Cold fusion is called low-energy nuclear reactions and though it is a nuclear process, cold fusion is nothing like the nuclear fission reaction that powers today’s nuclear plants.
Choose cold fusion for a peaceful next-generation nuclear power.
A natural disaster. A human tragedy.
A 9.0 magnitude earthquake followed by a wall of water over 3 meters high in the open ocean (and a few times higher upon hitting the coast), moving an astounding 800 kilometers per hour. The shock and trauma defies words. Superimpose a nuclear fission plant disaster and the mind is numbed into an empty and quiet desperation.
How do you prepare any large-scale power facility for that kind of geological event? The short answer is, you don’t. These events have been statistically rare enough that design costs outweigh the remote probability of an extreme event. In other words, a cost-benefit analysis concludes it is not economically feasible to construct facilities to withstand these kinds of extreme events. In some cases, current technology is not evolved enough to respond to the geological conditions.
Note that this type of extreme event ”had been” statistically rare enough, based on previous data, which of course doesn’t guarantee any future outcome. At some point, the black swan casts a dark shadow, and from the realm of possibility, a probability of one. Thales said, ”The past is certain, the future obscure” in 600BC.
There is always risk. Yet the amount of risk one takes should be commensurate with the reward. Space exploration is risky, but the rewards, real or intangible, outweigh those risks, and we agree to take those risks to continue expand our physical reach into the universe.
But some risks are not worth the price. What are some of the elements of nuclear fission technology that contribute to its high levels of risk?
FISSION FUEL IS RADIOACTIVE
Fission is the process of splitting large atoms apart into smaller atoms whose combined mass is smaller than the original atom. The missing mass converts to energy. This process begins when a heavy element, like an uranium atom, for instance, absorbs a neutron. Having an extra neutron, it becomes an isotope of uranium, and even heavier. Now unstable, the atom then falls apart into two smaller atoms, releasing heat energy in the process. It is this heat that turns water into steam, which turns a turbine, creating electricity.
The fission process uses the heaviest elements that exist naturally, like uranium and plutonium. These elements are characterized by their natural radioactivity called radioactive decay. During radioactive decay, alpha and beta particles, and high-energy gamma ray photons are spontaneously emitted. These particles and gamma rays are what make-up the radiation.
Radiation is dangerous to biological life forms as these particles and photons interact with living tissue at the sub-atomic level, ionizing the atoms in a body. The effects of ionizing radiation can be sickness, cancer, death, and genetic birth defects for generations. There is shielding against this radiation, but when the shielding breaks down, the environment, and people, are exposed.
An explosion at a nuclear fission power plant can spread radioactive fuel into the environment where, depending on the material, radioactivity can last for decades, or millennia. These particles could then settle in the water tables, in food or clothing, or be inhaled in. The radioactive particles polluting the environment then decay, causing the radiation that is harmful to life.
Beyond a nuclear meltdown, or other catastrophic accident, radioactive fuel must be mined, transported, and processed before it’s ready to use, providing ample opportunity to mishandle the toxic metal fuel. The International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA reports in their International Status and Prospects of Nuclear Power, published in September 2010, that ”uranium mining now takes place in 19 countries, with eight countries accounting for 93% of world capacity.” These materials are at risk by those who would make ”dirty bombs”, conventional explosives laced with radioactive material, the purpose of which is to further spread radioactive poisons to biological systems.
The fuel for nuclear fission plants is a finite resource, geographically located, with all the geo-political ramifications that come with a strategic resource. Currently, the full demand for uranium has not be met by mining, but by recycled materials. According to the IAEA, ”Currently, 35% of uranium needs are covered by secondary supplies – stored uranium or ex-military material – and recycled materials.” Dramatic price rises since 2004 by a factor of 10 anticipate a possible deficit. When industry estimates include low fuel costs, the supply deficit from mining that has been made up by recycled sources must be factored in.
ACCIDENTS WILL HAPPEN
Nuclear fission power relies on a process of chain reaction instigated by neutrons. When an uranium atom absorbs a neutron and subsequently splits apart, on average, 2.5 new neutrons are liberated from that reaction. These newly freed neutrons can then be absorbed by more uranium, creating more fission reactions and more neutrons, continuing the self-sustaining fission process.
The trillions of reactions from all the uranium atoms splitting apart needs moderating. If the reaction goes too fast, and becomes uncontrolled, the fuel will become hot enough to melt. The radioactive liquid mix will form a pool at the bottom of the container, at which point, it can melt through the containment vessels and out into the environment.
A nuclear fission meltdown can leave a region uninhabitable for centuries. Some materials will remain radioactive for geological time, essentially creating a dead zone for humans, as well as other lifeforms who live on this planet.
Japan sits in one of the most seismically active regions of the world and, before March 11, had 55 operating nuclear fission plants. Over the last several decades, power plant designs have evolved into structures with maximum safety features for magnitude 7.9 earthquakes, but not 9.0. Every area of the globe has some type of extreme weather or natural threat that could disrupt or destroy a nuclear infrastructure. Earthquake, tsunami, or super-hurricanes can exact a crushing dominance of Mother Nature over human technology. It doesn’t happen often, but when a statistically rare event does occur, the consequences from damaged or destroyed fission power plants can last millennia.
In the US, there are 104 operating nuclear reactors, 97% of them more than twenty years old, and more than half over 30 years old. This graph from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission NRC shows the average number of unplanned automatic scrams, or emergency shut-downs per plant for all 104 plants.
Did lots of fission plants have no unplanned emergency shut-down, and a mere few have many more scrams? The chart doesn’t answer that. All it shows is a non-zero number of automatic emergency shut-downs.
FISSION REACTORS ARE AGING FLEET
Worldwide, ”about three quarters of all reactors in operation today are over 20 years old, and one quarter are over 30 years old.”, according to the IAEA, and age appears to be a factor in reactor safety. While newer fission nuclear plants have multiple safety back-up systems, the Fukushima plant in Japan was built in 1971, and had only the diesel generators, sitting above ground, as a back-up. When the back-up diesel generators stopped, a partial meltdown occurred.
A survey of the age of the nuclear fleet in the United States shows the majority of nuclear reactors are between 20 to 40 years old, the result of successful efforts by concerned citizens to block the building of new nuclear fission plants after Three Mile Island accident in 1979.
A specially-skilled individual is required to operate, maintain, and troubleshoot the various designs of reactors of this age. Lack of experienced personnel with this decades old technology is a cause for concern in the industry, and nuclear agencies are stepping up recruitment efforts to replace an aging workforce ready to retire. The IAEA reports that countries entering into the nuclear fission power production will have to rely on “their technology providers” for training.
NO GOOD WASTE DISPOSAL
Dangers from mining, processing, transporting, and fission reactor accidents are further compounded by back end radioactive waste disposal. Currently, there is no good method for storing radioactive waste generated by fission plants. Depending on the reactor, hundreds or even thousands of kilograms of radioactive fuel is used. Used fuel rods continue to accumulate in larger quantities and needs to be stored for longer time periods than initially envisaged (over 100 years), according to the IAEA.
This photo showing “temporary storage” of radioactive waste is from the NRC website.
In the US, a planned radioactive waste site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, had a license revoked and will be closed. Finland, France, and Sweden are hailed as ”advanced” in waste storage, with Finland currently constructing an ”exploratory tunnel to disposal depth” in hopes of ”applying for a repository construction license in 2012 so that final disposal can begin in 2020.”
Beyond storage, some spent fuel is ”reprocessed” for weapons, continuing the intimate link between nuclear fission and weapons research. Reprocessing takes used fission fuel rods and transforms the material into another form, like a powder. This procedure has been criticized for creating a product easier to steal than the original heavy array of fuel rods would be. Reprocessing also makes accounting for the radioactive material much more difficult as small amounts may go missing, and not be noticed for years.
A GLOBAL NEED FOR POWER
Look at the top of this page at the Earth at Night montage by NASA. Japan shines bright, indicating a high-technology culture with a need for electrical power. And Japan is not alone.
Many regions of the world shine just as bright. It is these regions that have had the benefits of petroleum that the unlit regions haven’t had, and due to peak oil, won’t have. Yet all the regions of the world want some form of a technological culture requiring more energy. The US Energy Information Administration predicts a 2.3% increase in world demand for electricity through 2035, using a baseline of 18.8 trillion kilowatt hours generated in 2007.
Currently coal generates 39% of the world’s electricity [OECD]. As hydrocarbons continue their slide down Hubbert’s curve, new sources of energy are needed, and fission nuclear power plants are being discussed as a solution.
MORE FISSION NUCLEAR PLANTS ARE BEING BUILT
”Nuclear energy from fission produces slightly less than 14% of the world’s electricity supplies, and it is a mere 5.7% of total primary energy used worldwide”, according the IAEA’s most recent International Status and Prospects of Nuclear Power report.
Yet there are 440 nuclear fission power plants operating today on the planet, creating less than 14% of the electricity supplies. This graph from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission shows the distribution of nuclear fission power plants around the world.
Currently, 60 new nuclear fission plants are being built world wide, with a third of them beginning construction in just the last few years. Ten new reactors broke ground in 2008. This increased to 12 new construction starts in 2009.
The IAEA also reports that 18% of the fission reactors under construction have been under construction for over 20 years.
”Of the 60 plants, 11 have been under construction since before 1990, and of the 11 possibly only three are predicted to be commissioned in the next three years. There are a few reactors which have been under construction for over 20 years and which currently have little progress and activity.”
Asia is a newcomer to nuclear fission technology, but it is this region of the globe that has the highest rate of new construction. Key industries have been ramped up to supply materials and engineering to this young industry.
”All 22 of the construction starts in 2008 and 2009 were pressurized water reactors (PWRs) in three countries: China, Repubic of Korea and Russian Federation”, says the IAEA report. China claims the ”capability to produce heavy equipment for six large reactors per year”. The Japan Steel Works (JSW), a maker of key fission reactor parts, had only a few months ago planned to triple it’s capacity.
This chart from the US NRC shows the number of applications for new nuclear power plants. The US, which had a virtual halt to new fission plant constructions after the 1979 Three Mile Island disaster, also has increased applications for licenses in recent years.
POWER PLANTS ARE EXPENSIVE
New construction costs are rising higher than official inflation as commodities increase in nominal value and stricter design constraints are enforced. The permitting and building of a new plant can easily take ten to twenty years which also contributes to higher costs.
It is currently cheaper to permit and build a natural gas plant than a nuclear fission plant, though this analysis has not taken into consideration the costs of environmental damage in either production or consumption of hydrocarbons.
From the IAEA Nuclear Technology Review 2010:
”The Nuclear Technology Review 2009 reported that the range of cost estimates for new nuclear power plants had grown at its upper end compared to the range of $1200-2500 per kW(e) that had been reported in the Nuclear Technology Review 2006. In the past year, cost estimates remained high…..
”The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) updated a cost study for the USA that it had done in 2003 – its updated overnight cost estimate of $4000/kW(e) is very close to the name of the estimates for north America….. The updated MIT study concludes that, in the USA, the cost of capital will be higher for nuclear power than for coal and natural gas-fired power because of the lack of recent experience and resulting uncertainty among investors. Without this ’risk premium”, nuclear power’s estimated levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) would be comparable to the LCOEs for coal- and gas-fired power, even without fee or taxes on carbon dioxide emissions and even with an overnight cost of $4000/kW(e).”
The private Citigroup Investment Research, estimated ”overnight costs for generic new nuclear reactors in the UK at $3700-5200/kW(e)”, while costs for new nuclear fission plants in Asia are significantly lower. The
NRC IAEA report mentions the Republic of Korea where new reactor costs are $1556/kW(e), allowing Korea to bring ”four new reactors on-line since 2000 and has six under construction.”
The chart here was supplied to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission FERC and shows production expenses, which does not include upfront capital and construction costs. Also, fission fuel costs have risen significantly recently.
The US Energy Information Administration published this table comparing the relative costs of producing electricity for its Annual Energy Outlook 2011, and it does appear to include a ”levelized” capital cost.
Robert Alvarez, a nuclear expert from the Institute of Policy Studies, wrote ”A 1997 report for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) by Brookhaven National Laboratory also found that a severe pool fire could render about 188 square miles uninhabitable, cause as many as 28,000 cancer fatalities, and cost $59 billion in damage.”
We find this cost incalculable.
INDUSTRY SAYS IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE
Whether it’s natural disasters or human error, things will go wrong. Looking at the various facts that cause risk, nuclear fission is a poor choice for Earth’s electrical energy source.
The nuclear fission industry claims a nuclear crisis like what happened in Japan, can’t happen in the US. But Wall Street investment banks said a crash couldn’t happen, and BP claimed they had the technology to deal with anything on the ”horizon”.
COLD FUSION IS THE BETTER PATH
There are services to radiation in medical technology, and the natural radiation that exists in our environment allows for the dating of ancient objects from humankind’s early history. But the various factors that contribute to the disservices of large scale nuclear fission plants to generate electricity are overwhelming, and we conclude that fission nuclear power plants are not safe or cost-effective, especially when the ultra-clean alternative of cold fusion exists.
Cold fusion is called low-energy nuclear reactions and though it is a nuclear process, cold fusion is nothing like the nuclear fission reaction that powers today’s nuclear plants.
For these reasons, we reject current nuclear fission technologies and we support cold fusion as the only viable alternative for ultra-clean next-generation nuclear power from water.
1. Nuclear Technology Review 2010 International Atomic Energy Agency http://www.iaea.org/
2. International Status and Prospects of Nuclear Power International Atomic Energy Agency http://www.iaea.org/
3. United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission http://www.nrc.gov/
4. NRC Probability Risk Assessment
5. United States Department of Energy Nuclear Office http://www.ne.doe.gov/
6. United States Energy Information Administration http://www.eia.doe.gov/
7. Guide to the Nuclear Wallchart
8. The Oil Drum http://www.theoildrum.com/node/3877
9. Cost of Nuclear Power
10. Nuclear Power Costs
11. Nuclear Reprocessing: Dangerous, Dirty and Expensive Union of Concerned Scientists
http:// www.ucsusa.org/nuclear_power/nuclear_power_risk/nuclear_proliferation_and_terrorism/ nuclear-reprocessing.html
12. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission http://www.ferc.gov/
8 Replies to “Dangers of nuclear fission plants exposed; stand in contrast to cold fusion”
Unfortunately you should be comparing the risks of fission produced electricity to the risks of coal or oil produced electricity.
Number of dead workers per year
Number of non-workers made sick per year
Risk of each from climate change
Risk of running out of power source
Comparing fission produced electricity to the risks due to fusion produced electricity is not a good comparison. When cold fusion starts producing electricity THEN you can start making this comparison.
Indeed, you need to be comparing nuclear fission risks to other energy technologies that actually work, or even to ones that theoretically might work (like hot fusion)…..but not cold fusion, which doesn’t even merit the moniker of vodoo science. Science is reproducible. Cold “fusion” isn’t.
There are only two proofs.
Inductive proof and deductive proof.
Inductive proof goes like this I have inspected 1000 swans. They are all white. Therefore all swans are white.
Question. How many black swans does a reasonable man have to see before he can say definitely that black swans exist? 100? 1000? Pick a number. Make one up to your satisfaction.
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
If I see a black swan this in an extraordinary event, therefore I must see a hundred thousand before I believe that black swans exist?
Yes, I am mocking your presumptions.
I do not even need to see one black swan. I am quite content if Captain Cook tells me he saw a black swan.
How do I know that India exists? I have never been there. I would be a lunatic if I went around proclaiming that until India was replicated somewhere else it is a fantasy.
Replication is not scientific “proof”. Falsification is the closest that the scientific method can get to the truth.
Science asks “Is this hypothesis falsifiable?”
The onus is on you, the doubter to falsify about 1000 experiments, not on us to prove that hot fusion is not the only fusion possible.
I have been a long time contributer to the Oil Drum.
When I tried to raise the subject of Rossi’s demonstration I was thrown out onto the street and my contribution erased.
A man should be judged by the qualities of his enemies.
And my enemies have a bad dose of Status. A nasty affliction.
They are going to eat crow.
As a long time listener to Coast to Coast, I thought last night was ohe of the most interesting and informative shows ever. I also think the Elite are actively trying to destroy this country and they will do their usual blocking of this cold fusion industry. As a nation we need to fight this along with their other destructive actions. I hope and pray this cold fusion industry takes off and is successful in giving us much needed alternative industry. It will certainly change the face of the world.
Where can I get some cold fusion? Oh, that’s right, it doesn’t exist yet. Maybe we can propose rainbow-loving unicorns as an alternative to gas-powered vehicles. Do we need diatribe when we’re trying to get people to take alternative energy seriously?
Cold fusion is the viable alternative energy for a technological future.
NASA Chief Scientist Dennis Bushnell is the latest to come out about it. The Naval Research Lab, as well as labs around the globe, have been getting results since day 1.
This technology will emerge regardless of the ignorance that swamps facts.
Ampenergo is a recently formed company that has the license for the Americas for the first commercial device scheduled for public installation this fall. We’ll know soon enough how it’s going to go down.
If this is successful, you’ll be able to get in line to buy one.
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