Going nuclear?

This article surveys our energy problems and the global food and starvation crisis caused to a major extent by the biofuel fiasco. The solution the article lifts up is nuclear energy! It does not pollute the air like other fuels. It is pretty much inexhaustible. And yet, people fear it irrationally. A nuclear power plant does NOT set off an atom bomb. It’s not like on the Simpsons, generating three eyed fish and irradiating the community. The radiation can be managed pretty easily.

Do you buy that argument, that environmentalists, in blocking the building of new nuclear energy plants, are harming the environment?

Or can another case be made against nuclear energy, that it violates the basic building block of matter in a profoundly unnatural and so immoral way?

At any rate, when the left ridicules President Bush, pro-lifers, creationists, and social conservatives in general for being “anti-science”–whether their stances are valid or not– can we include anti-nuclear activists in that group?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Chris H.

    Let’s take this one, or two, steps further. What about small nuclear engines in airplanes? Or even in cars? The major argument against this would be radiation after crashes, but if the black box can survive, certainly we can build an engine that would not leak radiation in the event of tragedy. We already use nuclear reactors to power naval vessels, and they can go decades without refueling. Nuclear is the way to go, forget hybrids, or biofuels, or hydrogen; we have a proven and safe energy source, just ask the Navy.

  • Chris H.

    Let’s take this one, or two, steps further. What about small nuclear engines in airplanes? Or even in cars? The major argument against this would be radiation after crashes, but if the black box can survive, certainly we can build an engine that would not leak radiation in the event of tragedy. We already use nuclear reactors to power naval vessels, and they can go decades without refueling. Nuclear is the way to go, forget hybrids, or biofuels, or hydrogen; we have a proven and safe energy source, just ask the Navy.

  • Bob Hunter

    I worked in a power plant for 22 years and I’m all for nuclear. Environmentalists and “global warming” advocates are costing this country a fortune.

  • Bob Hunter

    I worked in a power plant for 22 years and I’m all for nuclear. Environmentalists and “global warming” advocates are costing this country a fortune.

  • saddler

    Environmentalists cite the problem of nuclear waste. It does add up after awhile. They may have a point, but this is likely a fixable problem. Scientists could well eventually find a safe way to store it or, better yet, some use for it.

  • saddler

    Environmentalists cite the problem of nuclear waste. It does add up after awhile. They may have a point, but this is likely a fixable problem. Scientists could well eventually find a safe way to store it or, better yet, some use for it.

  • WebMonk

    “Or can another case be made against nuclear energy, that it violates the basic building block of matter in a profoundly unnatural and so immoral way?”

    Was that a serious question, or just an example of the dumbest concern possible? Splitting or fusing atoms is somehow unnatural and immoral? Atoms are the basic building block of matter? There are so many problems with that I would hardly know where to begin.

  • WebMonk

    “Or can another case be made against nuclear energy, that it violates the basic building block of matter in a profoundly unnatural and so immoral way?”

    Was that a serious question, or just an example of the dumbest concern possible? Splitting or fusing atoms is somehow unnatural and immoral? Atoms are the basic building block of matter? There are so many problems with that I would hardly know where to begin.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Actually, the biggest disadvantage in small nuclear reactors isn’t what happens when you crash. It’s “how do you get enough energy out of it to have it propel not only you, but also the 6″ thick lead shell around it, so the radiation doesn’t kill you?”

    Oh, and that lead shell needs to surround a stainless steel shell, or else the heat melts the lead and you have no shielding whatsoever. In other words, the 3000 ton displacement of the Nautilus is about as low as you want to go if you want nuclear power on something that moves. Hard to do that in a car, plane, or train.

    I’m actually troubled by “what happens with nuclear waste,” as the half-life of uranium is an awfully long time, and the best solution I’m aware of, breeder reactors, seems to be something of an open invitation to the terrorist nutcases of the world–come and get your dirty nukes here!

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Actually, the biggest disadvantage in small nuclear reactors isn’t what happens when you crash. It’s “how do you get enough energy out of it to have it propel not only you, but also the 6″ thick lead shell around it, so the radiation doesn’t kill you?”

    Oh, and that lead shell needs to surround a stainless steel shell, or else the heat melts the lead and you have no shielding whatsoever. In other words, the 3000 ton displacement of the Nautilus is about as low as you want to go if you want nuclear power on something that moves. Hard to do that in a car, plane, or train.

    I’m actually troubled by “what happens with nuclear waste,” as the half-life of uranium is an awfully long time, and the best solution I’m aware of, breeder reactors, seems to be something of an open invitation to the terrorist nutcases of the world–come and get your dirty nukes here!

  • Anon

    Ethanol production is taking a maximum of 15% of the dent corn production in Minnesota, if projections on new distillery production hold firm. That corn is used for livestock feed, and the left-over mash is -better- quality livestock feed.

    Wheat and oats are *not* being turned into ethanol.

    There has, however, been drought in Australia, and who knows what is happening in communist-occupied mainland China, Tibet, Turkestan, Inner Mongolia and Manchuria?

    I don’t know who the interests are who are attacking ethanol production or the future possibility of biodiesel, but it certainly isn’t due to food costs or availability.

    It takes a lot of petroleum to produce, refine and ship food. And food stocks are speculated on in the market, just as oil stocks are. Look there for the likely reasons. Follow the money.

  • Anon

    Ethanol production is taking a maximum of 15% of the dent corn production in Minnesota, if projections on new distillery production hold firm. That corn is used for livestock feed, and the left-over mash is -better- quality livestock feed.

    Wheat and oats are *not* being turned into ethanol.

    There has, however, been drought in Australia, and who knows what is happening in communist-occupied mainland China, Tibet, Turkestan, Inner Mongolia and Manchuria?

    I don’t know who the interests are who are attacking ethanol production or the future possibility of biodiesel, but it certainly isn’t due to food costs or availability.

    It takes a lot of petroleum to produce, refine and ship food. And food stocks are speculated on in the market, just as oil stocks are. Look there for the likely reasons. Follow the money.

  • Anon

    Atomic energy -is- safe and clean compared to the other available options for multiple 10s of gigawatts.

    Chernobyl #2 was a Manhattan Project-era design, involving massive amounts of flamable carbon, which is what caught fire and burned during the use of that reactor in scientific experiments on the reactor itself.

    Modern reactors are -much- -much- safer, and if you use breeders, you can make more fuel than you use. If we could change the laws to be allowed to refine the spent rods, we’d gain even -more- fuel. That which could not be used, can be dumped in oceanic trenches to be subducted below the Earth’s crust.

    Hydrogen fuel is about -storing- the energy from the reactors. A sort of chemical battery via fuel cell.

    On half-life: the more radioactive a substance is, the shorter its half-life. The longer the half-life, the lower the radiation of energy. It is physics, conservation of energy.

    You don’t have to have a reactor, you can also use the heat from plutonium to provide electrical power. It is considerably less efficient, but it is small enough for spacecraft, and when the Apollo 13 lander re-entered the atomosphere, carrying several of these, there was no radiation release, no breach of containment, and IIRC, the fuel cells were recovered and reused in a later mission.

    Then there is the possibility of halfnium quantum batteries. Also charged up by reactors.

    I would propose that any radioactive waste that is not more radioactive than living in Colorado, or in a basement, be considered ‘safe’.

    Dr. Veith, was that a joke, or do you not know what happens in the stars the LORD created?

  • Anon

    Atomic energy -is- safe and clean compared to the other available options for multiple 10s of gigawatts.

    Chernobyl #2 was a Manhattan Project-era design, involving massive amounts of flamable carbon, which is what caught fire and burned during the use of that reactor in scientific experiments on the reactor itself.

    Modern reactors are -much- -much- safer, and if you use breeders, you can make more fuel than you use. If we could change the laws to be allowed to refine the spent rods, we’d gain even -more- fuel. That which could not be used, can be dumped in oceanic trenches to be subducted below the Earth’s crust.

    Hydrogen fuel is about -storing- the energy from the reactors. A sort of chemical battery via fuel cell.

    On half-life: the more radioactive a substance is, the shorter its half-life. The longer the half-life, the lower the radiation of energy. It is physics, conservation of energy.

    You don’t have to have a reactor, you can also use the heat from plutonium to provide electrical power. It is considerably less efficient, but it is small enough for spacecraft, and when the Apollo 13 lander re-entered the atomosphere, carrying several of these, there was no radiation release, no breach of containment, and IIRC, the fuel cells were recovered and reused in a later mission.

    Then there is the possibility of halfnium quantum batteries. Also charged up by reactors.

    I would propose that any radioactive waste that is not more radioactive than living in Colorado, or in a basement, be considered ‘safe’.

    Dr. Veith, was that a joke, or do you not know what happens in the stars the LORD created?

  • Joe

    “Wheat and oats are *not* being turned into ethanol.”

    True, but land that used to support wheat and oats are being turned into cornfields and other crops more suited to bio diesel. Even the UN has recognized this.

    But it is not the only cause of increased food prices but it is a major cause. It is not a coincidence that the price of corn tortillas in Mexico has gone up so much that there has been several riots.

    But there are other problems: logical and political. One of the other problems causing grain prices to rise was a determination by the Ukrainian gov’t to put a cap on grain exports. They want the price kept high because they are trying to shore up their ag market. The Ukraine is the 6th largest exporter of grain in the world. These quotas actually lead to grain rotting in storage last year and reduced the over all world supply. In addition they lead producers to switch to other crops not covered by the quotas. Thankfully, the quotas were lifted yesterday. This should help prevent the food prices from going to high.

  • Joe

    “Wheat and oats are *not* being turned into ethanol.”

    True, but land that used to support wheat and oats are being turned into cornfields and other crops more suited to bio diesel. Even the UN has recognized this.

    But it is not the only cause of increased food prices but it is a major cause. It is not a coincidence that the price of corn tortillas in Mexico has gone up so much that there has been several riots.

    But there are other problems: logical and political. One of the other problems causing grain prices to rise was a determination by the Ukrainian gov’t to put a cap on grain exports. They want the price kept high because they are trying to shore up their ag market. The Ukraine is the 6th largest exporter of grain in the world. These quotas actually lead to grain rotting in storage last year and reduced the over all world supply. In addition they lead producers to switch to other crops not covered by the quotas. Thankfully, the quotas were lifted yesterday. This should help prevent the food prices from going to high.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    “It’s not like on the Simpsons, … irradiating the community.” Well, ideally, it’s not. In practice, this has happened, right?

    “Do you buy that argument, that environmentalists, in blocking the building of new nuclear energy plants, are harming the environment?” The article you cite doesn’t make this argument, so it’s hard to evalute it. I picked the first environmental group that came to mind — the Sierra Club — and looked into what they think about nuclear. Seems like their official policies (which are from the mid-80s or earlier; I can only assume they’re still in effect) oppose new reactors mainly pending government policies “to curb energy over-use” and “resolution of the significant safety problems inherent in reactor operation, disposal of spent fuels, and possible diversion of nuclear materials capable of use in weapons manufacture.”

    In contrast to that policy is a 2007 article from the Sierra Club magazine that begins:

    Al Gore, The Sierra Club, and environmentalists everywhere suddenly have a new best friend when it comes to fighting global warming: the nuclear industry. Helping to frame nuclear power as the solution to climate change is the industry-funded Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, headed by Greenpeace cofounder Patrick Moore and former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman.

    The article goes on to note the aforementioned problems of the industry, before saying that:

    In the end, it’s not environmentalists wearing “No Nukes” buttons who have prevented any new reactor from being ordered in this country since 1978; it’s Wall Street. Even with enormous subsidies from the Department of Energy and a taxpayer-funded shield from liability for major accidents through the Price-Anderson Act, no private utility has committed to building a new plant. Why? Because virtually every other form of power is cheaper and less risky. As Peter Bradford, a former member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told the New York Times: “The abiding lesson that Three Mile Island taught Wall Street was that a group of NRC-licensed reactor operators, as good as any others, could turn a $2 billion asset into a $1 billion cleanup job in about 90 minutes.”

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    “It’s not like on the Simpsons, … irradiating the community.” Well, ideally, it’s not. In practice, this has happened, right?

    “Do you buy that argument, that environmentalists, in blocking the building of new nuclear energy plants, are harming the environment?” The article you cite doesn’t make this argument, so it’s hard to evalute it. I picked the first environmental group that came to mind — the Sierra Club — and looked into what they think about nuclear. Seems like their official policies (which are from the mid-80s or earlier; I can only assume they’re still in effect) oppose new reactors mainly pending government policies “to curb energy over-use” and “resolution of the significant safety problems inherent in reactor operation, disposal of spent fuels, and possible diversion of nuclear materials capable of use in weapons manufacture.”

    In contrast to that policy is a 2007 article from the Sierra Club magazine that begins:

    Al Gore, The Sierra Club, and environmentalists everywhere suddenly have a new best friend when it comes to fighting global warming: the nuclear industry. Helping to frame nuclear power as the solution to climate change is the industry-funded Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, headed by Greenpeace cofounder Patrick Moore and former EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman.

    The article goes on to note the aforementioned problems of the industry, before saying that:

    In the end, it’s not environmentalists wearing “No Nukes” buttons who have prevented any new reactor from being ordered in this country since 1978; it’s Wall Street. Even with enormous subsidies from the Department of Energy and a taxpayer-funded shield from liability for major accidents through the Price-Anderson Act, no private utility has committed to building a new plant. Why? Because virtually every other form of power is cheaper and less risky. As Peter Bradford, a former member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told the New York Times: “The abiding lesson that Three Mile Island taught Wall Street was that a group of NRC-licensed reactor operators, as good as any others, could turn a $2 billion asset into a $1 billion cleanup job in about 90 minutes.”

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Anon (@6), “Wheat and oats are not being turned into ethanol.” Do you mean in the U.S.? Wheat is certainly being used for ethanol in Canada, and they’re building such plants in the U.K.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Anon (@6), “Wheat and oats are not being turned into ethanol.” Do you mean in the U.S.? Wheat is certainly being used for ethanol in Canada, and they’re building such plants in the U.K.

  • allen

    Theoretically, rail gun technology could be used to launch radioactive waste into the sun.

  • allen

    Theoretically, rail gun technology could be used to launch radioactive waste into the sun.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Allen (@11), theoretically, we can all ride our flying cars to work tomorrow before catching the next hypersonic transport to Fiji for the weekend.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Allen (@11), theoretically, we can all ride our flying cars to work tomorrow before catching the next hypersonic transport to Fiji for the weekend.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    I was searching for ANY possible argument against nuclear energy. I actually think the one I posited may be the gut-level response of many people opposed to nuclear, that on some foundational level, it’s just wrong!

    So if environmentalists aren’t opposing nuclear energy anymore, and no one can give any arguments against them, what are we waiting for? It’s STILL virtually impossible to get them built. Is that just due to outdated regulations? There are no opponents? Then let’s start building the things.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    I was searching for ANY possible argument against nuclear energy. I actually think the one I posited may be the gut-level response of many people opposed to nuclear, that on some foundational level, it’s just wrong!

    So if environmentalists aren’t opposing nuclear energy anymore, and no one can give any arguments against them, what are we waiting for? It’s STILL virtually impossible to get them built. Is that just due to outdated regulations? There are no opponents? Then let’s start building the things.

  • Joe

    Anon (@ 6) the linked article states that 30% of the domestic corn crop is being used for ethonal.

    http://www.nysun.com/news/food-crisis-eclipsing-climate-change

  • Joe

    Anon (@ 6) the linked article states that 30% of the domestic corn crop is being used for ethonal.

    http://www.nysun.com/news/food-crisis-eclipsing-climate-change

  • Joe

    tODD (@9) your response about the Sierra Club article on nuclear power interged me so I went the website of the first environmental group that popped into my mind: Greenpeace. They are decidedly against nuke power.

    http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/campaigns/nuclear

    Interestingly, Greenpeace fouonder Patrick Moore – who is no longer associated with the group – is all for it.

    http://www.idahostatesman.com/newsupdates/story/360625.html

  • Joe

    tODD (@9) your response about the Sierra Club article on nuclear power interged me so I went the website of the first environmental group that popped into my mind: Greenpeace. They are decidedly against nuke power.

    http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/campaigns/nuclear

    Interestingly, Greenpeace fouonder Patrick Moore – who is no longer associated with the group – is all for it.

    http://www.idahostatesman.com/newsupdates/story/360625.html

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    The arguments against nuclear are pretty simple; until you conquer the difficulties with either fusion or breeder reactors (nuclear proliferation), there is the difficulty of disposal of waste and the limited supply of uranium in commercially viable deposits. There is also a small but real risk of another Chernobyl–it can be dealt with by eliminating that kind of reactor, but it’s still very real.

    Start issuing more building permits, and you will hear about these again.

    And yes, anon, when you plant maize for ethanol, that is land that cannot be used for growing food of other kinds. Just because we don’t eat GM corn grown for ethanol doesn’t mean that growing corn for ethanol doesn’t impact our other food availability.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    The arguments against nuclear are pretty simple; until you conquer the difficulties with either fusion or breeder reactors (nuclear proliferation), there is the difficulty of disposal of waste and the limited supply of uranium in commercially viable deposits. There is also a small but real risk of another Chernobyl–it can be dealt with by eliminating that kind of reactor, but it’s still very real.

    Start issuing more building permits, and you will hear about these again.

    And yes, anon, when you plant maize for ethanol, that is land that cannot be used for growing food of other kinds. Just because we don’t eat GM corn grown for ethanol doesn’t mean that growing corn for ethanol doesn’t impact our other food availability.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Veith (@13), I’m pretty certain the most common, “gut-level” objection people have to nuclear power is one of safety, both in the proper operation of the reactor, and that no one does anything wrong with it (for other countries’ reactors, that would be one of weapons manufacturing; for ours it would be a question of terrorism against the reactor).

    I think that many of the nuclear-specific objections of environmentalists are the same as above. The Sierra Club magazine article I cited (@9) also gives their opinion of why we aren’t seeing new reactors: the financial risk doesn’t seem to be worth it to investors.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Veith (@13), I’m pretty certain the most common, “gut-level” objection people have to nuclear power is one of safety, both in the proper operation of the reactor, and that no one does anything wrong with it (for other countries’ reactors, that would be one of weapons manufacturing; for ours it would be a question of terrorism against the reactor).

    I think that many of the nuclear-specific objections of environmentalists are the same as above. The Sierra Club magazine article I cited (@9) also gives their opinion of why we aren’t seeing new reactors: the financial risk doesn’t seem to be worth it to investors.


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