Saturday, May 30, 2015

A paediatrician lectures us about nuclear energy, an unemployed nobody rebuts...

The breakdown of this article in terms of "energy reality"

"As far as mitigation of global warming is concerned, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research estimates that 2000 to 3000 reactors of 1000 megawatts each would need to be built over the next 50 years to have any impact – one a week – in order to replace half of our present oil and coal capacity as well as meeting globally escalating electricity needs."

Now what is the point of the quoted area? If it is supposed to be an argument against nuclear energy, it's the most self defeating argument i've ever seen.

If we were to use Caldicott's "solution" we would be implementing roughly 400.000 panels per 1000 megawatts under the best possible conditions... Times 3.000 is twelve Billion / solar panels of 250 watts each. Ever tried to produce more than one billion solar panels? The solar capacity in the world in 2013 was about 177 GigaWatts i.e. 177 thousand megawatts i.e. 177 billion Watts, translated to roughly 708 million 250 Watt panels.

Let's break down these numbers, in order to gain the same amount of electricity generation from solar panels, we would have to increase the number of panels 17 times. In order to gain the amount if nuclear energy generation capability for the 3000 mark, we would have to increase the amount of power plants 7 times. Building 3000 reactors sounds like a lot, but bear in mind that there are 7000 coal-fired generators on the Earth alone. Add half as much gas-fired power plants, a couple of thousand hydro power plants and things start to look less gargantuan from this viewpoint.

We are going to take it one step further, a nuclear power plant can easily run for fifty years, whilst a solar panel has about half the lifespan, if we're lucky. This effectively doubles the number of solar panels required to fuel the same amount of energy needs. Meaning that we only have to build 3000 nuclear power plants, and we're at least set for another 50 years. While we are going to need 24 billion solar panels to generate the same amount of electricity over the same amount of time.

There are nuclear power plants that have been in business for a lot longer, the Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant has been up and running since 1969!!! Generation IV reactors [MSR's] will last at least as long as contemporary reactors, maybe even longer... Let's be reminded that nuclear power plants are built to last, whilst solar panels are literally consumer products that have a very limited lifespan.

She also likes to sweep under the rug that solar panel fabrication and construction is harmful to the environment as well, I'm going to quote her article and then paraphrase.

"The massive industrial process supporting a nuclear power plant is complex and energy intensive. It involves mining millions of tonnes of soil and ore. The uranium must then be separated, milled, enriched and converted into ceramic particles to be packed into zirconium fuel rods. Construction of the huge reactor complex adds substantially to global warming as it is largely made of concrete – a CO2-intensive product. One hundred tonnes of enriched uranium fuel rods are packed into the reactor core and submerged in water. The fission reaction boils the water, steam turns a turbine and generates electricity. Each 1000-megawatt reactor requires one million gallons of water a minute, for cooling."

Which I will paraphrase into this :

The massive industrial process supporting solar panel production is complex and energy intensive. It involves mining millions of tonnes of soil and ore. The silica must then be separated, milled, purified, heating it tremendously until you get 99.9999% pure silica. Harmful chemicals are used to "dope" the wafers, a highly toxic process with contaminated water and sludge waste issues.  Construction of the huge solar energy plant and the destruction of vast stretches of land adds substantially to global warming as it is largely made of concrete, silicon wafers, aluminium and glass  – CO2-intensive products. These massive amounts of solar panels need to be transported using  hundreds of bunker fueled ships and tens of thousands of trucks and lorries - sources of harmful NOx and SOx emissions.

Just try to imagine the amount of coal/gas fired energy production required to produce 24 billion solar panels. Not a single solar panel gets built using solar energy, it is simply uneconomic and ruins profits... The businesses producing these panels are in it for the profit, not for the sake of humanity.

And then I'll address this one separately.

"One hundred tonnes of enriched uranium fuel rods are packed into the reactor core and submerged in water. The fission reaction boils the water, steam turns a turbine and generates electricity. Each 1000-megawatt reactor requires one million gallons of water a minute, for cooling."

Other than the water usage, there's nothing wrong with that. This is how practically every power plant in the world works. As an avid advocate of Molten Salt Reactors I can honestly say that we have a very good solution for the water usage. A Molten Salt Reactor can operate with hardly any water since it's cooling medium is a Molten Salt.

And then there is the intermittency problem, many environmentalists always tend to wash over. At moments of heavy cloud, dust or snow cover the amount of energy generation will diminish significantly. What will happen during the night? We'll build a shitload of batteries to store all that "green" energy, well that's all fine and well, but leprechauns don't produce these batteries, humans do. And even though I really love the idea of an electrified future in terms of transportation, I can't seem to like the idea that we will be storing energy for homes, how many batteries would we need? There a are a billion cars out there, electrifying them all would require a billion batteries. How many homes are there? Or how many smart grids do you want to build?

The reality is that fossil fuel generation serves as "the backup" for the capricious green energy sources. Mind you revving up and down with a gas or coal fired energy plant takes even more energy. And energy to gas conversion is even more stupid, this is something GE and Siemens are working on. Ever heard of conversion loss ratios? each conversion step accounts for a percentage of energy loss due to heat, transmission, friction, compression, you name it... It is an incredibly wasteful process, just as the proposed hydrogen economy. But I digress...
We continue :

"In operation, the uranium becomes one billion times more radioactive, and more than 200 new man-made radioactive elements are created. Thirty tonnes of radioactive spent fuel rods – nuclear waste – removed from the reactor core [DOT]"

Yes that's the idea, we want to get a chain reaction going, we need at least two neutrons from every fission event. And the extra "radioactivity" is what we use to "boil the water". Unfortunately the reactor you are commenting is probably a light water reactor, a reactor with a very low fuel efficiency, we reach about 3-4% of efficiency, while much higher efficiencies are possible in newer designs.
"must be continually cooled for decades. Decommissioning of the intensely radioactive reactor occurs decades hence and long-term storage of radioactive waste for one million years must follow."
Up until now this has been an unproblematic process, we can easily do it, without any leakages. By the way we have reactor designs that can burn up to 100% of this "spent fuel" or "nuclear waste". Perhaps you should take a look at a company called TransAtomic Power they have an excellent design and are well underway in securing the necessary financial backup and regulatory support.

"Here, another specious argument. Reprocessing is an extremely dangerous process, exposing workers to high levels of radiation and leaving a toxic corrosive brew of more than 100 deadly radioactive elements that must then be isolated from the ecosphere for one million years, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. It’s a scientific impossibility. The proponents argue that fissioning plutonium (the process of nuclear reaction) in a fast reactor converts it to shorter-lived radioactive elements, which reduces the amount of very long-lived waste. Plutonium’s radioactive life is 250,000 years, while that of converted elements such as cesium-137 and strontium-90 is 300 years. But they are wrong. Only 9 per cent of the plutonium successfully fissions, leaving 91 per cent of it with its extensive life, as well as producing deadly fission byproducts."

CITATION PLEASE!!! Where's the proof that only nine percent of the plutonium fissions successfully and what kind of reactor are we talking about?
"It is also argued that South Australia’s reserves of thorium could be used for electricity production, but this would require the use of enriched uranium or plutonium to make thorium fissionable. This is another vastly expensive and dangerous operation."
CITATION PLEASE!!! what makes it dangerous, or expensive?
"Next, there is the question of militarisation. Proliferation of nuclear power and weapons is intrinsically linked. Fast reactors make access to plutonium readily available to use as fuel for nuclear weapons for the next 250,000 years. Fast reactors also use liquid sodium as a coolant, which explodes or burns if exposed to air, should a cooling pipe crack or leak. Five kilograms of plutonium is critical mass – the amount necessary for a sustained chain reaction – and with tonnes of plutonium in the reactor core, a loss of coolant could induce a huge nuclear explosion scattering deadly plutonium. Moreover, fast reactors are hugely expensive and have never been produced on a commercial scale."
She clearly doesn't know how a nuclear bomb works, otherwise she wouldn't have said something like this. An accident in a nuclear reactor cannot precipitate a nuclear explosion. By the way who is going to make these bombs? Ever heard of the IAEA??? As it is true that sodium as a coolant is less than optimum, there are better substances to use. But the proposed nuclear reactor could be sodium cooled, I still don't know what kind of reactor she is talking about.
She should take a look at France for instance, a country with an impeccable record in terms of Nuclear Energy. They produce roughly 75% of all their electricity in nuclear power plants, a country of no less than 66 million people!!!
Caldicott goes on and puts on her supreme fear mongering hat. 
"The South Australian population would be likely to experience epidemics of cancer, leukaemia, congenital anomalies and genetic diseases through future generations as the waste inevitably leaked."
Talk about a foregone conclusion and massive fear mongering, can she please point me out the leaks around the world that have caused epidemics of cancer, leukaemia, congenital anomalies and genetic diseases?
"Yet this is a carcinogenic industry that must be halted immediately in the name of public health. The people advocating a nuclear South Australia have no comprehension of genetics, radiation biology, oncology and medicine. Or they are willing to ignore the risks."
You need to cite credible sources to back up your claim, otherwise you clearly have no substantive argument. "That which can be asserted without evidence, will be dismissed without evidence" as the ever eloquent Christopher Hitchens used to say. And you cannot back up your claim that the nuclear advocates have no comprehension of genetics, radiation biology, oncology or medicine, because you CAN'T possibly know that!!! Have you asked them personally if they know anything about them? And you're argument presupposes that they do not make an accurate risk assessment, and you do not know who is involved in the process.
And then there is the matter of the Ad Hominem Attack on Ben Heard, this is really telling. She argues that she has the authority to speak about these matters and Ben Heard is wrong because he had previously been a therapist, and is now a PHD student in nuclear physics. Now this strikes me with the irony of an anvil.

What's that? Look at those impressive credentials, a paediatrician no less...
Now I'm not easily impressed by any credentials, why? Very simple, they show a temporary state of mind, they show that you, in some point in time did something that could be valued and would warrant showing off with in job interviews, or if your expertise would be required in a professional context. However, knowledge, opinions, ways of reasoning are fluid things. Yesterday's doctor could easily be today's sanitized person.

But then again, she started playing the blame game, if she thinks she can diminish Heard's position or question his authority, she should be ashamed of herself. He at the very least is a Nuclear Physics student, can she say the same? No... Has she ever been an oncologist? Did she do research into the effects of radiation exposure? Has she worked at a nuclear power plant? I don't know, but I question she did. And therefore I don't take to kindly with her using Ad Hominem to improve on her own status as she has nothing to show for herself, other than she has been a "campaigner against nuclear proliferation", there is no professional merit in that, most campaigners against nuclear are more often than not ideological loons.

Now my credentials are zero... I am looking at the world using an open mind, trying to understand what is happening, and I am looking for ways to start mitigate the troubles we've precipitated on the Earth. I was a renewable energy advocate for a long time, but at some point if you're reasonable enough and have been presented with the evidence to support the contrary you should re-examine your reasoning. If you do not understand the evidence, or haven't seen enough, you should postpone judgment and try to be reasonable and investigate for yourself, and not let your judgment be clouded by these kinds of unsubstantiated articles...

If you have/present no evidence, engage in ad hominem attacks, manufacture it out of fear, utilize the stigma in order to scare people, you deserve to be critised. 

Have a nice day! 

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