FLC150, Looking beyond Nuclear, Sean Gabb, 12th July 2006


An easy answer to the question of nuclear power is to ask what Tony Blair thinks about it. Since he has now said he likes it, and since everything he says or does is bad, we have an answer. I feel, however, this answer might gain by a more formal demonstration.

via FLC150, Looking beyond Nuclear, Sean Gabb, 12th July 2006.

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15 responses to “FLC150, Looking beyond Nuclear, Sean Gabb, 12th July 2006

  1. Nuclear power is the SAFEST power source so far devised. Thousands will have died in Japan from the earthquake and tsunami but when things are sorted (as far as they can be sorted from a God-awful mess like this) NOT ONE person will have died from radioactivity. Despite your undoubted erudition Sean ,you do not seem to be as well-versed in matters of science and engineering as would be wise for anyone to be in the twenty-first century. It ill suits you to be lining up your voice next to the kind of eco-morons who comment in the Guardian.
    I agree with your point about home generation of power however and the freedom this would bring. There are possibilities but it is a case of making them happen. A breakthrough in home power would do more for freedom than all the Libertarian activists that have ever, or will ever, be.

  2. Sorry, I don’t understand the message of this article. Generating energy is a huge problem. I am afraid a “wouldn’t it be nice..” and rewarding £10billion, will not be enough to solve it. You don’t need to reward someone for finding a cheap and effective form of generating energy. A lot of very smart people are working on this and whoever comes up with a solution would soon be a very rich man anyway. The facts remain that at the moment there are only three ways of reliably creating energy: water, nuclear, oil and coal. If we wanted to replace nuclear with coal power stations, we would need to build dozens if not hundreds of new ones. If every country did this, the prices for these recourses would sky rocket. At the moment I cannot see how human kind can preserve or increase its standard of living without nuclear power. BTW, I would have no problem living close to a nuclear power station, the chances that an accident happens are extremely low. I would however mind living close to a coal power station. I agree of course that the market should solve this problem.

  3. Adding to that. An important part of the solution to our enegry problem is to find a way to store energy efficiantly. That is the main problem that energy always has to be created live. Especially car developers are working on solving it. If there were a solution for this, we could generate cheap energy from vulcanos in Iceland and every home could have their own cheap battery.

  4. Energy can be stored chemically (as in fuels to oxidise, which is to say: burn) or electrically (which is to say: in batteries, which is another way of storing chemical energy – Delta-G = -nFE) , or you can try to make it rain at the very top of all the world’s mountain ranges so as to store the GPE of the water-molecules as best you can in the few possible places where it’s not already been done. Man’s energy demands are not plannable and regulatable. This is where socialism mortally falls down. And if you include “Gaia”, then you are truly lost. Pre-Capitalism-Barbarian “religions” have “gods” that don’t like humans, and persist in getting angry, even in modern times, when other Gods learnt better. Not my idea of a religion, me.

  5. As the Beeb likes to tell people when I’m let on to do combat with the greenies, I’m not a scientist. Even so, I have a strong prejudice against nuclear power. Does this earn me a King Lud Award?

  6. I think, if energy was obtained from nuclear fusion rather than fission, without having to use a fission trigger to start the reaction, the amount of radioactive waste would be minimal if any at all.
    But there are dangers of other forms of radiation.

  7. Sean is let off for now! But I will have to “re-educate” him when he visits the Chimpanzees’ type-writing-Nissen-Hut in due course….

  8. Fuels are indeed stored energy. That is why they are so popular. The question is how to form energy into fuel, to store it, that is much more complicated and inefficiant. The same is true for a battery. It is a very inefficiant energy storage. If you are charging a battery, you lose a lot of energy. And the creation of a battery also takes a lot of energy.This is all very expensive and inefficant. No, it is incredibly hard to store energy efficiantly. That is why wind and solar energy is such a rip of. For every wind power station, you need to let a nuclear or coal power station run empty, as you cannot just turn these stations off for an hour or even a day. Therefore, unless, you are far away, from a power suply network, at the moment these forms of energies are complet nonsense. There is hardly any benefit, they just cost a lot of money. There are a few part solutions for storing energy. For example you use the generated energy to pump water on a hill. You can then let the water run down the hill if you need to and re-generate energy. This is efficiant, but it is no solution, there isn’t enough space to secure the power demands of a nation that way. A newer solution is to pump, air into tanks, so that you create a lot of pressure. You can then let the pressure out and again re-generate energy. You can look at it like you want. But as long as there is no other way of creating energy is discoverd, or as long as we haven’t got an efficiant way to store energy, our standart of living will be dependent on nuclear power stations.

  9. An easy answer to the question of nuclear power is to ask what Tony Blair thinks about it.

    Made Oi larf, but not necessarily useful. Depending on whether we believe Blair is incompetent or mendacious we need to remember either that broken clocks are right twice a day or that his answer will be factually irrelevant anyway. An accurate answer to the question of nuclear power is not going to be forthcoming if we choose to ask someone as fundamentally unreliable as Tony Blair.

  10. C H Ingoldby

    I suppose even Blair could accidentally get something right for once.

    Nuclear power has useful applications and writing it off entirely seems rather foolish. In terms of radioactivity, it actually releases a lower level into the atmosphere, Megawatt for Megawatt, than coal power stations. Renewables simply aren’t ready to take the slack as non renewables are used and become more expensive.

  11. Look, I appreciate that I sound like one of those idiots who insist, in defiance of all common sense and probable evidence, that the planet is getting hotter and hotter and that it’s all our fault because of central heating and proper lightbulbs. Perhaps I am in that class of idiots. But atomic power does frighten me. I also believe it is the preferred option of the ruling class. These people must know that wind farms won’t keep even them warm at night. And the drumbeat of reassuring propaganda from the Beeb about the melt-down in Japan makes me suspicious.

  12. I’m not sure I’d be thrilled to be living next door to a nuclear power station, but I can’t see any reasonable alternatives. Whether you think reserves of gas, oil and coal will run out next year, or next century, they are bound to be used up sooner or later, and it seems to me that is the reason to seek alternatives – global warming may or may not be occurring, but if it is, I doubt it has much to do with human activity.

    Maybe one day the problem of nuclear fusion will be solved, and the current fission reactors can be done away with. Until then, I suspect that failure to build nuclear power stations soon, could result life in the near future being a good deal less comfortable than it is now.

  13. I also believe it is the preferred option of the ruling class. These people must know that wind farms won’t keep even them warm at night.

    Not sure about that, at least not in Britain or Oz. The rush for more wind suggests to me that politicians of all stripes have swallowed hook, line, sinker, rod and tackle box what Big Eco has told them about renewables, while the fact that the UK hasn’t begun construction of a new nuclear power station for nearly 25 years while Australia doesn’t have one at all. There was some discussion about having a discussion about maybe flirting with the idea of using all this bloody uranium we’re sitting on for keeping the lights on instead of selling it abroad, but the Japan situation is going to kill that stone dead despite a pronounced lack of strong earthquakes here and the fact that the Japanese power stations actually withstood the 9 magnitude that hit them (I read they were designed with 8.2 in mind, so arguably they’ve performed above expectations in one regard – shame the backup generator buildings weren’t constructed to the same standard).

    And the drumbeat of reassuring propaganda from the Beeb about the melt-down in Japan makes me suspicious.

    Admittedly I’ve not looked for the Beeb’s take on this but most of what I’ve seen elsewhere I’d describe as between typical breathless media beat up and full blown hysteria. Chernobyl gets mentioned about every other article despite some very important differences and I have actually seen the word ‘apocalypse’ used in at least one headline. This to describe a nuclear emergency that has so far killed nobody at all and, if it does turn out to be as serious as Three Mile Island (Chernobyl doesn’t seem a fair comparison), possibly never will. The death toll from the quake and tsunami is over five thousand and set to rise, many many thousands more have lost homes and businesses, and manufacturing and infrastructure will have taken a massive hit. The nuclear situation is bad, but not remotely as bad as the rest of it.

    Incidentally, there are of course nuclear reactors and nuclear reactors. One design that has particularly interested me lately is the LFTR. The video on that link is nearly an hour long (even longer vid here) but worth the time if you’re interested in the possibility of a reactor which is more efficient with its fuel, could potentially consume nuclear waste from existing designs and maybe even old warheads, and would be failsafe in the same situation as Fukashima found itself in after the quake. Nobody’s ever made one for commercial generation but a test reactor was built in the 60s and generated power. They might have been in common use by now were it not for poor timing – they’re not much good for bomb making and that’s what was wanted back then. Their potential today is far better but I doubt our current crop of wind powered solar boosted composting toilet obsessed politicians, blinded as they are by Big Eco dollar signs, will recognise it.

  14. I’m not sure I’d be thrilled to be living next door to a nuclear power station, but I can’t see any reasonable alternatives.

    Agree about the alternatives but living near one doesn’t worry me. For two separate periods I’ve lived near a non-power reactor for several years at a time and never gave it much thought. I’ve lived fairly close to Aldermaston where they actually make nuclear warheads, just one of which could kill vastly more people than every nuclear power accident combined – I think they must have a reactor there too. And I’ve probably been within a couple of hours drive or less of one or more power stations, which I expect also applies to a large chunk of the population of Britain. When Aussie friends say to me “Yeah, but would you want to live near a nuclear reactor?” my response has always been “What, again?”

    Agree about fusion too. Been a long wait for the big breakthrough there though this video might interest you (NB even longer than the LFTR video – ≈90 mins). I don’t know enough to say whether this is right and tokamaks are wrong but it can only be a good thing that there is more than one avenue of research. Shame they don’t all get the same money, but such is life. Personally I’d hope for LFTR or other safer fission while we’re waiting for fusion to become viable.

  15. Tom Burroughes

    I am not sure if nukes are preferred by a specific class. If it is, then how to explain the scrappings of nuclear power stations in recent years in the UK? David Cameron does not strike me as a fan, and he’s about as ruling class as it gets. Some Greens are quite sympathetic as they see it as the only really credible alternative to fossil fuels.

    The Japanese disaster must surely remind any sane person that building such things in areas known for geological disasters is crazy. But Japan does not have many other easy sources of energy. It is not a simple issue.