Monday, March 12, 2007

Nuclear Waste

Obviously the biggest objection to nuclear power is the waste. First it's important to look at things from a relative rather than an absolute perspective, by this I mean one has ask not "How bad is Nuclear Waste?" But rather how bad is nuclear waste compared to the waste from other forms of energy generation. In the general course of operation coal fired plants release substantially more radioactive material into the environment than a nuclear plant. Once you start considering other pollutants and oil spills and the like it quickly becomes apparent that we can persumably tolerate some level dangerous waste from our power generation, the question then becomes is nuclear waste more dangerous or less dangerous than the waste we're currently already living with?

As I already mentioned in the normal course of operation it's clear that they are far cleaner than coal-fired planets, and if you're worried about C02 (and probably even if you're not) they're cleaner than oil fired as well. The problem of course is what to do with the spent fuel rods. Reprocessing eliminates a lot of that, but also produces plutonium which makes people start to worry about proliferation. The most popular idea is to bury it deep in the earth, at say Yucca Mountain, but this is where the thousands of years of radioactivity comes in, as the wikipedia article on the subject says:

One of the challenges facing the supporters of these efforts is to demonstrate confidently that a repository will contain wastes for so long that any releases that might take place in the future will pose no significant health or environmental risk.

And this is where I get angry, particularly with Global Warming Zealots, who often confidently predict apocolyptic disasters within the next 100 years from rising temperatures, but want 100% certainty that 2000 years from now nuclear waste won't leak into the ground water. I think the worry about long term safety is disingenious, what most people are worried about is having high level waste transported through their state/city/neighborhood, well here again the wikipedia article is illuminating. When one looks at all the measures they take to ensure zero leaks, one wonders what they're afraid of, certainly the same zero leak tolerance doesn't apply to oil tankers, and yet still people freak out at the idea of nuclear waste being transported near where they live. One imagines they've watched too many b-grade science fiction movies in the 50's.

The point I would make is that yeah nuclear waste is a problem, but not an insuperable one, and it presents no greater difficulties than the problems posed by all the other "backbone" power generation methods.

Well I'm out of time so I guess my other source of anger, the PTA, will have to wait.

A day late and many dollars short

4 Comments:

Anonymous Geshin said...

Check out this link:

http://www.booktv.org/feature/index.asp?schedid=474&segid=7888

Click on "watch"

4:50 PM  
Blogger aozora said...

Coal plants, the old ones in particular, are just evil. Oil-based ones can't be much better.

One of the modern environmental wonder programs was Tokyo Japan cleaning up it's act between the 60s to 70s after it's air pollution became the worst in the world. One major component of the solution was nuclear power. Except for the odd scandal of mass negligence things have been percolating along quite well for decades.

The same is true for France according to what I've read. Lots of plants, all very quiet, no news is good news. In fact the biggest nuke constructor trying to revive the U.S. market is French if i recall correctly. Hope the engineers aren't out to settle a score for the "Freedom Fries" thing. I'm glad I've learned of the potato wedge as a cop-out excuse. >;-D

6:23 AM  
Blogger Randal Leavitt said...

Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste
http://www.nationalcenter.org/NuclearFastReactorsSA1205.pdf

Don't call it "waste". Nuclear fuel that has been used once and can be reused many more times is not waste - it is a valuable resource.

1:09 PM  
Blogger Ross said...

Easy there cowboy, I'm on your side.

1:21 PM  

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