[mythtv-users] [Slightly OT] solar power for all our gadgets

David Brodbeck gull at gull.us
Thu Mar 19 17:07:44 UTC 2009

Carl Reynolds wrote:
> The radioactive waste from a nuclear plant will remain deadly for 
> thousands of years  after the original plant has ceased to exist. We 
> have absolutely no way to guarantee that we can protect future 
> generations from being exposed to this radiation. We bury it in the 
> ground and hope that the ground around it stays stable and put up signs 
> that say 'Don't dig here', but who is to guarantee that the signs will 
> continue to exist a thousand years from now or that people will be able 
> to read it?

I think this is one of the least convincing anti-nuclear arguments, 

Surely if cultures with no written language can pass on important 
messages like "if the ground shakes, run to high ground" over thousands 
of years, this is a problem that can be solved by a technologically 
advanced society like ours.

It's not as if we have to write one sign that will stay there and  be 
readable 1,000 years from now.  Signs can be replaced as language and 
culture changes.

Besides, if 1,000 years from now our culture's level of technology has 
fallen so far that we no longer can build Geiger counters and can no 
longer remember our own history, we're probably going to have more 
serious things to worry about than whether digging a very deep hole in 
the ground will hit a nuclear waste cask.

I would find it easier to oppose nuclear power on these grounds if it 
hadn't become a "lesser of two evils" situation.  Our choices are to 
leave some caches of nuclear waste, or keep using the atmosphere as a 
carbon dump.  It's easier to avoid isolated nuclear waste caches than it 
is to escape the atmosphere.

> The second, and possibly more important, issue with nuclear power is
>  that it uses the Carnot cycle for generation of electricity. Let me
> note here that this problem is not unique to nuclear power plants.
> All electrical generation plants that use any heat source to run
> their generators use a Carnot cycle engine and should probably be
> replaced for the same reasons we should not be building more nuclear
> power plants. This latent energy is thrown into the environment as
> heat. By definition, the maximum theoretical efficiency of any Carnot
>  cycle engine is 33% and most run at closer to 20% or even 15%. This
>  means that any where from 66% to 85% of all the energy used to run
> the Carnot cycle engine is being dumped directly into the
> environment.

I don't see how this is dangerous.  No matter what kind of power source 
we use, 100% of the energy eventually ends up as heat.  Actually, that's 
true of EVERYTHING we do -- I'm putting waste heat into the environment 
just by sitting here at my desk.  Maybe you'll have to unpack that one 
for me.

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