Why are nuclear power plants still in use?



It just seems counterproductive because waste has to be stored, so why are we still using it?

In: Chemistry

While the waste must stored it is much more clean and controllable than other forms of power production like coal or fossil fuels.
Far more efficient as well, every form of power production has downsides but it seems that properly and safely ran nuclear reactor plants have the best pros:cons ratio

They produce an enormous amount of electricity, which we need, and their waste is actually quite small compared to other energy generation techniques. And they produce no greenhouse gases, which is a huge plus.

The US produces about 2000 tonnes of nuclear waste from power plants a year. Now, that seems like a large number right? I mean, 2000 tonnes? That’s a lot of tonnes. But actually, not really. Some waterfalls have 2000 tonnes of water go over them every minute. But of course, it’s still not radioactive.

Recycling is becoming a thing. After the spent fuel is removed from the reactors, there is now emerging technology that can recycle it. It still has most of it’s energy, just not enough for the power plant to be efficient. France has already been recycling it’s spent fuel for a while now, and the US is starting to.

Here is an interesting factoid. If you are running a coal power plant, and run just enough energy to power a single 100 watt bulb for a whole year, you just emitted .75 TONNES of CO2. For one 100w bulb! Now, 2000 Tonnes for the whole US doesn’t seem all that bad does it?

Yes, there are better power, sorta. Water power – except it affects the wild life. Wind power is super clean and only slightly effects birds and looks ugly. Solar power is very clean, except to make it, then it’s not really all that clean. But at least those 3, and nuclear, don’t generate CO2 while they are operating.

But only nuclear can generate the massive amount of power we need today, for our hungry nations, and doesn’t emit CO2. Its one of the reasons why France is so heavily into Nuclear power. Almost 72% of France’s power comes from nuclear.

It really is a pretty good power source.

1. The waste is small and easily stored and controlled indefinitely. It only becomes problematic when you start thinking about long term storage.

2. The cost of the fuel is the same now as it was in 1960. The cost of the plant has grown, but operating costs of a plant already in existence are stable and predictable and low.

3. It is incredible safe. More people die every year mining coal than have ever died in a nuclear accident. By any reasonable measure not involving hypothetical situations that haven’t happened, nuclear is safe.

4. Nuclear produces huge amounts of stable baseline power with no carbon, no smog, no chemical pollution that leaves the plant, every day, rain or shine, wind blowing or not. Because it reliably produces power under all conditions with low and predictable operating costs, its competition is not wind or solar power. Those types of power are suitable in situations where nuclear is not. Nuclear is an alternative to coal and natural gas. And against those, it is infinitely cleaner, has a radically lower environmental impact, and its costs are much more predictable and low. The only reason we use coal and natural gas is simple greed – the startup costs are low. In a world driven by logic, the last fossil fuel power plant in the world would have been built in 1975, decades before wind or solar would have been practical alternatives to nuclear power.

5. The waste is smaller than you think it is. Smaller than you likely have ever imagined it to be. 1 pound of uranium produces the same amount of power as 1,000,000 pounds of coal. Imagine the amount of ash that would be left behind or blown up a chimney by burning 1,000,000 pounds of coal – and that ash is filled with heavy metals and dangerous chemicals. Contrast that with a small block of metal, that has not moved and can be easily stored away. It didn’t blow up a chimney, it was not reduced to a powder. It isn’t wafting through the air in the town beside the plant giving children asma and lung cancer. It is still a block of metal.

Many environmentalists think there is no way to get to carbon zero without a massive increase in nuclear power. Certainly, with today’s technology, it will require nuclear (though granted, there is a huge increase in the practicality and efficiency of solar power coming).

The actual volume of waste is pretty small for the amount of power you get out of it. Obviously you have issues with it remaining radioactive for a long time, but that’s manageable if you plan for it.

All of the energy you ever use in your life fits into a tomato juice sized can of nuclear waste. If 100% of your energy use was nuclear power.

How many tons of CO2 didn’t go into the atmosphere if you did that? Fossil plants put more radiation in the air in a year than a nuclear power plant will in its lifetime.