User Tools

Site Tools


radiation:all_states_shall_shift_rapidly_to_effective_generation_of_electricity_by_using_renewable_energy

Differences

This shows you the differences between two versions of the page.

Link to this comparison view

Both sides previous revision Previous revision
Next revision
Previous revision
radiation:all_states_shall_shift_rapidly_to_effective_generation_of_electricity_by_using_renewable_energy [2019/05/13 02:30]
192.252.166.4
radiation:all_states_shall_shift_rapidly_to_effective_generation_of_electricity_by_using_renewable_energy [2019/06/24 18:54] (current)
174.116.81.6 [Nuclear Power’s Connection to War and Weapons (Especially Nuclear)]
Line 6: Line 6:
  ​Considered as separate problems, our four other global threats (famine, pandemics, radiation exposure, and cyberattacks) appear manageable, for none of them seems likely to kill a billion people in a short interval. But what if they occur, not separately, but in combinations?​ In such a case, each one of them can multiply the effect of others. ​ And, because all six risks are causally connected as a single system, such connections must be expected. ​ This article will explore the causal links among three dangers: radiation exposure from nuclear power plants, nuclear weapons, and global warming. ​  ​Considered as separate problems, our four other global threats (famine, pandemics, radiation exposure, and cyberattacks) appear manageable, for none of them seems likely to kill a billion people in a short interval. But what if they occur, not separately, but in combinations?​ In such a case, each one of them can multiply the effect of others. ​ And, because all six risks are causally connected as a single system, such connections must be expected. ​ This article will explore the causal links among three dangers: radiation exposure from nuclear power plants, nuclear weapons, and global warming. ​
  
-Worldwide, ​probably ​thousands of deaths each year result from radiation exposure: working in uranium mines, for example, or living with radon in a basement, or eating fish from a lake that contains ​tritium, or undergoing ​an X-ray examEven these low levels ​of exposure ​can be lethalbut some incidents are far worse—especially those involving nuclear ​reactors. The most catastrophic nuclear power accident was the explosion in Chernobyl, Ukraine. The true death count will never be known, and authoritative ​estimates vary wildly—from 4,000 up to 200,​000.(([[http://​news.bbc.co.uk/​2/​hi/​europe/​4917526.stm|Greenpeace rejects Chernobyl toll]],​ BBC,​ 18 April 2006,​ archived from the original on 2018-04-19, ​retrieved May 5, 2019.))+Worldwide, ​possibly ​thousands of deaths each year result from radiation exposure: working in uranium mines, for example, or living with radon in a basement. Some worry about tritium ​in the water supply, or undergoing ​repeated ​X-ray examsHowever each low level threat must be assessed based on background radiation ​levels ​and natural radiation ​exposure ​we all live withand that may not be dangerous to our health. Some incidents are far worse — especially those involving ​major nuclear ​reactor accidents. There have been very few of these to date. In fact only three. The most catastrophic nuclear power accident was the explosion in Chernobyl, Ukraine. The true death count may never be known, and estimates vary wildly — from 4,000 up to 200,000, with a key 2005 UN estimate being 4-9,000 excess cancer deaths over normal.(([[http://​news.bbc.co.uk/​2/​hi/​europe/​4917526.stm|Greenpeace rejects Chernobyl toll]],​ BBC,​ 18 April 2006,​ archived from the original on 2018-2019 retrieved May 5, 2019.))
  
-But compare those numbers to the predictable death rates from a nuclear war. Exploding a small fraction of the world’s current nuclear ​weapons ​could bring civilization to an end.  And the dangers of global warming are even worse – potentially on the scale of the previous five “extinction events,” including the worst one 270,000 million years ago when about 90 percent of all species on the planet — animals, trees, marine life, everything — were killed.((Hillel J. Hoffman, [[https://​www.nationalgeographic.com/​science/​prehistoric-world/​permian-extinction/​|“The Permian Extinction: When Life Nearly Came to an End”]], //The National Geographic//​.)) ​+But compare those numbers to the predictable death rates from a nuclear war. Exploding a small fraction of the world’s current nuclear ​weapon arsenal ​could bring civilization to an end.  And the dangers of global warming are even worse – potentially on the scale of the previous five “extinction events,” including the worst one 270,000 million years ago when about 90 percent of all species on the planet — animals, trees, marine life, everything — were killed.((Hillel J. Hoffman, [[https://​www.nationalgeographic.com/​science/​prehistoric-world/​permian-extinction/​|“The Permian Extinction: When Life Nearly Came to an End”]], //The National Geographic//​.)) ​
  
-You may ask: Since radiation exposure is so much less threatening to human survival than global warming or nuclear war, why do we include it on the list of risks from which we have to save the world?  ​ +You may ask: Since massive ​radiation exposure ​from nuclear power plants ​is so much less threatening to human survival than global warming or nuclear war, why do we include it on the list of risks from which we have to save the world?  ​To better ​solve either of the two bigger problems we should discuss ​the role of nuclear ​power plants
-Answer: because we cannot ​solve either of the two bigger problems ​without deciding what to do about nuclear power plants. If we want to reduce ​the risk of nuclear ​war, it may be necessary to shut down almost all nuclear reactors, which produce the fissile ingredients of nuclear warheads. But if we want to reduce global warming, it may be necessary to build more nuclear reactors, which can produce our electricity without emitting much of the greenhouse gas that is overheating our planet+
  
-In choosing between these two contradictory options ​we seemingly must decide whether ​to take the prevention of global warming or nuclear ​war as our top priority. Or (as we can hope) maybe our assumptions are wrong; maybe we can adopt solar, wind, and other renewable technologies quickly enough to get rid of nuclear ​power plants too, yet limit the carbon in the atmosphere enough to surviveOr maybe we can treat nuclear power and nuclear weapons a+A key question is whether ​we need to shut down all nuclear ​reactors — because they produce fissile ingredients that can be used for nuclear ​warheads? We do know that nuclear weapons have been developed outside ​the power plant cycleAs Tariq Raif stated, “No country has ever used a nuclear power programme to make nuclear weapons, all 9 countries had dedicated nuclear weapon programmes >> hence supporters of nuclear disarmament do themselves ​disservice by conflating nuclear energy programmes with nuclear weapons.”((Canadian Pugwash Group discussion listserv, May 26, 2019))
  
-How much we should worry about nuclear ​power plants? After the Fukushima meltdown, several nations became more worried and even shut down their reactors. On the other hand, the journalist George Monbiot, who had been opposed to nuclear power before, actually changed his mind and became favorable toward it after Fukushima because no one had yet died from the explosion and radiation. (Lots of people died from the tsunami’s flood.) Some people argue that more people die of air pollution caused by fossil fuels than die of nuclear ​radiationIndeed, many things probably harm us more than the radiation surrounding us in daily life.  Nevertheless,​ we do have to worry about nuclear ​reactors because they are causally inseparable from nuclear weapons.  ​+A related question: If we want to reduce global warming; will it be necessary to build more nuclear reactors, ​which can produce our electricity while emitting virtually zero of the greenhouse gas that is overheating our planet? (The energy generated by nuclear power between 1971 and 2018 is the equivalent ​of 63 gigatonnes of CO2 //that was not released//, about twice the 2018 total fossil fuel contribution worldwide.) In fact, coal powered electricity plants produce more radiation to the community ​that do nuclear ​power plants.((https://​www.scientificamerican.com/​article/​coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste/))
  
 +In making choices we must decide how best to prevent global warming and nuclear war, and how best to prioritize options. Or maybe our assumptions are wrong; maybe, as some believe, we can adopt solar, wind, and other renewable technologies quickly enough to be rid of nuclear power plants too, yet limit the carbon in the atmosphere enough to survive.
 +
 +How much should we worry about nuclear power plants? After the Fukushima meltdown, several nations became more worried and even shut down their reactors. On the other hand, journalist George Monbiot, who had been opposed to nuclear power before, actually changed his mind and became supportive of nuclear power after Fukushima because no one had yet died from the explosion and radiation. (Thousands died from the tsunami’s flood.) Many argue that more people die of air pollution caused by fossil fuels than die of nuclear radiation. Indeed, many things certainly harm us more than the background (natural) radiation surrounding us in daily life.  Nevertheless,​ we do have to worry about nuclear reactors because there remains a technical linkage to materials that are used to produce nuclear weapons. Protection of those materials is certainly a priority. ​
 ==== Nuclear Power’s Connection to War and Weapons (Especially Nuclear) ==== ==== Nuclear Power’s Connection to War and Weapons (Especially Nuclear) ====
  
-In fact, in a conflict situation, a nuclear reactor itself can become a nuclear weaponFor example, if an enemy sends bombs or planes crashing into multiple ​“peaceful” ​nuclear reactors, the explosions and radiation plumes ​will kill millions ​immediately,​ more of us later, and render large territories uninhabitable. ​+In a conflict situation, a nuclear reactor itself can become a targetIn theory, if an enemy sends bombs or planes crashing ​simultaneously ​into multiple nuclear ​power reactors, the explosions and radiation plumes ​could kill many thousands ​immediately,​ more people ​later, and render large territories uninhabitable. However, we would need to assess the feasibility of this kind of attack, compared to using nuclear warheads in the first place. What would result militarily after a first attack, would there be a rapid response, and to what extent would the worst scenario be contained by heavily encased reactors that can be made resistant to aircraft hits? Not all reactors are similarly encased, but they could be. To penetrate 1-2 meters of reinforced concrete and steel liners (designed to protect the worst case core accident pressure release), you’d need to start with a bunker buster missile, and then follow that with at least one more missile through the same hole to get to the interior compartments. Worst case would likely be a Fukushima-style result, with localized destruction and contamination,​ and local evacuation. Probably limited casualties near the plant. An existential threat to humanity from this kind of military action is highly unlikely, therefore, given multiple reactors would need to be hit in populated areas, with multiple missiles, and no immediate military response. If a state were using a nuclear missile to attack, there would need to be a compelling reason to aim it at a nuclear power plant, and not at something more strategic, in terms of war aims. But this would be a nuclear war from nuclear missiles, not nuclear power plants
  
-The terrorists who crashed airliners into the Twin Towers had considered targeting reactors instead. And such actions by terrorists or suicide bombers are not unprecedented;​ the International Atomic Energy Agency maintains a database tracking them; their file includes 1,266 incidents reported by 99 countries over a twelve-year period.((Frank Barnaby, [[http://​www.talkworks.info/​Talkworks/​Background_files/​%27Consequences%20of%20a%20Nuclear%20Renaissance%27.pdf|“Consequences of a Nuclear Renaissance"​]] (PDF); International Symposium.)) ​But the real danger comes from enemy nations in a war. Civilian nuclear reactors in the wrong hands can be excellent weapons of mass destruction. That’s worth worrying about and trying to prevent – but the only certain way to prevent it is by having ​no nuclear reactors+The terrorists who crashed airliners into the Twin Towers ​in New York City in 2001 had considered targeting reactors instead. And such actions by terrorists or suicide bombers are not unprecedented;​ the International Atomic Energy Agency maintains a database tracking them; their file includes 1,266 incidents reported by 99 countries over a twelve-year period.((Frank Barnaby, [[http://​www.talkworks.info/​Talkworks/​Background_files/​%27Consequences%20of%20a%20Nuclear%20Renaissance%27.pdf|“Consequences of a Nuclear Renaissance"​]] (PDF); International Symposium.)) ​Some believe ​the real danger comes from enemy nations in a war. That’s worth worrying about and trying to prevent – but is the only certain way to prevent it no nuclear reactors? Wouldn’t those states just develop ​nuclear weapons ​outside ​the power generation cycle? ​(What do we do about that now?)
-Moreover, there are other ways in which nuclear power is an inseparable issue from nuclear weapons. For example, nuclear reactors make the plutonium for bombs. Nuclear reactors were originally built to produce plutonium for the atomic bombs; only in 1945 were they considered for generating electricity. The firs. commercial nuclear ​power stations did not start operating until 1958.((World Nuclear Organization,​ [[http://​www.world-nuclear.org/​information-library/​current-and-future-generation/​nuclear-power-in-the-world-today.aspx|“Nuclear Power Today”]])+
  
-Every nuclear reactor ​in the world produces ​plutonium. ​No one has ever invented one that doesn’t do so. Therefore, if you want to stop the production of plutonium for bombs, ​you have to shut down all nuclear ​reactors.+Moreover, there are other ways in which nuclear power is an inseparable issue from nuclear weapons. For example, nuclear reactors make the plutonium ​for bombsNuclear research reactors were originally built to produce ​plutonium for the atomic ​bombs; only in 1945 were they considered for generating electricity. The first commercial nuclear power stations did not start operating until 1958.((World Nuclear Organization[[http://​www.world-nuclear.org/​information-library/​current-and-future-generation/​nuclear-power-in-the-world-today.aspx|“Nuclear Power Today”]])) ​
  
-When the plutonium is removed from the reactors, it is in a mixture of toxic substances and cannot be used in a fission bomb unless separated out. There are a few reprocessing plants in the world that chemically separate these fissile materials. The plutonium then can be recycled, to be used either as fuel for another reactor or as the core of a nuclear warhead. Of course, there are terrorist groups and nations ​secretly ​looking to obtain plutonium ​and build some bombs of their very own. The only way to prevent this is to shut down all reprocessing plants as well as all reactors. But we will still have another challenge: ​to guard the stockpiles of fissile material that already exist.+Every nuclear reactor in the world produces plutonium. No one has ever invented one that doesn’t do so. Therefore, if you want to stop the production of plutonium for bombs, do you have to shut down all nuclear power reactors? 
 + 
 +When the plutonium is removed from the reactors, it is in a mixture of toxic substances and cannot be used in a fission bomb unless separated out, which is a sophisticated process. There are a few reprocessing plants in the world that chemically separate these fissile materials. The plutonium then can be recycled, to be used either as fuel for another reactor or as the core of a nuclear warhead. This is not a simple process, given that “bomb-grade” highly enriched uranium must be enriched to about 90% U-235. Similarly, weapons-grade plutonium is typically about 93% Pu-239. Neither of these two materials can be found in a commercial reactor, although a less efficient nuclear weapon can be made using reactor-grade plutonium. Of course, there may be terrorist groups and nations looking to obtain plutonium ​to build bombs. What kind of security measures would need to be in place to reduce risk to zero, or at least to a reasonably low level? Would terrorist groups be more likely to seek to build a limited nuclear bomb, or a conventional diesel/​fertilizer bomb which is far easier to build? ​
    
-The fact that so few reactors are being closed can be attributed to two facts. First, not everyone is actually opposed to nuclear weapons. Quite a few people believe that “nukes have kept the peace” by deterring other countries from starting wars against nuclear-armed states. (According to that logic, all warfare would come to an end if the world’s 193 countries each possessed its own nuclear arsenal and could deter all the others! Fortunately,​ most people can recognize that, even if this is logical, it would be a crazy policy.)+The fact that so few reactors are being closed can be attributed to two facts. First, not everyone is actually opposed to nuclear weapons, let alone nuclear power.((http://​world-nuclear-news.org/​Articles/​US-public-opinion-evenly-split-on-nuclear))((https://​www.vox.com/​energy-and-environment/​2019/​4/​23/​18507297/​nuclear-energy-renewables-voters-poll))((https://​thebulletin.org/​2016/​04/​public-opinion-on-nuclear-energy-what-influences-it/​))((https://​www.bbc.com/​news/​science-environment-15864806)) ​Quite a few people believe that “nukes have kept the peace” by deterring other countries from starting wars against nuclear-armed states. (According to that logic, all warfare would come to an end if the world’s 193 countries each possessed its own nuclear arsenal and could deter all the others! Fortunately,​ most people can recognize that, even if this is logical, it would be a crazy policy. The nuclear nonproliferation treaty was also constructed for the purpose of limiting access to nuclear weapons to existing nuclear weapon states, with their promise to eliminate them as soon as possible.)
  
-But the second explanation for the continuation of nuclear power is more plausible: that we need to retain (or even increase) it so as to limit global warming. Even if reactors do worsen the chance ​of nuclear war, many people are willing to take that risk because fossil fuels are so more dangerousCoal and petroleium are heating the planet at an alarming rate. This theory holds that it is not feasible to transition to wind and solar power quickly enough to curb global warming, so nuclear is required too.   +But the second explanation for the continuation of nuclear power is more plausible: that we need to retain (or even increase) it so as to limit global warming. Even if reactors do provide opportunities for retention ​of fissile materials that might lead to nuclear war, many people are willing to take that risk because fossil fuels are an even greater existential threatIn addition, not all nuclear power reactors are the same; there are smaller and newer designs, with likely lowered risks. ​ Meanwhile, coal and petroleium are heating the planet at an alarming rate. 
-Although a few participants in the forum of May 2018 shared this belief, the majority did not. Instead, they included in the Platform for Survival the proposal that “all states shall shift rapidly to effective generation of electricity by using renewable energy” – where nuclear definitely is not considered one of the renewable sources.+
  
-There is another sense in which nuclear reactors are vulnerable ​to the effects of war and weapons—especially “cyber-war.” The existing ​nuclear ​power plants send electricity ​to consumers through centralized electric grids. These sometimes fail under ordinary circumstances or on hot days when too many air conditioners are onWhat could help would be the construction ​of new high-voltage gridssome of which use direct instead of alternating current(See Platform ​Plank number 10.+Some believe that it is not feasible ​to transition to wind and solar power (or other non-nuclear ​renewable options) quickly enough ​to curb global warming, so nuclear is required ​too.   
 +Although a few participants in the forum of May 2018 shared this beliefthe majority did notThe Platform ​for Survival proposal was that “all states shall shift rapidly to effective generation of electricity by using renewable energy”, but while recognizing “that phasing out all nuclear power plants, including subsidies and uranium mining, may be an outcome in the future.
  
-But a potentially catastrophic strike might occur during a war orconceivablyeven terrorist act: a cyberattack on the existing electric gridDigital sabotage ​of centralized electric ​grids could deprive much of the human population ​of electricity ​for lengthy periods.((Ted Koppel, //Lights Out: A Cyberattack,​ A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath//, New York: Penguin2015.)) +There is another sense in which nuclear reactors are vulnerable to the effects of war and weapons— “cyber-war.” Howeversuch strikes would occur to any electrical grid system that centrally distributes electric powerand are risk not exclusive to nuclear power plants(And in that regard, what might help would be the construction ​of new high-voltage ​grids, some of which use direct instead ​of alternating current. See Platform Plank number 10.) Not all electricity ​is now delivered through centralized electric grids; there are already some distributed alternatives.((William Pentland[[https://www.forbes.com/​sites/​williampentland/​2016/​04/​24/​a-review-of-ted-koppels-lights-out/#​65db481f3ecc|“A Review of Ted Koppel’s ‘Lights Out!”]] //Forbes//, April 242016.)) However, the most effective protection from the risks of cyberattacks on a grid will come from individually owned, independent sources of electricity—notably solar panels on private homes and businesses. These can make the owners invulnerable to blackouts—at least those owners who do not feed their solar, wind, or geothermal power back into the centralized grid, as many do, but instead consume it separately, remaining off any centralized grid.
  
-Fortunatelynot all electricity is now delivered through centralized electric grids; there are already ​some distributed alternatives.((William Pentland[[https://​www.forbes.com/sites/williampentland/​2016/​04/​24/​a-review-of-ted-koppels-lights-out/#​65db481f3ecc|“A Review of Ted Koppel’s ‘Lights Out!”]] //Forbes//, April 24, 2016.)) However, the most effective protection from the risks of cyberattacks on grid will come from individually owned, independent sources of electricity—notably solar panels on private homes and businesses. These can make the owners invulnerable ​to blackouts—at least those owners who do not feed their solar, wind, or geothermal power back into the centralized gridas many do, but instead consume it separately, remaining off any centralized grid.+There are also proposals for Small Modular Reactor (SMR) options for nuclear powerserving small or remote communities,​ that are of interest to some, controversial to othersBrett Plummer, chief nuclear officer with New Brunswick Power, states that “Nobody’s going to want to invest in a large-scale power plant...except maybe the Chinese and the Russians.” ​((The Nuclear Option, Denise Balkissoon, Globe and Mail, June 22, 2019, https://​www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-well-accept-that-it-might/)) The Canadian government has produced ​road map to investigate ​the SMR optionand NB Power “has partnered with two companies with SMRs in development.
    
-So this is yet one more significant reason to replace nuclear with renewable, distributed sources of energy. ​ 
- 
 ====Nuclear Power’s Connection to Global Warming ==== ====Nuclear Power’s Connection to Global Warming ====
  
 To appraise the feasibility of shifting to renewable sources, we must compare nuclear to all the existing ways of generating power, both fossil fuels and renewables. To appraise the feasibility of shifting to renewable sources, we must compare nuclear to all the existing ways of generating power, both fossil fuels and renewables.
  
-In 2019 there are about 450 nuclear reactors operating in more than 50 countries and producing about 11 percent of all electricity. About 60 more are being constructed.((World Nuclear Organization,​ op. cit.)) Nuclear’s limited portion —11 percent — suggests that replacing it will not be a huge challenge, when compared to the difficulty of replacing fossil fuels.+In 2019 there are about 450 nuclear reactors operating in more than 50 countries and producing about 11 percent of all electricity. About 60 more are being constructed.((World Nuclear Organization,​ op. cit.)) Nuclear’s limited portion —11 percent — suggests that replacing it will not be a huge challenge, when compared to the difficulty of replacing fossil fuels. There are also questions of base load capacity — the minimum capacity operating continuously 24/7 — and storage, as well as energy options that are not dependent on sunlight or wind (weather and climate conditions)
  
-In 2016 nuclear was fourth in the list of electricity sources, after coal (38%), gas (23%), and hydro (17%). ​ At that time, renewable ​(solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal together) accounted for only 5.6% of the world’s electricity,​ followed by oil at 3.7%.((ibid.)) ​+In 2016 nuclear was fourth in the list of electricity sources, after coal (38%), gas (23%), and hydro water drop power (17%). ​ At that time, renewables ​(solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal together) accounted for only 5.6% of the world’s electricity,​ followed by oil at 3.7%.((ibid.)) ​
  
-The future use of all these sources will depend on many decisions made by governments,​ but also by the profitability to industry. In terms of cost alone, nuclear’s future is hardly bright, for it can no longer compete with any other major source. By 2018, the cost of solar power had decreased so much that in many places it was less expensive than fossil fuels. Whereas solar photovoltaic power now costs $50 to produce one megawatt-hour or electricity,​ coal costs $102 per megawatt-hour and nuclear costs $148. At $45 per megawatt-hour,​ wind power is currently the cheapest source of all five.((Jeremy Berke,​[[https://​www.businessinsider.com/​solar-power-cost-decrease-2018-5|“One Simple Chart Shows Why an Energy Revolution is Coming — and Who is Likely to Come Out of it on Top”]], Harvard University’s //Business Insider//, May. 5, 2018.))+The future use of all these sources will depend on many decisions made by governments,​ but also by the profitability to industry. In terms of cost alone, nuclear’s future is hardly bright, for it can no longer compete with any other major source. Nuclear does have the advantages of base load capacity. By 2018, the cost of solar power had decreased so much that in many places it was less expensive than fossil fuels. Whereas solar photovoltaic power now costs $50 to produce one megawatt-hour or electricity,​ coal costs $102 per megawatt-hour and nuclear costs $148. Centralized solar requires massive scale solar panel farms. At $45 per megawatt-hour,​ wind power is currently the cheapest source of all five.((Jeremy Berke,​[[https://​www.businessinsider.com/​solar-power-cost-decrease-2018-5|“One Simple Chart Shows Why an Energy Revolution is Coming — and Who is Likely to Come Out of it on Top”]], Harvard University’s //Business Insider//, May. 5, 2018.))
  
 The future of coal is even less promising than that of nuclear. It is so unprofitable today that the United States could save $78 billion by closing coal generating plants, as recommended by the Paris Climate Accord. While all other sources of energy are decreasing, coal’s costs have increased by 23 percent since 2009.  The future of coal is even less promising than that of nuclear. It is so unprofitable today that the United States could save $78 billion by closing coal generating plants, as recommended by the Paris Climate Accord. While all other sources of energy are decreasing, coal’s costs have increased by 23 percent since 2009. 
  
-But the cost of production is not the only relevant economic factor. Most energy companies receive subsidies in one form or another (e.g. governments cover much of the expense of building pipelines to transport oil and gas). +But the cost of production is not the only relevant economic factor. Most energy companies, including renewables, ​receive subsidies in one form or another (e.g. governments cover much of the expense of building pipelines to transport oil and gas). 
  
-Also, there are problems with the intermittency of sunshine and wind, which means that power generated at one time must be stored for use later —at an additional cost that may be added to the price consumers pay. But even counting these factors, customers can expect savings in the electricity bill when their utility company replaces its existing coal source with wind or solar.((Megan Mahajan, [[https://​www.forbes.com/​sites/​energyinnovation/​2018/​12/​03/​plunging-prices-mean-building-new-renewable-energy-is-cheaper-than-running-existing-coal/#​2608744531f3|“Plunging Prices Mean Building New Renewable Energy is Cheaper Than Running Existing Coal”]], //Forbes//, Dec. 3, 2018.))+With the problem of intermittency of sunshine and wind, power generated at one time must be stored for use later — at an additional cost that will be added to the price consumers pay. But even counting these factors, customers can expect savings in the electricity bill when their utility company replaces its existing coal source with wind or solar.((Megan Mahajan, [[https://​www.forbes.com/​sites/​energyinnovation/​2018/​12/​03/​plunging-prices-mean-building-new-renewable-energy-is-cheaper-than-running-existing-coal/#​2608744531f3|“Plunging Prices Mean Building New Renewable Energy is Cheaper Than Running Existing Coal”]], //Forbes//, Dec. 3, 2018.))The problems of large scale battery storage (and manufacturing,​ environmental and health consequences) will need to be worked out if full displacement of nuclear power plants is to be successful. ​
  
-Because prices greatly affect the demand for every product, the most effective known way of reducing the use of fossil fuels is to add a “carbon tax” to the price that consumers pay. The same effect can be obtained by a system of “cap and trade,” whereby the right to use energy is determined by auction of rights or permits. But carbon pricing is widely (though unwisely) unpopular, so some experts are recommending the use of governmental regulation instead, citing the many health and climate benefits to inspire the voters’ support when the concept of taxation seems too off-putting.((David Leonhardt, [[https://​www.nytimes.com/​interactive/​2019/​04/​09/​magazine/​climate-change-politics-economics.html|“The Problem With Putting a Price on the End of the World,”]] //New York Times Magazine//, April 9, 2019.)) ​+Because prices greatly affect the demand for every product, the most effective known way of reducing the use of fossil fuels is to add a “carbon tax” to the price that consumers pay. (This would also benefit nuclear power.) ​The same effect can be obtained by a system of “cap and trade,” whereby the right to use energy is determined by auction of rights or permits. But carbon pricing is widely (though unwisely) unpopular, so some experts are recommending the use of governmental regulation instead, citing the many health and climate benefits to inspire the voters’ support when the concept of taxation seems too off-putting.((David Leonhardt, [[https://​www.nytimes.com/​interactive/​2019/​04/​09/​magazine/​climate-change-politics-economics.html|“The Problem With Putting a Price on the End of the World,”]] //New York Times Magazine//, April 9, 2019.)) ​
  
-The pace of the transition to renewable energy sources is not primarily limited by technological factors. It would be possible to build a whole new energy system and retire all the old ones within ​a few short years, if there were sufficient political will to do so. During World War II the public was galvanized to undertake heroic actions and immediately shifted out of a depression-level economy into an intense period of production. For example, in 1939, total aircraft production for the US military was less than 3,000 planes. By the end of the war, America produced 300,000 planes.((Christy Borth, //Masters of Mass Production//,​ Indianapolis,​ IN, Bobbs-Merrile,​ 1945, p. 237.)) ​+The pace of the transition to renewable energy sources is not primarily limited by technological factors. It would be possible to build a whole new energy system and retire all the old ones within ​decades, if there were sufficient political will to do so. During World War II the public was galvanized to undertake heroic actions and immediately shifted out of a depression-level economy into an intense period of production. For example, in 1939, total aircraft production for the US military was less than 3,000 planes. By the end of the war, America produced 300,000 planes.((Christy Borth, //Masters of Mass Production//,​ Indianapolis,​ IN, Bobbs-Merrile,​ 1945, p. 237.)) ​
  
-If the world would mobilize with the same urgency now, global warming could be limited promptly. The obstacles to quick change are not technological but economic and political. The public is not sufficiently aware of the dire consequences of not acting swiftly to reduce climate change. This unawareness means that governments lack incentives to regulate the sources and uses of energy, or train workers for jobs in the new renewable industries. Finally, manufacturers and investors have to worry about maintaining the profitability of their enterprises. Numerous large companies are active in the nuclear power industry, from uranium mining, processing and enrichment to the actual operating of nuclear power plants and nuclear waste processing.((For a list of 104 large companies operating in the nuclear power industry, see Wikipedia, “List of companies in the Nuclear Sector,” dated July 2016.)) They have already invested so much money in fossil fuels and in the nuclear power industry that the managers have to worry about getting value from their “stranded assets” – i.e. the past investments that will never pay off financially if there is a quick transition away from their sector. ​+If the world would mobilize with the same urgency now, global warming could feasibly ​be limited promptly. The obstacles to quick change are not technological but economic and political. The public is not sufficiently aware of the dire consequences of not acting swiftly to reduce climate change. This unawareness means that governments lack incentives to regulate the sources and uses of energy, or train workers for jobs in the new renewable industries. Finally, manufacturers and investors have to worry about maintaining the profitability of their enterprises. Numerous large companies are active in the nuclear power industry, from uranium mining, processing and enrichment to the actual operating of nuclear power plants and nuclear waste processing.((For a list of 104 large companies operating in the nuclear power industry, see Wikipedia, “List of companies in the Nuclear Sector,” dated July 2016.)) They have already invested so much money in fossil fuels and in the nuclear power industry that the managers have to worry about getting value from their “stranded assets” – i.e. the past investments that will never pay off financially if there is a quick transition away from their sector. ​
  
 ==== Health and Safety Issues ==== ==== Health and Safety Issues ====
Line 67: Line 68:
 Finally, we can return to the serious issue of comparing the health and safety effects of nuclear to the alternative sources of electric power, both renewable and from fossil fuels. ​ Finally, we can return to the serious issue of comparing the health and safety effects of nuclear to the alternative sources of electric power, both renewable and from fossil fuels. ​
  
-Radiation can cause cancer and other genetic damage to the human body and it has no known beneficial ​effects ​apart from diagnostic uses (e.g. as X-ray imagery) and for killing deleterious cells such as tumors. Any exposure to radiation presumably poses some risk, but the risks of very low exposure levels have not been proven conclusively.((The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ​(EPA), Radiation: Risks and Realities,​” May 2007. Available at https://​www.epa.gov.))  +Radiation can cause cancer and other genetic damage to the human body. Beneficial ​effects ​are predominantly ​from diagnostic uses (e.g. as X-ray imagery) and for killing deleterious cells such as tumors, or from decontamination and sterilization processes. Any exposure to radiation presumably poses some risk, but the risks of very low exposure levels have not been proven conclusively. ​Some argue there are benefits, but that view is controversial.((It has been possible to estimate quantitatively the relationship between radiation dose and increased incidence of cancers (the "risk coefficient"​) that do appear ​to be induced by radiation. The Japanese survivors of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki have provided most data for thisFor doses below 100 mSvit is not possible to decide from these data what the relationships ​are between radiation dose and the incidences ​of the various cancers. The assumption for protection purposes continues to be that the increase in incidence of cancer is proportional ​to the increase in radiation dose, all the way from zero to doses where effects have actually been observedThis is the "​linear non-threshold"​ model (LNT model) ​that is the basis for standards and regulations on radiation in use around the world.”...”Whether there are harmful effects or beneficial effects from small increases in radiation dose above our normal background levelsany such effects are very small, may well be zero, and are lost in impacts of everyday living; 
- +Given the absence ​of unequivocal evidence for any harmful or beneficial effects at low doses, ​there is no justification for trying ​to estimate, with the ICRP risk coefficient mentioned above, increases in cancers in a population that has received small increases in radiation doses.” http://www.nuclearfaq.ca/​cnf_sectionD.htm#​LNT))((The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ​Radiation: Risks and Realities,” May 2007Available at https://www.epa.gov.)) 
-Most people, even including ​the staff working inside reactors, are exposed ​to far less radiation from nuclear power production than from normal background ​radiation. The health effects are low in comparison to some environmental factors or life style practices such as smokingHoweverexposure ​is very unequally distributed within a population. For example, if you are a uranium miner or an airline crew member, you are absorbing far more than your fair share of radiation. The overview article on this threat topic (on radiation exposure) cites ample evidence ​that strong public health measures are needed ​to protect ​the people whose location and jobs put them at higher risk.  +
- +
-Stillthe everyday risks imposed by the nuclear power industry, though ​all harmful, are not the main reason for worrying about itRather, it is the possibility of an explosion or meltdown ​that is cause for alarm Even sothe explosion of a single civilian reactor because of an accident will probably ​be less catastrophic than the effect ​of a military strike against multiple reactors. The latter situation would clearly be an existential threat to humankind – and there is no way to estimate the probability of such an eventEven the experts resort to guesswork +
- +
-Everything else being equal,” it would certainly be prudent to switch to other sources of energy — but of course everything else is never equalReal decisions often involve calculating trade-offs that involve costs and the comparative risks of all the alternative options +
- +
-Fortunately,​ however, the trends in costs are favorable for the prospects of replacing nuclear reactors with renewable energyThough sixty nuclear plants are still under construction,​ their costs are inordinately high – and those costs do not even take account of the future decommissioning of the plants when they grow old+
  
-Clearly, the future belongs ​to renewable energyWe can do it! But the pace of transitioning ​to windsolargeothermaland tidal energy ​(and probably even nuclear fusionwill be determined by the political will that people bring to bear upon their governmentsAnd that is for us all to decide+Most peopleeven including ​the staff working inside reactors, are exposed ​to far less radiation from nuclear power production than from normal background radiationThe health effects are low in comparison ​to some environmental factors or life style practices such as smoking. Howeverexposure is very unequally distributed within a population. For exampleif you are a uranium miner or an airline crew memberyou are absorbing far more than your fair share of radiation. The overview article on this threat topic (on radiation exposurecites ample evidence ​that strong public health measures are needed ​to protect the people whose location and jobs put them at higher riskAt the same time, there are places on earth where the background radiation levels are extremely high, such as Ramsar in Iran, but cancer rates are no higher than average.((http://​large.stanford.edu/​courses/​2018/​ph241/​lance2/​))
  
 +Still, everyday risks imposed by the nuclear power industry, though potentially harmful, are not the main reason for worrying about it. Rather, it is the possibility of an explosion or meltdown that is cause for alarm. ​ Even so, the explosion of a single civilian reactor because of an accident will undoubtedly be less catastrophic than the effect of multiple military strikes against multiple reactors. It is difficult to assess the likelihood of such an event, given there would be rapid retaliation once such a process began.  ​
  
 +Real decisions often involve calculating trade-offs that involve costs and the comparative risks of all the alternative options. The trends in costs may currently be favorable for the prospects of replacing nuclear reactors with renewable energy. Though sixty new nuclear plants are still under construction,​ their costs are inordinately high, especially when future decommissioning costs are added. ​
  
 +The future may belong to renewable energy, but certainly more sustainable approaches to energy supply. We can do it! But the pace of transitioning to wind, solar, geothermal, and tidal energy (and possibly even nuclear fusion) will be determined by the political will that people bring to bear upon their governments. And that is for us all to decide. ​
radiation/all_states_shall_shift_rapidly_to_effective_generation_of_electricity_by_using_renewable_energy.1557714608.txt.gz · Last modified: 2019/05/13 02:30 by 192.252.166.4