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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?"
Hi Scott, random thoughts from an idle mind:
 
1. Wind, tide, sun, and geothermal power are sustainable because they are expected to last for generations (at least a few) and extracting their power causes limited local impact.  Oil, gas, and nuclear all result in greater impacts, but the tradeoffs are difficult to weigh and compare.
 
2. Global warming is expected to generate more intense storms.  Can we harness this power, mitigate the storms impact, and use the energy to offset the burning of fuel, thus reducing global warming?
 
3. Nuclear power is just like many other great ideas, more than 95% of the problems have been solved and we just need to solve this one last little problem (which always turns out to be the key major problem with the whole scheme).
 
4. Nuclear energy might be sustainable if we go for local low-level energy producers.  Say something for your home using low level rad waste.  Big power is out, distributed power is in.  Distributed power also avoids the transmission loss associated with putting big nuclear plants far away from the population center.
 
5. Do nuclear waste disposal sites represent the resource mines of the future?  We solidify waste to make it safer and easier to manage but are we losing a future opportunity to reuse this material?
 
6. Is a technology sustainable if it requires us to sacrifice the use of a given area, even if limited in value?  Hanford was picked as a site for the nuclear program because it was considered by the government to be barren and worthless land.  Then as the area grew, past practices were no longer sustainable.
 
7. If the source of the uranium used in the reactor is derived as a waste byproduct (i.e., uranium extracted from phosphate fertilizer), is this more sustainable than uranium derived from ore?
 

Mike Callahan, PE
Jacobs Engineering
1111 S. Arroyo Parkway
Pasadena CA 91105
Business: (626) 568-7005
Fax: (626) 568-7079

  
-----Original Message-----
From: owner-p2tech@great-lakes.net [mailto:owner-p2tech@great-lakes.net]On Behalf Of Butner, R Scott
Sent: Thursday, September 06, 2007 1:50 PM
To: 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 definitions. 

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, as well. 

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,
=================================================
Scott Butner
Senior Research Scientist, Knowledge Transformation & Integration Group
Pacific NW National Laboratory
PO Box 999
Richland, WA  99352
Voice: (509)-372-4946/Fax: (509) 375-2443
E-mail: scott.butner@pnl.gov
=================================================


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