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timschochet

Why are liberals so opposed to nuclear energy?

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17 minutes ago, IvanKaramazov said:

This is wrong, by the way.  Nuclear power has been around since the 1970s.  In that time, there have been three significant nuclear accidents.  One was Chernobyl, which was caused by gross incompetence and horrible design.  Nobody takes that particular episode seriously in terms of informing current policy.  One was Three Mile Island, which resulted in no deaths.  And one was Fukushima, which was the result of a one-off natural disaster.  As others have noted, European countries have been using nuclear power pretty extensively for decades without issue.  There's no reason to think that our experience would be any different given modern technology and design principles. 

By way of contrast, people die all the time in coal-mining accidents, and coal pollutes the air in a manner that causes illness and death.  But those deaths don't seem to count because they're insufficiently scary.  I'm 100% positive that much of the fear about nuclear energy is driven by the same availability heuristic that causes people to freak out over airline safety and drive instead, even though the latter is way more dangerous.

We've also had two military-related nuclear incidents with Hanford (radioactive waste released into groundwater) and SL-1 (reactor exploded).   

The thing is, we know their will be more earthquakes.   It's going to happen.  We are actively beginning a storage plan at San Onofre that relies on containing nuclear waste in thin canisters in a salt-water environment less than 100 feet from the ocean, and 10 inches above the water table.   Guess what happened to the waste stored in a similar fashion at Hanford?  But it's safe, right?  Except for the fact that just last year, they accidentally dropped a 5500 lb canister of waste 18 feet.

European countries have been using nuclear power without issue--if you don't count Russia (twice), I guess.  And Germany (fire), Switzerland (partial core meltdown), and the Czech Republic (twice--the second resulting in permanent decommissioning).   Each could have ended up catastrophic.

Oh, and there's this:

Quote

As of 2014, there have been more than 100 serious nuclear accidents and incidents from the use of nuclear power. Fifty-seven accidents have occurred since the Chernobyl disaster, and about 60% of all nuclear-related accidents have occurred in the USA

 

Edited by -fish-

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3 hours ago, timschochet said:

Haven’t seen it. 

But is an incident that happened over 30 years ago in a totalitarian country that didn’t have our safety measures very relevant today? I’m not making an argument here, only asking the question, because I’m assuming that, among other things, lots of technology has changed since then. 

I saw it and it was very good.  I recommend it.

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55 minutes ago, IvanKaramazov said:

This is wrong, by the way.  Nuclear power has been around since the 1970s.  In that time, there have been three significant nuclear accidents.  One was Chernobyl, which was caused by gross incompetence and horrible design.  Nobody takes that particular episode seriously in terms of informing current policy.  One was Three Mile Island, which resulted in no deaths.  And one was Fukushima, which was the result of a one-off natural disaster.  As others have noted, European countries have been using nuclear power pretty extensively for decades without issue.  There's no reason to think that our experience would be any different given modern technology and design principles. 

By way of contrast, people die all the time in coal-mining accidents, and coal pollutes the air in a manner that causes illness and death.  But those deaths don't seem to count because they're insufficiently scary.  I'm 100% positive that much of the fear about nuclear energy is driven by the same availability heuristic that causes people to freak out over airline safety and drive instead, even though the latter is way more dangerous.

Americans find 100 deaths at once infinitely scarier than 1 death 10000 times. 

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46 minutes ago, jon_mx said:

1 million.  

You are correct.   Thanks.

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I also prefer coal.  Not that nasty dirty old stuff.  This new beautiful, clean coal stuff.  You know, it’s just been announced that the brand-new coal mine, where they’re going to take out clean coal. meaning, they’re taking out coal. They’re going to clean it super good.  It's amazing.

Edited by beef

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I'm a liberal and I'm for it, but it would have to be done right, and honestly I don't trust private industry to do it right in terms of safety/reliability. They'd have to be heavily regulated and transparent, and there hasn't been a great track record with privates as far as that goes. So think it would have to be a government venture, centrally planned, located in a place that would minimize ecological impact if the worst happens. While we're at it, we really need to overhaul and improve our energy grid.

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1 minute ago, Gr00vus said:

I'm a liberal and I'm for it, but it would have to be done right, and honestly I don't trust private industry to do it right in terms of safety/reliability. They'd have to be heavily regulated and transparent, and there hasn't been a great track record with privates as far as that goes. So think it would have to be a government venture, centrally planned, located in a place that would minimize ecological impact if the worst happens. While we're at it, we really need to overhaul and improve our energy grid.

I agree, this is one instance where I think there should be heavy regulation and control by the government.  My fellow GOP'ers, please forgive me ;)

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1 hour ago, timschochet said:

It IS scary. There's no doubt. Even today that movie The China Syndrome is terrifying. So was the last season of The West Wing when it dealt with this issue. There is something emotional there about nuclear power, which I think goes back to the first mushroom cloud in New Mexico, and Robert Oppenheimer reciting lines from the Bhagavad-Gita. A feeling that we are tapping into an energy source that is way too powerful for mankind to handle. I think that is what is at the back of this fear.

Of course it is, and I completely get that.  I haven't watched Chernobyl because I don't have HBO, but I look forward to watching it at some point because I like watching scary stuff and this sort of thing definitely scratches that itch.  But it's dumb and irrational to base policy on this sort of thing.  It's akin to banning summer camps because I once saw a movie about Camp Crystal Lake.

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46 minutes ago, IvanKaramazov said:

Of course it is, and I completely get that.  I haven't watched Chernobyl because I don't have HBO, but I look forward to watching it at some point because I like watching scary stuff and this sort of thing definitely scratches that itch.  But it's dumb and irrational to base policy on this sort of thing.  It's akin to banning summer camps because I once saw a movie about Camp Crystal Lake.

Summer camps are for parents who don't like their kids. 

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On 9/27/2019 at 12:12 PM, IvanKaramazov said:

This is wrong, by the way.  Nuclear power has been around since the 1970s.  In that time, there have been three significant nuclear accidents.  One was Chernobyl, which was caused by gross incompetence and horrible design.  Nobody takes that particular episode seriously in terms of informing current policy.  One was Three Mile Island, which resulted in no deaths.  And one was Fukushima, which was the result of a one-off natural disaster.  As others have noted, European countries have been using nuclear power pretty extensively for decades without issue.  There's no reason to think that our experience would be any different given modern technology and design principles. 

By way of contrast, people die all the time in coal-mining accidents, and coal pollutes the air in a manner that causes illness and death.  But those deaths don't seem to count because they're insufficiently scary.  I'm 100% positive that much of the fear about nuclear energy is driven by the same availability heuristic that causes people to freak out over airline safety and drive instead, even though the latter is way more dangerous.

:goodposting: There aren't many confirmed deaths from radiation exposure, though there is a lot of variability for Chernobyl estimates: 45 to 985,000(!) Even if you use the high #, fossil fuels are far worse. It makes no sense not to include nuclear energy in any plan to wean ourselves from fossil fuels, as other "green" energy sources aren't realistic to meet all our power needs atm.

Edited by Terminalxylem

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18 hours ago, IvanKaramazov said:

a) Nobody ever said "rely."  It's part of a portfolio.  The opposite of "Use no nuclear power at all" is "Use some nuclear power," not "Use nothing but nuclear power."

b) How is the "Use no nuclear power at all" approach working out for us at the moment?

There are some issues with nuclear power but in general, the alternatives are gas and coal plants rather than solar and wind power. The mining and milling of nuclear results in some carbon going into the atmosphere. It seems extremely unlikely that the emissions per unit of energy produced are anywhere near fossil fuels.

The biggest worry about nuclear power is the potential for a catastrophic acccident or terrorist attack.  The costs of dealing with the waste for hundreds of thousands of years are likely to be paid by the public rather than the owners of the companies. Still overall the cost/benefit/risk favors more nuclear power (with strict safety regulation enforcement) as long as it results in less power generation from coal and gas. 

 

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18 hours ago, dschuler said:

The current solution is in fact nuclear fission, but the future solution to achieve 100% carbon free energy is most likely nuclear fusion.  With nuclear fusion, you have virtually unlimited amounts of fuel as a resource, and could potentially create enough energy to power the world several times over.  China and Europe are ahead of us in this technology, and we should look to even the playing field.  Nuclear fusion has the potential to be the most important solution to a problem in our lifetime.  

The first time I heard that fusion was the solution was over 40 years ago. In fact I recall hearing that it was "40 years away". How far away is it now?

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5 minutes ago, Insomniac said:

There are some issues with nuclear power but in general, the alternatives are gas and coal plants rather than solar and wind power. The mining and milling of nuclear results in some carbon going into the atmosphere. It seems extremely unlikely that the emissions per unit of energy produced are anywhere near fossil fuels.

The biggest worry about nuclear power is the potential for a catastrophic acccident or terrorist attack.  The costs of dealing with the waste for hundreds of thousands of years are likely to be paid by the public rather than the owners of the companies. Still overall the cost/benefit/risk favors more nuclear power (with strict safety regulation enforcement) as long as it results in less power generation from coal and gas. 

 

Florida Power and Light, a local power company, has a nuclear plant in Port St. Lucie, about 15 miles from where I am currently sitting. It's been designed to withstand pretty much anything nature can throw at it, so I doubt the veracity of a terrorist being successful where a Category 5 hurricane wouldn't be. But more to the point, FP&L is also investing very heavily in solar power as a resource, considering how much sunlight reaches us here, it's a wise move. The biggest problem facing the solar power industry is the inefficiency of storing that power, followed closely by the relative inefficiency of the solar panels to harvest the energy. 

As for nuclear power, scientists are developing plants to utilize the waste produced from current plants, and they are working on fusion generators(basically trying to emulate a star's power).

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18 hours ago, dschuler said:

Punchlines like “nuclear plants leave contamination everywhere” or “it only supplies energy until a disaster strikes” have to take things into context.  I’ve worked in the nuclear power field for several years, and would get more exposure from the decay of Radon in the dirt in one day working outside than what I’ve received in a year.  These exposure levels people receive in the power plants are so low they make an X-ray at the doctors office look like Chernobyl.  Bananas are a healthy food and also radioactive due to the decay of potassium, would you say they are polluting the planet?  So many things in the world are radioactive or decaying, because nothing in this world is stagnant.  We are all evolving slightly one way or the other.  There isn’t any way you can replace anything with out contaminating it slightly, so the whole argument is misconstrued.   Basically, saying nuclear power has contaminated the oceans is like saying you contaminated the oceans if you swam in it, boated in them, or peed in them.  

Many recent disasters would not happen ever in the US due to safer operating regulations, and increased redundancy and coincidence for things like backup shore power, emergency diesel generators, etc.   

The current solution is in fact nuclear fission, but the future solution to achieve 100% carbon free energy is most likely nuclear fusion.  With nuclear fusion, you have virtually unlimited amounts of fuel as a resource, and could potentially create enough energy to power the world several times over.  China and Europe are ahead of us in this technology, and we should look to even the playing field.  Nuclear fusion has the potential to be the most important solution to a problem in our lifetime.  

I am more in favor of nuclear power than not, but while I have no doubt that we have many ways to mitigate most of the risk, how would you say the effects of a nuclear disaster compare to disasters of other types of energy?  Much less dangerous, less dangerous, about the same, more dangerous, much more dangerous?

I don't know the exact scenario among other energy scenarios that would compare to a Fukushima or Chernobyl.  I guess a massive oil spill, but I'm not sure if that is truly analogous.

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16 minutes ago, Kal El said:

Florida Power and Light, a local power company, has a nuclear plant in Port St. Lucie, about 15 miles from where I am currently sitting. It's been designed to withstand pretty much anything nature can throw at it, so I doubt the veracity of a terrorist being successful where a Category 5 hurricane wouldn't be. But more to the point, FP&L is also investing very heavily in solar power as a resource, considering how much sunlight reaches us here, it's a wise move. The biggest problem facing the solar power industry is the inefficiency of storing that power, followed closely by the relative inefficiency of the solar panels to harvest the energy. 

As for nuclear power, scientists are developing plants to utilize the waste produced from current plants, and they are working on fusion generators(basically trying to emulate a star's power).

Would it withstand a hijacked 747 crashing into it?  I don't think the one  40 miles from me would.

OTOH as someone mentioned above the pollution from coal plants causes health problems that result in deaths every year. I haven't seen any recent studies on how many but I'd guess it's probably more every year than were caused by  nuclear power in the last 40 years in the US.

Edited by Insomniac

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5 minutes ago, Insomniac said:

Would it withstand a hijacked 747 crashing into it?  I don't think the one  40 miles from me would.

OTOH as someone mentioned above the pollution from coal plants causes health problems that result in deaths every year. I haven't seen any recent studies on how many but I'd guess it's probably more every year than were caused by  nuclear power in the last 40 years in the US.

There isn't much of anything that would survive that, honestly. The structures that house nuclear energy can still withstand pretty impressive forces nevertheless. Still, nuclear material is finite, and while it does a lot, solar power can provide power for as long as the Sun shines, and if the scientists are right, that's about 5 billion years.

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18 hours ago, IvanKaramazov said:

According to climate scientists, we need to massively decrease our carbon emissions in a pretty short timeframe to avoid a worldwide temperature increase that could potentially get out of control.  If you take that issue seriously, it seems like you should want to fix whatever objections you have with NRC, not close off one carbon-free technology that we already know how to build.  

Many anti-nuclear left-of-center types (not you personally, necessarily) often come across as taking the following position:

I'm sorry, but that's not a rational position to take.  Climate change deniers might be wrong, but at least they're rational in the sense that they're internally consistent.  Anti-nuclear environmentalists aren't even being rational.

I have seen you take this position repeatedly and have to say I think it’s a little shoehorned. 

The fact that you disagree with the scale of the issues brought up doesn’t make it irrational.  And, frankly, I’m not sure why you disagree with the scale of the issues.  But still. This isn’t just a NIMBY problem. I’m sure you understand that. 

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I mean, on Ork whenever we have a nuclear accident we just use Nuke-Away! ~ Mork

Why I remember this?  I don't know. :bag:

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17 minutes ago, dawgtrails said:

They need to rebrand it. Nuclear has too many negative associations. 

Lol It’s a little late for that I think. 

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1 hour ago, dawgtrails said:

They need to rebrand it. Nuclear has too many negative associations. 

the iglow

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On 9/27/2019 at 3:08 PM, timschochet said:

I understand these concerns. Is there no way around them? 

YOU MADE THE THREAD DUDE. You're supposed to be convincing us, not the other way around.

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Nuclear power exist as form of energy because the government paid for the research which lead to its creation.  The government insures the liability risks.  The government pays the cost for the waste product.  The government pays to decommission plants when they are abandoned.  So all of the costs except construction (which have usually been subsidized, especially the risks of cost overruns) and operational (which have usually been subsidized) are covered by the government.  Nuclear has also been relatively regularly deregulated since 1992.  Despite this yet small government, free market conservatives consider nuclear a litmus test on how serious liberals are to climate change.  If nuclear was competitive despite operating in such an environment where the government had already picked it as a winner then we would have more than than the 100 or so operational plants we have today.    The same people that gripe about Solyndra half billion don't blink an eye at the constant failure of the nuclear industry to live up it is promises with much greater government investment.  

Now I'd think I have proven to be pretty liberal and have no problem with government subsidizing our energy needs away from burning of stuff.  I have no problem with nuclear being part of those subsidizes, but in many places technology has gotten to the point where other forms of production simply are more cost effective when all costs are actually considered.  Sure there are those that have fears of nuclear both in NIMBY sense and in other ways from the left, but these folks have never had much clout and its silly to blame them for investors to continually walk away from nuclear.

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On 9/27/2019 at 4:51 PM, -fish- said:

Who's regulating that?  The NRC, with cut funding and decreased enforcement authority?   How is the storage plan for San Onofre safe from either an earthquake or the corrosive effect of the saltwater environment?   There are plenty of environmentalists/conservationists that would love to be convinced that nuclear energy is clean and safe, but the relatively short history of the industry worldwide doesn't have the greatest track record.

It's not "anti-science" liberals that have concerns.  It's groups like the Union of Concerned Scientists and Physicians for Social Responsibility   

Naval Reactors has regulated Navy Reactors and they have traveled over 200,000,000 miles over 50 years without one nuclear accident, traveling to every continent and ocean on the Earth in extreme weather conditions.  The NRC and DOE layout many civilian reactors.  The  Atomic Energy Act of 1954 was a baseline for practices we still use today. 

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10 hours ago, Insomniac said:

The first time I heard that fusion was the solution was over 40 years ago. In fact I recall hearing that it was "40 years away". How far away is it now?

For commercial use, probably 25-35 years out if I had to guess, if ever.   Definitely worth the investment to try.  The UK and other European countries are now investing in the technology as is China and Russia.  We are currently on the brink of reliably creating more energy from a fusion reactor than it uses, which is a monumental accomplishment.  

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On 9/27/2019 at 6:28 PM, jon_mx said:

1 million.  

There are 7 billion humans that are radioactive.  Again, saying something is radioactive is pointless without levels above background and comparisons to other areas.  Almost everything living is radioactive, which is how scientists use RADIOACTIVE carbon dating for age.  Japan is one of the cleanest places in the world to live by the way.

Edited by dschuler

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18 minutes ago, dschuler said:

Naval Reactors has regulated Navy Reactors and they have traveled over 200,000,000 miles over 50 years without one nuclear accident, traveling to every continent and ocean on the Earth in extreme weather conditions.  The NRC and DOE layout many civilian reactors.  The  Atomic Energy Act of 1954 was a baseline for practices we still use today. 

I remember those days.  Happiness is sleeping next to a warm nuclear reactor.

...the food was more dangerous.

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Democrats scare their base off of Nuclear power to fund their green energy industrial complex much like Republicans scare their base with terrorism to fund their military industrial complex.    

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Speaking specific to my state - ct.  we have one nuclear plant that was suppose to close this year but we don’t have the power to replace so state extended for another 10 years.  No coal here and we are at end of gas so no options.... big picture is we need the best option for the each part of our country. 

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1 hour ago, dschuler said:

Democrats scare their base off of Nuclear power to fund their green energy industrial complex much like Republicans scare their base with terrorism to fund their military industrial complex.    

Pretty typical of how the "both sides" argument works in reality.   Dem spend about a dozen billion on their green energy and the republicans spend just a little bit more on the military.  Of course we forget that we spend about half of that green energy amount each year just to maintain shuttered nuke plants and stockpiles of waste.

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My dad is an old hippie with one rather unique trait: he's also a nuclear engineer who spent decades consulting for the DOE and DOD (though the last 20 or so years of his career were spent at Lawrence Livermore Lab as the National Ignition Facility (lasers) got up and running).

He says that, when he got started in the 70s the risk, especially of meltdown, was vastly overblown but clumsily managed, and the technology that would be employed in a plant built tomorrow, especially in the Generation IV, pebble-bed type reactors, would make the type of accidents we grew up fearing physically impossible. The physics of the reactions they harvest from simply don't allow it. 

Putting a reactor next to the ocean is pretty dumb, but it was only ever done for the practical accessibility of water to cool the plant. No modern plant is water-cooled and geological and geographical factors play a much larger role in deciding where to build. Modern waste handling and storage, (including reuse and recycling for breeder plants) is light years away from where it once was and, according to my pops, the whole industry is a different beast from what it was when he was in his heyday. 

Of course the risks aren't zero, but the perceived dangers aren't based in reality, either. As humans, our primary input for judgment is stories and how they are told, and opinions about nuclear power are especially vulnerable to negative stories because most of us don't understand the science behind them or where the risk is coming from. 

My dad, having expertise in the area, has chosen to believe the stories that involve data and logic he has deemed to be trustworthy. Not knowing much about it besides what I learned in college 25 years ago, I chose to default to his story because I trust that source more than any other I have access to.

Getting the real scoop in this area, as in any field involving so much money, politics and the influence of competing motives, is exceedingly difficult and we'd all be better off if we were a little more skeptical of our own opinions. I don't know that my dad is necessarily right or close to it, but I'm more confident than if I'd simply based my opinion on popular culture or the media like I do for so many other things. 

I'm decidedly pro-nuclear, with the caveat that I may change at any time based on new information. It's the best I can do given the time I'm willing to devote to the subject. 

Edited by bananafish
Plant not planet
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20 hours ago, Henry Ford said:

I have seen you take this position repeatedly and have to say I think it’s a little shoehorned. 

The fact that you disagree with the scale of the issues brought up doesn’t make it irrational.  And, frankly, I’m not sure why you disagree with the scale of the issues.  But still. This isn’t just a NIMBY problem. I’m sure you understand that. 

It's irrational in the sense that anti-nuclear environmentalists are taking a position (no nuclear) that actively undermines their stated policy goals (fighting climate change).

I've traditionally stayed out of global warming threads because I've never found the topic interesting to discuss.  The scientific evidence seems to demonstrate very clearly that global warming is real and that we absolutely have to reduce our carbon emissions greatly to turn things around, but I'm not a climate scientist and I'm not qualified to debate the underlying science.  If somebody tells me that global warming isn't real or is a hoax or whatever, all I can do is come back with "But a bunch of people who know what they're talking about say that you're wrong," which isn't very satisfying.

When the topic changes to what to do about climate change, things are a little different because I do actually have some expertise in this area and I am qualified to debate the various options, but until recently I didn't think they were very controversial and therefore not interesting to discuss.  If we decide as a society that we want to reduce our carbon emissions, the most efficient and straightforward way of achieving that goal is to tax carbon emission while simultaneously subsidizing clean sources of energy, like nuclear, wind, and solar.  Maybe it's because I skipped over these sorts of threads, but I just assumed that everybody knew and accepted that.  Like I mentioned earlier in this thread, I don't really "like" these policies because they don't align well with my general commitment to free markets, but they make sense in this case due to the problem at hand -- even free-market capitalists like me freely acknowledge that markets do a bad job of dealing with externalities like pollution, and this is an area where we tend to bend on government intervention.  Other than that, though, there's nothing really controversial here -- this is the sort of stuff that gets presented in ECON 101 textbooks without debate.

I only started to realize that I was mistaken about the degree of controversy when AOC put out her Green New Deal.  When it explicitly rejected carbon taxes and explicitly rejected nuclear, I just assumed that it was a false start that would soon get corrected, but I've noticed since that there really is a large chunk of people (not everybody, but enough to be influential) who really do reject Pigouvian taxes and nuclear energy.  If they were free-market lovers who objected to taxes in general and government subsidies in general, that would make sense.  Their policy conclusions would follow logically from some prior belief in a way that third parties can follow.  I wouldn't agree, but I would get it.  The policy position (no taxes/subsidies) is tethered to the philosophy (free markets are good).

In this case, though, we're talking about people who don't harbor any love of capitalism or market economies.  Their stated motivation is to do whatever is necessary to reverse climate change.  Okay, fine.  But then they advocate for the same "no tax" and "no nuclear" positions as the free-marketers, even though those positions will actually make climate change worse, not better.  

There are basically only two explanations for that.  It's either that they don't understand and are misinterpreting the underlying science (kind of like a climate denier whose good-faith misreading of the research leads him to that position -- very unlikely) or they affirmatively reject the underlying science because it rubs them the wrong way ideologically (kind of like a climate denier who backwards-engineers his positions in a bad faith effort to avoid taking policy stands that he doesn't like -- which people do all the time on all sorts of issues).  That second option, which is think is by far the most likely, is irrational. 

(To be fair, there is a third possible explanation here that I'm skipping over, namely a utopian desire to eschew proven, straightforward, "traditional" solutions that maintain something like the status quo in favor of a bold, unproven rebuilding of society.  The Green New Deal exhibits this tendency in spades.  But utopianism isn't mutually exclusive from either of the two errors I identified above, so I'm skipping it for now.  It s a different issue IMO).

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1 hour ago, IvanKaramazov said:

When the topic changes to what to do about climate change, things are a little different because I do actually have some expertise in this area and I am qualified to debate the various options, but until recently I didn't think they were very controversial and therefore not interesting to discuss.  If we decide as a society that we want to reduce our carbon emissions, the most efficient and straightforward way of achieving that goal is to tax carbon emission while simultaneously subsidizing clean sources of energy, like nuclear, wind, and solar.  Maybe it's because I skipped over these sorts of threads, but I just assumed that everybody knew and accepted that.  Like I mentioned earlier in this thread, I don't really "like" these policies because they don't align well with my general commitment to free markets, but they make sense in this case due to the problem at hand -- even free-market capitalists like me freely acknowledge that markets do a bad job of dealing with externalities like pollution, and this is an area where we tend to bend on government intervention.  Other than that, though, there's nothing really controversial here -- this is the sort of stuff that gets presented in ECON 101 textbooks without debate.

 

I agree, but would add increasing funding for research 

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1 hour ago, IvanKaramazov said:

It's irrational in the sense that anti-nuclear environmentalists are taking a position (no nuclear) that actively undermines their stated policy goals (fighting climate change).

I've traditionally stayed out of global warming threads because I've never found the topic interesting to discuss.  The scientific evidence seems to demonstrate very clearly that global warming is real and that we absolutely have to reduce our carbon emissions greatly to turn things around, but I'm not a climate scientist and I'm not qualified to debate the underlying science.  If somebody tells me that global warming isn't real or is a hoax or whatever, all I can do is come back with "But a bunch of people who know what they're talking about say that you're wrong," which isn't very satisfying.

When the topic changes to what to do about climate change, things are a little different because I do actually have some expertise in this area and I am qualified to debate the various options, but until recently I didn't think they were very controversial and therefore not interesting to discuss.  If we decide as a society that we want to reduce our carbon emissions, the most efficient and straightforward way of achieving that goal is to tax carbon emission while simultaneously subsidizing clean sources of energy, like nuclear, wind, and solar.  Maybe it's because I skipped over these sorts of threads, but I just assumed that everybody knew and accepted that.  Like I mentioned earlier in this thread, I don't really "like" these policies because they don't align well with my general commitment to free markets, but they make sense in this case due to the problem at hand -- even free-market capitalists like me freely acknowledge that markets do a bad job of dealing with externalities like pollution, and this is an area where we tend to bend on government intervention.  Other than that, though, there's nothing really controversial here -- this is the sort of stuff that gets presented in ECON 101 textbooks without debate.

I only started to realize that I was mistaken about the degree of controversy when AOC put out her Green New Deal.  When it explicitly rejected carbon taxes and explicitly rejected nuclear, I just assumed that it was a false start that would soon get corrected, but I've noticed since that there really is a large chunk of people (not everybody, but enough to be influential) who really do reject Pigouvian taxes and nuclear energy.  If they were free-market lovers who objected to taxes in general and government subsidies in general, that would make sense.  Their policy conclusions would follow logically from some prior belief in a way that third parties can follow.  I wouldn't agree, but I would get it.  The policy position (no taxes/subsidies) is tethered to the philosophy (free markets are good).

In this case, though, we're talking about people who don't harbor any love of capitalism or market economies.  Their stated motivation is to do whatever is necessary to reverse climate change.  Okay, fine.  But then they advocate for the same "no tax" and "no nuclear" positions as the free-marketers, even though those positions will actually make climate change worse, not better.  

There are basically only two explanations for that.  It's either that they don't understand and are misinterpreting the underlying science (kind of like a climate denier whose good-faith misreading of the research leads him to that position -- very unlikely) or they affirmatively reject the underlying science because it rubs them the wrong way ideologically (kind of like a climate denier who backwards-engineers his positions in a bad faith effort to avoid taking policy stands that he doesn't like -- which people do all the time on all sorts of issues).  That second option, which is think is by far the most likely, is irrational. 

(To be fair, there is a third possible explanation here that I'm skipping over, namely a utopian desire to eschew proven, straightforward, "traditional" solutions that maintain something like the status quo in favor of a bold, unproven rebuilding of society.  The Green New Deal exhibits this tendency in spades.  But utopianism isn't mutually exclusive from either of the two errors I identified above, so I'm skipping it for now.  It s a different issue IMO).

I don't know if there's a consensus on the GND, but you must understand that perhaps even more of the Left resents being painted with the brush of its declamatory wing than does the Right. Unicorn, alarmist policy and bad science, even if it comes from the first fresh voice & face we've had i a long time.You lose me every time you mention free markets. 

You lose me every time you reference free markets, though, as something applicable in the present day. Talk about unicorn thinking...

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6 hours ago, IvanKaramazov said:

It's irrational in the sense that anti-nuclear environmentalists are taking a position (no nuclear) that actively undermines their stated policy goals (fighting climate change).

I've traditionally stayed out of global warming threads because I've never found the topic interesting to discuss.  The scientific evidence seems to demonstrate very clearly that global warming is real and that we absolutely have to reduce our carbon emissions greatly to turn things around, but I'm not a climate scientist and I'm not qualified to debate the underlying science.  If somebody tells me that global warming isn't real or is a hoax or whatever, all I can do is come back with "But a bunch of people who know what they're talking about say that you're wrong," which isn't very satisfying.

When the topic changes to what to do about climate change, things are a little different because I do actually have some expertise in this area and I am qualified to debate the various options, but until recently I didn't think they were very controversial and therefore not interesting to discuss.  If we decide as a society that we want to reduce our carbon emissions, the most efficient and straightforward way of achieving that goal is to tax carbon emission while simultaneously subsidizing clean sources of energy, like nuclear, wind, and solar.  Maybe it's because I skipped over these sorts of threads, but I just assumed that everybody knew and accepted that.  Like I mentioned earlier in this thread, I don't really "like" these policies because they don't align well with my general commitment to free markets, but they make sense in this case due to the problem at hand -- even free-market capitalists like me freely acknowledge that markets do a bad job of dealing with externalities like pollution, and this is an area where we tend to bend on government intervention.  Other than that, though, there's nothing really controversial here -- this is the sort of stuff that gets presented in ECON 101 textbooks without debate.

I only started to realize that I was mistaken about the degree of controversy when AOC put out her Green New Deal.  When it explicitly rejected carbon taxes and explicitly rejected nuclear, I just assumed that it was a false start that would soon get corrected, but I've noticed since that there really is a large chunk of people (not everybody, but enough to be influential) who really do reject Pigouvian taxes and nuclear energy.  If they were free-market lovers who objected to taxes in general and government subsidies in general, that would make sense.  Their policy conclusions would follow logically from some prior belief in a way that third parties can follow.  I wouldn't agree, but I would get it.  The policy position (no taxes/subsidies) is tethered to the philosophy (free markets are good).

In this case, though, we're talking about people who don't harbor any love of capitalism or market economies.  Their stated motivation is to do whatever is necessary to reverse climate change.  Okay, fine.  But then they advocate for the same "no tax" and "no nuclear" positions as the free-marketers, even though those positions will actually make climate change worse, not better.  

There are basically only two explanations for that.  It's either that they don't understand and are misinterpreting the underlying science (kind of like a climate denier whose good-faith misreading of the research leads him to that position -- very unlikely) or they affirmatively reject the underlying science because it rubs them the wrong way ideologically (kind of like a climate denier who backwards-engineers his positions in a bad faith effort to avoid taking policy stands that he doesn't like -- which people do all the time on all sorts of issues).  That second option, which is think is by far the most likely, is irrational. 

(To be fair, there is a third possible explanation here that I'm skipping over, namely a utopian desire to eschew proven, straightforward, "traditional" solutions that maintain something like the status quo in favor of a bold, unproven rebuilding of society.  The Green New Deal exhibits this tendency in spades.  But utopianism isn't mutually exclusive from either of the two errors I identified above, so I'm skipping it for now.  It s a different issue IMO).

You can have multiple priorities in life. One can be anti climate change and also have an issue with massive numbers of cubic meters of radioactive material that has to be guarded and kept out of ground water as well as other storage issues.  

I get that using nuclear power to bridge the gap to clean and safe energy without large amounts of waste material makes sense.  But that doesn’t mean not wanting it when there are existing alternatives is irrational. 

Your entire hypothesis of this being irrational depends on “well, then shouldn’t we do ANYTHING to combat climate change?”

Mass genocide would stave it off, too, but I’m not in favor of that.

If what you mean is we should do anything reasonable, then we should discuss whether heavily expanded nuclear energy is reasonable.

There are drawbacks to nuclear energy. The fact that people find them to be unacceptable drawbacks isn’t irrational, and it doesn’t mean they don’t understand the science. 

Edited by Henry Ford
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I support nuclear energy....if we build new plants, we can do so in ways much safer and cleaner than previous methods.

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Some excellent, thoughtful discussion in this thread on all sides. And a big plus is that, even though there is much disagreement, the vitriol that is present in so many political discussions these days seems to be missing here. 

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2 minutes ago, Henry Ford said:

You can have multiple priorities in life. One can be anti climate change and also have an issue with massive numbers of cubic meters of radioactive material that has to be guarded and kept out of ground water as well as other storage issues.  

I get that using nuclear power to bridge the gap to clean and safe energy without large amounts of waste material makes sense.  But that doesn’t mean not wanting it when there are existing alternatives is irrational. 

Your entire hypothesis depends on “well, then shouldn’t we do ANYTHING to combat climate change?”

Mass genocide would stave it off, too, but I’m not in favor of that.

There are drawbacks to nuclear energy. The fact that people find them to be unacceptable drawbacks isn’t irrational, and it doesn’t mean they don’t understand the science. 

Why does it make sense?  We recognize that we still don't have a solid plan on what to do with the waste, but hey, it will just be 20 or 30 years' worth until we abandon it and then have to deal with not only the waste, but decommissioning these stopgap plants?   This is nonsense.    We have the ability to fill the gap with geothermal, solar, wind, tidal and other renewable sources.    We don't need to create more environmental hazards in our attempt to address fossil fuels as an environmental hazard.  

Some environmentalists both understand the science and the goals of environmentalism.   The argument that "liberals don't understand the science" is pure bull####.   I'm literally catching radioactive fish due to Fukushima and being told don't worry, it's just like a dental x-ray.  I have contaminated groundwater just down the road from me at Hanford, where the new solution is to just re-classify the toxic waste in the ground as non-hazardous so they can stop spending money on an ineffective cleanup effort.   But it's totally safe.   Except for the 100+ times that it hasn't been, and that doesn't even take into account incidents relating to waste storage and disposal.

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On 9/27/2019 at 3:14 PM, timschochet said:

And also as Ivan pointed out, liberals like to think of themselves as the pro-science folks, on such issues as climate change, reproductive health issues, evolution, etc. But in this one instance the roles seem reversed. 

Well, that and transsexual women in women’s sports. 

As far as nuclear goes, you also have people involved in the climate change debate who are using it as a vehicle to influence economic policy. 

The French are doing well with nuclear, and Germany is doing horribly with their green energy shift. That alone should get some discussion going. 

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7 hours ago, jplvr said:

Well, that and transsexual women in women’s sports. 

As far as nuclear goes, you also have people involved in the climate change debate who are using it as a vehicle to influence economic policy. 

The French are doing well with nuclear, and Germany is doing horribly with their green energy shift. That alone should get some discussion going. 

Not really.  There hasn't been a new nuclear plant brought online for 20 years, which means the ones that it has, which were built primarily in the 1980s and early 90s, are now aging.  The expected useful life of a nuclear power plant is 40 years.   France is trying to scale back nuclear due to the environmental concerns. 14 of France's 58 reactors are scheduled to be decommissioned in the next 15 years, and guess what the problem is?  They don't know what they're going to do with the waste.

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On 9/27/2019 at 9:08 PM, timschochet said:

I understand these concerns. Is there no way around them? 

Why bother when there are alternatives without these problems?

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On 9/27/2019 at 10:26 PM, dschuler said:

Punchlines like “nuclear plants leave contamination everywhere” or “it only supplies energy until a disaster strikes” have to take things into context.  I’ve worked in the nuclear power field for several years, and would get more exposure from the decay of Radon in the dirt in one day working outside than what I’ve received in a year.  These exposure levels people receive in the power plants are so low they make an X-ray at the doctors office look like Chernobyl.  Bananas are a healthy food and also radioactive due to the decay of potassium, would you say they are polluting the planet?  So many things in the world are radioactive or decaying, because nothing in this world is stagnant.  We are all evolving slightly one way or the other.  There isn’t any way you can replace anything with out contaminating it slightly, so the whole argument is misconstrued.   Basically, saying nuclear power has contaminated the oceans is like saying you contaminated the oceans if you swam in it, boated in them, or peed in them.  

Many recent disasters would not happen ever in the US due to safer operating regulations, and increased redundancy and coincidence for things like backup shore power, emergency diesel generators, etc.   

The current solution is in fact nuclear fission, but the future solution to achieve 100% carbon free energy is most likely nuclear fusion.  With nuclear fusion, you have virtually unlimited amounts of fuel as a resource, and could potentially create enough energy to power the world several times over.  China and Europe are ahead of us in this technology, and we should look to even the playing field.  Nuclear fusion has the potential to be the most important solution to a problem in our lifetime.  

Agree that any nuclear future should be about fusion

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On 9/27/2019 at 10:42 PM, proteus126 said:

Question - based on my understanding about 1/3 of the energy of the nuclear reaction is captured as electrical power, with the other 2/3 being radiated as waste heat.  Were enough reactors in service to meet the world's energy needs, would the cumulative waste heat be an issue?

Waste heat can be recovered and turned into electricity

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On 9/28/2019 at 12:12 AM, IvanKaramazov said:

This is wrong, by the way.  Nuclear power has been around since the 1970s.  In that time, there have been three significant nuclear accidents.  One was Chernobyl, which was caused by gross incompetence and horrible design.  Nobody takes that particular episode seriously in terms of informing current policy.  One was Three Mile Island, which resulted in no deaths.  And one was Fukushima, which was the result of a one-off natural disaster.  As others have noted, European countries have been using nuclear power pretty extensively for decades without issue.  There's no reason to think that our experience would be any different given modern technology and design principles. 

Are you aware that nuclear energy is being phased out in e.g. Germany? That new plants are not being built? That new wind and solar installations are price competitive with coal (incl off shore Wind)? IMHO we should certainly work on better storage rather than revive an industry with legacy issues and a pretty bad image.

Edited by msommer

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On 9/28/2019 at 4:59 PM, Insomniac said:

The first time I heard that fusion was the solution was over 40 years ago. In fact I recall hearing that it was "40 years away". How far away is it now?

Still about 40 years away

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On 9/29/2019 at 4:07 AM, stlrams said:

Speaking specific to my state - ct.  we have one nuclear plant that was suppose to close this year but we don’t have the power to replace so state extended for another 10 years.  No coal here and we are at end of gas so no options.... big picture is we need the best option for the each part of our country. 

You can always buld off shore wind parks. I also believe I have heard of this thing called gas pipelines. It's the thing, really, elsewhere, it like moves the gas to somewhere there is a need but no natural occurence. 

The reality of it is that your politicians are lazy and likely the waste is not stored in Ct.

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On 9/29/2019 at 9:17 AM, bananafish said:

Putting a reactor next to the ocean is pretty dumb, but it was only ever done for the practical accessibility of water to cool the plant. No modern plant is water-cooled and geological and geographical factors play a much larger role in deciding where to build. Modern waste handling and storage, (including reuse and recycling for breeder plants) is light years away from where it once was and, according to my pops, the whole industry is a different beast from what it was when he was in his heyday. 

Are modern waste storage methods long term (10000+ years) safe or is San Onofre a good example of modern storage methods? What about Hanford?

That they are "safer" than what was done 40 years ago doesn't equate to safe in the long haul.

Ideally we should have a discussion between informed parties, such as @-fish- and @dschuler, maybe @IvanKaramazov (although IK mostly argues about ideology, not practical issues), about how to store or use the waste that e.g. a doubling of nuclear energy inthe US would provide - and who would be in charge of ensuring that it was done correctly.

Perhaps then we could get a common understanding of what such an effort would entail.

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