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Thread: Nuclear Energy, pros and cons.

  1. #1 Nuclear Energy, pros and cons. 
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    Pros:

    1) - Inexpensive

    2) - Depends on Uranium instead of Oil. (Australia and Canada being the #1 and #2 producers)

    3) - Clean in terms of air pollution.


    Cons:

    1) - Produces dangerous waste

    2) - Hazardous environment for the workers

    3) - People are scared of another Chernobyl.


    Are there any things people want to add to those lists, or is that pretty much comprehensive?


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  3. #2  
    Forum Masters Degree Twit of wit's Avatar
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    Nucler power is not inexpensive. While the fuel is not expensive, the costs of building and deconstructing nuclear power plants are enormous. Additionally, there is not enough fuel to run many more current reactors and newer types of reactors are still unreliable and even more expensive.


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    I'm not convinced that points 1 & 2 on the con side are as much of a con as is generally made out to be the case. Point 3 is largely due to scare-mongering.

    Still, I'd prefer to see renewables than nuclear.
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    Pros:

    4) Very efficient - one pound of uranium contains as much energy as three million pounds of coal.

    5) The fact that we are likely getting a price on CO2 increases the competitiveness of electricity produced this way, relative to fossil fuels.

    6) Nuclear power plants (in some counries) offer the prospect of reducing their dependence on foreign energy sources, because of the growing prospect that automobile fleets will shift from oil-based fuels to electricity.

    Cons:

    4) Not only the waste but what do do with it. Until today, there has not been a single efficient solution for this problem. This is further aggravated by the long time span this particular waste is dangerous for (many thousand years!).

    5) While nuclear energy production is inexpensive, the construction of a nuclear power plant is VERY expensive and the costs have escalated wildly over the last few decades. This is one of the main reasons why global capacity and output in this sector has actually declined in 2008. The estimated cost of building a nuclear power plant rose from around US$400 million in the 1970s to US$4 billion in the 1990s (I'm not sure if this is measured in current or constant $).

    6) The length of time required for building approvals, which has led to a doubling in construction times. These regulatory pressures are mainly due to ongoing safety concerns (combined with the loss of key expertise within the nuclear construction industry). By the way, 5 and 6 are linked, with one year of delay in construction on average adding $1 billion to construction costs. No wonder it is difficult to find investors willing to finance nuclear construction projects. This is complicated by global macroeconomic fluctuations that result in large swings in prices for those commodities (including capital) necessary for the construction of a nuclear power plant. This obviously increases the uncertainty investors face.

    7) Deep concern about nuclear weapon proliferation.

    8) Not so clean in terms of CO2 emissions as many think: If you take into account the full life-cycle of a nuclear power plant, from its construction to the mining and milling of the uranium fuel to the transportation and storage of nuclear waste and the eventual decommissioning of the plant, then such a plant emits a great deal of CO2, though still by far not as much as is emitted during the generation of electricity from coal. So nuclear energy is not as clean as wind, solar or hydro power.

    9) Reactors with open-loop cooling systems consume prohibitive amounts of water.
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    To Zwirko:

    Could you explain why you don't find point 1 of cons a serious concern? What do you want to do with the stuff? There is no way (yet) of safely storing it. Even if there were, storage is not unlimited and would add significantly to costs per unit of energy output. Your thoughts?
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    Quote Originally Posted by erwinigel1000
    To Zwirko:

    Could you explain why you don't find point 1 of cons a serious concern? What do you want to do with the stuff? There is no way (yet) of safely storing it. Even if there were, storage is not unlimited and would add significantly to costs per unit of energy output. Your thoughts?
    It can be reprocessed and reused.
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    I'm didn't intend to imply that nuclear waste is a non-issue. Clearly, it's not the sort of stuff you'd want to take a bath in or pour into your nearest river or on your corn-flakes. Neither would it be something you'd want falling into the wrong hands.

    There is a lot of bad press about nuclear waste, but a great deal of that bad press has no solid scientific foundation - it's basically scare-mongering. So much so that the phrase "nuclear waste" is practically a synonym for "evil". I think we have the ability to deal with it - whether that be recycling or long-term storage.

    There's not that much of it and we appear to be safely storing it at the moment?

    And just to make clear: I'm not convinced that spending money on new nuclear plants is the way forward - you might even say I'm "anti-nuclear".
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    Quote Originally Posted by Twit of wit
    It can be reprocessed and reused.
    Yes spent fuel rods can and should be reprocessed. However spent fuel rods are not the only waste products produced in a nuclear power plant. Other things around and in the vicinity of those fuel rods tend to become radioactive too, and some of the other radioactive elements created in the decay process are not reusable and remain very nasty for a very long number of years.

    I won't say no to anymore nuclear power plants, but I will always say no to putting all our eggs into one basket. I think we should attack our power problems from every angle that we can. Which includes all forms of renewable energy, beefing up resources and investments for sustainable fusion reactors. Passing laws to require all new houses and buildings be super insulated and economic incentives for existing structures to be upgraded to super insulated status.
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    One con you missed:

    Nuclear power plants use more cooling water than coal or natural gas. Why? Because the waste heat has to go somewhere and in a fossil plant a percentage goes up the stack into the atmosphere. That is not possible in a nuclear plant. All the waste heat has to go into cooling water.

    Water will become an increasingly scarce resource as populations grow. This will limit the geographical options for building nukes.

    Also, saying that nuclear power is inexpensive is meaningless unless you define your terms. Construction costs are huge, and there are many other costs apart from the fuel itself.
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    Ok, reprocessing nuclear waste is one option, but it is an expensive one (so I read).

    I completely agree with Lance that the answer can only be a mix of renewable energy and other measures. How should the composition of this mix be determined? Only on the basis of cost effectiveness? And what plays a bigger role in determining the mix, markets or governments?
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    Quote Originally Posted by erwinigel1000
    Ok, reprocessing nuclear waste is one option, but it is an expensive one (so I read).
    If we built our own reprocessing plant, it would be cheaper than sending our spent fuel rods to France for reprocessing, and France needs a little competition and I think there are profits to be had in this business.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    One con you missed:

    Nuclear power plants use more cooling water than coal or natural gas. Why? Because the waste heat has to go somewhere and in a fossil plant a percentage goes up the stack into the atmosphere. That is not possible in a nuclear plant. All the waste heat has to go into cooling water.

    Water will become an increasingly scarce resource as populations grow. This will limit the geographical options for building nukes.

    Also, saying that nuclear power is inexpensive is meaningless unless you define your terms. Construction costs are huge, and there are many other costs apart from the fuel itself.
    Good point about the water. I was having a similar thought.

    One point I would like to make is solar panels are coming down in price and if just about 50% of our population could have a few installed on their roofs it might make a very big difference in the amount of resources we will be using up as a nation and save a few of us a few bucks in the electric bill.
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    One point I would like to make is solar panels are coming down in price and if just about 50% of our population could have a few installed on their roofs it might make a very big difference in the amount of resources we will be using up as a nation and save a few of us a few bucks in the electric bill.
    I agree and I'd love to install one, but you need to own a property in the first place. It would be interesting to know the ratio of tenants to owners (globally) and whether this ratio has changed significantly over the past few decades.

    But I find it's true that photovoltaics have a huge potential. Sunlight is inexhaustible and the price has come down significantly indeed, and will decline further in the medium term. And it doesn't stop at installing solar panels on your rooftop. You could build huge solar panel parks in remote isolated places like african deserts (where the sun shines all year round) and feed the generated electricity into a large-scale super grid to provide electricity in European countries.
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    Quote Originally Posted by erwinigel1000
    I agree and I'd love to install one, but you need to own a property in the first place. It would be interesting to know the ratio of tenants to owners (globally) and whether this ratio has changed significantly over the past few decades.
    That sounds like a business opportunity to me. How about semi-portable solar panels that you take with you when you move. So if you are a renter you might still be able to reap some of the benefits of going solar.
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    [/quote]That sounds like a business opportunity to me. How about semi-portable solar panels that you take with you when you move. So if you are a renter you might still be able to reap some of the benefits of going solar.

    I like it! I was thinking about a similar thing. Not for the roof, but a small one for your balcony. But it would probably be quite inefficient, given the small size...

    Let's say such a solar panel would be able to generate 5% of your electricity consumption, how much would you be willing to spend for the panel? Let's say your annual bill is $1000...

    Btw, I have figured out how to quote, but it only says "Quote" instead of the usual "X wrote:"

    Could someone tell me how that works? Thanks!
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by erwin
    Could someone tell me how that works? Thanks!
    Put quote="name" after quote inside the brackets

    For others see:
    See http://www.vbulletin.com/forum/misc.php?do=bbcode
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    Quote Originally Posted by erwinigel1000
    Could someone tell me how that works? Thanks!
    Have you noticed in every response section there is a Quote button in the upper right corner. When you are ready to respond chick that button and everything that responder has said will be quote boxed. You can then edit it and separate the paragraphs or phrases as you like, by highlighting the text you want to quote separate (use the quote button at top of window for this function) so you can respond to specific questions or comments. Then be sure to use the display at the bottom so you can check out what it looks like before you hit the submit button. With a little practice you will have the hang of it in no time.

    Hope that helps a bit.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Put quote="name" after quote inside the brackets
    Thanks! That works...thanks to Lance too!
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    Just about every plan developed for reducing carbon dioxide emissions includes building more nuclear power plants. This is from NEI which is a pro-nuclear power organization, but I assume the facts are correct.

    The trouble with the renewables is that they are not reliable enough for baseload operation. Most of your generating capacity has to be baseload if you want to keep the lights on.

    http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats...atives/?page=5
    Analyses Recommending an Expanded Role for Nuclear Energy

    Environmental Protection Agency, “EPA Analysis of the American Power Act of 2010 (Kerry/Lieberman),” June 2010: The core policy scenario for reducing greenhouse gas emissions would re-quire more than doubling total nuclear capacity by 2050. If all existing U.S. operating reactors retire at 60 years, the U.S. will need to build another 253 gigawatts of nuclear capacity (approximately 181 new reactors).

    Environmental Protection Agency, “EPA Analysis of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454),” June 2009: The core policy scenario for reducing greenhouse gas emissions would require a 150 percent increase in nuclear power generation, or roughly 180 new reactors, by 2050.

    Joint Statement of the Academies of Science for the G8+5 Countries, “Climate Change Adaptation and the Transition to a Low Carbon Economy,” 2008: The statement recommends accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy by producing more energy from low-carbon sources such as nuclear power.

    Electric Power Research Institute, “Prism/MERGE Analyses: 2009 Update”: Full portfolio approach to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 41 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 includes 45 new nuclear reactors.

    U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Energy Market and Economic Impacts of H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009,” August 2009: The basic scenario projects that the United States would need 96 gigawatts of new nuclear capacity, almost 70 new reactors, by 2030.

    OECD/International Energy Agency, “World Energy Outlook 2009,” OECD/IEA, 2009: Stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide at 450 parts per million would require nearly doubling global nuclear energy capacity by 2030.

    Business Roundtable, “The Balancing Act: Climate Change, Energy Security and the U.S. Economy,” 2009: “As the only existing, proven and scalable low-carbon baseload generation technology, nuclear power will be critical to managing the impending turnover in baseload capacity in a sustainable manner.”
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    The trouble with the renewables is that they are not reliable enough for baseload operation. Most of your generating capacity has to be baseload if you want to keep the lights on.
    Yes, the intermittency problem of renewables is an issue, but this may be resolved reasonably soon by the emerging capability to store electricity in larger-scale batteries. This way, the volatility in renewables' elctricity generation can be smoothed out and a steady baseload could be supplied. This trend will be complemented by the rapidly increasing market for electric vehicles.
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    This link provides a comparison of levelized costs of a range of types of power generation, including construction costs, cost of fuel, operations and maintenance. It does not consider subsidies. It doesn't mention insurance costs which are very high for nukes. As the accompanying writeup states, the costs are averages and do not necessarily reflect the optimum, which means for instance that a wind plant located in a location with constant wind and therefore higher availability would cost less per kWh than the averaged cost shown.

    Combined cycle natural gas is by far the lowest cost, and when CCS is added it is still lower cost than advanced nuclear. However, natural gas is a non-renewable resource that is likely to increase in price as it is used up. No doubt the same applies to fuel for nukes.

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/elec...eneration.html
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370
    Just about every plan developed for reducing carbon dioxide emissions includes building more nuclear power plants. This is from NEI which is a pro-nuclear power organization, but I assume the facts are correct.

    The trouble with the renewables is that they are not reliable enough for baseload operation. Most of your generating capacity has to be baseload if you want to keep the lights on.

    http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats...atives/?page=5
    Harold that information you provided sure paints an ugly picture (Damned if you do and damned if you don't), and what you said about renewables not being reliable enough for baseload operations is true. However, what I'm thinking is more on the order of slowing down the construction of new power plants until the real replacement baseload plants can start being brought online. I know there is still some uncertainty about fusion power, but I think it will happen if we don't get sidetracked first. I've heard estimates that there will be a working production fusion reactor by 2050 and the more concerned we become about our situation the more resources will be made available to get it done. Between better insulation and more refinements and cheaper renewables, we could really be doing ourselves a big favor.
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    Quote Originally Posted by erwinigel1000
    To Zwirko:

    Could you explain why you don't find point 1 of cons a serious concern? What do you want to do with the stuff? There is no way (yet) of safely storing it. Even if there were, storage is not unlimited and would add significantly to costs per unit of energy output. Your thoughts?
    Everyone talks about storing this waste for 1000 years, but that assumes that we won't find a way to rocket it out into space. I think that is quite an assumption when you consider the rate of technological progress over just the last 100 years.

    Send it into space and it's gone forever.


    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury

    Water will become an increasingly scarce resource as populations grow. This will limit the geographical options for building nukes.
    True, but it doesn't have to be good drinking water, does it? If we set up the plant by the ocean, couldn't we cool it with salt water?
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury

    Water will become an increasingly scarce resource as populations grow. This will limit the geographical options for building nukes.
    True, but it doesn't have to be good drinking water, does it? If we set up the plant by the ocean, couldn't we cool it with salt water?
    Wouldn't you agree that setting up the plant by the ocean amounts to a geographical limitation? All nukes in the UK are by the ocean and use seawater -Britain is a small island. Fewer than half in the US are by the ocean and the inland ones use cooling towers in which large amounts of fresh water are evaporated. Canada uses lake water.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lance Wenban
    However, what I'm thinking is more on the order of slowing down the construction of new power plants until the real replacement baseload plants can start being brought online.
    I don't think that gets nearly enough attention. There's still a tremendous about of low hanging fruit in terms of energy efficiency that the US could obtain to slow down power plant growth for a decade or more.

    Nuke power, at present looks like the best option by far to provide base-loading until the mid century. Much of the problems of putting them on the coast for using sea water as an option is our grid is antiquated.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Quote Originally Posted by Lance Wenban
    However, what I'm thinking is more on the order of slowing down the construction of new power plants until the real replacement baseload plants can start being brought online.
    I don't think that gets nearly enough attention. There's still a tremendous about of low hanging fruit in terms of energy efficiency that the US could obtain to slow down power plant growth for a decade or more.

    Nuke power, at present looks like the best option by far to provide base-loading until the mid century. Much of the problems of putting them on the coast for using sea water as an option is our grid is antiquated.
    Yes our grid is antiquated and we need to start upgrading it soon. With careful planning it should be possible to coordinate the building of new nuclear power plants and upgrading the power grid so that they will work together well. Anyway what choices do we have? We know we have to upgrade our grid and we know we will need new power plants.
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  28. #27  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury

    Water will become an increasingly scarce resource as populations grow. This will limit the geographical options for building nukes.
    True, but it doesn't have to be good drinking water, does it? If we set up the plant by the ocean, couldn't we cool it with salt water?
    Wouldn't you agree that setting up the plant by the ocean amounts to a geographical limitation? All nukes in the UK are by the ocean and use seawater -Britain is a small island. Fewer than half in the US are by the ocean and the inland ones use cooling towers in which large amounts of fresh water are evaporated. Canada uses lake water.
    Good point, and even with ocean water, there's the problem of dealing with all the salt, so it doesn't accumulate or corrode the pipes.

    What would you think about the micro-nukes they're working on at OSU? Supposedly their design allows them to recirculate the water.

    http://discovermagazine.com/2010/jun...of-micro-nukes
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Good point, and even with ocean water, there's the problem of dealing with all the salt, so it doesn't accumulate or corrode the pipes.

    What would you think about the micro-nukes they're working on at OSU? Supposedly their design allows them to recirculate the water.

    http://discovermagazine.com/2010/jun...of-micro-nukes
    The tubes in seawater cooled condensers are usually made from titanium. Very expensive but it resists corrosion from seawater and can take high velocities without erosion damage. The water boxes are carbon steel lined with rubber and the tubesheets are clad with titanium.

    I'm not familiar with the micro nukes but quickly read the Discover article. Recirculating the water is done in every power plant, nuclear or fossil. The steam/water cycle is sealed. The cooling water is an external circuit used to condense the very low pressure steam at the exit from the turbines and it does not circulate diectly around the reactor. From a quick read it seems that these micro nukes have three circuits, which can only reduce their thermal efficiency. However they might still be useful in certain applications.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Everyone talks about storing this waste for 1000 years, but that assumes that we won't find a way to rocket it out into space. I think that is quite an assumption when you consider the rate of technological progress over just the last 100 years.

    Send it into space and it's gone forever.
    Wouldn't that add significantly to the cost per unit of electricity generated?
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    Quote Originally Posted by erwinigel1000
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    Everyone talks about storing this waste for 1000 years, but that assumes that we won't find a way to rocket it out into space. I think that is quite an assumption when you consider the rate of technological progress over just the last 100 years.

    Send it into space and it's gone forever.
    Wouldn't that add significantly to the cost per unit of electricity generated?
    I think it depends on how expensive the methods we develop are. A good way to do it would be to require companies disposing of the waste to set up a fund that will be awarded as a bounty to whoever ultimately puts the waste in space.

    Space propulsion tech is like anything else. The cost will come down over time, and when the cost finally reaches the point of being as small as the value of that bounty, someone will take it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    I think it depends on how expensive the methods we develop are. A good way to do it would be to require companies disposing of the waste to set up a fund that will be awarded as a bounty to whoever ultimately puts the waste in space.

    Space propulsion tech is like anything else. The cost will come down over time, and when the cost finally reaches the point of being as small as the value of that bounty, someone will take it.
    It would be hard to say what you suggest will not happen. However, what kind of time frame are we talking about? Another 50 to 100 years?

    The best plan is still to find an unlimited source of clean energy (fusion power) and while we are working at that, we should be looking at all other possible alternatives. I think we are, but the level of resources being made available could be a tad more than they are. Looks like another close call in the making. We humans sure like our close calls don't we.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    I think it depends on how expensive the methods we develop are. A good way to do it would be to require companies disposing of the waste to set up a fund that will be awarded as a bounty to whoever ultimately puts the waste in space.
    We'll probably be able to produce what ever we're making in space, including energy, before it's economical or wise to transport them there. Moving manufacturing off planet, away from the biosphere, is ultimately where we'd like to go.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    I think it depends on how expensive the methods we develop are. A good way to do it would be to require companies disposing of the waste to set up a fund that will be awarded as a bounty to whoever ultimately puts the waste in space.
    We'll probably be able to produce what ever we're making in space, including energy, before it's economical or wise to transport them there. Moving manufacturing off planet, away from the biosphere, is ultimately where we'd like to go.
    That would be awesome. I can just imagine how great it would be being able to use solar power as a base load. No weather patterns in space.

    However, if we got enough infrastructure into space so we could manufacture rocket fuel on the Moon, then we could launch rockets down from the moon to rendezvous with space shuttles in low Earth orbit, and bring them from there back into deep space. That would mean we could send an object the size and weight of the space shuttle up on every launch. I'm sure we could find some use for it up there.
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