Pandoras Promise Rebuttal Essay

As an Environmentalist, and someone who cares deeply about the fate of the planet, Pandora's Promise was a refreshing look at the reality of Nuclear Energy.

As a society, we face some tough choices. The traditional environmental movement opposes Nuclear Energy, instead favouring Solar, Wind and other renewables. Unfortunately they cost considerably more than burning fossil fuels, and no amount of technological advancement will change this - it's just way too cheap to dig up coal and chuck it in a furnace. And that's exactly what's happening the world over.

Over 1000 new coal plants are planned worldwide(1). Coal is a killer. Coal plants pump out far more radiation than nuclear power plants, due to the radioactive elements present in coal, which are released into the atmosphere by the burning. Particulates alone are responsible for over 13,000 deaths *per year* in the United States(2), and some estimates say over 100,000 deaths per year in China. This doesn't include coal mining accidents. Even the best coal mines in the US kill over 30 people per year(3). Coal mining killed over 6000 people in China alone in 2004 (3).

Coal is a *killer*. We need to stop burning it. It has killed far more people than nuclear power ever has, and this is something that a lot of people in Environmentalist movement just simply ignore.

Many Environmentalists claim to believe in science - certainly when conservatives deny climate change, environmentalists point to the science. Yet they bury their heads when it comes to Nuclear.

Nuclear Energy has killed *zero* people in the United States (4). There were no deaths after the accident at Three Mile Island, and zero deaths as a result of Fukushima (4). Chernobyl was a catastrophic accident and indeed did lead to many deaths, 56 (4) direct deaths and potentially as many as 4000 premature deaths due to cancer (4), but these figures pale into significance next to the figures on coal.

So how can the environmental movement be so opposed to nuclear? It just does not make sense.

I am in favour of Wind and Solar power, but the wind and the Sun don't provide power 24 hours a day. There are no economic storage methods. We need base load power. We need cheap energy.

So what can provide CO2 free, safe and cheap energy? Nuclear power can. It's a perfect ally of renewable power. Nuclear energy is a natural phenomena, it is responsible for 50% of the heat at the Earths core, without which the planet would be as dead as Mars - without a molten core, solar winds would strip the earth of it's protective outer layer.

Existing Nuclear has many problems, but these are solvable. Unfortunately in the 50s and 60s the world settled on Light Water Reactors. These use Water as a coolant. Because water boils at 100^C, too low a temperature for efficient power production, reactors have to keep the water under pressure to get temperatures high, effectively creating pressure cookers kept at 300 atmospheres. This leads to high cost, and any fault results in steam escaping. In Fukishima, when it lost coolant, the high temperatures disassociated the hydrogen and the oxygen, creating an explosive gas mixture at the top of the building which is what exploded, spreading radiation particles from the reactor core. It just does not make sense to use Water as a coolant.

Nor does it make sense to use solid fuels. All existing reactors use solid fuel, which results in incomplete burn up, approximately 1% of the fuel is used. This produces a large amount of spent fuel, which must either be reprocessed, or stored as waste.

There are solutions. In the 60s, at Oak Ridge National Laboratories, a radically different design was developed, called the Molten Salt reactor. Unfortunately Pandora's Promise didn't cover this at all, but this design solves almost all the problems with existing nuclear power.

In a Molten Salt reactor(6), rather than having solid fuel rods with high pressure water in a pressurised reactor container, you instead dissolve the nuclear fuel in a salt. Thanks to the salt being a liquid, the fuel circulates, allowing 99% of the fuel to be burned, producing just 1% of the waste of existing reactors. Because the salt is already molten, you can't suffer a "meltdown". If the reaction starts to go too fast and get too hot, the salts expand and the reaction slows down - it's inherently self regulating. A failsafe is to have a passively cooled drain tank attached to the reactor - a fan blows over the pipe between the reactor and the drain tank, freezing some of the salt in the tube. If the building loses all power, the fan stops, the plug melts, and the fuel drains into the tank. What's more, reactors of this type can be used to burn existing spent nuclear fuel.

So with an MSR, you have completely safe nuclear energy, vastly reduced waste, with a vastly simpler design. MSRs can also use Thorium as a fuel instead of Uranium, an element as abundant as Lead that's safe to hold in your hand and is produced as byproduct of mining, making it free - people will pay you to take it away.

I'd highly recommend people who care about the environment watch this:

Not all nuclear power plants are equal. Nuclear Power is as far as I'm concerned, humanity's last hope to avoid catastrophic runaway climate change, and I'm desperately fearful that we won't embrace it. If we don't embrace it, the planet is doomed.








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“We don’t do nuclear energy” was the categorical pronouncement made this week by the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim. The World Bank says it will not fund nuclear power instead giving development money to sustainable energy projects.

Kim and UN leader Ban Ki-moon outlined efforts to ensure all people have access to electricity by 2030.  The announcement roundly contradicts a favorite sound bite of the Pandora’s Promise promoters who insist nuclear energy is the only hope to electrify the Third World. 

Pointing out that nuclear is an "extremely political issue," Kim stated that the bank would look only at new technologies, including solar, wind and geothermal energy. “We will show investors that sustainable energy is an opportunity they cannot afford to miss,” he said.

World Bank president Jim Yong Kim and UN leader Ban Ki-moon outlined efforts to ensure all people have access to electricity by 2030, as part of a joint effort by the U.N. and World Bank called The Sustainable Energy for All initiative. This initiative will focus on supplying modern energy services such as lighting, clean cooking solutions and power for productive purposes in developing countries, as well as scaled-up energy efficiency, especially in the world’s highest-energy consuming countries.

Kim said "The World Bank Group does not engage in providing support for nuclear power. We think that this is an extremely difficult conversation that every country is continuing to have..."

“And because we are really not in that business our focus is on finding ways of working in hydro electric power, in geo-thermal, in solar, in wind,” he said.

“We are really focusing on increasing investment in those modalities and we don’t do nuclear energy..."  

Clearly, the World Bank has adopted an energy funding policy that has abandoned nuclear investment in the developing world. This follows the Bank's only direct funding for a nuclear power reactor in Italy in 1959-- a General Electric design --to the tune of 40 million dollars (almost 2/3 of the construction cost). At that time, after a four year examination, the Bank concluded "...there were good prospects that power could be produced by a nuclear plant at costs competitive, or close to competitive, with power produced by a conventional plant..." but only under certain restrictions.

Turns out this initial Bank conclusion was too hopeful. The Garigliano nuclear power facility shut down in 1982, after being offline for four years and following a series of accidents and radioactive spills into groundwater eventually contaminating the Garigliano River. It appears, to its credit, the World Bank has learned from this decades-old mistake.

While the Bank has not directly funded nuclear power since this sole investment, there is evidence that the Czech Republic and Bulgaria funneled general funds from World Bank projects into nuclear energy. It is not clear that either the Czech Republic or Bulgaria would have fit the country profile for viable operation of nuclear power that the World Bank said, in the late 50's, was necessary for its funding nuclear. If not, it is possible these funds were misappropriated by the receiving countries. These restrictions included sufficient availability of capital, extensive generation and distribution systems, rate payers who could afford higher-than-normal electricity costs, high conventional energy costs, and back up energy capacity to compensate for nuclear power failure, among others.

Ultimately, the World Bank seems to conclude that an investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy is much better than one in nuclear, especially for underserved nations: "With the skyrocketing demand for electricity in underserved communities and the need to expand access to communities that have no service at all, the focus is on low cost, low investment alternatives..." CleanTechnica

Add to this the Fukushima catastrophe, the democratic and security hurdles that plague nuclear energy worldwide, and it becomes clear that the Bank is looking to fund a more safe, secure and affordable energy footing in the developing world.





the World Bank finds renewable energy a far more attractive investment.

the World Bank finds renewable energy a far more attractive investment.


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