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Nuclear energy debate on TED

  1. Jun 12, 2010 #1
    I thought some of you might be interested in seeing the latest discussion on nuclear power from TED.

    It is titled "Does the world need nuclear energy?" (linked below).

    Personally, as a nuclear engineering in training, I'm very much in favour of increasing the supply of nuclear energy. However, I thought it was frustrating in the debate when both sides are presenting of conflicting statistics. It makes it very hard to come to any sort of conclusion when both sides are simply saying the other one is lying.

    The other thing I didn't like is the perpetuation of the myth that civil nuclear energy programs lead to proliferation. The green energy speaker went so far as to say it inevitably leads to nuking one of the largest cities in the world. Does anyone else not think that this is horsegarbage? It is difficult to make an effective nuclear weapon from spent fuel and IAEA safegaurds are in place to fight proliferation.

    How can you fight this kind of ignorance? We didn't like the numbers, so we decided that the other side results in the destruction of one of the most populous cities on the planet to swing the numbers in our favor.

    Obviously it would be nice if we had a green solution to our energy problems however everything I have seen says the numbers don't add up. The cost of green energy is not competitive with traditional forms of energy when you factor in the capacity factors and intermittent nature of these sources. Besides no mention is made of requiring traditional plants for backup power generation.

    This guy claims that green energy is a practical, cost competitive option. Anyone know what assumptions these calculations are based on? Eg Having enough wind turbines spread out because the wind is always blowing somewhere? Grid capable of moving power in pretty much any direction?

    Unfortunately, at the end of the debate, support of nuclear decreased in the audience.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 12, 2010 #2


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    As someone who studied nuclear engineering several decades ago, and then left the field because of these issues, i sympathize. Unfortunately, not much has changed in the last few decades. The techniques you witnessed, while frustrating, are also effective. If we could rationally compare the environmental costs of nuclear power with our current power infrastructure, anyone claiming to be environmentally conscious would be clamoring for nuclear power. The current gulf oil spill dwarfs the environmental impact of all of the world's nuclear accidents put together. However, I personally have given up hope of the world making a rational choice on this issue. At least so-called "green energy", while clearly not the best choice, is better than freezing in the dark. My current feeling is that any move away from fossil fuels is a good move.
  4. Jun 13, 2010 #3


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