not to be rude but that seems like a silly qualification to be speaking on a matter. I grew up next to a Lockheed factory and my father worked for NASA, but I fail to see how that qualifies me to comment on what a "realistic" solution for interstellar travel would be.


I think he’s speaking as someone whose family history is directly impacted by a nuclear disaster, the fear of which has greatly affected the politics of nuclear power.

Sure that doesn’t qualify as expert opinion, but that also only gets you so far. In a debate that gets emotional it can’t hurt to have someone stand up and say “yes, bad things can happen. It happened to me and my family, but I still support it because it makes sense overall”


Yes, this is anecdotal evidence. But having grew up there I obviously read up about it a lot and this is why I am speaking my opinion on this matter. Also, in my opinion, what I saw written about it in the US media is fear mongering or outright lies about death tolls, radiation levels in nearby areas, cancer rates, etc.

To give you an example. Did you know that CNPP was profitably working until 2000 while the disaster was in 1986?

Or another, fact - CNPP is an almost exact copy of an older nuclear plant which still profitably produces clean energy near St. Petersburg in Russia


Yes but the RBMK is still an irresponsible design: highly positive void coeficient, no containment, then the control rod misdesign which was fixed. VVER reactors (Russian PWRs) are much more safer by contrast. Of course it was profitable, it ran on natural Uranium and it was cheaper to build (no containnent).

You should watch the "A is for Atom" episode from Adam Curtis "Pandora's Box" series. It also talks about US designs and how they upscaled the naval PWRs to utility level which was not deemed safe by nuclear scientists of the time.


I am not advocating for building more CNPP - like plants. Those reactors are obsolete. There are much, much safer options now ( such as generation 3 reactors in US).

However, even those older designes are statistically much safer than coal - how many people died just in coal mines colapses?


>But having grew up there I obviously read up about it a lot

I disagree, what you read isn't obvious and still doesn't qualify you to speak on the matter unless it was legitimate and vetted information. Reading a bunch of infowars doesn't make me a legitimate political commentator.


How do you know what they read?


Exactly my point, I don't know, and it isn't "obvious" as he claims. For all I know its the equivalent of infowars, skepticism is my default position, like it or not.


It's a valid qualification to speak on the reasonableness of community fears.

As someone who grew up near a Lockheed factory and a father that worked for NASA, you are qualified to speak about the community impacts of building and operating flying machines.


I'm pretty pro-nuclear. Nuclear power has proven to be extremely safe relative to the alternatives. In this specific case though, to say that there was one design flaw is failing to go beyond the first why.

The second why is "why does the reactor require an uninterrupted supply of electrical power in order to not melt down? Gen 2 nuclear power is inherently dangerous, and is only made safe through active safety systems. If the reactor trips, the cooling pumps must run or decay heat will cause a meltdown. Gen 3 reactors tend to incorporate a lot more passive safety systems or at least ones that don't require electricity.


It's just a trade-off of mathematical probabilities. The alleged extreme safety comes with an extreme destructive disasters.

When it comes to risk management, the human brain that is bound by evolution to dangers close in time and location, is not capable of assessing the consequences of losing a piece of the planet earth's habitat for millions of years.


Radiation is not as scary as you've been led to believe. The main long-term dangers from a really bad nuclear accident are Cs 137 and Sr 90. Both of these have half lives of about 30 years. We past the first half life of the Chernobyl fallout.


The arctic and antarctic regions are literal ninth-circle hellscapes (the ninth circle of hell is the one that is frozen over). Significantly worse than the areas around Chernobyl which is apparently well on the way to becoming a national park.

I'm not sure that there is a 'risk' that the human brain can't process. Risk of what, exactly? Huge cost to the generation that has to move, massive risk if it hits farmland, sure. But even assuming that the 'millions of years' figure is factual - which I doubt - we are certainly going to run out of human race before we run out of land. The risks are all fairly short-term things.


The term national park is a euphemism, considering that all life forms in this exclusion zone suffer from genetic diseases.



There were multitudes of design flaws.

* building reactors in areas with severe earthquakes and tsunamis was the main design flaw

* flood protection too low, even though this was known

* backup-generators not safe against flooding

* loss of outside electricity over a long period of time -> powerlines were not working, other sources of electricity on the grid were offline due to earthquake

* too long time to restore electricity, we are talking about many MWs for cooling and other purposes -> generators were difficult to bring in with further problems making them work

* various damage due to earthquake on reactors, buildings and infrastructure around the plant

* too much spent fuel in pools, required large amount of electricity for cooling

* spent fuel pools high in the buildings, hard to reach

* no cooling capability in case of days-long loss of electricity -> then needs to be cooled with seawater pumped with vehicles with concrete pumps (which were flown in from remote places, even from the US) -> caused structural damages to buildings and spread radiation

* no idea what to do with the contaminated cooling water

* no protection in main buildings against the explosions that happened

* no technology existed for a decade or more to deal with molten cores

* ineffective security/safety process -> the plant had checks a few months before the accident with no consequences

* unwillingness to invest major amounts of money into upgrades

* life extension for outdated reactors, due to economical pressure

* no independent controlling instances for the nuclear industry


That may all very well be true, but it still means that the power plant was unsafe.

All the time nuclear power fans tell us that "this time we've learned and current design are safe".

And all the time bad things happen and they have to admit "well, not when X happens". Or "not when A and then B happens".

Just as you did here. It's nice that Fukushima could have survived an earthquake, but the tsunami isn't a freak accident, it's actually a common cause thing.

It's nice that Fukushima could have survived both the earthquake and the tsunami, had it been built differently.

But it hadn't. And that's why all this "This time everything is safe" is just as unbelievable as over the last decades.

Now, you can certainly say that decarbonization is worth the risk, and I might even be on the fence about it.

But please don't insult the general public's intelligence by ever telling us again that nuclear power is safe and it was only those stupid Russians who totally mismanaged their power plant.


Disclaimer: I am not really pro- or con- nuclear energy but try to keep an open mind.

How does what you are saying not apply to any other technology? Cars are “save” but kill more people than all nuclear power plants and accidents combined. Still we say to ourselves we can deal with the risk, which is obviously the case for lot’s of cases but might not be in some exceptions.

I think your reaction seems a little bit too emotional to an interesting and seemingly informative (haven’t fact checked his claims) personal perspective. The problem with discussions about nuclear energy is that there is a strong dogma towards openly thinking about the costs/risk/benefits in the political sphere. In Germany postponing our nuclear exit could buy us some time to get coal offline earlier and provide some stability to the grid. Ironically, the green party would never consider such a move due to ideological (and historical) reasons.


You're right. It fully applies to cars, as well. That's why we have those "more bikes" discussions here every now and then.

But that's no reason not to point out the obvious flaws in the comment I replied to.

And re: emotionality: you can wish it away, but it is real. Nuclear fans always act as if they only had to show this one scientific study to citizens, and everyone would immediately fall in line. That's hilarious.

Nuclear is done. It may be irrational, but the nuclear community has richly earned that. A little bit of humility and risk-weighing instead of grandiose claims of "perfect safety" would have helped.

But these lies of "perfect safety" were useful back then. They were a shortcut. A cheat. They could get their reactors much quicker if they made false claims.

Now they get the long-term results to their short-term thinking.


Yeah, you have point. I am certainly not in favor of large energy companies stealing their way around paying for the long-term containment of spent fuel rods for example. People should be held accountable for the damage they do and the waste that they cause. Offloading of negative externalities should be reduced as much as possible. For example, meaningful taxation of carbon emissions or the set up of a nuclear waste recycling and emergency fund where required contributions are determined by external auditors.

However, I am still a staunch defender of differentiated learning from the past and rational planning of the future. Given the information we have right now, nuclear might actually be an important (probably temporary) piece of a rational plan for a good future. Moving forward means setting the stage and right incentives for people to learn from mistakes, improve and grow.


>All the time nuclear power fans tell us that "this time we've learned and current design are safe".

This is a strawman argument. No one is claiming that old reactors are getting safer as we come up with better designs. None of the newer designs that people are claiming are safer have had issues. Fukushima was literally constructed before Chernobyl.


> My point is that nuclear power is safe, as long as all disaster scenarios are taken into account

To be honest, you could probably make that argument for anything under question in any scenario. But even if we were to skip the logical loopholes ("We took it into account, but we decided the benefits outweighed the costs because of <fill in any reason>"), let's just look at the raw numbers or simply just historical facts. Have any disasters at coal plants rendered areas uninhabitable for centuries? OK, take one step back. Would those disasters have occurred if "all disaster scenarios [were] taken into account"?

The reality is that we have no one good and practical energy solution for the world. And even though I believe that there's no practical solution that can beat a tried and tested solution like nuclear in terms of efficiency, I also believe that there's been no tried and tested solution that's been worse in terms of failure.


> Have any disasters at coal plants rendered areas uninhabitable for centuries?

Not a coal plant per se, but there's the Centralia mine fire [1] in PA, which is expected to burn for over 250 years, resulting in the entire town being abandoned.

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


coal is arguably worse even when it's working as designed. it's just amortized over a much larger area.


Anything is "arguably" worse or better. But honestly, I would challenge that point any day. As much as I'm against fossil fuels, coal powered plants only contribute a very minor part to global warming compared to lets say... ships, planes and cars. And my point is not about coal specifically - it was just mentioned because that's what the main opposition is to nuclear. Not solar/wind/water.

My point is that failure of nuclear energy provision is demonstrably worse than the failure of any other options we've tried. Does this mean it's better/worse? Who knows.

But you simply cannot say that something is safe if <xyz>, especially when history says otherwise.

I'm flabbergasted at the number of people talking unironically about "human error" as if it's historically insignificant...


> My point is that failure of nuclear energy provision is demonstrably worse than the failure of any other options we've tried.

No it isn't; when dams fail villages get swept away and everyone dies. Bad mining disasters can wipe out ~50 people too.

When Fukushima failed, basically nobody got hurt, and there is a lot of inconvenience and resources have to go to cleaning the thing up.

Obviously it is still awful for the people involved, but I'd personally rather go through a nuclear accident than a dam failure or have a mine fall on me, because I'd still be basically ok after a nuclear accident. The argument might be that it is uneconomic after accounting for the costs, but it is demonstrably safe and so a far better failure mode than anything else we've tried.

I mean, Fukushima has basically proven that the only question is economic cost/benefit.


> As much as I'm against fossil fuels, coal powered plants only contribute a very minor part to global warming compared to lets say... ships, planes and cars.

Do you have a source behind this? From what I can tell this statement seems wrong. E.g.:

https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/global-greenhouse-gas-emiss...

https://ourworldindata.org/energy-production-and-changing-en...

Coal is a huge source of energy. And the dirtiest available. And if electricity+heat production accounts for 25% of global greenhouse gasses, and transportation 14%, there's a decent chance coal power plants contribute just as much to global warming as all of transportation does, and basically zero chance that it plays a "very minor part" when compared to ships, planes, and cars.


This varies by region. In the US transport and coal power are equal in terms of their contribution. In Nigeria it's diesel and deforestation. But I will concede that it's not "minor" (not sure why I said that...)

I'm not saying that coal is good or nuclear is bad or vice versa. As I said in my original comment, there is no one practical (in terms of safety, efficiency, cost etc) global energy solution right now. I don't believe any coal-powered plants should be built. Should existing ones be replaced by nuclear? Depends on the actual area, geo-political situation (which changes over time) etc.


From what I understand, far more people have been radiated to a far larger degree by coal plants operating as designed than by nuke plants in disasters. It’s just not as obvious and doesn’t make for a good breaking-emergency headline.


How many people died because of Fukushima? How many died when the oil train blew up in the Canadian town? How many coal miners died from silicosis? How many die when a dam fails and wipes out entire towns?

The failure scenario is demonstrably better than everything we’ve tried. More people have died installing solar and wind than have from nuclear.


Right in the middle of Toronto is the Hearn Generating Station, which only used coal for a portion of its operating life. The area around it requires considerable remediation to be considered for most land uses; only film companies have leased it (and recently purchased it AFAIK) since.


Have nuclear plants rendered areas uninhabitable for centuries? I'm pretty sure Pripyat can be made habitable if someone wanted to live there, with enough financial investments. It's just that there's so much already habitable land in Belarus/Ukraine that nobody really bothered. Japan is actually trying to cleanup Hamadoori coast, which I believe they will in a few decades, and I think we'll get a lot of valuable decontamination tech and experience out of this.


>Have any disasters at coal plants rendered areas uninhabitable for centuries?

Yes, the very use of fossil fuels at the extent we use them is causing an extinction level event for the entire planet. Does the gravity of that really sink in?


The problem is that "taking all disaster scenarios into account" is easy in hindsight, but maybe not in planning. But I believe that modern nuclear power reactors can be build intrinsically safe. For me, the real problem begins with the treatment of the waste: It's hard to find a good place to store it or reprocess it. Not so much because finding the actual place is hard, but because using that place will face hard opposition of the locals, which leads, at least in a democracy, to a political compromise for the location (to see this in action, look at the story for long term storage in Germany). If I have to chose between nuclear power and democracy, my vote is on the latter.


The positive thing about hindsight is that we the human race can learn from it and subsequently re-design things like nuclear power plants, amongst a whole swathe of other technology.

Situated in an earthquake/tsunami-prone land? Situate backup generators on higher ground, build tidal walls sufficiently high.

The human race is built upon hindsight. Who was the first human who unfortunately tried eating a poisonous plant? We subsequently learned which plants were safely edible and which were not, for example.

So don't go dissing those who speak with hindsight - we humans stand on the shoulders of those who, unfortunately, lost their lives for everyone else to have the knowledge to progress :/


> The positive thing about hindsight is that we the human race can learn from it and subsequently re-design things like nuclear power plants, amongst a whole swathe of other technology.

most reactors fail because of humans and money, how can you learn about that? just look at fukushima, some problems were known, but the management have found that such a event cant happen and saved some money here and there.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_Nuclear_Powe...


I'm not dissing anybody, but I believe that there are more ways something can go wrong than we have tried yet. Luckily, our progress is not only dependent on hindsight.


My response was not directed at you personally, but was a response in general for the benefit of everyone reading the topic.

The point being that the human race's total knowledge and subsequent forward movement is based entirely on "that <event> happened therefore <these lessons have been learned and subsequent actions shall be enacted>."


I'm not so sure I'd pick Democracy over nuclear power. Recent years have made me question our idea of the absolute superiority of Democracy. Look at the clusterfuck that is the US "democracy" vs the success of Singapore or even China. The rest of the Western world in Europe is barely better off than the US.

On the other hand, not getting nuclear power deployed ASAP everywhere essentially means the long term destruction of our planet.

So all in all, I don't think it's nearly as clear cut a decision on nuclear vs. democracy, and if forced to choose I may pick the former.


>Look at the clusterfuck that is the US "democracy" vs the success of Singapore or even China

Tell that to the millions of people in concentrations camps because they practice the wrong religion or were born into the wrong ethnic group.

China also produces more carbon dioxide emissions than the US and Europe combined and it's growing at a faster rate, so I don't think you can say that the Chinese model is offering up a better solution for climate change.


> success of ... China

Not sure I'd take that definition of success. China seems like an absolute failure in the face of almost certain success. The CCP seems to ruin every good thing about the Chinese culture, suppress every positive instinct, and punish every decent behaviour. They absolutely do not care about your silly environmental causes, and if you got in the way of any one of their state-sponsored ecological disasters, you would be crushed like roadkill.

I think nuclear power generation is an excellent idea, but if it is somehow incompatible with representative democracy, there just isn't an option, I guess we have to find some other good way to generate power. Though I think the idea that the two are incompatible is nonsense.


The obvious solution is to store it in an unpopulated location. Only 15% of the Earth's surface is populated.

Yes, observant reader, parts of the ocean floor are some of the best candidate areas.


Lol, plant a reactor on the ocean floor and then let's compare cost/kw to wind and solar..


> Only 15% of the Earth's surface is populated

By humans.


Humans do wield the most political power to stop nuclear storage, given the traditional passivity of the Lizard people.


Look at Australia. We've been very easily influenced by the coal lobby. If there's plenty of jobs and investment flowing in, we'll do the same for nuclear.


Australia has huge amount of unusable dessert on the interior of the continent that could easily be used to store spent nuclear fuel.

It's honestly nuts that they use carbon-emitting fossil fuels at all given their nuclear, solar, and wind potential.


And some of that desert is already mildly radioactive, due to a. uranium deposits, and b. atmospheric nuclear tests in the 50s.


A colonialist perspective, would see it as "unusable desert" ready for nuclear waste. The original owners, Australian Aborigines, would certainly not.


Population density argues otherwise [0]. The aboriginal population of Australia pre-colonization is estimated to be around 750K spread out over nearly 3 million square miles.

There may be differing perspectives about how much of it is unusable, but the debate is between "most of the continent" and "even more than that". A nuclear waste storage facility in an unvisited portion of the outback would rank rather low on the list of bad things happening to the indigenous people of Australia, wouldn't you say?

[0] https://www.mapsofworld.com/australia/population.html


A considerable part of the waste can be reprocessed and further burned in fast breeder reactors, creating fuel for the conventional ones. The rest can be vitrified and stored. Why we don't already do this? Fear of nuclear proliferation, breeders are quite expensive, anti nuclear sentiment.


What are the radioactive properties of the end product like? E.g. does this produce waste with longer half lives? Lower initial radiation?


The waste from fast reactors is just the fission products. It's about 1% as much waste by volume as conventional reactors. Encased it in glass, and the overall mix will be back to the radioactivity of the original ore in a couple centuries.

The waste from conventional reactors is the fission products plus lots of U238, a fair amount of plutonium, some U235, and various transuranics. The transuranics and plutonium are the really long-lived radioactive waste.


https://youtu.be/rv-mFSoZOkE

Longer half-lives = less radioactivity.


We don't reprocess spent fuel because it's a net economic loss to do so. The separated plutonium is sufficiently difficult to turn into fuel that, far from saving money, it costs more than just enriching fresh uranium.


nuclear waste is not as big of a problem as most people think.


As long as shit like this happens, I consider it a big problem:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/recycling-atomic-...


Not technically, but politically. Look at the demonstrations against castor transports in Germany.


Once Hanford's contaminated ground water reaches the Columbia River, it will render every place downstream uninhabitable. eg Portland OR.

I think that's a big problem.


I will support nuclear if you have a solid solution that will work for the waste for the island living populations of the world. Hawaii for example. If a good solution for the waste can be presented there, we can more effectively move forward. Looking just at large continental areas when solving the problem leaves some holes to fill. Not saying nuclear is bad, it does have a solid cost presentation and a low pollution foot print.


I mean, if the world switches largely to nuclear power, it’s probably fine if small populated islands that don’t have anywhere to store nuclear waste keep using whatever power source they’re using now (or switch to other clean energy sources if possible). There’s no reason to let the perfect get in the way of the better.


Your post makes it sound like Fukushima failed in a catastrophically unsafe manner. I think it’s important to be explicit about the casualties that resulted from the disaster. The death toll currently stands at... maybe 1. A plant worker died of lung cancer in September 2018–over 7 years after the incident—and the government thinks it might have been caused by the plant.


At the time, the media was conflating deaths from the earthquake (there were around 15,000) and "deaths from the reactor accident."


That's the most distasteful thing of all for me.

15,896 people died that day, and no one (outside Japan) gives a shit because there was some radiation leakage and property damage.


200k people were displaced


And over a thousand people died due to the evacuation. Every one of those deaths is the moral fault of generations of anti-nuclear fear mongers who created the atmosphere of paranoia.


My opinion is that you might underestimate the magnitude of potential nuclear accidents. I think that Germany's decision to decommission over time their nuclear power plants was pretty well studied. Please see: https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/books/2018/...


And now Germany is not meeting its decarbonization goals. How is that a win for the environment?


That has little to do with the decommissioning itself, and more with the Governments stupidity and ignorance. The decommissioning is only one part of that screw-up.

Germany wants (and the whole world should):

* enough energy

* carbon-free

* nuclear-waste-free

On order to do that, you need massive investments in renewable energy and storage.

Instead, they found a way to have:

* large investment in solar energy, without protectionist measures, leading to the German solar industry dying an creating demand that lead to cheap China solar (overly simplified - feel free to elaborate in your answers)

* laws that limit the building of wind power significantly

* failure to build a power line from the north (offshore windparks) to the south (high power demands, less power resources) which currently leads to insane situations with the neighbors

* first extending the nuclear power plants permits, shortly afterwards deciding to shut down, which lead to Germany having to pay compensations to the companies (in addition to a completely botched nuclear fuel tax, that they had to pay back after it was found invalid in court)

* subsidies for dirty coal plants over decades (300 billion was a number floating around) and another I think 50 billions to help the regions which rely on the coal business after the coal shutdown

Politicians deal in compromise. They see different interests and they try to find a middle ground between those two. They do that with a pretty heavy disregard of science. Scientist are just another interest group.

Scientists: If we don't cut CO2 but this much until this date, the effects of climate change will become this nasty.

Industry: If we do that, that will cost us X moneys and endanger Y jobs and we will make Z less profit.

Government: OK. let's meet halfway.

Earth: LOL


Hey well put and on point.


>That has little to do with the decommissioning itself,

yes they cut the main source of green energy


What's green about an energy source that produces waste that has to be stored for thousands of years by a nation which only exist since 1945?

There is still no final depot for that waste, and the depots they have now are currently running full of water.

I get the argument of nuclear being zero-emission and maybe nuclear can be the solution - but not in its current form. If they wanna play, they need the new kind of reactors, which are actually safe and minimize nuclear waste. Also maybe figure out what to do with the waste before you produce it.



> My point is that nuclear power is safe, as long as all disaster scenarios are taken into account

It is impossible for us to take all disaster scenarios into account. Our knowledge is very limited.


It's not even about knowledge. When you include active human attackers that have nothing to loose or state actors in times of war in the equation it's simply impossible to secure.


Let me argue that there's at least one more design flaw: backup generators are generally not very reliable. So for any given plant, there's a comparatively high risk that they don't work when you need them. This risk is non trivial even when the generators are well taken care of (both maintenance and regular test runs) but it's very easy to skimp on the tests.

My knowledge is from another industry that relies heavily on backup generators.


Friend of mine has a high school friend that a maintenance engineer. He has contracts to maintain diesel back up generators for hospitals. And sometimes they don't start. It's very disconcerting when that happens.

The other design flaw is diesel or no they require cooling water during shutdown. What bothers me for instance is during the 1811–12 New Madrid earthquakes the Mississippi ran backwards for a while. During other earthquakes you see significant uplift. If the intakes run dry because the local hydrology suddenly changes you're just fucked.


To add to that: backup generators are also a logistical mess. Diesel doesn't last infinitely. Do in particular if you expect to run large generators to sustain significant load (like in big data centers, I don't know how significant the load is for the backup gens of a nuclear plant), the amount of diesel you get to store is impressive. Which in turn means that the logistics/tank life issues of the fuel get worse.

The physical&power infrastructure side of big data centers is really quite interesting, by the way. Not something we all get exposed to regularly but I can only encourage anyone who has a chance to learn about it to take that opportunity.


So what is your take on what seems to be the complete and utter failure for the cleanup and dealing with the aftermath?


It is extremely difficult to clean up thousands of kilometers of contaminated land - esecially if said land is comprised of mountainous area...

Miyakoji-machi itself is situated in a valley surrounded by hundreds of square kilometers of mountainous terrain. To blithley claim it would somehow be easy to decontaminate thousansd of square kilometers of mountainous area is naive folly.

It is an extremely diffcult problem to solve.


But blithley saying it is difficult is different than explaining why it /appears/ that very little effort, relative to the scope of the problem, has been applied.

Especially goven that tepco didnt even ADMIT to the other reactir failure, nor the acale of the catastrophy for a really really long time. They down played the whole thing feom day one and failed to even seek out external help immediately. Thats why thousands of kilometers and trillions of galllons of sea wer contaiminted


There will always be unknown unknowns. It's 2019, we can't even not fuck up with a commercial aircraft.


Or just put the generators on stilts, in a bunker, or simply hardened them against flooding.

There were other design flaws, too, like venting hydrogen inside the building rather than outside.


Indeed. I'll point out, however, that the Error Cascade began with the loss of the underground backup generators - hydrogen would not have been a problem if the backup generators were operative.


Yes. The way to a robust system is to stop every link in the zipper effect, not just the initiating event.


Can we just get something straight about the waste situation?

It's still not solved. As long as that is the case, I think nuclear energy is not an option.


Well then maybe we should develop reactors that solve the problem. Any fast reactor or molten salt breeder will do it. Russia has two fast reactors in commercial operation right now, and a bunch of startups are working on various designs.


And yet, very few companies (in the U.S. at least) want to build them. It's because the worst case scenario they're planning for is very bad indeed, so they have to spend all this expense to keep it from happening. Compared to every other renewable energy technology, it is more risky and has a much higher cost to get up and running.

And that's setting aside the other problem which is that many of the countries that are still growing, and will need new, clean sources of power are countries that don't have as much nuclear expertise to begin with. And some of them are countries that the West has tried to actively keep from having nuclear capability.

Better solar, wind, etc., has fewer risks than better nuclear tech in the long run.


>Better solar, wind, etc., has fewer risks than better nuclear tech in the long run.

no https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2012/06/10/energys-d...


Also the generators were originally situated in a raised location but had been moved to the ground level after their installation. If the generators had not been moved they would have functioned through the tsunami.


Of course it's possible to make nuclear safer. But how do you make the dumb humans that design them safer?


Even if you were right the spent fuel ponds were not safe. Just let an airplane crash there - the reactor may survive it the ponds will not and they may very well be the bigger problem. The amount of radioactivity stored in these ad-hoc structures globally is staggering. Increasing the problem by further investing in nuclear is not a good idea.


How many times do we have to hear this "1 in 10,000 year accident!" Argument (3? This guy wants 4!) Before we realize that the idiots designing nuclear power plants don't understand probability?


Woah. Take it easy mate.

To be clear there is no "safe" option. But this 60+ year old nuclear facility survived the 4th largest earthquake in record history, a tsunami, and only failed because the placements of the back, back up generators. Other plants (e.g. the Onagawa Nuclear Power Plan) that were closer to the epicenter survived just fine.

Old outdate plants aren't perfect, but even still its better than the guaranteed best case scenario for fossil fuels.


> survived the 4th largest earthquake in record history, a tsunami,

You make it sound like this is unbelievably improbable. Like "multiply the probabilities of an earthquake and a tsunami".

In fact, this is a prime example for a common cause failure.


I was referring to the amount of abuse it took, not the likely hood of the events.

I am flabbergasted that some commenters here argue against nuclear because of waste and accidents, while ignoring that

- coal produce radioactive waste too

- it kills a lot more persons (without taking into account global warning) due to air pollution

- the economic cost of nuclear may be underestimated, but this is nothing compared to the economic cost of global warming.

Renewable (wind and solar) are extremely important, but nuclear replace coal and gas. Renewable alone are not enough, especially since we will need a lot more electric energy for transport and to decarbonise the atmosphere; so both are needed.

It boggles my mind that Germany made a great effort on renewable, and used this extra energy to close nuclear plants rather than coals ones. (At the beginning they even had to open more coal plants!) This means that Fukushima (which made Germany close its nuclear plants) killed a lot more people in Germany than in Japan.

People's priority are wrongly aligned: first close coals and gas plants using renewable, and then think about reducing nuclear plants once we have good storage technology.

Recall that coal is 1000 times more deadly than nuclear per unit of energy (including the nuclear accidents). Taking global warming into account, this is way worse; if nothing is done we are talking about billions of death to total collapse of human civilisation.

Compared to that, the human and economic cost of nuclear waste and a few potential large nuclear explosions due to accident/malice is trivial.

Nuclear energy is a vital tool against global warming, and I am very concerned for the future of my children that even well educated people (I have these same arguments with my university colleagues) don't realise that.


I find it puzzling that proponents of nuclear technology make various claims without any calculations to back that up.

'a vital tool agains global warming'? What does that mean in numbers? How many nuclear power plants of what types for what amount of effort would be built in what timeframe for to make any sizeable contribution? How would it work?

A single reactor in the west is >10bn $ and takes a decade or more to build, while not being able to be financed on the market (see the UK).


Yep, Hinkley point is ~£95 per MWh while renewables are ~£45. It makes no sense to complain about how polluting coal plants are in relation to nuclear. It isn't the main source of competition.

Germany has been taking both nuclear and coal offline and renewables have been plugging the gap for both for some years now and will likely continue to do so.

It boggles my mind that the nuclear industry itself demands that all disaster cleanup costs over $300 million be shouldered by the government yet it is trying to project an image of how it is the "safe" option. If they don't have enough faith in their own safety to raise the cap why should we?


Germany has been taking coal offline after taking nuclear offline; and are replacing coal by gas (so they depend even more on Russia) instead of replacing it by nuclear or renewable.

They produce 3x the CO2 of France, despite their commitment against global warming.

In an ideal world, renewable would replace everything. We are not yet in this ideal world, and we don't know the time frame to get to it (there are huge technological challenges, while the challenge for nuclear reactor are solved since 50 years. Of course they are still RD to be done on the nuclear side too, like molten salt reactors).

Given the economic and human cost of global warming, investing into nuclear too alongside renewable (rather than instead) seems the safer bet. Again, I am not saying that nuclear is a miracle energy that will solve all our problem (fusion would be). Nuclear energy does have a lot of problems. But these problems are trivial which respect to global warming, and we should solve global warming first (which again will involve even more electricity than we produce right now).

Focusing on closing nuclear first (like Germany did!) is like worrying about a leak under the sink while the whole house is on fire.


It certainly doesn't look like natural gas usage is ramping up:

https://www.cleanenergywire.org/sites/default/files/styles/g...

>They produce 3x the CO2 of France, despite their commitment against global warming.

That's because France started replacing fossil fuels with nuclear in the 80s. That was the only sensible approach to reducing CO2 in the 80s. This isn't the 80s though.

>In an ideal world, renewable would replace everything. We are not yet in this ideal world

I mean, it's half the cost of nuclear and it doesn't include the risks (however small) of catastrophe.

In an ideal world we could swap out fossil fuels for something clean overnight - obviously it takes about 30 years. The question isn't "what can we replace fossil fuels with overnight", it's "what can take over from fossil fuels?"


If I count lignite + coal + natural gas + mineral oil, it goes from 76.9GW in 2010 to 79.3GW in 2019. So it did not go down either. That's because Germany needs a back up energy source for now. It could have gone down by 10GW had Germany closed coal rather than nuclear first.


Yes, maybe they should have closed coal rather than nuclear first between 2010 and 2014.

However, from this point onward it makes little difference. It makes little economic sense to build new nuclear plants given that they are more expensive and no sense to build coal. Renewables are more than capable of taking over as old nuclear and coal plants are phased out.

The issue now is how fast to phase out rickety old nuclear plants and rickety old coal plants.


What does GW measure in this context? Electricity production is usually measured in TWh.


This is the production capacity (you are right it is not a good measure), but I was replying based on the graphic.

If I look at wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_sector_in_Germany Germany went from 60% fossil, 23% nuclear, 17% renewable to 49%/13%/38% respectively.

How much further down do you expect fossil to go in ten years? I am pretty sure that by investing both on nuclear and renewable germany could have been at close to 0% right now or in a few years.


We have invested decades ago in new nuclear (pebble bed reactor, breeder, reprocessing, ...) and it was a costly failure. Why should we keep making mistakes?

Look at France, they have zillions Euros to invest to get ONE EPR reactor online. They are losing huge amounts of money on another one they are building in Finland. Germany lost a lot of money on the EPR, too. The EPR France builds in the UK will be the most expensive power plant on the planet with >20bn pounds costs.

> How much further down do you expect fossil to go in ten years?

The projections for 2030 are around 65% electricity from renewable energy.


So still 35% coming from fossil if the remaining nuclear plants are shut down. Again, Germany goals and effort are laudable, but you miss my point, it is not about nuclear vs renewable, but nuclear vs fossils as a complement to renewable.

Why didn't Germany close its coal plants first? This would have saved several Metric Tons of CO2 and saved the life of a few thousands people (due to air pollution).

When is Germany going to reach no CO2 emissions? (Expanding nuclear along renewable would have meant it could have reached this goal right now). You talk about the costs of EPR (which exploded I agree), but this is nothing compared to the cost of climate change, which Germany contribute three times more than France. This cost is shared across the world, but this is hypocritical to not take it into account.


> but you miss my point, it is not about nuclear vs renewable, but nuclear vs fossils as a complement to renewable.

I don't miss your point, I just don't think nuclear is a viable complement to renewable in Germany.

> Why didn't Germany close its coal plants first?

Because it wanted to get rid of nuclear first and as fast as possible. The reasons for that is all known and a little research can explain it to you - beyond the believe that it was 'irrational'. It's not that you need to agree with it, but people here had other priorities than you have.

Still CO2 emissions were reduced by 27% from 1990 to 2016.

The next two decades will bring the end of coal-based electricity.

> When is Germany going to reach no CO2 emissions?

When do you stop going to vacations via airplanes? Stop eating meat? Stop driving a car?

> Expanding nuclear along renewable would have meant it could have reached this goal right now

No, nuclear and renewable are not compatible. Nuclear is centralized monopolistic, mostly state-owned form of energy. I sucks up huge amounts of investments and corrupts everything around it.

> This cost is shared across the world

Germany invested into renewable energy and jump-started the PV business. That's equally important.


> Because it wanted to get rid of nuclear first and as fast as possible.

And this killed a few thousand persons and rejected MegaTons of CO2 in the atmosphere that could have been avoided.

> The next two decades will bring the end of coal-based electricity.

This is 30 years later than could have been, and gas instead of coal is not the solution either. Will Germany have 100% renewable in 20 years?

> When do you stop going to vacations via airplanes? Stop eating meat? Stop driving a car?

I changed my way of living already. I could still do more yes, but the most efficient way would be to convince policy makers to close coals/gas before nuclear.

> No, nuclear and renewable are not compatible. Nuclear is centralized monopolistic, mostly state-owned form of energy. I sucks up huge amounts of investments and corrupts everything around it.

Again, the drawbacks of nuclear power are nothing compared to the drawback of climate change, and gas corrupts too.


>Will Germany have 100% renewable in 20 years?

Probably yes. They seem to be poised to get there quicker than anybody else.

The inhibition to us achieving this goal earlier wasn't a lack of faith in nuclear power - it was a lack of belief in the importance of dealing with climate change at all.

Moreover (and this is the critical part), it's not like nuclear power is going to get us to 100% renewables any quicker than solar/wind will at this point - not since they broke the cost barrier in 2014.

In the 1980s nuclear was the only way to go zero carbon. 10 years it would have helped us get there quicker. Since 2014, there's no real point to building out nuclear capacity any more - new nuclear can't compete on cost only rickety old plants can.


> Again, the drawbacks of nuclear power are nothing compared to the drawback of climate change

One Fukushima or Chernobyl scale event in a densely populated country like Germany on a densely populated continent like Europe? Having reactors with molten cores near my home town with a 5 mill people metro area?

Japan had massive luck that the wind wasn't blowing in the direction of Tokyo.


Chernobyl: cannot happen.

Fukushima: how many deaths? Even if the wind was blowing in the direction of Tokyo?

But sure, let's close the nuclear reactor who killed nobody in Germany, and keep open the coal plants which still accounted for 228TWh in 2018, meaning they killed around 22800 persons per year. And let's only close them in 2038, 30 years later, having wasted 350 Million Tons of CO2 by year and killed hundreds of thousands of people in total.

We are lucky that the gas lobby is way less evil than the nuclear lobby <https://twitter.com/Senficon/status/1110278976654794753>


I said 'scale of an accident'.

> Even if the wind was blowing in the direction of Tokyo?

Millions of people trying to escape...


>I mean, it's half the cost of nuclear

it's not https://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/pubs/2015/7057-proj-costs-elect...


Your report is from 2015. Given how rapidly PV costs have continued to decline (and how major nuclear efforts collapsed with cost explosions since then), that's useless.


> Your report is from 2015

so ?

>Given how rapidly PV costs have continued to decline (and how major nuclear efforts collapsed with cost explosions since then), that's useless.

you say so, but the one with evidence is me not you


https://www.pv-magazine.com/features/investors/module-price-...

Compare 2015 prices to current prices.

Anyone with even cursory knowledge of this area would have know how fast PV prices have fallen.


that's not the only cost of renewables,look at germany and france https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2019/02/05...


Shellenberger has zero credibility. This is the guy who claimed photovoltaics use rare earth metals.


>Shellenberger has zero credibility.

not an argument , bring proofs he's wrong


> Germany has been taking coal offline after taking nuclear offline; and are replacing coal by gas (so they depend even more on Russia) instead of replacing it by nuclear or renewable

Germany's Energiewende is a many decade long plan with going beyond 80+ renewable energy for electricity in 2050.

The Energiewende is not just about CO2 reductions, it is about making renewable energy viable in an industrialized country. This has impact for all of us. Not just in Germany.

If the US had a forward looking government and population, we would much further along the way. The energy consumption in the US is twice as high per capita as in Germany and there is no credible energy policy beyond fracking gas. The current US president is a coal lover and he was voted for that into his office. Imagine the amount of research money and infrastructure money the US COULD invest into a new energy systems - instead it wastes money on wars, consumption and trillion dollar deficits.

> investing into nuclear too alongside renewable (rather than instead) seems the safer bet

That's why it has to go and somebody has to invest to make that viable. Germany is doing exactly that.

> Focusing on closing nuclear first (like Germany did!)

Germany did focus on renewable energy and the most incompatible industry had to go first.

Renewable energy is not about nuclear and renewable side by side - this won't work.

Nuclear is a huge state owned monopolistic system. Renewable is market oriented, decentralized, non-monopolistic. The break-up of the old system was inevitable to jump-start the new energy system.

It's a complete paradigm shift like going from Mainframe computing to a distributed Internet.


Germany's goal is laudable, but even if it manages to go full renewable by 2050 that's still 40 years of green house gas emissions it could have avoided had it gone both nuclear and renewable.

Nuclear can be made smaller (molten salt reactor, but I do admit that there are huge challenges for that too), and more flexible. Germany's plant were not as flexible as France's, but France's can be quite flexible: for those of you who can read French <https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1102620969808658432.html> a variation of 10GW of nuclear production in a few hours.


> molten salt reactor

will have zero impact in the next three decades. There is no market offering and no buyer.

No one is investing in yet another fuel cycle and nuclear technology. There are no reactors of scale and there is no industry surrounding it.

> Germany's plant were not as flexible as France's

Germany had a few flexible nuclear plants. But all old.

> a variation of 10GW of nuclear production in a few hours.

The result is that France has invested very little in renewable energy in the last decades and created a very inefficient and state owned energy system.

France's centralized nuclear state owned energy system and distributed multi-producer/owner renewable energy are largely incompatible systems. Proof: the lack of investments into renewable in the last decades in France.

The main question is this: where are CURRENT investments going. Not nuclear, but renewable. This future had been made possible by investments like the German Energiewende, while other countries did invest in mostly nothing. They even failed to bring nuclear forward (-> US). The US sits on a bunch of outdated reactors and not much idea how to replace them economically with newer and better ones.


The big trend in the US was the switch to natural gas (a trend now ended by the rise of renewables and soon storage.)

Natural gas had the big advantage of being burned in combustion turbines, which are cheaper than other thermal cycles. Heat exchangers are costly, but a simple cycle turbine doesn't need any (if it doesn't have a regenerator).

The biggest nuclear operator here (Exelon) is shit talking new nuclear, putting their investment into CO2 capture, renewables, and storage.


Calculate how many wind generators you need to guarantee the same production as Hinkley point and you'll see that it is not really realistic.

Then, take into account the goal of making of vehicles electric in the next 20 years.

There is no viable alternative to nuclear as of today even if renewables should of course be pushed as much as possible.

Germany is emitting heavily because most of its electricity comes from fossil fuel and it decided to kill nuclear power of purely ideological reasons. (wood fired plants are counted as renewables in the EU, by the way)

The absolute priority should be to get rid of emissions, i.e. fossil fuels. Germany decided to get rid of nuclear energy first.

They are not a good example to follow.


> Germany is emitting heavily because most of its electricity comes from fossil fuel and it decided to kill nuclear power of purely ideological reasons

It does because it is a relatively industrialized country. CO2 emissions fell last year by 4.5%.

These are actual numbers for electricity production in Germany: from 2017 to 2018:

5.6% more wind electricity, 6.3% more solar electricity.

2.7% less coal/lignite, 6% less hard coal, 9% less gas.

The share of renewable energy of electricity production is 40%.

In 2030 it is projected to be at around 65%.

This is going to be a revolution. We now have working days in 2019 where >60% of the electricity are coming from renewables. There was a week this year with 64.8% renewable energy for electricity, with wind providing 48.4%. Two decades ago this was thought to be impossible.


> It does because it is a relatively industrialized country.

No, it does because its electricity comes from fossil fuels.

You are completely avoiding the point of my comment. Germany could have much, much lower emissions with nuclear but it has decided to continue emitting for political reasons, while trying to claim that they are 'green'...


We could also be much much less habitated with one Fukushima or Chernobyl scale event.


We know how to make nuclear power safe. Nuclear power is safe.

It's not helpful to try to kill the discussion by stroking irrational fears.


> We know how to make nuclear power safe.

No, we really don't. We know how to make all sorts of things reasonably safe. Yet planes still fall out of the sky, refineries catch on fire, dams fail, etc. In essence: Any nuclear reactor will have a probability different from zero for producing an incredibly expensive nuclear accident.

Much about accidents in complex high risk technologies has been said in "Normal Accidents" by Perrow in the 80s. The reasons he identified why complex systems fail will always be with us. Especially the notion that it is more often than not the organizations and not the technology which enables major accidents.


> Any nuclear reactor will have a probability different from zero for producing an incredibly expensive nuclear accident.

A coal fired power plant will also have a probability different from zero for producing nuclear waste.

In fact, AFAIK the radiation risk from living near a coal powered power plant is significantly larger than living next to a nuclear reactor.

I guess if this was taken into account coal powered power plants would also require incredibly expensive cleanup.

That said as long as renewable is cheaper we should go with that going forward.


We have "probability different from zero" to be annihilated by an asteroid...

This is again spreading irrational fears.


>Calculate how many wind generators you need to guarantee the same production as Hinkley point

Hinkley Point = 3200 MW Average wind turbine generates = 3 MW

That's about 1,100 wind turbines at current tech. GE is working on a 12 MW wind turbine - it would take 270 of them would replace Hinkley point.


3MW is the peak power when the wind is blowing constantly at the maximum speed the wind turbine was designed to operate (and not over, at which point the turbine enters safe mode and stops to prevent damage).

Load factors for wind turbines are rarely over 40%. Nuclear's is 80%. So you'd need 2200 turbines to replace one Hinkley point. And all the gas power plants to make the energy when the wind is not blowing...


https://www.ge.com/renewableenergy/wind-energy/offshore-wind...

Quite right, my mistake.

GE's new turbine has a 63% capacity apparently. So, 428 of them are needed, apparently.

Either way, I don't see what is so intrinsically unrealistic about setting up 500 of these things offshore as compared to a hinkley point.

Gansu Wind farm in China is 8,000MW - already 2.5x onen Hinkley.


You seem to be leaving out the fact that most nuclear plants have a fair amount of downtime as well in order to refuel. While I don't have UK statistics, in the US it's typically 30-40 days per year when they don't run (so 10% of the time or more). So, you would need more than one source to make up for the nuclear plant's downtime just as you would to make up for areas offshore where the wind isn't blowing at top speed.


> Nuclear's is 80%

Why is that?

I'm sure we're all broadly in favour of free markets. Do electricity consumers buy nuclear because it's good value?[0]

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/dec/21/hinkley-point-c...


Because the nuclear reaction is not dependant on the wind blowing to produce energy.

It's not 100% because you need to do maintenance at times.


> the nuclear reaction is not dependant on the wind blowing to produce energy

Perhaps I wasn't clear enough, I was alluding to the lively debate about how the selling price for electricity is set, and how it should vary depending on market conditions.

I see no reason to lock-in minimum pricing for any kind of electricity generation many decades in advance. Why is that necessary for new nuclear plants?

In other words: do we need to guarantee a minimum market price 30 years in advance in order to make it look like building a nuclear plant makes economic sense?


I would think that they'd run it closer to 100% and do all the maintenance during a scheduled outage...at least that's how I understand they do the maintenance planning/scheduling at Palo Verde.


Germany has 30000+ wind turbines.


> An average onshore wind turbine with a capacity of 2.5–3 MW can produce more than 6 million kWh in a year

(Source: http://www.ewea.org/wind-energy-basics/faq/)

That's an actual average of 685 kW, so 4,700 turbines for Hinkley Point. But that's still the _average_ production. If, or rather when, there's no wind during a high demand period you get a nice blackout.

Also:

> So a 2-megawatt wind turbine would require a total area of about half a square kilometer

(Source: https://sciencing.com/much-land-needed-wind-turbines-1230463...

So for those 4,700 turbines you need more than 2,350 km^2, so the whole of Dorset covered and as said, you'd still need a backup.


>Average wind turbine generates = 3 MW

it doesn't work like that , capacity factor of wind is almost half of the capacity factor of nuclear


... when the wind blows.


Yep, although:

* The wind is always blowing somewhere.

* At current prices it makes sense just to overproduce and figure out ways to time shift demand (e.g. start using electric storage heaters again)


Regarding your comment on wood fired plants: To me it seems that you imply that that is not renewable, which I do not understand. If you regrow the trees that you've burned (cleanly) down then your net impact will be zero, right?



Maybe you should try living in 2019, rather than 2012 or 2015.


maybe 4 years aren't so relevant,maybe you should bring proof's of what you say


Solar costs have fallen very rapidly. Four years is forever for this subject. You should acquaint yourself with the basics of the situation.


>Solar costs have fallen very rapidly.

proof? beacuse using solar and wind bring a rise in the cost of energy https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2019/02/05...


Title of the piece: "If Saving The Climate Requires Making Energy So Expensive, Why Is French Electricity So Cheap?"

Gee. They have a bunch of nuclear reactors whose cost has already been paid for. That cost is not reflected in current electric rates. When they try to build new ones, the cost is ridiculous, and they find building renewables sources would be cheaper.

"Replacing nuclear with renewables would save France $44.5 billion"

https://futurism.com/the-byte/nuclear-plants-renewable-energ...


> That cost is not reflected in current electric rates

nope ''In fact, the carbon-intensity of French electricity has increased. After years of subsidies for solar and wind, France’s 2017 emissions of 68g/CO2 per kWh was higher than any year between 2012 and 2016.

The reason? Record-breaking wind and solar production did not make up for falling nuclear energy output and higher natural gas consumption. And now, the high cost of renewable electricity is showing up in French household electricity bills.

According to Eurostat, although French households pay 41% less than German households, electricity in France has, over the past decade, been increasing in price much faster than electricity in Germany.''


> According to Eurostat, although French households pay 41% less than German households

Because they don't pay the real price. The whole show is government owned (EDF, Areva (or what they are called today)). and thus a lot of money is coming from the government - like financing for acquiring Areva parts. The government keeps nuclear power afloat with huge amounts of money.

Example: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Europe-checks-Fre...

EDF is 56bn€ in debt and can't pay for the maintenance/replacement of its aging reactors. The new Flamanville reactor is now at 11bn€ cost...


Building new nuclear is slow and expensive because we stopped doing it for a looong time.

Way too many power plants are from the 80's and before. Maybe they've had a few upgrades, but they're mostly at the end of their lifespan or even over their recommended life.


Check the fate of the EPR projects.

Just replacing eol reactors in the west will be hard.


There isn’t a single line in OP’s post that isn’t wrong. He gets the costs wrong, he gets the deployment wrong, he gets efficiencies wrong, he get political stories wrong. If a post is not going to get downvoted, HN should at least have a way to label it as incorrect.


A tell is the comparison is always vs coal instead of natural gas or renewables ...


http://withouthotair.com/

"A vital tool agains global warming" means that it's our only possibility. It's not about cost, it's about what is physically possible.


It's always about cost, if it wasn't about cost we could just build so much PV/Wind + Power to Gas/Liquid Facilities as we need and be done with it. And building new nuclear is way more expensive than projected in your link, (No blame to the authors, 10 years ago they couldn't know that those numbers are not realistic) while Wind/PV are still becoming cheaper every year)

they assume ~1,3 Billion per 1 GW nuclear capacity[0], but right now it looks like 3-5 Billion per 1 GW is more whats happening. [0] http://withouthotair.com/c28/page_216.shtml [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olkiluoto_Nuclear_Power_Plant#...


It's not about cost, because there is not enough wind, solar, tidal and geothermal energy combined on the British isles to satisfy power consumption.

If you take single fuck up, that's been shown in court to be fuck up and then deduct from there that nuclear power is all over as expensive Olkiluoto 3, then umm.

Do you also smoke because your granny smoked and lived to her nineties?


> It's always about cost

As the direness of the climate situation becomes more and more urgent, cost becomes irrelevant.

During times of emergency and total war, dollars don't mean anything. If you have the manpower and the raw resources to do something, it gets done.

Ignoring the politics and economics of energy production, from a physics standpoint nuclear is a high outlier in terms of energy density per resource spent or per unit climate change impact, and that fact will increasingly override dollar costs or public perception as the the climate gets increasingly hostile.

Until the crisis becomes apparent, I am sure nuclear will continue to be a mostly ignored option across europe and the west while political forces dominate the issue. China on the other hand isn't bothered by public sentiment[1]

[1] https://www.reuters.com/article/china-nuclearpower/china-lik...


That isn't true about war and it certainly isn't true about public utilities. People went to jail all the time for overcharging the government during times of war. Money is a way to measure value and it always matters.

As far as public utilities go, the problem is that people who give them money expect a small but static return on investment. For almost all the 20th century they were a mostly safe place to keep money. That was part of the reason why Enron was one of the few companies where the white collar criminals were actually punished.

One of the major problems is that the people running them don't know how to manage projects that are more risky and the people doing the investing don't know how to account for the uncertainty around fossil fuels, versus intermittent renewables, versus huge nuclear projects. The message from the politicians is always "your money in these projects is safe", and they've made sure to keep that promise even if they've put a different spin on it because the underlying shockwaves would be as bad as government bonds going bad.


just claiming that without any numbers and without scenarios to back it up will convince no one.

You'll need to answer real practical questions like the UK currently faces: who will build the proposed reactors and who will pay how much for it. It's not like this is an easy question, just check the news the UK from the past few years, with Hitachi and Toshiba giving up.

France's state owned nuclear industry builds another plant in the UK - with a proposed cost of 20bn pounds... The decision for this reactor took almost ten years.


the energy density would be a factor if we had any actual space issues. But the area needed for solar and wind is not what is the problem. I agree with you that it is an emergency where not enough action is taken, but even then why not go for 100% Renewables (with Battery, Power-To-Gas, Power-To-Liquid etc. as storage) when that is cheaper than nuclear.


Three reasons.

1: It's not actually cheaper than nuclear. The majority of the cost associated with nuclear is regulatory compliance and political rather than practical in nature (see: China). Discounting this cost makes nuclear the dominant option. Factoring for lifecycle costs pushes it much further ahead. Fun fact: there is currently no way to recycle photovoltaics whose useful lifespan is 20 years.

2: Use of landmass. Deploying wind or solar consumes landmass which must be cleared of flora/fauna. The landmass required to power a nation via these means is not at all negligible. This is contrary to managing climate change for obvious reasons.

Geothermal power stands as an exception here and should absolutely be deployed over nuclear where permissible.

3: Excess capacity. The climate debate is converging on the fact that we are past the point of no return and we need to actively sequester carbon out of the atmosphere to get back to a healthy scenario. Ignoring the specifics, this basically means that we need to 'un-spend' all the energy that we have consumed over the last 50 years via fossil fuels. While still meeting the growing energy demands of civilisaion. We need to be producing a huge excess of energy for this strategy to be viable.

Renewables are nice, but pragmatically they are not nearly enough to dig us out of the hole where we have found ourselves.


| The majority of the cost associated with nuclear is regulatory compliance and political rather than practical in nature (see: China).

An engineer in Shanghai costs $20K/year. You can't point to the cost of nuclear in China and pretend it will reflect the cost in the west.


> is regulatory compliance and political rather than practical in nature (see: China)

Any opposition to the the energy policy in China will see themselves in a labor camp. That's a cheap way to deal with it.

If you think that nuclear is cheaper in China than in the West, then part of the reason is that it has other hidden costs.


repeated appeals were not what I was looking for. where are the numbers which describe the the contribution of nuclear power to control global warming? How many? What timeframe? Costs? Who builds them? Which models? Where do we build them? What effects does it have when? What are possible scenarios?

If nuclear proponents want to be taken serious, they need to answer those kinds of questions. Currently nuclear is stagnating on a global scale.


If you take climate change stuff seriously, then the answers are these:

>How many?

As many as you can build. You run out of engineers and carpenters before you make too many reactors in time.

>What timeframe?

Now.

>Costs?

Doesn't matter that much. Easily cheaper than climate change.

>Who builds them?

Whoever can.

>Which models?

Hardly matters, any model is safer than burning coal.

>Where do we build them?

Doesn't matter. Any location is safer than burning coal.

>What effects does it have when?

Hope that we might have climate change to stop below 3 degrees.


Just like I thought. You have no idea how to do it, what it is going to cost and what impact it will have.

This will convince nobody.


Are you doubting nuclear or are you doubting climate change?


I'm a bit on the pro-nuclear side, but if you met a banker and asked him for a couple of billion upfront to build a nuclear plant, and said those things, he'd reject you outright.


Of course. I'm not arguing to get funding here. I'm arguing that if you believe the IPCC storyline about climate change, then nuclear is the only viable option. Building should have started yesterday and the voting public of democratic nations should be fully aware of this.

If you don't believe the IPCC storyline, nuclear is still best power source right now. But there is no hurry. We can safely dabble with renewables and batteries and such until oil, gas and coal run out. No political hard decisions are needed, because prices of fossil fuels will increase well in advance to any catastrophe. So it will become economically sound to produce energy in some other way. Maybe it won't be nuclear then, I don't really care.


Two important questions to ask are:

- Will you volunteer to live by the nuclear plant or waste storage facilities?

- Will you work at or advise your friends & family to work there?


[flagged]


If we talk about future, everything is random stuff pulled from someones ass.

Future cannot be researched, calculated or predicted. You can just be worried about stuff and bet on some solutions to give your children a decent place to live in.


> Future cannot be researched, calculated or predicted

Sure it can. Otherwise you wouldn't know about the effects of climate change.

> You can just be worried about stuff and bet on some solutions to give your children a decent place to live in.

Use a bicycle. Don't fly. Don't make vacation on a cruise ship. Don't buy flown in goods. Don't eat meat. Don't reproduce. Recycle stuff. Get solar onto your roof. Heat with electricity from non-fossil fuels. Don't use a car.


>Otherwise you wouldn't know about the effects of climate change.

Well actually we don't know. We have maybe a sophisticated guess at best. Knowledge requires data, that by definition cannot be gathered from future. At least not before someone invents a time machine.

Even the best forecasts we can make about anything are very poor. Look at a simple things like construction budgets or projected congestion of particular traffic system upgrade. They are usually off by magnitude of order. And this is well documented by Kahnemann.

In regards of atmosphere, it might be that IPCC has overestimated the whole thing with a fat margin. Or it might be we are all dead no matter what we do.

>Don't reproduce.

If I don't do that, then I'm not going to give a shit about this phenomena anyhow.

>Heat with electricity from non-fossil fuels.

Where I'm from, that's impossible without the whole state going non-fossil fuel. Which again is practically impossible without nuclear.

Heating accounts probably about half of my carbon footprint. And with rough winters that's a lot. I've already minimized everything else.


> If I don't do that, then I'm not going to give a shit about this phenomena anyhow.

I fear that any savings in CO2 emissions will be useless, due to an increasing world population.

> Heating accounts probably about half of my carbon footprint

Heating, travel, transportation, industrial production, production of chemicals, production of concrete/cement ( https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46455844 ), food production, ... all those need to be addressed across the whole spectrum of climate-active gas - not just Co2, but also Methan and others.


>I fear that any savings in CO2 emissions will be useless, due to an increasing world population.

Not having kids would help, but suicide would help more.

Many things matter, but big things matter more than small things. Electricity, traffic, industrial production and heating are all big things. All linked to energy production.


> big things matter more than small things

Not if the small things come in large numbers.


People have done these calculations. They come out in favor of nuclear in terms of area efficiency and price per kilowatt hour. It is just that politically it is a hard sell in a lot of countries.


And in the real world, instead of the calculations, nuclear is far behind in price per kWh. Unfortunately for nuclear, the power has to be generated in the real world, not on powerpoint slides.


I'm pro-puclear energy, but I also have enough experience and cynicism in life to also know that the biggest danger of nuclear is the human factor itself. As long as men and women will be men and women, there will be errors, malice, corruption, and all kind of factors that will affect our safety. Applying strict measures and processes will limit these risks but the current opacity of this industry is already a bad start and an hindrance to its success. I know it's not an easy problem to fix but it is vital to our safety on the long term.


Nuclear energy need long term commitment. You can't simply shut it down by stop funding it.

This is not something I trust our government can do.

Other then that, nuclear is very clean and safe.


And I am flabbergasted (again) because of the pro nuclear power comments. Why should we create energy from something so complicated and hard to control when we have something simple and easy to grasp like water, solar and windpower? I understand statistically speaking a nuclear power plant is save, but the risk is calculated by multiplying propability of occurance and potential loss. The potential loss in a maximum credible accident of a power plant is much much higher than in any other form of energy generation.

Sure, we can build nuclear power plants, but let's make sure that we have used our potential for wind-, water- and solar power generation first (besides other stuff, like having good insulation on buildings, LEDs, etc).

I also feel like people are pro- or contra nuclear power to show their alliance to their political parties more than for rational reasons. We should stop that.


Because you can't run steel mills and other big energy consumers with solar or wind. These require power in the scale of Terawatts each year. 24/7.

Renewables like solar and wind are decent for offsetting peaks and maybe generate some household electricity, but you're delusional if you think they can be used to replace coal or nuclear in the next decade. Or even quarter century.

Until we make giant leaps in energy storage technology, we NEED something that can provide a steady base flow of electricity 24/7/365.

And currently nuclear power is our best option for that. Burning fossil fuels (coal, wood, etc) is shit, we have only a limited number of places for water power.


What is needed as a complement to renewable energy is dispatchable generation, i.e., plants that can be quickly turned on and off as the supply from renewables changes. Nuclear (and also coal) is a really bad option for this because the time to turn these plants on an off is measured in days.


There really aren't any of these in the scale we need, they're used even today to offset peak loads. And all of them still burn fossil fuels.

The US has a fancy water pumping station in the scale we'd need (3000MW)[0], but it relies heavily on the local geography and wouldn't be economically feasible in the Netherlands for example.

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


The reason peaking turbines use fossil fuels is the lack of a carbon tax sufficient to drive them to other inputs. In particular, they'd migrate to renewable hydrogen in a CO2-constrained situation.


Intermittency is completely irrelevant because reductions in CO2 can still happen if you switch from coal baseload to load following gas which produces half as much Co2 and is only used when renewables don't produce energy.


Except than China and Australia are doing exactly what you said cannot be done.

Also Canada is complaining that they have a massive surplus of hydroelectricity, that they would like to sell us, but it’s apparently very complicated to get anyone to agree on anything, even if the total infrastructure cost and the energy would be cheaper than a nuclear plant.


Modern electric arc steel mills can be stopped and started easily.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steel_mill#Minimill


| Because you can't run steel mills and other big energy consumers with solar or wind.

Ah, the Argument from Bad Engineering. If you stop and think real hard I'm sure you could imagine many ways to do this. And they'd be cheaper than trying to run steel mills off nuclear reactors.


Ok, then: What's you're preferred form of industrial-scale energy storage?


For this application? Pumped hydro, high temperature thermal in firebrick (a technology used by the steel industry in the 1920s), and hydrogen.

Also, adapt iron/steel production to use direct electrolytic methods, although that's going to require more R&D. The potential for dispatchability of demand is enormous.


If you are interested in some numbers about the subject, there is very good resource for the case of British isles. The situation is of course different for USA the people per area is different. But you anyhow can get a grasp why renewables are problematic.

http://withouthotair.com/


Renewable are a way better source of energy than nuclear power and we should definitively invest on them. But currently they does not suffice (because we don't have enough energy storage capacity). So we need nuclear both - now, to complete renewable, instead of using gas/coal - in the future, as a back up plan, if good storage technology is not found and renewable are not enough.

Remember that we will need a lot more electric energy if we want electric cars and use energy for decarbonisation; so we should use nuclear until renewable completely fill the gap.


If you're just talking about potential loss hydropower is not the argument you want to make here. Just the Banqiao dam failure alone has caused far more fatalities than nuclear power ever has including Chernobyl.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banqiao_Dam

Even just recently in the United States the Oroville dam came pretty close to catastrophe and required the evacuation of 188,000 people. Repairing the Oroville dam cost $1.1 billion, even back in the 70s the Teton Dam collapse cost over $300 million.

I'm all in favor of using hydroelectric power in places where we need to build a dam to control flooding but building a dam for power alone is ecologically damaging, floods tons of land, and even if you wanted to try to build more, there's not a lot of suitable locations.

As for the complexity of keeping a nuclear reactor under control, this isn't the 50s, we have reactor designs that are dramatically safer than older reactors, we aren't building them. I think you're wrong about trying to conserve energy as well. I'm not saying that we should waste it, but real conservation of energy isn't going to happen without significantly changing our current lifestyles. We don't need to do that if we just invest in sustainable clean energy in the form of nuclear power in the first place.


>Why should we create energy from something so complicated and hard to control when we have something simple and easy to grasp like water, solar and windpower?

I think because it's way more expensive than having a mixed source of energy. The issue is what are we able to give up for having energy? Air pollution? Security that I don't get blown in a nuclear plant explosion (the fear is always there it seems...) ? Money? I think that nuclear energy is not bad, it's just a transition, as the parent comment said. And it's a better transition than coal.


Has anyone discredited the old deaths per kilowatt hour metric? [1]

If not, nuclear is still the safest source of power, even including disasters like Chernoble and Fukushima. The major disasters come to mind more readily because they receive heavy media coverage, but this is in part because they're so rare, unlike the utterly routine problem of coal ash ponds spilling. Outside of major disasters, nuclear power produces so much energy that it's safer than wind power, which only kills people via construction and maintenance accidents.

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2012/06/10/energys-d...


Yep. Coal plant deaths are local news.

A nuclear power plant failure (however minor) is global news for weeks and weeks.


Nuclear power plant failure, like Chornobyl, _can_ make whole continent inhabitable for thousands of years.


Chernobyl made a large area a restricted zone, but nowhere near a continent scale. Besides, I really dislike people bringing up Chernobyl as an example of dangers - the RBMK reactor type like the one in Chernobyl still operates in 10 reactors producing electricity(and they will until 2024 at least). Even Chernobyl itself operated into 2000s before the last reactor block was shut down. And the only catastrophic fault with them happened because of an idiotic test that basically was meant to test what happens if you switch off all cooling and disable all safeguards - well, the reactor explodes, that's what. The test itself was criminal.


Nobody said that Chornobyl hit whole continent, but it's because some people sacrificed their lives to stop continent scale disaster[1], not because it was small scale disaster.

Chornobyl operated till 2000s because cheap atom blasted huge hole in budget of Ukraine. They stopped when Ukraine received financial help to close these reactors. Tax payers and international aid covered these expenses and will continue to cover them for next few centuries at least. Closure of single reactor costs significant part of budget of small country. Closure of bunch of reactors can eat whole budget or two.

If one stupid can devastate whole continent, then better to switch to something else, because it doesn't look like we will breed out stupid people in near future.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raB80HRA1IQ


Sure, if we exclude everything that could go wrong, we have a very safe system.

Unfortunately, it happened. It really happened. And "only those stupid Russians could have done it" doesn't comfort me.


It's not inhabitable but if you have a choice between living in a contaminated area or a non contaminated area then you will always choose the latter. The animals ib chernobyl actually thrive because of the lack of human intervention.


>It boggles my mind that Germany made a great effort on renewable, and used this extra energy to close nuclear plants rather than coals ones.

Today Germany is still affected by the radioactive fallout (Chernobyl). For example many wild boars in Thuringia are radioactively contaminated with caesium-137. It will still take about 300 years until the radioactive caesium-137 vanishes.


A banana is radioactive as well. What is the exact negative effect compared to coal?


I hate the banana equivalent dose. It entirely papers over the substantial difference between alpha, beta and gamma radiation, ignores where radioactive substances accumulate in the body and what effect those differences on the actual inflicted damage have. It’s a cheap stunt to dismiss any sort of reasonable debate. If you cite it in defence of any actual nuclear fallout pollution, I personally consider it as proof that you’ve just disqualified in this discussion.


I think you've somehow ended up with the exact opposite understanding of what the banana equivalent does is intended for. It serves to call attention to the fact that measurable radioactivity is not necessarily dangerous enough to worry about, and that an actual safety assessment requires more detail than just pointing out that something is radioactive.

Similarly, pointing out that there is a measurable amount of Cs-137 in wildlife in Germany is not a statement about safety. More context and more quantification is required to make it anything other than sensationalism.


> It serves to call attention to the fact that measurable radioactivity is not necessarily dangerous enough to worry about

That’s what it may have been created for, but it’s not what it’s used for.

> Similarly, pointing out that there is a measurable amount of Cs-137 in wildlife in Germany is not a statement about safety.

It’s been quantified and researched and the recommendation is still that one should control its intake of game meat and especially mushrooms from these regions because the CS-137 concentration can (depending on the kind) have multiples of the legal maximum (1) It’s perfectly safe to occasionally eat normal amounts’ but dismissing it as bananas is not appropriate.

(1) https://www.bfs.de/DE/themen/ion/umwelt/lebensmittel/pilze-w...


> It’s perfectly safe to occasionally eat normal amounts’ but dismissing it as bananas is not appropriate.

I'm not seeing anyone here trying to imply that it's as safe as bananas, but I do see a comment that tries to imply that the degree of Cs-137 contamination is about a thousand times higher than safe levels (300 years, ~30 year half-life). As your citation shows, the worst measurements of bioaccumulated Cs-137 in recent years have been merely 2-3x safe levels, with older outliers having been 10x safe levels.


> but I do see a comment that tries to imply that the degree of Cs-137 contamination is about a thousand times higher than safe levels (300 years, ~30 year half-life)

That’s not what the comment says. It says that it will take 300 years for all the CS to vanish. But even by your interpretation, a response along the lines “This is a perfectly safe amount of radiation by all standards (or, as my comment: This is perfectly safe for limited consumption) would have been substantially better than pulling out the BED and trying to shut the discussion down with it. Note that the line you quote from my comment includes a wordplay on the BED (“bananas”)


> It says that it will take 300 years for all the CS to vanish.

Yeah, and that's an obviously wrong statement when taken literally. So which is the more reasonable interpretation: that he was trying to say that the danger from the Cs-137 would take 300 years to vanish, or that he was providing a number that's not just wrong, but also irrelevant and misleading?


Look, you’re moving goalposts. I criticize the usage of the BED in trying to make that point. I don’t intend to discuss whether the dosage is dangerous or not, or whether the point that levels still are substantially increased was well made or even appropriate.


Not only that but, you would have be constantly exposed by constantly eating bananas. And even at one banana/minute you would only be exposed to an amount of radiation that is lower than living on earth.

If BED was a thing, banana plantation workers would all radiation poisoning.


Don't you think it's a little short-sighted to think just in categories like black and white (i.e. coal and nuclear energy)? Coal is also very bad in my opinion. We should work towards using more renewable energy and its research. And what about reducing energy consumption?


Again, if nuclear power is such a great idea, why aren't more companies lobbying for it? The reality is that every place in the U.S. that it is economically feasible to build a plant, already has one. There's a nuclear plant in the middle of Kansas and it's barely viable. And that's ignoring the proliferation issue when we try and export any new versions of the tech to other countries that need new energy.

We're better off making solar, wind, etc. viable than pouring tons of money into a single area that we can't safely export to other places in the world.

And electrical energy is still only one part of the problem since we still need to replace the internal combusion enginees, and jet engines or at least find an alternative fuel source. Nuclear power isn't a panacea.


> - coal produce radioactive waste too

That's quite a statement. Do you have references?

I mean the nuclear waste from nuclear power plants is ridiculously difficult to handle because of its high temperature. It has to be wrapped in layers of containers - after cooling off for months (years?) in a water bath.

> It boggles my mind that Germany made a great effort on renewable, and used this extra energy to close nuclear plants rather than coals ones. (At the beginning they even had to open more coal plants!) This means that Fukushima (which made Germany close its nuclear plants) killed a lot more people in Germany than in Japan.

Fukushima lead to closing of Nuclear power plants, obviously, and not coal plants. The share of renewables in Germany increased a lot. To my knowledge the only coal power plants that were set up in the recent years were really modern ones. Therefore I cannot follow the argument, could you elaborate?

> Recall that coal is 1000 times more deadly than nuclear per unit of energy (including the nuclear accidents).

Recall also that there is no insurance that covers nuclear power plants but driving a car without insurance is not allowed in most countries.

The difference between coal and nuclear energy is that the latter is very close to the limits of what we can control.


> That's quite a statement. Do you have references?

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/coal-ash-is-more-...

https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/1997/fs163-97/FS-163-97.html

> Coal is largely composed of organic matter, but it is the inorganic matter in coal—minerals and trace elements— that have been cited as possible causes of health, environmental, and technological problems associated with the use of coal. Some trace elements in coal are naturally radioactive. These radioactive elements include uranium (U), thorium (Th), and their numerous decay products, including radium (Ra) and radon (Rn). Although these elements are less chemically toxic than other coal constituents such as arsenic, selenium, or mercury, questions have been raised concerning possible risk from radiation. In order to accurately address these questions and to predict the mobility of radioactive elements during the coal fuel-cycle, it is important to determine the concentration, distribution, and form of radioactive elements in coal and fly ash.


Okay, that's surely a thing. In some regions like Southern Germany there is increased natural radioactivity in cellars that leads to more cases of lung cancer as far as I have heard.

But I'm quite sure this is still a completely different radioactivity problem one needs to cope with: hot, long living and very active material vs. cold, rather inactive material with short range radiation.


"It boggles my mind that Germany made a great effort on renewable, and used this extra energy to close nuclear plants rather than coals ones. "

Yes, that twisted logic annoys me as well. But beeing a german, I probably know more of the context.

Anti-Nuclear movement in germany is strong for historic reasons. Top-down politics who praised nuclear power and bombs for the people, which the people disagreed and then there were clashes with police, not only from extremists, but also the very normal people who got upset [0]

Also there was tschernobyl. The radioactive cloud from then went down in my area. Even today it is advised against eating mushrooms and meat from boars must be tested for radiation before it can be selled and they don't tell, how much meat is too contaminated, but probably much, as the hunters are still angry.

Also there were rumors that childs born shortly after tschernobyl had a much higher chance of missformed feet for example, but I never checked for truth. A friend of mine had, and the doctors made inofficial remarks, but officially nothing bad happened, because ukraine was a brother socialist state. (but this did was not the case for western germany, so again, I never fact checked that, but the rumors are there).

So there is a lot of fear.

And now we come to the twisted part: most of the anti-nuclear movement is indeed also against coal. And their solution (like mine, long-term) is renewable and they don't like the fact, that renewables are not 100% ready today or tomorrow, so they say, just reduce. So basically wishful thinking and rather doing something than nothing. (even if it is not the smartest move)

And btw. there is massive activism going on against coal at the moment, there is for example a forest occupied[1], which was supposed to get shoveld down for coal. And even though quite some of the protesters are lunatics, I wish them the best, as we really, really don't need more coal. But, and here comes the other important reason: money. There are still many companys and workers and unions deeply tied to coal mining and processing. So also a strong motivator for politics ... to still use coal, despite all climate change blabla.

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

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


what strikes me about pro nuclear comments, is the fact that never it's mentionned that uranium is a finite ressouce. So we're going to invest billions in a technology that will last 50 years ? The key word in renewable energies is renewable


Since 50 years is about the lifetime of a nuclear power plant, why not?

But in any case, thorium is very plentiful, and there has been good progress on extracting uranium from seawater. Plus, experience with other minerals would lead one to believe that there is probably more uranium that could be mined if there were a motive to find it.


If you use the ancient reactor technology of a PWR burner, then sure. However, most pro-nuclear people are for breeder reactors, not burner reactors.


what makes you think we will run out of fissile materials in 50 years?


Renewables can replace all of those: coal, gas, nuclear, oil.

No reason to be flabbergasted.


The best solution is to first implement distributed battery power instead of reliance on a grid.

This eliminates the need to have nuclear plants in close proximity to densely populated areas.

Plants can then be built in remote areas where the negative externalities will be drastically reduced, while still receiving the benefit of green, reliable energy.


> I am very concerned for the future of my children that even well educated people (I have these same arguments with my university colleagues) don't realise that.

Perhaps it's not very convincing to claim that "a few potential large nuclear explosions due to accident/malice" aren't as bad as an average temperature increase of 1 degree or so. Certainly seems borderline insane to me.


The worst nuclear accidents that could possibly happen have already happened. We couldn't have a worse nuclear power disaster than Lake Karachay even if we tried on purpose. And yet the sum damage they caused is a negligible blip compared to how many people die due to the use of fossil fuels on any given month of any given year.

The environmental impact of nuclear power vs. fossil fuels or even renewables is just a negligible number no matter how you spin it.

I too am confused like the GP poster as to how otherwise intelligent people just break down into baseless fearmongering about imaginary disaster scenarios while ignoring that today's conventional energy industry is literally thousands of times worse.

If every single operational nuclear power plant had a meltdown incident after operating for 20 years, they'd still be orders of magnitude less damaging than what we're doing today. The environmental impact and safety numbers are just that far apart.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/494425/death-rate-worldw...


> We couldn't have a worse nuclear power disaster than Lake Karachay even if we tried on purpose.

How can you write such a ridiculous sentence? We have nuclear power plants in the middle of inhabited areas with tens of millions of people who would be immediately affected by an explosion. It's a permanent subject of dispute here in Europe.

> If every single operational nuclear power plant had a meltdown incident after operating for 20 years, they'd still be orders of magnitude less damaging than what we're doing today. The environmental impact and safety numbers are just that far apart

One single accident in Europe would dwarf these inflated WHO numbers.


> We have nuclear power plants in the middle of inhabited areas with tens of millions of people who would be immediately affected by an explosion.

Cite please. The tens of millions affected by a feasible powerplant issue. Explosion is not really in the realm of feasible unless we're talking about bombs or uncontained soviet reactors.


I'm sure you will be able to look up the location of active nuclear power plants in central Europe and determine the population figures within the range of impact of an accident like Chernobyl's if you try. Start with Mohovce (largely uncontained and litigation since 2005 or so), Bohunice, Temelin and the large cities nearby...


Why would we leave out terrorist attacks? Because they destroy your argument?


What would a terrorist do with a nuclear powerplant exactly? We've flown fighter jets into nuclear powerplants to test them[1]. They're protected by armed guards. The US has a nuclear emergency task force ready to fly pumps and generators to any plant. The best attack even a highly resourced terrorist could mount would be to damage the cooling tower and not really make any difference?

If you're imagining some kind of super coordinated military unit taking control of a powerplant yeah sure maybe? They'd be much better used just poisoning the water supply.

This is exactly the kind of baseless fear driven hypothetical sentiment that I'd like to understand.

[1] http://www.nbcnews.com/id/3072967/ns/business-check_point/t/...


They can make "dirty bomb". I know some people which had training about how to destroy hostile Western country by using their own radioactive materials.

For example, in 2014, rebels in Donetsk had attempt to create "dirty bomb" using radioactive waste from abandoned chemical plant. Fortunately, they were spotted and stopped.


A bit off-topic (but still nuclear-related): All that adds big cost to nuclear and makes it less feasible


On what basis are you determining that armed guards are a big cost? It's certainly a readily identifiable cost that's larger on a per-power plant basis for nuclear than other forms of power, but is it really large enough to matter to the overall economic viability of nuclear power?


A bomb powerful enough to breach reactor containment but small enough to be smuggled past power plant security is already a nuclear bomb in its own right, and would be more effective used against population centers directly.


Explosion as in a nuclear one? Really isn't possible. The fissile material isn't pure enough.

I believe graphite rods are used as the safety to capture the neutrons in a nuclear fission reactor and effectively kill off the reaction.

Explosion as in Chernobyl level? That was basically water pressure.


Chernobyl had two explosions, a few seconds apart. The second, larger one was after most of the water had left the core. The reactor had a positive void coefficient, so losing water increased reactivity.

Of course these were prompt supercritical reactions in a moderated system, so they are not explosions in the sense of bombs, which are fast systems with neutron doubling times measured in fractions of a microsecond.


far from it. If nuclear fallout had been reached Tokyo, then we would talk about a much greater problem.


An accident in a nuclear plant that was constructed in a highly seismic and tsunami-prone area isn't an argument against nuclear power.

I'm sure that Germany can find a more suited location if they wanted...

Anyway, France is peppered with nuclear plants and Germany is right downwind from many of them.


> Anyway, France is peppered with nuclear plants and Germany is right downwind from many of them.

That's why we would like to see some of them being closed immediately.


Again, coal related death are of the order of 1-5 millions by year. By contrast the worst estimate for Chernobyl is 200000 deaths.

The closing of germany's reactor, which amount to around 60GWh, if it had been used instead to close coal based plants would have saved around 6000 lives per year. So over 10 years would have saved 60000 lives.

An average temperature increase of 1 degree would not be so bad, it would probably amount for a few million deaths and a few trillion dollar (don't forget the economic cost of displacement due to increased water level, this will concern a lot more km^2 than nuclear exclusion zone). Still worse than nuclear but not orders of magnitude more.

But the Paris agreement is about 2°C more and we are not headed to respect that, we are headed for at last a 3°C increase. This is way way worse than a 1°C increase. I am not joking about billions of death if we reach this point. What is borderline insane is not realizing the impact that climate change is going to have is nothing is done.

And I live near a nuclear plant in France which almost had an accident similar to Fukushima during the 1999 tempest. So it's not like a Nuclear accident would not affect me...


> we are headed for at last a 3°C increase. This is way way worse than a 1°C increase. I am not joking about billions of death if we reach this point. What is borderline insane is not realizing the impact that climate change is going to have is nothing is done.

It's beyond borderline insane how people make up these "billions of deaths" numbers with a straight face.


Then you should read the book Six Degrees by Mark Lynas, who read 3000 peer-reviewed papers on the effects of climate change and summarized them, one chapter per degree.

Billions of deaths at three degrees is probably overstating things, but three degrees does bring massive food shortages and hundreds of millions of refugees. At four degrees, billions of deaths doesn't look that unlikely, and it starts getting hard to imagine how modern civilization could survive. More than that is unthinkable.

The book is a decade old but more recent work hasn't improved the outlook at all.


Of course I am not stating that billions of death would happen overnight, like if we had a supervolcano explosion.

Instead, it would be gradual, over 20-25 years. But you are right that I am overstating things, when I write billions I think 'between 100 Millions and 1 Billion'. (Recalling that over 25 years, air pollution alone is responsible for around 100 millions deaths). It would depend on the exact temperature change: 3°C or 3.5C.

And total civilisation collapse in unlikely (I hope!), except if there is a feedback factor in global warming and we head for 4°C or more.


> Then you should read the book Six Degrees by Mark Lynas, who read 3000 peer-reviewed papers on the effects of climate change

No thanks. He's a journalist and political activist, reading his foregone conclusions from selected papers he claims to have read is a waste of time.


His account matches well with everything else I've seen on the subject. Well-referenced journalism isn't a bad way to get at the truth, right-wing bloviating to the contrary. And you could always look up a sampling of the sources to check up on him.

But of course, sticking with your own forgone conclusions is clearly better.


"Climatic changes already are estimated to cause over 150,000 deaths annually."

https://www.who.int/heli/risks/climate/climatechange/en/

Ten fold increase over the next century seems believable given that the projected effect has hardly started yet.


> Ten fold increase over the next century seems believable given that the projected effect has hardly started yet.

Good example for how these numbers are pulled out of thin air: take an old WHO estimate (which includes Malaria deaths), multiply by 10 for the heck of it and sum over 100 years...


Predicting the future is always very imprecise. Take a look at the work of Thomas Malthus for taste.

If you want accurate numbers, could you first give accurate numbers of future dangers of nuclear? I want precise calculations based on reality. My hunch is that the number is zero, can you prove otherwise?

I would also appreciate numbers on things like why we have the time to dabble with renewables? Why it's going to be cost effective? How the power storage is solved? And how much land and natural resources are going to be used?


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