Friday, June 15, 2007

Understanding the Lie Of The Nuclear Cycle

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Trail Of Blood...Part 1 of Understanding The Nuclear Cycle

So, the world wants to see a Nuclear Renaissance, believes that nuclear energy is the safe, vital, secure, and Green Energy Source that is going to save us from Global Warming, and give birth to the Hydrogen Economy. The young green hipsters and tricksters in the Green Fashion Industry believe it is so, after all, former Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore tells them so, just like Jesus in "The Bible Tells Us So" song shouted out by the religious right as they warn us about gays, and abortion...harsh, but then the five front runners in the Republican race to the Presidency have endorsed nuclear, opposed gays serving in the military, and except for one are against abortion and gay marriage.

When will we stop believing the 30 second sound bites fed to us on network TV, when will we take the time to educate ourselves before taking a position on any issue? In our convenience driven society where the need for energy rules the day, the citizens of Yuppieville, USA and their 20-30 something children are content to accept on face value the nuclear industry's huge propaganda campaign to sell them on nuclear energy...where is the disconnect, how can almost 70 percent of America oppose the Iraq War, support bringing our troops home, be against the use of depleted uranium, yet believe nuclear energy is safe, vital, secure and green. Don't you realize it's all the same damn thing? If you look at nuclear, if you look at the entire cycle, you have to accept that DOD (Department of Defense), DOE (Department of Energy) and the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) are all a part of the same train. There is no commercial nuclear industry without its Siamese twin, the military nuclear industry, the two of them joined forever at the hip.

Congressman John Hall in and off the record conversation told one of my anti nuclear friends that wants to close down Indian Point, that we had no idea how tied into the Middle East nuclear power was/is...went on further to explain that his access to documents we could not see truly was opening his eyes, and that shutting down any of America's nuclear reactors was not going to be easy because of the situation in the Middle East, and he was not just speaking of the quagmire that is Iraq, though it was and is a part of it. You see, our Pentagon needs the commercial nuclear industry, and the infrastructure it takes to power it for its own evil purposes, including vast stockpiles of Depleted Uranium, which is used in numerous weaponry to make armor piercing ammunition's and war heads.
Going further, George Bush, our government, our military machine opposes Iran gaining the capability of enriching uranium for a very simple reason...with the capability of enriching said uranium for nuclear reactors, you gain as a part of the waste stream from said enrichment operations the byproduct of Depleted Uranium. Oh My God! Iran already has a vast supply of oil, they have already developed long range missiles capable of striking various western societies, and now they are on the brink of having Depleted Uranium. Such a reality might mean America has to negotiate with Iran as equals, heaven forbide. Let them get the BOMB, and we might even have a new super power to contend with, someone to take Russia's seat at the grown ups table.

That's one of the big problems with the nuclear cycle...there is no such thing as the peaceful atom, no matter how you try to dress it up. Additionally, anywhere nuclear goes in all of its various forms, death is soon to follow. From its earliest days, even pre-dating the Manhattan Project, the exploration and exploitation of uranium has brought with it horrid deaths, devastating cancers, birth defects and destruction on a level almost unimaginable. Problem is, you have governments, and various assorted private corporate interests trying to hide the ugly truth, trying to convince us that uranium and nuclear energy are safe.

Do some homework, explore the hundreds of millions of dollars the DOE has spent on attorneys to fight union workers claims that their illnesses and cancers were caused by their exposure to elevated work place radiation levels. Look just under the surface of the commercial nuclear industry, and you find a trail of death...it is no coincedence that every county within 100 miles of a nuclear facility has elevated cancer rates when compared with counties outside of that 100 mile circle. Look at both wars in the Middle East (Desert Storm, and the Iraq War), and you find our soldiers coming home with strange illnesses, illnesses caused by their overexposure to depleted uranium. Already in Iraq, mothers are giving birth to children with horrible deformities, deformities caused by that same exposure to Depleted Uranium, and where does that Depleted Uranium come from? The production cycle employed to produce fuel for commercial nuclear reactors.
McCain in a nationally televised debate on CNN boldly lied like no other man before him. Not only did he embrace nuclear as a CO2 free clean source of energy, but he claimed that the Nuclear Navy in over 50 years of operation had never had and accident...funny, I know of numerous examples of nuclear sea going vessels accidently ramming into other ships, and know of at least 37 times (up through 1983) when said nuclear vessels had MAJOR releases of radioactive materials into the environment, and I believe we have even had at last one nuclear sub sink. As a Senator, as a member of the military, he KNOWS the truth...do we want such a liar as our next president? Why can't he, the other candidates, our president, and even the nuclear industry come out and BE HONEST WITH THE PUBLIC? What is it that is really driving this insane push for a Nuclear Renaissance, what lunacy sees the world wanting to build 2200 new nuclear reactors when the first 437 aging reactors have been such a dismal failure, and killed so many innocent people?

There is no bigger myth within the nuclear energy than their claim that nuclear energy and commercial reactors are and environmentally friendly CO2 source of electricity. From the very beginning of the uranium fuel cycle, the massive creation of and dumping of CO2 into our environment begins, as well as a trail of far deadly contaminants. First, you have to get the uranium out of the ground...uranium mining is very equipment intensive, and the large pieces of equipment use MASSIVE amounts of fossil fuels. Further, it takes tons and tons of of ore containing trace amounts of uranium to get enough actual raw uranium to be of any use. This means said materials have to be carted to processing plants...again, said transportion of such vast quanities of these raw start up materials burn up vast amounts of carbon based fuels, adding to nuclear CO2 contributions to Global Warming.

Once the materials have been mined, they then must be milled, or crushed. These milling operations are usually fairly close to the mines. Once the materials are crushed, various impurities are removed (creating vast amounts of waste), and the end product of this segment of the processing creates what is known as yellowcake. This yellow cake is then packaged into 55 gallon drums, and is ready...TO BE SHIPPED AGAIN, thus using even more fossil fuels.
This yellow cake is about 70 percent pure, but still needs further processing to remain more impurities. A refining facility handles this purification, and then chemically transforms the yellow cake into uranium trioxide, which is now suitable for FURTHER PROCESSING. Think about much CO2 has been pumped into the environment already, and we are still not even close to being done with the process of having fuel that can actually be used to power a nuclear reactor.
Depending on the country, and enrichment means to be used, the uranium trioxide goes through even more processing at a conversion plant, where it is transformed into either uranium dioxide or uranium hexafluoride, the feedstock for enriched light water reactor fuel. At this point, the materials are ready...TO BE SHIPPED AGAIN, this time to a fuel fabrication facility. Using Canada as one example...once they have created uranium hexafluride, said materials are sent for fuel fabrication to the United States, France, the U.K., Germany or the Netherlands. Sure is a whole lot of CO2 being created that the commercial nuclear industry does not want to admit too.

For over five decades, most fuel rods produced for commercial reactors were fabricated at the Gaseous Diffusion plants in Portsmouth, Ohio and Paducah, Kentucky, with most of that production under the watchful eye of the DOE until 1992 when then President George Bush privatized the facilities and transferred oversight over to the NRC with the signing of the 1992 Energy Policy Act. This is where the nuclear industry's CO2 contributions to Global Warming really sky rocket.

Looking just at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plants 50 years of operation, you realize the true folly that is nuclear energy. First, this plant is the largest under roof manufacturing facility ever built in its time. Sadly, it was built less than one mile from the Sciota River, less than 20 miles upstream from the Ohio River, and sits atop the largest underground aquifer in the United States of America...BRILLIANT SITING decision!

This plant was fueled by nine coal burning energy plants, and used enough electricity each and every day of operation to power all of Los Angeles county for a year. If you do the math, the Portsmouth Gasesous Diffusion Plant burned enough coal, used enough electricity to power all of Los Angeles county for six million, six hundred and sixty one thousand, two hundred and fifty days, or 18, 250 years! America is just over 200 years old folks! Imagine how much CO2 would not be in the atmosphere if it were not for those 9 coal burning power plants running 24 hours a day, all to supply America's nuclear reactors with fuel rods. Even scarier...these figures do not include the CO2 and energy consumptions for the Piketon, Kentucky plant.
Factor in the building of the nuclear facilities, and the vast amount of fossil fuels that will be burned in decommissioning, and it is obvious who the major contributor to Global Warming really is.
It would be nice if this was the end of nuclear entergy's CO2 contributions to the environment, but it is not. It would be nice if these CO2 emissions were the only contaminants and contributions to Global Warming that nuclear reactors created, but sadly, it is but the tip of the iceberg. The fuel rods as one example still have to be SHIPPED to the reactor sites. Again, additional fossil fuels being burned up, and we have not seen one watt of electrical energy produced as of yet.

5 comments:

Sean said...

Great article. I enjoyed reading it.

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robert merkel said...

Hi there.

While I doubt I'll be able to convince you you're wrong about nuclear in general, when you're claiming unacceptable life cycle emissions on the basis of fuel transport you're really barking up the wrong tree. The major CO2 emissions (which are miniscule compared to fossil fuel) from nuclear power come from other parts of the process.

The thing you're not considering is the amount of material to be shipped from place to place in the fuel cycle.

To fuel a 1 gigawatt nuclear power station for one year takes, from memory, about a dozen truckloads of uranium (uranium is heavy, so mass is the limiting factor rather than volume). That nuclear power station generates electricity equivalent to 3000 trucks, travelling 500,000 miles each.

If you don't believe me, do the maths yourself. Get the data from Storm van Leeuwin and Smith if you like - even they agree that transport of uranium is a negligible factor in the life cycle emissions.

Porgie Tirebiter, Royce Penstinger and Pinto Bean said...

Robert:

Believe if you read the article more closely, never claimed the primary nuclear cycle contributor of CO2 into the atmosphere was/is transportation, though it is a part of it. One key example I cited was the enrichment process when the uranium hexofloride is converted into fuel. The Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion plant in its 50 years of operation was supplied with power from 9 coal burning power plants. In the time of its operation, it consumed enough coal created electricity to supply all of Los Angeles county's needs for a period of 18,250 years.

Start factoring in the twin plant in Piketon, similiar plants in places like France and Germany, and you are talking a lot of CO2 into the environment in the name of nuclear energy...in short, nuclear is flat out lying when they claim nuclear power is a CO2 free producer of electricity.

vargasfusion said...

Wow so much bs, I'm an electrical engineering major, I went to France last spring break and was really impressed by their nuclear program, they now have the cleanest air in the indutralized world and the cheapest energy bill in europe.
They have so much excess energy they actually export to other major european cities.Now I'm taking a Nuclear engineering minor and the more I learn the more I'm convinced that this technology can play a big role in reducing global warming impact. if you want some actual facts go to www.nei.org.
Finally to answer that absurd claim about the dangers of nuclear power to the public here is a piece of a nei blog:

We've all heard the far-fetched claims of often-debunked pediatrician-turned-nuclear-expert Helen Caldicott before: Cancer rates are higher around nuclear facilities. But the questions she can never answer, even when asked face to face: If your claims are true, then why do medical studies, such as the one performed by Johns Hopkins University of over 30,000 nuclear workers, show no increase in cancer rates - even for the people who work closest with this radioactive material? Why aren't the thousands of nuclear workers who have been working in commercial nuclear power plants for the last 40 years not dropping like overripe grapefruits? And why do the people of France, where 80% of the power is provided by nuclear, have the *lowest* cancer and infant mortality rates and the longest life expectancy in all of Europe? Why is that?

Porgie Tirebiter, Royce Penstinger and Pinto Bean said...

Dear Vargas:

Am always amused here when youngsters still naive and wet behind their ears want to leap into the fray and lecture to their elders...so cute!

Even more humorous, is your siting NEI (Nuclear Energy Institute) not once but twice in your response, hoping that most who read your childish gibberish are not going to know that the NEI is the lobby group for the entire nuclear industry...care to discuss the over $237 Million they have given to politicians, or their full funding of Patrick Moore's propaganda machine, CASEnergy. Or perhaps we can hear you wax poetic about the $8 million dollar PR firm contract just for last year that the NEI signed with the same firm that represented Exxon after they ruined the environment.

As to nuclear workers dropping like flies...if none of them are dying from working around nuclear, how come it took and act of Congress to force the DOE to give them the benefits and medical help they need...or did you happen to miss the newspaper article last week dealing with 3.000 of these people in just one community?

Get a clue, the government, the nuclear industry, even NEI have spent billions to thwart any and all efforts at the truth coming out, all in the name of National interests, host communities be damned.