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The Hidden Truth About Nuclear Power

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Michael Collins

A poster at The Agonist, Joaquin, published an elegant and important analysis this weekend.  His tightly packed, brief post made three key points.  We're headed for an ugly future with nuclear power based on shortages and future fuel cycles more volatile than those imploding and exploding in Japan.  Governments, the nuclear industry, and the media are avoiding this issue entirely.  As a result, the rulers and technocrats who got us to the latest meltdown cannot be trusted to make any more decisions about energy needs. (Image)

"The truth is, there is a big fat lie that the nuclear power industry and the media are foisting on the public and that has not changed." Joaquin

"What is it", the big fat lie, Joaquin asks.

"This lie has to do with the nature of nuclear power in the future. Everyone is asking, can we make nuclear technology, the current, nuclear technology safe? In truth, the current risks with the nuclear fuel cycle i.e., the risks of contaminating the environment, are not the risks of the future because the current nuclear fuel cycle is not the fuel cycle that will be used in the future. There's just not that much uranium left to fuel an extensive expansion of nuclear power generation."  Joaquin (See Note 1)

By 2015, the supplies of uranium will be in sufficient decline to limit nuclear energy.  Or will they?

"This assessment results in the conclusion that in the short term, until about 2015, the long lead times of new and the decommissioning of aging reactors perform the barrier for fast extension, and after about 2020 severe uranium supply shortages become likely which, again will limit the extension of nuclear energy."  Uranium Resources and Nuclear Energy, 2006


The United States and France, heavy nuclear users, will be out of domestic supply and world supply is questionable.   It takes semantic tricks by industry representatives to claim otherwise.  (See Note 2)

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Joaquin offers up the future of nuclear power, the future carefully avoided by governments, the nuclear industry, and the media.  Instead of the current generation of plants, the nuclear industry will give us "improved reactors" and fuel cycles that require less uranium.  Supplementing that will be imports from the same type of unreliable suppliers that we have for petroleum (e.g., Kazakhstan, the Soviet Union).

"So, where's all the nuclear fuel going to come from? The answer has to be that the nuclear industry and U.S. government intend to use more exotic fuel cycles in the future power plants including, MOX (currently leaking our of Fukushima1, unit 3), reprocessed Uranium, Thorium, and breeder reactors of various types (See Note)

"The industry and their government and media proxies don't want to talk about this fact too much because the waste from these future fuel cycles is far more dangerous than most of the stuff slowly making a large part of Japan uninhabitable for the next few dozen millennium. In other words, the discussion in the media about future nuclear safety is completely dishonest."  Joaquin

The "See Note" link provides more details on the dangers and questionable availability of these future nuclear fuel cycles.  We're witnessing a preview of the future with the MOX cycle.  Fukushima I, unit 3, began using MOX in September 2010.  Here's a nuclear engineer formerly with Tokyo Power on unit 3:

"Goto said that the MOX also has a lower melting point than the other reactor fuels.  The Fukushima facility began using MOX fuel in September 2010, becoming the third plant in Japan to do so, according to MOX supplier AREVA."  D.C. Bureau March 15

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Joaquin's point on the dangers of new fuel cycles is well taken.  One of the fuels of the future, MOX, has a low melting point than the other reactors at Fukushima.  Maybe that's why it had an, as of yet, unexplained hydrogen explosion in MOX fueled reactor 3.  The others outlined in the note are no more assuring as a future source.  Nevertheless, the nuclear industry persists in acting like it has a viable supply to meet it's demands and promises.

"We are supposed to believe that this hydrogen explosion (first image above) at unit 3, March 14, is no biggie; of course it isn't; it's just a direct hit. WTF, there is a huge amount of concrete flying hundreds of meters in the air not a tin roof; the nature of the damage done by this explosion has proven to be the subject of one lie after another."  Joaquin

The dangers of unit 3 are clear:

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