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the new nuclear power - clean?  RSS feed

 
steward
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Apparently there is discussion of a new nuclear power with nearly zero waste. 

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1996321846673788606

Hype?  Truth?

 
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It's pretty complicated, and not being a physicist, difficult to address with any level of accuracy.

I will say that nuclear fusion has been 20 years away for about 50 years now. Some people believe that its time is actually here. Two decades ago, entrepreneurs like Bill Gates shrugged off fusion investments because the governmental regulations of such an enterprise were too prohibitive. But the tide has shifted, and several VCs and start-ups have emerged that are focusing on fusion-related power sources.

In the industry, there's a great deal of controversy over whether the science in the late Dr. Brussard's project was accurate or not. Several prominent scientists have written papers debunking his work, but others have stood behind it. Suffice it to say that with the reinvigoration of fusion as a power source, that his work will get sufficient peer review and if viable, will likely be integrated into someone else's project as IP.

As for fusion itself as a "clean" power source, the environmentalist in me can get behind it pretty convincingly. It's not perfect. To trigger the fusion reaction, you need high temperatures, which requires energy from an alternative source (pulling it from the grid wouldn't be great). The fuel that it requires, hydrogen, is theoretically in abundance, but we've all seen the problems with generating it en masse when discussing the hydrogen-powered car. Right now, it takes a lot of oil to make pure hydrogen.

But let's assume both of those problems can be solved with a renewable energy source like solar or wind. What about the output of nuclear fusion? There are still a few undesirable byproducts. Enormous quantities of x-rays are emitted, but a thick layer of stainless steel can take care of that. Tritium, a radioactive element is produced in small quantities from the reaction, but tritium has a half life of 12 years, as opposed to the eras of geological time we must wait for fission byproducts to decay. Helium is generated in huge quantities, which could have atmospheric impact, but being an inert gas, may just find humanity talking in high, squeaky voices.

So probably the biggest question is can fusion be made to be commercially viable. Can it be profitable? If so, it may be fusion's time...
 
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What do they plan to do with the waste?

First Law of Thermodynamics: Energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed. The total amount of energy and matter in the Universe remains constant, merely changing from one form to another.

If people do want to use it, there should be one cardinal rule: If it's used in your neighborhood, dispose of the waste in your neighborhood.  Let's not ship it to another state or country because you like the benefits but not the drawbacks.

Sue
 
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don't they bury that stuff in the rockies right now?
 
paul wheaton
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It seems that all forms of energy creation have their drawbacks. 

Where I live, hydro is the primary source.  And although I use it here, I don't have the silt or salmon problems here.  Those problems are at the dams.  So, I think it is wise to consider what is best to do with the waste, and to not push your problems off on others.  At the same time, I think it is wise to think things through and try to find a path that has the least impact. 

It gets soooo complicated.

It sounds like nuclear stuff has come a long ways.  If all of this stuff is true, it could be much wiser than solar or wind or hydro.  But is it true? 
 
Susan Monroe
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How could it be true?

Solar power requires the manufacture of solar cells and various parts, including batteries, which are probably the biggest problem, and replacement about every 30 years. The lead in batteries is usually recycled in Third World countries, with cheap labor and poor environmental regulation. (Just in case you were planning on buying a hybrid car, be aware that a HumVee has a smaller ecological footprint that a Prius, mainly due to the battery problem).

I'm not very knowledgeable about wind power, but I suspect it has the same problems, the storage.

Of course, battery recycling isn't an issue with American consumers -- nearly every piece of electronic equipment we use is battery-operated.  They're discarded like drinking water. No one gets excited about it until it affects them personally.

But you can at least test for lead poisoning.

How many years and how many billions of dollars did our government spend on propaganda touting how safe nuclear power is?  And then when people started showing up with cancers in the vicinity, they protested that it couldn't be from the bomb testing, nuclear reactors, etc. Our government officials lie like they breathe, with no conscious thought.

Google things like 'Chernobyl accident', 'Three Mile Island accident', 'Fermi I reactor accident', ' NRX reactor accident Chalk River', 'Windscale accident', 'SL-1 reactor accident Idaho Falls'.

Nuclear power gives France the cleanest air of any industrialized nation, and the cheapest electricity in Europe.

From Jon Palfrema. "Why the French like nuclear energy". PBS Frontline:

"France reprocesses its nuclear waste to reduce its mass and make more energy... Today we stock containers of waste because currently scientists don't know how to reduce or eliminate the toxicity, but maybe in 100 years perhaps scientists will ...  Nuclear waste is an enormously difficult political problem which to date no country has solved. It is, in a sense, the Achilles heel of the nuclear industry ... If France is unable to solve this issue, says Mandil, then 'I do not see how we can continue our nuclear program.' "

American companies CAN deal with lead recycling and waste, they just don't like the cost.  It cuts into profits, so they send it outside, like so many other things.

I am reminded of a cartoon that someone pinned on the wall where I used to work in the 80s.  It went something like this:  We make defective cars, defective toys, defective airplane parts, defective helicopters, defective machinery, defective food, defective medications, defective medical equipment and defective buildings, but we make perfectly safe nuclear reactors.

Sure.

Sue
 
paul wheaton
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I'm happy to confess that there is a great deal here that I do not fully understand.

My interest is piqued by some very eco-activist folks suggesting it!  And as I look into it, I see more and more support from eco folks, including those that were so adamantly against it 30 years ago.  So that leads me to thinking that it may be wise to consider it again.

And, yes, there are lots of issues with lots of the energy avenues that need addressing. 

 
Leah Sattler
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some of the eco freindly approval that the nuclear power idea gets is simply because the stigma is being left with older generations and the passage of time has quelled the fears. I'm sure some of it is technological development but I think alot is good old fashioned "learning the same lessons that history has already taught".
 
paul wheaton
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It sounds like these new techniques might have something like 1000 times less waste?  10,000 times less waste?  And that waste has each bit of radioactive goo encased in a big ball of glass. 

Don't get me wrong,  the stuff still gives me the heebie jeebies.  I just think it is good to understand this stuff. 



 
                                      
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We need new sources of energy, and few if any are without faults, but this I can say, three mile island was no picnic here in Pennsylvania, and after seeing the devastation from chernobyl through a website I found many moons ago, I too have great reservations about nuclear power.
 
Susan Monroe
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The big stumbling block for power (and right now I'm thinking solar or wind types) is the storage of it.  There must be some better way than batteries, or better than the batteries we use/need now.

To me, THAT'S where the big breakthrough needs to be.

Everyone put on your tinfoil hat and THINK!

Sue
 
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The "hot" waste is not the problem. That is a few barrels worth for the life of the reactor. It is all the disposables--gloves, suits, etc--that take all the waste space. And that is not near as much as the light radioactive waste from the medical industry.

 
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Molten salt Thorium reactors would be great, no waste, can't meltdown, compact, if only somebody could come up with a reliable, economical source for the stuff.
 
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I recently read that some guys at MIT are working on H20 storage alternative to batteries and some guys in AL are currently using hydrogen. I understand that the bulk of the nuke waste is made up of every piece of clothing, every tool (screw driver, wrench etc) virtually anything that enters the building is nuclear waste as it cannot be repurposed, reused etc.
 
pollinator
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Marianne Cooper wrote:I recently read that some guys at MIT are working on H20 storage alternative to batteries and some guys in AL are currently using hydrogen. I understand that the bulk of the nuke waste is made up of every piece of clothing, every tool (screw driver, wrench etc) virtually anything that enters the building is nuclear waste as it cannot be repurposed, reused etc.



Not anything and everything. There are three "bins" that nuclear waste gets put into: low-level, high-level (spent fuel rods, mostly), and transuranic. You can bet if it doesn't meet the minimum criteria for those categories, it's sent to a regular trash heap. But waste that does belong in those categories has a way of growing. Some low-level contamination on the sleeve of those coveralls? Can't cut the sleeve off and sew on a new one, the whole thing goes in the low-level bin. The cask of high-level waste sprung a leak? Better overpack it, and take everything you use to clean up with and put it in a low-level container. And don't even think of trying to put anything that's been in a transuranic glovebox through some sort of cleaning process; the whole glovebox is TRU waste.

That's why I keep harping (to anyone who will listen) that 'abandon in place' is the only way to think about any operation that involves nuclear isotopes. Containments don't contain. Shielding doesn't shield. The only way to operate is find someplace where nothing lives (outer space or 1000' feet down) and then go ahead, set up your nuclear powered facility.
 
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It's kind of interesting how subjects can be here on Permies and wonderfully discussed, and then buried in the vaults of time.

I never saw this post dealing with the new/old nuclear reactors, but I did spend a lot of time recently watching everything I could find on the topic. so rather than start a fresh post, why not just bring this one back alive, I think there's lots more information out there now then there was 9years ago

very quick (5min) update on the new thorium reactors
Pandora's Promise

a much longer synopsis 6hrs  with lots of details and subsets

That first one talks fast, fast edits put your brain in high gear and pay attention it's a great ride

The second talks about space travel, etc etc

I was totally against using any nuclear energy for a long time,, now I'm starting to think about thorium as a permaculture solution--please watch the first video before replying, it is very information dense. I'm especially interested in someone debunking this if it is just a fast talking con man

In pandora's promise, the idea of Germany building the biggest coal fired plant to replace the nuclear was especially challenging to my belief system.
 
pollinator
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Bob, nice post.  Thank you.  With the current state of power generation we need to move to next generation nuclear as well as solar and wind.  It's an all of the above kind of situation.

Also check out the Nova episode "The Nuclear Option".  Very well done episode.  The nuclear mess we ended up with has everything to do with politics and not listening to the scientists and engineers (as one of the later I get very upset about that sort of thing ).

Nuclear can be completely clean and safe, but the bad name it got from the use of poor technology is causing harm to our future.  Perhaps they need to use a different name for next generation designs to avoid the knee jerk negative reaction.  We should all be working to get these new reactors online.


 
pollinator
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Bob, I have been keeping up with this, since the idea would be small, distributed reactors which would make the grid less important. If this works it would be a huge advance from what I have seen.
 
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Hi Bob and Greg.  I watched the 5 minute thing, and tried to go to the Nova documentary on Nova's site.  I got a prompt balloon that said that it was 'unavailable in my area'.

Interesting topic, and I'll have to look into this more.  I have a friend who tried to convince me of this a while back (like a decade), but he didn't have much information for me.  We are both science fiction buffs and many of the space flight designs in the better novels are running on nuclear reactors, and my friend is pretty into the space travel thing (which I'm not really game on), so he got on this topic one evening and just wouldn't let up on it when I was just asking him about the waste question.  I'm pretty skeptical of Nuclear Power, but I know that the entire historical industry was based on some real stupid design, as well as a bad choice of fuel, so I'm willing to be convinced; and the dude in the 5 minute blurb was somewhat together with his flow of thoughts.  I'm not sure if I have time or the patience for a 6 hour mind meld on the topic.  If any quality links come up that are somewhere around an hour, please show the link and I'll check it out.  
 
bob day
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Thanks for reading and watching, I do think this is an important thing to be aware of even if none of us is going to build a nuclear reactor in our back yard.

The idea that we are part of a larger/ mostly distopic society, that has made this nuclear blunder and left a bunch of toxic by products around that we will have to clean up is perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to become educated on the topic so that we can make somewhat informed choices.

I might still march against construction of a light water reactor , but I also might be tempted to invest in a molten salt reactor.  All nuclear power is not created equal and to summarily dismiss an energy source just because it has the word nuclear in it's name seems a bit premature.

nice hr long summary looking at specifics of past nuclear disasters, current alternatives

Pandora's Promise is a very interesting documentary of sorts pointing out the realities of the decisions to shut down various nuclear plants just because they are nuclear, regardless of safety records, and the consequences of having to replace such a large amount of energy production that inevitably creates more coal and gas fired plants. It also looks at the blind reactivity of well meaning environmentalists and the many hyped claims of even people like Ralph Nader against the industry.

As a Permie, I see that some of the claims assume unreasonable growth of the industry while many of us are actually living better lives with less energy, and of course the goal is to have houses that heat and cool themselves with no need for extra energy, local economies, etc etc.. So I don't assume all the projections of energy growth needs are valid, but the fact is we have lots of 100,000 year waste to deal with, and some of the new reactors are promising to consume that waste and turn it into much less waste with only a few hundred years shelf life. We also have a transition of 7 billion people to deal with in terms of creating our whole earth Permaculture Paradise, so having some extra energy souces that are cleaning up pollution at the same time sounds like a win win.

I could go on, but the fact is I'm just repeating what I see in the videos, so I'll leave it at that. Again, I would really like to know the downsides that people see
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Just watched Pandora's box.   I think it was well presented, and I like that they had such a diversity of people who had converted to the cause of nuclear from the opposition stance.  I found it particularly compelling that some of the scare tactics that were used in the media during the highly opposed Shoreham New York reactor construction phase:

Immediate death for 3000 people from radiation.
Early death for another 30,000 from cancer caused by radiation.
Property Damage of $7 Billion.
Genetic Consequences affecting future generations lasting thousands of years.


...were sponsored by the oil heat industry with an ad for solar energy, which they knew would play into the hearts of the environmentalists.  At the same time they knew solar could not compete with oil heaters.

I was interested to learn about the actual death and health statistics that exist following Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl, which I had no idea were so small.

Also I loved the image of the wind farms with no props turning.  Pretty telling about the lags that are produced when these systems are not productive.  And the mention that most of these alternative systems (like large scale solar) have 'natural' gas as the backup in such a case.

I liked that they compare the amount of toxic waste that is generated in building and disposing of solar panels (for which there are no prohibitive regulations), and the small amount of actual long term toxins associated with nuclear power (which is not only regulated, but filled with media/public/political fear mongering).

It was interesting to learn that the United States has been purchasing Russian nuclear warheads and recycling them into power generation fuel, which means that nuclear power is actually de-escalating the arms race.

While I liked the documentary in general, I didn't care for the assumption that 'electricity is essential for a high quality of life' line of reasoning, where they show people picking through garbage or living in unsafe slums as some kind of example of non-electrical societies.   They contrast this with some high tech urban civilization, which is supposed to be such a high quality of living.  This is playing on the myth that those poor savages who have no electricity are uncivilized and deprived, whereas if you go to a good functioning tribal village where there is no electricity, you see that they actually have a high standard of living and health rate; same can be said of many Luddite-esque groups of folk who shun modern convenience/technology.  The contrast that they depict is actually showing the reaction of an urbanized population to large scale displacement from sustainable agrarian or tribal cultures and it's imposed cultural dysfunction due to lack of opportunities and education.  This line of argument does nothing for the cause of the pro-nuclear movement, but promotes only an emotional reaction based on misplaced 'facts' that have no basis in reality.  The health and welfare of urban people (cancer, mental health problems, accidents) is much worse than in a functioning tribal village which functionally evolved in an intact ecosystem.  On top of this, the urbanites might have more whirring trinkets and leisure options at their disposal, but they work many many times more for their toys and have less actual time for recreation and relaxation.  Even if they were making the true comparison between intact non-electrical societies and modern super electrical ones, the quality of life concept in this regard is looking at another society through the lens and perspective of one's own culture and judging their quality of life based on this paradigm; flawed at best.

Oh, yeah, and I had to laugh at the part where they are praising the increase in power consumption so that they can use air conditioners!    Because humans have needed those since... hmmm since we got on the grid and built a civilization with terrible housing design and no tree cover... I guess.  Another non argument for the 'need' for more electricity in my mind.  More of an argument for permacultural thinking in regards to housing, forest based climate control, and reducing energy demands.

The only other thing that pops up in this doc is that there seems to be the underlying assumption that with large scale nuclear power generation we will somehow be blessed with the enlightened lifestyle of being able to keep on expanding our consumption of resources while also somehow preserving the environment.  The details are a wee bit scant on how we will achieve that.

  I'm no huge fan of science cures all ills, or a 'better life through chemistry' way of perceiving solutions to our problems.  That said, I think the concepts that are generally laid out in this film seem to be pretty solid, and I'm glad that I spent the hour and a half to get the info.

Oh and I also watched the following Ted Talk by Micheal Shellenberger (one of the key speakers in the Pandora doc).


Some similar info in there too, and it's under 21 minutes.

Cheers.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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uh oh.  consumed by the rabbit hole of the internet again...  (thank god I got outside for a while today to build some trail in the bush... a half foot of powder snow and only minus 2 C/ pretty nice afternoon for midwinterish around these parts).

So I stumbled upon this critical analysis of various new nuclear tech: daryanenergyblog

Now that my brain is quite demonstrably mush, I'm going to watch some hockey with dad.  :)

 
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The very best, safest and appropriate nuclear reactor sits at the proper distance from our home and disposes of its own waste. Our shielding is the best ever devised and the system has operated flawlessly for billions of years.

Clean, abundant nuclear energy radiates from the sun! There must be a desire to live within the energy budget we are blessed with, nearly limitless, and all living things are derived from holding onto this en3rgy for a little while before giving it up to the cosmos.

The farther we live outside of the system, the more cursed and sickly we will be.

Search engines are not helping me find these articles. There is a major problem and our regulators want to hold the throttle wide open for allowing radioactive metals to be "processed" into our recycled metals streams.

China and india have been gifting the world with hot metals for some time, solves their waste problem.

"Wow, look at the deals on these pots and pans, eating utensiles, furniature, cars, toys, belt buckles, etc...."

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/the-growing-global-threat-of-radioactive-scrap-metal/
 
Roberto pokachinni
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the system has operated flawlessly for billions of years.

Clean, abundant nuclear energy radiates from the sun! 

Sure, we can point up at the Sun, and say something about it powering us efficiently by basing all of this on the assumption that since the Sun has been powering itself, the Earth and it's living beings, et cetera for billions of years that this somehow makes our solar panels amazing safe and efficient at doing so for our electrical needs.  I wish it were that simple.  Certainly the solar panel industry wants us the think so.

Here's a National Geographic Article   and there is another article HERE which also talks about the toxicity, water usage, and use of precious metals, in the manufacturing process and lack of both global regulation and recycling.  As these panels begin to come near the end of their lifespans, where does the waste go?  Perhaps the salvage folks will simply burn them to get at the metals?  This is common practice in under regulated places.   We can also look at the use of quartz, which is mined and then ground to create the silicone, which must be given a high heat (energy footprint) treatment to create metallurgic silicone before being further altered to create polysilicon.  The dangerous acids that are formed in the process are difficult to deal with and are none of this is regulated where most of the manufacturing takes place: Asia.  At any rate, the resources and energy used in this process are hardly as green as Solar Panels have been touted to be.  

I'd like to think that we can eliminate the hydrocarbon economy and move to these traditional renewables, and I have faith that humanity can find solutions to this crisis.

There must be a desire to live within the energy budget we are blessed with

  It may come down to lowering our power needs/expectations rather than believing that our solar panel industries will be able to manufacture us enough to meet our existing need while keeping our environment clean.  

I'm not a proponent of nuclear power at this time, but I have also not seen a convincing model, given current and presently increasing electrical consumption, that will generate our power from the existing green network of solar, wind, and hydro.   
 
Roberto pokachinni
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This article Here detail many technical flaws in the 'clean' and simple and easy nuclear arguments.
 
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it is commonly held that NOTHING in our history has brought as many people out of poverty world wide, as cheap energy.

now, that encompasses all forms.


as for waste, in Northern Sask, there is a mine that is so hot, all mining is done remotely.  
I suggest it is the perfect place for a repository for the most radioactive waste.
The Athabasca Basin is DESIGNED by Nature to hold uranium!   May as well use it for what nature intended, Right?

 
Roberto pokachinni
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as for waste, in Northern Sask, there is a mine that is so hot, all mining is done remotely. 
I suggest it is the perfect place for a repository for the most radioactive waste.
The Athabasca Basin is DESIGNED by Nature to hold uranium!   May as well use it for what nature intended, Right?

  An interesting idea, Brad, and one that has some merit, I would say.  It should be noted, though, that depleted uranium, and waste from spent uranium are not naturally occurring isotopic weights and have very differing half life situations as a result.  The transportation of the waste to Northern Saskatchewan is unlikely to gain public favor, and will likely be the Achilles heel of the idea.   

it is commonly held that NOTHING in our history has brought as many people out of poverty world wide, as cheap energy.

now, that encompasses all forms.

  I'm not sure where this common belief came from.  But I can give another example of what I think of such belief structures.  It is commonly held that flushing sanitized water down the toilet contaminated by feces is a proper and normal and acceptable procedure, but I contest that as well. 

It is not often considered what got people into poverty in the first place.  Displacement through warfare, ecological devastation, or other exploitive acts remain the primary drives for a person to be placed at low economic/lifestyle poverty levels.  By contrast, a tribal man living in an intact setting might consider the lower middle class urban man who struggles at work day after day to pay off his debts and put food on his table with a near complete disconnect from his environment to be a impoverished or deprived soul worthy of pity. 

We can force people off the wild landscape into slums where they have to pick through garbage to make a living and then give them a medical clinic, a light bulb, a hot plate, and a TV set for their rickety barely adequate shanty and pat ourselves on the back that we have improved their standard of living.  But this is not what I would be considering a big picture analysis of the situation.  I doubt that I will be convinced of the absolute 'need' for cheap energy, though I can see how it makes for a culture of convenience with upwardly mobile 'pie in the sky' dreaming and 'chasing the carrot on the stick' economics in a hurry.

But the question is, is the new nuclear even possible?  Can it actually be done cleaner?  Is it worth the risks?  Are the healthy issues related to nuclear overblown when compared with other toxins that are prevalent?

          
 
pollinator
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It is not often considered what got people into poverty in the first place.  Displacement through warfare, ecological devastation, or other exploitive acts remain the primary drives for a person to be placed at low economic/lifestyle poverty levels.  By contrast, a tribal man living in an intact setting might consider the lower middle class urban man who struggles at work day after day to pay off his debts and put food on his table with a near complete disconnect from his environment to be a impoverished or deprived soul worthy of pity. 

We can force people off the wild landscape into slums where they have to pick through garbage to make a living and then give them a medical clinic, a light bulb, a hot plate, and a TV set for their rickety barely adequate shanty and pat ourselves on the back that we have improved their standard of living.  But this is not what I would be considering a big picture analysis of the situation.  I doubt that I will be convinced of the absolute 'need' for cheap energy, though I can see how it makes for a culture of convenience with upwardly mobile 'pie in the sky' dreaming and 'chasing the carrot on the stick' economics in a hurry.



This is a great summary.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Right now, fusion is in the dream phase.  I have a friend in the Math department at several universities which are tasked with the problem of simply creating the proper algebra to make sense of it.   And a working prototype of a properly scaled Liquid Thorium reactor that can sustain it's high heat transfer functions without corrosion or degradation is presently one of many conundrums which are stalling the advancement of this industry.  They are both for all intents and purposes, from my present searches results, Science Fiction when we consider how far they need to come.  That's not saying that some breakthrough might not occur, but it may be very easy to justifiably say that these technologies are decades away.

As far as waste goes, if we are to stick with Science Fiction:  Electromagnetic rail gun:   We could build the reactor such that it is larger and central to a mountain slope on which a rail could be positioned on it's slope.  The reactor could generate some extra energy that is used to create an electromagnetic surge powerful enough to send the waste up the sloped rail with an escape velocity to send it beyond the atmosphere.  The escape velocity would be timed such that the angle of trajectory would put the waste capsule into a path where it would be absorbed into the sun.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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My goal in writing those posts was not to glorify the primitive people, but to say that to look at them through the lens of our own paradigm and claim superiority (by labeling them impoverished) simply because they lack electricity, without attempting to judge them by their own standards, or view their culture's with the idea that they might actually have a high standard of living is a fool's game. 

The traditional Amish for instance, live quite well without most of the 'necessary' technological toys that we claim as needs in the industrial civilized world, and yet if they were viewed by some super rich consumption driven socialite these people would likely be seen as absolutely deprived. 

Modern village life in Africa is often shown as being full of strife and hardship, scratching a living, but this is most often the direct result of imperial and colonial destruction to their way of life, and continued manipulation from extremist capitalists and external political manipulators more than it is the problems of traditional tribal dynamics.  Generally when an intact tribal culture is viewed from the outside by someone who is sensitive to not destroying the culture, we find that, though strange in mores and custom, their social structure and means of making a living, often have qualities worth mimicking. 

The permaculture movement, in my mind, aims to work with the best of these situations, by gaining key insights not only from the given local landscape but also the sum total of all knowledge of humanity's connection to-and ability to live upon,-the Earth with the least energy use possible.  To live simply so others can simply live is a huge thing that can be taken in a lot of different directions.

While I do tend to think that people that lived upon the Earth without doing significant damage to the ecosystem have something very valuable to teach us, I do not idolize them as perfect, or tribalism as it has played out as flawless, but that in comparison to our present society where we are at a semblance of peace without the breathe easy space of real justice surrounding it, I think that we might be better off with a bit more anarcho tribal egalitarian communitarianism in our globalized corporate military insecurity dominated world.  I am simply saying that I have not anywhere near enough information to be turned into believing that the military peace as we know it amounts to a level of true security or a higher standard of living then might be achieved if we put a small amount of that military expenditures towards true diplomacy and culture building.

To not look at the lessons presented from those cultures that presently existed or that existed in recent past, we discredit hundreds of thousands of years where humanity (our ancestral lineage) has survived quite well without 'cheap' energy and these in total or even in a fraction have a great deal more to teach us about living on this planet then anything that has been presented by the high tech poisoned, and destructive world.
 
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without attempting to judge them by their own standards



The only objective standard of history is survival. I love anthropology and history, and I have no doubt there have been flowering cultures at times lost to memory. But unless an organism has an immune system, it dies. Entropy wins. I think there is pretty good evidence that most of what we call civilization was a response to external pressures (environmental, military, etc) and that a lack of those pressures leads to decadence and decay, just like a grazing system. I guess my main contention is that we (who are interested in interrelated systems) have a habit of saying "but only if postulate A wasn't true, the world would be thus"- this is the realm of art. It is fine in its way, and I enjoy the speculation, but I don't base a worldview on it. Does that make sense?


I am well familiar with the Amish/Mennonite story, I am married into it, and live around them. It is a better example of who I would like to be than I could have come up with actually, and for that I am grateful. It is a very sad story for the most part, my wife's family traces their roots back through France, Germany, Prussia, Russia, the Ukraine and then back to Germany and the US. Each step with being run off their lands with a change in political leadership out of their control, most of them with starvation and death as a portion. But they persevered and didn't participate in adding to the meat grinder engulfing them. That is remarkable to me. I doubt they would have survived prior to the period they were founded, because in each one of those displacements they found a new home through (often) communication hundreds of miles away. Maybe that is a model to build on. I am getting more of that mindset the longer I am alive.  I have seen enough of the inner workings to know that human nature still is a perplexing problem in that community, and that is why I am not committed to it.

I agree with the general idea that poverty is not synonymous with lack of electricity or material wealth necessarily. The idea that

Generally when an intact tribal culture is viewed from the outside by someone who is sensitive to not destroying the culture, we find that, though strange in mores and custom, their social structure and means of making a living, often have qualities worth mimicking

is certainly true. I have never seen an intact tribal culture, and I have traveled extensively, but they are pretty deep in the wilds (I know there are some!). I know many members of (nonintact?) tribes with cell phones and generators (who would love more technology), there has been a huge disruption the last century and I doubt if that genie can be put back in the bottle. Going back to the initial quote that got me all worked up, the idea that electricity (and technology in general) has not decreased poverty immensely- I don't even know how what to say. Res ipsa loquitur, the life expectancy and decreased infant mortality and on and on- people value that. Like, universally. If we can give broader access to those things at a reasonable environmental cost, I strongly feel that is a win. Women who lose an infant have three more on average to compensate. Countries where the infectious disease pressure is intense spend much of their resources just replacing the dead, with minimal left over for advancement. Natural misery is just as miserable as other forms.

I think every human has value, and there is no doubt that the West prioritizes wealth over other qualities, partly I think because it is what we have! A continent of immigrants and persecuted natives in little pockets just doesn't have much history or shared culture to find value in or learn from. People mostly moved here and left their support group, often out of desperation. That would be considered fraught with danger and "poverty" in loss of support structures, and I think it is why there is such a premium on risk taking- it's who ended up moving to the Western Hemisphere and Australia. The only gain was material and the chance for self determination, so that is the value structure! 

Modern village life in Africa is often shown as being full of strife and hardship, scratching a living, but this is most often the direct result of imperial and colonial destruction to their way of life, and continued manipulation from extremist capitalists and external political manipulators more than it is the problems of traditional tribal dynamics. 

A couple data points- prior to the European powers being the power players in Africa, there was internal "imperialism", the Bantu invasions from a small area (with improved tactics/tech) that swamped southern Africa, the European slave trade, the Arab slave trade, the Moslem invasion, the imperial kingdoms in Zimbabwe and Mali, and hundreds of others lost to time without record. The same in Central America, Aztecs replacing Maya replacing smaller empires. I don't think there is such a thing as a static "intact tribal culture", humans have adapted and adopted. The pace of that pressure probably got much faster with technology, and at some point cultures may not be able to adapt. We may be at that point on a large scale actually, one of the reasons I am not on facebook! But to say hardship as experienced today is proximally caused by one thing, even mainly, is a counterfactual. There was strife and hardship before and would have been anyway. There may have been degrees of difference, maybe large, but this is the way things actually are, not how I wish them. It is the only starting point I can start from. I can't accomplish change there without changing how I live here, and I think you would agree. 

I do agree that we should specifically look at "primitive" knowledge, because it may well be needed. I do practice some personally, and I try to teach what I have been taught. I very much like Ben Falk's approach of trying to recreate more systems from places they have worked for thousands of years.

I despise the exploitation of people, I have been lots of places in the "third world", and there is an awful lot of misery. Specifically the lack of any meaningful rule of law (since the traditional rulers were, um, replaced with colonial and now corrupt locals).  Their law was different but evolved in that environment, and probably was no more or less fair than ours. But I think human history is one sad long story of periodic "destruction of way of life".  Exploitation is historically normal, not saying it is good. And specifically I emphatically agree I am no better than someone in a more "primitive" setting, there is a lot of luck of the draw.  If you want historical examples from ancient literature with examples of most of the same phenomena we see now, I can provide them, but I think you know this stuff based on your writing.


  I am simply saying that I have not anywhere near enough information to be turned into believing that the military peace as we know it amounts to a level of true security or a higher standard of living then might be achieved if we put a small amount of that military expenditures towards true diplomacy and culture building.



At least you have offered an alternative in anarcho tribal egalitarian communitarianism. I think that is kind of a description the Amish/Mennonite model, which tries to modify the individual/community relationship through religion. It is hard to objectively argue with the Westphalian model in terms of statistical peace at the international level, but who knows if that will hold true. The expenditures are certainly staggering and I don't try to convince anyone anyone I "know" the answers. I don't normally respond to this kind of post, and probably shouldn't, it doesn't seem to be productive in any fashion. From experience there is almost no amount of information that changes an opinion, mine included. I have just been bombarded with "educated" people with simple answers recently, and I truly believe the answers are generally hard fought and require personal conviction and action, and most of the posturing is for absolution. 

Roberto, I sincerely hope this stuff isn't taken personally. It is why I wanted to clarify things in the open and hopefully make some intellectual recompense for shooting from the hip. You have added much value and will continue to do so, and I have seen enough to know you are truly interested in making hard choices over preening.



 
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Moderator talking here:

I haven't read the whole thread. 

Looking at the first post, the topic of this thread asks if nuclear power is 'clean'.  The video it links to is gone and there isn't much text left to tell me what it was about.

Looking at some of the posts that haven't met publishing standards and have been put on probation or removed by the staff, these seem to be more about social-economic challenges in our world today v. the challenges of pre-industrial lifestyles.

A very interesting topic. 

probably not on topic.

This thread was started before the Cider Press began.  If this thread was started outside the cider press today, by someone not Paul, it would be removed. 

Those of you who have earned the right to post in the cider press, please feel free to start a new thread there.    Actually, you're encouraged to because it is a very interesting topic.

In the meantime, I'm locking this thread until staff (who are very busy with holiday and family events right now) have time to review this thread. 
Thank you for your understanding. 
 
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