Nuclear Power Plant

Nuclear Power – from a Critical Point of View

Nuclear powerNuclear Power is a controversial topic to be certain. In the next couple of days I’m going to try and look at the arguments for and against while applying my critical thinking skills to the debate.

I think first we have to actually define what nuclear power means. There are a lot of misconceptions and the topic is more than a little complicated. I don’t fully understand the nuances of the reaction by any stretch of the imagination but I’ll try to couch it in relatively easy to understand terms. By the way, this definition of a problem is critical in the analysis process. Read my Root Cause article.

Nuclear power plants, in their simplest concept, turn water into steam which is pressurized and fed into a steam turbine. The turbine then rotates and drives an electrical generator. Steam turbines of this nature account for about 90% of all electrical energy produced in the United States. A lot of this comes from coal and other non-nuclear sources but the basic process is similar.

Now, I know all my chemist and other scientifically knowledgeable friends and nieces will probably say this is too much of a simplification but my point isn’t really the process, so please bear with me.

In order to generate the heat to boil water and produce steam a nuclear reactor introduces an extra neutron into some uranium or plutonium. This generates a chain reaction wherein more and more of the uranium or plutonium splits into smaller elements and produces heat.

There are a number of arguments for and against nuclear power. I’ll get into the pros and cons tomorrow I just want to go over a few facts about how nuclear power is currently being used throughout the world.

It is estimated that about 16% of all electricity generated in the world comes from nuclear sources although because of ineffeciency of distribution it accounts for only about 2.6% of consumption.

The United States, France, and Japan are the leaders in production with France most of all depending on it for their energy demands. France in particular is used by proponents of nuclear power as a success story but there are nuances to that argument as well. Again, I’ll spend some time tomorrow talking about pros and cons.

Nuclear power also accounts for a huge percentage of the total energy produced in the universe. It’s what makes stars glow. That is something to think about.

I think I’ve laid out the concepts of nuclear power here pretty well and tomorrow I’ll talk about the pros and cons. I might end up having to split that into two articles because the arguments are complex and interesting and I like to keep these blogs relatively short so that you can read them easily during a break at work.

As always, tweet, comment, like, share, and otherwise tell your friends if you think this is worth reading.

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Super Bowl … Saturday?!

Super Bowl 2012

It’s Super Bowl Sunday and I’m going to use the occasion to examine the question of moving the game day to Saturday. This is an idea I’ve been a proponent of for quite some time and when talking about it with friends I always complained that the NFL was foolish not to adopt it.

For many years I stood by this argument without bothering to further examine why the Super Bowl remained on a Sunday. This demonstrated a fallacy called Ought-Is or Wishful Thinking. Simply put it is the idea that we want something to be true so we therefore believe it is true without critical analysis. The Ought-Is is a pretty common reason why we fail to fully examine situations and make mistakes.

So, let’s put on our Critical Thinking caps and get to work!

The benefits of a Saturday game are fairly self-evident. Parties could occur on Saturday night instead of Sunday night. Bars, hotels, and other venues would get a boost in revenue because the revelry could go on all evening. The game itself would air in the evening rather than late afternoon. People could stay up late without having to go to work the next morning.

Our critical thinking skills come into play to determine why the game, with all these tangible benefits, hasn’t been moved. One of the important aspects of critical thinking is determining who stands to gain and who stands to lose by a particular proposition. In this case the thing I chose to ignore was the idea of who loses with a Saturday game. Can you think of the answer? Take a moment.

Two parties lose by moving the game to Saturday, the NFL and the host city. The process by which the NFL determines the host city does not involve, to my knowledge, a direct cash payment. However, the host city is generally chosen by their “ability to host”. Well, let’s parse that phrase. What the NFL means by “ability to host” is really how much money can they extract from people who come to see the game.

While the NFL benefits from direct ticket sales and certainly from advertising I would imagine that the events surrounding the Super Bowl, including specially built venues to entertain the visitors in around the host city, provide a hefty boost to that income. Most of these special events take place on Saturday with a continuation onto game day. This revenue would certainly decrease with only half a day on Saturday to run before the game.

Likewise, the host city gets more hotel revenue and more tourist revenue by having the game on Sunday. Tourists arrive either late on Friday or early on Saturday and spend the rest of their time spending money. If the game were played on Saturday this would eliminate a full day of tourist revenue. Now, certainly many tourists would stay through Sunday in any case but the loss of revenue would certainly be significant.

Ok, now we’ve uncovered the reason for the game staying on Sunday, can we come up with a solution to the problem? The only real solution that I can think of is to have some sort of national holiday on the Friday before the Super Bowl (if the game is on Saturday) or the Monday after (if the game remains on Sunday). The NFL has proposed such solutions but it seems unlikely that the government will get involved and even if they do, some companies would ignore the holiday and this might curtail some of the revenue generation.

So, for all our critical thinking we don’t have an easy solution. That’s the way of it sometimes but at least I have some peace of mind as to why the game continues to be played on a Sunday.

I would suggest that we all try to use our critical thinking skills when faced with a seemingly absurd situation. Oftentimes you will find that Wishful Thinking has blinded you to the reality of a dilemma.

Tweet, Link, Like, Comment, and all the rest if you think other people might like to read this!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist