Kyoto – A Perspective (Part 16)

Posted on Fri 04/25/2008 by



How long has the nuclear process been used for the generation of electricity?

It was perceived quite early that the process itself probably had more uses in a civilian setting than as a weapon. The military had an urgency from the start, not for ulterior motives but from the necessity as a vision that the shock of actually seeing the devastation it could cause, might in itself bring about an end to a war that was developing into a long and drawn out attritional stalemate, an end that did justify the means, but in the process, forever tainting the thoughts of every person in a manner that has proved to be negative to this day.
After that first use as a weapon, the branches of the nuclear tree started to spread. True, weapons proliferated, but those other branches saw the process being used to power firstly submarines, and then large capital ships. (Continues below the text for the photo)

This view looks down on the fuel rods at Penn State’s Breazeale Reactor. The reactor is a TRIGA model manufactured by General Atomics. The blue light surrounding the fuel is known as Cherenkov radiation, produced when charged particles travel through matter (in this case, water) at speeds greater than light. Penn State University is the site of the first licensed reactor.
Sources: the Penn State Radiation Science and Engineering Center.

This is the oldest reactor still in current service in the US. It only produces 1.1 MW of power. Located at Penn State University, the Breazeale reactor, a TRIGA model, it was commissioned on July 8th 1955.

Use for the production of electrical power also started not long after the war as the three major powers of the time, The US, the UK, and Russia, developed their own versions of power plants. The Russians were first, in 1954. However it was a small plant, tiny really, producing a maximum of only 5 megawatts (MW) mostly for research purposes to test the long term viability of the process.


The British came next with their first plant at Sellafield in 1956. It was used for military purposes, but had the commercial Calder Hall plant, and then Windscale. It started conservatively, producing 40 MW, which later rose to 200 MW, this plant remaining in constant use until 2003 for 47 years.
The first plant to use the produced power on a commercial basis, and not just experimentally, and also the largest at the time producing 60 MW of power that was actually used, was the Shippingport plant in Beaver County Pennsylvania, and this plant stayed in constant production for 25 years until it was decommissioned in 1982.
Currently in use in the US there are 104 Plants producing electricity. This shows quite obviously that the process must be relatively safe one, and if you add together the years that these plants have been running, you’re looking at close on 2000 years in total of virtually trouble free operation, and that is just in the US.
When compared with other processes, the Nuclear option is probably a quantum level safer than those others, because of the inherent safety measures included.

What I would like you to take into account is this.
Consider the legal process, and how litigious we have become over the years. If the Nuclear process was so bad, legal proceedings would be so endemic as to virtually cease production of power by these nuclear means.
Those companies setting up to construct a plant would weigh the possible legal costs against the recovered profit and bean counters would advise that it was just not worth it to even consider construction in the first place.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires safety measures on a scale that accidents are almost unheard of, and if anything were to happen, then safety measures that are standard would ensure that the accident does not become a disaster.
True there have been accidents and the worst of these Chernobyl, near Kiev in the former Soviet Republic of Ukraine, which comes immediately to mind, where brave men unthinkingly did outstanding things with no fear for their personal safety to ensure the disaster did not become worse than it actually was.
Three Mile Island is also one that comes to mind, but I want you to think about this.

On the scale where the highest level accident is 7, only one, Chernobyl has been classed as a 7. Three Mile Island rates as a 5 on that scale. Even though there was a partial meltdown of the core, the reactor vessel and the containment building were not breached, and very little radiation was released into the atmosphere.
Keeping that in mind, the reactor vessel itself has been removed from the site and that turbine and generator also removed. The site was cleaned up and all that remains are the cooling towers. If the site was so badly contaminated, would people still be working at the plant in the numbers that they do. The second reactor, turbine and generator still effectively produce electricity quite safely to this day, and will for a long time to come.
People still stop their cars alongside the road across the River from the plant to take photographs, barely 100 yards from the site. If it was so bad, would the authorities allow this, knowing the propensity for the legal system to act on things like this.
No, the process is a relatively safe one.

The drawback is the waste itself, but this waste has been stored at underground sites within the US for up to 50 years now. The waste has been removed from the sites, transported, and then safely buried. If this removal of waste was so dangerous, would it even be considered to be allowed to happen.
I will point out something that detractors will point to and use as an accusation.
The Greenpeace Organisation points an accusing finger at the industry and says that since the US has started to produce electricity using the nuclear process, there have been more than 200 near misses.

See the point here. They use psychology to infer something that would surely arouse fear on a large scale, engendering that fear to raise their own profile.
Does it not then stand to reason that those awful 200 near misses are in actual facts startling examples of just how well the safety measures work.
Using that same example, why is Greenpeace itself not protesting against the Automotive industry because contrary to near misses, cars have been actually known to have killed people.
Again, psychology is used by one side, (or even the other side) to enhance their own point.
There are drawbacks, true, but life is full of drawbacks.

I will however point in the direction of France, and ask you to look at these facts, not as a psychological point, but as a little known TRUTH. In France, nearly 80% of the country’s electricity is produced by the nuclear process. France is one of the most densely populated counties on the Planet. Yet France has the cleanest air of ANY industrialised nation on Earth.
That is testament itself to how clean the process is. There is no fear in France with respect to Nuclear power. As a secondary thing, France has the cheapest cost for electricity of any nation across the whole European Continent, and actually has more power than it needs, exporting power to neighbouring countries.

These are not psychological Swords of Damocles poised over our heads. These are incontrovertible facts.

Maybe this is an inconvenient truth in itself.

No, what is happening here is that people with different agendas are driving public opinion with scare tactics, labelling safety measures that actually work as near misses.

In the next piece, I’ll detail the process, and explain why, for the US especially, the nuclear process is actually a viable, and a clean alternative.