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US Nuclear Power Industry Poised For a Comeback

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the do-not-want dept.

Earth 853

ThousandStars sends us to The Wall Street Journal for a report that momentum for nuclear energy is waxing in the US. "For the first time in decades, popular opinion is on the industry's side. A majority of Americans thinks nuclear power, which emits virtually no carbon dioxide, is a safe and effective way to battle climate change, according to recent polls. At the same time, legislators are showing renewed interest in nuclear as they hunt for ways to slash greenhouse-gas emissions. The industry is seizing this chance to move out of the shadow of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and show that it has solved the three big problems that have long dogged it: cost, safety and waste."

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FP (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29356667)

"...The industry is seizing this chance to...show that it has solved the three big problems that have long dogged it: cost, safety and waste."

Yeah, I never liked petroleum either. Paying 6 bucks a gallon to a multinational cartel, causing two fruitless wars in the Middle East, and then my kids' college funds and my 401K being given to the CIA and State Department's $300,000/person/yr Blackwater mercenaries while we eat Ramen for dinner.

Huh, what? Oh. Nevermind.

Ethanol-fueled

Re:FP (-1, Offtopic)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356729)

Dude, you've been posting AC for a while now. Low on Karma or can't log in? If it's the former, let me know, I'll throw some mod points your way.

Re:FP (1)

psicop (229507) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357045)

while we eat Ramen for dinner.

Hey, Mr.Fusion isn't picky either. On a college geek's budget, I for one welcome our glow in the dark, increased paranoia state.

I'm a little wary of yet another 'industry' poised to make a comeback, though. My hope is that it'd go the way of "Solar", but frankly, I don't trust many people to play nice with the byproducts of nuclear power as is. If you could combine the whole biomass/diesel craze with a Mr.Fusion that will charge your fuel cells, and power your house/lab...I'm all for it. Otherwise, it shouldn't be an industry, really. This would be better in a co-op sense, but...where's the profit in that?

Grrr... (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356689)

I really hate the comparisons of Three Mile Island to Chernobyl. Three Mile Island was an example of a failure at a nuclear facility that was solved correctly. Chernobyl was an example of a failure that was caused by extraordinary stupidity and handled as badly as you could handle such an incident.

Re:Grrr... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29356751)

Exactly. Mod parent up.

Chernobyl was a big problem. Three Mile Island was not, except in 2nd order ways such as loss of revenue and public opinion. TMI hurt no one. Of course that didn't stop the lawsuits...

It isn't that nuclear power is wonderful and 100% safe... it's that it's *relatively* wonderful and safe compared to coal.

Re:Grrr... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29356839)

The incident at TMI was easily solved. Nuclear power has been a silent provider of your cities power for decades, and now it is poised to surge. China has been ordering new plants by the dozen, and India is working with technology to get around the uranium trade difficulties. Once the plant in Maryland is finished (Calvert Cliffs), and becomes operational, other power utilities will be lining up to build more. Projected energy needs rise very quickly and nuclear can be an American solution.

No need to burn dirty coal, or foreign oil. Uranium deposits in Virginia show great prospect if the law allows mining. Now if only we could get the Government or perhaps wealthy investors to back the $8B/each to build them, the ball might get rolling soon. (Keep in mind a 1GW plant can easily make $1-2Million per DAY).

Do the math (5, Interesting)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357015)

There's a reason nobody is investing in this great deal.

The interest on a $8B loan at 8% is about 1.8M per day.

The amount of power made is about that much, at the wholesale rate of .10/KWH

And that's not counting the cost of uranium, labor, maintenance, decomissioning, or insurance .....
Not to mention that it takes many years to build one, with the 1.8M accruing each day.

Re:Do the math (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357137)

Modern pebble-bed reactors include maintenance, decomissioning, and uranium as a part of the initial cost.

Re:Do the math (2, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357153)

Then perhaps it should be built as a power-coop?
You know a nice non-profit, perhaps even given a government loan?

Re:Grrr... (5, Interesting)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356841)

Of course the public won't understand something as complicated as nuclear reactors. Science is over their heads.

Me: "I work on stem cells in adult mice"
"Average" citizen: "Stem cells? You're going to hell, euthanizing senior citizens is wrong!"
Me: "Wow... I don't... uh, I'm going to..."

Re:Grrr... (5, Insightful)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356931)

Not only that, but Three Mile Island was built with 60's /early70'stechnology and Chernobyl was Soviet bureaucratic nonsense.

Nuclear Technology has come a looooong way in 40 years. That's something to stress to the anti-nukes.

The waste is another sticking point to the anti-nukes now.

Re:Grrr... (5, Insightful)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357023)

Not really. The facts are on the side of the pro-nuclear groups. We can SOLVE the nuclear waste issue by building more nuclear plants...

If we build a modern generation of feeder-breeder reactors that are something close the 97-99 times more efficient than the old breed and can consume previously generated nuclear waste as fuel.

Re:Grrr... (1)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357117)

If we build a modern generation of feeder-breeder reactors that are something close the 97-99 times more efficient than the old breed and can consume previously generated nuclear waste as fuel.

You can't recycle the fuel indefinitely, eventually you will have waste. And eventually it needs to be dealt with.

Re:Grrr... (4, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357181)

Yes, but the waste will be far less radioactive than the waste produced by older-style reactors. And radioactive waste is significantly easier to corral than the CO2 being barfed into the atmosphere by coal-burning plants.

Re:Grrr... (5, Informative)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357317)

absolutely correct.

The facts are still on the side of the pro nuclear camp.

"Dangerous Nuclear Waste" of the old plants remains active for thousands of years, we can't really be sure to contain it for that long.

Once fully processed through feeder-breeder plants, the waste will be of two types.
1: almost non reactive with a half life of hundreds of thousands of years. Its about as dangerous as normal granite.
2: highly radioactive stuff with half lives of decades, the stuff will be decomposed and safe after about 2 centuries. We can build safe containment sure to last that long.

Re:Grrr... (4, Funny)

pentalive (449155) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357369)

Yeah, Chernobyl was "lets disable all the safeties and then turn off the pumps and see what happens."

Don't play with reactors, right. got that.

Re:Grrr... (4, Insightful)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356989)

Yeah. In terms of safety, Chernobyl is like taking a Yugo, removing the swaybar, clipping the emergency brake cable, severing the brake hydraulic lines, removing shock absorbers, installing racing slicks, and going for a joyride in the snow. (Disclaimer - Yugos might not have some of those items in the first place, but hopefully you get the idea.)

TMI would be like taking an old Dodge Aries out for a drive.

Modern nuclear plants would be like driving an AWD vehicle with ABS and stability control.

Re:Grrr... (1)

jdgeorge (18767) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357235)

Wow, I finally understand nuclear power plant safety! Thanks, Slashdot!

Re:Grrr... (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357021)

I think it's at least partly driven by purposeful misuse of it in that way by people who either do or should know better--- whether because they want to make nuclear power seem scary, or just because they or their publishers want to sell books and push documentaries. One of the first major books [wikipedia.org] on the subject uses the sensational title Three Mile Island: Thirty Minutes to Meltdown (1982), and its paperback cover [images-amazon.com] has the even more sensational tagline, "The Untold Story--- Why It Happened And How It Can Happen Again". And even that looks like a sober scholarly analysis compared to subsequent books [amazon.com] with subtitles like A Nuclear Omen for the Age of Terror.

Fortunately there are good books [wikipedia.org] on the subject. But I suspect they don't sell as well.

here we go (1)

CHRONOSS2008 (1226498) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357029)

would this prove america is smarter or more STUPID, then ever before

Re:Grrr... (1)

bzzfzz (1542813) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357037)

In a sick sort of way, Chernobyl had more effective public relations -- the public belief was that the accident wasn't nearly as bad is it indeed was, while at TMI the public belief was that the accident was considerably worse than the facts showed.

A close reading of the accident narrative at TMI doesn't support the idea that the failure was "solved correctly." It shows that despite a grave combination of equipment failures, human factors problems, and bad judgment, the plant was eventually shut down without any leakage of radioactive material into the environment, due to a combination of conservative design and a little luck.

The main technical differences between TMI and Chernobyl were that a) Chernobyl had an intrinsically less safe graphite moderator while TMI had heavy water and b) TMI had better containment.

Re:Grrr... (4, Informative)

khayman80 (824400) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357085)

Yes, I agree: the fear surrounding Three Mile Island is based more on Hollywood than physics. The article makes at least one other mistake:

Many scientists and environmentalists still distrust nuclear power in any form, arguing that it can never escape its cost, safety and waste problems.

Many environmentalists do oppose nuclear power, but they're also knocking over AM radio towers because of the scary radiation. But it's not true that many scientists oppose nuclear power. From a recent survey [people-press.org] :

... About half (51%) of Americans favor building more nuclear power plants to generate electricity, while 42% oppose this. ... More college graduates (59%) favor building nuclear power plants than do those with a high school education or less (46%). ... Seven-in-ten scientists favor building more nuclear power plants to generate electricity, while 27% are opposed. Among scientists, majorities in every specialty favor building more nuclear power plants, but support is particularly widespread among physicists and astronomers (88% favor). ... -- Pew Research Center

So it isn't true that many scientists oppose nuclear power. A minority of scientists oppose nuclear power, just like a minority thinks abrupt climate change isn't happening. Also, strangely enough, the scientists most likely to understand nuclear power are the ones most in favor of it.

Re:Grrr... (0)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357225)

Yeah, really. I mean they can't build Wolverine/Supermutant-proof nuclear facilities. It's just not possible. Adamantium is hard.

Oblig. Mr. Burns. (5, Funny)

Commander Doofus (776923) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357229)

I really hate the comparisons of Three Mile Island to Chernobyl.

"Congratulations Homer! You've turned a potential Chernobyl into a mere Three Mile Island!

Re:Grrr... (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357231)

I really hate the comparisons of Three Mile Island to Chernobyl. Three Mile Island was an example of a failure at a nuclear facility that was solved correctly. Chernobyl was an example of a failure that was caused by extraordinary stupidity and handled as badly as you could handle such an incident.

Interestingly enough, both were the result of operator error; but the safety systems at TMI prevented a catastrophe. While I agree TMI was solved correctly, had teh operators recognized the open pressurizer relief or simply let the safety systems do there thing TMI would have been a non-event.

At any rate, it's good to see the US is once again serous about dealing with its energy needs.

Hooray! (2, Funny)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356699)

Time to order a couple thousand 1970s era alarm clocks (With the glowing dials) and start up a nuclear pile in my garage!

Re:Hooray! (2, Interesting)

Jeng (926980) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357065)

Just visit antique stores, perhaps you'll find one with an extra vial of radium paint in the back of the clock.

http://www.dangerouslaboratories.org/radscout.html [dangerousl...tories.org]

"Nucular". (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29356701)

It's pronounced "nucular".

Good. (5, Insightful)

tpjunkie (911544) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356791)

This needs all the political momentum it can get. Nuclear power is one of the areas I have strong disagreements with the current administration. Considering how much Uranium (and thorium, but lets not get into that) we have available domestically, this is such a fundamental and simple (albeit expensive) steps we can take to reduce emissions (I'm looking at you, coal) while decreasing our energy dependency. It has been so long since we have built a new reactor in this country that the safety of the newest designs, particularly the pebble bed reactor makes the still operating relics of the 60s and 70's look like potential Chernobyls (Of course, they're not, but I'm speaking relatively and the safety aspects have come quite a ways since then)

Re:Good. (3, Insightful)

megabeck42 (45659) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357087)

The difference between chernobyl's RBMK design and and our operating relics is already rather significant. Also, we have organizations in the US, such as the United States Navy, which are at the forefront of safe reactor design and operation.

Re:Good. (2, Insightful)

tpjunkie (911544) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357311)

Oh I am aware of that as well, I was just using Chernobyl as a point of comparison to make a point. If TMI showed anything it's that the containment design of the then-current reactors works as designed. The point being that pebble bed reactors are designed such that a runaway reaction and increased temperatures improve the moderator's effectiveness, thus reducing the reaction rate. It literally is a fool-proof design inasmuch as a nuclear reactor can be "fool proof"

Re:Good. (1)

sp3d2orbit (81173) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357197)

The only true green power is to harvest the misguided, good intentions of environmentalists.

Yeah, sure (2, Insightful)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356793)

Nukes are awesome. Let's put bunch of them OVER THERE. No, no, no, not over here, OVER THERE.

Re:Yeah, sure (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356883)

Is Wyoming far away enough to evade the NIMBY's?

Just put it near Big Piney, its a high planes desert that could use some more jobs in the area.

Re:Yeah, sure (2, Informative)

Nit Picker (9292) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356901)

Actually, if you talk to someone in a community that hosts a nuclear plant, the opinion is usually positive. I recently met a newspaper man from Waynesboro, GA, which has two reactors and two more on the way, and he said the plant was the best thing that had happened to the city.

Re:Yeah, sure (4, Funny)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357097)

... he then proceeded to shoot flames from his eyes in order to warm a cup of coffee while the small, winglike appendages growing from the sides of his neck flapped excitedly.

Re:Yeah, sure (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357325)

Most likely because the municipality taxes the plant for property tax which in a small community can mean there is no need to tax anyone else, not to mention local high paying jobs. I know one community here in NE Ohio has some of the best school facilities in the state due to having a plant in the city.

Re:Yeah, sure (1)

Franky'Z (1633779) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357091)

No.... Nukes is no awesome .. Nukes is dangerous

Re:Yeah, sure (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357103)

I vote for nuclear power in my backyard. I welcome it with open arms. Hell, I wouldn't mind a couple hundred watt generator in my basement.

Re:Yeah, sure (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357191)

Since I already have the worst run old nuke plant in the country (David Besse, they found a football sized hole in the reactor vessel) upwind of me I say go for it, safety can't be any worse and it's likely to significantly improve the air quality around here.

Shameless sig whoring (1)

Commander Doofus (776923) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356803)

See this on a ./er's sig so I can't take credit for it, but it sums up the situation nicely: Nuclear power. Global warming. Agrarian society. Pick one.

Re:Shameless sig whoring (5, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357035)

See this on a ./er's sig so I can't take credit for it, but it sums up the situation nicely: Nuclear power. Global warming. Agrarian society. Pick one.

The enviro-nazi's would seem to prefer the Agrarian society option. We can't use nuclear, we can't use coal, we can't use natural gas, we can't build more hydro -- so what exactly is going to replace the base load part of the power grid? Solar and wind will never scale that well and aren't appropriate for base load anyways. We never should have stopped building nuclear power plants. The environmentalist movement really shot themselves in the foot with that one. How much CO2 has been released into the atmosphere by the coal/gas power plants brought online to replace the nuclear ones that we never built?

We should also extend a nice fat middle finger at Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford for unilaterally abandoning reprocessing technology. How does the United States not reprocessing our spent nuclear fuel prevent nuclear proliferation anyway? Was there some third world dictator who thought to himself "Gee, I'd like to have a nuclear bomb but the US abandoned reprocessing technology so why should I even bother to try?"

Re:Shameless sig whoring (2, Interesting)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357209)

what exactly is going to replace the base load part of the power grid?

Wind and Solar with proper energy retention mechanisms for times when they cannot provide the power needed. Take the money you would invest in ramping up nuclear and invest in basic battery research in the meantime use concepts like molten salt and compressed air to provide energy during night and low wind occurrences. Invest in basic science to provide long range power transmission so areas rich in said power can supply far off urban centers.

CO2 accounting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29356819)

One must take into account the amount of CO2 emitted during nuclear fuel production. Has anybody done the math?

Re:CO2 accounting (2, Informative)

Nit Picker (9292) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357059)

It's been done several times. There is a study called "ExternE" that does the calculation for several methods of electric generation. Nuclear is low, especially if the calculation assumes centrifuge enrichment, although not as low as hydro. Nuclear opponents sometimes like to quote a study by a guy named Storm van Leeuwen who claims otherwise, but from what I can tell it is flawed.

Re:CO2 accounting (3, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357129)

One must take into account the amount of CO2 emitted during nuclear fuel production. Has anybody done the math?

You don't need to "do the math". Apply some common sense. Common sense tells you that it doesn't take thousands of megawatts to dig ore out of the ground and refine it. Have you ever seen the trainloads of coal that arrive at your local coal power plant on a routine basis? Do you think it takes anywhere near that amount of energy to dig ore out of the ground and process it?

About time (1, Insightful)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356823)

It's about time they get the, money grabbing, global warming train. This is much better plan than hybrids, wind mills and CFLs.

Best stop-gap availible (2)

FrostDust (1009075) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356833)

Until renewable energy sources mature and gain public acceptence (solar is relativly inefficient and expensive, and Americans seem fond of complaining about "ugly" windmills), nuclear power is the best option we have.

Re:Best stop-gap availible (1)

mugnyte (203225) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357147)

Let me correct that: Nuclear-sourced energy is the only option. The issues with energy sources are:
  - Availability during specific, only-slightly-predictable (mostly weather-based) times of demand
  - Transmission from gen to load zones. wind has big problems with this.
  - Construction footprint, hydro and wind also suffer compared to a typical nuclear plant of relative capacity
  - The current US consumption (29000 TWh in 05) need is way beyond current and predicted wind+hydro 25 year generation plans (example [awea.org] ).
  - Newer (ESBWR, other Gen IV) reactors have radically different designs than TMI and 60's tech. The downside is the designs are quite untested in the real world.

  We're going towards a more diverse portfolio, for sure. But only nuclear can replace gas/coal for the heavy lifting, IMHO.

In my back yard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29356845)

Go ahead. Build it. I'll give you a good deal on the property.

1968 controls technology (4, Insightful)

bzzfzz (1542813) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356867)

When you consider the state of materials science and controls technology in 1968, when construction started on the TMI reactor, it's a wonder that anything as complicated as a power plant worked at all, let alone safely.

I think it's tragic that a plant from that era has come to symbolize nuclear power for the entire nation when the technology has advanced so considerably. If we applied that line of reasoning to automobiles, we'd close all the freeways because the Corvair was unsafe.

Re:1968 controls technology (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29356945)

When you consider the state of materials science and controls technology in 1968, when construction started on the TMI reactor, it's a wonder that anything as complicated as a power plant worked at all, let alone safely.

Back then, we didn't have Windows. Now we do, and we can use Windows and Windows technologies to control our systems. Stuff like OPC (OLE for Process Control, yes, that OLE...).

And plant management can open up a nifty Excel worksheet, pulling out the numbers from the plant immediately...

</joke>

Re:1968 controls technology (1)

bzzfzz (1542813) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357245)

Back then, we didn't have Windows. Now we do, and we can use Windows and Windows technologies to control our systems. Stuff like OPC (OLE for Process Control, yes, that OLE...).

And plant management can open up a nifty Excel worksheet, pulling out the numbers from the plant immediately...

</joke>

Analog control loops and things like PDP-8s weren't necessarily a whole lot more reliable than Windows. I don't know what the plant actually had for controls, but if you wanted a digital computer, the PDP-8 was fairly typical of the era. An analog meter with a d'Arsonval movement and optical sensors for the trip points was just tickety-boo in those days. Sometimes even the good ones stick.

Re:1968 controls technology (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357303)

And plant management can open up a nifty Excel worksheet, pulling out the numbers from the plant immediately...

In other news a nuclear power plant outside Spokane Washington melted down today. When asked what happened the plant's CEO responded with "We're not sure yet, but our safety control system registered 100,000 technobabbles where it should have registered 65,535."

Re:1968 controls technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29357133)

Interestingly I think the opposite is true:

I think that things have gotten so complicated in recent years that I wouldn't trust a 'new' technology to keep a nuke plant safe. Give me those simple control systems of yore.

Re:1968 controls technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29357293)

Actually, just limit the whole thing to something that does NOT need an OS. That way there's no danger of having anything from Microsoft controlling the damn thing. THAT would be dangerous. Even Microsoft states that their OS should NOT be used for such things but that won't stop anyone from doing it anyway.

Re:1968 controls technology (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357301)

Yeah, simply amazing that building a really fast airplane with nothing more than slide rule and guile was possible in the 1950s (SR-71).

homers gonna love this (1)

Jah Shaka (562375) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356879)

woowoo homer is going to love this!!! and mr burns will be making bank with a few more subsidaries...

With Yucca Mountain closed? (2, Interesting)

Eager Newbie (90366) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356903)

How will the closing of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository affect the development of more power plants? I would think a lack of waste storage could slow down the construction of new plants.

Re:With Yucca Mountain closed? (3, Insightful)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357151)

Nope, it will increase the need to build more feeder-breeder reactors to use up the 99% fuel content remaining in that so called "nuclear waste".

Re:With Yucca Mountain closed? (1)

mdm-adph (1030332) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357165)

AFAIK, the whole purpose of making the "pebble bed" type of reactors was that they produced dramatically much less waste. Yucca Mountain may not be necessary at all in the end.

Re:With Yucca Mountain closed? (2, Insightful)

Jeng (926980) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357179)

Why not just drill a large hole into a subduction zone and drop it off in there.

Let the earth recycle it.

Then again I also never understood why if nuclear waste is still putting off energy, why not just use the waste as an energy source? Storing the waste in pools that have to be constantly chilled just seems so backasswards.

Re:With Yucca Mountain closed? (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357211)

I hear there are men in the middle east happy to take the nuclear waste off our hands. Problem solved.

Re:With Yucca Mountain closed? (2, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357297)

Hardly at all. Modern Pebble Bed reactors recycle their own waste until there is almost no radiation left and only a lump of lead where the uranium should be. There's almost no waste at all in a modern reactor, and the whole thing can be shielded so well that it's virtually impossible to have a melt down from one even if things do go wrong.

In fact, places like Yucca Mountain and Hanford, if Pebble Bed reactors take off- could become MINES.

Re:With Yucca Mountain closed? (2, Insightful)

Relic of the Future (118669) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357337)

Closing? It was never open. Most spent fuel is (has been and will be) kept on-site, the rest is usually only ever moved a relatively short distance. Besides, fuel reprocessing would be better. And gen-4 plants (which would burn more than the 2% of the uranium we currently burn before calling the fuel "spent") would be even better.

Not Carbon Free (0, Troll)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356947)

A majority of Americans thinks nuclear power, which emits virtually no carbon dioxide . . .

Nuclear plants require a large containment building, which takes a lot of concrete. Lots. That concrete puts out gigantic amounts of CO2 when it's initially made.

However, it does reabsorb CO2 as it cures over the building's lifetime. It takes decades, but it's eventually carbon neutral. It also doesn't come with all the other junk being dumped into the atmosphere that comes from coal like heavy metals, sulfur, NOx, and radioactive isotopes (yes, quite a bit more than the dirtiest nuclear plant would).

You shouldn't have to distort things to promote Nuclear.

Re:Not Carbon Free (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357049)

Plants also heat water and return it to the body of water the plant is near. Global warming supporters freak out over 1 degree, most of the time it's even more at a nuclear plant.

Re:Not Carbon Free (2, Informative)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357201)

Non-issue. The main concern is the total heat capacity of the entire ecosystem, not a localized heating of a river. All energy production methods lose energy to heat. Since nuclear can reach well over a thousand degrees, it's Carnot Limit is quite a bit higher than almost anything else.

The 1 degree of change being a problem comes as an average. Since some places are known to be cooler, and other stay roughly the same, a 1 degree increase can correspond to 10 or more degrees increase in certain locations, particularly the poles.

Re:Not Carbon Free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29357355)

A 1 degree change in the temperature of the Earth's entire atmosphere represents a massive amount of energy. A 70 degree change in the temperature of the amount of water used as coolant in a nuclear reactor represents a considerably smaller amount of energy. And by "considerably smaller" I really mean "way way way way way smaller".

You fail at basic physics.

Re:Not Carbon Free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29357125)

maybe you should look up the def of "emits"
the concreat plant emited that co2 not the powerplant
and you emit Co2 buildign any thing including solar panles and wind mills
all that metal dones not melt its self

Re:Not Carbon Free (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29357353)

Mining and preparing uranium is also an extremely energy intensive and environmentally destructive process. This is probably still an improvement over coal, but my worry is that these new nukes will simply be added to the existing capacity rather than taking over from the far more dirty sources.

Good Luck With The Red Tape.... (2, Insightful)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356955)

I am an enthusiastic supporter of nuclear power for many reasons (the least of which is not its potential capability to move mankind into the space). However, no matter how excited and supportive the government or the populace become of nuclear energy there is one huge barrier that it faces. Due to the terror of nuclear energy generated in past decades, there are miles of legal hurdles, red tape, and bureaucratic BS festivals to go through before anything nuclear can be approved and implemented. Unless both federal and state litigators are willing to ease up some of the legal garbage surrounding nuclear facilities, it will remain an incredibly expensive (and unnecessarily so) solution to energy problems.

I hope the folks planning to establish new nuclear facilities hire a damn good group of lawyers. They are probably going to need it.

No Co2! (3, Funny)

salparadyse (723684) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356957)

But your great, great, great, great, great grandchildren will be employed monitoring the "by-products".

Re:No Co2! (1)

Delwin (599872) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357067)

not if you burn them up in a Thorium cycle reactor.

Re:No Co2! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29357219)

If we build breeder reactors to re-burn the "spent" fuel we would be eliminating well over half (I think i heard a NRE Professer at Georgia Tech say 95%, may be wrong... been a few years) of it. Instead we have to adhere to non-proliferation treaties and laws which prevent breeder reactors. Changing these laws would eliminate much of the argument against nuclear waste and space for it.

Environment?? (2, Interesting)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356961)

They haven't solved the environmental issues. They might have better safety, but what about the fact that they use massive amounts of water, and heat it up about a degree before returning it to the river that the plant is inevitably next to? How about the waste? They still haven't solved that one; all our old waste is still sitting on site at current plants.

Re:Environment?? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357047)

So use a man made cooling pond.
Build breeders or Candu reactors to use the "waste". That spent fuel is still very useful.

Re:Environment?? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29357075)

You are right, they definitely need to completely solve the waste problem before they proceed with building another nuclear plant.

Just look at the coal plants, their waste floats away on it's own. No need to store anything on site like that dirty nuclear technology!!

Consider it a stopgap, then (0)

Rix (54095) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357115)

We have to reduce C02 emissions. We have to reduce them right fucking now. Solar panels, windmills, or unicorn farts may one day be viable energy sources, but nuclear power is ready now.

Re:Environment?? (1)

megabeck42 (45659) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357195)

At least the nuclear solution isn't anywhere near as contaminating and destructive to the environment as coal or oil. Think of it as a lesser evil.

Re:Environment?? (5, Insightful)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357299)

They haven't solved the environmental issues. They might have better safety, but what about the fact that they use massive amounts of water, and heat it up about a degree before returning it to the river that the plant is inevitably next to? How about the waste? They still haven't solved that one; all our old waste is still sitting on site at current plants.

Palo Verde. 3 units, no river.

The waste is sitting there because politicians refuse to deal with the issue; not because it is unsolvable. Personally, I think we should rethink breeder reactors.

Re:Environment?? (2, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357343)

Modern Pebble Bed Reactors recycle their water, just like they recycle their uranium.

Re:Environment?? (1)

bzzfzz (1542813) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357363)

And how is that different from the coal plants that nuclear power replaces?

Let's hope so (5, Insightful)

Syncerus (213609) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356969)

The simple truth is that nuclear power is good technology that solves a variety of sticky problems. Anti-nuclear propaganda films irrationally scared the public in to rejecting a highly beneficial and useful method of power generation. With the passage of years, the public has come to the realization that the sky isn't falling and that a modern, safe nuclear power system is good economics and good social policy. We should celebrate this return to sanity: it's reason triumphing over irrational fear.

Support for Nuclear Power: Greed versus Intellect (2)

reporter (666905) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356975)

For decades, the typical American has exhibited an abysmal understanding of basic physics. This ignorance explains why he succumbs to scare stories about the horrors of nuclear power and why he has opposed it for those same decades. At the same time, the French and the Japanese -- with their outstanding understanding of basic science (as indicated by international comparisons of high-school students in France, Japan, and the USA) -- have generally supported nuclear power. It generates most of the electricity in France.

That Americans are suddenly interested in nuclear power is not due to a sudden awareness of the science behind it. Rather, economics has changed the equation. The rise of China and India has dramatically increased demand for fossil fuels and has driven their prices through the roof. This phenomenon directly hits the checkbooks of Americans.

Economics, not intellect, has now convinced Americans to join the nuclear-power club. Unfortunately, for the Americans, since they deserted nuclear power for 30+ years, the most advanced nuclear-power plants are designed by French and Japanese engineers. France and Japan will profit immensely when their companies build plants in the USA for the science-challenged Americans.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29356981)

If we say that we need nuclear power plants, aren't we just reinforcing the idea that Iran needs nuclear power plants too?

Re:Anonymous Coward (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357267)

Iran having nuclear plants for power is not the issue.
Using those plants to (potentially) enrich enough material for a weapon is the issue.

There are established international rules for standing up a nuclear power plant. Iran is apparently choosing to ignore those international standards and rules, and do whatever they feel like doing.

Re:Anonymous Coward (1)

Nit Picker (9292) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357323)

Actually, Iran probably does need nuclear power. Instead of using oil and gas for electricity generation, it can sell them for hard currency. (I don't know the specifics for Iran, but a lot of middle eastern countries still use oil for power generation, which is very uneconomical. Just because they have lots of oil doesn't mean they should burn it for electricity any more than a bank should burn money for electricity.)

What Iran shouldn't need is enrichment technology which, unlike most modern power reactors, can be used to create weapons grade material.

"peak uranium"? (3, Interesting)

retchdog (1319261) | more than 5 years ago | (#29356993)

I've heard from a physicist, that we have only so much easily refinable uranium/plutonium to last until 2050 or so. Wikipedia says 100 years which, while not a reason to stop doing it, seems pretty low to me. After that we'd have to go to lower-yield thorium fuel cycle (breeder) reactors which would last a while.

Of course he's not a nuclear physicist/engineer. Anyone have the scoop? Would these current power plant designs be adaptable?

Re:"peak uranium"? (1)

Delwin (599872) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357183)

Only until Uranium goes up in price enough to make extracting it from seawater cost effective. Then we'll have enough to last a few thousand years.

Re:"peak uranium"? (1)

jlebrech (810586) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357227)

So peek Oil + peak uranium: how many years does that give us?

Public opinion (1)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357089)

This is good news. I'm glad to hear that the American public has been doing their research about modern nuclear technology. Ha! Actually, I'm frightened that nuclear policy could be decided by public opinion. Or is the public opinion of a group who mostly don't know what they're talking about at least better than simply letting oil companies decide what we should do?

I suppose I can be glad that public opinion, in this case, seems to be trending toward a rational direction, even if it took 30 years too long to get there. (Not that I'm a nuclear engineer myself, but I've at least done some reading on the subject and made an attempt to be as objective as possible.)

Progress for nuclear power (4, Interesting)

Ironchew (1069966) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357093)

I'm a supporter of widespread nuclear power. However, the industry hasn't solved two major issues:
-Hazards of mining the fuel
-Political viability of fast breeder reactors

If we could get robots to mine the fuel, great. Right now, mining heavy, radioactive material is a hazardous occupation with long-term health effects.
Fast breeder reactors are the way to minimize nuclear waste to easily manageable levels. It is also an efficient generator of weapons-grade fissile material. The international community has proliferation concerns associated with this.

I hope to see these issues addressed in the future for ushering in widespread nuclear power along with solar, wind, and geothermal energy.

2 out of 3 aint bad (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357123)

...show that it has solved the three big problems that have long dogged it: cost, safety and waste.

The summary is technically right: Thanks to reprocessing fuel, the waste problem has been solved. But since the US doesn't reprocess spent fuel, we don't yet have a solution for that. This won't change until we stop calling it "waste" and start calling it "spent fuel" - the term "waste" is inaccurate.

From the article:

The big problem with controlling waste: Today's reactors capture only about 5% of the useful energy contained in uranium

"Today's reactors" -- meaning, "reactors based on modern technology" do not capture only 5% of the energy. But "Today's reactors" as in "the ones we are building in the US today" do only capture 5% of the energy. It is the most absurd aspect of US nuclear power. Until this is addressed, nuclear isn't going very far.

Re:2 out of 3 aint bad (1)

Delwin (599872) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357203)

"spent fuel" is spent fuel. "waste" is things like all the pipes, rad suits, couplings etc that get irradiated in the reactor and eventually get replaced.

... and where to put the spent fuel? ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29357127)

Nagging question, I know, but we need to have a place to put the spent fuel, or we need to invest heavily on the kind of reprocessing "breeder" reactors that can squeeze every bit of energy out of the fuel. I know there's Yucca mountain, but that seems pretty much DOA, and each reactor has containment and storage facilities built-in. Yet, I can't imagine that there's that much room available in existing storage, or that there will be enough willingness to pay the costs for bigger-scale on-site storage options. As much as people purport to love nuke energy, there's still a bunch of "NIMBYs" around. If you ask a geographically-distributed sample of people if they want nuclear energy, I'm sure there's a majority that do, but I imagine that none of them want nuclear material trucked through their towns, or to have big nuclear storage facilities around.

Go team corporatemasteroverlord! (1)

Caffinated (38013) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357277)

<sarcasm>
Wow, industry boosterism from the wall st journal, what a shocker.
</sarcasm>

It's true (2, Informative)

whoda (569082) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357319)

My father retired from the NRC 2 years ago.
He has more contracting work at plants all around the country than you could shake a fuel rod at.

Waste Heat? (1)

charlieo88 (658362) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357333)

By "waste" I assume they mean nuclear waste. What about waste heat problems, that had several power plants running at considerably reduced levels because of drought conditions in the south east?

Control (1)

ThEATrE (1071762) | more than 5 years ago | (#29357335)

A problem with nuclear power is that we'll be at the mercy of corporations to set the price and availability just like they do for oil.
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