Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nuclear or bust - I fear we will bust

The way to think about your fears of nuclear power is by asking, "Compared to what?"

Linda and I live about seven miles from the limerick nuclear power plant. As a result we get a scary evacuation mailer once a year so we're sure to be aware of how to escape in the event one of the engineers comes running out of the plant yelling "She's gonna blow." Well, the plant hasn't blown yet; and it's been producing 2,400 megawatts of electricity for twenty years.

If we lived seven miles from a coal powered plant producing the same amount of electricity we wouldn't get that scary mailer. That's because nobody is scared of coal plants even though a coal burning plant the size of Limerick would be getting and burning up a big trainload of coal every day. And there is no way you can burn that much coal without putting some serious crap into the air.

T. Boone Pickens says we should use windmills to make our electricity. Well, the biggest windmills around produce about 5 megawatts when the wind is blowing strongly. So even if the wind blew strongly all the time it would take about 500 windmills to generate as much power as the Limerick nuclear plant. Oh, and each of those windmills would be about 600 feet tall, almost as tall as the tall buildings down in Philadelphia. And, before I forget, the wind doesn't blow strongly all the time, so it would really take about 1,500 windmills to generate as much power as the Limerick nuclear plant.

Windmills as far as the eye can see, all of them droning and droning and droning. And did I mention that windmills kill bats even though the bats are smart and agile enough to avoid the spinning blades. That's because the lungs of the bats can't handle the pressure differential that they encounter when they fly near the blades. Not that I really give too much of a damn about bats - I don't even like bats. But that doesn't mean I want all the bats coughing their lungs out even though they're also smart enough not to smoke.

How about solar power, you're probably saying. Well, the biggest solar power plant produces about 50 megawatts when the sun is shining. That sounds pretty good because it would seem that you could replace the nuclear plant with only about 50 solar power plants. But alas, the sun is not always shining, so it would really take about about 250 solar power plants to replace the Limerick nuclear power plant. Each one of those 250 solar power plants would cover about about 450 acres of land.

There are other issues with nuclear power, like waste disposal; but I think the insane worry over nuclear waste disposal is one of the biggest hoaxes ever perpetrated. Yes, spent nuclear reactor fuel is very worthy of respectful and careful handling. But the French have been handling spent reactor fuel for decades while they have generated 80% of their electricity from nuclear. They reprocess the fuel so they can use most of it to fuel reactors again, and then they dispose of only a small portion of it.

And then there's the matter of relative risk. The folks who scream bloody murder about nuclear power don't tell you how many people are dying from steadily breathing the pollution that coal power plants put into the air. And if you're risk averse you had best stop driving your car. There is nothing in the energy field that comes near to the risk you will take tomorrow or next week or next year when you have a couple drinks and then pass a tractor trailer loaded with gasoline on the Schuylkill expressway going 70 miles an hour.

The link below leads to an article by a guy who seems to make sense to me. I think he minimizes the problems and issues a bit; but anyone who thinks we can continue living anything like our current lifestyles without nuclear power is fooling themselves. There simply is no alternative.


Anonymous said...

I agree that nuclear energy is safe; however, I'm still in favor of having an evacuation plan.

Unfortunately for us, they built a nuclear power plant before they realized that there was no practical evacuation route. As a result, the plant had to be deactivated. Despite the fact that the plant will never be used, we still have to cover the costs for contruction of the plant, and these are included in our monthly electric bills. :\


Anonymous said...

hi, came along with the nuclear thing, (uh, Im french) hey I like your stories, specially of the frog's

I realise that I get a bit of the same infos sources

MCC or MC2

Sully said...

Thanks for reminding me that I wanted to do a frog post.

As to the plant being deactivated I don't know the particulars of that particular plant but I don know that the environmentalists have wreaked tremendous financial havoc by using lawsuits to block nuclear power.

Even without an evacuation route I would rather live next to a nuclear plant than next to a coal plant. What has happened it that the coal plants have been banished to the poor areas. I know we will always have the not in my back yard phenomenon, and I'm going to see great humor in seeing that clash with the desire to have so called sustainable energy production. A lot of people are going to find out just how intrusive sustainable energy can be on their life styles and their environment.