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Old 03-16-2011, 09:28 AM   #1
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How committed are we to nuclear power?

Maybe it's a little reactionary to start questioning the use of nuclear power at this point. But it does strike me as a good question to grapple with.

Should we not be placing all of our ingenuity and innovative energy into creating cheap energy alternatives to oil and nuclear power? The former has proven to be at the root of so much discord and instability, and the latter is fraught with danger. Too much danger, if you ask me.

The list of reasonable alternatives is short at this point. Solar power is probably our best bet, and the folks at ECD may be our best hope.

http://www.strategy-business.com/art...1111?gko=ddb47


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Increasing solar capacity requires improving the conversion efficiency of the semiconductor materials used or increasing the coating rate in production. It is presently impossible to have both high efficiency and high speed, and current manufacturing processes can be improved only incrementally.

Characteristically, Ovshinsky says he has found a way to push both parameters at once, and by significant amounts. “Our technology is a transformational advance in photovoltaics, combining higher conversion efficiency with 100-fold faster deposition rates,” he says. Indeed, his tiny pilot plant recently achieved this milestone, sustaining a deposition rate of more than 300 angstroms per second, compared with 1 to 5 angstroms per second in state-of-the-art commercial photovoltaic processes. That increase alone would allow the building of a 1-gigawatt capacity plant, but Ovshinsky says he will also soon announce a commensurate increase in conversion efficiency from the current level of about 10 percent.
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Old 03-16-2011, 09:37 AM   #2
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here in France, i would say scarily committed!

i have two nuclear power plants within 70 km of my home (closer as the crow flies), and judging by the map of France and the 19/20 nuclear power plants here (plus the waste processing centres), much of the population is the same...

most of the time i try not to think about it...
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Old 03-16-2011, 10:21 AM   #3
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Thorium - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Key benefits

According to Australian science writer Tim Dean, "thorium promises what uranium never delivered: abundant, safe and clean energy - and a way to burn up old radioactive waste."[16] With a thorium nuclear reactor, Dean stresses a number of added benefits: there is no possibility of a meltdown, it generates power inexpensively, it does not produce weapons-grade by-products, and will burn up existing high-level waste as well as nuclear weapon stockpiles.[16] Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, of the British Telegraph daily, suggests that "Obama could kill fossil fuels overnight with a nuclear dash for thorium," and could put "an end to our dependence on fossil fuels within three to five years."[14]

The Thorium Energy Alliance (TEA), an educational advocacy organization, emphasizes that "there is enough thorium in the United States alone to power the country at its current energy level for over 1,000 years." [17] Reducing coal as an energy source, according to science expert Lester R. Brown of The Earth Policy Institute in Washington DC, would significantly reduce medical costs from breathing coal pollutants. Brown estimates that coal-related deaths and diseases are currently costing the U.S. up to $160 billion annually."[18]
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Old 03-16-2011, 10:32 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Basstrap View Post

The list of reasonable alternatives is short at this point. Solar power is probably our best bet, and the folks at ECD may be our best hope.
The list is endless. Germany already sources 34 per cent of its energy from renewable energies of all sorts, as compared to 20 per cent from nuclear power. We even export more than we import. Our current government just last year reversed the decision of the former government to exit nuclear power, and now is doing a 180° in light of what's going on in Japan. They defended the decision to let the nuclear power plants for another ten to fourty years with the "bridge-technology" argument, but that's just a cheap cop-out. They just bended to the lobbyism of the big energy companies which of course want to generate easy profits from the nuclear plants. After all, these plants are completely depreciated now.
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Old 03-16-2011, 11:48 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Vincent Vega View Post
The list is endless.
Correction taken.

------------

I'm interested in Thorium. I'll have to read up on it more. I assume there will still be risks and dangers involved, as you must use fissile material in a reactor core...I think. I don't know much about this!
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Old 03-16-2011, 12:14 PM   #6
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Quote:
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I'm interested in Thorium. I'll have to read up on it more. I assume there will still be risks and dangers involved, as you must use fissile material in a reactor core...I think. I don't know much about this!
I agree. I am not a nuclear power advocate at all, but I agree with the need for a transition/back-up electricity production plan. I think natural gas fits this bill (not w/o its own relatively minor problems), but if a safe and temporary-use case could be made for Thorium plants, I'd listen.

We need to end our coal use.
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Old 03-16-2011, 12:24 PM   #7
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It depends in the country, but a small percentage of the electricity in most industrialized nations comes from nuclear energy.

There has also been a lot of more scientific research for the possibility of nuclear fusion as a way to satisfy energy demands in a sustainable and non-polluting way.

- Nuclear Fusion: Energy for the Future?
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Old 03-16-2011, 04:36 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Basstrap View Post
Maybe it's a little reactionary to start questioning the use of nuclear power at this point. But it does strike me as a good question to grapple with.
It's not reactionary at all; it's been this way since the 80s. There has been ONE nuclear power plant constructed in the U.S. since the Three Mile Island crisis.

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Originally Posted by Vincent Vega View Post
The list is endless. Germany already sources 34 per cent of its energy from renewable energies of all sorts, as compared to 20 per cent from nuclear power. We even export more than we import.
You don't seem to understand. You live in a country that is able to efficiently evaluate its current situation and come up with realistic action plans and follow through on them.

The rest of us live in the U.K., the U.S., Canada, and Australia
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Old 03-16-2011, 04:59 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Canadiens1131 View Post
It's not reactionary at all; it's been this way since the 80s. There has been ONE nuclear power plant constructed in the U.S. since the Three Mile Island crisis.


You don't seem to understand. You live in a country that is able to efficiently evaluate its current situation and come up with realistic action plans and follow through on them.

The rest of us live in the U.K., the U.S., Canada, and Australia
and France - we're well stuffed lol!!
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Old 03-16-2011, 09:28 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dfit00 View Post
It depends in the country, but a small percentage of the electricity in most industrialized nations comes from nuclear energy.

There has also been a lot of more scientific research for the possibility of nuclear fusion as a way to satisfy energy demands in a sustainable and non-polluting way.

- Nuclear Fusion: Energy for the Future?
That's the other one that looks promising.
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Old 03-17-2011, 02:53 AM   #11
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I've never been all that keen on the idea of nuclear power for this very reason. Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, now this? Three strikes and you're out, if you ask me.

What Vincent Vega talks about sounds nice. I wish we could have that setup here .

Angela
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Old 03-17-2011, 03:03 AM   #12
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i agree angela, it does sound like a nice setup. yet again germany is all awesome-like. i have to be honest, if i could live anywhere in the world i'd probably pick there.

 
(sorry ian)
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Old 03-17-2011, 03:15 AM   #13
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I'm not an advocate for nuclear power but this accident has been triggered by an earthquake, and Chernobyl could have been avoided had the proper safety measures been in place. (I don't know the Three Mile Island story.) I just doubt whether all the doomsday gloom about nuclear power is justified. There's no doubt it's dangerous, but apart from the isolated incidents I know of, it seems to be a viable source of energy.

We've never had it in Aus, the general public has been steadfastly opposed to it for some time.
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Old 03-17-2011, 04:10 AM   #14
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George Monbiot wrote an interesting article on the nuclear issue in yesterday's Guardian...


---


Japan nuclear crisis should not carry weight in atomic energy debate
Nuclear power remains far safer than coal. The awful events in Fukushima must not spook governments considering atomic energy

The Chinese government today suspended approval of new atomic power plants. Photograph: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

The nuclear disaster unfolding in Japan is bad enough; the nuclear disaster unfolding in China could be even worse.

"What disaster?", you may ask. The decision taken today by the Chinese government to suspend approval of new atomic power plants. If this suspension were to become permanent, the power those plants would have produced is likely to be replaced by burning coal. While nuclear causes calamities when it goes wrong, coal causes calamities when it goes right, and coal goes right a lot more often than nuclear goes wrong. The only safe coal-fired plant is one which has broken down past the point of repair.

Before I go any further, and I'm misinterpreted for the thousandth time, let me spell out once again what my position is. I have not gone nuclear. But, as long as the following four conditions are met, I will no longer oppose atomic energy.

1. Its total emissions – from mine to dump – are taken into account, and demonstrate that it is a genuinely low-carbon option

2. We know exactly how and where the waste is to be buried

3. We know how much this will cost and who will pay

4. There is a legal guarantee that no civil nuclear materials will be diverted for military purposes

To these I'll belatedly add a fifth, which should have been there all along: no plants should be built in fault zones, on tsunami-prone coasts, on eroding seashores or those likely to be inundated before the plant has been decommissioned or any other places which are geologically unsafe. This should have been so obvious that it didn't need spelling out. But we discover, yet again, that the blindingly obvious is no guarantee that a policy won't be adopted.

I despise and fear the nuclear industry as much as any other green: all experience hath shown that, in most countries, the companies running it are a corner-cutting bunch of scumbags, whose business originated as a by-product of nuclear weapons manufacture. But, sound as the roots of the anti-nuclear movement are, we cannot allow historical sentiment to shield us from the bigger picture. Even when nuclear power plants go horribly wrong, they do less damage to the planet and its people than coal-burning stations operating normally.

Coal, the most carbon-dense of fossil fuels, is the primary driver of human-caused climate change. If its combustion is not curtailed, it could kill millions of times more people than nuclear power plants have done so far. Yes, I really do mean millions. The Chernobyl meltdown was hideous and traumatic. The official death toll so far appears to be 43 – 28 workers in the initial few months then a further 15 civilians by 2005. Totally unacceptable, of course; but a tiny fraction of the deaths for which climate change is likely to be responsible, through its damage to the food supply, its contribution to the spread of infectious diseases and its degradation of the quality of life for many of the world's poorest people.

Coal also causes plenty of other environmental damage, far worse than the side effects of nuclear power production: from mountaintop removal to acid rain and heavy metal pollution. An article in Scientific American points out that the fly ash produced by a coal-burning power plant "carries into the surrounding environment 100 times more radiation than a nuclear power plant producing the same amount of energy".

Of course it's not a straight fight between coal and nuclear. There are plenty of other ways of producing electricity, and I continue to place appropriate renewables above nuclear power in my list of priorities. We must also make all possible efforts to reduce consumption. But we'll still need to generate electricity, and not all renewable sources are appropriate everywhere. While producing solar power makes perfect sense in north Africa, in the UK, by comparison to both wind and nuclear, it's a waste of money and resources. Abandoning nuclear power as an option narrows our choices just when we need to be thinking as broadly as possible.

Several writers for the Guardian have made what I believe is an unjustifiable leap. A disaster has occurred in a plant that was appallingly sited in an earthquake zone; therefore, they argue, all nuclear power programmes should be abandoned everywhere. It looks to me as if they are jumping on this disaster as support for a pre-existing position they hold for other reasons. Were we to follow their advice, we would rule out a low-carbon source of energy, which could help us tackle the gravest threat the world now faces. That does neither the people nor the places of the world any favours.

George Monbiot
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Old 03-17-2011, 06:11 AM   #15
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Two things I've heard-

a) ~250 coal miners have died in the United States over the last decade
b) had solar power been widespread employed in Japanese homes, there would be an apocalyptic environmental catastrophe because of the improper disposal

Because I haven't seen primary sources I'm not sure they're true, but despite all the sturm und drang from this Japanese incident the fact remains that the current harm has absolutely paled in light of the tens of thousands dead from the tsunami.
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