Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Deeper Defense of Nuclear

Why do environmentalists hate nuclear power? Nuclear power plants do not emit carbon dioxide, have a small footprint, and have the safest track record of all other forms of power. So what’s the deal then? Upon closer inspection of the many arguments against nuclear power--and most of the arguments against most forms of power in general--they are rooted in a much deeper level of flawed reasoning. According to Greenpeace’s website,

Nuclear power is neither safe nor clean. There is no such thing as a ‘safe’ dose of radiation and just because nuclear pollution is invisible doesn't mean it's ‘clean.’”

As many of us reading this blog are nuclear engineering students, it is obvious to us that this is simply an appeal to emotion to make an argument. Radiation is everywhere. It comes from the sun, occurs naturally in food, emanates from buildings made from brick and stone, and even comes from within us.

One of the missions of Greenpeace with regards to nuclear power is simply, “Expose the abysmal economics of new nuclear power.” While it is true that building a nuclear power plant is a very expensive endeavor, it is thanks to countless government regulations, licensing fees, and intentional delays caused by environmentalism groups. However, despite this artificially high initial cost, it is no secret that fuel costs are significantly lower than most other forms of power, meaning that once the plant is built, very cheap power can be produced. It is well known that Greenpeace advocates for wide-scale use of solar and wind power as the “green” alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear power. If we want to talk about “abysmal economics,” let us face the reality that most of the new “green” forms of energy are not marketable without significant government subsidy. On top of that, logic dictates that wind, solar, or both combined, can not provide base-load power. Homes, hospitals, and cities cannot be powered by something as intermittent as gusts of wind or a sunny day.

Our way of living--the things we enjoy doing, our life expectancy, and a multitude of things we take for granted on a daily basis--are the consequence of a constant supply of electricity, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. If we were all to truly revert to the environmentalist’s dream world, we would not be able to live as healthy of lives or as fulfilling of lives that we do now. Energy gives us freedom. If a serious defense of nuclear power is to be made as the industry slowly expands, it is definitely worth looking into the more fundamental reasons behind the morality of why we support nuclear power and debunk environmentalist’s arguments for what they really are. An article by Travis Norsen puts the green movement’s arguments into perspective,

They do not seek a better means of generating energy--they want us to "conserve" and to do with less. Their goal is to turn out the lights on our industrial society. What the defenders of nuclear energy need, therefore, is to defend that industrial society--by upholding man's moral right to produce the wealth on which his values and life depend.”

It is worth thinking a little more into why we all support nuclear power. It is more than just an argument of efficiency or various facts and figures. It is an argument to not only preserve our industry, but to preserve our way of life. If we are to live in a future without fossil fuels, a deeper defense of nuclear will be necessary.

Greenpeace on Nuclear Power:

Quoted Article by Travis Norsen:

Thomas Eiden,

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Moving Forward

With all the chaos that has abounded from the Fukushima Daiichi accident, the public outcry has been overpowering. The idea of new power reactor ventures has been hit hard. Citizen organizations opposed to reactor licensing have become much more active. Despite this hostile climate the NRC completed its technical reviews for the Westinghouse Electric Company’s AP1000 pressurized water reactor in early August.. This is great news for the Vogtle-3 and -4 reactors.

Before the Fukushima Daiichi incident both the Vogtle -3 and -4 reactors were nearing the final stages of pre-construction preparations. Only the safety review remained, but this review could not be finished until the final safety report was issued. Due to costumer requests, the design was amended. The NRC decided the changed were significant enough to bring about a new review process. The increased concern and activity from citizen organizations opposed to nuclear power has slowed the certification process of the AP1000. However, recently the NRC staff informed Westinghouse Electric Company and commissioners that the AP1000 licensing could be issued in January. Hopefully the amended AP1000 design will be certified in February and safety related construction can begin shortly afterwards. This is a definite movement in the right direction. This progress in certification and construction is good news for not only the AP1000 but for the future of nuclear power ventures in the current climate.

You can check out the applications online at Vogtle

Sunday, September 18, 2011

On Iran's Bushehr reactor: How big of a concern is it?

This past month, on September 3rd, Iran's first nuclear power plant, the Bushehr nuclear power plant, was connected to the power grid 36 years after its construction began. Delayed by the Iranian Revolution of 1979, the Iran-Iraq war, technical and financial problems, and foreign sanctions, the reactor has been a hot-button issue between the U.S. and Iran and has also increased tensions between the U.S. and Russia due to Russia's support of the project.

Below is a link to an article by Suzanne Maloney, who has served as an advisor to the U.S State Department during both the Bush and Obama administrations. She questions whether the Bushehr reactor may not be as big of a concern as it first appears given the limited utility of the light-water reactor towards a nuclear weapons program.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pic-Nuke Madness: Fall 2011 Edition

With the start of another fall semester came another highly successful Pic-Nuke. In total we cooked up 30 lbs of ground beef, 18 lbs of chicken, and 20 lbs of bratwurst, and devoured almost all of it by night's end. A new addition to Pic-Nuke this year was the Toothpick Tower Contest where teams of nukes were given mini marshmallows and toothpicks with the goal of building the tallest free-standing tower in a limited time period. The winners this year were Sam Maslonkowski and Dave Ozburn, seen below with their winning tower and victory swag (the shiny yellow coffee mugs):
In addition to the magnificent food, beverages, music, and the tower building contest, we also managed to get all the beautiful nukes together for a group photo, seen above. (Let's be honest, are there any nukes who aren't beautiful? I think not.)

With the fun of bowling night and Pic-Nuke behind us, there is some more serious ANS business coming up next week to accompany the engineering career fair (which no one forgot about, right?). ANS has three recruiters giving talks specifically to ANS next week. Eric Edwards from Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory will be speaking at 5:30 on Tuesday, 9/20 in 1610 E-hall. Thomas Steele from Idaho National Labs will be presenting at 12:30PM in 106ERB on Thursday, 9/22. Lastly, Amy Lapse from Sandia National Labs will be in 1610 E-hall at 5:30PM on Thursday, 9/22 as well. Be sure to stop by if your interested in any of these potential employers to meet them in a much more personal setting than the chaos of the career fair. And a reminder, these events and all other upcoming ANS events can be found on the calendar here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fall 2011 Kick Off Meeting

ANS has been busy planning a great semester for it's members, and we were finally able to kick it off with a first meeting this Wednesday, Sept. 7th. We counted over 65 attendee's at one point, and I don't think that number is a lie, because everyone made quick work of the 18 pizza we were giving away!

The meeting gave a brief overview of what ANS is about, what we've done, and what we have planned for the semester. For those who attended, I'm sure they were sick of hearing "Stay Tuned", but it's the best advice we can give! Keep an eye on the website, and watch for our weekly e-mails. This fall semester we've got socials, lab tours, and ANS Student Conference events planned. As always, we'll be busy with Boy Scouts, Science Night, and Science Olympiad, so sign up for an event and do something good for our community. For those graduating seniors, we have over 6 Recruiting nights planned for the semester!

After the meeting, about 20 of us went over to the new Union South for a great night of bowling. It was so great to see everyone come out for the evening, the regulars, and so many new faces. We're looking forward to the Fall 2011 semester!!!

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Great Outdoors, Devils Lake Camping Trip

At least we fought away the bear... Well not really, but we did have an amazing time. The ANS camping trip was a huge success. With a total of 13 campers and a well put together camping experience, there was no sign of boredom. Our Vise President (Jacob Sager) did an amazing job setting up this social event.

We started off by enjoying the day on the lake with a group hiking trip. Everyone explored the beautiful West Bluff, then we came back to the beach for lunch. Afterward the group split up with some going fishing and others enjoying the water with a game of lake Frisbee. Then the group headed to the camp site where we set up the tents and played an plethora of Magic, dominoes and card games. As the sun went down a game of night Kung Fu began. Happily no one was lost in the chaos. With a huge supply of great camping food that included the ever important brats and smores, a heavy paced potato cook off then followed. All in all, the camping trip was an amazing success.

Now let's make the upcoming Pic-Nuke an amazing experience also!

Here are the pictures from the camping trip!
ANS Camping Trip