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November 8th, 2013
10:48 AM ET

In the Crossfire: Nuclear Energy

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader questions the national security aspect of having nuclear power plants. Watch how nuclear energy supporter Michael Shellenberger, who was featured in the film, Pandora's Promise, responds.

Do you think nuclear energy plants are dangerous or are they the solution? Discuss & leave your comments below.

FULL EPISODE:

Part 1


Part 2


Part 3

soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. Brian

    Nuclear – no zero pollution, big consumptive water use, thermal pollution, and "long-term storage". I agree starting with energy efficient is a great start and should be the first start – we waste 58% of the energy that we produced.

    November 16, 2013 at 7:41 pm | Reply
    • nukemann2013

      Where do you get 'big consumptive water use"? The cooling water comes in and goes back out at the same rate, where do you think it is consumed? Nuclear energy is safer, uses less land and better for the environment. Big oil and gas companies don't want people to know that intermittent power sources like solar and wind do not threaten their profits like nuclear energy does.

      November 16, 2013 at 11:04 pm | Reply
      • lowesox

        You can't use contaminated water, period. So if we don't have a proper disposal system, and if the one's we have aren't properly maintained, then you lose the water table that is consequently contaminated, and any water sources it flows into.

        Take a reading of the Columbia River near the Hanford disposal site. That's water consumption that has nothing to do with cooling, but simple neglect.

        Until we can solve corporate negligence, we can't even hope to have safe nuclear.

        February 21, 2014 at 10:43 pm |
      • KitemanSA

        Seems iowasox is silly enough to confuse commercial nuclear power generation with military nuclear weapons building... or is he just plying anti-nuclear standard lie #8?

        February 22, 2014 at 12:32 am |
  2. Omar

    CNN Propagates 3 Nuclear Power Myths http://mediamatters.org/blog/2013/11/08/cnn-documentary-propagates-3-nuclear-power-myth/196809

    November 15, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Reply
    • nukemann2013

      The going forward cost of nuclear energy is competitive with fossil fuels and intermittent power sources like solar and wind are nowhere's near cost competitive when you look at actual power produced instead of "capacity" only.
      The issue of "nuclear waste" is a red herring, the only issue is a political one, it's actually a resource to be used in advanced reactors. The myth is that there is a "high level waste problem" at all.
      You are probably right that environmentalists are not the cause, they are simple pawns being used by fossil fuel interests whose short term greed is more important than the prosperity and even survival of the human race.
      •Edit•Reply•Share ›

      November 15, 2013 at 6:24 pm | Reply
  3. Omar

    Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis at the Vermont Law School, has found that adding 100 new reactors to the U.S. power grid would cost $1.9 to $4.1 trillion, and that would take at least a decade to do.

    November 15, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Reply
    • nukemann2013

      An anti-nuclear researcher from an anti-nuclear think tank inflates the cost estimates of nuclear energy? That's his job.

      November 15, 2013 at 6:22 pm | Reply
    • KitemanSA

      His estimate is absurd. At ~6-7 G$/GW, the 100 new plants would cost ~0.6 to 0.7trillion, and that is without the learning curve.
      What we NEED is about 600GW of additional nuclear. But I would prefer to stop at about 20 more AP1000s and the build the rest as Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors to burn their waste.

      February 22, 2014 at 12:38 am | Reply
  4. James

    Of course nuclear power is safe. The investment amortizes much faster than investments in alternative energy. It requires far less geographical area per kilowatt generated and maintenance costs are much lower - especially if you own the regulators. In the event of a cataclysmic event you blame the government, file chapter 11 bankruptcy - and let the government clean up the mess and pay to relocate all of the families affected. Then you invest in solar cell technology and a wide sweeping ad campaign to prove you are a responsible business.

    November 10, 2013 at 7:31 am | Reply
    • KitemanSA

      Silly fantasy. Doesn't work that way. Read the Price Andersen Act.

      February 22, 2014 at 12:40 am | Reply
  5. Daveb inAZ

    He talks about opportunity cost. Hmm... go on.. Here's a fun fact, we only mine about 7% of the uranium used here annually. The rest is imported, so it might be a safe assumption that the REST OF THE WORLD is doing all the nuclear development and that WE'RE falling behind. (only 5% of the cement used in concrete too). Behind in anything, but especially in nuclear technology is not good. It takes knowledge, tooling and practice to be safe. As for their question of being scared: I'd be far more 'afraid' of undetected radon in my basement than nuclear danger by living next to a nuclear power plant. Microwaves are dangerous, so certain towers might be avoided too. I'd be more 'afraid' of living next to a large high traffic airport from the oil smell to kinetic incidents. Living near active volcanoes might be a problem too (lol). BUT! We really should be open to the opportunities of actively seeking to import nuclear waste from other stupid little countries, like Italy, who didn't think of long term storage and have dangerously large amounts of waste – how likely are little obscure countries who have or will certainly have nuclear power in the future to just do what we used to do – dump it deep sea? Yes, we dumped thousands of tons out there and there it still sits, 35,000 ft. down. It hits a hot spot down there and who knows what might start to grow? Nuclear waste is the heaviest known material and stays down, so what's to stop other countries from dumping (whether we like it or not)? It's not a question of 'if' anymore, but at what rate and in what parts of our oceans. We can offer solutions that are safer for everyone worldwide and teach others as well. Which risk is higher, exposure to polluted ocean water worldwide, or exposure by waste under our secure, trained, responsible, genius level waste contractors under the purview of the EPA? (OK, genius probably not, yeah) Plus, breeder reactors are redesigned and refined all the time, like tweaking your favorite recipe. The solution to all of this is forthcoming history. My hope is that the Ignition initiative will continue to show results, then perhaps we will have a means of true incineration of nuclear waste with no future need of fission at all from that point. Just a thought, hope. Tech & science can be focused in the arena of waste management and breeding reactors, then grown – for EVERYONE'S good. Or we can just bomb into oblivion any country that mines, refines or uses radioactive materials and found to dump. I see the real possibility of worldwide waste dumping on a HUGE SCALE, but also an opportunity where we can help put a stop to it at a profit or break-even – and it doesn't even have to be done on our soil, though it could be. An opportunity to develop methods, protocols, geological surveys and needs, waste conversion, ADEQUATE AND ESSENTIAL REGULATIONS along with those protocols, here's a big one: STANDARDIZATION! Again for future possibilities without the dream of fusion coming true, waste materials have mucho energy. It might take time to figure out the physics to extract it. Taking hold of this planet sized bull (bull dukey) by the horns and providing safe alternatives in waste by developing quality technology could make the world safer if we were the ones handling it, instead of like, say, morons who stick nuclear reactors on a huge fault line n call it good. By morons, I mean an expletive far more worse than I can think of at this time. It's late. The fact is, sadly, that Mr. Nader is wrong on a lot of it, especially about the delusion that ANY country can have the level of control that he demands for his plans/ideas. The world is a different place and even here in most states where it will cost something no one will listen him, probably laugh at him. I know, he's a god to some people, so NO insult intended. Just a conclusion. Nadar says to "Just go and to this, then do that. It's that simple" No sir, it isn't. We don't have the control we used to, not even for we ourselves. Make it profitable however..... shift the paradigm a bit and your ideas may take hold. Also about Mr. Nadar, he is really really tough and that kid didn't even phase him. Not even a little. I applaud the kid's enthusiasm and his actual solutions, vetted or not. I applaud Mr. Nader for his years of service and continuation of viable ideas and his ability to get people to think. It was all good to talk about, especially about the development of the rest of the world and how to interact with them, how to provide grid sized electrical energy. It needs to be addressed. All of it.

    November 10, 2013 at 4:44 am | Reply
    • igmuska

      your argument is pure ad hominem, non sequitor nonsense

      November 10, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Reply
  6. Michelle Kaul

    I am thankful that CNN covered such an important and heated topic such as nuclear energy and aired the film "Pandora's Promise". The pros for using nuclear energy far outweigh the cons. It is an energy abundant and limitless in our universe and I believe we have so much yet we can improve and advance on in the field through invested research and development. I would like to see major advancements in our nuclear reactor designs and find a solution to the nuclear waste problem either by using breeder reactors or by finding some process such as plant uptake that can eliminate the waste. The October 2013 issue of Scientific American did a story on Russia's ambitious nuclear energy program and I can't help but wonder why the US continues to drag their feet on nuclear energy while many other nations see it as a necessary option and are investing in the next generations of nuclear scientists. The lack of scientific understanding and/or critical thinking skills in the US shows its true colors in this focused opposition to using nuclear energy to serve the growing electricity demands. Thank you again for covering such an important topic, a critical one to future generations.

    November 10, 2013 at 3:50 am | Reply
    • igmuska

      An even more simple truth, you need to add to your supposition: THERE IS NO ELECTRICITY SHORTAGE!

      November 10, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Reply
      • willumbillum

        No electricity shortage? There may not be where you live, but so many developing countries in the world go without power for hours every day, relying on backup diesel generators which further add to pollution. This is a global issue and the world is bigger than your backyard.

        November 12, 2013 at 12:59 am |
      • rustynails88

        Nikola Tesla, the greatest inventor of all time, demonstrated there is abundant electricity for every man and woman on the planet. He also showed us how to tap into this energy. The film decides to focus on oil and coal, solar and wind as the main alternative to nuclear and ignores the most efficient and clean energy sources and devices that have been developed since Tesla in the early 1900s. Please, folks, just do a little research and you will learn how these devices tap the energy in the vacuum–even Richard Feynam talked about this through his career. Nuclear energy never was and never will be a reasonable alternative. Ask questions, seek the truth, decide for yourself: Dogma vs. Suppression

        November 17, 2013 at 12:04 pm |
    • Bruce Behrhorst

      What people miss in the debate is ALL energy generation uses LIMITED RESOURCES.

      Political example of maleficences by the winner-take-all 2party weak democracy we ALL live under in negative vetting of productive ideas. BRUCE NUCLEAR PARK in Ontario, Can. is the largest heavy water CANDU facility in the world generating over 53% from Ontario Power. Successive Liberal Gov'ts have embarked in funding 'Under Powered Green Pirate sources: solar-wind-micro dam. In fact 2 Nat. gas fired plants had to be shutdown & decommissioned costing taxpayers/ratepayers a billion in fact a transparent forensic audit by gov't had to be conducted finding the abuse of funds by status quo politicians.
      Ontario generated surplus electricity it use to sell to Detroit, Mich. but since economic collapse & bankruptcy that economy ceased.
      Russians are projecting the use of floating Small Modular Reactors (SMR's) in a integrated effort to extract and process resources on site. Why?
      Because small nuke power affords lower cost savings in 6-8 yrs. re-fueling. Hydrocarbon like coal-gas-oil needs frequent re-fueling. Besides dual use electrical power can run MAGLEV railroad transport which builds communities which builds local economies. Unlike the 'all-in' oil boondoggles of pipelines which don't build communities and manufacturing.
      Sorry, Green 'Collectivist Hive' politics is bad policy in energy use issue & growth economy.

      November 10, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Reply
      • rustynails88

        Nikola Teslas demonstrated that energy is everywhere abundant and can readily be tapped with those who have studied his research and patents, as well as the many others greats since Tesla who have learned the limitless energy in the vacuum. Please study Nikola Tesla and the many great scientists since Tesla who have developed devices based on the true Physics. https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FRjT9vQCG9E

        November 17, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
  7. Karl Johanson

    Nader talked about 250,000 people displaced due to Chernobyl. They were displaced due to anti-nuclear exaggerations of the danger. Renewable energy had displaced tens of millions of people, due primarily to hydro reservoirs.

    November 9, 2013 at 9:41 pm | Reply
    • kitemansa

      Right you are Karl, and the thing to remember, is that the area around Chernobyl is becoming less and less radioactive all the time and will soon be available for rehabitation. The hydro reservoirs will remain flooded throughout the life of the hydro system.

      March 18, 2014 at 1:47 pm | Reply
  8. Karl Johanson

    The UN estimates that the smoke from fossil fuels and biomass energy kills around 2.5 million people per year (around 6,850 per day and around 67 million since Chernobyl). That's just the deaths from the smoke, not from the explosions and other accidents. That number would be far lower if it weren't for Ralph Nader helping to prevent nuclear plants being built and used. Thanks Ralph...

    November 9, 2013 at 9:27 pm | Reply
  9. Fred

    The GREATEST ENERGY INEFFICIENCY is Wind & Solar Energy. You MUST run the LEAST EFFICIENT Fossil Fuel power plants in their most inefficient possible method to shadow the fluctuating Wind and Solar energy. You MUST overbuild the Wind & Solar, throwing energy down the sewer when the Wind & Solar is maxing out, commonly when energy demand is lowest. The economics of Wind & Solar are forcing the LEAST EFFICIENT Oil & OCGT & ancient Coal smoke belchers onto the Grid, because only they are economical to run on this fluctuating basis. Indeed areas with high Wind & Solar penetration are unbelievably forking out high payments to dirty, polluting, fuel guzzling, coal, oil and OCGT burners as capacity payments to supply power when Wind & Solar go to zip, and demand is high which is very common.

    November 9, 2013 at 8:34 pm | Reply
  10. Michael Mann

    Nuclear energy has been the safest way to produce electricity per megawatt in the USA that is a wonderful track record. New designs build upon the 50 years of experience to be even safer. There are designs on the drawing board which can help meet humanity's energy needs without polluting our environment. I live around 3 miles from the longest running nuclear power plant in the USA where I have been working as an Instrument and Control technician for over 25 years, it is safer today than when I got there.

    November 9, 2013 at 8:08 pm | Reply
  11. Peggy Karp

    Ralph Nader should not be called a fearmonger for telling the truth. Sadly, the only thing that will kill nuclear power once and for all is another major accident.

    There is enough solar, hydro, and wind available on the planet to supply the world's energy, especially when coupled with sensible energy-conserving policies. What's lacking is the political will.

    November 9, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Reply
    • promath

      One needn't be pro-anything other than pro-math. Simple math, which unfortunately seems to be missing for most who wish to believe that solar, wind and conservation can solve all of our energy needs, shows that we MUST have a reliable method of generating large amounts of electricity that does not create greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear is the only choice available that meets that criteria and it is proven to be safe by over 50 years of operating history.

      November 10, 2013 at 8:49 am | Reply
    • KitemanSA

      True, Nader should not be called a fear-monger for telling the truth. When he starts doing that, your statement will apply.

      November 11, 2013 at 8:34 pm | Reply
  12. A Nuclear Engineer

    Most of the comments here are so far off base that they simply don't deserve a response, however, several do.

    First – the spent fuel being used in commercial reactors is NOT being used to build a stockpile of plutonium for nuclear weapons. ALL of the fuel is stored on site thanks to the failure of the federal government to approve a repository at Yucca Mtn.

    Solar wind and other "green" energy sources are not currently capable of supplying our energy needs. You can argue all day that that they can – but you are wasting your time. The facts prove otherwise. Also the federal subsidies for renewable energy sources is at least equal to, and probably greater than, the subsidy given to nuclear power. Look it up!

    Finally, comments related to man made/caused climate change are ridiculous. Is the climate changing? Yes! It always has and always will. Is there any correlation to atmospheric CO2 levels? NO! Download the data and plot it yourselves!

    November 9, 2013 at 1:39 pm | Reply
  13. Solar Fuel Blog

    I think nuclear energy is very dangerous as accidents can be catastrophic. But the real question is how can we generate energy more efficiently. I am of the opinion that we first have to consider 'green' approaches like solar and wind before considering nuclear energy.

    November 9, 2013 at 3:45 am | Reply
    • KitemanSA

      Fukushima, a total meltdown of THREE nuclear power plants which did not have any of the basic safety systems that are de-rigueur in US plants has killed... NOBODY with radiation. As a catastrophe, I say let us have more of those and fewer natural gas explosions killing dozens and dozens or hydro-electric dam collapses killing 10s of thousands or millions of people dying from bio-fuel usage. Nuclear, including the accidents and the bombings has killed fewer folks in its ENTIRE HISTORY the renewables kill each and every year.

      November 11, 2013 at 8:42 pm | Reply
  14. azezel

    I think a goal of the us should be to break the light barrier by the end of the century by using an ion drive.

    November 9, 2013 at 2:26 am | Reply
  15. rustynails88

    Ludicrous to seriously consider nuclear power. Why not air a fair debate regarding suppressed energy technology? http://www.wanttoknow.info/freeenergy

    November 8, 2013 at 8:28 pm | Reply
  16. rolyat

    Shellenburger's assertion that wind and/or solar cannot possibly scale to meet the world's energy demand is valid and confirmed in the energy/scientific community.

    Food for thought, in 2008 (hint: we've increased the amount of energy we use since then), to match the emission-free energy produced by nuclear annually, you would need to do one of two things:

    1. Cover an area equal to the state of West Virginia with wind turbines.
    OR
    2. Cover an area equal to the state of New Jersey with solar cells.
    (Cover means blanket the entire state, regardless of cities, roads, etc.)

    From this simple exercise, one can see that these industries are far from being able to scale from the fractions of one percent into the 20% ballpark that nuclear is in.

    November 8, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Reply
  17. xzr56

    I often wonder what would have happened had the terrorists who hijacked the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, crashed the plane into one of the two nuke plants on either side of Cleveland.... THEY WERE THAT CLOSE ... and that is SCARY. I'm glad we're building new solar plants around Las Vegas. wish they build lots more!

    November 8, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Reply
    • rolyat

      I would like to present to you a 1988 test of a fighter jet at 481 mph versus a concrete block that was similar in scale to a containment building (the dome surrounding a nuclear reactor at a power plant). This block was not reinforced (containments are), was not anchored (containments are), and did not have a steel liner (containments do). This test was performed at Sandia National Laboratory so that society could know whether or not a nuclear energy facility was safe against a direct airplane attack, such as the one you are describing in your fear mongering.

      https://share.sandia.gov/news/resources/video-gallery/index.html#rocketsled

      If you don't want to go to the link, here is the summary. The plane, traveling almost 500 mph, left a 2.5 inch gouge in the concrete. For some perspective, a typical containment building is 48 inches thick.

      Therefore, a nuclear power plant is one of the most secure (read, strongest) facilities at surviving an air attack.

      November 8, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Reply
    • jam

      There is an article on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Containment_building
      please read the part titled Design and testing requirements.
      A subsequent study by EPRI, the Electric Power Research Institute, concluded that commercial airliners did not pose a danger

      November 9, 2013 at 9:57 pm | Reply
  18. Gerald

    Shellenburger's argument that renewable energy makes up such a tiny percentage of the energy mix is lame. If sufficient resources were actually devoted toward renewable energy, it's implementation could immediately be massive. For instance, just by installing 16 PV solar panels, and one Solar hot water panel on my roof, I go from zero% to 100% solar in one fall swoop.

    November 8, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Reply
    • KitemanSA

      Gerald,
      Please don't be a fibber. I suspect you don't realize you are being fibber, but fibber you are none-the-less.
      Your home power use is a fairly small part of your over all energy consumption in all the ways you live, work, and play.
      Further, you represent maybe 1/100,000,000 of the US population so your instant accomplishment still leaves a LONG way for the country to go. There just ain't no graceful way for the unreliables to scale to the same level of functionality that nuclear can do now.

      November 11, 2013 at 8:52 pm | Reply
  19. Mike

    Shellenburger is a liar. Nuclear power is simply ECONOMICALLY UNSOUND even with the staggering amount of subsidies we give them YEAR after YEAR.The only long term solution is passive solar and wind. And even THAT has waste problems due to manufacturing. FORGET this constant corporate baseload mantra. They only want systems you can BILL OUT EVERY MONTH. Look at the strides countries like Germany and Portugal and Brazil are making. More and more each day makes this guy sound ridiculous. His concern for future generations is touching, but his argument is utter nonsense. Environmental activists WISH they were that effective.
    General Electric which is among the world’s top 3 suppliers of nuclear energy equipment along with Toshiba and Areva, has said that it no longer makes economic sense to build nuclear reactors.
    To readers of GWI, this is nothing new as we wrote more than a year ago about how nuclear energy has hit a virtual wall in the developed world. Expensive safety regulations, massive time overruns, increasing equipment prices had already made nuclear energy an expensive proposition in the West. On top of that came the Fukushima disaster which has made many countries like Germany, Japan ,Switzerland and Belgium to shut down their entire nuclear energy capacities.
    The other problems facing the industry are:

    1) Low Natural Gas Costs – The price of Natural Gas has crashed by more than half from the peak 2008 prices making many plants nonviable. Since Energy Prices in many places are dependent on Gas Prices, this has become a big negative factor.

    2) General Economic and Energy Decline – US has suffered from a contraction in Electricity Demand for the first time as Economy Declined in the aftermath of the Lehman Crisis. With prospects of future growth also lowered, the incentive for constructing new nuclear energy has fallen

    3) High Project Gestation Time and Capex Costs – Nuclear Energy requires a huge amount of capital and a long time to be built. There are huge project construction risks with frequent time and cost overruns. Government involvement is necessary due to these massive risks private capital is reluctant to invest in such high risk projects. Despite DOE guarantees, Constellation found the loan costs at 11.6%, too high to make the project worthwhile.

    4) No Climate Change Legislation Globally – USA has been a laggard in the Climate Change with partisan politics dooming any remote chance of Climate Mitigation efforts at the Federal Level. Despite efforts by US States and some support from US Government led by Obama, there has been no Carbon Tax or some form of Carbon Emission Caps. This has made long term investor support for Green Energy untenable. Even Globally there has been no progress on Climate Change, just lots of meetings and hot air. The top UN climate official sees no chance of an agreement in her lifetime……

    At the same time, a 75 per cent fall in solar panel market prices in the past three years has made solar power competitive with daytime retail electricity prices in some countries, according to a recent report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, while offshore wind turbine prices have steadily declined….. http://www.greenchipstocks.com/articles/ge-nysege-slams-economics-of-nuclear/2097

    November 8, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Reply
    • KitemanSA

      Mike, the liar here is you. Despite anti-nuke standard lie number #4, commercial nuclear power is among the LOWEST subsidized energy sources in the nation. Please learn the facts before making such foolish statements again.

      November 11, 2013 at 8:55 pm | Reply
      • Mike

        Making absolutist statements with nothing to support it other than your butt wind convinces no one.
        Your opinion on one of the points I made does not change the facts.

        Do We Need Energy Subsidies?
        In a recent report, the Union of Concerned Scientists tallied up the costs of government support for nuclear power from uranium mining to waste disposal concluded that subsidies to the nuclear fuel cycle have often exceeded the value of the power produced. This means that buying power on the open market and giving it away for free would have been less costly than subsidizing the construction and opera­tion of nuclear power plants.
        Shocking, if true.
        Along with nuclear power, well-established energy sources like coal and natural gas enjoy subsidies, as this table shows. I came across it in a report from the Hamilton Project, called A Strategy for America’s Energy Future: Illuminating Energy’s Full Costs.
        http://theenergycollective.com/marcgunther/60096/do-we-need-energy-subsidies

        The Future Role of Nuclear Power in the United States
        No energy generation company in the Unites States has been willing to order and construct a new nuclear plant in more than thirty years, and none have taken anything more than preliminary steps towards purchasing and constructing a new nuclear plant today in the absence of a promise of huge Federal subsidies. This is not because of public opposition; not for want of a licensed geologic repository for the disposal of spent fuel; and not because of the proliferation risks associated with commercial nuclear power. Rather, it is because new commercial nuclear power plants are uneconomical in the United States.

        Arguably the best and most current economic comparison of nuclear and fossil-fueled plants is by Professor Paul L. Joskow in a recent interdisciplinary MIT study, "The Future of Nuclear Power."4 As seen from the following table from the MIT Study, in the United States today new nuclear plants are far from being competitive with new natural gas or coal-fueled power plants. The levelized cost of electricity5 generated by a new nuclear plant is estimated to be about 60 percent greater than the cost of electricity from a coal plant or a gas-fueled plant assuming moderate gas prices.
        http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/pnucpwr.asp

        November 12, 2013 at 6:11 pm |
      • KitemanSA

        The anti-nuclear UCS includes such things as a ceasing of charging a nuclear industry specific tax as a "subsidy". Their study is ludicrous.

        February 22, 2014 at 12:49 am |
  20. paofpa

    CNN there is something left in the Box: Thorium.

    What Thorium, it has nothing to do with Politics. OR does it? Something called Molten Salt Thorium; if it can do what it claim in can; it might do many things. It can shut down every current Nuclear Power plant and use its waste. It can stop the building of any new trans-state EHV line. It can put our current coal industry into hibernation. It can provide another strain to cap the price of oil and natural gas. Corn, Wind and Solar will lose every ounce of support. No one will remember what carbon counting is. Climate Change will become a non-issue. All upstream of a river will lose (or gain) some of its ability to bash those downstream. Oh, by the way, power will be cheaper. And they claim that safety will be only a minor issue. Is that Politics or is that Politics?

    Congress: I am not asking for money; I am not asking for regulation support; I am asking for you to make a New Year Resolution and give a public comment. The comment is to prove that you are working for the Country and not the internal contents of a nutshell.

    CNN, tell Congress, Thorium might not make this country greater but your comments will.

    November 8, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Reply
    • Mary Ann Biermeier

      Yes! Stop policy for hire. Bio-fuels policy went the same way as Nuclear. Policy for Hire is using corn (turning food commodity into GOLD) for bio-fuels, when there are readily available grasses that deliver far higher BTU's. Just like the corn gold rush, we have been using the wrong fuel in our nuclear plants. No waste Thorium is the answer. The science has been there waiting for us. Wake up!

      Thank you Michael Shellenberger for starting the conversation. Excellent film, fine work.

      November 9, 2013 at 11:12 am | Reply
  21. miriam henriquez bruin

    please first simply explain the link between nuclear energy/power, nuclear weapons and bombs, please ? Also their link to cancer and the death of humans, animals, plants on land and in the sea/waters/rivers,please ?

    November 8, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Reply
    • Michael Rowley

      I like to think of it like this, 20% of people get cancer.

      November 8, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Reply
    • rolyat

      Radiation is one of only approximately 1500 carcinogens (a material that has been linked to causing cancer). For example, tar, formaldehyde, other cigarette chemicals, are other carcinogens. Here is a list according to the American Cancer Society.

      http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/generalinformationaboutcarcinogens/known-and-probable-human-carcinogens

      Nuclear energy is not the main cause in the cancer present in society today. It is a combination of the 1500 carcinogens. It is unfair to blatantly state that nuclear power causes 20% of people to have cancer. Thats egregiously false.

      November 8, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Reply
    • KitemanSA

      MHB wrote: "please first simply explain the link between nuclear energy/power, nuclear weapons and bombs, please ? Also their link to cancer and the death of humans, animals, plants on land and in the sea/waters/rivers,please ?"
      In answer to your first question, Nuclear energy eliminates nuclear weapons. The megatons to megawatts program has turned thousands of russian warheads into about 10% of the US power supply for the past dozen+ years.
      Re the 2nd: So far, nuclear power has lead to the deaths of < 100 people world-wide. There is an expectation by the most knowledgable scientists in the field that there will be as many as 4000 more, with an outside chance of ~18,000 more. Almost all of those will be due to Chernobyl. It was a converted bomb factory type reactor. Coal on the other hand kills about that many in Europe every year. It should also be known that actions taken due to the unreasonable FEAR of radiation has caused more deaths than the radiation ever will, especially if you count abortions in that death toll.

      February 22, 2014 at 1:00 am | Reply
  22. Kris

    I think it boils down to timeframe: As we advance technologically, we put more and more demand upon municipal power grids – which terminate at power plants.

    We need BULK energy for our electric, plug-in cars and out addiction to gadgets.

    For BULK power, it's either Coal or Nuclear. Looking at China's air quality problem, I have to side with nuclear.
    There isn't enough time to replace the 84% of current energy sources with non-nuclear solutions.

    November 8, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Reply
    • igmuska

      Are the coal plants paying for reducing their carbon emissions? Oh heck, it is always the tax payer and rate payer that pays...never the foreign owned company!

      November 10, 2013 at 11:41 am | Reply
  23. Michael Rowley

    Time and time again it seemed the only argument that the Anti-Humanity People (i.e. Nadar) would argue was a fallacious Argument called the Appeal To Complexity:
    if the arguer doesn't understand the topic, he/she conclude that nobody understands it. So, his/her opinions are as good as anybody's.

    November 8, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Reply
    • Donovan Retreage

      @Michael Rowley
      I think there is a big difference between drawing conclusions from what one does understand about a topic, which is what I've gone over. I've only read one interview with Nadar (which I looked up after seeing your reference to the "Anti-Humanity" people) and he seems to be doing the same thing, calling attention to the problems we know exist. We aren't saying they are unsolvable or to complex for you to understand so we are right. We are saying those problems are still problems and are avoidable by pursuing other means. That's the point of explaining what we know and presenting our own interpretations of the information that is available to us. We can't all be economic, nuclear, electrical experts, but we are entitled to our informed opinions since this issue effects everyone. The idea behind democracy is that an issue is brought forth, all opinions are heard, and hopefully the best opinion works and is the one that is implemented.
      However, I must also point out that you have committed your own fallacy by making that claim but not giving any further information to us. The point of debate is share information, not just to say that your opponent's stance is wrong or that they don't understand it.

      November 8, 2013 at 2:44 pm | Reply
      • Donovan Retreage

        Oh yes, I've failed to explain that I have not been able to view this video. It will not load on the computer I am at. I simply felt compelled to express my view on the topic.

        November 8, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
  24. Donovan Retreage

    First off, I am not an expert. My information comes from what I've learned in school, what I've read up on online, and my own deduction.

    I do not believe Nuclear power is the "only way to go". We have a very viable solution in solar power. The technology for it isn't perfect, yes, but it is improving steadily will only so faster of we start investing in it by building a solar infrastructure. Germany already produces a sizable amount of their energy needs from solar power and that is why they are shifting away from nuclear. I know some articles have been saying that Germany will not be able to meet their power needs once they shut down all of their reactors, but I have not seen any empirical data on this and I consider it speculation for now though I acknowledge this is plausible. I simply do not know either way.
    I am not saying that we should not utilize nuclear in the short term to offset our mainly fossil fuel produced energy, but I am saying that nuclear should not be our long-term solution for several reasons. If anything goes wrong with a nuclear reactor it is very possible that the effects will be extremely long-term. Take Chernobyl and Fukushima, the half-life of a typical particle of radiation is longer than the time humans are believed to have been on this planet. Those areas will be effected for at least that time and will no be accessible for any kind of useful utilization for hundred of thousands of years. There is also the matter of disposing of the waste. Our current facilities for containing nuclear waste are temporary at best. We do not yet have a long-term solution to disposing of nuclear waste. we keep spent fuel rods in containment pools which need to be circulated with cool water in order to keep the rods at a safe temperature. This also means that the water that comes in contact with that waste is now radioactive and is unusable for anything else. By utilizing nuclear we are poisoning our most precious resource. Some people may say we can jettison our waste into space but that is a risky option. If the craft were to fail in the atmosphere and fall back to earth the effected area would be very large if it falls apart or explodes. Aside from those two threats from nuclear, it is also very expensive to build and decommission nuclear reactors which are currently meant to last for only several decades.
    If we want a very long-term, comparatively cheaper and infinitely sustainable energy infrastructure we can achieve that today with solar; all we need to do is build it. And, if a solar farm fails, we won't be paying for it with our health or the health of all surrounding life in the area. I believe the human race needs to move towards sustainable, safe, and effective solutions to our energy needs so that we are not constantly struggling to satisfy it. Solar is a possible answer for that. The sun hits the earth with more power a day that what all countries everywhere produce by an astounding margin. The next step is to create a power infrastructure that can not only passively produce power but also store the extra power that is created. That would make energy both more plentiful and cheaper for everyone, for a long time.

    November 8, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Reply
    • Kris

      Well, where would the panels get built? Probably in China.
      How will the panels get built? We mine the resources with big, diesel-fueled trucks and process the minerals using machines that are powered by China's coal power plants.

      The very power plants that are CURRENTLY giving the likes of 8-year olds lung cancer.

      Great idea.

      November 8, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Reply
    • Erin

      I would like to comment on your Chernobyl/Fukushima argument. 1. The background radiation around both plants are around the average background radiation of the rest of the world. High elevation cities have higher background radiation levels than those areas. 2. There are no Chernobyl type reactors in the West. Chernobyl had no containment building which is one of the reasons it was so bad. 3. The half life of a radionuclide has no effect on how fatal the radionuclide is. It is the dose (rem, grey) that a person receives that determines how fatal it is. I work in the radiation safety/health physics industry and work with RAM(radioactive material) everyday. I do not fear for my health in any way. We as does the nuclear industry subscribe to what is called ALARA(as low as reasonably achievable). We follow standards and laws that require us to use certain kinda of personal perfection equipment. I wear a dosimeter that is then taken and processed to ensure that I am not getting a higher dose than I should be. 4. For Fukushima the meltdown wasn't the reactor or reactor operators faults. Though tragic, when all of your back ups are flooded by sea water there isn't much you can do. It was unfortunate placement of nuclear power plant.

      Radiation is not something to be scared of. It should be respected. We eat foods everyday that contain radioactive material. Bananas have a radioactive potassium isotope in it.

      On your comment about storage. 1. There is both a scientific and political side to storage. The French have drastically decreased their waste due to file reprocessing. The US has put a stop to fast reactors and fuel reprocessing even though less waste is produced. No matter what kind of reactor we use plutonium will always exist. It is apart of the natural decay scheme of uranium. 2. Dry cask works in the sense that no radiation gets out. If you stand next to a dry cask you will not get a reading above background. 3. I don't know what resources you think we may be poisoning. There are naturally radioactive waters in the world. Also this is where health physics comes in. Nothing is ever put into water resources or the like till it is at a safe level.

      I personally believe nuclear is a good long term solution. Reactors can function for well over a few decades. It's more around 50-80. The reasesrch triga reactor that currently sits on my college campus is well over 30 years old and is no wear near decommissioning. It is true that start up costs are high, but it is an energy source that can produce far more power at a time than a solar panel. One reactor unit at South Texas Project is the equivalent of the surface area of New Jersey covered in solar panels. I think there is a place for nuclear, solar and wind in our energy portfolio. The issue isn't which one is better but how to make them all work together to maximize energy. With growing energy demands obviously something must be done. Solar tends to work better in the rural areas where high popular meteropolitan areas have a higher and more constant demand. To me the latter is where nuclear can come in.

      I have grown up with a nuclear engineer/naval nuclear propulsion officer as a father and have a degree in health physics. My opinion may be slightly biased but I have spent the last 4 years study both nuclear reactors and radiation health and safety. As it is difficult to explain such deep subject matter in an comment on an article I will stop here.

      If you are interested in a great text to read pick up a copy of "introduction to nuclear concepts for engineers" by Robert Mayo. Best book I used in college and easy to read. Also a good read and used throughout the industry is "atoms, radiation and radiation protection" by James Turner

      November 8, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Reply
    • George Lerner

      1) Current nuclear reactors are solid fueled, water cooled reactors, LWR (with a very few sodium cooled reactors). Chernobyl was a very different type of reactor, prone to out of control reactivity, a type of accident that is impossible in LWR.

      2) More people die from coal Each year than have died from nuclear power since 1945 Total; same for cancer, same for illnesses.

      3) The highly radioactive material from nuclear energy decreases fast, half lives in seconds to months. The long-term radioactive material can be used in different types of reactors as Fuel.

      4) Most people calculating how much solar + wind energy is needed assume grid power is available - supplied by either coal & oil & natural gas, or supplied by nuclear. The only other solar solution requires massive energy storage systems. Using only solar + wind, needs capacity for storing weeks worth of power (during bad weather) from a partial day of decent weather. Nuclear power (even expensive LWR) would cost much less than that, take less land, take less metal & concrete.

      5) Molten Salt Reactors vs Light Water Reactors

      MSR cooled by molten salts (boils 1400C, operate 600C-950C). Atmospheric pressure, no water in MSR, so all water- & pressure-risks of LWR eliminated. Can be used in deserts.

      MSR molten fuel expands/contracts, self-adjusting fission. Reactor materials can handle the hottest the reactor could get in emergency. A "freeze plug" melting allows molten fuel to quickly drain to passive storage tanks where fission can not happen, no electricity or water.

      LWR ~2% of fuel is fissioned; MSR molten fuel, fission products are easily removed, over 99% of fuel fissioned. All long-term radioactive materials are left circulating in the reactor until they fission, or decay to short-term radioactive materials.

      LWR 250,000kg uranium to make 35,000kg enriched uranium, to make 1GW electricity for a year.

      MSR only 800kg to 1000kg mined uranium (or thorium) to make 1GW-year; 83% waste stored for 10 years; 17% (about 300lbs) stored 350 years, nothing longer. We know how to do that.

      MSR can use LWR waste as fuel. No LWR-style "reprocessing" needed, just remove from fuel rods, convert uranium oxide to uranium fluoride (simple chemical process) and it works. ELIMINATES long-term nuclear waste.

      MSR much simpler design, mass produce & ship assembled, higher safety at lower cost. Can deploy to disaster regions, make electricity and desalinate water.

      We operated a molten salt reactor 5 years.

      See http://liquidfluoridethoriumreactor.glerner.com/

      November 16, 2013 at 10:19 pm | Reply
      • nukemann2013

        Thank you, George Lerner for your well researched and succinct post.

        November 16, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
  25. igmuska

    Nuclear energy is just more snake oil they want to sell us. These same folks selling this are the same folks that fracked up the US economy. Just a few years ago, these same folks stated that climate change was natural, that our carbon emissions were not causing any climate change; now they are flipflopping as then they can "solve" climate change. Nuclear energy is not going to return US economic prosperity. How can the mega-loans bring back profits, that is total economic insanity...

    November 8, 2013 at 12:10 pm | Reply
    • Kris

      Did you know that Three Mile Island still powers 800,000 homes with clean electricity, while down the road, Centralia, PA is still on fire after a coal-fire was sparked over half a century ago?

      November 8, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Reply
      • igmuska

        What is your point? Arguing for argument's sake?
        And thanks for helping me remember the continuing Centralia, PA coal fire; when that fire started, up in smoke went the Centralia, PA economy and jobs...

        November 10, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Bruce Behrhorst

      I'd say mobile or static Small Modular (Nuclear) Reactors SMR's can help both industrial & developing nations when you have more population participating in private/public commerce in secure/fair transparent transactions. You have growth oriented stable economies much less will to go to war.
      Example; disaster Philipines could have a floating SMR right now providing electrical power instantly for at least 8 yrs. till a re-fuel.

      November 15, 2013 at 8:30 pm | Reply
  26. igmuska

    Nuclear energy is not going to fix any problem. It is just more snake oil they expect us to buy after they fracked up the US economy. I remember not too long ago, these same folks were denying that our civilization had absolutely no effect on the climate, now they are bandwagoning themselves into a big flipflop while back then they were using all sorts of statistics and reports claiming that climate change was natural

    November 8, 2013 at 12:06 pm | Reply
  27. Paula Warren

    Nuclear energy is the only way to go. We MUST stop burning fossil fuels. - We are on our way to completely destroying the planet! The environmentalists should recognize that they are playing right into the hands of big oil and big coal if they lobby against atomic energy. The producers of "Pandora's Promise" have presented a very convincing case for the safety of nuclear power plants.

    November 8, 2013 at 11:01 am | Reply
    • Tom

      Nuclear energy could actually be much safer with thorium, but then we couldn't use the plutonium for weapons. Nuclear energy is NOT the only way to go. So many free energy sources are available and buried in order to maintain huge profits. Fukushima is prime example why we must start working now on dismantling the dangerous reactors and make honest moves toward clean, renewable energy.

      November 8, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Reply
      • KitemanSA

        Tom,
        Your "clean" renewable energy ain't so clean. Wind results in the release into the environment of ~8 times the weight of radioactive waste products as are generated in a nuclear plant. And except in the case on massive accidents, the nuclear radioactive waste isn't released into the environment.
        And PV cell makers are just toxic sludge factories.

        February 22, 2014 at 1:09 am |

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