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What Do We Teach Our Students About Hiroshima and Nagasaki?


#23

I remember when Hiroshima & Nagasaki happened, I was in grammar school. I’ve heard virtually nothing about it since then. It was such a horrible event, it should be broadcast to every living soul in the world so we don’t ever let this happen again. I fear trump & his finger on the nuclear button will bring the world to complete disaster, the likes of which we’ve never before seen.


#24

You are calling Imperial Japan a “perceived enemy?” Really?


#25

A couple other facts deserve mention:

  1. Germany was defeated when the A-bombs were dropped on Japan. Hitler’s plans for its development had to do with the start of the Manhattan Project, but not the dropping of bombs on Japan.
  2. Acknowledged.
  3. Most of the scientists working for the Manhattan Project signed a petition against its use. None of that means that Truman knew what he was doing altogether, but he knew well enough that he was using one arm to kill a tremendous number of people.

I’d say that the excuses that other leaders have had for nuclear development are similar, sometimes more pressing.

Russia and China were faced by a fanatical, nuclear-armed enemy. US intelligence had been mapping bombing patterns through Russia through most of WWII, and high-up officials debated on moving straight on from Japan to bomb our Soviet then-allies.

Surely other nations outside of NATO and Israel who have developed such weapons could speak of similar reasons. Look at the actions of the US with respect to Iraq from at least the late 1980s forward. Saddam Hussein cleared his invasion of Kuwait with the US Secretary of State George Schultz beforehand; then the US used it as an excuse to destroy his country and torture the population over a decade. After repeated inspections assured command that none of the WMDs that the US had given Hussein in the 80s remained viable, the US invaded.

It’s not likely that this lesson was lost on other leaders.


#26

They’ll find more when they finish melting Greenland and the South Pole.


#27

I used the term “perceived enemy” in the big picture of all the worlds nations, not just the US and Japan. Of course Japan was our enemy during WWII.


#28

My experience with geothermal, it that it is economically feasible and works well in homes and buildings in the US Northeast and in many parts of Latin America. But it is true that local geologies make result in geothermal being unfavorable in some conditions.

However, the corporations that profit from nuclear power production will prohibit efforts to expand community owned/managed electric power production, as they, and other energy providers, have where I live. Local community owned/manage electric power production is against the law in my home state. Here’s an interesting piece related to this topic: https://btlonline.org/transition-to-renewables-possible-only-if-the-world-converts-to-publicly-owned-energy-production/

This comment reminds me of the hubris of the right wing engineering students I teach who claim that, ‘we don’t need to worry about climate change - engineers will solve the problem’.

What makes no sense is making plans and decisions, now, based on technology which is only speculative. Sustainable technologies (solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, microhydro) exists, today, in the capacity to provide for comfortable living for all the world’s 7.6 billion. What is not there yet is storage technologies which, even if nuclear is part of the mix, will be necessary for transportation since, clearly, lithium is not a viable solution for large scale worldwide transport use. Additionally, the reality is that the richest 1% will need to reduce their energy consumption, and the associated consumption and waste generation, or the associated environmental devastation will wreck havoc on the planet.

I am reminded of the quote from the folk I know who worked at the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center: ‘Fusion is a technology that is 50 years away. . . and will always be that way.’ Fusion reactors have inherent issues: https://thebulletin.org/2017/04/fusion-reactors-not-what-theyre-cracked-up-to-be/


#29

Your energy providers have zero renewables in their portfolio? That would be highly unusual. But if they do have renewables, then it would have been just as valid to call them “corporations that profit from renewable power production”. The fact they may derive some profit from nuclear (and many are struggling to do that with old-tech nuclear) is probably not the reason they would seek to hamstring potential competition. That’s just ordinary corporate behavior. This is not a problem inherent to nuclear power. What you are talking about sounds like a legislative problem. Here in Texas, many energy providers operate as co-ops (I belong to one), and there is nothing illegal about going off-grid, or about several households which are off-grid linking up to make their own grid, even though nuclear power is part of the ERCOT mix.

[It makes no sense to project what supply will be hundreds of years into the future based on the technology we have now, because that is not the technology we’ll be using in the future.]
“This comment reminds me of the hubris of the right wing engineering students I teach who claim that, ‘we don’t need to worry about climate change - engineers will solve the problem’.”

That is simply a poor engineering attitude. Good engineers do worry about problems, and try to figure out how to address them. But it is not hubris to project future changes in technology, especially in instances where the future technology has already been developed to the point that its capabilities can be reasonably anticipated.

“What makes no sense is making plans and decisions, now, based on technology which is only speculative.”

It is far more speculative to suppose we are going to run out of uranium in a few hundred years, particularly since uranium reserves have been growing faster than we’ve been depleting them. More than that, we came up with ways to extract uranium from seawater a couple of decades ago. That was a very expensive process, but with refinements and improvements, the cost has halved four times since then, and it only needs to halve one more time to be in same cost range as terrestrial mining. And even if progress stops and there are no further improvements over the next few hundred years, the technology would be viable if the price of uranium went up, which it would do if there were ever a constriction of the supply from terrestrial mining sources. And that’s not idle speculation, that’s just overwhelmingly what happens to the price when supply falls short of demand. But I’m about 98% confident that’s never going to happen. What I think is a lot more likely is that molten salt fast reactors are going to plunge the demand for mined uranium, and the price is going to fall to levels where most uranium mining shuts down. It may take a few decades, while the old-tech reactors age out, but high fuel utilization would be like increasing the reserves by a factor of a hundred, with the expansion being retroactive to apply to all the uranium we’ve mined before as well.

And does anyone think Kennedy launching the moon landing program made no sense merely because we didn’t have the technology to accomplish that when he made the decision to pursue that plan? That was a case where the decision and the plan actually drove the development of the technology to accomplish it. And right now, there are dozens of proposed nuclear power build projects being considered, based on the old technology we have. So in weighing the pros and cons, do you think it would make no sense to look at advanced forms of nuclear currently in development? Most people would consider it a bad result to make an expensive long-term commitment to old-tech and then have it turn out that by waiting a bit, they could have had something better, cheaper, and maybe even sooner. I can easily see the sense in trying to avoid an outcome like that.

"Sustainable technologies (solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, microhydro) exists, today, in the capacity to provide for comfortable living for all the world’s 7.6 billion.

Maybe in some theoretical sense. The way it’s been working out, however, all renewables combined are not being built and installed fast enough to keep up with growth in demand, and our fossil fuel consumption continues to increase, year after year. Even Germany, world leader in solar PV manufacturing, is only able to install a small fraction of their production output, and they are struggling and failing to make their emissions reductions targets.

“What is not there yet is storage technologies”

Which is one area where renewables-only proponents routinely advocate for making plans and decisions now, based on technology which is only speculative–confidently predicting that some sort of cheap mass storage system will be developed in time to solve the intermittency issue before it becomes a problem at higher penetration rates.

“which, even if nuclear is part of the mix, will be necessary for transportation since, clearly, lithium is not a viable solution for large scale worldwide transport use.”

Fuels are a form of energy storage. The Navy already demonstrated making jet fuel from sea-water using on-board nuclear power, and we know how to make a number of other fuels if we have a good supply of heat. The main reason we don’t do synfuels now is because the cost of the energy to make them is too high for the fuels to be cost-competitive against their fossil counterparts, but if we had clean energy that was cheap enough, that could change.

But yes, better batteries would also be a great thing to strive for.

“Additionally, the reality is that the richest 1% will need to reduce their energy consumption, and the associated consumption and waste generation, or the associated environmental devastation will wreck havoc on the planet.”

I think what you mean is that everyone else will need for the richest 1% to reduce their consumption and waste generation. The 1% will not see such a curtailment of their lifestyles as something they need. And good luck trying to convince them otherwise.

But what if they could switch to energy that was clean, and had negligible extraction and waste profiles? Why would anyone need for them to reduce their energy consumption then? How would that wreck the planet?

"I am reminded of the quote from the folk I know who worked at the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center: ‘Fusion is a technology that is 50 years away. . . and will always be that way.’

And that reminds me of some quotes, too:

“Man will not fly for 50 years.” Wilbur Wright, 1901 (first flight, 1903)

“There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable. It would mean that the atom would have to be shattered at will.” – Albert Einstein, 1932 (first controlled, sustained fission reaction 1942)

“Landing and moving about on the moon offers so many serious problems for human beings that it may take science another 200 years to lick them.” – Science Digest, 1948

“Space travel is bunk.” – Sir Harold Spencer Jones, Astronomer Royal, UK, 1957 (Two weeks before the launch of Sputnik)

“Fusion reactors have inherent issues:”

As do certain kinds of molten salt reactors. But some people have noticed something interesting about their problems. In D-T fusion, two of the big headaches are coping with the mass production of neutrons, while also trying to cope with a very tight tritium breeding ratio. Meanwhile, in the molten salt world, for salts which use lithium, the problems are the high expense of trying to restrict the surplus production of unwanted tritium while also having to cope with a very tight neutron economy. If only the molten salt people could find a way to get rid of their tritium. If only the fusion people could find a supplemental source of tritium, If only the fusion people could find some way to get rid of their oversupply of neutrons. If only the molten salt people could find a supplemental source of neutrons. Get the picture? Pairing a fusion neutron generator with a molten salt reactor also solves the scaling problem and the breakeven energy problem for fusion. The system as a whole generates more power when they are combined, even if the fusion side doesn’t reach breakeven, and that also means the fusion side doesn’t have to be huge. So it can be sized appropriately for the amount of extra neutrons needed, and having the supplemental neutrons also means the molten salt reactor can be made smaller. And there are a bunch of other potential advantages to combining them, but there are so many different ways it could be done that it may take a decade or two to whittle the number down to the most promising configurations. The article also avoids any mention of the aneutronic forms of fusion, like proton-boron (pB11)–currently being pursued by Tri-Alpha and Lawrenceville Plasma Physics.

My own view is that some of the molten salt reactors in development are so absurdly simple (eg. Moltex and Elysium) that it is going to be very tough to produce a stand-alone magnetic containment fusion reactor which will come in cheaper than that. But the Lawrenceville focus fusion reactor is nothing like that, and if Lerner can figure out how to snake-charm the plasma stream into doing what he wants, his would be the cheapest kind of reactor by far. Most people grant that what he’s attempting is scientifically sound and physically possible in principle, but most also think we are decades away from having the needed levels of precision and plasma control. This may turn out like how the basic principles of powered flight were worked out about a century before technology reached the point where it could actually be done. But if, despite mainstream opinion, Lerner does manage to get it working, that would pretty much spell doom for every other kind of nuclear reactor, which I think would be a bad result in the long run.