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EngrMad
I happen to be an aspiring nuclear engineer at the University of Wisconsin, and I am confused at the fear of nuclear power. The amount of waste produced in spent fuel in nuclear power plants(which is the only form of waste) is 35 metric tons a year. This compared to coal and natural gas plants which produce 3 - 8 million metric tons of waste a year consisting of CO2, ash, particulates, nitrous-oxide, sulfur-oxide and trace elements(arsenic, lead, mercury). Albeit, nuclear waste is arguably more dangerous than this, we can easily store this waste and keep it safe so no harm comes to anyone. The people in the area it would be stored would recieve no more than .5 times the natural background of radiation. This natural background of radiation varies everywhere you go, in Denver it is 10 times the national average. Increased doses of radiation are also arguably beneficial to health, as seen is some parts of India.
Some people say that we should rely on solar/air/hydroelectric power, but I think the logistics of such a course are impossible. These renewable sources right now produce a minimal amount of our power, while our scant 100 nuclear power plants produce around 12%, the rest is oil, natural gas, and coal. Also the land area require for solar power and the materials to build it are significant, as well as the environmental impacts of hydro power.

So, since the question isn't really clear as of yet, I guess I'm if you think nuclear power is a reasonable alternative or are you vehemently opposed to it?
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GoAmerica
While it's not safe, I think it is a good source of power. It could reduce our use of what fossil fuels & coal for a source of power.

The problem is that if something goes wrong like a computer malfunction or a tornado hits the plant, whatever area the plant is located is gonna be in for a major environmental disaster if it can't be controlled crying.gif
EngrMad
actually its very safe, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission sets strict standards for these plants. All of the plants are designed to be able to withstand a plane crashed into the building, they have at least 2 backup generators and 2 backup deisel power sources. They reactors are also designed so that if power is lost, control plates, which are held up by magnets which shut off if the power does, fall into the reactor core and effectively stop most fission taking place. There have been no recorded deaths in the USA due to a nuclear power plant. The event at three mile island was a very minimal meltdown, controlled quickly. Chernobyl, however, was a disaster, due to poor plant design.

As to a computer malfunction, there are many required manual ovverrides and other things that prevent this from being a problem, nuclear power has the most stringent requirements placed on it, especially in the US.
Gray Seal
Nuclear power is a possibility. One problem I have had with it is its ties to military. It has been subsidized to a degree which has made it difficult to measure how much it actually can compete with other forms of energy. I would not fear having a nuclear reactor close by anymore than I would any heavy industry. I do believe populations using the reactors should be willing to store the radioactive by products locally rather than shipping them to other locations.

Nuclear power must prove it can compete in the market place.
EngrMad
nuclear power is more competitive by DOE evaluations than any of the renewable resources and it's not far behind coal and natural gas, which more efficient reactor designs will surely help sleep.gif
Eeyore
I think the NIMBY effect is what slows the spread of nuclear power down the most. While nuclear power may be safer and may create less waste, the problem is that it an accident happens at a nuclear plant is would be catastrophic (or could be) and that the waste created by nuclear plants, if handled improperly can poison our environment.

In our present climate, the idea of creating more nuclear material makes many of us concerned about the greater possibility of that material getting into the hands of terrorists. Rational or not, the fear is there for the present.

NIMBY = not in my backyard
Do you want your children playing in the fields on the other side of the fence to a nuclear reactor? When you answer yes and you have children, then you are a converted advocate of nuclear power.
AuthorMusician
Just FYI, from DOE/Energy Information Administration, our electricty generated during 2001 (most recent published info) breaks down as follows:

(All numbers in billions of Kilowatthours)

Coal.............1,904.0 [ %51.19 ]
Petroleum.......126.0 [ % 3.39 ]
Natural Gas.....613.0 [ %16.48 ]
Other Gasses....14.1 [ % 0.38 ]
Nuclear............768.8 [ %20.67 ]
Hydro...............217.5 [ % 5.85 ]
Wood.................36.9 [ % 0.99 ]
Waste................22.8 [ % 0.61 ]
Geothermal........13.8 [ % 0.37 ]
Solar....................0.5 [ % 0.01 ]
Wind....................5.8 [ % 0.16 ]
Other...................5.0 [ % 0.13 ]
Pumped Hydro....-8.8 [ %-0.24 ] (storage--net loss)

Total: 3,719.5 [actual published figure, 3,719.4 if you do the math]

So, rating from most to least used, the ways we generate electricity follows:

1. Coal
2. Nuclear
3. Natural Gas
4. Hydro
5. Petroleum
6. Wood
7. Waste
8. Other Gasses
9. Geothermal
10. Wind
11. Other
12. Solar

Although I am not absolutely against nukes for generating electricity, I do believe that our technical focus is too much on nukes and not enough on the clean renewables like geothermal, wind, and solar. Note that we generate no electricity using standard gravity (tides) other than standard hydro, which can be argued is actually a solar source (evaporation).

Did you notice that wood is #6? Waste can be considered mostly wood too (paper). Wood also is a form of solar (photosynthesis) and is renewable. It is cleaner than burning fossil fuels because the CO2 released is nearly equal (a little less due to respiration) to the CO2 absorbed during photosynthesis, whereas burning fossil fuels releases CO2 that's been locked up in the earth's crust for millions of years.

The argument that solar takes too much real estate and too much infrastructure only holds true if the real estate is in an expensive part of the country and the infrastructure is designed like existing power plants on the grid.

Imagine though if every rooftop (commercial and residential) was built with solar shingles! Why, that real estate is already paid for and in use, so the land use argument falls apart. In addition, the infrastructure is already in place (roofs)--it just needs to be transormed. Add some free-standing photovoltaics, feed this all into the grid, and voila! Much less need to burn fossil fuels.

But that's not all. How expensive is the land in Death Valley? How much sunlight does it recieve? I imagine that the land is very cheap and the sunlight very high. That's where solar plants ought to be built.

We need to look into harvesting electricity from tidal flows. We have two major coast lines plus the Gulf of Mexico. Virtually zero of our electricity is generated from the daily tidal flows available to us. More development needs to go this way.

Geothermal needs more development. We have many areas that are good for geothermal, but only a tiny fraction of this energy source has been developed.

We can rationalize away the use of nukes and the disposal of waste. However, simple mathematics tells us that we can't do nukes forever, and we would be foolish to build up nukes to become the primary source of energy. Why? Because the half-life of waste is measured in thousands of years! Sure, not many metric tons are generated each year, but those metric tons stay lethal for thousands more. We will eventually run out of places to put the stuff.

The only answer to our energy needs that involves sustainability looks something like this:

1. Clean renewables
2. Wood/waste
3. Non-fossil gasses

Pay special attention to #3. Hydrogen can be generated as a non-fossil gas through the use of electricity to crack water into its two component elements: hydrogen and oxygen. When such a gas combusts, the result is water. Hydrogen can be handled in the same manner as natural gas, and it can be used in transportation (fuel cells). But where do we get this electricity? Please refer to #1.

I don't think money and time spent keeping the top energy sources on top is wise for the long haul. Such activity is not sustainable. Oh, it may sustain throughout our lifetimes, but what about future generations? Are we to be so unimaginative as to just let future generations go without--or worse?
GoAmerica
QUOTE(Eeyore @ Feb 22 2003, 11:08 PM)
NIMBY = not in my backyard
Do you want your children playing in the fields on the other side of the fence to a nuclear reactor?  When you answer yes and you have children, then you are a converted advocate of nuclear power.

They wouldn't be putting the nuclear plant directly in a person's backyard or right next door to a residential area...maybe you'd do that in SimCity 3000 but not in real life.

They would probably put a nuke plant 10 or 20 miles from the nearest residential area. I think the infamous Three Mile Island was 5 or 10 miles away from the residential area
Eeyore
When you put the fence around the facility, no matter how much land is bought to isolate the reactor from the local population, you still end up with the possibility.

Regardless, in this situation, 20 miles or 2 miles would not be sufficient to protect one from an immediate accident. And long term waste problems could develop in a host of secondary sights.

These are concerns, and hopefully we will always have well trained engineers who greatly respect the dangers of their material no matter how many years go by without any incident.
unabomber
AM you mentioned H2 liquid fuel, but said we would use coal to create electricity for the process of electrolysis (splitting the oxygen molecule from the hydrogen) I suggest wind, and solar dishes(which work much differently then solar cells, they turn the sunlight into heat, and use the heat to make electric energy, and we could build giant wind farms out at sea, more wind there anyway) this way all energy expended comes from clean and renewable energy. Dr. Harry Braun jr has a plan to switch America from fossil fuel to H2 fuel ( http://www.phoenixproject.net/ )

nuclear energy isn't that great of an energy source. mostly due to the extremely toxic waste. yes you may only produce 35 metric tons a year, but if you ran the reactor for ten years and produced 35-40 metric tons of waste each year at the end of ten years we end up with 350-400 metric tons of highly toxic waste that needs to be put SOMEWHERE, meaning you would need to transport it to a nearly 100% geological stable area, (can't be having earthquakes at the dump site, now can we?)

transporting it presents some major problems, for one, people don't want it going through their part of town out of fear something MIGHT go wrong (such as a roll over resulting in a spill)
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EngrMad
In response to the transportation issue, students working at the Los Alamos national laboratories have created waste containers than cant withstand impact with a hard packed dirt surface dropped from planes w00t.gif
unabomber
QUOTE(EngrMad @ Feb 23 2003, 03:28 PM)
In response to the transportation issue, students working at the Los Alamos national laboratories have created waste containers than cant withstand impact with a hard packed dirt surface dropped from planes  w00t.gif

I personally am not worried about a major accident, if there were a major spill for whatever reason, and I died, that was how I was suppose to die. even though the transport containers may be safe, but you still need to put it someplace, and yucca flats might work for a while, but what happens when that gets full?

why should we continue using something that will be a problem for our grandchildrens grandchildren, when we have ways of producing energy out of the active vacuum(the space between you and your comp screen is an active vaccuum)the intial estimates on the energy(known as ZERO POINT ENERGY) we could draw off the vacuum are incredible. some estimate that a portion of the vacuum the size of a pea contains more energy then all matter in the universe others say a space the size of earth would only yeild the same as a gallon of gas (probably paid to say he did research to discover this) it is most liely though that a volume of the vacuum eqaul to the space in side an empty coffee cup would contain enough energy to boil all the worlds oceans.

but back to nuclear energy. I think they should put the nuke waste on a one way trip into the sun. let the sun burn it up. maybe humans would adabt to take an increased rad dose.

(edited for spellcheck)
AuthorMusician
unabomber

QUOTE
AM you mentioned H2 liquid fuel, but said we would use coal to create electricity for the process of electrolysis (splitting the oxygen molecule from the hydrogen) I suggest wind, and solar dishes(which work much differently then solar cells, they turn the sunlight into heat, and use the heat to make electric energy, and we could build giant wind farms out at sea, more wind there anyway) this way all energy expended comes from clean and renewable energy. Dr. Harry Braun jr has a plan to switch America from fossil fuel to H2 fuel ( http://www.phoenixproject.net/ )


Actually, I was referring to #1 in the immediately preceding list (renewables). Thanks for the link though--I'm studying up on the hydrogen-based economy cool.gif
Julian
The British experience of nuclear power at the moment is lees to do with the safety or cleanliness of functioning plants during their operational lifetime, but the decommissioning of elderly plants that have reached the end of their useful life.

We are a much smaller and much more crowded land than the USA, which increases our requirement to clean up after a plant has closed and re-use the land for something else, even if it is only a newer nuclear plant. However, the private nuclear industry (it was privatised under the last Tory government, having previously been a publicly owned resource) now finds that it cannot afford to pay the huge costs of mothballing and/or dismantling old reactors, let alone building new ones, and instead wants the government to pay for the decommissioning and the construction of new plants.

This has the net effect that the cost of nuclear power here is actually rather more expensive than either traditional coal/gas/oil fired power, or of renewable resouces (where we are somewhat better placed than the USA because of our small size and being surrounded by highly tidal waters, and lots of windy little offshore islands). Only the day-to-day running costs of nuclear stations make them an attractively-priced option, but then all British taxpayers will be unwittingly subsidising nuclear power so the various sources will not be truly comparable.

There may be some differences in the economics of the US nuclear industry based on simple geography, but there must also be some commonalities. How have you dealt with the high cost of decommissioning old plants?
Bill55AZ
Moved to a new post....
Cyan
The question for debate is:

QUOTE
Do you think nuclear power is a reasonable alternative or are you vehemently opposed to it?


Bill55AZ, your most recent post is off topic, but you have presented some interesting information. I would suggest starting a new thread with a clear question to debate regarding alternate energy sources. We don't want to derail Engrmad's thread. flowers.gif
Bill55AZ
I am for it, and I believe the next generation of Nuclear Power plants will be better than what we have now. By now the industry knows what the problems are and should be able to build the new designs taking those known problems into consideration. I worked at test reactors in Idaho from 77 to 85, and then at one of the last commercial nukes built in this country, Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Arizona, and can tell you that the weakest link is going to be the same as it has always been, the human involvement. There can't be shortcuts in design, selection of materials, or construction, and most of all, the operators and maintenance staff must be of top quality. You can cut quantity of employees but not quality.
The one thing that scared me then and will always scare me it the attitudes toward training that some of the management has. I saw people being hired based on their family connections who didn't have the background for the job and had to be trained, which would be acceptable IF the training department would fail, and subsequently management fire those who can't cut it. A nuclear power plant is no place for stupid or lazy people.
AGiantBean
Yes, nuclear power is safe and efficient. It's not like the Springfield owerplant as depicted in the simpsons where there's a meltdown every other day because a drooling gork (pardon my terminology) tried to alter the size of a donut.
moif
QUOTE
Do you think nuclear power is a reasonable alternative or are you vehemently opposed to it?


I'm half way between the two. I think we need to put a lot more effort and development time into wind power. Here in Denmark we have been building wind farms out at sea, and they are shown to be effective enough that the Danish state hopes to be able to provide 50% of its domestic power using wind farms by the year 2030.

user posted image

Here is an excellent site which shows the current off and near shore wind power operations in Europe and Canada.

I am sure that such ecologically sound methods of providing the bulk of the worlds energy needs could be built, if only we had the common sense and the will to treat this planet with intelligence.

If nuclear power and burning coal produces so much waste, then what is the point of using it when other methods are available?
Given the fact that nuclear waste in particular has such long term pollution problems, why should we use it with disregard for those people who we hope will be living on this planet two or three hundred years into the future?

The only really good use I can see for nuclear power is in space
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