Thinking on Talks (parts I & II)

David Cantrell david at
Tue Dec 6 15:11:16 GMT 2005

On Tue, Dec 06, 2005 at 02:50:09PM +0000, Peter wrote:
> Struan Donald <lpm at> wrote:
> > I imagine if you ask anyone under the age of 25 if they're heard of
> > Windscale you'll get a blank look. No stigma there. Sellafield on
> > the other hand...
> It's also called Calder Hall.

No, it's not.  Calder Hall is the civilian power station in the middle
of the site.  I *think* that Windscale is the old (now decommissioned)
military bit of the site.  And that Sellafield is the whole lot.

> I'm not convinced that nuclear power plants are any more dangerous
> than coal-fired power plants. Coal is pretty radioactive: more energy
> could be obtained by fissioning the material in it than burning it.

But to get it into a usable state requires rather a lot of work.

But you're right, at least while they are in use, nuclear plants are
cleaner than fossil fuel plants.  I'm not sure whether that changes when
you take into account building the plants in the first place, mining the
fuel, purifying it, and so on, or whether it changes when you consider
decommissioning them afterwards - and that's also ignoring what you do
with the waste*.

Oh yeah - decommissioning.  Why do nuclear plants have such a short
life?  Coal plants can just go on working pretty much for ever - Lotts
Road being an excellent example.  But nuclear plants have a useful
working life of only two or three - four at the most - decades.  I just
can't understand why that is.  Obviously they need to be shut down for
maintenance every so often, but that applies to fossil fuel plants too.

* I'd be happy with just encasing the waste in glass** and burying it in
old mines.  Keep good records of where the damned stuff is, and either
leave it for ever or let our great-grandchildren deal with it.  They'll
probably turn it into a tourist attraction just like how tourists these
days go ooh! and aah! at old mills and railways.

** waterproof, almost entirely chemically inert.

David Cantrell | Reality Engineer, Ministry of Information

  Irregular English:
    you have anecdotes; they have data; I have proof

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