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Power Earth Japan Science Politics

Americans Favor Moratorium On New Nuclear Reactors 964

An anonymous reader writes "While a drop in public support for nuclear power would be expected after an incident like the Fukushima reactor crisis, the nuclear disaster in Japan has triggered a much stronger response among Americans. When Japan — the nation that President Obama held up as an example of safe nuclear power being used on a large-scale basis — is unable to effectively control its considerable downside, Americans are understandably leery about the same technology being used even more extensively in this nation. And safety concerns about the existing nuclear plants also deserve serious attention."
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Americans Favor Moratorium On New Nuclear Reactors

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  • What happened? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SniperJoe ( 1984152 ) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:13AM (#35637228)
    I am beginning to think that my fellow Americans are afraid of success. We claim we want energy independence, but do very little to achieve it, despite valid and workable options staring us in the face. New reactors are precisely what we need in this situation (with more modern safety features compared to the reactors in Japan as well as decreasing our reliance on foreign energy).
  • Good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kurt555gs ( 309278 ) <kurt555gs@ov i . c om> on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:16AM (#35637262) Homepage

    Wind / Solar along with NAS batteries -> http://www.ngk.co.jp/english/products/power/nas/index.html [ngk.co.jp] - really could handle our base load. Certainly the percentage that we in the US use nuclear for.

    Not only that, we should be looking at new computerized internet electric meters, and laws that would require utilities to pay fair market value for electricity produced by small private generators. Little 5KW vertical turbines everywhere. Then, just put huge battery installations where the old coal plants are, and we are on the road to green energy.

    Not today obviously, but it would grow. And new nuke plants would just not be needed. At least Uranium water/water plants. Thorium / Pebble Bed Reactors might be an option for the future.

  • by Xenolith ( 538304 ) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:19AM (#35637288) Homepage
    We have the technology for much safer and nearly unlimited nuclear power. Only hurdle is how to deploy. What I am talking about is TWR (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traveling_wave_reactor) and LFTR (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molten_salt_reactor). They "burn" waste from current reactors, can be shut-of nearly instantly, no water cooling, and a smaller footprint and cost. Now we have to overcome this bad publicity provided by the old technology.
  • Re:So uh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Pascal Sartoretti ( 454385 ) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:23AM (#35637336)

    I still personally think that nuclear power is the best bet

    For today probably, in the long term certainly not.

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:34AM (#35637448) Journal

    all those Americans need to decide what exactly they want to replace them with.

    Something better?

    You know, maybe the problem isn't that there's something unsafe about nuclear power, but rather there's something unsafe about letting private industry run nuclear power. Now that it's coming out how there were "cost-cutting" measures taken with the cooling systems in Japan which directly led to loss of containment and that safety measures in some cases were completely ignored because "it was too expensive", I think this is a very instructive moment for us.

    Maybe, when it comes to the really big stuff, like nuclear power and maybe the entire energy system of a nation, it's inherently unsafe to put it in the hands of private industry. Health care comes to mind as well. Maybe the best thing we can do is take the profit-motive out of it.

  • That will change (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:38AM (#35637488)
    The minute gasoline hits $10/gallon. Crude is still on an up trend and the scary thing is this time it's not a bubble, it's a clear trend.
  • by gatkinso ( 15975 ) on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:40AM (#35637536)

    I read contradictory statements regarding this topic.

    If the stuff is going to become scarce in 150-200 years or so (these estimates are at current consumption levels but do they really know for sure I doubt it) then I really don't see the point in developing another dead end infrastructure. Esp one that while can be very safe, rarely is in practice (for the usual nontechnical reasons - save money, cut corners, unwisely build in an earthquake zone, ad nauseum).

    I mean sure - that's great for us as individuals (until an earthquake strikes that is), but for once let's not foist a new set of problems on our grandchildren.

  • What happened? Free enterprise happened. Deregulation happened. Cosy relationships between Industry and regulators happened. Marketism happened.

    As more details emerge, one thing is becoming clear: This accident did not happen as a result of any tsunami. The tsunami merely kicked in the door of a rotten structure which swiftly collapsed. Cost cutting, poor safety, inadequate oversight, etc, etc; These are the real causes of the radiation leaks happening at Fukushima at present.Some very dirty laundry is being aired in very public view.

    At this happened in Japan for chirstsake. Japan! The country where people have ceremonies and procedures for handing over business cards. A nation world famous for its engineering and industrial management. Japan! If things in their nuclear industry were that bad what horrors await at our own nuclear plants.

    It boils down to this: You can have nuclear reactors, run by private entities, but you must be prepared for one of these rickety, slipshod operations to go belly up every decade or so. That's really all there is too it. Show me the reactor too sophisticated to melt down and I'll show you the company that will run it glowing white hot into the ground.

    There are several glaring parallels between this incident and the recent banking crisis. Systemic disregard for risk, incompetent and/or uncaring management, and wanton abuse of public trust. The public doesn't trust these people anymore--with good reason. You're not going to win that trust back with fancy blueprints and paid experts' opinions. Honesty and accountability are what is needed. However, both are in short supply these days.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 28, 2011 @08:48AM (#35637618)

    Those would be the Canadian style reactors, which aren't physically capable of melting down. (Well, technically with a lot of outside assistance and deliberate sabotage, you could force one to melt down, but you'd probably die in the process.)

    Unfortunately, our public are just as stupid and uneducated as the American public, and are screaming and pointing at exaggerations of the problems in Japan, and claiming them as proof that all Nuclear everything is bad and going to kill us all, despite any actual facts they might encounter. There are people campaigning to have the Canadian Nuclear plants shut down before "an earthquake causes them to explode just like in Japan", despite:

    1) They're on the freakin' Canadian Shield, the largest, most solid tectonic plate on the planet, and we just don't _GET_ earthquakes here past about a 3.0, and those are not centered here, they're from way the hell off at the edges of the plate, usually causing mudslides in Quebec.
    2) The reactor design is completely different, and, as you mentioned, the control rods are kept in place by the electric power produced - thus, a failure results in immediate safe shutdown.
    3) It wasn't the damn earthquake that broke the reactors. The earthquake didn't damage much at all there, except probably knocking a lot of things off shelves, and giving a few people heart attacks. The damage was when more water than is found in the great lakes got dumped on the reactor buildings and shredded them. Again, our reactors are not anywhere near the ocean, and the great lakes don't have enough water to do that kind of damage, unless you found a way to take the entirety of Lake Erie, and dump it all on the plant at once.

    The worst part? People screaming about how dangerous nuclear reactors are, are actually the reason they're still as dangerous as they are. They lobby politicians to make new laws banning research into improving the reactors, and then we're stuck with 1970s technology producing tonnes of toxic waste, because an "environmentalist" screamed "WON'T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!" and got improvements banned/restricted. 'cause nothing says "I'm thinking of the children" quite as well as sticking them with a massive pile of radioactive waste that didn't need to be there, if it hadn't been for some moronic busybody declaring that things were bad.

  • Re:What happened? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:00AM (#35637808)

    Ten thousands (maybe even hundred thousands) of people were evacuated for a long time (will they actually ever be able to get to their homes in their life?). I call this a disaster too.

  • Re:So uh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by definate ( 876684 ) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:26AM (#35638200)

    Shit dude, I did not know that!

    Hey, you need to go and update the article Energy in Germany [wikipedia.org] and its sources.

    Besides that, you might want to read up on Electric power transmission [wikipedia.org] which was T.Boone Pickens biggest problem.

    You also might want to read up on other differences between these 2 countries. Such as Germanys population density of 229 people per square kilometer, versus the United States 33 people per square km.

    You might be interested to know that Germany imports most of its energy from Russia.

    You might be interested to know that the US is the largest producer of wind power.
    You might be interested to know that the US is the largest producer of geothermal power.
    You might be interested to know that the US is the largest producer of biomass power.

    You might be interested to know a lot, as it seems you don't know much on this subject. Though, granted I didn't know that much about Germany, but it only took a few seconds to read about why it's not like Germany and faces its own problems.

    Thanks for making me learn about Germany!

  • by MachineShedFred ( 621896 ) on Monday March 28, 2011 @09:42AM (#35638440) Journal

    Replace? That's funny. The operators are going to run these plants until they fall apart, because they *can't* replace them. Then we'll have some real fun.

    Vermont Yankee, which has been the source of detected radioactive tritium leaks, has had it's NRC license extended by another 20 years last week because it provides 35% of the State of Vermont's energy, and amounts to almost 72% of Vermont's power generation.

    It is also a BWR plant like the ones in Fukishimia, built in 1972. It is currently running at 120% of it's original licensed thermal capacity under an NRC-licensed Extended Power Uprate.

    Yeah, we don't need to build new stuff - we'll just wait until the 40-year-old stuff completely falls apart and cannot be repaired.

  • Re:So uh (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BRonsk ( 759601 ) on Monday March 28, 2011 @10:09AM (#35638864) Homepage
    I believe Hydro is much much worse than that. Since 1970 there are more than 1M people that died out of a failed dam (volcanoes, earthquakes, defects, etc.). Relatively safe in the US though. (My source [ecolo.org] is in French.)
  • Re:So uh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spinkham ( 56603 ) on Monday March 28, 2011 @10:15AM (#35638962)

    Coal releases more radiation in an average year then a nuke plant, releases more small particulate matter that causes lung disease, releases CO2 that correlates with global warming, and has killed far more more miners then have ever been killed by all nuclear power incidents combined.

    Here's Seth Godin's simple post of the number of deaths per terrawatt hour of different generating technology:
    http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/03/the-triumph-of-coal-marketing.html [typepad.com]

    I work in computer security, and do risk assessment for a living, so I recognize the biases on this issue as similar to those in my day job. Coal related deaths are slow and silent(usually, though think of the number of mining related incidents you've heard of in the past year), nuke plant accidents are big, noisy, and unusual. Our biases are to be afraid of big noisy unusual things like nuke plants and terrorists, while ignoring the obvious things that are actually likely to kill us like auto accidents, heart disease, and to a much smaller extent, coal generation.

    I live about 11 miles from a nuke plant, which happens to be the largest spent fuel holding facility in the nation. I bought this house knowing that, and and if there was a coal plant that far away I probably wouldn't have bought this house.

    I'm totally in favor of them building 2 more nuke plants close to me as is planned. I'm also in favor of review of the safety systems of the older plants. Nuclear safety designes have gotten much better than they were in the 80s when construction stopped.

  • Re:Good (Score:2, Interesting)

    by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Monday March 28, 2011 @11:41AM (#35640308)

    I understand all these issues. You're missing my point, and you're underestimating the size I'm talking about.

    Suppose, for the sake of argument, your average renewable source is active 1/3 of the time. If I have six of them, widely spaced and diverse enough that their power output is uncorrelated, how often will I have at least one available? Answer: about 92% of the time.

    A large collection of diverse but unreliable systems will be able to satisfy the demand almost all the time. To put things in Slashdot speak: if your network isn't reliable enough, you just need a bigger network.

    Of course, in reality renewable power sources are rather correlated in output, even across an area as large as the U.S. But still, the research I've read suggests that a diverse continental renewables network should be able to maintain 60-80% uptime. As I said, the rest can be filled in with natural gas, hydro, and demand limiting.

    Solar panel and wind farm facilities are space prohibitive and have operational windows drastically affected by local climate.

    Space is not an issue. The US is a big freaking country, with a lot of open plains and desert. The ground area needed to power the entire country via solar power alone (not my proposal, just for the sake of argument) is a tiny chunk of Arizona.

    Hydro-based power in this country is about as far along as it's going to get.

    Hydro in the US is limited by the amount of water available. If you're only using that water when wind and solar plants are idle, you can add more turbines to existing dams to increase peak power by a factor of 5, at which point it can power almost the entire country. (Yes, I realize this has environmental consequences. I'm willing to sacrifice the Colorado if I have to.)

  • Re:What happened? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:10PM (#35640658)

    But no, it's not about the instant deaths. It's the increase in cancer deaths and the billions of years of contamination of the nearby land, and the worldwide reach of the fallout that people don't like. If a wind farm gets hit by a tsunami in Massachusetts, you won't die of cancer in 20 years in Iowa.

    This is pretty typical of how most people analyze things. Unfortunately, it's wrong, as it doesn't take into account opportunity costs [wikipedia.org].

    You can't compare the consequences of nuclear power to a world where there are no cancer deaths, no radioactive "contamination", and no worldwide "fallout". Getting rid of nuclear power would not result in such a world because nuclear provides a significant portion of the world's electricity. Get rid of nuclear power and the need for that electricity would still remain. To do a proper comparison, you have to consider what the alternative choices are. Right now the only viable replacement for nuclear power is coal. Oil is too valuable as a transport fuel, gas is difficult to capture and transport, hydro is pretty much tapped out, geothermal seems to be stuck, and I wish solar and especially wind could provide base load but they can't. So the primary alternative to nuclear is coal.

    Coal contains trace amounts of radioactive uranium and thorium. Consequently, coal plants pump more uranium into our atmosphere as part of their ash than our entire nuclear industry uses as fuel. Coal emissions are estimated to kill 1 million people each year worldwide, primarily through lung cancer deaths. They are (now) largely responsible for the mercury contamination of our oceans which makes certain fish too dangerous to eat. And the emissions from a coal plant in Massachusetts spread throughout the entire world, just like the fallout from a nuclear accident.

    So it isn't simply a matter of avoiding nuclear because of its dangers. It's a matter of using nuclear because it's considerably less dangerous than its primary alternative - coal.

    Similarly, if you're going to consider every little negative consequence of using nuclear power, you have to do the same for wind. No the wind turbine in Massachusetts won't kill someone in Iowa if it's destroyed by a hurricane. But to replace a single 3-4 GW nuclear plant's annual power generation with wind, you'll need to build about 7,000 turbines (2 MW turbines * 25% capacity factor * 7000 turbines = 3.5 GW). Each turbine needs about 100-200 tons of steel [google.com], so all-told you'll need ~1 million tons of steel. To provide that steel, coal needs to be burned to melt the iron (either directly or via coal plants producing electricity) and provide the carbon to turn it into steel. Consequently, the coal emissions needed to build those 7,000 turbines in Massachusetts will cause people in Iowa to die of cancer in 20 years.

  • Informative Reading (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cidicReision ( 1086227 ) on Monday March 28, 2011 @12:41PM (#35641084)
    The interesting thing to me is how completely inaccurate all of the media has been in this entire "nuclear crisis". I work for a very large energy company with some of the guys that go visit those nuclear plants every year, most of them with PHDs in Nuclear Physics. Their concerns right now focus mainly on the nuclear fuel rod storage and how they are going to handle the excess amount of heating and unspent fuel rods sitting in empty cooling pools. There are absolutely no major concerns around the radiation levels past the power plants property lines. There has so far been ONE casualty to this accident, and people think that nuclear is unsafe? People in California are taking Potassium Iodide and several of them have gone to the hospital for their stupidity. If you are interested in the information about the nuclear event, and information about the actual power plants and exposure levels? Here's some reading, enjoy :)
    Things it would be nice for the news media to have read before they started talking...
    GE BWR Manual
    http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/basic-ref/teachers/03.pdf [nrc.gov]
    GE ESBWR - Latest Design: Unbuilt.
    http://www.gepower.com/prod_serv/products/nuclear_energy/en/downloads/gea14429g_esbwr.pdf [gepower.com]
    Wiki Concerning Accident
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_I_nuclear_accidents [wikipedia.org]
    Wiki BWR
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BWR [wikipedia.org]
    Spent Nuclear Fuel Calculations
    http://repository.lib.ncsu.edu/ir/bitstream/1840.16/2309/1/etd.pdf [ncsu.edu]
    Graphic: Plant Status
    http://news.nationalpost.com/photo_gallery/japan-earthquake-graphic-nuclear-reactor-status/ [nationalpost.com]
    Earthquake/ Radiation Levels/ No.2 / Status
    http://news.nationalpost.com/2011/03/16/graphics-explaining-japans-nuclear-reactor-disaster/ [nationalpost.com]
    http://news.nationalpost.com/photo_gallery/japan-earthquake-graphic-where-the-wave-hit/#more-52826 [nationalpost.com]
    Inside Reactor 2
    http://news.nationalpost.com/photo_gallery/japan-earthquake-graphic-inside-fukushima-daiichis-most-worrisome-reactor/ [nationalpost.com]
    Meltdown Dynamics
    http://news.nationalpost.com/photo_gallery/graphic-meltdown-fears/ [nationalpost.com]
    Exposure Levels
    http://news.nationalpost.com/photo_gallery/japan-earthquake-graphic-how-fast-will-radation-kill-you/#more-52930 [nationalpost.com]
    Earthquake Data/ H2 Blast/ Radiation Spread
    http://news.nationalpost.com/photo_gallery/japan-earthquake-graphic-nuclear-plant-blasts/ [nationalpost.com]
    Nuclear Fission product Decay
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_fission_product [wikipedia.org]
    NRC: Zirconium Cladding Fire
    http://www.irss-usa.org/pages/documents/SGS_213-223_response.pdf [irss-usa.org]
    Reactor Status: Excel Spreadsheet
    http://www.jaif.or.jp/english/news_images/pdf/ENGNEWS01_13002 [jaif.or.jp]

The IQ of the group is the lowest IQ of a member of the group divided by the number of people in the group.