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United States The Almighty Buck Technology

Could Nuclear Power Wean the U.S. From Oil? 1615

Posted by Cliff
from the just-as-long-as-we-don't-glow-in-the-dark dept.
bblackfrog asks: "Is a Federal nuclear energy program viable? That is, can the USA eliminate our economic dependence on crude oil with a large scale federal program to build and maintain enough nuclear power plants to replace our current oil-based energy needs? The obvious political hurdles are (a) the left opposes nuclear energy, (b) the right opposes federalizing energy, and (c) the oil companies and Saudis wield a lot of clout. This makes a federal nuclear energy program far fetched I admit, however I'm more interested in the economics. Slashdot has covered advances in nuclear power technology. China's doing it." (Read more, below.)
"How much energy is required to replace our fossil fuel consumption? What are the initial costs of the program, and just how cheap could the electricity be? How expensive would it be for our industries to convert? How expensive for home and auto conversions? How much of this cost should be picked up by the government? Bottom line: is nuclear power cheaper than our current oil-driven middle-east policy, with all of its blowback?"
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Could Nuclear Power Wean the U.S. From Oil?

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  • by krog (25663) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:10AM (#10723320) Homepage
    A nuclear disaster would wean the US off a lot of things.... oil, food, water, you name it.
    • by Darth Muffin (781947) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:21AM (#10723509) Homepage
      1) What will we do with the waste?
      2) Do we have enough fissionable fuel to accomplish this?

      I know #1 is a problem, I honestly don't know the answer to #2. Either way, these need to be addressed *before* we build more reactors.

      • 1) What will we do with the waste?

        It should be reused for fuel. This allows a reactor to get more energy out of less nuclear material, resulting in both reduced cost and waste. The only reason why the US doesn't do this, is the concern over terrorists or spies obtaining bomb-grade materials.

        2) Do we have enough fissionable fuel to accomplish this?

        The estimates are that we'd have a ~100 year supply of Uranium if all power was switched to nuclear power today. This figure does not take reprocessing and non-uranium fission into account.
      • by Ironsides (739422) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:32AM (#10723707) Homepage Journal
        1) We can recycle the nuclear waste we have. Yes, it is possible. What we essentially do is re-enrich and purify it. The problem with this is that it is that it is the same process used to create weapons grade material. I think that is the only reason why it is not done. If we start refining the waste, the amount of toxic material left over shrinks rapidly to less than 1% of the volume.

        2) Nuclear power supplies about 20% [doe.gov] of the total power generated in the US. There is a lot of uranium and plutonium in the world. We have enough in order to supply it. Epsecially if we start re-enrichment of the waste.
        • by Dun Malg (230075) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @11:43AM (#10724846) Homepage
          What we essentially do is re-enrich and purify it. The problem with this is that it is that it is the same process used to create weapons grade material.

          Actually, it's not the same process, just a similar process. A fuel-reprocessing reactor will produce a mixture of Pu239, Pu240, Pu241, and Pu242. Weapons-grade plutonium is pure Pu239. If you don't have pure Pu239, your bomb won't work. No one has ever successfully separated Pu239 from a mix with Pu240-242. This is what makes president Carter's ban on breeder reactors in 1977 so baffling. Here's a man who's a nuclear engineer who bans breeder reactors because terrorists might get ahold of the plutonium and make a bomb, even though he should know that refining the Pu239 from the mix is impossible.

          • Jimmy Carter (Score:4, Insightful)

            by juan2074 (312848) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @01:39PM (#10726464)
            Carter was a nuclear engineer, thanks to the Navy. He may not have been an expert on refining plutonium nor making nuclear weapons.

            Getting weapons-grade materials from a fast breeder reactor is not the best (or only) source. The former Soviet Union seems to hold a lot of weapons-grade plutonium in a usable form. Wouldn't it be better to secure that?

      • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:33AM (#10723713) Journal
        1. Well, from earlier studies, the best location for waste fuel is in north west texas. However, it was decided 3 years ago to locate medium-high waste in nevada, which is more earthquake prone.
        2. As to fissionable fuel, we have 3% of the uranium in the world. Australia and I believe Russia have deposits that are absolutely huge in comparisons (IIRC, Australia has something like 25% of all known deposists), so no problem. But Uranium will not last long. Instead, to lower the costs, you would have to use a breeder reactor. But of course, that produces plutonium. But if all reactors were breeders, we would have some 7000 years worth of fuel. Not bad

        Personally, I think that we need to start getting a more balanced policy. That would include not only nukes, but more alternative as well as money to research on energy storage. Sadly, over the last few years, the US admin cut a lot of alternative research and has invested in oil all the way.
      • by Engineer-Poet (795260) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @11:14AM (#10724414) Homepage Journal
        Since you won't, I'll number and list them.
        1. "How much energy is required to replace our fossil fuel consumption?
          • Depends on the definition of "fossil fuel consumption". It would take around 200 GW plus losses to replace the US consumption of petroleum-based motor fuel, according to my analysis. [blogspot.com] (Yes, I know, the EIA has broken the important links. Worse, they've split the data which used to be on one page over several.) [doe.gov]
        2. What are the initial costs of the program, and just how cheap could the electricity be?
          • The problem comes in two parts, generating the power from nuclear and then transforming it to something which can be put aboard a vehicle. As a quick BOTE calculation, if you need 250 GW of generation at $1110/KW, that's $275 billion dollars. The most efficient way of getting it aboard vehicles is to use batteries. Add 20 KWH of batteries for 100 million vehicles at $100/KWH and I get an additional $200 billion. Over ten years that would be about $50 billion per year.
        3. How expensive would it be for our industries to convert?
          • Industries which need oil as a chemical feedstock would be largely impractical to convert to non-fossil, though non-petroleum is much easier. Industries which simply consume electricity would require no conversion. Industries which use process heat would pay a lot more if they used electricity instead, or perhaps less if they were close to a nuclear plant and could get spent steam.
        4. How expensive for home and auto conversions?
          • It's not going to be practical to convert most cars; they will be replaced. Neither are you going to convert a home to nuclear. Converting to electric is cheap, converting natural gas appliances to hydrogen would also be cheap if it could be made safe enough (which I doubt). Cost of energy would be much higher; it would be cheaper to re-insulate, change building codes and use e.g. solar water heaters.
        5. How much of this cost should be picked up by the government?
          • Do you mean paid out of increased taxes or added to the deficit? (The question betrays stupidity.)
        6. Bottom line: is nuclear power cheaper than our current oil-driven middle-east policy, with all of its blowback?
          • When we could do it for $100 billion/year or less over 10 years? Absolutely.
        Your questions are easy. We could easily set up a bunch of thorium-breeder reactors and start them with our surplus fissionables from decommissioned nuclear weapons, and the fission products (the real "nuclear waste") needs to be isolated for only a few thousand years, save for a few troublesome isotopes. It's not our chemists and engineers who have trouble with this, it's the politicians and activists.
    • by crawling_chaos (23007) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:23AM (#10723566) Homepage
      Yep. Just look at the radioactive wasteland that is Harrisburg Pennsylvania. We don't built Cheronobyl-style charcoal grill reactors for power in this country.

      I would also note that Islamic Fundamentalism stoked by our dependence on oil has already killed more US citizens than the nuclear power industry.

      • by Software (179033) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:41AM (#10723862) Homepage Journal
        I think that even Islamic Fundamentalism hasn't killed as many people as coal mining and its effects. The coal industry is practically bragging (see http://coalage.com/ar/coal_coal_mine_deaths/ [coalage.com]) that only about 30 people are killed every year as a direct result of coal mining accidents. Never mind its effects on the environment, or the long-term effects on people, miners and otherwise (black lung disease, acid rain, etc.). Yes, I know that uranium is mined, and it kills people (see http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/pgms/worknotify/uranium.h tml [cdc.gov]), but I think it's a lot fewer.
        But there's no chance for increased nuclear power with the current administration. GWB was president of an oil company, for goodness's sake! Plus, he's so tight with the Saudis, it's ridiculous. No, we'll have to stick with more instability in the Middle East, and US troops on the ground to protect oil^H^H^H democracy.
    • by bongoras (632709) * on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:34AM (#10723730) Homepage
      Come on, get your terminology right!

      In America, it's spelled and pronounced "Nukular" -- for at least four more years.
  • by turnstyle (588788) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:10AM (#10723324) Homepage
    And what'll wean us from nuclear power?
    • Power? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by simpl3x (238301) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:21AM (#10723495)
      The question should be, why do we use sooo much damn energy. I'm all for computers, gadgets, and a variety of power tools, but aren't we just being plain stupid and wasteful? I'm a designer, and the understanding in packaging is, that saving resources upfront (minimal packaging) is much, much more effective than say recycling. Recycling would be absolutely great, if we actually did it, but alas do not do it very effectively.

      I ditched my beemer and am walking and such now. Not only is the stress of driving and owning a car that costs way too much to maintain in its glisteney state gone, but I lost ten pounds and save about a thousand a month.

      We want it all, but simply cannot have it all. For long anyway.
      • by 3770 (560838) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:46AM (#10723946) Homepage
        I'm Swedish but I have moved to Texas. I love most of this great state. But environmental responsibility is not one of its virtues.

        One example is individually wrapped cheese. Why is that necessary?

        Nobody in Sweden has ever seen an individually wrapped piece of cheese. And we have survived just fine, eating cheese on a daily basis. We have large blocks of cheese and a special "cheese grater" to serve the same purpose.

        This is just one example, but everywhere I look, I see wasteful use of resources.

        Oooh, and don't get me started on those who commute to work in a Hummer or a Ford F250.
      • Re:Power? (Score:5, Informative)

        by MacGod (320762) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:52AM (#10724057)

        saving resources upfront (minimal packaging) is much, much more effective than say recycling.

        Exactly. What most people don't understand is that reduce, reuse, recycle is listed in that order for a reason. Reduction is the best policy; if you can't do that any further, reuse what you can; failing that, recycle.

        Recycling is better than landfill, but it's not the best answer, either.

      • Re:Power? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cdrguru (88047) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:57AM (#10724180) Homepage
        The question should be, why do we use sooo much damn energy.

        There is an answer - sustainable existance. You live like a Bangladeshi farmer and you would use less energy. You might also only live to be 45 or so, leaving a lot more room for children and their future.

        The livestyle of the Bangladeshi farmer doesn't appeal to you? Well, then there is your answer. High-energy lifestyles imply that resources are being used to provide them. Where are we going to get our resources from? Well, we should start looking at the answer for that - we already know what the answer is, we just need to formulate the will to implement it. How much Uranium is on Mars? The asteroids? Moons of Jupiter like Io and such? Come on, folks humanity is too important to keep all our eggs in one basket.

        The alternative is a lot fewer of us folks and everyone gets to live like Bangladeshi farmers. I have reasonable estimates that we could live perfectly sustainable lives with natural processes recycling all wastes if there were about 50 million people on the planet. Maybe with some technology we might be able to squeeze 100 million, but that is. Today, there are upwards of 6 billion people on the planet. There are four options that I am aware of:

        • 50-100 million people leave "sustainable" lives with reasonable comfort.
        • 6 billion (and more coming every minute) people live like Bangladeshi farmers. Short, unproductive lives at that.
        • We run out of resources. Sooner or later, if we do nothing this could happen. Like it or not, the planet isn't really capable of sustaining 6 billion people. And more are being born every minute.
        • We go elsewhere to get what we need.
        I think we need to start planning for the last alternative in that list. Real soon. Failure to plan means that one of the other three take us over, possibly as a big surprise to some unforward-looking people. This isn't something that "liberal", "conservative", "left" or "right" is going to be able to ignore.

        Unless they really like the idea of killing off 6.3 billion people so 100 million can live in relative comfort.

      • Re:Power? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by NtroP (649992) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @12:53PM (#10725779)

        I ditched my beemer and am walking and such now.

        Good for you! But your comment came off sounding a bit self-righteous. I'd love to walk (or ride a bike) every day if I could but I live 20 miles from work and it gets to -70F here at times. I agree with your sentiment, there is far too much waste these days and recycling would be great - if it didn't take more energy to do it than it is worth. After moving to Alaska, I found myself still separating out the glass and plastics - only to find there was no place to bring them but the local land-fill. Then again, how much would it cost in energy and $$ to package it up and ship it to somewhere that could process it - and then you still have to process it after that.

        I'm all for computers, gadgets, and a variety of power tools, but aren't we just being plain stupid and wasteful?

        I'm glad you can feel all warm and fuzzy and superior and everything, but I find nothing wrong with having creature comforts as well as the necessary tools to get things done quickly and efficiently. I like having a warm house in the winter, just as you probably like having a cool house in the summer. I have 12" walls to help reduce my energy consumption. Do you have 12" walls to help yours? Why not? You'd probably use a lot less energy for your AC if you did. I also like my power-tools. It may be "cooler" and "greener" to use a hand saw to cut that sheet of plywood, but I'll stick to my table saw thank you. I could use and axe to get my fire-wood, but I'll use my chain saw if it's all the same to you.

        Up here in Alaska we get a lot of "environmentalists" who think that because they live in Kalifornia and think happy thoughts they somehow have the moral imperative to come up here and teach us the error of our ways. I laughed my ass off the other day when I saw an all-electric car in Fairbanks. Yup, the lady looked pretty smug driving it. She even had some veggie bumper sticker on it. She's obviously brand new to town. I'd love to see what her battery performance will be when it drops to -40 or -50. I'd also like to see her get around in the snow with those tiny little wheels. To top it all off, the body looks like it's 100% plastic. The first time someone looks at it wrong when it's cold it'll shatter. Now, as a summer car for short commutes, I'd say that would be a pretty good idea - but c'mon it's November!

        I'm all for being environmentally "conscious", but I'm really sick of others feeling superior and trying to dictate how others should live based on their own, special set of circumstances. Yeah, if I lived in LA or London, I probably wouldn't have a car either. But not everybody lives in the "big city" - I think this fact was revealed quite clearly in the last election results. When you look at how America voted - especially when viewed at the county-level, you saw a sea of red surrounding a few small islands of blue where the big cities were. The news anchors were commenting on how the democrats seemed to have "lost touch" with the heartland; the hard working, church-going, middle-american. I think they are right. Most of America isn't "inner-city". Most of America doesn't have everything within walking distance. Most of America is sick of the yuppie city-folk dictating how everyone else should live their lives based on their own limited view of the skyline and "warped" social/moral landscape.

        I also don't understand the "environmentalists" continual aversion to nuclear energy. Most people don't know it, but in Alaska, we have quite a bit of nuclear energy. That's right. The military has many remote sites for monitoring and what-not that are powered by their own nuclear generator - just like many satellites are. It makes sense. The locations are very remote - often only accessible by helicopter. The nuclear generator is about the size of a 55-gallon drum and last almost 20 years and need little-to-no maintenance. When word leaked out ab

    • Nothing - nuclear (the sun) is the ultimate source, it all starts there, everything else is just a wasteful, downstream process.
    • by tylernt (581794) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:36AM (#10723781)
      Solar, wind, hydro, thermal, etc. A large home solar system can power even a large house for everything except A/C and electric heating and cooking. Centralized wind or sun farms or dams (and natural gas appliances and heat pumps) can do the rest.

      The only thing standing in solar's way is the large up-front cost.

      Fusion would be cool too, though.
    • by hendridm (302246) * on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:39AM (#10723821) Homepage
      And what'll wean us from nuclear power?

      A renewable power source that creates guns and beer as its byproduct.

    • by robertjw (728654) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:40AM (#10723842) Homepage
      Dilithium Crystals

  • by TheSpoom (715771) * <slashdot@NOSpAM.uberm00.net> on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:11AM (#10723326) Homepage Journal
    You're forgetting that Bush was just reelected.
    • Re:The Bush Factor (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:20AM (#10723473)
      First off, at worst, parent is an insightful troll.

      Fact is, Bush (and Cheney) aren't simply pawns of the oil industry, they ARE the oil industry. Moving away from oil is a conflict of interest for them.

      Anyone who thinks that any substantial change in energy policy will happen in the next four years is naive.

    • Re:The Bush Factor (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ImTwoSlick (723185) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:31AM (#10723696)
      You're forgetting that Bush was just reelected.

      You're forgetting that Bush has been pushing hydrogen technology. Nuclear power works well with hydrogen technology, letting us cleanly generate hydrogen, and replace our biggest fossil fuel burners with cleaner electric and hydrogen powered ones.

    • Re:The Bush Factor (Score:5, Interesting)

      by demachina (71715) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:57AM (#10724178)
      Joking aside the Bush administration and Republican control of Congress does in fact completely determine the economics of this.

      In particular you have zero chance of federalizing energy production, nuclear or otherwise. The Republicans use the term socialism for this and that is a dirty word in their dictionary.

      If you were going to pursue this in the current political climate you would have to do it by giving giant interest free loans, tax breaks etc. to giant energy corporations like GE/Westinghouse to do it for you. Basically what this means is our tax dollars are used to capitalize it and absorb most of the risk, the corporations rake in all the profits, assuming you could profitably build a nuclear power plant today. If you are lucky they might eventually pay back the loans unless Bush/Cheney give them a wink and a nudge and just lets them keep it.

      Assuming you are willing to go for tax payers giving huge subsidies to giant corporations to do this then you would have to delve in to the Machiavellian maneuvering that would happen between various forces in the Bush administration, big coal, big oil and big nuke corporations. If you were to try it its certainly possible big coal and big oil would win since it would completely threaten their cash flow. Its anybody's guess if big nuke companies could win this fight or if you could convince big coal and oil companies to jump in nukes by giving them giant buckets of free tax dollars. You just have to follow TV ads to see the coal lobby is engaged in a massive campaign to convince everyone coal can be made clean and power America forever. It can be made cleaner with work and money but last I heard there was no way to get read of the massive carbon dioxide output and that translates straight in to Greenhouse effect.

      I haven't hear much about it lately but the Bush administration did have a big initiative to develop Hydrogen powered cars in a state of the union a year or two ago. It would be interesting if it actually went anywhere or it was a sham and didn't have a snowballs chance in hell of threatening big oils monopoly on transportation fuel.

      A hurdle is old reactor designs have become prohibitively expensive thanks to the environmental and safety hurdles. Most places don't want them in their back yard since Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

      You can argue that there are safer, newer more economical designs now, at least the people advocating them say they are, but that remains to be proven.

      Someone will start screaming pebble bed reactors at this point. Well maybe pebble bed reactors are safer but its not a certainty. Their key risk is they have large quantities of graphite in them. If you recall Chernobyl was the disaster it was partially thanks to graphite because in the event of an accident and enough heat graphite burns furiously. The pebbles have ceramic shielding to prevent the graphite from burning but there is a suspicion that manufacturing defects or mishandling might compromise the shielding and open up the chance a pebble would burn and explode. If it did it could damage the pebbles around it and start a non nuclear chain reaction.

      Of course, you would also have to actually bring on line a viable place to dump all the waste. Maybe Yucca mountain is it, maybe it isn't. Last time we debated this on /. I was skeptical though people made a pretty good case that it can be put into glass or ceramic bricks that would be long term inert. The only thing you need to be careful about is that you don't let it accidentally achieve a critical mass or overheat. Then the only down side is trucking large quantities of high level waste from the plants to Yucca mountain.

      And of course in the age or perpetual terrorism, nuclear power plants and high level waste are tempting targets.
  • Privatize (Score:4, Insightful)

    by k0de (619918) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:11AM (#10723330) Homepage
    Privatize it, and let the citizens start deciding.
    • by squiggleslash (241428) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:31AM (#10723693) Homepage Journal
      Or deregulate Nuclear energy completely. It's, according to the advocates, completely safe, and I don't think there's any law preventing someone from having their own coal burning generator in their back yard - it's certainly legal to have oil burning generators, as a Floridian I can tell you those things have been a life saver over the last few months...

      So, what we need is for the scientists to come up with mini nuclear reactors people can keep in their back yards. People can buy plutonium rods from the local supermarket, or maybe gas station if there's an issue with safety storing them (as there is with oil), take them home, insert into reactor, and spend another few months with plenty of power.

      If we make them small enough, and our SUVs large enough, we can even use them to power our motor vehicles.

      We live in a society where neither coal nor oil are considered unsafe enough to require serious safety regulations strict enough to keep them out of the hands of ordinary people. And, as every nuclear advocate will tell you, nuclear energy is safer and cleaner than either. It stands to reason we should be throwing away our gas powered generators and furnaces, our living room fireplaces, and our oil burning cars, and replace them with clean'n'safe Nuclear powered equivalents, today!

  • (D) One problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vicegrip (82853) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:11AM (#10723334) Journal
    (d) In whose backyard does the nuclear waste go?
    • Re:(D) One problem (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jgabby (158126) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:18AM (#10723456) Journal
      Which is worse...a deadly, but containable waste product that can be collected and buried, and thus controlled...or a deadly, uncontainable waste product that cannot be controlled and is simply released into the atmosphere?

      Not in my back yard? Screw that!
      I say, not in my lungs.
      • Re:(D) One problem (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:36AM (#10723779)
        Well... you are forgetting geosequestration for coal power plants... but I would call you naive to say that burying nuclear waste is safe.

        There are ALREADY cases where there have been problems with buried nuclear waste and water leakage. And this is within decades, not within the THOUSANDS of years need. I am sorry, but with 4 year election terms and 80 year lifespans and legal devices to abjure resposibility like the "corporation" human organisations are always going to be far too optimistic about their capacity to contain waste which lasts for that long.

        Even some of the more innovative techniques with encasing the waste in glass and stuff like that are not proven.

        It comes down to how I put it elsewhere - do you *really* trust government or corporations to do it properly and not cut corners?

        Remember also, the US economic situation might be quite bad in less than 100 years. What happens then if the US becomes like a 2nd world Russia? Just look at those submarines rusting away and tell me you can see two decades into the future let along hundreds of years. You can't.

        N.B.
        My first comment isn't a vote for coal. My vote is for a combination of renewables, solar, tide, wind, hydro in a decentralised grid.
    • Nevada's (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wiredog (43288)
      The Yucca Mountain facility is the best we're likely to find (Unless you think there's any site that can be proven utterly safe for 10k years) and certainly better than what we're doing now. So in terms of science and engineering it's the best choice.

      Politically it's also a big win. Nevada has a low population, so it has few Representatives in the House. Plus, it voted for the Dear Leader despite his approval of Yucca Mountain. So if any locals do object, there's no real leverage for them politically.

      • Re:Nevada's (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Mac Degger (576336) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:49AM (#10723999) Journal

        And that's where it starts. There are now techniques, called transmutation, which can transform nuclear waste products with halflives in the hundreds of thousands of years into materials with halflives of a thousand years. When you do this on a mass-scale, that means you only have to contain that waste for a thousand years. And that is not only doable, but we currently already have the technology to contain this material for a thousand years.
        This effectively means that nuclear waste is no longer a problem (after everything is scaled for mass-use, which of course takes some years to ramp up to).

        So we're left with catastrophic nuclear power plant failure. This is something which even in current nuclear reactors is unlikely. The only reason Chernobyl happened is becuase they where stupid: to test one safety feature, they /dissabled all the other safeguards!/. Which is just asking for it.
        But even then you can make the case that stupid or not, it did happen. Which is utterly true...and leads us to the next generation of reactors (which the FPP links to). These new reactors are idiotproof. The cannot meltdown. It is physically impossible due to the integrated design: if the cooling shuts down, the nuclear reaction stops. And not because someone presses a button to do so, but because the shape/design of the reactor makes it so: no cooling, no reaction. In about the same way that roller-coaster brakes work: no electricity means the brakes have to engage; look up these auto-engaging brakes to see how designs based on these kinds of physical safeguards can work.

        If you don't beleive me, well, everything is google-able. Not only that, but top-environmentalists make the same case: the greenest form of energy is nuclear. Even the most hardcore eco-nut is coming 'round to this view.

        And if you're only info to the contrary is that 'Greenpeace is against it'...let me tell you something: Greenpeace does some good stuff. But only because they're lucky once in a while (remember Brent-Spar?). Fact of the matter is that Greenpeace is a PR-firm. They do not employ scientists as a matter of course. In the Netherlands, they only have 5 acedemics working for them. Only one of those has a degree in the sciences...and that one is in Aerospace. At the time they came 'round to my university and told us, a class of freshman Applied Physics students, that Greenpeace didn't have a place for us unless it was as activist. GreenPeace only has one laboratory in the entire world...and they rent that one, including the labbies (not even scientists, 'just' the guys who do a soil sample analysis using the checklist) to do their work. They do not do their own research, they do not employ people who know anything about what they're protesting against: GreenPeace is a reactionary PR-firm, which just happens to do some stuff which is worthwhile.
        So my point is listen to the scientists: the physicists, the environmental scientists and the material scientists. They'll give you the correct data, including error-margins and safety estimations.
    • Re:(D) One problem (Score:4, Insightful)

      by RevRigel (90335) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:21AM (#10723517)
      If you allow nuclear reactor operators to reprocess waste in a manner that Al Gore had banned when he was in the Senate, then there's not nearly so much waste. France doesn't seem to have a problem with it, and gets most of their power from nukes. Besides, with nuclear reactors, the waste is small, and easily containable. Existing coal power plants each belch tons of Thorium-234 and other isotopes directly into the air. If coal power plants were regulated to the degree that nuclear power plants are regarding release of radiation, coal wouldn't be economically viable as a power source.
    • by MindStalker (22827) <mindstalker@gmail. c o m> on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:22AM (#10723539) Journal
      Into the oceans obviously!

      Suprisingly if scattered out this is actually a good idea as there as underwater volcanos are already spilling out much more heavy metals and nuclear material than we can possibly dump, of couse as I said it would have to be ground up and spread out evently.

      Not that the hippies would understand mind you.
  • by gtrubetskoy (734033) * on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:12AM (#10723348)

    With respect to conventional nuclear energy, what many people don't realize is that Uranium is a finite resource which will run out way before oil. Based on what's on this [slashdot.org] page (this was just a quick google, there probably is better data out there), with 4 million t available and at the rate of 34K t per year, there is only 117 years of Uranium left.

    So if it's going to be nuclear energy, it will need to be a process that does not require Uranium.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:15AM (#10723400)
      Can you say "Breeder reactor" you use plentiful U238 and turn it into Plutonium...

    • by turgid (580780) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:22AM (#10723543) Journal
      You can recycle the plutonium produced by fission of uranium either to make MOX fuel or use it as fuel in a fast reactor.

      The uranium will run out a lot less slowly than oil (in the US) or gas (in Europe) if this is taken into account.

      Unfortunately, public anti-nuclear hysteria will prevent us from properly exploiting these resources until our backs are firmly against the wall. If Bin Laden were to disrupt the flow of gas from Siberia to Europe and plunge the continent into chaos, cold, darkness, sickness and death, maybe the politicians will do something about it. However, until their is a major disaster either involving economics (high oil prices) or logistics (Siberian gas supply) nothing will get done.

      Meanwhile, we're still developing nuclear fusion [fusion.org.uk] which is coming along a lot better than most people think...No uranium (or oil or coal or gas) required.

  • Pop quiz: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khrtt (701691) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:13AM (#10723369)
    The president of a country has a fortune invested in oil. Would that country rather:

    1. Develop a nuclear energy program;

    2. Develop an alternative energy program;

    or

    3. Relax regulations for pollution control, so that fossil fuel energy can be more conviniently utilized?
  • by jlechem (613317) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:14AM (#10723376) Homepage Journal
    I believe it's pronounced nucular.
  • (d) (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Markus Landgren (50350) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:14AM (#10723381) Homepage
    (d) Creating a dependence on yet another finite resource found under the ground in various countries that may or may not welcome you to dig it up, now and in the future.
  • by HeaththeGreat (708430) <hborders@mail.win.org> on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:14AM (#10723385)
    While the damage caused by a nuclear catastrophy is much larger than that of a coal or oil burning plant, isn't the day-to-day pollution from a nuclear plant going to be far less than that of other non-renewable energy sources?

    Yes, we should be looking to renewable sources, but its just not cost effective right now. Invest in the distance future with renewable research, and invest in the present with nuclear.
  • by rlgoer (784913) * on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:14AM (#10723388) Homepage
    About the dumbest thing a person can do with fossil fuels is 'burn' them, whether in a power plant or driving to work.

    When you burn them, they're effectively gone.

    When they're gone, you can no longer use them to create the materials that, to a large extent, drive the production of goods in this country. Just think of it: Fertilizer, toys, drugs, etc. They are all largely based on petroleum derivatives.

    Some can be recycled, which is great.

    But if you just burn the petroleum, you lose it forever, and create toxic emissions to boot.

    If nuclear power could help stop the petroleum 'burning' I'd be all for it. The problem is safety.

    Can nuclear energy ever be truly safe?
    • by sean.peters (568334) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:41AM (#10723853) Homepage
      Can nuclear energy ever be truly safe?

      IAASE (I am a safety engineer).

      This is not a very good way to frame this question, because nothing is truly safe. It's not truly safe to drive to work in the morning, for example, because there's a relatively high risk that you'll be killed in an auto accident. But it's not truly safe to lie in bed either, because you could get hit by a meteorite, or more likely, suffer from health problems related to lack of exercise. Nothing is "truly safe".

      A better question to ask: is the expected net cost/benefit operating nuclear plants better or worse than the expected value cost/benefit from operating conventional plants? The risks of nuclear energy include improper waste disposal and radiation release due to nuclear plant malfunctions. The risks of conventional energy include global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions, increased illness due to other pollutant emissions, economic harm due to trade deficits with oil producing countries, and possibly, terrorist attacks funded by oil revenues.

      The risks involved in waste disposal and plant malfunction can be mitigated - think vitrification of waste and fail-safe reactor designs. Some of the risks of conventional plants can also be mitigated - think carbon sequestration, higher efficiency plants, and increased domestic production of oil. These mitigation measures also have costs, both economic and other. The question is which option produces the required quantity of energy at the lost cost in economic and environmental terms. Safety is one of the costs.

      Sean

  • by Emperor Shaddam IV (199709) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:15AM (#10723399) Journal
    In the US. But in Europe and Japan they use Nuclear power extensively. Even though they have much more to lose in the event of a disaster due to the population density. I'm I the only one that wonders about this?
    • by orzetto (545509) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:40AM (#10723828)

      FYI, while France has a lot of nuclear power plants (75% of the nation's electricity), Italy has none (barred by referendum), and neither does Norway (they don't accept anything dirtier than hydro power, gas turbines with CO2 removal are already looked with skepticism).

      Honestly I don't know much about the situation in Japan, but in most european countries nobody wants nuclear: the people still remember Chernobyl (it was not just a "thing in the news", I had to stop eating yoghurt for a month or two); the decision-makers are well aware of the costs of nuclear power, and most countries (as Sweden or Germany) are gradually phasing it out. Even France has had a longtime stop to its nuclear program.

      I'll remind that nuclear power is a source which is economically insane. The costs of maintenance, security, and especially initial investment dwarf the cheap production price. Pro-nukes will point only to the last ones, conveniently "omitting" that an investment should repay itself.

      Scientific evidence has shown that, even in the best possible scenario for nuclear, which is quite unlikely to happen anyway, the economic relevance of nuclear power is "marginal at best", with payback times well in the 30-years range and final internal rate of return of 3%. Given these data it should not surprise that private companies avoid nuclear like the plague (unless someone--the state-- is contributing).

    • by lordDallan (685707) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:46AM (#10723957)
      I don't care for your usage of the term "the left", but I'm not surprised by it.

      I personally don't think that Europe or Japan (or Canada for that matter) is more left than the US, which I think is what you are implying. Instead I think that Europe and Japan are more reasoned. That they are more rational societies than the US.

      Watching the election, watching the US media coverage of it, listening to voters, journalists, and pundits commenting on it, I was frightened and disappointed. And not because of any particular winner of any particular election or any particular ballot measure (though I did find all the anti-gay marriage measures chilling).

      What I found truly frightening was the apparent decline of reason that seemed like an undercurrent of the entire electoral process. People in the United States of America no longer seem to be making fewer and fewer decisions based on rational analysis of the situation. Instead decisions are being made based on irrational belief systems. And I am in no way singling out Christianity here. Animal rights, environmentalism, gay rights, anti-nuclear, you name it, all have become extreme belief systems that people blindly attach to and allow to make all of their decisions for them.

      This seems very apropos to the parent's point that Japan and Europe use nuclear power. It's not because they're more left (which the parent seems to find hard to reconcile with their apparent "leftness"), it's because they're a more reasoned society. They don't just scream "Three Mile Island!" when someone discusses nuclear power, instead they make a reasoned analysis of the situation (power needs, costs, available resources) and then pick the most logically sound option.
      • by Alaska Jack (679307) * on Thursday November 04, 2004 @01:21PM (#10726203) Journal
        Some of the other replies to this have already addressed it, but I wanted to clarify one thing Europeans often don't really understand about the U.S.

        In the U.S., our government can't just tell us what to do. The power relationship doesn't work like that. In France, if the Ministry of Education decides it wants all fourth graders taught calculus, it sends out a directive to the schools, which are expected to implement the program. In the U.S., if the Department of Education issued the same "directive," it would get a good chuckle out of thousands of local school district superintendants, and then get pitched into the nearest garbage receptacle.

        This system (or, more accurately, this conception of the relationship between a government and those it governs) has its disadvantages. However, I'm sure you can see it has its advantages as well.

        - Alaska Jack
  • by slashrogue (775436) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:16AM (#10723413)
    Our President can correctly say the word "nuclear" and not a moment before.
  • Dammit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by American AC in Paris (230456) * on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:17AM (#10723435) Homepage
    The obvious political hurdles are (a) the left opposes nuclear energy, (b) the right opposes federalizing energy

    Crimony--what color is the sky, black or white?

    ...y'know, one of these days, we'll be able to have meaningful political discussion again. Until then, it'd be really swell if we could minimize trivializing such a complex and nebulous issue as energy policy.

    ...would you be shocked to find significant numbers of liberals who embrace nuclear energy? Would you be stunned to discover a large cache of conservatives who support a federalized network of nuclear power plants?

  • Uh... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CodeWanker (534624) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:17AM (#10723442) Journal
    We don't use oil as our primary means of generating electricity. We use coal. And then natural gas. Neither of which are big foreign dependencies for us. I guess you're suggesting that we use nuclear energy to break down water for hydrogen power? But the cost of that is more than the cost of gasoline at the current rate. Electric cars, maybe?

    As much as some people hate to hear it, we're not fighting in the Middle East because of oil. We're there because we're fighting Islamofascism. Otherwise, we would have used Saddam as an oil-for-food crony the way France and Germany were.

    We can wean ourselves off oil better with deisel-electric hybrids, which would give us the same efficiencyt as is projected with fuel cells, and burn vegetable oils as well as (or instead of) petroleum. Vegetable oil powered electric hybrids are actually Solar Powered (think about it.) Which means they're Nuclear Powered. So maybe that's how nuclear weans us off petroleum.
  • by TheConfusedOne (442158) <the.confused.one@noSpaM.gmail.com> on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:17AM (#10723446) Journal
    A lot of electrical power is generated using coal and natural gas. Very little is generated using oil.

    Oil is popular for uses that require portable power storage (planes, cars, etc.).
  • Quick Answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rkischuk (463111) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:21AM (#10723516)
    Yes. But too many people would rather fear-monger the ills of nuclear power than join a rational discussion of how it can be widely implemented in a safe, clean, and effective manner.
  • Biodiesel (Score:5, Informative)

    by wherley (42799) * on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:22AM (#10723531)
    * can make in USA (no foreign dependence).
    * runs in existing diesel engines.
    * less toxic than regular diesel, in fact biodegradable.
    * creates more demand for US soybean crop.
    * no new infrastructure needed, just more diesel engines.
    * emissions better in almost also cases than existing diesel emissions.
    * can mix in any percentage with existing diesel fuel.

    yes i know it would take *a lot* of soy crop to meet the US oil consumption - but check out some of the research on using algae for biodiesel production at a much higher land density.

    overall there are a *lot* of pros vs. cons regarding this alternative fuel IMHO.

    for more information:
    http://www.grassolean.com/ [grassolean.com]
    http://www.biodieselnow.com/ [biodieselnow.com]
    http://forums.tdiclub.com/postlist.php?Cat=&Board= UBB44 [tdiclub.com]
    • by bitingduck (810730) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:30AM (#10723671) Homepage
      yes i know it would take *a lot* of soy crop to meet the US oil consumption

      That's why we need "Lipodiesel"-- when you climb into your SUV, you plug a little hose into a couple stents in your thighs and belly, and it gives you liposuction treatment while you drive, sending the fat into your engine to propel the vehicle. This would solve both the oil problem and the fat problem plaguing the united states, would mean that lazyass drivers wouldn't have to exercise, and could not only eat all the french fries they wanted, they would need to in order to fuel the vehicle. You just stop at the McDonalds drive-thru to fill up.
  • Actually... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mikepaktinat (609872) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:23AM (#10723568)
    Im takeing a physics class right now that deals with "energy in a modern world." The fact of matter is cost. We as humans must decide to bear the cost of switching to lower emission electricity production.
    The way investors look at it, a natural gas power plant can be installed for half the price, half the time, and can break even in a third of the time any nuclear plant can. We as consumers of electricity have to make a effort to bear the additional cost of cleaner production means.
    If you really want to talk green power, stop thinking nuclear and solar and think WIND. Wind power could provide the USA with more electricity than it currently needs if it is installed properly. The problem? again, wind electricity at the moment is a couple cents more per kWh than natural gas and coal. Are you willing to add the money on your bill each month? I am. Ever wonder why california has more wind turbine farms than any other area, even though they have one of the lowest wind potential west of the missippi? Because people are starting to want cleaner power, even at a cost.
    Did you know a single 750 kw turbine can provent as much CO2 emmision as a 500 acre forest can absorbe annually?
    Did you know, at the current death rate due to living in proximity to a coal plant, for every 33 wind turbines installed, we save a life. thats one less person who will die from lung related problems caused from emmisions. Coal plants are esimated to cause the death of over 35,000 americans a year.

    If we want to get off the oily road we are one, we must make an effort and bear the cost of doing so. It is the only way this will ever work. And it can work. Look at europe, note germany's emmisions over the past 15 years and how they have dropped to next to nill. Ohio alone now produces more NOx emmisions than germany does per year. think about that.

  • by onyxruby (118189) <.onyxruby. .at. .comcast.net.> on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:25AM (#10723602)
    It's time the environmentalists movement wake up and realize that their real opposition to "nuclear" everything to do with it's military connections. They would rather the planet continue to suffer radiation on a daily level from coal power plants exceeding three mile island than to let the word nuclear lose it's negative connotation.

    Without question the green party and it's movement are the largest impediment to nuclear energy out there. It's a power trip really, one that has no scientific weight. Now the good news is that some of the greens are starting to realize that their opposition to nuclear power had everything to do with politics and nothing to do with science, and are starting to renew the calls to look at nuclear power.

    From pebble bed techniques to better designs, there is no reason we cant build nuclear power plants that can provide widespread clean energy for the masses. Really, if groups like greenpeace were serious about the environment, they would be spending money on research for safe ways to store and process nuclear waste, not fighting it at every turn.

  • by InterGuru (50986) <jhd@ i n t erguru.com> on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:27AM (#10723620) Homepage
    While we speak of an energy problem in the singular, there are really two problems. The first is transportation fuel. Right now, oil is our only transportation fuel. All the proposed alternatives such as biofuel, or hydrogen either require a technical breakthrough (i.e. storing sufficient quantities of hydrogen in a vehicle) or are not available in sufficient quantity . Nuclear energy will not help here.

    The second problem is stationary energy, that is electricity and natural gas. We have enough coal to generate electricity for many decades. In most cases, electricity can be substituted for natural gas The only constraint on coal is global warming. Nuclear can help here. I will not get into the debate of safety etc.

  • by Theseus192 (787156) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:34AM (#10723729)
    The cost of building nuclear power plants greatly exceeds that of fossil-fuel plants due to the safety measures required. When I researched this for a physics paper in college, building a nuclear plant cost about 3x as much as an oil plant. That cost is often left out of analyses that claim nuclear energy is cost effective compared to fossil fuels.
  • by dgrgich (179442) * <drew.grgich@org> on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:45AM (#10723929) Homepage
    Talking about nuclear energy is all fine and good when it comes to the electrical needs of our citizenry here in the US but what about the millions of cars on the road? Don't these suck up more oil than the power companies? We won't "eliminate" - the word used in the story - our dependence on foreign energy until we find a way to reliably power the vehicles that make our way of life possible.
  • by robyannetta (820243) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:48AM (#10723984) Homepage
    My concern is America's dependence on oil. Scientists from all over the world say we have less than 60 years of oil left on the planet... Then what?

    This reminds me of an episode of Futurama where New York shot all their garbage out into space in the early 21st century, saying "It'll return, but not in my lifetime, so it's not my problem." It returned in early year 3000. After shooting a rocket into space to "bounce" the garbage rocket into space again, Dr. Farnsworth exclaimed that it wouldn't return in his lifetime, so it wasn't his problem anymore. Sense a theme?

    We (America) should immediately invest in clean energy sources like wind and solar. The prices of these sources are now extremely competitive with oil or coal burning sources. The sun and wind aren't going away any time soon.
  • by WombatControl (74685) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:50AM (#10724024)

    Even though I'm a Bush-voting Republican (and proud of it!) and think the French are mainly cheese-eating surrender monkeys, I'll give France one thing: they have the best nuclear power program in the world.

    Unlike the US which went with several designs for nuclear reactors, none of which was quite like the other, the French bought the design for Pressurized Water Reactors from Westinghouse in the US and built 56 reactors, all of the same design and all using interchangable parts and systems. That way problems in one reactor can be fixed systemwide using the same techniques.

    France gets over 75% of their power from cheap nuclear energy [uic.com.au]. Electric power in France from nuclear sources is about 3 Euro cents/kWh, which is very competitive and less than half of the US average cost for electricity.

    France reprocesses used nuclear fuel to create new fuel and maximize efficiency. That produces less waste and increases overall efficiency. The French also found that it's psychologically better to say that waste is being "stocked" rather than disposed of [pbs.org].

    I don't give France credit for much, but the way in which the French have run their nuclear program is a model for the rest of the world. France is far less dependent on foreign energy for power than most countries, and their costs are lower - and there has not been a major nuclear accident in France since the program began.

    If we did something similar with more efficient breeder reactors, we could reduce pollution, reduce energy costs, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

    Besides, we can't let the French beat us, can we?

    • by realkiwi (23584) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @11:27AM (#10724634)
      I'm not French but I do live here (I love cheese).

      Funny you brought this up because in the news last week was "the power stations are getting old, what do we do now?". The equipment is geting old, some plants are ready to be closed and no new plants have been built in a while. So it is far from perfect.

      The other big problem is we get sent the nuclear waste of other nations because they don't have the means to treat it. Germany's waste is OK but waste being shipped from Japan is a lot less cool. Think of the kind of accidents it could have on the way. In the Panama canal for example...

      By the way George (the old one) never had any problem with the French. I would appreciate very much that republicans like yourself cut the crap and get on with the idea that there are sovereign countries outside of your borders. France said "No we aren't coming, this is a bad idea" to the war in Iraq. So did Canada and New Zealand for that matter. OK Canada and New Zealand are popular destinations for draft dodgers...
    • by hecian (828253) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @12:16PM (#10725289)
      Even though I'm a cheese-eating-not-surrender-monkey (joking), I'll have to point out some things about the situation here :

      It is true that having 75% or so of electric power coming from nuclear power has its advantages, but as others mentionned already, this is only one side of the overall issue here (car fuel? truck fuel?).

      However, the use of nuclear plants is not the ultimate solution we all dream of. Cooling the reactor uses a lot of water taken from the rivers, thus warming them (heat pollution). The very same issue also means that during very hot periods of the year, nuclear plants needs to be throttled down or even stopped down to stay within safe operationnal boundaries. What's the power source then when you suddenly can't rely on nuclear plants?
      Moreover, our plants are getting old, and maintenance costs are getting higher. One might state that 'there has not been a major nuclear accident in France since the program began.', but what if these accidents are yet to come? We had pretty good maintenance as long as the company owning the plants was owned by the state, but now that it's a private company, what about the maintenance funding if the company needs to cut some budgets to stay competitive? (You've had some idea of the issues caused by private power companies in Calif. lately, don't you?)
      On a side note, nuclear fuel reprocessing is supposed to be handled properly here - the US even sent us some old nuclear warheads load to be converted to plant fuel, but the reprocessing facilities lack transparency in their operation. We know that it is a sensitive activity, but because of that, we can't really measure the pollution impact of it.

      Well, as you can see, nuclear fission power might be a better solution than coal or oil, but it's still needs huge improvements on the long term.

      Then, what could be the ideal power source for the US? Hmmm, geological power can be a good alternative seeing the US geography : Iceland uses geothermy, and France is doing research on this field. In the US, the Yellowstone region seems to be a good candidate for pollution-free geothermal plants. Dams might also be something you guys could invest more into : Just look how the single Hoover Dam can power the whole Las Vegas!

      Nuclear fusion is another issue as long as Humanity hasn't yet designed a useable plant using it. It is a shame (IMHO) that unrelated political issues slows down international cooperation on fusion plant research, as the US pushes hard the international negotiations to make sure the experimental fusion plant is NOT located in France, even though the local needed research facilities are available.

      Well, let's put our differences apart for a while and look at what we _should_ do together. NOt a simgle country has yet the ability to work alone on fusion research. Pollution management is also an issue that can't be managed without every country investing in it (Kyoto protocol, anybody?). So we ALL should overcome our differences to make sure OUR children can enjoy oil independance and a pollution free world someday.

      > Besides, we can't let the French beat us, can we?
      Beating the French isn't the issue here, preserving the occidental way of life is, don't you think? Let's focus on what we have in common, and work on it together.

      Best regards from abroad.
  • by RussP (247375) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @12:10PM (#10725175) Homepage
    The opposition to nuclear power will go down in history as the epitomy of anti-technology ignorance. I have compiled a few articles [russp.org] on the matter by the great Bernard Cohen.

    Bernard L. Cohen is Professor-Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy and of Environmental and Occupational Health at University of Pittsburgh. He has authored 6 books, over 300 papers in scientific journals, and about 75 articles in non-technical journals. He has presented invited lectures in 47 U.S. States, 6 Canadian provinces, 7 Japanese prefectures, 6 Australian states and territories, and 24 other countries in Europe, Asia and South America. His awards include the American Physical Society Bonner Prize and the Health Physics Society Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award. He has been elected Chairman of the Division of Nuclear Physics of the American Physical Society, and Chairman of the Division of Environmental Sciences of the American Nuclear Society.
  • by avi33 (116048) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @12:24PM (#10725419) Homepage
    The left is against the sloppy mismanagement of nuclear materials that could present an environmental risk to the U.S. population.

    Given the track record of energy companies, and the fact that they know that it's cheaper to deny contamination, tie it up in court, and wait for a friendly administration, than to actually clean it, the risks are massive. Several European countries use nuclear energy, and people live within several miles, and nearby radiation levels are normal.

    Nuclear energy powers a significant portion of the midwest's power, and that's part of the reason that energy prices were stable there compared to California's crisis.

    What is so confounding is how rural communities fight tooth and nail to keep wind farms from sprouting up. If you try to open a chicken farm, stinking a mile in every direction, that's fine, but god forbid a row of windmills pop up on the horizon.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 04, 2004 @12:34PM (#10725541)
    The proof of the pudding is in the eating

    1. Doable: We've had a widespread nuclear program running the entire US submarine fleet for somelike like 50 years with nary a hitch. They dispose of their spent fuel correctly and I know several people that have worked on these boats and they are fine, healthy people. The oldest is around 52 and he is in perfect health.

    2. Renewable, Recyclable and Long Lasting: Proof that nuclear energy could last a good long time. Using breeder reactors you generate more nuclear fuel by using plutonium etc. This means we have a nearly inexaustible supply. One of the problems is that Jimmy Carter (ironically a submariner himself) signed the law that forbids us in the US from using recycled nuclear fuels. This means that if it's used once it becomes hi-level waste Thats insane and it generate mre radioactive waste. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    3. Safe: By designing the damn thing right in the first place you prevent meltdown accidents from happening. How? Install a pebble bed reactor. The nuclear fuels are engineered into glass spheres designed so that they can only react with a certain amount of volume of neighboring spheres. They can never meltdown because it's physically impossible. When they are spent, you simply recycle the spheres until 99.9% of the fuel is gone. Then you bury them.

    4. Rational: For a pittance of what it costs to police the planet, slaughter innocent civilians by the 10's of thousands and just generally create bad PR you could set up a series of pebble bed reactors across the US which would generate electricity for homes/businesses and hydrogen to be used in hydrides to power cars and/or power cells. Any wastes that are created are used until they are almost used up. Anything left is buried safely. Small contingents of special forces could protect these installations against terrorists and theft. Multiple independent safety auditors and inspects keep track of fuel, procedures and any contamination. You could overdo this entire design 10 times over and still not have spent what it took to just deploy our troops to Iraq.

    No, it's not completely safe, but very little in this world is. It keeps the pollution in one place where it can be controlled, checked and inspected instead of spreading it through the air for us to breath etc. How many people die a year from lung diseases brought on by hydrocarbon pollution. How much vegetation dies because of acid rain.

    When I see trainloads full of coal heading for St. Louis's power plant I just shake my head.

    When the left gets off it's religious crusade against Nuclear energy we might have a chance. Until then they are the best friends the Bushs ever had.

    I'm all for saving the environment. Let's start with the stuff we are being forced to breath.

    Somebody do the calculations.

    • by cdn-programmer (468978) <terr@terralogic. n e t> on Thursday November 04, 2004 @03:33PM (#10727701)
      There is a lot of ignorance showing in the posts!!! I was surprised in fact that slashdotters would be so ignorant.

      Argonne labs designed the Fast Integral Reactor and proved its concept by 1994 before Clinton shut them down. This is a very good design and much better than breeder reactors.

      With a reactor fleet such as this, the spent fuel can be burned as well as the depleated uranium and this would provide about 5,000 years energy supply using just the exisiting depleated uranium and spent uranium.... this is meeting 100% of USA energy requirments as well, and that means no oil, no gas, no hydro, no solar or anything else - just nuclear.

      Doing something like this would mean building about 1300 reactors each in the GWe size range. However clearly there is no reason to not use traditional energy sources other than perhaps coal and oil and gas which should be saved for chemical feedstocks...

      Furthermore Canada has offered to take the spent fuel because it is a lot hotter than natural uranium and our CANDU reactors can easily burn it. It should be re-processed though so that the nuclear poisons are removed - but this costs money and makes mined uranium a little cheaper than the USA spent fuel. The impass seems to be that the USA wants Canada to pay for the re-processing. The logic of this idea fails me.

      Nevertheless, the spent fuel can be used and will supply a fleet of about 100 CANDU reactors for about 50 years. Then the Fast Integral reactor can kick in and run for additional 1000's of years.

      The best idea however is to re-instate the Argonne Labs Fast Integral reactor program and get fuel reprocessing underway.... these are programs which have been shut down for political reasons.

      With these two programs underway the waste problem actually disappears because a reactor like the Fast Integral will burn up the actinides and turn them into electricity. In addition there is also spallation technology that can be deployed.

      So, the technology is there. Its the politics that is standing in the way and creating the problem. Many lives will unnecessarily be lost before this problem gets resolved. But I guess this is not unlike religeous wars in the past, the difference being that the public has been lied to so much about nuclear energy that it has almost taken on a religeous tone.

  • by Jonboy X (319895) <jonathan.oexnerNO@SPAMalum.wpi.edu> on Thursday November 04, 2004 @12:37PM (#10725578) Journal
    It sure looks like the U.S. of A. is quickly running out of energy options acceptable to the general population. Recent pools have found that:
    • Coal is dirty.
    • Natural gas smells like farts
    • Oil is controlled by those crazy people with the towels on their heads
    • Wind power is for pansies
    • Hydro will run out as soon as all the water has finished running downhill
    • Nuclear causes explosions and mutants and makes baby Jesus cry

    That's right, the only option that everyone agreed on was:
    • Burning cute, cuddly kittens

    They're adundant (check the animal shelters), cheap (they're just giving the things away) and renewable ("breeder reactor" = 2 cats in a box with some catnip and a Barry White CD). It just goes to show that, with a little ingenuity, we can solve even the worst crises.
  • by egghat (73643) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @01:05PM (#10725972) Homepage
    not mentioned before in this thread so I'll do it.

    Per capita the US uses more than 12000 KWh per year, Japan ~7500 and Germany ~6000 (source [nationmaster.com]) ). Same for oil: US per capita: 68 gallons, Japan: 42, Germany 33 (source: source [nationmaster.com]). So we're comparing the three of the whealthiest and industrialized nations on Earth and one uses more than two times the energy. There's not a single reason for this depite the fact that the US wastes energy like noone else on this planet.

    When atke into account that less than half of the US energy comes from Oil and that a not that small part comes from domestic sources, I guesstimate that by saving less than a third of the current energy usage the USA could become completly independent from foreign oil. And you would still use more energy than Japan for example.

    This goal is reachable rather easy as you can see in Japan or Germany.

    Sell your SUV, buy a Volkswagen/Audi TDI (will use less than half of your energy). Switch off your AC when you leave or when you don't need it. Change to energy saving light bulbs (will use less than 15% of your original energy usage). Throw away your old fridge and buy an energy saving new one (will use less than half of your old). Etc. pp.

    It's doable. It's easy.

    Bye egghat.

  • by Mr_Blank (172031) on Thursday November 04, 2004 @10:59PM (#10731641) Journal
    My post is already over 1000 posts into the the thread so I am not expecting answers or moderation, but maybe I'll get lucky. Luck favors the bold!

    My dad worked at an oil refinery. He told me stories about how the oil was refined and opened my eyes to how many uses besides gasoline for cars. He said that over 300 products were created from the crude. (Interestingly, he also told me that the refinery was profitable just from the sale of coke, the last product off the line.)

    So my question: How will we replace all the non-fuel uses for crude oil? Asphalt, fertilizers, and plastics are a pretty big part of modern life afterall...

    This link [chevron.com] lists the products that come out of crude oil:
    What is in a barrel of oil?

    To some, a barrel of crude may look like a gooey liquid whose only redeeming virtue is to be eventually refined into gasoline.

    Researchers broke down a typical barrel of domestic crude oil into what may be produced. By the way, the average domestic crude oil has a gravity of 32 degrees and weighs 7.21 pounds per gallon.

    Here's what just one barrel of crude oil can produce:
    Enough liquefied gases (such as propane) to fill 12 small (14.1 ounce) cylinders for home, camping or workshop use.
    Enough gasoline to drive a medium-sized car (17 miles per gallon) over 280 miles.
    Asphalt to make about one gallon of tar for patching roofs or streets.
    Lubricants to make about a quart of motor oil.
    Enough distillate fuel to drive a large truck (five miles per gallon) for almost 40 miles. If jet fuel fraction is included, that same truck can run nearly 50 miles.
    Nearly 70 kilowatt hours of electricity at a power plant generated by residual fuel.
    About four pounds of charcoal briquettes.
    Wax for 170 birthday candles or 27 wax crayons.

    There are enough petrochemicals left in that same barrel to provide the base for one of the following:

    View Larger Image

    39 polyester shirts
    750 pocket combs
    540 toothbrushes
    65 plastic dustpans
    23 hula hoops
    65 plastic drinking cups
    195 one-cup measuring cups
    11 plastic telephone housings
    135 four-inch rubber balls

    The lighter materials in a barrel are used mainly for paint thinners and dry-cleaning solvents and they can make nearly a quart of one of these products. The miscellaneous fraction of what is left still contains enough by-products to be used in medicinal oils, still gas, road oil and plant condensates -- a real industrial horn of plenty.


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