Interesting documentary! Terrapower seems to have an attractive solution.
One thing I noticed is that in the first half of the show they mainly discussed Fukushima and mentioned Three Mile Island, including stating that there had been no loss of life and very little emission of radiation from the latter. Later, they mentioned Chernobyl, but there was no mention of the thousands of people who lost their lives due to that accident.
Interestingly, they talked about how the reactors at Fukushima were shut down by dropping the fuel rods into the reactor. What they didn't mention is that it was that step taken at Chernobyl which caused the massive explosion there. Of course the reactor designs are not the same, but it the controllers at Chernobyl did what they thought would shut down their reactor.
- 30 first responders: All died within months. - Hundreds of helicopter pilots and soldiers who dropped sand bags received lethal doses - 600 pilots who dropped lead into the core all received lethal doses - 10,000 miners who tunneled under the reactor received massive doses. It is thought that one-fourth of them died before age 40. - Over 500,000 soldiers who were employed as "human robots" to clean up the areas of highest contamination and build the enclosure over the reactor because man-made robots failed too quickly. They each received massive doses during a few brief exposure periods. How many of them died as a result is unknown. - The many inhabitants of the area who received massive doses of radiation and lead. Again, no one knows how many have lost their lives due to the contamination.
Many of those brave and/or unknowing souls who were fatally exposed were fighting to prevent the increasing spread of radiation and to try to prevent a theorized secondary explosion which was estimated to be on the order of a 3- to 5-megaton bomb.
A very large area surrounding Chernobyl is still uninhabitable.
The problem with these three accidents in which the reactor cores have melted down is that we have no way to clean them up. We do not have the technology to go into the core area and remove the mess.
There are still hundreds of these old-design reactors operating worldwide to provide electricity. Some are new, some are old, but all will eventually approach and then reach the end of their lives. How many more will experience meltdowns is anybody's guess. Many people would have said "None!" just a few years ago. But it's clear today that that view was naive.
Even if no more of them melt down, the problem of what to do with the waste only grows with time.
There are no obvious answers about how we will address the worlds energy needs moving forward. It seems clear that nuclear fission will continue to be a significant part of the solution for a long time to come. It is good to see that new designs that incorporate some safety lessons that we have learned are being developed. Unfortunately, not all of the issues related to nuclear power have solutions.
I thought the part about millennials coming onto the scene more concerned with climate change than nuclear dangers (probably because they weren't around for TMI and Chernobyl, although they should be well aware of Fukushima) looking to develop innovative solutions for inherently safe reactor designs was interesting.
The assertion made that renewables can't meet societal needs I'm sure would be challenged, particularly in the hallowed halls of MNL.
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Good program, very interesting. I guess it's nuclear week at PBS. Saw two other interesting docs: "Containment" about the problem of long term waste disposal and "Command and Control" about a near catastrophic mishap at a Titan 2 nuclear missile silo in Arkansas in 1980.
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Stoaty wrote:nuclear has a "negative learning curve"
The graph in the article you linked to (which shows that the cost per unit generating capacity of nuclear has been increasing over the last 4 decades) does not appear to be corrected for inflation. As such, it is pretty useless for drawing conclusions.
The article misses the important falling cost, that of natural gas. Most of the recent reduction in coal usage and thus carbon emissions is due to natural gas displacing coal.
Very cheap natural gas makes nuclear less cost competitive, as well.
I don't see how we get to low enough carbon to avoid disaster without at least some nuclear (other some other exotic power source like orbital solar or fusion), so I don't have a big disagreement with the article. How much nuclear is needed is an open question, and depends on future technologies, both on the energy storage side and on the nuclear side.
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