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  1. You are doing great work there.

    What is particularly good is that you have facts at your fingertips to use in discussions.

  2. Thanks Rod, you do not disappoint. The Sovacool et al. rebuttal Commentary you link is pretty much fish in a barrel, save for two key points:
    1. Energy efficiency / reduced consumption is indeed the least cost route to lower emissions — at least for those who can afford to reduce energy consumption. Efficiency is always good, within bounds of reason.
    2. That “(n)ew reactors today never prevail in competitive power procurement processes anywhere in the world” may well be true. And therein lies the problem. If reliable energy alternatives aren’t cheaper than coal, coal it will be. Every single time.

    As we here are all aware, new nuclear construction is far from dead. But it does appear to proceed only in non-competitive markets where grid operators have some freedom to look ahead at cost savings far down the road, frequently 30+ years. An operating nuclear plant is in effect an investment in our children, and we’ve no reason to think our children will be any more appreciative of that investment, that gift, than we are to the energy bounties bequeathed by our parents unto us.

    Their point r.e. proliferation does have some merit, by my understanding India did indeed develop its nuclear weapons capability under guise of a poorly regulated civilian nuclear power program. It has been argued — not without some evidence — that Iran was at one time on track to do the same. But as you have observed, while India may have obtained plutonium from a modified heavy-water reactor, Pakistan in its reply did not — and Pakistani centrifuge technology is now a genie truly out of the bottle. Weapons proliferation may well be an ongoing problem requiring constant international vigilance. But stoppering an empty bottle isn’t going to solve it, while addressing the root causes for the perceived need for warfare of all types just might.

    The rest of that Sovacool appears to me to be totally at odds with real-world data. Continued conflation of unreliable with reliable energy, and vastly overstating the cost-effectiveness of intermittent generators in reducing total ghg emissions. In the real world wind+solar displace gas, not coal, lignite, or peat. And coal, lignite, and peat are the most pressing problem.

    How much CO2 does wind power save?

    Radon emissions from uranium mining and milling are of course a serious health problem. (Or not…) Radon emissions from hydraulic fracturing (which can end up indoors when used for cooking) are, of course, utterly benign.

    I suspect it’s that factor of 20 million thing again, but I’d have to run the numbers…

    1. Taking aim at those fish:

      The NIRS published piece that refutes Hansen’s work states “wind energy is 96 times more effective at displacing carbon than nuclear…then it may have saved-and can save-96 times as many lives.” To make this conclusion, the paper calculates a carbon/cost ratio by multiplying an energy source’s carbon emissions (grams of CO2/kWh) x levelized cost (cents/kWh). Wind’s “carbon/cost ratio” is 31, while nuclear’s is 2976 or 96 times greater.

      I am not sure the unit created by multiplying these two numbers makes any sense, it makes even less sense to say such a unit is 96 times better at displacing carbon, and even less sense to say such a unit is 96 times better at saving lives?? Hansen’s paper mentions CO2 reduction from not burning coal, or CO2 avoidance. The NIRS paper makes no mention of how much CO2 is avoided from NOT burning coal per each energy source.
      http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/kharecha_02/

      Ed has done a decent back of the envelop calculation, comparing nuclear and wind, in the comments section on Ben Heard’s blog. He uses Wheatley’s paper for CO2 avoidance from wind generation on the Irish grid. Per Ed’s calculation, nuclear avoids emissions ~2 1/2 times more per unit of cost than wind in Ireland.
      http://decarbonisesa.com/2015/07/18/a-lot-changes-in-three-years-zero-carbon-options-2015-edition/

      1. Tom d wrote and quoted:
        The NIRS published piece that refutes Hansen’s work states “wind energy is 96 times more effective at displacing carbon than nuclear…then it may have saved-and can save-96 times as many lives.” To make this conclusion, the paper calculates a carbon/cost ratio by multiplying an energy source’s carbon emissions (grams of CO2/kWh) x levelized cost (cents/kWh). Wind’s “carbon/cost ratio” is 31, while nuclear’s is 2976 or 96 times greater.

        This is innumerate nonsense! The units of measure come out as “carbon-cents per kWh”. This makes no physical or financial sense. “Carbon per kWh” would make sense, as would “carbon per cent”. But a “carbon-cent” per anything is gibberish.
        Note: In each case, “carbon” really means carbon emissions saved.

  3. Rod,

    As I was reading through your post, a thought occurred to me. You and your panelists that you occasionally have on The Atomic Show (Gwyneth Cravens, Merry Angwin, Dan Yurman, Steve Aplin, Les Corrice, et al), and a lot of your readers (like myself – I have personally experienced this in news comment threads), are frequently attacked as “shills for nuclear power”.

    I think we should TOTALLY OWN THIS. I want a button I can wear to protests and conferences with a graphic logo that is eye catchy and appropriate, and, in large letters, “UNPAID SHILL FOR NUCLEAR POWER”.

    I’m totally a shill for nuclear power, and there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.

    Because, if being a shill for nuclear power just means that I support it, then, yeah, that’s right, I do. Why do I support it? For the same reasons, largely, that shills for solar and wind power shill for them – because I think it will provide clean, safe energy that will make the environment better for everyone, while keeping energy affordable and available for everyone, which makes life better for everyone.

  4. “For the same reasons, largely, that shills for solar and wind power shill for them – because I think it will provide clean, safe energy that will make the environment better for everyone, while keeping energy affordable and available for everyone, which makes life better for everyone”

    Rod’s participation in this event, and the positive tone of his subsequent comments, coupled with your comment, is indeed refreshing. It is nice seeing you present renewable advocates as something other than fossil fuel moles that have infiltrated the renewable movement, or as closed minded ignorant antis who are the enemy. I have long argued here that the adversarial arttitude some here express towards the renewable crowd is a self defeating strategy. I realize that on a corporate level it is foolish to fail to note that some nefarious motives are involved on the part of high level executives. But the average John Q, expressing faith in renewables, does so because of a genuine concern for our environment. Right, left, or indifferent, shouldn’t we all share that concern?

    1. I agree – I think Rod would mostly agree too, but he’s focused on the people in leadership positions at places like Greenpeace, Sierra Club, etc, not the rank and file. I’m sure he understands the rank and file are people who believe in those technologies, right or wrong.

      1. Which is why I never use scorn when I talk with people about this subject. I have to do with the rank and file, not with the leadership. Or, mostly, with unaffiliated people who soaked up the message and accepted it unthinkingly.

  5. I don’t understand the “proliferation” argument. It certainly doesn’t apply to the major energy producers (US, China, India…) because we already have nuclear weapons. Many people don’t know, but for the past 20 years *one-half* of the nuclear fuel used in the US was made from *Russian warheads.* The benefit there in terms of avoided nuclear holocaust should be obvious. In my mind it balances out all of the fantasy about the connection between power generating reactors and weapons.

    1. I summed it up once: Including Italy and Denmark (who have no reactors within their borders but who nonetheless import nuclear electrons from their neighbors), this globe hosts 36 countries that benefit from nuclear power. Those 36 also account for 82% of the planet’s total CO2 emissions.

      If these 36 were to cut their CO2 emissions by 60% and the rest did not increase, global emissions would fall by half, with no additional countries obtaining nuclear power. The 36 did not include an additional 7 who were projected to acquire commercial nuclear power, but have not yet done so.

    2. @gmax137

      I’m not sure that burning the Russian warhead uranium has significantly lowered the risk of nuclear war. There are still more than enough warheads left, and I guess that the decommissioned ones were older and harder to maintain well. If the nuclear powers want, they have enough and to spare to lob to each other.
      A smaller, well-maintained and well-controlled arsenal may lessen the risk of accidents, so that’s a good thing.

      The main benefit I think is the great symbolism: swords-to-plowshares.

      I was quite enthousiast when I first read about it. I use it as an example of a very good way to get rid of nuclear weapons: burn the uranium so it can never be used again in warheads, and we even get electricity for it! Nuclear power to the rescue!

      1. @Twominds “The main benefit I think is the great symbolism: swords-to-plowshares.”

        Exactly! Never underestimate the power of symbolism.

        Wind turbines gently turning in the distance = Green, holistic, reasoned thinking…

        Hyperbolic cooling tower = Imminent death, uncontrolled greed, helpless individuals…

  6. This is a battle that many of us fight every day. I will not tire of saying “what about nuclear”. They may shut me out of the clean power plan discussion, but if I am careful, I can continue to participate and point out that nuclear is an effective tool for carbon mitigation.

    1. @Kevin Krause

      Do you have an official role in the deliberations regarding the clean power plan? Your state is one of the few — perhaps the only one — that has permission to move forward promptly to begin building a new nuclear plant. (I have an advantage over other commenters.)

      1. I would not call it official. I would say that Michigan’s state implementation plan will get written within the walls of my building. I would also say I know the key players and that they tend to come to me when there are nuclear questions.

        However, much like what is going on around the country those same key players are constantly being fed and then regurgitating talking points about renewables and energy efficiency. Those things are fine, but they are not the only options.

        On the other side of the coin, DTE Electric will not let them forget about the other options either.

        1. It’s hard to read the tea leaves on DTE. They are as much a gas company as anything else, with an aging nuke that struggles to make a profit at times. By already certifying the site for another nuke they have made that site more attractive to a potential buyer.

          1. Up until 2005 they were an electric only utility. That is when they bought Michigan Consolidated Gas, so I don’t see how anyone can accuse them of being primarily a gas company.

            Aging nuke, OK, but they have aging wind farms too, and Fermi 2 does not struggle to make a profit.

      2. @Rod

        I should have added. Even though my state is out in front at the current time, I think your state will add new nuclear before mine will.

        1. @Kevin Krause

          Wouldn’t it be nice if our governors could make a bet on that and work to see who reaches the commercial operations finish line first? It would be fun, energize entire school systems and result in both states winning by having a reliable clean power source for decades to come.

          1. @E-P I was half-way, camping in Ludington, this past weekend. Were you at the TC energy forum in 2013? I was there just after touring the Cadillac wood burning plant.

  7. Rod

    I am kind of glad you took my comment off. It was too far out to keep. I wish there was a way to edit after you post. One reason I like Facebook.

    Rick

  8. I confess I’m always a bit annoyed when people draw ostensibly scientific arguments to support a viewpoint, then at the first sight of criticism they counter with “I’m not a scientist”. Why, isn’t that a surprise.

  9. The thermal pollution argument is easy – solar PV efficiency is 10-15%, so 90-85% turns to heat. Wind turbines are 40-45% efficient at optimal wind speed.