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The Tennessee Valley Authority is about to finally bring Watts Bar Unit 2 online, making it the first new nuclear power plant to open in the United States since 1996. It’s been a complete disaster from the very beginning of its construction, way back in 1973. This piece in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is a comprehensive discussion of all the problems: poor design from the beginning, incredibly high cost overruns, TVA coziness with Bechtel that granted the company the contract to finish it after the same company did the report saying it was financially feasible, TVA’s commitment to old styles of dirty energy and inability to adjust to newer and cleaner forms of energy, etc. It’s stories like this, on top of the potential Fukushima-type situation, that make me feel that nuclear just does not have a room in our energy future. It’s so incredibly expensive to get online and the process for doing so is so slow, especially compared to every other kind of energy production, that it’s really not a reasonable response to our very real problems.

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  • Ken

    Incredibly high cost overruns paid to a politically-connected contractor with conflicts of interest? You may call that a complete disaster; I say it’s the American Dream in action.

  • tsam

    Of course the name Bechtel comes up again when an expensive disaster is discussed. Wonder if KBR and Haliburton were involved too.

    • efgoldman

      Of course the name Bechtel comes up again when an expensive disaster is discussed.

      Boston’s Big Dig. Also, I believe, the Seabrook plant in NH.

      • Bechtel seem to be experts at this sort of thing. When the BART system was first being planned in the Bay Area, Bechtel managed to convince the district to use a non-standard gauge rail that meant they would need to buy custom-made cars that wouldn’t work anywhere else, and they would only be able to get from one supplier.

        • efgoldman

          Bechtel managed to convince the district to use a non-standard gauge rail that meant they would need to buy custom-made cars that wouldn’t work anywhere else, and they would only be able to get from one supplier.

          Holy crap. And some idiot went along with it?

          • Yes. This was back in the 1960’s. The company that manufactured the cars was Rohr.

          • Brett

            . . . Aside from corruption, I wonder what the rationale was for that. What, did they offer them a bulk discount on new cars?

            • CrunchyFrog

              There are good engineering reasons for a broader gauge than standard. The BART cars can hold more people and the access ways tend to be a lot less congested. I don’t know the specifics in this case, but there may have been a belief that other systems would follow their lead because the engineering advantages were so stark. Since rapid transit cars never run on shared rails with other rail cars, the usual disadvantages of not being able to share those rails don’t exist.

              Contrary to internet myth, the 4′ 8.5″ standard gauge had nothing to do with Roman roads. In the 1700s there were many gauges used in the mining areas of Britain. As early steam locomotives developed to the point that steam railroads became feasible the founders of the first complete railroad – Liverpool and Manchester – solicited bids for the engineering of same and received proposals for a variety of gauges. The winning proposal was 4′ 8″, which was what the engineer was used to from the mine he worked in. The half inch was added later because the locomotives were derailing around curves (one of the hundreds of important learnings on that railroad). Most nearby railroads copied the gauge so that cars could be interchanged, and eventually Parliament forced that to be the standard to facilitate universal car interchange, although the Great Western Railway made a strong engineering argument that their broader gauge made more sense.

              In the U.S. – the second biggest early railway adopter after Britain – a similar process developed with literally over a score of different gauges initially, eventually over decades evolving to the 4′ 8.5″ standard around the dominant Pennsylvania RR, which chose that gauge because their first engineers came from Britain and were used to it. Even then the engineers of the time were aware that the gauge was sub-optimal – broader gauge allows better ratios of tare and weight – but the value of a common gauge trumped the value of an optimally-sized gauge.

              (Then, at the end of the 1860s, an obscure locomotive designer named Farlie wrote a pamphlet promoting his locomotive design and mentioned as an aside the cost advantages of a narrow gauge. He was wrong on all counts, but the RR financiers got wind of it and forced a narrow gauge trend over the next 13 years until the whole movement collapsed because so many of the railways that adopted that standard collapsed.)

              • Lee Rudolph

                Then, at the end of the 1860s, an obscure locomotive designer named Farlie wrote a pamphlet promoting his locomotive design and mentioned as an aside the cost advantages of a narrow gauge. He was wrong on all counts, but the RR financiers got wind of it and forced a narrow gauge trend over the next 13 years until the whole movement collapsed because so many of the railways that adopted that standard collapsed

                as did Farlie’s plans for an independent Railroad Corps within the armed forces.

              • efgoldman

                There are good engineering reasons for a broader gauge than standard. The BART cars can hold more people and the access ways tend to be a lot less congested.

                Yes, but….
                Just as a standard gauge allows exchange of rolling stock between lines, it also allows adaptation of existing cars/designs for other systems, reducing development, engineering and construction costs.

                • guthrie

                  Isn’t this the obligatory point to mention incompatability of rail gauges between Germany and Russia?

  • CrunchyFrog

    Maybe someone here can answer this. Do we have an answer for the disposal of the radioactive waste, and is the cost of that factored into the cost of the nuclear plant or is it assumed that the government will deal with it?

    This is not rhetorical. I don’t know the answer. Back in the 70s as a high school student I was pro-Nuke, which as a Scientific American subscriber back then was totally expected. But eventually there were too many questions that simply couldn’t be answered. Yes, nuclear could in theory be totally safe, but eventually I realized that required subduing and defeating the normal impulses of executives and accountants, which is pretty much a hopeless cause.

    • Peterr

      There’s a Nobel prize waiting for someone to solve the waste problem.

      In the meantime, I think decades of kicking the can down the road tells you how the costs are factored in.

    • postmodulator

      This is about where I come down on nuclear energy: my nerdy belief that there’s no such thing as an insoluble technical problem is trumped by my misanthropic belief that some stuff is so dangerous us primates should leave it be.

    • Latverian Diplomat

      Short answer: No current solution, and cost of disposal is not factored in, AFAIK.

      Slightly longer answer. There are three types of radioactive waste:

      Short half life fission products
      Long half life fission products
      Transuranics (not fission products, but fuel that soaked up neutrons instead of fissioning).

      The short half life fission products are dealt with by short term on site storage. They decay to relatively safe levels in just a few years. AFAIK, all US reactor waste is currently stored in short term storage intended just for this stage of waste handling.

      Once the short halflife stuff has decayed, the waste is cool enough to process and/or move to other storage (theoretically, again, this is not really happening right now in the US). The longer halflife stuff could probably be processed and stored safely in glass or some other inert matrix.

      The problem is the transuranics, which are heavy elements that decay in stages through a long chain of radioactive isotopes. This is the stuff that makes reactor waste so very radioactive for so many thousands of years.

      There are theoretical reactor designs (e.g. Liquid Thorium Fast Reactor–LTFR) that could burn up transuranics as part of their fuel instead. But this is all drawing board stuff. There is no such reactor in operation currently, though a few countries have research programs. Ultimately, I think it’s a better solution to the transuranics problem, but that’s a question of faith in the technology, I guess.

      Sadly, all the problems with the nuclear industry mean new technology is very slow to develop or be adopted. This article is about a reactor design that is close to fifty years old and has flaws that have been known for years.

      • efgoldman

        The longer halflife stuff could probably be processed and stored safely in glass or some other inert matrix.

        Isn’t this what the French (and other Europeans?) do?

        • Eli Rabett

          No they reprocess which extracts more nuclear fuel and reduced volume. The US rejected reprocessing because it yield plutonium and plutonium is easy to use to build a bomb.

      • jamesjhare

        We’re already doing some glassification at the Hanford site. We have a decent plan for long-term storage of nuclear waste but the minority leader in the Senate is an impediment to using one of the few places that are acceptable for long-term storage.

      • I really wish there could be some sort of Grand Bargain (yeah…) on energy that went basically like this: extensive funding for R&D of renewables in exchange for extensive funding for R&D of next-generation nuclear power, common front against fossil fuels and old nukes.

        • GFW

          Although I like the idea in general, I want to point out we no longer need extensive funding for R&D of renewables. We just need extensive funding for deployment of renewables, including the grid infrastructure enhancements to accommodate and distribute the more variable supply.

    • Peterr

      Yes, nuclear could in theory be totally safe, but eventually I realized that required subduing and defeating the normal impulses of executives and accountants, which is pretty much a hopeless cause.

      Let us note in passing the two of the three leading GOP candidates are business executives, and the task befor the Democratic nominee will be to subdue and defeat those “normal impulses.” The fact that these two are ahead of their competitors in the GOP race right now indicates that these are not only the impulses of executives and accountants.

      • Ken

        I haven’t noticed either Trump or Fiorina running on their business experience. Running from it sometimes….

        Their standing in the polls seems to be based mostly on other things they say, and – according to some of their supporters – their willingness to say these things, when the rest of the Republican field won’t, perhaps out of some lingering common decency, and/or lingering hope of picking up a few votes from non-Confederates.

    • ThrottleJockey

      Do we have an answer for the disposal of the radioactive waste, and is the cost of that factored into the cost of the nuclear plant or is it assumed that the government will deal with it?

      Why do you think God invented Nevada???

      • Latverian Diplomat

        I thought it was in case Lincoln needed a few extra Electoral votes in 1864?

    • Zamfir

      I am not up to date with American practice here, but it used to be the case that American utilities with reactors paid a yearly sum into a fund for final waste storage. This in turn was supposed to pay for the Yucca Mountain storage facility. Which got cancelled.

      • dr. fancypants

        Correct. And ever since Yucca Mountain fell through, there has been a long series of ongoing lawsuits against the US government to recover funds paid in. A former coworker of mine defends those suits on behalf of the government now (as far as I can tell, the only real issue to litigate is how much money the plaintiffs get).

  • bobmunck

    Nuclear power is fundamentally incompatible with the economic system of capitalism. Plants are large and complex, requiring gigantic investment and ongoing costs; capitalism does not do “long term.” The complex nature of their operation and the disposal of their waste products make dangerous shortcuts much too tempting when profit is the chief motivator. In our capitalist system, money trumps government regulation.

  • Honoré De Ballsack

    Hmmm…I guess this plant didn’t pass the “Bechdel test!”

    Oh, sometimes I slay myself.

    • shah8

      There are plenty of female nuclear engineers talking about this plant.

  • Taters

    Cheap and “clean” energy until an Indian Point Chernobyl. Then you will see the true cost of Nuclear.

    • Judas Peckerwood

      I’m pretty sure you’re wrong. I distinctly remember VERY credible sources promising power “too cheap to meter.”

  • Gwen

    I have distinctly mixed feelings about this.

    1.) My parents grew up in Northeast Tennessee. When I was a kid we used to go down to Boone Dam and Warrriors Path State Park (on a lake created by Fort Henry Dam) quite a bit. Hydroelectric power is pretty significant in the Holston and Watauga Valleys and the dams (aging as they are… Fort Henry Dam is something like 70 years old) sort of stand as monuments to a bygone era of economic progress and governmental competence.

    2.) Of course, Warriors Path State Park is where the local KKK used to hold rallies and (totally coincidentally I am sure) has recently been the site of local Confederate Flag rallies. I point this out, simply to note that nostalgic rememberances of the past are not entirely sensible.

    3.) At any rate, I think the TVA is rightly perceived as having brought about a great deal of social good in the region. Flood control is perhaps more important… There used to be really bad flooding in Kingsport before the Holston River was tamed.

    4.) Obviously the TVA has always been sort of a corrupt bureaucracy. You know, prior to the TVA the Tennesse River was defined as starting at the confluence with the Little Tennessee River. The government actually redefined this to the confluence of the Holston and French Broad in Knoxville, just so that the TVA could headquarter in Knoxville (the HQ was supposed to be on the Tennessee River).

    5.) Since the 60s it has also been evident that TVA was causing all sorts of environmental problems.

    6.) With regard to nuclear power… I suspect most people in Tennessee are for it. The notion though that we’re using ancient designs is pretty unsettling though. I wonder how well people in the area understand this.

    7.) Contrary to many assumptions, the Appalachian Great Valley is seismically active, and an M7 earthquake is not impossible in my lifetime.

    8.) With that said, the nuclear permitting process is a complete joke and needs to be reformed. It is true that current reactors are dangerous beasts with questionable benefits, but imagine that in 10 years we have a workable fusion design, like what is being built at ITER in France. How long are we going to tie up fusion power, when that day comes? I think the problems at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima might create an atmosphere of unjustified pessimism and cynicism in the regulatory world, akin to the “Vietnam Syndrome” in the military ca. 1980s.

    • sparks

      How many years till ITER is operational? From my understanding it’s not certain it will ever be.

      • Latverian Diplomat

        Yeah, it’s way underfunded considering the potential upside. Here’s their current timeline:

        http://www.iter.org/proj/iterandbeyond

        Summary:
        Next test reactor operating 2027
        First reactor able to deliver power into the grid 2040
        Fusion power important in world energy production: last quarter of 21st century.

        All of these stages could be sped up for much less than what the cost of a year in Iraq was.

        • Redwood Rhiadra

          Yes, we’ll discover it doesn’t actually work that much faster.

          (My opinion is that controllable fusion is a pipe dream.)

        • Area Man

          So, 2-4 GW of power by the year 2040? The US will have installed 9 GW of new solar capacity in 2015 alone. Within 2 years, China will be cranking out 50 GW of new PV per year. That by itself equals a cumulative capacity of some 300 ITERs by the time the first one is operational, even assuming no new growth in solar PV production.

          I’m all in favor of R&D spending on this sort of thing, but it seems almost comical. Never mind the cost, there may not even be any reason for it by 2040.

    • cpinva

      “7.) Contrary to many assumptions, the Appalachian Great Valley is seismically active, and an M7 earthquake is not impossible in my lifetime.”

      funny you should mention that. dominion built a nuke right on top of a known fault line, in Louisa county, va. guess what happened? it earthquaked. I know, you’re shocked to hear this, as was no one else, once it became public what they’d done. but hey, the land was cheap!

  • duck-billed placelot

    I grew up near this lake – when I was about 10 we had to stop the family tradition of catching our own fish for our first dinner of summer vacation, because they were unsafe for consumption. Now, probably it was heavy metals, but when I was 10 you could not convince me that it wasn’t because we’d all start glowing at night.

  • Gwen

    Also, 9.) TVA isn’t the only organizqtion of its kind. Here in Austin we have a state agency, the Lower Colorado River Authority, that runs dams and coal power plants (and IIRC has an interest in the nuclear plant at Bay City).

    It just seems that TVA is a bit more corrupt and inept than the rest. Possibly needs more oversight.

  • I have no special brief for nuclear power one way or the other; but if you’re going to make a go of it, you need to go big because there are huge economies of scale for organizations that run a fleet of plants and long-term operations like nuclear power need a responsible, well-trained bureaucracy that can maintain continuity and extremely high standards. That’s why the country with the best run nuclear plants is actually France, a country with a national tradition of big, centralized institutions—the forerunners of Electricite de France go back to corporations that were running water wheels on the Loire in the Middle Ages. There are well run American utilities, but our industrial traditions just aren’t very well suited to nuclear.

    For what it’s worth. I’m skeptical about the claims you hear that dealing with nuclear waste is somehow an intractable problem. I have my doubts that nuclear is economically feasible on a large enough scale to make a dint in the energy problem and, as I suggested, I sure don’t think America is the country best suited for the nuclear option; but I don’t think the technical difficulties of waste disposal are the deal breaker. The volume of high-level waste is just not that great, and the leftovers from burning conventional fuel and from the chemical industry alarm me more than nuclear waste. Indeed, a balls-out nuclear program would treat nuclear waste as a resource, not a problem.

    • Shantanu Saha

      There are probably fewer technical and scientific barriers to a solution for dealing with nuclear waste than the political barriers. Once the short half-life fission products have subsided and the material is cool enough to handle, it would need to be transported to a central processing facility to remove transuranics. But nobody is going to want this stuff moving through their backyards. Which is funny; trains laden with Bakken bitumen have crashed and burned, wiping entire towns off the map, without putting a dent in the rail transport of petroleum.

      • efgoldman

        trains laden with Bakken bitumen have crashed and burned, wiping entire towns off the map, without putting a dent in the rail transport of petroleum.

        Who has the most money for lobbyists and bribes political contributions?

  • “Too cheap to meter.”

  • Murc

    Speaking as a booster of nuclear power, this thing is a really fuckin’ bad idea. I want my nuclear plants to look more like Torness and less like… whatever the hell this is.

    It’s stories like this, on top of the potential Fukushima-type situation, that make me feel that nuclear just does not have a room in our energy future.

    Here’s the thing, tho. What are the alternatives that don’t involve needing to impose lifestyle changes on the populace at large?

    Because, as I’m sure you’re aware, that’s the sticking point. Any reduction in energy usage that involves people needing to actually change how they live in a downward trajectory is politically DOA. Given the choice between that and burning all the hydrocarbons and then taking other peoples hydrocarbons by force and burning them as well, people are going to opt for the “Burn motherfuckers, burn” doorway.

    If we can actually address our energy needs entirely with wind, solar, etc. combined with efficiencies (better light bulbs, homes that don’t leak like sieves, that sort of thing) then great, I will be the first to jump up and cheer. If we can’t, then nuclear probably needs to be part of the conversation.

    • guthrie

      You know Torness? It is a comparatively modern design, but I recall Charlie Stross has an article saying they won’t build one like it again because it’s too technically difficult.

      Problems it has had over the years include:
      -jellyfish clogging the water intake
      – A lightning strike knocking out it’s grid connection, for a surprisingly long time.
      -Metal fatigue in a big air circulating cooling fan or two, caused by radiation. I phoned a retired nuclear engineer I know, who said the idiots had skimped on it and used the wrong alloy.

      • Zamfir

        The AGR design (like TornessI is not that modern. The main design is from around 1960. it just took incredibly long to build the complex machines. It’s supposed to have advantages over LWRs, but in practice they don’t really work out. The on-line refueling is prone to risky failure, and the increased thermwl efficiency of gas-cooling is lost again on the increased pumping power to circulate gas instead of water.

        The French had a similar design, but they shelved it before their great rollout and licensed American PWR technology instead.

      • Murc

        You know Torness?

        To a degree; I’ve read about it because while the design itself isn’t that modern, its one of the more modern designs ever actually

        built.

        My affection for it is based on how safe and overengineered it seems to be. When I read about nuclear reactors, I like to read things like “you could crash an airliner fully loaded with fuel into the reactor housing and all that would happen is it would smear itself into wreckage without actually breaching it.”

        • guthrie

          Yes, I like that bit too.

          The annoying thing is that I’ve read about some 4th generation and new modern designs that are actually fail safe and fairly simple to operate, as well as the aforementioned design for burning spent fuel, and am annoyed nobody thinks we can do any of it because either it’s too hard, despite not being, or the market is totally sewn up by oligopolists and vested interests. Of course some people blame environmentalists, but as we have seen over the last 15 years, they don’t exactly have much power.

      • Ken

        Those aren’t technical problems, they’re a curse. Did they build it on an ancient Viking burial ground?

    • My opinion on no-nuke energy is a lot like Loomis’ opinion on UBI: it’s a great idea, but it’s a political nonstarter for fundamental cultural reasons. Investment in next-gen nuclear is the analogue to a job guarantee program, I suppose.

      • Jhoosier

        Yeah, I have to say that I’m of the same opinion. Nuclear would be an option if we had a robust regulatory regime and it was properly funded (ie, no cost-cutting measures like using substandard materials or cooking inspection records). Sadly, though…

        • Lee Rudolph

          properly funded (ie, no cost-cutting measures like using substandard materials or cooking inspection records).

          As various projects (*cough* Big Dig *cough*) suggest, merely being “properly funded” is no protection against using substandard materials or cooking inspection records; a proper grafter will just have that much more to rip off!

          Now, properly audited would be a different story.

          • efgoldman

            being “properly funded” is no protection against using substandard materials or cooking inspection records

            The records are a lot more likely to be cooked in a nuclear reactor than a highway tunnel.

  • JustRuss

    Nuclear may have a future, but not the way we’re doing it now. Three Mile Island is a great read for anyone interested in what happens when things start going south: essentially, there was no disaster plan, they pretty much winged it. And if you think things are better after 30 years of “we need freedom from government regulation”, I’m not convinced.

    There’s been a lot progress on small, modular nukes, they may be viable solution. But these big plants just aren’t compatible with “profit uber alles” capitalism.

  • rea

    Speaking of Fukushima, I wonder why TVA put two reactors immediately downstream of a large dam?

    • Taters

      This. maybe reactors are 100% totally safe! Except for those pesky humans making the decisions.

    • Michael Cain

      Cooling water. Given a thermal efficiency in the 30-35% range, there’s an enormous amount of waste heat to dispose of. So you put the reactors next to either an very large body of water or a reliably running river. The Palo Verde generating station in Arizona is the world’s exception, and is cooled by evaporating water from treated sewage. Shutting down or throttling back nuclear generators to avoid overheating the body of water where the waste heat winds up has become a more common thing during recent droughts and/or long heat waves. California recently toughened its standard for thermal discharges into the Pacific; my bet is that one result of that will be decommissioning the Diablo Canyon reactors.

      • Lee Rudolph

        So you put the reactors next to either an very large body of water or a reliably running river.

        But why downstream of the dam, rather than upstream?

        I don’t doubt that a catastrophic failure of the dam would have very bad effects on a reactor built in either place; but as rea suggests, downstream placement could (conceivably) suffer a tsunami-like water flow, which upstream placement wouldn’t.

        • Possibly to insure a supply of water even in drought. Not that your point isn’t well-taken.

        • Michael Cain

          With my systems analyst hat on, and using the decision criteria of that time, I could think of several reasons why the plant would be built a couple miles below the dam rather than above it. Given the massive impoundment system on the Tennessee River and its tributaries, there probably aren’t a lot of suitable construction sites that aren’t downstream of some dam.

          Construction started in 1973; the available tools for risk analysis have gotten enormously better in the last 40 years.

          • Is that also your opinion when wearing your Alfred Pennyworth hat?

  • efgoldman

    The Tennessee Valley Authority is about to finally bring Watts Bar Unit 2 online, making it the first new nuclear power plant to open in the United States since 1996. It’s been a complete disaster from the very beginning of its construction, way back in 1973.

    And then we have the opposite problem right up the road:

    No. There’s no way to sugar coat the electric news flowing out of Entergy Corp.’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station these days.

    A quick recap: There have been a series of unplanned shutdowns of the Plymouth plant’s reactor in recent years. Inspections have revealed safety problems that are not insignificant.

    Just this week, we learned that Pilgrim failed to comply with a government advisory about fire safety systems at the plant. That advisory was issued 23 years ago!

    “I know Entergy is a southern company and in the South they do things at a more leisurely place, but this is stretching it,’’ said Mary Lampert, director of Pilgrim Watch, which she directs from her home in Duxbury where, through the trees and across the bay, she literally can keep an eye on Pilgrim.

    Lampert and other critics of Pilgrim want the plant shut down. And pronto.

    “You can’t run an antique nuclear reactor on the cheap and that’s what they’re doing,’’ she said.

    Jeff Berger, a former chairman of the local committee in Plymouth that advises that board of selectman on Pilgrim matters, said the roughly $10 million the plant funnels into Plymouth coffers each year have kept residents “fat, dumb and happy’’ for too long. A recent UMass-Amherst study placed the plant’s direct and indirect economic impact at $255 million.

    “We don’t know what we don’t know,’’ said Berger, speaking for himself and not the committee he used to lead. “What else is wrong with that plant that we don’t know?’’

    The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission is so concerned about safety issues at the 43-year-old plant that last month it downgraded its safety rating. There is now no other plant in the country with a lower rating. Essentially Pilgrim is the atomic energy equivalent of a junk bond. It now rates as one of the three least safe units among the country’s 99 reactors.

    Still, officials at the plant, which employs nearly 600, say safety remains paramount and insist it will never be compromised.

    http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/10/09/pilgrim-nuclear-plant-scary-prospect-for-south-shore/OyP8Xy6FRHcupB7bHCaxDP/story.html

  • Darkrose

    OT: Is there a thread for ranting about the bullshit that just went down in the NLDS?

    • efgoldman

      Is there a thread for ranting about the bullshit that just went down in the NLDS?

      Depends if Lemieux is still awake.

      • Darkrose

        I am so angry right now, and I’m not even primarily a Mets fan. That was appalling, both the actual slide and the umpiring clownshow.

  • mch

    Seems to be remembrance time here. For me, too.

    My grandfather (a NYC poor boy made good — 8th grade education + Cooper Union degree in electrical engineering in 1916) went on (after WW I service in the Army Air Corps, designing radios) to be the major force behind “consolidated” in NYC’s Con Ed, for which company he won the #1 US nuclear permit at Indian Point on the Hudson. (He also said that, had he do it all to do over again, he’d have gone into union organizing, but that’s another story.) My father also worked for ConEd, including promoting Indian Point. So, yeah, I grew up in a pro-(peaceful)-use-of-nuclear-power environment. (Note: that “peaceful” was a response to the anti-science fear of all things nuclear after Hiroshima.)

    I also amused my family when, as a child in the 1950’s, I worried about where all the trash went. I was only thinking landfills. But.

    My father’s description of ConEd the day Chernobyl news filtered in: utter silence, the silence of terror. All in the building on Irving Place knew from the earliest reports that something absolutely horrible had happened.

    Though from a family full of engineers, I can’t figure them out. “What can go wrong will go wrong” lives alongside “It will work!” all too comfortably.

    • Eli Rabett

      Indian Point 1 was a screw up from the beginning. Con Ed was determined that “private industry” could do a better job than the AEC designs. Needless to say it could not and Indian Point 1 was shut down and decommisioned in the 70s. Indian Point 2 and 3 are standard designs

      • mch

        I don’t disagree. Perhaps I should have mentioned that there were a lot of arguments around the dinner table in the household I grew up in and continued to visit for decades….

  • Brett

    I agree with this, sadly. I think nuclear power would be very useful in dealing with replacing fossil fuels, in tandem with renewables. It’s centralized, some of the newer designs don’t require lots of fresh water for coolant IIRC, and it works with the existing grid set-up.

    Also, we need small nuclear reactors if we ever want serious robotic space exploration out beyond Jupiter.

    • Lee Rudolph

      Also, we need small nuclear reactors if we ever want serious robotic space exploration out beyond Jupiter.

      I thought the plan was to get to Jupiter, then turn it into a (non-small) nuclear reactor.

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