1. How many more decades of uranium does the planet have left?
There are about 8 decades of supply remaining.
“Uranium abundance: At the current rate of uranium consumption with conventional reactors, the world supply of viable uranium, which is the most common nuclear fuel, will last for 80 years.” If nukes were fully built out to provide our full energy needs, we would have about 5 years of uranium remaining on the planet.
Note that nukes are not renewable energy. Anything that has to be mined is, by definition, not renewable.
Image via Land Art Generator Initiative
2. How much are US taxpayers paying to store nuclear power waste?
Billions of dollars and counting.
“The Maine Yankee nuclear power plant hasn’t produced a single watt of energy in more than two decades, but it cost U.S. taxpayers about $35 million this year,” the LA Times reports.
“Almost 40 years after Congress decided the United States, and not private companies, would be responsible for storing radioactive waste, the cost of that effort has grown to $7.5 billion, and it’s about to get even pricier.
“With no place of its own to keep the waste, the government now says it expects to pay $35.5 billion to private companies as more and more nuclear plants shut down, unable to compete with cheaper natural gas and renewable energy sources.”
3. Where is the radioactive nuclear spent fuel stored?
Typically, on the site of the nukes where it was generated.
No location wants to receive all of this toxic material. Nevadans do not want to receive these materials at Yucca Mountain. So, for the moment, there is no single repository for nuclear waste in the US. Most of the US nuclear waste sits at the nuke sites that create it, and nuclear power sites are not really designed to be repositories.
“The United States has over 90,000 metric tons of nuclear waste that requires disposal. … This spent nuclear fuel, which can pose serious risks to humans and the environment, is enough to fill a [US] football field about 20 meters deep. … For the most part, this waste is stored where it was generated — at 80 sites in 35 states. The amount of waste is expected to increase to about 140,000 metric tons over the next several decades. However, there is still no disposal site in the United States.”
4. How many years does the spent nuclear fuel stay radioactive and have to stay isolated to keep life forms safe?
Hundreds of thousands to millions of years.
“Of particular concern in nuclear waste management are two long-lived fission products, Tc-99 (half-life 220,000 years) and I-129 (half-life 15.7 million years), which dominate spent fuel radioactivity after a few thousand years.” (Vandenbosch, Robert & Vandenbosch, Susanne E. (2007). Nuclear waste stalemate. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press. ISBN 0874809037.)
5. How many years do spent solar panels and wind turbines stay radioactive?
Yes, that’s right … Zero years. For that matter, zero minutes. Also, some of these technologies can be recycled.
6. How many great, great grandkids will we make happy when they inherit our generation’s spent nuclear energy waste?
7. How much land is needed for solar power to meet annual global energy needs?
Below are 19 locations for solar plants placed strategically around the globe, courtesy the Land Art Generator Initiative. Red arrows have been added as some of these dots are small. Of course there are plenty of other locations that are already in place helping out, and more to come, plus millions of rooftop solar power systems.
Image via Land Art Generator Initiative
Massive solar power deployment could easily be done, and should be done, in a more decentralized way to reduce demands on the electrical grid. Decentralization would also reduce transmission distances. This is just a graphical representation to show the amount of land that would be needed.
8. How much land is needed to power the US with solar?
Again, not much. A few counties in Texas could do the job.
9. Remember how many humans were killed by the Chernobyl nuclear accident?
Tens of thousands. Estimates vary.
10. Remember how many were killed from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown?
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, but the numbers vary based on the organization doing the study.
11. How many were forced to move due to the radiation caused by the Fukushima meltdown?
12. How many people have been killed by wind power meltdowns?
That’s right. None.
13. How many people have been killed by solar power meltdowns?
Right again. None.
14. How much does the insurance cost for nukes since their disasters are so bad?
They are uninsurable. No nukes are truly insured. The public insures them.
The public risks their lives so that a very small number of people can financially profit from nukes.
“The conclusions of the [meltdown liability] study are rather startling, with damage estimates varying from a minimum of 150 billion euros to a maximum of around 6 trillion euros. It states that ‘the calculated sum which would have to be made available in case of a nuclear disaster is 6.09 trillion euros.’
“If the resulting liability insurance premium were to be added to the cost of generating electricity at a nuclear power plant, it is estimated that the cost per kilowatt-hour would increase by between 0.14 and 67.3 euros, making nuclear energy totally uncompetitive with renewable sources.
“In the end, the issue is academic. As the authors of the German study point out, ‘there is no way to guarantee full coverage of the risk.’ They emphasize that in practical terms, nuclear disasters at atomic energy plants are not insurable. Which is, of course, why no nuclear reactor has ever been insured against the risk of disaster anywhere in the world. And it’s also why, when such disasters do occur, society at large, through the contributions of ordinary taxpayers, has to foot the bill.”
In the US, the Price-Anderson Act has been created to give an appearance of insurance. “[E]nacted into law in 1957 as an amendment to the Atomic Energy Act,” it gives the appearance of insurance in the US, but it significantly under-covers the potential for the real liability that would be incurred with a meltdown.
“The Act provides ‘omnibus’ coverage, that is, the same protection available for a covered licensee or contractor extends through indemnification to any persons who may be legally liable, regardless of their identity or relationship to the licensed activity. By providing omnibus coverage, those who may be harmed are assured of the availability of funds to pay their claims, and firms that contribute in some manner to the design, construction, operation or maintenance of covered licensees are all protected. Many of these companies, support services and equipment suppliers likely would not have participated in the nuclear industry without some liability limitation.”
Do you understand this act then? It was constructed to 1) give an appearance of public coverage in case people get irradiated and die, and 2) covers all parties who own, operate, and construct such monstrosities in case they blow up. Without this US government financial protection, nukes would not ever be built. Clever.
What about the cost? “In a recent German study, the low-case values calculated were 255,528 cancers [caused from Chernobyl-4] and €199 billion (2011 euros) – which corresponds to frequently quoted orders of magnitude. But the high-case figures reported by the study are far larger, with 5.3 million cancers and €5,566 billion (2011 euros). It is unusual for experts to produce such a high estimate, with a single accident leading to millions of cancers and total damage amounting to thousands of billions of euros.”
A thousand billion is a trillion. €5,566 billion is $6.237 trillion, disregarding inflation since these are 2011 euros.
15. How many millions (or billions) of gallons of ocean/river water are needed per day to cool nukes?
“California’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Station takes in 2.5 billion gallons of coastal water (9.46 billion liters) a day and discharges the same volume heated up by 23 degrees [Fahrenheit (12. 8 degrees of heat Celsius)],” according to one source.
16. Do we have any concerns with spent nuclear fuel being dumped or stored illegally?
“Due to historic activities typically related to radium industry, uranium mining, and military programs, numerous sites contain or are contaminated with radioactivity. In the United States alone, the Department of Energy states there are ‘millions of gallons of radioactive waste’ as well as ‘thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel and material’ and also ‘huge quantities of contaminated soil and water.’ Despite copious quantities of waste, the DOE has stated a goal of cleaning all presently contaminated sites successfully by 2025. [The Fernald, Ohio site for example had ’31 million pounds of uranium product,’ ‘2.5 billion pounds of waste,’ ‘2.75 million cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris,’ and a ‘223 acre portion of the underlying Great Miami Aquifer had uranium levels above drinking standards.’ The United States has at least 108 sites designated as areas that are contaminated and unusable, sometimes many thousands of acres.”
“Authorities in Italy are investigating a ‘Ndrangheta mafia clan accused of trafficking and illegally dumping nuclear waste. According to a whistleblower, a manager of the Italy’s state energy research agency Enea paid the clan to get rid of 600 drums of toxic and radioactive waste from Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany, and the US, with Somalia as the destination, where the waste was buried after buying off local politicians. Former employees of Enea are suspected of paying the criminals to take waste off their hands in the 1980s and 1990s. Shipments to Somalia continued into the 1990s, while the ‘Ndrangheta clan also blew up shiploads of waste, including radioactive hospital waste, sending them to the sea bed off the Calabrian coast. According to the environmental group Legambiente, former members of the ‘Ndrangheta have said that they were paid to sink ships with radioactive material for the last 20 years.”
17. Have you ever seen a thermal plume of the water near a nuke?
18. What’s melting the ice caps?
Global warming primarily, but nukes heating the oceans to some small degree that has never been quantified can’t be helping any.
19. How much land is needed to produce enough energy for the planet with wind energy?
Hint: they are mostly offshore…
A combination of solar and wind would reduce the demand for each, though, and a melded blend of both wind and solar would be ideal. There is also geothermal and wave energy that could be added to the mix.
When wind turbines are deployed on land, wind power also makes a great companion to farming, helping out the farmers financially while producing clean energy. Crops are currently being grown below many windmills around the world.
Note about hydropower: while hydro energy is renewable, it is often not ecological since the dams ruin river ecosystems. When full renewable energy is achieved, the dams should be dismantled to restore river ecosystems.
20. How long does it take to build a nuke?
About a decade, give or take, or even longer. There are years for financial planning, siting hearings and approvals, and then “the mean construction time of 441 reactors in use today was 7.5 years.”
In comparison, how long does it take to build solar plants and wind farms? About a year or two, typically, depending upon permitting requirements.
Wind farm construction times are usually within two years, but can vary depending upon the scope of the project, location, regulations, land negotiations, construction, and testing. After the financial investment decisions comes siting, permitting, and a PPA (power purchase agreement), which typically needs to be signed with the local utility, which will buy the electricity.
Then comes the construction, which is fairly fast: “Construction time is usually very short – a 10 MW wind farm can easily be built in two months. A larger 50 MW wind farm can be built in six months.”
Photovoltaic solar farm construction times are usually inside of six months, but the entire projects — including siting and permitting — are often completed inside of two years. This depends on many factors, including regulations and size of the project.
21. Are nukes targets for terrorism plots?
They are vulnerable to bombings and cyber attacks.
22. Forget about this safety ‘nonsense,’ nuclear power is less financially costly, right?
When we look at Lazard’s levelized cost of energy (LCOE) analyses, we see that nuclear is more expensive than wind, solar, and geothermal. This CleanTechnica article from Zach Shahan shows the financial cost considerations well, and nuclear clearly loses out to renewables.
This is the current LCOE analysis, version 12, which shows even cheaper utility-scale wind and solar.
23. Are any solar power or wind power components radioactive such that they could be used or enriched in any way to make nuclear weapons?
24. What is the “Suicide Corps” and what do its members have to do with nuclear power?
Conclusion: Nukes are NOT the answer.
Safe, renewable energy is the answer.
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