Employing nuclear fission to produce electricity was a monstrous mistake that will plague future generations essentially forever…
Wait! Don’t just read that sentence and move on.
Think about it.
Get the facts straight in your mind.
This is not liberal, bleeding-heart sentiment from a bygone era. It is as current, relevant and threatening as it gets.
For starters, nuclear fission was adapted to electricity production as a heat source to boil water….
That’s right, boil water!
The steam produced turns giant turbines that actually produce the electricity.
Atomic bomb technology to boil water…?
Somewhere in that equation is a lot of overkill… And solar panels and wind turbines just make electricity—no water required. Go figure….
Secondly, 95 percent of the energy in fissionable nuclear fuel remains after fission, according to the journal American Science. In other words, nuclear waste is not especially depleted of energy when it ends up at the curbside for disposal.
Recycling it produces enriched plutonium, a far worse disposal and security problem.
So, mostly, the leftovers from of nuclear fission just lay there.
And lay there.
The bulk of all the nuclear waste accumulated since the creation of the technology in 1942—the spent fuel, the reactor vessels, assorted pipes and containment apparatus—is still with us, much of it still dangerous enough to kill and injure on a large scale.
Some of the less contaminated material will lose its bite in another 50 years or so. Some will take hundreds of years more to be safe enough to quit guarding it. And some (e.g., the plutonium) will be lethal for another 250,000 years.
That’s a lot of responsibility and security-cost for the next 12,500 generations.
Furthermore, this stuff is not safely and permanently out of the way where it can never hurt anyone.
Future generations are left to do what science hasn’t been able to do since 1942—get rid of the mess the nuclear experts made.
The best of American storage facilities at the Waste Isolation Project (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, are built at horrendous taxpayer expense to last 10,000 years, twice as long as the pyramids of Egypt.
That is a “solution” for a small portion of total U.S. nuclear waste that falls short of need by a mere 240,000 years.
No permanent repository for nuclear waste has ever been established.
None may ever be built.
It’s not only a political problem. The technology for permanently storing so much volatile waste so long is proving increasingly elusive, experts acknowledge.
With nowhere else to put the stuff, the American nuclear electricity business stores it on the grounds where it’s generated. First, it goes into big vats of cooling water—good for five years or so, then into massive 100-ton dry steel casks encased in concrete—good for 90-100 years, said a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) spokesman to American Science.
Whoa…! Just 90-100 years of storage for a substance that may kill people a quarter-of-a-million years from now?
Who’s going to “re-cask” those old decayed casks every hundred years for the next 2,500 centuries?
Will there be the money to do that in the future? Will anyone even know the job has to be done? With apparent pride, the NRC official told the journal reporter that the casks had “an excellent safety record over the last 22 years they have been in use. All signs are they are safe and secure….”
Twenty-two years… only 249, 978 more to go.
The Bed We Lie In
As of 2009, American Science reported that the nuclear power business had produced 70,400 tons of spent fuel rods.
Every year, the nation’s 104 nuclear electricity plants generate another 2,200 tons of the waste. Non-fuel rod nuclear waste piles up at the rate of approximately 160,000 cubic feet every year.
Storage space is pretty much running out, the journal reported.
Nuclear electricity plants were never designed to store radioactive waste for long periods of time.
Nevertheless, more than 2,000 100-ton casks, each filled with 250,000 years of killing man-made poison, are stored all around the country in neat rows on the grounds of nuclear power plants.
Elsewhere in the world, there are an additional 345 operating nuclear power plants as of 2017 and 59 under construction. None have a smarter, safer nuclear waste storage system than America’s and most are worse.
The storage grounds for all that nuclear waste, wherever the country, are forever off-limits to human occupation.
The material is protected by the fencing and security provided by each plant. Some of that is good, some not so good.
Accidents and mistakes are going to happen, of course.
The partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear complex in March 1979 left the plant and unspecified acreage off-limits far into the future, according to the State of Pennsylvania in 2014.
The Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion in the Ukraine in 1986 made uninhabitable a thousand square miles of land.
Ninety-three million gallons of acidic, radioactive uranium tailings were accidently spilled into the local river in Church Rock, Arizona, in 1979, leaving groundwater poisoned and residents struggling with health issues to this day.
Nuclear waste clean-up following the tsunami destruction of Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011 left nine million bags of dangerous radioactive waste piled in the damage zone by early 2016. One thousand tanks holding 750,000 tons of Tritium-tainted water too dangerous to release into the sea grow ever more problematic. Every day, 100,000 gallons of fresh clean groundwater flowed into the ruptured nuclear containment area and turned into more hazardous waste requiring more tanks.
What are the Japanese to do with so much intractable waste for the next couple hundred years and more?
No one knows yet, though the old engineers say dump it into the ocean. You know—the solution to pollution is dilution, right?
Be careful with that, said Rosa Yang, researcher with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in 2016.
Safe and unsafe levels of radioactive material like Tritium is “murky research,” she pointed out, especially with children. They are much more susceptible to radiation injury. Tritium goes directly into soft tissue and organs of the body, increasing the risk of cancer and other illnesses.
Of course, incalculable tonnage of the worst nuclear waste started leaking into the Pacific Ocean shortly after the tsunami struck and continued.
What damage to the ocean? It’s such a huge expanse of water; maybe people and sea life beyond Japan dodged a bullet with Fukushima?
It’s too soon to tell. Stay tuned.
Then there is the destroyed plant’s still-active nuclear fuel gurgling around in the earth below the burned-out containment vessels. As of 2017, no one has a clue how to get it out, various sources reported. The area is so hot it melted the circuitry of robots sent in to assess the situation.
The un-contained nuclear fuel has to come out or be harnessed some way; too much groundwater flows through and around it to keep putting up rows of huge storage tanks.
While all that is happening, while the seas are rising around the world for the first time in the technology’s existence, while storms and surges grow evermore overwhelming, officials and assorted apologists in the state of Georgia push on to complete the last two nuclear power plants under construction in the U.S.
The economics no longer make sense.
The plants will likely be obsolete when finished. Customers and taxpayers are tagged with the costs. And today’s newborns find this nuclear albatross draped around their necks for the rest of their lives and the lives of their children.
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?!
The “experts” who should be protecting the next generations have gone blind to the consequences of electricity-as-usual.
The children deserve better from today’s grown-ups, all of us.
We are the last environmental saviors, say thousands of the smartest, best educated, most experienced environmental scientists society ever produced.
We, the people, can’t just keep kicking this can of nuclear waste down the road. IT HAS TO END WITH US!
We can end it the same way we end coal and natural gas use—with smart consumer purchasing decisions…
Coal waste reduction starts with electrical efficiencies. Start with the easy to overlook LED lightbulb.
It is a hot commodity in the commercial arena where companies are always looking for cost savings (Lux Solutions).
And the bulbs are the best, most powerful starter product available for budding green-consumers who want to do something directly and immediately to protect the habitat today’s newborns must have for a healthy life in old age.
Ultra-efficient lighting makeovers are all about getting more for less and reducing pollution too.
The front-end cost of the bulbs is more ($7-$10) versus older bulbs, but LED devices last up to 25 years and deliver the same light on 85 percent less electricity, reducing conventional fuel emissions by that much in the process.
A few years of this, and the extra cost of the LED bulbs is recovered in electricity savings.
The switch to ultra-efficient lighting, motors and other devices since 2011 has already reduced industry expectations for electricity needs 25-30 years down the road.
“Old Energy” pays attention to those kind of things.
The entire industry is at a watershed moment in its history. What is it going to be 30-40 years from now?
A dying relic of the Industrial Revolution, or the energy provider of the future that finally put sanity in electricity, profiting all the while?
A wholesale push by green-consumers to LED lighting will tip that scale in the right direction.
Get familiar with the possibilities.
It’s important to understand the terminology attached to solar-generated electricity.
From best to worst, the hierarchy is this: rooftop solar systems, nearby solar systems and grid-delivered solar power.
It is electricity generated by the sun on or adjacent to the premises that use the current produced.
The energy industry calls this system “distributed solar,” as opposed to current delivered via the grid system from some big plant far away (i.e., centralized electricity).
By whatever name, rooftop installations are the ideal setup for solar electricity.
From production to use, the current doesn’t have far to travel, so little is lost in transmission.
That is a huge drawback with conventional grid-delivered electricity.
The further the current has to travel to the user, the more of it is lost to the resistance encountered in the transmission wires (up to 99 percent over long distances).
The only way to make up for the loss is to crank-up the power plants by burning ever-greater quantities of life-altering fossil fuels and nuclear power.
Rooftop solar eliminates this problem, less solar-electric apparatus is needed and system costs are reduced.
The front-end costs for rooftop solar systems turn off a lot of potential customers, but rebates, tax credits and electricity savings take much of the sting out of that obstacle–enough that solar installations in the U.S. have surged from 645,000 in 2015 to 1.6 million units by the end of 2017.
That kind of growth—despite multiple regulatory obstacles put in place to kill or slow the development—is fearful to the energy establishment.
Unfettered rooftop solar electricity can drive Old Energy into obsolescence, so the “anti-environmental product-protectionists” fight the technology relentlessly.
Thirty-two state legislatures have thrown some kind of monkey wrench into the installation of rooftop solar systems.
In January 2018, Donald Trump imposed tariffs (i.e., jacked-up the price 30 percent) on solar panels made in China, South Korea and other foreign countries.
Despite it all, solar electricity keeps gaining, shouldering Old Energy out of its comfort zone.
Lend a hand—push those suckers over the side.
There are far better ways to produce and deliver electricity, and it’s long past time the world’s energy providers cut the cord to the past.
If you can afford it, think seriously about buying or leasing a rooftop solar electricity system.
There are a variety of options and providers (Home Advisor).
Explore the options in your locale. Get some installation quotes.
You may be surprised.
Nearby Solar Electricity
More and more, environmental entrepreneurs are building solar electricity systems sized to serve nearby communities, businesses and other applications.
The electricity generated doesn’t have to travel far, so the transmission loss is greatly reduced.
This “nearby” strategy for delivering electricity and reducing pollution will play a big role in energy production in the future.
Buy the product where available. Learn more about it. Lobby to bring systems to your town.
Grid-delivered Solar Power
To get in the solar game, some old-time power companies sell vague access to solar electricity via the grid system from some far-off site (Home Power—Solar Electricity).
Until the grid system is largely filled with non-polluting/low-polluting types of electricity, this form of solar power ranks at the bottom of the options.
But it is better than nothing, if only to show growing consumer preference for the smarter way.
So, buy grid-delivered solar electricity if the better choices are not available.
The more demand for the product consumers display, the more the conventional electricity business will get the picture.
There’s no reason the energy establishment can’t get into the non-polluting/low-polluting electricity business.
They just need an unmistakable push from the marketplace.
Small Scale Wind Power
If the wind blows steadily where you live and you are inclined to curb the habitat destruction today’s newborns are destined to incur from coal waste, look into residentially-sized wind machines.
It’s clean energy of the best kind and much more feasible than you might think.
See what the possibilities are.
Maybe there are ways to split costs with one system that serves multiple properties. Talk it up with your neighbors.
You might be pleasantly surprised.
Heating and cooling systems powered by heat from the mantle of the Earth is well-refined and serves happy customers far and wide.
Look into it in your area.
Here too, there may be ways to spread costs and benefit across more than one property.
Every property owner and organization that can switch into some source of non-polluting/low-polluting electricity is a decided assist for the future of today’s newborns.
But help your city to “go green” and the impact can be greatly magnified.
With little more than trees, ornamental plants and sod, the air-conditioning and heating costs in big cities and small can be dramatically reduced.
With those reductions, pollution is also reduced.
Switch into LED lighting wherever possible and the reductions increase.
Let the powers-that-be know that you are one consumer prepared to spend his or her money where it will do the most good for the children’s ecological future.
It will matter.
The name of the game for ecological salvation for the next 20 years is carbon dioxide reduction.
There are other big man-made problems afflicting the human carrying capacity of the biosphere (HCCB), but CO2 remediation is top priority (i.e., If we don’t solve this one, the others won’t matter).
Blessedly, at the drop-dead last moment, the ways and means to change the course of human history stand right in front of us, ready to go.
At this juncture, it all depends on what consumers do and how entrepreneurs respond.
The business opportunities inherent in the making of a serious green-economy are extensive and exciting.
There are two basic reasons for that:
- Technological advancements are moving so fast, parts-and-pieces of the green business model have not yet materialized (e.g., solar energy, electric cars). Fill in those blanks, and the riches will flow.
- Consumers don’t yet see the big picture, though the time is not far off. With a little well-placed green-consumer education, markets for legitimate alternatives to polluting technologies, products, services, processes and practices will explode. To be positioned to ride that wave is paradise for entrepreneurs.
With those things in mind, pay attention to what’s happening with electric cars. For a variety of reasons, including pressure from cities to keep polluting vehicles out of town, every major car-maker has signaled intentions to abandon the internal combustion engine within the next 15 years.
That is a transformation unmatched since cars started replacing horses, mules and steam engines a hundred years ago.
One of two things is going to happen with this mighty rush to electric cars:
- The output of carbon dioxide, coal ash and nuclear waste are going to soar, dooming the next generations to an increasingly intolerable existence. Or,
- Electric cars will be charged and recharged by non-polluting energy sources (i.e., solar, wind). The waste of conventional electric power and transportation will decline precipitously. And today’s newborns will cheer the development 50-75 years from now and proclaim the solar-powered electric car the turning point in environmental salvation.
Hint: get into the yet-to-materialize business of non-polluting electric car battery charging. The market, ultimately, is every residential driveway and company parking lot in every advanced economy in the world. That, good readers, is a lot of entrepreneurial opportunity!
Check out the rest of the “Consumer Solutions to the 7 Deadly Sins of Ecological Destruction” series now:
- An Introduction to… The 7 Deadly Sins of Ecological Destruction
- Solution to Sin #1: Deforestation
- Solution to Sin #2: Coal
- Solution to Sin #3: Oil-based fuels
- Solution to Sin #4: Natural gas
- Solution to Sin #5: Nuclear electricity
- Solution to Sin #6: Chemical waste
- Solution to Sin #7: Water loss & contamination