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You don’t have to be “pro-nuclear” or “anti-nuclear.” (vox.com)
62 points by curtis 38 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 134 comments



Placing some bets on nuclear make sense (France gets 80% of electric generation from nuclear) but counting on nuclear is risky because nobody can make nuclear plants cost efficiently anymore. America should probably keep trying on a small scale and if they can figure it, then ramp up. The big problem is that nuclear is essentially a big government project, and America is very bad at those.


"nobody can make nuclear plants cost efficiently anymore." Wrong, China and South Korea does,some private enterprises too.

Unlike most technologies nuclear power plant building cost has increased over time (5 times) Mostly among other things (e.g lack of standardization except France), the huge current cost is because of irrational, overengeenered safety specifications. America could trivially build cheap power plants like in 70s and it would still make statistically less deaths than wind or solar and be the most cost effective energy source on earth.

Even taking into account modern occidental power plants, they are still mostly competitive with fossil and destroy other clean energy sources. Source: https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/economic-a...


Ah yes, the good old seventies, when nuclear plant construction workers could get away with stuff like using a candle to find air leaks in the highly flammable insulation within an already-live nuclear plant: https://www.neimagazine.com/features/featureremembering-the-... Let's not go back there. That could've turned out a lot worse than it did.


An absurd strawman, the guy you are responding to said building a plant whereas you are talking about finding leaks.


It's not a strawman, this was how the US built nuclear plants in the 70s. The folks looking for leaks were construction workers building Unit 3 of the nuclear plant, using a candle to test the newly-installed seal on the reactor building for leaks. Units 1 and 2 were already live. The fire spread through the cable ducts into the wiring for the in-use reactors, taking out both redundant sets of control and monitoring systems. (Which is of course a design flaw too and lead to much tighter regulations.) There's a reason we don't build nuclear power plants like in the seventies.


Its still a absurd strawman. Nobody advocates for doing things like we did in the 70s. And complaining about harmful regulations now does not mean going back to that.

Everybody who works on these regulations realizes how absurd they are. They were driven by political rationals and not technical once.


Talking about cost efficiency in power production is impossible as long as the default option is that we will burn fossil fuel when the power grid request more power than is being produced by other sources.

The most cost efficient way today is to use renewable sources like wind and solar when they produce, and natural gas when they don't. Gas powered generators can on demand easily be turned on or off, and pipe lines makes the import/export very cost effective so it can reach the target market quickly with minimal costs. The combination also allow for partial build up and short time between investment and revenue, while nuclear plants have all the cost up front and take long time to build.

It should not be a major surprise that many new natural gas power plants is currently being built in the US, and in the rest of the world. If I read the articles/numbers correctly it is the most common type of new power plants being built, with the second most common being wind in areas where wind expect to be profitable.

The good news is that natural gas is also replacing coal and oil. The bad news is that they are replacing nuclear. Natural gas is about half as dirty as coal, but half as dirty as coal does not sound that great of a replacement for nuclear.


> nobody can make nuclear plants cost efficiently anymore.

Russia and China disagree with you. The French and American troubles with building new nuclear plants is more linked to the demise of the state-driven industry in those countries than to some inherent difficulties with nuclear itself.


They don't have to answer to their citizens if things go awry.

Plenty of opportunity for cost cutting.


Yeah, it's worth remembering that Russia still operates RBMK nuclear reactors and plans to do so for as long as they can keep them working. The safety levels of their nuclear power program do not exactly match Western standards to put it lightly.


This is kind of crazy to say, but after the obvious flaws were fixed, RBMKs are pretty solid, efficient machines.


Context: The RBMK reactor had a serious flaw which resulted in Chernobyl. Source: the recent TV show of the same name.


"The RBMK reactor had a serious flaw" The serious flaw was multiple consecutive human errors which could today be prevented by software checklist enforcement.


> "The RBMK reactor had a serious flaw" The serious flaw was multiple consecutive human errors which could today be prevented by software checklist enforcement.

This is incorrect.

The serious design flaw was that the 'stop the reactor reacting' button rapidly accelerated the reaction briefly, but long enough to cause a massive spike.

There were also human errors on the operations side.


There were indeed design flaws (some of which are mitigated now that they changed the enrichment level of the fuel used in the reactor). But Chernobyl cannot be described as «a design problem and also human errors».

Anatoli Diatlov gave INSANE orders that led to the catastrophe. With such a culture were an all powerful chief can send his technicians to gulag if they dare disobeying an accident like this could have happened even with the safest PWR.


France is in the process of phasing out 35% of their nuclear fleet, and the remaining fleet will need to be retired within a few decades.

With one exception (Flammanville, 11 years over schedule and 400% over budget) no new plants are planned.


> France is in the process of phasing out 35% of their nuclear fleet

No we aren't. The only plant expected to close soon is Fessenheim, but every others are planned to work for at least twenty more years. EDF just started «le grand carénage»[1] which is a big investment plan to make the plants work 10 more years, up to 60. (Which is in twenty years)

Source: my wife works at Dampierre en Burly's plant, which is one of the oldest running plant in France, and is part of this program (starting next year there).

A law («loi TECV») was voted in this direction a few years ago, stating that 35% of the reactors should be closed by 2025, but none of the four leading political parties in France have any will to respect it (including the current government, which is here to stay until 2022…). This law was 100% communication and nobody really believed it when it was passed.

[1]: https://fr.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_car%C3%A9nage (in French only though)


I'm aware of the refit effort, as well as safety improvements required and under-funded decommissioning costs, which as I understand it requires on the order of 100 billion euros in new financing.

My understanding has been that it (the refit) applies to the remainder of the fleet after drawdown. Has it been funded? Where is EDF obtaining the funds? Isn't EDF itself in need of a bailout from France?

As to the 35% target, this is the first time I've read anyone state categorically that none of the plants will be shut down. It seems strange to have a law passed that everyone agrees to disregard, but maybe that's how things happen.

Can you point us toward anything firm on which to base a belief that no plants other than fessenheim will be closed?


> which as I understand it requires on the order of 100 billion euros in new financing.

Between 50 and 100 billions, yes. Which is between 1 and 2 billions per reactor.

> My understanding has been that it (the refit) applies to the remainder of the fleet after drawdown.

As I told you, even the oldest reactor are planned to be part of the plan,and it even started this year on the second oldest plant (Bugey). The oldest one being Fessenheim, which is the only one that will be closed.

> Has it been funded? Where is EDF obtaining the funds? Isn't EDF itself in need of a bailout from France

EDF has no money issue at the moment (because nobody's is counting the decommissioning, which is a different problem…). They earned 15 billion euros last year, so even if the enhancement plan were to cost 100 billions, it would be paid after 6 years, which is way profitable for something allowing you to run 20 more years.

> It seems strange to have a law passed that everyone agrees to disregard, but maybe that's how things happen.

Unfortunately It happens all the time: evrytime you see a law saying “<something> must be done in 10 years”, it's usually bullshit because the government passing the law won't be in charge at this point, so the next government will just cancel the law…

> Can you point us toward anything firm on which to base a belief that no plants other than fessenheim will be closed?

Do you really think EDF would spend 4 to 8 billions in Bugey if the plant was getting shut down 3 years after the end of the works ?


One thing to note about America’s “small scale nuclear” is that it produces more energy than France’s “large scale nuclear”.


I was surprised to learn that America makes 805.3 TWh[1] but France only 519.4 TWh[2] of nuclear energy.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_the_United_St... [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_France


nobody can make nuclear plants cost efficiently anymore

You have to account for the externalities of the only cheaper thing out there (fossil fuels).

And then there's this

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

Unless you're lucky to live next to hydro, or unless you do like China and steamroll over your citizens building massive hydro, there's nothing cheaper, overall, than nuclear.


USA builds small nuclear reactors, on time and with reasonable budget ... but then use to power warships instead of cities.


Is that “reasonable” for someone building a warship similarly “reasonable” for someone competing with wind and solar?


Thats a good question, which is hard to answer without knowing cost of storage and grid upgrades because of intermittency.


Wind and solar are not at all cost competitive with nuclear, the question shouldn't even be asked..


> nobody can make nuclear plants cost efficiently anymore

Nobody ever could! Nuclear power generation, from its infancy, has been outrageously subsidized, both directly (i.e. DoE grants, government funding of waste disposal) and indirectly (industrial-scale refining of fuel as a side effect of the weapons industry). Once those sources dried up it just plain stopped making sense.

At the end of the day it needs to stand on its own to make sense, and it can't, especially when compared to its green (and largely unsubsidized!) competitors. People who really want this to happen need to solve the technical problems and then come back with a plan.

To riff on the title: it's not "anti nuclear" to be anti-pro-nuclear. Make it work first before shouting about it on the internet.


Subsidized against what? It's main competitor, carbon, has the implicit subsidy of not having to account for the externalities in the waste it creates.

Against new green tech yes, it's a better argument.


> Against new green tech yes, it's a better argument.

Right, so I'll take cheap panels and turbines please. We should stop pushing the luxury reactors. We can't afford them if we actually want to spend the limited funds we have to save the planet.


>At the end of the day it needs to stand on its own to make sense

Why? Why does such a critical piece of civilization NEED to make money on a free market? Why is it absurd to expect governments to help fund power generation like they are expected to fund other infrastructure (and healthcare, in most of the developed world)?


Because the point of a subsidy is to benefit the public, not particular industries. If others can stand on their own, why would you waste public money on subsidizing a less efficient one?


The point of government is to serve the public interest. There is a lot of current public-private power generation in the U.S.

I also disagree with your assertion that there are renewable technologies that compete with the reliability of Nuclear.


> The point of government is to serve the public interest. There is a lot of current public-private power generation in the U.S.

Sure, that doesn't go against what I said.

> I also disagree with your assertion that there are renewable technologies that compete with the reliability of Nuclear.

Neither can minicomputers compete with the reliability of mainframes, yet we've seen how that went. Reliability can be worked around with engineering. It'll be a messy mix of power sources, storage technologies and distribution networks, but it'll be cheap. Nuclear will keep existing - at the margins.


Is this actually the prevailing analysis of the status quo? Is the best unsubsidized nuclear power plant we could technically build today actually cost effective or is it not? Can people with insight chime in? I just tried to google an answer and, from a layman's perspective without a horse in the race, there seems to be no single easily available answer.

As a side note, it irritates me how often this is the case for many simple and important (but, apparently, hard) questions, that must have a correct answer.


See https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.... Main finding is that newly built nuclear power is about twice as expensive as wind and 40% more expensive than solar power. Other studies come to similar conclusions. With the cost of solar and wind expected to decrease due to mass production and technology advancements, their advantage grows even larger.

The real nail in the coffin are the huge uncertainties and capital costs. Suppose projections show that electricity demand will rise by 1000MW over the next ten years so new reactor is built. But what if demand only rises by 500MW? Then you have wasted billions that won't ever be recouped.


> See https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation..... Main finding is that newly built nuclear power is about twice as expensive as wind and 40% more expensive than solar power. Other studies come to similar conclusions. With the cost of solar and wind expected to decrease due to mass production and technology advancements, their advantage grows even larger.

I highly doubt they take the unreliability into account in their study. One MW of nuclear is worth much much more than a MW of solar or even worse wind since you can count on it.

I'd mention that there's not a single country in the world which currently succeeds as using solar & wind as their primary electricity generation.


Modern wind farms are built offshore and with towers 200 meters high or higher. At those altitudes in such locations wind power is quite reliable.

Anyway, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If nuclear power megawatts was worth much more than wind power megawatts then why are many new wind farms being built but so few nuclear power plants? It seems to me that those who put their money where their mouth is do not think the superior reliability of nuclear power is enough to make their investments profitable.


> new wind farms being built but so few nuclear power plants?

Because of the initial investment, private companies already have trouble to project themselves just 5 years into the future and they lack the big picture. That's also why privately managed electricity generation just doesn't work.

> Anyway, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

I'll believe what I see as well, there's not a single country in the world which manages to use wind & solar as their primary electricity source and there's nothing indicating any could in the future.


Stop spreading dangerous fake beliefs, if you make such an extraordinary claim that nuclear is less cost effective than "green competitors", source it. This is in complete Contradiction with this scientific analysis: https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/economic-a...


Okay. How about we use the same source you -- which does sound like it may not the best site to obtain impartial metrics from, but includes this paragraph:

> These show: advanced nuclear, 9.9 c/kWh ... wind onshore, 5.2 c/kWh; solar PV, 6.7 c/kWh; offshore wind, 14.6 c/kWh; and solar thermal, 18.4 c/kWh.

Two things to note.

1. A better comparative assessment is available here [1], specifically drawing your attention to page 1333.

2. The min/med/max numbers invite questions around the cause of such large disparities, and this leads you to ask what 'advanced nuclear' means in the citation you offered. Many of these very impressive LCOE and gmC/kW figures are for new designs of fission power plants, while we should be factoring in those costs & emissions of current installations that'll be maintained for the next few decades.

[1] https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ipcc_wg3_ar5...


> nobody can make nuclear plants cost efficiently anymore.

That is simply factually untrue. You can get cost effective nuclear plants from China or South Korea right now.

The core problem with nuclear has always been that if every reactor is a bespoke thing, it will be expensive. Mass production helps with nuclear as with everything else, that has been true whenever we saw a large expansion of nuclear power.

Trying GenIV reactors on a 'small' scale is simply not possible.

> The big problem is that nuclear is essentially a big government project, and America is very bad at those.

Then go to South Korea and order 50 reactors, give them access to US labor and let them build it.


South Korea is not doing so great either: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/613325/how-greed-and-corr...


People always hack around at large industries like this. The reality is that they have carbon-free energy deployed faster then pretty much any other nation and it still kills less people then other forms of power.


This is bad writing for a lot of reason.

First the author tells us that if we consider ourselves pro or anti nuclear we can't possibly have thought through the pros and cons of nuclear power. It must be because we identify ourselves as left or right. Or green or not.

Then he tells us that if we _do_ have a policy position, we are probably wrong because "its complicated". All of which I find mildly insulting.

Then he proceeds to look at nuclear "purely though the lens of climate change", which as far as I'm concerned is not useful because many of the reasons one might choose to be anti-nuclear are not climate change related.


I found it good informative reading, compared to biased articles or comments that cover only one side. These articles are written for the masses, not people who have spent dozens of hours studying every nuance and came to an opinion.

If such people do comment on the article, I'd rather hope they comment on specifics rather than just say "writer is a snob, article sux".


My specific complaint with the article is that it's wrong and dangerous to consider nuclear through a narrow lens and therefore not a balanced and unbiased view.


The title of the article is "A beginner’s guide to the debate over nuclear power and climate change", and is about the various perspectives of the DNC candidates in a specific 'Climate Change' debate.

Not sure how it's a problem that he's writing about it from a climate change perspective, and even has a disclaimer that it doesn't have all the details about the pro and anti nuclear debate.

>I’m not going to review all that history (it could fill a book); instead, I’ll approach nuclear power purely through the lens of climate change.


Oh sorry, I thought that was obvious. It's a problem because you might read the article and start thinking that nuclear energy could be a reasonable solution to our climate change problem, but it can never be, for reasons that the author decided are outside the scope of his article.


The point of every Vox article is to justify the existence of Matthew Yglesias-style centrist neoliberal wonks. "All problems are too complicated for the average American to understand! The answer is always somewhere in the middle! Go to sleep and let the adults in the room handle this!"


While I can't agree with all of your strawman, yes indeed many problems are too complex/needs too much knowledge for most people to understand them. Humans brains are buggy by default and without cognitive debiasing one is likely to fall in mental trap,especially if we talk about nuclear which evoke fear in most brains and emotions destroy reason.


It's difficult to evaluate nuclear using reason alone, because a large part of the equation is a moral issue, and we all have different morals.

Many of us believe it's immoral to leave behind nuclear waste for future generation to care for. Not only do you have to store it somewhere, you have to secure it so that it can't be misused, for thousands of years.


Please, just quantify. we all have different morals No we do not, all non irrational humans are utilitarists, and many are without even knowing the "concept".

believe it's immoral to leave behind nuclear waste for future generation to care for. Do you understand that nuclear waste is just a kind of pollution, which should be compared with other pollutions such as C02 emissions. It is estimated that C02 kill 1000000 humans per year Nuclear wastes kill 0 human per year. It has not killed even one human in all nuclear history.

Most people who talk about nuclear waste don't know anything about nuclear wastes... And they don't realize they talk about something they don't know. With recycling technologies such as what France do since decades, nuclear wastes generate useful byproducts (MOX). France only generate a few tons of nuclear waste per year, recycle more than 90% of it. 0.1% of the wastes are "dangerous" which means don't be exposed to them more than a few days if you don't want to increase your ageing. 0.1%.... That's a few kilos per year. The rest stop being radioactive 10 years after production.

Those 0.1% are safely contained since 70s and will never be an issue. Geological containment is only a marketing for pleasing those with the irrational fear described in my last comment.


Yes, leaving behind any pollution is immoral. And I have some concerns about the massive growth we are going to see in batteries in the next century. People say they are easy to recycle but my understanding is that they are not currently.

I also have concerns about heavy metals, such as cadmium and mercury, but I believe we should move our society away from producing those wastes as well.

You say it will never be an issue, but it will always be some issue, even if very small, and I think its just rude to leave waste behind for future generations when we can choose alternate energy sources that don't pollute, or just go without the energy.


Meanwhile, incidence rates of thyroid cancer continue to rise.


The Onion got Vox down to a T: https://youtu.be/RpkQEq75y18


When Bernie/AOC lead with rhetoric like "climate change requires WWII levels of mobilization", it strikes me odd that they think that level of change is feasible, but that the unprecedented mobilization and centralization of efforts can't be applied to nuclear technology. It's bizarre and makes me think that it's a blatant political agenda much more than sensible application of technology to solve problems in the world.


What is bizarre about it? Not all options are equally good investments - some are clearly preferable over others. Why insist on new nuclear power when so much evidence shows it is not needed?


One of the main objections to nuclear is that “we can’t properly regulate it.” But the whole argument of Bernie/AOC/progressives centers around massive centralization and mobilization. It just seems to me that the super idealistic, unprecedentedly large plans they’re proposing would imply we could do the same thing with nuclear.


> Why insist on new nuclear power when so much evidence shows it is not needed?

Which evidence? IPCC reports nuclear as being highly needed.


Which IPCC report recommends building new nuclear power plants in the US?


does the IPCC ever recommend exact allocations of power production per country? It seems like their report on Mitigation Pathways suggests a really wide range for nuclear, with the high overshoot pathway having an upper-bound of 7x increase in nuclear generation, whereas 5x upper-bound for low overshoot.

I find this line pretty interesting cause it suggests that people may very well arbitrarily ignore nuclear: "There are large differences in nuclear power between models and across pathways (Kim et al., 2014; Rogelj et al., 2018). One of the reasons for this variation is that the future deployment of nuclear can be constrained by societal preferences assumed in narratives underlying the pathways (O’Neill et al., 2017; van Vuuren et al., 2017b)."


Aka double standard


Interesting idea: you can opt out of identity politics.


Right?

As an aside, I was surprised by the repeated use of "climate hawk" throughout the article as an identity that we might be interested in taking on. Could they have said e.g. "people concerned about climate change"? I may just not know the term's history.


I find this focus on identity politics so toxic it's starting to make life miserable.

I'm currently driving a VW SUV company car in a german suburb and the amount of hate I receive because of it is ramping up daily. Even from people driving similar polluting cars, like high-powered station wagons.

The other day my wife was breastfeeding our child in our car while I was quickly grabbing something from a store when it was 36°C/96.8°F outside, so I naturally left the car running so the AC would keep them cool. I was barely a minute out of the car when a woman came knocking on the window, gesturing my wife to turn off the car, giving her the finger etc.

I can't imagine similar things happening even 5 years ago.


I wonder if it is fair to discount those people by calling what they're doing "identity politics".

Perhaps there's a move in the Overton window: as environmental issues are brought to the forefront of people's minds, the average person is becoming more hostile to what is perceived as being non-eco behaviour - not because of "identity politics", but because they're more aware of negative externalities coming from such behaviour.

That woman sounds like an outlier based on our experience so far, but perhaps that indicates that the window is moving and what is and isn't acceptable in our society is changing.

I mean, not long ago, slavery was widely accepted in our society and it took some violent societal transitions (at least in some parts of the world), to move to a world where slavery is highly frowned upon.


Interesting, I often hear this described as a peculiarly (or at least mostly) American phenomenon, but that's well beyond the type of thing I'd imagine happening in even the hyper-sensitive US city I live in. I know I'm being a little reductive here, but your story is a pretty substantial outlier relative to what I'm used to.


I know in Switzerland there was a story about some of the young left party going around putting stickers on SUV saying "I also am a tank" and they got a lot of flack for this 'property destruction'.


I think it's because large SUVs are much rarer in the Europe compared to the US.


Hm, that makes some sense, but taking SUVs out of the picture, I can't think of any analogue that would happen here.


Interesting, on the other side of the coin, there has been outright vandalism against eco friendly cars.

15 hybrid cars' tires slashed including a Smart car.

https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Vandal-Targets-Priu...

Similar story in California. https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/daily-news/080908-vandal...

Also in Seattle.

Things are decidedly weird.


omg wow, didn't know people would go to such extent...


That's not based on identity, that's based on action. Running a stationary car is basically a form of littering.


That's like saying "cooling a stationary house is littering". Operating a device for the comfort of the user is precisely why we make things like AC, whether it's in a car, a boat, or a house.


No, there is a huge difference. In a house, the AC is powered efficiently by electric power from the grid or even your solar cells. With the car, you keep a combustion engine , that could output 100kW or more running purely to power a 1kW AC unit. This is one of many advantages of electric or hybrid cars, that you can keep AC running.


In a house, you are cooling the entire volume of space enclosed so that wherever a human happens to go, they are comfortable. It is still littering, regardless of the scale.


Do you use AC? Or any mode of transportation other than walking? Or any convenience that relies on fossil fuels or grid electricity? Do you use any manufactured products? Eat any food that has been shipped a distance farther than your garden?

I assume (perhaps I should not) that by "littering" you are referring to the production of greenhouse gases. If this is so, I'd like to point out that if you are breathing, by your definition, you are littering with every breath.


Yes, I do all of that. I was only continuing the parent's claim that idling a car for AC is littering. I don't actually believe it is - merely stating in that worldview that airconditioning a house is littering too.


I'm guessing it's the VW part people are against since they cheat on their emissions tests.


Would the woman been treated the same way if she was in a Skoda or Audi?


People keep using this term. Is there a simplified no bullshit summary? I don’t want to drown in a ridiculous Wikipedia article.


It simply means the process of politicians or normal people identifying with a specific group (other then the nation as a whole) and making that groups interest its primary concern rather then the nation or humanity as whole.

Or even simple the process of making policy turns into what are you and what are you not, rather then what are your actions or lack their off.

I the simply fact that you are born gay, straight, polish or any other identifiable group is what defines you and therefore defines your life.


I think that most people mean "my (or whoever's) identity drives my politics. For example, the idea that I must vote Democrat because I'm black.

If you're black and want to vote Democrat, that's not identity politics. I don't even think that it's identity politics if you vote Democrat because you think everyone on the Republican side is a racist who hates you. It becomes identity politics when you vote Democrat because of course you're going to vote Democrat, because you're black. When it's unthinkable for a black to do anything else, then it's identity politics.

That, I think, is most peoples' definition. I have a different one. To me, identity politics is when politics becomes your identity. It's essentially tribalism. Instead of "I think this is the better policy" or "I like this better", you decide that your identity is Democrat/Republican/liberal/conserative. That's who you are.


Conventional media promotes strong opinions in the consumer about stuff they havent checked themselves. Those dogmas are then factionalized along and pre-judged with.


If it's really the case that the only way to make nuclear viable is to deregulate the industry, then Bernie is absolutely right that we need to end reliance on nuclear power.


I just so much hate how anytime the solution to anything is 'deregulation' its meet with utter horror. Just using the word 'deregulation' is basically a political death sentence.

Even when deregulation things like airplanes, logistics and lots and lots of other industry has been very beneficial.

I don't think people even realize to what absurd extend the anti-nuclear movement had managed to attack nuclear energy. To the point where it is basically impossible to build any kind of new reactor in the US.

There are only two types of regulation, for extremely tiny research reactors that are whole unsuited for researching actual power reactors. Or full deployment ready reactors that meet all the regulation of a current reactor.

Now the current regulation says that you need to have a way to cool steam. Well, a sodium or molten salt reactor (or lots of others) simply don't have steam that can be cooled. Meaning that LOTS of technical requirements that are only valid for one specific type of reactor and a specific way of building that reactor is valid at all.

Now we can argue over the expect right regulation needed to run a nuclear plant but arguing that 'deregulation' as a concept is so horrible that its worth trying to destroy the biggest source of carbon free energy is beyond dogmatic and wholly irrational.

Its simply outright refusing to deal with the problems of the nuclear industry based on principle rather then actually trying to evaluate the real problems with the current set of regulations (that are widely acknowledged by people from the industry and even within the government itself).


I mean, regulation was introduced due to the Three Mile Island meltdown. Acting like it's irrational to regulate an industry that has proven itself unable to self-regulate is entirely dogmatic, especially given the disastrous consequences.

Furthermore, the Trump administration is already deregulating the nuclear industry, so you're getting your wish.


Again, I never said it was irrational to regulate. And its equally wrong that it was 'self-regulated' before that.

But the amount of regulation interceded was in no relation to the accident that actually happened. But rather the accident gave the political momentum to the anti-nuclear people to essentially make further development of nuclear impossible.

You are just engaging in binary logic, while I try to point out real problems with the current system that need to be addressed on a lot of levels, from development, to building, to licensing and so on

The reality is that you have no interest in even engaging in the actual problems with the current system in order to present some binary choice that you can force on people. Its simply the same old fear tactics, don't engage with the actual subject matter, demonize based on principle.

> Furthermore, the Trump administration is already deregulating the nuclear industry, so you're getting your wish.

No they are not actually. And some general 'deregulation' is not my goal.


You can't have the real, workable New Green Deal without nuclear power. Anyone who says we're heading towards a climate catastrophe and is against 4th gen nuclear (thorium) at the same time is a hypocrite. Here we have something both sides of the aisle will support, irrespective even of their views on climate change, let's get to work and if there are safety concerns, let's mount an effort to address those. Once those are conclusively addressed, it will be easier to deregulate the industry and make it cheaper to build nuclear power plants. Thorium is abundant. There are now reactors that can utilize "nuclear waste" as well, so that problem could be solved too, I'm pretty sure.

I would be willing to bet that it will be dramatically cheaper than $10T "deals" floated so far. Shit, getting fusion to work with net energy gain will likely cost less than $1T all in all (although it'll take time).

If done properly, we could finally end up with electricity that's "too cheap to meter", and massively reduce the need for coal, oil, and gas, all without having to hobble the entire domestic industries and force them to burn coal in China instead.


"4th gen nuclear" that could utilize current waste is years or even decades away from commercial availability. If you want to bet everything on a potential future technology that doesn't currently exist why not choose nuclear fusion? That will really solve all your waste and fuel problems...


>> "4th gen nuclear" that could utilize current waste is years or even decades away from commercial availability

It's not: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Russias-BN-800-unit-ent...

I agree with you on fusion. But as a stop gap, thorium and 4th gen nuclear sound awesome to me.


Deregulation of nuclear cannot and will not ever happen.


I have met with quite unreasonable (to my mind) fears about nuclear waste's supposed deleterious effects on people and nature, even if stored in a remote underground facility. Whenever people have gut reactions without evidence, the conversation quickly becomes non-productive.


When these conversations take place in the policy space, everyone agrees to do nothing, and you end up with situations where power plants with <100 year lifetimes are de facto storage facilities for the foreseeable future.

Living in New York, all of the nuclear facilities will be decommissioned in my lifetime, and the ratepayers or taxpayers will be paying for upkeep of the storage components for decades or centuries. We already have to provide direct subsidy just to keep them operating as they aren’t financially viable.

That’s why nuclear doesn’t get built today.


Someone's "remote" is always someone else's backyard.


There have been a few [0][1] proposed storage facilities in the United States that have been stalled because of local NIMBY votes.

[0] https://strangesounds.org/2014/06/us-nuclear-waste-storage-m...

[1] https://trib.com/news/state-and-regional/govt-and-politics/s...


To be clear, I'm not attempting to pass judgement on people who vote this way. I would also vote "no" if someone wanted to store nuclear waste near my home. I'm only pointing out that storage is hard.


Just dump it on the South Pole.

It'll get frozen under hundreds of meters of ice (very good radiation absorber, plus a natural heat sink) and begin a hundred million year voyage to the sea. At which point it won't be radioactive any more and will get transported and dumped into deep ocean by the icebergs.


Water is a very good neutron reflector and moderator so it is exactly what you do NOT want around your nuclear waste. Also metal containers tend to rust when there is water around. The low temperature in the ice will slow that down a bit, but will not prevent it.

Remember: while there are problems that are solve after smart people have stared at the problem for decades, there are many more occasions where all you can come up with is ideas that have been considered and found impracticable all long time ago and you just don't know enough about the problem to see why your idea wont work.


You sound like it's now forbidden to joke on the internets.

Besides, when one buries some mildly radioactive materials in 20 meters of ice with a median temperature of 230K or something like that, it just doesn't matter what neutron flux they release. And if they heat up, they would just sink deeper.

What matters is that that the neutron flux is adequately dissipated. Which it would be.


From my understanding, clay containers are preferred for nuclear waste.


The main argument against nuclear is that it absolutely requires a highly educated, well organized society and workforce. If something really serious disrupts our elaborated, complex societies, then nuclear plants will become really dangerous.

With looming climate change, energy crisis, overpopulation and other problems, you can't be sure that we'll be in a stable enough world long enough to be completely safe.


This, like most anti nuclear arguments, is a standard that is NEVER applied to other industries.


Which other industry can make an area uninhabitable for many decades?


Chemical processing plants? Water management?



Any dangerous chemical plant


>The main argument against nuclear is that it absolutely requires a highly educated, well organized society and workforce. If something really serious disrupts our elaborated, complex societies, then nuclear plants will become really dangerous.

No, i think the main arguments against nuclear is the impact of the problem if something goes really wrong and that everybody is cutting corners making a technology more unsafe than it could be.


I'm amazed we've had so few accidents, considering how many nuclear plants are located all around Europe. Recently I was reading about an incident in Ukraine, where workers from a nuclear power plant connected the internal network to the internet to mine bitcoin.

It's a shame there's no avherald for nuclear power, I bet it would be an interesting read. C. Perrow had access to industry journals when documenting the chapter on nuclear in his "Normal accidents" book. The incidents described there were mind-boggling.


Yup. Plus, with nuclear, even if we do everything as safely as possible, there's always a tail risk of a VERY negative event due to causes outside our control.

I'm yet to understand why this part of the argument is often so readily dismissed.


That very negative event is less than the expected externalities of coal and in many types of gas exploration


"It's better than coal" is damning with faint praise. Is there anyone who is openly anti-nuclear and pro-coal?


The alternative can be even worse though. Even well maintained coal and natural gas plants pollute more, and are responsible for more deaths than the worst case of nuclear power


Nuclear is better than fossil fuels on many aspects. To keep the Earth inhabitable to humans, we should start closing down coal plants RIGHT NOW and never touch coal again. We should be all working frantically towards stopping using any fossil fuels as quickly as possible. This isn't where we're going...


The main argument against nuclear is

The other main argument I hear all the time is that building a new nuclear power plant today is so expensive that it will never pay for itself at current electricity prices.


I wouldn't go so far as to say never. But that's generally the reason why nobody in building them in the United States.

But countries with high nuclear usage, like France, show that doesn't have to be the case.

If the US proclaimed a new Manhattan Project to go nearly full nuclear for new energy production, it could probably standardize designs, implement fall back safety features, and reduce regulatory costs.

A lot of the cost for nuclear in the United States is that you need an army of 800 dollar an hour attorneys to get approval/fight lawsuits trying to stop you.


But countries with high nuclear usage, like France, show that doesn't have to be the case.

Except France isn't really building new power plants either, and the one significant project they do have is way over budget and years behind schedule. They're keeping the plants they have running for as long as its reasonable to do so, but as it looks now they're not going to be replaced by new nuclear plants as they get decommissioned.


You could say the same thing of a badly maintained dam, or hazardous chemicals factory.


In some cases not even badly maintained, the nitrogen buildup along with how that affects the life in a properly maintained reservoir have a large cumulative impact.


Sure, if suddenly society is disrupted that is a very big issue. But in that sort of sudden collapse, humanity is pretty screwed already.

Making the collapse of society a little worse isn't something we should worry about.


Compounding a war with an uncontrolled nuclear meltdown seems something we should definitively worry about.


> You don't have to be "pro-X"or "anti-X"

But don't we? We have to be completely polarized on every topic. How else will the binary political system survive?

OK, onward without the sarcasm ... This same kind of critical thinking must be applied to every issue, or we'll just end up in the dark ages again.


How do plants deal with rising water from floods, or falling water from drying out, or overly hot cooling water from high temperatures? These are all in our future. I'm genuinely curious and not trying to troll


Sorry folks give up the ghost nuclear was dead at least 3 decades ago. Solar and wind are the future. We don’t have a decade to build a new nuclear plant, in that plan we’d need a time machine going backa decade to abate climate change that’s now locked in. I’ll spare you all the risks and externalities, it’s just dumb. Again sorry.


You don't think we will need more power than solar and wind can provide in 10 years? Our energy consumption has historically only increased, even with strong conversation campaigns, we should assume this trend will continue.


> Our energy consumption has historically only increased

From what I can tell, energy consumption per capita is lower today than 30 years ago in many developed countries, including the US. While the rest of the world is far from reaching those levels of use, it may point to a cap in the need for more power.


> Solar and wind are the future

There's not a single country in the world which manages to run on solar and wind only or which could in a realistic future.


50 years ago they said we would have fusion power plants in 50 years.


Carbon neutral is a fancy way of saying "let's pollute the same as we do now". Generally achieved via fake offsets, as we do not have the technology to offset something like US pollution.

Even EU ETS (the most developed offset system) is much too slow to cause major dent in the problem.

Where most climate predictions require us to stop altogether to avoid most painful results of climate change.


>Carbon neutral is a fancy way of saying "let's pollute the same as we do now".

"Carbon neutral" has a precise definition, and that's definitely not it.


Context: very small western EU country.

Over here we are:

- cutting down the very few square kilometers of forest we have because the EU declared that everyone has to be carbon neutral or pay fines, and 'wood pellets' are considered 'renewable' energy sources by the administration. The cabinet minister in charge has admitted to the absurdity but stated he is not going to stop the practice as this would lead to being fined.

- keeping open severely damaged aging nuclear plants even when under the protest of several neighboring countries recognizing the dangers. The person in charge of this matter at the energy minister's cabinet just moved through he revolving door and got a very cozy 'job' at the company that owns and operates the plants. The energy minister was not amused as it is customary to await the next elections before cashing in and this person moved in a potential election preamble period.

- The nuclear test facility operated by the government has once more run out of storage space for nuclear waste. In the 'good old days' they just dumped all the waste in the North Sea (it's still there), but now they have to store it. The cement vats they have been using were leaking in the past, and now they have ran out of space for storing them as the piles keep on growing.

Nuclear might be sound in theory, but humans just can't handle the responsibility in practice. And the one answer a neoliberal market economy based socio-economic system is incapable of providing is abstinence, as it is systemically antithetical to it and outside of its potential solution space.


I suppose you didn't mention the country in an attempt to not get criticized?

Because if you're talking about Belgium, half of what you said is plainly wrong.


Which half? Please elaborate.


I'm curious as well




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