Nuclear power: yes or no?

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Base load power generation

Coal
0
No votes
Gas
0
No votes
Nuclear fission
15
65%
Nuclear fusion
4
17%
Battery storage and renewables
3
13%
Other (?)
1
4%
 
Total votes: 23

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kestasjk
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Nuclear power: yes or no?

#1 Post by kestasjk » Sat Oct 23, 2021 3:11 am

These days I think there's a pretty solid scientific consensus that nuclear power is one of the safest forms of power generation compared to the alternatives, and doesn't put out greenhouse gases.

The big 3 nuclear accidents we all know; Chernobyl, 3 Mile Island, and Fukushima, but 3 Mile Island and Fukushima didn't have any deaths directly related to the nuclear release, and even worst-case estimates put the indirect death toll in the thousands. Chernobyl was by far the worst, having direct deaths due to nuclear positioning and releasing huge amounts of radiation, certainly thousands died and perhaps tens of thousands.

But when compared to all other base-load generation sources it has the fewest deaths for power generated. You could hold all the nuclear waste your power use generates in your lifetime in your (lead-gloved) hand.

This is before even considering Gen IV reactors, which are made to be inherently safe so that any failure won't cause a breach.


I live in West Australia; a state with heaps of uranium, no proliferation or terror or instability concerns, a practically limitless amount of totally uninhabited desert which hasn't had major geological activity for hundreds of millions of years (this is where the Brits perfected their nukes), and the resources and skill base to do nuclear.

Despite that we still get the vast bulk of our energy from coal, and everyone here expects wind and solar to power everything soon which it simply can't: A 1gWh battery could power New York for less than 5 minutes, and based on the $170m cost of our 190MWh battery farm by Tesla in Sourth Australia it'd cost 12 hours / 5 minutes * (190MWh / $170M) * 1gWH = $160bn to run New York overnight while the sun is down. Battery production on that absolutely immense scale would also be an environmental nightmare, requiring ridiculous amounts of lithium.

So people here are very worried about climate change, but they want renewables *only* because they a) think nuclear is more dangerous than it is and b) think Elon Musk is going to solve the storage problem any day now if he hasn't already.

This means we're going to be using coal here for a long time to come even though we have a safe, relatively affordable carbon neutral base-load power generation technology that's available, tried and tested right now!

If it were up to me I'd open up a massive underground nuclear waste storage facility in mid-WA, under some salt-lake or some such, with a dedicated rail and port link to the coast, and sell long-term nuclear waste storage to any country that wants it.


Wondering what the opinions are around here? Are you worried that we're going to glow green and fish will have more eyes if we go to nuclear? Do you think the miracle battery is around the corner? Or are you prepared to wait for fusion, which will take decades and still generate long-term nuclear waste?
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Re: Nuclear power: yes or no?

#2 Post by Octavious » Sat Oct 23, 2021 9:39 am

Your accident list is a little light. Windscale had the potential to be very grim and was only just prevented from being so, and that one the Russians kept quiet for years was quite nasty. Having said that, most of the accidents occurred from the age where nuclear power plants were essentially factories for creating weapons grade material that happened to produce electricity, rather than the plants that generate electricity and also happen to create weapons grade material that we have today. Things have become far safer.

But yeah, if we're serious about climate change we're going to have to embrace nuclear more than we currently do. The German knee jerk reaction from nuclear to coal in recent years has been a disaster for European environmental policy.
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Re: Nuclear power: yes or no?

#3 Post by Octavious » Sun Oct 24, 2021 9:05 am

A fun fact on nuclear power stations that isn't widely talked about is their environmental impact. The cooling systems suck in and kill fish. Lots of fish. Millions and millions of fish every year.
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Re: Nuclear power: yes or no?

#4 Post by Jamiet99uk » Sun Oct 24, 2021 10:52 am

Octavious wrote:
Sun Oct 24, 2021 9:05 am
A fun fact on nuclear power stations that isn't widely talked about is their environmental impact. The cooling systems suck in and kill fish. Lots of fish. Millions and millions of fish every year.
It is apparently possible to mitigate that, with the right protection mechanisms, but you're right that is an issue.
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Re: Nuclear power: yes or no?

#5 Post by Octavious » Sun Oct 24, 2021 11:21 am

To some extent, yes. The mitigation being talked about regarding Hinkley C back when I left the environment agency had the potential, if it worked as hoped, to limit fish kill from a great many million a year to just quite a few million a year, although the last I heard Electricité de France were fighting tooth and nail to try and avoid having to do that.
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Re: Nuclear power: yes or no?

#6 Post by mitomon » Sun Oct 24, 2021 3:46 pm

Sure they kill fish, but don't coal plants kill native wildllife as well? I don't have a source, but remember reading they even killed more birds that wind turbines do. Gen IV reactors are definitely the way to go for now. Fusion is making progress, but I think its biggest use right now is to dispel the notion that nuclear can't be safe.
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Re: Nuclear power: yes or no?

#7 Post by Jamiet99uk » Sun Oct 24, 2021 4:08 pm

Well what coal power plants do, you see, is they kill every living thing on Earth if we don't damn well shut them all down.

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Re: Nuclear power: yes or no?

#8 Post by kestasjk » Sun Oct 24, 2021 4:27 pm

Damn I’m surprised to get so many people in general agreement .. here in Australia where conditions are ideal it’s quite rare to run into someone who thinks nuclear is a sensible option, everyone thinks 100% renewables. That’s encouraging

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Re: Nuclear power: yes or no?

#9 Post by Wusti » Sun Oct 24, 2021 10:06 pm

You have to be kidding right? In the Australian context there is no value at all in Nuclear. In our context it costs 3x the equivalent coal fired power generation capability, and who in their right mind thinks that the downside risks inherent in Nuclear fission are worth taking just to turn on a fucking light bulb?

Australia has the lowest population density of any significantly populated continent, and we also have the highest availability of literally every energy source, from coal and gas to Uranium (and Thorium if you want to go there), as well as vast uninhabited landscapes for wind and solar, some geothermal and tidal as well.

Nuclear may work and be justified in other countries without our unique comparative advantages - but to bring nuclear energy to Australia is utterly ridiculous far Right Wing bullshit propaganda. Nothing more. There is no argument that could ever support it here.

I'm from Sydney and live within sight of our only current nuclear reactors by the way (medical isotope production and scientific applications only). I am also good friend with some of the top ranking scientists who work there who agree with my analysis 100%.

Australia's future will be renewables, storage and hydrogen (stored as ammonia). Nuclear has zero place in it because literally every other option here is cheaper and safer.

That does not necessarily hold true for those nations without our energy riches.

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Re: Nuclear power: yes or no?

#10 Post by Jamiet99uk » Sun Oct 24, 2021 10:16 pm

Wusti wrote:
Sun Oct 24, 2021 10:06 pm
You have to be kidding right? In the Australian context there is no value at all in Nuclear. In our context it costs 3x the equivalent coal fired power generation capability, and who in their right mind thinks that the downside risks inherent in Nuclear fission are worth taking just to turn on a fucking light bulb?

Australia has the lowest population density of any significantly populated continent, and we also have the highest availability of literally every energy source, from coal and gas to Uranium (and Thorium if you want to go there), as well as vast uninhabited landscapes for wind and solar, some geothermal and tidal as well.

Nuclear may work and be justified in other countries without our unique comparative advantages - but to bring nuclear energy to Australia is utterly ridiculous far Right Wing bullshit propaganda. Nothing more. There is no argument that could ever support it here.

I'm from Sydney and live within sight of our only current nuclear reactors by the way (medical isotope production and scientific applications only). I am also good friend with some of the top ranking scientists who work there who agree with my analysis 100%.

Australia's future will be renewables, storage and hydrogen (stored as ammonia). Nuclear has zero place in it because literally every other option here is cheaper and safer.

That does not necessarily hold true for those nations without our energy riches.
Coal is not an option and you shouldn't talk about it as if it is.

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Re: Nuclear power: yes or no?

#11 Post by Tjappator » Sun Oct 24, 2021 10:55 pm

If the goal is to become climate neutral as quickly and as safely as possible, I personally don't believe this is possible without the use of nuclear power. We simply need it to bridge the gap between now and fully renewable. Sadly wind and solar energy just are not reliable (and not cost-effective) enough yet to power the grid, even more so since going renewable will increase the energy demand (since cars will become electric and presumably factories will also have to become electric).

My pro's vs cons for nuclear.
Pro's:
-Practically zero carbon emissions (building the things take up some).
-Very safe (lowest deaths per GWH produced by far).
-Low footprint (amount of land needed vs other renewables)

Con:
-Quite costly (mainly due to high safety requirements and no subsidies, looking at you solar and wind energy....)

Other "Con's" that I do not agree with:
-Nuclear waste, the amount of nuclear waste compared to the amount of CO2 produced to generate the same amount of energy is almost negligible. I believe waste the size of an apple is produced to power a fairly large city for a year.
-Accidents! Ohw the lovely trope, simple statistics are against this. This is pure emotion, it is the equivelant of being fine with 100.000+ car accidents each year, but not fine with one airplane crash resulting in 300 deaths. Nuclear power has one of the fewest deaths per GWH produced if not the fewest. Have you ever considered a Dam breach? We still build and use those! :)

For my country (the Netherlands) the sentiment is slowly shifting from con-Nuclear to pro-Nuclear. 4 years ago during elections, only 1 party was pro, a couple were neutral and most were con, this year the ratio was more equal.
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Re: Nuclear power: yes or no?

#12 Post by Octavious » Mon Oct 25, 2021 2:24 am

Jamiet99uk wrote:
Sun Oct 24, 2021 10:16 pm
Coal is not an option and you shouldn't talk about it as if it is.
Clearly coal is an option, and one that a great many parts of the world are opting for. That you don't think it's a good option doesn't change that fact. Indeed, if it was being used at far smaller scales than today it's a perfectly viable option, and has the potential to be a viable option at larger scales if carbon capture is ever developed enough to be both effective and affordable.
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Re: Nuclear power: yes or no?

#13 Post by Randomizer » Mon Oct 25, 2021 3:02 am

Octavious wrote:
Sun Oct 24, 2021 9:05 am
A fun fact on nuclear power stations that isn't widely talked about is their environmental impact. The cooling systems suck in and kill fish. Lots of fish. Millions and millions of fish every year.
This is true of regular buildings. For instance Trump's hotel and tower in Chicago takes in water and fish for heating and cooling from the Chicago River and discharges hotter water. Trump's company is being fined for failure to renew the permit after it expired 4 years ago.

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/env ... story.html
https://therealdeal.com/chicago/2021/08 ... ater-mess/

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Re: Nuclear power: yes or no?

#14 Post by Wusti » Mon Oct 25, 2021 4:15 am

Jamiet99uk wrote:
Sun Oct 24, 2021 10:16 pm
Wusti wrote:
Sun Oct 24, 2021 10:06 pm

Australia's future will be renewables, storage and hydrogen (stored as ammonia). Nuclear has zero place in it because literally every other option here is cheaper and safer.
Coal is not an option and you shouldn't talk about it as if it is.
You seem to have missed that paragraph. The coal comparison was purely for the price objection - not to support it as a long term energy source in Australia despite our stupidly massive reserves of the black stuff.

Just a note on the storage side - some very interesting start ups are playing with "lifted storage" where instead of requiring hydro or battery storage, you set up a tower with turbine and a massive block of concrete that excess energy lifts, and then outputs the energy by letting it fall again. I haven't seen this tested at large scale yet but it makes a lot more sense than battery arrays and pumped hydro with vastly lower environmental impacts.

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Re: Nuclear power: yes or no?

#15 Post by Octavious » Mon Oct 25, 2021 5:32 am

Randomizer wrote:
Mon Oct 25, 2021 3:02 am
Octavious wrote:
Sun Oct 24, 2021 9:05 am
A fun fact on nuclear power stations that isn't widely talked about is their environmental impact. The cooling systems suck in and kill fish. Lots of fish. Millions and millions of fish every year.
This is true of regular buildings. For instance Trump's hotel and tower in Chicago takes in water and fish for heating and cooling from the Chicago River and discharges hotter water. Trump's company is being fined for failure to renew the permit after it expired 4 years ago.

https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/env ... story.html
https://therealdeal.com/chicago/2021/08 ... ater-mess/
Indeed, but the scale is somewhat different. Trump's hotel takes in a hefty 20 million gallons a day. Hinkley C, by way of contrast, has capacity for over 8 billion gallons a day.
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Re: Nuclear power: yes or no?

#16 Post by Octavious » Mon Oct 25, 2021 12:44 pm

As an update, I've been reading through the decision document for Hinkley's abstraction permit. The average daily flow for Hinkley C is calculated to be 125 cumecs, which translates (to use the eldritch measuring preferences of the Yanky newspapers) into around 3 billion gallons a day. Naturally the maximum flow will be somewhat more, and the maximum capacity as previously stated is just over 8 billion.
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Re: Nuclear power: yes or no?

#17 Post by Yonni » Mon Oct 25, 2021 1:24 pm

Building new nuclear power reactors is not a reasonable choice for replacing the hydrocarbon burning plants in a timescale that is appropriate for the climate crises. As others have pointed out, nuclear has a very strong (if maybe headline catching) safety history and is miles ahead of gas and coal in terms of lifetime carbon emissions.

However, the (maybe justified) regulatory costs (in terms of time and money) is enormous. Builds are almost always over budget and behind schedule. We cannot plan on nuclear power at the expense of planning for the quicker deployment of renewables and other alternative power sources to gas and coal.
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Re: Nuclear power: yes or no?

#18 Post by Tjappator » Mon Oct 25, 2021 7:16 pm

Yonni wrote:
Mon Oct 25, 2021 1:24 pm
Building new nuclear power reactors is not a reasonable choice for replacing the hydrocarbon burning plants in a timescale that is appropriate for the climate crises. As others have pointed out, nuclear has a very strong (if maybe headline catching) safety history and is miles ahead of gas and coal in terms of lifetime carbon emissions.

However, the (maybe justified) regulatory costs (in terms of time and money) is enormous. Builds are almost always over budget and behind schedule. We cannot plan on nuclear power at the expense of planning for the quicker deployment of renewables and other alternative power sources to gas and coal.
If I may ask, what is your timescale of reducing the carbon emissions and going away from coal and gas power plants?

Food for thought perhaps: I agree that they are very costly, but what is the price of a nuclear power plant compared to the cost of fighting the effects of climate change, and the medical costs of the air pollution of fossil fuel power plants?

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Re: Nuclear power: yes or no?

#19 Post by Yonni » Mon Oct 25, 2021 8:01 pm

Tjappator, I think the timescale is 'as soon as possible'. The most immediate impact can be done with renewables that are deployable much, much quicker. I have nothing against building more nuclear plants (fwiw, I worked as a nuclear engineer for a few years before changing fields). I just think it's completely different conversation.

One question is, what can we do now to make the biggest impact on reducing the carbon emissions of energy production. The answer to that is definitely not nuclear. The other question is, what should our energy mix look like in the long run. That answer may include nuclear.
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Re: Nuclear power: yes or no?

#20 Post by Octavious » Mon Oct 25, 2021 8:17 pm

Yonni wrote:
Mon Oct 25, 2021 8:01 pm
Tjappator, I think the timescale is 'as soon as possible'. The most immediate impact can be done with renewables that are deployable much, much quicker. I have nothing against building more nuclear plants (fwiw, I worked as a nuclear engineer for a few years before changing fields). I just think it's completely different conversation.

One question is, what can we do now to make the biggest impact on reducing the carbon emissions of energy production. The answer to that is definitely not nuclear. The other question is, what should our energy mix look like in the long run. That answer may include nuclear.
One immediate thing you definitely can do with nuclear, of course, is not to turn them off like the Germans and Japanese have been doing.
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