Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

News Does Every Nation on Earth Have a Right to Build Nuclear Power Plants

  1. Jan 26, 2006 #1
    Is it the case that every country in the world--including places like North Korea, Iran and Syria--ought to have the right to build nuclear power plants? (That is, the question is not whether such countries currently have a legal right under international law.)

    A. Yes

    B. No
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 26, 2006 #2
    And more importantly... Is it the case that any country in the world has the right to decide what another country has the right to do?
  4. Jan 26, 2006 #3


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I voted yes, but I am not blind to the danger inherrent in it. I think that countries without nuclear weapons who want nuclear plants should be monitored - it should be (if it isn't already) a component of the NPT.
  5. Jan 26, 2006 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Yes, although would like to see a system in place where for example IAEA would give permission on a case by case basis.
  6. Jan 26, 2006 #5
    Good question. I would say only when one country is guilty of immoral acts of barbarism that are beyond the pale. Especially actual genocide, and perhaps threats of genocide backed up by nuclear tipped IRBM's.
  7. Jan 26, 2006 #6
    Yeah, I guess. I mean, if a country were guilty of immorally spreading materialism, pornography, violent passtimes and similarly barbaric practices across the planet, or if it exploited smaller countries to maintain its own standard of living, or if it had a habit of threatening various other countries now and then, if these threats were backed up by the means of carrying them out, if it had shown before that it was both able and willing to do so, if it had already forcefully overthrown governments and systems it disagreed with, then I guess any other country would have the right to stop them. On the other hand we could just stop talking of right and wrong and just realize that the law of the jungle still applies. Does any country have any right? Only the right to do whatever it can get away with.
  8. Jan 26, 2006 #7
    yes I think every nation has a right to nuclear power. Mostly to limit worldwide pollution.
  9. Jan 26, 2006 #8
    WOW! 8 to 1 already if you count Orefa's vote.

    I guess I'm really out of the mainstream this time!

    Unbelievable. . . .
  10. Jan 26, 2006 #9
    Theoretically, governments could make your question a moot topic by effectively outlawing any possession of any nuclear-powered device by any particular nation.

    Realistically, governments could, and should, focus many R&D dollars, many billions, into
    developing large scale energy systems' infrastructure built to be as environmentally friendly as possible, which precludes nuclear.

    As uncomfortable as it may be, human beings cannot live forever on the current energy systems.

    Until there is political will to convert from fossil-based, non environmentally-friendly energy systems (see: hydroelectric), to an energy system that is environmentally-friendly (see: hydrogen), there will always be one nation that demands to use nuclear power, and there will always be an other nation that is suspicious and fearful that the one nation actually wants nuclear power for a bomb, and living with suspicion and fear is no way to live.

    Is it right for any nation on earth to build nuclear power plants?

    Just because you can does not mean you should.
  11. Jan 26, 2006 #10
    Well, I'm actually abstaining. Right and wrong is subjective, relative and not even relevant most of the time. If you want and can then do, otherwise don't. A better question might have been "Do you WANT all countries to have access to nuclear power" without injecting morality into it. Everyone can answer based on their own personal reasons. You would get more of the NOs you are looking for this way.
  12. Jan 26, 2006 #11


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    The answer to that was decided by consensus with the forming of the UN and is a clear yes.
    Given the content of your second post, do you see the irony of saying that? If morality is truly relative, then you cannot say that the US is immoral.

    Again, the UN has reached a very specific consensus on a broad specturm of moral issues. Regadless of whether you believe it is right or wrong for that to be the case, it is a fact. Further, the fact that the member countries agreed to this moral code means that they must abide by it.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2006
  13. Jan 26, 2006 #12


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Perhaps you could shed some light on what your actual opinion is...? A simple "no" doesn't really explain how your opinion would apply in the real world. Ie, are you weighing the concept of forfeiting of rights when forming your opinion on this? Few, if any rights are absolute (the only one where there is significant debate is the right to life), so saying that nuclear power is a right does not mean it can't be taken away if the country screws up.
  14. Jan 26, 2006 #13


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    What if a country does not sign such agreements at all, or changes their position regarding agreements like the U.S. has?
  15. Jan 26, 2006 #14
    Russ, read the question once more. It explicitly states that it's not asking if the right currently exists but if it ought to exist.

    Yes I can since it is relative. But I did not, and you missed the actual irony. The point I made in the post you refer to was that if you accuse some country of "immoral acts of barbarism" then you should be prepared to receive the same accusation.
  16. Jan 26, 2006 #15


    User Avatar

    :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: Perhaps you'd care to explain the continuing US embargo of Cuba despite an annual vote to end it in the UN of 178 - 2 (the US and Israel being the 2 against :rolleyes: ), the US breaches of the UN Convention on Torture, the illegal war in Iraq, not to mention the US funding and training of terrorists to overthrow democratically elected gov'ts all around the world and Israel's continuing refusal to abide by UN resolutions.

    All of which you have expressed personal support for. A case of 'do as I say don't do as I do'. :rolleyes:
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 26, 2006
  17. Jan 26, 2006 #16
    OK, Orefa abstains, but it's still 10 to 2--80% to 20%.

    Why did I vote no? For the same reason we don't allow convicted felons to own guns. Those states that have a proven record of irresponsibility cannot be trusted with nuclear power plants because all too often the "peaceful" use of uranium becomes a cover for clandestine nuclear weapons programs. And some places just don't have the organizational skills to ensure that a melt-down doesn't occur and thus spewing radiation across borders, and poisening half a continent.

    Besides, if a nation really wants to reduce fossil fuel consumption and CO2 production, there are other alternatives.
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2006
  18. Jan 26, 2006 #17


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    One might as well ask if any nation has the right to exist. I suppose it probably comes down to "Might Makes Right".

    Under the UN's Atoms for Peace program, the right to have a nuclear energy program was more or less established.

    Hopefully, nations will learn to use nuclear energy wisely.

    http://www.iaea.org/About/index.html [Broken]


    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  19. Jan 26, 2006 #18
    I notice you express your hopes for the future, implying that some nations do not presently use nuclear energy wisely. There's the rub--can unwise use of nuclear energy be tolerated by the international communty?
  20. Jan 26, 2006 #19
    I don't really think North Korea can have nukes without doing somthing stupid.
  21. Jan 26, 2006 #20


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Well, NO. Unwise use of any energy source should not be tolerated, because the resources are finite, and wasteful or unwise use will in the long run increase the suffering inflicted upon humanity.

    The question ultimately becomes one of energy policy and resource allocation. And one must ask, is there sufficient energy for all, i.e. can we develop and sustain a certain quality (and perhaps add, minimally acceptable) of life for all of humanity, or will some millions or billions of people be forced to accept poor quality of life in order so others can live a more acceptable quality of life, or even luxurious life style?

    However, looking a nuclear, there are several issues.

    1. Sustainability - there is finite uranium and thorium resources, and to develop those resources require mining (pollution of the environment). Resources can be extended by improving the efficiency of the conversion technology, i.e. more efficient thermal -> electrical transformation, and also by breeding fissile material (U-233 from Th-232, and Pu-239 from U-238). Currently, the bulk of commercial nuclear power plants are light water reactors (LWRs), and the conversion efficiency is about 33-34% based on the Rankine (steam) thermodynamic cycle. Going to higher temperatures can increase efficiency, but at the cost of degradation of the power systems due to corrosion and wear and tear.

    2. Proliferation - Breeding (and the reprocessing process) introduces technological issues, e.g. more radioactive waste, and political issues - proliferation of fissile materials, particularly Pu-239/240, which can be fabricated into nuclear weapons.

    3. Nuclear waste - Yucca mountain, which is supposed to be the US repository for spent nuclear fuel, is again on hold, and the State of Nevada is attempting to terminate it - after $billions have been wasted - and many people have made $millions, with nothing to show for it. :grumpy: :mad: Where will the waste ultimately go.

    The French reprocess their nuclear fuel, but then the fission products must be buried somewhere.

    As for fusion, don't hold your breath.

    Perhaps renewable sources, e.g. wind and solar. Perhaps.

    I don't know of any nation that uses its energy 'wisely'. The US uses about 1/4 of the world's energy, for about 5% of the population, but the quality of life is only marginally better than other industrial areas that use far less. And if one really looks into the US, there are many people whose quality of life is rather poor - perhaps about 50-100 million (16-33% of the population).
  22. Jan 26, 2006 #21
    Well, I can't blame the people of Nevada for not wanting a nuclear waste dump in their backyard. And it never made sense to me anyway. Just look at a geological map of Nevada, and you tell right away that the whole state is splitting apart at the seams. Why not pick a spot that's not so geologically active--like central Nebraska. But no matter what site is chosen, there is also the problem of transporting the stuff to the repository site. Better hope the trains don't derail, or that some crazy terrorist doesn't blow a truckload of the stuff with a big IED. And if the U.S. is having such a hard time dealing with this issue, what is every third world country with a few reactors doing?!? Personally, I would suggest dumping the waste in a 7-mile deep oceanic trench in an active subduction zone, where the stuff would get sucked deep within the Earth. And who pays for all this waste disposal--the customers who actually bought the electricity? I don't think so.

    Also, you didn't mention the risk of another Chernobyl-style disaster. I know the Chernobyl design was an old-fashioned graphite-based reactor. Still, Three Mile Island came pretty close, and what would have happened if Mohammed Atta had flown the 767 he stole into a containment dome at an NPP, instead of the WTC?
  23. Jan 26, 2006 #22


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Interesting suggestion - anyone know if this is viable?

    I'm sure terrorists have considered all targets. If bin Laden tells the truth (and I've been told terrorists don't lie) then goals such as economic ruin of the U.S. is what they seek and not devastation of the environment that they also rely upon. Despite what many think, they are not insane.
  24. Jan 26, 2006 #23

    Yeah, thats not even remotely reasonable for many reasons. All that will do is contaminate the entire waters of the ocean.

    Windfarms are not feasible either, for many reasons. You need a LOT of them, and the more you have, the less efficient they become.

    That concrete is made to withstand a direct impact of an airplane at 500 mph, it would just disentigrate the airplane and leave a crack in the dome.

    http://www.sandia.gov/news-center/video-gallery/ [Broken]

    click on a link to load the video, kaBOOM that airplane is vaporized, literally.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  25. Jan 27, 2006 #24
    I voted yes.

    New reactor designs are far better than the old ones. Another Chernobyl or TMI would be highly unlikely. I've read that the approximated death total attributed to the use of coal in the US over a single year is several times that that have occured in the entire history of nuclear power.
  26. Jan 27, 2006 #25
    There are quite a few problems with wind by the way. By your comments in the Iran thread you seem to like the option alot Warren. Most of them are pretty common sense once you think about it so I'm not going to look up sources for all of this unless you ask. Hope you don't mind.

    Wind has at least two major ecological issues. The most obvious being the amount of land it takes above and beyond the city it powers just to build a wind farm. Secondly it can be a problem for the avian population which we saw in the news not that long ago.
    Weather is another problem. The particular region utilizing wind farms must have a generally windy climate for the wind farms to be effective but there is still always the trouble of down times even in a windy clime.
    Location location location! This is a definite problem. There are just certain places that for what ever reason wind farms are not feasable. Aside from weather and acreage some places such as mountainous regions just don't have anywhere to set up wind farms. I know that SoCal (where I live) is a bit of an exception but around here most cities are surrounded by more cities. After I traveled to other places I for the first time became rather awed by the fact that you can drive around here from city to city to city without ever leaving the city! There just isn't room to build enough wind farms to power everything around here with out taking out what little nature still exists.
    The last problem that I can remember from those that I have read about is line loss. Some people might think "Well if they can't build wind farms there then we can just pipe the energy in from one somewhere else." This is entirely unfeasable though because of the massive amounts of enery that would be lost off the line between the wind farm and the far away city. Advances in technology can make our energy usage more efficient and make our wind farms more efficient but very little we can do to combat line loss over extended distances. A wind farm HAS to be relatively close to it's customers or it just wont be effective.

    This is what I have gathered from what I have read. If any one thinks I am wrong please point out your issues but as far as I can tell wind will never be anything better than an augmentation to an energy plan with something else as it's primary energy source in most instances.
    I'm not down on wind completely I just don't think it's THE answer to the energy problem which alot of people have made it out to be. I believe England has a rather ambitious wind energy plan. It may work out pretty well for them. I'd always welcome it as a secondary power source. I'm sure there are even measures to be taken that can prevent the issue with regards to avian populations.
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2006
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook