Ask HN: What books should I read to understand nuclear power?

14 points by _trackno5 16 days ago

I want to get better understanding of what nuclear power plants entail and how modern ones work. In particular I want to learn about modular nuclear plants that seem to be coming along now.

I see a lot of environmentalists shun nuclear as some kind of dirty energy source, but that’s not my understanding of it. I want to learn more about this so I can have stronger arguments in these discussions

Schroedingersat 15 days ago

My approach was to read journal articles and news related to each claim as I saw it. Always look at the other hand (the thing the person talking is directing attention away from). A sceptical look a anti-renewable propaganda will probably tell you more about the down sides of nuclear, and a sceptical look at anti-nuclear propoganda will likely teach you more about its upsides.

Read about specific details as you find them. Assume anything coming from Wise or Greenpeace or similar is incredibly idealogically loaded, designed to mislead, and somewhat unreliable, but mostly grounded in truth somewhere. Similarly assume anything coming from world nuclear or similar is technically true given very specific assumptions, but designed to mislead. Be very clear about the distinction between fissile material and fertile material and how much there is of each.

Look at the history of failure and cost overruns of every breeder program that has been tried, and keep in kind that none of them have ever attempted the hard part at commercial scale (separation and reloading).

If you want to know why it is dirty, read about La Hague (and how much radiation it emits, the chemicals used, and how their suppression tactics sound exactly like the tobacco industry), and Inkai, and Rossing, and Serpent River, and Kadapa. Look at the ridiculous arguments for why Ranger isn't responsible for cancer and birth defects in Kakadu and compare the rhetoric around ISL to the gaslighting from fossil fuel and tabacco.

If you want an assessment of how much molten salt systems might cost in reality, look at concentrating solar systems like NOOR 1 and subtract the cost of heliostats. Then keep in mind that's the simple part, the salts are far cooler and less corrosive, and it doesn't matter nearly as much if it leaks.