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Nuclear Power Is Extremely Safe -- That's the Truth About What We

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To think rationally about nuclear safety, you must identify the whole context. As the late, great energy thinker Petr Beckmann argued three decades ago in his contrarian classic "The Health Hazards of NOT Going Nuclear," every means of generating power has dangers and risks, but nuclear power “is far safer than any other form of large-scale energy conversion yet invented.”


This was an exclusive article written for Fox News Opinion.


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This Op-Ed is currently showing up, prominently, on the Foxnews.com site. I wish the author had acknowledged that nuclear power in the US is, currently, not economical and is in fact subsidized. This is the case not with new plants (there aren’t any new ones), but with the ones already in operation. So why does it work so well in France but not here? Are French plants less safe? Also, wasn't it unwise to build a nuclear plant in a location that is subject to earthquakes and tsunamis, like Fukushima?

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This Op-Ed is currently showing up, prominently, on the Foxnews.com site. I wish the author had acknowledged that nuclear power in the US is, currently, not economical and is in fact subsidized

Why didnt they? Because it is besides the point. And as for being "not economical" I have to question that, though I dont have the figures for the US power plants. By what standards are they not economical?

" Also, wasn't it unwise to build a nuclear plant in a location that is subject to earthquakes and tsunamis, like Fukushima?"

Apparently not all that bad, given nobody actually died and that earthquakes dont necceasirly cause serious problems with these things.

Edited by Prometheus98876

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Why didnt they? Because it is besides the point. And as for being "not economical" I have to question that, though I dont have the figures for the US power plants. By what standards are they not economical?

http://reason.com/archives/2011/03/25/the-truth-about-nuclear-power

Apparently not all that bad, given nobody actually died and that earthquakes dont necceasirly cause serious problems with these things.

I guarantee you this will be litigated for decades. Every case of cancer in that area will be chalked up to radiation from the plant, so we may never even have reliable data. In any event, it’s much too soon to declare a final score.

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I guarantee you this will be litigated for decades. Every case of cancer in that area will be chalked up to radiation from the plant, so we may never even have reliable data. In any event, it’s much too soon to declare a final score.

Sure, there will always be idiots making all sorts of arbitrary litigation over almost anything, especially nuclear power. So what?

As for your reference, all it proves *at best* is that America needs more effective nuclear power station technologies. While in fact nuclear power is the most efficent means of energy production known to man if you do your research carefully.

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I wish the author had acknowledged that nuclear power in the US is, currently, not economical and is in fact subsidized.

Even without this in there, the Op-Ed presents an important message that desperately needs to be heard in the wake of what happened in Japan. The Op-Ed is focused on the safety aspects of nuclear power, and the Reason source you provided is in 100% agreement with the message of the Op-Ed: that nuclear power is far safer than other source of power. Whether or not nuclear power is an economical long-term solution to our electricity demand is something that we can make educated guesses at (with numbers like those you've provided), but the best method of settling that question is still trial and error through the market process. The danger here is that the regulations against nuclear power will become stronger and harder than ever to repeal in the wake of public fears about nuclear safety. If we had a truly free market in energy, we might find that new breakthroughs in nuclear energy render it more efficient than other sources of energy, or we might find that it still loses out to coal and natural gas. However, we will never get that opportunity if we don't first dispel the safety concerns of nuclear power, which is the focus of this Op-Ed.

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Sure, there will always be idiots making all sorts of arbitrary litigation over almost anything, especially nuclear power. So what?

Arbitrary litigation? What if cancer rates skyrocket among people in that area? We wouldn’t know yet, would we?

As for your reference, all it proves *at best* is that America needs more effective nuclear power station technologies. While in fact nuclear power is the most efficent means of energy production known to man if you do your research carefully.

But even with subsidized start up costs, various guarantees, and tax incentives the cost per kilowatt hour comes out higher. A lot higher. Do you have references to more careful research that you could share? Otherwise you may as well be arguing that socialized (or, ahem, “single payer”) health care is the “most efficient means” of running that industry. Except now, because we’re not yet doing it right. I’m biased in favor of nuclear too, but as Aristotle might have said, I love nuclear, but I love facts more.

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I’m biased in favor of nuclear too, but as Aristotle might have said, I love nuclear, but I love facts more.

Your article showed nuclear to be one or two cents more expensive per kilowatt hour than than gas or coal (14%-30%). Gas and coal enjoy the economies of scale that come with being a number one energy source, and will continue to until CO2 regulatory uncertainty drags them down. I wonder what kind of efficiencies we could work into nuclear plants if nuclear regulatory uncertainty were abolished. Ten to thirty percent does not seem to be out of the question.

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Your article showed nuclear to be one or two cents more expensive per kilowatt hour than than gas or coal (14%-30%). Gas and coal enjoy the economies of scale that come with being a number one energy source, and will continue to until CO2 regulatory uncertainty drags them down. I wonder what kind of efficiencies we could work into nuclear plants if nuclear regulatory uncertainty were abolished. Ten to thirty percent does not seem to be out of the question.

You're leaving out what the author of the article called the "baked-in taxpayer subsidy of nearly 50 percent of nuclear power’s operating costs." Besides, the claim that there will be improved economies of scale has no stronger basis than the kind of wishful thinking that goes into claims that single payer health care will result in unbelievable savings. Savings that are nonetheless quantified and then make their way into speeches by politicians with obvious power grubbing agendas.

I think it would be great if we had lots of cheap nuclear power, and moved to driving electric cars that we plug in every night at home, so we wouldn't need any more foreign oil. But if the facts don't support this idealized vision, so be it.

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Arbitrary litigation? What if cancer rates skyrocket among people in that area? We wouldn’t know yet, would we?

Sorry, it will remain arbitrary until sufficent proof of connection between the two is given , which has hever happened ( outside that one case in the Soviet Union perhaps, you might have heard of it..).

But even with subsidized start up costs, various guarantees, and tax incentives the cost per kilowatt hour comes out higher. A lot higher. Do you have references to more careful research that you could share? Otherwise you may as well be arguing that socialized (or, ahem, “single payer”) health care is the “most efficient means” of running that industry. Except now, because we’re not yet doing it right. I’m biased in favor of nuclear too, but as Aristotle might have said, I love nuclear, but I love facts more.

Not at all. I am aruging that *if done right* (by private funding, though I will grant the involvement of the government makes it much more problematic and less efficent), nuclear power is by far the most efficent means of energy produtction. Possibly I did not make this clear. Well, I am stating it and leaving you to check the figures which are very easy to acquire.

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Sorry, it will remain arbitrary until sufficent proof of connection between the two is given , which has hever happened ( outside that one case in the Soviet Union perhaps, you might have heard of it..).

At least you're not denying that there's a connection between radiation and cancer.

Not at all. I am aruging that *if done right* (by private funding, though I will grant the involvement of the government makes it much more problematic and less efficent), nuclear power is by far the most efficent means of energy produtction. Possibly I did not make this clear. Well, I am stating it and leaving you to check the figures which are very easy to acquire.

And "if done right" socialized medicine is paradise, and "if done right" carbon controls will save the world from imminent climate catastrophe. The figures "proving" both of these claims are even easier to acquire.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teMlv3ripSM

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You're leaving out what the author of the article called the "baked-in taxpayer subsidy of nearly 50 percent of nuclear power’s operating costs." Besides, the claim that there will be improved economies of scale has no stronger basis than the kind of wishful thinking that goes into claims that single payer health care will result in unbelievable savings.

Economies of scale are well established and the alleged benefits of single payer healthcare, which involve adding countless layers of extra administration costs, are not. It is thoughtless to compare the two. While I admit that I can't predict with certainty if anyone will ever actually be able to take advantage of scale economy in nuclear power, I can speculate as to the probability. If you'll go back to that article you'll notice something that lead me to belive that operation costs are not the primary cost concern and that operation subsidies may have less of an impact than you seem to suspect:

While the nuclear industry in the United States has seen continued improvements in operating performance over time, it remains uncompetitive with coal and natural gas on the basis of price. This cost differential is primarily the result of high capital costs and long construction times.

Furthermore, my point about economies of scale is actually mentioned in the article with no confirmation or denial as to its truthfulness:

Although unit costs for technology usually decrease with volume of production because of scale factors and technological learning, nuclear power has gone in the opposite direction. This exception to the rule is usually attributed to the idiosyncrasies of the nuclear regulatory environment as public opposition grew, laws were tightened, and construction times increased.

It seems that nuclear power is not viable right now. But if future cost-viability can be inferred from current prices, it appears that nuclear power is next in line as fossil fuel prices rise. It is not ridiculous to speculate about, like wind and solar are.

Edited by FeatherFall

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Economies of scale are well established and the alleged benefits of single payer healthcare, which involve adding countless layers of extra administration costs, are not. It is thoughtless to compare the two.

Sez you. We have wishful thinking all around, motivated by political agendas: nuclear power and socialized medicine are superior, stop trying to confuse their proponents with facts. I grant that it’s an uncomfortable comparison, too bad, deal with it. One poster tells me I need to research more carefully, another says I’m thoughtless; neither of you contribute or reference contrary evidence. I’d say tu quoque, but that would imply I’ve committed a fallacy too.

If you'll go back to that article you'll notice something that lead me to belive that operation costs are not the primary cost concern and that operation subsidies may have less of an impact than you seem to suspect:

The article doesn’t provide enough data to determine how much more expensive nuclear currently is, only that the 14-30% figure is too low.

So the chief problem seems to be coming from the government

The data seems to indicate that if Government weren’t involved, we wouldn’t have nuclear at all. But it will surely all work out for the best, once we turn the problem over to the underwear gnomes.

underpants-gnomes-300x226.png

Edited by Ninth Doctor

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It's not an uncomfortable comparison, Ninthdoctor, it's inapt. If I had said that nuclear subsidies are an efficient use of tax dollars your comparison would make sense. But that's not what I said. The crusade you're on seems to be preventing you from taking my statements as I've made them. My purpose in this thread is to explore how close nuclear power is to viability, what the obstacles are, etc. To criticize me for a lack of support when I drew my argument from the same article you did is hypocritical and beneath you. But because this thread is about safety it is probably the wrong place for such talk anyway.

And seriously, are you denying the usefulness of economies of scale as such?

edit: removed a needlessly inflamatory sentence.

Edited by FeatherFall

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Sez you. We have wishful thinking all around, motivated by political agendas: nuclear power and socialized medicine are superior, stop trying to confuse their proponents with facts. I grant that it’s an uncomfortable comparison, too bad, deal with it. One poster tells me I need to research more carefully, another says I’m thoughtless; neither of you contribute or reference contrary evidence. I’d say tu quoque, but that would imply I’ve committed a fallacy too.

Well all I'm saying is that we're never going to know unless we get the government out of the way, and out of energy in general, and that's made more difficult by unfounded public fears about the safety of nuclear power.

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. . . I wonder what kind of efficiencies we could work into nuclear plants if nuclear regulatory uncertainty were abolished. . . .

Jacob,

I worked in nuclear power a number of years. I helped in the preoperational testing and in turnover of systems from construction to operations. I do not recall regulatory uncertainty concerning construction or operations. The fundamental circumstance that seemed to have driven up fantastically the cost of making steam from uranium was, as Chris says: unfounded public fears about the safety of nuclear power.

The accident at Three Mile Island harmed no one so far as I recall. But the cost of losing a reactor is staggering. I always knew, too, while I was working in nuclear generation, that if there were another accident as large as at TMI, that would be the end of nuclear power in America. Since TMI the industry in this country has been ultra safe, in no small part due to the competent watch of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (I know about the fire at Brown's Ferry and so forth; nothing has come near the TMI fiasco.)

After the Japanese loss of Fukushima, the irrational anti-nuke movement finally prevailed in Germany. Very sad. Germany (West) had been very competent in nuclear power.

Happily, the French and American governments reaffirmed their commitments to continuation of the nuclear component of electric power.

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At least you're not denying that there's a connection between radiation and cancer.

Yeah, radiation can can cancer as I understand it. However, nuclear power stations run a very low risk of the general population being subjected to such radiation ( at least under normal circumstances).

And "if done right" socialized medicine is paradise, and "if done right" carbon controls will save the world from imminent climate catastrophe. ......

AGAIN, I am talkign about *privately* funded nuclear power, or at least nuclear power with the very minimum of government involvement so that it is still efficent ( if this is even possible).

Edited by Prometheus98876

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The fundamental circumstance that seemed to have driven up fantastically the cost of making steam from uranium was, as Chris says: unfounded public fears about the safety of nuclear power.

That's interesting. In your experience, how did public fear express itself? I suspect it happens in one of two ways. One involves investors getting scared away and the other involves government entities pulling out. I obviously can't fault investors, but I wonder if some of the governmental action is warranted. But I'm not certain and really am interested in hearing more detail.

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That's interesting. In your experience, how did public fear express itself? I suspect it happens in one of two ways. One involves investors getting scared away and the other involves government entities pulling out. I obviously can't fault investors, but I wonder if some of the governmental action is warranted. But I'm not certain and really am interested in hearing more detail.

Intervention by the anti-nuke part of US citizenry has been most prominently through this venue it has seemed to me. Electoral politics has also been an intervention point, at least in connection to the federal responsibility for permanent disposition of high-level radwaste.*

The recent federal backup of capital ventured for the new units at Vogtle* has only been necessary due to risk of interventions from the anti-nuke part of the public. Also, the longstanding federal limits on tort liability for nuclear accidents is, I think, a bolster that has only come about at all due to the underlying irrational public fears (jury fears) about the safety of nuclear power.

Edited by Boydstun

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