Thoughts on the whole nuclear power thing

I’ve been pretty distracted these past few days, closely following developments on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. At first, it was mostly an academic curiosity, but as conditions at the plant deteriorated day after day, it’s become more personal. My parents and my brother are in Tokyo, some 140 miles away from the plant, and while that’s far enough that they’re not in any immediate danger, it’s not far enough for me to feel completely comfortable. My brother may be leaving soon, but my mom’s not willing to abandon her hometown quite yet, which is understandable. So I’ve been keeping a close eye on the news, doing my best to understand what’s going on so that I could advise her should risks increase further.

I’m learning that nuclear disasters are fundamentally different to natural disasters. If you survive a natural disaster, you can rebuild. If your home collapses in an earthquake, as long as you survive the quake, you can rebuild. If a fire burns down your house, you can rebuild. If a tsunami washes away your house, you can rebuild. If a tornado or hurricane blows away your house, you can rebuild.

But when I suggested to my mom that she evacuate and she asked me if she’d be able to return, I couldn’t honestly promise her that she would. As unlikely as it is, if fuel in one of those exposed spent fuel pools melt or even goes critical and radioactive Cesium (or worse, Plutonium from one of the MOX fuel rods) is released, and radioactive materials get blown up high enough, and the wind blows just so, it could reach Tokyo. Cesium has a half-life of 30 years, so radiation levels may not decrease appreciably in my mom’s life time. She may never be allowed to go back again. I know it’s highly unlikely. But not impossible.

Before this particular nuclear crisis, if you asked me what I thought about nuclear power plants, I would’ve said that I had some reservations but was more supportive than not. After all, unlike coal and gas powered plants, nuclear power plants don’t release greenhouse gasses, and by reprocessing and recycling spent fuel, it’s possible to significantly reduce nuclear waste down to manageable quantities. While long-term storage of nuclear waste could be a problem, climate change is a more immediate threat, and anything we could do slow its progress seemed like a reasonable idea to me.

After this week, I think I’m going to have to consider myself a skeptic. I think mankind may possess the scientific and technological capability to build safe nuclear power plants. But, possessing the technology and scientific knowledge is one thing. Actually deploying that knowledge is another.

The disaster at Fukushima should not have come as a surprise to those who knew better. The Mark 1 nuclear reactors such as the ones used at Fukushima were known to have vulnerable containment designs that had a 90% chance of failing in the event of a meltdown. The containment design may, however, prove to be the lesser of flaws. The bigger issue at the moment is the spent fuel pools that store large quantities of fuel –enough to potentially reach critical mass– in pools outside the containment structures. Such a design would not be allowed to be built today, but it was allowed to operate in an earthquake- and tsunami-prone area for almost 40 years. That suggests to me that, perhaps, humans aren’t yet ready for nuclear power.

I certainly expect that this disaster, no matter how it turns out, will help mankind make nuclear energy safer. Hopefully, lessons will be learned. Numerous nuclear plants will likely either be shut down, retired earlier, or reinforced. Hopefully similar (or even dissimilar, for that matter) accidents can be prevented in the future.

But humans don’t always learn. The Fukushima nuclear power station went online in 1971. When vulnerabilities in the Mark 1 containment system were pointed out in 1972, nothing was done. When Three Mile Island happened in 1979, nothing was done. When Chernobyl happened in 1986, nothing was done. So it’s difficult to assume, that even after this incident, everything would be done to ensure the safety of nuclear plants everywhere.

So, the fact still remains: the surest way to avoid future nuclear accidents seems to be to stop using nuclear energy entirely. And I hope we do, because there are alternatives. The alternatives may be more expensive, but I’m willing to pay more if it means we’ll never again risk contaminating someone’s hometown with radioactive fallout.

I had to tell my mom that there was a possibility her hometown may become uninhabitable. Trust me. It’s not something you ever want to have to tell someone.

35 thoughts on “Thoughts on the whole nuclear power thing

  1. I have long been against nuclear power, believing that the whole waste issue makes it a Faustian bargain at best. But then again, I live exactly 6 miles from a plant of the exact same design as the Fukushima Daiichi ones (Vermont Yankee). And I agree with you that we should abandon nuclear power but, unfortunately, I also agree with you that we just may not learn our lesson from this disaster (just like we didn’t from Chernobyl).

    I have watched the plant in my community lose spent nuclear fuel rods, release radioactive steam and water (contaminated with high levels of tritium) from the cooling units into the atmosphere. I’ve seen fence line radiation levels be exceeded multiple times since the 20% power uprate (pushing the plant to run at 120% of it’s original design capacity). I’ve seen cracks develop in the steam dryers that are a result of the extra friction from the uprate. I’ve seen low water pressure and broken valves in the emergency pumps that are designed to cool the reactor in the event of an emergency shut down. I’ve even seen a huge section of the plants cooling towers collapse from lack of inspection ( http://www.safepowervt.org/images/yankeecollapse3.JPG ). I’ve seen accidental discharges of firearms by security personnel, and people drunk and/or asleep on the job. But did any of this stop the NRC from giving Yankee the green light to operate the plant at 120% of it’s original design capacity for 20 years beyond it’s original designed service life? No, sadly it didn’t.

    Also, in the wake of the tragedy unfolding in Japan, president Obama has made several comments showing his continued support for nuclear power. Sure some senators (like Bernie Sanders from here in VT) have asked for increased scrutiny of new and existing plants but, I fear that, unless the U.S. sees a catastrophic nuclear event like Chernobyl or Fukushima, I fear we will never stop using this dangerous power generation method… perhaps not even then.

    I mean, it scares me to know that, if I were found dead in some random hotel in South Dakota, without my I.D., forensics experts could tell I was from the New England from the amount of strontium in my teeth. I cannot imagine what it’s doing to the rest of my body and my homeland. And frankly, I may be psychologically better off not knowing, even if physically I’m not.

    I am so sad that the Japanese people now will have to experience much worse than what myself and millions of others have been exposed to for such a dangerous power generation source. No matter how much we think we know what we’re doing, no matter how safe we think we’ve made something, Mother Nature will always hold the trump card. I pray that the radiation in Japan is somehow contained and that your mother does not have to leave her home town; such a thing should never be allowed to occur while we have other means of producing energy, no matter the cost.

  2. Glenn, that was an excellent post.
    I guess it boils down to some hard choices.
    Unfortunately, economics and maintaining the current
    status quo will probably win out, for now. I don’t think
    people are ready to alter their high consumption
    lifestyle, yet….

  3. Thank you for this personal post. I have had a difficult time wrapping my brain around what is going on… ignorance/denial… probably both.

    I wish your family well. And I admire what you are doing this month – proof that we can all do better for our planet if we try.

  4. I’ve been against nukes since the mid 70′s and recent trends have shown that the cost per KW has gone up and up…factor in the long term costs (spent fuel storage, plant decommissions etc.) and this cost is even higher.

  5. Until doing what you are doing becomes more mainstream we will always need solutions to energy problems..hell, if the entire US would just put their electronics on power bars and turn off the bar when not in use the whole country would save 4%..which does not seem like much until you consider that the 4% would be enough to power Austrailia for the year!

    Oil is just as bad as nuclear but its like boiling a frog..with a plant meltdown the frogs know that there is danger and move out..with oil we have gradually created a problem so severe that we don’t even realize the danger but the consequences will be just as dire in the future.

    I feel for you..never a good situation to be in but volunteering is a good way to help out those in need..I have really been impressed with the sense of community that Japan is exibiting too! Hope your family is all ok and stay that way too!

  6. abandonning nuclear power is like abandonning our cars and ride horses . nuclear power can be much safer , but at a higher price. vio – romania , learning from ryo`s experience

  7. Ryo,

    You’re a smart guy, you have already discerned that if your Mother’s location is poisoned and she is still there, she will die. Therefore, there should be no reason why she should not get out and live to return another day, should that be possible; if not, she can live to move in with you on your 60 acres and you can teach her to shoot and put meat on the table.

    I lived and worked in Middletown, PA, 3 miles from Three Mile Island (TMI), in 1979. I had accepted what I thought was a slight risk when I moved there, I learned my lesson. I came to know several employees who worked at TMI and found out that there were all kinds of problems that were ignored by the Feds from day 1.

    Get Mom out, worry about where she’s going to live after you know she is going to live. God bless you, keep your rifle close and bury some ammo.

    • My mom is very different to me. She’d rather die than live in the woods.

      Ultimately, the choice is hers. I can give her my recommendations, explain the facts and the risks as much as possible. But it’s her life. As an independent minded person, I know that the last thing I want is for someone to tell me how to live my life, so I won’t do the same to her either.

  8. I pretty much agree with what you have said. BUT it needs more context. This morning the government reported that the first “radiaoactive fallout” had reached the U.S. But not to worry because it was 1/1,000,000,000 the amount that would be considered dangerous. One billionth! The ability to detect radiation exceeds it’s danger to us by a factor of a billion, maybe two billion, maybe more. But what the media focuses on is the existence of the radiation not the amount or implication of it.

    Bananas are radioactive. They concentrate naturally occurring radioactivity found in the dirt they grow in. They are so radioactive that shipments of bananas often set off radiation detectors at shipping terminals. They are so radiuoactive that if you were to stand next to a box of bananas that the radiation does you absorb could be detected in your body. A single banana emits higher levels of radiation then the levels the media have reported coming from Japan. When was the last time all the media spent this much time 24/7 reporting on a banana shipment?

    More context: 15,000 people died from the earthquake and tsunami and zero from the nuclear power plants. Now that might change, I’m not trying to understate the risks. But in context Many things we all take for granted (driving a car, flying, having sex, drinking alcohol, etc. cause far more deaths then nuclear power plants.

    I expect things to get worse at these nuclear power plants and I am guessing there will be some land placed off limits for a period of years. It will no doubt take a lot of time and billions of dollars to clean up this mess. It is serious and will probably get worse.

    • Good point. I’m personally not concerned about current radiation levels, especially in Tokyo. I’m more worried about the worst case scenario, which could theoretically dump harmful levels of radiation on Tokyo.

      Elsewhere though they’ve already measured 0.1-0.3mSv/hour of radiation in places 20-30km from the plant. If sustained, that’s 800-2400mSv per year, and could kill a lot of people. Most likely those readings were just momentary spikes. But we are talking about disconcerting levels of radiation… not just bananas.

      As for people who are freaking out about radiation reaching the US, I think they’ve gone bananas.

  9. Interesting post – when you write “While long-term storage of nuclear waste could be a problem, climate change is a more immediate threat, and anything we could do slow its progress seemed like a reasonable idea to me.” I read this as let’s pass the problem on to future generations.

    Storage of contaminants has always been one of the biggest and least discussed problems with nuclear energy. See these sites:
    Storing radioactive waste for 100,000 years http://www.intoeternitythemovie.com/
    Nuclear Guardianship is a citizen commitment to present and future generations to keep radioactive materials out of the biosphere.http://www.joannamacy.net/nuclearguardianship.html

    I would say the surest way to avoid future nuclear accidents seems to be to cut as far back as possible on all energy use.

    • I think (or used to think) that nuclear energy could buy us time. If we can safely store nuclear waste for, say, even 500 years, I think there’s a reasonable hope that mankind 500 years from now will be better equipped to deal with the mess.

      Climate change, on the other hand, has been happening for decades, and takes decades to stop/reverse. Even if we do everything we can now, it may not take effect for another 50 years.

      If we had to choose between leaving our descendants with a warmer planet that’s harder to live in, vs leaving them with reasonably well contained nuclear waste, I think the latter may be the better choice. Ideally, we shouldn’t do either.

  10. Nuclear energy is now and will remain a vital part of the electrical energy infrastructure for the foreseeable future. It has its pro and cons but its pro’s certainly outweigh its cons at our current level of technology. That said all these ‘old tech’ reactors have to go. These are the same basic designs as created back in the 40′s and 50′s! We’ve known how to create a much safer design for at least 40 year, the pebble bed reactor. The other thing that could be done to make nuclear power safer is to make them smaller. There are model that are smaller enough to be airlifted into remote region to provide enough energy for about 50k for about 20 years. We need to start creating an energy grid the way we think of the internet: a distributed network. Millions of folks in Japan are without electricity because this single, very vulnerable plant was their sole energy provider. A distributed system of smaller plants wouldn’t have been disrupted nearly as bad as this massive technological dinosaur. With smaller plants closer to the consumers, transmission losses also go down. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t invest even greater percentages in renewable energy but at their current efficiencies, PV’s just can’t meet the demands. Wind generated will work well in many areas but hardly perfect. Big hydo is ever bit as disastrous as nuclear energy in terms of environmental impact especially for migratory fish like salmon which is keystone fish species. Any form of fossil fueled electrical energy makes nuclear power look positively benign in comparison in terms of overall environmental impact. Take away the emissions generated by coal, natural gas and oil used for electrical energy production and you might reduce humanity’s air pollution by 50%!

  11. “abandonning nuclear power is like abandonning our cars and ride horses .”

    Really Vio? I think that’s a bit of an extreme example. Especially since we can generate power that is exactly like the power that comes out of a Nuclear reactor from wind, solar, hydro, tidal, and many other clean methods. Yes wind and solar are not reliable base loads but, when mixed with clean(er) burning natural gas plants, there really isn’t much of a trade-off in terms of the end product (i.e electricity).

    “nuclear power can be much safer , but at a higher price.”

    Yes indeed it can be safer, but it can never be SAFE. No matter what we do, there will always be the risk of radiological contamination and we can never protect these facilities, 100% from mother nature or even people with ill intentions who are willing to sacrifice there own life to inflict terror. If nature brings down a solar or wind plant or a terrorist blows up a wind farm, big deal, you just lose power (blowing up a hydro damn is a bit of a different story but, at least when the flood water are gone you can rebuild).

    All that being said, nuclear power is NOT green and it is NOT carbon neutral. Sure there are no releases of carbon emission in the fission process but, how about during mining or shipping of the mined uranium (we import 3/4 of our uranium from Canada and Australia). How about the enrichment process? Did you know that the only active enrichment facility in the U.S. (in Paducah, Kentucky) is powered by a super coal plant? And that it “consume(s) a peak electrical demand of 3,040 megawatts, and 26 million gallons of water a day” Or that the majority of the wastes produced at enrichment facilities is depleted uranium that is either weaponized or dumped into toxic leaching pits that get into ground water along with the industrial degreaser trichloroethylene? Or how about the fact that, according to the NRC’s own website “The primary hazard in gaseous diffusion plants include the chemical and radiological hazard of a UF6 release and the potential for mishandling the enriched uranium, which could create a criticality accident (inadvertent nuclear chain reaction).”

    No my friends, Nuclear power is not carbon neutral by any stretch of the imagination. Sure we don’t have to fight wars for uranium (yet), but that don’t make it green or ethical to use in any way shape or form.

    • There aren’t any clean methods for producing electricity.
      You know nothing of the nickel mining processes for the batteries? Do you know how much pollution is generated during that phase of your so-called “clean solar power”?

      Do you realize how much pollution is generated during the manufacturing of solar panels? Do you realize how much energy is required to transport them to their final destination?

      The choice is quite simple, pollution up front followed by a few years of low pollution, or low pollution up front followed by a few years of heavy pollution.

      It is a zero sum game. We will never get more out of it than we put in.

      This isn’t a Utopian planet/universe. There aren’t any perfect solutions.

      Einstein once said that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it IS comprehensible. What that means is that WE can understand it if we try, but most people are overwhelmed by the thought that they could actually figure it out.

  12. Carlos wrote: “…at their current efficiencies, PV’s just can’t meet the demands.”

    Current PV technology is at anywhere from a 14% to a 20% conversion efficiency (with 14-16% being standard these days) but, now for a lesson in physics and energy generation. No matter what fuel you use, be it coal, oil, natural gas, or nuclear, you only get about 1/3 of the embodied energy in the fuel source. The rest goes up the smoke stack (or steam vent) as waste heat. Then you have step up and step down transformers and switch gear, fuses and the like and thousands of miles of electrical wires and lots of sub stations which take away aprox another 1/3, which brings the overall efficiency of electrical generation down to roughly 20% (with the exception of CHP facilities, which you cannot have with Nuclear power because the steam is too dangerous). when put this way, on site PV generation is almost as efficient, if not as efficient as as any other power generation source, and that will only keep getting better.

    “Big hydro is ever bit as disastrous as nuclear energy in terms of environmental impact especially for migratory fish like salmon which is keystone fish species.”

    Yes, this is very true. Having worked on the Salmon Restoration project on the Connecticut River for 5 years, where we put out millions of salmon fry every year to have, at best, 125 return the following year, is abysmal at best. That being said, there are better ways to get the fish going upstream that fish ladders (Holyoke, MA has a fish elevator, which ensures that the fish are not nearly as beat up when they get upstream). That being said, if we took out a lot of the unused damns that are still in place in tributaries (for aesthetic reasons or lack of funds to remove them) we could cut the amount of fish not reaching their native spawning grounds drastically. It’s admittedly a tough issue.

    “Any form of fossil fueled electrical energy makes nuclear power look positively benign in comparison in terms of overall environmental impact. Take away the emissions generated by coal, natural gas and oil used for electrical energy production and you might reduce humanity’s air pollution by 50%!”

    If the emissions generated during the fission process were the only emissions that went into nuclear power, I’d agree with you but they’re not, and this is one of the biggest lies that the nuclear industry perpetuates. Mining, shipping, enrichment, and then reshipping to their final destination (point of use) uses a lot of fossil fuels (mostly coal and Diesel fuel). And these processes create a lot of other on site pollution/contamination as well. See my previous post for more info.

  13. I had been curious what your thoughts were. I have nothing scientific to say. I had been hopeful in the first few days when it was reasonably well contained, that that would be the end of the scare. I have been very sad and worried to see it go the other way. :( <3

  14. No real “knowledge” here,

    Hope your famiy is safe, and continues to be so.

    As to the power issue, losing nuclear would NOT be like going back to riding horses, but it MIGHT be like going back to when most families owned 1 tv, 1 car etc etc… Dolars per kw, nuclear is cheap plentiful power… Figure in the “real” cost and it gets quite expensive, but most north americans dont really care about that. If the US and Canada went back to living like it was the 50′s or 60′s there would be less of a draw, and the system could run with less power more efficiently. Imagine the power savings if every house had a single modest tv, maybe a laptop and less funky gadgets. If we all owned 1 family car, and had a scooter or moped or bus pass for all other travel. I ride a motorcycle, for many reasons. But one of them is that, putting premium fuel in, I can commute to work, run my errands and go for some cruises, for about $12 every 2 weeks. I have friends with cars that dont travel much further and pay $40-$50 PER WEEK!!! And other riends farther out that pay even more! In te cold Canadian winters, i take the bus. In 2 months i use as much fuel as my friends regularly do in a week. And if i wasnt such a fat bastard, i could get a smaller bike and pay less.

    The “gotta have more” lifestyle that i grew up in the middle of is insanely wasteful, but 99% of people like it that way…. THAT is the change that makes pv and other less damaginng power choices viable.

    As an example, one of my co workers was complaining about her power bill. She has a small 2 bedroom house, a little over 1000 square feet… My condo is about the same size. There are 3 people in her house, 3 flatscreen tvs and one tube tv, 4 computers and lots of gadgets and home theater stuff. Her boyfriend regularky falls asleep watching tv streamed from his pc with the lights on… They refuse to use CFL’s cause she thinks they are “annoying”. She uses 5 times the power i use, if not a little more… And i am not a hydro nazi, just use cfls and only watch 1 tv at a time….

    If she could live smaller, it would be a much more affordable lifestyle.

  15. All in all it just comes down to simple greed. I will pray for the safety of your family and all people in Japan. Try not to worry. Worrying has never changed a thing.

  16. Yet another reason I’m going back to school for a Renewable Energy Engineering degree. We seem unwilling as a people to face the reality that nuclear power plants are not fail-safe- and cannot be made so for every contingency.

  17. The “worst case scenario” is not as bad as the pundits would have you believe. The reactor design inlcudes provisions to control a meltdown. A meltdown is the worst case scenario. If that happens the “fix” is to drop huge amount of boric acid and sand into the reactor to stablize and control the nuclear fuel and to then cover it with a concrete cap. This would stay in place for a number of years until the fuel depletes enough to allow it to be dismantled. During that time a “small” area around the reactor site would be off limits. Realistically this could be 500 yards or so but politically it would probably be a mile or two in diameter. Most of the radiation that leaks out is not particularly dangerous and it merely takes time and distance to make it safe. Very small but detecable amounts of radiation will travel miles and miles from the plant but will present no real risk. Very close to the plant in the weeks and months (maybe years) after the meltdown the radiaoactivity will be high but not necessarily lethal. This will dissipate fairly quickly.

    The real clue to how bad it will get is going to depend on whether or not the containment building explodes (due to steam pressure) or is allowed to vent. An explosion will release more radioactive material and potentially over a wider area. That is what we need to watch for in the coming days/weeks. But even with that it is still not Chernobyl and not going to be anything even close to the disaster Chernobyl was.

  18. “You know nothing of the nickel mining processes for the batteries? Do you know how much pollution is generated during that phase of your so-called “clean solar power”?”

    Actually Michael, I do know of the things you speak of. And you obviously know nothing about the current state of solar energy because 85% or better of the systems going in these days are not tied to any batteries at all.

    “Do you realize how much pollution is generated during the manufacturing of solar panels? Do you realize how much energy is required to transport them to their final destination?”

    Again, yes I do, there is a ton of electricity used to bake the silicon, but a lot of the solar plants these days are using solar power to offset their energy usage during the creation of panels. As for the entire environmental cost, in terms of energy usage, even up here in VT where we get comparatively little sun (from say Phoenix), it takes anywhere from 1-3 years of production for the solar panel to “repay” the amount of energy that went into it’s creation. There is also another year or so “payback” for the transportation issue. Which leaves 21-50+ years of 100% pollution free energy creation and, when all is said and done, the panel is mostly recyclable. So when you say “It is a zero sum game. We will never get more out of it than we put in.” That’s simply not true! As far as solar power is concerned this doesn’t violate the laws of thermodynamics because our pollution free fuel source is inexhaustible (so long as the sun doesn’t burn out).

    And another thing about batteries, over 90% of today’s solar batteries are recyclable into new batteries. The lead is remelted down and re-used, the plastic containers can be used likewise, and the acid can be re-processed and used again or neutralized. Yes the act of mining the materials the first time around is very destructive, no way around that but, as you said, there are no perfect solutions and, as far as solutions go, this one is pretty darn good, all things considered. Nuclear power leaves radioactive materials that are deadly and must be kept stored safely for over 100,000 years. There’s a big difference

    • How much power does it take to melt down the lead?

      For those grid-tie systems you were speaking of, try keeping a refrigerator running during a week of cloudy weather. Without the coal-fired plant or whatever source the electricity comes from you’d end up with spoiled food.

      Anyhow, I know that you want to believe that this all works fine and the world might be saved. Kicking the can down the road, or accepting some trade-offs isn’t the same thing.

      This post was written without malice.

  19. Just another thought. Solar power doesn’t have to be in the form of photovoltaics since some of you question the efficiency. There are solar concentrators that make steam to turn a turbine like all the traditional forms of electrical generation and, if you in any way doubt the power of the sun to do that, watch this video (it’s not about electricity generation per se, but I guarantee you it will astound you as to what you can do with solar power!).

  20. In the eighties ,a teacher told me to stop dreaming about solar power , he said it will take the energy world use in 20 years to make solar panels that will cower all our needs.
    We are closer now to that dream , it`ll take only 5 years mabe. Perhaps Glenn you will tell us what to do in the night time.

  21. Glenn, yes there is imbedded carbon use in nuclear energy but nothing but in terms of electrical energy output to its imbedded carbon input, its fractional compared to fossil fuels. PV also have alot of imbedded carbon in them as well and they only work when efficiently for about 4-6 hours a sunny day. Solar steam requires taking a large area of desert well away from urban areas and air traffic patterns and creating a huge array and since its far away from its customers, once again transmission line losses will greatly erode their output efficiency. That’s the problem with wind generation right now. There are areas like West Texas and the Gulf of Mexico which are ideal location for wind generation but there’s not near enough line capacity to support expanding production.

    We need a complete rethink of how we generate and distribute electrical energy. The big energy companies and their stockholders don’t like the idea of a distributed energy network as it will massively diminish their profits by raising the efficiency to the point where electrical production becomes so cheap they can’t make any profit from it. Direct energy gain from solar is perfect example. Every house/building in the world should have at least some form of solar-heated hot water. It’s cheap and extremely cost effective way to reduce both pollution and electrical demand. Are the big electrical or gas producers who say they can’t keep up with demand actually installing them or paying folks to install them? No because they won’t make any money from them. Here’s another extremely energy efficient idea, your fridge throws off massive amounts of heat, why not design a fridge that uses that waste heat for warming hot water or as booster for your home heat pump. Simple remodeling and landscaping could cut a houses energy bill 40% for the life of the house. Why aren’t new housing developments mandated to be passive-solar designs? I could go on for hours like this. I’ve digressed far from the subject of nuclear energy. I was a subscriber to HomePower Magazine for many years until they decided to become less a DIY magazine and more a ‘spokes-rag’ for the PV industry that has now been taken over by big energy. Even they have contributing authors who had once completely condemned nuclear energy in the 80′s now reluctantly concede that there’s no economically viable replacement for nuclear energy electrical generation for at least the next 30-40 years. We missed the boat back in the 70′s to economically replace nuclear energy with renewable energy without massive disruption of the energy supply. Now it’s going to be expensive and painful. I

    None of this matters until the millions of consumers demand energy be produced from renewable energy sources.

  22. “Perhaps Glenn you will tell us what to do in the night time”

    Easy, pump water up hill into a storage facility and then drain it out at night through turbines. It’s done all the time actually (sans solar) for use during peak loads.

  23. @ Michael: http://www.firstlightpower.com/generation/north.asp

    I should point out that I personally have not done this as this is a major generation facility 1,000 megawatts, and also, much to my chagrin, the water for this facility is pumped uphill to the facility by a plant powered by nuclear power and/or natural gas plants. Also, I really feel like I’ve hijacked Ryo’s blog here so, out of respect for him and the original intent of his post, I’m going to stop commenting on this, unless it directly relates to the tragedy in Japan. But anyone may carry on the conversation with me at gillebhrighde@yahoo.com if they so wish (but please be respectful if you disagree with me or I’ll ignore you).

    Ryo, sorry for taking up so much space here, I’ll try and be less intrusive in the future, it’s just that solar power and Nuclear issues are deeply important to me and it’s hard for me not to comment a lot.

  24. @ et:

    Very interesting fact sheet, yet it seems to be incorrect and biased towards the nuclear industry, since it states there have been zero deaths from nuclear accidents since 1970, yet there were at least 50 deaths of plant workers resulting from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Also, the world health organization estimates that the civilian death count from Chernobyl could eventually reach at at least 4,000 (while some extreme groups such as Green Peace put that figure at over 200,000). If either are proven true, that would make nuclear power the worst on the list.

    Also, this study was done by the Paul Scherrer Institute, which is a combination of the Swiss Institute for Nuclear Physics and The Swiss Federal Institute for Reactor Research (merged together to form the Paul Scherrer Institute in 1988). Trusting this report would be akin to trusting a report by the American Petroleum Institute that says the oil in the gulf coast has vanished and is no longer a threat to marine life/ecosystems in the Gulf.

    Just some thoughts to ponder.

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