09 Jan 2010 @ 12:23 PM 

I have continued to debate with proponents of using Nuclear Fission power plants to meet increasing energy demands. I stumbled upon this website and found their FOR and AGAINST argument lists to sum it up pretty nicely — http://www.willyoujoinus.com/discussion/topics/?d=23&gclid=CMvrmuGAmJ8CFRAeDQod7mI1NQ

Here’s their list followed by the question they pose. I would add to the critics list that while nuclear power reduces the world’s dependence on oil and natural gas, it simply replaces that with a dependence on the various hard-to-find fuels for nuclear power which are also finite. Renewable energy harnessing is the only way that will work as long as the sun exists. Why wait? We’re simply prolonging the inevitable which is running out of fuel for our quick and dirty solutions.

Supporters of nuclear power cite the benefits:

  • Zero greenhouse gas emissions during generation
  • Nuclear power reduces the world’s dependence on oil (though less than 10% of global electricity generation uses oil as its fuel base)3, as well as natural gas
  • Air quality improvements, as nuclear plants do not emit many of the pollutants that fossil fuel based plants emit
  • The relatively low cost of nuclear fuel and operations
  • The safety record of nuclear operations: over the last decade, experience with nuclear power plants prove they can be operated safely and reliably

Critics of nuclear power often cite the risks:

  • Accidents such as Chernobyl are so dangerous to people, communities and natural resources that even one major incident is unacceptable
  • Nuclear waste remains deadly for tens of thousands of years, and a proper long-term solution to its management has not yet been developed
  • Nuclear plants pose an attractive target to terrorists, and even nuclear waste could be used against populations in the wrong hands
  • The proliferation risks associated with civil nuclear programs are unacceptably high and could present a grave national security threat
  • The economics of new nuclear generation are uncertain (primarily due to the very high – and often underestimated – cost of construction and operating liability which is uninsurable by private means), most often requiring government support to make new plants financially viable

So do the benefits outweigh the risks? Can the risks be sufficiently managed? And how do we balance local issues with the global concerns over energy security?

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Last Edit: 09 Jan 2010 @ 12:23 PM

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 05 Jan 2010 @ 11:15 PM 

I was going to type up some long bit about my current energy research readings and such but I just could not decide how to format it all. Well, that and I’m lazy.

Enel is in the planning stages of a industrial scale hydrogen burning power plant.
http://powermag.com/coal/Enel-to-build-first-industrial-scale-hydrogen-power-plant_1582.html

Humboldt State University’s Schats Energy Research Center (SERC) is road testing a Hydrogen Fuel Cell powered Toyota.
http://now.humboldt.edu/news/hsu-road-tests-fuel-cell-hybrid-vehicle/

Solar Reserve has designed and tested a way of storing solar energy in molten salt.
http://www.alternative-energy-news.info/molten-salt-solar-plant/
Solar Reserve’s website.
http://www.solar-reserve.com/

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A large part of why I am posting these links is I have spent a great deal of time in a back-and-forth over Nuclear Fission where I have been arguing the side against it. It seems that a large number of Nuclear Fission proponents think that it is a clean, safe, sustainable power source.

MINING
When I bring up mining, they fall back on the “every source has it’s own demons” bull.

ENRICHMENT
When I bring up enrichment, they fall back on the same argument as mining.

RADIOACTIVE WASTE
When I bring up toxic waste, I am offered anecdotal evidence from folks who have visited the radioactive waste storage tanks. Nevermind the fact that above ground storage is only for the least harmful isotopes. The terrible ones are stored hundreds of meters below ground. The key is they are stored. And must continue to be monitored for thousands of years.

FINITE RESOURCE
When I bring up finite resources, I’m sure many haven’t even thought of it. Uranium is finite just like coal and oil. In fact, the US has already tapped out our richest sources. Their response is that, well, we have enough to last 300 years at current consumption and that’s good enough for me! What a lame response. We have enough oil to do that too. They quote websites which profess great sources like this one where Dr. H. Sterling Burnett writes his views. Turns out he has a PhD in Philosophy and works for many conservative think tanks which are often receive generous donations from large oil companies. NCPA Article.

The above four arguments against Nuclear Fission power generation often fall on deaf ears because proponents seem to write the before and after generation off. Solar and Wind have both come of age and are commercially viable and being built. Sure, they take up more space but they do not suffer from any of the above four issues.

INCIDENT (eg: MELTDOWN)
There is a fifth issue with Nuclear Fission, maybe the worst one — the possibility of an incident. However unlikely, it IS possible to lose containment on a nuclear reaction and suddenly dump radioactive waste into the atmosphere and surrounding countryside. Proponents offer their assurances that we’ve learned from our mistakes and it won’t happen again. Assurances cannot be 100%. With wind and solar then can be because they do not rely on radioactive fuel.

In my opinion, anyone who can write off the above five solid arguments against Nuclear Fission power is ignoring the facts. The first three could be ignored as long as carbon footprint is ignored and but the “nuclear is clean” argument fails too. The last two are not possible to provide 100% assurance for.

One person argued that Nuclear was cheap on the grounds of plant construction costs and power production costs which they estimated at 6 billion and $0.05 per kWHr produced respectively.

Wind power, according the the AWEA, has come down to around $0.05 per kWHr produced.

The only true obstacle remaining for intermittent sources is storage and engineers are quickly breaking down that barrier.

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Last Edit: 06 Jan 2010 @ 07:04 PM

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 14 Apr 2009 @ 10:37 PM 

The second scenario in my analysis section looks at power supplied by 140MW of wind (purple), 50MW of solar (yellow), 50MW of ocean–wave (blue), and 64.3MW of biomass (green). This scenario leaves out the fossil fuel (brown) and the transmission (red). A one week run of the model in the summer from Sunday July 1, 2008 through Saturday July 7, 2008 is shown below.

July 1, 2008 through July 7, 2008 power supplied where purple is wind, solar is yellow, ocean-wave is blue, and biomass is green. The black curve at the top is power demand.

July 1, 2008 through July 7, 2008 power supplied where purple is wind, solar is yellow, ocean-wave is blue, and biomass is green. The black curve at the top is power demand.

December 14, 2008 through December 20, 2008 power supplied. The high winds really help in the winter.

December 14, 2008 through December 20, 2008 power supplied. The high winds really help in the winter.

As you can see, without more biomass or another way of compensating for the intermittency of wind, solar, and ocean-wave power, a purely renewable portfolio for Humboldt County would not be adequate.

Please ask me questions if you like. I’d be happy to answer them.

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Last Edit: 14 Apr 2009 @ 10:37 PM

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