Friday, March 11, 2011

Atomic Tsunami

I just had the weirdest conversation with a nominally liberal friend on Twitter. I hear the news about evacuations around the nuke facility in Japan.
Japanese officials early Saturday expanded the area around a crippled nuclear power plant subject to emergency evacuation, as radiation levels inside the facility were reported to have surged and operators struggled to keep the plant’s cooling system operating on battery power.
So I posted to the effect that this should end the false notion that nuclear energy is "clean." He tweeted me back, basically saying I was making too big a deal of it because other energy sources also suffer industrial accidents and cause pollution. As if the long term effects of a nuclear plant meltdown is in any way analogous. Besides, I've never understood how an energy source that produces toxic waste which remains lethal for centuries could ever be considered clean.

Meanwhile, my thoughts and prayers for the victims of this disaster.

[More posts daily at the Detroit News.]

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Blogger Mule Breath said...

I'm in agreement with your Twitter friend. We need energy and the means by which we produce that is subject to environmental intrusion. Until we get to the point where every home is "off the grid," risks must be taken.

Taking a leap, I'd further say that, due to the exponential increase in population, that point will never be reached. We're stuck with sources for our energy that have the potential for environmental intrusion.

8:57:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Sorry Mule Breath, but you're wrong. Nuke energy is simply not worth the risk or the long term cost. And it's certainly not clean energy.

6:21:00 AM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

I think I have to agree, at least partially that we're stuck - unless we want to keep most of the world in poverty and there isn't room for us all to become Amish farmers as attractive a dream as that might be to some.

Whether or not it's worth the risk, building nukes without regard to the suitability of the location seems to be on the agenda. There's one up the coast from me a few miles - yes, on the coast where it can flood and we do like to put them on fault lines I think.

There was a lot of Obama bashing during the last election accusing him of being against nuclear power because he advocated caution. We need it now, now, now us the weird sister of drill baby drill.

Maybe this experience will at the very least do something to redeem the idea of caution and good engineering practice?

10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Sorry Fogg. You're wrong too. We should have been developing alternatives long ago and we would have except no one can figure out how to meter sunlight and wind so the mega-corps can make money on the fuel as well as the delivery systems.

Besides, it will do us little good to have money if the planet is uninhabitable from pollution and nuclear fallout and such.

4:19:00 PM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

I don't think sun and wind along with geothermal, hydro-electric and tides can produce enough power for 7 billion living even half as well as Americans and Europeans do -- or a quarter. Yes, we should have started long ago, but this is now and we only have the technology we have and I still have to argue for not building nukes ( or anything else) like nothing will ever damage them.

Those Japanese plants should not have failed had they been properly designed.

I think our only hope is fusion power, or a huge decrease in population, which may be a result of doing what we're doing now.

11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

What ever happened to fusion power? I recall way back when that was the BIG thing of the future. Then they stopped talking about it.

11:27:00 AM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

There's still money being invested in it, but so far no very expensive installation has been able to produce more energy than put into it and for more than a short pulse.

So far, it seems quite beyond our technology. The best prospects seem to lie with a helium isotope of which there isn't much on our planet.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm a big supporter of alternate methods of generation, but I don't think there's enough wind or enough acreage to cover with solar panels ( which despite popular wisdom are very inefficient and very expensive) to supply what we want and what the rest of the world wants. And they do want what we have!

Alternate energy will come about though, but at current oil prices it's a losing proposition. For what it's worth, a friend and neighbor is a design engineer for wind turbines and agrees.

The best prospect for our future, in my opinion isn't very pretty and sort of Hobbesean -- unless we decrease the population by a huge amount and I often think that may be behind some of the policies of our right wing friends whether they realize it or not. I don't envy my grandchildren, or their offspring. They may be living in caves.

11:38:00 AM  

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