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Obsolescent Heresies

sb.jpgI like Stewart Brand, and he and I seem to get along pretty well. I first met him at GBN a decade ago, and I run into him fairly often at a variety of SF-area futures-oriented events.

But I found myself grumpy and frustrated after reading "An Early Environmentalist, Embracing New ‘Heresies’" in Sunday's New York Times, a profile of Stewart and what he calls his "environmental heresies."

Stewart Brand has become a heretic to environmentalism, a movement he helped found, but he doesn’t plan to be isolated for long. He expects that environmentalists will soon share his affection for nuclear power. They’ll lose their fear of population growth and start appreciating sprawling megacities. They’ll stop worrying about “frankenfoods” and embrace genetic engineering.

Brand seems to retain an image of environmentalism that may have been appropriate in the 1970s, but has diminishing credibility today: the anti-technology, back-to-nature hippie. Today's environmental movement is urban, techie, and far less likely to refer to any assertion as "heresy" (although, in the case of the handful of people who still try to deny the existence of global warming, we're happy to use the term "stupidity"). Stewart Brand is nailing his environmental heresies on the door of a church that was long ago abandoned... or, at the very least, taken over by Unitarians.

This isn't to say that the Bright Green types have fully embraced Stewart's views. There's little support for aggressive nuclear power production among the new environmentalists, and the various positions concerning biotech are complex, to say the least. There's little disagreement with his love of cities, but in this case, Brand is almost a latecomer. Ultimately, the positions that Stewart stakes out appear more to be arguments against his own past beliefs than against the claims of modern eco-advocates.

David Roberts, over at Gristmill, dissects the nuclear argument exceedingly well, and rather than reiterate what he wrote, I'll just point you to it. The short version, in my phrasing: the Bright Green reluctance about nuclear power has far more to do with it being centralized infrastructure and dated technology than with any fear or loathing of atoms. The environmental situation in which we find ourselves demands a fast-learning, fast-iterating, distributed and collaborative technological capacity, not a system that bleeds out investment dollars and leaves us stuck with technologies already on the verge of obsolescence.

If we're looking for resilience, flexibility and innovation, the nuclear industry is not a good place to start.

With regards to biotechnology, resilience, flexibility and innovation are definitely possible, at least in the years to come. Brand argues that genetic engineering has the potential to be a major tool for dealing with global warming's effects, and he's not the only one making claims of the sort. There's no consensus Bright Green position on environmental biotech, but there are plenty of voices calling for the responsible use of biotech (and nanotech) as a way of combatting climate and ecosystem disruption; moreover, most people arguing for holding off on bioengineering do so out of concern that we still have more to learn before we can undertake such solutions responsibly, not out of a flat opposition to the technology.

Stewart asks, "where are the green biotech hackers?" Rob Carlson -- one of the original open-source bio thinkers, now a leading expert in synthetic biology -- has an answer: they're here, but they're still working under the radar.

We're coming, Stewart. It's just that we're still on the slow part of the curves. [...] At the moment, synthesis of a long gene takes about four weeks at a commercial DNA foundry, with a bacterial genome still requiring many months at best, though the longest reported contiguous synthesis job to date is still less than 50 kilobases. And at a buck a base, hacking any kind of interesting new circuit is still expensive. [...] So, Mr. Brand, it will be a few years before green hackers, at least those who aren't support by Vinod Khosla or Kleiner Perkins, really start to have an impact.

Green biotech hacking is still in the punch-card era, and as Stewart himself could tell you, computer hacker culture really didn't take off until you got past punch-cards into time-sharing, where the cost in time and money was low enough that mistakes were something to learn from, not dread.

As for cities, I'm not sure I could find many modern enviros still clinging to the notion that, on the whole, rural life is intrinsically better than urban life. There are plenty of individual examples of terrific rural homes and awful urban homes, of course, but in the aggregate, there's no question that communities in dense, urban settings have a smaller footprint than communities of the same size in suburban and rural settings. And the notion that population size is still at the top of the environmental hit list is seriously out of date; all signs point to a global population peak of below 10 billion, and possibly no more than 8 billion -- of concern to the extent that more people means more consumption, but by no means a panic-inducing Malthusian threat.

The conventional meaning of "heretic" is one who goes against dogma, and the positions that Stewart takes here just don't meet that requirement. There's no doubt that it would be possible to find self-described environmentalists who fit the stereotype that Stewart is responding to, but one of the hallmarks of the modern environmental movement -- and the reason why the "heresy" model is arguably obsolete -- is that, when it comes to solutions, nothing is a priori off the table. All solution options can be considered, but they must be able to stand up to competing ideas. Even if some of us believe that some of the solutions he advocates don't stand up to the competition, we aren't going to try to claim that Stewart Brand somehow isn't an environmentalist. As long as he recognizes that the Earth's geophysical systems are under extraordinary duress, and that business-as-usual is driving us headlong into disaster, he's one of us -- even if the ways we want to avoid that disaster vary.


I saw nothing over at Gristmill that proved nuclear power should not be part of the energy solution.

1. Nuclear power is being adopted around the world. 30 nuclear plants being built now (23GW). 64 more in the planning stages (69GW). Over 150 more with serious proposals (124 GW).
Plus the existing plants can be up powered. MIT indicates making the nuclear fuel in a donut shape and adding nanoparticles to the water will allow for 50% more power.
Current plants generate 367GW (more than the Atlantic wind projection. The Atlantic wind projection was assuming 160,000 wind generators with blade spans wider than a football field. Plus they are in the ocean so platforms and anchoring are needed.).
50% up-powering is 180GW.
216GW from the current new, planned and proposed plants from now to 2025. Those can be up-powered as well. 770GW would be the total, which will likely be further increased with more orders from other countries. Perhaps the USA.

2. 50% of the electrical power in the USA is currently coal. 85% of it in China is coal. This is why people like myself say that there is coal energy and there is non-coal energy. It is the same numerical thing as saying there caucasians in the USA and there are minority non-caucasian people.
Gristmill and the "new environmentalists" talk about there is no coal and non-coal choice. But the current reality is that the US has 150 applications for new coal plants. Many of those projects are going ahead. China is building about one new coal plant each week.

3. People talk conservation. But energy usage growth is still positive. The US would have even more energy usage growth if it had not outsourced manufacturing to China.

4. Do any of the "new environmentalists" have a real plan for eliminating coal energy usage by 2050 where they realistically project the adoption rates of conservation, real human behavior and new technology? For new technology I am not talking about prospective technology with uncertainty in availability. I believe in nanotechnology but I do not want to count on it pulling us out of our energy problems.

6. Proliferation. To which country ? 40 countries have nuclear material now. If the USA gets its 104th through 204th reactors. What is the real incremental proliferation risk? Also, proliferation of nuclear weapon programs and even nuclear weapons does not kill anyone. Plus it is still non-nuclear weapons that do the killing (20th century 200 million dead from non-nuclear weapons fighting, 200,000 from nukes) There are countries who have nuclear weapons or weapon programs but no nuclear power reactors.

Iran 0 nuclear power but working on bomb
N Korea 0 active nuclear power but has bombs
Israel 0 nuclear power but has bombs

Japan 55 nuclear reactors
no weapons
South Korea 20 nuclear reactors
Canada 18 reactors no weapons
Germany 17 reactors no weapons
Sweden 10 reactors no weapons
Spain 8 reactors no weapons
Belgium 7 reactors no weapons
Taiwan (Republic of China) 6 reactors no weapons,
Czech Republic 6 reactors no weapons
Slovakia 6 reactors no weapons
Switzerland 5 reactors no weapons
Bulgaria 4 reactors no weapons
Finland 4 reactors no weapons
Hungary 4 reactors no weapons
Brazil 2 reactors no weapons
South Africa 2 reactors no weapons
Mexico 2 reactors no weapons
Argentina 2 reactors no weapons
Lithuania 1 reactors no weapons
Slovenia 1 reactor no weapons
Romania 1 reactor no weapons
Netherlands 1
Armenia 1 reactor no weapons

The way to make weapons-grade fissile material and the way to run power reactors are two totally different things.

The only two common threads are highly-enriched uranium and fast-breeder reactors.

Practically no civilian reactors in the world operate on highly-enriched uranium, and practically no one operates a fast breeder reactor.

High burn rate reactors can be created like molten salt thorium reactors. They do not have proliferation problems of fast breeders.

60% of existing reactors can be converted to a thorium fuel mix for high burn rates and less waste.

Japan, France, Russia are reprocessing their waste. Reprocessing - recycling and making it usable as fuel.

5. Distributed power is fine but again there are all those coal plants on order in the US and being built in China.

Why not support nuclear power with the caveat that reprocessing or high burn reactors be developed and other procedures like the French and Japanese have be adopted in the USA?

Coal we should get the grandfathered protection removed from the oldest and dirtiest plants. Force them all to be fitted with the best particulate screening devices. Some now have 99% filters for particulate matter 10 micron (PM10) we need to get them all to have 99.99% filters for PM10 and PM2.5. It would save 20,000 lives per year in the USA and 1 million around the world. Starting getting enough non-coal to close the oldest and dirtiest coal plants until all coal is eliminated

We also work on the Worldchanging ideas for conservation, wind, solar, geothermal, biofuels etc...

I'm happy that you're willing to criticize a public figure like Brand, especially one that you'll likely be forced to confront. ;-)

For large quantities of emissions-free energy, nuclear power is the way to go. The technology is not outdated. Advances in materials will greatly lower capital expenses. The more people get into the game, the more incentive the government will have to enforce regulations universally and seriously.

David Roberts doesn't write about the technical issues of nuclear power, and as far as I can tell, only devotes one sentence to really arguing against it, while spending most of his time talking about the *psychology* of pro-nuclear people that annoys him. That's what probably inspired him to write his post - the way people like me act.

The technologies of the future will be power-hungry. Some environmentalists still associate high power consumption with environmental irresponsibility, because with fossil fuels, it is. To think that distributed renewables will meet the primary energy needs of the economies of the future is naive. Does Roberts think that manufacturing solar cells *won't* require centralized facilities? Hello - truly effective solar cell plants cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Nuclear waste is not a problem. Some environmentalists, probably including Roberts, just don't like the *idea* of nuclear waste, even if it's sealed in canisters deep underground with no chance of leaking. (Some reactor designs, like thorium reactors, also produce minimal waste.)

We won't make nuclear power cheap, fast, or resilient unless we put effort towards it. But the fundamental difference between the energy available in nuclear bonds and the energy available from sunlight, wind, or water (radically less) makes it certain that, in the long term, there is no other way but to go nuclear.

Thanks for the replies, Brian & Michael. I disagree with the conclusions you draw, but I'm glad to see that your motivations are in the right place.

First off, we need to distinguish between the nuclear industry as it currently operates (in terms of regulation, management and technologies) and future scenarios of what the nuclear industry might become. Comparing a future nuclear tech with a present-day renewable tech is disingenuous; remember that every change to the design and function of nuclear power systems (even something as simple as changing the shape of fuel rods) will require abundant safety testing and regulatory approval. By the time even simple changes make their way into existing reactors and reactor designs, the technologies of renewable energy are likely to have gone through multiple generations of improvement. In short, compare present-day renewable tech to present-day nuclear tech, and future nuclear tech to future renewable tech.

Here's the crux of the argument: for reasons of scale, infrastructure requirements, cost, and diversity of options, advances in renewable energy technologies are certain to happen much faster and more usefully than advances in massive centralized energy technologies such as nuclear. Experimentation and innovation are far more readily possible with renewable energy tech than with nuclear tech. Mistakes and dead-ends are more readily handled, as well.

One of the advances in solar power tech already moving from lab to production is the use of organic polymer photovoltaic materials. These don't require centralized factories; in fact, they can be produced with 3D printers.

And don't forget that we're not talking about a single pathway of development: the win is in the mix. That is, it's not just solar or wind or hydrokinetic, but all three, and more. In 2005, an Oxford University study showed that the UK could replace 60% of its power production with distributed home solar/wind/thermal over the course of a decade, without any improvements in tech or boosts in efficiency.

Oh, yeah, efficiency.

Both of you seem to be dismissive of the potential for energy efficiency (aka "conservation") in a world of growing energy demands. You need to read this article:

The Kaya Identity and the "Conservation Bomb"

In short, we currently average globally an annual rate of increase in energy consumption efficiency (GDP/Watt) of about 1%. If we could boost that to 3%, 10 billion people living at EU standards of living in 2100 could do so using less total power than we use today. Such a boost is by no means impossible; for much of the 1980s and 1990s, California averaged an annual efficiency improvement of over 4%.

In short, the combination of renewables and efficiency, coupled with a fast, relatively cheap, and relatively easy-to-adjust technology development cycle for each, strikes me as a far more reliable and resilient course than pouring money into nuclear power.

If we do decide that nukes are necessary, however, I fully agree that thorium-based reactors are the way to go. I would suspect that David Roberts would concur. Given the 1950s and 1960s work, we could probably get molten salt thorium reactors up faster than nearly any other alternative nuclear designs.

Finally, Mike, you're right of course that the energy potential from nuclear bonds is far greater than that available from sun/wind/etc... but I'm inclined to leapfrog to fusion rather than continue to muddle with dirty and brittle fission designs. That, or matter/anti-matter, which leaves simple nuclear bonds in the dust.

There's what seems to me to be a concerted effort on dailykos and probably other places to promote nuclear energy as the ONLY solution. It's led by folks who act like trolls which seems to be the tendency of nuclear proponents.

Given the public doubts about nuclear power, it would behoove them to remove the chip from their shoulders but I don't expect that will happen. For them, nuclear is the ONLY solution, nothing else even needs to be considered and everything else should be shouted down.

Who's being the troll now?

When comparing the future of solar, wind versus nuclear we have to remember the current dominant fossil fuel reality. 85% fossil fuel. It is the reality for next few decades.

to replace the roughly one cubic mile of oil that we use each year Engineer poet broke things down in detail on the oil drum site

The world's annual consumption, one cubic mile of oil, can be replaced by (assuming a global switch to more efficient electric cars or very good plug in hybrids which would take at least 15 years and more like 30-40 years with a massive push [this would be the massive efficiency conservation effort].):
* seven hundred (700) 1.1 GW nuclear plants,
* One thousand five hundred fifty (1550) 500MW coal plants,
* Two hundred sixty thousand 3MW wind turbines,
* Maybe 22 million 2.1KW solar panels (maybe about half the 40 million number because of reduced transmission losses in several cases)

The number cars and trucks that would need to be electric or PHEV/biofuel in 20-25 years would be 2 billion up from the current 600 million with 70 million (and increasing)being added each year.

A lot of cars and trucks to replace and build. Only 600,000 hybrid cars right now in total and Toyota hopes to scale up to 1 million per year in 2012. Maybe the first commercial volume of PHEV in 2010.

The wind mills are big and siting, connecting to the grid from the ocean or remote locations and building 260,000 is non-trivial. The 5MW or 10MW future wind generators are even larger.

Solar would be converting a significant fraction of the roofs in the USA over to solar. In 2005, 1.7GW of solar were added. The scale up of future solar would be about 10,000%. The california million roof project is currently planning to take 20 years. Germany has about 100,000 roofs converted.

Here is a detailed analysis of nuclear power. costs construction with a focus on current technology

Leap frogging:

Antimatter is an energy storage medium. Batteries that are a billion times more effective. It costs energy to generate antimatter.

Fusion power is a hard problem. Until we have it in hand I would not bet millions of lives on it. I think the ITER tokomak projects will be a 40 year waste of time. Maybe advanced z-pinch or Bussard electrostatic or one of the other fusion systems. But there is urgency to getting off of fossil fuels. The 3 million dead per year from air pollution and climate problem. The definite immediate urgency is the actual death and disease health care costs from fossil fuel pollution.

I believe in the feasability of efficiency and conservation but there is growing demand and until it actually tapers off we cannot bank on it happening. Plus the efficiency and conservation must take into account that 3 billion chinese and Indians and others in the developing world will move up to higher standards of living over the next few decades.

>currently average globally an annual rate of increase in energy consumption efficiency (GDP/Watt) of about 1%. If we could boost that to 3%

1. That is a big IF. Tripling the global efficiency boost.
2. Global GDP growth is trending higher than 3%


In the 4.9-5.3% range 2005-2007.

In 100 years, people will not be satisfied with 2007 EU standards. Would we be satisfied with 1900 EU standards ?

That 4% california efficiency situation. I think that needs to be closely examined for whether that can be duplicated on a global scale.

A lot that was outsourcing energy demand to other places (other states and other countries) to support California production and consumption. On a global scale there is currently no outsourcing option. [Unless we go offworld, I am all for that but again I would not bet millions of lives on us getting our act together on it. If we are only planning 4-10 man camping trips to the moon in 20 years]

Server farms in Oregon for California business. Car production in other states and countries. Walmart products made in China with coal power.

keep it civil, guys. I didnt read gmoke as meaning you. And if you did, g, you're mistaken. michael and brian might be wrong, but they aren't trolls. (posted via phone)

Broadly speaking, this reminds me a lot of the Peter Schwartz and Ralph Cavanagh discussion/debate during a seminar of the long-now foundation (http://media.longnow.org/seminars/salt-0200601-schwartz-and-cavanagh/salt-0200601-schwartz-and-cavanagh.mp3), with Jamais playing the role of Ralph and Stuart playing the role of Peter.

For what it is worth, I don't think Michael and Brian are wrong... I think they make compelling points.

Also, Jamais:

Here's the crux of the argument: for reasons of scale, infrastructure requirements, cost, and diversity of options, advances in renewable energy technologies are certain to happen much faster and more usefully than advances in massive centralized energy technologies such as nuclear.

I'd say that is actually pretty far from certain, depending on what you mean by "advances". Any idea what the the research spending on each would be? Asking here, not crticizing; I don't know myself.

From my standpoint, it seems that we have a substantial investment in the power grid as it is, and we are not likely to move away from this model quickly if at all unless there is a *major* advancement - not evolutionary, but revolutionary - in distributed power production.

Also, I am not trying to say this is a good thing. In addition to the technological hurdles, new forms of production have a large institutional inertia to overcome.

I feel like I came across as being against distributed production of power; this is not the case at all. I totally support the idea of distributed power production, and feel that solar and wind generation are really crucial technologies to explore.

I just feel that there are large barriers, technological and institutional, to any rapid or immediate adoption of new distributed production technology.

Given the choice of current centralized power generation technologies, if we consider coal/petrochemical to be a priori unacceptable for sustainability, we are left with basically hydroelectric and nuclear.

I for one would love to see solar become cheap on a massively large scale. That's the kind of "revolutionary" change I was calling out in my previous post.

Brian, I'll see if I can get my friend at the California Energy Commission, the one who first passed along the info on efficiency and "conservation bomb" paths, to respond to some of your questions. I don't believe that the graph is meant to indicate everyone living in 2100 at 2000 quality of life, nor that the improvement in California's efficiency was based largely on the move of production out of CA, but my CEC friend would have the answers.

John, I think that's a reasonable comparison, and Ralph Cavanaugh makes the "nuclear is not needed" argument pretty well on technical merits, iirc.

Howard, fwiw many of the power utilities have been making quiet investments in support of distributed power in the existing grid for awhile now, so the evo/revo balance need not be so dramatic. PG&E in CA is starting to roll out smart home power monitors to replace the old meters, e.g.

Future of Nuclear Energy at MIT 3/1/07

Video available at http://web.mit.edu/tac/

These are my notes. They could be wrong. My questions are in parentheses.

Andrew Kadak, MIT
Energy Policy Act of 2005 offers production tax credit, loan guarantees, and up to $500 million insurance if the government "causes" any delays

30 new nukes planned in US (but no new orders yet?)

70% of the public support nuclear in principle and about 30% oppose it. "If you ask them if they want one in their backyard, the numbers will probably switch." (How to change that public perception as well as build the nukes if we only have a decade before climate goes past the point of no return?)

3 new boiling water reactor designs are now certified by NRC but not pebble beds yet

50% of the present nuclear workforce will retire within a decade (average age getting close to that of US farmers?)

Yucca Mountain repository not yet built. Rain is a problem for long-term disposal of nuclear waste over
10,000 to a million years.

By 2033 maybe 40-50 new nukes with a capacity of 60,000 Mwe (in US?)

Allison Macfarlane, George Mason University
17% of world's electricity, 440 plants, 2000 gigawatts
High capital cost, long construction times - $2000-$4000/kW, 5-7 years to build, interest due before operation starts, decommissioning and construction cost generally underestimated

Repository size depends on heat not volume - heat in reprocessed fuel about the same as in unprocessed spent fuel

LWRs produce 20-30 tonnes spent fuel/GWe

The nuclear boom is going to be in Asia not the US and Europe with all the attendant weapons issues. "Does that make you feel more secure?"

A majority now favor nuclear power but nobody wants it near them.

The security problem with nuclear is the spent fuel pools. There are obvious solutions, dry cask storage, but will we make that investment?

Nuclear power won't contribute further to CO2 reduction for the next 10 to 20 years because it takes too long to finance and build plants. (Edward Cummings, VP of Westinghouse, agreed with this sentiment during a panel discussion on this issue on CSPAN in October.)

Victor Reis, US DOE
4000 kw per capita is where the "good life" starts according to an examination of Human Development Index of UN

MIT report calls for LWR reactors with dry cask storage to meet future energy needs without greenhouse gas emissions or nuclear fuel recycling.

Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) calls for international fuel leasing and recycling fuels to avoid proliferation through a mix of fast and LWR, does not create separated plutonium, and has minimal transuranics. GNEP's necessary technology has been demonstrated only on a laboratory scale.

GNEP has started the diplomatic wheels turning already at a December 2006 meeting. Advanced recycling and reactors to complete the process would take at least 20 years.

Q and A
Victor Reis: On a lifecycle basis, nuclear and wind are about the same ecological cost and lower than PV solar due to the chemicals in processing.

The reconsideration of nuclear is international.

Allison Macfarlane: Only a carbon tax will make nuclear economic.

Andrew Kadak: 30-40 more plants are economic now, despite a 2003 MIT report to the contrary. Seven to eight year payback according to the accountants.

Victor Reis: A nuclear power plant is a 50 year investment. (What's the useful lifecycle of the existing nukes? How many are due for decommissioning? How many onsite spent fuel storage sites full? )

Allison Macfarlane: Strontium and cesium are the highest heat producers in nuclear plant waste and need to be sequestered for 300 years. It is much more expensive to do recycling than to build a repository.

Victor Reis: That's what people said about aluminum cans too.

crossposted at http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/3/5/204215/5354

30 nuclear applications are expected over the next 5 years. Based on inquiries and preliminary discussions.

This link lists the specifics of who, where and when.

the february issue of IEEE spectrum has a lengthy discussion of nuclear reprocessing. It is being done in France, Japan and Russia on full scale hundreds of tons per year.


Rokkasha mura reprocessing is online now and there was a pilot plant running before.

New high burn reactors can also take care of the waste issue. "waste" is not a long term problem. We can and should deal with it by using it.

China is buying reactors for $1500/KW

The time and location for completion of plants and estimated price for plants by model $1600-2000KW


It is funny that the anti-nuclear people want to say that the delays and extra costs for nuclear power make them uneconomic when those bureaucratic actions are of their own making. Plus the old reactors built before the added regulations of the 1970s have had relatively minimal problems (the Russian reactors are not being copied.) Three mile island did contains its radiation.

Age of workers. It is a multi-year process to build the reactors and scale up. Plenty of time to train new engineers. If the jobs and funding are there then the students will follow.

443 plants, 364GW worldwide. But does contribute 17% of electricity because they have high operating percentage.

Strontium and cesium have half lives of 30 years. that means half gone after 30years. 3/4 gone after 60 years.

How long does mercury and arsenic stay in the air and water from coal power usage?

We have long term problems. It will take long term solutions. That means 20 to 60 year plans. Solar and wind are not immediate solutions either.

Existing plants can be up-powered by 50% with cylinder/donut shaped fuel and nanoparticles added to the coolant water.

Plants are getting built in the US from old licenses that were approved but had been left unused.

28 plants are being built worldwide now and completing over the next 4 years. See the list of over 200 plants that seem likely to be built over the next 17 years.

Public perception of nukes is illogical. Don't build a plant near me. Yet if I live on the eastern half of the US all of those states have nuclear plants as does california. Do they move from states without nukes to states with nukes? Yes. Do they visit and move to states and countries with nukes? yes. Do they like visiting France? It is the most popular country for tourists. Yet it has the most nukes for the population.

a view of the delays to build nuclear plants:

New units of the nuclear cavalry could arrive in three to four years from the time we order them sir. Just the same as the times in China, India and the response time that the first hundred had back in 1960.

We need them to save tens of thousands in the US from pollution deaths each year and millions each year around the world and to maybe save us from climate disaster.

Sorry they each have to ride around the paperwork parade for a few years.

But don't you them here to soon to help save us. The paperwork does not make us safer from accidents. It is actual redesigns from historical lessons. The safety record of the current and existing 443 units are quite good to very good.

Sorry make them ride the paperwork parade. I don't care about the lives lost waiting or the risks to global climate.

Did you notice that the paperwork enforcers are actually quoting the time for nuclear calvary to arrive as including the paperwork parade and the build times.

The US needs to learn from the better foreign examples of nuclear operations.

Nuclear is part of the global solution already. It should be more a part of the US solution.

"Public perception of nukes is illogical."

Thank you, Mr Spock.

I don't see how you change that perception in time to make a difference in terms of climate change, especially since most of the new nukers I've seen seem to be arguing out of anger and contempt most of the time (present company excluded, of course).

Personally I trust the companies who will build and run the new nukes will be as open and compliant as, for instance, GE has been with PCBs in the Hudson River and that the NRC will regulate and monitor the nuclear industry with the same assiduous attention to detail as the Army used at Walter Reed.

For many places in the world those who hold this incorrect perception are irrelevant. Those places Are China, India, S Korea, Japan, Russia, France and other countries building a lot of nuclear reactors. Note: for the world and climate change the most important places are China and India since they are the likely future growth engines. India's president Kalam has strongly indicated his support for ramping up nuclear and thorium power. China clearly has some aspects of pro-nuclear, but relative to their production they would need to step up their orders.

For the USA, there are lot of people who are against abortion. Yet abortions happen. I hate coal power plants, but they still get built.

So the interesting thing will be how the nuclear application filings play out.

The other aspect will be that opinions may start shifting as more things happen. Plus as political elections clearly show, public opinion can be effected with advertising and money.

I will just try to spread facts and try to convince those who are not completely informed but willing to make up their minds based upon facts.

How quickly do you see climate change happening? (when you say change in time) Most forecasts are for a few degrees over a century and more impacts following on after.

Irregardless of when it happens fixing the energy mix will moderate any effects.

But even if there is no time to effect things before climate starts shifting that will just mean that society would use climate engineering to moderate the effect. (mentioned on this site. open source terraforming from February).

Of course we are already climate engineering with the experiment of billions of tons of carbon per year into the atmosphere.

So fixing the energy situation promptly is a prudent course. That means ramping up nuclear, solar, wind, conservation, efficiency etc...

Not trusting companies: walter reed, PCBs>

These problems are not in the same league as millions dead each year from air pollution or the risk of deaths and property damage when climate change starts to really bite. Do you trust coal companies more ? Each coal plant is killing a few hundred people per year in its region. The coal companies dump arsenic and mercury and particulates etc...
Some publish fairly detailed breakdowns

Is it better when you can trust them to tell you they are poisoning you?
Certain things are designed better. Nuclear power is designed thousands of times better than coal. Nuclear with reprocessing and high burn reactors can be just as benign as solar and wind.
Nuclear without accidents can be just as non-lethal. Only one lethal accident. Three mile island was non-lethal.

Another aspect is that public policy in the USA has already changed enough for the first new waves of nuclear applications. That means companies working on thirty different projects have done detailed work on their expected returns and risks to feel it is worth spending millions to try to get the plants approved. Of course the supplying companies are the same ones getting plants built overseas.

What would really make sense is to create an Energy version of DARPA and the NASA institute for Advanced Concepts that would create better versions of renewables and better nuclear fission and fusion and efficiency systems and products. A high burn thorium reactor designed for mass production. Alternative for fusion with shorter timeframes to proving out (Bussard electrostatic, Z-pinch and others). Look at more high impact and more rapidly implementable solutions to energy and climate. Economics and computational analysis of issues like carbon taxes could be have simulations funded (would not take much money and having peer reviewed data driven models would be useful).

from http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/109.html

FYI Number 109: August 30, 2006
Disagreement in House Science Committee Over ARPA-Energy Proposal
One of the few areas of disagreement during the House Science Committee's markup of H.R. 5656, the Energy Research, Development, Demonstration and Commercial Application Act of 2006, was over a proposal to authorize a Department of Energy ARPA-E. The establishment of an Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy was recommended in the National Academy of Sciences report on American competitiveness, and is a component of S. 2917, the PACE - Energy Act which now awaits action on the Senate floor.

An article by NNadir addressing the distributed energy is better issue.


Thanks for the link, Brian. I have to say that I don't find that piece terribly compelling. He doesn't really explain why nuclear is better than distributed, just makes a straw-man argument about solar power production and a really labored analogy about automobiles versus rail... in the late 19th/early 20th century.

Did you listen to the Schwartz/Cavanaugh debate linked to above? It's worth taking the time to hear, as both make very strong cases for their respective views.


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