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I encourage you to look to more accurate sources than the ones you list.  The NEA web page is five years out of date, for example.

It's too late in the day for me to point out all the errors here and I hope that Jérôme and others will chime in.

I will just talk about Chernobyl, the worst nuclear disaster in the world in the course of over 50 years of nuclear power and therefore billions of tons of carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions avoided.

The reactor at Chernobyl was made of graphite, which,if overheated, catches fire.  Reactors in Europe and the US are not made of graphite.  Chernobyl had no containment dome.  Reactors in the rest of the world do.  The incident at Chernobyl was the result of poor design.  It occurred under the worst conditions.  Bad as it was, the contamination of the surrounding land is not as high in radioactivity as the natural background radiation in Finland.

As for the health report as of 2005, see the World Health Organization's conclusions:

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr38/en/

Currently nuclear energy saves the emission of 2.3 billion tonnes of CO2 relative to coal. For every 22 tonnes of uranium used, one million tonnes of CO2 emissions is averted. Energy inputs to nuclear power produce only a few (eg2-5) percent of the CO2 emissions saved.

http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/printable_information_papers/inf50print.htm

This webpage of the World Nuclear Association examines many of the usual arguments and replies with documented facts.

To provide around-the-clock electricity rain or shine, you need either hydroelectric dams, fossil fuel burning plants, or nuclear energy.  
--More direct deaths occur a result of dam failures than from any other energy resource.  
--Coal combustion causes many chronic illnesses and hundreds of thousands of premature deaths annually.
--Deaths attributable to nuclear power are extremely low in comparison to these other energy sources.

Shutting down nuclear plants will mean billions of tons more carbon added to the earth's burden.

Wind and solar power are great but they cannot by themselves run our civilization and they will always require a backup.

As for the actual facts about the nuclear fuel cycle and CO2 production:

Studies of the carbon dioxide emissions from the nuclear fuel cycle under the different circumstances prevailing in two different countries show that these emissions are in the region of 0.5% to 4% of the emissions from the equivalent coal- fired generating capacity. Assertions that nuclear power could indirectly produce significant quantities of CO2 depend on a highly improbable scenario.

http://www.world-nuclear.org/co2&nfc.htm

And you can see the range of sources of the information by looking at the footnotes:
http://www.world-nuclear.org/co2&nfcrefs.htm

Most emphatically any water that might pass through Yucca Mt. does not leave the geological basin in which it is located.  So contamination of many aquifers, as you claim, is physically impossible.  The probability of contaminated water escaping from the repository over a million years is extremely low.

by Plan9 on Mon Oct 17th, 2005 at 11:43:51 PM EST
I never get your focus on the general level of background radiation. Isn't the problem with nuclear waste that small grains et. that may or may not get near you, but if they do they alone can give a high local dose?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Oct 18th, 2005 at 07:24:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Precisely: get a grain of plutonium in your lungs and you're FUBAR.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 18th, 2005 at 07:38:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But groundwater does not spit up particles of plutonium.
Some people were exposed to plutonium particulates under old, lax standards (lack of standards?):
Twenty-six white male workers who did the original plutonium research and development work at Los Alamos have been examined periodically over the past 50 y to identify possible health effects from internal plutonium depositions. Their effective doses range from 0.1 to 7.2 Sv with a median value of 1.25 Sv. As of the end of 1994, 7 individuals have died compared with an expected 16 deaths based on mortality rates of U.S. white males in the general population. The standardized mortality ratio (SMR) is 0.43.
Fifty years of plutonium exposure to the Manhattan Project plutonium workers: an update.

Being based on small numbers, these statistics are weak. They do not establish that plutonium deposits in the body are actually good for you.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.
by technopolitical on Wed Oct 19th, 2005 at 06:07:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a lot of confusion about what radiation does or does not do.  

The body does not discriminate between radionuclides made by a reactor and radionuclides made naturally.  Plutonium once existed naturally on earth but because it decays rapidly, it no longer does.  However, early life evolved with plutonium in the picture.

We are exposed constantly to rays and particles from nature.  This chronic dose of radiation is higher in some parts of the world than others. Those places where it is higher, like Denver, or northeastern WA, do not show higher rates of cancer.

Because of fallout from atmospheric atomic bomb tests, everyone on earth probably has a very small amount of plutonium in their system.  

As for one speck of plutonium or any other radionuclide killing a person, this is bogus.  There are people walking around who, because of laboratory accidents with glove boxes, were exposed significantly to plutonium, which attaches to bone and is gradually excreted.  These accidents happened twenty to forty years ago, but the men are still alive and have successfully produced children and grandchildren.  No death in the US has ever been attributed to exposure to plutonium.

This does not mean plutonium is good for you.  It means it should be shielded and isolated, because it sheds alpha particles. Alphas can be stopped by a sheet of paper or by skin or by leaves or by grass.  They cannot travel very far. If they get into the lungs in large quantity they can be damaging.  Obviously,spent nuclear fuel is enclosed in thickly shielded containers when transported or put in long-term storage.  In spent fuel pools, where the fuel assemblies cool down, they are suspended in deep water that shields them.  All rays and particles from spent fuel can be stopped by concrete one foot thick, by dirt and rock.  In storing nuclear waste for the long term, the important thing is to immobilize it in ceramic and steel casks.  This is routinely done around the world.

However, radionuclides are heavy and do not migrate far even if they get into water.  Also, most of them tend to bind with clay in soil and that immobilizes them.

This is why the National Academy of Sciences recommends deep geological disposal.

Some of the antis have a very strange position.  They oppose Yucca Mountain and other repositories and they also oppose spent nuclear fuel being stored at nuclear plants.

Some perspective:
Burning organic matter releases radionuclides the vegetation has taken up from the soil.  So damage from radionuclides to the lungs can occur when someone smokes two packs a day of cigarettes year after year or when someone spends time next to a smoker or in a smoky pub. Two packs can expose a person to up to 8,000 millirem a year. This exceeds by far the permissible dose for a worker in the nuclear industry.
Average annual natural background:  300 millirem a year, mostly from radon.  
Average annual exposure from a nuclear power plant:  .083 to .009 millirem.  
Average annual exposure from a coal-fired plant:  1-4 millirem.  Waste from coal combustion contains U-235, radium, radon, toxic heavy metals like mercury, lead, and arsenic.  This waste is stored in the environment and in our bodies.  It is not controlled or shielded.  Fortunately the exposure is relatively low.
From natural gas in the home:  9 millirem.

It is very important to put degrees of exposure to radiation in context.  Alarmist websites take the position that all radiation is extremely dangerous and that a teaspoon of nuclear waste can kill hundreds of thousands of people.  This is simply untrue.  Fifty tons of nuclear waste were dispersed into the atmosphere as a result of the Chernobyl fire. Fifty people died.  The majority died from radiation poisoning as a result of fighting the fire in the reactor. They were heroes. They got a huge, direct dose.  Some people actually survived that dose, however.  The remaining deaths attributable to the accident were cases of thyroid cancer and were totally preventable deaths--but the USSR neglected to distribute potassium iodide to some of the exposed population.  It would have prevented the uptake of radioactive iodine from the reactor.

You can calculate how much exposure you are getting from natural and manmade sources by going to a university website (not an activist website or a uranium industry website):

http://www.oversight.state.id.us/radiation/radiation.htm

by Plan9 on Tue Oct 18th, 2005 at 11:11:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fifty tons of nuclear waste were dispersed into the atmosphere as a result of the Chernobyl fire. Fifty people died.

a further approx. 4,000 people are still expected to die as a result of Chernobyl.

I agree with you entirely that there is a lot of misunderstanding about the nature, toxicity etc. of nuclear 'products' at all stages of the cycle, and the alarmist sites irritate the shit out of me.

OTOH, we have done very little research that looks at modelling the environmental impacts of a large nuclear waste spill, for eg, and of course a reason for this has been a lot of cheerful suppression & lobbying by the nuclear industry.

This is rather like the debate over GM foods etc.; it's very difficult to honestly examine the issues, because the corporate lobbyists have the upper hand with thanks to governments in their pockets, it's very hard to get independent science, and many of the potential impacts have never been examined.

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Tue Oct 18th, 2005 at 05:02:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A great deal of computer modeling has been done about the effects of nuclear waste on the environment.  This was required by the EPA in order to license the only working deep geological repository in the US.

We know a great deal about what can happen under a variety of circumstances.

Bottom line:  probability of a nuclear waste spill in the US is extremely small.  The waste would have to get out of multiple and very heavy and very thick containers that are sealed in a variety of ways.

by Plan9 on Tue Oct 18th, 2005 at 05:12:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When insurance companies refuse to insure nuclear power plants, or laws are passed by Congress limiting their liability in case of an accident, you know you have a problem.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 18th, 2005 at 05:12:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The 4000 deaths that are estimated to occur in the future are based on how many millirem the most exposed population got.  These additional millirem are about the equivalent of someone moving from New York (natural background about 300 millirem) to northeastern Washington State (natural background:  1,700 millirem).  The exclusion zone of Chernobyl, though contaminated enough by reactor products to be more radioactive than it used to be prior to the accident. was a swamp with little natural uranium present and has now become about as radioactive as Spain or France already are naturally.

These are estimated deaths from cancers induced by radiation.  But the exposed population may not live long enough for the cancers to manifest.  This, sadly, is due to widespread psychological trauma from the accident and from being uprooted. It hasn't helped to have a corrupt and untrustworthy government. Depression, alcoholism, increased smoking, spousal abuse, all of that kind of suffering.  I am concerned that a similar state of affairs will occur among Katrina survivors.

See WHO, Chernobyl Forum 2005

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr38/en/

by Plan9 on Tue Oct 18th, 2005 at 11:36:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You'll note that I said "die from Chernobyl", and didn't just cite cancer alone.

If you take a look at the report I linked to at the bottom of the thread, and the difficulties it describes in sorting out Chernobyl cancer deaths from background level cancer deaths, and the projections made using expsure / accumulation rates, you can see it says it could be as high as 24,000.

Of course, we are never really going to know, but as you point out, Chrenobyl's affects were much more widespread than just radiation poisoning etc.

Some 220,000 people had to be relocated, and huge areas still remain off-limits.

I see nuclear accidents as being rather similar to 1:100 or 1:1000 year floods - you have to build your risk analysis and mitigation strategies around them, and you have to assume that the 1 in 1000 or 100 year event could be next year.

Take a look also at the MIT research citing the rapidly escalating risk of a nuclear accident if the thousand or so more reactors are built, as has been suggested.

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Tue Oct 18th, 2005 at 11:56:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My problems with your post here are two-fold:

  1. you focus on the last worrying points of the ones I made.

  2. all your sources are from the nuclear industry, and I think frankly that you really need to read a much wider range of (credible) sources, especially when you repeat verbatim as fact highly contestable statements like

"Wind and solar power are great but they cannot by themselves run our civilization and they will always require a backup."

 - as first it deliberately limits the spectrum of renewable Co2 free energy sources and second you provide absolutely not verification for what is a mighty big statement.

  1. you display an ignorance with regard to the water-cycle and the movement of water with regard to one specific example, Yucca Mtn, that also suggests to me that you need to look around a bit more. I don't mean you have to go read the whole gamut of literature, but some basic research will soon inform you that there is literally no such thing as a water-tight aquifer.

  2. the quote you give about Cos2 production saved is firstly not within the context of rebutting whether  nuclear energy is greenhouse neutral, and secondly assumes we'll stick with coal, can't improve coal, etc.


"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow
by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Tue Oct 18th, 2005 at 04:05:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]


"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow
by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Tue Oct 18th, 2005 at 04:08:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yucca Mountain is located in what is known to hydrologists as a closed basin.

Yucca Mountain is in the Alkali Flat-Furnace Creek groundwater basin, within the larger Death Valley Regional Groundwater Flow System. This area has very dry climate, limited surface water, and deep aquifers.

The Death Valley basin is a closed hydrologic basin, which means its surface water and groundwater can leave only by evaporation  and transpiration .

Yucca Mountain and the Death Valley Basin, like other areas in the southern Great Basin, generally lack perennial streams and other surface-water bodies such as lakes. The Amargosa River system drains from Yucca Mountain and the surrounding areas. Although referred to as a river, the Amargosa and its tributaries  are dry most of the time.

Groundwater below Yucca Mountain and in the surrounding region flows generally south toward discharge areas in the Amargosa Desert and Death Valley.

On average, the water table is about 2000 feet below the surface of Yucca Mountain.

Further Information and Links
Project Literature: Environmental Baseline File: Soils, Rev. 00
Environmental Baseline File: Geology/Hydrology
Environmental Baseline File: Water Resources
Yucca Mountain Science and Engineering Report (Sections 4.2.1.2.2 - 4.2.1.2.12)
Related Links: Water Words Dictionary: Nevada Division of Water Resources  
USGS Ground-Water Discharge Report, Death Valley Regional Flow System

http://www.ocrwm.doe.gov/ymp/science/hydrology.shtml

by Plan9 on Tue Oct 18th, 2005 at 11:26:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From NIRS info sheet:

2. Yucca's unsuitable geology (earthquakes, volcanoes, water leakage):

Yucca is a major earthquake zone. Dozens of fault lines crisscross the area, with two directly intersecting the proposed dumpsite. Many hundreds of quakes have struck near Yucca in recent decades, damaging DOE facilities, derailing trains that could one day be used to haul nuclear waste, and threatening to collapse access and burial tunnels.

All that seismic activity has fractured and fissured Yucca's rock, creating fast flow pathways for water infiltration. Water will eventually corrode waste burial containers, releasing deadly radioactivity into the underground drinking water supply used by a thriving farming community downstream.

Volcanism threatens the flooding of the proposed waste dump with superheated water and even lava, which would release massive amounts of deadly radioactivity into the surrounding environment.

Yucca's geology is so bad that building a dump there would require complete abandonment of the original concept of deep geologic disposal. Engineered barriers would have to provide all the radiation containment, begging the question: why build the dump there at all?

3. Yucca's unsuitable geography:

Yucca is near Las Vegas and not far from Los Angeles. It's immediately next door to Nellis Air Force Base, the Nevada nuclear weapons test site, and mining operations, threatening accidental or intentional crashes or detonations involving DOE's proposed surface facilities for handling and storing wastes. Yucca is on Western Shoshone Indian land, raising environmental justice objections to waste dumping there.

4. Changing the rules in the middle of the game: weakening environmental protection standards when Yucca fails to meet the original ones:

When Yucca has been unable, due to its poor geology, to live up to previously established federal safety regulations, they have simply been re-written or done away with altogether. Environmental Protection Agency regulations for repositories limiting releases of radioactive gases that Yucca could not meet were simply done away with for Yucca; re-written, Yucca-specific regulations allow for 18 kilometers of radiation contamination of groundwater, an unprecedented undermining of the Safe Drinking Water Act that threatens the farming community downstream that depends on Yucca's aquifer. And less than a month before its official decision finding Yucca "suitable" for nuclear waste dumping, the Department of Energy simply eliminated a 17 year old site suitability regulation that stated if water could travel through a proposed repository and back out into the environment in less than a thousand years time, that site must be disqualified from any further consideration. DOE's own studies have shown that Yucca cannot live up to that regulation, and over 200 public interest organizations petitioned DOE in 1998 to enforce its own regulations and disqualify Yucca. But DOE simply erased the regulation in 2001.

5. Politics trump science: corruption of the decision-making process:

Despite major conflicts of interest at the Yucca Mountain, nearly 300 technical studies being incomplete, and DOE's "weak to moderate" scientific basis, the project won congressional and presidential approval despite Nevada's objection. The nuclear power industry spent many tens of millions of dollars in the form of direct Capitol Hill lobbying, nationwide ad campaigns, and campaign contributions to federal office seekers to influence the Yucca votes. More recently, revelations that whistleblowers at the Yucca Mountain Project and in the waste shipping cask manufacturing industry have suffered severe harassment increase concerns about short cuts on safety.

And from the NIRS petition for the disqualification of Yucca:

Guideline: 960.4-2-1 Post-Closure Disqualifying Condition for Hydrology:

A site shall be disqualified if the pre-waste-emplacement ground-water travel time from the disturbed zone to the accessible environment is expected to be less than 1000 years along any pathway of likely and significant radionuclide travel.

Recent analyses of samples collected at the underground Exploratory Studies Facility (ESF) at the Yucca Mountain site indicate that water infiltrating from the ground surface above the study facility has traveled rapidly downward in fractures in the Mountain to, and through, the proposed repository horizon, toward the water table. Samples collected from the fracture walls in the ESF contain elevated amounts of chlorine-36 that are sufficiently high to indicate that the source must have been atmospheric weapons testing in the Pacific. Chlorine-36 was produced by the activation of the salt in seawater. It was deposited in fall-out and rain across the Northern Hemisphere. Since chlorine-36 does not occur at such large ratios in nature, it provides a marker for the travel time of surface water.

Therefore, transport of this bomb-pulse isotope to its current depths by infiltrating precipitation must have taken place within the last 50 years. This significant discovery contradicts earlier conceptual models depicting unsaturated zone flow at Yucca Mountain as being dominated by very slow downward movement through pores in the rock.

DOE's recent unsaturated zone flow models, based on chlorine-36 and other data, indicate that within acknowledged bounds of uncertainty, water infiltrating through the waste emplacement horizon will quickly reach the water table. And according to saturated zone flow models, travel to a point at which it is accessible to humans through water wells is less than 1000 years. This meets the conditions of 960.4-2-1 for disqualification; therefore Yucca Mountain must be disqualified.

With Clorine-36 showing that radionuclide travel to be faster than anticipated, it is clear that the expected performance of the repository will result in significant radionuclide contamination of the groundwater and, ultimately, the surface waters down-gradient from the site.

If nothing else, this information we are exchanging highlights the literal gulf between what commercial nuclear interest & supporting governments claim, and what independent and anti-nuclear groups claim. It shows how difficult it is to get an honest debate.

As an environmental scientist by trade, the precautionary principle is my version of the hermetic oath, and the more I read, the more nuclear power as it stands is not worth risking that principle.

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Wed Oct 19th, 2005 at 12:17:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think I meant hippocratic.\

lucky I'm not a doctor.

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Wed Oct 19th, 2005 at 12:18:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
NIRS is an activist group and perpetuates hysteria. If you are a scientist you should have noted that their information does not come from peer-reviewed sources.

Their assumptions are not upheld by the data or by probablistic risk analysis.

Yucca Mountain happens to be in a remote area in the middle of a site where nearly 1,000 atomic tests took place--a sacrifice zone. The repository would be shielded by a thousand feet of rock above and below.  Rainfall is tiny in the area.  When rain does fall in this very arid desert, most of the water runs off the sides of the mountain, which is made of granite tuff.  The tiny amount of water that might get down in the cracks would have to make its way to the repository and get through multiple barriers of alloy, steel, and ceramic materials that will surround the spent fuel.  Then the water has to somehow make a hole through the bottom of that thick cask.  Then it has to get out of the repository and drain down through a thousand feet of rock and dirt.  Since radionuclides like to bind with soil, chances are they would be immobilized on the way down.  If they did at last reach the water table after many thousands of years, they would be in a very diluted form.

We are talking about an extremely small volume of waste. Seventy thousand tons sounds like a lot until you realize that two tons of uranium is about the size of a TV set.

What is your plan for dealing with nuclear waste?

by Plan9 on Wed Oct 19th, 2005 at 10:41:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...is the problem. Even if you believe no more nuclear power should be generated, you have to do something with the existing waste. I began to get disenchanted with environmentalists such as Greenpeace when I realized they have no proposals for how to do that.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 19th, 2005 at 10:47:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Instead of wasting time attacking the group for having a position contrary to yours. Because if you had, you would have noticed that in NIRS' petition, their argument is based on studies done for the US Department of Energy:

DOE's recent unsaturated zone flow models, based on chlorine-36 and other data, indicate that within acknowledged bounds of uncertainty, water infiltrating through the waste emplacement horizon will quickly reach the water table. And according to saturated zone flow models, travel to a point at which it is accessible to humans through water wells is less than 1000 years. This meets the conditions of 960.4-2-1 for disqualification; therefore Yucca Mountain must be disqualified.

Frankly I find it hard to muster the effort to discuss this with you when you resort to pejorative and factually unproven characterisations of differing sources to "win" the argument.

Existing nuclear waste - is the ultimate NIMBY issue. Given the quantities of it now in temporary storage, and the failure of various nations to be adequately open about the nature of the issue and what to do about it - preferring instead to focus on dump sites where people are marginalised in some way and least able to fight back - I think there probably needs to be a global debate, and a geologically etc. suitable place found that as many people as possible can live with, via a transparent process. It would be no doubt a long-drawn out and very difficult debate; it may not even find a solution, and leave us with a series of compromises, I don't know. What I do know is that targeting questionable areas simply because they are easy prey for governments in terms of population and potential opposition is unacceptable, and does not lead to safe storage.

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Wed Oct 19th, 2005 at 04:23:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"DOE's recent unsaturated zone flow models, based on chlorine-36 and other data, indicate that within acknowledged bounds of uncertainty, water infiltrating through the waste emplacement horizon will quickly reach the water table."

The chlorine-36 (from atmospheric bomb tests in the Pacific) filtered through the strata.  The traces of water that carried it did not have to penetrate a corrosion-proof chromium alloy drip shield and the triple shielding of a cask, collect radionuclides, and then make a hole and drip out the bottom of the cask and thus out of the repository, which would occupy a small volume of space inside of the mountain.

The engineers at Yucca Mountain made very conservative estimates for their models.  This has resulted in huge uncertainties: scenarios that are at the extreme end of the probability curve.  These assumptions about worst worst-case scenarios have unfortunately fueled hysteria among people not versed in risk analysis.  This problem of public perception is to me the main reason that Yucca Mountain should not be used as a repository.  There are better places.

I happen to think that the geology of Yucca Mountain is far from the best location for a repository simply because it lends itself to this kind of confusion when the public tries to understand what is going on.  A much better medium is the granite pluton the Finns are using.  It is simple and stable.  But within that medium the waste will be in multi-shelled casks. Or the very stable and dry salt bed under the desert in SW NM.  There a repository for nuclear waste generated by the military has been successfully operating and met all EPA requirements.  Or we just do what Greenpeace wants and leave the spent nuclear fuel in sturdy concrete casks at the plants.  Then it will be available to be recycled.

In the 1980s there was an international effort run by the Nuclear Energy Agency of OECD to explore the disposition of nuclear waste in the deep clay sediments of vast, mid-tectonic plate, virtually lifeless deserts six miles under the ocean.  Many scientists consider this the optimum solution to waste that cannot be recycled in reactors.  But Greenpeace put a stop to that.

The philosophy of Greenpeace is to leave the waste where it was generated in order to punish the nuclear plants that made it.  So evidently those folks believe it is being safely stored there.  They are right.  Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace, now refers to it and its fellow organizations as fearmongering, anti-scientific, and anti-technological.

As for indigenous peoples: They occupied the area now known as New York City.  I assume they occupied the area now known as Sydney.  It's unfortunate that genocide and diseases brought by Europeans in both Australia and in the Americas reduced a thriving population and its many civilizations to a marginalized state.

People get upset in the Southwest about uranium mining on Native American lands.  None occurs there now.  But those people in Santa Fe who feel so sensitive about the displacement of indigenous people do not think of turning their expensive homes and ranches over to nearby pueblos who used to own that land before Europeans arrived.  And I wonder if people in Sydney and Perth or on huge sheep ranches ever think that they should give up the land that their ancestors in the 19th century appropriated and return it to its rightful owners.  Or if anyone in the suburbs is proposing their return to the people who have lived on that land for a hundred thousand years or more.

The Nevada Test Site and the surrounding air bases, etc., along with a large wildlife preserve, has been the property of the federal govt. for a long time.

The real world is not always what we would like it to be.  Nobody's hands are clean.  There is no energy source without risk.  Some sources are far riskier than others.  

Fossil fuels put us at far more risk personally and globally than any other source of energy generation and their effects are going to be causing problems for centuries on a worldwide scale.

by Plan9 on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 09:17:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm glad at least we've reached the point where we can agree that Yucca mountain is not a good choice. As for the conservatism of the models- as you would bloody hope so, and a precise example of the application of the precautionary principle.

As we both agree that Greenpeace are overall not helping anyone solve the conundrum, I won't make either of us waste any more space on them. I will say that in terms of finding the best possbible global solution to existing waste, what's been missing most of all is a transparent and accountable process for doing so. Governments and companies alike do not have a good track record of providing honest and complete information sets on a whole range of environmental issues; little wonder then that groups that tend towards paranoia, but have been proven right on sufficient enough occasions are able to dissuade the public of the goodness of government/corporation intentions.

Indigenous people - you're comments here actually made me feel rather ill. What you casually suggested was that as us white folk have displaced and massacred one way or another all the indigenous people from most of the places they used to inhabit, tough shit if we expand that. Yet the areas under threat in Australia at least are ones that we supposedly handed back and have extant, resident, supposedly respected and semi-autonomous groups living on them- so a comparison to what's happening for lands under major metropolitan cities is absolutely false and quite twistd ethically.

It also doesn't address at all the reality of the situation that is happening right now, which is the targeting of areas supposedly "handed back" as convenient sites for nuclear waste dumps - it's amazing, for example in Australia, now this debate is heating up, how every single place suggested is either directly adjacent to or in an indigenous land area, but miles away from any white population. What a coincidence!

I am not prepared to sacrifice a group of people in such an underhand and despicable manner. No, nobody's hands are clean, but your attitude here makes me want to take a shower.

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 04:52:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll grant you that the source I used re: Chernobyl was older, but it is a highly credible source, and many of the points it makes have not receded, especially with regard to environmental impacts.

I am well aware that the projected death toll from Chernobyl is expected to be around 4,000; thankfully far less than previously feared.

I also take your point about Chrenobyl's design being signficantly improved upon, but I think you gloss over far too glibly the implications of developing nations in particular building nuclear power plants; and the safety implications there - that was precisely what Chernobyl illustrated.

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Tue Oct 18th, 2005 at 04:08:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, Chernobyl illustrated the disastrous design of graphite reactors.  The Soviets built these to produce bomb plutonium as well as electricity.  They have channels in the them which, if a fire starts, suck oxygen down inside the reactor to feed the fire.

No country today would dream of building a graphite reactor.  China and India, as they expand their nuclear power, are going to use state of the art designs that are safe and efficient.

Nuclear power supplies some or all of the electricity used by a billion people to light up their homes and hospitals and schools.  In parts of the world without electricity, the average lifespan is 43.

I do not feel that it is correct from my comfortable perch in an energy-rich society to be dictating to developing countries a limitation on their sources of electricity.  However, for their own good, I do feel that they need to be helped not to build more fossil fuel plants--because they will be screwed by the consequences along with the rest of us.

Obviously wind and solar technology would be a great boon to these countries.  Especially in areas off the grid.  But to develop, they require baseload energy, and there are only two main sources:  nuclear, which, relative to fossil fuels, is practically emissions-free, or fossil fuels, which are heating up the planet and creating conditions for mass extinction of species and destruction of a good portion of humanity.

by Plan9 on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 09:25:06 AM EST
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I think we'll just have to agree to disagree about what Chernobyl illustrates. I think you are very naive to assume that the countries currently considering going nuclear won't look at shall we say 'multiple applications' for those plants, and will adhere to safety standards that are going to make it - especially when you consider that nuclear plants in developed nations still have a range of significant safety concerns, especially the older ones.

"I do not feel that it is correct from my comfortable perch in an energy-rich society to be dictating to developing countries a limitation on their sources of electricity."

I just have to pull that out and ask that you contrast it with what you wrote about indigenous people and mining/waste disposal. Your perch seems to have a switch for altering the degree of comfort you feel on certain ethical questions.

"This can't possibly get more disturbing!" - Willow

by myriad (imogenk at wildmail dot com) on Thu Oct 20th, 2005 at 05:01:16 PM EST
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