The Right of Nuclear Power

In an email exchange with Marcel, we were debating the significant impact on the environment between Wind Turbines and Nuclear Power Plant. I thought you might like reading his response:

Marcel F. Williams

The good thing about nuclear power plants is that they produce lots of power on relatively little land area. Wind and solar farms are at least 100 to 1000 times more land intensive than nuclear power plants.

But more importantly, if we don’t start a massive investment in nuclear power for electricity and carbon neutral synfuel and industrial chemical production, there might not be a Florida 100 or 200 years from now. There also may not be a New York, London, Tokyo, or Boston anymore either. All of these cities could be underwater if the ice caps end up melting completely.

The US hasn’t ordered a new nuclear reactor in a few decades but that hasn’t stopped some nations from attempting to develop nuclear weapons. Middle East nations like Iraq and Iran wanted nuclear weapons because they believe Israel has nuclear weapons.

But it really doesn’t make much economic or military sense for nuclear energy nations like the US, France, Japan, China, Russia to promote nuclear power expansion in third world countries when all of these nations actually need a lot more nuclear reactors in their own countries. So ironically, hostility towards building new reactors in the US has pushed the nuclear industry to promote building more US reactors overseas instead of in the US.

Westinghouse for example ended up being bought by Toshiba of Japan. Toshiba wanted to build more reactors in China using US Westinghouse technology. China said yes, but the Japanese had to turn over all of the US blueprints for making the latest generation of US nuclear reactors to the Chinese government. This is something that the Chinese demand of all companies building reactors in their country so that they will be able to build clones of these reactors.

By the way, if you want to know how hydroelectric or nuclear power plants can manufacture gasoline, you should read my article: gasoline from air and water at The New Papyrus

8 comments on “The Right of Nuclear Power

  1. Marcel F. Williams

    Check out the beautiful Terrestrial Energy pro-nuclear musical slide show at click the View Inro link once you’re there. Its really beautifully done, IMO, while also being very educational. Marcel

  2. Marcel F. Williams

    Fortunately, it wasn’t a cruise ship hitting an oil tanker which could have killed thousands of people. On December 20, 1987, the Philippine- registered passenger ferry, the MV Dona Paz, sank after colliding with the MT Vector oil tanker resulting in more than 4000 deaths, the greatest non-military maritime disaster in history.

  3. snilon

    Not to throw stones, but it’s still a dangerous way of producing energy.Checkout the two nuclear submarines that collided in Europe. While they did not damage the nuclear missiles on board, it still a grim reminder that no matter how we plan to be safe, we can’t always in control.

  4. Marcel F. Williams

    I’m a strong advocate of a nuclear and renewable energy economy. But I think fuel from biowaste and small hydroelectric facilities are far more environmentally friendly and much cheaper than large wind or solar facilities. Nuclear waste represents about 1% of the dangerous toxic waste produced in this country. And as Lovelock pointed out, these non-nuclear toxic materials actually remain potentially dangerous– foreve– while nuclear material actually becomes less toxic over time. If you’re worried about the potential for a nuclear disaster from Western reactors, you should read my article:The Relative Safety of the New Generation of Nuclear Reactors at:

  5. snilon

    Marcel,It was a very good article. My question is why does it have to be all or nothing? For those of us in the “green movement”, we are looking for something that is non-evasive and creates as little waste as possible. It does not warm my heart or make me sleep better knowing that in 600 years the nuclear waste that we are leaving behind will no longer be a danger…since we haven’t even passed the 100 year mark of the first time we put a lid on a container of nuclear waste. And just because we haven’t had a nuclear disaster in recent history, doesn’t mean it won’t happen. For as much as you point out how far nuclear power has come and the disasters of the past have been for individual reasons; you are leaving out the distinct possibility of human error. For every disaster that has occurred, either corners we cut and/or mistakes were made by the operators of the plant.If we ignore the possibilities of wind and solar by devoting all of the money to developing more nuclear power plants, then we turn back the clock on a very progressive movement. If the space that wind and solar farms take up is a bother to you, then it would seem the need to stream line the product would be even greater.Technology has come a long way in solar. Why can’t it do the same for wind? It would be a crime to pigeon hole our efforts into nuclear and ignore the possibilities of renewable alternatives.

  6. Marcel F. Williams

    Here’s an Amen from todays Sunday Times by James Lovelock From The Sunday TimesFebruary 15, 2009Nuclear lies are keeping you afraidThe father of the Gaia theory, says far from being uniquely dangerous,only nuclear power can solve the food and energy crises aheadJames LovelockNormally the media can smell a rat better than a hungry terrier, and Iwas slightly surprised that they did not wonder more about the murderof the Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 in London.He was cruelly poisoned by a few hundred nanograms of the radioactiveisotope polonium210. When swallowed it soon finds its way to everycell of the body, where it emits helium atoms that plough through thevital structures. An evil way to kill someone: a slow, unstoppable,tortured death.There is ample evidence that the agents of the murder were Russian,and the container of the radioactive element was leaky enough to leavea trail from the airliner that brought the assassin to London to thehotel where the poison was added to a cup of the victim’s tea.What an opportunity was missed by some imaginative journalist orthriller writer, to have set a scene somewhere in Moscow with a castof professionals from security agencies or energy corporations.Someone says: “You realise, do you, that a poisonous dose ofpolonium210 will cost about $10m? Why not use ricin – we know thatthat’s a reliable poison and a lot less visible to the media?Moreover, it will cost less than $1.”Another bureaucrat adds: “Yes, and to make the polonium we have toseek time on a reactor which is already fully occupied with otherimportant tasks.”At which a senior manager intervenes. “Gentlemen,” he says, “thepurpose of this action is not merely to punish a traitor – and thatalone needs visibility and media amplification – but more importantlyto keep the West frightened of all things nuclear. Our future as aworld power depends on our ability to make them wholly dependent on usfor their supply of oil and gas; their use of nuclear energy wouldfree them of this dependency and we could lose our ability to make theworld go the way we wish. Ten million dollars is nothing in that cause.”This scene is no more than a figment of my imagination, but it growsmore credible as we move further into the 21st century, when politicalpower and business opportunity will more and more be linked to energysupply. It would be naive to expect energy companies to stand asideand see their profits cut by inexpensive nuclear energy, and the samemust be true for the thwarting of national aspirations.Our greatest future need in the UK will be a secure supply of food andenergy. Soon the growing appetite of the world for both, and theworsening climate, will make the supply from abroad increasingly moreexpensive, and we will be driven more and more to produce food andgenerate electricity from our own resources.We in Britain are no longer a major manufacturing nation and may haveto leave the engineering development of our energy supply to thosenations better equipped to do so. The worst of all possibilities wouldbe for us to become the test-bed for unproven technology, and this iswhat is happening now with wind turbines.We should regard nuclear energy as something that could be availablefrom new power stations in five years and could see us through thetroubled times ahead when the climate changes and there are shortagesof food and fuel and major demographic changes.Those in Britain should think of the troubled years of the 1970s andearly 1980s, when industrial conflict over coal threatened electricitysupplies. It was the availability of nearly 30% of the electricity weused from nuclear energy that sustained the nation and stopped thequarrel turning into a civil war. The only thing that stops animmediate build of new nuclear electricity is legislation put in placeby previous governments and unreasoning fear.There are now more than 440 nuclear power stations in the world,producing 17% of all the electricity used, about the same percentageas hydro-electricity. Other sources of renewable energy – biofuels,wind, etc – produce only 2%. The safety record, their cost and thelocal acceptability of these fission-powered stations make them themost desirable of all sources. So why in the First World do we stillpersist in the falsehood that they are uniquely dangerous?I think we fail to welcome nuclear energy as the one good and reliablepower source because we have been grievously misled by a concatenationof lies. Falsehood has built on falsehood and is mindlessly repeatedby the media until belief in the essential evil of all things nuclearis part of an instinctive response.It is often said that nuclear waste is uniquely deadly and willpersist for millions of years and poison the global environment. Allpollution by chemical elements persists. Lead pollution from a mine,smelter or factory where it is made into things lasts for ever; thesame is true of mercury, arsenic, cadmium and thallium: these toxicelements are permanently with us. What is remarkable about nuclearwaste is that it fades away. In 600 years the high-level waste from anuclear power station is no more radioactive or dangerous than theuranium ore from which it originated. More importantly, there ishardly any nuclear waste to worry about. The yearly output of wastefrom a 1,000MW power station would fit in a London taxi.Even government committees such as the Committee on Radioactive WasteManagement propagate nuclear falsehood: one of its representativessaid there is enough nuclear waste in Britain to fill the Albert Hallfive times over. In fact, after 40 years of generating nuclear energy,there is barely enough to fill one Albert Hall. Compare this with themile-high mountain, 12 miles in base circumference, of solidifiedcarbon dioxide that the world makes every year. The nuclear waste is aminor burial problem, but the carbon dioxide waste will kill us all ifwe go on emitting it.In addition to the negative propaganda directed at nuclear energy,there are almost as many untruths propagated about the favourablequalities of wind energy. Were these wind farms truly efficient andcapable of resolving our power needs, I might be persuaded to grit myteeth and endure their ugly intrusion, but in fact they are almostuseless as a source of energy.It would take a vast area of countryside to provide enough land for aone-gigawatt wind-energy source. The wind blows only 25% of the timeat the right speed to generate a useful quantity of electricity;therefore this monster would need the back-up of a near-full-sizefossil-fuel power station to supply electricity whenever the wind blewtoo much or too little.Take, for example, the British intention to build the world’s largestwind farm in the Thames estuary, which would have 341 turbinesoccupying an area of 90 square miles. It is claimed to be aone-gigawatt project and therefore equal in output to a typicalnuclear power plant. In the hype attending it is the claim that itwill provide enough electricity for one-third of London’s homes andsave the emission of 1.9m tons of carbon dioxide. It sounds good untilyou realise that a full-size, presumably coal-burning, power station,emitting copious amounts of carbon dioxide, will have to be built toback it up when the wind does not blow.Its real averaged output would be only 400MW of electricity. If itwere steady, which it would not be, it would be enough for 830,000homes each consuming 4,200kWh yearly. I am glad the oil company Shellhad the wisdom, despite subsidies, to pull out of this flawed project.To survive on these islands with a future population perhaps as largeas 100m requires a constant and reliable source of electricity fromindigenous fuel. It would be madness to attempt it without nuclearenergy. It is sad that so many of the green movement and theirintellectual followers still oppose nuclear on grounds asinsubstantial as a fear of hellfire and Satan.© James Lovelock 2009

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