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I recently watched the Nova documentary The Nuclear Option. Wondering what peoples take is now days around here. Are you for it, against it, or "not in my back yard" about it?


I'm all for it, for quite a few reasons, most are covered in the documentary. Unlike most people who identify towards the conservative side of the spectrum, I believe in human caused global warming, and I hate pollution with a passion (the pollution part isn't aimed at conservatives, I don't mean to say they like pollution).


In Idaho I can see for distances that would boggle many people's minds, when the **** from California and China ins't blowing into my view anyways. I don't know how many of the younger people around here even notice the change, but I do. The distant peaks that were once visible no longer are. If you didn't know it could once be seen you wouldn't miss it. I don't want people to just accept the ever changing "status quo" without waking up.


There is also the economic factor in this region. There is already a commercial power plant (featured in the Doc) planned to be partially online by 2026 out here, but that pales in comparison to the investment that would come with a full push for nuclear. Whoever decided to put the NuScale plant on the Idaho National Laboratory, in my opinion, was a genius. There is a population that is already well trained in the field, The people are comfortable with nuclear reactors as there have been more than 50 of them, experimental ones (one that blew up, in what is, in my opinion, the worst US nuclear accident), built out here. They tested air cooled nuclear reactors for bomber aircraft out here, crazy type ****. We got over it.

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I mean, most people's problems with Nuclear Power are pretty rational. It's fine until something goes wrong, and when things go wrong they go REALLY wrong. My other criticism is what happens with the waste? How do you dispose of disused radioactive material?

 

But then, I know nothing about nuclear power so...you know....

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I mean, most people's problems with Nuclear Power are pretty rational. It's fine until something goes wrong, and when things go wrong they go REALLY wrong. My other criticism is what happens with the waste? How do you dispose of disused radioactive material?

 

But then, I know nothing about nuclear power so...you know....

The thing is, that's not rational. Nuclear power is objectively much safer and cleaner than traditional power sources. And the designs are only getting safer. You ask about what to do with the waste, but the fact is that other forms of energy have more waste, it just can't easily be contained on-site. It's a much better problem to have than to have the contaminants just fly off wherever they wish to go, even though it's politically a trickier problem.

 

 

 

I think its doomed because of economics, not helped by a big reduction in the cost of renewables (especially solar) that few people anticipated.

 

While economics are, indeed, a big argument against nuclear. Renewables are much, much less economical. If the choice were between renewables and nuclear, nuclear would easily win.

 

Part of the "problem" is that the growth of electricity means that we actually don't need many new power generation plants. So, even if we decided nuclear was the way to go tomorrow, there's not really an opportunity to make widespread use as that would require closing down plants that are working just fine.

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As of last year, there were 621 coal fired plants under construction worldwide. The worldwide appetite for energy will only grow from here. It's time for the right kind of nuclear proliferation.

 

I think some of the new technologies can go a long way towards lowering the cost, and minimizing waste. The liquid-sodium cooled fast reactors Gates is pushing would help us find a use for hundreds of thousands of tons of depleted uranium. They are also safer by far than a boiling water reactor. In the event of a coolant flow loss the reactor shuts itself down, because physics. No depending on people to make the right split second decision, or backup generators to function.

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As of last year, there were 621 coal fired plants under construction worldwide. The worldwide appetite for energy will only grow from here. It's time for the right kind of nuclear proliferation.

That 621 coal plant figure isn't really accurate. There aren't any being built in the United States, nor are there likely to be any in the near future and there are hardly any under construction anywhere in Europe, Australia, or the rest of North America. Japan's a bit of an outlier since they ran away from nuclear energy after the Fukushima accident and they need to make up the gap.

 

But, in reality, China and India are the ones building and expanding their coal plants. And they're already building nuclear plants to go along with them.

 

In the United States, natural gas plants are the ones most likely to be built within the foreseeable future. You'll also see coal plants being converted to gas.

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Thanks for straightening me out on that, I don't wan't to be the guy propagating fake news. It's 621 coal fired units, not plants.

 

I realize the US isn't building coal plants now, but we aren't growing exponentially in demand quite like the people who are. Atmospheric pollution doesn't stay where it's made. What happens in China and India affects us all.

 

New reactor designs would never need refueling and would require far less maintenance than current designs. Materials technology (paid for mostly by the Navy) has made it possible to build reactors which components, and fuel rods, can last 60 years. The waste material from that life cycle could be transported in a single shipment by rail, in a few cars, during decommissioning. There would have to be storage facilities built for the waste from all the reactors, but why is that such a big deal? Are we worried about the acreage involved despite the dozens of square miles solar and wind would take up to make the power of one reactor?

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I'm not exactly sure what you want us to do. India and China are nuclear nations already and know how to build them, and are building them. And, at least in China, the NIMBY stuff isn't exactly germane thanks to a government that's less than receptive to their citizen's complaints.

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What I want is for America to quit whining about trade deficits and start innovating and building shit that other people have to have. I want us to invest in nuclear energy and make it so economical and safe that people will have to replace fossil fuel plants with nuclear ones just to stay competitive. I want us to pump massive resources into R&D, and the regulatory process, to reduce the time necessary to bring new designs to fruition without sacrificing safety. I want us to build more test reactors and open them up to all comers to run approved experiments.

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No sarcasm, I don't know shit about nuclear power.

 

I grew up in New Zealand which is staunchly anti-nuclear, which is probably why I still lean against nuclear power. Then I moved to the UK which is a nuclear power, but nowhere near to the extent that France is for example.

 

The only thing I know about anything Nuclear is that radioactive waste lasts forever, and the examples of shit going wrong are pretty bad. See Chernobyl, Fukashima (sp) and Three Mile Island.

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All three of those disasters were caused by a loss of coolant flow in light water reactors. The coolant boiled away then the cores melted. Sodium has a boiling point of almost 900 degrees Celsius, and it can absorb so much heat before it gets there that the fuel never gets to a critical temperature.


Fast reactors can also reduce the waste problem dramatically in multiple ways. Uranium in nature comes in two isotopes worth discussing, U-235, which makes up .72%, and U-238, which makes up over 99%. U-235 is the fissile material needed to run a reactor. We have to enrich the uranium, by removing U-238 until it is at least 3% U-235, to make it useful as a fuel. The remaining "depleted" uranium, containing mostly U-238 is then stored in massive quantities. Not really a high level waste, but stacking up in mountain loads.


A fast reactor is called that because it doesn't have water, or something else, acting as a moderator to slow down neutrons. The neutrons in a fast reactor are moving at the right speed to be captured by a U-238 atom which then becomes U-239, like that annoying guy Dave that horns his way into your group at the restaurant by dragging a 5th chair over to your 4 sided table. This is a very unstable solution, 5 chairs don't fit around the table, but we aren't finished eating so after a little jockeying around (decay) we end up at a 5 sided table (Plutonium 239). Now we have enough chairs and we could sit here for thousands of years if we had to, but sitting at a 5 sided table is pretty lame, and Dave ruined the conversion. We're really just looking for any excuse (like another fast neutron) to break this party up.


We could go a long ways towards minimizing the waste just with that, instead of using up the small percentage of U-235 that makes up even processed fuel, then storing the excess high level waste products generated inside the reactor, we can use almost all the uranium and byproducts generated as fuel.


As for how long the waste lasts, you are right, the waste from light water reactors lasts long enough to be pretty much forever. But in a fast reactor all those long lived isotopes (like Plutonium 239, with a half-life of 24,000 years) can be consumed as fuel, leaving fission products with half-lives less than 100 years.

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My sister in law works for the Nuclear Plant out in Arizona close to Phoenix. I like the idea of clean energy but I'm more into giant windmill farms and geothermal things (It's so hot now surely science could come up with a way to power things based on heat)!

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That ain't how it works. Don't get all perpetual motion machine on me. It isn't about how hot the average temperature of the planet is when you are trying to make energy, it's about temperature differential.

 

And windmill farms are great, but they can't replace fossil fuels, neither can solar, they can only supplement. Until we have a reliable and cost effective battery, capable of storing at least a few weeks worth of our demand, renewables can't support our needs. And if we tried to support our energy needs with just renewables, we would use up half our country to do it. Every square mile that wasn't people would be powerplant to support them in a century. Save the world by killing everything but us?

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Not to derail the thread.... so apologies for detracting....

 

Are Solar rays more powerful from space? Meaning would it be possible to (in the future) construct some kind of giant Solar panel Sail in orbit that could generate power from the Sun and somehow transport it back to the earth?

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What honeymoon? The only reason anyone has been cordial to Trump at all is because he's extremely popular with his base, and his base is big enough to ensure that no Republican standing against him will be re-elected.

 

Until there are polls showing Trump has taken a substantial hit with popularity among Republicans, nothing really changed. And nothing has changed with Trump over the past week. He's been in love with Putin since at least the campaign, and has been wanting to bully Iran since we'll before the campaign. And that isn't too far off from our stance for decades, except it's on Twitter. Like all Trump resistance, this is a lot of nothing.

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HAHAHA! I know which thread you meant to put that in. The honeymoon comment was about the first two years where mistakes are expected. Now it's like, hey dude, you should have some of this figured out already and your weird comments like saying WOULD instead of WOULDN'T shouldn't happen now.

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Not to derail the thread.... so apologies for detracting....

 

Are Solar rays more powerful from space? Meaning would it be possible to (in the future) construct some kind of giant Solar panel Sail in orbit that could generate power from the Sun and somehow transport it back to the earth?

Don't worry about derailing this thread, I seem to derail plenty on my own, and besides, you still want to talk to me. That's more than I can really ask for around here these days.

 

Yes, a solar panel in space would generate a lot more energy per square foot than one on the surface, and if you could get that energy to the surface economically it could be a solution. In the long term. The problems involved are much more complicated than getting nuclear energy to be cheap enough to be a logical alternative to fossil fuels. I guess what I am trying to say is; That solution can't solve the problem in time to make any difference in the time scale I'm looking at. It is an interesting idea, that deserves to be developed, but I don't consider it a valid solution until the next century.

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Not to derail the thread.... so apologies for detracting....

 

Are Solar rays more powerful from space? Meaning would it be possible to (in the future) construct some kind of giant Solar panel Sail in orbit that could generate power from the Sun and somehow transport it back to the earth?

Don't worry about derailing this thread, I seem to derail plenty on my own, and besides, you still want to talk to me. That's more than I can really ask for around here these days.

 

Yes, a solar panel in space would generate a lot more energy per square foot than one on the surface, and if you could get that energy to the surface economically it could be a solution. In the long term. The problems involved are much more complicated than getting nuclear energy to be cheap enough to be a logical alternative to fossil fuels. I guess what I am trying to say is; That solution can't solve the problem in time to make any difference in the time scale I'm looking at. It is an interesting idea, that deserves to be developed, but I don't consider it a valid solution until the next century.

Yeah for sure, I understand that point of view. In the interim there needs to be a more efficient mode of generating power to solve current problems. I just hope that there is enough minds thinking of more long term permanent solutions to humanities energy problems. Humanity too often goes for the short term solution, or neglect keeping an eye on the horizon. It's why we are in the position we are in the first place.

Our primary objective as a species is survival, and as such we have a duty of care to our own environment that supports us. I'm present of mind enough to see that the status quo of western civilisation is to produce and consume with pretty much universal disregard for the natural environment, and our effects on it. So I'm all for finding energy modes that are cleaner and more sustainable. I can understand the desire for Nuclear Power which is clean, with the caveat of waste. But that permanence of radioactive waste is a hang up for me, as it feels like one of those oversights humans often say "Ahh don't worry about it" in pursuit of the immediate gains that ends up ****ing us hard. Which is why I dream up orbital solar sails (which I'm sure others have thought of and come up with plenty of problems).

 

But like I said. I grew up in New Zealand and I often spend time in the country and forests of the UK. So I'm at least 60% hippy, even though I have short hair, wash and listen to metal. That probably colours my world view significantly.

Edited by Odine
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On the orbital solar arrays, I just think the technology has a lot farther to go to be viable. You would have a massive sail in orbit around the Earth, spinning on it's axis to stay pointed at the Sun. Then it is continuously aiming a great big laser at Earth while it is moving. You probably want the array in geostationary orbit above a receiver station, which means it is about 35,000 km away. With our current laser technology we would end up with a beam over 10 kilometers wide, and that doesn't even count what the atmosphere does. You want to trust a computer's aim from that far away with a beam that wide? A half degree error would give you quite the sunburn a county away. You would lose so much in generating the beam and loss in transit that it would have to be a really big array just to give you a sunburn. It is fun to think about though.

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So funny this conversation should happen at this point in time, my wife just send me this article. The Guardian is a fairly center-left news paper here, but it certainly not tabloid and is fairly well respected.

 

If that is the only or best solution to the waste problem then I am vehemently against any further Nuclear energy in the UK.

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In seriousness though... That seems to be the most short sighted, idiotic, ecologically dangerous and downright disrespectful solution to the problem. (not Lincoln's hat I mean the UK solution).

 

You're an outdoors guy aren't you Marc? Don't you like to go hunting and enjoy the woods? As someone who enjoys the outdoors doesn't that bother you?

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Nuclear waste has never once impacted my outdoor activities, can't say the same for fossil fuel waste. The total of my lifetime radiation exposure probably increases my chances of cancer by less than .01%. How do think that compares with the crap we all breath all day? California being on fire, continuously, is the biggest problem right now for outdoor activities though. They should get their shit together or move down wind.

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