Skip to comments.Silicon Valley, Greenpeace co-founder say yes to nuclear
Posted on 06/09/2006 4:09:49 PM PDT by beavus
Peter Wagner, a general partner at venture firm Accel, predicts there will be nuclear powered cars on the streets of San Francisco in a decade.
You've just got to think of it more as indirect nuclear power. Cars won't have reactors, he explained during a panel discussion at the Venture Capital Investing Conference taking place in San Francisco. Instead, nuclear power will become a more acceptable form of energy to the American public as gas prices continue to climb and global warming worsens.
Nuclear power will provide electricity to the grid, and individuals will charge electric cars by plugging them into the wall, in a scenario laid out by Wagner. Some drivers will also possibly be able to charge their cars through solar panels mounted on garage roofs.
"The only thing that can move the needle (in fossil fuel consumption) in scale and cost is nuclear," he said. "A nuclear renaissance makes very compelling logic."
While few are on the road now, electric cars are gaining a smattering of adherents. Some hobbyists are building plug-in hybrids, which run almost completely on electricity, while start-up Tesla Motors next month will start selling an all-electric sports car.
Nuclear power is still politically unpopular, and some scientists say it shouldn't be used to address global warming. The Union of Concerned Scientists, for example, points to three deal breakers: nuclear waste, the risk of catastrophic accidents and the potential for terrorists to target nuclear plants. Still, nuclear power is cropping up more these days. Patrick Moore, a Greenpeace founder, has founded GreenSpirit, an environmental group that supports nuclear power.
"I believe the majority of environmental activists, including those at Greenpeace, have now become so blinded by their extremism that they fail to consider the enormous and obvious benefits of harnessing nuclear power to meet and secure America's growing energy needs," the controversial Moore testified in front of Congress in April 2005. "If America is to meet its ever increasing demands for energy, then the American nuclear industry must be revitalized and allowed to grow."
Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman has written articles with Moore in support of nuclear growth in recent weeks.
In Europe, nuclear has never gone out of fashion. Last year, French government officials touted their country as a tech destination and one benefit was the cheap cost of energy. France has excess nuclear-generated electricity so it can export it to Spain and Italy.
Researchers in the U.S. are also trying to make nuclear power safer. At Georgia Institute of Technology, researchers have isolated a microbe that can prevent uranium in the soil from leeching into groundwater.
Li-Bu Tan, chairman of venture firm Walden International, said he wouldn't mind seeing a comeback in nuclear, but partly for personal reasons. He is trained as a nuclear engineer.
but damnit, no guns allowed w/in city limits.
[Nuclear power is still politically unpopular, and some scientists say it shouldn't be used to address global warming. The Union of Concerned Scientists, for example, points to three deal breakers: nuclear waste, the risk of catastrophic accidents and the potential for terrorists to target nuclear plants.]
Wrong, wrong and wrong.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has nothing to do with science and everything to do with the politics of anti-capitalism and anti-globalization.
Yeah, sure it doesn't produce greenhouse gases, but you have nuclear waste leftover, and if anything goes wrong with a nuclear powerplant, no one will be able to live within miles of the place for thousands of years and the fall out will blow downwind.
Since then I have discovered that nuclear energy is not all that cheap. I'm not sure why but when you hear that it takes 1200 people to run the San Onofre plant then you get a hint. I'm betting half of them are government types watching the other half work.
OTHOH, it still sounds like a good idea to me.
Chernobyl was an exercise in quick, dirty, and cheap. New reactor designs are being drawn up that are "inherently safe" -- if the cooling goes kaput the core does not melt its way to China, it doesn't spew radioactive vapor, it just sits there contained.
There are two types of environmentalists. The first type is genuinely concerned about protecting the envrionment. They are generally reasonable but sometimes fail to realize that everything has tradeoffs, and maybe saving a particular species of insect isn't worth thousands of jobs. The second type are utopian socialist luddites who care about the environment only as a means to attack capitalism, technology, individual freedom, and pretty much everything Western civilization stands for. They won't accept any source of energy that allows us to maintain our decadent materialist lifestyles. Nuclear power is objectively far better for the environment than fossil fuels, and thus a convenient way to tell the two groups apart.
"......no one will be able to live within miles of the place for thousands of years and the fall out will blow downwind"
It's that way now, LOL. I have to "drive-thru" tomorrow. Not looking forward to the oppressive aura around the City by the Gay. I mean, Bay.
It will require something like ten times as much transmission line capacity criscrossing America if everyone switches to electric cars. If it happens it will happen slowly.
Only if you don't recycle the waste. And since radioactivity represents energy, there's no way we can put more radioactivity back into the environment than we took out of it in the form of uranium. That would be perpetual motion.
The technology exists to deal with the fission fractions. Vitrification has been in use for decades in France's nuclear program (credit where credit is due, France got this one right). I have worked with this technology.
Also do not use Chernobyl as a basis. Unlike all western nuclear plants (and any Westinghouse and GE BWR design for that matter), Chernobyl had no kind of containment structure. Even though there were screw-ups involved at Three Mile Island, in the end the pressure rated containment worked.
Of course like everything else that California needs they will want the Nuclear reactors built in a neighboring state, like Nevada or Arizona.
Is there anyway that the radiation can get out accidentally under extreme circumstances? What if there is a terrorist attack on a reactor? Plus even if there are no accidents or attacks, what do we do with the spent waste that sits around for the next several thousand years years. Even if we bury it, it could work its way into the water supply, or gradually back to the surface.
"Is there anyway that the radiation can get out accidentally under extreme circumstances? What if there is a terrorist attack on a reactor? Plus even if there are no accidents or attacks, what do we do with the spent waste that sits around for the next several thousand years years. Even if we bury it, it could work its way into the water supply, or gradually back to the surface."
"ANY way"? Why such an impossible standard for nuclear power? Is there ANY way your local chemical plant could disperse deadly chemicals into the atmosphere? Is there ANY way jumbo jets flying overhead could crash into a neighborhood? Is there ANY way various chemical and human waste from numerous industries could escape into the environment and end up in your drinking water? Is there ANY way the US nuclear arsenal could be hijacked by enemies or in some way accidentally used against the US?
There is much mystical thinking about anything with the word "nuclear" in it. Radioactivity, like many other useful things in our world, can pose health risks and so must be dealt with responsibly. Fortunately, radiation is a simple and well-understood physical process, so we know well how to handle it.
To answer your question, there are ways to diminish the radioactivity of waste from existing power plants, but ultimately it is an issue of safe storage. The US has a long safety record for storing waste on site. As plants are decomishined, it is thought the waste should be moved to some location where we and future millenia can essentially forget about it. The best answer currently seems to be vitrification to make it chemically inert, and then store it deep in a mountain (like from where the uranium came in the first place).
But, will there by ANY way radiation associated with the nuclear power industry could conceivably harm someone? Yes. But already far more people have died in Middle East wars and terrorist attacks sponsored ultimately by oil money. More people have died in the mining of coal and building of dams. More people have died in natural gas and gasoline exposions & fires. Care to compare the number of nuclear power-related US deaths to deaths from people crushed by tipping vending machines?
Nuclear power, when done even buy 1960's US standards, is EXCEEDINGLY safe.