Nuclear plants

As you might have noticed or not, there’s currently a hot discussion in Germany about Vattenfall and its problems with nuclear plants. My opinion on this topic is that they should be taken off the net as soon as possible, for the following logical reasons:

  1. They are inherently dangerous. No matter how secure the technology is, the human factor cannot be overcome. The recent events clearly demonstrate this. There might indeed be very little risk in modern plants. But 1. many plants aren’t modern anymore, 2. in case of a GAU, the damage is catastropic. The equation is (likelyhood of event) * (possible damage) and the outcome is pretty high for my taste.
  2. As the current events in Japan shows, natural catastrophes like earthquakes can severly damage the plant.
  3. They are nuclear bombs standing all around the place. I think, terrorists don’t need to get hold of nukes themselves. If they manage to fly a plane (like 9-11) into a plant they have more or less the same GAU effect.

It is funny (in a very dark way) how the officials of Vattenfall manage/try to twist the events so that they actually prove how safe all these plants are (like, it all proves how the technology can account for human failure and such). I strongly believe that ecologic power (especially bio mass energy) sources can completely replace nuclear plants. (In germany, ecologic power providers, like Lichtblick, already offer energy at the same or lower price than conventional energy for example).

Speaking of nuclear plants, there’s an interesting and impressive photo series from a woman who drove to Tschernobyl with a motorcycle here. Be sure to have a look.

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6 Responses to Nuclear plants

  1. Noel Grandin says:

    (1) Germany’s “green” power is only “economic” because of massive subsidies.

    (2) Every time a nuclear plant has a small problem the press makes a big deal. Nobody makes a big deal when the gas/oil/coal plant has a problem and dumps thousands of tons of extra pollutant.

    (3) You can’t make nuclear plants blow up like atomic bombs. At worst, you can make them shut down. This is basic science.

  2. roman says:

    @Noel:
    (1) Well, that statement is a little over-simplified. I’d argue that without such subsidies it would be practically impossible to build up a market for green power in the first place. I’m not an economist, but my guess is that once the market share for green power reaches a certain theshold, it is just as economic as conventional power. Why shouldn’t it? I agree that there are many investments going in the wrong direction (for example, I think wind farms and solar energy aren’t a really economic solution in most cases).
    (2) Sure that is a problem and media should make a big deal of this as well. Nevertheless, the possible amount of damage from a nuclear plant is still much higher than with any other plants and this is what people are worried about. For example, I have a rather old nuclear plant nearby (Fessenheim) which is built directly on a tectonic unstable area (I have experienced a couple of earthquakes up to level ~5 already in those few years I live here). This is not exactly encouraging. Mix this with the human failure that is happening in the Vattenfall plants. Don’t tell me that there’s nothing to worry about.
    (3) I’m interested in your basic science. I think I know basically how a nuclear plant works. If someone or something can manage to wreak a nuclear reactor (and I’m pretty sure flying a plane into a reactor or an earthquake _can_ do this), then it probably won’t blow up exactly like a bomb, but there’s still a pretty good chance that it leaks massive amounts of radioactive radiation. Which is probably much worse than a big explosion.

  3. nim-nim says:

    Disclaimer:
    1. I often vote green
    2. I work for an energy utility that has all sorts of power plants (including nuclear ones)

    There are many problems with nuclear alternatives :
    – classic thermic plants depend on fossil fuel and do not have a good ecological imprint (coal/gaz/oil reject a lot of CO2, are typically mixed with sulfur, deep coal is slightly radioactive, and since you burn a lot more coil than uranium, the result is not nice). Some thermic plants are only started at night so neighbours do not see the big black fumes they produce in the first hours

    – hydro is the closest we have to a clean energy but every big european river is already dammed and subsidised micro-hydro plants are a disaster (turning whole mountain valleys iin deserts just to get enough water to make a dam work). Big dams also have ecological impact BTW

    – solar/wind is unreliable so to ensure you produce enough energy at all times you need to install several times the needed producing capacity (also controling random sources of power is difficult, read the report on the German/European blackout of last year, one of the causes was huge uncontroled wind power production). Solar/wind requires an awful lot of hardware which has to be produced somewhere.

    – \

  4. nim-nim says:

    – “renewable” thermic needs a lot of biomass. It’s not certain we’ll ever be able to produce ennough biomass for our power needs. And mass-producing biomass has all the problems of industrialised agriculture : massive use of chemicals, conversion of large tracts of land to monoculture, etc

    I don’t have a magic solution, but turning of nuclear plants and hoping for the best isn’t it. At least nuclear plants are such concentrated power sources their state can easily be audited. I’m not sure all the decentralised micro power plants we’re building nowadays are going to age gracefuly.

    IMHO short-term trying to build clean/less power-hungry transportation and houses has a lot more potential than attacking the problem from the energy production angle. But it’s less sexy than protesting nuclear power.

  5. Helen says:

    Im worried about the nuclear power. Even though they have not “proved” connections between it and cancer its funny how there are cancer clusters around all the nuclear power plants. We have so much solar potential here in OZ, why would we not use it?? Even if half of us switched to solar hot water that would make a significant impact.

  6. Interesting and useful post, I am a “green lover” and and I belive that to protect the planet it must be a priority for all of us .

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