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How Nuclear Power Causes Global Warming

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Supporters of nuclear power like to argue that nukes are the key to combatting climate change. Here’s why they are dead wrong.

Every nuclear generating station spews about two-thirds of the energy it burns inside its reactor core into the environment. Only one-third is converted into electricity. Another tenth of that is lost in transmission. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists:

Nuclear fission is the most water intensive method of the principal thermoelectric generation options in terms of the amount of water withdrawn from sources. In 2008, nuclear power plants withdrew eight times as much freshwater as natural gas plants per unit of energy produced, and up to 11 percent more than the average coal plant.

Every day, large reactors like the two at Diablo Canyon, California, individually dump about 1.25 billion gallons of water into the ocean at temperatures up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the natural environment.  

Diablo’s “once-through cooling system” takes water out of the ocean and dumps it back superheated, irradiated and laden with toxic chemicals. Many U.S. reactors use cooling towers which emit huge quantities of steam and water vapor that also directly warm the atmosphere.

These emissions are often chemically treated to prevent algae and other growth that could clog the towers. Those chemicals can then be carried downwind, along with radiation from the reactors. In addition, hundreds of thousands of birds die annually by flying into the reactor domes and towers.  

The Union of Concerned Scientists states:

The temperature increase in the bodies of water can have serious adverse effects on aquatic life. Warm water holds less oxygen than cold water, thus discharge from once-through cooling systems can create a “temperature squeeze” that elevates the metabolic rate for fish. Additionally, suction pipes that are used to intake water can draw plankton, eggs and larvae into the plant’s machinery, while larger organisms can be trapped against the protective screens of the pipes. Blocked intake screens have led to temporary shut downs and NRC fines at a number of plants.

And that’s not all.

All nuclear reactors emit Carbon 14, a radioactive isotope, invalidating the industry’s claim that reactors are “carbon free.” And the fuel that reactors burn is carbon-intensive. The mining, milling, and enrichment processes needed to produce the pellets that fill the fuel rods inside the reactor cores all involve major energy expenditures, nearly all of it based on coal, oil, or gas.    

And of course there’s the problem of nuclear waste. After more than a half-century of well-funded attempts, we’ve seen no solution for the management of atomic power’s intensely radioactive waste. There’s the “low-level” waste involving enormous quantities of troublesome irradiated liquids and solid trash that must be dealt with outside the standard civilian waste stream. And that handling involves fossil fuels burned in the process of transportation, management, and disposal as well  

As for the high-level waste, this remains one of humankind’s most persistent and dangerous problems. Atomic apologists have claimed that the intensely radioactive spent fuel rods can somehow be usable for additional power generation. But after a half-century of efforts, with billions of dollars spent, all attempts to do that have utterly failed. There are zero successful reactors capable of producing more reactor fuel than they use, or able to derive more energy from the tens of thousands of tons of spent fuel rods they create.   

Some reactors, like Fukushima, use “mixed-oxide” fuels that have proven to be extremely dirty and expensive. It’s possible some of this “MOX” fuel containing plutonium, actually fissioned at Fukushima Unit Three, raising terrifying questions about the dangers of its use. The mushroom cloud that appears on video as Fukushima Unit Three exploded stands as an epic warning against further use of these impossible-to-manage fuels.   

The MOX facility under construction near Aiken, South Carolina, is now projected to require another ten years to build with another ten possible after that to phase into production. U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said on September 13, 2016, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that the mismanaged project was “impossible” to carry out and that it could cost $30 billion to $50 billion. Even the current pro-nuclear Congress won’t fully fund the project and the Department of Energy DOE continues to recommend abandoning it.

There are no credible estimates of the global warming damage done by the intensely hot explosions at the four Fukushima reactors, or at Chernobyl, or at any other past and future reactor meltdowns or blowups.  

Atomic apologists argue that the disposal of high-level reactor wastes should be a relatively simple problem, lacking only the political will to proceed. The industry touts New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Project, or WIPP, which has long been the poster child for military attempts to deal with high-level trash from the nuclear weapons program. Accepting its first shipment of waste in 1999, WIPP was touted as the ultimate high-tech, spare-no-expense model that proved radioactive waste disposal “can be done.”

But a series of disastrous events in February,  2014, led WIPP to stop accepting wastes—the sole function for which it was designed. Most significant was the explosion of a single barrel of highly radioactive waste materials (it was mistakenly packed with organic rather than clay-based kitty litter). About a dozen WIPP workers were exposed to potentially harmful radiation. The entire facility remains closed. In a phone interview, facility management told me it may again accept some wastes before the end of this year. But at least part of the cavernous underground labyrinth may never be reopened. The Los Angeles Times estimated the cost of this single accident at $2 billion.

Overall, the idea that atomic power is “clean” or “carbon free” or “emission free” is a very expensive misconception, especially when compared to renewable energy, efficiency, and conservation. Among conservation, efficiency, solar and wind power technologies, there are no global warming analogs to the heat, carbon, and radioactive waste impacts of nuclear power. No green technology kills anywhere near the number of marine organisms that die through reactor cooling systems.

Rooftop solar panels do not lose ten percent of the power they generate to transmission, as happens with virtually all centralized power generators. S. David Freeman, former head of numerous large utilities and author of All Electric America: A Climate Solution and the Hopeful Future, says: “Renewables are cheaper and safer. That argument is winning. Let’s stick to it.”

No terrorist will ever threaten one of our cities by blowing up a solar panel. But the nuclear industry that falsely claims its dying technology doesn’t cause global warming does threaten the future of our planet.  

http://www.progressive.org/news/2016/09/188947/how-nuclear-power-causes-global-warming

January 16, 2017 Posted by | Nuclear | | Leave a comment

Renewable energy – China leads the world

“The level of wind energy being deployed in China shows what can be achieved with a carefully planned energy and industrial policy that elevates cleantech to a national strategic level,”

China secures the lead in renewable energy – UPI.com, BEIJING, Dec. 1 (UPI) –China is now the leader in the global renewable energy market, a report by Ernst & Young says. Continue reading

December 2, 2010 Posted by | China, renewable | , , , | Leave a comment

UK govt promoting small-scale decentralised renewable energy

The web site is the latest in a series of measures from the government designed to facilitate the rollout of community-scale renewable energy projects, which critics have long claimed have been neglected in favour of onsite and larger-scale projects.


Coalition calls on ‘big society’ to embrace small energy New Community Energy Online web site to provide guidance on how to deliver local renewables projects, BusinessGreen, By James Murray25 Nov Continue reading

November 26, 2010 Posted by | decentralised, UK | , , , | Leave a comment

Renewable energy projects happening without fanfare

(Canada) B.C. renewable-energy news items add up – City of Industry, Vancouver Sun, By Derrick Penner Biz 23 Nov 2010 They aren’t making big news, but the companies working on renewable energy projects continue to rack up small news items in the continuing development of the sector. Continue reading

November 26, 2010 Posted by | Canada, renewable | , , , , | Leave a comment

Time for Canada’s govt to come clean on renewable energy promotion

the Harper government has favoured solutions that benefit established industries in the Conservatives’ Western Canada power base. In its last budget, the government created a “clean-energy fund” of nearly $800 million, but most of the money is being invested in carbon capture and storage, which oilsands developers plan to use to store carbon emissions underground.

Tories quietly reviewing support for renewable energy technologies Companies say Canada needs to urgently develop a national strategy for clean energy By Andrew Mayeda, Vancouver Sun, s November 22, 2010 Continue reading

November 23, 2010 Posted by | Canada, politics | , , , , | Leave a comment

USA urged to stop subsidising fossil fuels, and switch to renewable energy

Bacon also recommended that the federal government end all tax breaks and subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and redirect them to renewable energy.

U.S. must switch to renewable energy faster, expert says at WestConn,  NewsTimes, Vinti Singh, November 19, 2010 DANBURY — The United States will run out of all its domestic oil reserves in three years if oil use continues at current rates, while the world has about 40 years left until all of the oil is gone, environment expert Drury Bacon said Thursday. It’s time to seriously begin looking at alternate energy sources, Bacon said. Continue reading

November 21, 2010 Posted by | ENERGY, USA | , , , | Leave a comment

Britain to help renewable energy development in Africa and Asia

Britain today pledged to spend several hundred million pounds to finance a series of private sector green energy initiatives intended to bring electricity to some of the poorest African and Asian households….In Asia the project could generate 5GW of new renewable energy and create 60,000 jobs,”

Government to fund private sector renewable energy schemes for Africa Global development | guardian.co.uk, 18 Nov 10, The international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell, pledges to finance green energy projects proposed by industry that could raise £9 for every £1 of government money  guardian.co.uk,  18 November 2010 Continue reading

November 19, 2010 Posted by | AFRICA, renewable | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Growing strength of new international energy agency

IRENA believes that renewable energy use must, and will increase dramatically in the coming years, because of its key role in:

  • enhancing energy security
  • reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change
  • alleviating energy poverty
  • supporting sustainable development, and
  • boosting economic growth.

IRENA – Building a New Energy Agency RenewablesNovember 15, 2010 by Anja Atkinson On the 24th and 25th October, the International Renewable Energy Agency held it’s fourth session of the Preparatory Commission in Abu Dhabi. All together 300 delegates attended from more than 100 countries. Continue reading

November 17, 2010 Posted by | 2 WORLD, renewable | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

City with 100%renewable energy

VIDEO Sky News: Completely green city being built in UAE Completely green city being built in UAE, Sky News, 15 Nov 10, The United Arab Emirates is on track to produce a completely new – and rather unexpected source of future revenue – in the oil-rich country.Masdar City is being built 17 kilometers from Abu Dhabi, and is the world’s first completely green city.As Abu Dhabi’s government-backed renewable energy company established in 2006, Masdar is also known as the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company.It aims to advance the development, commercialisation and deployment of renewable energy solutions and clean technologies.Masdar City is powered by renewable energy and its buildings are covered in solar panels.It aims to have a zero carbon and zero waste environment.The project will be completed between 2020 and 2025.Sky News: Completely green city being built in UAE

November 15, 2010 Posted by | Resources -audiovicual | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Barack Obama less keen on climate change action, more keen on nuclear power

Leader cools on climate agenda * Brad Norington,   The Australian * November 05, 2010 BARACK Obama has suddenly dumped his ambitious agenda to combat climate change with legislation imposing limits on greenhouse gases……. Continue reading

November 6, 2010 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, climate change | , , , , | Leave a comment

Californians vote for solar energy and ‘green collar’ jobs

the solar energy sector has created 17,000 jobs since 2009, and supports roughly 46,000 related jobs in the U.S. Employment in solar is expected to surpass 60,000 jobs by the end of 2010.
“Californians get it,” said Rooney. “California continues to lead the way on a critical national policy debate by rejecting the Prop. 23 notion that clean energy means fewer jobs.

CALIFORNIA VOTERS REJECT PROP 23 AND SEND MESSAGE: “RENEWABLE ENERGY IS HERE TO STAYaltenergy.com Solar Industry Leader Says Validation of AB32 Cements Foundation for Continued Investment and Job Creation in America’s Largest Renewable Power Market   NOVATO, CA—November 3, 2010 Continue reading

November 4, 2010 Posted by | renewable, USA | , , , , , | Leave a comment

What IS wrong with education in America?

Christina Macpherson's websites & blogs

The USA has just elected a majority of Republicans to their House of Representatives. Many were apparently swept up by the Tea Party movement, in a billionaire funded “peoples’ revolt”.

From outside USA, it seems incomprehensible that such a’ revolt’ could take place. With 10% unemployment, and many unable to pay mortgage debts –  why on Earth would struggling people want to support policies that mean less taxes for the very wealthy, and less health care cover for the poorer citizens?

Are Americans, by and large, stupid?   Or, more likely, is their education system failing very many of them, so that, in general knowledge, many are simply less well informed than citizens of other countries?

This is  a worry when it comes to  important issues – including global warming, and nuclear power. It seems that Americans are sitting ducks for the well-funded spin of polluting corporations. – Christina Macpherson, 3 Nov 2010

 

 

November 3, 2010 Posted by | Christina's notes | , , | 1 Comment

Sorry state of Americans’ knowledge of climate change

Americans’ scary scarcity of global warming knowledge, The Science Friday Blog,  October 29, 2010 by Neil Wagner Study: 52% of Americans deserve an “F” for their climate change researchers from Yale University and the University of Wisconsin have published results of a study that show just how little the American public understands climate change. If the authors of the study were to give grades to those surveyed, 1% would get an A,  7% a B,  15% a C,  25 % a D and  52% an F! Yikes! That IS scary!

On the bright side, 75% said they would like to know more about the issue and that schools should teach our children about climate change.

New York Times story about the study … Americans’ scary scarcity of global warming knowledge

November 3, 2010 Posted by | climate change, USA | , , | Leave a comment

The continuing corporate campaign of climate change denial

Books such as Merchants of Doubt by science historians Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway have detailed how front groups for the fossil-fuel industry have been waging an orchestrated, well-funded campaign against climate science and climate scientists for more than two decades.

Professional climate change deniers’ crusade continues –  02 November 2010 – New Scientist, In the media and the courts, the battle to undermine climate science and its researchers hasn’t let up, warns climatologist Michael Mann. Continue reading

November 3, 2010 Posted by | 2 WORLD, spinbuster | , , , | Leave a comment

Small scale renewable energy has big future in Africa

“Many developmental agencies consider small-scale RE projects as the most feasible solution for accelerated rural electrification and therefore are increasingly investing in medium-sized projects, especially wind and solar projects.”

South Africa’s Renewable Energy Gold Rush Renewable Energy news, by Energy Matters, 2 Nov 10, Renewable Energy in South AfricaSub-Saharan Africa is likely to become the new boom region for global renewable energy investment, according to a new international study. Continue reading

November 2, 2010 Posted by | AFRICA, decentralised | , , , , , , | Leave a comment