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Let's Go Nuclear
So says a surprising advocate, Whole Earth Catalog and the Well founder Stewart Brand, in

Can climate change be slowed and catastrophe avoided? They can to the degree that humanity influences climate dynamics. The primary cause of global climate change is our burning of fossil fuels for energy.

So everything must be done to increase energy efficiency and decarbonize energy production. Kyoto accords, radical conservation in energy transmission and use, wind energy, solar energy, passive solar, hydroelectric energy, biomass, the whole gamut. But add them all up and it’s still only a fraction of enough. Massive carbon “sequestration” (extraction) from the atmosphere, perhaps via biotech, is a widely held hope, but it’s just a hope. The only technology ready to fill the gap and stop the carbon dioxide loading of the atmosphere is nuclear power.

Nuclear certainly has problems—accidents, waste storage, high construction costs, and the possible use of its fuel in weapons. It also has advantages besides the overwhelming one of being atmospherically clean. The industry is mature, with a half-century of experience and ever improved engineering behind it. Problematic early reactors like the ones at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl can be supplanted by new, smaller-scale, meltdown-proof reactors like the ones that use the pebble-bed design. Nuclear power plants are very high yield, with low-cost fuel. Finally, they offer the best avenue to a “hydrogen economy,” combining high energy and high heat in one place for optimal hydrogen generation.

The storage of radioactive waste is a surmountable problem (see “A New Vision for Nuclear Waste,” December 2004). Many reactors now have fields of dry-storage casks nearby. Those casks are transportable. It would be prudent to move them into well-guarded centralized locations. Many nations address the waste storage problem by reprocessing their spent fuel, but that has the side effect of producing material that can be used in weapons. One solution would be a global supplier of reactor fuel, which takes back spent fuel from customers around the world for reprocessing. That’s the kind of idea that can go from “Impractical!” to “Necessary!” in a season, depending on world events.

The environmental movement has a quasi-religious aversion to nuclear energy. The few prominent environmentalists who have spoken out in its favor—Gaia theorist James Lovelock, Greenpeace cofounder Patrick Moore, Friend of the Earth Hugh Montefiore—have been privately anathematized by other environmentalists. Public excoriation, however, would invite public debate, which so far has not been welcome.

via Boing Boing

Posted by aalkon at April 9, 2005 6:12 AM

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As one may guess from my "handle", processing waste is what I do.

See where I work: SRS.

For a long time, there has been a double standard in America regarding nuclear power. Not only does America not show the slightest impuse towards turning the "light switch" off, we gleefully jump into cars and whatnot to alleviate boredom - apparently we are not imaginative enough to realize that there are other activities than shopping at Target and Wal-Mart; this consumes fossil fuel sourced from the same place our power plants get fuel.

Then, there is an invisible nuclear presence in America: the US Navy, who maintains pressurized-water nuclear plants by the hundred in ships and submarines. Nobody (well, almost nobody) objects to these because ADM Hyman Rickover was ruthless about safety designs and quality when he invented the concept of a "nuclear Navy".

The concerns about nuclear waste, especially the vulnerability of same to terrorist attack, are almost comical to me because of the profound ignorance of the people studying the issues. There is no "good" or "evil" in the issue; these are the inventions of people intent on magnifying their importance in the discussion. It is a simple interaction of physical sciences: IF you want energy, THEN you must {do certain things to get it}. These things are not subject to personal wishes after the fact. TANSTAAFL.

Posted by: Radwaste at April 10, 2005 8:46 AM

Readers might be interested to know that Stewart Brand has recently endorsed a techno-thriller novel about the American nuclear power industry, written by a longtime nuclear engineer (me). This book provides an entertaining and accurate portrait of the nuclear industry today and how a nuclear accident would be handled. It is called “Rad Decision”, and is currently running as a serial at*gsp* There is no cost to readers. It's designed to read like an airport paperback.

“I'd like to see RAD DECISION widely read.” - - Stewart Brand.

All sides of the nuclear power debate will find items to like, and dislike, within Rad Decision. I’m not sure myself what the future of nuclear energy should be. What I am sure of is that we will make better decisions if we understand what nuclear energy is right now.


(Stewart Brand quote used with permission)

Posted by: James Aach at October 23, 2005 10:24 PM

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