Below are two business perspectives against and in favor of nuclear energy as a viable energy source to sustain our planet’s energy needs now and in the future. I personally found the arguments in the pro-nuclear article laughable, given all of my knowledge to the contrary that I accumulated during the hundreds of hours I have spent researching the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan. For the sake of this audience, I have provided some of my own two cents in red-bracketed text. I welcome your informed comments, and I would be happy to provide you with any relevant resources to clarify the origin of my comments.
” Jeremy Rifkin, President of the Foundation on Economic Trends, speaks at the Wermuth Asset Management 5th Annual Investors Event regarding nuclear power and its fate in the future of renewable energy. ”
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Yakima Herald reports:
” YAKIMA — The world needs nuclear power.
That’s what Alan Waltar, a nuclear engineer with decades of experience at Hanford and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, told the Yakima Rotary Club on Thursday.
Despite safety fears raised by 2011’s post-tsunami meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, and the ongoing debate about how and where to safely store waste, Waltar believes that nuclear power is the clean way to meet the planet’s growing energy needs.
“Fukushima was nuclear power’s finest hour,” Waltar said, echoing Winston Churchill’s famous speech about Britain not giving up during World War Two. “There was a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the reactor survived. Everything worked as engineered.” [FALSE! FALSE! FALSE! NOTHING COULD BE MORE FALSE!]
A 45-foot-high wall of water knocked out the diesel generator responsible for backup power to cool the reactors, causing three of the plant’s six reactors to melt down. But, most importantly, no one died, Waltar said. [AGAIN, FALSE! see below]
People were evacuated, and the World Health Organization found that as a result, no one was exposed to radiation levels high enough to increase future cancer risks, he said. [STILL FALSE! Dozens of children who were under age 18 at the time of the nuclear accident are now suffering from thyroid cancer, a rare disease in children. At least 110 US Navy sailors on the USS Ronald Reagan who were aiding disaster relief in March 2011 were exposed to extremely high levels of radiation and are now suffering from rare illnesses and cancers. They are currently suing Tokyo Electric for $1 billion damages. Dozens of Japanese individuals from Fukushima Prefecture who feared the stresses of and social stigma toward radiation exposure commit suicide. Unknown numbers of Tepco and contracted workers at the Fukushima nuclear site have died from radiation exposure outside of their work hours. These fatalities are not being recorded. The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2014 states:
"According to a report by TEPCO to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, as of 31 January 2014, a total of about 32,000 workers ... have worked at the Fukushima Daiichi site since the accident started on 3/11. Among those, at least 173 people received radiation doses over 100 mSv (internal and external), including nine who received over 200 mSv, between March 2011 and January 2014. … The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare announced on 25 March 2014 that some of the internal worker doses were underestimated by TEPCO and that the records of 142 workers would be corrected."
And lastly, an unknown number of the Japanese citizens living in Fukushima Prefecture as well as in Tokyo and its northward prefectures have been suffering symptoms of radiation exposure. see related blog posts HERE and HERE]
The incident shows how safe nuclear power can be if a disaster of that scale can be managed without loss of life, Waltar said.
The earthquake and tsunami, on the other hand, killed almost 16,000 people.
Waltar, 72, is the past president of the American Nuclear Society. He taught nuclear engineering at Texas A&M University and served as director of nuclear energy at PNNL. He specializes in fast-breeder reactors, a nuclear process that creates more energy by reusing fuel, not typically used in American power plants. He’s written four books and currently serves as a consultant to a variety of government and industry nuclear organizations around the world.
In the Fukushima aftermath, fears about radiation and nuclear safety caused Japan to [shut down] its 55 plants. That decision was damaging to the country’s economy, Waltar said, because replacing that cheap electricity has been expensive. The government plans to restart the plants, with new safety regulations, this year or next, but public concern over safety remains high.
Germany is also trying to move away from nuclear power, but Waltar said the move is costing them, too.
“Germany pays 10 times more for their electricity than I do,” Waltar said. “They are heading for a cliff, pricing themselves out of business.”
Not that building a new nuclear power plant is cheap. Upfront, a 1,000- megawatt plant — enough to power about 800,000 homes — costs about $5 billion.
That’s a big investment for a utility company to make, especially in today’s cheap natural gas market. But five plants are being constructed in the Southeast, the first in decades. Most nuclear plant construction around the world is in China and India.
“I never thought I’d live to see the day that we are building new plants, but we are,” Waltar said.
Once built, nuclear power plants are cheap to run and the fuel supply is expansive, he said.
Waltar believes that new technologies for reprocessing and using the “waste” will reduce concerns about long-term storage liability. [A. What happens to the reprocessed fuel after it has been used? Does this really solve a “long-term storage liability” problem? and B. If Waltar wants to reduce liability, he should take into consideration that reprocessed nuclear waste creates tons of high-grade plutonium with the potential of creating nuclear missiles.]
But nuclear reactors of the future might not look like the plants built 40 years ago. There’s growing interest in small nuclear reactors that could be built in factories and assembled on site and bring costs down. [at the expense of factory workers who can be exposed to radiation and its health risks]
Engineers from around the world are developing different versions of these small reactors, which could be used individually or in a fleet, similar to a wind farm.
The smaller reactors are easier to cool because of their size, and safe because each unit is self-contained, Waltar said, but questions remain about costs and licensing. [Define “self-contained” please.]
He’s optimistic about the renewed research and believes that policies aimed at reducing emissions from fossil fuel use could give utilities more incentive to invest in nuclear again. [What’s worse, carbon emissions and global warming or the risk of another nuclear disaster that exposes entire continents to nuclear fallout? I really don’t know. Maybe God knows the answer to that conundrum.]
The problem with relying on renewable sources such as wind and solar is that they are intermittent, only producing when the sun shines and the wind blows. [That’s why energy is stored for later use!] Utilities, meanwhile, need a consistent level of power production to keep everyone’s lights on. For many utilities, that power base comes from coal, natural gas or nuclear.
“Many of our coal plants need to be replaced. The small modular reactors are ideally suited to do that,” Waltar said.
Around the world, the demand for cheap, clean energy is only going to grow, he said, and he hopes the U.S. can regain the lead it once had in developing cutting-edge energy technology. [By cutting-edge, does Waltar mean antiquated, dangerous, expensive and unsustainable?]
“The global nuclear renaissance is real,” Waltar said. “The question is do we have the courage to push ahead and be leaders again?” “ [Hah!]