“Didn’t take long for a pro-nuke troll to come out.”
I take basically the same position as James Hansen and the IPCC. Presumably you would dismiss them as pro-nuke trolls and shills as well. This is how science-deniers classically operate. Don’t actually address facts and evidence, call the other side names.
“If you know anything at all about the extraction, refining and production of nuclear fuels, you’d know that those processes take massive amounts of fossil fuels.”
I know plenty about it. I know, for example, that the old ways of extracting and refining are being left behind and most of the uranium in the world is now extracted (and simultaneously refined) by in-situ leach mining. This is the largest ISL uranium mine in the world:
tinyurl*com/y7g8ct3m (replace the * with a dot)
If you look in the background, you can see the spindly power lines which supply the electricity to drive the electric pumps. So it is as clean as the grid–same as for electric cars–and nuclear power could easily supply that electricity. It is much less fossil-fuel-intensive than mining and production operations for wind and solar manufacturing in China.
“If you knew anything at all about the production of nuclear energy, you’d know that the plants are not only plagued by humongous cost over-runs, slow start-up times, frequent shut-downs and short plant lives,”
I actually agree that’s the case with old-tech nuclear. But those also have nothing to do with your original list, unless you are going to try to claim those issues somehow make nuclear power inherently unsustainable. But problems with specific ways of doing nuclear does not mean those problems are inherent to all possible ways of doing nuclear. For an assortment of bad reasons, the first track we took for nuclear power was not a good one and every one of those problems you list has been the result. But that does not mean there are no better tracks. Today’s nuclear power is a long way from optimal, but that also means there is a lot of room for improvement–and next-gen developers are working to eliminate or greatly reduce every one of those problems, and more.
“you’d know that the damned things take massive amounts of “conventional energy” to run.”
Baloney. There’s nothing massive about fossil fuel inputs to nuclear’s operational energy, especially compared to the enormous amounts of non-carbon energy they provide in return. The total life-cycle carbon profile (of which, operations is a small fraction) is now among the best of renewables, and even at that, large improvements are still easily attainable.
“And then there’s nuclear wastes and mixed nuclear/toxic wastes that are scientifically unmanageable by our species.”
Using “scientifically” in that way has about as much to do with science as it does when Christian Scientists and Creation Scientists toss the term around. The high-level “waste” (spent fuel) has been managed well enough to have a sterling safety and containment record that very few comparable heavy industries can even come close to. There really is not much to “managing” spent fuel that is sitting in pools, or in dry-cask storage. And several of the reactors in development are molten salt fast reactors which are being designed to consume that spent fuel. And every part of that process also looks like it will be entirely manageable as well.
Which also brings us to the claim that nuclear fuels are inherently unsustainable. This is all the spent fuel generated by the Maine Yankee nuclear power plant over its entire lifetime in operation:
That spent fuel contains about 550 tonnes of heavy metal, and in a fast reactor, could produce about 1.4 terawatt years of heat.
For comparison, this is one extension of Garzweiler, one of the German lignite mines (named for a village which used to be located there):
For scale, down in the foreground, you can see one of the enormous Krupp Bagger excavators which works the site.
The Garzweiler mine complex has supplied about 4.5 billion metric tons of lignite, which is about 1/6 of all the lignite Germany has burned so far. And the lignite mined there has an average calorific energy value of 2800 kWh of heat per metric ton. Times 4.5 billion tons comes to about 1.4 terawatt-years–coincidentally about the same as the latent heat content in the Main Yankee residual fuels.
If we were to consume all of our spent fuel in fast reactors, that would exceed 200 terawatt years of heat energy. All the fossil fuels mankind has ever burned has produced less than 700 terawatt years of heat. And then after we use up all our spent fuel, we have nearly ten times as much depleted uranium which fast reactors would also be able to consume. If you look at the world supply of spent fuel and DU, that comes to roughly three million tons of usable fuel–enough for more than ten times all the energy mankind has ever extracted from all fossil fuels combined. And when we’ve consumed that, then we could actually start mining uranium again, which, at today’s extraction rates could continuously supply about ten times the energy mankind currently consumes. And if that’s not enough, there are billions of tons of U in seawater, which we already have developed ways to extract at only around double the cost of terrestrial mining. And that supply is continuously replenished by erosion extraction from tens of trillions of tons of U in continental crust. And, then thorium has roughly four times the abundance of uranium. And that’s not even touching the much larger supply of energy which resides in the fusion nuclear fuels and proto-fuels we have on Earth. Terrestrial nuclear fuels are every bit as sustainable as solar nuclear fuels. Both have finite supplies, but the supplies are so huge they will hardly be depleted at all by the time humans no longer exist.
“And then there’s nuke weapons, which take the above to create and manage,”
Wrong. Weapons-grade nuclear fuel does not come from nuclear power plants. However, nuclear power plants can consume weapons-grade fuel. They have already consumed enough fuel to more than double the number of nuclear warheads that exist in the world. Nuclear power has accomplished the destruction of more bomb fuel than have all the nuclear disarmament groups put together, and with the development of fast reactors, our incentive to burn bomb fuel would only increase.
Nuclear power plants do, however, supply medical radioisotopes (and new types of reactors could supply more kinds) so there are benefits to nuclear power beyond just power.