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babaji's avatar

How do you feel about Nuclear Power Plants?

Asked by babaji (1440points) February 20th, 2010

Apparently the US is going to start building Nuclear Power Plants, according to President Obama. Do you feel this a good direction to take, and is it really necessary? What about future Generations having to deal with the humongus amount of Waste that will be overwhelming and that can’t really be dealt with? Does this concern you?

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20 Answers

laureth's avatar

Recent question asked about the subject, which may be interesting.

Also, NPR feature about nuclear power that I heard this morning.

Also, “starting” to build them is problematic, mostly since we started a while back. ;)

ucme's avatar

They tend to “fall out” their pots.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Having worked at power plants of all kinds, including coal, oil, gas and nuclear, I’m most strongly in favor of nuclear.

Another minority I belong to, I suppose…

Tenpinmaster's avatar

I think it is an excellent idea. Nuclear is a great source of energy and although like fossil fuels, Uranium 235 is a finite source, It will do as an alternative until we can come up with a more sustainable source to replace coal. And yes… toxic waste is also an issue. We need to come up with better ways to store / contain / or eliminate the by product of nuclear use.

Rarebear's avatar

If I had a choice between living next to a nuclear power plant and a coal power plant, I’d choose the nuclear power plant any day.

PacificRimjob's avatar

I like how it’s enabling me to use my computer right now.

UScitizen's avatar

Nuclear power is the ONLY viable option for the next 5 decades. We have no choice. Let’s get on with it. We need 100 nuclear plants built in the next 10 years, in the USA alone. China and India are already building many nuclear power plants. We must catch up with them.

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

We should have a comprehensive waste treatment/disposal policy in place first.

Then we should have a clear notion of how to make it as safe, cost effective and sustainable from domestic resources alone as is possible.

joeysefika's avatar

A fantastic resource, clean energy that has been practically disaster free over the ½ century of its use worldwide.
For all those who bash the by products of Uranium 235, i.e. Toxic waste and Plutonium that can be cannibalised into weapons, read into thorium, a relatively unused radioactive isotope that doesn’t produce as much waste, is safer to operate as it needs less energy to start a reaction, and it doesn’t decay into plutonium. If the government get there act together and use this it would work wonders for our rising energy crisis

Adagio's avatar

As someone 100% opposed to nuclear arms, I cannot decide whether nuclear power plants are simply the thin end of the wedge, although my gut instinct is to steer clear of nuclear power… I suspect this issue is going to receive a lot of global attention from now on in.

mattbrowne's avatar

It’s only a temporary solution. Fuel is limited. And there’s no satisfactory solution for dealing with nuclear waste.

Adagio's avatar

I’m glad George Bush didn’t write this question, it would read instead: How do you feel about Nucular Power Plants? god I hate that!

jerv's avatar

I think that they are a great idea overall and wish people would actually learn about them as opposed to just assume that they will make people sick and poison the Earth. Of all of the people I have heard criticize nuclear power, I can’t recall a single one that actually knew how a reactor operated. Start by reading “this thread” from a while ago.

@mattbrowne I guess you are not familiar with the new generation of reactors then. Things have come a long way since the 1970s. We now have reactors that can use the waste from other reactors as fuel. Then again, you and I have been through this before (see link above) ;)

mattbrowne's avatar

@jerv – Yes, we have. Not all of the waste can be used as fuel. Uranium supplies remain limited. All the new plants do is buy us a little time (tactical solution). In 2050 all of the 9 billion people would like to be middle class like you and me. And they got every right. We see this happening in China and India today already. Growing middle class enjoying air conditioners and all the other good stuff. We can’t drill that much and build hundreds of nuclear power plants to meet this demand. The strategic solution is green technologies.

jerv's avatar

@mattbrowne We can’t turn 780% of the land area on Earth over to energy production either, so solar and wind are self-limiting.

Unless you can make a solar cell that can harness 25,000% of the sunlight that falls to the planet’s surface, solar isn’t viable in the long run except as a supplement.

If wind becomes feasible to supply a substantial portion of our power needs without taking up hundreds of thousands of square miles then wind speeds will be high enough that we will all be living underground anyways.

Even if we make things more efficient to cut down the energy-consumption-per-capita (which we should do anyways), in the long run we need something with a higher energy-per-area than many “green” sources can offer. Sure, we can and should supplement it with sources such as solar, but in the long run our best bet is to continue refining nuclear power. We’ll have to use it anyways, so we may as well engineer the flaws out of it.

Hell, if we can get fusion going, we won’t need the Uranium or other radiologicals anyways, and if we run out of Hydrogen (the second most abundant thing in the Universe, after Stupidity) then we have other problems! Or we could just bypass fusion and go straight to harnessing the power of ignorance and stupidity….

mattbrowne's avatar

@jerv – Green technologies include ideas yet to be born. Why not have artificial photosynthesis devices floating in the oceans? Perhaps not worth pursuing. There are millions of ideas yet to be born. As long as we cling to drilling and traditional fission scientific talent and creativity won’t get nurtured in the way it should be. If we just hope fusion is the only way out, same problem. We should put all our new eggs in one basket. We should also become far more creative about energy efficiency. Huge potential there too.

Besides, your numbers about the solar output reaching Earth do not seem accurate.

jerv's avatar

@mattbrowne As it stands, our needs are such that we need to focus on improving stuff we already know works and unfortunately cannot afford the luxury researching things that are too theoretical. Besides, if we turn the oceans into a big photocell, then what sort of impact will that have on the whales and other ocean life?

And yes, I exaggerated a little bit on the solar figures for dramatic effect since I didn’t have the exact numbers on hand, so I figured inflating the numbers ad absurdium would get the gist of my point across without quoting inaccurate figures. Last I checked though, solar and wind still fared poorly in their energy-per-acre compared to other sources, so my point still stands.

However, unlike many other technologies, they are effective enough to warrant further research/development. Right now, solar is best used as a supplement to reduce the power needed from fossil fuels and other sources, but you really can’t run even a house on them very well…. yet.

Personally, I would love to see an electric car that can totally recharge itself from built-in solar cells while I am at work. Then again, I tend to wind up with a lot of 2nd and 3rd shift jobs so it would have to have enough battery to get me home again without a recharge so it can “refill” while I sleep. Off the top of my head, that’d be around 10–15KWH each way, so I would need more cells than can fit on my roof (or even the roof of my house) to recharge in a normal workshift…. using current technology.

laureth's avatar

Something people often don’t think about is the subsidy that oil provides for other energy sources like solar and nuclear. I’ve heard that the energy ratio of oil put into making a solar panel compared to the energy that the solar panel will provide for the life of the unit is approaching 1:1, or, in other words, we get as much solar energy as we put oil energy into making them.

That’s a transitional source for sure, meaning that the useful life of the solar panel will be longer than if we just burn that oil right now, but what happens when the solar panel is gone and we’re still at a place where oil is too expensive to be practical? How much oil energy goes into the building, maintenance, etc., of a nuclear plant? Of a wind turbine?

mattbrowne's avatar

@jerv – Electric cars won’t get better unless we get started now and give engineers input how they work in the real world. Same for photovoltaics, wind turbine and all the rest. Waiting for prime time won’t do the job. This book explains why

and also offers proposals how the gradual switch to green technology can work. It’s a great book and I can really recommend it.

jerv's avatar

@mattbrowne We started years ago! The Rav4 EV was great, but Chevron bought up the patents so we can’t get large-format NiMH batteries, forcing people to choose between:

1) “lead sleds” with huge lead-acid batteries, short range, and marginal performance (mostly due to the weight)
2) Lithium-Ion with price tags that will make the BMW 7-series look like a bargain
3) Take whatever Chevron will allow in their infinite benevolence… which is hybrids that (by design and intent) lack the battery power to make it very far on pure-electric.

That said, Tesla isn’t dong too bad for themselves. John Wayland can run the ¼ mile in 11.4 with his Datsun that has more torque than a Dodge Viper. Sorry, but since I started to hang with SEVA (Seattle Electric Vehicle Association) I have seen too many pure-electric daily-drivers to fully accept that.

Oddly, the government intentionally cripples “city” cars like the Zenn and then prohibits them from use on most roads. I guess America really wants the roads to be clogged with 4-ton Fords than with the same type of cars that Europe and Asia have been using for years. That might also explian why Tesla decided to put a 17” flatscreen into the back of their Model S; to prove that EVs can also be home theaters on wheels.

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