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The Case Against Nuclear Fission

Politics / Energy Resources Aug 29, 2007 - 01:31 PM GMT

By: Brian_Bloom

Politics “… Iran 's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust. Iran 's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere."


This is a direct quote from a speech made by George W. Bush, President of the USA on August 28 th 2007 . Source: http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D8RA6IS80&show_article=1

Meanwhile, within the USA (which already has nuclear weapons), the Nuclear Fission industry is lobbying for up to $50 billion of Central Government guarantees (equity risk money) to facilitate the building of 28 new Nuclear Fission power generating plants across the country. It was also reported in the New York Times on July 31 st 2007 that Senator Bingaman's Energy Bill, (he is a Democrat) hands to the Department of Energy the power to unilaterally decide whether to provide these guarantees. (HR3221 sec 9202).

Also of relevance is the fact that Mr Bush has been reported as being a born-again Christian, so here is a quote from the New Testament. “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31 ). Alternatively, Mosaic Law (to which all three of the Jews, Christians and Muslims subscribe in principle) says: “Whatever is hurtful to you, do not do to any other person.”

Let us be charitable and accept that the USA did not invade Iran . Strictly speaking, Iraq is the country to which the USA is doing things that would be hurtful to it if Iran were to do the same thing to the USA . However, arguing against one country having access to nuclear power whilst you yourself are actively planning to roll it out can (again charitably) best be described as hypocrisy. Planning to roll it out under capital structures which seek to sheet the majority of equity risk to the man in the street, whilst pocketing 100% of the equity profits is unethical by any benchmark. One might even argue that it is criminally fraudulent in its intent. Luckily, one cannot be thrown in jail for thinking criminal thoughts.

So, with all the above in mind, let's see if we can be objective about the merits or demerits of Nuclear Fission energy. Let's see if we can unravel all the twisted threads of woolly thought.

***********

As a starting point, it is my understanding that all three of oil, coal and nuclear fission can produce electricity at a cost of something around 3-5 cents per KwH – so all three are equally attractive when compared against this benchmark. Alternatively, all three will be equally unattractive when compared against a benchmark of a lower cost per KwH. It is my understanding that there are technologies waiting in the wings which hold the promise of delivering lower cost energy than 3 cents per KwH. The timing of this will be a function of how supportive or unsupportive Central Governments are to facilitate the emergence of these new technologies. With support, the technologies can be brought to the mass market within seven years according to my understanding of all the facts at my disposal.

This seven years presents an obstacle. If, in the meantime, nuclear fission plants are built, then the nuclear fission industry will represent an extremely powerful voice which can be expected to lobby vociferously against these new technologies. “We have $100 billion capital invested, half of which is public money flowing from the $50 billion equity risk guarantees that we conned you into giving us. We (the US Government and the Nuclear Fission Industry and the Banking Industry) cannot afford to allow this $100 billion to be put at risk by you (the Government) supporting any competitive (lower cost per KwH) technologies”.

But even if we the public sanctioned the building of these Nuclear Fission plants, it would probably take upwards of two to three years to actually build them if they were built without consideration of profitability to the nuclear industry – or losses to the coal industry if these nuclear plants had the effect of replacing the coal fired plants already providing electricity. It follows that the most likely rate of roll out (if these factors are taken into account) would be fairly close to the same seven years it would take to commercialise the lower cost alternatives.

We therefore have a level playing field which, unfortunately, seems likely to host an economic recession in the ensuing years. But let's just swallow hard and accept this as background. It either will or will not happen and its occurrence will unlikely be influenced by which energy paradigm is embraced in seven years time.

The question is: Which energy paradigm should be embraced?

The answer should be: That which is most sensible, all things taken into consideration.

Please note the word “paradigm”. Within any paradigm there could be many different technologies. Here is the argument against the nuclear fission paradigm – a paradigm which seeks to deliberately accelerate the destruction of matter at atomic level, harvest the resulting energy, and control/contain the potential fallout.

  1. The electrical power generated by the nuclear fission reactors will be delivered by copper cable to remote points of consumption.
    1. Along the way, as a result of heat friction, up to 25% of the electricity produced at source will wasted, and as little as 75% will actually arrive at destination. By contrast, if energy could be produced at the point of consumption, up to 25% less energy would need to be produced. Assuming similar costs of production per KwH, it will cost the consumer up to 25% less per KwH if energy were to be produced at point of consumption. Nuclear fission energy fails this test. It cannot be produced at point of consumption
    2. If anything were to happen to the distribution infrastructure (for example, if ambient temperatures within the Northern Hemisphere should fall by up to 10 degrees, thereby causing dysfunctionality in the overhead cable electricity grid) then the electricity produced at a remote location would be incapable of reaching its destination at all. There is a strong argument that can be put forward that the “Global Warming” we are currently experiencing may represent the tail end of an 11,500 year cycle of warming. At least two models are forecasting that this period of warming may reach a climactic close towards 2012 – following which we may enter a period of Global Cooling. Even if these models are wrong, we will still be better off because of a. above. However, if the models are right, embracing nuclear fission will prove to be a serious strategic error of judgement.
  2. In the past 300 years, the world economy has been built on the back of “collateral wealth” that has been facilitated by the sequential emergence of fossil fuel energy paradigms. Burning of wood gave rise to the paddle steamer. Burning of coal gave rise to the railway locomotive. Burning of oil gave rise to the internal combustion engine and the jet aircraft. To date, except for submarines and large ocean going ships, Nuclear Fission has demonstrated zero capability to add collateral value of this nature.
  3. Radio active material, which is the by-product of nuclear fission, will continue to emanate radioactivity (which is harmful to all biological growth – not just humans) for hundreds of years. Burying it under the ground is like sweeping the dirt on the floor under the carpet. Eventually , the planet Earth will become uninhabitable. Sure, it's not our problem today. However, today we are experiencing the consequences of mistakes made by our forbears. Today, we are hysterical about the possibility that climate change may be the consequence of previously erroneous human decisions.

Are there practical alternatives to fossil fuels and nuclear fission energy paradigms?

The short answer to that question is: “Yes. There are several alternatives”.

We should not be reaching for the most conveniently available paradigm which, objectively, has very little to commend it.

By Brian Bloom
www.beyondneanderthal.com

Since 1987, when Brian Bloom became involved in the Venture Capital Industry, he has been constantly on the lookout for alternative energy technologies to replace fossil fuels. He has recently completed the manuscript of a novel entitled Beyond Neanderthal which he is targeting to publish within six to nine months.

The novel has been drafted on three levels: As a vehicle for communication it tells the light hearted, romantic story of four heroes in search of alternative energy technologies which can fully replace Neanderthal Fire. On that level, its storyline and language have been crafted to be understood and enjoyed by everyone with a high school education.  The second level of the novel explores the intricacies of the processes involved and stimulates thinking about their development. None of the three new energy technologies which it introduces is yet on commercial radar. Gold, the element , (Au) will power one of them. On the third level, it examines why these technologies have not yet been commercialised. The answer: We've got our priorities wrong.

Beyond Neanderthal also provides a roughly quantified strategic plan to commercialise at least two of these technologies within a decade – across the planet.  In context of our incorrect priorities, this cannot be achieved by Private Enterprise. Tragically, Governments will not act unless there is pressure from voters. It is therefore necessary to generate a juggernaut tidal wave of that pressure. The cost will be ‘peppercorn' relative to what is being currently considered by some Governments. Together, these three technologies have the power to lift humanity to a new level of evolution. Within a decade, Carbon emissions will plummet but, as you will discover, they are an irrelevancy. Please register your interest to acquire a copy of this novel at www.beyondneanderthal.com . Please also inform all your friends and associates. The more people who read the novel, the greater will be the pressure for Governments to act.

Brian Bloom Archive

© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Comments

G. R. L. Cowan
29 Aug 07, 16:39
Not equally attractive to governments

Coal, natural gas, and nuclear fuel are not equally attractive to governments, even if they produce equally priced electricity. This is because of their respective prices per unit of heat input to the electricity plants' heat engines. A million BTU from coal costs something like US$2, from natural gas about US$6, and from uranium US$0.42.

One reason natural gas plants can be constructed quickly because government likes its gas income. If it lets nuclear plants be built instead, it stands to lose about as many billion dollars in natural gas tax revenue in their first few years of operation as it would in covering defaulted loans on their construction if it stopped them, perhaps through the use of astroturf protesters.

That is, the loan guarantees are just a way of keeping it honest, by making sure it can't gain huge revenues by stopping nuclear plants, as it could in the 70s.

Electricity travels long distances through aluminum wires, not copper. Nuclear plants may soon make motor fuel rather than electricity.


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