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MountainGoat

Where do I sign up to protest? If Jerome can prevent a coal-fired plant, surely this can be stopped.

It sounds like most of the power won't be used here anyway. We get all the hazards, others get all the benefits.

Shane

Lets do it!

I'm all for nuclear energy with restrictions.

Elizabeth

Nuclear power is NOT a desirable option. There is no safe way to handle waste, and power production is always somehow linked to military uses. Wind, geothermal, biomass, ethanol are all ready to be widely implemented NOW. All these sustainable options, and god forbid, conservation should be our first priorities.

The Nickel-Plated JA

Put me in the "for" column. Bruneau is the perfect place for a nuke plant -- limited population in the immediate area, but close enough to civilization to neither complicate power transmission nor commuting. What really excites me is the small reactor technology this company is promising (I went out to their website and red more); they sound like they are well on the road to rolling out the American answer to the proliferation of pellet-based reactors the Chinese are building.

As for the desirability of nuclear power, every power system has risks, they just don't play as well on TV. I'd be much more concerned about mundane problems like natural gas or other petrochemical explosions (we've had no shortage of those here in Boise), dam failures (Rexburg anyone?), and metals emissions in the air and water from fossil-fuel-based powerplants, than I would either a catastrophic nuclear power accident or the waste handling. Frankly, the risk of being directly affected by either is comparable to being struck by lightning while dining INSIDE a Taco Bell.

John McGimpsey

C'mon people. The press release was put out by a company that's only been in existence for 3 months, and trades in the Pink Sheets - there's NO way I can see that they get regulatory approval to build and operate a nuke plant.

It's proposing to start construction on a new plant design within 16 months - there's NO way the NRC moves that fast even with an EXISTING design.

I don't know what their purpose was for the press release, but it sure seems like a pipe dream to me, much like, I suspect, the "lightning farms" they have in development.

Elizabeth

Thanks for the reality check, John. What's a Pink Sheet?

MountainGoat

My main complaint, as has been said before, is there is no way to safely manage the waste. Wind, geothermal and solar don't leave any nasty by-products. I'd be all for a company developing any of those here.

Julie Fanselow

I'm personally less distressed about this as I was over the idea of a coal-fired power plant in Jerome County.

I, too, wish development of other energy forms would take precedence. I am not ready to totally rule out including nuclear in the mix, especially if its safe and clean development means less dependence on oil, both foreign and domestic. But as John notes, this looks very pie-in-the-sky at the moment.

By the way, I spent about 10 minutes yesterday - all I could afford with my book deadline looming - searching opensecrets.org for campaign contributions tied to this outfit and could find none (likely due to the fact it's only been in existence a short time). But someone ought to spend some time looking at the people behind the company to see if whether anyone like, say, Butch Otter has received contributions from the parties involved.

Julie Fanselow

P.S. That someone following the money trail ought to be one of the full-time media folks from the Statesman or elsewhere. But since we know what a great job they did following the "Million Dollar" Bill Sali-Club for Growth money trail, it'll probably be up to the blogosphere - or maybe Jill K at New West or Shea A at Boise Weekly - to do the due dilligence.

The Nickel-Plated JA

John raises a good point about the NRC, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn of a fast-track provision for entrepreneurial, small-scale, rural nuke projects like this one, based entirely on the idea of energy independence that Julie subsequently raised; if there isn't, there probably should be....

For those of you concerned about safe handling of nuclear waste and nuclear materials in general, I'd be a LOT more worried about the "small-town dentist problem" than I would about nuclear plants, where a plant operator can't even take a bathroom break without the NRC having a log of it.

And we all know investigative reporting has never the Statesman's strong suit (what really IS their strong suit, retail ad inserts?), but especially now more than ever since they've been bought by McCrotchety. In fact, I just told one of their subscription hawkers at the mall how excited I was by their purchase by Knight-Ridder, and my subsequent dismay at Knight-Ridder's purchase by McGreedy.

MountainGoat

Does a small town dentist produce lots of nuclear waste? I get the x-ray thing, but that isn't waste. Am I missing something?

The Nickel-Plated JA

MG: I'm not going to elaborate *here* because I don't want to say something potentially triggering to those who are potentially-paranoid, who've seen "China Syndrome" 50 times and sleep with lead blinds drawn (I know that some former and/or would-be Greens read this blog) -- but if I were worried about a nuclear safety issue (even a *little*), that would be first on my list. Get with me about it later, privately, for more details.

Elizabeth

JA, why should you be afraid of an open discussion? I certainly have a bias against nuclear power for the reasons I stated above. But if your arguments are so compelling, wouldn't they be appropriately provided to those who disagree with you, rather than in "closed caucus" with sympathizers? If we can't have honest discussions here (especially anonymously JA), then where do you suggest such dialogue take place? Who's really the paranoid here?

The nuclear issue is really no different than any other means of energy production, manufacturing of consumer goods, agriculture or any other human endeavor. The methods that we use must be sustainable in the long run, or we all lose, period. The environmental, political and economic messes we're in now are all due to short sighted planning and the failure to account for all of the real costs associated with our activities.

I have read a bit about the "new" nuclear movement, and understand why some would grasp at this energy straw in the face of peak oil and increasing global demand. However, the proponents have never been able to adequately address the drawbacks of nuclear power to the extent that mitigates the long term impacts. Renewable energy sources have their drawbacks as well, but clearly not to level of radioactive waste. The technology has not improved to the point that this is not a real danger.

BTW, I am concerned with all potential sources of water, soil and air contamination, and know that many smaller scale activities generate radioactive and well as biological waste. Just imagine every medical and research facility that uses radioactive isotopes, every landscape outfit spraying pesticides, all our cars leaking oil etc. etc. etc., and you'll acknowledge that nuclear power is not the only problem. But it is a problem. Why perpetuate a bad idea when so may alternatives exist?

Reminds me of Kang's (or Kodos' ?) campaign slogan on the Simpsons....
"The politics of failure have failed, we must try them again".

The Nickel-Plated JA

I'm not afraid of open discussion, when done rationally. I'm afraid of putting thoughts into people's heads who already act through irrational fears, that would make them even more fearful; I don't want to be responsible for creating any more "crazy cat ladies" who never leave their houses than we have already. My offer to MG stands to anyone else, really -- I just don't want to remark on it in an environment that can be read passively by non-participants.

As an example of how far-out I've seen people, I knew a student up at U of I who wouldn't sit in a particular part of a room, because she was afraid of the health effects of the overhead powerlines which terminated just outside the building at that end.

OT PSA: Speaking of "crazy cat ladies" the Zamzow's on State has a cat looking for a good home -- they've already raised about half the adoption costs through donations, so at least that much should be defrayed, if anyone can/will take it home.

Linda Langness

Aside from the environmental problems associated with nuclear energy, we need to take into account the economic and health effects. There's a reason such a plant for west coast energy needs isn't being built in California, or outside Portland, etc. And I just love what they do with nuclear waste: turn it into depleted uranium which in turns goes into weapons. Anyone want to guess how polluted Iraq is these days thanks to the DU? I can tell you this, I don't want a nuclear plant in my backyard!

Julie in Boise

As the person who pays for the bandwidth here, I also say: Bring on the open debate, please.

We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

Wait a minute, that may be what NPJA is saying! We have too many unfounded fears, from everything from green grandstanding on imminent environmental catastrophe to neocons' nattering over how indefinite occupation of Iraq is the only thing preventing widespread Islamist terror. Yes, there's a danger of both, but the truth and the resolutions - as always - are probably somewhere in the middle.

I think Elizabeth may be close with this statement: "The environmental, political and economic messes we're in now are all due to short sighted planning and the failure to account for all of the real costs associated with our activities."

Elizabeth

JA, if the comments are read by non-participants, how does that cloud the discussion here? If you have solid arguments for the safety of nuclear power, wouldn't that really make the "crazy cat ladies" more inclined to raise the "lead blinds"?

Assuming that those who may disagree with you on this point are acting through "irrational fears" does not strengthen your argument, as would clearly, and publicly, stating your positions.

I've also had those who favor genetically modified foods tell me I'm just paranoid, until I tell them I'm a molecular biologist. I've often found that nuclear advocates employ the same tactic, and lose their steam when required to provide facts. I feel that your attempt to take the discussion off line is a similar approach, whether directed at MG or all.

Also, you didn't answer the question about your reference to dental services. Is that another secret to be shared elsewhere?

The Nickel-Plated JA

Just to be clear, the only thing I don't want to go into in public are the (off-topic to the debate on powerplant construction anyway) details of the "small-town dentist problem"; it's because I don't want to freak out any nuclear-phobes who may be reading this -- just like I wouldn't show an arachnophobe the crawl space in August, or show a germ-phobe the baseball concession stand at Capital High (at least, the way it was when I was there), or take an acrophobe to the top of the Space Needle. It's not worth it to the course of the debate to get into (like I said, it's offtopic anyway); rational people deal with mitigated risks all the time -- this one is (like germs on airliners) a large number of very small, mitigated risks -- and for the time being I'd prefer to leave it at that (I'm left wishing I hadn't brought it up offhandedly in the first place).

MountainGoat

We've been burning fossil fuels for roughly two centuries and we're just now dealing with the consequences of that. We're only half a century into using nuclear energy and we have no idea yet what the long term effects of the waste will be. We know it's not degradable and if not properly stored it leaks, so our solution is to stick it in a hole in a Nevada mountain. Seems to me we shouldn't add to that waste if there are alternatives available...then again I'm just an Idaho hick who doesn't understand the "benefits" of nuclear power.

David Bradish

Julie in Boise invited us over from NEI Nuclear Notes to join this lively discussion. After reading the comments, the primary thing I keep hearing is how the nuclear waste is a problem. Well let me ask, how is it a problem?

After the fuel assemblies are out of the reactor after being used, they sit in a spent fuel pool for about 5-7 years to cool down. After they are cooled sufficiently they are packaged and stored in a concrete and steel container. Then they are moved out of the spent fuel building and onto a concrete pad the size of a parking lot.

All of it is paid for by the utility and no radiation releases occur greater than federal limits.

Yucca Mountain in Nevada is paid for by the utilities that pay into the Nuclear Waste Fund. No tax dollars are used except for defense waste.

As well, 95% of the used fuel can and will be recycled to be reused in reactors. The program which is now doing that is the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership which President Bush initiated back in February 2006.

So let me ask, what's the problem of nuclear waste?

Julie Fanselow

David,

Thanks for stopping by and for commenting.
Just to clarify, Yucca Mountain has not opened and most Nevadans oppose it, am I right? From what I understand, there is little chance it will
open anytime soon.

I think people do have genuine fears, not so much about the waste if it is as well contained as you say, but about its storage near water sources and/or in seismically active areas and its transportation from one part of the country to another.

But again, I would be willing to see nuclear included in an alternative energy mix if other, safer options are exhausted and if safety concerns are heeded and addressed as fully as possible.

MountainGoat

The govt. at the time thought that there would be no ill effects from detonations in Nevada and now they're paying millions to downwinders.

A century ago, heck even 30 years ago, it was thought that there were no ill effects from burning fossil fuels, now we're dealing with the effects of that.

You'll forgive me if I have a hard time believing that there will be no ill effects from long term storage of nuclear waste, either to the environment or any of us living in it...especially if as you say the stuff is stored in concrete and steel which are degradable and the waste being stored is not.

David Bradish

Here is a link, http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/nuregs/brochures/br0292/br0292.pdf, to a brochure by the NRC on spent fuel transportation. On page 6 you will find that over the past 25 years we have had more than 1,300 shipments of spent fuel, 4 accidents and 0 releases of radiation. This doesn't even include transportation done by the Navy from nuclear fuel in the subs and carriers.

Yucca Mountain probably won't open till at least 2020. That's fine though because the used fuel is stored safely and securely on sites.

Here's the thing about used fuel. In its current status it will decay over a couple of hundred thousand years to wear it's not harmful. However, if we reprocess it, the leftover fission products will decay only over a couple of thousand years.

If you don't know, there was a natural nuclear reactor in Africa discovered about 30 years ago. Here's the link: http://www.ocrwm.doe.gov/factsheets/doeymp0010.shtml. A nuclear chain reaction occurred two billion years ago and still contains its waste. Nature has already shown us that we can store used fuel safely and securely over a long period of time.

Yucca Mountain is probably the most studied piece of land in the world. At a place that's in the middle of the desert with minimal rainfall and with a population that's 100 miles away, it's a very great site.

Here's a link to the DOE website on Yucca Mountain if you're interested: http://www.ocrwm.doe.gov/ym_repository/index.shtml

Brian Mays

Julie,

You make some excellent points. You are correct: there are problems with Yucca Mountain, and these problems are political -- period. However, it is not correct to say that "Nevadans oppose it." The local government of Nye County (where Yucca Mountain is located -- it's a big county; look it up) actually *wants* it. If you mean to say that most Nevadans oppose Yucca Mountain because Senator Reid from Nevada opposes it, then okay, but how many Americans necessarily agree with the senators from their state on everything? I certainly don't. Reid has his own political rewards that he hopes to gain from the whole Yucca Mountain affair.

The technical aspects of the repository are not an issue. Nobody with any credibility (i.e., those who are not politicians or heavily biased activists) denies that. The site has been studied to death. In fact, in many ways, that is the real tragedy of Yucca Mountain -- so much money has been wasted on so many studies that have had so little relevance to the site's suitability, but you would have to follow the project fairly closely to be aware of that. That stuff doesn't make it into the mainstream media.

Fortunately for all of us, this is not taxpayer money. It is money that has come from the ratepayers. It has already been collected, is already in the bank, and has already been factored into the cost of nuclear-generated electricity. Even with the mishandling of the project by the Department of Energy (whom I think everyone agrees has mishandled it), the science and the technology have still come out on top. Only the political battles remain.

MG,

If you want to talk about ill effects, do you know how many "nasty by-products" are produced in the production of photovoltaic solar panels? Do you know how much steel and reinforced concrete goes into a sizable windfarm? (Hint: it's significantly more than a nuclear plant per Megawatt of capacity.)

To make any significant dent into electricity production by fossil fuels (which you also seem to oppose) you will need a hell of a lot of solar panels (the production of which results in spent solvents and liquids containing metals; thus, a lot of waste that never goes away) or a hell of a lot of wind turbines (which kill birds and are spread all over the countryside; who is going to clean up all of that concrete?).

If you want to look at ill effects, then look at the ill effects of *everything*. If you want to talk about waste, personally, I prefer something that can be contained and stored in a space the size of a parking lot. Or better yet, something that can be recycled into something useful again, which is what is done with nuclear "waste" in other countries. We Americans are behind the curve on that one, but then again, we have important coal and natural gas interests to protect, which is why you hear so much anti-nuclear propaganda here.

MountainGoat

I can appreciate the frustration you feel with my ignorance of nuclear waste storage and also appreciate your efforts to inform and educate.

However, it doesn't change my opinion that if a safer alternative is available, it should be pursued ahead of anything that poses a potential risk...even if that risk is currently thought by some to be minimal.

One nuclear "accident" can potentially be catastrophic, while the only effects of a wind power accident, for example, would perhaps involve a few birds getting caught in the turbine blades.

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