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What do you have against nuclear?
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emordnilap



Joined: 05 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

WolfattheDoor wrote:
(And fusion might be a great thing in principle but there is no guarantee that it will ever happen. We could spend billions of pounds and years of time researching something and end up with nothing. At least we KNOW that renewables work.)
And more or less sums up the whole sad, sorry picture. How long has nuclear been subsidised now? 70 years? 80? Is it even possible to calculate the zillions that ordinary people have shelled out for this dead-end technology for the best part of a century? Imagine that amount of money put into sensible technology.

Our ancestors, should we have any, will pity us.
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RenewableCandy



Joined: 12 Sep 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 11:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK I'll give it a bash:

it's not the physics, and in fact I know that there are now those modular 'pebble bed' reactors which are supposed to shut down gracefully in the event of (most types of) failure.

it's more than that.

Firstly, there's the simple problem of timing: any nuclear reactors given the go-ahead now will simply not come onstream in time to save us from the first bit of the electricity crunch. Related to this is the possible Uranium supply problem.

Second, there's the waste: half a century of well-paid thinking plus some practical experiments, has failed to come up with a good answer to this problem, and the clock's ticking. Allied to that problem is one unique to the UK, with only 1 acre per person we simply don't have room to abandon bits of our land to nuclear storage, waste or heaven forbid accident/terrorism.

Next, our position internationally. Rightly or wrongly we 'punch above our weight' in international influence. We sit permanently on the Security Council. We have (hopefully correctly) a reputation for fairness. If we continue with nuclear power, this will exaccerbate international proliferation issues. Historically it has been very difficult to separate 'civil' from 'uncivil' use of nuclear energy.

Finally, there's the 'people' stuff I've already mentioned. I really don't know why this is but nuclear power, like casinos, does seem to bring out the worst in people. The history of c***ups and cover-ups that has happened here in the UK simply does not inspire confidence in the industry. All new technology has its teething problems (eg the occasional broken wind turbine) but other industries face the music honestly and move on. Further to the 'people' aspect is the human rights of U-mining. All mining work is dirty and dangerous but it would appear to me that even by those standards U-mining is grim. U has been mined by people like Soviet dissidents, Aussie aboriginees who may not know what they've let themselves in for, other very-poor people who've not got much of a choice. This is, to put it politely, not nice.
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biffvernon



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 12:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Teletubbies got it right

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STG



Joined: 07 Jan 2008
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 1:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

WolfattheDoor wrote:
And fusion might be a great thing in principle but there is no guarantee that it will ever happen. We could spend billions of pounds and years of time researching something and end up with nothing. At least we KNOW that renewables work.


Fusion is working, JET (an UK tokamak) produced a fusion pulse. The problem we are facing is that JET is of a too limited size to start experiments for power producing like tokamaks therefor ITER is build. The main problem now is controlling the fusion power (and not like contain, because a runaway fusion reaction is impossible), make it usefull.
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Adam1



Joined: 01 Sep 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 1:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been reviewing what I think about nuclear, trying to remain objective in a very polarised and emotive debate. These are the main questions and concerns I have:

NOT ENOUGH ORE - I am not convinced that there will be enough ore to fuel nuclear for the design life of any of these proposed reactors. Although the size of the resource is huge, most of it would take more (fossil fuel) energy to mine, enrich and manufacture into fuel rods than those fuels could deliver before they were depleted. Even though there appears to be doubt about the accuracy of the figures quoted by van Leeuwen and Smith, none of their detractors has, as far as I can see, pointed to an independent, peer-reviewed study that significantly challenges them, such that we can safely assume there is no fuel shortage problem. We need to be 100% sure on the fuel issue before we proceed with more nuclear.

DOESN'T TACKLE CC - I am not convinced that it will contribute significantly to reducing CO2 emissions. 3 reasons: electricity is only one source of growth in atmospheric greenhouse gas growth (transport, heating & destruction of the carbon sinks being the others). Nuclear cannot be scaled up to provide more than a small portion of supply globally, and it is clear that, as ore purity declines, we will have to burn ever more fossil fuels to produce fuel rods from the ore, making its claims to be low/no carbon doubtful.

IT'S TOO LATE - In the UK, the gap between supply and demand is opening up now, and quickly. That gap will likely do serious damage before any nuclear plant comes on line. Demand reduction strategies and renewables are quicker.

THE WASTE PROBLEM - The energy cost of managing the existing waste, let along any new waste, is going to be a big millstone around our collective necks in future decades as the effects of the fossil fuel energy descents (oil, gas and coal) start to bite deeper and deeper.

THE OPPORTUNITY COST - For the same financial, energy and human resources input, we could get a bigger bang for our buck if we followed the renewables, efficiency savings and consumer education path.

WRONG PSYCHOLOGY - Nuclear is being perceived as a panacea that is lulling people into a false sense of security: "[energy] crisis over, we don't have to change our behaviour"; let's go out and buy that 42" flat-screen TV". Nuclear detracts from the change we all need to make to accept the reality of living with limits on a finite planet.

POOR RESILIENCE - Nuclear is insufficiently resilient in systems terms (the concept of systems resilience is explained in Thomas Homer-Dixon's recent book "The Upside of Down")

SECURITY & SAFETY - there is going to be more than enough political turbulence and social strife post peak oil without the security headache of keeping nuclear material out of the hands of madmen, not to say mad suicide bombers out of the nuclear sites. The risk of an accident will increase post-peak - corners will be cut, temporary work-arounds. Nuclear workers will not be immune to the stresses that we all will be going through trying to make ends meet and stay safe.

The analysis in the Zero Carbon Britain report (www.zerocarbonbritain.org) showed that, even with some quite conservative assumptions, we could get through this without nuclear if we chose to. The problems we have to solve if we go down the ZCB route look to be more manageable than the problems we would have to solve if we don't.

Sorry if I'm repeating myself - I've made most of these points elsewhere before.

[edited to correct typos]
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RenewableCandy



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 1:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

STG wrote:
WolfattheDoor wrote:
And fusion might be a great thing in principle but there is no guarantee that it will ever happen. We could spend billions of pounds and years of time researching something and end up with nothing. At least we KNOW that renewables work.


Fusion is working, JET (an UK tokamak) produced a fusion pulse. The problem we are facing is that JET is of a too limited size to start experiments for power producing like tokamaks therefor ITER is build. The main problem now is controlling the fusion power (and not like contain, because a runaway fusion reaction is impossible), make it usefull.


JET was working when I was a child. Commercial Fusion (I was a big fan) was 'just around the corner'. Now I have children of my own... Sometimes, just simple time will tell you things that years of studying may miss.
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STG



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 2:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well then you probably also know that in the time ITER was planned the USA pulled the plug on their finances, so we had to scale down ITER.

When the plan was there the USA joined again and started arguing about building it in the US...So the reason for the delay: US politics!

For the arguments about fission I will write a big piece tomorrow...
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21st_century_caveman



Joined: 23 May 2007
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I dont know who said it, probably a buddhist, but i saw it in someones signature on these very forums a few years ago:

On wisdom:

A wise man knows how to avoid problems that a clever man knows how to solve.

(or words to that effect)

This applies to many of the nuclear power and general energy problems we are facing.
For waste, why not just avoid the problem by not making it in the first place?
Massive demand for energy that cant be fully supplied by renewables, just reduce demand.
Etc etc.

Cleverness and intelligence have served us well but its now time to use our wisdom.

I dont see what the fuss is about fusion, nature solved the problem of harnessing it billions of years ago in the form of photosynthesis, it doesnt seem wise to me to bring it down here when we already have many ways of indirectly harnessing it.

Also, i'm probably indirectly pro-nuclear since geothermal is a by-product of nuclear reactions going on in the earths core (with help from gravity of course), so why dont we spend some of the huge ammounts of money sloshing about in the global economy to tap into geothermal in a big way, that would be a wise thing to do.
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STG



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 2:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fission is not gravity driven! The earth's core is believed to be a FISSION reactor. Geothermal energy is only driven by differences in temperature and density of the inner earth: called convection.

Fusion is done in the sun by gravitational force and the strong and weak force, not by photosynthesis! Photosynthesis is the process plants use to convert sunlight, water and CO2 into sugar (or a kind of), water and oxigen! Hereby not converting any nuclei, so it has nothing to do with nuclear. It's chemical and therefor the electromagnetic force is the only one of importance!

And I made somewhere an argument of the difficulty to understand the technology because you need the very elementary physics...You just proved my point
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21st_century_caveman



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 2:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You have not understood what i was trying to get at, but maybe i should have made my self clearer.

Nature solved the problem of harnessing the power of fusion (in the sun) indirectly using photosynthesis.

Gravity plays a role by causing the huge pressure in the core, without that there could be no nuclear reactions.

I resent the implication that my knowledge of physics is lacking since i have actually studied it, i actually originally went to university to study it but found it too abstract for my taste so transfered to electronic engineering since i had previous skills in that area.
Fair enough, you probably have greater kowledge of physics than me since you are perhaps using it regularly whereas its been a few years since i was studying it.
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RenewableCandy



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

STG wrote:
Well then you probably also know that in the time ITER was planned the USA pulled the plug on their finances, so we had to scale down ITER.
...


Hmm you've indirectly brought up another issue there: I think it's called something like Big Project Prejudice. It's where everyone thinks, possibly incorrectly, that a given problem has to be solved by using Big, single projects. The problem with this approach is it is more vulnerable to changes: in this case the USA's money decision.

In contrast wind power, though it hasn't yet reached the same total GW as nuclear, is making steady progress precisely because, under non-optimum funding conditions, it can still progress slowly as opposed to stopping altogether.
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Adam1



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 3:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

21st_century_caveman wrote:
Gravity plays a role by causing the huge pressure in the core, without that there could be no nuclear reactions.


I thought that all elements in the periodic table after helium were created in supernovas, pre-dating and in the vicinity of the site of the creation of our solar system.
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STG



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 3:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There is a difference in harnessing the power of fusion, and harnessing the power of the sun. The sun is irradiating light due to it's high temperature, which is caused by fusion. Photosynthesis is just harnessing the power of light, which we can do with a much better efficiency with photovoltaics actually...

In a fusion reactor D-T plasma's are used (at the moment because it has the lowest threshold energy), but we aren't going to extract the heat immediatly from the fusion core. We're gonna leave the heat as much in there so lesser heat must be added to keep the reaction going, furthermore it would be rather difficult to extract heat directly. The energy from fusion will be extracted from the neutron emitted from the fusion core area. So totally different stuff!

And why would a high pressure be needed to get a FISSION reaction or any nuclear reaction at all in the inner core of the earth?

There is a huge difference between physics and applied physics to start with, and physics at basic level is not enough to understand this matter. To give an example radioactivity is way more complicated than the basic stuff. And at the basic level it sounds very icky, while at a complicated level the fun starts...
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emordnilap



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 3:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

21st_century_caveman wrote:
I dont know who said it, probably a buddhist, but i saw it in someones signature on these very forums a few years ago:

On wisdom:

A wise man knows how to avoid problems that a clever man knows how to solve.

(or words to that effect)

This applies to many of the nuclear power and general energy problems we are facing. For waste, why not just avoid the problem by not making it in the first place?
Now I'm neither clever nor wise, 21cc, but this piece of wisdom (my bold) has occurred naturally to me throughout my life, taking a few years before its reality actually dawned on me. More to do with stinginess than intelligence, I suspect. I try apply it to anything from the lowest to the highest actions.

Last edited by emordnilap on Thu Jan 10, 2008 3:54 pm; edited 1 time in total
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RenewableCandy



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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 3:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

*sigh*
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