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Nuclear Power: Energy For The Future

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Note: I do realize there is a science forum; however, as I am far more interested in the political debate and ramifications, I put it here.

Back in 1979, Jane Fonda, who to me is the epitome of evil, led a crusade against nuclear power. People became worried about the energy source: What don't we know about its dangers? Is it leaking radiation into our homes? If it melts down, will it be Hiroshima revisited? Why is this evil allowed to continue if it's killing people right and left?

It didn't help that the worst reactor meltdown in US history, at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, happened in 1979, or that Fonda’s movie which led the crusade, The China Syndrome, was released as well. Since then people have campaigned to end any nuclear power plant made and desire the end of its usage.

To any professional or amateur scientist (I apply under the latter but wish to be under the former), this is a very disturbing image of what Hollywood does to ruin the minds of good Americans.

Nuclear power is, in truth, one of the most promising power sources available. It is a very clean power source, current stocks of U-235 are sufficient to power our energy needs for thousands of years (not to mention U-238 for the production of Pu-239), designs outside of the former Warsaw Pact are extremely safe and it is becoming less expensive than fossil fuels. First, I have some myths to debunk.

1. The “Hiroshima Revisited” scenario. This one is a commonly held myth about nuclear power. In it, people state that a nuclear power plant is capable of creating a nuclear explosion when it malfunctions. WRONG. Not only do Western reactors make serious malfunctions extremely improbable, there is simply not enough U-235 or Pu-239 in the core at any given time to create an explosive fission reaction.

2. Nuclear reactors constantly release deadly amounts of radiation. Although extremely minute amounts of radiation release do happen, because no containment structure is completely 100% effective, but these are less radioactive than you are naturally. In Western reactors, safety and the containment of radiation are primary concerns in their construction (unlike the Russian RBMK reactor, which was in use at Chernobyl). Even in a meltdown like at Three Mile Island, the amount of radiation released was incredibly tiny in comparison to the amount of radiation inside the containment structure.

3. Nuclear reactors are not safe. Although true with Russian reactors (such as the RBMK at Chernobyl or the submarine reactors they used, which were notorious for leaking and accidents), this is very untrue for Western reactors. Safety is a key concern. In fact, the United States Navy, one of the largest operators of nuclear power, has suffered no major nuclear accidents ever. Also, there has never been a meltdown in the West that has resulted in the breaking of the containment building (this is why Chernobyl was so bad, which is that the containment building was virtually nonexistent and the steam explosion blew a massive hole and leaked a very large amount of radiation).

4. Nuclear waste is impossible to deal with cleanly. Not true. Submerged water containment structures are very effective, as are all new designs for nuclear storage. This myth was true 30 years ago but, thanks to science, this has been remedied.

Now to the pluses of nuclear energy.

1. Nuclear power is clean. Nuclear power does not release greenhouse gases. This makes it an extreme plus for electrical generation, as it does not pollute the atmosphere.

2. Nuclear power does not change the ecosystem in even close to as harsh ways as other forms of power. Hydroelectric dams, although clean, create horrors for fish life. Also, fossil fuel plants damage the ecosystem in more ways than one. Nuclear waste is easily stored for those who actually bother to store it, and these storage facilities can hold massive amounts of radioactive material safely and without harming the environment.

3. Nuclear power works in all weather. This is unlike solar and wind power, which, although cleaner than clean, can only work in certain areas and do not produce even remotely as much power as nuclear power.

4. Pebble bed modular reactors eliminate the need of water in the reactor. One of the problems with the old reactor designs of light water was that it heated the water and needed water to run. Not anymore; visit this website to find out more about pebble bed modular reactors, how they work and how they can revolutionize power as we now it: http://web.mit.edu/pebble-bed/

5. Nuclear power is becoming a cost-effective solution to fossil fuels. Nuclear power now costs slightly less to operate than a gas powered electrical plant. With rising oil costs, this margin will become greater in the future. New designs like the PBMR make nuclear power an extremely good alternative to what we use today.

So don’t jump on the anti-nuclear band wagon with Hanoi Jane (who is evil for not only being so avidly against such a great power system but also for being a disgrace to America and our valiant troops); join the wave of the future. Nuclear power the best solution for our energy problems today.

As a final comment, I do not suggest that nuclear power is a permament solution; rather, a temporary one until fusion, the best power source period, is perfected.

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I don't think I've met any Objectivists that had problems with nuclear power plants; I personally have been celebrating the fact that there are six (I think) new plants seeking permits in the U.S. It has supposedly been fairly amusing that the greens' own propaganda is now working against them to make nuclear power popular, after they worked so hard to get it wiped out.

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All good points but as for your pluses...

Points 1 and 2 may make good PR points but since there are many scientists around the globe who do not subscribe to the greenhouse myth the points are mostly irrelevant. In fact, there are those who posit the theory that the emission of carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere may actually be beneficial, especially in the improvement of crop yields and in staving of an over-due cooling period in the climate. This and a couple of these make good reading.

I doubt you'd find many on these forums that would take the side of the anti-lifers :lol:

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I personally have been celebrating the fact that there are six (I think) new plants seeking permits in the U.S.
I recently heard of one proposal which sought to get around the "not in my backyard" objection by building a second plant right next to the existing one.

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All good points but as for your pluses...

Points 1 and 2 may make good PR points but since there are many scientists around the globe who do not subscribe to the greenhouse myth the ppoints are mostly irrelevant. In fact, there are those who posit the theory that the emission of carbon-dioxide into the atmosphere may actually be beneficial, especially in the improvement of crop yields and in staving of an over-due cooling period in the climate. This and a couple of these make good reading.

I doubt you'd find many on these forums that would take the side of the anti-lifers :worry:

Ugh . . . I hope my silence on those sites will speak much more than I can in mere words . . .

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Ugh . . . I hope my silence on those sites will speak much more than I can in mere words . . .

Actually, your dismissiveness, about the research done by others that follows the scientific method or about those who reveal the underhanded way in which the greenhouse scare is presented through the media, says more about you than I can in mere words.

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I recently heard of one proposal which sought to get around the "not in my backyard" objection by building a second plant right next to the existing one.

Lol, that's great, I love it.

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2. Nuclear reactors constantly release deadly amounts of radiation. Although extremely minute amounts of radiation release do happen, because no containment structure is completely 100% effective, but these are less radioactive than you are naturally. In Western reactors, safety and the containment of radiation are primary concerns in their construction (unlike the Russian RBMK reactor, which was in use at Chernobyl). Even in a meltdown like at Three Mile Island, the amount of radiation released was incredibly tiny in comparison to the amount of radiation inside the containment structure.

My mother was 4-5 months pregnant with my little brother when TMI popped. We lived about 4 miles away at the time and when the sirens went off, we ran. It's the only time in my life I can remember the emergency broadcast system doing something other than a test. We were told it was safe and came back home, then a day or two later told we were within an evacuation area for pregnant women and children and left again. After my brother was born, every few months he would get a rash, our family doctor used to called it the TMI rash, he said children born in that period of time experienced it. After a few years the rash went away and so far no long range effects have been seen in any of my family. My parents never did get an explanation as to what that rash was though and I have googled it at times but found nothing official. The moral of my story is that it's not the nuclear plants we have to worry about, it's the people running things.

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I personally think that the closer a nuclear reactor is to a city, the better, now this may sound counter-productive, but you've got doors, buildings, windows and other things to run to. Furthermore, even though safety is number one priority even in a rural reactor, the safety and warning systems are more rigourous and effective as a possible meltdown is of nightmare scenario to a big city -- and further steps are taken to ensure utter safety.

I'm not sure if my thesis matches up with real science, but even if I was dying of radiation poisoning and didn't know it, I'd rather be happy sitting behind a locked door on the 34th floor feeling reassured rather than speeding down on an open freeway exposed to the elements and panicking to get out of my town.

Edited by raptix

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nuclear reactor is a great source of power that we know little except it is great in its destruction or power. Therefore, it is not safe to start with. There are newer ones such as fusion that people hope to use. Considering the scientists have yet to prove this is too safe, I think the most stable force is better to be an electric powered with solar panels as the most unpoluted, safe and powerful energy to use.

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nuclear reactor is a great source of power that we know little except it is great in its destruction or power. Therefore, it is not safe to start with. There are newer ones such as fusion that people hope to use. Considering the scientists have yet to prove this is too safe, I think the most stable force is better to be an electric powered with solar panels as the most unpoluted, safe and powerful energy to use.

How are you defining safe?

I"m going to try to find some numbers, but I'd be willing to be that more people die each year in the US from electrocution than they do from radiation leaked from nuclear power plants. I'm not so sure that "we" are so ignorant to what nuclear power is and how we can safely harness as an energy source.

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I"m going to try to find some numbers, but I'd be willing to be that more people die each year in the US from electrocution than they do from radiation leaked from nuclear power plants.

How about zero? I don't think anyone has ever died from a United States Commercial nuclear power plant.

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How about zero? I don't think anyone has ever died from a United States Commercial nuclear power plant.
And compare this to the shocking 9 occupational deaths caused by insects, 17 caused by cattle and 19 caused by horses, just in 2004! Might be safer working in a nuclear plant! :glare:

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The EPA <eyeroll> estimated that exactly 1 person has died or will die because of radiation leaked during the incident at TMI. That's one person. Ever. And it's an EPA estimate, and anyone who's ever bought a car knows EPA estimates are junk. Vastly over-estimated junk.

-Q

Edited by Qwertz

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The EPA <eyeroll> estimated that exactly 1 person has died or will die because of radiation leaked during the incident at TMI. That's one person. Ever. And it's an EPA estimate, and anyone who's ever bought a car knows EPA estimates are junk. Vastly over-estimated junk.

-Q

(emphasis mine)

See, it's that "or will die" part. They're saying maybe someone might die. Like they might get cancer in 30 years and maybe it will have been caused by the incident but who the hell knows because maybe they were going to get cancer anyway. Or maybe not, because maybe they will be diagnosed and cured, or maybe not even get cancer.

Maybe.

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(emphasis mine)

See, it's that "or will die" part. They're saying maybe someone might die. Like they might get cancer in 30 years and maybe it will have been caused by the incident but who the hell knows because maybe they were going to get cancer anyway. Or maybe not, because maybe they will be diagnosed and cured, or maybe not even get cancer.

Maybe.

We have Chernobyl to compare to, I think it's safe to say that TMI had hardly any lasting damaging effects on the local population.

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If you search "nuclear power" at the Ayn Rand Institute website, there are a lot of great op-eds on the subject. Here's one called "The Enemies of Nuclear Power" by Travis Norsen.

Here's a recent op-ed by Andrew Bernstein calling for environmental restrictions on enegry production to be lifted (not just nuclear power, but it is mentioned).

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When worrying about radiation from power plants, I worry about coal fired plants.

Coal is mostly carbon. In fact, carbon content is what separates the various coal categories. The higher the content, the better the coal. Well and good. But carbon has a radioactive isotope: Carbon-14. Yep. The same one used in radiocarbon dating. Its radiation is much lower than that of Uranium, even of Uranium-238. But whereas Uranium, and plutonium for that matter, are not readily absorbed by living beaings, carbon is. Isotopes are chemically identical, although physically diferent.

Therefore coal fired plants release radiation, as Carbon-14, through their exhaust. Moreover, the CO2 thus produced is absorbed by plants, then eaten by animals, then eaten by humans. Some of it stays in your body. Of that, some will no doubt be excreted, some will stay with you forever. Some might even make it into your genes (nucleic acids, like all organic molecules, are very rich in carbon) and probably cause a mutation or two.

Of course, I'm not very worried. Absent coal burning, there is still plenty of other sources of Carbon-14. Volcanoes, for example, geothermal vents, geysers. Oh, and it has always been in the food chain, which is why we can use it to date any formerly living things, and also any compound containing enough carbon (like limestone, marble and others). We're talking about a small increase only. Not all the carbon in the coal is carbon-14. I forget the ratio, but a very large part of it is harmless Carbon-12.

But measuring likely radioactive emissions, those of coal fired plants will cause more damage, however small, than those from uranium-fueled nuclear reactors.

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But measuring likely radioactive emissions, those of coal fired plants will cause more damage, however small, than those from uranium-fueled nuclear reactors.

Yes, I'd read that somewhere. Also, did you know that more radiation escapes from an oak tree than an American nuclear power plant?

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Yes, I'd read that somewhere. Also, did you know that more radiation escapes from an oak tree than an American nuclear power plant?

I dind't know that. I have heard that background radiation, which you cannot get away from, is higher than what is permitted by law for nuckear power plants. That's as ridiculous as a regulation can get (I hope).

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That's as ridiculous as a regulation can get (I hope).

Yes, the legislation is that the radiation from nuclear plants must be less than what the normal background radiation would be if the plant wasn't even there.

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I dind't know that. I have heard that background radiation, which you cannot get away from, is higher than what is permitted by law for nuckear power plants. That's as ridiculous as a regulation can get (I hope).

I don't know, the EPA has standards such that any detectable level of mercury in a given water sample is unacceptable, which means if some tech who has silver fillings in his/her teeth (which contain mercury) breathes on a sample, the sample will register an unacceptable level of mercury. I think that is about equal to the nuclear power plant restrictions.

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