• Dan Dredger wrote a new post, Why it's time to dispel the myths about nuclear power 4 years, 4 months ago

    Photo credit: Air Photo Service/AFP/Getty Images
    By David Robert Grimes
    This year marks the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, and the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl incident. Together, these […]

    • Just one word that wasn’t mentioned in the article: Thorium.

      Sidestep the debate. Abandon dual-purpose (weapons/power) technology, with it’s inherently greater risks.

      Imagine, if Iran was told, yes, you can have nuclear power, just don’t use U/Pu.

      Of course, the Nuclear Industry has no expertise in Thorium. So they’d be no better qualified than, say, ship builders, to develop Thorium power plants.

    • This article states the case I have against conventional nuclear power better than I could. I think he is missing the point in several places.

      It is exactly the fact that human error is involved that has me at least concerned about it in general. Both Chernobyl and Fukushima were cases of human error. He has done an excellent job of explaining just how incompetent the human factor was in Chernobyl, but defends Fukushima (I’d agree to a point). However, and this may sound like 20/20 hindsight but did no-one consider the possibility that an eathquake/tsunami prone area like Japan might not be the most sensible place to put a nuclear reactor? Or if they did, why didn’t they consider what would happen if their backup diesel generators failed? In both cases it was lucky that matters were not worse. In the case of Fukushima clearly many of the safety systems worked and greatly reduced worse outcomes. But, if someone had thought to consider what might happen if something happened to like a Tsunami clearly a better contingency would have been applied, how many nasty surprises could happen that we have simply never imagined? And this is the point.

      In both instances control was lost because we have to assume that people will always be involved. Scoffing at the nuclear nay sayers on the basis of physics or statistics without considering it is humans building a running the things is frankly a fantasy. We understand the physic of flight too it doesn’t stop aircraft from crashing, not because we don’t understand the systems and how to fly but because people are sometimes idoits, lazy, greedy, egotistical morons.

      We are talking about the possibility of very long term contamination or very risky and expensive clean up if this occurs. So risk cannot be measured over the course of the how long nuclear reactors have been with us, you only get to compare the risks of the nuclear age after the risk is gone. What he is doing is the equivalent to measuring the risk of a particular air flight while you are still up in the air, ‘I’m safe because I didn’t crash on take-off’, I’ll feel completely safe after landing, stopping and walked off the thing and not before.

      We have not dealt with the waste, we have not dealt with the weapons that engaging in nuclear energy almost always results in, and yes I know many of the worlds reactors cannot produce weapons grade materials but I don’t think it is a coincidence that most of the nations that get involved with nuclear energy also get involved in nuclear weapons. And I’m not forgetting that much money and worry is spend over issues like North Korea sending the odd missile off to remind us of what it hopes to be able to do, or how safe do we feel with Pakistan being a nuclear power and struggling with corruption and religious extremism? Again its back to people. And that is why I’m against nuclear power, perhaps after sky net and the robot take over they can efficiently and effectively use nuclear power. Seems clear to me that we can’t be trusted with it.

      I’m not suggesting anyone shuts down nuclear reactors and in the west in favour as the author suggests burning coal, to suggest that these are our only choices is a false dichotomy. Until/unless fusion or thorium reactors become a reality I’d think the sensible thing to do would be invest in wind and solar as ageing nuclear power plants come off line, neither of which to my knowledge have caused significant risk to human life or are likely to in the future, the odd maintenance worker might fall off a wind turbine or a mechanical fault could bring one down but it’s unlikely to have to cause a whole town to have to move, cost billions to clean up, or leave thousands to wait for the next 30 years to see if they are going to get cancer, or for the whole of Europe to have to stop buying food from countries in which a potentially radioactive cloud drifts as I seem to remember after Chernobyl. There are idiotic, sometimes greedy and corrupt people involved here and that will always be the case with all human endeavours.

    • In 1607 a tsunami surged up the Bristol Channel, causing widespread devastation, almost certainly the result of an earthquake off the coast of Ireland. There are several nuclear power stations lining the Bristol Channel, some of them on low ground, not much above sea level. Who’s to say it won’t happen again, and it could be worse next time?

    • Four likes in a row.

      I so wanted the US to fund Indian Iranian codevelopment of Thorium. What stabilising future trade and customers they would find….

      Losing chunks of the planet for the foreseeable future to the inevitable accidents and malice is simply bonkers. Shit happens. We need more house trained energy sources.

      Negawatts are still the highest return energy investment. We can also make 90% less stuff and still have as new and innovative things in service models. That’s a huge cut in discarded embodied energy, road and sea miles. Our bitty efforts at solving these problems need to be stepped back from to see the virtues of integrated solutions.

    • The problem with these sort of reactors is you must actively control everything correctly or you have a big accident. It is a bit like successfully juggling plates decade after decade. You want a reactor that if you just let it sit there, creates no hazard.

    • I’m not qualified to comment, but I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to read this thread.

    • Cheap, Reliable, CO2-free Electricity, Now.

      O’Hooligan- how wrong might you be?
      “So they’d be no better qualified than, say, ship builders, to develop Thorium power plants.”

    • This is cooool. Thx.

      We have to remember this is a selling document to hook investors, but even so….

    • @jimfox #12

      How right might I be indeed?

      ThorCon is designed to bring shipyard quality and productivity to nuclear power.

      ThorCon’s genesis is in ship production.

      They really are ship builders, then. I’m pleasantly surprised. 🙂

    • @Alan4Discussion

      The conflict with the above claims, would also indicate that the author of The Guardian article had not done basic homework!

      An absence of research is not an absence of radioactive contamination!

      Yes, I heard one statistician (and I haven’t the maths or sufficient understanding of the nature of radioactive waste to be terribly confident about this issue, which is surrounding by much inaccurate information) that one of the factors that hasn’t been considered in the Chernobyl disaster is that due to fluctuating cancer rate due to any number of difficult to measure influences of cancer rates in a society we would need to wait decades and have over 900 000 additional cancers before they could positively uniquely identify the additional cancers to Chenobyl. Hence he argued we must consider before we claim how few lives have been proven to be lost, just how many must get cancer (a portion of whom will die) before we can say with any certainty that they are connected to Chenobyl. I had a quick google search to find the article again (unsuccessfully), I’d be grateful if anyone else knew of it as I might have misremembered the numbers. But the point I think is valid.

    • At the time of Chernobyl, I was amused to see a map of the UK published in a newspaper, showing the radiation levels in different parts of the country. Granted there was heavy rainfall in the north, but there was an especially hot hot spot located in the vicinity of the Cumbrian coast, around Windscale, sorry, Sellafield (name changed to shake off the bad press). How unlucky they were to get all that nasty Soviet radioactivity dumped on their Perfectly Clean and Safe plant.

    • the danger of nuclear energy: superheated water and rapid decompression can release huge amounts of kinetic energy.

      Does no one ever question our reliance on industrial revolution based technology to generate electricity?

    • There are three intertwined problems with nuclear reactors. Waste is one but could be largely dealt with during design. Politics and Capitalism are the biggest problems as both reward hiding, escaping, and passing on problems instead of solving them or fixing them.

    • Which was the reactor design that used molten sodium as the coolant? When I heard about that, I wondered if the designers ever actually met a chemist, were they just looking at the thermal properties and ignoring the chemical ones.

      I take it none of that insane design ever got built.

    • Too late to edit. I see there was a least one of the sodium cooled design, a complete fiasco it seems.

      The article states it generated electricity for only one hour, over its entire sorry lifespan. Not going to save us from Global Warming then, is it?

    • Nuclear Fission is a process that leaves products that are unsafe for humans for many thousands of years. Unless and until we can demonstrably keep these products safe from contaminating our environment or harming people until they have decayed to the point where they are harmless we should not use nuclear fission. Note that this is a 100% test. I do not accept that any level of risk is acceptable, because the consequences of accidents are so harmful.

      The other BIG questions concerning nuclear fission are these: What is the net energy contribution and what are total carbon emissions of nuclear over the entire life cycle? I suspect when you take EVERYTHING into account it cannot be justified. That is why nuclear is so expensive. Carbon emissions? Surely nuclear is carbon free? NO! Carbon is emitted at every stage of the life-cycle, even during generation.

    • @visgat

      The thorium fueled molten salt design appears to be worth a closer look, especially as regards safety and radioactive waste. I’ve been anti-nuclear forever for the reasons you cite, but I find myself open to learning more about this long neglected design.