Dear Barry,

I'm sure our beloved President would rate me a “low-energy” guy. Well, to that I can only say I'd rather be low-energy than a hebephrenic like him:

hebephrenia: a disorganized form of schizophrenia characterized especially by incoherence, delusions which if present lack an underlying theme, and affect that is flat, inappropriate, or silly.

Forgive the pun, but I've been trying to work-up the energy to respond further regarding the efficacy of nuclear energy. At your suggestion, I did some preliminary reading on the AP-1000 you mentioned, and while the Chinese experience appears to be initially successful, the American experience with the AP-1000 is much less so:

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-US-nuclear-construction-project-to-be-abandoned-0108177.html

I agree with you that we, that is to say humans, have a problem, and that is trying to provide sufficient energy to meet the needs of the 7.2 billion (and counting – rapidly) people on this planet. Where we don’t agree is that nuclear power is a viable solution even in the short-term, not as long as we have no solution to the very long-term problem of spent fuel with a 100,000-year half-life. That is, of course, an all but infinite, in human terms, problem. Frankly, I don’t believe that problem can be overcome.

But nuclear power also presents a serious, and sometimes fatal, problem in the near term. The disasters at Three-Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima are obvious examples, and I would be very surprised if there aren’t other lesser examples we haven’t heard about.

Don’t know if you saw the 60 Minutes episode on Fukushima, but it was an eye-opener. Clean-up inside the reactors is being done by robots, and the episode showed one of those robots, which cost $100 million dollars. It’s time inside the reactor? Eight seconds, before it was irretrievably stuck in the muck.

The target date for the completion of the multi-hundred-billion-dollar clean-up is 30-40 years. The slightly more realistic hope is that it will done in 50 years, while the man in charge of the project says it could well take 70 years or more.

The episode also showed the multitude of tanks filled with contaminated water in and around the plant. To my mind, these tanks stand like sentinels, symbols of another problem with nuclear energy – water.

As I understand the current fission process, massive amounts of water are required to cool the fuel in the reactors … water that in the process is converted to steam ... that in turn powers the turbines that generate electricity. Some of that electricity is required to run the pumps that provide all that water.

While the reactors at Fukushima amazingly were able to withstand an earthquake that measured 9+ on the Richter scale, they could not withstand the tidal wave that followed. Needless to say, electricity and water do not mix; and when that water hit the plants electrical grid, the power went down … and the pumps stopped … and the nuclear fuel got hotter and hotter and hotter ...

· · ·

I’ve personally witnessed this sort of meltdown, though on a very small scale. I used to be part of the crew that rebuilt the three water-cooled electric furnaces that provided molten steel in the Sealed Power sleeve plant in my hometown. It was very expensive to rebuild those huge furnaces, and management was, of course, insistent on running them to the last possible minute before meltdown.

It was a constant battle trying to operate one to that point, with an eye always on the temperature gauge. Frankly, the process was as much art as science, and sometimes we guessed wrong.

When that happened, it wasn’t electricity that caused the major problem; no, the real problem was when the refractory material developed a crack and molten steel at 3000 degrees hit the water jacket that all hell broke loose. I’ve seen a huge furnace lid blasted forty feet or so into the air … I’ve seen steel girders in the buildings superstructure bent like twigs from the impact ... I have literally run for my life in that situation.

So, maybe that helps explain my resistance to nuclear energy. And let me qualify that by saying if the dream of cold fusion ever comes to pass, that will be a different story.

· · ·

So – what to do in the meantime? Well, for starters we should be investing heavily in alternative energy, such as hydro-electric power, and especially in renewables like solar, wind, and wave energy. We should also be investing in R&D for technology such as hydrogen fuel cells. We should also be using tax credits to encourage all forms of energy saving, such as insulation, dimmers, LED lighting, ultra-efficient appliances, water heaters, and heating and air conditioning equipment.

These energy policies were promulgated in the Carter administration back in the Seventies, when OPEC caused an artificial oil crisis. Had Carter been re-elected, and had we continued his policies, I feel safe in saying, we would be in a much better place today, when it comes to energy cost and climate change. But alas, the people in their infinite wisdom chose as our President a second-rate actor with a third-rate intellect and a fourth-rate slogan “Let's Make America Great Again”.

Americans can't seem to learn the lesson that you can't go back to the future.

· · ·

To make matters worse, the Supreme Court erroneously and tragically ruled in favor of George W. Bush, the actual loser in the election of 2,000. It's certain the energy policies of Al “An Inconvenient Truth” Gore would have been very different than those of George “What Me Worry” Bush, who gave us the Clear Skies Initiative, aka the Coal Company Welfare Act.

Obviously, such policies are going to cost a lot of money, but some of that cost could be defrayed with a carbon tax. But that, and anything else isn't likely to happen with Donald Trump, a man who felphoniuosally (yes, I invented that word) ran on bringing back jobs to coal country, a man so lacking in imagination, he had to steal Reagan's sorry punchline and promised to “Make America Great Again”.

Again, Americans can't seem to learn the lesson that you can't go back to the future.

Mired in the present, I remain your humble, faithful and low-energy servant,

Tom

Views: 105

Comment by moki ikom on December 8, 2018 at 3:43pm

A meltdown's explosive radioactive steam bursts from the Three Mile Island nuclear reservation reactors and nuclear waste storage facilities  would have made the facility's surroundings uninhabitable to humans for milennia.  One missile hitting its mark at such nuclear facilities would do what that accident failed to do.

Comment by J.P. Hart on December 8, 2018 at 5:56pm

Allow me to toss a fistfull of dryer lint to the pyre,Tom: hebephrenic on Google Ngram spiked in 1916 : .00000500%, 2nd plateau since was post WWII, 1947: .0000045747%, and through latest entry available 2008: .0000008671% we're not far from known initial data of
1878 - 1881's first soundings: .0000004761%. Here on the Southside I've faint recollection of 'hebegeebees' in the everyday vernacular as synonym for creepiness or 'not right in the head'. Remarkably, the sundry etymology dictionary hath near-mirror image
with ethnicity of the word. Odd, too, that we're discussing reaction to reactors. Right now, I'm imbibing Wired's AI cover profile on Karl Friston. And FREE ENERGY.
More later, buds . . .

Comment by Tom Cordle on December 8, 2018 at 8:56pm

moki  You bring up another problem with nuclear power I didn't mention in this piece, and that is the vulnerability to cyber or terrorist attack. It's also the case that nuclear is a continuation of our dependence on the grid, which makes such an attack all the more a catastrophe. Many alternate sources dramatically reduce dependence on the grid, which is one reason they are not pursued as fully as they ought to be.

Comment by Tom Cordle on December 8, 2018 at 9:03pm

J.P.  Many years ago, I did a superficial study of schizophrenia, and that is where I first came across the term "hebephrenia". As I understood and understand the word, it refers to a specific manifestation of schizophrenia, characterized by the patient being in more or less constant motion simply for the sake of motion; that is to say, without any apparent purpose to the activity. I'm obviously not qualified to diagnose, but seems to me that Hair Trump exhibits that sort of behavior, in addition to his many other mental defects. In short, I wasn't using that term in referring to him  in a purely jocular fashion.

Comment by Robert B. James on December 9, 2018 at 7:41am

We stopped building them because science said wait a long damned forever here you MIC asswipes. I’ve been nuked since 17 as a MIC lab rat. Low dose is better than nicotine...ask any actuary worth a shit. The navy even offered me nuke school! The science was in, and not ignored. I am reaching back to my second round of English courses...which was in a WWII program for vets at Rutgers, that I was not, but was allowed to join under the condition that I retake the English courses. And so in 1982 at 25 I was reading Nuclear Witnesses for my after hours English redo.

And so I recall the book described a nun, Rosalie Bertel? (From memory) who did the math...proving low levels of exposure killed humans. As I had been nuked steadily low dose...I was paying close attention. 

It was Rosalie who showed up with the numbers...and bravely stood up at hearings where she was heard...or so I read. 

Comment by Maui Surfer on December 9, 2018 at 9:46am

I've been using solar power since 1974 (initially for hot water, later electricity) anyone who can't tell the Sun is OUR nuclear source is gazing directly into it and suffering the consequence (blindness)

Comment by alsoknownas on December 9, 2018 at 10:23am

I remember this term from my college years when I was fascinated by brain physiology and abnormal psychology. We're presented daily with incomprehensible statements and assertions, emanating from the gold throne tweeter that might well meet our armchair psychiatric diagnosis.

During a practicum at The Oregon State Hospital ( site of Kesey's purloined book "One Flew Over the Cuckoos" which was turned into a movie) I met people who lived on the "chronic long term" ward who were more predictable and conversationally adept than the current POTUS displays.

It takes more imagination than I possess to foresee any progress from the batch of escapees in power.

Have you read J.D. Vance's book, "Hillbilly Elegy"? In memoir fashion he lays out the reasons the Rust Belt fell for the snake oil salesmanship that put Big top Don in the White House, and why they may have only been the first wave of a movement that will be as hard to stop as the wave that hit Fukushima.

Frightening indeed.

It may be that the brightness in the future is only the glow of embers from what was once a livable world.

Comment by alsoknownas on December 9, 2018 at 10:27am

Comment by alsoknownas 1 second ago Delete Comment

I r

I remember this term from my college years when I was fascinated by brain physiology and abnormal psychology. We're presented daily with incomprehensible statements and assertions, emanating from the gold throne tweeter that might well meet our armchair psychiatric diagnosis.

During a practicum at The Oregon State Hospital ( site of Kesey's purloined book "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" which was turned into a movie) I met people who lived on the "chronic long term" ward who were more predictable and conversationally adept than the current POTUS displays.

It takes more imagination than I possess to foresee any progress from the batch of escapees in power.

Have you read J.D. Vance's book, "Hillbilly Elegy"? In memoir fashion he lays out the reasons the Rust Belt fell for the snake oil salesmanship that put Big top Don in the White House, and why they may have only been the first wave of a movement that will be as hard to stop as the wave that hit Fukushima.

Frightening indeed.

It may be that the brightness in the future is only the glow of embers from what was once a livable world.

Comment by Tom Cordle on December 9, 2018 at 12:00pm

RBJ   The military opted for nuclear power for the same reason they promoted railroads after the Civil War – military necessity. Long ago, I intuited that the military must have realized the decision to go nuclear would present a staffing problem – how to entice the best and the brightest young men, who did not intend to make a career of the military, to opt for nuke school, since there would be no opportunity to benefit from that knowledge outside the military.

Solution? Commercial nuclear power.

On a related note, I lived in Orlando, where the Navy, in it's infinite wisdom, defied all logic and Florida's over 1300 miles of coastline and located a Naval Training Center in Orlando. So much for military intelligence.

NTC Orlando was also home to a Nuke School, and I got a chance to speak with some of the trainees, who habituated my Nautilus Fitness Center in downtown Orlando. A couple of them confirmed my long ago intuition, by acknowledging that there was no way they'd have chosen Nuke School without there being an opportunity to benefit from their training outside of the military..

Comment by Tom Cordle on December 9, 2018 at 12:02pm

Maui  Yeah, when people shout "No More Nukes!", I trust there not including the sun.

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