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Misinformation 101, India and Viet-Nam

vietnam From a section at called Info 101 comes this bit from Michele Mello aiming to determine if nuclear energy is “clean”:

Some people consider nuclear power to be a clean energy resource and claim it has no GHG emissions. However nuclear energy is the costliest energy resource of all. The cost to mine, transport, refine, and build infrastructure to create nuclear power is astronomical, as will be elaborated later. Much like fossil fuels, uranium is not a renewable resource and once it runs out there isn’t anymore.

Here’s a contest: spot the errors in this one paragraph and then hope this doesn’t really represent info 101. At the least, Ms. Mello could have bypassed the journalistic “Some people claim” construction. Some people claim I’m a god in my own time, but everyone else would be right to wonder who those morons people are.

To her credit, Mello is attempting to engage the issue – she also looks at hydro and hydrogen. We think her facts are off, but not her sincerity. Perhaps we could send her a few NEI fact sheets.


This story about Dr. Anil Kakodkar, the chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary of its Department of Atomic Energy (seems like he should be one or the other, but there you are) is a sort of confusing read, likely due to translation, but this bit still gave us pause:

The difference between nuclear scientists and normal humans is that they can't be 99.99 percent correct. They have to be 100 percent in whatever they do and Dr Kakodkar's lecture in Mumbai was just that.

That seems awfully romantic to us. Scientists don’t get to be 100% correct too often just by the nature of science itself – not to mention the nature of human existence. Non-nuclear folks don’t make it to 99.99 percent correct very often either. Elevating nuclear science to some kind of celestial sphere doesn’t help the discussion as much as one might think.

On the other hand, this:

India will be importing some 40 light water reactors which will help India stabilize its demand for power by 2020. And after that thorium based reactors would fill the gap.

If there were worries about India and its industrialization, consider them retired. They seem to have exactly the right idea about how to move forward.


Consider that Viet-Nam is starting at a fairly bad place:

At present, about 60 percent of Vietnam's energy comes from coal and gas-fired plants and 40 percent from hydropower turbines, but demand outstrips supply and blackouts are common.

And consider the potential:

Demand for power will remain robust with growth seen at 14-15% per year "in the next several years", he said.

Total power consumption is forecast to rise to 93.4 billion kilowatt-hours next year based on forecast economic growth of 6.5-7% and industrial production expansion of 7.5%, the government said in a report on Thursday.

Then think of a solution. The Viet-Namese have:

Viet Nam plans to start building its first nuclear power plant in five years and plug it into the grid by 2020 as demand for power continues to grow at a rate of about 15% per year, the country's top atomic official said.

This will boost their energy capacity quite a lot, but it won’t allow those coal and gas plants to close because the demand for electricity will already have outstripped the additional juice produced by the nuclear energy plant.

But at least it won’t be another coal-fired plant, so it’s better than just a wash. (And this article only covers the nuclear element and serving up more electricity – Viet-Nam may well have other plans to reduce their carbon footprint.)

Interesting article. Viet-Nam is moving like chain lightning to get a nuclear industry together. It’s amazing what can be done when the will to do it is there.

You may be sure that whenever we do a story about Viet-Nam, that’s where the picture will come from. It’s the Ireland of Southeast Asia.


perdajz said…
We have the usual errors of saying something about nuclear power is "astronomical" in absolute terms, without normalizing it per unit output. Something "astronomical" becomes manageable or even cheap when divided by the astronomical number of kw-hr of a nuclear plant produces. For example, the cost of the back of the fuel cycle can be regarded as "astronomical", until you realize it is 1 - 4% of the total cost of electricity.

We also have the use of the meaningless term "renewable". The enery output to energy input ratio for nuclear power is actually quite favorable, regardless of whether or not it meets some vague definition of renewable. Wind and solar power consume input power, raw material, labor and so on, and definitely have a finite lifetime, as evidenced by the frequently short lifespan of a PV panel or wind turbine.
Luke said…
So, it's not strictly correct to write the name of the country as "Vietnam"? Hmm, well, I've learned something today.
donb said…
"Info 101" stated:
Much like fossil fuels, uranium is not a renewable resource and once it runs out there isn’t anymore.

If we should run out of uranium, we will still have thorium, and there is even more thorium around than uranium.

With breeder reactors for uranium and thorium (both already demonstrated), we have enough fuel to last until the sun evolves into a red giant and swallows the earth. See this posting to get an idea of the enormous amount of energy available from nuclear sources.
Anonymous said…
"Renewable" refers to the fuel, not to the techology to turn it into electricity.
Joffan said…
Anon @12:28:

So when it's nuclear, the whole lifecycle needs to be considered, but when it's wind or solar, you only need to talk about the moment of electricity generation. Hmmm.

I prefer the more useful term "sustainable" which simply means that we can continue to use a particular electricity source for many generations - David McKay suggests a thousand years is a good working period, and James Hansen among others has suggested that lasting more than 500 years is effectively forever.
Anonymous said…
Looking at the events in India and Vietnam is critical, because a comparative perspective on what other nations have done shows us the potential for the US. A book I just read that does this called SITE FIGHTS: Divisive Facilities and Civil Society in Japan and the West (Cornell University Press 2008) looks at the French and Japanese nuclear power systems.
gunter said…
It is "Viet Nam." I dont think there is actually a hyphen.

Their language is monosyllabic. An absolutely beautiful country and people despite the devastation of many years of colonial wars. I was there twice; in Da Nang (central) and Vung Tau (southern).

To the point, Viet Nam is another example of how a centralized authoritarian effort is essential to push this technology along.

Russian reactors, right?

Despite its monicker of the
"The People's Republic," there will not be public hearings, no due process and a one-sided environmental impact statement. Its no wonder you salivate...Isn't democracy a drag?

No doubt Viet Nam will be moving as quickly on developing a nuclear weapons program. They are the masters of working underground, you know (the Chu Chi tunnels totally concealed an entire army under General Westmoreland's nose). Probably as good or better than North Korea. Viet Nam is the leading military power of Southeast Asia and fully intends to remain so. Good reason...
The military regime in Burma is pushing ahead on its likely dual-use nuclear program with the aid of North Korea. You got a blog coming up on that?

Speaking of government pushes for new nukes, I notice you did not post anything on Tennessee Valley Authority's recent announcement to cancel three of its four proposed new reactors?
Anonymous said…
And I wonder why Gunter and the NIRS hasn't posted anything about Pickens bailing out of his windfarm project? Surely that rates as much a mention as any TVA story.
And why would Vietnam want to pursue obsolete and dangerous weapons? Do they have enemies? (No.) And why would they use LWRs, which actually make the fuel less useful after it's been used? As we all know, LWRs - by their very nature - turn fuel into material that's practically unusable for skullduggery of any sort.

In addition nations that are different from the US have different processes for facility approval. You rarely see the sort of shrill debate in France (the second oldest democracy in the world) that you see here about nuclear power. Perhaps that's because the French don't have the terminal case of paranoia over a technology that has practically zero unknown risks left. I suppose the Indians, the Vietnamese and the Chinese share the French attitude of rational technological risk assessment, rather than the US process of shrill screaming, fear-mongering, and disinformation.

Further, I suppose that if certain sectors of the US public don't get over their paranoia over nuclear technology, the future will be born elsewhere, and the world will move on. This would be sad...but that would be life just dictating its way.

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