EDEB8 - Ultimate Online Debating
About Us   Debate    Judge   Forum

That we should we ban nuclear energy

0 points
4 points
adminadmin (PRO)
I must admit that I don't really have tons of time to debate this topic, but I'll do my best anyway. I thank my opponent for instigating and wish them the best of luck for the debate! I'm going to be running a case a bit different from my usual anti-nuclear one so it should be fun.

Defining the terms of this debate
For this resolution, I want to focus primarily on large-scale nuclear power generation, whereby a process of human-induced nuclear fission is used to produce heat, which is then converted into electricity using a turbine. There are other ways to use nuclear energy to produce electricity - the Sun is basically a giant nuclear reaction and it drives solar panels, for example, and nuclear heat decay is basically what drives geothermal plants - but I want to scope this debate to what most people conventionally understand as nuclear power plants only. Basically, this:

Why this debate is important
I also want to address this issue right at the outset because it matters, even though I imagine my opponent will agree with me entirely. I take this debate on a day after numerous young people around the world went protesting for a greener climate. We know that energy generation has been a big contributor of climate change, and many countries are actively looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Nuclear energy presents one such option. Wind, hydro and ocean are the only alternatives with comparable or lower emissions - much of the emissions coming from the actual construction and dismantling of the plant. Additionally, next-generation nuclear designs are now safer and better able to scale to meet energy demands compared to the more primitive designs used in the past (although no plant, as I'll demonstrate later, can ever be 100% safe). I believe there is a strong interest in nuclear, coupled with a strong lobby from nuclear power companies in countries such as the United States. Therefore it is critical that policymakers and their constituents do not make uninformed choices.

To implement this resolution would require an international approach, likely by treaty. Existing plants would continue to run to the end of their current life-cycle. Construction on new plants would cease and the resources recycled appropriately. Management of existing nuclear sites would continue as per normal. Where other treaties exist to provide nuclear aid, these would be replaced with providing aid for other renewable sources of energy, depending on the circumstances of nations party to those treaties. Finally, heavy sanctions would be imposed by all nations to the treaty on any nation that allows the construction of any power plant meeting the conditions described above.

Wait ... does that mean nuclear is non-renewable?
Yes. Almost all reactors around the world eat up uranium fresh from the mine. It's not exactly the most abundant mineral in the world and we're running out. In fact, at present, we're going to be all out of uranium in just about 70 years unless we find some more and build more giant uranium mines in somebody's backyard. It's likely that we will (at least the way we're going currently), but it's still far from a sustainable solution. The reactors that are being built now are designed to last a smaller amount of time than the wind, hydro and solar farms being built now, simply because the designers know there won't be fuel to power them. Hydro plants are a good counter-example because they were one of the first types of generation to be invented - and many hydro plants from the very first generation are still in operation today. The same cannot be said for nuclear. Even if nuclear lasts for another 200 years, it is not sustainable.

You may have heard that nuclear waste can be reprocessed. This is technically correct, but is impossible with most reactors today. So-called breeder reactors, which can produce new material to use in reactors, were a popular trend in the 60s, but then some fat cat realised it was cheaper to build reactors that produced almost no waste that could be reprocessed (this, by the way, is mostly a byword for plutonium, which I'll talk more about soon). As a result there are currently a large number of vast nuclear waste stocks sitting around in containment facilities that will never be able to be used again, and which are doing nothing except poisoning the earth. Thank the need for electricity to not cost a fortune for that. Currently there are only two such reactors, both in Russia. Even nuclear powers lobbies have routinely said renewable nuclear power is not commercially viable, and the promises of such reactors unfulfilled. As a result, virtually no country today is investing in the technology, despite over a hundred billion dollars being sunk into research. And even these reactors still produce a significant amount of nuclear waste, representing a significant additional sunk cost.

Virtually all nuclear power generation generates Plutonium
Perhaps the most concerning of these by-products is plutonium, which is not only highly poisonous, but highly useful to the military because it can do this:

I mean, uhm ... sorry, it's actually way worse than that. More like this:

I'm simplifying a little because there's several types of Plutonium, but the process does produce all types, and the others can be fairly easily converted to the dangerous type using a simple process called enrichment. Other byproducts are similarly useful in producing bombs.

Who cares if a couple of world leaders get nuclear weapons?
We know for a fact that numerous countries have gained access to nuclear weapons using this method. This includes nations such as North Korea and Israel. In fact, there are few nuclear warheads today that were not once part of a benign nuclear power plant. And even if this could be controlled safely by governments, non-state actors like terrorist organisations will soon have nuclear capabilities as well if nuclear power were to continue to proliferate. While nuclear power will be short-lived, this danger will not. The materials being created will be good for using in nuclear weapons for many, many generations to come. If climate change is cause for alarm, we need only remember the alarm from a few decades ago of the cold war. How many times did humanity narrowly avoid near-certain self-destruction? This will not cease as long as there are many nuclear weapons.

Nuclear disarmament is impossible with nuclear power
It makes no sense to tell nations to cease production on nuclear weapons and simultaneously encourage them to produce all the required materials for it. This has, in fact, been the US foreign policy ever since the cold war stopped, which backfired pretty bad when suddenly Iran wanted to develop nuclear power and everyone freaked out.

As long as nuclear power is around, nuclear weapons will be around. Any nation with spent nuclear fuel sitting around is, practically by definition, nuclear capable. Making a bomb out of such materials is much, much easier than building a safe nuclear power plant in the first place. It took North Korea a couple of years to figure out how to add one of those to a warhead just recently. And nuclear weapons are DEVASTATING. Most developed and many undeveloped nations already have missiles ready that could in theory be used to carry such weapons.

Even if anyone legitimately believes that any nation with nuclear power today is safe, they must also consider that nuclear power is expanding, and that even in countries that are safe now, bad leaders may come along later. This is why so many Americans were upset that Trump has access to the nuclear launch codes. And as I mentioned earlier, even if nations don't make lots of nuclear weapons, terrorists and other groups will jump at the chance.

Bottom line: Nuclear Energy is unsafe and not environmentally friendly
I haven't even mentioned the possibility of a nuclear meltdown yet. That's because modern reactor designs make this very unlikely in most circumstances. A far greater threat is posed by the potential for nuclear power to proliferate nuclear weapons. There remains with any type of power the potential for catastrophe. For example, much like nuclear, hydro accidents are rare but devastating when they happen. However, the only other type of power generation that produces a byproduct incredibly toxic to human life is burning fossil fuels. If we switched from mostly coal to mostly uranium, all we'd be doing is changing from directly poisoning the air to directly poisoning the earth. While advanced spent fuel dumping grounds are unlikely to leak anytime soon, it's no better than carbon-capture technologies currently being used on virtually all modern coal plants. In short, uranium isn't really a better solution.

Why it needs to be everybody
You might wonder, well, what if my nation is not crazy? Why should we have to switch to renewables? First, because that's a double standard. It is immoral to impose on others a restriction which you would not ordinarily impose on yourself. Second, no country is safe from despotism in the long run. Third, the existence of nuclear power in some countries incentivises underground networks to form to trade nuclear secrets. This increases the likelihood that nuclear power spreads in secret and becomes weaponised. Fourth, most nuclear countries are wealthy enough to not really require nuclear power anyway. I wish to elaborate on this point below.

The alternative
While not committing to a specific counter-model in this debate, I briefly want to mention what a better source of power would look like.

Historically the main concern with renewables has been their reliability and scalability. Wind farms and solar panels struggle when it is not windy or when it's cloudy. A hydro dam may become dry. This is why a combination of renewables is necessary. Modern renewables have, in recent times, become much less expensive and capable of producing far more energy than the network needs at any given time. There have been plenty of recent advances in capturing and releasing this energy in a controlled way, including Tesla's battery farm in Australia, which routinely does a number of the nuclear plants in Australia. Furthermore, with less money and corporate interests backing unsafe, cheap short-term options, we'd better be able to invest into research to improve renewables further, and invest into new renewable energy sources that lack this problem entirely, such as tidal power. In Europe, there have been several occasions where the large supply of electricity thanks to cheap-to-run renewables has actually caused the price of electricity to become negative for a while! This is a better system because less terrorism, less bombs, less danger, more happy people, and the Earth won't have such a massive catastrophe because we'd be better helping the climate. And that, ultimately, is what this debate is all about.

The resolution is affirmed.

Return To Top | Posted:
2019-03-15 18:25:16
| Speak Round
AcerAcer (CON)
First and foremost, I would like to thank my opponent for taking time out of their schedule to debate, and I wish them the best of luck in the following rounds.  I would also like to apologize pushing this round back as far as I did, as while I love everything nuclear, this debate required an large amount of research and energy, and I thank my opponent for their patience.

I negate the resolution: That we should ban nuclear energy

I provide the following definitions for today's round:
nuclear reactor: any of a class of devices that can initiate and control a self-sustaining series of nuclear fissions¹
ban: to prohibit especially by legal means²

When I refer to my opponent's "points", I'm going to be referring to his bolded sections.

I also agree with why this debate is important.  In a day and age where we're making crucial decisions that will not only impact the future of humankind, but the entire Earth, we have an obligation to spread information that will positively impact the world that we live in today, and the world that we create tomorrow.

In today's debate, instead of doing my normal constructive, I find it much more effective to go down my opponent's flow and rebut their points.  With that being said, let's begin.

Opponent's Point 1: Nuclear energy is non-renewable

My opponent has stated that nuclear energy is a non-renewable resource, and yes, this is technically correct.  Due to lack of governmental and commercial backing of more sustainable nuclear energy, we don't have a sustainable way to recycle nuclear waste.  And because it's not a renewable resource, we should ban it, because we'll eventually run out of it, right?  Well, yes, but that's not the inherent fault of nuclear energy, but the fault of those unwilling to invest in "cleaner" nuclear energy.  The lack of subsidization on the government's part is a result of the fact that when superpowers were researching nuclear energy, it was mostly for research on weaponization.   This is the main reason why more efficient, safe, and clean solution (such as SMR's³ and Thorium breeder reactors) need to be established and researched to achieve a greener future.

Opponent's Point 2, 3, 4, and 5(Partly): Nuclear energy produces weaponizable byproducts

This, to some extent is false, because not all kinds of nuclear energy produce Pu²³⁹.  However, much of our fuel that's used in today's nuclear reactors use U²³⁵, which turn into Pu²³⁹, which is both extremely toxic and very easily weaponizable.  However, once again, U²³⁵ isn't the only option for nuclear power.  For example, in recent years, Thorium has begun to gain interest because of its preferability to uranium.  

So, does that mean that you can't make a bomb out of Thorium?

Well, not necessarily.  The one hypothetical proliferation concern with Thorium fuel, that being that Protactinium can be chemically separated shortly after it is produced and removed from the neutron flux (the path to U²³³is Th-232 -> Th²³³ -> Pa²³³ -> U²³³). Then, it will decay directly to pure U²³³. By this challenging route, one could obtain weapons material. But Pa²³³ has a 27 day half-life, so once the waste is safe for a few times, weapons are out of the question.  

Besides avoiding plutonium, Thorium has additional self-protection from the hard gamma rays emitted due to U²³² as discussed above. This makes stealing Thorium based fuels more challenging. Also, the heat from these gammas makes weapon fabrication difficult, as it is hard to keep the weapon pit from melting due to its own heat. This means that the contaminants could be chemically separated and the material would be much easier to work with. U²³² has a 70 year half-life so it takes a long time for these gammas to come back.

The greater safety of these Thorium would mean that we could put more trust in nations using nuclear energy.  While I personally believe that common reactors, such as U-Pu water/gas/graphite reactors pose a much more significant risk of countries extracting and abusing the fissionable products of those reactions.  However, as previously explained, other types of nuclear energy could be a much safer and cleaner option, while also ensuring that other nations don't misuse their resources.

Opponent's Point 5: Nuclear energy is bad for the environment

This is an incredibly common misconception about nuclear energy.  Many people's first assumption about nuclear energy is that because of incidents like the 1986 Chernobyl accident and Fukushima.  However, in reality, the actual likelihood of nuclear meltdown and actual fatalities due to accidents such as these are incredibly low, simply because for updated Gen III and Gen II reactors to fail and actually cause harm, there have to be extraordinary circumstances leading up to the error that caused it.  Even then, when actually looking at the numbers, the actual total fatalities caused by nuclear incidents comes out to around 110-130(this is including deaths not caused by actual failures, but also other causes, like failure to follow safety protocol)¹⁰.  As for the idle radiation produced by liquids, gasses, and the idle radiation of the reactors, people living within a 50 mile radius receive about 0.001 millirems of radiation per year¹¹.  To put this number in perspective, the average person receives 620 millirems of radiation per year¹², showing that the actual radiation from the reactors themselves pose no active threat to the environment's well being.

Opponent's Final Point: Alternative Energy

In my opponent's final point, he discusses the necessity of the integration of a diverse network of alternative energy sources.  I completely agree that we should be investing, on both a corporate, private, and governmental level, in ways to create more sustainable and clean energy sources.  However, in this point, he points out the current lack of reliability and scaling due to a lack of investment, and the same is true for nuclear energy.  With increased interest, nuclear energy has the possibility to creating a safer and greener tomorrow, accompanied with other forms of clean energy. 

For the reasons above, and to achieve a brighter future, I urge a con ballot in today's debate.

Return To Top | Posted:
2019-03-18 13:46:08
| Speak Round
adminadmin (PRO)
Right off the bat, I want to say how refreshing it is to have a debate where my opponent and I have so much common ground! Usually debates are totally adversarial, and this feels nice by contrast! Yay!

Things we agree on
I pretty much called it when I mentioned the main argument for nuclear power is its perceived "cleanliness". Therefore I think we both agree that environmental safety in power generation is a top principle for this debate.

We also both agree nuclear power is generally extremely safe. I don't really want a debate about meltdowns because it's super predictable, super rare, and not a particularly unique problem in the big scheme of things. This is not to say there are no safety concerns whatsoever - and of course, the fallout if there was a major malfunction could potentially be terrible, so it's still important to adhere to best safety practice - but frankly similar concerns exist with many other forms of power, as I mentioned last round.

We both agree that bombs are bad and nuclear energy can be a vehicle for the production of some terrible bombs. We also agree that nuclear waste is a no-good byproduct of nuclear power generation. We also agree none of these are problems with renewable energy.

Finally, we both agree alternative options are readily available. Implicitly con seems willing to accept that if nuclear is somehow more harmful than these alternatives, then the resolution should be allowed to stand. I'll even go one further and argue for banning fossil fuel based energy by the same logic, but let's save that debate for another day.

My opponent contests that with more research, better reactors may appear. My model doesn't prevent nuclear research, only mass power generation. If better options become available, future governments could of course consider allowing those alternatives. Thorium, while highly touted by my opponent, is not one of those alternatives currently.

There are no thorium reactors running today, despite many decades of research and again, like breeder reactors, a lot of money spent on their development. Thorium can run out too. It's much more abundant on Earth than uranium, but much of it is just chilling in trace amounts in random soil around the world. It's actually quite hard to extract in mass quantities unless there is some higher concentration of it in one spot. For some reason Indian beaches qualify, so I guess at least those will change from being mostly trash heaps to being mostly thorium mines. There's a handful of other places too. But like uranium, it's not a renewable resource. Eventually it will run out (a recent journal article I read, but can't link because of paywalls, put it at about 400 years, but this seems high because it assumes all the thinly-spread Thorium minerals will be mined ie sprawling open-pit mines opening up all over the place) and wreck the planet unless a thorium breeder is built, which it won't be, because it's too expensive. In fact thorium breeders are much more expensive than uranium ones, because the thorium breeding process is much slower and making rods out of the fuel more complicated / expensive.

Top scientists agree thorium has no benefit on conventional reactors for avoiding proliferation. Broadly, it's because the chemical process con outlined isn't really a "challenging route" - in fact it's required to make the reactor work. If not used for nuclear weapons, the byproducts of this process become nuclear wastes that sit around in a concrete bunker. Avoiding it getting into the hands of bad actors is almost as difficult as trying to safely manage the process itself, because the irradiation process is so dangerous anyway. So while my opponent is correct that the heat makes weapon fabrication difficult, it also makes nuclear fuel fabrication difficult. The only way to avoid being able to turn it into a weapon is to also be unable to use it for power. This hardly means we're able to trust nations using this technology. With these problems already identified long before thorium is mainstream, I have few doubts other problems will arise. To drive home the point, numerous countries have tried building a thorium reactor. Every single one is late and over budget. All these nations have been praying that Thorium is a miracle, and that they can make all these breeder reactors to make it work. India has been trying to do so for over 40 years. Optimistically they hope to have their first plant done next year, and they're pretty much the undisputed world leaders in thorium energy. This is after twice having to push back the completion date.

Thorium is hard to get, hard to use, helps spread bombs, produces toxic waste, is much slower and more expensive, and is non-renewable. This, everybody, is what my opponent thinks will win him the debate.

The resolution is affirmed.

Return To Top | Posted:
2019-03-22 21:54:41
| Speak Round
AcerAcer (CON)
First of all, I'd like to thank my opponent for his rebuttal, and apologize for the weird font in my constructive (I screwed around with the settings too much).  I'd also like to like to express my happiness that my opponent and I share a similar value, as I find value debates very tedious, and this really is a breath of fresh air.

To preface this, I would like to say that I won't be addressing the issues that me and my opponent agree on, such as the general safety of nuclear energy, as these points pretty much flow to my side since my opponent agree with them.  However, there are a few voting issues brought up in my opponent's rebuttal that I will be going over in this post.  I would also like to touch on when my opponent said, "Implicitly con seems willing to accept that if nuclear is somehow more harmful than these alternatives, then the resolution should be allowed to stand."  My opponent must have misinterpreted my final point in Round 1, where I argued for his side, saying that we can't put all of our eggs in one basket when it comes to energy production.  Diversification is key, and nuclear energy can be a part of a greener future.

Opponent's Point 1: Thorium Today
My opponent has talked about the lack of thorium reactors that are actually working today.  In my opponent's model of large-scale nuclear power, this is technically true.  However, since late 2017, a branch of the NRG has been testing a small scale MSR with good success so far, showing progress for the implementation of commercial 4th Gen Thorium reactors¹.  We do know Thorium reactors work from American experiments in 60's and 70's; however, these projects were later completely abandoned, because while we did have some success in generating power, we simply didn't have as many pieces of advanced nuclear technology that allow Thorium to work to its full potential.

Opponent's Point 2: Thorium/Nuclear Longevity
My opponent, similar to his first speech, talked about how Thorium is a non-renewable resource, and that at current estimates, it could only last us 400 years.  However, what my opponent has failed to mention is that these are estimates with current technology.  To illustrate my point, take a look at this graph, created by the Nuclear Energy Association.

My opponent's estimates come from the middle bar, encompassing LWRs and FNRs.  However, with the new appeal for breeder reactor chain recycling, we could achieve much higher longevity and sustainability for our nuclear resources, without having to open up mines in people's backyards, and provide power for literal hundreds of generations to come² (about 600-700 generations if you crunch some numbers).  If my opponent could please cite a card when they say that a thorium reactor won't be built because it's "too expensive", I would greatly appreciate it.

Opponent's Point 3: Thorium and Safety
My opponent has also made claims saying that creating a weapon out of thorium is much easier that most people conceptualize.  Since my opponent's point consists of many brief examples that support his point, I'll be dividing this into subpoints.

Subpoint A) Thorium is not Proliferation Resistant
In this subpoint, my opponent says that scientists agree that Thorium is not a proliferation-resistant form of nuclear energy.  To some extent, this is correct, and it is possible to make nuclear weapons with U-233; however, it's so difficult and impractical, it wouldn't make any sense.  If someone happened to obtain some used fuel, they could potentially separate out the U-233 and use it to make weapons, although it would require a great level of engineering. Also, since U-233 is very much more radioactive than U-235 or Pu-239, it requires handling with remote manipulators. Any organization that had the ability to separate U-233, engineer the appropriate modified bomb design, then process and machine the U-233 using only remote manipulation is extremely likely to have a sufficient level of technology and industry to build reactors or separators on their own (meaning, able to build nuclear weapons independent of having access to used Thorium fuel).  With Thorium, it isn't a question of "Can you build a bomb out of Thorium?", but rather, "Why would anyone want to make a bomb out of Thorium?"

Subpoint B) Dirty Bombs
My opponent has mentioned that even if you didn't create an actual nuclear weapon, you could produce a different kind of weapon: a dirty bomb.  Dirty bombs are a radiological WMD that combine radioactive materials and explosives (such as dynamite) to spread radioactive material over an area.  This point, however, doesn't actually pertain to Thorium energy at all.  The banning of nuclear energy doesn't mean that nations won't still have access to radioactive material.  If I truly had the time and resources, I could build a substantially dangerous DB with smoke detectors and a few sticks of dynamite.  Also, it's important to note that DBs are radiological weapons as opposed to nuclear weapons, making this point irrelevant to non-proliferation.

Opponent's Point 4: Timeliness and Budgeting
My opponent has said, "...numerous countries have tried building a thorium reactor. Every single one is late and over budget."  I can't really find any sources backing this point up, so if my opponent could please give specific examples, I would greatly appreciate that.  The future Thorium reactors that I viewed didn't say anything about actual budgeting or timing issues, so until my opponent provides specific evidence of every single Th reactor being late and over budget, this point can't flow through.


Unlike my opponent claims, Thorium is a wonderful, unexplored possibility that could bring about a new era of sustainable and safe nuclear technology.  For the greater good of the Earth, its inhabitants, and both of their futures, I urge a con ballot in this debate.

Return To Top | Posted:
2019-03-27 21:31:41
| Speak Round
adminadmin (PRO)
Nuclear power is already safe. I agree totally that Thorium holds promise. But it's not ready yet. It's not going to solve our problems now. If the technology is matured and works better than renewables, then that's when we might look at it. But we're nowhere near that stage. This isn't a new technology, but it's a technology that has failed to live up to all expectations for half a century. It hasn't provided some energy revolution. The reason we have all-time records of low power costs today in many countries is because of renewables.

To sum up my case, I have three main points for judges to consider.

Mixed Energy
If my opponent wants to run a mixed energy case in this debate, the onus is on my opponent to show why such a model is good. Simply stating that we can't put all of our eggs in one basket, though it's a good line, doesn't really prove anything. At this stage in the debate, con has failed to challenge the notion that an all-renewable power generation model would in any way be a bad thing. In fact, con has accepted the vast benefits of such a model. The onus is on my opponent, therefore, to show not just why nuclear can be part of a greener future, but why nuclear is necessary for a greener future, especially in light of the various harms I've brought up elsewhere in this debate. What I've shown is that where there are better alternatives available, it is in all of our interests to ban harmful alternatives for the common good. Both sides agree the planet is in danger, and therefore, we should ban alternatives that are more harmful to the planet and to people. As long as I can show that other forms of power are better than nuclear, I win this debate.

Moreover, I don't understand the analogy, because renewable energy generation models aren't just one type of generator. There's wind, solar, hydro, wave, bio, and numerous others being looked at right now. An all-renewable model is inherently a diversified model, except in those rare cases (usually very small countries) where having too many power plants would not make sense. If pro has a different understanding of what diversified power generation would look like, I'd suggest it is high time that my opponent explain this in his very last round.

I'd suggest to the judges that my opponent has not set up any viable counter-model, and that therefore we must reach a decision.

Do we want to go down the same disastrous path we're headed down at the moment? If so, vote con. That's literally what con has been defending to this point, alongside some vague hope the future will save us with fantastical technology.

Or do we want to make radical changes to protect the environment? If so, vote pro. I'm proposing a total ban on nuclear power. I think that sends a pretty clear message that we don't want dirty energy any more.

Remember that both sides in this debate agree that the environment is being damaged and that this is awful. Only one side in this debate has the answers to protect it. For all the reasons that I've talked about, nuclear power is not a part of my vision for energy generation - a vision of clean, renewable power for the future, where energy generation does not mean mutually assured destruction, but mutually enabled empowerment.

Can it work?
My opponent has proposed that Thorium based reactors could potentially be viable. I don't know. Maybe one day.

He is correct in saying that they have worked in lab experiments. I don't doubt the physics. What I doubt is that a Thorium reactor will ever have long term commercial viability. These reactors have taken much longer to build, and are much more expensive, than even first-generation uranium-based reactors were with the limited technology back then. And truth be told, we simply don't know what other dangers there might be when you scale up the production that much. We don't have the empirical data, because it's too hard to get. And none of those first-generation uranium based reactors were economically viable. How much worse, then, will be the Thorium reactors that people have literally been building for decades and have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into, with not a single watt generated to date? Nuclear power itself has only persisted because of long-standing subsidies by governments with a vested interest in producing elements for nuclear weapons. And while uranium-based nuclear is pretty efficient today, through many generations of iterative power station designs becoming slightly more efficient as the decades have passed on, this is only because of a huge cost to the environment from dangerous mining and (even worse) toxic waste.

Thorium still has some toxic waste. It still has ridiculously high costs to build and maintain compared with other forms of power. It can never generate electricity as cheaply as something like wind or tidal, because they're basically free of any fuel-related costs. The moon will continue to move around the Earth, and the wind will continue to blow, regardless of whether you pay it or not. Thorium, however, will not enrich itself. No reasonable investor would do it in the private sector, so why do we continue to prop up inferior forms of energy? This isn't a question of how we can make nuclear work for the modern economy, but rather, what forms of energy production already work for the modern economy. We can't ignore people and the planet any longer. More seriously, we can't afford to put our stocks in an unproven form of energy that will take us generations to build, at a huge expense to taxpayers, many of whom are struggling to get by day to day. How do you expect a reactor that takes 40 years to build, to ever turn a profit? Any income will just go into repaying the huge debts incurred in even constructing the thing. It might make sense if you have vast Thorium reserves just sitting around, and you've done several iterations of reactor designs, and you don't mind nuclear weapons or nuclear waste sitting in your back yard. That's what India is banking on at the moment. But this is a pretty unique situation, and it doesn't apply anywhere else in the world. Thorium is pretty much literally the element of broken dreams.

Pro wanted me to cite why a Thorium reactor won't be built owing to cost. I never said that. What I said was that the cost of building one alone makes running the plant uneconomical. I will say, however, that a Thorium reactor shouldn't be built. I'd stand by that statement if the only criteria was the cost of building a plant. It's approximately 100 times what a wind farm costs, and that's not taking into account the time factor / inflation, or other external issues like export restrictions on nuclear secrets. I'd take the wind farm any day. For comparison, it took India less than 20 years to build the entire Taj Mahal complex with primitive technology, and this thorium plan is still not completed after 40. I honestly can't think of any form of power generation that's more expensive to build than a Thorium reactor.

My opponent brings up again that future technology can make nuclear ok. As I mentioned in round 2, nothing in my model stops any nuclear research. If it is ok in future, then we can look into it. He even shows a pretty table from a nuclear lobby to illustrate the point. I too can do that. I implore everyone to behold my epic Microsoft Paint skills:

I'm also not going to back this graph up with any hard data, because frankly, the NEA (yet another nuclear lobby) doesn't have a crystal ball either, and therefore has no idea how efficient future technologies might really be. My chart is every bit as reliable as their table. We'll just have to wait for the future to come to see who was closer in their predictions. As with nuclear, renewable energy will get better as time goes on. Unlike nuclear, renewables are a much better option right now.

I want to extend the point about mining because my opponent downplays it. If we go on the basis of future technology, we could mine other worlds and wreck them instead. I mean, if humanity is truly greedy enough, we could destroy the Earth and settle elsewhere. The question is whether we should do these things. As I mentioned, Thorium is locked in ugly mines and requires complicated extraction processes. Uranium, by contrast, is now mostly either in the ocean, or in a few fairly well-explored reserves. Both of them have issues with extraction and scarcity. There's little inherent advantage to thorium in terms of longevity if we factor in this mystical "future technology" that can magically solve all our problems. In fact, by the same logic, coal is getting cleaner all the time right now. Should we just build lots of coal power plants so that the magic "future technology" can save us from global warming by cleaning all the emissions down the line? Can we even afford to wait that long?

I urge everyone to take a serious look at nuclear's track record. I'm not saying nuclear is the worst option at the moment - as I've admitted all this time, it's quite safe, it's got practically zero emissions, and frankly, it's humanity's second-best choice. I say we only marry the one that's the best, and don't take our chances on a relationship with somebody who keeps telling us they can change. In the time it has taken nuclear to mature - which was many decades after Eisenhower's famous "atoms for peace" talk in the 1950s (lol) - the world has seen nuclear disasters, nuclear proliferation, environmental destruction and wanton greed on unprecedented scales. Nuclear power has not only failed to prevent this, it has in many cases actively contributed to or caused it. Now, nuclear is desperate. Meanwhile, renewables outperform nuclear in basically everything. They produce double as much energy worldwide, at a much lower cost, with almost zero environmental impact. They're are super attractive by comparison, right? For more detail here's a good article from a much smarter person than me.

Public Safety
Pro has split this up into two ways you can make bombs. From a scientific point of view he's absolutely right that both are distinct. From the point of view of whoever is unfortunate enough to be blown up, however, I suspect it makes no difference at all. That's ultimately the most important stakeholder we should be talking about here - how do we stop people from getting access to materials for the creation of weapons with serious firepower. I would note that regardless of the mechanism, you can't easily lift a hydro dam or swing around a wind turbine to cause massive damage. Nuclear power is actually quite unique in that you need to actively guard it, and guard it's fuel, and guard its waste for thousands of years. And also you need to guard the guards! As I mentioned before, this is exactly how most countries with nuclear weapons today, developed them in the first place.

As I said in the last round, even in a Thorium reactor, making the Plutonium is not the issue. That's necessary. My opponent is right that it's difficult and impractical, and that's because Thorium reactors are difficult and impractical. However even if they weren't, that just means the necessary fuel for bombs was easier to obtain. And even if it wasn't, for some reason, then bear in mind that with fuel being cycled, terrorists, governments and other groups have literally hundreds of years to infiltrate one of these places. Even the most impractical plan will probably succeed with enough time, financing and thought. To use the Iran example I mentioned earlier, does anyone think Israel would be much happier if Iran had Thorium fuel, given that they believe Iran is actively trying to make a bomb right now? I don't think so.

In terms of why anyone would want to make one, I will refer judges to the cool pictures of explosions I posted in round 1. And as to why such organisations wouldn't build their own reactors, well, they probably would! This is why we should stop mining uranium / thorium and focus on perfectly good alternatives like clean, green, renewable forms of energy! :)

Nuclear power is not safe in the wrong hands.
Nuclear power cannot be both clean and cheap.
Nuclear power is a dying technology.

We can do better. All of us, we can do better. And that is why we cannot keep pinning our hopes for a greener planet on nuclear.

The resolution is affirmed.

Return To Top | Posted:
2019-03-31 21:00:25
| Speak Round
AcerAcer (CON)
Seeing as though I have about 2 minutes to post this, I'll make this quick.

Point 1: Mixed Energy
Renewable resources won't always generate energy as consistently.  While the wind will continue to blow, it won't always be blowing, and the Sun won't always be shining.  Renewable resources, by nature, are unreliable.  Nuclear energy, as long as it's maintained, produce power regardless of external conditions.  While my opponent has repeatedly claimed that I have only recognized the benefits of renewable energy, my opponent has still failed to mention one of it's con, reliability.  My opponent also points out that increasing nuclear energy is comparable to the"disastrous path" that we're headed down now.  If my opponent is referring to the world's heavy use of fossil fuels, I have repeatably shown how nuclear energy is nearly as safe and more reliable than my opponents focus on completely renewable energy.  As for my counter model, I've pretty clearly stated that greater, not complete, inclusion of greater Gen IV reactors is necessary with the removal of traditional fossil fuels.  Therefore, my opponents point should not flow through.

Point 2: Viability
If my judges look at any of my previous sources, they would see that we know that large scale thorium reactors work.  My opponent has repeatedly claimed that all of these IP Thorium reactors have been delayed by "decades", yet hasn't given a single example of any of these plants.  Thorium's short-term toxic waste is also comparable to the emissions given off when producing renewable energy.  My opponent touches on the non viability of Thorium in a commercial setting.  That's because cost to build is high right now.  Think about when computers were first being built, and their only being owned by the insanely rich.  Over time, as the tech was researched, any Joe Schmo with a little extra income could buy a computer.  Thorium itself is not expensive, the tech currently is, and that will change.

My opponent continues to mention the danger of Thorium in its weaponization.  The simple fact is, as I've proved in both previous rounds, making a Thorium bomb isn't just difficult, it's super impractical as well.  If a nation has the ability to successfully make a U-233 bomb out of decayed Thorium, they could much more easily just extract U/Pu from the ground and make a bomb out of that.  U-233 bombs suck when it comes to their yields, they suck. (Just look at the 2 U-233 tests done by the USA and Russia, which weren't pure U-233 bombs, and mostly made by accident).  I won't be covering dirty bombs again, and if you'd like to see that, visit back to Round 2.

Bottom Line: Nuclear energy is safe, efficient, and has the potential to much more greatly ease the transition out of fossil fuel. For these reasons, I urge a Con ballot in today's debate.

Return To Top | Posted:
2019-04-07 02:13:57
| Speak Round

View As PDF

Enjoyed this debate? Please share it!

You need to be logged in to be able to comment
Sorry for my final argument being so short and rushed, I had about 2 minutes because I hadn't checked the time left to post.
Posted 2019-04-07 02:14:35
The judging period on this debate is over

Previous Judgments

2019-04-12 10:34:45
dpowell3543Judge: dpowell3543    TOP JUDGE
Win awarded to: Acer
Wow! This was a fantastic debate. Both parties made VERY good points and both had very good rebuttals. Unfortunately, both also failed to provide any sources/ evidence to support their claims, so this debate came down to pretty much a theory. But I digress. Either way, it was very difficult for me to choose who to vote for, but in the end, my vote will go to Con. I'm voting for Con on the basis that Pro failed simply to prove how nuclear energy was having any sort of negative effect on the environment as well as failed to address Con's point of renewable energy being unreliable. It was still a great debate which I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

Both: Very good job guys, it was seriously a great read. What I want to say to both of you is try to post some sources or something. Anything to back up your points. I can see that you guys seemed to struggle with this debate on that for one reason or another, but anything can help.

admin: You did make some valid points, but you should probably show/ prove exactly how nuclear energy has negatively affected the environment. Yes, there are risks to the energy, but you didn't show what it was actively doing to the environment. Also, as I stated above in my explanation, you could have touched up on Con's points about how unreliable renewable energy can be. At least a little. Still did a good job though.

Acer: Maybe next time, discuss how the renewable energy plants/farms can also easily be used as weapons themselves for anyone who knows what they're doing. You could also point out that terrorists will still commit attacks regardless. They don't always blow stuff up. One more point you could make was that all the top scientist have discredited global warming, stating/proving that it's nothing more than a hoax. Either way, good job.
1 comment on this judgement
I think in terms of sources, I'm from a place where debates rarely feature any / are totally improvised, so when I'm low on time I fall back on that.

You're probably right nuclear proliferation became a more central part of my case. I think it's because con basically agreed modern reactors are damaging to the environment and focused instead on possible future reactor designs, so there was little use in my speculating on the point. Ultimately it's all speculation, whether his or mine or some scientist's from some random link. But I could have probably painted a more stark picture of what that environmental catastrophe would look like.

Thanks for the detailed judgment and feedback on both of my debates though! :)
Posted 2019-04-14 14:43:11

Rules of the debate

  • Text debate
  • Individual debate
  • 3 rounds
  • No length restrictions
  • No reply speeches
  • No cross-examination
  • Community Judging Standard (notes)
  • Forfeiting rounds means forfeiting the debate
  • Images allowed
  • HTML formatting allowed
  • Rated debate
  • Time to post: 5 days
  • Time to vote: 2 weeks
  • Time to prepare: None