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sex lies and Nuclear Power

Page history last edited by Andrew Alder 2 years, 10 months ago

a page on energy issues


Disclaimer: This page is not about sex. That was just to get you to read it. It's a trick I learned from Helen Gurley Brown.


But compared to that little lie, you've been told some real whoppers. Maybe you believed them, maybe not, and maybe you're not sure.


If you've believed them, don't feel too silly. So have lots and lots of others. Just read on and prepare to be educated. It won't be as painful as you might think.


And check me. None of this is secret. Depending on your preconceptions, you may find it hard or easy to believe that so many people could be caught so blatantly greenhanded


And if you do check me and find I'm right, be gentle with your local greenie. Most of them aren't deliberately lying. The have the best intentions. They just don't know their stuff. They don't in some cases even want to know, but that's understandable for several reasons, see pollies and participants and the green nuclear backdown. So see how to promote nuclear power if that becomes your wish, and be patient.




Those 1962 tests

You've been told that two American nuclear tests in 1962 proved that spent fuel from currently operating US power stations can be used to make a Plutonium nuclear bomb like the one that destroyed Nagasaki.


False. These tests didn't use Plutonium that had been made in a US power station, or that was of a grade that ever has been, or is ever likely to be. See fool grade, it's a fascinating story.


Nuclear waste

You've been told that spent fuel is an insoluble problem and that nobody is properly disposing of it.


False. Some countries are. See the solved problem of nuclear waste.


Others such as the USA are just letting the stuff pile up, for political reasons. The money to fund its responsible disposal is in kitty. But the local "environmentalists" don't want to do this. Why not? Mostly ignorance in my experience, but see power for another clue, and we could speculate on other reasons. None of them good reasons. Some of them must know better!




You've been told that Plutonium is the most dangerous substance on earth and that it's completely unnatural and so dangerous because it has such a long half life.


All false. 


Naturally occurring Radium is a lot more dangerous.


Modern analytical techniques can now detect traces of natural Plutonium in the Earth's crust.


Natural Plutonium is a lot rarer than Uranium just because Plutonium has such a relatively short half life.


(But on the other hand, lethally dangerous Radium has a shorter half-life still.)


And the fact that the half-lives of all isotopes of Plutonium are so much shorter than those of the two naturally occurring isotopes of Uranium is one of the reasons that, even without recycling the leftover Uranium and Plutonium from spent nuclear fuel, there's still a finite crossover period after which the waste we bury is permanently less radioactive than the ore we dug up was.


Plutonium is dangerous stuff, and very rare naturally, and a problem in nuclear waste. But if we're to make rational decisions, we need accurate information, not gutter press sensationalism.


But unfortunately, the gutter press takes in lots of readers, and many of them are voters, and politicians know all of this.



Fusion and radioactive waste

You've been told that the nuclear waste disposal problem of fusion reactors is trivial, compared to that of fission reactors.


False. All fusion reactor experiments to date that have produced any energy at all have also produced enormous quantities of radioactive waste compared to the tiny amount of energy produced, and there is no proposed solution to this. It's all just speculation that one will be found if enough money is spent looking for it. 


The problem may well be solved someday. But meantime it is a major problem to be solved. See ITER etc.


And the extra radioactivity produced by fusion reactors, unlike that produced by fission reactors, is permanent. It will reduce with time but will never disappear completely. That is, as neither Lithium nor Deuterium is radioactive, there's no crossover period. This may one day become a major political problem for fusion power, but as yet it doesn't seem to even be on the radar. And that's not I suppose surprising. If there really isn't any waste to dispose of, then how long it lasts isn't really an issue. If.   




You've been told that if such-and-such a dose of nuclear radiation gives one person in a thousand cancer, then one-thousandth of that dose will give one person in a million cancer. This is called the Linear no Threshold Model and is the basis, for example, of the estimates of people allegedly killed by the Three Mile Island meltdown.


False. The Linear No Threshold model has its uses, notably in setting conservative estimates of safe levels of exposure, which is why health physicists like it so much. But to apply it in this way is laughable. See The Linear No Thought model or LNT.



Greenhouse emissions of the nuclear industry

You've been told that the nuclear power industry contributes to global warming by producing greenhouse gas.


False. The net result of every commercial nuclear power plant has been an enormous reduction in greenhouse emissions, with the exception of those that have been prematurely shut down (some before even being fueled) by "environmental" activists.


And when he publicly and reluctantly but honestly admitted that nuclear power was in fact the only successful way of reducing greenhouse emissions that had yet been demonstrated, this produced the first split between Patrick Moore and Greenpeace. It's a fascinating story.


In the early days of the US nuclear industry, Uranium enrichment was provided by gaseous diffusion plants powered by some of the dirtiest coal fired plants. These enrichment plants had been built as part of the Manhattan Project, which also used two even less efficient technologies for enrichment, calutrons and thermal diffusion. The US gaseous diffusion plants, unlike the calutrons and the thermal diffusion plants, were not decomissioned after World War II, but continued operation through the Cold War, one until 2013.


But their main output was still military, and they are gone now, replaced even for military purposes by more efficient technologies. The USSR probably did the same during the cold war, Russia still ain't saying. And several other countries built them too, but these are all gone too. 


No country has ever used net greenhouse-producing technology in its nuclear power industry, if you do the sums honestly. Even in the US, the net result of the commercial plants has always been overwhelmingly greenhouse-negative if the nuclear power industry is blamed for only their share of the greenhouse emissions caused by the military plants, rather than the whole lot including the military usage. During their lifetime, power reactors (with the exceptions noted above, shut down by environmental activists without giving them the chance to break even as they would have done given the chance) have all produced far more electricity than they consumed. And that's including the electricity used for their construction, fuel enrichment and decomissioning, the whole lot. And they themselves produce no greenhouse gas in operation.


But yes, if you consider the greenhouse gas produced in constructing and initially fueling the plant, there's an investment of energy in building the plant, and if that energy is provided by burning coal or other geenhouse-producing means, then until the plant starts producing power, it has in that sense contributed to greenhouse emissions. And if environmental activists shut it down before it starts producing power, of course it never repays that investment.  


And the same goes for wind, and hydro, and solar, and every other technology that is potentially greenhouse-negative. I say "potentially" because there is, for example, a big question mark over hydro because of the methane released by decomposing vegetation whenever a valley is flooded by a hydro project. And methane is about four times worse than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. That's one reason stranded gas is often flared by the oil industry.


Fair go! These greenhouse gas claims are so ridiculous that it's hard to see how they can be other than pure fabrication, invented by a desperate environmental industry to support their anti-nuclear power dogma regardless of the facts.



The economics

You've been told that that nuclear power can't compete economically with other sources.


It's true that wind and solar are becoming cheaper and cheaper. And it's also that in the USA for example, the high capital cost, plus the risk of delays or even cancellation, have made new nuclear investment risky, and this has escalated the cost of that capital. It has been a perfect storm and has made new nukes a very soft target. In the 1970s a senior executive from Florida Power and Light told me "when you order a new nuke, you play a game called you bet your company."  


But that means a distorted market in which the cost of nuclear power has been deliberately and successfully increased by "environmental" opposition. In that context, the high cost of new nukes in the USA tells us nothing about the underlying cost.


More interestingly, it only applies to new nukes. Most of the cost of a nuclear power station is in the building even without this market distortion. So if this were the reason for opposing nuclear power, we would expect that existing plants would be allowed to continue to operate. They have already been paid for.


And we'd be wrong. See what happens when you do not go nuclear.   


See also

(some of these are already linked above)

Bombs Wastes and Accidents

why on earth did they build the RBMK

Patrick Moore and Greenpeace  (some relatively little but related lies by Greenpeace, on some of which they've now backed down)

Greenwashing considers the more general problem 

Climate change denial and the anti nuclear movement a radical but I think logical proposal

Energy reality it's not so hard...

The solved problem of nuclear waste

The green nuclear backdown

Are nukes economically viable


And more to follow, probably.







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