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Is Nuclear Power the Way?

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Conquistador

Vive la Revolution!
I recently had an actual debate on this topic (which I'm glad to say my team one; we were on the negative side) and it got me thinking a lot about nuclear power.

The issue is perhaps not so topical over in the USA as you already indulge in nuclear energy, but over on countries such as Australia where coal is still by far the biggest source of energy the topic is quite controversial.

So, is nuclear power the way?

I'll start by defining the topic, then presenting some facts for everyone on nuclear power. I'll try to remain as unbiased as possible and simply present the information as journalistic as possible, but many may be able to detect the position which I stand.

So, nuclear power. This pertains to energy which is created by splitting of an atom (I'll do detail later). This specifically means nuclear plants, where the energy is produced and the atoms split.

"The way" simply means should we be using nuclear as our main (if not sole) energy source throughout the world?




So, let's talk about nuclear power. So how exactly does it work?

Well, basically atoms are split (generally Uranium atoms) giving off intense heat/energy. This heat boils water which then turns into super-heated steam that drives steam turbines that are connected to generators to be turned into electricity.


So. Let's start with some facts about nuclear power.

Some usage statistics;

I regret to say the following has been copied from Wikipedia, but I've found sources to cite everything mentioned.

As of 2004, nuclear power provided 6.5% of the world's energy and 15.7% of the world's electricity, with the U.S., France, and Japan together accounting for 57% of nuclear generated electricity. As of 2007, the IAEA reported there are 439 nuclear power reactors in operation in the world, operating in 31 countries.

The United States produces the most nuclear energy, with nuclear power providing 19% of the electricity it consumes, while France produces the highest percentage of its electrical energy from nuclear reactors—78% as of 2006. In the European Union as a whole, nuclear energy provides 30% of the electricity. Nuclear energy policy differs between European Union countries, and some, such as Austria and Ireland, have no active nuclear power stations. In comparison, France has a large number of these plants, with 16 multi-unit stations in current use.

Many military and some civilian (such as some icebreaker) ships use nuclear marine propulsion, a form of nuclear propulsion.

http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epa/epat1p1.html
http://www.iea.org/dbtw-wpd/Textbase/nppdf/free/2006/key2006.pdf
http://www.iaea.org/cgi-bin/db.page.pl/pris.oprconst.htm
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5369610

Pros
Emissionless: The production of nuclear energy does not release greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

Nowadays with global warming being a serious threat, this is very important. We really do need to cut down our emissions to prevent climate change. Coal burning at the moment constitutes around 20% of the worlds CO2 emissions, seriously crippling the atmosphere and certainly not helping climate change.

"Nuclear power, which emits no greenhouse gases..."
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=10000103&sid=aXb5iuqdZoD4&refer=us

Reliability: Nuclear plants are very reliable, seldom failing and with most in the US using around 90% of their energy-producing capacity. Also, unlike solar and wind, they do not rely on such intermittent third party inputs.
http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/txt/ptb0902.html

I gotta say, they're the only real pros for nuclear power, with emission-free being the strongest. That said, the fact of no emissions as a big pro. Basically the only real reason we're even considering nuclear power. We're obviously in a lot of shit with the whole greenhouse gas/global warming thing and nuclear - from the emissions - perspective appears to be the answer.


Cons
Nuclear Waste: This is probably one of the biggest (if not the biggest) and most common arguments against nuclear energy. As most know, the production of nuclear energy produces a byproduct of nuclear waste. This highly radioactive waste is toxic and very dangerous. It takes up to an estimated 10,000 years to be considered "safe" and poses a massive environmental threat not to mention a huge danger to the public.

Uneconomical
:

Capital Costs: A nuclear power plant costs between $3 and $5 billion just to construct, and can take up to 12 years to build.

Worldwide, 8,000 nuclear plants would be needed to replace coal plants to meet energy needs. These plants would cost the world approximately $24 trillion just to construct. And that isn’t counting storage costs, plans and centers for waste disposal et cetera.

Running Costs:And once up and running the running costs are no better than coal, with the cost per kilowatt-hour roughly matching coal.
http://www.eia.doe.gov/ <- I couldn't remember the exact link but trust me that it's on there somewhere ^_^

Too Slow to Make an Effect: Most experts agree that major action must take place in the next 5 - 10 years to be able to lessen the predicted Global Warming effects. Yet, to build this many plants -- even if we had the resources -- would take decades. Calculations have shown that even if the world built the 8,000 plants mentioned above, world CO2 levels would still increase 65% over the next 30 years. Nuclear is certainly not the way.

Fossil Fuels Only One Contributor: Only 7% of world C02 comes from U.S. coal, oil, and gas plants; and worldwide, CO2 represents only half of the problem. Nuclear power plants, therefore do little to reduce world C02 levels, and only at a tremendous cost; nuclear power does nothing to reduce the other greenhouse gases such as methane, chlorofluorocarbons, halons, etc. Nuclear power only serves to drain needed money and resources away from the solutions for the other, non-CO2 half of the problem. Please not that I've seen multiple sites give different percentages of how much of the worlds CO2 levels come from the US, and so 7% shouldn't be considered a definite number. I'm considering deleting this point.

Terrorism and Disasters: Obviously nuclear plants post a large terror risk. They provide terrorists with an ideal target with which to cause mass destruction. On that note, disasters, where ill is not intended, cause just the same amount of damage.

And the damage is enourmous. Think Chernobyl anyone? Three Mile Island? Mayak? And what about Hiroshima, the famous nuclear attack on a city. Killed 210,000 people. But it wasn't the bomb that got most of them, but the aftermath of radiation sickness. The thing is that nuclear attacks don’t just demolish a district that can be rebuilt. The radiation can render the land barren for decades after the attack. Nobody can be there, let alone live there..
No source for this, though I doubt I'd need one; only statistics mentioned here are Hiroshima fatalities.

And now... I've saved the biggest one for last....

DOES HAVE EMISSIONS!: You think I'm crazy, right? Well no. Let me explain.

You see, We only have about 30 years worth of high-grade uranium left in our reservoirs. After this time, we will have to enrich lower grade uranium to make it usable for nuclear fuel. Here’s the snag; enrichment releases carbon emissions, defeating the purpose of nuclear power. What’s more is that these emissions exceed that of coal burning! If you look at nuclear power from an environmental approach, it really is only a short term solution and will end up harming the environment more than coal in the long term.
Well, I don't have a source here, as Panda told me, but I'm sure he could provide something ^_^.


All other arguments that aren't specifically given a source come from here;
http://www.neis.org/literature/Brochures/npfacts.htm (has anyone noticed that all these energy sites contain lots of es and is? 0_o).



Okay. I've tried to be as unbiased as possible but I think it's pretty obvious that my position is rather anti-nuclear... xD.

So, go forth, and, debate!
 
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The_Panda

恭喜發財
Fossil Fuels Only One Contributor: Only 7% of world C02 comes from U.S. coal, oil, and gas plants; and worldwide, CO2 represents only half of the problem. Nuclear power plants, therefore do little to reduce world C02 levels, and only at a tremendous cost; nuclear power does nothing to reduce the other greenhouse gases such as methane, chlorofluorocarbons, halons, etc. Nuclear power only serves to drain needed money and resources away from the solutions for the other, non-CO2 half of the problem.

The first sentence verges on amusing. See if you can pick up why ^_~

On the topic as a whole, any solution to global warming has to look at a range of options not just one.
 

The_Panda

恭喜發財
Lemmie guess; because the US uses nuclear plants? xD.

No. There is no way humans are responsible for anywhere near seven percent of all carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, let alone one country.

And you've said over M.S.N. that you meant 7% of all greenhouse emissions from the U.S. are carbon dioxide... but this wants to pick a bone with you. According to the source, 82% of U.S. greenhouse emissions are in the form of carbon dioxide from fuel use.
 
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Conquistador

Vive la Revolution!
No. I'd say that's about right.

Remember, it isn't counting the CO2 that's already in the atmosphere, but rather just that which we put in.

I'm open to editing that, however.

EDIT: I've read elsewhere that the USA is responsible for 25% of total C02 levels via fossil fuels! 0_0

I'm going note that certain fact as somewhat... volatile (for want of a better word)?

EDIT 2: On MSN I said perhaps that's what they meant. Clearly I was mistaken.
 
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The_Panda

恭喜發財
EDIT: I've read elsewhere that the USA is responsible for 25% of total C02 levels via fossil fuels! 0_0

I'm going note that certain fact as somewhat... volatile (for want of a better word)?

EDIT 2: On MSN I said perhaps that's what they meant. Clearly I was mistaken.

I think you're confusing the 25% statistic with the statistic that the U.S. is responsible for 25% of world emissions.

Edit if you wish. It doesn't really matter I was just disputing a statistic. Which more or less unravels an argument.
 

Conquistador

Vive la Revolution!
I think you're confusing the 25% statistic with the statistic that the U.S. is responsible for 25% of world emissions.

Edit if you wish. It doesn't really matter I was just disputing a statistic. Which more or less unravels an argument.

"The U.S. produces about 25 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels" - http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/ggccebro/chapter1.html

No don't think so.


I think it's fair to say that this statistic is in dispute and hence should be disregarded for the rest of the debate until it can be verified. I'll leave it up for a day or two before removing it from the opening post.
 

The_Panda

恭喜發財
"The U.S. produces about 25 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels" - http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/1605/ggccebro/chapter1.html

No don't think so.

That is what I said. There is a profound difference between 25% of global CO2 emissions and 25% of global CO2. I hope you appreciate that :p

I think it's fair to say that this statistic is in dispute and hence should be disregarded for the rest of the debate until it can be verified. I'll leave it up for a day or two before removing it from the opening post.

Okay then. However I do feel that your entire "it won't do much" argument rests on those statistics as premises.
 

Conquistador

Vive la Revolution!
That is what I said. There is a profound difference between 25% of global CO2 emissions and 25% of global CO2. I hope you appreciate that :p

Ahh, my bad, I thought you were placing emphasis elsewhere...

Okay then. However I do feel that your entire "it won't do much" argument rests on those statistics as premises.

Oh yes, naturally, I meant that the whole argument should be disregarded until the statistic is verified.
 

Silentvibrava

Techno Teen
No, no, and NO! At least, not with our current methods of extracting power. You clearly defined multiple issues concerning current nuclear power. Only that one statistic bugs me.

I think it would be more convienent to spend the money researching the causes and effects of high-temperature superconductivity.

If mercury is cooled below 4.1 K, it loses all electric resistance. This discovery of superconductivity by H. Kammerlingh Onnes in 1911 was followed by the observation of other metals which exhibit zero resistivity below a certain critical temperature. The fact that the resistance is zero has been demonstrated by sustaining currents in superconducting lead rings for many years with no measurable reduction. An induced current in an ordinary metal ring would decay rapidly from the dissipation of ordinary resistance, but superconducting rings had exhibited a decay constant of over a billion years!

One of the properties of a superconductor is that it will exclude magnetic fields, a phenomenon called the Meissner effect.

The disappearance of electrical resistivity was modeled in terms of electron pairing in the crystal lattice by John Bardeen, Leon Cooper, and Robert Schrieffer in what is commonly called the BCS theory.

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/solids/scond.html#c1

Superconductivity can only be perfected at very low temperatures. However, in 1986, researchers discovered superconductivity can happen at higher temperatures as well. If we perfected this at room temperature, your energy needs would have been met forever.
 

chuboy

<- It was THIS big!
Nuclear power, with all its hype about waste and radiation, is much more efficient than fossil fuels could hope to be, and far cleaner. I think it is a good idea. Renewable methods are preferable, but none of the methods are efficient enough to compete against fossil fuels. On an individual basis they work brillinatly though. Imagine the reduction in CO2 if every house in the States had solar panels on its roof.

Also, thorium-based nuclear reactors are able produce electricity without producing as much radioactive waste as uranium. There is also far more thorium on Earth than uranium.
 

Conquistador

Vive la Revolution!
But the thing is that in the long run (which is what nuclear power will need to be) it's no better than fossil fuels emissionway.
 

chuboy

<- It was THIS big!
The difference is that fossil fuels will run out. We get so much energy from such a small amount of nuclear substance that effectively the supply will last us forever.
 

UmbreonLord

5th Gen OU
No, its not. We may get a lot of energy from it, put it heavily pollutes the environment and the oceans and lakes and seas. There are better ways, nuclear should only be temporary until we get enough energy by wind.
 

Isaac

Dragon Master
I think Nuclear Power is the way (this dosnt mean I like nuclear energy), until we devolp more machines to harvest clean energy, like solar, hydrgen. So I guess overall no I dont think nuclear power is the way.
 

Shinin

Minimalist
The other methods of gaining power (wind & solar) are already up and running there is no need for Nuclear power.

All it requires for renewable energy to become the main thing is a bit more will for all governments.

The problem with wind and solar energy is that it's not always windy and the sun isn't always out. They can't be the sole provider of energy because they're not as reliable as other types of energy, such as nuclear energy.
 

Night_Walker

Well-Known Member
The problem with wind and solar energy is that it's not always windy and the sun isn't always out. They can't be the sole provider of energy because they're not as reliable as other types of energy, such as nuclear energy.

Well for a start it's all solar energy, just in different forms.

Secondly how about we get with the idea of getting a battery system so we can store the harvested energy, and yeah there are parts of the world where during the day the sun is always out: Australia for example.

And we haven't got to wave power generation, the waves at the breakwaters never stop.
Then there's geo-thermal energy.

Then we get to the safety concerns Nuclear energy can NEVER answer: the risk of melt-down and the waste that will still be dangerous when all of us on this board are long dead.
 
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