No Nukes, Part 2  

Posted by Big Gav

TreeHugger has also picked up the article from TomPaine which pointed out some unpleasant facts about the revivial of the nuclear energy debate, particularly the immaturity of the pebble bed reactors that people are promoting as the new nuclear solution and the centralised nature of the generation being a retrograde step when future generation needs would better served by a distributed infrastructure.

Some of the pro-nuclear comments that follow the post are quite interesting - like the "hydrogen economy", it appears there is a lot of noise in the debate, which makes it hard to separate fact from (often politically motivated) fiction.

One poster references mini-nukes - small scale nuclear power plants, which would seem to be in line with the desire to distribute generation more widely. But, of course, it means you now have the problem of how to widely distribute nuclear fuel and then deal with the waste, all in a safe manner, which would appear intractable.

Toshiba offered their new miniature nuclear reactor to the small Alaskan village of Galena back in 2003, and after much deliberation it looks like the project is finally moving forward. The city council has voted unanimously to allow construction of the reactor, which Toshiba calls the 4S ("Super-Safe, Small, and Simple" — see how reassuring that is?), and if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approves, it could be up and running by 2010.

The 4S reactor will be the smallest reactor ever built, measuring about the size of a large spruce tree. The reactor core itself will be underground and encased in a concrete housing, making it "as safe from immune to attack or theft as a missle in its silo," according to Toshiba reps. Nice analogy, guys.

Breeder reactors are also trotted out as an alternative - but are there any examples of reliable, working breeder reactors out there ?

No one has yet mentioned pebble bed reactors (as they are still at an early stage of development), but Mobjectivist did a post on them recently.

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