[Marxism] (no subject)

DW dwaltersmia at gmail.com
Mon Mar 12 10:20:36 MDT 2012


Tristan wrote:
 "...but as you are defending nuclear power I was wondering what your
thoughts on the
toll taken by the mining and transport of uranium for nuclear power was."

There are two ways of looking at it. One in relative terms/relative risk
and one in terms of absolute problems.

The amount of mining 'relative' to say, extraction of almost any other
common mining commodity: copper, tin, iron, coal, oil, gas, etc for uranium
is "almost inconsequential". Relatively speaking. Like any mining the
issues of heavy metal contamination of soil and water are paramount, *but
no worse than any other extractive industry*. In the U.S., the 'spoil' is
required to go back down the mine shaft. That is the stuff left over from
milling out the raw uranium. Generally, the amount of metal left in the
spoil is obviously a lot less than was naturally occurring in the ore in
the first place as the purpose of the mining is to extract to metal. Thus
in a pure sense, it's actually 'safer' than the what was in the ground in
the first place.

This wasn't always the case and in the mad rush to mine uranium for WMD in
the 1950s, ALL caution was left to the wind, literally and people payed for
with vast increases in cancers and silicosis and other respiratory
diseases. There was a HUGE fatality rate among the Navajo uranium miners.
Turns out that with zero safety equipment, no ventilation, no union, 80% of
the miners smoking that combined with radon, the natural decay product of
uranium, you were simply going to die. There is a lot of literature on this.

But if the breeder reactor program, now being constructed in China and
Russia is successful, not to mention thorium development, uranium mining
will be a thing of the past. It will be totally unnecessary. I don't have
time now to write on this but will in the future of people are interested
here.

Be aware that much 'uranium mining' isn't 'uranium mining' but is a
byproduct of copper and other forms of metal mining. Uranium is just a by
product. We don't need that much uranium to run the nuclear industry.
That's the whole point of urianium, it's about 30,000 times denser than
coal. Thus a lot less of it to be mined per unit of energy.

Transportation. Not sure this is an issue at all. To power a standard Gen
II (think Vermont Yankee) plant, it takes about 3 tractor trailer worth of
fuel to power a reactor for 18 to 24 months. Compare that to, say, a
gasoline trucks that are on the road by the 10s of thousand to neigbhood
gasoline stations. Seems relatively risk free to me. Spent nuclear fuel.
Most of it sits right where it's left, in spent fuel ponds (you know, the
ones that did NOT burn up and catch fire at Fukushima.). I really don't
think, unlike the general issue of spent fuel, that 'transportation' is a
particularly big issue.

David



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