Since you are an engineer you can probably tell us a bit more about the efficiency of the "oh so cool and green" alternatives in a world that its energy needs are rising.I am an aerospace engineer working every day on those alternatives. I can tell you, every day more capacity is being installed and in that process manufactures, investors and utilities are earning money and giving jobs to millions of people. Mind you that this has been done so far with only a fraction of the nuclear research funding. Sure, more work has to be done to fully prepare the electricity grid for distributed and fluctuating energy sources. But these challenges are nothing compared one nuclear disaster.
And since you are an engineer you are probably in the position -unlike the general public, greenpeace idiots, and "nuclear disaster" title selling journalists- to understand things like Sieverts and what those numbers mean.
Also comparing chernobyl (not you) with the fukushima plant is like comparing DOS 0.1 to linux 2.6.38
Of course, all non-essential personnel has been evacuated. That's a common sense thing!When I looking at the facts, I tend to disagree: almost all nuclear personnel has been evacuated because the reactors (all 4 of them) are not under control, serious radiation leeks have been measured, etc etc,...
Frankly, yes.That sounds like a compelling argument: lets keep all those nukes up and running because only old ones could be dangerous.
So far the score is 1 serious event every 25 years (Windscale fire, Chernobyl disaster, Fukushima accident). Looks OK for me from cost/benefit point of view.There are always unprecedented events which trigger catastrophic failures.
Uhm... Because it is? Care to name similar events?Why are you trying to think what is happening in Japan is an isolated event which can only be the fault of the plant being old?
I have better idea, let's try to dig the second Panama Canal using only teaspoons! That'll give jobs to millions of people, I dare say even hundreds of millions!I am an aerospace engineer working every day on those alternatives. I can tell you, every day more capacity is being installed and in that process manufactures, investors and utilities are earning money and giving jobs to millions of people.
Right now, wind power is not competitive and can't live without government subsidies. Ditto for solar power: http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7053
Really? Can you cite your sources? Of course, only research of nuclear power generation is relevant.Mind you that this has been done so far with only a fraction of the nuclear research funding.
Since no one can show me a massively-scalable, cost-effective energy solution that doesn't use non-renewable resources or contribute to climate change (go ahead and try, I dare you), and since we are running out of non-renewable resources faster than anyone can imagine, nuclear is but one piece of the puzzle that will help "hold us over" and allow our current trends of (population, energy consumption) growth to continue.
Aside from currently deployed technologies, the next best thing to provide scalable, cost-effective energy into the foreseeable future will be nuclear fusion based power plants, using derivatives of water as fuel (and we have more than enough water, even if we consume 0.01% of the planet's water over the next thousand years of massively deployed nuclear fusion).
Three alternatives exist:
1. Continue finding new energy sources that are scalable and don't destroy our planet, to continue providing energy for an exponentially growing population with ever-increasing energy demands. As long as we can indeed find new energy sources "ad infinitum", we could continue like this until the entire surface of the earth is comprised of human flesh. Though I'm sure something terrible would happen long before we got that far.
2. Convince 7 billion people to stop having sex, or reduce / limit the rate of births in all societies globally (not only the industrialized nations, but also highly populous pre-industrial nations such as in Africa). This would reduce our population gracefully over time and thus our energy needs, which might eventually deprecate the need for such massive energy economy. We could then continue to subsist on solar, hydroelectric and small quantities of non-renewables for thousands of years with a small population (a few hundred million, globally). This would hopefully give us plenty of time to develop means for colonizing other planets.
3. Continue on blissfully per the status quo, shutting down nuclear plants as their licenses expire without building new ones, and using our fossil fuels until there is scarcity. The resulting scarcity will result in inevitable resource wars and eventually thermonuclear catastrophe, reducing the population in apocalyptic fashion.
Option 1 basically implies pro-nuclear, because the only solutions at this time that are even theoretically understood involve fission and fusion. Both, of course, carry hazardous risk with them -- but the upshot is that we can continue to use current economic models and policies, relying upon an ever-increasing amount of available energy to power our lives and our children's lives. Since people are so resistant to changing their way of life (e.g., live near where you work, don't take fuel-wasting vacations by car or plane, work from home, become vegetarian, etc), this presents the best option for the future. People don't have to change, they just have to STFU about nuclear and let the big corporations and big government provide the energy they crave. And the economic, technological and sociological basis for our modern lives will continue. This option depends, however, on societal acceptance of nuclear energy, as well as the funding needed to complete our R&D on commercial fusion. But no matter how much R&D we put in, we can never make nuclear energy 100.0000...% safe, unless we have infinite resources to throw into reactor safety (images of ridiculous scenarios such as backup diesel generators on the moon come to mind )
Option 2 would likely be impossible, because of religion and civil rights activists being too strongly against mandatory birth control and family planning. There are just too many people who have ingrained beliefs that tell them they have the right to have as many children as they wish. So lowering our population gracefully would never be attainable, because even if all the pro-family-planning people voluntarily have 1 or 0 children, you still have exponential growth among all the people who are anti-family-planning. Even if governments try to enforce this, you would still have people breaking the law, either accidentally or intentionally. So, lacking the technological solution to energy that we see in Option 1 (i.e. in a world without the ability to develop fusion and fission power), the likelihood of reducing our energy needs, to eliminate the need for nuclear power, is slim. And no, turning off all your electronics and recycling isn't enough -- the basic cost of a human life (food, the energy to grow that food, etc) is enough to eventually drive our energy economy into scarcity, sans fission+fusion.
Option 3 is the most probable option, sadly, judging from history and the problems with the first two options. It's hard to get societal acceptance for nuclear programs, and without acceptance, politicians don't prioritize funding. The U.S. nuclear program is basically on life support today -- just enough funds are allocated to keep operating existing nuclear facilities as safely as possible. The only new nuclear reactor that was proposed, at Calvert Cliffs, Maryland, is in limbo because the government wants a $880 million guarantee against a multi-billion loan that the plant designers need to construct it. By the 2030s, all currently operating nuclear facilities in the U.S. will probably be shut down due to the usable life of the reactor expiring. That's definitely within the lifetime of most Phoronix readers.
And all the thousands of megawatts provided by these reactors will be replaced by... what? Solar? Don't hold your breath.
Anyway, I just wanted to point that out. I have no stake in this discussion.
Actually, no alternative can do this right now. No green power source can compete without massive government assistance.You are absolutely right, they are very cool and green among other things such as the electricity they provide at an affordable cost.
Solar is not even on the table, it's more than 3 times more expensive than coal in the best case. And it also can't be used for baseload capacity. The only thing that even comes close to being a real alternative is offshore wind power, but so far there were no large deployments to gauge its real-life efficiency.