Monday, June 16, 2014

The Nuclear Energy Panic Attack

PanicSome of the negative writing about nuclear energy has a notably desperate ring about it, as though the last best chance to do away with the atom is slipping, slipping away. Paul Hockenos over at Al-Jazeera America produces a panic attack of an article:

Nuclear power, once the cutting edge of technological progress, is now a dinosaur, all the more anachronistic when one looks at the price of renewables, whose costs have plummeted over a decade and will, say experts, continue to decline as technology improves. The wunderkinder [Hockenos works out of Germany] are solar photovoltaic, wind power and bioenergy. Solar and onshore wind prices are now at or quickly approaching market parity in many large electricity markets around the world. In other words, the cheapest renewables are now cost competitive with fossil fuels and nuclear, even without subsidies. This has been the case for some time now in regions with high electricity costs and abundant wind or sunshine.

I hadn’t seen the decrepit old energy source argument in awhile.  I wonder what he thinks of hydro; he seems to like wind power despite it predating nuclear by a few centuries. Hockenos mentions that building reactors is expensive – he neglects to mention that Germany is spending billions to replace its functional and largely amortized nuclear plants. Easy come, easy go?

It must seem boggling to people like this that those around them just can’t see the world crashing around them when they can see it so clearly.

Tragically, by sticking to conventional energies, including nuclear power, the Central Europeans are putting energy independence ever further out of reach.

See? It almost moves beyond panic to hysterical. Tragically? – really?

It’s not that the content of the piece – and others like it – don’t say the kinds of things we’re used to hearing, though the archaic technology riff is really a deep dredge in the muck. It’s that the tone has become a little frantic and unhinged, as though the writers have read the new EPA rules and suddenly see nuclear energy gaining new currency. I have no idea whether that’s true, but we’ll see if a more explicit connection begins to manifest.

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As a a bit of a tonic, James Tulenco tries a different approach to some of the same questions in the Gainesville Sun.

We need to face the fact that nuclear electricity will not be less costly than current power from burning natural gas. On the face of it, it seems like we should abandon nuclear based on price, but is that really wise?

But comes to opposite conclusions:

Nuclear electricity has had a history of declining production costs. The biggest proportion of the price is associated with the cost of actually building the nuclear plant. Thus, the advantage nuclear power plants have is price stability and a reliable, large source of power.

Today's nuclear plants operate near 90 percent of capacity throughout the year, an unprecedented level of efficiency not matched by any fossil-fuel power plant.

This is all true. He also doesn’t get frenzied by the prospect.

Or this from the Newark Star-Ledger:

The biggest problem we face with nuclear power is not having enough of it.

New Jersey’s economic growth depends on an abundant, reliable supply of clean energy.

Or this from the Shanghai Daily:

China still relies too heavily on coal for power, with nuclear power seen as the route to an optimized energy structure and cleaner growth.

Hmmm. One way to stave off a panic attack is recognizing that your world isn’t about to end – that you’re engaging in apocalyptic thinking that hasn’t any basis in fact. Just saying – these are what facts look like.

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We would never make fun of people who suffer panic attacks and never wish them upon people, including those freaking out over a rising nuclear potential. Panic attacks are real and really frightening. There are coping mechanisms and medicines to lessen their impact, but it takes a lot of effort on the part of the sufferer. The tips in the picture above are actually good, though hard to implement in the midst of fear. See here for more.

2 comments:

Mitch said...

Isn't deliberately inducing panic attacks part & parcel of the anti-nuker's FUD arsenal? Worked big time in Germany and Fukushima! Only way to cure that is using facts to slam them down like gopher heads WHERE they pop up!

Jeremy said...

Panic-attack articles always make me laugh. If their arguments against nuclear were really true then the nuclear industry would die off naturally and there would be no need to write the article in the first place.