The Atomic Show #124 – Barton, Wheeler, Sorensen – Clean Atomic Energy
On Sunday January 25, 2009, I invited three of the most active pro-nuclear bloggers for a chat about the state of the nuclear industry, clean atomic energy versus “clean” coal, renewable portfolio standards, effects of the current economic crisis.
Charles Barton blogs at Nuclear Green and Energy from Thorium
John Wheeler produces This Week In Nuclear Podcast
Kirk Sorensen blogs at Energy from Thorium
In addition to the planned topics, we also spent some time talking about the effects of the laws of supply and demand, the difference in economic computations between competitive electricity suppliers and monopoly utility companies, and the reasons why restarting Zion might make sense (or not.)
Hope you enjoy the show.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 1:05:23 — 30.0MB)
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Listening to the podcast I noted that the speakers expressed dismay about GE lack of commitment to nuclear energy and its own ESBWR. I think we have to face the reality that GE is primarily a global financial services company, and no matter how good the nuclear product is, the board of directors is more focused on providing financial services than providing anything else. GE’s board of directors and corporate HQ probably view nuclear plants as an opportunity to lend money to utilities, however, most US utilities can borrow more cheaply by issuing bonds directly to the capital markets, they don’t need to pay the higher interest rates that GE would charge. As Rod often says: follow the money – in this case, if you want to strike a deal to build an ESBWR (or probably even an ABWR) you probably have to finance it through GE Capital.
Westinghouse-Toshiba, AREVA, Atomstroyexport, AECL and Hitachi are primarily manufacturers. Big difference.
The website Next Big Future takes a look at the “renewables vs. nuclear” subsidy issue that was alluded to in the podcast. Referencing a Cato study, from 1982-2002, renewable technologies actually received more federal R&D funding than either nuclear or fossil fuels in absolute terms; and the contrast is even greater when one considers “new renewables” funding is vastly more than their commensurate contribution to US electricity now or anytime in the foreseeable future.
Also mentioned in the podcast was the UC Berkeley study by Per Peterson on the relative construction material inputs required for fission, gas, coal, & wind. This should indicate fundamental relative NOAK costs of these power plants.
Space-based Solar Power Satellites (SSPS) have been discussed at least as far back as the early 1970s and were apparently under serious consideration by the Obama-Biden Transition Project for funding along the lines of nuclear fusion ($21 billion over the past 50 years).
Gerard K. O’Neill helped popularize the concept as part of his “High Frontier” vision of space colonization. No doubt space colonies of the future will be mostly solar powered, and the vast silicon & metal resources of the moon and asteroids coupled with automated and teleoperated robotics should enable the mass production of the Manhattan-sized solar-arrays that would be required. Such a technology could give fission serious competition for baseload generation — in perhaps 100 years.
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