The above embedded video comes from a Canadian show called The Agenda with Steve Paikin on Friday, May 21, 2010. For this episode, Steve interviewed Trevor Findlay, a Senior Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation. Mr. Findlay was the lead for the production of a new report titled The Future of Nuclear Energy to 2030 and Its Implications for Safety, Security and Nonproliferation. The report could just as easily have come from Amory Lovins’s Rocky Mountain Institute; it has a lot in common with that organization’s 2008 report titled The Nuclear Illusion.
Though it would be worthwhile to take the time to watch the whole interview and watch Steve Paikin’s body language and facial expressions as he asks reasonably probing questions, here is a quote from a key part of the discussion:
Steve Paikin: I know everybody’s in love with renewables these days, you know solar, photovoltaic and wind. Everybody’s in love with that. But I have yet to hear an energy expert of significance say that alone will get us what we need to make sure that the lights go on, the heating works or the air conditioning works on the hottest and coldest days of the year. Would you agree with that?
Trevor Findlay: Ahh. . I would. There’s all sorts of barriers to these other forms of alternative technologies as well. There are things such as efficiency and conservation, dual heat uses which can be bought into relatively quickly. But I guess what we’re saying in our report is that we’re trying to predict what governments will decide. We think they will go for things like natural gas and “so-called” clean coal over nuclear to deal with this problem of energy supply in terms of baseload power.
Steve Paikin: Talk about public relations. Clean coal? Does that really exist?
Trevor Findlay: I don’t think it does. But of course the coal industry, like the nuclear industry likes to promote it. Clean natural gas does exist, of course. (Emphasis added.) And if we are thinking about which way governments are going to move, I think they are going to take the relatively easy way of clean natural gas. And the price of gas is dropping because of all these discoveries in shale and the ability to remove gas from shale that we didn’t have only a few years ago.
Findlay: (continues) In some ways it is regrettable that this will happen and that some countries like China will continue to go for coal for instance, because its cheaper. They’ll try to clean up their plants to a certain extent but still won’t succeed as well as we might like. So there is a problem with baseload power. Some of it we attenuated with efficiencies and conservation, distributed energy systems which are closer to the customer and smaller. And there maybe nuclear will have a role in the form of smaller nuclear reactors, although we can discuss later on how difficult they are.
If I had the opportunity to follow up with Mr. Findlay, I would certainly probe a bit about the assertion that natural gas is clean and I would certainly ask more about the safety and security implications of depending on natural gas for baseload power supplies.
I would also follow up on the assertion that China is going to go for more coal when it is clear that nuclear will play an increasing role in the power supply picture for that country. After all, even the non democratically elected leaders need to breathe the same air as everyone else and have a clear incentive to do what they can to clean it up.
It should be obvious to people who pay attention to the way that the world works that men have erected many of the barriers that are slowing nuclear energy projects; what man imposes other men can move. In contrast, men have no power to overcome the obstacles faced by the other alternative power systems, which are not much lower now than they were tens of thousands of years ago when primitive man first recognized that the sun and wind delivered a variable amount of useful energy for free. No human has control of the sun’s schedule or can make the wind blow at will.