Nuclear Power: Our First Major Project
In October 2008, the Uranium Development Partnership committee was formed by the government of Saskatchewan. We noted that the mandate of the committee was to recommend the best ways for Saskatchewan to enjoy prosperity by developing nuclear industries. We also noted that the committee seemed to be filled primarily with industry representatives. These were not necessarily people we would expect to keep Saskatchewan’s best interest at heart.
We decided to conduct our own investigations into the feasibility of expanding the nuclear industries of Saskatchewan. This was an entirely volunteer effort, usually conducted on weekends and during lulls in semesters. Most of us were still working on finishing our respective degrees. The result was our critique of the UDP report.
Arguments Polarized Too Far
In our studies, we found that many of the arguments both for and against nuclear power were in the range of dubious to outright myth. In hindsight we realize this is an understandable outcome, with nuclear power being such an important, complex and emotionally charged issue.
Most people find arguments agreeing with their biases to be very convincing. This is known as the confirmation bias. Statements are thus not analyzed for their correctness. They are instead used as weapons to keep people convinced or confused. In areas as complex as nuclear physics and engineering, the layperson has few methods to ascertain the truth of a statement. Throw economics into the mix and the task of understanding what is actually going on becomes incredibly difficult.
Break The Problem Up
Our solution to this issue was to start with facts that are verifiable, and work from there. We broke the arguments down into smaller pieces and began to analyze each one. We ended up with dozens of fundamental claims that people have made about the nuclear industry. Many are actually true. The problem is that most of these are in some way misinterpreted when they are presented as high-level arguments for or against nuclear power. Again, this is understandable to some extent because of the complexity of the issue we are dealing with.
Our Project: Nuclear Myth and Fact
We are now beginning to publish our work on this subject. On August 31st, 2010 the first post on the subject of why nuclear plants need backup power was publicized. Many more are in the process of being written, so stay tuned.
Update: Additional posts have been added on the subjects of: