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Nuclear Energy

1 point
7 points
Ore_EleOre_Ele (PRO)
I would like to thank my opponent for accepting this debate and look forward to a wonderful debate on Nuclear Energy. Now lets just dive on in.

== PRO's Arguments ==

1)Effectiveness of Nuclear Energy

Nuclear reactors generate electricity though good old fashion steam driven generators (the two most common reactors are the PWR [1] and the BWR [2]). The only thing that the nuclear material is used for is heating up the water and turning it into steam. This may sound like old technology, but with modern technology, it is quite capable of generating immense amounts of usable energy with very little input.

Since the water that is turned to steam can be cooled and condensed, the water can be reused, and so never needs to be replaced. This means that the only thing that needs to be replaced is the nuclear fuel and parts through general wear and tear (usually the generator, since it has the most moving parts). The nuclear fuel can last about 2 years before needing to be replaced in modern power plants [3]. However, new designs, such as the TWR [4] are designed so that they can go decades between refueling and can even use fuel that was once viewed as waste (only using a small amount of U235, and a vast majority of U238).

Your average nuclear reactor produces around 1,000 MW of power, and many power plants will have several reactors on site. The average American home uses 940 kWh per month [5]. This means that a single nuclear reactor (at 1,000 MW) can provide power for about 766,000 homes (exact number is 765,957.5).

2)Safety of nuclear energy and its waste

Everyone knows that nuclear material can be dangerous to your health if you are directly exposed to it. This is why nuclear power plants go to crazy lengths to protect people for as much risk as they can. In PWRs, along with many computerized safety systems, the nuclear material is removed from the environment by two layers of the functioning reactor. While in the BWR, the water that the reactor is in is only removed by one layer. Emerging styles, like the PBMR [6] that use silicon carbide for friction protection, are essentially meltdown proof, as should the reactor lose power, the natural flow of the gases in the reactor would prevent a meltdown.

When it comes to the waste, reprocessing can eliminate around 80% of it, though it isn't a flat 80% that is being removed. It is basically digging through the waste and gathering the remaining U238 and the Pu239 that forms and is not fissiled away. Originally, we only reprocessed to gather the Pu239 in order to make bombs, but that Pu239 can be used as fuel. What aren't reused in the waste are all the Cs, Rb, I, and other fissile products. While those are still dangerous and need to be handled with care, the biggest bad boy in the waste is actually the Pu239 (partially because it will turn to the super evil Radon gas). The rest is bad, but not nearly close to Pu. This means that by reprocessing it, it actually makes less waste, and more importantly makes it safer for the whole family (not recommended for children under 10, the elderly, pregnant women, or human skin in general). We also have a wonderful option in new technologies that are developing such as nuclear decay reactors (NDR) [8], which allow us to take radioactive waste, place it in a modified reactor and simply turn the heat that comes off of it into electricity.
The other option is to take the waste away and bury it. Now, if the waste is reprocessed, all the Pu239, U238, and any U235 still in it, are removed. So all we have left is the fissile product. The most common of which is Cs133, I135, Zr93 and Mo99, but there are many different elements, all of which have a different half life. For U235 thermal nuclear reaction, 72.24% of the fissile product has a half-life of less than 100 years while only 27.76% is over 1,000 years (surprisingly none of it is between 100 and 1,000 years) [9]. So most of this stuff will naturally decay away into safe and stable elements (many in weeks), while only a little actually remains for thousands of years.

3)Cost of building and Maintaining Nuclear Power.

Currently (as of 2010), the cost of nuclear fuel for a single reload was $40 million [10]. Now, that may sound like a lot of money. But given that it only needs to be reloaded once every 18 months makes it very cheap indeed (about 0.65 cents per kWh). And with TWR which can use all of the U238, and not just a portion of enriched Uranium, their cost would be lower. In 2010, the average cost of operation and maintenance for a US reactor came in at about 1.49 cents per kWh. And that is with all of the government regulations (some of which are needed, but some of which are not). There are some other costs (like the Nuclear Waste Fund and such), but they come in at around 0.1 cents per kWh.

This makes the fuel for nuclear power much cheaper than conventional gas or coal. The downside, is that nuclear power plants are more expensive to construct. Currently around $4,500 per kW, compared to Coal's $3,400 per kW or Natural Gas's $1,000 per kW [11].

With this being said, I will turn the floor over to my opponent.

Thank you

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pressurized_water_reactor
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_water_reactor
[3] http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Nuclear-Fuel-Cycle/Power-Reactors/Nuclear-Power-Reactors/
[4] http://www2.technologyreview.com/article/412188/tr10-traveling-wave-reactor/
[5] http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=97&t=3
[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble_bed_reactor
[7] http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Nuclear-Fuel-Cycle/Fuel-Recycling/Processing-of-Used-Nuclear-Fuel/#.UbTd-efVB8E
[8] http://www.freedomforfission.org.uk/
[9] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fission_product_yield
[10] http://www.nei.org/Knowledge-Center/Nuclear-Statistics/Costs-Fuel,-Operation,-Waste-Disposal-Life-Cycle
[11] http://www.nei.org/Master-Document-Folder/Backgrounders/White-Papers/The-Cost-of-New-Generating-Capacity-in-Perspective
Return To Top | Posted:
2013-11-06 21:24:24
| Speak Round
adminadmin (CON)
I thank my opponent for the opportunity to discuss this important topic.

There happens to be a perfect alternative to nuclear energy, accruing all of the benefits of nuclear with none of the consequences, far older and simpler. It's called hydroelectric. It's cheaper, has less emissions, safer, and more efficient. Rather than heated water steaming via a chain reaction to drive a turbine, it simply drives a turbine by the natural motion of water going downhill. There is a very short list of 18 countries where this is impossible

This debate is fundamentally about whether competing forms of generation are better than nuclear.

Nuclear Benefits?

Pro claimed that nuclear power is efficient. In fact in terms of energy used to create electricity per kwh, nuclear is worse than coal, so nuclear reactors aren't particularly efficient at converting input into electricity. The Hoover Dam generates about 900 megawatts of electricity, built a long time before nuclear power was even invented. And guess what? It's still more efficient than almost every nuclear reactor in the world today in terms of electricity output. More modern alternatives consistently outperform nuclear. Germany had a very windy and sunny day once which created so much power for their grid with renewables, it actually made the price of electricity negative, so power companies were actually paid to use electricity as it was such a burden. This is literally impossible with nuclear, and was one of the key reasons (along with nuclear being so amazingly expensive and the fact nobody likes it) why Germany is currently decommissioning their nuclear power systems. Efficiency is NOT one of nuclear's advantages.

Nuclear power is expensive (like, really expensive!)

In part this is because of the crazy lengths people need to go to for safety, and in part this is because the technology is inherently complex. Nuclear was originally embraced by nations such as France and the Japan as a major form of energy to reduce dependence on oil, with huge subsidies being put on their construction. But once people realized these subsidies were not going to be paying off, they bailed. Half of all first-generation plants were abandoned during construction, taking a huge financial toll.

"In the US and the UK cost overruns on nuclear plants helped bankrupt several utility companies. In the US these losses helped usher in the debacle of energy deregulation in the mid-’90s that saw rising rates and power blackouts in California. When the UK began privatizing utilities its nuclear reactors were so unprofitable they could not be sold. Eventually in 1996, the government gave them away. But the company that took them over, British Energy, had to be bailed out in 2004 to the tune of 3.4 billion pounds."

The running costs of nuclear are high as well. Uranium is much less plentiful than coal, and harder to refine, so much more expensive - but as Pro pointed out this is completely offset by the cost. But the real costs are in waste disposal, decommissioning, insurance and security. These four costs make electricity crazy expensive: France, which relies on nuclear, pays $5,000 for just one kilowatt of electricity, the US by some estimates pays more.

"Nuclear power is the most expensive way ever devised to generate electricity. The method is not anywhere near cost effective; nuclear plants in the states of Oregon, New York, Maine, Illinois, and Connecticut have been shut down before the end of their planned lives because the owners found it was too expensive to keep them going."

Nuclear power is unsustainable

Some newer nuclear reactor designs are kinda sustainable, although you still aren't going to see Hoover Dam levels of longevity. Nuclear power generation as a whole isn't.

Aside from the decidedly non-infinite amount of uranium in the world, nuclear waste (even if there isn't a lot of it with more modern tech) still can't be safely handled or used. Nuclear cooling technology for spent fuel - which you need to do before any reprocessing or storage - remains fundamentally flawed and unsafe. Then we seal this waste - some of which lasts for about 1,000,000 years - in big underground vaults and hope nothing happens in all that time. With Yucca mountain closing soon nobody has any idea what to do with the waste being made right now, and it's currently just sitting around at the plants. All the while you're dealing with uranium transportation (which of course needs to be highly secure), digging huge pits in the ground which emit tons of greenhouse gases, the refinement process which isn't exactly the most environmentally friendly thing ever, water discharges (yes you actually do need to swap out the water to cool reactors often - nuclear is the most inefficient form of power in terms of water use)... add all that together, and the environmental costs are actually massive.

No other form of generation has this kind of a scope of environmental impact. Sure coal - possibly the runner up - has greenhouse gases and mines, but little dangerous physical waste, the refinement process is simpler, and if the terrorists steal enriched coal then nobody will care much at all. 

Nuclear power remains unsafe

There, I said it. And there's one really good reason: human error. In the immortal words of the narrator from the powerpuff girls, "just because you're a professor doesn't mean you're a smart guy." Human error can override the most elaborate protection systems pro can name me. This can be for a number of reasons. Fukushima demonstrated one: the "unforeseen event". There's also the "Whoops, pressed the wrong button there", the "I didn't think that guy would try to sabotage the plant" and the "OMG how did we all even miss that".

Pro is right to say that nuclear has all kinds of additional protections in place. Therefore, nuclear is actually somewhat safer than most other forms of power. But there remain risks. And the reason why these risks are so bad compared to all the other forms of power generation, despite the much lower risk of something ever going wrong, is that if something does go wrong, this (or something similar) happens:

Chernobyl Disaster

OK, extreme example, I know. Close to a million people died directly or indirectly, but of course in more modern plants that can't happen, right?

It can't happen in exactly the same way. But that's not to say it couldn't happen in some other way. The nuclear generation process inherently involves lots and lots of risks, and you have to remember that the global trend for the energy sector is the deaths are increasing, not decreasing. The expert assessment is that within 30 years, there will be another nuclear disaster in Europe. And it's not like an explosion at an oil plant that might destroy the plant and kill some workers - radiation lingers, poisons the land, and most disturbingly spreads to other nearby places. The only other type of power even capable of killing close to that number is hydro. The worst hydro accident in history killed 30,000 people, or about a third of what Chernobyl killed.

These risks are compounded when people are actively trying to sabotage the plant, for example if the name of your country happens to be "Iran", or if you happen to be at war with a group of terrorists. A nuclear power plant doubles as a nuclear weapon in the wrong hands.

I look forward to reading pro's response.

Return To Top | Posted:
2013-11-10 04:52:21
| Speak Round

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Fixed and shouldn't happen again :)
Posted 2013-11-15 05:17:44
WAIT nobody vote on this. Autoforfeit was not enabled so this shouldn't have happened! :)
Posted 2013-11-15 05:03:23
WAIT nobody vote on this. Autoforfeit was not enabled so this shouldn't have happened! :)
Posted 2013-11-15 05:01:05
Nerd PoliticoNerd Politico
Actually being able to hotlink stuff? That's awesome haha
Posted 2013-11-10 15:39:03
Posted 2013-11-10 09:01:09
Hotlinks now working :)
Posted 2013-11-06 23:40:15
Nope. Updating my code now to create hotlinks automatically like on DDO. That'll update your round too.
Posted 2013-11-06 23:30:40
ops, do we need to do something special for sources to make hotlinks?
Posted 2013-11-06 21:26:09
Nerd PoliticoNerd Politico
Haha Ore_Ele finally gets to have his nuclear energy debate
Posted 2013-11-06 15:06:54
Keeping myself amused while coding away at some of the other things... I'd been looking to do a nuclear debate again for some time :)
Posted 2013-11-06 05:43:48
The judging period on this debate is over

Previous Judgments

2013-11-26 10:54:41
HeinekenJudge: Heineken
Win awarded to: admin
Could have been a fantastic debate.

Don't forfeit. It's the number 1 cause of forfeit related defeats.
1 user rated this judgement as a vote bomb
1 user rated this judgement as biased
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2013-11-26 17:23:11
CermankJudge: Cermank
Win awarded to: admin

3 users rated this judgement as good
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2013-12-03 05:34:04
PinkieJudge: Pinkie    TOP JUDGE
Win awarded to: admin
Well, this was a very interesting debate...

Don't FF. I'll die.
1 user rated this judgement as biased
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2013-12-03 20:35:50
nzlockieJudge: nzlockie    TOP JUDGE
Win awarded to: admin
Easy win for con here as a forfeit is no kind of winning strategy.
Admin's points were clear and consise and totally on point. I'd have love to be seen the cost of power conteed more as both parties claimed that as a win for their side.

Pro, I'm thinking your angle here may have been to target the rules of this debate. They stated that this debate was about the potential expansion of power-making facilities. Had you been able to establish the future need for a dramatic increase in power consumption, you may been able to make the case that inefficient as they may be, Nuclear power plants may have been the only logical alternatives.
1 user rated this judgement as exceptional
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0 comments on this judgement
2013-12-05 07:54:34
gabbsmcswagginJudge: gabbsmcswaggin
Win awarded to: admin
pro never refuted any of cons arguments

Never forfeit.
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2013-12-05 16:16:42
NightofTheLivingCatsJudge: NightofTheLivingCats
Win awarded to: admin
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2013-12-13 06:08:13
cdw.scoutJudge: cdw.scout
Win awarded to: admin
While Ore_Ele provided good reasoning in first round, admin refuted it quickly, with evidence. His organization/refutation was excellent.

If I could recommend anything to admin, it would be to take a more professional tone (using "like" isn't incredibly professional), but he did excellently with providing a instructional, non-condemnational, and friendly tone. Ore_Ele, I would recommended actually responding, and having more support/philosophical reasoning.
1 user rated this judgement as constructive
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2013-12-15 08:43:23
KingDebaterJudge: KingDebater
Win awarded to: Ore_Ele
There was a forfeit.

do not participate forfeit
1 user rated this judgement as a vote bomb
0 comments on this judgement

Rules of the debate

  • Text debate
  • Individual debate
  • 4 rounds
  • 10000 characters per round
  • No reply speeches
  • No cross-examination
  • Community Judging Standard (notes)
  • Forfeiting rounds does not mean forfeiting the debate
  • Images allowed
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  • Rated debate
  • Time to post: 5 days
  • Time to vote: 3 weeks
  • Time to prepare: None
BOP shall be shared between both Pro and Con. Pro shall argue that Nuclear energy ought to be expanded (regardless of by government involvement or free market) and Can shall argue that it should remain as is or shrink.

The spirit of this debate is to focus on the implementation of Nuclear energy as a power source. Any semantics to turn the debate on to political ideology theory, or if "oughts" can really exist without objective morals or anything else to corrupt the spirit of the debate are automatic forfeits. It is up to the voters to determine if the spirit has been violated or not.