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Last week a group of Buddhist monks joined the protest against San Onofre Nuclear Plant. The local press made a big show of the spectacle as if the presence of members of a Seattle monastery somehow added stature to the demonstration and validity to their claims.
The monks said they also want to call attention to what they believe are the global dangers of nuclear power. “We need to shut down the San Onofre,” Gyosen Sawada of Los Angeles, who said he was born in Fukushima, Japan, told the group before beginning a three-hour walk from Dana Point Harbor. “No more Hiroshima. No more Nagasaki. No more Three Mile Island. No more Fukushima. No more San Onofre.”
Activists, medical practitioners and politicians who have demanded moratoriums [on uranium mining] may have various reasons for doing so, but their claims that the public and environment are at risk are fundamentally wrong.
That about sums up the facts on the safety of uranium mining and the validity of motives of those who oppose it. What’s particularly noteworthy about this statement is its source: Michael Binder, the President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. It’s impressive to see this level of leadership from the Canadian equivalent of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Note: this post also appears at the ANS Nuclear Cafe
What better way to celebrate National Nuclear Science Week than to acknowledge amazing career opportunities that exist for people interested in joiningthe nuclear renaissance. If you are a middle or high school student (or are the parent of one) considering college alternatives, you would be hard pressed to find a better investment than earning an associates or bachelors degree in nuclear-related science, engineering, or technology.
Opportunities for entry level positions have not been this rich at any time during the past three decades, and the nuclear industry is partnering with many schools to ensure graduates have the knowledge and skill for success as power plant engineers, operators, and technicians. Because of a combination of national and international trends, there have never been more opportunities for young people to begin careers in the nuclear industry. Read the rest of this entry »
There was a horrible accident in Kenya this week. More than 100 people were burned to death, and hundreds more were injured when a gasoline pipeline began leaking and then exploded. My heart goes out to the victims, and their families, and to all the people of Kenya who are dealing with the worst industrial disaster in their history. Eyewitnesses reported seeing burning people leaping into a nearby river trying to extinguish the flames that engulfed them. Rescue workers had to place a net across the river to catch the charred bodies of the dead so they would not wash down stream. The death toll continues to grow, and most of the 100+ injured including many children are not expected to survive.
The pipeline runs through Sinai, a Nairobi ghetto of corrugated tin and cardboard huts. When the pipe began leaking hundreds of people gathered around to scoop up the spilled gasoline. As the crowd grew a spark from a cigarette butt or some other heat source ignited the fuel. The blast incinerated scores of people nearby. Flames cascaded down on nearby huts then raced through the crowded slum. Read the rest of this entry »
California politicians and utilities were quick to assign blame for Thursday’s blackout of 6 million customers on a single unfortunate utility worker in Arizona. In reality, they need to look a lot deeper at the root cause of the major electrical system failure that lasted about 12 hours. Why? Properly designed, maintained, and operated electrical grids just don’t collapse when a single error takes place or a single piece of equipment fails. Read the rest of this entry »
This is a follow up to the podcast titled “Water Wars in New York” on May 27, 2010 in which I discussed how NY State is using their authority to issue Water Quality Certificates to wage war against the Indian Point Nuclear Plant. In case you missed that show, New York is holding the plant’s 20 year license renewal hostage by refusing to issue a Certificate of Water Quality unless the plant agrees to install expensive cooling towers. The plant has argued that the cost of cooling towers, approximately $2 Billion, is excessive and disproportionate to the environmental benefit that would be derived. In fact, the plant has identified an alternate technology that would provide greater environmental benefits at about one-tenth of the cost of installing cooling towers. Thus far those arguments have fallen on deaf ears. Read the rest of this entry »
Ever thought about how many zeros there are there in a “pico” something?
Remember back in grade school when we learned the metric system of measures? We started out with units that are easy to visualize: meters get 1000 times bigger and become kilometers; meters get 1000 times smaller and become millimeters. We understand these intuitively because we have a frame of reference and can visualize each of those unites of length and distance. Units of mass are the same way; we know a gram is a small unit of mass – we can hold a gram of almost any material in the palm of our hand. For example, a penny weighs 2.5 grams. Stack up 400 pennies and you have a kilogram, or 1000 grams. Cut a thin copper shaving off a penny and you have a milligram, or one 1,000th of a gram. Again, these are things we can see, and that makes it easier to understand. Read the rest of this entry »
I have a family member that I love dearly and have an infinite amount of respect for. She is a fantastic mother, a caring person, respected in her chosen profession, and a good friend. She would do anything she could to help someone in need. When we first met she was strongly opposed to nuclear energy. Over the years we have discussed it from time to time and I’ve had some influence on her perspective. She’s not totally won over yet, but we’re making progress. Not too long ago she asked me, “But what about the waste? That really worries me!” She really didn’t believe me when I said “There’s no such thing as a nuclear waste problem. That’s nothing but a myth.” Read the rest of this entry »
In this podcast I discuss the question “Is Nuclear Energy Renewable?” that I first posed in a recent blog post.
In addition, I added the following discussion of recent news and events:
Indian Point License Extension Proceeds Despite Anti-Nuclear Hurdles
Despite barriers erected by anti-nuclear groups to block the license renewal for the Indian Point nuclear reactors, the two unit nuclear plant in NY has passed two major hurdles in the life extension process.
- On August 12 NRC issued their final safety evaluation report and concluded there are no safety issues that would preclude running the plants for another 20 years.
- On Sept 23 the independent Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, and independent team of experts that advice the NRC, recommended that the license extension be granted.
Unless renewed, the current licenses expire in 2013 and 2015.
In 2007 the anti-nuclear group Riverkeeper filed five contentions opposing the 20 year license extensions. The NRC granted Riverkeeper a hearing to review arguments on three of their five contentions. In those hearings Riverkeeper was unable to provide sufficient evidence to support their claims and the NRC ruled the contentions had no merit.
On the NRC’s web site they have a schedule showing a tentative final decision on Indian Point’s relicensing in February of 2010.
For quite some time I’ve been debating the argument that nuclear energy is equally “renewable” as energy derived from hydro, wind, and biomass. My thought process goes like this…
Rivers go dry with over use and periods of drought, and winds shift with changing weather patterns such as those that will occur with global climate change. The availability of biomass is dependent on favorable weather and must be replenished using agricultural processes that are reliant on fossil fuels. The ultimate energy source of all these “renewables” is the sun, and while the sun is not “infinite,” it is unlikely to extinguish during the course of human existence. The ability of the sun to replenish hydro, wind, and biomass make these energy sources renewable.
In contrast, the source of nuclear energy is fuel contained entirely on planet Earth. And while there are a finite number of uranium and thorium atoms on the planet, the supply will last for as long as human beings need it. The myth propagated by the anti-nuclear crowd that we will run out of fuel for nuclear reactors is simply untrue. They grossly underestimate the amount of uranium that exists, they discount already proven technologies like breeder reactors, and they ignore the existence of thorium, a fuel even more plentiful than uranium. We have sufficient nuclear fuel to last for more than 1,000 years, even if we expand the number of nuclear plants by more than a factor of ten. This makes nuclear energy inexhaustible.