The use of Reason and reasonable argumentation, the reclaiming of the idea of Progress and the struggle against dogma. In this post-modern world, reinventing Enlightenment is of the utmost importance.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Nuclear power? - II

In a recent entry I was perhaps a bit hasty in jumping to conclusions on the nuclear energy debate.

Some of the things I said were that accidents happen; terrorists can target nuclear plants; the positive aspects of nuclear energy do not counterbalance the risks of nuclear disaster.

On the other hand, some people, much better qualified on the technical side than I will ever be, happen to think differently. A man of science, Stewart Brand, published an article that you can read here, where he says:

“Now we come to the most profound environmental problem of all, the one that trumps everything: global climate change. Its effect on natural systems and on civilization will be a universal permanent disaster.”

He further argues that the risks involved in perpetuating dependence on "dirty" energy are higher than those involved in embracing "clean" nuclear energy. The argument can be subsided as follows:

The World needs energy. Our current sources (oil, gas, coal) are "dirty" and will destroy the planet. It is extremely urgent to get an alternative. We have one already available: nuclear.

Finally he adds:
"Nuclear certainly has problems—accidents, waste storage, high construction costs, and the possible use of its fuel in weapons. It also has advantages besides the overwhelming one of being atmospherically clean. The industry is mature, with a half-century of experience and ever improved engineering behind it. Problematic early reactors like the ones at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl can be supplanted by new, smaller-scale, meltdown-proof reactors like the ones that use the pebble-bed design.”

Well, I for one (sorry that I’m such an ignorant) happen to think that there is nothing human-made that can be “meltdown-proof”.
Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the strong argument that it is urgent to cut down on oil, gas, and coal dependence. Is it to late to conduct massive research into renewable energy? On other techs that could extract carbon from the atmosphere?
Prove that it is and I have no problems in embracing nuclear power.
Until then, I will stick to this: If you were to put more of your mental energy, and money, and time, into researching renewable, instead of nuclear, the World would be a much safer place.
You see, we think that the bottom line for all this lies elsewhere.

It’s the almighty dollar is it not? Renewable is a costly affair and does not provide the bucks that some people can get straight away from big time nuclear business .


Blogger A. Cabral said...

The lure of profit is indeed great. For one petroleum is becoming prohibitively expensive as the North Sea reserves slowly dwindle. The planet-friendly renewable sources have yet to be researched for their economic benefits, and no corporation drawns investment plans for the long haul. They think at most three years ahead, as you run about pleasing the stock market...

The issue for me is really, nuclear waste and who pays for it. As long as nuclear disposal is unregulated, i.e. untaxed and unsupervised it is as if the State is paying a subsidy to the nuclear industry. When a waste problem arises the state cleans it up and never the producer of the waate.

So there is at least one viable market-based mechanism to block nuclear plant proliferation, to heavily tax waste. But I imagine this is something that Blair and Brown would rather not consider...(and then again maybe Gordon Brown)

3:01 PM

Blogger Goncaluskas said...

Good comment Cabral.I went to visit a nuclear power station 4 years ago. It was amazing for someone like me that studied engineering. I did ask about the nuclear waste. They told me it was taken away to a site where it would lay for 100 years. I asked, what will happen after that period? The guy said- Nobody knows. ;)

6:08 PM

Blogger James Aach said...

You might be interested to know that Stewart Brand has recently endorsed a techno-thriller novel about the American nuclear power industry, written by a longtime nuclear engineer (me). This book provides an entertaining and accurate portrait of the nuclear industry today and how a nuclear accident would be handled. It is called “Rad Decision”, and is currently running as a serial at There is no cost to readers.

"I'd like to see Rad Decision widely read." - Stewart Brand

I honestly can't say what our energy future should be. But I know we'll make better decisions if we understand our energy present. I hope you'll take a look at Rad Decision.

James Aach

2:25 AM


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