Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Rethinking the Winter Pilgrimage

This time of year, I conduct my annual pilgrimage to see bald eagles in the northern reaches of Westchester County's Hudson banks. This year, there's an “extremely disconcerting” leak of radioactive tritium-contaminated water
from Buchanan's Indian Point nuclear power plant, which is immediately south of Fleischmann's Pier, my prime eagle-watching spot.

There is a quote about nuclear power that I have heard attributed to R. Buckminster Fuller:

The sun is the only safe nuclear reactor, situated as it is some ninety-three million miles away.

About 16 miles (25 kilometers) south of Indian Point, the village of Tarrytown is aggressively pursuing a village-wide solar power initiative. Being 93 million miles from a nuclear power plant is preferable to being sixteen miles downstream from a leaking one.

The nuclear power plant has the Orwellian slogan Safe. Secure. Vital. Nothing sounds quite so safe, secure, and vital as an extremely disconcerting leak of radioactive water.

I'll probably end up making that drive north... it's not like I would be spending a lot of time at the site. Does anybody know of a good Geiger counter app?


Unknown said...

I've read books by James Lovelock (who coined the term "Gaia Theory"). He's 96 years old now, but he still writes books.

Anyway, he says that all things considered, nuclear power has fewer bad side effects than any of the others, including solar(!).

Seems to be an odd position for an educated guy who is a liberal on most environmental issues, but he seems convinced and even convincing.

I hope that your trip isn't ruined because of the leak.

mikey said...

Here's the thing. The reactors in use today are virtually all Gen II designs, 60s and 70s technology. Materials, process, neutron moderation, coolant designs, reactor designs - everything has changed massively in the last 40 years.

In the face of massive climate change driven by carbon pollution, it seems kind of silly to me to look at technology developed when we were children and think it represents what is possible now, and therefore simply discount a very viable possibility for large-scale zero carbon electricity generation. I mean, seriously, to worry about modern Gen III and Gen IV nuclear designs like Thermal Reactors, Liquid Sodium cooled reactors and Pebble Bed reactor cores when it's coal fired power generation that is destroying much of the planet's ability to sustain life is kind of missing the forest for the trees, dontcha think?

swkellogg said...

I am surprised that the Entergen folks aren't trying to channel J. Frank Parnell and expound upon the hormetic virtues of the nexgen Radithor which they are so graciously distributing gratis to an ungrateful public.

Haven't these people learned anything from big tobacco and the climate change denier shills?

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

It seems to me our species is far too short-sighted, greedy, and stupid to deal with nuclear waste that is dangerous for thousands of years.

mikey said...

That's why the molten salt Gen III reactor design is so cool, Thunder. Safe against meltdown even in a Fukushima type catastrophic event, they produce a few hundred kilograms of waste per year rather than the multiple tons of the currently running Gen IIs....