Sunday, March 31, 2013

Pope Francis and Nuclear Power

Before his election, Pope Francis had an interesting vocation for a Jesuit. In many respects his life style is closer to a Franciscan monk than a Jesuit. Franciscans are noted for their simple lifestyles and for their commitment to the poor while Jesuits are more committed to education and often hobnobbed with members of the elite. The nature of the Franciscan vocation is such that a Franciscan could loose sight of an important issue with respect  to the poor. That is, the ultimate service to the poor is to provide the poor with the means by which they can exit poverty. In this regard, the Jesuit vocation has contributed more to transforming the lives of the poor than the Franciscan vocation.

The Roman Catholic church is committed to the education of the children of its' members as well as the children of the poor. In this respect, the Roman Catholic church provides a great service to the poor because it provides a path out of poverty. I know this from personal experience because a friend of mine Kim B. came from a poor inner city family and was educated in Catholic schools and at a Catholic University. She has obtained middle class status as have some of her brothers and sisters. This is quite admirable and a pope who has dedicated his life to the well being of the poor and has a strong identification with the poor and is also a Jesuit is quite likely to continue the Churches' path to end poverty through education. As far as I know, Pope Francis has taken no stand on nuclear power, but he should, given the contribution nuclear power could make to improving the lot of the poor.

India and China have found that the use of nuclear power is consistent with improving the lives of their poor. Many critics of nuclear power complain that nuclear power is too expensive and thus would be removed from the grasp of the poor. In fact, both India and China have demonstrated that nuclear power can produce electricity at a cost that will bring it to the poor. American nuclear power is far more expensive than Indian and Chinese nuclear power for a variety of reasons, but the cost of nuclear power can be reduced quite substantially granted current technology and even more if generation four technology is introduced.

Much of the cost of nuclear power plants is due to federal regulations and safety requirements that are growing increasingly unnecessary. Advances in nuclear generation three plus safety technology makes some federal requirements unnecessary and some generation four technologies, including pebble bed reactors and molten salt reactors, make most current safety regulations unnecessary especially if reactors are buried underground. This in turn should make nuclear power costs substantially lower, placing nuclear generated electricity into the lives of the world's poor at very modest costs. This cannot be said with absolute certainty, but the amount of certainty we have is enough to make generation four reactor technology exploration a very worthwhile endeavor.

If our expectations on the cost lowering capacity of Molten Salt Reactors is fulfilled, then the world's poor stand to benefit. The Catholic Church should look at the relationship between the needs of the poor, including the need to leave poverty, in the context of the potential of nuclear power to fulfill those needs. Given Pope Francis' commitment to the well being of the poor and his presumed commitment as a Jesuit to their education, the increase and spread of Post Carbon energy should be part of the Church's agenda.


Jack C-J said...

you ought to ask the poor fisherfolk and farmers of southern Tamil Nadu nr. Koodankulam how they feel that old rickety "new" nuke will impact their livelihoods.... They are mostly Catholic, for what it's worth to you....

Charles Barton said...

Jack, I have a friend who lives in Tamil Nadu. She complains of constant power shutdowns. Tamil Nadu does have at least one large wind farm and very little nuclear generated electricity. In India new construction almost always is going to step on somebodies' foot, but a modern industrial society is impossible without electricity. Electricity which is fundamentally unreliable cannot serve as the energy basis for an industrial society. Opposition to nuclear power in India is similar to opposition to nuclear power in the United States. Both arise out of ignorance. Opponents are poorly informed.

Caroline Kramer said...

This is just plain evil and irresponsible. Nuclear reactors are not safe. Watch "The Atomic States of America." Get the facts. Nuclear reactors $18 billion. There are cancer clusters near everyone. When there are leaks the cost of fixing them way out weighs the output. The Vatican can move itself next to a nuclear reactor permanently.

This is such irresponsible propaganda.

David Suzuki says they are not safe. Here is a partial quote: "Nuclear technology can provide energy without the air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions produced by fossil fuels. The largest and currently unresolved environmental problem concerns nuclear waste. As of 2012, Canada had over 56,000 tons of highly radioactive nuclear waste and nowhere to put it. With a radioactive half-life of 25,000 years, nuclear waste remains dangerous for 250,000 years, posing huge costs and risks for future generations."

"Power plants can also leak hazardous materials. For example, Pickering reactor #4 had a heavy water leak in April 1996 that released radioactive tritium into Lake Ontario, contaminating drinking water supplies."

When they dump the waste, it gets in the ground water. I grew up in upstate NY and everywhere it was dumped there are cancer clusters.

They have so much waste here in the US that they don't know where to put it. How about the Vatican takes it? We can ship it there.

Jesus is saying: "Shame on you."

Gary Mensurati said...

Sir, to compare nuclear power with helping the poor is, at the very least irresponsible, and at the other end of the spectrum a very uninformed statement. This shows ones lack of knowing the facts on radiation exposure, waste storage, and waste disposal of high level nuclear waste, which by far is the most dangerous substance on the planet. You need to educate yourself before making such blasomous statements, sir!! God Bless.

Charles Barton said...

Gary see my October 31 post in responce to your comment, Your comment suggests that you are the person who needs to learn more. You have systematically ignored everything I have written demonstrating the scientific support for nuclear safety claims since December 2007. You ignore the scientific research that lrests at the base of my argument. You seem to be ignorant of the findings of science about nuclear safety.

Gary Mensurati said...

Good morning Mr. Barton, thank you for responding to my comment. My concerns are based on independent studies from men of unquestionable knowledge and integrity in the negative effects nuclear power. Dr. John Gofman,MD.PhD,professer emeritus molecular/cell biology,over 100 peer reviewed journals in the fields nuclear/physical chemistry,co discovered uranium/232/233, proved the slow/fast neutron reaction fission ability of uranium 233, director Lawrence Livermore biomedical, well you get my point!Dr. Gofman ROCKS !!Sir, I suggest you do your research, as your fallacy of the safety of nuclear power is misguided at best, and ignorance at worst. Are you, Mr. Barton, implying Dr. Gofman, a man who kept company with Oppenheimer,among other notables, is wrong in his Theseus in the danger of exposure to low doses of ionizing radiation from the nuclear power plants, and his warnings of the handling, containment, transportation, storage, of nuclear waste! Sir, Sl1, three mile island,chernoble, Fukushima, 104 reactors holding 20-40years of highly radioactive waste, WIPP facility disaster,tritium tainted water Indian point,u of chicago testing 80x legal limit uranium tainted water Midwest,energy solutions nuke waste pit in Utah, St.Louis, the list goes on and on. No logical person with any regards for the future of their children, children's children, would leave such a legacy of suffering and medical cancers induced by the fraud of ( clean ) nuclear power! Best Regards

Charles Barton said...

Gary, my background and the sources of my views , my background, and who and what I know or have known. Goffman was not the only nuclear safety expert. I could play the name dropping game if I chose. That would be a pointless game. Goffman had rather extreme views, and the history of nuclear power outside the former Soviet Union is one of great safety acomplishments. It is appropriate that tonight children dress up in as frightening creatures ands try to firghten people. You seem to think that if you drage out your John Goffmaqn costum, I will be properly frightened of the big bad reactors. I am not nearly as ignorant as you take me to be. I will address some of your assurtions next weel.


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