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In Era of Aging Reactors, Nuclear Industry's Push for Deregulation Sparks Warning of 'Collision Course' With Disaster


What I find most surprising about this article is that no mention is made about the cozy arrangement that the nuclear energy has historically had. From its inception, there was a recognition that an all-out disaster would be so expensive to clean up that it would likely put the industry out of business. The solution that was agreed to was that our government agreed to cover the damages above a certain amount. In other words, the nuclear energy has never had to pay for the huge insurance premiums that would be required of it to operate on its own, another fine example of "privatize the profits, socialize the costs."

Add to that little dilly that nobody knows what to do with the waste that the energy continues to create and any rational and informed person would wonder just what the hell is going on and why does such an industry even exist? All of the world’s nuclear waste is presently maintained in temporary storage units pending a safe means of disposal, which likely will never be found. Up in Washington State they continue to struggle with the waste left over from the nuclear program that created the first atomic bombs as it is slowly seeping from leaking tanks and making its way into the Columbia River. The vaunted Yucca Mountain Repository in Nevada turns out to have been built on an extinct volcanic chain that could some day become active once more and spew out whatever is stored there.

I recall reading an article about the signage that would be necessary to mark whatever place they eventually decide to bury our nuclear waste in. The problem was that the stuff was expected to remain dangerous for so long that they expected our present languages to have evolved into something unrecognizable today. In other words, whatever symbols, letters, words, etc. they might use today would no longer be understood in the future and they didn’t know how to mark a place with something that would still be understood to mean “Danger, stay the hell away from here!”

The nuclear energy industry should never have been allowed to enter into existence as long as there was no safe way to dispose of its byproducts. And yet, here they are, asking to self-regulate themselves. What could possibly go wrong with that? I mean, surely these people would chose to do the right thing and put safety over profits in their plans of action, right? (that’s sarcasm).


This reminds me of the discussion I had with my aging father when he finally decided to give up driving.

There are really two options. Either one gives up the habit while one can still drive the car, or else one crashes the car and stops that way.

There’s a bit of a cost-benefit analysis implicit in that. The difficulty here is that the nuclear industry gets most of the advantage of their operations, while the local population bears most of the cost. Laws passed to encourage the opening of plants still sharply limit their liability, and the NRC remains a mostly in-house child.

My father was a pretty nice guy, but I suspect that he would have driven longer had he imagined that he would not be the recipient of problems in the event of an accident.

The size and timing of the catastrophes remain unknown. Otherwise, it seems quite predictable that at least several will occur before many plants are decommissioned. If you’re living fairly close and particularly downwind of one, now is probably the best remaining time to look at what it might take to relocate.

These companies are not particularly loathe to use less damaging technologies, but they are not friendly to wind or solar or small-scale hydroelectricity because these tend to be non-centered, suited to distributing rather than concentrating wealth and power. It does not make much sense to wait until government or utility giants take these on; to the extent that they do, they will tend to do so poorly.

It is really time and past time to embark on more radical solutions involving local economy, reduced travel and transport, passive heating and cooling,

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We are Big Nuke’s guinea pigs. What radiation does:


We haven’t decided what we are going to do with spent fuel. Maybe it will wind up as waste. Maybe it will wind up as fuel. We are still developing options, so it’s a bit premature to be making any final decisions at this point.

“I recall reading an article about the signage that would be necessary to mark whatever place they eventually decide to bury our nuclear waste in. The problem was that the stuff was expected to remain dangerous for so long that they expected our present languages to have evolved into something unrecognizable today.”

I don’t think this is going to be a problem. If we wind up consuming the spent fuel as fuel in fast reactors, we’ll only need storage good for a few hundred years prior to consuming it, and any fission products out the back end that we can’t find a use for can go into deep boreholds, and it would only take a few hundred years for them to drop down to ambient radiation levels.

If we decide not to use the spent fuel, we could reduce it by about 95% just by removing the uranium. Then the uranium could be dissolved in water and gradually dispersed into the oceans, where it would be dwarfed by the amount of uranium already there. The remainder could be vitrified for borehold disposal, or could be put into torpedo casks for burying deep in ocean bottom sediments. If they were sunk in a subduction zone, they’d be melted and dispersed when they reached the asthenosphere. None of these options would require long-term markers.


I respect your expertise but I remain antinuclear for reasons that many have cited. You might clear up one objection that I have, I think. It concerns the longevity. You said that the world has 400 aging nuclear plants. How long does a nuclear plant last? What is the average time left for them? How many are used when they should be shut down? How long are the the new ones gonna last? It seems that the skeletons are everywhere and multiplying. Chernobyl, Hanover, Fukushima, these are supposed accidents. Even well run nuclear plants get old and have to be off limits. Other facilities generally are reusable. The world is working to eliminate usage of materials which render land and areas unusable. Such as pesticide, mercury, and other heavy metals distribution.


Before Big Nuke comes up with more bright ideas to use humans as guinea pigs for their apocalyptic energy centralization experiments, clean up the tons of its nuclear waste in land and sea past and present. And pay for the treatment of diseases it caused, loss of lands and relocation, rad waste in food-chain, deaths caused and much more instead of passing all its costs on to the public

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There are many different possible ways to do nuclear power. Everyone, even the most ardent of nuclear proponents, is opposed to some of them. It’s kind of like fire. There are sensible and valuable ways to use fire, and there are also some really bad and dangerous ways. If you are opposed to some ways of doing nuclear, that, of itself, is not a controversial position. If you are opposed to every conceivable way to use nuclear energy, I think that would be more difficult to justify.

“How long does a nuclear plant last?”

Depends on the design. Depends on how it is used, under what conditions. Depends on how well it is maintained. Depends on how long it remains cost-effective to keep it going. Depends on how long until it is rendered obsolete by new technology.

“What is the average time left for them?”

Ideally, we’ll never know from the standpoint of how long they are physically capable of lasting, because presumably we will not want to approach their physical limits for any of them. We will most likely retire them for other reasons first, and to know how long that will be on average would require knowledge of future economic conditions and states of technological development. At best we only have hazy projections for those.

“How long are the the new ones gonna last?”

Some of the new ones are being designed for indefinite service span. All that requires is making each part or module reasonably easy to replace. This is kind of like how the Eiffel tower has had many thousands of its parts replaced over the years, and if they keep it up for long enough, eventually it will have no original parts left. (The Eiffel tower was originally slated to have a lifespan of only 20 years.)

“It seems that the skeletons are everywhere and multiplying. Chernobyl, Hanover, Fukushima, these are supposed accidents.”

I suspect you mean Hanford–where they made fuel for nuclear bombs. The mess there was not an accident, it was just the result of the sloppy, careless way we managed the waste back when we were hell-bent on rapidly building up a nuclear weapons arsenal. Chernobyl and Fukushima were partly accidents, partly bad design. Accidents may be impossible to eliminate entirely, but the design can reduce the risk and scale of the worst outcomes. The single reactor explosion and fire at Chernobyl was much worse than the three reactor melt-downs at Fukushima because there was no possibility of an open-air fire in the reactor core at Fukushima like happened at Chernobyl, and the containment was much better. Some of the reactors now in development would also be able to eliminate any risk of a loss of coolant accident, a core meltdown, a core pressure rupture, a hydrogen explosion, and any chance of a spent fuel zirconium fire.

“Even well run nuclear plants get old and have to be off limits. Other facilities generally are reusable.”

Even with old designs, the sites do not have to be off limits after decommissioning is complete. With some of the new modular designs, disassembly and removal should be even easier.

“The world is working to eliminate usage of materials which render land and areas unusable. Such as pesticide, mercury, and other heavy metals distribution.”

We don’t have to discontinue the use of toxic materials so long as they are well contained. And nuclear power has the potential for one of the smallest land-use footprints of all our energy sources.

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Regarding the youtube video “Fukushima Update 2018 (IT’S ALL DEAD!)”

0:26 Caldicott has it backwards. Chernobyl was many times worse than Fukushima

4:00 Radiactive Calfornia beach sand has been documented for 50 years. https://blog.safecast.org/2014/01/radiation-on-california-beaches/

5:00 Die-offs – All of the reported kinds of die-offs also occurred prior to 2011. The telling point is that they didn’t have a single marine biologist attributing any adverse environmental or species effects to radionuclide contamination from Fukushima.

Meanwhile, much closer to the site of the disaster, the fish are proliferating in the debris fields off the coast:

And this is not because of any direct benefit from radiation, but because of the indirect benefit of radiation fear leading to reduced fishing in the area. Humans are many times more lethal to sea life than any contaminant radiation (which is low out in the greater Pacific, compared to the amount of radiation that was there before 2011). This is also the reason wildlife is thriving around Chernobyl.

5:36 That’s a tsunami wave height map. It’s use as a contamination map is bogus and was debunked very soon after its first representation as such.

5:40 Notice they don’t say how much Cs-134 radiation was found. Why do you suppose they didn’t include that?

You can see for yourself how much there is.
Click on scarlet tags to see latest results. The detection threshold for Cs-134 is less than 1 bq per cubic meter. The natural radioactivity of seawater is generally around 12,000 to 14,000 bq per cubic meter.

7:24 Fukushima onsite radiation did not “soar” to record levels. They managed to get a reading inside the containment vessels closer to a melted core than ever before, and that’s why the reading was higher than any taken before–simply because the previous readings were all taken further away from any core.

9:00 The reason for low numbers of fall chinook salmon in the Klamath:

Radiation and Pacific salmon generally:

10:20 Totally bogus numbers, and the scientific consensus remains that no thyroid cancers due to Fukushima have been detected yet. There is no correlation between thyroid anomalies and contaminated areas, distant prefectures have the same or worse anomaly rates when using the same screening method, and the detection rate in older children is higher than for younger children–the opposite of what we would be seeing if these detections were due to radiation.

“this study found no significant spatial anomalies/clusters or geographic trends of thyroid cancer prevalence among the ultrasound examinees, indicating that the thyroid cancer cases detected are unlikely to be attributable to regional factors, including radiation exposure resulting from the FNPP accident.”

“There is no apparent regional difference in the rate of thyroid cancer cases among the residential areas at the time of the earthquake and, hence, exposure status of the patients. … The pathological findings are similar in children from non-exposed areas.”

11:49 Not even a hint of a connection to radiation, much less to Fukushima radiation.

13:25 Blaming Fukushima for an algal bloom? Seriously?

13:34 From that article:
“Kaler said that neurotoxin poisoning from algal blooms could travel up the food chain, from plankton on up and into the birds’ diets.”
“But it’s also more nuanced than that, because what’s then causing the harmful algal blooms to flourish is another domino in the line leading to dead birds.”
“If you have sea surface temperatures that lend themselves to the algal blooms, if those temperatures are high enough,” Kaler said, “Then you have a warm body of water, and there’s a stagnation in that water column. That’s going to effect everything that’s feeding in the ocean.”

13:48 From that article:
“Wildlife experts said the cause of the die-off is most likely a jump in water temperatures, which are now in the mid-80 degree range.”

13:54 Follow-up article–bird deaths solved:

14:40 It is very well known that high altitude flights are exposed to greatly elevated levels of cosmic radiation.

15:55 Potassium iodide works by saturating the thyroid to block uptake of Iodine 131. But Iodine 131 is a short term (8-day half life), close proximity food-borne contaminant hazard, particularly in milk from farms close to a source. Taking KI to “rid your body” of radiation received in flight is nonsense–unless they are serving I-131 contaminated food on the flight.

16:04, 17:09 Is this what you’d expect in a science-based video, or a faith-based video?

Nearly everything in that video was wrong, or overblown, or amounted to pure insinuation. It is as much claptrap as the Youtube Creationist videos, chemtrail videos, and the videos purporting to show that world leaders and celebrities are actually reptiloid alien shape-shifters.

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1)What has been the average lifespan of a nuclear power plant?
2)Five hundreds years to neutralize waste, OK, How many plants would be built in five hundred years?
3)How many are currently planned? How many under construction? What percent of them are “managed well”? I have heard the managed well line before. My brother in law runs nuclear plants. “Not a problem if it is done correctly!”

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So are you going to clean up your tons of radioactive waste? To stop using us as guinea pigs in your failed nuclear experiments? And stop sending us the bills for them?


If you mean the tons of radioactive ash from my share of Texas coal power, no. But the larger problem is the mercury, arsenic, and heavy metals they contain.
If you mean the radioactive pollution from the rare earth mining that went into my share of Texas wind power, no. Nearly all of that toxic soup is in China and Mongolia.
If you mean the spent fuel from my share of Texas nuclear power, 1) my share will never amount to even one kilogram, and 2) it’s already confined and contained so it isn’t a making any sort of mess that needs cleaning up.
(I will, however, do what I can to facilitate the development of molten salt fast reactors which could consume the “spent” fuel as fuel.)

“To stop using us as guinea pigs in your failed nuclear experiments? And stop sending us the bills for them?”

Loaded questions based on false presuppositions (like asking if you have stopped molesting children yet–assuming you don’t) or based on tenuous association (like asking a random U.S. citizen when will they stop invading countries and overthrowing democratically elected leaders).


Big Nuke wants to rape Mother Earth some more, with you as Vaseline to make it easier:


In what way would it be harming the Earth to consume spent fuel (and depleted uranium, and weapons-grade fuel) in molten salt fast reactors? Consuming supplies that we already have on hand would not even require any mining.


Your cronies sold us nuke energy “too cheap to meter” and saddled the public with astronomic costs to people and biosphere. Don’t ask us to trust you again.


You seem to think that because old-tech nuclear had some problems, we should not try to develop better ways of doing nuclear that could reduce or eliminate the worst of those problems. And I notice your non-response cited no examples of how molten salt fast reactors could harm the Earth.


Besides having no public permission to make us your guinea pigs and to be saddled with billionaire costs of your plants, waste and cancer treatment, nukes can’t compete with renewables.

After Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and other atrocities you will have a tough time trying to get the public to fund your experiments again. The government trusted your experts and you screwed us royally. Tell us why we should trust you again.


In the 90s I was very bullish on hydrogen fuel cell cars. However it hasn’t panned out and unless several things happen I think the battery electric vehicle will remain superior. It is a simple accounting to start from one unit of renewable electrical energy and either send it over transmission lines and charge a car’s battery, or use it to make hydrogen and move this to the car either by a network of hydrogen pipelines (huge investment) or by trucking it in liquid form (not as efficient but this is what they do now). Then drive each type of car and find out you can go 2-3 times further with the BEV. (This isn’t the link I saw originally but looks to cover similar ground: https://electrek.co/2017/10/26/toyota-elon-musk-fuel-cell-hydrogen/).

Why the hell would anyone buy a car that is 1/3 as efficient and isn’t any cheaper to purchase? The only way it makes sense to me is because hydrogen can be made with natural gas more cheaply than with renewable electrical energy. @Trog has written of some interesting alternative hydrogen production schemes that use the very high temperatures available at a nuclear plant and maybe in a Gen IV nuclear future an FCEV could be competitive with a BEV (charged from the same nuclear plant). But for now I agree with Elon Musk, FCEVs don’t make much sense.

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I’m not sure @Trog is looking for public funding. He has linked to several private companies that are pursuing MSR designs (Thorcon, Moltex, Elysium) and I saw a story from last year that Moltex was planning a reactor in Canada. There will likely be others in other countries and there will be actual cost data to extrapolate from before doing any significant build out in the US. It may not pan out but I’m not confident enough to rule them out. It won’t be soon though and we need to start making a lot of changes on energy, construction, and agriculture if we want any hope of reducing the climate catastrophe. If I get to vote in a referendum on allowing a much safer reactor that has the potential to burn down spent fuel from old designs as well as bomb material, I am certainly not going to say no before looking at the new data.


This from the same people that sold nuke power as “too cheap to meter”. Trust them?
What happens if the reactor actually works, but runs out of fuel? They’ll need to make more. Similar to what happened in Florida when a trash incinerator ran out of fuel to burn. They had to import trash to keep it running (and releasing mercury into the Everglades).

As countries like Germany know, renewables are cheaper than fossil and nuke, particularly when externalities are factored in. Trog and Co. seem to be trying to keep their jobs in a dead and dying nuke industry, at public expense.


Those people are dead or retired. To a certain extent, philosophies (and dishonesty/stupidity) can be passed down to a new set of workers, but the world is a very different place than 1950 or whenever that statement was made. I put little emphasis on it. I am skeptical that we will get any significant Gen IV rollout, I don’t want any pre Gen IV reactors, and I want these reactors shut down fairly soon. But I’m not ruling out Gen IV reactors just yet.

The reactor works. Whether it can be cost effective is another story. @Trog computed the amount of existing fuel these reactors could use and it is a much longer time scale than needed to justify the operation and then the decommissioning of new Gen IV plants.

I am pro renewables, but if you are talking about costs not including any kind of carbon tax and you are including the grid storage on the renewable side needed to make the comparison, I have to say I don’t believe this is true (not against Natural Gas anyway). If you want to post a link to a calculation that includes grid storage I will take a look.