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  • Anti-Carbon vs. Anti-Nuclear

    An amusing development on the environmental left is the conflict between anti-nuclear and anti-carbon activists. Nuclear power emits no carbon or greenhouse gasses, so the global warming crowd supports it, but anti-nuclear activists oppose nuclear no matter what.

    Even Nancy Pelosi says nuclear energy should be “on the table” as a policy solution, because “the technology has changed” (It hasn’t. Sure, it’s gotten better, but it hasn’t changed drastically enough to go from off the table to on the table.). Emission-free nuclear energy satisfies the anti-carbon crowd. In fact, environmentalist and Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore is now an avid spokesman for building new nuclear plants.

    But anti-nuclear activists find every excuse to oppose the nuclear solution. To the anti-nuclear left, atomic energy is “dirty and dangerous,” “retro power,” and “obsolete.” Nukes are dangerous because, as Michele Boyd of the Public Citizen notes, armor piercing anti-tank missiles can penetrate the storage casks of nuclear fuel. That’s right: armor piercing missiles (and what, exactly, is safe from armor piercing missiles?).

    Nuclear energy is dangerous because planes could crash into storage casks and destroy them, say activists, or they could be attacked by grenade launchers which are “readily available” (right next to the candy aisle in Wal-Mart). And no one designing nuclear plants ever thought of planes crashing into them.

    The increased supply of electricity from nuclear energy “drives up energy prices,” says Friends of the Earth (the same organization petitioning the EPA to regulate water vapor as a “greenhouse gas”). Increasing supply drives up prices? Hmm. I wonder how Econ 101 professors feel about that.

    Then there’s the nuclear energy “makes global warming worse” crowd, saying that because nuclear power plants emit water vapor, which causes climate change, nuclear plants have a detrimental effect on the environment.

    Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. knows what to do: “If we had a real free market that does what a market is supposed to do . . . wind, solar, geothermal and tidal would easily triumph in the marketplace.” So, a man who can’t bring himself to support wind power in his own backyard sincerely supports it in yours and mine.

    While it is funny to expose the contradictions of the environmentalist left, there is still the serious problem of America’s energy supply. Wind and solar supply insignificant amounts of electricity (less than 2% combined) while nuclear power supplies 20%. Everyone insists on conservation, wind, and solar, but these alternatives are insignificant contributors to our energy supply. If you want to “solve” global warming, decrease dependency on foreign oil, and do so in an economically rational way, then nuclear power must figure in the equation.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    4 Responses to Anti-Carbon vs. Anti-Nuclear

    1. Graham R.L. Cowan, O says:

      As a member of the "global warming crowd", I am glad to see Loris's acknowledgment that we like nuclear energy. Often, our reliability is dismissed with the false assertion that we do not.

      — G.R.L. Cowan, H2 energy fan 'til ~1996

    2. Ken, Boston, MA says:

      Nancy might actually be right, if she is considering a switch to using a Thorium based fuel cycle. We choose to use Uranium for fuel in commercial power reactors over thorium for two principle reasons. First it was easier to do the engineering to create a reactor that produced the necessary sustained chain reaction. Secondly, it enabled economies of scale for U235 enrichment that made nuclear weapons production easier. The problem is that when U235 enriched uranium is used the spent fuel contains many long lived actinides that build up by neutron capture. These are the problematic waste products that make the waste radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years (this is actually not as big an issue as it is made out to be, but it requires back end cost to deal with.) Thorium fuels on the other hand create very little waste product that will still be radioactive after 500 years. It also does not create any bi-products that are usable in a fission bomb, making its use in commercial power plants proliferation resistant. There is a company perfecting Alvin Radkowsky's seed and blanket technology that is nearing the final test stage before commercialization. Radkowsky was the inventor of the pressurized water reactor and one of the first nuclear fuel designers and tested an early version of this fuel design in the Shippingport nuclear reactor for six years prior to its decommissioning. In addition, Thorium is being loaded into the Chinese HRT-10 reactor as we speak. This reactor is a variant on the German pebble bed reactor that ran for nine years. These are smaller reactor that are extremely safe but produce high enough heat to replace coal fired furnaces. It has been proposed to do just that since coal plants are already in a secure site and hooked into the grid. Since pebble bed reactors can be mass produced an they run on thorium based fuels, this seems like a good way to reduce coal consumption.

      Coal burning is a form of slow motion suicide. The carbon dioxide is probably not as harmful as the heavy metal pollution emitted by coal fired plants. Coal has actually been burned to ash in order to then extract its uranium. In addition to vaporizing 30,000+ pounds of Uranium and Thorium per year (there is actually substantially more energy potential within this than is derived from burning the coal itself!), coal also contains mercury, arsenic, chromium, and burning it produces nitric and sulfuric acid. Over 40% of mercury pollution comes from coal plants, if you were ever wondering where all the mercury in your sushi or your kids tuna salad sandwich was coming from. We are adding more every minute and it will be around for a very long time cycling through the food chain. The lakes rivers and streams in Maine are ladened with the product of mid west coal plants. These are serious issues that need to be dealt with.

      Do not trivialize peoples opinions on serious matters. I believe the day is coming to an end where it will be tolerated. Try trading in a serious discussion of the issues, please. I've told my mother this many times.

    3. Graham R.L. Cowan, O says:

      "Thorium fuels …use in commercial power plants proliferation resistant."

      As opposed to what?

      The use of uranium in commercial power plants has never been honestly linked to nuclear weapon proliferation.

    4. David Clarke, Vancou says:

      I agree with everything said on this page… I hope that doesn't mean I'm a conservative.

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