Sunday, December 6, 2009

Books: "Terrestrial Energy"

Just finished this one.  It's about nuclear energy, the minuses (very few) and pluses (pretty much nothing but) versus other forms of "renewable" energy and coal (BOO!!) and natural gas (much more quiet boo!).  "Terrestrial Energy" tells the history and current issues surrounding nuclear energy as what should be THE power source for this country.  (Well, he actually wants a joint situation involving solar power as well.)

William Tucker makes (what I think is) a compelling argument FOR the use of nuclear energy, as well as compelling arguments AGAINST just about every other source of the very mis-named "renewable" energies.  These include solar, wave and tidal, wind, and geothermal, all for the big power grid, and ethanol and hydrogen for automobiles.  He also goes into just how bad coal is for the environment, and he doesn't particularly like natural gas either.  "Renewable" is a misnomer, says he; none of the so-called "renewable" sources are truly renewable, as they all take up valuable other resources in order that they be renewed.  Ethanol is fast taking up the world's corn and sugar cane supplies, among others, thereby driving up world food prices over the last 10+ years (very bad for poorer countries) and making Brazilians and the like bowl over even more of their rainforests so as to grow even more of these two extremely profitable products.  Wind and wave/tidal power require vast amounts of land (the former, to the tune of many tens of square miles for each wind farm, and the windmills (somehow) kill migrating birds by the bushel) and water areas (the latter, the prime areas worldwide being, unfortunately, co-located with some of our most beautiful and/or rarest and/or most endangered water species).  Hydrogen power for cars comes from --- electricity, so you NEED a lot of electricity to make the hydrogen that powers your hydrogen-powered car.  And the list goes on.

In essence, he says that the scares from both Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, both of which happened oh so long ago, and the fallouts (no pun intended) from which were entirely overhyped in both cases, have remained on the U.S. citizenry's minds ever since then ("The China Syndrome" in 1979 didn't help much either), and the vast majority of people here in the States just don't want to have anything to do with nuclear power.

He says that nuclear energy is much more reliable than any of the other forms of renewable energy.  It is the only form that can supply enough for peak times of the day every day (all of the other sources can supply a steady quantity, but cannot ramp up daily to supply the loads necessary for, say, cooling the entire country in the middle of the Summer each day).  Nuclear energy is much more efficient than any other form of energy, simply by the physics involved; there is MUCH more energy stored per unit of volume, by a factor of millions, in nuclear sources than in any other type of source.

As for safety issues he says that, contrary to popular belief, if terrorists were to fly a plane into a nuclear plant it would do virtually nothing to the plant itself, aside from possibly some black marks on the outside of the facilities.  And if they were to get their hands on the fuel, they could NOT make nuclear bombs --- the physics just is not there.  About the only thing he doesn't go into is the possibility of a "dirty bomb".  The bad guys cannot make a true nuclear weapon from the fuel, but can they make a simple bomb that, if detonated in a population center, would light up everyone within several miles, depending on the wind that day?

He also says that our current processes here in the U.S. for trying to dispose of the spent fuel is  a huge ridiculous waste of time, money and energy (literally).  We should recycle all of the spent nuclear fuel to be used in other types of nuclear energy power stations, as well as using small bits for medical purposes and the like, and the remainder of all of that could fit into --- not a large facility like Yucca Mountain, which has been mothballed for a while now, after several tens of billions of dollars spent to build it --- a building the size of a football field.  And much of these leavins', someday in the future when both the technology and the economics catch up to it, can be reused too.

I am convinced.  And so is France, who supposedly has supplied 80% of its own electric power for the last 30 years from nuclear plants, and safely stores ALL of its nuclear waste from these last 30 years in a room the size a gymnasium.  I just wish that the U.S. would see the light.

The book reads very well, however the one thing that always sticks out at me like the proverbial sore thumb whenever I read anything is a typo.  And this book is full of them.  Even Microsoft Word would have picked up on most of thos mistakes.  I haate that!

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