Fridays the LA Progressive features a comment that was particularly noteworthy. This week we are featuring a comment submitted by Joshua Payne commenting on Renewable Energy – A Conservative Approach by Tracy Emblem.
Here's Joshua's comment:
Safety: Please read the full accounts of the only two nuclear power disasters in the history of nuclear power.
I’ll give a brief summary here.
- Chernobyl: All of the safety systems were disabled to perform a test. Things went wrong, lack of a sufficient safety backups, and a containment building caused the large scale release of radioactive material. This Cannot Happen in the US, and reactors similar to the Chernobyl design will never be built in the world. Aside from the blatant disabling of safety systems, the biggest difference between a Chernobyl style reactor and a US reactor is the Containment Building. US reactors are placed within a 6-12 ft thick super reinforced concrete building designed to take high speed impacts from fighter jets without a scratch, and contain large steam explosions. The Chernobyl reactor did not have this at all.
- Three Mile Island: The reactor was shut down ~2 seconds after a drop in coolant pressure was detected. However, due to operator error, and a stuck pressure relief valve, the core did not receive sufficient cooling to keep the decay heat from partially melting it down, the worst case scenario. Despite the worst case happening, the reactor vessel, and containment building did their jobs, and kept the public safe from radiation exposure. In fact you could have stood next to the containment dome for the entire week and only received the dose equivalent of an x-ray.
Waste: I don’t want to waste my time explaining all of the things that could be done safely and efficiently, but suffice it to say, the waste isn’t an issue. Measuring nuclear waste by weight is a bad measure, as it is so much denser than anything else out there. All of the High Level waste produced by all of the reactors since the start of the power industry would fit on a football field, only 12ft high.
Alternatives are great and all, but they do not scale well, and cannot provide base load power. When you account for energy storage costs, capacity factor, lifespan, ect of wind and solar, they come out to be far more expensive for large scale power production than nuclear. A portfolio with nuclear for a base power source, and wind to meet peak demands would probably be the best bet.