Japan and the Future of Nuclear Power

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Jabbadabbado, Mar 17, 2011.

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  1. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    I'm a nuclear power proponent without, I hope, being a nuclear power apologist. Nuclear power is dangerous. It has been described as "the largest unfunded mandate in the history of human civilization," meaning that using nuclear energy for our immediate energy needs creates a waste problem that countless generations will be dealing with long after we're dead.

    If anything good comes out of the crisis in Japan, I hope it's a more open discussion about how badly we need the energy that nuclear power plants can provide us, but how poorly we have been dealing with the nuclear waste problem.

    Maybe the Japan crisis will draw some much needed attention to the terrible plight of refugee spent nuclear fuel rods. They are the Palestinians of the nuclear energy world, with no viable long term home and no one who wants to take them in. They're quickly filling up all available space in cooling pools at power plants all around the U.S. and, as we've found out, their long-term presence at nuclear reactor sites can compound and amplify the serious risks inherent in using nuclear power.

    In that sense, Darth_Yuthura's Yucca Mountain thread was prescient. Yucca Mountain is a perfect example of all that has not gone right with America's long-range strategic energy planning, namely, our political process makes such planning impossible. The need for a permanent national solution for nuclear waste storage becomes more pressing with each passing year.

    Maybe now Obama will take some needed heat for his own opposition to Yucca Mountain. If we continue to let short term political interests get in the way of long range energy planning, the nuclear waste problems will keep piling up until we get an accident we could have avoided had our political process been capable of a longer attention span. Yucca Mountain is the kind of things Federal Governments were made for. It is the kind of thing big government, especially the kind that builds nuclear weapons and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and subsidizes and supports civilian nuclear power, is obligated to do, not just for the people it serves now, but for future citizens who haven't even been born yet.
  2. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
  3. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    I think that's focusing on the very optimistic angle that this will lead to better nuclear policy, when I think if anything, this is going to lead to a more reactionary public that fights against nuclear power.
  4. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    All this bickering about Yucca Mountain suddenly turning into someone's back yard is just tiring. Lawsuits, construction delays, political slowdowns... someone seriously needs to step up and force the matter. The US needs a spent fuel repository and Yucca Mountain is long overdue for that. Anyone who whines about not wanting it in their desert seriously need to be brushed aside. Any who say *bleep* you, build somewhere else!' really need to suck it up and stop whining.

    Those who shut down the Yucca Mountain project should now be held responsible for providing an alternate site... they kill a project critical for the safety of all US citizens; they must fund the construction of an alternate site and find someone else who's willing to accept the repository. That second part is really what Nevadans are too stupid to figure out... no one wants this repository. If they don't want to live near the facility, there's nothing stopping people from moving to another state. And it's not like the nuclear waste seriously poses a greater risk to Nevadans in a vault a hundred miles away than it does to be kept in dry caskets where they pose a risk to millions of residents within only a few miles of nuclear reactors.

    Yeah... you're going to have to impose upon the rights of a few thousand individuals who call a desert their backyard, but it's not as though those millions who live within a few miles of these dry caskets aren't already frustrated in being left to worry about this crap. Those tons of radioactive waste sitting where it's not supposed to... what about their rights? Do those few Nevada *bleep* think their rights are worth more than those of everyone else in the US? It's Yucca Mountain, or they should pay back all US tax payers that have been wasted on that site. If they don't like it... move somewhere else! This mustn't be allowed to continue.


    *sorry, gotta star out the whole word
  5. Ramza JC Head Admin and RPF Manager

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    Jul 13, 2008
    star 6
    This. At this point, even improvements in the situation won't matter - widespread media attention has convinced a lot of the general public that nuclear power is unsafe. We can look forward to future debates including Japan alongside Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.[face_tired]
  6. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Even if public hysteria prevents any more nuclear power plants from being built, the long term radioactive waste disposal problem has to be solved. This is an area where harnessing public fear relative to what happened in Japan could really be a good thing.

    After the open public assessment of what happened in Japan takes place, if it ever does, my guess is that the extent of the catastrophe will include open fires in the spent fuel rod pools that spewed radioactive materials for tens of miles around the plant, at levels that may end up being comparable to Chernobyl. This is the best advertising that Yucca Mountain is ever going to get.
  7. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Definitely this latest incident is the best advertising they could get for Yucca Mountain, but what about those whiney Nevadans who won't allow such a site? Definitely I'd be all in favor of breaking whatever laws exist which prevent the facility from being opened, but I'm not sure citizens are as willing to follow suite.

    Even if every single state except for Nevada demand Yucca Mountain be completed, are there any legal measures which would allow their complaints to be overturned? I'm not one for depriving people of their rights, but this is has only become an issue because Nevada makes it as such.

    The worst part is that Yucca Mountain would no longer be suitable for storing all US radioactive waste products... even if it ever is completed. So we should really already have been in the planning stage for dealing with the waste products for the next fifty years, yet we're still permanently weighed down because we're sitting on piles or uranium from the last fifty. I seriously hope to god that this matter is taken seriously and finally dealt with.
  8. yankee8255 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2005
    star 6
    Public hysteria? Sorry, drinking water in Tokyo has now been found to have been contaminated with radiation at levels above what is considered safe for infants. Hysteria? Try legitimate fear.

    In a perfect world, nuclear power would be the perfect solution to our energy and green house problems. But that perfect world will never exist. Companies will cut corners and ignore risks. They'll keep old plants in service long past the time where they should have been replaced with new plants incorporating the latest technology. Japan, a society that you would consider perfect for using nuclear power (highly educated work force, attention to detail, discipline, etc) have shown pretty clearly that they dropped the ball on safety. Given the dramatic consequences of what happens when things go wrong -- and they will go wrong at some point somewhere -- I can't see how nuclear power can constinue to be advocated.
  9. fistofan1 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 8, 2009
    star 4
    Agreed. Even if a plant is manned with the most responsible workers and uses the most state-of-te-art technology, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters are always looming over the corner. Nuclear power plants are ticking timebombs waiting to be set off. Why humanity would advocate building something so unstable I may never figure out.
  10. Raven Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 5, 1998
    star 6
    Deaths to date from the Fukushima nuclear disaster: 2 (highest number I've seen reported so far; most articles list either zero or one).
    Deaths to date from the Fujinuma hydro disaster: 4, with 8 still missing and presumed dead (source).
    Deaths from the Chernobyl disaster: ~4,000 (source; includes pending deaths).
    Deaths from the Banqiao Dam hydro disaster: 90,000 - 230,000 (source).



    As a fun aside:
    Annual deaths from alcohol: 2,500,000 per year (source).

    Why humanity would advocate drinking something so dangerous I may never figure out.
  11. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Public hysteria? Sorry, drinking water in Tokyo has now been found to have been contaminated with radiation at levels above what is considered safe for infants. Hysteria? Try legitimate fear.

    In Japan, there is absolutely legitimate fear. I don't believe the utility or the Japanese government has told the truth yet about the extent of the disaster, which may have included at least one open, uncontained spent fuel rod fire, with potentially devastating results.

    In the U.S., however, this has translated into public hysteria. And about the wrong thing. People need to start thinking harder about the lack of long term storage solutions for nuclear waste. If I were getting hysterical, that would be the thing I would start getting hysterical about - the fact that we have not been able to get Yucca Mountain up and running.

  12. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    You have no idea how extraordinary the safety measures are for nuclear reactors. The US submarine Thresher imploded with such force that very little wreckage remained, yet the reactor compartment survived intact. The reactor domes used to protect the reactor vessels are built to standards as to withstand an impact by an airliner. Virtually every nuclear accident in history occurred due to ignoring safety measures or from extraordinary circumstances. No one could have anticipated that a single disaster could wipe out all auxiliary measures that could have been used to secure the power plant currently in question. They're diverting resources between averting a nuclear disaster and reconstruction efforts. If only the plant had been hit by this disaster, there is no question that it could have been shut down without incident.

    And the reason people continue to support nuclear energy is because it's our primary hope for future energy. As long as it's maintained properly, it's safe. You're irresponsible and it'll come back to bite you in the hiney.

    And what would be your solution for an imperfect world?
  13. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Tokyo's water authority is saying the amount of radioactive iodine in local tap water is consistent with a spent fuel rod fire.


    In the U.S.

    Spent nuclear fuel throughout US stored by state

    Congratulations to Illinois, for its impressive total of 8,300 tons of waste stored on site at nuclear reactors in spent fuel rod pools.

    I've talked about this before, but I used to go fishing in the coolant lake for the Clinton plant. That reactor is surrounded by miles of pretty much nothing except for some of the world's most productive farmland.

  14. Darth_Maestro Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 27, 2005
    star 4
    And as such, if we live in a imperfect world there will never be a perfect energy source, so just get over your irrational fear.

    What happen in Japan were EXTRAORDINARY circumstances. The issue in Japan wasn't safety protocol not being follow, it's that they got hit by a freaking 9.0 magnitude earthquake and a 33 ft tsunami.
  15. DarthIktomi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2009
    star 4
    But the fact that it did happen, by definition, makes it possible. I remember advocates of nuclear power saying, and I quote, "Chernobyl was a communist!" As if atoms give a damn about ideology.

    Uranium has additional issues. Most of the uranium in the United States is on Indian lands. Back in the 70s, while mining uranium on Pine Ridge, for some reason they imported workers from other parts of the country. During this time, the plan was to dedicate four times the entire water table of the state of South Dakota to mining.
  16. DorkmanScott Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 6
    Possible =/= likely.

    You know what's also unsafe for infant consumption? Honey. We'd better freak out and ban it forever!
  17. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Okay. Since so many seem to bash nuclear energy for reasons that it's unwanted, dangerous, expensive, harmful to the environment... how about we consider the next best alternative?

    Coal. We've got enough of this to last us for at least 200 years, so supply isn't an issue. Its price and availability are another consideration, though. So for the time being, coal is our energy lifeline. Now let's get into some of its drawbacks. Lots of greenhouse gases, heavy metals, fly ash, and the environmental devastation caused by strip mining. Every single coal power plant produces roughly a hundred thousand tons of byproducts per gigawatt on an annual basis. That's just ONE coal power plant... there are hundreds of them across the US... thousands across the world.

    Each of these 1GW power plants incinerates an average of twenty thousand tons of coal... EACH DAY. When you stack the numbers up and consider the sheer volume of these fossil fuels which are extracted from the Earth and vented into our atmosphere... you might begin to realize the environmental impacts which causes global warming. Every once in a great while, a nuclear reactor will vent radiation and require a massive cleanup effort. Every single coal plant is an environmental catastrophe. And it's not an option for some nations which have to import all their sources of energy.
  18. firesaber Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 5, 2006
    star 3
    A very excellent point, as was the earlier post regarding statistics on what else kills more readily. The Japan disaster will certainly bring some things to light that can possibly improve the safety of nuclear power plants. That being said though, what happened in Japan was such a black swan that the single most prepared country in the world with respect to earthquakes and disasters couldn't see this one coming or prepare adequately for it.

    I'm going to guess that around some ancient campground somewhere in pre-history there was an outcry about fire and it's dangers and sins when the first "caveman" got burnt. We've had a millenia or more to "harness" and use this energy source and we still blow things up and burn our houses down accidently.
  19. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Where's that legitimate fear over the claim from the American Lung Association that particulate emissions from coal power plants "is estimated to kill approximately 13,000 people a year" in the US? Not entering into deaths associated with any actual disasters.
  20. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    But "Coal" has a hip new reality show that's premiering next week on Spike TV..

    Nuclear power, who evidently needs to find a new agent, only has an old movie- the China Syndrome. And when was the last time that Jane Fonda actually helped anyone's image?
  21. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    As expected, the NYT made the spent fuel rod issue front page news today. In this piece, Harry Reid takes some of the blame for blocking Yucca Mountain, which got chosen at the time it got chosen because of the relative junior status of Nevada's congressmen.

    Clearly, the nature of American politics makes long range planning for civilian projects extremely difficult, particularly when a plan calls for multi-generational development and operation. Even if Yucca moves forward at some point, who's to say it won't get closed down again in 10 or 20 years. Even a facility that can be secured for a century or two would be a good start. I don't think we can make any real pretense at planning for timeframes far beyond the lifespan of the people doing the planning.

    In that sense, maybe the U.S. isn't responsible enough to continue using nuclear power, as we have not yet dealt responsibly with our nuclear waste problem.

    The article also reports that Obama's nuclear waste storage panel, set up in early 2010, is expected to release finding soon. In light of current events it will likely get real press coverage.
  22. Vaderize03 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 5
    A possible solution to both the nuclear waste issue and how to build new reactors:

    here

    Obviously, it is a new technology, but Bill Gates has signed on as Chairman of the Board of Intellectual Ventures, this site's parent company. Apparently he is convinced.

    Thoughts? If it's true, it could be a huge bridge to renewables that could be implemented quickly and also solve the spent uranium problem at one stroke. Additionally, it would eventually whittle the need for new enrichment down to almost nothing.

    Peace,

    V-03
  23. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    As brought up in another thread by Jabba (or someone else?), reprocessing nuclear fuel must be in our future.

    I am an advocate for fast breeder reactors in the US as being our means to sustain our energy demands for the next century, but such reactors are far too expensive to be economic. Alone these won't be enough, but a combination of breeder reactors and reprocessing would allow the US to take spent fuel rods and use the U-238 for nuclear fuel.

    However you can't just insert the waste products directly into a breeder reactor without reprocessing, so you must establish an infrastructure of such facilities to extract the remaining U-235 from spent fuel rods. This would have a double benefit of exchanging nuclear fuel produced within breeder reactors and exchanging it with conventional reactors.

    Therefore a limited number of breeder reactors could potentially make use of the U-238 in spent fuel rods and share its benefits with conventional reactors... using reprocessing facilities to fabricate the fuel for hundreds of conventional reactors.
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