The Guardian: "Climate change is an energy problem, so let's talk honestly about nuclear"

Guest post by David Middleton

While I probably share some of the author’s views on nuclear power, I think we would have to start out by “talking honestly” about climate change…

Nuclear power

Climate change is an energy problem, so let’s talk honestly about nuclear

David Robert Grimes

Of all the hazards facing humankind, climate change is the single greatest threat we have ever faced. In a few short decades, we have altered the climate more than we ever thought possible and now, in the midst of the greatest heatwave recorded in decades in the hottest year on record, we are finally beginning to countenance the scale of problem before us.

[…]

The Guardian

“Of all the hazards facing humankind, climate change is the single greatest threat we have ever faced.”

The sentence doesn’t even make sense.

Definition of threat

  1. an expression of intention to inflict evil, injury, or damage
  2. one that threatens
  3. an indication of something impending: the sky held a threat of rain

Climate change doesn’t fit definitions 1 or 2 and it’s not really an “indication of something impending.” It’s an ongoing process.  The greatest threats we have ever faced are in no particular order:

  • Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany
  • Attila the Hun
  • Ghengis (jen-jis according to John Kerry) Khan
  • Tamerlane
  • Vladimir Lenin, Joe Stalin and the rest of the Soviet gang

These people literally did pose threats to humankind… At least to the humans who got in their way.

“Of all the hazards facing humankind”…

Definition of hazard

1: a game of chance like craps played with two dice

2: a source of danger hazards on the roadway

3a : the effect of unpredictable and unanalyzable forces in determining events : chance, risk the hazards involved in owning your own business

men and women danced together, women danced together, men danced together, as hazard had brought them together — Charles Dickens

b : a chance event : accident

looked like a fugitive, who had escaped from something in clothes caught up at hazard — Willa Cather

4 obsolete : stake 3a

5: a golf-course obstacle (such as a bunker or a pond)

Is “climate change” at or even near the top of the list of hazards facing humankind?  Definition 2 seems to be appropriate: “a source of danger.”

Sources of danger to humankind:

  • Asteroid/comet impacts/bolides
  • Supervolcano eruptions
  • Flood basalt events
  • Pandemics
  • Nuclear war
  • Megaquakes & tsunamis
  • Carrington events (coronal mass ejections)
  • Gamma ray bursts

Does “climate change” really even make this list?  When this interglacial stage comes to an end, climate change will be a genuine hazard, maybe even an existential threat.

However, today it’s really more of a risk management issue.  Although “risk” implies that it can be clearly quantified.  Dr. Judith Curry had a very thoughtful post on this issue back in January:

So what are the words that we should use to talk about the potential harm from human caused climate change?  I think that the following phrases are appropriate:

  • potential harm
  • reasons for concern
  • possible catastrophic impacts

I think that ‘threat’ is overly alarmist, since it implies imminent harm.  ‘Risk’ is not overly alarmist, but it does imply that the harm is quantifiable and mitigable — which I have argued that it is not.

How do we deal with potential harm and possible catastrophic impacts?  This puts us in the domain of decision making under deep uncertainty — a topic I have written about many times at CE.

Climate Etc.

Back to the Grauniad…

In a few short decades, we have altered the climate more than we ever thought possible…

Really?

Source: Kottek, M., J. Grieser, C. Beck, B. Rudolf, and F. Rubel, 2006: World Map of the Köppen-Geiger climate classification updated. Meteorol. Z., 15, 259-263. DOI: 10.1127/0941-2948/2006/0130.

Back to the Grauniad:

…in the midst of the greatest heatwave recorded in decades in the hottest year on record…

I don’t think that Oxford is in Arizona, so I don’t get the heat wave connection.

Regarding “the hottest year on record” meme…

170104130257_1_900x600

Globally, 2016 edged out 1998 by +0.02 C to become the warmest year in the 38-year satellite temperature record, according to Dr. John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. Because the margin of error is about 0.10 C, this would technically be a statistical tie, with a higher probability that 2016 was warmer than 1998. The main difference was the extra warmth in the Northern Hemisphere in 2016 compared to 1998.

“The question is, does 2016’s record warmth mean anything scientifically?” Christy said. “I suppose the answer is, not really. Both 1998 and 2016 are anomalies, outliers, and in both cases we have an easily identifiable cause for that anomaly: A powerful El Niño Pacific Ocean warming event. While El Niños are natural climatic events, they also are transient. In the study of climate, we are more concerned with accurately identifying long-term temperature trends than we are with short-term spikes and dips, especially when those spikes and dips have easily identified natural causes.

Science Daily

The warming observed in the instrumental temperature record doesn’t significantly deviate from the pre-existing Holocene pattern of climate change…

nature-3-man-1b

Northern Hemisphere Climate Reconstruction (Ljungqvist, 2010) and HadCRUT4 NH.  Older is to the left.

Over the past 2,000 years, the average temperature of the northern hemisphere has exceeded natural variability* (+/-2 std dev) 3 times: The Medieval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age and the modern warming. Humans didn’t cause at least two of the three and the current one only exceeds natural variability only by about 0.2 °C. And this is a maximum, because the instrumental data have much higher resolution than the proxy data.

*Natural variability does not imply that excursions from it are unnatural.

Taking the climate back through the rest of the Holocene, we can see that “the hottest year on record” might not be so hot…

Now that we’ve actually “talked honestly” about climate change, we can talk honestly about nuclear power.  And Dr. Grimes does talk honestly about nuclear power:

Fears about nuclear energy run deep: the 1986 Chernobyl disaster remains a towering linchpin in anti-nuclear narratives, presented as an irrefutable case that nuclear energy is inherently unsafe. These claims are so profoundly entrenched that it is almost accepted as common knowledge that the Chernobyl disaster killed thousands.

Yet, as I’ve written here before, these claims do not stand up to scrutiny and persist in the face of report after report to the contrary. Years of subsequent investigation place the death toll of the disaster at approximately 43 people, with deleterious health effects failing to materialise at any appreciable rate. That this information is surprising to many is indicative of quite how polarised the discussion on such a vital topic has been.

Much of the reason for this is ideological – Greenpeace is but one organisation that has been criticised for releasing misleading anti-nuclear information, claiming that up to 200,000 deaths are attributable to Chernobyl. This figure has been roundly debunked, but predictably strikes fear into the public conscience, encouraging panic in place of reason.

The more recent 2011 Fukushima disaster has been become a similar focus for nuclear panic, despite the fact that no one has died nor is ever likely to from this event. The spectre of the plant looms so large in the public consciousness that we have seemingly forgotten that the cause of the meltdown was a massive tsunami that claimed about 16,000 lives, itself potentially exacerbated by climate change. There is a dark irony then in the fact that the ensuing kneejerk reaction led to the closure of Germany’s nuclear plants and their replacement with heavily polluting coal plants.

[…]

Yet simply dismissing concerns about nuclear energy as unfounded is not productive, nor is it honest. Nuclear energy may be the most efficient and clean source we have, but it is complicated and like any energy source, it is not devoid of complications. Nuclear waste is one aspect of this – nuclear byproducts and legacy waste can remain radioactive for centuries, and have to be carefully stored and managed to avoid any potential contamination. And while the risk to human health is generally low to nonexistent, safely storing such materials is a challenging engineering problem and legitimate concern. These challenges are not insurmountable, but nor should they be glossed over.

[…]

The Guardian

It’s nice that we can find agreement on a solution, even when we disagree about the problem we need to solve.  Reminds me of a scene from The Outlaw Josey Wales...

 

As a geologist/geophysicist with 36 years experience in oil & gas exploration, I have no vested interest in coal, nuclear or wind power (except as a utility customer), yet I support all three of those energy sources (well, I support wind where it works) because I like to know that the lights will come on when I flip a switch and I like to pay less than $0.12/kWh for electricity.  I also support natural gas from both sides of the equation.  Hydroelectric and geothermal are also great, where they work.

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usurbrain

The fact that countries are not taking extreme measures to build as many almost Zero CO2 producing Nuclear Power Plants as possible is proof positive that CO2 is NOT the cause of Global Warming.

Griff

Or that nuclear takes too long and is too expensive -see UK’s Hinkley Point reactor

MarkW

This is funny, the guys who use every legal trick in the book to delay and add costs to nuclear power are now declaring that since nuclear power is expensive and takes too long to build, we should just abandon it.

Mark
I agree with Griff and I don’t even believe there really is ANY global warming.
We don’t need nuclear.
Perhaps you should go home now on this theme, and take your nuclear energy with you.

MarkW

Any time you find yourself agreeing with Griff, you really should check your opening assumptions.
The so called problems with nuclear don’t exist. Never have.
Just because a bunch of luddites have convinced you to be afraid of your shadow, is not sufficient reason to get rid of nuclear power. It is the safest and cleanest form of energy we have. By far.

Bryan A

Nuclear or Not-Nuclear what we need is energy generation that is
Consistently Reliable
Readily Available 24/7
Immediately dispatchable
Affordable by the poorest

oeman50

And Germany’s tactic of closing down already built and paid for nuclear plants because of all the tsunamis there means they really don’t care all the way about CO2 emissions, they want to embrace all things “green.”

oeman50
Griff, Griff? Griff?? Grrrrriiiiiiiiiifffffffff????????
Where did you go?

Hivemind

There was no real problem with tsunamis; any excuse to close nuclear plants will do.

kokoda - the most deplorable

“Of all the hazards facing humankind, climate change is the single greatest threat we have ever faced.”
1. Assuming the reference is to CAGW (Climate Change).
2. Biggest pile of malarkey – almost as obscene as US Gov’t claiming Assad is using CW on his own people, when it is the US coalition (al-Qaeda, ISIS, al-Sham, and Bigfoot (the moderate Islamists).

MarkW

Some people will believe any lie, so long as it paints the US as the bad guy.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

“Of all the hazards facing humankind, climate change is the single greatest threat we have ever faced.” — this is not true. If we study properly the climate change, we can adapt to it to reduced the risk. Like Volcanoes, earthquake, it is not so. During World War II human created disaster is the largest disaster. Hunan interference on nature is the present major hazard that kills millions of people each year. The 2013 Uttarkhand flood disaster that killed 10,000 people and destroyed billions of dollars worth property due to human greed. The other important one in this direction is pollution [air, water, soil and food].
Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

I Came I Saw I Left

I support all forms of energy sources as well, including nuclear, but not in its current form. It’s supposedly safe until there is an accident, then it’s off the scale, so to speak. Whereas in comparison, the impact of a coal or gas plant blowing up is limited.
btw, the claim about Germany closing its nuclear plants because of Fukushima keeps getting repeated in articles here, but it’s not true. Germany made that decision in early 2000 via law (can’t remember the exact year). Fukushima, which happened in 2011, merely finalized the open-ended schedule.

Curious George

56 direct deaths (47 accident workers and nine children with thyroid cancer) resulted from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Over 10,000 deaths from tsunami. How many from Fukushima?
Your scale needs a dose of reality.

Curious George
Conveniently forgotten facts.
The scare stories about radiation contamination are out of all proportion to reality.
There were more deaths from choking in the 20th century than there were from nuclear radiation poisoning, by a very large margin.
Coal workers deaths outstrip deaths associated with nuclear energy by an unimaginable amount.
Deaths associated with oil and gas, including death by gas inhalation, intentionally or otherwise, also outstrip nuclear associated deaths by a huge margin.
Nuclear is without a shadow of a doubt, the safest, cleanest, most reliable energy source known to man, and the greens are stifling it with imaginary scare stories.
A Pox on the B’Stards!

MarkW

Tautology. Everything is safe until there is an accident.
What matters is how frequent are the accidents and how bad are they.
In both those categories, nuclear power excels by wide margins.
The claim that nuclear accidents are “off the scale” is paranoia on steroids. Year in and year out, more people are killed in accidents in coal mines and drilling platforms than have been killed by all of the accidents in nuclear power plants since the first reactor opened up.

I Came I Saw I Left

Who said anything about people killed? I don’t even go there because it can’t be realistically quantified. Coal or gas plant blows up, you tear it down and build another. People move back into their homes and don’t lose them forever like in Chernobyl and Fukushima. Thousands of sq. miles are still off limits, some of it will be so forever. Japan is no closer to solving the crisis than they were 6 years ago with billions of yen thrown at the problem. And it’s only going to continue for decades, if not centuries. How many billion rubles were thrown at Chernobyl?

Curious George

You have a good point.

Hivemind

Japan may have spent billions of yen on “solving” the problem, but for the life of me, all I see is scaremongering.
BTW, 1 billion yen = 10 million $, hardly a real effort.

schitzree

No, he doesn’t. You don’t get to point to your own blind panic as one of the dangers of a problem.
And the anti-nuke brigade does this at every stage of nuclear power. They panic and impose costly and often unnecessary regulations for building Nuclear Power Plants, then point to the high cost. They block Waste desposal sites, then point to the buildup of nuclear waste. They go positively @pe$h!t over any problems, then point to the panic as proof of how dangerous it is.
All of which is why the Green Gang never list the actual effects of Nuclear power, but their own reactions to it instead.
~¿~

I Came I Saw I Left

Hivemind, Japan has spent over 500 million dollars just trying to contain the radioactive water on site. The scope of the problem is mind-boggling beyond that.
Over $1 billion was spent on just the second containment building at Chernobyl. After 3 decades of effort and money they haven’t even begun to deconstruct the plant yet.

I Came I Saw I Left

The 2014 estimated cost for Fukushima is $105 billion. That is double the 2011 estimate. This is going to go on for decades.

I Came I Saw I Left

” According to the researchers, the figure (11.08 trillion yen [$105 billion]) does not include costs for the final disposal of radioactive substances, compensation and plant decommissioning.
There will be also extra 5 trillion yen ($48 billion) for the decontamination of the crippled Fukushima plant, which is twice as much as initial estimates. ”
Like I said – off the scale…

Rainer Bensch

Came,
so the reactors would have been better gone off like the bombs thrown at Nagasaki and Hiroshima? According to your drivel those areas are supposed to be off limits right now because the bombs were really dirty.

I Came I Saw I Left

RB, 6 years ago Fukushima’s cesium leaks equaled 168 Hiroshimas. Hiroshima and Nagaski air-blasts were one-time, fission events with a lot less material. Fukushima is an ongoing China syndrome event that is still highly radioactive after 6 years, and still polluting the environment. The highly radioactive groundwater is so close to the surface in places that the workers have to stand on lead plates. The 200 million gallons of highly radioactive water contained in more than 1000 tanks emit a type of radiation (can’t remember the German name) that the workers cannot be shielded from.
Please, people, get educated about what’s going on at Fukushima before you post such misinformed opinion. I’m really not that interested in this, but if you keep posting such nonsense to try to make me look like I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll have to continue making you look like fools.

I Came I Saw I Left

Tepco “There is no way to shield Bremsstrahlung from contaminated water tanks”
http://fukushima-diary.com/2014/01/tepco-there-is-no-way-to-shield-bremsstrahlung-from-contaminated-water-tanks/

I Came I Saw I Left

The 11 trillion yen estimate has already been doubled to 21.5 trillion yen. If this keeps up at this rate, the total cost will eventually exceed 1 trillion dollars.
https://japansafety.wordpress.com/category/fukushima-daiichi/

Dont worry abt personal attacks. It is usual here. I think the clever people here are beginning to realize that nuclear energy is a waste (of time)

I Came I Saw I Left

Henryp, at one time I was very interested in Fukushima. Now I just want to forget about it. I came I saw I left. Thank you very much. Thank you for your support (with apologies to Bartles & James).

glad to help.
I started looking at climate change when this was used as an argument to promote nuclear energy.
I found there is no man made climate change.
It is all a hoax.

schitzree

A billion dollars spent on the containment building for Chernobyl is the ultimate example of closing the barn door after the horses have run.
Every time ICISIL lists some masive dollar amount for anything related to Nuclear he is doing exactly what I have already accused him of, pointing to the Greens own insane panic and greed as an example of the problems of Nuclear.

I Came I Saw I Left

The containment building is to prevent the release of highly radioactive particulates into the atmosphere once they start deconstructing the original containment building and damaged reactor, and disposing of the corium. There are still horses in the barn.

I know this is irrelevant, but, that list of historical threats to Britain is a little curious … How come Attila, Tamerlane and Lenin made the list, but not the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons, Danes and Normans? After all, these gents managed to not just threaten but actually conquer Britain, or at least parts of it. Also curiously absent: Philip II., Napoleon Bonaparte, and Wilhelm II., all of whom came closer to actually defeating England than Adolf did.

And the Vikings, who conquered parts of the British Isles.
The Vikings settled in:
• Islands off the coast of Scotland – Shetland, Orkney and The Hebrides.
• Around the north and north west coast of Scotland.
• Parts of Ireland – Dublin is a Viking city.
• The Isle of Man.
• Small parts of Wales.
• Northumbria (which included modern Yorkshire)
• East Anglia.
We partied with the Vikings, led by King Haakon IV of Norway at the Battle of Largs in 1263 – apparently we were poor hosts because they never called back. 🙂

Seriously David – a very good article – thank you.
I prefer to use the term “global warming” rather than “climate change” for this alarmist nonsense, because it is a falsifiable hypothesis, which I believe is already falsified.

Jer0me

Yeah…
“What have the Romans ever done for us?”

So let’s talk “honestly” about putting those atoms on the asphalt and in the air and on the oceans. That’s a job for super-duper Fossil Fuels!! Fabricating all those electric motor powered transportation vehicles will take a lot of copper and lithium the processing of which will make an astounding mess.
And while we’re talking honestly: (maybe quit snipping us slayers)
Is space cold or hot? There are no molecules in space so our common definitions of hot and cold don’t apply.
The temperatures of objects in space, e.g. the earth, moon, space station, mars, venus, etc. are determined by the radiation flowing past them. In the case of the earth, the solar irradiance of 1,368 W/m^2 has a Stefan Boltzmann black body equivalent temperature of 394 K. That’s hot.
But an object’s albedo reflects away that heat and reduces that temperature.
The earth’s albedo reflects away 30% of the sun’s 1,368 W/m^2 energy leaving 70% or 958 W/m^2 to “warm” the earth and at a S-B BB equivalent temperature of 361 K, 33 C colder than the earth with no atmosphere or albedo.
The earth’s albedo/atmosphere doesn’t keep the earth warm, it keeps the earth cool.

Griff

I note that figures out today show that the UK got 26.6 % of its electricity from renewables for Q1 2017 – the coldest quarter of the year (and that with lower output from wind and hydro due to weather conditions)
This country is doing quite well with renewables.

I Came I Saw I Left

What % of that was from wood chips imported from the US.

I Came I Saw I Left

I should probably not limit that to just the US. The UK burns 33% of the world’s wood pellet imports from numerous countries.

hunter

Importing wood pellets to burn is a fool’s idea of a viable energy policy.

question–does not the burning of wood (Pelleted or not) also release CO2 into the atmosphere???, Seems to me that fossil fuels or wood pellets are just abundant forms of stored solar energy.

MarkW

Little Griff still doesn’t know the difference between instantaneous and total average power.

Hivemind

26.6% from renewables means 73.4% from conventional means. How many people would that be starving and freezing to death if you turned off the power plants?

Sheri

Where does energy from weather (wind) work?

I Came I Saw I Left

At beach houses on islands not connected to the grid. I saw one once, and from that point wanted to put one on my fishing van.

Auto

ICISIL
If you have a turbine on your van, and connect it to the battery, does Justin T think you will never need gas [or petrol – not sure which side of the Pond you are on]. Fortunately for me Justin T is on the other side of the pond.
Auto

Many installations are working. Just Google it. Lots of reports on output, and new capacity going on-line.

I Came I Saw I Left

If Germany is so concerned about coal pollution, why don’t they import clean coal from the US instead of using their dirty lignite (is that the right word)?

We use lignite, too and the pollution is the same, but different.

Griff

They plan to shut all of it down by around 2045… the only reason they don’t do it right now is arguments with trade unions on job losses
See this for coal plant closures:
https://energytransition.org/2017/02/germanys-to-complete-yet-another-coal-plant/
“The list of power plants that utilities wish to close permanently is now seven pages long and covers some nine gigawatts, just under a tenth of installed dispatchable capacity ”
https://www.bundesnetzagentur.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/Sachgebiete/Energie/Unternehmen_Institutionen/Versorgungssicherheit/Erzeugungskapazitaeten/KWSAL/KWSAL_2016_11_10.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=2
(in German use google translate!)

commieBob

They aren’t stupid. Importing ‘clean’ coal from America would wreck their balance of payments.
America’s former dependance on Saudi oil is a product of laziness and corporate interests. Here’s an article from 2011 where Obama (yes, him) decries the oil companies for not drilling enough. ROTFL My libertarian friends would point out that corporations have no duty to support our national interest.
I find it deeply troubling that America would send piles of cash to the Saudis so they could use it to export their nasty wahhabi religion to the rest of the world and cause us no end of trouble.
For sure, America should develop her energy resources.

Toby Nixon

Asteroid or comet impacts, supervolcano eruptions, flood basalt events, megaquakes, tsunamis, coronal mass ejections, and gamma ray bursts simply do not have the utility of global warming as a way to scare people into giving up their liberty, mainly because there’s no easy way to mislead people into thinking we can do anything to prevent them. There’s really nothing we can do about climate change, either, although that won’t stop politicians from directing trillions of dollars to their alternative-energy cronies in a vain attempt to stop it.
Pandemics and nuclear war? Those are things we really could stop or significantly reduce the risk of, if we weren’t wasting money trying to change the climate.

George Tetley

Why do the Germans want to become part of Africa ? ( last week Italy became host to thousands of Africans on there way to get there new M/Benz) Maybe it is because the Germans love the smell of “bullshit” when cooking dinner?

MarkW

There are things that can be done about asteroid/comet impacts, provided we spot the collider in time.
Megaquakes are survivable provided you have spent the money to reinforce buildings and infrastructure ahead of time.
Coronal mass ejections are no big deal provided you have protected the power grid from overloads, which has been done.
For the rest, the solution is to get your population on more than one planet, that way the culture cab still survive.
All of these solutions take money and time. Both of which are being wasted on the non-problem of climate change.

Tom Halla

The green blob uses climate change as a tool to sell their general agenda. Some people do care about climate change, or the hazards of nuclear power, but mostly they are being used as useful idiots by the green blob.
It is a rather loose coalition/mass movement, but nearly always socialist in economic/political preference, and anti-technology in general. GMO’s are almost as much doubleplus ungood crimethink as nuclear.
What would be a catastrophe would be a return to Little Ice Age conditions with “organic agriculture” and only “renewable energy”.

Clyde Spencer

David,
The climate zone animation was very interesting. I get the impression that there is no significant shifting, but rather minor variations in boundaries that could be the result of land-use changes or improvements in mapping the boundaries during the satellite era.

hunter

Good analysis on both major points. Alarmists are the ones who need to be studied and analyzed….

Joel Snider

I think it’s pretty simple – not much more than the marching brooms from Fantasia.
Or worse, the marching hammers from Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’.

Joel Snider

The Guardian – ‘talk honestly’?
Friday Funnies?

Auto

Any day funnies? No?!
Auto

William Heritage

Thorium can be used to fuel nuclear reactors, just like uranium. … And here we come to it: Thorium reactors do not produce plutonium, which is what you need to make a nuke.

A lot of opinion masquerading as fact here. You don’t make weapons grade anything using the spent fuel from a commercial power reactor, U-235 mostly gone as well as some of the Pu-239 created which also fissions, but spent fuel is too radioactive and full of heavier isopr topes of Plutonium so impossible to separate chemically with nitric acid, etc., etc.., etc. .
You refine the pure U-235 from Natural Uranium in a centrifuge, and for plutonium bombs you require a carbon moderated reactor you can easilly access to “flash fry” the Uranium rods the PU-239 is created in, which generally involves a dry core with easy physical access hence compromised containment, as at Windscale and Chernobyl, versus the locked down concrete vessels of a commercial reactor, plus PWR pressure vessel, etc. The fact these were weapons facilties in whole or part was a key factor in those accidents and the resultant radiation releases.
And why Three MIle Island and Fukushima, accidents in relatively well contained commercial reactors, caused few real probems, no one died or will die from radiation effects. Most of the evacuations were Tsunami related and unnecesary on radilogica grounds in fact, the levels were below natural levels found around the world without epidemiological effect..
There is about ZERO connection between a civilian and weapons grade reactor apart from the fact fission occurs in both. To claim civilian reactors can creat a nuclear explosion or that bom proliferation comes from there use is just worng. It also demonstrates a basic lack of understanding of the nuclear physics, refinement processes, facilities and technologies involved in making a weapon.

MarkW

I’ve read that less than 5% of the U-235 has fissioned by the time a nuclear power rod has to be decommissioned. The problem is all of the byproducts that have been produced that absorb so many of the neutron’s that get created that it is hard to maintain the reaction.

You need a book written by someone who understands the subject, but at least you shared your belief, so here is a simplistic but clear answer, I hope, I would check sources before you believe any thing in this forum, not too many quaifications and references about, a lot of opinion dressed up as science fiction.
Enriched Uranium as used in PWRs and BWRs is about 3% U-235 and 97% U-238 when new. The U-238 does not fission BUT Pu-239 created from the U-238 as part of neutron absorption by U-238 does fission, however, its a sort of internal self renewal, 40% of the fissions come from this process, I recall (that is technical hearsay but you can check it and let me know) , which accounts for the otherwsie inexplicable numbers at the end. . The neutrons are absorbed mainly by the control rods. Some neutrons are absorbed to form heavier actinides from U-238 as well as the Pu-239, also Am-241 we use in fire alarms. But absorption is not the word for the U-235 and Pu-239 fission process, at least not for long!
SO: The Uranium is all there is until the 3% U-235 fissions and some of the 97% U-238 become fissionable Pu-239 and fissions, and the resulting fission products certainly “poisons” the fuel so it does not react as effectively as it did. This is the end of its useful life, when it needs reprocessing to recover the unused U-235, U-238 and Pu-239 and other Pu Isotopes and actinides that are left, separating the fission products for vitrification and safe storage, or transmutation in very advanced countries (Russia, France).
Only the most backward countries in nuclear processing technology, such as the USA, still (plan to) dispose of all the spent fuel without recovering or modifying the valuable and re usable parts, as it costs more than just vitrifying the lot.
But to your point, in a conventional thermal fission, U-235 starts of as c.3% of the Uranium and end up as 2% of the spent fuel, so 2/3 of the U235 is left, 1/3 is used, and 95/97 of the U-238 via Pu-239 formation, some of which fissions. Plus 3% is now fission products. Hope I got that right in a hurry. Here is a picture in case I failed. https://www.dropbox.com/s/ta4lzslu3bcen6l
/New%20Fuel_Spent%20Fuel.jpg?dl=0

While we are discussing real-world solutions, there’s always the Dyson Sphere.

Thorium reactors make uranium-233 which can be used to make a nuclear bomb. Provided one can purify protactinium one can get highly pure uranium-233. That’s because of the convenient decay half-lives of protactinium.
thorium-232 + n –> thorium-233 –> protactinium-233 –> uranium-233
Plutonium is not a bomb proliferation when made in a fast reactor.

Better hurry doing that! Half-life is 27 days.

Patrick MJD

“mark4asp June 30, 2017 at 3:02 pm”
No.They can’t “make” U233. What is needed is TH, which is “fertile”, and “enriched” with a neutron, to form U and becomes fissile.

Geologist Down The Pub

When discussing nuclear wastes, why is it that none of these sources discuss the hybrid fission-fusion reactor? Such reactors can productively “burn” the waste product of a Westinghouse light water reactor, thus rendering the waste into fuel.
Nor do I see mentioned the real problem at Chernobyl: That we would not give the same Westinghouse design to the Russians, so they elected to use graphite as a neutron moderator. Graphite is a effective neutron moderator, but it has a bad habit of burning in air if you get it hot enough. That is what happened at Chernobyl. The problem there was a basically flawed design, and not one which we could repeat here.
Nor at Fukushima, where the facility damaged by the tsunami was not the reactor, but the diesel generators for the cooling pumps. When the generators were swamped, the reactor overheated. Poor engineering management, not a flaw inherent in nuclear reactors.

MarkW

The Russians didn’t have the Westinghouse design, but they had similar designs of their own making.
They built Chernobyl as they did because it was cheap.
Another point, a standard containment vessel could have contained the accident to the plant itself. Once again the Russians chose not to build a containment vessel for monetary reasons.

nuclear energy is a problem
especially since it impacts life surrounding the plant
and clearly the waste is a problem – try to get near a nuclear waste site on your self ?
global warming is not a problem.
At worst is causes more water vapor which causes more clouds which sends more radiation back to space…

MarkW

Only once, has a nuclear power plant impacted the life surrounding the plant. And there were so many design mistakes in that plant that only someone with no knowledge of nuclear power would condemn all nuclear plants based on it.
Waste is a political problem, not a scientific one. Solutions exist, but the politicians block them.

Mark
We discussed this ad nauseum before.
Have a look again at my priorities of energy. Nuclear is last on my list.

MarkW

Yes, I am quite aware of how little you know when it comes to nuclear power and radiation.
There is no need for you to display your short comings again.

Henry – you’re surely joking. Nuclear energy does not impact life surrounding the plant, except to supply people with electricity; which is a good thing. Nuclear waste is no real problem. It’s a very small amount of stuff, contained in a pool of water. Dangerously radioactive for a few decades. When it moves out of the water it goes into a concrete cylinder from which radiation does not escape. A small amount a shielding is all that’s required to contain radiation. All our high level waste (used fuel) should really be used to fuel fast reactors. That would be the most environmentally friendly energy system by far.
It’s a Green movement myth that nuclear waste is a problem. Tell a lie often enough and people will believe you. The amount of water vapour caused by nuclear power is totally insignificant compared to the amount due to evaporation caused by solar heat.
Why do greens hate the environment so much? They are always proposing inefficient, environmentally harmful, energy schemes: solar power, wind power, bioenergy, biofuels, diesel cars, inflammable insulation for tall buildings. I reckon fear alone causes greens to lose their minds on energy policy. I used to think they were malevolent. Now I think they’re just lazy, conceited thinkers. Vainglorious describes greens well.

Catcracking

From the article:
” In a few short decades, we have altered the climate more than we ever thought possible and now, in the midst of the greatest heatwave recorded in decades in the hottest year on record..”
I have been asking the question, what specifically has be altered re the climate in the last few decades.
The US mainland data shows summer maximum temperatures have generally declined, so the heatwave comment is in serious question unless the USA is not typical. See below.comment image?w=720
We know that the claims were false for more Hurricanes, more Tornadoes, Polar bear decline, Himalayan glaciers disappearing, and many others. We still have significant Arctic sea ice while predictions were an ice free Arctic by now.
So what exactly are they claiming as altered climate, surely not hotter by 0.06 degrees. There have been more record colds than record maximums over several decades. The seal level increase has not accelerated according to tide gauges. Food production is at an all time high, the California drought has ended.
What is the specific basis for the claim that “we have altered the climate more than we ever thought possible”? Where do we see it. They must be more specific with verifiable alterations.

Look specifically at the number of records set for night-time high temperatures. When we talk about heat build-up in the atmosphere, this is one of the most telling statistics.
Over the last several decades, the night-temperatures have gone up more that day temps. This means very large latent heat building up in the oceans, land and atmosphere. A gradual process, fueled by CO2. Taking a very long time on a human scale, but very very fast for the earth.

MarkW

Actually, they haven’t. Thanks for playing anyway.

Roger Knights

Either that, or it’s UHI (over land, at least).

Menicholas

Calvin, you were doing fine right up until this part: “This means …”
Whereupon you went right off the rails.
In addition to being just plain old wrong about the cause, you have demonstrated you know some words put not what they mean.
How, pray do tell, is “latent heat” building up in the oceans?
And what is “very large latent heat”?
it is obvious you have no clue what latent heat even is, or else you would know that to speak of latent heat building up in the oceans, whether small, medium, large…or even very large latent heat…makes zero sense in terms of physics.
To speak of latent heat building up “in the… land” is even worse.
And to say that less cold nights means that heat, latent of otherwise, is “building up” in the atmosphere, one might wonder…where is it hiding during the day? And why and how does it only come out to play at night?
In any case, your referral top CO2 as “fuel” is pretty much the icing on your full-retard cake.
You have no idea what you are talking about.
Just in case you were unaware of that fact, I wanted to make sure you were informed.
BTW, your theory of the planet experiencing the passage of time at a different rate from people is interesting.
But since the earth is very old and has, quite literally, all the time in the world…don’t you think you have it backwards?
If it is slow for us, it must be like watching fingernails grow for the earth.

Bruce Cobb

Space aliens are a space weapons problem, so let’s talk honestly about Superlasers.

100%

rule number one.
first guy to pull out the dictionary loses the debate.
you should have learned that in 5th grade debate.
Typically because dictionaries cannot tell you the meaning of sentence which depends upon context.
try to translate Korean or Chinese using a dictionary. good luck with that.
““Of all the hazards facing humankind, climate change is the single greatest threat we have ever faced.”
BUT if you want to play with interpretations two can play that game
“Climate change doesn’t fit definitions 1 or 2 and it’s not really an “indication of something impending.” It’s an ongoing process. ”
Here are the defintions I found
1. a statement of an intention to inflict pain, injury, damage, or other hostile action on someone in retribution for something done or not done.
“members of her family have received death threats”
synonyms: threatening remark, warning, ultimatum
“Maggie ignored his threats”
2.
a person or thing likely to cause damage or danger.
“hurricane damage poses a major threat to many coastal communities”
Climate change Does fit the definition of threat. OMG which dictionary is correct!
Next: To understand the phrase
“climate change is the single greatest threat we have ever faced” you have to focus on two key words
“single” and “we”
In your translation you focused on “humankind” as the interpretation of we. A charitable interpretation would see that the writer doesnt mean humankind and all its history. He means “people reading this”
People reading this never faced tamerlane as a threat. see how nitpicking works?
Its more effective to merely note that the author is engaging in a bit of hyperbole. If you try to parse the sentence by nitpicking words you just invite more nitpicking.

Menicholas

Twice nitpicked bullshit is still bullshit, Steven.

Menicholas

I am going to go way out on a limb and predict with full confidence of being 100% correct that for the greatest threat we face, climate change sure does play it’s hand close to the vest.
If by “greatest threat” one might take it that the subject is life and death, we should really insist on tossing in the qualifier “except for every other threat known and unknown”, dontchathink?
Because more people will die tonight from getting hit between the eyes by errant champagne corks than will die in our entire lives on the entire planet from any effect that can be attributed to any changes in climate provably attributable to CO2 increases. Or even changes in climate that are natural.
Choking on cherry pits, heart attacks while making love, falling down a single stair, and even dying from embarrassment (And don’t even get me started on deaths from falling out of bed!), will cause more deaths that “climate change”.
Because the number of such will be on the same order of magnitude as “climate refugees”…that is, equal to or less than zero.
Unless we have pronounced global cooling…then all bets are OFF!
I am pretty sure that for something to qualify as a threat, let alone a greatest threat…that someone has to actually, you know…die, don’t they?
(And just in case you are going to quote some weather related deaths, do not bother…they are way WAY down over the past 25, 50, 100, and even 1000 years…which means that such deaths as an excess are down, and the number is a hugely negative one.)

Kaiser Derden

Don’t let them steal 1st, 2nd and 3rd with the phrase “Climate Change is an energy problem” … 1) its a nonsensical sentence … 2) it assumes ALL climate change is driven by energy production which is also nonsense … 3) by all measures “climate change” has slowed down over the last 20 years … less of everything they are terrified of … lees or no temp increase, less hurricanes, more ice, less droughts …
seems to me that the MORE energy we produce the less the climate changes … Isn’t that a good thing ? maybe ?

“Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany
Attila the Hun
Ghengis (jen-jis according to John Kerry) Khan
Tamerlane
Vladimir Lenin, Joe Stalin and the rest of the Soviet gang”
Missing from this list of Greatest Threats are Mao Tse Tung (60-78 Million) and Muhammed (270 Million). They make the rest look like small beers.

Hivemind

What about Pol Pot?

observa

Naturally here in the Saudi Arabia of uranium when you want to save the planet from anthropogenic CO2 you import diesel to keep the lights on-
http://joannenova.com.au/2017/06/sa-govt-to-spend-100m-on-diesel-generators-but-could-have-spent-8m-keeping-coal-plant-instead/
It’s just an interim measure overlaid on top of the dearest power prices in the world while the brains trust plan another gas plant instead of installing more of their beloved wind turbines and solar panels. So we’re left to draw our own conclusions from all of that while we pay our power bills.
http://www.wattclarity.com.au/2017/06/wheres-the-wind-gone-nem-wide-wind-farm-operation-lowest-in-5-years-maybe-ever-on-like-for-like-basis/

Hivemind

And very big power bills they are going to be, too.

Menicholas

There is iron in your words, David Middleton.

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

No, not at all — climate change is not energy problem.
Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

climate change is natural,– not man made. Energy “problems” are man made

Leo Smith

climate change is not an energy problem.
It is a profit power and control problem.
And it can be solved by taking profit power and control away from those who espouse it.

prjindigo

Climate change is a land-use and environment destruction problem. Increasing and decreasing the heat by a couple degrees doesn’t change climate, just temperature.

Mark4asp
Mark, you questioned me on the nuclear not impacting on the environment.
I am telling you that it impacts on the environment even if there are no accidents…
I understand that here in Koeberg (South Africa), before nuclear, the fishermen would catch a lot of fish in the area. After Koeberg, they found no more fish. Now, from what I understand, the nuclear reactors need a lot of cooling and they simply take the water from the ocean. This increases the T of the water around the plant and apparently this is what chased away the fish.
This is one extra point against nuclear: apparently you need a lot more cooling water than a conventional gas operated plant, to cool the reactors. All this heat goes into the ocean. Guess what happens when the sun comes up? The extra heat in the water produces extra water vapor. Water vapor is a GH gas….

Catcracking

Henryp
Not all nuclear designs heat up the neighboring body of water. Some designs use cooling towers.
Not so sure about the fishing claim, where I live the fisherman congregate around the heated effluent from the Nuclear plant even in the winter, that’s where the fishermen congregate and the crabs are great.
For a large body of water I doubt that the water temperature is significantly increased except close to the effluent.

Ian Macdonald

There are 400-odd nuclear power installations in the world. Some of these have more than one reactor Fukushima Daichi and Chernobyl both had four. Of these 400, two have suffered a catastrophic failure and at least one more has had a near-miss with an environmental disaster.
Consider that there are 400 planes of a given 4-engined type flying, and two are destroyed completely following an engine fire which reportedly could not be extinguished. A third barely manages to land intact following a similar incident. The examination of the third reveals that a loss of cooling caused the fire. However, this would have been a controllable situation had not the use of zirconium cladding on engine components made the fire impossible to extinguish with any normal fire suppressant system.
You are the head of the air accident investigation team. Question: Would you advise the government that it is not only quite OK for the remaining 397 too keep flying, but for more aircraft with the same engine type to be built?

If I were the investigator I would stop all nuclear as a next big incident is imminent.
Good comment.

Good call Henryp and Ian. There are so many disasters waiting to happen, to distract everyone with global warming is simply that – a distraction.

Patrick MJD

“henryp July 1, 2017 at 11:35 am
If I were the investigator I would stop all nuclear as a next big incident is imminent.
Good comment.”
Imminent? Like you know it will happen, coming etc, *THAT* use of the word imminent? Poor comment and based on poor information. Since Three Mile Island (Which never sold one watt of power commercially), how many serious nuclear disasters, of significance, to humans and local environment, have happened? I count ZERO!

Patrick MJD

BTW, there are Japanese moving back to the area.

Retired Kit P

“It’s supposedly safe until there is an accident, then it’s off the scale, so to speak. ”
One has to wonder if the author of this statement uses a seat belt when driving. Cars are safe until until you have an accident.
So we actually go to the trouble of designing reactors in the US to be safe even if there is an accident.
How we do this is public information.

I have always thought that the whole global warming thing was to manufacture consent to initiate nuclear power.

Ian Macdonald

The idea of global warming goes back a long way, but the modern hysteria was started in the UK by Thatcher as a means to discredit the coal industry and its striking miners.
The surprising thing is that the Greens jumped on this bandwagon, and the likes of Greenpeace who had been campaigning against ‘dirty nuclear energy’ up to that point, suddenly started advocating nuclear energy as a solution to climate change. It couldn’t get more hypocritical; the guys doing this know perfectly well they are advocating long-term hazardous waste storage and the risk of an environmental catastrophe.

Patrick MJD

“Ian Macdonald July 2, 2017 at 1:44 am”
Global warming driven by by CO2 emissions from fossil fuels was proposed well before her. I don’t have time to find the video link.

Patrick MJD
There was a paper on the increase in carbonic acid by Svante Arrhenius more than 100 years ago and many still believe in the truth of it.
I looked at it to find that he looked predominantly at a closed box. Most scientists, like myself, have since seen [by experiment] that CO2 also cools the atmosphere by deflecting sunshine in the 1-2 and 4-5 um ranges.
Never mind certain bands in the UV which [‘s reflection] is how we currently can identify presence of CO2 on other planets.
Hopefully I can convince you that gas is so much better than nuclear simply because its plants are so much cheaper and simpler to build?
{we donot want too much degree of difficulty here in Africa due to a lack of experts}

A bit late to this discussion, but once again a pro-nuclear piece on WUWT. One would think that eventually, the posters and commenters here would learn. Would learn that no nuclear technology has ever demonstrated cost-effectiveness. Learn that the best nuclear plants in the US cannot compete economically and either shut down, or are crying for handouts from government.
Learn that new nuclear plants such as those being built in the US at Vogtle in Georgia and Summers in South Carolina are billions over budget and many years behind schedule. Learn that the best the world has to offer, the twin EPR reactors being built in the UK at Hinkley Point C are admittedly the most expensive ever built, and the cost overruns have already begun.
One would think that the pro-nuclear contingent would read, with a sober and critical eye, the landmark 2011 paper by Professor Derek Abbot, “Is Nuclear Power Globally Scalable?” Abbot, D., Proceedings of the IEEE, Vol. 99, No. 10, pp. 1611–1617, 2011.
Professor Abbot lists more than one dozen reasons why nuclear power can never be the long-term source of electricity.
1. Not enough plant sites (suitably far away from population, near cooling water, etc)
2. Land area required per plant
3. Embrittlement problem (metal alloy bombarded by radiation cannot be recycled, it is forever wasted)
4. Entropy problem
5. Nuclear waste disposal
6. Nuclear accident rate problem (more accidents as more reactors are built, and built in third-world countries)
7. Proliferation (of atomic-based weapons)
8. Energy of extraction (forever-increasing costs of mining dilute ores for uranium)
9. Uranium resource limits (more costly as cheap sources are exhausted)
10. Seawater extraction for uranium
11. Fast Breeder Reactors
12. Fusion Reactors (a pipe dream)
13. Materials Resources (materials of construction, lack of rare alloy metals)
Thus, even if the plants were economic, and they are not, they could never supply the planet’s electricity needs.
Further, the decommissioning problem is simply horrendous. With a world powered by nuclear plants, at least 2 or 3 new nuclear plants must be started up each day. More problematically, the world would retire and decommission an equal number of reactors, each day. Given that many years are required to decommission, there would be thousands upon thousands of simultaneous decommissioning projects, in perpetuity. Finding appropriate disposal sites for the radioactive remains of all those deactivated nuclear power plants will present quite a problem.
It is entirely useless to consider nuclear power as a long-term electrical power source.

Tom Halla

Chutzpah! Most of the cost of nuclear is due to regulatory lawfare by the greens. As their goal is to stop nuclear, not make it “safe”, most of the expenses are useless.

Interesting statement there, Tom Halla. Please expand. What regulations do you see as problematic? Do you opposed any specific regulations that govern nuclear power in the US? If so, please name the regulations you consider superfluous. Then, explain how removing that particular requirement would not compromise safety, and how much the cost to construct would be reduced.
I have always wanted someone to give me such a list, but no one seems to have the list available.
Surely, there must be thousands of superfluous regulations that add billions of $ to the cost?
Which ones, exactly?
Thank you in advance.

Agree 100%

hanson807

Storing waste is not really an engineering problem. We know how to do it. The unrealistic time frame for storing the waste is part of the problem. Nuclear waste is easy to handle and relatively safe if done right and we do it right. For the most part, distance is your friend. If you can keep people a few miles from it, you have little to worry about.

Thanks. Nice to read a sane view on this subject for a change.

Yes John. Most of those commenting here who are clever concluded that we do mot need more nuclear energy. Is that what you mean?