I Hope He Freezes In The Dark

Timothy Noah is cheering what he hopes is the upcoming demise of the nuclear power industry, in the wake of Obama’s closing off the Yucca Mountain option. I was never a big fan of Yucca Mountain — I think it a ridiculously overpriced solution to an hysterical non-problem. But for the money that they planned to spend on it, we could have come up with a safe and reliable launch industry, by using it as a market for storage on the moon.

52 thoughts on “I Hope He Freezes In The Dark”

  1. Vitrify and dump it into an abyssal trench like th Marianas or the Tonga trench.

    Those areas are deep, they are a depositional environment. There are no lofting currents.

    Let it be dumpd, buried by sedimentation and subducted into the mantle.

    Problem solved.

  2. “Force” the industry to “recycle” the fuel… after all, they’re throwing it away after just one go, when there’s plenty of burnable stuff left in there. Those dirty wasters! 😛

  3. Well, I think Tim Noah’s official title at Slate is Resident Narcissist Asswipe. Didn’t he do the “Bushisms” column?

    I’m always a little bemused by those who insist on million-year safety standards for nuclear waste, which decays into harmless stuff exponentially, whereas boatloads of chemical poisons, e.g. the highly carcinogenic fly ash coal plants produce, or the lead needed for all those green electric cars which causes mental retardation in children in teensy weensy doses — all of which never decays at all — which has a half-life of infinity years — doesn’t bother them very much at all.

  4. The big problem with Yucca Mountain seems to be that it might not be stable for another 10,000 years or so. It is like the No Nukers are saying we as a society are sure to fail and those poor hominids (or whatever) that inherit our disaster could come to harm.

    This is not the basis for a policy decision. It is the basis for a dystopian novel.

    Take the 27 Billion we are spending this year on the department of energy and use the funds to create a special energy police to make sure Yucca Mountain remains out of the reach of marauding terrorists forever. Use the interest to pay the bills, and all will be well. No more funding needed.

    I, as part of the New Writers Project (NWP) under the terms of the stimulus package, will be happy to write the pro nuclear part of the story.

    We have spent 20 years on researching Yucca Mountain. If that isn’t enough nothing ever will be.

  5. I’m not sure why if civilization collapses and humanity degrades to the point where no one can read the DANGER IF YOU CROSS THIS FENCE YOU’LL DIE signs — or no one has the brains to heed the warning — we should concern ourselves with their fate. Any species that stupid is not going to survive anyway. They’ll be eaten by carnivores, freeze to death in the winter, or eat poisonous plants.

    People act like you need to grasp nuclear physics to appreciate the dangers of radioactivity. Uh, no. Even Ogg the caveman will notice when every female in the tribe who wears the pretty metal thingy that glows in the dark dies after a few days, and fling it over a cliff and make the place where it was found taboo.

  6. I see people have already hit the major points: that chemical poisons have essentially infinite half-life, that judges that insist that there should be a legal difference between 10,000 years and 1,000,000 years hence should be hanged, and that Ogg’s stupidity is not our problem. I would add that every year we delay the transition to a nuclear economy increases the odds that your great-great-grandchildren will indeed be subsistence hunters living in caves.

    Now, there is a case to be made against nuclear power. Tim Noah apparently knows how to use google to find these reasons. The fact that he omits to list the reasons in favor of nuclear power is enough to tell you he is a partisan hack.

    The context that is missing here is that the Obama administration is acting more imperial by the hour. They give lip service to energy independence but seem to think that a decree that His Majesty desires solar and wind power will be enough to make these non-starters economical alternatives to nuclear and oil. (Did I mention I can play the partisan hack too?) Their intention appears to be to do what Noah gleefully foretells: end nuclear power as an option for this country, for essentially nostalgic reasons (they miss the ’60’s!).

    In a functioning democracy there would be discussion about this kind of policy decision. I have been told, however, that now that He has been elected, the time for debate is over.


  7. “In shuttering Yucca Mountain, Obama makes it extremely likely that nuclear power in the United States will continue its long, slow, and extremely welcome death.”

    There you go. With that simple excerpt you don’t have to bother reading any other part of Timothy Noah’s article as that one sentence captures it’s heart. Unless you enjoy laughing at his cluelessness.

    Noah’s article is a great example of how false the proud boasts are of the self-proclaimed “reality based community”. Not only does Timmy’s nuke-bashing show a poor grasp of the issues involved, he even screws up a basic fact about hominid anthropology with which he begins his article, “A million years ago, Homo erectus … was getting ready to invent the hand axe and discover fire.” In reality stone hand axes were “invented” at least two million years ago by Homo Habilis; which is at least a million years earlier than the taming of fire by Homo Erectus.

  8. I’d rather spend the money on getting reactors a wee bit more safe and efficient in their use of fuel online and producing power.

  9. I’m opposed to getting rid of nuclear waste at all, because “nuclear waste” is another word for “potential nuclear fuel.” It seems a lot safer to me to re-process fuel – on site if at all possible – than to transport it to some remote site just begging to be the scene of the next James Bond movie. It would be fun to transport a few hundred years into the future (or a few?) when the US is gone and a place like Yucca is the most sought-after locale for building your new despot state.

    I particularly like the idea from Intellectual Ventures of the travelling wave reactor which turns spent U-238 into Pu-239 in situ.

  10. A sure sign that they don’t believe their own AGW boogey man.

    Remember when the NRDC published that report on particulates in the atmosphere? According to a story in the OC Register, 40,000 people a year dying from them. If that’s the case then it’s practically genocide not to go nuclear.

    Gad, I miss the days when the politicians lied, but their lies had to have some kind of logic.

  11. So how much money has the US government spent on researching Yucca Mountain? Billions isn’t it? So it’s been thrown into a hole in the ground, that’s what governments are good at. You aren’t alone, the Aussie government is good at it too. With something like 40% of world’s current readily recoverable uranium, Australia has a no nukes policy but will sell fuel to selected clients. Go figure!

    Nuclear waste isn’t. It’s potential fuel. Google Integral Fast Reactor or Gen 4 reactors.

  12. They’re not just idiots. They’re idiots rooting for our enemies. Do we understand the point that we’ve reached?

    They reveal themselves more and more with every action they take. They are consolidating power while they destroy this country.

    They vilify the opposition and it works.

    The problem goes way beyond the handling of nuclear waste which is a simple engineering problem. Sell it all to France. They must be producing a lot more waste than we are and must have some kind of solution by now.

    Does anybody know what France does with their waste? (Sell it to Iran perhaps for reprocessing?)

  13. I just love those “pro-science” liberals … for them, science is great until it has actual application. Then it becomes evil (Big Pharma, genetically engineered crops, nuclear power) or wasteful (space exploration).

  14. Most people are not reprocessing right now. I think only France and Russia do it at the moment. It is cheaper to buy more uranium than to recycle the fission products into MOX fuel. It is also easier to recycle the fuel if you wait a couple of decades until the shorter-lived, high radiation, fission products decay. Separation would only get cheaper with investment into processes that governments would rather not exist in the first place, since they make it easier to get plutonium for nuclear weapons as well. Hence the push for reactor designs that burn up the fuel more without reprocessing.

    The people rooting for nuclear power to go away are going to be disappointed. Nuclear fuel is getting cheaper still, with the introduction of gas centrifuge processes in France at Tricastin and elsewhere. Russia has done it this way for a long time. The only remaining problems are power plant cost and scaling.

  15. They’re idiots rooting for our enemies.

    They’d be this way even if there were no enemies. If we fall they will celebrate briefly and then declare rhetorical war on their new overlords — while pretending to mourn the fallen society whose demise they just finished celebrating. They are enemies to anything and everything successful.

  16. He pronounces the end of nuclear power and doesn’t use the word fusion anywhere in his diatribe. Asswipe indeed.

  17. Freshly mined and enriched uranium is still currently cheaper than re-processing (of course, those who claim we’re about to run out of uranium ignore re-processing, along with seawater uranium).

    More to the point, it is currently illegal to re-process nuclear fuel in this country–because of an executive order signed by Jimmy Carter.

  18. The Yucca mountain issue is so frustrating and an example of beauracracy at it’s worst.

    All of that fuel would be reprocessed by various nuclear technologies in a few short decades, it’s just a matter of letting industry do it.

    It won’t even be there in the ridiculous time spans they mention.

  19. There is another alternative. Nuclear waste can be recycled. Google around for a pdf version of “Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste” published in the December 2005 issue of Scientific American. It is very eye-opening.

    Spent fuel can be reprocessed (France, Japan and India are doing it). The waste that is left decays to safe levels over a period of hundreds, not tens of thousands, of years.

    Carter killed this kind of “combined cycle” plant, Reagan attempted to revive it, Clinton drove the stake through its heart.

  20. Apparently. Except the failure of Barack Obama won’t cause us to freeze in the dark. It’s kind of stupid to equate the success of Barack Obama with the success of the nation. In fact, they would seem to be negatively correlated, based on recent events.

  21. Wow, lots of typical misconceptions in these replies. Let’s fix some of them:

    Yucca Mountain (or any geological repository) is neither necessary nor particularly desirable right now. It’s cheaper to store the waste in sealed dry containers on the surface, as is increasingly being done around the world. Doing so forecloses no future options, including geological disposal or reprocessing.

    Reprocessing will neither make waste disposal all that easy, nor save money. It’s been proven to be uneconomical whenever tried, even in France (and even when they wrote off the cost of the reprocessing plant). Uranium would have to be much more expensive for it to begin to be competitive.

    Fusion solves non-problems (waste, uranium availability, reactor safety) but exacerbates the big problem with nuclear energy: capital cost of the reactor. It’s Rube Goldberg engineering; complexity of that kind is rarely a good idea.

    If the Yucca Mountain effort is being shut down, I cheer; maybe the myth that it was a good idea will die too. And I support the construction of more nuclear powerplants.

  22. Liquid Flouride Thorium Reactors are the answer. They are intrinsically safe, can’t melt down (no china syndrome), and can consume the waste from conventional reactors. India has committed to Thorium (but not the LFTR) in a big way.

    This link provides details:


  23. Paul: Seems you’d rather watch the boat sink than see someone plug the hole differently than you would have done.

  24. Shut down nuclear, shut down petro, shut down coal…
    Eventually, the enviros will have to deal with the technology of John Moses Browning.

  25. Why store waste on the moon? Why not the biggest incinerator in the solar system? I may be wrong, but couldn’t the sun pretty much swallow our entire planet and barely belch? One solar prominence can be larger than the Earth many times over. In fact, the given the fact that the photosphere extends a few million miles above the sun, and the temperature there can reach 1-3 million degrees, my bet is that anything we toss that way would get vaporize before it even reached the star itself.

    It really is the world’s largest garbage disposal … at least the largest one we can use.

  26. @4:31 am: France stores all of its nuclear waste at La Hague, in Brittany. They ultimately plan some sort of underground storage, but for now it is tucked away in above ground storage.

  27. My greatest source of amusement is the assumption that the poor, ignorant folks of, oh, a thousand years from now won’t know what to do with a little nuclear waste.
    In an case, just like Carter shutting down reprocessing, this is just a back door way to block a nuclear power comeback. “We’d love to build more nuclear power plants, but gosh golly gee, there’s just nowhere to put all that darned old waste.”

  28. “Shut down nuclear, shut down petro, shut down coal…
    Eventually, the enviros will have to deal with the technology of John Moses Browning.”


    …………..and MTK and Eugene Stoner!!!

  29. Not only that, Paul, but in another thread we were talking about eugenics to reduce medical costs, improve the species. Maybe we can kill two birds with one gamma ray, so to speak.

    Put your highest level waste in easily opened, friendly looking containers. Milk jugs, say, labeled “Magic Healing Potion!” or “Extend Your Length And Girth!” whatever. Stack it all up in the desert somewhere, put an easily-climbable fence around it, no guards, and signs every 50 feet: “DANGER. WHAT”S STORED INSIDE WILL KILL YOU IF YOU SO MUCH AS COME CLOSE TO IT.”

    That’s it. SIt back and watch the gene pool improve through natural selection. Maybe hire folks to drag the bodies out and bury them, or perhaps leave them to mummify as a yet more explicit warning.

  30. This is not the basis for a policy decision. It is the basis for a dystopian novel.

    Thread winner

  31. The problem is, of course, that while he freezes in the dark, so will we.

    However, like the feudal lords of old, they will sit comfortably by their fires (waivered by “carbon offsets”) while the rest of us freeze in our mud huts.

    As for nuclear waste, pebble bed reactor fuel is already vitrified.

    And the failure mode is to shut down.

  32. Why not shove all that waste up some progressives’ backsides? The resulting glow would finally mark them as being useful.

  33. “Shut down nuclear, shut down petro, shut down coal…”

    And when we try to build alternatives … they will complain that solar plants tear up the desert habitat of endangered animals and plants, windmills kill birds or make too much noise, tidal generation will hurt some sea animal, and so on and so on.

    The environmentalists are not serious people. Unless they seriously wish for civilization as we know it to regress.

  34. Look at it this way:

    Suppose these guys are successful at shutting down nuclear, coal, and petro. How long does the Democratic Party last after the brownouts start? How long until the voters demand power at any price?

    The stupider the decisions, the quicker we’ll get it over with. Meanwhile, be sure to install your own generator.

  35. Well, I think Tim Noah’s official title at Slate is Resident Narcissist Asswipe. Didn’t he do the “Bushisms” column?

    Different Narcissist Asswipe: Jacob Weisberg.

    So far nobody’s stepped up to document the daily Obama/Biden gaffe. Let’s all hold our breath, right?

  36. Jim

    Slate also used to have feature called “Kurd sellout watch” during the early years of the Iraq occupation. Eventually Slate gave up waiting for Bush to sell out the Kurds and discontinued the feature.

    Funny how that feature has not reappeared since “end the war” Obama and “split up Iraq” Biden took power. I’m not holding my breath either.

  37. Kind of like the Doomsday Clock on the cover of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Brad, which has been warning us of the imminent destruction of the world for 62 years now.


    If you follow the link, Wikipedia has a nice graph of the movements of the DC. It looks rather like a random walk, except for one real event (the end of the USSR in 1991) and a couple of nakedly political moves, like the move towards “safe” when Kennedy beat Nixon in 1960, followed by the equally substantial move towards “danger” when Nixon beat McGovern in 1968, and during Reagan’s two terms.

    Apparently, we were in as much danger in 1984 or last year (2007) as in 1953, when Joe Stalin was running the USSR and had just exploded his first H-bomb, and in far more danger than during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Who knew? Feh.

  38. K at 12:13

    “Gad, I miss the days when the politicians lied, but their lies had to have some kind of logic.”

    Thank you.

  39. Paul: Seems you’d rather watch the boat sink than see someone plug the hole differently than you would have done.

    What? Storing waste above ground is not “watching the boat sink”. It saves money vs. Yucca Mountain. Why do you want more money spent, and spent unnecessarily? Isn’t the cheaper, simpler solution better than the more complex, complicated one?

    Perhaps you have bought into the utterly wrongheaded notion that lack of underground waste storage is what has held back nuclear power in the US. That has not been the problem at all. The problem has been that building nuclear power plants has been too expensive, rendering them uncompetitive. Waste disposal costs are a just a pimple on the industry’s financial posterior in comparison.

  40. I have been following the Nano-Tech Webs; there are nano-tech solutions. There is a way to use the technology to get greater production from the fuel rods and remove the harm from the spent fuel rods.

    It just needs funding.

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