5.1 gigawatts of American reactors are expected to retire this year: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=46436
It's a shame that the US is retiring working reactors while still burning fossil fuels for electricity. Reactors are far safer and cleaner than fossil electric generation. It's mostly the low price of natural gas that is driving these early retirements. Low gas prices have also retired a lot of coal usage -- which is good! -- but we'd make more climate progress if those low prices didn't also threaten nuclear generation.
Some states like New York already provided incentives to keep reactors running for climate reasons:
Federal policy could be more comprehensive.
"The Mark I containment was undersized in the original design; the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Harold Denton estimated a 90% probability of explosive failure if the pressure containment system were ever needed in a severe accident. This design flaw may have been the reason that the tsunami in 2011 led to explosions and fire in Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster." (Wikipedia)
It's likely that many old power plants are just not safe and too costly to operate reliably.
> DAEC's operation helps avoid the emission of nearly 4 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, which is the equivalent of taking almost 800,000 cars off the road
Understanding, improving, testing, and certification of a plan to protect against the huge risks involved is expensive and often in practice timelines and budgets often go significantly over.
There's numerous MUCH newer designs that: are much smaller, much easier to scale, absolutely identical, well understood, robust in the face of failure, and don't even need operators. Additionally since they are identical they get economies of scale and only need a finite number of experts on hand, not a group of them per site. You literally need a flat site, water, and electrical hookups. If you don't provide enough water for cooling they shut down. After their useful service life you put them back on a train car and ask for a replacement.
Some of these projects are ready to deliver, but the early customers have been cancelling. Bill Gates funded a project, and there's several around.
It should be quite clear that neither solution are even close to enough power to bridge the gap and require additional energy in the form of fossil fuels. It will be less fossil fuels than if the nuclear plant was exclusively replaced with fossil fuels, but it will be more fossil fuels than before and it will be adding to global warming in a time where the planet can't take more.
While I support expanding nuclear power capabilities in general, a straightforward rule like “don’t decommission old plants as long as fossil fuels are still being used” seems dangerous and irresponsible.
Availability has nothing to do with what you are talking about (it’s much higher for photovoltaics anyway). Out of the 49.5% non-renewables only gas which makes up 12.5 percent of electricity can really be used to follow demand. Coal and nuclear are too slow for that.
Modern nuclear plants can do load following and they do so in France and in Germany. So why is "nuclear too slow"?
Intermittency is mostly relevant for 100% zero carbon energy which is a goal that is incredibly far away. At least another 10 years before we even think about it and then another 10 years to do it.
I suspect Germany does the same thing, but it would be interesting to hear if my guess is correct.
Sweden is also currently investing heavily in connecting power lines with nearby countries in order to increase the capacity to buy energy with countries that produce energy through fossil fuels when needed.
What do you define as 'a total disaster'? Coal fuel consumption is down enormously, supplanted by renewables and a tiny bit of gas generation growth.
Germany's CO2 intensity of electricity isn't actually very good. It's worse than the UK, and 7 times more than France.
Likewise, CO2 reductions aren't very large, and is still above average for EU member states: https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/daviz/co2-emission-i...
I’m all for developing renewables, but we cannot abandon the one good technology we have for generating massive amounts of energy our base loads demand without polluting our air.
The fact of the matter is, that we can dump all our waste on a couple of football fields worth of space. Or even better: store it in a cave somewhere deep and dark and away from rivers.
My old man worked at TMI. We moved to a new house and one day he set off the radiation monitors going into work. Turns out we had a radon problem. This part of PA isn't exactly coal country, but close enough.
My bro was an auxiliary operator at TMI until a few months ago... shut down.
It's the pinnacle of "perfect is the enemy of good."
Well, not just Earth but from almost everywhere in the solar system (assuming being on an almost circular orbit).
Just imagining the solar system as a bowling ball at the center of a trampoline surrounded by fast moving billiard balls. The problem is probably the speed the earth is moving at, plus the speed we had to get the rocket up to, to get it off earth.
Yes, which is around 30 km/s of delta-v, as compared with only 12 km/s delta-v to boost an object from Earth's orbit (assuming you launch it in the same direction that Earth is traveling) to escape velocity from the solar system.
throw the waste in a bucket strong enough to survive hitting earth at terminal velocitty. place bucket in spacex falcon9 rocket. launch rocket into orbit with escape velocity. watch nuclear waste vanish into vacuum of space forever. if crash, collect bucket and restart with new rocket.
financially costly? yes. solves the 'what about in 5000 years when someone opens it or it leaks?' questions, yes.
1. Reprocessing is a better technological solution.
2. That waste is much safer in it's current location in a dry cask in the back lot behind a power plant than it would be on even the safest rocket.
3. Even if we punt waste disposal or reprocessing to future generations, we are still better off stacking waste in dry casks in the back lot behind power plants than burning coal.
Truth though: I think Gundam 00 showed a shockingly plausible future (sans mechas, most likely) for our planet if we do not get over our reliance on fossil fuels. Global conflict on a scale that makes WW2 look like child’s play is an inevitability if we cannot mitigate the environmental impact and eventual depletion of fossil fuels, and that includes support to help less developed nations move away from them.
For a lot of plants, an anonymous cyberattack could probably do it. That'd be way worse than an attack to geostationary, which very few actors could manage, and probably nobody could pull off anonymously.
Space junk seems a more serious problem:
I've seen various proposals to clean it up but it'd take some work.
Except, as the parent noted, very briefly during the equinoxes.
For economic reasons you pretty much have to use phased array transmitters, with a reference signal from the ground to make it coherent, so if the beam gets repointed it gets a lot more diffuse than that.
But as others have pointed out, why would you bother with building space based nuclear plants and then converting that energy to light when you could just use the sun?
Earth is huge. At the rate reactors create waste, the amount of land consumed by storing it is staggeringly low (the higher risks are transportation, which unfortunately the rocket idea doesn't solve unless we build a dedicated rocket site next to each reactor). Low enough to justify the risk-over-time of securely sequestering it instead of throwing it away.
The fuel itself is just a small part of it.
But I think the real problem is emotional. People are afraid of mushroom clouds and mutants.
They don't say that because that's not how we're wired. We come up with better sounding arguments to believe. But what need to be solved is the emotional problem.
There's no free lunch.
I want to make it clear that I'm not trying to say "nuclear > renewables" or even "renewables > nuclear" (this is a dumb comparison imo), but rather that every time we have these conversations in HN and most places we aren't even attempting to make a one-to-one fair comparison. I just wish that, especially on a technical form, that the conversations would focus on technology and science rather than the politics. Though I understand that not every (anyone) is really qualified to talk technically so we talk politically because we still want to engage.
1. They're ignorant and follow a fallacious "appeal to nature" mentality. They seriously think that some sort of return to nature will result in a utopia instead of disease and famine.
2. They're Malthus apologists who want to cause an energy crisis and cause people (who aren't them) to die.
It also overlaps with the anti-GMO types.
In Ohio, the subsidies we so large they led to bribery payments of $60 million by FirstEnergy (former owner of the nuclear plants) to the Ohio Speaker of the House. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ohio_nuclear_bribery_scandal
Low gas prices have accelerated the decision to close down existing nuclear power plants as gas prices look to be low for the foreseeable future thus keeping power prices low.
As for new nuclear, I do not think there will be anymore after the Vogtle 3/4 plants are online. The certified construction and capital costs were estimated at $14 billion in 2017. In 2018 the costs were estimated upward to $25 billion. Analysts are now estimating an additional $1-2 billion due to COVID. With the estimated completion dates of Nov 21 and Nov 22 likely being pushed back. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vogtle_Electric_Generating_Pla...
A sister set of plants (Westinghouse AP1000) design were begun in South Carolina (Summer 2/3). In 2008, costs were estimated at $9.8 billion. Project was cancelled in July of 2017 after $9 billion spent and total cost to complete was estimated at $25 billion.
We do not know how to build new nuclear power plants even remotely cost effectively. The French have tried and it bankrupted their lead nuclear developer, Areva, in 2016. China has built some new nuclear power plants, but has not started a new one in a number of years.
One last side note, another item damaging nuclear power plants, particularly in the Midwest is the structure of the subsidy for wind power. Wind power tax credits are a Production Tax Credit (PTC). To earn the tax credit, the wind turbine must generate power into the grid. As a consequence, wind turbines have a tax incentive to produce power in negative price environments (e.g. overnight). Nuclear power plants cannot turn on and off easily so they end up paying to produce power at these negative price time. Not helpful for profitability.
Ahead of its time, it was unjustly rejected and persecuted by the ignorant masses. Its advocates are bonded by the quiet pride that at least they weren't unthinkingly siding with those masses. (And they're right!) Meanwhile, as the Amiga stagnated for terribly unfair reasons, other, scrappier technologies like the i386 and UMG-Si grew from being worthless boondoggles (except in special circumstances, like spaceflight) to being actually far better and cheaper. But the Amiga advocates keep the faith, sharing their suffering and resentment. They inevitably try the alternatives a little and perhaps even start to like them. Gradually their denial recedes, decade by decade.
But they know that however much fab costs go down and leave their beloved Amiga behind in the dust, you'll never be able to run nuclear submarines and Antarctic research stations on solar panels.
— ⁂ —
Wind, where available, undercut the cost of steam power (including nuclear and coal) a decade ago, and PV undercut it in equatorial parts of the world about four years ago, or in even more of the world if you don't include storage. As a result, last year, China, whose electrical consumption has doubled in the last decade, built 48.2 gigawatts† of new photovoltaic capacity last year https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-energy-climatechang... but only has, I think, something like 10 GW of nuclear plants under construction, scheduled to come online over the next several years. PV installed capacity in China is growing by 23% per year, the same rate it has been growing worldwide for the last few years; with some luck that will return to the 39%-yearly-worldwide-growth trend that has been the fairly consistent average over the last 28 years.‡
(A previous version was posted at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26218673.)
† China's PV capacity factor seems to be only about 13%, so those 48 GWp probably work out to only about 6 GW average. It would be nice if China managed to site its new PV plants in places that could provide a capacity factor like California's 28%.
‡ Why 28? Because I haven't found figures yet on what worldwide installed capacity was in 01992 or earlier.
There are legitimate concerns against nuclear:
Lack of a proper handling of nuclear waste, which is pretty much impossible given the timeframe.
Weakness to improper handling. Human error is very common and should not be able to lead to catastrophic events.
Weakness to unknown unknowns. Chernobyl and Fukushima haven’t been predicted, we’re not able to see all failure modes.
Usefulness of civilian technology in the spread of nuclear weapons. Just think of why the US keeps Iran from building up a civilian nuclear industry.
Expensiveness. Cost is mostly bound by construction costs, which rose faster than inflation.
Burying spent nuclear fuel in bedrock, with no aquifer poses zero risk. The only way it's getting out is by deliberate human intervention. Any nefarious group that has the capability of doing this could inflict far more harm by conventional means. And even if it somehow, by some mysterious force, leaks into the water supply we have infrastructure to detect it and filter it.
We dispose of materials far more toxic than nuclear waste on a regular basis.
No, this is just spent fuel. There's a lot more to nuclear waste than spent fuel.
I agree that nuclear waste is probably a manageable problem, but not for the reasons you say. "Zero risk" is not a thing that actually exists anywhere ever. "Bedrock with no aquifer" is a thing that exists, but it's not what you're looking for: the rockhead under a desert, for example, is bedrock with no aquifer, and it's commonly very porous and water-permeable. What you want is impermeable rock that will stay that way, like a salt deposit, which is indeed pretty safe—many salt domes have successfully kept petroleum or natural gas from leaking to the surface for 300 million years or more.
The special difficulty of nuclear waste is not that it's especially toxic—far more toxic materials certainly exist, even commonplace materials like hydrofluoric acid, hydrazine, and tetraethyllead. But if you pour hydrofluoric acid on the ground in most places, it becomes completely nontoxic within a few minutes. Hydrazine loses most of its toxicity if you just set it on fire, although burning it to totally nontoxic materials requires a little more care. Tetraethyllead also loses most of its toxicity when you burn it, though the resulting lead compounds were still toxic enough to cause a worldwide crime wave lasting decades.
What's special about nuclear waste is that no such simple means of detoxification exists. The only way to detoxify nuclear waste is with another nuclear reactor—and that's not only in need of additional development to bring it from the laboratory to production, it's also commonly prohibited because of proliferation concerns.
The real risk with nuclear waste, though, is not that disposing of it safely is rocket science; it's that the people who are in charge of it in countries like the US are the same ridiculous bumbling assclowns who've bungled the covid pandemic so badly. (Did you know that, though China was vaccinating college students last July, 1000 people a day are dying from covid in the US?) Have you read about the cat-litter explosion at WIPP? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waste_Isolation_Pilot_Plant#20... Someone used "an organic cat litter" in place of "inorganic cat litter" to immobilize the nuclear waste, so it caught on fire.
Fortunately, all of this is moot; as I said, nuclear energy is now so much more expensive than solar energy that there's no longer any reason to use it except in a few special niches, and that's unlikely to change for decades. Enjoy your Video Toaster.
Regardless, I'm not sure why the inability to detoxify waste is such a concern. First of all, we do have the ability to reclaim >95% of it through reprocessing. This isn't detoxification per-se, but does represent a sizeable reduction in the amount of waste. And the remaining waste is stored underground. The danger of uranium entering the water supply already exists from naturally occurring uranium. The additional risk presented by waste buried in a known location, with no groundwater contamination risk is zero. Sure, if you want to be pedantic, it's not exactly zero: some nefarious group could dig it up and use it as a weapon. But any group with that level of capability could easily deal more damage through conventional means - so for all intents and purposes the risk is zero.
I think probably trains will have an easier time carrying batteries than electric cars do: a one-tonne diesel internal-combustion-engine car might get (in medieval units) 40 miles per gallon of fuel, while diesel freight trains routinely get 480 miles per tonne-gallon. Teslas need to recharge about every 500 miles, so we should expect battery-powered electric freight trains with the same battery mass fraction as a Tesla to need to swap batteries roughly every 6000 miles or 10000 km. A night train making it through the night isn't going to be a problem.
If that's true, then why haven't batteries already replaced diesel engines in diesel-electric locomotives? I suspect it's a matter of battery costs and network effects. A gallon of diesel is 146 MJ, so a tonne-mile on a freight train costs 300 kJ, or 189 kJ/tonne/km in non-medieval units. Lead-acid batteries only give you roughly 20 kJ/US$, and low-power lithium-ion batteries are usually more like 10 kJ/US$. You get a multiplier of about 3 because diesel engines are typically about 35% efficient and electric motors are about 95% efficient, so you only need 70 kJ/tonne/km. But 500 km of range would still cost you 175 grand of lead-acid batteries for every 100-tonne railroad car in the train, which more than doubles the cost of the train. If you use lithium-ion instead, it's twice that: US$350k a car. So, expect this to take a significant amount of investment, and therefore take a couple of decades—if it happens at all, because quite possibly it's all-around cheaper to use cheap solar energy to produce ammonia or hydrocarbons and burn those on the train.
The inability to detoxify waste is a concern because detoxifying is what we normally do with hazardous waste. Learning to handle hazardous waste in a different way is risky and will involve some accidents. I mean, it already has.
To be perfectly fair, while that's presumably what you meant—and it's a sensible point—what you said was, "making it so that trains only run at night and on windy days".
A different way of stating the meaning of "only at night and on windy days" is "always, except in the daytime when it isn't windy". But of course the daytime when it isn't windy is precisely when it's actually possible to run solar-powered trains without batteries, at least if you run overhead powerlines or a third rail down the whole train track.
What you meant was "trains run at night only on windy days", which could also be validly phrased (at the cost of some ambiguity) as "trains only run at night on windy days". But the extra "and" that you inserted in the middle of the phrase made it impossible to read the phrase as having your intended meaning. Perhaps you hadn't noticed the extra "and" when I quoted it in my earlier comment above, accounting for your confusion. Or perhaps you just don't speak English very well. Which is okay! I'm a second-language speaker too, and it's hard at times! But it's not a valid reason to accuse people of willfully misinterpreting you.
It's absolutely a valid reason to accuse you of willful misinterpretation, especially when you bring this up more than a month later in an unrelated topic. Your reply was downvoted with good reason.
It seems like you have a long history of not worrying about whether the things you're saying don't make sense, and you're continuing it. Instead of responding, "Oh, I see what you mean, you're right, I actually did say the opposite of what I meant—thank you for giving me the opportunity to clarify and taking so much time to explain at such great length what was in the end very simple and obvious," you're responding with some kind of chimpanzee status hierarchy nonsense about being "lectured" and what "position" I'm in. Instead of responding, "Oh, you're right about the 'bedrock with no aquifer' thing, that was totally wrong and didn't actually make sense," you just ignored it.
I guess you're just trying to score some kind of points rather than learn what is true and help others do the same?
> Lack of a proper handling of nuclear waste
"Nuclear waste" handling is very non-lacking since 40's, there is no real problem with it. It is a contentious topic because NIMBY and because anti-nuclear propaganda, but not a real problem that needs to be solved. There is very little of such waste. It is already being stored in acceptable way - power plants have water pools for the hot stuff and storage facilities for the less hot stuff. The hot stuff becomes less hot after some time. France has a process in operation for converting the waste into glass and storing it safely in casks. No, keeping the waste away from people determined to dig up spent nuclear fuel for 100000 years isn't a real problem that needs to be solved.
> Weakness to improper handling. Human error is very common and should not be able to lead to catastrophic events.
Nuclear disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima are very small when you compare them to other industrial accidents, like chemical plants or oil/gas. People are dumb and sometimes they cause disasters like these. Many times bigger disasters (in terms of deaths, property damage) happen without people having a say, like tsunamis, hurricanes, volcano eruptions.
Nuclear energy is much safer, in terms of deaths per kWh, than solar or wind energy.
> Usefulness of civilian technology in the spread of nuclear weapons.
All big countries where more nuclear energy will be most important in dropping the CO2 production already have nuclear weapons and are not going to get rid of them. Spread of nuclear weapons is not a relevant argument against most of new nuclear plants, because the weapons are already there.
If I talked about that I would write way more negatively. Olkiluoto 3 is such a shut show for instance.
> there is no real problem with it.
You need to keep it from polluting the environment like the ground water, which is very hard to do on a geological timescale. Containers can rust or get crushed by forces. Not even saline formations are safe from water entry.
Also you need to stop mishandling like dumping it in the Mediterranean like what happen end in Italy in the 80s.
> There is very little of such waste.
1 kg per capita per year like in France is not very little.
And they don’t have any permanent storage location for that.
> Nuclear disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima are very small when you compare them to other industrial accidents, like chemical plants or oil/gas.
Which industrial accident has turned multiple hundreds to thousands of square kilometers into exclusion zones for decades of not centuries?
And we have been lucky that those accidents happened in relatively uninhabited areas.
> Nuclear energy is much safer, in terms of deaths per kWh, than solar or wind energy.
That’s both wrong and irrelevant as lack of deaths are just one aspect of safety.
> All big countries where more nuclear energy will be most important in dropping the CO2 production already have nuclear weapons
The world is not just 8 countries. Especially Africa will play a huge role when its population will get wealthier and consume more.
Yes, but geological timescale (millions of years) is an absurd straw man. We have no influence on what happens with anything on that timescale. Civilizations come and go in thousands of years. On scale of millions of years various different disasters are much more impactful and inevitable, both human made (nuclear war) and natural (volcanoes, tsunamis, asteroid impacts). Little waste contaminating ground water a little is of NO concern to us.
> they don’t have any permanent storage location for that.
But it is very little, when compared to other kinds of waste. We can continue storing it at few special sites/pools/warehouses for hundreds of years like we do now. Of course, at some point putting the hot stuff in the ground becomes preferable.
France does not have Cigeo yet but it is in the works. "Permanent" is a bit too ambitious word, but long-term storage is planned. It is long-term, so there is no rush.
> into exclusion zones for decades of not centuries?
I meant in terms of deaths. Direct deaths due to Chernobyl are in the order of 60 people. Long term impact on deaths is very unclear and estimations are contested.
Exclusion zone due to Chernobyl accident was defined as 30km-radius disk centered at the plant. Radiation contamination is going down and overall long-term effect on ecosystem there is deemed positive by scientists expert on this area.
Creating an "exclusion zone" isn't exactly the worst thing that could happen in an industrial disaster. For example, the Bhopal gas disaster directly killed thousands of people and harmed half a million. Much more devastating.
> That’s both wrong and irrelevant as lack of deaths are just one aspect of safety.
Are you sure you want to subscribe under this ridiculous statement? If it is one aspect of safety, a very important one I might add, how is it irrelevant? Also, where did you read this fact about deaths/kWh of nuclear energy is wrong? It is a broadly accepted easily findable fact.
> The world is not just 8 countries. Especially Africa will play a huge role when its population will get wealthier and consume more.
"Will". Do you realize most of coal/gas power production happens in nuclear weapons wielding countries? What will happen with Africa is not clear now, they may build more nuclear or more coal/gas, time will tell.
100, not 60, and while it's true that the long-term deaths from Chernobyl are "contested", the controversy is about whether only 4000 people have died from it so far, or more like 60,000 people. 350,000 people lost their homes.
In Bhopal, by comparison, the official death toll was 2259, but other estimates go as high as 16000. More to the point, though, almost 2 million people still live in Bhopal, more than before the disaster. Nobody lives in Pripyat now. Before the disaster 14000 people lived in Chernobyl itself; now 1000 people live there—state employees with short tours of duty, whose job it is to keep everybody else out of the Exclusion Zone except for brief, strictly monitored visits.
I don't think this supports a judgment that the Bhopal disaster—the worst such accident so far, despite the existence of many more pesticide plants and similar facilities than nuclear power plants—was "much more devastating".
But the whole safety debate is a moot point, since solar energy is so much cheaper than nuclear now that nuclear will be relegated to niche roles for decades.
My point is accidents other than nuclear with similar death counts do happen, thousands or tens of thousands people die or have to relocate. Natural disasters happen too - the tsunami responsible for Fukushima disaster killed 15000 people.
These kinds of disasters are immense and bad, but the damages are quite contained and can't dictate energy policy all around the world. The existence and non-preventability of similary big natural disasters shows that the narrative about nuclear energy being too dangerous is unsubstantiated. Chernobyl disaster is a lesson, but it is quite limited in scope - it is about pitfalls of soviet-like safety-neglecting attitudes, putting people who do not know how the reactor works in charge. Much less on dangers of nuclear energy.
Hmm, it's been 35 years and При́пʼять is still uninhabited—and, I think, uninhabitable—as part of the 2600-square-kilometer Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Which chemical-plant or oil/gas industrial accidents are you thinking of that have rendered 5000 square kilometers uninhabitable for 35 years, or rendered 2600 square kilometers uninhabitable for 70 years? I'm supposing that "very small when you compare" implies at least a factor of 2—more likely a factor of 10?
I can't even think of any major wars that have had such an effect, although it's easy to think of wars and accidents that have killed more people. Chernobyl killed 100 people more or less immediately and several thousand more people over the years. The Fukushima accident itself has only killed one person so far, but the evacuation (to keep people from being killed by radioactivity) killed 2200 more people.
On the afternoon that При́пʼять was evacuated in 01986, it was the ninth atomgrad; today there are 11 atomgrads in Russia (ЗАТО under the authority of Росатом), producing 20% of Russia's electricity. If we had five times as many atomgrads, or if we had as many atomgrads as we have sites of chemical plants, how many uninhabitable atomic Exclusion Zones would we have by now? Would it be more, or—thanks to the extra experience—fewer? Surely some would be smaller than Chernobyl's, some larger.
I think there probably would have been a few hundred thousand more people dead in such accidents, and a few dozen more radioactive nature preserves like the Chernobyl zone, before we figured it out, and that would have been better than the global-warming catastrophe we were on track for a decade ago. For better or worse, though, that wasn't the way things went. Instead now we have solar energy that's not just cheaper than nuclear but cheaper than coal.
Exclusion zone is a human concept for human inhabitation, it does not mean the zone is lost from the map of Ukraine. According to scientists that study the zone, for the non-human ecosystem the benefits of people moving out outweigh the damage now. In time, the radiation will go down so people can live there. Some already do, even though it is illegal.
Okay, well, aside from the 4000–60'000 people who died from the Chernobyl disaster, 350'000 people permanently lost their homes, so they were significantly harmed. What "other industrial accidents, like chemical plants or oil/gas" is that "very small" compared to? What non-nuclear industrial accidents have permanently uprooted (or otherwise "significantly harmed") 700'000 or more people, wiping out entire centuries-old communities? Even the Beirut Blast (300,000 homeless, 210 dead, 7500 injured) and the Bhopal disaster (2500–16000 dead, 500'000 injured) didn't manage that.
It's probably true that the deer, rabbits, and black mold are better off, even if the people aren't, and that might be a good reason for deer, rabbits, and black mold to build nuclear power plants. But it's not a very convincing reason for people to build nuclear power plants.
(Global warming was, though, or should have been, until we had the better alternatives we have now.)
> There are legitimate concerns against nuclear:
Yeah, I agree. There were legitimate reasons not to buy an Amiga, too: it was expensive, it didn't run WordPerfect or Microsoft Flight Simulator, and then it stagnated. Probably 20 or 10 years ago the legitimate reasons not to use nuclear were less important than global warming.
Now they're irrelevant because nobody is going to use nuclear anyway except for things like submarines because it's too expensive.
> Chernobyl and Fukushima haven’t been predicted
Hmm, are you suggesting (non-gas-cooled) US and UK reactors were designed with a negative void coefficient without knowing that this was a safety feature? I think that in fact Chernobyl was predicted but happened anyway. Similarly the power company at Fukushima was found guilty of predicting the problem and then not preventing it.
Basically last minute design changes. Having people sitting around doing nothing because their skills were not needed at the current time. You would have over crowded work areas and either insufficient or lack of tools needed to do the work.
Standardization, the same methods by which the price of solar panels plummeted could benefit nuclear as well. there is no reason as a nation a standardized design could not be created and installed with good speed and low costs.
Think of it as a modern day Liberty ship except we are freeing ourselves from fossil fuels
There is, actually, if by "low costs" we mean lower than solar. If you take a nuclear plant and remove the nuclear reactor from it, what you have left is a steam-driven generator and a firebox where the reactor used to be. That's what a coal power plant is. Coal power plants cost about twice as much per watt to build as current solar power plants, and solar power keeps getting cheaper. So it's unlikely that nuclear power plants will start costing less—to build—per watt than coal plants.
(They could of course cost less to operate per watt, since they don't have to buy fuel by the trainload or dispose of fly ash. But just the cost to build a coal plant makes it uncompetitive with solar in most of the world, unless you make very pessimistic assumptions about intermittency and the cost of utility-scale energy storage, which is, however, still an unknown.)
So, it's even more unlikely that nuclear power will get cheaper than solar power. Unless you're in, like, Svalbard or something. Or there's a revolutionary new way to build supercritical steam turbines that makes them much cheaper per watt and isn't also applicable to making solar panels. Steam turbines were invented 137 years ago and have been a big business central to the economy of every developed country for decades, so I'm not holding my breath.
It is the reason small, standardized reactors never got traction: there was so little scope for corruption, they offered nothing of value for the people who could have backed them.
The same applies to any big public project in the US, of late: California's bullet train, New York's 2nd Avenue subway, Boston's Big Dig, the F-35, NASA's SLS. It has taken a long time, but the US now ranks among the most corrupt nations. Corruption is wholesale, from the top, not retail, at the bottom.
Their wind power generation is far more impressive though.
I think it helps a lot to restate quantities of the same dimension in the same units—if you measure steel beams in meters and a bridge in feet, it becomes needlessly difficult to understand the relationship between them. It's unfortunately common practice) to report peak capacities in GW and actual yield in TWh/year. A TWh/year is about 114'079'550 watts, which seems like a terrible unit to me. If we do the unit conversion, Germany's 53GWp of solar capacity produced 5.75 GW in 02020, and its 8GWp of nuclear produced 7.34 GW. This works out to capacity factors of 10.8% for solar and 91.7% for nuclear, which are not terribly surprising.
Wind typically has a higher capacity factor, but I calculate China's wind capacity factor as only 22% (405 TWh/year = 46 GW on nameplate capacity of 209 GWp for 02019), well below the typical 40%. I think solar is more interesting because the total available resource is orders of magnitude larger and the hardware lasts many decades, but wind is certainly cheaper.
There is a documentary by Adam Curtis that basically describes this scenario (except for the Amiga part).
As a person who changed their mind, let me offer this advice to the people commenting here. Don't pretend there aren't legitimate concerns with nuclear power. Accidents did in fact happen and, given enough time and more reactors, will absolutely happen again. That's not a reason not to build more nuclear power, but let's not play make-believe about it. Don't pretend that just because we are better at handling nuclear waste it is a solved problem. It isn't. A hundred-fold increase in nuclear power generation would be a roughly hundred-fold increase in nuclear waste that must be stored away from all life for several hundred years (until we develop technology to resolve the issue, likely long after we're all dead). And maybe most importantly, acknowledge that nuclear energy is far more expensive than other green energy options and, even if we could drive down the cost, it will not solve all our problems. It is, at best, a big part of the solution, not "the" solution.
Handling nuclear waste is a hard problem but it's 100x easier than handling CO2 waste.
And is nuclear more expensive than other renewables? I think that really depends, I don't think you can compare 99.9% reliability power to 95% reliability power. They're two different goods sold at two different prices. You can use batteries or other storage to convert the 95% reliability into 99.9% but then that puts renewables at a cost far above nuclear.
I question whether you can call any renewable 95% reliable. The capacity factor of solar in the US has averaged 25% and wind at about 35%:
One can certainly argue a large enough grid can shuffle energy to and from across large areas to create 'aggregate reliability' of course.
In Russia, they are slowly getting adoption. Not only that allows to use the same fuel twice (so, cheaper energy), the end result is significantly less radioactive and does not contain isotopes with ~10k years life, which are short enough to be dangerous and long enough to be a hassle to store.
A hundred fold increase in the reactors will mean that the new closed-fuel-cycle economy will have even more sense, since the second stage reactors will also benefit economies of scale.
(not objecting your comment, just adding one improvement)
It is not really though when you factor in ALL of the costs of the main renewables (wind and solar), one of the big problems with both is the fact their output curves normally do not match demand curves every well, meaning when wind and solar are producing power, the demand for that power is at its lowest.
Thus wind and solar can only be a viable replacement for Fossil fuel and nuclear if you add in methods of energy storage, so electricity can be stored when it being produced and then consumed when it is needed.
Once you factor in this storage / demand problem the costs of wind and solar go through the roof
Disposing of nuclear waste is certainly a difficult problem, since it requires designing structures to last longer than recorded history up to this point. There is at least one good answer to this problem that's under construction now in Finland, called Onkalo. The issue of nuclear waste disposal seems to be as much a political as an engineering problem. People don't want to have a nuclear waste dump anywhere near them, because they justifiably don't trust the government or industry to build it so that it works.
Well it is a straw man to claim that anyone says there won't be nuclear accidents. What people have said is that historically nuclear power has been much safer than all the alternatives that have been available:
Unfortunately anything at all related to nuclear is covered by the media orders of magnitude more than other power sources so many people have an understandable misperception that it is more dangerous than other sources of power. 200 thousand people had to be evacuated in CA a couple of years ago because of a lack of maintenance on a hydroelectric dam could have let to catastrophic failure. We got lucky that time as the rains stopped just in time, but how much did the media cover that story? How much would the media have covered that if 200 thousand had been evacuated because of a nuclear power plant?
>...Don't pretend that just because we are better at handling nuclear waste it is a solved problem. It isn't. A hundred-fold increase in nuclear power generation would be a roughly hundred-fold increase in nuclear waste that must be stored away from all life for several hundred years (until we develop technology to resolve the issue, likely long after we're all dead).
In terms of the waste, right now nuclear waste can be recycled (as it is in France) which would reduce the amount of waste:
Soon it will be possible to use most of the waste as fuel:
"...What is more important today is why fast reactors are fuel-efficient: because fast neutrons can fission or "burn out" all the transuranic waste (TRU) waste components (actinides: reactor-grade plutonium and minor actinides) many of which last tens of thousands of years or longer and make conventional nuclear waste disposal so problematic. Most of the radioactive fission products (FPs) the reactor produces have much shorter half-lives: they are intensely radioactive in the short term but decay quickly. The IFR extracts and recycles 99.9% of the uranium and Transuranium elements on each cycle and uses them to produce power; so its waste is just the fission products; in 300 years their radioactivity will fall below that of the original uranium "
>...IFR development began in 1984 and the U.S. Department of Energy built a prototype, the Experimental Breeder Reactor II. On April 3, 1986, two tests demonstrated the inherent safety of the IFR concept. These tests simulated accidents involving loss of coolant flow. Even with its normal shutdown devices disabled, the reactor shut itself down safely without overheating anywhere in the system. The IFR project was canceled by the US Congress in 1994, three years before completion.
Unfortunately, the IFR work was cancelled by the incoming administration because "it's a symbol":
>...Despite support for the reactor by then-Rep. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senators Carol Moseley Braun (D-IL) and Paul Simon (D-IL), funding for the reactor was slashed, and it was ultimately canceled in 1994, at greater cost than finishing it. When this was brought to President Clinton's attention, he said "I know; it's a symbol."
>...And maybe most importantly, acknowledge that nuclear energy is far more expensive than other green energy options
Cost should always be a consideration, but when you see people conveniently ignore some costs and focus on others, it does a disservice to the goal of decarbonizing the grid and it isn't clear what they are really trying to accomplish.
The levelized cost for residential rooftop solar is about as high as nuclear, but that cost doesn't seem to matter to some advocates and they continue to strongly support subsidizing it. The potential costs for renewables + storage is about the cost of nuclear, but that cost also doesn't matter to some advocates. (If grid storage was cheap, we would have built it decades ago.)
Some advocates recommend massively overbuilding solar or wind to deal with seasonal differences. This is obviously at least a direct cost multiplier but that doesn't seem to matter to some advocates.
Advocates also describe how we will rebuild the electrical grid to move vast amounts of solar or wind power across the USA. This will not be cheap, simple or easy to protect against terrorism. Even the relatively small proposed Tres Amigas super station hasn’t been completed yet. The potential costs here don't seem to matter to some advocates.
Some advocates for renewables seem happy with relying on natural gas peaker plants where necessary to get around the costs of building grid storage, but methane is a very potent GHG in the short term. (There are lots of atmospheric losses in the capture and distribution of natural gas.) No one concerned about climate change seriously thinks that burning natural gas is a long term answer.
>...It is, at best, a big part of the solution, not "the" solution.
Nukes' main attraction, institutionally, is as a long-term conduit for public money into selected private hands. The Biden administration has as much need as any for plums to hand out. Nuke plant construction projects have served in that role reliably before. The skids are well-greased.
The outline is always the same: the $2B/3y project balloons to $12B/12y, blamed on "regulations, change orders, mismanagement". But a multi-$billion project can certainly afford sound management, if that were desired, and accounting for regulations and change orders would be part of that. But it is not desired. Coming in on time and within budget is the worst imaginable outcome for the project's backers.
The prices for utility solar and wind have come down dramatically which is great news. Unfortunately these sources have low capacity factors and can only achieve so much market penetration before some combination of very expensive energy storage or transmission or overbuilding would become necessary. Do these costs not matter and there is no need to consider them? Right now, no effort is made to collect the CO2 from burning natural gas nor the atmospheric losses from collecting/distributing natural gas - if people were required to prevent those external costs the price for natural gas would dramatically increase. Do those costs not matter?
>...Coming in on time and within budget is the worst imaginable outcome for the project's backers.
Conspiracy theories here are not helpful.
And the only big open question about storage is which will prove cheapest for each case. Underground compressed air? Mineshaft gravitational? Tower gravitational? None of those depend on any new tech. Ammonia (more expensive, but also more useful, in excess)? Hydrogen (likewise)? Batteries are expensive just now, but those prices are also in free-fall.
The only reason you don't see much of that yet is that it hasn't been needed, and dollars are much better-spent right now building out generating capacity.
Then there is geothermal, which can now be done anywhere, and doesn't need storage. It uses the same tech, equipment, and staff as are used for drilling fracking wells.
That might be your personal definition, but a common definition is: "a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful"
>...The only reason you don't see much of that yet is that it hasn't been needed
Contrary to what advocates claim, people have been looking at grid energy storage for decades and it isn't as simple as they claim. So far the only noticeable thing that has been able to implemented has been pumped hydro.
It is possible new grid storage technologies will be designed/implemented in the coming decades, but it will be a challenge. One estimate is that for Germany to rely solely on solar and wind would require about 6,000 pumped storage plants which is literally 183 times their current capacity. This is why Bill Gates is investing in energy storage companies and 4th gen nuclear.
Grid energy storage requires no new technology. It isn't used yet most places purely because it hasn't been needed yet. Absent carbon tax, natural gas has been much cheaper, thus far.
Bill Gates does what Bill Gates does for reasons that Bill Gates is not obliged to be open or honest about. We may each draw our own conclusions.
Please don't try and misrepresent what I wrote.
>>…Coming in on time and within budget is the worst imaginable outcome for the project's backers.
>Conspiracy theories here are not helpful.
You then continue and continue to appear to be claiming that since you didn't claim it was illegal that you aren't describing a conspiracy. I never claimed you said it was illegal. I simply said that conspiracy theories here are not helpful. (If my meaning wasn't obvious, I don't think conspiracy theories help understand complex issues of this sort.) My use of the word conspiracy is based on a common definition. (Indeed the first result from a google search is "a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful"). You may have your own personal definition that limits it to only illegal activities, but that is your issue. Sticking with the dictionary meaning enables clear communication.
>…Grid energy storage requires no new technology. It isn't used yet most places purely because it hasn't been needed yet. …
Yes, I understand you are convinced of that.
Relatedly I've been thinking about how to compare the moral culpability of anti-nuclear activists for climate change to that of oil companies. Are sins of preventing beneficial action comparable to sins of taking harmful action? Do intentions offset effects?
It's actually a huge area of philosophical debate. So while the bad news is there's no straightforward answer -- instead there's deep disagreement among philosophers who think about exactly this for a living -- the good news is you could spend literal weeks learning about the arguments on both sides if you wanted to.
Though this solution always gives me a chuckle - https://external-preview.redd.it/wO3QAQsLh2xklK3-ifXUdyEjaAS...
The main pertinent local project is an utter disaster, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flamanville_3
But for civilian nuclear program it is all political.
What did we spend on Yucca Mountain?
Chicago Bridge bungled their South Carolina reactor job so bad that Westinghouse had to take the job over from them.
Complete shambles and Westinghouse had to sell their nuclear division to Toshiba. All one giant mess.
The AP2000 NextGen reactor program is a failure.
South Carolina plant never made it online. Busted budgets and nothing generating power.
Seems like knowledge could come into play here. Someone could have made the same argument about coal 150 to 200 years ago because the data didn't yet exist to suggest it was harmful. From their perspective, coal could have looked better than the alternatives. Not sure how culpable activists would be in that scenario, at least relative to fossil fuel companies of today which deliberately release disinformation to their own benefit.
Deliberate misinformation from fossil fuel companies has been around since at least 1991 when they published a film about climate change, "A Climate of Change."
So about 150 to 200 years ago...
> Deliberate misinformation from fossil fuel companies has been around since at least 1991 when they published a film about climate change, "A Climate of Change."
Exxon has actively fought to hide the dangers of climate change since the early 1980s. I think the film you're referring to was called "A Climate of Concern."
-Nuclear is indeed a low-carbon energy source.
-It's also what you would want as baseload.
-The costs of storing waste properly have been underestimated - a few years ago nuclear operators reached a deal with the German government through which they paid 23bln Euros to make the waste the government's problem. The overall sentiment is that they were let off the hook easily and the total cost will be much higher.
-Both nuclear plants and waste storage facilities are easy targets for terrorism - fortunately that didn't happen yet, but things like Stuxnet proved that it's entirely in the realm of possibility. My pet conspiracy theory is that this, not Fukushima was the reason Germany eventually accelerated its plans to phase out nuclear.
-You can reprocess spent nuclear fuel which helps both with fuel accessibility and waste management.
-It's trivially easy to use the reprocessing infrastructure to create weapons-grade plutonium.
-Nuclear is generally safe.
-That being said its mode of failure makes a large area inhospitable essentially forever. Topsoil radiation measurements usually don't give the full picture of the problem.
-Every nuclear disaster resulted in increased safety by uncovering design flaws which were a result of cutting corners, so especially in the decade after Fukushima costs went up around 24% making nuclear the single low-carbon source to become more, not less expensive.
-As it stands even China cannot deploy nuclear fast enough to compete with renewables on delivered MWh. Since 2012 wind consistently delivered more energy in China than nuclear and the gap has been widening ever since. With the cost of storage plummeting we're heading towards a future where centralised power generation may become antiquated.
Overall nuclear has some advantages but there aren't enough of them to break the trend of using renewables + gas and storage, which on average replace coal faster and cheaper.
It's basically a textbook example of "worse is better".
Who has been sabotaging nuclear reactors?
"Concerned citizens" who demand endless studies about things we already have a good understanding of.
People who ignore the 10,000 deaths per week worldwide because of coal power but focus on the ~2 deaths from Fukushima.
Right, smear. Sabotaging the process.
Nuclear plants can be built close to where they are needed, it's an advantage over renewables.
Nuclear is the lowest footprint, biggest-bang-for-the-buck technology.
Lithium mining has serious environmental impact:
This 'nuclear is costly' argument would be relevant if there was a cheaper-than-nuclear replacement for coal energy with similar consistent availability and safety record. There isn't one.
> nuclear plants and waste storage facilities are easy targets for terrorism - fortunately that didn't happen yet, but things like Stuxnet proved that it's entirely in the realm of possibility.
As far as we know from public resources, Stuxnet wasn't a terrorist operation, but a state-controlled operation. And it wasn't a nuclear disaster - it was destruction of expensive equipment due to poor operational security (virus on USB drives hacked the network and destroyed the equipment).
Nuclear plants are NOT an easy target for terrorism, and they are NOT the preferred target for terrorists. When we read about some real terrorist attacks, it's clear they go for large death numbers and best visibility. The newer plants with domes are built to withstand a plane crash, a terrorist would have to be brainwashed by anti-terrorist agency to crash the plane into a nuclear plant instead of big city.
Lots of things are in the realm of possibility, but let's get real. Crazies attacking a nuclear power plant is a pretty small manageable threat, both in terms of probability of successful execution and in terms of potential resulting damage. Yes some people and equipment will have to be maintained to guard the plants, but it's not a big deal.
> -It's trivially easy to use the reprocessing infrastructure to create weapons-grade plutonium.
Yes, but again that is not a very relevant problem because in most countries where nuclear energy would be most benefitial in decreasing CO2 production already have plutonium sitting ready in nuclear weapons and can make more - US, China, India, US, Europe.
> nuclear has some advantages but there aren't enough of them to break the trend of using renewables + gas and storage
Gas power is not something we should prop up at all when we have the option to build more nuclear power plants. Gas burning produces CO2, nuclear operation does not.
After that, the reaction has been self-sustaining.
It's easy to campaign to tear something down. It's hard to be the one who has to rebuild the replacement. We need people who focus on the latter before the former.
So the US Secretary of the Navy is in a position to make an informed decision about nuclear reactors—and he's chosen to run a significant part of the US Navy on them—but the voting public is not.
Is it still April 1st?
Such a pessimist!
We are overall woefully uninformed about these things, to the point that the majority of people in some recent opinion polls in Europe believe that nuclear power plants emit greenhouse gases.
The truth is our systemic desire to cut costs cuts corners. Everything after each disaster will have been "obvious".
The price of the tiniest of mistakes is outweighing the advantage.
Stick a power plant in the middle of nowhere and charge batteries with it if you want to convince people.
Fukushima was bad, but even if you count the deaths from the poorly handled evacuation, you're at ~2200 people that died because of it.
Coal kills 13,000 people in just the US /every/ year.
> not exactly a scathing indictment of nuclear power itself.
No, but it's certainly a statement about our ability to operate nuclear power. You really can't separate the two.
Fukushima may have been spared the worst, but the amount of deaths is only part of the story. Pripyat is still a ghost town. That's nearly 50,000 people that were permanently displaced from their homes. I imagine quite a few people are not returning to the Fukushima area as well.
... in tsunami endangered areas. Yes, Japanese made a bad mistake to let Americans build such a badly designed nuclear plant in that region and this was known before the disaster. They did not care - the price was good and the risk was acceptable to the people in charge.
Most of nuclear plants in the world are not in tsunami endangered areas though and are operated safely.
How can one begin to even make this claim knowing: a) Chernobyl, b) Three Mile Island, and c) Fukushima? They clearly aren't operated safely. Just to be clear, I'm not anti-nuclear and I'm not making a case against nuclear power. I'm making a simple observation that really shouldn't be a debate. Three entirely different areas with three entirely different political/power/environmental structures in place.
What about regime collapse? We've been worried about nuclear weapons and the political situation in Pakistan. But a similar threat lurks behind nuclear power. What if the government of the future cannot properly maintain their nuclear plants? Based on the past 100 years of history I do not believe this is merely a hypothetical concern.
There will be disasters in the future. You understand this concept, right? Things that we know today which we will later claim could only be known in retrospect, like a tsunami hitting a nuclear power plant in Japan. I'm rolling my eyes right fucking now.
Yes sometimes people or nature do bad things that result in disasters. Disasters will happen with or without nuclear reactors.
I'm saying the serious disasters involving nuclear reactors are rare. Serious disasters because of nuclear reactors are rarer. Chernobyl was incompetence of personnel due to dysfunctional society + cheapest design without containment. It is not indictment of nuclear energy, but indictment of the soviet system. Fukushima wasn't as bad as Chernobyl, but it too shows problems with how government approached nuclear risk. I do not condone building plants like they did in Chernobyl and Fukushima.
> What if the government of the future cannot properly maintain their nuclear plants? Based on the past 100 years of history I do not believe this is merely a hypothetical concern.
We help them. West did help Russia with decommissioning of old nuclear equipment. I think that is a good strategy.
> There will be disasters in the future. You understand this concept, right?
Indeed I do. But it would be very stupid of us to stop advancing nuclear energy because we made mistakes in the past. We learn from mistakes and double down. I believe we can do it and we should do it.
I have no problems with nuclear personally, I think we should keep safe reactors running as long as our replacements would be LNG. I do think new-build nuclear would largely be deployed too slowly to help with climate change in the short run, but long-run I think it'll be an amazing source of huge amounts of power. Maybe we can have specialized reactors on-site which deal with the waste from our older reactors or from new reactors...not to mention new designs that are passively safe.
Solar and wind are much cheaper, but cannot be scaled in proportion to demand. Given sufficient advances in storage and transmission they may be able to eventually, but maybe not.
Building nuclear that we may not end up needing if the required advances happen means that our worst case is a vastly cleaner energy system, a much better worse case than a continuing dependence on coal and gas.
Don't build 1950s design nukes in 21. century and don't build nukes sensitive to tsunamis in tsunami areas.
Nuclear is vastly better for the environment than fossil fuels are, however, it is still bad for the environment. This is why various groups have protested it in the past. Given both viewpoints, my stance is that we should have a real plan to phase out nuclear eventually.
Nuclear is significantly cleaner than fossil fuels. In addition, nuclear could potentially produce a huge amount of energy per "time spent deploying" (especially once there is expertise building nuclear reactors). Finally, nuclear waste can be physically handled and even further processed (in thorium reactors), which is in stark contrast to CO2 which dissipates into the atmosphere and is extremely difficult to sequester.
The problem is that nuclear isn't a perfect option, and people seem to focus on the few caveats over the numerous benefits. If there was a commitment to eventually (on the order of decades) phase it out, I'm sure many of the green energy purists would come to the nuclear party.
- Fear of nuclear accidents, 'not in my backyard' reactions from communities
- Dealing with radioactive waste safely
- Cost/time overruns building nuclear plants
Although I think all of these could be resolved, and I've heard some interesting things about thorium reactors which could be even better. I do wonder whether nuclear power is a good answer to climate change in particular though (beyond keeping the current ones functioning until end of life), nuclear power station design/building often takes decades and it seems like we have a shorter amount of time than that to make a significant difference.
It takes decades now, but we know hot to build them quickly and more efficiently. We’ve done it in the past.
Now, it is too late to avoid climate change anyway, and almost certainly too late to avoid crossing the +2 degrees threshold in a couple of decades. We are too late already.
But if we want to minimise the cascading issues that are heading our way, it’s not “let us do something or something else”. We need to redirect as much as we can of our industry to decarbonised energy. This means wind and solar and nuclear fission and hydrogen, and a whole bunch of R&D into the next steps for all of that (including nuclear fusion). Also, we need to consume less. Quite a lot less, in fact.
There are actual challenges with nuclear as well (waste disposal being the primary), but those are distantly trailing the radiation fear (and not obviously-to-me worse on-balance than the fossil fuel alternatives at this point).
People will be genuinely surprised when you tell them it's usually the same old mechanism of most other power plants - heat boils water, which generates steam, which powers a turbine. They're also really surprised to find out a coal plant puts out more radioactivity.
Same phenomenon as vaccines - people know very little about the mechanism, but have very strong opinions anyways.
Vaccine is and should be a matter of personal/parent choice, because getting the vaccine is a per-person action and its benefits and risks concern only their health, not health of other people. The benefit/cost analysis is very different for different people, for some it is in favour of getting the vaccine, for some it is against. Vaccination program can and should respect individual peoples' wishes.
While building more nuclear energy is a strategic country-scale decision that cannot respect all people wishes, only the majority's.
This is definitively not true.
Vaccine helps the immune system to fight the infection, but does not stop the body from getting infected and we do not know how efficient it is in preventing spreading the infection.
> Results showed that following the second dose of vaccine (the recommended number of doses), risk of infection was reduced by 90 percent two or more weeks after vaccination. Following a single dose of either vaccine, the participants’ risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2 was reduced by 80 percent two or more weeks after vaccination.
Immunocompromised people, folks who have allergies to the vaccines, etc. rely on others getting vaccinated to be protected via herd immunity.
Can you link the study itself? I can't find it.
That said it still seems better than many alternatives
We know what to do with it. Bury it, deep and somewhere remote. The US already has such a place: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yucca_Mountain_nuclear_waste_r...
Also, what about Not the United States ? It seems everybody is synchronizing policies, if you hear the rumblings out of the European Commission. Where are they gonna store the wast ?
The stuff stored in these facilities is not magic. It doesn't get up and run around. The sites are selected to be deep enough and to be resilient to leaks. I'm more concerned with our culpability for melting the world's glaciers and ice caps than the risk of someone digging up barrels miles deep a thousand years from now.
On your other info : I don't know about culpability. I'm passing the 40 year old mark, and I don't remember my generation, or the generations right before mine having enough influence on such matters until very recently.
These choices were made much earlier, by within your framing I'd say more culpable age brackets, and which are slowly let's say "disappearing".
What remains, in my opinion, for people currently in charge of affairs, and in the future, is a matter of responsibility to all future generations. We most certainly know what's what now, and the ethical and moral calculus is publicly in evidence, as a consequence of, amongst other such operations, the Greta Thundberg UN tour.
Again, not arguing against nuclear. If we do it, I'd say let's not create new problems out because we're too sure of our probability projections... As pointed elsewhere, we were due for an Ice Age. That might still happen down the line, whatever happens to surface human politics. Let's make sure somebody's there to check for such leaks down the line, and that it's easy to access.
Once we decide we won't make matters worse now, why stop at that ? Let's make sure we don't make them worse down the line out of some new error.
And a straw man ? Really ? I'd argue that the real hazard here is precisely such an off-hand moral position as you seem to have. Either that, or you think current civilization will stay as is, only progress.
IIRC, the Yuka mountain folks did indeed take such questions into account when designing the facility, as they though not doing so would be irresponsible. Moreover, barring climate change, we're statistically due for the start of an ice age sometime this century or the next. That would most certainly cover northern Europe.
So it's not a question of IQ, but of the stability of the civilization occupying a territory in the very long term. That could have major repercussions on any maintenance organization.
My questions would be, why even design such deep structures if it's now to take into account generations in the far future ? Solutions could be much simpler for nuclear fuel disposal.
Regarding doing it better, that is commendable but some waste will always be generated, we can't just burn the fuel down into non-radioactive state.
"In the meantime, most nuclear power plants in the United States have resorted to the indefinite on-site dry cask storage of waste in steel and concrete casks."
Our local region just fought to shut down a plant, and now the fight continues on where to ship (or not) the waste. In the meantime of course, they're fighting over these short term store options which have guarantees of only 25 years.
Caveat: US Navy is more responsible about operating its reactors than commercial generators.
Before you try to sink billions into nuclear energy, explain why we can't do it with solar + storage alone?
Just one good reason.
I've yet to hear anything substantive.
All I keep hearing is soundbites from the nuclear and fossil fuel industry.
All is missing is the political will, not technology.
Use nuclear for situations in which there are no alternatives. Rovers on Mars or something.
I hate this phrase and it is something both the "only renewables" and "only nuclear" camps make. Neither technology is developed enough to effectively take over the grid (plus one source is terrible for energy security, but renewables is a bit diversified, though you're arguing purely solar).
The technical problem here is that we do not yet have the battery technology to sustain the grid. These are not the same batteries that we have in our cellphones. You cannot quick discharge common lipo batteries without starting a fire. But including batteries completely changes the cost structure and environmental impact which is why many suggest baseload technologies like hydro (nuclear would fit in here as well but yes, it is costly). This also creates a drastically different cost function for places like the American Southwest vs the American Northeast.
There is missing political will, but there is also missing technology (and missing political will to fund the development of that technology).
The fact that storage at anywhere remotely close to the required scale doesn't exist is a very good reason.
I think the better investment is solar/wind + storage with significant investment in storage technology. BTW, cheaper storage addresses the transportation issue as well.
That being said, the cost of natural gas, particularly in the US will keep natural gas power plants in the equation for a long time.
Can I get a source on solar being the cheapest energy source? That surprises me
Edit: to add an even spicier question, why not keep renewables + natural gas with carbon capture?
How big of a problem is this really, though? We could run more HVDC lines (as we already have in some places), such that sunny states provide power to northern states in the winter.
When you scale that up, you need insane amount of land that is literally nothing but solar panels. Where are we going to put all that new tech?
Upshot there: all factors considered, including not only the area of the actual power generation facility, but also storage, transmission, mining...everything. Nuclear is nearly 4x better in terms of power per acre.
I don't know what "exclusion zone" you are referring to. If you are assuming that every single nuclear plant is going to melt down Chernobyl style, this isn't a serious conversation, really.
And I'd like to point out that access to water (for cooling nuclear plants) is easier to come by than access to sun.
The question is whether it's better to use nuclear power or fossil fuel power. There's little difference, practically speaking, between hemming and hawing about statistically small events happening re: nuclear power, or what we do a lifetime from now, and actively advocating for increased fossil fuel usage.
If nuclear can be replaced with something even cleaner and even safer then I'm all for it. But it's short sighted in the extreme to actively tear nuclear down when the only realistic alternative at that scale is fossil fuel.
Are the alternatives widespread in places like Denmark not realistic (wind from 50% in 2020 to 84% by 2035)? 4th best energy architecture performance and the second best energy security in the world. Is it not realistic elsewhere?
Finding the best places to install wind farms is surprisingly difficult.
No, there's not. If one were to build new transmission today one would expect low-single-digits percentage loss per 1,000 miles of distance. It's not enough for anyone to worry about.
A good example is North Sea link, linking the north of England to the abundant hydropower in Norway, which should come online this year I think. HVDC links connecting European countries of the length 400-600km are becoming quite common, unfortunately subsea cables are prone to failures and can cause a lot of outages etc.
Turns out there are lots of places to install panels and turbines where there aren’t NIMBYs.
Point being, NIMBYs often have a rather inflated idea of what counts as "in my back yard".
That’s a lot of places where we can’t. And we need to be careful where we can put them. We are causing a mass extinction event just because of how we destroy ecosystems and degrade our environment, and crop fields of pastures are much less disruptive than covering massive areas with panels.
I am not saying we don’t or should not use solar panels where it makes sense, just that using the total energy received by the Earth as a measure is not really relevant, because the land we can allocate to that will always be insignificant compared to the surface of the Earth. If you factor land use, it is clear that solar panels by themselves cannot be all of the answer.
Disagree. Rebuttal: https://landartgenerator.org/blagi/archives/127
Direct img link: http://landartgenerator.org/blagi/wp-content/uploads/2009/08...
You forgot about clouds, nights and current lack of capability to store/transport energy to mitigate them. This can be solved but it is not trivial.
So it seems to me that we could absolutely cover a significant amount of our energy use.