Physical Insights

An independent scientist’s observations on society, technology, energy, science and the environment. “Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop. Many passengers would rather have stayed home.” – Carl Sagan

Archive for the ‘anti-nuclear quote of the day’ Category

Anti-nuclear quote of the week.

with 2 comments

“The reuse of spent fuel is catastrophically dangerous. It means separating plutonium from the radioactive waste, fabricating it into fuel rods and fueling a reactor with 5 to 15 tons of plutonium, which is cooled by liquid sodium, a highly reactive explosive material.

As 10 pounds of plutonium is critical mass, and as less than one millionth of a gram is carcinogenic, a loss of the volatile coolant could induce a massive nuclear explosion which could be seen from the moon, scattering deadly plutonium to the four winds.”

There are no prizes for guessing who this is from. You can stop over on that page and post comments, if you feel so inclined.

We seem to just keep hearing claims that move further and further from reality, and further into the realm of just Making Stuff Up.

There was one simple sentence delivered by Carl Sagan in The Demon-Haunted World that Caldicott, and her followers, might do well to take heed of: Try science.

Please just try the scientific method, just for once.


Written by Luke Weston

October 9, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Anti-nuclear quote of the day…

with 2 comments

With concentrated solar, high temperature electrolysis of hydrogen is more than 100% efficient. Nuclear reactors for making hydrogen have temperature limitations.

Emphasis is mine. I’m sure there have to be a few TOD readers who aren’t going to let that stand unchallenged.

Written by Luke Weston

April 25, 2008 at 7:54 am

Anti-nuclear Quote of the Day.

with 4 comments

“Of course it [nuclear energy] isn’t sustainable. When finite resources are consumed, the amount decreases. Clearly consumption of the resource is unsustainable. Didn’t we learn that with fossil fuels and fossil water?”

There’s no such thing as an infinite energy resource.

That’s the second law of thermodynamics.

In a thermodynamically isolated system, there’s no such thing as “renewable energy”.

Sooner or later the uranium runs out, sooner or later the radiological geothermal heat in the Earth runs out, sooner or later the hydrogen in the sun runs out… and sooner or later, the free energy of the universe runs out, and everything in existence ends.

There are no renewable energy resources, and there are no infinite energy resources – there are only those energy resources which are sustainable in practical terms over the foreseeable future of human civilisation on this planet.

In about 2.5 billion years time, the Andromeda galaxy and our own Milky Way galaxy are going to collide with each other and merge together. My astrophysics is a little bit rusty, but suffice to say that things could get a little interesting gravitationally for our solar system.

Planning things out regarding resource sustainability on Earth beyond such a timescale is impossible, and arguably, irrelevant.

Anti-Nuclear Quote of the Day.

with 2 comments

“It has been estimated that every nuclear reactor daily releases thermal energy – heat – that is in excess of the heat released by the detonation of a 15 kiloton nuclear bomb blast. ” [Sourced here]

Let’s see. One kiloton of TNT equivalent equals 4.184 * 10^12 J. 15 kilotons is equal to 6.276 * 10^13 J.

This is the amount of energy which, when released in a single instant, destroyed Hiroshima. That seems like a lot of energy, doesn’t it?

Let’s try converting 6.276 * 10^13 J of energy to a more relevant unit of energy.

6.276 * 10^13 J = 17.4 gigawatt-hours.

But it’s only 17.4 GWh – on the scale on which we generate electrical energy, it’s tiny! It’s not a lot of energy at all – it’s peanuts!

Let’s say that a power plant has an electrical output of 1 GW, a capacity factor of, say, 90%, and a thermodynamic conversion efficiency of, say 33%.

Such a power plant will generate thermal energy equivalent to a 15 kiloton nuclear weapon – every 6.4 hours.

That’s the power output of the plant. Yes, we know what the typical power output of a large power plant is. Big deal!

It doesn’t matter what it is – a nuclear power plant, a coal-fired plant, a biomass burning plant, or a solar thermal plant – 1.16 GWh of energy is the same as 1 kiloton of TNT energy equivalent, irrespective of where the energy comes from.

Moral of the story? The kiloton of TNT equivalent is a very large unit of explosive energy release. As a unit of energy release in general, there’s nothing especially large about it.

Let’s imagine that you could somehow store up all the electrical power that a typical large city consumes over a single 24 hour period  – say, in some kind of hypothetical, enormous capacitor – and release it in one sudden burst, lasting a tiny fraction of a second. The resulting power output would take the form of an explosion not unlike the detonation of a nuclear weapon, with an explosive yield of tens of kilotons, capable of destroying the city. However, obviously, the normal rate at which energy is generated in our power plants is completely safe and controllable. Everybody knows that!

Here’s another laughably ridiculous statement:

“In addition to horrendous direct impact of this heat on aquatic ecosystems, nuclear power contributes significantly to the thermal energy inside Earth’s atmosphere, making it contraindicated at this time of rapid global warming.”

Geothermal, solar thermal, and fossil-fuel fired power plants are all thermal engines, too, you know. They all discharge waste heat into the environment.

If you want an energy-converting engine that operates with perfect efficiency, perhaps you should consider investing in these guys to solve all your energy problems?

You might not like the laws of thermodynamics – but they are not something that applies exclusively to nuclear power.

Anti-nuclear quote of the day.

with one comment

From a nuclear energy discussion thread over at The Moderate Voice:

Me: ‘The radioactive waste generated from the nuclear reactors at Oklo, two billion years ago, didn’t have containers that could rupture or rust.’

Them: ‘So, was this before the Borh seeded the earth, or after Von Daniken’s ancient astronauts?’

OK, So I didn’t explain in any real detail what the hell I was actually referring to, but I figured that this might catch the reader’s interest or imagination enough for them to do a tiny bit of research.

There’s nothing really scientifically exotic about the Oklo reactors – “enriched” Uranium, water coolant, water moderator, criticality – and lo and behold, you’ve got yourself a nuclear reactor.

Given that understanding them is straightforward, they’re an interesting natural phenomenon, and they give us valuable information about how nuclear fission products migrate in the Earth’s crust and in groundwater, over extremely long geological time scales, timescales more than long enough for even the longest-lived radioactive nuclides to completely decay, I like bringing them up in discussions, as I figure they are a natural phenomenon that even anti-nuclear energy people can find interesting.

Anti-Nuclear Quote of the Day

with one comment

I always enjoy reading the work of Stewart Peterson over at NIOF – you should, by all means, go check it out.

One regular blog theme you’ll note over there is the “anti-nuclear quote of the day”. I quite like it, so I thought I might post one of my own.

Whilst it might come across slightly cynical to you, if anti-nuclear people didn’t often make a habit of saying inane, nonsensical things, perhaps people like me wouldn’t look at the anti-nuclear movement with quite so much cynicism.

“Ask someone in the city of Hiroshima what the think about nuclear power.”

— from the discussion thread here.

Sadly, some people couldn’t tell you the difference between nuclear power, nuclear weapons, somatic cell nuclear transfer and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. That, in itself, is nothing to be ashamed of, but these people don’t even care to know. They see the word nuclear, and that’s it. It’s bad, evil and stupid and kills your children. If you support it, they’ll call you names.

Written by Luke Weston

September 16, 2007 at 10:43 am

Anti-Nuclear Quote of the Day.

with 3 comments

“Once presented, the facts will speak for themselves.” — Helen Caldicott, Nuclear Madness

Written by Luke Weston

September 3, 2007 at 7:59 am