You won't hear this on CNN, but the U.S. nuclear power industry set a record last year. Despite rising costs of fuel and regulation, the average production cost of electricity dropped to an astounding 1.66 cents per kilowatt-hour. This is a figure well below the cost of coal-generated electricity, and a tiny fraction of the cost of solar or wind power. Furthermore, nuclear plants generated 36% more electricty than they did 15 years ago, without a single new plant being built. The industry just keeps getting better and better.Nuclear power is a true clean, green energy source, with zero CO2 emissions, and less environmental impact than solar or wind. Those sources of energy are extremely diffuse--which means they must be collected and concentrated. A 1,000 MW solar plant requires 2 million tons of concrete, 600,000 tons of steel, 75,000 tons of glass, 35,000 tons of aluminum, and a whole host of rare and exotic elements. This is several hundred times the materials needed by a nuclear plant the same size. And the nuclear plant will have much higher availability and require much less maintenance. Most telling of all is the costs which, for solar power, currently average a painful 28.6 cents per kW-hour.Other nations are wiser here than the US. France generates 76% of its power from nuclear, South Korea has several new plants on order, and Finland is building a new one, specifically to meet its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol.Expanding the US nuclear power industry would allow the US to dramatically reduce carbon emissions ... and to save money while doing so. And it's a solution available today, without the need for years of additional research and development. Its high time we pulled our heads out of the sand, and started using it to its full potential.
quote: Plutonium, which is used in pits for all U.S. nuclear weapons, is highly radioactive and degrades over time. The material was first produced in significant quantities in the 1940s, and the effects of plutonium aging on nuclear weapon reliability is a question relevant for a stockpile with warheads reaching ages beyond historical experience.NNSA’s weapons laboratories have been assessing whether the degradation of plutonium will affect the ability of the weapon to perform as designed. NNSA Administrator Linton F. Brooks said the recent aging studies showed that there appear to be no serious or sudden changes occurring, or expected to occur, in plutonium that would affect performance of pits beyond the well-understood, gradual degradation of plutonium materials.“These studies show that the degradation of plutonium in our nuclear weapons will not affect warhead reliability for decades,” Brooks said. “It is now clear that although plutonium aging contributes, other factors control the overall life expectancy of nuclear weapons systems.”The classified studies looked at pits in each nuclear weapon type and gave specific information on plutonium properties, aging and other information. Overall, the weapons laboratories studies assessed that the majority of plutonium pits for most nuclear weapons have minimum lifetimes of at least 85 years.Today’s nuclear weapons have highly-sophisticated designs and rely on thousands of parts and components that act within microseconds to perform complicated and precise functions. Plutonium aging is but one variable that can affect overall system reliability. Other factors include aging of high explosives and other organic components in the design, corrosion of uranium or plutonium components, or discovery of defects uncovered in surveillance programs. Warhead refurbishments, known as life extension programs, are key to replacing aging or otherwise faulty components.
quote: Only people that really need to worry are the ones at the receiving end of the 120mm Sabots, or one of the 30mm, 3,600 rounds per second shells from an A-10.