Posts Tagged ‘Nuclear energy’

A Fukushima on the Hudson?

April 4, 2016

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NY-DN874_NYINDI_16U_20150414182440Ellen Cantarow and Alison Rose Levy wrote an alarming and plausible article for TomDispatch about the likelihood of a Fukushima-type accident at the Indian Point nuclear power plant outside New York City.

The Indian Point plant has a terrible safety record, even by industry standards.  There is an ongoing leak of tritium (radioactive) water, whose source has not been identified, into local groundwater and the Hudson River.  There is a known danger of flooding, which could cause a meltdown of the reactor core, but management of Entergy, the owner of Indian Point, has declined to install a $200,000 flood detector.

Now a high-pressure natural gas pipeline is planned by an energy company called Spectra, would carry fracked gas within 150 feet of Indian Point.  Accidents in gas pipelines are on the rise, according to a study by the National Transportation Safety Board, due to gas companies cutting corners on safety.

How much risk should the nearly 20 million people who live in the vicinity of Indian Point assume?

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War and peace: Links & notes 11/29/13

November 29, 2013

‘Aleppo is nothing but hunger and Islam’ by Francesa Borri in The Guardian.

I’m glad that President Obama decided against overt U.S. intervention in the Syrian conflict, but I admit I don’t know what to do to help the poor people of Syria.  It seems as if the only alternatives are continued rule by a ruthless and brutal hereditary dictator, and rule by local militias and warlords.

Islamist borri 12 novThe United States government, for all our high-tech flying killer drones and all our highly-trained special operations forces, does not have the capability to keep the peace in a country torn by civil war.  Arming one or more of the fighting factions makes things worse.  Bombarding the country makes things worse.  Helping victims is good to do, but it doesn’t solve the problem.  Maybe somebody who knows more about Syria than I do sees an answer.  I don’t see any.

Hollywood ‘Fight Club’ producer was Israeli spy with nuclear script by RT News.   Hat tip to O.

Arnon Milchan, producer of Hollywood movies such as Pretty Woman, Fight Club and LA Confidential, gave an interview about his earlier life as an Israeli secret agent in the 1970s who obtained materials and equipment for Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program.  This helps me understand the Israeli government’s fear of Iran’s nuclear program.  If Israel could develop nuclear weapons without the world’s knowledge, why couldn’t Iran?

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Iran and the nuclear proliferation problem

November 15, 2013

War hawks in Israel, France and the U.S. Congress say there can be no peace with Iran unless that country gives up the possibility of developing nuclear weapons.

The Ayatollah Khamenei has said that use of nuclear weapons is contrary to Islam, but there are subtle, but important differences, between using nuclear weapons, having nuclear weapons and having the capacity to someday develop nuclear weapons.

iran.sanctionsAll the countries that have nuclear weapons today, except Israel, developed them because they feared being attacked by another country with nuclear weapons.  This includes the United States.  The Manhattan Project was begin because U.S. leaders and scientists feared that Nazi Germany would develop nuclear weapons first.  And the government of Israel in its early days had a realistic fear of being destroyed by invasion by its Arab neighbors.

The Iranian government was one of the original signers of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, on July 1, 1968.   All signers of the treaty except the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China renounced nuclear weapons, the five nuclear powers agreed to gradually reduce and then eliminate nuclear weapons, and they promised to share nuclear energy technology with the non-nuclear countries.  In all, 189 countries ratified the treaty, but India, Pakistan and Israel did not, and North Korea withdrew from the treaty.

It would be unfortunate if Iran, or any other additional country, acquired nuclear weapons, but I think the only way to avoid this is for the existing nuclear powers to abide by the intent of the treaty.   I don’t think the United States is in a position to say that it is all right for nations of which our government approves can have nuclear weapons, and the ones it disapproves cannot.  The Iranian government has the same treaty rights under the ayatollahs as it did under the Shah.

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The case for nuclear power

January 7, 2011

Stewart Brand, in this TED debate with climate scientist Mark Z. Jacobson, makes the case that the world needs nuclear power, at least for now.   Jacobson’s argument was that nuclear power is unnecessary because solar, wind and other renewable sources will provide all of the energy we need.  Brand’s answer is that solar and wind are too dilute and too variable, and only nuclear power can provide reliable base load electricity.

This will not last forever.  There are new technologies that should make it possible to stretch out our nuclear fuel for centuries at present rates of use. But at some point we will realize the vision in Al Gore’s Our Choice or something like it.  Wind, solar, tidal, geothermal and other forms of renewable energy will be practical when there are advanced batteries and other devices to store the energy they produce, and an computerized continent-wide electrical Smart Grid to distribute it from where it is in surplus to where it is needed.  I don’t know of any reason to think this is impossible.  I just don’t count on it any time soon.

Perhaps environmentalists reason that by stalling nuclear energy and coal, they can force faster development of renewable energy.  I don’t think things will work that way.  For the near future we’re going to need all sources of energy – renewable, nuclear and (clean, we hope) coal.  I don’t know of any advocate of nuclear energy who advocates a moratorium on developing renewables.

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