Saturday, June 11, 2016

Nuclear Energy: Pros and Cons

On the con side, the wrong type of political environmentalism now dominates, the type prone to knee-jerk, poorly reasoned actions, closing completed and uncompleted reactors, creating enormous costs. In other words, the same people bringing us militarism, financialism, and cultural Marxism.

Then we have non-working reactors in poor countries for blatant behavioral genetic reasons.

But Per joule of energy produced, coal is hundreds of times more deadly than nuclear energy. Due to radioactive elements in coal, one hundred times as much radiation enters our surroundings from a coal plant than from a nuclear plant.

Chernobyl is not the fault of the West. Western reactor designs were already far safer than Soviet designs, and the newest designs make meltdowns astronomically improbable.

But terrorism or earthquakes could strike a nuclear plant, then we would really be in trouble--but not if we build new nuclear plants in remote areas, away from earthquake zones. If attackers want to target remote nuclear plants, that is less worse than targeting packed public places.

Destroying a nuclear plant is not easy.

Most waste from nuclear plants results because we do not reprocess the waste into plutonium and reuse it. The alleged reason we do not reprocess waste is we do not want certain wonderful peoples stealing plutonium and making bombs. But plutonium is too hot for them to mess with.

If enemy nations want plutonium, they'll make their own. They don't even need uranium deposits or purchases of uranium from others to make nuclear weapons. They can make nuclear weapons from the uranium present in coal ash.

If we reprocess nuclear fuel and keep the Marxians, neoconservatives, and third wayers out of political power, the mean cost to produce nuclear energy is less than almost all other energy sources, not counting the massive pollution costs of coal. Heck, we would be better off using the nuclear energy in coal than the combustion energy in coal.

The mighty political forces of not-in-my-backyard is a political problem for nuclear energy but also for wind and solar too. But research suggests that citizens much more likely to agree with something in their vicinity if it is presented as a moral imperative.

Nuclear waste, even after reprocessing, is very dangerous for a long, long time. Yes, but paradoxically its danger makes us vigilant about containing and storing it properly. Compare that with other industries such as mining and fossil fuels, which spew millions of tons of hazardous waste into the environment.

Opposition often gets ridiculous. Years ago, I saw a proposal to fill the lands around nuclear waste sites with stone warning devices to scare future generations, so they will know that nuclear waste is near, thus, assuming future generations will be too inept to construct radiation counters, retrieve data on nuclear waste sites or even remember where nuclear sites are.

Wind and solar show promise, but on many days the sun and wind vanish. We use coal and natural gas plants as backups. The hottest days of the year are the least windy, the days when electrical energy usage spikes. Wind and solar require enormous amounts of metals and plastics which cause their own environment problems. Storage methods for wind and solar are nowhere near cost effective.

What about wave nuclear fusion and other newcomers? God bless us if they arrive. But we cannot base policy on technologies that, for now, have a too low of an expected value.

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