Re: [asa] Re: Renewable energy

From: Murray Hogg <muzhogg@netspace.net.au>
Date: Tue Mar 31 2009 - 17:21:45 EDT

Hi George,

The below is an interesting observation.

I realize you don't want to raise the issue of capital punishment per se but I will say that it strikes me as interesting that nuclear energy and capital punishment should happen to be analogous in this manner.

What occurs is that in both instances the cost of error is enormous. One wishes neither to build faulty nuclear plants nor execute the innocent - and it would seem that a detailed (hence costly) review process is merited in both instances.

I suppose the process(es) could be made more efficient in both instances, but it would seem that there is no small correlation between the cost of making a mistake, and the complexity (hence cost) of coming to a determination as to the course of action.

The real issue, it seems to me, is one of perception: that is, it's ultimately people's perception of risk which determines the complexity of the decision making process. And one of the reasons that many alternative energy sources escape scrutiny is because people perceive them as low risk (environmentally, economically, technologically, etc) and simply don't consider rigorous scrutiny to be necessary.

But if we were to be truly critical of all proposed renewable energy technologies (and given that we're depending upon the promise of such technologies in a HUGE way) then perhaps more scrutiny would be a good thing. I don't think we'll get such increased scrutiny, of course, but it does make one wonder if there isn't something dangerous in allowing our perceptions of risk (or lack thereof) to determine the degree of scrutiny which we're willing to apply.

Blessings,
Murray

George Murphy wrote:
> A comment on one component of the nuclear power issue. One of the
> arguments against nuclear is the cost of building new plants. I wonder
> how much of the expense is due to lengthy review & appeal processes &
> safety precuations that go beyond what is really necessary - both the
> result of opposition to the very idea of nuclear power. I.e., opponents
> drive up the cost & then use the cost as further reason to oppose it.
>
> Lest that seem like an unrealistic argument, I'll point out that just
> that has happened with capital punishment in the US. Opponents of the
> death penalty argue that it costs more to execute a person than to
> confine him/her for life. The reason for that is the lengthy series of
> appeals that are required before a death sentence can be carried out, a
> series that can mean that someone condemned to death will serve at least
> a 10, & perhaps much longer, prison sentence before execution, with
> accompanying expense.
>
> I hasten to add that I am not arguing here against the possibility of
> appeal, or for that matter for the death sentence, but simply pointing
> out a parallel to what may be the situation with nuclear energy. & with
> regard to that it should go without saying that I am not arguing for a
> lack of safety precautions with nuclear power.
>
>
>
> Shalom
> George
> http://home.roadrunner.com/~scitheologyglm
>
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Murray Hogg" <muzhogg@netspace.net.au>
> To: "ASA" <asa@calvin.edu>
> Sent: Tuesday, March 31, 2009 4:07 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] Re: Renewable energy
>
>
>> Hi Burgy,
>>
>> I checked out the article you cited below (note that there is a typo
>> in the address - should be .../what.htm rather than .../what/htm) and
>> I would say that given the time-frames and definitions in that
>> particular article, then nuclear probably could be called a
>> "renewable" resource.
>>
>> Personally, however, I would opt for calling nuclear "long-term"
>> rather than "renewable" - it certainly is the former, it certainly
>> isn't the later. It might take a couple of thousand years, but sooner
>> or later the Uranium supply will peter out.
>>
>> Putting aside the definitional quibble, the treatment of nuclear in
>> your piece is, I think, about right as it stands - you correctly point
>> out that something significant will need to happen in order for
>> nuclear to become a viable alternative to fossil fuels. Absent such
>> developments, however, and discussions about a nuclear future are
>> entirely academic. Your also clear on the time-scales involved so I
>> don't think a careful reader should be in anyway misled.
>>
>> I'm not sure whether I need to add a rider to the above in order to
>> satisfy Janice - her response to my last post makes clear that she
>> missed the point of my remarks. The ONLY issue I was addressing was
>> whether nuclear is a renewable energy supply and everything I wrote
>> should be taken in that context - including my remark about the left
>> not "playing games". Hence, NEITHER the citation from Adam Smith nor
>> the 32% figure who oppose nuclear on environmental grounds are of any
>> relevance whatever - unless, of course, Janice wants to suggest that
>> I've been taken in by the vast green-conspiracy and that the truth is
>> that one really can keep digging Uranium out of the ground forever.
>>
>> Blessings,
>> Murray
>>
>> John Burgeson (ASA member) wrote:
>>> On 3/30/09, Murray Hogg <muzhogg@netspace.net.au> wrote:
>>>> Hi Burgy,/
>>>>
>>>> If one is strictly speaking of RENEWABLE energy then nuclear is
>>>> excluded
>>>> because it's not a renewable resource.
>>>>
>>> What I have seen in several places, Murray, is that the above may not
>>> be true. It seems to be true of plants built on past technology -- but
>>> there are other nuclear technologies (breeder? ) (fast neutron?)
>>> (thorium?) etc. that use fuel at a rate that could last 1000s of
>>> years. Joe Schuster, in his book BEYOND FOSSIL FOOLS, makes this
>>> argument -- he has a web site which goes into detail. Strictly
>>> speaking, the energy sources proposed for these are at least as
>>> renewable as fusion technology.
>>>
>>> I don't claim to have sorted all this stuff out. Yet. My recent
>>> article in the Bugle (www.burgy.50megs.com/what/htm) assumed nucular
>>> was not a renewable. I may have to write a retraction.
>>>
>>> Burgy
>>>
>>> Burgy
>>>
>>
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Received on Tue Mar 31 17:23:36 2009

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