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August 08, 2007


Kit P

Maybe FPL is planning to build new nuke plants so they are working on local support.

In the US there are 104 operating commercial reactors demonstrating 'the latest technology'. Every 18 to 24 months fuel assemblies are replaced with the newest designs which are 100% more efficient using than 30 years ago uranium with a corresponding reduction in the amount of spent fuel.

Notice I did not call it waste. Currently one US reactors is demonstrating several MOX fuel assemblies built in France using plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons. A MOX fuel assembly factors just started construction using a French design.

The main point here is that the nuclear industry is mature and evolving. Older plants are being updated with newer control systems and more reliable components.

All US plants have environmental monitoring programs and many have created popular recreation areas.

Ruth Sponsler

I don't really see anything "desperate" about this. The plant created an appropriate habitat for the crocodiles in its cooling canals - and the crocodiles moved in.

I think it's legitimate publicity.

Nuclear power is poorly understood by the public, but is a LOT safer than fossil fuels. Think about those poor coal miners trapped in Utah. Contrast with Three Mile Island, which didn't kill anyone.

Kit P

Ruth, commercially produced electricity is very safe in the US. While nuclear is about two orders of magnitude safer than coal, the risk for both are very small numbers compared to risk the population takes for granted like heating with wood.

Jim Holm

Nuclear is our only fast way to end Global Warming before it ends the world as we know it.

Greg woulf

I like nuclear as an option. I think we're in for tight times that will force the issue.

I still think we need to be cautious in the amount we use. The time it takes to reduce waste to a safe level is longer than any government, or even civilization has been around.

Do you see the U.S. government, or any other remaining stable for the next 200 years? I think that's a risky prospect.

200 years doesn't even touch the half life of the waste we'd be producing.

Back to the article, I'm glad for the crocidiles. I think it's important to spread the word that nuclear isn't some sort of 3-eyed toad producing thing.

This is PR, but relevent PR.


Putting aside safety issues, what about waste? That's a HUGE problem that needs to be solved before claiming nuclear is the only viable option for the future.

Remember that any more money spent on nuclear is less money spent on renewable alternatives. Are we really sure we want to go that route?


I heard this story several months ago on NPR. The reporter interviewed some biologist about how these crocks thrive at this plant because they are protected from developers and poachers.

This is the type of environmental story that all companies like to brag about. Kudos to FPL for helping this endangered species.

Don B.

Everbody wants to build a NEW powerplant! "Clean Coal", "Modern" nuclear, MOX....why not Nega-watts?! An aggressive, well-managed energy conservation program has proven effective in the past at eliminating the need to build new plants. Sure, jobs are created in building these plants...but many more good-paying jobs are created in doing energy audits on residential/commercial/industrial/institutional applications. THe "low-hanging fruit" of Energy Conservation could easily replace over 20% of our present generation...long enough to R&D and implement a mature/stable Renewables industry.
"Clean Coal" has yet to prove itself beyond theory, and still will add to our planet's terrestial "heating balance sheet". In case you don't understand, think of the balance of incoming solar radiation to re-radiation and longwave heat loss. Now dig up FOSSIL fuels and burn them at <40% efficiency.... Quadrillions of BTUs have to go somewhere!? HINT: they all don't go back into outerspace!
Nuclear...lets prove that we can PROPERLY manage the waste that we've created over the last 50-60 yrs, find someplace to properly TRANSPORT and STORE the most deadly substance known to mankind...then you might have me on the nuclear issue. Ever heard of N.I.M.B.Y.?

Until then,...NEGAWATTS

Don B.


Like Florida our nuclear power plant has 100’s of acres managed by the State Conservation Department and is promoting wild life habitat. It’s clean. It’s great.

As I recall, the last US nuclear plant to be built was in 1969. The newest approved designs have many fewer valves, pipes, etc. and are fail safe by intrinsic design. The US is behind most modern countries in deploying nuclear generation. After 50 years of safe US production (not one radiation related safety illness) it is time we move on. It is by far the cleanest, safest and cheapest power source for our needs. This is all on the NRC web site and extremely well documented due to all the fears.

I just read the electric power forecast for my state. The population keeps growing, the homes are getting bigger, there are more electric items in out lives, etc, etc. Our power company is leaning toward coal for increased generation. I hope they go nuclear. Nuclear is welcome “in my back yard” for many reasons. JohnBo

Jim Holm

We are afraid of nuclear electricity for only one reason: We have been told to be afraid and we believed whoever told us. Never before in the history of humanity has Franklin Roosevelt's famous statement "We have nothing to fear but fear, itself." been so true and so important.

Stephen Boulet

According to article in New Scientist, the waste might be made safe in decades.



Here is yet another round of nuclear power is safe, cheap and clean whereas the reality is that it is none of those things.

It is only cheap with massive subsidies and by ignoring the waste disposal problem. Only one country is really having a go at permenant disposal of spent nuclear fuel and that is Sweden. All the rest are just storing it above ground fervently wishing that it would just go away while saying publicly that this is managing the waste. Sweden's program for their 4 reactors is costing 12 billion dollars. The US's program has stalled yet again despite year of trying and France is not even bothering.

Reprocessing has been tried commercially and has failed in all attempts. France does it however that is a state run socialist program that does not have to make a profit and I am sure is unacceptable to you libertarians. Large scale reprocessing only increases the proliferation danger.

The reactors are now acceptably safe in principle however that is completely ignoring the quality control problems that would only be made worse by a crash building program that would be necessary for nuclear to make any difference at all. Apart from reactor safety there is the question of proliferation. I cannot understand if the nuclear fuel cycle is safe why such efforts are being made to stop Iran from having safe green nuclear power. Look what Pakistan and India did with safe green nuclear power.

For the US I also cannot understand why you are so keen to base your whole society AGAIN on a fuel you do not have. Surely the lesson of fragile oil supplies should have been taken in. The US has very little uranium and to assure supply you will have to make sure that every country that has uranium is too scared not to sell it to you.

This greenwashing of nuclear power is a joke. Just because isolating a population of animals and then giving them warm water to swim it does not mean the source of the isolation and water is benign and green. The true costs of nuclear power are never stated.


Cannot but wholeheartedly agree with everything Ender said.


This myth of no new nuclear plants in the US for over 3 decades keeps popping up. The newest nuclear plant in the US is Tennessee Valley Authority's Watts Bar Plant. Construction began in 1973, and Unit 1 began full commercial operation in June 1996. http://www.tva.gov/sites/wattsbarnuc.htm

Newer reactors have been installed at existing plants. I'm all for that. If there's going to be spent radioactive material stored at a plant site, I want there to be working experts nearby to keep an eye on it. I'd rather not have some shut down nuclear plant with old radioactive material lying about forgotten while all the experts retire and die.


It seems the US has a fair bit of uranium, and we're probably betting on staying friends with Australia and Canada who together have almost half the world's uranium reserves.

I keep reading that there's uranium in coal ore and coal plants put out much more radiation than nuclear plants...also that there's more energy in the small bit of uranium attached to the coal than is in all the coal itself. There's a company trying to extract uranium from coal ash. I guess they haven't succeeded in making that profitable, but maybe it will be if we ever hit peak-uranium.


Waking up from the PR effect. Why should crocodile supports think that nuclear plants are good? It seems it's the cooling waters that attract the crocodiles. Wouldn't the cooling waters from a coal, biomass, natural gas, oil, geothermal or solar thermal plant do just as well?


1) Nuclear power, until recently, receives no subsidies. The Price-Anderson acts essentially says that a) Nuclear plant operators must take out the maximum amount of private insurance possible. b) Pay into their own insurance company with all other nuclear power plants. c) If this amount is exceeded the government pays the rest. The government has never payed a dime, and I don't expect it to in the future. The nuclear plants pay for managing their spent fuel, and pay a surcharge for final disposal. The government has billions of dollars from it right now(It should be enough if Yucca keeps getting delayed, see the plants are still putting money in). The new loan guarantees are a subsidy, but if their are no loan defaults(I've got my fingers crossed), again the government won't have to pay a dime. The tax credits are a subsidy, but at least the nuclear industry pays A LOT of fees to the NRC.

2) Reprocessing does not cost that much more than not reprocessing. It could be cheaper, depending on the cost of geologic disposal(and I'm only talking about PUREX). The costs were analyzed for the dept. of energy. I can't remember the report but you could take a look if you want. I figure it's about the same cost as geologic disposal give or take 30%. It's not a proliferation risk anymore. To get a semi-acceptable bomb you need highly pure Pu-239. Fortunately, after two weeks, the Pu-239 in a rector starts to change to Pu-240 & Pu-241. These absorb neutrons and keep the bomb from going off. Or sometimes they spontaneously emit them, setting the bomb off prematurely. It's just too much trouble to reprocess your way to a bomb(using a commercial reactor). Just use a military or research reactor, that's what India, Pakistan, and North Korea did.

3) The nuclear fuel cycle is safe with inspections. I'm with you, I don't understand all the fuss over Iran. Oh, and India and Pakistan had weapons before power plants, see 2.

4) The US has large amounts of uranium in the west. It's just cheaper to import it.

5) The true cost of nuclear power isn't stated, but it is well documented. What cost?, EVERY cost! Economic (for the owners and the community), environmental, even the carbon cost. And nuclear is cheapest, if you consider all the costs.


I would consider this a significant step toward crocadiles that glow in the dark, a laudatory goal in night time swamp safety.


I fully agree with Jason. This is the most scrutinized industry and it has the cleanest record while producing 20 percent of our electricity. It’s been here over 50 years. As far as spent fuel there are new methods just now coming into being with the new forth generation reactors. The new generation reactors are NOT in service today.

The spent fuel from power generation is already very small. As far as fuel supply some groups estimate there is an unlimited supply. Uranium can even be extracted from sea water. The cost is not much of a factor since it takes so little.

I extracted the below from the Department of Energy web site. It is but a small illustration of the positive news out there for nuclear.

The US Dept of Energy has a mission called the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative. There are 6 advanced reactor designs known as IV Generation Nuclear Energy systems. These are proposed to be deployed beginning after 2010. These newer plants will reduce the spent fuel toxicity and quantity by fifty fold. (This information is at the Dept of Energy web site in reports to Congress).

Stephen Hamilton

So it took 23 years and a Billion $$ before the TVA Nuclear plant turned out its first electron.

With that kind of $$$ You could populate California, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada median strips of Interstate and Intrastate highway system with wind and PV lollipops, get the first electrons within weeks; finish production in no more than a couple of years and produce more electrons in 23 years than the Nuclear system could produce in the next 10 years by which time the Solar equivelent would produce ever more electrons.

Oh by the way... Minimal waste and all recyclable!

Kit P

Tennessee Valley Authority just announced that they are going to complete construction of Watts Bar 2 near Spring City, Tennessee where the high was 98 today. Where I live the high was 98. Electric utilities in the southeast are hitting record demand the last few days.

It is very easy to figure out why TVA is not building solar systems in California, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada. Stephen Hamilton could invest his own money in solar systems, if he thins they work as well as he claims.


Jason - "Nuclear power, until recently, receives no subsidies. The Price-Anderson acts essentially says that... "

The self delusion of nuclear people knows no bounds. So answer this: If the Price Anderson Act is not a subsidy why does the US nuclear industry need it and why was it recently extended. If nuclear is so cheap and safe why would you need such an act and more to the point why would you need it extended???????

"Reprocessing does not cost that much more than not reprocessing. It could be cheaper, depending on the cost of geologic disposal(and I'm only talking about PUREX)."

So why have all commercial re-processing plants failed and closed down?

"3) The nuclear fuel cycle is safe with inspections. I'm with you, I don't understand all the fuss over Iran. Oh, and India and Pakistan had weapons before power plants, see 2."

I am glad that you are so happy for Iran to have nuclear power as at least you are not hypocritical. I personally regard any expansion of nuclear power with horror especially to such an unstable region. The fact the Pakistan and India had weapons before power plants is irrelevant as the produced their weapons grade material from the nuclear fuel cycle. If you recall the US had nuclear weapons before power plants as well and nuclear power is really only a laundry process of what is essentially a weapons program that needed a civilian use to justify the enormous amount of money that was spent developing nuclear weapons and to falsely reassure people that nuclear power is not about weaponry and destruction.


Personaly I would prefer a natural eco-system over a crocodile farm.
I also prefer the use of one nuclear reactor at a safe distance, The Sun.


Ender says "If the Price Anderson Act is not a subsidy why does the US nuclear industry need it and why was it recently extended. If nuclear is so cheap and safe why would you need such an act and more to the point why would you need it extended???????"

If wind power is the be-all and end-all of renewable energy, why does it need the Production Tax Credit? When most states now MANDATE the construction of renewable energy resources, why do wind developers say they still need this subsidy of $19/MWh?

Research the manufacturing of PV cells. It's pretty well hidden (gasp!), but there is a large amount of CO2 released and a substantial amount of electricity consumed to create a PV cell. On a life cycle analysis, they are not nearly as benign as claimed.

Not to mention numerous toxic chemicals used in the process. A few years back, a pipe leak at a computer chip (same silicon production process as PV) facility in Moses Lake, WA killed two workers and put two more in the hospital.

It barely made the papers.

What would be the outcry if there were two workers killed and two hospitalized from an accident at a nuclear plant?

Kit P

Really Greg, I do not think so since you have just used the Internet to communicate your preferences unless an Internet cafe is how you define a 'natural eco-system'. The safe distance from a nuclear reactors can be less than 100 feet. We are also not a safe distance from the sun. It is necessary to protect your skin from sun burn.

If you check 10CFR20 you will find that commercial nuclear power plants must limit radiation exposure to the public to less than a fraction of natural background. After 100 year of using very large exposures to radiation for medical treatment, we have learned that the benefits outweigh the risk.

It should also be noted that FPL is the largest producer of wind and solar renewable energy.


A natural eco system is one where man keeps his arogance from interfering with nature.
I missed the point about the internet cafe.
The sun is part of nature, we learn to live with it, lets learn to use it too, more than we already do.
How do you heat your water at home?
I use solar. That reduces my hunger for electricity by 30%.
Some people don't like simple solutions.


Everyone touts wind and solar power as the answers but fails to recognize the cost to the consumer.

As currently constructed the cheapest sources of power are
1) Old Hydro NA
2) Nuclear $21-31 per MWh
3) Coal $25-50 per MWh
4) Gas $37-60 per MWh
5) Wind $37-95 MWh
6)Micro-Hydro $40-80 per MWh
7)Solar $150 per MWh

While the world will need every possible source of energy to fuel global growth over the next century and beyond, there needs to be more government investment into renewable sources of energy and nuclear energy in order to make those sources more economic.

Many environmentalists tout the benefits of renewables such as ethanol but don't see the cost in using it. The amount of energy produced from using ethanol in our cars is the same amount of energy that is used in the production of ethanol, since these plants all run off of natural gas, so net net you are not creating energy. Not to mention the nitrogen depletion from growing corn and the trapped ozone that is created when ehtanol is burned (on top of the CO2 emitted).

The fact is there is no one answer, wind and solar will not be able to make up all the energy we are getting from conventional sources and never will in our lifetimes. If the investment is made and solar panels are cheaper to produce then in the future we will have a solution to our energy problem. But until then the only alternative is to make our current energy sources cleaner and make our end users - you - more efficient.

So turn off your computer, go for a walk, stop watching TV all the time.


Ryan, I fail to see how can a wind turbines power plant require more money to be maintained than a nuclear power plant. I say "maintain" because you mentioned costs per watt hours, rather than just watts. How did you draw those figures?

And does the cost for the nuclear power plant also include the maintenance of the waste?


You probably didn't know that the investment in thermal solar (for the end user, not for profit making utility companies) pays for itself in 5 years or less.( some in almost 1 year). Heating water, homes and industrial applications requiring heat, are a large portion of the total energy use. We should start there, were the impact is fastest. Sorry to say this but it is stupid to create heat (with coal, gas or atomic reaction) to create steam to drive turbines that produce electricity wich is sent many, many miles on sagging cables just to heat water with what I call a glorified short circuit inside a tank. This tank lets off heat to an air conditioned room in Florida.
Of course we need electricity but lets use the apropiate technology for each case. In Canada they are using the heat from summer and storing it underground for use in winter. You could combine it with ground source heat pumps.
The numbers you used for solar are probably based on PV panels.
The technology for converting heat (100F) into mechanical force with high efficiency is already developed, I wouldn't have used it to pump petroleum though. The Natural Energy Engine by Deluge Inc.
P.D. I believe we are trying to solve issues, no need to get uptight.

Jeremy Norman

I would just like to say have you heard the lastest scoop on Helium3 from the moon. Sounds like a good clean source of power but I am not sure about strip mining the moon seems drastic. We need to start improving the earth with what we have here first I think.. We really need to look into Wind and Solar power to generate the worlds need for energy. visit www.naenterprises.us for other earth friendly ideas and products.


Nice discussion.

Ryan’s cost for electric power is in line with what I have read. I think he omitted thermal solar. One should strive to be objective and balance cost, safety, environmental impact and practicality. I have no love or hate for any technology. You are foolish and irrational if you do. You can not ignore the success of nuclear power if you consider it objectively.

Fabio, the reason nuclear power is less costly to maintain than wind is because of the huge amount of power it provides. Can you imagine trying to service 6 GWe of wind machines… it would take an army of personnel. A 6 GWe nuclear plant is compact and requires few operators and maintenance personnel.

Folks get all emotional about nuclear but gladly accept our highway system that kills over 40,000 people per year here in the US! There is a big disconnect with common sense here. There is no practical argument against nuclear from what I see. Hey, it’s even proven that alligators enjoy nuclear power benefits. :)



however, does the provided cost for nuclear power also include the cost of handling waste?

Kit P

Here is the latest total average production cost per Mwh for reliable sources of electricity in 2006:

1.Nuclear - $17.20 (including spent fuel disposal and decommissioning )
2.Coal - $23.70
3.Wood waste - $40 (educated guess)
4.Gas - $67.60

O&M is by far the highest cost factor for nuclear. Most of nuclear O&M cost are fixed. Cost per Mwh are reduced by keeping the capacity factor high. Fuel cost are a very high factor for gas.

What this mean in the present market? Unreliable sources of electricity like wind need a PTC of $18/Mwh or a RPS to encourage construction for the unknown risk.

I do not know the O&M cost for wind but Ryan's numbers look reasonable. The wind industry is not yet a mature industry and has a long way to get cost down. Ice damage and lighting stikes may make it an impossible task.

Greg, when I lived in California my hot water was solar generated. Designed and built by me. Winter heating was 90% passive solar and 10% wood. Summer cooling was thermal mass.

I strongly discourage people who use terms like 'natural eco system' form producing their own energy. The fire department and EMTs will show up at your house sooner or later to stuff your family into body bags. Every year more children will die from home fires and carbon monoxide poisoning than coal miners.

I cringe whenever goof balls talk about saving money with home style renewable energy. For those willing to take the added risk to be self reliant that fine. However, home style renewable energy is not safer or cheaper.


Fabio, regarding the costs of spent fuel, below are direct quotations from the US Government, Energy Information Administration (EIA) web site. The entire paper can be read at:


From the EIA web site under “Nuclear Power Plant Wastes” here is the direct quotation:

“Nuclear fuel disposal costs are funded by a surcharge on the cost of nuclear fuels. Presently this charge is 0.1 cents/kWh of power generated. Charges are intended to cover the costs of disposal of nuclear wastes, though they are levied on power generation and not waste. The funds accumulated for spent fuel disposal have sometimes been identified as a public subsidy to the nuclear power industry.[5] Whether this is the case depends very much on perspective and definition.”

Fabio, please read the above very carefully. We all (in the US) pay 0.1 cents/kWh surcharge on power from every nuclear plant. This is collected by the Federal Government to pay for spent fuel processing costs. This seems fair to me. Somehow the “hate nuclear” crowd turns this surcharge fee into a public subsidy argument. The alternative would be to have each power plant operator handle their own waste which would be crazy. I am absolutely NOT for big government, but I am totally in favor of government handling nuclear waste. And what better way to fund it? Even with this “paid up front” disposal cost, nuclear is the cheapest, safest, greenest electrical power we have in capacity (key word capacity). This is the only power source capable of substantially reducing our fossil fuel use (key word substantially). It takes research to make these claims but in my reading from reliable sources this is my conclusion. JohnBo

Kit P

JohnBo, it would be nearly impossible for a commercial nuclear industry to do a more inept job than DOE. If each utility has to dispose of spent fuel following the same regulations as DOE, we might have 50 operating repositories but the job of storing the spent fuel until it has decayed to a safe level (about 300 years) would be getting done.

Each utility would pick a good and cost effective solution from the set of many good solutions, design the repositories and license it following the guidelines. This process would take about 10 years.

DOE has turned this whole issue into a science project. Clinton put the “hate nuclear” crowd in charge of DOE nuclear programs with the idea that the nuclear industry would die when the spent fuel pools filled up. Each utility had to apply to the NRC for a interim dry cask storage facility. Some utilities even sued DOE for the additional cost and won. The irony is that spent fuel is no longer a barrier to building new nuke plants because there is a ton of case law from all the legal battles that “hate nuclear” crowd generated.

To be fair to DOE, the renewable energy part of DOE was just as inept under Clinton. There was an abundance of money for AGW, feasibility, and environmental justice studies but not for building stuff.


Kit, Thanks for enlightening me on this. I am sure you are right. What was I thinking when I thought for a moment that government control was better? I should know better. Thank you for waking me up on this. JohnBo


Kit P doesn't tell us what his reliable sources are, we're supposed to take his word for it. Wonder how reliable is a source that says "educated guess" for wood waste.

For nuclear costs, I decided to look at a source that is probably both reliable and biased, the Nuclear Energy Instittute http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/nuclear_statistics/costs/
They say for 2006 the average
Fuel cost was 0.46 cents/kWh
Operations & Maintenance costs were 1.26 cents/kWh.
They say that production costs are the sum of those two. That adds up to 1.72 cents/kWh which is equal to the $17.2/MWH that Kit P mentioned. However they specifically say that "Decommissioning costs are not included in production costs." So that $17.2/MWH does not include decommissioning costs of "about $300 million per reactor". I don't think it includes construction costs either, considering the following.

The NEI show world figures for life cycle costs which "include construction, operations and maintenance, fuel and decommissioning" For nuclear, they are $21-31/MWh, matching Ryan's numbers, which seem to come from the an NEA/IEA survey including 13 nuclear plants and 17 wind plants around the world. http://www.iea.org/Textbase/publications/free_new_Desc.asp?PUBS_ID=1472


[Greg says, The time it takes to reduce waste to a safe level is longer than any government, or even civilization has been around.]

[Fabio says, What about waste? That's a HUGE problem]

[Don says, Lets prove that we can PROPERLY manage the waste that we've created over the last 50-60 yrs… Ever heard of N.I.M.B.Y.? ]

Emissions from US coal plants kill 23,000 Americans each year, a silent 9/11 attack every two months.

See Page 12 of

Actually most of the waste ends up in shallow trenches. It will eventually erode into streams and rivers or blow through the atmosphere, possibly killing thousands more in the future, deaths not accounted for in this study.

Imagine that we reduce this number to zero by capturing all those waste products.

This will generate thousands of kegs of mercury, arsenic, sulfur, cadmium etc. every year. We need to bury them someplace safe, say under Yucca Mountain. But wait, what is the half life of these toxic materials, infinity. No government can reliably safeguard these materials until the sun swells up to engulf the earth 3to5 billion years from now. Therefore we must give up coal power, or we can just continue dumping the waste into the environment killing thousands of people each year, no stewardship required.

Converting 5.4 ounces of uranium into fission products will release enough heat to generate an 80 year lifetime supply of electricity for an average American and displace the burning of 1,140,000 pounds of coal and prevent the release of 2,440,000 pounds of CO2. Less than one ounce of the fission products will still be radioactive at end of life.

Look at the graph on page 5 of this report, page 18 of this PDF.


The top line shows that unprocessed spent fuel decays to the level of uranium ore in 130,000 years. Notice that the scales are logarithmic, it looses 90% of its toxicity in the first 500 years.

The thick black line shows that the toxicity of fission products drops 90% in the first 90 years and drops below uranium ore in 270 years.

But only 5% of spent fuel is waste (fission products), 95% is unburned fuel. Imagine that internal combustion engines burned only 5% of their fuel and passed the rest out the exhaust pipe with the combustion products. Would you;

A ___ Collect the unburned fuel and exhaust products, put then in an expensive container, and bury them under Yucca Mountain.

B ___ Bury the combustion products and recycle the unburned fuel.

That is our choice with nuclear power. Option A can meet our needs for several hundred years but option B makes more sense in the long run.

Dumping toxic waste into the atmosphere is dangerous because;

1 There is only about 15 pounds of atmosphere per square inch of earth’s surface.

2 We breathe the atmosphere.

3 We live immersed in the atmosphere.

Dumping toxic waste in the ocean is not as risky.
If we dissolved all man made fission products in acid and dumped them into the ocean the resulting risk would be much less than the risk of coal power because;

1 There are over 3,000 pounds of sea water per square inch of earth’s surface and water is an excellent shielding material.

2. We do not breathe or drink sea water.

3 We do not live in sea water.

4 Seawater already contains vast quantities of radioactive material, yet it accounts for only a tiny fraction of our radiation dose. The fission products would increase the activity of seawater and our exposure by a tiny amount.



The oceans contain 4.6 billion tons of uranium, sufficient to support 10 billion people for over 30,000 years.


In reality the oceans are continuously resupplied with uranium by the erosion of land, so the uranium supply is effectively unlimited.

We know that the deep ocean contains slow moving currents that isolate vast quantities of sea water from the biosphere for over a thousand years. We could inject the fission products into the deep ocean and they will decay to non radioactive atoms long before they reenter the biosphere.


I do not recommend this approach but offer it to show how easy it would be to implement an energy supply that dramatically reduces CO2 emissions, improves quality of life and will save thousands of lives per year, using proven technology.

My recommendation is this;

1 When fuel is removed from the reactor it goes into the spent fuel pool. Water is the ideal medium for fresh spent fuel because of water’s excellent shielding characteristics, high heat capacity, and transparency.

2 After several years the heat rate is low. The fuel is transferred into dry cask storage, a hermetically sealed container, vacuumed to remove all trace of moisture, and then partially filled with helium, a non corrosive gas with good heat transfer properties. The cask is shielded by thick layers of concrete and steel.

3 Maintain a low level R&D program to incorporate advances in materials and technology into the development of a fully automated fuel recycling system.

4 Develop commercial applications for radioactive and non radioactive fission products.

5 As time goes by the value of the material in spent fuel increases while the cost of reprocessing decreases. When those two curves cross reprocessing becomes economically attractive and should begin.

6 Uranium and plutonium are recycled into advanced reactors, useful fission products are sold.

7 Unused waste is buried at sea.

Scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute were asked to look at ocean disposal for nuclear waste. Oceanographers spend most of their life on, in or near the sea. They love the ocean, so the idea of putting waste there was not appealing. Being good scientists they looked at the possibilities and found that the oceans contain large areas of deep dense mud ideally suited for retaining fission products. The containers will be designed to last far longer than the brief period of geologic time required for the fission products to decay to safe levels. If a container fails the mud will contain the fission products. If any fission products escape from the mud they will be quickly diluted to safe levels in the seawater which contains a huge mass of naturally occurring radioactive material, far greater than the amount produced by human activity.

The nuclear power industry contributes $1.00 per mWh to a government held fund to dispose of nuclear waste. The industry has paid in $24.8 billion, of which $6.6 billion has been spent, very inefficiently, to study a dry land repository.

Humans live on one fourth of the earth’s surface. It makes sense to dispose of nuclear waste under a very small portion of the other three fourths.


Thanks for your post, Bill H., it'll be a useful reference material for me and, I suppose, many other people.

Need to think up about this issue for a while... I still believe that going totally nuclear NOW would subtract too much funds from renewable sources of energy which are proving to be a good alternative. Nonetheless, it would be good to have a thorough, unbiased outlook on the whole issue, so to draw a final, mathematically proven, conclusion.

I mean, it should be possibile to make a study which considers all possible sources of energy and their inpact on the enconomy, environment and health, whose conclusion should be a chart depicting the relative benefits and disadvantages of every possible source of energy, so to tell us where to focus our efforts.

It would be an interestint open community-driven project, indeed. Wonder if someone has already thought of it?


Thank you Bill H for your post.

Fabio you said, “I still believe that going totally nuclear NOW would subtract too much funds from renewable sources of energy which are proving to be a good alternative.”

Should we not consider nuclear a renewable source? A small amount of matter can power the earth’s energy needs until the sun burns out. It is likely that there is enough uranium on earth but if not Einstein’s equation holds true for all matter. I expect future scientists will find ways to convert or breed materials for energy conversion.

Another point about “renewable” energy sources is we must consider the total life cycle. For example a wind to electric machine has a finite life and then it must be replaced. It takes energy, materials, labor, etc. to handle the old worn out machine and construct a new machine. The energy source is free but the machine is not. There is a lot of apparatus needed in a wind machine to make relatively little energy. PV is worse. You can never hope to make large amounts of energy with few materials because there isn’t the energy available in a square foot of wind or sun. The physics is against you. At least with nuclear there is a huge potential. I am not at all against wind, solar, geothermal, etc. conversion systems. I just feel we green folks have not been objective in our assessment of nuclear. There is more fear and emotion with nuclear than it deserves.

Kit P

Clee, I stand corrected on nuclear decommissioning cost. My estimates for wood waste are very unreliable in general but accurate for at least three wood waste plants. When site specific location for power plants are chosen, it is necessary to figure out what costs are going to be for the next 60 years.

Bill, it is not true that 'Emissions from US coal plants kill 23,000 Americans each year, a silent 9/11 attack every two months. See Page 12 of ....' since the report you cited is one of the best examples of blatant lying that I have ever seen. This report has people dying where there are no people and takes credit for people dying where there are no coal plants like Southern California.

For example, Washington State, Oregon, and Idaho can avoid 28 deaths under the Jefferds Bill (Appendix A) by placing a more pollution controls at the coal power plant in Boardman Oregon. The root cause of PM10 in that semi-arid region of the PNW is wind erosion and wild fires. California can avoid 124 deaths by increasing regulation on non-existent coal plants.

Anyhow Bill, you may want to be more careful about citing political motivated studies. If a senators is making a speech for the record, assume they are lying until you have satisfied that they are not.


"It makes sense to dispose of nuclear waste under a very small portion of the other three fourths."

No, actually it doesn't. Concentration is exactly the problem with that waste. Spreading it out over a large area or volume is one of oldest environmental mitigation strategies. However, in this case that would not be the most politically correct thing to do. Objectively though, it’s not too bad an option.

"We do not breathe or drink sea water."

Certainly you have heard about the ecological food chain. Radiation accumulates ever more as you go up in the food chain; the relative amount of radioactive particles in bodies increases with each step, not unlike pesticides do. Humans happen to be at the top of the food chain.

So the waste needs to be spread over a vast area. That would be quite intensive, in terms of money, time and energy.

Also, keep in mind that other countries might not execute all those points you offered very well. Developing countries and certain less benevolent regimes might be a little bit loose in treating the entire fuel cycle if you know what that means. They’re not too stable either, you know. So there’s legacy issues there.

And then there’s interest rates, mentioned before. Nuclear doesn’t work very well with current high interest rates. PV is suffering from this same problem, albeit to a lesser extent.

JohnBo when you say nuclear gets more fear than it deserves, you take a USA perspective on the matter. That's nice, but we need world wide solutions, and currently nuclear isn't a good contender in this respect. Nuclear advocates tout their power source as fantastic, but no power source is that. Nuclear has + and - sides. Just like PV, and coal for that matter. Whether you think it is good or not depends on where you place your priorities. So much for objectivity.


Hi Calamity, Yes I am in the US and my comments are only for electric power systems here. What other countries do for electric power is up to them. My priorities in order of importance are safety, environmental impact, cost and dependability. It seems to me nuclear is our best choice for large base load electric generation.

Kit P

Calamity, I think Bill was referring to putting spent fuel in robust and corrosion resistant transportation containers and depositing it a deep sea trench or subduction zone so fission products will not enter the food chain.


Why not just leave them onsite? They aren't going anywhere. We dont need to go on giant quests to dispose of spent fuel.

Paul Diet

We dont need to go on giant quests to dispose of spent fuel.

Indeed. Seal it in armored casks and guard them. The volume is sufficiently small that the present cost of this would be quite acceptable -- even if it has to be guarded for centuries to come -- thanks to nonzero interest rates.

The technology to deal with the waste will continue to advance, so I suspect it will eventually be reprocessed. Granted, the people of that future generation might decide to it on the Moon (or elsewhere in space, if the Moon has become too populated).

There is simply no need to permanently dispose of the waste now, or with current technology.


[Kit P says;
Bill, it is not true that 'Emissions from US coal plants kill 23,000 Americans each year]

Kit P
If you know of a more accurate calculation give us the reference. What do you think are the correct numbers for deaths and injuries from coal, and why?

This study was performed by EPA’s own air quality consultants using EPA standard methodology, and agrees with the EPA on the benefits of the Bush plan. Surely you are not accusing George Bush of being anti coal are you?

More details here;


George Bush has turned the EPA into a political arm of the White House. It will tell you how many lives are saved by the Bush plan, but it will not tell you the total number of deaths and injuries from coal, or how many lives can be saved by stronger plan.

The Clean Air report gives the big picture, it is the report the EPA should have produced in their use of our tax dollars. My compliments to the Pew Trust, without them we would not have this information.

Recent studies indicate that women are more sensitive to air pollution than previously thought, 23,000 deaths per year may be low.


[. California can avoid 124 deaths by increasing regulation on non-existent coal plants.]

Coal plant emissions do not stop at the state line. For example, we are getting more and more toxic waste from China via the jet stream.

[Calamity says;

Certainly you have heard about the ecological food chain. Radiation accumulates ever more as you go up in the food chain; the relative amount of radioactive particles in bodies increases with each step, not unlike pesticides do. Humans happen to be at the top of the food chain. ]

Calamity, please provide references backing up this statement.

The oceans have contained billions of tons of radioactive material since they were formed. Coal plants release much smaller amounts of mercury. So, why are we more concerned about mercury in fish than radiation in fish?

Why don’t old people set off radiation detectors? Should we bury old folks in titanium coffins 2000 feet underground? Where does the radioactive waste go during cremation? Do crematoriums release more radioactive material into the environment than nuclear power plants? Possibly.

Strontium is somewhat similar to calcium. Our bodies continuously absorb calcium and radioactive strontium from our food and incorporate it in our bones. Our bodies also continuously excrete calcium and strontium, otherwise we would become giant lumps of calcium. The ratio of strontium to calcium in our bones depends on the ratio in our food and that has been decreasing since atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons stopped.

[Also, keep in mind that other countries might not execute all those points you offered very well.]

Other countries might not execute advanced medical technology very well, should we give it up?

Denmark has been trying to execute windpower since 1979 by offering enormous subsidies. They lead the world, producing 150 watts of windpower per person and pay $295 per mWh. Germany, $212 per mWh and Netherlands $258 per mWh, have also pushed wind hard. In the US we use 1,550 watts per person, of which 300 watts comes from fission, and we pay $100 per mWh.


France is 80% nuclear and pays $144 per mWh.

Operating expenses for US power plants are as follows;

Gas Turbine $58.85 per mWh

Fossil Steam $27.69 per mWh

Nuclear $18.16 per mWh


Can you identify any other low carbon energy source that has demonstrated operating expenses this low, in large scale commercial plants, that can be expanded to meet our needs and displace coal at the same time?


The only thing I can see wrong with Bill’s message is that a capital M should be used to designate Mega-Watt-hours as the lower case letter designates milli which is 9 orders of magnitude smaller. Well Gee!!! Okay I am picky!!! Bill did get everything else right. This is just to illustrate that even if you are right about nuclear power you can be criticized... Ha-ha.

Your message was very well done Bill. Thank you, JohnBo


The technology to deal with the waste will continue to advance, so I suspect it will eventually be reprocessed.
It will eventually be reprocessed even if technology doesn't advance, simply because the hot fission products will decay. In three centuries spent fuel will be about as radioactive as dirt, about as toxic as lead, and filled with lots of valuable platinum group metals, even if we treat the uranium and plutonium as having negative value.


Bill Hannahan said: "Calamity, please provide references backing up this statement."

The basic principle is that lower food chain organisms accumulate a tiny amount of radiation (this can be from background radiation/atmospheric); these then get eaten by higher food chain organisms. The tissue etc. gets digested, however some of the radioactive particles do not decay much over the lifetime of organisms, and are only partially lost as excrement. Repeating this step ever higher up the food chain, the concentration ratio of radioactive particles will increase. It's more complicated than that in reality, with some species more susceptible to radiation or accumulation of it etc.

Here are some references:

Radionuclides in the Lichen-Caribou-Human Food Chain Near Uranium Mining Operations in Northern Saskatchewan, Canada


“The oceans have contained billions of tons of radioactive material since they were formed.”

Yes, but the crux is that this material is extremely dispersed. So that is what could be done with all the radioactive waste. Storing it on site (of the power plant) is probably the best way to go for now.

“Do crematoriums release more radioactive material into the environment than nuclear power plants? Possibly.”

For the USA that may actually be true. But not for Russia, which has historically leaked an order of magnitude more radiation into the environment than all the nuclear discharge of Chernobyl.

“Other countries might not execute advanced medical technology very well, should we give it up?”

This argument is not very compelling. If the USA goes full nuclear then:

1. What is the rest of the world going to do? Haven’t you noticed that economically growing countries such as China that you mentioned above are copying Western, thus also USA energy generation mixes? That is, mainly coal, hydro, nuclear? If nuclear was the best option, then why are they installing mainly coal fired plants? You know the answers.
2. How long would the domestic supplies of natural uranium last? IOW will breeders (thorium and/or plutonium) or alternative mining techniques become safe and economical (and legal!) enough in such a relatively short timeframe? This is betting on technology without a backup plan and sorry, but that’s not very strategically sound.

“France is 80% nuclear and pays $144 per mWh.”

Because France is 80% nuclear, does that mean the world could also be 80% nuclear? Has it never occurred to anyone that there is a possibility that nuclear works because it only represents a small part of our energy mix? Currently nuclear is, after all, just a relatively rare physical fuel dependent energy source, with all it’s strengths but also shortcomings.

“Can you identify any other low carbon energy source that has demonstrated operating expenses this low, in large scale commercial plants, that can be expanded to meet our needs and displace coal at the same time?”

The obvious omission is that you only consider operating expenses. Why would you do that? Grand total costs is far more relevant. Which isn’t very transparent for nuclear. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate nuclear but it’s just that IMHO yes there are better overall alternatives, for example solar thermal with large amounts of storage, in particular CLFR, which can be scaled up at least as fast as nuclear in the USA if someone has the guts to actually do it.

PS I find it very convenient that you consider lead acid as the storage of choice for PV. Reminds me of those tacky Duracell commercials, you know those with the rabbits. “They last much longer than the zinc carbon batteries”. Yeah right. And my car is faster than a T Ford. Your facts are right as far as I can tell but they are selectively i.e. conveniently chosen. No solar thermal either in your paper. Where I’m from this is called “information shopping”. It is not appreciated in the academic world.

Dezakin said: “In three centuries spent fuel will be about as radioactive as dirt”

No government is three centuries old. No nuclear industry is even close to three centuries old. That is analogous to saying that someone has worked in some company for x years, so this person will certainly work there for another xx years. Ridiculous, because several things might happen:
- The worker might get ill (cannot work anymore)
- The worker might die (cannot do anything anymore)
- The worker doesn’t like the job or the company anymore (stops working)
- The company might get “ill” (workers get fired)
- The company might “die” (go bankrupt)
- The company might be displeased with the worker (fires the worker)

In my analogy, the company might be considered the government (or even the public in a democracy). The worker might be the nuclear industry. Lots of stuff might go wrong. Place your bets ladies and gentlemen.

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