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Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power

Posted on January 11th, 2014 at 23:08 by Desiato in category: News -- Write a comment


You will not be surprised to hear that the events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.

A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting. Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation.

FYI, the author, George Monbiot, is an eco-activist. There’s a rebuttal here.

  1. What is that definition of insanity again? Money is more important than living.

  2. Hmmm? Afaik, no deaths have been directly attributed to the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster. That’s compared to 18,500 deaths from the earthquake and tsunami directly. And many deaths attributed indirectly to burning coal, say.

    Also, building new reactors of different, vastly safer design is not “doing the same thing over and over”.

  3. I still don’t understand why we pay for ugly substitutes when solar if essentially free?

  4. Go ahead and research what it costs to get enough solar cells and batteries just to charge your electric vehicle. Be sure to do the math for the amount of sunlight that a northern country like The Netherlands or England gets. Or maybe read up on how much electricity pricing in Germany has gone up since they decided to go all out with wind and solar.

    I highly recommend reading “Without Hot Air”, which is available free on the web or in PDF. He does the math on how much power we need for what things, and how you could generate that using different technologies. He comes up with answers like, “If you wanted to power everything using solar PV, you’d need to cover a third of the country in solar cells”. I made that specific number, but it’s something impractical like that.

    Everyone who studies this seriously comes away saying that we need a mix, we to do it all. Nuclear is relatively small footprint. The risks seem bigger than they are… much like flying seems risky when you hear about crashes, but actually is safer per mile than driving a car.

  5. All of the electricity supplies for the US could be met by a solar panel about the size of Arizona, in Arizona. Apparently they can use the shade.

    (This of course neglects a few trivialities like power transmission, storage, and present panel efficiencies.)

  6. Green technology has built-in advantages. People want to go green. It can be a little more expensive, it can be a little more inconvenient, and, in the cases of solar panels and wind turbines, it can be a little unsightly. People will absolutely go for that. What it can’t be is ridiculously expensive, ridiculously inconvenient, and ridiculously unsightly.

  7. I’ll preface this by saying I have a 2.1kW solar array on my house which I paid for myself, so I can be safely considered a supporter of green / alternate energy. There are, however, complexities involved. For example, my system is grid-tied, meaning I use the grid when there’s not enough solar power being generated to satisfy all my wasteful electronics, and I push power onto the grid when I’m generating more than I use. It works out (reasonably) well, because I produce the most power at the same time there’s the most demand for power. Similarly, at night, I pull power from the grid.

    Local, distributed generation is great. However … even in Southern California, there are days when coastal fog drops my generating power to something negligible. Again, I depend on the grid. Without it serving as my battery, I’d need a huge and expensive battery array to try to level demand with supply(*).

    The problem that’s freaking out the power companies is that we grid-tied people end up paying almost nothing for power, but are still equally dependent on their infrastructure as our non-solar, full-price-paying neighbors. Maintaining the infrastructure (transmission lines, transformers, towers, etc) are a significant cost. If everyone went solar, the power company would still have to maintain that infrastructures, and would still have to have ways to store power for night/shaded/storm hours – but their revenues would be a small fraction of what they are now.

    Eventually, there will be some infrastructure fee that they’ll start changing us grid-tie people, and it’s going to make solar a lot less attractive to most homeowners.

    * the actual solution would be to have fewer computers, always-on air filters, more efficient lighting, etc.

  8. @SjG: Thanks for bringing that up. Yes, the worry of funding grid infrastructure seems to be widespread.

    Related: I read a while back that the main Luxemburg power company was unilaterally killing feed-in tarrifs for customers who were feeding their excess solar-generated electricity into the grid. At times of excess supply, Germany is off-loading free excess electricity, so no point in paying for feed-in. So much for having your solar cells pay for themselves…

  9. @Desiato: The same thing in Ontario (although most of our generation is nuclear). There’s been a massive change (with good intentions) from coal power to gas plus renewables. Excess subsidies in the form of high feed-in tariffs have resulted in large numbers of solar installations, especially in rural areas with poorer infrastructure. Additional political interference and billions of dollars wasted mean power prices will go up 50% and political heads are rolling.

    @SjG: Perhaps all solar installations need a storage component. Do you have room for a hydrogen tank 🙂

  10. Well, it certainly is a good thing that nuclear power is not only safe but extremely cost competitive. That’s why insurance companies are rushing to back them and the government doesn’t have to massively subsidize the cost at all.

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