Tuesday, December 11, 2007

30 nuclear plants a year...ONLY?

An new report from the IEA suggests a rapid increase in nuclear...and coal! Let's examine this:

World needs 30 nuke plants/year for power, emission cuts: IEA

Speaking on the sidelines of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change's Bali talks Tuesday, IEA executive director Nobuo Tanaka said that to achieve the reduction of greenhouse gases recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world would need to build 30 nuclear plants of 1000 MW each year between 2013 and 2030. It would also need 22 coal- fired plants with carbon capture and storage at 800 MW each; 20 gas-fired plants with carbon capture and storage at 500 MW each; Two hydro dams of the size of China's Three Gorges Dam (1.7 million MW each); 400 combined heat and power units at 40 MW each; and 17,000 wind turbines of 3 MW each.

Well, this is 'progressive' in that they recognize the need for nuclear energy to be part "of the mix" of energy resources in the near future. But is the need only 300 plants in 10 years? And adding coal! There is not one item in additional to nucelar that is actually need beyond a more aggressive building program in nuclear. The IEA is bending to the Renewable Lobby that seeks to poise 'altnerative' sources of generation on the world when nuclear can handle all the needs. From around 1968 through 1986, the world build 430 nuclear power plants, usually through state sponsored power plant construction schemes (except in the US where private companies had their profits subsidized while building expensive 'free enterprise' plants that went bankrupt).

The World could easily build 50 to 100 plants a year if it decided...in a serious plant to 'gear up' to build the several thousand plants the planet needs to eliminate fossil fuel generating facilities.

Under world socialist planning, this could be accomplished. For that to happen,the working classes of the world needs to rid it self of the capitalist class. -- That, for another blog...

--Left Atomics

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Being opposed to carbon emissions

While there is some healthy skepticism about climate change...the climate is changing. Even if it's not changing on a epoch meaning upswing from the last ice age or the one before that, things are heating up at least in the current period of the last century. Perhaps humanity isn't the number one cause or perhaps there is no stopping it given the positive feedback nature of the CO2 to temperature. However it doesn't mean the climate change debate ends and everyone should panic and start burning skeptics at the stake. It needs to remain a scientific debate even if at the end of the day humanity takes action one way or another.

But...believe it or not, I'm not posting this about climate change at all. Rather, about something more immediate and certainly deadly and that's the kind of carbon emissions that are occurring and why it's unhealthy now.

I don't think the climate change debate is useless but there are more immediate concerns. Coal is the largest concentration of carbon emissions there is. Coal burning for electrical energy and steel production is the largest single emitter of particles (soot) and heavy metals around: uranium, thorium, mercury and other nasties.

The costs in health and clean up (after dumping) of these pollutants is never calculated into the cost of burning coal, where as nuclear has to account for everything from mining to final decommissioning and waste disposal.

Coal in the US may, according to the NIH, kill upward of 40,000 people per year. This is just from respiratory problems. It does not include the effects of the heavy metal content of coal ash which is spread all over the country in roads, concrete, and just laying around dumps near coal plants.

Coal kills now and, it is only going to get worse. "Clean Coal" is a marketing strategy by the coal industry. It only knocks down some of the pollutants, not all. CO2 emissions are only slightly brought under control. Costs for "Clean Coal" is above that of nuclear. Add the carbon tax and it becomes prohibitively expensive.

Most "Greens"…do not seem to care about any of this. Yes, they honestly do oppose the use of coal but they put no serious plan ahead that can either pay for alternatives for coal or plan any serious campaigns against it. No, the only really plan against nuclear energy, the safest, least polluting form of energy around. This is quite serious. The Greens campaign against what is arguable the lowest carbon emitter there is. Why do I say this?

In Germany, the origin of the Green political movement, is in power. They are part of the German gov't. They moved to "phase out" Nuclear and in it's place they are building 26 COAL plants to make up for the massive shortfall in electricity as a result. Wind and certainly solar can't replace the almost 20,000 MWs of power generated from Germany's cheap and clean nuclear plants, so, they are building coal fired plants to replace the power. This is a reactionary political stance by the German Greens. There are only two solution to coal after all alternatives and efficiency changes have been made: natural gas and nuclear. The Greens have chosen not to eliminate coal, but to eliminate nuclear. This needs to be fought by everyone concerned with the future of humanity.

There needs to be a broad based, left, pro-nuclear movement built here in the US and in Germany to get rid of coal, replace it with nuclear energy.

David Walters

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Left Manifesto for Nuclear Energy

Left Manifesto for Nuclear Energy

Left Atomics: A Call for a Re-discussion on Nuclear Energy

Anti-nuclear power sentiment among the socialist and progressive Left in the developed world has been ubiquitous. Calls for the shutting down of nuclear power plants has been part and parcel of every platform for most groups since the 3 Mile Island incident in the U.S. in 1979. After the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, "most groups" and most of progressive thought have been firmly anti-nuclear energy.

In the 28 years since 3 Mile Island and the 21 years since the Chernobyl incident few groups have re-examined their views or considered the history and development of nuclear energy since. Some of us have reconsidered, and believe it is time to do that. We would like to report on the current state of affairs to the community at large.

The opening paragraph above needs some comment. It is mentioned that anti-nuclear sentiment dominates Left thought in the developed, industrialized "West". This, however, is not the case in developing countries. It is dominant only in those countries with strong economies, that is, in the imperialist countries. Our words, therefore, are aimed at them more than anyone else.IssuesAfter 3 Mile Island and Chernobyl occurred, it appeared to be the death knell for those state and private concerns supporting or developing nuclear power.

In reality, the research and development into nuclear fission as a source for energy accelerated. While some nuclear projects were canceled around the world because of Chernobyl, many others continued to completion, then they were fueled with uranium fuel, and went on line. It is important to note that the industry as a whole did not slink away after these incidents. Quite the contrary, they addressed the issues concerning how these incidents took place and there have been none of that sort since. Nuclear designers, engineers and workers learned and found solutions to what caused these problems so they would not happen again. Thereafter there has been a virtually unblemished record of power production done safely, cheaply and without threats to the public. The record for nuclear power, across the board, is generally better than any other form of electrical energy production in the world today.

Our starting point for this statement are the following 4 items:

• The worldwide, social need for nuclear power has changed dramatically since the 1980s.

• As socialists, we need to deal with technological reality as it has developed in the last 30 years.

• We need to reverse our opposition to nuclear power and instead support its development.

• We need to oppose its privatisation and support its nationalization where it is private as part of state-owned, transparently regulated, nationalized energy monopoly for the sake of economically building of power plants and for their safety.

As of 2007, there are 440 working commercial nuclear power plants in the world, 103 of them in the United States. The term "commercial" means the production of electrical energy as the primary purpose. There are at least 700 other reactors whose primary purpose is not electrical production but rather for the propulsion for military naval craft, nuclear weapons development, or scientific research and development. In the last 2 years the media has been running articles on the renaissance of nuclear power.

Many countries, including the United States, have seen applications for increasing the world-wide inventory of commercial reactors by almost 20%. In the U.S., there are now 31 proposals for "Construction and Operating Licenses" before the Department of Energy for new nuclear plants, all of them additional reactors to existing nuclear facilities. China and India have plans to quadruple the number of nuclear plants they presently have to meet their incredible projections for economic growth. Japan and China are currently building a half dozen plants between them. Socialists need to understand what nuclear power is, how to confront the issue, what it means and develop a response to this growth in nuclear power specifically and the needs for developing new sources of energy in general.


From Der Speigel:“At present, 29 nuclear power plants are under construction and there are concrete plans to build another 64. Another 158 are under consideration.”http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/16/world/europe/16spiegel.html?ei=5070&en=53149fde209698a4&ex=1173070800&pagewanted=print


The 3rd Generation of Reactors

All but a few of the working nuclear plants in the world today are called "Generation II" plants. These plants were designed in the 1960s and 1970s and came on line in the 1970s and 1980s with a few later in the 1990s. These plants were designed as commercial plants. The Generation I plants, the 1950s variety, were generally submarine reactors taken from these vessels and placed in confinement domes to be run commercially. These military derivative reactors were small, and mostly not suited for commercial base-load production.Because of 3 Mile Island and Chernobyl, the industry globally responded not by coming up with a hodgepodge of quick fixes to these incidents, but rather invented completely new designs. These third-generation reactors have:

• a standardized design for each type to expedite licensing, reduce capital cost and reduce construction time,

• a simpler and more rugged design, making them easier to operate and less vulnerable to operational upsets,

• higher availability and longer operating life, typically 60 years and running 90% of the time or better,

• reduced possibility of core melt accidents,

• minimal effect on the environment,

• higher burn-up to reduce fuel use and the amount of waste,

• burnable absorbers ("poisons") to extend fuel life and eliminate any possibility of military use.

The greatest departure from second-generation designs is that many incorporate passive or inherent safety features* which require no active controls or operational intervention to avoid accidents in the event of malfunction, and may rely on gravity, natural convection or resistance to high temperatures.


(*Traditional reactor systems employed the uranium nuclear chain reaction operating below the “critical” level. A control system was therefore essential to keep the reaction from running away toward a bomb-like condition. Some safety systems were “active” in the sense that they involved electrical or mechanical operation on command. Other systems operate passively, e.g., pressure relief valves. Both required parallel, redundant systems to reduce the chances of control failure. An inherent or fully passive safety system depends only on the laws of physical phenomena such as convection, gravity or resistance to high temperatures to prevent a run away condition.)


The industry has to be able to sell these new reactors to a sceptical public. Even with the very good record of the older generation II reactors that are online now, people understandably want even safer plants. The engineers, in our opinion, who have designed the new generation III plants have done just that.

Energy Demand

Energy demand is growing. [Not only is total energy use projected to grow dramatically, but electrical energy will be by far the largest proportion. …Etc., etc. You can mention that nearly 1/3rd of the world’s population have no electricity. Think about refrigeration and electric lights so that the kids can study at night. If you want to talk about energy demand, then do so, and talk about pollution elsewhere.]

Pollution and Global Warming

All countries, with the exception of France, rely on the burning of fossil fuel, mostly coal, followed by natural gas and oil for their electrical energy needs. Some countries rely on the extensive use of hydro-electrical power (Ecuador, Venezuela, Nepal), but these are exceptions. The infrastructure that delivers these fossil fuels is itself polluting (albeit much of this can be addressed by engineering) through processing, spills, leaks, dust, cave ins, etc. It is no longer a subject of debate that burning of fossil fuels itself is the major cause for climate change today through the discharge of CO2. We intend to emphasize the facts as they relate to nuclear power's virtually zero emissions all of any pollution: CO2, carbon-monoxide, carbon and fly ash particulates, mercury and uranium (a major by-product of burning coal), and the nagging questions surrounding waste disposal and the front-end pollution and human costs of mining fertile and fissile materials.

Nuclear Power as only non-polluting base-load power source

Our view on nuclear power is that it is the only base-load energy available that is non-polluting, can provide for global economic growth, and provide the power needed to fuel the abundance we will have under socialism. Base load is what constitutes the basic source of bulk energy for any nation's grid. There are only two choices now that can cheaply provide the hundreds of thousands of megawatts for current and future growth: coal or nuclear. Society must make the best choice. Wind, solar, both now and for the foreseeable future, are incapable of providing reliable and cheap power to the world. We are prepared to discuss these issues and more with you.

Left Atomics, March, 2007 updated, December, 2007