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Nuclear Energy

  1. Mar 6, 2009 #1
    I was just wondering, should we use nuclear energy yes or no? Please state your reasoning.

    I have read that in Europe many of the countries use nuclear energy as their main source of power, so why don't we?
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 6, 2009 #2


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    And isn't this more about politics? ;-)
  4. Mar 6, 2009 #3
    No, this is meant to be a more personal opinion question and what you think of it.

    and by "we" I mean the US
  5. Mar 6, 2009 #4


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    And that is politics, here we discuss physics, which one does not have 'personal opinions' off.

    There is general discussion forums further down, here and in particular in the Nuclear Engineering forum we discuss physical aspects of certain things.
  6. Mar 6, 2009 #5
    Gotcha, thanks for correcting me.
  7. Mar 6, 2009 #6


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    so don't worry, mentors will probably move this.

    Anyway, let's go to the question. Do you want to discuss only with Americans?
  8. Mar 6, 2009 #7
    Basically anywhere, is it reasonable to use nuclear power? I know that France gets 70% of their power from nuclear plants, though other countries don't use a lot of it... Do you think we should?
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2009
  9. Mar 6, 2009 #8


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    The radioactive nuclear waste problem is related to physics, and has still not been solved by the nuclear engineers or politicians. Countries that use so much nuclear energy don't care about future generations hundreds and thousands of years in the future.
  10. Mar 6, 2009 #9
    Did someone move this thread from Nuclear Engineering here to High Energy Physics? You think it's more relevant here?
  11. Mar 6, 2009 #10


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    Nope. I see no trace of this being moved from Nuclear Engineering. However, the issue of the socio-economic-politics of nuclear power doesn't belong in this particular physics forum. I will move it into Nuclear engineering witht the hope that people will discuss the technical merit of it.

  12. Mar 6, 2009 #11


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    There are actually two solutions, both plenty viable:

    1. Reprocess it (recycle and reuse).
    2. Long term storage.
    Now that's just a load of BS. Every year, the world dumps 25 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and barely bats an eyelash. It has no half life, meaning it lasts forever. If, instead, we could have a few tons of waste that never gets released into the environment, how could that not be better?
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2009
  13. Mar 6, 2009 #12


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    Nuclear power is the only viable solution to the world's energy needs. When it comes to energy, there are three issues:

    1. We will need a lot more in the future.
    2. We will need it to pollute less than now.
    3. We will need it to be economically viable.

    Nuclear power is the only power source that is capable of fulfilling these basic requirements.
  14. Mar 6, 2009 #13


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    The French reprocess the spent fuel and recycle the unused U and the Pu that is produced. The fission products are ecapsulated in a glass/ceramic matrix, which is vitrified and stored in several corrosion resistant containers. Those containers can be placed in geologically stable environments are be quite safe for 1000's, even millions of years, during which time the radionuclides decay to stable no radioactive nuclides. The more radioactive a nulcide, the faster it decays. After a period of 10 half-lives, the activity decays by a factor of 1000 (210), so after 20 half-lives the activity is reduced by 1 million, and then 1 billion after 30 half-lives, 1 trillion after 40 half-lives. The inert nuclides provide addition in-situ shielding and entrainment.

    Nuclear engineers know the technology. Disposition of spent fuel is a political problem, not a technical one.

    The US has a lot of coal, and coal is used to provide more than 50% of electricity.
    ref: http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/page/prim2/toc2.html

    One by product of coal in the ash, which contains heavy metals like mercury, thallium, arsenic, lead and even some radioactivity in the form of radium and radon, which are found in the rock formations from which coal is extracted.
  15. Mar 6, 2009 #14


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    Quite a lot of radioactivity - typically 100x as much as a nuclear power plant.
  16. Mar 6, 2009 #15
    Yes, we should use nuclear power.

    Technically, the public fear is baseless: it ignores that nuclear decay is so natural as to occur thousands of times per second in each of our bodies and that even fission reactors have been found in nature.

    Nuclear is quantitatively safer, in deaths per kWhr. (This mainly owes to the unsurpassed energy concentration and hence fewer manhandling accidents, before even trying to compare the public health impact of fossil fuel emissions.)

    From the perspective of radioactive waste per kWhr, nuclear is better than the status quo. (Again since nuclear energy is so concentrated, the amount of uranium needed for nuclear power is the same as the uranium impurities in the large quantity of coal needed for the same amount of fossil power. Do you want your radioactive waste safely contained, or would you prefer to just have it exhausted out a smoke stack along with additional poisons, not to mention risking the climate effects of carbon dioxide?)

    Of course solar thermal is good too.
  17. Mar 6, 2009 #16


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    A 1000MW coal station burns around 4Mt of coal/year.
    Coal is around 1.5ppm uranium an 5ppm Thorium.
    So it puts around 6tonnes or Uranium an 15tonnes of Throrium into the air each year.

    Disposal of nuclear waste wouldn't be a problem if nuclear plants were allowed to have smoke stacks!
  18. Mar 7, 2009 #17
    Is there any record of attempting to solve the NIMBY problem by picking communities with coal power stations (but not coal mines) in their backyard?
  19. Mar 7, 2009 #18
    The nuclear waste issue is greatly over hyped. As other have pointed out coal puts more radioactivity into the air than nuclear produces (and with nuclear it's contained). Another thing people who are talking about nuclear waste like to ignore is that the truly dangerous material has a short half life (short half life = more energy being put out = more dangerous). This means that we don't really need to worry about storing the waste for thousands of years. There reaches a point where the waste is no more dangerous than the original ore it came from.

    Also I'd like to say that this idea that we have to protect people in thousands of years is absurd. Even imagining the level of technology we will have in a thousand years is impossible. We don't have any forward thinking any where else in political decisions (not even on the decade scale), but suddenly we are planning ahead millennia ahead of time.

    Replacing coal plants with nuclear would be a good idea. I'm sure the coal industry would fight it tooth and nail. They hate nuclear as they know it's the only real threat to them. I'm sure they would spread as much propaganda as possible in the community. You'd think anyone would rather have a nuclear plant than a coal plant near them (remember the coal plant releases more radioactive waste than the nuclear plant even produces). Unfortunately there is a public view that a nuclear plant could go off like a nuclear bomb at any moment.

    See here for an example of how ridiculous the coal industry's arguments are.
    http://depletedcranium.com/?p=751 [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  20. Mar 7, 2009 #19
    Ive read that if we develop fusion powerplants in the future, we can use the high energy neutrons generated by fusion reactions to break down nuclear waste.
  21. Mar 7, 2009 #20


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    BALONEY!!! That's 100% WRONG!!!

    The solution to the disposal of nuclear waste is that you reprocess / recycle it like the French, British,
    Japanese, Swedes...do. You remove the fission products and you can put the spent fuel back into
    the reactor.

    The "problem" in the USA is what to do with spent fuel that contains long lived radioisotopes like
    Plutonium-239 with a 24,000 year half-life. In 1978, the US Congress outlawed reprocessing / recycling
    in the USA - so the USA has to build a repository than can safely hold this very long-lived waste.

    But you don't have to do that if you reprocess / recycle because Pu-239 and the other actinides can be
    used as FUEL. If you recycle them back to the reactor - they fission and become short-lived fission
    products. The longest lived fission product of any consequence is Cesium-137 with a half-life of just
    30 years.

    The nuclear waste "problem" in the USA was totally created by the anti-nukes by getting Congress to
    pass the 1978 law that forbids recycling. That way they can "constipate" the nuclear fuel cycle and
    ultimately shutdown reactors - which is their entire intent.

    Nuclear waste is NOT a scientific / technical problem - we know what to do. It is a POLITICALLY
    created artificial "problem"

    Dr. Gregory Greenman
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