Wednesday, October 22, 2008

More Nuclear Now!

Because Nuclear Energy is so safe, as Senator McSame says.


The allure of nuclear technology disappears once people have a better understanding of it.
  • Over the lifetime of a plant, which far exceeds its lifetime as a functioning, energy-producing plant, the costs of that plant will by far outweigh the energy it produces. (Even when accounting for recycling technologies, which I do support for existing nuclear plants.)
  • The short term costs of making a nuclear power plant are great, the long term costs - as already suggested - are staggering. Investing in more nuclear power as a means to become energy independent makes about as much sense as investing in Lehman brothers right now.
  • We still don't have an effective means to dispose of the waste, which is a problem that will last, oh, say, forever.
  • If anything does happen to these plants, the word "catastrophic" seems minimal and simplistic. And, honestly, when it comes to human beings, accidents are always going to happen. See France and all of their "safe" plants.
  • There's plenty of better ways to invest our money than investing it in what is now old technology at this point. Focusing on wind, solar, conservation and new battery technologies seems like a much better effort to this layman's mind.
  • Did anyone ever mention that nuclear power is a limited resource? No? More nuclear plants will mean we'll use all our Earthly nuclear supply rapidly, running out of it perhaps quicker than fossil fuels.
  • I wish I could find a link to an awesome documentary I watched on Nuclear Power about a year or so ago. It didn't take sides, trying to present a full picture so people could make up their own minds. I came into it with an open mind, left dead-set against nuclear plants. Given their long term costs, never mind potential for disaster, they're just not a logical path toward energy independence or a solution to Global Warming.
  • I was inspired to write this blog in response to this one.


Middleboro Review said...

Good post, Ryan! And good link, as well. Some experts estimate that we could save as much as 40% just in energy efficiency, aka that dirty word, conservation. A great deal is being accomplished by pro-active Massachusetts municipalities that have green committees and they are stressing to address the "low hanging fruit" first - the CFLs, the energy vampires (like the computers and tvs that use energy when off), occupancy switches, no idling policies, programmable thermostats, weatherization.
Energy efficiency isn't sexy and actually requires personal responsibility.
Entergy, the owner of Yankee and Pilgrim nuclear plants, has its own problems If alternative energy received the subsidies, tax breaks and liability limits of nuclear, coal and oil, the US would experience that same growth as Germany.

Anonymous said...

If voters were paying attention to the source of campaign contributions they would understand that major funding is coming from the energy industry and is not in the best initerests of them, the country or the environment. The more you learn about any issue, the more you understand that energy independence is not only possible using current technology, but it would create manufacturing jobs in the US. You didn't write about the economy, but electing a leader who is willing to listen to the facts is a good place to start.

Mark Adler said...

Thanks, Ryan. I'm glad to see other pro-environment liberal voices who support nuclear power.

Everything is dangerous to some extent, but when we weigh the costs against the benefits, then nuclear power is a good part of our energy future with wind, solar, hydro, and (of course!) conservation.

-Mark Adler (ShrewsBuried)

Middleboro Review said...

mark, you might want to do some of your own research about the costs. Those new Florida nuclear plants are suffering massive cost overruns, and then there's the Shoreham fiasco.

Derrick Jackson wrote:
Progress Energy Florida announced a proposed rate increase of 31 percent, in part to pay for two new nuclear reactors, which will cost an estimated $17 billion.

Florida Power & Light followed up this week with a proposed 7 percent increase,....

The only way to furnish this empty house is through massive taxpayer subsidies. The once-moribund US nuclear industry has been reenergized from $13 billion in federal subsidies and $20.5 billion in loan guarantees in recent years. But the industry wanted $50 billion in guarantees.

Entergy is attempting to dump Yankee into a new company with inadequate capital to pay for decommissioning. That means taxpayers will pick up the tab.
And this addresses Entergy's controls:

And here's Shoreham:
McCain Plan: Homer Simpson Without A Donut
Nuclear plants are cheap until you actually try to build one. Not one of the last 49 nuclear plants cost less than $2 billion apiece. I’m looking down the road at the remainders of the Shoreham nuclear plant which took nearly 20 years to build at a cost of $8 billion – or close to $7,000 per customer it was supposed to supply. When I say “supposed to,” it was closed for safety reasons after operating just one single day.

Hull is investigating tidal/wave energy. Block Island is investingating the same. Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard have formed an alliance to investigate the potential in the waters between the 2 islands. The Corps of Engineers is studying its potential in the Cape Cod Canal. New York City's ConEd already has an operating tidal/wave generation facility.

And geo-thermal will produce when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow.

PBS Frontline aired an informative, albeit basic program about energy issues.

When discussing energy, it's important to remember that it's a complex topic, some of which is mightily dull and boring, but each of us needs to leave our old pre-conceived notions behind.

If the experts are correct that a 40% reduction in energy consumption can be achieved simply by employing conservation techniques and reducing the demand side that makes greater sense than beginning with the supply side.

Wind power is currently cost competitive.

Mark Adler said...

I don't mean to exaggerate the pro-nuclear ramblings of John McCain. (I hope my Obama credentials are secure!!) But I do think that there is some argument in favor of nuclear power. I also think wind power is a great option too. (There's a turbine just across the valley from my home.) Solar has potential, but a little more costly.

What I like about nuclear power is that it allows us to diversify our power grid away from polluting coal. I don't support so-called "clean coal."

Nuclear isn't a great option, but it is a good option and ought to be considered.

Ryan Adams said...

I'm actually decidedly anti-nuclear, Mark, in terms of new growth for general energy consumption. What I think is important, though, is that we get the biggest bang for our buck out of existing nuclear plants, which means reprocessing nuclear waste as France does.

It's still very dangerous, as my link to the problems France has on an ongoing basis indicates. But the fact is that the danger will exist whether we keep the plants open or not, since it takes dozens of years to truly shut down any nuclear plant, even after they're no longer producing electricity.

Given the limited amount of nuclear material on this earth, it should only be used when necessary... and it's not necessary to increase the amount of nuclear plants to become energy independent. Indeed, given the fact that most nuclear material comes from other countries, it's hard to see how going nuclear would even make us energy independent.. we'd just be getting our nuclear material from different places than we get our oil.

Middleboro Review said...

Mark, Setting aside 1. costly disposal that remains unresolved, 2. siting problems, 3. cost overruns, 4. long construction lead time, 5. the environmental issue of hot water discharge that we ignore, 6. the failure of companies like Entergy to adequately capitalize for decomissioning, 7. safety risk, and several other items I've neglected, there were several impartial reports that indicated that the capital markets were unwilling to invest in nuclear. But, oh wait! We don't seem to have any capital markets just now, or do we?
Nuclear is extraordinarily expensive and receives the largest subsidies and liability exclusions. In a rational market, no one would invest in nuclear.
Were we to grant comparable incentives to photovoltaics, you would witness an explosion in production.
Check out
Rocky Mountain Institute

Let's not forget that most can reduce consumption 20-30-40% for nominal costs.

Anonymous said...

Just start to mandate that every new house built has to have a solar panel on the roof ( they do in Israel), it becomes part of the building code. We currently mandate a certain minimum electrical, plumbing and structural requirement, make energy consumption part of the mix. When the economies of scale start to kick in people will begin to revovate their old houses because they'll save money.

Anonymous said...

California and Hawaii have better building codes. CA has reduced per capita consumption through innovative legislation and targeted municipalities through sensible things like replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs in traffic lights. It adds up. Other states acted earlier and offered far more than Massachusetts which is now playing catch up and the building codes are gradually being improved. But keep in mind, when the dizzying McMansion craze fueled the economy, what market was there for a smaller, energy efficient home? And who bought an efficient refrigerator when the sleek stainless steel, side by side, with ice maker and water dispenser through the door spun that electric meter wildly?
As a nation, we've neglected consumer education and marketed energy gluttony.
Nucular is a loser and needs to be dismissed from consideration.

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