During the period from August 19-22, 2010, AREDAY hosted the 7th Annual American Renewable Energy Day in Aspen Co. CSPAN published a series of videos of the speeches and presentations, including one panel that is of particular interest to Atomic Insights readers titled Is Nuclear Renewable?.
That panel included talks by four people, Mr. Tom Blees, Dr. Yoon Chang, Dr. Eric Loewen, and Mr. Amory Lovins. Blees, Chang and Loewen shared their visions of technology developments that can enable an abundant future. They talked about systems that provide human energy needs cleanly and affordably by using natural atomic energy in plants where the fuel is continuously being recycled through fast spectrum reactors.
Fast neutron systems, some of which have been extensively demonstrated, enable humans to use the energy that nature packed into both U-235, which fissions easily and into the far more abundant U-238, which makes up 99.3% of the world’s uranium resource endowment. Using fast neutrons requires some design sophistication and engineering effort, but even the very first nuclear reactor that provided heat for electrical power, Experimental Breeder Reactor Number 1 (EBR-1), could accomplish that feat safely.
Amory provided his usual message by advising us to reduce our energy use and lower our expectations of prosperity. In his view, “negawatts” are the the way to stretch the fossil fuels that we are currently using for 87% of our energy needs until such time as we can fit our needs into the limitations of traditionally accepted renewable sources like wind, solar, biomass and geothermal.
At the end of the panel discussion, something quite unusual happened. I have attended many conferences during the past 20 years and I have never seen anything like it. Mike Eckhart, the President of the Council On Renewable Energy, ACORE, whose member list includes some of the largest companies in the establishment energy business, took control of the microphone and forcefully asked people to sit down to hear his response to the panel’s discussions. Eckhart was not a member of the panel and is not a member of the group that is hosting the event, though he is the head of a major sponsoring organization.
Here is a quote from Eckhart’s interjection:
Eckhart: Just a brief statement, if you would.
Session organizer: Just a second, I have to tell them. We’re going to have only a ten minute break. So, if you need to run to the rest room or grab a coffee, please be back promptly in ten minutes. Thank you.
Eckhart: Not a Q&A, but a brief and important statement from the American Council on Renewable Energy to the question on the panel because the question did not get answered.
(Eckhart then interrupted his own statement to wave at a man who was trying to dash out for his brief break and said “Sir, sir. This is very important. Excuse me. Hello.”)
Eckhart: (continues) And to Eric, I want you to know that I was the strategic planner of GE’s power business, the whole (emphasis in original) business in 1981, approving PRISM. I was there.
But, the point is, to the question that was raised, the American Council On Renewable Energy has the following position, and we’ve discussed it at length. There’s apples and there’s oranges. Alright? We’re oranges and you’re apples. If oranges start selling well, it’s unfair (emphasis added) for apples to say, I want to be called an orange. Alright?
So, the answer is no. The renewable energy community will not accept nuclear power to be called renewable. However, however, however, that does not mean that we are against nuclear power. What we do demand, is that you allow renewable energy to be renewable, and we know what that is (emphasis added), and secondly, that you stand up as nuclear power and don’t change any words and defend and promote yourselves on that basis. And we are not against you for doing that, but you are not crossing over. With all due respect.
I captured this clip several days ago and never got around to sharing it with the world. I was reminded that I had it when I noticed a discussion on Energy from Thorium’s Facebook page talking about how to get legislative wording altered to expand the definition of the word “renewable”, so I decided to share what at least one official gatekeeper of that word had to say.
I want to encourage people to take a hard look at the membership of the American Council on Renewable Energy and to listen closely to Mike Eckhart’s statement. Also pay attention to his background – he is not some kind of crunchy, sandal-wearing, back-to-nature, kind of guy. He was the strategic planner for the entire power business of one of the world’s largest conglomerates by the time I was staring my professional career. He has formed a very powerful group of interests to SELL renewable energy systems and to capture resources from taxpayers around the world to try to ensure that those sales are profitable.
I hesitate to say this, but Eckhart’s rant sounds almost like the way that a Special Olympics organizer might react if Randy Moss or Shaquille O’Neill tried to get themselves redefined as people with special needs because they are differently abled. Mike is completely correct in stating that it would not be “fair” if nuclear energy was redefined as renewable if that meant that it could compete in the same game as the far less capable energy sources that now fit the government approved definition.
The nukes would dominate the game by providing reliable, affordable, abundant energy with no emissions. They would push out wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, ocean, and whatever else anyone wants to build with significant help from taxpayers and forced contributions from electric power customers. Atomic power systems would also gain sufficient strength to make a huge impact on the other business lines that now make most of the profits for many of the members of ACORE. No wonder their official position is that nuclear energy must remain out of the “renewable” game and be forced to play in a sandbox where others get to choose the language that has already been reinforced to make nuclear an unspeakable ‘n’ word that creates discomfort, loathing and rejection.
Aside: If you are interested in the identity of the organizations that control the club that does not want to allow nuclear to become a member, you can dig through the ACORE member list. I have just done that. There are nearly 500 member organizations and companies. Here are some of the more intriguing members, at least from my point of view. (I got tired of cutting and pasting, so I stopped after just the first 10 letters of the alphabet.) End Aside.
American Electric Power, American Public Power Association, Areva, Arizona Public Service, Austin Energy, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Black & Veatch Corporation, BP Solar, California Energy Commission, Carlyle Capital Markets Inc., Citigroup, CMEA Capital, Deutsche Bank, Duke Energy, DuPont Biofuels, EDF Inc., Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Exelon Corporation, GE Energy Financial Services, Goldman Sachs, Google, Hartford Financial Services Group, Hunt Power, L.P., J.P. Morgan