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Nuclear Power: Fading Away Or Powering Up?

Smoke billows from two active cooling towers of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Middletown, Pa., Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2005. (AP)

Smoke billows from two active cooling towers of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Middletown, Pa., in 2005. (AP)

After the disaster in the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, many nations shelved their plans for increasing nuclear power generation.

But with growing concerns about global warming, some nations are now giving nuclear a second look.

One of the largest construction projects in the U.S. is just outside Augusta, Georgia. Two giant nuclear power plants are being built at a cost of about $14 billion.

Those two reactors are going up at the same time that two nuclear power stations in Southern California are being shut down permanently.

So what’s going on with nuclear energy? Richard Lester, head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT, says the answer isn’t clear.

However, “without an expanded commitment to nuclear energy, our chances of avoiding some of the most serious consequences of climate change are going to be much reduced,” he said.


  • Richard Lester, head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT.



And while we're talking energy, in Japan today, some nuclear power operators applied to restart their reactors after being shut down following the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Japan is weighing the costs and benefits of nuclear power, and a similar debate is going on here in the U.S. In Georgia, two giant nuclear plants are being built at a cost of about $14 billion, while in Southern California, two nuclear power stations are being shut down permanently.

So what is going on with nuclear power? Well, to help sort us - sort this all out we're joined now by Richard Lester. He is the head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT. Professor Lester, welcome to the show.


HOBSON: Well, so first of all we have this strange situation where we have a power plant shutting down in California and two new ones being built in Georgia. So I want to start by asking: Are we at the end of nuclear power or the beginning?

LESTER: Well, I'm not sure we really know. Certainly these two events do seem to be pointing in opposite directions. The San Onofre plant was shut down mainly because the operator, owner-operator, thought that it would cost too much to figure out whether it could re-open again after having been shut down earlier.

In the case of the Georgia plants, and by the way there are four reactors that are now under construction in the Southeast, will take several years to build, and they'll be operating probably before the end of the decade. But what does it all add up to? It's not clear.

The one thing we do know, I think, is that without an expanded commitment to nuclear energy, we're going to have a lot more difficulty than we otherwise would, and it's going to be a very difficult task even with nuclear energy, but without it, our chances of avoiding some of the most serious consequences of climate change are going to be much reduced.

HOBSON: Well, explain that in the context of San Onofre. When you shut down a plant in California that apparently has contributed about eight percent of the state's power generation, how do you make up for that?

LESTER: You have to hope first of all that demand will not grow as fast it might have once been thought. And actually that is the case in California. The Californians have been very effective in energy efficiency, and so demand is growing relatively slowly, but not slowly enough to be able to do something about this. So they will need to reinforce transmission lines from other parts of the state so they can bring power in.

Probably some of it will have to come in from out of state. Some of it undoubtedly will be natural gas fired, and that will mean that the Californian economy will be producing more carbon dioxide than it otherwise would have, had those nuclear plants continued to operate.

HOBSON: Well, and of course the irony there is that the opponents of San Onofre are angry about environmental impacts.

LESTER: Indeed, and, you know, this is an example, a very clear example, of how you can't have everything in energy. And we might want to have everything, we certainly want low-cost energy, we want reliable energy, we want clean energy, and we want jobs. We want all of those things, but to get them all, we have to make some pretty tough choices.

And in California, they've chosen, effectively, not to have nuclear as part of the mix. They have two other reactors further up the coast at Diablo Canyon that they no doubt will also be looking at, but it's going to be very difficult for them to meet all of their environmental goals and not have nuclear power.

HOBSON: Could wind and solar make up any of the difference?

LESTER: They can certainly make up some of the difference, and indeed, Californians have been installing a lot more wind and a lot more solar. But of course nuclear provides something that neither wind nor solar can provide, which is steady power. It's on 24/7. And any power system needs not only the benefits of wind and solar and other intermittent sources, but it does need base load power that you can rely on 100 percent of the time.

HOBSON: Well, and I assume you would need a lot of wind turbines to make up for just one nuclear power plant. I've seen in the state of Texas you can drive for tens of miles, and it's just endless wind farms, and yet I figure you'd probably be able to do that with one nuclear reactor.

LESTER: If there's a single benefit that you could point to with respect to nuclear power - there are many - but if there's one that sort of stands out above all the others, it's the extreme compactness of the technology. You don't need a lot of fuel, for example. And just to give one indication of that, we generate now about 40 percent of our electricity from coal. If you take all of the coal that we use in those plants around the country, and you add up all of the coal that you - and put it all on a single train, that train would be 50,000 miles long.


LESTER: If you take the nuclear plants, which provide about 20 percent of our electricity, and put all of the fuel they need on a single train, it would be about a mile long. That's the difference.

HOBSON: It does bring up the question of nuclear waste, though, what you do with this fuel afterwards. Have we made any strides there?

LESTER: Well, in this country we seem to have been striding backwards. We've had, for 25 years, a program, a project, I suppose, at Yucca Mountain in Nevada that was supposed to be the nation's high-level waste repository. That's now off the table. And we're essentially back to where we were 20 or 30 years ago.

In other countries there are advances. In Sweden and Finland, and one or two other countries, we're likely to see operating nuclear waste repositories within a reasonably short period of time.

HOBSON: How important is public opinion on this issue?

LESTER: Well, we live in a democracy, and so public opinion is always important. And the public view of nuclear is obviously mixed. It goes up and down. It came down after Fukushima. It seems to be heading in a somewhat different direction now. People are looking again at nuclear.

HOBSON: You think even since Fukushima, people are starting to look again at nuclear?

LESTER: I think there's some evidence for that. And one of the reasons, of course, is - and maybe the biggest reason is the concern over climate change. The president, to his great credit, has brought that subject back onto the table after a few years of not talking about it. I think it reflects public concerns about the issue, and I think as people reflect on the climate change problem, look at the options we have, they're starting to take another look at nuclear.

HOBSON: Richard Lester heads the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT. And when we come back, we'll talk about nuclear power around the world right now.


And of course your thoughts are welcome. A listener has already commented on hereandnow.org: Many people believe that only solar energy is subsidized. They're oblivious to the extent that nuclear industry is subsidized by the federal government. So again, your thoughts at hereandnow.org, on Facebook.com/hereandnowradio.

Also later today on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, the latest on Saturday's plane crash in San Francisco. But we'll be back with our look at nuclear energy in one minute, HERE AND NOW.


HOBSON: Welcome back to our conversation about nuclear power with Richard Lester, who is the head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT. Before the break, we were talking about the future of nuclear power here in the United States. But I want to ask now about Japan because it's very interesting what is happening there.

After Fukushima, Japan shut down nearly all of its nuclear plants, but just today utility companies want to start the process of reopening those plants. The new prime minister supports that, and the reason it seems, Professor Lester, is really economics. It's just too expensive to import energy.

LESTER: That's absolutely right. They've been importing lots of natural gas, lots of coal, to try to deal with the fact that they lost 30 percent of their electricity output from those 50 - from those 50 nuclear plants. But obviously it's going to be politically very, very tough for any leader, any prime minister, to reopen those plants, in part because the decision on reopening those plants actually has to be made in Japan at the prefectural(ph) and local levels.

So the prime minister can only do so much to make that happen, even if he wants those plants to reopen.

HOBSON: And Japan is obviously a very unique situation because of what happened there. When you look at the rest of the world, which direction are we moving?

LESTER: Well again, it's a mixed picture. You have some countries, the best known are Germany and Switzerland and Italy and some European countries, which decided after Fukushima that that's it for them, they didn't want to do nuclear. On the other hand, you have other countries that are going more or less at the same rate that they were before the accident.

And the biggest example of that is China, but it also includes India and Russia and to some extent South Korea.

Building a lot of nuclear plants.

Building lots. There are about 65 or so nuclear plants under construction, and those four countries - China, India, Russia and South Korea - account for about 80 percent of those plants that are under construction. But in addition we have a fairly significant number of countries that haven't done nuclear before that are thinking, now, very seriously, about starting, or in some cases are getting started.

Some of those countries are not the kinds of places where you would normally think of seeing very high-tech, advanced facilities.

HOBSON: Like what?

LESTER: Well, there are countries in Africa that are thinking quite seriously about this now, Kenya and Nigeria for example. South Africa already has nuclear power, but other African countries are thinking about it.

HOBSON: Even oil-rich Nigeria.

LESTER: Even oil-rich Nigeria, which sees nuclear as a way to deal with the fact that their electricity system is extraordinarily primitive, has - more than 100 million people live in Nigeria, but the capacity of their electricity grid is about 2,000 megawatts, which is not much more than we have here in the city of Boston.

HOBSON: Well, Richard Lester, you're the head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT. Is there something beyond nuclear that we're getting towards that will replace it and be as efficient and compact as nuclear?

LESTER: Well, I think that the most important thing that we have to work on over the next few decades is to transition towards a low-carbon, low-cost energy system. We simply cannot continue to emit carbon in the quantities we have been doing and hope to avoid the worst ravages of climate change.

So we're going to need everything. We're going to need for the next several decades at least nuclear as part of the mix. We'll need solar, wind, geothermal and much more energy efficient industries and homes and offices and so on. It's hard to see beyond the next several decades. You know, one of the things that people hope for, and certainly in my department people hope for, is a commercially competitive fusion technology.

HOBSON: And I was going to say I remember playing SimCity 20 years ago, and that was the one that came after nuclear, the fusion power plant. And it did like 10 plants of nuclear plants.

LESTER: Well, it's a struggle to get to a technology that can compete because it's a very, very technically challenging thing to do, nuclear fusion. It's essentially bringing the energy of the sun to Earth. Progress is being made, we're making progress at MIT, others are, too, but that's really a long-term proposition, several decades, I think, away still.

HOBSON: So what's your prediction 10 years from now? Are we moving more in the direction of what's happening in Georgia with these new plants being built, or what's happening in California with a plant being shut down?

LESTER: It's hard to predict, but in my view unless we move towards more nuclear over the next 20 or 30 or 40 years, we'll have very little chance of achieving our ambitious, appropriately ambitious goals for carbon emission reduction and low-cost reliable energy. So I hope we move in the direction of more nuclear.

But I also hope that it will be different kinds of nuclear, that we will find a way to move in the direction of smaller, less capital-intensive, easier-to-build, modular kinds of reactors, which are now being developed both in the U.S. and around the world.

HOBSON: Because right now the costs are prohibitive. I mean, that is one of the reasons, as you said, that they're going to shut down San Onofre.

LESTER: And even more so if you want to build a new, large, new nuclear plant, you are talking about several billions of dollars of front-end capital. And for most electric power companies, even in the United States, that's just not feasible economically or financially. So we have to find ways to make nuclear power lower cost and do it faster. Reducing the cycle time is probably the key to the whole future of nuclear energy.

HOBSON: Reducing the cycle time?

LESTER: Reducing cycle times, everything in nuclear takes a long time. It takes a long time to build nuclear plants, it takes a long time to license them, of course it takes a very long time to figure out what to do with the nuclear waste because we're still trying to figure it out. And we have to reduce these cycle times because whether we're talking about nuclear or solar or wind, the key is to accelerate this transition to a low-carbon energy system, and that means reducing cycle times everywhere in the energy system, including, in particular, nuclear.

HOBSON: When you see all of this activity going on in the world of natural gas and this pipeline potentially being built, does that make you happy or sad?

LESTER: Well, it's, again, a mixed picture. Gas, in the short run, is helping us reduce our carbon emissions, but in the long run it won't be the solution. Even if we were to replace all of our coal plants with natural gas, and I think that's very unlikely, that would reduce our carbon emissions by just 20 percent. What we need to do is to reduce those emissions by 80 percent. So gas isn't going to get us the whole way there.

HOBSON: Well, Richard Lester, head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT, thank you so much for coming in.

LESTER: You're very welcome.

HOBSON: And we would love to hear your thoughts on this. Where do you come down on nuclear power? Should we be building more plants or decommissioning them? Go to hereandnow.org, and leave a message there. You can also tweet us, @hereandnow, @jeremyhobson, @hereandnowrobin. Let us know what you think. There's already a lively debate going on at our website, hereandnow.org. So go join in there. News is up next, HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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  • Shinyusedkey

    There needs to  be some clarifying reporting on the topic of energy subsidies.  Many people  believe that only  solar energy is subsidized while being completely oblivious to the extent that the nuclear industry is subsidized by the federal government .  Could you please put some facts out there about the huge subsidies that the nuclear power industry solicits and receives.

    • Bob Wallace

       All subsidy needs to be examined on a $/kWh basis. With this metric nuclear is recently similar to fossil fuels with wind and solar taking the lions share.

      Misleading data about nuclear energy subsidy often includes military and medical nuclear related funding.

    • jimhopf

      Yes, I’d like to see some “facts” myself.  Can you outline ANY of those “huge subsidies” nuclear has recieved, or are you just parroting mantras heard on anti-nuclear websites?  The current fleet of reactors has received no direct (operating) subsidy of any kind (unlike renewables).  Most govt. nuclear R&D has not helped the industry one iota (being on things like fusion, closed fuel cycles and advanced reactors still not used).  Also, for more than 20 years, govt. R&D spending on renewables has been larger than spending on nuclear R&D, despite the fact that (non-hydro) renewables still produce only ~1/10 as much electricity.

      Renewables subsidies are orders of magnitude larger than any given to nuclear (yes, on a per kW-hr basis).  Then there are outright govt. mandates for renewables use, regardless of cost or practicality (or even if there is a need for more generation).  These mandates essentially amount to an infinite subsidy.

      • Shinyusedkey

         You use the word “direct” but never mention how the industry solicits loan guarantees  and cost shifts  the waste storage expenses to the government.  You seem inclined to minimize the fact that the industry actually solicits the government and therefore taxpayers to fund the industry.  The Price-Anderson Act which limits the liability of the industry……..why does the industry solicit this????   The industry drops their money in the political vending machine ………….the solicit coin-operated politicians  and go out of their way to avoid public scrutiny.

        • jimhopf

          I also referred to the “current fleet” of reactors (as opposed to the four now being built).  Those reactors recieved no loan guarantees or subsidies of any kind.

          I also note how you carefully choose to use the word “solicit”, as opposed to “receive”.  The US govt. STILL hasn’t approved the loan guarantees for any of the new reactor projects, and those projects are proceeding without them (they’re almost half done).  Thus, it seems clear that those new reactor projects don’t need the loan guarantees.

          Nuclear pays the full cost of nuclear waste disposal.  The small amount of money it is recieving for long-term waste storage is solely due to the fact that the govt. failed/screwed the industry (i.e., totally breached its contract).  The money the plants got for some storage costs is tiny compared to the amount they paid into the Nuclear Waste Fund (and are continuing to pay) and got absolutely nothing for it.  On balance, the nuclear waste fee situation represents a net negative subsidy for the industry.  In any event, we’re talking about costs on the order of 0.1 cents/kW-hr.

          The govt. decided to institute Price Anderson a long time ago, right at the dawn of the industry.  THEY thought it was the right policy.  Nuclear utilities did not “solicit” it.  Any subsidy from liability limitations is orders of magnitude smaller than the “free pollution” subsidy enjoyed by fossil fuels.

  • ThirdWayForward

    The long-range threats of nuclear proliferation and terrorism are almost never factored into the arguments of proponents of nuclear power.

    The existence of a widespread commercial nuclear industry justifies the mass surveillance security state that we have evolved into from the Cold War and then after 911.

    Dr. Lester, as head of a department of nuclear engineering, is understandably a cheerleader for nuclear power. It should be noted however, that Dr. lester’s department at MIT in the 1970′s contracted with the Shah of Iran to train 35 nuclear engineers ostensibly for Irans’s commerical nuclear power industry. Decades later, the world faces the very rea threat of iran’s nuclear weapons program. Now I have no idea whether the engineers who were trained at MIT formed the backbone of Iran’s nuclear program after their Islamic revolution in 1979, but I would be a good deal of money that at least some of them were (and perhaps are still) playing key roles in it.

    What goes around comes around.

    if we want a safer world, let’s not develop nuclear power.

    Left to its own economics, without risk transfer to the public a la Price-Anderson Act, and massive subsidies, the nuclear industry cannot survive. it would be far, far better to put the money into conservation, end-use efficiency, and renewable energy. It would also employ man more people who would have jobs that cannot be outsourced by companies like Bain Capital.

    Please deal with these issues!

    Get someone who is critical as a respondent — there are many of us out there.

    • Bob Wallace

       Because Nuclear energy and Nuclear Bombs aren’t as similar as you might think.

      • ThirdWayForward

        That presumes that I think they are similar — sorry, that’s an incorrect assumption.

         Yes there are obviously big differences between power plants and bombs, but even nuclear materials for commercial use are themselves are extremely toxic such that they could be used by terrorists in very nefarious ways. We should think twice before handing them large numbers of potential targets of opportunity. It is difficult to predict what ruthless, alienated barbarian terrorist groups will be around in several decades hence, when the proposed plants would be still up and running. 

        Nuclear power, in its present form (but maybe thorium reactors are alternatives), is a gateway technology for developing national capacities for making bombs. 

        Does the existence of a worldwide nuclear industry make the world a safer place in  the long run or does it increase the chances of nuclear proliferation/terrorism?

        • Chonglynn

          Don’t overlook the coolant problem.  Right now in the US and other places in the world, if the plant is Oceanside for use of ocean water coolant, our raised sea levels put the plants underwater.  Also their spent fuel pools underwater.  If they are with freshwater cooling needs, it doesn’t get better, because any of those water bodies connected to the sea for water supply also will see risen water bodies.  So archaic, to be making more of a mistake.  Read Freeman Dyson’s Chapter 9 of his DISTURBING THE UNIVERSE.  He opines that the businessmen got into building our current nuclear power plant types before the experimenters were done creatively experimenting, so every one of our current types (and you want to build more of them?) has design flaws.

          • Bob Wallace

             Yes but modular reactor funding is already underway in the US and other countries and these designs are not susceptible to the same coolant problems, nor are existing reactors in their operating lifetimes.

        • Bob Wallace

          We certainly need to take a very careful stance on nuclear proliferation, that is an understatement.

          but creating nuclear weaponry is something that is difficult for entire nations to even succeed at – as proven by Korea and Iran. It isn’t something that a rogue group of terrorists are really capable of, although intelligence regimes obviously need to be watchful. and Furthermore nuclear energy generation doesn’t really aid the efforts to proliferate weapons in the first place, since the prevailing authorities on nuclear plants are Russia, France, USA, Korea, and Japan, and all nuclear power plant construction happening and planned in the world is facilitated and monitored by the industry of one of these countries. If anything the nuclear power industry serves to make proliferatable materials nearly inaccessible to anyone outside of the power industry.

          I understand your fears, but the fact is that nuclear power plant construction is going to occur at a steady clip in the middle-east, China, India, and developing parts of Asia whether you like it or not. It is best for the continued involvement of the expert countries I had mentioned above.

          Most importantly I think that abundance of energy tends to decrease the likelihood of international conflict, whereas lack of energy does the opposite.

          Concerning nuclear waste: If the goal of a terrorist group is to create as many casualties as possible, they will find hundreds of easier and much more effective ways to do so rather than attempting to get access to monitored spent-fuel stockpiles (which aren’t nearly as large as you might think).

          You are right to be cautious, but the benefit of nuclear fission power far outweighs the risks as has been clearly demonstrated over the past 50 years.

          It is a sad fact that nuclear weapons exist in the first place, but nuclear power doesn’t aid in proliferation. It does however create clean energy.

          • ThirdWayForward

            I think that yours is a very reasonable response, and yes, the probabilities are thankfully very small. The world is a MUCH safer place nowadays than during the crazy days of the Cold War — we no longer regard either Russia or China as enemies, and that is a huge step forward.

            I don’t want to speculate on what terrorists could do with nuclear materials (we should thank our stars that by and large these barbarians do not seem very smart or sophisticated), but I certainly hope that you are right in thinking that it would be difficult for them to do much damage with them. 

            On the other hand, I think that it is folly to think that commercial reactors gone awry can’t do us much harm. There was a period during the Fukushima disaster when it was not clear that a meltdown of the fuel rods (spent and unspent) had been clearly averted. Had there been such a meltdown, and the winds been unfavorable, the Tokyo-Yokohama metropolitan area 120 miles away could have been even more seriously contaminated than it was.


            The Fukushima reactors are  still not fully stabilized — they are still pumping water through them and there are mysterious contaminating leaks.


            And yes, it is very difficult to get a national nuclear armaments program off the ground, but we have to keep the nuclear weapons genie in the box from here on out, for decades if not centuries and millennia, all of this whilst societies rise and fall. Our social world is simply not that stable, and our history is riddled with constant warfare. We are lucky to live in a time of relative peace, but how long, really, do you think that will last?

            The availability of a commercial nuclear industry means that large numbers of people have the knowledge of how (and means to) to mine, handle, and process nuclear materials, and it means that uranium is much more easily obtained, either overtly or covertly, than would otherwise be the case. The whole political fabrication about Nigerian yellowcake and Sadam Hussein would have been impossible in a world without commercial nuclear power (and uranium mining). I don’t know the answer to this question, but I truly wonder whether Iran would have a viable nuclear weapons program today were it not for the nuclear power industry (and that contract that MIT made with the Shah back in the 1970′s, ostensibly for the development of an Iranian commercial nuclear power industry — the deal looked awfully fishy then and in hindsight, it looks absolutely crazy now).  We should never have given Sadam Hussein chemical weapons, and we should never have given the Shah nuclear technology.

            We need to take a good look at the relationship between nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Very few people are asking these questions about nuclear power and weapons proliferation — it is almost never discussed in these public forums, which tend to concentrate on recent eco-converts to nuclear power.

            Mainly, it is the high economic costs of nuclear power that have killed the industry. The Seabrook plant in the Boston area bankrupted its owners, despite all the investment guarantees that were extended by the state of New Hampshire. Again Fukushima inspires little confidence in either nuclear power plants or the risk estimation models used to justify their safety.

    • http://www.facebook.com/walter.horsting Walter J Horsting

       I couldn’t not disagree more.  Thorium is conflict free energy.  It can’t make weapons, it burns nuclear fuel waste.  The 1st gen reactors were chosen for nuclear weapons material capability.  LFTR would have prevents Iran’s program.  Please read about it all at http://www.energyfromthorium.com

      • ThirdWayForward

        Maybe that is the case, but that is not the technology that these guys are pimping for.

        Will check out the website.

    • jimhopf

      Nuclear is the least subsidized major source.  Any “subsidy” from Price Anderson is small (a fraction of a cent/kW-hr).  The “free pollution” subsidy for fossil fuels is more than an order of magnitude larger.  Any nuclear subsidies are more than offset by the huge negative subsidy of excessive (and largely ineffective) regulation.  In terms of dollars per life saved, nuclear has to spend thousands of times more than other energy sources or industries.

      That the accident risk external cost of nuclear is tiny compared to the fossil fuel pollution externality is obvious by inspection.  Fukushima, the only significant release of pollution in non-Soviet nuclear’s entire 50-year history has resulted in no deaths or measurable health impacts, and a one time economic cost on the order of $100 billion.  Fossil fueled power generation causes several hundred thousand deaths every single year, worldwide, and several hundred billion in annual economic costs.  It is clear why all external cost studies show that the overall costs (public health and environmental impacts) of nuclear are tiny compared to fossil fuels and similar to renewables.

  • R. Mitchell

    You mentioned that public opinion is changing again, even since Fukushima…please don’t forget to mention that is Southern California we have just closed our nuclear power plant, after a leak…public opinion had a lot to do with that closure!

    • Bob Wallace

       Yes and the public is quite misinformed. The amount of radiation coming from the leak is factually trivial, and two dirty and retired nat-gas plants have been brought on-line as SONGS has been shut down will increase emissions.

      If one is to be opinionated about the threats of radiation, one should also be educated about the subject.

      • Greg miller

        When is the public moving back to Chernoble/Fukishama?
        What is the cost of producing electricity at Fukishama including cleanup costs, medical survalence, emergency response?
        When is Fukishama coming back on line?
        Are you moving to Fukishama to build a house, open a business, and raise a family?

        • PoloniumMan

          How convenient for you to ignore the major natural disaster that was the cause of the three meltdowns. The financial, environmental, and health effects of the earthquake plus tsunami are much worse than the 5 kilograms of radioactive fission products released by the three reactors. 

        • Bob Wallace

           1.7 million lives have been saved by the avoided emissions provided by nuclear power since the 1970s:

          caused ZERO deaths. A sound risk/benefit analysis falls heavily in the
          favor of nuclear power if it can regain economic viability.

          The better question is: Do modern reactors share the same faults as Fukushima which led to the meltdown after the earthquake/tsunami?

          The answer is no. Modern reactors incorporate passive safety features making them an order of magnitude safer in the same worst-case situation.

          Lets take the exorbitant costs of the cleanup at Fukushima and divide it by the kWhs produced by nuclear plants around the world for decades, and you will find that the case for nuclear is still strong.

          If you don’t know the specifics about a subject you really have no right to be so blatantly opposed (in this case the specifics about why Fukushima melted down and how susceptible other plants are to the same scenario).


    • http://www.facebook.com/walter.horsting Walter J Horsting

       Thorium LFTR can’t melt down or blow up…no Fukashima is possible…over all nuclear has been a very safe CO2 free energy source.  I just like the magnitudes less waste of molten salt reactors, the vast supplies of thorium, it can’t be used for weapons and it will burn nuclear fuel waste.

    • T_wells

       Public opinion is incredibly mis-informed.

    • PoloniumMan

      You didn’t close the plant, the utility is closing it because the NRC is dragging its feet on deciding to allow SONGS unit 2 to operate at 70% power. If the NRC decided today that it was OK, then the utility would start it right back up, no matter what your opinion is. 

  • http://SDsustainableFuture.com Philosopher3000

    We can replace ALL the nuclear electricity ON THE PLANET with just 100 square miles of Solar Photovoltaics, about the same amount of space taken up by the roofs of commercial buildings and warehouses in the USA. 

    If you spent just 1% of the money wasted upon nuclear power plants and their clean-up, on research and development for Power Storage technology, you would eliminate the worry about intermittent renewable power sources. 

    The subsidies we pay on nuclear alone would solve the problem. Pay the price, renewable energy is THE ONLY SOLUTION.

    • Bob Wallace

      There is already significant work being done and funds being put into battery storage research. Pumping more money into it won’t necessarily yield desired results. Your 100 sq miles of solar figure doesn’t account for clouds, transmission lines, night/day, variable demand, power quality etc. Solar is very practical for some applications (distributed peak off-setting) but it is a stretch to say that it can provide for the energy needs of 7 billion people living with modern conveniences.

      Nuclear electricity has accounted for nearly 1/5 of US generation and 3/4 of French generation for decades. The amount of carbon it has offset is enormous, the amount of fatalities can be counted on one hand. And the price of electricity from the majority of these plants has been very cheap. While it may not be cheap at the moment it could get there again in the future. Your claim about Nuclear subsidies is unsubstantiated, on a $/kWh basis, nuclear subsidies have been comparable to other energy sources.

      Have an open mind please.

      • http://SDsustainableFuture.com Philosopher3000

        My mind was opened by Fukushima  It has been opened again by San Onofre. Both built on fault-lines, at the edge of the sea. My mind was opened by Chernobyl, and 3-mile island, and the 30,000 years it will take each toxic radioactive plant to decay to ‘survivable’ levels. I’m not an idiot, I can add, and nuclear has NOT accounted for more than 3% of all the energy used in the USA. 3% does not equate to 1/5th. Carbon and nuclear energy have been highly subsidized, not just directly with public bonds, government R&D, and tax credits, but indirectly by every war we’ve fought for the last 75 years, and all the environmental and health costs that cancer and contamination have inflicted on the peoples of the earth. If we paid anything like the REAL costs of dirty nuclear and carbon fuels, we wouldn’t need to subsidize renewable sources. The real killer is that energy efficiency would only cost 2.5-cents/kWh, 1/24th of nuclear, 1/10 carbon fuel, and even 1/4th of renewable PV energy. And we would never need to build another power plant again. Open YOUR mind. @disqus_dVM2GSP84i:disqus 

        • Bob Wallace

          You are confusing energy with electricity. Nuclear has indeed accounted for nearly 1/5th Electricity generation in the US. Generation usually refers to electricity not energy.

          How many have died in Fukushima? How many are predicted to contract cancers because of it? How about 3-mile island? I don’t think you are an idiot, I commend you for being concerned, but I once thought solar and wind power could cure all of the planets ails too until I dug a bit deeper and realized that we need other power sources as well.

          Never have to build a power plant again just by energy efficiency? That is just not true. Sure the US can get more efficient, but developing nation’s like India and China have populations that dwarf the US and their energy needs are will grow exponentially in coming decades.

          As far as the safety of nuclear, it is in fact safer on a fatality/kWh basis than coal, natural gas, and even solar PV:

          I think you should watch the film “Pandora’s Promise”. The nuclear issue isn’t so simple, you really have to do your homework on it to understand the risks and benefits it provides.

    • http://www.facebook.com/walter.horsting Walter J Horsting

       It takes about 15 sq. miles to make a Gigawatt of power.  Your 100 miles is way off….more like 3,700 miles, providing it is 100% efficient, add night time and early and evening lower output triple that to 10,000 sq. miles….

      • http://SDsustainableFuture.com Philosopher3000

        Actually, a gig of PV = about 1 sq-mile (1,000 megawatts at 250 watts/sq. meter) but just because your bad at math, don’t get frustrated, you have a point. I meant 100 miles square, not 100 square miles. That would be your 10,000 sq. miles = 10,000 gigawatts renewable energy = all unsustainable nuclear production on earth today. However, I never said it had to be in one place. I implied that we use our existing roofs, and storage technology to keep it over night. And a world wide grid that will transport energy from the sunny side of the planet to the dark. But what’s a little risk free energy to a thinking being?

        • Bob Wallace

          solar doesn’t produce at 250 watts a square meter, your figures are wrong.

          A typical C-Si panel these days has 20% efficiency, that is 200 watts per sq meter at peak, but you also have to account for row-spacing to avoid shading.

          A centrally located PV plant the scale of which you suggested isn’t going to happen because of transmission losses, vulnerability to cloud cover, and the need for international cooperation. Storage is also another issue which isn’t trivial. And even if it were the shear amount of raw materials in glass, silicon, aluminum, and batteries needed to provide distributed solar PV energy for 7 billion people (9 billion by 2050) would be absolutely enormous and both the feasibility and environmental friendliness of such an endeavor are quite questionable.

          The undeveloped world is determined to have the standard of living of the US, Japan, Europe etc. Since global capitalism is the prevailing force it is an inevitability that the developing world will get its wish (hopefully without ruining the planet). 

          The US annual per capita energy consumption (includes heat,
          electricity and transportation) is 83,000 kWh/person/year. I include
          heat and transportation because it is likely that in 50 years or so
          power plants will fuel our automobiles directly through electricity or
          indirectly by using electricity to create fuels (hydrogen etc). The same
          goes for heating our homes.

          -Assuming a typical capacity factor of 16% for a solar PV panel (can
          be better or worse depending on geographic location) we find that we would need just over 59 kWs of installed solar PV for each individual in the US to provide for their daily energy needs. (83,000 kWhs/365 days/24 hours/0.16 capacity factor = 59 kWs)

          -But this doesn’t account for soiling, wiring, inverter, heat,
          storage or degradation energy losses of the PV system. To be favorable to PV we can assume all of the losses account for only 5% making our total installed PV per person 62 kWs, or about 207 panels (300 watts each) per person + a pretty sizable (and expensive) battery bank of some sort.

          -Now managing for reliability concerns of 200 panels and associated
          battery bank per person is an obvious issue, but putting that aside,
          powering the world with solar panels means 7 billion people X 200 panels per person = 1.4 trillion solar panels!

          This number is simply astounding and when you consider the huge
          amount of aluminum racking, batteries, wiring, inverters etc that would be needed it simply isn’t practical to rely on solar to power the entire globe barring major breakthroughs in the cost, deployability, and reliability of solar PV cells and substrates.

          It isn’t feasible to power the entire world with wind either because
          of climatic effects of pulling TWhs of energy out of global winds: http://www.seas.harvard.edu/ne

          It is pretty safe to say that unless a breakthrough in Fusion occurs,
          Fission will play a significant role in energy generation going forward

    • Geogunow

       You really need to study up on what you’re implying. First, the 1% estimate – way off. Try something more like 1000% or more. Energy storage is NOT a simple problem. If someone figures it out, he or she will essentially control the world (more than Bill Gates with computers) for the next century. And massive money IS going into research for power storage systems. It’s actually one of the biggest areas of active research with many investors and also a ton of government money. I wish I could snap my fingers and produce the most advanced creation in human history to make solar and wind feasible. But I live in the world I live in, not a dream world. And at the moment we cannot simply run off of renewable energy. I would love if we could but the laws of nature disallow it, sorry to disappoint you.

      • Bob Wallace

         Even with energy storage a world dominated by renewables isn’t a given, see my long-winded comments below where I didn’t even include economic implications.

  • ThirdWayForward

    They should put all of the money currently being used to subsidize nuclear power into research on fusion energy, which has very few of the dangers of fission technology.

    • http://www.facebook.com/walter.horsting Walter J Horsting

       Fusion is a tough nut to crack…lots of temp and pressure and energy to get there.  Thorium LFTR is what fusion’s designer would like it to be…

  • ThirdWayForward

    The problem with fusion is that there is not (yet) an established set of economic interests who would push for it. These problems are every bit as much political and sociological as they are scientific and technical.

    • Bob Wallace

       Literally Trillions of dollars are being spent on Fusion research
      internationally. Pumping more money into it won’t necessarily yield
      desirable results.

      • ThirdWayForward

        I don’t believe that figure of trillions of dollars — that’s well over 2 orders of magnitude off.

        I know of many physicists who would be very happy if it were anywhere near the truth.Where do you come up with that figure?

        • Bob Wallace

          You are right, I was an order of magnitude off. My apologies.

          I guess I had it in my head that funding for the ITER was trillions for some reason.

  • justsayin

    Nuclear energy’s footprint is not compact as implied by your guest.  If you look at the entire footprint of nuclear energy than it is huge.  At least a 1000 tons of ore must be mined and milled to obtain just one pound of yellow cake.  All of that overburden contains heavy metals that are radioactive and toxic.  This overburden is stored at the mill site and there has not been a single mill site that has not leaked.  You have a large footprint from the mining operations, including the search for uranium.  You have all  of the fossil fuels spent to mine and then truck the ore to a mill site.  There is energy spent milling all of these millions of tons of ore.  Then the yellowcake is  shipped to another facility for processing.  Yes, then you have the “simple” issue of the power plant, but then what?  We still, STILL have not figured out what to do with the waste.  Washinton state is spending a fortune trying to figure out what to do with their toxic mess.  Yucca Mountain has still not gone forward and it’s been how many years 20+?  It is not low cost and it is not safe and it is very damaging to the environment.

    • http://www.facebook.com/walter.horsting Walter J Horsting

       Thorium LFTR is the solution. http://www.energyfromthorium.com  It solves the waste problem by either burning the nuclear waster fuel; and by it efficiency.  Molten Salt Reactors burn 99% of its fuel vs 1% of the fuel in a LWR.  It waste is most inert after a few decades and not 100s of thousands of years.  Only 200 tons of ore are needed for Thorium mining versus 800,000 tons of ore.  Thorium is everywhere and is common as lead.

      • Chonglynn

        Such praise for thorium – but you still omit that it takes mining and milling and driving around in trucks and leaves tailing piles and would destroy such scenic beauty as NH’s White Mountains.

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          it takes all those things to mine materials to make solar panels and windmills

          • Bob Wallace

             Yea the raw material footprint for wind and solar is quite a bit more substantial compared to nuclear on a kWh basis. Especially considering that fast reactors have the potential for a closed fuel cycle and that uranium can potentially be extracted from sea-water.

    • Paul Davis

      And how much coal must be mined, land disturbed, and then PROCESSED to make the same amount of power as that one lb of yellowcake?  About 50000X as much.  With the release of about four times the radiation, nuclear waste and all.  Want to see how big a coal washing/processing facility is?  BTW, the mountain to the southwest is rejected rock, filled with acid.  They figure it’ll leach out in a few thousand years, according to the engineers.   Yeah, I know em’.   BTW, fifteen years ago they had mined enough coal that they’d undercut seventy five square miles of countryside, though some of that was actually double or triple undercut because they mine more than one seam of coal there.  Peabody Coal Company Camp Mines washing plant – one of thousands such plants in the USA.  https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ll=37.686754,-87.820255&spn=0.003583,0.006947&t=h&z=18
      But WAIT.  You can’t leave without seeing the coal storage facility.  Those silos to the north are just temporary storage, only hold about 60,000 tons, just a couple days production for this single plant.  THIS is the storage facility.  https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ll=37.785754,-87.929184&spn=0.003578,0.006947&t=h&z=18
      Not a bit full right now.  You can easy get 2 million tons of coal in there.  You wanna talk some more about your 1000 tons of ore?  HA HA HA!

      • Paul Davis

        OMG, I forgot to mention the GOOD part.  You pull back a little bit, you’ll see a thing called Camp Breckenridge?  That’s the largest Job Corps center in the USA.  Guess why it’s called that?  Because the Job Corps was built on a WWII army training base site, and that was what that was called.  But YES, all that mining, Job Corps, everything is on GOVERNMENT OWNED LAND.  YES INDEED!  That coal goes to TVA.  TVA owns all that coal.  Your government at work, that’s what you are seeing there.  Peabody is just a contractor.

    • Chonglynn

      If you go to the site, Beyond Nuclear, you can watch a movie about Onkalo, Finland’s under construction nuclear waste repository, being built to finally hold radioactive waste in isolation from our environment for 100,000 years.  The movie and effort are incredible.  It will take 100 years to have enough space for the waste Finland holds now while the site is under construction.  The men building it will likely have died by the time it’s ready for receiving the waste, and by then it will need doing again for the waste acquired since then.  Really, look at this movie.  Go to Beyond Nuclear….

    • jimhopf

      About 1/3 of the entire world’s supply of uranium comes from a single mine in Australia that also produces other metals (e.g., copper).  While it has some impact, on a per kW-hr generated basis, uranium mining’s impact is much smaller than that of coal mining (let alone coal burning) oil extraction or gas fracking.  Even renewables require the mining of (toxic) rare earth elements, 20 times as much concrete and steel, and over 100 times as much land area (that must be industrialized).

      All of this is small potatoes, however, compared to global warming and the health impacts of fossil fuel air pollution.  Coal plants cause ~15,000 deaths annually in the US alone (hundreds of thousands worldwide) and are the leading single cause of global warming.  Modern uranium mining is causing few if any deaths.  US nuclear plants have never had any measurable public health impact, and emit no CO2.  Rigorous scientific studies of the overall impacts (including mining/extraction) of various energy sources have all concluded that nuclear’s overall external costs (health/environmental impacts) are tiny compared to fossil fuels and similar to renewables.  (www.externe.info/).

      We’ve figured out what to do with the waste a long time ago.  It’s purely a political, not technical, problem.  Science showed that Yucca could meet all the impeccable requirements; representing no significant or measurable health risk for as long as it remains hazardous (something no other waste stream is required to do).  Many if not most other waste streams pose a far greater long-term hazard than nuclear waste (which has never harmed anyone and almost certainly never will).

      • Alvin

        According to you, modern uranium mining is causing few if any deaths. Which page of the nuclear power industry nuclear talking points manual did you pull this lie from?

        Preventing tailings contamination even after a uranium mine has closed has proved impossible in every uranium mine in Australia to date, according to mine expert Dr Gavin Mudd, of Monash University, who has studied uranium mines in Australia and overseas. Dr Mudd’s research shows that there is no former Australian uranium mine that has been rehabilitated successfully — all are still radioactive no-go zones because of radionuclide dispersal from waste stockpiles and water seepage.

        It is the Australian taxpayer who bears the burden of monitoring and clean-up of uranium mines, while regional communities and the environment suffer irreparable losses. From the below link.


        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ranger_Uranium_Mine See Environmental Issues and Safety Breaches at the Australian Ranger Uranium Mine

        • Alvin
        • Bob Wallace

           So Alvin how many deaths are being caused by these mine tailings now?

        • jimhopf

          I read both your links.  Neither one quantified or reported any deaths or human health impacts.  One, in fact, stated that there was no health impact, on workers (and by extension, the public).  The other one is from a Green Party source (real credible).  Australian “greens” should be spending all their efforts opposing coal.

          Both also lacked any comparison to any other mining operations (such as coal mining).  You know that coal has significant amount of uranium in it, right?  Along with a whole lot of other toxic materials.

          • Matt

             Exactly, Jim.  Many people don’t realize that if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulated coal plants, that they would be shut down because of the radioactive particles they emit! 

    • William Rodgers

      The issues with Wasahington State and Hanford nothing to do with nuclear power.  That is a legacy issue of the nuclear weapons program and DOE is struggling to manage the project due to its scope, size and timeline.  DOE is a multiple focused, multi-billion dollar flawed organization. There is just too much under one roof for one organization to run.

  • Nick Horelik
    • Bob Wallace

       Literally Trillions of dollars are being spent on Fusion research internationally. Pumping more money into it won’t necessarily yield desirable results.

      • Nick Horelik

        That’s a fair enough point to some extent, but from the US perspective it’s more about maintaining the expertise to participate in that research.  Keep in mind that the DOE actually increased the overall share of funding for fusion – they’re just shifting and consolidating where it’s spent.  With the same amount of money I’d rather see a larger diversity of projects that engage a larger chunk of the community, particularly in the US.  As it is we’re putting too many of our eggs into the ITER basket, and we’re not inviting new faculty/students to get involved.  In fact we’re turning them away as we decrease the number of projects they can work on.

  • J.F.Meyer

    nuclear waste, your guest didn’t mention 4th-generation nuclear
    power and the integral fast reactor (IFR), which runs on the waste of
    traditional nuclear plants. The IFR would be both a clean, constant energy
    source AND a solution to existing stores of nuclear waste. To learn more: http://pandoraspromise.com/  

  • ThirdWayForward

    Cheaper, faster, safer, better is a truism — the same goes for renewable energy. Solar photovoltaics are in striking range of break even economics. As Amory Lovins constantly pointed out, the big energy reserves are below our feet.

    Here and Now, please, please be more critical!!!!!!
    Don’t be bamboozled!!!!!!!

  • http://SDsustainableFuture.com Philosopher3000

    They cut through the Containment Dome at SONGS without informing the public (for reasons of ‘national security’). Let’s face it, nuclear power is too dangerous for human errors. 

    Fusion is not real, it is a dream. 

    There is a place for nuclear power in the USA. It should comprise 2-3% of our total power mix. It should be a set of BACK UP and RESEARCH facilities, in remote, unpopulated areas. The Mojave, under mountains in Colorado, in Montana, or West Texas. Not near cities. The technology destroys CONTINENTS. 

    What we NEED to do is a ‘space race’ to build the international electric grid. See http://www.geni.org

  • Case

    What about thorium research. 

    • Obi Won

      Not allowed discussed on government airwaves or at government Universities. I have been screened a dozen times off of NPR shows on this subject.

  • Obi Won

    THis bureaucrat Lester and your govmint funded npr bs should be defunded for such useless  drivel – and the so called reporter fired on the spot for not being more direct in asking about LFTR tech. Pure industry propoganda – what a waste of resources and our time.

  • GGifford

    Time to get alternative voices on the show. How about a phone call to the Union of Concerned Scientists, or to Amory Lovins.

    • PoloniumMan

      Please don’t. The Union of Concerned (non)Scientists already receives a disproportionate amount of news coverage. Amory Lovins is a fossil fuel shill and physics student dropout who doesn’t allow little things like the laws of thermodynamics get in the way of spreading his nonsense. 

      • Alvin

        I see that you have brought your chronic lying from Huffington Post to NPR. Amory Lovins is a fossil fuel shill. That’s laughable coming from a nuclear sycophant who doesn’t have a clue about Amory Lovins. I suppose he is a shill for the fossil fuel industry because of his book called: Winning the Oil End Game, which details how we can get off of Oil and was written at the request of the Department of Defense.


        I would like for you to find one source or quote where Amory Lovins supports the coal industry. You can’t do it. Here is the video of him discussing Winning the Oil Endgame


        Your comment about Amory is born out of your delusion that promoting energy efficiency, super efficient combined heat power, wind, solar, fuel cells, landfill gas micro turbines and decentralize power is tantamount to endorsing fossil fuels.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5txQlEI7bc Energy Efficiency Video

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amory-lovins/climate-change-no-breakth_b_2654248.html No Fossil Fuels Needed.

        You have become so efficient at attacking the messenger, that you can no longer see the message nor do you care to see it. Why because your sole objective is to put all of our eggs into the nuclear energy basket. Monoculture agriculture doesn’t work nor does single stock retirement account investing, but this is what you propose and anyone who says something contrary to your single energy source solution is labeled by you as a nut job or a dropout.


        • Bob Wallace

           Amory Lovins endgame doesn’t account for the rapidly growing demand for electricity in developing world and the rapidly growing population.

          Fuel Cells aren’t commercially practical anywhere. Wind and solar will continue to grow, but if you want to do the math on wind, solar and battery requirements for a global population of 7 billion you might be quite surprised how impractical it is.

          We’re not all “Psycophants”, there is a good common-sense reason for the support of nuclear energy.

    • jimhopf

      That “other side” has received the overwhelming majority of the “mike time” over the decades.  Giving the pro-nuclear side a chance (voice) every once in awhile is refreshing and called for.  Countless articles by journalists, even in respected papers, usually spend most of their time quoting anti-nuclear organizations and “experts” despite the fact that their views are in the overwhelming minority within the expert community.

  • EnvironmentalPlanner

    The end result of nuclear is there is no really good solution to the long term waste stream that is generated.  Yucca Mountain is not the right answer.  We need better energy planning.  Technology such as the “Bloom Box” or who knows where we could go if we did a better job of harnessing geothermal or lightning.  Sound crazy?  Tesla had some big ideas for harnessing energy and transporting it over the air waves.  We have many bright minds who will overcome this energy issue.  I have faith in technology.  Greed controls the timely expansion of new ideas for the benefit of all. 

    • Bob Wallace

       Why is Yucca Mt not the right answer.

      Did you realize that spent fuel can be burned in fast-neutron reactors?

      Did you realize that the volume of said waste is actually very small?

      • KenderJ

         Do you realize that Yucca Mt. sits right on top of one of the biggest fault lines in NV? Do you realize it sits on top of one of the largest aquifers in the west? The only reason Yucca Mt got as far as it did is because NV didn’t have the political clout to say NO when the feds told us to bend over.  The fact is, we said NO.  It’s time for the rest to move on. If it is so safe, why don’t they bury it in your back yard. If it is so safe, why don’t they just pile it up where it is. Can’t hurt anybody, right?

        • T_Wells

           Do you realize that Yucca Mt. is the most studied item in all of history?

          • KenderJ

             Yes, which is why the Dept of Energy had to keep changing the Specs to make it fit. The more the studied it, the less appropriate it was, but since they had already wasted so much money on it, they kept changing the specs to fit the mountain rather than finding a site that fit the specs.

          • jimhopf

            NRC’s (objective, non-political) technical staff was about to approve Yucca Mountain before the process was halted, and the results of the review suppressed, for purely political reasons.

            The long term risks with Yucca Mountain are tiny compared to the long-term risks of many other industrial waste streams (possibly including spent solar cells).

          • Chonglynn

            Look of Onkalo, Finland’s under-construction nuclear waste repository. Ugh, all that 100 years of underground effort for an energy source that has this ENORMOUS drawback of leaving a deadly by-product.

          • jimhopf

            All at a cost of a fraction of a cent/kW-hr (not enough to significantly affect nuclear’s overall price), the result being the most impeccably and conscientiously disposed of waste stream, ever, along with negligible overall impact from power generation, compared to fossil fuels.

            Yeah, you’re right.  Disposing of fossil fuels’ wastes/toxins is so much easier, with so much less effort.  You know, just dumping it right into the environment/air.  Too bad about the several hundred thousand deaths per year from worldwide fossil power generation, and all that global warming. Meanwhile, spent reactor fuel (storage and repositories, etc..) has not caused a single death or illness, and is unlikely to ever do so.

        • Bob Wallace

          On February 17, 2006, the Department of Energy’s Office of Civilian
          Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM) released a report confirming the
          technical soundness of infiltration modeling work performed by U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) employees.[33] In March 2006, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Majority Staff issued a 25 page white paper “Yucca Mountain: The Most Studied Real Estate on the Planet.” The conclusions were:[33]

          -Extensive studies consistently show Yucca Mountain to be a sound site for nuclear waste disposal
          -The cost of not moving forward is extremely high
          -Nuclear waste disposal capability is an environmental imperative
          -Nuclear waste disposal capability supports national security
          -Demand for new nuclear plants also demands disposal capability

          You haven’t really read up on Yucca, the barrier was Senator Harry Reid, not any real risks with the repository itself.

          I also am not sure you have adequate knowledge about the threats of said radioactive wastes. If a terrorist group wanted to create casualties, using this waste would be a very difficult and ineffective way to do so.

          And as I’ve said above, the volume of waste created by decades worth of electricity creation for 1/5 of the entire US is actually quite small (said waste could easily fit inside one industrial wharehouse). Also this waste is a resource as it can be burned in fast reactors which will be prevalent in the future.

          • KenderJ

            Actually, you don’t know what you are talking about.
            A) George W. halted Yucca because it came out the the DOE LIED about the viability of Yucca
            B)The barrier was NOT Senator Reid, it was ALL Nevada Reps in Washington as well and the People of the Great State of Nevada.
            Maybe you should do your research. There is a reason The Nuclear Repository Bill was called the “Scr*w Nevada Bill”.

            We. Don’t. Want. It. The feds tried to bend us over and shove it up our A**. We Said NO. Move on.

          • Bob Wallace

             I’ve done my research, I know the science, you know only the messy and uninformed politics.


            How much risk is involved in having a small volume of nuclear waste buried in a repository which is “the most studied real-estate on Earth”?

            The answer is simply “very little”.

            Point to how the repository was impractical and I will point you to a rebuttal.

            I am fairly certain that you have no idea how much nuclear waste has actually been generated through power reactors in the US over the course of 50 years. You might be surprised if you educate yourself before forming a quick opinion.

    • http://www.facebook.com/walter.horsting Walter J Horsting

       Thorium LFTR doesn’t have the waste issue.  Geothermal is powered by thorium in the core of the earth by the way.  Really LFTR is the Good Reactor…www.energyfromthorium.com

    • Paul Davis

      Baloney.  There is no solution because “greens” won’t allow a solution.  Why is nuclear waste not reprocessed and active fuel elements, the real “long term” active substances in the mix removed?  Because greens go crazy every time it’s mentioned.  The actual WASTE has an average half life on the order of 30 years, dilute the stuff in concrete, cast blocks, and build a pyramid on the old nuclear explosion testing sites.  Then pour ten feet of concrete over that and wait.  Guess what, pyramids are TESTED for over 4000 years as a stable storage solution – just ask any Egyptian!  And still going strong.  BTW, that waste?  It’s about as active as natural uranium ore after less than 1000 years.    Still think there’s no possible solution? 

      • Chonglynn

        Look at the site, Beyond Nuclear.  Get familiar with ongoing waste repository as Finland is doing it at Onkalo.  Dismal, and real – it’ll take 100 years to do this underground “city” right and big enough to handle what Finland has construction’s beginning. By the time it’s ready to isolate the deadly waste for 100,000 years, more waste will be needing more repository. It’s insanity, to have an energy source that leaves a deadly waste to handle.

        • PoloniumMan

          What you consider waste is actually useful accessible energy. The plutonium and minor actinides alone in USA spent fuel could provide California with all of its electrical needs for 40 years with just one more trip through a reactor. 

          • Alvin

            Of course, you wouldn’t want to discuss the fact that this can only be accomplished through reprocessing spent nuclear fuel.

            How many commercial reprocessing facilities does the U.S. have? None

            How much has the failed Nuclear Fuel Services Reprocessing Plant in West Valley New York cost U.S. Taxpayers to remediate the contaminated site? $8 billion and rising.

            How much radioactive waste does the French La Hague Commercial Reprocessing Facility dump into the English Channel Every year? 110,000,000 gallons.

            How Far away has the radioactive waste been traced away from the facility? The Arctic Ocean

            Is the Sellafield Nuclear Reprocessing Facility the most contaminated nuclear hot spot in England? Yes

            Has the Sellafield radiation contamination been detected in the marine environments of the Irish and North Seas. Of course it has.

            Why was the construction of the Barnwell South Carolina Commercial Reprocessing Facility cancelled? It was determined that they could not protect the workers from radiation hazards and because of proliferation issues.

            Do Breeder Reactors enhance proliferation concerns. Yes

            Does PoloniumMan really care about these issues and concerns?
            No, or otherwise he would have addressed them in his comments.

            Does the nuclear power industry rely on half truths, omissions and lies? See PoloniumMan’s above post.

        • Bob Wallace

          1. Nuclear waste is actually burnable to create more power in fast reactors and reduce the volume greatly.
          2. The actual volume of nuclear waste compared to the energy created is quite small. There are many fitting geologic repositories where waste can be stored so that it is inaccessible such as salt domes.
          3. Beyond Nuclear is not a valid source of information. It is highly biased and unscientific.

  • JayT

    Solar is already on par with the standard price of grid electricity in NJ.  It is cheaper than grid power in California and Hawaii.  So fears that it will be too expensive are unwarranted.  Although it only generates in the daytime, there is a huge potential for placing large solar fields near dams to enable the dams to operate at full capacity at night, while solar is carrying the full load during the day–no extra transmission lines needed.  Dam “uprating” is only in its earliest stages of development.

    • Bob Wallace

       Yes solar will be a major part of the future, but scaling it up to provide for the world-wide population would still be quite a challenge. I think we will need nuclear for some time.

      • JayT

         At present in the US at least, the bottleneck in scaling up solar is not in the availability of panels (the market is flooded with them) nor in the availability of installers (there are more installers in most states that there is work for them).  The bottleneck is in educating the public to the long term benefits of solar over the short term costs, so they will agree to invest.  This task is not made any easier by those, particularly in the fossil fuel industry, who are intent on spreading mis-information in order to maintain their own profits or market share.

        • http://www.facebook.com/walter.horsting Walter J Horsting

           Currently power grid scale solar installed goes for maybe 10-15 per KW, Thorium LFTR pencils out at 1.8 per KW….including O&M and fuel…which is cheap…

          • Bob Wallace

             I am a nuclear advocate but the key word in your statement about thorium is “pencils”. Without NRC endorsement throium isn’t an option, and gaining NRC endorsement would take substantial amounts of capital and probably 2 decades time. Its a pretty depressing reality. If Thorium reactors are to ever arrive they will need to do so in China or India first.

            Solar PV is ready to contribute to some lesser extent now.

        • Bob Wallace

           What you said is true, but a bigger factor holding solar back is a simple disinterest from power utilities. Solar doesn’t fit into their business model and renewable portfolio standards or other government sponsorship (local FiTs, tax incentives, etc) are really the only drivers of utility scale solar outside of California. Otherwise solar simply creates an increase in fixed costs and operating expenses for the utility, who now has to absorb the cost of extra generating capacity and management oversight due to the intermittent nature of solar:

          Residential solar takes away from some of the utility’s retail sales when private residents interconnect systems via mandated net-metering programs (net-metering won’t last forever). The positives about solar for a utility is that it can shave peak-demand and peak fuel costs as well as cutting transmission losses if distributed. But these positives don’t outweigh the economic negatives for a utility.

          As far as residential solar, many people are in the dark about how practical and affordable it is. But at the same time the financial return is quite slow and modest. Of course the environmental nobility of installing a system should be enough to have people lining up for installations, but that just isn’t reality. Perhaps rooftop solar will be as popular as hybrid cars in a matter of time but I’m not so sure.

          On top of all of this are the real uncertainties about reliability of PV and the subsequent return on investment. Solar panels decreased in price significantly over the past few years, and the very tight market has led to low to negative margins for manufacturers, and a widespread product quality problem:

  • Jonathan M.

    I’m for nuclear power.  But I see using gas/oil/nuclear as using up a limited supply of ‘batteries’ that we have on the planet.  Gathering solar power is probably the least impact method of using an unlimited source of energy.  It is entirely possible that the action of wind farms in the air greatly affects the atmosphere.  There probably is some tipping point with wind where we affect the air so much that we cause other big problems such as drying up the air so much that crops are affected.  There hasn’t been much study on the affects of wind blades.  What does happen when we take giant blades and mix up the strata of air and its temperature and moisture?  

    • Bob Wallace

       Right on. Your thoughts about wind are echoed in this opinion piece by a Harvard physicist, read the whole thing:


      • http://www.facebook.com/walter.horsting Walter J Horsting

         Scotland, Ireland are in rebellion regarding the huge costly wind farms being imposed upon the population.  Altamount Pass in CA is killing 30 bald eagles yearly and 3000 raptors…a fraction of this amount would shut down any other power source…

        • Paul Davis

          Ohh, but it’s SOOO GRREEEENNNNN!

        • Bob Wallace

          The fact that wind turbines can change regional and potentially global wind patterns (if scaled up enough) scares me to be quite honest. It kind of defeats the purpose of putting them up in the first place.

          Sure I’m not against seeing a wind-farm here and there, but the idea that they can power an entire society is purely delusional.

  • Garrett Sutula

    Similar to others, I’m SHOCKED that there was no mention of Thorium based nuclear reactors. Fusion won’t be a practical resource for a long, long, LONG time where LFTR reactors implementation could be somewhat imminent with a fair amount of funding. Watch this:


    and if your interest is in any way piqued, watch a full length video on the technology and the history of nuclear energy research.


    In short, much safer for a myriad reasons (waste generation, weaponization risk, pressures), much more available fuel sources, much higher fuel energy density.

    LFTR reactors should be our nations moonshot of the 21st century.

    • Obi Won

      Thorium: Not allowed discussed on government airwaves or at government Universities, period. I have been screened a dozen times off of NPR shows (OnPoint) on this subject. Conspiracy? Thorium kills coal, oil and uranium monopolies – who control all media – includung NPR!

      • http://www.facebook.com/walter.horsting Walter J Horsting

         Jane Fonda, The China Syndrome and 1st generation light water reactors are the  problem.  Thorium LFTR is the solution.

        • Chonglynn

          Oh my gosh, blaming an aging actress and a movie.  Meanwhile the reactors we have that are water cooled are standing messes waiting to fail.  Our shorelines will be rising while our interior shudders through drought, though nuclear power plants were built on inland waterways as if  they were guaranteed to stay the same as in the 1970s and 1980s. What small brains our corporate heads have, building reactors that need physical stability around them, but change in a big way is coming our way with climate change.

          • Matt

             So…you don’t think there would be time to decommission, relocate, or at least shut down nuclear plants if sea levels were to rise?  Sea level change doesn’t exactly happen overnight.

      • Chonglynn

        Interesting experience if true – “thorium kills coal, oil and uranium monopolies.”  Corporate greed causes way too many skewed decisions, money-making being the goal of all goals. 

      • Alvin

        Pipe dreams usually don’t get media attention. Commercial Thorium reactors do not exist nor will they for decades if ever.


    • Alvin

      The real truth about thorium reactors, which are really U233 reactors. They are decades away, prohibitively expensive and produce a whole other regimen of long lived radioactive wastes. This is a pipe dream filled with more nuclear poisons.


  • Sue Sims

    The issue which bothers me the most about using nuclear energy is our seeming inability to deal with the waste.  I’ve been watching for progress for years and haven’t seen it yet.  The problem seems to be more political than technical…no one wants a nuclear waste site anywhere near them, or their constituents.  Until I see viable ideas on how to deal with this roadblock, I’m against building new nuclear facilities, because if we do, we will just keep stockpiling the waste…I am not convinced that, nationwide, the stockpiles will be dealt with with the care required.

    • Bob Wallace

       The problem is political, not technical, and the waste may actually be valuable as fuel for future reactors. Also the volume of the waste isn’t as big as you migh believe, all of the spent fuel in the US could easily fit within one industrial wharehouse (they say 1 football field 7 yards high). Here is what Steven Chu had to say about the cancellation of Yucca:

      “Yucca Mountain as a repository is off the table. What we’re going to be
      doing is saying, let’s step back. We realize that we know a lot more
      today than we did 25 or 30 years ago. The NRC is saying that the dry
      cask storage at current sites would be safe for many decades, so that
      gives us time to figure out what we should do for a long-term strategy.
      We will be assembling a blue-ribbon panel to look at the issue. We’re
      looking at reactors that have a high-energy neutron spectrum that can
      actually allow you to burn down the long-lived actinide waste. These are fast-neutron reactors.
      There’s others: a resurgence of hybrid solutions of fusion fission
      where the fusion would impart not only energy, but again creates
      high-energy neutrons that can burn down the long-lived actinides. …

      “Some of the waste is already vitrified.
      There is, in my mind, no economical reason why you would ever think of
      pulling it back into a potential fuel cycle. So one could well
      imagine—again, it depends on what the blue-ribbon panel says—one could
      well imagine that for a certain classification for a certain type of
      waste, you don’t want to have access to it anymore, so that means you
      could use different sites than Yucca Mountain, such as salt domes.
      Once you put it in there, the salt oozes around it. These are
      geologically stable for a 50 to 100 million year time scale. The trouble
      with those type of places for repositories is you don’t have access to
      it anymore. But say for certain types of waste you don’t want to have
      access to it anymore—that’s good. It’s a very natural containment.
      …whereas there would be other waste where you say it has some inherent
      value, let’s keep it around for a hundred years, two hundred years,
      because there’s a high likelihood we’ll come back to it and want to
      recover that.

      “So the real thing is, let’s get some really wise heads together and
      figure out how you want to deal with the interim and long-term storage.
      Yucca was supposed to be everything to everybody, and I think, knowing
      what we know today, there’s going to have to be several regional areas.”

  • Waynedking9278

    Why is the subject of Thorium-based Nuclear power consistently ignored when discussing the future of Nuclear Power? It is my understanding from numerous sources that creating Nuclear energy using Thorium as the Radioactive fuel solves many of the critical problems associated with Nuclear power. It cannot be used as the basis for developing nuclear weapons so it offers a pathway for the resolution of the crisis with Iran over nuclear power and nuclear weapons. It is far less deadly and has a much shorter half life than the standard fuels currently being used and is easier and safer to store as waste.

    • Robert Hargraves

      There is a new book about this, THORIUM: energy cheaper than coal, described at http://www.thoriumenergycheaperthancoal.com 

      • Chonglynn

        As I just said – thorium will need to be mined. That process releases carbon into the air because of gas or diesel powered machinery and transportation, and will leave a scarred earth.  Most people who love NH’s White Mountains would be appalled and sickened to learn that the thorium you call “cheap” would be the destruction of NH, to extract it. Bye-bye vistas and hikes and ski trips and camp outs…

        • Robert Hargraves

          Yes, mining can be a dirty business, but the question is how much mining is required. Thorium has a million times more energy than coal, and the mining impact would be similarly smaller. Or we can scoop up thorium-containing sand from beaches in India or Brazil, for centuries. Or we can obtain it from the tailings of past and current rare-earth mining.

          • Alvin

            Awe, so we are supposed to just focus on the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle now. Most nuclear sycophants rely on distractions rather than facts. Let me know when you are ready to refute the Guardian article that was posted as a link in response to your glorification of nuclear poisons. Of course, you would have refuted it if you were able to. Hence, the use distractions so that you don’t have to respond to the thorium pipe dream.

          • Bob Wallace

             What the hell is your point? How many casualties do you predict the fuel cycle of the nuclear industry is going to create, and how exactly do you propose this is going to happen?

            Your fear mongering is totally baseless and senseless.

          • Alvin

            You failed to respond to my commentary on the IAEA/WHO discredited Chernobyl Medical Tracking Study that violated 3 of the 9 rules required to establish a medical tracking study, which grossly underestimated cancer deaths associated with the disaster. Failure to follow the rules invalidates studies.

            Nine Essential Rules of Inquiry in Medical Sciences
                      To help prevent production of false databases and false “findings,” either through bias or scientific error, medical science has developed some basic Rules of Research. Adherence to these rules is essential for conducting scientifically credible studies of Chernobyl’s radiation consequences. For comparing exposed and non-exposed groups in epidemiological studies, some basic rules are abbreviated below
                        - FIRST RULE:   Comparable Groups. An essential condition for determination of radiation effect on persons is assurance that exposed and non-exposed groups of persons would have the same rate of disease and disorders in the absence of radiation.
                        - SECOND RULE:   A Real Difference in Dose. If disease-rate is being compared in two groups, it is essential to achieve a reasonable certainty that the compared groups have appreciably different accumulated doses. If the compared groups truly received nearly the same total amount of radiation, it is pre-destined before the study even begins that analysts will find “no provable difference in disease-rates between the groups.”
                        - THIRD RULE:   A Sufficiently Big Difference in Dose. The dose-differences between compared groups must be large enough to allow for statistically conclusive findings despite the random variations in numbers and in population samples. Analysts can cope with the random fluctuations of small numbers both by assuring sufficiently large dose-differences between compared groups, and by assuring large numbers of people in each group.
                        - FOURTH RULE:   Careful Reconstruction of Dose. Obviously, false conclusions will be reached if supposedly non-exposed people in a database really received appreciable doses, and supposedly high-dose people received lower doses than the database indicates. The non-uniform nature of the Chernobyl exposures makes this scientific pitfall into a real possibility, unless careful and objective dose-reconstruction is substituted for assumptions. Fortunately, there are several techniques of biological dosimetry which can reduce uncertainty about dose, even decades after the dose first occurred.
                        - FIFTH RULE:   “Blinding” of Dose-Analysts. In a valid study of health response to a particular radiation dose, the analysts who estimate doses must have no idea of the medical status of the individual or group on which they are working. The health status and dose-related data must never be present in the same file. In other words, dose-analysts must do their work “blind,” in order to protect the database from a wish-list about the relationship between dose and health.
                        - SIXTH RULE:   “Blinding” of Diagnostic Analysts. In order to achieve scientific credibility, studies must show proof of precautions against bias not only in the dose-input, but also in the health-response input. In a valid Chernobyl study, the principle of blinding must extend to all the analysts, physicians, and technicians who diagnose the health status of persons in the study. They must not know whether a person’s radiation dose was high or low, and they must be denied information (such as place of residence) which would allow them to form a personal opinion about the likely dose. Crucial is the requirement that teams of “special experts” have no ability to alter diagnoses later — unblinded.
                        - SEVENTH RULE:   No Changes of Input after Any Results Are Known. One of the fundamental rules in an on-going study is that no one is allowed to make retroactive alterations, deletions, or additions to input-data after any of the health-response results are known. If there is an opportunity for health results to influence a study’s revised input, there is clearly an opportunity to falsify the real cause-effect relationships (if any) between dose and response. A study becomes properly suspect if retroactive changes have been made in diagnosis or dose, if cases have been shuffled into new groupings (cohorts), if any data or cases have been suddenly dropped from the study, or new cases suddenly added “as needed” from some reserve.
                        - EIGHTH RULE:   No Excessive Subdivision of Data. It lies in the nature of numbers that even the largest databases can be rendered inconclusive and misleading if analysts keep the data subdivided into too many categories or subsets. Therefore, subdivision must be watched with a degree of suspicion.           Inconclusive Results:   If analysts hope that a study will find no provable effects even if they are real, this result can be arranged by creating a “small numbers problem,” which will prevent almost all results from passing the test of statistical significance.           Misleading Results:   Preservation of excessive subdivision also increases the frequency of finding a few effects at random which do pass the test of statistical significance but which are nevertheless unreal (false).
                        - NINTH RULE:   No Pre-judgments. Prejudgments are seldom
             compatible with objective inquiry.
            Violation of Rules 2, 3, and 4:   The 1991 Study of Chernobyl
                      By 1989, claims about multiple health problems in Belarus and Ukraine were reaching the press, and were attributed to radiation exposure from the Chernobyl accident. At the request of the Soviet central government, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) organized a study. The IAEA is a branch of the United Nations directly charged with trying to make nuclear energy acceptably safe worldwide. Leadership of the Chernobyl study was conferred upon Dr. Itsuzo Shigematsu, also the chairman of RERF.
                      The results of the IAEA study were announced with massive publicity in May 1991:   The international experts said they could find no health disorders which could be attributed to radiation.
                      This study of Chernobyl consequences was fatally flawed by clear violations of Rules Two, Three, and Four. For example, the study fails completely with respect to ensuring a real and sufficiently big dose-difference between compared groups.
                      The IAEA study sampled seven “contaminated” and six “control” settlements (presumed less contaminated). The number of participants was small. Moreover, according to data in the IAEA’s own report, the IAEA’s chosen “exposed” group received organ-doses which may have been only a half a rem higher than the organ-doses received by the so-called controls — if any higher at all.
                      A search for provable health-differences between such groups is doomed before it begins. Comparison of such groups could have guaranteed in advance the IAEA’s conclusion that “There were significant non-radiation-related health disorders in the populations of both surveyed contaminated and control settlements studied under the Project, but no health disorders that could be attributed directly to the radiation exposure.” Meanwhile, no comparison was made between “control” villages and villages which received larger doses (doses exceeded 20 rems in many villages).
                      Rule Four was violated too. Small dose-differences like the ones chosen by the IAEA clearly demand validation by the most careful dose-reconstruction, but it was not done. During several days when the Chernobyl-4 reactor was burning graphite, short-lived and intensely radioactive nuclides were released in a temperature-dependent manner. One result is that regions which later show the same levels of cesium-137 deposition may really have received very different total doses of radiation. In the absence of careful biological dosimetry, it would even be possible to reverse the true doses of two compared groups — with the presumed higher group actually having the lower dose.
                      The IAEA’s fatally flawed study simply does not merit treatment as a scientifically valid inquiry into the early health effects from the Chernobyl accident.
            Violation of Rule 9, the Rule against Prejudgments
                      In 1989, prior to arrival of the IAEA’s international experts to study Chernobyl, another branch of the United Nations — the World Health Organization (WHO) — sent in an international team of radiation experts to give an opinion about the health problems.
                      Now, the Chernobyl experience represents a unique set of circumstances for radiation exposure — including both external and internal exposures, both rapid and slow exposures (which will continue for a century and longer), plus high exposure of the thyroid gland, a gland which influences many organs elsewhere in the body. And the exposure affects children as well as adults, and both sexes. No such population has ever been studied before.
                      Would the WHO scientists be entitled to declare, in advance of any careful study, what effects this combination of exposures cannot have during the first three years of exposure … and to disparage the local scientists for refusal to adopt the prejudgments which they were offered?
                      The 1989 WHO report concluded, among other things, that “… scientists [in Belarus and Ukraine] who are not well-versed in radiation effects have attributed various biological and health effects to radiation exposure. These changes cannot be attributed to radiation exposure … and are much more likely to be due to psychological factors and stress” (as quoted in the IAEA’s 1991 report, page 1).
                      The WHO statement appears to be a gross violation of Rule Nine against pre-judgments. A scientifically valid basis for the WHO pre-judgments was and is simply non-existent.
                      We have documented many additional examples of pre-judgment in radiation research in our 1981, 1990, and 1994 books [1]. Almost invariably, pre-judgments are favorable to nuclear pollution.

            [1] 1981, Radiation and Human Health (908 pages). 1990, Radiation-Induced Cancer from Low-Dose Exposure:   An Independent Analysis (480 pages). 1994, Chernobyl Accident:   Radiation Consequences for This and Future Generations (estimated, 575 pages). The three books are distributed by the Committee for Nuclear Responsibility, Post Office Box 421993, San Francisco, California 94142-1993, USA. A Japanese edition of the 1981 book was published in Tokyo in 1991, and Russian-language editions of the 1990 and 1994 books are in preparation. The 1994 book includes a chapter on the Rules of Research and the proposal which is honored here by the Right Livelihood Award. From the below link


            The author’s impeccable curriculum vitae:


          • Bob Wallace

            Again, what the hell is your point? How is the failure of an archaic and mismanaged plant in Soviet Russia at all an indictment on modern nuclear reactors which have an impeccable safety record?

            And how can you substantiate the claim that Chernobyl has caused 400,000 to 1 million deaths, when all reputable sources report much lower death tolls?

            You have yet to present a legitimate reason as to why we should not use nuclear energy to combat global warming and better the human condition by providing electricity to a larger share of the global population.

          • Alvin

            It has to do with the flawed and consequently invalid IAEA/WHO Chernobyl Health   study. You obviously didn’t read one word of the post which had nothing to do with the soviet union or any of their antiquated technology. The only study you can cite is the IAEA/WHO study which is invalid via the author in my post. His credentials speak for themselves.

          • Bob Wallace

            I never cited the WHO for Chernobyl, only for Fukushima. I concur with your analysis above and acknowledge that the death toll is highly debated, but the fact is that no reputable source reports the death toll (immediate and later from contracted cancer) attributable to chernobyl to be anywhere near 400,000 to 1 million that you claimed.

            and again what does this have to do with building more modern reactors to cut emissions and allow a larger portion of the world to have electricity?

            You have no point relevant to modern nuclear reactors, you are just trying to scare people.

          • http://capedownwinders.org/ David Agnew

            Might the NY Academy of Sciences be considered a “reputable source”?

            Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment

            published in 2009 by the New York Academy of Sciences and authored by a team headed by Russian researchers, it is based on 5,000 reports and articles. It found that more than 50% of the surface of 13 European countries and 30% of eight other countries have been contaminated by Chernobyl fallout, and estimated that 985,000 persons had died from Chernobyl exposures by 2004.http://www.strahlentelex.de/Yablokov%20Chernobyl%20book.pdf

          • KitemanSA

            The NY Academy of Sciences does not validate the cited study. Basically they say, “we support or validate the report, we just printed it”.

            The report is truly ludicrous and you should be a bit embarassed to have brought it up.

          • Alvin

            A Trustworthy Database:   A Sacred Obligation of Humanity           A database from a major accident such as Chernobyl becomes a precious and irreplaceable health-resource for humanity. It seems reasonable to assert that humans have a sacred obligation to produce a database which meets the most rigorous standards for believability. By database, we mean the original raw data on radiation exposure-estimates and on the health status of participants in the database.
                      If the database itself is false — either from careless work or from intentional bias — it poisons every conclusion which emerges from it. A false database causes innocent analysts of such data to fill the medical journals and textbooks with un-knowledge. It renders all its users into agents of possibly deadly mis-information.
                      If research on Chernobyl’s radiation consequences is either poorly designed, or biased, or both, the false conclusions will nevertheless enter the textbooks. If the results exaggerate the true health hazards, it will be a real disservice to humanity. If the results underestimate the true health hazards, the mis-information will be literally deadly.
                      Suppose the new textbook wisdom says that “Chernobyl studies showed that no health hazards can be found if radiation doses are low and received gradually.” True or false, such a claim throughout the professional literature would endure, and would result in great increases in “permissible doses” and unnecessary and preventable human exposures to radiation (environmentally, occupationally, medically).
                      If the textbook wisdom is false, the extra radiation exposures will inflict misery on hundreds of millions of people over time, in the form of early deaths, unnecessary cancers, mental handicaps, deformities, and genetic diseases (which include heart disease, diabetes mellitus, schizophrenia, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and many, many additional disorders).

      • Alvin

        The real question about thorium reactors is the fact that they are a pipe dream being promoted by the nuclear power industry. They are not thorium reactors. They are U-233 reactors.


    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507691323 Jeremy Cripe

      This also addresses some of the concerns about the environmental impact of mining for uranium since thorium is so much more bountiful.

      And of course people also ask what we do with the nuclear waste so it should be noted that Thorium also produces less waste.And there’s also other types of new nuclear technology like the Traveling Wave Reactor that can actually recycle nuclear waste.

      The story about nuclear power shouldn’t be about how we need it, it’s what’s new that we can do with it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/walter.horsting Walter J Horsting

         Thorium energy is more dense…200 tons of ore for one ton Thorium…vs 800,000 tons of Uranium ore to get down to 36 tons to enrich down to one ton to burn.

        • Alvin

          And that commercial Thorium, U 233 reactor is operating where??? When will it be in operation. It is in operation I a pipe dream.

          • KitemanSA

            It WAS in operation in the 60s. Everything has basically been proven. It is just a matter of assembling the pieces. That is a nice “pipe dream” to have!

      • Tyler

        There’s also considerable new research being done on what has come to be known as “cold fusion;” the apparent nuclear energy release due to deuteron-stripping in thorium (in a concentration of heavy water).  My grandfather has received several grants for his research in this field, and it is ongoing (of course there’s skepticism, thanks largely to Pons and Fleischmann).

        It looks promising, but is nowhere near being “industrialized” for use outside the lab (the source of the energy has not been definitively pin-pointed, as of yet).  I know there’s a conference in Georgia in July (so, this month) where he’ll be releasing this information for wider testing.

        That was sort of an anecdote, but we all must realize that our understanding of physics and chemistry is still limited, and there is a lot more out there to discover yet.  Here’s to an exciting future of new ideas and invention!  Dead dinosaurs/fauna will only get us so far into that future.

        • Chonglynn

          My nuclear-physicist brother worked on cold fusion for his Ph.D.  He said a “thermocouple” always could not endure.  Why go for such complicated challenge when Nature provides sun, wind, tides as “free” fuel without residue remains?

          • Tyler

            Technically that complicated challenge IS “nature providing” … we just haven’t tapped it yet.

            Same could be said for any form of power, to be honest.  There’s no “toxic waste” from a potential cold-fusion reactor, and there’s enough thorium in the top 2meters of the earth’s crust to sustain humanity on that form of power alone for the next 1 billion years.

          • Chonglynn

            So, we swap corn fields and parks and playgrounds (skimming away the top soil / your thorium-in-abundance) for power?  We swap away NH’s White Mountains?  Do we then live as we see in steel cities we see in the Matrix movies?  Not what I want for my Earthling grandchildren and their grandchildren.  We must let go of our power-hogginess.

          • Geogunow

            Orders of magnitude off. Do you really think that’s a reasonable prediction of the future? Even if we were to undergo the worst possible path for the environment, that’s unreasonable. Also wind and solar are such weak and unreliable sources, it is inconceivable to power a society just off of them.

          • Alvin

            Who said we would be limited to just solar and wind. I know, it is the nuclear power promoters that say it is either coal or nuclear and solar and wind can never power a society. They never provide any practical or scientific justification for their blathering when their sole purpose is to have one power source and one power source only – nuclear power. They are the naysayers not the visionaries.

            In reality, our future society with have removed energy waste through energy efficiency improvements to buildings and transportation. We will be powered by combined heat power, fuels cells, solar, wind, wave and tidal power, landfill gas micro turbines, thermal gradient power and pyrolysis biomass to electricity utilizing micro turbines. 

            More and more power will be produced where it is consumed to eliminate grid transmission losses.  The tyranny of investor owned guaranteed rate if return utilities will become extinct. We will be able to sell our excess electrons into the grid via the internet and get paid retail rates. We will be a nation of energy entrepreneurs. California Edison will have to compete against low cost producers instead of operating in a monopoly and controlling our energy destinies.

            It is already happening in Germany. By 2050 they will 80 – 100 percent renewable.

          • Bob Wallace

            You want some scientific justification as to why solar and wind cannot alone power the entire world (from a post elsewhere on this page):

            Greg, solar
            certainly will be a contributor, but as Paul says below the storage problem
            isn’t trivial. And even if it were the shear amount of raw materials in glass,
            silicon, aluminum, and batteries needed to provide energy for 7 billion people
            (9 billion by 2050) would be absolutely enormous and both the feasibility and
            environmental friendliness of such an endeavor are quite questionable.

            The undeveloped
            world is determined to have the standard of living of the US, Japan, Europe
            etc. Since global capitalism is the prevailing force it is an inevitability
            that the developing world will get its wish (hopefully without ruining the

            The US annual
            per capita energy consumption (includes heat, electricity and transportation)
            is 83,000 kWh/person/year. I include heat and transportation because it is
            likely that in 50 years or so power plants will fuel our automobiles directly
            through electricity or indirectly by using electricity to create fuels
            (hydrogen etc). The same goes for heating our homes.

            -Assuming a
            typical capacity factor of 16% for a solar PV panel (can be better or worse
            depending on geographic location) we find that we would need just over 59 kWs
            of installed solar PV for each individual in the US to provide for their daily
            energy needs.
            (83,000 kWhs/365 days/24 hours/0.16 capacity factor = 59 kW)

            -But this
            doesn’t account for soiling, wiring, inverter, heat, storage or degradation
            energy losses of the PV system. To be favorable to PV we can assume all of the
            losses account for only 5% making our total installed PV per person 62 kW, or
            about 207 panels (300 watts each) per person + a pretty sizable (and expensive)
            battery bank of some sort.

            Now managing for
            reliability concerns of 200 panels and associated battery bank per person is an
            obvious issue, but putting that aside, powering the world with solar panels
            means 7 billion people X 200 panels per person = 1.4 trillion solar panels!

            This number is
            simply astounding and when you consider the huge amount of aluminum racking,
            batteries, wiring, inverters etc that would be needed it simply isn’t practical
            to rely on solar to power the entire globe unless we are talking about space-based
            solar power which can create 11x the energy per installed kW without the same
            degradation concerns: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S

            It isn’t
            feasible to power the entire world with wind either because of climatic effects
            of pulling TWhs of energy out of global winds: http://www.seas.harvard.edu/ne

            It is pretty
            safe to say that unless a breakthrough in Fusion occurs, Fission will play a
            significant role in energy generation going forward.

          • Alvin

            Bob, you don’t read very well. My list included:

            Energy efficiency, combined heat power, wind, solar, landfill gas micro turbines, tidal, wave, geothermal, thermal gradient, fuel cells and pyrolysis biomass to electricity micro turbines.

            Do you notice there is no inefficient water boiling going on there except natural geothermal steam.

          • Bob Wallace

            Actually you didn’t mention Geothermal above, and you are still full of hot air because we live in a capitalist world and energy sources have to be economic. Fuel cells, Biomass, Geothermal (in most cases) tidal wave, and thermal gradient energy technologies are all much more costly than nuclear.

            The reason I focused on wind and solar is because they are currently the most cost-effective and scalable forms of renewable energy.

          • Tyler

            This has taken a silly turn; it’s not like the entire earth’s top 2meters of soil would be stripped for thorium, lol.  No need to touch NH or their mountains.  No ” matrix steel cities” (are you for real? stop trolling, they already are steel). 

            Humanity will never let go of our “power-hogginess” — I’ll use the phrase “appetite for power.”  Nor should it.  You clearly have little idea how correlated “available power” and “ability to advance” are.  Power should never be the limiting factor towards achieving something; you’re just “gimping yourself” by saying it should be conserved.  Maybe that which is provided by dead dinos/plants (for co2/methane reasons), but not otherwise.

          • Alvin

            So in effect, you are saying that growth is necessarily tied to ever increasing energy consumption. Did you get this out of energy for dummies?

            This completely contradicts everything you just said.


            From the early 1950s to the early 1970s, U.S. total primary energy consumption and real GDP increased at nearly the same annual rate. During that period, real oil prices remained virtually flat. In contrast, from the mid-1970s to 2008, the relationship between energy consumption and real GDP growth changed, with primary energy consumption growing at less than one-third the previous average rate and real GDP growth continuing to grow at its historical rate. The decoupling of real GDP growth from energy consumption growth led to a decline in energy intensity that averaged 2.8 percent per year from 1973 to 2008.”[2] From the link below.


          • Bob Wallace

             Worrying about energy demand in the US is literally the tip of the iceberg. The developing world is what is relevant in the energy discussion, and it is there that energy efficiency will not at all suffice as the primary means of cutting emissions.

          • Alvin

            Sustaining humanity for the next billion years by producing nuclear poisons in nuclear poison factories.


          • Tyler

            Poisons are usually chemical in nature; whereas nuclear waste is inherently radioactive.  So not “poison” in the direct sense, but “poisonous to the human body,” sure I’ll give you that.  We don’t spit it back into the air; it is buried in specialized casks/coffins that last centuries and can also conceivably be buried beneath the water table.  Or put a competitive bid out for nuclear recycling and/or safe waste removal and storage, and you have a competitive and creative market looking for new ways to address the issue.

            Such a one-track mind; you don’t need to fear radiation for the sake of fearing radiation.  Humanity is in the infancy of its technology era;  we’ll eventually be able to handle it.

          • Alvin

            Actually, the majority of it is stored in spent fuel pools onsite at the reactors producing it. Plutonium does not exist in nature nor do many of the transuranium elements. Therefore, theiy are poisons by your own definition.

            By definition, you are completely inaccurate.


            Don’t confuse understanding with fear. The BEIR 7 report pretty much provides the knowledge or understanding of the biological effects of ionizing radiation.

            Using your line, humanity is in its infancy of its technological era, which has brought us Chernobyl, Fukushima, 600 atmospheric nuclear weapons tests, Bopal, 1,000 abandoned uranium mines in the Western United States, 1,000′s more around the globe, a 7,500 square mile dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico and the list goes on. We are getting a pretty dismal score so far on unleashing toxic industries.

            Take the math in the below link and multiply it by 442 commercial reactors around the globe an get back to me on the final number.


          • Tyler

            You are a critic without a solution.

          • Alvin

            Part of my solution is in the next post up from here.

          • Tyler

            First off, I’m not opposed to energy conservation (it’s always conserved, seewhatididthere?).  That’s all well and dandy, and will save you a few bucks on your utilities.  It’s unrealistic, though, to look at “conservation” as a solution – given that humanity’s “power hunger” will continue to rise.  

            Who are you, for example, to tell third-world nations that they aren’t allowed to develop because doing so would be detrimental to the global environment?  How is that fair, if Europe and NA got to where they were on the backs of fossil fuels, but others aren’t allowed to do the same?  
            We need another energy revolution.  Unlimited energy (or at least enough energy to make it seem like it’s “unlimited,” ie nuclear, solar satellites, dyson sphere[lol])  I’ve read enough physics to understand that this is an attainable goal, and one that humanity can achieve.  We shouldn’t gimp future generations because we threw up our hands and gave up on new or already-existing-and-proven energy technologies.

          • Bob Wallace

             What is your point? How many deaths are attributable to all of the nuclear catastrophes you mentioned?

            On the flip-side how beneficial has electricity been to humanity? How much has the population grown and the standard of living improved? How much emission has been avoided due to nuclear energy production?

            What do nuclear weapons have to do with the nuclear energy industry? Nothing really.

          • Alvin

            It depends on which studies you believe. The INEA/WHO study of Chernobyl was a complete failure as a epidemiological study. There are nine rules that have to be established for a health medical tracking study. They violated no less than 3 of the nine rules, which completely invalidates their study. Some Eastern European studies suggest the number of Chernobyl deaths between 400,000 and 1,000,000.

            Given, the short duration of time that has elapsed since Fukushima, there is no reason to believe that their have been any deaths from Fukushima that are statically significant due to the 5 -25 year latency periods associated with cancers emerging from radiation exposure, but hopefully the data base and tracking measures has and is being built.

            The Hiroshima Bomb survivor studies is the next best source, but again it has been compromised with the alteration of the data by the Japanese government and the U.S. Department of Energy, which oversees the study. In addition, the bomb studies completely ignored ingested or inhaled alpha radiation.

            The BIER7 National Academy of Sciences Study is the mist extensive study ever conducted, which resolved that there is no safe dose. There will be more BEIR studies to further refine their conclusions.

            However, the earliest BEIR Reports from the 70′s and 80′s postulated that there was a threshold level of exposure without damage from exposure. BEIR’s 7 & 8 eliminated any doubt about the linear theory of exposure that cellular damage is caused at every dose level down to the smallest dose.

            Of course electricity is beneficial. I couldn’t live very well without it. That is not the issue.  What is not beneficial is the outright waste of it. Thermal power plant efficiencies have really not improved since the 50′s making them about 34 percent efficient. They are less efficient when building up for peak power demand periods. Another 8 percent is lost through grid transmission losses. When the remaining power reaches an incandescent light bulb, another 90 percent of the energy is lost to heat.

            This is unsustainable. As a modern society, surely we can dramatically improve the efficiency of production, transmission and end use. Before we build another power plant or invest money in alternatives, we should be investing every thin dime to eliminate the waste.

            It is the cheapest form of new energy, with the shortest lead time. 132,000,000 commercial and 128,000,000 residential
            inefficient properties are leading us down the path to devastating climate change agy efficiency along with inefficient transportation.

            Energy efficiency doesn’t cost it pays.
            I have a 2,800 s.f. home that averaged 1,110 Kwh’s per month between October 1 & April 30. With efficiency improvements, it now averages 320 Kwh’s per month. I have done this with 100 percent LED lighting, energy star appliances and some moderate conservation practices.

            My next investment will be in geothermal heating and cooling and then solar. I will have generated the maximum savings through efficiency before I invest in solar.

          • Bob Wallace

            Yes efficiency is great, but efficiency is not going to provide electricity for the billions of power hungry citizens of China, India, Vietnam etc.

            Renewables and efficiency are part of the answer. Nuclear plants are still being built all over the world, and it will only continue whether you like it or not, because the fact is nuclear energy production has had an impeccable safety history. The idea that 1 million deaths occurred as a result of Chernobyl is a total and absolute lie.

          • Alvin

            I have plenty of solutions that do not involve nuclear or coal. I could get to those solutions if were not for people like you spreading misinformation about nuclear power.

            It is obvious that you cannot multiply 1,000 by 442.

          • Drew Hall

            Fission products produced by a reactor are not comparable to fission products from a fission bomb in this context. A bomb spreads radioactivity over a large area and thus causes much more harm than radioactive spent fuel from a reactor which is contained in a way that it does not give any significant dose to anyone.

            I like the article you linked though, because it shows just how powerful of a tool nuclear fission is in creating electricity. The energy density is remarkably high compared to alternative energy sources.

          • PaulGunter

            Not comparable? Provide a citation. Stronium 90, Cesium 137 and many more radioactive isotopes in fact are generated and released into the environment by both nuclear power accidents and nuclear weapons detonations. As for uranium power being a tool for boiling water to generate steam to power a turbine generator, its as practical or sustainable as burning antiques in a wood stove.

          • Drew Hall

            I do not mean that the isotopes produced are different. I mean that the harm done by the isotopes is different. Even in the event of a nuclear power accident the radioactive release is much smaller than that of a bomb, and even if the same amount of radioactivity were released there is no way it could be spread over the same area.

            Also, are you sure that burning antiques is equally as practical as using fission to generate heat? This is the first I’ve heard of this.

          • Drew Hall

            Ok, I’ve investigated because you made me curious about the antiques. Assuming they’re made of wood, the specific energy of antiques is 16.2 MJ/kg. This really a lot of energy, it’s 16200000 Joules for every kilogram of antique! However, the specific energy of U-235 is 83000000 MJ/kg. This is much larger.

            Perhaps there is a good deal of hyperbole in your post…

          • advocate22

            an amazingly childlike and pure-sounding enthusiasm fueled by who-knows-what, but ignoring our history as abusers of technology and anti-scientific ignorers of collateral consequences when it is contrary to our short-term bottom lines. This industry is fueled by greed not science. Some folks WANT it to happen ’cause they’ll make a fortune.
            “Competitive bid” — ha! business-speak for “let the poor deal with the radiation.” 

            You say: “we’ll eventually be able to handle [radiation]” — ha, again! Once humanity has accomplised just that, Tyler, come knocking at our door. ‘Til then let’s use all our abilities to expand safe energy … and, heaven forbid, CHANGE our lifestyles to use less. Humanity is in its infancy of learning how to live responsibly and sustainably.

          • Tyler

            Not worth replying to, as you are under the impression that the “energy industry” is “fueled by greed” when it is merely fed by demand.  Economics applies here; supply/demand, etc.  

            You are kidding yourself if you don’t think that nuclear energy has a place in an array of various energy technologies in our future. That’s all.

          • advocate22

            with all going on you still believe in supply/demand as the universal model, then you really are narrow-minded or simply not looking

          • Tyler

            You’re an absolute fool if you think the economics of energy can be ignored.  This is my last post. Have a good life!

          • advocate22

            it can and should be controlled.
            If you and your kind are in charge, the life on this planet will not do so well for humans for that long.

          • Bob Wallace

            You are a punk who has no appreciation for how the laptop he is typing on is powered or came into existence.

            If the world were so overcome by greed and not run by simple economic principle as Tyler correctly stated then you wouldn’t enjoy all of the modern conveniences you take for granted. Punk.

          • KitemanSA

            Turns out the windmills result in about 8 times the radioactive waste that LFTRs would, and that is before taking into account that LFTRs USE radioactive waste as a fuel.

          • Bob Wallace

             We should harvest energy from wind sun tides, but collecting all of this for the on-demand use of 7 billion people isn’t so simple and practical.

      • Alvin

        LFTR Reactors are a pipe dream promoted by the nuclear power industry to keep taxpayer funds pouring into the nuclear power. What you didn’t have the temerity to say is that their are no commercial thorium reactors, they are decades away which will make them obsolete by the time they arrive and they are really U-233 reactors. It is obvious that the Nuclear Energy Institute, the main propaganda arm of the nuclear power industry, has all of their shills out in full force promoting a bogus technology that has zero hope of reducing climate change.


        • PoloniumMan

          Thorium fueled reactors, in particular the LFTR, aren’t even taught in nuclear engineering programs and certainly aren’t being promoted by the NP industry. 

          • Oneforlogic

            MIT nuclear engineering student here. You’re correct, we aren’t taught about LFTRs in our classes. This is mostly because, as has already been said, we don’t have any. Learning the operational details of a LFTR wouldn’t be useful when none exist. However, I and many of my classmates met the team designing LFTR several months ago. Right now, LFTR is a Powerpoint slidehow. It isn’t a complete design, and they don’t have enough money and people to complete it. Flibe Energy is pursuing fully private funding, trying to act like a for-profit business before they have a product, and they haven’t found much funding so far. So, progress there is slow. 

          • KitemanSA

            They seem to have enough that thy turned down mine.

    • Chonglynn

      For instance, N.H.’s White Mountains are the ultimate fuel source, my nuclear physicist brother has told me – because we have the largest concentration of thorium in our N.H. granite.  He said to me, happily, “Some day these mountains will all be leveled.”  People who talk about nuclear power leave out the fuel cycle.  They omit the radioactive tailings piles that result.  They omit that gasoline powered engines and trucks and milling equipment all sending carbon emissions into the air are part of the nuclear fuel cycle, because of the mining.  It’s selective “praise” for nuclear power that one hears – and of course it’s from proponents and maybe investors.  It costs the most to build a nuclear power plant, and that is with government subsidies. I thought we’d see the end of that with election of a “liberal” Democratic president, but Obama, though he’s a D., is no liberal and seems as much in the pockets of the energy industry as Bush-Cheney were.

      • Geogunow

         I’m really not sure you live in the same world as me. It seems massive meteors are colliding with earth every week in yours. “Mountains being leveled” is an astronomically ridiculous statement. Also for your information, nuclear physicists don’t really know too much about nuclear power or any of it’s applications. They study particles and their interactions. Much more abstract and many could not even tell you the basics of designing a nuclear plant. So I wouldn’t take your brother as the expert on nuclear power. An expert on the Higg’s Boson perhaps, but not likely on power. Nuclear engineering is the study of nuclear power. So I would be more inclined to trust Professor Lester’s advice.

      • Bob Wallace

         The carbon foot-print of the nuclear industry – from mining to decomissioning – is actually lower than solar PV and comparable to wind energy.

        No solution is perfect, but we do need energy so I don’t see the point in criticizing if you can’t propose other solutions. Especially while you obviously benefit from the convenience of electricity and modern technology.

        Further more there is the potential for uranium to have a closed fuel cycle in fast reactors, and even be extracted from sea-water. The idea that mountains will be leveled for the sake of uranium or thorium mining is pretty far off base.

      • Matt

         Oh yeah…because there’s no government scandal involving companies providing renewable technologies.  Wait, nevermind. There was that whole Solyndra thing…
        Obama not a liberal?  I shudder to think of whom you would consider a liberal.

    • Geogunow

       I am all for thinking of new ways to produce energy. However, I think the praise of thorium is a bit overzealous. Not that it’s a bad idea, it’s just not the end all solution. There is not a huge difference between uranium and thorium. Here’s a basic breakdown of how thorium works:

      Thorium is a naturally occurring substance, just like uranium. However, it is VERY abundant. Much more than uranium. We could essentially run until the end of time on thorium. So that right there is the biggest advantage by far of using thorium. But in comparison with uranium it goes downhill from here (mostly).

      How a thorium reactor works is sort of a two step process. The thorium is exposed to the radiation of the reactor and transforms into uranium (but U-233 rather than U-235). (Technically the thorium, Th-232, absorbs a neutron to become Th-233 then beta decays to U-233).  Because of this thorium reactors are often called breed-and-burn reactors since you need to “breed” uranium. So reactor designs with thorium often involve a significant of ammount of fissile uranium at the beginning of life so the reactor can operate, then the thorium sort of takes over later in life. Typically the uranium rods are concentrated at the center of the core and the thorium rods are on the periphery. Over the lifetime fuel rods are shuffled to maximize performance.

      So the basic difference is that with thorium reactors, there are typically mixed fuel types and the thorium breeds uranium, then burns.

      Now, to the consequences of this. It is more weapon resistant because it would be harder to separate the bread uranium from thorium – but still not completely resistant since thorium breads uranium that could be used in a weapon. As far as economics go, it’s worse. The main underlying reason is the two step process of breading then burning, whereas with uranium you just burn.

      All-in-all thorium is pretty similar to uranium, but in my opinion we should continue with uranium for the time being since it is more economic. Eventually if we run low on uranium we will switch to thorium, but no reason to jump the gun.

      • Bob Wallace

         With fast neutron reactors we will never run low on uranium. The fuel cycle surpasses the foreseen existence of humanity.

        • Alvin

          Fast Neutron reactors require reprocessing. Commercial and military reprocessing has been an utter environmental failure everywhere it has been tried. Of course, you don’t want to discuss the failures because it would run contrary to promoting fast breeder reactors.

          Tell us Bob: How much has the Nuclear Fuel Services Failed Commercial Reprocessing facility in New York cost American Taxpayers for the SuperFund cleanup. Tell us Bob. How much radioactive waste does the French La Hague Commercial Reprocessing dump into the English Channel every year. Tell us Bob: Is the British Sellafield Nuclear Reprocessing Facility the most environmentally contaminated site in England? Tell us Bob: How that Hanford Washington Reprocessing experiment is going and how much that environmental disaster has cost American taxpayers and how much more it is going to cost to get it fully cleaned up?

          I have all of the links Bob, so don’t come back with your go away bully tactic.

          • Bob Wallace

            While the integral fast reactor for instance does need a portion of highly enriched uranium, the majority of the fuel can be depleted uranium.

            What is so scary about Hanford? There is a leak there but I don’t think anyone is going to die because of it. None of the things you pointed out are really that scary, and furthermore I don’t understand how the difficulties in decommissioning nuclear weapons is at all an indictment of the nuclear energy industry.

            I think that may be your principle problem. You have nuclear weapons and energy intertwined when the two are very different.

            I mean what is really your point with any of this? You realize that background radiation is everywhere and the leaks you so alarmingly point out are not truly a threat to the health of humans in the area. Furthermore the benefit of the clean energy far outweighs all of the “risks” you point out.

    • Alvin

      Oh, so it has come down to: See how much better my poison is than your poison.

      • Bob Wallace

        what is your obsession with poison? How many people are dying of “poisoning” from nuclear plants in the last couple decades? The answer is basically zero so stop being a child.

      • Matt

         Are you aware that, if the NRC regulated coal-burning plants, that they would be SHUT DOWN due to the RADIATION they release?  Talk about poisons…coal plants release tons of CO2 and more radiation than a nuclear plant.  Where to store the radioactive waste?  If they’ll pay me, they can put some of those dry casks in my back yard.  I’ll also take a swim in the spent fuel pool (for a small fee, of course).  I have been up close and personal with both of these things and believe me, I kept an eye on my dosimeter.  Zero is what my dosimeter read, if you’re interested.
        Currently, none of the renewables can come anywhere near the incredible amount of power a nuclear plant can produce.  Oh, if you like your electricity to work at night, you won’t like solar or wind.  But of course you know that.  Are you Pro-Environment, or simply Anti-Nuclear?  If you want to preserve the environment, are logical, and willing to be honest with yourself, you would see that nuclear power is the only proven way to produce utility-scale electricity with virtually no carbon emissions in a reasonably short time frame.  Even the French are aware of this…as in a 20-year period they changed 80% of their electric capacity to nuclear.  Germany’s ambitious and well-intended program of eliminating nuclear has run into serious problems.  They shut down zero-carbon nukes and built coal plants!  Seriously?  A political party that calls themselves “Green” did that?!  It boggles the mind.  But I digress…

    • BasM

      Why … Thorium-based Nuclear power … ignored …?
      Just check the Oak Ridge trial, and the decommissioning problems.
      Further realize that China plans >10years to develop a a useful reactor.
      So it clearly is not that simple.

      :…cannot be used … for developing nuclear weapons so it offers a pathway for the resolution of the crisis with Iran over nuclear power … weapons.
      That assumes that:
       - crisis still exists in ~2025 as before that even China won’t have thorium NPP;
       - Iran has no other motives. I think that Iran just wants to have the capability to produce nuclear weapon within some months. So in case it is attacked again it can hit back.

      Remember that USA (sometimes Israel):
       - organized a coup in Iran in 1953 destroying its first democratic chosen government within a few months after election,
       - helped Irak with its attack on Iran. Which war killed ~a million Iranians;
       - helped the Shah, responsible for a terrible dictatorship during ~25years;
       - repeatedly threatened to attack Iran;
       - shot down a normal Iranian airliner killing hundreds of civilians;
       - sends spy-planes all over Iran (one captured by Iranians);
       - organized several computer viruses in order to sabotage their ultra-centrifuges;
       - murdered a number of Iranian nuclear scientists;
       - organized military basis in almost all countries around Iran.
      So they have good reason to be vigilant and ready for the next war.

  • ThirdWayForward

    I would rather see us try to make coal cleaner and less damaging vis-a-vis global warming (via carbon sequestration) than support the nuclear industry and the possibility of nuclear weapons being fabricated by irresponsible parties and used. the more the industry proliferates, particularly in the rest of the world, the more people will have th knowledge to manipulate nuclear materials and to make WMD’s. This is something we need to avoid at almost all costs, even despite the powerful economic interests that are behind nuclear power.

    No amount of atmospheric mercury or global warming, as terrible as those are, compares even faintly with the spectre of a city vaporized by a loose nuke. 

    If the absence of a commercial nuclear power industry reduces the probability of something like that happening in the coming century, that’s enough reason to shut the whole thing down. We are so sensitive to airplane safety, but when it comes to seemingly more distant dangers, we are almost completely  complacent.

    Actually, Obama has been excellent on the issue of nuclear proliferation, and has worked largely under the mass media radar screens to secure loose nukes in the world. Although we are ambivalent about some of his other stands, he did richly deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for these efforts. The world is now safer that it would otherwise have been because of that work.

    • Obi Won


      • ThirdWayForward

        Coal is very low on my list of preferences, but nuclear is at the very bottom.

        When I was young, at the height of the Cold War insanity, they made us do duck and cover exercises in elementary school, and for many years I feared that there was a small but palpable chance of a nuclear war. As it turns out, we have come perilously close to nuclear conflict more than a dozen times, the last one under Reagan. Most people are completely unaware of the sorry history of nuclear near-misses. 

        Human history is not reassuring — we are a violent species, especially when organized into tribal and national formations, and every century our destructive capabilities grow enormously, but our wisdom, and our capacities for rational collective decision making have not grown. Only a decade ago our leaders started a war in Iraq on the basis of fabrications they concocted (not unlike the Vietnam War before it). We have learned absolutely nothing. War is the biggest threat that humanity faces — forget global warming and all the rest. 

        We have not figured out how to avoid war, and until we do, the problem of nuclear proliferation is a deep, ongoing threat to our national security because it multiplies the chances that extremist barbarians will eventually acquire these weapons. Every country that has developed or is currently trying to develop nuclear weapons first used development of nuclear power as a cover. It is not in our long-term interest to promote this technology. The faster the world forgets how to mine and handle uranium, the better. 

        If given the choice, I would rather have an overheated, air-polluted planet without nuclear power than  one with 3000 reactors scattered over the globe, each a potential terrorist target, and each one a small step towards enabling new nuclear weapons programs. But this is a false choice we don’t have to make.

        There are other ways of extracting coal than to do mountain top removal, and there is a movement to ban the practice. Coal will cost more, but that’s OK, we have lots of it. Ditto for carbon sequestration and removal of pollutants — we can and should pay for that using a carbon and pollution tax that will provide a level playing field vis-a-vis renewables.

        But there are plenty of better alternatives to coal, including better end use efficiencies, conservation, better insulation, using less, renewables, and natural gas. There is no sane reason that every American family has to have an SUV that gets 20 mpg. Europe uses half the energy per capita that we do, and their standards of living are comparable to ours, and with more social mobility. 

        The technical problems can all be solved that can enable every citizen to have decent food, housing, healthcare, and meaningful work — the hard problems are all socio-political ones, with no solution in sight.

    • jimhopf

      Commercial nuclear power plants do not have any effect on weapons proliferation, period.  This is even more true (obvious) in countries that already have large numbers of plants, and/or the bomb.  Even in developing countries, only enrichment or reprocessing facilities represent any risk at all.  Power plants convert enriched uranium ore into something that is HARDER to make into a weapon (spent fuel).  Even with reprocessing (very difficult technology), the plutonium isotope distribution in spent power reactor fuel makes it unsuitable for a bomb.

      In terms of the impact of coal vs. a even a nuked city, are you sure of your assertion.  Coal plants cause several hundred thousand deaths every single year, worldwide.  on top of that is global warming, whose impacts are hard to even quantify.  Over the last several decades, coal has killed over ten million people.  Choosing coal over nuclear is indefensible and immoral.

      Finally, what you seem to be proposing won’t happen anyway.  Any proliferation threat is in the developing world, and there’s no chance that they will forgo or shut down nuclear if we did (something that would never happen anyway).  Under the NPT, they have a right to use nuclear power (a right that they will never give up).  Reducing nuclear in the developed world (or any nations that have reactors already) will do absolutely nothing to reduce the risk or spread of nuclear weapons.  All it will do is increase global warming and air pollution.

      It can even be argued that reducing nuclear will increase fossil fuel demand, resulting in higher fossil fuels prices and more resources (money) for those nations (in unstable/unfriendly parts of the world) to persue a nuclear weapons program.  Finally, reduced nuclear use in the developed world will increase world fossil fuels prices, resulting in more incentive to use nuclear in the (less stable) developing world.  In other words, reactors you shut down in the West will simply reappear somewhere less desirable (since there is only so much fossil fuel, e.g., gas, to go around).

  • JayT

    As someone once said: “Don’t get me wrong.  I love nuclear power.   It’s just that I prefer fusion to fission.  And there just happens to be a very large fusion reactor safely operating about 93 million miles away.  It is delivering all the power that the whole planet needs everyday…wirelessly.  All we need to do is collect it.”

    • Bob Wallace

       Not so easy to collect it though. Solar power is practical to contribute to our energy needs, but not to power the entire 7 billion world wide population. Fission is needed as well if we are to avoid significant global warming in the future.

      • Garrett Sutula

        Thorium is actually astonishingly easy to collect compared to Uranium-235 used in traditional nuclear reactors.

        • Bob Wallace

           Yea maybe China or India can figure out how to commercialize it because unfortunately the US powers that be seem to have no interest in pursuing thorium technology.

      • Greg Miller, P.E.

        Solar is keeping the 7 billion alive right now.  It powers the biosphere!  We just need to work on the storage problem.  It’s not that hard…  The big problem is that industry is still trying to figure how to make us send $200/month to them.  Then we will see it.

        • Paul Davis

          That storage problem you dismiss is enormous.  Go google “raccoon mountain tva” and you’ll find out what a large storage project is.  Kindly remember there are no fish and no tourism in that area, too dangerous when the lake is draining and when it’s dry, no fish can survive.

        • Bob Wallace

           Greg, solar certainly will be a contributor, but as Paul says below the storage problem isn’t trivial. And even if it were the shear amount of raw materials in glass, silicon, aluminum, and batteries needed to provide energy for 7 billion people (9 billion by 2050) would be absolutely enormous and both the feasibility and environmental friendliness of such an endeavor are quite questionable.

          The undeveloped world is determined to have the standard of living of the US, Japan, Europe etc. Since global capitalism is the prevailing force it is an inevitability that the developing world will get its wish (hopefully without ruining the planet). 

          The US annual per capita energy consumption (includes heat, electricity and transportation) is 83,000 kWh/person/year. I include heat and transportation because it is likely that in 50 years or so power plants will fuel our automobiles directly through electricity or indirectly by using electricity to create fuels (hydrogen etc). The same goes for heating our homes.

          -Assuming a typical capacity factor of 16% for a solar PV panel (can be better or worse depending on geographic location) we find that we would need just over 59 kWs of installed solar PV for each individual in the US to provide for their daily energy needs.
          (83,000 kWhs/365 days/24 hours/0.16 capacity factor = 59 kWs)

          -But this doesn’t account for soiling, wiring, inverter, heat, storage or degradation energy losses of the PV system. To be favorable to PV we can assume all of the losses account for only 5% making our total installed PV per person 62 kWs, or about 207 panels (300 watts each) per person + a pretty sizable (and expensive) battery bank of some sort.

          Now managing for reliability concerns of 200 panels and associated battery bank per person is an obvious issue, but putting that aside, powering the world with solar panels means 7 billion people X 200 panels per person = 1.4 trillion solar panels!

          This number is simply astounding and when you consider the huge amount of aluminum racking, batteries, wiring, inverters etc that would be needed it simply isn’t practical to rely on solar to power the entire globe unless we are talking about space-based solar power which can create 11x the energy per installed kW without the same degradation concerns: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space-based_solar_power

          It isn’t feasible to power the entire world with wind either because of climatic effects of pulling TWhs of energy out of global winds: http://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2013/02/rethinking-wind-power

          It is pretty safe to say that unless a breakthrough in Fusion occurs, Fission will play a significant role in energy generation going forward.

    • http://www.facebook.com/walter.horsting Walter J Horsting

       Thorium LFTR is what Fusion would like to be.  Easy to build, it ran successfully for 20,000 hours at Oak Ridge in the 1960s…

  • ThirdWayForward

    Amory Lovins is always interesting. Maybe the On Point format would be a better place for him — more time to develop and discuss a line of thought.

  • Robert Hall

    All sources of energy have drawbacks. Proponents for each source need to cover the range of pluses and minuses for each one, because none is a magic answer. One way to compare is by a comprehensive review of of return on energy from each one. To do it well the analysis need to cover the entire cycle from building a source to a decommissioning that is safe in the long run (not easy do so we tend to not count the phases of the cycle that are unfavorable to a source.) However, this standard, any form of nuclear does not come out any better than say, wind power, but to replace today’s level of energy usage with windmills will take a lot of windmills and a lot of grid connections.

    Neglected is the promise of energy conservation. Within bounds, the return from just wasting less energy is huge, but we tend to think that we actually need a lot more energy in order to live well. Why make the assumption that we need not only to replace existing sources of energy, but need to keep adding generating capacity.

    All assumptions, including those we take for granted, need to be questioned.

    Doc Hall
    Hondo, Texas

    • Bob Wallace

       Yes a lot of windmills, which can have its own implications:

      I concur, we need to consider all angles.

    • http://www.facebook.com/walter.horsting Walter J Horsting

       Disagree Thorium LFTR is superior to all forms of energy including the waste stream used to make renewable wind and solar…www.energyfromthorium.com

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      increases in efficiency lead to more energy consumption.

  • Westernfan

    If the goal is clean(er), abundant, and economical electrical energy, there is no one ideal source- some regions being better suited for one over another.  Wind energy may be well suited for some locations, solar for others, hydroelectric for some, and some geologically stable areas may be well suited to next generation nuclear power generation.  Photoelectric cells may be integrated into the designs of office buildings to provide electicity in large cities- without the transmission losses.  Wind farms in otherwise desolate areas may be viable.  The point being that different energy sources can be more, or less, efficient and economical in different areas of the country.  The key will be to develop a decentralized power grid that can accomodate energy input from a variety of sources. 

    • Bob Wallace

       Exactly. Diversity will be key in the energy mix of the future.

  • Rod T.

    I would like to hear a more robust discussion of nuclear power innovations. What is new? Can we really not design, build, and operate safely? Why not? Can we really not figure out what to do with the waste? Why not? Why is ‘micro-nuclear’ on the scale of what is used on large ships and subs not discussed?  Who is being innovative and  solving the problems? I want to hear from them.

    • Obi Won

      Lester is obviously a Monolpoly Shill – as is this show. Censorship top down.

    • Bob Wallace

      We can figure out what to do with the waste: burn it in fast- neutron reactors (like russsia plans to do) and discard the small portion of remaining waste in inaccessible geologic repositories such as salt domes (as Steven Chu alluded to in his comments about Yucca Mt cancellation).

      Nuclear can be safe, modern reactors incorporate passive safety features making them orders of magnitude safer than Fukushima (from which no deaths occurred). Next Gen reactors promise to be incapable of meltdown altogether.

      micro-nuclear is being considered, the US DOE has pledged half a billion toward the small modular reactor project, which promises to cut costs through modular construction and permitting.

  • rfsharp

    I am very disappointed in your coverage of the closure of
    the nuclear power station at San Onofre. 
    Your discussion implied that the closure was a result of hostility towards
    nuclear power in California, but that’s not the case.  The two reactors there are closed because the
    operator broke them and does not want to pay to repair them.  A few years ago SoCal Edison replaced the power
    station’s steam generators with new generators that had unapproved alterations to
    the original design.  The new generators
    only lasted a few years before they wore themselves out and started leaking
    radioactive steam.  One reactor is so
    damaged that Edison had no intention of trying to restart it.   Edison
    didn’t attempt to repair the second reactor, but merely sought permission to
    run it at reduced power in its current damaged state.  It is not fair to imply that the plant is
    closed because of some environmental fashion in California.  Regardless of the role nuclear has to play in
    addressing climate change, it is disingenuous to ignore the consequences of the
    incompetence displayed by San Onofre’s operator.

    • Obi Won

      NPR has become National Fascist Propoganda Reich.

      • Tyler

        Dumbest comment of the thread ^.

        You win … nothing.

      • Alvin

        I couldn’t have said it better. They have become infected by the Sponsorships of companies who promote poisonous technologies. In this case, the Sponsorship of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), which is the main propaganda and lobbying arm of the nuclear power industry.  

        • Bob Wallace

           stop with the poisonous technology line, that is a just not true. Nuclear energy factually has a lower rate of casualty per kWh than solar PV.

    • Bob Wallace

      San Onofre should have been permitted to run at reduced power. The amount of emissions it would have displaced is more important than the negligible leak.

      You have to really understand the threats of radiation to see this issue clearly. Unfortunately most don’t and the result is fear and ultra-ultra-conservative decisions on anything associated with nuclear.

      • Alvin

        75 percent of the U.S. reactors are leaking tritium into the ground. The promoters of nuclear power have worked tirelessly  to minimize any accident or leaking reactor. You are no different from the rest of the promoters of this poisonous technology. Ignoring the biological effects of ionizing radiation doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

        http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=030909156X I will believe this long before I will believe a paid promoter of poison technologies.

        • Bob Wallace

           and the amount of radiation leaked has….drum roll please….Absolutely no measurable consequences to human health.

          Listen buddy, you clearly have no understanding of the basic science behind radiation and the associated risks. Coal plants emit many many times more radioactive pollution into the air than nuclear plants ever will. Get a clue or go away.

          • Alvin

            This is not an either or debate about coal or nuclear. It is about eliminating both types of poisonous power production for the least amount of cost with the biggest impact on climate change. New nuclear doesn’t even enter into the equation due to the long lead times to bring it on line, the soaring cost and the waste production that has zero long term storage. You have no idea how much tritium has leaked, you have no idea what radioactive materials have been released through planned and unplanned releases. How quickly you have forgotten about Fukushima. You have forgotten, you just don’t care.


            http://www.ratical.org/radiation/CNR/fission.html The math is the math. You can’t refute it. The world produces the radioactive equivalent of 442,000 Hiroshima bombs in fission equivalence  of radioactive waste from the world’s 442 commercial operating reactors. Drum Roll right back at you.

            fukushima-nuclear-planet-released-more-radiation-government-said  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fukushima-nuclear-planet-released-more-radiation-government-said

            I wont be going away anytime soon as long as nuclear sycophants like you exist. I see you didn’t bother to reply to the BEIR 7 report, is fairly typical of nuclear sycophants.

          • Bob Wallace

             “http://www.ratical.org/radiati… The
            math is the math. You can’t refute it. The world produces the
            radioactive equivalent of 442,000 Hiroshima bombs in fission
            equivalence  of radioactive waste from the world’s 442 commercial
            operating reactors. Drum Roll right back at you”

            You are an imbecile. This material is not feed-stock for weapons proliferation. It may contain the amount of energy of that many bombs, but it cannot be directly used for bombs, instead it is used so that people may live decent and comfortable lives you twit.

            How exactly is nuclear energy poisonous? On a death/kWh produced basis it is safer than natural gas, and even solar PV: http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-source.html

            How many people died in Fukushima now? O yea ZERO.

            Now go away and let the adults talk.

          • Alvin

            Only an imbecile would arrive at your conclusion about fissile material. I can provide you with the definition of equivalence. The equivalence, in the case of the above congressional record, pertains directly to the amount of radioactive waste being generated annually by the world’s commercial reactors expressed in the equivalence of Hiroshima bombs. It is a pretty simple concept that has utterly nothing to do with fissile material.

            You know this, but there you go again with your distractions.

            How many people died as the result of Fukushima. We wont know for 25 – 30 years. Most cancers have 5 – 25 year latency periods after exposure before the cancers emerge. The real question is whether or not we should have technologies that displace hundreds of thousands of people, cause hundreds of billions of dollars in damages and property loss and shut down entire industries when things go awry as they did in Fukushima.

            How many of those 54 Japanese reactors have been operating since Fukushima. What impact has it had on the Japanese economy to have to many eggs in the nuclear energy basket when over a third of you electricity supply has been idled?

            There is plenty of fodder here for you to respond to without your barbaric bullying tactics, distractions and omissions.

          • Bob Wallace

             So what was your point about the waste then? Was it to point out volume? because the volume is actually quite small.

            A report by the World Health Organization states that contraction of cancers as a result of radiation released by the Fukushima Nuclear reactor is predicted to be undetectable compared to norms.

            Sure Fukushima was very costly, but it was an isolated occurrence, and the  benefit of the huge amount of carbon-free electricity the world has gotten from nuclear power over the past decades far outweighs the costs of Fukushima.

            Nuclear power may have saved 1.8 million lives otherwise lost to air-quality ailments:

            Furthermore the circumstance in Fukushima was quite unique = worst case natural disaster + inadequate plant safety (no working backup generator, no sea wall). Modern reactors incorporate passive safety features making them orders of magnitude safer than that involved in Fukushima.

    • http://www.facebook.com/walter.horsting Walter J Horsting

       Having just presented Thorium LFTR to the CA Energy Commission on June 19th.  There was a very hostile to nuclear crowd at the hearing.  With San Onofre, the next target is Diablo Canyon to shut down.  The US needed nuclear weapons in the 1960s and didn’t want to fund the commercial scale Thorium LFTR as it couldn’t produce weapons.  It was a mistake, Molten Salt Reactors are clean, walk away safe and the most efficient source of energy.  It will be needed to replace our aging nuclear fleet and I would hope a greener substitute for bird killing wind power.  http://www.energyfromthorium.com 

      • Alvin

        Promoters of Thorium Reactor Poison Factories have the uncanny ability to ignore the hazards while focusing on the benefits. Not once have we heard from you on the hazards and the fact that these are really U-233 reactors.


        • Bob Wallace

           Dude, you know nothing about the risks of radiation or nuclear fuel supply streams.

          Go learn something or bug off.

          • Alvin

            You have no idea of what I know fella. This is evidenced by your pathetic retort to my comment above because you can’t refute what is in the Guardian Link. This is a public forum. If you don’t like what I have to say, then challenge it. If you can’t, then there must be a reason that is likely related to you acting like a bully or a child or both.

          • Bob Wallace

             Go marry Helen Caldicott you dolt.

            You couldn’t be more in the dark about nuclear energy.

          • Alvin

            What does Helen Caldicott have to do with the technical aspects of the Thorium Reactor Pipe Dream?

            The oldest trick in the nuclear talking points instruction manual is to employ the kill the messenger tactic, especially when you don’t have the ability to kill the message. Your most recent post demonstrates this quite well as does the post that preceded it.

            You are probably too young to remember the: “Where’s the Beef” ads from the 1980′s. Specifically Bob, how am I in the dark.

            This site is usually visited by reasonably intelligent people. How long do you think it will be before they realize that the only thing you have to say is related to the  bullying principals of angry people.

          • Bob Wallace

             What is so hazardous about thorium now?

            How do you propose we create energy for the world all-wise Alvin? or perhaps you think we shouldn’t have electricity?

          • NonaMouse

             It’s my observation that you seem much more confrontational, irrational, and…well, angry than Bob does.  You seem much more like a bully than does Bob.

        • PoloniumMan

          “…and the fact that these are really U-233 reactors.”

          So what? The whole point is to do fission (Th-232 + n -> Pa-233(B-) -> U-233 ->(n,2n)U-232). 

        • Obi Won

          Hey Alvin,
          Just read the comments in your Guardian article. IT is a sham hit piece. LFTR is our best hope. REad more on it.

    • jimhopf

      These things are very much related.  The high costs (due to absurdly strict and onerous regulations) are due to public fear, opposition and pressure (on regulators and politicians).

      The whole incident at San Onofre has no public health or environmental impact.  The fossil fuel generation that is now being used in its place will have a very large, tangible impact, including global warming.

      • Guest

         I agree Jim…I have worked at a nuclear plant and quite a few of the safety procedures do seem absurdly strict or conservative.  If the general public understood the massive safety and security in place at nuclear facilities I believe they would be much more comfortable about it.

    • William Rodgers

      SCE did not “break them” as you suggest.  They went through a modification process with a new style steam generator that has not lived up to its design analysis.

      Unit 2 could have been restarted as soon as its scheduled outage was completed in February 2012. Unit 3 could have been restarted by mid-March 2012. The total cost of the repairs, including purchased replacement power, should have been less than $50 million and been covered by the manufacturer’s warranty

      This was and should have remained a commercial issue between SCE and Mitsubishi once the orginal NRC questions were addressed and the recovery plan was in place.

      The cost of replacing the steam generators became prohibitive after the NRC was forced to address complaints from Sen. Boxer who is an adamant anti-nuclear senator. I say forced but at the time Chairman Jaczko was still in charge and he has finally shown his true anti-nuclear beliefs once he resigned.  So the NRC was not really forced but was driven by its former chairman to push SCE into additional studies which raised the repair costs. 

      Then just before SCE made their decision, when it looked like SONGS would be given permission to restart at 70% power, Sen Boxer stepped in again by forcing the DOJ to review the contract between SCE and Mitsubishi.  Her threats implied that she was seeking crimminal actions against SCE which would have raised the recovery costs even higher.

      So as with Yucca Mt., politics not technical issues drove SONGS into early retirement.

      Now CA is attempting to determine how they will meet their goal of 33% green power requirements since they just forced SCE to remove 2GW’s of non-CO2 emitting power off the grid.

  • Rob Kirkland

    I’m disappointed that you didn’t discuss alternative nuclear technologies, e.g., thorium (LFTR) and fast breeder reactors. They seem to meet all the objections to nuclear power. They burn fuels (like thorium and low grade uranium) that conventional reactors can’t use, they leave little waste and none that can be turned into nuclear weapons. Why the omission? Why are these alternatives always ignored?

    • Bob Wallace

       Because the hurdle of getting the NRC to accept them is so enormous. This shouldn’t be the case but unfortunately it is reality.

      • Chonglynn

        The NRC/energy industry will follow the dollar signs that give them subsidies and big profits.  How could you possibly think the NRC is a hold-up?  The NRC is a cheerleader for the nuclear industry, not any kind of regulatory body. Maybe it was when Peter Bradford was the chairman, but that’s a long time ago now.

  • Kwobie

    please talk about 4th generation nuclear plants and if they are going to or are they being built.
    From what I have read, they seem to be good re use of the waste

  • Sjsgarland

    But where do we store the nuclear waste?  Yucca mountain is not on the table, so what is?  Whose backyard does it go to?

    • http://www.facebook.com/walter.horsting Walter J Horsting

       With Thorium LFTR, no Yucca mountain is needed.  Transatomic power is designing a waste annihilation molten salt reactor that will burn the nuclear fuel waste or our nuclear fleet.

      • Chonglynn

        If it’s true that no Yucca Mt. is needed, it would equally be true that no White Mts. of NH would remain if we do thorium reactors. The Whites are beautiful, alive, restorative, awesome.  To waste them would be okay only with someone who is blind to nature’s worth.  Must be you live indoors and also in the confines of your hand-held devices?

        • Obi Won

          BElieve enough Th is already mined – sitting in “waste” piles – to power earth for thousand years.

  • Bill

    Are the proposed nuclear plants economically viable without any limitations to liability in the case of an accident?  Are they economically viable in our post 911 society when security costs are added?

    • http://www.facebook.com/walter.horsting Walter J Horsting

       Thorium LFTR can’t melt down or blow up, due to its low pressure design, walk away safe gravity freeze plug design.  All of this was worked out in the 196os at ORNL.

    • jimhopf

      Would fossil fuels be economically viable if they weren’t allowed to pollute the environment (i.e., use the atmosphere as a toxic waste dump) for free?  Or if they were require to completely contain all wastes/pollutants the way nuclear is?

      Fossil fuels “free pollution” subsidy is orders of magnitude larger than any liability limitation subsidy for nuclear.

  • sincere_listenerviewer

    Aw Shucks!  I’m a new listener still missing Neil Cohen and Talk of the Nation.  Your treatment of the nuclear power issue was such a green wash and so one-sided.  And the interviewer wasn’t well informed on the topic either — so lots of softball questions were asked.  Please respect your listeners by presenting both sides of an issue and by carefully researching issues in advance of interviews.  

    So far I am not impressed with this replacement for Talk of the Nation.  I’ll give you a few more chances, but please live up to your audiences’ expectations of good journalism that reveals truth and provides new knowledge.   Nuclear power technology is inherently deadly, poisonous for thousands of years and only viable with heavy government subsidies and secrecy.  The accident at Fukushima again revealed the inherent hubris and carelessness of humans and our inability to safely use this technology.  The extensive p.r. campaign currently run by corporate and academic nuclear supporters, aimed to sooth our concerns and convince us to spend more tax money on these dangerous power stations, was given an unfortunate boost by this low quality interview.      

    • Paul Davis

      Read my comment further down.  The only way to get a fair comparison is to compare to real production, not fantasy perfection. 

    • jimhopf

      I’m not impressed by your “analysis”.  Characterising nuclear as inherently deady is demonstrably false, when the data/record clearly show it to be the safest major energy source, based on a 50+ year operating history.

  • Greg Miller

    Just listened to the poor infomercial (Not a discussion) on nuclear power.  A good discussion of energy production and usage (not only nuclear power) would include cost and many issues below that you failed to discuss:  Centralized vs decentralized energy systems, and impact on the nation.  National and local system security costs and risk factors  National and local system vulnerability costs of terrorism, political unrest, or other disasters  Initial system construction costs, funding, and sources  System failure repair time frames and consequences  Annual system fuel costs to cover the exploration, collection/mining, refining/processing, transportation, energy conversion/usage, and waste disposal  Reliance of one energy system on energy from another system/s (eg. diesel for mining equip)  Salvage value and environmental restoration costs associated with each energy system  Overall cost to the nation, corporation, and private citizen of each energy system option including all of the above costs.

    • Chonglynn

      I wish you could have been on the radio performance with the pro-nuke guy from M.I.T.  He wants it to be so simple, and it isn’t.  He’s a mouth for the energy industry, for sure.  I always liked the idea of science, that as soon as one feels firmly about an idea or stance, one should begin picking it apart.  Obviously the M.I.T. physicist isn’t that kind of scientist.

  • Greg Miller

    Again.  Just listened to the poor infomercial (Not a discussion) on nuclear power.  A good discussion of energy production and usage (not only nuclear power) would include cost and many issues below that you failed to discuss:

     Centralized vs decentralized energy systems, and impact on the nation.
     National and local system security costs and risk factors.
     National and local system vulnerability costs of terrorism, political unrest, or other disasters.
     Initial system construction costs, funding, and sources.
     System failure repair time frames and consequences.
     Annual system fuel costs to cover the exploration, collection/mining, refining/processing, transportation, energy conversion/usage, and waste disposal.
     Reliance of one energy system on energy from another system/s (eg. diesel for mining equip).
     Salvage value and environmental restoration costs associated with each energy system.
     Overall cost to the nation, corporation, and private citizen of each energy system option including all of the above costs.

    • jimhopf

      Under any such thorough and objective evaluation, nuclear would flourish.  It’s closest competition (in terms of objective merit) would be gas.  Wind would end up contributing some in certain good locations (e.g., the Great Plains).  Coal would suffer tremendously.  Solar wouldn’t go very far either, at least not yet (due to high cost).

  • Alvin

    This is the most appalling example yet of how NPR has completely sold out to the nuclear power industry. NPR wouldn’t have the temerity to put an opposing view of nuclear power on the air at the same time as Professor Lester. Hence, there was no ability to have a forum to refute the many half truths and omissions that were bellowed by Prof. Lester.

    There is simply no way that new nuclear power plants can come on line fast enough to make a dent in climate change due to the long lead times to build power plants. But more importantly, there isn’t enough capital in the world to build sufficient nuclear power plants to counter climate change. The two power plants he referenced in Georgia would not be built with massive federal loan guarantees or the outright beating the ratepayers  of Georgia are taking and will take with the repeal of Construction Work In Progress (CWIP) by the Georgia Legislature, which allows the utility to now bill/bilk the ratepayers for the construction costs before the plants produce one watt of power.

    New nuclear power cannot nor will it ever exist without massive government subsidies throughout the nuclear fuel cycle and with liability insurance. The $8 billion dollar loan guarantee and CWIP offers no constraints on cost overruns, which has plagued every reactor ever built in the U.S.. The plants costs have mushroomed from $660 million to over $14 billion and growing. If the plant is never completed, the taxpayers and ratepayers will still be on the hook for the accumulated costs and loan default.

    Fukushima is a glaring example of putting too many of our energy eggs into one basket. The total Fukushima costs will exceed $150 billion. This does not include the lost revenue form all of the Fukushima reactors or the 54 shuttered Japanese nuclear power plants as a result of Fukushima. How many shocks to their economy is Japan willing to suffer before they will permanently shutter all of their nuclear facilities?

    When all of the costs for nuclear power are revealed to the public, it will answer with a resounding no. Another major accident that displaces 100,000′s of thousands of people is not an if it will happen, but rather a when will it happen. Investing in energy efficiency, super efficient combined heat power can have an immediate and direct impact on climate change with the least amount of cost. Prof. Lester is wrong when he says energy efficiency cannot keep pace with population growth. Prof. Lester, we waste better than 80 percent of the electricity we produce and use. NPR, please stop producing one sided stories.  

  • Paul

    An unbalanced “public radio” infomercial on dirty, dangerous and expensive nuclear power.
    Disappointing that the  interview does not get at the many core issues that in fact preclude continued consideration of nuclear power as a climate change low carbon option.  Climate change policy needs to be enacted now, yesterday, and this discourse is still about MIT’s wish list for nuclear-pie-in-the-sky….  lots of false promises here like smaller modular reactors as  another “too cheap to meter” sell that can be accomplished quicker and safer.
    Big box stores for nukes. Right…

  • advocate22

    If nuclear energy is being “fired up”, it is because of  those who have to gain from it are FIRING it up, not because of some sudden new discovery of its safety or new ability to deal with nuclear waste. As usual, the Publics “attention” is being manipulated, it is a commodity on the market accessible by monied interests.

  • Bob Wallace

     This is a good discussion, it is commendable to ask such questions because this kind of vigilance is needed. One can’t truly feel comfortable without doing all of the research. I don’t expect you to simply rely on me or another group to say “don’t worry we’ve got it covered”. There are many watchdog groups within and surrounding the nuclear industry and I do not believe there is a more highly standardized industry in the world than the Nuclear power industry. I recommend researching the differences between nuclear isotopes, the processing involved, and the success rates among countries that have attempted to proliferate. Here is an introductory piece:

    Unfortunately the threat of nuclear proliferation (the know-how and physical capability) will exist indefinitely among highly sophisticated groups whether we continue to generate energy through nuclear fission or not. The US let the cat out of the bag in WWII (had they not it would have surely been discovered later) and general theory behind nuclear bombs is no secret. While you argue that commercialization of nuclear energy leads to greater risk of proliferation, I feel that the opposite is actually true:

    The commercialization of Nuclear Energy has made Uranium as a commodity much more valuable than it ever would have been otherwise. The inherent value of Uranium Ore allows for tight surveillance of reserves that would have never existed otherwise. The immediately accessible reserves of Uranium are now well-known and manned because of the demand for Uranium. Without such an economic incentive to monitor this resource it could much more easily be accessed by the wrong people, and smuggling a small amount of ore  is not only very difficult, but it is not sufficient to create a weapon.

    Furthermore, the streams of uranium ore that are accessible without sophisticated mining capabilities are dwindling. The Nuclear energy industry increasingly looks forward to a future (perhaps 50 to 100 years off) in which the uranium fuel cycle is closed by merit of the fast-neutron reactor. This type of proven reactor breeds non-fissile spent fuel, and in some designs does not need to be refueled for decades leaving all fission products inside the reactor totally inaccessible. The spent fuel used to start the reaction as well as the greatly reduced resultant waste, are not fit for proliferation use.

    Most importantly the abundance of energy is the primary component that can greatly reduce the power struggle among nations. More simply said, nuclear energy can provide economic benefits that avoid international conflicts and the desire to proliferate weapons in the first place. 

    We aren’t actually sure whether Iran truly has the intent to develop nuclear weapons or if their claim that they seek only nuclear energy is true. The problem with Iran is that they are the one outlier among the countries seeking to be involved in Nuclear that hasn’t gone through US, France, Russia, Korea, or Japan to do it. Iran, like Egypt, has substantial reserves of its own, but unlike Egypt it is not working with an outside country to mine it. The equipment required to refine Uranium for energy purposes is quite different than that used for weapons, both in scale and end product, so I am not sure it can be said that their knowledge of nuclear energy has benefited any real or imagined weapons aspirations they have.

    Nuclear energy is and will continue to be very costly in the US. But as a clean energy option it is still arguably the best. And China is constructing reactors in partnership with Westinghouse for a fraction of the cost of a reactor built on US soil.

    As energy demand grows in the developing world heavy use of Nuclear energy is simply an inevitability. Much of the middle East (UAE, Saudi, Egypt, Turkey, Jordan) have already set aside funding or signed contracts for plants, South Africa looks to build several plants, Vietnam, Thailand, and obviously China and India have large nuclear plans.

    So sorry for the long-winded response, but my informed opinion in short is this: The threat of nuclear bombs is not increased by the prevalence of nuclear energy, but the threat of climate change is sharply decreased by the prevalence of nuclear energy.

    Let’s hope that those intelligent enough to construct such sophisticated and destructive weapons are also enlightened enough to see absolutely no place for them on our great planet.

  • Rwatson

    Does the article’s author really think it is “smoke” eminating from the Three Mile Island nuclear plant’s cooling towers?  Is this yet another example of how poorly educated we are?

    • Matt

       I thought the same thing.  That comment really shows how much the author knows, or doesn’t know.  It is, of course, only water vapor.

      • X-Ray

        And the water vapor doesn’t even come from the nuclear plant.

  • Paul Gunter

    Well Bob, I am quite familiar with this  typical response from nuclear apologists such as yourself despite your  high horse claim to research, science and what not. 

    If science were the driving factor, why did the US government spend decades and more than $9 billion characterizing this single geological site in Nevada. That was  intended to be a political mugging, Were science the driving factor, several site characterizations would have been occurring to actually gather evidence for the best of the worst. The nuclear lobby, Congress and the DOE tried that up until the Nuclear Waste Policy Act as Amended in 1987. Being nominated as a “Nuclear sacrifice zone”  is not particularly popular. I know, because I opposed two such sites in crystalline rock formations in New Hampshire (“The Granite State”) and underneath Sebago Lake in Maine in 1985-1986, That was before wikipedia as you infer.

    I can point to a couple of impracticalities for Yucca Mountain like the Lathrop Wells cinder cones,  those young volcanoes within ten miles of the Yucca Mt. and the criss cross of active earthquake faults  that evidence volcanic ash like the Ghost Dance fault line that runs right through the repository site..  Rebut if you care to spare the time but the facts remain that Yucca was singled out as the primary site because being declared a “national sacrifice area” for nuclear waste is not popular in most US neighborhoods.

    To further respond, the  US has over 67,000 metric tons of high-level nuclear waste,just in irradiated fuel assemblies.  The vast majority of this highly toxic  inventory sis stored underwater in high-density storage racks. at reactor sites. Tens of thousands of tons of HLRW sits in elevated storage ponds six to ten stories up in the reactor buildings above and outside any rated containment structure. 

    • Tony Montagna

       Well, so with all of the geological insite, what is your point really?

      How are these fault-lines to make Yucca storage unsafe when the USGS has reported to the contrary? What is the disaster scenario which will cause even 1 casualty from storing waste at the Yucca repository?

      Much of the spent fuel is being put into dry-cask storage. Yes 67,000 metric tons would be accurate, but again what is your point? This really isn’t a large number at all when one considers that it is the result of providing 1/5th the electricity of the US for several decades. Also considering that the volume would easily fit within one industrial size building, I’m really not seeing your point?

      So what is your point?

  • Michelle Belanger

    Richard Lester said at the end of this interview what he should have said at the beginning- it is his opinion that we have to choose between global warming and a resurgence of nuclear power. This is a false choice. I choose C, neither A nor B. He discredited his own assertion when he answered the question from Jeremy about how California was going to make up the loss of power from the nuclear plants it was closing. He said “well we can HOPE that there will be a slower increase in the need for new power”. Hope is not a plan. There are so many things we can do to make sure the need for additional power is reduced. The Empire State Building was remodeled in 2009 with $13.8 million invested directly in energy efficiency upgrades. The Johnson Controls company guaranteed the amount of electricity savings  by promising to pay the difference if the efficiency measures did not save as much as they were calculated to do. That’s not hope, it’s action. Effective action. Two years in and every target has been not only met, but surpassed. The payback time on the initial investment was to be three years and is ahead of schedule. I 9 years, the building owners will have more than tripled their investment. Here is an article if you’d like to know more- http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/empire-state-building-efficiency-retrofit-model-rolls-out-across-us-40580  This is one of many examples of how we can radically reduce our energy needs, not by hope, but by action and sensible investment. This is one of several objections I had to the views expressed by Mr Lester. I hope you will find someone who can speak articulately about a new energy future (and present) without trading global warming for the equally bad set of problems we would get if we throw away our investment on the nuclear industry. Some good places to find people include the Rocky Mountain Institute in CO, NRDC, Malkin Properties or the Clinton Initiative. It would take billions of dollars of public money and/or cash from utility customers to build up a substantial new nuclear industry. We could spend this money so much more wisely- and we must.

  • Rogerw3800

    Smoke? Really…

  • tailing1010

    Ah…the nuclear issue in America!!

    The debate continues.

    Last week a train in Lac Magantic, Quebec carried oil derailed vaporizing at last count 20 souls. This tragedy could have been avoided had the status quo elites in Gov’t and hydrocarbon energy industry required tanker cars the same ‘bulletproof’ design nuclear spent fuel containers & cars regulated to high standards. It’s typical the Hydrocarbon industry always gets ‘a pass’ in their operations which after all creates more pollution and deaths.
    At some point fake green ‘low power’ shills will have to acknowledge their low power energy gap will gladly be filled by the Hydrocarbon industry which only contributes to the current higher ratepayer energy dystopia we suffer under. 

  • X-Ray

    We are building two (2) new nuclear plants. China is building thirty (30)! The ones we are operating are older designs, ending their service lives. But we are not building replacements of the newer and safer designs. Sad.

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