About the SA Blog Network



Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American
Observations HomeAboutContact

Is Nuclear Power Doomed to Dwindle?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Email   PrintPrint


Courtesy of Progress Energy

The nuclear reactor near Crystal River north of Tampa Bay will never fission again. Duke Energy has decided to shutter the troubled nuclear power plant, which has been shut down since 2009 thanks to a crack in the dome that shields the reactor. Attempts to repair the initial crack had caused other cracks to form and the company estimated that fixing those cracks would cost another $1.5 billion minimum, possibly much more.

As a result, the reactor will instead be mothballed while Florida electricity customers can expect to foot a $1.6 billion bill from 2017 to 2037 to repay the utility for its investment in the nuclear power plant, according to a plan worked out by state regulators. The full tear-down will most likely wait for 40 to 60 years, according to a company statement, in part to avoid adding to that cost.

What will replace the reactor’s 860-megawatts worth of power? Electricity generated by natural gas turbines, according to Duke. In fact, cheap natural gas may sound the death knell for the nation’s dwindling number of nuclear reactors, now down to 102.

The Kewaunee nuclear power plant in Wisconsin will also close this year and plans for new nuclear power plants in Texas and Maryland have been scrapped. At the same time, costs have continued to rise for two reactors under construction in Georgia—the nation’s first new nuclear reactor approved in more than three decades. Critics argue that the new reactors at the Vogtle Power Plant involve too much risk for taxpayers given the $8 billion in loan guarantees that have been extended to Southern Company and partners to build them (though the loans have not been finalized or accepted as of yet). “They [the U.S. Department of Energy] are socializing the risk and privatizing the profits for big power companies,” charged Sara Barczak of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in a conference call with reporters.

The woes facing nuclear reactors are not confined to the U.S. New reactors in France and Finland are behind schedule and over budget and Germany plans to phase out its nuclear fleet in coming years. Meanwhile, the politicians of Cumbria in northwest England voted to reject a planned repository for nuclear waste in their county. Paired with decisions by energy company Centrica to abandon plans to build new reactors in the U.K. and a new government report highlighting nuclear industry incompetence, nuclear energy may be “finished in the U.K.,” according to nuclear power proponent and environmental columnist George Monbiot of The Guardian.

Nuclear power has more steam in countries such as China, which continues to push forward with a massive construction program in a bid to cut down on coal burning. Last week, Westinghouse lowered the top of the containment dome on its first new AP1000 reactor in Sanmen. But even 80 large nuclear power plants will do little to restrain China’s now world-leading greenhouse gas emissions (and air pollution) from all of the country’s coal burning. And Japan’s greenhouse gas emissions have surged in the wake of the decision to shut down that country’s nuclear fleet after the multiple meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi.

U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have been falling in recent years, dropping by nearly 5 percent from power plants alone in 2011, according to Environmental Protection Agency data. Yet, if natural gas power plants begin to replace low carbon but aging nuclear power plants as well as high CO2 coal-fired ones in this country, CO2 emissions will not fall as far as fast—more fallout from the stalled nuclear renaissance.


David Biello About the Author: David Biello is the associate editor for environment and energy at Scientific American. Follow on Twitter @dbiello.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

Rights & Permissions

Comments 41 Comments

Add Comment
  1. 1. sault 6:36 pm 02/5/2013

    “As a result, the reactor will instead be mothballed while Florida electricity customers can expect to foot a $1.6 billion bill from 2017 to 2037 to repay the utility for its investment in the nuclear power plant, according to a plan worked out by state regulators. The full tear-down will most likely wait for 40 to 60 years, according to a company statement, in part to avoid adding to that cost.”

    Great…How come Duke Energy gets bailed out for investing in risky nuclear power plants? Shouldn’t they take the hit for a bad bet? Why are we incentivizing the industry to make similarly risky bets (like new reactors at Vogtle and VC Summer) instead of letting these technologies succeed or fail on their own? I could understand if we were still in the 1970s and commercial reactors only had 2 decades or so of support, but after 50 years we are STILL bailing out these money-sucking reactors.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Carlyle 6:45 pm 02/5/2013

    So 80 new nuclear power stations are not worthwhile in China? What about the equivalent amount of alternative energy capacity? In Germany they are crowing about reaching 40% of installed capacity during peak times but only for breif periods. So in peak times you need 250% more installed capacity to actually reach the full capacity of the present system, for breif periods. What solution do you suggest?

    Link to this
  3. 3. Carlyle 6:49 pm 02/5/2013

    Should read 150% but remember, not 24/7. Peak times only.

    Link to this
  4. 4. rshoff 8:37 pm 02/5/2013

    Nuclear reactors are not the problem, it’s the people that manage them…. Human processes we create to manage nuclear power are not vigilant enough to harness nuclear energy safely over the long haul. Nuclear fission is absolute, human nature is not. Natural gas is a much more forgiving fuel source.

    Link to this
  5. 5. Quantumburrito 9:20 pm 02/5/2013

    No, I don’t think that nuclear reactors should be doomed to failure. It is silly to think that natural gas, with its volatile political dependence, fluctuating prices and safety issues, can solve all our energy problems. The title of this post generalizes from one or two examples. There’s a whole generation of efficient and cheap reactors (especially liquid fluoride thorium reactors and molten bed reactors) waiting to be tested and deployed, if only we can overcome our short-sightedness and irrational fear of nuclear energy.

    Link to this
  6. 6. MrOstling 9:24 pm 02/5/2013

    We should not give up on nuclear all together, merely move our focus to safer lower maintenance nuclear technologies such the LFTR reactor. The LFTR reactor is walk away safe, runs on far more abundant Thorium, produces incredibly valuable isotopes used in medicine and space exploration, and does not produce weapons grade material (in fact it can consume it). It is incredibly efficient thus is able to generate lots of power without lots of waste. For more information have a look at

    Link to this
  7. 7. sault 11:13 pm 02/5/2013

    Re: #6 MrOstling,

    The LFTR has also NEVER been proven commercially and many of its core technologies are immature. All your statements are derived from educated guesses made by LFTR proponents. Just like today’s LWRs were supposed to be “too cheap to meter”, I wouldn’t put all our eggs in the LFTR basket. Lets get a demonstration reactor up and running for a few years first until we have a better idea and can make better-informed decisions about the commercial future of the LFTR. Until then, lets maximize our investments in PROVEN clean energy like wind, solar, etc. and the efficiency / conservation measures that have been shown to reduce demand.

    Link to this
  8. 8. sethdayal 11:43 pm 02/5/2013

    Another usual Big Oil paid antinuclear infomercial copied down by Big Oil’s favorite stenographer here at Sciam. Numerous errors/omissions as usual.

    Duke will soon live to regret that decision as natural gas prices now $3.mcf or 30% the cost of production sustained by Big Oil dumping, rises to its cover its cost. As well, once numerous LNG export plants begin operation prices will rise to international levels of $18/mcf. In the last cold snap NYC prices hit $23/mcf.

    Here’s the experts at Forbes on the subject.


    Since the EPA doesn’t measure methane emissions, which according to real science peer reviewed and published in reputable journal, makes up have the GHG component of natural gas production, we see clearly the influence Big Oil money has on the Obama administration. Every piece of propaganda out the US government on natural gas, spews the Big Oil junk science that gas is half the GHG emissions of coal. Clearly US GHG emission have risen dramically with all this gas use.

    While the always dependable NRC can be counted on, it is only part of the arsenal available to Big Oil to to delay and defer nuclear projects in the US. It practical owns the Obama administration which puts a $two hundred million into nuclear energy, while wasting spending $hundreds of billions in research and subsidies on wind/solar/biofuel/ and clean coal experiments.

    There are 80 reactors under construction worldwide and more the 300 others in the planning and engineering stages, so the slowdown is exclusive to the Big Oil dominated west where $hundreds of billion are wasted buying Chinese wind and solar and Big Oil’s filthy product to provide fossil backup.

    The Japanese government has announced it will be restarting all its nukes as soon as safety checks are completed, and finishing the construction of number of new nukes.

    The problems in Europe relate to the enormous political influence of Green Party warming deniers, scaring investors to demand high finance costs for nukes in their inefficient private power energy structure.As a result of Europe’s worthless wind/solar energy regime, Coal use is expanding at unprecedented rates.

    Unfortunately it appears that Western civilization has entered its sunset, sunk by Big Oil corruption of politicians and media, as the Asian and BRIC economies driven by dirt cheap clean and green nuke energy push us aside.

    Link to this
  9. 9. sethdayal 12:10 am 02/6/2013

    Here’s good old dependable Sault with his laughable claims of a BS and MS in engineering out with his usual low information spew.

    No matter how many times it is pointed out to him, that there are no current subsidies at Vogtle nor are there likely to be and first of a kind VC Summer is doing nicely on time and on budget, cheaper than natural gas at current dumped prices, even though it is at an NRC mandated double the cost of the same units now almost complete in China.

    In an reasoning country Duke would be nationalized and handed over to TVA for administration. I’m sure all those ratepayers powered by coal plant’s all around the country are real pleased to have to pay for corporate bad investments in coal as well. Unfortunately that is the failed public utility model in the US.

    Once again Sault like the Everyready bunny he is repeats the same stupid nonsense despite numerous debunkings that the LWR was supposed to be too cheap to meter based on a quote at a early 1950′science fiction writer’s conference by some nobody speaking of nuclear fusion not LWR’s.

    Despite the $trillion in subsidies worldwide on ‘proven’ wind and solar there is plenty of proof that they have not saved a scintilla of ghg’s. Conservation efforts at a cost less than nuclear have all been exhausted and overwhelmed by rapidly expanding 3rd world energy demands.

    While a commercial demo molten salt reactor could be operational in less than 2 years with a lousy $2B of R&D expenditure and commercial versions of the IFR as GE Prisms operation in 5 years, no money is forthcoming from the Big Oil’s antinuclear White House but they had $15B to spend on nuke weapons.

    Fortunately two new Gen IV reactors are ready for service this year. China has started building a Gen IV HTGR for 2017 service. while Big Oil’s Obama just decided to spend $1M studying the concept.

    Link to this
  10. 10. ErkkiRuohtula 12:39 am 02/6/2013

    Despite the problems and delays at the Olkiluoto site, preparations for another nuclear power plant project are still going on in Finland. There isn’t really very much antinuclear sentiment. Unlike USA, Finland has no fossil fuel resources at all, and most of the renewable resources are already in use or problematic. Windmills have about as much NIMBY problems as nuclear. Solar is not very practical in a country that lies almost entirely north of the 60th parallel.

    Link to this
  11. 11. Carlyle 3:35 am 02/6/2013

    China will reap the benefit o decades of unreasoned opposition to nuclear in the west. Good on them. We deserve it.
    By the end of the year, Chinese companies will begin international marketing of a 1,400 megawatt power reactor based largely on the Westinghouse AP1000.

    Link to this
  12. 12. Dr. Strangelove 3:48 am 02/6/2013

    Nuclear power will make a come back once US runs out of shale gas and Canada runs out of tar sands and China runs out of coal and Germany drives out the Green Party and Japan and the rest of the world end their irrational fear. That could take 100 yrs. Power industry still driven by economics and politics. The French are more rational.

    Link to this
  13. 13. allaphor 6:07 am 02/6/2013

    I think this is basic corporate economics… As long as there are abundant and relatively cheap fossil fuels, they will be used as a primary source of energy. Even if direct lifetime costs for Nuclear Power were exactly the same as those of fossil fuel, the bad PR would still make it a bad investment. Right now the worst of the cost associated with burning fossil fuels is left outside of corporate balance sheets. They pay for workers, maintenance/upgrades and fuel, but not for breathing problems from sooth and farther reaching problems from global warming. What is reflected on power bills are only the direct costs, and consumers, generally, only care about those. Nuclear will get it’s chance when it makes power bills substantially lower than it’s competitors

    Link to this
  14. 14. Fanandala 6:15 am 02/6/2013

    I don’t know if the the writer means 80 large reactors or 80 large power stations. But if they build 80 large reactors they might have a similar capacity as the 102 US nuclear reactors in service. Surely that is quite a lot and very meaningful, especially if you consider the alternatives, in China mainly coal. Ask the people of Beijing.

    Link to this
  15. 15. Carlyle 6:47 am 02/6/2013

    13. allaphor 6:07 am 02/6/2013
    What you say is true. The trouble for western countries is political. The hostility of the anti nuclear groups makes politicians impose unnecessary obstructions. It is these people who ultimately are responsible for the wasteful use of fossil fuels while crying crocodile tears for the environment & the general public are too busy with their own concerns to educate themselves & take the ideologues on. Much easier in China but we will pay for our ignorance.

    Link to this
  16. 16. Carlyle 6:51 am 02/6/2013

    14. Fanandala 6:15 am 02/6/2013
    You detected the spin? Not hard is it?

    Link to this
  17. 17. David Biello in reply to David Biello 10:07 am 02/6/2013

    No spin Carlyle (and my old friend Seth). Simply noting a trend and laying out the facts on the ground. For China, once all those reactors are built, and I assume they will be, and all are running at full capacity, they will provide less than 10 percent of Chinese electricity needs. The vast majority of Chinese electricity continues to come from coal in the next few decades, sadly, and India isn’t far behind. This is *not* good news if you care about greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere:


    Yes, every little bit counts and, yes, the climate will benefit from the fact that China isn’t exclusively relying on coal. But those new reactors won’t be enough even to maintain nuclear power’s share of the current global energy supply. Hence the term dwindle (particularly here in the U.S. with all those likely retirements in the next few decades and no replacements in the pipeline.) The interesting question at this point is whether the exhortations of Monbiot, Lynas, Brand, etc. *for* nuclear power will have any impact on the broader environmental movement in the OECD, which still stands mostly athwart new nuclear or, at best, remains neutral (i.e. not pushing for it, or against it particularly).

    Link to this
  18. 18. dwbd 10:21 am 02/6/2013

    The fact is even the First-Of-A-kind super-safety engineered GENIII Areva EPR being built in Finland, with all the cost inflation, is going to cost $6,500/kwavg output. This is with no supply chain in place, no learning curve cost reductions, no trained or experienced construction crews, no factory construction or assembly line production. No supplier competition. And an onerous, uncooperative regulator.

    Solar & Wind, unlike Nuclear, have NONE of the above disadvantages. They are mature, assembly line produced technologies. And yet Wind is running $8k to over $50k per kwavg energy. Solar is $20k to $100k per kwavg output. The GenIII NPP last 60-100yrs, vs Solar PV maybe 20-25yrs and Wind is now determined to last only 10-15yrs. And Wind it is now known will have a DECLINING capacity factor, as maintenance issues make it uneconomical by the 10-15yrs.

    So the only clean energy competition to Nuclear, is at rock bottom minimum the same cost as the very most extreme inflated cost FOAK nuclear power plants. And that is only if you were so incredibly ignorant of the Electricity Grid that you would compare intermittent, non-dispatchable, seasonal, geographically limited & unreliable Wind & Solar to Nuclear. And add at least triple or quadruple oversized transmission lines to the cost of Wind & Solar. A hidden cost that can equal the cost of the Nuclear Power plants to replace the Wind & Solar. And add the extreme cost of unavoidable shadowing fossil fuel power plants or energy storage to the already high up front cost of Wind & Solar. And then you have the inevitable overbuild, which means Wind & Solar must be dumped when Wind & Solar is high and demand is low. That effectively increases the already high cost of Wind & Solar. And to add misery to madness, the fluctuating Wind mostly, but also Solar to a lesser extent, cause decreased operating efficiency in the shadowing fossil fuel power plants, often wasting as much fuel as the Wind would theoretically save, making Wind energy effectively worthless. And Wind & Solar destroys the economics of clean & efficient baseload Nuclear, CCGT, hi-eff Coal & Hydro, favoring the installation of cheaper low-eff Coal & fuel guzzling OCGT power plants.

    The newest Canadian Hydro plants, in BC, Quebec & Newfoundland are running $8k to $15k per kwavg output. With enormous land destruction. More expensive than inflated cost, FOAK nuclear.

    So the inescapable conclusion is even inflated nuclear costs in the West still beat out ALL clean energy competition. And nuclear is scalable to replace ALL fossil fuel energy production, whereas Solar, Wind & Hydro can only replace a small fraction.

    FACT: Nuclear or Coal. The only serious choices for our future energy production. Pick one.

    Link to this
  19. 19. dwbd 10:30 am 02/6/2013

    How the NRC was used as a tool to hyper-inflate Nuclear Power plant costs, that were running ~$1000 per kw in $2012 before the NRC:

    How phoney regulatory ratcheting pushed up Nuclear Power plant costs:

    What can be done to lower Nuclear Power plant construction costs:

    Link to this
  20. 20. Joel454 1:15 pm 02/6/2013

    the real cost of nuclear power is in land usage and waist storage. The land that these plants sit on will not be used for anything for centuries, and the waist will have to be store for a period longer then the Roman empire lasted.

    Link to this
  21. 21. dwbd 2:00 pm 02/6/2013

    Land usage of Nuclear is TINY compared to ALL other sources of energy. And Nuclear Waste storage is simple-minded, cheap & safe. Dry Cask storage on site or at a simple-minded repository, until it is needed as fuel for GenIV reactors. There is $65 TRILLION – yep, I said $trillion – of clean energy available from just the current store of spent nuclear fuel – and a good deal more if you use the depleted uranium stores. After burnup in GenIV reactors, the remaining waste is valuable industrial, medical, agricultural & security products. One ounce of the high value waste from one American’s lifetime energy consumption.

    Link to this
  22. 22. geojellyroll 2:33 pm 02/6/2013

    Whatever the reasons, nuclear energy is not economically viable. Potential costs, liability, etc, take it off the table. Unfortunately the non viablility becomes self-fulfilling. costs increase even further, etc.

    Nuclear energy needs a vast intellectual and technological infrastructure. This infrastructure developed with the rapid expansion of the nuclear arms race.

    The US and western nations should design, build and maintain at least a few dozen plants (various designs) just to keep the infrastructure healthy. Nuclear energy will be more the norm in the future but it will take know-how and boots on the ground. In todays dollars we probably invested a couple trillion dollars in the technology…it’s worth spending a few hundred billion to keep the technology ‘alive’ instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.

    ‘If nuclear energy is unsafe, not economic, etc. than we can only learn address those issues through real time nuclear plants. We don’t need .no more’ but more advances.

    Link to this
  23. 23. Profitsup 2:42 pm 02/6/2013

    Nuclear power is the only viable way to generate 24/7/365 base load power – if built using engineered package plant designs that are standard and only the site need be studied . . if desalination plants are connected the total 100% output can be used which will lower the cost per KWH to under $.02. The fresh water can be sold to irrigate the dry areas and to recharge underground aquifers . . Solves three needs – cheap reliable power at stable prices, increased food production . . stable water supply.

    Link to this
  24. 24. Wuzawuza 2:50 pm 02/6/2013

    What about these?

    I would like comments – seems logical to me.

    Link to this
  25. 25. sethdayal 3:18 pm 02/6/2013

    Let me revise my Duke Crystal River statement to add that Duke may be dead on as a utility as the gas price increases are automatically passed on to ratepayers.It is there that gas finds its major advantage.

    Most assuredly if Duke had to agree to cover all future gas price increases as part of its new nuclear to gas strategy there would be no nuclear to gas strategy.

    Of course Biello working for Big Oil would forget to mention that the Chinese change their minds all the time. If their experience with building their first of a kind AP1000′s, HTGR’s, MSR’s and Fast reactors is good as it’s already coming in on the Gen III+’s at 3 cents a kwh, and good as we all predict on the Gen IV’s at 1 cent a kwh then come 2020 when all this stuff is in operation, the supply chains set up and the workers trained, the Chinese will rapidly accelerate nuke construction just like they have high speed trains.

    That will spell the end to the western economy as we will have shot our wad on worthless Big Oil based petrol,gas, and chinese wind and solar tech. The Chinese will be waiting to sell us our own technology back at premium prices.

    David needs to learn to do a bit of research. It ain’t only China bro, there are hundreds of reactors world wide in the construction/engineering/planning stages. To be sure most of those will built in countries with Public power, as the failed private utility model cannot finance with greenie jacked private finance rates.

    The big if for Big Oil’s 100% owned media like Sciam and its likewise owned politicians is the possibility of the one large warming based event that kills a lot of people like losing the Pine Island glacier in the Antarctic raising sea level meters over a single year, the shutdown of the Gulf Stream, or a series of devastating Sandy like storms and the folks will begin to realize the extent of the corruption infesting their 100% Big Oil owned politicians and media and demand action and criminal penalties and much much worse.

    These evil and corrupt politicians, poetry based greenies and business/media executives promoting coal/oil/gas domestic and exports now running the Obama administration should remember what happened to their kindred spirits in 1917 Russia.

    Link to this
  26. 26. emcerlain 3:19 pm 02/6/2013

    Two other articles appeared recently at the Wall Street Journal that came to a similar conclusion. In response, NEI’s Richard Myers wrote the following response that I believe also applies here.

    Electricity production issues are not quite as cut-and-dried as portrayed in the article, certainly not from the vantage point of energy companies who must evaluate an array of factors to determine what their future generating mix will and will not be. A nuclear energy facility produces benefits well beyond the electricity it generates. They include economic benefits like jobs, taxes and procurement; grid reliability benefits in the form of voltage support and ancillary services; the environmental benefit of avoided emissions; and the energy security benefits of an electricity source that adds diversity and forward price stability to the electricity supply portfolio.

    It also bears noting that extremely low natural gas prices in the United States are not sustainable. Low natural gas prices are caused by a combination of reduced demand for natural gas (due to subpar economic growth), abnormally mild weather for the past several winters and a major increase in supply (due to improved drilling techniques that have unlocked vast reserves of shale gas). As the result of low gas prices, producers of natural gas have already slowed drilling: the number of rigs drilling for natural gas in the United States has dropped approximately 50 percent in the past 12 months. At the same time, the historic volatility of natural gas prices continues to be seen in the spot market. Just last week, natural gas prices in New England and New York City topped $30 per million BTUs, the highest level seen this winter, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. For New England, this was actually the highest level seen since January 2004.

    Judgments about the viability of any given nuclear power plant are business decisions made by individual utilities based on economic circumstances unique to the facility. The Nuclear Energy Institute’s long-term belief is that, beyond the ongoing construction of five reactors in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee, new nuclear energy facilities will be built once electricity demand rebounds. Demand for electricity in the United States has not yet returned to the level seen in 2007, before the financial crisis.

    Link to this
  27. 27. Carlyle 4:21 pm 02/6/2013

    I am not aware of China putting a limit on future expansion of nuclear power generation. I expect that there will be continuing expansion as they gain experience & expertise. I do not think dismissing their present programme reducing their dependence on fossil fuel, to be justified. If the west continues to allow itself to be hampered by those who do not know what they are talking about & persuing policies that are proven failures, we will deserve what we get.

    Link to this
  28. 28. ronwagn 6:05 pm 02/6/2013

    Nuclear plants are dangerous, and cannot compete with natural gas plants. Here are the sources you need:

    Link to this
  29. 29. dwbd 8:50 pm 02/6/2013

    ronwagn, the NG industry lobbyist back posting his drivel, that he dumps on every news site or energy blog he can find. As usual he can’t justify a single claim he makes, but just posts links to his NG industry propaganda sheets.

    Deaths per TWh of energy:

    Coal: 161
    Oil: 36
    Biomass: 12
    NG: 4
    Hydro: 1.4
    Wind: 0.15
    Nuclear: 0.04

    NG CANNOT supply our electricity generation without massive super-expensive LNG imports from largely the Middle East:

    David Hughes on the coming shortage of NG in Canada:

    Exploding the Natural Gas Supply Myth:

    Deborah Rogers explains the myth about abundant domestic Natural Gas, a must-see video:

    Link to this
  30. 30. bongobimbo 9:25 pm 02/6/2013

    Are Big Power (nukes, oil, gas) advocates greedy? Or are they just not too bright? I’ve been working for alternate sources of energy since 1969 and have often wondered. There seems to be no alternative to those two possibilities.

    I fervently hope that nuclear reactors will dwindle away as soon as possible, that no more will be built, but when they are gone they will leave behind a problem that has never been solved–spent fuel that will continue to be lethally radioactive for eons.

    As for natural gas, the extraction methods are outrageously dangerous, and I’m not the only one to predict the destruction of the larger part of the US’s potable water supply. It’s nothing new. Strip mining ruined the fresh water in West Pennsylvania years ago. My family’s old farm, pioneered in the 1790s, is now entirely torn up and wrecked by the strip miners, and its beautiful clear spring (which provided ample water for generations of large families and for the runaway slaves they housed while Underground Railroad conductors) has been contaminated by coal runoff and is a stinking morass of black sludge. Water contamination is already underway in far more locations across the country from fracking for natural gas. WE, THE PEOPLE, ARE NOT WILLING TO BE THE VICTIMS OF THE 1% SUPER-RICH! The ONLY choice for our future–in fact, the only way humanity will have a technology-based future unless South Korea and partners pull off controlled fusion–is to convert to renewables as quickly as possible.

    Link to this
  31. 31. sethdayal 9:40 pm 02/6/2013

    Say bongo – lets hope you are the first to get chewed by the global warming disaster you bring on. Renewables even at enormous cost do not save any GHG’s until their fossil back up is replaced with green storage. There is no form of green storage even remotely economically possible with technology we can envision today.

    Link to this
  32. 32. dwbd 9:44 pm 02/6/2013

    bongobimbo, the 0.01% super-rich are the ones funding the opposition to Nuclear Power, it is their biggest enemy, the only alternative to energy hegemony. And Big Oil/NG is the #1 promoter of your “renewable” energy. You should take the trouble to learn a bit about energy, renewables are just green-washing for NG & Coal and are not a credible alternative.

    Nuclear = Energy Freedom. Nuclear Energy is the Energy of the People. The only serious energy source that the plutocrats fear.

    Link to this
  33. 33. anumakonda 2:19 am 02/7/2013

    After all Nuclear power is also a non conventional power.
    The nuclear power debate concerns the controversy which has surrounded the deployment and use of nuclear fission reactors to generate electricity from nuclear fuel for civilian purposes. The debate about nuclear power peaked during the 1970s and 1980s, when it “reached an intensity unprecedented in the history of technology controversies”, in some countries.
    Proponents of nuclear energy contend that nuclear power is a sustainable energy source that reduces carbon emissions and increasesenergy security by decreasing dependence on imported energy sources. Proponents claim that nuclear power produces virtually no conventional air pollution, such as greenhouse gases and smog, in contrast to the chief viable alternative of fossil fuel. Nuclear power can produce base-load power unlike many renewables which are intermittent energy sources lacking large-scale and cheap ways of storing energy. M. King Hubbert saw oil as a resource that would run out, and proposed nuclear energy as a replacement energy source. Proponents claim that the risks of storing waste are small and can be further reduced by using the latest technology in newer reactors, and the operational safety record in the Western world is excellent when compared to the other major kinds of power plants.
    Opponents believe that nuclear power poses many threats to people and the environment. These threats include the problems of processing, transport and storage of radioactive nuclear waste, the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation and terrorism, as well as health risks and environmental damage from uranium mining. They also contend that reactors themselves are enormously complex machines where many things can and do go wrong; and there have been serious nuclear accidents. Critics do not believe that the risks of using nuclear fission as a power source can be fully offset through the development of new technology. They also argue that when all the energy-intensive stages of the nuclear fuel chain are considered, from uranium mining to nuclear decommissioning, nuclear power is neither a low-carbon nor an economical electricity source.
    Arguments of economics and safety are used by both sides of the debate.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

    Link to this
  34. 34. anumakonda 2:38 am 02/7/2013

    There are many peaceful uses of Nuclear Energy.
    The large amount of energy associated with the splitting of atom could be utilized for various peaceful applications. Agriculture is one such important sector under the peaceful uses of atomic energy having major societal impact. Nuclear Agriculture and Biotechnology Division (NABTD), a constituent Division in the Bio-Medical Group of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, is involved in a broad based research programme for developing high yielding, early maturing crop varieties with resistance to biotic, abiotic stresses, better nutritional quality and wider ecological adaptability using mutation and recombination breeding and their deployment for societal benefits. Apart from this, the Division is also engaged in other research programmes having direct or indirect societal benefits like development of plant biotechnological methods for cell and tissue culture, DNA markers for marker assisted selection, sterile insect technique (SIT) and biopesticides for integrated pest management, nutrient formulation with improved fertilizer use efficiency, technology related to bioregulators, bioremediation, biosensors, biocontrol and agro-processing. Another major contribution from the Division benefitting the society is the development of Nisargaruna biogas technology for agro-waste biodegradation which is rapidly gaining popularity and acceptance from the municipal corporations for disposal of municipal waste.
    Besides the main stream objective of the nuclear energy based power generation stations to meet the galloping energy demand of a developing economy, the non-power applications employing radiation are also equally rewarding. Medical applications of radiation or more precisely use of radioisotopes in human healthcare is one of the major non-power utilization of atomic energy for peaceful applications. It is interesting to note that radioisotopes are finding equally important applications in both diagnostic as well as therapeutic fields as in-vivo and in vitro radiopharmaceuticals.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

    Link to this
  35. 35. David Biello in reply to David Biello 9:33 am 02/7/2013

    Do you really want to compare Chinese construction of nuclear power plants to Chinese construction of high speed train lines?

    Link to this
  36. 36. David Biello in reply to David Biello 9:34 am 02/7/2013

    SMRs are a great hope for the future of nuclear power… if they can be approved.

    Link to this
  37. 37. sethdayal 12:24 pm 02/7/2013

    Fortunately David nuke power plants tend to stay in the same place bolted to the ground close to customers. Not so likely to run into each if you catch my drift.

    While SMR approval is likely to be an issue in US, there is no problem outside the US where 99% of new nukes will be built. The US will remain powered by GHG and air pollution spewing gas at enormous cost, until the economy crashes probably before 2025.

    There is of course the small possibility that legislators and SCIAM will throw off the Big Oil corruption yoke and begin to act responsibly reining in the out of control NRC before then.

    I’m not holding my breath.

    Link to this
  38. 38. Quinn the Eskimo 2:28 am 02/9/2013

    “Is Nuclear Power Doomed to Dwindle?”

    Only in David Bilbielo’s world.

    Link to this
  39. 39. greenhome123 8:17 pm 02/11/2013

    I think thorium reactors are going to power planes, boats, and helicopters in the near future

    Link to this
  40. 40. Stephengn 11:32 pm 02/22/2013

    I wonder why Artificial Photosynthesis is never mentioned in discussions comparing future energy strategies. Is it really so far from being viable?

    Link to this
  41. 41. robertsmith 2:17 am 02/28/2013

    Thanks for sharing this post…..!! Really, it provide more important information regarding nuclear power.

    Link to this

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Email this Article