Saturday, March 12, 2011

The other high cost of energy

"Your Mr. Obama doesn't like nuclear power"
said R___. It was back in '08 during the "drill baby drill," cheap energy at any cost nonsense. He's an engineer, like many of my friends and aquaintances and you would think he'd share a concern with proper design and planning of nuclear facilities but then, as now, if Obama is for it, the Republicans area against it.

Then there was J___, an ex military man with several graduate degrees who told me in robotic tones that "we don't need any more government regulation" when I mentioned that a bit of responsible enforcement of the rules might have prevented the inevitable Gulf blow out disaster.

It really is like arguing with robots, because humans can, at least in theory, learn from experience. Robots need programming and repeat what they are programmed to repeat. It's not quite exclusively American, of course and R___ is Swiss after all. The overall safety of nuclear power is a question subject to debate, preferably between those with a great deal of technical expertise and not unduly influenced by those with a great deal of financial interest in building them. There will always be a danger, of course and there will always be an increasing need for energy pace the neo-Luddites and those who think we can feed and house the world's population using pre-industrial revolution technology, but building a nuclear plan on a coastline and in an earthquake zone seems to this layman a triumph of short sighted greed.

I read with horror this morning of a radiation leak and explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi plant resulting from the emergency backup power system being installed where it could -- and did - flood. Of course the plant is located so as to put a great many people in a danger zone and they've had to be evacuated. Odds are that the current plan to flood the reactor with sea water will succeed, and so far the leak is small, or so they say, but it's not really the kind of risk most people would subject themselves to voluntarily. People other than my Republican friends, that is.

I'm concerned enough that I live just down the coast of Florida from a nuclear facility. I'm part of a group organized to provide emergency communications should all else fail and an 'incident' occur and we have regular drills that are based on frightening scenarios. I'd rather they hadn't built it on the coast and within yards of the sea. Tsunamis aren't common here, but hardly impossible and hurricanes with storm surges happen all too often, but the convenience of having a large labor supply, saving money and cutting corners made the site attractive -- and of course we don't need no more Gummint regulation, do we?


Baltazar said...

maybe frivolous self-indulgent's is the bast way to do scientific research

Capt. Fogg said...

So you think measuring the rate of temperature change in a margarita while floating on an air mattress is frivolous and self-indulgent?