Monday, May 12, 2008

This Blog-Post Powered by Nuclear Energy

Since we now know that burning carbon is terrible for the atmosphere, not to mention our lungs, should we be turning instead to nuclear power? I would say absolutely, and here's an article from Discover in which Gwyneth Cravens explains exactly why.

The fears about nuclear power are easy to understand. But it's also hard to understand why an industry with only one accident- and that in a totalitarian country with massive corruption and therefore no real safety standards!- and one near-accident in four decades is so deeply feared by the public. I'm currently writing in a country (France) that gets 85% of its electricity from nuclear power plants. Safely, cleanly, and efficiently, I might add. Since I charged my laptop battery from the wall outlet, let's just assume that this post is nuclear-powered.

Postscript: That French company we're talking about in the comments below is called Areva. I'll see if one can buy stock in the company because this would be a very good time to do so.


narrator said...

I tell people all the time that I would trust nuclear power if the French built and maintained the plants under French rules. It is American capitalists who have destroyed trust in nuclear power, through comic acts such as Michigan's Consumers Power burying nuclear waste on the Lake Michigan beaches.

Hiromi said...

I've been pro-nuclear power for a long time. To me, the problem of disposal of reactor waste is much less than the problem of greenhouse gases in that the problem is much smaller and much more local, which brings up the main issue with nuke power: NIMBY. The consequences of things going wrong can be quite dire, and naturally, people don't want to be in the vicinity.

The Pagan Temple said...

I'm all for it, always have been. They just need to figure out a way to recycle the waste, which would take care of the disposal problem. It could probably be recycled over and over before it's finally degraded to where it is safe to dispose of it in conventional ways. Under that scenario, nuclear energy can go a long, long way.

Hiromi said...

They just need to figure out a way to recycle the waste, which would take care of the disposal problem.

Interestingly, in this article about a think tank created by an ex-Microsoft guy (Myhrvold), there is passing reference to a nuclear reactor that would both run on the waste of existing plants and be accident-free:

“Teller had this idea way back when that you could make a very safe, passive nuclear reactor,” Myhrvold explained. “No moving parts. Proliferation-resistant. Dead simple. Every serious nuclear accident involves operator error, so you want to eliminate the operator altogether. Lowell and Rod and others wrote a paper on it once. So we did several sessions on it.”

The plant, as they conceived it, would produce something like one to three gigawatts of power, which is enough to serve a medium-sized city. The reactor core would be no more than several metres wide and about ten metres long. It would be enclosed in a sealed, armored box. The box would work for thirty years, without need for refuelling. Wood’s idea was that the box would run on thorium, which is a very common, mildly radioactive metal. (The world has roughly a hundred-thousand-year supply, he figures.) Myhrvold’s idea was that it should run on spent fuel from existing power plants. “Waste has negative cost,” Myhrvold said. “This is how we make this idea politically and regulatorily attractive. Lowell and I had a monthlong no-holds-barred nuclear-physics battle. He didn’t believe waste would work. It turns out it does.” Myhrvold grinned. “He concedes it now.”

Rufus said...

It's interesting that you mention the French company because they're sort of the world leader for nuclear power plants and hence getting a tremendous number of contracts right now in places like China and Canada. I'll try to find the name and see if it's possible to buy stock.