Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Nuclear Power IV

Well, I am deeply enjoying talking to Tekknorg about the issue of nuclear power. I’m not sure if any one else is reading these posts, but we are having a spirited discussion.

So, I make this (hopefully final) post. Conveniently for me (and my ignored family) this post does not require 4 hours of research.

First, Nuclear weapons. The problem is, they don’t work. I don’t mean they don’t work in a literal sense of physics; they work quite well. I mean they are almost useless as weapons. Atomic warfare is the ultimate kamikaze attack. A big nuke would kill as many of the people shooting it as the people getting hit by it. While the people getting hit would die instantly, and the people doing the hitting would die over a decade, using nuclear weapons is like bulimia: suicide on the installment plan.

I am NOT a pacifist. I believe the statement, “Violence is never an option” is an apology for mass murder and slavery. There are some times when violence is, undoubtedly, the right solution to a problem. There are many times when violence is not the solution and will only make the problem worse, but never the less, sometimes violence is right and good The moral acceptability of violence is rooted in self defense, as part of the larger picture of self determination.

If the defender inflicts as much damage on himself, or the same damage with more suffering, then his act was not moral, but immoral. When violence is inflicted usefully for defense, it is moral. When a defender commits an act of violence so great that both he and the aggressor are harmed equally, then the defender is being ruled not by a reasoned desire for self defense, but a hatred so great his own misery is of no cost as long as the aggressor suffers as well. Vengeance and hate are NOT acceptable reasons for violence.

For this reason I say the use of nuclear weapons is immoral and stupid.

Nuclear weapons are made from nuclear materials. Nuclear materials come from nuclear reactors. Many proponents of nuclear power will claim that is not true, that the kind of nuclear reactors which make electricity don’t make the materials needed for weapons. This is somewhat true. But one reactor’s nuclear waste is another’s fuel for producing heat, electricity, and some weapon’s grade materials.

Fortunately, the reverse is also true. One reactor’s weapon’s grade byproduct is another reactor’s fuel.

Nuclear reactors do not make nuclear weapons. People make nuclear weapons. Nuclear reactors produce materials which people may put to moral or immoral uses depending on their personal temperament, opportunity, and social environment.

Is the nuclear power process dangerous? Absolutely. Does it involve risk? Absolutely. Are there greater risks to not having nuclear power? Absolutely. Soviet Russia was not known for its restraint in dealing with unrest in far off regions or within her own people. There were genocides and wars of opportunity which no democratic society would have embraced. Thousands, perhaps millions of Russia’s own sons and daughters died in Siberia. Aid was given to rebels to destabilize shaky governments. But not once, did the USSR ever deploy a nuclear weapon. Because the Americans had them too.

No chemical is moral or immoral, only people are moral or immoral. Perhaps someday, we, the naked apes, will drop our spears. Until that day, I want to make sure moral men appointed by functioning democracies have access to the same weapons as immoral men who rule by force.

You can no more ask a human being to not make a tool he might need than you can ask a female wolf not to go into heat, or a male ape to not defend his territory. And for the same reason; this is the way these species are. Living in a fantasy where laws and regulations and rules and disapproval can change the behavior of an animal (which man is) is a wonderful place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. While we are all waiting for man to evolve into the sort of animal that doesn’t need weapons, we sit on a pile of refined nuclear materials.

What do we do with them? We have these metals which if assembled properly can kill every man, woman, and child on earth and possible the earth herself. At any time, they could be stolen by some new dictator, terrorist, or other type of fool. What can we do?

Burn them up. Transmute the admittedly dangerous chemicals into less dangerous ones, and use the surplus power to make electricity. Electricity for all the pointless, useless, life robbing “convinces” which surround us, it’s true. But also electricity for the research labs which create new cures everyday. Electricity for the computers which save billions of hours of human life every day. Electricity for schools, for hospitals, for heat without CO2, and travel without fossil fuels.

I have not said this is the prettiest answer, just the only one which works. I don’t like nuclear power, and I despise nuclear weapons, but I dislike the available alternatives significantly more.

May 13, 2008 Posted by | Ecology, Government, Politics, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear Power III

The following is comment by that I have edited for clarity and made into an entire post.

To my statement that Chernobyl was steam explosion he responded:

Prof. Juli Andrejev (University, Vienna), one of the first liquidators on block IV in 1986 said, that the fuel assembly was destroyed from the inside. this could haver happened through boiler or steam explosion

Prof Juli Andrejev is physicist, not a nuclear engineer, or a destructive annalist, or a fire investigator. He said that he knew it was nuclear explosion because the fuel tubes had blown from the inside out. Politely, that is absurd. A nuclear reaction would not turn a tube inside out, it would vaporize it. He claims to have made this conclusion while staring into the the open reactor from the destroyed edge of the roof over Reactor 4. (1.) Which is odd to say the least. The graphite in the reactor was on fire for 9 days after the explosion, and when it went out the reactor was covered in 4450 tons of sand. (2.) How did he see into a reactor that was either engulfed in an inferno or covered in 4450 tons of sand?

There is also a British study from 1996 that states, that Chernobyl indeed was an atomic explosion with a yield from 0.2 – 0.3 kilotons. There are atomic bombs which have a lower yield. After much searching I find no evidence of this study. However, Wikipeidia, The Associated Press, The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, The UN, The WHO, The International Atomic Energy Agency, PBS, The BBC, and the TORCH report undertaken by the European Green Party, says that it wasn’t nuclear. I maintain an open mind and would enjoy reading the study. Peer review, however, is clearly NOT supportive of this stance.

400 times more than Hiroshima to be exactly.

I made the point in Nuclear Power II that this is not something that can be expressed exactly, however, again I find no documentation of this “400” number. I am guessing this is interpolated from the TORCH report, and is not a measure of volume of fallout, but total radioactivity of total emissions. That a burning nuclear source would provide more airborne radioactive matter than a complete nuclear reaction is hardly surprising. Between the steam explosion and the fire, over 2000 tons of material was released. The radioactive gases decayed out in seconds. To quote the TORCH report “Of the cocktail of radionuclides that were released, the fission products iodine-131, caesium-134 and caesium-137 have the most radiological significance. Iodine-131 with its short radioactive half-life 2 of eight days had great radiological impact in the short term because of its doses to the thyroid. Caesium-134 (half-life of 2 years) and caesium-137 (half-life of 30 years) have the greater radiological impacts in the medium and long terms. Relatively small amounts of caesium-134 now remain, but for the first two decades after 1986, it was an important contributor to doses.” Remember that of all the information available the TORCH report is both the most generous and the least peer reviewed.

Some of the material was Pu241 which decays to Americum 5 – over 400 years halflife.

True. And what volume of this was released over what area?

In response to my statement that 3 Mile Island was a non-incedent, he says

Ask the American families, who were fighting for their (health) right at the court and lost, because of the IAEA, who said the same thing you have written.

May I be frank and admit that bureaucratic agencies who are funded to simultaneously police and encourage the same groups concern me deeply. The FDA also shares this impossible job description. I am not saying 3 Mile Island was not frightening for the residents, I am saying that their fright was far more significant a negative health factor than the minuscule amount of radiation released.

A reactor containment dome will support 28,000 kg the weight of a September 11th plane (American Airlines Flight 11 – Boeing
767-223 ER): 82,377 kg – 179,169 kg (max.)

Ah….no. True, the reactor containment is steel shell made to withstand only 200 psi. The missile shield which surrounds it is somewhat heavier, as it is made to resist a direct hit from a missile. Or a plane.

In response to my statement that the nuclear plants which make electricity best are the ones that cannot make anything else he said

5.2 Kg of Plutonium are enough.

I’m not quite sure what that is in reference to. I am assuming he as access to some source of average Plutonium production per reactor, a source I am unable to find. Regardless, plutonium is not “bad”; no chemical is bad. Frank Zappa once said “A drug is neither moral nor immoral…” What people do with them can be bad. Plutonium can be used as fuel in a nuclear reactor as well. Plutonium can kill. So can a lack of electricity: mighty hard to run hospitals without electricity.

I say again, a call for total abstinence is absurd. We don’t need to police nuclear knowledge, we need to wiki it. Developing nations want nuclear power for the same reason developing adults want sex: That which is forbidden is attractive. We cannot unlearn nuclear power, we cannot forget how to make plutonium. All we can do is learn to make it work for our species instead of against it.


May 13, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments