Monday, March 03, 2008

Use Nuclear Energy to Reduce Energy Dependence and Greenhouse Emissions

I suggest reading an informative on Nuclear Energy in the recent Friday, February 29, 2008 in the Hillsdale College publication “Imprimis” The Case for Terrestrial (a.k.a. Nuclear) Energy by William Tucker.

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■ “The U.S. currently gets 50 percent of its electricity from coal and 20 percent from nuclear reactors. Reversing these percentages should become a goal of both global warming advocates and anyone who wants to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil”.
■ “Reactor grade uranium—which will simmer enough to produce a little heat—is three percent U-235. In order to get to bomb grade uranium—the kind that will explode—uranium must be enriched to 90 percent U-235.”
■ “at Three Mile Island. A valve stuck open and a series of mistakes led the operators to think the core was overflowing when it was actually short of cooling water. They further drained the core and about a third of the core melted from the excess heat… the melted fuel stayed within the reactor vessel.”
■ “Critics had predicted a “China syndrome” where the molten core would melt through the steel vessel, then through the concrete containment structure, then down into the earth where it would hit groundwater, causing a steam explosion that would spray radioactive material across a huge area. In fact, the only radioactive debris was a puff of steam that emitted the same radiation as a single chest x-ray. Three Mile Island was an industrial accident. It bankrupted the utility, but no one was injured.”
■ “in Chernobyl, where the Soviet designers didn’t even bother building a concrete containment structure around the reactor vessel. Then in 1986, two teams of operators became involved in a tussle over use of the reactor and ended up overheating the core, which set fire to the carbon moderator that facilitates the chain reaction. (American reactors don’t use carbon moderators.) The result was a four-day fire that spewed radioactive debris around the world. More fallout fell on Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, from Chernobyl than from Three Mile Island.

I have never heard an explanation of what France does with all their nuclear waste.
■ “France has produced 80 percent of its electricity with nuclear power for the last 25 years. It stores all its high-level “nuclear waste” in a single room at Le Havre.”
■ “A spent fuel rod is 95 percent U-238. This is the same material we can find in a shovel full of dirt from our back yards. Of the remaining five percent, most is useful, but small amounts should probably be placed in a repository such as Yucca Mountain. The useful parts—uranium-235 and plutonium (a manmade element produced from U-238)—can be recycled as fuel.”
■ “In fact, we are currently recycling plutonium from Russian nuclear missiles. Of the 20 percent of our power that comes from nuclear sources, half is produced from recycled Russian bombs.”
■ “It is only cesium-137 and strontium-90, which have half-lives of 28 and 30 years, respectively, that need to be stored in protective areas. Unfortunately, federal regulations require all radioactive byproducts of nuclear power plants to be disposed of in a nuclear waste repository. As a result, more than 98 percent of what will go into Yucca Mountain is either natural uranium or useful material.”

William Tucker claims that nuclear energy is really the same as “Terrestrial Energy” the same process that generates the favored Geothermal alternate fuel.
■ “Geothermal is produced when the natural heat of the earth comes in contact with groundwater. This can produce geysers and “fumaroles”—steam leaks that are now being harnessed to produce electricity.”
■ “Temperatures at the earth’s core reach 7,000 degrees Centigrade, hotter than the surface of the sun.”
■ “But at least half of it comes from the radioactive breakdown of thorium and uranium within the earth’s mantle. This is “terrestrial energy,” and a nuclear reactor is simply the same process carried out in a controlled environment.”
■ “E = mc2 … signifies is that a very, very small amount of matter can be converted into a very, very large amount of energy. This is good news in terms of our energy needs and the environment.”
■ “We now burn 1 billion tons of coal a year—up from 500 million tons in 1976. This coal produces 40 percent of our greenhouse gases and 20 percent of the world’s carbon emissions.”
■ “fuel rods. These rods are only mildly radio-active and can be handled with gloves. They will be loaded into the reactor, where they will remain for six years (only one-third of the rods are replaced at each refueling). The replaced rods will be removed and transferred to a storage pool inside the containment structure, where they can remain indefinitely (three feet of water blocks the radiation).
■ “There is no exhaust, no carbon emissions, no sulfur sludge to be carted away hourly and heaped into vast dumps. There is no release into the environment. The fuel rods come out looking exactly as they did going in, except that they are now more highly radioactive. There is no air pollution, no water pollution, and no ground pollution.”


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