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The Nuclear Skeptic, Part 1: Sketching the Playing Field

by DeAnander Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 12:49:30 AM EST

And in terms of nuclear power... considering that its essentially just an advanced form of hitting a rock with a bigger club. Nah.  Let's use scalpels instead.

-- RElland, at DailyKos

OK, with some delay after the Chernobyl preludes by me and DoDo, time at last for me to deliver the first of the diaries I have been promising on nuclear power generation and the reasons why I remain skeptical (to put it mildly) about the benefits of this approach to the twin crunches of Peak Oil and Climate Destabilisation.   Since this is a contentious topic, maybe it would be best to begin with a quick reconnoitre of the disputed territory -- a little rough demography of the disputants - and the talking points "each side" (though there are more than two, of course) traditionally upholds.  Sometimes it helps to have an approximate agreement about what one is disagreeing about...


The Case for the Defence

The claims made by the various spokespeople for the nuclear industry at this juncture are, in précis:

  • (a) that nuclear power is "unlimited", i.e. can be maintained or grown for an "indefinite" future (this in practise means "a couple of hundred years");

  • (b) that nuclear power is carbon-neutral, i.e. does not contribute significantly to greenhouse emissions or climate change and therefore is a "fix" for global warming;

  • (c) that nuclear power is, nowadays, "safe"...  meaning: incidents like TMI (Three Mile Island) and Chernobyl, and sites like Hanford and Sellafield, are "bad old days" stuff, and we can take care of all the problems of waste disposal, leakage of active isotopes, provide fail-secure "walk away" reactors, etc.

    (c1) that it's "safer to build than to import" from neighbours with old or substandard nuclear technology

  • (d) that nuclear power can replace almost every application of fossil power or

    (d1) that nuclear power can at least provide a reliable energy baseline

  • (e) that nuclear power is already more cost effective than renewables and

  • (f) that new fission reactor designs such as CANDU or pebble bed solve the problems of "old, bad designs" like TMI or Chernobyl and/or

  • (g) that new developments such "safe breeder reactors" and "fusion reactors" are just around the corner and will make nuclear power really efficient and safe (even though, as we all know, it already is)

  • (h) Just because some incompetent nations/companies have built lousy plants or mismanaged them (Soviet fast-track crude technology, American privatisation or political corruption) doesn't mean that nuclear power cannot be managed properly by competent and rational government programmes, as in France.  (i.e. failures of nuclear power in the past were structural failures of the society, government, or level of expertise or materials, not due to risk factors inherent in the technology).

  • (i) All industrial technologies are risky, and there is no reason to fear nuclear accidents or pollution more than any other industrial process or "externalised" waste or pollution (much of which can be shown to have caused more premature loss of life over the last 20 years than can be irrefutably ascribed to the nuclear sector).

  • (j) fission reactor construction, and nuclear development generally, have been unfairly held back over the last 20 years by unfounded public fears, prejudice, and anti-nuke protestors

Further systematic or conceptual, implicit or explicit claims often heard from the industry or its supporters are:


  • (A) The energy and climate situation is dire and some remedial action is urgently needed;

  • (B) Nuclear power is the only practical alternative to fossil fuels;  or put more vividly, the only alternative to nuclear power is "shivering in the dark", i.e. widespread power-famine.  Therefore, opposing the nuclear industry is -- implicitly -- a crime against humanity, as it means obstructing the only possible solution and condemning people to freeze in the dark / die / starve / live like lowly third world peasants;

  • (C) Therefore it is clear that only stupid people would oppose such an obvious solution; therefore opposition to the nuclear industry must be born of stupidity -- opponents are presumably non-scientists and/or generally ill-educated, and believe a lot of superstitious/cartoony exaggerations about the dangers of radiation.  Alternatively they are a lot of "eco-crazies" or "tree huggers" who are ideologically anti-science, anti-progress, and suffer from a sentimental attachment to a wholly fictional happier agrarian/pastoral historical period.

  • (D) Quality of life is linearly related to amount of energy consumed per person per annum

  • (E) We have reason to be optimistic about steady and often radical improvements in technology;  scientific "miracles" produced by the efforts of academic and/or commercial elites have occurred in the past which produced wonderous returns for consumers, and more of the same can be expected to continue indefinitely until everyone on Earth enjoys a First World lifestyle and/or humanity colonises the solar system, etc.  But to reach this Promised Land we will need lots of energy, so we must not permit our energy consumption and production to fall.


I think that about sums it up, but perhaps our local pro-nuclear advocates can add a few more talking points.

The Case for the Prosecution

The claims made by opponents of nuclear plants, on the other side of the fence, can be distilled into this list:

  • (a) Nuclear power is not safe, because:

             
    • Waste management is an unsolved problem and the waste is intensely toxic effectively forever

    •        
    • Uranium mining is associated with poor worker safety, contamination of water sources, etc (like coal mining)

    •        
    • Leaks happen at nuclear plants, safety procedures are not followed, corners are cut, and then coverups are mounted to prevent the public from finding out.

    •        
    • No private insurer will insure a nuclear plant.  If the technology were safe, you could get insurance on it.

    •        
    • Nuclear plants are a stalking horse for the nuclear weapons industry.  The history of DU munitions (a handy way the industry figured out to get rid of some hot waste) is abominable.  This tie makes the world less safe all over.


  • (b) The public does not trust reassurances made by nuclear scientists and industry spokespeople, and rightly so. (More on this failure of trust later).

  • (c)Uranium mining is not only physically dangerous, but a politically dirty business associated with exploitation of labour, fraudulent dealings with aboriginal people, and all the rest of the typical mining industry profile (i.e. moral odium attaches to it).

  • (d) Nuclear power is centralised, extremely high/heavy technology, difficult for average people to understand -- and therefore makes power consumers into helpless clients of an authoritarian, secretive industry (with enormous lobbying power for self-perpetuation). In part this is because:

    • Nuclear power is tightly coupled to national security risks, proliferation etc. which inspire/require rigorous security measures -- these are inherently secretive and antidemocratic.

    • Radiation is invisible, unsmellable, undetectable without expensive equipment (geiger counters, dosimeters, etc)  -- average people cannot tell if they are being exposed.  They must take the word of (untrusted) authorities.


  • (e) Health effects of radiation exposure may take many years to develop, and may include genetic damage that does not become visible until gestation or birth of children.  As menaces go, it qualifies as "insidious" as well as carrying extreme damage and lethality potential.

  • (f) Uranium is no more an infinite resource than fossil fuel.

  • (g) Nuclear power is not cost-effective;  no nuclear plant has ever turned a profit, all have been subsidised/socialised (as the saying goes, "No plant has ever been built that burns uranium as efficiently as it burns money.").  This muddies and confounds comparisons with alternative technologies that have never been subsidised/socialised to the same extent.  Further cost issues are:  

    • Old nuclear plants are very expensive to repurpose or clean up.  Decades go by and they are still eating up scientist and engineer hours:  a permanent burden on society.

    • Nuclear plants are very costly to build and require many highly trained personnel to operate -- high level of complexity and high failure costs.  This = Expensive.  Expensive multiplied by ... how many of them would we have to build to replace fossil fuel generating capacity?


  • (h) Other alternatives look more obvious, cheaper, easier, and less scary:  first, conservation;  second, reversion to renewable energy sources (wind, tidal, solar, geothermal, "solar tower", biomass, biodigester methane, etc);  third, localisation, micropower, smart grids (smart information/routing technology)

  • (i) In terms of addressing urgent climate/energy issues, nuclear power is not a nimble or timely solution.  It takes 10-15 years to bring a new nuke plant on line, whereas we need solutions and ameliorations right now for both fossil fuel scarcity and climate destabilisation.

  • (j) What has held nuclear power plant construction back for 20 years has not been public protests (10 million people protesting couldn't stop the illegal invasion of Iraq, after all) but the failure of the technology to demonstrate a good return on investment or a manageable risk

  • (k) New miracle technologies are mostly vaporware, and/or incur significant underplayed "externalities".  We've been promised safe breeder reactors and fusion for at least 30 years.  Where are they?  [Ironically the fission faction in the pronuclear camp has at times made much the same snarky remark and has protested against the diversion of funding into "impractical" fusion research.]  Pro-nuke advocates suffer from a sentimental attachment to a wishful-thinking Star Trek or Jetsons cartoon future and are naively optimistic about technology, which they fetishise.


In addition, antinuclear advocates have their own implicit or explicit "larger assumptions" or ideological groundwork which tends to inform the viewpoint of a majority among them.  These might include:


  • (A) skepticism about the Infinite Growth model of economic theory and urgent concern about its impact on various biotic and social infrastructure worldwide; skepticism about capitalism and the profit motive as engines of progress

  • (B) conviction that it is not physically possible for everyone on Earth to live a First World lifestyle;  and further, that it is not possible for First Worlders to go on doing so much longer;  for survival as well as for social justice, affluent lifestyles in the industrial West should be considered excessive and some curbing of consumerism/materialism is in order

  • (C) a conviction of the utter moral wrongness of nuclear weapons;  for example the conviction that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a crime against humanity

  • (D) skepticism about technological hubris and promised "scientific miracles";  a conviction that many of these carry hidden price tags

  • (E) some degree of libertarian and/or anarchistic tendencies leading to

             
    • a skeptical and resistant stance towards Authority, and a mistrust of centralised government and/or large corporations;

    •        
    • higher value placed on community/grassroots and local organising and provision of services (devolution, downsizing, decentralisation))

    •        
    • fear that any government may fall, or policies change at any time, leaving large numbers of nuclear plants in "the wrong hands"


  • (F) optimism about the intelligence and capacity of the proletariat (vs faith in academic or corporate elites) and the viability of simple, sustainable, and small/medium-scale systems to provide a decent lifestyle for a majority of people;  the Promised Land is already here, if we would only exercise some common sense, reasonable frugality, and fairness.  Quality of life is not linearly related to amount of energy consumed per person per annum.


Summary Remarks

The usual disclaimers apply:  not everyone who is pronuke will agree with every one of the "pro" talking points, and vice versa for the contranuke position;  ideological mappings are always fuzzy in detail.  But published literature from both points of view seems to bear out the rough clustering in meme-space that I've tried to map here.

In addition to a polarisation of risk assessment and beliefs as detailed above, there is an approximate conventional-political polarisation:  support for nuclear power is more common and firmer among people of right and centre-right ideology and/or strong adherence to neoliberal received ideas;  it seems to be more common and firmer among high-level technocrats as well.  Again this is not a hard and fast correlation, but a perceptible tendency.  Firm opposition to nuclear power is more common among people of left/liberal, anti-war, "green," anti-capitalist, sustainable/eco-activist, "hippie" leanings.  Support for nuclear power also appears to be significantly stronger among males than females, something I'll return to in a later installment.

I'd be interested to find out how ET readers feel about this meme-map... how it reflects -- or doesn't reflect -- their own experience of the nuclear power debate.

In the next diary (part 2) I'll start to address the problem of security and its social implications, and similar sociopolitical issues around nuke plants and the model of power distribution that they lock us into.  Thereafter I'll try to address different talking points from the lists above, not in any particular order, and as time permits.  Let the games begin...

Poll
Nuclear Power?
. Nein, danke. There must be a better way to meet demand. 30%
. Jawohl! the more reactors the merrier. Turn up the A/C! 17%
. I haven't really made up my mind. 8%
. Holding my nose and voting for it as the "least worst option". 17%
. I'd rather read by candlelight, personally. 8%
. Doesn't really matter, Peak Oil will invalidate all current megaprojects before they are finished. 13%
. Replacing existing reactors w/better ones Yes; building a lot more, No 4%

Votes: 23
Results | Other Polls
Display:
IT WAS May 2004 and John Howard was looking for an exit clause. A Federal Government scheme to kickstart Australia's renewable energy industry had proved successful beyond anybody's expectations. Wind, the cheapest and most viable source of renewable energy, was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the mandatory renewable energy target.

Giant wind turbines were sprouting all over the country, turbine blade and engine manufacturers were setting up shop, and cash was pouring in from foreign and domestic investors. It seemed Australia was finally tackling its greenhouse gas emissions by getting some clean electricity.

But not everyone was happy with the mandatory target. Leaked minutes from a meeting in the chilly confines of Canberra's political corridors show the Prime Minister had called on some of Australia's biggest contributors to global warming - including the coal and uranium miners Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton - to help the Government devise a way to pull the rug from under the wind industry, but still be seen to be tackling climate change.

Two years on, it has become clear just how deadly that meeting was for wind power. The Government's refusal to extend the mandatory target has left hundreds of renewable energy projects unable to secure contracts. One developer last week cancelled two wind farm proposals worth $550 million, while the future of another $250 million project is in doubt.

The Australian Wind Energy Association says as much as $12 billion worth of proposed wind farms is at risk. On top of that, the Government has tried to kill wind farm projects in Victoria and Western Australia and has called on state governments to sign a development code that would give local councils the power to veto wind projects because of community opposition - something that does not apply to new coalmining ventures.

Sydney Morning Herald

Part of the pro- and contra-nuke debate is muddied by a  dirty, knockdown fight by the Old Technology (coal and nuclear) interest groups to suppress, downplay, or muddle news of success in cleaner energy technologies, and to prevent such technologies from getting anything like the subsidies that the extractive industries have enjoyed for over 200 years.  One doesn't have to believe in "secret carburetors that run on water" to understand that an established, very large, very politically connected power bloc will fight like hell to prevent any competitors from appearing on the scene.

Rio Tinto, now that's a name to conjure with...

As with many of these dirty little kicking matches, some of the "grassroots groups" may be astroturf and others may be -- unwittingly -- acting as proxies for the power players (much as the US and USSR manipulated and lesser regimes to fight their proxy "bush wars" during the Cold War).

[...]At a time of near unanimous scientific agreement that large greenhouse gas cuts must be made soon to avoid dangerous changes in world weather patterns, how is it that wind has become a dirty word?

Environment groups say it is all tied up with Federal Government reluctance to impose any kind of cost on fossil fuel industries and its desire to sell more uranium to nuclear weapons states such as China and India. They say it is no coincidence that wind - which could in time be a strong, clean competitor to fossil fuels - is being demonised while nuclear power is being promoted as a solution to global warming.[...]

Those who oppose the project are happy with Campbell's intervention. Among them is the discredited British environmentalist David Bellamy. In late 2004, at the height of the campaign against the Bald Hills project, Bellamy visited the area to support the anti-wind cause. "It's the last place on earth you'd contemplate building them," he said during a visit to the South Gippsland town of Foster, paid for and organised by Channel Nine's 60 Minutes. "Think of the damage they are doing, and for no return at all," he said.

Not long before his visit to Australia, Bellamy said man-made global warming was a myth and wind power was not a renewable source of energy.

It is misleading claims such as these and connections with anti-wind campaigners overseas that have raised suspicions about Australia's anti-wind activists. The Australia Institute's Clive Hamilton believes the sprouting of local opposition groups is not entirely spontaneous. "I believe there is a network of anti-wind activists associated with climate change sceptics who are fuelling the fires of local opposition," he says.

Research by the Herald shows that a loose association of anti-wind farm groups that goes by the names of Landscape Guardians or Coastal Guardians relies heavily for its information and campaign tactics on overseas groups that have been linked to the nuclear power industry.



The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 03:00:56 AM EST
Nice example of collusion between Dirty Coal and Dirty Nuclear. On the other side of the debate, I note that activists against these too are often also the same. For example, those who strive to stop further strip-mining in the Ruhr area in Germany (battle over Garzweiler-II) and  who pursue the monitoring of fine dust emissions and its natural radioactivity near existing coal power plants there.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 06:49:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Strangely enough, one of the biggest proponent of wind power in France is Areva, the nuclear energy company, and the biggest investor (and one of the biggest around the world) is EDF, itself the biggest nuclear energy producer on the planet.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 07:15:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, and Shell is big in the wind business and BP in photovoltaics. Part of it is co-optation, part of it is to have a share if the business exists anyway (especially abroad), part of it is that EdF and Areva enjoy a secure near-monopolistic situation - and part of it is that on the French wind energy market, there is little fear of upstarts and local projects becoming dominant.

(BTW, Jérôme, how high is the French wind potential estimated presently? IIRC it is more than 100% of current consumption, but I must have read that about five years ago.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 11:31:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Similarly in the US, in 1999 then governor G.W. Bush signed into law a requirement that Texas have 2 GW of renewable generation in place by 2009. I'm pretty sure Texas is now the #2 wind producing state in the US behind California. Since you're on theoildrum often, do you know if anyone there has talked about how that came about politically? 2 GW isn't much so it doesn't have to have unique reasoning behind it, but I thought their might be more to it.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 11:38:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are some gems at the end of that SMH article!  Some examples of the disinformation being bandied about:
William Hoorweg and his partner, Julie Gray, who own a property about 2.1 kilometres from the nearest proposed turbine, are worried about the prospect of having Australia's biggest wind farm nearby. They will not be able to see the 125-metre turbines from their home but they do not accept the developer's assurances they will not be able to hear them, and they believe the turbines could cause bushfires. They told the Herald the project was a "sham" because when the wind did not blow the developer would have to buy electricity from the grid. Gray also says the turbines will leak electricity. Neither statement is correct [...]

BUSTING THE MYTHS
[...]

MYTH: Wind turbines are fans that dry the atmosphere, break up clouds and chase rain away.

TRUTH: There is no scientific evidence for this. Wind farms only capture energy from existing winds; they do not create wind like a fan.

[...]

MYTH: Wind power is unreliable and can't be stored. Fossil fuels must take up the slack.

TRUTH: There is no effective way to store large amounts of electricity, regardless of whether it comes from coal or wind. All energy technologies have periods when they are not available. These periods are built into the pricing for the technology. If we locate wind farms in different places and don't see them as the total solution, we can manage fluctuations in wind.

MYTH: Wind power becomes less cost-effective the higher its contribution to overall energy demand. Beyond 10 per cent it is uneconomical.

TRUTH: Denmark gets 20 per cent of its electricity from wind power and doesn't seem to have any problems.

Source: Dr Chris Riedy, Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology, Sydney.

Turbines that "leak electricity" -- "cause brushfires" -- "chase rain away"?  my my my.  great stuff.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 07:27:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
wow, master blogging...

thanks for this well written round up of the attitudes around this issue, pro and con.

deanander, you seriously rock.

'moral odium'...now there's a phrase!

off to pt 2...

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 03:16:30 AM EST
dammit I made a typo in the Poll and it doesn't appear to be editable.  apologies to all german-speakers.  that should be Jawohl, not Jawoll [there's a brand of sock wool called Jawoll which I was looking at earlier today in a catalog, must be neural print-through].

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 03:23:13 AM EST
I could edit it without problems.

I also added links to the other diaries in the series (in a half-sentence inserted into the intro).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 06:44:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
danke DoDo

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 05:27:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks dodo, for showing such a calm and reasoned set of responses to migeru's scathingly diabolical advocacy!

exemplary....really stalwart

interestingly enough, while nukes can gain a possible convert in some people consequent to non-violent civil disobedience, on me it has the opposite effect, steeling me to follow the example of my musical heroes, jackson browne, bonnie raitt and bruce springsteen in their speaking out at this nightmare, and to go protest if they try pulling this shit around here.

course, with these cursed things, 'around here' is pretty damn relative...

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 06:23:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I find your sanctimony tiresome.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 06:24:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think either "side" in the debate has a monopoly on self-righteousness or conviction of moral (or some kind of) superiority.  melo articulates openly the passionate emotions that many contranuke people feel, just as Starvid's derisive cracks [on another thread] about "eco-crazies" articulate openly the scorn for contranukers that many pronukers feel.  those emotions are part of the story, why not air them?

but "sanctimony" to my ear implies hypocrisy -- yet I don't hear much hypocrisy in melo, who seems to be trying hard to live a low-burn-rate life (i.e. not wanting to have cake and eat it too by opposing nukes yet insisting on a high tech, high burn rate, energy-dense lifestyle).  I could be wrong but prima facie I see little evidence of hypocrisy.

a question I would ask cher Migeru, is why antinuke protesters, or other people's defence of them, arouse what sounds like heartfelt outrage in you, yourself?  are they threatening what you think is the only hope for western civ?  or are nuclear transports so insecure that a few protesters at a rail crossing could really cause a national disaster, thus these protesters are in your view taking an insane risk to make their point?  I ask -- honestly -- not to provoke but with respect, to clarify.  

the story of the protest events that DoDo narrates here seems to me an illustration of the rebellion of the locals against a process perceived as undemocratic or authoritarian.  the same objections to protestors are made by every interest group threatened or impeded by protesters.  if we are to condemn the people sitting on the train tracks trying to stop the nuclear transports, should we not be condemning the guy who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square or indeed any person who uses theatrical, confrontative street protest as a means of communication?  protesters are always accused of increasing conflict, escalating situations, "causing trouble" -- by those who disagree with their aims -- and described as heroes risking their reputations and persons for the common good, by those who share their aims.  

one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter, in other words.  when antinuke protesters actually shoot nuke plant workers (as in some of the abortion clinic protests) or conduct a real, rather than simulated, raid on a plant's security perimeter, then I think we are indeed into the realm of crime rather than theatre...  anyway, the merits or demerits of civil disobedience and the locus of responsibility for public risk (is it the protesters at fault or the nuke nexus which exposed the public to the risk in the first place?) could be a whole separate debate thread;  but the general feeling that protesting against nuke activities is different, and worse, and less allowable than other kinds of CD [because of the risks involved] I think ties into my Part 2, the connection between nuke power and authoritarianism/repression.  [not that I describe you as a repressive authoritarian, cher M, just that for a moment you can like any of us step our of character and into that role in the heat of your outrage on this particular issue].

the issue for us enlightenmentistas, I think, is our struggle to sort out whether nuclear power generation is consonant, as a technological strategy, with larger values (aka ideologies) that we hold dear -- like democracy, sustainability, social justice, glasnost, public health, the strategically optimised expenditure of public monies in a time of energy dearth, etc.  we struggle with two burning questions:  1) is it pragmatically sensible, i.e. is it sustainable, is it cost-effective, is it reliable, what hidden costs will come back to bite us, what will be the opportunity cost of investing limited resources in this strategy vs another strategy... and 2) is it ethical -- what costs are shoved off onto nonbeneficiaries, what effect will it have on social norms and values that we wish to preserve?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 07:04:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yup that's me, the digital contadino....

i want a biogas generator, so bad...

i hear it takes 5 pigs, and a year-round warm climate, per family.

i still use a chainsaw, car (minimum), and weedeater.

and some of my electricity comes from nukes -boo - bought by enel from neighbouring countries.

but i'm trying....

it's a lot easier than it was in the 60's, because there's MUCH better tv than then (and much worse, you gotta fish), and then wonder of wonders, the web....and all you guys to keep me company as the wind howls through the owly forest, and the snow drifts pile high against the door...

or the august sun crackles and the earth buckles and splits under the blistering heat...

right now it's paradise though, and the wildflowers enchanting in their colourful variety and delicate abundance.

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 07:36:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ever done the global footprint test melo?  I keep coming out between 2 and 2.5 earths (terrons?), which is depressing...  hope to get it down to 1 when I retire and ditch the oversized (for just me) house.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 07:44:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Melo, how does your plot compare with Italy's population density of 0.51 hectares per person?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 07:23:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
as sanctimony is to religiosity, adherence to one's own views about social and political issues that insults brave people exercising their so-called right to free assembly and speech, be it for reasons of idealogical coherence or protest, has a flavour to my palate of 'i'm ok in my safe little world of numeracy and polymath(ology,ematics, i dunno where to land these last syllables!), and i snipe at those who aren't as knowledgeable as i, and who act in a manner i consider undignified'.

i find this as offensive as you find my defence of that which is 'sanctified' or sacrosanct, namely the protection of the species we are incarnate in.

basic darwin, really...

i have enjoyed your rapier wit, masterful command of english, mindblowingly assiduous dedication to the gentle art of blogging, brilliant timing, and unflagging devotion to making this et the consistently stimulating hangout it is, since its first days.

you are young, and freshly a parent. i have been there, and it is very stressful, as well as life-changingly miraculous.

there was an edge to your dismissal of the antinuke protestors that i found quite low, the kind of edge that i succumb to using when i am infuriated by the facts degondi reveals about italy, or when i react to much american domestic and foreign policy these days.

i feel somewhat sanctimonious on those occasions.

i know as little about so many things, as you know so much, migeru, and i love your presence here.

but just like i do, sometimes you lose the plot, imo, and i can defend myself, just as you can.

i don't have the kind of brain many of you guys here do, and i'm hungrily learning from your kind of wisdom.

however there is another kind of (crazy) wisdom that does hold some things sacred, and tries to reserve scorn and acrimony for those whose ideology seems life-threatening to us, who attack these views.

i will try to keep my sanctimony to a bare minimum, as i hate it in others!

sometimes i don't feel it taking me over till too late...

as for your question about my land;

i have 2.3 hectares, mixed forest and meadows, ranging from almost flat, to very steep.

there used to be about ten people living and working here, now i work it alone.

the people here grew a little wheat and fruits anad veggies, but mostly herded their pigs in the forest, grubbing acorns and chestnuts, and they also dried the chestnuts for milling into meal.

they used no chainsaws!

or bathroom...

it is poor land, suitable for sheep rather than growing crops. the good bottomland down on the valleyfloor is devoted to filling the coffers of rothman's and other tobacco companies.

as i am a vegan, and cityborn to boot, this lifechoice presents plenty of healthy challenge!

there are so many deserted, crumbling farms in italy....

villages that once held 2000, now down to 200.

many starved, many emigrated, many killed by the germans.

the best half of what they grew went to 'local government' (mezzadria), and the old farmers had to become expert at hiding things in order not to starve.

i've heard some very interesting stories from the old-timers who come up here to get some twigs for firestarters, mushrooms or wild chestnuts.

that is once i penetrated the dialect, as many of these folk are illiterate, and never learned to speak (tv) italian!

                                                     *

i spoke up for greenpeace, and i noticed shortly afterwards you started posting nice things about them.

maybe you'll have something happen to you that will cause you to use your human right to protest agin the powers-that-be, and i pray you use it, even if i am not in agreement with your (doubtless highly informed) reasoning.

and i hope no-one finds your sanctimony tiresome!

as for being tired, i am glad to say that one would never know that from your passionate commitment to making this site jump and crackle with energy!

thankyou again for your contributions


"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 11:07:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Chère De, don't Cher Migeru me, ok?

I am not on a side of the debate. Going through your talking points my impression was that they were mostly intellectually dishonest, on both sides. The conclusion is given and then arguments are sought to support it. But that's to be expected because this is a debate oriented towards swaying the public, not towards actually learning about the issue which is what I come to ET for.

Melo's preaching and quasi-religious outlook irks me. On a different diary he expressed his disbelief (in terms not very different from tu quoque fili mi Migeru) that I "had been convinced" by the pro-nuke camp. I didn't even bother to express my disbelief at his interpretation of what I said, but maybe I should have back then. Then I learnt that, to Melo, Greenpeace is infallible, like the Pope, and nothing they do or say can honestly be criticized. Now I am called "diabolical". Better have your holy water handy, Melo, if we ever meet in person.

Just because it is heartflet and sincere doesn't mean that Melo doesn't come across as holier-than-thou. So maybe not sanctimonious in the sense of hypocritical but in the etymological sense of adopting an air of sainthood. I'm sorry, I have a little more self-doubt than that.

DoDo's explanation of the rationale (or should I say irrationale) behind the CASTOR protests is essentially this: 1) CASTORs are not safe because if a terrorist wanted to breach one, they could; 2) you don't believe us? We'll stage a mock terrorist attack to show you how easy it is to get within spitting distance of the CASTORs. I violently react to this because it is disingenuous, and uses bogeymen terrorists to push an agenda much like the advocates of the national security state use them to push their agenda. As for anti-nuclear direct action, I am not opposed to it in general (for instance, I think the Plowshares actions were great, but the point of those was not to pretend to be terrorists sneaking into a nuclear weapons facility to steal a warhead, was it?).

Am I included in "us enlightenmentalistas"? If so you might understand that Melo's preaching does not tell me anything about nuclear technology, but only about himself.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 07:19:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, that isn't how I explained the rationale behind the protests. My very initial comment included more than that, my later long explanation included much more than that, but you focused in on the secondary (or should I say tertiary) security argument alone - and that with a lot of twists worthy of wchurchill (medal for spills etc.). Those seemed to stem from a false image of the entire affair having been informed by lack of information, but you don't seem willing to sit back and evaluate the entirety of the new information I have given. Your one-liner reply to my long explanation is a good illustration.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 11:19:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
you don't seem willing to sit back and evaluate the entirety of the new information I have given. Your one-liner reply to my long explanation is a good illustration.
You did say the point of blocking a CASTOR transport is "proving a security risk",  and when pressed about that brough up the "terrorists", then decided that my opinion couldn't possibly be other than informed by sensationalist pro-nuke coverage. To me the CASTOR protests seem dangerously reckless, sorry to disagree with you on that. As for disagreement on the permanent storage location... what alternative would the activists have preferred? I never heard anything about that.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 11:44:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
apologies Migeru if I duzenned when I should have siezenned.  the intent was friendly, similar to smileys or some other emoticons to indicate absence of rancor.  it was not intended condescendingly, I assure you.

I still don't read melo as representing himself as saintly;  I have a feeling that's more in the eye of the beholder than in the text :-)  but then in my time I've been accused of "wearing a hair shirt" or "being a saint" just for not owning a car and riding a bicycle -- so perhaps I have some inbuilt skepticism about this perception of greenish types (with or without pointy ears).  to me, owning a car would be a burden, an unnecessary expense, a hassle, aesthetically displeasing, and generally not worth the overhead as well as being ethically troubling;  ergo, no hair shirts here.

I think one thing that adds intensity -- and sometimes asperity to the point of venom -- to the debates over technology, transport, and power, is that people who advocate for a "simpler life" [which is hardly simple, when you consider how many endocrine and hormonal things are going on inside us as we enjoy a "simple" meal of bread cheese and wine, or how biotically complex are the processes that produce said bread cheese and wine] not only know in their gut, (having chosen some version of a simpler life voluntarily) that it offers much satisfaction and pleasure;  they also feel that in pursuing their satisfaction and pleasure they do little harm, or at least less harm, than those who prefer a high-consumption, more energy-and-resource intensive lifestyle.  whereas the "American Way of Life" meme, with which high energy consumption is inextricably associated, when successfully pursued inevitably displaces and destroys other lifeways as it consumes arable land, fossil fuel and fossil water, forest cover etc etc.  some degrees of privilege are inherently unvulgarisable.

there is some sense I suspect in melo, and I know in myself, that some of the insistence on the "necessity" for nuclear power is an insistence on luxuries rather than necessities -- and on luxuries whose maintenance does active harm to billions;  that a more equitable lifestyle would also be a more sustainable lifestyle, and would obviate at one and the same time, much suffering and the "need" to keep generating electricity at current levels.  the math behind this argument is deep, and muddied by all sorts of distortions in the world of finance and money, but do-able in the world of terajoules and hektares and food calories.  this underlying ethical/moral conflict may produce some of the overheated surface accusations of diabolism or excessive sanctity.  just a thought.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 04:55:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You sure sounded condescending, I assure you.

When I was in California I didn't own a car, I cycled, I baked my own bread, I shopped at the farmers' market...

You're lecturing me again as if I didn't know these things. Just a thought.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 05:03:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're lecturing me again

not consciously -- just talking about my own experience, in an attempt to reduce tension in the discussion.  obviously it's not working and I am not cut out for a career in the dip service :-)  but for the record, I value your contributions to ET highly and consider you an enlightenmentista and a Good Person(TM), and a serious greenista as well.  not being much of a baker myself, I'm also impressed by the breadmaking.  peace?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 05:51:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Please direct me to where I have claimed nuclear power is a "necessity".

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 05:10:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
no, I don't think that you personally have ever made that statement;  nevertheless it is the primary current talking point for proponents of nuclear power -- "yes, it may be dangerous and expensive, but it is a hard necessity forced on us by climate change and peak oil" -- and, by what I think is a very natural, hardwired and hard-to-overcome process of human cognition, we tend to associate memes in clusters.  so that what looks like defence of nuclear materials transport or disapproval of protesters of same, may easily/hastily be read as subscription to the pronuke talking point... what we might call the Dubya Error, "if you are not with us you are against us."  I have been trying to understand why nuke power elicits such intensity of partisan feeling, polarised so sharply into "camps" or "sides" (as melo's perception of your having 'gone over to the Dark Side' illustrates).

in such a polarised atmosphere, to condemn an anti-nuke protest or appear to be defending the industry can sound on the surface, to a committed contranuker, like "taking the other side."  but you notice that I haven't agreed with melo that your position is "diabolical" :-) I'm still trying to understand why this topic is so very loaded for so many of us -- almost as loaded as a debate over  the political ethics of Israeli policy or Zionism, or the death penalty! -- what's the emotional freight that it carries with it... and why it is that I, for example, neither perceive Migeru as diabolical nor melo as sanctimonious :-)  maybe your map would help, and I'm sorry I didn't have time last night to "do the survey".  maybe tonight.

this is new territory for me, so forgive me if I'm stumbling or even flailing about a bit.  I have mostly thought about the nuke question in terms of numbers, quantitative pragmatic considerations;  or in terms of sociological implications as in the J Adams excerpt and related points in Part 2.  I haven't actually thought about the debate itself and whether its demographics or the shape of the memespace tells us anything.  

so this attempt at metanalysis is a departure, perhaps an ill-advised one...  actually it was kcurie's stuff about narratives, and the sad reality that facts alone are not enough to convince most people of anything, that made me start to wonder what underlying assumptions and narratives lend the emotional heat to debates over nuclear power;  why such debates are not as disinterested and abstract as debates over, say, the relative efficiency of LED lighting vs CF.  why do we lose our tempers over nuclear power, why is it so polarising?  and can we at ET, with a pretty good track record of civil discussion, manage to discuss this hot topic w/o a food fight?

of course, human beings are quite capable of quarrelling and remaining on frosty terms over the relative virtues of vi vs emacs :-) so perhaps trying to mute or compensate for (or even understand) the narrative/gut-level component of technology debates is a fool's errand.  I thought it was worth a try.  my intent is not to give offence.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 05:43:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Emacs, of course, unless you are editing a system configuration file.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 05:47:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ah well, that explains everything -- I use vi :-)  so you see, our stars are crossed and we are doomed to lifelong mutual hostility and distrust :-)

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 05:54:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I use vi (actually, vim) but only inside /etc

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 05:56:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
oh vim of course.  any other vi is substandard :-)

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 06:03:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have been trying to understand why nuke power elicits such intensity of partisan feeling, polarised so sharply into "camps" or "sides"
Maybe it has something to do with Apocalypse...
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 06:07:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
hmmm...

I think it certainly has something to do with the unprecedented destructive power of the technology;  inmediate severe damage in a short timeframe (very perceptible to humans as "disaster", more so than the slo-mo kind) and yet persistent, lasting damage over timeframes so long as to be almost transhuman.  inherently Apocalyptic I guess -- poker doesn't get much more high-stakes than this;  and it's not a private gamble, as so many people in the plume path found out when the Chernobyl team fumbled the ball.  the risk from nuclear technology is willynilly shared by (imposed) on all, even if the benefits are more locally constrained.

this sense of having risk imposed on one against one's will (and risk of a high order) I think is a major component of contranuke anger and passion... much as nonsmokers can get really, really angry about being obliged to breathe others' cigarette smoke...  nuclear particles are about as invasive as it gets, wandering right through our cell walls;  a very intimate form of turf violation.  only in the last few years are people beginning to understand the degree to which industrial chemicals generally have violated the skin boundary and taken up permanent residence in our bodies;  I think the moment of political anger on that issue is yet to come...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 06:30:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Funny, tobacco smoke makes me really, really angry but I cannot bring myself to actually tell smokers in public places to put out their cigarettes (or pipes, as was the case at one point during the ET meetup).

The health risks from food additives and vehicle exhaust are probably higher and more widespread than those from nuclear power, excluding Chernobyl, but since they are mostly self-inflicted they're ok I suppose. Like the camel-smoking anti-capitalist Barbara met in Athens recently. And when it comes to accidents, in London we recently had this reminder of the price of gasoline addiction:

In May 2006 Three Valleys Water announced that it had detected the fire retardant perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), used in fire fighting foam, in a ground water bore hole close to the Buncefield site. It stated that no water from this well entered the public water supply and that a nearby well and pumping station had been closed since the fire as a precaution. The chemical is a known health risk and the UK government had been about to ban its use. However just prior to the announcement the Drinking Water Inspectorate announced that it was increasing the safe level of the chemical in drinking water. This prompted the Hemel Hempstead MP, Mike Penning to accuse the government of changing the rules to suit the situation in which PFOS levels in drinking water in the area may rise in the future. (wiki)


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 06:49:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]

nuclear particles are about as invasive as it gets, wandering right through our cell walls;  a very intimate form of turf violation
Sometimes it's good that radiation wanders right through our cell walls, especially if you have cancer.

PET scanning is non-invasive, but it does involve exposure to ionizing radiation. The total dose of radiation is small, however, usually around 7 mSv. This can be compared to 2.2 mSv average annual background radiation in the UK, 0.02 mSv for a chest X-Ray, up to 8 mSv for a CT scan of the chest, 2-6 mSv per annum for aircrew, and 7.8 mSv per annum background exposure in Cornwall (Data from UK National Radiological Protection Board). (wiki)


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 07:21:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
apples and oranges, migeru -- I mean, it's a good thing that a modern hypodermic is nice and sharp and can deliver dental anaesthetic to my tooth roots with minimal gum damage, but that doesn't mean I would be happy about random jabs from sharps wielded by strangers or left lying about :-)  the turf-violation aspect obviously applies to involuntary exposure, not formalised and voluntary medical procedures...  more on (in)voluntary risk and perception later...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 09:22:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm just being provocative, but as for risk perception... Isn't it interesting that Nuclear Magnetic Resonance has been renamed Magnetic Resonance Imaging so as not to scare people, even though NMR has nothing to do with nuclear radiation and, say, PET does?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 02:51:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
More of my outrage at anti-nuclear protesters...
Solar panels were not a practical solution for Galileo's power needs at Jupiter's distance from the Sun (it would have needed a minimum of 65 square metres (700 ft²) of solar panels); as for batteries, they would have been prohibitively massive. The solution adopted consisted of two radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs). The RTGs powered the spacecraft through the radioactive decay of plutonium-238. The heat emitted by this decay was converted into electricity for the spacecraft through the solid-state Seebeck effect. This provided a reliable and long-lasting source of electricity unaffected by the cold space environment and high radiation fields such as those encountered in Jupiter's magnetosphere.

Each RTG, mounted on a 5-metre long boom, carried 7.8 kilograms (17.2 lb) of 238Pu [2]. Each RTG contained 18 separate heat source modules, and each module encased four pellets of plutonium dioxide, a ceramic material resistant to fracturing. The modules were designed to survive a range of hypothetical accidents: launch vehicle explosion or fire, re-entry into the atmosphere followed by land or water impact, and post-impact situations. An outer covering of graphite provided protection against the structural, thermal, and eroding environments of a potential re-entry. Additional graphite components provided impact protection, while iridium cladding of the fuel cells provided post-impact containment. The RTGs produced about 570 watts at launch. The power output initially decreased at the rate of 0.6 watts per month and was 493 watts when Galileo arrived at Jupiter.

As the launch of Galileo neared, anti-nuclear groups, concerned over what they perceived as an unacceptable risk to the public safety from Galileo's RTGs, sought a court injunction prohibiting Galileo's launch. In fact, RTGs had been safely used for years before in planetary exploration. The Lincoln Experimental Satellites 8/9, launched by the U.S. Department of Defense, had 7% more plutonium on board than Galileo, and the two Voyager spacecraft each carried 80% as much plutonium as Galileo did.

After the Challenger accident, a study considered additional shielding and eventually rejected it, in part because such a design significantly increased the overall risk of mission failure and only shifted the other risks around (for example, if a failure on orbit had occurred, additional shielding would have significantly increased the consequences of a ground impact). (wiki)

This was back when I still believed in Big Science and the space program excited ans stimulated me. But it was still worth it...

Who could have imagined that a captured asteroid now a moon of Jupiter would be found to have a tiny satellite of its own? And this is just one of many wonderful things that were found, and leaned.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 07:05:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just piching in with one comment into this, ahum, debate, as this is an issue I am doubly connected to.

Your Wiki quote fails to mention the very real risk connected to nuclear batteries for space vehicles: contamination after destruction during a crash back to Earth. The likelihood of a space vehicle's crash back on Earth is rather high (much higher than that of a power plant accident), in the order of percents per launch. IIRC there were three US and five Russian cases when an RTG came back on Earth - at least two fell into deep sea (one I know for sure was the Apollo-13 lunar module's, the other was recovered intact), but at least four others did cause contamination, albeit in less populated areas (Canada, Andes).

After the controversy of the weak design of NASA's large planetary satellite series (remember even Cassini was from the same family as the two Voyagers - and that satellite swung by Earth three times, which in case of error would have meant much higher re-entry speeds than during a failed launch), on one hand other power sources were facilitated if possible in satellite designs (also by reducing consumption of instruments), on the other hand, the few RTGs still used were designed to withstand a crash back (for example the Pluto mission's would even have separated during fallback to not be affected by the crash deformations of the rest).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 06:33:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The choices in the poll don't offer much in the form of nuances, cornering me to a somewhat provocative vote...

Pierre
by Pierre on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 03:40:57 AM EST
Although two points

Some of the things you mention are not memes are complete narratives and even myths.

You forget the support among some scientists, even of the left liberal kind.

I considered myself an enviromentalist but I support strongly the replacements of the old nuclear reactors for new.

I know not a lot of people thinks in this terms in the general frame of things. But supporitng a replacement but not expansion of present nuclear reactors have subset of narratives that are not present in a typical debate:

-They are more secure than the ones working now.
-The level of nuclear waste would manageable
-Nuclear fuel would indeed last more than 200 years at present U consumption
-It would not force out renewables since all new capactity should be made with renewable..giving it time to catch upon capacity.
-It provides the margin we need to change the grid/router and make the big jump, without going to coal, from a central to a central-disperse system (I would not promote a completely disperse system, it is not a very good idea as far as I understand network theory)

Of course, reaplcemente implies that if you do nto have nuclear you will need other sources of energy...and it will.. and it will be coal now...the cheapest.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 05:49:41 AM EST
You forget the support among some scientists, even of the left liberal kind.

She doesn't - remember what she wrote regarding megaprojects and people involved when discussing the Three Gorges Dam.

Regarding your points:

  1. Renewables would be even more secure.
  2. ?
  3. This depends on political decisions (which can be changed), and given that investment in nuclear energy demands investment sustained over a decade or two, renewables would inherently be in a weak position.
  4. I don't understand why you think this. Replacement nuclear would, too, take decades to build, you could build the new grid in the same timespan.

That replacement of nuclear needs to be coal on price is a nice meme that is false.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 06:33:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The starting point which makes the difference in position is:

can you obtained the increase in demand in energy (slow increase thanks to saving measures) and the input of nuclears with renewables in a 10 years frame?

I think is physically impossible. If I would think it to be possible I would think like you.

I do not, I think it is not possible. At least for the case I know the best: Spain (not even talking about France).

We can not substitute coal and nuclear with renewables in a 10-15 years frame.

If we work hard, and exploit all possibilities, and invest hugely we can substitute most of the coal in a 15 years frame (and this is even a wild dream...a more realistic would be half coal or just cover the increase in demand). No way if we add the 20% of nuclear.

That said. We can substitute nuclear with renewable investing heavily in 15 years.. but then coal should be untouched.

I prefer to increase renewable and phase-out coal power as renewable improve.

The day I see a realistic proposal about how to change nuclear and coal in Spain in a 15 years frame with renewable I will cahnge my mind. And you know I am very very very open minded.. and I would love to see it.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 07:07:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But supporitng a replacement but not expansion of present nuclear reactors

I added this option to the poll :-)

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 02:11:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
you know it, don't you? :)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 05:23:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is something else that has to be taken into account: our energy needs are not just electric. We use tremendous amounts of heat of chemical processes, metallurgy, manufacturing. Of course, this could be cut down if production/consumption as a whole was down. But I don't feel that it can be eliminated. Quite the contrary, if we are to produce fertilizers one day with hydrogen that comes from water, not natural gaz, convert other plastics manufacturing to biomass feedstocks for CHON that could be energy sinks instead of sources like fossil fuels double up today in most process where they are used as materials also.

When you need heat, a fuel is at an advantage against electricity: you get 100% of the energy in it, not just 45% as limited by thermodynamics when converting to electricity. It is very wasteful to generate heat with electricity that has been slowly accumulated with renewables. Some newer nuclear plants address this need (PBR, IFR, super-critical water reactors...). The EPR does not. But in my view it is clearly a stopgap to cope with the obsolescence of current plants, with only incremental upgrades to PWR, doesn't qualify as true 3-rd gen in any way.

Pierre
by Pierre on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 06:06:05 AM EST
Renewables aren't only for generating electricity. Both geothermal and solar-thermal power can generate heat. The potential of the former, in the hot-dry-rock version, is available in much more regions and is largely untapped today - and there is much room for development. (Germany has a few dry-rock pilot plants.)

While I'm not much of a biomass plant fan, they too are capable of dual production.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 06:26:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Using non-renewable energy sources for heating must be one of the most wasteful ideas ever implemented.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 06:39:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
er, I'm lost, you mean renewable ? Using non-renewable energy is bad in general, but when heating is necessary for a given purpose, burning fuel has an edge (in term of technical ease, as of today) over electricity except in special cases like aluminum smeltering. I just think we must anticipate the burden that heat-intensive industries (and we will always have some) will put on non-fossil energy sources when the fossil fuels become just unaffordable...

Pierre
by Pierre on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 07:47:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Non-renewable resources shouldn't be burnt for heat, no. They have a low entropy content which is useful for doing work, not just as a source of heat, and being non-renewable means that they are the result of accumulation by processes on a geological time-scale. Burning them is thermodynamically wasteful.

There are renewable heat sources: geothermal, solar heating, solar furnaces [if you need temperatures in the thousands of Kelvin). There are renewable [carbon-neutral] fuels: biomass, wood, ethanol...

Heat-intensive industries will be limited by the amount of renewable heat that can be farmed.

A separate argument is that a fuel is too precious (in its energy density and its mobility) to burn it in a static industrial plant. The opportunity cost is too large. I don't have a problem with using renewable electricity for a heat-intensive industry, the opportunity cost is less, especially if the power comes from an attach power facility (solar panels, wind farm, sharing the location of the industrial plant; building the industrial plant on a geothermal hot spot, near a tidal power generator...).

That os my opinion anyway. It's not backed by any actual calculations, back-of-the-envelope or not.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 07:56:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think actually most process industries use natural gas or coal (cheapest options) and not liquid fuels for heating feedstocks. In some cases they double up as feedstock (coal for steel, natural gas for fertilizer).

Pierre
by Pierre on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 08:02:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just because they are not liquid doesn't mean gas or coal are not mobile, dense fuels. Natural gas is a fluid and it is used increasingly in public transportation (I don't know whether it is liquefied or not). I wonder whether coal powder wouldn't be a more efficient way of using coal for mobile applications.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 08:12:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The trouble with coal powder as fuel (at least in steam locomotive applications) is that it sticks to surfaces and clogs up various parts. As fuel it is very efficient.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 08:16:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Powdering is key: it dramatically increases the area-to-volume ratio [combustion in a gas atmosphere happens on the surface] and minimizes the production of incompletely combusted products, which are generally dangerously polluting as they are chemically active (example: carbon monoxide is the result of incomplete combustion and is a poison as it binds to hemoglobin more strongly than osygen; carbon dioxide is the result of complete combustion ans is chemically inert).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 08:26:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The one surviving (East) German coal powder locomotive (recognisable due to high tender), [class] 52 [no.]  9900:

...as you have given me another opportunity to push trains...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 08:43:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some busses of the RATP in Paris are gas-powered. It's liquefied, in a long tank on the roof. The gas goes into a regular engine, probably with some tuning. Also I saw a  PR a few month ago about a british university designing a gas-powered urban vehicle similar to a quad or a BMW-scooter with roof, for ultra-low power mobility.

Pierre
by Pierre on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 08:34:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think this is an excellent summry, and each of the pro/con position deserves a diary by itself... Now there's a community project.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 06:40:46 AM EST
True, but let us stipulate that De's bias does shine through her recitation of the pro nuclear arguments...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 07:17:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I am thinking of a Nuclear Compass. We can basically take each of De's talking points (and sub-points) and ask people to state whether they (strongly) agree or disagree with each of them [4 options only). Then I can run a statistical analysis and construct a spectrum of opinion.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 07:22:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Would you? Do so!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 07:27:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Tonight.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 07:40:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
super idea Migeru!  virtual chocolates to you.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 05:42:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
you mean her ability to round up information that is not in your energy proposal for the dems?

<snark>

if the so-called pragmatists win out on this one, and billions that could have gone into renewables and conservation get funnelled into these retro-behemoths, at leat we can keep our eyes open through taking on board the human import of what the history and facts betray, (as antidote to the gyroscopic spin we will be subjected to by the corporate media).

are you disputing any facts here, jerome, or asking deanander to be more 'fair and balanced'?

we already have plenty of aplogists for nukes repped here; i for one am heartily relieved to see dodo and deanander speaking up for sanity.

without them this site would be sad indeed, as would the majority's tendency to 'amory lovins' on this issue.

while bush distracts us with his 'wot' we are in another much bigger one, a war on ignorance, ignorance that leaves us terribly manipulatable, and totally unprepared for what looms ahead.

you laugh at britain's absurdly slow response to her obvious coming shortfall, but aren't we all in similar boats in the rest of europe?

if this was the blitz, we would drop everything and work together unpaid to protect our loved ones.

i think we need to do the same now, but instead of bomb shelters in the underground, we need to insulate our houses and provide micropower sources on as wide a base as we presently provide water and the phone.

if there were the will, it could be done.

until the consequences of our gullibility stare us in the face even more, diaries like this, (and intelligent discussion around their points,) are pretty much all we have to fight back against the westinghouses and bechtels (and their puppet shills like t. bliar) who don't give a ff about anything else than their own blind, greedy profits.

sorry to rant, but this issue really galls me bigtime.

humans without any bias don't exist, or are decision-incapable.

you stand up for your beliefs here, and your bias to wind is one of the giant magnets keeping me glued to your site.

thankyou for this, and i'll thankyou even more, if you were to adopt a line closer to deanander and dodo's.

some things are harder to put in graphs!

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 10:32:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
absolutely -- "objective" journalism is something I neither aspire to nor believe in, though "trying to be fair" is on my list of desiderata.  my own bias is openly advertised in the title and in my previous short comments on energy, food, transport etc.:  in favour of light/low, light/high, or heavy/low tech, against heavy/high tech;  against Taylorism, monocroppery, massive centralisation and authoriarian control;  pessimistic about Peak Oil and geopolitical stability over the 50 year timeframe;  pro-localisation as a hedge bet against social/econ disruption and dislocation due to PO;  against gigantism and Pharaonic projects, whether financial, architectural, or energy-related;  absolutely incredulous (read:  flabbergasted) about infinite-growth economic or energy models;  and optimistic about the viability and satisfaction of life at greatly reduced burn rates.

all the above positioning on various meme grids adds up  to a skepticism about nuclear energy which I'm trying to describe and discuss.  and where else but ET is there any chance of having a civil and informative discussion?

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 05:34:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nicely set out but one observation of bias and one quibble.

You describe the pro-nuke folks as 'spokespeople for the nuclear industry' and the anti-nuclear folks as simply 'opponents' of nuclear power. That implies that the pro nuke people are simply paid PR types, and ignores that they tend to believe in what they say.

The quibble is about anti-nuclear activists not playing a role, and cost being the determining factor. For the most part I think you are right, but are ignoring the power of local opposition to thwart nuclear power. Local pols tend to be quite responsive to intense feelings among their constituents - if they aren't they're out in the next election.  In cases where a nuke plant was abandoned after being mostly completed it seems likely that anti-nuke opposition was the reason - the capital investment was already mostly completed and AFAIK nuclear power is competitive in its operating costs.

by MarekNYC on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 11:35:01 AM EST
Coal projects can also get a lot of local opposition - I quoted Garzweiler-II above.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 11:40:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This works both ways. Local communities sometimes resent outsiders telling them that they need to curb their local environmentally harmful industries that their economy is based on - think logging or coal mining.
by MarekNYC on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 12:11:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good point Marek;  one may be effectively an apologist for, or supporter of, an industry -- without being on the payroll of that industry... or even knowing much about that industry qua industry.  Or knowing about it on an amateur level and supporting it -- as I for example support utility cycling, without having any direct financial connection to the bicycle manufacturing or accessories trade.

Because the industry has such deep pockets and is closely tied to the military with its culture of for-their-own-goodism, secrecy, black ops and so on, many of its loudest and most visible spokespeople turn out to be paid;  whereas many of the loudest and most visible antinuke protestors are amateurs, activists from principle or from a personal grudge against particular abuses or dishonesties they have witnessed on their own turf.  But this shouldn't, as you rightly point out, lead us to overgeneralise that all support for nuclear power generation is venal in motive.  Thanks for the correction...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 05:41:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is (and who could doubt it? ;) mostly true that --
(E) We have reason to be optimistic about steady and often radical improvements in technology; scientific "miracles" produced by the efforts of academic and/or commercial elites have occurred in the past which produced wonderous returns for consumers, and more of the same can be expected to continue indefinitely until everyone on Earth enjoys a First World lifestyle and/or humanity colonises the solar system, etc.

-- except that it is far from certain that these developments will be of net benefit, given their side effects and potential misapplications.

However, this part of the statement --

But to reach this Promised Land we will need lots of energy, so we must not permit our energy consumption and production to fall.

-- is clearly wrong. The requisite technological developments, and their deployment, need not consume more than a negligible fraction of current energy resources. Learning to diddle with molecular systems just isn't very energy intensive.

Regarding two other points:

(A) skepticism about the Infinite Growth model of economic theory....

This is on solid ground. Regardless of technology, in the long run Malthus will be proved right.

(B) conviction that it is not physically possible for everyone on Earth to live a First World lifestyle....

This conviction is unwarranted. The amount of energy and matter needed to keep a person supplied with better-than-First-World goods and services is small compared to what is available from the Sun, the air, and rock -- provided that one looks beyond today's incredibly crude technology. (If we're near the grand culmination of the evolution of technology, pressing close to physical limits, why do photovoltaics cost so much more per square meter than do leaves?)

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 08:23:36 PM EST
I think I'm going to try to briefly react to each of the 'talking points' that De lists here...

For Nuclear Power:
a) Nuclear power is "unlimited" — agree: in the limited sense allowed by De of "for the next couple hundred years".
b) Nuclear power is "carbon neutral" — agree: there are some emissions due to all the activities involved in nuclear power production that use fossil  fuels for transportation or for electricity generation, but they should be negligible.
c) Nuclear power is "safe" — disagree: no reason why it shouldn't in principle, but in practice safety is the first victim of efficiency and the risks involved in a nuclear accident are too large.
c1) Nuclear power is "safer to build than to import" — disagree: this makes no sense to me.
d) Nuclear power can replace almost every application of fossil power — agree: using nuclear energy to power synthetic fuel production [though scaling synthetic fuel production to the current output of oil refineries would have problems of its own].
d1) Nuclear power can provide a reliable energy baseline &mdash: strongly agree: it already does.
e) Nuclear power is more cost-effective than renewables &mdash: strongly disagree: one word, "externalities"; also, as Jerome tirelessly points out, fuel-based power plants appear cheaper only because the cost of the fuel is pushed into the future.
f) New fission reactors solve the problems of "old, bad" designs &mdash: agree: but that doesn't mean they don't have [unknown or underestimated] problems of their own (see "safety" above).
g) New developments are just around the corner that will make nuclear energy even more efficient and safe — disagree: this must be taken on faith. I do have a problem with De putting fussion in the same category as fission.
h) Just because incompentent nations or companies have built lousy plants doesn't mean that nuclear power cannot be managed properly — agree, but incompetence and mismanagement cannot be discounted, so I don't see how this proves anything.
i) There is no reason to fear nuclear accidents or technology more than other industrial process or externalised cost — disagree strongly, nuclear accidents have the potential for greater damage, for longer time, than other modes of energy production.
j) The nuclear industry has been held back over the last 20 years by unfair fear, prejudice and activism — disagree strongly, I think the political opposition to nuclear power is nor unfair.
A) The energy and climate situation is dire and some urgent remedial action is needed — agree strongly, but concluding that nuclear energy is necessary is a non-sequitur.
B) Nuclear energy is the only practical alternative to fossil fuels — disagree strongly
C) Opponents of nuclear energy are scientifically illiterate, superstitious or ideologically biased — disagree strongly though it is dismaying that many people cannot or will not discuss the technical details of nuclear energy
D) Quality of life is strongly correlated with per capita power consumption — strongly agree, but again jumping from this to the need for nuclear power is a non-sequitur.
E) We have reason to be optimistic about steady and often radical improvements in technology — disagree I used to be a believer in progress and rationality, but I am increasingly sceptical.

Conclusion: I agree with most of the premises, but not with the conclusions, which means either I am inconsistent or the pro-nuke arguments are mostly fallacious.

Against nuclear power:
a) Nuclear power is not safe — agree: given the devastating nature of accidents, they cannot be made unlikely enough.
a1) Nuclear waste management is an unsolved problem and waste is toxic "forever" — disagree: my intuition is that nuclear waste management should not be any harder than any other kind of waste management.
a2) Uranium mining is associated with poor worker safety, contamination of water sources, etc — agree, but this is an argument against mining, not against nuclear power.
a3) Safety is sacrificed to efficiency, accidents happen and then they are covered up — agree but  this is not specific to nuclear power
a4) No private insurer will insure a nuclear plant; if nuclear power were safe it would be possible to insure it — agree it is probably true that nuclear accidents are too costly even if they are very unlikely, but what are other activities that cannot be insured privately?
a5) Nuclear power is a stalking horse for the nuclear weapons industry — agree but this is again not a problem with nuclear power, but with the lack of political commitment for nuclear nonproliferation, or (in the case of depleted uranium) the callousness of the military industrial complex.
b) The public does not trust the reassurances of nuclear scientists and industry spokespeople, and rightly so — agree, but although one should not trust what the industry says about itself, I don't think it's "right" that the public won't trust anything nuclear scientists say in favour of nuclear power. At least they know what they're talking about.
c) Uranium mining is a politically dirty business — agree, but again this is not an argument against nuclear power but against mining. Uranium mining in Canada and Australia is presumably not on the same league as uranium mining in Niger.
d) Nuclear power is centralised, high/heavy technology, difficult to understand, and makes power consumers into helpless clients — agree, but all infrastructure is centralised, as is all heavy industry. You'd be hard pressed to find an average consumer who understands how the products they consume work... This is not an argument specifically against nuclear power.
e) Nuclear power is coupled to national security, nonproliferation, and other risks which inspire or require rigorous security which is inherently secretive and undemocratic — disagree there is nothing inherently secretive and undemocratic about security: if your security systems require secrecy they are not secure. This is also not an argument against nuclear power but against security, which is absurd.
f) Radiation is undetectable without specialized equipment and people cannot tell if they are being exposed, having to rely on the word of (untrusted) authorities — agree, but tell me how this is different from most chemical or biological contamination.
g) The health effects of radiation are insidious, as they can take years to develop and may include genetic damage which does not become visible until gestation and birth of children — agree, but again not different from chemical contamination or even natural radioactivity like radon from building materials.
f) Uranium is no more an infinite resource than fossil fuel — agree, but will not run out of it within the life of a nuclear power plant built today.
g) Nuclear power is not cost-effective and benefits from hidden subsidies — agree
g1) Old nuclear plants are very expensive to repurpose of clean up — agree, but is this enough to make nuclear power uneconomical?
g2) Nuclear power plants are costly to build, require expert personnel to operate, and have high complexity and high failure costs, all of which is expensive — agree but so what?
h) Simple, cheaper, cleaner and less scary options than nuclear power include conservation, renewable energy and localised energy production — strongly agree
i) Nuclear power is not a nimble solution for urgent problems (such as climate change or peak oil) as it takes 10 to 15 years to bring a nuclear power plant online. — agree but this says nothing of the desirability of building nuclear power plants for the medium term.
j) Public protests have not been a decisive factor in holding nuclear power back, but rather inadequate return on investment and unmanageable risks — agree
k) New miracle technologies either fail to deliver on their promises or incur significant externalities — agree same comment on "progress" as above.
A) The infinite growth predicated by economics is a myth, it is environmentally and socially unsustainable and does not guarantee progress — strongly agree but what does this have to do with nuclear power?
B) It is not physically possible for everyone on earth to lead a first-world lifestyle — strongly agree (ditto)
C) Nuclear weapons are utterly morally wrong — strongly agree but we're talking about energy, not weapons.
D) promises of technological miracles are a case of hubris and carry hidden costs — agree but I am not asking for miracles.
E) anarchism/libertarianism:
E1) Authority should be resisted, and large centralised governments or corporations mistrusted — strongly agree but with transparency it should be possible to carry out large-scale projects if they are needed.
E2) community/grassroots efforts and local organisation and provision of services should be more highly valued — strongly agree
E3) government may fall, or policies change, leaving nuclear plants in the wrong hands — agree but like many other arguments above this seems to advocate inaction through paranoia.
F) a decent lifestyle for the majority of people could be attained with common sense, reasonable frugality and fairness — agree strongly: I note that "quality of life is not correlated with energy use" only given a substantial reconfiguration of our societies, and even then for a given organization more energy will lead to a higher standard of living.

Conclusion: I again agree with most of the premises, but I disagree on the connection that is made to the nuclear debate. After going through this exercise I see too much ideology and too little reasoning on both sides.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 08:36:03 PM EST
wow migeru, thanks for the thorough reading and responses.  I'm delighted that the outline gave you that much food for thought, and that it helps to break down monolithic pro/contra camps into identifiable points of opinion or belief for examination.  I will try to do something similar tonight or tomorrow.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 08:49:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That was a grueling experience... truly draining.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 08:58:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I second DeAnander's praise and offer some comments on your response (vide infra).

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 11:49:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, so I will refrain from getting into a debate over some of your answers...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 11:51:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
More in the spirit of the Nuclear compass would be for you to do a similar top-level comment.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 11:55:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
E) We have reason to be optimistic about steady and often radical improvements in technology -- disagree I used to be a believer in progress and rationality, but I am increasingly sceptical.

But what does "rationality" have to do with "progress"? (That is, progress in the limited and neutral sense of increasing physical capabilities.) Rationality can be helpful, of course, yet biological evolution demonstrates that increasing physical capabilities can develop with no thought whatsoever. Even creationist engineers can be creative.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 11:13:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
what does "rationality" have to do with "progress"?
Philosophically I am an heir to the Enlightenment, what did you expect? But it is becoming incresingly clear that the Enlightenment project failed. So I now believe in evolution but not progress: evolution both progresses and regresses on any metric that you care to specify. Even to a certain extent human history represents evolution but not necessarily progress. Just like philosophers of consciousness point out that "what is it like to be a bat?" is the wrong question, and the right question is "what is it like for the bat to be a bat?", considering "what was life like in the past?" is the wrong question, and the right question is "what was it like for the people that lived it?". We find that at every time in history most people have thought they lived in the best of all possible worlds (if they indeed asked themselves the question).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 04:58:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... I think we are arranging a meet-up...

I am not alone!!!

Ah.. and  by evolution we mean change..evolution nowadays means anything the speaker want it to mean...so our group decided to change it...in any case youa re welcomed to the club :)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 05:35:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We should organize a meetup in Rehovot, with a guided tour of the Weizmann included.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 05:47:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You have until this august to come by!!!!

I think we will be .. roughly three...maybe four if you count children...:)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 05:56:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But it is becoming incresingly clear that the Enlightenment project failed.

Even this weekend I brought up the argument that certainly the Netherlands are in a desperate need of re-learning the lessons of Erasmus, Voltaire and even Alexis de Tockqueville. (I dubbed it "Ontlichting" in Dutch, which would become Unlightenment in English...)

I can't grasp exactly by what you mean with the "Enlightenment project" but I've an inkling there's a lot of common ground here. This is a subject for a different diary, of course, but you did pick my interest.

by Nomad on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 05:48:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Voltaire.. . sniff.. Voltair.... "Maybe one day we would have a science that will investigate the human being in its whole dimension as a great object of study about what we do, how we act, what hings we use.." (first description of anthropology ever)

..and maye one day everybody would see enlightenment as anthropologists do.. as a wonderful spark in our cultural history...a brilliant generation of myths and narratives that transformed our humanity for ever...as only the myths can do...as only the genius can do...for a brief period of time....for a brief period of time.. west culture was worthy...

If only....if only...but we are a minority now, Nomad.. a minority

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 06:02:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've been chewing over on your comment for most of this evening. Aside from the brilliant description on anthropologists, I'm stuck on the minority.

I can't help but wonder: in his own days, Voltaire and those who read and agreed with him were similarly a minority compared to the rest of the population. Set in the aristocratic power structure, the well-read and thinkers formed the elite that also had the largest leverage on power.

Today, the difference is that education is relatively accessible for more people and the decision making is in the hands of a significant larger amount of people. Yet those capable to learn about Voltaire (and others) don't do so in detail, except those who do so voluntarily or the (real) minority who study him.

People who learn about Voltaire - and I sound perfectly snobbish saying this - and those capable to understand Voltaire will remain a minority for a long, long time, if not always. The trouble of today is that Voltaire and other free-thinkers no longer reaches that minority where it seems to really matter.

by Nomad on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 06:22:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude
by kcurie on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 04:42:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think this ties in with the recent discussions of dignitarianism (here and here).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 08:06:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, I have simply been unable to catch up with the diaries posted since this weekend. Why is practically everything that gets posted here interesting? Bloody intellectuals. *moves off-stage grumbling *
by Nomad on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 06:29:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
f) Radiation is undetectable without specialized equipment and people cannot tell if they are being exposed, having to rely on the word of (untrusted) authorities -- agree, but tell me how this is different from most chemical or biological contamination.

Oddly enough, the specialized equipment could be included in any digital watch at negligible cost, yet so far as I know, none is available. (Technical sketch: a diode near the threshold of spontaneous avalanche breakdown goes ptui! when an ionizing radiation event occurs. A tiny bit of circuitry and memory counts these events and displays appropriate time-average based radiation measurements on request. For extra value, the watch flashes and beeps if the radiation environment becomes unusually hazardous.)

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 11:21:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I own a low-end geiger counter. cost me 199€. fits in a pocket. 1 R6 battery.

Pierre
by Pierre on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 04:22:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep, I was wondering how much a geiger counter costs... Froogle.co.uk gives £225 as the lowest price.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 04:42:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nuclear watchdog association CRIIRAD sells geiger counters in France. They buy in bulk and resell without a profit. 10% cheaper than commercial lab-equipment resellers for the same counters.

Pierre
by Pierre on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 05:54:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
$150 is the cheapest quote on froogle.com... It does seem to confirm that this equipment is too expensive for most people to have one, even if Technopolitical's diode wristwatch would be cheap enough. A smoke alarm [with a radioactive element in it!] will cost a few dollars/euros/pounds and many private homes have them, but people would't dish a couple hundred dollars/euros/pounds for a geiger counter [though I am told after chernobyl Ukrainians would go to the market with a geiger counter to weed out unsafe food, so it could become widespread].

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 08:12:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A smoke detector is 45€ at the bazar de l'hotel de ville !

Pierre
by Pierre on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 08:32:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the UK you can get them for less than £5. Now, is there a legal requirement to have smoke detectors in France? In the UK it is required at least as part of a rental contract, and I believe insurance companies will also require it. In the US it is also required. It is not required in Spain as far as I know.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 09:22:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
not required in France, or may be just in new buildings

Pierre
by Pierre on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 09:22:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
no prob, just wed it to an ipod!

THE accessory to be seen with...serious street cred...

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 05:55:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
B) It is not physically possible for everyone on earth to lead a first-world lifestyle -- strongly agree (ditto)

OK, you've got a physics background:

Please sketch a physical argument for this proposition regarding a physical possibility. For this to be interesting, the question can't require the ability to drive SUVs and get energy from petroleum, but must instead require having goods and services thats people would consider to be of a value equal to or greater than those in a (let's make it "a wealthy") first-world lifestyle.

Sub-questions to consider: This lifestyle requires --
-- How many watts for illumination?
---- For heating?
---- For cooling?
---- For transportation?
---- Etc.
-- How many square meters of 30% efficient photovoltaic cells?
-- How much mass of which elements, in what form?
---- For housing?
---- For vehicles?
---- Etc.
-- How much energy to make these things (no, not with today's crappy technology, we're talking physical possibility here).

I think I'd trade what I have for 1 kilowatt of power (time average) and 10 tons of stuff made from rock and air, if these resources were used really well. The kilowatt requires about 20 m2 of photovoltaics.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Mon May 22nd, 2006 at 11:45:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good observations. Besides, there are other considerations to make, from a policy/strategy angle:

  • renewables may have high growth rate, and could be accelerated even further, but they are taking up from really little, so we're talking decades before they weight as much as fossil fuels,

  • conservation and efficiency have huge potential leverage, but they are dependant on mass evangelization (which often fails to reach its goals...) and the replacement of existing assets which will also take a lot of time,

  • and what if we really end up deep in the pooh because these two ends don't meet in time for peak oil, peak gas, peak coal (which will happen by the end of the century if it is massively converted to liquid fuels) ?

Considering that new technology generations in nuclear power take decades to mature, I think we cannot afford to lose the know-how and we must continue to have a nuclear industry, just in case.

Regarding the share of nuclear in the energy mix, it depends on where you already stands. France has nukes all over the place, so there's no sense in growing it, but maintaining core competence and improving the designs has appeal to me. For those who have 20-30% nukes in their mix, keeping it the same would also make sense. Those who don't have any, well, it's their choice, but we should make opportunities available to them with 3rd gen, small, modular nuclear plants.

Pierre
by Pierre on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 04:39:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
even before reading.. just for the effort...

I will read it now...:)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 05:27:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the elephant in the room is agiona not if we would love to substitute nuclear and coal with renewables but if it is possible.

Furthermore, to substitute coal, nuclear and the reduction in oil with renewables.

Is it possible to change from nuclear, coal, gas and oil to biofuels, wind, solar, hydro and tidal in 15 year?

I think we would all love to do it...but even with the maximum investment and effort.. could we do it?

My answer is no...from there all the points of the debate become less relevant...

otehr than.. what would you prefer to phase out first in particular country coal, oil or nuclear?

You know my answer. First renewable to phase out coal...unfortuantely as I see things going.. if we are lucky we will do not increase nuclear and coal power generation and wind and solar would take the extra energy needs of a society with more hybrid cars where the use of oil diminishes. And even that will be very difficult to accomplish. I would be happy with that....but I think China as the US are going to use coal...

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 05:42:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And where is the promised ET compass?

Anyway, here are my replies:

Pro-nuke claims
a) disagree
b) disagree (shall write a diary on this)
c) strongly disagree
c1) strongly disagree
d) disagree
d1) what is "reliable"? Depending on the definition, agree/disagree
e) agree (PV, wave, tide) - disagree (geothermal) - strongly disagree (wind)
f) disagree (shall write a diary on this); if new problems replacing old ones is oncluded, strongly disagree
g) strongly disagree (and I'm for fusion research!)
h) A hard one. My trouble with this argument is valid even if some governments can maintain nuclear energy safe. Let's settle for disagree.
i) Same as above.
j) strongly disagree

Pro-nuke premises:
A) Well yes agree, but strongly disagree that nuclear can be a solution even ignoring all else
B) strongly disagree
C) disagree/strongly disagree (two alternatives in this point!)
D) disagree
E) strongly disagree (and I'm NOT against high-tech, research and pro-pastoral-life)

Anti-nuke claims:
a) strongly agree

  • strongly agree
  • strongly agree
  • strongly agree
  • 0 (methinks insurers also have trouble with megaprojects, but as for nuclear, nevertheless...)
  • agree
b) agree
c) strongly agree
d) agree
  • strongly agree
  • agree (civilians can double-check, but that has its limits due to security zones etc.)
e) strongly agree
f) agree
g) agree/strongly agree
  • agree
  • agree
h) agree
i) strongly agree
j) in that form disagree, methinks this reason is valid for 40 not 20 years, what is valid for 20 years is that states shied away from long-term investments (also hitting renewables in the early nineties)
k) agree/strongly agreee

Anti-nuke premises:
A) strongly agree
B) strongly agree
C) strongly agree
D) agree, though with the qualification that often technological miralces do come but do so with 'side effects' matching or outpacing the hoped-for positives
E) Only in part in my case

  • Only in part in my case: I don't trust anyone, but think governments should be ours, and even imperfect governments are better than corporations, and think that if we'd abolish governments, they'd rose again
  • Not applicable. I'm all for the decentralisation of energy generation and a lot of other things, and all for higher-level administration of other things. I am a multi-level federalist.
  • strongly agreed (though in the case of EU member countries, my fears related to political change might be much more limited than De's)
F) disagree (sorry, I'm a pessimist; I'd wish I had this optimism)

Conclusion: while premises are not always the same, I am an extremist nuclear sceptic (should volunteer with Robin Wood for a train blocking action during the next CASTOR transport?...), even though I don't reject all pro-nuke arguments like a raving lunatic (maybe the ANSWER crowd should give the megaphone to someone else).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 11:50:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What exactly does blocking a CASTOR transport train accomplish?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 12:02:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Setting a sign against a fake solution, proving a security risk, I'd guess.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 12:16:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
proving a security risk
If you cause a spill do you want a medal?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 12:20:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
<sigh>

Not even the "wild" protesters (say idiots who throw a metal anchor over the catenary the day before, which can then be hit by a regular express train) can cause a spill, you'd need bombs or a deep fall for that.

Protests by "public" groups like Robin Wood et al took precautions. Serious blocks (say, a couple of guys concreted to a cavement in the trackbed) were preceded by groups of people who warn the oncoming train (which travels with low speed anyway, BTW).

(There is a known-to-all coreography to such protests which would make some joke about German stereotypes.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 12:42:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I.e. the point with the security risk was: if treehugger protesters with a simple infrastructure can accomplish trespassing, so can a terror group with military training, and they wouldn't just want to stop the train.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 12:45:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then we can add another anti-nuclear argument: a6) Nuclear Power is not safe because it can be sabotaged — agree but this has to be one of the most disingenuous arguments against any technology.

Also, do you find it surprising in this context that the nuclear industry and even the government would seek to keep the existence of these transports secret so that tree-huggers cannot sabotage them?

Give me a break.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 12:50:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You don't understand. They ARE secret - the route is not known in advance. And once the train is en route, police get orders to secure its path, kilometre for kilometre.

(And I repeat, the security argument I raise is not about sabotage, but attack by terrorists to cause harm.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:00:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The security argument is essentially the same as that about insufficient hull strength (or complete lack of hull) against the possibility of terrorists flying planes into nuclear plants.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:01:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gee, let's all just cower in terror and engage in no productive activity because some terrorist somewhere might cause an accident.

Do you chain yourself to sulfuric acid tankers to demonstrate that if terrorist wanted they could cause serious contamination? Do you steal biohazardous waste from hospitals and spread it in children's playgrounds to demonstrate the fundamental unsafety of modern medicine?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:06:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Puleeze, one accident doesn't equal the other.

Regarding the acid tankers, there have indeed been Greenpeace trespassings to closed chemical plants to prove a point.

Regarding the second, you use a false rhetorical analogy again. I repeat: blocking efforts are blocking efforts, none of them is capable to cause a spill, that's what terrorists could do if they wanted.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:12:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That doesn't prove a point. It says "we can't convince enough people that we're right by rational arguments, so let's scare the shit out of them by showing by example what a bogeyman terrorist might accomplish". If this kind of stunt were pulled by advocates of a national security state to convince people of the need to give up their civil liberties you'd be screaming bloody murder. And this stuff is not "nonviolent civil disobedience" either. "Direct action" maybe, but you're also trying to sell the "propaganda of the deed" as if it were Ghandi's.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 06:56:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I do understand. These protests angered me so much the first time I heard about them years ago that they are responsible for lessening my opposition to nuclear power. The cledibility of the arguments put forward by opponents of nuclear energy who took part in these actions took a heavy hit in my eyes.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:03:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, then let's agree to disagree... I just can't see what you are outraged about.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:04:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree to give you a medal if you cause a nuclear waste spill.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:06:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now you come with this sillyness the third time.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:14:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it is not silliness. Sabotage is not an argument I am willing to entertain.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:14:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is sillyness. No form of civilian protest can cause a spill, certainly not those you have seen on TV.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:18:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you put cement on the rails you can cause a derailment, can't you? Or if you cause a different train to strike the catenary you can just write it off as "collateral damage"?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:23:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now this gets really silly.

On the second, you saw me denounce it, and separate it from public protesters.

On the first, no no CASTOR can be hurt by a simple derailment, and you saw me explain that serious blockades by public protesters were preceded by warning groups.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:27:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(In fact CASTOR containers were marketed as indestructible, with videos showing them thrown from airplanes and hitting the ground hard, though later it was found that some hard operation can cause structural damage.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:31:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, one thought.

Maybe the coverage you saw of these German protests was just as sensationalist/biased/lacking in context as the US/UK coverage of the French 'riots' last year.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:37:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I do understand.

On this specifically: said security arrangements were in place before the blocking efforts, and couldn't stave them off. So if you understand, why the opposed rhetorical question?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:08:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo, if sabotage is the measure, nothing should be done.

Could you run a railway if there were a determined group of SUV drivers ready to lie on the track in front of every train?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:12:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you reject sabotage per se, no civil disobedience is possible.

As for the second, of course not - question is which of these protests gains sufficient number of devoted supporters. (BTW, in Greece, private bus and lorry drivers did in fact protested against the upgrade of the Athens-Thessaloniki railway by leaving old buses/lorries in crossings.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:17:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is civil disobedience and there is sabotage.

That's the kind of protest that leads me to forget all solidarity with bus and lorry drivers.

Hey, how about we get someone to sneak into a reactor core and get a lethal dose of radiation to demonstrate that nuclear power is deadly?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:21:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How long do you continue to pretend that these protests could have caused a spill?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:24:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you reject sabotage per se, no civil disobedience is possible.

A question. How far should civil disobedience go before it is punished mildly, severely? Apply this to protesters who you disagree with e.g. anti-abortion activists.  Is putting glue in the locks of clinics ok, is blocking the entrance of clinics ok, is harassing women entering the clinics ok, how about employees...?   Arguing that such practices were equivalent to the mob enforcing protection money against businesses, the Clinton Justice Department sought to financially destroy the organizations that promoted the protests and their leaders. Any problems with that? How about applying it to those who organize the CASTOR blockades?

by MarekNYC on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:48:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, some definitions.

Do you consider a sit-in blockade sabotage?

What about people chaining themselves to the rails?

What about people climbing on the railcars?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:23:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
tut tut, those women chaining themselves to the houses of parliament, what can they hope to achieve?

i think they're setting back their cause, don't you?

they look ridiculous!

why don't they write letters to the times instead, or better make some nice flan for their man?

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 06:13:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the security argument I raise is not about sabotage, but attack by terrorists to cause harm.
If I am not going to believe Bush and Blair when they use hypothetical terrorists as begeymen to pass repressive legislation I am not going to believe you when you use hypothetical terrorists as bogeymen to buttress the anti-nuclear argument. If there is a case against Nuclear power it can be argued without theatrics. Otherwise:
* let's not fly planes

* Let's not have trains

* Let's not drive buses


A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 02:47:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
(And I repeat, the security argument I raise is not about sabotage, but attack by terrorists to cause harm.)

And this demonstration is largely irrelevant for demonstrating or disproving the validity of that concern. Unless, that is, you want your government to start treating environmentalist organizations like terrorist organizations?

Yes, they demonstrated a flaw in the security. Yes, this flaw could theoretically be used by a terrorist organization.

But then the argument runs into pretty much the same flaws as the case for torture. Unlike an environmentalist organization, your government's intelligence apparatus will probably be keeping watch on any terrorist organization capable of actually taking action and carrying out a plot like this. If they aren't, you're screwed no matter what, as the terrorists will be able to use any method to achieve their aims.

As for the argument about terrorists crashing planes into nuclear plants... I think all that deserves is a derisive snicker.

by Egarwaen on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 06:52:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
<sigh>

g1) nuclear power is not cost-effective, because of all the extra money that protesters can force it to spend on security and slower operations. — agree but let's organize a parachute jump into a wind farm to make wind energy more expensive.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:10:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That as pro-nuke argument is made but isn't true (anti-protester security costs are dwarfed by other costs).

Of course, in light of the other protester motive you haven't addressed, the cost effect very much makes sense.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 01:21:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a known-to-all coreography to such protests which would make some joke about German stereotypes
If the protest is choreographed, why should it be taken seriously?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 02:48:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 03:49:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On reflection, I should have expected that that CASTOR reference may not recall the background information I have on the issue - and that the protests may have been presented with in a sensationalist/biased/lacking in context way. So here is a summary.

Precedents
Preceding the anti-CASTOR protests was a long-running court and protest battle between locals and activists on one hand and the industry and the (federal) state on the other over the designated nuclear waste storage site. On one hand, there were (and are) more than serious doubts about the stability and water-impermeability of the silty ground near the Elbe river. On the other hand, the original site designation was more informed by going for the least resistance: to a sparsely populated area in an area right next to the Iron Curtain. As the years passed, the state repeatedly applied the method of promising an overview or let-up, then some time later presenting a fait accompli. The initial anti-CASTOR protests in fact aimed at preventing the activisation of the facility.

CASTOR containers and transports
The security measures, citing terror, technical accident and protest concerns, included and include:

  1. The containers themselves: super-stong metallic containers designed to resist all kinds of chemical effects, extreme acceleration/deceleration (they were tested by throwing them out of airplanes, also in train crashes), electricity etc. (Later though, it was found that hard stresses and wear do cause structural damage on them.)
  2. They are put in long trains with multiple locomotives which also serve as buffer. The locomotives are diesel-powered thus autonomous (and are fitted with protective gear themselves).
  3. The routing of the trains isn't announced in advance, multiple lines are drawn up.
  4. Along the possible lines, police checks for any hindrances the day before.
  5. When the train comes, all other rail traffic is stopped on the section so that collision is not even possible. To limit the railway's inconvenience and to make the approach less apparent, the train is often routed along sparsely used or disused branchlines (which paradoxically make the protesters' 'job' easier, most major blockades happened in such lines).
  6. The train is 'preceded' by a helicopter, which again checks for hindrances.
  7. Along the route when the train passes through, policemen are called out to control the area in a half-hour or so, again checking for any hindrances.
  8. The train advances at a slow speed. On some critical spots, at walking speed, surrounded by walking policemen.

Anti-CASTOR protesters' blockades
Most protests were/are organised by a loose network of varous NGOs and local initiatives. The bulk of the protesters, who included all kinds of groups from senior clubs to school classes with their teachers, held up the trains with 'human barricades': people staging a sit-in, a protest rally or rushing up in masses in front of the train, or climbing on the train where it stops. Policemen then carried people off one by one, and on to the next obstacle -  which often were the same people walking forward a few hundred metres.

I note that the police operation was provided by the Land [~federal state] and to a lesser part federal organs free-of-charge to the energy giants, thus the first and biggest protests were also with the hope that the Land (Schröder's BTW) will be the weak link who will refuse to further shoulder the costs. (Alas that wasn't to be.)

Both some locals and activists groups also made more serious obstacles: concrete sleepers, tractors, removed rails, people chained to rails. These were/are usually surrounded by a sit-in, preceded by one or more group of protesters who signal to the train, or warning tables planted ahead. Participants of such actions aimed/aim to be arrested and tried (and usually signed/sign statements in advance). Even such blockades are usually removed in minutes to an hour. (The longest blockade was caused by members of the traditional anti-nuclear group Robin Wood, who prepared a concrete cavity in the tracks of a disused line on the rightly guessed route, and chained-concreted the hands of three members into it the night the train came, causing a daylong delay.)

The dangerous "wild" protests
Unlike the aforementioned public activist groups, some anonymous idiots applied truly dangerous hit-and-run tactics: obstacles placed without warning groups or tables behind curves, obstacles placed the day before on branchlines, or hours before on mainlines, anchors thrown at catenaries.

These "wild" actions (if they are, see below) were both dangerous and unprofessional. For, they chiefly hit normal trains - and them hard, unlike the slow-moving quatro-secured CASTOR trains. Especially the last: the CASTOR trains with their diesel locos aren't affected by power losses, nor do they have pantographs for the anchors to get struck in and tear down the catenary, while regular train drivers have been hurt by the anchor cable itself.

On the other hand, we cannot know for certain if concrete plates on the rails or a throw-anchor attack is a "wild" anti-CASTOR protest. For, receiving less media attention, but troubling the German and other railways and their workers, such incidents happen with a worrying regularity, and culprits are almost never caught - probably a rather extreme form of teenager prankstery.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 03:46:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
CASTOR containers and transports
The security measures, citing terror, technical accident and protest concerns, included and include:

   1. The containers themselves: super-stong metallic containers designed to resist all kinds of chemical effects, extreme acceleration/deceleration (they were tested by throwing them out of airplanes, also in train crashes), electricity etc. (Later though, it was found that hard stresses and wear do cause structural damage on them.)
   2. They are put in long trains with multiple locomotives which also serve as buffer. The locomotives are diesel-powered thus autonomous (and are fitted with protective gear themselves).
   3. The routing of the trains isn't announced in advance, multiple lines are drawn up.
   4. Along the possible lines, police checks for any hindrances the day before.
   5. When the train comes, all other rail traffic is stopped on the section so that collision is not even possible. To limit the railway's inconvenience and to make the approach less apparent, the train is often routed along sparsely used or disused branchlines (which paradoxically make the protesters' 'job' easier, most major blockades happened in such lines).
   6. The train is 'preceded' by a helicopter, which again checks for hindrances.
   7. Along the route when the train passes through, policemen are called out to control the area in a half-hour or so, again checking for any hindrances.
   8. The train advances at a slow speed. On some critical spots, at walking speed, surrounded by walking policemen.

Gee, seems like the nuclear waste managers take safety seriously.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 04:07:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
no, the protestors take human safety seriously...

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 06:16:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Worth a diary of its own, for sure. Then maybe we can relive your above dialogue with Migeru.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 06:27:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A dialogue of deafs shouting past each other? No, thanks.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 06:27:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure. If I can't get Migeru to not argue a cartoon version of nuclear protesters and indeed of my very own words in this thread, what about you, or Plan9 if he turns up? (And some sure feel the same the other way.) Just after Pierre gave me hopes of an interesting debate, now I see the future of the series in darker colours.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 11:28:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I really want to see your diary on waste disposal, and I want to hear your proposed best [or least bad] solution to the existing waste problem.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed May 24th, 2006 at 11:34:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, this I want to see as well.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu May 25th, 2006 at 06:22:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And where is the promised ET compass?
How am I going to draw a compass with only your and my data points, and even you were noncommittal on some of the talking points...

To tell you the truth, like I said upthread, after going through the complete list I got a feeling it's just too damn exhausting. At least the political compass was somewhat entertaining.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 03:14:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For Nuclear Power:
a) Nuclear power is "unlimited" --  in the limited sense allowed by De of "for the next couple hundred years" - agree
b) Nuclear power is "carbon neutral" -- It's hard to know exactly the cost of building the plant - studies seem biased either way. I'll say I mildly agree.
c) Nuclear power is "safe" -- strongly agree. Its track record over the past 40 years is incomparably better than all other power generation options, for the same TWh.
c1) Nuclear power is "safer to build than to import" -- mildly agree in that it is hypocritical to be against nuclear but import nuclear energy from the neighbors.
d) Nuclear power can replace almost every application of fossil power -- agree: electric transportation, even of the private kind, is very much possible. Water desalination also comes to mind. Agri-use is too small at this point to matter.
d1) Nuclear power can provide a reliable energy baseline: strongly agree: it already does.
e) Nuclear power is more cost-effective than renewables: this is a hard one, but the French experience does suggest that nuclear is cheaper than everything else when financed, owned and run by the State. So agree
f) New fission reactors solve the problems of "old, bad" designs. I don't know, would not want to bet on it. So disagree.
g) New developments are just around the corner that will make nuclear energy even more efficient and safe -- disagree: as above disagree
h) Just because incompentent nations or companies have built lousy plants doesn't mean that nuclear power cannot be managed properly -- agree.
i) There is no reason to fear nuclear accidents or technology more than other industrial process or externalised cost -- agree. There is an irrational fear of nuclear accidents. Coal deaths, like road deaths, are more undestandable and somehow less feared, it would seem.
j) The nuclear industry has been held back over the last 20 years by unfair fear, prejudice and activism -- mildly agree.

A) The energy and climate situation is dire and some urgent remedial action is needed -- true, but nuclear should not be the first option to pursue. It is the best of the not politically impossible options.
B) Nuclear energy is the only practical alternative to fossil fuels -- mildly agree. For now, nuclear is the least bad of the full baseload options.
C) Opponents of nuclear energy are scientifically illiterate, superstitious or ideologically biased -- mildly agree
D) Quality of life is strongly correlated with per capita power consumption -- this needs to be changed. This is a higher priority than doing more nuclear.
E) We have reason to be optimistic about steady and often radical improvements in technology -- I'll say I mildly agree, for my son..

Conclusion: I am French.

Against nuclear power:
a) Nuclear power is not safe -- disagree: the track record is excellent, and the only really bad accident, Chernobyl, came from a terrible design and pretty bad safety procedures. Compared to the dozens of failed dams, the hundreds of thousands of feaths from coal mining and burining, and the wars for oil&gas, it is magnificently safe. Renewables are likely to do better, though.
a1) Nuclear waste management is an unsolved problem and waste is toxic "forever" -- disagree. What's dangerous is not big, and what's bulky is not dangerous.
a2) Uranium mining is associated with poor worker safety, contamination of water sources, etc -- This has improved significantly, I understand. Still, agree.
a3) Safety is sacrificed to efficiency, accidents happen and then they are covered up -- disagree. Nuclear energy is certainly supervised much more thna other dangerous industries.
a4) No private insurer will insure a nuclear plant; if nuclear power were safe it would be possible to insure it -- agree This is State risk.
a5) Nuclear power is a stalking horse for the nuclear weapons industry -- I understand it depends on the technology chosen.
b) The public does not trust the reassurances of nuclear scientists and industry spokespeople, and rightly so -- disagree the public does not trust any industry anymore. So it's not really relevant
c) Uranium mining is a politically dirty business -- disagree it's a small part of the overall costs, so not sure how this is relevant. Should the mobile phone industry be blamed for Zaire's mess (for the coltan?)
d) Nuclear power is centralised, high/heavy technology, difficult to understand, and makes power consumers into helpless clients -- agree, but that's what makes it a great candidate for State-run, cost effective business. As to helpless clients, this sounds luddite.
e) Nuclear power is coupled to national security, nonproliferation, and other risks which inspire or require rigorous security which is inherently secretive and undemocratic -- disagree security need not be undemocratic. Just regulated by tough rules, which can be explicit.
f) Radiation is undetectable without specialized equipment and people cannot tell if they are being exposed, having to rely on the word of (untrusted) authorities -- (as Migeru) agree, but tell me how this is different from most chemical or biological contamination.
g) The health effects of radiation are insidious, as they can take years to develop and may include genetic damage which does not become visible until gestation and birth of children -- disagree thetrackrecord - long term - is noxw available. The worst incidents took place in the early years, and their consequences are still hotly debated.
f) Uranium is no more an infinite resource than fossil fuel -- true, but it is more abundant for now, and what about thorium?
g) Nuclear power is not cost-effective and benefits from hidden subsidies -- disagree French studies point to excellent prices with full cost accounting. This is linked to full State funding and running the industry.
g1) Old nuclear plants are very expensive to repurpose of clean up -- agree, but this seems true of any old plant.
g2) Nuclear power plants are costly to build, require expert personnel to operate, and have high complexity and high failure costs, all of which is expensive -- disagree Only the cost per kWh is relevant, not per plant.
h) Simple, cheaper, cleaner and less scary options than nuclear power include conservation, renewable energy and localised energy production -- strongly agree
i) Nuclear power is not a nimble solution for urgent problems (such as climate change or peak oil) as it takes 10 to 15 years to bring a nuclear power plant online. -- agree
j) Public protests have not been a decisive factor in holding nuclear power back, but rather inadequate return on investment and unmanageable risks -- disagree There has been a pall against nuclear. Referenda in several countries. Widespread hostility.
k) New miracle technologies either fail to deliver on their promises or incur significant externalities -- agree All technologies will have negative side effects when used on a larger scale. (So will wind, most likely)

A) The infinite growth predicated by economics is a myth, it is environmentally and socially unsustainable and does not guarantee progress -- agree Not specific to nuclear.
B) It is not physically possible for everyone on earth to lead a first-world lifestyle -- I don't know.
C) Nuclear weapons are utterly morally wrong -- disagree.
D) promises of technological miracles are a case of hubris and carry hidden costs -- agree but we are talking about existing technology.
E) anarchism/libertarianism:
E1) Authority should be resisted, and large centralised governments or corporations mistrusted -- agree but being a French technocrat I trust French technocrats to some extent.
E2) community/grassroots efforts and local organisation and provision of services should be more highly valued -- strongly agree
E3) government may fall, or policies change, leaving nuclear plants in the wrong hands -- disagree If we get to that point nuclear plants will be the least of our worries.
F) a decent lifestyle for the majority of people could be attained with common sense, reasonable frugality and fairness -- agree strongly.

Conclusion: I don't see nuclear as bad. It's much, much better than the existing large scale alternatives (on pretty much every metric: cost, pollution, global warming, direct or indirect deaths). It needs to come after a massive effort at conservation and renewable energies.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 03:50:39 PM EST
Thanks, Jerome, with a third data point I can draw a compass.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 04:08:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It needs to come after a massive effort at conservation and renewable energies.

yeah, well let's talk about it afterwards shall we?

if 'massive' is real, nor hype, then we wouldn't need nukes.

it's the bald assumption that the old model of energy use needs to be prolonged, or that we're all so deeply addicted and need to be indulged, that i find so weak and compromised.

meanwhile, back at the ranch, do you have any idea how much spin they're going to have to pull off to convince people that nukes are safe enough to roll out in the kind of numbers they want to? (la belle france notwithstanding).

people are more informed and smarter than they used to be... they see solar working, they see wind growing fast, that's the grain to go with, not against...

it takes 100 times more energy to repeat a lie enough times so the bozos believe, than it would take to use that pr money -flashy, greenwashing goebbelshit that it is - and use it to better educate people, starting with kids,( who intuitively 'get it' anyway), on how to value energy, and the chains of exploitation and corruption that have conspired to make the choking, toxic world they have inherited?

by even considering nuclear power as a possible solution, the lesser of two evils, we open the door to madness, hubris, and tragedy, as deanander has brilliantly expounded in this diary.

kc curie wants to be shown a realistic blueprint of how it could happen, and concedes its impossibility.

isn't this a tad defeatist?

if dogs are at the door threatening the children, do you chase them away with a stick, or open a poison gas canister?

that we even are having this debate here on a lefty blog, i find terrifyingly revealing of how deep the disconnect, that years of conditioning have wrought...

europe suffers from the same entitlement pathology as the usa, but a form modulated to be just genteel enough to shine in comparison.

still a pretty dull glow, imo.

keep the aspidistra flying!

ronald laing would understand...

"We can all be prosperous but we can't all be rich." Ian Welsh

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 06:47:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Opponents of nuclear energy are ... ideologically biased

and who isn't?

one of the objects of this exercise for me was to underscore the fact that our strategic opinions are always the product of ideology.  this is not a Bad Thing (TM), it's just something to bear in mind.  as cher J concludes after section 1, "I am French," meaning that a whole world of culture, political history, etc is encoded in his response to the available facts.  I think it is a mistake to say that one side in this particular debate has all the facts and the other has "nothing but ideology."  both sides have a selected set of facts that are consonant with ideologies and with visions of what the future ought to look like -- visions of how to get to a future that we want to live in, and how to avoid a future that we don't want to live in.

I'm supposed to be working so will have to drop by later to contribute to the Compass (heroic multivariate dataset reduction Migeru, thanks again molto mucho millefois nui loa...).

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 04:58:28 PM EST
What is already heroic is entering the data into R... we're talking 46 categorical variables here... Gaaaa...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 23rd, 2006 at 06:00:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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