Friday, February 6, 2009

Nucular Energee

So, anybody want to convince me why nuclear energy is a bad idea? You know, relative to the alternatives? As I see it, coal, oil and gas have various pollution issues (including, perhaps, carbon) as well as limited availability. Wind and solar are useful in some places but tend to be too decentralized and expensive to utilize in the places where they're needed the most (a power transport problem). How are the issues with nuke power (security, disposal) worse than all of that? And don't nukes have the advantage of zero emissions, sufficient supply, and enormous capacity?

I guess we could just wait for fusion, but I'm imagining that India and China would, given the choice, prefer to industrialize now rather than later, no?


sbeath said...

I'm not terribly one way or another, so I'm unlikely to convince, but as far as I can tell, the arguments are:

1) Nuclear energy produces extremely toxic waste, which we don't have any currently acceptable way to deal with and which will be around for a long, long time.

2) Nuclear power plants provide easy targets for the People Who Hate Us to blow up (or merely distribute the waste of) and Kill Us All (well, actually just make lots of people sick or dead, but the disaster theme works really well with some people).

3) Nuclear power plants are extremely expensive to build and then require us to buy fuel that's limited and controlled. I don't know where Uranium hangs out, but I'd assume that given our disproportionate energy consumption (as compared to both our population and our land mass) we'd end up needing sources outside the US, so "dependence on foreign oil" would turn into "dependence on foreign uranium" which doesn't make anybody happy.

5)Nobody* wants a nuclear power plant in their back yard, so in addition to being problematic and expensive to build, fuel, and protect, a Nuclear Power Plant is difficult and expensive to situate.
*well, almost nobody.

6) We have other sources--solar, wind, etc that don't have most of those problems, that are already developed and that should dramatically decline in expense if we put money toward them instead of nuclear power plants.

That's the argument, so far as I know.

Melissa said...

I'm horrified at the idea of India and China attempting to do something with nuclear waste. And also, some things that KT mentioned.

Also, I don't know enough, but how does it scale? We were able to brush some of our nuclear waste under the rug (or, y'know, a mountain in the middle of nowhere), but how much of the country was being fueled for how much waste? Do we (or they) really have enough mountains in the middle of nowhere that doesn't get into the environment, water tables, ocean, etc? What are the long-term effects of large quantities of radioactive waste?

twifkak said...

FWIW, it's not as simple as "Nuclear energy." There are a lot of competing nuclear technologies, some more efficient and/or less wasteful than others. (I only know this because some dude came to give a talk on the "LFTR" variety, and how it needs government funding but is unlikely to get it.)

Me said...

Indeed, not all nuclear is created equal. I'm somewhat familiar with the subject, and my naive understanding is that some of the difficulty with less wasteful processes is that they overlap with weapons breeding technology. Surely there's more to it though, you want to link me up so that I can edumacate myself?

twifkak said...

Ha! While I want to link you up, I can't, because I don't know anything. I just saw a talk, and cannot google "lftr" any more efficaciously than can you.

Me said...

Actually, while I'd assume that I can Google as well as the next guy for most values of "next guy," I should think that you *could* google more efficaciously than me.

More to the point, Google occasionally posts videos of talks on their premises, that's what I was angling for. =)

twifkak said...

Well, okay, my uncanny ability to search for google lftr landed me two different youtube links for tech talks, neither of which is the one I saw.