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Old 01-13-2001, 05:04 PM
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So I was thinking the other day..yeah I know...it's wierd.

When you say Nuclear people throw their hands in the air and say "UNSAFE..." and shut down, wanting to hear nothing.

But...do these same people realize that Subs and Carriers in our own Military use Nuclear power with a HIGH degree of safty, and have done so for YEARS and YEARS.

I know nobody wants a power plant in their back yard as well. So why don't they build a few plants out where nobody lives or cares (New Jersy?? hehe), and pipe in the power???

Whats the REAL downfall..besides a MELTDOWN?? And to anyone who says "A MELTDOWN is bad enough" I say "Well they aren't supposed to MELTDOWN, Oil Tankers aren't supposed to crash, people aren't supposed to trip and fall. Shit happens!" But is FEAR of a meltdown enough to just REMOVE the option for this potentially wonderous powersource from our minds?????
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Old 01-13-2001, 05:06 PM
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erics, this ain't no place for a rant, or a debate. What, precisely, is your General Question? Please keep in mind that if you state it with all the inflammatory rhetoric of your initial post, I will close this thread so fast that it generates heat.
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Old 01-13-2001, 05:09 PM
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So why don't they build a few plants out where nobody lives or cares (New Jersy?? hehe), and pipe in the power???

Whats the REAL downfall..besides a MELTDOWN??

But is FEAR of a meltdown enough to just REMOVE the option for this potentially wonderous powersource from our minds?????
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Old 01-13-2001, 05:33 PM
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I don't think Manhattan sleeps. Hey just like the city

I think it is a great idea, maybe build it on an offshore platform, though it would be hard to defend. How 'bout some of that gov't land in AZ, they parctally own 1/3 the state, don't they?. Other thoughts come to mind- how 'bout an orbiting space station that geneates power and beams it via microwave, kind of like the solar satalite theory but use nuclear fuels instead, or on the moon - but we would need relay satalites for when the moon is on the other side.

For the occational accidents, I think that nuclear fuel is cleaner overall then fossil fuels and we would not be so dependent on forein oil.

but that's just my humble O
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Old 01-13-2001, 06:59 PM
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I'm sure there is someone around here with more extensive knowledge, but until they show up...

Quote:
So why don't they build a few plants out where nobody lives or cares (New Jersy?? hehe), and pipe in the power???
Firstly, nuclear plants can't be built just anywhere. The reactor is just a high-tech boiler, creating steam for turbines that drive the electric generators. In addition, most nuclear reactors use water to help cool the reactor core. Thus a substantial supply of water is necessary, so the plant is usually located near a river or tidewater.

Secondly, it is preferable to build power plants as near as possible to area for which they are supplying power, to minimize transmission losses.

Even rural areas of New Jersey are not all that empty, btw.

Quote:
Whats the REAL downfall..besides a MELTDOWN??
Two things:

Radiation hazards during operation (there have been numerous minor releases radiactive material at otherwise 'safe' facilities).

Disposal of radioactive waste, ranging from spent nuclear fuel to entire reactor cores. The US has not yet come to grips with the need to dispose of the components from its oldest plants, and there is considerable debate over where and how to do so.

If you are seriously interested in further study, try RADLINKS at:

http://p3.acadia.net/cbm/Rad10.html

Cheers,
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Old 01-13-2001, 08:00 PM
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Ahhhh, Nuclear Power..


The boogey Monster of our youth...

I think that the biggest problem with Nuclear Power is public opinion. The generations of the 50's and 60's were brought up in the shadow of the Mushroom Cloud.

One side of the Gov't said that the Atom is our friend... look at the marvels of the atomic age! Atomic power, and... uh..... luminous watches and clocks...

The other half had them doing duck and cover drills, and reading pamphlets with titles like "How you can survive the First Strike!" and "Build your own Bomb Shelter."

People have been afraid of Nuclear Anything for the last 50 years. In time it will fade, and then mayhaps we can use this power source... until then we'll keep on polutting the sky and ground with poorly designed and ineffecient power stations.

From what I've read, the amount of nuclear wastes is minimal, and the risks of a nuclear accident (a meltdown is almost impossible) are minimal with a properly built and maintained facility.

Eventually, orbital power stations will happen, and high effeciency solar power, and pocket fusion will be real. But before all that, we must work to rid the American... nay, Global consciousness of old Ned Ludd.

vote Tristan for president in 2024!
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Old 01-13-2001, 08:07 PM
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Ahh yes.


I have heard that the biggest tragedy of the publics opinion of Nuclear power has been the lack of Research. As with anything new, as more reserarch is done, things become safer and better.

Had Nuclear cought on in a big way...who knows how safe and wonderfull it could be by this time.
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Old 01-13-2001, 08:11 PM
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The biggest problem with nuclear power is the cost. It's just cheaper to build and run a coal or oil facility. The whole 'to cheap to meter' thing was just BS.
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Old 01-13-2001, 08:22 PM
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I agree with labdude. The answer to the question, "Why don't we just (fill in your easy solution)?" is almost always economics. If corporate America could make money with nuclear power plants, there would be one on every corner.
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Old 01-14-2001, 03:17 AM
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Even today, nuclear power receives some rather substantial subsidies from the federal government; take away the subsidies and it would make even less economic sense.

1) Plants are given limited liability from damage caused by nuclear accidents. This is over and above the limited liability extended to shareholder-owned corporations.

2) The government handles the long-term disposal of nuclear waste. Admittedly, they haven't done the best job of this, seeing as they haven't finalized a single waste site so far.
(And Nevada is hoping they won't settle on Yucca Mountain.)
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Old 01-14-2001, 03:47 AM
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When I visited England in 1987, I noticed a lot of nuclear power plants. I hear Japan has a lot of nuclear power plants also.

Maybe one reason we don't have so many nuclear plants in the U.S. is that we have such an abundance of cheap oil. Great Britain has the North Sea oil fields, but judging by what you have to pay for British gasoline, their supply of oil isn't anywhere near as plentiful as ours. And of course Japan has no local oil deposits.
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Old 01-14-2001, 08:32 AM
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Fuel for thought:

I seem to recall that there are in the neighborhood of 100 active nukes in the US. Here is a semi-current map http://www.roadwhore.com/united_states.gif

Roadwhore's nuclear listing can be some rather dry, but still illuminating reading for the uninvolved but curious.

The spent fuel is one of the major concerns of all Plants. Nukes are refueled on an 18 to 24 month cycle I believe. This is not all the fuel in a reactor mind you, but only a portion. There are many locations that still store all the spent fuel from their 20 and more years of operation. There are risks involved of course, but many would tell you that these risks are rather small.

Nukes are not exactly profit leaders in the industry. Some of the analysts can make it appear that there is no actual profit in nuclear generation. This may be true.

A silly number based on a large sampling:

Generator rpm = 1800

Generator output varies from design depending on many circumstances.

Power is sold at many different rates.

A real-world average is that for every single revolution, fifty cents worth of saleable energy is produced. I can't back that up with the core numbers, but it is accurate enough for barroom chitchat at the minimum.
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Old 01-14-2001, 10:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Danimal
When I visited England in 1987, I noticed a lot of nuclear power plants. I hear Japan has a lot of nuclear power plants also.

Maybe one reason we don't have so many nuclear plants in the U.S. is that we have such an abundance of cheap oil. Great Britain has the North Sea oil fields, but judging by what you have to pay for British gasoline, their supply of oil isn't anywhere near as plentiful as ours. And of course Japan has no local oil deposits.
I've said it many times before. If there is one thing I want to do to educate the SDMB community, it is to get this point across:

Very little electric power in the US is generated from oil!!!

From my post in an earlier thread: Did I hear COAL???

Quote:
In 2000, the projected breakdown for US electrical generation sources (in terms of capacity, not generation) from the DOE is as follows:

Coal Steam - 306.34 GW
Fossil (non-coal) Steam - 137.03 GW
Natural Gas (combined cycle) - 23.33 GW
Natural Gas and Diesel (simple cycle) - 78.84 GW
Nuclear - 97.46 GW
Pumped Storage/Hydroelectric/Renewable - 107.98 GW

Total - 740.15 GW

So just in terms of raw generation, coal is 41.4% of the total US capability. HOWEVER, in terms of actual generation over the year, coal and nuclear are both much higher fractions, because their units have much higher capacity factors. Which essentially means they can operate much longer periods at higher outputs, so their yearly contribution is proportionately much higher than that of gas.

SO let's look at the projected 2000 numbers from the DOE:

Coal - 1876 Billion kWh, or 55.3% of the total electricity
Gas - 403.41 Billion kWh, or 11.9% of the total...
Nuclear - 668.41 Billion kWh, or 20.3% of the total...
Petroleum - 77.48 Billion kWh, or 2.3% of the total...
Renewables (almost all hydro) - 346.58 Billion kWh, or 10.2% of the total...

So guess what? This year, coal will supply about 55.3% of all the electrical energy in the US!
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Old 01-14-2001, 11:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by labdude
The biggest problem with nuclear power is the cost. It's just cheaper to build and run a coal or oil facility. The whole 'to cheap to meter' thing was just BS.
Do you have any figures on total fuel-related cost of nuclear versus coal versus natural gas you would care to share? Because I really do think that the total fuel-related cost at the busbar for nuclear does beat even most coal plants.

The biggest problem with building a nuclear plant is simply public opinion. The vast, technologically illiterate public who get riled up over what Peter Jennings says on their TV (which never lies), and goes forth to drive public policy decisions based on their horoscope and "good horse sense" and an urge to "save the children".

Sometimes I really think about moving to that cabin in Montana and writing my manifesto...
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Old 01-14-2001, 01:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Anthracite

Sometimes I really think about moving to that cabin in Montana and writing my manifesto...
I'm forming a colony of intelligent people on the moon, no idiots allowed. Wanna come play?
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Old 01-14-2001, 02:00 PM
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Quote:
Anthracite:
Sometimes I really think about moving to that cabin in Montana and writing my manifesto...
A step ahead of ya, Anth!

(Sayeth Derleth the Montanan...)

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Old 01-14-2001, 02:33 PM
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Do nuclear plants really create nuclear waste? The fuel that they dig out of the ground is already radioactive. It seems to that once they've gotten energy out of it, there would be less radioactivity. Obviously the fuel wasn't that big of a problem when it was in the ground. Why noy kust put it back?
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Old 01-14-2001, 04:12 PM
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>>>So why don't they build a few plants out where nobody lives or cares (New Jersy?? hehe), and pipe in the power???<<<<
Posted by Erics

Hey,being a former Submarine Nuclear power plant operator AND current New Jerseyite,I can say....AT LEAST SPELL FREAKIN' NEW JERSEY CORRECTLY!
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Old 01-14-2001, 05:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by erics
I know nobody wants a power plant in their back yard as well.
Not true at all. I want my OWN personal nuclear power plant right in my back yard. One scientist suggested a scheme for making small nuclear electric generators about the size of a furnace, you'd buy one and install it for about 30 years of power generation, and when the nuclear material was depleted, you'd trade it in for a replenished unit. I'll take one, please. I'd rather be "off the grid" and using my own electric generation capacity.
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Old 01-14-2001, 06:08 PM
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Quote:
Do nuclear plants really create nuclear waste? The fuel that they dig out of the ground is already radioactive. It seems to that once they've gotten energy out of it, there would be less radioactivity. Obviously the fuel wasn't that big of a problem when it was in the ground. Why noy kust put it back?
Yes, nuclear power plants generate quite a bit of waste:

a) Uranium (the fuel) is not particularly radioactive. U-238 has a half-life of 4.46 billion years; U-235 has a half-life of 704 million years. Also, in the ground, even in ore deposits, it's not particularly concentrated. (Though there was a report of a recently discovered "natural reactor" that may have undergone some fission in the ground long ago.)

b) When fission reactions occur in a nuclear reactor, "fission products" are produced (from the split uranium) that tend to be highly radioactive. We are not extracting all possible energy out of the fuel. (That would require matter-antimatter conversion.) We are just exploiting the fact that we can sustain a nuclear chain reaction with uranium. The fission products tend be quite a bit more radioactive than the uranium we started with, though they MUST contain less overall potential energy, according to the laws of thermodynamics.

c) Operating nuclear power plants produce copious amounts of neutrons. These have the unfortunate effect of irradiating stable elements present in the reactor construction, and turning them into radiative isotopes. For example, the element cobalt is used in valves and bearings because of its extreme hardness. When irradiated by neutrons, stable cobalt-59 is converted to highly radioactive cobalt-60.

d) Any material in contact with radioactive materials is potentially "contaminated" and must be handled as such. This includes clothing, bags, wipes, etc. Any maintenance produces tons of this.

All of this waste, however, should be compared to the hundreds of millions of tons of pollutants that coal and other fossil-fueled plants belch into the air year after year...
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Old 01-14-2001, 07:11 PM
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robby writes:
Quote:
(Though there was a report of a recently discovered "natural reactor" that may have undergone some fission in the ground long ago.)
I am always happy to see someone else take the long view, although many not consider 1972 to be recently discovered.
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Old 01-14-2001, 07:37 PM
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I think this whole question will be moot in a few decades anyway, when fuel cells and solar become more common. It might take a while to unseat King Coal but we will when we realize how cheap hydrogen and oxygen are and how much nicer water is compared to hydrocarbon waste. Honda is already looking towards fuel cells to power their 'next big thing' car. Solar cells will catch on when we don't need miles of them to power a city.
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Old 01-14-2001, 07:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Anthracite
[/B][QUOTE The biggest problem with building a nuclear plant is simply public opinion. The vast, technologically illiterate public who get riled up over what Peter Jennings says on their TV (which never lies), and goes forth to drive public policy decisions based on their horoscope and "good horse sense" and an urge to "save the children". [/B]
God, I know you know your stuff COLD Anth- I've rallied around you before on energy threads. This time? Sorry, we agree to disagree.

The major problems are a bit more insidious than public opinion. If I could LEARN to insert an active hyperlink into my posts ( help.....), I'd find links to the time when the AEC became the DOE and the NRC. One of the key reasons behind splitting up the Atomic Energy Commission into the Dept. of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was politics. Plain and simple.

You have employees of a regulatory agency who are being so heavily influenced by the corporation operating a facility as to be almost ineffectual in the pursuit of their assigments- usually whistleblowing and keeping a sharp eye out. This may sound like I'm painting with a broad brush, but the sad fact is that one big explosion at a coal or gas plant could really wreck a neighborhood. One big explosion- or meltdown, to use that old chestnut from 1978, would wreck a state the size of Pennsylvania. Sound familiar?

I spent my later formative years learning more about this industry than I can divulge here. My father was the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission Public Affairs Officer for Region 1. That included Three Mile Island Units 1 and 2. I listened at dinnertime...very carefully. Because it was his work- and because it was fascinating. There were almost always holes in the stuff I was told- he took his Non Disclosure Agreements dead seriously. However, one learned anyway. The stakes are so very high when dealing with radiation, opposed to much more stable forms of energy production.

It's not just panic stories. It's a serious need to balance the pure science- which works like a fuckin' charm by the way- with the human factors of maintenance, overseeing- AND OVERSIGHT. Then, there's politics. Remember, folks, a LOT of us think that Karen Silkwood didn't die from a blow-out.

Anth, I just don't buy that it's the Media here. It's a science that is pure and logical, and an application of said science that is a perilous thing.

As for the poster who posed the idea of a Home Reactor? Right ON- I would do my own safety checks. I trust ME to do them on time, and in a careful fashion. Power for 30 years? Hell man, cut my home feed and wire me off the grid.

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Old 01-14-2001, 07:48 PM
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Peter Jennings


P.S.- if you have a definitive cite to prove that Peter Jennings,and ABC News has lied during a broadcast about a Nuclear Power story, I would suggest that by all means, post it here and show the world.

Otherwise? Stop slandering. If we're not allowed to post a song in it's entirety here because of Copywright laws, then maybe slander laws deserve a nod here too.

I've worked a wee tad closer to Peter Jennings than you have, I'll wager. He's a careful reporter, and gets his stuff straight before he sits on set and talks off a Teleprompter. So, again- your cite with dead on perfect quotes proving that he lied, please? I would so very much like to read it.

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Old 01-14-2001, 08:12 PM
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Why would you want to cut yourself from the grid when the power company is legally bound to buy any power you make but don't consume? Well, that's how it works around here, and it's one of the reasons I'm gonna put up a wind turbine. YPUMV.
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Old 01-14-2001, 08:46 PM
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Tristan:
Quote:
Eventually, orbital power stations will happen, and high effeciency solar power, and pocket fusion will be real
Yeah right. And we'll all drive hovercars and live on cities on the moon.
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Old 01-14-2001, 09:59 PM
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Wow Hail Ants, WTFG man, you broke my sarcasometer...

Oddly enough, folks used to say the same thing about flying to the moon and people living in space.... well, that's occuring today (not quite in the way I would like, but we're working on it) so who's to say what will and won't happen?

Personally, I don't know for sure when, but I think the things that I mentioned will happen. It may be a long time coming, but just like Nuclear Power and asteroid mining, we will do these things (and much more!) when the time comes, simply because we have to!

Until then, we will use inefficient methods, and be held in thrall to the faceless ignorant masses, who believe everything they see on TV.

*sorry, touched a nerve.... California is in the middle of a big "power crises", and I live about 20 miles from the only Nuclear Power plant shut down by public vote... the rods and everything are still there (no place to store them, and moving them overland is a PR nightmare) but it stays shut down due to public opinion...*
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Old 01-14-2001, 10:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Derleth
Cartoons:
Why would you want to cut yourself from the grid when the power company is legally bound to buy any power you make but don't consume? Well, that's how it works around here, and it's one of the reasons I'm gonna put up a wind turbine. YPUMV.
I wouldn't I'd just love to make my own juice. But you're right, I'd gladly sell it back to ConEd.

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Old 01-15-2001, 12:05 AM
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OK. I want you to read this carefully.


I want you to read this carefully.

Quote:
Originally posted by Cartooniverse
P.S.- if you have a definitive cite to prove that Peter Jennings,and ABC News has lied during a broadcast about a Nuclear Power story, I would suggest that by all means, post it here and show the world.
OK. I'm going to explain this step-by-step here.

1) My comment on "Peter Jennings" is one I use often, and have substituted "Dan Rather" for. I believe I have used this hyperbole before here. It has nothing to do with him. I rather like Mr. Jennings (no pun intended with the "rather")

2) Read exactly what I said:

Quote:
Originally posted by Anthracite
The biggest problem with building a nuclear plant is simply public opinion. The vast, technologically illiterate public who get riled up over what Peter Jennings says on their TV (which never lies), and goes forth to drive public policy decisions based on their horoscope and "good horse sense" and an urge to "save the children".
I did not say anywhere that Peter Jennings "lied". I said the "TV (which never lies)". This is a paraphrase I use which comes from Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson,

Quote:
"...It is a maneuver he has witnessed on television - which tells no lies - a trick he has practiced many times in his head..." - Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson, Pg. 31
...and refers to the fact that the average person takes exactly what is said on their TV, truth, lie, mistake, whatever - as the gospel truth. I have used this paraphrase several times here, I believe. I also said "they" drive their decisions based on their horoscope and ... well, I hope you have figured it out by now.

The only "slander" here, by any measure, is what you just did to me in saying the following:

Quote:
Originally posted by Cartooniverse
Otherwise? Stop slandering. If we're not allowed to post a song in it's entirety here because of Copywright laws, then maybe slander laws deserve a nod here too.
Yes, I think they do.

Quote:
I've worked a wee tad closer to Peter Jennings than you have, I'll wager. He's a careful reporter, and gets his stuff straight before he sits on set and talks off a Teleprompter. So, again- your cite with dead on perfect quotes proving that he lied, please? I would so very much like to read it.
I'm quite sure Mr. Jennings does indeed try hard to get his "stuff straight", but that is irrelevant to the issue here. My cite? OK - just as soon as you provide your dead-on perfect quotes that I said he lied.

I know the media has misrepresented energy issues - accidentally mostly, and probably in a large part because they have to "dumb down" the issue for the average American. I have caught them on all major networks, and as of three weeks ago even on PBS, on the News Hour with Leherer (sp), where a guest threw out that "Chinese coal plants have to burn 6 times the coal to produce the same energy as a US coal plant." - which is an incredible statement to make, and is either a bold-faced lie or really shitty reporting. Or a simple mistake. But I digress.

You know, I was going to be civil about this. Especially since you have sent me a nice letter in the past. But fuck it. No one accuses me of slander and walks away laughing at me. Maybe my references were not clear to you, and my sentence was not the best form for you. You should have asked me what I meant, before accusing me of slander. But no, you either wanted to score points, or make your comment about having "worked a tad bit closer to Peter Jennings...", or something else, I know not what. Take it to the Pit.

How dare you accuse me of slander - read my words more carefully next time, or if I have failed miserably at wordsmithing ask me. Or better yet, don't read them at all anymore, and don't talk to me anymore. I don't need another person running around calling me a partisan liar.

Once again - you could have done the polite thing, and asked me what I meant. You could have given me the benefit of the doubt. You chose not to. How sad.
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Old 01-15-2001, 01:34 AM
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Toons, I think you went over the top on Anthracite.

That aside, I'm wondering if anyone (ahem) knows what kind of pollution a coal plant produces? Someone very intelligent once wrote:
Quote:
...here are some representative values I've personally seen for some radionucleides found in
coal ash:

Thorium - As high as 5 ppm.
Uranium - Wyoming coal, as much as 7.6 ppm. Eastern coal, typ. 1.6 ppm.

Say you take a typical midewestern coal plant burning 200 tons of 5% ash Wyoming coal per hour. 7.6 ppm
of Uranium in the ash equates to 200 ton * 2000 lbm/ton * 0.05 lbm ash/lbm coal * 0.0000076 parts
Uranium/parts ash = 0.152 lbm Uranium released per hour. This nearly all goes into the bottom and fly ash of
the boiler, at a typical 20%/80% split (typically, only flyash is even considered for block/brick/concrete use).
So in the fly ash hoopers, you get about 0.8*0.152 = 0.122 lbm Uranium per hour. A flyash silo (where the
hoppers empty to) typically has an 80-hour full-load capacity, so if full has about 80*0.122 = 9.73 lbm of
Uranium in it. Not that much, but certainly enough to wonder about...
So, coal plants are definitely not entirely non-radioactive. Anthracite, do you know what other kind of pollution is generated by coal plants? I'd hope that lots of scrubbing of the exhaust goes on to make sure that most stuff doesn't go up the stacks, but I don't recall seeing any solid numbers on this.

How dirty is exhaust from a coal plant? Does any of the uranium or thorium (or other radionuclides) end up in the atmosphere for us to breathe?

I'd like to know how the pollution from a coal plant compares to the waste from a nuclear plant - barring accidents, at least you can bury the nuclear waste in one place. With exhaust from a coal plant, we all breath it. Not a problem if it is all H2O and CO2, but otherwise...

What other waste does coal produce that is not usable? Fly ash goes into masonry type stuff (bricks, concrete), but what else is there? Is more fly ash produced than is needed? Is there anything that needs to be buried or otherwise disposed of?
  #31  
Old 01-15-2001, 04:25 AM
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TV Reporting


Hey! I get to slander TV, because that's where I work.
I'm a News Producer for a Television Station in Vancouver, BC, I've worked at TV and radio stations across Canada, I get to talk to (and work with) reporters in various types o' media around the world, and see their raw work (as well as finished product).

Credentials established, I hope

Ok. Most reporters would run screaming from a quadratic equation, let alone trying to understand exactly how a nuclear reactor works, and why it is/is not dangerous.

It's not a question of dumbing things down for the audience. I'd say half (I'm being generous here) of the people up on the screen have to have things dumbed down for them! It's one thing to do crisis reporting (all those high-speed chases need very little analysis ) but when it comes to an analysis of the underlying reasons, your average TV reporter is poorly equipped.

Case in point: Natural gas prices have jumped severely over the past year here in BC. The main reason is our nationalized energy company is selling gas to California as fast as it can be pumped... and raking in the revenue to boot. This has sent local heating bills skyrocketing, and it's threatening to put several greenhouses out of business.

This blip in homeowner payments has been going on for 2 months..... but I've only seen 2 TV stations actually attempt to explain *why* the price of gas has gone up.. and even then they've only said "world demand is responsible".

Pheh. sometimes I wonder why I work
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  #32  
Old 01-15-2001, 07:42 AM
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To the OP, I think Rocket88 gave the best response.

Quote:
Originally posted by Rocket88
Thus a substantial supply of water is necessary, so the plant is usually located near a river or tidewater.
[/B]
I'll just add a footnote that most population centers are also located near rivers & tidewaters. Thus, the extra conflict.
  #33  
Old 01-15-2001, 07:49 AM
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Nuclear Power is a subject on which I am decidedly ambivalent.

As a Ph.D. in Physics and an Engineer, I am impressed with the nuclear industry as a whole, and the capabilities of nuclear power plants. The OP about reactors on subs is right on the money -- without nuclear power, in fact, subs wouldn't be a practical proposition. They're about the only high power source that doesn't exhaust oxygen (try operating a sub for long on fuel cells). The subs have been using nuclear power for almost half a century now, with no obvious massive mishaps.

On the other hand, there have been serious problems with power plants on land. Even worse, the government and the nuclear industry have hidden things or weaseled around them. "There has never been a nuclear accident involving harm to a civilian in the United States", or some such statement, which weaves its way around the mishaps that have occurred. I don't have the details on most of these at hand, but I have no doubt you can find details on them in the anti-nuke books or websites.

The general industry response is to say "Well, people are just confused about nuclear power. They have associations with the bomb, or with the harmful effects of radiation. They don't realize that a power plant can't blow up." I used to think that, too. But there were legitimate concerns about the safety of many reactors that were unrelated to their likelihood to blow up. Ralph Nader's group was instrumental in pointing many of these out, and there have been others since.

As for the innate safety of nuclear power plants, the obvious riposte is "Chernobyl". It's easy to say that this shouldn't have happened, and I agree with you. The scary fact, of course, is that it did, and the problem of Chernobyl still hasn't been resolved -- the structure is crumbling and still contains extremely radioactive material. This is the core of public apprehension -- we are assured by the industry that everything is safe and all possibilities covered, but there is still no provision for treatment of such disasters, or even of nuclear waste. After almost half a century there has not been a final resolution of what to do about the high-level waste building up in the cooling ponds of plants. Assurances that something will be done won't salve the anxieties of people who still remember the Exxon Valdez and Exxon's responses to the situation.If you want to see how bad the problem of waste disposal can be, look up "Chelyabinsk" on the web, or get Zhores Medvedev's book "Nuclear Disaster in the Urals". Medvedev isn't a fear monger. He has defended his purpose in writing the book. Nor am I anti-nuke. My point is that the industry has to clean up its act, and not simply blame its difficulties on popular ignorance.
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  #34  
Old 01-15-2001, 07:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by douglips
That aside, I'm wondering if anyone (ahem) knows what kind of pollution a coal plant produces?

(snip)

How dirty is exhaust from a coal plant? Does any of the uranium or thorium (or other radionuclides) end up in the atmosphere for us to breathe?

I'd like to know how the pollution from a coal plant compares to the waste from a nuclear plant - barring accidents, at least you can bury the nuclear waste in one place. With exhaust from a coal plant, we all breath it. Not a problem if it is all H2O and CO2, but otherwise...

What other waste does coal produce that is not usable? Fly ash goes into masonry type stuff (bricks, concrete), but what else is there? Is more fly ash produced than is needed? Is there anything that needs to be buried or otherwise disposed of?
Hi douglips! I'm going to try to answer your question by opening a new thread in GQ here, re-quoting your question, at lunch today.
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  #35  
Old 01-15-2001, 08:04 AM
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One thing about nuclear safety and coal safety.

In another thread months ago, a person posted about the "large number of deaths due to trucking of coal each year on America's highways". Yes, in the Midwest but especially in the East, a large number of plants receive a significnt amount of coal via truck. "Rubbish", was my first reaction, "I've not heard of such a thing." So I asked around work with coal transportation experts, and went out on the web (NHTSA, DoT, et al) and tried to find references to back my Mighteous Flame(TM) I was preparing.

Well, I never made that flame, for two reasons:

1) No one seems to have any concrete information on the number of deaths due to coal truck accidents per year, however,

2) What information is available seems to indicate it runs in the neighborhood of hundreds of accidents per year, with more than 43 fatalities reported in one year alone! (not specifically posted since information is admittedly very sketchy on this subject)

I was stunned - I had no idea it was so high. It is much higher than the number of coal miners killed per year in accidents.

Just as one, single, focused thought - I wonder how even just those fatalities due to coal trucking accidents compare to the fatalities per year associated with nuclear power generation.

Some may be surprised to see me present negative info re: coal power. Yes, I like my coal and coal power plants. But facts are facts, and it's dishonest not to look at all of the impacts.
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  #36  
Old 01-15-2001, 11:02 AM
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Anthracite quoth:
Quote:
Some may be surprised to see me present negative info re: coal power. Yes, I like my coal and coal power plants. But facts are facts, and it's dishonest not to look at all of the impacts.
I for one am not surprised. Thank you for your even-handedness.

Quote:
I'm going to try to answer your question by opening a new thread in GQ here, re-quoting your question, at lunch today.
A good idea. I have opened a new thread here, so that you don't have to quote me yourself.
  #37  
Old 01-15-2001, 11:42 AM
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What happened to GAS-COOLED nuclear reactors? I remember reading about one such design-it used ceramic-coated uranium pellets as fuel, and the core of the reactor was non-meltable graphite. The reactor was cooled by helium gas, so no radioctive water leakage. Such a reactor could operate at very high core temperatures for years, at high efficiency.
Seems like a good idea-dwere these just too expensive to build? These would not have the problems of water-cooled reactors.
  #38  
Old 01-15-2001, 12:31 PM
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CalMeacham


A questions and a statment.


A) What is the difference in construction, execution, and type of nuclear powerplant in a Sub and one in Nebraska??

It seems like they can be opperated saftly as long as the people opperating them and manufacturing them know what they are doing. So what I'm saying is...it would appear to me..the people in charge of construction and opperation might not have the same level of training as people in the military. Would this be a correct assumption?
  #39  
Old 01-15-2001, 12:48 PM
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I don't have exact numbers to back it up, but I once did some research on different approaches to power generation, so what I know is based on some facts.

The exact trade-off between fossil fuel generation (mainly coal) and nuclear power depends on a difficult decision. Power generation from coal/fossil fuels currently has a fairly steady detrimental effect -- in air pollution, accidental death/health problems for miners, and the slight amount of toxic waste. Nuclear power, on the other hand, carries a undetermined amount of high risk, with a lower amount of steady risk (Mining health risks appear to be lower than coal*, but there's less data available). While new designs can prevent most power plant accidents from affecting local populations, workers are at risk; moreover, the long-term risk is real but again undetermined. Nuclear waste in the ground may remain dangerous for 1000 years or more, so even the small amount so far produced is a risk for future generations.

So the problem is low-moderate damage with high probability (fossil fuels) vs. undetermined damage with very low probability, plus future undetermined damage for nuclear generation.

panama jack

* I don't know for sure, but my guess is that uranium mining is more strictly regulated than some coal mining, which is an older industry. If everyone were brought to the same standards, there might be more parity, but fossil fuels' impact due to air/water pollution is still very large, so my statements stand.
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