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Is it the end for nuclear power

Posted on 2011-03-14
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following the explosion and spreading of radiation by 'earthquake proof' nuclear power stations, that supposedly shut down in a crisis becoming inert.

Do you think it will be the end of the proposed expansion of nuclear energy?  Or is there no viable alternative?  Or is making do with less electricity actually an alternative now?
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Question by:deighton
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by:phoffric
ID: 35129227
We gotta do what we gotta do.

If we run out of gas/oil fuels (estimated to be in 100 years according to a physics professor at MIT), then alternative fuels are needed assuming that we refuse to cut back on our consumption. Nuclear reactor issues using fusion may just become an acceptable risk (like resorts along the beaches that are subject to flooding). Fusion is one hope. Solar panels can help, but it would take several European countries to be completely filled with solar panels to satisfy our needs. And where would those inhabitants migrate to make room for the panels.

Research is being done in applying microwaves to extract oil out of coal. Each ore requires a different frequency. (I think the company is just trying to get free grant money).

The choice may be the predicted fuel wars in about 25 years or use fusion. The impact due to fusion may be considered less of an impact than war.

Solar panels in orbit provides a solution. We can beam down the energy. Problem is the protests since the beam is also a military weapon.

We can try to tap the Earth's core for heat.


Electric cars seems like a nice option until you realize that if mass produced, then there are precious metals that go into making efficient batteries. So then the wars will be about precious metals instead of oil/gas.
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by:sdstuber
ID: 35129266
no, it won't end expansion.

the worldwide industrial engine will continue to consume more energy.
Even if everyone and every industry on earth suddenly cut consumption all at once.  As soon as the next new product was created that will consume more energy, even if it's efficient energy, it will be greater than 0.

Nuclear, despite the current tragic scenario is still one of the safest forms of electricity available relative to its output.  It would be great if everything everywhere could be solar and wind powered but they simply can't produce energy on the scale our world needs, even if there was a magical 75% reduction in total consumption.

Looking at the danger of nuclear is much like looking at air travel safety.  In general it's quite safe, but when it does fail, the failures are often catastrophic.
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by:phoffric
ID: 35129602
The danger of nuclear power in the future will be less due to natural causes than as targets of war to cause disruption and terror.
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by:Callandor
ID: 35130580
It isn't the end - the earthquake and tsunami exceeded their disaster plan, so it's a matter of better planning or lessening the risk by not building them near fault lines.  As for a target of war, containment vessels are built to withstand planes crashing into them (but not a 2000 lb guided bomb), so if war comes to the mainland, we will have bigger concerns.
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by:aburr
ID: 35130845
"Do you think it will be the end of the proposed expansion of nuclear energy?  
no



Or is there no viable alternative?  
yes





Or is making do with less electricity actually an alternative now?"
yes but improbable
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by:PaulHews
ID: 35133618
I think even with alternative energy sources in play, there's no way we can keep up/increase energy production without nuclear.  The increase of energy usage is a given as more people become affluent in China, India and South America, and populations continue to expand worldwide.  We are projected to top 7 billion people this year.  

Fusion is a bit like flying cars--it just doesn't seem to be working yet, and predictions that we will have it soon have been frequently proven wrong.  If it is possible, it is still decades away.  So yes, the world will expand nuclear capabilities in the future.  Hopefully learning from each mistake along the way (although history shows that we never make the same mistake once!)
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by:geriatricgeek
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it's definitely a setback. much like how drilling got a setback last summer. we have to take the risks of forging ahead to meet our energy needs how they are, not how we'd wish they'd be. we cannot generate nearly enough electricity from wind or solar panels. then we have to add electric cars to our energy needs?
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BigRat earned 125 total points
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Let us look at the situation in Europe. Germany depends on Nuclear for 23% of electricity, France some 80% with places like Belgium and Slovakia in the middle with 52%.

Germany actually exports electrical energy, so shutting down SOME of the nuclear plants won't have that much an effect. There are far more serious consequences in France and Belgium.

[Interestingly Norway has power to spare: A project to lay a cable from Norway to northern Germany which would eliminate one nuclear reactor has been stopped by the fact that there is no law which allows that energy to be admitted into the German network!]

France has been extremely successful in building nuclear plants - all identical right down to the tiles on the lavatory walls they say! It means that a lesson learnt in one plant applies to all others. Most other countries have hodge-podges of various "generations" which is very worrying.

Germany has been very successful in converting to alternative sources - now running at some 16% of total energy requirements, where by 2010 only around 10-12% was expected. This is geothermal, wind, solar, bio-gas, ethanol, hydrodynamic, and so forth. The sucess in savings is not quite so dramtic, since the electricity (as well as gas) supply is held primarily by four big monopolies - which really need breaking up.

The big problem is the change in net strategy - away from a few huge power stations and towards a multitude of small generators (like wind turbines, bio-gas generators, block heating, solar) which requires an intelligent net able to very quickly switch power around and turn on and off the stations. Once in place this will remove the dependancy on huge power stations which blow a good 50% of the generated energy into the sky.

An interesting idea for the future is how your electric car could earn you money. You buy cheap energy overnight by charging your car and if you don't use it during the day, so that it remains plugged in, you sell the energy back if the price increases due to a shortage or excessive demand. In fact most cars remain stationary for large parts of the day, giving a ready reservoir for excess energy.

The switch to "green" energy hasn't done Germany any harm - quiote the opposite. She is the world's largest exported of such technology and now thousand of new jobs have been created offsetting those lost through heavy industries.

There are plenty of alternatives to nuclear for making energy. Nuclear is in fact cheap, primarily because the risks and the research are carried by the taxpayer.

If in a conventional coal or gas fired power station somebody presses the wrong button, there's a huge explosion and a hundred odd people get killed. Three weeks later one can clear up the debris and construct a new plant. Moreover you'll find somebody at Lloyds to insure it for you. In a nuclear plant the debris remains after the melt down for hundres of thousands of years and you won't find anybody at Lloyds to insure it. That is why after the privatisation of the electricty industry in Britain the nuclear remained in public hands. In Germany the companies who run the installations are limited to 2 billion Euros per reactor - the rest has to be picked up by the tax payer. If your house in within fifty kilometers of such a reactor there is no way that the 2 billion will conpensate you. The shroud around Tchernobyl cost 4 billion alone.
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by:satsumo
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The thing that concerns me is that government isn't trying hard to find alternatives.

A barrister friend of mine who works with pharmaceutical companies often talk about cancer drugs.  As he sees it, the pharmaceutical companies aren't trying to enforce expensive drug treatments, it simply that they have the money, so the all the research goes that way.  There is nobody who can spend the same amount of money on prevention or alternative treatments.

I think its the same with power and nuclear.  There is no strong commercial interest in finding other ways to do things.  Fossils fuels make huge amounts of money.  Government is lobbied, countries are invaded, war is waged, people die, and its all about oil.  Nuclear is a big industry with lots of employees and money to be invested.

The alternatives are small companies doing individual research projects, producing small returns.  To the power brokers, bankers and money people, its all a bit small, tree hugging and friendly.  No hostile takeovers to be found anywhere.  Small scale, localised generation and energy sharing goes against the selfish ethos of business and power.
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by:andyalder
ID: 35207902
Interesting that Ms Rat mentions Norway as being energy rich, they may also sitting on huge thorium deposits, not that thorium fission reactors are much use because you can't make bombs with the leftovers :(

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/02/01/china_thorium_bet/ has a cool video explaining why we don't have thorium reactors.
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by:satsumo
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Again, I don't think its the weapons so much as the money.  Like he says at the end, the nuclear industry has a financial model built around doing things in a less efficient, more expensive, more dangerous, more wasteful way.  Money isn't interested in Thorium reactors.
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by:PaulHews
ID: 35301288
This thread has cooled off, but I would still pump a few neutrons into it...

Is it the end for coal production?  Err, no.  Yet coal causes more deaths annually.  
http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/03/the-triumph-of-coal-marketing.html

And this from Cecil Adams, talking about the worst case scenario, as in Chernobyl.
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2988/is-nuclear-power-safe
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by:BigRat
ID: 35313668
Is this Cecil Adams to be taken seriously? The article is not in the least informative, in fact it is downright mis-leading Quote: but even solar cell manufacture involves toxic waste production. Yes of course it does, but the liquids are processed and cleaned before being returned to the environment. Even the stuff which cannot be recycled can be dumped somewhere saflely. But there is NOWHÈRE on this planet where one can dump atomic waste. Furthermore the "cleaning" of the hundreds of square miles of no-go countryside around the Chernobyl plant will take the next several thousand years, and remember, very little compensation was paid out to those who either got ill or lost their homes and livelyhoods.

I'm very willing to compare one form of energy production with any other, so long as they all play on an equal footing. But nuclear is NOT on an equal footing with any other form of energy, since governments give an unfair advantage over other forms by protection, as, for example, limiting their liability. In fact we shall probably see that Tepco in Japan is not capable of paying out the compensation for those who cannot return to their homes within the exclusion zone, those who lost their lives and in fact those who have incurred expenditure at Tepcos expense.

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by:andyalder
ID: 35313792
Renewables are hardly on an even footing are they? Vastly inflated feed-in tariffs paid for by the consumer in UK at least. Buy at 7p a unit and sell it for 44P - www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/465409/spanish_nighttime_solar_energy_fraud_unlikely_in_uk.html (yeah, I know it's old news).
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by:BigRat
ID: 35314094
Quite, Andy, quite. It is the fact that governments have continually messed around with the energy sector - primarily because it was state owned in the first place - that to get enybody to do anything they had to introduce subsidies. One of the worst examples is in Germany where the public (Hans der Klempner) pays an extra pfennig per KWH to subsidize the coal mines whereas busineses (ie: heavy users) are exempt from this. (This runs out in 2018). The coal mines here still produce anthracite at some 150 Euro per tonne whereas the stuff from Austrailia runs at half that price *delivered* to Duisburg's inland port.

The wind power is also subsidized so that the owners of the wind mills get 17 cent per KWH, but then there are competing with nuclear who don't currently have to worry about waste disposal nor insurance against disasters. (Old windmills cannot be dumped in the environment, they have to be properly got rid of, and you have to pay compensation to farmers if their cows get sick or a wind mill falls on his head.

Governments are continually messing around with industry and the industry allows them to do so for the simple reason that they can usually screw more money out of the government.

THe nuclear sector was recently delighted (well partly) with an extension for the old nuclear reactors. The government allowed old reactors to go another ten odd years but introduced a fuel rod tax (on top of the 8% energy tax we currently pay (and the coal pfennig)). The only problem is that the reactors are so old that on shutting them down one could not set any capital loss against tax. If the Germans actually decide to shut down all reactors then the companies will claim depreciation losses against tax together with the costs of dismanteling (although as I understand it these costs should have been acccounted for during the operational time). Whatever happens they'll come out laughing as they always do.

Did you know that Lufthansa got some 30 odd million Euros out of the EEC Agriculture Fund?  As one can see it is well wotrth employing a an accountant and a couple of good lawyers to scour government programs just to see what one can get out of them.
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