Similar Posts

Recent Comments from our Readers

  1. Avatar
  2. Avatar
  3. Avatar
  4. Avatar
  5. Avatar

34 Comments

  1. Rod,
    Another great and insightful write-up. And with a little political intrigue with German (” Gasgate”?”, AKA:” Schroder’s lucrative position.. Gazprom “!
    I would like to offer-add the clever label that our honorable Tennesse Senator Lamar has quipped that Nuclear power is an “Inconvienient Solution” !
    Here is the direct quote:
    As Alexander put it:
    My fellow Tennessean Al Gore won a Nobel Prices for arguing that global warming is the inconvenient problem. If you believe he is right, and if you are also concerned about energy sprawl, then I would suggest that nuclear power is the inconvenient solution…
    http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2009/10/06/nuclear-power-inconvenient-solution
    Keep up the great work!

  2. Yeah, the owners of those German nuclear power plants should be tarred and feathered, then run out of town. How dare they provide low-cost electricty with minimal emissions!? And then have the gall to make a profit while doing it!!? I bet they are providing well-paying jobs too!!! A threat to society, I say!!!!!

  3. Ah … Now I understand. Reading ThinkProgress has rotted Rod’s brain. 😉 Sadly, that blog been known to do that.
    This would explain why he apparently thinks that, when someone from a Libertarian think tank is opposed to carbon taxes and government intervention in markets, it’s really a fiendish conspiracy against nuclear power.
    And once again comes the criticism of poor Patrick Michaels. Why? Is it because he is opposed to nuclear power? On the contrary, he frequently uses nuclear power as a talking point to criticize environmental groups for hypocrisy:
    “Policy? There isn’t any extant suite of technologies that are politically acceptable to the CCS [Center for Climate Strategies] crowd that can significantly alter the warming trajectory the planet is one. Hint: try proposing nuclear power at a CCS-facilitated ‘stakeholder’ meeting.
    That’s the science that CCS wants off the table.

    So what does Michaels think of nuclear power? Well, it would help to ask him, which is something that Zakaria did not do. Here is what Michaels says when asked directly:
    “Could nuclear power play any role in a new energy matrix?
    Patrick Michaels: Well, nuclear power is the only dense energy source that doesn’t really emit carbon dioxide. The security question was just glossed over. France is 80-plus percent nuclear, what’s the security problem? So, you have to put this in the mix if you are serious. If you are not serious, if you think alternative fuels can do it – tell me what they are. Are you going to run a nation on solar energy and windmills and burning corn? You need nuclear energy to power an increasingly energy-dependent society.

    So Rod’s criticism of Michaels is not based on his position for or against nuclear, but simply because Michaels does not cheerlead for nuclear enough.
    Yep, definitely brain rot.

    1. @Brian -I am pretty sure I do not have brain rot. If I did, it would certainly not be caused by occasionally reading a publication that projects a different point of view of the world than the one that I most often hear and read.
      I have a different perspective on the energy challenge from both you and your hero, Patrick Michaels. (You have spent enough time in the last week defending him to have earned that comment.)
      Here is another quote from the very same interview that you used for your quote above:
      Patrick Michaels: Susanne said adaptation is costly. I have to disagree with that. Adaptation is not necessarily costly, it can even generate great revenue. I offer you the United States’ adaptation to hurricanes on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, one of the most hurricane prone regions in the world. Nobody lived there. Then people built these little, small one-story vacation homes underneath the dune line and realized the wind that they were worried about was not the problem. It was the storm surge – 12 feet of sea rising in half an hour. So they built the homes up on stilts, which rent for $15,000 a week in the summer. That’s adaptation to massive sea level rise.
      I spent a week on the Outer Banks this summer with a large gathering of family and friends. The house we rented was nice, but it was not up on stilts, even though it was directly behind the dune line with direct ocean access. We all kicked in for the rental, but even with 4 couples paying it was something way beyond the means of the people who used to rent out the “little, small one story homes” that Michaels thinks were so easily abandoned in the move toward adapting to massive sea level rise. BTW – our rent for the week including the 4th of July was no where near $15,000. Even if the owners of the little one story homes could see the potential of owning a property that could generate $15,000 weekly rentals – if they are lucky enough to find renters – actually financing and building that property would probably be way beyond their means and credit ratings.
      They would have to sell their property to someone with more resources. If the sale came about due to a need to elevate the home, I would bet that it would not be a very lucrative sale.
      Once again, my issue is one of perspective – it is really easy for a guy working at a think tank funded by one of the richest families in the richest country in the world to talk about how easy it will be to adapt to climate change.
      It might also be lucrative for that guy to fail to mention that there is a very good substitute for burning oil, coal and natural gas that does not emit any CO2 – unless he is directly asked about it. When asked, he seems to try to make it out like the failure to deploy more nuclear energy is because “the other side” is not really serious about climate change and only wants to push ineffective alternatives.
      Here is a time wasting project – go and open a sampling of Michaels Opinion and Commentary – http://www.cato.org/people/pub_list.php?auth_id=21&pub_list=3. Search each of them for the word nuclear and let me know how many times the most useful technology for addressing CO2 emission and other foibles of fossil fuels pops up. I am doing that right now and have opened more than two dozen of them without a single instance of the ‘N’ word found yet.

      1. @Rod: Perhaps this is not the most convincing example for you, but I did put in the word “nuclear” into the search box and generated this:
        http://www.cato.org/pubs/regulation/regv15n1/reg15n1-rothwell.html
        It’s what I at least find to be a relatively even-handed evaluation of whether nuclear energy can compete absent government subsidy, and where regulations should adjust to accommodate lower costs for nuclear development. It’s from 1992, so that’s definitely a strike against it. Incidentally though, some of the regulations they advocated, like standardized reactor design, did in fact come to pass.
        This took me only a few minutes to find, however, and strongly suggests that Cato has not been universally antagonistic to nuclear energy in and of itself. Mr. Taylor may be, but this clearly shows that Cato as a whole has not been. Which again has been what I’ve said all along.

        1. @Steve – interestingly enough, I had dinner with Geoff Rothwell, the author of that piece last week. We were part of a larger group.
          However, as you suspected, I am less than convinced that an 18 year old article published in a Cato magazine from an author that is not a Cato fellow says much about the Institute’s position regarding the use of nuclear energy to reduce our dependence on CO2 emitting fossil fuels. It does not even recognize much about all of the market obstacles that have been placed in front of nuclear energy while placing stepping stools and other assistance in front of competitive energy sources.

      2. “I am pretty sure I do not have brain rot. If I did, it would certainly not be caused by occasionally reading a publication that projects a different point of view of the world than the one that I most often hear and read.”
        Rod – I’m pretty sure that you don’t either. Didn’t you see the little emoticon, indicating that I wasn’t serious?
        On a more serious note, however, my comment was a sarcastic rejoinder on your criticism of another publication “that projects a different point of view of the world,” namely the Washington Times.
        Frankly, I don’t see how anyone who criticizes the Washington Times and quotes ThinkProgress can be at all credible. You yourself have demonstrated that you could have cited the original CNN transcript. Why didn’t you?

        1. @Brian – I have criticized the Center for American Progress – the organization behind ThinkProgress – on a number of occasions for its inconsistent approach to climate change. That group is heavily in favor of natural gas and promotes the idea that nuclear is just too difficult or too expensive to matter. How many anti- Joe Romm and John Podesta posts have you seen on Atomic Insights.
          Until I came across the transcript of the CNN interview, I had never actually read the ThinkProgress blog.
          I found the CNN transcript only AFTER Steve implied that there was something wrong with the one that ThinkProgress had published.
          BTW – I read the Washington Times fairly regularly and have probably even quoted it on occasion. It is important to read widely to avoid a group think mentality – good ideas can come out of many places, even places with huge philosophical differences.
          Heck, I even published an article in a Washington Times publication called The World & I. The article was titled “Alternative Nuclear Power” and was published in the April 2001 issue – http://www.worldandijournal.com/subscribers/toc.asp?thisyear=2001&thismonth=4

    2. Look, if Cato is willing to treat nuclear fairly, and campaign for an end to all regulation of nuclear except that which the market demands of it (no double standards, no strict liability, a completely level playing field), and they also call for an end to the very modest subsidies that nuclear gets, that’s fair, and I can live with that.
      If they only attack subsidies, and not regulation, that isn’t a principled position; they aren’t acting as an honest broker, and the appearance of impropriety exists given who’s bankrolling them.

  4. To give everyone an idea about how misplaced Rod’s criticism of Michaels is, please allow me to add some additional perspective. Sitting right next to Michaels during the CNN segment was Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeler with NASA’s Goddard Institute in New York. So what does Schmidt think of nuclear power? Well, here are his own words:
    “If you are desperate to know what I think (always appreciating that I am not an expert on power generation), my feeling is that there is some scope for an expansion of nuclear power, but that a) it is not worth subsidising over other non-carbon emitting sources (i.e. it needs to become viable given a reasonable price on carbon), b) hugely capital intensive, c) not obviously more publicly palatable than other generating sources, and d) there are obvious security/geopolitical issues that preclude it being a global solution (Iran anyone?).”
    Hmm .. It seems to me that Schmidt is far less enthusiastic and optimistic about nuclear power than Michaels — putting it essentially at the bottom of his list of solutions and expressing some reluctance that it is even there. Schmidt’s opinion has essentially been borrowed from Al Gore. He’s definitely no nuclear cheerleader, so why does Michaels get all of the criticism?
    Well, Schmidt works for Rod’s hero James Hansen, so I guess he gets a pass.

    1. @Brian – here is the dialog that followed the comment that I quoted from Michaels: (Besides Gavin Schmidt, the other guest was Jeff Sachs.)
      MICHAELS: We simply don

      1. @Rod: Only having the transcript from an openly partisan blog at my disposal, it seems like in the limited context Michaels is referring to transportation energy sources, of which we don’t currently have a viable alternative (as you yourself say, we’re a ways off from direct electric vehicles, etc.) But Michaels was fairly blunt in arguing that nuclear is the only energy source with the required power density which doesn’t emit CO2. So I don’t really understand the inherent conflict, here.
        If anything, I feel like you’re desperately looking for a disagreement, or a “damning with faint praise” when there is scarce evidence of it. In particular, Michaels refers back to gasoline consumption in response to rising gas prices; and the chief focus of the discussion appears to be upon fuel taxes, with carbon taxes thrown in. His point is in the demand inelasticity toward fossil fuels for transportation – which regardless of where his funding comes from, is a fact which can be independently verified. I don’t agree with his proposal for simple inaction on a carbon price, but it seems quite clear in the context that he was discussing transportation, where it is much, much more difficult to eliminate fossil fuel usage, and hence CO2.
        Conversely, power generation is (relatively) easy. Sources are highly centralized, and we have practical means at our disposal to make the transition. And as others have already pointed out, Michaels acknowledges this. What exactly are you looking for that would convince you that he is genuine and not simply “damning nuclear with faint praise?”
        Frankly, I think you’re letting your own biases get in the way on this one, Rod. (The issue of Mr. Taylor is a separate one, although I think you misinterpreted my argument in the prior discussion regarding Cato. My point was not so much that other experts speak on energy issues for Cato so much as that if were one to scratch a scholar there and query them on nuclear, they would likely not find the level of antipathy of Mr. Taylor. The example posted with Mr. Michaels, despite your refusal to acknowledge it as such, points in this direction.)

        1. @Steve – if you do not like the transcript at the previous link, perhaps you can find some differences between that and this one from CNN itself.
          http://archives.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1008/15/fzgps.01.html
          I cannot find any differences. Read the transcript. Then come back to me and tell me you still believe that the topic of discussion was limited to transportation fuels.
          I am not “looking for disagreement”. I am merely pointing out that the right has been at least as guilty of the left when it comes to recognizing that nuclear is an incredibly valuable tool that can both improve our overall prosperity and reduce our human impact on the environment. I firmly believe that this bipartisan disrespect of nuclear energy is caused because both sides LOVE oil, coal and gas money. They only pay lip service to the idea of finding a useful replacement. We have been operating on a hydrocarbon economy for more than 100 years; the establishment on both sides of the aisle benefit from the continuation of that addiction.
          The Cato Institute produces material about energy. Its experts in that area do not favor the use of nuclear energy. Ergo, the Cato Institute does not favor the use of nuclear energy, since it has not funded anyone else to speak or write on the issue. The institute owes its existence to folks who derived their personal wealth from selling oil and gas. Argue all you want, but please recognize that this example helps to illustrate the fact that the issue is NOT just a right versus left or a Republican versus Democrat issue.

          1. ” Then come back to me and tell me you still believe that the topic of discussion was limited to transportation fuels.”
            @Rod: Well, for starters:
            “MICHAELS: But, see, the problem is one of magnitude and political acceptability thereof. You know, when we had gasoline at $4 a gallon, we reduced our consumption a grand total of four percent. If you’re really serious about atmospheric carbon dioxide, you’ve got to reduce it about 80 percent.
            How high does that tax have to be to be 80 percent? How do you do that in a political republic? It’s very, very difficult. And I guarantee you that any time it comes up —
            ZAKARIA: But is your answer therefore to do nothing?
            MICHAELS: No.
            ZAKARIA: OK. Then let me ask you what people wonder about, advocates like you. They say —
            MICHAELS: I’m advocating for efficiency.
            ZAKARIA: Right, but people say that you’re advocating also for the current petroleum-based industry to stand pat, to stay as it is, and that a lot of your research is funded by these industries.”
            I mean, I don’t know about you, but given that petroleum makes up a vanishingly small fraction of electrical production, what do you suppose they were talking about, if not transportation fuels, within this context? Again, if we talk about the lack of technology to replace fossil fuels, gasoline taxes, and charges that one is advocating for “the petroleum-based industry to stand pat” in the very own words of the host, where do you think they are talking about?
            Meanwhile, when put specifically to the issue of power production, when you have the same person is saying, “No serious discussion of CO2 mitigation doesn’t include nuclear,” I don’t know how much more categorical one can be.
            Again, precisely what evidence are you looking for, here?
            Furthermore, I challenge you to produce better analysis than, “The institute owes its existence to folks who derived their personal wealth from selling oil and gas.” Really? Then put up some numbers to support this claim. Simply bandying about the Koch family boogeyman may work when you hang out with friends of a left-wing persuasion, but back in the real world this is not itself sufficient.

            1. @Steve – Michaels was the one who turned the conversation to gasoline, even though most people who are well versed in CO2 emission sources should recognize that the largest and easiest to attack component of CO2 emissions is burning coal to produce electricity. It was only after Michaels started talking about gasoline that Zakaria asked him about petroleum based industries and went after his funding source.
              Truth be known, I think Zakaria’s question was a bit weak. A better one would have asked Michaels about the portion of his research funded by the hydrocarbon industry. That descriptor would thus include coal, not just oil and gas.
              http://mediamatters.org/research/200405200001
              You asked me to put up numbers related to Koch Industries to back up my claim that it derived its wealth from selling oil and gas. That is difficult to do, since Koch is a private company and does not release any reports that would provide revenues in broad categories. However, the Wikipedia entry on the company and the company’s own web site provide information about the company’s roots in oil and gas. Are you questioning whether or not the company is interested in maintaining and growing its sales?
              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koch_Industries

              1. @Rod: My point was that the conversation you highlighted as evidence of an omission was in fact not so – that the discussion in its context was limited (by Michaels) to transportation sector energy sources. Whether Michaels limited the scope artificially isn’t really relevant here – your main contention was that it was an intentional ding of nuclear by omission, and I countered that it was due to the limited context from which he was framing it. I presented this evidence, and it would now appear that you agree with me.
                As far as your Koch Industries point, you made a very specific charge – and simply saying they are self-interested players isn’t going to cut it. Again, if you want to bandy about the Koch Industries boogeyman and make the claim that Cato “owes its existence to Koch Industries,” I expect you to actually put forth a better argument than the one you’re putting up. Let’s see a breakdown of Cato’s sponsorship. Let’s maybe a do a little Googling and see who else receives Koch support. In other words, the intellectual laziness that flies in the left-wing echo chambers you’re fond of citing as “sources” aren’t going to fly around people who don’t take such an uncritical view.
                Again, the only reason I even bother @Rod is because I expect better out of you – when it comes to nuclear energy arguments, you’re never this lazy; almost always what you say is backed up with hard evidence and solid reasoning. But in this case you’re simply trying to scare up a left-wing boogeyman simply because it serves your argument. You can do better than that.

                1. @Steve – what sources will you accept to document the fact that Cato was founded by two people, Charles Koch and Edward Crane. Koch had the money. Interestingly enough Cato claims that Edward Crane was “the founder” and does not even mention Koch. (http://www.cato.org/about-mission.html and http://www.cato.org/people/edward-crane)
                  Here is a quote from a New Yorker article (oops, sorry to quote a “left-wing echo chamber” here, but the New Yorker does still employ fact checkers and is generally considered to be a reputable journal)
                  “In 1977, the Kochs provided the funds to launch the nation

      2. “Michaels did not follow up. “
        Of course he didn’t follow up! The professor of “sustainable development” kept talking. He wasn’t given a chance to follow up to that. Did you actually watch the video of the CNN segment, or are you simply basing everything that you write on your biased parsings of published transcripts that might or might not be accurate?

      3. Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that, when commenting on a CNN segment that had three participants, Rod, the “nuclear blogger,” chose to attack the one guy who most strongly favors nuclear power?
        Talk about ironic!!
        Geez … with friends like Rod, who needs enemies?

  5. Brilliant post, Rod.
    Bryan – – since Michaels said “we don’t have a replacement technology right now,” when, in fact, we do, I don’t see the criticism as misplaced. Rod has never hesitated to criticize those who share his generally progressive political perspective for opposing nuclear energy. That said, it appears Mr. Schmidt seems not to understand the array of subsidies enjoyed by low carbon sources other than nuclear, or what I view as the “red herring” nature of “security/geopolitical issues” as a roadblock to nuclear.

    1. Fank Jabski said:
      “since Michaels said ‘we don’t have a replacement technology right now,’ when, in fact, we do …”
      Fank – Oh really?
      Let’s see what Michaels said:
      “if you don’t have the technology to really effectively do this and to do it globally. … We don’t have a replacement technology right now.
      Naturally, my emphasis is different than Rod’s — although the text is entirely the same — because I have a different point to make.
      Michaels’s point was that it would require a reduction of 80% worldwide to make any kind of impact. What does that mean?
      Well, the world’s TPES (Total Primary Energy Supply) is roughly 12,000 Mtoe (according to the latest freely available statistics from the IEA). Of this, roughly 81% is supplied by coal, oil, and natural gas. That’s 9800 Mtoe.
      By the way, nuclear worldwide provides only about 7% of this amount: 710 Mtoe.
      So what would be required to replace 80% of the energy generated by coal, gas, and oil by nuclear? Well, the highest rate of increase in nuclear power occurred in the 1980’s, largely as a result of efforts by the US and France. During that decade, electricity production by nuclear increased by 1200 TWh/year. Thus, if we assume that this rate of increase could be maintained indefinitely, and if we assume a 33% thermal efficiency that is typical of modern nuclear plants, then nuclear could replace 80% of the world’s TPES from coal, oil, and natural gas in only about 240 years.
      Yeah, Michaels was right.

      1. @Brian – the decade of the 1980s came after TMI, after the Clamshell Alliance, after the ECCS hearings, and after the formation of the Critical Mass Energy Project. It came after Westinghouse executives spent the better part of a decade embroiled in a lawsuit over manipulation in the uranium market that almost put the company out of business.
        The building was limited to just a few countries and was winding down in many. One of the major worries in the US was “overcapacity”. Instead of completing nuclear plants and shutting down existing coal plants, utilities were encouraged to stop their nuclear projects and continue running their coal plants.
        Plants were still designed on paper, cranes were far smaller, modular construction techniques were underdeveloped, concrete sandwiches had not yet been invented, control systems were analog, all plants were enormous, and workers were looking out to a time when there were no new starts – so they did the logical thing and worked slowly on the plants that were still under construction. (It is human nature to milk a cash cow whenever possible.)
        Even with all of those disadvantages, we achieved a reasonably high rate of introduction. There is no technical or material reason why our build rate could not exceed the 1980s build rate by an order of magnitude.

        1. “the decade of the 1980s came after TMI, after the Clamshell Alliance, after the ECCS hearings, and after the formation of the Critical Mass Energy Project. It came after Westinghouse executives spent the better part of a decade embroiled in a lawsuit over manipulation in the uranium market that almost put the company out of business.”
          Rod – I chose the 1980’s because that was the decade that saw the greatest rate of increase in electricity generation worldwide by nuclear. It’s as simple as that. This era was when the world finally began to benefit from the groundwork that was put down in the 1970’s.
          I deal in hard numbers, not in stories. Plot the data for yourself, if you don’t believe me.
          So, right now, what does worldwide reactor market look like? I see only more light water reactors. (Maybe AECL will make a sale, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.) These reactors are larger and more efficient than their predecessors, but it is yet to be demonstrated that they can be built and brought online at a faster rate than nuclear reactors were nearly three decades ago.
          The nuclear renaissance in the US got underway with the formation of NuStart over six years ago. So where are the new reactors? So far, the only real accomplishment that has been made is that TVA has finally decided to follow up on projects from the last nuclear era. Nobody else has even a license to build a new reactor.
          This is in the country that has the largest nuclear fleet in the world. What is the Third World going to do to eliminate 80% of today’s energy production from fossil fuels?
          Requiring that only the wealthy countries adhere to these standards might be a cathartic exercise in self-flagellation, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t get the job done.
          “There is no technical or material reason why our build rate could not exceed the 1980s build rate by an order of magnitude.”
          Sure, with different technology — that is, technology that is not ready “right now.” With what is available today, you’d have to be a fool to believe that claim.
          This was Michael’s point. In spite of your ridiculous cherry-picking, Rod, he was not arguing that such feats were impossible. His point was that it is not realistically possible today, so any emission reductions by edict should wait until the technology is available. Meanwhile, efficiency should be encouraged, R&D should be encouraged, nuclear plants based on current technology should be built, but policy makers should not delude themselves that arbitrary emission limits or regressive taxes will do the job.
          I don’t see anything wrong with that.

          1. @Brian – Dealing in hard numbers without understanding the story behind those numbers is, I suppose, a reasonable engineering approach. It can also lead to incorrect conclusions.
            The 1980s completion rate was, in fact building on the ground work laid in the 1960s and 1970s. However, the “fire” beneath that effort had already been put out.
            Do you understand much about inertia for large systems – far larger than single projects?
            Here is a “story” that might help illustrate my point.
            Suppose you have been called in to find out something about an aircraft carrier that got underway, had a casualty and then returned to port for additional repairs. A person dealing with “hard numbers” and not willing to check out the underlying story might plot of the path of an aircraft carrier. He can use the ship’s log to determine courses and speeds, and predict what kind of acceleration the ship is capable of achieving and the maximum predicted speed of the vessel. He can also find the record of speeds as the carrier slowed down and eventually stopped. If unwilling to find out what was happening below decks, the observer can then predict the maximum speed of such a vessel based on the plot of speed over time.
            An investigator who is willing to get on board the ship and talk to the people operating the ship might come to a different conclusion. He might find that the ship began making way on just one of its two reactor plants because it had urgent commitments that needed to be kept even though there were still repairs underway on the other plant. The captain might have made the decision that the ship’s crew could complete repairs with the help of a few additional shipyard workers who could be flown home once those repairs were completed.
            As the ship left harbor and started to pour on the steam, repairs continued, but before they could be completed, things started going wrong with the operating engine. The ship might have achieved a standard bell on one power plant for a time, but before it could go to a higher power level, indications forced it to shut down and eventually coast to a stop. Post event analysis might show that some of the faults in both plants were inserted by saboteurs who did not want the ship to make its commitments while others were caused by easily corrected procedural mistakes.
            The initial observation might have been made at the time that the standard bell had just been achieved, but things were already starting to go wrong.
            My analysis of the stories and the documented history of the first atomic age – done over a period of nearly twenty years of obsessing about it, even at 0223 many mornings – is that the actual story is not unlike my fictional portrayal of the interrupted carrier deployment. There are still some saboteurs to find and eradicate, most of the procedural errors have been corrected, and the remaining repairs are nearly complete. While the ship has been in port, other ships have been under construction so when it finally does get underway, it might very well not be getting underway alone. The maximum speed of the one ship you have been observing might be two-three times as high as that one reactor standard bell, but the overall rate of moving planes from one place to another could be 10 times greater because there are 3-5 times as many carriers that are ready to move.
            In my opinion, Michaels position in this fable is that of a grumpy reporter who keeps criticizing the ship for not being able to move, but he has done nothing to speed the process. In fact, by his reporting, he has discouraged the participation of some suppliers that could have speeded up the process because he has convinced them that they will not make any real money until the ship is underway at full speed.
            You might like the guy because he writes reasonably well and tells people that taking admittedly difficult action today to reduce the rate at which we are dumping CO2 into the atmosphere is too expensive and poses too much risk to the economy. I am no expert in the field of climate science and have no religious or ideological stake in the discussion, but it sure seems to me that plenty of people who ARE experts are worried. Michaels may be right, but he is in a well funded minority.
            I have a deep understanding, from an historical and a technical perspective of a tool that can provide lower cost, more reliable power and is clean enough to operate inside a sealed ship. Pressurized water reactors with steam cycle secondaries have many physical similarities with other steam power systems that have been completed at FAR higher rates by rather standard industrial processes. They CAN be built much faster than they have ever been built in the past with even higher quality results. If I have anything to say about the matter, they WILL be built fast enough to make Michaels and his colleagues look rather foolish to anyone who looks back in time and plots their predictions versus reality.

            1. “Dealing in hard numbers without understanding the story behind those numbers is, I suppose, a reasonable engineering approach. It can also lead to incorrect conclusions.”
              We engineers have a term for the other side of that coin — dealing in stories without hard numbers. It’s called bullshitting, and it can also lead to very incorrect conclusions.
              I realize that bullshit can get you very far in this world. It plays well to lawyers, politicians, journalists, bureaucrats, CEO’s, and other mental defectives. The one thing that it won’t do, however, is build 3400 GW of new nuclear capacity in the next several decades — that is, the amount that would be required to replace 80% of the energy currently generated by fossil fuels.
              For perspective, let me point out that this is equivalent to bringing a new, very large EPR online every week for the next four decades. These numbers don’t take into account growth in energy demand, nor do they account for the retirement of reactors in the current worldwide fleet.
              Now, Rod, do you mean to tell me that you expect that this can be accomplished with technology that we have right now? If not, then you essentially agree with Pat Michaels.
              If you claim that we’ll have something in 10, 20, or 30 years that will be able to do the job, then you still agree with Pat Michaels, because he freely admits that technology can improve in the future.
              By the way, even if we assume that the overly optimistic build of the first atomic age in the US had not been stalled by the various reasons that you mention, it would not have made that much of a difference.
              If we assume that all of the canceled nuclear plants listed on Wikipedia (well, at least all of those with a published net capacity) had been built and had come online during the 1980’s, then that’s only and additional 700 TWh increase in new generation at the end of the decade (assuming a 90% capacity factor). Thus, including these canceled plants reduces the 240 year wait to replace 80% of fossil fuels to “only” 150 years.
              Rod – You’ve spent a lot of words defending a biased parsing and cheery-picking of the comments of one man on a TV news segment, which you hold up as as an example of the “right” being guilty of “disrespecting nuclear energy.” Unfortunately, your story lacks understanding of the hard numbers behind that story.
              It’s clear why you are not an engineer. You don’t have a good head for figures. I suggest that you stick to the other side of the coin, where a surplus of words and a paucity of numbers is appreciated, if not revered.

              1. It’s clear why you are not an engineer. You don’t have a good head for figures. I suggest that you stick to the other side of the coin, where a surplus of words and a paucity of numbers is appreciated, if not revered.
                Who are you trying to fool, Brian? Yourself, or the rest of us?

                1. Finrod – While your enthusiasm is appreciated, it could benefit from a strong dose of temperance.
                  Meanwhile, you are welcome to inject your own numbers into the debate, because frankly, I’m feeling lonely. Why am I the only one who feels the need to use some numbers?!
                  Rod has already decided to substitute faith for figures. Perhaps you can take up the cause and demonstrate how I am wrong? Aside from the rather speculative numbers for canceled nuclear capacity that I took from Wikipedia, all of my numbers can be easily traced back to the IEA.
                  I realize that the IEA’s numbers are but only so precise, but in this case, we’re not splitting hairs; we’re talking about differences that vary by an order of magnitude or more.
                  So I feel rather confident in my estimates. Furthermore, I feel confident that, unlike many people who talk here, there is little need to reduce the burning of fossil-fuels by 80% as immediately as possible. So this is much ado about nothing.

              2. @Brian – I DO NOT agree with Michaels. I believe that we have the technology available TODAY to make an enormous dent in the world’s consumption of fossil fuels. We can produce enough energy each year by 2050 to reduce our combustion related emissions into the atmosphere by 80%. If we had simply maintained the pace of implementation achieved in 1973 – not only the velocity but the acceleration – without any differences in basic technology, but with refinements in manufacturing and construction – we would be nearly there by now.
                It was the delaying tactics imposed by the competition aided by front people like Lovins, Romm, Michaels and Taylor (and a whole bunch of others including engineers who lacked the skills of good businessmen or military strategists because they never learned to recognize their true opposition) that have put us where we are today.
                Anyway, let’s move on. I am tired of this particular discussion.

      2. @Brian – you challenged my math skills – though in the days of Excel the ability to do accurate arithmetic could be assumed. As is always the case for a computation, the initial assumptions are at least as important as actually crunching the numbers.
        I started to produce my alternative analysis using your numbers in the comment dated 8 September 9:56:18 PM EDT.
        I am pretty sure that you have a typo in your comment? According to the spreadsheet of nuclear generation downloaded from the EIA (from a link on this URL – http://www.eia.doe.gov/fuelnuclear.html) the total world production has been pretty steady over the last half dozen years or so at 2600 TWhr/year/ Your comment says “During that decade, electricity production by nuclear increased by 1200 TWh/year.” (The spreadsheet says billion kilowatt-hours; there is a one to one relationship between billion kilowatt hours and terawatt hours.)
        I pulled the IAEA data and found that the rate of nuclear electricity production around the world increased by about 120 TWhr/yr for the decade of the 1980s, and that number matches up with your 240 year computation. (Aside, the 1980s saw substantial variation in the annual rate with a low of 48 in 1989 and a high of 229 in 1985.)
        Alternative analysis using different assumptions:
        Instead of assuming a fixed annual rate of new production, I assumed that we achieve the 120 TWhr/year introduction rate and increase it by 20% per year for 5 years, 10% per year for the next 5 years and then 5% per year for the next ten years. After those years of growth, I assumed a steady build rate.
        My basis for this assumption is that efforts to share the advantages of nuclear energy learn some lessons from the past and learn some lessons from the marketing successes in other industries. In addition, that assumption recognizes that there is a far larger world out there than just the US and France. There are an awful lot of zeros on the EIA historical spreadsheet of nuclear generation. I assume that scientists, engineers and technicians in far more places are now able to more readily access information about both successes and failures in nuclear energy development and may be able to apply those lessons to their own circumstances.
        Under the reasonable rate of capacity growth scenario, the time to replace 80% of fossil fuel production drops to 44 years instead of your 240 year number.
        That turns out to be pretty close to being something that could be accomplished by 2050, though we obviously have not gotten to year one of my scenario since our average rate of growth worldwide is near 0. I suspect that number will change rather impressively by the end of this decade considering the new build that is underway in the Far East and the interest that is being shown all around the world.
        My spreadsheet is available on request.

  6. Rod writes: “Though nuclear energy would have a difficult time making an impact on vehicle fuel use, it has already proven its ability to replace fossil fuels in electrical power production and ship propulsion.”
    Actually it would be quite easy to make an impact on vehicle fuel use if we started burning ammonia in our vehicles. The easiest way to make the transition would be to first convert our heavy trucking to ammonia (the engines have already been developed), which would allow us to put sufficient fueling infrastructure in place in the relatively few truck stops needed. Excess electricity from non-peak hours could be used to make the ammonia via electrolysis and the Haber-Bosch process (combining hydrogen with nitrogen from the air). In point of fact, we could avoid the whole boondoggle of spending a trillion or two on a smart grid if we’d make ammonia plants at wind and solar farms, allowing them to utilize every kWh they produce without having to deal with trying to integrate their fickle supply into the grid.
    Of course anyone who’s read Prescription for the Planet knows that boron vehicle propulsion is what I hope to see someday, but ammonia can be used now, and can make that difference in carbon emissions from vehicles that is needed (by the way, the NOx can be removed with a simple catalytic converter, making the ammonia engine essentially a zero-emission technology).

  7. I live in the Netherlands, a country bordering Germany, and I know that nuclear power always causes heated debates in Germany, unlike in any other country. The discussions are extremely ideologically driven, which is due to the strong anti-nuclear stance by the Green party and the social democrats (SPD), who are very powerful in Germany. These parties have the grand (and utopian) vision that Germany can be fully powered by alternative energy (solar, wind and biomass) by 2050. They also dislike nuclear plants much more than carbon-emitting coal-fired power plants !
    Yes, the German position on nuclear power is very peculiar, even by European standards. It is very peculiar because other European countries, such as Sweden and Italy, are reconsidering their anti-nuclear energy policies. Other countries, such as Finland and France (just across the Rhine !) are going full steam ahead with nuclear power.

  8. Rod should be congratulated for not falling for the easy partisan answers to every issue, a tendency which seems to be increasingly undermining the health of the body politic of the USA over the past couple of decades. Long may his voice be heard.

  9. How much Natural gas will be saved and available for transportation if we make 80% of our electricity from Nuclear?
    How much more “Coal Gas” could we make from coal, that could be added to the NG for transportation, if we were not burning it in coal fired power plants?
    Whatever happened to making Hydrogen directly at nuclear facilities? If it was designed into the next generation plants wouldn’t this help reduce oil consumption?
    How much cheaper would nuclear power, coal, oil and NG all be if we produced 20+% of our power from Nuclear?
    Have you lived (do you now live) in New England, New York, New Jersey? Many of the homes heat with heating oil – EXPENSIVE! I heat my house for 2/3rds the cost of NG with a air Heat Pump. What if each of the areas above used Ground Source Heat Pumps? How much more oil would be available for transportation when they converted over to GS heat pumps powered by Nuclear Electricity?. The infrastructure is already built. Much more logical than Wind, Solar, etc.

Comments are closed.