The Discovery Channel is teasing a show called Earth 2050: Powering the Future. One of the primary sponsors of the show is the Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company.
Here is a brief teaser about future energy supplies from “renewable” sources of power. On the one hand, it was interesting to note that Discovery had classified nuclear energy as one of the renewables. On the other hand, it is also interesting to note how readily they dismiss its potential by implying that it may only double its market share in the next 40 years and by saying that it is “costly and controversial.”
Do you think that there are some vested interests at work here? Nuclear energy systems can be a manufactured product whose cost can be driven down through application of the same techniques that have been used to drive down the cost of many other manufactured products. Practitioners can learn how to do their jobs better, they will discover better materials, they will refine their tools and they should be able to capture economies from increasing the scale of their enterprise (not the scale of each individual product).
Each of those paths for improvement will drive costs out of the process. The nuclear industry did not take a cost conscious path of development during the first nuclear age, but some of us have studied hard to learn from that negative experience. We plan to do better this time around.
My current mission as a writer is to expose the source of the “controversy” that Shell and its colleagues in the fossil fuel business hope will discourage the rapid development of their only real competitor. Nuclear fission power is almost the only source of non-fossil fuel energy with a proven history of taking market share away from oil, natural gas and coal. (Large scale hydroelectric power also has a proven track record; perhaps that is one of the reasons that many renewable advocates dismiss its potential almost as frequently as they dismiss nuclear energy.)
On a related note, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission unanimously (finally) approved the final design certification rule for the Westinghouse AP1000, an advanced nuclear plant design that has incorporated a large number of lessons learned from the currently operating plants that reliably supply the energy equivalent of 12 million barrels of oil per day. For comparison, that is roughly equal to the contribution to the world’s oil market of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined.
There are already four AP1000 nuclear reactor units under construction in China and there are already lessons that have been learned by that experience that will be incorporated in the four units that should begin construction in earnest. The project developers have been doing all that they were allowed to do without the approval of their standard design, now the restraints can be gradually removed and the construction process put into full gear.
Wall Street Journal – (December 22, 2011) U.S. Clears Reactor Design: Approval of Toshiba’s AP1000 Sets Up Possible Nuclear-Power Revival
Power Engineering – (December 22, 2011) Gazprom ready to take part in 3-5 gas-fueled power plants in Bavaria
According to earlier reports, Germany is determined to close down all of its nuclear power plants, many of which are located in Bavaria.
As Miller said, new gas-fuelled power generating facilities will be built as nuclear power plants are closed down.
Wonder who is pushing for that nuclear shutdown? Has the general population, which will be paying the higher costs of from both building new facilities and buying more expensive, more polluting fuel, been snookered?