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Elon weighs in on nuclear energy debate

  • "Unless susceptible to extreme natural disasters, nuclear power plants should not be shut down" tweets Tesla's (NASDAQ:TSLA) Elon Musk on the back of vocal opposition to the closing of California's last nuclear power plant.
  • With Europeans in the midst of

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Comments (480)

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For those claiming natural disasters are increasing......

From 2000-2020 the US experienced 4 F/EF5 tornadoes

From 1954-1974 the US experienced 36 F/EF5 tornadoes

You read that right - a ~90% drop.
ephud profile picture

I don't doubt you but why make claims without supporting data to back you up?
@ephud It looks like you answered your own question.
Too much discussion is being made about dealing with nuclear waste.

95% of US nuclear waste was from the US weapons program. No one else on the planet has an issue with nuclear waste.

Fake issue.
@Vikram Angrish Unless you live down stream from a leaking temporary holding site.
@rungrandpa I think most people see glowing green liquid in 55 gallon drums when they think of nuclear waste. The truth is that nuclear waste is a solid and the earth would melt before it became a liquid, so it can't leak. Now letting water flow over it and into the drinking water wouldn't be a great idea, but that is easily avoided. The truth is that all of the nuclear waste generated in the United States since the 1950s would fill a single football field three feet deep to only the ten yard line. That is 70 years of nuclear energy production. All of that waste really isn't waste either, because they only used 5% of the energy in it. There is already reactors that can use what is considered waste. If we put a fraction of the money we waste on wind and solar, we would already have clean energy. You can also build a reactor to use the waste, reduce its half life from 10,000 years to less than 300, and have no possibility of a melt down. The activist people have really done a huge disservice to the environment by opposing nuclear energy. The style of reactor we have now shouldn't have ever been used to make electricity. It was designed for a nuclear sub surrounded by endless water. Back in the 50s they went with the design that could help produce weapons and that has really set us back about a century. Look up Liquid Fluoride Salt Reactor (LFTR) if you want to geek out a bit and see where we could be.
ephud profile picture
@Buck Knaked

"I think most people see glowing green liquid in 55 gallon drums when they think of nuclear waste"

Most people's knowledge of nuclear waste comes from watching the Simpsons.
Randy Carlson profile picture
New-build nuclear power is VERY expensive and takes a really long time to complete. At least that is what several decades of experience with this technology and this industry has shown to be the case.

Solar, wind and battery grid storage deliver new-build electric generation quicker and at a fraction of the cost of new build nuclear. If you live where the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow, build a HVDC transmission line to where it does. Cheap, quick, proven technology that won't make your kids and grandkids glow in the dark.
Skagit profile picture
@Randy Carlson

But they are so much easier to find when they glow.
Randy Carlson profile picture
@Skagit True, so true...
Skagit profile picture
@Randy Carlson

I actually heard an advertisement for NuScale yesterday on the radio. This is the Oregon based small reactor company that is majority owned by Fluor. It would seem that they have conquered the price overruns that plague Great Big Reactors by designing the smaller ones that are factory-built. One of the uses that was mentioned was desalinization plants - a perfect example of why this type of technology would be useful. If the operator was running one large reactor, shutting it down would immediately be problematic. A dozen small units could get by with 2 on downtime on a rotating basis.
leearther profile picture
9 of the 10, approved for evaluation, smr's, use haleu fuel.- - centrus energy
Turre profile picture
I live in Finland and am a big spokesperson for renewables. Mostly hydro, wind, and solar. However, up here it has been -17c all week and that’s really cold. At the same time there is hardly any sun and the wind doesn’t blow. The only viable method is nuclear really to manage the baseload consumption in any weather. Always a risk with nuclear but at least we have no earthquakes here or hurricanes.
@Turre Many people don't understand the concept of base load generation.
@Aloha Snackbar Many people are still suffering from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant explosion
@Josh.Gotcha Suffering from what? The earthquake? And how many people are suffering from air pollution caused by fossil fuels?
With earthquakes happening on a DAILY basis on the west coast, I don't really think building nuclear plants is the best idea there... Let's go solar all the way, Elon. so that everyone can sleep well at night. lol
@Josh.Gotcha Fukashima Daichi survived the earthquake just fine. It was the Tsunami that flooded the backup power generators (for instrument control) located below grade in the basement that caused the loss of control and partial meltdown.
@MtMath Thanks for the clarification. But that doesn't feel like much of a comfort in this context. My point remains.
ephud profile picture

No, your point does not remain. The nuclear plant survived the eqrthquake unscathed. The emergency pumps failed because they were placed where they could be flooded.
How much carbon energy is needed to construct, maintain and decomission a nuclear power plant?
@whynot1 Less than running a coal plant.
that carbon energy is still needed no matter what energy source plant you're building.
@thor11 I guess the logic is that building a coal plant that burns coal to produce energy cancels itself out.
Jeff Pokorny profile picture
Ah, the key words "utility scale"
birder profile picture
There is virtually no way to produce enough non-carbon energy without nuclear power plants. Windmills won't do it and solar won't do it. Of course, the US and foreign governments have been spending billions for the past 20 years on fusion power. Maybe in another 20 or 30 years, it might become a reality.
Johnny Skyhook profile picture
@birder For decades fusion has always been "ten years away", but based on some research I've read and projects underway, we may finally be within reach of some game-changing technology (or at least I hope).

MIT recently announced a breakthrough in a superconducting magnet that helps solve one of the critical challenges toward fusion that produces more energy than it consumes.

@Johnny Skyhook I have come across environmentalists that are already opposed to fusion power. I have zero doubt in my mind that fusion power will be opposed just as fervently as fission power by the same moronic bunch and because of that, we'll continue to burn coal.
Johnny Skyhook profile picture

There are also a lot of people who claim global warming is a hoax or harbor doubts in the face of science because of persistent propaganda campaigns. I personally don't think the ignorance of the few will stand in the way of fusion power, and I also think we are a lot closer than a lot of people realize. The technology is compelling:

Eventually reality buries all talk.

I believe nuclear is opposed because there’s no easy way for a political class to cash in personally.
@SNRoyer Yes, I'm sure Macron made that rapid pivot back to nuclear solely out of concern for the future.
@SNRoyer Ask SC and GA. SC can give you about ~10B reasons nuclear is a bad idea. GA about 25B, wait 26B... wait 27B.. wait 28B... wait 29B.....
@nwdiver That's not nuclear as a whole, that is using 70 plus year old technology with huge regulation piled on top of it. Think if we all drove cars from the 1950s and the government made it that way with regulations. Look up LFTR reactors if you want to see what we could have now without the misinformation.
Booban profile picture
"Unless susceptible to extreme natural disasters, nuclear power plants should not be shut down”

Why just natural? They can be bombed too. Another country wouldn’t need nukes. Just bomb the nuke plants.
@Booban From where would the bombers come ?
drizzlechan profile picture
@Booban do you think bombing a nuclear plant causes a nuclear explosion?
Fangorn profile picture
@drizzlechan Depends if the bombing shuts down the cooling system,resulting in a meltdown surely? Can't say the operation of Nuclear power plants/their dynamics are a specialism tbh
Long Spot Uranium for a double at least in 2022.
If anyone wants to get a better understanding of nuclear power and it's costs take a look at this guys YouTube channel

Dr. David Ruzic

@sailorbob74133 The guy that thinks nuclear costs ~$5/w when 2GW of Vogtle is approaching $30B?
@nwdiver excessive government regulation
@sailorbob74133 So we can end up like Japan? No thanks. I have a degree in nuclear engineering. We studied close calls for one of my classes. If anything we need more regulation. www.nrc.gov/...
Larry, a Futurist profile picture
The Vogtle plants: another delay and another $Billion added to the price tag. $29.7 Billion for 2.2 gigawatts. $13.5 per watt of nameplate capacity.

Utility scale wind and solar are less than $3 per watt.

The environmentalists didn’t kill nuclear. Wall Street killed nuclear.
@Larry, a Futurist Solar and wind are not dispatchible. In order to prevent blackouts, you have to build a fossil fuel power plant as back up, which raises the true cost significantly. Thorium molten salt reactors are both inherently safe and proliferation proof and significantly lower cost due to no need for expensive containment structures needed by pressurized water reactors. Thorium molten salt SMRs are the power source of the future.
@sailorbob74133 Solar and wind are cheaper than the fuel. You can build a 1GW gas plant and use wind and solar to reduce the fuel use and it's still vastly cheaper than nuclear just as clean and just as reliable.
@nwdiver The strategy you just described is exactly the reason we are paying 400€/Mhw here in Europe.
He forgets about terrorists and wars. Nuclear power plants can be easy targets.
@9013185412 Pretty sure the security measures at nuclear power plants make them precisely not easy targets. What benefit would attacking a nuclear power plant have anyway? Turning the power off? People suffer black outs all the time, not quite the end of the world.
09 Dec. 2021
@9013185412 I think you will find that most power plants are easy targets, regardless of their energy source. Perhaps wind is a little distributed so it's harder to take out 2-3GW at a time. The security at nuclear plants is generally higher as it's a double whammy - loss of power and a radioactive pollution source.
Skagit profile picture

There was a nuclear plant on the Hudson River near Peekskill, NY. Indian Point was decommissioned this spring after roughly 45 years of service. It had been a significant source of non-peak energy for NYC and Westchester County. Replaced in part by new NG units.

Those legacy nuclear plants all have to face hurdles to getting licenses renewed and the environmentalists were eager to have IP shut down. It warmed the river, killed millions of small fish and what would happen if there was another Chernobyl? There was a system of sirens to let the neighborhoods know if a problem was to happen and when it was tested there were often failures of parts of the system. I recall reports of one inspection where guards were literally asleep.

After 9/11, there was a new concern: what would happen if one of those jets that hit the World Trade Center crashed instead into the dome of the reactor? I've never forgotten the reply from the engineers who designed it. Built to withstand enormous pressures from within, a fully loaded jet would "bounce off" like an egg on a concrete wall.

There were other questions such as what if a Russian nuclear missile hit it and the answer to that was if you have nuclear missiles hitting Peekskill, whatever happens to the reactor probably will not matter.

We have a little nuclear power here in Washington State and our history with it isn't the best. Still, I expect we'll see Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) if their early installations draw praise.
capital costs of nuclear plants and so elec generated from them is very high compared to a coal/thermal plant where you just burn coal, grass whatever,

Also, the plant probably costs as much to decommission as to build.

nuclear power likely needs govt support, which may be from a cap and trade carbon tax. Some people will not like that.
Booban profile picture
@Vikram Angrish yes, but in the long time frame, nuclear power becomes very cheap. But all these sources have an agenda. Really, nobody can be sure of any factual information by reading what others say or write anymore.
@Vikram Angrish And you think renewable doesn't need the government support aka subsidies? lol
@Booban That's true. However, anyone can read up on nuclear fission and reactor safety as this is public information and widely published in textbooks and peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Don't take anyone's word for it, investigate it for yourself.
I‘m in favour of regenerative decentralized just because it‘s trickier and technologically more challenging.
If he's really serious, Musk should save the Earth by volunteering his Falcon heavy and pay to transport spent nuclear waste to Mars, where no one will ever live.
@User 28897925 Settling nuclear waste at dump sites is safe. Launching it to space and having the rocket malfunction and explode in the air is not.
Booban profile picture
@User 28897925 actually has that idea too. It’s so costly to store it if they can even do that and his reusable rockets are rather cheap.
I never thought I would agree with musk..
Oh well..
eeeW profile picture
08 Dec. 2021
Good article on Musk from 1 year ago worth catching up on

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