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2008 in Review

(As a blogger, I'm contractually obligated to post one of these, you know.)

As 2008 draws to a close, it's time to go through the piles of cognitive detritus left on my desk, and think back on what this year was like.

Good: Lots of talks, lots of writing. Met some very interesting and fun folks in my travels. Finally accepted that I seem to know what I'm doing, at least part of the time.

Bad: Poorly-juggled travel schedules. A few of the coolest projects got delayed into 2009, if they happen at all. My physiology decided that it hates me (warning, squicky medical images).

Here are some of my favorite pieces from Open the Future 2008. Although I'm pretty sure I wrote fewer posts this year compared to last, there are more of them that stand out in my mind as potentially interesting. Let me know which ones you liked, disliked, or want me to revisit. And if I don't get around to posting again during the holidays, Happy Solstifestichrismakwanzakkah!

The Big Picture: Climate Chaos -- wherein we look at how climate disruption mixes with a variety of other big issues.

Please Don't Kick the Robots - on how biomimesis changes how we react to robot abuse.

Roll +3 vs The Future - why Dungeons & Dragons made me what I am today (now you know what to blame).

Pondering Fermi - boy, I seriously get my geek on here. As if the D&D post wasn't enough.

Singularities Enough, and Time - waiting for a Singularity to save us isn't just a bad idea, it's actually beside the point.

The Participatory Decepticon - how do you know that what you see on YouTube is really what happened?

Making the Visible Invisible - augmented reality technologies mean an augmented reality society. And that may not be good.

Tomorrow Matters - as much as today.

This Changes Everything - giving you permission to slap a futurist.

Legacy Futures - dead visions of tomorrow that still colonize our minds. GET OUT OF MY MIND!



What a year...What a freakin' year.

I was surprised you did not write on the transformational nature of this year.

In the comments of Singularities Enough and Time from 6 months ago, there was never any attempt by Karl or Jamais to address the detailed information and case that I had made about nuclear power.

The 439 Nuclear reactors now are avoiding 700 million tons of CO2 generation from more coal plants. Plus there is reduced air pollution and deaths, sickness and damage from air pollution.

EIA projections until 2030 are still for coal to be the fastest growing energy source and the primary source of electricity.
(this is addressing the we can just build wind and solar faster. Show me. All of the projections are for more coal so nuclear is still needed)

Nuclear power has been added faster than wind up until now.
Nuclear power will be adding more than wind power from now until 2030.
(addressing the we can build wind faster. The American wind association and European wind associations don't think so because I am comparing what they say can be done if all the subsidies, legislation and grid build out they want happen which is not yet passed)

Wind and solar power need about 500 billion (10 year build Gore build plan which is not yet funded) in electric grid improvements and fixes in the US alone to get to more significant penetration.

I'd also like to put a plug in for Fifteen minutes into the Future as a personal favorite of mine. Same vein but a little less snarky than "This Changes Everything," with which I am also in agreement. The challenge lies in convincing people that mundane futures are in fact different from projections of the status quo.

(I gotta admit though, Roll 3+ The Future gave me a whole new and geekier way to fail at explaining to people what I do for a living).

Thanks for some great posts over the year Jamais.

Regarding our passionate nuclear power advocate above, if you add in decommissioning costs nuclear power isn't competitive with wind or solar power (solar thermal in particular).

As the Economist once put it, nuclear power is "too expensive to matter" (and as Amory Lovins has repeatedly pointed out - most recently in "The Nuclear Illusion" (pdf) - distributed and microgeneration capacity is rising much faster than nuclear and has a lot of other benefits besides).

Decommissioning costs are $300 million per plant for US plants and if plant life is increased to 60 -80 years. The net present value of the decommissioning is far less. UK plants with high decommissioning costs are not being built now.

Amory Lovins -distributed and microgeneration capacity is 75+% small and big natural gas and diesel power

Natural gas has 4 deaths per TWH (Externe source). So 2500 Twh (to displace nuclear power) would be 10,000 deaths per year. The diesel (oil) portion is 35 deaths per TWH. The biomass about 10 deaths per TWH (35,000 deaths per year if diesel was the main source). The blended rate of deaths per TWH from micropower is over 12 deaths per TWH. Far higher than the 0.65 deaths per TWH calculated by Externe for nuclear power. Even if the micropower deaths per TWH was cut in half for lower distribution losses the number is still far higher. Diesel and natural gas are not renewable.

All energy build costs went up with the increase in commodity prices (steel, concrete, oil)

There are wind turbine shortages and backorders for several years for the large efficient turbines.

Nuclear operating costs and efficiency are continuing to make improvements as they have made for decades.

Laser uranium enrichment 3-10 times cheaper and more efficient.

It takes time to build and scale the factories to build the solar. Solar and wind are building new supply chains.

China has officially broken ground on six domestically engineered CPR-1000 pressurized water reactors, generating around 1080 MWe each. The total investment in Yangjiang's six reactors is to be 69.5 billion reminbi ($10.1 billion), giving a construction cost of 10,700 reminbi per MWe ($1565 per KWe), according to Zhang Guobao, head of the National Energy Bureau. He added that this was was 'much lower' than the figure for desulfurized coal-fired power plants in the province. US and other countries can be twice as expensive but the price per kwh is competive for nuclear with other energy (supercritical or IGCC coal).

China is looking to make Westinghouse AP1000 reactors.

Italy will make 8-10 nuclear reactors starting in 2013.

There will be ten manufacturers of large forgings and Japan Steel is tripling forging production.

Nuclear power will be added faster than wind Now to 2020 and now to 2030.

The expected nuclear reactor completions from now until 2013
3 more nuclear reactors are starting up in 2008
7 reactors in 2009 (5200MW)
7 reactors in 2010 (5200MW)
7 reactors in 2011 (6600MW)
9 reactors in 2012 (9075MW)
16 reactors in 2013 (17120 MW)
This includes Watts Bar 2, 1180 MWe reactor is expected to come on line in 2013

47+ GW added by 2013.
350+ TWh

China's new nuclear power generation target for 2020 is 70GW an increase from 40GW two years ago and 60GW last year. [up from 8.6GW now]

200+ GW by 2020
1500+ TWh

75% of new power added from 2010-2020 is projected to not be in the OECD. No political uncertainty in China, Russia, India.
Of the nuclear reactors being built (36) or where millions have already been spent on planning for imminent build start (93).

Only 12 are expected in the USA.
31 in China
17 Russia
16 India
13 Japan
8 South Korea
5 Canada
The rest in 14 other countries (1-3 each).

The future of nuclear power does not rest in the United States. The United States should adopt nuclear power as a safe and clean energy source, but world nuclear power usage will carry on even if the United States makes the wrong choice.


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