24,887 To Go



Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.

Related Post Roulette

33 Responses

  1. Avatar Aaron W says:

    I was just wondering about this the other day. Thanks for the link – signed and shared.Report

  2. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Isn’t there something like a trillion dollars ‘on the sidelines’? If this is so supermalimagorgeous, why isn’t the 1% putting some money on the pass line so they can rake in the payout and buy some new monocles and monocle insurance?

    (and if it’s a regulatory problem, why doesn’t the White House, well, fix that?)Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kolohe says:

      Probably because the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima has rendered the political will nonexistent?Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

        And asking for money is supposed to be more feasible?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

        Probably because the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima has rendered the political will nonexistent?

        Yup. My position on nuclear power is that it can be run safely and cleanly, but not by the shortsighted morons who’d be actually be in charge (for instance, the ones near me who just about a year ago killed eight people and destroyed 40 houses because doing maintenance gets in the way of profits.) Fukushima doesn’t reassure me.Report

        • Avatar North in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          All the more reason to sign this one Mike. Thorium based plants would merely ruin their operators if run in a corrupt or crooked manner. Their designs are passively deep (if the plant has some catastrophic failure then their owners would be bankrupt but there would be no serious environmental impact).
          Frankly it’s beyond me why anyone who is seriously concerned about AGW would fail to support nuclear generation.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to North says:

            Ja, what North said.

            This is quite a ways better than any other option that we currently have available, because it fails “dead”, really.

            Failing safe always requires someone to make the call: do I brick this billions-of-dollars facility or do I take the risk that we have time to fix it? Humans too often choose #2.

            Making it so that when it breaks, it’s flat busted instead of exploding removes that potential problem.Report

            • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

              You know, my only training are in PWR’s, so I’ll admit general ignorance, but it still nonetheless sets a warning light off when someone claims a system can fail catastrophically, but harmlessly.

              Any chemical you can make, can leak. Any radiation that is emitted, will penetrate per its type. Good engineering practices control these things, and well enough to make the main process useful (and affordable). But bad engineering practices are as human as the Titanic.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kolohe says:

                Oh, I didn’t say harmlessly. But there’s a difference between “we can clean this up by spending a lot of money” and “radioactive cloud has dumped waste over several hundred thousand acres and basically we’re just going to have a higher cancer rate because nobody could ever conceivably clean this up”, which is what we have now, really.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                Ja, what Pat said.
                We don’t worry about an oil refinery exploding (much) because sure, it could blow up, sure some people could get hurt and sure it’d wreck an expensive facility but other than some nasty smoke and gooey sludge in the immediate neighborhood the county and generally clean up the block and move on. Worse case scenarios with older poorly constructed light water reactors can be catastrophic. Thorium tech promises to make nuclear reactors more like oil refineries in terms of their worst case failure thresholds. Not harmless, just not nation or state endangering.

                Now it bears remembering that even light water reactors are relatively safe but you can get a nasty Fukishima incident (though it remains to be seen if it pans out to be as overblown as 3 Mile Island). In order to get a nightmare like Chernobyl you need a monster criminal government operating a Frankenstein like nuclear plant that was virtually designed to explode ruinously. Thankfully we don’t have any more of those kinds of plants chugging along anymore.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to North says:

                Did you see the research on how many babies TMI killed? How about the incident in Saxton? We still have “Do Not Live” Zones of radioactivity in PA. And Utah is still radioactive (do you drink milk from there?)Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Kimmi says:

                I have seen it Kimmi, along with the followup papers that utterly debunked the initial research. As I recall the Saxton incident also failed to concretely nail down actual real losses compared to the original overhyped claims of disaster.

                Was there a plant incident in PA that produced Do Not live zones? I’m not remembering one off the top of my head. Ditto with Utah.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kimmi says:

                The “Do Not Live” zone that I am aware of is coal-related.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kimmi says:

                … you should read more about the infant mortality and government coverups. it’s rather easy to distort something, if the gov’t has enough interest. But hell, toss me a few links.
                Saxton’s still dead, North. Practically Nobody lives there.

                Up north/northwest in PA (Quehana), there was an incident when they were trying to create nuclear powered jets.

                Did you catch the telegrams about them almost blowing up Detroit? That one’s truly terrifying.

                You talking the mountaintop removal shit, or the mine runoff, or the stuff down in Tennessee?

                Got a house in this city, above an abandoned old mine. Deed keeps on changing hands every three years or so. Divorce with violence, every time.

                Utah’s radioactivity is all blow-in from Nevada, where they did lots of surface testing.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Kimmi says:

                Fair enuff Kimmi but most of what you’re talking about here is blowback from nuclear weapon or military nuclear testing, projects etc. No one, and especially not me, is going to claim that nuclear anything is perfectly safe. I do not think sprinkling radium on my wheaties will give me a lady (or gentleman) attracting healthy glow.

                We’re talking here about nuclear piles being used for electricity generation, specifically about light water reactors with large concrete and steel containment buildings (not that soviet Chernobyl abomination) and more specifically about potential thorium generation plants.Report

              • Avatar Pat Cahalan in reply to Kimmi says:

                This last thing that North said.

                FWIW, if you’re interested in a wider-ranging post on “all things nuclear”, I can give it a go.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kimmi says:

                Don’t get me wrong, I’m NOT anti-nuclear. But I do believe we need to examine all the intel we can get — and deaths of babies is the best evidence we’ve got for nuclear leaks (either from TMI-like disasters, or from nuclear testing).

                I miss plum wine…Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Kimmi says:

                With regards to 3 mile island:

                The nuclear power industry claims that there were no deaths, injuries or adverse health effects from the accident and a report by Columbia University epidemiologist Maureen Hatch agrees with this finding. Another study by Steven Wing of the University of North Carolina found that lung cancer and leukemia rates were 2 to 10 times higher downwind of TMI than upwind. The Radiation and Public Health Project, an anti-nuclear organization, reported a spike in infant mortality in the downwind communities two years after the accident.

                So you have the industry and some independant experts claiming no significant impact, you have nuclear opponents and some independant experts claiming some impact. But either way the worst case scnenario comes not remotely close to epic disasters it the accident hyped up as.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Kimmi says:

                @Pat Cahalan

                yes, I’d be interestedReport

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kimmi says:

                I’m talking about the stuff that’s on fire and will be on fire until Doomsday.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Kimmi says:

                Oh you mean Silent Hill? I don’t think that triangle head guy was caused by radiation.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kimmi says:


                FWIW, if you’re interested in a wider-ranging post on “all things nuclear”, I can give it a go.

                Would you, please? I’m co-teaching a course on nuclear weapons and power, and I might find it valuable to assign as reading for our students.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Kimmi says:

                Utah is still radioactive

                Of course the population of Utah is among the top 5 states in healthiness. That’s mostly due to Mormon’s clean-living, but obviously the alleged radioactivity of the state isn’t doing them all that much harm.Report

  3. Avatar Scott says:

    I think we know why the US doesn’t have a coherent nuclear policy and the answer is all the left wing enviro-nazis and all their BS about how solar and wind will supply all our needs.Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Scott says:

      With regards to thorium specifically the right wing nuclear power interests are also uninterested in it. They would rather merely support the current established supply chains and route further subsidies to their corporate light water reactor buddies. Opposition to newer, cleaner and effective nuclear tech is sadly bipartisan.Report

  4. Avatar Silus Grok says:

    How does thorium compare to breeder reactors? Is there overlap? Are they two different technologies. What I’ve read of next-gen breeder reactors has me cautiously optimistic for nuclear in our future.

    One data point I’ve seen floating around, though, that I’d love to hear more on is the global supply of fissile material — the data point suggested that available fissile material is rare enough to put a crimp in any large-scale adoption of nuclear energy. Thoughts?Report

    • Avatar Silus Grok in reply to Silus Grok says:

      Hm … looks like I answered my first set of questions:


      God bless Wikipedia.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Silus Grok says:

        Yes, wikipedia is fine. To answer your questions quickly for those just skimming:
        Thorium has their own forms of breeder reactors. There is overlap, the principles are similar. There is an enormously abundant supply of thorium, enough for centuries, but the fuel is more expensive than uranium. Note, however, that in nuclear plants fuel is actually a comparatively cheap line item. It’s amortizing the reactor itself, the waste and the risk that has most cost built into it. Thorium, which produces massively less waste and defaults to non-reactivity if the reaction conditions get wonky might well prove to be much less expensive than uranium reactors because two (and possible all three) of those factors are so greatly reduced.Report

        • Avatar Silus Grok in reply to North says:

          Perfectly answered — I now know enough to say “yes”.

          Thanks, North!

          An aside: do these thorium reactors require the monstrous amount of water that other reactors need? Utah is currently considering a nuclear reactor on the Colorado River that will consume water at some obscene rate (at least to a lay person, such as myself ).Report