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21 Comments

  1. It could be that Senator Alexander is making a move that will force the Hudson Institute to show its colors too. Its high time for everyone involved to pick a side and make it clear just which one they are on, if the debate is going to move forward. To me this looks like someone throwing down a glove, rather than a tactical error.

  2. It is ironic that some of those who claim to be opposed to AGW actively fail to support, and in fact, vigorously try to undermine the only technology that can produce enough carbon-free energy in a reliable fashion to solve the AGW problem. It almost makes me suspicious that these organizations aren’t trying in good faith to stop AGW, but instead are using AGW as a stalking horse for a broader agenda that they cannot exactly bring themselves to reveal to the public.

    1. @Dave – my guess is that a desire to sell natural gas and/or windmills is a major part of the seeming illogic. I visualize the closed door meetings as follows:
      “Those darned nuclear advocates.. We thought they were dead. If they would just go away we could implement that plan for a huge network of LNG terminals that we developed in the 1990s and planned to sell using our “cleanest burning fossil fuel pitch.”

    2. “It almost makes me suspicious that these organizations aren’t trying in good faith to stop AGW, but instead are using AGW as a stalking horse for a broader agenda that they cannot exactly bring themselves to reveal to the public.”
      Ya think? Looks like you’re beginning to wake up.
      As Zbigniew Jaworowski (a notorious denier) once pointed out (emphasis mine):
      “The question arises: Were the decisions concerning this enormous funding for global warming research taken out of genuine concern that the climate is allegedly changing as a result of CO2 industrial emissions, or do some other undisclosed ideas stand behind this money, IPCC activity, Kyoto, and all the gruesome catastrophic propaganda the world is now exposed to? If this concern is genuine, then why do we not see a storm of enthusiastic environmentalists and United Nations officials demanding to replace all fossil-fuel plants with nuclear plants, which have zero emission of greenhouse gases, are environmentally friendly, more economical, and much safer for plant workers and much safer for the general population than other sources of energy?”
      I’d like to know that answer to that question too.
      There’s no doubt that Romm is an Amory Lovins disciple, so it’s no surprise that he promotes the same agenda that ultimately helps the natural gas industry. The main difference between the two is that Lovins comes off as a chummy, amiable, perhaps a bit fast-talking, but disarmingly soft-spoken guy, whereas Romm is a nasty little troll, who sits under his bridge (or on his blog) and loudly, angrily, and rudely decries anything that does not confirm to his tiny little world view.

      1. @Brian – Mark Lynas, James Lovelock, James Hansen, Barry Brook, John Horgan, Gwyneth Cravens, Stewart Brand, and Patrick Moore are just a few of the people whose honest concerns about the effects of continued fossil waste dumping has stimulated a new look at nuclear energy. Ultimately, each one of these activists (at least four of whom are legitimate scientists with real degrees and a history of peer reviewed publications) have determined that their early views of nuclear energy were wrong. Each one has withstood some serious hate mail from their former colleagues in the antinuclear movement.
        You and I see the world through different lenses. I have been around people like Romm and Lovins too much to believe that the positive effect their actions have on gas sales is accidental.

        1. Rod – That’s just a handful, and nobody you mentioned is a policy maker. What about the rest?
          If these people (the rest) truly believe that they have to address the “most pressing issue of our time,” then why all of the half measures? If they seriously believe that fossil-fuel combustion must be reduced starting now, then why do they overlook the largest single source of carbon-free energy today?
          Are they just stupid? Or is something else going on here?
          Lovins and Romm are shilling gas. What about everybody else?

          1. Brian – the people Rod mentions is only a handful – but it is a very smart handful who have real credibility with those who understand these issues. Lovelock, especially. He deserves a tremendous amount of respect.
            The following are my guesses as to why you aren’t seeing more folks support nuclear power within the environmentalist coalition with AGW factored into the equation. The reason I’m guessing policymakers haven’t wedged is because of reason #1. I am also guessing reasons #6 and #7 are more prevalent at the executive level than at the foot-soldier level.
            1. They are unwilling to break from the united front that they share with other environmentalists, and so pursue lowest-common-denominator policies; the lowest common denominator being anti-nuclear; (general)
            2. They have an inaccurate risk perception of nuclear power, they believe their own propaganda regarding nuclear power, they think nuclear power is somehow related to The Bomb; (radiophobes/paranoids)
            3. They have an inaccurate perception of the capabilities and incapabilities of wind and solar; (romanticists/wishful thinkers)
            4. They have an inadequate understanding of how the power grid works; (romanticists/wishful thinkers)
            5. They have an inadequate understanding of the benefits of nuclear power; (romanticists/wishful thinkers)
            6. They believe overpopulation and the “limits of growth” are greater threats than AGW, and that nuclear power will enable further overpopulation and further pushing of the limits of growth; (Malthusians)
            7. They view AGW as a symptom of the disease, rather than the disease itself, the disease being technology, industrialization, civilization, or humanity itself (deep greens, anarcho-primitivists, misanthropes, etc.)

            1. @Dave – that is a good list. Here is my contribution:
              8. They have been told by the leaders of their group that any wavering on the united front against nuclear energy threatens their donor base. Many of the “foot soldiers” in the antinuclear groups like Greenpeace are paid for their participation and campaigning; that argument is sufficient to keep them focused.

            2. So let’s see:
              No. 1 – These people put politics above anything else. Thus, why should they have any credibility whatsoever? These are the folks who would sell their own mothers if they thought that it would help them get ahead.
              Nos. 2-5 – These people are simply ignorant, stupid, or both. Their unwillingness to make a realistic assessment of the available options or to overcome foolish prejudices should disqualify them from having any serious say in policy.
              Nos. 6 & 7 – These people are dangerous. What’s more, they’ve been proven wrong again and again, since such predictions and movements have been around for a couple of centuries now. By at least one definition, these people should be considered insane, and I don’t favor taking advice from crazy people. Theirs is the kind of thinking that leads to concluding that genocide is a valid tool of applied eugenics.
              Rod’s No. 8 – I’d place them with No. 1 above.

              1. Personally I think No. 1s need marginalizing, Nos. 2-5 need educating, and Nos. 6-7 need killing…

  3. “Complex technology of any sort is an assault on human dignity. It would be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy, because of what we might do with it.”
    Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute
    Now what he was really saying, “If we allow clean, cheap, abundant nuclear energy to develop, the powerful global banks wont know what to do with it”

    1. I think Lovins was saying “My employers depend on the perception that reliable energy is scarce and worth several trillion per year. An abundant, clean energy source that is available almost anywhere will take billions out of their pockets. My job is to do all I can to protect their wealth and power.”

  4. What I see with groups like Climate Progress are large numbers of folks who tend to emote about complex issues such as energy. Since the wind is always blowing somewhere, they feel that the wind turbines can provide energy around the clock. Since large (and expensive) solar generating stations can supply impressively large amounts of power at noon on a sunny day, they feel that this must surely be what is needed. Most of these folks have not (or cannot) do the hard-headed analysis of figuring out their own electric power consumption, its magnitude and its timing, and then comparing this to the availability of energy of intermittant natural sources like wind and sun. They have little concept of the high cost of energy storage, because they really don’t understand the magnitude of the energy they use. They do know that there are wind turbines and solar generating stations around, and they also know that when they flip the switch, the lights come one. Thus they feel that these renewable sources really must work. I don’t think most of these people are ill-willed, but it will take great effort to extract them from their comfortable “groove” into the world of cold, hard realities.
    On the other hand, it seems like those who lead groups like Climate Progress have their own agenda that indeed follows along the lines of what Rod Adams and others have stated here.

    1. @donb — Put them on a bicycle-powered electric generator for 30 – 60 minutes so they feel the actual physical effort needed to run even a light bulb. Maybe that will help “cure” them of their anti-nuclear ‘infection’.
      When a professional bicycle racer measures their output in watts and horsepower, it becomes immediately apparent that reliable electricity is extremely valuable.

  5. I have been approached by several “Greenpeace foot soldiers” over the years, to sign petitions and/or donate money, each time I have enlightened them on nuclear powers’ virtues and they have been very receptive to learning the truth and question why the propaganda they were given left out so much information. They have always gone away with a better understanding, but without my signature or donation.

  6. After reading the Climate Progress article and many of the comments, I don’t believe Rod has answered his own question posed in the title of the post quite yet. Indeed there might not be one easy answer either.
    What struck me in reading the comments is the rancor and spite being hurled at the nuclear supporters. With the relative anonymousness of the internet this is fairly common among many topics, however the renewable support camp seems to love to hate all things nuclear with a religious passion. Sure there might be a lot of things about nuclear energy that make the uninformed person uncomfortable but for a commercial energy source that hasn’t killed anyone in all but one country in the last 50+ years, it would seem reasonable that people could discuss it rationally, but no. Be it the internet or personal discussion at a party, it seems people have learned the demon of all energy sources is nuclear and it not only deserves no respect, it deserves their scornful utter disdain. How can any rational discussion come out of this? These people are insufferable.
    My answer to the question posed is this: Climate Progress is so negative about Sen. Alexander’s proposal (or anything else nuclear) because they feel it’s their duty to run down nuclear energy at any opportunity. When an organization or culture develops to the point that no one questions what is considered “normal” behavior, then doing something completely stupid or atrocious actually feels fulfilling. I don’t think Amory Lovins or Joe Romm go through those mental gymnastics to realize they’re sucking up to the fossil fuel companies. Instead, I think it’s a knee jerk reflex for them that they’ve rationalized to the point of oblivion and anyone calling them on it is just speaking “crazy talk”.

  7. I wonder if anti-nuclear activists are psychologically similar to the members of street gangs, who required to commit some act of violence as part of their initiation. Pointing out the positive aspects of nuclear energy could make them even more stubborn, because to protect themselves they have to rationalize their past actions in order to be able to live with themselves.

  8. This comment is a few days late, but it took me time to process everything . . .
    The post here was the first time I’d heard about Sen. Alexander’s plan (or, well, it’s possible I’d heard about it in passing on the news a year ago when he first announced it, but it just didn’t register at the time). So, I went to Sen. Alexander’s Senate.gov website, and read the paper (which is quite long, so took me a couple days, reading parts of it at a time).
    He (or, well, whoever authored the paper – I suppose it was a collaborative effort between the Senator’s staff, and one or more nuclear scientists/engineers who the Senator trusts) made a most interesting comment:
    That the trace amounts of uranium and thorium trapped in coal has more energy than burning the coal does, so that we’d be better off “mining” the coal for uranium. I never thought of that before. Could that actually be done cost effectively? Can you do both? That is, we have a lot of captured ‘coal ash’, if my understanding of things is correct, at coal plants around the country, currently stored in ‘ponds’. Would it be possible to safely and cheaply extract uranium and thorium from that already accumulated ash?
    Now, you might observe that it is cheaper to just mine uranium from the earth, which I suppose is probably true. I tend to take a long view of these issues. . . one of the many reasons I have recently become a nuclear proponent is that I am very concerned about energy independence, as a sovereignty issue for democratic nations. You cannot really, truly be democratic if you aren’t fully sovereign, and it seems to me that you can’t be truly sovereign when your nation is dependent upon other nations for its fuel supplies – they can potentially dictate terms to you or cut off your energy.
    To that end, while I think we should continue buying ‘new’ mined uranium from other countries as long as we can at reasonable prices (e.g. while no one is making unreasonable demands), we should also be preserving all available reserves of uranium (from, e.g. spent fuel, depleted uranium, and possibly by extraction from coal ash), for long term storage, so that no other nation can ever cut off our energy supply, because we’ll have a Strategic Reserve to last us centuries – which means that we’ll always be able to wait longer than the other nations we might be negotiating with for fuel if they cut us off – we can just sit back and use our Strategic Reserve, possibly for decades at a time if need be, until we can resume uranium trade.
    Of course, we already have a fairly substantial Strategic Reserve sitting in cooling pools and dry casks at nuclear plants around the country. I’m not sure what supplies of depleted uranium we have, but we should definitely reserve as much of that as we can (for breeding later). Finally, if it wouldn’t be way too expensive, and if it’s technically feasible, we should try to extract as much as we can from our coal ash, it seems to me.

    1. I believe the Chinese have actually seriously looked at U extraction from bottom ash in their coal burners.

    2. Jeff, you are spot on with energy independence and national sovereignty. The way to really make this work well for nearly all nations is to develop breeder reactors. Not all nations have usable uranium deposits given our current method of “burning the bark and throwing away the logs” as Rod Adams says. But with breeders (both uranium and thorium), even trace deposits found nearly everywhere become usable, or decades worth of fuel could be procured and stored for relatively little cost. It would not be unreasonable to procure at the beginning enough fuel to run such a reactor for its lifetime.
      From what I have read, the United States has enough depleted uranium and used nuclear fuel sitting around to produce all the electricity we need for centuries, if we had breeder reactors.
      BTW, if I am not mistaken, uranium tends to be most concentrated in the fly ash from coal burning.

      1. The USA alone has over half a million tons of depleted uranium, and other countries who’ve been using nuclear power have their own large inventories as well. There’s enough of it around the world to power the entire planet for nearly a millennium even if breeder reactors supplied ALL the energy (not just electricity) that humanity demands. So there’s really no point in mining coal ash if we go down the breeder road. Nor mining any more uranium either, for that matter, except for what remains of the service lives of lightwater reactors during the transition to all breeders.

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