Friday, November 27, 2009

India: The Next Leader In Nuclear Technology?

India has been researching the use of nuclear technology at breakneck speed. India is relatively deficient in coal and it has a lot more thorium than uranium. Because of this, India is currently pushing the AEC reactor design, but it could just as easily develop the LFTR paradigm as well.

China is also planning a large build out for new reactors, but the Chinese are also pushing coal as well as there are quite a few large coal deposits in eastern China. The degree of innovation displayed by Indian nuclear researchers is impressive, as well as the fact that it could make India's economy a force to be reckoned with as cheap energy spurs technological development. In addition, India's nuclear program is not hampered with regulations against nuclear reprocessing like in the US. This puts America at a disadvantage once again as we risk being left behind in the dust in our failure to embrace clean nuclear energy.

Interestingly, when you look at many countries that have an abundance of coal such as the US, China, and Australia, they also have ample supplies of uranium and thorium. However, the availability of coal has lead to its promotion in the national policies of the energy agendas of these countries. This is in spite of the fact that coal causes massive amounts of pollution both from carbon dioxide and the contamination from heavy metals. Injuries and deaths from coal are also a common occurrence from everyday operation in the coal industry.

There really is no longer any reason for the continual use of coal as the baseload energy source of choice. We have had the technology to replace coal with nuclear power for decades, and new reactor designs such as the LFTR are even more impressive than traditional light water reactors. At this point, coal is the soot-covered chain that is holding us back from cheap, clean energy in the form of nuclear power.

Thanksgiving Joy

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday. I went to my mother's apartment for dinner and thoroughly enjoyed myself. She managed to find a huge twenty-five pound frozen bird at the grocery store two weeks ago. It just barely fit into the roasting pan, but I will remember it as one of the best turkeys I have ever had. Sadly, even if it is just my mother and I for Thanksgiving, our leftovers never really last very long as they are so delicious. Even as we speak, our turkey is already half gone.

Since my parents have separated since August, I am still getting used to not having any animals around. My dog and my three cats have gone to live with one of my aunts since my father has become violently mentally ill and my mother cannot have pets in her apartment. Part of the fun of visiting my parents was petting a large fluffy dog underneath the table as he was asking for handouts. I will hopefully see Joey and the rest of my pets tomorrow.

Anyway, Thanksgiving is traditionally held up as an example of "giving thanks" for our lives and things that we are grateful to have. Although Thanksgiving is thought to be a purely secular holiday, it contains a religious element for many people as well. Prayers are often sent to various gods, thanking them for successes or giving people the opportunity learn from failures as people reflect on the end of the year.

In retrospect, Thanksgiving should also be about enjoying yourself. Late October and November are typically the most drab and depressing times of the year where I live. The leaves have all fallen off of the trees and the grass is withered and brown. The air gets cold and usually brings freezing rain with the chilly temperatures. We can all use a holiday like Thanksgiving to cheer us up with family and friends before the onset of winter.

Atomic Insights Stomps on Silliness

As Rod Adams on the Atomic Insights blog points out, existing nuclear power plants are extremely well run and highly efficient facilities. Their equipment and components are routinely checked and updated as they have to be in order to provide a steady output of power during their operation.

This is why when people like Christian Parenti portray nuclear power plants as being decrepit structures harking from the Cold War era, it is a grossly inaccurate portrayal. A nuclear power station is an extremely durable structure that is built to last. The containment dome is an extremely thick shell of reinforced concrete that can withstand that ravages of time, weather, and the occasional aircraft impact. The reactor itself is operated by highly trained and competent technicians who make sure that everything is operating smoothly. The strong culture of safety behind the nuclear industry speaks for itself, because the accident of Three Mile Island did not result in any deaths or injuries despite there being a core meltdown.

The fact of the matter is, that this sort of fear mongering about nuclear energy is never warranted, and causes people to panic needlessly. The paranoia of nuclear power is what is giving coal and natural gas their business as we see more fossil fuel burners being built to meet increasing energy demand. The nuclear genie is already out of the bottle, so we might as well put it to use.