Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Defending Nuclear Energy in Real Time

Hollywood has never been known as a place that's been terribly hospitable to nuclear energy, but it looks like that might be changing if Bill Maher, the host of HBO's Real Time has anything to do with it.

The following comes from a transcript from the program's April 13, 2007 edition where Maher brought up the topic in conversation with Sheryl Crow and Laurie David:

MR. MAHER: That was my next question. What about nuclear power? Because it seems to me that we’re going to have to go nuke if we really want to solve –

MS. CROW: I don’t think that’s true. We have better options than nuclear power, I mean, there’s never been a plant that’s actually even made money from nuclear power. It is so heavily subsidized by the government. We have other options that should be subsidized by the government, which are wind and solar.

MR. MAHER: But can wind and solar –

MS. CROW: And it’s just not a great viable option.

MR. MAHER: But can wind and solar provide all the energy we need? It doesn’t seem like –

MS. CROW: We have to investigate.

MS. DAVID: Listen, how about energy efficiency?

MS. CROW: Yes.

MS. DAVID: How about fuel economy standards? There are 100 things –


MS. DAVID: That we should be doing before we start talking about more nuclear power plants.

MS. CROW: Absolutely.

MR. MAHER: Well, I don’t agree with you on that.
Wow. Sometimes you can find friends where you least expect them.


Anonymous said...

Oooookaaaaay, so you've got those world-famous nuclear physicists Sheryl Crow and Laurie David dissing nukes. Hollyweird types. Wow. I'm so impressed. Almost as much brainpower as Christie Brinkley and Alec Baldwin trashing the High Flux Beam Reactor. Smart move, brainiacs.

gunter said...

And you've got the nucular engineer Bill Mahar, soooo?

I think Brinkley and Baldwin helped shut down the Brookhaven reactor?

gunter, nirs

Anonymous said...

As always, Gunter is trying to have it both ways. Bonnie Rait, Jackson Brown, and even the flighty Christy Brinkley are OK because they oppose nuclear power, but Bill Maher is bad because he supports nuclear power, despite not having any formal training in the matter. You don't need to be a nuclear engineer to support nuclear power; understanding simple things, like weighing pro vs. con and comparing apples to apples, will naturally lead anyone capable of thinking rationally towards nuclear power.

Pick a side and stick with it, Gunter. If you're going to dismiss Maher's opinion, you must surely dismiss Christy Brinkley's.

Dezakin said...

The point thats illustrated isn't Mahars technical savy or lack therof, but that he is an undisguised left leaning public figure who supports nuclear power; That nuclear power is less of a partisan issue than it used to be.

gunter said...

I don't have HBO so I missed the show....

but you forgot to add former NJ Senator and once presidential candidate Bill Bradley was also on the Maher show. Bradley and his new book "The New Amercian Story" come out unequivocally against wasting more time and resources on dragging a failed nuclear experiment into the 21st century.

Sounds like it was Maher that got an earful.

Did I say that Maher is "bad" because he has an argument on his show? Not so.... controversy is good.

When taking "another look at nuclear power" its important to recognize that it is the same as it ever was; no approved n-waste plan, exhorbidently expensive reator construction costs, repeated failures to meet construction deadlines, a licensing process that requires cheating the public out of its due process, a finite uranium fuel source whose carbon emissions go up with the depleting of the high grade ore, the inherently dangerous competition of production margins versus safety margins, along with the mounting cost of security, etc...

what's changed? other than a new crop of unproven designs... nothing... nuclear power is still very controversial. So we take another look and another look... let's get more people to take a look and see the same problems persist.

Problem is that time is wasting on implementing the real solutions...

Even if the EPACT2005 were to successfully hornswaggle the US taxpayer into financing the first two new reactors, well that still leaves 300 to go in the US alone, doesn't it? and 1700 to go in the rest of the world?

gunter, nirs

Anonymous said...

The last nuke reactor was built in the USA in the 1970s. Are you driving around in the same automotive technology as you did in the 1970s? Is your computer the same as those of the 1970s? Does your doctor use the same technology to save lives that they had in the 1970s? Did most of our jobs even exist in the 1970s?

Anti-nuke rhetoric is, however, still the same as it was in the 1970s. Why suggest that nuclear power plants would be built the same as they were in the 1970s.

The facts are that the contractors who built the bulk of the nuclear plants caused much of their expense because of a clause in the contracts guaranteeing them a higher fee for any construction delay or cost overruns of the job. What do you think a construction company is going to do under such a contract? Is it surprising that the costs of construction just kept going up and up and up???

The costs also increased due to well meaning but misinformed environmental groups, yes, but the main problem with 1970s nuclear plants is that each one was created as a custom design never to be repeated (read expensive), with a construction contract that guaranteed high construction costs. Despite all that, the nuclear plants were and still are profitable, even before paying off the construction debt.

Read a bit more about new reactor designs. My personal favorite is the Pebble Bed Reactor (see wikipedia) because they require less complexity in the cooling system, cannot melt down, are initially cheaper and easier (and faster) to build than most designs, and are modular so each reactor can be made from mass produced parts, making each successive reactor cheaper than the last. Most importantly, modules can be added at any time to increase power output. A city could construct one, then as energy demands grow add a second and then a third in later years to supply the demands of a growing population.