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15 Comments

  1. There were no caveat clauses given to wind or solar in that short clip unlike nuclear and hydro.

    The missing caveats from wind and solar they conveniently omit are in no specific order:
    1. dilute sources of energy
    2. weather depended sources of energy, cannot fluctuate to meet demand
    3. intensive material (concrete, steel, rare earths) use. Poor material / energy ratios.
    4. intensive land use
    5. killing of birds, especially raptors, and bats
    6. no cost effective energy storage
    7. massive energy storage requirements
    8. difficult to scale
    9. encroachment on sensitive environments – mountains, deserts, etc.
    10. short product life cycles – 20 year replacement on average
    11. high maintenance costs
    12. costly new and improved grid technologies required or requested
    13. little energy returned per investment
    14. CO2 made during manufacture/deployment takes a long time to offset through use.
    15. we still will remain largely fossil fuel dependent with these sources
    16. are not easily adaptable to non-electrical uses such as steam generation, industrial process heat, desalination, synthetic fuel production
    17. these challenges multiply with growth in population and demand.
    18. are currently only sustained with high economic incentives, subject to corruption
    19. are currently challenging for grid operators
    20. not easily deployable in dense city environments – limited space, lots of renters
    21. Poor capacity factors

    Now, don’t get me wrong, solar and wind are ok for certain niche applications, but no nation is going to run their economy this way. To say that there is enough solar energy to power the planet many times over completely ignores the limitations and challenges of the technologies.

    Bill Gates refers to these technologies as “energy farming”. I think a more accurate term would be “energy hunting and gathering”.

    In the current state of affairs, yes, nuclear can be labeled “costly and controversial”. The controversy has been taught and it’s difficult to “un-teach” something no matter how bad or ridiculous that idea is. People still believe in astrology etc.

    “Costly” is a solvable issue from both an engineering and regulation standpoint.

    I wish these future shows they rehash on Discovery every few years would break the own script molds once in awhile and bring something original to the TV watching public. Many years ago there was an episode of Frontline on PBS called “Nuclear Reaction” which detailed how the Clinton administration killed off the Integral Fast Reactor. I’ve only seen old used VHS tapes of that episode for sale, too bad it’s not on youtube.

    1. @Jason C

      With regard to your last comment about the non availability of “Nuclear Reaction”, I heard an comment on the No Agenda podcast yesterday. Apparently, there are some people who refer to PBS as the Petroleum Broadcasting System because of the high concentration of sponsorships from multinational oil and gas companies like Chevron, BP, and ExxonMobil.

      1. The script to that episode can be read here:
        http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/reaction/etc/script.html

        The VHS tape on Amazon:
        http://www.amazon.com/Frontline-Nuclear-Reaction-PBS-Video/dp/B000MBW28U/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1324629308&sr=8-1

        …isn’t available.

        I’m a PBS fan and while they are supported by a lot of grants from oil companies I see no reason why they wouldn’t take money from Areva or Entergy. If Areva’s money was refused then we’d have a big smoking gun.

        1. I did not say that PBS would not take money from Areva or Entergy. I am simply pointing out that they receive a substantial enough portion of their budget from petroleum companies to ensure that those companies have some influence. Even without direct threats, most decision makers are schooled in the principle of “do not bite the hand that provides most of your food.”

      1. Then you have a collector’s item because that one has been completely removed of any online presence.

      2. While at a previous assignment, I had the privilege of working with radiochemists from Idaho National Lab who did analysis of the fuel from IFR. We were improving our nation’s technical nuclear forensics capability.

  2. I always thought Shell was a good company. For as long as I can remember, Shell advertisements provided good tips on saving gas.

    I do have a problem with parasites who find fault with the producing class. The spelling police think that they contribute something to the world. Last night I fell down laughing. I brought home some work for my wife to proof read. She is also a wiz at spotting a number that is wrong. Since I had self checked, she did not find anything wrong. However, her red pen bled all over the first page. ‘Hun, the NRC wrote that part!’

    RTFQ! When I started, I was directed to make a complex design change that would cost several million and create additional testing over the life of the plant. The NRC asked a question. In the process of writing change, I had to collect the data which would also answer the NRC question. As it turns out, the original design covers 90% of the source terms with a 100% design margin for the criteria. With an expensive change, the best I can do is 98%. Reading the question, the NRC did not ask for a design change, it asked for a more detailed answer. It becomes a trade off for ALARA. Reducing accident dose, increase maintenance exposure for routing testing.

    1. @Kit P – I also have a problem with parasites who collect fabulous wealth based on extracting resources that were accumulated through hundreds of millions of years worth of natural processes on our shared planet and selling them back to all of the rest of the owners of those resources for a vastly inflated price.

    2. @Kit P – by the way, spelling and correct word selection is often just as valuable as accurate math, correct unit conversion and selecting the appropriate assumptions to use when solving a problem.

  3. Rod,

    Large scale hydro is getting harder and harder to do as the land requirements are huge and there are no more low hanging fruits. Their efficiency has long been demonstrated.

    China has a few more targets in mind, but Burmania and adjacent countries are fighting those new plans thru international means as China will cut the water inflow of rivers into other countries.

  4. Hydroelectric power is efficient, but the havoc it causes to the environment may not be worth it if other alternatives are available. Flooding, replacing wildlife and people, the amount of carbon dioxide released from acres upon acres of trees killed, and the increased risk of earthquakes are all issues brought on by large dams. Though I know you (Rod) and I both consider ourselves pro-nuke environmentalists, many environmentalists agree that constructing large dams is by far the worst form of energy creation in terms of its environmental impact. I understand some areas need electricity at the expense of the environment, but if other options are available, I would seriously consider them over building more dams. And the previous comment posted is correct, there are so few areas left to be dammed up, especially in the US.

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