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Nucular Hydrogen Economy

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the don't-email-about-misspelling dept.

Science 668

Mark Baard writes "The hydrogen economy will at least in part be based on nukes. The DOE will build a pilot high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor (HTGR), which theoretically can co-generate electricity and hydrogen, side by side, inside a cheap modular unit."

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668 comments

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Bone-O-Rama (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061505)

First and foremost a frosty.

B0R

Re:Bone-O-Rama (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061625)

it's not cular to me why nucular energy is required here. someone want to cular that up for the busier of us who don't have enough time to go to the webpage?

it seems to me all you need is other hydrogen stuff making energy...

nucular??? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061516)

when did dubya start posting here?

Re:nucular??? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061529)

i was gonna laugh till i read the village voice and saw that they misspelled it too.

Re:nucular??? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061591)

comments modded up funny should also be on topic. the above one is not.

Re:nucular??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061671)

no. comments that are funny should be modded funny.

Re:nucular??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061708)

no.

Re:nucular??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061721)

no.

er wait i mean chocolate.

Re:nucular??? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061681)

I just think it is funny that it took absolutely no time to point out the error. This may be a genralization (sp) but it seems that we geeks always notice this stuff fast!!!

Re:nucular??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061728)

well, if george bush didn't have a texan accent it would have taken a lot longer for anyone to point it out... of course we would notice it, but the obvious reference to GB makes the majority of /.ers take the opportunity to do some bashing on his accent...

Re:nucular??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061775)

...makes the majority of /.ers take the opportunity to do some bashing on his accent...

...but only as AC's!!

mark baard is a whore (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061734)

the real question is, when will mark baard stop posting his own stories to slashdot? a search [slashdot.org] indicates this is not the first time he's done this.

observe...

submitter: Mark Baard

url: http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0322/baard.php

the story:
It's Nucular
by Mark Baard
May 28 - June 3, 2003

Re:nucular??? (1)

interiot (50685) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061785)

  • from the don't-email-about-misspelling dept.
But apparently posting is fine?

Fortunately for the Slashdot crew... (-1, Offtopic)

restlessmind (158275) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061518)

...the current economy isn't based on spelling (or proofreading).

Then again, if George W. is proofing, then "nucular" may be a perfectly acceptable spelling.

Re:Fortunately for the Slashdot crew... (3, Insightful)

simetra (155655) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061525)

You could read the article.

Re:Fortunately for the Slashdot crew... (0, Offtopic)

restlessmind (158275) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061552)

I could, but where's the fun in that? Reactionary, off-the-cuff jabs are the norm in comments!

Re:Fortunately for the Slashdot crew... (1, Troll)

GMontag (42283) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061774)

Yea, pronouncing it the same way the only Nuclear Engineer to occupy the White House is so wrong. How dim of him having a bit of an accent!

Now, for the real news, I am well ahead of the curve with my hydrogen powered Jeep [franceisoc...ermany.org] ! Glad to see these other folks following my lead :-)

nuke-you-lar (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061521)

I wish that inbred texan would start pronouncing it properly too... Has he finished reading his first book yet? see Jack run...

Re:nuke-you-lar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061600)

It makes fun of Americans (Republicans, even), so it must be funny!

Nucular? (0)

emperorp (463990) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061522)

It'd be really cool to switch to nuclear though..

Nucular? (0, Redundant)

denjin (115496) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061527)

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA. Is this a joke piece, seriously, I want to know!?!?!?!

Check the dept, it's a joke (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061573)

Although it's a fairly trollish one of negligable humour value.

Nucular? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061528)

Spell Czech?

FINALLY! (1)

scovetta (632629) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061530)

It looks like people may soon accept the fact that Nuclear * is here to stay! With energy consumption rising, and coal/oil/etc screwing everything up, we need something safe, clean, etc for the future.

I think there was a Bond movie about some solar cell thing-a-ma-jiggy that would solve this. I guess nuke's will work too.

I'm holding off on getting a new car until I get get a hydrogen one.

Bubba Notices The Irony (0)

Arbogast_II (583768) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061583)

The early 20th century saw a Republican President do more good for the environment in America than any other President of the century. That would be Theodore Roosevelt, for those who are weak in American History. Now the 21st century might be starting with another Republican President leading the way to a cleaner world. As a Liberal American (but not a Democrat), I find that quite ironic.

Coal powered car? (4, Insightful)

adoll (184191) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061613)

Coal makes up most of the USA's electric generating capacity. If you want a hydrogen powered car that uses "electricity cracked water", then what you have is (largely) a coal powered car.

However, if you use hydrogen from "steam cracking" of natural gas (CH3), then you have a natural gas powered car.

Nobody said the hydrogen was free!

-AD

You mean the solex (1)

Ars-Fartsica (166957) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061637)

Scaramangia (the man with the golden gun) was going to have sell out to oil sheiks. But Bond and Goodnight foiled him and his evil midget.

Re:FINALLY! (1)

RealAlaskan (576404) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061648)

I'm holding off on getting a new car until I get get a hydrogen one.

Gee, MY car burns hydrogen! What are you waiting for?

My car runs on hydrogen, which is bound by carbon so it isn't so gaseous. C8H16 or so (chemistry was a long time back). Or did you mean ``uses a fuel cell which burns H_2''? I'd like something like that too; the current technology has too many moving parts. I'm not holding my breath.

While we're talking bluesky stuff, here's something interesting: tapping [jnaudin.free.fr] the vaccuume energy [arxiv.org] . The guy's got a patent [espacenet.com] , and claims that he'll be producing commercial quantities Real Soon Now (TM) [cheniere.org] .

Re:FINALLY! (5, Insightful)

Chris Y Taylor (455585) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061669)

Amen to that.

I would prefer fusion, but that hasn't been done yet. Next on my list would be space based solar power, but sadly that might take longer to be ready than fusion. The only answer that is right-here-right-now is nuclear fission. Done properly it will not only reduce carbon emissions it will even reduce the amount of radiation released into the environment (it seems counterintuitive, but a typical coal power plant will release more radioisotopes into the environment than a typical nuke plant on a per Megawatt of power produced basis).

People just have to get over their knee-jerk prejudices. Unfortunately it may be easier to solve the engineering & infrastructure problems with fusion or space solar power than it would be to get the newsmedia to engage in a sane discussion about the risks and benefits of nuclear fission. Too many of them got everything they know about nuclear power from watching China Syndrome.

Re:FINALLY! (2, Insightful)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061790)

One thing about Nuclear Fission is that they should increase fuel recycling. If we actually used fuel recycling instead of dumping perfectly fine fuel there would not be as much radioactive waste and the uranium we have would last longer.

I know there are issues with proliferation and so on. But for nuclear weapon owning states that is not an issue.

Slashdot editors run for office, film at eleven (-1, Informative)

babbage (61057) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061531)

Just because idiot politicians pronounce the word "nuclear" as "nucular" does not mean that "nucular" is an accepted spelling of the term. Two wrongs don't make a right, and two abuses of the English language don't make for proper grammar -- just proper dummies :)

Re:Slashdot editors run for office, film at eleven (1)

RollingThunder (88952) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061558)

It's a reference to who's pushing the plan, and a quotation of the article's title. It makes sense, even if it's putting my teeth on edge.

Re:Slashdot editors run for office, film at eleven (1)

anonymous loser (58627) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061585)

You don't even have to read the article to realize it's deliberate:
from the don't-email-about-misspelling dept.

Re:Slashdot editors run for office, film at eleven (1)

babbage (61057) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061612)

Hmm, ok, I'll admit to missing that. Still, there's a difference between as subtle joke (as the VV headline was), and a punchline out of context (as this one was) -- maybe from the yes-the-spelling-is-a-joke dept. would have been clearer...

Re:Slashdot editors run for office, film at eleven (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061758)

maybe from the yes-the-spelling-is-a-joke dept. would have been clearer...

Like you would have read that either. psshaw.

How about (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061536)

you shut the fuck up as I slide my cock down the back of your throat.

In case it gets /.'ed (it's already getting slow) (5, Informative)

greendoggg (667256) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061545)

Here is the text of the article...

On a sunny Saturday morning 30 years from now, you may decide to take your family for a ride to the country. You'll still be driving a car, and you may still get stuck in traffic. But that's OK, because the only thing you'll be breathing in is water vapor from the car in front of you.

Welcome to the seemingly benign "hydrogen economy" President Bush has touted over the past year. Pollution-free cars. Abundant fuel. A cleaner environment.

But there's one factor the president isn't talking much about: the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of new nuclear power plants his administration imagines making all of that hydrogen.

The Bush administration and Senate Republicans want to give billions of taxpayer dollars to the nuclear industry to make high-temperature, gas-cooled reactors (HTGRs), which--theoretically--can co-generate electricity and hydrogen, side by side, inside cheap modular reactors. Advocates of the plants say they wouldn't need the expensive protections required for traditional models.

This summer, the Senate is expected to vote on the Energy Policy Act of 2003, which includes funding for new HTGR plants and the construction of a pilot co-generation facility to be run by the U.S. Department of Energy in Idaho. The bill was sent to the full chamber by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last month.

Spokespeople for the committee and the DOE say the aim is to cut greenhouse emissions, since energy companies continue to use coal and natural gas in making hydrogen. But small, modular HTGR plants may do it more efficiently and cleanly, they said.

That all depends, of course, on how you define "cleanly." To extract hydrogen from water--to get the H out of the H2O--you first have to make steam. The modular nuclear plants would do that without polluting the air, but would also leave behind radioactive waste.

Scientists have not yet designed a nuclear facility whose safety and efficiency trumps that of gas or coal. One proposal, from MIT, has a nuclear reactor sitting under the same roof as a chemical plant bubbling with sulfuric acid and hydrogen iodide.

Each modular plant would produce as little as one-tenth of the energy of a single light-water reactor. And since by some estimates the United States would need the equivalent of 500 light-water reactors to produce enough hydrogen, it may take thousands of modular plants to get the same job done.

The nuke industry, not surprisingly, says it's interested in joining the hydrogen economy. Entergy, the second-largest nuclear energy producer in the U.S., hopes to break ground on its co-generation Freedom Reactor within five years.

But only the feds seem willing to pay for the research and development that would make the futuristic plants a reality. "We generate electricity," said a spokesperson for Exelon, the country's largest producer. "We're not heavily involved in funding research and development."

Taxpayers may soon be. The Senate's energy bill affords the DOE $1.1 billion to build an HTGR co-generation nuclear plant at its Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory within 10 years.

The bill also proposes to kick-start a nuke renaissance by subsidizing half the cost of six to 10 new HTGR power plants in the United States.

"We need to move toward clean-air energy sources that are more reliable than wind and solar," said Marnie Funk, a spokesperson for New Mexico Republican senator Pete Domenici, chair of the energy and resources committee.

Renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, are emissions-free. But the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow. Many people also see wind turbines as an eyesore: Cape Codders are fighting plans for an offshore wind farm that would obstruct their views. "And then you've got the bird issue," said Funk. Wind turbines earned some notoriety by killing as many as 50 golden eagles along California's Altamont Pass during the 1990s.

Today, wind and solar proponents are appalled that Senator Domenici and the nuke industry are pushing nuclear energy as a greener choice. "It's disingenuous to suggest that the nuclear provisions in the energy bill come out of a commitment to the environment," said Lisa Gue, a senior policy analyst with Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment program. Gue said the energy bill is a thank-you to nuclear companies, who have contributed some $1 million to energy committee members' campaigns over the past three election cycles.

The Senate energy committee wants to lessen greenhouse gases at the cost of increasing nuclear risks, said Gue. "Hydrogen does offer great potential," she said, "but to use one of the most expensive and lethal sources of energy is a travesty."

Gue bases her criticisms on the risks many people associate with the 103 so-called "Generation III" reactors currently operating in the United States. These are the aging, leaking, water-cooled reactors built before Three Mile Island nearly melted down in 1979. The new plants will supposedly be safer. "But even with their new designs," said Gue, "I'm still not satisfied they've dealt with the waste issue."

Nuclear waste has never been a serious problem, if you ask the industry. "People automatically picture vast quantities of drums, oozing green slime and ruining our lives," said John Ritch, director general of the World Nuclear Association. "But the truth is that all of the waste produced by all of the world's nuclear reactors could fit in a two-story building, on an area the size of a basketball court."

And unlike today's light-water reactors, HTGR reactors--which would be cooled by helium gas--should burn up their radioactive materials more efficiently. The new facilities would then retain their waste for up to 40 years before carting it off to Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Proponents of HTGR also boast that the reactors require none of the concrete and steel containment walls that keep radioactive material locked inside light-water reactors. The uranium and graphite pellets inside HTGR reactors--even if all of the coolant is lost--would heat up so slowly they're unlikely to melt down.

Officials at the Idaho lab hinted at a dramatic exhibit of its pilot reactor's safety. "We could even do a demonstration in which we dump the helium coolant," said James Lake, associate laboratory director. "That would be a way to show the public in a visible way how safe the technology is."

Lake may have trouble selling tickets to that event, but opponents of HTGRs are less concerned about accidents than another scenario: "In a word, it's terrorism," said Charles Sheehan-Miles, a spokesperson for the Nuclear Policy Research Institute.

Existing plants have already been targeted by terrorists, suggest warnings from the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Presented with the prospect of a plane slamming into an HTGR reactor, Lake starts adding layers of concrete and steel (and significant cost) to what was once a spiffy little module. "We could put the reactor underground, inside a robust, concrete citadel," he said.

MIT professor Andrew Kadak, who worked on the U.S. government's "Generation IV" Roadmap for new reactors, said his nuclear research lab's own plan for an HTGR reactor does not include robust containment walls. "Most of the reactor, however, is protected by concrete," he said. "And the reactor is mostly underground. If necessary, we could move it completely underground. But we have not done the [damage] analysis yet."

Still, Dave Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer for the Union of Concerned Scientists, questions why nuclear energy companies and HTGR proponents are seeking free insurance from U.S. taxpayers. The Senate energy bill also calls for the extension of the 1957 Price-Anderson Act, a U.S.-funded disaster insurance policy, to cover HTGR reactors.

"Why would a safe reactor require Price-Anderson liability protection but not containment protection?" Lochbaum asked.

STFU you karma whoring nigger (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061592)

Post AC, cunt

Re:STFU you karma whoring nigger (-1, Offtopic)

greendoggg (667256) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061757)

Damn, at least i'm not some kind of racist like you.

Re:In case it gets /.'ed (it's already getting slo (1, Troll)

anzha (138288) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061706)

Renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, are emissions-free.

Not quite the whole story. Anyone looked at the industrial waste that making solar panels creates? IIRC, it's nontrivial.

Just a thought...

Revival of a Program (5, Interesting)

JJ (29711) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061546)

This is really a revival of a program that Clinton zeroed out the funding for in 1992. Supposedly, (I had friends working on it) Al detested the thought of anything nuclear.

Re:Revival of a Program (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061707)

Why are conservatives so pro-freekin nuclear? Nobody wants the wastes in their state (including Utah), and what about the highly hyped dirty bomb potential we'll get, with hundreds of plants with crap for security - oh I fogot, industry will "self regulate" - just like Enron and Microsoft.

I get the feeling that conservatives get a big hard-on for anything that pisses people of, or puts them in danger.

Where do you think H2 comes from? (5, Interesting)

adoll (184191) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061553)

I'm aware of two economic methods of generating H2. The least economic is from cracking water using electricity (the topic of this article). The most economic is by cracking natural gas - this is the method used by everybody I know of in the chemical industry.

Natural gas, mostly methane (CH3) is reacted with steam (H2O) such that CH3 + 2H2O = CO2 + 3.5H2

So, when somebody says he wants a hydrogen powered vehicle, what he really means is he wants a natural gas powered vehicle.

-AD

Re:Where do you think H2 comes from? (1)

javelinco (652113) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061639)

Maybe the most economical - fine, but it isn't the only way. So your analogy is a bit faulty, don't you think? If natural gas isn't available, we can use hydro power, solar, etc., and many other sources of hydrogen to produce our hydrogen. So... what was your point?

Re:Where do you think H2 comes from? (3, Insightful)

adoll (184191) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061688)

Natural gas will always be available.

You herd of Cows?

-AD

Re:Where do you think H2 comes from? (3, Interesting)

greendoggg (667256) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061657)

The downside to this method for mass production is the CO2 output. If you produce large quantities of hydrogen in this fashion, producing all that CO2, it really defeats the purpose of not just burning natural gas or gasoline.

Also, AFAIK, there is a much smaller supply of natural gas than of H2O to make H2 from.

Answer: Chalupas! (5, Funny)

el-spectre (668104) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061661)

And the methane is cheap and easy to get as well... 99 cent menu at lunch means that you can drive home in the evening...

Power Density (1)

Donut (128871) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061662)

This begs the question: Which is more efficient: Burning natural gas to make a car go, or converting natural gas (with steam, which requires energy to make) to hydrogen, and burning that to make your car go?

Re:Where do you think H2 comes from? (4, Informative)

jmv (93421) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061683)

Wouldn't want to contradict you but methane is CH4 and the reaction is:
CH4 + H2O => CO + 3H2
H2O + CO => CO2 + H2
which means at the end:
CH4 + 2H2O => CO2 + 4H2
see: http://www.howstuffworks.com/fuel-processor2.htm

Re:Where do you think H2 comes from? (1)

adoll (184191) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061766)

Yes, you are correct. I was operating from memory to get on the board quick.

Thanks for getting the right formulae!

-AD

Re:Where do you think H2 comes from? (3, Informative)

gnuadam (612852) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061709)

CH3 is methane? Count your bonds on carbon and try again. And a quick googling gives nothing on your cracking method. What I think you've done is to confuse cracking with combustion.

As far as I'm aware, heating methane to 1600K produces acetylene and hydrogen.

Re:Where do you think H2 comes from? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061712)

Methane is CH4 and you dont use decimals. There is no such thing as 3.5 molecules of H2. Yes there can be in moles..

Re:Where do you think H2 comes from? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061778)

There is no such thing as 3.5 molecules of H2. Yes there can be in moles
...and all chemical equations are given in - you guessed it - MOLES. I always switch to whole numbers as well (or at the very least vulgar fractions) but decimals are just as valid.

Re:Where do you think H2 comes from? (1)

madhippy (525384) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061716)

thought methane was CH4 ??

CH4 + 2H20 = CO2 + 4H2

PS
belgians make very strong beer...

Re:Where do you think H2 comes from? (4, Interesting)

cheezus_es_lard (557559) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061783)

The problem with that is that it leaves us dependant on natural gas as our hydrogen source. Once again, perishable fuel that is in limited supply on our planet. The co-generating reactor eliminates dependancy on the fossil fuels, however it brings in a different ball of wax: nuclear fuels and the people that hate them.

Personally, I would be perfectly happy with nuclear power of the types that are being discussed today: small scale, small risk. Running 10 small reactors instead of 1 large light-water reactor means less centralized risk and so on. I could stand behind something like that alot easier than three mile island.

$0.02 deposited.

It's incredible!! (1)

DarkBlackFox (643814) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061554)

Both, the energy implications of this article, and the number of /.'ers who immediately crashed in on "nucular" within the first 15 posts.

Republicans Plan a Hydrogen Economyat our Expense (-1, Redundant)

DataShark (25965) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061556)

On a sunny Saturday morning 30 years from now, you may decide to take your family for a ride to the country. You'll still be driving a car, and you may still get stuck in traffic. But that's OK, because the only thing you'll be breathing in is water vapor from the car in front of you.

Welcome to the seemingly benign "hydrogen economy" President Bush has touted over the past year. Pollution-free cars. Abundant fuel. A cleaner environment.

But there's one factor the president isn't talking much about: the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of new nuclear power plants his administration imagines making all of that hydrogen.

The Bush administration and Senate Republicans want to give billions of taxpayer dollars to the nuclear industry to make high-temperature, gas-cooled reactors (HTGRs), which--theoretically--can co-generate electricity and hydrogen, side by side, inside cheap modular reactors. Advocates of the plants say they wouldn't need the expensive protections required for traditional models.

This summer, the Senate is expected to vote on the Energy Policy Act of 2003, which includes funding for new HTGR plants and the construction of a pilot co-generation facility to be run by the U.S. Department of Energy in Idaho. The bill was sent to the full chamber by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last month.

Spokespeople for the committee and the DOE say the aim is to cut greenhouse emissions, since energy companies continue to use coal and natural gas in making hydrogen. But small, modular HTGR plants may do it more efficiently and cleanly, they said.

That all depends, of course, on how you define "cleanly." To extract hydrogen from water--to get the H out of the H2O--you first have to make steam. The modular nuclear plants would do that without polluting the air, but would also leave behind radioactive waste.

Scientists have not yet designed a nuclear facility whose safety and efficiency trumps that of gas or coal. One proposal, from MIT, has a nuclear reactor sitting under the same roof as a chemical plant bubbling with sulfuric acid and hydrogen iodide.

Each modular plant would produce as little as one-tenth of the energy of a single light-water reactor. And since by some estimates the United States would need the equivalent of 500 light-water reactors to produce enough hydrogen, it may take thousands of modular plants to get the same job done.

The nuke industry, not surprisingly, says it's interested in joining the hydrogen economy. Entergy, the second-largest nuclear energy producer in the U.S., hopes to break ground on its co-generation Freedom Reactor within five years.

But only the feds seem willing to pay for the research and development that would make the futuristic plants a reality. "We generate electricity," said a spokesperson for Exelon, the country's largest producer. "We're not heavily involved in funding research and development."

Taxpayers may soon be. The Senate's energy bill affords the DOE $1.1 billion to build an HTGR co-generation nuclear plant at its Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory within 10 years.

The bill also proposes to kick-start a nuke renaissance by subsidizing half the cost of six to 10 new HTGR power plants in the United States.

"We need to move toward clean-air energy sources that are more reliable than wind and solar," said Marnie Funk, a spokesperson for New Mexico Republican senator Pete Domenici, chair of the energy and resources committee.

Renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, are emissions-free. But the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow. Many people also see wind turbines as an eyesore: Cape Codders are fighting plans for an offshore wind farm that would obstruct their views. "And then you've got the bird issue," said Funk. Wind turbines earned some notoriety by killing as many as 50 golden eagles along California's Altamont Pass during the 1990s.

Today, wind and solar proponents are appalled that Senator Domenici and the nuke industry are pushing nuclear energy as a greener choice. "It's disingenuous to suggest that the nuclear provisions in the energy bill come out of a commitment to the environment," said Lisa Gue, a senior policy analyst with Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment program. Gue said the energy bill is a thank-you to nuclear companies, who have contributed some $1 million to energy committee members' campaigns over the past three election cycles.

The Senate energy committee wants to lessen greenhouse gases at the cost of increasing nuclear risks, said Gue. "Hydrogen does offer great potential," she said, "but to use one of the most expensive and lethal sources of energy is a travesty."

Gue bases her criticisms on the risks many people associate with the 103 so-called "Generation III" reactors currently operating in the United States. These are the aging, leaking, water-cooled reactors built before Three Mile Island nearly melted down in 1979. The new plants will supposedly be safer. "But even with their new designs," said Gue, "I'm still not satisfied they've dealt with the waste issue."

Nuclear waste has never been a serious problem, if you ask the industry. "People automatically picture vast quantities of drums, oozing green slime and ruining our lives," said John Ritch, director general of the World Nuclear Association. "But the truth is that all of the waste produced by all of the world's nuclear reactors could fit in a two-story building, on an area the size of a basketball court."

And unlike today's light-water reactors, HTGR reactors--which would be cooled by helium gas--should burn up their radioactive materials more efficiently. The new facilities would then retain their waste for up to 40 years before carting it off to Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Proponents of HTGR also boast that the reactors require none of the concrete and steel containment walls that keep radioactive material locked inside light-water reactors. The uranium and graphite pellets inside HTGR reactors--even if all of the coolant is lost--would heat up so slowly they're unlikely to melt down.

Officials at the Idaho lab hinted at a dramatic exhibit of its pilot reactor's safety. "We could even do a demonstration in which we dump the helium coolant," said James Lake, associate laboratory director. "That would be a way to show the public in a visible way how safe the technology is."

Lake may have trouble selling tickets to that event, but opponents of HTGRs are less concerned about accidents than another scenario: "In a word, it's terrorism," said Charles Sheehan-Miles, a spokesperson for the Nuclear Policy Research Institute.

Existing plants have already been targeted by terrorists, suggest warnings from the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Presented with the prospect of a plane slamming into an HTGR reactor, Lake starts adding layers of concrete and steel (and significant cost) to what was once a spiffy little module. "We could put the reactor underground, inside a robust, concrete citadel," he said.

MIT professor Andrew Kadak, who worked on the U.S. government's "Generation IV" Roadmap for new reactors, said his nuclear research lab's own plan for an HTGR reactor does not include robust containment walls. "Most of the reactor, however, is protected by concrete," he said. "And the reactor is mostly underground. If necessary, we could move it completely underground. But we have not done the [damage] analysis yet."

Still, Dave Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer for the Union of Concerned Scientists, questions why nuclear energy companies and HTGR proponents are seeking free insurance from U.S. taxpayers. The Senate energy bill also calls for the extension of the 1957 Price-Anderson Act, a U.S.-funded disaster insurance policy, to cover HTGR reactors.

"Why would a safe reactor require Price-Anderson liability protection but not containment protection?" Lochbaum asked.

Nucular? (0, Redundant)

tedrek (459924) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061557)

Huh? hooked on sounding out imaginary words are we?

N - U - C - L - E - A - R (-1, Redundant)

grimani (215677) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061560)

repeat after me, please.

this isn't the first time, nor the first post...nor am i the first to point it out.

so why does this keep happening? can we actually get a real editorial staff please?

and...while i'm ranting on the subject, why don't we get a real journalist too?

Time to cut the French some slack .... (5, Funny)

binaryDigit (557647) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061562)

Entergy, the second-largest nuclear energy producer in the U.S., hopes to break ground on its co-generation Freedom Reactor within five years.

OK, we can cut it out with this "Freedom" stuff everywhere now. Tell Entergy that they can go back to calling it their "French" Reactor again, the war is over.

Cynical bastards (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061643)

A terrorist attack, a war (sic) on terror and then every cynical bastard with an agenda to push sticking "Freedom" on the front of it to garner support.

slashpot (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061564)

nerds for turds. crap that doesn't matter

Importance of research and computer modeling (5, Insightful)

BWJones (18351) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061565)

It should be noted that many of these technologies are theoretical and are the result of basic research combined with applied research. While I am not a fan of the current administration, I do tend to agree with their view of nuclear power as long as newer safe designs are implemented. To those who are critical of this, it should be noted that we have a large coal burning electricity plant in central Utah that produces as much radioactivity and throws it into the atmosphere as Three Mile Island did. This is because of the high uranium content of the coal. At any rate, the basic research is important here and should be funded along with the applied research into such things as computational modeling of high temperature physics.

Google U.S. Puzzle Championship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061572)

Google U.S. Puzzle Championship

For all those of you who use Google search [google.com] everyday but missed out the fact that currently, Google is running Google U.S. Puzzle Championship [google.com] , a national online competition to identify America's most logical minds.

Two winners receive slots on the US Puzzle Team and all expense paid trips to the Netherlands for the World Puzzle Championship in October. The top 25 finishers receive prizes as well as the satisfaction of knowing that what they know is well, pretty remarkable.

There's no entry fee. No special equipment is required. And the questions don't favor a specific cultural background. To get a feel for what you'll be up against, try the puzzles on this page [google.com] . Solve them and you may find a slot for you in Google's engineering department (they love logical thinkers)....

Maaxx Poweerrr (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061574)

He's the man with the name you'd like to touch...

but you musn't touch!

I forget the rest. It's pronounced 'nuke-you-ler'. 'Nuke-you-ler'.

Nucular (0, Redundant)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061577)

If you can't pronounce it, you probably shouldn't be building it;-)

Touted? (0, Flamebait)

conner_bw (120497) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061578)

Welcome to the seemingly benign "hydrogen economy" President Bush has touted over the past year

The last year of right wing oil ceo driven war on iraq [jsonline.com] sure is some good toutin' [newamericancentury.org] there jethro.

Temporary ? (2, Interesting)

cyberchondriac (456626) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061587)

Maybe the nuclear reactors are a temporary measure until we get enough hydrogen to keep the process running primarily with fuel cells. Seems to me that hydrogen should be easy enough to extract from seawater though without resorting to other drastic measures.
Still, what's worse, depending on foreign oil from the volatile middle east, or dealing with radioactive waste here in the states ? I'll bet Nevada isn't too happy about all this.

Re:Temporary ? (1)

RatBastard (949) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061750)

Something in that makes me think of perpetual motion machines. Which means, that for reasons I can't nail down, I don't think that idea will work.

Re:Temporary ? (1)

Smidge204 (605297) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061753)

What about those steam nuclear plants that use the waste products from other reactors as fuel? You're already making very high temperature steam, which you need for the hydrogen production, and you're actually using the waste that we are already generating and storing from the existing reactors!

Here's the Slashdot article [slashdot.org] and the actual article [economist.com] talking about it.

Slashotted Emergency Post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061588)

It's Nucular
by Mark Baard
May 28 - June 3, 2003

Bush looks over a scooter powered by solid hydrogen fuel during a demonstration of energy technologies at The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.
(photo: www.whitehouse.gov)

n a sunny Saturday morning 30 years from now, you may decide to take your family for a ride to the country. You'll still be driving a car, and you may still get stuck in traffic. But that's OK, because the only thing you'll be breathing in is water vapor from the car in front of you.

Welcome to the seemingly benign "hydrogen economy" President Bush has touted over the past year. Pollution-free cars. Abundant fuel. A cleaner environment.

But there's one factor the president isn't talking much about: the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of new nuclear power plants his administration imagines making all of that hydrogen.

The Bush administration and Senate Republicans want to give billions of taxpayer dollars to the nuclear industry to make high-temperature, gas-cooled reactors (HTGRs), which--theoretically--can co-generate electricity and hydrogen, side by side, inside cheap modular reactors. Advocates of the plants say they wouldn't need the expensive protections required for traditional models.

This summer, the Senate is expected to vote on the Energy Policy Act of 2003, which includes funding for new HTGR plants and the construction of a pilot co-generation facility to be run by the U.S. Department of Energy in Idaho. The bill was sent to the full chamber by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee last month.

Spokespeople for the committee and the DOE say the aim is to cut greenhouse emissions, since energy companies continue to use coal and natural gas in making hydrogen. But small, modular HTGR plants may do it more efficiently and cleanly, they said.

That all depends, of course, on how you define "cleanly." To extract hydrogen from water--to get the H out of the H2O--you first have to make steam. The modular nuclear plants would do that without polluting the air, but would also leave behind radioactive waste.

Scientists have not yet designed a nuclear facility whose safety and efficiency trumps that of gas or coal. One proposal, from MIT, has a nuclear reactor sitting under the same roof as a chemical plant bubbling with sulfuric acid and hydrogen iodide.

Each modular plant would produce as little as one-tenth of the energy of a single light-water reactor. And since by some estimates the United States would need the equivalent of 500 light-water reactors to produce enough hydrogen, it may take thousands of modular plants to get the same job done.

The nuke industry, not surprisingly, says it's interested in joining the hydrogen economy. Entergy, the second-largest nuclear energy producer in the U.S., hopes to break ground on its co-generation Freedom Reactor within five years.

But only the feds seem willing to pay for the research and development that would make the futuristic plants a reality. "We generate electricity," said a spokesperson for Exelon, the country's largest producer. "We're not heavily involved in funding research and development."

Taxpayers may soon be. The Senate's energy bill affords the DOE $1.1 billion to build an HTGR co-generation nuclear plant at its Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory within 10 years.

The bill also proposes to kick-start a nuke renaissance by subsidizing half the cost of six to 10 new HTGR power plants in the United States.

"We need to move toward clean-air energy sources that are more reliable than wind and solar," said Marnie Funk, a spokesperson for New Mexico Republican senator Pete Domenici, chair of the energy and resources committee.

Renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, are emissions-free. But the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow. Many people also see wind turbines as an eyesore: Cape Codders are fighting plans for an offshore wind farm that would obstruct their views. "And then you've got the bird issue," said Funk. Wind turbines earned some notoriety by killing as many as 50 golden eagles along California's Altamont Pass during the 1990s.

Today, wind and solar proponents are appalled that Senator Domenici and the nuke industry are pushing nuclear energy as a greener choice. "It's disingenuous to suggest that the nuclear provisions in the energy bill come out of a commitment to the environment," said Lisa Gue, a senior policy analyst with Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment program. Gue said the energy bill is a thank-you to nuclear companies, who have contributed some $1 million to energy committee members' campaigns over the past three election cycles.

The Senate energy committee wants to lessen greenhouse gases at the cost of increasing nuclear risks, said Gue. "Hydrogen does offer great potential," she said, "but to use one of the most expensive and lethal sources of energy is a travesty."

Gue bases her criticisms on the risks many people associate with the 103 so-called "Generation III" reactors currently operating in the United States. These are the aging, leaking, water-cooled reactors built before Three Mile Island nearly melted down in 1979. The new plants will supposedly be safer. "But even with their new designs," said Gue, "I'm still not satisfied they've dealt with the waste issue."

Nuclear waste has never been a serious problem, if you ask the industry. "People automatically picture vast quantities of drums, oozing green slime and ruining our lives," said John Ritch, director general of the World Nuclear Association. "But the truth is that all of the waste produced by all of the world's nuclear reactors could fit in a two-story building, on an area the size of a basketball court."

And unlike today's light-water reactors, HTGR reactors--which would be cooled by helium gas--should burn up their radioactive materials more efficiently. The new facilities would then retain their waste for up to 40 years before carting it off to Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Proponents of HTGR also boast that the reactors require none of the concrete and steel containment walls that keep radioactive material locked inside light-water reactors. The uranium and graphite pellets inside HTGR reactors--even if all of the coolant is lost--would heat up so slowly they're unlikely to melt down.

Officials at the Idaho lab hinted at a dramatic exhibit of its pilot reactor's safety. "We could even do a demonstration in which we dump the helium coolant," said James Lake, associate laboratory director. "That would be a way to show the public in a visible way how safe the technology is."

Lake may have trouble selling tickets to that event, but opponents of HTGRs are less concerned about accidents than another scenario: "In a word, it's terrorism," said Charles Sheehan-Miles, a spokesperson for the Nuclear Policy Research Institute.

Existing plants have already been targeted by terrorists, suggest warnings from the FBI, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Presented with the prospect of a plane slamming into an HTGR reactor, Lake starts adding layers of concrete and steel (and significant cost) to what was once a spiffy little module. "We could put the reactor underground, inside a robust, concrete citadel," he said.

MIT professor Andrew Kadak, who worked on the U.S. government's "Generation IV" Roadmap for new reactors, said his nuclear research lab's own plan for an HTGR reactor does not include robust containment walls. "Most of the reactor, however, is protected by concrete," he said. "And the reactor is mostly underground. If necessary, we could move it completely underground. But we have not done the [damage] analysis yet."

Still, Dave Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer for the Union of Concerned Scientists, questions why nuclear energy companies and HTGR proponents are seeking free insurance from U.S. taxpayers. The Senate energy bill also calls for the extension of the 1957 Price-Anderson Act, a U.S.-funded disaster insurance policy, to cover HTGR reactors.

"Why would a safe reactor require Price-Anderson liability protection but not containment protection?" Lochbaum asked.

Nucular ? (0, Redundant)

GoatPigSheep (525460) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061593)

Do you mean NUCLEAR ?

Just because George Bush Jr. pronounces it "nucular" doesn't mean that is how it is spelled.

Re:Nucular ? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061742)

this from a person who has a web page for recipes entitled "recipies": http://tomsdomain.com/recipes/index.htm.

Nuclear waste (2, Interesting)

vlad_petric (94134) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061602)

No mention in the article about the half-life of nuclear waste. It's about a million years!!! While the whole waste does indeed fit into a two-story building, you need a building (container) that can survive about a million years. No structure - geological or man-built can do that.

The only safe way of getting rid of them would be to send them into the sun, but that would take (with today's technology) make more waste than what it would get rid of.

Re:Nuclear waste (4, Insightful)

Bagels (676159) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061759)

A lot of the waste could actually be recycled into usable fuel, but in the US it can't be because of legal restrictions. *sighs*

two birds with one stone. (3, Interesting)

Chris Y Taylor (455585) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061762)

"No structure - geological or man-built can do that."

So you shoot it out of the solar system (delta v for that is actually smaller than dropping it into the sun). When you reprocess the waste to reduce its mass, you make it hot enough for use in RTG power sources that can run sensors and a transmitter. You wind up with a large number of space probes to explore near interstellar space and you get rid of the waste.

NUCULAR? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061611)

First of all president bush it's NUCLEAR

mmmm toasty (1)

rrkap (634128) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061617)

mmmm.... explosive gases and fissile material in close proximity.

All the fun of blowing up a nuclear power plant with the explosives already provided. I really don't want to see hydrogen gas anywhere near a reactor.

Up and Atom ... (1)

I don't want to spen (638810) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061619)

I liked the quote: "But the truth is that all of the waste produced by all of the world's nuclear reactors could fit in a two-story building, on an area the size of a basketball court." While that may be true, if you actually distribute it around (like, say, Chernobyl did) its not quite as safe.... And don't forget, if you've got a black hole you can fit, oh, everything in a singularity.

Stupid people in charge!!! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061622)

Coverting the economy to hydrogen makes sense, both economically, politically and environmentaly, except doing so by way of nuclear power is just stupid. Nuclear power has never made sense after the 50, when people realized that the energy wasn't free, it created tons of ultra-deadly radioactive waste that we still haven't figured out how to handle properly, and that the availible supplies of enriched uranium and plutonium needed to produce the electricity would run out far sooner than oil, if used at the same pace.

I just wish politicians (this means you, US!!) would take their heads out of their asses long enough to realize that wind turbines alone could provide enough energy to power the whole planet without any sort of pollution and with prices comparable to oil. Throw in the various solar, geothermal, oceanic and other forms of clean renewable energy, and it makes you wonder who exactly is paying to keep the current oil/nuclear economy in place?

Re:Stupid people in charge!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061684)

RE: I just wish politicians (this means you, US!!) would take their heads out of their asses long enough to realize that wind turbines alone could provide enough energy to power the whole planet without any sort of pollution and with prices comparable to oil.

Hey dipstick, you think it's going to be practical or even feasible to park a wind turbine on top of an SUV and power the bastard to 65mph?

I guess you think we should all stop using cars, trucks, computers etc. and go live in yurts in harmony with mother Gaia. Take a bath, stop smoking the drugs, eat meat, and get a real job.

hmm (2, Funny)

PukkaStoryTeller (661614) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061623)

i have never heard of this... nucular? does it support linux?

Nucular, you know (1, Funny)

Shouldbeworking (527575) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061624)

Rooted on the word for the center of the atom, the nuculus. Duh! Come on, folks!

Preemptive strike (0, Redundant)

andrei_r (560152) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061631)


Our answer to grammar nazis:

Going Nucular - http://www-csli.stanford.edu/~nunberg/nucular.html [stanford.edu]

In case teh article is slashdotted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061646)

Going Nucular

Geoff Nunberg

"Fresh Air" commentary, October 2, 2002

There are two kinds of linguistic missteps, the typos and the thinkos. Typos are the processing glitches that intercede between a thought and its expression. They can make you look foolish, but they aren't really the signs of an intellectual or ethical deficiency, the way thinkos are. It's the difference between a sentence that expresses an idea badly and a sentence that expresses a bad idea.

People don't pay much attention to that distinction when they take after the missteps and malaprops of presidents and other political figures. I've always felt that Dan Quayle got a bum rap over his inability to spell potatoes -- I mean, there are people who can spell and people who can't, and God doesn't seem to have paid much attention to other cognitive capacities in spreading that gift around. And while critics were always making fun of Eisenhower's woolly language, it wasn't really a sign of woolly thinking -- most people realized that he was an astute politician, and he could write lucid prose when he felt like it. Ditto former President Bush: he may have had difficulty speaking in complete sentences, but that didn't mean that he wasn't thinking in complete thoughts.

No president has taken more flak over his language than George W. Bush -- not Eisenhower, not even Harding. That's understandable enough; Bush's malaprops can make him sound like someone who learned the language over a bad cell phone connection. "My education message will resignate among all parents"; "A tax cut is really one of the anecdotes to coming out of an economic illness."

The columnists and talk-show monologues have tended to treat those errors as the occasions for mirth, rather than concern, the linguistic equivalents of Gerald Ford's pratfalls. Bush himself encouraged that interpretation with those Letterman and "Saturday Night Live" appearances during the campaign, when he made fun of his inability to pronounce subliminal and said he was "ambilavant" about appearing on the show. It was a shrewd maneuver, as Mark Crispin Miller points out in his recent book The Bush Dyslexicon, a penetrating look at Bush and his language. The self-mockery took the edge off the criticisms by painting Bush as just another irrepressible word-mangler, sort of a Yalie Casey Stengel.

But it isn't always easy to tell whether an error is a typo or a thinko. Take the pronunciation of nuclear as "nucular." That one has been getting on people's nerves since Eisenhower made the mispronunciation famous in the 1950's. In Woody Allen's 1989 film Crimes and Misdemeanors, the Mia Farrow character says she could never fall for any man who says "nucular." That would have ruled out not just Dubya, but Bill Clinton, who said the word right only about half the time. (President Carter had his own way of saying the word, as "newkeeuh," but that probably had more to do with his Georgia accent than his ignorance of English spelling.)

On the face of things, "nucular" is a typo par excellence. People sometimes talk about Bush "stumbling" over the word, as if this were the same kind of articulatory problem that turns February into "febyooary." But nuclear isn't a hard word to pronounce the way February is -- try saying each of them three times fast. Phonetically, in fact, nuclear is pretty much the same as likelier, and nobody ever gets that one wrong. ("The first outcome was likular than the second"? ) That "nucular" pronunciation is really what linguists call a folk etymology, where the unfamiliar word nuclear is treated as if it had the same suffix as words like molecular and particular. It's the same sort of process that turns lackadaisical into "laxadaisical" and chaise longue into chaise lounge.

That accounts for Eisenhower's mispronunciation of nuclear, back at a time when the word was a new addition to ordinary people's vocabularies. And it's why Homer Simpson says it as "nucular" even today. But it doesn't explain why you still hear "nucular" from people like politicians, military people, and weapons specialists, most of whom obviously know better and have been reminded repeatedly what the correct pronunciation is. The interesting thing is that these people are perfectly capable of saying "nuclear families" or "nuclear medicine." I once asked a weapons specialist at a federal agency about this, and he told me, "Oh, I only say 'nucular' when I'm talking about nukes."

In the mouths of those people, "nucular" is a choice, not an inadvertent mistake -- a thinko, not a typo. I'm not sure exactly what they have in mind by it. Maybe it appeals to them to refer to the weapons in what seems like a folksy and familiar way, or maybe it's a question of asserting their authority -- as if to say, "We're the ones with our fingers on the button, and we'll pronounce the word however we damn well please."

But which of these stories explains why Bush says "nucular"? Most people seem to assume he's just one of those bubbas who don't know any better. But that's hard to credit. After all, Bush didn't have to learn the word nuclear in middle age, the way Eisenhower did. He must have heard it said correctly thousands of times when he was growing up -- not just at Andover, Yale, and Harvard, but from his own father, who never seems to have had any trouble with the word. But if Bush's "nucular" is a deliberate choice, is it something he picked up from the Pentagon wise guys? Or is it a faux-bubba pronunciation, the sort of thing he might have started doing at Yale by way of playing the Texas yahoo to all those earnest Eastern dweebs?

Actually, there would be an easy way to tell -- just see how Bush pronounces nuclear in phrases like nuclear family and nuclear medicine. If he says "nucular" all the time, then it's most likely a faux-bubba thing. But if he only says "nucular" for weapons, it's probably a bit of borrowed Pentagon swagger. I'll be keeping my ears peeled.

nuclear waste .. (2)

jest3r (458429) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061635)

"But the truth is that all of the waste produced by all of the world's nuclear reactors could fit in a two-story building, on an area the size of a basketball court."


I think the keyword is "could" and that might be stretching it .. how much of the nuclear waste produced by all of the reactors in the world is actually re-processed? What about the Nuclear reactors themselves?

nuclear (2, Funny)

t_pet422 (613073) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061647)

"nucular, it's pronounced nucular." -Homer Simpson

Sounds good to me (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061660)

The amount of anti-nuclear sentiment in the U.S. today is just silly. If you think nuclear power is unsafe or damaging to the environment, well, it's possible to make that case, but it's a battle that from both the public safety and environmentalism standpoints is FAR, FAR less important than a bajillion other battles that are just being neglected because they don't have a dramatic scare word like "NUCLEAR!" attatched to them. Moreover, the end result of anti-nuclear protest is NOT going to be in any way to encourage inefficient "alternative energy sources"; the only result will be that corporate interests will stay with "safe" (becuase it doesn't cause protestors) fossil fuel based energy sources, thus increasing our nation's depednence on oil just that little bit further, spewing god knows what horrible things into the air day and night, and harming the environment more than nuclear power ever could. Way to go.

If nuclear power can have the added side effect of producing Hydrogen to use in hydrogen power, then great, that's just one more advantage. Now if only we could convince the U.S. to use breeder reactors so that there wouldn't be quite so much of that pesky nuclear waste that the protestors keep going so much on about.

Note to the anti-nuclear protesters and PETA: You are not doing anything productive, you are reflecting badly on "the left", and you are pre-empting actual important work being done by others because when faced with a PETA or anti-nuclear story the news will run it, because those are issues that catch the public's eye, but when faced with a story in which people are protesting real, harmful corporate abuses they don't run it, because hey, they did the "protester" thing with the PETA story yesterday. Please go away.

(Although i will recognize the people complaining about the nuclear waste dump site near Las Vegas have a point-- building a nuclear waste containment policy in a *mountain* on a *fault line*, even a small fault line, is just a fucking dumb idea.)

In Idaho? (1)

zoloto (586738) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061672)

Officials at the Idaho lab hinted at a dramatic exhibit of its pilot reactor's safety. "We could even do a demonstration in which we
dump the helium coolant," said James Lake, associate laboratory director. "That would be a way to show the public in a visible way how safe the technology is."
wait... this isn't a spud gun is it?

Trot out the scary "Nuclear" word (1)

javelinco (652113) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061673)

I'm amazed - I didn't see TOO many people having the old, knee-jerk, "NUCLEAR IS BAD!" "NUCLEAR ENERGY KILLS SCHOOLCHILDREN" reaction that I usually see - people seem to be fairly realistic (with a few exceptions). Go ./ readers! (for once).

*raspberry* (1)

mledford (246826) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061693)

I figured that George W. would have gone for the "Old Fart" methane method.

Chernobyl fits in a basketball court building... (1)

Wargames (91725) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061704)

"But the truth is that all of the waste produced by all of the world's nuclear reactors could fit in a two-story building, on an area the size of a basketball court."

Truthfully!

Re:Chernobyl fits in a basketball court building.. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061754)

only a geek would call a basketball stadium a 'basketball court building'. congrats

To Quote Walt Kelly: (1)

RatBastard (949) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061723)

To (badly) quote Walt Kelly: "It isn't new and it's not very clear!"

Wow (1)

Faust7 (314817) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061737)

"But the truth is that all of the waste produced by all of the world's nuclear reactors could fit in a two-story building, on an area the size of a basketball court."

How did my company even cross his mind?

Nucular? (1)

ajiva (156759) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061738)

When will we get Nucular wessels???

just the usual subsidies of big donors (5, Insightful)

73939133 (676561) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061756)

Renewable energy sources, like wind and solar, are emissions-free. But the sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow

One of the main benefits of a hydrogen economy is that you can generate hydrogen cleanly and efficiently in places where there is a lot of sunshine (and access to water) and ship the hydrogen safely to places that need it. Just like oil, only safer, more environmentally friendly, and renewable. And the US has lots of regions that are good for that kind of solar generation of hydrogen.

The Bush administration and Senate Republicans want to give billions of taxpayer dollars to the nuclear industry to make high-temperature, gas-cooled reactors (HTGRs),

I'd prefer greenhouse gases to nuclear waste. Greenhouse gases may end up causing lots of devastation, but they probably go away within a matter of centuries. Nuclear waste poses a lethal risk for tens of thousands of years and can be used for creating dirty bombs and other mischief.

I get the feeling that Bush administration policies can largely explained as using popular issues ("the environment", "national security", etc.) as an excuse to transfer large amounts of government subsidies to big donors.

Isn't that spelled, "Nookyular" ? (1)

SatanLilHlpr (17629) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061782)

for all you nyookular geniuses.

Just in case... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6061789)

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT NUCLEAR ENERGY

by John McCarthy

This page discusses nuclear energy as a part of a more general discussion of why human material progress is sustainable and should be sustained. Energy is just one of the questions considered.
Up to: Main page on why progress is sustainable

Incidentally, I'm Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University, emeritus as of 2001 January 1. Here's my main page. I write about sustainability as a volunteer public service. I am not professionally involved with nuclear energy.

Here's a new page on Nuclear Energy Now. It is motivated by the Bush Administration in the U.S. having tentatively re-opened the question of building new nuclear plants in the U.S. I hope they persist and are successful.
One of the major requirements for sustaining human progress is an adequate source of energy. The current largest sources of energy are the combustion of coal, oil and natural gas. These are discussed in the main page on energy. They will last quite a while but will probably run out or become harmful in tens to hundreds of years. Solar energy will also work but is not much developed yet except for special applications because of its high cost. This high cost as a main source, e.g. for central station electricity, is likely to continue, and nuclear energy is likely to remain cheaper.

Q. What are the details on nuclear energy?

A. It is somewhat complicated and depends on facts about nuclear physics and nuclear engineering.

Nuclear power can come from the fission of uranium, plutonium or thorium or the fusion of hydrogen into helium. Today it is almost all uranium. The basic energy fact is that the fission of an atom of uranium produces 10 million times the energy produced by the combustion of an atom of carbon from coal.

Natural uranium is almost entirely a mixture of two isotopes, U-235 and U-238. U-235 can fission in a reactor, and U-238 can't to a significant extent. Natural uranium is 99.3 percent U-238 and 0.7 percent U-235.
Most nuclear power plants today use enriched uranium in which the concentration of U-235 is increased from 0.7 percent U-235 to (nowadays) about 4 to 5 percent U-235. This is done in an expensive separation plant of which there are several kinds. The U-238 "tails" are left over for eventual use in "breeder reactors". The Canadian CANDU reactors don't require enriched fuel, but since they use expensive heavy water instead of ordinary water, their energy cost is about the same.
In 1993 there were 109 licensed power reactors in the U.S. and about 400 in the world. They generate about 20 percent of the U.S. electricity. (There are also a large number of naval power reactors.) The expansion of nuclear power depends substantially on politics, and this politics has come out differently in different countries. Very likely, after some time, the countries whose policies turn out badly will copy the countries whose policies turn out well.

For how long will nuclear power be available? Present reactors that use only the U-235 in natural uranium are very likely good for some hundreds of years. Bernard Cohen has shown that with breeder reactors, we can have plenty of energy for some billions of year.

Cohen's argument is based on using uranium from sea water. Other people have pointed out that there is more energy in the uranium impurity in coal than in could come from burning the coal. There is also plenty of uranium in granite. None of these sources is likely to be used in the next thousand years, because there is plenty of much more cheaply extracted uranium in conventional uranium ores.
A power reactor contains a core with a large number of fuel rods. Each rod is full of pellets of uranium oxide. An atom of U-235 fissions when it absorbs a neutron. The fission produces two fission fragments and other particles that fly off at high velocity. When they stop the kinetic energy is converted to heat - 10 million times as much heat as is produced by burning an atom of coal. See the supplement for some interesting nuclear details.

Besides the fission fragments several neutrons are produced. Most of these neutrons are absorbed by something other than U-235, but in the steady-state operation of the reactor exactly one is absorbed by another U-235 atom causing another fission. The steam withdrawn and run through the turbines controls the power level of the reactor. Control rods that absorb neutrons can also be moved in and out to control the nuclear reaction. The power level that can be used is limited to avoid letting the fuel rods get too hot.

The heat from the fuel rods is absorbed by water which is used to generate steam to drive the turbines that generate the electricity.

A large plant generates about a million kilowatts of electricity - some more, some less.

After about two years, enough of the U-235 has been converted to fission products and the fission products have built up enough so that the fuel rods must be removed and replaced by new ones.

What to do with the spent fuel rods is what causes most of the fuss concerning nuclear power.

Q. What about the plutonium?

A. Besides fission products, spent fuel rods contain some plutonium produced by the U-238 in the reactor absorbing a neutron. This plutonium and leftover uranium can be separated in a reprocessing plant and used as reactor fuel. The Japanese had their spent fuel rods reprocessed in Europe and shipped the plutonium back home for use in reactors. This is what Greenpeace was fussing about.

Q. How much plutonium is produced?

A. In terms of nuclear fuel, about 1/4 as much as the U-235 that was in the fuel rods in the first place. Thus running a reactor for four years produces enough plutonium to run it for one more year provided the plutonium is extracted and put into new fuel rods.

Q. What about nuclear waste?

A. After the fuel has been in the reactor for about 18 months, much of the uranium has already fissioned and a considerable quantity of fission products have built up in the fuel. The reactor is then refueled by replacing about 1/3 of the fuel rods. This generally takes one or two months. {2002 note: Entergy Nuclear, an enthusiastic buyer and operator of American nuclear power plants has been reducing this time for their plants. They refueled their River Bend plant in Louisiana in 17 days and expect to reduce their average refueling outage time to two-three weeks.] Canadian CANDU reactors replace fuel continuously.

When fuel rods are removed from the reactor they contain large quantities of highly radioactive fission products and are generating heat at a high rate. They are then put in a large tank of water about the size of a swimming pool. There they become less radioactive as the more highly radioactive isotopes decay and also generate less and less heat. The longer the spent fuel is stored, the easier it will be to handle, but many reactors have been holding spent fuel so long that their tanks are getting full. They must either send the rods off or build more tanks.

The fuel rods should then be chemically reprocessed. Reprocessing removes any leftover uranium and the plutonium that has been formed. The U.S. shut down its reprocessing plant during the 1970s and hasn't replaced it. European reprocessing plants (Belgium, France, Russia, UK) continue to operate, and the Japanese are building their own - in the meantime sending their spent fuel to Europe for reprocessing. The French plant they use sends their plutonium back to Japan, where the Japanese plan to use it as reactor fuel.

The fission products are then put in a form for long term storage. A large reactor produces about 1.5 tonnes of fission products per year. The fission products are originally in a mixture with other substances, so reprocessing is required to get it down to a 1.5 tonnes. [If the waste is incorporated into a glass, the total weight is 15 tonne. If the density is 3.0 times water, that means the volume of the waste is 0.5 cubic meters, and the volume of the waste glass is about 5 cubic meters. from Prof. Bernard Cohen] Many schemes for long term storage have been devised, but lawsuits and politics have prevented any of them from being implemented in the United States.

The French have decided on a scheme, but I don't know if they have put it into operation. Because the fission products become less radioactive with time, the longer you wait, the easier the task becomes. The Canadians are reviewing a plan for storing waste deep underground in the Pre-Cambrian "Canadian Shield".

The U.S. plan is to store the waste in Nevada in the same area as has been used for underground nuclear tests. This plan is still tied up in long term indecision. A big step forward was taken in 2002 when the President signed a bill to over-rule the objections of the State of Nevada.

Q. Why isn't the U.S. reprocessing?

A. The Carter Administration decided not to reprocess nominally on the grounds that if other countries could be persuaded not to reprocess, the likelihood of nuclear proliferation would be reduced. So far as I know, not one other country has been persuaded, because the economic advantages of reprocessing are so great. The Reagan and Bush Administrations wanted to reprocess, but it would have been politically expensive so they temporized.

Q. What if you don't reprocess?

A. You lose the economic benefit of the plutonium, the spent fuel remains radioactive longer and has to be better guarded, because it contains plutonium. However, there is plenty of uranium for now, so it may not be economic to reprocess at present provided the spent fuel remains available for later reprocessing.

Q. What about breeder reactors?

A. If the reactor design is much more economical of neutrons, enough U-238 can be converted to plutonium so that after a fuel cycle there is more fissionable material than there was in the original fuel rods in the reactor. Such a design is called a breeder reactor. Breeder reactors essentially use U-238 as fuel, and there is 140 times as much of it as there is U-235. The billion year estimates for fuel resources depend on breeder reactors. The French built two of them, the U.S. has a small one, the British built one, the Russians built one and the Japanese are building one.

Breeder reactors seem to be a resource rather than a reserve. They are more expensive than present reactors and maybe will wait for large scale deployment until uranium gets more expensive. This is unlikely to be soon, because large uranium reserves have been discovered in recent years.

Q. What about the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR)?

This was a breeder reactor with reprocessing on site, so no plutonium ever became externally available. It was hoped that it would address the proliferation concerns of the anti-nukes, i.e. it was hoped that they would be appeased. However, as soon as the Clinton Administration came to power, its anti-nukes got the IFR cancelled. Appeasement didn't work this time either. The IFR still has its enthusiasts, and maybe it will be revived.

Here's another page on the integral fast reactor..
Q. Can a nuclear plant blow up like a bomb?

A. No. A bomb converts a large part of its U-235 or plutonium into fission fragments in about 10^-8 seconds and then flies apart. This depends on the fact that a bomb is a very compact object, so the neutrons don't have far to go to hit another fissionable atom. A power plant is much too big to convert an important part of its fissionable material before it has generated enough heat to fly apart. This fact is based on the fundamental physics of how fast fission neutrons travel. Therefore, it doesn't depend on the particular design of the plant.

Q. Can a nuclear plant blow up to a lesser extent?

A. Yes, if it is sufficiently badly designed and operated. The Chernobyl plant reached 150 times its normal power level before its water turned to high pressure steam and blew the plant apart, thus extinguishing the nuclear reaction. This only took a few seconds.

Q. How much of a disaster was that?

A. In terms of immediate deaths it was a rather small disaster. 31 people died. Cave-ins in coal mines often kill hundreds.

However, about 20 square miles of land became uninhabitable for a long time. This isn't a lot.

Fall-out from the Chernobyl explosion will contribute an increase to the incidence of cancer all over Europe. How much of an increase is disputed. Since the increase will be very small in proportion to the amount of cancer, we probably won't know from experience.

The largest estimates are in the low thousands which would make Chernobyl a disaster comparable to the Bhopal chemical plant or the Texas City explosion of a shipload of ammonium nitrate or the Halifax disaster during World War I. On the other hand these large estimates are small compared to the number who have died in each of several recent large earthquakes in countries using stone or adobe or sod houses.

It is comparable to the number killed in coal mining accidents in the Soviet Union over the years Chernobyl was operating.

The large estimates depend on the linear hypothesis which is almost certainly wrong but which is used for regulatory purposes because it is so conservative. The estimates are probably too high by a substantial factor, maybe 10, maybe 100.

However, a recent survey indicates a greatly increased rate of thyroid cancer in children (including three deaths)j in Belarus since the accident. I don't know the total number of cases which would permit comparing Chernobyl with other accidents. Here is more on the Chernobyl accident including links to British, Ukrainian and Russian accounts of the accident and its effects.

Q. What about Western nuclear power plants?

A. The Chernobyl accident depended on the specific characteristics of the RBMK reactors, of which the Soviets built 16 before switching to designs more like those used in the rest of the world. (It may be that the North Korean reactors are similar). The relevant features of RBMK reactors include

"positive void co-efficient of reactivity". This means that if the reactor gets too hot and some of the water turns to steam, the rate of the nuclear reaction increases. In most other power reactors, the void coefficient is negative. If some water boils the reactor tends to stop.

RBMK reactors don't have containment shells designed to prevent radioactive materials from getting out.

Q. Yes, but perhaps Western reactors have other faults that might make an accident serious.

A. There are three answers.

The Three Mile Island accident destroyed the reactor, but the core itself remained confined. Radioactive gases were vented, but there is no accepted evidence that this harmed the public.

Fault trees for possible failures have been generated and studied. However, there could be something not taken into account.

At the end of 1998 there were 9012 civilian power reactor years of experience throughout the world, and Chernobyl is the only nuclear power plant accident harming the public. The U.S. Navy has been powering ships with nuclear reactors for 50 years and has had no nuclear accidents.
In 1999 Japanese technicians mixing up fuel for an experimental reactor violated the safety procedures and created a critical mass of uranium which caused an increasing nuclear reaction until the container with the mixture boiled over and stopped the reaction. Three people were hospitalized, two of whom died. The press, especially AFP which is anti-nuclear billed this as the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986. Losing two people in 13 years isn't much.
That's good for an energy source.

Q. Are nuclear power plants perfectly safe?

A. No. Nothing is perfectly safe, but they are safe enough to be relied upon as a source of energy.

Q. What about nuclear waste?

A. The waste consists of the fission products. They are highly radioactive at first, but the most radioactive isotopes decay the fastest. (That's what being most radioactive amounts to). About one cubic meter of waste per year is generated by a power plant. It needs to be kept away from people. After 10 years, the fission products are 1,000 times less radioactive, and after 500 years, the fission products will be less radioactive than the uranium ore they are originally derived from.

Q. What about diversion of material from power plants to countries wanting to make bombs?

A. Every country wanting to make bombs has succeeded as far as is known. None have used material produced in power reactors. (Plutonium produced in RBMK reactors may have been used in Soviet weapons. The RBMK was designed as a dual-purpose reactor suitable both for power production and bomb production. For this it was necessary to be able to replace fuel rods while the reactor was operating, and this made the reactor too big for a containment structure, and this is what allowed the radioactivity to spread.)

If the fuel rods are kept in the reactor for the two years or so required for economical power generation, much of the Pu-239 atoms produced absorb another neutron and become Pu-240. It is more expensive to separate the Pu-240 from the Pu-239 than to get Pu-239 from a special purpose reactor in which the fuel rods are removed after a short time. The Pu-240 makes the bomb fizzle if there is very much of it. For more details see the article by Myers.

It seems that some of the Russian PU-239 of which samples were sold in Germany was pure enough so that some isotope separation process was probably used after the plutonium was extracted from the fuel rods.

Q. Are the reserves of uranium adequate for the long term?

A. At present, the reserves of uranium that can be profitably sold at at $50 per pound are enough for at least a hundred years. Since the cost of uranium ore is only 0.04 cents per kilowatt-hour, at the 2001 price of $9 per pound, even large increases in ore cost are affordable without increasing the cost of nuclear generated electricity significantly. At somewhat larger prices than uranium now costs it can be extracted from the sea. Thorium, which is three times as abundant as uranium can also be used in reactors.

Here's a note about nuclear power costs from Professor Bernard Cohen of the University of Pittsburgh.

In the very long term, breeder reactors will be used. These get about 100 times as much energy from a kilogram of uranium as do present reactors. This makes the present stock of uranium go much farther. Indeed all the enriched uranium used in nuclear reactors and all the U-235 used in nuclear weapons has been separated from U-238, and the leftover U-238 is still available. If this U-238 were used to generate energy in breeder reactors and the electricity were sold at present prices, the present American stock of depleted uranium would generate $20 trillion worth of electricity.
Q. What about power from nuclear fusion.

A. Since the 1930s it has been understood that the sun gets its energy by combining hydrogen atoms to get helium. It was immediately apparent that if we could use these nuclear reactions we would have energy for billions of years. At first the problems of getting this energy on earth seemed insuperable, because of the millions of degrees of temperature required to get hydrogen atoms to combine.

In the 1950s it was discovered how to do this in hydrogen bombs by using ordinary nuclear fission bombs to set off the fusion of the hydrogen isotopes of deuterium and tritium. Projects were promptly started for doing this under less violent conditions. After 50 years, fusion reactors may be close to getting more fusion energy out of the reaction that has to be put in. The Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory has an FAQ about magnetic and inertial fusion. The US Department of Energy has a Fusion energy research site, and there is also a UK fusion energy site.
None of the projects is close to designing a plant.

Fusion power has the following possible advantages if it can be made to work.
The fuel supply is potentially larger. However, the uranium supply seems to be large enough.

Fission products are not produced, although there will be induced radioactivity in the structures of the plants.

No material useful for bombs is produced.

Q. Are we likely to have nuclear powered cars?

Alas, no, if present nuclear physics is all there is to say about the possibility. A nuclear reactor engine that would provide the right amount of energy for a car could be built and would run fine and would require refuelling only every 5 or 10 years. The only problem is that it would kill the driver, the passengers, and perhaps bystanders. Nuclear reactors, as described above, produce neutrons, which are very penetrating particles and give people radiation sickness if the exposure is substantial. (All our bodies are penetrated all the time by small numbers of neutrons.) Power reactors have several feet of concrete shielding between the active part of the reactor and the operators. A big enough vehicle like an aircraft carrier or a big submarine can afford the shielding. In the 1950s it was thought that nuclear locomotives and nuclear aircraft were feasible. Maybe they were, but the projects were abandoned.
Q. What are the arguments against nuclear energy?

A. There are many arguments, some related specifically to nuclear energy and others stemming from more general ideas about society. I have labelled the unrelated arguments and made a few comments to be answered more fully later.

The problem of disposal of nuclear wastes hasn't been solved. There are several good technical solutions, but the political problem hasn't been solved in the U.S. [2003: Now the political problem has been solved, but lawsuits will be filed and may hold up the solution for a while. 2010 is now predicted as the time when waste will start being stored in Nevada.]

Nuclear energy is uneconomical compared to other sources of energy. It is doing ok.

The energy required to build nuclear plants, operate them, and mine and process the uranium may be so large as to cause a net energy deficit. Here's a thorough Energy Analysis of Power Systems including nuclear energy and its competitors. The basic fact about nuclear energy is that the input energy is 4.8 percent of output energy if gaseous diffusion is used to enrich uranium and 1.7 percent if the newer centrifuge technology is used. Another way of looking at the same facts is that if gaseous diffusion is used for enrichment, the energy invested in building the plant is paid back in 5 months, whereas if centrifuges are used the payback time is 4 months.
It is bad for humanity to have plenty of energy. - unrelated .

Nuclear reactors produce plutonium, and plutonium is terrible because it can be used to make bombs. Safeguards are indeed needed.

Plutonium is the most poisonous substance known. No it isn't.

Plutonium symbolizes nuclear war. - unrelated .

Nuclear reactors are likely to have accidents with severe consequences for humanity. See above.

Radiation from operating nuclear reactors and other activities involved in nuclear energy is dangerous.

Energy should be generated locally, even by individual households, rather than by centralized power stations. - unrelated
The risk to an individual of harm from a nuclear accident is an involuntary risk, as compared to the much larger risk from driving a car, which is voluntary.

This comparison ignores much larger involuntary risks, e.g. the risk of emphysema from coal burning, the risk of an airplane hitting your house, and the risk of a flood when a dam breaks. Each of these risks is larger and comes from a human activity. There are other large risks, such as that of a flu epidemic, which are only partly caused by human activities - such as allowing international travel or having pre-schools where children transmit infections to each other.

The decision to incur such involuntary risks is a collective decision, made in accordance with laws.
Here are some answers to all the arguments listed (even the ones I have labelled unrelated ) and any more that people suggest. Some will be answered by reference to the literature.

Q. What is likely to happen with nuclear energy?

A. The countries that need it the most will continue to use it. France gets 77 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors, the rest being hydroelectric. Japan is close to 30 percent and increasing steadily. Japan has little domestic coal and no oil. We have plenty of coal and natural gas, can afford to import more than half of our oil. Therefore, we can afford delays caused by controversy unless we are zapped by the greenhouse effect. However, the counterculture generation is passing through the peak of its political power, and the next generations seem to be more rational about nuclear energy and many other issues.

Therefore, the U.S. is likely to resume building reactors before being driven to it by other countries getting economic advantages.

Here are the references related to nuclear energy.

Q. Is the use of nuclear absolutely essential to the sustainability of progress?

A. No, it isn't. Solar energy would also work, but at considerably greater cost if relied upon for most of the world's energy.

Q. Then what about giving up on nuclear energy because of the danger of nuclear war?

A. Giving up on nuclear energy is unlikely to reduce the danger of nuclear wars. In fact it is likely to increase the danger, because of the advantage it would give to whoever would first reintroduce nuclear weapons. Also the poorer world that would result from the abandonment of nuclear energy would be more likely to have wars.

Q. What if all energy generated were nuclear? A. A preliminary page discusses this eventuality. When I get a chance to look up more relevant facts, it will be improved.

Q. What is the current state of nuclear energy in the U.S.?

A. Operating nuclear plants generate 20 percent of U.S. electricity, but no new plants have been ordered in a long time. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) asked utility executives what would make them start ordering nuclear plants again. The 1994 December article Reopening the Nuclear Option by John Douglas in the EPRI Journal gives their answers. It looks difficult but not impossible. "The plants must be simpler and have higher design margins and enhanced safety features; they must be economically competitive with other forms of generation; they must be standardized; and they must be prelicensed by the NRC."

All this presumes that fossil fuels will continue to be available and not restricted too much by worries about global warming. If this changes, the requirements for new nuclear power plants in the U.S. will be greater. Remember that the U.S. is a special case politically and in the availability of natural gas and that other countries are still building nuclear plants.

Let me again remind the reader that all I really need to accomplish with this page is to show that lack of energy will not stop material progress. I do not need to show that nuclear energy is the best short term option, although it probably is.

Q. All this is well and good, but isn't the opposition to nuclear power strong enough to prevent its use?

A. Not when and if refusing to build nuclear plants results in a substantial loss of a country's standard of living. Politicians seem to believe that mentioning nuclear energy is political poison at present. They may be right or it may be just one more superstition prevalent among politicians and their consultants. Recently a taboo against mentioning nuclear energy has developed among scientists - especially those specializing in energy. None of the articles in the recent special issue of Science devoted to energy mentioned nuclear energy - pro or con - even though nuclear energy provides 17 percent of American electricity. Perhaps energy scientists feel that mentioning nuclear energy will have an adverse effect on their grants. Perhaps there is some other reason. To some extent "hydrogen" in the energy literature is a code word for nuclear energy, since many articles promoting hydrogen don't say how it is to be generated economically in the quantities required to run an economy. Recent waves of ideology are strongly involved.

Anti-nuclear article as science? (3, Insightful)

turbod (114654) | more than 11 years ago | (#6061795)

This article is pure unadulterated fear mongering, and is an insult too be posted as news. Each man can form his own opinion, thank you.

TurboD
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