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Future Energy Production Should Include Mostly Nuclear, with some Renewables and Storage Techniques

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/2/2017 Category: Science
Updated: 1 month ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 225 times Debate No: 105477
Debate Rounds (3)
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We need a base load electricity supply, which can be supported by renewables and storage should be used to smooth out the intermittent supply due to refueling, maintenance and weather effects


Although nuclear power seems like the ideal source of energy, there are several problems, each severe and inherent to nuclear power.

This video(1) is a pretty good source of information. In essence, the problems are volatility, scarcity, and, most importantly, disposal.

Debate Round No. 1


This video refers only to our current nuclear technology and I take Issue with it on many points. However, I would first like to point out that all forms of energy production produce waste. Although the toxicity may be a different level and coal is the only other which produces waste which is significantly radioactive, all other forms of energy production are worse in the following ways in respect to waste;-

a) It is produced in greater quantities per unit of energy produced than nuclear waste
b) It is less regulated and less controlled than nuclear waste
c) The danger it poses towards humans remains about constant over time

Now, I would also disagree with the way in which this video suggests we deal with nuclear waste. Nuclear waste is an opportunity, not just a hazard. Firstly, we should chemically separate out the useful byproducts that make up nuclear waste. Isotopes from waste can be used in the medical industry, food industry (killing bugs) and can be recycled into fast breeder reactors. Also, Plutonium from waste can be used as a fuel source in an RTG system. These steps are currently taken. I then suggest we develop methods of separating out the rare minerals in the waste, such as neodymium which can be used for powerful magnets. Doing so would reduce the price of many consumer and industrial machines which require high power or small magnets. Finally, once the fast breeder has ran its fuel cycle, we should run the waste from the fast breeders in a waste burner reactor. Only three reactor capable of this have ever been built and were not put into service for political reasons (in the USA, these were that waste was not seen as such as issue, these reactors did not produce weapons grade nuclear material and there was some resistance to change in the Nixon administration and reactor building companies, in the soviet union, lack of bomb material and Chernobyl were the issues, despite a Chernobyl scenario being impossible here). These types of reactors are currently under development again. As oppose to normal reactors, which add safety systems to prevent meltdowns and plant explosions on top of the basic design of the reactor, the new generation of reactors do not have the capability, even with no safety systems, of having this type of failure.


Protip: When you cite sources, indicate where in the text that info appeared. Like this(Ex.).

Your point about how we deal with nuclear waste essentially means nothing, as none of those "solutions" actually solve the problem of "where do we put the nuclear waste?" It makes the waste a bit more useful on its way to toxic decay, but it still doesn't solve the issue. You also undermine your point about fast breeders by pointing out that only three reactors have ever been created. You also mention how a reactor meltdown a la Chernobyl is impossible, but don't explain why.

Let me propose the truly ideal alternatives to dirty power: Tidal, wind, and solar power. There are literally no emissions across all three, and they provide backup for eachother. Tidal, which is essentially hydroelectric power, but harvesting tidal forces, never stops, but its lack of sufficient power will always be covered by solar power, wind turbines, and storages from all three. Renewable power is remarkably cheap(1), and solar power industries in the US are creating jobs at a fantastic rate(2).

(Ex.) Like this
Debate Round No. 2


The link for source 1 does not seem to be working for me currently

There have been many fast breeders built, much more than three. I stated that there are three reactors usable as waste burner reactors, not fast breeders. I also stated that there are currently many more than three under development, I believe the number is about ten. These are experimental reactors of modular design, so their developers are hoping to build more reactors that have this capability in the future heavily based on the prototypes. I do not understand why this is not a solution to you. It reduced the life span of the waste so that it is only radioactive for 300 years. We don't need any more underground storage if we only need to hold them in storage sites for 300 years, much better than the previous 100,000 years. Once they are no longer radioactive, any historically significant samples can be kept in museums, the rest can go to landfill or the bottom of the ocean. During the 300 years, underground storage tanks at the reactor site or casks can store the waste. Once they are safe, why does it matter where they go?

I would also despute your claim as to the intended purpose of nuclear reactors being about weapons, as reactors have powered naval ships which can carry out long extended missions without refueling and bypass the issues caused by subsurface internal combustion in submarines. Also, when most American reactors were built, it was because the oil crisis had just begun and oil prices inflated by about ten times, creating a big demand for nuclear reactors at the time. Unwarranted fears of nuclear have prevented this from continuing.

I will now explain why the three most serious types of nuclear accident are not possible in these new designs

Scenario 1 Meltdown (TMI, EBR1, Chernobyl, Fukushima Daichi)

Where solid fuel is not sufficiently cooled by the coolant and subsequently melts, loses form thus destroying the reactor and potentially causes further issues.

The 2 solutions put forward in the new reactors are either use fuel in molten form (e.g dissolved in a salt - what is molten cannot be melted further) or design the reactor such that thermal expansion makes nuclear fission impossible at the melting point of the fuel (this can be achieved by adjusting neutron speed or changes to the fuel itself)

Scenario 2 Pressure explosion (Chernobyl)

Pressure in the system increases, usually during a meltdown as pressurized water turns into steam and the water level in the system drops. This bursts the pipe or pressure vessel causing all the remaining water flashes to steam. The volume of the steam expands massively, for example, 400 times greater than the volume in the pipe could be expected in a PWR. This subsequently causes the whole containment structure and reactor building to burst, releasing radiation.

In the new generation of reactors the coolant is not pressurized, so a burst pipe or containment vessel can only occur due to corrosion, which would be monitored. Any leak that does occur would be a potential bio hazard within the plant, but would not be in gaseous form and would not expand. The bio hazard could be dealt with by workers wearing PPE and no workers would need to be near the source of the leak. In some designs, the leaking coolant would quickly lose temperature during a leak, thus freezing and plugging the leak with no human intervention.

Scenario 3 Hydrogen-oxygen explosion (Fukushima Daichi)

The steam from a reactor in a meltdown reactors with the zirconium surrounding the fuel. The oxygen atom from the water is released from the water molecule creating zirconium oxide. The hydrogen atoms escape the pressure vessel and react with oxygen in the air, causing a huge energy release and subsequent explosion

New designs that are water cooled use a fuel surround that does not react with water, or a different coolant is used, such as helium, lead, lead bismuth, molten fluoride salts, molten chloride salts, sodium or NaK.

Tidal is essentially the same as hydroelectric, but the flow speed is not so well controlled and is normally lower so it is less efficient. The time of high and low flow is also hard to control and the structures required contribute to coastal erosion. I prefer normal hydroelectric systems used on rivers. Infact, if large, fast flowing rivers were more common, I would suggest hydroelectric should be the main focus of our energy future due to it's fantastic efficiency, but it is limited. I do however believe it has a role to play, especially in storage in the form of pumped storage.

Solar PV has shown to have catastrophically low efficiency, although it has somewhat improved, is still poor. The waste it produces is 300 times and numerous as nuclear for the same output and is not so well contained, meaning that unlike nuclear waste, solar waste is currently affecting all environments in which solar panels are manufactured. Much of the solar waste is being dumped in rivers. Above 45 degrees north or south in latitude. Solar PV produces DC electricity, which needs to be converted to AC to work with the grid, which is a process which consumes power. Solar PV has proven to be a poor option for most countries. Solar thermal is killing birds which fly into their vicinity by literally setting them on fire and has not been tested in high latitudes, it is not likely to consistently be able to keep the medium it heats warm enough for a significant time. Much less information is available on solar thermal.

Wind has shown itself to be a good option near the sea where the wind is strong, however, this does not cover much area. It has seen more success where it has been implemented than solar however. The maintenance work, especially for offshore wind has proven to be a maintenance challenge for the operators of wind power too.

Due to the massive storage requirements and the need to provide multiple times the maximum capacity to provide 24/7 power, the cost of renewables without baseload power would increase, to ensure you have enough energy put into storage when the systems do not produce power and to operate, maintain and eventually replace the storage systems.

You describe these sources as being clean, but the quantity of waste in most renewable energy sources is greater than the quantity of waste from nuclear. These systems often having moving parts which require lubrication, which is bad for the environment. Avoiding nuclear would also mean we cannot take advantage of the uses of nuclear waste I have previously mentioned. We are running out of Plutonium for RTG due to not running fast breeders, which would affect space missions. This would limit scientific advancements are reduce job creation. These jobs rely on the nuclear industry, but are not normally attribute to the nuclear industry. Furthermore, studies have shown that nuclear is responsible for the least deaths per unit of energy produced compared to any other fuel source. Unlike renewables, nuclear also offers a complete solution to global warming as it can be used in propulsion of large vehicles.

My storage ideal would be would involve compressed gas, flywheels and pumped storage, the latter of these is infact commonly used. However it is basically a closed off hydroelectric system, so there are limits to its implementation. I do not have enough remaining characters to explain the issues with all of the obstacles of all forms of storage, however, I believe that flywheels and pumped storage can offer the best efficiency in storage as they have the lowest losses of all the current possible technologies for storing energy. The forms I do not think are ready or capable yet include battery storage, liquid air, hydrogen, ammonia, superconducting magnetic loops and thermal storage.


The main part of the argument, that nuclear is perfect, if only we used more fast breeder reactors, is bunk, because that is only experimental. I especially lke how you come back against my argument by sayng "no, there aren't only 3 fast breeders! There are so many more! There are TEN!" You also provide no sources at all that support your conclusions about renewables, and I think the burden of proof would be on you to show why lubricant is more detrimental to the environment than nuclear waste.

So the source, for whatever reason, always gives a 404, which is odd, but if you look up 'falling price of renewable energy,' the top hit will be the guardian article I tried to link.
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by arugula278 1 month ago
Reason for decision.
you have to explain why i won this categories
Posted by gvlr_96 1 month ago
I'm new to this site, can you explain RFD?
Posted by whiteflame 1 month ago
>Reported vote: BryanMullinsNOCHRISTMAS2// Mod action: Removed<

7 points to Con. Reasons for voting decision: Con by default.

[*Reason for removal*] Not an RFD.
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