Nuclear Power – Final Conclusion

Nuclear PowerI spent time two days ago talking about how Nuclear Power works and yesterday I spoke about the pros and cons of it. Today I’ll weigh the various arguments and come to a conclusion. Hopefully you will tell me where I made all my mistakes with comments!

The pros of nuclear power are strong and obtaining energy independence from foreign powers, some of them inimically opposed to freedom and our way of life, is a powerful motivator for me to endorse it.

There is a big part of me that wants to support nuclear power simply because of its natural origin. There is something romantic about turning to the power of the stars to make our own energy grid work. The stars are the source of all the heavy metals in the world and in no small sense we are made of star stuff.

I also support alternate energy like wind, solar, and geothermal. I think the economic potential for those sources of energy are tremendous although there is some upfront cost. The world’s demand for energy will only increase in the coming years and the nations with the technology to provide renewable and nuclear energy technology will see a steady source of revenue.

If a nation doesn’t have a source of revenue then their place in the modern, connected world, is bound to diminish. In a future post I’d like to spend some time talking about how computer technology did far more to help the economy of the United States and the western world than did any politician. Thank you Claude Shannon, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and a host of others.

But, back to the problem at hand, nuclear power. Nuclear proliferation is a serious issue and the more material available to make a nuclear bomb the more chance it will fall into the hands of someone who wants to use it to murder people. That being said, I’m not convinced that if the United States refuses to build nuclear reactors this threat diminishes. Other nations will continue to gain the ability to make such material and the number of nuclear reactors in the United States doesn’t substantially increase that risk in my opinion.

As far as accidents are concerned it certainly weighs on my decision by I do think Generation III plants are significantly safer than current models and Thorium reactors will be about as safe as any other form of energy. The damage to the world from coal and oil currently far outweighs that of nuclear.

Still, there is the pesky problem of waste. To me that is the biggest negative to the idea of building new plants. The more plants we have the more waste is generated.  We currently store all this waste on site, at the plant, and the security is not particularly great. The risk of proliferation is moderately high and would become more dangerous for every plant we built.

If we become a nation dependent on nuclear energy sources we are going to have to deal with the waste problem. This is a big enough issue for me to put on the brakes. At the moment I think would have to oppose building of new plants.

However, if the government suddenly showed the political will to not only come up with a plan to transport and create long term storage for nuclear waste but also to actually put that plan into operation, then I would change my mind. I have a hard time envisioning the current government of the U.S. coming together to do that but perhaps with some prodding from an educated electorate anything might happen.

Tell me what you think in the comments, Like, Tweet, Stumble, +1, or otherwise interact!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

P.S. I had a provocative comment from Erick at Patriot Fire about my post on Crony Capitalism. Thanks Erick and keep them coming! Feel free to disagree with me any time as long as you can explain your position! 🙂

Nuclear Plant

Nuclear Power – Pros and Cons

Nuclear PowerToday I’ll try to examine the arguments for and against Nuclear Power. It’s a controversial subject to say the least and I think it definitely needs a further study. It is also an incredibly important argument because energy is the driving factor in many of the issues the world and the United States face.

The need for energy in the modern world continues to rise and how we get that energy and who profits from payments for that energy is a key to future economic power. The rise of the fundamentalist Islamic state was certainly fueled by oil money more than any other factor and the revenue that will be generated by future, ever increasing, energy demands is a topic well worth discussion.

Wikipedia, as usual, rises to the occasion with an excellent article about the debate over Nuclear Power but I’ll try to summarize here as best as possible.

Energy Source

There is little argument here. Nuclear power is a tremendous energy source, just look at the sun, and has the potential to provide all the energy the world needs for the almost infinite future.

Energy Security

This is not about the safety of nuclear energy but about how a country can cut dependence on other nations for their energy demands. Again, for the United States, there is little argument here. Nuclear frees us from foreign dependence. We don’t have the oil reserves to sustain ourselves. I know, I know, we have shale. People, it doesn’t count. It’s not really feasible as a substitute for Light Sweet Crude and it’s not even better than coal for simple power plants. It’s filthy, expensive to extract, and basically not worth talking about compared to nuclear. If anyone tells you the U.S. has huge deposits of oil this is what they are talking about and they are, essentially, lying to you.


Again, nuclear beats out wind, tide, and sun for its reliability. Always on, always ready. However, there is argument that nuclear plants are likely to shut down under extreme conditions. I see this but frankly, so are conventional plants. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that nuclear power is less reliable than other sources.


This is a difficult one to track down. The basic idea is how much does it cost to produce the same amount of energy from nuclear, coal, wind, sun, tide, etc. There are a number of studies on this and it is absolutely true that while at initial glance nuclear power seems cheap there are factors including massive government subsidies to start up plants. Many people will quote the cost of energy in France, very low, but they don’t take into account that the entire nuclear system was built with government money.

Fairly reliable data indicates nuclear costs more than coal, gas, and hydroelectric but less than others. However, as infrastructure for solar and wind increase their cost will drop. It’s a tough one to answer directly. I’d say it’s fair to call nuclear competitive.

Environmental Impact

This is one that nuclear appears to lose, hands down. But, on closer examination it actually does quite well, particularly in comparison to coal which has a large negative impact. Miners lose their lives, filth enters the air and water, etc. Nuclear is largely clean except if disaster strikes. But, when disaster strikes it is bad. Oil spills are bad as well. Clearly, wind, wave, and solar have a lesser impact but solar panels require chemicals to produce and wind turbines take their toll on wildlife. In conclusion I’d have to side with renewable energy on this one.


Ah, the Achilles Heel of nuclear power. What to do with the waste. One possibility is Thorium reactors which don’t produce nearly the large amount of toxicity of uranium and plutonium reactors. Still, they produce highly toxic waste. Storing this waste is a huge problem, not in that we don’t have vast tracts of land available to store it, but do we have the political will to open up those lands and drive the waste across the country to them?


Another thorn in the side of nuclear power. Accidents happen and in nuclear power they can cause utter devestation. Still, oil spills cause far more damage every year than nuclear accidents. France has been on the nuclear grid for many years without a single mishap. Still, the more plants out there increases the chance of accidents like in Japan.

Proposed Fourth Generation plants are definitely safer and Thorium plants actually have very little chance of disaster as they cool naturally over time if a mishap occurs.

Nuclear Proliferation and Terrorism

This is yet another problem for nuclear power. The byproduct of Uranium and Plutonium plants is material that can be converted into a powerful nuclear bomb. If stolen this presents a huge danger to the world. Thorium plants produce less dangerous material but still presents dangers.

All right, I’ve gone on pretty long here. I’ll save my conclusions until tomorrow but hopefully you have a better idea of the pros and cons of nuclear power.

Like, Tweet, Stumble, and comment if you feel the urge!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist

Teaser – Nuclear Power

Tomorrow I start talking about the pros and cons of Nuclear Power. It’s a wide ranging debate and probably worth a couple or more sessions.

Meanwhile it’s good to see that I’m not the only one looking at Valentines Day and Love from a more scientific point of view. Check out the Cosmic Log!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist