Nuclear energy fights climate change and energy poverty at same time
The Washington Post Wonkblog recently published an article with the following headline Can the world fight climate change and energy poverty at the same time? There is a straightforward answer to that question that involves some hard work and some paradigm busting, but at least it is a path that offers a good chance of success.
Here is the comment that I left on the post. (As of a couple of minutes ago, this has been the “last word” in the discussion for about 24 hours.)
Nuclear energy provides a clear path to energy abundance. The earth’s supply of uranium and thorium are virtually inexhaustible.
Better yet, the energy release process is clean enough to power sealed submarines.
The fuel source for the submarine power plant that I used to run would fit under my office desk, yet it powered a 9,000 ton vessel for 14 years of operation.
The world’s hydrocarbon industry has been running a sustained disinformation campaign for many decades, often with the help of hired guns in the “environmental” community. They want us to fear nuclear energy and ignore its potential; deciding to do that means that we all agree to purchase and burn more fossil fuels. That makes them rich, the atmosphere dirty and the rest of us poorer.
It is time to pull away the curtains and recognize the magnitude of the gift that nature has provided in the form of incredibly abundant, concentrated and clean power right here on Earth.
Publisher, Atomic Insights
PS – Barry Brook has published an excellent guest post from Geoff Russell that deconstructs the environmental impact of building out the WWF’s recommended solar electricity grid – which “only” requires using 1% of the earth’s land mass. Check out 81,000 truckers for solar!. I am engaging in the sincerest form of flattery and borrowing the video embedded at the end of that post. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
I just wanted to say I enjoy your blog and certainly would like to see nuclear grow and coal/gas plants die. You must feel like a grain of sand in a beach of ignorance.
Keep up the good work.
Couldn’t agree more. I think most pro-nuclearists would feel the same way; like a piece of genius stuck between several slices of mediocrity. I often feel a sense of hopelessness in knowing that nuclear is needed and is in fact a strong answer to many of humanity’s problems and yet is opposed by so many. With people like Rod on our side, theres hope yet.
Dig back into history and you will find that there were many power stations built for the WWII war effort. After the war, the low cost of electricity helped drive the manufacturing boom and increase in productivity in the US. Wind and solar will increase the cost of electricity to the point that manufacturing will be forced out of the US, even “service” organizations will find it more expensive here than overseas.
Here is an article describing consequences of the high cost of energy in the UK.
When will we read stories like this in the USA? Using nuclear power will prevent this.
Using wind/solar will speed up the increase of the high cost of electricity.
Rich You have hit the nail on the head, by linking energy to economic activity and human progress. Our politicians, and too many of the public it has to be said, only understand economics as being about money. This is why much of the West has descended into economic chaos. Money is a poor measure of economic activity and is why all the money remedies that have been tried have so far failed to reverse the current trends.
If you look at the industrial revolution, and ask why Britain and why at that time you will find the answer to how we move forward today. Britain had just fought a civil war and rid itself of its absolute monarch. This bestowed freedom upon the country, and enabled entrepreneurs to flourish. Every business was a small business, no corporates, but it was energy via abundant coal that allowed innovation. Without going into the ins and outs of the environmental argument, during the early stages of the industrial revolution energy became cheaper and cheaper. Human progress and development continued unabated whilst we had cheap electricity and fuel for transport.
The wheels started to come off the wagon during WWI as taxes rose to pay for war. By the end of WWII we had the UN and the beginnings of the EU. These great centralising organisations are economic disaster zones that have done nothing other than take money in the form of increasing taxes from the innovators and workers and distributed it into the hands of corporates and cronies. Even the self-proclaimed home of the free the USA is more socialist now than many individual European countries al be it the EU is a reincarnation of the USSR.
So in today’s very centralised and corporate environment you have a very few people driving all the decision making to their own advantage. Whilst this political environment exists nothing will change. I disagree with our host on this blog, which is my prerogative of coarse over putting the blame on the hydrocarbon industry. They behave in an entirely predictable fashion given the politics. You could write all their speeches and pronouncements for them if you thought about it, which means you have to change politics to change corporate behaviour and to then reintroduce innovation. Hell they even fund the environmental movement because they know that these guys throw all manner of spanners into the works that only prolongs our need for hydrocarbon fuel
Where I do agree entirely with Rod is over the place of Nuclear power in our future. And having read extensively about nuclear power on not only this site but others, I have come to the conclusion that when we finally embrace nuclear again it will be small reactors that we build, manufactured more along the lines of an industrial process that will reduce costs and promote further innovation. The current monstrosities that we currently struggle to justify and build are from a bygone era.
Just a small note about that link to the newspaper article from the UK; the daily Star is not known for its accuracy, so don’t take any note of the numbers. However every day now the government here is getting pilloried for its incoherent energy policy that has been geared totally to saving the planet but has only resulted in increasing costs to the consumer. And here again public opinion in the UK is strongly rejecting all the nonsense about global warming and CO2. So the environmental argument is not going to win the day. The only argument that will win the public over is the economic one, and that requires a change in politics as mentioned above.
“global warming and CO2” isn’t nonsense, it’s the second worst threat after global human overpopulation, way ahead of terrorism or nuclear weapons.
The thing that’s nonsense is thinking we can go back to the energy sources that fossil carbon displaced, and displace fossil carbon with them.
What you say is true… however, I am surprised at the large number of my friends, mostly intelligent people however, mostly Conservative/GOP folk that tell me man made global warming is a hoax. That it is all cyclic… even when I point out the 4-8 inches the oceans have risen in that past years.
To tell you the truth, I think a large part of the reason is because it was Al Gore’s movie that really brought the global warming threat into the US mindset.
I think by “nonsense” he might mean noise. The argument for nuclear energy has to be economic to get these peoples attention. We need to stress that nuclear can be cheaper than gas/oil/coal for the long term. We have to stress the growing the nuclear energy industry will add high paying jobs to our country. We have to stress that reducing imports of oil and even exporting nuclear expertise and materials to the rest of our world to help our trade imbalance is good for the economy. These are the types of arguments the CO2 “its all a hoax” people will listen too.
I think we also have to discuss the danger to the stability of the earths crust and the ecology that fracking is.
You have to focus on the issue your audience cares above. Many more people care about the economic arguments than the environmental arguments. People see all the money spent on wind and solar with nothing to show for it.
Just keep at it people.
Thanks for your encouraging comments.
I have a trifling punctuation observation; should “mostly intelligent people however, mostly Conservative…” have been “mostly intelligent people, however mostly Conservative…”?
Speaking if movies, I’m glad to have learned that Robert Redford’s Sundance Festival is showing “Pandora’s Promise”, of which “the Hollywood Reporter” review’s summary says
The review is so biased, or inattentive, that it drags in the idea that the movie will please the Defense Industry.
The answer of course is that it isn’t a debate, and look at the facts.
“Small” percentages of land mass often referred to about future renewable deployments are extremely deceptive. I remember reading in Mark Z. Jacobson’s paper where he estimated only 5% of the USA’s land would need to be covered with wind generators to fill in whatever gap he had in mind. I did some quick checking and found out 5% of the USA’s land area is roughly the size of California. I can’t image such a large area covered in “renewable” devices, not to mention how ugly that would look.
Jason C is right. If 5% of the USA’s land were covered in wind turbines, there would still be times when there was inadequate wind blowing. Halkema’s wind turbine website http://www.windenergy-the-truth.com shows actual graphs of the wind power summed over a wide area, Germany I think. The sum of a thousand random walk series is still a random walk! If 10% of the USA were paved with PV collectors, from coast to coast, it would still be dark in Baltimore when the sun went down in Los Angeles.
Nice post and an important message to people concerned about energy and the environment. Theres a great appeal in a technology that can do so much with relatively so little resource input. It all boils down (pun quite intended) to flux density. But will opponent listen?
My target is not conversion of opponents, but inspiration of those who do not care very much – yet. We need to help people understand the amazing opportunities offered by taking advantage of our atomic bounty. Sure, we might be able to do without it, but why would we WANT to. We might not all NEED as much electricity as the average American uses today but why would anyone want to be forced or browbeaten into using less, just so people like Mark Z. Jacobson, Amory Lovins, and the WWF can make their silly visions of “100% renewables” seem almost possible – if you ignore the risks of large scale blackouts when the weather does not cooperate.
“when the weather does not cooperate.”
Yes indeed! Worst example — the winter when the snows above the hydro dams that supply California its fastest response to peak demand. It gost Governor Davis his job, although there was precious little he could have done about it. Winter snow is not usually as capricious as wind.
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