[FoRK] why the nuclear energy industry is dying

mdw at martinwills.com mdw at martinwills.com
Tue Jun 18 11:34:22 PDT 2013

> On 6/18/13 8:34 AM, mdw at martinwills.com wrote:
>> ...
>> Personally I am ambivalent over nuclear power generation, all of the
>> energy production methods suggested by the author contains cost
>> statements
>> that don't properly account for all of the costs of any of the power
>> generation solutions cited.
> Additionally, costs under the current regime are treated like facts of
> nature when they are the result of lack of innovation and
> over-striving for zero risk, far less risk in many aspects than
> alternatives like oil, coal, and natural gas.  There's no reason
> that decommissioning a nuclear plant has to cost billions of dollars.

The primary reason for the enormous cost is because the primary reactor
components are irradiated.  They will be irradiated for 10's of centuries.
 The radiation is so dangerous it will kill animals (including humans) if
exposed for a short period of time (talking minutes).  So disposing of
these heavy metals require cutting, decontamination, transportation and
disposal in geographically stable areas for several millenia.  The cutting
of the materials creates particulates that are irradiated and can be
carried away or washed away.  The concrete enclosures also contain steel
reinforcements that are irradiated and need to be cut, transported and
disposed of.  Your typical Light Water Reactor (LWR) covers acres of land
and the containment buildings are the size of large office buildings.
These structures cannot last a century without constant maintenance and
therefore are cheaper to dismantle and dispose.

> First, poor design.  Second, there are simple ways to
> optimize that down to thousands, if that's the problem: Put the plant at
> the bottom of a bedrock carve out with no water table

All current US nuclear power plants are LWR and are ALWAYS placed near
large bodies of water for steam turbines (water) and emergency cooling
purposes (water). 90% of the worlds population lives near water sources 
and therefore the nuclear generated power is kept local to keep costs low.

> interaction and seal the old plant off every 100 years, putting the new
> plant 100 yards over.

The current designs only last 30 to 60 years because the radiation causes
the metals to become brittle and eventually fail (I've personally seen a
metal plate 1 inch thick and 3' by 3' shatter when hit by a carpenters
hammer).  There are no other building materials known to man that don't
become brittle under radiation bombardment in LWR reactors. Also the LWR
in all countries to date, cover 10's of acres and are generally prime real
estate (simply ask the San Onofre residents what they think about that
plant sitting on prime Ocean property!)

> Or, perfect a plant-eating and
> deradiation munching machine, reusing the metal and material for the next
> plant perhaps.

The metal is brittle and irradiated.  You would have to cut it, transport
it, re-smelt it, all which gives off radiation particulates that can be
blown or washed away.

> This whole area is open for innovation
> beyond the primitive and painstaking solutions we apparently have now.

The nature of Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and X-ray radiation as well as the
byproducts of fission, cannot be solved using the current physics known to
man. (Hence the great interest and research into fusion alternatives).

> Additionally, arguing that nuclear is already a failure when it would cost
> about what electricity costs now is a pretty lame
> argument.  Oh no, things would continue like they are now?  Uh, ok.
> There are plenty of problems with nuclear.  Running out of uranium and not
> figuring out thorium would be a problem.  Safety is
> always a concern to address.  Better designs, that include cheap
> decommissioning, are needed.  But it doesn't seem hopeless.

It isn't hopeless nor do I believe anyone who has researched it says it's
hopeless.  It is a matter of economics.  What can a rate/tax paying group
support in total costs?  As a utility/tax payer, what is your pain point
for the availability of electricity?  Those are the discussions that are
under way. Various groups are trying to assert their solutions as being
more rate/tax payer friendly and/or greener while using voodoo economics
to validate their positions.

> What do you call a fetish for hopelessness?
>> Regards,
>> Martin
> sdw
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