If you could not learn from mistakes, life would be much harder. Mistakes are the windows to wisdom.
The best products and processes are the current end point of a long chain of mistakes and their amendment. Look at cars. Who would want to go back to the technology extant in 1964. Personally, I liked the cars then and still have good feelings about them, but I wouldn’t want to use one for a long drive. The convenience, safety, and efficiency advances in past half century make old cars functionally useless.
Nuclear power generation does not iterate easily. The stations are enormously expensive, and time consuming to build. Destructive testing is not permissible. No crash test dummies.
The standards governing new methodology are near incomprehensible. Iterative technique is thus unavailable in real time. Gradual change doesn’t happen.
Despite the difficulty, modern nuclear design is vastly different than it was in the 1960s.
If we want to move away from carbon based fuel in the next decade or two, nuclear is the only viable way we have. Maybe solar, wind, and fuel cells will matter some day, but they don’t work now for always on, high volume, needs. Worth research and development, but not currently useful.
Power generation is presently political instead of science based. California’s recent proposal that hydro generated power was not a renewable resource is odd, but then it is California. There is little evidence of political solutions being better. So, we must delve a little deeper than the news programs. Not much coming forward yet.
There is plenty of propaganda around nuclear power generation. The Chernobyl miniseries provides a fascinating look at an amazing technological failure. There is considerable opinion around safety as a result. Fear is not a wise counsellor.
Chernobyl is meaningless in terms of safety in our current environment. It would be like comparing the brakes in a 1948 Ford with the brakes in a 2019 version. How many airbags in a 1948? How fuel efficient? How did the air conditioner work? Power windows? No comparison.
The Chernobyl reactor could not have been built in North America in 1960, never mind today. Three Mile Island was a failure, so was Fukishima. Both began operations in the early 1970s. 1960s technology.
Three Mile Island and Fukishima should be thought of as Version 1.0.
In Europe, Version 3 is the current standard. The Americans, of course, have not approved a new reactor in four decades. The court system is a good thing, but the good is not universal. It is hard to iterate design when you can’t build a better model. Americans will need to look to others for designs.
Version 3 is much safer, much more efficient, and with better ability to deal with waste. Using Chernobyl as the safety standard is like using 1964 Chevys as test vehicles when establishing the nature of the safety problems in cars.
The messaging is about emotions, not about facts.
Version 4 is coming. Version 4 will be incapable of disaster. Version 4 will consume its own waste. Version 4 will allow smaller and cheaper stations.
You can’t have what you want with wind or solar. Large scale renewable source energy is dependant on the ability to store the power. There is no obvious solution on the horizon and it may take decades to evolve a method. Like the development of vehicles, iteration always works, but not without many tries. .
Nuclear power could be built safely and efficiently now. The technique will be better as Version 4 comes along.
Maybe nuclear is not the solution in the 22nd century, but it is available now. Waiting for a perfect answer is childish. Pretty good now is better than perfect 50 years from now. Besides, we don’t know what perfect will be, and maybe we need the intermediate steps to iterate that solution.
Think it through.
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