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03 January 2006

Time to Go Nuclear

The tragedy of the 13 trapped coal miners highlights the value of nuclear energy. Jerry Pournelle put it best: there are more people killed annually at grade crossings by coal trains than ever died from nuclear power Except for Chernobyl, of course, but you can't base anything on Soviet debacles, and even the death toll there was fairly limited. Just last year over a dozen died in a refinery explosion in Texas. Then there is the environmental damage done by mining and burning coal and oil spills. Hydroelectric power is also damaging to the environment. Nor does nuclear energy release greenhouse gases. Aside from the hot water to run turbines and whatever negatives accrue from any large construction project, nuclear energy's only negative environmental side-effect is waste disposal, which really only presents a problem thousands of years into the future by which time humanity presumably will have learned to solve such problems or vanished from the face of the earth anyhow.

The only negative to eliminating coal mining would be the loss of yet more decent-paying industial jobs for men to do. Still, while coal mining is one of those folkloric occupations, unlike, say, truck driving, it's hold on the imagination (as shown in song) is hardly romantic. Merle Travis's Dark as a Dungeon lays it out starkly:
Where it's dark as a dungeon
And damp as the dew
Where the danger is doubled
And the pleasures are few
Where the rain never falls
And the sun never shines
Oh it's dark as a dungeon
Way down in the mine


Anonymous Anonymous said...


It's Relatively Safe

January 03, 2006 11:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The much larger problem with nuclear power is the fact that containment structure of the reactor core will degrade over time.
case in point would be three mile island. That facility was the gold standard for safety. In fact, the reactor at Wolf Creek, KS was modeled exactly after that design. Directly after the accident, the half-constructed reactor at wolf creek was razed and redesigned, costing an additional 1.5 billion dollars.

January 04, 2006 12:09 AM  
Blogger ziel said...

There's a lot more nuclear reactors in the world than 3 mile island and that stands as the one blemish - that happened 26 years ago!

January 04, 2006 7:21 AM  
Blogger Glaivester said...

How dangerous is uranium mining?

As for fusion, I thought the reason we don't use fusion is that we still can't figure out how to get more energy from fusion than we put in - except, of course, in the H-bomb, which really isn't that useful as a power source.

Also, we still will likely need some coal even if we use more nuclear, although it would reduce the demand somewhat, and perhaps drastically.

January 04, 2006 11:48 AM  
Blogger James Aach said...

You might be interested in reading a new techno-thriller novel about the American nuclear power industry, available at no cost on the net. Written by a longtime nuclear engineer, it provides an entertaining and accurate portrait of a nuclear power plant and how an accident might be handled. “Rad Decision” is at

Nuclear power is far different than as portrayed in the media (both good and bad). Readers on all sides of the nuclear argument will find items to ponder in Rad Decision.

"I'd like to see Rad Decision widely read." - Stewart Brand, founder, the Whole Earth Catalog.

January 04, 2006 1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish the US would take up the challenge of fusion. We put a man on the moon when we set the goal and pursued it.

Isn't worth trying?

January 04, 2006 4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone have the readers digest version of that Rad Decision novel?

January 04, 2006 10:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this because a few people died in WV digging coal. The only other choice for WV citizens is the military. Is that who want defending America. Oops that is who is defending America.

Go Fusion

January 05, 2006 9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this because a few people died in WV digging coal. The only other choice for WV citizens is the military. Is that who want defending America. Oops that is who is defending America.

Go Fusion

January 05, 2006 9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dano, we'd be in big trouble if West Virginians (and their Scotch-Irish brethren across the Appalachians) avoided the army. If we had to rely on northerners to stock our forces we'd make the French look like - well - Scotch-Irish. Even now I bet there's a lot of young West-Virginians thinking "hell I'd rather take my chances in Tikrit than get left to die down in those mines"

January 05, 2006 12:34 PM  
Anonymous Ralf said...

This will not actually have effect, I think so.
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October 18, 2011 12:18 PM  

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