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I worship the mighty atom

I remember reading that one of the initial reasons for building nuclear power stations was to provide weapons grade material. Any energy produced was a fortuitous by-product. I wondered how much Uranium we had left if we were to convert to nuclear power. According to this debate, quite a lot. Certainly, one would hope, enough to see us over the bump until we make fusion a better deal.

So whilst I'm definitely in favour of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and tide, I'm also a supporter of nuclear power, especially when it is maximised for energy output rather than weapon creation.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
sashabilton
May. 27th, 2008 01:47 pm (UTC)
I totally agree. It's my biggest disagreement with the Greens that they aren't more pragmatic on the energy. While nuclear power is dangerous when it goes wrong, gas and oil are far more dangerous for any developing country that has them as resources.
timgray
May. 27th, 2008 05:16 pm (UTC)
Hopefully without turning up the heat in the thread:
Nuclear power is often touted as being a no-carbon energy source. This is nonsense - plenty is generated in constructing facilities and extracting fuel. (Someone somewhere will have figures. I do not.) Plus it's slooow to get going, and time is of the essence.
nuclear_powered
May. 27th, 2008 06:37 pm (UTC)
Modern nuclear power plants (hell, even old nuclear power plants) can't be used to create weapons grade material.

Now, the old Winscale Piles from back in the late 50's (before Pile one caught on fire at any rate) were used solely to produce plutonium.

And in response to tim:

Of course. Virstually all of the energy generated in the world at the moment is from coal/oil/gas. Where do you think that the energy used to create those wind turbines, solar arrays, etc. comes from? Exactly the same place. You can't avoid expending energy to generate energy and, right now, the initial expenditure will almost certainly have to come from non-renewable sources. The point is that once the alternative sources are up and running they can be self-perpetuating and nuclear energy can be used from the beginning of the nuclear fuel cycle, thus negating the argument. It just takes awhile to get going but that is true of renewables as well. Especially given that they require gas/whatever stations as back-ups for the times when they simply can't generate enough electricity to meet demand.
(Deleted comment)
gbsteve
May. 28th, 2008 09:30 am (UTC)
But are any of the immediate alternatives for large scale power generation better?

I realise, for example, that the decommissioning of our old reactors is going to cost in excess of £73bn. But much of this is due to just ignoring issues as they built up rather than dealing with things at the time.
nuclear_powered
Jun. 1st, 2008 12:32 pm (UTC)
Tell me about it! I actually work in nuclear decommissioning. A lot of the problem is that decommissioning of the stations simply wasn't a consideration either when they were built or when they were operating. It's only recently that it's really been thought about and, to be blunt, the governments refusal to get off of their arses and build a deep depository for the waste for the last 20-25 years hasn't helped matters any. Modern reactors are planned and built with decommissioning in mind from the earliest stages.

Oh, and don't get me started on the reason that BNFL, etc. didn't have any money for decommissioning. Lets just say that the government are thieving bastrads and moralise only when it's convenient, shall we?
gbsteve
Jun. 1st, 2008 01:45 pm (UTC)
Let's, to a certain extent (after all theft to me implies taking it and keeping it, which is one thing governments don't do, they spend it and more).

Although I have no links to the industry, my Grandfather was instrumental, as a civil servant, in setting up UKAEA.

I remember him telling me about a visit to a power station of some kind. They were worried about the intruments not registering as much power as they thought they were generating. He had a look in a cupboard and found that the line carrying the data was too long. Instead of cutting it off, they'd just looped it up in the cupboard and created an induction coil, creating interference with the readings.

Not entirely auspicious beginnings.
nuclear_powered
Jun. 2nd, 2008 09:18 am (UTC)
Essentially, despite what current campaigners like to tell people, there WAS money set aside for decommissioning the stations. It wasn't likely to be enough (I'm not sure of the exact amounts although it wasn't small) but it would certainly have helped to mitigate costs, especially given the way inflation works. Basically the government took it and spent it elsewhere (only they could say where) and left BNFL, etc. high and dry in that regard. Not that BNFL, BE, et al had exactly been keeping decommissioning in mind as a rule but the governments actions there (and with the Nirex depository) really didn't help matters.

As to your grandfathers story, I can well believe it. A lot of the early history of the nuclear industry in this country is funny in that terrifying way where if you don't laugh you might have to hide under a table gibbering to yourself.

The problem is that many people (understandably) link the nuclear industry and power station designs then to now, which isn't an entirely valid comparison. As I say modern stations are a) much safer (and have passive safety designed in as a guiding principle) and b) take into account decommissioning from the word go both in design and financially. It's long been recognised that setting aside money at the start of construction for decommissioning is a really, really good idea and it will (as far as I'm aware) be a requirement for new build stations.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )