Greenpeace V Nuclear Energy

psylent

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That's a shocker!!

I am a supporter of Greenpeace and the nuclear energy debate certainly needs plenty of discussion, but I agree SugarPixie, there are plenty of arguments against it that don't require the sensationalist tone they took in that video. .

Then again, maybe they are simply using techniques that appeal to the masses.

Jason
 

SugarPixie

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Surely most people would dismiss it for that reason?

- Last time I read something by them about nuclear power, they put forward some very intelligent arguements relating to the fact that with uranium sources being rapidly depleted, there will soon be little point in trying to use nuclear power because it will take alot of carbon emissions to get energy (and the argument is that nuclear power is cleanish energy)..

I do generally support the causes of greenpeace, but I find it hard to trust what they're saying when they put such a tabloid-ish spin on issue sometimes..
 

ozdave

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Exellent video, this is just what we need from Greenpeace, a bit of fucking radicalism rather than playing along with the mainstream. We can do so much with renewables if only we pull our fingers out.
 

RedZebra

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yeah... looks like greenpeace are playing the "fear" card.
Simplistic and shortsighted.
I guess they figure it worked in the 70s so why not capitalize on people's fear now too.
(I'm not anti-greenpeace or pro-nuclear btw - just prefer to see reasoned debate)
 

Warwick Bassmonkey

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Well, if that's all Greenpeace can come up with, then they're wasting their time.

Apart from the unfortunate plane crash casualties and the loss of the skeleton staff at Sizewell B, the effects would maybe be some power cuts, that's all. Same as if they hit a coal burning station.

They want you to think that the contents of the reactor will be scattered far and wide. Just wouldn't happen. Do you know how thick the PCPV is around the core?
 

SugarPixie

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Talking of, went down to sizewell at the weekend. I got a very strange feeling being so close to a place where such an amazing process is being carried out by humans. There was some kind of fishing going on on the beach..
 

absorbentgnome

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SugarPixie said:
Talking of, went down to sizewell at the weekend. I got a very strange feeling being so close to a place where such an amazing process is being carried out by humans. There was some kind of fishing going on on the beach..

Emissions of radioactive elements are generally very low around closed-loop nuclear power stations. I wouldn't go fishing around the coast near Sellafield or Dounreay though. Reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel generates shit loads of highly radioactive waste that has to be piped out to sea and that process is the cause of much of the radioactive contamination of sites around the world - excluding Chernobyl of course and some of the very first open loop reactors built in the 40s and 50s. Most of those were in Russia. As far as I can recall the only open-loop reactors built in the UK were the doomed air-cooled Windscale reactor piles 1 + 2.
 

Warwick Bassmonkey

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When I worked at the CEGB, I once had my hands up against the side of the reactor wall of Heysham A when it was on full chat. It was warm and rumbled very slightly, and I could imagine thousands of little controlled nuclear explosion happening on the other side of the wall.

Now that's spooky.
 

Goz

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Ya know what ... im .. im .. im pro nuclear energy.

There i said it!
 

SugarPixie

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Warwick Bassmonkey said:
When I worked at the CEGB, I once had my hands up against the side of the reactor wall of Heysham A when it was on full chat. It was warm and rumbled very slightly, and I could imagine thousands of little controlled nuclear explosion happening on the other side of the wall.

Now that's spooky.

I know what you mean! - that's what I felt as I wondered round the beach at sizewell. Imagining particles is fun! I would have like to go round, apparently they have open days sometimes..

I was pro nuclear until very recently,I read an article that made me wonder, so I'm a bit more dubious about the actual benefits in terms of carbon emissions now..

It's all very well saying that renewable energy is best, but can a whole country depend on them? Maybe, but it'd take alot of change... Wind and solar are great, but can we depend on them? Building hydroelectic dams across the place isn't exactly good for local environments either..
 

psylent

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This from George Monbiot on nuclear.

TWO KINDS OF MASS DEATH

The argument for nuclear power has strengthened, but it’s still not good enough. By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 7th September 2004

For 50 years, nuclear power has been a solution in search of a problem. Now – oh happy days! – two of them have arrived at once.

Suddenly, climate change exists: George Bush says so.(1) After years of ridicule, the greens’ jeremiads about declining oil production are now spilling from other people’s mouths. Politicians and the press have at last picked up our arguments, and are using them as a stick with which to beat us. If we care about climate change, if we care about future energy supplies, then surely we should support the revival of nuclear power?

It is a question we have to answer. A few months ago, nuclear power was finished. The public hated it, the corporations wouldn’t pay for it, the government wouldn’t risk it. Its energy white paper established that there should be no new nuclear electricity without a full public consultation.(2)

In May this began to change. James Lovelock, the environmentalist famous for his Gaia hypothesis, made this plea in the Independent. “I am a Green and I entreat my friends in the movement to drop their wrongheaded objection to nuclear energy.â€(3)â€Green guru goes nuclear!†the headlines said.

They weren’t quite right. Lovelock has always been an enthusiast. It is, in both senses, a generational thing. Fifty years ago, Britain was promised that nuclear power would generate “electricity too cheap to meterâ€.(3) That dream lodged in the minds of his generation: almost all the technology’s big fans are over 60.

In July, Tony Blair was asked by the parliamentary liaison committee to answer Lovelock’s points. “I have fought long and hard,†he told the MPs, “both within my party and outside, to make sure that the nuclear option is not closed off … you cannot remove it from the agenda if you are serious about the issue of climate change.â€(4) Two weeks ago Blair’s former energy minister Brian Wilson, bravely abandoning the convention that articles in the Observer should be written in English, assured us that “retrievability has been established as being deliverable. In any case, waste is overwhelmingly a legacy issue. The waste produced by a new generation of nuclear stations would be incremental only at the margins.â€(5) I haven’t the faintest idea what this means, but there might be a clue in the title: “Face the facts. The future must be nuclearâ€.

Last month the directors of the Centre for Alternative Technology – which is supposed to be developing alternatives to nuclear power – argued that “the worst possible nuclear disasters are not as bad as the worst possible climate change disastersâ€, and suggested “a modest revival of nuclear energy in sites where there are already nuclear installations … to sell the idea to the sceptics.â€(6)

Their premise is surely correct. Let us use the cruel moral calculus with which we became familiar during the arguments over the Iraq war. The daily discharges from a plant like Sellafield probably kill several dozen people a year. A meltdown could slaughter thousands, possibly tens of thousands. Climate change has already killed hundreds of thousands, will kill millions, and, if we don’t do something pretty dramatic pretty soon, could kill billions.

Nuclear power isn’t carbon-free. Mining uranium and building and decommissioning power stations all use oil, and concrete releases carbon dioxide as it sets. But the total emissions, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, are tiny by comparison to the carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels.(7)

It certainly looks more expensive, when the costs of decommissioning and waste disposal are taken into account. But what about the full costs of burning coal and gas? These are, and should be, incalculable: how do you put a price on global starvation?

And it may no longer be true to say that there is no safe means of disposing of nuclear waste. I have just read a technical report produced by the Finnish nuclear authority Posiva which, to my untrained eye, looks pretty convincing.(8) The spent fuel is set in cast iron, which is then encased in copper and dropped down a borehole. The borehole is filled with saturated bentonite, a kind of clay. Posiva’s metallurgists suggest that under these conditions the copper barrier would be good for at least a million years.(9)

Of course what can be done is not the same as what will be done. There’s a danger that Posiva’s good example is used as a Potemkin village by the rest of the nuclear industry: a showcase project which creates the impression that the problem has been sorted out. We certainly can’t expect Britain’s nuclear generators to behave as responsibly as Finland’s.

On Friday, for example, the European Commission took the British government to court over Sellafield’s refusal to let European inspectors examine one of its dumps.(10) (Didn’t we go to war over something like this?). Some 1.3 tonnes of plutonium has been sitting around in ponds there for about 30 years. On Tuesday, the Guardian revealed that British Nuclear Fuels has secretly buried 10,000 cubic metres of nuclear waste from other countries.(11) This sort of thing goes on all the time. The UK Atomic Energy Authority used to chuck its waste into two open holes in the cliffs beside its power station at Dounreay. One of the shafts exploded in 1977, scattering plutonium over the beaches, but the authority didn’t bother to tell anyone for 18 years.(12) The Ministry of Defence has dumped 17,000 tonnes of nuclear waste on the seabed off the coast of Alderney.

This, rather than Posiva’s expensive method, is the kind of disposal we can expect from most of the world’s nuclear generators. So it’s probably fair to say that the nuclear industry WILL kill tens of thousands. If, as seems ever more likely, terrorists get hold of some of this stuff, the deaths could run into millions.

So the moral calculus shifts a little, but still comes down on the side of nuclear power, if that is the only alternative to burning fossil fuel. But it’s not. When Lovelock claimed that “only one immediately available source does not cause global warming and that is nuclear energyâ€, he was wrong on two counts. It is not the only one, and it is not immediately available.

A new generation of nuclear power stations can be built only with government money: the private sector won’t carry the risk. It would take at least ten years, and it would cost tens or possibly hundreds of billions of pounds. The government will not spend this money twice: it will either invest massively in nuclear generation or invest massively in energy saving and alternative power. The Rocky Mountain Institute has shown that you can save seven times as much carbon through electricity efficiencies as you can by investing in nuclear.(13) And you kill no one. There’d be plenty of change too for a research programme to develop cheaper solar cells, with which, in time, almost every building in Britain could be roofed.

So the dilemma established by James Lovelock and explored by Tony Blair and his incoherent ministers is a false one. There need be no choice between two kinds of mass death. We are still permitted to choose life.

www.monbiot.com

References:

1. See for eg No author, 4th September 2004. Bush’s U-turn. New Scientist.

2. Department of Trade and Industry, 21st February 2003. Our Energy Future – Creating a Low Carbon Economy. White Paper. http://www.dti.gov.uk/energy/whitepaper/wp_text.pdf

3. James Lovelock, 24th May 2004. Nuclear power Is the Only Green Solution. The Independent.

4. Tony Blair, 6th July 2004. Minutes of Evidence Taken Before the Liaison Committee, Public Questions 144 – 288.
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmselect/cmliaisn/uc310-ii/uc31002.htm

5. Brian Wilson, 22nd August 2004. Face the Facts. The Future Must Be Nuclear. The Observer.

6. Peter Harper and Paul Allen. Cited by Paul Brown, 4th August 2004. Friends Like These. The Guardian.

7. International Atomic Energy Agency, 26th June 2004. Nuclear Power’s Changing Future. Press Release. http://www.iaea.org/NewsCenter/PressReleases/2004/prn200405.html

8. Fraser King et al, January 2002. Copper Corrosion under Expected Conditions in a Deep Geologic Repository. Posiva Oy, Helsinki.http://www.posiva.fi/raportit/POSIVA-2002-01.pdf

9. ibid.

10. Eg BBC News Online, 3rd September 2004. EC Court Challenge to Sellafield. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cumbria/3623312.stm

11. Paul Brown and Rob Evans, 31st August 2004. Ministers Break Promises Over Nuclear Waste. The Guardian.

12. Eg John Arlidge, 2nd February 1998. Fresh Scare On Nuclear Waste. The Guardian; David Ross, 22nd May 1997. Dounreay Admits Shaft Error. The Herald.

13. Dave Reed, Spring 2000. Return of the Nuclear Salesmen. The Rocky Mountain Institute. http://www.rmi.org/sitepages/pid642.php
 

Goz

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psylent said:
There’d be plenty of change too for a research programme to develop cheaper solar cells, with which, in time, almost every building in Britain could be roofed.

I love this point actually. In summer there is enough sun for a house to generate all its electricity needs through solar energy. In winter its something like 60% (including heating the place with efficient double or triple glazing). Combined with wind power and your laughing. Now if the government invested serious money in encouraging people to solar and wind power their houses we would cut the amount of power needed massively ... all problems solved.

Only 2 issues i can think of are as follows.

1) The required battery banks, for storing excess power for night usage, containing hazardous chemicals.

2) Creating a solar cell creates so much environmental pollution at present that it takes many years for them to stop having a net environmental impact over the construction process. In the UK this is likely to be 30-40 years.

Anyway ... just rambling now ...
 

SugarPixie

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a new kind of solar cell has recently been developed that is flexible and will be suitable to, for example, attach to your bag and power your mp3 player off.. I think it's also made using a process which produces far less waste.

Also, don't remember if I read it here or somewhere else, but apparently only 10% of energy fed into the national grid is actually used, the rest being lost along the way. This sound huge - am I remebering my facts wrong?
 

Goz

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SugarPixie said:
a new kind of solar cell has recently been developed that is flexible and will be suitable to, for example, attach to your bag and power your mp3 player off.. I think it's also made using a process which produces far less waste.

Im not convinced ..e ven if they are cheaper to make a 12" x 40" rollable solar cell generates 9w ... thats a quarter the efficiency of the non rollable sorts ...

I know they have created ultra efficient solar cells that have 4 times the power generation facilities per unit area but i do not know how they are manufactured so can't say if they are more environmentally sound or not ...

Also, don't remember if I read it here or somewhere else, but apparently only 10% of energy fed into the national grid is actually used, the rest being lost along the way. This sound huge - am I remebering my facts wrong?

According to the wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_grid power wastage is 2.29% of peak demand ...
 

SugarPixie

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what does that mean? that sounds like relatively little?Either I remembered / read facts wrong, or greenpeace website was wrong..

How much should greenpeace be trusted?
 

SugarPixie

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Basically, the arguement that made me question my pro-ness was that the supplies of nuclear fuel are running a little low, and soon they're going to have to start mining at places where uranium is found in less concentrated amounts. It will therefore take more mining to get the same amount of uranium -taking more energy. The ore then has to be reduced to get pure uranium, and more energy has to be used as the uranium is present in less abundance, so more seperating is required. After all this extra energy has to be put in, the carbon cost of the whole process goes up alot - meaning its impact on climate change is alot greater.

The thing I read suggested the carbon cost became big enough that nuclear power couldn't really be justified in terms of reducing carbon emissions. Does anyone know a little more about this?
 
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