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Europe Warms to Nuclear Power 706

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the practically-melting-with-anticipation dept.
FleaPlus writes "The CS Monitor reports that for the first time in 15 years a European nation has started building a nuclear reactor, with six more likely to be built in the next decade. France is also planning to develop a safer and more efficient "fourth generation" reactor by 2020. This is in light of rising fossil fuel prices and a desire to reduce CO2 emissions. Still, a majority of EU citizens are opposed to nuclear energy, primarily for environmental reasons, even though nuclear power releases less radioactive material than burning coal."
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Europe Warms to Nuclear Power

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  • by KrisCowboy (776288) on Monday January 09, 2006 @03:29AM (#14425593) Journal
    Nuclear energy and Hydrogen are two effective ways to counter the diminishing fossil fuels. Once the heavy industries and transportation shifts to these alternative fuels, the world doesn't have to depend on Middle-East anymore.
    • by Dance_Dance_Karnov (793804) on Monday January 09, 2006 @03:32AM (#14425597) Homepage
      only if you are using that a non fossil-fuel energy source to get that hydrogen. It is currently cheapest to get hydrogen from hydro-carbons. (if memory serves)
    • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) on Monday January 09, 2006 @03:49AM (#14425644) Journal
      Nuclear Power will get us over for a while. but hydrogen is bullshit. It takes more energy to make H than what you get from burning it. Therefore it is an energy sink, esp. if you get it from cracking H2O. It's better to simply use the electricity you make to crack the water As Electricity to Do Work than to blow it on H.

      Nuclear power has promise, though. Especially if we can get IFR reactors going. There is sufficient fuel to power IFR type facilities for many many years. This results because the IFR is a breeder reactor which can utilize uranium 238 and damn near anything else that's densely radioactive. There isn't much of a future for standard fission reactors, and fast breeders are politically insane - but Integral Fast Reactors could really be the ticket for quite some time.

      Or, at least until the oil gets so expensive we can't build computers to control the reactors...


      • by Walkiry (698192) on Monday January 09, 2006 @04:14AM (#14425718) Homepage
        >Nuclear Power will get us over for a while. but hydrogen is bullshit. It takes
        >more energy to make H than what you get from burning it. Therefore it is an
        >energy sink, esp. if you get it from cracking H2O. It's better to simply use the
        >electricity you make to crack the water As Electricity to Do Work than to blow it
        >on H.

        Hydrogen has the potential of being a way of tapping resources that are otherwise not easy to exploit. Iceland, for example, has huge geothermal potential but it isn't exactly easy to export that electricity out of the middle of the atlantic. Making H could be a decent way of doing so.
        • Shipping refrigerated liquid H2 isn't exactly cheap, ya know.

          • by ultranova (717540) on Monday January 09, 2006 @11:17AM (#14427899)

            Shipping refrigerated liquid H2 isn't exactly cheap, ya know.

            So don't refrigerate it. Fill balloons with it, let them float to mainland, drain hydrogen, and bulk ship the empty balloons back to Iceland.

      • People keep bringing up the "point" that hydrogen takes too much energy to generate. It DOESN'T HAVE TO BE done with electrocity! There are ways of doing it biologically.

        http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,54456, 00.html [wired.com]
        http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/10.04/mustread. html?pg=5 [wired.com]

        It's basically using solar energy to make hydrogen, but without the trouble of solar cells.
  • by montyzooooma (853414) on Monday January 09, 2006 @03:33AM (#14425602)
    Somebody realised that existing nuclear reactors account for 10-15% of production in Europe and they're pretty much all due to be decommissioned within the next 15 years or so. With solar and wind power still impractical and increasing oil supply a risky prospect what else was going to happen?
    • by Mudcathi (584851) on Monday January 09, 2006 @04:11AM (#14425711) Journal
      France is set to generate 76% of its power needs through the nuclear option. Source: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/reac tion/readings/french.html [pbs.org]
      • by Rickler (894262) on Monday January 09, 2006 @04:25AM (#14425749)
        Thx for the link. It's amazing that over 90% of France's electricity is nuclear or hydro. Maybe it's because they didn't grow up learning about nuclear waste by watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Simpsons.

        The sad truth.
        Part of their popularity comes from the fact that scientists and engineers have a much higher status in France than in America. Many high ranking civil servants and government officials trained as scientists and engineers (rather than lawyers, as in the United States), and, unlike in the U.S. where federal administrators are often looked down upon, these technocrats form a special elite. Many have graduated from a few elite schools such as the Ecole Polytechnic. According to Mandil, respect and trust in technocrats is widespread. "For a long time, in families, the good thing for a child to become was an engineer or a scientist, not a lawyer. We like our engineers and our scientists and we are confident in them."
      • France has a huge leading technocracy. The decision to go mostly nuclear for electricity distribution was facilitated by there existing only one state-owned electricity producer (Electricité de France a.k.a. EDF) and by a mostly non-democratic decision-making process.

        On the other hand there were never any huge, organized anti-nuclear protests in France, which was hit very hard by the first oil price hike in 1973. Anti-nuclear protests in recent years have been confined to sites where nuclear wastes wer
    • by cliffski (65094) on Monday January 09, 2006 @04:11AM (#14425715) Homepage
      energy efficiency. The amount of heat energy alone that we throw away is staggering. In winter time, most UK high street stores heat their shops and leave heir doors open 'invitingly' onto the street. Almost every business PC in the UK is left switched on overnight, over weekends, and even when the employee goes on holiday, ditto the monitors. Streetlights are dumb, and left on throughout the night even where nobody is to be seen for miles. Almost every consumer device you buy has a power-wasting standby mode, and wastes huge chunks of energy as heat and noise.
      Like it or not, we throw most of our energy away needlessly. People make no effort to save energy, and the energy consumption is rarely a factpr is purchase deicisons for consumer devices. This needs to change, and the best way to do this is to shift more of the tax burden onto energy by means of a carbon tax.
      Building nuclear power so we can keep on throwing energy away is madness. Lets do the sensible thing and clamp down more on our wastefull consumption of the stuff.
      • energy efficiency. The amount of heat energy alone that we throw away is staggering, etc...

        This has been true for decades, and it hasn't changed. What makes you think it's going to change now?

        Environmentalists have been talking about reducing energy consumption since the 70's. Guess what's happened since then? Huge increases in the amount of energy consumed. What makes you think it's going to be any different going forward. I don't think that "c'mon guys, this time I really mean it!" is going to change anyt
      • You're mistaken. Energy efficiency is like overoptimizing programs. A lot of effort, time and wealth spent chasing a non-problem in ways that complicate infrastructure and limit choices.

        You're reacting as if energy were scarce. It isn't. If more would be useful, build more power stations.

        BTW, if I haven't made it clear, your arrogant use of first-person-plural disgusts me. Allow me to bring to your attention the important question: whose property is this energy? And the important answer: not yours. So who a
  • Europeans (Score:4, Insightful)

    by liangzai (837960) on Monday January 09, 2006 @03:35AM (#14425607) Homepage
    Everyone knows that nuclear power is clean. Europeans are concerned about two other things:

    1. Disaster. Nuclear engineers say that the chance of a meltdown is very small, but this argument is worthless after Harrisburg and Chernobyl. People in general are mathematically clueless, but they do know that the risk is real and not small after these two events.

    2. Waste storage. Where do we put the waste products after burning it? People are afraid it might pollute the environment, perhaps not now but for furure generations. It will have to be stored for thousands of years. Shooting it out in space is not an option to most, having pictures of an explosing Columbia in the mind.

    Attitudes are changing now because people have to choose between a rock and a hard place, in the light of tough economic times and rising energy prices, and nuclear power is thus the pragmatic way to go. People will still be afraid of it, though.
    • get rid of waste (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Hanzie (16075) * on Monday January 09, 2006 @03:49AM (#14425646)
      We could get rid of waste by burying it deep in oceanic subduction zones, where the plates are moving downward. A guided drop would cause a penetration of about 100 feet or so into silt, then it goes down a few more feet each year (mostly due to sediment buildup).

      Recycling at it's finest. Nuke materials under miles of seawater + about 100 feet of mud, getting deeper all the time.

      Just put it in a casing shaped like a torpedo, beefed up with an armor penetrating nose, and drive it to the sea floor. It'll be going fast when it hits, and it'll keep going down a long way.

      Good luck digging that up again.

      • by Richard Kirk (535523) on Monday January 09, 2006 @04:36AM (#14425781)
        Well, exactly. Stick it in solid form a hole in an earthquake zone. It starts leaking before it's halfway gone. You can't dig it up and re-seal it. We are all stuffed.

        The UK Windscale nuclear plant - now the Sellafield reprocessing plant, and soon probably to be re-badged the Ravengalss Wildlife park or something like that has a pipeline that put dissolved low-level waste into the sea. At first this sounds like a really, really bad idea. However, the Atlantic has about 10^13 curies of mixed radioactive stuff in it - a lot of it a duterium, tritium, C14, and a mess of heavy metals. You could dump all the waste that had ever been produced into the Atlantic, and provided you mixed it in well, you would never be able to detect the difference. The 1950's solution was to stick a pipe far enough into the ocean to get the waste into some of the fast currents in the north Irish sea, which should sweep it out into the Atlantic. It has been argued since that this did not qork quite as designed, but at the time this bit of the Irish Sea had been surveyed as well as anywhere. The other UK solution was to stick the stuff into drums and drop it into the mid-Atlantic. The drums were designed to burst half-way down, again dispersing the material into the fast ocean currents.

        Compare this to the US idea of chucking solid waste into a concreted drum, and sending it right to the bottom. The bottom of the oceans are often quiet places where the water hardly moves. Fish and crustacea live in the rusting cans, and lay their eggs on the concrete. We are trawling for deep sea fish like grenadiers these days as the cod has virtually gone, so we may be getting it all back again - we don't know.

        We seem to have lived through an age when Science was trusted to do anything, and the nuclear budget could be underwritten by weapons work; then through an age when Science was not trusted at all, and anything nuclear was controlled by evil warmongers. We might actually be heading for a balanced view. Coo!

        • by Vintermann (400722) on Monday January 09, 2006 @07:30AM (#14426348) Homepage
          Ah yes, the radioactive technetium being dispersed harmlessly into fast ocean currents, that made the UK government very popular in Norway and Iceland. Especially since we were told that the Sellafield project was a huge unprofitable mess, just kept because our former colony-power neighbour wanted enriched uranium for their nuclear weapons.
      • Bad idea: volcanoes (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SHiFTY1000 (522432)
        Generally the friction caused by the subduction creates immense heat, melting the rock layer that is subducted. When the rock melts, superheated steam causes volcanoes to form above the subduction zone. For an example, see http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~leeman/Cascades.gif [rice.edu]

        So unless you want volcanoes of nuke waste (!) it might be better to bury it in a geologically stable area, such as the middle of a continent.

        Logically, if they started reprocessing waste, it would be such a small amount you would only nee
        • by Gandalf_the_Beardy (894476) on Monday January 09, 2006 @05:46AM (#14426000)
          As a geologist I can safely say that sticking it into a subduction zone is damn near ideal. Melting in a subduction zone is not caused by heat but by the water saturation of the rock carried down. You have to get quite deep before this happens as well. High level waste decays quickly as these things go, and the time between something starting subduction, at maybe a couple of meters a year, and starting to melt, at maybe a few kilometers down is more than enough for a considerable amount of the radioactivity to dissapear. Combine that with the fact that the magma itself is radioactive (magma is molten partially due to it's actinides and transuranic radionuclides) and you can see a small barrel of waste is not really any real problem. The biggest problem is missing the subduction zone and having the barrel sit on the sea floor. Since you would have to engineer it for this eventuality it's simpler and safer to just engineer it to those specs and stick it in Yucca mountain or a similar site in Europe and let it decay there instead.
      • A guided drop would cause a penetration of about 100 feet or so into silt, then it goes down a few more feet each year (mostly due to sediment buildup).

        This seems a little extreme, especially considering that enriched uranium waste becomes only as radioactive as natural uranium in only 100 years. Which is a fraction of the time it takes for material to sink into the mantle.
    • Re:Europeans (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Nicolas MONNET (4727) <nicoaltiva@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday January 09, 2006 @03:51AM (#14425654) Journal

      2. Waste storage. Where do we put the waste products after burning it?

      The waste material isn't actually that much of a problem. It's dangerous stuff, and you can't really "dispose" of it, I.E. leave it somewhere and forget about it. You've gotta live with it. Hundred of thousands of tonnes. But actually, it's not that much. Almost all of France's waste for the past 40 years sits in a place the size of a large warehouse.

      The real concern, IMO (I studied electrical engineering), is more with the irradiated powerstation components. Older plants are virtually impossible to dismantle; your only option is to basically bury them on site.

      • Re:Europeans (Score:4, Insightful)

        by greppling (601175) on Monday January 09, 2006 @05:50AM (#14426016)
        The waste material isn't actually that much of a problem. It's dangerous stuff, and you can't really "dispose" of it, I.E. leave it somewhere and forget about it. You've gotta live with it. Hundred of thousands of tonnes. But actually, it's not that much. Almost all of France's waste for the past 40 years sits in a place the size of a large warehouse.

        Well, the problem is that you have to store it for some 10,000 years. That's 2500 warehouses of pretty dangerous stuff, that you have to protect for a very long time. Protect it from criminals, terrorists, natural disasters. Again for 10,000 years!

        And that's only the dangers we think of at the moment. Are you really so sure we will have a stable enough government for 10,000 years to come to guarantee just the basic protection of the waste storage sites?

        It is beyond me to estimate the dangers of running a nuclear power plant, whether it is worth the risk. But the nuclear waste problem is what makes me want to get rid of nuclear power.

        (But then, I am from Germany, probably the country most critical of nuclear power all over Europe.)

    • Re:Europeans (Score:4, Insightful)

      by JanneM (7445) on Monday January 09, 2006 @03:53AM (#14425658) Homepage
      1. Disaster. Nuclear engineers say that the chance of a meltdown is very small, but this argument is worthless after Harrisburg and Chernobyl. People in general are mathematically clueless, but they do know that the risk is real and not small after these two events.

      That was made a lot worse by proponents greatly overstating their case, effectively arguing that any accident is utterly theoretic and could never, ever happen in reality. When it did - two larger accidents, in Three-Mile Island and in Chernobyl, and numerous smaller incidents (like the Darwin Award winners in a Japanese plant that carted radioactive materials in ordinary buckets) - that effectively destroyed the credibility of the nuclear industry.

      When people today say that 1. "Current reactor designs are a lot safer than the 30+ ones we use now"; and 2. "The risk is very, very small", people will say that 3. "You lied through your teeth to get us where you wanted the last time, and we bet you're doing the same this time around"

      • Re:Europeans (Score:4, Informative)

        by bm_luethke (253362) <luethkebNO@SPAMcomcast.net> on Monday January 09, 2006 @04:26AM (#14425751)
        Not to mention that those two disasters (3-mile and Chernobyl) are irrelevant in in many other ways.

        Chernobyl was because they ignored repeated safety mechanisms while doing an experiment with intentionally making the reactor in a Bad State - even repeatedly turning the failsafes off (I don't recall the exact number, less than 10 more than 5). This was mainly due to failure of the different experts to communicate (not really thier fault - it was illegal for them to do so). The engineers who "caused" the disaster had no idea what was going to happen, had the nuclear engineers been there things would have most likely been different. In the free world I imagine those nuclear engineer would have done something fairly drastic to stop it. Nor would that type of expirement ever have been allowed, and that is especially true now (no nuclear engineer would allow it to happen).

        Three-mile was a true accident of a nuclear reaactor. The reason it is irrelevant is that the danger was exxagerated. A great example of this was the fear about a possible explosion because of the reactor filling with hydrogen. Reporters reported what would happen if that amount of hydrogen were to ignite, pointed out that a simple spark can cause it too. However, there was no oxygen present - it was designed to work in that manner. No engineer was worried about it. Problems with cameras was also a big story, but yet again was greatly exagerated (most of the ones that were out were tertiary systems - the engineers and disaster crews was never in the dark about what went on in the reactor). But I suppose "We are gonna dieeeeeee!!!!" made better news than "It's being contained, working like it is supposed to, don't worry". Not that everything was perfect, but there was little real danger to surrounding people and the environment. Hell, I'd be more worried about some of the high energy physics experiments out there - at least they are pushing the envelope, nuclear reactors are a pretty mature technology.

        It's not even so much that reactors are much safer now (true none the less), but that reactors were *never* as dangerous as public opnion has them. Only if multiple layers of failsafes along with intentional criticality (such as Chernobyl) is there any real danger from an accident. Plus we can recylce much of the waste produced now into other isotopes so that is slowly going away, even then it has less impact overall and easier to contain than coal.
        • Re:Europeans (Score:4, Informative)

          by NickFortune (613926) on Monday January 09, 2006 @06:35AM (#14426170) Homepage Journal
          It's not even so much that reactors are much safer now (true none the less), but that reactors were *never* as dangerous as public opnion has them.

          I believe you. There are a few problems however.

          The first problem is that a planet relying on nuclear power for its long term energy needs is going to need a large number of reactors for a long time. The more reactors, the more chances for the odds to come up; the longer we use them, the more likely a failure. Reactors could be much safer than ever before and still be unacceptably dangerous over time and widespread deployment.

          The second problem is that the consequences of failure are so severe. A bad reactor incident could render some european nations uninhabitable in their entirity. With stakes like that, some people are disinclined to roll the dice at all.

          The thrid one is that, as already observed, there is a perceived shortage of trustworthy information. Salemen are, of course, going to say the risk is vanishingly small, politicians have a tendancy to to present as facts anything they think will serve their political ends and scientific reports that don't report the results desireced by those who commissioned them rarely see light of day. It seems as if the only way any of us can ever really have any confidence in reactor design would be to get a PhD and a job working on reactor design. Sadly, that's not an option for most of the populace, while those that do are contractually prohibited from sharing their findings.

          The lack of trust is, assuming the figures add up, the showstopper. It's hard to see how we can have confidence in any design review, to say nothing of operational procedure after a plant is commissioned. Come up with an answer to that - and I don't mean a bug ad campaign - and we might get somewhere. In the meantime, I can't help sympathising with the NIMBYs

      • by Frogbert (589961)
        "You lied through your teeth to get us where you wanted the last time, and we bet you're doing the same this time around"

        Exactly, There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again.
    • Re:Europeans (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Solandri (704621)
      1. Disaster. Nuclear engineers say that the chance of a meltdown is very small, but this argument is worthless after Harrisburg and Chernobyl. People in general are mathematically clueless, but they do know that the risk is real and not small after these two events.

      It's interesting you'd bring up Harrisburg as support for your statement. Three Mile Island was a non-event. Despite the operators shutting off safety systems, ignorning warning signs, and basically doing everything they could do to screw thi

    • Re:Europeans (Score:5, Informative)

      by po8 (187055) on Monday January 09, 2006 @04:24AM (#14425746)

      The idea that nuclear waste might need to be protected "for thousands of years" has driven a lot of the debate. This is unfortunate, since it doesn't turn out to be particularly true.

      One of the fundamental laws of radioactivity is that elements that are highly radioactive lose their radioactivity quickly, and elements whose radioactivity lingers a long time don't emit much radiation. The danger, of course, is those things that are in the middle along both axes. But as a point of comparison, it turns out that there is essentially no radiation left [rerf.or.jp] from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.

      It is true that the concentrated fission products and neutron-activated junk from current fission reactors would still be pretty hot after 20 years, but I suspect they'd be way less dangerous to climb around in than a 20-year-old dioxin spill [greenpeace.org]. I think the evidence suggests that dumping the stuff deep-ocean in 50-year barrels would be a perfectly reasonable disposal method; it would be hard to convince the general public of that, though. Kind of sad, really—in many ways, nuclear power is our safest and most environmentally friendly energy alternative.

    • Re:Europeans (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Renegade Lisp (315687) * on Monday January 09, 2006 @04:27AM (#14425754)
      Relying on nuclear power in the light of dwindling fossil fuel reserves is a very short-sighted approach. At the current rate of consumption, there is only enough Uranium on the planet for the next 50 years [wikipedia.org] -- somewhat more if you start using more expensive, lower-quality reserves. So the problem is really just shifted into the future by a very small number of years, compared to human history or the history of the planet as a whole.

      At the same time, we have an energy source right in our vicinity which is, for all practical purposes, non-depletable and delivers several thousand times more energy [wikipedia.org] to our planet in every second than we are currently using. It would be the most logical thing to switch everything over to that energy source as quickly as possible -- since before long, we'll have to do that anyway.

      • Keep reeding... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by drstock (621360) on Monday January 09, 2006 @07:11AM (#14426283)
        Keep reeding that wikipedia article. Newer breeder reactors use U-238 instead of U-235. That's enough Uranium for thousands of years, even calculating the ever increasing power demands.
        As a bonus, breeder reactors are much safer since the core can't achieve cain reaction on it's own and therefore can't cause a melt down.
      • We haven't looked for uranium nearly as hard as we've looked for, say, oil. There's almost certainly a lot more of the stuff out there that we haven't found yet. In any case, if there's a supply crunch either "conventional" breeder reactors, or thorium breeders, are perfectly feasible, and we could supply the world's energy requirements with them for thousands of years. As for solar energy, this is a nice piece of religion that doesn't stack up for three very simple reasons:
        1. It's way, way more expensive than anything we're currently using, including wind power. That's why wind farms have been going up all over the place, not solar arrays.
        2. We can't store energy cheaply enough, and on a large enough scale, to run an electricity grid.
        3. Neither of these problems are going to be solved quick enough to prevent China and India, particularly, building the biggest set of coal-fired power stations, belching lethal pollutants (which will kill millions of their own citizens) and greenhouse gases (which might just send the US and Europe into an Ice Age, flood much of Bangladesh, send Australia into perpetual drought, and so on...), the world has ever seen.
        Nuclear energy is the only thing that's available now that can replace coal and gas at anything like a comparable cost and without releasing greenhouse gases.
  • by Derling Whirvish (636322) on Monday January 09, 2006 @03:35AM (#14425608) Journal
    even though nuclear power releases less radioactive material than burning coal

    Generally anyway, when things work as they are supposed to. But things happen. People worry about a catastrophic failure of a nuclear plant. A catastrophic failure of a coal-fired electric plant would result in minimal environmental damage and could be easily cleaned up. A catastrophic failure of a nuclear power plant on the other hand ...

    • I would wager that the total pollution output per megawatt of the world's coal plants in the last 30 years far exceeds the pollution output per megawatt of the world's nuclear plants in the same period even if you include Chernobyl.

      You can't just look at the worst disasters. You have to look at the average pollution output over an extended period of time. Your argument is like saying planes are less safe because when one crashes a lot more people die than in a car crash. If you analyze it on a per pass

    • by dbIII (701233) on Monday January 09, 2006 @07:31AM (#14426350)
      even though nuclear power releases less radioactive material than burning coal
      Plus the article that asserted this in the first place is crap and only has been cited in the media and not other scientific papers (prove me wrong someone). You can spot the original article on the ORNL web site, but to sum up take the most radioactive coal you can find on earth (coal contains sediments as well as plant material), assume that all coal everywhere is like that, then conveniently forget about pollution controls designed to remove even GASSES and assume that all of those heavy metals end up in the atmosphere instead of being in low concentration in an ash dam at the power plant. Coal fired power has enough problems (CO2, lots of dead miners in China etc) without making some crap up just to make nuclear look better.

      The last time I brought this up here some brainwashed loony started going on about how fly ash should go into some sort of nuclear waste repositry instead of building materials, automotive putty etc.

      Remember, anyone that talks about a one true energy source is selling something or has been conned.

      • by TheSync (5291) on Monday January 09, 2006 @11:25AM (#14427981) Journal
        Plus the article that asserted this in the first place is crap and only has been cited in the media and not other scientific papers (prove me wrong someone).

        Peer reviewed science:

        Radiological Impact of Airborne Effluents of Coal and Nuclear Plants [jstor.org] J. P. McBride, R. E. Moore, J. P. Witherspoon, R. E. Blanco
        Science, New Series, Vol. 202, No. 4372 (Dec. 8, 1978) , pp. 1045-1050

        Radiation doses from airborne effluents of model coal-fired and nuclear power plants (1000 megawatts electric) are compared. Assuming a 1 percent ash release to the atmosphere (Environmental Protection Agency regulation) and 1 part per million of uranium and 2 parts per million of thorium in the coal (approximately the U.S. average), population doses from the coal plant are typically higher than those from pressurized-water or boiling-water reactors that meet government regulations. Higher radionuclide contents and ash releases are common and would result in increased doses from the coal plant. The study does not assess the impact of nonradiological pollutants or the total radiological impacts of a coal versus a nuclear economy.
  • Another issue that has re-sparked the debate, Many European countries rely on gas supplies for their energy requirements. Its not a massive % however with the recent russian/ukranian issues with gas supply it has highlighed the direct requirements for countries to have their supplies of energy.
    • the issues between russia and ukraina shouldn't bother the rest of europe much. as we all could see ukraine cannot afford to shutdown the pipeline and also cannot afford to steal gas for longer than two days. and even if ukraine really tries to hinder gas distribution, there is still a pipeline throgh belarus which is leased by gasprom for 40+ years and soon there will be a pipeline under the baltic sea.

      with all that and with the fact that europe imports only about 30% of its gas from russia it is a non-iss
  • I don't particularly want to see more reactors built but it is starting to look inevitable. But if we have to build them at least look at safer designs like pebble reactors [wired.com] which, unless anyone else on the board has more information, look like a better option.

    Of course we could drastically reduce the power needs of the populace if we just saved more energy. Leaving computers on all night, and worse monitors, is shockingly wasteful and we need tax incentives to insulate the current housing stock and regula
    • There is no way to safely and durably sustain the energy consumption rates of the so-called Western civilization. We can go by with it only because we really are a very small minority. If the whole world switched to the same lifestyle ... Really, it's all about consuming less, not producing more.
  • They Aren't Alone (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kid-noodle (669957) <jono@NoSPAM.nanosheep.net> on Monday January 09, 2006 @03:43AM (#14425630) Homepage
    The current British government also appears to be cautiously in favour of building a few more nuclear power stations to replace the ones due to be decommisioned in 2020 - the major barrier being that about half of the population is against them.
    (We worry about things like the increasing amounts of radioactive waste in our dumps, possible indications of higher incidences of leukemia and cancer in areas like Sellafield, and risks of a serious accident.)
    • by SHiFTY1000 (522432)
      This is largely due from the incredibly rapid decline of the North Sea oil and gas fields.

      Britain developed the North Sea oil and gas in the 70s, this largely saved its economy by providing three decades of cheap oil and natural gas. However, the good times are now about to abruptly end. Oil production is down dramatically- nearly 50% since 1999.

      In fact it fell 13% in just the last year! http://realtimenews.slb.com/news/story.cfm?storyi d =630622 [slb.com]

      In fact the North Sea is now well down on its peak p
  • I used to be a big fan of nuclear power. But then I did some research.

    1) It's not cost efficient, even when compared to wind.
    2) It's dangerous [disinfo.com]. (That's a really good article, by the way. It should be required reading for anyone commenting on this Slashdot story.)

    We really need to look toward alternatives (wind, solar-thermal, solar tower, wave, tidal, biomass...) if we intend to keep consuming power at current rates. (alternatives are also great for generating hydrogen, because the hydrogen can be a sto

    • Realistically, how much of our current power can we expect to be able to get out of these PC alternatives of yours? That and the costs associated with them are important factors. The issue is preserving our way of life, which, unfortunately will require lots of energy. The prospect of running a world with 6 billion inhabitants on wind power seems a bit unrealistic to me.

      IMO, we need nuclear fission energy to bridge the time we need to develope fusion. We can't afford to let society collapse in the meantime.
      • Realistically, how much of our current power can we expect to be able to get out of these PC alternatives of yours? That and the costs associated with them are important factors. The issue is preserving our way of life, which, unfortunately will require lots of energy. The prospect of running a world with 6 billion inhabitants on wind power seems a bit unrealistic to me.

        The sun delivers several thousand times more energy to the earth in every second than we are currently using. Increasing use of hydroe

  • by lyberth (319170) on Monday January 09, 2006 @03:54AM (#14425663) Homepage
    When the russians reduced the gas supply to Ukraine last week, many of the big european countries, that get the gas from rusia realised what a voulnerable situation they were in. many countries get a large part of thir gas from russia.
    In the European union there is now a debate going on each country having to produce more of its own energy. also the need to form a Musketeer agreement to stand against potential energy-blackmailing or catastrophes. Nuclear power is for most of the larger European countries a very viable sollution. that will greatly reduce the dependency of other countries.
  • by ms1234 (211056)
    Finland as the nation which is building the new reactor. Was heavily critized for it when the decision went through to start the construction work...
  • My two $ 0.02 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by anzev (894391) on Monday January 09, 2006 @03:58AM (#14425671)
    So, I live in Slovenia (I doubt any of you know where that is). But we have a nuclear plant. And it's been running for quite a while now. Because I've also studied physics I've found out, during some lectures, that the measurments taken around the nuclear plant show, that the grass around it recieves the exact same amount of the yearly dosage of radiation as something located far far away. Therefore, this energy is very clean, much cleaner than cole.

    Right, so, then a disaster happens. Well, chances are very slim for a disaster. Today, we have a higher safety regulation for operating of nuclear power plants, and we are not competing on who gets to restart the turbines faster (check this [stanford.edu]) without using safety measures.

    Besides disaster possibility, the problem is also waste dispossal as a poster pointed out before me. Where to put it. You simply cannot dissolve the waste, or this is to expensive. And I don't think the problem with space dumping is the image of Columbia blowing up. Waste baskets can be made that whitstand such blasts. It's more of the awarness that we can't already pollute the space, since we fuc*** up mother Earth. And it's becoming an increasing security concern too with all the terrorists roaming around. Imagine a break-in into the waste storage facility. It's easy to make a dirty bomb [howstuffworks.com]. Breaking into the plant itself is much harder, although it's still a possibility.

    In conclusion, I think we have to accept the risks of possible danger (we fly with airlens, but those also crash don't they?) if in turn, we get back a possibility for a cleaner environment. And until we develop things than can use all the free enegry [amasci.com] just lying around and as long as we use things that rely on our supply of power (computers among other things :-) ), we'll have to face it that we live in a world we created. Maybe we should build reactors underground, or in a separate nation somewhere in the middle of nowhere... It's all a possibility. Anything is better than coal.
    • Re:My two $ 0.02 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bmgoau (801508) on Monday January 09, 2006 @06:06AM (#14426080) Homepage
      We have one reactor in Australia which is a lucas hights research reactor, for developing amoung other things, the radioactive isotopes used in medical diagnoses.

      The story goes, my next door neighbor is actually a Safty analyst up there. Whenever he comes around for the odd cup of tea he enlightens me on a few facts, which i feel speak fairly generally for most of the western nations with reactors. A few of the major points are

      1. The nuclear industry has grown up ALOT since the cold war era, and today there are rewards in place for safty record tracks, rather then being able to maintain the highest production levels.

      2. A literally massive portion of the nuclear waste is infact harmless, various items used not even close the the reactor have to be carefully disposed off under government legistlation, even though they contain little more radiation then that absorbed by a shirt from a day on the beach.

      3. The disposal methods avaliable for the classical highly radiactive waste have matured greatly without much public notice. The whole "to the moon theory" is as much of a joke as it is an insult to the industry in the 21st century, for one theres simply not enough waste produced to warrant it economically, let alone the safe risks involved in useing space dumping. Alot of people ignore the fact that alot of todays waste is going back into the earth from whence it came, and is as dangerous to people as raw amounts of uranium are if dug up intentionally. It comes out radioactive, it goes back radioactive. And in the proces generates electricity, industrial and medical materials. My neighbor is far more concerned about the pollution levels effecting peoples asthma.

      4. My neighbor also conceeded at nuclear technology might not be as economical as other forms of energy production, but we both came to this conclusion. It is worth going that extra mile to ensure that we no longer produce greenhouse gases adversly affection the worlds environment and also, that in many circumstances renewable energy fails in terms of practicality and maturity.

      So, for a more energy hungry world, that even having africa covered in wind farms couldnt feed, nuclear power seems to be the practical, and *arguably* economical choice for decreasing our reliance on fossile fuels and our harm to the environment. At least until *possibly* reaches maturity in the next 50 years or so.
  • I mean however some governments preach against pollution, just take a good look around the globe and try to honestly say something is made against it. While some minor things are done, globally there's nothing happening.

    So, when talking about building new nuclear power stations in europe, one has to thing about two things as causes:
    - cheaper energy,
    - lesser dependency on russian gas (as recent russian-ukrainian developments have shown).

    People of course are afraid of anything nuclear, and why shouldn't
  • A Little Perspective (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lucidus (681639) on Monday January 09, 2006 @04:47AM (#14425815)
    I have now changed my mind twice about the issue of nuclear power. At any given time, I like to think, my opinions have been knowledgable, well-reasoned, and justified by current circumstances. Still, facts and circumstances change.

    As a young science geek (I was born in 1952), I was excited by the possibilities of nuclear technology - power generation, of course, but also less obvious things like, say, canal excavation or spacecraft propulsion. Those were heady times, looking forward to the atomic age.

    A few years later, we had developed a better understanding of some long term problems, most seriously the storage of radioactive waste. (High-level wastes are small in volume, but pretty much inimical to life; there are in addition large quantities of low-level waste and irradiated materials to deal with). I had also learned a lot more about the gulf between idealized science and the behavior of those governments and large corporations who were actually capable of building nuclear installations. I decided the risks were just too great to accept.

    Today, with much more sophisticated reactor technologies, and at least a glimmering of real solutions to the waste storage problem, I think the risks of operating nuclear plants have become justifiable. And faced with the worsening consequences - moral, environmental, and political - of our world-wide petroleum addiction, nuclear power is the best alternative we have.
  • by Molina the Bofh (99621) on Monday January 09, 2006 @05:13AM (#14425910) Homepage
    Low levels of ionizing radiation seems to be actually beneficial to human health.

    This is called radiation hormesis. And this theory started after they found that people who lived in such a distance from hiroshima and Nagasaki that they received low radiation doses. And, years later, this population, exposed to radiation, had much lower cancer rates than non-exposed similar populations.

    You can check some references:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd= Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=1150419 7&query_hl=3&itool=pubmed_docsum [nih.gov]

    http://www.nature.com/embor/journal/v5/n1s/full/74 00222.html [nature.com]

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=00019A7 0-0C1C-1F41-B0B980A841890000&catID=4 [sciam.com]

    http://www.angelfire.com/mo/radioadaptive/inthorm. html [angelfire.com]

    http://www.mindfully.org/Pesticide/2004/Hormesis-T heory-Toxins27feb04.htm [mindfully.org]

  • by alanxyzzy (666696) on Monday January 09, 2006 @05:18AM (#14425926)
    My old boss Otto Frisch [wikipedia.org] wrote a satirical technical report On the Feasibility of Coal-Driven Power Stations [nmt.edu]

    The recent discovery of coal (black, fossilized plant remains) in a number of places offers an interesting alternative to the production of power from fission. Some of the places where coal has been found show indeed signs of previous exploitation by prehistoric men, who, however, probably used it for jewels and to blacken their faces at religious ceremonies.

    The power potentials depend on the fact that coal can be readily oxidized, with the production of a high temperature and an energy of about 0.0000001 megawatt days per gram. That is, of course, very little, but large amounts of coal (perhaps millions of tons) appear to be available.

    The chief advantage is that the critical amount is very much smaller for coal than for any fissile material. Fission plants become, as is well known, uneconomical below 50 megawatts, and a coal-driven plant may be competitive for small communities (such as small islands) with small power requirements.

    Design of a Coal Reactor
    The main problem is to achieve free, yet controlled, access of oxygen to the fuel elements. The kinetics of the coal-oxygen reaction are much more complicated than fission kinetics, and not yet completely understood. A differential equation which approximates the behaviour of the reaction has been set up, but its solution is possible only in the simplest cases. It is therefore proposed to make the reaction vessel in the form of a cylinder, with perforated walls to allow the combustion gases to escape. A concentric inner cylinder, also perforated, serves to introduce the oxygen while the fuel elements are placed between the two cylinders. The necessary presence of end plates poses a difficult but not insoluble mathematical problem.

    Fuel Elements
    It is likely that these will be easier to manufacture than in the case of fission reactors. Canning is unnecessary and indeed undesirable since it would make it impossible for the oxygen to gain access to the fuel. Various lattices have been calculated and it appears that the simplest of all, a close packing of equal spheres, is likely to be satisfactory. Computations are in progress to determine the optimum size of the spheres and the required tolerances. Coal is soft and easy to machine, so the manufacture of the spheres should present no major problem.

    Pure oxygen is of course ideal but costly; it is therefore proposed to use air in the first place. However, it must be remembered that air contains 78% nitrogen. If even a fraction of that combined with the carbon of the coal to form the highly-toxic gas cyanogen, this would constitute a grave health hazard (see below).

    Operation and Control
    To start the reaction one requires a fairly high temperature of about 988oC. This is most conveniently achieved by passing an electrical current between the inner and outer cylinder (the end plates being made of insulating ceramic). A current of several thousand amps. is needed., at some thirty volts, and the required large storage battery will add substantially to the cost of the installation.

    There is the possibility of starting the reaction by some auxiliary self-starting reaction, such as that between phosphine and hydrogen peroxide. This is being looked into. Once the reaction is started its rate can be controlled by adjusting the rate at which oxygen is admitted. This is almost as simple as the use of control rods in a conventional fission reactor.

    The walls of the reactor must withstand a temperature of well over a 1000oF in the presence of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon monoxide and dioxide, as well as

  • by NardofDoom (821951) on Monday January 09, 2006 @09:03AM (#14426903)
    There's something that everyone seems to be missing: Every kilowatt-hour saved is better than a kilowatt-hour being generated. Instead of taking more resources and polluting more to produce an additional kilowatt-hour so that we can continue to use heat^H^H^H^H light bulbs instead of switching to LEDs or CF bulbs or just turning off the lights when you leave a room. Putting more people onto existing capacity is better than eating up land to build power plants.
  • by srussell (39342) on Monday January 09, 2006 @09:07AM (#14426934) Homepage Journal
    even though nuclear power releases less radioactive material than burning coal.

    Yeah, until the waste containers start leaking and leach material into water tables [state.or.us].

    Don't get me wrong; I'm all for nuclear power, but I'm not convinced that we've got a decent mechanism for storing the waste yet. Maybe we could team up with these guys [guardian.co.uk].

    Incidentally, is there a nuclear physicist in the house? How does the waste from pebble reactors compare to traditional rod reactors when it comes to waste disposal? --- SER

  • by multiplexo (27356) on Monday January 09, 2006 @12:35PM (#14428677) Journal
    Everyone who brings up the spectre of Chernobyl (bad reactor design coupled with massive incompetence causes accident) or Three Mile Island (meltdown happens, containment structure does its job) as a reason for not further developing nuclear power must also be intellectually honest and then advocate the cessation of commercial air travel because of what happened on 9/11. No. I don't want to hear any arguments about how 9/11 couldn't happen again because of better security and because the passengers would probably overpower any future hi-jackers. No, that will be completely unacceptable and will be countered with pictures of the WTC collapsing and people jumping off of the WTC so they wouldn't burn to death.

    That's completely ridiculous of course and so are most of the arguments against developing nuclear power it's interesting to note that more people were killed on 9/11 than at Chernobyl and unlike the Chernobyl figures, which have been spun into fantasy by anti-nuclear environmental groups we can actually say that around 3000 people died on 9/11 because we found dead bodies or pieces thereof unlike Chernobyl where most of the body counts are the result of statistical extrapolations. But enviros haven't called for a cessation of air travel, probably because so many of them are rich and white and like to fly to places like Costa Rica for their vacations.

  • solution for waste (Score:3, Informative)

    by cdn-programmer (468978) <{ten.cigolarret} {ta} {rret}> on Monday January 09, 2006 @04:37PM (#14430960)
    It is amasing how much disinformation and outright lies have been told over the years. Without a firm grasp of the facts many solvable problems are viewed as impossible. In part - this was the objective of the disinformation campaigns.

    First some terminology:

    Natural uranium......... 99.3% U238, 0.7% U235
    Depleated Uranium....... 99.7% U238, 0.3% U235 (varies: 0.2%-0.4% U235)
    Reactor grade uranium... 96.0% U238, 4.0% U235 but this varies also.
    Slightly enriched(CANDU) 99.1% U238, 0.9% U235 (varies: 0.9%-2.0% U235)
    Spent fuel.............. 95.0% U238, 1.0% U235, 1.0% Pu, 3% crud (varies)

    Reactor grade here refers to Low Enriched typically used for the USA light water pressurized reactors.

    In the spent fuel, the U235 fraction can be as low as 0.4% and the Pu fraction is composed of Pu239 and Pu240. The Pu isotopes are practically impossible to separate and the Pu240 is so reactive that it is questionable - although probably possible - to have use as a bomb. A dirty weapon is possible.

    The Candu fuel cycle starts with 99.3% U238 and 0.7% U235. The spent fuel is about 0.23% U235 and 0.27% Pu.

    The Thorium fuel cycle converts Th to U233 which is as good as U235 for weapons and which can be easily chemically separated from the thorium.


    It should be painfully obvious to just about everyone that only about 3% of the mass of the spent fuel is crud. This is the nuclear waste and it _can_ be burned up several ways including spallation. The _other_ 97% is fuel. Furthermore the spent fuel from a light water pressurized reactor would generally be considered enriched for a CANDU reactor.

    Fuel reprocessing removes the "crud" and allows over 97% of the "spent fuel" to be elegible to be stuffed right back into the reactor.

    So why isn't reprocessing used? Well - in Europe it is. The USA in a magnificent display of stupidity and circular thinking decided to go it alone and proclaim that a once through fuel cycle is the _only_ way to go. Part of of the political support for this stems from the build up of stock piles of "spent fuel" which the public is told has no use. It does - its future reactor fuel. By analogy - if someone were to dump a litre of crud in a barrel of oil we certainly wouldn't call it "spent oil"! We'd figure out a way to remove the crud. However I can remember my father dumping "waste oil" on the ground - hopefully we now collect it and re-refine it.

    So one faction of the anti-nuclear crowd realised that keeping large stockpiles of deemed "waste" around gave them something to point their fingers at. Another faction perhaps with some justification just didn't want anyone to develop the technology to recycle the fuel because this does involve building plants that can separate the Plutonium. Also - by shortening the exposure time of the fuel mix the ratios of Pu 239 to Pu 240 can be controlled with the Pu 240 fraction reduced to under 7%. This is weapons grade plutonium. Yet another faction didn't want competition from a viable nuclear industry so they supported anything that generally doesn't make much sense.

    Now the thing is to look at the issue of depleated verses natural uranium. The enrichment process is expensive and still leaves about 1/2 of the original U235 in place.

    As such - there is very little difference in radioactivity between natural and depleated uranium. To say one is "safe" and the other is "unsafe" is splitting hairs. They are about the same.

    In fact - if we look at "spent fuel" and reprocess it to remove the highly radioactive fraction - then what is left over is very similar to both "natural" and "depleated" uranium... it just has a little plutonium. The 1/2 life of plutonium makes it more radioactive than uranium. However one must also realise that since both uranium and plutonium are very heavy metals, they act as excellent sheilds for radiation... more effective for instance than lead.

    What this all boils down to is that there is very little r
  • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Monday January 09, 2006 @07:05PM (#14432041)
    Europe Warms to Nuclear Power

    But not exactly to glowing reviews.
  • Umm? (Score:3, Informative)

    by xihr (556141) on Monday January 09, 2006 @08:25PM (#14432481) Homepage
    Everyone's aware that nuclear power [nei.org] accounts for 80% of electrical production in France, right? 16 countries get more than 25% of their electrical production from nuclear power.
  • by citanon (579906) on Tuesday January 10, 2006 @01:25AM (#14433701)
    Seeing as how France currently gets 76% of her electricity from nuclear power, it's hard to imagine how she could get any warmer.

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