Monday, March 14, 2011

My Vote On Nuclear Energy

I graduated from Nuclear Power School in the Navy, which doesn't mean that I really know much about nuclear reactors. That was in 1963 and the pressurized water reactors I trained on as an operator are much different than the power reactors used today. Still, I do know that when you are injecting sea water into a reactor you are no longer trying to save the reactor. You have written the unit off as a total loss and are trying to save the civilians who live in the area, and you are by no means certain that you will be able to do that.

That being said, while I have not been in favor of increasing our use of nuclear energy, it has not been the plant safety issue that has been my principal reason for opposing it. Until we come up with a way to dispose of the spent fuel, other than storing it in what amounts to large swimming pools adjacent to the reactors which generated it, we should hold off on building any new reactor plants.


Bartender Cabbie said...

I think I agree with that assessment. Producing power is a dangerous business and nuclear may have its place, but we do need to have a clear process to store the spent fuel. Not sure that nuclear power plants in an earthquake zone is all that smart either. What happened in Japan could possibly happen anywhere.

bruce said...

I disagree with the "could happen anywhere" part - yes it could happen in a few locations where earthquakes are prone to happen.. Japan is known for that, among others. Technically yes it could happen other places, but the likelihood is very low.

And the design of the Japanese reactors is an old one, and newer ones are better with regards to safety. And (almost) always, safety and security increases after an even like this happens. Hindsight is 20/20.

Nuclear power, properly engineered, designed and executed is probably no more hazardous than any other power plant. Thay all have their issues.

Spent fuel, however is a problem, one that you don't have with natural gas or oil. This would be the single biggest drawback to continued use of nuclear power.

Bartender Cabbie said...

Bruce and Jayhawk,
You guys obviously have more knowledge on this subject than I would even pretend to have. I think that plants near major fault lines is a bit risky and agree the spent fuel is a problem. However the only real accident of significance was in Russia. Three Mile Island was a problem, but there were no fatalities. The problem in Japan has yet to play out yet. It is hard to tell what is going on by watching the talking heads. I live about 40 mins or so from a plant and never really think anything of it. It provides damn good employment for the community and I would wager is as safe as any. Accidents can and will happen periodically in any industry and nuclear plants are no exception. The potential for catastrophic disaster is greater but all energy production facilities can be a dangerous place. I have been in and out of facilities that refine crude oil and that can be dangerous business.

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