That Nuclear Issue again

Today I had the opportunity to hear a talk by Professor Philippe Quentin of the Nuclear Study Center of Bordeaux-Gradignan, Bordeaux 1 University. Although the professor was pro-nuclear, it was refreshing to hear some honesty on the subject.  He was speaking at the Department of Physics in University Malaya.

The biggest problem Prof Quentin identified, was the long-life radio active fission products and daughter nuclei of the fission decay series. The Prof gave some very vague mention of some research that had been done to address the problem, but of course, there is no problem to the nuclear waste issue….

Mu Jaw nearly hit the floor when the Prof’s  chapperone, a gentleman who I presume was a member of the Physics department said

 “There is no nuclear waste, it’s just that we don’t know how to use/deal with the isotopes formed from nuclear processes.” – member of the Physics department, University Malaya  

To use that logic, there isn’t any waste anywhere and will never be any waste ever! That is the kind of silly thing I had become accustomed to and is spoken freely by nuclear advocates. It really is sad that such otherwise intelligent people become so silly because of their passion for nuclear energy. I should say Professor Quentin didn’t say those words, but he didn’t interject or make a correction either, not helping to remove any false perceptions arising as a result. 

Sadly, the old anthropogenic CO2 thingy raised it’s head, and had a couple of slides dedicated to it, including the “correlation” between CO2 and global temp over thousands of years graph. Sadly, no mention of the effect of global temps by the Sun. An accompanying graph showed the CO2 content said to have raised from about 30% – from something like 300 ppm to about 400 ppm (note: approx figures!)

At the end I put forward the following point:

‘Exhaust’ gases from a gas fired station is about 95% (note: cooling tower function) steam with about 5% CO2. {Those were the figures told to me after a plant operative took us on a school tour of an Irish gas-fired powerstation in Co. Cork many moons ago) If we have a nuclear power station instead of a CO2 producing powerstation, that vapour will still be present, and given water vapour is a very much more significant greenhouse gas than CO2, it makes the issue of CO2 a near irrelevance.’

My point wasn’t dealt with properly. The best the Prof. could offer was that that there isn’t a mechanism of removing CO2 from the environment. Which of course lead to me saying ‘yes there is, the oceans absorb huge amounts of CO2″, but the point was just kind of hanging.

Some points were made that why can’t Malaysia have nuclear energy too, like India and Pakistan? There was also an pseudo-politic appeal made like “the (far)West hasn’t any right to stop developing countries embracing nuclear energy.” A daft point really, drawing on an emotive issue – that of western imperialism to garner pro-nuclear support, which is a trivial or non-issue.

Prof Quentin said the French govt (who the French embassy in KL were supporting his trip) was encouraging of countries to go ahead with nuclear energy, and mentioned collaboration with the Vietnamese.

One good point was about the holistic nature of science and the body of ‘nuclear knowledge’ that having a reactor must involve. One student said something like: 

“If we are weak on the envirnomental protection/management aspect of nuclear energy/waste, doesn’t that give a case for not going ahead with a nuclear program”

It was a good point, but I knew how it was would be replied to. The Prof replied saying something like “It’s important to develop that sector too”

At the end I had a chance to mention that Germany (I’ll provide details later) win something like 2023 is set to abandon it’s nuclear energy program, despite it being fully aware of the problems with aquiring other and  sufficient energy sources. I said this in response to some people coming out with the old “there is no other choice” type ‘logic’. The Prof said he disagreed with the German decision and predicted they would have problems later. He pointed to Sweden who had also preciously decared they would shut down their nuclear generators but never actually did do, and I think he said they might have opened new ones.

I tried not to hog the Q session (and look too aggressive – partly in recognition of the Prof’s general sincerity and overall honesty – plus he looked a bit like my Dad so I kept seeing my dearest father standing in front of me) so didn’t mention that something like an institute of German consumer affairs said 20+ power stations could be rendered superfluous if all buildings were made to adopt the standards that new German building standards must adhere to. That is a very large reduction in the amount of power necessity.

I also didn’t put forward these points, but they are very relevant.

1) It’s said we need energy sources to replace the ones that are currently running out. Why? This is saying we want to maintain this lifestyle, in which a significant proportion of energy is spent making super massive profits for globalised corporations, leaving the workers pecking at the crumbs. We should be looking to change lifestyle and design life in to be able to take part in a sustainable and highly energy efficient way, but this isn’t being discussed. There is no merit in continuing this crazy situation.

2) If nuclear advocated were to sign an agreement in which they agreed to clean up any nuclear disaster and decommission nuclear power plants and do the labwork containing and reprocessing waste, I suspect there would be few if any people in favour of nuclear energy. You see, such advocates sit safely in their ivory towers knowing some poor sod will be the one who develops complications due to nuclear power exposure.

3) Energetically speaking, it seems to LOT easier to me to capture CO2 (via point of origin) and trnasform it into non-CO2(g) products (polycarbonates for example – a high strength transparent polymer for use in construction) to remove CO2 from a possible (!) connection with global warming, rather than try and bombard waste with say 1 GeV particles from a cyclotron, or via MOX fuel / 4th Generation stations etc.

The case against nuclear energy still FIRMLY STANDS.

My thanks to UM (and the staff member who I’m sure would realise the folly of his ‘there is no nuclear waste’ statement) and to Prof. Quentin for today. The more honest and accepting approach to the debate is very welcomed shoudl relegate all the pro-nuclear rubbish arguements into the bin where they they firmly belong. I could be persuaded that there is a case for nuclear energy, but that’s still a million miles away.

Endnote:

Curiously(?), the event was billed as “Co-founder of Greenpeace making a case for nuclear [energy]” which is completely wrong, and once again, seems typical of the kind of rubbish pro-nuclear ‘lobby’ droll out in an attempt to inflict their nuclear nightmare upon us all. Add the NIMBY issue to point two above that the prosthelytizers of nuclear energy have the ‘no waste, waste’ buried in their own back garden, et voila, case closed.

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1 Response to “That Nuclear Issue again”


  1. 1 lwtc247 February 20, 2009 at 4:30 am

    Here’s the Info about Germany…

    Rainer Stumpf, In the magazine Deutschland (No.3 2006), in its article entitled “Energy Mix of the Future” – Part 2, reports that Holger Krawinkel, head of the Dept for Building, Energy and the Environment at VZBV (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband) states 40 out of Germany’s 70 power plants could be made superfluous if VZBV’s recommendations are put into place.

    Insulation alone in accordance with standards for new buildings would make it possible to save as much as half the power generated by Germany’s power stations.

    Germany is in fact moving AWAY from nuclear energy having experienced numerous problems (political included) with the use of nuclear energy. Its last plant is due to close in 2023 under the Law on the Orderly Termination of the use of Nuclear Energy for the Commercial production of Electricity (Came into effect 26th April 2002 – 16 years after Chermobyl)


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