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October 18, 2006

Coal and Oil have been the real alternative to Nuclear power

A couple of other comments that I made on the greenpeace site. Re-edited.
The comments were in reference to information at links pointed to by the Greenpeace person.
End the nuclear age campaign. Talks about why Greenpeace is against nuclear power. they think plants are unsafe, nuclear waste problems and nuclear proliferation.
However, the current and past real alternative to nuclear power has been coal and oil. Coal and oil plants and mining are inherently less safe than nuclear. Here are statistics on coal mining deaths in the US and China Some calculate 22,000 lives each year in US alone are lost prematurely due to getting and using coal energy. Even without an unusual meltdown type accident coal plants kill people from normal operation. Nuclear energy deaths (other than 50 so far from Chernobyl and 4000 more potential deaths) are mainly hypothetical deaths and fears of radiation. Those 4000 Chernobyl deaths from 56 years of nuclear plant operations and a few hundred nuclear submarine deaths are less than one year of mining and health deaths from coal under business as usual.

Another interesting point is that more radiation and radioactive material is released from coal plants than from nuclear plants For the year 1982, assuming coal contains uranium and thorium concentrations of 1.3 ppm and 3.2 ppm, respectively, each typical plant released 5.2 tons of uranium (containing 74 pounds of uranium-235) and 12.8 tons of thorium that year. Total U.S. releases in 1982 (from 154 typical plants) amounted to 801 tons of uranium (containing 11,371 pounds of uranium-235) and 1971 tons of thorium. These figures account for only 74% of releases from combustion of coal from all sources. Releases in 1982 from worldwide combustion of 2800 million tons of coal totaled 3640 tons of uranium (containing 51,700 pounds of uranium-235) and 8960 tons of thorium. The population gets 100 times more radiation from a coal plant than from a nuclear plant.

The end the nuclear age links that you have discuss renewables generating more power than nuclear already. The vast majority of that renewable power is hydroelectric. I thought that Greenpeace would be against building more dams, since it messes up the water ecosystem and the surrounding vegetation. The rotting vegetation releases CO2.

Here are the figures from the Energy Information administration for the global picture Notice that the forecast is for hundreds of new coal plants to be built. President Bush has coal as a central part of his energy policy.

The british anti-nuke site says that 10 new plants will take at least until 2024. Perhaps those are for UK plants with UK building regulations. The projected global case is for over 43 gigawatts of nuclear capacity to be added from non-OECD countries. It is only going to take China about 4 years to build each new plant. Building the plants can be a lot faster with less bureaucracy.

Improvements to the fuel (hollow cylinders instead of solid rods) and the heat removal liquid will allow current nuclear plants to generate 50% more power. In the USA that is 160GW. This can be done over the next few years.

Nuclear waste is a problem. However, nuclear waste is not killing anyone or very few people now. Coal and oil pollution and CO2 are costing lives now. Thorium reactors can process the current waste. So we will not be storing the waste for 10,000 years but converting it to a more manageable form in decades if we make the right choices.

Nuclear alone is not the only answer, but it is part of a better and realistic solution. Along with carbon sequestering, conservation, efficiency improvements, solar and wind.

Thorium reactors can be brought online faster if we use the liquid-fluoride (molten-salt) reactors. The Norwegians are looking at accelerator based versions. How long things take depend upon choices and how well we plan and execute.

Here are links to my thorium articles

A lot of the information is from Kirk Sorensons excellent Thorium energy blog

Accelerating Futures has an interesting proposal for mass produced Thorium reactors

There are some 440 nuclear plants around the world.

Most of the hundreds of reactors were built from 1960 to late 1980's. So the statement that only ten can be made from now to 2024 is wrong. China has turned on seven reactors from 2002 to 2006.

The most conservative IAEA projection is for nuclear power to increase to 640 GW by 2030. China will be adding 40 or more nuclear plants by itself. India has 8 under construction and is looking for ten times as much by 2022.

The world economy is not standing still. the energy revolution stuff is a plan to make enough power for individuals in there homes. Domestic power usage is not all there is. There is industry and productivity. Expansion and growth are going to happen. Greenpeace would have to initiate a successful war and a totalitarian regime to turn that around. As I noted before, millions die to keep the current system going.

I will also note that there is an excessive fear and fixation on nuclear weapons. What you fear is all out war. The fire bombing of Tokyo in world war 2 killed 100,000. In the same range as each of the atomic bombings. More than Nagasaki and almost as much as Hiroshima. Current weapons for fire bombing are 10-20 times more effective than at that time. An all out max-casualty conventional air campaign could run up any kind of casualty amount that you can imagine. Plus once a medical infrastructure is ruined a humanity disaster can easily be triggered via water supply etc... The point is we should not have all out war. Trying to campaign against one or two classes of weapons or technique is pointless.

Of the over 170 to 220 million deaths from mass killings in the 20th century less than 0.2% were from nuclear weapons.

It is alright to fear the potential deaths from nuclear weapons but try not to lose sight of the millions dieing every year now from coal and oil pollution and car accidents and conventional violence.

If we mass produced nuclear power 6000 plants or more by 2050. We should also develop solar and wind and other renewable power, but to get to over 10 times our current power level we will need more. You could say we can stop or convince China and India and other countries to not come up to our power usage or higher. The millions dead in the oil wars of the last two decades would be nothing compared to the fight to stop other countries from developing or in more resource competition wars. If we get most everyone off of the dependence on oil then I think the Middle East will still likely be a mess. It will be a mess like Africa. A lower priority mess where we look at non-military solutions and aid. On the plus side, we will have fairly happy and materially well off 70% of the world. The environment will be coming out of crisis as we stop adding CO2 and start sequestering and cleaning it up.

2 comments:

James Aach said...

You might find this insider's view of the nuclear industry interesting. It echoes some of your thoughts - but perhaps not all. RadDecision.blogspot.com

lgl said...

too deep for me