Got a fair number of comments on my quick little post about the Japanese nuclear disaster. Some were pro nuke, others were against. Honest people can disagree.
I used to love big high tech stuff: the space program, giant computers, nuclear power. Maybe it was because I grew up as a big fan of Science Fiction. I'm also a big supporter of basic science. It's proven to be a powerful tool for discovering the universe.
Now I'm against nuclear power. It's not because I don't think scientists and engineers can't make good safe nuclear power. They can. However, they don't work in isolation. There are business and political considerations that trump good science and engineering. Business is hard wired to make the most money possible. Safety cuts into profits.
We have no way to safely dispose of the nuclear wastes. The main problem is politics. No one wants to have a nuclear waste disposal site next door. I can't really blame them for that.
Even if nuclear was totally safe, I've reached the point in my life where I'd still be philosophically opposed to it. The problem with big power plants, be they nuclear, coal, oil, or natural gas, is that they concentrate energy production in one central area. It takes a big organization to run power plants. Then there is the whole grid distribution issue. It's a big system to build and maintain that suffers huge power losses.
Concentrated electrical power gives rise to concentrated political power. Big power = big money and money buys political power. What can they do with that political power? Oh, I don't know. How about get regulatory permission to raise rate? How about pass laws against people putting up their own solar panels? Wind mills? Micro Hydro? Heck, even clotheslines.
Diversified power makes a lot more sense to me. Generating power as locally as possible has a lot of advantages. First of all, you become a lot more aware of where you power comes from and are a lot more careful on how it's used. Back when I first installed solar electric, 20 years ago, it was expensive. Believe me, you become very aware of your personal power usage. A watt of power saved is a lot cheaper than a watt generated.
Diversified power tends towards more ecologically sound power. Almost nobody generates home power using a personal coal plant. Dirty stuff coal. People who put in alternative power, solar, wind, or hydro, often have generator backup. (gasoline, propane, diesel). Most soon do what they can to use the generator as little as possible. Generators tend to be loud and smelly.
Another thing that worries me the disregard for the natural world. The air we breath, the water we drink, and food we eat, can't be taken for granted. Nuclear plants have the capacity to create enormous environmental harm -harm that can last for thousands of years.
Coal plants are pretty horrible too. Coal plant emissions contain things like mercury and other heavy metals -even radioactive particles. Fish in New England is unsafe to eat in any quantity due to mercury from mid-west power plants. That's a crime against man and nature.
Natural gas seems pretty benign -low carbon emissions. There haven't been any major disasters at gas plants. However, now the industry is using fracking to get more gas out of the ground. The destruction to our underground water supply has been huge. What can be more basic to life than water?
We don't have to go back to the cave. We can live good full lives without giant power plants. Personally, I don't need a nuke plant to have cold beer and hot showers. Some people thing that if we don't support huge power plants, we'll freeze in the dark. My feeling is that if we do rely on them, we will freeze in the dark. My home produced energy runs just fine when the grid goes down. When my home system does experience a malfunction, it doesn't threaten to kill people for miles around.
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