There is an interesting discussion going on at Long Now Discuss > View topic – 02006-01-13 > Peter Schwartz and Ralph Cavanagh.
The initiating post in the discussion is a summary by Stewart Brand of an event held by the Long Now Foundation on 13 January 2006 at the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, California. The event featured a debate titled Nuclear Power, Climate Change and the Next 10,000 Years conducted between Ralph Cavanagh from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Peter Schwartz from Global Business Network.
I recommend a visit – the discussion was so good that I had to add my two cents worth. (Are you surprised?) Here is what I said in response to a post that trotted out the argument that nuclear power plants are big and centralized and lead to a concentration of wealth.
Jason Jungreis tells us that nuclear power cannot fit into his vision of the future because it is too centralized. I disagree.
There are many myths about nuclear power; one of the more pervasive ones is that the technology always leads to centralization and concentration of wealth and power. There is a different path that is available, proven, but not often taken.
Since 1955, groups of about 100-150 people have been waving the grid good-bye and steaming off to explore some of the world’s most remote regions. Those groups traveled for months at a time traversing tens of thousands of miles in a reasonably comfortable environment with plenty of clean water, air conditioning, frozen/refrigerated food, electric appliances, and atmosphere control equipment. The last was needed because these people were sealed up inside a submarine and often went for weeks without ingesting fresh air.
All of that was made possible because of the incredibly energy dense nature of uranium and the fact that fission does not produce any polluting emissions. That is far better than simply saying that it produced less of a particular greenhouse gas, which is the faint praise that I can give to burning methane – aka natural gas.
Before the organized campaign began to slow the development of nuclear fission applications, there were dozens of different kinds of reactor designs tried out, some of which were even smaller than the ones powering standard nuclear submarines. The US even built several of these small, experimental reactors in some of the world’s most challenging regions – the Arctic and Antarctic. I have posted a Quicktime version of a video on my website – www.atomicinsights.com – titled Camp Century that shows how a 1500 kwe nuclear power plant was built under the ice in Greenland during a single summer. That plant provided electricity, heat, and comfort to a research station for several years. Similar reactors were built in Alaska and in Antarctica.
Even today, there is a tiny reactor used to propel the NR-1, a 400 ton research submarine that has been involved in such important operations as the recovery of space shuttle debris.
Though it is unlikely that nuclear power plants will be coming to a basement near you any time in the immediate future, it is likely that mini (rather than micro) nuclear power plants will be used to power ships, island nations, Alaskan villages, commercial or industrial parks, office complexes, factories, and other distributed loads that currently depend mainly on diesel engines for their power.
I can make that prediction because I am actively working each day to make it come true. As Alan Kay said – “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
Rod Adams – Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. www.atomicengines.com
Thanks to Eric McErlain of the NEI Nuclear Notes blog for the link. As frequent readers might realize, I often get ideas from that blog. Eric and his team do a great job of finding and discussing interesting nuclear news.