Monday, December 07, 2009

Some Light (and Heavy) Nuclear Isotope Readings You May Have Missed Over the Past Week

If you’re not too busy during this second week of my favorite holiday month, there are a number of readings on nuclear energy I recommend (in no particular order).

First is from Brian Wang who’s the main writer at Next Big Future. Brian, in a rebuttal to Michael Dittmar’s series at The Oil Drum claiming the “world’s uranium supply situation is unsustainable,” is making a small bet with Dittmar about who will be wrong in their nuclear generation and uranium forecasts out to 2020. The two have been really duking it out in the comments section which has made for quite the entertaining read.

The second piece comes from This Week in Nuclear’s John Wheeler who discussed the incident at the Kaiga nuclear plant in India where a worker contaminated his fellow employees’ drinking water with tritium. After all the facts were presented, John expressed his beef with the inaccurate reporting from the media of this incident:

What REALLY caught my eye about this story was the irresponsible and inaccurate way the event was characterized in the press around the world. Almost every major news outlet called it a “radioactive leak” that “sickened workers.” It was not until hours later that a few started to carry scaled back headlines with more accurate accounts. I really have to wonder if any of these international news services have anyone on their staff with a clue about nuclear energy. If they did, and that person did just a small amount of legwork and fact checking they could have easily reached a correct conclusion: there was no leak, and workers were not sickened by radiation.

The third recommended piece is from Steven Andrew at the Examiner who is making a case to build a prototype fast reactor, and the fourth is an audio piece from UK’s BBC discussing the US debate on building new nuclear plants. The BBC piece pulled a few quotes from several US anti-nuclear folks that we’re already familiar with here at this blog.

And last but not least comes from Barry Brook’s seventh piece from his series on “thinking critically about sustainable energy (TCASE).” In his latest analysis, Barry found that the ratios of materials/land requirements, for an equivalent solar thermal plant compared to a nuclear plant (both calculated at 90% capacity factor) was: Concrete = 15 : 1; Steel = 75 : 1; Land = 2,530 : 1.

Needless to say, for concrete and steel — two of the most carbon-intensive products embedded in any power generation facility — this amounts to a large difference in the embodied energy and associated greenhouse gas emissions of the capital infrastructure. As such, the additional mining, required to deliver the limestone and iron ore needed to produce the construction materials for solar thermal versus nuclear, must be set against uranium mining (until Generation IV reactors are standard, that is). Anti-nukes who raise the mining objection against nuclear power, but ignore the mining associated with solar (or wind) construction, are presenting a false comparison. They can’t have it both ways.

Hope you check some of these out, enjoy!

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