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    1. Ed, by now, destroying Amory Lovins has become one of the favorite indoor sports of pro-nuclear blogers. It does not matter as KLA said, following lovins 2008 withdrawal from his Grist debate with David Bradish …
      “Charles, I post:ed this also on NEI (sorry for the double post):

      “Charles, Lovins intended audience for his papers is IMHO not us, the public, but the media and politicians. That’s why I am not surprised that he tucked tail and left in the debate on Gristmill. This intended audience is typically not as knowledgable as some members of the public as you or David and other pro-nuclear debaters. Lovins tries to influence the decision makers and public opinion through the back door, not through the democratic or peer review process. He acts, mybe intentionally, maybe not, like a 5th column lobbyist for the oil/gas industry. His intention is definitely NOT research to increase knowledge. With this intention it is not worth his time, and is even dangerous, for him to publicly debate. As some members of his intended audience might see the debate or debunking and start to ask questions themselves. He cannot risk that and therefore his best course is to end the debate by silence.”

      We have to be really on the lookout to see references to this latest Lovins paper in the media, or mentioned by politicians. When found, we should immediately point the reporter or politician to Davids debunking series. At least this way the damage Lovins does can be mitigated.”

      1. Thanks Charles. On a completely unrelated note, have you (or anyone else around here) squirreled away a copy of the publication formerly known as “Critical note on the estimation by Storm van Leeuwen J.W. and Smith P. of the energy uses and corresponding CO2 emissions from the complete nuclear energy chain” aka http://gabe.web.psi.ch/pdfs/Critical%20note%20GHG%20PSI.pdf ? That link no longer resolves and my googl-fu failed me now. But I would rather like to add the pdf to my collection. Thanks!

    1. @poa

      Because I spent a few years operating in the ocean. Because I spent several months sailing on the ocean and know a little about how the wind patterns work in the areas close enough to shore to support infrastructure. Because I spend three years as a financial analyst responsible for budgets for all of the Navy’s shore maintenance facilities and have a good idea how much it costs to maintain equipment that is constantly exposed to the weather and salt air. Because I have studies the off-shore oil drilling industry and understand a bit about the cash flows that come from pumping tens to hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day compared to the cash flows that might be associated with wind turbines.

      There are lots of other reasons, but those should suffice for now.

    2. Wind, in a fossil grid, locks you into using large amounts of “backup power” (a severe euphemism). No problem for a hydro grid, but for a fossil grid, it is a good reason to oppose wind. Wind is a distraction.

  1. Several times during his presentation, Cohen said something to the effect of “And here our conclusion is different from than the one that Amory provided.”

    Did anybody commenting above actually listen to his talk?

    Contrary to Rod’s summary, Cohen presents his argument and conclusions very clearly and as filling a missing gap in available carbon mitigation energy debates and discussions: in sum, we shouldn’t be leaving nuclear out of the discussion.

    This is hardly a roundhouse punch to Amory or renewables crowd. In fact, Cohen is a renewables advocate! He’s also a proponent of expanded demand side management and energy efficiency options. He’s spent the majority of his career (as he describes) working on these issues and deeply committed to them. He describes very clearly the purpose of his talk, we need to join forces over these issues (stop “haggling over what is cost effective”), and be better informed about the contingencies and trade-offs of different approaches (since all available options have them). In short, we need a real discussion of carbon mitigation alternatives, and not one that gives lip service to empty claims and dismisses statistically relevant facts. The best decisions, I would summarize, come from well informed (but not imperfect) decisions.

    He highlights the issue is about “scale and speed.” He believes nuclear can scale quickly, but not without a lot of public education and policy reforms (involving renewed international cooperation, fast tracking of advanced reactors, and a more competitive business environment that benefits nuclear energy alternatives). We may also be able to do it with renewables, he suggests, but not without doubling transmission, overbuilding by six times, and advancing energy storage options (given his understanding and documentation of these issues).

    I’d like to also add that Cohen was respectful in his critique, which probably goes a long way to explain why his talk was seen as valuable by Rod and embedded here as a quality source to be considered in rebuttal to Amory. If he was a crank, would we expect anybody to stick it out for the full 1:29 minutes if they weren’t already a true believer? I would guess not. All that remains is to provide a more meaningful summary of content and substance of his talk, and I haven’t seen any above.

    Anybody care to add to anything I may have left out in response?

    1. @EL

      You have provided a good summary of Armond Cohen’s talk and his thoughtful approach to making good energy choices. I applauded him at the time and almost immediately invited him as a guest on the Atomic Show. We still exchange emails.

      I have absolutely no beef with people like Cohen and Ben Heard, who provides almost exactly the same prescription in terrific Australian accent. Ben has a very similar career pattern, working as advocate of renewables and efficiency as a way to address energy needs while avoiding the hazards he sees in the future from continued dumping of massive quantities of fossil fuel waste. Ben also ran the numbers and realized that his team was on a losing path of trying to achieve their goals WITHOUT using nuclear energy.

      My beef with Lovins — and it is a very large beef with more than 20 years worth of history that started when I read some of his earlier work while I was stationed at USNA and working on the design of the Adams Engine in my spare time — comes from his adamant and stubborn refusal to do math and accept the reality that efficiency and unreliables CANNOT replace fossil fuel. They can only prolong its dominance of the energy industry, the world economy, and the world political alignments.

      In contrast to what Lovins and his ilk have orchestrated to slow nuclear energy development, there is no long running irrational fear campaign associated with opposition to wind and solar energy. They are very popular energy sources right up until the time that people realize just how large the collectors are when they are nearby and until they start paying the bills for the inadequate and unpredictable flow of energy that comes from those devices.

      I had an up close and personal view of a process by which Lovins-type ideas were introduced into the US Navy by some scary — for a guy who is concerned about maintaining peace through strength — political process involving a sycophantic climber who ignored his staff’s best advice in order to please his bosses. It is almost incomprehensible to me that Lovins is teaching at one of my alma maters and sowing his misinformation in the minds of people who might not have enough practical engineering experience or knowledge to resist the siren.

      Attempting to propel ships and aircraft with “Green” fuel is absurd and hazardous to our nation’s health, but that is happening as a result of the kinds of decision-making that occur when people accept a complex line of BS that is carefully designed to sound good.

    2. “Anybody care to add to anything I may have left out in response?”

      You didn’t actually add anything meaningful. You just restated things that Rod already stated with vastly more words, and tried to suggest, with clever sentence structure, that Rod was somehow mistaken, somewhere.

      1. @Jeff Walther

        Please read more closely. I don’t see anything in the talk that “destroys” Amory on the importance of demand response, efficiency, and scalability and effectiveness of renewables as carbon mitigation alternatives (and replacing generation from fossil fuels). Cohen would like to see carbon go to zero … to do that, he has claimed we need everything (multiple shots on goal). This is not a view shared by Adams, or by many opponents to renewables on this site (who also appear to have failed to do the math and believe we can do this without energy and market reform to better handle demand growth in well developed and developing regions). Heck, there are many on the site who believe this goal is not worth doing at all, and simply wish to see more nuclear.

        Cohen appears to be speaking directly to you and to many folks who haven’t done the math on these questions (but it seems that you still aren’t listening) …

        1. @EL

          Multiple shots on goal does not equate to “we need everything.”

          There are some dumb proposed systems. There are also systems that are wildly uneconomic – like off-shore wind. (Yes, I know that Cohen expressed support for Cape Wind, but it’s not terribly strong or active support.)

          I am a fan of “best of the above.” That does not mean that nuclear energy is appropriate for all applications. It is the superior choice in far more applications than it currently serves, and I have spent a good portion of the past 20 years explaining why so many obstacles have been purposely erected in front of nuclear energy as a technology that is terribly threatening to major owners of wealth and power.

          I’ll freely admit that I don’t think that “zero carbon dioxide” is a useful or achievable goal. It makes no sense in a world that has the atmospheric chemistry and life cycles resident on planet Earth. What I would like to see is a world where we can bring the addition terms and the reduction terms back into balance so that the concentration of CO2 stops its ratcheted, seasonal climb. We can reduce the addition terms of the differential equation through the use of more energy produced by emission free nuclear and through efforts to improve other material processes enabled by the use of even more clean electricity than we use today.

          We can increase the addition term through large programs of greening that can be enabled through effort and irrigation as has been proven in a rather feisty country that borders the eastern Med and in the leafy wild areas and suburbs of the eastern half of the United States where there are more forests and trees today than there were 100 years ago.

          One more thing – though you apparently overlook this, the biggest weakness in Lovins’s prescription is that it falsely says that there is no need to use nuclear energy, even if we want to have a more prosperous, cleaner world for our children.

          1. Cape Wind : 130 turbines. Peak generation : 454 MW. Grid usefulness calculation at one third peak gives 154MW
            Vermont Yankee 620MW
            4 Cape Winds equals 1Vermont Yankee

          2. Multiple shots on goal does not equate to “we need everything.”

            @Rod Adams.

            Yes it does … “we need everything to deal with climate” (direct quote from Cohen).

            One more thing – though you apparently overlook this, the biggest weakness in Lovins’s prescription is that it falsely says that there is no need to use nuclear energy, even if we want to have a more prosperous, cleaner world for our children.

            Lovins doesn’t really make the argument that we don’t need nuclear, he makes the argument it is a dumb idea (and doesn’t make us more prosperous) as you value above. It is expensive, and keeps getting more so (as other alternatives keep getting more affordable, more controllable, and more convenient to scale). The price point for nuclear is too high, if we build it (Lovins suggests in his talk) it’s because we want to do so (not because it’s benefits outweigh it’s costs).

            Yes … you have spent time talking about obstacles “purposely erected in front of nuclear energy …” I don’t share these views. I believe we have prudent rules on radiation protection, industrial policy and oversight, and international global security threats. Relaxing these rules (which I consider scientifically sound public policy and industry best practices) isn’t in the interest of greater benefits and a cleaner world for our children.

            1. @EL

              Are you honestly telling me that Lovins doesn’t preach a no nukes gospel?

              Have you read ANY of his large body of published material? Here is an excerpt from a Lovins interview conducted while I was still in high school.

              But what about the parts of the Carter plan that deal with nuclear power?

              It seems to me — just taking the plan at face value — that the most significant thing the plan does about nuclear power is that it doesn’t bail it out. If you want the nuclear industry in this country to survive, you have to give it a huge shot in the arm — about $100 billion — right away. Carter’s plan doesn’t do that. That’s a very important omission.

              What the Carter plan does do is give a boost to several of the things that compete with nuclear power, such as conservation, coal, cogeneration, utility rate reform, and capital transfer schemes. Any one of these five isin my opinion — sufficient to finish off the nuclear industry.

              I take it then, you feel nuclear power in the U.S. is facing some rough times ahead.

              Oh, it’s dead. It’s dead.

              You mean it’s finished, as of right now, late 1977?

              It’s dead in the sense of a brontosaurus that’s had its spinal cord cut and — because it’s so enormous and has all these ganglia near the tail — can keep thrashing around for years not knowing it’s dead yet. Two things killed it: One is basic economics. The nuclear industry has only survived so far because it’s been assiduously nourished by various subsidies and bailouts.

              Would you care to guess how many billion kilowatt hours that brontosaurus has produced in the United States since Lovins made that statement?

              I’ll leave with a quote from Alvin Weinberg published in Energy Policy’s June 1978 issue (p. 174), which came out about the time I was climbing Herdon Monument as a plebe at the Naval Academy.

              I agree with Amory Lovins – let the marketplace decide. If nuclear is dead, there is no need for him (and Friends of the Earth) to use the cost estimates that spring from their hopes as much as from the marketplace, let alone adroit appeals to politics, to twice kill the nuclear cat. But if his intent is to achieve the best mixture of hard and soft, centralized and decentralized, solar and non-solar, and if he is willing to concede some role for nuclear energy in the future, then rather than recycling myself into an elderly solar utopian, I invite Amory Lovins to join with me in helping devise an acceptable nuclear future.

              One more thing – please don’t bother trying to use the “cleaner world for our children” line until you actually have children to feed, transport, educate, protect, and nurture.

          3. Would you care to guess how many billion kilowatt hours that brontosaurus has produced in the United States since Lovins made that statement?

            Yes … some 1/3 that of coal (on a long standing basis).

            Utilities in countries that have large shares of nuclear do so by carrying very high debt loads, running inflexible power plants that limit available options for responding quickly to changing circumstances in energy markets, and rely heavily on government support for low cost financing, research and development funds, risk management, waste management options, and favorable licensing and operating standards (often leading to significant uncertainty in leveraging private risk capital and long term market and resource planning).

            Have you read ANY of his large body of published material?

            I have not. But based on what I have read related to the topics and themes of these threads, I am starting to think highly of the guy (and his capability to untangle threads in the noise, and pull from diverse disciplines of engineering, design, biology, economics, social science, classics, world history, performance theater, stand up comedy, journalistic soundbites, and more). He agitates and disrupts, and does so in a way that invites thought, critical awareness, and questioning of assumptions and ordinary practices (and seeing things).

            If I had a central criticism of Lovins, I would say that he doesn’t give an adequate explanatory role to policy, but suggests it is always the market that prevails. His own examples on natural gas shows shows this is far from the case (as investors regularly lose billions, as he claims, because of a market that is prone to supply and production mismatches, pricing irregularities, and irrationalism and speculation and bubbles). In doing so, he gets the symptoms correct, but not always the underlying cause or condition.

            A further example, coal is still a very competitive energy resource, but it is policy that is having a major effect (parallel with civil society values and preferences in many locations). New rules on emissions for power plants (and uncertainty about future rules and planning around upgrades and new construction) are having a major effect on the resource in markets where these rules are in place (and also a stimulating effect on research and development, and the advancement of private sector and more risk averse alternatives).

            With respect to nuclear, I think Lovins has to be taken seriously (but not literally at his word). He is correct, nuclear industrial capacity and human resource availability are in shambles. The track record tells the story (here), and it is rising and uncompetitive costs, major private sector risks, political obstacles related to waste and proliferation, and newer business realities in changing deregulated markets that stand in the way (and are major symptoms underlying a “decades long collapse”). The question is what can be done about the situation: what does a resurgence and a turnaround (of a size to meet the challenges of a warming planet) look like? Lovins, as it turns out, has provided a clear and definite answer … it’s everything that doesn’t have to do with a market based solution (price controls, central government planning, financing and infrastructure development support, global international cooperation and treaties, and a private sector trying to second guess the whims of government and regulators). In short, more of the same as what we already have now (and additional reliance on public institutions that aren’t working very well at the moment).

            If one accepts the the nature of the problem as defined by Lovins, one needs to make up their mind about whether a viable and rational market can actually exist in energy (if such a fantasy is a logical proposition to begin with). I personally don’t think it is. It is an ideal type (a la Max Weber) of what could exist as a viable future world … and as such, is a useful analytical tool put forward by a skilled and thoughtful analysts and researcher. But the real world is quite different, and is a reflection of a series of compromises, contingent choices, and strategic circumstances. As such, Lovins is important to be taken seriously (but not literally at his word). The real world, full of tribalism, political economy, and special interests (which he more than clearly acknowledges and understands), just doesn’t work this way. It is not rational (which is not to say we can’t understand it, or describe it’s decipherable and meaningful empirical trends and potentialities).

            1. @EL

              Lovins, through his influential effect on the Carter Administration energy policy, should be partially credited for the continued dominance of coal in the US electrical power grid for the past 38 years. His October 1976 piece for Foreign Affairs included a lengthy celebration of the then new technologies of fluidized bed combustion and supercritical, coal-fired steam plants.

              Here is a 2007 post I wrote about Lovins’s historical support for coal as a better transitional fuel to a renewable utopia than nuclear energy.


        2. EL, I did the math on the question in 2007, when i was discovering how nuclear could do it without renewables. First, reactor technology needed to shift, to the small, factory built variety. This would lead to mass production, and thus increased scalability. Secondly, could be housed in innovative sites, for example, the sites of old coal fired steam generatores, and old salt mines. Next reactors could be made less costly to build, and more easily to tramsported, by using moltemn Salt nuclear technology. They would be safer too, and in the form of the LFTR, they could breed their own fuel. Compared to renewables mSRs would lower cost of reliable electricity, while getting rid of far more cartbon. What is most attractive about MSRs is that the entire population of the Earth can lead ba high energy lifestyle, without destroying the environment. The same could not be said for the renewables formula.

  2. Cohen (BTW, is he the son of the late Bernard Cohen U Pittsburg?) has come to grips with the scope of the problem; if one really believes >2ºCelsius (from today’s seeming chilly surface temp average ~15ºC) will bring about the end times then one will certainly support nuclear fission as James Hansen & Lovelock do.

    An idea of the scale of the problem: world AVERAGE CO2 emissions are 4.76 tons per capita today. In order to achieve the 80% reduction by 2050 promoted now by IPCC this will have to be brought down to below 1 ton per capita worldwide average. Actually world population is set to peak at ~10 billion by 2050 so the per capita emissions would have to equal no more than ~2/3rds of a ton of CO2, that’s Nigeria. Brazil is 2, India is 1½, the P.I. are just under 1. The US is 18, Norway is over 10, Denmark >8, Iceland 7, France nearly 6.

    China (PRC) has added about a billion tons of CO2 emissions per year since the turn of the century (now ~10 billion tons of CO2 per year); the US emits ~5½ billion tons/yr, coal alone ~1½ billion tons. Had US reactor starts kept pace thru the early 1990s with what was achievable in the early 1970s when the US economy (GDP) was less than half of what it is now in real terms all coal generation could have been phased out before 2000 avoiding >20 billion tons of CO2 emissions.

    All due respect to Kevan Weaver of TerraPower skip the thousands of years of repository disposal talking point. Discovered in May 1972 (my birth month) the Oklo reactor operated for thousands of years over a billion years ago before multi-cellular life. No plutonium from it has been detected that I am aware of but its presence and precise location was determined by its decay products. The only waste in UNF is the fission product 3% of the UNF, >95% of UNF is the same metal that was mined out of the ground as randomly distributed ore. ~2% are valuable fissile actinides that make the next generation of fission reactors possible. The real proliferation threat is the FRONT END enrichment NOT BACK END RECYCLING. U-235 bombs are far easier to build than Pu bombs. There is simply not enough U-235 out there or enrichment capacity to electrify LDCs with Travelling Wave Reactors. You will need to breed. Non-proliferation policy should concern itself with guarding the front door.

    1. Not sure I understand. My understanding is TerraPower’s TWR is Gen IV “breeder” in the restricted sense it breeds all the Pu-239 it needs for fuel from natural or depleted uranium, but no more. As with all such designs, it requires an initial plutonium or U-235 charge to initiate the power-up, after which the bred Pu will gradually take over. As with other designs that initial fissile charge must come from someplace else: Uranium enrichment, or Pu previously bred in another reactor.

      I don’t know just how much initial fissile material TWR requires, how it differs from say IFR. Kevan estimates as little as 7% of the SWU as a LWR, so there’s considerable cost saving there. TWR differs from IFR in that the initial reactor-grade fissiles are fabricated in the center core of each fuel pellet, surrounded by U-238. The fuel assemblies need not be rotated, and are intended to burn for the 40-to-60 year lifetime of the reactor vessel, which can then be swapped out and sent to a central secure location for de-fueling and UNR reprocessing or sequestration.

      Burnup doesn’t quite match IFR, but at 20% – 50% is still decent. The idea is to keep it simple, keep it cheap, keep it secure, and get it Out There displacing coal. Whether the UNF is best reprocessed, sequestered, or disposed is an economic consideration best reflected in light of the overarching impetus to displace the coal. In that regard I think we’re all reading from the same page.

      1. Ed,

        Mr Weaver in his presentation was rather critical of recycling. Yes the TWR breeds “in situ” (provided the neutron economy would actually work, which I’m not convinced). TWR would presumably require quite high enrichment of fissile ~20%, when you say Weaver said 7% did he mean 7% enrichment or only 7% of the enrichment of a LWR?

        Such large increase in U-235 enrichment would require substantial new facilities, perhaps GLE could get SILEX back on track? Even so the rate of uranium extraction alone would need to increase by an order of magnitude from ~40k tons to 400. For less money U-233 could be bred along with DUPIC fuel in CANDUs for LeBlanc’s concept of denatured MSR/LiFTRs.

        Do you have access to more detailed engineering of the TWR? Of the fuel design? Is there something on the internet beyond the basic press release publicity?

        1. What Weaver said was 7% of an equivalent LWR SWU — separative work units. See http://terrapower.com/publications#extending-the-nuclear-fuel-cycle-with-traveling-wave-reactors
          There are links to some relevant publications under the TWR tab. I don’t want to argue the point at length, as clearly IFR has theoretical advantages. I say theoretical because they are of little consequence if the machines can’t be built and deployed to those most in need, in their time of need.

          I think Weaver is flogging once-through for this application because its by far the least-cost short-term solution, and he’s really reaching for short-term least cost. This century, when the climate wars will be won or lost. While you and I might think long-term storage of UNF to be preferable to permanent disposal — sock it away for a rainy day — short term it will probably come down to politics and economics. What can actually be achieved?

          TWR isn’t for everyone, and isn’t intended as such. Neither is IFR. They’re just more fish in an ever-widening pool.

          1. OK,7% of the SWU of a comparable LWR operating over 60 years, makes sense. However you still need that mega-enriched fissile 20% initial load; and if it’s manufactured out of U-235 with the intention of displacing other fuels in developing parts of the world then it would be a huge demand on the mining and enrichment infrastructure necessitating massive expansion which would only be justified by significantly higher U pirces. This would all be capital not invested in actually generating inexpensive electricity.

            TWRs, if such long lived SFR cores work (Toshiba already has one on offer the 4s, wi 30 yr 30MWth core) would probably not be the choice for LDCs. I see LiFTRs, specifically denatured MSRs with vary small initial fissile inventories (200kg to 1000kg per GWe) that would allow for rapid build out. Long cores would be more appropriate for developed economies where labor is at a premium. It remains to be seen if SFRs can actually be made to work this way; in any event they would require decades of qualification for the fuel and equipment in standard practice.

            1. @Aaron Rizzio

              You are forgetting that there is a large inventory of separated U-235 and Pu-239 that is available for conversion to TWR fuels. There was a 20 year program of blending down HEU from weapons programs “Megatons to Megawatts” that rid the world of weapons material while producing valuable power, but that program did not eliminate all of the surplus materials.

              The uranium mining industry could use a “huge demand” right about now; uranium prices are substantially lower in nominal dollars than they were in 1974.

              Disclosure – I own stock in several different uranium mining companies and continue to add to my portfolio in those undervalued assets.

  3. Rod,

    I don’t think we’ll be getting any more HEU out of Russia anytime soon! That down blended for LWRs arguably could have been better used validating experimental long-lived cores over the past 20 years of “Megatons to Megawatts”. Even more wasteful would be turning 34 tons of US surplus Pu-239 (per PMDA treaty agreement) into MOX fuel. DoE estimates a cost at $30 billion to utilize the fuel at TVA’s NPPs. An Areva designed MOX fabrication (PUREX) facility was to be built at the SRS, SC solely to accomplish this mission. Russia at 1/10th the cost plans to simply utilize their Pu in BN reactors. Just imagine what $30 billion could accomplish in SFR R&D! What was the budget of the entire IFR/ALMR program at Argonne? This SRS MFFF program was recently placed under review but there was remarkably little discussion of it.

    If all UNF worldwide, plus all weapons stockpiles, were recycled into reactor cores we’d have enough fissile material for maybe ~130GW(e) of 1st generation SFRs. Even if they were all optimized for breeding it would be 30 or 40 years before reactor starts could keep up with world electricity demand growth; ironically there was some critical discussion of this fissile “bottleneck” problem back in the 1970s.

    MSRs, because of their efficient neutron economy can be rolled out more quickly, provided we had the optimal fissile starter, U-233, which could be bred even now economically with DUPIC driver fuel in CANDU reactors, both boosting burn-up by a factor of two or three and reducing the UNF discharge stream by a comparable amount.

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