So, who wants nuclear power then?


by Sunny
30th July, 2008 at 4:55 am    

Justin has started blogging for a new blog by Greenpace about nuclear power, called Nuclear Reaction. I contribute monthly to Greenpeace anyway, so happy to give it a plug. But his introductory post states this:

With nuclear, not a day goes by without a jaw-dropping news item. The industry news is chock full of ‘NO WAY!’ moments. Much of it is darkly, surreally comedic. If you were to write a sitcom that involved some of the nuclear incidents I’ve blogged in the last few weeks, the show would bomb as too far-fetched.

The nuclear power plant that is actively contributing to global warming. The Japanese nuclear recycling plant which will release a collective dose of radiation in the next 40 years equivalent to half of that released during the Chernobyl disaster. The Canadian nuclear plant where they lost a piece of the reactor radioactive enough to give you a year’s worth of radiation exposure in a few minutes.

The American nuclear waste storage facility with the $32 billion cost overrun. The French rivers that had ‘only’ 18,000 litres of uranium solution poured into them this month. The 100 workers at the same plant who were ’slightly’ contaminated this month. The other French nuclear leak this month, from a pipe that had been faulty for ’several years’.

And yet, there are still people who live in the 1950s utopian fantasy that nuclear energy will solve all our problems including global warming. Jesus have mercy on their souls (or something). Why all this money keeps getting spent on nuclear energy rather than on renewable sources continues to mystify me. Anyway – good to see Greenpeace trying to find ways to challenge the myths around nuclear power.


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  1. Bert Rustle — on 30th July, 2008 at 9:09 am  

    Richard North has an illuminating article A politically-induced crisis

    … Expensive gas is particularly painful for Britain, which relies on the stuff to heat around 85 percent of its homes. The country also uses gas to generate around 40 percent of its electricity, a particularly high proportion that is set to rise still further over the next decade.

    The reason cited for this is the closure by 2023 of all but one of Britain’s “doddery nuclear plants” and new environmental laws (aka the EU’s large combustion plants directive – although The Economist does not state this) which “could mean that up to half of coal stations will have to shut down over the coming years.”

    … Specifically, the company [npower] states that the UK has benefited from a diverse energy mix which has helped to ensure security of supply through the balance of nuclear (around 16 percent), gas (around 31 percent) and coal (around 35 percent) generation. In recent years, it says, there has also been an increase in renewables, which now constitute between 2.5 and 3 percent of the UK generation portfolio.

    However, even with energy efficiency measures reducing demand growth below historic levels, the company says that it anticipates that peak demand will grow by almost 9GW between 2005 and 2015. During the same period, 7.5GW of nuclear plant (Magnox and AGR) is expected to be decommissioned as well as up to 4GW of older Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) stations.

    This, we are told, requires investment in 20GW of new plant by 2015 in order to maintain a 20 percent capacity margin. With peak demand then forecast to grow by almost 4GW between 2015 and 2020, and the retirement of old coal and oil plant under the Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD) by the end of 2015, the UK would require almost the same amount of new plant again to maintain security of electricity supplies.

    … [npower state that] “The principal impediment to effective markets and investment decision-making is uncertainty regarding the environmental legislative and regulatory framework.”

    When the lights go out, it will not be because there have been any technical impediments to the supply of the power we need. The cause will have been regulatory failures which have inhibited and distorted investment decisions. And, because of that also, the power we do get will be that much more expensive. ..

  2. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 9:53 am  

    There is no substitute for reducing consumption! In fact, we need to reduce consumption drastically, and we needed to do it starting ages ago, so we’re already on borrowed time.

    Bollocks to forecasting that “peak demand will grow by almost 4GW between 2015 and 2020″ – says who!? Says the people who stand to make a whole lot of profit from ensuring that it does!

    Well, it’s time to declare that we have no choice other than for peak demand to fall – rapidly – and to then plot out a clear roadmap of the steps required to achieve that in a reasonable amount of time (which gets shorter the longer we take to respond).

    Otherwise, if we don’t plot our energy descent and stick to it, then the “alternative” is that we’re going to have to make the transition almost overnight when our energy supplies just dry up.

    Figuratively speaking, if we want the lights to stay on, we’ll just have to prioritise that over other uses of the same energy, because there’s no way we can continue to have our cake and eat it like we’re doing at the moment.

    “Requiring” more energy is not about meeting the needs of people – it is about maintaining the industrial growth economy in the face of mountains of evidence that doing so is absolute collective suicide.

    The problem is not one of technology, but of mindset.

  3. MaidMarian — on 30th July, 2008 at 10:52 am  

    Dave S (2) – That’s great, it really is and I do not doubt per se the truth of what you say.

    Go and try to convince China and India of that.

  4. cjcjc — on 30th July, 2008 at 10:55 am  

    The problem is not one of technology, but of mindset.

    Well it is probably both, isn’t it?

    The Japanese nuclear recycling plant which will release a collective dose of radiation in the next 40 years equivalent to half of that released during the Chernobyl disaster.

    So that’s, erm, just over 1% of that “dose” per year.

    If those are the scariest stories Greenpeace can come up with then my support for nuclear is assured!

  5. shariq — on 30th July, 2008 at 11:18 am  

    I’m for Nuclear Power. A couple of points to make. Firstly, some of these ‘disastrous’ power plants are ones using old technology. New nuclear power plants would be much more efficient.

    I’m not a scientific utopian. Nuclear Power will not solve all of the worlds problems, but it will enable us to reduce greenhouse emissions without sacrificing necessary development, especially in the ‘third world’.

    As I’m not an expert on this, I’ll refer you to James Lovelock who formulated the Gaia hypothesis in the first place.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Lovelock

    “A television interviewer once asked me, ‘But what about nuclear waste? Will it not poison the whole biosphere and persist for millions of years? ‘ I knew this to be a nightmare fantasy wholly without substance in the real world… One of the striking things about places heavily contaminated by radioactive nuclides is the richness of their wildlife. This is true of the land around Chernobyl, the bomb test sites of the Pacific, and areas near the United States’ Savannah River nuclear weapons plant of the Second World War. Wild plants and animals do not perceive radiation as dangerous, and any slight reduction it may cause in their lifespans is far less a hazard than is the presence of people and their pets… I find it sad, but all too human, that there are vast bureaucracies concerned about nuclear waste, huge organisations devoted to decommissioning power stations, but nothing comparable to deal with that truly malign waste, carbon dioxide.”

  6. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 12:03 pm  

    MaidMarian @ 3:

    I’m afraid the “China and India” argument has been done to death, and is a pretty spurious one.

    Our per-capita consumption (and thus per-capita pollution too) are much higher than theirs. Yes, they have larger populations than us, but it is per-capita that counts, and per-capita that should be equalised (if anything is going to be equalised).

    For the largest consumers/polluters to refuse to take any steps until India and China do exactly the same, is kind of like the fattest man at the table, upon realizing that the food is running out, continuing to eat faster than anyone else while simultaneously demanding that the hungry people who just sat down must cut back just as much and at the same time.

    We can’t continue to use so much energy – we are running out of fuel. We can’t continue to pollute so much – the environment can’t take it. We have to act now, ourselves – not make excuses and point fingers at others who should do something first. We don’t have the capacity to force change on others, but we do have the capacity to change ourselves, so let’s bite the bullet and do it. Any “alternative” is suicide, and burying your head in the sand won’t make one iota of difference.

    cjcjc @ 4:

    Well it is probably both, isn’t it?

    No, I don’t really think it is. We’ve already more-or-less solved the technology side of things, and the answer that’s coming back stronger than ever before is: we have no choice but to consume less.

    Sorry if that disagrees with your outlook on the world.

    So that’s, erm, just over 1% of that “dose” per year.

    If those are the scariest stories Greenpeace can come up with then my support for nuclear is assured!

    There is no such thing as a “safe dose” of radiation.

    To draw an analogy, eating a 1kg dose of cyanide would certainly kill you. So would you be comfortable with eating 1% of that?

    Plus there are plenty of other reasons that nuclear power will never be able to bail us out:

    1. Time to come online: it takes 20+ years to build a nuclear plant, meaning it will have little or no impact on either peak oil or climate change.

    2. Insurance: the insurance industry refuses to underwrite nuclear power, meaning that the “invisible” subsidy comes directly from the tax payer. (People often bang on about subsidies in the context of renewable energy, but if you want to see rampant subsidies, look no further than the nuclear industry.)

    3. Waste: We already have a mountain of nuclear waste (10,000 tons in the UK alone), which will increase 25-fold when existing plants are decommissioned, and with deep burial as the only “solution” currently in sight. Disposing of nuclear waste requires huge amounts of energy, as well as the embodied energy in the materials used to contain it.

    Remember that Stonehenge was built “just” 4000 years ago, while the half-life of nuclear waste is 100,000 years!

    Society in 30 years time (yes, that’s US!) is probably not going to have the resources required to keep nuclear waste contained, especially if we start to produce a lot more of it. What about society in 1000 years time? Any escape of nuclear waste into the environment could potentially turn the Earth into an uninhabitable rock. What a legacy to leave our children… except we’re leaving it for ourselves too, within our lifetimes.

    4. Cost: Nuclear is staggeringly expensive. In fact it’s more expensive per unit than any other form of energy production, as far as I’m aware, even including renewables.

    5. Peak uranium: There are about 60 years worth of uranium left. If all the world’s electricity were generated by nuclear, we would run out of usable uranium in about 3 years. Yes, there are other fuel technologies and reactor designs that have been worked on, but last time I checked, none of them were actually viable, and most of them had been abandoned as such.

    6. Carbon emissions: While the actual generation of electricity using nuclear fuel is “carbon free”, the entire process (mining, processing, enrichment, treatment, disposal etc.) actually produces the equivalent to one-third the emissions of a conventional gas-fired power station per unit of electricity.

    Now, to be honest, I don’t really worry too much about a new generation of nuclear power plants. Sure, politicians love to talk about it, and will dangle it there for as long as possible – indeed, I’m sure they’ll even try to go ahead and start building them. But I’m sure we’ll be running out of resources long before the first one even comes online. If that isn’t the case, and by some miracle, we start generating lots of our power by nuclear means, then we’ll be running out of usable fuel in no time anyway.

    I don’t think I need to spend any more time demolishing the “case” for nuclear power. It pretty much demolishes itself as soon as you start looking into it.

    Sorry, but nuclear isn’t going to save us even by a long stretch of the imagination.

    It’s time to consume less of everything.

  7. cjcjc — on 30th July, 2008 at 12:12 pm  

    Dave S – you obviously can’t wait to get back to the middle ages.

    Don’t let me stop you.

    If you are as right as you have obviously convinced yourself you are, I assume you have already bought your remote Scottish island farm and are kitting it out survivalist style as we speak?

  8. cjcjc — on 30th July, 2008 at 12:13 pm  

    There is no such thing as a “safe dose” of radiation.

    Ever had an X-ray?

  9. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 12:17 pm  

    Shariq: Would you care to define “necessary development”, and state who’s perspective you’re defining it from?

    Perhaps you’d like to try and define it from the point of view of a tribal people who have lived sustainably for thousands of years? What is “necessary development” from their perspective?

    Development isn’t “necessary” for humans and other creatures. Life is necessary for humans and other creatures – so we either learn to live within our means without poisoning the Earth (which in reality, is ourselves – as in, we are a part of the Earth, so if we poison the Earth, we’re just poisoning ourselves), or we perish.

    Are we so insane that we’ll choose to perish (not to mention the inevitable resource war on the way there), over just choosing to lead simpler, potentially much happier lives?

    Look at probably 95% of jobs, and ask yourself: is that really necessary for life to go on? No, most jobs are simply involved in creating profit on one hand and waste on the other.

    Less work, less consumption, less money, more community mindedness, more personal and collective fulfilment, more time we stay alive on this planet.

  10. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 12:30 pm  

    cjcjc @ 7 and 8: Ha! Your approach will take us back to the middle ages. In fact, it’s already responsible for the majority of the world’s population living in conditions similar to the poverty of the masses in the middle ages. It’s just, you probably aren’t that bothered at the moment, because your own existence seems comfortable enough for now.

    My approach (or rather, the approach I am in favour of) will take us forward to a new era of sustainable living, in which everybody can look forward to a fair and reasonable share of the bounty of the Earth as a part of a cycle that can be continued forever. Yes, we will have less stuff, but on the other hand, the quality of the average life (by today’s standards) should actually improve, and we’ll all converge somewhere in the middle.

    Sorry that you seem to be unable to accept the inevitable. By all means put your faith in politicians and big business if you think they have your best interests at heart – I can’t stop you.

    Ever had an X-ray?

    Ever seen the lead coat that they make you put on for even just a few seconds of bodily x-ray?

    Ever heard of x-ray hair removal, and the “North American Hiroshima maiden syndrome” that went with it?

    There is no safe dose of radiation – there are only doses that won’t kill you.

  11. MaidMarian — on 30th July, 2008 at 12:57 pm  

    Dave S – Sorry if I am missing the point, but are you seriously telling me that China and India’s vast increases in consumption are somehow irrelevant here?

    The idea that everyone who writes on PP going to live in a yurt will somehow offset those coal fired power stations seems faintly eccentric to say the least.

    You say – ‘Development isn’t “necessary” for humans and other creatures.’ I am playing badminton with my Indian friend tonight and, if you would be so kind, would you like to explain that on her so I can explain it to her?

  12. Sunny — on 30th July, 2008 at 2:03 pm  

    I don’t buy the view that people will consume less, unless energy prices rise a lot.

    There’s more mileage in getting appliances and products to be more energy efficient, and by switching to more reneable sources of energy.

  13. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 2:06 pm  

    MaidMarian @ 11:

    Sorry if I am missing the point, but are you seriously telling me that China and India’s vast increases in consumption are somehow irrelevant here?

    Yes, India and China certainly are irrelevant in terms of tackling our own contribution to the problem – they are a total distraction.

    You appear to be suggesting that we don’t change ourselves, and instead tell others what to do!?

    I’m suggesting we lead by example, because it is our lifestyle they are trying to emulate.

    Besides, ever seen the words “Made In China” on any products? Try this as your starter for ten:

    The industrialisation of which country supplies much of the (totally unnecessary) consumerism of the UK?

    The idea that everyone who writes on PP going to live in a yurt will somehow offset those coal fired power stations seems faintly eccentric to say the least.

    Well, that idea appears to have come from your head, not my writing!

    I’m actually quite interested in how we can set up local solutions for things like food production so that cities don’t totally implode on themselves with food riots at the point where it will become impossible to import enough supplies. So not ending cities entirely, but certainly finding ways to make them much more sustainable.

    On the other hand, once transnational capitalism collapses (as it will, when the oil supply dries up) there will actually be a lot less reasons for people to need or want to live in cities.

    Still, I am personally interested in finding solutions that work in cities, as that’s where the majority (just) of the world’s population now lives – including me.

    You say – ‘Development isn’t “necessary” for humans and other creatures.’ I am playing badminton with my Indian friend tonight and, if you would be so kind, would you like to explain that on her so I can explain it to her?

    Certainly. It’s all a matter of what we mean when we say the word “development”.

    What Western companies and politicians mean when they say “development” is actually just a euphemism for “asset stripping and wealth exporting”.

    Sure, we let them keep a few crumbs that fall from the table, but for the most part, anything touched by those bastions of “development”, the IMF, WTO and World Bank, massively increases poverty and churns out dependent, subservient countries. Which is why a few countries are choosing to pay back their loans early, having spotted the huge con they’ve been taken in by. If it’s that sort of “development” – where we in the rich parts of the world get to blackmail and rip off (again) those in the poorer parts of the world – then I think the case against that speaks loudly enough for itself.

    But what about the other sorts of “development” – in community, in sustainability, in the human race, in creativity, in happiness even? I’m all for that sort of development, but that’s not what you (or politicians and corporate bigwigs) are talking about, is it?

  14. Raul — on 30th July, 2008 at 2:15 pm  

    MaidMarian – China and India are very poor countries, barely 10-15 percent have what you would call barely acceptable lifestyles. Let me give you some stats, 70% of Indian live on less than rupess 20 or $.0.50 a day, 50% or more do not have access to basics like clean drinking water, sanitation or education. What sort of global resources do you think they can consume with that sort of lifestyle and income?

    The fact is there are not enough resources in the world to sustain the majority of people in the kind of lifestyles developed nations are used to now and I don’t mean this in any judgmental or negative way, the vast majority in countries like India and China live in relative poverty not because of western countis but becaus they haven’t been able to administer themevcels well and deliver a ebtter . The idea that 70% of these folks could live even like the lowest middle class citizens in the developed world would deplete world resources today. Even collectively you would think because of the large numbers it would have an impact but think again. The oil consumption of California is greater than the oil consumption of India or China. Before reaching a conclusion about India and China it would be be useful to map resource usage both collectively and per capita.

  15. cjcjc — on 30th July, 2008 at 2:16 pm  

    Ah yes, the “dependent, subservient” powerhouses of China and India and the many other developing economies which are outgrowing us by a factor of 2-3 times, and where millions are escaping poverty thanks to transnational capitalism and global trade.

    And you want us – and them – to go back to, well, what exactly is not clear, though we can be relieved that you are not suggesting ending cities entirely .

  16. soru — on 30th July, 2008 at 2:20 pm  

    If you read the web-site of a bunch of global warming denialists, they would have a similar mix of anecdotes, out-of-context figures and scare stories.

    It’s junk pseudo-science, and needs to be tossed away unread. You can’t engage with it any more than you can astrology or creationists.

    Nuclear power may, or may not, be the best available choice: the details of the argument are hideously complicated. But ignoring those details, campaigning against it in principle makes you an anti-environmentalist, a Jeremy Clarkson.

    Say, looking at the UK alone, nuclear happened to be 10% lower emission 5 years sooner than the best type of renewables. And say that fact-bind opposition from Greenpeace and co succeeded in delaying that 10% cut by that time.

    Annual C02 emmisions for the UK are half a billion metric tonnes. Electricity generation is about 40% of that. So 10% of that over 5 years is 100 million metric tonnes.

    Driving a Humvee 10,000 miles a year generates approximately 7 metric tonnes of C02. So if Greenpeace has a million members in the UK, every one of those members have 10 times higher per-head C02 emissions than someone who commutes to work in a Humvee…

  17. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 2:21 pm  

    Sunny @ 12:

    I don’t buy the view that people will consume less, unless energy prices rise a lot.

    If human beings are all naturally so greedy and acquisitive, then why is advertising and marketing a multi-billion dollar industry?

    Besides, the price rises we’re seeing at the moment are only the beginning. I think this is actually the start of prices rising to meet the true costs of energy generation, which can no longer be externalised onto the environment, propped up with a cheap source of fuel.

    In the longer term, it will help us to actually value the energy (and perhaps even the water?) that we use, and to use less of it.

    Also, by reducing my own consumption, I have gained an incredible amount of something that money cannot buy: time. That is worth more than any product, and more than any salary.

    If we stop digging ourselves a hole, we can stop looking for things to fill it with.

    There’s more mileage in getting appliances and products to be more energy efficient, and by switching to more reneable sources of energy.

    I don’t disagree, but what we are experiencing now is the clear signs that current levels of consumption need to be curbed. It is my opinion that much of the energy “needed” to day is to prop up businesses and industries which only exist to generate profit for a tiny minority of the elite.

    By eliminating these parasitic elements from society, the rest of us would not need to put up with a poisoned atmosphere and a toasted planet, or burden future generations (should they be lucky enough to be alive) with the legacy of our wasteful ways.

    This, again, is why I personally work to try and find ways of achieving fulfilment and happiness that don’t involve consuming anything or damaging the earth.

    It’s not exactly easy, but the experiment in itself is quite fulfilling. I’m not aiming for perfection, but neither am I waiting for India and China (or the government) to do it first.

    Think globally, act locally. Change yourself.

  18. shariq — on 30th July, 2008 at 2:23 pm  

    Dave S, the idea that the world was a nicer, more peaceful place when we were all living in villages is utopian thinking. In terms of human nature, the more we learn about evolution and human nature tends to corrobarate Hobbes’ theory of human nature in which life in its ‘natural’ form is nasty, brutish and short.

    For every tribe that you find which has been peacefully living for thousands of years, there are numerous others with extremely high murder rates and inter-tribal warfare.

    Technology and development have created a lot of misery in certain places. However, on the whole economic development and freedom has led to more political freedoms rather than the other way around. It is easy in the west to take this for granted, but the third world is rife with people who are desperate to get out of poverty.

    In countries which have started to reform their economies, such as China and India, the number of people who have been lifted out of poverty is staggering.

    This doesn’t mean that I am an unabashed neo-liberal when it comes to economics. I think that labour, environmental and competition regulations are crucial in managing the economy.

    I also am in favour of taxes which are redistributional in nature and promote social mobility and the government providing key services such as health care and education.

    However a lot of this centre-left vision is underpinned by economic development.

  19. Raul — on 30th July, 2008 at 2:27 pm  

    MaidMarian – China and India are very poor countries, barely 10-15 percent have what you would call barely acceptable lifestyles. Let me give you some stats, 70% of Indians live on less than rupees 20 or $.0.50 a day, 50% or more do not have access to basics like clean drinking water, sanitation, electricity or education and those who do have access have low quality access. What sort of global resources do you think they can consume with that sort of lifestyle and income?

    The fact is there are not enough resources in the world to sustain the majority of people in the kind of lifestyles developed nations are used to now and I don’t mean this in any judgmental or negative way, the vast majority in countries like India and China live in relative poverty not because of lifestyles in developed countries but because they haven’t been able to administer themselves well and deliver a better life for their people.

    But even then the idea that even 50-70% of these folks could live even like the lowest middle class citizens in the developed world would deplete world resources very quickly. There are far too many people, 1.2 billion in India and 1.3 billion in China. Even collectively you would think because of the large numbers it would have an impact but think again. The oil consumption of California itself is greater than the oil consumption of India or China. Before reaching a conclusion about India and China it would be be useful to map resource usage both collectively and per capita to draw any relevant conclusions about the best way forward.

    http://hdrstats.undp.org/countries/country_fact_sheets/cty_fs_IND.html

    http://hdrstats.undp.org/countries/data_sheets/cty_ds_IND.html

    Oops, sorry for the duplicate

  20. shariq — on 30th July, 2008 at 2:27 pm  

    Also, adapting your analogy, you are like the American who becomes obese through over-eating and then wants to stop those who haven’t eaten and are starving to go on a diet.

    The problem is that the food is running out. However nuclear energy promises to be the food which is both healthy and sustainable.

    Yes there are risks, but isn’t not considering nuclear power like refusing to fly or take the tube because you are worried by terrorist attacks?

  21. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 2:33 pm  

    cjcjc @ 15:

    Ah yes, the “dependent, subservient” powerhouses of China and India and the many other developing economies which are outgrowing us by a factor of 2-3 times, and where millions are escaping poverty thanks to transnational capitalism and global trade.

    Sure, the richest in those countries are getting richer. But what about the quality of life for the poorest? Is moving from self-sufficiency in a field to employment in a factory really a step up in life? Why not ask a few sweatshop workers, and see if they agree?

    Besides, the entire of, well, everything that supports the system of industrial transnational capitalism is founded on sand, and constantly teeters on the verge of tumbling down, propped up only by the availability of cheap fuel, and by war.

    Besides, the economy is an incredibly poor lens to view people’s quality of life through! As Einstein put it:

    “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

    And you want us – and them – to go back to, well, what exactly is not clear, though we can be relieved that you are not suggesting ending cities entirely.

    I am not here to give anybody an answer, because I wouldn’t have the audacity to believe that I know what the answer is – just my little part of it.

    You, however, appear to have all the answers. So tell us, brainbox, how are we going to sustain this way of life we’ve become accustomed to? And how are we going to ensure that those in the “developing” world can also take their fair share of this already completely unsustainable lifestyle?

    Massive change – on a scale we’ve never seen before – is coming, whether you like it or not. I’m pretty much past caring whether you or anybody else can’t accept it, so by all means shoot the messenger.

  22. MaidMarian — on 30th July, 2008 at 2:35 pm  

    Dave S (and Raul) –

    ‘Certainly. It’s all a matter of what we mean when we say the word “development”.

    What Western companies and politicians mean when they say “development” is actually just a euphemism for “asset stripping and wealth exporting”.’

    Ok, let me tell you a bit about what my Indian friend means by development. Her grandparents lived very literally on a rubbish dump and eked a living from that. They could not even anwser a starter for ten.

    From that generation and that background that family has gone to being able to send my friend to a UK university. That is what she means by development – how do I explain to her tonight that that is a bad thing pray tell?

    Believe me Raul, when you say at 14 people in India and China live in relative poverty, ‘because they haven’t been able to administer themselves well and deliver a ebtter [sic],’ you are surely not talking about this family.

  23. Raul — on 30th July, 2008 at 2:35 pm  

    Oops, @14 was accidentally posted. Sorry for the double post.

  24. Sunny — on 30th July, 2008 at 2:39 pm  

    However nuclear energy promises to be the food which is both healthy and sustainable.

    Erm, how so?

    First, there’s very little evidence that nuclear energy is economically viable without massive state guarantees and funding. Secondly, the point that its healthy isn’t exactly true either, is it? In fact the potential danger from a nuclear station is way higher than a coal station. So healthy in relation to what? A bullet wound?

    Thirdly, why not instead spend that money on renewable sources? Why not do a proper cost/benefit analysis on what would be money better spent, not just for now but the future?

  25. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 2:40 pm  

    shariq @ 20:

    Also, adapting your analogy, you are like the American who becomes obese through over-eating and then wants to stop those who haven’t eaten and are starving to go on a diet.

    The problem is that the food is running out. However nuclear energy promises to be the food which is both healthy and sustainable.

    Nuclear energy has already broken just about all it’s promises, and continues to do so.

    Instead of “having so much energy we won’t know what to do with it all”, it’s turned out to be the most expensive, poisonous, unsustainable, subsidised energy supply of all.

    Nuclear is a dinosaur that should have been left to die the first time around.

    Incidentally, my level of opposition to nuclear on ideological grounds is nowhere near my level of opposition to nuclear on pragmatic grounds:

    The very idea that nuclear will in some way bail us out and come to the rescue is beyond laughable – it’s a total illusion!

    We might as well be talking about whether we can extract energy from the Tooth Fairy.

  26. Raul — on 30th July, 2008 at 2:43 pm  

    “Believe me Raul, when you say at 14 people in India and China live in relative poverty, ‘because they haven’t been able to administer themselves well and deliver a ebtter [sic],’ you are surely not talking about this family.”

    I was referring to poor governance.

    But that was not the point of my post. You mentioned India and China in the context of global resource usage and UNDP human development figures I linked to put it in perspective.

    If you see those figures it becomes a difficult case to make to point out India and China’s resource usage, more so for India, which are relatively insignificant in the broader picture of global resource usage both collectively and per capita.

  27. cjcjc — on 30th July, 2008 at 2:50 pm  

    Why not ask a few sweatshop workers, and see if they agree?

    Have you heard of “revealed preference”?

    Millions have migrated from scraping a living off the land to far better work in urban factories.

    Why not ask them if they are desperate to go back?
    They won’t thank you when their factories are closed as we follow your suggestion and revert to the peasant lifestyle they have worked so hard to escape.

    Like you, I have no answers…but I have faith in human igenuity and human endeavour.
    Yours is nothing but a counsel of despair.

  28. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 2:50 pm  

    MaidMarian @ 22:

    Your friend’s family is an example of a system that has been inherently unfair for centuries. I don’t want to bring the word “class” into it, but unfortunately that’s kinda what this is all about.

    If it wasn’t for an unfair class system which has separated rich from poor for millennia, then your friends’ family would have had a decent quality of life a lot sooner.

    According their recent prosperity to the few crumbs that have recently fallen their way from the capitalist table (while millions still live in the same type of poverty) is a bit like saying what a nice person the mugger is because after years of mugging you, they mugged someone else today.

    Capitalism (well, unfair distribution of resources and power) is not the solution to their problems, but the cause of them all along.

    I’m in favour of turning all that on it’s head, and starting with the premise of equality: mutual aid, true freedom, strengthening and enriching communities (not just individuals), a free and fair level of control over all areas of our life, and power that arises from everyone within society, rather than from a few people over it.

  29. soru — on 30th July, 2008 at 2:53 pm  

    In fact the potential danger from a nuclear station is way higher than a coal station.

    http://www.alts.net/ns1625/wraymenu.html

    http://current.com/items/89024308_chinese_coal_mine_explosion_kills_27

    A nuclear plant that killed 20 people would make the news beyond the local papers, to say the least. Equivalent coal-mining disasters are rarely global news, except when there are trapped survivors.

    And that’s assuming you are a global warming denialist.

    Low end estimates of best-case global warning deaths are 100 million, which is about 1000 per coal-fired station. Other pollution deaths are non-zero as well: in China, 24,000 people die of silicosis each year.

    Admittedly, not all opposition to nuclear is irrational or ignorant: some of it is based precisely on the fear that nuclear will work, and so allow people to continue on with their lives much as at present.

  30. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 3:01 pm  

    cjcjc @ 27:

    Millions have migrated from scraping a living off the land to far better work in urban factories.

    Millions have also been forced off the land, against their will. Millions have also been sold a false promise that has no basis in reality.

    They won’t thank you when their factories are closed as we follow your suggestion and revert to the peasant lifestyle they have worked so hard to escape.

    What do you think is going to keep the factories open!?

    The entire fabric of that system is collapsing, and it will take everything it has with it!

    Come that day (and come it will), those who didn’t leave the land (as in had any choice in the matter) to go to the factories will be rejoicing.

    Like you, I have no answers…but I have faith in human igenuity and human endeavour.
    Yours is nothing but a counsel of despair.

    Explain to me how you get to “despair” from my proclamation that it’s possible to have a fantastic and happy life without consuming the Earth? Not only that, but a way of life that could quite easily be obtained universally?

    On the contrary, I think you’re projecting your own sense of despair onto me – despair that everything you’ve taken for granted about your life is based on quite a flimsy foundation. Personally, I’m almost certain that the future will be bright – though I think we’re going to have quite a difficult transitional period to get there, and I don’t know if I will be one of those who won’t make it.

    But we don’t need most of the things we have! Consumerism and employment stand between us and happy, sustainable living. They are not facilitators of it, but major obstacles on the path to it.

  31. MaidMarian — on 30th July, 2008 at 3:08 pm  

    Dave S (28) – Well, that’s a fine anser to someone’s question, just not the one I asked.

    What do I say to my friend tonight about how the development in her family is a bad thing?

  32. cjcjc — on 30th July, 2008 at 3:14 pm  

    Admittedly, not all opposition to nuclear is irrational or ignorant: some of it is based precisely on the fear that nuclear will work, and so allow people to continue on with their lives much as at present.

    Yes.

    What do you think is going to keep the factories open!?

    Nuclear power, obviously!
    And the conventional power stations which China is completing almost weekly.

    But we don’t need most of the things we have!

    Thanks for deciding for the rest of us.

  33. douglas clark — on 30th July, 2008 at 3:30 pm  

    I’d just like to say that up here there are a profusion of wind farms going up, there are like forests of the things, with a lot more to come.

    Whilst I can see the negatives of fission power stations, I wonder how our next door neighbour, France, seems to be a green and pleasant land with, what 75% of it’s electrical power coming from nuclear.

    I also think we have to look at moving as quickly as we can away from a hydrocarbon based energy policy, for obvious reasons. So, in terms of immediately available technology, we need to move now to either a battery based or hydrogen based economy with the scource being carbon neutral. So, whatever it takes, nuclear fission or renewables. Sunny does have a good point about R & D spend and infrastructure on renewables, it is pitiful compared to fission. That will, at the very least gain us some time before Dave S’s Malthusian apocalypse comes into play. And I’m not disagreeing with Dave S, but that scenario is a bit further out, is it not?

    I would say that we should continue to spend whatever we need to on fission, which is the clean(er) version of nuclear power and which does hold out a lot of potential. But to preclude the comment, I’ve been saying that for a hell of a long time, and it still seems to be circa 20 years off. Same as it ever was.

  34. douglas clark — on 30th July, 2008 at 3:39 pm  

    Last paragraph, read fusion, not fission, oops!

  35. cjcjc — on 30th July, 2008 at 3:40 pm  

    That will, at the very least gain us some time before Dave S’s Malthusian apocalypse comes into play. And I’m not disagreeing with Dave S, but that scenario is a bit further out, is it not?

    How much further?

    Of course it’s been just around the corner for some people since, well, since Malthus.

  36. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 3:46 pm  

    MaidMarian @ 31:

    What do I say to my friend tonight about how the development in her family is a bad thing?

    You don’t say anything to your friend tonight about it – and why would you? It’s not your friend’s fault, and neither is it yours. The guilty party over decades/centuries of poverty in their family is a system based on unequal distribution of power.

    The power is still unequally distributed – it’s just that instead of just waltzing in and taking it from us, we’re now more-or-less willingly giving it away with our purchases and our taxes.

    To quote a cartoon I saw once:

    “Mummy, why are some people rich and some people poor?”
    “Well, once upon a time, there were some men with big sticks…”

    Nothing much has changed.

    cjcjc @ 32:

    Nuclear power, obviously!
    And the conventional power stations which China is completing almost weekly.

    Well, don’t let the facts or the natural environment (which we are a part of and which is keeping us alive… hello in there!?) get in the way of your transnational industrial capitalism, then.

    Let’s try it one more time:

    1. The uranium will run out in less than a century – probably less than half a centry.
    2. Nuclear is the most expensive and subsidised way to generate power. (As seemingly a dyed-in-the-wool capitalist, I’m surprised you like paying taxes for other people’s private profit. Isn’t that called “socialism for the rich” or something?)
    3.The nuclear waste legacy is going to adversely affect us and our own children, not just some far off generations. We will not have the resources to continue to safely store it.

    There’s more, and I’m repeating myself because it seems you’re immune to reasoned argument.

    You can stamp your feet, deny the facts and shout “nuclear power is the answer” as much as you want, but that doesn’t make it real, or your arguments any more based in reality.

    Sure, my ideas about reducing consumption are pretty far out – but nowhere near as far out as the idea that we can carry on business as usual, or that nuclear is somehow a silver bullet that is going to save the day.

    So I think I’ll get back to the other things I’d like to do today, because I don’t have much else to add here.

    Almost forgot:

    Thanks for deciding for the rest of us.

    You can try to frame it in terms of me taking away your freedom to decide for yourself what is best for you. But that’s not the case. However, capitalism (and it’s friend consumerism) already are taking away those sort of decisions for all kinds of people, who largely remain invisible. People like Ken Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni 9, for example – imprisoned and executed because of their popular opposition to Shell drilling for oil and polluting with devastating consequences in their community. Capitalism is removing people’s choices about how to live their lives – not me.

  37. douglas clark — on 30th July, 2008 at 3:58 pm  

    cjcjc,

    Heh. Well there are all sorts of scenarios, aren’t there? I’m someone that thinks that there are probably too many folk on the planet already. What are they all for?

    However, being more serious, we are impacting pretty substantially on all sorts of resources, fish stocks, rare earth elements, glacial melt drinking water, etc, etc. I think almost everyone would agree that there is a limit to human expansion – on Earth at least – that is eventually going to be catastrophic, and leave whoever does survive back in the stone age. We are not edging up to that crisis in a linear way, we are approaching it in an exponential fashion. The crisis, whenever it does hit, will be behind us before we can even do a thing about it.

  38. shariq — on 30th July, 2008 at 4:02 pm  

    Sunny, the cost of nuclear power plants isn’t really an issue. Except for renewable energy (which seems a long way away), solving global warming by reducing economic output will have a severe cost to the global economy which will be borne by businesses, employees etc, etc.

    Nuclear power plants will also be expensive, but at least they will contribute to developing the economy. I wouldn’t call it paying for itself because it is still more expensive than using oil and gas, but it doesn’t do as much harm.

    I also second Soru’s comments about the way in which nuclear ‘disasters’ are reported compared to other types of accidents. In my mind, the not flying by plane because of being scared by hijacking is a good one.

  39. MaidMarian — on 30th July, 2008 at 4:03 pm  

    Dave S – ‘You don’t say anything to your friend tonight about it – and why would you?’

    Jesus wept, have you not read your own outpourings?

    If she is not made aware of how terrible the development that stopped her living on a rubbish dump we are all going to DIE!!!!

  40. soru — on 30th July, 2008 at 4:17 pm  


    1. The uranium will run out in less than a century – probably less than half a centry.

    As much as you might desperately want this to be true, it really isn’t. 90% of the land area of the planet has not been prospected for uranium, no-one has even looked anywhere underwater, and in a 100 year timescale, asteroid mining starts to become feasible.

    And then there are breeder reactors, thorium reactors, fusion, …


    2. Nuclear is the most expensive and subsidised way to generate power.

    Moderately expensive is good: it promotes efficiency and the development of alternatives. If one day in a hundred years or so we do start to gradually run out, then the replacement power sources will be there at minimal cost difference.

    Obviously it requires subsidisation, when compared with stuff that comes out of the ground from a pipe: stop debating with some neoliberal straw man.

    If, for environmental reasons, we want to not burn essentially free energy like Saudi/Kuwaiti oil (production cost basically zero, at least as long as you discount associated externals like wars and pollution) then any alternatives will require somebody to spend some money. Just like almost everything else in the world: schools, hospitals, roads and armies all don’t make a profit in simple economic terms, but all are necessary.

    Do you care about the environment, or not? Do you think global warming is a myth, or real?


    3.The nuclear waste legacy is going to adversely affect us and our own children, not just some far off generations. We will not have the resources to continue to safely store it.

    Unsupported and unsupportable bullshit, that noone could possibly believe without some pseudo-religious apocalyptic agenda.

  41. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 4:22 pm  

    MaidMarian @ 39:

    If she is not made aware of how terrible the development that stopped her living on a rubbish dump we are all going to DIE!!!!

    Will you please read what I wrote? The next sentence, where I explained about her family’s poverty being the product of an inherently unfair class system.

    Or the bit about why are some people rich and others poor.

    I am not begrudging your friend or her family the chance to get out of poverty. I am saying they should never have been in poverty in the first place – that nobody should be in poverty – and that they way to ensure that people the world over can escape from poverty is to get rid of capitalism and redistribute power so that everybody has an equal say in their lives and their communities; to finally smash the inequalities that have been present for millennia.

    How you could fail to grasp that from my “outpourings” so far is beyond me, so I can only conclude that you’re not particularly interested in actually listening to what I have to say.

  42. soru — on 30th July, 2008 at 4:37 pm  

    The next sentence, where I explained about her family’s poverty being the product of an inherently unfair class system.

    That’s precisely backwards – the class system is the product of poverty. The only way to end it is to end poverty.

    If your material means can support 100 peasants, each with a 10% surplus that goes to 1 baron who lives 10X better than anyone else:

    1. No baron, no matter how liberal, is going to voluntarily accept becoming a peasant if it means they live 10x less well.

    2. You don’t solve anything by renaming the Baron as Commisar: see 1.

  43. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 5:02 pm  

    soru @ 40:

    As much as you might desperately want this to be true, it really isn’t. 90% of the land area of the planet has not been prospected for uranium, no-one has even looked anywhere underwater, and in a 100 year timescale, asteroid mining starts to become feasible.

    Fine, if you say so.

    Personally, I’ll keep my predictions about the future to a minimum, and base my assessment of the situation on, y’know, reality.

    If there are vast untapped uranium reserves, then find them before coming to me with your presumption that they must exist.

    If asteroid mining becomes feasible, then do it. (But do you know how much fuel is required to get even a satellite into space?)

    And then there are breeder reactors, thorium reactors, fusion, …

    Sure, and while we’re at it, we could convert the oil powered stations to run on snake oil as well! I’ve heard about a biomass design that runs on magic beans, if you’re interested in becoming an investor?

    Moderately expensive is good: it promotes efficiency and the development of alternatives. If one day in a hundred years or so we do start to gradually run out, then the replacement power sources will be there at minimal cost difference.

    Can’t fault you there. I’m all for energy use reflecting it’s true costs.

    Obviously it requires subsidisation, when compared with stuff that comes out of the ground from a pipe: stop debating with some neoliberal straw man.

    I’m not debating with a straw man. I’m debating (and have debated) with those like Roger Helmer MEP, staunch supporters of the massively subsidised nuclear industry, who like to bang on about renewables being all about subsidies while conveniently overlooking the nuclear subsidies.

    I’m not against subsidising things that are collectively owned by the public, but I am hugely against subsidising private profit-making businesses from the public purse.

    We’ve seen that’s how it works plenty of times over – most recently with Northern Rock. Private business takes crazy risks and gets bailed out with public money (our money) when it all goes wrong = socialism for the rich.

    If, for environmental reasons, we want to not burn essentially free energy like Saudi/Kuwaiti oil (production cost basically zero, at least as long as you discount associated externals like wars and pollution) then any alternatives will require somebody to spend some money. Just like almost everything else in the world: schools, hospitals, roads and armies all don’t make a profit in simple economic terms, but all are necessary.

    Sure, but using the levels of energy we currently use is not necessary. We can choose to use less!

    Do you care about the environment, or not? Do you think global warming is a myth, or real?

    Spurious argument. Of course I care about the environment, which is why I don’t buy into the bullshit that “development” (industrial growth) is necessary, and instead propose that we consume less.

    I also don’t buy into the myth that nuclear is carbon neutral, or is particularly “better for the environment than fossil fuels”, all things considered.

    The best turd in a pile of turds is still a turd. Except, it isn’t even the best turd!

    Unsupported and unsupportable bullshit, that noone could possibly believe without some pseudo-religious apocalyptic agenda.

    Again I point you to the fact that Stonehenge is “only” 4000 years old, and that nuclear waste has a half-life of 100,000 years.

    Are we capable of designing a storage facility that can survive for a million years? (I take it you understand the concept of radioactive half-life?)

    Or are we just assuming that future generations will have the resources to maintain our storage facilities forever, and that they won’t mind being saddled with that because it meant we could all have plasma TVs?

    Would you be happy having to maintain (and steer well clear of) a multitude of Roman rubbish dumps? Hey, they were able to have orgies and villas, so it’s only fair.

    Don’t forget that uranium is a highly poisonous toxin as well as being radioactive.

    Expecting future technofixes is all well and good, and I’m sure some may well come along. But don’t you think it’s grossly irresponsible to make those kind of irreversible decisions (such as generating mountains of nuclear waste and saddling thousands of future generations with dealing with our shit) until the technology has come along anywhere beyond the purely theoretical stage?

    We already don’t have the resources to deal with the paltry amount of nuclear waste we have created! See:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2002/jun/30/uk.nuclear

    I really don’t need to bullshit – the facts speak for themselves just fine, thanks!

  44. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 5:05 pm  

    soru @ 42:

    1. No baron, no matter how liberal, is going to voluntarily accept becoming a peasant if it means they live 10x less well.
    2. You don’t solve anything by renaming the Baron as Commisar: see 1.

    Which is precisely why I, as an anarchist, advocate getting rid of all “barons” and anyone else who tries to claim authority or power over others. They are the true parasites on society, and they will not give up their power voluntarily, which is why we will have to pull it from under them.

  45. cjcjc — on 30th July, 2008 at 5:07 pm  

    Personally, I’ll keep my predictions about the future to a minimum, and base my assessment of the situation on, y’know, reality.

    I’m glad you have a sense of humour!!

  46. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 5:19 pm  

    cjcjc @ 45:

    Are you kidding!? I live for laughter! :D

  47. soru — on 30th July, 2008 at 5:25 pm  

    (I take it you understand the concept of radioactive half-life?)

    In particular, I understand the bit where stuff with a large half-life is _not dangerous_.

    Don’t forget that uranium is a highly poisonous toxin as well as being radioactive.

    As are many other things, including solar power cells, and the components of the computer you are using. Most of those stay poisonous _forever_, beyond the currently predicted date of the heat death of the universe.

    Actively working to oppose something with greatly lower environmental and mortality impacts than the status quo is either foolish, hypocritical, or just plain perverse.

  48. soru — on 30th July, 2008 at 5:35 pm  

    They are the true parasites on society, and they will not give up their power voluntarily, which is why we will have to pull it from under them.

    1. non-voluntary implies war.
    2. success at war requires military training.
    3. training implies a military elite.

    Congratulations, after 30 years of struggle and a few megadeaths, you might succeed in changing the name of the ‘Baron’ class. Maybe you get to be one.

    Or you could open a history book.

  49. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 5:54 pm  

    soru @ 47:

    Actively working to oppose something with greatly lower environmental and mortality impacts than the status quo is either foolish, hypocritical, or just plain perverse.

    Could you be any more arrogant? I disagree with your assessment of the safety and environmental credentials of nuclear power, so something is wrong with me?

    From what I have seen and read, nuclear is not substantially better for the environment, and not particularly better for human mortality rates either. I think it is a huge risk that does not provide a big enough return, and that we should pursue other options such as consuming less and questioning the “necessity” (actually, even the premises) of continuous economic growth.

    I think it would be much easier to change the way we all live our lives (and we’re going to have to do that anyway, really) than to try to sustain this greed and insanity for another 50 years with new nuclear plants.

    What a strange world where somebody arguing for caution and in favour of a simple, fair life for all is branded a hypocrite, a fool, or perverse!

    I think your level of gambling with our future is reckless, foolish and perverse. Many people who our decisions now will affect in the future won’t even get to voice their opinion on it – that’s how irresponsible and callous the pro-nuclear argument gets. It’s the global equivalent of sweeping the shit we can’t be bothered to clean up under the carpet – and fuck whatever the people of the future need or want!

    Regardless, this is why nowadays my opposition to nuclear is firstly because it is is totally unviable as there will not be enough fuel and it can’t come anywhere close to providing for our energy requirements, and only secondly because of the waste legacy.

    Nuclear is a dead donkey, and this debate is a waste of words.

    We need to use less, and we need to base our energy solutions around small-scale microgeneration – not centralised for-profit mass power generation based on technologies that permanently fuck up our greater body, the Earth.

  50. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 6:11 pm  

    soru @ 48:

    1. non-voluntary implies war.
    2. success at war requires military training.
    3. training implies a military elite.

    Whether we realise it or not, we are already engaged in a type of war with those who seek to rule over us. Their positions are largely based on our consent for (or feeling of not being able to do anything about) them being where they are. We can remove them from power any time enough of us choose to do so, and again, if enough of us decide to do so, we can do it by simply eroding their power from below – by refusing to do what we are told, and by finding new and innovative ways to destroy their system.

    I think a certain amount of violence is probably inevitable, but it will be initiated by the ruling elite, not the people themselves.

    Really though, I think you can make an old system of existence obsolete simply by building a newer, better way of life alongside it. That is what I (and plenty of other people I know) are already doing.

    Congratulations, after 30 years of struggle and a few megadeaths, you might succeed in changing the name of the ‘Baron’ class. Maybe you get to be one.

    Or you could open a history book.

    Is the future already written then, Soru? Are we destined to simply repeat that which went before?

    Or could we perhaps try adding something new to the mix, rather than presuming that industrial consumer capitalism is the epitome of human evolution?

    Well, there’s infinite historical evidence showing that every single system that has gone before has been replaced by a new one. What makes you believe it’s going to be any different this time around?

    Unblock your ears, and hear the swansong.

  51. soru — on 30th July, 2008 at 6:18 pm  

    From what I have seen and read, nuclear is not substantially better for the environment,

    That would appear to maks you a fool then. The science is not difficult, if you can’t follow it, well then you have a right to your opinion, but not a right to be avoid being mocked for your ignorance.

    Uranium mining takes place at a handful of sites, and extracts a few hundred cubic meters a year. It cannot possibly release more C02 than the thousands of coal mines that mine cubic miles of coal. Improving efficiency, reducing emissions, at those few sites is a routine task that can’t cost more than a few hundred million at the absolute most.

    Nuclear plants are built of concrete not substantially different from that coal plants or dams are made from. If it would help, they could be instead built from high-grade steel like wind turbines or wave energy machines.

    If you can’t follow the science, can’t spot the lies in the anti-nuclear propaganda, the best evidence for nuclear power is the vehemence of the argument against it by those who really would like to see society destroyed.

    It sounds fantastic, but there genuinely are people who literally would like see the cities of the world become ruins, and are prepared to make death camps of the developing world in order to enforce their rural idyll.

  52. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 6:44 pm  

    Soru, you appear to think that I am arguing against nuclear and therefore in favour of coal. This is incorrect.

    I am arguing in favour of massively reducing our energy consumption, and working towards localised sustainability everywhere – including in cities, and including in the “developing” world – so that people and communities can support themselves and obtain the things they need in order to have a good standard of living, including generating their own power on a smaller scale. Yes, rampant consumption will have to end, but on average, quality of life stands to improve – even for you and I in areas such as happiness, physical health and personal fulfilment.

    This is our only even remotely realistic option, but I’m not going to mock you for your inability to see it, because goodness knows, I was saying the same things you are saying now only a few years ago. It’s probably less than three years since I was last heard arguing in favour of nuclear power as a necessary evil.

    I just wish I could remember what it took for me to wake up and smell the coffee about the futility of nuclear, but I honestly can’t. I guess it was a combination of various factors.

    Attending a talk by Paul Mobbs and getting his book Energy Beyond Oil was certainly a significant point. The stuff about nuclear power in there is well worth a read, though unfortunately those particular pages aren’t included in the Google book preview.

  53. soru — on 30th July, 2008 at 6:45 pm  

    Is the future already written then, Soru? Are we destined to simply repeat that which went before?

    Or could we perhaps try adding something new to the mix, rather than presuming that industrial consumer capitalism is the epitome of human evolution?

    The future is unwritten, the past isn’t.

    Adding something new to the mix is precisely the issue. People in the past weren’t stupid, they tried every combination of arrangements of the same basic set of social elements, and none of them worked much better.

    Creating new, untried elements requires material progress, which requires science, which requires economic surplus.

    You start off with a system where you are under maximal physical and economic constraints: the Baron will kill you if you don’t obey him, and in any case you will starve to death if you don’t work. And even the Baron has little practical freedom of choice in the essentials of the system.

    You can gradually reduce first one constraint, then the other, abolish serfdom, then absolute poverty, then start to think about what to do next (while not forgetting 10% of the planet still has the first problem and 70% the second).

    If that process of progress, of emancipation, is to continue, it is vital that we overcome environmental challenges in the most efficient way possible. Progress isn’t inevitable, it is contingent, and people forget what it’s absence would actually mean.

    Which means we can’t arbitrarily rule out what may well be the best way of doing things because of arbitrary superstition and taboo.

  54. soru — on 30th July, 2008 at 6:56 pm  

    Attending a talk by Paul Mobbs and getting his book Energy Beyond Oil was certainly a significant point. The stuff about nuclear power in there is well worth a read, though unfortunately those particular pages aren’t included in the Google book preview.

    His points would be valid if global warming didn’t exist, or was a distant and un-urgent prospect. A 60% cut by reductions and renewables would then be enough.

    But the difference between that 60% cut and the 80% cut actually required to maintain progress, not just the status quo, has to be made up by either nuclear, or some currently undiscovered technology.

    Remember, if you are one of a million people acting to prevent that 20% cut, then you are personally responsible for more emissions than anyone who doesn’t carry a Humvee in a sling under their private helicopter…

  55. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 7:45 pm  

    Soru (again!):

    they tried every combination of arrangements of the same basic set of social elements, and none of them worked much better.

    Actually, the few times anarchy has actually happened on a larger scale (eg. during the Spanish Revolution of 1936), it worked just great, albeit only for a limited time because it wasn’t quite a pure anarchism (the CNT in Spain still had leaders). It’s been tried a few times and hasn’t totally worked out, but it’s certainly possible to bring it about.

    I believe it could work on a larger scale, and that basically what’s needed is determination to make it happen and learning from the lessons of the last few times it’s been tried.

    Luckily, it has been tried and worked well on a smaller scale a lot of times, and there are those of us around who are getting on reasonably well with organisation along anarchist principles.

    It’s possible. If a bunch of largely illiterate Spanish peasants and workers can almost bring it about and sustain it for some time in the face of unfavourable conditions, without the lessons of the past to learn from, then so could we.

    Every combination of arrangements has not been tried – not even close.

    Which means we can’t arbitrarily rule out what may well be the best way of doing things because of arbitrary superstition and taboo.

    There is nothing arbitrary about my opposition to nuclear power. It is based on facts and evidence from the most knowledgeable sources I have been able to find on the subject.

    I’m just choosing to be frank rather than optimistic about my assessment of it’s ability to bail us out, which is: nuclear will not be able to bail us out of the energy crisis. It won’t even come close. It is a dangerous diversion from what we actually need to do: stop consuming and start creating.

    His points would be valid if global warming didn’t exist, or was a distant and un-urgent prospect. A 60% cut by reductions and renewables would then be enough.

    A major part of his talk (and his book) is directly about climate change, and how peak energy relates to that.

    Define what you mean by “progress”, and then we’ll talk about it. I think your definition of “progress” is probably fairly equivalent to “the growth of the economy”, but I could be wrong.

    My definition of “progress” would be, perhaps, for humanity to realise and acknowledge how much we are destroying our only life-support system, and to do an about turn and try again down a different path. Sometimes it truly is progress to take a step back and look at what you’re doing wrong.

    In fact, as Paul Mobbs (albeit slightly tongue in cheek) said in his talk, if you want to do something about peak energy and climate change, then actually you need to be campaigning for a global recession now, because the dips in both emissions and fuel use all correspond directly to periods of recession.

    Which seems to me to prove that we can live OK on much less, because so much in the way of resources and energy is put into producing things that we seriously do not need, and can easily get by without.

    It was just over a year ago that I went to his talk, and it looks like we don’t need to campaign for it because the global recession seems to be fairly well upon us.

  56. douglas clark — on 30th July, 2008 at 7:59 pm  

    Dave S,

    Well, this thread could probably run until sometime just after the heat death of the Universe. We haven’t even discussed things like wave and tidal power, geothermal, hydoelectric, Spanish Solar Thermal power stations, etc. There is a substantial list of clean options for electricity generation. Not one of which, I would hazard, if taken on it’s own is likely to be a complete answer. But we can combine them and nuclear to provide significant and probably matching power to the present carbon based generation levels. And by either feeding batteries or generating hydrogen, we could change the world.

    I think you are missing the point that complicated civilisations quite like being complicated civilisations and very few of us wish to revert to some sort of mythical anarchist past, where life was probably short and certainly brutish.

    Your aversion to nuclear is not really understandable in terms of current best practice. And totally unrealistic in terms of the immedate challenge – global warming – which we face right now. The way you put it, you’d think that half of France had been blown off the map!

  57. soru — on 30th July, 2008 at 8:25 pm  

    Actually, the few times anarchy has actually happened on a larger scale (eg. during the Spanish Revolution of 1936), it worked just great

    Especially if your name was ‘Franco’.

    Dictionary reference: the terms ‘military’, ‘elite’, ‘war’, ‘win’. There isn’t a very different sentence you can write with that limited vocabulary: only the Soviets were even competitive in that war.


    My definition of “progress” would be, perhaps, for humanity to realise and acknowledge how much we are destroying our only life-support system, and to do an about turn and try again down a different path. Sometimes it truly is progress to take a step back and look at what you’re doing wrong.

    In other words, you are against progress. Which means being against the option to choose a way of life, whether that be rustic or metropolitan. And for the mandatory imposition of increased economic constraints about the way people are allowed to live.

    You are not confident enough to find a better way of living, and persuade people to adopt it. You want to take the short-cut of economic force.

    You fear and resent nuclear power, or any effective form of large-scale renewables, because you fear they will offer people a choice you want to deny them. Consequently, there is no anti-nuclear lie too blatant for you to swallow, no nonsense too transparent for you to cling to it.

    If you and those like you succeed in stopping nuclear power, will the next campaign be against carbon capture, solar, wind or tide?

    There is, obviously, some chance that climate change will be too savage, countermeasures too slow, and modern society will collapse in a frenzy of genocidal wars.

    But what there isn’t, is any conceivable chance of such a forced reversal of progress causing an improvement in the human condition.

  58. Muhamad — on 30th July, 2008 at 8:55 pm  

    Lodhi’s Law states that whenever nuclear energy is discussed or debated some erudite individual is bound to mention James Lovelock, and some other is most likely to mention India or China.

    Few years ago, I had a converstation with Fritjof Capra, the author of Hidden Connections, and I remember him arguing for hydrogen over nuclear.

  59. Dave S — on 30th July, 2008 at 9:00 pm  

    douglas clark @ 56:

    I think you are missing the point that complicated civilisations quite like being complicated civilisations and very few of us wish to revert to some sort of mythical anarchist past, where life was probably short and certainly brutish.

    I think if you had ever lived, even for a brief time, in an anarchist society, you would recognise that this is not the case. I have lived, albeit only briefly, in small anarchist “societies”, and it really works well as long as the people there are committed to making it work.

    There is no reason anarchist societies can’t be complex (at least in terms of size), and with sufficient first hand experience of what it feels like to live in an anarchist society, I believe most people would not want to give it up easily.

    Anarchist societies are not without their problems, but the problems are on a much smaller scale than those we are already experiencing in the current “society”.

    But really, I don’t want to talk too much about anarchism here, as this is a thread about nuclear power.

    Your aversion to nuclear is not really understandable in terms of current best practice. And totally unrealistic in terms of the immedate challenge – global warming – which we face right now.

    Why? Nuclear power can’t save us from the immediate need to drastically reduce our consumption.

    Why are all you cowards so scared of the word “less”? Honestly, it’s pathetic how attached you are to your possessions – the things you own are truly owning you, to the point where you plump for collective mass suicide over just consuming less shit!!

    The way you put it, you’d think that half of France had been blown off the map!

    Why would you think that because I can foresee immense problems in the future (based on an existing pretext that we are already unable to properly deal with nuclear waste) that I would think that? France may be just fine now (if the odd radiation leak into water supplies here and there is overlooked), but I’m certain that their nuclear waste legacy is going to cause future generations massive problems.

    My aversion to nuclear power is entirely consistent with fighting climate change and peak resource usage. It is not consistent with maintaining economic growth and private profits.

    soru @ 57:

    Especially if your name was ‘Franco’.

    My point is that the actual anarchism (as in the fabric of society) itself worked great – it just didn’t go far enough to sustain itself in the face of opposing forces.

    In other words, you are against progress. Which means being against the option to choose a way of life, whether that be rustic or metropolitan. And for the mandatory imposition of increased economic constraints about the way people are allowed to live.

    No, I am not against the option to choose a way of life. I’m a fucking anarchist, for fuck’s sake – that idea is at the centre of everything I stand for. I am against anything mandatory, on principle.

    But tell me this: at the moment, do we really get to choose a way of life? Sure, we can flex a few aspects of our lives here and there, but really, how much choice do we actually get?

    For many people around the world, their choices in life have been taken away from them, and it is because of the asset-stripping nature of transnational capitalism, which marches in, takes what it wants and leaves carnage behind.

    For all our “choices” in life in the West, plenty of people all over the world have no choices whatsoever, and that is never going to change under the current system (short of it running out of the resources to sustain itself, which is already happening).

    You are not confident enough to find a better way of living, and persuade people to adopt it. You want to take the short-cut of economic force.

    On the contrary, you couldn’t be more wrong! I have already partially found an alternative, better way of living, and my progress towards fully completing the transition is coming on fairly well. Though I’m about to take a bit of a time-out as I become a dad.

    You fear and resent nuclear power, or any effective form of large-scale renewables, because you fear they will offer people a choice you want to deny them. Consequently, there is no anti-nuclear lie too blatant for you to swallow, no nonsense too transparent for you to cling to it.

    What the fuck are you talking about? I’m all in favour of large scale renewables, but I think there’s good arguments for them being smaller large-scale renewables (if that makes sense), such as on a town-by-town self-sufficiency basis rather than a huge national grid.

    I am not in favour of nuclear, because it will not work, because there is not enough fuel to make it worthwhile, and because it leaves an incredibly dangerous waste legacy that future generations are unlikely to be equipped to deal with.

    Let me just clarify again because you don’t seem to be getting it: I am opposed to nuclear power because it is not a viable solution; because it is a huge white elephant; because although you think that it will come along to save us, it is capable of no such thing.

    I don’t think I or others like me will be able to stop it spreading – and whatever, we’ve already fucked up because there’s already mountains of untreated nuclear waste lying around the place, so I guess a bit more doesn’t make much difference.

    But I’m sure in time you’ll see what I mean, because give it another few decades and we’ll be experiencing the fall-out (pun intended) from peak uranium as well. Nuclear power is at best a rather shit stop-gap solution, but it still doesn’t address the problem: we have to consume less.

    If you and those like you succeed in stopping nuclear power, will the next campaign be against carbon capture, solar, wind or tide?

    Carbon capture does not exist on a commercially viable scale yet, and is unlikely to before 2050. In fact, it was actually Shell who claimed that date.

    As for solar, wind and tide, as long as they are done sustainably with good consideration for the natural environment, I have no problem with them whatsoever. In fact, I still get a rush of excitement when I see a wind farm.

    But by all means, keep putting words in my mouth so you can argue against straw men. (I wonder what crappy opinions you’ll project onto me next?)

    But what there isn’t, is any conceivable chance of such a forced reversal of progress causing an improvement in the human condition.

    But the force is already there! It’s called “nature”, and we are well and truly constrained by it, however much we stupidly believe otherwise.

    Right, I’m off to cook dinner, so I guess we’ll resume this tomorrow if anybody can be arsed.

  60. soru — on 30th July, 2008 at 9:07 pm  

    hydrogen over nuclear

    Hydrogen (i.e. fuel cells) is an alternative to petrol or batteries. It doesn’t occur naturally, you have to pump in electricity to make it: that power gets released on use.

    The electricity for making hydrogen can come form any source: nuclear is good, as it provides a use for the baseline generating capacity of nuclear, which is less adaptable to peaks/troughs in demand than other sources. Most forms of renewables work too.

    In practise, making synthetic petrol by a similar process is probably cheaper.

  61. soru — on 30th July, 2008 at 9:32 pm  

    But tell me this: at the moment, do we really get to choose a way of life?

    I have already partially found an alternative, better way of living, and my progress towards fully completing the transition is coming on fairly well.

    Do you see the inherent contradiction in your argument?

    You are part of modern society, and get education, healthcare, policing and defence for free, and most other essentials in exchange for historically tiny amounts of man-hours of labour.

    A Bhutanese peasant, untouched by western civilisation, does not have those options, is less free. They can’t choose to become an anarchist, or even a citizen.

    And, before you object, there is nothing inherent in the existence of the west that requires that peasant to exist to support it: they contribute nothing to the outside world except scenery for tourists.

    Nuclear power is at best a rather shit stop-gap solution, but it still doesn’t address the problem: we have to consume less.

    And consuming less, unless it means dropping back to the level of that peasant, does not address the problem: we also need nuclear, or an equivalent technology.

    As nuclear is guaranteed to be naturally more expensive, it should do what you claim to want. A random new technology might well actually be inherently cheaper, and so lead an increase in use, if not held back by politically tricky artificially-high tax levels.

    That’s why really I don’t see how your opposition can be based on anything except the reasons I outlined above.

    Your claimed reasons of impracticality are a joke: France runs on nuclear, the laws of physics do not change when you cross the Channel.

  62. douglas clark — on 30th July, 2008 at 9:40 pm  

    Dave S,

    Here’s something hopeful that happened yesterday.

    From the Scotsman ‘New drug brings hope of curing Alzheimer’s Disease’. http://tinyurl.com/5c58j9

    Solutions to 21st c problems require a complex society to achieve them. I doubt your anarchist idyll would have anything, much, to contribute to that.

    The point being that even the good stuff requires R & D, money and organisation.

    Although I have no idea whatsoever why Soru thinks making synthetic petrol is a good idea.

  63. soru — on 30th July, 2008 at 9:55 pm  

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methanol_economy


    More importantly, methanol can also be produced from CO2 by catalytic hydrogenation of CO2 with H2 obtained from water electrolysis or through CO2 electrochemical reduction. The energy needed for these reactions in order to be carbon neutral would come form renewable energy sources such as wind, hydroelectricity and solar as well as nuclear power.

    CO2 + 3H2 → CH3OH + H2O

    CO2 +2H2O + electrons → CO + 2H2 (+ 3/2 O2) → CH3OH

    The necessary CO2 would be captured from fossil fuel burning power plants and other industrial flue gases including cement factories. With diminishing fossil fuel resources and therefore CO2 emissions, the CO2 content in the air could also be used. Considering the low concentration of CO2 in air (0.037%) improved and economically viable technologies to absorb CO2 will have to be developed. This would allow the chemical recycling of CO2, thus mimicking nature’s photosynthesis

    Energy, technology and the abscence of political stupidity can do pretty much anything.

    The third of those conditions is the tricky one.

  64. Don — on 30th July, 2008 at 10:29 pm  

    Dave, you have clearly thought this through. In your opinion, what population could, say, the British Isles sustain under whatever it is you are proposing?

    And where would the rest of us go?

  65. douglas clark — on 30th July, 2008 at 10:42 pm  

    Yup Soru,

    That looks a good contender.

  66. persephone — on 30th July, 2008 at 11:43 pm  

    On a more practical front, someone in my family is trying to be more green & switch from traditional gas/electricity supply. They are moving to a house on a remote hill where they require their own generator if the supply is broken etc.

    They want to convert to more eco friendly energy for heating & lighting etc but the cost is astronomical – especially installing an underground system that burrows into the earths heat etc, yes the govt give a subsidy of about £2,500, but you have to fork out the rest (about £20-30k).

    The options are mind boggling – Solar panels, being a mini wind farm & selling surplus back to the utility companies and gaining power via a stream near the house.

    Alot of these options mean having to sacrifice continuity of supply or to have several mechanisms as a back up … ok I know its one of those sacrifices mentioned in this post … but the cost and having the time to get to grips with the options makes it bewildering & tough to go green as an individual or family.

  67. Desi Italiana — on 31st July, 2008 at 2:09 am  

    Sorry to bring in a South Asian angle…

    I haven’t looked into the pros and cons of hydro-electricity, but if I’m correct, if Nepal’s hydroelectric potential (one of the largest in the world) were properly harnessed and run in Nepal,there would be enough power for all of South Asia (Nepal currently taps around 0.3% of its potential). The problem is funds, infrastructure and sources to build hydroelectric plants.

    Here are two links on energy in South Asia:

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/nepal.html

    http://www.ris.org.in/pbno8.pdf

    Regional cooperation to meet needs of South Asia by focusing on hydro-power:

    http://www.kuenselonline.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=2079

  68. digitalcntrl — on 31st July, 2008 at 2:49 am  

    @67

    That is a nice thought Desi, however, substituting hydro power for coal is far more expensive, especially infastructure and maintenance wise. In addition hydro power is unreliable. I am afraid the last thing people should ask a developing country like India is to sacrifice the interests of its poor on the altar of “environmentally friendly development”.

  69. douglas clark — on 31st July, 2008 at 6:12 am  

    digitalcntrl,

    Norway generates almost all it’s electricity from hydro. And I’ve never heard of them having an ‘unreliable’ electricity supply.

    It may be more capital intensive, though I don’t know where you get the idea that it is expensive to maintain. Do you have some evidence for that? Neither do I understand why using renewable natural resources like rainfall is asking anyone to sacrifice anything whatsoever.

  70. digitalcntrl — on 31st July, 2008 at 6:59 am  

    “Norway generates almost all it’s electricity from hydro. And I’ve never heard of them having an ‘unreliable’ electricity supply.”

    First Norway is an extremely wealthy country with a small population. Second Norway does suffer from shortages in power when water levels are not stable.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/2544523.stm

    Not to mention that the variability of water levels in South Asia is more extreme due to the monsoons.

    “It may be more capital intensive, though I don’t know where you get the idea that it is expensive to maintain. Do you have some evidence for that? Neither do I understand why using renewable natural resources like rainfall is asking anyone to sacrifice anything whatsoever.”

    I meant the combination of capital and maintenance costs of hydroelectric power were more expensive than coal power not maintenance costs alone. Some sacrifices you ask for are for example unreliable energy, relocation of large populations (think of three gorges in China). Additionally generation of hydroelectric power changes the downstream river environment. Water exiting a turbine usually contains very little suspended sediment, which can lead to scouring of river beds and loss of riverbanks. Since turbine gates are often opened intermittently, rapid or even daily fluctuations in river flow are observed.

  71. douglas clark — on 31st July, 2008 at 7:37 am  

    digitlcntrl,

    That was in 2002! C’mon, six years ago. It takes no account of the development of Nordpool, whereby by my arithmetic 80% of all Scandanavian production – Finland, Norway, Sweden and Holland comes from either hydro electric or nuclear scources. In my terms green scources.

    I’ll stand corrected on this, but my understanding is that the major rivers of the sub-continent are all fed from glaciers, and that it is glacial melt that provides their base load. I.e. outwith the monsoon season. And remember the plan would be to build the power stations in Nepal, not down on the plains.

    Global warming is likely to first make an impact on places like the flood plains of Bangladesh. This article may be of interest:

    http://nation.ittefaq.com/issues/2007/10/22/news0972.htm

    Particularily this bit:

    There is higher rate of rural to urban migration in Bangladesh, because of endemic poverty and various social factors. This will be aggravated by the climate impacts. Thousands of poor are becoming environmental and climate refugees in Bangladesh and living in city slums in inhuman condition without basic amenities. They are also putting enormous pressures on urban infrastructure, economy and service delivery systems. This process will be further aggravated in the warmer climate and associated sea level rise in Bangladesh.

    We are quite likely to see a significant exodus of refugees from the areas effected which would make any planned movement trivial by comparison.

    On your other points, get the Norwegians involved. They seem to know what they are doing.

  72. Dave S — on 31st July, 2008 at 12:01 pm  

    Don @ 64:

    Dave, you have clearly thought this through. In your opinion, what population could, say, the British Isles sustain under whatever it is you are proposing?
    And where would the rest of us go?

    Don, there are a number of factors involved which would make it work.

    I’m not just talking about rearranging a few little bits of society and then carrying on – I’m talking about a radical change all the way through. The type of change that would probably take at least a couple of decades to come into full effect.

    Maybe it’s completely unrealistic, but this is a global problem requiring a global solution – so maybe when faced as such in the hard light of day, more radical solutions might not seem quite so outlandish. (Alternatively, we could keep thinking inside cosy little boxes…?)

    So first of all, key to making it work is to allow free movement of people – ie. no borders.

    Perhaps we might as well stop there, in terms of me trying to answer your question directly.

    All I’m saying is, there are ways it could work, but they require changes in mindset – particularly in areas such as the necessity of employment, and the idea of “foreigners” (nationalism of all sorts).

    However, I don’t believe the current population of the Earth is unsustainable even with significantly reduced resources available.

    In fact, the statistics on resource usage and pollution do actually support this, but they require us in the “developed” world to take a lesser share of the pie, and to allow those in the “developing” world a fair share too. That is the biggest problem to overcome – of us taking many times more than our fair share of everything.

    I think even the British Isles could self-sufficiently support somewhere close to it’s current levels of population if necessary, though it would undoubtedly be crowded. But with a decreased emphasis on employment (because capitalism can no longer support itself), there would be less incentive for people to come here or stay here for economic reasons.

    I’m not saying that people should leave, but let’s face it – take away our financial advantage and level the playing fields worldwide so that nobody is living in poverty, and that there’s no such thing as a “poor country”, and there aren’t really a whole lot of reasons anyone would want to come to Britain, because you’d be just as able to have a good life anywhere else.

    So I think at this point, humanity would already be starting to even out it’s distribution on it’s surface of the Earth a bit better, and your question becomes anachronistic.

    This is why I don’t believe in countries (though I do believe in cultures) – because basically we are all just inhabitants of the same planet, and should treat everybody as family and as welcome neighbours.

    So indeed, a long-winded answer with plenty of “if” in it, but my answer to your question depends on an entirely different set of circumstances and a different way of thinking about problems. We may not be at either of those yet, but I think there may come a time when entirely different ways of looking at problems become the easiest option by far, if we wish to survive.

    Why should we constrain ourselves to this box called Britain? I am a human, and the Earth is my home – not some imaginary “country” which came only from the mind of a human, and can just as easily stop existing as a barrier to my existence, should humans decide so.

    I don’t expect to see this in my lifetime – though I hope I may live to see the start of it.

  73. Dave S — on 31st July, 2008 at 1:19 pm  

    soru @ 61:

    Do you see the inherent contradiction in your argument?

    We can’t change our origins – only our destinies. I don’t think it’s contradictory in the slightest to dislike the society I was brought into against my will, and strive to change it to one that I wish to live in.

    I also don’t think it’s contradictory to speak from our experience of this type of society, and warn others around the world that it’s absolutely not as rosy as it seems, and that we should perhaps be taking a page from their books and simplifying our lives again. (In fact, I think resource depletion and pollution will soon make this our only viable choice – either that or perpetual war over anything that is left.)

    You are part of modern society, and get education, healthcare, policing and defence for free, and most other essentials in exchange for historically tiny amounts of man-hours of labour.

    The “education” I received was designed to turn me into a worker, like everybody else.

    The healthcare – which I actually think is very good in this country – could still be adequately provided from within the community, if the social conditions were different and people’s relationship to work and money changed a bit. Like the way the Zapatistas organise their health care from within their own communities.

    Police – utter scum who we don’t need, and managed just fine without (hence the protests at their inception, because the public feared that in time, they would become exactly what they have become today – a political police force used to crush dissent). Capitalism creates it’s own crime and it’s own greed, and this is used to legitimise the “need” for a police force. We do not need a police force. It’s middle-class institution that exists to protect middle-class values that have brought us all this trouble in the first place. Stick middle-class values where they belong in the dustbin of history, and we won’t need a police force.

    Defence – don’t make me laugh! What enemy? The enemies that exist because people worldwide allow others to “rule” over them and blind them with offers of small pieces of wealth and power, rather than just sorting things out peacefully and fairly. There is no enemy other than the ones that the current system allows to exist. (Sure, propped up by patriotic mass-media, military displays, delusions of grandeur, corporate self-interest, appealing to people using emotional language about “honour” and “valour” etc. but it’s all bullshit.)

    Policing and defence are entirely unnecessary and given the choice (and the genuine possibility) of opting out from their so-called “protection”, I would gladly do so, as would plenty of other people I know. We pay for it only because we are coerced into doing so, and it is not wanted or needed by vast numbers of us.

    The education we have is a sham, designed to dumb us down and churn out uniform workers who will unquestioningly support capitalist interests. Real education (as I have mentioned on a previous thread) can take place without the existence of any mandatory schooling. In fact, I’m going to be spending the next 18 or so years allowing my child the space, resources and encouragement to educate themselves in the areas that they wish to pursue.

    Besides, there’s no such thing as “free”. Our taxes pay for those things, and they could be far better organised without politicians and the gutter press interfering to maintain their own interests.

    “Historically tiny amounts of man-hours”… again, not so. After the initial set-up time (building houses, sorting out fields etc.) almost any one of us should be able to live in a self-sufficient community on less than four hours work per day. Not to mention that work which is directly to meet your own and your community’s needs is fun, and generally doesn’t feel like work – more like play.

    Fuck, I’ve had a brilliant time cleaning out the compost shitters on a few sites I’ve been on! Not that I’d want to do it every day, but when you’re working to meet the needs of yourself and your community, even shovelling other people’s shit and piss can become an enjoyable (and humorous) way to spend a day’s work.

    So I simply don’t agree with your assessment of the situation.

    If you want to keep it, then fine, but it is not for me, and I don’t see why people who wish to live the way I wish to live should be made to suffer (in terms of pollution, community displacement to meet capitalist objectives, poisoning of the biosphere with genetically modified crops, danger from nuclear radiation leaks etc.) just so that you can enjoy a way of life which shits all over the majority of people alive on Earth. Nobody should be able to do that, and we’ve been doing it for far too long already.

    You want to spot the authoritarianism and so-called “eco-fascism” inherent in this? It’s not from those wishing to live a simple life, mate! It’s from those who will take whatever they want for themselves, pollute and rape the Earth to provide for their own energy and material “needs”, and not give a flying fuck about others or future generations.

    So no offence, but fuck the type of society you wish to live in! It is incapable of existing without making it impossible for those of us who wish to return to a simple, non-polluting, non-authoritarian way of life, away from your ideas about how the world should be.

    A Bhutanese peasant, untouched by western civilisation, does not have those options, is less free. They can’t choose to become an anarchist, or even a citizen.

    They’re also the happiest country on Earth. I would swap my (generally quite enjoyable) existence here for an existence as a simple Bhutanese peasant in the blink of an eye, if I believed that their society would truly be able to sustain itself in the face of the rest of the world going crazy.

    Again, I don’t care if this isn’t for you. But realise and admit that the decisions made in the West have far-reaching consequences, that will in time, make it impossible for those who wish to remain as simple peasants (or tribal societies) to continue to do so.

    Western “freedom” undemocratically forcing it’s way all over the world, where it is not wanted – because it’s thirst for resources is unquenchable, and because the pollutants, radiation, genetically modified organisms and the rest that it carelessly spills into the environment never remain contained in the places they originate from.

    Western “freedom” eradicating all those who do not wish to be a part of it’s plan for the world.

    By definition, that is not freedom – that is authoritarianism.

    And, before you object, there is nothing inherent in the existence of the west that requires that peasant to exist to support it: they contribute nothing to the outside world except scenery for tourists.

    Indeed, I’m certain that many in the West wouldn’t give two shits if it stopped existing as anything other than scenery for tourists. The less societies who live away from the “requirements” of the West, the better for the West – makes it all the much easier to come in and asset strip natural resources.

    Don’t tell me you haven’t heard of tribal people being encouraged to leave and go to the city for employment, meanwhile Western loggers can swoop in and clear-cut the forests where they live because the number of people living there (and thus resistance and political support) decreases?

    You stand in defence of that kind of twisted death machine. At least I can sleep at night, knowing that I’m trying to do something to stop it.

    And consuming less, unless it means dropping back to the level of that peasant, does not address the problem: we also need nuclear, or an equivalent technology.

    So consume less then – it’s really not hard. I’m really only talking about you regulating your consumption so that others the world and into the future may also expect and achieve the same realistic levels of temporary use of the Earth’s resources. Or could it just be that your entire way of life is completely unsustainable and you rather like it that way, but that you’re too spineless to admit it?

    Could everybody live as you do – even given nuclear power? Come off it! You’re in love with your advantages over others – you just can’t admit it straight up.

    As nuclear is guaranteed to be naturally more expensive, it should do what you claim to want.

    No, because a single nuclear accident could quite easily render the entire British isles uninhabitable for centuries.

    Yes, I know there are safer reactor designs (gravity drop, pebble bed, etc) but I would rather do without, even if it meant having less electricity. It is inherently authoritarian (again, something you don’t seem to have a problem with) to make other people collectively take a risk they are not comfortable with, merely to support an unsustainable way of life that you are unprepared to change.

    I am not comfortable with the risks associated with nuclear power, and your reply boils down to “just shut up and subsidise my fucking power station”.

    A random new technology might well actually be inherently cheaper, and so lead an increase in use, if not held back by politically tricky artificially-high tax levels.

    Renewables should be cheap – because they can also be constructed and dismantled without creating a no-go zone which lasts for millennia. I’m not against big renewables projects, but I’m more in favour of small-to-medium sized microgeneration projects.

    That’s why really I don’t see how your opposition can be based on anything except the reasons I outlined above.
    Your claimed reasons of impracticality are a joke: France runs on nuclear, the laws of physics do not change when you cross the Channel.

    French cars do not run on nuclear power. French fields are not fertilised with nuclear power. French rivers don’t run because of nuclear power – though some of them contain plenty of it’s dirty secrets, don’t they?

    And if worldwide consumption of finite uranium reserves suddenly peaks – which is what will happen if a significant number of other countries build new nuclear – then bugger all in France is going to be running on nuclear power, because there won’t be any fuel to put in the reactors.

    Why are you incapable of grasping this idea – that uranium is a finite resource, and with even the most modern reactor designs, will be used up in around 60 years at the current rate of consumption? If we build more reactors – let alone significantly more reactors – that length of time will be sooner.

    Peak uranium is just peak oil all over again. Let’s stop being idiots, and fix the problems NOW, rather than have to face it again in a few decades.

    I think you’re just a hopelessly optimistic / denialist technophile, who puts blind faith in some other reactor technology coming along to make use of other types of fuel, or that there are somehow massive untapped uranium reserves we’re going to be able to mine. Or that we’re going to be mining it from fucking asteroids!?!? (And yet you make it out like my ideas are far fetched!?)

    You’ll support your current way of life to your last breath, because you are too scared of change, and because the idea that change is coming anyway, and it’s way outside your control, and might mean you’ll have less stuff, is too much for you to face up to.

  74. soru — on 31st July, 2008 at 1:58 pm  

    I am not comfortable with the risks associated with nuclear power

    Yes, I know there are safer reactor designs (gravity drop, pebble bed, etc) but I would rather do without

    The problem with posting such long blocks of text is that you can’t help contradicting yourself. You claim to be worried about the risk, but can’t help admitting there even when there is none, you want to kill off nuclear as part of some mad scheme to force society to live the way you want.

    The only risk you are concerned with is the risk that it will work, and allow people to go on living the lives they want, not submitting to you as Dictator of All.

    Why are you incapable of grasping this idea – that uranium is a finite resource, and with even the most modern reactor designs, will be used up in around 60 years at the current rate of consumption?

    How many people are you prepared to have starve to death on the bet that in 50 years, not one single new relevant technology will be developed? Are you prepared to start stacking up the corpses now, so confident are you that fusion, solar, geothermal, tidal, wind, wave and 20 more exotic forms of energy will all not pan out?

    Any individual technology may not work out, but it seems a very long shot that none will.

    and might mean you’ll have less stuff,

    As privileged westerners, you and I are rich enough to make the choice of having eses stuff. Thing is, you don’t get to make that decision for the Chinese, Indians and Africans, no matter how deliriously happy you imagine them being starving to death in a hut.

  75. Dave S — on 31st July, 2008 at 2:18 pm  

    soru @ 74:

    You claim to be worried about the risk, but can’t help admitting there even when there is none, you want to kill off nuclear as part of some mad scheme to force society to live the way you want.

    Are you even reading the same website as me? Or are you just making shit up, so you can “beat” me in debate?

    I never said there is no risk. I believe the chance of future generations being stuck with a mountain of radioactive waste they can’t contain is practically a certainty. Just because that mountain of waste already exists and already cannot be safely dealt with (see the previous link I posted to that report), should we go on adding to it?

    How many people are you prepared to have starve to death on the bet that in 50 years, not one single new relevant technology will be developed? Are you prepared to start stacking up the corpses now, so confident are you that fusion, solar, geothermal, tidal, wind, wave and 20 more exotic forms of energy will all not pan out?

    How many people are you prepared to kill in the future because the waste from your nuclear plants (so you could have what you want, now) cannot be contained?

    Not to mention, yet-a-fucking-gain because you are apparently immune to reading it, that usable uranium reserves will run out in 60 years at the current rate of consumption, and this time will be significantly less if we rely on it for more of our energy supplies.

    Also, if you’d been actually reading what I wrote, you’d have noticed that I’m in favour of solar, tidal, wind, wave (and also geothermal, though I didn’t mention that one) energy. Stop putting your assumptions and incorrect words in my mouth!

    The technologies I support are those that won’t have catastrophic results if they “don’t work out”, and also don’t produce mountains of radioactive, toxic waste. And also, don’t depend on known finite resources simply to flop us over to the same problem again in a couple of decades.

    How does your solution deal with anything, other than perhaps buying us a little time and allowing you to continue consuming willy-nilly, making it someone else’s problem if you are lucky enough?

    Let me ask you this:

    Will you, or will you not, reduce your own consumption of resources and energy, in order to ensure our survival, and to work towards a more equitable standard of living for everybody, worldwide?

    As privileged westerners, you and I are rich enough to mach the choice of having elss stuff. Thing is, you don’t get to make that decision for the Chinese, Indians and Africans, no matter how deliriously happy you imagine them being starving to death in a hut.

    Delude yourself all you like. Your continued consumption is not helping their situation – it is contributing directly to their poverty and oppression.

    Again, I ask: Could everybody live like you – even given nuclear power? No, they could not.

    Building new nuclear plants here is going to make it just sooooooooo much better for them, isn’t it Soru? Just like GM grops are all about feeding the starving masses, eh? Pull the other one!

    Time to grow a spine, Soru, and admit that you and your way of life are part of the problem, and that you’re absolutely content for it to remain that way. In fact, as long as you get to have more toys than the other kids, you might even consider letting them play with you once in a while.

    Altruism my arse! You want nuclear power because you want to maintain your way of life for you.

    Perhaps if you’d just confirm or deny this is the case, then we can stop going round in circles, and this discussion can move on.

  76. soru — on 31st July, 2008 at 5:16 pm  

    I’ve recently reduced my impact from 30 to ~25 tonnes C02 per year. There’s really not that much I can do personally to reduce it further without new technology becoming available. Development of which technology happens to be part of my job.

    Wheras you flat out refuse to do anything about your hundreds of tonnes per year. Even incidental elements of your anarchist lifestyle, like being anti-nuclear, are too important to you to compromise for something as trivial as global warming.

    Building new nuclear plants here is going to make it just sooooooooo much better for them, isn’t it Soru?

    For a start, it would cut the numbers of the 26,000 people killed by coal mining annually in China.

    In the medium term, reducing our emissions by ~80% while maintaining a lifestyle China, India and the rest of the world will not reject as unacceptable is the only alternative that doesn’t involve deaths on at least a WWII scale.

    Altruism my arse! You want nuclear power because you want to maintain your way of life for you.

    I have to admit, I definitely don’t want to give up computers, TV, fruit, education, holidays, hospitals, electricity, and so on. A 20% reduction is one thing, but try cutting 80% simply by living less well and you cut out a lot of non-fat.

    The way I figure it, neither do 99.999% of people across the planet – I’m probably slightly below average in my liking for such things, whereas your desire to live as a Bhutanese peasant is an extreme minority even in the rich west, let alone amongst those whose parents or grandparents lived something like that.

    That means I don’t see any way of you getting what you want short of some form of totalitarian, probably genocidal state, a la Pol Pott.

    I know you don’t want that, but I am not sure you have fully thought through the consequences of not wanting that.

  77. digitalcntrl — on 1st August, 2008 at 2:46 pm  

    “5. Peak uranium: There are about 60 years worth of uranium left. If all the world’s electricity were generated by nuclear, we would run out of usable uranium in about 3 years. Yes, there are other fuel technologies and reactor designs that have been worked on, but last time I checked, none of them were actually viable, and most of them had been abandoned as such.”

    This is somewhat misleading…Uranium 235 used in lightwater reactors is indeed scarce, however, fast breeder reactors such as those in India use Uranium 238 whose supply can meet the world’s power needs for billions of years.

    http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/cohen.html

  78. Dave S — on 2nd August, 2008 at 5:44 pm  

    soru @ 76:

    I’ve recently reduced my impact from 30 to ~25 tonnes C02 per year. There’s really not that much I can do personally to reduce it further without new technology becoming available. Development of which technology happens to be part of my job.

    I know there are a whole bunch of different ways of calculating personal CO2 emissions, but I don’t think your reduction is as impressive as you seem to believe. Actually, I almost think there must be a mistake in your figures, because they seem too big (though not unattainable)!

    Last time I calculated my personal emissions (cross-referenced between a few different online calculators) around a year ago, they were about 3-4 tonnes per year.

    If you like, add on the ~5 tonnes per year (can’t quite remember where I found that figure, sorry) that each person in the UK is responsible for due to the infrastructure of the country.

    So my total CO2 emissions per year are something like 8-9 tonnes, the majority of which comes from things that other people are doing “on my behalf” (often against my will, because I’d be sent to prison if I earned money and didn’t pay the tax that supports them, though I’m working on that part as well, finding non-monetary ways of living so as to reduce my involvement in the tax system even further).

    The UK average personal emissions level is 10.92 tonnes, and the US average is 19 tonnes, according to this article in the Independent.

    So your 25 tonnes per year isn’t particularly great. In fact, I’m kinda struggling to work out what sort of lifestyle you’d have to live to produce that much in the way of emissions, because I want to give you the benefit of the doubt as I can’t believe your personal emissions would actually be that high!? (Are you sure they are?)

    Incidentally, this is an interesting site which shows by when during 2008 the average UK citizen will have emitted as much as a citizen from another country will during the whole year:

    http://www.wdm.org.uk/campaigns/climate/calendar/

    Wheras you flat out refuse to do anything about your hundreds of tonnes per year.

    I don’t know what on Earth you’re talking about. I really don’t! Seems like just a baseless accusation, unless you can explain where you got that figure from?

    Even incidental elements of your anarchist lifestyle, like being anti-nuclear, are too important to you to compromise for something as trivial as global warming.

    Again, you’re not making a lot of sense – not least because you don’t actually know very much about me!

    I am constantly analysing many (undoubtedly not all) aspects of my life to work out how I could reduce my emissions and resource consumption. Sure, I’m not doing absolutely everything I can, but I don’t think anyone is being expected to work out and eliminate all aspects of their CO2 emissions!

    As long as we keep them to an equitable amount (which can be calculated using the Contraction and Convergence model) within limits that the Earth can safely sustain, we should be OK. That means we in the UK have to emit quite a lot less, and others around the poorer parts of the world can increase their emissions, so we all arrive at the same per capita levels.

    I’m doing quite a lot to limit my emissions, and I’m still above the level I need to be at (which I’ve seen quoted as both 1 or 2 tonnes per person per year). But I’m currently laying the foundations which will enable me to genuinely reduce my emissions further – it’s all a work in progress (and will always be that way too, even once I reach my “target” level).

    For a start, it would cut the numbers of the 26,000 people killed by coal mining annually in China.

    In the medium term, reducing our emissions by ~80% while maintaining a lifestyle China, India and the rest of the world will not reject as unacceptable is the only alternative that doesn’t involve deaths on at least a WWII scale.

    I think it’s fairly clear that creation of an “acceptable” lifestyle (by Western standards) for that many people is going to result in the extinction of the entire of humanity and much more besides. So, what constitutes an “acceptable” lifestyle when framed in terms of our very survival? (Perhaps the freedom to all listen to our iPods and drink champagne as we burn?)

    It’s clear we’re going to have to adjust our definition of what’s an “acceptable” lifestyle, because if we don’t, then our “acceptable” lifestyle is going to ultimately be rather short lived.

    Still, many of the world’s people are already living an acceptable (to them) lifestyle without polluting and consuming as much as we do – hence the abundance of happy Bhutanese peasants. We need to learn lessons from them about how to live our lives.

    Which again, doesn’t mean we have go get rid of all mod cons. My girlfriend interviewed (for a radio programme she produced) a guy called Donnachadh McCarthy who has reduced his personal emissions to beyond the necessary levels, and still has things like a washing machine etc.

    There’s also a report just out yesterday from respected respected energy consultants Pöyry, which apparently lays out in detail how it is entirely possible to meet emissions reductions targets and meet our energy needs in the UK without resorting to building new coal-fired power plants.

    I haven’t seen the full report yet, so that’s only what I’ve been told it says, but it also appears to be saying that we can do it without increasing our reliance on nuclear power, if I’m interpreting the graph on the flyer correctly (although it also seems to be saying we’ll be using more CCGT gas power stations).

    I’m looking forward to finding out more about it, anyway.

    I have to admit, I definitely don’t want to give up computers, TV, fruit, education, holidays, hospitals, electricity, and so on. A 20% reduction is one thing, but try cutting 80% simply by living less well and you cut out a lot of non-fat.

    I don’t know. By the sounds of things, you could cut out a lot and still be living a more consumerist lifestyle than the average American!!

    I simply don’t agree with your either/or analysis – it’s not nuclear or nothing. There is middle ground in the situation, and we will be able to continue to have many aspects of our lives that we have grown accustomed to.

    But personally, I intend to demonstrate that it’s possible to have a great lifestyle without destroying the Earth, and to eventually offer myself as an example of one way it can be done, in order to help other people do it too. If it can’t be sustained over generations and generations, then it isn’t good enough.

    The way I figure it, neither do 99.999% of people across the planet – I’m probably slightly below average in my liking for such things, whereas your desire to live as a Bhutanese peasant is an extreme minority even in the rich west, let alone amongst those whose parents or grandparents lived something like that.

    Sure, I never said I was “normal” – whatever that means! Different ways of living make different people happy. I long to simplify a lot of aspects of my life, because they are too complicated and they ultimately don’t make me happy.

    But I don’t think it has to be such a solid line in the sand. I see no reason why I can’t interchange different bits of my life, so that as well as aiming for a high degree of self-sufficiency, I can also have a computer (if I still want one – maybe I won’t) and so on.

    That means I don’t see any way of you getting what you want short of some form of totalitarian, probably genocidal state, a la Pol Pott.

    I know you don’t want that, but I am not sure you have fully thought through the consequences of not wanting that.

    I don’t think anyone really knows, or has fully thought through everything – not even those in power. The point is, in many ways at the moment, we’re being denied even the opportunity to try.

    I could make you a list as long as your arm of the lengths corporations and states go to in order to stop us from realising our own potential and our own inner power – to organise without them, to lead fulfilling lives away from their ability to leech from our efforts, and to generally be free (as in true freedom, to do pretty much whatever we want as long as it doesn’t harm others). They will not allow us to experience this, because to do so would undermine everything they stand for.

    Any threats to the status quo are demonised, crushed and lied about as soon as they appear, because there’s nothing the state dislikes more than the threat of a good example. This has happened sooooo many times I’m not even going to bother making a list for you! (Spend an hour reading Chomsky and you’ll become acquainted with a few such cases.)

    digitalcntrl @ 77:

    This is somewhat misleading…Uranium 235 used in lightwater reactors is indeed scarce, however, fast breeder reactors such as those in India use Uranium 238 whose supply can meet the world’s power needs for billions of years.

    http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/cohen.html

    OK, interesting point, however I think you’re also being slightly misleading.

    To the best of my current knowledge on the subject, the fast breeder reactors (as opposed to just breeder reactors) that would make this possible still do not exist as anything other than prototypes, and the ability to do it on a commercial scale has not been proven yet (and has suffered quite a few major problems which might suggest it never will be). If I’m wrong about that then please let me know, because in doing my own research on the subject, I still can’t seem to find a conclusive statement one way or the other.

    Your link is from 1996, so I think I can get away with posting this one from 2001. I’m sure stuff has changed a bit since then, but the article seems to be in line with things as far as I’ve been able to find out (though maybe I’m wrong). Anyway, brief synopsis: fast breeders are still very much an unproven technology.

    See also this piece which seems to provide quite a good, relatively current assessment (2006).

    Maybe the technology will be there eventually, but as far as I’m aware it’s not there yet.

    I presume the fast breeder in India you refer to is the one at Kalpakkam, which is also only a prototype.

    All of this is just as far as I know from my own online research, so if I’m wrong or out of date, please correct me.

    I’m still very concerned about our ability to safely store nuclear waste. However, if it is genuinely the case that nuclear could meet our power “requirements” (though again, I ask you to consider who it is that decides those “requirements”, and whether most of them aren’t just dressed up “wants”) then I might not be quite so against it.

    But the risks are still very big, and I still think it’s completely impossible to justify creating mountains of radioactive, toxic waste just so we can have what we want now. I also think that if unstable Fast Breeder reactors are involved (which so far seem to stray pretty close to meltdown or other major safety problems, because the margins within which they operate are much smaller), the probability of a catastrophic nuclear accident increases again, so it’ll still be too dangerous to consider.

    Finally, I’m really not sure it’s a good idea to allow profit-turning corporations to control things which could potentially explode and kill millions of people. We all know that they cut corners in order to keep the shareholders happy, and as I mentioned before, insurance companies won’t touch nuclear power, which again means that the public end up taking the risk if it goes wrong. Ultimately, a trans-national corporation really doesn’t have that much to lose by gambling on the safety of some random factor which could wipe out the population of a country. So some company’s name gets trashed by a nuclear accident? They just continue under the banner of it’s sister companies.

    Do we trust them enough not to put profits ahead of our safety, when really, the risks and costs of cleanup are mostly borne by us? Were we born yesterday!?

  79. digitalcntrl — on 2nd August, 2008 at 9:14 pm  

    “To the best of my current knowledge on the subject, the fast breeder reactors (as opposed to just breeder reactors) that would make this possible still do not exist as anything other than prototypes, and the ability to do it on a commercial scale has not been proven yet.”

    The fast breeder reactors (FBRs) you are referring to as prototypes are thorium based, they should be more appropriately named thermal breeder reactors (TBRs). Traditional FBRs use Uranium-238 of which the prototype reactors were made back in the 1950s. FBRs are a known technology these days, however, since pressurized water reactor (PWRs) are cheaper to build than FBRs commerically, FBRs have yet to be a more profitable option until the Uranium-235 begins to run out.

    “Your link is from 1996, so I think I can get away with posting this one from 2001. I’m sure stuff has changed a bit since then, but the article seems to be in line with things as far as I’ve been able to find out (though maybe I’m wrong). Anyway, brief synopsis: fast breeders are still very much an unproven technology.”

    You are correct in that thorium based TBRs are experimental. India is working to develop TBR technology in order to benefit from its vast supplies of Thorium. However, India additionally has other commerical PWR reactors with a prototype FBR reactor constructed back in 1985.

    “Finally, I’m really not sure it’s a good idea to allow profit-turning corporations to control things which could potentially explode and kill millions of people.”

    This is really a different debate. You can make the argument that nuclear power stations are best maintained in govt hands. However, I would note that the only serious nuclear catastrophe was Chernobyl, which was in govt hands.

  80. Dave S — on 3rd August, 2008 at 10:16 am  

    digitalcntrl @ 79:

    FBRs are a known technology these days, however, since pressurized water reactor (PWRs) are cheaper to build than FBRs commerically, FBRs have yet to be a more profitable option until the Uranium-235 begins to run out.

    Sure, a “known technology” as in proven that the idea works on a small scale – I wasn’t saying otherwise. But are there any existing FBRs (or any reactors using alternative fuels to enriched U-235) which are being run commercially and supplying power to national grids?

    I tried to find examples of any, and couldn’t – and I’m usually pretty good at finding information online.

    Are you saying that in a few decades, FBRs will become more economically viable than PWRs etc. and at that point we’ll be seeing them built everywhere?

    Because from what I’ve read, it’s not just a problem of profitability. Eg. because the core density is much higher in a FBR than a PWR, the chance of the reactor going critical and into meltdown is not only increased, but can happen a lot quicker – like minutes, rather than hours.

    Plus there’s the problem of using sodium as a coolant, since sodium reacts violently with both water and air, so can potentially easily catch fire (as happened at the Japanese Monju FBR).

    While I’m sure these problems can be more-or-less overcome, it only takes one meltdown to wipe out a small country. If we start building thousands of potentially rather unstable FBRs (which are already more expensive and harder to build, so budget constraints may have to stretch even thinner) everywhere, then isn’t the chance of a meltdown somewhere going to be greatly increased?

    I’m no mathematical genius or economist, but it still seems to me to be more than just a financial problem. The technology may be “proven” (as in known to work on an experimental basis) but is it working on a commercial scale anywhere yet, or is it safe to attempt to do so? As far as I can establish, the answer to both of those questions is a resounding “no”.

    You are correct in that thorium based TBRs are experimental. India is working to develop TBR technology in order to benefit from its vast supplies of Thorium. However, India additionally has other commerical PWR reactors with a prototype FBR reactor constructed back in 1985.

    I’m afraid I can’t see anything remarkable about that. India is working to develop TBRs and has a prototype FBR, as well as a bunch of traditional PWR reactors.

    Nothing about that says that FBRs / TBRs are already working on a commercial scale. In fact, it seems to support more what I’m saying: that they’re still very much an unproven technology, at least for commercial-scale use.

    This is really a different debate. You can make the argument that nuclear power stations are best maintained in govt hands. However, I would note that the only serious nuclear catastrophe was Chernobyl, which was in govt hands.

    Sure it’s a different debate – but it’s a significant one!

    Plenty of evidence points to both governments and corporations being hopelessly inept, downright reckless and utterly untrustworthy with how they address the safety of populations and the environment. (Look no further than their approach to climate change!)

    Have you seen The Corporation? Definitely recommended viewing.

    Given that I ascribe roughly equal levels of trust to governments and corporations (as in, I don’t trust either in the slightest, and am wary of people who ignore the alarm bells and do), then I think it’s fair to say that neither should be trusted to run nuclear power stations.

    To provide another perspective, as an anarchist, I also don’t think that anarchists (aka. a community organising itself without leaders) should be trusted to run nuclear power stations. There’d be no profit motive, but someone might forget to do something, or incorrectly assume that it had already been taken care of by someone else! (Hey, I’ve never, ever claimed that anarchy was perfect!)

    What I’m saying is, still, that I think there’s quite a strong case to argue that nobody can be safely given the responsibility of running nuclear power plants.

    Maybe I’m wrong about that. But what are the odds of catastrophe if I’m wrong, compared to the odds of catastrophe if you’re (nuclear power plant safety believers) wrong?

    What are the odds of catastrophe (eg. mass starvation) if we simply learn to live with less of an energy supply? Isn’t it just a case of weighing up what’s actually important: corporate profits, a decent life for everybody, a sustainable future.

    Nuclear power may provide power to help people out of poverty, but actually, the power needed to help people out of poverty is pretty minimal, because most people’s actual needs are pretty minimal, and can be met from within a (non-oppressed) community! Nuclear power is mostly about providing the energy required to keep industry going, and keep corporate profits coming in.

    So it still seems to me like there’s a pretty clear case for having less industrialisation and using significantly less power overall and still giving people the means to eradicate poverty, rather than “having” to go the nuclear route.

    We have a choice: We do not have to go the nuclear route!

    And again, I ask (to anybody): What constitutes an “acceptable” standard of living when framed in terms of our very survival?

    We need to change our ideas about what is “acceptable” and admit that our material wants (not needs for living) have gone too way far, and that they can never be achieved by all – even given infinite nuclear power. (Because of other resources being depleted, and because of just how much industry is trashing our only life support system in so many other ways beyond just simple power generation.)

  81. Indrak — on 3rd August, 2008 at 7:14 pm  

    Dave S:
    well done, very, for the time spent here ['quibble' notwithstanding, to be pointed out appropriately..].

    Those in between have cause to learn/be stimulated, but there’s no argument to be had with those reactionaries that ascribe political agendas to others – phrases referring to motes in eyes, and “physician, heal thy self” come to mind.
    Which means: as an anarchist, you need to contend with the fact that inspite of a slowly unfolding falling-off-the-precipice, the ruling classes’ functionaire lickspittles will be fighting tooth-and-nail, or rather inciting others to so do.

  82. Dave S — on 5th August, 2008 at 1:34 am  

    Indrak, thanks for that – glad that someone took the time to read what probably took me a day (!?) on-and-off to write!

    Bloody hell, I need to get a life!

    But actually, all I want to do is get on quietly with having my life (and allowing others to do the same), and that is severely under threat – from climate change, from nuclear power, from resource depletion, you name it. So either I act, or I do nothing and accept my “fate” as handed to me.

    One thing I know for sure is that there are plenty of rich, powerful bastards, who couldn’t give a shit whether I live or die. So I’m fucked (in every sense of the word) if I simply play by their rules and go along with what they want me to do.

    Disobedience truly is a lifestyle choice – because to obey is to do nothing more than walk like lambs to the slaughter.

  83. izmir evden eve — on 11th August, 2008 at 11:20 am  

    thanks..

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