[LINK] Radiation

Frank O'Connor francisoconnor3 at bigpond.com
Thu Mar 17 18:55:08 AEDT 2011

Mmm ...

It was always a more expensive option, if they concentrated on the 
'safety thingie' ... but I loved the comment that one supplier had 
wanted not only loan guarantees, but also a reduction in the 
standards applicable to reactor construction.

And it doesn't end there ... with radioactive element half-lives 
being so extensive and the propensity of contamination to stick to 
pretty well anything around where fission has occurred, you have real 
big problems with waste products and site decommissioning ... which 
I'd argue dwarf the problem of running a reactor safely. Operations 
isn't really the issue ... although the residents of Fukishima, or 
Three Mile Island or Kiev would probably disagree with me ... because 
that can be factored into the cost/benefit analysis of power 
generation.  (And statistically speaking, running nuclear power sites 
has been a pretty safe proposition over the last 60 years) The big 
problem is when we close down old facilities or try to get rid of 
waste. Either issue generates the 'Mother of All' Toxic Waste Dumps.

That said, building such sites in an area as unstable as Japan was 
always fraught with 'issues'.

Given Japan's geology I'd be looking at geothermal in a big way after 
this tragedy has been resolved ... little or no fuel costs, 
relatively easy to punch holes in the crust, uses energy that's 
already available and is effectively going to waste, and as a 
by-product could probably advance their earthquake/eruption 
prediction science by leaps and bounds. Looks to me like a 
no-brainer. Safe (as any energy generation technology can be), 
economic, and environmentally friendly.

Other viable projects may include ocean wave generation, water 
thermal technologies (the shelf off Japan's coast is deep and would 
probably provide a drop-off par excellence for the piping) and 
off-shore wind generation.

In other words ... Japan should play to its geographic strengths.

Solar probably isn't viable in Japan (not a lot of area to site the 
solar cells, not really and efficient/effective alternative yet, and 
the manufacturing of same tends to dissipate most of the economic and 
pollution benefits anyway), gas or coal have to be imported 
(expensively) and have their own greenhouse issues, and whilst hydro 
is big in Japan there is no way it can supply more than a fraction of 
Japan's power needs.

Of course controlled fusion has been 'just around the corner' for the 
last 40 years ... but I'm guessing that's still a way off before it 
appears. (With the Manhattan Project physicists were trying to make 
what had been a controlled fission reaction into an uncontrolled one 
... with fusion they're going the other way and that is hideously 
more difficult - especially given the mind-boggling energy output 

Just my 2 cents worth ...


At 4:56 PM +1100 17/3/11, Birch, Jim wrote:
>John Quiggin's article on the future of nuclear from today's Fin Review
>(on his site)
>- Jim
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