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A review of the underlying fundamentals of nuclear energy

by Jerome a Paris Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 08:26:27 AM EST

I've been meaning to do a big nuclear energy diary for a long while, but Real Life constraints have prevented me from doing so. In the meantime, NNadir has been providing a steady stream of informative diaries on various aspects of the nuclear energy technology (read them all here).

As NNadir, who does not hide his (pro-nuclear) biases, I'll start by stating mine: I'm favorable to nuclear, as it is vastly superior in all respects to the coal-fired plants that dominate the industry in many countries, but I think we should focus policy first on conservation, then on renewable energy (in particular wind power, the sector I finance), and then only on nuclear. But that does mean that I consider nuclear to be invitable and thus necessary. I would like to note also that I am influenced by the French experience, which is highly successful, and has a number of traits which I think are desirable for the industry (strong State involvement, including for the financing of the sector, strong and independent regulation) and which may reflect my personal biases (the engineers that built and run the sector are alumni of the same university as me).

Brought across by afew.


The macro-issues surrounding nuclear that I can see are as follows:

  • is it safe? In particular, can it withstand a major terrorist attack?

  • what do we do with the waste?

  • do we have enough uranium anyway?

  • is it cost effective? And do the announced costs include everything?

  • aren't there better options to pursue before nuclear?

Is it safe?
I'll answer that one simply: nuclear energy can theoretically lead to much worse accidents than other industrial activities, but it can also be made safe. The risks are understood, the required procedures and technical standards are defined and can be adapted to effectively eliminate the risk of large scale incidents.

The circumstances that would lead to a large scale incident are quite remote and they require more effort, planning and resources than could likely take place. More importantly, should any group with murderous intent ever have access to that kind of resources, they are many much simpler acts that would have a bigger impact than an attack against a nuclear power plant with military grade protection.

Which brings us back to ensuring that safeguards and procedures exist and are actually enforced. That's a task that can only be run and managed by a public body with the ability to retain competent personnel  and to impose rules on the industry. That requires clear laws, a strong culture of regulatory enforcement, and the necessary high level political support and funding for the relevant body.

To me, this is the single most important element to ensure that nuclear is viable, and to make it possible for the public to trust the industry, something that a culture of secrecy and occasional contempt for the public has damaged.

That said, it has to be noted here that we tend to hold the nuclear industry to much higher standards than other bits of the power industry. I fail to understand why the public does not hold the coal industry to the same kinds of requirements, and tolerates amazingly high levels of pollution and other damage to the environment from coal mining and burning operations - and a proven high level of avoidable deaths in the general population every year. Coal (just like roads) seems, for some reason, an acceptable killer.

Two wrongs do not make a right, so there is no reason to argue for similarly sloppy supervision of the nuclear industry, but the double standard has to be noted, in particular with respect to the impact on the cost of each form of generation. A fair requirement would be to apply equivalent rules to all sectors on safety, pollution, and internalisation of all externalities.

What to do with the waste
The very long term, apparently open-ended need to take care into the distant future of what are potentially highly dangerous materials is the other big argument brought forward to show that nuclear energy is an unreasonable proposition.

Again, the technical solutions are, to a large extent, known. The volumes of material, their dangerosity and how they should be handled are known. The technical requirements for safe storage can be met. If done properly, it is possible to say that we are not leaving boig ticking bombs to our descendants. Two important requirements should be that (i) storage be reversible, so that, as we discover new technologies and new uses for nucleotides, we reduce the volume of waste stored and (ii) the cost of storage should be as transparent as possible and fully taken into account in the price of the energy.

Again, these are requirements that can be met with strong regulatory supervision of the industry. And again, these are requirements that are simply not applied to other power generation sources, except for wind power (which is currently obliged to pay for its decommissioning costs, something that I have never seen for any industrial activity, and certainly not for coal-fired plants or chemical factories). Can we make sure that the carbon dioxide spewed out into the atmosphere for the rest of eternity by gas-fired plants is not around to destroy our descendants's livelihood? Can we make sure that the mercury sent in the atmosphere by coal-burning plants - also for eternity - will not be around to pollute what our descendants eat and breathe?

Mercuty kills and hurts more people every year than nuclear waste ever has. Same with carbon dioxide.

How much uranium is there
I'll admit quite frankly that this is the question for which I have the least visibility. I have seen arguments that convincingly demonstrate that uranium is not an issue in the foreseaable future, and I have seen others that point to a looming shortage in a relatively small number of decades. Uranium is a relatively plentiful element, and so is thorium, which could be used in reactors of a slightly different (but known) design, but what matters is how much it costs to bring about the requisite volumes at the necessary concentration. I cannot answer that question myself right now, but would note that the pessimistic scenarios seem to put a "peak uranium" date pretty close to the expected date for peak coal (see this diary: Even coal (clean or not) will not save the US way of life).

is it cost effective?

Ultimately, all these requirements bring us back to the issue of how much it costs to provide for our needs. I discussed the issue of what influences the cost of electricity in this fairly detailed diary last year (The real cost of electricity - some numbers) which I can only encourage you to read.

With respect to nuclear, as an industry with a combination of high upfront investment costs, low (even if increasing) fuel costs, and high, but far away decommissioning and waste management costs, the fundamental driver of electricity cost is going to be the discount rate used - i.e. the long term cost of money. Low interest rates mean that initial investments can be spread easily over the long term, thus bringing about vastly lower production costs. That means one simple thing: nuclear will always be much cheaper if financed by the State - and that holds true even if (especially if) the State financed all possible technologies. Similarly, the impact on production costs of decommissioning and waste storage requirements will depend on public decisions about the acceptable lifetime of plants. While there are objective technological constraints there, there will  always be room for political decisions there. Finally, the cost of catastrophic insurance cannot be borne by the private sector and will always be borne (whether by law as in the US via the Price Anderson Act, or in practice in all countries) by governments, the only entity able to act should a large scale accident happen. How that insurance is priced is to a large extent a political decision, and it will depend fundamentally on the quality of the regulatory oversight imposed on the industry.

This may sound convenient for someone who frequently praises the positive role that government can and should play, but the above shows that nuclear is an industry that can only be viable with heavy governmental involvement, and its competitiveness will hinge on decisions by public authorities, in particular with respect to the cost of financing.  Those that argue for nuclear should make that point explicitly, and recognize that investing in nuclear energy requires governmental consent, supervision and involvement, and thus democratic support. once that step is made, the case for a government-run industry is quite strong, provided that the same government is able to put in place independent regulatory oversight at the same time.

What makes nuclear different from other sectors in power generation is that every angle requires government involvement. Wind would benefit from public funding for its high initial investment costs, but requires only limited oversight after that. Coal requires tough regulation of emissions and pollution, but public funding would help it only little.

Aren't there better options to pursue before nuclear?

With all that said, I'll restate here the order in which things would be done, in an ideal world:

  • first, conservation and energy efficiency. "Negawatts" are the cheapest and most underexploited resource we have;

  • second, renewable energies, starting with wind. They are proven technologies, are scalable and wind is already competitive, price wise;

  • third, nuclear. it's the least bad way to provide the base load capacity we'll need in the foreseeable future;

  • fourth, gas-fired plants. Gas is less polluting than coal, gas turbines are very flexible to use. such plants will probably be needed (in places that do not have sufficient hydro) to manage the permanent adjustment of supply to demand that electricity requires

  • last, coal should be dismantled as quickly as possible from its current high levels of use - and new construction should be stopped.

I often have a discussion about wind with the pro-nuclear crowd; whereby they point out that wind is still providing an insignificant share of our needs, and that its intermittent nature will impose the presence of some other form of baseload capacity to ensure certainty of supply. To me, the first argument is not one, and we should make all efforts to ensure that wind reaches the 20% of production that are acknowledged as the level that can be absorbed at little cost by the networks. The second one is very real, and barring a breakthrough in storage technology (something not to be discounted) or in some smart combination of wind turbines with other on-demand technologies at a reasonable cost, it is true that wind will not be able to provide for all of our demand, and thus, the least damaging source available is, indeed, nuclear. Solar is still very expensive, and large scale use (again, barring major technology breakthroughs) is likely to involve massive pollution (and depletion) risks as the materials used for now are highly polluting and some are quite scarce. Biomass can play a role within sustainably harvested forestry programmes. Other biofuels and waste will always remain marginal (given the limited supply sources).

Thus, I expect nuclear to be pursued, but it would be better if it were done with the following conditions fulfilled:

  • strict public oversight (which should exclude a number of countries from pursuing it);

  • full transparency in waste management and accounting;

  • democratic support, and

  • ideally, public funding.

In fact, these conditions should apply to all forms of power generation, starting with coal-fired plants. But will the public have the stomach for full cost accounting of our current energy use? If, in all likelihood, the answer is no, then we will have an energy policiy that focuses on the exact opposite order: coal will come first, followed by nuclear and some renewables. And we'll keep on dying from air pollution and global warming while worrying about nuclear waste.

Some further diaries:
Is Nuclear Power a Viable Option for Our Energy Needs? by Martin Savior at the Oil Drum
NNadir diaries over at European Tribune
How Sweden deals with nuclear waste by Starvid
Nuclear renaissance in Europe, part 2 by Starvid
Nuclear renaissance in Europe, part 1 by Starvid
The Nuclear Skeptic Part 2: Megaprojects vs Micropower by DeAnander
The Nuclear Skeptic, Part 1: Sketching the Playing Field by DeAnander
Chernobyl +20: retrospectives and dispatches (long) by DeAnander
Chernobyl's Downplayed Victims by DoDo
Case for nuclear energy 'overwhelming'? by Jerome a Paris
Government works. The exemple of power generation by Jerome a Paris
A Nuclear Lobby Lie by DoDo
Nuclear energy in France - a Sunday special by Jerome a Paris

On waste, the English version of the site of the French nuclear waste management agency is a good place to start.

Display:
Here and also the Oil Drum.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Mar 10th, 2007 at 07:04:15 PM EST
And also here.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 10:23:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But will the public have the stomach for full cost accounting of our current energy use?

I'm not sure what you're saying here.  If the full cost accounting is clearly laid out, with all externalities (including health costs--esp. to individuals like...the members of the public reading the clearly laid out full cost accounting)...then, like a cardiac specialist pointing out to a patient the full cost (with diagrams) of their diet...well, once the penny drops...

So maybe people are in denial, but really I think they are (maybe a bit wilfully, but I'd say mostly because they're baffled by the numbers, by the complexities)...so, they are in ignorance of the full cost accounting.

So maybe lay out some clear areas to cost, including all externalities--laying them out clearly, including where those externalities lie (I'm thinking of that cloud of pollution which they say spreads from China to east coast USA)...draw everyone that global map, nail down the prices, then draw up a simple-to-understand cost chart showing how if govts. make key investment and regulatory decisions, we can start heading (and then ever more quickly) to the scenario you lay out (start with conservation...etc...)

I really do think that most people (at least the ones I meet) think that either

a) There's doubt about it all, so why worry (it's so confusing!)

b)  Govts. talk the talk but there's no clear walk.  Less rhetoric and more simple numbers: "It will cost X over timeframe Y to arrive at position Z using laws A,B,C"...etc.  Didn't they do this in France with TGV?  What I heard was they added a certain price to each train ticket until the costs were paid and then they took off the excess.  (A similar thing was seen--in my opinion--in the UK when Blair said "Yes, you have to pay a bit more for hospitals and schools."  And people voted for it, coz it was made simple.  Not everyone voted for it, but enough people did.)

c)  People think alternative energy "isn't possible."  It's "naff"; it's for "hippies"; it's not realistic.  Give them some serious numbers and point out the health costs of coal (hat tip to NNadir)...over and over...clearly.

And more things...I dunno....hey!  Great diary!

The difference with cars and road deaths, I think, is that motorways are for cars only.  When it comes to town centres the speed limits are down and will come lower.  There's a sense that fast roads are where "you might even die if you're not careful."  No kids cross motorways (maybe not true, but that's the idea--they're sectioned off.)  The analogy doesn't hold with electricity.  It comes through a socket.  Give it cheap, give it clean, and...actually...I'd even say it might be possible to sell a funky chic version of "hours per day" or somesuch...we don't need electricity all day every day twenty four hours.  Maybe once a week (rotating through the days) your street gets reduced input for a few hours (maybe have super light trip switches...somewhere...that shut off the system if you have more than, say, two lights and a stereo on)...I don't see any social need for permanent full-on electricity everywhere...indeed, I think it is harmful because (hey!  All of us at our computers!) it can lead to health problems over the long term....

Yack yack!  And I don't trust world govts. to be responsible as you say they should be, yet the nuclear power stations will be built in...India, China, all kinds of places where there is a history of govt. lies, cover-ups, scandals, and also where (oh lord!  The pakistani chap who sold nuclear secrets...for money!  Etc...)

And yes, yes, yes, push for forcing coal to meet the stringent levels nuclear has to match, and push to raise even those...coz it'll be investment in renewables that'll bring about the new discoveries and inventions that make renewables ever more efficient, productive, eco-...hmmmm...  "More power with a smaller footprint: something to leave the grandkids!"

Something like that.

Oh, and it occured to me today that we are living through a time of unprecedented invention and discovery.  Push the assumption that by the time wind gets to 20% (currently feasible) new technologies will be coming on line (flexible plastic solar?  None of the ugly chemicals, all of the lovely solar-->energy?  Maybe not today, but who'd've believed in...the ipod...back in 1897?)

And don't forget wave power!  As your investment consultant, I strongly recommend your bank sends you up to Scotland to check out the posssibilities...of course allowing you to take the family for a very long and enjoyable holiday up in the northern isles while you are...researching.

And I get 10% cut of the millions to be made...

Which I will expect you to pay into the ET coffers, of course.

;)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat Mar 10th, 2007 at 09:15:15 PM EST
(Let me know if I shouldn't be saying this but dangerosity = danger)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat Mar 10th, 2007 at 09:16:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
People think alternative energy "isn't possible."  It's "naff"; it's for "hippies"; it's not realistic.

Notice how the Right goes around spouting their glorying in "innovation" and "new ideas" and when innovative new ideas are presented all of a sudden they are:  Naff ... hippies ... not realistic?

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Mar 10th, 2007 at 11:11:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For me, it's not so much to do with right/left as it is with "small c" conservative mindsets and a culture of using quasi-ad-hominem put-downs to demonstrate status, which are available in most political flavours I think.)

"Yeah, the kind of things the hippies tried," said with a sneer...by the left-winger or the right-winger...

...both ignoring the fact that the organic boom (business-->money-->influence-->power!) was started by...those hippies back in those dirty hippies who moved into "communes" ("Oh how...just ugh!  Who do they think they are, better than us?  And they smell" etc...) in the late sixties / early seventies.

Not to mention the internet...

I think it's a sneer at "the strange"...and it is most irresponsible when heard from those with big voices--coz when one belittles something one...well...to me that one sounds pompous and uncaring and, I was pondering this, and yes, I think they fail in their role...because if someone is wrong, belittling them doesn't...add anything, it just demonstrates a power relationship ("Your ideas suck.  Anyone thinking such things is naive at best!  You clearly are in way over your head, have no idea of the issues, and should back out of conversations beyond your intellectual level."  etc...)  And funny how all the great minds never talk or think like that...or rather, to build a great mind, one must first realise that one is at present in the position of "not knowing" and...all help to arrive at "knowing" is much appreciated; and all put-downs are scars received along the way....

So I don't think it's just right/left, I think, well, what I think I've written, but let me add the words "sclerotic" "supple"; "old" "young"; "hopeful" "debauched"; "equal" "status anxiety"...

Yes, it's our old friend...and I suppose all of us here, too, need to work out this anxiety...work it out in our various ET ways...out out...and then...in the calm of our clearer realities...

....realise that...

....realise that...

human nature: "c'est toi"

...ach...

...so...and yes...I applaud always Jerome for his consistency in being...a grown up...when it comes to energy issues...

...ya know, serious grown-up discussions...where are those leaders who can talk to everyone without patronising us...who know less?  And, in our role as leaders (we are both leaders and led, us and them...ach ach ach!)....


Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 05:58:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]

I'm not sure what you're saying here.  If the full cost accounting is clearly laid out, with all externalities (including health costs--esp. to individuals like...the members of the public reading the clearly laid out full cost accounting)...then, like a cardiac specialist pointing out to a patient the full cost (with diagrams) of their diet...well, once the penny drops...

So maybe people are in denial, but really I think they are (maybe a bit wilfully, but I'd say mostly because they're baffled by the numbers, by the complexities)...so, they are in ignorance of the full cost accounting.

So maybe lay out some clear areas to cost, including all externalities--laying them out clearly, including where those externalities lie (I'm thinking of that cloud of pollution which they say spreads from China to east coast USA)...draw everyone that global map, nail down the prices, then draw up a simple-to-understand cost chart showing how if govts. make key investment and regulatory decisions, we can start heading (and then ever more quickly) to the scenario you lay out (start with conservation...etc...)

I think you're deluded there. People will simply not tolerate higher gas or energy prices. Explain it however you will, they'll just scream that you are strangling them. Even progressives scream when you explain the gas tax to them, within a larger plan meant to alleviate the pain. They just see the higher gas bill, full stop.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 04:13:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I think we're back to that conversation about narratives.  It's our job to create narrative conditions in which enough people will...join the dots...

...some people will blame the doctor when he points out the effects of their diet...

...but these are about psychological...hmmm...narratives.  Cognitive behaviour theory.

The particular therapeutic techniques vary according to the particular kind of client or issue, but commonly include keeping a diary of significant events and associated feelings, thoughts and behaviors; questioning and testing assumptions or habits of thoughts that might be unhelpful and unrealistic; gradually facing activities which may have been avoided; and trying out new ways of behaving and reacting. Relaxation and distraction techniques are also commonly included.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_behavioral_therapy

According to what I've read, higher prices for energy and oil-derived products are facts, not suggestions, sort of like the surgeon saying, "It's a question of when that artery gets fully blocked, Mrs. Jenkins, not if.  There isn't a 'you just keep eating burgers' scenario available that precludes full blockage of that artery."  

So the idea is to bring people to understand--clearly--that they (if they are under age X) will have to tolerate higher prices, coz that's where prices are going.  And price rises in the (near?) future form part of the externalities grid--one of the factors.  Show them that next week's higher price for, say, wave power, will be next years lower price for wave power as oil peaks falls and prices climb...

...and also that if food production falls (less/more expensive oil for machinery; changing yields as climate fluctuates), their food prices will...what...double?  Can they (can I can you) feed their (our my) families if the food bill doubles?

If the idea is that people want as cheap as possible, and if the trick is to hide the externalities, then bringing out the externalities is showing the wires...look!  He isn't really flying!  It's a trick!

If there's urgency here it is based on facts, and so lay out the facts, if they're clear.  If they're not, then people will...accept the narrative that suits them...

...and maybe they'll do that anyway, so...as Melanchthon says...seduction...

(btw, I think petrol and electricity should be separated as narratives.  Electricity comes through the socket.  Cars are freedom-machines.)

...and yes, of course I'm deluded.  It's how I cope with people: by assuming they're not all stupid and venal.  

In fact I can place numbers on it:

20% are good and wonderful
5% are psycopaths (probably due to upbringing)
30% are reactionary small c conservatives (what do we want?  No change whatsoever!  Except: get rid of that thing that just appeared that annoys me!)
[Okay, sometimes they're 60% and sometimes I'm one of them...it depends on fear, confidence, social securities...etc...]
How many does that leave that just don't give a fuck?  About 50%?  Well, they aren't reading this and as things change...who gives a fuck?  I think the fact that food prices, if I have understood the facts correctly, are due to rise at a minimum by 20-30%...and with the phasing out of certain foods (bans on hydrogenated fats; bans on factory farms...ach...see my delusions!)

....heh heh...deluded...yeah.  And yet...why are they selling so many of those hybrid cars these days?  And why are so many bright and enthusiastic young engineers rushing into renewable technologies as fast as they possibly can...oil...run away run awwwaaaaay!...and why are organic sales growing in Europe (not the US, that's a whole different story and I don't know enough about the various states...but okay, Oregon I would guess has similar if not higher numbers, ditto Vermont (?  Wild guesses!)) at 20% a year?

I suppose on a sober note, if you're right and I'm wrong, then fuggedaboudit with the shining 5 point plan.  People will vote for anyone who tells them "No taxes on X"....that's just...urgh....human nature?

My humble humble opinion... yes science together with magic thinking is more powerful that faith jumps... the mysticism .. the wonderful, the amazing is more powerful that the security.  But jump of faiths are better than plane "compelxity"

My equatiosn would be

sicence < jump of faith

science + amazement + myths >> jump of faith

At least in our society.

http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2007/3/7/134143/8644

The "externalities" argument is the science.  The wonderful vision you sell people of an alternative future is...the amazement!  And the stories you tell to justify all this...to yourself and others...them's the myths...

 

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 06:39:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Navahos have large reserves of uranium and large numbers of them are fighting against re-opening the mines.  Apparently when the mines were open, in the 1950s, the miners and their families developed horrendous health problems.  See here for some details.

Currently, there are two groups attempting to stop a uranium mine from starting operation.  Find out about the history of the group here.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sat Mar 10th, 2007 at 11:52:59 PM EST
There are indeed large uranium reserves on Indian reservations in the Southwest and they are money in the bank for future generations.

The argument against further uranium mining because of lung cancer caused by early mining practices is not valid.

There was indeed an excess of lung cancer among uranium miners of every race during the boom years when people could make very good money.  Thousands of coal-miners, lead-miners, etc. arrived from around the country.  On the reservations, Native Americans made up the majority of miners but in the overall mining picture remained a small fraction of the total population.  The people who got excess cancers were not open-pit miners but rather underground miners, with smokers having the highest cancer rate.  The cause: radon gas given off by rock and soil down in the mines.

After the company mines were ventilated, starting in the 1970s, cancer rates among miners declined and matched those of the non-mining population.

Many studies have been done on the miners.  For more info see:
http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/pgms/worknotify/uranium.html#study

Interestingly, household radon is considered by the US Environmental Protection Agency to be the second leading cause of lung cancer after tobacco.  In some areas, like the Reading Prong in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, people's basements are giving them a far greater exposure than that received by uranium miners.  Nevertheless, people are lax about ventilating their basements.

So, the problem of excess radon exposure can be solved.  And was solved by mining operations by installing huge fans.

by Plan9 on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 12:10:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When you publish pollyannaish uninformed pro-nuclear arguments, you only discredit your cause. The major continuing problems in Navaho are caused by tailings.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 12:23:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The major continuing problems in Navaho are caused by tailings.

That's true of all hard rock mining.  Ground and sub-surface water sources through-out the American West are being destroyed by old tailing leeching.  The mining companies have developed legal forms to avoid responsibility - paying for the damage.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 01:11:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Navajo families who built houses from tailings suffered from radon-related lung disease.  The Navajo Nation has identified and destroyed these houses.
by Plan9 on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 02:32:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
H'mmmm.

Let me observe the historical pattern of Navaho/Anglo relations of being lied to, manipulated, conned, stolen resources, enforced povertry, cultural destruction, and semi-genocide the Navaho's don't trust Anglos, especially the resource-extraction industries.  

Given this history I don't blame them.

Let's toss in an abysmal education system such that there is no one the nation does trust to give an honest assessment of the risks.

Coupled together the Navahos assume they are being lied to and all the scientific papers in the universe isn't going to convince them otherwise.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 01:26:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True.  I don't blame them.  Compensation has been mandated but administration of it is hit or miss.

What concerns me is the interest the Navajo Nation has in enabling even more coal-fired plants to be built on its land.  Coal-fired plants kill 2,000 a month in the US. That figure cannot compare to the small number of lung cancers of the uranium miners exposed 30 years ago to radon before the mines were ventilated.

Incidentally, Alaskan Native Americans who have never been near a uranium mine or uranium tailings have higher rates of lung cancer than New Mexican Native Americans.

by Plan9 on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 02:37:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Uranium can be extracted from seawater at a cost of about $100 / kg - more expensive than mining ore at $20 / kg, but enough to supply the whole world with electricity from breeder reactors.  5-fold increase in cost of uranium makes little difference to cost of nuclear-generated electricity.  

see this draft online book for more details

http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/sustainable/book/tex/cft.pdf

by paulm on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 09:54:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not so optimistic: the Japanese energy agency made a test scooping and concluded at 400 $/kg a couple of years ago. This price is very dependent on the market value of other precious/rare metals which are co-recovered in the process, and on the cost of advanced petrochemicals. I wouldn't be surprised if real-scale exploitation of seawater uranium drifted in the 1000 $/kg.

But still, it is true that it puts a cap on how expensive uranium ore can become, because once seawater scooping kicks in, it floods the market with unlimited supply (seawater has millions of years of consumption, plus it's somewhat "renewable" as rain constantly erodes granitic mountains containing uranium, and rivers bring more uranium to the oceans)

Pierre

by Pierre on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 04:39:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would be interested in studies regarding EROEI (energy return on energy input) when you get your uranium to a power plant from the sea.

Prices can go up and down, but EROEI can tell you if it is worth it at all.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:23:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EROEI for this process is probably very good.
The idea is that you build some "lobster cages" filled with a sponge of a capturing polymer (very expensive specialty chemical, good for about 20 passes). Then you immerge hundreds of those cages in the high sea (the scale is similar to those of industrial fishing), and you leave them there for a few months. Later you collect them and cook them to recover the metals.

You need a couple of ships rotating through your nets. They need fuel, but that's not much. You spend a lot of effort in you capture chemicals (manufacture, sea misfortunes, regeneration...). But considering the energy/kg of uranium, you always win by large (I find uranium is still dirt cheap at 2000 $/kg).

Pierre

by Pierre on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:35:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
With breeder reactors using U238 as fuel instead of U235, EROEI problems largely go away, because the big energy drain is the enrichment process. The trouble is... breeders are a "proliferation hazard" and we can't have that (supposedly). here is a description of the uranium from seawater process.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:45:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And with breeders using Thorium it gets even better. But once a couple regional wars have turned nuke and L.A. gets her, proliferation will no longer be a "concern", just a fact of life. Give 10 more years.

Pierre
by Pierre on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:52:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bah, between you, Francois and ustenzel you have convinced me that "proliferation" and "dual use" are political red herrings.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:12:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
from nuclear power production.

Israel, it is generally agreed, has made atomic bombs but has no nuclear power plants.

You do not need a power reactor to enrich uranium to make a nuclear weapon.  All you need is a uranium enrichment plant.

The US has never relied on nuclear power plants for weapons production.

The N. Koreans were easily detected (because of release of xenon gas) using their power plant to make plutonium.

This is where the IAEA plays a very important role in keeping close watch and making trouble for wannabe nuclear nations.  There's a reason its director general, ElBaradei, won the Nobel Peace Prize. Naturally, Greenpeace perversely protested that award.

by Plan9 on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 05:18:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The US has never relied on nuclear power plants for weapons production.  

This is so blatantly misleading one does not know what to make of it.  

Is this just (YET ANOTHER? WHEN WILL THIS EVER STOP?) another attempt to deceive?  

The plutonium for US nuclear bombs (nearly ALL fission bombs are of this type because they are cheaper and easier to make--even thought the triggering is more finicky than uranium) was generated from weapons reactors that were not power reactors BECAUSE the energy they produced was wasted rather than caught and used to produce electricity.  

So the fact is relevant to exactly nothing.  

Any reactor can be utilized to generate energy--but does not have to be.  

Any reactor can be utilized to make bombs--but does not  have to be.  

Plan 9 reminds me of the fundamental, overwhelming, insoluable problems of nuclear power:  

  1.  The people promoting nuclear power are and remain unworthy of the trust required for such a dangerous activity.  

  2.  Safe nuclear power presumes the ability to create reliable and responsible social structures that last for millenia.  Human sociology, political science, psychology, and history show that this is simply unreasonable, in every sense of the word.  

  3.  Here in the US, the idea of responsible political and social structures is not credible even in the here and now--never mind centuries into the future.  

The French have been lucky--so far.  Good for them!  But nobody wins at the craps table forever.  (The Soviets certainly didn't, and America's two famous near-misses remain anything but reassuring.) A reasonable policy would be making other plans.  

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 11:41:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 
The people promoting nuclear power are and remain unworthy of the trust required for such a dangerous activity.

I assume you are referring to Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, Al Gore, Stewart Brand, James Lovelock, and others. I like the fact that they understand the importance of nuclear energy as part of the effort to reduce greenhouse gases. The great environmentalist Bill McKibben, whom I especially admire for his early books on global warming, has begun to come around to the realization that nuclear power is necessary.

As a liberal Democrat I have contributed to the campaigns of the above-mentioned politicians.  However, I would not want them to be operating nuclear power plants.  Luckily, highly trained nuclear engineers do that.  

The point I was making was that nuclear power plants producing electricity in the U.S. have not been deployed to make weapons material. Chernobyl, on the other hand, was a very poor design for a power reactor and was indeed used to make bomb plutonium.  Also, Chernobyl lacked a containment building, unlike every reactor in W. Europe and the US--but that's another story.

During the cold war, we had plenty of reactors making bomb plutonium.  They have all been shut down. Some opponents of nuclear power in the US argue that it should be abolished because plutonium could be used in bombs.  But we already have tens of thousands of bombs.  Many of them are being dismantled and eventually their highly enriched uranium and plutonium will be blended down into low-enriched fuel for reactors.  

Right now 10% of US electricity comes to you from former Soviet nuclear warheads. Something to be happy about, IMO.

by Plan9 on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 01:04:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Any reactor can be utilized to generate energy.  Any reactor can be utilized to make bombs.

If you think so, please explain why the Russians developed a large, expensive(!), known to be unstable(!) reactor with low(!) thermal efficiency, if any good power reactor would have produced their weapons grade plutonium anyway.

The French have been lucky

Please consider obtaining some knowledge about the fundamental differences bet Chernobyl/Hanford style reactors and PWRs before spouting unsubstantiated nonsense.

by ustenzel on Sat Mar 17th, 2007 at 07:58:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Please consider obtaining some knowledge about the fundamental differences bet Chernobyl/Hanford style reactors and PWRs before spouting unsubstantiated nonsense.

Graphite reactors burn.  PWRs melt down.  There is more, of course, but it doesn't get better when you go into the details.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Mar 21st, 2007 at 05:35:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The integral fast reactor project is supposed to minimize proliferation risks: plutonium never leaves the site, and it's extremely difficult to separate the 239-Pu required for a weapon from the other transuranics (see wikipedia entry).
by paulm on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:25:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I know about this one. But sometimes, the "200 ton liquid flowing plutonium" concept spooks me. Even its proponents plan to build it underground...

It is very interesting though, as a long life waste "incinerator", accelerating decay with intense neutron bombardment and capture. May be this could eliminate terminal storage altogether. I'm not sure more than one unit would be needed for that purpose. And I would oppose attempting to recover the heat for electricity, rather let it dissipate through solid state conductors (because recovery would mean liquid plutonium - liquid sodium heat exchanger, no less).

Pierre

by Pierre on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 08:34:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Plan9 on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 05:20:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
liquid sodium heat exchanger

Talk about trouble waiting to happen!

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 12:12:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You seem to know a lot about chemistry and thermohydraulics.  Please do tell us more!
by ustenzel on Sat Mar 17th, 2007 at 08:04:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Huh?  What liquid plutonium?  There are concepts employing molten metals as fuels, but the IFR isn't one of them.  As far as heat exchangers are concerned, the challenge is building one that tolerates molten sodium and water without corrosion.  I wonder if other thermodynamic cycles (gas turbines using helium, nitrogen, aluminium trichloride, something else?) are considered for sodium cooled reactors.
by ustenzel on Sat Mar 17th, 2007 at 08:04:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If the cost of uranium from seawater is as high as $1000/kg, fuel cost per kWh of electricity would be about 5 cents for non-breeder reactors, but about 0.1 cents for breeder reactors.  In a rational world, there would be an international effort to restart the project to develop an integral fast reactor that combines breeding and on-site reprocessing, with the goal of producing  freely-available designs for turnkey installation.      
by paulm on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:12:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
of the nuclear issue. Thanks once again.

You pretty much state my (admittedly more uninformed) view, and give me much better argments to use in discussions.

I also discovered a useful neologism - 'Negawatts'. A very ADD word for promoting the idea of conservation in the media.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 02:51:20 AM EST
I believe Amory Lovins at the Rocky Mountain Institute coined the term negawatts.  A very useful concept indeed.

We all bleed the same color.
by budr on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 09:31:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Concerning Coal: Wouldn't carbon capture and storage be an option? I'm not sure about the technology (due to the possibility of leakage). Gas, I'd also say, isn't really an option due to (political) supply difficulties.

Concerning Nuclear: Global warming itself is a threat to nuclear power as many nuclear plants use water from rivers to cool their plants. In a few of the past summers in France these have already been too hot, due to which it had to import energy. I suppose that there is a workable technical fix for this. Like using an underground depository and/or cooling the water with a part of the electricity. But that will add cost.

The current method of cooling externalises these costs as it affects the river ecosystem.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 06:09:17 AM EST
All steam plants (nuclear, coal, gas, biomass etc) located on rivers have this problem. It can be mitigated by either greater use of cooling towers or by building the plants at the seashore instead of at rivers. It's not reall that big a problem.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 08:42:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Carbon capture and storage is mooted as a potential solution, but it exists nowhere, today. Experimental plants are planned, but will not come online before several years at best.

Gas supplies are okay if we don't switch all our power production to gas as was done in the past 10 years. There are quite large reserves that can sustain decent levels of consumption and the valuable roles gas plants can play (such as  peaking capacity and spinning reserves).

As to river temperatures, it was a strange situation, as the temperature of the water rejected by the power plants was higher than the norm allowed, but was actually cooler than the water that had been drawn in. Also, the situation was made worse because a large number of power plants were under maintenance at that time, including most of the seaside ones (summer is the low consumption season in France). There are a number of easy technical fixes to that, should such high temepratures happen again.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 11:10:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The capture tech has been around for 60 years.  It's just expensive.  The storage tech is no more complicated than  a hole in the ground and a compressor.  Best of all, it holds out the possibility of doing something about existing coal burners, which are not going to be dismantled any time soon.
by tjbuff (timhess@adelphia.net) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 04:10:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good reply. On gas, I'm not for dismantling it all tomorrow. I rather think that we should keep the existing capacity (and impose cogeneration as a mandatory standard for new plants), but not expand it any further. For the coming two-three decades the problems with security of supply are, as noted, political. Although only a quarter of our gas comes from Russia, another large part comes from Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 03:07:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
With "exponentially" growing demand and global warming stepping on, cooling might be a growing problem on hot summer days. Everyone is relying on "technical fixes" to come, but how much can you cheat the Second Law of Thermodynamics? If you have to cool somewhere, you will inevitably warm more somewhere. Effectivity, reliabality and safety might suffer. It would be sad if nuclear plants would have to be taken off the grid on hot days and leaving a region without air conditioning.

Are there many nuclear plants in tropical and equatiorial  places?

The economist has an article on growing power consumption of computers and data base servers. Cooling of the servers constitutes a big part of the growing extra energy consumed. You can google up more:

Data centre energy consumption has doubled since 2000

The power consumed by a server over its lifetime is likely to cost as much as the server itself if energy costs continue to rise.

Me thinks that sooner or later, the ethics will have to be changed from "Taking more and more" to "Haviung enough". Growth limits are part of the nature. You do not surely see them until you hit upon.

by das monde on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 07:40:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're right on the basics and the overall conclusion, I think, but I imagine that it will take only a small portion of the electricity generated for a nuclear plant to provide its own cooling.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 03:11:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There are nuclear plants in southern India and along the steamy Gulf Coast of the US, and they do not have a problem with cooling. It's just a matter of design, and the French engineers did not anticipate prolonged heat waves.
by Plan9 on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 04:36:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Re: Concerning nuclear - Good point. And combined with the health risks of mining referenced above, enough for me to encourage massive public finance of every alternative but nuclear and carbon based solutions.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 03:32:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wouldn't carbon capture and storage be an option?

What was the half life of CO2 again?  Oh, right, infinite!  That's quite a lot compared to a few centuries, don't you think so?  You can't really be proposing to leave that burden to ALL future generations, can you?

...or cooling the water with a part of the electricity

Sorry, no can do.  In this house, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!

by ustenzel on Sat Mar 17th, 2007 at 08:20:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So what are these magic waste disposal technologies? One notes that(a) the pro-nuclear people are always exceptionally "optimistic" about volumes which really need to include such things as tailings and all the "secondary" large volume waste items such as the vessels themselves and (b) I have never seen a good economic analysis of waste disposal only a bunch of hand-waving.

BTW: "negawatts" is a smart coinage of Amory Lovins who is a nuclear skeptic.

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 08:12:54 AM EST
I was a bit disappointed at the deafening silence to this Diary

http://www.eurotrib.com/story/2007/1/12/44841/0858

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 08:24:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Chris, it might help for pedestrian brains such as mine if you'd just give a simple, but complete, example of how your scheme would work. You know, John does this, for an  amount of X, then Jack does that - and so on.

But maybe it's just me...

by balbuz on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 08:32:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nope, it's not just you.

I'm actually an idle bastard so I tend to assume that people "get it" without me bothering to go into details!

But I'll see what I can do with a Son of Negawatts maybe.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 08:56:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A bit OT, but if you could run through a typical LLP scenario for the following two scenarios:

a) Owning a property among family members

b) ...

In fact, as a) will probably affect most of us here sooner or later, we could make mental comparisons...ponder if it makes sense for us, and comment accordingly...

And then, yes, b) would be...once we have all clearly reached the "ah ha!" moment and are therefore primed:

b) The negawatt, distributed energy, LLP...

(Just suggestions...you know, there may be a wee bit of self interest going on here...;)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 11:21:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The classic example is via Lovins on a paper mill in New England that was in a bitter dispute with the enviros about their plan to dam a stream to generate power for a plant expansion. That is, they saw a X MW power requirement. Lovins convinced them to, instead, put in more efficient electrical motors which reduced power consumption by XMW, solving the problem without need for new generation.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 11:49:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
These magic waste disposal technologies are holes in the ground.  We have the technology to seal these holes for 300 years, after which the waste is a harmless as common rock.

Mine tailings (not overburden, I sure hope you know the difference) are of course not included in any estimates.  They are natural material taken out of the ground and should simply be put back there.

Reactor vessels should be recycled.  Most components of a reactor aren't even radioactive, and even those that are can always be recycled into a new nuclear reactor, where the activity obviously is no problem.

BTW: Negawatt is to power as starvation is to food.  Think about it.

by ustenzel on Sat Mar 17th, 2007 at 09:26:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I should not want to commit the heresy of doubting the word of the French State and its famously competent civil service, but not everyone accepts the ANDRA "analysis" (which oddly enough seems to have left out the existing leaks in the super safe well designed waste depositories that are absolutely assured to work brilliantly for 5 million years)

http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/nuclear-waste-crisis-france

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 08:32:04 AM EST
Greenpeace is not a reliable source. It's like asking nazis if jews really drink the blood of christian babies.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 08:42:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Greenpeace is analogous to nazis? Does this make the French Nuclear Waste Authorities analogous to victims in the camps?

That's what's so appealing about the pro-nuclear movement: hysterical, always ready to push a few ugly facts under the carpet, vituperative, and so on.

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 09:44:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
thank you for that comment

Having been working with environmental issues in Sweden for nearly 15 years, this is exactly the impression Greenpeace gives you when you try discussing real issues with them. Greenpeace will never hesitate to distort scientific facts if it fits their agenda. Of course there are plenty of environmentally honest people at the base of the organization and even as experts, but in many cases they are manipulated.

A Danish TV-documentary produced, if I remember right, in the beginning of the nineties explicitly showed :

  • that Greenpeace isn't a democratic organization and that its leadership hasn't any real accountability from the base
  • that the "founder" McTaggart has a very shadowy background, had warrants on him in Canada and the US for embezzlement and sat in jail in NZ for trafficking jewels.
  • that Grenpeace's money (inclusive the millions paid by France for the destruction of the Rainbow Warrior) were controlled by very few people.

Most of the revelations came from a former Greenpeace top member, a Dutch if I remember well.

After that the cancelled Greenpeace memberships exploded in Sweden.

by oldfrog on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 09:51:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's see:

Isn't a democratic organization: I agree
Leaders with shady background including actual collaborators with the Nazis and their disciples: Yes.
Money controlled by a very few people: Absolute.

A nice description of the French government.

But to return to nuclear, the credibility of the ANDRA documents Jerome cites is, for someone like me, somewhat vitiated by the absence of a prominent mention of the existing leaks in the sites that are supposed to be so safe that only irrational hippies will object.

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 10:10:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
how both sides of the debate on nuclear spend more time hurtling insults at one another than actually debating substance.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 11:04:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would love to believe in nuclear - it would be most convenient. However, when you point to the Andra site and I don't see a mention of (perhaps it is just my poor reading) of the fact that these superbly designed facilities that are assured by such conservative analysis are are already leaking - then it makes me doubt their veracity.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 11:31:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's a big 10-4, good buddy!  (I'm feeling at one with A'murka today.)

The various proofs, evidence, arguments, counter-arguments have left grooves in participant's minds.  Each side seem to be reduced to hurling slogans.  Thus a productive discussion between the pro and anti camps becomes impossible.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 11:55:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is no question that we have to work together and that every emissions-free solution must be examined from a scientific, factual, risk-versus-benefit basis.

Greenpeace disseminates false information and uses scare tactics to raise money.  It's a business.  It's mission is to take advantage of well-meaning people who care about the environment by preventing expansion of the largest displacer of greenhouse gases in the world.

The nuclear industry, at least in the US, has made one PR blunder after another over the years.  But it has learned from its mistakes.  It and the Department of Energy are now providing greater transparency.  They are also going to the trouble of trying to educate the public a little better and clear up misconceptions about nuclear energy and waste disposal.

Meanwhile, here's what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is predicting:

* Some 20 to 30 percent of all species face a "high risk of extinction" should average global temperatures rise another 1.5 to 2.5 degrees Celsius from their 1990 levels. That could happen by 2050, the report warns.
   * Coral reefs are "likely to undergo strong declines."
   * Salt marshes and mangrove forests could disappear as sea levels rise.
   * Tropical rainforests will be replaced by savanna in those regions where groundwater decreases.
   * Migratory birds and mammals will suffer as vegetation zones in the Artic shift.

The IPCC expects the following world regions to suffer the most due to climate change:

   * The Arctic due to the greatest relative warming
   * Small island states in the Pacific as sea levels rise
   * Africa south of the Sahel zone due to drought
   * Densely populated river deltas in Asia amid flooding


http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,469608,00.html
by Plan9 on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 12:23:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here are the problems with your argument

  1. I don't give a shit if Greenpeace is a business or a cult run by religious millinerians. They raise critical issues about nuclear that need to be properly addressed and attempts to dismiss the arguments because of totally undocumented assertions about the character of the organization are self-refuting.

  2. You attempt to show that nuclear is a good option by stressing the importance of doing something about climate change and that's not the correct logical progression. First, you need to address the known difficulties with nuclear and THEN you can argue for it to be a solution.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 12:32:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]

First, you need to address the known difficulties with nuclear and THEN you can argue for it to be a solution.

No - first we need to address the known difficulties with coal-fired electricity and THEN you can argue for nuclear to be phased out.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 12:52:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You remind me of my ex-friends who noted that the US Democratic party was corrupt, spineless, and guilty of all sorts of wrongdoing to justify voting Republican, sitting out the race, or voting for some protest candidate. It may well be that all options suck.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 01:06:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
oh yeah

but at least the "French government" (which isn't worse or better than many others and probably better then the current US one...) isn't pretending to be one of the "nice guys". You are comparing apples and oranges. It doesn't matter if your government is rotten or not when for a (theoretical) example it is revealed that the local Red Cross is embezzling money. The ones' misdeads don't excuse the other's.  

the point was to show that Greenpeace isn't a reliable source. That doesn't make the "French government" one either. The nuclear industry has pros and againsts as all other types of energy production. The only interesting part is to discuss if the pros override the againsts, or the contrary.

by oldfrog on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 11:05:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So tell me what is incorrect about what they say instead of giving me vague rumors about some obscure show you saw on Danish television years ago. The failings of Greenpeace  do not either fix the holes in the existing French storage facilities or mean that their deceptive pollyanaish "analysis" of waste disposal gains credibility.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 11:22:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is that, once you've said ANDRA has no credibility, and your opponents have said Greenpeace have no credibility, who do we listen to? You point to Greenpeace documents. They are rabidly anti-nuclear, and would prefer that no solution be found to the storage of existing waste (including by sabotaging its transport) just to make the point that nuclear is BAD. So it's stalemate. As in stale.

And meanwhile 2 coal-fired plants a week are built in China, because nobody really cares as passionately about that kind of pollution as they care about potential nuclear accidents.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 01:07:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We can start with a simple factual discussion: ANDRA has built waste disposal sites, that as Greenpeace points out and nobody has refuted, leak. My first concern about nuclear is that there is no solution to waste disposal. You cite a source that can be shown to be operating in bad faith. So what I need to be persuaded of nuclear is a responsible solution to the waste problem.

As for China, I sincerely doubt that the Chinese government cares if the 1st world nations build nuclear power plants or not. Furthermore, the same structural problems that kill thousands of Chinese miners each year and that litter the countryside with industrial and power plants that pour waste into the river and that have no environmental controls at all also operate in the Chinese nuclear power industry. You may feel all warm and fuzzy about the care which China is applying to nuclear power plant safety in construction, operation, and decomissioning, but I do not.

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 01:44:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll stand by the point that I made in my diary, i.e. that proper regulation is needed, which indeed creates quite a conundrum, as you point out.

But the fact remains that we in the West are currently more threatened by the pollution from Chinese coal plants than by our own nuclear plants.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 02:37:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So what makes you believe that "proper regulation is needed in nuclear" is not equivalent to "Bush needs to provide competent and principled strategies in Iraq"? My impression is that the nuclear industry is has inherent problems with secrecy and bloat.

And I still don't see how the Western nations building nuclear power plants does anything to mitigate coal plants in China/India etc.
Where is the linkage?

Finally, given that the US is not even taking action to deal with its top coal burning offenders, the whole "we need nukes now" story seems to lack something.

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 03:23:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]

"proper regulation is needed in nuclear" is equivalent to "Bush needs to provide competent and principled strategies in Iraq"

I hear what you say, and I have no easy answer. What I'd like though is that we try to apply the same standards to coal as we try to apply to nuclear.

I know that there is no direct link between us building nukes and China building coal plants - except that China's energy use is to a large extent linked to our moving our energy-intensive production capacity to them in order not to pay for pollution control, and that this energy use by China in turn pollutes us (not as much as it pollutes the Chinese, but increasingly a lot more than we pollute ourselves). This brings us back to our own unwillingness to "visualize" externalities in the price of goods we use, and to the even harder step to visualize externalities in trade patterns (by taxing imported goods that do not fulfill the same standards).

We need to lead by example in incorporating the invisible costs in the price of the energy we use - that will make it profitable for everybody else to incorporate that cost in their own production costs, and to tax those that don't. This takes us away from nuclear per se - but internalisation of externalities will be a lot more painful to coal-fired plants than to nuclear, even with real regulation is my (admittedly unproven) contention.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 04:10:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Coal:

http://www.dispatch.com/reports/reports.php?story=dispatch/2005/12/05/20051205-A1-00.html

The entire coal industry does not need to be replaced at once if we can reign in some of the worst offenders. Nicely enough, the worst plant in Ohio is sited close to one of its biggest customers - a uranium enrichment plant.

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 04:55:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You cite the dirty coal-fired plant as a reason not to have nuclear power.  As if there is no solution--as if uranium can only be enriched via coal combustion.

However...

There is a solution to having a raft of dirty coal-fired plants: nuclear plants.  Even if you include that production of CO2 in the comprehensive nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear power's overall CO2 contribution is about equal to that of wind energy and lower than solar power.

by Plan9 on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 05:10:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Tricastin, one of the biggest uranium enrichment plants in the world. It is powered by three of the four 900 MW reactors in the foreground. It will soon be decomissioned and replaced with one that is 20 times as energy efficient.


Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 05:28:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And just a few teaspoons of radioctive waste from the whole complex!
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 10:57:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 01:06:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Irony.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 02:29:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you'd better practice a bit more at it.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 03:07:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No. That is not even close.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 09:20:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is not even close?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:17:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is not even close to what I said. To me it was just ironic that the worst coal plant is used to produce power for an enrichment plant.  
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 10:59:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes well, very nice.

Let's shut the coal plant and build half a dozen big reactors instead.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 01:06:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
true, but the operative word is 'currently'.

by ramping up nuke production we effectively sprout another head on this hydra.

make a silly proposition to yourself...
e
if coal and nukes were fully revealed in their full awfulness, and there were a mass global public agreement to act as if they were to be phased out ASAP, would human ingenuity cope to provide wherewithal for continued social survival?

since such a high percentage of the planetary population is living below the poverty line anyway, and would be blissed at the thought of a humble life, if it provided the basics, clean air, water, safe food supply, and a little electricity, its not they who are spiked on the horns of this decisive -and divisive-dilemna.

they will however continue to suck up the worst of the drastic, incremental changes caused by global warming.

so as metaphors go, the one of a couple of fatcat capitalists arguing over whether to have the caviar or the foie gras, while the starving beg for crumbs out in the cold, comes readily to mind.

we have profited off of two centuries plus of coal use, now we want china to forswear it, or go nuke...

luckily china is nice and far from israel, or we probably wouldn't be so keen!

iran, otoh, can't keep its holocaust denying loudmouth from enjoying his right to 'free speech', and therefore can't go nuclear, and must be sanctioned, shunned by the 'wise and responsible' daddy-figures who have decided who's 'trustworthy'-india, pakistan-?!?!.

of course money can't be found in enough quantity to pay lobbyists to campaign for a truly intelligent, scalable at every level -except the grotesquely indulgent lifestyles we think are normal here in the 'west', and which are being aped to even more parodical proportions out in the petrocapitals of the new shiny, 6star world corporate order.

humans are not angels, and would do right to pull back from some challenges, imo, especially that of responsibly managing a nuke industry that has lost its right to be trusted, over and over.

i wish nuclear power had never been invented, period.

because then we wouldn't be having these superdraining, discordant discussions, and that energy would be going into facing and surmounting our problems, chief of which is how to scale back demand from the unconscious, and unconscionable idiocy that it is today, with peoples' value systems so far up the consumer creek, that nuclear power starts to look the like best paddle.

cognitive dissonance will only go so far, before common sense will prevail, now or later, makes no difference in the long run.

in the short run, it matters a great deal...can we use this energy squeeze to finally learn to discriminate, en interconnected masse, between quality of life and quantity of possessions?

utopia, schmootopia, call it what you want, i'm aware of the improbability of what i endorse happening.

but the alternatives are too grim: continued reliance on coal, or mass switch to nukes, a grisly sophies' choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 10:32:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah yes, the deep blue sea.



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 07:08:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
2 coal-fired plants a week are built in China, because nobody really cares as passionately about that kind of pollution as they care about potential nuclear accidents

What about :
"2 coal-fired plants a week are built in China, because they have coal available and don't really care about pollution anyway."

Followed by :
"there isn't a thing we can do or will do about that, so that'll be true for the predictable future, and not only in China."

And finally :
"The planet is doomed."

Any hole in this argument anywhere ?

by balbuz on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 02:03:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The planet will survive......humans maybe....

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)
by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 02:27:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
because nobody really cares as passionately about that kind of pollution as they care about potential nuclear accidents.

 . . . and who has ever heard of Belarus, anyway?  Fewer and fewer will from now on!  Maybe it will just drop off maps of Europe, like those 19th century maps of Africa that had big "uncharted" gray areas!  

Let me take this comment to say that it is the dumbest of dumb arguments to argue FOR nuclear by arguing against coal.  

So coal is bad?  That is an argument for negawatts, which we have already suspected is the heart of any survival-oriented plan.  

Why don't we plan for survival, rather than for new ways too feed our addictions and then die more horribly?  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 01:07:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can we just say that Greenpeace is very partial and uncompromising on nuclear? Comparing them to nazis is unhelpful.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 11:02:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I never compared Greenpeace to nazis, but just used the first illustration of a slanted and partial review that came to my mind.

If anyone took offence at my illustration, I humbly ask for forgiveness.

And I repeat, Greenpeace are not a bunch of nazis. But they are still completely useless as source of practically anything.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 11:23:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But your remark was irrelevant as well as inflamatory. Jerome cited the French Government site as a source of information on disposal of nuclear waste, I responded by citing the Greenpeace report on the <u>existing leaks</u> in the French government facility. Since, as far as I know, nobody claims that these leaks are not leaking, it's pointles to attack the general credibility of Greenpeace.

Here's the problem. The ANDRA explanation is absolutely typical for pro-nuclear argument: our position is "science based" , "most conservative assumptions", blah blah - obviously any critic is hysterical and so on. But, in actual fact, their medium waste site ALREADY LEAKS.

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 09:12:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you consider that Greenpeace is not a valid source, that purported leak would logically be treated as imaginary and unproven, and not require refutation.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 04:36:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 08:30:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, it was inflammatory. It was written in anger without really thinking and I am sorry about that.

But still, Greenpeace is not reliable.

What leaks? Non-GP source, please. Preferably peer-reviewed.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:17:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can we just say that Greenpeace is very partial and uncompromising on nuclear?

I'd much prefer that we say "unscientific" when we mean "unscientific" and "lying scum" when we mean "lying scum".  Greenpeace is somewhere along that scale.  Or maybe it gets less offensive when I instead call them "honesty challenged"?  Nah, maybe not.

by ustenzel on Sat Mar 17th, 2007 at 09:13:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
With 50+ years of operation no state has yet created a single permanent storage facility for nuclear waste. Instead various ad hoc things have been done including keeping waste on site and constantly changing the rules as to how it should be stored.

A perfect example is the (close to NYC) Indian Point facility. Since they have never been able to activate their disposal plan the spent fuel rods are stored outside the containment building in water baths. These have now been reconfigured so that the rods are closer together than the original design permitted.

Even so the pools are full and they are moving to dry storage for some of the "cooler" rods. The pools have had leaks of radioactive water on a regular basis and there is a continuing one right now with no idea of where it is coming from. The water eventually seeps into the nearby Hudson River. The amount is too small to be harmful, but that is just a matter of luck.

While the reactor is well built to withstand an attack or accident the same is not true for the waste. Breaching the fence, an attack from the river or even from the opposite shore would be hard to detect in advance. The result could be the dispersal of radioactive material into the surrounding communities. Civil defense preparedness is poor. The siren system continually fails tests. The evacuation plans have been shown by local politicians to be inadequate and impossible to implement. The number of people that would need to leave within a five mile radius (on both sides of the river) and the carrying capacity of the local roads means that all plans are unrealistic.

When this was pointed out the nuclear regulator commission ignored the objections and claimed that the plans were adequate. Local concerns are overridden by special purpose federal legislation which only applies to nuclear plants and not to other forms of power generation. Demands to close the plant have been thwarted for decades. Senator Clinton has just introduced legislation to prevent a renewal of the operating license of the plans (again).

The operator is asking for an extension beyond the original design lifetime (as do all nuclear operators).

In Ohio there was this incident of a couple of years ago:

The NRC launched an investigation earlier this year after a severely corroded cavity was found in the reactor vessel head at FirstEnergy's 25-year-old plant in Oak Harbor, Ohio. The corrosion had nearly eaten through a metal plate about six inches (15-cm) thick.
...
The corrosion was so severe that a 3/8-inch (1-cm) thick stainless steel liner inside the reactor was the only barrier left between the reactor core, which operates under enormous pressure, and the metal shroud surrounding the reactor vessel.

Since this type of corrosion had not be expected there was no maintenance procedure designed to fix it. Luckily (for the operator) a spare lid from a discontinued plant was salvaged and installed, putting the plant out of service for several years and costing $100+ million in repairs.

I think a good first step would be a moratorium on all new plant construction until all the present waste has been properly dealt with.

I doubt that costs have been properly calculated. It is too tempting to push costs into the future as yet another externality. Full cost accounting would show that nuclear is not competitive with existing fuels. This might change if the cost of carbon emissions could be included in present operating expenses. Both sectors (nuclear and fossil) have vested interests in making sure that their costs are underestimated.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 09:13:43 AM EST
In the US if nuclear plants do not add reactors, to meet the electricity demand even more coal-fired plants will go online.  And their waste under present regulation is stored in the environment.

There is no technical reason why the fuel in the spent fuel pools at Indian Point cannot be transferred to thick concrete casks.  This is going on at other plants.

Once the corroded reactor head was discovered in Ohio--thanks to other nuclear plant operators elsewhere ratting out the company that had been covering up the problem--other reactor heads of the same design were replaced around the country.

The total production of spent nuclear fuel in 50 years of operation in the US comes to 56,000 metric tons.  The yearly total: 2000 metric tons. A single small coal-fired plant produces a greater tonnage of solid waste in a year than 103 reactors do. That coal fly ash and slurry is neither isolated nor contained and it contains concentrated toxic heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, and mercury.  It also contains concentrated U-235.

An outstanding advantage of nuclear over fossil fuel energy is how easy it is to deal with the waste it produces. Fossil fuel burning produces twenty seven thousand million tons of carbon dioxide yearly. This is enough if solidified to make a mountain nearly two kilometres high and with a base ten kilometres in circumference. The same quantity of energy if it came from nuclear reactions would make fourteen thousand tons of high level waste. A quantity that occupies a sixteen-metre sided cube.  
                      James Lovelock
by Plan9 on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 12:36:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Lovelock's argument is typical of the problem.  Uranium tailings, and "low and medium" level waste are produced in giant volumes and the high level waste cannot be disposed of in a 16meter cube. It's just deceptive to cast the argument in such terms.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 12:44:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Uranium is one of the densest substances on the planet.  Therefore its volume is small.

It takes one million metric tons of coal to supply the same amount of energy as a single truckload of uranium ore.

Furthermore you can't keep burning coal waste over and over again to produce more energy.  But you can do that with spent nuclear fuel.  The lifetime quantity of nuclear waste for a family of four in France who get all their energy from nuclear power could fit into a coffee cup.  That's because the fuel is reprocessed.

If uranium tailings are stabilized and capped they do not present a hazard. The problem is not the uranium--it's the thorium, which emits radon.  It is not an insoluble problem to control tailings piles or to dispose of medium and low-level radioactive waste from the nuclear fuel cycle.  It is minuscule in comparison to fossil fuel waste, which you are probably breathing right now and which is warming up the planet.

by Plan9 on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 12:56:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you really believe this?


The magnitude of the problem becomes
apparent when one considers that the operation of a
1 GW reactor for 1 a, using an ore supply of 0.5%
U30s, will result in -30,000 m3 of tailings (URANIUM
INS11TUTE1, 1984). Ore grades at mills in the U.S.A.
have typically been lower than 0.5% U30s, and
hence the tailings volume per unit of power has been
greater. The present volume of tailings in the U.S.A.
is -140M m3 (U.S. DEPARTMENTO F ENERGY,1 989).

http://www.geobacter.org/publications/Appl_Geochem_1991.pdf

It's easy to find actual data, so when pro nuclear people give us absurd fairy tales about "teaspoons" it makes me extremely dubious that they have any  idea.

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 01:02:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This ONLY the tailings. They are the only VOLUME problem.
Real waste (that went through a reactor) is small. And the tailings are not more radioactive than natural rock in areas of high natural radioactivity. And you get just as much, if not more, when mining for coal and non-energy resources.

You are trying to mix up problems to make your point appear compelling against all sensible reasoning.

Pierre

by Pierre on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 01:23:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"the tailings are not more radioactive than natural rock"

Sheesh.

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 01:35:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The radioactive material, natural uranium, has been removed from the rock.  It's very valuable. It is transformed into fuel pellets for nuclear reactors.  The tailings are what is left after the natural uranium is removed.  The hazard they pose is from radon gas emitted by the thorium that coexists with uranium in raw ore.

However, people in parts of India and Brazil live on natural thorium formations that give them a much higher dose of radiation than most of us experience.  No health effects have been found.

by Plan9 on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 01:40:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's review: You tell us that nuclear waste is a friendly small puppy that can be easily housed in a coffee cup by a happy French family who is not frightened by those terrible hippies. But when we point out that there are millions of tons of radioactive and heavy metal contaminated tailings produced in the mining/milling process alone, you tell us that, well, people in Brazil live on worse and it is "only the thorium" that is a problem. Do you have the faintest glimmerings of why such arguments are not at all reassuring?
 
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 01:49:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They are not reassuring to you because you have a religious belief that anything nuclear is bad, evil, deadly, terrifying, etc.  You get your information from sources that reinforce that superstition.

You do not discriminate between low-dose and high-dose radiation, between possibility and probability, between risk and consequence.  Your mind is already totally made up. (I know all this because I was once in the same position about nuclear energy.)

So it is not helpful to you when people try to provide perspective, both on the problem of catastrophic global warming and on the realities of energy production and consumption and on the realities of the historical record.

You are the one introducing emotionally charged words like "happy," "terrible hippies," etc.  I am an enviro- hippie and I am offended. I am not terrible! And no Frenchman likes to be labeled "happy"--just ask Albert Camus or Jacques Derrida.  Suffering was invented by the French.

by Plan9 on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 02:21:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the contrary, I keep hoping for a better nuclear technology and industry, but I keep running into the same failure and misleading arguments.

Even if you close your eyes and pretend tailings don't exist, that we don't have to worry about decomissioning, and so on, this story about a few meters of waste is disturbingly deceptive marketing nonsense. We cannot dispose of high level waste in a nice big box because it it TOO HOT and must be distributed in a large number of containment vessels and over time all the various methods for making and burying such vessels have been shown to be flawed. So when the nuclear advocates come out with such misleading and plainly fraudulent arguments, I and many other people get the same sense that we do reading those emails from people in Nigeria who need our assistance on a minor banking issue.

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 02:28:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
nology, you will be very interested in this article in Scientific American, as I was.  Or perhaps you are already very familiar with it.  Or perhaps you distrust scientific, peer-reviewed articles.  But someone else might find it interesting.


Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste

Despite long-standing public concern about the safety of nuclear energy, more and more people are realizing that it may be the most environmentally friendly way to generate large amounts of electricity. Several nations, including Brazil, China, Egypt, Finland, India, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea and Vietnam, are building or planning nuclear plants. But this global trend has not as yet extended to the U.S., where work on the last such facility began some 30 years ago.

If developed sensibly, nuclear power could be truly sustainable and essentially inexhaustible and could operate without contributing to climate change. In particular, a relatively new form of nuclear technology could overcome the principal drawbacks of current methods--;namely, worries about reactor accidents, the potential for diversion of nuclear fuel into highly destructive weapons, the management of dangerous, long-lived radioactive waste, and the depletion of global reserves of economically available uranium. This nuclear fuel cycle would combine two innovations: pyrometallurgical processing (a high-temperature method of recycling reactor waste into fuel) and advanced fast-neutron reactors capable of burning that fuel. With this approach, the radioactivity from the generated waste could drop to safe levels in a few hundred years, thereby eliminating the need to segregate waste for tens of thousands of years...

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=000D5560-D9B2-137C-99B283414B7F0000

by Plan9 on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 03:38:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Scientific American is not a peer reviewed journal as far as I know.

Fast breeders - nothing safer than a bunch of molton flouride or sodium shooting around  fissile core! We like to keep 'em around the house.

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 03:51:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now what's your problem with molten fluoride (especially compared to super-critical water) and what's a fast reactor got to do with fluoride anyway?  Could it be that you don't know what you're talking about?
by ustenzel on Sat Mar 17th, 2007 at 08:54:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh.

In particular, a relatively new form of nuclear technology could overcome the principal drawbacks of current methods--;namely, worries about reactor accidents, the potential for diversion of nuclear fuel into highly destructive weapons, the management of dangerous, long-lived radioactive waste, and the depletion of global reserves of economically available uranium.

So, we're planning to build the new technology then, not the old type that has the drawbacks outlined above--by Scientific American?  (Or do disagree with their analysis of the drawbacks of current technology?)

</snark ;)>

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 03:53:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mine tailings are natural rock, minus some uranium.  Putting them back where they were in the first place is no problem, with in-situ leaching it's not even worth debating.
by ustenzel on Sat Mar 17th, 2007 at 08:46:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tailings concentrate the unwanted - from the miners perspective - metals and salts contained within the natural rock.  These do leech into the ground and sub-surface water systems and, through weather, pollute and contaminate the topsoils in and around the mine eventually spreading into the surrounding area.

If one wishes to discuss underlying fundamentals of nuclear energy then the costs - direct and indirect monetary AND non-monetary - have to be recognized and accounted.  


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 01:41:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I suggest that you start by taking a look at the vast quantities of coal waste, laden with toxic heavy metals, that are leaching into the water table.  Take a look at the unlined slurry ponds.  Note the scale of these operations.  You don't have to travel far--you can visit the huge coal-fired plants in the Four Corners.

After you have evaluated the staggering volume of uncontained pollutants unleashed by making electricity from coal and compared it to the quantity produced by making electricity from uranium, and figured out how to prevent that terribly destructive and deadly practice, and after you have thought about which base load source is the world's largest displacer of greenhouse gases, and after you have noted what the most optimistic projections are for renewables supplying even 20-30% of our electricity, then you might be able to choose more carefully whether you prefer more fossil fuel plants to be built to meet the growing demand or whether nuclear plants seem like a wiser option.

by Plan9 on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 02:27:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So we are supposed to be reassured that a near disaster in Ohio was averted by someone "ratting out" the company. That's not a good recommendation for building more plants.

If the amount of nuclear waste is so small then why hasn't a suitable site been developed for it by now?

Storing spent fuel outside the main reactor vessel may be "safe" from an engineering point of view, but it is a violation of the promises made when the plants were built and it is an invitation to terrorists to try their luck.

You can't argue by analogy either, two wrongs don't make a right, problems with coal do not excuse problems with nuclear.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 12:59:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Argument one: NIMBY.

Argument two: there is simply no need for a terminal storage facility at this point. The US haven't yet started to implement fuel reprocessing, so there is no way they will send anything to storage now, they will first cycle it through reactors again.

And in France, where recycling is widespread, the amount of terminal (two-pass recycled) waste eligible for long term storage is near zero (remember that even though big amounts of fuel already have been twice through french reactors, those who have completed the second cycle are at most a decade old, and still in the cooling pond for ten more years).

The "emergency" of finding good sites is on a 20-year timescale, it's not that like we already need them badly. The US not reprocessing their fuel for three decades because of stupid "proliferation concerns" is, on the other hand, a total screw up and a big waste inventory management problem.

Pierre

by Pierre on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 01:29:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reactor operators know that if there is a problem at one plant then it is going to tar the whole industry.  So they do watch one another and report on utilities than are trying to do something unsatisfactory.  If only the coal industry had the same motivation!  There was no "near-disaster" in Ohio. It was an example of shoddy maintenance, and Davis-Besse, the company responsible, was seriously fined.

Nuclear waste has been successfully stored since 1999 at a deep geologic repository in New Mexico.  The history of nuclear waste disposal in the US is fraught with politics and off-again on-again funding of R &D going back to the 1950s.  The problems at Yucca Mountain are almost all of a political nature and have to do with bureaucracy, spendthrift contractors, Congressional changes of attitude, etc.  These have been and are problems that also occur in the wind business.

The National Academy of Sciences, an objective body, has found Yucca Mountain to be adequate as a repository site.

I invite you to learn something about how nuclear plants are quite invulnerable to terrorist attack:

http://www.nrc.gov/security/faq-security-assess-nuc-pwr-plants.html

by Plan9 on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 01:51:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For an account of the all too typical "science" at New Mexico's WIPP site see

http://www.unm.edu/~ryand/otherwipp/otherwipp5.html

As usual, grand predictions are made and then falsified by experience and then new predictions with rosier assumptions are made and so on.

Of course, as you know, New Mexico's WIPP site is not for high level waste, so if you wanted to make a good, responsible argument you would have alerted your readers to that instead of waiting for a critic to point it out.

And so on.

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 01:59:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The info you present is not science-based, and the claims have long since been discredited.  To put it simply, if the salt bed was full of water, as your highly biased source claims, then the salt would melt.  There would be no salt bed.  In fact,the salt bed has been around for hundreds of millions of years and is extremely dry.

Remote-handled waste will be stored at WIPP.  

There is no technical reason why WIPP could not store spent nuclear fuel as well. But it's much better to keep that fuel where it can be easily retrieved and recycled.  

I suggest you get your information from objective sources--the National Academy of Sciences, for example.  

by Plan9 on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 02:15:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just want to point out:

A) Your source is biased
B) Here are some ridiculously over-simplified "science for dummies" talking points.

is a poor argument strategy.

Is it your contention that Professor Anderson does not know that salt dissolves in water?

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 03:40:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The arguments Anderson makes were carefully analyzed by not only the WIPP geologists and hydrologists but also by an independent watchdog group of scientists assigned to find every possible flaw as well as by the National Academy of Sciences WIPP panel.

The science has been thoroughly vetted and has survived various court cases all the way up to the federal level.  The opposition science failed to prove its contentions either to the independent panels, to outside peer review panels, and to the judges.  The salt bed at the site of the repository is stable and extremely arid, with water occurring as droplets in salt crystals that help make the salt plastic and therefore a medium that can enclose, immobilize, and seal the waste barrels. There is no flowing water at the WIPP site.  The salt bed has survived very rainy periods without being eroded away because it is located between two impermeable layers of rock similar to concrete.

 The people behind the project had no wish to see it fail and in fact sought out and encouraged every kind of objection, no matter how farfetched  (i.e., alien space ship crashes into repository).

Drilling of course is forbidden at the site, which will be actively guarded for a century.  It is doubtful that even in 50 years oil will be a common fuel.

I hope that your wish for perfection regarding every aspect of the nuclear fuel cycle extends to every aspect of the fossil fuel cycle.

by Plan9 on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 04:59:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Would you care to describe the disaster that would have happened at Ohio had the acid eaten through the reactor head?  A causal chain of events with a rough estimate of the human casualties would be nice.  Thanks in advance.
by ustenzel on Sat Mar 17th, 2007 at 08:45:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Finland is currently building a deep repository. Sven wrote a bit about it and I linked to his story in my story about spent fuel, which Jerome linked to in this story.

Sweden will start building a repository with the same technology in a couple of years.

It's the once-through cycle.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 11:31:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
no state has yet created a single permanent storage facility for nuclear waste.

Sweden doesn't count?  And did you know that no state has ever built a permanent storage facility for the dangerous fossil fuel waste?  It's carelessly dispersed into the environment with no way to ever clean the spills up!

spent fuel rods are stored outside the containment building

Outside the main containment, but inside a weaker containment.  Which is okay, since this building doesn't need to withstand an overheating reactor inside it.

leaks of radioactive water

Yes, about as radioactive as orange juice, but with a much shorter half life.

dispersal of radioactive material into the surrounding communities

How do you disperse cold heavy metals?  Note that this old spent fuel does not contain the iodine that wreaked havoc around Chernobyl.

Full cost accounting would show

Please show the numbers.  Supported estimates would be good enough for the time being.  (Yes, coal is cheaper.  You aren't really advocating for coal, are you?)

You could be taken more serious if you wouldn't try to put a spin on everything, btw.  Or maybe you shouldn't be listening to Ms. Caldicott so much.

by ustenzel on Sat Mar 17th, 2007 at 08:36:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which is:  too many people for the planet.  

This is the most important underlying fundamental of nuclear power (or not) but also Global Warming, Peak Oil, environmental destruction, over-extraction of natural resources (e.g., the fish stocks are gone) ... just about any long term problem you can name is significantly impacted, one way or another, by over-population.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 02:21:37 PM EST
According to the living planet report, we only have to much rich people. (And no, that is not the way they put in the report)

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 06:53:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Okay, then please help solving the problem by dying now.  Thanks for your participation.
by ustenzel on Sat Mar 17th, 2007 at 08:54:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The executive summary seems to be that nuclear has the potential to be safe providing it's run by highly professional adults with a safety-first mindset.

It should be obvious there's a problem right there. The UK's nuclear industry has been tainted by too many borderline criminal actions - such as the deliberate forging of safety inspection records - to make it trustworthy.

If the political problems can't be solved, technical issues become irrelevant. And given the bumbling idiocy with which successive UK governments have mismanaged most of the UK's large infrastructure projects for the last fifty years, and the rampant revolving-door corruption endemic in the UK, it's difficult to feel that the nuclear industry is in safe hands.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 04:24:03 PM EST
Back to the "enterprise model" again:
(a)a nuclear plant run "for profit"  is always going to be problematic;
(b) it was a State owned reactor at Chernobyl...

IMHO we need what Grameen Bank's Yunus calls "Not for Loss"....

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 04:44:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
yeah, i think that's why italy was so radically agin it...

revolving door corruption......nailed in one

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 11:54:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In september I wrote This summers incident at Forsmark. I have been meaning to make a follow-up both I was to busy when it all went down in january.

Instead you will get the shorter comment version. All is from my memory, so it might be incomplete and/or have faulty details. Timeline as I remember it:

  1. There was an incident at the nuclear plant in Forsmark in july. (Described in This summers incident at Forsmark)
  2. Investigations were made and lots of comforting sounds were made from Vattenfall, the governmentally owned company in charge.
  3. An internal report was leaked to a journalist, who made a television show that was aired in january.
  4. The bosses of the branch at Forsmark were replaced and I think IAEA has been asked to assist in a full investigation.

The essens of the leaked report was that the incident was due to a lax take on security that had evovled through a deteriorating safety culture. This had gone on for years. As I remember it, it also more or less concluded that it was mostly dumb luck that it did not become a melt-down.

The atomic energy inspektion apparently also had got lax, because they were neither familiar with the report or what it described. Their representative looked quite shocked when he read the report.

The local head honcho politician on the other hand did not care about the report but declared the plant "200% safe". After being pressed on the issue of the information she claimed that it can cause panic to let people know of problems and therefore information needs to be controlled.

And I think this incident and its aftermath points at the longterm problems of keeping it safe. As long as nothing happens the watchdogs can fall asleep, perhaps lulled by each others snoring. This time they were awaken by a non-deadly incident, some employees with the sense to leak the report and a journalist not afraid to tackle the issues. And I fully expect some measures to be taken, and swedish nuclear power and inspections to be great the coming years.

Maybe the binary nature of nuclear incidents (nothing happened / KA-BLAMA) makes safety regulations trickier.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 07:29:49 PM EST
mostly dumb luck that it did not become a melt-down  

When Browns Ferry caught fire, lost all control systems, and came withing 30 minutes of a complete meltdown in 1975, it was the "safest reactor design" in America.  And really, the design engineers themselves were surprised--but they hadn't counted on a fire burning the insulation off BOTH sets of (the redundant) control systems.  

Three Mile Island is more famous.  A third of the core actually was destroyed, although the last minute restoration of cooling prevented the rest from melting through.  

It is hard to maintain elaborate safety proceedures over prolonged periods of time (decades) especially if they cost money.  

What you call the binary nature of failure is an important point that may deserve more emphasis.  Annecdote:  I am reading a book on arcitechtural materials and get to the part where it describes that glass is never used as a structural material.  While I am thinking, yeah? so? I read on:  Glass is both stronger and cheaper than steel, can be conveniently shaped, on and on, really, it is better than anything, just ideal!--except:  When a glass structure fails, it almost always fails without warning.  One moment it is (looks) fine, the next it is collapsing completely and catastrophically.  So:  Despite its many attractions, architects just don't use glass for load bearing-parts.  

Which is a long way of saying:  Some technologies simply cannot be used.  Despite any, perhaps many, benefits there is no wisdom to it.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 12:08:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The interesting aspect of the Browns Ferry fire is that an intervention succeeded in shutting down the reactor.  The incident has been studied in depth and information applied to making nuclear plants safe.

The NRC made sure that all insulation in every plant is fireproof.

How about a little indignation about the 24,000 deaths per year caused by coal combustion in the US as well as the hundreds of thousands of cases of lung and heart disease?  Where's the outrage?

Without new nuclear plants, many more fossil fuel plants are going to be built to meet growing electricity demand.

by Plan9 on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 01:31:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The local head honcho politician on the other hand did not care about the report but declared the plant "200% safe". After being pressed on the issue of the information she claimed that it can cause panic to let people know of problems and therefore information needs to be controlled.

Four words: unfit for public service.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 05:36:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
after reading it ... extremely good.

One thing to tackle: Amory Lovins/et al arguments that nuclear power is not cost effective relative to all other options.

Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart. NOW!!!

by a siegel (siegeadATgmailIGNORETHISdotPLEASEcom) on Sun Mar 11th, 2007 at 11:29:35 PM EST

See "The Economic Future of Nuclear Power," U. of Chicago, http://www.anl.gov/Special_Reports/NuclEconAug04.pdf

I trust very little of what Lovins says.  As a former consultant to Enron, he used to lead off his website with a quote from the criminal Jeffrey Skilling: "Nuclear power is dead."  He makes a living consulting to fossil fuel companies and prefers to burn fossil fuels. His schemes always require burning natural gas, combustion of which contributes 20% of US CO2 emissions.  He comes up with convoluted calculations and tortured logic that have been debunked by his peers.

If the fossil fuel industry ever has to pay for its carbon waste, nuclear will become the cheapest large-scale option. But already in the US nuclear is competitive with coal in terms of cost. Start-up costs for a nuclear plant are indeed high but in about eight years it is making a profit.

Here's what a Canadian scientist has to say about the bogus info floating around about the cost of nuclear power:

The debate over nuclear power is so polarizing that it is little wonder that people who are not experts in the energy industry do not know whom to believe. I'm writing about the articles recently on the nuclear power debate.

As another scientist (I feel like I need to apologize for that) who knows a lot about the industry, I recognize that there are grey areas in this debate.
However, it is frustrating to see some statements made that are absolutely not true, yet portrayed as fact.
An example of a frequent one that was repeated in the opinion piece by Janet Fraser -- and I'm not blaming her because she heard David Suzuki say that same thing -- is that nuclear power is expensive. This is simply untrue.

Ontario's experience notwithstanding, there is nothing inherently expensive about it. For example, countries in Europe that have very high concentrations of nuclear power generation, France (80 per cent) and Sweden (50 per cent), have among the lowest electricity rates (residential and industrial) on the continent.
While there were cost overruns in Ontario nuclear projects, the six most recent Canadian nuclear projects, carried out overseas subsequent to Darlington, were delivered on budget and on time.
Yet, even with the cost overruns on the Ontario projects, the most expensive electricity in Ontario is that produced by natural gas and wind power. These are facts that you will not read about on the websites of groups that oppose nuclear energy, but they are the facts and can be found on websites that don't care one way or another about the subject.
. . . The Society of Energy Professionals, a 7,000 strong group of engineers and scientists who work in the electricity sector in Ontario, of which I am a member, advocate aggressive conservation measures, expansion of wind power and other renewables and the use of biofuels to offset the carbon footprint of fossil-fired generation.

In short, this is much the same path advocated by the Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace and others. However, our group also advocates a reliance on nuclear for baseload power generation in Ontario. It is the only economical, low-carbon footprint generation source available for baseload power generation.
. . .
You do not have to be against nuclear power to be an environmentalist. I, too, am concerned about climate change, have children whose future I would like to safeguard and live downwind of Nanticoke, yet I have no concerns about it being potentially converted to a nuclear power plant. If it were, it would eliminate about 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year, equivalent to taking about four million cars off of the road in Ontario; just about all of them in other words.

There is nothing else that I have seen proposed that would come anywhere close to making that kind of difference.

http://www.hamiltonspectator.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=hamilton/Layout/Article_PrintFrien dly&c=Article&cid=1173394213062
by Plan9 on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 08:02:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Michael Ivanco is an employee of Atomic Energy of Canada.

BTW: the extend to which the French state subsidizes electric power rates is hotly debated.

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 09:19:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]

In France the government (EDF) sponsors energy production.  

Denmark's wind program is completely reliant on subsidies.

For all its wind turbines, a large proportion of the rest of Denmark's power is generated by plants that burn imported coal.

"We are losing ground," said Anne Grete Holmsgaard, the energy spokeswoman for the opposition Socialist People's Party in Denmark. "It's terrible, actually, that we're not that green as we should be."

The Danish experience shows how difficult it can be for countries grown rich on fossil fuels to switch to renewable energy sources like wind power. Among the hurdles are fluctuating political priorities, the high cost of putting new turbines offshore, concern about public acceptance of large wind turbines and the volatility of the wind itself.

But countries like Denmark are far ahead of the United States in overall use of green electricity, mostly because of government support.
[snip]
Of the thousands of megawatts of wind power added last year around the world, only 8 megawatts were installed in Denmark, said Preben Maegaard, the executive director of the Nordic Folkecenter for Renewable Energy, a nonprofit group.

If higher subsidies had been maintained, he said, Denmark could now be generating close to one-third -- rather than one-fifth -- of its electricity from windmills.


http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/07/business/businessspecial2/07europe.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
by Plan9 on Mon Mar 12th, 2007 at 09:45:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EDF is the single most profitable company in France today (it has higher operating profits than Total).

It has been sending money to the government (NOT the other way around) for the past 25 years. The only way it was ever subsidized is by being able to borrow at the same interest rate as the government (an explicit payment guarantee, that was never called upon, obviously).

The main job for EDF's accountants has always been to hide money and to make it appear that it spends more than it really does (since privatisation, this is changing a bit...)

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 04:09:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is only true if you believe that the full cost of waste disposal and decommissioning is accounted for. As usual, EDF plans on sticking the taxpayer with the bill

All energy production right now is based on failing to account for externalities.

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 07:59:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not in Sweden, it's not.
That's the beauty of SKB and this Swedish system. It's already payed for. Every kilowatt-hour of nuclear electricity is taxed 0,1 eurocents and put in the (for other purposes) untouchable nuclear waste fund. It currently stands at 4 billion euros (the total cost for the waste program will be about twice that). This fund covers all the cost of all nuclear waste, from the waste research to shipping waste to dismantling the power plants to building the repository. All waste costs are internalised in the price of nuclear power. If coal, oil and gas were forced to do this all fossil power companies and their sucontractors of all kinds in the entire world would swiftly go bankrupt.


"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 08:02:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually EDF also has provisioned billions for the decommissionning. The worrying stuff is that the bankrupt french state could be tempted to seize it, it's totally the other way round.

Pierre
by Pierre on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 08:36:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Give me a break. The court of accounts report is well known.

http://www.nuclearspin.org/index.php/EDF_Group

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 09:28:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 09:34:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This page contains the report broken down into chapters as well as an executive summary (synthèse).

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 10:43:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is very interesting that Miguel posted the actual report, so everyone can check that what it says has absolutely nothing to do with the fantasies of the rag you point to...

Pierre
by Pierre on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 09:49:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I got the link from the footnotes to the "rag".

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 09:53:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
those guys are quite unashamed.

Pierre
by Pierre on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 10:06:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They claim
Lack of Decommissioning Funds.

France's Court of Accounts, which oversees the finances of public bodies and state-owned enterprises, said in a controversial report published in January 2005, that debt-laden EDF had only what it termed an "embryo" of the money needed for decommissioning and waste management after the closure of its nuclear facilities. It's heavy spending abroad on acquisitions in recent years has squandered finances. Basically EDF used its decommissioning funds to buy up companies abroad including large swaths of the British energy sector, and a stake in the Italian utility Edison. [CdC report]

The Court of Accounts said EDF's preparations for nuclear decommissioning raised concerns that decommissioning costs would fall on future consumers or the state. Having unnecessarily given large contracts to Areva over past years to reprocess its spent fuel, EDF has accumulated over 80 tons of plutonium, and vast quantities of nuclear waste at the reprocessing plant at La Hague. So it is now confronted with huge liabilities, but insufficient funds to cover them.

I just took a quick look at the conclusions (the thing is over 200 pages long) but didn't find what it's claimed the report "says", or the word "embryo". A page number would be nice.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 10:14:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The conclusion of the report has nothing special to say about decommissionning costs of existing installations (which are "well evaluated" they say), the "ugly" and expensive business having been the decomissionning the 50's dual-use sites of CEA. They worry about the truthfulness of accounts for long term storage because the evaluation of discounted costs doesn't seem so convincing to them.

Nothing about foreign investment policy (this was not the scope of the report). I remember the coverage that report had in the business press at the time of its publication. They didn't point to the lack of funds, but to the fact that the amount and where they where invested in the interim, wasn't made public.

Question to which I have my answer: if it was known to the greater public that EDF has dozens of billions of savings "available", it would become a political prize for which every party would quickly find a demagogic use, and then plant decommissionning would be compromised... After all, it's not like all our politicians had been managing the country (and its debt) that way for the past 3 decades.

Pierre

by Pierre on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 10:27:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I just took a quick look at the conclusions (the thing is over 200 pages long) but didn't find what it's claimed the report "says", or the word "embryo".

??? See on page 206, the second point in the unnumbered list.

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

by DoDo on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 10:38:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks. Let's just quote the entire EDF conclusions, for good measure (pages 192-3):
En 2000, à la suite de son avant-dernier contrôle d'EDF, la Cour avait rappelé les points forts de la stratégie financière de l'entreprise : le désendettement et la constitution des provisions de démantèlement devaient conduire à définir les critères de rentabilité de la gestion des actifs financiers constitués en vue de couvrir les engagements à long terme. Compte tenu des risques engendrés par le développement international d’EDF, la Cour indiquait qu'il appartenait à l'État de définir ses préférences en termes d'exposition aux risques, étant observé que ces risques pourraient de moins en moins être répercutés sur le consommateur devenu libre de choisir son fournisseur, mais pèseraient sur l'actionnaire. Elle ajoutait déjà que les premières acquisitions d'EDF renforçaient les interrogations sur le risque.

La question alors posée était de savoir dans quelle mesure le développement d’EDF au delà de son activité traditionnelle en France, facilité par la capacité d'autofinancement engendrée par l'importance des provisions, serait de nature à permettre un meilleur financement des obligations liées au démantèlement et à la gestion des déchets : de 1993 à 1998, le montant des participations d'EDF était passé de 1 à 5,4 Md€ ; à la fin de 2003, les participations atteignaient 17,8 Md€ en valeur brute affectée par 4,1 Md€ de provisions pour dépréciation. Dans le même temps, l'endettement net qui avait diminué continûment jusqu'en 1998 pour passer sous la barre des 20 Md€ était encore de 24 Md€ à la fin de 2003.

Dans le cadre de cette problématique, les actifs dédiés n'ont été conçus que comme une réponse partielle à la question posée. À la fin de 2003, 2,3 Md€ sont à mettre en relation avec un total de provisions de 24,7 Md€VA. Si, comme le fait EDF, on se limite à la déconstruction des centrales en fonctionnement et à la gestion des déchets nucléaires, le montant à financer est, certes, ramenés à 13 Md€VA, mais la différence reste très importante. En effet, si on adopte la position consistant à faire relever la moitié du besoin de financement par le cash-flow et l'autre moitié par la constitution d'actifs dédiés, il serait nécessaire que l'intégralité de la valeur actualisée des charges relevant de ce second mode de financement soit dès aujourd'hui couvertes par lesdits actifs.

Compte tenu des résultats passés du groupe, les modalités de financement des charges nucléaires futures ne sont pas établies avec certitude, d'autant plus que la question du renouvellement du parc - nucléaire ou non - se posera au cours de la même période. Il manque une stratégie financière clairement affichée montrant de quelle façon chacune des lourdes charges à venir sera financée. En réponse, EDF indique qu’elle envisage aujourd’hui de procéder à une accélération de la constitution d’actifs dédiés à partir de 2007, c’est-à-dire après le
financement de sa contribution au démantèlement des installations de Marcoule.



"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 10:56:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Embryon in french. It is not in the conclusion, where Miguel looked. It is in 2 places, one in the body of the text, and one in some sort of annex where the investigated bodies can comment upon the findings of the Cour.

The context indicates that it's the reporting and the accounting that is only being started up (because EDF was previously a public entity, not a corporation, so it's accounting had no notion of "provision"). Actual figures appear a little further, of the order of a billion euros a year. I let you compare with the free cash flows of EDF from it's latest yearly accounts.

Also note that some information (e.g. on total debt/assets) from before the IPO are outdated: EDF "made pretty" for it and dumped some of its most adventurous assets e.g. in latin america (basically, those it couldn't connect to the french grid), thus reducing debt. And the IPO itself was pretty much a bank robbery.

Pierre

by Pierre on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 11:02:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And so the "rag" misrepresented this report in what way?
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 11:08:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In trying to make EDF appear totally unprepared, near bankrupt, and with no strategy at all. And by mixing up with other issues (investments abroad, fuel reprocessing, which is not a liability but an asset, etc..)

For the unfortunate non-french europeans here, I am sorry to lay out EDF strategy bluntly here:


Considering that the price for german coal and russian gas will skyrocket in the next 20 years due to exacerbated tensions following peak oil and the approach of peak gas, the new demands for coal from synfuel plants,

Cpnsidering that other utilities in Europe will be forced to raise the price of electricity accordingly, having only limited nuclear production base,

Considering that EDF will be able to keep selling all of its production throughout Europe by just undercutting them by 5%,

Considering that hyperinflation will enable EDF to default on all existing debts silently and without legal exposure,

EDF will de facto levy a tax on all citizens of European countries with a deregulated electricity market, siphoning dozens of billions of euros every year. A totally insignificant part of this money will be used to decommission old plant, build new ones, buy a few countries in Africa to bury the waste. Most of it will be mis-spent and handed over to Corrupt French Politicians ™

Really sorry if this is a shock to you, but frankly I'm not worried that EDF will ever be cash-starved when it comes to cleaning/upgrading its production sites. And I live in France, in the middle of all those plants, so it's not like I wouldn't care even if there was a problem.

Pierre

by Pierre on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 11:22:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What I find totally believable in your account is that Europeans will try to solve their nuclear waste problem by scattering it all over black Africans. The Mission Civilatrice reaches its final solution.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 02:34:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, it's ok to compare Greenpeace to the Nazis, but it is troll behavior to suggest that the rich will dump their problems on the poor.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 05:23:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, I don't consider it is troll behavior. Just somewhat cynically analyzing what is likely to occur. I also believe that some of the recently troll-rated comments by richardk may have been over-flamed: granted, he's a stubborn radical worse than you :-> but he may have been just exercizing a peculiar sense of humor, and saying things that are basically true, although form may turn out to be slightly different.

e.g. as the north and south become more and more antagonistic, some northern countries will attempt real genocides, and most likely at least one will succeed in killing a billion this century. This is not a moral judgment, just cold-minded analysis of human nature confronted to the laws of compound interests and demographics, which have multi-decade inertia and are all on a crash course.

I'm not saying we (=the North/West/Rich World, for lack of a better definition) should be dumping our waste on Africa, but I do believe that it will happen that some of this waste indeed ends up there...

Pierre

by Pierre on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 04:33:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"EDF, du fait de son endettement, ne dispose que d'un
embryon d'actifs dédiés par rapport à la masse à financer
tout repose sur sa capacité à disposer d'actifs suffisants ;"

So forgive me, but I don't think you know anything about what you are talking about.

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 10:25:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
tout repose sur sa capacité à disposer d'actifs suffisants

They should put that on Ken Lay's grave.

by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 10:45:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This often happens with anti-nuclear posters.  They all get their info from the same couple of sources.  

When they make the mistake of posting a link to the actual report or referring to it by name, and you check it out, it is clear that either the antis have never bothered to read the report, or failed to understand it--since often the data in the report support the pro-nuclear argument.  One of the techniques of Greenpeace & co. is to pick out phrases that seem to support their narrow viewpoint.  But when you read the phrases in context you see that a deception is being practiced.  

Unfortunately, well-meaning people with genuine concerns about the environment are thus duped.

by Plan9 on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 05:31:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I draw two conclusions from the report:
  1. EDF should never have been privatised
  2. Public accounts should become more like the accounts of private business.


"It's the statue, man, The Statue."
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:03:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with 2.

I have a much more cynical view of 1. EDF is not like some lightweight industry where the buyer can dismantle the factory and send the tooling to malaysia. The plants are sealed in french grounds and need connection to french grids to sell their output.

So basically, EDF is always a public infrastructure because the staff and gear just stays there and the army can be all over it on thirty minute notice.

Therefore, as long as "The Markets™" are dumb enough to buy it, I have no remorse selling it for cash, seizing it, re-selling it, and so on, and so on...

Have you ever heard of the "ever greater idiot" theory of financial markets ? I see this as a pragmatic application of this theory, to state debt refinancing.

Pierre

by Pierre on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 04:39:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Bullshit. The report accurately described concerns of the Court of Accounts.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Wed Mar 14th, 2007 at 09:20:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
new uses for nucleotides

You mean nuclides.

"It's the statue, man, The Statue."

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 06:48:43 AM EST
So far, everything Greenpeace says seems to check out, while the assurances about everything from the finances of EDF to the situation of the radioactive wine makers in the Aube from the pro-nuclears are overstated.
by citizen k (sansracine yahoo.fr) on Tue Mar 13th, 2007 at 10:55:52 AM EST
Lots.  The numbers are pretty much agreed upon, but depending on who you ask, you get a different spin:

Known reserves at current prices (2Mt) in current reactors at current consumption rates are good for 50 years.  A doubling of the market price for uranium increases this roughly tenfold (22Mt in phosphate deposits).  Fast reactors would extract a hundredfold more energy from the same uranium, and they'd also make extraction from sea water (4Gt) economic.

So if you ask a nuclear advocate how much uranium is left, he'll point to the seawater and tell you it's enough for at least 10 million years at current consumption rates, while an anti will tell you that it's only 50 years.  Both are right, the advocate because he believes in technological progress, the anti because he doesn't.

by ustenzel on Sat Mar 17th, 2007 at 09:26:40 PM EST


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