Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Prevented mortality from historical and projected nuclear power (2013) (nasa.gov)
215 points by Melchizedek 49 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 90 comments



I see this argument made again and again. Just because one is "worse" by selective parameters doesn't mean that the other option is any good either. Can we build safe nuclear power plants? Yes. Does money, greed, pride, and stupidity triumph in the end? Yes. And then you end up with safety precautions and risks being hand-waved just as what is happening in the US where most of the nuclear power plants are operating beyond their designed life span.

Why are we ignoring the fact that this geographic location is unusable now? I don't see anybody rushing to get in line to walk into the Fukushima plant or to move back to Chernobyl. There's more damage than immediate death. That environment is lost. It contaminates ground water, soil, the wildlife, the air. You're willfully ignoring the reality and taking the hopeful ideals.


>Why are we ignoring the fact that this geographic location is unusable now?

Hydroelectricity has made far more unusable geographic locations. The earth is massive. Losing a couple KM is regrettable but isn't comparable to a million people.

>Does money, greed, pride, and stupidity triumph in the end? Yes.

>You're willfully ignoring the reality and taking the hopeful ideals.

The reality is a million fewer people died, despite money, greed, pride, and stupidity triumphing. How is this the idealistic view?


The German magazine "Der Spiegel" has a catastrophe map, depicting which areas would become uninhabitable in case of nuclear accidents: https://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/soziales/atomkraft-diese-i...

It's significantly more than a few km, according to that map. It's based on the research of Viennese climate scientists, according to the article.


Dams are a good analogy, here. Dam failures can be catastrophic and far, FAR worse in life lost than even worst-case nuclear failures. The 1975 failure of the hydroelectric Banqiao Dam killed between 100,000 and 230,000 people and destroyed 11 million homes. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dam_failure

Nuclear power is worth the risk when faced with the threat of climate change. At very least, we must keep existing plants operating until we decommission all fossil fuel power plants.


Compared to the land lost with a 4°C global temperature rise that's a pretty good tradeoff.


I can't read German, but I can read maps and do know a fair amount about radiation.

The first thing to note is that concentration dramatically decreases as radiation is pushed by the wind. We should also note that we're REALLY good at detecting radiation (it has been a great way to spy on other countries' use of atomic weapons, but since we can't always get into their country we need pretty sensitive devices).

But models are one thing, we have real world data. So let's look at a map of Japan, which has active monitoring[0]. The legal public dosage is 1mSv/yr. So to convert that into a number we can read on this map our hourly dosage needs to be below [(1e-3(mSv/Sv)/365(days)/24(hrs)1e9(nSv/Sv)]= 114nSv/hr. You'll actually find that the vast majority is below that. But this doesn't leave much room for other types of radiation (take note of this point).

But let's talk about that 1mSv limit. Why is it there? Is it where danger starts? Radiation workers have a limit of 20mSv/yr (2283nSv/hr, which is only a handful* of places on the map). Why that? It used to be 50mSv/yr (5707nSv/hr). So let's look it up [1] (PDF, see chapter 3). We see a lot of talk about 100mSv/yr (11,415nSv/hr, nowhere on map) or in a single dose being completely safe. We even see mention of no detectable effects at 0.5Sv (3.3 page 56, page 57 even says little evidence of below 1Gy). Well, the thing is we use a model called the Linear No-Threshold (LNT). We use this because we'd rather be safe than sorry (note the use of "assumption" in the paper). The limits given to just workers has an included safety factor. Then it was decided later than the public should have even lower limits (more factors of safety).

Is having such low thresholds a good idea? Definitely. I agree with the attitude of better safe than sorry. So include factors of safety, because we don't know how many chest x-rays you're getting a year or if you live next to a coal plant. But should we take those legal limits as "you're going to get cancer if you exceed them?" Definitely not. We can realistically see that there is little evidence to support that idea. So is it exactly right to say that these places are uninhabitable? I don't think so, but it is safe to say that there is increased risk. But we should also recognize how much risk that is. (The above might also explain why there's a lot of wildlife in Chernobyl)

[0] https://jciv.iidj.net/map/

[1] https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Hanno_Krieger/post/Why_...


Thanks for the link, I had not seen that before. This shows very well how large regions, which are highly populated would be affected by a large nuclear incident in Europe. Even if one assumes, that every endangered citizen could be evacuated without suffering from any direct damange, it would mean that far to many people would lose their housing and that the food production in the affected regions would suffer.


Animals and plant life are thriving in the fallout zone of Chernobyl. It's only unusable by humans, and even then not all humans; there is a community that lives in the fallout zone, not to mention tourism.

https://thebabushkasofchernobyl.com/

Also, money and greed does not always win out. See: the Onagawa nuclear reactor which is closer to the epicenter than Fukishima, and which was properly managed and is still running.


It is a cognitive bias to believe the worst thing that has happened in the past is the worst that will happen in the future. Chernobyl occurred in an era with less people globally, less people locally, worse sensing technology/less transparent politics to more accurately gauge worldwide impact, and smaller nuclear reactors. Chernobyl proves the black swan risk could have been far graver - making Kiev and large parts of Ukraine uninhabitable. Most people are logical to choose a risk they can understand (solar, carbon, etc.) vs a complicated risk they can’t (nuclear). Which may be 1000x worse.

The nuclear argument gets weaker by the year considering rapid advancements in renewables and the decades+ period of time it takes to build a new nuclear reactor. We have the safest nuclear reactor available. The sun.


The soviet nuclear industry was very close to the worst-case scenario - inherently unsafe reactors being operated by badly trained personnel and overseen by a corrupt and secretive agency that barely deserves the title of "regulator". The Chernobyl disaster could have been far worse if it weren't for the extraordinary bravery of the liquidators, but there's just no way that such a catastrophically dangerous reactor could be built in 2019.

The RBMK reactors at Chernobyl were based on a design from the the early 1950s and were crude even by the standards of the time. The reactor design is inherently unsafe for several reasons, which was compounded by inadequate monitoring and containment systems. Safe operation of the reactor was hindered by a deliberate and systematic cover-up of the flawed nature of the reactor design; the emergency response was similarly hindered by a deliberate and systematic cover-up of the scale of the disaster.

Comparing a modern nuclear power plant to Chernobyl is like comparing a 2019 Honda Civic with a 1961 Chevy Corvair. We've learned so many lessons and changed our safety culture so profoundly in in the intervening period. If we are allowed to keep developing and building nuclear reactors, we'll keep building safer and more efficient reactors.


"Comparing a modern nuclear power plant to Chernobyl is like comparing a 2019 Honda Civic with a 1961 Chevy Corvair"

That's a pretty interesting metaphor, because while the newer car is indeed much safer, there are many types of accidents where the driver will be killed no matter what car they're driving. Perhaps they'll still have all the body parts attached in the Honda though ;)

One of my favorite books is "Normal accidents" by Perrow, where atomic plants are the perfect example of high-risk systems which invite system accidents.

Their dedicated chapter is comically horrific. e.g.:

"In 1978 a worker changing a light bulb in a control panel at the Rancho Secco 1 reactor in Clay Station, California, dropped the bulb. It created a short circuit in some sensors and controls. Fortunately, the reactor scram controls were not among those affected, and the reactor automatically scrammed. But the loss of some sensors meant the operators could not determine the condition of the plant, and there was a rapid cooling of the core. [...] did not in this case damage the core. But this is probably only because the plant had been operating at full power for less than three years. A spokesman for the NRC said: “If it had been 10 to 15 full power years, instead of two to three, which it was, that vessel might have cracked.” A cracked vessel would result in a loss of coolant and a meltdown; no emergency system would be available to cool the core."


I like Normal Accidents as well and I think it should be more widely read.

Perrow's thesis was that systems needed three characteristics to generate normal accidents: to be very complex (beyond any single human's detailed comprehension), to be tightly coupled (meaning that the system can change its behaviour quickly) and to have catastrophic potential.

Pressurised water designs are inherently complex and coupled because the necessity to circulate fluid at all times without failure, making them complex (lots of moving parts and failure modes) and coupled (failures can rapidly propagate their effects). They also produce plentiful radioactive byproducts.

A counterargument is that non-PWR designs in Gen-III+ and Gen-IV actually address some or all of these characteristics. Many of them are much simpler, reducing complexity. Many of them are design to operate passively, reducing complexity and coupling. And some of them reduce radioactive byproducts.


The amount of cancer caused by the sun each year worldwide is probably in the millions. Not very safe, but turning it off would be worse. Life is full of trade offs. Until coal burning plants are all gone the world should embrace nuclear power as a much better alternative.


Shit if you want to talk about radioactive damage, coal mines emit huge amounts of radiation that aren't "counted" because the radiation is "naturally occuring".


My personal favorite analogue are coal seam fires, which can render areas inhospitable and burn for hundreds or thousands of years.


You could argue the sun kills far more people (through skin cancer - UV light is a strong mutagen after all) than any nuclear power plant in the history of the world combined.


The issue with this logic is it takes something from a risk bucket that already exists. Sun exposure occurs and has been occurring for some time. The issue with +1 nuclear plants is that every plant built adds a bucket of new risk. This bucket includes a potential black swan event of the greatest risk.

Compare it to a "sure thing" on wallstreet. Let's say you hold stock and sell an option contract at a price point you believe will never get hit. Yet if that price point gets hit your entire life savings gets wiped out. This "will never happen" mindset forgets that we as humans don't know what we don't know. We are simple. Nuclear is complex.

IMO nuclear could become safer with more investment into it. But why invest in a technology that is less safe than alternatives like solar.

The fear that people have of nuclear is a variable to calculate. The first commenter pointed out his girlfriend is afraid of nuclear power. Fear, stress and anxiety is an emotion that causes physical consequences. If the public is afraid of it and says Not in My Back Yard - it doesn't matter how safe your paper calculations are. Yes - Chernobyl spoiled it for everyone. The rude party guest that got the cops called and forced the party to break up early. It stinks. Thanks Chernobyl for ending the nuclear revolution in its infancy. But it is a reality.

Someone will counter-argue that fossil fuels destroyed the ozone layer and increased cancer. This is half-true. Byproducts of fossil fuels. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) damaged the Ozone layer, which increased cancer in subtropic geographies. Companies manufactured CFCs for refrigeration. Not for power plants or core energy. Thus, this line of analysis is a distraction from the core debate.

People (especially software engineers) who have low Vitamin D get sick more often. Leading to increased risk of death. A growing belief is that this occurs due to lack of sun exposure. Blue LED light does not count. The sun is there for a reason. Hormesis and evolution required the sun. The last 30 years of consensus that wearing sunscreen all the time is a good thing. Is a viewpoint I wager will change in the next 10 years. With consensus swinging back to a pro sun exposure mindset.


> IMO nuclear could become safer with more investment into it. But why invest in a technology that is less safe than alternatives like solar.

It isn't. [1,2] In terms of deaths per terawatt-hour, nuclear is much lower than solar and wind.

> People (especially software engineers) who have low Vitamin D get sick more often. Leading to increased risk of death. A growing belief is that this occurs due to lack of sun exposure.

I agree, people should spend more time in the sun.

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

[2] https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-ener...


Thriving? https://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/april-27-2019-oilsands-emiss...

They are f'd, their DNA is also f'd so...


That wasn't my take-away after reading this. The article shows that animals are in fact being affected by the radiation. Is that not expected? It'd only been 33 years at the time this article was written - a handful of generations - and evolution takes time. Life on this planet hasn't really evolved to deal with high levels of background radiation for the most part. That said, it appears they are in fact evolving:

> "Some birds make use of melanin for coloration, but they also make use of the precursor to melanin as an antioxidant, which may provide some measure of defence against the ionizing radiation," said Mousseau.

> In a study, he found that those birds that seemed to show less genetic damage ended up being a bit lighter coloured.

> "It looks like there's a tradeoff in the use of this antioxidant between colouration and defence against oxidative stress or ionizing radiation."

Or, alternatively, to paraphrase, while the animals there haven't yet evolved a complete defense to the ionizing radiation, some species are expressing traits correlated to their ability to withstand it. This gives them a survival advantage, so over time, it stands to reason they will compensate.

> "But it's clear that there's more going on than just the acute exposure effects."

I must have missed the part where the author threw up their hands and yelled "looks like the animals are f'd."

I'm not saying this is good or bad, just that changes to the environment are very much in nature's wheelhouse. Humans, especially individual humans, are the fragile ones. Life has shown itself incredibly resilient, and some increases in background radiation aren't about to stop it. After all, tardigrades are able to survive constant irradiation hundreds of times the lethal dose for humans while frozen solid in space.


I wouldn't call it "thriving", there are probably lots of animals dying from radiation poisoning, having birth defects, etc all the time. On the other hand, being mostly undisturbed by people is certainly increasing their population.


> Also, money and greed does not always win out. See: the Onagawa nuclear reactor which is closer to the epicenter than Fukishima, and which was properly managed and is still running.

If it's still in operation then you can't make that deduction yet.


I don’t think anyone is suggesting to build 1960s soviet designed nuclear power plants. It’s like pointing at the safety record of the DC-3 and claiming in 2019 that aviation is unsafe.


I'm not saying anyone is. I'm saying that nuclear power plants are expensive and people are stupid. Corners are cut and mistakes are made to protect their investment and bottom dollar. I've seen reports of concrete cracking on the outdated nuclear plants (operating past life expectancy) in the US and they're basically ignoring it because they're not critical components, but by the time something happens to a critical component it's a little too late. This is all to protect investment and you end up looking the other way until you can't anymore.


That's a great way to literally do nothing ever. You could make the same claim about coal mines, about hydro dams, about skyscrapers, about bridges, about aircraft, about self-driving cars. Life is risky. We design mitigations and hold ourselves to them. That's why we're alive right now.


> Why are we ignoring the fact that this geographic location is unusable now?

Everyone always ignores the huge amount of land made unusable by hydro and increasingly solar. It’s unfathomable to me how okay people seem to be with the amount of CA land being covered by solar panels. Pretty sure most desert tortoises would rather live next to a nuclear power plant.


With solar you remove the solar panels and the area is immediately reusable. Or the panels can be mounted above usable space. Or am I missing something?


The problem is that you can never remove them, we just have to replace them.

Unless we reduce our use of electricity or come up with a new source, those panels will always be there.

It will also take time for the wild life to grow back and if the the ecosystem has changed enough it won't come back the same. This isn't a problem by itself. But if Chernobyl is an example all you have to do is wait 50 years and wild life will move back in too.

I'm 100% for renewable energy, but we're making a lot of assumptions on how we're going to get rid of and recycle solar panels. That's a lot of material we have to re-process and see how much we can use and how much was consumed.


If you want to go build a house out there, it’s hardly rocket science to put the panels on top of it.


Even rocket scientist have fairly bad foresight, see space debris as an example.

The reason these plants are reasonably cheap is that there are rows and rows of uniformly hooked up and distributed easy to access solar panels.

What you're suggesting is best accomplished by a government subsidy on solar panels. But then individuals own them and we won't have a way to recycle them when they all go bad in 30 years.


>Everyone always ignores the huge amount of land made unusable by hydro and increasingly solar.

Because it is easy to make it usable again. Break the dam and in a year people can move back. In a few years it will be populated with animals. After a century there might as well never have been a dam. With nuclear the timeslines are far longer. The worst possible disaster caused by a dam to some future civilization that has regressed would be if they built under one and it broke killing mass amounts. But once broken the danger is now gone.

Land lost to solar is similarly regained once you remove the panels and in a century entire forest can have returned with the land being safe for humans (civilization advanced or regressed).


> It’s unfathomable to me how okay people seem to be with the amount of CA land being covered by solar panels.

Is that serious, or are you joking? I'm having a hard time deciding.

First, the land that's being covered is mostly a desert, where no one wanted to live anyway.

Second, it's being covered in solar panels so that we can generate electricity without emitting CO2, which is rather important given that our planet will be turning mostly to desert in the next 30-50 years.


Of course its serious. Did you read my comment in the context of the subject of this post and the comment it was replying to? Because it seems like you didn't.

> First, the land that's being covered is mostly a desert, where no one wanted to live anyway.

So you're fine if we put nuclear plants in the desert then right? That would certainly be more environmentally friendly to the wildlife that live in those areas.

But even ignoring putting nuclear plants in the desert, we should compare the lost utility of land by Chernobyl and Fukushima weighed against that of all hydro and solar, on a per megawatt basis over time.

When showing concern about the lost land to Fukushima and Chernobyl the parent I was replying to exhibited, we should also look at the lost utility of land to climate change vs how much worse it would be without nuclear power in the mix, and how much better it might have been if we'd not substituted nuclear plants for coal and gas over the years. I'm pretty confident the small loss at Fukushima and larger loss at Chernobyl are peanuts on this scale.

> Second, it's being covered in solar panels so that we can generate electricity without emitting CO2, which is rather important given that our planet will be turning mostly to desert in the next 30-50 years.

You do understand that nuclear power does not emit CO2 right?


Environmentalists always put up a court fights to block large scale solar deployments in the CA desert. I'm surprised anything gets built here in California.


Uh, yes it does! Economics and policy is all about making (often hard) decisions. Low energy costs have enabled us to make huge economics advances, enabling me to use the computer I'm typing this on.

And as promising as renewables are, they still cannot fully replace baseline energy sources (such as coal or nuclear), nor modulate their output to comply with variances in grid demand (batteries, physical or otherwise, would still need to be accounted for in any fair comparison).


> And as promising as renewables are, they still cannot [...] modulate their output to comply with variances in grid demand

Even if you forget to count hydroelectric as a renewable (my country has a huge amount of hydroelectric, and every time I look at the realtime power generation graph, it's the hydroelectric that's following the load, while thermal generation is flat), other renewables like solar and wind can also reduce their output as necessary to match the load. They currently don't because, since they're the cheapest power source, it makes more sense to reduce the generation elsewhere first.


It's not so much that they can wind down the energy they make, it's the fact that they cannot store energy for when there's increased demand.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYLzss58CLs


Same thing happens with Hydro plants, except immediately.


If the government were to let people live downwind of Fukushima, I’d try it out.

Probably wouldn’t try the same at Chernobyl, even after all the cleanup...


>I see this argument made again and again. Just because one is "worse" by selective parameters doesn't mean that the other option is any good either.

It means it's the better option given the choices available. Everything in life is a trade-off. Everything has downside. Some things have more downside than others.


> I see this argument made again and again.

Yeah, because it's a campaign by the same people who are responsible for money, greed, pride and stupidity. They see their tech disappearing into history and now they start screaming.

You see the same straw man arguments painting the people who don't want to go back to nuclear as stupid, paranoid or fans of coal.

This has been going on for months now and seems to reach a new high with the Chernobyl TV show showing clearly how those few accidents look like to a generation that has not been around or lived far away.

It's disgusting and ignorant but luckily it leads nowhere as nobody is turning around to invest into nuclear because of it.


When discussing the safety of nuclear power most comments seem to focus on the number of deaths. While death count is tragic in itself, it doesn't capture the full extent of human drama.

Consider this

Fukushima

"the nuclear accident was responsible for 154,000 being evacuated"

"In December 2016 the government estimated decontamination, compensation, decommissioning, and radioactive waste storage costs at 21.5 trillion yen ($187 billion), nearly double the 2013 estimate."

Chernobyl

"In 2005, the total cost over 30 years for Belarus alone was estimated at US$235 billion; about $301 billion in today's dollars given inflation rates."

"between 5% and 7% of government spending in Ukraine is still related to Chernobyl"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Daiichi_nuclear_disa.... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster


Well, for comparison,

https://e360.yale.edu/digest/coal-costs-us-half-trillion-ann...

> Coal production costs the U.S. up to $500 billion each year in hidden health, economic, and environmental impacts, according to a new study by Harvard researchers.

https://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/news/2018/0606.html

> ... Britain’s car addiction ... is likely costing our NHS and society in general more than £6 billion per year.

(Which is about $7B USD, for a single modest-sized country, for a single mode of fossil fuel consumption, per year.)

https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2018/03/19/c...

> Climate Change Could Force Over 140 Million to Migrate Within Countries by 2050: World Bank Report

(Well, of course, such predictions are very imprecise: it could be 30 million, or 2 billion. But most likely more than Fukushima, by a very wide margin.)


I think it's important to avoid treating the history of nuclear power as expectation for its future use. Nuclear power has evolved, much like fossil fuel power has evolved.

When we consider future use of fossil fuels, we do not think of the Great Smog of London which acutely killed 4000 people in a few days, plus around 6000 in the following months. Cognitive biases prevent us from being as forgiving with nuclear power, despite the evolution of its safety.


Or more recent industrial accidents like the Bhopal disaster (3000 deads). It's only one of a very long list:

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


Consider this: Just as in aviation, with each nuclear accident we learn more and more about how to prevent the next one. We now know that building next to the ocean is a bad idea. we know now that we need even more redundancy to prevent power outages from causing meltdowns. when you criticize Fukushima, you're criticizing 1970's nuclear technology. Nobody is making the argument to build new 1970's technology.


My wife and I started watching HBO's new mini-series "Chernobyl", and she's now terrified of nuclear power plants despite my reassurances. I'll have to show this to her, but based on this anecdote, I suspect more voters who see this TV show will also be biased against nuclear power.

Anyone else hear friends/family talking about this show as "terrifying" or "concerning"?


Not to underplay the seriousness of the event or heroism of all those involved in the aftermath, but the show does make it look scarier than it deserves. For me part of this is simply down to the Russian equipment - it just looks scarier seeing those guys in those green rubbery looking suits like something out of an alien movie, vs when you see guys at Fukushima in plain white protective gear.

It's worth pointing out that the RBMK reactor design used at Chernobyl has no comparison in the west. Not to mention they had no (none!) containment building on those things. The design of the RBMK was in part because it's simpler to build. It's a kind of evolution of the very early reactor "piles" used during the lead up to and through the Manhattan project. The pressure vessels used in western reactors are difficult to produce. (We apparently no longer have any iron works left in the US that could produce them, the last one closed down some time ago.) On top of being simpler to build the RBMK style reactor also has (IIRC) the benefit (for Russia) that it can be used to produce the right kind of plutonium for nuclear weapons. Something that in the west was done in dedicated military reactors because civilian designed light water reactors suck for that task.


The thing about the iron works is actually one of the main problems with scaling up nuclear power. Modern designs are very safe yes, but, building them requires steelworking ability that apparently only exists in (yes!) Russia and Japan. There is a multi-decade backlog of orders for the necessary metal, and learning how to work steel in the necessary way is ... not trivial. So it's not even like we could build tons of reactors if we wanted to, designs or no designs.


The windscale reactors the UK used for Pu production were open cycle air cooled. Pull in air from the outside, run it through the core, and out via the chimney. One morning in 1957 operators coming to work noticed thick black smoke coming from the chimney and thought "this can't be good" (it wasn't).


I am going to guess that people calling the show terrifying has nothing to do with the green rubber suits.


And even despite the many design flaws of these early reactors, the reason it blew up is because of the reckless behaviour of some local Homer Simpson.


Just tell them that the estimated number of TOTAL human deaths from Chernobyl (the worst nuclear accident in history) is 4k, in comparison to the 1.84 million above. Or with the 230,000 killed by the Banqiao Dam collapse in China.

Yeah, it probably won't work, but it's worth noting the comparisons.


4k? "They" can come up with any number they want to, some say it is as low as 28, counting only the dead firefighters.

I live in the worst fallout area in Sweden and our nature is still very radioactive. Cancer rates here are of course increased compared to the rest of the country. And of course, the worst is yet to come. I believe more than 4k Swedish people have died or have their lives drastically shortened due to Chernobyl.

https://www.thelocal.se/20070504/7200


4 Thousand is based on the WHO findings.

So, let’s toss on the 8k instances of cancer from your source, and the 41k cancer rates attributed to Chernobyl by International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, and we are still well short of the actual deaths caused by one dam failure.

Yeah, Chernobyl is a tragedy; but let’s not pretend its worse than all the other power generation disasters.


Humans are really terrible at doing math, especially long-term math. I've had so many opinions it was downright painful to change after someone showed me the real math.


It is terrifying when things go wrong. The "Chernobyl" series definitely shows that. For the circumstances, the number of deaths Chernobyl contributed to were much lower than the worst case it could have been.

It's not surprising the public responds trepidatiously in the aftermath of a large-scale disaster (see trends of nuclear plant operation in the aftermath of Chernobyl and Fukushima: https://sites.utexas.edu/mecc/files/2014/05/Worldwide-Reacto...).

Nuclear bombs also caused quite a public scare in the 40s-60s following WWII after images of the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki could be seen. The magnitudes of destruction scared people enough to build fallout shelters.

While nuclear power has brought a lot of good, it has also brought a lot of bad. Witnessing the bad changes people. If things go wrong either intentionally or unintentionally, the negative response is going to exceed the positive response, and those responsible for the nuclear plant are going to get the blame for bringing disaster upon everyone else.

"Nuclear" is a tough sentiment to paint positively, when so many unspecialized members of the public think straight to disasters associated with "nuclear".

There's pros and cons to many different energy sources, whether fossil fuel, nuclear, solar/wind, hydro, geothermal, etc. Each decision means accepting the possible consequences that could happen. No one solution is an obvious panacea.


I think the challenge is the “fast acting” vs “slow acting” consequences of our energy choices. Coal and Gas fired generating facilities have long term consequences but a picture of 1000s of people affected with cancer doesnt have the same impact.


Dam failures are pretty fast acting, but people aren't afraid of dams.


Everybody understands (or think they understand, anyway) water flow and dams. Very few people understand radiation


Gas fired plants cause cancer?


Natural gas exhaust still has some particulates, carcinogens, and radioactive components, but is generally much cleaner than coal. Because it's in the gas / liquefied phase, the most harmful components of raw natural gas (sulphur and heavy metal compounds) can be largely processed out before burning.

With coal, these have to be scrubbed from the exhaust, which is more difficult and usually less thorough.


Gas-fired plants cause global warming.


I'm quite pro-nuke, so that's my bias, but I'm parsing the show as more about the consequences of normalization of deviance than anything.


I haven't heard anyone discuss how modern nuclear plants are terrifying. Only how the thought of being near Chernobyl would have been terrifying. The events would have been terrifying for the people there.

I can see how this show could cause an increase in fear of nuclear plants though.


Because hardly any modern plants are operating, by far most are 70-80ies era. On top of that, consider the cost of currently planned or built plants and their schedule overruns: They may be less terrifying (if you manage to cancel out the psychological effect) but then they are often not considered „worth it“.


People also seem to equate nuclear power accidents with nuclear bombs, like a Hiroshima bomb.


she's right to assume worst-case scenarios. We're too smug in the west.


Wikipedia has many lists about nuclear accidents - the "mother" of all those articles might be this one:

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

It points to other sub-lists and some of them have links to sub-sub-articles that explain what happened in a specific case, for example this one:

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

Unluckily not all lists have always a link available to the detailed article, so for example in the case of the SL-1 accident ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SL-1 ) you'll find the link to the details only in this other list:

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

Reading about the details has always been very interesting for me as I love everything involving cause/effect.


False-dichotomy. There are plenty of ways to generate energy and the more diverse, less centralized they are, the more robust the system is.

Wow since the Chernobyl series HN has suddenly had an uptick in pro-nuclear posts.


I think it started before the Chernobyl series. There have been a lot of increasingly serious climate change reports over the past year, and when you start looking into what can be done, you have to take another neutral look at nuclear power. And when you look at it neutrally in the face of the alternatives you quickly get converted.


I think there are a lot of people, like myself, who see that the path to responsible power generation includes nuclear power. I'm all for solar and wind although, I don't see the current manufacturing, logistics, and economic environment supporting a full transition. If new nuclear is done correctly, a big if, we can take leaps towards reducing CO2 emissions versus small drawn out steps.


Sadly humans have proven multiple times that they are not capable of handling the responsibilities that come with nuclear power. It should be a no-go path, and existing nuclear should be phased out immediately and fast.

On top of that the neo-liberal market economy is a compounding risk, ultimately absolving all responsibilities or even rewarding companies for failing to protect the public.


I couldn't disagree more.

We have proven that we aren't capable of handling the responsibility that comes with handling coal/gas. And unless you live in a shack in the woods you're a contributor.

Nuclear is the only energy source where we have a 100% plan for the byproduct of energy. While I agree we really need to come up with an alternative. Nuclear may be the only short term stopgap that gets us off of CO2 producing plants in the short term so we can get to a long term.

No nuclear planet has sent our entire planet on a crash course with climate change... Every energy source that powers our lives has a trade off and a byproduct. We all need to admit that, accept it and then make a plan to live in harmony with as much of the earth as we can.


All it takes is a decent natural disaster and you have a nuclear catastrophe. With global warming, this risk of an unusual or unplanned/unlikely event for that geographic region increases.


A nuclear catastrophe like the one at Fukushima is really bad, but it's only a factor of 10 worse than the normal operation of a coal plant generating as much electricity as Fukushima did. And that's for the coal plants we have in the West with our "clean coal" scrubbers and so forth. What we consider a disaster in nuclear power is closer to business as usual in coal power.

By all means replace nuclear plants with solar. But only after you've finished replacing all the coal plants.


Devastating natural disaster. Fukishima handled the earthquake fine it was when (i believe) their generators were washed away that the problem started.

I would never advocate for a nuclear power plant on the side of an active volcano. at all.

You put the right technology in the right spot.

Also, I'm really hoping to see thorium get more time in the sun because it doesn't go critical and cause a catastrophe. They melt down but don't explode (from what I've been able to find).


Yes, thorium plus smaller reactors would be nice. A few years ago I saw work being done on reactors the size of a car that are much safer because the fuel is only the size of a tennis ball and much easier to control as well as contain if anything were to go wrong. The issue I see with this approach though is that if there's too many then maintenance and monitoring becomes difficult.


Fearmongers like yourself have got us in this situation. If nuclear had replaced coal in the 80s we wouldn't be living the hottest years on record


I am a realist.


I don't know how somebody who calls themselves a "realist" would advocate for a known, actual, irrevocable damage to the planet over an avoidable, hypothetical one. Global warming caused by emissions is real, and things will only get worse. Society doesn't seem to be on the way of even considering doing the huge path correction needed to avoid the gravest issues.

Nuclear power is still an open question, avoided for decades now due to the false dichotomy of "nuclear or wind/solar" perpetuated by the mainstream


Damage from nuclear power isn't a hypothetical one. You're also acting like there are no other options. There are also additional options that aren't receiving investment needed to allow the technology mature. Coal power plants could also introduce CO2 scrubbers.


> With global warming, this risk of an unusual or unplanned/unlikely event for that geographic region increases.

This isn't true. Global warming, as the name suggests, affects the entire world, as its mechanism is via long term changes to the atmosphere. Also, it's most severe effects won't be in the form of unlikely "events", but gradual increases in sea level and changes in climate which will put cities underwater and make others too hot to live in.


That is incorrect. For instance, air streams are disrupted and change paths and the hotter temperatures increases moisture in the air which leads to more frequent and worse storms.


I don't disagree that global warming won't also affect catastrophic events. But it's my opinion that the most severe effects will be the changes in climate (temperatures, sea level, desertification, etc).


> Nuclear is the only energy source where we have a 100% plan for the byproduct of energy.

What about wind? The only direct byproduct is a bit of turbulence, and if you also include the infrastructure (generator, control systems, building, etc), it's probably less complex to dismantle than nuclear.


It's also extremely unreliable. That's why you need coal/gas to supplement wind.


We currently have no way to recycle the massive towers and blades, mostly made of fiberglass.


> not capable of handling the responsibilities that come with nuclear power.

What responsibilities? If those are: not killing / harming people, and not destroying ecosystems, then nuclear appears to be favourable compared to other sources.

Fossil fuels cause great harm to health and the environment. Hydro requires flooding of large areas of land, often destroying habitats, and wind and solar are only currently useful as supplementary energy sources, due to the difficulty in storing energy economically. Renewables aren't statistically less deadly either.

You can be against energy consumption in general, but I think this equates to primitivism or antinatalism which would itself increase human suffering.

In high-income economies I admit there could be a substantive decrease in consumption without significantly harming quality of life, but much of the world's population is in the situation of needing to increase their consumption to reach what we would regard as minimal living standards.


Comparing 'Apples' that are killing us to 'Oranges' that will kill us.




Registration is open for Startup School 2019. Classes start July 22nd.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: