back to article New nuclear fuel source would power human race until 5000AD

Since the Fukushima meltdown - as a result of which, not a single person is set to be measurably harmed by radiation - we know that nuclear power is safe. New discoveries by US scientists have now shown it's sustainable as well. That's because US government scientists have just announced research in which they've massively …

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  1. Richard Wharram

    Cool

    That is all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      Re: Cool

      Until the huge ball of FIRE and cloud of DEADLY RADIATION. Then it gets hotter.

      Clearly wind power is the way, then we can BLOW the clouds of deadly radiation out to sea, solar panels to REFLECT the deadly heat from the fire and ethanol to BURN THE HERETICS who doubt these methods, clearly bringing death to us all.

      1. The Axe
        Happy

        @Cam2A

        You forgot the sarc. ;-)

      2. dwieske

        Re: Cool

        unfortunately this fiction can not happen in our reality... get help with your drug/mental issues dude

        1. Anonymous Coward
          FAIL

          Re: Cool

          Goes to show that no matter how much you think "Nobody could take my post seriously" someone will come along and prove you wrong.

          Thanks, Internet.

          1. ZagZee

            Re: Cool

            A variation on Poe's Law in practise.

            http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Poe's_Law

            1. dssf
              Joke

              Re: Cool

              Is there a corrolary having the humorous effect of a "Loh's Paw"? (Other then spoken by Maxwell Smart.....)

          2. Blain Hamon
            Meh

            Re: Cool

            Yeah, Poe's law (Also known as "Any sufficiently advanced parody is indistinguishable from a genuine kook.") is alive and well.

  2. HMB

    The Usual Silliness

    Nuclear power is bad because it sounds like nuclear bombs, or something like that.

    Radiation is dangerous and super hazardous, except in hospitals, smoke alarms and small amounts in bananas.

    We shouldn't research nuclear power because it's old and 1950s-ish. Wind turbines are so much sexier and now. It's like wind turbines ate a Zeitgeist or something.

    We don't need cheap, abundant energy anyway, who cares about getting the developing world out of Poverty?

    1. g e
      Coat

      Re: The Usual Silliness

      MMmmmm bananas

    2. JDX Gold badge

      Re: The Usual Silliness

      Radiation even in hospitals IS dangerous. It's also dangerous in power generation - but in both cases it's handled very carefully so the benefits massively outweigh the risks.

      Claiming 'nuclear is safe' is wrong. Nuclear is only safe when you are absolutely committed to remembering how dangerous it is at all times.

      1. dwieske

        Re: The Usual Silliness

        ever heard about hormesis? and don't talk about safety UNLESS you are willing to talk about the death/health toll of all methods of power generation....in which case nuclear power generation comes out as best and safest by an astronomical margin....

        1. The Flying Dutchman
          Boffin

          Re: Hormesis

          Until now, there's no solid case that radiation hormesis (little bit of ionizing radiation is good for you, sorta like radioactive homeopathy) actually exists.

          More likely, and more consistent with what we actually know, is that there may be a threshold below which ionizing radiation does little or no harm because living organisms may be able to "repair" the damage caused.

      2. Tom Reg

        Re: The Usual Silliness

        Its actually much safer than let on by governments and the like. Look at deaths per TWh.

      3. Grikath Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: The Usual Silliness

        "Claiming 'nuclear is safe' is wrong. Nuclear is only safe when you are absolutely committed to remembering how dangerous it is at all times."

        So is driving a car, and it's amazing how many idiots they let loose on roads around the world....

        And opposed to idiots driving cars, nuclear energy and it's inherent risks *can* be contained, the waste products *can* mostly be recycled and re-used, and adherence to safety and proper practice regulations *can* be enforced.

        If well implemented nuclear energy is a hell of a lot safer than crossing the road in your average suburb, but that doesn't comply with the Green Agenda.

        Bring on the downvotes..

        1. jonathanb Silver badge

          Re: The Usual Silliness

          The tree-huggers would like us to go back to travelling on horse-back and on rowing boats. If two horses bump into each other, not much happens; so a lot safer than cars.

          1. Goat Jam
            Coat

            Re: The Usual Silliness

            Actually, if two horses bump into each other you usually get more horses.

          2. JGT
            Mushroom

            Re: The Usual Silliness

            Are you willing to go back to ALL the tech that horse-back riding means? No internet, no tv, no radio, no telephones of any sort, no drugs of any sort (including antibiotics), no synthetic materials (nylon, polyester, safety glass, super glue, plastics of any and all sorts, paper finishes, cosmetics), the grand majority of soaps, detergents and conditioners, no heating or air conditioning, no refrigerated food storage, no insulation materials, no concrete, no pesticides or fungicides, no dental filling materials, etc.

            What of the above are you willing to give up?

            With a horse riding level of technology how are you going to make the things you don't want to give up?

          3. Psyx
            Facepalm

            Re: The Usual Silliness

            Am I the only one thinking "WTF was that article about?"

            So.... basically stuff that we've got loads of and aren't using much of.... we have even more of. And cue several pages of commentarding about nuclear power.

            Way to make a story out of nothing.

          4. Kubla Cant Silver badge

            Re: The Usual Silliness

            @jonathanb "If two horses bump into each other, not much happens; so a lot safer than cars."

            In fact, of course, the risk of accidental death and injury in the pre-industrial age was much greater than it is today, especially when applied to the much lower populations of the time. Horses may not cause a lot of damage when they bump into each other, but lorries don't suddenly get scared and bolt when carrying a load of logs.

        2. P. Lee Silver badge

          Re: The Usual Silliness

          > it's inherent risks *can* be contained

          Not true.

          Nuclear is *inherently* dangerous - its a chain reaction which requires a great deal of tech to keep in check. Unless you built it way underground, away from any water sources, to the extent that if all your man-made stuff failed, it would still not affect people, animals or vegetation, *then* you have contained the inherent risk. I don't think anyone is proposing anything like that.

          Fukushima was certainly a triumph of engineering over the natural elements which caused problems. That's nice for us, but what if the tsumami was a little larger? The engineering isn't inherently safe, its probably safe.

          Risk is a calculation, something like damage x likelihood=risk. There is an assumption that everyone is happy with that definition of risk. I'm not convinced that they are. The issue is that while the likelihood is small, the damage is massive, to the point of being global.

          Crossing the road is far more "dangerous" but that too follows the technical definition of risk. The frequency is higher but the damage is far lower *and* the individual can control the risk by looking both ways, using a proper crossing etc. The stats are skewed by those who are drunk, careless or wrapped in the iFog of death. Perhaps those with who have a "green agenda" are simply more careful on the roads to the point where the standard risk assessments don't apply.

          Perhaps those opposed to nuclear power think its better to probably kill a few people than improbably kill millions and contaminate bits of the earth for generations. A non-nuclear power station is inherently safe (for a given definition of safe) because a total failure has a known and localised effect.

          As far as the article goes, if the fuel costs are a tiny % of production, a new source isn't going to have much impact. It might be bad news for Australia but not much more. There are a couple of issues I can see: quality tends to drop as quantity increases, so lots more nuke stations may not be quite as safe as we might hope. Most of our industry is outsourced to China - I'm not sure we want the Chinese to embark on a massive nuke plant building scheme - it isn't politically correct, but I suspect we would far rather the Chinese kill their own people with pollution than risk killing us. The cost of building and running a nuke plant is huge - the fuel might be cheap and plentiful, but the overall cost is huge.

          Unless you are looking for political independence from the middle east, or you want to kick-start your industrial sector by subsidising energy costs with taxpayer money, there probably won't be much scope for using this plentiful fuel. I doubt its going to happen. Governments typically get a lot of tax from oil sales so subsidising energy which might replace oil would be a major cost to them.

          Personally, if you're going to spend billions, why not do more research and development of geothermal?

        3. dssf

          Re: The Usual Silliness

          Idiots driving cars CAN be contained if we have the WILL power to have the WHEEL power to atomically space-fold their asses when they drive recklessly. Then, recover their sarccoughagas capsulized vehicle and turn their spent asses into fuel pellets...

          Just an idea.... Hehehehe

      4. IglooDude
        Joke

        Re: The Usual Silliness

        The same thing is said about sharks. Come to think of it, this uranium-net might take out some sharks as a positive side-effect, thus reducing the millions of people measurably harmed by sharks annually to a more reasonable number - say, five or so.

      5. Captain DaFt

        Re: The Usual Silliness

        Yep, the same applies to electricity, steam, fire, and swinging big rocks around. Any form of energy generation/transmission is dangerous and must be used carefully, right?

      6. Osgard Leach
        Thumb Up

        Re: The Usual Silliness

        Upvoted JDX, plus the simple point... WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THE FRIKKIN WASTE? Seriously scientists, tell me, what do you do with the frikkin waste?

        1. annodomini2

          Re: The Usual Silliness

          What to do with the waste?

          Generate more electrical energy!

          Convert the radiation into more electricity.

          1. Osgard Leach

            Re: The Usual Silliness

            So you take all the gloves, clothing, tools, shielding, end-of-life components, decomissioned reactors, pipework, instruments and the containers you stored them in and you pile them in a room along with the gloves, clothing, tools etc. you used to move them and this creates electricity? Without creating more waste?

            Serious explanation please, what do you do with the waste?

            1. annodomini2

              Re: The Usual Silliness

              @Osgard Leach,

              There are other methods such as RTG's and <Insert emission type> - voltaics, as well as fission for generating electricity.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The Usual Silliness

              Are you aware of the various fuel lifecycles? It is possible to fuel certain types of reactor with output from others, but it does carry proliferation risks and a certain amount of reprocessing. I've yet to hear a convincing case for a more efficient means of energy production. But if you know of one, please let me know...

            3. umacf24
              Boffin

              Re: The Usual Silliness

              The waste is:

              1) Transuranic actinides (Plutonium etc) created from neutron activation of fuel e.g. U238 + n -> Pu239. This is either fissile and so fuel directly, or if you leave it in the reactor long enough it will absorb enough neutrons to become fissile. So, some combination of reprocessing, or a system like liquid cores which allow materials to remain in the core for a long time.

              2) Fission waste (Cesium 137, Strontium 90, Technetium 99) -- when it's fresh, this is the famous High Level Waste. You get something under one ton per year from a large power reactor. Reprocess out of the fuel matrix, put it somewhere dry and cool (without losing it) and wait. This stuff is so very active, that it's pretty much faded away in about 300 years (10 Cs137 half-lives -- 1000-fold reduction). Tc99 is VERY long lived, so it's not particularly active, but it could be destroyed by neutron activation if it's a concern. 500 years seems a long time, but it's not the absurd tens of thousands of years that you get if you don't re-process and leave the waste mixed in with actinides.

              3) Operations (hats and gloves) and decommisioning waste created by contamination with fission waste or neutron activation of the structure also tends to be short lived and dilute. Wait. Let the decommisioning sinking fund grow, the activity decay, and your robots get better. But mainly design reactor buildings and housings to be re-used and replaced in regular maintenance.

              Seriously, waste is a legitimate issue, but in the face of the prize -- zero carbon, reliable, sustainable energy -- it's one that we can deal with by management. The impact, in size and risk, on the surface of the earth and its inhabitants is tiny, invisible, compared with the gigatonnes of waste dropped into the atmosphere, uncontrolled, by gas and coal.

              1. Osgard Leach

                Re: The Usual Silliness

                Thanks UMACF24 for a proper answer.

                Points.

                "Reprocessing", didn't we try that? Didn,t go well I think.

                "Remain in the cores for a long time." I realise all these solutions are going to involve long time frames but it can't stay in there forever so are we then back to reprocessing?

                "One ton per year per reactor" adds up to a heck of a lot of tons worldwide, of the really ugly stuff. I don't lie awake at night in fear of terrorists or rogue states but I don't see the wisdom in the human species to keep all that power contained.

                Yes 300 - 500 years seems almost do-able set against time frames in excess of our history as a species but again the reprocessing, (and all the waste created by that)

                "Operations." Understood it's low grade but there's an awful lot of it and again the solution seems to be "wait."

                "In face of the prize" There's the rub. I love nuclear power, I'll eat the risk of accidents, releases to some extent but we can't pretend we know what we're doing until we have working, rational solutions to the question of the ever-expanding kilo tons of physically and politically toxic waste products.

            4. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. ptmmac

          Re: The Usual Silliness

          Read- Recycle uranium. It costs money but is much safer in the long run. If 99% of the most toxic longest lasting waste can be recycled then you have a much smaller waste storage problem. The remaining waste decays in 10,000 years. This is something no one has any problem designing storage for. It is the 100,000 plus years storage profile that is impossible to contain.

          1. Wilco 1
            FAIL

            Re: The Usual Silliness

            Recycling is a nice idea if only it worked. Sellafield was a disaster in every possible way - reprocessing waste turned out to be much more expensive than expected (far more expensive than mining new uranium), incredably dirty and polluting (they lost hundreds of kilos of plutonium, some of it within the buildings, some of it was dumped into the sea - yes really) and never was commercially viable. So after being funded and built with taxpayer money, it is now being closed down, dismantled and cleaned up (as far as that is feasible), again at a huge cost to the taxpayer.

            So recycling spent fuel has been tried and failed dismally. And there are still people who claim nuclear power is cheap AND safe?

            1. Vic

              Re: The Usual Silliness

              > they lost hundreds of kilos of plutonium

              [Citation needed]

              Vic.

        3. JGT
          Mushroom

          Re: The Usual Silliness

          You have a few choices with the waste:

          - recycle it into more fuel. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeder_reactor) The original nuclear fuel cycle int he US was going to include breeder reactors that would take the "spent" fuel and enrish it.

          - Intern it in a deep place where it will be safe for several 10k years, or a subduction zone where it gets plunged into the mantle where it will resurface in a million years or more.

          - Launch into space and store it on the moon (Space 1999 anyone?), or drop it into the sun where it will remain for another 4 billion years or so. Yes, launching radioactive waste is risky. However, containment design and materials have come a long way in the last few decades, making it feasible and fairly safe to lob the stuff into space.

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Osgard Leach

            Re: The Usual Silliness

            Thanks JGT for actually answering rather than just downvoting blindly.

            Points.

            Recycling. As I understand it this is strictly for the high grade, spent fuel rods etc. Can it do anything about the countless tonnes of medium/low grade stuff? This stock seems to just expand every time you handle , measure or move it.

            Burying it I can understand but the time frame, the geology, the politics.... Seems like a slightly polished version of dumping it in the oceans.

            The subduction zone seems tricky as this is not a rapid process, is deep under water and involves very high pressues. How do you contain and monitor the stuff for so long?

            Launching it into the back of the sun has long been my personal favourite and was my top choice for a Millenium Project worthy of an advanced species. (Sadly we built a big tent instead, but then we are only an advancing species.)

      7. Handle this!

        Re: The Usual Silliness

        And so is stepping outside in the sunshine and that "nuclear industry" kills more people per annum.

      8. Chris Parsons

        Re: The Usual Silliness

        True...and remembering that, at the moment, assuming we wish to continue consuming power at the same rate, we don't really have too much choice.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Usual Silliness

      from the reg itself. An apparently safe nuclear alternative:

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/11/04/nuclear_renaissance_interview/page3.html

    4. hplasm Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Nuclear Power

      Don't kill people. Accountants kill people.

      *Works for other industries too.Your mortality rate may vary.

      1. dssf

        Re: Nuclear Power

        Lol... Reminds me that i once worked with an accountant who said, "I'm an ACCOUNTANT: I can make one plus one equal THREE if i WANT".....

        1. akicif
          Joke

          Re: Nuclear Power

          That's lawyers, surely?

          "Ask a housewife how much two and two is, and without hesitation, she'll tell you it's four.

          "Ask an accountant and he'll say 'I'm fairly certain, but let me run through those figures once more.'

          "Ask a doctor and he'll think about malpractice, and say 'I'm fairly sure that at the very least it's three.'

          "Ask a lawyer and he'll lock the doors and draw the curtains, and whisper 'How much do you want it to be?' "

    5. itzman

      Re: The Usual Silliness

      "We shouldn't research nuclear power because it's old and 1950s-ish. Wind turbines are so much sexier and now. It's like wind turbines ate a Zeitgeist or something."

      Wind turbines are only a technology we threw into the dustbin of history 150 years ago as soon as a 1% efficient steam engine could be got working.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Usual Silliness

        "...we threw into the dustbin of history 150 years ago as soon as a 1% efficient steam engine could be got working..." But the reason we discarded water and wind was that it tied factories near the sources. The owners and managers did not want to travel from the factories to the cities and their wives wanted the social scene in town. Since the advent of the electrical grid that is no longer relevant.

        I am pro nuclear but facts are facts. And there are likely to continue to be places on Earth where wind and water are ideal to power stuff. High aloft wind power looks very promising. Enormous energy up there, especially in the jet-stream. Solar? Well, it is as good a solution as any where there is no grid. Small plutonium "batteries" are perfectly viable power off the grid for decades but in this day and age people can't be trusted with the stuff. If they could, we could have totally safe nuclear cars in a snap. Pellets can be coated in thick strong noncorrosive metal no radiation would ever leave it, just heat conducted powering a Stirling engine. Propeller aircraft could fly indefinitely.

        I don't think we should continue with the old tech nuclear when Thorium and depleted uranium look so promising. There are doubtless other possibilities as well. Crazed leaders of numerous small countries can't be trusted with current uranium reactors and most larger countries can't be either.

        If we can't trust individuals to have nuclear cars when the pubic is policed how can we trust governments who have considerably more resources and are not policed, to use nuclear power in an ethical way?

        And let's say the US and perhaps some other first world countries go nuclear and it works just fine giving us an economical advantage over other countries...those other countries are not going to back down from pursuing the same technology to compete, to be seen as respectable, and other reasons. It would be impossible to stop them and look repressive and hypocritical.

    6. Geoffrey Swenson

      Re: The Usual Silliness

      In an nutshell, you've just expressed the typical pro-nuke argument, and you think you are ever so superior to those ever-so-foolish anti-nuke people.

      You say that we don't want "cheap, abundant, energy". This is absurd, because nuclear power isn't really isn't all that cheap. There are all sorts of costs that they want to wish away, such as decommissioning, the environmental damage from mining and processing radioactive ores, and the huge, government subsidized costs when a nuclear plant goes bad.

      We were told we were foolish to believe that nuclear accidents couldn't happen with all the safeguards and backup systems... but now that it has several times now, the utterly amazing argument is being made that an occasional massive blowup like Fukashima / Chernobyl / Three-Mile Island ... is not really all that bad.

      Mr Lewis is hardly is any expert about the hazards of the massive amounts of radiation released at Fukashima to justify his opinion of just how minimal the effects are going to be over the next few years, and for the thousands of years the long-lived radionucleotides spread so far and wide will be polluting the environment. Most scientists expect that there will be a many hundreds of extra deaths from the resulting pollution, but spread over such a large area that it will be difficult to trace them. So it's extremely disengenuous to claim that there are no deaths associated with Fukashima.

      Nuclear power isn't even all that green even if you wish away all of the radioactive danger ... the whole process of building massive structures to process fuel, house reactors, and so on emits vast amounts of greenhouse gases.

      Wind power, even without subsidies are becoming cheap enough to compete with fossil fuels. The cost of solar and other green power is continuing to decline as new technologies, and economies of mass production result in lower costs and increased efficiencies.

      People like myself are think we are better off using the vast, free energy provided by the sun. We could even make the argument that pro-nuke activists don't want abundant, inexpensive energy, and want to keep insisting that we pour even more money down this expensive and inherently dangerous technological dead end.

      1. boltar Silver badge
        FAIL

        @Geoffrey Swenson

        "he environmental damage from mining "

        What , you mean coal mining and drilling for oil is squeaky clean is it?

        "long-lived radionucleotides spread so far and wide will be polluting the environment."

        You ever sat on some granite in cornwall? Take a geiger counter next time and frighten that hippy mind of yours.

        "he whole process of building massive structures to process fuel, house reactors, and so on emits vast amounts of greenhouse gases."

        Compared to a coal fired power station pumping out hundreds of millions tons of C02 in its lifetime? Don't be an utter cock. And last time I looked wind turbines weren't made out of hemp and beeswax - they're built of concrete and steel. Where do you think that comes from?

        "People like myself are think we are better off using the vast, free energy provided by the sun."

        Yeah , good luck with that anywhere outside the sahara where there is plenty of sunshine and unlimited land to build solar collectors on. Ever been north of the artic circle in winter? Hint - there is no sun.

  3. Andrew Baines Silver badge
    Flame

    we know that nuclear power is safe

    That's quite a statement to make!

    >> Old enough to remember Cherbonyl

    1. HMB

      Re: we know that nuclear power is safe

      Here we go. Chernobyl again. I mean we could have said something sensible and measured like "I'm not sure I trust cost cutting soviets to design, build and man a nuclear power station properly", but sadly, we just sink to the level of debate that makes George Bush Junior look smart.

      The CEGB reviewed the RBMK reactor when it came out, they concluded it was dangerous. It's in the national archives.

      Incidentally the soviets weren't stupid, they just compromised safety for a reactor that could be refuelled on-line and run on unrefined uranium ore.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: we know that nuclear power is safe

        "Incidentally the soviets weren't stupid, they just compromised safety for a reactor that could be refuelled on-line and run on unrefined uranium ore."

        Pity really. So can the CANDU design.

        Although it's meant to be poor at making Plutonium for weapons.

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Yes

      And Three Mile Island and the fire at Windscale. How many more nuclear disasters will it take for you to work out that the media likes to exaggerate bad news?

      1. NomNomNom

        Re: Yes

        I would need to see at least 12. I grant you chernobly, fukushima, windscale and 3 mile island so far. 8 to go.

        Surely if we built more nuclear power plants the number of accidents would decrease.

        1. itzman

          Re: Yes

          More people died in teddy kennedy's car than a 3 mile island

          Some disaster eh?

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Unhappy

            Re: Yes

            Unfortunately it also turned a $1Bn *asset* into a $2Bn liability.

            That's language bean counters understand *very* well.

            1. Johan Bastiaansen
              Devil

              Re: Yes

              Yes, and what we have noticed is that this liability is somehow passed on to the general public. After all, we're all in the same boat now, no? And then they pull the rope on their golden parachute, get paid a lot of money. There's nothing to be done about that, it's in their contracts.

              And when they land, they become capitalists and it's all me me me again. Untill it blow up in their faces.

              And this will continue untill the politicians finally work up to courage and throw some of these people in jail.

              Then throw away the golden key.

            2. The Flying Dutchman
              Boffin

              Re: it also turned a $1Bn *asset* into a $2Bn liability

              $2Bn? You might want to revise that figure upward, maybe by a factor of 10.

              The problem with nuclear is that, when a major accident happens, things can get extremely costly. In fact, no nuclear facility is insured against major accidents - the payout would bankrupt the insurer.

              Consider Fukushima: there are three melted down reactors and a damaged spent fuel pool. It's going to take at least a decade, more likely 3 decades, to make everything safe. It's going to be a very demanding and expensive job, and in the meantime, the whole complex has to be guarded and monitored. If you think TEPCO, or its insurer, is going to pick up the tab you're a little naive methinks. The government, and thus the taxpayer, will be forced to.

              1. Wilco 1

                Re: it also turned a $1Bn *asset* into a $2Bn liability

                Upward of 100 you mean: current estimates of the Fukushima cleanup are $235 billion! And we may not have seen the worst yet, there are reports that the fuel pools are unsafe and too unstable to withstand the next earthquake which most likely will happen during the cleanup as it will go on for decades...

                This whole sad story proves yet again how nuclear power can become a huge disaster by just a few minor decisions to save a few bucks. Spending a few million on waterproofing the backup generators or increasing the height of the tsnunami defenses would have resulted in $200 million minor damage instead of a $200 billion disaster. I wonder how many other nuclear power companies take similar shortcuts to increase their profits?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Yes

            "More people died in teddy kennedy's car than a 3 mile island

            some disaster eh?"

            What convinces me that nuclear power is dangerous is that there undoubtedly senior people in all areas of the nuclear industry that think like this.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Yes

        I have to agree. The Press amplification factor is huge.

        Fukushima and Chernobyl were the only really bad disasters. Even by harsh measurements, they didn't rate that high on the Disaster Richter Scale. Compared to Krakatoa or the Sumatran quake, or the Japanese quake itself, these were minor. Windscale was low-end minor, and Three-Mile was so trivial it was a legend in the mind of the Press.

        Moreover, in both major cases, the cause was lax management and poor oversight. That tends to get corrected real fast.

        1. TheOtherHobbes

          Re: Yes

          Actually the take-away for non-nukers is that lax management and poor oversight are endemic in the industry, and rarely get corrected at all, never mind fast.

          It's a political and economic problem, not a technological one. Technically safe-ish nukes are almost possible. But you don't hand nuke technology to pointy-haired bosses and freebooting profiteers like TEPCO and expect them to run it safely - because they can't and won't.

          If anyone believes otherwise, email me and I'll sell you a nice shiny bridge someone gave me recently.

          At a fair price, too.

          1. Mephistro Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Yes (@ TheOtherHobbes )

            Add to that that most nuclear waste sites need some form of -probably costly- maintenance. We KNOW that at some moment in the future some CEO/Minister or whatever will have the bright idea of suppressing this superfluous expending, or simply will lack the resources for performing said maintenance.

        2. Johan Bastiaansen
          WTF?

          Re: Yes

          "That tends to get corrected real fast." No it doesn't. That just tends to happen again and again. Quite often we don't have the creativity to invent new mistakes, so we just recycle the old ones.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yes

          How to make nuclear reactors safe. Make sure you've got the best cleverest scientists who can jolly well tell everyone what to do and make sure they get everything right so there'll never be any meltdowns ever ever again. Next week how to build box girder bridges.

          1. Pedigree-Pete
            Meh

            Re: Yes

            Yeh! If only what the best cleverest scientists get to dictate what will & will not happen without some "boss" contradicting them on the basis of cost.

      3. Wilco 1
        Thumb Down

        Re: Yes

        How many more disasters before you work out that nuclear power is not safe and never will be as long as we allow humans to design, build and control them? If it were safe we wouldn't be able to quote a long list of nuclear accidents. Not many people have been killed, but that is not the only measure of safety. Large areas of land have been polluted and the cleanup costs have been enormous. If nuclear power were as safe as claimed there would be not a single accident.

        1. Sean Timarco Baggaley

          Re: Yes

          "How many more disasters before you work out that ANY non-trivial industry is not inherently safe and never will be as long as we allow humans to design, build and control them?"

          There, fixed that for you.

          Number of people killed by renewable electricity generation at Vajont, in 1963: over 2000.

          Entire towns and villages were literally wiped off the map. Entire families killed. In some villages, nothing at all remained to even suggest a village had stood there.

          And that's just ONE example of how other, non-nuclear, industries can fucking things up on a truly monumental scale.

          Now, let's look at coal-fired power stations. How about this trivial little incident? What about the Piper Alpha disaster? Or the Deepwater Horizon? How much do you think has been spent so far on the oil spillages that cost billions of dollars, and many, many years, to clean up?

          Here's a hint: they're still cleaning up after the Exxon Valdez, which occurred [i]over 22 years ago.[/i] Yes, it'll take 30 years to clean up after Fukushima, but one of the reasons for it is that there was also a major, far more harmful, earthquake and tsunami in the same area too. Unlike the Fukushima structures, most of the surrounding residential homes were destroyed. Which, incidentally, is one of the reasons why many are in no particular hurry to return as they have nothing to return [i]to.[/i]

          What about the Aberfan mining waste landslide in Wales that wiped out almost an entire school full of children?

          What about the Bhopal disaster (over 12000 dead)?

          And you weirdoes still think nuclear power is still "inherently worse" than coal, hydroelectric or oil and gas? We know how to handle nuclear waste: subduction zones would do it for peanuts. Breeder reactors will let us recycle the fuel multiple times, making it much more cost-effective too.

          But none of that stuff can happen until the vocally ignorant stop spreading so much idiotic FUD.

          As for the decommissioning of nuclear power stations: how much do you think it costs to sort out a contaminated brownfield site that was once an oil refinery or chemical plant?

          Energy generation is an industry. All forms of energy production have their whole-life costs. When all those offshore wind farms become life-expired, do you think dismantling them and towing their carcasses back to the mainland for recycling—and an awful lot of landfill—will be free?

          If you're going to apply such high standards to the nuclear energy industry, you'd better have a bloody good reason for not applying equally high standards to every other form of electricity generation.

    3. Magnus_Pym

      Re: we know that nuclear power is safe

      What's wrong with Oil, Coal and Natural Gas? After all nobody ever died extracting, converting, transporting or using those did they? Or was it that hundred die each year I'm never sure on that.

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: we know that nuclear power is safe

        If you only care about body-count, then nuclear scores pretty well. However Chernobyl and Fukushima have left large areas of land uninhabitable for the next 1000 years or so. How many people are starving to death every year who wouldn't be starving to death if that part of Ukraine and Belarus could be used as productive farmland to produce more food?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The Pripyat area is mostly marshland (nice source of cooling water) so little loss of productive farmland. Doesn't mean it was not a tragedy of the 1st order.

        2. Stephen Channell
          Unhappy

          Re: we know that nuclear power is safe

          Err no, people are not starving because of Chernobyl, exponentially larger amounts of crop growing land is being used to grow maize to make biofuel pushing up the price of food.. You could feed a village on the maize used to water down a tank of petrol...

        3. Daniel B.
          Boffin

          Chernobyl != Fukushima

          Chernobyl has left large areas of land uninhabitable for the next 1000 years or so. Fukushima hasn't, most of the estimates are "only" for 20 years or so. It isn't harmless, but it isn't "the next Chernobyl" either.

          It is relevant that both Chernobyl and Fukushima were byproducts of bad management, and in Chernobyl's case it was reckless abuse of an unsafe reactor type (RBMK). On Fukushima, it was TEPCO's neglect to tsunami-proof their backup systems....

        4. Wilco 1

          Re: we know that nuclear power is neither safe nor cheap

          Indeed. And more importantly what are the costs? Chernobyl is expected to cost $235 billion. Fukushima will cost $250 billion by the latest estimate. In the UK we are paying $72 billion to clean up our own nuclear mess.

          You can't argue nuclear power is either safe or cheap with these astronomical costs to society.

          And guess what, it is always the tax payers which end up paying for it, never the power companies! These kinds of huge sums could easily be used to transform a whole country to use renewable energy.

          I'm all for nuclear power if it could be done safely and cheaply, without any subsidies or extra taxes. But is it actually possible?

          1. Pedigree-Pete

            Re: we know that nuclear power is neither safe nor cheap

            Comapnies including power companies get revenue from only 1 place. Customers (aka tax payers). It's what they do with it that's important.

        5. Andydaws

          Re: we know that nuclear power is safe

          "If you only care about body-count, then nuclear scores pretty well. However Chernobyl and Fukushima have left large areas of land uninhabitable for the next 1000 years or so."

          Background radiation levels in Pripyat area about 1 microsievert/hour - or about 9 millisieverts/year.

          The average radaition level across Cornwall is about 8 millisieverts/year, with hotspots up to about 6 times that.

          Should we be evacuating Cornwall?

        6. John 48
          Happy

          Re: we know that nuclear power is safe

          "However Chernobyl and Fukushima have left large areas of land uninhabitable for the next 1000 years or so", you realise that the powers that be in Japan are waiting for the radiation to fall to a "safe" level before the land can be reoccupied? The irony being that the vast majority of the so called exclusion area is already significantly less radioactive than the normal background level of radiation in Cornwall!

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Happy

            Re: we know that nuclear power is safe

            "The irony being that the vast majority of the so called exclusion area is already significantly less radioactive than the normal background level of radiation in Cornwall!"

            Am I the only person here thinking "Explains a lot about the residents"?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: we know that nuclear power is safe

        Coal,oil,smoke inhallations kills thousands. Sned SUlphur dioxide & mercury into the atmospeher and hase reached the Eskimos tissue organs.

        Countless millions are carrying the scars of inhallations (including miners) of these pathogens.

        Doesnt thsi make Nuclear safer in mul;tiples?

        Why is no one mentioning Thorium Reactors ? They're even better.

    4. dwieske

      Re: we know that nuclear power is safe

      unfortunately for you a handfull of coal plants kill more people each year than tjernobyl ever did......add to that the fact that another tjernobyl incident is pretty much impossible to happen and....it would seem you are just plainly fearmongering

      1. Some Beggar

        Re: we know that nuclear power is safe

        @dwieske

        You might want to familiarise yourself with the English concept of "sarcasm". Hope this helps.

      2. dssf

        Re: we know that nuclear power is safe

        And, do not forget cave ins, and impoverished (or opportunistic) fuel thieves who burn down whole villages with a spark while people are in a frenzy to bucket-collect fuel from leaky or vandalized pipelines....

      3. Geoffrey Swenson

        Re: we know that nuclear power is safe

        Environmentalists don't like coal any better than nuclear, so why is your comparsion even valid? There are better alternatives than coal.

    5. Alan Johnson

      Re: we know that nuclear power is safe - becaus of Chernobyl

      Chernobyl demonstartes that nuclea rpower is safe not that it is dangerous. I am using the normal definition of safe: 'freedom from unacceptable risk'.

      Chenrobyl was a ridiculous design reactor which was recklessly managed and which as a consequence suffered the worst failure imaginable. The reactor core exploded and caught fire, there was a meltdown.

      The point is not that even old western designs are much safer, or that modern designs are safer still or that a good safty culture would have prevente dthe acciddent but all are true. The point is that Chernobyl is pretty much the worst that coudl happen and the consequences were not very severe. Roughly sixty workers died. There have been 9 additional deaths of non-workers due to increased levels of thyroid cancer and that is pretty much it apart from psychological problems caused by fear of consequences.

      In the grand scheme of thinsg one accident of this severity is better than most industries certainly better than renewable energy. The worst renewable energy accident I am aware of killed more than 30,000 people and caused massive destruction of property.

      Three mile island and Fukishima are examples of the double standards applied to nuclear, nobody died or was ever likely to die in either case. The fact that these are brought up shows how extremely safe nuclear is. In what other industry would people constantly mention accidents in which no one was hurt?

      1. Sad Git

        Re: we know that nuclear power is safe - becaus of Chernobyl

        @Alan Johnson

        Actually the worst renewable energy accident is believed to have killed over 171,000 people!

        No typo - one hundred and seventy one thousand.

        1975 Banqiao Dam burst - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banqiao_Dam

        Now remind me... now many have died from nuclear?

    6. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: we know that nuclear power is safe

      "not a single person is set to be measurably harmed by radiation"

      Er - in the reality-based world, if that's true at all (and time will tell) it'll be because the population around Fukushima was evacuated outside a nuclear exclusion zone.

      Travel restrictions are still in place today.

      So really nuclear is safe as long as you don't mind making huge areas uninhabitable when it goes horribly wrong.

      Apart from that it's fine, I suppose.

    7. Olivreghw
      Mushroom

      Re: we know that nuclear power is safe

      I'm amazed by the number of pro-nuke people on this forum...

      Some time ago I thought that nuke power was the least bad we had (compare to coal and oil). then I was traveling in Asia, and Fukushima, happened. And is still happening if I may say.

      I guess that some smart people could find a law that link the pro/anti-nuke opinion to the distance people live from Fukushima.

    8. Armando 123

      Re: we know that nuclear power is safe

      In Soviet Russia, wool was dangerous. Just as a three foot section of copper pipe, in the hands of a soccer hooligan, is dangerous.

  4. Caff

    Could this be used to clean up water contaiminated by radioactive leaks?

    1. Aaron Em

      Possibly, but first you have to find some

      You've got the entire Pacific Ocean to sift through -- better get started, and good luck to you!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Possibly, but first you have to find some

        Start looking on the seabed - you'll find large piles of drums of toxic and radioactive waste that the americans were dumping there in the 70s and 80s.

        1. Ru

          Re: "radioactive waste that the americans were dumping"

          Anyone with a reactor program is just as guilty of dumping radioactive waste. I'm reasonably certain that everyone was at it.

      2. David Pollard

        Re: Possibly, but first you have to find some

        There's a couple of hundred kilos of plutonium just offshore from Sellafield, which had gone down the disposal pipe there when they were doing weapons work. Most of it seems fairly safe in the mudbanks, though about a third of it seems to have drifted off somewhere.

        I found this a bit unbelievable when I first heard about it, but it does seem to be true. Greenpeace try to dig it up from time to time.

        See, e.g.

        http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/1999/apr/23/paulbrown

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Possibly, but first you have to find some

          And we are all eating radiated Cod and glowing in the dark Irish Prawns.

    2. Nightkiller
      FAIL

      The Sea Shepherds at work

      Typical. You ask an intelligent question with implications of helping to clean up the mess we've made and you get downgraded for continuing to focus on nuclear energy. True believers would never consider the idea.

    3. Ru

      "radioactive leaks"

      Radioactive waste is a real mix of materials. Uranium is probably also not that high on the list of really nasty contaminants that you can get from a reactor; there's stuff far more toxic and easily absorbed into living things.

      So, I guess that the answer is "yes, so long as you don't mind leaving the caesium, strontium, iodine et all behind".

  5. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Don't steal our natural radiation

    We need it for erm err ... mutant fish ... keeping the sea warm ... naturally irradiated sea food ... preventing earth quacks ... banning anything that competes with windmills. Just hold on a few days while I think of something.

    1. HMB

      Re: Don't steal our natural radiation

      No need to worry. There'll be plenty left from radium in Ramsar, Iran:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramsar,_Mazandaran#Radioactivity

      All the people there have superpowers.

    2. Pedigree-Pete
      Happy

      Re: Don't steal our natural radiation

      You will get Earch Quacks. The planet has ducks on it.

  6. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Thorium rocks

    The biggest roadblock to widespread adoption of nuclear power is its bad press. We all know that when a PR nightmare takes place, the first step to rehabilitating the person / place / thing / company is to change its name (even if you change nothing else). Whether the people are so dim that they never make the association between the old and the new - or if it's just the press that is incapable of making the link is immaterial, it's a technique that works well and has been tested on many occasion.

    However, if you want to go one step further, you can tell people that the NEW bears absolutely no relation to the OLD - and in the case of using radioactivity to power our world, that can even be true (well, as close as anything to do with atomic / nuclear P.R. is ever true).

    So enter Thorium reactors. No nasty Plutonium, or icky Uranium. No bombs or past history of mistakes, leaks, failures or radiation scares. The reactors are inherently safer (though I'm sure some enterprising idiot will find a way to screw them up) and pretty much fail-safe.They can be scaled up or down, depending on local requirements for generating capacity and convenience. And they can't be used to make fission weapons - which is probably why they haven't been popularised, even though the technology has been around for yonks.

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge

      Re: Thorium rocks

      To be more specific, the biggest roadblock to nuclear is the oil industry.

      1. JDX Gold badge

        the biggest roadblock to nuclear is the oil industry

        they just want to make money. If they can make money from nuclear they are happy - they sure don't want us to run out of oil and find themselves without an income source!

      2. itzman

        Re: Thorium rocks

        To be more specific, the biggest roadblock to nuclear is the oil industry and its carefully constructed lobby that calls itself 'renewable energy'

        The only form of energy that increases fossil fuel consumption without increasing usable energy.

      3. Mike Richards Silver badge

        Re: Thorium rocks

        Actually the biggest roadblock is economic. Making the numbers add up for fission has eluded pretty much everyone so far unless they can externalise most of the costs on to the taxpayer.

        1. Geoffrey Swenson

          Re: Thorium rocks

          No, thorium doesn't rock. It's just a way of changing the subject by the pro nukes.

          Thorium is an element, when bombarded by neutrons, is converted into fissile fuel. Something has to provide the neutrons, such as a small conventional nuclear reactor or a particle accelerator.

          Thorium requires fuel reprocessing to be practical. The fissile materials produced by the neutron bombardment need to be separated out from other elements that absorb too many neutrons making the reaction inefficient, just like with regular uranium fuel. They are then used in a reactor.

          The thorium nuts are gaga about Liquid (molten salt) Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR), which have only been built on a pilot scale so far. It would take considerable research and very expensive materials to build reactors that can hold up to extremely hot, corrosive, radioactive salt without failures on a commercial scale.

          So again, thorium is yet another way of producing nuclear fuel. It hardly matters that it is more abundant and thus less expensive because the cost of the fuel is not the reason why nuclear power is so expensive. The costs come from the huge infrastructure needed to both contain the radiation and produce power from the generated heat, the decommisioning costs, and the largely unfunded but very significant risks. There are no companies in Europe or the US reprocessing any fuel because it is so inherently dangerous to deal with hugely reactive chemicals needed to reprocess such even more dangerously reactive dirty fuel. The processes requireed are so expensive and dangerous nobody wants to do it. Its cheaper to use new fuel.

          It's very difficult to design machinery that hold up to the extreme stresses on materials that have to handle heavy radiation and extremely reactive chemicals, such as fluorine, and concentrated acids, bases, oxidizing / reducing agents used to chemically separate the good stuff from the radioactive waste. It is also really hard to design and operate the equipment to avoid the inconvienient and dangerous problems of having various hot nucleotides to find a place to collect in a corner or a pipe somewhere and get really hot (both radioactively and quite warm too) and then start some very inconvenient and sometimes catastrophic reactions. This is how small amounts of nasty things like plutonium or other radionucleotides end up contaminating things when these messes are cleaned up.

          So, as I said, it doesn't matter that thorium is more abundant. The cost of the fuel is not why nuclear power is so expensive.

          Thorium doesn't produce the same set of waste nucleotides as Uranium fission, but it still produces nuclear waste that has to be dealt with in the same way. So this still sounds like a technology with more problems than advantages.

          1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
            Stop

            Re: Thorium rocks

            ".....There are no companies in Europe or the US reprocessing any fuel...." Que? IIRC, there are three sites in France, two in the UK (Sellafield and Thorp), and Hanford in the US. Isn't there also a big project to build a reprocessing plant at Savannah River? And I'm pretty sure the Russians, Chinese and Indians have their own reprocessing units.

    2. NomNomNom

      Re: Thorium rocks

      not this thorium shit again

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Nom

        Stop eating that Thorium then!

    3. HMB

      Re: Thorium rocks

      I got so excited by the possibilities of thorium and LFTRs that I nearly changed career, but nuclear research is almost non-existent in the western world at the moment and that kind of stopped me.

      China however, they are going for it:

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/02/01/china_thorium_bet/

      It's important to keep in mind that LFTRs are not a mature technology yet and will require R&D to make work.

      There's also a notion that LFTRs don't produce weapons grade material. Sadly, this is not true, I know this from talking with a Nuclear Research Professor at a seminar I went to. The claim is that the hard gamma emitters in the interim stage U233 screw too much with electronics, this is not true.

      I still dream of energy getting far cheaper and the way that will change the world for the better.

      Professor Hans Rossling who has a few talks on TED makes a compelling and powerful case that the poor need so much more energy to develop.

  7. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Mushroom

    tosh, again

    Lewis, the fish and chips are on me.

    http://phys.org/news/2012-08-fish-japan-nuclear.html

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Barely registers
      Mushroom

      Re: tosh, again

      Caesium enriched fish & chips eh? Tasty. Let's see now.

      25,800 Bq / kg of fish - lets be greedy and have a half-kilo (11oz) portion, gives 12,900Bq.

      1 Bq of Caesium = 0.013 microsievert (uSv) (source: http://www.ourfood-news.com/node/115)

      12,900 * 0.013 = 167.7 uSv

      The mighty xkcd chart (here: http://xkcd.com/radiation/ ) lists a flight from LA to New York at 40 uSV and a head CT scan as 2,000 uSv (2 mSv)

      So, for a free bag of battered fish and chips (I _do_ live in Scotland, after all) with health effects of 2 return air trips across the USA, I might well take you up on your offer, if Lewis doesn't beat me to it.

      If that's the effect of putting 6 nuclear reactors in an earthquake, then throwing a tsunami over it and blowing the roof off, then I think that's just incredibly safe.

      1. Trokair 1
        Mushroom

        Re: tosh, again

        Ignorance is the real problem. People see something like 25,800 Bq and they go "OOOOooooooo big numbers" without really understanding what that number represents. Then they point to it and go "Big numbers bad, no power for you" and slink back into their super overpriced homes to watch mindless drivel on the tele like good little citizens. I'll take a nuclear plant in my neighborhood and a 75% reduction in power costs thank you.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        Re: tosh, again

        Radiation in Japanese fish won't kill you.

        OTOH *Mercury* might.

      3. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

        Re: tosh, again

        Ok, so let me see you eat one. Better still, let me see you give one to your child.

        1. Jared Hunt
          Childcatcher

          Re: tosh, again @Mystic Megabyte

          Please GOD won't somebody think of the CHILDREN?!!!?!!!one!

      4. Mephistro Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: tosh, again (@ Barely registers )

        Ahem...

        The problem is not the amount of radiation your body receives. It's all those unstable isotopes that you are putting in your system (eating them) , many of which will find a place in your cells, organs and tissues. Some of those unstable atoms and/or their unstable/toxic by-products will end in places where they can do lots of harm simply by being there, i.e. the DNA in your cells. Comparing the amount of radioisotopes in a fish you are supposed to eat with the radiation dosage you would receive if you where close to that same fish is just stupid.

        1. Barely registers
          Flame

          Re: tosh, again (@ Mephistro )

          You are looking at big Bq numbers. It's the Sv number you need to look at.

          That is why I did the conversion from Bq (Caesium) to Sv - Bq is the number of decays per second. Sv is the derived unit standardising the biological effects of ionizing radiation. You could shield behind a sheet of paper from something emitting 10,000,000 Bq of alpha particles, but not from something emitting 10,000,000 of beta particles or gamma rays - same Bq, different energies, different biological effects. Sv is the number to worry about.

          Wikipedia (it's too late to go searching for more authoratative sources) gives an example that a single 140 MBq/kg of Cs-137 is lethal to dogs after 3 weeks. Assuming human/canine biology is equally sensitive to ionising radiation, then a 140,000,000 Bq / kg dose at my hefty 85kg is 11,900,000,000 Bq - some 922,480 times the does compared to the 12,900 Bq in the portion of battered fish in question.

          That tells me that the biological effects of that radiological dose on my body are tiny. Really. Tiny tiny tiny.

    3. Joefish
      Pirate

      Re: tosh, again

      It's also a gross misrepresentation. The caption says the picture shows fish on sale, which can only legitimately be sold if caught 50km off-shore. The headline and article refer to two members of a banned species caught within the prohibited zone by corporate researchers, not any fish on sale. Bloody journalists... ;-)

  8. SirDigalot

    all the need to do...

    is stick a ruddy great windmill on the front of a nuke plant, there all green ( also paint the plant green too with a few happy pictures of children playing or something)

    better yet minturise the nuke reactors and hide them in/under windfarms, no one will know if it looks all tree huggerish for all i care the wind farms could be powered by the nuke plant so they keep spinning all the time, so they can be smug and say they have some highly efficient design that works even when there is absolutely no wind at all, maybe powered by cow farts or something

    1. NomNomNom

      Re: all the need to do...

      "some highly efficient design that works even when there is absolutely no wind at all, maybe powered by cow farts or something"

      If you strap cows to the blades

    2. John H Woods Silver badge

      Re: all the need to do...

      You, Sir, are a genius.

      There's so much concrete (a seriously environmentally toxic material) at wind-farms you probably could shield a small reactor with it.

  9. Aaron Em

    Well done, Mr. Page!

    Nothing else I need to add -- the man clearly knows his work and does a damned good job of it! The Royal Navy must've been sorry to lose him, but their loss is our gain.

    1. Aaron Em

      Actually one thing I could add

      And that is: don't give responsibility for nuclear to anyone with a profit motive! This is what we have governments for -- and even if we can't have proper, professional government, i.e. monarchy, a Nucleonics Corps under the aegis of a mob-rule government, will still do a better job of it than someone who sees it as an investment on which to maximize return. There's nothing wrong with making a profit, of course, but some things are too important for that, and this is absolutely one of them.

      1. perlcat
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Actually one thing I could add

        I disagree. I think you need a profit motive to make it as efficient as possible, and you need rigorous governmental oversight to bend the economics curve so the profit motive incorporates safety into the plan. If you go all one way or the other, you miss out on the unique benefits either organizational structure brings. I want cake and to eat it.

        1. Aaron Em

          Re: Actually one thing I could add

          Optimizing for efficiency first, and then worry about safety, is exactly the sort of eventually disastrous mistake that's very likely to result from involving a profit motive in the planning process.

          That's not the only possible cause, of course -- in fact, Chernobyl makes a great example of how you can ignore the profit motive entirely and still make the same mistake -- but the Soviet system, being as it was an object lesson in the various failure modes of progressive social engineering, inflicted all manner of perverse incentives anyway.

          I don't disagree that the structure of a for-profit company brings with it some unique benefits. I just don't think the risk of compromising on safety makes those benefits worthwhile in the case of a nuclear power industry. And I don't mind if everything, from the turbine hall outward, belongs to a company whether publicly or privately owned -- but everything, from the containment building wall inward, must belong to someone who will not do anything that will make his plants anything other than as safe as any fission plant built with existing technology could ever possibly be.

        2. Johan Bastiaansen
          Devil

          Re: Actually one thing I could add

          I've seen it happen once to many: greedy men kill the goose with the golden eggs. You have to see it to believe how stupid a capitalist can be.

      2. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: Actually one thing I could add

        I was under the impression that Chernobyl was operated by a government rather than a profit seeking corporation.

        1. Aaron Em

          Re: Actually one thing I could add

          I already addressed that point -- for the hard of reading, here's the relevant excerpt:

          [...] Chernobyl makes a great example of how you can ignore the profit motive entirely and still make the same mistake -- but the Soviet system, being as it was an object lesson in the various failure modes of progressive social engineering, inflicted all manner of perverse incentives anyway.

          And for the hard of thinking, a tl;dr version:

          Nuclear is but one of very many things the Soviet regime, due to its innate handicaps, spent eighty years failing to get right.

  10. PlacidCasual
    Thumb Up

    Time will tell

    Until we run out of fossil fuels and assuming we never manage to crack the energy storage problem then it's nice to have nuclear in the back pocket as a reliable form of generation.

    Even better that human ingenuity can guarantee us 100's of years of fuel supply. Go scientists!

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Time will tell

      Well, there are a few hitches with the new tech that will have the Greenpeckers drooling in anticipation. Firstly in that it requires big nets to be made of electro-spun chitin, derived from unwanted prawn shells (I kid you not! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19335708). I'm guessing the idea of dragging massive nets through the oceans will not be too good for the fish and hence give the Greenpeckers an excuse to act like infants. Then you have to take your chitin nets - sorry, "mats", mustn't call them nets - and wash them in very environmentally-unfriendly acid to extract the uranium. Ooops! There goes excuse number two for the Greenpecker frenzy! Then you have to use an equally "nasty" industrial process (i.e., an uranium enrichment and nuke rod manufacturing plant) to give you the finished product, and the Greenpeckers will be in protest Heaven at the thought of more processing plants to camp outside.

      1. perlcat
        Trollface

        @ Matt

        I'm no fan of the luddite GreenPeacers either, but are you aware your unhealthy penile obsession totally obliterates your point?

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: @ Matt

          "I'm no fan of the luddite GreenPeacers either...." The sad truth is I actually used to know and respect some very knowledgeable and scientifically-minded members of Greenpeace (I even dated one), but they all left years ago when it started calling itself "The Movement" and was over-run with desperate anti-Capitalist leftovers from the falling of the Berlin Wall. It's funny you mention the "Greenpeckers" tag as that is not my own creation, I first heard used by one of those ex-Greenpeacers in describing The Movement as it has become.

          1. perlcat
            Black Helicopters

            Re: @ Matt

            I just figure they're the latest reincarnation of the Flat Earth Society.

          2. perlcat
            Trollface

            Re: @ Matt

            Given the high human costs of what the Greenpeacers want, a better slang term for them is the "Soylent Greens".

      2. mr-tom
        Trollface

        Re: Time will tell

        Oh dear. They're made from prawns? Guess vegetarians will need to stick with wind power then.

      3. Andydaws

        Re: Time will tell

        You don't "drag" them. You just suspend them in a current.

  11. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Trollface

    Do we need to talk about radiation?

    Why not talk about Hitler? Or better yet, Hitler emitting radiation?

    1. NomNomNom

      Re: Do we need to talk about radiation?

      Comparing people to hitler is really effective. If someone advocates nuclear power I just remark that the Nazis were very keen on nuclear power and then just glare at them. Say what you will about Hitler but he does win me a lot of arguments.

      1. perlcat
        Trollface

        @ NomNomNom

        Were you aware that Hitler was very keen on lime Jell-O?

        [glaring significantly]

      2. Fibbles
        Trollface

        Re: Do we need to talk about radiation?

        I was once told by a reputable source that in the Third Reich's dying days Adolf tried to start a new movement. He was toying with a few names but his preferred one was Grün Frieden.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do we need to talk about radiation?

      Did you know that not only are paedophiles genetically closer to crabs than to human beings, but they also concentrate radioactive isotopes in their skin and hair to irradiate people nearby?

      1. perlcat
        Black Helicopters

        Re: "genetically closer to crabs than to human beings"

        Sen. Candidate Todd Akin? That you?

    3. Psymon
      Thumb Up

      Re: Do we need to talk about radiation?

      Thankyou sir for that truly epic Godwins Law reference!

      I spat my coffee clear across the desk!

      Radioactive Hitler! We're doomed!

  12. Richard Scratcher
    Mushroom

    We need to go nuclear

    We need to stop using fossil fuels and to break away from the strangle hold the oil producing countries of the Middle East have on us.

    Nuclear power is a dangerous thing to have in you back yard but it needn't be there. We could set up huge power stations and use the energy produced to to create the equivalent of fossil fuels, which could then be transported safely around the planet. After all, fossil fuels are just hydrocarbons that have stored chemical energy, which originally came from photosynthesis.

    The power stations needn't be near populated areas, they could be thousands of miles away, in the middle of a desert somewhere, such as the Middle E....oh, hang on....

    1. Pedigree-Pete
      Happy

      Re: We need to go nuclear

      Priceless Richard. Thank you :)

  13. NomNomNom

    The biggest disaster of Fukushima was that it made countries retreat from nuclear. Without nuclear CO2 emissions are going to continue to rise to silly levels. Nuclear is pretty safe anyway, but definitely very much safer than launch the Earth into unknown CO2 territory.

  14. DV Henkel-Wallace

    How long are you talking exactly?

    Is this "AD" some new EU-mandated metric unit? Dekka-Amperes (presumably 10^30 Amps) perhaps? Long enough for 5000 Active Directory installations to lock up (a rather short period I would say)? Or perhaps it's the lifetimes of 5000 Denying Apologists (as in climate change Denying oil company Apologists)?

    I think perhaps you meant "AD 5000" as in "Atheist Determined"

    1. perlcat
      Trollface

      Re: How long are you talking exactly?

      A much safer suffix is "CE", which means "Christian Era".

      U mad Bro?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fast breeder reactors the way to go. Generate more fissile material than they consume and can extract (in principle) all of the energy contained in Uranium (vs. the 1% extracted by current light water reactors). More expensive than LWRs, more technically challenging and potential Plutonium proliferation risk, but orders of magnitude less radioactive waste. Much of the research has already been done. Initiatives under way internationally, though not on huge scale. Solving any remaining problems likely to be far easier than solving fusion.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeder_reactor

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Fast breeder reactors the way to go. Generate more fissile material than they consume and can extract (in principle) all of the energy contained in Uranium (vs. the 1% extracted by current light water reactors). More expensive than LWRs, more technically challenging and potential Plutonium proliferation risk, but orders of magnitude less radioactive waste. Much of the research has already been done. Initiatives under way internationally, though not on huge scale. Solving any remaining problems likely to be far easier than solving fusion."

      Much more entertaining a post if you imagine it being said by mordin from mass effect.

      1. Midnight

        Or better yet, write it into the script of Time Bandits:

        "Robert, we must plan a new world together. This time we'll start it properly. Tell me about computers."

        "A computer is an automatic, electronic apparatus for making calculations. . .or coherent operations that are expressed in numerical or logical terms."

        "And fast breeder reactors?"

        "Ah! Fast breeder reactors use a fast fission process for the generation of fission isotopes."

        "Be quiet, Benson. Show me more, Benson. Show me, show me, subscriber trunk dialing. I must know everything."

      2. mr-tom
        Trollface

        Works if you Yoda-ise it too.

        Yoda would be a great advocate for nuclear power. He's both green and glowy.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thorium cycle a strong option

    The alternative thorium cycle nuclear power system has an even more abundant fuel source, and generates less waste, with a much shorter half-life. China is investing heavily in this, and the US ought to as well.

    I suspect the heavily invested reactor companies are pushing an agenda to stay with Uranium, since they won't need to change much, and I suspect DoE goes along with that as being short-term pragmatic, and also they are heavily invested. Still, we need to look. It may make nuclear power more acceptable to the Greens.

    Nuclear power is the only way to go. Wind power is out. It's way too expensive, and subject to the weather. Coal and oil are out, because they'll run out (long before AWG fries us, incidentally). Fusion is still science fiction. And sun power doesn't work for Britain.

    1. NomNomNom

      Re: Thorium cycle a strong option

      I like wind turbines. Can't we compromise and have nuclear powered turbines? Or at least let the turbines power the grabber that picks up the fuel rods?

    2. Tom 35 Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Thorium cycle a strong option

      They just have to wait for China to get it working then they can buy a Chinese reactor at Walmart.

  17. David Webb

    Since the Fukushima meltdown - as a result of which, not a single person is set to be measurably harmed by radiation - we know that nuclear power is safe

    Is that the same reactor where the people in charge told the people working inside the plant after the incident to hide their radiation detection devices because otherwise the detector would go off pretty darn quickly and the workers would have to stop working? So not a single person? Really?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-18936831 <-- workers covering detectors with lead

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-19245818 < -- butterflies with severe mutations caused by the radiation, insects were generally considered to be more resistant to radiation

    http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/TenHoeveEES12.pdf < -- finally a scientific report stating the number of deaths from the incident will be between 15 and 1,350, including people who died during the evacuation as it was too strenuous for their bodies (old people, sick people etc.)

    So that figure for "not a single person", did you pull it at random to suit your article?

    1. NomNomNom

      You need to read more carefully. The article says "not a single person is set to be MEASURABLY harmed by radiation"

      Consider the middle one

      http://withfriendship.com/images/h/36248/Three-wise-monkeys-pic.jpg

    2. Aaron Em

      Between 15 and 1350? They couldn't inflate it any higher than that?

      All you need to do is read their abstract to see how many wild-assed guesses they're using to reach even the minimal estimate they're willing to put their names on. That paper does a great job of supporting Mr. Page's statement! -- if there had indeed been anyone measurably harmed as a result of the Fukushima radiation release, I should think these fellows wouldn't have to stretch as far as they do, to come up with an estimate which doesn't even approach the number of people killed in road accidents in the US over the course of a three-day holiday weekend!

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        That Butterfly stuff is interesting indeed.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Screw fission....

          Its the irradiated mutant butterflies flapping their wings we've got to worry about now.

      2. Philip Lewis
        Boffin

        Re: Between 15 and 1350? They couldn't inflate it any higher than that?

        .. or the number of people drowned, crushed, electrocuted or otherwise terminated by the earthquake/tsunami combo that caused it all.

    3. peter_dtm
      FAIL

      duh - it werent the radiation wot killed them

      quote you Mr Webb

      http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/TenHoeveEES12.pdf < -- finally a scientific report stating the number of deaths from the incident will be between 15 and 1,350, including people who died during the evacuation as it was too strenuous for their bodies (old people, sick people etc.)

      end quote

      lets look at that in slow motion ...

      including people who died

      ---->>>> during the evacuation as it was

      ---->>>>> too strenuous for their bodies (old people, sick people etc.)

      It was the needless evacuation that killed those people. Exmoor; Dartmoor and N Wales are more radioactive than the Fukushima area.

      XKCD radiation chart is mentioned above - go look at it

  18. BlinkenLights
    Mushroom

    Radioactive Oceans

    There's Uranium in the oceans!!! Why are they just telling us this now!

    The environmental and green groups are going to be up in arms demanding we clean it all up.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Radioactive Oceans

      It's time we started rounding up all the whales and putting them in aquariums for their own safety!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    "Anti-nuclear people have always argued that the something had better not be nuclear..."

    Well I don't know about other people, but dealing with the waste and the explosive risks of fission have always rated higher on my scale of worry.

    1. Ru

      "explosive risks"

      Eh? Fission reactions don't blow up power plants, steam pressure does. But that's pretty academic. The thing to worry about is fire because it produces lots of radioactive smoke that spreads downwind nicely. Look at Windscale; no explosions there.

      You'll get bigger explosions out of oil, gas and other refined fossil fuel storage facilities than you will out of a nuke plant.

  20. Aitor 1 Silver badge

    Errr wrong.

    Many plant workers have surpassed the maximum reasonable radiation levels. By far!!

    Therefore, many will die.

    Coal is way more dangerous (and radioactive), but nuclear power does have its problems.

    As for best energy source, I agree with you: go nuclear, and go breeder/thorium/heavy metal.

    1. itzman

      Re: Errr wrong.

      Er wrong. Only one worker has passed the legal annual limit for radiation. No one will die.

      'Maximum reasonable radiation' is probably about 10-100 times the legal maximum. In any case.

    2. HMB

      Re: Errr wrong.

      "Many plant workers have surpassed the maximum reasonable radiation levels. By far!!

      Therefore, many will die."

      You're just asserting this as the truth? Do you mean they exceeded the 100mSv?

      Do you know what the risk factors are from that?

  21. Ryan 7
    Coat

    There's plenty more fission the sea.

    /coat

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: There's plenty more fission the sea.

      +1 Excellent

  22. itzman

    Get the numbers right

    Select avg(nuclear)/avg(wind) from day;

    +------------------------+

    | avg(nuclear)/avg(wind) |

    +------------------------+

    | 6.03873279596952 |

    +------------------------+

    So nuclear power on average is 6 times higher than wind.

    select avg(nuclear)/avg(demand) from day;

    +--------------------------+

    | avg(nuclear)/avg(demand) |

    +--------------------------+

    | 0.201886008883179 |

    +--------------------------+

    and is exactly 20% of our average demand, over a year and a half of 5 minute samples

    htt[://gridwatch.templar.co.uk

    1. Aaron Em

      Re: Get the numbers right

      Damn that Gridwatch is nice. Wish we had something like it here in the States.

    2. PlacidCasual

      Re: Get the numbers right

      That grid watch link is some really nice data mining of the BM reports website. I've used BM reports for years now but that really clearly shows some of the more impenetrable data very very clearly. It's a shame they haven't reformatted the current and predicted electricity margin data because that is quite telling at times.

  23. roger stillick
    Joke

    Ural Mountains Nuclear Disaster

    Covering the Ocean with Magic Plastic Film will save the Earth for 5000 years ??

    and the plastic is made from petro-chemicals and burned to extract the Uranium...

    Google=Ural Mountains Nuclear Disaster

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Ural Mountains Nuclear Disaster

      We have these in the West at smaller scale. Directly behind the hopital, really.

  24. brainwrong
    Facepalm

    Processing seawater

    Is it possible to process 1.3 billion cubic kilometers of seawater in 6500 years?

    Thats 22.8 km^3 per hour, how much power needed to pump that through the extraction plants?

    Also, where do you put the depleted seawater so as not to dilute the remaining water even more?

    I wouldn't be surprised if even the natural ocean currents take longer than that to circulate most of the water.

    If only we could stop trying to apply capitalism to everything we try to do then maybe we could do nuclear properly, with real security, over-engineering, breeder reactors, research, open international co-operation for the benefit of all, and probably lots of other stuff needed too. But that's all expensive and politically unpaletable, and it'll be a long time before we're in enough shit for that to change.

    Yeah, I know I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. see first bit of comment.

    1. perlcat
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Processing seawater

      Argh. More fundamental misunderstanding of capitalism.

      Capitalism is descriptive. "I value X more than Y, so I am willing to pay more for X." Capitalism exists even in the deepest darkest socialist economies. (AKA Black Market).

      If we as a society value keeping lights on more than having them off, we will find a way. We may not anticipate the exact way, but eventually someone will find a way, and allowing them to get filthy rich is actually a small cost in comparison to the benefit. Punishing people for coming up with clever solutions is not effective in the long run, which is why socialism tends to be less successful than a society that encourages capitalism.

      Good example IRL. I know somebody that knows where a mineral is. It is in the control of a socialist economy. If he tells them they have it, and where it is, they may give him $30,000/year as a worker bee. He says "Screw it. Why bother? If the mineral yield is expensive/poorer than anticipated, they'll be after my hide, and if it works, I get a paltry sum." I agree.

      You are thinking in terms of the technology you "know", and not of the drive to develop a new technology when you throw out your "it'll never work because the numbers are too big" argument. The failure to develop profound new technologies is endemic to socialist economies, by the way, as they all devolve into bureaucracies, and there is no better way to smother growth than to have 10,000 GS-5's go after innovation because it challenges their place in the hierarchy of things...

      Just as an example, assuming they set up the filter using a small portion of the Gulf Stream flow, your entire argument sequence falls apart. (I'm not saying that's the best plan -- wouldn't want to screw up the climate changes the Gulf Stream brings to northern Europe, for just one thing)

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Processing seawater

        But that last sentence is exactly where capitalism goes rampant. In pursuit of the edge, especially in markets where potential advantages are few, people become willing to go outside the rules of civilized behavior to get that edge. It is rampant, even predatory, capitalism that is at least partly to blame for today's financial difficulties. Somewhere along the way, you need someone to call out, "Wait a minute!" and keep the system within the bounds of civilized behavior.

        As for innovations, I recall a number of technological innovations and successful firms coming from Scandinavia: countries well-reputed for their strong socialist systems. How is that possible? Is it because they're not as socialist as people believe or that socialist countries can produce some good stuff with the right motivation (even the Soviets in their day came up with things--especially military things--that garnered a reputation even in the west).

        1. perlcat
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Processing seawater

          "Somewhere along the way, you need someone to call out, "Wait a minute!" and keep the system within the bounds of civilized behavior."

          This is what governments are for. They bridge the gap between what is most economic and what we as a society want. That is why we don't resolve liability issues with weregild.

          However, to say that you should have all of one or the other is like building an airplane that is all wing, or all engine. Either way, it won't fly.

          I'm not saying that socialist economies cannot come up with any innovation -- just that they tend to kill it off more than a country that acknowledges capitalism and leverages it. We *are* after all, flying into space on Russian rockets.

          1. Vic

            Re: Processing seawater

            > This is what governments are for.

            Eh?

            It's those bastards that don't seem to understand what civilised behaviour is :-(

            Vic.

        2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: Processing seawater

          Hello?

          "Even the Soviets in their day came up with things--especially military things--that garnered a reputation even in the west"

          I would hope so. Unfortunately, produced by slave labor. And only for one market: the state.

          I don't know why people are complaining about capitalism, then pointing to Soviet or National Socialist Reality with > 80 million dead people and burned down economies as something to emulate. Jesus.

          "It is rampant, even predatory, capitalism that is at least partly to blame for today's financial difficulties."

          Actually not. It's mainly due to unsound money and economic intervention of the stupid sort.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    we know that nuclear power is safe

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn20305-caesium-fallout-from-fukushima-rivals-chernobyl.html

    "The bigger worry concerns caesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years and could pose a health threat for far longer"

  26. Karl H
    Thumb Up

    everything other than nuclear is SAFE !!!!!

    and people don't die of lung disease due to the particulates that come of of diesil fumes,

    and the vehicles full of petrol , kerosene never burst into flames and burn their occupants.

    crossing the road is safe, no one ever dies crossing the road.

    and aeroplanes never drop out of the sky, killing all their occupants..

    but nuclear power , well that has killed MILLIONS .

    okay , I might just be a little bit sarcastic above .

    Now seriously from what I can tell the general populace is really crap about measuring risk.

    Otherwise why would you have people who will not get into an aeroplane, yet will still happily cross the road ?

    Last time I looked, a lot of people die getting run over , or in car crashes. Way more than ever die in plane crashes.

    What is my point. well nuclear power has some downsides, but it also if it is done properly it has a lot of upsides, and anything with controllable risks that gets our dependence off very finite oil and gas supplies and doesn't leave us in energy poverty like wind power will is quite probably a good idea.

    Also , all the people who live near granite rock , well you better move coz you're getting lungfuls of radon gas EVERY day.

    1. asdf Silver badge

      Re: everything other than nuclear is SAFE !!!!!

      Man made diesel more than likely won't be around to kill life a million years after we are gone though.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: everything other than nuclear is SAFE !!!!!

        But asteroids will, as well as black holes and supernovae.

      2. Aaron Em

        "won't be around to kill life a million years after we are gone"

        Yep. Just like there's no wildlife within thirty kilometers of Pripyat -- oh, wait...

  27. This post has been deleted by its author

  28. asdf Silver badge
    FAIL

    preach on brother beavis

    Lewis's energy opinion pieces are rarely worth reading but I do enjoy reading the comments as his congregation gather and build their beloved echo chamber.

    1. Fibbles
      FAIL

      Re: preach on brother beavis

      An echo chamber of well researched arguments? Come back when you've actually got a counter argument that works.

    2. asdf Silver badge

      Re: preach on brother beavis

      > Come back when you've actually got a counter argument that works.

      Why? Its like trying to tell a born again how silly it is to worship a 2000 year old Jewish zombie. A complete waste of breath.

      1. asdf Silver badge

        Re: preach on brother beavis

        And you if you drew a venn diagram in the west between the two you would find a remarkable overlap among the two groups.

  29. Mick Russom
    WTF?

    Huh? we know that nuclear power is safe

    " we know that nuclear power is safe"

    Yeah, the world is black and white. Give me a break. Everyone sleep tight, Lewis Page says nuclear power is safe, and the exclusion zone in the chernobyl area is safe to grow food in now.

    1. asdf Silver badge

      Re: Huh? we know that nuclear power is safe

      >and the exclusion zone in the chernobyl area is safe to grow food in now.

      Ukrainian officials estimate the area will not be safe for human life again for another 20,000 years.

      I know who I would trust if deciding on building a house in the area.

  30. Boyd Crow

    Stanford study contests "harmlessness" of Fukishima

    A Stanford study has found that, contrary to the findings of a U.N. study group, more than 1000 people can expect to die prematurely due to exposure to radiation from Fukishima. Since some of the workers at the plant did not even HAVE dosimeters, the threats to their health cannot be determined. Let's not celebrate just yet.

  31. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    We need cheaper steel

    The limit on building nuclear power plants is the application process and accompanying paperwork.

    The mass of paperwork needed to build a plant is larger than the mass of the final plant, the mass of paper clips and staples in the paper work is larger than the mass of fuel it will use during it's life.

    If we can reduce the cost of the steel used in the paperclips and staples we can make nuclear power profitable again !

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We need cheaper steel

      The limit on building power plants in the U.S. for the last ten years is the inability to find insurance companies who will provide coverage at what builders consider "reasonable rates". The insurance companies have facts and figures from nuclear plants and liability suits from around the world. They tend to be conservative, shouldn't we be conservative, also?

  32. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Quick political question

    Will this energy be available to everyone?

    Say - Iran and North Korea?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh God, it's Page again.

  34. veskebjorn
    FAIL

    To Mr. Lewis, "not harmed"

    Mr. Lewis says that "Since the Fukushima meltdown - as a result of which, not a single person is set to be measurably harmed by radiation."

    Among those "not harmed" are the 160,000-plus residents of Fukushima now warehoused elsewhere. Many of them, like Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors, are unable to find work because of the stigma of Fukushima.

    Among those "not harmed" are the Japanese people, who pay for the cleanup of Fukushima Daiichi, at a guesstimated at some scores of billions of dollars. They must pay for the cleanup of between 1,000 and 4,000 square miles of land and forest, radioactively contaminated to a depth of 1 foot. This cost has not even been guessed at, because no one knows what to do with the contaminated soil, vegetation, and buildings. In May, the Japanese had to write a $13 billion check to Tepco, to keep the company from bankruptcy.

    Among those "not harmed" are the many hundreds of thousands who have inhaled alpha particles--some percentage of whom will develop cancer in the years to come. Also note the mutant Fukushima butterflies, who were "not harmed" by radioactivity.

    You, Mr. Lewis, sppear to be thoughtless, arrogant, and completely lacking in regard for the plight of others. I pity you, but I also don't think you have any credibility left with regard to the events in Fukushima. I think The Register would be best served by confining your remarks to fanciful speculations on military matters.

    1. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: "are unable to find work because of the stigma of Fukushima."

      I think you will find that is prejudice not radiation.

      "Among those "not harmed" are the many hundreds of thousands who have inhaled alpha particles--some percentage of whom will develop cancer in the years to come."

      Given that latest figures show 1 in 3 people (http://info.cancerresearchuk.org/cancerstats/incidence/risk/statistics-on-the-risk-of-developing-cancer) are likely to contract cancer in their life regardless, I'd like to know how you expect to separate those who got lung cancer from smoking etc from those who inhaled those extremely short life alpha particles.

      You havent posted any links to back up your numbers on the contaminated ground, so I cannot refute them I assume you just made them up. If it's short life byproducts then there is no need to clean it up, just wait 6 months.

      Do I need to say why facepalm?

    2. peter_dtm
      FAIL

      Re: To Mr. Lewis, "not harmed"

      Among those "not harmed" are the 160,000-plus residents of Fukushima now warehoused elsewhere.

      They were NOT harmed by radiation; but by the panic merchants and a-scieintists who do not understand risk/radiation (check XKCD for their radiation comparison chart)

      Note that Japanese paranoia over radiation would mean they would evacuate Dartmoor; Exmoor and N Wales (and no doubt swathes of granite based sites elsewhere in the world).

      This is typical of the damage done by luddites who mus-understand the precautionary principle and demonstrate innumeracy as well.

      And note further that the STIGMA of Fukushima is NOT radioactive either; again the harm is done by an ignorant media/political class; encouraged by equally ignorant un educated echo chambers

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    using as much energy as a present-day European does

    What about the poor Yanks who need twice that much?

  36. Local Group
    Boffin

    Not to worry

    Apple are already working on the iRod. Your own personal control rod which you insert and withdraw from the front pocket of your trousers. When worn together with the lead jumper your mum knitted for you last Christmas and maybe a carbon fiber bumbershoot that many of the MPs have started to carry around this year, well, you should be fine.

    Then there's the occasional woman asking you, like Mae West, if that's a control rod in your pocket etc. etc.

    1. The Aussie Paradox
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: Not to worry

      You sir deserve an upvote. Not sure why someone down voted this... possibly a passive-aggressive way of remind you that you forgot to use a sarcasm font or <sarcasm> an Apple staffer realised that you may have stolen their patent. </sarcasm>

  37. Whys
    Mushroom

    Going Nuclear

    Dispite some political pandering, nuclear power is moot. It is, it does, it will. We need it and there's no stopping it. We mostly use fossil fuels for now only because it's easier. And therein is the only real problem with nuclear power. You can't just turn the switch on or off like you can with other forms of energy. That and the safety costs make air pollution a more attractive investment. But you can hardly argue that fossil fuels or renewables are the answer to all our energy needs. Excluding the discovery of some new unexpected source of energy, nuclear power is here to stay... and grow.

  38. madest
    Thumb Down

    What?

    To state unequivocally that " not a single person is set to be measurably harmed by radiation" from Fukushima denies reality and history. I'm sure you're aware of the babies born with their brains outside their heads in the wake of the Chernobyl accident and the lifetime loss of property isn't something that should be scoffed at. I wish we could get the worlds greatest scientific minds together to figure out how to clean up radiation before some futuristic quest to mine the stuff out of Antarctica.

    I'm shocked really that you would open this article with such a spurious fact as to halt me in my tracks stop reading your over simplified nonsense. Put this in your "I can't believe I actually wrote that" file: not a single person is set to be measurably harmed by radiation.

    1. peter_dtm
      FAIL

      Re: What?

      and this very sad case is documented where ?

      Apart from which; I don't know how may times people have to be told Chenobyl was NOT Fukushima. Lets try and make a comparison that may get through..

      oh -- you can not run your gas boiler/heater/fire because there is a FLAME inside; and look at what flames do to -- pick massive bush fire in country of choice

      or maybe

      hand in ALL the knives in your house; yes even those blunt ones you have for eating with; don't you remember the GUILLOTINE - that used a KNIFE to chop of people's heads so all knives are incredibly D A N G E R O U S

      Go and research RADIATION OSSAGES then compare the maximum allowed levels in JAPAN compared to other nations; go and find out what your exposure is if you live in N Wales ooohhh - it is HIGHER than the maximum allowed in Japan -- oops; so not very dangerous around Fukushima is it - really ?

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Re: What?

        "....go and find out what your exposure is if you live in N Wales....." Years ago I used to live in an old house in Cornwall which was largely constructed of granite and had a solid granite floor in the basement. The house was over two-hundred years old. We were told by the local council that we had to install a radon gas extractor in the basement as it was a "significant risk to our health". Apparently, someone in the council was putting about a figure of 2000 people a year being killed by cancers caused by radon gas! When I asked the family that had owned the house before us they couldn't find a single member of their family that had died in those two-hundred years of cancer. Just because there is statistically a "significant risk", it doesn't mean a certainty, not by a long shot.

  39. Avry Wilson

    alternative to nuclear from the oceans

    Why not just install giant water turbines in the oceans' currents? Lot more powerful and reliable than wind.

    1. peter_dtm
      FAIL

      Re: alternative to nuclear from the oceans

      because they don't work; they are too expensive; and not reliable

      1. Pedigree-Pete
        Go

        Re: alternative to nuclear from the oceans

        Engineering problems, all. Roll your sleaves up engineers & get cracking.

    2. Andydaws

      Re: alternative to nuclear from the oceans

      Oh, let's think.

      Say I want a water turbine to produce 3200MW, like the EPRs destined for Hinkley Point.

      Average tidal current in the favourable sites around the UK is about 2m/s, and there's a fundamental physical limit (Betz's law) which limits the amount of extractable energy to about 65% of that in the incident stream of a fluid.

      Energy available (E) = 1/2 mv^3, where m is given by rotor area (A) x density (D), so 1/2 * A * D *v3. Include Betz's law (B) to get

      A = 2E / (B * D * v3)

      density = 1,000 kg/m3.

      So including Betz's law, the best possible turbine needs just under 400 m2 of area - or to be about 22 metres in diameter. That's one f*ck of a propellor. Even those on vessels like the "Ronald Reagan" are less than 1/3rd of that size.

      You also can't p[ut them (obviously) in water that's too shallow (which is a pity, because that speeds up tidal flows). Or too close together, because you get flow disturbances in their wake. So, to allow for replacing Hinkley Point C, (and adjusting for capacity factors), you'd need something over 4,000 of the massive devices.

      Mounted offshore in water at least (say) 40-50 metres deep.

  40. nrta

    Amortise

    There has been a lot of talk recently about how our reckless spending on consumer goods and houses has left a generation in debt. I wonder whether any of you nuclear energy enthusiasts have considered the actual dollar cost per Watt of power produced. The cleanup and decommissioning process is too important a task to be left to commercial organizations as the waste produced must be kept safe for thousands years, so the cost of this type of power must be borne by governments. Does anyone know exactly how much this costs? It seems that selfish short termism has won this argument, only it won't be a generation having their public services cut, nuclear power in its current form will be a fiscal cancer on governments for hundreds of years. Oh and some people might die too.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Long term effects of exposure?

    "Since the Fukushima meltdown - as a result of which, not a single person is set to be measurably harmed by radiation"

    Isn't it a bit premature to make such a prognosis considering that the effects of exposure to cesium-137 (half-life 30 years) won't be apparent for a number of years.

    "Record Levels of Radioactivity Found in Fukushima Fish (Tokyo)"

    http://www.northjersey.com/news/international/167067675_Record_Levels_of_Radioactivity_Found_in_Fukushima_Fish__Tokyo_.html

    "Effects of Radiation from Fukushima Dai-ichion the U.S. Marine Environment"

    http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R41751.pdf

    "Fukushima three hit by radiation burns"

    http://www.standard.co.uk/news/fukushima-three-hit-by-radiation-burns-6384517.html

  42. Terrence Bayrock
    Holmes

    didn't A Clarke....

    predict this a long time ago in a short story within "Tales of the White Hart"?

  43. Duffaboy
    Joke

    I wonder

    Will it power my laptop as the battery I got kinda only lasts 3hours

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I like El Reg, but this type of lob-sided reporting seriously damages The-Register's credibility.

    I like the The-Register! Its smart and witty take on the IT Industry is unique and refreshing! But this type of lob-sided reporting seriously damages its credibility.

    QUESTION:

    Why does the The-Register keep giving a forum to this particular author? Who is this writer and what makes him qualified to speak about nuclear power? Is he a paid lobbyist for the nuclear industry? His research and arguments are pathetic! For starters his supplied link claiming "not a single person is set to be measurably harmed" is over a year old! We know a lot more now and its all bad :-

    1. Spent fuel pool 4 is nothing short of a Japan-ending crisis!

    2. Mutated Butterflies is science that can't be ignored!

    3. Fukushima is declared a manmade disaster July 2012. Yes, nuclear can be safe. But human error and For-Profit companies cutting corners collude to make it unsafe!

    1. peter_dtm
      Facepalm

      Re: I like El Reg, but this type of lob-sided reporting seriously damages

      so why would any one be so stupid as to store spent fuel rods in a pool that wasn't even at ground level ?

      Answer : Because the GREENS had prevented the removal of the spent fuel rods to the re-processing plant miles out of the tsunami impacted area.

      IF the fuel rods had been removed from site as originally planned; then there would be NO fuel pool on site.

      So lets think about that for a moment shall we ? The most dangerous part of the whole tsunami caused wreck was not a failure of the Engineering; nor was it a failure of the design - it was caused directly by the intervention of luddites. Even then; there have been NO DEATHS caused even by the spent fuel rods stored on site because the stupid greens would not let them be taken safely away for processing.

      Question : when are the main stream media going to stop playing green wash propaganda ? Probably long after even they realise Green peace get mega bucks from big oil (go on look at Greenpeace's declared revenue streams; you'll see $Millions from Shell BP et al).

      Suplemental Question : When are normal people going to wake up to the truth behind the luddite Greenpeace movement; even the founder became disgusted with what they have become; anti west; anti business anti human.

      Ojh Let me correct your title : I like El Reg, but this type of lob-sided reporting seriously damages my ability to pretend ignorant luddites have any idea of how science and engineering work

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I like El Reg, but this type of lob-sided reporting seriously damages

        It was suggested on enenews.com that people like you should be the first to be forced to live beside nuclear plants and eat radioactive cuisine. But my guess is you'd have an excuse to get out of that as well! People like you only ever address areas that conveniently support your narrow arguments. Arrogance like yours created this fiasco.

        What??? Nothing say to say about mutations in butterflies or dangerously radioactive fish?!!! People like you never address the wider impacts. You have no empathy for others. I was displaced after the Fukushima crises. It cost me emotionally and physically and financially. But flame away and blame the green movement for all of the nuke industry's failings!

        1. peter_dtm
          Childcatcher

          Re: I like El Reg, but this type of lob-sided reporting seriously damages

          Please yes - build a Nuke next door to my house - just far enough so I can walk to the gates in 5 minutes.

          O f course it would have to be a modern WESTERN nuke not some clapped out Soviet design.

          Oh I have empathy - I do not want my kids living in an energy starved world it would no doubt be pretty brutal and we know the life expectancy would be back to below 30 in pretty short time.

          All this luddism; pretending that somehow or other cheap energy is not the ONLY reason we have so many people living such long (and possibly fulfilling) lives.

          Have you any idea of what a fuel starved world looks like -- the dark ages; that's what; Cold; hunger; poverty; short brutalised lives.

          Nukes are safe - and have a better safety record than any other form of energy generation. If you worry about CO2 then you should welcome Nukes with open arms; they really do generate the least amount of CO2 per KW/Hr generated.

          So; you were displaced by a paranoid government and paranoid people; your exposure to radiation in the Fukushima area is LESS than the that which I was exposed to living in N Wales.

          I don't suppose it would help; but for what it is worth you have my sympathy for the trauma caused by the Tsunami; and the over reaction of the Japanese authorities following the damage to the Fuskushima reactors. Luckily the engineers I work with in Japan were all outside the affected zones; though all of their factories did shut down for varying periods.

          You all have my sympathy for the terrible impact from the Tsunami; which was/is surely magnitudes greater than that of the Fukushima plant.

          Incidentally; if some one prevents something from being done safely; is it 'flaming' to point it out and shed some light on what the primary cause of an incident was - especially as by knowing this; it is possible to prevent it happening at the other nuclear plants in Japan ? And I didn't blame the green movement for all the nuclear industry's failing; just one very specific; documented; piece of luddite lunacy. Wouldn't it be wise to now insist that all spent fuel rods be removed from their temporary storage ponds and sent for re-processing; informing the green movement that their banning of the safe movement of spent rods is inherently far more dangerous than letting them go ? Or is it you who can not see the wider impacts of things.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I like El Reg, but this type of lob-sided reporting seriously damages

            As usual Peter, you're obsessed with Spent fuel pools and Greenpeace but still haven't said a damn thing about the wider effects including mutated butterflies or radioactive fish!

            ...Happy if they "build a Nuke next door to (your) house " but "do not want (your) kids living in an energy starved world".

            How happy are you Peter if your kids have to eat contaminated food? .. That's ok is it? As long as there's plenty of energy, eh Peter?

            There's no magic bullet that exists today. We have to accept this and get away from our deeply engrained obsession with GDP and accept a reduction in energy usage and GDP growth worldwide! That way the nuclear option can be dropped today!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I like El Reg, but this type of lob-sided reporting seriously damages

        The CEO of GE is often quoted as saying the economics of nuclear power no longer make sense-- and GE build reactors. So is he a Luddite too? Won't be long now before you're out of work!

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    The Lewis Page Paradox

    1. Nuclear power is better because it creates no climate-changing effects.

    2. There is no such thing as climate change.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Re: The Lewis Page Paradox

      Excellent, two downvotes. Proof, if it was needed, that Page's disciples don't actually read his "articles".

    2. peter_dtm
      Coat

      Re: The Lewis Page Paradox - correction

      2. there is no such thing as CATASTROPHIC MAN MADE climate change

      fixed it for you

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Lewis Page Paradox - correction

        2. there is no such thing as CATASTROPHIC MAN MADE climate change

        fixed it for you

        Not yet but humans have done plenty to f**k up the planet. Give us time and we'll really ruin things.

  46. cyberdemon
    Facepalm

    Argh.

    Fukushima was not a disaster. The TSUNAMI was a disaster! That killed 100,000 people!

    Fukushima was a TRIUMPH for nuclear safety. Natural disaster killing hundreds of thousands, nuclear reactor, though crippled, didn't kill or apparently maim anyone.

    I wish people would remember that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Argh.

      "apparently ".. we won't know for years or decades. But even the IAEA and WHO admit there will be deaths!

  47. Chris T Almighty
    Meh

    No mention of the downsides?

    It may be that Nuclear is a lesser evil than the alternatives, and carbon fossil fuels may kill more, but it's wrong to totally gloss over the hundreds of square miles of land that have been abandoned, and the 250 Billion dollar cost of cleaning up after this one accident.

  48. indulis
    WTF?

    Noone harmed? Pull the other one! Try 2500 deaths.

    Pure bunkum in the first sentence. Lewis, if you believe it is all safe in Japan, I am willing to organise your ticket there, so you can camp out (or live in one of the nearby abandoned villages) near to the broken nuclear power plant. Let's see how far your "nukes are safe" stand goes when it is your health involved.

    Here is the alternative view from someone not spruking for the nuclear industry.

    "The March 2011 nuclear disaster may cause as many as 2500 cases of cancer, mostly in Japan, Stanford University scientists said. They incorporated emission estimates into three-dimensional global atmospheric modelling to predict the effects of radiation exposure, which was detected as far away as the US and Europe.

    ''Cancer cases may have been at least 10 times greater if the radiation had not mostly fallen in the sea...There was a lot of luck involved,'' said Professor Jacobson. ''The only reason this wasn't a lot worse was because 81 per cent of all the emissions were deposited over the ocean.''

    But what do scientists know, hey? If someone didn't take a photo of the plant's cooling tower falling on someone to crush them to death, then a link to a particular death isn't provable. So it didn't happen. But statistics say otherwise. And health statistics from a reputable scientist have a lot more cred than you Lewis- based on your history of ignoring facts, science, and expert analysis!

    http://www.smh.com.au/world/japan-nuclear-fallout-may-cause-1300-cancer-deaths-20120718-22akp.html

    The rest of the Reg article could say anything at all, the first sentence from Lewis Page meant it was all tarred with the same BS brush. The Reg should stick to reviewing laptops and printers. Its forays into science are woefully, blatantly biased and inaccurate.

    1. YouStupidBoy
      Stop

      Re: Noone harmed? Pull the other one! Try 2500 deaths.

      @indulis

      So you quote two articles above, one of which predicts 2500 cases of cancer, the other 1300 deaths. That's a little over a 50% mortality rate, which is a little harsh given remission rates for multiple types of cancer in Japan, but lets play along.

      According to statistics compiled by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, 353,000 people died of cancer in Japan in 2010, accounting for one in every three deaths. [source http://www.jcancer.jp/english/cancerinjapan/]

      So, assuming their projected figure of 1300 deaths from cancer occur in a single year (it would almost certainly be spread out over a number of years, if not decades, but we'll take this as a worst case scenario seeing as that's what you're apparently concentrating on), then at 2010 cancer death rates in Japan, that would represent an increase of just 0.3%. Taken in another context, the population of Fukushima prefecture in 2010 was just over 2 million [source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fukushima_Prefecture]. Based on that figure, approximately 0.125% of residents *may* develop cancer as a result of this event during their lifetime.

      The tsunami itself and its associated damage was responsible for (at last count) 15,854 deaths. [source http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/9132634/Japan-earthquake-and-tsunami-478-bodies-remain-unidentified-one-year-on.html]

      So a natural disaster of epic proportions caused a meltdown of two reactors in an ill-maintained, generation-one reactor (read as 'outdated as all hell') that wouldn't have passed routine regulatory inspections in either the US or UK, which has no deaths directly attributable to it at this stage, *may* (the term used in the study you quoted) cause an uptick in cancer deaths of less than 1% at 2010 levels in Japan if all the proposed fatalities occur in a single year, therefore less than a 0.1% annual increase (not compounding) if any cancers emerge over the period of a decade, which is a more likely timespan.

      I'm already paying out the nose for "environmental technology subsidies" every month to my local power co for wind and the like. I'd be far, far happier for the same amount to go instead to the construction and maintenance of a generation-3 nuclear reactor now, or further research into generation-4 reactor technologies. And yes, I'd be happy to live next door to it. Why? Because I understand that the risk of having something bad happen in a new plant with modern technology, trained and experienced staff, overseen by an anal-retentive regulatory body (probably one of few instances where this is a good thing), built in an area that's not prone to floods, seismic activity or other geological or natural disasters are miniscule.

      And even if something were to happen to the plant on a comparable scale, I'll take the 1 in 800 odds that the event would result in cancer (figure based on the possible deaths quoted by the study you reference as measured against the approx population of the area).

      In return for this, I get reliable power that is a near-zero carbon emitter fueled by an energy source that will be available for centuries, if not tens of centuries if the technology referenced in this article can be adopted. But the general population hears the word "nuclear" and instantly stops thinking rationally. The NIMBY brigade are no better. However, I'm willing to bet that people will change their tune pretty damn quick when our fossil fuel supplies dry up, the lights (and heat) go out, and it's zero degrees outside (that's Farenheit daytime temperatures). Unfortunately by then, it'll be too late.

      Your last sentence however is brilliant, considering the content of your post. Have a petard.

      1. David Pollard
        Thumb Up

        Re: No one harmed?

        "I'd be far, far happier for [environmental subsidies] to go instead to the construction and maintenance of a generation-3 nuclear reactor now, or further research into generation-4 reactor technologies. And yes, I'd be happy to live next door to it."

        Great YIMBY reasoning (Yes - in my back yard).

      2. peter_dtm
        Happy

        Re: Noone harmed? Pull the other one! Try 2500 deaths.

        I am going to indulge in some green wash type hyperbole

        Have 5000 million million up votes !

        I am with you 500%

        or in normal engineering type language :

        well said sir ! You have 100% of my support

  49. JeffyPooh Silver badge
    Pint

    5000 years... Hmmm... ...numbers.

    5000 years.

    Ocean volume (total, as required) is 1.3 BILLION cubic km [Wiki]. So each year we humans would have to filter 260,000 cubic km of sea water through these new-fangled filters. That's 712 cubic KM (!) of ocean PER DAY (!). 30 cubic km (!) per hour. Crazy.

    That volume of ocean pumping in itself would require vast amounts of energy. So the whole defective concept enters a recursive death spiral.

    1. Steve 151
      Happy

      Re: 5000 years... Hmmm... ...numbers.

      i think they'll just use the pumps that they use for changing the sea level at the beach

    2. JeffyPooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: 5000 years... Hmmm... ...numbers.

      Damn. It's 5000AD, so 3000 years.

      Multiply all volumes by 5/3.

  50. John X Public
    FAIL

    Nuclear unadvocacy

    "There's no chance of renewables generating the sort of energy the future human race will require to live above the poverty line, so something else will be required."

    Never, ever, ever, regardless of an technology advances we may make. It is just plain impossible. Like heavier-than-air flight.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Solar_land_area.png

    +

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Wireless_System#World_Wireless_System

    = Beautiful madness

    On the other hand:

    "Nobody's saying that the new HiCap tech can compete with ordinary mining on cost yet - but that's almost irrelevant"

    Because future technological advances will surely resolve all our difficulties with nuclear safety, cost, fuel availability and waste disposal. Anything else is Inconceivable!

    Look I don't really give a toss about the precise shape of our energy future but it almost certainly isn't going to be coal fired and we need to keep our options open. Nuclear advocacy has its place but can someone less one-eyed and irrational than Lewis Page do it. His rabid illogisms are getting embarrassing.

    I think nuclear has potential but it is not cheap (total cost of ownership) and radioactive waste is a genuinely toxic problem that you can't just wish away. I once thought the subduction zone idea had potential myself, shame about reality:

    http://geology.about.com/od/platetectonics/f/seadisposal.htm

  51. Jim Birch
    Meh

    When global warming deniers spruik nuclear power breakthroughs...

    ...you'd reasonably expect it's tribalism not science.

    This of course has nothing to do with the safety or otherwise of nuclear power, it just that coming on the top of the usual unbalanced output of this reporter I would expect that this story is more of the same crud.

    Why screw around with nuclear, when there is plenty of coal, if, as Mr Page regularly tells us, CO2 is not a problem, the earth isn't warming, scientists are on the take, it's all just a hippy fantasy, etc, etc, etc? Nuclear power will always be difficult. (OTOH if AGW is real, nuclear power should get very serious investigation. But that means Mr Page has been pumping out BS.)

    Personally, I think nuclear is off the real world agenda for a long time. There's a lead time of a couple of decades to get from a current best-and-safest design plan - eg, with breeder technologies, passive shutdown, geological disaster proofing, etc - to actual operational plants. This comes at a cost that private firms are unlikely to feel like investing, unless there are (1) massive development subsidies by taxpayers and (2) guaranteed approval at the end of the big spend, and (3) a taxpayer waiver of the like hundred billion dollar cleanup operation if something goes wrong. These prerequisites are going to be extremely tough to sell to voters. Should a dogey old reactor in somethingastan go pffft during the long development period all agreements are off again.

    The descent of the AGW science and carbon pricing into tribal narratives gives a pretty good indication of how much hope the required the consensus for something like a serious nuclear revival has got. And even if this latest uranium-from-seawater tech actually pans out, it only crosses off one of the little problems.

    1. blueprint

      Re: When global warming deniers spruik nuclear power breakthroughs...

      It's a personal agenda being driven by the author, quite possibly due to funding from the nuclear fission "industry". I say "industry" because it actually wouldn't exist without government subsidies, it's never been commercially viable. Nuclear fission is currently more or less dead in the West as we now have more than enough fissile material for our nuclear weapons, the main reason nuclear fission reactors were developed in the first place.

      You should stick with physicists experienced in nuclear fission or radiobiologists who've studied the effects of radiation on the human body for your information on this subject, because unlike Mr. Page, they know what they're talking about.

      1. The Axe
        FAIL

        Re: When global warming deniers spruik nuclear power breakthroughs...

        " I say "industry" because it actually wouldn't exist without government subsidies, it's never been commercially viable."

        Yep, perfect description of solar and wind power.

  52. Magnus_Pym

    I'll say it again...

    ... because of the way OPEC distributes oil export quotas no-one knows when the oil will run out. Because of the way the oil futures market works a rumour of oil running out would cause as much of a global meltdown as oil actually running out. We are living in a row boat heading towards the Niagara Falls and people are arguing about what colour paddles we should use.

  53. blueprint

    Story is irrelevant - just the usual chance for the author to give his snide take on Fukushima

    Here is something about Fukushima on the other hand which is coming from a scientific and engineering perspective rather than from a defensive Pavlovian reaction to anything even slightly critical of the nuclear fission "industry" :

    http://www.cringely.com/2012/05/24/the-next-japanese-nuclear-accident-its-inevitable-will-be-even-worse/

  54. Livinglegend
    Pint

    Reality check

    According to the National Grid, at the moment Nuclear has an output of 8.2GW, wind has an output of 0.8GW.

    That makes a ratio for nuclear at 10 times wind on a typical day. Too much notice is taken of wind maximum capacity rather than actual output. Wind power is like buying an expensive pint of beer and being served a few dregs in the bottom of the glass..

  55. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    yeah, awesome the country who is one of the worst at recycling nuclear waste and sells it all around the world, spreads it as radioactive ammuntion found a new way to create more.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Meh

      You might like to find out *what* part of Uranium is "depleted" before you comment.

  56. SJRulez

    Less and less dangerous?

    I was always under the impression from my limited physics education that radio material got less and less dangerous as time went on due to its half life.

    Isn't the fuel more dangerous when its actually dug up but our problem is that we concentrate it all together?

    Could we not shred it back down to tiny particles and spread it back through the mines where it originally came from?

    Quite a few mentions of wind power, I spent two weeks in Norfolk which has turbines everywhere and for most of that time I would only ever see a quarter of the turbines in the wind farm actually working!

  57. brudinie
    FAIL

    pointless when we have LENR

    Fission is a dead technology.

    LENR is getting serious credibility now with NASA bring out its own patents.

    We should be investing research into this new field where the fuel source (nickle and hyrdogen) will power the human race for 100s of thousands of years!

    1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

      Re: pointless when we have LENR

      I will use LENR for my autopiloted flying car. ;)

      Better use of technology would be breeder fission technologies.. endless fuel, few nuclear contamination.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: pointless when we have LENR

      Looking more *plausible* but a hell of a long way from delivering.

  58. mark 63 Silver badge
    Flame

    no foresight

    Tony Blair killed our "3 new nuclear stations" plan.

    bastard

  59. Howard 1
    WTF?

    These articles...

    ...it's satire, yeah?

  60. andy 45
    Joke

    Joke alert

    "Since the Fukushima meltdown - as a result of which, not a single person is set to be measurably harmed by radiation - we know that nuclear power is safe."

  61. Paw Bokenfohr
    Black Helicopters

    Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors

    I just don't get why governments and businesses aren't going after LFTRs. Safer, cleaner, easier. Yes, there are a couple of challenges, but not as many as current designs leave us with.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors

      The government problem. LFTR's are *unproven* reactor tech.

      The corporate problem. LFTR's *eliminate* the need for fuel elements. Nuclear reactors are like disposable razors. Companies make their money on the *heads*, not the razors. Reactor companies make their money on the fuel elements, which are incompatible between designs.

      LFTR's were developed to meet a *need* (specifically the US nuclear powered bomber programme) not to make money for Westinghouse or GE.

      You'll need to demonstrate a design and then change their *business* model to get corporate support.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors

        They're finding solutions, such as shorter-term reactors that are cheaper, much more compact, require less maintenance or human supervision, easier on smaller communities, and provide repeat business since they're only meant to run for a decade or two before being changed out. It also helps with the proliferation problem because their fuel quantities are so small. Many are also designed to minimize radioactive waste by having recyclable fuel, leaving only minimal byproducts that will only require sequestration for a few centuries rather than millennia (something much more manageable in a government--you're basically talking time-capsule scales). A bunch of these little guys (which are normally supposed to be subterranean) spread out around a country will dampen a lot of proliferation concerns while Gen IV designs with passive or even inherent safety should address the NIMBY issue of possible meltdowns. IIRC, some of the designs can be converted over to use Thorium, so this can be considered in addition rather than instead.

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This thread is incredibly TL;DR

    There's no new arguments in this debate so I don't see why you all keep trotting out the same things. I hope you just copy and paste to save time.

    However it would be a much more pleasant and streamlined experience if we could just remove all this drivel coming from cretins who are incapable of stringing two sentences together without butchering the English language. Those of us with brains might then find we were free to do more useful things.

    A note to the cretins [and to some of the other vultures, you know who you are]: maybe you would like your comments/articles to be taken more seriously and not be referred to using derogatory terminology? I would advise that you should learn to write in English (like almost all foreigners can), and can I suggest such a crazy and far-fetched idea as reading your bullshit before clicking on that 'submit' button?

    Lewis, thanks for demonstrating that not everyone in Britain is illiterate.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This thread is incredibly TL;DR

      Arrogant ass!

    2. nrta

      Re: This thread is incredibly TL;DR

      To me that is the interesting thing about this article. The article itself is just more of Lewis's sub-Clarkson eco trolling, a man deluding himself that he is the lone voice of reason in a world gone mad. What really mystifies me is the blind faith that readers of The Register have in the governments and companies who are going to be building, maintaining and decommissioning these reactors.

      I accept the argument that wind power (the most often cited) is expensive and inefficient way of generating power. What hasn't been discussed is the actual cost of nuclear power. The reason for this is because it is not quantifiable, there is no way to predict how much it will cost per unit of electricity.

      In my view both the public and politicians are being tobogganed into an acceptance of the inevitable need for nuclear energy by a fear of having to change our comfortable lifestyles, or that other parts of the world might also want a piece of the pie. Spend a few billion on some reactors, defer difficult decisions and stick the rest on the tab.

      Out of interest, does anyone know how many existing technology reactors would be needed to generate current U.K. demand? Multiply that figure by 100 as a rough rule of thumb for an equitable distribution of energy around the world and you have our glorious clean nuclear future.

  63. CCCP
    Mushroom

    Forsmark 1 (Sweden) in 2006 got close to doing a Fukushima

    No, there was no tsunami in the Baltic Sea, but there are parallels with failing electricity supply.

    During maintenance work, the sub station connecting Forsmark to the external grid wasn't earthed properly and a circuit breaker causing arching which lead to voltage fluctuation of +/-20% across the internal power grid.

    The station automatically switched to "house power" but only two out four diesel generators started. This was because the UPSs (bloody large batteries) that the generators need to run had been disconnected by surge protectors. Two generators is the minimum the station needs. Phew.

    In addition 12 different core safety systems were knocked out. For example, the control room had no reading on the position of the control rods and what the water level was in the reactor. Squeaky bum time. After 30 minutes they were able to confirm full shut down and safe water level.

    In effect, they were one generator away from a meltdown. Also, some valves were in the open position when power failed, weakening the structural defence.

    Clearly, there were design flaws, looking at you ABB, but the question is how "safe" can you in practice can engineer these things. Personally I think systems this complex will always have flaws and unforseen scenarios. A bit like space rockets. So building hundreds, or even thousands, of these all over our little blue ball is on balance probably not a good idea.

    1. CCCP

      Re: Forsmark 1 (Sweden) in 2006 got close to doing a Fukushima

      Correcting myself for the extra "can" that jumped into the last paragraph.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Pint

      Re: Forsmark 1 (Sweden) in 2006 got close to doing a Fukushima

      "In addition 12 different core safety systems were knocked out. "

      But the reactors did *not* meltdown.

      And (it would appear) they were not able to keep it secret.

      The Swedish nuclear regulator should come down *hard* on them but the takeaway from this is

      12 safety systems fail, but enough left working to *prevent* serious accident.

      I salute the operations team.

      1. CCCP

        Re: Forsmark 1 (Sweden) in 2006 got close to doing a Fukushima

        You are spot on about the operations team. The official report in fact gives them the main credit for nothing bad happening. They followed procedures calmly and accurately. They also managed to restart the two failed generators.

        It wasn't secret at all. However, it was only in the post mortem they realised what a close call it was. Water level got down to 1.9m from the core. Should be more like 6 I believe.

        My point is you don't need a natural disaster for a melt down, just an unlucky series of events. Murphy's law and all that.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          Re: Forsmark 1 (Sweden) in 2006 got close to doing a Fukushima

          "My point is you don't need a natural disaster for a melt down, just an unlucky series of events. Murphy's law and all that."

          True. Hopefully newer designs will recognize the importance of designing systems that work right by *physics* rather than by active subsystems (generators and pumps).

          And "secrecy" may have been a poor choice of word. Perhaps "transparency" over the event would be a better way to say it. This sense that the nuclear power industry tends to down play problems is one that simply does not exist (AFAIK) with *any* other form of power generation.

          So what *could* have been a disaster proved to be their finest hour. Demonstrating the importance of skills and training in an emergency.

  64. Alan Johnson

    The problem with any discussion of nuclear power is the emotional association between nuclear power, radiation and safety. A big part of teh problem is teh strong nuclear/radiation related safety culture. There is actually no strong evidence that low levels of radiation are a health hazard at all. Studies of radiation workers show they are healthier than average and once corrected for other factors; profession, environment, diet, smoking etc the health effects are tiny in boith directions and almost certainly artefacts of the statistics. A strong argumnet to me is that there is no observed correlation between high natural radiation levels and lower life expectancy.

    As radiation was a new hazard a very very cautious approach was taken the effects of high levels of exposure were scaled down linearly to low doses. This is almost certainly an over estimate but it is cautious. On top of this very cautious safety limits were set based on this assumption. No other area takes such a cautious approach. Paradoxically it has increased fears because the extremely low limits are breached when incidents occur and it makes a good story. The thing to remember is that at these dose levels no health effect has been observed.

    The other thing that occurs is people take these extrapolated low probability health effects and multiply them by huge population numbers generating scary numbers for example 2500 dying in an earlier comment. This is crazy from several points of view. Most radiation exposure is natural, there are many many more important risk factors we never treat in the same way or consider at all. The radiation emitted by fossil fuesl for example coal fire power statiosn dwarfs that from nuclear power stations.

    We should argue about nuclear power based on cost, availability and dependability, not safety as it is far safer than anything else, but it is bogged down by emotional baggage. Future historians will regard attitudes to nuclear as bizzare and incomprehensible. Wind power is almost the opposite, completely impractical, almost no environmental benefit, extremely expensive but with positive emotional associations

    1. Howard 1

      "Future historians will regard attitudes to nuclear as bizzare and incomprehensible"

      Indeed they may. Though not necessarily for the reasons you posit.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        There's also the stigma of DA BOMB (of which there is plenty of historical footage to demonstrate the effects). The mere thought of a manmade technology capable of wiping out an entire city of millions can make nearly anyone's blood run cold. Nuclear reactors, using similar technology, fall under that stigma. There's always the thought deep in the back of someone's mind that a nuclear reactor can lead in some way to a nuclear bomb...which would in turn be detonated in their midst. And because of its scale, it's not something you can just wish away. It's like broken trust.

        That said, to anyone who has said nuclear is an inherently unstable technology, what do you say to the likes of pebble bed and uranium hydride reactors and other Generation IV reactors built on the premise of negative coefficient of reactivity (meaning they slow down as they heat up rather than runaway).

  65. Hempy
    Happy

    Hemp

    Hemp fuel sources will never run out. They are renewable and sustainable. No adverse environmental effects, no potential for disaster like nuclear.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Hemp

      ANY plant-based (indeed, any LIVING) resource can be over-harvested, resulting in depletion. Furthermore, for it to be sustainable for a large population, you would need an even larger amount of land with which to grow, and this land no longer grows food (because last I checked, hemp is not a food crop), which ALSO has large land demands per person.

      1. fung0

        Re: Hemp

        Charles 9 said: "...you would need an even larger amount of land with which to grow, and this land no longer grows food (because last I checked, hemp is not a food crop)"

        You are mistaken on several of your assumptions, Charles. First, hemp IS in fact a food crop, at least to a degree. The hemp plant can yield edible oil, as well as material that's at least suitable as animal fodder. Second, and more important, hemp grows well on sandy, arid land that will support almost no other type of crop. So it doesn't really have to compete with any of our staple food crops. Third, hemp is incredibly bountiful, able to produce tree-sized plants in a single growing season. So it doesn't need as much land as most other crops.

        Not saying hemp it the answer, just that it's better than you seem to believe...

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Boffin

          Re: Hemp

          The hemp family is the 2nd fastest growing plant on Earth after Bamboo.

          It's also a *weed* so not much cultivation skill needed, unlike say Tobacco, which needs *substantial* additional inputs and effort.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Hemp

            But you have to wonder how hemp grows so fast without drawing on some resources with which to build its bulk. Further analysis shows the while hemp replenishes much of what it takes from the soil, it still needs a rich soil to start with to provide the best results. IOW, planting hemp in poorer soil will result in less yield. It also prefers warmer environments.

            As for the oil, while it can be useful as a food or fuel, it shares one potentially-bothersome trait with linseed oil: it oxidizes. This means the oil can turn rancid if not stored carefully. The fibers are stiffer than cotton fibers, which make them well suited for woven products like pants, but cotton will still be king on knit products like T-shirts which need to be more flexible. And the fibers wick (when used historically on ships, hemp ropes had to be tarred to prevent inside-out wet rot--they were phased out for non-wicking Manila rope), making them less suited for humid or water-exposed environments.

            I've learned not to take someone's "cure-all" gospels at face value. It never hurts to subject it to a reality check and see if they have strings attached (they usually do).

  66. Beanhead McGinty

    A friend of mine has this theory

    He swears blind that all this alarmism over the danger of nuclear power plants is the fault of The Simpsons.

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nuclear waste

    This article makes quite an assumption that anti-nuclear-power people are only concerned about proliferation. I am "lucky" enough to have lived in two US states where the storage (or lack thereof) of nuclear waste became a political scandal and is still an embarrassment--there are millions (billions?) of pounds of radioactive waste that are being improperly stored as we speak and are contaminating soil and water. THIS, for me, is the #1 concern re: nuclear power and the article (and most commenters) fail to even mention it.

    Sure, you can talk about breeder reactors until you're blue in the face, but where are they? Declaring that nuclear power is clean because of a reactor type that is barely used is disingenuous.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Nuclear waste

      The big concern with breeder reactors is the possibility of proliferation since breeder reactors by their nature enrich nuclear fuel. It doesn't take a genius to realize that such reactors can be retooled to product weapons-grade fuel, which in the US is a treaty violation IIRC and elsewhere would be a destabilizing prospect at the very least. There is ongoing research into concentrating the breeder reactor's processing so as to reduce the likelihood of weapon-grade fuel being made at all (by using processes that produce richer but still not weapons-grade fuel). But the situation is still not fully trusted: can the processes be altered to produce weapon-grade fuel? Or could the technical knowledge allow an observer to deduce enough to do it themselves?

  68. fung0
    Thumb Down

    Good Grief

    "...not a single person is set to be measurably harmed..."

    This is obvious balderdash. For starters, the IAEA is effectively an industry group, and hardly to be trusted as an impartial authority when assessing total harm. Secondly, the contention that the area around Fukushima can ever be made completely safe is questionable at best.

    But there's no need to even speculate about eventual cancer deaths... the spread of contamination has already resulted in many thousands of people being dispossessed. If someone forced Mr. Page out of his home at gunpoint and told him he couldn't return, at least for many months, and possibly not for the rest of his life, I wonder if he would feel that he was not being "measurably harmed"...?

    It's quite likely that we will need nuclear power in the short term. But buying whole-heartedly into transparent industry propaganda is not part of the solution. As an engineer, I have no doubt whatsoever that the current superannuated generation of reactor designs is not safe enough to be economically viable. (No sane engineer would build a machine that inherently WANTS to blow up. It's why we don't have cars that accelerate without limit if the driver becomes unconscious.) If nuclear power is to work, we need to scrap the old crap now, before (even more of) it blows up in our faces, and invest in some of the promising technologies that can do the job far more safely. Not bury our heads in the radioactive sand and accept the status quo.

  69. bdg2

    What about Thorium?

    Uranium is old hat.

    What about Thorium?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium-based_nuclear_power

  70. sanity

    Yeah radiation is fine.

    Yeah radiation is fine. Just ask the residents of Hiroshima. As long as you have a home Geiger-counter and stock of iodine. I suggest maybe you take a course if physics and learn about the effect of gamma, beta and alpha radiation before writing a rubbish story like this!

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Yeah radiation is fine.

      "Yeah radiation is fine. Just ask the residents of Hiroshima....." Straight out of the Pre-schoolers Guide to Debating Nuke Power! Tell you what, why don't we look at napalm and use that as an excuse to ban all attempts to use fire 'cos napalm burns? Or how about banning all food just because some sushi can make you very sick? And then there's the risk Ecstacy users have of over-hydrating (due to other moronic Ecstacy users telling them it was another good idea to avoid dehydrating), maybe you would like us to just ban all water? Complete fail.

  71. lambda_beta
    Linux

    Let's cherrypick our nuclear diasters

    "Since the Fukushima meltdown - as a result of which, not a single person is set to be measurably harmed by radiation - we know that nuclear power is safe. "

    Huh??

    Some facts about Chernobyl:

    237 people suffered from acute radiation sickness (ARS), of whom 31 died within the first three months

    Four hundred times more radioactive material was released than had been by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima

    Thyroid cancer among children was one of the main health impacts from the accident, with more than 4000 cases reported

    After the disaster, four square kilometers of pine forest directly downwind of the reactor turned reddish-brown and died, earning the name of the "Red Forest" A significant economic impact at the time was the removal of 784,320 ha (1,938,100 acres) of agricultural land and 694,200 ha (1,715,000 acres) of forest from production.

    An area extending 19 miles (31 km) in all directions from the plant is known as the "zone of alienation." Ukrainian officials estimate the area will not be safe for human life again for another 20,000 years.

    Between 5% and 7% of government spending in Ukraine still related to Chernobyl, while in Belarus over $13 billion is thought to have been spent between 1991 and 2003. No one knows the true economic cost of this accident.

    The Chernobyl Shelter Fund, set up in 1997, has received €810 million from international donors to cover the cost of a large concrete sarcophagus expected to be completed in 2013. We are still trying to contain an accident that happened over a quarter of a century ago.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Let's cherrypick our nuclear diasters

      Thing is, it ran on an old plant that wasn't built with a lot of passive safety in mind.. They were trying to look into passive safety when the accident occurred for various manmade and not-manmade reasons.

      Given that new reactor designs have emerged since then, many of which are smaller, designed for proliferation resistance (partly through the simple idea of spreading out a lot of little reactors) and designed with passive (pebble bed) or even inherent safety in mind (TRIGA, uranium hydride), why don't we do like we did after the Apollo I tragedy, take stock, and keep going to try to better our lives?

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