Using Nuclear Energy has NOTHING TO DO with Reducing Dependence on Foreign Oil

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edvarner.jpgI saw Obama slide this one by in the Vegas debate. Romney spouted it at the Reagan Library (I think -- they're all starting to run together), this notion that relying on nuclear power will somehow benefit national security through reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

This is very simple.

Most of the petroleum we import goes into our gas tanks. ONLY 1.6% OF OUR ELECTRICITY WAS GENERATED BY PETROLEUM IN 2006. That number is projected to stay the same through 2030. 

So: using nuclear energy has little to do with reducing dependence on foreign oil. It would increase our dependence on foreign uranium, which has its own host of national security implications.

Citizens have a right to basic information on questions of energy dependence and national security. In a democracy we rely on the media to do its job and challenge candidates when they make erroneous connections. Especially when such connections benefit the nuclear industry rather than the rest of us.


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Nuclear energy could be used to run thermal generators (no upper limit since it does not need to unload to an electric grid with its associated long distance losses so 5GW is a possibility, normally 1GW is an upper limit for that reason) that could drive water dissociation for hydrogen (currently natural gas is the source of hydrogen, quite ironic isn't it?). Of course an entire hydrogen distribution system would have to be built since it does not exist. The hydrogen storage problem would have to be solved as well (hydrogen is not very energy dense).

Actually, US foreign oil generally does not come from the Middle East. The Middle East oil goes to Europe. US imports come from Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela.

It's probably not too good of an idea to rely on the media. The media are in it to make a profit for the shareholders... well depending on the definition of "media".

Scott Wimer said:

Massive development of nuclear power would allow us to consider electricity as the motive power driving US automobiles. That's the reason to go nuclear, not to replace oil as a means of electricity generation. Whether that's electricity being used to crack water to for hydrogen, or electricity being used directly (which is going to require some critical battery or capacitor improvements) doesn't really matter too much to me.

The oil market is a global market, if we dramatically cut the amount of oil we import, it drives down demand for oil, which reduces the cash flow into the middle east. In my opinion, this is a "good thing."

Nick Aster Author Profile Page said:

Technically speaking, all that nuke power could be used to charge up a grid for electric cars, thus reducing oil consumption. I'm not sure that tips anything in favor of it, but it should be considered on some level.

Kyeann said:

Nick and Scott, I see how that could eventually be a possibility, but it certainly does not merit any of the sound bites like "relying on alternatives like nuclear energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil" as though we could achieve some magical "clean nuclear energy" shift in the next four years. ERE, the scenario you mention is a distant future as well. (I do think we have to hold the media accountable!)

The fossil fuel footprint of mining and transporting uranium and building reactors is huge. Also, we will see a "peak uranium" situation; it will become more and more energy-intensive to extract it. This doesn't even begin to touch the discussion of the security implications of having international enrichment stations, and shipping both enriched uranium and nuclear waste through our towns and ports.

I'm not dismissing all possible merits of nuclear energy in all circumstances -- just pointing out that the public deserves a genuine conversation about its implications for "energy independence" and national security.

C.W. said:

As stated above, Nuclear power could be used for electricity generation.

Also, hydrogen is not an dense energy store. Its likely that "hydrogen fueling stations" will really just store a lot of distilled water, and perform electrolysis on the water (creating hydrogen and oxygen) on the spot. In order to make this effective, we need a cheap, non-polluting energy, like nuclear power.

And we don't need the foreign uranium. Newer nuclear power plants could be cooled using Sodium (instead of water) and be "Breeder" plants -- they recycle their own waste. Also, there are literally thousands of leftover nuclear weapons from the cold war. While Mr. Bush isn't honoring treaties where we are to de-weaponize our nuclear arsenal, I know we have in fact done this in the past. My uncle worked at such a facility. Its gave him the cancer that eventually took his life.

Uncle B said:

Nuclear power will not reduce the demand for bigger faster more comfortable cars and trucks, only a massive re-education of the American people and their values can do this. We can't 'afford' medical care except for the rich, but we have V-8 cars for everyone, wtf? We have illegal aliens roaming the same streets that have abortion clinics on them, wtf? We have high school dropouts smoking dope on the street corners, but still kill/sacrifice fine American minds in Iraq, wtf? We have huge houses going stylishly empty, but can't build practical affordable housing for the middle class, wtf? We are going to put a man on Mars, but still die of cancer,wtf? We have a proponderance of obiesce people, but still can't help the poor to get enough to eat, wtf? America, wake up, look in the mirror, tell the truth about what you see, then change what you see. Before spreading your democracy/supercapitalism to others, make sure it works in sustainable fashion at home, wtf?

There is more than enough solar, wind, and water energy to power multiple earths - if we can be efficient and wise. Why risk dirty, highly dangerous (due to wastes, terrorist threat, and more) expensive nuclear energy. Make a plan for a renewable-based economy. THAT is the issue, not whether it is a hydrogen economy. We need to think ahead!

Eric said:

Whether or not hydrogen is ever in wide use as an automotive fuel, hydrocarbons can be made from CO2 and electricity. In other words, we could use nuclear energy (indeed, any source of energy) to make gasoline.

We could, in fact, use nuclear energy to be 100% independent of oil imports, using the energy to make chemical feedstock for plastics and the various other products produced from crude.

The reason we don't already do this is crude oil is relatively inexpensive. Regardless of what you hear from the peak oil crowd, the end of cheap oil doesn't mean the end of civilization, it just means a switch to a slightly more expensive source of power.

kindlingman said:

Nice catch!
I agree with you that one of the largest myths in America is (please use ominous tones) "our dependence upon foreign oil" with pictures of Saudi Arabia in the background.
As near as I can tell, Mexico has not profited from its exports to the United States and perhaps some day we will learn why. (Of course, perhaps NAFTA was a back room deal for the continued supply of it.)
There will be no change in our behavior towards the use of oil without a change in the technology that consumes it (either more or less.
As for powering cars with something other than gasoline, it would be a Manhattan project effort funded by federal money to make this change. Three things would have to happen to change the way we power cars: 1. An infrastructure to replenish the cars fuel would have to be built.2. cars would have to be designed and built for the new fuel source and 3. people would have to be incentivized to purchase them. Why? Because gasoline producers, car manufacturers and people are going to do what is most practical, has no risk, and is economical: keep buying gas and the cars that use it.
Of course, it is possible that the car manufacturers and the gasoline producers and the gas station owners could all collude to force the public to change but you need a tin hat to believe that will ever happen.
I also think the coal industry is too powerful to permit more nuclear energy production. They would have to be co-opted into the profit motive and that is not likely to happen without some significant motivator. A deal they could not refuse...
A better chance of changing America is to make homes energy sustainable. There is little need for mass power generation for appliances and lights. One company with a little vision and some strong finances could make that happen.

Paul said:

late to the game but the bit about foreign dependence is a myth. Any radioactive element is viable including Thorium which is abundant domestically.

Also the lifecycle of a fuel assembly only 'burns' a small percentage of the uranium. Something like 5% iirc. The spent fuel can be reprocessed. The French do this already and have proven that it can be practical, safe, and cost effective.

I don't know what your background is but I'd like to point out that much of the literature out there is misleading and sometimes I wonder if those afraid of nuclear power aren't deliberately sowing fear.

For example, they often quote tonnage when talking about nuclear waste but there is never an acknowledgement that 95% is recyclable and, these being some of the heaviest metals on the planet, a ton of Uranium doesn't take up much space.

I don't want to give the impression that I'm a nuclear junky. I'm very bullish on solar power in fact, but there are other considerations that make nuclear power (or coal) a necessary part of our future power infrastructure.

Nuclear plants and coal plants are excellent for your base load needs. Base load plants supply the bulk of our electricity and their primary advantage is the steady reliable output they provide.
In laymans terms, electrical components don't like big changes.

Solar and wind power sources are highly variable and are therefore unsuitable for baseload needs. There are plans developing to counter these disadvantages but not yet any proven technology.

So. Support alternative energy but be prepared to choose between:

A. Coal
B. Nuclear
C. Regular blackouts

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Six Hours A Week Is:

A coping strategy, advocacy outlet, and form of protection. My life has been nearly destroyed by the unconstitutional practices of politically/socially-motivated private intelligence contractors and the corruption and cronyism that allow them. Apparently because I speak out in ways that prioritize the little guy and human and environmental health above gargantuan profit margins, and believe that facts are as important as PR spin, I was someone who had to be completely discredited. In 2007, after a few months of a surreal and relentless invasion of privacy and dignity, I started to spend six hours each week researching, communicating about, and advocating legal and ethical responses to assaults on our shared democratic and republican ideals. For most of that time I was writing from the perspective of someone whose life was manipulated into a constant state of terror and emergency. In 2010, many of the array of entrapment attempts seem to have failed and it seems no longer possible to get away with such excessive, obvious harassment and overt interference. As we take more practical steps to address what has been allowed to happen to my family, we do expect to see some more harassment and intimidation. But I should be able to chronicle it from a more measured perspective, rather than that of someone in constant fear. Part of me would like to go back and delete earlier posts, because even I find them hard to relate to in some ways. But this blog has been one of our only forms of protection as everyone in any official capacity ignored the truth and tried to spin and frame us into the troublemakers and perpetrators of one form or another. So I leave it up as a form of protection, a record of what has occurred, and (with luck) the account of our way back to credibility and some form of legitimate justice. All content on this site is property of Kyeann Sayer. All rights reserved.

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