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Going Green! or Not, Part II – Nuclear Energy

This is Part II of the on going segment called Going Green! or Not series deals largely with renewable energy.  Mainly I take a stab at all the myths associated with nuclear power.  It’s awesome because a lot of people don’t know anything about nuclear power, where as I know quite a lot.  If you missed part I of the series, fear not, it’s just a click away. Otherwise, step right up, and read on my friend.

Now I’m gonna move on from the Planet Green channel, and attack the industry in general.  No where is the idea of green technology more prevalent then the community of Stumble Upon.  I can’t stumble a day without getting 3 advertisements for solar power.  (Before you tell me I can adjust my SU interests, don’t, I know that, and I accept it cause I like to read them, and then give thumbs down and real world reviews, it makes me happy, I’m an evil person).

Solar power is one of the biggest things I see, with wind coming in second.  I prefer wind power simply because in the event of a nuclear winter (or something similar), wind generators will still work.  Anyway, back to the matter at hand yet again.  It’s not the efficiency of one or the other that matters, (both hover around 20%), it’s the writing style that is used to introduce them.  It’s full of hopes, and dreams, and love, and sometimes kittens.  Take this story from Clean Technia: MIT Energy Storage Discovery Could Lead to ‘Unlimited’ Solar Power.  It’s a very uplifting story that links to a source story, and provides almost no original content of themselves (an underlying problem of the blogosphere itself (something I’ve contributed to no doubt as well)), and a video, I couldn’t find the video they said on MIT’s page, so that leads me to believe it really didn’t exist, they just wanted to look like they were doing research.   Anyway, the the last paragraph is this:

No news has yet been released of a predicted timescale to commericial development or mainstream adoption.  However, Nocera has said that he’s hopeful that within 10 years homes will no longer be powered using electricity-by-wire from a central source. Instead, homeowners will be able to harness solar power during daylight hours and use this new energy storage method for electricity at night.

If you read between the lines of that you can find out what it really means: This is just a theory, it will never get made into production because it’s not practical, we’re just telling you this for good publicity, give us more money please.  They claim that within 10 years everyone will use one of these.  Well, pretend for a minute that you have a time traveling DeLorean, and you go back in time to 1955, you would hear this quote:

Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality within ten years.

Well, it’s been nearly 55 years, and we’re lucky to build a nuclear powered power plant now a days, (more on that next).  My point being, the above theory sounds great, and awesome, and revolutionary, but, in practice, the likelihood of it coming true is 0%.  So take that nugget of information with a grain of salt.

So, about nuclear power.  What do you know about it?  Or, more importantly, what do you think you know about it?  Is it dangerous to the environment?  Is it deadly?  How many accidents have there been since it was put in use?  How many at civilian controlled power plants?

Did you know that there have been 8 partial meltdowns, one total meltdown, and one partial core meltdown over the 50 years since nuclear power plants have been in use (this is not taking into account military ships, of any nation).  Did you know that on the International Nuclear Event Scale there is only one event in the highest spot – Chernobyl, and that by it’s standards, Three Mile Island only rates a 5?  (From a country that was always one upping the soviets, they sure got us beat in terms of nuclear problems).  Did you know that when a nuclear reactor has a meltdown, it doesn’t explode like Ivy-Mike above, it just releases a cloud of radioactive gas into the atmosphere letting nature decide who lives and dies.  Anyway, I’m not going to dabble in terms of destructive nature of nuclear energy, for I could do that forever.

Nuclear reactors are closed circuit systems.  That means the water that is in direct contact with the control rods is sealed, and never leaves the system (assuming no breach, or meltdown).  Nuclear reactors are built around bodies of water such as the sea, and rivers so that they can use that cold water to cool the pipes containing the super heated steam.  This water leaves perfectly safe if not a little warmer.  And those cooling towers, guess what, they release nothing but steam into the atmosphere, guess what steam turns into, rain!

Now, I won’t fool you, nuclear reactors do have some waste, and it’s in the form of super irradiated fuel rods that stay that way for tens of thousands of years.  There are three main concerns with this waste:

  • What to do with it
  • How to deal with transport
  • What happens if terrorist get a hold of it

Well, the first two are rather simple to answer, and they come in multi-part answers, isn’t life peachy?!  So let’s get to them:

The current plan for spent nuclear fuel is to ship it off to underground caves and keep it there until the robots take over and use it as their fuel source, the sun goes nova, or we forget about it.  That’s a great solution because the granite mountains that hold them are some of the strongest natural materials on Earth.  In order for the mountain to erode away to nothing, millions of years would have to pass by.  But what if an earthquake comes?  Well my friend, that’s the advantage of having millions of years of geological data on hand,  the locations chosen were chosen because of their low level of seismic activity.  Which means that if there were a major earthquake to happen, leaked radiation would be the least of our worries, trust me.

Now comes the question of transporting it to these mountain fortresses.  Wouldn’t you know it, they have a system for that.  The transports must follow a strict set of guidelines that includes:

  • A 9 meter (30 ft) free fall on to an unyielding surface
  • A puncture test allowing the container to free-fall 1 meter (about 37 inches) onto a steel rod 15 centimeters (about 6 inches) in diameter
  • A 30-minute, all-engulfing fire at 800 degrees Celsius (1475 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • An 8-hour immersion under 0.9 meter (3 ft) of water.
  • Further, an undamaged package must be subjected to a one-hour immersion under 200 meters (655 ft) of water.

If those don’t sound like much, here’s a video demonstrating it for you, go on, watch it, I’ll wait:

You see, these casks are designed to go to hell and back, and still not leak their deadly cargo.  If that’s not enough for you, in the 40+ years of them being in use, there has never been an accident that released radioactive material into the environment.  I bet no one ever told you that.  In fact, if you read over that site you’ll find a bunch of anti-nuclear information, just like a good propaganda website should have.  Anyway, the point is, the forces required to sabotage one of these shipments are far to great (it would be cheaper to just buy the material illegally somewhere) and for a true accident to cause a issue, you would need:

  • an earthquake
  • a lightning storm
  • a gas leak
  • a plane crash
  • a meteor strike
  • flying pigs

All to happen in a single, 50 square foot at the same time.  I’m not C3-P0, so I can’t calculate the odds of that for you, but let me assure you, they’re fucking ridiculously high.  And were one of those to all happen, it’s important to know that spent fuel is not flammable, and cannot cause a nuclear explosion.

The first two points are taken care of, now it’s onto the third, and probably most feared one, terrorists.  Frankly, I’m tired of that word, it’s evolved from a descriptive word of a group of people, into a meaningless fear mongering term of the media.  But regardless, it’s the best word we have to describe those groups of people.  Anyway, what would happen if some anti-human fanatic got their hands on all this spent fuel while it’s in transit (not likely), or after it’s in storage?  Well, it all depends on the type of waste they get their hands on.  Some of the spent fuel is weapons grade, and can be made to produce those sweet explosions like Ivy-Mike, but not much of it, and the process of getting it is not worth the rewards, meaning it’s cheaper and easier to just buy a nuclear bomb pre-made on the black market.

There are much more items to go into, I was going to try and get all the nuclear information into one post, but I surprised myself (ok, not really).  This post has reached the limits of what I think is long enough, so I’m gonna split it here, and you’ll get the rest of it before the week is up, don’t worry.  There’s plenty more for me to tell you on the benefits, and hazards (you see, I’m giving you both sides of the story) to nuclear power.  So come back for part III of the  Going Green! or Not series.  It’s sure to be an eye opener!

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Going Green! or Not, part I

This is the first in a multi-part series where I will explain some of the problems faced with the “green” industry, and the misconceptions people have about it.  As long time readers hopefully know, I believe that global warming is not a scientific fact, but a man made fear, and today you will begin to get to know just exactly why that is!  The popular theories about the cause of global warming, and the reasons behind it are all made up by companies, and scientists that are paid by those companies.  As my friends know, if you bring up Global warming, or WWII or multiple universes in conversation with me, you will have yourself a very long discussion on your hands, as those three things I am very passionate about.  So, without further adieu I will begin part I of the Going Green! or Not series.  Enjoy, and please, post your comments, I don’t censor anything, so if you want to say that I’m killing the planet and I am a stupid person, go right ahead.

No, I’m not going “green” but I have spent the past few days thinking about this and thought I’d share it.  It all started with Discovery Channel’s Planet Green.You see, that channel is right next to their Military Channel, so, in between commercials on Rommel’s tactics of tank warfare in the Afrika Korps, that’s the first one that comes up when I change the channel.  I watch it for a little while, and then move back after the commercial break is over.  (All men have the gift to always know when commercial breaks are over, anyway).

Have you watched the shows on that channel?  It’s such a load of global warming hype it’s ridiculous.  (I also find it kind of ironic that on back to back channels, one company would encourage recycling everything, and then turning it into a tank to blow up just because some guys want to on another show, seems like some double standards to me, anyway again…)

Now I don’t mean to shame the whole channel, but the idea behind it is purely marketing, and money, and the big words now are “Green”  (I used it in my post title to get you to read it!).  In my watching of the channel, (for real, and in between commercials), I found that about half (45%) the information they present is useful, relevant, and smart, the other half is biased, purely money driven, propaganda.

There’s a lot that show people how to make their homes and lives green, and a lot of people that did it.  They demo houses built, the items used, and the processes involved.  Now the purpose behind all this is to get people informed about the alternatives, so that when the time comes they can put them to good use (I have a bunch of ideas supplemented by my own research and things seen from shows, so the practice works).  The implementation of the practice is strike number 2 against them.  Making the channel a pay channel is stupid.

planet green logo

This channel should be included in basic cable packages next to the regular Discovery Channel (not a replacement by any means).  In hard financial times like this, people are cutting costs everywhere, this channel helps people come up with ways to do that for themselves, however, because of greed, in order to actually watch Planet Green, you have to subscribe to 200 other cable channels that you don’t watch at $65.99 a month.  I realize that this is partly the evil cable companies’ faults, but it’s Discovery’s responsibility.

I just took a quiz that’s pretty much all propaganda, but like all propaganda, there’s some truth mixed in if you know what to look for.  They don’t go out right and say to become a vegetarian, but it’s something they encourage, at least that’s what I got out of this anyway.  And they have a point there, it does take more energy and effort to raise livestock to eat compared to grain.  However, the nutrients in meat are far more then those in plants.  Humans evolved as omnivores, for thousands of years we’ve eaten animals, and raised animals to eat, that includes fish.  Certain fish are at a danger of becoming extinct not because of over fishing, but because of over demand.  More people are eating the fish, and they are being shipped around the world, and that’s just not as sustainable today as it was 300 years ago when fisherman only had to supply the local area of 50 miles and not the whole world.  How can this change, by eating locally caught fish instead.

Another thing on that list is bottled water.  Maybe it’s because I live in New York, which has some of the best tap water in the world, but I am very much against bottled water.  I always go for tap water first.  That being said, most people in the country (and the state of NY itself), still don’t do that, and instead waste money every day on bottled water.  Fun fact, most bottled water is tap water.  Anyway, the quiz goes on to inform you that it takes 1.5 million barrels of oil a year to produce the number of plastic water bottles used in the world.  I’m not gonna dispute that, it’s probably true.  They tell you that oil is used to make plastics, but they don’t tell you how.  The major ingredients of plastic come from crude oil.  But, do you really know how crude oil is processed?  Or do you think those barrels of oil that OPEC sells come from the Middle East (did you know Texas produces Oil too?) and go straight into your Jeep’s gas tank?

Crude Oil Refineries produce a seemingly endless list of products, all different.  How do they do it, through the process of distillation.  Crude Oil is distilled, and in the process, many different things are made, each at a different stage, and all from a single barrel of oil.  Regular gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, tar, and other products are made from crude oil.  One of those products are petrochemicals.  Petrochemicals are used in an equally endless list of items, chiefly of which are the ethylene’s.  Which are used to produce your plastic bottles.  So, on the extreme, these plastic bottles are being produced anyway, and to not produce them would be wasting the energy in crude oil.  But, if that plastic went somewhere else, it would still be destined for a landfill eventually (nothing will last forever).  If that’s not enough, the production of ethylene is a recycling plant, using the excess heat needed to produce the high temperatures of the plant to produce steam which turn turbines that compress the gas to produce the product.

There’s still much more I can say about the Green industry, like a whole lot more on Oil, and still more about planet Green.  Also I haven’t even broke the surface of the renewable energies – solar, wind, nuclear.  Yes, nuclear.  And that’s the reason why I’m splitting this up into multiple parts.  There’s at least one more, probably 2 more parts coming up in the next few days.  Maybe I’ll make it a Thursday thing for the month of April?  I don’t know.  You can find the rest of the series right here Going Green! or Not.

But before you comment, remember to do some research so that it’s intelligent, or not.  because knowing is half the battle!

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