Thursday, January 20, 2005

Doing bad in the name of good?

Now for another of my pet peeves. Enviofacists know what they want, but they have no damn idea how to actually get there. We've all been sujected to the new marvel of a clean hydrogen system. Since hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, it must be the best for us to use, right? Well, not really. See, all the hydrogen we can get to is not pure hydrogen, it's more like an ex-girlfriend: they seem great at first, but then you have to deal with all their baggage. To actually reap the benefits of a hydrogen infrastructure, we must seperate the hydrogen from whatever it is currently attached to. This is usually oxygen, from water. (H2O, remember? The H is hydrogen and the O is oxygen. Grade-school chemistry refresher over.) How do we accomplish this? A lot of electricity. So we will see a big spike in electricy cunsumption and therefore electricity generation. The catch is that the majority of our electrical plants run on conventional fuels, like coal, which means to lower pollution from car, we will increase pollution from electric plants. Big freakin waste of the billions of dollars it will cost.
There is a way to get out of the afore-mentioned viscious cycle, but envirofacists protest it even more than "war for oil." That would be the nuclear option. Nuclear plants create no pollution, per se, but there is the nasty issue of radioactive rods hanging around until, oh, maybe 37004 A.D. Which is awhile. But we have a solution for this problem. We figure we'll stick it under a mountain in Nevada 'till then. We've studied and tested said mountain over the past decade or more, ensured we have adequate transportation units that can survive being hit by a train at full speed without a breech and came up with a plan to control and govern the site for the next 10,000 years. The only thing in our way is the court system which, under heavy lobbying from the envirofacists, have deemed 10,000 years (50 times as long as the 200 year history of our country) as too short a time and we should plan for more. What?
Now, I know we need to take the accidental release of radation seriously, and as I have seen in my 6 years experience with nuclear reactors, we do. But I don't see haw anyone can seriously study a plan of more than a century. If we had started a plan in the year 1900 that would govern how all state officials must travel for the next 100 years, we'd still have to have provisions for horses and carriages. And not just in Amish country. In the next 100 years we may find a way to neutralize radiation from spent fuel, or maybe a 100 after that, but surely before 10000 years have gone by. What we really need is a serious plan to implement the technology we have for, say, that magical 100 years. Then, every decade we revisit the topic and tweak the plan to account for new understandings and technologies. We do this ad infinitum, and by God, crisis averted.
The good residents of Nevada are dead set against this plan. NIMBY in action, though I see their point. However, their actions are strangling the nuclear plants we currenly have and are a big part of why we haven't built a new nuclear reactor outside of North Korea for a decade or two. While their selfish reasoning is seen as benefiting them short-term, it is endangering residents in other states long-term. Every day the spent rods from current reactors are not sitting miles under a Nevada mountain they are sitting in decades-old storage pools and containers, waiting for something to happen to them. They are much less secure, so we as a nation are less secure. Something needs to be done.
President Bush has approved use of Yucca Mountain in Nevada, which is the only site under serious consideration due to the time and money already sunk into the site. Even if all objections to further develop the site were dropped today, it would take years to finish and start collecting spent rods. If we allow Nevada to scrap the plans for this mountain, it will take decades to find a replacement. I am by no means an authority on this subject, so I ask anyone who reads this to do your own research. I will post updates and links to relevent information at a later date to back up my claims, or alter them if my memory has served me falsely. I appreciate all rebuttals and questions, but please keep them civil.


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