Two good articles on Nuclear Power

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Gwyneth Cravens started out in life as an environmentalist and was anti-nuclear. She opened her eyes to the features and benefits of both Coal and Nuclear and is now very pro-nuclear power. The first article is at The Huffington Post:
The Truth About Nuclear Energy
Last week at an Arizona nuclear plant, guards, who are required to search every vehicle that enters the grounds, detained an employee at a checkpoint 1.5 miles from the plant when a five-inch long improvised pipe bomb was found in his truck. The news media kept referring to the pipe bomb as a scary threat and speculating on various deadly but impossible scenarios. But did this incident reveal how vulnerable our nuclear plants are? And if a pipe bomb were detonated at the plant, would a dangerous release of radioactive pollution occur? And what source of electricity generation poses the greatest risk to public health?

As an opponent of nuclear plants who believed them to pose a great risk, I went on a nuclear tour of America with a scientist, Dr. D. Richard ("Rip") Anderson. Among other things, he's an expert in risk assessment, environmental health, and nuclear safety. Having led several big programs at Sandia National Laboratories, he has a high-level security clearance. Even with his credentials we couldn't just drop in at a nuclear power plant. To arrange visits took months. We had to provide all our data to a liaison and to wait for approval. We were given a date and time to appear at the gate. We had to have a guide who worked for the company with us at all times. On the road to the plant, our escort pointed out security cameras. We were already being watched. We had to pass various checkpoints guarded by burly men with AK-47s. They wore bullet-proof vests hung with electronic communications equipment. Even though we rode in a company car, the squad checked its underside and trunk, and had us get out and walk about half a block away from it so that some other, unexplained search could occur. Meanwhile, inside a guard booth our IDs were being checked by an official who made phone calls. After what seemed a rather long time, we were permitted to continue. We passed a plant fire department and a clinic. The administration building that stood between us and the heart of the plant was protected by big concrete jersey barriers. Later we were to see hydraulic pop-up barriers that can stop a speeding tractor-trailer truck cold. Once inside that building we had to be approved by another armed squad, pass through metal detectors, and have our belongings X-rayed while being scrutinized by even bigger, burlier, and more heavily beweaponed guards on the other side.
She goes on to talk about security and the benefits of nuclear power and closes with this observation:
Nuclear power, while providing one-fifth of our electricity and three-quarters of our emissions-free electricity, has never caused a single death to a member of the American public.
Unlike the 24,000 deaths/year directly attributable to Coal generation. The second is an interview in Wired magazine:
Former 'No Nukes' Protester: Stop Worrying and Love Nuclear Power
The only way to rescue our plug-hungry planet from catastrophic global warming is to embrace nuclear power, and fast.

That's the argument of Gwyneth Cravens, a novelist, journalist and former nuke protester. Her new book, Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy, is a passionate plea to understand, instead of fear, atomic power. In her book, Cravens is guided Dante-like through the entire life cycle of nuclear power -- from mining to production to waste disposal -- by one of the world's foremost experts on risk assessment and nuclear waste.

Her conclusion? Every day spent burning coal for power translates into damaged lungs and ecosystem destruction. If the world wants to keep plugging in big-screen TVs and iPods, it needs a steady source of power. Wind and solar can't produce the "base-load" (or everyday) steady supply needed, and the only realistic -- and safe -- alternative is nuclear.
And some more:
Wired News: You don't argue that nuclear power is entirely safe, but that it's vastly better than coal and fossil fuels. Do we have to choose between them?

Gwyneth Cravens: I used to think we surely could do better. We could have more wind farms and solar. But I then learned about base-load energy, and that there are three forms of it: fossil fuels, hydro and nuclear. In the United States, we're maxed out on hydro. That leaves fossil fuels and nuclear power, and most of the fossil fuel burned is coal.

In the U.S., 24,000 people a year die from coal pollution. Hundreds of thousands more people suffer from lung and heart disease directly attributable to coal pollution.

WN: That's opposed to a minuscule number of people who have been directly harmed by nuclear power?

Cravens: It's zero in the United States. Of course there is the occasional industrial accident amongst the workers. But over the lifetime cycle of nuclear power, if you go cradle-to-grave with uranium, the total carbon emissions are about those of wind power.
Nuclear waste:
WN: You have an interesting statistic comparing the waste levels produced by individuals over a lifetime.

Cravens: A family in four in France, where they reprocess nuclear fuel, would produce only enough waste to fit in a coffee cup over a whole lifetime. A lifetime of getting all your electricity from coal-fired plants would make a single person's share of solid waste (in the United States) 68 tons, which would require six 12-ton railroad cars to haul away. Your share of CO2 would be 77 tons.
Good stuff. Nuclear is the best source of cheap baseline electricity. Nothing else comes close...

1 Comment

Regarding nuclear waste - how is it we never hear about glass-passivating the waste? Mixing it with molten glass renders the waste immobile, impervious to loss, too heavy to steal by any ordinary means, too dilute to go critical, and allows recovery of precious molecules at some time in the future when we may need to recover them for reprocessing. Safer and easier to store in some mountain instead of in drums as we do it now. I first heard about this technology years ago - what's the problem telling folks? Science remains largely silent while the muckrakers and fearmongers run around agitating, some of them making a damn good living at it. Disfuckingusting.

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on April 21, 2008 1:34 PM.

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