Though safety is a big concern ( and a major worry to a great extent) , nuclear energy is an important contributor to the energy segment. Even in India a new reactor was commissioned just couple of days ago irrespective of the massive protest against it by local residents.
One of my studies both in mathematics and physics included some information in the design of the reactors as well as the safety mechanisms involved. I also have been to several conventions where the statistics behind the subject matter was studied. The safety factor for each problem was orders of magnitude higher then it needed to be. Components had 99.99% reliability with the system reliability of 99.9999%. And if you calculate the number of reactors the world has which I believe is around the 400 mark then it does not make sense to have so many accidents. The reason for this is bad execution of the program, natural disaster etc... However the technology is mature, we are more aware of the world we live in and can so prepare and predict to some degree the risks, automation has removed human error as a possibility, better periodic maintenance could bring the risk to a number low enough that calculating it may not be possible (keep in mind that the system is designed around mitigating risk and that we are not considering component risk but rather system risk). The reason for this paranoia is the cold war and the lack of knowledge the average citizen had about the subject matter. It was so bad that the designers of the nuclear magnetic resonance imaging decided to name it magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to remove the word nuclear for fear of the technology dying before it was born.
I believe that the new generation will be more supportive of this alternative.
It is illogical how our population has been educated to view this technology. Reality is that a nuclear plant probably releases less radiation to the environment then a petroleum or coal plant. Careful what I am comparing is the amount that was released to the environment not the amount of waste the reactor may have. Yes a nuclear plant creates nuclear waste however this waste is appropriately managed. Anyone with a Geiger counter please grab it and run to the nearest coal plant dump site of ash get a reading, look at the size of the pile and estimate how bad the situation is. Then get the same counter and go to the water source for cooling of a nuclear reactor and you will find out the readings are milder the reason is that the active nuclei remain locked in the reactor while the nuclear isotopes in the coal (like C14) are exhausted or collected in the ash dumps.
I have a friend of mine that was in college and came home to Kiev for Spring break before the news of the Chernobyl failure was fully released. Now he no longer has a working thyroid.
Yes, the probability of failure in a modern reactor is very low, but the damage from failure is outrageously high. The full consequences from Fukushima is still being evaluated and the future of Japan's nuclear energy program is quite uncertain, with promises of making Japan nuclear free by 2030.
@ervin0072002 : Your points are a real eye opener. Though the probability of failure in a modern reactor is very low, as you have rightly mentioned, the awareness of that point is low. Points like radiation of C14 is higher than that at the nuclear site must be conveyed to people. Thanks a lot for these points.
"ervin" makes excellent points right to the heart of the worst aspect of nuclear power, the ignorance of the public. spot on! it's the duty of every engineer to learn more about this subject and tell the plain truth.
Industrial power generation is dangerous in any form. Plenty of people were literally turned to cinders in oil/gas refinery explosions, but the plant was running the next week with the public's blind approval. Power generation requires smart designs, smart people and a smart public to understand how their modern lives are made possible. This passively cooled reactor design has been a long time in coming. Our society can not afford to turn away from nuclear. Obama has gotten one thing right and I thank him for it.
Complaining about the dangers of nuclear power is absurd if in the same breath you're going to complain about global warming and CO2 emissions. The population of this planet particularly in the growing economies of China, India (etc) is making billions of tons of waste from their tailpipes, factories and chimneys all over the world. Now we're going to complain about a few thousand tons of waste deposited and guarded in a concrete vault and not even open research into closing the fuel cycle (too dangerous) or even figure out how to better sequester it (too political, NIMBY)?
This nation has had a green source of power for half a century, it's called nuclear. Domestically sourced, abundant and replenishable fuel stock, no longer a new technology, and ready for deployment. The all-electric power grid won't happen with just solar and wind. This country has forgotten more about nuclear power than what we know today. It's time that trend ended.
You are wrong tekochip. The outrageous damage in japan is not worse than a 287,000 tons of oil spilled in Caribbean Sea when Atlantic Empress collided with another ship. The problem is media. Nuclear catastrophe is just such a high key news story. People do not understand it and panic, or crowd by the TV like ants feeding on the ignorance of the media. Keep in mind that active nuclei are all around us and claiming that a nuclear reactor makes more of this stuff then supernovas is naive at best. All we do is concentrate it and collect its power. Also as an FYI
Energy Density of Gasoline ~46 MJ/kg
Energy density of Uranium 235 ~ 83,140,000 MJ/kg
Now what would you rather have ? 1kg of depleted nuclear fuel (you don't add mass to this it should weigh less since energy was absorbed.)
OR would you rather have roughly 3kG of 5,422,173 kg of CO2 (Rough estimate but correct order of magnitude)
Utility will never shrink because energy storage media small enough for home use cost in the order of 1 to 3 dollar a Watt. And for a life of 3 years with maintenance it will cost 3-6 dollars a Watt. Utilities can afford bulk storage better than a single home or community. Even solar concentrated power has better costs then these smaller systems.
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Noting that we now live in an era of “confusion and ill-conceived stuff,” Ammunition design studio founder Robert Brunner, speaking at Gigaom Roadmap, said that by adding connectivity to everything and its mother, we aren't necessarily doing ourselves any favors, with many ‘things’ just fine in their unconnected state.
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