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  1. Michael Shellenberger did a great job. It’s not easy to have many facts and figures off the top of your head to wield as counterpoints when needed. Debate isn’t easy under those conditions.

    Surprisingly, it was some of the audience members who expressed the most emotions during the question session. Just goes to show that advocacy is a never ending job.

  2. Is your ‘ non-fuel pellet ‘ mostly lead, Rod? I was thinking that when people talk about so many tons of spent fuel, you could demonstrate that a ton of UO2 doesn’t take up much space.

    1. @John O’Neill

      No. My simulated pellet is probably hard plastic or ceramic. It’s not designed to simulate the mass of a pellet, just its exterior dimensions. I keep meaning to acquire a few of the tungsten pellets used when mass is an important variable in for a simulated pellet. However, the only source I knew of did not sell them and I and not wired in a way that would have allowed me to simply pocket a few.

  3. Michael Schellenberger continues to impress. Pandora’s Promise was a great way to introduce friends to the conversation about world energy needs. In the US, people tend to take access to energy for granted. Those few who have traveled the world know that energy available and quality of life are inextricably linked. Saving Diablo Canyon is a new conversation in California, and a far different one than was going around when I lived there in the 1980s. San Onofre 2 and 3 fitted with a new set of well built Steam Generators also sounds like a viable California energy source. Great article.

  4. Thanks Rod for transcribing Michael’s opening statement. I found it very well structured. I have wanted to make the density argument but find myself getting bogged down because wind and solar don’t fit the same fueling model. Michael handled it very well. He was also able to bring it back to the conversation later. He makes a powerful statement that the density factor gives nuclear plants the smallest land usage and later points out that safety correlates with density as well. I’m sure he planted the seeds of doubt in some audience members. Michael is indeed an excellent steward and spokesperson. He has a gift for saying a lot in a small amount of time. I also applaud him for his civility and comebacks during the question period.

  5. “These pathetic clowns are the best we have to offer?”

    I think you forgot to eliminate Shellenberger from this group you referred to as “clowns”. I am disgusted……with the other three participants (mostly Jacobson and Bryk) Michael was spot on and for some reason wasn’t allowed to speak as much as the other mumbling, stumbling, lack of substance spewing drivel, living in a fantasy world individuals.

    Shellenberger is far from being a clown

    1. @Bonds25 and others

      The comment that you responded to wasn’t valuable and was quite aggressive. It’s been deleted. The author is free to continue commenting, but not to simply toss stones.

      1. You watching the debates, Rod? Throwing stones doesn’t cut it with you? Then I guess you ain’t gonna vote.

        Any sentient being residing in the United States should be ashamed of what is transpiring in this presidential race. These guys are going to address our energy issues? Our foreign policies? Our domestic issues? Our economy? A punk, a snake, and an elitist shyster on one side, and a social misfit vying against a murderous lying shrew on the other side. These are leaders, role models for our fresh generations?

        Won’t be long now. This house of cards is about to collapse. Hard, and soon.

        The point, behind the post you deleted, is with that “leaders” like this, the issues raised here are irrelevent, because this nation is about to implode.

        1. @poa

          No, I’m not watching the debates. Yes, I’m going to vote. Yes, I am absolutely disgusted with the debates and the reality show format chosen to attract media coverage. Yes, I’m disgusted that ad-supported media is fully cooperating and headlining idiocy.

          My tack, however, isn’t passive or resigned. Americans are far better than the examples shown on television, not only in the debates, but in all other forms of entertainment purporting to even slightly resemble real life.

          We need good people to step into the fray and push the loonies out. We need to treat OUR government and OUR democracy with the respect that WE deserve. It is a serious business; it is a way to increase opportunity for all; it is a way to encourage longer term thinking, goal planning, and achievement.

          My studies of our history lead me to the conclusion that some of those in the Establishment have purposely created the turmoil we see today to discourage the kind of participation from good people that I just described. They don’t want government of the people, by the people and for the people to disrupt their privileged positions.

          I’m not pining for the good old days, but seeking ways to influence more and more good people to join me and many others who are disturbed enough to be ready, willing, able and active in taking back the processes and the positions. It’s not going to be easy or quick or cheap, but it can and must be done to create a better world for our children and grandchildren.

          1. “My studies of our history lead me to the conclusion that some of those in the Establishment have purposely created the turmoil we see today to discourage the kind of participation from good people that I just described”

            That much is obvious by listening to the corrosive and divisive crap offered by the likes of Limbaugh, Hannity, Savage, Maddow, etc…

            Yet when many here recite by mantra the garbage spread by these despicable mouthpieces, I see little effort on your part to counter the fictional script with actual truth. You seem to think, in fact you openly opine, that these mouthpieces are not so popular, that they go largely unheard. Yet the state of our union, the division of the masses, the crowds cheering on these racist opportunistic criminals vying for the presidency, telegraph the opposite. The people are buying into it, Rod. You and I are a minority. Our voices are muted, more so by decisions such as Citizens United, which you have actually have expressed SUPPORT for. Even here, seemingly intelligent people, scientists and managers, recite idiocy as fact, and hawk policies based in hatred. You are an idealist with no teeth. An optimist on the deck of a sinking boat, who thinks positive thought will mend the broken keel. Good luck with that.

  6. “Natural gas might cleaner and less polluting that oil because it is a more pure hydrocarbon in its natural state, but it is far LESS energy dense because it is a gas. Only when it is refrigerated and shrunk to 1/600th of its natural volume — at standard temperature and pressure — does methane have a slightly higher energy density than gasoline or diesel fuel.”

    “That tiny pellet — if it was an actual fuel pellet — would contain as much energy as a ton of coal, or 147 gallons of oil, or 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas.”

    In these two adjacent paragraphs we have an example of why people shouldn’t trust promoters. People shouldn’t trust promoters because they lie stretch facts to the limits.

    It’s one thing to gloss over the distinction between energy density and specific energy when rattling off facts in the spotlight. It’s another to abuse the same distinctions while copy/pasting an over-used line from the comfort of your blogging chair. It’s yet another to portray a fuel pellet as the natural form of uranium fuel, when it is far from the natural form.

    Since when is the “natural volume” of methane at STP? You could say the natural state of most methane is quite different: http://geology.com/articles/methane-hydrates/

    Liquifying natural gas, which is done for processing and ship transport, is somehow un-natural? Processing natural uranium ore through numerous steps of mining, refining, purifying, converting, enriching, converting again, pressing, and sintering to make “that tiny pellet” is not worthy of mention, or is more natural?

    Then, besides abusing the comparison by mixing mass and volume comparisons, what about all the assumptions in the estimate of pellet energy? Does it assume all the U235 is fissioned? At what enrichment? All the U238? Does it overlook the fact that pellets at the ends of fuel rods are not nearly as burned as pellets in the middle? Does it neglect the electric plant’s efficiency?

    When promoters say “would contain as much as,” you should hear “but probably a lot less in reality.” When they repeat the same phrases again and again, without disclaimers or assumptions listed in fine print, you should be skeptical.

    Here’s a couple quotes from Cameco:

    “One ton of natural uranium can produce more than 40 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. This is equivalent to burning 16,000 tons of coal or 80,000 barrels of oil.”

    “Concentrations of uranium that are economically viable to mine are considered ore and range from about 1,000 up to 200,000 parts per million uranium.”

    So, at 1,000 ppm, a ton of natural uranium ore can produce more than 40,000 kWh of electricity; equivalent to burning 16 tons of coal or 80 barrels of oil. That ratio is OK, but less impressive.

    1. @Mala Metallorum

      All writing aiming to be accessible is, by necessity, streamlined and stripped of certain complicating details.

      The fuel pellet density comparisons are not aimed at saying that the form is “natural.” They are aimed at illustrating how much less mass needs to be moved from one place to another to provide fuel. They are also aimed at showing how much fuel can be stored in the tiny volume of a nuclear reactor, on site and ready to go, compared to the storage facilities needed to contain methane, coal, or oil.

      For the record, the fuel density comparisons provided assume that the fuel achieves a relatively standard burn up of 40,000 MWdays/ton of heavy metal. That means that about 4% of the potential energy gets released – most of that comes from the U-235 content and some comes from the U-238 that gets converted to Pu-239 and burned during the normal 48 – 60 month residence time in a reactor. The “as much as” is not supposed to indicate a limit, that phrase as I am using it can be translated into “equivalent to.”

      Of course, there are substantial simplicities involved in using the terms “coal” and “oil” because both of those terms include a wide ranges of possible grades with a wide range of energy content.

      The concentration of uranium in rocks makes some impact on the total quantity of material that needs to be excavated, but the advantage that uranium has is that most of the rock crushing and metal extraction is done either on the mine site or at a regional mill located within a few hundred miles of the mine. There are not 100 car long uranium ore trains blocking traffic in hundreds of small midwestern towns, massive tankers crossing the ocean all of the time, or large diameter pipes running underneath neighborhoods.

        1. It’s not easier to use, actually; thorium is only fertile (not fissile) so it has to be bred to U-233 before it can drive a chain reaction.  If you use graphite or heavy water as a moderator, you can use natural uranium as fuel.

          The Th/U-233 system is, however, capable of net breeding in a light-water, thermal-spectrum reactor.  This is not possible with uranium.

          1. Thank you for taking the time to respond. I am not trained however in this field and I can’t tell from your answer if Thorium would satisfy Mala Metallorum concerns, “Liquifying natural gas, which is done for processing and ship transport, is somehow un-natural? Processing natural uranium ore through numerous steps of mining, refining, purifying, converting, enriching, converting again, pressing, and sintering to make “that tiny pellet” is not worthy of mention, or is more natural?”

          2. Thank you for your response. I am not trained in this field and I can’t tell from your response whether Mala Metallorum’s concerns have been addressed.

            “Liquifying natural gas, which is done for processing and ship transport, is somehow un-natural? Processing natural uranium ore through numerous steps of mining, refining, purifying, converting, enriching, converting again, pressing, and sintering to make “that tiny pellet” is not worthy of mention, or is more natural?”

          3. I am not trained in this field and I can’t tell from your response whether Mala Metallorum’s

            His pseudonym translates roughly to “evil metal”, ascribing malice to a chemical element.  He might as well tattoo “KOOK” on his forehead.

            concerns have been addressed.

            His “concerns” are fabricated.  Cooking is completely artificial, a human invention.  The nuclear chain reaction is completely natural, a process which arose and proceeded for tens of thousands of years in Gabon (and possibly other places we have not yet discovered or which have since been erased by erosion).

            “Liquifying natural gas, which is done for processing and ship transport, is somehow un-natural?”

            Nothing on the surface or hydrosphere of the earth has ever been at a temperature low enough to liquefy methane gas.  Methane clathrate (crystals of methane bound to water under cold and pressure) is a very different thing.  That he would use the ambiguity to deceive you speaks volumes.

            For that matter, Oklo was ~2 billion years ago while the first known life on Earth was ~4 billion years ago.  Here we had a completely natural, uncontained nuclear chain reaction going on for thousands of years with its fission products absolutely free to go where they would, and life took everything in stride.

            Which doesn’t matter.  Coal seam and massive forest fires, strychnine and diptheria toxin are natural.  Breeding of Th-232 to U-233 in self-sustaining breeder reactors is un-natural.  The difference is that the former are generally dangerous and damaging to humans, and the latter can be made almost totally innocuous to both humans and nature.  “Natural” does not mean “good”, or vice versa

      1. You write: “All writing aiming to be accessible is, by necessity, streamlined and stripped of certain complicating details.”

        but,

        I read: All writing aiming to convince people of something is, by necessity, lies half truths and exaggerations.

        The Cameco comparison came closer to being apples to apples, but probably didn’t include the higher efficiency of combined cycle gas turbine plants, which gives about another factor of two.

        So, would you agree with the statement, a single ton of natural uranium ore can produce as much electricity as 5 to 20 tons of fossil fuels like coal, oil or natural gas? Or would you need to include more factors of 10 by assuming higher concentration uranium ores? I can predict your answer: 5 to 2,000 tons of fossil fuel per ton of uranium ore isn’t as impressive sounding as 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas per fuel pellet, and you prefer to overlook the false, oranges to apples comparison “complicating details.”

        You also overlook the “complicating details” of what is involved with nuclear fuel. With only a few fuel makers across the country, and a few enrichment facilities in different locations, how many shipments of UF6 containers are necessary? How many shipments of fuel assemblies are required? How many thousands of depleted UF6 containers are still sitting outdoors in small midwestern towns?

        If waste nuclear fuel could ever be shipped to a “permanent” storage facility, how much traffic would be blocked? How much radiation exposure would bystanders get?

        Say what you will about coal trains “blocking traffic,” but I’d rather be near a coal spill than a UF6 spill, any rainy day.

        Last, I hate to be too picky when discussing overlooking “complicating details,” but regarding: “…the advantage that uranium has is that most of the rock crushing and metal extraction is done either on the mine site or at a regional mill …” If you’re going to be picky about the density of “natural gas,” then maybe “oxide” is a more accurate word than “metal.”

        1. @Mala Metallorum

          Last, I hate to be too picky when discussing overlooking “complicating details,” but regarding: “…the advantage that uranium has is that most of the rock crushing and metal extraction is done either on the mine site or at a regional mill …” If you’re going to be picky about the density of “natural gas,” then maybe “oxide” is a more accurate word than “metal.”

          Good point. From PowderHandling – Bulk Density Chart
          Uranium oxide – 1760 kg/m3
          Uranium (compound) – 3060 kg/m3
          Uranium (granules) – 2940 kg/m3

          I write to persuade. Agreed. I do not tell lies and try to avoid half truths.

          Combined cycle gas turbine plants are about 2 x as efficient as conventional nuclear plants – true. However, the responsive, load following gas turbine plants that are touted as being the flexible partner to unreliable wind and solar are not combined cycle plants.

          Yes, the nuclear fuel cycle supply chain as currently configured in the US, requires a lot of material movements. That supply chain, however, was configured as an outgrowth of a weapons manufacturing complex and built under a pork barrel political system that seeks votes rather than manufacturing efficiency. Why else would the power hungry gaseous diffusion plants have been almost solely powered by coal instead of enriched uranium fuel from nuclear reactors?

          Shipments for used nuclear fuel should be as short as possible – perhaps to a regional recycling facility – instead of as long as possible, which is what the Yucca Mountain plan would have entailed.

          You also are guilty of carefully framing your words. Of all of the shipments required under today’s construct, what portion is UF6? The only leg for that compound is between the conversion plant and the enrichment plant. The rest are all material forms that I would far rather be near than a substantial coal or ash spill.

          1. “…under a pork barrel political system that seeks votes rather than manufacturing efficiency. Why else would the power hungry gaseous diffusion plants have been almost solely powered by coal instead of enriched uranium fuel from nuclear reactors?”

            Pork barrel politics is shared by all US businesses. Portsmouth, Paducah and K-25 were powered by coal (and hydro) because they were capable of being operated by TVA and delivering the multi-gigawatts of power needed. Nuclear was not. This is well illustrated by Browns Ferry 1 being TVA’s first nuclear plant and the first in the US to generate over one gigawatt, starting in almost 1974. This was rather late for the bomb effort. It was constructed in “only” about 8 years, but it proceeded to have a year long shutdown after a regulation-changing fire, in March 1975. Then, about 9 years later, all 3 units were shutdown for 6, 10, and 17 years because of management issues. This example isn’t the sort of record to boost your claims of safe, reliable, or cheap power supply, but it does help explain why nuclear plants didn’t power the diffusion plants.

            “Of all of the shipments required under today’s construct, what portion is UF6? The only leg for that compound is between the conversion plant and the enrichment plant. The rest are all material forms that I would far rather be near than a substantial coal or ash spill.”

            UF6 is shipped from conversion plants to enrichment plants. UF6 is also shipped from enrichment plants to fuel fabrication plants. Depleted UF6 is shipped from enrichment plants to “storage” locations and to other manufacturing plants for DU munitions and other products. There are also international shipments of UF6 for trade. You say you believe radiation exposures are good for you, so you would naturally prefer to be nearer the more radioactive materials.

          2. @Mala,

            Even I, a non-nuclear engineer, can see through your crafty attempts creating fear, uncertainty and doubt were little or none is warranted.

            What I most wonder about though, is who is lurking under that intriguing pseudonym of yours. Your writing style and your choice of arguments reminds me of somebody I know, but I’m not sure about it.

        2. Coal shipments would most likely expose bystanders to more radiation than spent fuel would. Our spent fuel casks are mostly <1 mrem/hr on contact with a couple being 2 mrem/hr on contact and <1 mrem/hr @ 30cm.

        3. I think the nuke thing might be a better option. See the link from 1978:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bu1YFshFuI4

          Now – consider one thing. People who don’t like nukes at all figure that everything is static. Think a minute. Cars are safer, toys are safer, and they make it hard for me to eat lead paint these days. People are smart. They can make things better. They have the capability to build even better nuclear plants than they did in 1978.

          I don’t work in the nuke business, but I’d like to get one of those shill jobs as I’d think they would pay well.

    2. “So, at 1,000 ppm, a ton of natural uranium ore can produce more than 40,000 kWh of electricity; equivalent to burning 16 tons of coal or 80 barrels of oil.”

      Sixteen tons, huh?

      You load 16 tons and what do you get,
      Another day older and deeper in debt.

      As pointed out, it would certainly be easier and probably cleaner overall to move the little pellet.

  7. One of Shellenberger’s best arguments, in my opinion, was:

    “We can’t let irrational fears put us at risk.”

    Jacobson and Bryk did not have any good arguments. They were spouting misinformation almost with every sentence coming out of their mouths.

    I also found the moment when Caldeira was called a liar by an audience member interesting. I thought Caldeira did a great job at maintaining the pose of the humble, soft-spoken and objective scientist. But what happened just goes to show that there is no pose, no matter how humble or softspoken, which guarantees that a rabid antinuke won’t try to bite your head off. It was nice to see that Caldeira rose to the challenge and showed that he can certainly be firm and unyielding when necessary.

    Lastly, I was shocked by Jacobson’s attempt to paint the IPCC as being antinuclear. It is certainly not, as Rod has already showed in a previous article. For Jacobson to attempt to mislead the public about what the IPCC does and does not recommend concerning nuclear power was unconscionable. How low can one stoop? Just like the traditional climate deniers, Jacobson is misrepresenting the IPCC position. Surely, Naomi Oreske’s should have reason now to call Jacobson a “Denier”, I would say.

    1. Lastly, I was shocked by Jacobson’s attempt to paint the IPCC as being antinuclear.

      Joris – You must not have read the IPCC’s SRREN. It was blatantly anti-nuclear, which is not surprising since the lead author of one of the key parts of the document was a Greenpeace campaigner, Sven Teske, whose qualifications to write such a report are dubious at best and with a conflict of interest large enough to drive a truck through.

      Considering this, I have to say that Jacobson was right.

      Surely, Naomi Oreske’s should have reason now to call Jacobson a “Denier”, I would say.

      Why? They share the same politics. “Denier” is a term that is reserved for people who disagree with her ideology and preconceived notions — i.e., her partisan dogma. Your mistake is that you assume that details, facts, and integrity matter. It’s an honest mistake, but you have to remember whom you are dealing with.

      1. I happen to believe that Oreskes was duped by Jacobson’s fairy tale. Being a non-technical person, it was very easy for her to be so duped, and she’s not the only one of course.

        But Oreskes has established herself as a crusader against (fossil fueled) misinformation and propaganda. So I would say that she is the kind of person who would be able and willing to change her mind if she is approached by someone she trusts and who can explain to her how it came to be that she was so severely duped by Jacobson. I think you would be horrified at herself for falling into the same kind of trap which she has spent so much of her life as an author trying to expose, and warn people about!

        Concerning the IPCC, yeah sure the fingerprints of the Sven Teske’s of this world are all over it, but as Rod well showed in a previous article, it is equally clear that the IPCC *does* in fact support nuclear as an important element of any credible solution to the climate problem. Moreover, recognising the power of the antinuclear lobby within the climate and environment sector, and within the IPCC, it is very notable I think that the IPCC nevertheless supports nuclear as it has.

        That is why I think that Jacobson needs to be taken to task over his clear attempt at misrepresenting the IPCC. It is “denialism” if ever there was such a thing!

        1. Non-technical?! She has a degree in geology and worked on the Olympic Dam mine in Australia (the largest known single deposit of uranium in the world), publishing several papers on it in the early 1990’s before moving on to a career as an enviro-demagogue.

          Easily duped? With her background, you’re essentially accusing her of being an idiot.

          I disagree, and I give her more credit. I think she knows exactly where she stands and what she is doing.

  8. @pao, you are a loose cannon. The topic pf this blofg is Atomic Insights, not political insights. While your views may be valid, I read Rod because of his Nuclear literacy, not for his political views, which are similat to mine, by the way. ut even if he were a right-wing epublican, I would still be interested in what he had to say about nuclear energy. We all need to keep on track, and work toward the inevitable day, when people and politicians begin to panic. At that point we should be able to step forward and say, “Yes, we have some answers.”

      1. Actually, Charles, your post deserves a better response than I offered. First, this entire blog concerns itself with politics, and political issues. The science is advanced, or stymied, by political factors. Waste management, land management, federal subsidy allotments, plant closures…all dependent on, or contingent on, the political process. Discussing an issue concerning NE such as is addressed in these two threads, (the viability of an all renewable energy future), cannot be completely discussed without considering the political sides of the issue. Period.

        So if a cadre of sputtering buffoons are vying for the presidency, it directly affects our energy future. One of these hapless clowns will be making decisions directly affecting our energy policies. Whichever special interest has the deepest pockets will be guiding the signature hand of your president. Now, do these pathetic posturing bickering jackasses instill any confidence that one of them may make choices based in anything other than bribery? Can your energy darling match the deep pockets of the fossil fuel industry?