Who Should Control Nuclear Energy?

Erasmo Calzadilla

On Wednesday, October 12, the Granma newspaper published an article in which the hot topic of nuclear regulation was discussed.

After reviewing all the nuclear accidents that have occurred since 1979 (at the rate of one catastrophe every 11 years), the article focused on the issue who controls or should control the peaceful use of nuclear energy: the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or the governments of nations?

In the final paragraph, the official position of Cuba was clarified:

“In this regard, Cuba maintains that each country is free to use atomic energy for peaceful purposes according to their needs, provided that such use comply with certain security parameters determined at the international level. This resource provides significant benefits to society…”

Viewed in this manner, it seems that to solve this problem there exist only two possible decision makers, but the question is actually more complex because neither national governments nor the IAEA seem to represent the interests of those who will ultimately suffer the consequences of accidents and pollution generated daily as a result of the peaceful use of atomic energy.

The general population of most countries does not have the tools to prevent or control ambitious and hazardous projects that the technocratic elite undertake in collusion with governments.  So Cuba’s position seems to me not only ambiguous but also “pro-development,” elitist and unfair.

Neither national nor international regulations have prevented the occurrence of periodic nuclear accidents or the gradual accumulation of radioactive wastes, which are pains in the butt wherever these are located.

Perhaps seeking popular complicity, the Granma journalist failed to specify that it means one thing to people’s health for there to be tiny emissions of nuclear energy for health treatment purposes and something quite different to have nuclear power plants churning out mass amounts of electricity.

Though both aspects are closely related, they need to be carefully thought through, discussed and voted on separately.

It’s true that nuclear power plants reduce oil consumption and global warming – at least they appear to after making a quick calculation. But they’re too dangerous, and they can also serve to camouflage or develop nuclear weapons.¬¬

Given all of this, I — one voice among many — disapprove of this approach. What’s more, I’d like to see this opinion reflected in the official stance of the Republic of Cuba. How do I achieve this? Do I raise it in one of the feedback assemblies in my neighborhood, where there are no nuclear plants and there’s hardly any development?

It seems a bit absurd to me. I think I’m going to have to use alternative means.

Erasmo Calzadilla

Erasmo Calzadilla: I find it difficult to introduce myself in public. I've tried many times but it doesn’t flow. I’m more less how I appear in my posts, add some unpresentable qualities and stir; that should do for a first approach. If you want to dig a little deeper, ask me for an appointment and wait for a reply.


6 thoughts on “Who Should Control Nuclear Energy?

  • October 31, 2011 at 9:34 pm
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    You don’t need uranium for a thorium reactor as shown in the video of post #1. Thorium is much more plentifull and doesn’t require processing Thorium is mined today with the mineral rare earth used for super magnets. Thorium is very mildly radioactive you can hold it in your hand no problem. Thorium is present almost all over the world. A liquid flouride thorium reactor produces almost no plutonium used to make bombs and any it does make can be fed back into the reactor and consumed by it it also has very little waste product. A liquid flouride thorium reactor works at low pressure and requires no containment structure. A LFTR reactor is self regulating and is load following unlike a reactor that runs on enriched uranium and has to run full out. A LFTR reactor cannot overheat as it will decrease the reaction when the temperature rises it also will stop the reaction if it did overheat by draining the fuel into a tank below You could loose all power to a LFTR reactor and it would safely shut itself down right away. A LFTR reactor can consume spent fuel rods left over from enriched uranium reactors. The U.S. had a demonstration LFTR reactor running back in the 60s for 100 hours and could start and stop it every day. The U.S. abandoned the LFTR reactor in favor of the uranium reactor because they wanted the plutonium it produces to make nuclear bombs with and the LFTR makes almost none. LFTR reactors can be built in a factory abd even including the cost of construction could produce electricity for .02 to.03 cents a kilowatt hour. A LFTR reactor is much more efficient than any other (uranium 3% a LFTR 85%) China, India and France and others are now beginning to carry on with the further development of this old but new form of non poluting much safer scource of energy. If you think wind generators and solar power will solve our power needs you are dreaming.

  • October 31, 2011 at 2:50 pm
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    Nuclear energy is too expensive. Nuclear waste storagel is both expensive and ultimately never safe. Uranium is needed for nuclear energy. Uranium mining has a carbon footprint and often undermines indigenous lifestyles. None of these arguments ultimately matter to macho politicians from France to Russia, China, venezuela or Cuba. An open debate needs open access to opinions against nuclear energy. A one-party-state where the leader is always right even when he is wrong cannot satisfy that need. It was countries like Austria, Germany and Switzerland who were able to make that choice.

  • October 27, 2011 at 8:39 pm
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    For an imaginative alternative to nuclear power, see Gerard K. O’Neill’s “High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space, ” c.1977 O’Neill proposed mining the moon and asteroids in order to construct space stations which would beam radiant energy, via micro-waves, to extensive receptive dish farms on earth, thus providing limitless rerewable energy to earth. Of course this would necessitate a large investment (by all nations of this earth), but eventually the returns would also be limitless. Besides, it would provide employment for hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Hence, it would end the world-wide recession

  • October 27, 2011 at 2:40 pm
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    Am with you 100% on this one, Erasmo.

    Building or continuing to use expensive “fission” nuclear power plants to generate electricity gets more and more absurd every day. Six nations are developing “fusion” nuclear power technology at Cadarache, France. Although this will take perhaps two more decades to perfect, this clean, inexhaustible source of energy promises to make all fission nuclear plants obsolete. Why tolerate a highly dangerous technology that apparently will be worthless in just a few years.

    There is ample energy available for civilization right now, from such as photo-voltaic solar, wind, et cetera. I’ve just read a remarkable article in the Daily Grist (www.grist.org) about how a scientist at the U. of New Zealand, Mr. Rajnish Sharma, has developed a method to double the generating power of wind turbines. It has to do with variable-length blades that can take advantage of low and high wind speeds, something conventional, fixed-length blade turbines cannot do. You may review it at:

    http://www.grist.org/list/2011-10-25-wind-turbine-with-inspector-gadget-arms-makes-twice-the-power

  • October 27, 2011 at 1:32 pm
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    Calzadilla insinuates that nuclear power plants are “hazardous projects that the technocratic elite undertake in collusion with governments”. Up to about 1970, that may have been true, but since then, most governments have stealthily sought to delay the replacement of fossil fuel energy with nuclear energy, because they make more money on fossil fuels. Natural gas, for instance, costs about $14 where uranium costs $1. The $14 includes royalties that, by themselves, exceed the whole price of uranium by a factor of about two.

    His other point, that nuclear power plants “can … serve to camouflage or develop nuclear weapons” is misleading, because it would not be enough for this merely to be possible: it would have to be easier than alternative routes to these weapons.

    There is an illuminating analogy: piston-in-cylinder engines, and guns. Any junked V8 can, undeniably, be converted into an eight-barrel cannon. Gun seekers have never been known to do this — they have never made or acquired cars as a clandestine route to guns — because real guns are easier and more effective.

    If an alternative to piston-engined cars, horses let’s say, were much more lucrative to government than such cars are, in the same way oil and gas energy is more lucrative to them than uranium energy is, we might have government-supported scholars earnestly studying how the proliferation of guns through weaponization of car engines might be prevented, without ever acknowledging that it is already, to all appearances, completely prevented by the common sense of all known gun seekers.

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