Home > Energy Generation > Clean Energy Finally Gaining Steam

Clean Energy Finally Gaining Steam

Finally, somebody said what I’ve been waiting to hear, “… no member of the public has ever been injured by a nuclear power plant in the United States, nor has any nuclear worker died of a radiation-related incident…”, a statement made by Patrick Moore today in the LA Times. This is exactly what I’ve been talking about. People got all hyped up with the accident at Chernobyl (which happened under extremely rare circumstances, by the way) and decided never again to trust nuclear power. There is your proof that nuclear power is clean and safe, despite what people want to think about it. How many people have been killed in coal mines, or in natural gas or oil rig explosions?

We do have renewable energy sources right now: wind, solar, tidal, geothermal, etc. But they are not yet efficient or widespread enough that they can sustain our energy economy. Nuclear power is our next step to clean energy. People need to get over their preconceptions and accept that there is nothing wrong with nuclear power, it has been around for over 50 years now and the technology is well developed and widespread. They want to get rid of greenhouse gases, why not get rid of the big coal powerplants?

The extra money that we would save by getting rid of coal power could be put into research and development of nuclear fuel reprocessing technologies. I think that the big thing that people worry about is spent reactor fuel. Obviously, more reactors would mean more spent fuel. But it would also mean more funding for reprocessing research and storage facilities.

I believe that we are less than 50 years away from seeing reliable fusion power become a reality. When it does, we won’t need traditional nuclear fission reactors anymore, so you can do away with that waste. There is enough nuclear fuel on this planet to last us a long time, much longer than fossil fuels, which are running out fast. Our energy economy needs an overhaul, we’re not in the 1900’s anymore. Maybe coal and oil power was a bright future back then, but now, over 100 years down the road, supplies are running out and we’re seeing the repercussions of living this way. We can’t stay stuck in our ways just because we don’t want to change. The good times with fossil fuels are a thing of the past, now it’s time for us to grow up and move on to bigger and better things.

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  1. March 5, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    That’s a careful parsing of the facts, don’t you think?

    “… no member of the public has ever been injured by a nuclear power plant in the United States, nor has any nuclear worker died of a radiation-related incident…”

    But two workers died at our first nuclear power generating station in an act of sabotage. Fortunately it was just steam that got them — but had the saboteur wished to use radiation instead, there was no barrier to that.

    Hundreds, perhaps thousands of U.S. nuclear workers were killed by radiation, however. Moore’s statement there is simply wrong. One uranium mine on the Navajo reservation had nearly 100% mortality because workers were not adequately protected from radiation. Death rates were at least as high at the Marysville, Utah mine.

    Chernobyl didn’t kill nuclear power plant construction in the U.S. Banks refused to lend money to utilities when 100% of the plants came in way over budget — generally at least twice the estimated cost — plus the arrogant and hubristic attitude that people concerned about safety and security were fools and ignorant. Three-mile Island probably did more than Chernobyl, in the U.S.

    While I have no doubt we can develop nuclear power safely and securely, we must be careful and purposeful to do so. Claiming that no one died, when thousands actually did, is irresponsible.

    I spent ten years working to get compensation for U.S. victims of fallout from the Nevada atmospheric tests. In the course of those investigations, in the Senate, we documented a full range of deaths from arrogance-caused errors through the entire nuclear cycle. Let’s not repeat those errors, pleas.

  2. March 5, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Thank you for the extra information there. From what I understood there had been no deaths in nuclear generation facilities, I didn’t include uranium mines in there, although I’d have to say that less have been killed mining uranium than there have mining coal.

    I do agree that people have been careless in nuclear facilities before, but we have to account for Human error. I have read through a lot of the accidents, including Chernobyl and TMI, and agree that these incidents were the result of a chain of events that never would have taken place, had they used a little common-sense.

    I know there was a lot of hype about Three Mile Island, but from what I understand, there has been no documented proof of health affects from the incident. But of course, the “facts” have been known to lie before.

  3. March 6, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Probably no serious health effects from Three Mile Island, no. An understanding that the industry was wrong in claiming such accidents to be impossible, however. At the time, just one more area where it had become clear that power company officials were untrustworthy, and possibly reckless. NRC’s site says:

    The accident was caused by a combination of personnel error, design deficiencies, and component failures. There is no doubt that the accident at Three Mile Island permanently changed both the nuclear industry and the NRC. Public fear and distrust increased, NRC’s regulations and oversight became broader and more robust, and management of the plants was scrutinized more carefully. The problems identified from careful analysis of the events during those days have led to permanent and sweeping changes in how NRC regulates its licensees – which, in turn, has reduced the risk to public health and safety.

    Reactor #2 is permanently off-line and powered-down. Both reactors are scheduled to be decommissioned in 2014 when the current license expires. The accident was incredibly expensive considering TMI-2 had been online for only 90 days when the accident happened. It’s been determined that it was, indeed, a core melt-down.

    So along comes this Moore guy to pretend it didn’t happen, and it didn’t have much of an effect? Billions down the crapper . . . no wonder our national budgets get so far out of whack when the conservative, anti-science, anti-Earth, anti-people wackoes get power. Keep this man far, far away from promoting nuclear power plants, please, and for God’s sake don’t let him have anything to do with regulations for safety and security.

  4. March 6, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    The NRC’s site also says:

    The accident at the Three Mile Island Unit 2 (TMI‑2) nuclear power plant near Middletown, Pa., on March 28, 1979, was the most serious in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant operating history, even though it led to no deaths or injuries to plant workers or members of the nearby community. But it brought about sweeping changes involving emergency response planning, reactor operator training, human factors engineering, radiation protection, and many other areas of nuclear power plant operations. It also caused the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to tighten and heighten its regulatory oversight. Resultant changes in the nuclear power industry and at the NRC had the effect of enhancing safety.

    The TMI “disaster” was the worst reactor accident in the U.S. to date, yet it still resulted in no deaths or injuries. Could it have? Definitely. I’m not saying that nuclear fission is something to be toyed with. But how many times has this happened with steam boilers at coal power plants?

    Obviously we are not going to get it right on the first try, and as the NRC summary states, we learned a lot about the TMI incident and have significantly improved processes and safeguards because of it. Accidents are going to happen with any new form of power generation, it’s just fortunate that it hasn’t cost us nearly as much with nuclear as it has with the other types. Not to mention that the TMI incident occured 30 years ago, they didn’t even have personal computers back then. Technology has changed so much and so fast since then that I doubt you could melt down one of the new reactors if you tried.

    Now I’m not trying to cover up the truth, and neither is Patrick Moore. But my point is that we need to let these accidents go and move on. We can’t stop riding the bike because we fell off once or twice and got a bruised knee.

  5. March 6, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    The cleanup alone of TMI-2 cost $973 million and took the better part of a decade. The construction costs were a complete waste, of course. I haven’t found a total, but I’ll wager it’s also close to a billion. Plans for a third reactor in which $425 million had already been spent were scrapped. A billion here, a half-billion there . . .

    Some bruised knee.

    Yes, let’s move on. But Patrick Moore, if he’s not trying to cover up the facts, didn’t know them in the first place. Oh yeah, the kid survived when the steamroller hit the bike — he lost his legs, but he survived. Let’s not forget that the kid doesn’t have legs to stand on. We shouldn’t expect him to be running any races, or get back on a bicycle, soon.

  6. March 6, 2010 at 2:33 pm

    I do appreciate your input on this topic, though I still tend to disagree. You have not yet provided any facts that nuclear power is less reliable or more dangerous than other forms of energy generation at this point.

    Here is data from a documented study on job-related deaths:

    To compare the historical safety record of civilian nuclear energy with the historical record of other forms of electrical generation, Ball, Roberts, and Simpson, the IAEA, and the Paul Scherrer Institut found in separate studies that during the period from 1970 – 1992, there were just 39 on-the-job deaths of nuclear power plant workers, while during the same time period, there were 6,400 on-the-job deaths of coal power plant workers, 1,200 on-the-job deaths of natural gas power plant workers and members of the general public caused by natural gas power plants, and 4,000 deaths of members of the general public caused by hydroelectric power plants.[7][8][9] In particular, coal power plants are estimated to kill 24,000 Americans per year, due to lung disease[10] as well as causing 40,000 heart attacks per year[11] in the United States. According to Scientific American, the average coal power plant emits more than 100 times as much radiation per year than a comparatively sized nuclear power plant does, in the form of toxic coal waste known as fly ash.[12]

    Clearly the facts prove that nuclear power is safer and more reliable than other forms of power generation.

  7. March 6, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    You assume that deaths directly attributable to nuclear power generation are the only measure of the value of a fuel source. It’s telling that the Institute didn’t bother to look at deaths from the mining of the stuff, and it’s bizarre that they’d claim 4,000 deaths caused by hydroelectric plants. I haven’t figured out his methodology for counting deaths from hydro dams other than floods from failing dams, but it’s not encouraging that he counts all dams, whether they generate electricity or not. Does he count drownings of drunken fishermen and speed boaters, too? I haven’t found anything to rule that out.

    So when we look at the methodology, we see they include deaths from coal mining, but not deaths from uranium mining. He counts deaths from all dams, not just electricity generating dams.

    Sure, if you ignore the greatest sources of death and injury in a power source stream, you can make almost any of them look good. He doesn’t even look at uranium mining. Uranium exploration, extraction and transport is completely missing from the calculation. (see page 276 of the report, page 302 of the pdf document)

    The more I look at that report, the more rotten it seems. Picking the years it does, after 1970, allows them to completely ignore the Windscale accident, with the release of iodine 131, which has led to a dramatic number of injuries and deaths, mostly uncounted for political reasons.

    It’s exactly this sort of distortion of the record that killed the nuclear industry in the U.S. Banks don’t lend money to people who can’t count fairly.

    You’re missing the point. I’m not arguing that nuclear is deadlier. I’m arguing that advocates who ignore the risks step into the same trap that killed nuclear before. Failing to properly assess or deal with risks leads to massive cost overruns, which leads to economic failure of the plants. Here in Texas, our last nuke was estimated to cost just under $2 billion. It came in years late at more than $5 billion, which necessitated an immediate jacking up of electrical rates. You can argue you’re not dead yet, but it’s only because the trap isn’t fully set, and you’ve not stepped into it yet. That’s a poor justification for planning ahead to set the trap, and then stepping into the trap. What’s the old story about the guy falling from the 100 story building? At the 50th floor he said he was okay so far.

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