Is Obama's Endorsement of Nuclear Power a Liberal Shift?

In summary, President Barack Obama announced $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees for two new nuclear reactors in Georgia, making him a major champion of nuclear power. This is a controversial step, as no new nuclear units have been licensed in the US since the near-meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979. Despite reservations about nuclear power, the lack of available options has convinced many to support it. Obama's decision has been met with mixed reactions, with some seeing it as a positive move towards energy independence and others expressing concerns about safety and the potential for nuclear materials to fall into the wrong hands.
  • #106
Astronuc said:
Easily said. Not easily done. And that's not how it done. Remote handling/processing is not trivial.

My understanding of the process that was needed to get used fuel from a PWR into a CANDU reactor was just a change of fuel rod length and rod packing form factor. That there was no need for any form of chemical reprocessing because the actinide/neutron poisoning that makes the fuel no longer usable in a PWR was not a problem for a CANDU type reactor. Also from my own knowledge and experience remote manufacturing is very easy. The process I had described to me about the steps necessary to repackage fuel sounds like an incredibly easy line to set up. Granted I'll give you that the machinery will have some special material and shielding requirements, but I don't see that being a problem.
 
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  • #107
mheslep said:
These statements are contradictory. Pick one.

I'm familiar with the environmental hazards of coal including the radiation. I expect many people have some rough idea of the problems with coal. I'm also somewhat familiar, I think, with the issues surrounding commercial nuclear power. That's why, after weighing the alternatives, that I favor some more nuclear power. I didn't arrive at that point by hand waiving and assuming everything is perfect as-is with nuclear, all problems solved. On the contrary, I want to take responsibility for my position and become even more critical in the examination of nuclear power.

I completely disagree that they are contradictory. Granted I might of not made my point clear. My point is that the particles of uranium, thorium, potassium, and their radioactive decay products including radium are bound up in the coal ash byproducts. Also that things like fly ash unless keep constantly wet or sealed off acts just like topsoil. If it gets some wind behind it it becomes air borne, or can be easily washed away.

Conversely nuclear fuel pellets are about the size of your thumb up to the first joint. It might roll away from where it is put but it won't blow or wash away. Also it is a ceramic encased in a extremely resistant metal alloy, it won't be going anywhere. Stick it in glass like the current plan is for permanent disposal it really now won't be going anywhere. My point was take a stroll through a dry cask or pool storage facility for used nuclear fuel. After that go take a stroll at a coal plants ash disposal landfill. Less radiation exposure will be received at the nuclear fuel site then the coal one.

I didn't arrive at my support for nuclear power supplying the USA, then the worlds need for electric power by some hand waving. I came to it after research, comparison of current numbers, more research, and looking at past and present performance. Also is the need to become more critical of nuclear power and all of its current slew of very strict rules really needed? If that is the case let's start applying it other industry's with worse safety records first.
 
  • #108
Going back to the dirty bomb issue, there was a lot of speculation, not a lot of citation about it. Here's an NRC fact sheet on dirty bombs:
Most RDDs would not release enough radiation to kill people or cause severe illness - the conventional explosive itself would be more harmful to individuals than the radioactive material. However, depending on the scenario, an RDD explosion could create fear and panic, contaminate property, and require potentially costly cleanup. Making prompt, accurate information available to the public could prevent the panic sought by terrorists.
http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/dirty-bombs.html

A more detailed paper:
We examined 36 attack scenarios and reduced them to two plausible
or likely scenarios using qualitative judgments. For these two scenarios, we conducted a project
risk analysis to understand the tasks terrorists need to perform to carry out the attacks and to
determine the likelihood of the project’s success. The consequences of a successful attack are
described in terms of a radiological plume model and resulting human health and economic
impacts. Initial findings suggest that the chances of a successful dirty bomb attack are about
10–40% and that high radiological doses are confined to a relatively small area, limiting health
effects to tens or at most hundreds of latent cancers, even with a major release. However,
the economic consequences from a shutdown of the harbors due to the contamination could
result in significant losses in the tens of billions of dollars, including the decontamination costs
and the indirect economic impacts due to the port shutdown.
http://www-rcf.usc.edu/~winterfe/A ...n the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.pdf

It is interesting that they chose an attack on a port as the most useful - basically, they are maximizing the economic harm by shutting down a high bandwidth path for goods and services to flow. But the lifetime death toll (most due to latant cancers or the bomb) is only in the low hundreds, which is achievable with a good truck bomb with or without nuclear material in it.

While I realize the general public has a pretty high capacity for panic, one thing working against the terrorists is that cameras don't have geiger counters attached to them. The general public wouldn't even know an attack was a dirty bomb for probably a few days after it happened. And That's critical to maximizing the panic. Particularly if there are no acute cases of radiation poisining to increase the fear. If, a week later, people find out that it was a dirty bomb and the port needs to be shut down for a few months to clean it up (instead of a few weeks to secure and rebuild), I'm not sure the panic will be that great.
Unless the
bomb is set off in a very densely populated area, the
effects are likely to cause only a few fatalities and several
injuries. Acute radiation sickness might occur if
bystanders or emergency workers who rush to assist
blast victims suffer from prolonged exposure to highly
radioactive material. For example, during a 2004 dirty
bomb exercise held in Long Beach, emergency workers
rushed to the blast site, unaware of the radioactive
material and without protective clothing. Had
this been a real attack, they probably would have suffered
from some level of radiation exposure, though
most likely not in a range that produced acute radiation
effects.
I think I disagree with their reasoning because I don't think they've properly considered the impact of the ideology of the terrorists. Yes, they are interested in economic harm, but they are more interested in physical harm. For that reason, I think it is much more likely that they would try to attack a large crowd. There was a New Year's bombing attack foiled a couple of years after 9/11 (in Seattle, I believe). There was a scare that turned out to be nothing in Times Square this year. Mardi Gras would be another good target. For these scenarios, you maximize the immediate deaths, plus maximize the possibility for acute radiation sickness. People might not know the difference, but if they see video of people writing in pain with the headline "Dirty Bomb!" above it, they will think "radiation poisoning".

Bottom line, though, I think the actual harm potential of a dirty bomb is far too low for it to be considered anything special. And since there is so much unprotected Russian fuel out there, I think the whole argument is a smokescreen anyway: terrorists aren't going to try to steal our nuclear fuel to make a dirty bomb, so the dirty bomb risk has no bearing on whether we should use nuclear power.
 
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  • #109
The stuffs been around for near 60 years. I don't see why it would just suddenly jump up out of the woodworks as a convenient alternative at this time. The mother of invention is not "I have been perturbed slightly by a couple of Volvo commercials, let's change everything for my convenience".
 
  • #110
I think it an attack ON one of the power plants is more feared than terrorist capturing waste from America and using it in a bomb. I remember reading up the security measures in place a nuclear plant though. I doubt that any group of terrorist would be able to mount an attack against one.
 
  • #111
DrClapeyron said:
The stuffs been around for near 60 years. I don't see why it would just suddenly jump up out of the woodworks as a convenient alternative at this time. The mother of invention is not "I have been perturbed slightly by a couple of Volvo commercials, let's change everything for my convenience".
Two reasons that also apply to the 9/11 attack:

1. They didn't think of it 60 years ago for some reason (which is odd: afterall, a bomber once flew into the Empire State building).
2. The focus is shifting. In the '80s airplane hijackings were a real fad and a typical modus operandi of terrorists. But they didn't crash them, crash them into buildings, etc. They weren't suicidal and they were more interested in making statements/demands than just killing people. Now they aren't doing any talking during the attacks, they are just maximizing the killing. So if a dirty bomb really has the potential to be a new, innovative attack mode, I'd think they'd want to try it.
 
  • #112
russ_watters said:
Two reasons that also apply to the 9/11 attack:

1. They didn't think of it 60 years ago for some reason (which is odd: afterall, a bomber once flew into the Empire State building).
Apparently the first modern era suicide bombing in the moslem world was not until 1981 in Lebanon, according to L. Wright and other sources. Before then, the direct prohibitions against it in the Qur'an held sway.
 
  • #113
mheslep said:
Apparently the first modern era suicide bombing in the moslem world was not until 1981 in Lebanon, according to L. Wright and other sources. Before then, the direct prohibitions against it in the Qur'an held sway.
Using bombs may be new but suicidal combatants used in unconventional strategy is not. See: the Assassins.
 
  • #114
TheStatutoryApe said:
Using bombs may be new but suicidal combatants used in unconventional strategy is not. See: the Assassins.
I was aware of the invention of the term Assassin centuries ago in the middle east, but I didn't note any suicidal connection. No search available for the book.
 
  • #115
mheslep said:
I was aware of the invention of the term Assassin centuries ago in the middle east, but I didn't note any suicidal connection. No search available for the book.

Sorry, I was not referring to a book, only the group sometimes known as the assassins. The Hashshashins (later assassins) when they sent assassins did not expect that the assassin would survive the attempt on the life of the target. Most of them made their attempt and then killed themselves. There is a famous scene (possibly fictitious) describing Hassan i Sabbah, leader of the Hashshashin, illustrating his power and the devotion of his followers by giving a signal that apparently prompts several of his men to throw themselves off of cliffs to their death.

At any rate it is rather off topic but this was nearly a thousand years ago. I am not so knowledgeable of the history of the area to know if such means have been used much or often between then and now but it is not exactly recent. It may be worthwhile to note that the Hashshashin were very similar in nature to modern Islamic terrorists. A splinter group of "radical" Islam attempting to shift the political tides of their times.
 
  • #116
TheStatutoryApe said:
Sorry, I was not referring to a book, only the group sometimes known as the assassins. The Hashshashins (later assassins) when they sent assassins
Yes that's the group

did not expect that the assassin would survive the attempt on the life of the target. Most of them made their attempt and then killed themselves.
From memory, I don't think that's correct regarding suicide, and some fast junk googling seems to confirm.

However, under no circumstances did they commit suicide, preferring to be killed by their captors.
http://www.knowledgerush.com/kr/encyclopedia/Hashshashin/

Edit: oops mistook this for another thread. waayyy off topic.
 
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