Second, in 2003 a very detailed analysis of nuclear power options by a group of MIT Scientists found that recycling is more expensive than the once-through process. See http://web.mit.edu/nuclearpower/
I am not opposed to nuclear power, but as usual, we see crap on the WSJ editorial page.
If corporations had to pay for the cost of building phenomenally expensive disposal sites such as Yucca Mountain, recycling would suddenly become vastly more economical.
Another issue is the very low price of uranium; reprocessing solutions weren't considered in the past because uranium was so incredibly cheap that it made no sense to attempt to reprocess spent fuel. One of the primary reasons recycling has become an issue again is that the price of uranium has risen enormously in recent years.
If his claim is true, then it wasn't tree-huggers who killed off the nuclear power industry, nor Jane Fonda in The China Syndrome, it was cold economics.
An argument for reprocessing that might have better success is to argue for energy security: any country that can store enough uranium to last for a decade is pretty safe from fluctuations in uranium costs.
Note that this recommendation is qualified in the paper: "over the next half century". After that time, they imply that uranium may be scarce/expensive enough that we will need an alternate approach.
They also estimate that the plants we build will have lifespans of 40 years and that we will need a new Yucca Mountain-size waste storage facility every 3-4 years.
It's a little troubling that our nuclear solutions to the energy problem won't last out the century, while the sites that we create for them will be polluted for thousands of years.
Research is still ongoing in nuclear (fission) technology.
It works because Navy sailors are incredibly well-trained and well-drilled. But also because there is a virtually independent bureaucracy in the US Navy that can literally "take away your keys" to run the plant. (And I do mean literally.) Regular inspections that scare the st out of everyone because of their intensity and thoroughness.
But it works, and with no accidents.
Edit: yahooing for "us navy reactor accidents" comes up with quite a few hits, and allegations that mostly the Navy is very secretive about it.
Edit2: Even with the best trained staff, the staff is essentially just running an algorithm. Training the staff makes sure they run the algorithm correctly, but it does not protect against bugs in the algorithm. If you are a software developer, you don't believe in bug free algorithms (above a certain complexity).
40 years is a substantial period of time. And yes, you CAN find Google results for reactor accidents, but you can also find results about how NASA faked the moon landings. The government has strict definitions about what constitutes a nuclear accident and required to report them. But there are currently nearly 100 active nuclear reactors, and have been for 40+ years. 4000 reactor-years of experience in arguably the harshest conditions possible DOES mean something.
I understand your point that things could change. But if we need to reduce emissions NOW, with technology available at scale NOW, nuclear is a very good option.
If you are a software developer, you don't believe in bug free algorithms (above a certain complexity).
"Nuclear submarine leaked radioactive waste into British waters, secret report reveals
By Matthew Hickley
Last updated at 12:24 AM on 28th April 2009
The Royal Navy's main nuclear submarine base has repeatedly leaked radioactive waste into the sea, previously secret documents show.
Radioactive coolant and contaminated water were accidentally dumped into the sea at Faslane, near Glasgow, at least three times in recent years.
And an internal Navy report described a 'recurrent theme' of failures to follow safety rules.
The nuclear watchdog said problems were so serious it would have considered shutting the base down had it been a civilian operation - but it has no such legal powers over military sites...."
It's NOT safe. There are accidents on a regular basis. They just make any/all the information about these accidents classified state secrets.
Accidents are very strictly defined, and none have happened in the history of the US Navy.
There are incidents where reactor water is released into the sea. These are rare, and the radioactivity released is almost minimal. Please recognize that there are different types of radioactivity depending on the elements involved. The highly radioactive particles remain part of the fuel itself. The average volume of water in a reactor contains particles that have quite a short half-life and are typically not widely dangerous.
Finally, I was speaking of the US Navy which does operate differently than the UK Navy.
"Accidents are very strictly defined, and none have happened in the history of the US Navy..."
...according to what isn't classified as a state secret. We have no idea whether or not the US Gov't has classified 0, 1, or many nuclear accidents the US Navy is responsible for.
My clip about the Hanford reactor above stated there were 8 occasions at Hanford in which releases of radiation were classified and made a state secret.
You cannot prove the safety record of the US Navy running nuclear reactors is clean, especially considering the limited info available about the losses of the USS Thresher and the USS Scorpian. I can document repeated incidences by US military and it's close allies in which nuclear accidents happened and then those accidents were classified as state secrets.
Western reactor designs are not like Chernobyl. They are designed to fail 'safe' and have over-designed containment vessels to prevent accidents from leaking into the community.
The containment vessel at Three Mile Island was designed to survive a direct hit by a loaded 707 - because those flew over the reactor. They were NOT over-designed.
Edit: I designed the Feedwater Control System for the Lungmen Nuclear power stations going up in Taiwan.
Edit2: Reply to jibiki below; Yes, no containment was the absurd comment. I don't know the details but I can guess the builders strengthened the containment building to appease the eviros - it was probably completely unnecessary and only raised the costs. The enviros and the lefties have gotten away with such "stories" for years but now thanks to the internet, the truth shall set us free! See Clay Shirky on Thinking the Unthinkable.
"I want to mention that the reactor containment at Three Mile Island was actually thicker than most others, because citizen action, prior to the construction of the plant, demanded a thicker containment, because the Three Mile Island Unit 2 is right in the flight path of the Harrisburg Airport."--Harvey Wasserman
(Of course, nobody was ever planning to build it without a containment... I hope?)
Please don't lump us all together like that; this enviro-leftie is very pro-nuclear. Following political ideology blindly has never been limited to any particular viewpoint.
Apologies for having an easily-struck nerve, re: implied "All X are Y" statements. :)
Let's cut the power to your house first.
Reprocessing of spent fuel was banned by PL 95-242 as reprocessing fuel is a nuclear weapon proliferation risk. Separating U from Pl is a simple chemical reaction, and if you want to maximize production of Pl-239 (even numbered isotopes of plutonium suck for weapon use), then you want to use a graphite reactor and continuously push fuel through them (which is what the first generation of nuclear reactors did - at Hanford and similar places).
We've got about 1700 tons of plutonium in private ownership in the US. That is far more than enough to make tens of thousands of Nagasaki sized nukes.
If you want to know more about the politics and chemistry of nuclear fuel reprocessing, I recommend you read McPhee's book The Curve of Binding Energy.
"The discovery of water flowing across the floor of a building at the Indian Point 2 nuclear plant in Buchanan, N.Y., traced to a leak in a buried pipe, is stirring concern about the plant’s underground pipes and those of other aging reactors across the country."
"...A huge volume of water from the Columbia River was required to dissipate the heat produced by Hanford's nuclear reactors. From 1944 to 1971, pump systems drew cooling water from the river and, after treating this water for use by the reactors, returned it to the river. Before being released back into the river, the used water was held in large tanks known as retention basins for up to six hours. Longer-lived isotopes were not affected by this retention, and several terabecquerels entered the river every day. By 1957, the eight plutonium production reactors at Hanford dumped a daily average of 50,000 curies (1,900 TBq) of radioactive material into the Columbia. These releases were kept secret by the federal government. Radiation was later measured downstream as far west as the Washington and Oregon coasts.
The plutonium separation process also resulted in the release of radioactive isotopes into the air, which were carried by the wind throughout southeastern Washington and into parts of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and British Columbia. Downwinders were exposed to radionuclides, particularly iodine-131, with the heaviest releases during the period from 1945 to 1951. These radionuclides filtered into the food chain via contaminated fields where dairy cows grazed; hazardous fallout was ingested by communities who consumed the radioactive food and drank the milk. Most of these airborne releases were a part of Hanford's routine operations, while a few of the larger releases occurred in isolated incidents. In 1949, an intentional release known as the "Green Run" released 8,000 curies of iodine-131 over two days. Another source of contaminated food came from Columbia River fish, an impact felt disproportionately by Native American communities who depended on the river for their customary diets....While major releases of radioactive material ended with the reactor shutdown in the 1970s, parts of the Hanford Site remain heavily contaminated. Many of the most dangerous wastes are contained, but there are concerns about contaminated groundwater headed toward the Columbia River. There are also continued concerns about workers' health and safety.
The most significant challenge at Hanford is stabilizing the 53 million U.S. gallons (204,000 m3) of high-level radioactive waste stored in 177 underground tanks. About a third of these tanks have leaked waste into the soil and groundwater. As of 2008[update], most of the liquid waste has been transferred to more secure double-shelled tanks; however, 2.8 million U.S. gallons (10,600 m3) of liquid waste, together with 27 million U.S. gallons (100,000 m3) of salt cake and sludge, remains in the single-shelled tanks. That waste was originally scheduled to be removed by 2018. The revised deadline is 2040. Nearby aquifers contain an estimated 270 billion U.S. gallons (1 billion m3) of contaminated groundwater as a result of the leaks. As of 2008[update], 1 million U.S. gallons (4,000 m3) of highly radioactive waste is traveling through the groundwater toward the Columbia River. This waste is expected to reach the river in 12 to 50 years if cleanup does not proceed on schedule. The site also includes 25 million cubic feet (710,000 m3) of solid radioactive waste...."
The only part of nuclear power that is "solved" is the part where politicians figured out there is less uproar if they classify accidents as state secrets until decades have passed and and the victims are dying of weird cancers.
In addition, according to the wikipedia article you cite, the B Reactor at Hanford was the first industrial-scale plutonium production reactor ever built. Do you think it is relevant to discussion of the safety of modern nuclear facilities to point out flaws in reactors that, for the most part(the N Reactor is the only one that operated later than 1971 at the site), have been decommissioned for about forty years, especially given that one of them was the first of its kind ever built on that scale? Those reactors were built forty-five to sixty-five years ago.
The horrible mess at Hanford is EXACTLY the kind of mess when you operate reprocessing reactors.
There's no such thing as Mr Ekiru suggests in real world USA. Hanford is precisely the model that's appropriate for the US nuclear industry. That's what happens when the same corporations who built the Big Dig also build nuclear reactors the same way the Big Dig was built. Like crud.
> Uranium-238 is 1% of the earth's crust.
This is off by 4 orders of magnitude:
Unfortunately we live in a world on the web where people who are religious, atheists, conservative, liberal, or whatever are put into little boxes and made fun of. This is what passes for wisdom anymore (instead of rational, clear discussion about beliefs and issues)
I think you'll find that both the current Pope and the last Pope are, by any conceivable definition, "religious conservatives who make the headlines". You'll find if you read their writings on the topic for five seconds that they're pretty much in the same place as the grandparent.
Are you sure you're not seeing confirmation bias? As in, "It would disagree with my worldview greatly if I thought religious conservatives were basically decent people. Accordingly, I only remember the ones who aren't"? (I won't discount the possibility of confirmation bias in the media, granted. Phelps on AIDS makes for a much punchier quote than John Paul II on AIDS.)
And if I recall correctly, the last pope moved to the right under the influence of the current pope.
The current pope, with his apparent pseudo embrace of the nouveau anti-evolutionists, is significantly further to the right then most of the Vatican establishment, which has considered the creation stories to be an allegory for many, many years now.
When we get a new pope who knows what he'll be like.
I'm sure all these people are nice when you meet them, as most people tend to be, and would never wish anyone personally to contract a disease, but they love malleable statistics and impressionable stories to support their positions.
Then you willfully ignorant, at best:
I stand by my argument. Whether or not they openly claim to like STDs, religious conservatives and, say, HIV are natural friends. To the extent that the fundamentalist religions actually believe in their stated goals of discouraging promiscuous and homosexual conduct, the popular fear of HIV et al helps to make sexual mores more Victorian than they otherwise would be.
If and when we exterminate all STDs (a pocket-sized instant tester costing <$100 would do just that, and may be around the corner) and develop perfect unobtrusive birth control (say, immunocontraceptives currently being tested), sexual taboos will eventually go the way of the taboo on working on Sundays. And religions which attempt to restrict sexual conduct will be viewed as revolting anachronisms.
Don't make up silly hypothetical "if" statements. Let us look at reality: contraceptives are supported by most religious people. To say that religion is against contraception is to look at outmoded views from again, an unrepresentative part of an entire religion. And religions which attempt to restrict sexual conduct are already viewed by many as revolting anachronisms -- so you're just using a hypothetical statement to make an incorrect generalization to support the viewpoint you hold.
The fundamentalists are the particular religious people whose beliefs and actions are most relevant to me, as a nonbeliever. The masses who "live and let live" are politically irrelevant. The crazies are fully representative of those religious people whose stances actually affect my life.
> Contraceptives are supported by most religious people
So, which church is distributing condoms to Africans? Oh, that's right, none of them.
I don't think most religious people go on missions in Africa... in fact it's probably the fundamentalist minority that would do that kind of thing.
Various reports have been produced by the NRC which attempt to "prove" that the chance of a catastrophe is low (1 in a million or what have you). The methodology of these studies is somewhat laughable: a catalogue of all possible failures is created, and a probability is estimated for each one; then the probabilities are multiplied by the consequences of the failure. So, there might be an estimate that a tornado will hit a plant every 100 years; given that a tornado hits a plant, there is a 1 in 10 chance that the containment will fail; and so on. Anyone who has worked in software knows that it is absurd to try to catalogue all failure modes of a complex system.
Additionally, these reports have been marred by corruption. The Reactor Safety Study, produced in 1975, was eventually repudiated by the NRC in 1979. It was enormously misleading, summarizing the risks of nuclear power in terms of "early fatalities," whereas the cumulative fatalities from radiation exposure are far more serious. It is based on these sorts of flawed, self-serving studies that the nuclear industry brags about how "safe" its practices are.
Overall, I find the tone of the nuclear debate very disappointing. Nuclear supporters seem to pretend that anti-nuclear activists are just irrational, with no arguments worth worrying about. There is not even an acknowledgment that there are still hard problems to solve with nuclear, or that mistakes were made in the past.
That really doesn't make any sense. They are opposed to nuclear power because they don't perceive it to be safe (which they learned from disasters like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island), if it was perceived to be safe then they wouldn't be opposed to it. It's not like they hate the power it would give or the jobs i wold create, there is no other agenda for them to oppose it on (unless you're talking about astroturfing campaigns by alternatives, in which case I misunderstood you).
Extreme religious conservatives are another story (and I add 'extreme' because someone can be religious, conservative, and perfectly sane).
Please read the writings of the prominent environmentalists. Many of them want humans to hurry up and go extinct. Not necessarily in so many words, but anyone who advocates a return to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle is in fact calling for the murder of the billions of people who are alive only due to agriculture, of a kind which depends on modern energy sources.
Honestly it's starting to sound a bit hypocritical given your original statement.
I simply don't care about anyone's stated goals. What I care about is the logically inevitable results of the changes they are pursuing.
Many anti-nuclear activists perceive nuclear as unsafe, but a lot of others want it to be unsafe because it makes them important. If nuclear was perceived as safe, they would have less money and volunteers to play with.
Granted these things tend to become less dangerous over time, but dumping that stuff into a large geologicaly stable hole in the ground seems like a great option.
A concrete example: In terms of radiation dose, a depleted uranium cutting board is equivalent to granite countertops.
Most low level radioactive waste is just not that dangerous. Dilution is as effective as storage.
Also, AFAIK depleted uranium comes from the enrichment process, not from the actual reactor.
Why not just pack the most dangerous nuclear waste onto a rocket and blast it out of the atmosphere and out of any orbit, perhaps into the sun?? The risk is something happening to the rocket on the way up. It sounds absurd but there's a lot more radioactive things in space, and costs for such a procedure seem to be lowering.
The volume of low level nuclear waste is so low as to be negligable.
THIS is why the anti-nuclear movement is as strong as it is. They know the military and the nuclear industry HIDES serious accidents, Sometimes the military makes the accidents state secrets, and the radioactive material is left right where it spilled. This British Sub base has trashed the surrounding countryside and the people live near the base will be starting to drop dead from weird cancers any day now.
Not to mention all of the former Soviet Navy bases are trashed by subs leaking radioactive waste.
The only problem is political.
And economic? Perhaps low-grade waste is the bigger issue?
Yes, coal pollution is "safer" the nuclear waste in equal amounts, but neither is clean, and nuclear waste (low-grade or otherwise) can be contained safely, while coal simply produces too much to store or convert to non-dangerous forms.
I talked to a Greenpeace activist a few weeks ago to try to understand how Greenpeace can still be anti-nuclear energy with all that we know about the costs of the alternatives. Obviously, an on-the-street activist isn't necessarily representative of all of Greenpeace, but she did have a pamphlet about nuclear energy that she was very familiar with. In short, there is no recognition in their materials that nuclear power and nuclear weapons are dramatically different (and so, "no nukes!" applied equally to weapons and energy in her mind, and she simply couldn't imagine that one could exist without the other). There was also a deep-seated denial about coal and the realistic options for moving off of coal. Her response was, "We shouldn't compromise on clean energy, it's too important. We need clean sources of energy, like solar and wind, to replace coal and nuclear power." Obviously, there's no reasoning with this sort of mentality.
"You can't reason a man out of a position he did not arrive at through reason."
This particular assertion seems unlikely to me. People die while mining coal, but they don't die while mining uranium?
Fuel reprocessing plants are much less heavily scrutinized than the power plants themselves, since they are less likely to cause massive damage to the surrounding populace. I don't have the numbers to hand, but my impression is that if you're looking for serious worker safety issues in nuclear energy, you should look to the reprocessing plants.
I imagine some mining related deaths would probably happen if we completely convert to nuclear. But, the amount of uranium required is dramatically less, so far fewer humans would be needed for mining it. The sheer volume of coal required is a big part of the problem, and the processing of coal produces other opportunities for people to get hurt or killed. Uranium processing could also be dangerous...but again, the volume needed is much lower.
It's just a numbers game, really, when it comes to direct and indirect deaths and injuries, and we'd all love for there to be a completely safe, completely clean, completely free source of energy...but that's not an option. We have to choose amongst the candidates we have available. Nuclear wins in pretty much every category over coal. And, since solar and wind power are not yet feasible for a majority of the US, moving to nuclear is the best option in many cases. I'm not saying nuclear is perfect, but nuclear is certainly dramatically better than coal.
Apparently there are whole ghost towns in Canada that just closed up shop as a result.
So it wouldn't surprise me if there hadn't been any U mining deaths recently, even though the mining is on average potentially more hazardous than coal. Keep in mind though, that even if Uranium was spectacularly more difficult and dangerous to mine, the volume of it that needs to be mined is so much smaller than coal, that it would still be a better option in terms of safety overall. (You'd just have to pay those miners a ton in return for the risk!)
The Swedish design is simpler - they simply bury the waste and backfill the chambers. Waste is always in contact with groundwater, but the site was chosen so that diffusion through the rock is slow enough that it will decay to stable elements long before leaving the site.
Imagine even just transporting the spent fuel to another plant. You can't permanently cast it in concrete and glass if you want to recycle it.
Many isotopes for nuclear medicine are also produced in accelerators, not by recycling.
tell everyone you know, tell them again and again until it sinks in. everyone needs to know this. environmental groups need to be supporting nuclear plants. coal plants put out radioactive waste directly into the environment. the problem of storing it is trivial by comparison.
In the end, this story is congruent with the community guidelines but your comment is not.
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The discussion is a bit reddit-like, but it can't be helped. The article itself was interesting enough.
The interesting issue is that if we make it easier to reprocess spent fuel, then DPK and Iran and others might be able to get rid of their "civilian power" smokescreen and focus on just that part. Then, we're back where we started.
Also, we're rapidly approaching an age when WMD will be accessible to very small groups. Our strategy should be to treat this like a reality today, and act accordingly.
Terrorism is certainly no reason to fuck up our entire domestic energy policy.
Nor is terrorism a reason to fuck up the Constitution, but the prior Administration had no qualms doing that.
It is also not clear from the article how expensive recycling the radioactive waste would be.