Once Again–No Nukes

I’m discouraged that President Obama is not putting more emphasis on renewable energy and conservation, and worse yet, proposing to give a huge loan and protection from liability to the nuclear industry.

Too busy to cover all the aspects of this, but I’m going to post a link to some earlier posts referencing the Providence Journal’s fine article about United Nuclear in Charlestown, RI.

Whenever I hear claims that no American ever died in a nuclear accident I think of Robert Peabody. I think of all the people exposed to radiation, and the enormous cleanup costs.

So here’s a link to ‘Rhode Island’s Nuclear Fatality’.

And a reminder that nuclear power is such a bad investment that banks won’t touch it unless the government underwrites it and the public takes the risk.

More on this here, including the unsolved question of where to put the waste.

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17 responses

  1. As I recall, there are some 104 domestic nuclear power plants operating in the U.S. There has never been a fatality associated with these. There are about 120 U.S. military nuclear power plants in operation, most of these on surface and subsurface Navy ships. There has never been a fatality associated with these. I suspect there are an equal or greater number of nuclear power plants in operation in foreign countries and militaries, and with the exception of Chernobyl, I do not recall a single operational fatality with any of these.

    Approximately 42,000 Americans are killed in auto realted accidents each year and more than 100,000 injured. There are some 230,000,000 vehicles operating in the U.S. It is likely that an equal or greater number are killed or injured elsewhere in the world.

    Of course radioactivity has killed people in the past, mostly from mining activities where radon gas was inhaled and uranium mining was in its infancy. As I recall Marie Curie died of radiation related exposure during her research, although as an older woman. However, it is likely that more people were killed each year by being struck by lightening than any deaths from accidental exposure.

    Radioactivity is nasty stuff if appropriate caution is neglected. However nuclear power plants are clearly safe, effective, efficient, and yield very clean electrical energy. In point of fact, most of the nations of the world are choosing nuclear energy over other sources or as a msignificant component of their power futures. Newer facilities reprocess nuclear fuel and reduce waste to 10% or less, solving much of the disposal issue. Unfortunately misinformation about nuclear energy in the U.S. has left this nation sadly behind in technology and the leading edge of the industry is in France, Germany, and now China and India.

  2. you might want to read about Robert Peabody, who was working in a nuclear reprocessing plant when the material he was handling went critical and poisoned him. No one wants to look too closely at the exposure of the ambulance driver, hospital workers and his wife who held his hand as he was dying.
    unlike an auto accident victim, Robert Peabody was himself radioactive and was held in isolation in our state’s biggest ER.

  3. The unfortunate Mr. Peabody was the victim of an accident gone wrong. By their nature, accidents are the improbable, chance event resulting usually from a series of events, none good and most tragic. The Chernobyl event was a disaster of huge proportions and the result of the old Soviet carelessness and bad ideas and is the only such failure in the history of nuclear energy. One of the first passengers in an airplane, a young Army officer rode with one of the Wright brothers and the plane crashed. There was much concern whether airplanes should be banned from use. Marie Curie died as a direct result of exposure to radiation from her experiments. Miners have died from exposure to radon gas before anyone understood what that was all about, and others have died from black lung, mining coal, before figuring out how to deal with that issue. The point is, all human activities have risk. Another point is that after billions of hours of operation in more than 200 nuclear energy facilities in the world and another 200 on ships, there have been no fatalities and a safety record of amazing success. Leadership in the U.S. has again badly damaged American industry, science and technology, and the best interest of its citizens and the balance of creativity has shifted elsewhere in the world. Both Republican and Democratic administrations are the cause of these failures, and the American public the victims.

  4. The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is leaking radioactivity into the groundwater. Here’s a good article about a pro-nuclear industry insider who opposes extending operations 20 years beyond the time the plant was supposed to last.
    http://www.timesargus.com/article/20100221/NEWS01/2210346
    I wish nuclear power was as safe and clean as you think, if so, it would be one answer to our energy problems. However, the potential consequences of an accident are so dire that no private insurer will cover the plants. The economics are so shaky that no private bank will give them a loan. The problem of what to do with the sites of old plants and the waste has not been solved.
    Robert Peabody was put in harm’s way because the corporation that ran United Nuclear valued profits over safety. But we’re not like that now, are we?

  5. Are you taliking about the tritium leak? Although I would not drink the stuff, the half-life is less than astounding…days as I recall. Actually we all drink some tritium I guess since it is everywhere. Significantly, the hype around the leak is “hotter” than the actuality and safety limits have not been exceeded. Last report I recall indicates a clogged drain or condensation issue around a tunnel and its pipes, not a structure or danger issue. Important to Vermontians is that the facility produces some huge proportion of the State’s power 24/7. It is an older plant and in the best of all worlds should be replaced by newer technology.

  6. According to the Boston Globe, Vermonters are worried
    http://www.boston.com/news/local/new_hampshire/articles/2010/02/04/around_vt_yankee_tritium_discovery_raises_fears/
    The article says that the level of tritium found in a test of groundwater is 37 times the EPA limit. It can cause cancer if ingested. They don’t know yet where the leak is.
    If the government has $8 billion dollars to invest in energy, why nuclear?

  7. What happened to Mr. Peabody wouldn’t happen at all in a modern facility, it wouldn’t even happen in a facility built in the 1970s.

    Consider the march of technology: It only took 60 years from ‘airplane’ to ‘Apollo 11′. Nuclear science was in its infancy back in the 1960s. New reactor designs are small, safe, self-monitoring and self-contained, and don’t produce nearly the amount of waste as the old ones.

    If we could stop fearmongering about nukes, we could -replace- aging facilities like Vermont’s with new ones that are much better, and we could stop burning coal, which puts even -more- radiation into the environment than nuclear itself.

    Even our -most ambitious- plans for wind only supply 15% of our power needs here in RI. Solar PV is basically a non-option here, in terms of cost. Natural gas is expensive, subject to volatile markets, and relies on foreign sources that warp our treatment of the world.

    It seems to me that nuclear is really the only sane option as a 50-100 year ‘bridge’ to something greener. In the meantime, we could be enjoying cheap, carbon-free electricity, plenty of free hydrogen, and hundreds of high-tech jobs.

    I say we move to build a few AP1000-type units and become a net-producer of electricity, and start putting older, less-safe reactors out of commission.

  8. Nancy-you can’t deny that properly constructed nuclear plants can provide power safely and with minimal pollution-it’s a matter of regulation and enforcement.
    You can point out the man who lost his life as many times as you want,but just think how many workers have been killed or maimed in conventional power production facilities,chemical plants,the fishing industry,railroading,construction,etc-you might realize that the nuclear industry isn’t that unsafe.
    Chernobyl was the result of poor design and even worse operating/maintenance practices.
    My point is that we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

  9. I wish nuclear power was as safe as you think but it isn’t. Add human error, the inevitability of operators cutting corners, and the production of nuclear waste that remains deadly for thousands of years.
    Robert Peabody didn’t die because United Nuclear was ignorant of safety standards. He died because they ignored safety in favor of profit. The fact that coal miners still work in such dangerous conditions shows that money talks and government listens, even when risks can be minimized. It’s far easier to control the risks of mining than the risks of nuclear contamination from waste, error, obsolete plants, sabotage– but we don’t control those risks. What is reassuring about that?

  10. You think a bunch of windmills and solar panels is going to do it?
    It isn’t possible.
    I’m not saying that we shouldn’t develope renewable energy sources,just that it’s not in the forseeable future that those sources will take up what we’ve been doing with fossil fuels and nuclear.
    Hydroelectric is the only practical renewable source we have.
    You pick out specific examples like Mr.Peabody and that woman they executed 300 something years ago and extrapolate these examples into a general principle.It isnt valid.

  11. ninjanurse,

    Look at how they do it in Austin:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Texas_Nuclear_Generating_Station

    The cities of San Antonio and Austin together own 56% of the operation, and the corporate partner is a minority stakeholder. This is a simple way to prevent the kind of corner-cutting that you worry about, and also to capture and divert some of the product (megawatts) to where -society- deems they belong.

    I really don’t understand the Progressive energy agenda:

    1. NIMBY and externalize everything you don’t like. For instance, we’re too high-falootin’ to burn coal in Rhode Island, but we let Connecticut sell us electricity from coal they burn upwind from us. That’s what I call ‘Wicket Smaht’.
    2. Push extremely costly costly generation methods and force green producers to ‘donate’ the excess energy to charitable causes instead of selling it wholesale to the grid.
    3. Bitch about rate increases. Even the ones that encourage lower energy use.

    I wish RI could go totally green. Unfortunately, there’s just no way we’re going to cut our consumption by 85% and invest tens of billions of dollars that we don’t have. We -do- have lots of coal burning going on, we -do- have lots of old-design nuclear plants that we need to replace with something and get out of production.

    Things really are different now than they were wen Vermont Yankee went up. There’s a tenth of the waste now. Containment is designed better. We know a lot more. Even the materials are better. Computerized systems control the safety, and even in an abject failure, the cooling and safety systems are gravity-driven, you cut the power and the thing gracefully shuts down instead of melting a hole through the floor. Modern nuclear plants are very small, and they produce power that’s 1/7th the cost of what we’re paying in RI.

    Think about all the heavy metal and carbon we could keep out of our air if we out-maneuvered nearby coal production. Think about how many fewer asthma and cancer cases we’d have. Think about what $30 electric heating bills would do for our poor community instead of $120 natural gas.

  12. mangeek-Many progressives like how things sound without knowing the facts-they’re all about emotion.Fact is,there’s very little chance to stay warm in the winter with only “clean”sources.
    I did see geothermal at work in Iceland-it’s cheap(hell,it’s free),clean,and effective except….you gotta be sitting on or near a volcanic hot spot to benefit from it.So??

  13. While it’s true that all the available options for energy have their problems, there are special hazards associated with radioactive fuel. The nuclear industry was able to arrange special exemption from responsibility for potential damages of a nuclear accident. The taxpayers bear the risk and expense, hoping that some cheap electricity will trickle down to us.
    So, if it’s so safe, how come the free market doesn’t want it without special government insurance protection?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price%E2%80%93Anderson_Nuclear_Industries_Indemnity_Act

    Meanwhile, we are ignoring opportunities to conserve energy, and under-funding other sources. A nuclear plant takes a huge investment of money and time, and a kind of faith that someone down the line will maintain the obsolete plant and find a place to put the waste.

    1. I think the exemption from responsibility is silly and shouldn’t have happened, but it’s somewhat understandable because the costs of an total accident are too high for any free-market entity to contain. Granted, a ‘total accident’ is virtually impossible, and has never happened outside of Chernobyl, but no financial entity is going to back a single project that could end the company, it causes sort of a ‘divide by zero’ error with risk-management equations. Contrast that with an accident like the Deepwater Horizon spill, which will likely be absorbed by the company after five years or so of reduced profits.

      Your statement that the taxpayers have to pay the costs is only true -if- there is a major accident, which is virtually impossible in a modern facility. The taxpayer bears the -risk-. In traditional power generation, the taxpayer automatically bears the health and environmental costs.

      The return on nuclear is guaranteed, nuclear plants produce cheap electricity. That’s a solid fact. Wind and solar are the technologies where we ‘sit and wait for power to trickle down’. Also, with wind and solar, the taxpayer has to front massive amounts of money -and- the electricity is expensive forever.

      I’ll give you an analogy: You want to buy a car. The dealer says that you have a choice: One costs $80,000 and you pay $24 per mile to drive it, and it only works three days a week, so you’ll need to have a spare handy. Another car costs $10,000 and costs $2/mile, but there’s a one-in-a-million chance that it spills oil all over your backyard.

      If you think those costs are crazy:

      -Deepwater Wind will cost $1.2B of taxpayer money and the electricity it produces will max-out at 15% of our needs. The electricity will cost $0.24/kWh and rise contractually at 3%/year.
      -A set of AP1000 reactors would cost $2B, supply a guaranteed 120% of our needs, and produce power for $0.03/kWh, including waste disposal costs. The cost will stay relatively steady.

      I’ve read some things about what really happens with most ‘conservation’ measures… In the big picture, when ‘smart grids’ are added, the load is just put-off to a different time to reduce peak loading, the amount of energy consumed (and coal burned) is the same. With more efficient appliances and lights, home and business owners tend to use the devices -more-. Think about it, we’ve been pushing CFL lights for years, and peak load keeps rising (even while our population shrinks); people have just doubled the number of lights they’re comfortable leaving on. Computers use less energy than ever, and now people leave them on 24/7 for convenience.

    2. Since you’re a “dour Celt”Nancy,I’ll leave you a quote from the Lyke-Wake Dirge:”fire and sleet and candleight and Christ receive thy soule”-well,we’ll get sleet anyway,and fire won’t warm the house,and candlelight is hard on old eyes like ours,so….looks like some nuclear energy is needed.
      mangeek makes very good points.
      That old ballad I referred to has some bone chilling thoughts in it-look it up on Google-you’ll enjoy it(I think).

  14. Iran is denying that a malicious computer worm called Stuxnet got through to its nuclear plant. They say it’s other problems that are holding the plant up. I feel safe knowing we have computers.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100926/wl_mideast_afp/irangermanyitcomputersecurityenergystuxnet

  15. Nancy-I really don’t care if Iran gets a nuclear power plant.Just so long as a Hellfire missile(or 8) pays a visit to the ruling clique at the same time.
    90% of Iranians are just people like us who want to live and let live.

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