Before and After Sentence Outline on Nuclear Power Policy

My comments on the original sentence outline are in green. Note how dramatically the sentence outline is revised.

Original sentence outline

Original Title: The Case Against Commercial Nuclear Power

ABSTRACT:While nuclear power has proven fairly safe in the United States, it presents a danger that is not economically nor ecologically justified. Nuclear plants stay in operation only because of government subsidies, at the expense of developing new technologies, and their operation creates hazardous nuclear wastes which must be stored for several generations. The United States should revert to traditional power sources and develop new sources such as solar on wind.
  1. The potentially large energy output of a nuclear reactor cannot be achieved because of engineering and safety reasons.
    Is this an argument that safe plants would be too small to be economically viable? Perhaps you should look at the Swedish example; see web reference for several aspects of the Swedish experience: www.uilondon.org/uiabs96/hedvl.html
  2. The safe power rate is not high enough to make the plant economically efficient.
    This seems related to first paragraph. Is this a new point?
  3. This poor performance must be balanced against the potential danger of a catastrophic reactor failure
    "Balance" seems a strange word choice since both aspects seem negative in your presentation.
  4. Other dangers are less spectacular, but more intrinsic to operation.
    I am not sure what you mean. Have you looked at NRC web page www.nrc.gov/NRC/textmenu.html for information on current operations?
  5. Spent fuel rods contain plutonium which can be used in nuclear weapons.
    Is the equivalent of saying selling guns "causes" (versus allows) people to shoot each other?
  6. Daily operation creates a daily stream of low level nuclear waste which must be stored for until it is no longer radioactive.
    Have you looked at www.nrc.gov/NRC/radwaste.html?
  7. When nuclear plants are decommissioned, the entire structure is high level nuclear waste, and must be stored as such.
    Look at schedule for decommissioning.
  8. The half lifes of some of the wastes require storage for several generations.
    I have downloaded DOE document on this and put in your mail box.
  9. Both the plants and the waste disposal sites require high security for the entire time of operation.
    If you had done your homework, you could have a much stronger argument on nuclear stewardship.
  10. Government subsidies would be better spent on developing less costly methods of energy production.
    Let me be very specific about my confusion. Rightly or wrongly, the USA ha gotten out of the business of doing research on nuclear reactors. The last facilities in Idaho are being closed down now. So there is essentially no subsidy for developing nuclear power. AS these costs have decreased, the government has not spent more on other sources. If you want to get some idea of how little political support there is see the following web pages: www.eren.doe.gov for an overview and www.eren.doe.gov/ee.html for what the DOE is doing.
  11. Solar and wind plants have already proven successful and more cost efficient in limited trails.
  12. The United States should not commission any further nuclear plants and should divert the subsidy money, as it becomes available, to research into better production methods.
    The paper only makes sense if you are looking at the global situation and I encourage you to so broaden your paper. But in that context you have to explain why your arguments are not so persuasive abroad. Your central thesis seems to be that rational arguments are involved. The contrast between US and elsewhere may persuade you that political arguments are strongly involved. While I would not for one second defend the AEC/ERDA/DOE political handling of nuclear power, the arguments against share a lot of the intellectual content with EMF worriers. Your article has to face that.

Final sentence outline

Revised Title: The Future of Nuclear Power Policy

ABSTRACT: Sound decisions on nuclear policy require an understanding of the physical principles governing their operation, and realistic evaluations of the risks they pose. Contrary to popular belief, nuclear power reactors cannot harbor a nuclear explosion. Since both reasonable and unreasonable fears exist about the safety of reactors and of the potential dangers caused by accidents, it is useful to consider the two most serious nuclear power accidents to date, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Modern plant designs make such accidents unlikely to occur again. The Chernobyl plant actually had ties to nuclear weapon production, which is a fundamental concern with nuclear power, as is the disposal of nuclear wastes. Both of these issues will be discussed in the context of fuel recycling. From this it will be clear that nuclear power plants are safe enough for commercial use should stay in operation as means of reducing bomb grade materials.
  1. By utilizing developed, but unimplemented technology, and by educating the general public about the realities of nuclear power, the United States can lead the way to cleaner power while, at the same time, constructively using much of what is now deemed nuclear waste
  2. The fuel in a nuclear reactor does not contain enough fissionable uranium to explode.
  3. The potential dangers of a meltdown, while unpleasant, are not as severe as those of a nuclear explosion.
  4. A realistic and productive review of nuclear power must, however, balance the potential dangers against the likelihood of occurrence. [in particular the serious release of radiation]
  5. In contrast to these unlikely dangers, nuclear release fewer pollutants and so have less impact on general health and the environment.
  6. The Three Mile Island and Chernobyl incidents illustrate the what problems must be resolved for nuclear power to continue to be used. [My sentence, not the authors.]
  7. Despite the impression that the people of Middletown, PA were irrevocably damaged by the radiation released at Three Mile Island, the exposure was small compared to the exposure from natural radiation.
  8. The 1986 explosion and fire at Chernobyl in the then-Soviet Union was much worse than the Three Mile Island accident, but could not occur in a United States reactor.
  9. While the core did not explode, as it cannot, the heat produced was sufficient to ignite surrounding materials.
  10. It is important to recognize, however, the gross incompetence required for this disaster to occur.
  11. Even more importantly, reactors in the United States do not have the design flaws inherent in the Chernobyl design.
  12. Plants, including Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, had sensible regulations to prevent such disasters; the problem was that the procedures were broken. [better word than `broken' is `ignored.']
  13. ... re-processing of spent fuel significantly reduces the nuclear waste problem, and does not contribute to, and may even work against, nuclear proliferation.
  14. Much of the dangerous, long-lived nuclear waste that the country is now scrambling to store are not actually wastes, but fuels that we are choosing not to utilize.
  15. The United States does not recycle fuel because of misconceived concerns about contributing to nuclear proliferation.
  16. While not contributing to nuclear proliferation, reactors designed to burn reprocessed fuel could be used to burn the surplus of weapons grade plutonium.

CONCLUSIONS

  1. While nuclear power production does require careful safety measures, it is a viable technology.
  2. Although there have been two notable accidents, the Three Mile Island incident was not as damaging as is generally believed, and the Chernobyl accident was caused by deliberate incompetence.
  3. Finally, the United States should reprocess spent fuel both to conserve resources and to lighten the nuclear waste burden.

Your comments and suggestions are appreciated.
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Edited by: wilkins@mps.ohio-state.edu [August 1997]
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