Rutgers on Coal vs. Nuclear

From Rutgers University press room: The Energy Debate: Coal vs. Nuclear

Rutgers researcher finds factors other than global warming and potential for plant accidents figure into Americans’ preferences

Three Mile Island Smokestacks

Three Mile Island

As America struggles down the road toward a coherent energy policy that focuses on a higher degree of self-reliance, policymakers face numerous issues and realities. These include: the finite supply and environmental impact of fossil fuels, the feasibility and costs to implement a widespread switch to renewable energy sources, and the variables that lead to consumers’ preferences for particular types of power generation. They also need to find and employ tools to effectively communicate such a policy to a range of constituencies.

When it comes to traditional energy sources, coal, with its attendant air pollution and link to global warming, and nuclear power, with the potential for radiation-spewing accidents, such as befell Japan’s Fukushima’s Nuclear Power Plant, remain two of the most controversial.

Professor Michael Greenberg, who studies environmental health at Rutgers’ Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, and Heather Barnes Truelove, a postdoctoral fellow at the Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment have researched consumers’ attitudes toward these two energy sources. Both are members of the Consortium for Risk, Evaluation with Stakeholder Participation (CRESP). Their recent article in the journal Risk Analysis examines Americans’ risk beliefs and preferences for coal and nuclear energy, and finds factors other than global warming and the potential for nuclear power plant accidents figure into their choices.

Coal mine equipment

Credit: Iain Thompson

Energy production from coal has been linked to air pollution and global warming.

The U.S. Department of Energy funded the 2009 landline telephone survey of 3,200 U.S. residents – 800 selected randomly and 2,400 who lived within six, 100-mile-radius regions containing many nuclear and coal-fueled electricity generating and waste management facilities. The study was to learn the association, if any, between some common risk beliefs about coal and nuclear energy and consumer preferences; if global warning and serious nuclear power plant accidents were the strongest risk beliefs associated with preferences; and the characteristics of “acknowledged risk-takers” who were aware of the sources’ shortcomings yet wanted to increase reliance on them. The response rate to the survey was 23.4 percent.The research followed an earlier survey by Greenberg that measured public preferences for various energy choices and their associations with respondent demographics and also trust, among other correlates. Due to widespread media coverage (and dramatized accounts) of global warming and the accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, it was expected these two factors would be the “signature risk beliefs” about coal and nuclear power, respectively.

In the second study, the researchers investigated five sets of characteristics for respondents: age; the role of cultural, social and political identity; the effects of values about the environment and trust; respondent location; and risk beliefs about coal and nuclear energy.

Results from the total sample showed that about 25 percent of participants wanted to increase reliance on coal and 66 percent preferred to decrease dependence on it. The analogous proportions were 48 percent and 46 percent, respectively, for nuclear. Belief that coal use causes global warming, as expected, was related to preferences for coal, but, for example, ecological degradation was a slightly stronger correlate of coal-related preferences than global warming. With regard to preference for use of nuclear energy, there was a strong correlation with the possibility of a nuclear plant accident, but other risk beliefs, such as about nuclear waste management, nuclear material transport and uranium mining had just as strong or stronger relationships with preference for increased reliance on nuclear energy.

About 30 percent of respondents favored increased reliance on nuclear energy, despite admitting the possibility of a serious accident. About 10 percent favored greater reliance on coal, while acknowledging the fossil fuel’s role in global warming. The strongest correlates of the two groups were socioeconomic status and race/ethnicity. The acknowledged nuclear risk-taker group was affluent, educated white males, and the coal group was relatively poor, less educated African-American and Latino females. The three consistent factors across both groups were older age, trust in those who manage energy facilities and the belief that energy facilities help the local economy.

The authors conclude their findings have a role to play in the formulation of a national energy policy because they show “one or two simple messages that attempt to persuade the public to change its preferences for or against specific energy sources are unlikely to succeed, especially if the public has a negative image of the source.” More important, regardless of the existence of subpopulations with specific views about energy sources, “The United States needs a clear and comprehensive energy strategy that addresses the energy life cycle, beginning with securing the energy and transporting it, then to producing and transmitting the energy, and managing the wastes.”

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59 thoughts on “Rutgers on Coal vs. Nuclear

  1. The Energy Debate: Coal vs. Nuclear?
    What debate . . . in America it’s both plus a whole lot more . . . gee, I thought that was why we have anti trust laws???? Or am I missing some broader point here . . . .

  2. We can’t do without coal and we can’t do without nuclear.
    Everything else is bla, bla, bla, bla…

  3. Without seeing the wording of the questions posed in the survey it’s difficult to know the importance of the results they claim. How many questions had no ‘correct’ answer?

  4. Again, they are only worried about concensus. This was a thermometer check of their propoganda. Do enought people believe global warming? If so, they can push their cap and trade agenda again.

  5. Big Power (coal/nuclear) is messy.
    Little Power (solar/biomass/hydro/wind) is too limited in scope.
    Trapped like rats. What’s a civilization to do?

  6. I note that Japan is now officially admitting that nuclear energy is not safe. It never was safe in the first place, because of the waste problem. Germany has stopped using nuclear energy. The world is currently still sitting with two enormous problems in Chernobyl and Fukushima.
    Obviously, nobody of those still singing the praises of nuclear energy is prepared to volunteer to clean up the mess that we still have there.
    I therefore would like to add my voice to those opposed to nuclear energy. I would not ask you to stop all nuclear energy if I had not carefully studied the possible alternatives>
    1) There have been proposals to use “renewables” like wind. However, I found several report backs from those using wind, that wind power is very unreliable.
    (you could ask report from Denmark or USA about this)
    2) In the case of using solar power for generating electricity, it was found that this was very, very un-economical. Subsidies in Spain have recently been withdrawn.
    They cannot afford it anymore. (perhaps you could ask report from Spain about this)
    3) I don’t have a problem using coal, as, contrary to popular opinion, I found that your carbon footprint is actually good for life.
    The pattern of global warming that I observed on earth, prove that it (i.e. the global warming) is a natural process and has nothing to do with the increase in carbon dioxide.
    http://www.letterdash.com/HenryP/henrys-pool-table-on-global-warming
    http://www.letterdash.com/HenryP/more-carbon-dioxide-is-ok-ok
    This may become relevant as time moves on. People will have to get used to the idea that our carbon footprint (carbon dioxide) is good for life.
    However, when using coal, you still sit with the heavy metals, sulphurous gases and carbon monoxide.
    These are poisons that have to be removed from the exhaust.
    This may prove a bit expensive.
    4) I believe some discussion is currently going in about fracking and using gas for generating energy.
    It has been proved all over the world that using gas is the most economical way to generate electricity.
    It will also generate many new jobs, which the country needs badly.
    5) Obviously, where possible, hydro power is probably the cheapest, cleanest and most reliable option for generating electricity.
    We should investigate if there are not more possibilities to pursue this option.

  7. From the article: “They also need to find and employ tools to effectively communicate such a policy to a range of constituencies”
    constituency (from wiki): “a distinct territorial subdivision for holding a separate election for one or more seats in a legislative body.”
    I think the politicians need to do exactly the opposite of what Rutgers is saying. In stead of trying to find better ways to tell the public what to do, they need to become better listeners and start doing what the people say. That’s what the tea party is all about. The dolts over at Rutgers need to be shipped off to Cambodia, and they can see what effective one-way communication from the Government is really like. I hope they have a nice stay.

  8. Energy from Thorium is an excellent site to investigate the potential of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors.
    ThorEA is a British org. which is looking at ‘small’ particle accelerators to supply neutrons for thorium fission rather than U233 which is used in LFTR.
    A full post by an expert on thorium reactors would be most welcome.

  9. It’s amazing the country with the largest sources of fossil fuels needs to struggle with energy policy.
    How about we try some Pebble Bed Modular Reactor, or coal gasification or just drilling in sacred lands and seas.

  10. It seems to me that these people need the threat of “plant accident” in order to maintain their agenda. By preventing the construction of new plants that are orders of magnitude less likely to experience a major accident and by keeping older, more accident prone plants in service longer, they actually increase the likelihood of such accidents. In other words, by building new plants and removing the old 1960’s and 1970’s plants from service, the incidence of accidents would decline to nearly impossible levels. But having these accidents such as Fukushima enables them to further their agenda.
    Current generation uranium/plutonium reactors (all reactors burn plutonium, even if that isn’t the fuel you actually load it with. U238 in the fuel rods is converted to P239 and by the time the fuel is spent, most of the energy is coming from plutonium) are extremely safe.
    These people *need* nuclear accidents and so are dead set on preventing the building of new modern plants that won’t experience them.

  11. Once again, fusion seems to be an “unmentionable”
    potential power source.
    With less radioactive byproducts in both the fuel processing and
    spent fuel after use, and zero CO2 emissions, and NO ripping up
    of the landscape common to both, why is fusion not part of the
    dialogue ?
    More funding for fusion research, please.

  12. Actually, we can do without coal, but not right away. Coal contains vast amounts of Hg, U, Th and SO2 that converts to H2SO4 (acid rain). Oak Ridge National Laboratory esitmates that 5 tons of U and 13 tons of Th are released in burning coal. 5 % of ash is fly-ash, with a mean diameter of 6 to 10 µm. This is exactly the size that goes into the lungs and sticks. All the while these little glass spherules are making their way out of the lungs, they are bombarding the eplithelium with highly ionizing alpha particles. When alpha particles pass near DNA, double strand breaks and radical adducts are inevitable. The cancer risk may be much higher than for radon.
    Economics dictate that we keep coal for now. It produces 50% of US power today. Costs are about $0.05 / kWh, much less than the $0.09 to $0.15 for natural gas. You can extract actual prices by fuel type if you look at the fuel mix of various states starting here: http://www.eia.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/epm_sum.html. It is difficult to figure the price because 1) fuel types are usually mixed in a state, and 2) retail prices can be driven by expensive and inefficient peak power generators. Levelized cost analyses are generally manipulated to serve the needs of the presenter. Here is an example: http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/2009/05/12/levelized-cost-of-new-generating-technologies/
    For example, the advanced nuclear cost based on the U. Chicago / MIT analysis is flawed because it assumes a 40 year useful life of the unit. 60 to 80 years would be more accurate, and thus, the levelized cost should be much lower. Wind power in all of its flavors does not take into consideration the 30% capacity factor, and seems to assume an unreasonably low O&M cost. At least offshore wind estimates indicate far higher costs than land-based. For California, only offshore wind generation can practically dent our energy needs. 10% of our power from wind would require 1250 square miles of area (80 acres per 1.5 MW turbine). There is not enough area on land, therefore they have to be constructed at sea.
    Modular nuclear power plant designs offer far greater safety and lower cost than current 1000 MW reactors. Modular plants do not need emergency coolant. Some are air cooled. Molten salt reactors cannot melt down, and can burn the actinides and nearly all the fuel load. Current nuclear loads are finished after burning 3% of the fuel. Should the rest go to waste? Areva recycles fuel; we don’t. An MSR fast reactor could have fuel replenished and waste removed in a constant process. The Pebble Bed design to burn thorium recreates the need for costly recycling of solid fuel. Solid fuel recycling is not trivial. Solid fuel is needed by the industry to secure higher profits. It’s the old printer / ink cartridge model. The money is in the consumables.
    It all boils down to what we are going to do for power100 years from now. We have enough U and Th to last for centuries if we burn it all in fast reactors. We all know that fusion is always 50 years in the future. Maybe we really will have fusion some day. If we do, then our energy problems are over.
    Then the question is whether we have time to develop fusion. Will we still have a civilization after the greens have destroyed our economies and put everyone under socialist control? How many people will still be alive? We can’t all dig in the mud for potatoes. Who really wants to live that way? I’m not willing to happily march forward to the next Cultural Revolution Obama-style, bowing to our Great Leader.

  13. China would kill to have our coal reserves,,,,
    ,,,is anyone stupid enough to think they would ask first

  14. R. de Haan says:
    June 13, 2011 at 11:18 am
    We can’t do without coal and we can’t do without nuclear.
    Everything else is bla, bla, bla, bla…
    That pretty much sums it up pretty nicely. One thing though…at some time in the future we will have to do without coal and the single serious choice we’ll have to replace it is nuclear. Everything else is bla, bla, bla…
    MikeEE

  15. What kills more people?
    1) Living next to a nuke plant in Japan
    2) Eating bean sprouts in Germany

  16. Correction: S in coal goes to SO2 in burning. Ozone/UV/H2O convert SO2 to H2SO4.
    By the way, ORNL estimates that there is more energy in the U and Th contained in the coal (if we extracted them for use in fission reactors) than from burning the coal.

  17. R.S.Brown Because no one has a working fusion reactor? Yet. The Tokamak based designs are a long way from break even, and are terribly expensive, I’m hoping for success from Polywell or Dense Plasma Focus.
    MSR looks like the best way to go in fission arena, it can use uranium as well as thorium, can’t suffer a runaway, can be used to “burn up” spent nuclear fuel, and will produce 0.6% as much waste as gen 3 reactors.

  18. The problem with nuclear waste, isn’t a problem. Especially in Japan. That waste can be and is reprocessed to remove the short lived contaminants from the fuel. The contaminants can be stored for a few years to decades while they decay away to harmlessness, and the vast bulk, the fuel, returned to service.
    As to hydro, in the US, almost all of the good sites are already being utilized. The biggest problem with expanding the use of hydro, is that the enviro’s are dead set against it.

  19. Were there any questions regarding the reliability and consumer cost of electricity? I want my electricity to be reliable and cheap. I would prefer that it be produced as cleanly as possible, but reliable and cheap trumps everything else. I’ve lived in third world countries, and I don’t want to live like that here. So as far as I’m concerned, any survey that doesn’t address the impact on this country of costly, unreliable alternative energy (i.e. solar and wind) is completely invalid.

  20. HenryP says:
    June 13, 2011 at 11:56 am
    I note that Japan is now officially admitting that nuclear energy is not safe.
    _________________________
    Ridiculous. Japan is not that stupid. The TEPCO Dai-ni plants at Fukushima are all fine. They shut down after the earthquake without any problems at all. The Dai-ichi plants 1-4 needed to be replaced anyway. Currently, only 17 of 54 nuclear power plants are on line. Two other reactors were shut down by government request. The public is slightly divided on whether nuclear power should be increased or decreased. However, only a small minority in Japan favor abolishing nuclear power.
    See: http://www.jaif.or.jp/english/news_images/pdf/ENGNEWS02_1305683936P.pdf

  21. ShrNfr says:
    June 13, 2011 at 12:53 pm
    The earthquake and tsunami killed people in Japan. The reactors did not. Workers died from physical injury, not radiation. Two died from the tsunami, and 4 died when a truck hit them in a construction accident.

  22. Do you want electricity or not? Do you want to live in a civilized world, or do you prefer living like most Africans do today? Well, I vote for having electricity, and living in a civilized world. And that means we must use coal and nuclear. Everything else is just bla..bla..bla…or socialist crap-take your pick.

  23. ‘}MikeEE says:
    June 13, 2011 at 12:47 pm
    R. de Haan says:
    June 13, 2011 at 11:18 am
    We can’t do without coal and we can’t do without nuclear.
    Everything else is bla, bla, bla, bla…
    That pretty much sums it up pretty nicely. One thing though…at some time in the future we will have to do without coal and the single serious choice we’ll have to replace it is nuclear. Everything else is bla, bla, bla…
    MikeEE”
    @MikeEE
    If we stop winding the energy clock down pouring huge amounts of money in BS alternatives and take on our energy technology from a more realistic point of view our coal reserves will last long enough for us to come up with sound solutions that enable us to bring humanity through an ice age if necessary.
    Coal will last for the next 500 years and so will oil and gas.
    So I am not worried at all that we have sufficient time at our disposal to find some really good technologies.
    I see our past development as a promise for the future.
    We only have to whistle back the burreacrats and the wannabee totalitarians who just like the Rutgers people use any argument to shackle humanity and steel their energy resources.
    Screw them all.

  24. “Mark Wilson says:
    June 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm
    “As to hydro, in the US, almost all of the good sites are already being utilized. The biggest problem with expanding the use of hydro, is that the enviro’s are dead set against it.”
    There are practical aspects to Hydro.
    What to think of thick ice blocking the water feed of the turbine as was experienced in Norway and Sweden during the past two winters.
    Then we have the problem of the water storage creating big lakes that flood entire cities forcing people to move and there is the risk of dam failure due to quakes, construction failures and floods.
    In my humble opinion these risks are underestimated in a similar way as the nuclear risks are over estimated.

  25. There’s no end to the screaming against nuclear power in certain european countries this year.
    One of the arguments is that it is so unsafe to have nuclear power plants in rock solid europe, pointing at Fukushima, who stood up to its design, in Japan right on top of the rim of fire.
    I, humbly wonder though, would they have screamed unsafe, about our apparently unsafe nuclear power plants here in fortress europa, if they, they being the crazed climate communist hippie parade, hadn’t made sure to ban, in big parts in some european countries and in full in other, even advanced civil nuclear power research and not merely banning the building of new power plants after the old ones was set to be decommissioned. There’s fair amount who are, and will be, running on over time now.
    Essentially, how safe could europe’s nuclear power plants really have been today if “they” hadn’t made sure to ban safety research and safer, less wasteful, plants?

  26. Hoser says:
    June 13, 2011 at 1:18 pm
    ShrNfr says:
    June 13, 2011 at 12:53 pm
    The earthquake and tsunami killed people in Japan. The reactors did not. Workers died from physical injury, not radiation. Two died from the tsunami, and 4 died when a truck hit them in a construction accident.
    ——————————————————
    I think that was his point Hoser.
    ……. and they were organic bean sprouts too.
    http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15151501,00.html

  27. R.S.Brown says:
    June 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm
    “Once again, fusion seems to be an “unmentionable” potential power source. With less radioactive byproducts in both the fuel processing and spent fuel after use, and zero CO2 emissions, and NO ripping up of the landscape common to both, why is fusion not part of the
    dialogue ?”
    Because we simply don’t know yet if fusion on scale small enough to use in power plants is feasible. Maybe if ITER http://www.iter.org/ goes well, fusion will reasonably enter the dialog. But even then it will probably be several decades before serious fusion power plants come on line. And it would be naive to believe that there will not be problems. (My opinion: If ITER doesn’t work, the human race is going to be in serious trouble).
    Will more money help? Maybe at some point. But I personally am skeptical Likely we’d end up with another wind power or ethanol fiasco bestowing large amounts of money on smarmy financial types, institutionalizing all the wrong incentives, and solving few if any problems.
    I’m not aware of any deserving fusion technologies that are not being investigated from lack of funding. Are you?

  28. AnonyMoose says:
    June 13, 2011 at 11:25 am
    “global warning”? I’ve been hearing a lot of that.
    ========================
    Yeah, it’d be nice. These last couple of winters have been way too clod and spring is too late in coming. Our roses are just starting to bloom now. Still hasn’t really warmed up.

  29. Rightly or wrongly Fukushima will likely be the last nail in the coffin of nuclear power. That leaves coal, which Obamster wants to make prohibitively expensive. Get ready for some shivering in the dark.
    Make sure Obama does not get re-elected in 2012, if you want to stay warm.

  30. Which is the most dangerous?
    Deaths:
    Fukushima nuclear plants: 0 (maybe 1)
    BP Macondo blowout: 11
    German beansprout e coli: 31

  31. If more people were aware of the small effect of CO2 on warming then the results of this survey would be considerably different. It goes to show how poor science, advocate scientists and populist politicians have so distorted the facts that such surveys are useless as predictive tools. Not only useless but damaging as governments spend billions on non problems and create additional problems for no purpose. Ethanol and wind farms spring to mind.

  32. Hopefully I can clear this up. I have some experience in this matter… There have been zero deaths from anything related to the reactors, and there have been zero people made ill from same. 2 people were exposed to a relatively* high dose at the time of the hydrogen explosions, but both workers are asymptomatic 3 months later and are expected to remain so. As has been mentioned, there have been a few deaths and injuries but none are attributable to radiation or the reactors themselves, nor anything used for their operation. I am including the entire population of Japan here, even those who were within the exclusion zone during and after the Tsunami. There have been zero nuclear casualties of any kind that can be attributed to radiation. If you were living outside of the plant gates — before or after the disaster — you were exponentially more likely to have been either injured or killed. That has been the case for decades now. I would suggest that nuclear power plants — even the old ones — are likely the safest places to be. QED. One guy said that no-one is willing to go to Fukushima Daiichi to clean up the mess. I will prove you wrong. I would go in a heartbeat! I know I would be in safe hands there. Besides, it would be fascinating as well as a privilege to be around such capable people while they calmly and effectively go about ending this incident — ending it in the face of having the world’s tin-foil hat brigades hopping around on their hind legs like frightened children.
    * I say “relatively” as the safe limits set by most countries, particularly Japan, are ridiculously low. Many people have been exposed to much higher levels and have shown no ill effects. The scaremongering that has gone on for decades has led to absurdly low safe limits being set for workers and the public. So be it. Just another annoying and needlessly expensive hurdle that the safest industry on the planet is forced to clear — easily I might add.

  33. R.S.Brown says: June 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm
    More funding for fusion research, please.
    Actually, I am hoping big government fusion research funding gets cut by 90%. if this is real: http://lenr-canr.org/News.htm we can start getting benefits from fusion reactors within a year. I first heard about Focardi and Rossi’s project by reading WUWT in January, and have been following it since then. I am a practicing engineer with a good background in the hard sciences and have an excellent baloney filter. I was following polywell and US Navy progress, but this is way ahead of the pack. As far as I can tell, this project is real and will be selling industrial scale fusion reactors within the year.

  34. @TrueNorthist at June 13, 2011 at 5:10 pm
    Even if what you wrote were true (and the cancers and radiation – induced deaths will not be apparent for many years, perhaps decades), nuclear is nuts. I wrote on this at some length (see link below). In summary, nuclear power is far too expensive at 30 to 35 cents per kWh, it is so hazardous that private insurance is not available for the plants, it is so expensive that government subsidies are required, it is so difficult to construct a plant that even the modern plants under construction are years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, it consumes precious water resources for cooling its deadly radioactive reactors, and it is not reliable as some proponents state. Furthermore, those reactors located at the shore of an ocean should be immediately shut down due to the danger of a giant tsunami, such as the 280-foot monster that swept over the Ryukyu Islands of Japan in 1971. As a case in point, the twin reactors at California’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) was designed to withstand a tiny tsunami of approximately 20 feet.
    The proposed nuclear expansion project in Texas at the South Texas Nuclear Plant (near Victoria) has been cancelled due to the very high expected cost and few interested investors. At last, some sanity is prevailing in the world.
    http://sowellslawblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/reconsider-nuclear-power-is-it-ever.html

  35. Um, danger of nuclear? I mean, can you name one person, or even NOT name one person but point to somewhere where it is shown that they were injured or killed, by the Japan’s Fukushima’s Nuclear Power Plant, “disaster”? This was about the worst possible disaster that could happen to that type of nuclear plant (Chernobyl type are only made in Russia or Cuba)), and I have not heard of ONE SINGLE PERSON seriously injured or killed by it.
    As for the danger of disposing of nuclear wastes, the real danger is that those who know ways to safetly dispose of it, or turn it into usefull products or even into feul, are simply not allowed to do so due to invented fears by anti nuclear activists without any backing of wevidence except CAGW type scare tactics of inventing fanciful, unproven scenerios of something that might maybe happen someday. Because of this, much feul that could be used or disposed of with complete safty is not, but is sitting around at places like Japan’s Fukushima’s Nuclear Power Plant, where even there it has not injured or killed anyone at all. The danger is not the feul, the danger is the anti nuclear activists.
    Currently, if you say that nuclear is dangerous, you are what is known as a “denier”, in this case, of reality.
    Freezing to death in the dark, now that could get dangerous.

  36. R.S.Brown says:
    June 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm
    Once again, fusion seems to be an “unmentionable”
    potential power source.
    With less radioactive byproducts in both the fuel processing and
    spent fuel after use, and zero CO2 emissions, and NO ripping up
    of the landscape common to both, why is fusion not part of the
    dialogue ?
    More funding for fusion research, please.

    Yesterday, upon the stair,
    I met a man who wasn’t there
    He wasn’t there again today
    I wish, I wish he’d go away…
    For the last 50 years, we’ve been 3-5 years away from practical fusion reactors. Stop, already!!

  37. Hoser said,
    “Laboratory esitmates that 5 tons of U and 13 tons of Th are released in burning coal. 5 % of ash is fly-ash, with a mean diameter of 6 to 10 µm. This is exactly the size that goes into the lungs and sticks. All the while these little glass spherules are making their way out of the lungs, they are bombarding the eplithelium with highly ionizing alpha particles. When alpha particles pass near DNA, double strand breaks and radical adducts are inevitable. The cancer risk may be much higher than for radon. ”
    Odd thought, Radon222’s decay chain to Po214 with less than a 4 day half life is pretty nasty. Two alpha and two betas with about 10MeV total. U238 about 4MeV alpha with 4.5 billion year half life followed by three betas (about 1MeV each) to U234 with a 250000 year half life. Chance of cancer by U238 inhalation versus Rn222, about 1 in a billion. Radium and Radon are just as wicked as any reactor isotope you are likely to be exposed to except Iodine 131 because of its affinity for the thyroid.
    I do agree with the smaller light water reactors. Much less chance of damaging the reactor core with LOC accident and much less chance of significant fallout. Storage of waste until generation IV is a big problem thanks to the EPA’s statistical incompetence.

  38. Kum-
    That’s wonderful!
    Now look at the annual numbers, Or, better still (or worse, depending on what one is trying to show), let us know how much the renewables contibute to the peak demand hours.

  39. Yesterday, per Calif. ISO, wind contributed about 1100 Mw-1500 Mw over the 1100 hrs -1700 hrs to the 31,000+ Mw peak and solar added a nice 100 Mw. About 5%.

  40. Don K, Mike Wilson, Hoser;
    Agreed, fusion from ITER is a dead end. But 5 yrs. from now I expect to see the mini-fusion DPF reactors now being developed by LPPhysics.com licensed for production world-wide. So much for the rolling “20/50/60 years in the future” wheeze.
    Capital and power-output costs will be slashed by >90% compared to the CHEAPEST current tech.
    And there is $0 government funding involved, which is a very good sign that it’s feasible.

  41. Henry@Hoser
    More that 300 people died at Chernobyl (sacrificially, for us) trying encapsulate the plant.
    But they now find that it is still not safe enough there. It is cracking open again.
    Ukraine does not have the money to come up with a proper solution to re-encapsulate in Chernobyl and is asking us (the world) for the money . Can you imagine that? (check that in Time magazine)
    Japan is still busy counting what the solution for F. will cost. But it is likely to be a lot.
    You want to carry on with nuclear?
    Why don’t you fly there and help them encapsulate it?
    You better go back to my initial post.
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/06/13/rutgers-on-coal-vs-nuclear/#comment-679470
    and look at the alternatives
    doing something about those flooding rivers there in the USA and getting some power out of it,
    at the same time, is that not a much better idea?

  42. the claims of x tons of U and xx tons of T liberated in burning coal should be looked at with a definately jaundiced view.
    if there was that much radio active stuff comming out of the stacks of the power plants we would be seeing the ususual suspects parading and ranting in front of the cameras and screaming about it at great length.
    it would seem that if there was that much of the radio active elements comming out of the coal fires then we would be hearing cries of “ill gotten gains” from the power plants selling the stuff or better yet screaming about “proper disposal as radioactive waste”.
    i have asked guys that do boiler repair work and they say that there is no evidence of radioactivesin the stacks. if they ask, people come out with counters and don’t find anything but background radiation levels.
    oh you say that there are so many power plants that its spread really thinly that we have a hard time measuring it.
    HMMMMMMMM. sounds like co2 sales all over again.
    C

  43. Chernobyl is the perennial excuse for not using Nuclear. Chernobyl was a badly designed, poorly built, reactor with minimal maintenance. The local engineers tried to do something that was dangerous and the advice at the time was DON’T. But they did.
    Three Mile Island was a 60’s design. Current designs are 10 times safer.
    Fukishima did as it was designed to do when the earthquake struck. It was the tsunami that was the problem. This was 3 times the height of the safety wall so swamped the cooling pumps. The rest is history.
    Modern reactor designs use natural convection for cooling in the shut down condition. The Fukishima problem would not happen with these.
    Nuclear power is safe. More workers have died in coal fired stations than nuclear.

  44. Kum Dollison: “You’re further along than you realize.”
    Fine, I can cherry pick a day when renewables are putting out virtually nothing. Now show me what it’s done on a lifetime capacity average.
    John, all true except that it was not the cooling pumps that were damaged. It was the diesel tank farm for the backup diesel generators which were washed away.
    More drivel from Roger Sowell: “…induced deaths will not be apparent for many years, perhaps decades),…”
    The latency time for leukemia, the form of cancer most prone to generation by radiation is 10 years. There was NO leukemia spike in the mid 1990s from the Chernobyl releases.
    “…it is so hazardous that private insurance is not available for the plants…”
    Typical antinuke propaganda. You should know how the insurance industry works. There are all kinds of activities that private insurance cannot cover.
    “…it consumes precious water resources for cooling its deadly radioactive reactors…”
    Nuclear plants use water only for steam condensation. Virtually none is “consumed” except for a tiny loss from evaporation.
    No, South Texas has been postponed because of a drop in electricity demand.
    A little thing called a recession.
    And drivel from HenryP:
    “More that 300 people died at Chernobyl (sacrificially, for us) trying encapsulate the plant.”
    The immediate fatalities were 31. A further 25 are presumed to have died as a result of radiation exposure as a consequence of receiving radiation doses over 2.5 Sv. All of these were at the plant the night of the accident. Your 300 number is fictional. Please tell me who fabricated it, because it is not found in UNSCEAR or any other scientific body’s report.

  45. colin:
    many years ago the greenies were screaming about San Onofre “overheating ” the discharge water. that is the water that runs through the condensers in the turbine hall (or in this case the turbine area as S’O’s turbines are out in the open) that condense the steam in the last couple of stages in the low pressure turbines. this particular water is discharged through extremely large pipes that carry it out into the ocean several miles.
    they were correct it was heating the water (a total of about 4.5 degrees F).
    there was a great hue and cry about killing off the local flora and fauna on the seabottom.
    well after many years of operation they found that several fish species that liked cooler water moved north about 40 miles and others that liked the warmer water moved in from the south. no gross change in the critter population.
    about the time they were going to make grand pronounciations the la ninya and ninyo currents/effects
    were discovered or at least publicized and it threw the whole thing into confusion.
    C

  46. @Colin on June 14, 2011 at 12:09 pm
    Colin, I don’t recall exchanging views with you until now. I cannot determine if you are serious, or simply mis-informed. I’ll take the latter for civility.
    You wrote:
    “More drivel from Roger Sowell: “…induced deaths will not be apparent for many years, perhaps decades),…””
    The latency time for leukemia, the form of cancer most prone to generation by radiation is 10 years. There was NO leukemia spike in the mid 1990s from the Chernobyl releases.”

    Actually, the fact is that ionizing radiation has, indeed, a range of latency periods before symptoms and death occur. A quick search will show you that some forms of ionizing radiation-caused cancer have a latency of 40 years. I suggest to you that that qualifies for “decades.”
    ““…it is so hazardous that private insurance is not available for the plants…”
    Typical antinuke propaganda. You should know how the insurance industry works. There are all kinds of activities that private insurance cannot cover.”

    Propaganda, you wrote. Hmmm…. so, if it is true, that makes it propaganda? Do you dispute the basic assertion, that private insurance is not available for nuclear power plants in the USA? If you do so dispute, please name one, or all the ones, that are privately insured. Furthermore, insurance is readily available for most activities – but not for ultrahazardous activities. Where an insurance company knows that the risks are non-negligible and the liability is catastrophically large, no underwriting occurs. Skydiving is an example. I suspect that javelin-catchers at the Olympic games also cannot purchase insurance.
    Next, you take on the issue of water for nuclear power plants, writing ” “…it consumes precious water resources for cooling its deadly radioactive reactors…”
    Nuclear plants use water only for steam condensation. Virtually none is “consumed” except for a tiny loss from evaporation.”

    Your lack of knowledge is perhaps due to youth or inexperience, or perhaps a willful failure to learn the facts. Here is a link to a pretty good article on the water war over South Texas Nuclear Project. In the course of the writing there is also mention of other nuclear power plants and their adverse effect on rivers. Water is indeed consumed, as it is evaporated in the cooling pond that is used by STNP. Water is taken from the river almost continuously, and must go somewhere. Basic physics will tell you that "pounds in must equal pounds out." (for the knowledgeable who are reading this, that equality is based on zero change in inventory). The water is evaporated from the cooling pond, with heat for evaporation received from cooling the reactors and condensing the steam from the turbines.
    http://nukefree.org/news/WaterhelpsfueldebateontheSTP%5BSouthTexasNuclearPlant%5D
    Finally, you write ” No, South Texas has been postponed because of a drop in electricity demand.
    A little thing called a recession.”

    You may be interested to learn that Texas has actually added jobs during the late economic difficulties, and South Texas Nuclear Project is, surprisingly enough, in Texas. The facts are these: the South Texas Nuclear Project Expansion has been canceled by the proponents because 1) the cost is too high and keeps increasing each time a new estimate is performed, 2) the City of Austin declined to participate from the beginning, despite owning a share of the existing two reactors, 3) the City of San Antonio has reduced their willingness to participate to a pittance, 4) water is very precious in South Texas and the expansion is more and more unpopular now that it is widely known that farmers are going without water so that a nuclear plant can be cooled.
    If this is what you define as “drivel,” you have a most interesting definition.

  47. Roger, if leukemia does not appear, which is the most prone to radiation propagation, then the others do not appear.
    Your comment on cooling ponds is irrelevant. Standing or flowing water evaporates naturally. All we are concerned about is the excess evaporation produced by the thermal heat. And that is small.
    None of what you said re. South Texas is inconsistent with a loss of demand, which is the real reason that power projects of all kinds are falling away just now, particularly in the light of $3 gas.

  48. @Colin, your most recent response shows me that you concede you have lost the argument. Facts are difficult to overcome. “small excess evaporation from the thermal heat?” Where do you think the heat from the condenser goes at STNP? This is not a once-through cooling system. It is an evaporative pond. You can see it on Google maps or Google Earth. How much heat do you think is released by those condensers? The plant itself produces roughly 2100 MW of power. The condenser rejects roughly 3 times that much energy as heat. Thus, you are claiming that 6000 MW of equivalent heat evaporates a negligible amount of water! That claim is truly absurd.
    Regarding the supposed “loss of demand,” utilities do not worry much over temporary demand dips, even if one were to be happening in Texas at this time. As I said, Texas’ economy is growing. Demand is increasing. Aging generating plants must be replaced. San Antonio, Austin, and Houston all must replace aging plants and build new plants to meet future increases in demand. All utilities face this (except for Detroit, where population decline is the rule). Even Detroit must replace aging power plants. With a nuclear plant requiring a decade or more to begin producing power, the planning and design must occur at least 10 years ahead. The reason the STNP expansion was cancelled has nothing whatever to do with any existing demand changes.
    My statement on radiation and latency stands. You can dance around it all you like, but the facts are the facts. Medical doctors have studied the effects of radiation and published those results.
    I do hope you take some time and get up to speed on these matters.

  49. The Germans say “Alles dreht sich um die Kohle” – Everything turns around the money. Kohle means bucks. It means coal too.

  50. For further reference regarding Texas’ electrical generating needs in the next 20 years, the link from ERCOT below outlines their situation.
    Note, ERCOT is: “The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc., (ERCOT) manages the flow of electric power to approximately 23 million Texas customers – representing 85 percent of the state’s electric load and 75 percent of the Texas land area. As the Independent System Operator for the region, ERCOT schedules power on an electric grid that connects 40,500 miles of transmission lines and more than 550 generation units. ERCOT also manages financial settlement for the competitive wholesale bulk-power market and administers customer switching for 6.6 million Texans in competitive choice areas. ERCOT is a membership-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation, governed by a board of directors and subject to oversight by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas Legislature.”
    To summarize ERCOT’s projection of new power requirements, quote “Long-term projections in the annual assessment show three scenarios based on generation retirements at 30 years, 40 years and 50 years. The mid-range scenario of unit retirements at 40 years or older indicates a need for more than 62,000 MW of new generation capacity needed to meet the 2031 projected demand of approximately 99,900 MW (including a 13.75 percent reserve margin).” [emphasis added]
    It would seem that a power plant expansion of 2200 MW would be quite desirable to help fill a portion of that 62,000 MW of new generation capacity that is required. However, the STNP expansion is not in the plan, for the reasons I stated above.
    http://www.ercot.com/news/press_releases/2011/nr05-31-11

  51. A bit more on the high cost of nuclear power plants, this from Powergenworldwide.com (see link below)
    Generally, in addition to environmental, safety, and security concerns, the high cost of nuclear power plant construction and maintenance relative to the cost of fossil fuels such as coal deters civilian nuclear energy development.”
    and
    “The 1998 WEO predicted that with the exception of OECD Europe, high costs would drive down nuclear power generation and encourage coal and oil use. The study attributed the decline in nuclear energy in OECD North America to an increase in coal-based electricity generation. Similarly, it noted that in China the higher cost of nuclear energy–three times that of coal per kilowatt–made a weak case for development of nuclear power plants. [emphasis added]
    Since then (1998), the cost per MW of nuclear power plants has increased, especially in the USA, due to regulatory requirements that the reactor containment, spent fuel storage area, and cooling system all be able to withstand a direct impact from a large commercial aircraft.
    http://www.powergenworldwide.com/index/display/wire-news-display/1437206685.html

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