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29 Comments

  1. Ahh, the miracle of “Find and Replace.”

    Thank you. Great term. I had used “Renewables” about 25 times over my web site’s 50 or so pages. Am now giving “Unreliables” a test run.

    During favorable weather, I spend about an hour every day riding my bicycle along various stretches of a 40 mile long railroad track that has been converted to a bicycle trail. I think of it as my “Green Time” – a time of meditation.

  2. I like to think of solar and wind power systems as the “Unsuitables.” One of my favorite (to laugh at) statements from Amory Lovins was when he was addressing the reliability of wind power collection systems. He said that wind is better than nuclear because when it fails, it fails gracefully. Of course, the important part that he left out was that wind also fails frequently.

    1. He said that wind is better than nuclear because when it fails, it fails gracefully.

      That’s what happens when you get lots of practice.

  3. “Unreliables” vs. “Renewables”: The problems with term substitution.

    I can totally understand the desire to substitute one term with another term which you view as more accurate. The problem becomes that, if you never use the term renewables, you become less ‘searchable’. That is to say, anyone looking for information by searching in Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc using the term “Renewables” may miss your posts if you only use “Unreliables”. So make sure to continue to pepper your posts with the term Renewable, while also using Unreliables, to make sure you aren’t ignored by the search engines.

    1. @Jeff Good point, maybe instead of Unreliables on it’s own, use the more of a mouth full “Unreliable Renewables”

      Same message, but more Google Accesable.

    2. Jeff – that is a good point, but it is something that I am aware of. I will generally try to use the word “renewables” at least once in a post about unreliables. I use similar techniques to make sure that people who cannot spell Gundersen find my posts even if they search for Gunderson.

    3. I remember laughing once at an obvious search-and-replace cockup on a pro-Hezbollah website, which wrote about Hezbollah firing rockets into “northern Occupied Palestine”.

      It makes it sound like Hezbollah was attacking the Palestinians…

  4. Hatred of nuclear goes far beyond the rational. At some level it is an unwillingness to accept that there are solutions to the problems of peak oil and global warming. It is driven by a desire to see a simpler world where those that feel marginalized by modern technology can compete once again with those that seem to be in control of it.

    We throw around the term Luddites as an insult, but I have become more and more convinced that there is a very real undercurrent of that at work here. Abundant nuclear energy is perceived as a threat because it will unfetter more development and thus change, and many cannot cope with the way the world is now. Already feeling left behind by developments in information technologies, they fear a time when they cannot deal with anything.

    This is what we have earned by letting our education system fall apart. We have created a culture of ignorance, but at the same time inculcated everyone to believe that every opinion carries weight. As a consequent we are now looking a majority that are ill-equipped to make rational choices utterly convinced that they can. As a consequence many believe that there is a choice to make here when there is not.

    This combination of ignorance and fear is what is being exploited by our opponents, and they are very good at it. And it’s a perfect combination for the two major forces on the other side. Fossil fuel interests manipulate the public to maintain market share, and NGOs exploit fear to keep the donations flowing in.

    By the way being the last comment in a hostile thread isn’t cause for being disheartened – it often means you have won.

    1. DV8, your comment reminds me of a conversation I had some time ago with a friend who remarked “everyone is an expert on nuclear power”. As soon as she said it, I knew what she meant. I don’t know why of all subject matters, people who are least qualified to comment upon nuclear energy and energy matters feel no qualms about voicing their “expertise”. There are a host of other science and engineering subjects where people will often humbly predicate their lack of expertise with statements such as, “I’m not an expert by any means…” or “Please, excuse my ignorance…”. I rarely hear or read such statements in regards to nuclear matters.

      I have a hard time thinking of any other subject matter that has so many “experts” as does nuclear, but that could just be my biased observation.

    2. @DV82XL

      Did you know that the original followers of Ned Lud were skilled weavers who were being displaced by mechanical looms? They attacked textile factories and destroyed the looms. They did not attack other kinds of factories.

      In other words, the Luddites were specifically opposed to the technology that was replacing them in the market.

      That story is one more reason why I am fairly confident that the real strength of the antinuclear movement comes not from the ignorant but from the powerful whose income and the value of their capital assets would be greatly reduced by the availability of cheap, abundant fission energy.

      1. @Jason C – I see that sort of thinking in the field of medicine, particularly on the subject of vaccines, and in macroeconomic theory (generally from those who have shown no evidence of a grasp of microeconomic theory in their personal lives.)

        This is part of a trend that has developed over the last few decades wherein people seem to think that their ignorance is equal to others expertise. Again I blame an educational system that fails to teach that all ideas are not equal, and some answers are just plain wrong.

        @Rod – Oh I know the history of Ned Ludd, but even setting aside the fact that the term Luddites has widened in recent years to encompass those with broader anti-technology agenda, Ludd was just wrong. Skilled workers are not displaced by technology; in fact they become in higher demand, and command higher wages.

        While the automated looms of the time could be manned by operators with little training but setting those machines up and dealing with them when things went wrong, still required those that understood weaving.

        Modern Luddites (or those described as such be modern usage) fear change because it devalues them by making the world harder to understand and making their lives less under their control.

        Computers in the workplace and then in the home are an ideal example of this effect. I can recall the stress and hostility of older workers when terminals and PCs were introduced to the shop I was working in as a young man. For them it was something that they could have done without and worse they were being made to look like fools by the younger workers who picked up on it quickly. Then these things invaded the home, and again it was something that had to be dealt with.

        I think that this is an important aspect of antinuclear feeling among the masses. They just don’t want to have to deal with something they don’t understand, and as long as they are being told that there are alternatives, they feel they don’t have to bother.

        1. If total production is limited by a factor other than the availability and productivity of labour, then productivity improvements from technology DO lead to mass unemployment.

          This could be due to a shortage of natural resources, or due to lack of space (the latter is exascerbated by greedy homeowners who think that it’s the government’s job to keep house prices high). People aren’t going to buy more consumer goods if they have nowhere left to put them!

      2. Not a lot of people know it, but the genesis of the modern “environmentalist” movement was not unwashed hippies with ponytails marching in the streets, but wealthy landowners along the Hudson River in NY State who were worried about their views of the Hudson Valley being spoiled by transmission lines from the proposed Storm King Mountain facility. What was Storm King Mountain? Ask that question today and nine out of ten people will say it was a nuclear plant. It wasn’t. It was, of all things, that darling of the intermittent (unreliable) power systems storage mechanism, a pumped storage reservoir. So, today’s environmental movement can trace its pedigree to very wealthy people who were concerned about their view being despoiled. Sound familiar (think Cape Wind and those who objected to it)?

        1. You’re right – it was also perhaps the first case of “greenmail”:

          “1965 the mountain became the focus of a landmark environmental battle when local activists formed the Scenic Hudson Preservation Coalition (today known as just Scenic Hudson) to fight against plans by utility Consolidated Edison to cut away part of the mountain near the river and build a pump storage power generator complete with transmission lines across it for an ambitious power generating scheme which would also have entailed creating a reservoir in much of what is now Black Rock Forest. In a lawsuit brought by the coalition, a judge ruled for the first time that aesthetic impacts could be considered in such projects. In 1979 Con Ed finally abandoned even a greatly scaled-down version of the project, and settled a parallel lawsuit brought against their Indian Point facility by agreeing to endow the Hudson River Foundation with $12 million.”

    3. DV8,
      Nicely articulated. But the term Luddite doe not go far enough to describe the phenomenon. There are many elements to the views of the antinuclear environmentalists that qualify it as form of religion: unexamined beliefs, utopian vision of simpler world, superiority and purity of vision, necessity and value of deprivation, apocalyptic forecasts for failure to believe / reform, emotionally charged rhetoric, ignorance and fear etc. Debates about religion tend to be exhausting and unproductive, but I appreciate the efforts on this site to continue promoting knowledge and insight about meeting global energy demand. Thanks.

      1. While pronuclear supporters draw on the same rationals, the same cannot be said of those in the antinuclear camp.

        Yes there are those deluded fools that think we can change to a low energy culture, and their less ethical fellow travelers that would see the world’s population reduced (catastrophically if necessary) to what they deem ‘sustainable’ levels. There are also those that fear change (my Luddites) ether due to ignorance or because they feel they will be adversely impacted (think coal miners.)

        Then there are the radiophobes, and those that think nuclear energy is an incubus for nuclear weapons along with others who have been swayed by antinuclear propaganda on ‘the waste problem,’ and potential uranium shortages and such.

        After come the the NIMBYs, who will oppose nuclear installations, fearing loss of property values, or unreasonable concerns over safety.

        Finally there are those that make a living pushing the antinuclear agenda, by themselves, or through NGOs.

        Many of the problems we face selling the idea of nuclear energy is because of this broad spectrum of antinuclear positions, and tailoring a message to cover all of them is almost impossible.

        1. If the anti-nukes are divided into a whole slew of positions, why can’t we divide and conquer them?

      2. Apologies for breaking Godwin’s law here, but isn’t the longing for a simpler world also one of the factors which propelled the rise of Nazism?

        The Nazis received their strongest backing at the ballot box from peasant farmers and traditional craftsmen, whose skills were being rendered obsolete by the rise of global capitalism. For pretty much the entire history of the German Reich (1870-1945), its farmers had been solidly opposed to free trade, as they couldn’t compete with the much larger farms of the New World. And the fact that German peasants were mostly living on farms too small for a decent standard of living, but were often unwilling to abandon rural living, helps explain why they were so attracted to the Nazi agenda of settler expansionism.

        (Interestingly, the Nazis’ autarkic vision was also what motivated IG Farben to throw its weight behind them. Even back in the 1920s they had feared Peak Oil, and had developed the Fischer-Tropsch process as a response to that threat, but since at the time it wasn’t cost-competitive with imported oil they needed a protectionist government to get a return on their investment.)

        The “apocalyptic forecasts for failure to believe/reform” was also part of Nazism, whose fundamental world view was that of a life and death struggle between races over the means of sustenance. If the Germans did not conquer their Lebensraum, then their racial enemies would condemn them to extinction.

  5. Rod – I think that you’re being unfair.

    The energy sources formerly known as “renewables” can be quite reliable at soaking up money from government.

    Note that, at the same time the DOE’s loan guarantee program is coming under criticism and increased scrutiny because of a half-billion-dollar fiasco that is the recent Solyndra bankruptcy (including even FBI raids), the left-wing blogosphere is crowing that “solar is the ‘Fastest Growing Industry in America.'”

    Now where do you think that growth came from? It certainly didn’t come from producing electricity at market rates. Solar is reliable at wasting money.

    The sad irony is that the bankruptcy of this stupid solar company will likely have a significant impact on loan guarantees for new nuclear plants in the US.

    1. Brian – The Solyndra failure will probably be factored into a new default estimate for the energy related loan guarantee program by the GAO or CBO. This new estimate will then be used by opponents of the nuclear loan program to try to get it taken out of any budget. At least the loan amount wasn’t as much as what the government blew on the “Cash for Clunkers” program.

      1. At least the loan amount wasn’t as much as what the government blew on the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program.

        John – Yeah … don’t get me started. What a total waste!

        1. Why not do something about both the deficit and unemployment, by (perhaps) a 500% tax on Chinese goods?

    2. Brian – We need to be explaining to people how remote the chances of a bankruptcy by Southern Company or Progress Energy would be.

      Of course, the experience might make it more difficult for merchant generating companies like Constellation – came rather close to a bankruptcy as a result of a failed trading strategy.

  6. Rod Adams wrote:
    I simply do not agree with the notion that building massive collecting systems to harness energy from nature has anything to do with improving national security or providing power to the people.

    Whether harnessing the sun, wind, or the atom, we are harnessing energy from nature. There is nothing “unnatural” about nuclear reactors. We know that they existed in the “natural environment” long before mankind did.

    The advantage of nuclear, as Rod has pointed out so well, is that the energy is concentrated. This means only relatively small amounts of materials are needed to provide large amounts of energy.

    I once ran the number for the average power provided by a solar installation. The number comes out somewhere between 0.5% and 1% of the peak solar power. So if we want, say, 5 to 10 kW of power average, we need to build something that can intercept a megawatt of solar energy at the peak. If that were not bad enough, the peak power of solar is only about 1 kW per square yard. So not only do we have to massively overbuild for a small average power, we need to cover a huge area with that massive overbuild.

  7. The wheels are falling off renewable energy projects world wide. In Spain the consequences of misguided investments in solar power were well documented here:
    http://www.juandemariana.org/pdf/090327-employment-public-aid-renewable.pdf

    The executive summary of this document was written as a warning to our president as you can see from its second bullet point:

    “2. Optimistically treating European Commission partially funded data 1, we find that for every renewable energy job that the State manages to finance, Spain’s experience cited by President Obama as a model reveals with high confidence,
    by two different methods, that the U.S. should expect a loss of at least 2.2 jobs on average, or about 9 jobs lost for every 4 created, to which we have to add those jobs that non-subsidized investments with the same resources would
    have created.”

    Misguided investments such as Solyndra destroy jobs by wasting money that could have been invested in real businesses. They are also examples of “Crony Capitalism” that create corruption, scandal and outrage around the world.

  8. I find it as easy, and more readily defensible to always make a point of referring to “intermittent renewables” (leaving aside the minor fact that, hydro aside, there aren’t really any scalable non-intermittent renewables). The good news is, that almost always leads onto a discussion of why that matters – it seems that most renewable enthusiasts don’t understand the implications of intermittency for a grid, or just how much expensive redundancy is onvolved in getting even marginally acceptable grid reliability.

    At home in the UK, with losts of enthusiasts for tidal power (mostly the Severn Barrage) it gives an excuse to point out that even predictable intermittency – a systems that produces nothing for 3-4 hours or so of each 12, and then ramps up to 10GW before dropping back to zero is almost impossible to incorporate into a reasonable efficient grid and generation system.

    However, at a slightly more immediate level, I’m writing this from Trivandrum, in India. About 3 hours ago, we had a huge storm – the tail end of the monsoon. It knocked out some of the local distribution system. Watching the various UPS’s kick-in, anyone watching the state of the exhausts from those would have no doubts about the environmental impact of unreliable grid supply!

  9. Wind turbines also have an adverse effect on property values. This from the CBC regarding real estate in Ontario:

    Ontario’s rapid expansion in wind power projects has provoked a backlash from rural residents living near industrial wind turbines who say their property values are plummeting and they are unable to sell their homes, a CBC News investigation has found

  10. Hey Rod! I work for Virginia Uranium, I think I’ve met you twice now at Areva and at the new research center in the area. I just wanted to say that I had no idea it was you that wrote that post until I saw your photo. It’s a great post. It makes me feel relieved to know that I’m not the only pro-nuclear environmentalist in the area. One of my goals was to work for the Sierra Club but having seen their response to the Coles Hill project, I can’t cross over to the anti-nuclear side. In the southside area, I’m already outnumbered being a “treehugger” but am even more so now that I’m pro nuclear. Anyways, it’s a pleasure to read a bit more about you on here, I hope this finds you well, and thanks for sharing your story.

    I do have one question for you, what are your personal thoughts on the uranium mining project from an environmentalist’s viewpoint? If possible, please email me at lokoontz@vt.edu if you have time to respond. I’m new to the business and am always looking for like-minded people to teach me a few things.

    Lorien

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