« Catholic Joke. | Main | Spread Betting. »

November 11, 2005

Nuclear Revisited.

So, I am taken to task for my pro-nuclear views. I am then asked further questions by Rochenko.

And here are some answers:

deal with the issue of siting several hundred new stations world-wide, outside earthquake zones and where waste water would not harm marine life

The planet’s a big place. 57.5 million square miles of land surface actually. Say you need a square mile for a nuke station (you don’t but WTH). Several hundred? Say 1,000? Do you really think that the existence of the combination of desirable qualities for a site is less than one in 57,500?

If so I’d like details please.

avoid (Tim should like this one) motivating a further general centralisation of state power across the world in response to the perceived need for security and secrecy with so many new big & shiny Terrorist targets on the firing range

Why this insistence on nukes beiong terrorism targets? We’ve already had the worst accident that could ever happen to a reactor and thats killed/killing/will kill three to four thousand over 40/50 years. Maybe.

No, the number isn’t exactly the same but it’s close to what 18 men did with four planes just four years back.

You can fly a fully laden Jumbo (well, you can’t and tell about it but the effect would be) into a containment and all you get is bits of plane spread over the countryside. The reactor is still humming away, still protected from the ouside world. You can’t make them go Boom! like a bomb either.

deal with the necessary increase in emissions globally across the fuel cycle caused by a general uptake of nuclear

Which emissions? We’ve already pointed out that CO2 emissions will fall. Nuclear emissions? Jeez, as Edward Teller pointed out, a couple having a snog against the power station wall get more radiation from each other’s blood stream than they do from the reactor.

address the waste issue: I don’t understand the current talk about nuclear waste being ’safe’, given some Yucatan-style deep burial option (which I think is still the ‘industry standard’ - correct me if I’m wrong). Safe for whom? Equally safe for all generations, globally speaking, living contemporaneously with the waste before it has decayed? Or not? On the one hand, if the Yucatan option or something similar is meant to be safe for the full period, how can this be predicted with any certainty? And if not, why is the decision to store the waste out of sight, out of mind, morally acceptable? Let’s start with an abstract example: suppose a suggested waste containment option can be guaranteed safe for 1000 years, and our choice of the option is confirmed on this basis. This then establishes a moral distinction between person A, born in 2900 with a likely lifespan of 85 years, and person B, born in 3000, solely on the basis of their location on the timeline. Why is this distinction justified? Discuss.

Cough, Cough. Yucatan is a pensinsula jutting out from Mexico into the Caribbean. Yucca Mountain is the proposed long term nuclear waste storage site in Nevada.

Yucca is designed for a 5,000 year lifetime. Whatever the standards they’re using (no, I don’t know and while I do know people working on it it’s not worth asking them for this) that’s what they say is true.

Given the way radioactive half lives work the stuff is pretty harmless after 1,000 years and after 3,000 is less radioactive than the original ore it came from. No, I still wouldn’t want to go into it at that point (well, I would actually, rather like to live that long) just as I wouldn’t want to go into a uranium mine now. But leaving people with something as dangerous as many a pile of rock around the planet doesn’t sound too awful to me.

As you might gather, the deeper problem I have with the current pro-nuclear publicity is with its recurrent underlying assumption: that the best solution to a perceived technological problem is a technical fix that focuses on that problem alone, as opposed to the problem as rooted in a global economic, political and ethical context.

Forgive me if I project here but would an "economic, political and ethical" answer be to stop economic growth now so as to not need the power? Yes, I can really see that leaving our descendents with our level of wealth, rather than the 2-3% growth provided by our current system, as compounded over the next 5,000 years, yes, that really would make them happy.

November 11, 2005 in Nuclear | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Nuclear Revisited.:

» I like nukes from Strange stuff
To try and reorder the world society based on current, non-poluting, non-nuke, technology to be environmentally sustainable will require a lot of people living a lot harder lives, for shorter lengths, and a lot less of them. I don't see this as a moral... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 12, 2005 11:21:48 PM


I think the words "Yucatan option" tell us a lot about Rochenko's grasp of the subject.

Posted by: dkidd | Nov 11, 2005 9:43:47 PM

Well, personally speaking, I think it tells us a whole more about my capacity to confuse 'Yucca' and 'Yucatan' on a dreary Friday afternoon with one eye on the in-tray, but there you go.

Posted by: Rochenko | Nov 12, 2005 1:01:36 PM

"This then establishes a moral distinction between person A, born in 2900 with a likely lifespan of 85 years..."

That vitiates the entire argument right there. A person born 900 years from now with an 85 year life span? People born nine years from now will have an 85 year life expectancy, at the least (probably more like 150, but let's not split hairs).

If nuclear waste disposal is not a trivial technical problem in the near (100 years or so) future it won't matter, because the only way that that can be is if the human race is extinct.

It's crazy talking about anything whether it be financial or technological, with a time horizon greater than about fifty years. In five thousand years' time, humans (or some cyborg version) will either be spread over this corner of the galaxy, or won't exist.

Posted by: David Gillies | Nov 13, 2005 2:18:20 PM