Nuclear Power’s Achilles Heel

I’ve been reading Climate Denial Crock of the Week for at least a year or more now and it’s truly an excellent resource. There’s great information there on renewable energy and how we can and are (albeit slowly) moving away from fossil fuels mixed in with some all around solid journalism – something of a rare commodity these days and is well worth your time.

As the name of Peter Sinclair’s blog indicates, he also deals with climate denial head on.  He has a series of videos on YouTube which quite simply rip to shreds just about every climate change denial myth you’ve heard of.

If you’re looking for ammo to combat the climate change denial nonsense that a friend, co-worker or loved one is spouting, like they had their own show on Fox “News” – this should be one of your first stops along the way.  Heck, just check it out to learn more about the whole issue, you have nothing to lose but ignorance.

The fun doesn’t end there either, a chap who goes by the handle of potholer54 on YouTube has a number of fantastic videos on science, evolution, climate change and other subjects.  These are just two of many fine examples of the internet fulfilling the hope that it would be used to distribute knowledge, reason and enlightenment…sadly what can be used for good can also be used for evil…like Conservapedia for example.  *shudder*

The reason I mention all this is because of a recent article that was posted about how a warmer world impacts our ability to generate power the conventional way.  Freshwater is used in massive amounts to cool traditional power plants (coal, gas & nuclear) – turns out warm river water isn’t that great for cooling things down and you can’t just start flooding a river with boiling water whenever it’s convenient for you.  Behold!  The liberal bias of physics, chemistry and biology being leveraged by the fragility of life and it’s demonic agenda!

I’m expecting that piece of environmental legislation to come under fire from Republican/Tea-Party-Wingnuts in the U.S. sooner rather than later.  The last number of years really has been quite the fall from grace for the states – it’s being gutted by those who claim to love it the most – it’s really fucking twisted.  Kinda like a rapist who claims to love you while violating you at the same time, this is effectively what they’re doing to their country.  As a Canadian, I tend to look at the U.S. as a sibling, we (more or less) have the same “parents”, though our relationships with them are very different.  We’re similar in many ways, but like siblings we also have our stark differences.  At the moment, I’d equate it to watching your older brother or sister self-destruct – it’s a painful thing to watch.  They’d do well to remember what John Adams said about facts and how they are, indeed, stubborn things…but I digress.

Back on topic, power plants have difficulty producing power at full capacity during prolonged periods of warm weather…like heat waves.  This is due to the fact that the rivers they get the water to cool the reactors from are warmer than normal as a consequence of said heat wave.  Which makes for a bit of a double whammy considering how much power air conditioning uses and how heavily it’s used during summer in general and, you know, heat waves.

Details:  Heat Waves Spotlight Nuclear Achilles Heel « Climate Denial Crock of the Week.

The hits for nuclear power keep on coming.  Meanwhile, wind turbines, solar power arrays, geothermal, hydroelectric keep on churning out power as if nothing is wrong.  The same was true in Japan during the earthquakes and tsunami that took out the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant – while Fukushima exploded, burned and melted down (causing all manner of catastrophe and binding the Japanese to decades of commitment to clean up said mess), the nearby turbine blades kept on spinning, and still are by the way.

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3 responses to “Nuclear Power’s Achilles Heel

  • astrowright

    One thing to consider – wind turbines are kilowatt devices that run intermittently, and solar arrays require vast land areas (read: environmental impact) in order to reach megawatt production, and they, too, are intermittent. A nuclear powerplant is a megawatt device that runs continuously. The former can never fully replace the latter without an equally environmentally-costly enhancement to grid power storage, which usually involves toxic metals (cadmium, lead in battery banks, etc.). Two cents.

    • Gorbin Wafflemunch

      Hi astrowright,
      First off, thanks for your comment and I apologize for the rant that’s about to follow, it started out much shorter but kinda got out of hand – I just can’t help myself when I get going sometimes :S
      Some wind turbines are indeed kilowatt scale devices, however, they range up to the megawatt scale. The largest being upwards of 7.5MW and many being of at least 1+ MW, the ones at the Kamisu offshore wind farm are in fact 2 MW turbines each – it’s a small wind farm of 7 turbines so 14 MW total.
      While it’s true that the wind doesn’t always blow in one place, the wind is always blowing somewhere – an interconnected, distributed grid can do much to offset poor wind conditions in an area. Coupled with the fact that no power plant runs at full blast all the time anyway, they regulate their output based on user demand. Deserts make fine areas to build solar arrays but they are doing just fine in non-desert areas as well. Any land they take up is just fine by me considering the alternative of mountain top removal for coal or massive tailing ponds when it comes to something like the oil sands. Both of which are finite resources to boot whereas the sun, wind and moving water are virtually inexhaustible as resources. It’s in our interest to harvest these sources more effectively – we can, the power is there, the tech exists – we just have to build it. Such large scale projects will also have the side effect of needing large numbers of people to manufacture, install and maintain these new power sources…I’m no economics major but that sounds like it has all the right ingredients to stimulate an economy – maybe I’m wrong.
      Nuclear is fine so long as everything is running well, but when it fucks up it can fuck up huge. The containment of Chernobyl is still ongoing – it took 30+ years to properly entomb 3 mile island (if I recall correctly). Fukushima will take months to cool down and years (if not decades) to properly contain. Never mind the widespread radioactive contamination and subsequent health and environmental effects. This doesn’t even touch on the subject of what to do with the waste generated from nuclear power plants, the billions of dollars in capital that’s needed to construct them, the years it takes to build them and how the only entity that will insure them are governments – which effectively leaves you and me stuck with the bill. All of that before they generate a single watt of electrical power. A half finished nuclear power plant is worthless, a half finished wind farm, on the other hand, still generates power my friend.
      As far as toxic metals regarding battery storage that would certainly be a valid concern (though somewhat of a lesser evil than the spectre of a nuclear meltdown in my opinion), but it’s not the only option. Vanadium redox batteries could have potential in this regard and have been used on industrial scales before, though to be fair I’m not sure if they’d be better regarding toxicity. In any case, we’re not limited to batteries, there’s pumped water storage, compressed air storage, kinetic (flywheel) energy storage, thermal energy storage and that’s just off the top of my head. There’s strength to be had in a diversified energy portfolio, especially a distributed one.
      Last thing – and this has got to be embarrassing for the nuclear industry – they were beat by renewables recently in total energy output for the U.S.

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