Scientists are now admitting that nuclear power is greener than other alternatives

The full read from which the following quote is taken is here.

Nuclear power is one of the least damaging sources of energy for the environment, and the green movement must accept its expansion if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change, some of the world's leading conservation biologists have warned.

Rising demand for energy will place ever greater burdens on the natural world, threatening its rich biodiversity, unless societies accept nuclear power as a key part of the "energy mix", they said. And so the environmental movement and pressure groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace should drop their opposition to the building of nuclear power stations.

In an open letter to be published next month in the journal Conservation Biology, more than 65 biologists, including a former UK government chief scientist, support the call to build more nuclear power plants as a central part of a global strategy to protect wildlife and the environment.

Are the proponents of avoiding nuclear while promoting wind power, tide and wave power, solar power, etc., dangeously stuck in the past, given that new nuclear technologies solve many of the problems that have caused environmental disasters of times gone by?

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Comment by matt.clerke on January 8, 2015 at 5:47pm

It's hard to support nuclear energy when things like the recent incident in Japan are still happening. On the other hand of course, significantly less air borne waste (other than water vapor) than coal, oil, gas, etc.

Comment by Unseen on January 8, 2015 at 9:05pm

The accident in Japan was due to design failures/stupidity and using old technology. New nuclear technology is much safer and actually can be used to dispose of the waste of the old nuclear technology so that we don't have the storage problem. Windmills and solar panels and the rest can't do that.

The big PR problem nuclear has is that when there's an accident, it's newsworthy whereas fossil fuels are destroying the atmosphere quietly on a daily basis that doesn't make headlines.

Comment by Davis Goodman on January 8, 2015 at 10:10pm

One enormous power plant goes offline for 6 months when there is a problem.

A thousand diverse green energy power generators (the same total cost) cannot possibly all go offline at once.

Nuclear energy material is running out.

The world is not running out of wind, solar energy or water flow.

A nuclear powerplant is ginormously expensive, always balloons several factors over budget, requires enormous capital costs, is extremely slow to change and adapt and cannot be easily closed down or moved

Solar panels are easily installed and moved, wind turbines cost much less to decommission, the technology is not all or nothing (as per nuclear powerplants) and can be adapted per needs and budget.

Nuclear power plants produce radioactive waste that we so conveniently forget about. It takes eons for it to lose that oh so not nice radioactiveness that is shoved under the carpet.

The manufacturing of some green technology produces some chemical waste that can be treated if done properly. Wind turbines kill a few birds and hydro kills some fish.

Part of the parcel of developing nuclear energy is having to sell the technology to other countries (without doing this the technology would not be as cost effective) which leads to the possiblity of rogue countries using that technology for potentially extremely destructive purposes.

There is no limit to how green technology can be shared and enouraged in other countries.

Several nuclear disasters happening at once could be utterly devastating to the Earth and humanity. The consequences would be felt for decades and the death toll would be enormous.

If ten solar panels fell off a roof at once and ten wind turbines fell over at once, maybe (probably not) one person would get injured.

Employee exposure to radiation is higher than has previously been estimated.

A wind turbine makes an annoying noise.

25,000 people died per Chernoble and those who were crippled for life was much higher.

You have to be careful at a hydro dam, if you don't hold onto the rail you might fall over and plumet to your death.

Closing down nuclear power plants is outrageously expensive and is not always done by the best standards.

When your solar panel breaks, drop it off at the designated recycling centre or depot.

Uranium mining can be hazardous.

Wave turbines make it difficult to go surfing.

It takes years to go from the drawing board to putting a nuclear power plant online and it can easily be delayed further waiting for parts or components that few producers make.

A wind turbine is up in two months.

Comment by Unseen on January 8, 2015 at 10:25pm

Safer Nuclear Power, at Half the Price

Technology revolution in nuclear power could slash costs below coal

Disadvantages of Solar Energy

    1) Higher Costs that Fossil Energy Forms – This is the biggest disadvantage cited by anti-Solar Power activists despite the massive decline in costs that Solar Power has seen over the last  decades.It has been estimated that solar power costs fall by 20% for every 100% increase in supply.The Solar Cost Curve has declined massively in the last 2 years as cheap Chinese solar production has made solar panel costs come down by  50% .Note in the next 4-5 years expect an average decline of around 10% per year which would make solar energy competitive with fossil fuel energy in most parts of the world.Current solar power costs between 15-30c/Kwh depending on the solar radiation of the particular location,type of technology used etc.

    2) Intermittent Nature - One of the biggest problems of Solar Power ( Solar PV that is ) is that it is intermittent in nature as it generates energy only when the sun shines.This problem can be solved with energy storage however this leads to additional costs.This argument also does not make sense for a US DOE study indicated that solar and wind intermittent power won’t be a problem till 30-40% of the electricity in the US is from these 2 forms of renewable  energy.Smart Grids and Cheaper Energy Storage in the future should allow even higher penetrations of Wind and Solar Power possible.

    3) High Capital Investment – A Solar Plant can cost around $3.5-6 million to be spent in building 1 Megawatt.This is said to be too high,however this again is one of the silliest arguments.The costs of energy can only be compared by Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) which calculates the cost of energy over the lifetime calculating the capex,fuel costs,maintenance,security and insurance costs.While it is true that the initial capital investment for solar power is quite high,the lifecycle cost of solar energy is not that high.

    4) Cannot be Built Anywhere - This disadvantage of Solar Energy is present with other forms of Energy as well.Some forms of Energy are just better suited to some places.For example you can’t build a nuclear plant on top of an earthquake prone region,you can’t build a wind farm near the Dead Sea etc

Disadvantages of Hydro Energy

    1) Environmental, Dislocation and Tribal Rights - Large Dam construction especially in populated areas leads to massive Tribal Displacement,Loss of Livelihood and Religious Infringement as potentially sacred Land is occupied by the Government.

    2) Wildlife and Fishes get Affected - The Fishes are the most affected species from Dam Construction as the normal flow of the river is completely changed form its river character to a lake one.Submergence of land also leads to ecological destruction of the habitat of land based wildlife.

    3) Earthquake Vulnerability – Large Dam Construction has been linked to increased propensity of Earthquakes.Massive Earthquakes in China and Uttarakhand in India were linked to the building of Massive Dams in these countries

    4) Siltation When water flows it has the ability to transport particles heavier than itself downstream. This has a negative effect on dams and subsequently their power stations, particularly those on rivers or within catchment areas with high siltation

    5) Tail Risk,Dam Failure - Because large conventional dammed-hydro facilities hold back large volumes of water, a failure due to poor construction, terrorism, or other cause can be catastrophic to downriver settlements and infrastructure. Dam failures have been some of the largest man-made disasters in history.The Banqiao Dam failure in Southern China directly resulted in the deaths of 26,000 people, and another 145,000 from epidemics.

    6) Cannot be Built Anywhere - This disadvantage of Hdyro Energy is present with other forms of Energy as well.Some forms of Energy are just better suited to some places.For example you can’t build a nuclear plant on top of an earthquake prone region,you can’t build a wind farm near the Dead Sea etc.Hydro Energy can only be built in particular places though enough of those places exist globally

    7) Long Gestation Time - The time to construct a large hydro power project can take between 5-10 years which leads to time and cost overruns.

Disadvantages of Biomass Energy

    1) Pollution in case of Poor Technology – Biomass Energy can lead to air pollution in the form of char if the biomass is not completely combusted.This happens in the case of biomass energy being produced in rural areas through bad technology

    2) Feedstock Problems – One of the biggest drawbacks of biomass energy is the problem of feedstock.The plants are forced to run at lower utilization leading to higher costs if feedstock is not available due to some reason like a drought

    3) Good Management Required – The operations of a biomass plant requires very good management otherwise it may run into losses or even in some cases have to shut down.It requires a skill of high order to run the plant optimally and make use of alternative feedstock in case the regular one is not available

    4) Limited Potential - Biomass Energy has smaller potential than compared to other forms of energy like solar,hydro etc.

    5) Controversial NIMBY - Large Biomass Plants like the one in Scotland have run into massive protests as people think it might lead to air pollution and health hazards if constructed near their homes.

Disadvantages of Wind Energy

    1) Low Persistent Noise - There have been a large number of complaints about the persistent level of low level nosie from the whirring of the blades of a wind turbine.There have been cases reported about animals on farms getting affected by wind turbine noise.

    2) Loss of Scenery - The sight of giant 200 metres tall towers has drawn objections from neighbours about wind power leading to loss of scenery and beauty.The Cape Wind Energy project off the shore of Massachusetts has been delayed by over 10 years as it has drawn serious objections from the owners of coastal homes about loss in their property values

    3) Land usage - Wind Turbines can sometimes use large amounts of land if not properly planned and built.The construction of roads to access the wind farms etc also takes up some land.

    4) Intermittent Nature - Wind Power is intermittent in nature as it generates energy only when the wind blows.This problem can be solved with energy storage however this leads to additional costs.

Disadvantages of Geothermal Energy

    1) Long Gestation Time Leading to Cost Overruns – The Gestation Time for permitting,financing,drilling etc. can easily take 5-7 years to develop a geothermal energy field.Compare this to 6 months for a small wind farm or 3 months for a Solar PV plant

    2) Slow Technology Improvement – Geothermal Energy has the potential to generate 100s of gigawatts of electricity through new techniques like EGS.However the technology improvement has been slow with setbacks.

    3) Financing is the biggest problem in developing projects particularly for small project developers in this industry.There are few big geothermal developers like Chevron and Calpine.

    4) Regulations – Drilling for new geothermal energy fields,buying of geothermal companies in foreign geographies faces innumerable hurdles.Magma which is one of the biggest geothermal energy companies faced massive local opposition in trying to buy an Icelandic company.This prevents the growth of pureplay geothermal companies in acquiring a critical scale.

    5) Limited Locations – Geothermal Energy can only be built in places which have the geological characteristics favorable to generation of geothermal power.Note there have been talk that Enhanced Geothermal Energy (EGS) can lead to a massive increase in the number of locations which can generate Geothermal Energy,however EGS is facing environmental issues.


Comment by Ed on January 8, 2015 at 11:09pm

Hey Davis & Unseen, I have the [buttered] popcorn made and look forward to the show!!  :^ )

I personally am noncommittal about nuclear and all it's baggage.

Comment by Belle Rose on January 9, 2015 at 1:27am
Nuclear energy can be seen as part of the long-term solution. The greatest challenge is our inability to store it at present. (which opens up additional factors that can become problematic.
Comment by Unseen on January 9, 2015 at 1:58am

Store it? If you don't want nuclear energy right now, turn if off. In effect, if you don't use it, you are in a way storing it. In that regard, it's like petroleum, wood, or coal. The energy is stored in the fuel until you use it.

Comment by Belle Rose on January 9, 2015 at 2:28am
RE: Store it? If you don't want nuclear energy right now, turn if off.

It is not quite that simple. Not for countries that overuse resources. The answer is not that cut and dry. The United States and China are two of the largest "problem countries" and the way we use energy MUST be curtailed.

If the end goal is to reduce fossil fuel consumption by replacing it with nuclear energy, we must have an effective means of storage FOR that energy. (Not the waste....the energy itself.)

There is a concept of "carrying capacity" that measured the Earth's resources, how quickly we use what we know is sustainable for the Earth. This is then compared to what we (on a global level) ACTUALLY use. Every year we are reaching that carrying capacity earlier and 2014 we reached our carrying capacity on August 19th! So every day AFTER August 19th we were "overspending" resources that we cannot get back.

I honestly think that there needs to be a global conscious effort towards awareness and action. Countries like Germany and Cuba are leading the way....but in places like the US and China, we need to correct our behavior, not just say, "nuclear energy is the answer!" No it's not! It is one small way we can make change, but there are problems with it just like everything else.
Comment by Davis Goodman on January 9, 2015 at 9:57am

Yes unseen you've made an amazing point. A low humming next to two people's houses is as massive of an inconvenience as living next to a massive nuclear powerplant that is totally silent without an noise or disruption as steam billows out of a reactor.

Yes, not being able to find one of the various green sources in the ground (geothermal) is as inconvenient as trying to bury spent radioactive material into the ground.

Yes, having an ugly wind tower is as destructive to humanity as 25,000 people dying from Chernobyl.

Yes, a biomass farm is as complicated and requires as much good supervision as a nuclear power plant (seriously????)

Yes, stiltation in water is far more concerning than leaving spent radioactive rods in a pool of water (hundreds of these around the world). I'd rather have radioactive water seep into my well water than that horrid stiltation. LOOK OUT! The stiltation is coming! AHHHHH!!!!!!

Solar farms cannot be built everywhere...but of course as you said...nuclear power plants can be built absolutely anywhere right....wait a minute...????

Comment by Unseen on January 9, 2015 at 11:35am

Belle, you don't seem to get what I'm saying. The energy is already stored. It's the potential energy in the nuclear plant's fuel. Or am I not understanding your point?


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