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Nuclear, Naivete and Politics





rdrs
I would rather have put this topic into philosophy, but it might have seemed out of place there. Well, I'll state my case, and let's see if the topic progresses.

I'm a supporter of nuclear (fission) energy. I feel a sheer attraction to the technology that's behind it, and would work at a plant if I had the chance. That's my personal, and somewhat naive, argument for nuclear power.

The political arguments - I'll explain why they're political right away - are the current energetic situation and the state of technology at this time. These are political, rather than technical, because more often than not I find myself discussing the issue with people whose only concept of radioactivity is Tchornobyl and cancer. To understand fission, you need to have your physics present. Then add the construction techniques, the safety systems, the fuel cycle and the power output. At this point you've made the numbers - do a similar analysis for other energy sources and you're ready for a plain techie comparison.

Fortunately, decisions of this type are not made from strict tech points-of-view. So you have the cost of assembling your plant, whether you can get fuel, and how you're going to deal with waste. France and Finland are quite advanced in this aspect.

So, do you go for coal/oil, nuclear, wind, hydro? Well, let's see:
- your water resources aren't suitable: not enough power from hydro
- coal and oil are dirty: there goes your CO2 quota (unless you're in the US..)
- wind, solar, biomass: again, not enough power
- geo: well, if you live in Iceland it pays off..
- nuclear: a lot of power, but is the complex framework in place - technology, fuel, waste?

I'll present the case of my country, Portugal. We need to buy a great deal of electricity from Spain or France. Hydro has literally dried out. Coal and oil are simply too dirty. Solar, wind and biomass are too ineffective at this time.

So I say - copy Finland's model, deploy plants with French technology, keep developing waste disposal and allocate a share of profits to develop renewable technologies. Eventually, we might be able to do without fission.

At this point, conservationists, oil lobbyists and the plain, TV-influenced individual jump on you - Waste! Tchornobyl! Cancer!

Waste - research, develop, deploy: Finland and France are good examples
Tchornobyl - learn, follow the manual, and remember the Prestige
Cancer - fear, pure and simple. Cancer can be caused by many things.

I'd say that, considering the current trend for increasing energy consumption, the oil lobby which even works agains renewable technologies, the problem with electricity generation-related pollution, and even all the arguments from conservationists themselves, we should invest in fission, and support the others through it. It's clean, you can bury the plants underground, and our energy needs are fulfilled. The other options are just plain naive, since there's no consensus, no simpler (notice I don't mean easier) solution.

Now, this has been a monologue long enough. My philosophy is, to be an atheist only until I've been given arguments that beat mine.
DoctorBeaver
I agree with you & I think you have stated the case very well. I have nothing further to add.
bboy_nycb
You are totally right.
But let me tell you that at the moment nuclear power is the most used source of eneergy in France. Indeed, French technology is well-advanced.
As crude oil, we depend also on uranium supplies that are found in Africa mainly. That is to say one day we will have a shortage of uranium and we have to look for other kind of energies like the wind.
How about the waste produced? This is an unsolved problem at the moment.
Panthrowzay
There is a technology that removes radioactivity from materials, the goverment knows about it, its a small flame, that burns a type of hydrogen in very specific ratios, it really cheap, and has hundereds of uses!
rdrs
Indeed, now we're getting to the point! Even Uranium resources are limited: just some weeks ago a report was published with the estimated remaining quantities. Needless to say, experts differed strongly about the numbers, with one saying 'enough for 250 years', and others saying 25..

Anyway, you'll notice I mentioned investing in the renewables. Even if we manage to make electricity out of water in a practical way, there are still limits to what we can use. Finland's nuclear industry allocates a share of its profits - a reasonable share - only to cater for waste removal. France produces most of its energy the nuclear way - then sells it to other countries. I'm seeing the opportunity here to pave the way for new technologies.

Now, for the waste. Everyone frets about the waste. First, let us notice the both France and Finland are making good progress in waste disposal, either by recycling the material for further use as fuel, or by the deep burial technique. Again, investment in the area is crucial. Britain, just as a sidenote, is one of the worst examples in Europe - the nuclear industry just kept on profiting, leaving the citizens the burdain of disposal, which even includes shipping the stuff to Japan.

And what about seeing waste in a comparative way? Why doesn't the coal and oil pollution ever come up in the maths? Or the damage dams make to wildlife? Or the amount of rubbish that is buried every year in disposal areas? And why doesn't anyone agree on the renewables? 'Wind mills are ugly', or 'the mills kill birds'. 'Use the sun, there's plenty of it' - indeed - but do you know how much the gear to harness it costs? Have you ever wondered why solar cars run so slowly?

To finish up my point, I insist that nuclear is good now - and for a limited period of time. I believe waste disposal is already quite safe in some forms, and may be made even more so. I see nuclear as a way to leverage the oil/coal electricity, in our path to proper, clean energy. It is 'cleaner' than oil, which in turn is cleaner than coal. It's all a matter of trade-offs: there will always be pollution, we will always have to damage the environment - perhaps covering the Sahara with solar panels. Not trading something for other means remaining as we are, or reverting to a state of evolution where we don't need electricity anymore.
jickson
Solar farms in outer space will be future ... When space will be much important to humans
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