Friday, March 10, 2006

Recent Reuters Article on Nuclear Power

Here is an article by Jeremy Lovell, published on the Yahoo website. I am going to do as I do with Cucumberlandisland, and comment in regular type, while the article is in italics.

Nuclear waste: bury it and forget?

SELLAFIELD (Reuters) - It is the regular beeping that grates. But if it stops, prepare to be scared.

The signal audible every second in every corridor of the high-level toxic nuclear waste plant on Britain's sprawling Sellafield site is a sign all the alarms are working. If it stops, or changes tone, something has gone very wrong.

"The people who work here every day tell me they get used to it. But it tends to get on the nerves of everyone who visits the plant," Sellafield information officer Ben Chilton told Reuters on a tour of the site 480 km (300 miles) northwest of London.

That's an interesting fail-safe mechanism for alarms. If you lose power or something similar, the alarms stop. This idea is very much a British way of thinking, as opposed to the quite unsafe Russian way of thinking.

The alarms are crucial for an industry that believes it could be granted a new lease of life as the world searches for an alternative to fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, that produce carbon emissions, blamed for global warming.

The nuclear industry says its technology emits no carbon and does not cause global warming but for many, still wary after disasters like the 1986 explosion at Chernobyl, the lingering fear is that the toxic waste might leak and kill.

This is a non sequitur on the part of both Jeremy, and the "many who are wary." Chernobyl has nothing to do with nuclear waste. I will explain more about nuclear waste below. If Chernobyl generates any fears, it should be that reactors might have containment problems like Chernobyl. However, the spent fuel problem is a different problem entirely.

Sellafield, and a plant at La Hague in northern France, can each reprocess 5,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel each year, accounting for roughly a third of annual global output.

That's interesting: two plants can reprocess a third of the annual production. Just build four more such plants and you're good to go!

But there will be more waste. China plans to build 30 new nuclear reactors by 2020, India has struck a deal with the United States to build several more plants, the United States is lining up tax incentives for new generators and Britain is considering new plants to plug a looming energy gap.

Ok, build yet a few more plants such as Sellafield. Still no issue.


The sludge that flows down the heavily armoured pipe into Sellafield's vitrification plant after plutonium and uranium have been taken from spent fuel rods for reuse is a hell's brew still emitting 40 times a lethal dose of radiation.

In shielded chambers with technicians watching through metre-thick leaded glass windows and using remote mechanical arms, the toxic stew is cooked down to a powder, combined with molten glass and poured into stainless steel urns.

These are cooled, closed and scrubbed before being sealed in insulated steel flasks and taken away for storage where, standing 10 deep in a concrete core and capped by a three-metre (10-foot) plug, the heat from the radiation is still tangible.

There are nearly 4,000 of these containers stored at Sellafield, which was the world's first commercial nuclear power plant when it opened in 1956, with room for 4,000 more.

There's better ways of disposing of it, actually. Breeder reactors come to mind.

Final disposal of the waste involves burying it in geologically stable formations. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years -- in other words, it would take up to 250,000 years before it degrades completely.

And here we come to a major misunderstanding concerning nuclear waste. One scientist put it like this: suppose you were required to choose between sitting on two boxes of firecrackers. In one box, there was a 50% chance that one firecracker would go off every 24,000 years, and in the other, a 50% chance that one firecracker might go off every second. Which one would you choose? It's not the long half-life radioactivity that is dangerous: it's the short half-life radioactivity.

Chilton said waste comes from Britain, which has 11 nuclear plants, and from countries as far away as Japan, the third biggest nuclear power user after the United States and France.

Sellafield's scientists are confident they have the answers on waste and believe nuclear power can help ease climate change.

"From a technical point of view we can deal with any waste that comes from nuclear plants," said Graham Fairhall of Nexiasolutions, the research arm of the British Nuclear Group.

But for the green lobby, nuclear waste is an unacceptable legacy, whatever the benefits of nuclear power.

Yes, well, the green lobby doesn't understand nuclear power very well, and they also misinterpret the nuclear accidents that have occurred in the past.

"Nuclear power is dirty, dangerous and expensive," said Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth. "We are only talking seriously about nuclear power again because of climate change. But it is not the answer."

Revealing his almost complete ignorance of nuclear power, we have Tony Juniper waxing ineloquent. Compared with coal power, nuclear power is clean enough for heart surgery.

Environmentalists say the costs of nuclear energy are not clear because of government subsidies and the toxic waste.

Gimme a break! Nuclear energy is vastly cheaper than coal.

The latest estimate on the cost of cleaning up the waste from the last 50 years is 56 billion pounds ($97 billion), Juniper said.

Ignoring breeder reactors, I see.

"There may be technical solutions to dealing with the waste that will be generated, but note that they are still trying to deal with the waste they have already created," he told Reuters.

The British government, which has covered the costs so far, says finance for new reactors must come from the private sector.

An energy review in Britain, which faces a 20 percent power shortfall within a decade as aging nuclear and coal-powered plants shut down, is due to be ready by the middle of the year.


It is not just the high-level waste from fuel rods that has to be dealt with. Intermediate-level waste such as the casings of nuclear fuel rods, and low-level waste such as that produced in hospitals also has to be processed and stored.

The waste in hospitals is negligible. That much radioactivity, due to the hormesis effect, is actually beneficial to human health.

Intermediate waste is chopped up and put in steel barrels that are filled with concrete and stored, while low-level waste is put in steel boxes that are crushed and put in a container, which is then filled with concrete and buried.

Industry experts say high, intermediate or low-level waste does not pose a security risk as one would need industrial-style resources -- like protective gear and surroundings -- to even approach the high-level waste, and the other two forms are either non-retrievable or non-lethal.

Public opinion in Britain is gradually swinging toward accepting nuclear energy to help combat climate change -- 54 percent were in favor according to a poll this year -- despite worries about the waste and security.

But while the nuclear industry says a Chernobyl-scale disaster could not happen here because the technology is different, some of the legacy problems remain a major headache.

They're only a headache because of the public's misconceptions about them.

At Sellafield, 49 years after a fire forced the closure of the Windscale I military reactor, scientists are still trying to work out how to dismantle the chimney-top filter that trapped the radioactive smoke and stopped a nuclear catastrophe.

My father, a former Navy Nuke, could give you chapter and verse about nuclear accidents in the past, and how safe American reactors are, especially Navy reactors which still retain a spotless safety record. Russian designs are pitiful.

This article merely revealed how ignorant the public still is about nuclear power, and how politically motivated the so-called "greens" are. There is very little attempt at objectivity, even if such a thing were possible. The greens are not willing to admit how politically motivated they are.

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At 3/10/2006 02:11:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Don't hold back, Adrian. Tell us all how you really feel about nuclear power ;).

At 3/14/2006 08:19:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Okay, just ignore this until after your oral preliminary examination tomorrow, but I thought I'd ask this while it was in my mind. You really shouldn't be preparing the night before anyway. . . Miss Stacy's orders ;).

Do you know anything about the 1957 film adaptation of Les Miserables? Jean Gabin plays Jean Valjean. It's only $3.99 in the CBD catalog, and I was wondering if you had seen it and liked it. I think I'm going to finally break down and order Calvin's commentaries (Who can resist 22 hardback volumes for $99?), so I'm already going to be placing an order with them.

And yes, I realize this has nothing to do with Nuclear Power ;). I just thought I'd ask on your most recent post. . .

At 3/14/2006 11:18:00 PM , Blogger B.S.W said...

Hi Adrian, I found your blog through your brother Lane's blog. Thanks again for teaching me some chess moves at Arne's house. Have fun finishing up your degree this spring. Take care.

At 3/19/2006 05:20:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Bert.

Ja, I remember you. Good to hear from you. I'll do my best with the whole degree thingy. Committee says I'm dreaming, but advisor thinks I might pull it off. Here's to hoping!

Have fun with all your gigs!

Reply to Susan. There are no good movie versions of Les Mis. Period. Hate to say it, but there it is. Les Mis has so many threads going every which way, and Hugo ties them all together at the end. The only way to do justice to all that would be to have a 12-hour mini-series or something. A movie that is two hours long will not do justice to the book, by definition! I'm not an ultra-purist on most things, but on that book I am. So enjoy the book, and re-read it for even more enjoyment. :-)

In Christ.

At 3/20/2006 08:50:00 AM , Blogger Susan said...

That's a pity that there are no good movie versions of Les Mis. What is your opinion of the musical?

I am a huge proponent of reading the book first, but I admit that I do like to afterwards see a movie version, as it does help to draw things together. That was the case with the 1995 A&E Pride and Prejudice; it made me appreciate the story and the book all the more and helped me familiarize myself with the time period.

Currently I don't think I have time to reread Les Mis, but I do hope to this summer or fall. I am one who benefits from a second read to draw everything together. I am almost done reading it for the first time, but my mom laughs when I say that about a book; she says it's like when a professional basketball game has one minute left on the clock, and it is stretched into 30 minutes by time outs, fouls, etc. I stop to copy down and ruminate over passages quite a bit ;).

Hey, I wouldn't mind a 12-hour mini-series! Since getting into period films, I've been known to say that a good movie must be at least 3 or 4 hours long, of course exaggerating quit a bit ;).

I am somewhat of a purist when it comes to film adaptations, which is why I did not think the new P&P did the story justice (I finally got to see it this weekend), though it was much better than anticipated. The panoramic view of the Bennets' lives, Meryton, Pemberley, London, and Britain was just missing. I felt like I was looking through a small lens, and I'm not talking about the filming techniques. Frankly, I would have been very confused had I not already been very familiar with the story. I think Charlotte, Lydia, and Jane were more appropriately cast, and there were some other improvements I saw, but overall it's just hard to beat A&E. There isn't the same delightful feeling that one gets from either the book or the A&E version, and Lizzy's and Darcy's relationship doesn't develop as it as I had hoped. It definitely beat the Sir Lawrence Olivier version, but that wasn't hard to do ;).

Suggestion: Shall we TIOC all previous posts that have been hanging on for the past month (excepting this post, which is still alive)? We both are recovering from some busy weeks, and I see no need to leave threads dangling, unless you object :).

At 3/21/2006 02:48:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

*reviews previous comment and notices one omission*

(This is why I usually outline my comments, as I am apt to forget things.)

I meant to ask you how your oral preliminary examination went, though I gather from your comment to Bert that it didn't go extremely well :(. I'm glad your advisor is optimistic, though.

At 3/22/2006 11:24:00 AM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

My opinion of the musical? Well, it's got some really great music, but the story is even farther away from the book than the movie versions are.

Ja, you want to take your time with the ending of Les Mis. Savor it. There's so much great stuff there!

The new P&P had some real strengths, I think. Lizzy was amazing; I think her Oscar nomination was deserved. Jane was very well cast indeed. In fact, this is the only version I know of where Jane is pretty much universally acknowledged to be prettier than Lizzy, a point of no small importance in the book.

Hard to beat A&E, hum? Try the BBC! That's the one starring Elizabeth Garvie and David Rintoul. Everyone in my family prefers the BBC to the A&E, though they also acknowledge the excellence of the A&E. Most everyone in my family thinks the following characters are best done in the BBC: Mr. Collins (unquestionably the best), Mr. Bennet, Mrs. Bennet.

The Lawrence Olivier version is awful, I agree. A feminist Lizzy? Give me a break!

Agreed to TIOC all previous threads; it was more than I could track!

My oral preliminary exam went well, actually. I see that my comment to Bert misled you, for the very simple reason that I worded it very poorly. I passed, no question. And that's really the only important thing. When I said the committee thought I was dreaming, that was in the context of the idea of finishing this summer some time. So my committee does not think I'll finish then, but Dr. Klaus, my advisor, is still optimistic about finishing then. I think I will finish, if the Lord does not see fit to throw an enormous and unnatural wrench in the works. The only question is when; I hope that clears up the confusion.

In Christ.

At 3/22/2006 09:54:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

Hmmm, Keira Knightley was okay as Lizzy, but amazing? She was rather annoying in parts, imo. Her response to Darcy after his first proposal was so snippy and more forward and uncontrolled than in the book. She had Lizzy's fire without all of her sparkle and wit. Perhaps I'd feel different after a second viewing.

Yes, one reason I liked Rosamund Pike better as Jane was for that very reason. She was obviously prettier, as the case should be. Another similar "point of no small importance" in the book that was missing in the new version was Darcy's successive assessments of Lizzy's looks. What happened to her "fine eyes"?

Yes, I did like the BBC version very much, though I still prefer A&E. The portrayals of the characters you mentioned are not surpassed in other versions :), I agree. Mr. Collins, especially, is just perfectly portrayed. He becames more odious with each viewing. *shiver* And the music in the A&E version is just beautiful.

Well, I'm glad I misunderstood your comment to Bert :). I hope you can finish earlier, rather than later. I know I was just itching to be finished with my degree, and I only completed one :).

At 3/26/2006 03:33:00 PM , Blogger Adrian C. Keister said...

One of my favorite Mr. Collins quotes in the BBC version is when Lizzy goes to his house after he marries Charlotte, and Lizzy says, "And you have not changed, Mr. Collins." Mr. Collins replies, "What benefit would there be in alteration, Cousin Eliza?" Talk about pomposity!

Well, I understand the new P&P is not perfect. I think it's good, though. Let me see: nuclear power to P&P. Another twist of knowledge I'm not sure I can figure out. *smiles*

In Christ.

At 3/26/2006 07:08:00 PM , Blogger Susan said...

I don't remember that Mr. Collins quote from the BBC version (having only seen it once), but it does do well in encompassing his egotistical nature. I can't imagine uttering such a statement, even if I thought it about myself! I certainly am glad that I'm not the person I was a few months ago, or a few years ago, or a decade ago. That is the benefit of being a child of God - continual (though often slow) sanctification.


Okay, the P&P twist was not even remotely related to nuclear power, but usually our tangents have connections. You may remember that I said And yes, I realize this has nothing to do with Nuclear Power ;). I just thought I'd ask on your most recent post. . . when I asked you about Les Mis, which eventually led to P&P.

Well, though I have problems with the new P&P, certainly no adaptation is perfect. I even liked it well enough to "subtly" suggest it to Sister Dear as a birthday present idea, so I must not like it all that horribly ;). I am rather severe on film adaptations - particularly for books I love - after a first viewing.


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