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RE: Just barely off topic: Can Nuclear Energy ever be "sustainable?"
Title: Just barely off topic: Can Nuclear Energy ever be "sustainable?"
Joe (and others who have contributed so far) --
You're right, I think -- it depends on your definition of
I've purposely left that open-ended. After all -- if
I gave you a clear definition, it wouldn't be much of a question, would
BTW, plug my zip code -- 99354 -- into Google maps
sometime, and observe my proximity to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
West Valley's got nothing on us.
Looking forward to more points of view -- keep those cards
and letters rolling in, folks.
It depends on your definition of
sustainability. Sustainability from a 'triple bottom line'
perspective? Well, not sure how it socially measures up, can poverty
stricken (developing) places throughout the world afford nuclear energy, and if
so, would they be allowed to have it? If they are allowed to have, will
the construction of those plants be safe? I'll let others speak of the
environmental issues, but non-renewability and supply chain issues really come
into play here.
It terms of sustainability from an
inter-generational (preserving our future generations) perspective, it is too
difficult to tell. We may be leaving them with a legacy that cannot be
managed. We are talking about possible brownfield sites that may be
horrendous (but I'm not sure what the damage will be there). You have low
level and high level wastes. I worked at one place in New York (West Valley)
that was going through some rough times trying to figure out what to do with
water/liquid wastes that had been contaminated and whole buildings that
were blocked off. Something had to be done with all that material.
I'm not sure what Yucca mountain or other repositories hold, but once they
hold these wastes, they will be held for future generations to deal with.
We are also assuming from a security perspective (a different sustainability
measure) that someone will be around to protect those sites in the future from
either nefarious or negligent parties. This is an assumption we can or
cannot make since we don't know what it will be like in 50 years, much less
1,000 or 10,000 years.
So, is nuclear energy the best sustainable
alternative? Good question, ask again in 10,000 years.
on behalf of Butner, R Scott
Sent: Thu 9/6/2007 4:49 PM
P2 Tech list serve
Subject: Just barely off topic: Can Nuclear Energy
ever be "sustainable?"
Fellow P2TECH-ies --
Well, can it?
And if the answer is "yes" -- what would it take to
make it so?
These are not idle musings on the part of a scruffy,
distractable, overweight nerd, either.
Nope. Not idle in the least.
(The rest is pretty much spot on, of course.)
I ask these questions because I've been approached
about making a presentation on this topic at a conference which is coming up
later this fall, and wish to gather some informed perspectives on the
subject. As I often do when faced with a question that's over my head,
technically, I've come to P2TECH in hopes of finding some bits of wisdom.
And maybe some viewpoints that challenge my own.
I recognize this is an open-ended question -- I think
by now we all have a grasp of what the notion of sustainability means, but am
not sure I've seen anything really robust in terms of quantifiable
Yes, I'm aware of any number of sustainability
metrics and indicators that have been used (and in fact plan to use them
prominently in my talk).
But most of these metrics allow for more wiggle room
than my most comfy blue jeans, now that I've lost 22 lbs.
(had to sneak that in there, somewhere!)
So consider it an invitation to open-ended answers,
If you have an opinion regarding either
question: whether nuclear power CAN be sustainable, or what it would take
to MAKE it sustainable -- I'm eager to hear it. If I end up using your
ideas in my talk, I'll be sure to provide appropriate attribution.
The conference is in mid-November, but I'd be
especially interested in comments I receive early enough to incorporate into a
broader framework -- say, Oct 1.
I'll be sure to share the presentation with any who
wish to see it, once it's been prepared.
Thanks in advance,
Research Scientist, Knowledge Transformation & Integration Group
Pacific NW National Laboratory
PO Box 999