Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
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    Friday, December 7, 2007

    Quick shot

    Here's a brief little interview with a former anti-nuclear protester who's now agitating for us to switch to nuclear power. It turns out that once she educated herself instead of living in constant fear of the nuclear bogeyman, it made a lot of sense:

    Wired News: You don't argue that nuclear power is entirely safe, but that it's vastly better than coal and fossil fuels. Do we have to choose between them?

    Gwyneth Cravens: I used to think we surely could do better. We could have more wind farms and solar. But I then learned about base-load energy, and that there are three forms of it: fossil fuels, hydro and nuclear. In the United States, we're maxed out on hydro. That leaves fossil fuels and nuclear power, and most of the fossil fuel burned is coal.

    In the U.S., 24,000 people a year die from coal pollution. Hundreds of thousands more people suffer from lung and heart disease directly attributable to coal pollution.

    WN: That's opposed to a minuscule number of people who have been directly harmed by nuclear power?

    Cravens: It's zero in the United States. Of course there is the occasional industrial accident amongst the workers. But over the lifetime cycle of nuclear power, if you go cradle-to-grave with uranium, the total carbon emissions are about those of wind power.

    And yet, every time I bring it up, people react as though I just suggested letting John Wayne Gacy run a daycare.

    Posted by Tom, 12/7/2007 3:40:05 AM (Permalink). 3 Comments. Leave a comment...

    I am afraid I am one of the one that is not particularly in favor of nuclear power. No one in the US has been harmed by nuclear power but look outside the US and there have been a few accidents. I am not terrified by nuclear power but I also realize the same reasons I want as small government is the same reason I am not in favor or nuclear power. People make mistakes and the right combinations of mistakes at a nuclear power plant and the disaster (big or small) is long lived. That said I live on the edge of the immediate evacuation zone for the Parry Ohio nuclear plant and the house down at the farm is inside the evacuation zone for the Shipping Port PA nuclear reactor. We can see the cooling towers out of the living room window. I shoot with one of the computer operators from Parry and most of his stories make me feel better about the safety, but than other times not so much. -rambling mcb

    -- mcb

    As she points out in the article, even Chernobyl wasn't all it was cracked up to be in the media. I understand "reservations". I don't understand knee-jerk fear response. With most people opposed to nuclear power, you get the latter.

    Besides, unless we use it, we'll never improve it.

    -- Tom

    Increasingly they are having problems finding many people harmed by nuclear power. Chernobyl clearly killed many people when it melted down, many employees and emergency services personnel suffered lethal dosages, but beyond that they are finding very few indications of increased instances of illness or alterations in lifespan that can be attributed to nuclear energy. Chernobyl actually isn't the Soviet Union's worst nuclear accident, they had a much worse one in the depths of the cold war around one of their mining regions and even with raw, radioactive sludge being pumped into a river system feeding agricultural and residential areas, they still ended up concluding that maybe a few hundred deaths all told resulted from the nuclear waste and that smoking cigarettes was far more likely to kill you.

    Environmentalists are slowly coming around to nuclear energy since it is essentially zero emission and modern plant designs, our current reactor fleet was designed in the 1960's, use far less fuel and generate far less waste.

    But, overall I'm still holding out hopes for fusion power, some recent research into helium-helium fusion is very exciting as it could produce a fusion scheme starting and ending with stable isotopes so it would have zero radioactive waste. I think at this point we've gotten far enough along that it is a matter of time before we get sustained reactions of enough duration to produce power, I just would like it to be a short rather than long time before the kinks are worked out.

    My other hope is broadcast solar power from space, but the while the technology for that is largely available, the capital cost to buy in is staggering so I'm thinking that's the solution of the 22nd century.

    -- Mike Gorman