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Don’t Drink the Nuclear Kool-Aid

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Posted on Jul 16, 2008

By Amy Goodman

  While the presidential candidates trade barbs and accuse each other of flip-flopping, they agree with President Bush on their enthusiastic support for nuclear power.

  Sen. John McCain has called for 100 new nuclear power plants. Sen. Barack Obama, in a July 2007 Democratic candidate debate, answered a pro-nuclear power audience member, “I actually think that we should explore nuclear power as part of the energy mix.” Among Obama’s top contributors are executives of Exelon Corp., a leading nuclear power operator in the nation. Just this week, Exelon released a new plan, called “Exelon 2020: A Low-Carbon Roadmap.” The nuclear power industry sees global warming as a golden opportunity to sell its insanely expensive and dangerous power plants.

  But nuclear power is not a solution to climate change—rather, it causes problems. Amory Lovins is the co-founder and chief scientist of Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado. He makes simple, powerful points against nuclear: “The nuclear revival that we often hear about is not actually happening. It is a very carefully fabricated illusion ... there are no buyers. Wall Street is not putting a penny of private capital into the industry, despite 100-plus percent subsidies.” He adds: “Basically, we can have as many nuclear plants as Congress can force the taxpayers to pay for. But you won’t get any in a market economy.”

  Even if nuclear power were economically viable, Lovins continues, “the first issue to come up for me would be the spread of nuclear weapons, which it greatly facilitates. If you look at places like Iran and North Korea ... how do you think they’re doing it? Iran claims to be making electricity vital to its development. ... The technology, materials, equipment, skills are applicable to both. ... The president is absolutely right in identifying the spread of nuclear weapons as the gravest threat to our security, so it’s really puzzling to me that he’s trying to accelerate that spread every way he can think of. ... It’s just an awful idea unless you’re really interested in making bombs. He’s really triggered a new Mideast arms race by trying to push nuclear power within the region.”

  Along with proliferation, there are terrorist threats to existing nuclear reactors, like Entergy’s controversial Indian Point nuclear plant just 24 miles north of New York City. Lovins calls these “about as fat a terrorist target as you can imagine. It is not necessary to fly a plane into a nuclear plant or storm a plant and take over a control room in order to cause that material to be largely released. You can often do it from outside the site boundary with things the terrorists would have readily available.”

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  Then there is the waste: “It stays dangerous for a very long time. So you have to put it someplace that stays away from people and life and water for a very long time ... millions of years, most likely. ... So far, all the places we’ve looked turned out to be geologically unsuitable, including Yucca Mountain.” Testifying at a congressional hearing this week, Energy Department official Edward Sproat said the price of a nuclear dump in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain has climbed to $90 billion. Slated to go online a decade ago, its opening is now projected for the year 2020. And even that’s optimistic. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, wants to block nuclear waste from passing through Utah entirely, and most Nevadans oppose the Yucca waste plan.

  The presidential candidates are wrong on nuclear power. Wind, solar and microgeneration (generating electricity and heat at the same time, in smaller plants), on the other hand, are taking off globally, gaining billions of dollars in private investments. Lovins summarizes: “One of the big reasons we have an oil problem and a climate problem today is we spent our money on the wrong stuff. If we had spent it on efficiency and renewables, those problems would’ve gone away, and we would’ve made trillions of dollars’ profit on the deal because it’s so much cheaper to save energy than to supply it.”

  The answer is blowing in the wind.

  Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America.

  © 2008 Amy Goodman

  Distributed by King Features Syndicate


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By gfineman, July 20, 2008 at 8:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The nuclear waste arguments should be stated as “using current technology, nuclear wastes must be isolated for thousands of years”. Assuming no improvements in technology is clearly a false assumption. I, on the other hand, assume that technology advances will make it inexpensive to dispose of radioactive waste within a century.  The current federal regulations that require containment for 100 centuries (http://tinyurl.com/62xo9y), artificially inflates all of the costs associated with waste disposal and make ‘offcial’ cost comparisons far less meaningful.
The question of if fission power is safe and effective has long since been answered with atomic powered ships and many countries (including the US) routinely using that type of power. The real question is what is holding up the development of fusion reactors that would further lower the cost by reducing the need for uranium concentration.

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By Thanos, July 19, 2008 at 9:45 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Here’s your “clean coal” guy:
http://www.wman-info.org/whoweare/mission/document_view

Here’s your Biodiesel pimp:
http://www.b100fuel.com/archives/2006/01/kc_golden_edito.html

Note that both are on the advisory committee at WE.

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By Paolo, July 19, 2008 at 6:32 pm Link to this comment

Regarding the claim that nuclear waste disposal is an unsolvable problem, the ease of such disposal is one of nuclear power’s great virtues. With fossil fuels, toxic wastes are deposited into people’s lungs. With nuclear fuel, you can easily dilute it back to the same radioactive level as the ore you originally mined. Or, you can encase it in non-soluble lead glass and bury it.

Regarding the claim that “cancer is higher around nuclear plants”—this is based on sheer sophistry. Usually, one gets a map of a city, draws a circle around a nuclear plant with a radius of anywhere from one to five miles, and then counts up cancer rates, which may (or may not) be a statistically insignificant amount higher than some other circle arbitrarily chosen in some other part of the city. Trouble is, one could just as easily argue, with circles of that size, that cancer is caused by school buildings, churches, or city halls.

There are many places on earth with a natural background radiation level far higher than that around nuclear plants. Interestingly, the evidence indicates that this low level radiation is probably beneficial in preventing cancer: the cancer rates tend to be lower in these areas.

Again, people fear nuclear power because they do not understand ionizing radiation and have seen too many B movies about giant spiders.

And no, I don’t work for GE or any other designer of nuclear plants. I don’t even hold stock in any of them. I just like the idea of having cheap, plentiful energy sources for myself and my family. Anti-nuclear fear-mongering is preventing development of the safest method of producing gigawatts of clean power.

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By Finrod, July 19, 2008 at 5:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Some minor improvements in solar photovoltaic power are possible, but they cannot effect the energy outcome because the feed (natural sunlight) is so dilute to begin with. Same with solar thermal. Same with wind. Biofuels require more energy to manufacture than is returned by them. Tidal power is infeasable, and would environmentally devestate our coastlines in any case for low return. Geothermal is feasible in limited locations, but cannot provide a global solution. All the ‘renewable’ energy solutions offered by Lovins and his acolytes share a certain quality… they offer the illusion that someone somewhere is working on a power system which can replace fossil fuels without nuclear power. There primary purpose is as an opiate to the masses, dulling the awareness that the only way to phase out coal, oil and natural gas is with advanced nuclear power plants.

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By cann4ing, July 19, 2008 at 5:39 pm Link to this comment

Adding to my last post, Mr. Adams, the portfolio you linked to included firms developing ethanol and biodiesels.  Gore did not tout either in his address.  Kind of undercuts your suggestion that Gore is simply in it for the money, doesn’t it!

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By cann4ing, July 19, 2008 at 5:34 pm Link to this comment

I do not swallow the idea that Gore is in this for the money, but, at least, Rod, you had the honesty to acknowledge your own financial interest in nuclear power.  We do live in a capitalist society—would that it were not so—and it is likely that the next Bill Gates will emerge in ten years from those now developing more efficient solar while you folks in the nuclear power industry will still be moaning about what could have been.

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By Rod Adams, July 19, 2008 at 4:53 pm Link to this comment

cann4ing

I listened to the speech very carefully. As you noted, former Vice President Gore left nuclear power out of his call to action speech.

On Friday, July 17, he also had an interview with Katie Couric of CBS news who asked him about nuclear power. Here is a transcript of that segment of the interview:

Couric: “What about nuclear power, because countries like France get something like 75-80% of their power from nuclear?”

Gore: “France is unique, it’s a special case. We have a lot of nuclear plants in the US. Listen, I’m not anti-nuclear. I’m a little skeptical that it’s going to play a much bigger role than it does now. I think it’ll continue to play a role, but the problems with nuclear are it’s very expensive, it takes a long time to build and these nuclear plants only come in one size, extra large. And the utilities do not want to commit all that money for fifteen years to get a plant that’s rising in cost. And of course the fuel also has some problems because if it gets out to other countries that can’t be trusted it feeds the problem of proliferating nuclear weapons.”

Couric: “Do you also worry about nuclear plants being potential targets for terrorists?”

Gore: (hesitant) “Yes. (stuttering a bit) I, myself, I don’t think of that as a bar to nuclear power because there are a lot of things that are potential targets and we need to equip ourselves to protect them. It’s one of the problems, for sure. The nuclear waste storage issue is one of the problems. But I think that the bigger problems are the cost, the long time for construction, and also the problem that if other countries make a massive commitment to it we make the problem of nuclear weapons proliferation worse.”

Aside from a discussion of nuclear power, one more thing that was missing from Gore’s speech and from his WeCanSolveIt.org web site is any disclosure that Mr. Gore’s current professional activity is as a partner in the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. His specific portfolio is their GreenTech industry investments, so he has a very strong financial interest in getting American taxpayers to support a massive shift to alternative energy systems. I have no beef with capitalists, but I expect people like Gore to know that they should disclose their financial interests when engaging in a campaign like WeCanSolveit.org.

Rod Adams
Editor, Atomic Insights
Host and producer, The Atomic Show
Founder, Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. (which, by the way, has been working since 1993 on designs for reactors that come in a multitude of sizes ranging from 10 MWe-50 MWe, much smaller than the 1000-1600 MWe plants that Mr. Gore is thinking of.)

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By Finrod, July 19, 2008 at 4:05 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A powerful rebuttal, eh? cann4ing clearly uses a different standard of proof to the one I generally employ.

Although Gore did not mention nuclear power in his speech, he has done so in subsequent interviews about it, such as here:

http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2008/07/18/gore_sets_energy_goal_for_2018/

In that interview, the following was noted:

“To meet his 10-year goal, Gore said nuclear energy output would continue at current levels while the United States dramatically increases its use of solar, wind, geothermal, and clean coal energy.”

It’s not exactly the ringing endorsement for nuclear power which any serious campaigner on the global warming front should provide, but at least it proves he’s not a complete fool.

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By cann4ing, July 19, 2008 at 3:35 pm Link to this comment

I would encourage all who have not done so to listen to Al Gore’s speech in which he called for plug-in electric vehicles combined with the carbon free generation of electricity for the entire grid through development of solar, wind and geothermal within ten years.  He did not include nuclear.  His speech provides a powerful rebuttal to the nuclear tin foil hat crowd here at TD.

http://www.care2.com/politics/gore-environmentally-friendly-power.html

We can resolve these issues without poisoning the environment either through nuclear waste, the not unheard of poor handling of nuclear materials in transit or risking a meltdown or terrorist incident in a nuclear plant.  Wind, solar, geothermal and wave provide the safe and green technology of the future.  Nuclear is, well, so yesterday.

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By driving bear, July 19, 2008 at 1:54 pm Link to this comment

the TVA ( Tennessee Valley authority) is building a new nuke plant in east tennessee at Watts bar lake( about a 30 min drive west of Knoxville) the local Knoxville radio stations are currently run help wanted ads from Bechtel the company that is going to build it.

Also if you can find it popular mechanic’s had an interesting article in the Nov 06 issue where that calculated to cost to convert the US electric grid to CO2 free energy.

The cost of
solar $28 trillion
wind $ 3 trillion
nuke $846 billions

So I think this shoots the nuke power being uneconomical argument down

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By David Walters, July 19, 2008 at 9:59 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is a good discussion, isn’t it?

First, I don’t think Amy Goodman is a shill for fossil interests. I know here politics too well. But what she does is to abandon any left precepts when she seems to gloat in quoting Lovins (who is a greenwasher of fossil) about how “The presidential candidates are wrong on nuclear power. Wind, solar and microgeneration (generating electricity and heat at the same time, in smaller plants), on the other hand, are taking off globally, gaining billions of dollars in private investments”

Amy, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t be on the “left” and defend the Market as a verification of your views on what should be social investment. I defend public power and have been active in trying to muncipalize San Franciso’s PG&E;grid. I think, like Cindy Sheehan, we need a national energy system but I think it needs to be based on nuclear.

As to Carbon. There isn’t one scientific study that shows any serious carbon out put from the life cycle of nuclear. It is simply an urban legend based on ONE study by a pair of Dutch fakers that purports to show nuclear carbon output close to or equal to fossil. It’s one of these things that the reactionary Greenpeace organization likes to throw out there hoping it sticks.

#Almost EVERY study, such as the University of Melbourne’s 2003 study, shows the life cycle of nuclear…mining uranium to final decommissioning..to be about 1/80th the CO2 output of generating natural gas for power. There is less than 1/1000 the amount energy spent on mining uranium for an equivalent amount of coal.

#Since wind uses almost 4 times the amount of material (steel, aluminum, concrete) than an equivalent amount of nuclear (shocked to read this no doubt) there is actually MORE CO2 released in the *construction* end of wind…and maybe solar, than nuclear. Real life cycle costs of solar (factory production, toxic wastes, land fill, etc, etc) haven’t been done seriously yet but I’d like to see it.

#Nuclear doesn’t need coal. France has 80% of it’s power from nuclear and uses almost NO coal for the remainder…which is made up of hydro and some natural gas fired plants. The big ‘user’ of power is enrichment. The US enrichment facility in Kentucky uses a LOT of power…but then it could ALL be supplied by nuclear and none by coal or other fossil if we had a serious nuclear infrastructure like France. It’s enrichment on the front end, and it’s reprocessing on the back end, is totally done by nuclear…ergo ZERO Carbon emissions.

The only relationship nuclear has with coal is that coal can be 100% replaced with nuclear and thereby knock out over 30% of all the carbon and particulate emissions in the US. And it could be done for probably what we spend on the Iraq war in a year.

Those who jump on the *Corporate* T. Boone Picken’s fake “wind/solar” bnadwagon are only fostering the continued use of coal and the expanded use of nat. gas. Which side are YOU on?

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By Finrod, July 19, 2008 at 2:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Japan, China and India are all aiming for massive nuclear programs. The UAE is planning for a nuclear future, as well as most countries in north Africa. Lovin’s gospel is not being believed in the east. Not even in OPEC members.

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By Rod Adams, July 19, 2008 at 1:07 am Link to this comment

cann4ing:

Among many other things, you wrote:

“Well, GRLCowan, if you are going to accuse Amy Goodman and Dr. Lovins as being nothing more than paid-for stooges of the natural gas industry, you ought to provide a link to something to prove it.  Otherwise, I think your post is defamatory.”

Please go back and listen to the interview or read the transcript on the July 16 Democracy Now. During the interview Mr. Amory Lovins said “You know, I’ve worked for major oil companies for about thirty-five years, and they understand how expensive it is to drill for oil.” Nearly every major oil company is also a major natural gas company, so it seems to me that Lovins has clearly stated that he is a long time employee of the natural gas industry.

Mr. Lovins has never earned a PhD, in fact he never graduated from any college or university degree program. He has stated that himself during several interviews, claiming that his interests were too unfocused and wide ranging to qualify for any conventional degree program. (You can here him say “I dropped out of both Harvard and Oxford” during an interview on the Charlie Rose Show in November 2006.)

Before you accuse me of “shilling” for the nuclear industry, I will give you the facts. I make my living by serving as an officer in the US Navy and have for many years. I have investments in a number of companies that might profit from building nuclear plants. I have been trying - off and on - for nearly 15 years to build a company (Adams Atomic Engines, Inc.) from scratch that can build small, simple, distributed nuclear power generators.

So far, that effort has cost me and my friends and family stockholders several hundred thousand dollars.

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By cann4ing, July 18, 2008 at 10:00 pm Link to this comment

Talk about hype!  Paolo first tells us “nuclear power is the greenest of alternative energies>”

Really!  Where is the scientific evidence for that?  How is nuclear power, with its attendant waste problem, “greener” than wind, solar or wave power? 

Then Paolo seeks to question whether carbon emissions are causing global climate change.  Amazing, outside the hacks employed by the likes of Exxon-Mobil, there is near unanimity in the scientific community that carbon emissions are indeed a source of global warming. 

The only thing worse than carbon emissions is the stench from the sh*t Paolo is posting.

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By cann4ing, July 18, 2008 at 9:21 pm Link to this comment

So, Paolo, remind us.  Which nuclear consortium are you working for, or is it GE?

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By LostHills, July 18, 2008 at 9:17 pm Link to this comment

Nuclear power is not “Green.” Nor is it carbon free. In fact, nuclear energy is so carbon intense that it can be regarded as just another way to turn fossil fuels into energy. Nuclear energy depends on an ongoing supply of uranium, which is already running out. Uranium mining is a scourge that tears up our last remaining wildlands, permanently pollutes aquifers and causes cancers in everyone involved in it’s aquisition and who are unlucky enough to live in communities near where it is found. Nuclear power plants cannot provide energy on their own, but must operate as part of a coal fired grid because they have to shut down reularly for maintainence and decomissioning and can’t be restarted without a huge “jumpstart.” Communities downwind of reactors worldwide experience measurable increases in childhood leukemias, breast cancers and lymphomas.
Nuclear waste is the most toxic substance known to man, remains deadly for thousands of years, and no one has yet come up with a safe way to dispose of it. Why would anyone in their right mind promote this dangerous and unnecesary power source when we already have the means and the knowhow to produce electricity from safe and renewable sources?

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By Paolo, July 18, 2008 at 7:50 pm Link to this comment

Regarding the idea that “there is no safe level of radiation.” Poppycock! Your own body emits radiation. There is a natural background level of ionizing radiation that the human species has evolved with. There is strong evidence that having TOO LITTLE ionizing radiation is actually damaging to health. There are parts of the world that have naturally HIGH levels of background radiation (from sources such as radium), and the evidence points to sharply LOWER rates of cancer in these particular areas.

Look, folks—a whole generation of kids from the fifties and sixties grew up with a fear of radiation borne of ignorance and really bad sci-fi films (in which giant radioactive crabs ate human brains, for instance). Ionizing radiation is every bit as “natural” as sunlight and wind. People fear it because they don’t understand it.

Nuclear power is the greenest of all our energy alternatives, if you accept the (debatable) notion that carbon emissions are causing “global warming.” Zero carbon emissions, gigawatts of power for thousands or even millions of years, proven technology. Lose your superstitions and learn the facts!

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By cann4ing, July 18, 2008 at 7:04 pm Link to this comment

Well, GRLCowan, if you are going to accuse Amy Goodman and Dr. Lovins as being nothing more than paid-for stooges of the natural gas industry, you ought to provide a link to something to prove it.  Otherwise, I think your post is defamatory.

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By cann4ing, July 18, 2008 at 6:59 pm Link to this comment

Actually, zewbresky, major strides are being are being made to increase efficiency of solar and reduce its costs.  Work is underway to reduce the size needed for solar plates in the same manner that the microchip led to a revolution in computer technology.  I recently saw a piece on some Silicon Valley scientists who are working with nano particulates within the solar field.  In but a few minutes, the sun generates enough energy to meet all of our energy needs over a full year.  The real challenge is to work for ways to harness significant amounts of solar energy locally at a reasonable cost.

Also, by referencing hydro, I assume you are referring to dams, which have often produced ecological damage.  The more recent development entails harnessing the power of ocean waves without adversely impacting the environment.

We could have and can advance much further when we stop pouring precious federal monies into oil industry subsidies—the last major energy bill gave over $17 billion to the oil cartel—by imposing a windfall profits tax that is devoted to the development of clean energy sources.  And the core point that Dr. Lovins is making is that it would make no sense to squander these funds on the risky development of costly nuclear facilities when there is much greater promise in these clean energy alternatives—especially given the still unresolved problem of nuclear waste storage.

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By Charles Barton, July 18, 2008 at 4:11 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

JoeJ

I agree with your statement: “As for Amory Lovins, he should go down in history as one of the shrewdest and most successful con men of all time . . .”

I do have some reservations about the rest of the paragraph:

“he’s taken something so patently obvious that no ” It is wholly a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to a diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth.“serious person has ever even considered denying it - the statement that we can save a great deal of money by increasing the efficiency with which we use energy and by adding such alternatives as solar and wind to the mix - and has flummoxed many, including media people who should be too smart to fall for it, into crowning him as a prophetic savant.”

Lovins also assumed that his argument about energy feeiciency was so obvious that that he did not need to investigate the matter, but some times the countra intuitive turns out to be true.

Numerous studies report energy use rebounds arter increases in energy efficiency.  This rebound effect has been observed for increased gas millage, increased heating and and air conditioning, residential lighting, and water heating. 
http://www.ncseonline.org/nle/crsreports/energy/eng-80.cfm?&CFID=11262148&CFTOKEN=7028302

There is nothing new about the discovery. Over 140 years ago economist William Stanley Jevons observed that when more efficient technology had been developed to increase the efficiency of burning coal, the consumption of coal decreased rather than declined.

Jevons stated in “The Coal Question”: “It is wholly a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to a diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth.”

Jevons Paradox has been proven over and over again.  Thus far from being intuitively obvious as you believe Lovins assumption that greater energy efficiency diminishes energy consumptions is most certainly wrong. And far from being being a prophet of the obvious, Lovens is simply a fount of misinformation.

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By zebrewskie, July 18, 2008 at 2:59 pm Link to this comment

Concern against nuclear is understandable, but in an age of dwindling fossil fuels - particularly with the concept of peak oil - there simply are not many viable alternatives.

Coal: Dirty and carbon intensive.  Forget about it.

Wind: Not always reliable, even in the best of areas.  Requires backup power generation (from plants that run off of fossil fuels) to be remotely viable.  Wind turbines also performs murder on bird and bat species, requires attentive maintained and replacement of parts (which requires vehicles operated by fossil fuels), and requires large parcels of land to be anywhere effective.  We can dot the whole landscape with those things, and still not place a respectable dent into our energy needs.  Ask the Germans, who have the world’s largest wind farm.

Solar: Solar is great.  Solar offers wonderful potential.  It is the key to the future.  Unfortunately, it’s far too ineffective and expensive in it’s present form to be anywhere effective; this will require further research, which is being conducted at fantastic speeds.

Hydro: Many of America’s best areas for hydro are already in use.  There isn’t a lot of room for improvement.

Natural Gas: While America still produces massive amounts of natural gas (85% of our needs), production peaked in 1973.  There have been recent production increases from unconventional sources, but these wells tend to be short lived, and likely won’t bode well far into the future.  Though it’s a ‘clean’ burning fuel, it still emits carbon dioxide.

Nuclear in contrast yields amazing amounts of energy from relatively small amounts of uranium: one cubic centimeter yields as much energy as 60,000 liters of gasoline, 60,000 cubic meters of natural gas, and over 100 tons of coal - and it can achieve this without any CO2 emissions.  It’s estimated that the energy needs of a family of four can be met with an amount of uranium that can fit in a can of beer.  And better yet, there’s plenty of Uranium: huge deposits in Canada, America, Australia and elsewhere

Waste and Disposal can be a problem, but this can be achieved (with proper care) in proper areas of confienment without taking up much space.  It’s estimated that since the birth of the industry, 9,000 tons of waste have been generated; all of this will fit inside a high school gymnasium, with room to spare.  Also, the Yucca Mountain Repository, whenever it’s completed, will suffice nicely as waste storage facility. 

Understandably, the citizens of Vegas are concerned about Yucca, but that metropolis will see a huge exodus of people in the years to come.  Vegas, Phoenix and other large communities of the southwest are highly car dependant societies that were propped up in an era of cheap oil; these cities exist in an area of the country devoid of abundant water, and is a region incapable of immense food production without fossil fuel assistance.  The economy of Vegas fiercely depends on tourism - something that will decline in an era of high energy prices.  Without a cheap oil platform to keep Las Vegas afloat, particularly among the harsh realities of the desert, ‘Sin City’ will tragically confront an exodus of citizens in the decade ahead as they flee a city with no future, and a mirage created by the magic of petroleum.

I’m not trying to be mean or harsh with my assessment.  I’m by all means NOT a conservative. I am a liberal.  I myself once opposed nuclear energy with vehement tenacity.  I was convinced about the virtues of nuclear energy - not by conservatives, not by anti-environmentalists, and not by public relations - but by other liberals: James Howard Kunstler, author and peak oil prophet; Patrick Moore, Greenpeace cofounder and a former opponent of nuclear energy.

Finally, I’d like to add that among the 400+ nuclear plants in commission, none of them have caused a single causality. (Save for Chernobyl facility, which was an accident waiting to happen.)

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By GRLCowan, July 18, 2008 at 12:37 pm Link to this comment

‘cann4ing’ seems to understand that ‘paid for stooges’ call science on global warming “junk science” in return for a share of government and industry revenue on oil and gas, and maybe a little coal money although there’s not so much of that.

He or she seems to understand that paid-for stooges got money, that smokers had paid to tobacco companies and to government, to cast doubt on the dangers of smoking.

And yet it doesn’t seem to occur to ‘cann4ing’ that those who try to cast doubt on nuclear energy’s safety and cleanliness might be stooges funded by governmental and industrial revenues on oil and gas.

Last year, American nuclear power plants burned about four billion dollars’ worth of uranium. As a result, government and industry lost more than $100 billion in natural gas revenue.

If gas money could vote, politicians would be wise to listen to Amy Goodman. Since it cannot, principle and practicality coincide, and a wise politician will endorse nuclear energy. Only big dirty money will oppose him or her in this—and its opposition will be impotent.


—- G.R.L. Cowan, H2 energy fan ‘til ~1996
http://www.inderscience.com/search/index.php?action=record&rec_id=19452

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By JoeJ, July 18, 2008 at 12:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Some ardent anti-nuclear preachers seem to think we can’t have a mix that includes nuclear energy. Why not? And as for all those objections referring to nuclear waste, economic viability, earthquake fault zones - they’ve been raised and dealt with repeatedly for more than 50 years, all the while that commercial nuclear energy has been delivering elecricity safely for millions of us. (1) Nuclear waste ceases to be a problem if we reprocess. (2) Ms. Goodman and Lovins claim there’s no investor support, apparently unaware of the investor-owned utilities and generators already preparing applications for newly licensed facilities. (3) Earthquake fault zones? Serious quakes in Japan caused absolutely no - repeat, no - radioactive releases. What happened was simply that protective systems designed to shut down operations in the event of major quakes did exactly what they were designed to do. The damage that the Japanese nuclear plant suffered was limited to non-nuclear equipment and systems exclusively. In short - the nuclear fear-mongers are repeating nonsense they’ve been prattling about for five decades, while nuclear power plants in many countries (besides ours) have been safely delivering electricity. As for Amory Lovins, he should go down in history as one of the shrewdest and most successful con men of all time; he’s taken something so patently obvious that no serious person has ever even considered denying it - the statement that we can save a great deal of money by increasing the efficiency with which we use energy and by adding such alternatives as solar and wind to the mix - and has flummoxed many, including media people who should be too smart to fall for it, into crowning him as a prophetic savant.

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By cann4ing, July 18, 2008 at 11:37 am Link to this comment

Apparently, writer, any science which demonstrates either the dangers posed by nuclear power—including fundamental issues of what to do with nuclear waste or the building of nuclear power plants in areas subject to earthquakes, or the potential for a terrorist assault on the plant, or, as this article primarily addresses, lack of economic viability—is in your mind “junk science.”

Then again, it wasn’t all that long ago when the paid for stooges of the oil cartel were denouncing academic work on global warming as “junk science” offered by a bunch of “tree huggers” or, prior to that, the pseudo-scientists of the tobacco industry who were denouncing the findings of the scientific community on the dangers of smoking as “junk science.”

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By Charles Barton, July 18, 2008 at 10:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

jshoundog, it is not that the nuclear advocates don’t get the link between renewables and energy efficiency, it us rather that we question the validity of the link both on a practical and on a practical level.  On a practical level the problem of intermittent power output and the need of a realiable backup.  On a conceptual level we have the fundamental contridiction between Lovins views and a well established princile of economics, Jevons paradox.  Wind is not a viable source of energy is the wind only blows 20$ to 40% of the time, and the Sun does not provide enough energy if electricity can only be produced produced from Sunshine 5 1/2 half hours a day. 

The problem with Lovins is not that the nuclear advocatess don’t understand the points he is trying to make, the problem is that the nuclear advocates see errors in Lovins arguments.

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By WriterOnTheStorm, July 18, 2008 at 10:13 am Link to this comment

This is a junk article, preaching junk science to a choir of narrow minded would-be treehuggers.

Europe has been nuclear for years, with none of the ‘fallout’ Goodman’s alarmist column warns against. But even if some of it is true in some sense, we will eventually go nuclear anyway—- once we gain enough maturity as a society to be able to distinguish between quick but minor catastrophes, and slow moving threats to the entire planet.

No source of energy is perfect. But weighing the worst of one source against the best of another is not a serious way to make decisions about our future.

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By jshoundog, July 18, 2008 at 9:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

it seems to me the pro nuke commenters are missing the crucial link lovins makes between the use of renewable sources of power AND improvements in energy efficiency. perhaps they cannot meet the production quantities of coal or nuclear, but coupled w/ more efficient ways of using electricity, renewables are viable.

and goodman is not completely accurate when she says the presidential candidates agree w/ bush on nuclear power - nader does not. you can bet lovins would be an advisor in nader’s cabinet.

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By Charles Barton, July 18, 2008 at 5:43 am Link to this comment
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Unfortunately Amy Goodman is poorly informed on the alleged problems of nuclear power.  Undoubtedly much of her information coms from Amory Lovins.  rd is correct that Mr. Lovins never completed a University degree in any subject, having dropped out of harvard twice and Oxford once.  Mr. Lovins so called scientific work has not been peer review, and indeed it would not as David Bradish has demonstrated in numerous posts.  It would be safe to say that Mr. Lovins not a well informed critic of nuclear energy, and David Bradish has demonstrated that Lovins uses many rhetorical tricks that are characteristic of propagandists. 

Amy Goodman wants to some how turn the nucleas issue left-right issue.  It is not.  Commenter David Walters identifies himself with the political left as do I. 

Amy bases the claim that that nuclear power won’t work “in a market economy” solely on Lovins authority.  But Lovins is hardly an authority on economics.  For over 30 years Lovins has maintained the argument that energy efficiency will lower demand for energy.  This claim contradicts a well known economic principle called Jevons Paradox.  Nearly 150 yeas ago, Jevons maintained that increasing the efficiency of energy use, increased consumer demand.  This principle has been verified by economist for numerous cases.  It has never been convincingly falsified.  Yet Lovins appears tohave never mentioned it until last year after his efficiency argument was challenged on the basis of Jevons paradox.  We can only conclude that Lovins was ignorant of Jevons Paradox for over 30 years, which would suggest that he had a very poor grasp of economics, or that he was aware of Jevons Paradox but chose to hid its existence from his readers. 

The second argument which Ms. Goodman borrows from Lovins is that building reactors in the United States will lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  This argument is flawed on numerous grounds.  The ues plutonium produced by civilian power reactors in nuclear weapons poses several significan challenges that are both expensive and technically difficult for a would be proliferating nation to over come.  In contrast North Korea demonstrated that it is within the technical capacities of poor and relatively under industrialized countries to obtain nuclear weapons using a a simple World War II reactor design, the graphite pile reactor.  The graphite pile reactor represents well known and far superior technology for the production of weapons grade plutonium.  No nuclear power ever chose a civilian power reactor over a graphite pile reactor as a source of plutonium for nuclear weapons.

Goodman uses the silly target for terrorist.  Yet Reactors are extremely well hardened against terrorist attacks.  They reactor itself is protected by a many layered physical and human security system that would be extremely hard to penetrate.  That security system includes an 8” steel pressure vessel that would be almost impossible to penetrate with explosives.  An aircraft striking the the massive outer reactor containment structure would by no means certain to penetrate it, and if it did penetrate the outer containment structure, it is unlikely that it would strike the steel pressure vessel, and even more unlikely if it struck the pressure vessel that it would penetrate it.  Thus concerns about terrorists attacks are hugely overblown. 

Technology exists that would allow so called nuclear waste to be burned in reactors, until it posses no long term problems.  The resulting fission products would have uses in industry, agriculture, sanitation, and medicine.  “Nuclear waste” is in fact unspent nuclear fuel, and when it is burned in reactors it can produce electricity like other nuclear fuels.  This technology is far less expensive than building “nuclear waste repositories.  By burning the unspent fuel that makes “nuclear waste” dangerous, the use of a closed nuclear fuel cycle actually improves nuclear economic perform.

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By rowman, July 18, 2008 at 5:10 am Link to this comment

You drank the WIND Kool-Aid! – and being paid by Gore or Pickens people to promote this crap.

There are billions at stake right now over this whole wind thing and much of it centers around the tax credits being reinstated. Pickens and Gore will make out huge over this. Billions in profit. Billions.

The people of Texas, wanting to do the right thing and move to alternative energy, were fleeced over this yesterday. They will provide the initial capital and fund the infrastructure build out. Only problem with this is the companies that are going to make huge sums of money from it.

If wind is the way, that fine. But if tax payer money is used for any portion of it, mandate that it must be NON PROFIT. If these companies want to profit from it, there is no need for tax payer funds. It is a HUGE scam. Don’t be blind to it.

On a side note… Natural Gas is an excellent alternative to move to right now for automobiles. If you wondering about the slow adoption, blame congress. The gov has a major roadblock getting conversion kits to market. Aside from coughing up a 200k fee to the EPA the standards manufactures have to hit are counter productive. This has resulted in few conversion kits and their being extremely expensive.
This is something we can do right now today. Why would congress work against us here?

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By David Bradish, July 18, 2008 at 3:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Boy some of these recent comments are hilarious. For instance, Snooker stated that “Nuclear can only waste dwindling fossil resources…” Nuclear plants are fueled by uranium and uranium is a metal, not a fossil fuel. Also, LostHills believes that “Study after study shows increased cancer rates downwind of nuclear power plants.” I would bet that the “studies” she’s referring to were produced by Joseph Mangano and his RPHP group. Their studies are classic junk science.

Jackpine,

We can definitely build smaller plants. There are at least three proposed small nuclear plant designs that are looking for investment (for a list, check out the last paragraph in this link). I don’t see any of these happening until at least the 2020s, but there’s some promise. Also, the Pebble Bed Reactor (~200 MW) developing in South Africa is being looked at by a few companies in the US.

Our plan to deal with nuclear used fuel is to put it in dry casks and consolidate the casks at interim storage sites; reprocess it; and then permanently dispose the useless materials (only about 5% of the original used fuel) in Yucca Mountain (or whatever repository Congress decides).

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By LostHills, July 17, 2008 at 11:04 pm Link to this comment

Nuclear power is a dead end street. With the emphasis on “Dead.”
Study after study shows increased cancer rates downwind of nuclear power plants. Uranium is a finite resource that is already running out. Uranium mining is environmetally disasterous and poisons and sickens communities associated with it. No one has yet offered a plan to deal with the incredibly poisonous waste that it produces, which remains dangerous for thousands of years. Uranium mining and operation of nuclear power plants burns up incredible amounts of fossil fuels which contribute to global warming. Nuclear power is not even economical and exists solely due to government subsidies (your “Cheney approved” tax dollars at work…)
It’s a boondoggle, and one that puts all of our health and all of our safety at risk.
But there’s lots of money to be made by Haliburton, NEI et al, as long as the tax payers are willing to remain in the bendover position…...

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By snooker, July 17, 2008 at 10:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Nuclear energy can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear or an imperial robe out of whole cloth, but it could leave your skin in charred tatters or produce two headed babies that could be sold to circuses.  It could pollute your neighborhood and make you move.  All ionizing radiation is harmful, so why dig it up, why disperse the waste in the environment where it would not naturally be in overburden above background radiation?  The nuclear club pulls plans out of thin air.  At one time they wanted to dig a new Panama Canal with hydrogen bombs; they insisted radioactivity was safe and still do. This hubris and delusion is rotting our genome and sickening the biosphere. 
  The nuclear high priests were banned when Chernobyl and Three Mile Island exposed some bad juju, and decades of bathing in the River Lethe have not cleansed them one bit.  Like Marie Curie’s rotted hand they extend another false promise while begging for a hand up because in free markets their snake oil is now worthless.  Nuclear power by its hazardous nature can have no connection to future life or anything living around it.  They could eat uranium but know they must starve in agony.  We bid them goodbye as we begin the task of cleaning up the mess from the last century of “heavy industry”.
 
  Nuclear can only waste dwindling fossil resources in unsustainable industry misinvestment, while ushering in environmental contaminants through low level radiation that wreak havoc in animals and probable most of the biosphere since it is all connected and similar.

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By rd, July 17, 2008 at 8:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Lovins droped out of Harvard and Cambridge.  So how can he call himself
Chief Scientist let along a Physicist.  May be I should call my self physicist
since I took the required physics class in college.  It is great shame that Amy Goodman will use any fear tactic, even if the guy smell of Oil money which is main source of RMI.  I thought you guys believed in good journalism. I guess not.

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By jackpine savage, July 17, 2008 at 3:07 pm Link to this comment

While i would much rather live in a world where power generation was decentralized and comprised of renewable resources, i’m realistic enough to see that such a state is a long way off…if even possible.

To be sure, there are issues with nuclear power (mostly the waste).  But there are/will be issues with any and every power source until we build banana peel powered Mr. Fusions for every vehicle and home.

I do not think that nuclear and renewables are incompatible.  In fact, i think that nuclear plants would be the best way to even out the bumps and lags in a cooperative grid of home/micro/small generating.  And i would much rather see nuclear than yet more coal (which has far more than one issue).

Renewables should be developed and implemented by market mechanisms, but i want nothing to do with a privately operated nuclear power plant in my town.  A name like Enron on the cooling tower is enough for me to say ‘no’.

To the Nuclear Energy Institute people on this thread: can we build smallish plants economically or must they be massive projects?  Would the NEI consider partnering with developers of other technologies to build an integrated system?  And besides for making DU munitions to litter Iraq with, what are the best, realistic options for dealing with the waste?

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By Nicole Vulcan, July 17, 2008 at 1:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Funny coincidence that as the candidates talk about upping our program, the bush Administration appears to soften its stance on Iran’s nuclear program.

http://www.startribune.com/world/25541124.html?location_refer=World:highlightModules:1

Is the old president paving the way for the new president to “allow” Iran its nukes—so that we don’t get flak for wanting more of our own? 

Great work as always, Ms. Goodman.

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By GRLCowan, July 17, 2008 at 11:36 am Link to this comment

The forum software asks for a comment title, but then doesn’t use it. So my posting that appeared to begin with a non-sentence—“The oil and gas interests. They like token non-carbon sources.”—was actually supposed to begin by saying that there ARE deep-pocketed lobbyists for wind and solar power: the oil and gas interests.

Here is a JPG that shows “David H” is wrong, at lest in an American context, to think coal is the energy source being phased in quickest. That would be, indeed it IS, natural gas: http://tinyurl.com/59fvj3

This makes sense from a governmental point of view: coal costs a lot more than uranium, but natural gas costs a lot more than coal. Taxes. Royalties.

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By brianf, July 17, 2008 at 10:39 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Amory Lovins wrote a book called the “The Oil End Game” a few years back. It was a free PDF on his website. 90% of it was devoted to drooling over hydrogen cars that require a gas tank that holds 20000 pounds per inch of pressure. (Millions of those things speeding around on streets seem a lot more dangerous than nuclear plants to me.) This hydrogen, an energy carrier not a source, would need to be produced with natural gas putting more pressure on wind power and coal—so green house gases would increase probably. But these hydrogen cars will never get built. They are a much bigger boondoggle than the economics of nuclear power—and luckily we are not hearing much about them anymore. I have also seen Lovins in the media talking about super light metals and three pane glass windows that reduce his heating bill to 8 bucks a year. Well, where are these magic metals and magic windows for sale? Isn’t 40% of heat loss through your ceiling anyway? Should we put the magic windows on the ceiling also? Lovins is the high priest of the techno geek religion. His head is the clouds. The media giving attention and credibility to him and to even bigger crackpots like CERA, who predicted $40 oil barrels a few years back, just adds to all the BS in the media about energy.  Daniel Yergin, the head of CERA, has been interviewed on Democracy Now. I listen to Democracy Now and on other topics there are often a variety of views. On energy I think Amy and gang fail to appreciate the magnitude of the crisis and don’t give a variety of views. Some of the well put responses right here should get the attention Lovins gets.  Otherwise Democracy now is just anti-nuclear propaganda—not a debate or information.  If Amy or other Democracy Now elves read this I’d love to hear debate between Lovins and Patrick Moore.

Amy Goodman and Democracy Now aim to address issues and viewpoints that other media producers pass over. But where are the sanguine energy expert mavericks who don’t get media attention anywhere? Can I suggest Alan Drake? A tireless advocate for electrifying and expanding our rail system—that could do more than anything to help solve the energy crisis. Alan Drake deserves more attention than Lovins.

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By David Walters, July 17, 2008 at 9:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The NEI representative is correct: Lovin’s ‘greenwashes’ coal and natural gas and he cherry picks his data. This is NOT a left/right issue, it’s what is going to cut down on fossil production and ONLY nuclear can do that because it’s on demand, 24/7 365 power. Wind and solar can’t compete in this.

Wind power, which has only a 20 to 30% capacity…so a 500 MW wind farm that costs only $500 million dollars actually only gets you 125 MWs. So the cost here then is $500 million for 125 MWs and put you in the same category as nuclear or MORE expensive in many cases.

The US is not in isolation here. Lovin’s actually lies when he says no one is investing in this. That’s because Lovin is a capitalist who has a market oriented perspective. Fortunately, even in capitalist western Europe, Japan and S. Korea, they don’t pay him much attention. The STATE builds nuclear power plants and they usually do it *cheaper* than is often budgeted for. The Chinese are going to build over 120 nuclear power plants or, about 15 times the number they have now. Only the US is slow to adopt what is clearly the best way to resuce carbon emissions and end our reliance on coal.

It would be better if we did this under a nationalized energy infrastructure, which is what we advocate over at left-atomics.blogspot.com. But any building of nuclear plants is better than the boutique power advocacy of oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens.

David Walters

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By cann4ing, July 17, 2008 at 8:25 am Link to this comment

Why am I not surprised that Amy Goodman’s sensible discourse would trigger a melt-down from the proponents of nuclear power.  Setting aside the still unresolved safety issues. such as nuclear waste storage, the case made by Amory Lovins, chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, is the inordinate expense of nuclear power, which cannot exist without massive subsidies and which produce “two to ten times less climate solution per dollar,...about twenty to forty times slower, than if you buy instead the cheaper, faster stuff that is walloping nuclear and coal and gas, all kins of central plans, in the marketplace.  And those competitors are efficient use of electricity and what’s called micropower, which is both renewables, except big hydro, and making electricity and heat together, in fact, recent buildings, which take about half of the money, fuel and carbon of making them separately, as we normally do.”

Lovins’ core point is that the cost of nuclear power is so exorbitant cost measured against renewables like wind, solar, geothermal and wave generated power   that it cannot survive in the market place.  “Renewables…got last year $71 billion of private capital; nuclear, as usual, got zero.  It is only bought by central planners with a draw on the public purse.  What does this tell you?  I mean, what part of the story does anybody who takes markets seriously not get?”

http://www.democracynow.org/2008/7/16/amory_lovins_expanding_nuclear_power

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By lake poet, July 17, 2008 at 7:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Nuclear power is a very, very expensive way to boil water to produce steam to turn a turbine to generate electricity.

And Cheney’s “reduce our dependence on foreign oil” is a canard, as most of our electricity is generated through the use of coal.

We need to be looking at solar, wind, geo-thermal etc.

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By tp, July 17, 2008 at 6:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The genie is out of the bottle. Our country is the leader of this awesome suicidal wrong path. We have the reins leading the world economy, a work horse for the wealth & aristocracy, who have no ideas of their own.  So, what do you expect?
tp

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By David H, July 17, 2008 at 3:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I don’t often disagree with Amy Goodman, but here is clearly an issue where she is in over her head, and responding based on wishful thinking rather than factual projections.

While I agree that wind power is by far the most realistic of the “green” sources of electricity, it is projected to compose less than 1% of US power generation by 2030. Under no workable scenario could it account for more than 5% on that time scale. I support a massive buildout of wind power, and I’m saddened to see this also opposed by the left - Senators like Ted Kennedy and others. But unlike Amy Goodman, I’m not prepared to allow us to get the other nine tenths of the energy we need through burning things.

Every debate about nuclear power should start with one crucial question: Which is the preferable source of energy: nuclear or coal? Most of the profound mistakes in the debate about nuclear power happen because a different starting point is chosen, on the hope that the nuclear-or-coal dilemma is a false one. Sadly, it is not a false dilemma.

I know it’s the 21st century, and our demand for electricity is still growing exponentially. So what sort of electrical generation are we adding to the mix faster than any other? The answer is “coal.” Dirty fucking coal. Government projections out to 2030 say that coal will continue to be the fastest growing method of electrical generation for the next 20 years. The answer is economical, and the massive cost to human life and health are not in the equation. All the premature deaths in the history of the world that are attributable to nuclear power are fewer than the deaths in just a single year from mining of coal. But the mining is by far not the most dangerous thing about coal.

Coal burning spreads far more radioactivity than nuclear power ever has. Coal waste is not contained like nuclear waste. It rains down on us every day.

Our first priority should be to stop the increase of coal burning, and then reverse the trend and start replacing coal. To do this, we need to find another way of producing vast amounts of energy. Wind will help. Conservation will help. Geothermal and tidal power will help a little. The remaining 80% though must come from nuclear.

I know there are people on the left who love to masturbate to photoshopped renderings of the prairies covered with wind turbines, or the deserts covered with solar panels. Because the cruel economic and technological reality falls short of their glossy fantasies, they stamp their feet and yell that it’s wind or nothing - or solar or nothing. I’m sad that the otherwise sensible Goodman is one of these fantisizers. Let’s be clear: every solar-or-nothing voice is a voice for the continuation of the growth of coal.

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By David Bradish, July 17, 2008 at 3:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We debated and analyzed Mr. Lovins’ latest nuclear bashing paper over at the Nuclear Energy Institute’s blog. We found that he basically cherry picks his data, his “microgeneration” (which he claims is beating nuclear) is made up primarily of coal and gas plants, and several of the cost data points he uses is based on sources that are weak or non-existent.

Mr. Lovins is well aware of these posts over at our blog and has yet to comment. He did try to defend his work against us over at Gristmill but he quit halfway through and never answered anybody’s comments.

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By Greg Chamberlin, July 17, 2008 at 3:34 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Do you remember when Reagan did away with alternative energy tax credits during his Presidency? Who knows what solutions might have been found by now if that hadn’t happened. The current “drill our way” out of the current energy crisis drives us toward environmental disaster AND toward nuclear “solutions.”
Reagan and Bush are the book-ends of this current problem.

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By LostHills, July 16, 2008 at 8:28 pm Link to this comment

Nuclear power is absolutely the worst path our country could possibly take. There is no safe way to dispose of nuclear waste. There is no safe level of radioactivity in our environment. Uranium is a finite resource, like fossil fuels and uranium mining is an environmental disaster. Both candidates are for it because they are both corrupt and take their money from the same hands. Wake up America.

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By kath cantarella, July 16, 2008 at 8:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I would guess that the reason nuclear energy is being touted as the ‘best’ option (despite obviously better options begging for research and development funding) in the US is the same reason it is happening here in Australia: the huge oil and coal companies also own the biggest uranium fields (it’s mostly BHP in Oz). It will take decades to get nuclear generators functioning, it is dangerous and filthy and totally ludicrous. These resource companies have too much power worldwide and they are preventing the development of better alternative energy systems because those systems won’t bring them the same huge profits. Our respective govts are the only answering power and they are letting us all down badly.
We should all have govt subsidised solar panels on our roofs running our homes by now. It would’ve cost less than the Iraq war. Wasn’t oil the rationale for that?

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By Paolo, July 16, 2008 at 7:19 pm Link to this comment

Actually, nuclear power is the only answer, long-term, to the basic fact that fossil fuels will not last forever. The other commonly-touted sources—wind power and solar power, simply cannot provide the gigawatts necessary to run a modern, industrial economy.

Regarding the alleged “problem” of nuclear wastes, a nuclear plant does not create any more radioactivity than was originally in the earth to begin with; it simply concentrates uranium in one place so it can be used for power generation. One solution to the alleged problem of nuclear wastes is to simply dilute the uranium back to the same concentration of radioactivity that it had as the original, mined ore, and bury them back where they came from. Another option is to encase the wastes in non-soluble glass, and place them at the bottom of the Marianas Trench (30 thousand feet deep in the ocean). 

A better solution, however, is to use breeder reactor technology, which converts useless U238 into useful U235, thus extending the life of nuclear fuel literally thousands of times over. France has invested heavily in this technology, and has had great success doing so.

Using breeder technology, available right now, we could supply all the energy needs of an advanced technological civilization for literally millions of years. 

And of course, nuclear fuel greates gigawatts of power without putting any carbon into the atmosphere at all. Now, I don’t buy the arguments about man-caused global warming, but if you are really sincere about cutting back on carbon emissions, you should back nuclear power.

Regarding the expense of nuclear plants, most of it comes from nuisance lawsuits that make the permitting process so expensive and unpredictable that no one wants to invest millions in a proposed site, only to have those millions flushed down the toilet by a nuisance lawsuit. The entire process of permitting needs to be streamlined to prevent “NIMBY” lawsuits based on unfounded fears.

Nuclear power has a safety record far better than coal or petroleum.

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By Trebla, July 16, 2008 at 6:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Wind, sunlight and earth heat are all great opportunities to produce part of the energy for the new age. But it’s dark a lot some places, and sometime the air is still, and earth heat is pretty local.
We could make up the difference with coal or gas, but it is killing us. It really is, absolutely killing us.
Nuclear energy is still an important part. Despite tediously careful observation, Americans have never died from a nuclear power accident. Not even sick. The terrorist threat is just absurd. There’s already plenty of spare atomic bombs to be had about the planet that would be much easier and effective.
The drumbeat of fear of nuclear waste is misplaced- Soviet nuc warheads are being used for fuel in US reactors now (recycle!). It is unimaginable that technology will not be found in the next, say, 300 years to turn the “waste” into a resource.
Science is neither scary nor bad

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By GRLCowan, July 16, 2008 at 4:22 pm Link to this comment

The oil and gas interests. They like token non-carbon sources.

Today, at 45 percent efficiency, the natural gas-fired production of a gigawatt-year of electricity entails $0.90 billion in mined fuel cost. That may include about $0.1 billion in royalties.

If, however, government lets a nuclear plant get built, and start working, the mined fuel bill there, at 33 percent heat-to-electricity conversion efficiency, is $0.038 billion per electrical gigawatt-year. So its entry into service represents a future loss to government of several billion dollars; about a billion dollars per decade of operation.

But what if the investors’ several billion dollars is largely covered by government loan guarantees? If it derails the nuclear project, it has to pay them back.

Now, it loses pretty much the same money either way. So regulatory footdragging will be a lot less fun than it was in the 70s and 80s, when half the plants that had been started were red-taped to death.

Of course, only one of the ways the government can lose this money actually represents wasted human effort. If it lets the plant go ahead, the money it loses stays in the citizens’ pockets.

From its point of view, and that of other oil and gas interests, the income they lose feels like a subsidy they are being forced to pay to the citizens; but they’re not going to say, “We’re being forced to subsidize the citizens”. No, they say “nuclear power is being subsidized.”

It is an outright lie, and it is a lie told only by, or on behalf of, the fossil fuel interests.

Mighty big house that little man lives in ...


—- G.R.L. Cowan, H2 energy fan ‘til ~1996
http://www.eagle.ca/~gcowan/boron_blast.html

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By nrobi, July 16, 2008 at 4:02 pm Link to this comment

Nuclear energy, the sham of the electric industry.  Yet, now in this time, we have to again face the spectre of an industry that is going nowhere and has nothing to offer except empty promises and no hope of lessening the carbon footprint of our nation.
The expected nuclear power plants, the bright future of our nation, would take the next 20 years to come online and what do we do in the meantime?  Pay higher prices for the electrical industries commodity, pay higher prices at the pump to continue to pay higher prices for all the commodities that are necessary for life.
Are we to believe, the things that nuclear power industry says?  An industry that has lied upon lie, to get financing for their powerless power system?
Those that take the nuclear power industry at its word, are the kind of people, who when faced with the lies and deception promulgated by the current administration, believe it to the exclusion of all the facts to the contrary.
We, the people are now faced with the possibility, that we will be taxed beyond belief, by an administration which will hold our feet to the fire and continue the policies of the past administration.  Should this happen, I firmly believe that there will be a revolt of the people to change the current system, which for all intents and purposes is broken.
And this is the power structure, Congress, the Presidency and the Court system, that will take away our rights, determine the course of our country and work in cahoots with each other to change this country into a fascist state.
All of this will happen, because the current power structure will not give way to a new way of thinking and being. The people are ready for change, are the people in power ready for the change?

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By jersey girl, July 16, 2008 at 3:13 pm Link to this comment

Yes, another reason Obama won’t get my vote. His nuclear power benefactors will make sure more nuke plants spring up across the fruited plains.

Instead of nukes how about solar, air and water generated power?  OH right, there are no deep pocketed lobbyists for those alternative means of energy.  Nevermind.

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