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Caution: Reading this article may prove dangerous to your perceptions about nuclear power, energy in general, and low-grade but well-heeled environmental activism.
Having said this, I regard myself as an environmentalist who is as concerned as anyone else about the future of our planet and humanity, but my path diverges strongly from that of most special interest factions when it comes to deciding what are the relevant issues and how to address them.
Nuclear waste, despite the ignorant half-truths and inventions of those who fear it, and despite the fact that we would rather not have it, is one of the best reasons for developing nuclear power relative to any other major reliable source of energy other than hydro. When you add its minimal pollution contributions; its much better safety record than any large energy source; and its improving cost advantages at this time, there should be no contest, yet the emotionally slanted nuclear mythologies keep rearing their heads.
Need convincing about its advantages? Start by examining Table 1 below. Anyone can find these data with a little searching, so it is not as though they are hidden or not known, though they are widely ignored by those who would rather not know them and would rather that WE not know them either. Certainly, many environmentalists would never dare to acknowledge them, even during this time of concern over supposed global warming or their angst over a litany of supposed environmental effects, as to do so would reveal their real motives (being anti-progress, anti-industry, anti-cheap energy, and anti-people) and lose a lot of donations and members. Actually, many environmental activists cannot identify that the two most important and devastating human and environmental issues in the world at any time, are poverty and ignorance, and not much else. Why not ask a few, and convince yourself?
In total contrast to the highly controversial atmospheric pollution from fossil fuels, including mercury and all of the other toxic metal and gaseous pollutants - implicated in the premature deaths of about 100,000 people per year in the U.S. alone - the total radioactive waste produced from the back-end of nuclear power operations (40,000 tonnes per year in the entire world), is 100% managed and controlled and injures no-one, not even those who work closely with it. NO ONE!
Such waste consists of 15,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel, and about 25,000 tonnes of low-level maintenance wastes - almost entirely solids - consisting of discarded protective clothing, cleaning materials, filters and other materials that need to be managed for about 30 years. The volume of the low-level reactor maintenance wastes for the entire world - assuming an average specific gravity of about 1 - is 25,000 cubic metres which could be enclosed in a space 30 metres by 30 by 30 - or the volume of a very small municipal building, warehouse or supermarket.
The volume of the entire world's spent fuel (air spaces, shielding and cladding removed) for a year - assuming a specific gravity of about 8 is less than 2,000 cubic metres, which is about the internal volume of my modest home (10 metres by 20 by 10). No wonder there is no immediate need to do anything with it. It is also NOT waste, but represents a recyclable resource as only about 1 to 3 percent of the contained energy is used in the first pass through the reactor cycle. Store it retrievably, and we will eventually use it for the remaining energy content.
Contrast that with the mostly invisible and entirely unmanaged emissions thrown haphazardly into the world's atmosphere from fossil fuels in a year (about 28 billion tonnes - only 700,000 times larger than the managed nuclear waste) to provide us with energy and electricity if it is not generated by nuclear power or hydro. Long-term exposure health effects from fossil fuel pollution cause about 3 million deaths per year, according to the WHO. In terms of chronic low-level radiation emissions, burning coal emits more radiation in the fly ash, containing uranium and thorium, than is routinely emitted from an operating nuclear power plant. I point this out as an interesting fact only, as the health effects of this are so small as to be indefinable (if they occur at all) relative to all of the other pollutants from fossil fuels
In terms of the average radiation dose that the public in developed society is exposed to each year, about 75% comes from nature (water, air, food, and each other), about 25% comes from medical uses of radiation and less than 1% comes from all industrial and other uses. Less than 0.01% is typically associated with the operation of all of the nuclear power plants in the world and their wastes, as shown in Figure 1.
Avoiding and being careful not to acknowledge this particular piece of perspective, is why various special interest factions can continue to keep much of the public emotionally off balance when it comes to making fearful allegations about radiation effects from nuclear power, that do not and are not likely ever to occur.
The 40,000 tonnes of relatively low-level radioactive wastes produced in a year, is also about the average daily output of ore from each of the thousands of base-metal mines throughout the world, and is about the tonnage of garbage produced each week or two in every one of the thousands of large cities in the world.
In terms of social damage and health effects, it is all of the other garbage and wastes shown in Table 2, and not nuclear waste, that are directly implicated in severe and ongoing health effects each and every day.
The world's refuse from its thousands of major cities, is clearly millions of times more of a disposal problem, is much more difficult to manage if it is managed at all, and is much more associated with obvious and documented adverse health effects than any small volume of 100% managed nuclear waste, no matter how radioactive it may be in the short term.
Obviously, pollution is not of serious concern to many environmentalists, or they would openly acknowledge these figures and be clamoring to build more low-polluting nuclear power facilities to replace fossil fuels.
How many people have died because of all aspects of using nuclear power and nuclear wastes, relative to other significant sources of energy?
Data from the Paul-Scherrer Institute in Switzerland for 1969 to 1996, showing relative human fatalities from 4290 energy-related accidents in commercial facilities, indicate that for each terra-watt-year of energy use (the world uses about 13 TW of primary energy each year at this time), the following relative numbers of fatalities are indicated:
Nuclear Power 8
Natural Gas 85
One can add wind and solar deaths to these even though they typically generate only a minuscule fraction of the terra-watt year range. Because of the relatively dilute character of solar and wind energy, and the need for constant maintenance of the many small and widespread and often remote facilities (wind), the accident and fatality rates for humans are projected to lie between those of natural gas and coal use. For birds, it is a far different story, and their death toll from windmill blade collisions is of concern to many real environmentalists.
As there were fatalities only during 1986 (31 deaths) from Chernobyl (about 1 death per year averaged over the almost 30 years of the data), most of the nuclear figures above are derived from mining accidents and related fatalities. I don't know what there is NOT to understand about these numbers, yet like those concerning pollution, they are studiously ignored as various groups ALLEGE or invent massive numbers of injuries that just do not occur, while they are so devastatingly and regularly obvious for coal mining deaths, dam bursts, oil fires or gas explosions.
None of the energy sources acknowledges associated deaths from pollution which, if they were to do so, would put them further out of position relative to nuclear, which, like hydro, is relatively non-polluting, and none of them - other than nuclear power (which adds about 1% to electricity bills for future waste disposal and decommissioning) - assesses or recovers any other cost of environmental impact. This may change with a carbon tax, but I doubt it. The required environmental impact statements for nuclear power facilities already demonstrate their minimal impact on both people and the environment, yet as with everything else that does not fit their emotionally laden agendas, many environmentalists rarely acknowledge it.
So not only is nuclear power less polluting, it is also statistically defined to be the most safe. By the way, the most dangerous form of energy, is the energy that you do not have, when you need it. Sound familiar?
Table 3 shows some of the baseline data, also mostly from the Paul Scherrer Institute:
There have been three significant accidents at nuclear power plants over the last 50 years. Only one - Chernobyl - caused any immediate deaths. Thirty-one individuals, mostly firefighters, died in their inappropriate response to the fire and their needless exposure to fatal levels of radiation after working for several hours rather than fighting the fire remotely or just walking away. Most of these deaths were avoidable, should not have occurred, and would not have occurred in the free world.
Predictions of long-term injuries to the much larger populations exposed to low level radiation from releases from these accidents, or just from exposure to natural background radiation, are unlikely ever to occur and are based upon one of the worst pieces of unscientific extrapolation imaginable; the Linear, No Threshold hypothesis, or LNT. It is this LNT hypothesis ('all radiation has an injurious effect, no matter how low the dose') that allows the EPA to suggest that between 10,000 and 40,000 lung cancer deaths will arise in the U.S. each year from exposure to natural radon, when the actual empirical (observed) data show that exposure to environmental radon is associated with a lower incidence of lung cancer in all areas of the U.S. as well as the rest of the world (also lung cancer is mostly associated with smoking).
Low level radiation, such as that from radon, stimulates the immune response and the bodies own defenses, which is probably the reason many millions of people flock unconsciously to the various health resorts to bathe in the radioactive atmosphere, waters, sands and muds of mines (Colorado, Montana, Germany etc), health spas (everywhere) and radioactive beaches (Brazil), and report therapeutic benefit without understanding why or how. 'It just works for me'. If radiation - even at moderate levels - was obviously injurious, as we would know by now after more than 100 years of intense medical use with unbelievably large doses to millions of patients (often thousands of times higher than natural background), it would never be used in medical diagnosis or therapy, and a few million of us would die needlessly and prematurely each year from undiagnosed and untreated health problems. If the EPA calculated injuries from such exposures as they do for radon, they would suggest that perhaps up to 200,000 people might die in the U.S. each year from medical radiation exposures (rather than about 200,000 lives being saved), as medical radiation is the second largest source of radiation following natural exposures. They obviously don't calculate them, and people obviously do not die like flies. If they did, medical uses of radiation would have long since been banned.
The irrational assumption behind the LNT hypothesis, in assuming injury from low dose radiation, is most easily shown by a comparison with another agent that is harmful at high doses - aspirin. This assumption of the validity of the LNT, is similar to the invalid and obviously flawed argument, that if 1 person dies after taking 200 aspirin (a fatal dose), that we would expect one death in a population of 200 individuals where each of them takes one aspirin (200 person aspirin), or that any individual will die after consuming 200 aspirins at the rate of one each day. I cannot imagine any member of the public swallowing that unscientific junk, yet they believe the equivalent foolishness about low dose radiation. It is just as invalid to assume that low doses of radiation are harmful as to assume that low doses of aspirin will also kill. Both are toxic at very high acute doses, but both are beneficial - yes beneficial (it's called Hormesis) at moderate doses, even continued over a lifetime.
Attempts have also been made to use the LNT to extrapolate collective radiation doses and assumed population risks out to hundreds and thousands of years. An example of this comes from nuclear waste disposal, where the U.S. EPA calculated that there might be a total of 10 premature deaths from cancer in the entire U.S. population, over the first 10,000 years after closure of a repository for each 1,000 tonnes of radioactive waste. Such a socially fatuous, and scientifically unjustified calculation (more people will die from ingrown toenails over this time!) mistakenly presumes that such risks can be validly calculated from minuscule doses that are a tiny fraction of average background radiation, and that society and medical knowledge and scientific capability will remain static from this moment forward. Barnum was right.
The assumption that harm can be calculated in this way for chronic doses that are an extremely small fraction of natural background radiation, is unjustified on any epidemiological basis, and is an extreme outcome of the bureaucratic misuse and regulatory inappropriateness of the LNT hypothesis.
However, let us not get sidetracked about radiation overprotection. Since about 1900, there have been about 90,000 coal-mining deaths in the U.S. (and large incidence of black lung disease), with a correspondingly large death rate from transportation accidents and pollution effects. Fortunately, mine safety in the U.S. has much improved in the last few decades. Mine accidents occur with disturbing regularity in the Ukraine and China, but we rarely hear of them. Comparable numbers exist for petroleum uses and for gas, as gas use continues to increase. We have grown increasingly used to houses exploding and city blocks being demolished in natural gas explosions and city-wide fires occurring after gas pipeline disruptions after earthquakes (Kobe, California), but we accept those deaths and get on with things.
Obviously, safety is not an issue with most so-called environmentalists either, or they would be clamoring to build more safe nuclear power facilities in preference to those facilities using fossil fuels, wind, solar, or hydro, and they would insist upon electrical heating rather than oil or gas.
If we examine recent data of the Utility Data Institute which compares the electrical production costs for the use of Gas, Oil, Coal and Uranium, we see that electricity from uranium is relatively cheap, and about generally competitive with most coal, and both of which are a lot cheaper than gas or oil.
Neither wind nor solar power show up on this diagram as they represent chump change and are ferociously expensive anyway except in rare niche locations. Hydro, of course, which supplied almost all of our electricity in the early years but is also hated by many environmentalists, mostly beats the pants off all of them.
But now comes the really interesting bits:
Despite their increasing age, the 100 plus commercial nuclear plants in the U.S. have so increased efficiency and reduced operational losses, that their increased electrical output in the last few years has been equivalent to adding another 23 new nuclear plants, yet without building any.
In the U.S. the thirty-year amortization period is coming to an end for many nuclear power plants. As they are also applying for, and are likely to be granted, operating license extensions for possibly a further 20 years or more, after their capital costs have been amortized, they are likely to enjoy a massive cost advantage that has numerous factions agonizing over what they can do to stop this nightmare situation of clean, abundant, reliable, safe, and even cheaper energy. Nuclear power is clean, safe and cheap already. If, as originally envisaged and as was possible until the regulatory, environmental and litigatory obstructionist processes, began to strangle the golden goose, it was indeed close to being too cheap to meter, as many environmentalist were so fearful about. It might just get that way again, relative to the real costs of using fossil fuels and wind and solar. Can you hear the cries of anguish from the anti-social environmentalists amidst the cheers of the real people who have been paying through the nose for gas, oil and electricity of late?
If a carbon tax is ever levied against fossil fuels, or if some effort is made to sequester carbon dioxide in some imaginative but energy intensive manner (as solid carbonates, or as liquefied carbon dioxide, injected beneath the ocean or into oil fields), which would put the costs of fossil fuels up even further, then the cost advantages of nuclear power will become even more evident.
Nuclear power relatively clean? Relatively safe? Relatively cheap (even with a grossly non-level playing field in which the costs of pollution and environmental impact from fossil fuels are almost entirely ignored)? These amount to nothing less than a horrible nightmare to most so-called environmentalists who, in reality, give not a damn about either the environment or the security of society, as they understand neither.
About now there are probably several readers hoping that they will wake up and discover that this entire looming energy scenario - where nuclear power turns out to be the good guy, hero, savior - was just a bad dream. Fat chance. It's here and it's just around the corner, and eventually more of the public will get to find out about it and how they have been misled and lied to by so-called environmentalists on the unscientific lunatic fringe, and maybe stop funding their obstructionist ways. Get used to it.
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Dear John, Your article in support of nuclear power is interesting. But few things you have missed out;
There have been very significant technological improvements since the use of nuclear power for power generation was almost stopped. Invention of stronger durable alloys, computers/controll technologies, manufacturing technologies etc. New Gas turbines these days operate at 1450 degree cel. WHILE ALL OTHER POWER GENERATION TECHNOLOGIES TOOK ADVANTAGE OF THE NEW DEVELOPMENTS, NUCLEAR PLANT WERE LEFT BEHIND. Low fuel prices also favored fossil fuels.
N. plants as you have also noted operate at much higher efficiency. NEW PLANTS ARE/ SHALL BE MUCH MORE SAFE THAN OLD PLANTS. But the potential to cause Chernabyl like accident has not diminished. You have ignored the fact that Chernobyl plant was located in very low population area yet radio active clouds significantly raised radiation level many hundred miles away from accident site.
Inspite of associated risk which in the case of Japan may be 100 times more than Chrnobyl due to thick population, Japan adopted nucler power. Though there were some minor accidents or leaks but Japan continue to build new improved plants.
Nuclear Plants of today shall be much more safer and efficient. Security is another vital factor, you can't allow any company to own and operate nuclear plants. Potential of nuclears fuel as a WMD has arrested the advancement of commercial use of nuclear energy.
Though nuclear power could become prime source of energy but political climate doesn't favour its extensive use in near future. --Ravinder Singh
Geoffrey Young 10.9.03
A useful antidote to Mr. Sutherland's propaganda can be found via the web site of the Rocky Mountain Institute: http://www.rmi.org/images/other/E-NuclearOption.pdf http://www.rmi.org/images/other/E-ProfitNukeFree.pdf
To summarize, Amory Lovins' argument is that improved end-use efficiency is so much less expensive than nuclear power that it would be a gross misuse of limited capital to invest in nuclear when the same amount invested in efficiency would yield vastly greater electricity savings and societal benefits. By and large, capital markets share Lovins' pessimistic outlook on nuclear. "A future technology whose time has passed."
John K. Sutherland 10.9.03
Ravinder, Thank you for having the courage to respond to my combative article. You raise several points, but space limits my response:
1. Technological improvements 2 Low fuel prices favouring fossil fuels 3. Potential of another Chernobyl and drift of radiation 4. Publicity of minor accidents or leaks 5. Security 6. Nuclear Fuel as WMD 7. Politics
1 Technological improvements. New plants obviously will take advantage of new developments, while existing ones must backfit where possible. Nuclear did this to some degree on the existing plants which is why, along with learning from mistakes, the efficiency has improved. Gas did so, but to use gas for electricity generation is still wasting the resource.
2. Your comments on low fossil fuel prices are partially valid. However, uranium is a relatively low priced and predictably priced commodity, as is contracted domestic coal. One could see a large swing in the price of uranium and it would have relatively little effect upon electricity pricing derived from it, as - unlike fossil fuels - fuel price does not have much effect on nuclear costs, especially where natural uranium is the fuel (CANDU), making it ten times cheaper than coal, even using only 1% of the uranium. Gas and oil are notoriously unpredictable, with swings of 100 to 200% or more because of suppliers, politics and international pricing. The data from the Utility Data Institute tell the story quite well.
3. Safety and Chernobyl. If you re-examine the data from the Paul Scherrer Institute you will note that even the OLD nuclear plants (despite Chernobyl) are many times safer than using other sources of energy. New plants should be even safer. I believe your 100 times figure for Japan is comparing the statistical power of the 1945 bombings and radiation effects, relative to the radiation release from Chernobyl. One cannot and should not compare these figures anyway, as the Japan bombings were acute and massive radiation doses that had nothing whatsoever to do with commercial nuclear power, whereas all but a few hundred doses (those who cleaned up the local area) at Chernobyl were chronic and comparatively low. I do not know what your point has to do with Japanese nuclear power. I also do not believe that one can assume that Chernobyl points out anything about the operation of nuclear power plants in the rest of the world, as Chernobyl was the culmination of a long string of monumental gaffes. Most reactors today are generally fitted with containments and would have a wet, rather than a dry, environment after catastrophic failure, and operate to much different rules. Chernobyl seems to have been the worst accident that might have happened in anyone's wildest imaginings, and there were just 31deaths (28 of them were avoidable). It is like saying that we should stop building automobiles anywhere in the world, as the Zil (Russian car?) is such a piece of junk. Of course, if one listens to the Canadian Broadcarping Castration (CBC), they continue to speak of 10,000 dead on each Chernobyl anniversary without admitting that these are the expected numbers of deaths in the population in the immediately following years, whether Chernobyl had happened or not. It appears that all normal deaths were suspended for a year or so, and all deaths were then lumped under Chernobyl. The UN has very good reports on this. The second accident: TMI (1979)(U.S), indicated what a bad accident might be in a wet environment that was contained. No deaths, no injuries despite the usual litigatory circus that is gradually winding down, even now. The first accident, that at Windscale (UK), was also a dry fire in graphite. No one died and there were no definable subsequent injuries, though they have certainly been looked for. The most memorable TV shots (I lived nearby at the time) were of disgruntled local farmers pouring radioactive milk down the drains. Had they made the milk into cheese, and allowed the iodine-131 to decay, the photo-ops might have been eminently forgettable.
As for radioactive clouds; these made their way around the world from both Windscale and Chernobyl. I know, because I measured them in Canada coming from Chernobyl. You must recognize that detection is not synonymous with harm. One hundred years ago, detection limits were parts per thousand for many chemicals, now they are parts per trillion. Just because we see things billions of times smaller, does not mean billions of times more pollution or harm (despite typical environmentalist claims, which lead to assumptions about the quality of air and drinking water, both of which are better today than for the last two hundred years). This is especially true of radiation where a common limit of detection is one billionth of a part per billion - like detecting a grain of salt in a billion tonnes of water.
4. Publicity of accidents or leaks. It is a pity that the industry does not routinely report acciden
John K. Sutherland 10.9.03
4. Publicity of accidents or leaks. It is a pity that the industry does not routinely report accidents or leaks at ALL power plants as is done for nuclear. Some perspective would force the press to be more honest, and would sober up the public, as they would then recognize that incidents of highly publicized 'bashed thumbs' (but without telling anyone that they are bashed thumbs) are not fatalities (see the Paul Scherrer data for actual perspective on fatalities). If the costs of health damage from pollution are ever added in to the fossil fuel side of the leger, then we will begin to see just how socially effective nuclear power is.
5. Yes, security is important, but at ALL power plants and distribution systems, as all are comparably vulnerable. Though the hysterical value of damaging a nuclear plant might be a thousand times higher than blowing up a dam, the probable fatalities would be with the dam, and probably much more than 1,000 times larger, but let's not get into details. If you envisage security as being necessary to stop a terrorist from running off with a few kilograms of spent fuel, why bother. He wouldn't get far, and he would be really easily found. I think that events of the last month or so, reveal the significant problems.
6. Nuclear fuel as WMD. It is easier to make bombs by enriching uranium (Iran), than by reprocessing spent fuel which requires a robust nuclear program; is expensive; technologically demanding; and easily detected (N. Korea).
7. Politics is notoriously self-serving. When the political costs of NOT making a needed decision outweigh the political costs of making a thorny decision, the thorny decision will be made. However, one should not equate the temporary political nuclear decisions of the U.S., Germany or a few other wealthy and resource-rich countries, with those of France, Japan, India, China, Finland, Sweden, Rumania, Russia etc, all of which have either vibrant and expanding nuclear programs, or are beginning to recognize (Sweden) that they should get back on the bandwagon or run short of energy and pollute even more. With France and Japan (and others), it was a case of 'no coal, no oil, no gas, no choice'. We'll all get to that decision eventually.
John K. Sutherland 10.9.03
Response to Geoffrey Young.
Geoffrey, thank you for your revealing response. I agree that if you can make anything more efficient you should go for it, and yes, it will reduce the amount of capacity that you will need to install. Although you seem to believe that this has relevance only for nuclear power, surely it applies to all sources of energy.
I recall that possibly about 15 years ago, Keepin and Kats of the infamous Rocky Mountain Institute suggested that each dollar invested in energy efficiency will displace approximately seven times as much in the way of greenhouse gas emissions than if the same dollar were invested in nuclear power. The snag is that they had most carefully selected their nuclear cost information from the half dozen or so, most poorly operating plants of the approximately 109 operating at that time. If I recall correctly, the K&K suggested costs for nuclear electricity were about 13c/kWh for those few, but they obviously hoped that everyone would believe that it applied across the board to all of these facilities. They also did not admit or recognize, that though it can be very cost-effective to pick off some of the cheaper and easier aspects of improving energy efficiency (insulating un-insulated spaces etc.), it becomes more and more expensive and eventually is not worth the cost. In other words, they were playing games with numbers to try and mislead people. They felt, like you, that their blinkered data should only be considered as a blast against nuclear power and not any other source of energy. I must admit that my critical perception and continued scientific distrust of the RMI and any of Lovins' statements and efforts, stems from that piece of work, and has been amply confirmed by comparable 'one-trick-pony' achievements ever since.
John K. Sutherland 10.9.03
As a further response to Geoffrey Young, and as an anti-dote to his faith in Amory Lovins:
As you were so kind as to provide the audience with reference to two of Lovins' analyses, which are little more than smoke and mirror rants that are long on rhetoric and short on scientific fact , it is only fair that I provide them with two rather more informative and factually based references from the real world. The writers clearly have no use for Lovins's economics or his glib misuse of science, any more than I do. Both are easily found by going to the web site of each organization.
American Spectator of May/June 2002, article by William Tucker. Cato Policy Analysis number 280, on Renewables, by Bradley, 1997.
Of course there are hundreds of others, but once you recognize the basic flawed efforts of the RMI you only need one to turn you off.
Ravinder Singh 10.10.03
Dear John, Thank you for your reply. Most of the contributers to EP have America centric and self serving ideas. A billing expert of today, was a meter reader in recent past, thinks he can solve all the problems Americans have.
People don't seems to understand that China, a $800bn economy consumes more coal than USA-12 times larger economy. Energy is used very inefficiently in most developing countries. Amory and Geoffrey will be surprised to lean that intead of efficient 2 HP pumpset, substanndard pumsets of 5 HP are routinely installed in India and developing countries. People in USA prefer MUV and are reluctant to adopt fuel efficient transport and hybrid cars are still hand made in thousands/year. Most energy saving plans are comercially viable but people are reluctant to adopt more efficient technologies because of low cost fossil fuels which also cause large scale pollution/ global warming.
Solar, Wind, biomass, fuel cells etc. all have basic flaw- these can't ensure continous supply over a long period. People don't seems to realise that advacements in most of these technologies have reached climax stage but Nuclear research is largely confined in secret files . For example- there is very little progress in Super Conductivity research, 100MW wind farm may have 50 to over 100 turbines. Nuclear Power will satisfy bulk of future needs of people of this world.
UN efforts to unify the world through increased global cooperation and trade will reduce political tensions and make way for sharing of advancements in Nuclear Power technology, larger mass produced plants will make nuclear power affordable worldwide etc.
It is possible to save $1000bn in USA in 10 years but no one seems to interested. Average home electricity bill in UK is only $400/year or just 1% to 2% of family income so there is general reluctance to adopt new technologies. We have failed to serve peple of this world effectively due to political reasons, commercial considerations and basic human nature to take decisions based on own our understanding than the best long term alternative.
As a WIPO awarded inventor I create new ideas and inventions and innovative projects offer substantial commercial advantage but Americans throw money after traders, billers, lawyers, distributers and retaiers because it is easy business. ---Ravinder Singh
James Hopf 10.10.03
Some would say that Chernobyl had a greater impact than 31 lives. My understanding is that there have been ~2000 thyroid cancer cases, which are almost certainly due to Chernobyl (as the expected number is a small fraction of that total). This disease is highly treatable, however, and few if any of these people will die. Also, conservative estimates of total eventual cancers, based on the LNT model, predict as many as ~5,000 eventual deaths. Of note is the fact that there were no short-term (acute radiation exposure) deaths of any members of the public, even those living only a few miles from the reactor. This, despite them not even being told about the accident for several days (i.e., there was literally NO emergency planning or response).
The point is, however, that even if you DO except LNT (which I certainly don't, as there isn't one shred of evidence, even after 30 years of intense effort to find any), and even if you DO believe that Chernobyl will eventually cause ~5,000 cancer deaths, it does absolutely nothing to change the conclusion that the overall environmental and public health costs/risks of nuclear are NEGLIGIBLE compared to those of fossil fuels, coal in particular.
Most official government agencies (EPA, etc..) continue to believe that coal plant emissions cause ~10,000 premature deaths EVERY YEAR in the US, under normal operation. Worldwide, the death toll is at least ~100,000 per year. By contrast, even if LNT is assumed, all govt. agencies agree that, with the exception of Chernobyl, nuclear power has had no measurable impact on public health over its entire ~40-year history! As the article (above) shows, exposures due to nuclear power operations are a negligible fraction of natural background, even for those living right next to the plants.
It's true that some of the coal numbers above may be based upon studies that use logic similar to LNT. But that's appropriate, since I'm comparing the (huge) coal death toll to a (still negligible) nuclear "death toll" that is calculated assuming LNT. I'm just comparing apples to apples. That said, it's pretty clear that LNT is false, given that natural background doses vary over a wide range (100-1,000 mrem/year) and NO correlation exists between background dose and cancer rates. By contrast, the nuclear plant exposures are far less than 1 mrem/year. If no effect can be seen for increases of several hundred mrem, exposures of less than 1 mrem clearly have NO effect.
To summarize. Assuming LNT (and similar logic for coal), coal kills ~100,000 per year, every year, as long as it has been around. By contrast, nuclear has had a single event, in its entire history, which will NEVER be repeated, that caused ~5,000 deaths. Even if a worst-case meltdown were to occur at a Western plant, all indications are that the maximum conceivable release would be vastly less (orders of magnitude) than Chernobyl, and would kill much less than 1,000, even under hypothetical LNT assumptions. Under the no-LNT assumption, few, if any, would die even under the worst-case Western plant meltdown event that everyone is so afraid of.
It is amazing that the public continues to harbor its current attitudes about nuclear power given the facts, such as the ones discussed above. The record could not be more clear. Fossil fuels continue to emit massive amounts of pollution and are known to have very large effects on the environment and public health (thousands of deaths, etc...). Nuclear has not emitted any measurable pollution, and has had no measurable impact on health. That is the record, pure and simple.
Is the public BLIND. How is it that they haven't figured out that whereas the effects of fossil fuels are real, tangible, measurable, ongoing, and a matter of historical record, nuclear power's "problems" have always been speculation (from people with overly-active imaginations) and nothing more? It has always been hypothetical, future problems that have NEVER materialized, to this day, over the entire 40-year history. Why can't they see that the actual, factual record is that nuclear has never had any negative effect, period.
The public also can't seem to understand the difference between toxic material that is emitted into the environment and toxic material that is NOT emitted into the environment (and almost certainly never will be). In most circles, the mere generation of nuclear waste is weighed as an environmental problem (i.e., a negative attribute) in the same manner as the EMISSION of other pollutants right into out air and water. Never mind the fact that the nuclear waste is generated in one millionth the volume of the associated wastes with fossil fuels (coal), and is therefore much easier to control and isolate from human contact. Extremely hypothetical health effects (in some distant future) are viewed as equivalent to actual, ongoing health effects that we can see and measure every day.
Not only are fossil fuels a
James Hopf 10.10.03
Not only are fossil fuels are allowed to continually emit huge amounts of pollution, and inflict enormous health and other social costs (i.e., use our air and water as an open sewer), but they are allowed to do it for FREE. Nuclear, by contrast, is not only not allowed to emit any pollution (for any price), but it is required to virtually guarantee that it never will. In the extremely unlikely even of any release of pollution, it must provide for emergency planning (to avoid any health effects), and it must also pay for insurance to provide compensation just is case there is any health effect. Meanwhile, coal inflicts enormous health effects every year, and it is not asked to pay one dime in compensation to anyone.
The above situation is astonishingly UNFAIR. Given that nuclear has paid all costs necessary to avoid any pollution (even the chance of any pollution) it should be treated like all the other non-polluting energy source (i.e., renewables). We're waiting for our 1.8 cent/kW-hr tax credit. Alternatively, sources like coal should have to pay heavy taxes (per ton emitted) on each of its major pollutants. A carbon tax should be applied too.
If either of the above steps were taken, (that is, if there were actually a LEVEL playing field) nuclear would probably become the least expensive base load power source. The tragedy is that it's very close right now (i.e., is only a little bit more expensive), but the govt. is unwilling to apply ANY financial incentive. The result? As gas gets expensive, utilities are starting to order coal plants again. Global warming be damned! Nothing short of tragic.
John K. Sutherland 10.10.03
James, your comments about comparing health effects and a level playing field are right on. However the supposed linkage between Chernobyl and thyroid cancers, are worth looking at rather more than they have been.
Zbigniew Jaworowski, a former chairman of UNSCEAR recently pointed out some remarkably interesting data, and there are others from much larger dose medical thyroid treatments which contradict the allegations from Chernobyl. The Swedish medical thyroid data were the ones publicized, I believe, (but the same is true for all other developed countries) in which the thyroids of thousands of patients have been given hundreds of times higher doses medically, than were received by the Chernobyl people, and without the effects alleged for the lower Chernobyl exposures.
As for Chernobyl, Jaworowski pointed out that the epidemiological data on the incidence of occult thyroid cancers in different countries shows: Canada - 6,000 cases per 100,000 of population; Poland - 9,000 cases/100k; U.S. 13,000 cases, and Finland 35,000 cases, all per 100,000 of population. He then pointed out that in the Gomel area (Chernobyl) the recorded incidence of occult thyroid cancers prior to Chernobyl (remember that epidemiology was not high on the medical agenda of this poor and backward region), was said to be 18 (not 18,000, but eighteen) per 100,000. Obviously there seems to have been a severe under-reporting problem, which, when remedied would suggest several hundred percent higher incidence of thyroid cancers - all looking for something to blame it on. Of course Chernobyl was the obvious scapegoat. As Jaworowski noted ' I doubt that Chernobyl thyroid cancers are caused by Chernobyl'. I think I would concur.
As at least one of the UN medical specialists noted, the people of Chernobyl may well prove to have much better health outcomes as a result of Chernobyl, with all the medical attention they are now receiving, than had Chernobyl never happened. This is the reality, not a shrug-off or any attempt to play the accident down. I guess this is somewhat like the Japanese bomb survivors, who appear to be in unusually good health and are living longer than the control populations against which they have been compared for the last few decades. However, with the mindset of a few in the region that liberal application of Vodka is a radiation antidote, I think that there may be some other health problems on the horizon that will probably get blamed on Chernobyl too.
However, these other subjects get us into rather more erudite waters that are outside of the scope of the article I wrote.
Ken Regelson 10.12.03
Before embarking on any kind of major nuclear building spree, we should do a careful, unbiased appraisal of the current, and likely soon realities of renewable energy.
Unfortunately, I am not unbiased on renewables. Even so I offer the following…
In Colorado, we are seeing wind farms installed with 20 year power purchase agreements (PPA) at 2.5 cents per kWh. Even adding back in the roughly 1.8 cents per kWh for the wind production tax credit (PTC), this yields 4.3 cents per kWh. One should note that the PTC only lasts 10 years so the unsubsidized net costs are something less then 4.3 cents over the 20 years of the PPA. These contracts have no adders or modifiers for fuel costs nor wastes nor greenhouse gas charges since wind uses no fuel, produces no wastes from operation, and produces almost no greenhouse gasses.
Wind is very popular polling in the range of 60 to 97% in favor depending on who is polled. Generally, the more people know about wind the more favorable they are. (1)
Wind bird and bat issues exist, but are not large. Several studies have shown about 1 bird killed per turbine per year.
In separate utility studies (utilities that had wind) the additional costs for dispatch and backup for wind varied from “negligible” to 0.5 cents per kWh. Utilities such as Xcel and PacifiCorp view backup as not much of a problem until wind goes above 20% of total generation capacity.
Wind power was at 5000 MW for the US for 2002. It is projected to grow in the US by 1400 MWs in 2003 (about 30% growth). Worldwide, wind has grown at an average 32% per year for the last 5 years. (2) The 6400 MWs of US wind produce roughly the same number of kWhs per year as two 1000 MW nuclear plants.
As with all mass-produced items, wind power costs will continue to fall as manufacturers and utilities gain experience.
Currently, PV (photovoltaics or solar panels) is only cost-effective in niche applications. But if growth rates of manufacturing for PV continue at their current, worldwide, 25% per year rate, we could see cost-competitive PV in quantity in 10 to 15 years. Much sooner cost-competition is also possible. Several companies will double, or nearly double, their PV manufacturing capacity this year. (3)
Wind and PV have very low terrorist security risks. It is difficult to see how renewable technologies could be fashioned into WMD or WMP (Weapons of Mass Panic: conventional “dirty” bombs made from nuclear waste), or any weapon at all that a baseball bat wouldn’t do better. An attack on wind farms or PV installed on homes and businesses is pointless – damage and news coverage would be limited.
The impact of wind and PV failures do not extend beyond the immediate area where the failure occurred – they are small and achieve reliability through quantity. While the reliability of large fossil and nuclear plants is admirable given their complexity, they do go out for all kinds of reasons (fish in coolant inlet valves, fires…). When a 1000 MW plant goes out unexpectedly it is major trouble.
Wind and PV are easy to insure and do not require acts of congress (at least for the US nuclear industry) to obtain insurance.
At current growth rates, wind is doubling production, and PV is doubling manufacturing, every 3 years or less. Since the materials needed for PV and wind are easily available, there is no reason that this rapid growth cannot be sustained or even increased.
Companies and industries that ignore or discount rapid growth in competing industries have not done well historically. Contempt for customers’ or voters’ opinions, whether those opinions are based in fact or fantasy or something in between, is rarely associated with long-term success.
Wind is here now. PV, while taking a long time to really get going, is growing quickly. Wind and PV are not perfect and would have trouble generating all of our power needs – at least until a viable backup method exists. Twenty percent of our power appears to be no problem. Smart companies are learning all they can about these technologies and seeing how they can profit from them.
(1) Wind is popular with the public. http://www.wapa.gov/es/greennews/2003/Oct13'03.htm (Several articles on polls in Nebraska, Europe, and Australia – long web page, scroll down). http://www.agriculture.com/default.sph/AgNews.class?FNC=sideBarMore__ANewsindex_html___49772 (Farmers).
(2) US and global installed wind. http://www.awea.org/pubs/documents/globalmarket2003.pdf
(3) Rapid growth in PV. http://cnniw.yellowbrix.com/pages/cnniw/Story.nsp?story_id=42407074&ID=cnniw&scategory=Energy%3AAlternative&
John K. Sutherland 10.13.03
Ken, We are all biased to some degree. I am biased in favor of having unlimited, cheap energy for everyone who needs it. I don't particularly care how it is provided, just so long as it is there and is assured to be there in all conditions and at all times. This is called social survival. Given a choice of energy sources, I will generally choose hydro, nuclear and coal in that order, because of costs, safety and availability. I also have an open mind. Persuade me, with data that I can verify, that you have a better energy choice and I will espouse it, even if it is wind or solar, or extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers (Dean Swift). Unfortunately, wind, like solar has its uses, but feeding electricity to the grid is not one of them.
However, wind is useful in those remote areas where there is need, and the grid does not reach. It is useful for pumping water and charging batteries, where reliability is not an issue, and for not much else. When the electrical grid reached across the prairies in the 20s and 30s, the approximately 6 million windmills, were mostly allowed to die in favor of progress, efficiency, costs and convenience. It is a reality that when the massive wind energy subsidies, (greater than for other sources of energy) such as tax write-offs, expire, then so do many of the wind farms. I am sure a few may remember Livingston, Montana, which was once promoted as likely to become the wind energy capital of the world. There is a continuous birth of legislation which coerces utilities to adopt a certain percentage of renewable energy into their portfolios, or they would probably never choose to do it. They are obliged to buy the power and to provide the use of the power lines to transmit it, while generally being denied the right to manage the programs. The advantages to private developers are significant. Wind-power developers are allowed to write off their entire capital costs in a very few years (about 5) with accelerated write-downs, and also receive a production tax credit during the first ten years of operation. An entrepreneur's dream. Increasingly, some states have 'Renewable Portfolio Standards' which require that some defined quantity of electricity sold to the public by the utility, must be produced from purchased, non-hydro renewables. It’s usually a case of buy high and sell low.
Percentage growth of wind and solar use is grossly misleading. Any addition to a very small base supply will come across as a massive percentage increase even though the actual addition is piddling. For the major fuels, percentage growth is piddling because of the large power base, even though the overall additions are much greater than wind or solar by far.
Costs are another misleading issue. Wind power costs, in the very best locations (of which there are few), are dishonestly suggested as being typical of all facilities. They are not. Wind power electricity costs are - on average - several times greater than those from fossil fuels or nuclear energy, and they cannot provide the power needed, as the wind is unreliable and intermittent.
Operational reliability is a fatal issue. Average power production seems to be between 17 and 25% of installed capacity, but averages hide too much when one discovers that sometimes there may be no wind generation whatsoever, for days at a stretch or where the facilities must be closed down in ice storms and during severe windy or extreme cold weather, or suffer destruction. Even the most noisy wind proponents (proponents only as long as others fund and build them, but would never build one for themselves, as they are too expensive) carefully evade the obvious specific local questions of how windy? How reliable? How many windmills? How big? Where? At what cost? Wind can provide power only when the wind blows steadily, so you had better know how many windy hours and days there are, what strength the wind (and steady or gusty) and what is equally important - how many days there are without wind - when your windmills will ALL be out of action over very large areas.
Without steady and sustained winds, the whole situation is a nightmare for the utility, as Denmark consistently demonstrates. This begs the obvious question of what reliable base-loaded power back-up must be available to pick up ALL of the essential load when the thousands of windmills are not operating? Nuclear, Coal, Hydro, Gas and Oil of course! Common sense says that since you must put your money into building reliable facilities anyway, most of which can produce energy as required, on demand, regardless of wind or weather, why do you need to throw any money into windmills in the first place? Your sensible power supply margin of up to 20% for maintenance, breakdowns and very hot or very cold spells had better also be reliable. In other words, for every megawatt of wind power, you need a megawatt of reliable supply spinning in the background. This more than doub
John K. Sutherland 10.13.03
In other words, for every megawatt of wind power, you need a megawatt of reliable supply spinning in the background. This more than doubles the capital cost for that megawatt of electricity; a cost no one in their right mind, and concerned about social health and survival, would tolerate, if they were aware of how that money could be much more effectively spent in hundreds of more socially beneficial directions.
You play down the bird issue (1 bird kill per turbine per year - another evil of averaging), but when those birds happen to be the members of a diminishing group of condors, buzzards, eagles or other protected species, what happened to environmentalists concerns then?
Why not address human safety too? With millions of small windmills in remote and elevated locations subject to extreme weather, I know that human fatalities getting to them and maintaining them and the power lines, in all seasons, but when their power is most needed, are very significant. We are in the infancy of collecting these data today, but amputations and falls were major accidents in the days of the Prairie windmills. This is why dispassionate evaluation of wind energy risks places them relatively high on the ranking, and well above nuclear or gas. You are right, when you say that terrorists have no need to bother with them. Windmills will kill enough maintenance people all by themselves. Terrorists would have no need to bother with them anyway - they don't work about 80% of the time (on average), and we would never notice they had gone unless we had foolishly neglected the need for a reliable power base from nuclear, coal, hydro, gas, or oil supply.
James Hopf 10.13.03
Perhaps you're right about the Thyroid cancers, and the effects of enhanced monitoring/diagnotics. I'd always assumed that the 2,000 figure was right. Once again, however, due to the highly treatable nature of that specific disease, it will result in few deaths in any event. Besides, if we're still concerned, just pass out potassium-iodide pills. How many types of toxic-release events have effects that can be almost completely alleviated by simply taking a pill?
One more thing, I forgot to mention earlier that the official, long-term studies (UNSCEAR) of Chernobyl health effects have not found any evidence of increased rates of any type of cancer other than thyroid. Thus, no measurable effect has been found for any of the released nuclides other than iodine-131. Also, due to the long (~30 yr. plus) half-lives of all of the other important fallout nuclides, significant exposures (doses) from these nuclides only occurs after living in a contaminated area over a long time period. Thus, if they have any effect at all, their effect clearly doesn't occur over a short time period (of exposure).
All of this evidence (and facts) makes a mockery of the all the hand-wringing over public evacuation plans at US plants (like Indian Point). The fact is that rapid, short term evacuation after a nuclear plant meltdown is NOT at all necessary. These requirements should be removed!! The most that one has to do is sheltering, along with, perhaps, taking KI. The fact that we keep saying its necessary misinformes and scares the public. Most of the public literally believes that they will DIE, within a short time, from radiation poisoning, if they do not get out of the area in a very short time. This belief is astonishingly far from the truth, and the fact that the govt/media continue to allow them to believe it is scandalous. The fact is that NO short term deaths will occur, even without any evacuation, and even any long-term increase in cancer risk is quite small, if not non-existent!
James Hopf 10.13.03
I also support wind power, and other renewables, but with some reservation. John had said that he tends to favor hydro, nuclear, and coal. I differ in one respect. I favor renewables, hydro, and nuclear. I am NOT a fan of coal, given its very large external costs (health effects) as well as its CO2 emissions. My preferred future is one that contains a significant fraction of renewables, that uses a substantial amount of gas (but only uses it in "intelligent" applications for which only gas is effective, like cogeneration, distributed generation, and peaking power generation), but which also relies on nuclear for most centralized, base load generation.
I agree that wind power's potential may be greatest on the Great Plains. I may believe that costs are that low in certain such locations. There is also ample space, and wind may get along well with other, parallel uses of the land like ranching, etc... There may be less of a scenery-despoiling issue on the open planes. However, as I've often said elsewhere, wind power's main issue is not going to be cost, or even a limited number of sites. It's going to be intermittantcy. (I give more of my views on wind power's potential in my response to the recent, Energy Pulse "Unfirm Renewables" article.)
For example, you stated that wind capacity could be as high as ~20% without significant problems from the intermittantcy. If you did mean "capacity" (as opposed to annual generation), I am in complete agreement. In fact, that is the exact number I came up with in my own analysis in my response to the other article. Basically, the peak wind power capacity can go as high as our current generation fraction from expensive fuel (i.e., gas/oil) plants before the imtermittantcy becomes a real issue.
Throttling back gas and oil plants (thus saving the fuel costs ONLY), may come close to making economic sense, under todays, higher gas prices. (I calculated that at a gas cost of $5/MBTU, wind power would have to be 3.0-3.5 cents/kW-hr to make sense, whereas you just quoted a price of 4.3 cents (w/o subsidy) in the Great Plains). However, if wind farms generate power when only coal, hydro, or nuclear plants are running, the avoided variable (fuel) costs are almost nothing (~1 cent/kW-hr or less).
The problem is that, with a ~30% capacity factor, even if we did have a wind capacity that is ~20% of the total, the overall generation fraction is only ~6%. By 2020, however, overall power demand will increase by ~30-50%.
Whereas I recognize that renewables (especially wind) will soon start to make a significant contribution to our overall generation, it will still not soon produce all, or even most, of our power. It's not that I (and many of us more moderate types) do not support renewables. What concerns us is that we get a sense that a lot of the "environmentalists" and/or renewables enthusiasts seem to believe that conservation and renewables are able to meet all or most of our future energy needs, right now. We fear that, based upon this belief, these groups will adamantly oppose any new traditional energy projects, or any kind of investments in the traditional sources. I believe that anyone who believes as such underestimates the problems facing us.
Even if wind is exploited to the maximum possible capacity (before intermittantcy becomes a real issue), the total amount of traditional energy will still have to expand significantly, with more of the additional generation coming traditional sources than from renewables. Add to this the fact that there is limited potential for hydro growth, and that nuclear seems to dead in the water, and the result is that most of the increase will come from fossil fuels, coal in particular (due to the growing natural gas supply and cost issues).
You say that the potential of renewables removes the need for a significant expansion of nuclear. I disagree. Due to the issues discussed above, most projections of CO2 emissions (such as those issues by the EIA) estimate a 50% increase in CO2 emissions by 2020!! Even under the very most rosy renewables projections, and the most conservative (low) estimates of power demand growth, traditional (non-renewable) generation will have to increase substantially by 2020.
This increase can either come from fossil fuels or nuclear. Given the supply limitations of gas, it may boil down to a choice between coal or nuclear. Basically, it will boil down to a decision, by society, about how much it cares about reducing CO2 emissions, and emissions of other pollutants. Under our current (don't care at all) policy, coal is somewhat cheaper than nuclear, and that's all there is too it. Thus, utilities will choose coal over nuclear for all new, non-gas generation. On the other hand, if we do decide that we care about these issues, and if we put any, ANY kinds of limitations on CO2 emissions (as well as requiring substantial reductions other emissions), then our total
James Hopf 10.13.03
...then our total generation from coal will be forced to decline (let alone increasing, as it's doing now). This will REQUIRE a major increase in nuclear power.
I'm not going to say that it is "impossible" to reduce CO2 emissions without a major nuclear expansion, but I will say that it will be extremely expensive, much more expensive than if we allow the nuclear option. People keep casting the issue as a choice between renewables and nuclear, and which is more desirable. I'm saying that we're clearly going to need BOTH. Nobody is suggesting we choose nuclear and abandon renewables. Almost all people agree that renewables should be expoited to the maximum practical extent. NO expert believes that they can provide all of our future energy. It's not about a choice between renewables and nuclear, its all about the choice between nuclear and fossil fuels, coal in particular. We're gonna have to pick one. Which is it?
Len Gould 10.14.03
Categories of generation in order of usefulness to society: 1) Baseload 24/7 waste heat employed 2) Baseload 24/7 3) Spinning reserve 24/7 4) Peaking available 8/6 5) Ofline reserve dispatchable 24/7 6) Intermittent supplied to grid 7) Continuous used internally, offpeak excess supplied to grid 8) Intermittent used internally, offpeak excess supplied to grid
Unfortunately, the most popular renewables (eg wind, distributed solar) are in category 7 and 8, and no amount of technological development or volume manufacture is going to change that. Developers/Installers of these systems shoud be paying for the privelege of using the grid for backup, rather than being subsidized.
Category 1 should be encouraged toward Nuclear or zero emission coal ASAP. 2 and 3 should be "Hydro if minimal impact", Nuclear or zero emission coal, 4 and 5 should be any of above or nat gas last resort, 6 7 and 8 should be anything wanted but penalized financially if exceeds percentages stated.
Thats logically how society "might" get through the next 50 years while nat. gas disappears without too much more global warming. Strange how all subsidy incentives are directed toward development of catagories 7 and 8 (wind and solar) or completely illogical choices such as Solid Oxide Fuel Cells which can only use natural gas and must run 24/7 because their seals can't survive shutdown cycles. Also strange how the "free market" in electricity has effectively killed development of any other system in favour of natural gas because it is cheap (in the short term) and the turbine development has been heavily subsidized.
Nuclear power and zero emissions coal should be directly evaluated on a level regulatory field, then exploited in a common sense manner. IMMEDiately. Evaluation of new thinking in nuclear power must begin now. H2 generation, either electrolysis or thermal, deep underground reactors in isolated locations, SuperHighVolatge DC transmission. Else future generations will never forgive us.
John K. Sutherland 10.14.03
James, Popping KI pills has health consequences all by itself. The hazards of medically unsupervised administration of KI may exceed the perceived risks from exposure to radio-iodines.
Len, Your observations and figures are very informative and ruthlessly analytical. I agree with you totally, but I am afraid that many of those who have already bought into the emotional wind/solar hype will let the logic bounce off them. Thank you.
Rodney Adams 10.16.03
John: Thank you for your insightful article and for your well reasoned responses to the comments.
Have you ever considered that there might be something besides irrationality or hatred of progress that motivates people to participate in environmental causes and to donate money to vocally anti-development groups?
There is a substantial body of powerful interests that are threatened by the possibilities of clean, cheap, safe, abundant energy. After all, if nuclear energy really is clean, safe, cheap, and abundant, why would anyone want to purchase dirty, dangerous, expensive, and limited coal, oil or gas?
Just imagine the effects on the prices and annual sales volumes for those commodities if a nuclear construction boom began again.
The balance between supply and demand for oil and gas is quite delicate; it only takes a swing of 1-2% before prices begin to react and if the imbalance is maintained for a few months, the overall change in price can be quite dramatic. Just a couple of years ago, natural gas was selling for less than $2.00 per MMBTU. Since then, we had a cold winter or two, a few additional gas fired power plants, and a slight drop in production due to the fact that low prices slow exploration and now gas sells for well in excess of $5.00 per MMBTU IN THE FALL. Who knows what it will do this winter?
There have been many beneficiaries of that change. I count myself as one of them - my home happens to be all electric and my local supplier is mostly coal and nuclear so the rise in price had little effect on my cost of living. However, I owned stock in a couple of different natural gas producers and tripled my investment in about 14 months before selling.
Oil is a similar story. Relatively high prices have led to record profits at major producers. Companies like Exxon-Mobile, Chevron-Texaco and others are gleefully reporting PROFITS of more than a billion dollars per month to their stockholders. It is pretty easy to see the direct relationship between high prices and profitability - just visit their web sites and look for their investor information sections. They have historical numbers which can be compared to Energy Information Agency reports for historical fuel costs.
Bottom line - think means, motive, and opportunity when you think about who may be providing the funds to those well heeled environmental groups that you mentioned. In the paraphrased words of Sun Tzu - who happens to be on most business school reading lists - the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
The enemy of high energy prices is clean, cheap, abundant energy.
Oh, by the way, if you visit the fossil fuel producer web sites looking for investor information, you might also explore their information about the causes that they support and the foundations that they have established to help. I have found such research to be quite interesting and a bit contrary to the idea that environmentalists are irrational beings who simply hate progress.
Just remember, the original Luddites were not really opposed to technology in general, they were skilled weavers that were being displaced from relatively stable and lucrative careers by very specific types of machinery.
Rod Adams Editor Atomic Insights www.atomicinsights.com
William Quapp 10.20.03
Jim Hopf: Good info. Contact me at Bill@Quapp.com
Davin Chown 10.29.03
Well, this is an interesting debate and having just spent a couple of weeks in Europe dissecting the mess left by the nuclear industry I am puzzeled by this article. Practical reality and the content of this article seem to be miles apart. Perhaps we should should start solving the problem of bankrupt nuclear companies and the metter of a UK 43 billion Pound clean up bill, and then re-look at some of the assertions made in the article. Once we solve this interesting challenge, then lets get reall and add up the investment costs and look at the choices made in the past.
Progress and development doesn't mean trying to reinvent solutions that have left a 43billion Pound mess. It means moving on and finding more progressive solutions - like moving away from polluting surces of energy generation as a starter. Perhaps the words "flat earth society" now take on a new meaning when we look at the attempts of the nuclear fraternity to punt solutions that already have left a dark legacy for us to clean up. Maybe a version of the often repeated definition of insanity applies here - using the same technologies/solutions/people that created the problem in the first place and expecting to come up with a solution.
Sorry for being so pointed about this but its time to move on from punting bankrupt (literally) nuclear solutions.
mauk mcamuk 10.30.03
Dear David Chown,
The UK built quite a lot of a very early nuclear reactor design called the MAGNOX. A MAGNOX is completely different from most commercial power reactors operating today, as it uses a graphite moderator instead of water, is cooled by carbon dioxide rather than water, and uses a (flammable!) magnesium cladding for its (flammable!) metallic uranium fuel.
MAGNOX's are old, and frankly should be retired as fast as the UK can shut the deathraps off. I am pro-nuclear, but those things are just a terrible design. As bad as the RBMK the USSR built, in my opinion.
(Of course, the sensible thing to do would then be to recore all those sites with brand-new and vastly safer Westinghouse AP-1000's, but the English seem determined to be dumb about this issue.
Oh, well, once they start missing Kyoto goals maybe they'll wake up.)
So, looking at the awful mess in the UK and extrapolating that to the vast majority of the reactors in use today is simply and completely wrong.
Here is a page with basic explanations of reactor types, kindly read away:
Thank you for your excellent articles! You are a voice of rationality we sorely need.
That said, I have a thought to present for integrating wind power into a next generation energy system.
Today, powerplants are tightly coupled to the electrical grid. but if you examine in detail the nuclear plant, you see that the reactor itself is merely producing steam. With all the discussion of the "hydrogen economy" these days, we are going to need a non-carbon source of hydrogen.
The logical place to get it is by using nuclear power to crack water.
Looking at an AP-1000 or EPR class reactor, lets assume we colocate a high-temperature electrolysis plant with the turbine. We can now divert all the steam output of the reactor to the turbine when demand is high, and when demand is low, we can send some steam to the high temp electrolysis system as feedstock and use the remaining power to spin the turbine for electricity to crack it.
This allows us to "load follow" to the grid without varying the reactor power. We simply divert the output to where it is best used at the time.
Now, lets further assume that we have a windfarm on the same grid as this dual output nuclear plant. The windfarm will of course vary wildly as the weather changes. but, because we can change the output of the nuclear plant from electricity to hydrogen and back essentially at will, we can easily keep the grid happy.
If the windfarm is offline at peak electrical demand, the nuclear plant produces electricity at full bore.
If the windfarm is producing well at peak demand, the nuclear plant also produces some electricity, but cracks some hydrogen at the same time.
if the windfarm is producing at maximum rate when demand is dead low, the nuclear plant is producing almost zero electricity and instead is sending large amounts of steam to the hydrogen plant, and the hydrogen plant essentially runs the grid in reverse, soaking up the output of the windfarm into a more storable form, the hydrogen.
By moving to this sort of design, we gain flexibility, cleanliness, abundance, redundancy, and storage, all in one fell swoop.
Here are a couple of pages about high temperature electrolysis:
David Chown: I believe my article did deal with the practical reality of pollution, environmental impact, safety and costs of using energy as I compared and contrasted the significant sources. I am not responsible for the political idiocy that goes on in many jurisdictions, where it is politically correct and politically expected to oppose anything that might lose votes no matter how sensible it might be. Politiicans will inevitably oppose nuclear power until the public - their bosses - either butt up against energy shortages, massive price swings, disadvantaged industry, or some other reality of life, but until then, they seem to get more votes by opposing it. I wouldn't discount nuclear in the U.K, just yet. They got rid of that idiot Meacher, and there are now some voices that appear to have a measure of sanity to them.
Robert Booth 11.26.03
John, Thank you for the interesting and comprehensive summary of one of our more controversial generation options. It appears that in your cost comparison to other technologies you have omitted the ever so daunting capital cost factor. Would you care to comment regarding how the resulting levelized power cost for a new nuclear project would compare with a modern, 600 MW combined cycle plant at $600/kW, 6200 Btu/kWh LHV heat rate, etc?
Robert Booth, PE Principal, BAI
mauk mcamuk 11.26.03
Dear Robert Booth,
I am not the esteemed author, but I will endeavor to point you to resources to answer your questions nonetheless.
Capital cost is a very important factor of nuclear plant construction, and the often-repeated costs of such plants as Vogtle serve as a cautionary tale of why that is so.
But, to be blunt, that was then.
We have MUCH better technology available to us for construction, both in the form of planning and in the design, and even in the tools themselves. (Cranes today are so large that entire Reactor Pressure Vessels can be lifted into place in mere days, rather than being built-up on site.)
A comprehensive paper of a moderne Generation 3+ design is at the location cited below:
The economic stuff begins at page 21 if you want to skip the tedious recitation of safety factors. :) In a nutshell, the AP-1000 is projected to produce power at 3.2 to 3.6 cents per kilowatt/hour. Is that good?
The AP-1000 is designed for 1117 Mwe output with a plant design life of a whopping 60 years. Fuel cost is a very small percentage of the cost of nuclear power, especially compared to natural gas, so once the plant is paid for, how many decades of nearly free power do you want to shoot for? The AP-1000 will probably wind up with a plant lifetime of 80 years or longer, assuming a 20 year extension like we are seeing with current plants.
If you don't like the AP-1000, may I urge you to consider the Canadian ACR, or the European EPR, or even the Japanese ABWR. All of these designs are very competitive.
Recently built nuclear power plants in Asia show it is very possible to build nuclear at competitive price points, without cost overruns, and within aggressive time schedules.
What exactly are you afraid of? A lack of volatility in energy prices? :)
TERRY MEYER 11.27.03
I have to agree that this has been a great forum that raises many questions.
If nuclear waste is so safe, why not get it fully insured? If nuclear power is so cheap, why are the fuel and (limited) insurance subsidized?
How long is nuclear radiation counted as such before it’s accepted as “background” radiation and no longer counted as nuclear radiation? Just because the nuclear industry only counts immediate deaths as nuke-caused, where is the quantification of premature deaths caused indirectly by increased background radiation from nukes? Perhaps there isn’t any such quantification since it would expose more myths of the nuclear industry? Is the unsupported attack on LNT supposed to suffice? Even if nuclear plant radiation is not as bad as medical radiation, does that make it okay? Is there no chance the medical nuke industry has deceived itself even worse than the power nuke industry has? Does the author not know that aspirin and heavy metals leach from the human body at different rates and therefore could have differring cumulative effects? Doesn’t the author realize that fossil emissions will stop killing soon after their sources are decommissioned, but that wonderful nuclear waste will require stewardship for tens of thousands of years? Blaming environmentalists for the higher death rates of non-nuclear sources stinks like the red herring it is. The Greens also are trying to breach dams and stop coal mining and petroleum drilling, so hiding nukes behind them doesn’t count for much. Just because caffeine is bad is no reason to go on a smoking spree. The Heart Association is against both just as the eco-elitists are against coal AND nukes.
While nuclear is statistically defined to be the most safe, it is only statistically. Statistically it’s safer to wear a crash helmet while driving, but if the helmet jacknives your neck during a low impact bump the statistic will be small consolation from the permanent confines of your wheelchair.
The author’s extrapolations seem to assume perfect, accident-free handling of wastes. How bad does the accident have to be before even the author would rethink his stand?
>> James Hopf10.10.03...How is it that they haven't figured out that whereas the effects of fossil fuels are real, tangible, measurable, ongoing, and a matter of historical record, nuclear power's "problems" have always been speculation (from people with overly-active imaginations) and nothing more? << The devil we know versus the devil we don’t? Perhaps we’ve seen the worst that fossils can do, but we only have speculation by the nuke pushers on the worst that nukes can do? Since speculation is speculation and nuke pusher speculation is no less speculative than anyone else’s, perhaps we choose the more conservative speculation? How is it that the nuke pushers fail to see that their assurances are no more reassuring than the assurances of other pollution pushers before Santa Barbara, the Amoco Cadiz, Love Canal, and the Exxon Valdez? How is it that the nuke pushers fail to see that their arrogance is no different from the arrogance of the eco-elitists? >> About now there are probably several readers hoping that…this entire looming energy scenario…was just a bad dream. Fat chance. It's here... Get used to it.<< See what I mean? Neither camp wants anyone to have an opinion except for members of their club. Of course you can’t be a member of either club if you hold opinions that differ from the dogma of the club. Perhaps a little less arrogance from the nuke pushers would allow them to allow nukes to HELP the grid and then there might be a little less opposition to them.
I have been impressed with the author’s reasoned responses. I loved Mauk McAmuk’s nuke/wind/hydrogen plant idea. I don’t know if it’s too capital intensive to compete with other investments, such as consumer credit, but I’m all for any source system that can help the grid instead of just being a burden like all nukes are now.
mauk mcamuk 11.28.03
Dear TERRY MEYER,
I will attempt to answer some of your questions.
You asked: "If nuclear waste is so safe, why not get it fully insured?"
I am not sure what you mean. Hazard insurance for nuclear waste? Why not get insurance for the CO2 spewing out of our coal-fired and gas-fired plants? For that matter, why not insure landfills?
This also begs the questions of what "nuclear waste" even is. In the mind of an anti-nuclear ideologue anything that has beenin the presence of nuclear matrial is classed as waste, never mind if the classification makes any sense or not. Most of the materials in REAL nuclear waste are not waste, and should be recycled and put to use.
This then leads us to a hugely complex topic, the nuclear fuel cycle, and frankly I am uninterested in discussing it with the ignorant.
Read that .pdf for more info. If you still wish to discuss it after educating yourself, I will be happy to do so.
You said: "If nuclear power is so cheap, why are the fuel and (limited) insurance subsidized? "
If wind power is so abundant, why is it directly subsidized? Why is solar power so hugely subsidized?
Fossil fuel has enjoyed centuries of economic subsidies which contnue to this day. Nuclear power is the first major source of power we have which accounts for its waste stream.
Again, this is a complicated topic.
Refer to that chart for a well conducted, if limited, accounting of the TOTAL costs of electricity, taking into account the health effects, etc, of fossil fuels, wind power, hydro, and nuclear.
Note the crushing advantage enjoyed by nuclear, wind, and hydro. Note further that this study does NOT take into account CO2 costs, assuming theyturn out to be real.
We already pay those external costs, we just don't pay them in the power bill.
If you wish to dispute the ExternE figures, good luck. It is a very solid study.
You said: "How long is nuclear radiation counted as such before it’s accepted as “background” radiation and no longer counted as nuclear radiation?"
Forever? Nuclear radiation is nuclear radiation. Just because we call it "sunlight" doesn't change that fact. I suspect you are talking about man-made radiation, though, and in that case, this is a third enormously complex topic. I don't feel like loading you down with reading until your head explodes, so please just take my word on that.
You said: "Just because the nuclear industry only counts immediate deaths as nuke-caused, where is the quantification of premature deaths caused indirectly by increased background radiation from nukes? "
Oh good grief. "Premature deaths" are a result of using the desperately flawed LNT model. The only good thing about the LNT is that it is easy to use, so lazy beaurocrats like it. It is not representative of the real world.
You said: "Is the unsupported attack on LNT supposed to suffice?"
Have you ever heard of hormesis?
Below are links to an few accesible articles about the phenomenon:
This is "unsupported?" Note the large lists of citations. Looks pretty well supported to me.
You said: "Even if nuclear plant radiation is not as bad as medical radiation, does that make it okay?"
Er, YES. Radiation is used to treat many cancers, giving people better, longer lives. Are you seriously saying we should stop using radiation therapy?
You said: "Is there no chance the medical nuke industry has deceived itself even worse than the power nuke industry has?"
I suppose it's possible. Is it possible the medical lung industry is wrong about Back Lung disease, directly attributed to coal mining?
You said: "Doesn’t the author realize that fossil emissions will stop killing soon after their sources are decommissioned, but that wonderful nuclear waste will require stewardship for tens of thousands of years?"
If global warming is real, I assure you, we will be dealing with it for a very, very long time after we stop emitting fossil carbon. As for the nuclear waste, it depends on how you define nuclear waste. Have you read the paper I posted above on the topic?
You said: "While nuclear is statistically defined to be the most safe, it is only statistically."
You're not joking, are you. Okay, I see this is a waste of effort. You believe what you wish to believe, never mind those pesky "facts" and "statistics."
John K. Sutherland 11.28.03
Mauk, Thank you for responding so wisely and well to both Robert Booth and Terry Meyer and for providing such a wealth of good references.
Unfortunately there are none so blind as those who will not see. I have endeavoured to counter Terry's radiation phobia and fixation before, in one of Paolo Fornaciari's articles: 'Is the Nuclear Waste Disposal a Problem that cannot be solved?' (response 5.6.03) but it seems to be about as worthwhile as trying to teach a fish to ride a bike.
Terry's abhorence of statistics blinds him to the meaning of all of the many simple, revealing and comparative numbers (statistics!) I presented in the tables and graphs, and which answer all of his objections if he would just either try to recognize what they are telling him, or would dig deeper into them while not losing site of the needed perspective on all energy related issues. The one over-riding fact of all, however, is that there is nothing more societally dangerous than not having sufficient energy at your fingertips, no matter what the source, when and as you need it. Try operating an industry, or your employment and life on unreliable, unaffordable, unassured or unavailable-when-needed sources of energy. We got a flavour of it when the grid went down on August 14th. Homi Bhabha (India) captured it beautifully when he stated 'No energy is more dangerous than no energy'. Its gentle play with words, provokes some consideration of what he meant. Indhira Gandhi (India) also stated another gem when she pointed out that 'poverty is the greatest polluter'. Ignorance is also a massive scourge in any society.
We in our pampered society lose sight of the fact that everything we have accomplished in society is predicated upon our abundance and use of energy, despite the anxious wailings of the noisy negativists. Energy is Wealth. Wealth is Health. And to close the syllogism, Energy is Health. We lose track of this at our peril.
John K. Sutherland 11.28.03
Robert, although Mauk responded well, there are other points that can be made.
Yes, capital costs are the main stumbling block with any utility deciding to build new nuclear facilities in this country, especially during an interval of escalating interest rates, high inflation, and unwarranted and frivolous court challenges by unaccountable individuals. These challenges were made with the express intention of delaying construction and licensing for several years through actions by - as another writer to these pages noted (Somsel) - even a little old lady in tennis shoes. Politicians who can count (votes anyway, if nothing else) can play those same - lack of accountability - games too, as the experience at Shoreham clearly demonstrated.
The same difficulties do not hold true in other countries such as Japan, France, Finland, and many others. Why not? It can best be summed up in France's position: 'No coal, no oil, no gas, no choice.' And France is now a major electricity supplier to most surrounding countries, many of whom scorn nuclear, while they are happy to buy its cheap electricity. Japan's energy situation is still precarious, (whose isn't?) but it's a lot less than it would be without nuclear. Nothing is more hazardous to society, its future and its progress, than being without needed energy. These countries also show that although capital costs may be high, the follow-on operating and very low fuel costs in their markets, ensure that in a matter of a decade or so - depending upon interest costs and electricity pricing - they can more than compete with any other source of energy except hydro. This however requires a long-term view of nuclear's obvious advantages, rather than trying to prematurely close off the discussion by considering only capital costs and then trying to stifle any further acknowledgment that uranium fuel cost is a fraction of that of coal, oil or gas for the same energy.
The Utility Data Institute data in the figure of my paper showed the relative costs of using the significant fuels for electricity production. With the license extensions being given, these nuclear cost advantages over oil and gas, and perhaps even coal, can only increase unless their fuel costs take a major nosedive.
Making comparable assumptions about interest rates, capital costs, amortization times, electricity pricing and market stability, one does not have to be a Rhodes scholar to see that nuclear can even trump the low capital cost, high gas cost of your examples, given enough time and usually within the first license interval. Anyone familiar with household mortgages can work some simple examples making realistic assumptions about payback times, capital costs, fuel and operating costs, interest rates and income from the sale of electricity, and recognize what is happening. After that point, then all of the advantages accrue to the low fuel cost nuclear power.
Fortunately the U.S. still has energy choices, but many of them are turning sour (coal, oil, gas), and could rapidly be jeopardized or closed off by the actions of unscientific international protocols (Kyoto), of vote-buying politicians, mendacious environmentalists, or even just a true appreciation of the overall, and unaccounted social costs (health effects from pollution) of using many of them.
Rodney Adams 11.30.03
John and others in the forum:
About six weeks ago I posted a comment in this thread that I thought would generate at least a little discussion, but no one has addressed it, so I will try again.
Let's assume that all of John's technical analysis about the relative benefits of various energy forms are correct. (I happen to believe that is true.)
If so, is it not logical to determine that the fossil fuel industry has by far the most to lose if the rest of the world begins to wake up to see the incredible advantages of building more nuclear power generators?
Since many "environmental" groups receive a large portion of their budget from established energy companies and the foundations that they have created, it is not also logical to wonder if their continuous opposition to nuclear technologies might have something to do with helping the fossil fuel industry to remain in business as long as possible?
I have found that most groups that oppose what most of us consider to be progress trace a large portion of their operating budget to interests that have stakes in maintaining the status quo. Small shop owners oppose Wal-Mart, people that own developed water front property oppose new waterfront development, corn producers oppose new production in neighboring states or countries, and energy suppliers oppose new sources that would have the effect of shifting the supply demand balance in favor of supply, thus reducing prices.
Rod Adams www.atomicinsights.com www.atomicengines.com
John K. Sutherland 12.3.03
Rodney Adams, You are correct in many of your observations. Once the enviros have picked off one industry, then they go after the next most vulnerable, even if it is one that may have funded their efforts. The fossil fuel groups often 'buy off' these groups to gain some breathing room without realising that they are appeasing thugs and social terrorizers, and providing them with funds and encouragement to kill them next. It is a losing game and the sooner they wake up the better. Give these social parasites - which is what they are - no quarter.
As Churchill pointed out; an appeaser is someone who feeds a crocodile, in the hope that it will eat him last.
TERRY MEYER 1.11.04
>>Hazard insurance for nuclear waste? Why not get insurance for the CO2 spewing out of our coal-fired and gas-fired plants? For that matter, why not insure landfills?<<
Does CO2 emit radiation above background levels?
I am in favor of Mauk’s proposals, but getting insurance is not the point. The INABILITY to obtain insurance is my point. If landfills are not already self-insured, I’m sure insurance could be purchased. The point is that there is another huge industry that knows its industry very well and does not see nuclear waste as being as benign as the nuke pushers would lead us to believe.
Just because I’m against pituitary cancer doesn’t mean I’m in favor of skin cancer. Just because I’m against nicotine doesn’t mean I’m taking up smoking crack.
>> Most of the materials in REAL nuclear waste are not waste, and should be recycled and put to use.<<
So what’s the problem?
>>… I am uninterested in discussing it with the ignorant.<<
And so they will remain in ignorant opposition. Kind of like how nuke pushers will remain ignorant of the needs of interconnected AC operations.
>> Read that .pdf for more info.<<
Just 337 pages? After which my findings will be dismissed as not “significant” (like Three Mile Island)? Sorry, I’m not falling for that any more than I’m falling for assurances from an industry that has had its past assurances blown to pieces.
>> If wind power is so abundant, why is it directly subsidized? Why is solar power so hugely subsidized?<<
Not being a proponent of subsidies, I cannot defend them. Did I mention that just because I’m against tobacco doesn’t mean I’m taking up crack?
I suppose it’s political. Maybe the wind/solar industrial complex has friends in high places, just like the nuclear proliferation complex has. Maybe some demonstration projects are needed to develop some industries so they’ll be closer to maturity when the time is right.
>> http://www.externe.info/figures.html. Refer to that chart for a well conducted, if limited, accounting of the TOTAL costs of electricity, taking into account the health effects, etc, of fossil fuels, wind power, hydro, and nuclear.<<
Just what I was looking for – a point that can be made in less than 337 pages. Excellent.
Wait. I was promised an accounting of “TOTAL” costs. The chart only accounts for EXTERNAL costs. Looks like somebody’s trying to mislead somebody AGAIN. I used to believe the industry could stand on it’s own without misleading deceptions, but the deeper I dig the worse things look.
>>… the desperately flawed LNT model.<< Sounds like the LNT model is not significant. Like Three Mile Island was not “significant”?
>> This is "unsupported?" Note the large lists of citations. Looks pretty well supported to me.<<
The attack on LNT was not supported within the attack on LNT. It was the lack of support in the context of the attack that I referred to. I wasn’t referring to a total lack of support to be found anywhere on the planet.
It’s understandable that there was no support within the context of the original attack since the attacker of LNT was no doubt “uninterested in discussing it with the ignorant.” See where such lack of interest in discussion gets us? Thanks for the support.
>> You said: "Even if nuclear plant radiation is not as bad as medical radiation, does that make it okay?" Er, YES. Radiation is used to treat many cancers, giving people better, longer lives. Are you seriously saying we should stop using radiation therapy?<<
Of course not. The “it” to which I was referring was generation plant radiation, as in “Even if nuclear plant radiation is not as bad as medical radiation, does medical radiation’s being worse than nuclear generating station radiation make nuclear generating station radiation okay?” Just because crack is worse than tobacco, are you going to increase your tobacco consumption?
>> Is it possible the medical lung industry is wrong about Back Lung disease, directly attributed to coal mining?<<
Does Mauk think that opposition to nuclear proliferation comes from the dangers faced by uranium miners?
>> As for the nuclear waste, it depends on how you define nuclear waste. Have you read the paper I posted above on the topic?<<
Did I stop in the middle of Mauk’s post, read hundreds of pages cited in the post, then return to the rest of Mauk’s post to pick up where I left off? What do you think? So if I read everything THEN do I get to have an opinion, here, in America. If I read everything and still disagree, then do I have to become a nuclear physicist in order to be entitled to an opinion? If I still disagreed, wouldn’t I be kicked out of the nuclear “club”, then be labeled as ignorant so I could be dismissed as not “significant” (like Three Mile Island)? How convenient. Are the NIMBYs labeling everyone who doesn’t agree with them as “ignorant”? I guess they probably are. Then again, t
TERRY MEYER 1.11.04
Are the NIMBYs labeling everyone who doesn’t agree with them as “ignorant”? I guess they probably are. Then again, they appear to be knowledgeable enough to be enjoying more success with their agenda than the nuclear contamination pushers seem to be having right now. When it comes to the knowledge necessary to sway public opinion in a representative republic, which side is being ignorant?
>> You believe what you wish to believe, never mind those pesky "facts" and "statistics."<<
Kind of like nuclear contamination pushers dismiss pesky facts as not “significant” (like Three Mile Island)?
Well, I’m off to find hundreds of pages for Mauk to read about how statistics can be manipulated to “prove” anything. Not that I would ever call Mauk ignorant or indirectly attack Mauk in any way. I guess people that can't shoot down the message can only shoot the messenger.
TERRY MEYER 1.11.04
For what it’s worth, I have tried to respond to John K. Sutherland’s 5.6.03 counter to my response to Paolo Fornaciari's articles: 'Is the Nuclear Waste Disposal a Problem that cannot be solved?' I accidentdallydeleted the email in which it arrived and I can’t find a way back there. If someone would care to point me there, from scratch, perhaps I could lesson my IGNORANCE. If my failure to respond is the only thing people have to hang their hat on to attack me, and if attacking me is the only thing people have to hang their hat on to attack my opinions, then I can understand not wanting to lose that.
TERRY MEYER 1.11.04
I'm sure there were facts, charts, statistics and responses "proving" that Three Mile Island could never happen. Then, after it happened, they dismissed the thing that could never happen as not "significant". I'm not scierntist enough to convince a true believing nuclear contamination pusher of its significance. What is significant is the deception that preceded TMI and how it relates to deceptions that may be happening right now.
John K. Sutherland 2.22.04
All, Please see my fourth article for a fairly comprehensive response by me and others to Terry Meyer's 'last word'. It is also enlightening to look at his response to me in Paolo Fornaciari's article referred to above.
Below are two quotes that you may perhaps consider when considering whether or not to respond to individuals who seem stuck in one anti-science position:
"I think it is in our interest to punish the first insult; because an insult unpunished is the parent of many others." Thomas Jefferson.
'Technology, science, knowledge, open doors, they do not force people to walk through them'. Me.
David Kilborn 6.11.04
I would like to add some comments in response to Terry Meyer:
A few years ago I did a research paper for a Physics class on Nuclear Energy (Good or bad), having no experience or real knowledge about it, other than what we had learned in class or from high school. My conclusions (after a lot of research of pro and anti-nuke information) at that time were that Nuclear should be embraced in the short term as it was the best form of energy in a world of apparent global warming. I believed from my research that Nuclear provided us a method of limiting our reliance on oil and providing a cleaner environment. Eventually there is the possibility (after my lifetime) of solar energy and other forms of clean energy replacing Nuclear in some or all of its capacity, but we need change now and Nuclear offers a great stop-gap solution.
One thing I was always concerned about was Nuclear waste, until I learned that if I lived to the age of 80 and all the energy I ever used in my lifetime came from Nuclear energy, that I would have created a golf-ball sized piece of waste. When taken with the consideration of the pollutants that fossil fuels create, this seemed insignificant to me, notwithstanding the possibility of gleaning more potential energy out of the waste.
And one final note, while I did my research, I felt more and more that anti-nuke articles often ignored scientific studies and relied more on fear tactics. I was looking for facts and they more often offered rhetoric. Obviously this is a generalization and some pro-nukes were like this as well, but by far the anti-nukes relied less on evidence (or selective evidence when I cross-referenced the research) for their claims and the pro-nukes seemed to provide more facts from actual studies.
Ironically, I now work at a uranium mine. What really caused me to write this was your reference of the dangers of uranium mine workers. Ultimately, any mining is dangerous and inherently there is potential for greater danger in a uranium facility, but after being a first hand witness, there is little danger. I don't actually work underground, but I am in close proximity. It is most likely I get less radiation in a month at work than I do flying across the country once. Yes, the miners are subject to more radiation (mostly in the form of radon progeny) but we are so regulated and the radiation techs are so militant, people's exposure underground are mostly insignificant when compared to exposures to medical equipment and other background sources.
The unfortunate thing is that you seem to be indoctrinated in your ways and no argument or logic will even let you question your own beliefs. You rightly chastise mauk for refusing to argue with the "ignorant", but then you go on in this and other forums with your rants without listening to facts presented or ignoring them and repeating your claims without really backing them up. You seem hung up on the theory that "nukes" are untrustworthy and don't back up their claims. And you use TMI as your example, which by so many accounts now was the non-event of the century. There are even anti-nuke groups that barely mention TMI because they don't have much of a leg to stand on. I hope in your judgement of others you will realize that you do the very thing you accuse them of doing.
John K. Sutherland 5.19.05
David Kilborn made some pertinent observations. Although he notes that radon gas exposure is controlled by dose limits, this only occurs in uranium mines. Some of the most significant radon exposures are in those mines and activities where radiation is NOT acknowledged, but is present, but even there, the health risks are much less than the risks from the mining activity.
John K. Sutherland.
John K. Sutherland 9.6.05
Yet another observation. The UN has just issued (September 2005) a major study of the Chernobyl accident with the most up-to-date observations, data, and medical studies. It supports my statements above in my discussion with James Hopf. They say that, so far, the defined death toll amounts to about 57. Estimates of future deaths (based upon the highly flawed LNT), in the 600,000 plus individuals who were exposed to some degree in Russia, might be about 4,000. No birth defects or genetic anomalies were seen or might be expected. They also note, once again, that the most serious health consequences have been because of FEAR of radiation, and not of radiation itself. Also the normally expected rates of cancer in that same population will probably be about 200,000, with about 150,000 cancer deaths whether Chernobyl had occurred or not. The estimated 4,000 premature deaths (which might never occur) are a mere pinprick in this larger number. However, that is only one of the points. The other, is that if Hormesis, is a valid effect, then not only will these premature deaths (predicted, don't forget) not occur, but the population will probably live sufficiently longer, that their older age will guarantee that more of them will die of cancer. Don't forget, that cancer is mostly a disease of healthy old age. You have to live a long time to get it, for the most part.
For the first time, the media are correctly reporting the data, mostly without resorting to the usual media distortions and hysterically anti-nuclear commentary that has characterised most of their previous stories. Greenpeace, of course, still is sputtering and fuming over the long-everdue correction, as it can now no longer repeat its characteristic misinformation with impunity, and without losing more of its relevance and support.
Just earlier this month (September 2005), another of the founding fathers of atomic physics - Joseph Rotblat - died at age 96. Not so long ago Edward Teller (95) and Glen Seaborg (87) also died in extreme old age, despite their undoubtedly-high radiation exposures. Additionally, another stalwart of the early radiation pioneers, Lauriston S Taylor, died in 2004 at age 102. If radiaiton were so dangerous, these radiation exposed individuals should have died long before the age of 80. All but a few of the early radiation pioneers seem to have outlived most of their generation (as did Marie Curie who died of Leukemia at age 67), but this is something that I am still working on.
Fear of radiation and our adherence to the grossly deficient LNT theory of radiation injury are not servng us, so much as hampering us severely.
John K. Sutherland.
Jackie Looney 12.28.05
I read your article with great interest. It is the most objective and scientifically thorough account that I have encountered in a long time. Unfortunately we have a tendency to look only at accidents such as Chernobyl where the effects, however small, are immediate, while ignoring the indisious, yet colossal effects of burning fossil fuels. The deeply ingrained negative reaction that most Americans have to nuclear power would require a great effort to overcome. I am quite dismayed at the lack of objective information in the mainstream media. You have written a powerful and pertinent article. Very few people will read it. They will read and believe that hydrogen fuel cells will render automobiles emission free. The fossil fuel intensive production of free hydrogen will be ignored. I hope that you are able to get your message across. I am wondering what your thoughts are on reprocessing uranium. It seems like a crucial part of the equation, but how politically possible is it?
John K. Sutherland 1.12.06
Jackie, Reprocessing is already being done in Europe and elsewhere and it is just a matter of time before it is revived in the US considering the sudden awakening of the world over energy supplies, availability and pricing. One of my other articles in this section looked at the Ford and Carter blunders concerning recycling (reprocessing).
John K. Sutherland.
Malcolm Rawlingson 4.25.06
To Mauk Mcamuk re Magnox Reactors
The record needs to be set straight with respect to your concerns re Magnox reactors.
I operated a Magnox Reactor for years in the UK and your concerns over them are mostly exagerrated and based on sparse facts. The comparison to RBMK is flawed. I think it is from a basic misunderstanding of the design and the operation of Magnox plants so i need to explain how they work so that you can understand why they do not have (do not require) containments as you have come to expect to be installed on water based reactor systems. The safety record of Magnox power plants is and continues to be impeccable. Please provide me with factual evidence that will change my opinion. I have an open mind for facts but my experience operating these plants differs so widely from your opinion that one of us (I think it is not I) is wrong.
About the ONLY similarity between a Magnox Plant and an RBMK plant is the moderator which is graphite. Everything else from the fuel to the reactor physics is totally different.
You will no doubt recall that the explosion that wrecked Chernobyl was a STEAM explosion caused by POLITICALLY motivated imbeciles. The test that caused it would never have been permitted on my watch - politicians or not.
So here for your reading enlightenment is the real truth about Magnox from someone who sat at the control desk in the middle of the night and operated them.
Firstly as you correctly point out Magnox reactors are cooled by carbon dioxide gas. That should lead you to the inevitable conclusion that a steam explosion such as occurred in the Chernobyl RBMK reactor is not possible in a Magnox reactor. To make steam you need water. There is no water in a Magnox reactor so there can be no steam in the reactor. Forgive my ignorance but I don't think you can have a steam explosion with Carbon Dioxide.
Secondly Magnox reactors have a strongly negative temperature coefficient of reactivity. That means as the temperature of the reactor core goes up the reactivity of the core (and therefore the power) goes DOWN. I do assure you from personal experience that the biggest challenge faced by a Magnox operator is to keep the thing running. Shutting it down is easy - just make it too hot and the power just goes down and keeps on going down all by itself. The reactor physics design - invisible to you - is one of the greatest safety features of a Magnox plant. It is impossible to get a reactivity excursion in a Magnox plant as occurred at Chernobyl.
The third thing missing in your note above is that RBMK had a strongly POSITIVE coefficient of reactivity. In particular the very positive void coefficient causes an increase in reactivity as the coolant (water) boils. If this additional reactivity is not counteracted by rapid insertion of negative reactivity a condition known as prompt criticality occurs which causes large increases in power sufficient in the case of RBMK to turn all the water to steam in seconds. No western reactor is designed or operated in this way and that includes Magnox reactors. RBMK reactors would not be licensed in the west - period.
By comparison Magnox reactors have a zero void coefficient of reactivity because the CO2 coolant does not boil like water. There can be no voids so there can be no void coefficient of reactivity. That fact alone makes Magnox reactors very very safe and sets them apart from water reactors.
If you care to take a detailed look at the reactor physics design of a Magnox reactor you will see that in many respects they are much safer than water reactors because they have large negative reactivity coefficients. The fuel is natural uranium and they are fuelled on line.The reactivity available from the fuel is relatively small.
It is true that the fuel cladding is combustible in air which means that Carbon Dioxide pressure is a key safety parameter. By maintaining CO2 pressure air is excluded. If CO2 pressure falls below a safety setpoint the reactor trips. Chain reaction stops.
You alluded to the fact that Magnox reactors do not have a containment structure surrounding them. The reason they do not should be obvious but I will explain that anyway. The reason they do not have containment structures is because they do not need them. You must have a containment structure around a water reactor to contain the steam in the event of a leak. Since a Magnox plant can create no steam from water inside the reactor (because there is no water inside the reactor) you cannot get a build up of steam pressure that could breach the reactor vessel. Like I said you need water to make steam and Magnox reactors are cooled by CO2. Because there is no water there is no steam. Because there is no steam there is no need for a containment vessel. The reactor pressure vessel is quite adequate.
I would also point out that not a single accident of any significance occurred on one of these reactors in their entire lifespan and after many m
Malcolm Rawlingson 4.25.06
part two... and after many millions of megawatts hours of electricity production. They were designed with a lifespan of 20 years or so but most have run for twice that long. The plant at Bradwell On Sea in Essex which I had the great privelige to be allowed to operate was a magnificent piece of technology of which everyone should be proud.
Unsafe - well I think the facts and the superb safety record of Magnox speaks for itself. Before slapping the technology it would be prudent to take the time to understand it first.
As for its impact on me I can only say that I can send you verfiable evidence .... I have a bunch of very healthy children and I myself am pushing 60 .... that Bradwell had no impact on my health or that of my wife and kids and grandchildren whatsoever. And I also know that it had no effect on any member of the population of the world except to provide them with cheap pollution free electricity. I am very proud of that. So should you be.
Malcolm Rawlingson (And I do not produce a green glow when the lights go out even after 40 years. Fortunately I did not go into coal mining otherwise I'd be couighing up coal dust and dying of black lung disease by now)
John K. Sutherland 4.27.06
On another point. I have long wanted to change a very poorly expressed paragraph in this document. The paragraph beginning with the word 'Predictions', should be corrected by simply removing the words 'Predictions of' and starting only with the words 'Long-term'. This gets rid of most of the bad English, and makes the sentence correct.
mauk mcamuk 5.12.06
Wow! Talk about your blast from the past! :D
Howdy Malcolm! :)
Hmmm. You take me to task for my opinion of the MAGNOX, and imply that I fail to understand it. :D
Let me see if I can't clarify my point.
A MAGNOX is fuelled by flammable metallic uranium, clad in flammable magnesium-based sheathing, and nested in flammable graphite moderators. This is then heated to very high temperatures and sealed in a sturdy vessel and kept cool by CO2 gas at incredibly high pressures, and then low-pressure refueling tubes are laced through the lot of it.
Notice my use of all those "flammable" words up there. :D
I'm not a big fan of ANY reactor design that uses high pressure boundaries, expecially when coupled with any flammable substance in any part of the core, and ESPECIALLY when said high pressure boundaries are run right through the heart of the core, where any sudden ruptures are pretty much assured of causing issues.
For example, I think the PBMR is a remakably dumb idea. After Windscale and Chernobyl, why are we persisting in building reactors that can easily catch fire? If that extremely high-pressure boundary had ever popped in a bad way, the MAGNOX core could have gone up like a torch. And no, there's no containment vessel, as you note.
Look at one of the last of the breed, Wylfa:
There's 7600 tons of hot graphite swaddling all that yummy burnable magnesium and uranium.
Simple mechanical failure is a risk too, especially at those pressures. :)
Heck, the CANDU has pretty much all the strengths of the MAGNOX and none of the drawbacks, and has a safety record just as good.
I am quite well aware of the stellar safety record of the MAGNOX, and feel it is more due to the skill of the British in operating those tinderboxes than any inherent safety of the design. So, pat yourself on the back! But don't brag about your reactor designers. :)
I will also note that the waste form of the MAGNOX is just awful. If the British had thought to store their MAGNOX waste in molten salt rather than water, a LOT of the current cleanup heartache could be avoided.
Does that clarify my stance? The MAGNOX has different hazards than the RBMK, for certain, but in my opinion, it has just as significant hazards, and it is a good thing they are being shut down and decommissioned.
Now the British just need to build more AP-1000's. :)
Mathew Hoole 5.24.06
Sorry to dumb this down and get a little sidetracked, but I have a few basic questions.
I have otherwise enjoyed the read.
1. Assume every nation had nuclear power plants based on their needs. Uranium is finite. As a rough figure how long would the known uranium reserves last?
2. An earthquake damages a modern nuclear power station. The potential risk is some serious polution? What contingencies would be in place for such events.
3. A truck containing solid nuclear waste going from a modern nuclear plant to a waste storage centre collides with another truck in a major residential area causing the truck to explode and the containers holding the spent fuel to rupture. What would be the impact?
4. Are there ways to export uranium as a fuel that could never be used for weapon making?
Australia is currently having a national debate on the issue. These are the points made by the scaremongerers. I would like to know how much merit there is in their views.
John K. Sutherland 5.26.06
Mathew, I will answer your four points briefly. Details on at least the first one are in my second article at the first address below, and there are eight others in the second address and one major document at the third, with others elsewhere.
Point one: my second article – millions of years future fuel. Backed up by facts.
Point two: Modern nuclear power stations are built to withstand the worst earthquakes. This is why those many reactors in Japan survive them in the circum-pacific earthquake belt with hundreds of detectable earthquakes each day. The Japanese reactors either keep running; scale back production to meet much reduced civilian demand after damage to homes, factories etc,; or just shut down safely and then come back up to power once the infrastructure can handle the power.
Point three: Nuclear waste remains at each location where it is produced, it does not move anywhere. The exception is often hospitals when it tracks out inside patients or to the garbage dump (a no-no) (read my other articles). Spent fuel is not waste, and it too, is mostly managed at each reactor site. That which may go offsite for reprocessing is moved mostly by train with escorts and during overnight hours and with little publicity to alert the wackos like Caldicott. Accidents generally do not occur. However, tests of trucks and trains carrying the shielded containers, by running them at max. speed into concrete barriers and each other, show that the containers do not leak. If they leaked in any of the tests, they would be redesigned and no shipments would occur until they met conditions. There are some good films showing these tests.
Point four. No. Uranium is everywhere in the surface of the ground. You or I could extract it and make it into a bomb if we desired, but it takes expertise, money, and good science and would not go undetected, as it takes a lot of electricity. There are penalties to be paid for such duplicity (Iran, N Korea). One does not need a reactor to build a bomb and you cannot unlearn anything; the knowledge is out there. The best way to stay on top of the issue is to develop technology and detection to make such efforts detected (and they are easily detected) and not worth the trouble. The worlds 440+ commercial reactors are mostly in countries that do not need the bomb, and they know it, as they also signed the NNP treaty.
I guess Caldicott is stewing and fuming over progress. If she wins, we all (humanity) lose, and vice versa.
Read my articles.
John Ryle 7.2.06
Thank you to everyone for your elaborate and enthusiastic contributions. I am not in the energy source industry, but I am politically interested and really needed a blog like this to form my opinion. -Now I have a couple of questions:
In the Australian debate on whether to continue and expand our export of uranium, it appears to me, that the greatest concern is if the receiving countries could and would use the waste to develop nuclear weapons. Would it be a fair suggestion to build and run Australian plants in for example. China and sell the energy to China, rather than the uranium itself? -So that the uranium AND the waste would never actually get out of Australian hands? Would it be realistic to transport the waste from China back to Australia for storage?
Just how long does it take for the waste to cool down to a level, when it is no longer of significant danger? Are we looking at 30, 300 or 100.000 years? Has there been any successful attempts to develope a way to increase the speed of the cooling process?
Kind regards, John
Mathew Hoole 9.23.06
Dear John K. Sutherland
Thanks for your answer.s I now have a few more queries if I may take a little of your time.
From the limited sources available to me I have been reading up on Pebble Bed Reactors, and Thorium as a fuel.
I live in Australia that currently has no Nuclear Industry, except a small power station in Lucas Heights primarily used for research and medical purposes.
From the web, Pebble Bed Reactors are stated as being commercially feasible, and immune to meltdown. Thorium as a fuel has also been stated by Wikipedia as lacking the temperature to critically mass and meltdown.
After debating these issues with some "radicals" I was provided a link to the following: http://www.nirs.org/factsheets/pbmrfactsheet.htm
As this site seems to be very anti-nuclear I would like to ask you some quick questions.
What is your general view of Pebble Bed Modular Reactors?
Australia has an abundance of Thorium. Do you consider it a commercially feasible fuel?
Can a Pebble Bed Modular Reactor recycle waste either for Uranium or Thorium?
Once the "waste" of a Pebble Bed Modular Reactor needs to be disposed what is the duration of storage required?
From the web article provided there is discussion of the experimental THTR-300 PBMR on the Ruhr in Hamm-Uentrop and it's radiation leak? How serious was this leak?
What are some other thoughts you could share from that article?
What is your most prefered Nuclear Reactor design (and in a quick summary) why?
John K. Sutherland 10.21.06
John Ryle. Why are you worried about China? They already have all the bombs they need and you do not need a nuclear reactor to make a nuclear bomb anyway. Australia has no commercial reactor so would not be a player in providing one to anyone. As for taking used fuel back, I doubt that anyone wants to go to the trouble. It’s better to surface store it for a while until you have viable reprocessing industry, which again, Australia does not need, but France, Japan, Britain and Russia already have. Reprocessing can start anytime after about 150 days or less. The consideration is in radiation shielding and radiation protection, but the fuel is not particularly thermally warm after even a few days, so you do not need to speed the thermal cooling down at all.
Mathew. Thorium is at least as good a nuclear fuel as uranium (it breeds to uranium-233) provided you have a fast breeder reactor. It is also many more steps away from breeding plutonium so that is regarded as a plus. I do not know enough about the PBR to pass opinion. Yes, many sites which do provide some apparently reasonable information to suck you in, then turn out to be anti-nuclear and start to spin the fairy stories in a not so subtle way once they’ve got you. ‘wise’ is another one. The PBMR leak in the Ruhr? Never heard of it so it can’t have been to serious outside of the hysterical media. How serious was the radiation leak? How many died? None. I thought so. The one thing you would not be told is the level of the radiation exposure, or you would probably find that most hospital patients get hundreds of times that dose in specific treatments, but that would not be publicized or the story loses its impact. See health effects of high levels of radiation here: http://www.nwmo.ca/Default.aspx?DN=228,208,199,20,1,Documents
Spent fuel from any reactor can be reprocessed provided there is still unused fuel in it and it is commercially worthwhile. How long does the radioactive waste need to be stored? It depends upon the nature of the waste; the half lives of the radionuclides it contains. Read my other papers on this site in ‘more’, ‘research’, ‘white papers’ and ‘by publisher’, ‘Edutech Enterprises’ where there are some rather technical descriptions in 8 more papers. I know the most about the CANDU. Both the CANDU and PWR have their advantages and disadvantages. The world prefers PWR at the moment with its relicensing possibilities out to 40 or 60 years. Sorry to be so brief, but at least you are asking some questions and learning. John.
Mathew Hoole 11.8.07
Hello Mr Sutherland
You mentioned on pg 14 in your article Various Infos on Nuclear Energy
"Although it would contravene regulations and good work practices, it could be handled without undue hazard after only about 50 years, just so long as the over-riding individual dose limits are not exceeded by those handling it. The small amount of long half-life plutonium (Pu-239, 24,000 years) in it, poses no radiation hazard, as the plutonium is of low radioactivity. The Queen was given a plastic bag of some to hold a few years ago, to feel how warm it was."
Do you have a link that contains a picture of the Queen handling this nuclear waste?
John K. Sutherland 3.26.08
Mathew, I do not have the photograph. I believe I saw it in an older publication called ATOM. The queen was visiting Harwell in the UK at the time so those two directions might uncover it for you, or you could ask someone at Harwell.
Robert Steinhaus 3.16.09
I would like to thank John Sutherland for being generous with his knowledge and providing solid information where there is too much ignorance.
One small element that could be profitably added to the discussion is mention of the facts with respect to the use of Thorium Fuel and it lower waste generating qualities.
Thorium Molten Salt Reactors (TMSR) can be operated in a mode that produces dramatically less high level nuclear waste. significantly reducing the volume, weight and long-term radio-toxicity of spent fuel. Uranium-233 produced in Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors is a fuel that can be burned while producing energy, fission products, and a miniscule amount of transuranic waste. All of the fission products produced by TMSR Reactors will decay to benign levels of the radioactive natural background within 350 years. The majority (83%) of fission products of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors decay to the benign levels of the radioactive natural background in 10 years. All of the remaining 17% of fission products decay to natural background levels in 350 years. The nuclear fuel efficiency of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors is in excess of 98% while traditional Uranium-Plutonium cycle LWR used to commercially make electricity in the US only have a fuel efficiency of 2 to 3%. The amount of Plutonium-239, which is the primary material that is a weapons proliferation worry in current LWR technology, is redduced to 1 part in 100,000 the quantity produced by current reactor technology.
 Le Brun, C., “Impact of the MSBR concept technology on long-lived radio-toxicity and proliferation resistance”, Technical Meeting on Fissile Material Management Strategies for Sustainable Nuclear Energy, Vienna 2005 .
John K. Sutherland 5.24.09
Robert, Fast breeder reactors and thorium fuel are just around the corner. India is building them already.
John K. Sutherland 7.11.09
For those who wish direction to my other papers on a related site, go here: