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Five Myths about Nuclear Power

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Van Snyder's picture
Retired Retired

Retired mathematician and software engineer.

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  • Mar 23, 2021 10:55 pm GMT
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Popular discussions about nuclear power eventually get around to at least one of five objections: It’s not safe; no one knows what to do about waste; it’s too expensive; it leads to nuclear weapons proliferation; or there isn’t enough uranium. All of these objections are baseless.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 24, 2021

From a practical standpoint, why do you think these myths persist? What's the best way for nuclear advocates to push back against these ideas that have been deeply ingrained? 

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Jim Stack on Mar 26, 2021

That article could only have been written by someone who makes their living from working with Nuclear power . What about the many problems with Nuclear that are not a myth ? A few items are the amount of water used. The tons of waste stored at each site. The cost to build and operate Nuclear as it still gets the biggest subsidies of any power. It can't be ramped down and up fast enough to match the charge in demand day vs night. The vunerability of terrorist attach. The high cost of dismantaling a plant. The long long construction time. The need to be located near for cooling. The problems with heat like Europe had in the summer heat and they had to truck in cold water and run at reduced rates. Plus many more.  

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Van Snyder on Jun 23, 2021

I don't work for the nuclear power industry.

Every heat engine used to generate electricity, including solar thermal geothermal plants, use water for cooling. Nuclear power plants don't use more than the others.

Subsidies for nuclear power are less than the others, as the paper explains, and one can easily verify at the web page cited in the paper.

The only reason "waste" is stored at power plants is because DOE has reneged on its legal responsibility to take custody of it. As the paper makes clear, the correct thing to do is to separate fission products from unused fuel, and consume the unused fuel. An all-electric all-nuclear 1,700 GWe American energy economy, if done right, would produce 156 tonnes per year of materials needing 300 year custody. That we don't do it right is due to falsehoods from organizations such as Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth, who get a significant chunk of their funding from oil, coal, and gas interests. They are the ones who convinced Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton to sabotage the end of CO2 emissions.

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Jim Stack on Jun 24, 2021

So who has Nuclear at their home that makes more energy than they use? None Yet I have Solar PV I installed myself on my home in 2001. I made 130% this past year and have for 20 years. It uses no water and makes no pollution. FACTS are better than defending myths that are true.    The chart below shows the subsidized costs. 

https://www.eia.gov/analysis/requests/subsidy/

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Van Snyder on Jun 25, 2021

Can you also run a steel mill, a cement kiln, an aluminum refiner, a locomotive from the solar panel on your roof? How many kilowatt-years did you make? How many homes would it take to power a 1,700 GWe economy?

 

 

When you divide the direct federal subsidy from the web page you cited, by the total kilowatt hours produced, for each source, you find that the 2018 direct Federal subsidy, per kilowatt hour, for Solar, was about 127 times the direct Federal subsidy for nuclear power. This doesn't count indirect subsidies such as the production tax credit, state subsidies, or portfolio mandates. It also doesn't show anything about storage requirements, or land requirements, or the fact that a solar panel cannot destroy the stuff we mistakenly call "nuclear waste" (5% used fuel). Only the correct kind of nuclear reactor can do that.

 

If you look at the Energy Sector Accident Database at the Paul Scherrer Institut in Villigen, Switzerland you will see that solar is the third-least-safe way to make electricity, exceeded in danger only by wind and coal.

 

I applaud your virtue signaling, but you should really study system engineering, and consider every component, aspect, and consequence of the system, instead of focusing on one component.

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Bob Meinetz on Mar 30, 2021

Great post, Van. You can expect our anti-nuclear, anti-science folks to accuse you of being a shill for a non-existent "nuclear industry", and to call up talking points that have been debunked for decades.

They're rooted in irrational fear - and more than any other human emotion, it dies hard.

john king's picture
john king on Apr 2, 2021

When the dream world drives innovation you get people like N. Tesla. When the dream world drives policy you get people like AOC. My favorite renewable energy scheme is digester methane. Its impact on the environment is far more benign than the huge construction efforts required to sufficiently scale up wind and solar. Still, digester methane falls short of being a replacement for fossil fuel. Nuclear energy has no problems with scale up and should be considered in any discussion of energy transition.

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