Sunday, April 17, 2005

nuclear - not so hot

Helen Caldicott has been agitating from the left against nuclear energy for a long time. One of the advantages of reading her latest missive against nuclear is it is full of useful details. Years of practice.

Yeah, she's biased. So maybe one should gather information from industry flacks and marketing pros instead. Always remember - toxic sludge is good for you.

Nuclear Power is the Problem, Not a Solution
In the US, where much of the world's uranium is enriched, including Australia's, the enrichment facility at Paducah, Kentucky, requires the electrical output of two 1000-megawatt coal-fired plants, which emit large quantities of carbon dioxide, the gas responsible for 50per cent of global warming.

Another place for traditional energy costs to sneak in for nuclear (add to, mining of uranium, transport of uranium, cleanup ... oh wait, we don't do that - see below)

The dire subject of massive quantities of radioactive waste accruing at the 442 nuclear reactors across the world is also rarely, if ever, addressed by the nuclear industry. Each typical 1000-megawatt nuclear reactor manufactures 33tonnes of thermally hot, intensely radioactive waste per year.
To make matters worse, a study released last week by the National Academy of Sciences shows that the cooling pools at nuclear reactors, which store 10 to 30 times more radioactive material than that contained in the reactor core, are subject to catastrophic attacks by terrorists, which could unleash an inferno and release massive quantities of deadly radiation -- significantly worse than the radiation released by Chernobyl, according to some scientists.

15,000 tons of nuclear waste a year - (worldwide) - no wonder a mountain is needed to sweep it under.

Them cooling ponds are no abstraction. Their contents could melt down and burn up, like Chernobyl. Except, as pointed out above, more material is stored in many of the sites than physically existed in the reactor core at Chernobyl.

But I am sure "in the future" we will solve these problems.


At 10:14 PM, April 17, 2005, Blogger Kenny said...

Hey, Great blog.

You and my buddy would get a long great. Here is a link:

Revolutionary Paradigm

Tell him Kenny sent you.

At 12:13 PM, April 18, 2005, Blogger Eric McErlain said...

Some of Dr. Caldicott's facts are in dispute. Click here for more.

At 6:36 PM, April 18, 2005, Blogger monkeygrinder said...

Kenny, thanks for the tip, I'll check it out.

I found this link, I think it is the one you are reffering to.

Caldicott off mark

"The enrichment facility at Paducah, Kentucky, requires the electrical output of two 1000-megawatt coal-fired plants, which emit large quantities of carbon dioxide."

Scott Peterson:
"Her claim (is) untrue. (...) By contract, it obtains electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority's fleet of power plants, so about 40 percent of its electricity comes from non-emitting nuclear and hydroelectric power plants."

My Take:
TVA web site
Eleven operating fossil plants, all of which use coal as fuel, generate the majority of power produced by TVA

On balance, Scott's statement is vastly more misleading than Helen's.
Since he did not address the 2GW number, I take it to mean that number is correct.

Scott Peterson:
"Ms. Caldicott also mangles the truth with her claim of CFC gas emissions from the uranium enrichment process. ... There is some leakage into the environment"

My Take:
Don't care. This has nothing to do with peak energy, or EROEI.

Scott Peterson:
"a study by the International Energy Agency in 2003 showed that the entire nuclear energy life cycle resulted in the second-lowest emissions of greenhouse gases next to wind"

My Take:
I'd love to check out that study - do you have a reference?

Also, this just scratches the surface of the issues raised by Helen Caldicott. Is there more content from Scott Peterson or anyone?

At 6:38 PM, April 18, 2005, Blogger monkeygrinder said...

Found the reference on the link btw (I think)

At 5:19 AM, April 19, 2005, Blogger Eric McErlain said...

For our lifecycle data, click here.

At 11:18 AM, April 19, 2005, Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

Let's stipulate to one thing right off the bat: electricity is fungible, and a GW produced at one point replaces a GW produced elsewhere (after transmission losses).

Considering that, all the talk about the source of electricity for the enrichment plant rings hollow (but especially Caldicott's). If the Paducah plant produces fuel for only 100 plants of 1 GW each, it is displacing the emissions from 50 times as many plants as the output it is consuming. Looking at it another way, the fuel enrichment (using the inefficient gaseous-diffusion cycle, no less!) is using all of 2% of the output of the product.

Going to gas centrifuges would essentially eliminate the fraction of power consumed by the enrichment process, cutting it from ~2 GW to around 50 MW. Per "The gaseous diffusion process consumes some 2400 kWh per SWU, while gas centrifuge plants require only about 60 kWh/SWU."

(psst, monkeygrinder - you need to add the date to comment timestamps. It's Dashboard -> Comments -> Comments Timestamp Format.)

At 5:20 PM, April 19, 2005, Blogger monkeygrinder said...

I think the entire life cycle of nuclear (from plants to fuel to vitrification and storage of waste) is a critical question before we juice up our infrastructure and add plants in bunches of fifty. Nuclear plants are heavily subsidized. Why? Obvious value of plutonium to weapons programs aside...

In the case of purification, we haven't built the gas centrifuge process, so for the time being we are stuck deducting 2 GW (+ other life cycle costs) from the total yearly output of all reactors

That could change. Some of these large scale industrial projects, we don't have much time to get moving on them before the peak of oil production arrives.

At 5:20 PM, April 19, 2005, Blogger monkeygrinder said...

Oh yeah I'll fix the date stamp tonight


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