I have had a little extra time on my hands for the last few days. One of the things that I did was a vanity search to see where there was mention of my name on recent blogs. (Sometimes this kind of search can lead to surprising results.)
One of the items that I found was a rather curious comment on an article that I originally wrote for Atomic Insights about the learning curves at Olkiluoto. That commentary was later picked up by a couple of additional outlets including The Business Insider: Green Sheet, which published it under the headline of Calm Down, Finland’s Nuclear Reactor Problems Are No Big Deal. Here is the comment that I found in the thread following that article:
As usual, Rod Adams sees the world through overly-optimistic glasses. The Finland nuclear plant is not the first, as there are more than 400 nuclear plants operating worldwide, with another 40 or so under construction. The lesson from Finland is that nuclear power plants do not have a learning curve, instead each is starting over. What an industry. If an industry cannot learn after 400 projects, how many more are required? Nuclear is nuts, when the world is swimming in cheap and plentiful natural gas. Natural gas does not require expensive radiation-shielding domes, nor does it produce toxic radioactive byproducts that threaten future generations for centuries. Nor does natural gas power produce byproducts that can create nuclear bombs. Nor does natural gas power require billions to construct, and more than a decade to bring a plant online. Rod Adams of course has no answer to any of these facts.
Of course, I remembered quite clearly who Roger Sowell is – we have had several exchanges in various web conversations. Mainly, I have pointed out that Roger, a former chemical engineer turned lawyer who has worked in refineries and other production facilities for a couple of decades, has a vested interest in marketing a competitor to nuclear power. As you can see from his comment, it is pretty clear that he continues his efforts to persuade people that “clean, natural” gas is a cheaper and safer alternative to using nuclear power.
What Roger fails to mention is that just a year ago, no one would have called natural gas “cheap” or abundant, that people in Viareggio, Italy have recently found out just how safe Liquified Petroleum Gas (a close cousin to natural gas) can be when moving through town in rail cars, or that a single gas pipeline project in Alaska is projected to cost upwards of $20 billion dollars to move gas from its source to a market. (In all fairness to Roger, the Viareggio, Italy train explosion happened after his post.)
The next comment in the thread at Business Insider also gave me a warning that Roger had produced a post for his Sowell’s Law Blog aimed directly at my advocacy for atomic fission. I followed the link to a post titled Nuclear Nuts.
I happen to have a reasonably thick skin and have frequently withstood the slings and arrows of people who consider me rather nutty. However, as I read through Roger’s post attacking my analytical skills and implying that my knowledge of nuclear topics is only “self-proclaimed”, I decided to offer my friends and readers an opportunity to read what people on the other side of the atomic energy discussion have to say about my thoughts and statements.
If Roger’s words do not agree with your thoughts, please let him know. He has already claimed to be too busy to pursue any further attempts to convince me – “a true zealot” someone “who is not to be swayed by the force of any evidence supported by facts” – that I am wrong. Perhaps it would be valuable to let the man know just how many of us there are who know the difference between rain and something a bit less healthy when it is tinkled on our heads.
Update: For information about worker safety in the oil and gas industry, you might want to read Worker deaths up sharply in U.S. oil and gas fields, which discusses on-the-job fatalities during the period from 2002-2007. End Update.
Update: One of the topics that got introduced in the lengthy comment thread was the notion that natural gas prices are currently low and are predicted – by some market observers – to continue to remain low for the foreseeable future. I noticed an interesting article yesterday in the Wall Street Journal titled Natural Gas Rises 12% but Is Off 35% for ’09.
That article and the associated graphs reminded me just how volatile natural gas prices are. It also reminded me of the significant interactions between economic activity, coal supplies, power plant efficiencies, and nuclear power plant output. It would be wonderful to understand why gas advocates like Roger continue to use poor data analysis tactics to claim knowledge of future gas prices. End Update.