Friday, July 18, 2008

Let's Bring Nuclear Technology Back Home

The high price of oil, natural gas and coal should be a wake-up call to all regions of the country that the era of boundless use of cheap fossil fuels is over — and that nuclear power will need to play a larger role in supplying electricity to homes, business and industry.

The problems nuclear power has encountered have never been technological; they have been primarily political and institutional.

The U.S. pioneered the development of nuclear energy and had the first major nuclear program. Most other leading industrial countries have continued developing their nuclear programs since the last nuclear plant order in the U.S., often using U.S. technology.

Today we have the means — and more important, the need — to bring that technology back home.

From my commentary being distributed nationally by McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

15 Comments:

At 7/18/2008 8:55 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

I agree that nuclear power has to be considered in any energy policy. Safeguards can be reliably built into the system to prevent another Three Mile Island or Chernobyl catastrophe. It’s time to move on to meeting the energy needs of a 21st century world.

I was confused about one part of your article where you stated that natural gas could be sold for more money overseas than in the U.S., and then you stated the U.S. was losing jobs because natural gas is cheaper overseas. Could you clarify that?

 
At 7/18/2008 10:04 AM, Blogger K T Cat said...

What a strange country we live in. How disconnected we are from reality. Here in California, the state has gone back to its "Flex your Power" ad campaign, advising us to turn off electrical devices we don't absolutely have to have. Meanwhile, if we had built just a few nuclear power plants, we could turn everything on at once and not worry about it.

I'm waiting for a ban on the use of shovels because digging might get your hands dirty.

 
At 7/18/2008 10:17 AM, Blogger Sophist said...

"The problems nuclear power has encountered have never been technological; they have been primarily political and institutional."

Failures in nuclear plants can be catastrophic, as opposed to traditional plants.

Since we do nothave complete knowledge of how problems can arise in nuclear plants, and given the high cost and other problems such as waste storage, the political and institutional stand can be justified to a degree.

I think we ought to pursue other sources of energy. There are, few talk about them and nobody gets funding to do reasearch about them.

Example: vacuum energy. People who refer to it are called cranks by mainstream science, yet the Casimir effect is real and empirical.

 
At 7/18/2008 10:51 AM, Blogger Matt S said...

k t cat, I think that if we had more energy that'd be great for everyone, but at the same time...
we're 6 billion people on a planet probably not fit for 6 billion. I forget how many people live in the USA, and it sucks we don't have all the cheap gas and electricity we want, but we are a pretty wasteful country and anything to get us to think conservationally rather than "how do I get more power and stuff so that I can continue doing everything I think I need to be doing?"

 
At 7/18/2008 10:52 AM, Anonymous EJ said...

Sophist,

So you would place your bets on pie in the sky potential energy concepts? The Casmiri force is very weak and only measurable at miniscuel distances between plates. Even if some technology could be created to harness this quantum force on a commercials scale, it would be decades off if even at all. So we should justs top producing more enegry moving forward and restrict all eocnomic growth and wait for some theoretical approach?

Nuclear power is very safe if doen correctly and disposal is a matter of politics. A former physics professor of mine did a study back in the 70's oil shock and found that mroe people dies in the US by accidents associated with the INCREASE (not the total) use of wood as fuel over the period then have ever died anywhere int he world by nuclear accidents. Especially if you are one to take the global warming idea even to partial truth, the threat of nuclear power is far less then the damages of any alternatives. Blocking nuclear power, which could be heavily developed in 10 years time, is bassed on dogma and fear rather then reason and intelligent policy decisions. Its a way to bring energy costs down, lower our trade deficit, reduce carbon emitions (without taxing the eocnomy) and lessen volatility in energy markets. All the government has to do is step out of the way and let it happen.

 
At 7/18/2008 10:55 AM, Anonymous EJ said...

Matt S,

You are the actual definition of a conservative. One who does not want change or progress out of fear and dislike of moving forward. You wish to restrict our consumption and mantain the status quo. I ask who is the real progressive?

 
At 7/18/2008 11:14 AM, Anonymous nukeman said...

WTF?! Look at the queue for new reactors. Its massive. The nukes are coming. But nukes take time; you have to do studies on things like the geological fault lines, the design, etc.

 
At 7/18/2008 12:48 PM, Blogger bobble said...

"Today we have the means — and more important, the need — to bring that technology back home."

amen to that. the sooner the better

 
At 7/18/2008 12:59 PM, Anonymous PBanbury said...

Nuclear should be part of any long term energy plan based on pragmatism and economy. I have written about it at Exechobo...

The one real moral issue I see is the disposal of waste, and that can be accomplished by recycling it in breeder reactors. A well written article is found in my post above, or here: Read this article that delves into Nuclear power since Three Mile Island...

 
At 7/18/2008 1:40 PM, Blogger Sophist said...

ej,

were you responding to my post?

I wonder ebcause your conclusions are not part of my post, neither the premises of my post should lead to your conclusions.

Neither the fact the the Casimir force is small implies the vacuum energy cannot be harvested.

Gravity force is also exremely weak but hydro plants make plenty use of it.

FYI, power is equal to force times speed, practicaly speaking. Also equal to voltage times current. Force is only a component of power. I took only a couple of physics courses but I did well in them.

The future is vacuum and cold fusion. No money is spent on the future. Billions is spent to find the Higgs particle and to develop string theory. Both theoretical subjects with no known experimental predictions.

 
At 7/18/2008 2:23 PM, Anonymous QT said...

Not just U.S. technology that is worth looking at. There is a great deal of cutting edge nuclear technology coming out of other countries, notably Japan.

http://nextbigfuture.com/2007/12/micro-and-small-nuclear-reactors.html

Many of these designs eliminate the danger of meltdown and can go 30-40 years without refueling.

Considerable work has also been done on reducing nuclear waste.

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2006/12/05/1803896.htm

 
At 7/18/2008 2:46 PM, Anonymous EJ said...

Sophist,

My point is that your seem to be advocating restricting all known sources of energy in favor of pursuing largely theoretical ideas. I am not denying that vacuum energy, or any other technology, is not potnetially a source. I am quite confident int he ptnetil for invovation. That is why my conclusion on that line of argument was that it would be at the least decades away from practical development.

However, as a matter of public policy, it is unwise to place growth essentially on hold while we hold out for some experiemental idea to have a major breakthought. You would deny further nuclear development in favor of chasing these ideas.

Furhtermore, I made the point that our fear of nuclear power is largely irrational. Other present forms of energy are far more damaging and harmful.

And yes i am well aware of the relationship betwene force, energy and work. I was an electronics technician and studied electrical engineering before later studying economics. The problem with the Casmir force, (as i understand it) is that unlike gravity which weakens at a rate of the squared radius (proportional size of the circumfrance) from two objects, the casmir force deminishes very quickly and is only measured through very small distance between metalic plates. Yes there may be a way to harvest this, but these kinds of ideas are not ones worth banking on to deliver practical results anytime in the near future.

Thats my point. In our current energy debate, in my opinion, there are far too many people who thinkt he silver bullet to energy is simply to allocate more federal research dollars. Thats not going to do anything any time soon.

 
At 7/18/2008 3:28 PM, Blogger Marko said...

I thought the federal government was limited to regulation of interstate commerce, and taxing and spending for the general welfare? I don't recall anything about massive regulatory schemes for privately owned and operated nuclear reactors. Silly me.

If the feds want to do it, the U.S. Navy has some very nice, safe and efficient nuclear reactors. They should be able to crank them out if sufficiently motivated. Once again, the federal government should get out of the way and let private industry do it, or chip in, instead of just getting in the way and making it nearly impossible to make new reactors. Sheesh.

 
At 7/18/2008 4:05 PM, Blogger BlogDog said...

An increase in nuclear power is going to happen. Greenists (or as someone called them "Warmens") can argue until they're blue in the face (which would make them yellow - approriately since they're afraid) but the public at large is not going to buy their line when all their disposable income is going for gasoline and the gas/electric bill.
I would like to know, though, how to invest to capture a share of the coming change.

 
At 7/18/2008 7:18 PM, Blogger juandos said...

matt s says: "I think that if we had more energy that'd be great for everyone, but at the same time...
we're 6 billion people on a planet probably not fit for 6 billion
"...

Apparently you didn't read it when posted here: The Ultimate Resource

Contrary to the myths we hear about how overpopulation causes poverty, poor health, unemployment, malnutrition and overcrowding, human beings are the most valuable resource and the more of them the better. There is absolutely no relationship between high populations and economic despair. For example, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, has a meager population density of 22 people per square kilometer while Hong Kong has a massive population density of 6,571 people per square kilometer. Hong Kong is 300 times more crowded than the Congo. If there were any merit to the population control crowd's hysteria, Hong Kong would be in abject poverty while the Congo flourishes. Yet Hong Kong's annual per capita income is $28,000 while the Congo's is $309, making it the world's poorest country...

Thank you Dr. Walter Williams...

ej says: "You are the actual definition of a conservative"...

Hardly! Heck! Not even remotely...

Then again ej you obviously don't know what a real conservative is...

 

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