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By Sherry Listgarten

Some of your comments on nuclear energy

Uploaded: Jun 28, 2020

This is not a normal blog post but instead a selection of your comments on nuclear energy. Often the comments on a blog post devolve into an argument about nuclear energy. Rather than prohibit such conversations, and rather than allow the comments on a post to go so off-topic and become so repetitive, I am creating a place for those arguments to occur. Here readers can review what’s already been said about nuclear energy and add new perspectives and/or links to reputable references.

Some of these have been lightly edited for conciseness or clarity. Most are from different individuals. There were many anti-nuclear comments that said essentially the same thing, namely that building reactors in the US is cost-prohibitive. Most seemed to be written by the same person. I did not include most of them, as they were redundant. Partly as a result, there are more pro-nuclear comments than anti-nuclear comments below. On the posts themselves, they were more on par.

If you are looking for something a little less home-grown, you might take a look at this writeup by Stanford Professor Mark Jacobson (against nuclear) and this writeup by writer, environmentalist, and nuclear spokesperson Michael Shellenberger (pro nuclear).

“I find myself tentatively in support of a return to nuclear because of its low maintenance, high-availability and super-low operating costs, and of course zero-carbon.”

“The key issue is how to accommodate the public's ever decreasing tolerance for risk.” (The poster was saying this is also true with renewable hydrogen.)

“Take nuclear power; it definitely has advantages for greenhouse gases and energy independence. However, there are inherent risks to using it. Some argue they're overblown, some are authentically concerned about the very long half-life of some of the radioactive materials. I'm not sure; I don't like nuclear reactors in an earthquake zone- pretty sure of that.”

“I had a Chemistry professor in college who argued in favor of nuclear power. He was a staunch environmentalist and often used the classroom to share his thoughts on the matter. He said that the irony was that the biggest opponents of nuclear power were his fellow environmentalists.”

“Nuclear plants take 15 years to build and cost $10-15 billion per (at least, there isn't a recent example to gauge how ridiculously over-budget they would be IRL.) What could we get for ten billion in renewables, ready to go in a year or two, versus waiting 15 years for the first drip from a nuclear plant? Add in improving renewable and storage technology over those 15 years, and the risk, plus storage for thousands of years, plus huge decommissioning problems, etc... Nuclear is a pipe dream.”

“Nuclear power plants cannot be throttled very quickly. While that energy might not be on the grid per se, the excess energy may be given off as heat.”

“Based upon my decade and a half of relatively painful learning curve, we can't get there without nuclear power. We only have a decade to reduce global emissions by 15-20 Gigatons of CO2, according to the IPCC. Yet, because of growing demand, especially in developing nations, we are adding coal and gas capacity. To my mind, anyone who cares about the climate but is standing around allowing Diablo Canyon or any other nuclear power plant to be closed before we have shuttered all of the fossil generation, is virtue signalling and unfortunately, that includes all of Palo Alto, Berkeley (except for the crew at Environmental Progress) and most all environmentalists. According to Dr. James Hansen, the IPCC, The Nature Conservancy, the Union of Concerned Scientists and many others, how we handle nuclear power going forward will determine our fate. This was the surprise finding of my search . . . our best technological energy solution is supported by the experts but not those we think of as our environmental leaders.”

“Too expensive and too slow to get up to operation. Op/ed from 2 days ago: "The World Nuclear Industry Status Report succinctly sums up the situation while sounding the death knell for nuclear: "Stabilising the climate is urgent, nuclear power is slow. It meets no technical or operational need that these low-carbon competitors cannot meet better, cheaper, and faster." We must implement renewables quickly, and doing so will continue to drive costs down. The demand for battery innovation will continue in it's 'hockey-stick' phase and new storage solutions will be implemented this decade. As has been pointed out by others, a crash program for new nukes wouldn't generate it's first watt for a decade.”

“I can't say it better than how The Nature Conservancy said it: "In order to both meet increased energy demand and keep the climate in safe boundaries, we’ll need to alter our energy makeup to curtail emissions of carbon and other harmful chemicals. The reduction in carbon-based energy could be offset by increasing the share of energy from renewable sources to 54 percent and increasing nuclear energy to one third of total energy output—delivering a total of almost 85 percent of the world’s energy demand from non-fossil-fuel sources." (See the section titled "A Changing Energy Portfolio" at: We no longer have the luxury of time and wind and solar are growing as fast as possible, but have not succeeded in closing fossil fuel plants. Nor stemming our continued global emissions growth. From what I have seen, they are not even keeping up with new energy demand. We need a way to rapidly replace fossil fuel generation, which has been holding steady at 81% of global energy. Why should we choose to limit our technology options, when new nuclear power can help close fossil fuel plants? If you don't remember, France made the decision to get off of fossil fuels after the Oil Embargo of the 1970s and was able to convert their grid to 70% nuclear power, close all their fossil fuel generation in about a decade and a half. No other clean technology has ever scaled that quickly. As a result, France has one of the cleanest grids, with their nuclear working together with hydro, wind and solar for almost 90% clean energy today. Today, battery technology gets us nowhere. We are paying for large renewable plants but, because these are totally intermittent, we are also paying for natural gas to kick in as much as 70% for solar and 60% for wind of the "name-plate" capacity. In addition to those two duplicative capital expenditures, people are also now planning large battery back-up systems, which are still economically impractical. … Regarding price, in 1977, solar cells had achieved about 10% efficiency cost $74 a kilowatt: today they are up to about 35% efficiency and cost a few bucks a kilowatt. How did the price come down? The application of advanced technologies and low-cost, high-quantity mass production (with zero environmental protection) in China. This is a standard cost-reduction curve. Nuclear is actually not inherently more expensive, especially when you consider its 92% capacity factor and incredible reliability. But it is 1970s technology, which has had several generations of safety upgrades applied. So, despite being uber safe now, it gets no credit for this. Fortunately, the advanced designs coming down the pike will be smaller, modular and mass produced using 21st century technology, so the likely costs for installation of 4th generation systems will also come down by several factors. Meanwhile, I hear that nuclear efficiency may increase by 30 times (which contrasts substantially with solar's improvements). Thus, a system that uses nuclear means we avoid a triple investment in just getting reliable energy and we could invest instead in integrating a range of important "climate services" like water desalination, hydrogen production or carbon sequestration.”

"From Wiki on the two plants under construction in Georgia "Two additional units utilizing Westinghouse AP1000 reactors are under construction. The units have suffered several delays and cost overruns. The certified construction & capital costs incurred by Georgia Power for these two new units were originally $14 billion…. In 2018 costs were estimated to be about $25 billion…. The costs on the first two units started in 1976: "During Vogtle’s first two units construction, capital investment required jumped from an estimated $660 million to $8.87 billion.""

“Well, since it is already operating, I prefer it to natural-gas generation. But, I'm not convinced of its safety wrt tsunami threats. I would like to see it phased out.”

“But even though some technologies are already there the social, economic and political systems often keep them from being used. An uncomfortable example of this might be nuclear power. The nature of the choices we have, and the cost-benefit analyses we use, with a citizenry that does not understand business or science divides us and leads to conflict and inequality.”

“Mark Jacobson, a professor at Stanford has shown that the world can be powered by wind solar and water and we don't need nuclear power to combat climate change: As was mentioned above, the waste and cost issues just have not been addressed. Add to this the long lead time and we are wasting time moving forward now with less expensive solar and wind.”

“The biggest accomplishment that we as a community can make is to convince our state government to Keep the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Operating!!! ... If Palo Alto is serious about converting to totally electric power, then it should be demanding that Diablo Canyon stays open.”

“We have to embrace the use of nuclear power. Where else can we produce huge amounts of reliable electricity with zero greenhouse gases? Some people think it's too risky, but, if the consequences of global warming is as dire as the experts claim, then we should accept the relatively small risks associated with nuclear power. The disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima have turned people against nuclear power, but, consider this. The exclusion zones around these former nuclear power plants encompass about 2,000 square miles. The predicted catastrophic effects of global warming will harm the entire surface of the planet, approximately 196,900,000 square miles.”

“How clean is it? You want the waste stored here in Palo Alto? You may want to ask the folks in the Ukraine, and downwind through eastern Europe and into Germany about clean nuclear power. … Another significant cost is the private insurance company premiums. Oh, wait... insurance companies will NOT insure nukes. Too dangerous/expensive a proposition. So it requires a government intrusion - corporate welfare. Even with government bailouts/corporate welfare, no one even wants to build them anyway. … Might as well just subsidize renewables.”

“I really don't understand why people are so opposed to Nuclear power as a clean alternative. It has been used very successfully in Europe for decades without incident (except for Russia which was foreseeable given how they handled things then).”

“As long as there are adequate cooling facilities, nuke power is the way to go! The entire world's submarine fleets can't be all that wrong.”

“Hoping new nuke tech will evolve rapidly and decline in costs? It really hasn't in years. Remember fusion? Renewables and storage are in the opposite place - they're in the 'hockey-stick' phase of technology growth and cost reductions. We have to move rapidly. I choose the side of the coin that says 'renewables'.”

“I used to oppose nuclear power because of the waste issue. But I've realized that placing nuclear waste in isolated managed repositories is far preferable to disposing CO2 into the atmosphere. And, wishful predictions notwithstanding, we're going to need substantial carbon-free sources to supplement wind and solar for a very long time. Nuclear is the only candidate.”

“Personally speaking, I am somewhat apprehensive of anything nuclear. A nuclear reactor would also have to be sesmically & meteorologically safe. This is difficult to ensure as Mother Nature tends to trump human designs on a whim.”

“People in the US need to get over their irrational fear of nuclear energy. It has a far smaller footprint than any other method of energy production per kilowatt hour of energy produced, it is clean, renewable, much less expensive, and is not subject to the wild fluctuations of solar, wind or hydro. If the French build it ( and I'm not a huge fan of the French), they can put one in my backyard.”

“Just for fun - let's look at some of the disastrous business side of nukes, from the wayback machine - Forbes, 1985 article states: "The failure of the U.S. nuclear power program ranks as the largest managerial disaster in business history, a disaster on a monumental scale ... only the blind, or the biased, can now think that the money has been well spent. It is a defeat for the U.S. consumer and for the competitiveness of U.S. industry, for the utilities that undertook the program and for the private enterprise system that made it possible." Ring up the folks at Westinghouse's reactor business and ask - how'd it work out?”

“Would having something along the lines of a mini-nuclear reactor in each home help to reduce and/or defray energy costs? A colleague of mine from China said that they could manufacture these small-scale reactors cost-effectively but procuring the refined plutonium would be the tricky part due to the cost & terrorism threat/potential.”

“Regarding the cost and construction of nuclear plants, are you seriously suggesting that the French can do something that the US can't? Our economy dwarfs that of all of Europe put together. I'm pretty sure we could do it if the politicians don't create unnecessary and ridiculous problems that increase costs…. If North Korea and Iran can have nuclear power, why can't we?”

“One doesn't need a brigade of cops to patrol the perimeter of wind turbines against terrorists.”

“The planet is at stake and people dither over 80's-era cost effectiveness analyses. And that is how the world ended, on a balance sheet. It didn't pencil out. BTW, what's the price of a new planet?”

“When was the last nuclear plant built in under 15 years?”

“We could build a couple nukes in the middle of nowhere. But build 30? Interesting notion. 12 billion over ten years for each would also buy a lot of wind turbines. Generating a lot, a lot quicker.”

“"Plutonium-239 has a half-life of 24,000 years." What's the half-life of a heat-dead planet? Has Venus cooled any since I last looked? … We got bookoo tons of that Pu stuff hanging around right now already today. … The solutions for the future Pu are the same solutions for the present Pu: Burn it in reactors for carbon-free energy, or stow it underground.”

“We need to embrace nuclear energy as our main power source. Nuclear energy is the cleanest, most cost and energy effective power source on the planet. Do not instantly close your mind to this energy source. Much of the negative information you think you might know about using nuclear technology is just plain wrong. Much has been promulgated by the fossil fuel industry and people/industries with particular axes to grind. The links below, particularly "Roadmap to Nowhere" will give you accurate information on Nuclear as an energy source, and the legion of short and long-term problems with wind and solar. Please look at the links below: Roadmap to Nowhere - The Myth of Powering the Nation with Renewable Energy
Molten Salt Reactors - cheap, reliable, CO2-free electric power, now. Thorium Energy Alliance - Much information about Thorium and the molten salt reactor technology”

“A combination of wind, solar PV, batteries, and hydro, is probably cheaper in the West and South/Southeast, than nuclear, when you factor in all the "security" costs of nuclear. Check out the chart on the bottom of this "industry" report: But, I am willing to concede that for the upper midwest, nuclear looks like it might be the cheapest option, although advanced combined cycle (gas turbine+steam generator)+Carbon-Capture is competitive with nuclear, and which I prefer. People also should realize that the fixed costs of the common electrical grid are fairly high, and, about the same regardless of sources: Nuclear has issues. Everybody watched "The China Syndrome", and now is "Chernobyl", but what people should be studying are the documentaries about Fukushima. The sequence of events fits the scenarios regarding this type of configuration that environmentalists always worried about. Figure the probabilities and add that to the cost of nuclear.”

"A combination of wind, solar PV, batteries, and hydro? Hope is a good thing, but we have 60 years real experience that nuclear works, even in cloudy weather and at night and when the wind isn't blowing. And remember that batteries go dead when supplying energy. … It isn't the probabilities; it's the product of the probabilities and the Fear Factor. I bet that, if nuclear mishaps were as common as auto or bicycle mishaps, nobody would pay much attention to them. But unfortunately for nuclear power prospects, nuclear mishaps are rare.”

"Help me understand the compelling advantage of sinking ten trillion smackaroos into a power grid wholly dependent on the vagaries of nature, versus investing the same amount in a technology proven to yield a steady reliable controllable energy flow.”

“We cavalierly throw around costs of 10 billion or twenty billion without blinking, for a single plant. Even costs for closing plants: decommissioning costs in the billions, deconstruction costs in the billions. San Onofre closing costs: $8-10 billion Add to the safety costs of storing materials at a closed nuclear plant on a beach near San Diego: "Cost of a major release at San Onofre could top $xx trillion, scientists say" "The second study said Edison’s plan to transfer 3.6 million pounds of spent fuel from cooling pools into steel-lined canisters planted along the beach is “fatally flawed” due to its location, technology and management." Almost 4 million pounds of storage on a SoCal beach, because we don't have a cheaper solution for storage.”

“If we found a design, with safeguards, and I agree that is the question, the issue, then mass producing them the cost comes way down, as does the cost to operate. The world has had in the last 40 years ( since Three Mile Island ) 3 major counting TMI, which really was not major, nuclear accidents. Chernobyl and Fukushima. The fatalities from these accidents sadly cannot be objectively evaluated against the fatalities from coal and oil, nor the costs in terms of military preparedness to keep world oil flowing. The fear of nuclear still makes rational discussion almost impossible.”

“If we renounce nuclear we will be giving up a technology that we invented and developed... Right now we are close to the leaders of the world in nuclear technology. How many technologies can we just throw to China and other countries and still retain the illusion of being a world leader?”

“I think it is important to push to research, develop and roll out new nuclear technologies and to realize we will probably still have accidents. I could very well be wrong but I don't think future nuclear accidents with these new technologies and plants will have disasters like Chernobyl or Fukushima - but there is no guarantee. We have had nuclear working since 1958, and worldwide there have been two major awful accidents --- in 60 years. That is really not so bad. What did we have with oil ... that I can remember ... Exxon Valdez BP Gulf oil spill Thousands of cancers along the Southern Mississippi cancer alley I think it is called from petrochemical plants and refineries. Megatons of CO2 burned off from venting gas, and I think on the order of thousands of oil spills.”

“From an op-ed: “The South Carolina companies building two of the reactors canceled the project in 2017, after spending $9 BILLION (my emphasis) of their customers’ money without producing a single electron of power. The construction company behind the utilities, Westinghouse, went bankrupt, almost destroying its parent company, the global conglomerate Toshiba. The other two reactors are still under construction in Georgia and years behind schedule. Their cost has ballooned from $14 billion to $28 BILLION and continues to grow. History shows that the expense involved in nuclear power will never change.” from 2019”

“On Nuclear, I'm surprised that nobody mentioned the Bill Gates supported venture to create inherently safer nuclear power plants. That sounds very interesting.”

“Modern nuclear reactors are designed for a minimum operational lifetime of 60 years (extendible to 100+ years), compared to the 40 years (extendible to 60+ years) that older reactors were designed for. --- Even what seems like an excessive cost overrun amortized OVER 60 YEARS is not significant and certainly not in itself the deciding factor as to whether nuclear is economic or not”

“It's not my domain, but I'm wondering if highly distributed, smaller, and many more nuclear reactors, made safer, and more cost-effective, would address the power production and distribution problems. Our antagonism to nuclear power stems from prior disasters and enormous cost over-runs. But, moving away from fossil fuel for ever-increasing energy demands is a challenge that renewables (solar and wind) can't totally meet by themselves”

“The distributed 24/7 zero-carbon-emissions compact generator solution has existed for almost seven decades: naval boiling water reactors in the hundred-megawatt class. There has never been an incident with the hundreds of US Navy reactors that have been operated.”

“You're using, as an example of cost savings, THE FRIGGIN' MILITARY, the last place where one would hear the phrase "cost efficient." The one place in the world where money is no object.”

“The first transistor was not cost-efficient….The first solar panels were not cheap, and even today they need subsidies to be deployed. Solar only works for about 1/3 of the day, a 33% uptime, and the cost and toxicity of batteries is a worry. Nuclear is over 90% uptime available.”

“why is it that tsunamis are a huge factor when it comes to nuclear, but there is absolutely no thought given to a scenario of us being majorly dependent on wind power generation and then a tsunami hits and a substantial source of power is gone just as it is most needed?”

“Cost of nuclear? First, take TEN BILLION DOLLARS and put a match to it. Then put aside another TEN BILLION DOLLARS and keep it in reserve for decommissioning and cleaning up any nuclear plant. ... Example: San Onofre in LA - construction costs $10.7 billion in 2018 dollars. (wiki) Decom/shutdown costs: "The $4.7 billion in early shutdown costs are in addition to what it will cost to “decommission,” or tear down, San Onfore. Decommissioning costs are pegged at $4.4 billion. " (OCregister)”

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