Monday, April 27, 2009

Why nuclear power is on the big no-no list for now

Alright, there's been quite the campaign of late to bring nuclear energy to Alberta, predominantly to power Alberta's already over-extended industrial sector, and I think I must point out that this is absolutely, completely, without a shadow of a doubt, total stupidity.

The idea is that the water flow from the Peace river will be enough to operate a CANDU reactor (that is, Deuterium - Uranium - the materials they use for nuclear fission; the CAN stands for the fact it's Canadian made) which will provide power for oil sands operation with no greenhouse gas emissions.

However, greenhouse gas emissions are generated throughout the process. The mining of uranium, as well as the purification of Deuterium (a heavy isotope of water used in the fission reaction) are both heavy in greenhouse gas production. This does not include the greenhouse gases generated in moving the various nuclear fuels from province to province.

A fission reaction occurs when you throw neutrons at an atom to break it apart, and you capture the energy released by that atom. A nuclear bomb is essentially an uncontrolled reaction.

All this is fine and dandy, but where did fission reactions occur naturally, before physicists figured them out?

Well, that would be the surface of the sun, about 92 million miles away.

Stars are gigantic atom smashers. They sit there, orbiting the cosmic center of our galaxy (a black hole, awesomely enough) more or less digesting atoms as simple as hydrogen and as complex as the rest of them millions of times a minute, bursting energy out in the form of heat, light and radiation.

92 million miles away, on a very large rock covered in water, that energy is enough to keep the Earth warm enough to sustain life.

The waste of a nuclear reactor has to be stored under hundreds of liters of water for five years to prevent melting through the bedrock, which needs to be very solid to withstand the intense heat of a fission reaction (again, surface of the sun). After that, the waste needs to be stored for an additional 5,000 years deep underground before it is believed it will be safe to recycle into the biosphere.

5,000 years ago, the Egyptian and Sumerian civilizations were in their infancy. The first pyramids had not been built yet. If Julian James' work "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" is to be believed, consciousness hadn't even developed in humans yet.

5,000 years is roughly 250 generations.

To suggest that we, as a people, have the right to burden our descendants with the waste of a few fleeting moments of prosperity is preposterous, especially when you consider that we'd be doing it to avoid burdening our descendants with the waste of a few fleeting moments of prosperity.

If oil sands production is so important, there has to be a less permanent means of acquiring the energy to fuel it. Even hydroelectric, with it's habitat/farmland flooding tendency, would be less devastating in the grand scheme of nature than a nuclear plant.

If you agree with me, or even if you disagree with me, you should take this link to the Alberta government's public survey and tell the government what you think. Don't believe me. Do the research yourself. Examine as many sources as possible. Weigh the arguments.

We're talking a decision that's going to result in over 5,000 years of commitment. This is something to be taken seriously.

No comments: