Nuclear power

Lord Soley

The tragic events in Japan reveal a remarkably stoic people who are much closer to dramatic natural disasters then I hope we shall ever be but I hope the nuclear issue does not lead to another attempt to stop the development of nuclear power in the UK.

If we had a smaller world population it might be possible to provide the standard of living people expect without the use of nuclear but in my view it is essential if we are to avoid the increase in global warming that would result in even greater use of fossil fuels. Nuclear power is a medium term solution while we await the development of more efficient and reliable renewablews. I recall the green campaign that stopped planning for more modern nuclear power in the UK with the result that we are now trying to catch up in order to avoid power failures in the future and excessive reliance on fossil fuels.

It is also important to note that the power stations in trouble in Japan are old designs without some of the new safety controls. For the Japanese power stations to have resisted such a cataclysmic event without a Chernobyl disaster is an indication of  what can be done with modern engineering and science.

30 comments for “Nuclear power

  1. 14/03/2011 at 4:52 pm

    I can’t believe people are even using the natural disaster in Japan as a reason for not having nuclear power. The Tsunami has killed at least 10,000 people, yet all people are worried about is the incident at the power station that has so far killed no-one.

    I don’t mean to spam, but I wrote about just this yesterday:

    If we aren’t going to build nuclear power stations in case there’s an earthquake (not that we have those in the UK anyway) we had better not live anywhere near the coast, or live in buildings at all for that matter.

    They might as well suggest we evacuate the centre of Birmingham in case there’s a tsunami!

  2. maude elwes
    14/03/2011 at 5:58 pm

    Nuclear power, as shown by the breakdown of reactors in Japan is a dangerous and decidedly risky way to go.

    These reactors are not in trouble specifically as a result of the earthquake or Tsunami. It is directly attributable to their cooling system. It is due to power inadequacy not natures disaster. It is a warning to us all. Ignore it at our peril.

    To owe a trillion pounds in perpetuity for this out of date science is nonsensical. It will never be paid off. And will destroy mankind.

    Uncle Sam is hell bent on having us in hoc, ad infinitum, and this is their answer.

    Why not think more in terms of Geothermal energy?

    There has to be a better way forward.

    • 14/03/2011 at 10:30 pm

      The cooling system was degraded by the effects of the earthquake. The reactors shut down as designed when the quake hit. As power was down the cooling system was run from diesel generators which were then taken out by the tsunami leaving only the battery backup. It’s certainly a failure of planning for the eventuality of a tsunami but it’s not a complete catastrophe. No doubt lessons will be learnt which will inform future reactor designs.

      Current designs already have gravity fed coolant systems so cooling can be maintained during a no-power shutdown for exactly this reason.

    14/03/2011 at 5:59 pm

    The problem Is most people don’t really learn the Science. Far too many are ignorant of how Nuclear power works, and instead have their heads filled with images of Mushroom Clouds and vaporised Cities, or the more cartoonish Three Eyed Fish and Mutant babies, and don’t really understand exactly what Nuclear Fallout is or how the plants work.

    I live in an area powered by Nuclear Energy, at Watts Bar. Its reliable and perfectly safe, and hasn’t seen any real problems, but people protested this one too once.

    I actually agree that the campaign to end Nuclear Power would lead to Fossil Fuel use increases, and myself want to end the reliance on crude or coal, though not as much for Global Warming as simply because its neither pleasant in the polluting effect and well too expensive.

    Nuclear is actually both cleaner and cheaper given he amount of power it produces in the Long Run.

    But when I speak about it to some people they seem to think that an Atomic Bomb powers us ready to go off at any given moment. This is True even though Statistically more people die in Car Accidents and no one thinks we should ban cars.

  4. Dave H
    14/03/2011 at 6:58 pm

    It is a shame that we’re getting all the sensationalist headlines about meltdowns and leaks. So far as can be determined, the reactor cores have stood up very well to it all so far.

  5. MilesJSD
    14/03/2011 at 7:17 pm

    You (Lord Soley) say
    “If we had a smaller world population it might be possible to provide the standard of living people expect without the use of nuclear … ”

    I challenge you to publish a detailed-account, in your context of a world population, of just what you mean by “it might be possible to provide the standard of living people expect”;
    and in respect for the three basic principles of good-communication and honest-argumentation namely Clarity, Charity, and Self-Correctibility I challenge you to invite one-and-all worldwide to enter their practical-philosophical view, upon what it might take to “provide the standard of living people expect”.

    Bear in mind that you have stated by implication (“)provide the one common standard of living that the people-of-the-world expect(“).
    Let us grasp that; and go to it; both individually and, ere too long it would be trusted, togetherly.


  6. Gareth Howell
    14/03/2011 at 7:29 pm

    Even cars are anticipated to move over to electric battery power in the next 20 years or so, so the dependence on nuclear rather than fossil fuels, for recharging will be greater still.

    I use as little as possible of both fossil and electricity power in my own daily life, and attempt to maintain my metabolic rate so that I need as little as possible too.

    It is the sinister effects of nuclear power station disaster which are so completely un verifiable. We do know that the area round Chernobyl is a no go area and always will be, but what happened to Welsh sheep is anybody’s guess.

    Some fools in NZ want nuclear power, although hydroelectric might not be much better. so shallow is the earth’s crust round there.

    We all want to keep warm in winter time and it ain’t always easy!

    • 14/03/2011 at 10:23 pm

      “It is the sinister effects of nuclear power station disaster which are so completely un verifiable.”

      Not really. The effects of radiation are fairly well understood as well as the properties of the various potential radiological contaminant.

      While you probably wouldn’t want to live in the Chernobyl exclusion area for a significant period it’s far from a barren wasteland. You can even do tours there now.

    • Carl.H
      15/03/2011 at 9:17 am

      The problem with electrical cars is the batteries, they simply aren’t green. They need replacing several times over the life of a car and are an extreme source of pollution. We’re simply moving from one problem to another.

      Hydrogen would be an answer but Japans nuclear accidents, which have all so far been hydrogen related show us the dangers.

      Nuclear power has it’s own problems, if the world had a wealth of them we again see the problem of pollution on a grand scale regards their waste product. There’s also the problem that when these places close the land cannot be re-used. I don’t think Nuclear is the answer, it is a short term solution that does us no good whatsoever. In my lifetime we have become greedy with energy and it’s beginning to show adverse effects, obesity, diabetes etc.

      What we actually see is that modern existence for humans is not actually conducive to nature. The answer of course is to totally decimate the human population and I fully expect ole mother nature to at some point get around to it. It seems the object of any species is to become so successful as to eat itself out of house and home, we’re doing quite well so far.

      The problem is one of balance and we’ll keep muddling through until one day we get it drastically wrong.

      • Gareth Howell
        16/03/2011 at 8:18 am

        several times over the life of a car and are an extreme source of pollution. We’re simply moving from one problem to another

        Is that with recycling or without? Surely the metals may be used again and again and again?

        • Carl.H
          16/03/2011 at 8:17 pm

          India actually have some good lead (battery) recycling plants but there is also the acid pollution and the plastic of the battieries.

          These can of course all be sorted but at a price. Then we have the fact if we need to charge all cars, we will need far more energy from power plants-back to problem number one.

          This is obviously one sided but worth a read:

  7. 15/03/2011 at 8:01 am

    It would be interesting to calculate the impact of on a planetary scale of an entirely nuclear based power generation scheme – where one plant is expected to have a serious contamination incident each decade (or whatever the timescale ends up being).

    Then compare that localised damage to the wider scale impact of carbon based power generation as an ongoing event.

    I wonder which would be “least damaging” to the overall economy/environment/health?

    Not that such a study would change people’s minds, but I think it would be interesting.

    As an aside, I had a lot of search traffic to my own blog over the weekend because I wrote a long time ago about a visit to a Fusion reactor (the UK leads in this field), which shows how little people know about the topic. Current nuclear power is a fission reaction, not fusion.

    • Jake
      15/03/2011 at 6:08 pm

      I’m so glad someone else here mentioned fusion. Fusion is the future – clean fuel, no carbon, nearly unlimited fuel supply and far safer.

      Current fusion designs such as the Tokamak require huge temperatures to be able to fuse particles together, that means if a fusion plant is struck by an earthquake for example, it will rapidly lose power and the fusion reaction will stop in seconds… no meltdown. (

      The big question is why aren’t we funding this more? See Prof. Brian Cox talking about UK science funding – from about 2mins in. He states that UK science funding is 0.2% GDP whereas 6.4% of UK GDP comes from physics-based industries. We currently fund JET in Oxford and co-fund ITER ( but even this is a meagre donation compared to the rewards. How much money have we spent buying in foreign fuels, how much money have we spent securing scarce natural resources (including wars)?! If just a fraction of that was put into a war-effort for fusion we could be there a lot quicker.

      It should be noted that the first to control nuclear fusion for power generation, be it company, nation or coalition will financially benefit for many, many years.

      The media need to stop the scare stories, they even seem to yearn for the worst outcome as it produces the ‘most exciting’ coverage, which is frankly disgusting. Also, even though the Japanese plant is facing problems, the fact that there hasn’t been more serious problems is testament to its design. People seem to forget what this older design has already achieved in terms of safety and, helped by the media, focus on the negatives…

      • Dave H
        15/03/2011 at 10:10 pm

        Ref my other comment about wind turbines – perhaps we could stop wasting money there and put it towards useful research instead.

      • 15/03/2011 at 11:49 pm

        I wish I could find the exact quote/source, but I seem to remember they said that if a year’s profits from the oil industry were invested in fusion power, we’d have commercial plants up and running in a decade. Of course, it could put oil companies out of business. Perhaps the answer is that they develop and profit from it themselves?

        Just don’t call it *nuclear* fusion!!

        • jake____
          16/03/2011 at 11:23 am

          @Jonathan, I think if just one oil company dedicated just one quarterly profit we could be there quicker!!

          The problem with oil is that it is a hugely useful resource, I think the majority of oil is converted to petroleum-based products such as plastics, resins or fuels. Of course a large percentage is used for energy generation, which is in effect a waste – just burning it when it has so many other practical uses. So there is no threat of an oil company going out of business – as long as there is oil, a ready source of multi-fraction hydrocarbons, there will be a market for them (and we will likely have to turn to bio-synthesised hydrocarbons when the oil runs out). So the oil companies will continue to make money from oil until the last drop. However, oil companies and their executives are in the business of maximising profits, more money now is better than the same amount over a longer duration and that is understandable from their point of view (although I don’t agree with MANY of their practises). A companies loyalty is to shareholders, not the environment, not humanities scarce resources… The government has a role here in regulation, and to ignore lobbyists. We are taxed a huge amount on fuel and goods whilst subsidies are given to oil companies – skewed priorities perhaps?

          Its just another case of short-term gains over long term priorities, wasn’t it the 1970’s oil crisis that initially sparked off the implementation of the current nuclear power stations we have now? You would think in the time of peak-oil we would start seriously looking for alternatives.. not waiting until 2018 for ITER to begin testing… I think that this is one of those situations where we are deliberately drip-fed technology so that the exhaustion of oil coincides conveniently with rise of alternative power sources, with healthy profits being made.. of course if someone gets to fusion first before then they will make nearly an unlimited amount of money.. so the profit incentive is there but the barrier to entry will always be extremely high…

  8. Old Slaughter
    15/03/2011 at 10:16 am


    “These reactors are not in trouble specifically as a result of the earthquake or Tsunami. It is directly attributable to their cooling system. It is due to power inadequacy not natures disaster.”

    That is so daft as to be unbelievable.

    It is like saying that people died not because of a tsunami but because their lungs filled with water. Too daft to contemplate.

    • maude elwes
      15/03/2011 at 12:05 pm

      @old slaughter: Your name is apt isn’t it?

      And, you also believe you are a smart cookie when it comes to nuclear science. Going by your comment here, you are a daring thinker. Not necessarily good when it comes to this kind of science.

      Nuclear power is dangerous to mankind every day of the year from reactors all over the world. Not just these Japanese models who simply shook and stopped production as a result which led to their over heating. I repeat the Earthquake did not cause the event. The safety device was no good. And that would have been the case in any circumstance where this occurred. To build more of these is short sighted and shows a lack of mental ability.

      These reactors are in trouble because the inventors did not know how they would wear over the years and they also did not know how to protect the Japanese people from the events that have taken place. They ignored their planet position with respect to earthquakes and now, sadly, they suffer terror and hold their breath.

      If you feel this risk is worth taking and the phenomenal cost of it worthwhile, why do you feel that way? It’s no good simply saying it’s cheaper in the long run. In what way is it cheaper in the long run and how do you come up with those figures? Nothing is as expensive as nuclear and nothing is as risky.

      • Old Slaughter
        15/03/2011 at 12:56 pm

        Oh dear, I shall gloss over the sarcasm, personal stuff etc.

        “I repeat the Earthquake did not cause the event. The safety device was no good. And that would have been the case in any circumstance where this occurred.”

        Sorry, it is my understanding that the power was disabled as a reaction to the earthquake. In these events they switch to emergency generators. It is also my understanding that the emergency generation was hampered by the Tsunami (which had not been planned for).

        Is this wrong? If so why?

        If it is not wrong then what you have said is as I wrote, daft.

        “And, you also believe you are a smart cookie when it comes to nuclear science. Going by your comment here, you are a daring thinker. Not necessarily good when it comes to this kind of science.”

        Don’t overextend yourself. I said nothing of the sort here. I just pointed out your comment was daft. However reading your rebuttal I see you have proved my silent assumption. That you have strong views on this, have had for a while and are happy to steer whatever happens to support those views. I suspect you work with a nuclear=bad idea to the point of tautology. But I am speculating.

        I repeat your original comment:

        “It is due to power inadequacy not natures disaster.” and my reply

        “It is like saying that people died not because of a tsunami but because their lungs filled with water.”

        Holds up rather well I think. Or are you suggesting this turn of events could have happened at any time and the whole once in three generation massive earthquake/tsunami type-thingy was merely a coincidence?

      • 15/03/2011 at 3:26 pm

        Thanks for the links, Maude. The MSNBC article explains that the cooling systems were also knocked out by the earthquake or tsunami. Any claim that this nuclear incident is not the result of the earthquake is clearly ridiculous, but then that’s the biggest problem of nuclear power: it makes people irrational.

        The Greenpeace page is so meaningless it’s almost funny. One could compile a similar calendar of deaths from road accidents, smoking-related deaths, accidents caused by slipping on a banana skin, or whatever. The nuclear calendar would be insignificant by comparison.

        Given that you aim to live in a world with absolutely zero risk, what do you propose to protect people from tsunamis, given that this one has killed 10,000s of people? Evacuate everyone who lives within five miles of the coast? Build a 30-metre walls along the coast? But then I’m forgetting: it doesn’t matter if people die, does it? As long as it’s not caused by radiation you are happy.

        • Old Slaughter
          15/03/2011 at 7:29 pm

          “but then that’s the biggest problem of nuclear power: it makes people irrational.”

          The best line in a spot-on post.

      • Dave H
        15/03/2011 at 6:14 pm

        While I accept that it’s probably not as risky (although see the link), wind power is probably up there with the expense. In the cold spell in December the UK’s wind turbines, with a theoretical 5GW output, was producing about 140MW due to lack of wind.

        Perhaps this comment can prompt a Lords debate on the true cost of wind power, because it’s costing us a lot of money for very little green benefit.

        • maude elwes
          16/03/2011 at 12:19 pm

          Obviously you who are for nuclear power feel you will benefit from it in some way. I dissagree with that notion.

          I do hope you are going to buy your property and raise your family next to these power makers. And that they will appreciate you for it and be as happy with it as you are.

          The more that is allowed exposure regarding these Japanese reactors and what really happened, the more egg you will have on your face. And I emphsise ‘allowed’ to be exposed. Much of it is hidden for fear of panic.

          But it will out and your cavalier attitude will take its proper place. Obviously there is no point taking a different position as they will be considered, by idiots like you, to be useless, or, made up.

          You cannot back up your statements. People of your ilk forever cry ‘the idiots against are out in left field.’ Well you go and set up a tent next to Chernobyl. It would be the best thing you could do. And we could smile wryly as you rot along with your theories.

          And if you want to debate do it with evidence to back you up.

          • 16/03/2011 at 3:30 pm

            The events of Chernobyl and Fukushima are in no way comparable in terms of fall out.

            Right now you stand more chance of getting injured in the car journey evacuating the area than the lifetime increase in cancer susceptibility. The reason the authorities tell people to stay indoors and close windows and turn off air conditioning is because that is the safest thing to do. If you stir up mass panic about radiation leakage you end up killing more people in the evacuation than those that may be affected in the long term by radiation exposure.

            People are very poor judges of risk and it’s not helped when campaigns focus on emotional arguments which distort the science.

          • Old Slaughter
            16/03/2011 at 3:53 pm

            Now we are idiots. You dignity is as fulsome as your logic.

            What is most warming is the permanence of the internet and therefore the fact that your own rank idiocy and personal attacks will be here for all to witness.

            You refused to address the points I made and seek to argue against points I did not.

            I wish you to go into the world and put the full force of your voice and intellect behind the “it had nothing to do with the natural disaster’ argument.

            Ridicule and mirth awaits.

            As for egg on my face (I only criticised you daft assertion), far more damage will have to occur before these events become arguments against nuclear power. So far they are merely an argument against earthquakes and that is not an argument worth having,

          • Dave H
            17/03/2011 at 1:49 pm

            I don’t think I said I was for or against nuclear power, I’m just casting doubt on all the money we’re wasting on wind power.

            With regard to the Japanese situation, I’m looking at it from an engineering perspective, where the reactor cores have performed well in excess of what they were designed for. The main failing of their system appears to be that when the cooling systems went to battery power due to generator failure, they failed to envisage the scene where it was not possible to get mobile generators to the scene before the batteries were exhausted.

            However, I wouldn’t have built reactors there – at least the UK reactors are on stable ground (and I believe that ground stability is one of the site selection criteria for UK installations).

    15/03/2011 at 6:06 pm

    Lord Soley, the idea that the Solution is the decimation of the Species is a bit pessimistic and if unchecked can lead to the same problems we see in China or saw in the Soviet Union. If you foster this Mentality too long, you then begin to see no problem helping Mother Nature along and killing the undesirables in the name of restoring Natural Balance.

    I prefer to think of this as a Challenge to be met; How to keep all alive till Natural Death, but meet our needs.

    Space Exploration and Colonisation of places like Mars, while not realistic now, may be in the Future our better option than Genocide.

    That, or we can all live as the Amish do.

    I do however agree that a lot in Modern Society is against Nature, and this causes us to have a Society that crumbles into oblivion, and our Health, both Mental and Physical, declines as a Result.

    Hence why I reject Modernity.

    But then, I still use a Scythe to Garden, use hand tools to repaid things round the House, and don’ use a good many resources.

    But I’d be one in the Camps waiting to be killed though. I am an undesirable. After all, I hold beliefs contrary to the New rational way the world ought to be.

  10. maude elwes
    16/03/2011 at 1:10 pm

    If it goes ahead, the private funding for nuclear power will be out of the window. No public money was to be spent. Now it will be only public funding and we, the tax payer, will owe on it forever.

    This is the grandaddy of all rip offs. Endless outlay which will double the national debt. The biggest money tap of them all. And the grinning faces make you sick.

  11. ZAROVE
    16/03/2011 at 8:42 pm

    To the above, I misread. I had thought I was addressing CLive Soley but was Carl H. Instead. With apologies for the Confusion.

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