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States sign nuclear energy pact

The media seem to have gone bananas about this recently. A sort of all-singing-all-dancing solution to climate change.

OK, it might be a useful technology in the future and may be worth exploring to see what potential it has. However, what are the drawbacks? OK, the waste may be active for less long than fission, but we still have to do something with it and who knows what sort of things might occur that we haven't forseen which might make this a complete disaster. Yes, try it, see what happens, but it sounds dangerously like we want to rely on it.

Also, is it really sensible to jump on it so enthusiatically. Most sources seem to imply it will take 100 years before it's a viable for everyday mass use across the planet (if it does turn out to be an answer to everything). So, what are we going to do in the meantime? Wouldn't it be better to invest in improving the renewable technologies we already have to provide a more short-term solution and then follow up fusion as funds allow, possible even putting it aside for a later date?

At this point, I'll just mutter something about eggs and the number of baskets to put them in...

Comments

( 42 comments — Leave a comment )
tienelle
21st Nov, 2006 15:10 (UTC)
It's not as though this decision precludes any other investment or research. Nuclear fusion may well be the solution to our energy woes; without research, we'll never know whether it's worth investing in. I think this is a sensible use of the resources; it might turn out not to yield useful results, but that doesn't invalidate investment now.
hmmm_tea
21st Nov, 2006 17:01 (UTC)
Yes, of course if investments are going into other forms too, then it's very sensible.

However, there's only a finite level of resources and you don't hear about the same level of funding being put towards other forms so much.

Maybe it's just the media being nuclear obsessive, I don't know, but it would be nice to think that was a similar level of funding going into renewable at least.
ex_robhu
21st Nov, 2006 18:51 (UTC)
What else is there to research in renewables? Very little. We could perhaps increase the efficiency of photovoltaic cells, but not by very much.

Fusion on the other hand has immense potential and much scope for research.
ex_robhu
21st Nov, 2006 15:58 (UTC)
If we could only pick one then yeah maybe. We can afford to invest in multiple energy technologies though so Fusion is a good use of money. Also you get diminished returns the more you put in to one area so spending on multiple areas is an efficient use of money.

Also there are a lot of nuclear scientists / engineers around, you can't just have them all work on something else.
hmmm_tea
21st Nov, 2006 17:05 (UTC)
Also there are a lot of nuclear scientists / engineers around, you can't just have them all work on something else.

We waste far too much money creating jobs to employ people rather than because they're needed. People can be retrained, and I personnally think that in general this is a better solution then creating jobs in their original fields just to keep them employed.
ex_robhu
21st Nov, 2006 17:45 (UTC)
Have you considered how long it would take to retrain someone to postdoc level?
(no subject) - hmmm_tea - 21st Nov, 2006 18:08 (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ex_robhu - 21st Nov, 2006 18:50 (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hmmm_tea - 21st Nov, 2006 23:30 (UTC) - Expand
ewx
21st Nov, 2006 16:52 (UTC)

Firstly researching fusion power does not imply relying on it.

Secondly it's not an either/or situation. There is loads of money going into other new energy sources at the moment, indeed to the extent that some people suspect it to be an investment bubble.

I've no idea where you get the idea that all the eggs are being put in one basket.

hmmm_tea
21st Nov, 2006 17:06 (UTC)
There is loads of money going into other new energy sources at the moment, indeed to the extent that some people suspect it to be an investment bubble.

Why don't you hear about it then?

It could just be media being nuclear crazed, but they certainly don't mention investment in other forms as much as they have in this.
ewx
21st Nov, 2006 19:34 (UTC)
Why don't you hear about it then?
I do hear about it. Obviously you should get a better news source.
Re: Why don't you hear about it then? - hmmm_tea - 21st Nov, 2006 23:27 (UTC) - Expand
Re: Why don't you hear about it then? - ex_robhu - 21st Nov, 2006 23:45 (UTC) - Expand
Re: Why don't you hear about it then? - hmmm_tea - 22nd Nov, 2006 00:12 (UTC) - Expand
Re: Why don't you hear about it then? - ewx - 22nd Nov, 2006 00:02 (UTC) - Expand
Re: Why don't you hear about it then? - hmmm_tea - 22nd Nov, 2006 00:14 (UTC) - Expand
Re: Why don't you hear about it then? - ewx - 22nd Nov, 2006 00:38 (UTC) - Expand
Re: Why don't you hear about it then? - hmmm_tea - 22nd Nov, 2006 12:57 (UTC) - Expand
Re: Why don't you hear about it then? - ewx - 22nd Nov, 2006 14:24 (UTC) - Expand
Re: Why don't you hear about it then? - hmmm_tea - 22nd Nov, 2006 15:36 (UTC) - Expand
ex_robhu
21st Nov, 2006 18:57 (UTC)
From: http://www.oxfordtoday.ox.ac.uk/2005-06/v18n2/05.shtml

'The big question', he goes on, 'is what energy sources can take over a major part of the role of fossil fuels, which today contribute 80 per cent, against a background of rising energy use. Solar PV [photovoltaic cells] could do it in principle - there is more than enough sunshine to satisfy the world's energy needs. But it's all generated during the day, and until we have a good way of storing it, and without dramatic decreases in cost, it's not a goer except in niche markets.

'Nuclear fission could make a big contribution. Fission is much safer and more efficient than it used to be, but with a big fission programme the world will sooner or later run out of cheap uranium, and we will then get into fast breeder reactors, which are much more expensive to run, require fuel reprocessing, which produces a radioactive waste stream, and raise questions about plutonium and weapons proliferation.

'Of course we should use renewables wherever they make sense - and in the UK we are fortunate with our wind, wave and tidal resources. And there's potentially a big role for bioenergy. But even if we develop renewables as much as we can, it won't be enough. Right now the big push is in coal - China alone is building a coal power station every fortnight. The only serious long-term alternatives are fission and fusion, and if we want to be able to choose fusion rather than fission or coal in 30 years time, we need to be serious about it now.'
hmmm_tea
21st Nov, 2006 23:40 (UTC)
until we have a good way of storing it,

Why not invest more money into energy storage and make that the focus instead of fission.

This opens up the options in terms of solar.

Also places such as Iceland have an abundance of geothermal (more than they know what to do with and they're planning to dig deeper to produce far more). If they had the technology to store, this could be shared with other nations.

if we want to be able to choose fusion rather than fission or coal in 30 years time, we need to be serious about it now.

Yes, but the "experts" are saying 100 years not 30. We need another alternative for the short term at least.

Fission produces too much waste, which we can't cope with. We never seem to know what to do with the stuff we're producing now.
ex_robhu
21st Nov, 2006 23:45 (UTC)
Why not invest more money into energy storage
There are no promising areas of energy storage to pursue.

Yes, but the "experts" are saying 100 years not 30
Who said that? Who ever it was the person I quoted is the UK's head of Fusion research.

Fission produces too much waste, which we can't cope with. We never seem to know what to do with the stuff we're producing now.
That's nonsense. We can store the waste from fission reactors quite easily, the problem is that to do it in a cost effective manner we need to adopt nuclear fission in a large way and the 'green' campaigners are poisoning public thinking making this hard to do.
ewx
22nd Nov, 2006 00:31 (UTC)
The 100Y figure is from the Friends Of The Earth guy, who says this is how long proponents of fusion power estimate before it is usable; this is near the end of the BBC article linked at the top. The same article has an actual proponent giving the 30Y estimate. To be fair I don't think anybody actually knows and 30Y is just a guess, but "it'll take a long time" is a pretty stupid reason not to do something; it'll probably take decades to defeat AIDS, too, but I don't think many people think it's therefore a bad idea to even try. Better, rather, to argue these things on their merits.
(no subject) - hmmm_tea - 22nd Nov, 2006 13:05 (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ex_robhu - 22nd Nov, 2006 13:45 (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hmmm_tea - 22nd Nov, 2006 15:40 (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ex_robhu - 22nd Nov, 2006 16:17 (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hmmm_tea - 22nd Nov, 2006 19:55 (UTC) - Expand
hmmm_tea
22nd Nov, 2006 13:02 (UTC)
I think the confusion here is between the figures of when Fusion will be available on the grid and when it will become a dominant energy form.

OK, in 30 years time, it will be on the grid, which admittedly would be a great help, but if fossil fuels are still dominant then we still have a major issue.

Iter is saying it would take a century or so for it to become the dominant energy source. The question then is what do we do in the meantime?
(no subject) - ex_robhu - 22nd Nov, 2006 13:44 (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hmmm_tea - 22nd Nov, 2006 15:54 (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hmmm_tea - 22nd Nov, 2006 15:56 (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hmmm_tea - 22nd Nov, 2006 16:07 (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hmmm_tea - 22nd Nov, 2006 13:11 (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ex_robhu - 22nd Nov, 2006 13:48 (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hmmm_tea - 22nd Nov, 2006 15:23 (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - ex_robhu - 22nd Nov, 2006 13:51 (UTC) - Expand
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wellinghall
23rd Nov, 2006 18:26 (UTC)
I don't think that most informed sources agree that it will take 100 years before nuclear fusion is viable. I think we need to explore all the avenues thoroughly, and to start doing so now - there just ain't even fossil fuels to go round.
( 42 comments — Leave a comment )

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