Badtux the Snarky Penguin

In a time of chimpanzees, I was a penguin.

Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Left wing loonies and nuclear power

Here is what a typical left-wing loony has to say about nuclear power:

The Indian Point Nuclear power Plant has, within a 15 mile radius, a population of about half a million people. How many would be killed from this one plant having a severe accident?

My answer: Fewer than at Chernobyl, which similarly was near half a million people, and killed a sum total of 56 people. Research in the decades since Chernobyl melted down has confirmed that there appears to have been no long-term impact beyond the area immediately affected by the explosion -- no increase in cancers in the millions of people downwind from the reactor, no increase in diseases attributable to radiation.

I say fewer than Chernobyl, because Indian Point has actual safety systems, which Chernobyl did not. Mr. Lefty's Commie friends over in the Soviet Union never bothered with safety systems, just as they never bothered cleaning up the toxic hypergolic rocket fuel downwind from their rocket launch stations that has turned a thousand square miles of steppes into a poisoned toxic wasteland, or with any kind of environmentalism at all. I mean, look, we're talking about the difference between a nation that dumped spent nuclear reactors into the ocean to deteriorate and contaminate enormous areas (the Soviet Union) vs. a nation (the United States) which not only has managed to responsibly manage its nuclear wastes rather than dump them into the sea, but also has a record of nuclear safety where not a single (one) person has ever died in a U.S. commercial power plant nuclear accident.

It's like the difference between driving a Soviet-era automobile (think 1950 Chevrolet) vs. a modern Honda.. one is an antiquated death trap, the other is a modern epitomy of safety. You just can't look at that antiquated death trap and, based upon that death trap, say that all cars will send the steering column spearing through your chest in the event of a crash. It just doesn't work like that. Some cars are safer, by design, than others, just as some reactors are safer, by design, than others. A nuclear reactor designed like one of the Advanced Light Water reactors is a veritable Mercedes compared to the creaky rickety deathtrap 1940's technology that was Chernobyl... I mean, look, Chernobyl didn't even have a containment structure, for cryin' out loud! That's like the equivalent of an automobile with no brakes!

I swear, between the loony tunes lefties who want to starve us all to death in a "back to nature" death march like the Khmer Rouge rather than allow us the benefits of modern science, and the loony toons Christofascists and Islamofascists who want to deny us the benefits of modern science rather than admit that their so-called "holy books" are just a bunch of rubbish science fiction invented by prehistoric con artists, it seems like those of us who actually *like* civilization (which was created by science, not by loony-toons ravings from left or right) are an endangered species.

From time to time I pack a small tent and a bit of food on my back and hike for a few days into a desolate wilderness area. I always return to civilization with a firm appreciation of the benefits of running water and mechanical climate control and the enormous infrastructure needed to keep those going. And the most important thing needed to keep them going is energy -- of which, once fossil fuels are depleted, nuclear energy is the one and only high-density means of obtaining for most of the United States. I mean, nuclear reactors actually *create* fuel when they are operated, unlike conventional power plants, which burn fuel (we don't use the created fuel, since the created fuel -- Pu-239 -- is very useful for making atomic bombs thus for political reasons it is not extracted from the spent rods and re-used, but as long as we don't somehow destroy these fuel rods, we can always come back in the future and extract this fuel). Realistically speaking, we have millions of years of fissionable materials here on this planet, and by the time we run out of fissionables, I expect we'll have all been rendered extinct by a massive flare of the sun or another dinosaur-killer asteroid or etc. anyhow.

It seems to me that we should dump all the lefty Commies into a time capsule and let them go to their socialist worker's paradise of Cambodia in 1975 to work the fields like nature intended, and all the righty Islamo-Christofascists into a time capsule and dump them into the middle of an impoverished village in Palestine in 1000AD, just like they really want to be, and let those of us who are, like, actually sane, get on with our lives without having these raving lunatics around trying to take us back in time a thousand years...

-- Badtux the Moderate Penguin

Posted by: BadTux / 11/12/2005 10:14:00 PM  


I know that 56 deaths was the "official" toll, but I've heard rumors that it was well beyond that, and I would not be the least bit surprised if the Soviet regime had engaged in a major coverup of the actual damage. Are you sure the number of deaths was that low?

As for leftist loonies, I do see them since I live in San Francisco, and unfortunately groups like ANSWER tend to take the lead in the antiwar movement. But I don't get the sense that they're really a force on the national level, absolutely no more so than fringe-right groups like the Constitution Party.

They did just pass a law banning all handgun possession in SF. I'm not pro-gun, but this was a horribly misguided measure in my view, especially considering that Oakland is right across the bay, there are guns galore over there too, and they haven't criminalized guns. I'm all for reducing our gun culture, but this ain't the way to do it.
# posted by drumwolf : 13/11/05 1:55 AM  

Drumwolf, since the fall of the Soviet Union, UN archivists have had full access to the former Soviet archives and health records, and recently (2005) the World Health Organization released a report based upon both interviews with people in the records, comparisons of health records between the population downwind from Chernobyl and a sample population from a similarly industrialized area in the former Soviet Union not downwind from Chernobyl, and the records themselves.

The coverup did indeed cause problems with detirmining how many exactly died because of Chernobyl, but it was the exact opposite problem that you state. The WHO found that the diseases most prevalent in those evacuated from the Chernobyl area had nothing to do with radiation, but, rather, were typically diseases of stress and despair -- alcoholism, depression, ulcers, etc. -- and that there was no greater incidence of radiation-related illnesses amongst those evacuated compared to their sample population.

Indeed, they found that this was the biggest problem with the Soviet-era coverup: because nothing was told to these people about why they were being moved or what was happening, they were basically ripped from their moorings for seemingly no reason, plunked into communities elsewhere that sometimes didn't even speak the same language at home, and basically could conclude nothing other than that they were being arbitrarily punished for some sin that nobody would tell them about and hit the sauce big-time, chewing up their livers and committing suicide in large numbers and otherwise dying of the kind of stuff you'd expect -- but with no higher incidence of cancer or leukemia or birth defects, which are things that might be considered radiation-related since they can be caused by radiation damage to the genome. And because these people did not know what had happened to them, when they finally DID hear about Chernobyl (when the coverup was dropped), they assumed that all of their problems were directly related to the radiation, even though most of their problems were stress-related. But radiation doesn't cause alcoholism!

When you consider that coal-powered electrical generators here in America release multiple Chernobyls of radioactive particles into the air every year, you start to gain an appreciation of the situation. Most of the particles released by Chernobyl were very short-lived, and swiftly decayed to the background level. The area around Chernobyl is still deserted, but hardly a poisoned wasteland, it is full of wildlife (seemingly healthy from the videos I've seen) and lush plant life... rather, the containment structure that was built around the ruins of the exploded reactor is very rickety and could collapse at any time, and it simply would be unwise to let people move back into this area.

All in all, compared to the hazards and environmental problems from mining coal (look for "clear-topping" if you want to know the environmental issues -- entire mountains in West Virginia are being demolished in order to extract the goal from underneath, and the spoils used to fill in the valleys around them, thereby destroying the streams and wildlif contained therein, plus hundreds of coal miners die every year from "black lung" and mining accidents), it seems that nuclear energy is *less* dangerous than coal. Not that this matters to the lefty loonies. They don't want us to be mining coal either. They want us to be all tip-toeing through the tulips naked in a state of nature in some kind of Greenie utopia that looks an aweful lot like Pol Pot's "back to nature" utopia, complete with the millions of dead bodies of people who (alas) just couldn't find enough to eat in this utopia since modern farming methods are needed to feed the nation and said methods rely on a large manufacturing infrastructure that the Greenies would dismantle as "un-natural"...

- Badtux the Not-Green Penguin
# posted by BadTux : 13/11/05 9:32 AM  

As a looney lefty, I still think nuclear is the best stop-gap until we find something better.

However, I have read some interesting stuff about near-misses and questionable safety in US reactors, including barely working cooling systsms and heavy water spills.

An interesting thing about Chernobyl is they actually were doing a live excersize about what would happen if the safeguards broke

I think I would feel a whole lot safer if we went to the modern pebble bed style reactors. Also, I would like to see us re-using material even if it is weapons capable.

As far as communism goes, I am going to reserve my judgment until there is an actual communist state. The countries that called themselves communist in the 20th century were just dictatorships.
# posted by NewsBlog 5000 : 13/11/05 10:21 AM  

Given that no U.S. commercial reactors use heavy water, I doubt you have heard of any heavy water spills in the United States :-).

- Badtux the Amused Penguin
# posted by BadTux : 13/11/05 11:43 AM  

PS: I do agree that we need to build the new-generation reactors (which are *much* safer) to replace current reactors (which are rapidly aging). That, however, is anathema to the loony left, which prefers to see massive energy shortages as the current reactors wear out as part of their loony Pol Pot style "back to nature" nonsense.
# posted by BadTux : 13/11/05 11:46 AM  

Ah, now that I refresh my memory, it was irradiated light water. Accidents do happen. Most people never hear about near-misses.

As far as the waste, it's safer than people think. I'm sure the head of those energy companies would happily store the stuff in their wine cellars if we'd just have the EPA loosen up.

On December 28, 1994, a bolt dropped into the Unit 1 spent fuel pool at the Hatch Nuclear Plant in Georgia. An overhead crane was carrying this bolt over the pool when the sling holding the bolt broke. The bolt, 17 feet long by three inches in diameter and weighing 365 pounds, glanced off the side wall and fell to the bottom of the spent fuel pool without hitting the storage racks or irradiated fuel assemblies. The bolt tore a three inch gash in the stainless steel liner. Approximately 2,000 gallons leaked through the hole and through a drain line before workers closed valves in the drain line.

The spent fuel pool water level dropped nearly two inches, causing the fuel pool cooling system pumps to trip. Operators restored the water level after the leakage path was isolated, then returned the fuel pool cooling system to service. Workers removed the bolt and placed a large rubber mat (i.e., a nuclear-sized sink stopper) over the hole to limit leakage until underwater welding repairs were completed.

This is my favorite story though.

A sign on the bathroom door at the University of Florida’s research reactor in the 1980s warned:

"Please Don't Flush the Toilet While the Reactor is Running."

The cooling water system for the reactor was connected to the city water main. This connection also supplied water to the toilet. The reactor automatically shut down at least five times because a flushing toilet had affected its cooling water flow.

The good news, on a relative basis, was that this research reactor was equipped with a direct connection to a well-supplied cooling water system for "risky" experiments. [7]

How could a conscientious person in the bathroom really tell whether the reactor was running? To flush or not to flush, that's the question.

# posted by NewsBlog 5000 : 13/11/05 4:48 PM  

We had a "release" here in CT not long ago. The populace was incensed not only because of the release itself, but also because the staff of the reactor decided to hide the news.

My question, and the reason that I'm against nuclear energy - What are you going to do with the waste, since it will be dangerous long long after this civilization has gone the way of the Ship people, the Minoans the Egyptians, the Romans, etc etc. 100,000 years go by, and the waste is still dangerous. People(if there are any left, or maybe a new intelligent species) don't even speak the same language. There are no materials that are that durable to make a sign with, if you could even make a sign that would convey the danger.

Not to mention - our brilliant leaders are hell-bent on sticking the stuff into an earthquake zone, with an active hydro - system that would leach it into the ground water.

We should concentrate on technologies that are clean, and make them pprofitable, rather than taking a system that is inherantly polluting, and hide the cost of dealing with the waste.

If we took into account the lengths we would have to go to, in order to make Nuclear energy clean enough to use without polluting the earth and the biosphere, it would be way too expensive to be considered a viable alternative. Unless you would be comfortable living in between a reactor and a spent fuel dump, I don't see how this is a good enough solution to our power problem.

Perhaps we should save nuclear energy for space habs. They could launch the waste into the sun, and if it blows up, they only threaten the one habitat, rather than all of us.

IBM is developing a new solar panel that can heat an element up to 900 degrees farenheit.

Apparently (as the semi-schematic drawing above shows) rays of light oriented within about 15 degrees of the dendrites' vertical axes can enter this maze quite easily. The rays, however, then have their angles changed by repeated reflection and-once those angles are changed-only about 4% of the trapped light energy is able to escape. Result: The new solar-absorber is able to maintain an operating temperature in the range of 500° C (932° F). Which as any knowledgeable experimenter with high temperature solar collectors can tell you is BIG NEWS.

Perhaps this will develop into something that will replace all the old style non-renewable energy sources.
# posted by SB Gypsy : 14/11/05 7:38 AM  

For those of you who wish to know more about nuclear power, “Rad Decision" is a techno-thriller novel about the American nuclear power industry. Written by a longtime nuclear engineer, it provides an entertaining and accurate portrait of a nuclear power plant and how an accident might be handled. “Rad Decision” is at at no cost to readers.

"I'd like to see Rad Decision widely read." - Stewart Brand, Whole Earth Catalog founder, global Buziness Network cofounder, futurist.
# posted by James Aach : 18/11/05 10:20 AM  

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