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Why nuclear could become the next 'fossil' fuel

15 Comments
By Kerry SHERIDAN

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"the economic case without subsidies is not that sound for most and for all in certain cases eg. solar can be economically viable in very sunny climes but the case does not stack up for more northerly areas where most of the industrialised countries (and therefor energy demand) lie."

Just not true. Solar thermal needs direct sun to be economical, so it is used in places like Spain, North Africa, Arizona, and California. PV, on the other hand, is not so reliant on the same wavelengths (UV, not IR) and so it works well pretty well irrespective of latitude. Almost all of the PV powerhouses are above 30 degrees latitude: China, US, Japan, Germany, Australia....

It also has to be said that PV solar in MOST places these days has passed grid parity, which is the point where it is cheaper than grid electricity. Subsidies are no longer necessary to make PV profitable. Finally, I don't understand what industrialization and energy demand have to do with anything. Many places that are solar leaders have decreasing demand for power, Japan, Germany, some areas of the US. ... and some have no particular need for power at all, such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, China.

There is nothing "wrong" with solar PV, and it would be great if people adopted it more. There is also nothing "wrong" with nuclear power, and we would all be better off if it were used more. The mistake that people make is choosing sides and making it an either/or dichotomy for really no reason whatsoever. Having complementary technologies makes everyone better off. Understanding their applications and limitations correctly is what people should do first.

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sf2k

Here is, quite LITERALLY, what you wrote.

"nuclear IS quite literally a fossil fuel, as it uses radioactive rocks. "

I responded to that because I know you have been using English for at least 15 years. Now you have included emphasis there, and you have used the word literally. Where is the straw man?

I think you created it. Do you even English, bro? Because I think you are saying now that you did not write literally. You think you wrote "figuratively." But you didn't. I have to take you at your word for what you actually wrote. You not only took the care to write "literally." You also emphasized IS (you did not even use capitals to begin your sentence, so you MUST have meant IS when you typed IS) and you modified literally with "quite." You were not mistaken when you typed it. You really meant it.

As it stands, your science is quite literally questionable. Nuclear is not literally or actually a fossil fuel in any commonly accepted sense of the word. Even the headline puts the word fossil in quotes to signal that it is not LITERALLY a fossil fuel.

Regarding your other points, they are incorrect too. Nuclear is not replaceable by any resource Japan has available, other than fossil fuels. Coal releases more radiation and toxins than nuclear power does. That was covered very well in another recent thread. Geothermal is insufficient to meet Japan's needs. Hydrothermal resources are also limited, and heating lakes destroys habitats. PV cannot scale and certainly cannot do so in the short or medium term. And your other points are just vague.

My lament in my last post was that people use fuzzy, vague science. Now I wonder at some people's abilities for English expression.

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@5SpeedRacer5.

Nice strawman. Did you know that people can be referred to as fossils as well? It doesn't mean they are actually fossils. Nuclear is a fossil, no longer needed, non-renewable toxic garbage and eminently replaceable. Most especially on an island continent with lots of geothermal energy perfect for base load and regional generation. Also hydrothermal cooling for cities near water. All the thermals possible before even hitting up PV's. All using characteristics of the air, land, and water, to take a percentage of energy collected. No straw required

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I love absorbing radioactive debre maybe they'll give me super powers

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"nuclear IS quite literally a fossil fuel, as it uses radioactive rocks. "

I have been in discussions like this for more than six years now, and I always assumed that the people in these discussions were more or less informed people with some idea about science, or at least how things work, and a vocabulary sufficient to engage others on this subject. I assume people are curious, and that they learn and grow.

So when this article comes up, and I see a headline that refers to nuclear as a fossil fuel, I would assume that people will examine that assertion critically and judge how nuclear power might be similar or different when compared to fossil fuels.

But people aren't critical, are they? Most people just believe any old thing they read with no consideration of the agenda, the twist or thrust of arguments, or even bald fallacies in their reading matter. They just lap up the pablum.

A fossil is, literally, a once living organism that has been transformed over time into an arrangement of minerals. Anyone can look it up, but that is off the top of my head.

Although fossils CAN contain radioactive materials, they are unlikely to be more radioactive than surrounding rocks, so no... fossils are not radioactive rocks.

So the statement in quotes above is as wrong as can be. And these are the kind of people who will take the article's assertions at face value.

I need to stop assuming so much of the average person discussing nuclear power. Average ain't what it used to be.

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On the matter of the false dichotomy raised by the article is this idea that nuclear power is expensive. Well, yes it is. NEW nuclear power plants in WESTERN countries are extremely expensive. There is no denying that. But guess what. There are not many NEW nuclear plants in Western countries. It is a non-issue.

The issue in Japan and many other countries is whether to use the nuclear power plants they already have. Well, of course they should. All the costs have been paid. All the construction is done. All the safety checks have been passed. Most already have all the fuel they need. They are cheap to run. And they are CHEAPER to run than coal or oil plants, even with the moderate fossil fuel prices we have today. In countries that are rapidly adopting nuclear power, the safety features adopted through years of legal wrangling in Western countries are built in. Their reactors are cheaper to build, and easier to regulate. So they are building lots of them based on Western designs.

The only controversy is people's emotional, visceral rejection of nuclear power. The article wants to stir that up, I guess, and people posting above fell for it.

We are told constantly by the media that we need to emit less CO2. We have many technologies to do that, but none meets society's needs better than nuclear power. Then we are told by those same people that we must forget the goal and follow a different agenda for some political reasons that have nothing to do with AGW. I won't do it. Humanity's best weapon against anthropogenic climate change is nuclear power.

Humanity should use it.

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The article has some pretty hazy, foggy, sloppy analysis that glosses over important changes and problems with a tired and strained simile: nuclear power and fossil fuels are the same thing. It ignores the real danger.

No. In fact, nuclear power is a SUBSTITUTE for fossil fuels. And it is a clean substitute that produces little or no CO2. That is just a fact. People who care about global warming and who care about the environment SHOULD BE nuclear power proponents. The fact that that many of them are is great. The fact that most aren't says a lot about the lack of grey matter among anti-nuclear people.

Is nuclear "the same as" fossil fuels? No. In Japan, utilities have used fossil fuels in huge amounts BECAUSE they have been forbidden by society from using nuclear power. Right? And in China, nuclear plants are being built quickly to avoid the use of fossil fuels, not to avoid solar or hydro, but IN ADDITION TO solar and hydro. Right?

So why write this article? Well, it is agenda-driven journalism. The article wants people to see nuclear as old, outdated, useless technology. The writer does so by lumping nuclear power in with coal and oil based on some false dichotomy, specious phrasing, etc. If you want the truth, go visit a coal plant, preferably one in China, and watch the rail cars of coal go in and the tons of ash and smoke that come out. Then go visit a nuclear plant. Nothing goes in, power comes out. After a few years, you might get some waste about the size of a Volkswagen beetle. They are as different as night and day.

The real danger that the article touches upon is NIMBYISM. The high costs of nuclear are related to over-regulation and yes, lawsuits, and people who just want to tell other people what to do. On this very site, we have had very liberal people post about how they don't like solar panels ON OTHER PEOPLE'S PROPERTY. They want to raise costs for other people and generally turn their preferences into public policy. Solar projects, highway projects, wind projects, and yes, coal and nuclear projects have seen huge costs get even larger simply because of obstructive minorities. This is not news. What IS news is that countries that can form a social consensus, such as China, Iran, and India and others, have no trouble at all building nuclear plants, funding great space programs, and funding medical care for their people.

Rising costs of nuclear power in Western countries reflect a lack of national, social consensus and the coming decay of those societies. That will be apparent by those societies' crumbling infrastructure, low birth rates, and decline of social initiative. I predict that as nuclear is used less in those countries, fossil fuels will be used more. In societies that are not decaying, nuclear will be used more, and fossil fuels less.

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What would become of the radioisotopes they use in the medical fields? It is already is short supply.

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theFu pretty much nailed it, current reactors are inherently dangerous and require continuous active measures to mitigate that danger which leads to disaster when they fail, MSR are inherently fail safe. How ever that does not wholly address the cost issue, current models all require massive subsidy in one form or another from the public purse. The economic viability of MSR has not been conclusively shown but may be viable. While the radioactive footprint of MSR is significantly less it still produces short and long term radioactive waste. All renewable sources of power have their drawbacks and the economic case without subsidies is not that sound for most and for all in certain cases eg. solar can be economically viable in very sunny climes but the case does not stack up for more northerly areas where most of the industrialised countries (and therefor energy demand) lie.

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Nuclear power definitely has a future, but only in space where it cannot do any harm. We should remember that so far we have only one Earth and nuclear power is too dangerous to use it here. Earth is too small and vulnerable, just look at the effects of Chornobyl disaster that could be felt all over Europe. On Earth we should switch to solar and wind energy that has a huge potential. Just look at Costa Rica that almost entirely switched to green energy. Also instead of building large power plants we can utilize a distributed network of smaller power generation facilities that could include and connect every home. And we still can build nuclear power plants in space or on the orbit of Earth/Mars to use them as changing stations for spaceships, and maybe transporting part of that energy to Earth.

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"Investing tens of billions of dollars on a power plant that will be underwater one day, along with the highly radioactive waste it will produce, makes no sense," said fishing captain Dan Kipnis, one of the activists who is fighting to stop the project.

Mr Kipnis better prepare himself for the ensuing onslaught from the industry affiliated bots and online activists who's job it is to rubbish such claims.

I wish him and his fellow activists well. It seems some people just don't care about the future of the planet.

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There are multiple types of nuclear. Because the US Navy was the first to want nuclear energy, they wanted water cooled solutions - ocean all around. Made sense.

On land, being water cooled has all sorts of issues. Pumps fail. Too much water, not enough water, corrosion.

There are MSR (Molten Salt Reactors) which cannot melt down. It has been tested AND proven long ago. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIDytUCRtTA Because it didn't work for the US Navy, they weren't behind it and fought against it. Well, there's another reason too - MSR reactors can create some enriched fuels that politicians don't like.

Today, almost all of the world uses water cooling for this reason. But MSRs can also burn old fuels down to 76 yr half-lives, which is a good thing.

China is deploying full-scale TMSRs now. https://www.wired.com/2016/10/molten-salt-reactors-soon-help-power-earth-one-day-mars/ India is working on designs. In the USA, MSRs are still in the 1KW output testing phases. Getting approval to build a nuclear reactor is next to impossible for many reasons. The only places viable usually have other, old-style, reactors already.

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nuclear IS quite literally a fossil fuel, as it uses radioactive rocks.

Time to fact check yourself there. Because that is fundamentally incorrect.

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nuclear IS quite literally a fossil fuel, as it uses radioactive rocks. No commercial company can run nuclear and is heavily subsidized. Put the same subsidy with solar and nuclear is long gone baby gone

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As a Floridian the one thing I can say that we have in abundance is sunshine! Hello Solar!

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