Why are many nuclear advocates turning against large scale wind and solar energy?
On Friday, a well-respected energy industry observer posed an important question on Twitter.
Replying to @tder2012 @Daniel_W_See and 4 others
Answer. The. Question:
Why have you concluded that attacking cheap wind and solar is the best way to help nuclear?
Please explain, because from where I sit it’s pretty darn clear: the more you thorium boys attack renewables, the more you set back your cause. It’s absurd.
Aside: Despite all you might hear about Twitter, there is an active and serious set of users who engage in important, often open and informative discussions about energy technology and policy. It is a medium with great utility for helping achieve my communication goals. End Aside.
Michael Liebreich is the founder of New Energy Finance, which was acquired by Bloomberg in 2009 and renamed Bloomberg New Energy Finance. He continues serving as Chairman of the Advisory Board at BNEF.
I’ve had the opportunity to hear Liebreich speak about the future of energy at BNEF conferences; he is a thoughtful, provocative speaker who includes a major role for advanced nuclear energy systems in the long-term energy future. He is not as positive about the near term ability of conventional nuclear power plants to retain their current market share.
He’s not alone in supporting advanced nuclear research and development while challenging the viability of existing nuclear power plants. He’s also not alone in classifying wind and solar as cheap and renewable.
I took his question seriously, and put some thought into my replies. Twitter has a fairly tight limit on the length of its tweets, but it has a threading capability that many use to expand the available space when they have a lot of information to share or when they feel particularly passionate about a specific topic.
Those passionate threads are often known as “rants” to the frequent users. Some of the more pertinent and well-written rants get shared widely and achieve almost cult status.
I was aiming for that result with the following response – which required several separate, threaded posts. For brevity, I’ve eliminated header and footer information between each tweet.
The tweets are quoted, so some may be missing an article or two; that’s one of the ways to fit thoughts within the character limits of a tweet.
Replying to @MLiebreich @tder2012 and 5 others
I am opposed to continuing generous subsidies for “cheap” wind and solar projects. In many of the best production areas, there is so much opportunistic capacity that market prices drop to unsustainably low levels when the weather is favorable.
In a rational market, low price signals would slow or halt capacity additions until demand increases. However, 2.4 cents per kilowatt-hour guaranteed plus the opportunity to collect higher amounts if lucky enough to be operating during high demand is incentive to keep building.
Because the incentive is based on production without any reference to need in particular locations, developers naturally choose high wind locations, even if there is no local demand. Then they demand preferential grid access & new transmission lines.
I’m not opposed to wind and solar. I’m a sailor and love wind driven transportation. I’m just angry with people who keep telling us how cheap wind and solar are getting all year long and then, at the last minute, engage in a shady deal with oil exporters to extend tax credits
Finally, analysts seem to agree that low priced natural gas is largely responsible for disinterest in nuclear. Low price is result of too much supply for demand. A major reason supply is currently too high is displacement by wind & solar. Adds to available gas supply
Liebreich’s question was posted on Friday and I had responded on Saturday morning. I diidn’t really expect any response from him during the weekend, but when the working day on Monday was nearly over, I decided to follow through to find out what he thought of my response.
That was when I learned that Liebreich had decided that I was not worth his attention.
I only unmuted you because someone I follow got lured into a thread with you. You persist in calling renewables “unreliables”, show no understanding of the economics of networks and storage, espouse a variety of conspiracy theories and don’t answer the question. So goodbye again.
I’d like some serious feedback and advice. Should I change my approach? Is it really a communications foul to call wind and solar “unreliable?”
Sure, it is meant as criticism, but isn’t “renewable” simply a brand meant to put a favorable spin on an industrial technology with known limitations and widespread environmental impact?
Does documenting historical examples showing coordinated efforts to slow nuclear energy development really amount to espousing “a variety of conspiracy theories?”
During the past few months, I’ve begun wondering if I am doing more harm than good. Should I withdraw from the serious discussion about energy supplies and policies and save myself the angst? Or should I listen more carefully and find less offensive ways of sharing what I have learned about how one of the world’s largest and most impactful industries operates?
Will being nicer make it easier for people to pay attention to my serious thoughts and observations?
Recently, I chose to stop writing for Forbes. Some of our differences stemmed from a mistake that I made and corrected with a public apology.
The decision to sever our professional relationship, though, came when the editors decided that it was unfair and inaccurate for me to use the term “antinuclear” to describe a specific group of organizations.
The organizations that I lumped together as “antinuclear groups” were the signatories of the agreement with PG&E to close the Diablo Canyon Power Plant.
That agreement, known as the Joint Proposal, was signed by the following groups: International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245, Coalition of California Utility Employees, Friends of the Earth, Natural Resources Defense Council, California Energy Efficiency Industry Council and Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility.
Initially, my Forbes editor replaced “antinuclear” with “environmental” and then published the post. I pointed out that there were several organizations on the list that did not even make a pretense of being an environmental group. I made the case that “antinuclear” was a more accurate description of groups that have joined together to close a power plant that produces one fifth of California’s clean electricity.
When they decided to respond to my challenge by using the collective term “environmental and labor groups” suggested by PG&E press releases, I decided it was time for me to focus my communications efforts in other venues where accuracy is more valued.
It used to baffle me to find people who claim to be focused on protecting the environment fighting a power source with such an excellent environmental record.
It no longer confuses me. I’ve learned that the antinuclear movement was branded as “environmental” by skilled propagandists. They cleverly took advantage of the popularity of environmental causes and purchased the favor of group leaders by providing resources to increase their reach and influence.
Non profit group leaders with national level aspirations spend almost as large a fraction of their time raising funds as politicians do.
Oops, there I go again. I suppose I should work on breaking that darned habit of exposing “conspiracy” when talking about a logical business move to paint a competitor in a negative light.
I spent over 30 years in the nuclear industry and I still believe it has a place in our energy mix. I see no benefit to the industry by bashing the competition (wind, solar etc.). It’s like a politician running for office who has nothing to offer other than bashing their opponent. Let nuclear stand on it’s own merits.
Even politicians who have a lot to offer often invest some of their time and money explaining how their policies are better than those of their opponents.
“Let nuclear stand on its own merits”
It is that very philosophy from those within the nuclear industry that has allowed anti-nuclear NGOs to have an open playing field to spend decades spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt about nuclear power. It is also that philosophy that has allowed complacency within the industry to spread and in my opinion has played a part in the high cost of nuclear construction in the US.
This is a multibillion-dollar business. It is competitive. Billions of dollars in federal money are at stake that will shape our grid for decades. The merits of nuclear power need to be actively advertised, discussed and debated. Otherwise the DOE will continue throwing relatively small sums for advanced nuclear research while supporting billions in subsidies for wind and solar. NREL is funded by DOE to push, advocate and promote wind and solar power. DOE does not have a similar organization to advocate for nuclear power. Pressure must be applied somehow, someway, anyway to move the pendulum back towards its equilibrium point.
Weaknesses of nuclear power needs to be discussed in the context of weaknesses of other forms of power generation. Weaknesses of nuclear power should never be allowed to be discussed in a vacuum.
But the nuclear industry still keeps believing the inherent strengths of nuclear fission will stand on its own. Not going to happen. Stakes are too high for nuclear advocates to stand by and passively wait for the inherent merits of fission to shine through.
The passive approach is one reason SONGS was shutdown. Politicians, in the boardroom and in the halls of government, were able to hide behind their decision because the loudest voices in the room were the anti-nuclear NGOs.
I am more of a blunt statement kind of advocate. My technique doesn’t always work for the audience which is understandable. Others are more skillful with the phrasing, marketing and PR messages. But I believe the straightforward comment still has a place in this discussion as discussed in Jeff Walther’s comment below.
Bottom line is that without vocal advocacy, US based nuclear power will die. That will result in the continued deterioration of US nuclear leadership. We will then lose our position to push nuclear based solutions to solve the twin issues of global energy poverty and continued burning of fossil fuels.
I have found your current approach very helpful in forming my dislike for wind and solar. I live in an area of the country fairly close to large wind farms which do have a far better than average track record of producing wind energy. I drive through those wind farms a few times a year. I would only have viewed it as an engineering marvel had you not gotten me to think about the impact of the variability of that energy source.
As for conspiracy theories, you do harp a bit much on the parties which have historically and/or currently attempted to attack nuclear. Overall, however, I have also found that aspect helpful. Without your persistent discussion of BIER’s history, I would have never taken such a long hard look at the ALARA principles which had been drilled into my head by the US Navy. I guess I am saying maybe a little lighter less time on the “conspiracy theories”, but only by a little bit. Trying to correlate cause and effect on an independent reporter’s budget is unreasonable, but pointing at reasonable relationships is helpful.
Thank you for your consistent efforts advocating a power source I respected a lot when I was in the US Navy and now love.
Great points, Rod. One can’t claim wind and solar are so cheap on the one hand, while also saying the PTCs and ITCs must be renewed on the other.
The market has failed in determining the when and where new electricity projects are built.
Invariably in every news story announcing a new wind project, tucked in at the bottom, will be the line “so and so is building this now to take advantage of the PTC before it expires…”
These things wouldn’t be so bad if we had a sink for excess generation. Something like plasma gasification of garbage or sewage sludge would be ideal if it could follow the difference between immediate generation and immediate demand.
Subsidized wind and solar development certainly has effected the energy market, and the negative effects should not be swept under the rug.
Liebreich’s response reeks of immaturity and hubris.
I understand where you’re coming from, but maybe “unreliable” isn’t the best term. After all, the output of a wind or solar facility is perfectly predictable over the long term. I suppose “non-dispatchable” would be more precise, though unwieldy.
Alternatively, we could try to move the conversation to how to handle variability. We could use batteries – at considerable cost. We can use gas – but emit carbon. We could use MSRs (which can load-follow), but running at less than full capacity means you’d not take full advantage of the capital. Wind and solar make the variability worse. A price on carbon would make the calculation easier.
Regarding natural gas, there’s one other point I think needs emphasis: The current low price is a temporary condition. It’s true there have been higher prices in the past, but that’s easy to discount. However, there are ongoing efforts to build gas exporting facilities (so domestic users will have to bid against users overseas, where gas prices are currently much higher). And shifting electrical generation capacity from coal/nuclear to renewable/gas increases the windfall profits from any interruption in the gas supply.
Pretty sure this is exactly the definition of “unreliable”…..imagine “relying” on wind to heat your home right now.
Wind is unreliable. Look at the https://transmission.bpa.gov/business/operations/Wind/baltwg.aspx . Currently, the wind production from over 4,500MW capacity over the last 7 days has been near-zero. No one is suggesting that batteries could back that up. In teh meantime, the nuclear output has been rock solid, along with the fossil/biomass input. Hydro has been cycling up and down to follow the load.
Very surprising. Here is the Gorge we’ve been having
extremely strong easterlies, strong enough to generate
spume which the windsurfers call “smoke”.
BTW, wind this strong is called “nuclear” , also used as
a verb as in “dude, it’s really nuking today”. Who says
wind and nuclear cant get along?
One could also answer with another question:
“Why have you concluded that attacking nuclear is the best way to help wind and solar?
“Please explain, because from where I sit it’s pretty darn clear: the more you renewable boys attack thorium, the more you set back your cause. It’s absurd.”
I believe the “thorium boys” comment was directed at me (no idea why he mentioned “thorium” or chose to use that condescending language). I responded with this tweet and explained what my “cause” is, I think Liebreich made an assumption about that. https://twitter.com/tder2012/status/939152958406742016 It seems that, to some, mentioning limitations of wind and solar is construed as an “attack”. With respect to his demand for a response to his “loaded queston”, I thought this logical fallacy loaded question tweet response was appropriate https://twitter.com/JayJayJuleson/status/939506296423841792 Here is another limitation I pointed to, but no response (recent solar performance in UK) https://twitter.com/tder2012/status/939507437798920192
To give up the Forbes platform was a serious communication decision. I assume many more people read your Forbes columns than anything else you write. So, now you have chosen your “brand” by rejecting the term environmentalist when anti-nuclear is more accurate.
When nuclear writers gather, you can be the “unreliable-conspericy” voice. Others can write in Forbes and be interviewed on TV. You can be the internal voice of nuclear advocates, saying what we really think. Your audience is the already convinced. Your detailed reporting and in-deapth interviews keep us informed and interested.
Maybe exchanges with the anti’s will not be the most productive.
I think your approach is pretty spot on, Rod.
As a thought experiment, when it comes to energy branding, each industry has its own spin. Nuclear, or “of the nucleus”, sounds a bit more clinical than Atomic. As does hydrocarbons to fossil fuels. Hydro sounds nicer than dams.
“Renewable” then seems to be an attempt to cover its biggest flaw- lack of repeatable performance. By definition, renew means to resume, to take up activity once again.
Yes, marketing counts too as a part of the approach, but sometimes marketing requires some customer education.
Wind and solar are not competition to nuclear power.
The choice (or competition) is between a nuclear powered grid and a fossil grid.
Fickle wind and energy sources require a strong fossil fired grid backbone. It’s mainly a fossil powered grid with some wind and solar added for good cover stories and pretty pictures. Compare Germany with France’s electricity.
So, what will we have? Fossil or nuclear. Take your pick.
Fossil or nuclear is not a “pick one or the other” option. Nuclear is too expensive to compete with natural gas and it will be for the near future. $5000+/kw installed is just to expensive to be competitive. If a utility can build a 1000mw natural gas plant for about $1 billion as compared to $5-$10 billion for the same size nuke, the gas will always win. Let’s be realistic here.
I don’t think you understood the point there…
Point is renewables is a vote for fossil powered economies.
I don’t dispute what you wrote. High capex is a problem in the nuclear industry that needs solutions.
“renewables is a vote for fossil powered economies”. What? That is one of the craziest things I have ever heard. Renewables and the people who support them over any other source don’t want fossil or nuclear.
That makes zero sense.
I believe his point is when you build large solar and wind farms they will require fossil fuel back ups…..because you know, the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine.
You shutter a Nuke and “replace” their power with wind and solar…..you are really replacing the Nuke with gas….a fossil.
Haven’t you figured out yet that it doesn’t matter what they want? They can only get what physics allows them to have. Wishing for a “renewable economy” won’t create one.
Your scalable choices for dispatchable power are nuclear, fossil and (sometimes, some places) hydro. That’s it. Your “renewable” grid has to have enough dispatchable capacity to meet demand or you have blackouts. Blackouts cause economic and sometimes physical damage.
Why does “green, renewable” Denmark have more than 10x the per-kWh CO2 emissions of nuclear France? Why does Germany have no plans to ever stop burning lignite, to the point of bulldozing historic villages to expand strip mines?
Try paying attention to the real world. It’s the thing that doesn’t go away just because you’re ignoring it.
I am pro nuclear but I am not anti solar and wind. They all have a place in the energy mix as does fossil fuels. What you guys fail to admit to yourselves is that new nuclear is too expensive to build. Just ask SCANA about the cost of new nuclear. There is still doubts that Southern will finish their new units…..why? It’s too expensive to build. 5 or 6 years ago all the industry talked about was “new” nuclear. Well, it priced itself out of the market and now it’s down to just 2 new units. Unless the price of natural gas rises dramatically, new nuclear is dead.
That is NOT the fault of Nuclear Power in general….that is the result of:
Ridiculous safety measures
Insane over engineering of everything
Very little public and Political support
Fear mongering associated with radiation
Funny how China doesn’t seem to have these “it’s too expensive” issues.
I’m not anti-solar. You want panels on your roof, go ahead, I don’t want you getting my tax dollars for doing it. You want cities and industry to rely on that power….I believe that is insane.
I am anti-wind for the most part. Terribly unreliable power that is mostly providing scenic pollution right now in the ENTIRE northwest who’s beautiful terrain was created thousands of years ago by the great floods.
My company produces energy from all three AND hydro…..here is November’s net generation
Solar – 1.122 KWh
Hydro – 11.585 MWh
Wind – 26.612 MWh
Nuclear – 841.597 MWh
Rod, I think that you are providing an essential service through the information you present. Don’t stop. I’ve also seen more people taking up what I think of as your ideas in forum discussions. I think these concepts are slowly disseminating. Whether they’re coming from here, or from Barry Brooks, or Ben Heard or some other source, I have no way of knowing.
I do know that when I went looking for answers as to why the behaviour of my local city council was insane on teh question of energy policy, the only place with an answer that covered all the facts was here.
As to whether calling renewables unreliables is a good idea, I just don’t know.
On the one hand, I feel strongly that letting the wind/solar/fossil lobby control the terminology is a mistake. They’ve arranged for the media to insert a “accidents, dangerous waste” comment in every nuclear power story. Someone needs to point out the flaws in wind/solar/fossil. I just wish there was a one-word way you could point out all the pipeline leaks/explosions/evacuations every time you mention gas.
On the other hand, in some venues, it may be alienating your audience before you can get their attention. It’s hard to know.
But this Liebreich guy, he’s not on the convincible list. He’s a fake nuclear supporter. He claims to support nuclear, but only “newer, safer” designs. In my opinion, in the way the conversation is formulated, that means he’ll never support nuclear. It’s just an excuse to dismiss the perfectly good current designs, and never actually approve of a future scheme, while avoiding the fact that he’s being irrational for some reason — probably because he’s paid by Bloomberg.
Bloomberg is clearly pro-fossil/wind/solar, and I would not expect any of their mouth pieces to ever be pro-nuclear.
So forget about Liebreich. He’s pro-nuclear, the way that the UCS is not anti-nuclear.
The anti-nuclear play-book writers know that it’s great to pretend to be pro-(some future tech that isn’t here yet that resembles nuclear). That way you can act like you’re all reasonable and forward thinking, when in reality it’s an excuse to avoid dealing with one’s current corrupt or irrational opposition to the best energy source that’s available.
Couldn’t agree more. People who suggest in any way that current reactors are not acceptable are not in any way pro-nuclear. I suppose we should be “grateful” that they are least open to the concept of nuclear? But only if it’s perfect? They are unacceptable even though statistics show them to be the safest source of all, and that (aside from Chernobyl, which is N/A) they have never had any measurable impact on public health? And despite the fact that they do not contribute to climate change?
They may think they are making the case for their new reactor designs, but they are hurting the industry in general, and in the end will actually harm the prospects for their “advanced” designs. Nuclear fear mongering is never helpful, in promoting any kind of reactor. The antis will not give up and will make a huge deal over tinier and tinier “issues”, with any reactor design, and the public will believe them. (You know they’re even against fusion, right?)
We know this because nuclear’s technical flaws and “issues” are already negligible, but the people think that they are very serious (e.g., that it is one of the most dangerous sources when it is the safest). Who here thinks that some new fuel cycle tech, that reduces waste longevity, will make siting a repository any easier?
Answering public questions about some hopelessly overblown nuclear “issue” (e.g. waste) by promising some “perfect” or (finally) “acceptable” new technology is highly counter-productive. It’s essentially saying “yes, the current situation/technology is unacceptable, but trust us, *this time*, we will develop a fancy new reactor or fuel cycle that will finally “(acceptably) solve” the problem.
I also agree with you about Bloomberg. In the past I appreciated their anti-coal stance, and they seemed neutral on nuclear (e.g., they didn’t take a side on the Indian Point issue). But now it’s pretty clear that they’ve turned on nuclear as well (I’ve recently read several Bloomberg articles that are nothing but anti-nuclear propaganda). This jibes with another thing I’ve read, which is that Michael Bloomberg is heavily invested in gas, perhaps renewables as well.
@JamesEHopf (and anyone else who can help)
I’m interested in links to any media pieces or other information sources that document Michael Bloomberg’s interests in natural gas.
After Sierra Club’s Michael Brune determined that taking millions from a well known gas guy like Aubrey McClendon tainted his organization’s “Beyond Coal” campaign, Sierra turned to Bloomberg Philanthropies as its primary funder for the campaign.
Unfortunately, that’s something I recall reading awhile ago, and I didn’t save the source (link) or anything. So, to look into it, I’d be left with just doing google searches, which you could just as well do. I do remember this. It was something I read in a news article.
Finding lots of stuff saying that he’s come out in support of fracking, but haven’t found much in terms of him being significantly invested in it. This article refers to some investment.
“I only unmuted you because someone I follow got lured into a thread with you. You persist in calling renewables “unreliables”, show no understanding of the economics of networks and storage, espouse a variety of conspiracy theories and don’t answer the question. So goodbye again.”
Sorta sounds kinda pompous to me. I wouldn’t let a guy like him bother you. It’s his problem if he doesn’t know enough to treat someone in a civil respectful manner.
Don’t make his problem your problem.
How many years of nuke stuff have you collected? Share it. Write that book!
This article is over six years old and describes how Liebreich capitalised on the green energy boom to become a multimillionaire, nice gain when he sold his company, New Energy Finance, to Bloomberg https://www.ft.com/content/2d12cf38-05b7-11e1-a429-00144feabdc0
I find your approach helpful, balanced, and fact oriented. Belligerent, offensive, and/or childish responses such as the one you got from Liebreicht are, as I am sure you know, pretty commonplace amongst antinuclear renewables zealots. In my view, these people – whether because of financial interest, commitment to ideology, or intellectual laziness – for the most part are incorrigible. It’s honorable that you take the time to try to polemicize reasonably with these people, but their responses, unfortunately, usually leave much to be desired.
As to the question of whether to use the term “unreliables”, the answer is it depends on your audience (as in, the 1st rule of communication is to know your audience). For many, perhaps most, audiences, referring to solar and wind as “unreliables” is needlessly provocative and probably counter-productive.
The truth is that most people think of solar and wind as environmentally sound sources that are favored by people concerned about the environment. Thus, they will tend to brand you as anti-environmental and tune you out after hearing statements like that. At a minimum, you will strike them has heavily opinionated and non-objective (someone with a clear agenda).
To bring (most) people over to our point of view, we need to be more careful and deliberate, as we are trying to counter ingrained notions. They would probably be more open to a sober, objective argument showing that renewables are not capable of providing most of our energy, due to intermittency, etc.. In other words, “I wish they could but I’m afraid they can’t.” That as opposed to using disparaging adjectives to describe them. It’s just not necessary, and will be counter-productive for most audiences, IMO.
I take a different view, however, of the media’s continued reference to nuclear opponents as “environmentalists”. I’m disheartened to learn about your (Rod’s) experience with the Forbes people. For me, editors insisting that one of my own articles refer to nuclear opponents as “environmentalists” would be a red line; something that I would refuse to allow. It’s simply not accurate.
I have to admit that I’m baffled how anyone could object to referring to people who support the closure of a nuclear plant as nuclear opponents. Seems like the most direct, objective, characterization (devoid of assumptions or baseless associations). Meanwhile, I think that it would be clearly inappropriate to refer to people who want a nuke closed, even if it will result in its replacement by fossil fuels, as environmentalists.
One final irony about Forbes’ possible “point” is that the groups who they may think are not anti-nuclear (e.g., the IBEW or PG&E), are clearly not “environmental groups” either. Meanwhile, the groups opposed to Diablo who consider themselves “environmental groups” are also clearly anti-nuclear.
Curious about where you place Governor Cuomo on the “nuclear support” spectrum? He’s supporting the NY upstate nuclear plants with the Zero Emissions Credit(ZEC) policy, but is doing everything he can to make sure Indian Point closes. From my point-of-view he just seems confused about the whole subject.
Cuomo is a politician who follows the money. In the Upstate area, the money was in favor of retaining the nukes.
In the NYC area, the money is chomping at the bit to get Indian Point out of the market in order to make room for burning about 300-400 million more cubic feet of natural gas every day, all year long.
It didn’t help that Entergy was willing to cut a deal to kill IP in exchange for a rule that helped it get a decent price for Fitzpatrick.
Kool-Aid drinkers don’t want anything but more Kool-Aid.
You shouldn’t let the facts of life bother you.
On the Forbes issue, while I agree with James that you were being exactly accurate and Forbes was being unreasonable, I am saddened that you gave up that podium. It may have been the right thing to do, given their obstinacy, but I really enjoyed the likelihood that you were reaching a vastly wider audience than you can with a website that folks must seek out. Presumably, on Forbes, many folks will just browse to your articles. You have a very important message. I suspect it is more important to the foundations of civilized society than most folks credit.
One final thought, or many thoughts, but I will attempt to sum up. My instinct is that when folks show that they think (feel, really) that nuclear is dangerous, the most effective counter is just flat out contradict it with a positive statement, such as, “nuclear is the safest form of energy ever invented. Or “Waste isn’t a problem. For decades we have had several excellent methods of storing spent fuel until it can be reused.” Then, after that, go into explanation, if appropriate. But lead with a sloganish positive statement.
I may be wrong, but I think that pro-nuclear folks are so shy, especially because of the perceived public view of nuclear, that even we aren’t willing to make bald faced positive statements about nuclear. We’re reluctant to flatly contradict what we perceive as the public gestalt, even though that gestalt was bought and paid for by anti-nuclear forces.
Someone needs to say these positive things out loud and bluntly and in public forums so that people get used to hearing them, and so that they don’t sound so unnatural.
To a great extent, people believe what they think the popular culture is saying, instead of what logic and physics should lead them to. If they never hear a bald faced declaration of good nuclear, or bad renewables, their opinion will be unshaken.
On the waste issue, I don’t know if its effective, but I like to point out that if someone steals my toothbrush, it does not make good oral hygiene impossible. One can use toothpicks, or mouthwashes, or various electric brushing implements, etc. Yet, nuclear is in the position of a man whose toothbrush has been stolen, and then the thief accuses him of poor oral hygiene.
I’m curious. What are you analogizing to the toothbrush?
Isn’t it obvious? Yucca Mountain or some kind of equivalent.
Any spent fuel “solution”. Take your pick. The antis religiously oppose any solution to storing spent nuclear fuel and then blame the nuclear industry for the lack of a solution. It’s like stealing someone’s toothbrush and then blaming them for poor dental hygiene.
As it turns out, sitting in casks on pads appears to be a perfectly good solution, but I’m sure they can’t be convinced of that either.
My favorite thing is to tell them that while it’s sitting there, it’s busily decaying away and disappearing all by itself. 90% of the Sr-90 and Cs-137 will be gone in a century just by doing nothing.
The solution is happening anyway. It’s not like lead or arsenic or mercury which remains toxic unless and until proton decay turns it all into leptons. Had the Roman republic left a heap of spent LWR fuel, you could have handled it with nothing more than gloves by the birth of Islam. Had Columbus sailed under nuclear energy, his spent fuel would be down to alpha emitters and some weak beta by now. All of this is harmless unless you eat it.
The problem is that anti-nuclearism has achieved the strength of religious dogma, and education cannot break through it.
Rod, you do great work and the pro-nuclear community would sorely miss you if you left.
I understand your frustration though. But we must all remember that in today’s highly polarized world, we should not expect to participate in any thoughtful two-way discussions on a topic such as nuclear, where one or both sides has a highly emotional angle. Most participants in discussions will be strongly committed to one side or the other, so the target audience is really the undecided on-lookers. So the important goal should simply be to articulate the pro-nuclear side of the issue, without coming across as someone who came to their conclusions without the aid of facts.
Yes, a friendlier style might win-over more on-lookers, but preaching to the choir is also helpful, as it helps to inform and strengthen the pro-nuclear community. Choose a style that works for you.
Nathan and Rob,
A few years back I saved a post by E.M. Smith
that I found helpful when trying to have a dialogue with various supports of the 100%WWS plan.
I think it is of value to keep in mind the 4 quadrants when dealing with Global Warming Theorists. Unless you can properly place what quadrant a particular person is working from, you can not get them to hear you. Responding with “Malice” responses to a “Noble-Naive” person will simply have them reject you out of hand as yourself being full of Malice or Stupidity. In order to get them to open their eyes and minds and actually question their ‘Received Wisdom’, there must be some willingness to see the source as credible and honest.”
Rod and others
> definition of “unreliable”
>Hydro has been cycling up and down to follow the load.
> nuclear output has been rock solid…
Mark Twain (on stupidity?)
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
> Very surprising.
NRC on safety culture
Individuals avoid complacency and continually challenge existing conditions and activities in order to identify discrepancies that might result in error or inappropriate action.
In the chart, hydro power exceeds BPA Load most of the time. As “insightful” nuke proponents with proper attitude, one should ask for other explanations than the simple one you wish for. Like, maybe they have excess power and wind turbines are easy and convenient to shutdown, without impacts on fuel contracts. And maybe they don’t have a place (buyer) to send more excess power.
“That’s prompted the federal government to take an action it avoided during the last four years of drought conditions: shutting down wind power.”
Long-term contracts for fuel for the nuke plant, simpler operation without load following, and very high O&M costs, come to mind as explanations for “rock solid” nuke output as a desirable status.
Come on guys, Patriotism [and name-calling] is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Liebreich’s goodbye hits the nail on the head.
Or, maybe there has been an air stagnation warning for over a week…..
Either way, not something I want to rely on to heat my house right now.
Also, BPA forces the Nuke to power down (economic dispatch) to 65% during high spring run offs…..yet you still see wind turbines moving (when there is wind of course)
I have a rooftop solar system. My bills are almost zero. However, 1) I live in southern CA which has abundant sunlight, 2) My wife works for the solar company that provided our system essentially at cost and 3) We took advantage of tax breaks/rebates.
Until I see a production chain for a renewable technology powered by renewable energy, there is no reason to believe renewable energy will supply more than a small fraction of our needs. Is there one wind turbine or solar panel fabrication facility that is powered exclusively or largely from power generated by technology it produces?
THANKS ROD for standing up to editors. Especially for those whom ‘opinion’ is oddly not enough, a writer’s output must be ‘adjusted’. And stirring things up.
A short essay, “There’s a fire, and people pushing intermittent [energy] sources are blocking the exits” is my best attempt to explain why a utopian Kumbaya attitude cannot serve our purpose. When will Real Engineers (en masse) speak out directly against the ‘engineers’ who push toy solutions?
I suggested to Donald Trump in a 22016 letter, It is unethical to see no clear path to unbounded Energy as anything but an existential threat. Irreliables (my own term, a melange of irresponsible and unreliable)… and the folks who hawk them… represent no clear path. To put it kindly.
A June 2017 letter to Energy Secretary Perry was focused on the vulnerability of US natural gas. It is a great pain to state the obvious, but necessary because utility wind and solar has made faux-environmentalists into useful idiot ‘crypto-advocates’ of gas grid generation. We are on the cusp where a coordinated attack on the gas distribution network in a few places would trigger cascading grid failure, as distant gas plants operating directly from the pipelines drop offline and stay offline for days or weeks. This sentiment has since taken shape as the Trump Administration proposes ways to protect utilities able to stockpile 90 days of fuel, and encourage them to do so. It comes down to a simple question: Can anyone supply a compelling reason why the United States electric grid should fail completely within hours of a relatively simple attack?
Wind and Solar advocates should be invited to sit at the table if they bring their own chairs.
The pro-“renewables”/anti-nuclear faction are essentially
religious fanatics. This one came up to you asking a
disingenuous question, and refused to listen to the answer.
There isn’t any particular reason to feel depressed about this:
these people need to be argued with, but it’s for the benefit
of on-lookers, not because they’re going to be persuaded.
My answer to this question is I don’t *want* to be anti-solar or
anti-wind– even if I’m right that they’re not the whole
solution, we need all the clean energy we can get. The trouble
is the wind & solar enthusiasts keep overselling them: they
regularly, proudly announce that pure economics are turning
people against fossil fuels and nuclear… they consistently
forget to mention the subsidies, they wait for someone else to
bring them up before they defend them as wise industrial policy
(which they might actually be, for all I know). One of my
biggest gripes is the “environmentalists” have all but stopped
talking about carbon pricing schemes, which is what we *really*
So, they’re doing an excellent job of convincing everyone that global
warming is a solved problem and there’s nothing left to worry
about (what could go wrong with that, eh? Why would anyone but
a hired shill want to argue with them, right?).
They’re willing to bet the planet on speculative technology for
energy storage and transmission that isn’t really there yet– in
contrast we *could* (but probably shouldn’t and won’t) fix the
problem by building nukes using more than half-century old
Consider the TED debate between Stewart Brand and Mark
Z. Jacobson– before and after polling showed the audience swayed
against nuclear power, because Jacobson convinced them that there
was no point in even thinking about it. And now that Jacobson has
been shot down, will the rennies back up and revise their
opinions about anything? Hardly: they quietly slink away and
find someone else to quote… that’s been the anti-nuclear
M.O. for decades now.
“Why would anyone but a hired shill want to argue with them, right?).”
Gosh – I never thought that the language could be turned about. A lot of the wind and solar proponents ARE actually hired shills of the wind energy.
Here’s the bio on ole Mike who Rod had a run in with:
Well – not exactly a shill for the unreliables industry. He seems close. From his bio he is definitely of the upper crust.
F Scot Fitzgerald wrote, “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.”
Maybe it fits.
what you referenced in quoting F. Scott Fitzgerald is the Platonic Allegory of the Cave, and the “different” ones are the philosopher kings, those who know better than us caveman stuck in the dark and only seeing shadows every now and then.
You can substitute nuclear with “global warming”, pardon me, “climate change”, and some of the people who are being attacked for being somewhat “anti green renewables” will immediately become themselves philosopher kings at start attacking the “climate change deniers”.
What goes around comes around, when there are no ethics at the core of many of these people, nowadays. Sadly so.
Why are many nuclear advocates turning against large scale wind and solar energy?
I’m all for alternatives without the subsidies. Wind and solar will never stand on their own. If the sun isn’t shining and the air is still you get nothing.
You need to eliminate the “portfolio standards” (mandates) too.
A flat carbon ceiling would serve nicely. Set it and lower it in annual increments with fines for violations.
Yes, but the end user ends up paying the fines and violations?
The end user always pays, period. But given a choice, they’ll buy from generators who aren’t paying the fines and can offer a better price. It wouldn’t take much of a carbon fine/tax to make nuclear competitive against everything dispatchable save hydro, and the gas backup for the unreliables would put them at a disadvantage.
What about the relative economics, assuming no source has government-imposed assistance compared to the others?
I know in the 70s LWRs were being built for something like $2/ W, comparable to coal plants. Was the AEC regulation scheme in place then basically reasonable? *Assuming the NRC (or appropriate regulatory body in other jurisdictions) is reasonable*, does this relationship basically still hold?
Why not bring Michael Shellenberger’s perspective into your argument? Check out this tweet:
There’s also his TEDx Talks presentation titled “Why renewables can’t save the planet”:
Another useful pro-nuclear position to take vs unreliables centers on the capacity to markedly leverage nuclear technology, whereas unreliables present no such capacity that in any way competes on the same scale. Medical isotopes production and “rocket fuel” for deep space missions are well known value-added offshoots of nuclear energy. Yet what about industrial opportunities that nuclear-produced process heat presents, particularly using molten salt reactors from what I read?
Energy delivered via high temperature process heat presents an opportunity to dramatically expand our economic base with new production that churns out value-added materials and products not currently feasible because energy input costs are simply too great. There’s cheap desalination, cheap production of ammonia (the raw material for making nitrogen fertilizers) through the cheap dissociation of oxygen and hydrogen from water, (no more would we need to extract hydrogen from natural gas), and according to Jim Kennedy of ThREE Consulting, an opportunity to cheaply produce clean liquid fuel from coal employing the high thermal profile of molten salt reactors. According to Kennedy this fuel will combust more or less completely (whereas gasoline combustion consumes only 40%, tops, of the fuel injected into the engine, while that which is not burned is exhausted, some being burned off in a catalytic converter, the rest released into the air). Evidently, the chemistry of coal is more complex than crude oil, which explains why a refined liquid fuel from coal would combust completely. He claims this clean liquid fuel would cost 80% less than today’s crude-based fuel. In light of this prospect the fact that there’s more energy locked up in coal reserves just in North America than all the world’s oil reserves makes the promise here all the more enticing, if only for immediately addressing the problem that aircraft present with their emissions.
Also worth promoting in support of nuclear energy is a vision for electrifying transportation, particularly in urban areas where buildings extend tens of stories high while roads that traverse these areas more or less remain on the ground. Electrified “roadways” (I’m thinking maglev) would greatly lighten vehicle weights (the “engine” being the roadway itself), lessen materials needed to build “roads”, facilitate multi-level designs that could in fact even run through buildings (opening the possibility that space today’s roads take up could be developed into commercial properties), and foster autonomous driving that obsoletes the stop sign and traffic light, while dramatically increasing the speed at which goods and people can move from point A to point B. The point here is that if we put ourselves in position to vastly increase our annual output of electricity, commercially profitable enterprises that could come into being are certain to multiply. There’s simply no way unreliables could offer such promise.
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