What are the two sides of the nuclear power debate?
October 19, 2010 1:51 AM   Subscribe

Nuclear power - environmental pros and cons?

I've been a long time supporter of nuclear power, pretty much ever since I learned something about power densities of various materials and saw a documentary on breeder reactors in an AP Chemistry class. That documentary was pretty convincing about the fact that nuclear reactor technology has come a loooong way since the 70s, and there were a bunch of engineers talking about how no one in the US seemed to care about the advances because it was "nuclear" and that was this terrible environmental disaster.

Since then, I've been walking around fairly pissed off at the environmentalist movement for ruining what I considered to be the cleanest and best sort of power currently available. Then I married the daughter of one of those environmentalists I was pissed at, and I don't have much more information than I had in high school.

So what's the deal? Should I continue being a big supporter of nuclear power? Are breeder reactors the magic bullet I had been thinking they were? Can you really recycle the waste, or is that mostly recycling into nuclear weapons (not a very good argument to have with my mother in law: "Nuclear power is waste free because you can make bombs with the residue!") I'm fairly convinced that it's a comparatively SAFE power source, so my main question relates to the problem of nuclear waste, uranium mining, etc.
posted by sdis to Technology (43 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
David Mackay, a physics professor at Cambridge University, has written an excellent book, 'Sustainable Energy: Without the hot air', which discusses this in detail. He comes to the conclusion that the only way to sustain ourselves without fossil fuels is to combine renewable energy with a big contribution from nuclear power. He goes into detailed (but readable) calculations showing that renewable sources alone just can't produce enough energy in the medium term.

The book is readable and free to download. I highly recommend it.
posted by beniamino at 2:30 AM on October 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


Stewart Brand, the founder of The Whole Earth catalog is a supporter of nuclear. He has a recent book out, whose name i forget, which challenges a number of pieces of conventional environmentalist dogma.
posted by dfriedman at 3:45 AM on October 19, 2010


This is the book I'm thinking of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whole_Earth_Discipline
posted by dfriedman at 3:50 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nuclear can be a lot cleaner then what we have in the US . Also a lot safer. There are newer kinds of reactors that dont melt down. We can even recycle the fuel .

Heck here on long island shoreham nuclear power plant would have been the safest in the world but this group got it shutdown.

If we just gave nuclear a chance people would see it could actually be a clean safe source of power.
posted by majortom1981 at 4:13 AM on October 19, 2010


The elephant in the room that nuclear power supporters tend to ignore or minimize is waste disposal. There is no agreement on the best way to deal with radioactive waste that may last 10,000 years or more. The problem will get worse as older nuclear reactors are decommissioned. If that problem is solved then nuclear power will be much more acceptable to a lot of people; I personally believe there is a solution, but do not know what it is.
posted by TedW at 4:46 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


British government scientists produced this short report which says nuclear and wind power have smaller carbon footprints than other renewable energy sources.

The elephant in the room that nuclear power supporters tend to ignore or minimize is waste disposal [...] I personally believe there is a solution, but do not know what it is.

Breeder reactors and waste reprocessing allows very efficient use of fuel, resulting in only a small fraction the waste produced by other reactor designs. The disadvantage is the same technology can produce enriched uranium for nuclear bombs, so countries like the US are reluctant to see breeder reactors become common in countries like Iran.
posted by Mike1024 at 4:59 AM on October 19, 2010


The best sort of power generation is the one which perfectly follows demand while producing no unwanted emissions. Nuclear power is exceptionally bad at demand following; it typically takes a few days to manoeuvre a unit, and there are structural reasons you don't want to do it too often. You then get in the crazy situation of SBG, where the nuclear operator often pays to deliver power, or you have to curtail renewables.

Nuclear plants, like most thermal plants, dump a huge amount of heat into the atmosphere. Since they tend to be huge sprawling complexes that no-one wants to (or can) live or work near, the waste heat goes into the lake or river rather than being used for local process heating.

While people are still allowed to have an opinion, they will object to every kind of power generation.
posted by scruss at 5:02 AM on October 19, 2010


The elephant in the room that nuclear power supporters tend to ignore or minimize is waste disposal.

Well, they could always take the coal route and simply spew toxic heavy metals and radioactives directly into the environment. Bonus: the heavy metals are permanently dangerous as they do not decay like radiation!

The elephant in the room that nuclear power opposers tend to ignore or minimize is that nuclear power shouldn't be compared to an ideal 100% clean fuel source but rather to the sources we use now. Which primarily means coal. To criticize nuclear power because of waste disposal when the waste that coal plants spew out daily is much worse is disingenuous.
posted by Justinian at 5:17 AM on October 19, 2010 [23 favorites]


Nuclear waste is designed, by the anti-nuclear crowd, to be a problem that's impossible to solve.

There is no agreement on the best way to deal with radioactive waste that may last 10,000 years or more.

This is an example. Radioactive waste will eventually cease to be significantly radioactive. The heavy metals crapped out by burning coal will be dangerous for, at minimum, billions and billions of years. And even then they'll only stop being dangerous because they're on Earth and Earth will be uninhabitable.

But nobody suggests that coal plants have to figure out waste storage facilities that will last billions of years, because that would be silly.

Anyway, the larger point is that you have to either deny or attack the premises offered by anti-nuke people. Directly attack the idea that you have to store waste until it isn't dangerous, because we don't do that for anything else.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:27 AM on October 19, 2010


The problem with nuclear is mostly cost, not environmentalism. Building a new plant is incredibly expensive, and it takes a long time which means very high interest on the loans to build it. Decommissioning is also very expensive. There are massive government subsidies for nuclear, including the enormous (arguably wasted) expense of the Yucca Mountain project, nuclear security programs, and some of the decommissioning expense; if these were added in the cost would be even more.

There are some new nuclear designs (pebble bed) that can't melt down. However, those designs aren't being used for new reactors in the US, due to the extremely high cost of developing a full-scale reactor using this technology.

I don't think it's fair to blame environmentalists for the halt to new nuclear construction. Environmentalists have a very small voice in our government, and haven't managed to get much done to stop new coal plants or increase conservation. If it had been profitable to build nuclear plants in the last 20 years, power companies would have done it. If it is profitable to do in the next 20 years,power companies will do it.
posted by miyabo at 6:35 AM on October 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


You also also have to look at the entire process...for instance, when evaluating coal-powered generators, you have to include environmental/health and safety effects of coal mining, processing, burning, and all primary and secondary effects of emissions.
If you include every stage of the process, nuclear becomes a very safe alternative.
posted by rocket88 at 6:40 AM on October 19, 2010


Here is my take on the anti side. Bottom line: too slow, too expensive. Even hooking vanadium redox flow batteries onto wind farms to make them baseload-capable costs less and comes online faser than building and operating the same capacity in nukes.

The only real advantage of nuclear power generation is its high areal density; you can pack a hell of a lot of generation capacity into not much land. But there is absolutely no reason why land needs to be dedicated solely to power generation. Wind farms, for example, are perfectly compatible with agriculture.

Nukes look cool if you're limiting your thinking to fuel-based generation methods, because the fuel is indeed very potent. But we don't need to lock ourselves into another couple of centuries of fuel-based generation followed by the inevitable disruption of shortages. Technology to tap into ongoing energy flows has already reached the stage where, coupled with efficiency measures, it could supply all our energy needs; all that needs to happen to get us to a fully renewable future is continuation of present renewable tech cost trends.

It seems likely to me that nukes will remain very much a niche energy source. Planet-wide, market forces will mean that renewables eat them for lunch unless the nuclear lobby is successful in its current push for gubmint subsidy.
posted by flabdablet at 6:51 AM on October 19, 2010


Nuclear power is exceptionally bad at demand following; it typically takes a few days to manoeuvre a unit, and there are structural reasons you don't want to do it too often. You then get in the crazy situation of SBG, where the nuclear operator often pays to deliver power, or you have to curtail renewables.



This is just an argument for not building too much nuclear though. As a baseload source its fine, and in the baseload is where it would be replacing coal - especially in the US. Then in the mid-merit you have a combination of gas and renewables and at the peak you have a bunch of gas plants. The benefit as well is that you are pushing your most efficient gas plants up the marginal cost curve so you effectively make your least efficient plants obsolete.

Also curtailing renewables on those occasions when demand is troughing and renewables are performing well isn't the worst outcome in the world - in that it doesn't cost you anything. Besides you can't count renewables in your baseload generation calc anyway.
posted by JPD at 7:14 AM on October 19, 2010


I think Carl Pope of the Sierra Club's sound bite on it is along the lines of "hey, if investors think it's such a good idea that they're willing to do it without government subsidies, I won't stand in their way."
posted by salvia at 7:17 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Pros: lower carbon intensity than fossil fuel methods, constant power output

Cons: accidents, while low probability, are potentially very dangerous, waste storage is not a "solved problem", very high cost, fuel supply is limited, waste heat needs to go somewhere, constant power output

So, yes, next to coal, nuclear doesn't look too bad. Next to wind, solar, and hydro, nuclear looks a lot worse.

Burning coal to generate electricity is pretty much insane and we need to stop doing that as soon as possible. We can do that with efficiency, demand reduction, and renewables and set ourselves on a sustainable course, or we can use nuclear, spend a whole lot of money, create new risks, and eventually end up running out of fuel anyways.
posted by ssg at 7:35 AM on October 19, 2010


To salvia's point - the discovery of how to get cheap shale gas in the US has basically destroyed the economics of nuclear for a while. Maybe if you jacked coal prices with emissions costing it might make sense - but even then you would probably end up incentivizing gas instead.
posted by JPD at 7:54 AM on October 19, 2010


Thorium is currently being touted as a more responsible nuclear fuel, as it is more abundant and less radioactive than uranium.
posted by electroboy at 8:01 AM on October 19, 2010


Burning coal to generate electricity is pretty much insane and we need to stop doing that as soon as possible. We can do that with efficiency, demand reduction, and renewables and set ourselves on a sustainable course, or we can use nuclear, spend a whole lot of money, create new risks, and eventually end up running out of fuel anyways.

This is BS, it's not a choice between one or the other. Renewables absolutely have a role to play, but in the short term (next 50 years) it's impossible for them to displace coal and keep pace with increasing energy demands. Any solution that doesn't contemplate bringing the rest of the developing world up to a standard of living enjoyed by the developed world is doomed to fail and that means huge increases in energy consumption. We (in the west) don't get to tell the rest of the world that they don't get to enjoy what we have because it will wreak the atmosphere, especially as it was us that largely did the wreaking. Speaking as somebody who founded a solar startup I believe in solar and I want it to succeed, but I'm also pragmatic about what it will take to avert a climate meltdown.

So its not one or the other we have to do both. Nuclear is the only base load source that has any hope of replacing coal. We can build existing western designs today, they're not perfect but they are safe. Yes they produce waste, but like today's landfills, I suspect we will only have to hang onto it for 50~100 years before it becomes tomorrow's fuel. Nuclear waste is mostly good fuel that it poisoned by small amounts of actual waste. The barriers to Nuclear are mostly political based on public fear and fear of proliferation. That fear is mostly irrational, but its a political reality. The economic barriers are due to uncertainty. Investors are just not going to pony up the big money for a plant unless they believe it will actually get built and operated and the politics of fear place a cloud over that.

Lastly, I don't know if peak Uranium is 50 or 50,000 years away. But using the possibility future scarcity as an argument not to develop nuclear is just FUD and really disingenuous. We need to stop putting carbon into the atmosphere now. Catastrophic climate change is potentially a civilization ending event and at best will cause untold human suffering and environmental destruction. That means using all the tools in our toolbox.
posted by Long Way To Go at 8:20 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I run a blog about sustainable business and the environment. I never self link on the green, but one of our most popular articles of all time is about the pros and cons of nuclear energy from an environmental perspective
posted by paddingtonb at 9:07 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I see the point of those above who say heavy metals from coal are a real problem; however, it is important to remember that mining and enriching uranium also produces toxic heavy metal (depleted uranium); so with nuclear power you have heavy metal contamination plus nuclear waste.

That is not to say I am anti-nuke; as I stated above I think waste disposal is a problem with a solution. I just feel that many of the defenses I read of nuclear power tend to ignore or gloss over that particular issue.
posted by TedW at 9:29 AM on October 19, 2010


You can watch a video talk by Stewart Brand here. It covers the ideas in his book Whole Earth Discipline, and explains why among other things he's become an advocate of nuclear power. Also has a recommended reading list.

Overall the message is: We need to get off fossil fuels more or less completely by mid-century, and no way is that going to happen in reality without nuclear being a big part of the mix. Things like wind and solar might be cleaner, but you'd need to cover half the country in wind turbines and solar panels, and they're not going to close the gap on their own.

To achieve what's needed is going to take *everything* we've got.

As David MacKay puts it: "I'm not against wind, I'm just in favor of arithmetic."
posted by philipy at 10:42 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thorium is currently being touted as a more responsible nuclear fuel, as it is more abundant and less radioactive than uranium.

I'm open to nuclear energy, but doesn't nuclear essentially kick the can down the road? What happens when we reach peak uranium or peak thorium?
posted by kirkaracha at 11:20 AM on October 19, 2010


TED Talks has an excellent 20 minute debate between Stewart Brand (pro Nuke) and Mark Z. Jacobson:

Debate: Does the world need nuclear energy?
http://www.ted.com/talks/debate_does_the_world_need_nuclear_energy.html
posted by at at 11:29 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the wikipedia page on Thorium: It is estimated to be about three to four times more abundant than uranium in the Earth's crust.

So there's a lot of thorium. Well, more than there is uranium.

Nuclear power is like democracy. It's a the worst possible solution, except for all the others. Coal & gas are awful and coal in particular spews amazing amounts of radioactive waste all on its own.

Thorium points out the real problem I have with nuclear power which is every new reactor is a bit of an experiment. The risks aren't necessarily clear for each new design. I still support it and think we need it now more than ever but I don't harbor illusions that it's super safe.
posted by chairface at 11:33 AM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


This article from Wired makes a good case for nuclear power, I think.
posted by papayaninja at 12:26 PM on October 19, 2010


Actually, that was not the Wired article I was thinking it was. This one is!
posted by papayaninja at 12:32 PM on October 19, 2010


You might be interested in this video about liquid thorium fluoride reactors.

doesn't nuclear essentially kick the can down the road?

It does, but quite far down the road. One ton of thorium can generate the same amount of power as 3,500,00 tons of coal, and per USGS estimates the current global reserve of economically extractable thorium is 1,300,000 tons.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:39 PM on October 19, 2010


Catastrophic climate change is potentially a civilization ending event and at best will cause untold human suffering and environmental destruction. That means using all the tools in our toolbox. throwing as much money at the problem as is politically feasible, and spending that on the most cost-effective CO2 emission abatement measures we can find, as fast as we possibly can.

Which is not on any kind of generation plant; it's on end-use energy efficiency. Nukes are not even in the same league as negawatts for emission abatement bang for buck.

The majority of the energy we generate now is simply wasted. Energy-inefficient buildings, energy-inefficient vehicles, energy-inefficient industrial processes and energy-inefficient agriculture (in that order, iirc) are what we should be pouring dollars into fixing - not on looking for ways to supply energy in ever-increasing quantities in order to let business-as-usual consumption patterns piss most of it up against the wall.

Every ton of coal you remove the need to burn by implementing end-use efficiency measures, if accompanied by a policy-driven rise in the end user's unit energy cost to avoid the Jevons effect, is a ton you don't need to replace with nukes or wind or anything else.

And since it does indeed cost less to save a ton of fuel than to burn it, this is the general direction the energy market has in fact been drifting in for thirty years. Projections of ever-increasing energy demand are a nuclear lobby wet dream, not market reality. What we really need our policy makers to do is help that drift, not get in its way by distorting the market with nuclear subsidy boondoggles.

Lots more along this line, with more numbers and less handwaving, at www.rmi.org.
posted by flabdablet at 3:52 PM on October 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is BS, it's not a choice between one or the other

When it comes right down to deciding whether a given energy abatement dollar will be put towards building a nuke or insulating a building: yes, it absolutely is a choice.
posted by flabdablet at 4:01 PM on October 19, 2010


foo.
s/energy abatement/emission abatement/
posted by flabdablet at 4:03 PM on October 19, 2010


This is a massive argument, one that is difficult to make sense of. There are many spurious numbers thrown about. I have been a party to these debates many many times such that I am not going to weigh in too heavily again.

So, very briefly, my understanding is that, if we want to maintain anything like current rates of consumption of electricity, which most of us seem to (electric cars anyone?), but not to put carbon into the atmosphere, we need multiple really big sources of power. There are only two feasible technologies that can be rolled out in anything like the timeframe we want: solar thermal and nuclear.

I think we ought to go for both of them. Oh and flabdablet is right that energy efficiency is a truly virtuous thing, but I'm not sure it's such a deep mine.

Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air is an excellent resource. Another good resource (pro-nuke, particularly so-called 4th generation) is this blog, Brave New Climate.
posted by wilful at 7:05 PM on October 19, 2010


if we want to maintain anything like current rates of consumption of electricity, which most of us seem to

That's the point that Amory Lovins has been making, correctly, at every opportunity, since the mid 70's.

We don't want to maintain anything like current rates of consumption of electricity.

What we do want to maintain is current or improved standards of those end use services (lighting, warmth, transportation, manufacturing) that electricity and other forms of energy distribution currently provide.

Energy efficiency is indeed a truly virtuous thing, not because it's morally or ethically superior but because it works better and costs less than a continuing commitment to waste. And not only is it a deep mine, it's currently our deepest, cheapest and fastest mine.

A simple but illustrative example: I have a solar collector on my roof that has cut my night-time electricity usage by a factor of five. This translates to a 40% reduction in my total electricity usage. It hasn't reduced my bill by 40%, because there are perverse incentives built into the billing system (night-time electricity costs half of what daytime electricity does, and simply connecting to the grid incurs an ongoing fixed cost even with zero consumption). Even so, my collector will pay back its total purchase and installation cost inside ten years, and continue to save me money (increasing amounts of it, as electricity prices rise) for at least another ten. That's a fantastic rate of return on investment; better than shares.

Saving that amount of electricity consumption at point of end use means that all the conversion and transmission losses between the coal furnace and me end up being gains when you work how much coal it saves.

If we had public policy that said (a) fixed connection costs are illegal; all energy suppliers must build their network maintenance, generator construction and running costs into what they charge per kilowatt, just as is presently done with pricing of transport fuels (b) all fossil carbon is taxed at point of extraction and import, initially at $20 per ton equivalent CO2 and rising by 5% per year (c) householders get paid a fixed, no-strings-attached, direct share of the revenue so raised to spend on whatever they like and (d) householders can access finance for end-use efficiency improvements at the ten year bond rate: there would be a massive scramble toward end-use efficiency and (largely decentralized) renewable electricity generation, countless jobs would be created in the renewable energy supply and installation sector, and we'd achieve significant emissions cuts at no cost to the public purse.

That's all we need. We don't need an enormous, administratively unwieldy carbon credit trading scheme and we certainly don't need to build nuclear reactors; replacing end-of-life coal plant with (less powerful!) solar thermal and geothermal should be more than sufficient.

The nuclear lobby sucks. But the coal lobby sucks even worse. Australia's biggest export is coal, and this is held to be one of Australia's competitive advantages that we'd be mad not to take advantage of. But we also get more days of sunshine over more available land surface than any other nation, and we have wave and tidal resources available of brain-buggering proportions. There is absolutely no reason that I can think of why Australia should not continue to make pots and pots of money by exporting fuel - but precisely why that fuel needs to be fossil carbon escapes me. Why does Australia not have a plan in place to become the world's largest exporter of sustainably manufactured hydrogen?
posted by flabdablet at 7:58 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


foo again.
s/what they charge per kilowatt/what they charge per kWh/
posted by flabdablet at 8:00 PM on October 19, 2010


flabdablet, I would like to believe you, I really would. But I don't. Australia is virtually irrelevant at a global scale, and I'm not going to deny several billion Chinese, Indians and Africans refrigeration and all the other good things we enjoy. Meanwhile the science is telling us that a fair and reasonable emissions reduction target for Australia is in the order of 95 - 98% by 2050. Efficiency will do very good things, but divided by other uses (e.g. electric cars) and by population growth, it's not going anywhere within cooee of that sort of reduction.

I don't know why you think the nuclear lobby sucks. I'm part of the nuclear lobby, since I can't really see what's so terrible with it, while I can see that there is much to fear from climate change, meanwhile there is complete inaction in most of the developed world to decarbonise.

As for hydrogen, you're dreaming. This is a very ordinary fuel.
posted by wilful at 8:32 PM on October 19, 2010


As a major coal exporter, Australia is absolutely relevant on a global scale. As long as we remain economically dependent on exporting fossil carbon, we are obviously going to be doing our level best to make sure all our customers keep buying it.

As a manufacturer of refrigeration and all the other good things we enjoy, we are indeed mostly irrelevant. As consumers of those appliances we have a certain pull, though, and I would like to see us helping drive demand for the most energy-efficient versions available.

I would also be much less unhappy to see several billion Chinese driving lightweight, energy-efficient cars made from recyclable advanced composites than to see China become Detroit on steroids.

As for why I think the nuclear lobby sucks: mainly because I find arguments containing actual numbers more persuasive than handwaving insistence that there is no realistic alternative to nuclear power. If anything major has changed since that 1986 analysis, please do enlighten me.

Hydrogen is indeed a very ordinary fuel, roughly comparable in many ways with natural gas. Which means that, unlike uranium, we could sell a hell of a lot of it and it would be perfectly obvious where it's going.

There are other "ordinary" fuels available that don't involve digging out fossil carbon. Aluminium, for example, has about twice the energy density of petrol and yields solid oxide or liquid sodium alumate when "burned" - both of which lend themselves to closed fuel cycles for energy storage and transportation.

For efficient bulk energy transportation over long distances, though, you can't beat HVDC. So, why are we still loading coal onto fossil-fuelled ships instead of running an undersea HVDC cable to Indonesia, fed from a gang of solar thermal plants in the NT deserts?
posted by flabdablet at 10:21 PM on October 19, 2010


The big H is far worse than natural gas, and we don't have any magic monopoly on it.

I am quite sure that nothing we can do will change china's consumption of coal (both thermal and metallurgical) any time soon. There's not much point lecturing me on what China should be doing, I don't have a lot of influence in Beijing.

As for numbers, can i suggest you read the first link?

As for your question re HVDC, that's because the thermal plants aren't built because they're still mostly at proof of concept phase, and bloody expensive. As would be the cables to indonesia.

You're not being realistic.
posted by wilful at 10:59 PM on October 19, 2010


I don't think any of my outrageous, unrealistic proposals are a patch on the self-delusion involved in believing that nuclear power is worth pursuing.

But rather than get into a game of "no, you're not being realistic" tennis, I'll simply bet you a 2010 Australian dollar that twenty years from now nuclear plants will be generating less power than they do today, both in absolute gigawatt terms and as a proportion of total power generated, and that this will have happened despite huge amounts of public money having been spent on building them, simply because other emission mitigation technologies have continued to out-compete them in straight-up economic terms.

And I'll bet you a further 2010 Australian dollar that there will still be money being spent on nuclear decommissioning and cleanup that could have been used to lower emissions faster than we did, and that there will still be an active nuclear lobby doing its best to persuade the governments of the day to subsidize more new plant because this time I've changed, honey, honest, I mean it.

For the record, though, you were absolutely right about the Enviromission solar tower coming to nothing at Mildura. Having bought into EVM at twenty cents, I sold out at six and a half (it's been bouncing around near three cents for a while now). But I would have got away with it if it weren't for you meddling kids!
posted by flabdablet at 11:58 PM on October 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would unquestionably take that bet. I am entirely convinced that global nuclear power generation is set to rocket over the next two decades. Because it's clean, both in terms of emissions and safety (yes, it remains expensive, but affordable).

Enviromission failing was disappointing. I've still got more money than I ought to in Geodynamics, and they've tanked.
posted by wilful at 2:47 AM on October 20, 2010


Right. You're on.
posted by flabdablet at 2:48 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can we agree that in 2007 there were some 439 commercial nuclear power reactors operating in 30 countries, with 372,000 MWe of total capacity.
posted by wilful at 3:42 AM on October 20, 2010


372,000MW for 365*24 hours would be 3.26PWh. If this graph is right, nuclear electricity production in 2007 was around 2.5PWh, which yields a capacity factor of roughly 78%. OK, that's plausible. I accept your numbers.
posted by flabdablet at 3:57 AM on October 20, 2010


Last I knew, the American public insures nuclear power plants, because insurance companies won't. Insurance companies and actuaries are really good at assessing risk. I would love to be updated or corrected if my information is outdated.
posted by theora55 at 10:46 AM on October 20, 2010


These are great; keep 'em coming! (Marking answers as I finish watching the videos and reading the articles and such!)
posted by sdis at 11:04 AM on October 20, 2010


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