Re: Slightly fruity comparison
"The point is Mr NIMBY is that radiation is a fact of life and we shouldn't base public policy on emotional scaremongering from a position of ignorance.
That is the bigger picture that matters."
Fair enough. There's prime property vacant and available outside of Chernobyl.
Since radiation is a fact of life and we shouldn't base public policy on emotional scaremongering from a position of ignorance, move right in!
Radiation isn't a single thing. Different types cause different effects, depending on how one is exposed.
Alpha particles aren't a big deal, you can hold a really hot alpha emitter in your hand without significant harm.
Get it in your lungs or gut, you're SOL.
Beta particles are a bit more problematic, we'll not even go into gamma emitters. Just rather bad news to hang out around in quantity.
And therein lies the rub. Quantity. A banana or a granite countertop releases a miniscule quantity of radioactive isotopes or radiation.
A damaged or destroyed nuclear reactor releases supertanker loads. Repeatedly.
To date, we've had three reactors either melt down or blow up, then burn. Three mile island (now, two and a quarter mile island (local joke at the college near there), Chernobyl and Fukushima.
Chernobyl holds the grand prize. Steam void production cut fission efficiency, so the rods were removed further in error. Power then spiked tremendously, so the rods were reinserted. Regrettably, there were graphite tips on the rods, which acted as a moderator causing a prompt critical reaction that explosively disassembled the reactor. The graphite core then caught fire and the superheated fuel rods melted fully down, with no containment, throwing all manner of extremely nasty radioisotopes into the surrounding environment.
TMI was a debacle that is now taught in nuclear emergency management on what not to do in an emergency. Fortunately, with the significant melt, it finally was noticed and coolant was restored to the reactor and prevented a 100% meltdown. That is rather significant to me, as I'm about two hours by car from it and remember the emergency quite well from my teen years.
Fukushima was a debacle caused by damage considered impossible creating the conditions necessary to cause the emergency. Had the generators survived and the service tunnels that carried electrical service about the complex not flooded, we'd not even know that Fukushima existed.
Still, we do know now, it's still an awful mess.
We do need a bit better planning, both on human factors, unusual environmental factors and byzantine errors being compensated in the design. That is quite good in the generation 3+ plants and generation 4 plants. It can only be better, based upon lessons learned, with thorium plants.
I rather like thorium plants for a reason not mentioned in the article. They can "burn" the waste from our current nuclear power plants, the residue having a much, much, much shorter half-life, hence having to be safely stored for far less time than tens of thousands of years.
And believe it or not, I'm pro-nuclear energy.
So as long as we don't do another Windscale or US Army SL1.
As for solar, there are experimental cells that are putting out energy with 40% efficiency. The cheap Chinese models get, at best, 10% efficiency, usually less for amorphous cells.
Meanwhile, the author hitched his wagon to fuel cells over batteries, good idea, but ignored supercapacitors, which could be one component for an interim solution. The author also ignored catalyzed electrolysis, which increases the efficiency of electrolysis significantly.
In short, there are many, many options from multiple disciplines. Put the lot of the boffins together, heaven knows what they'll come up with, but it'll most likely be cool.
Expensive as hell, but cool and eventually, the price will come down.
Just as the price of generators came down when they came into common usage. Just as television prices came down when they came into common usage.
Just as VAT keeps going up when one least expects it. But the latter is merely a case of unintended results... ;)