What a Green Modernist Would Say

By Keith Kloor | May 3, 2012 2:40 pm

I know the environmental movement will have truly matured when the leader of a big mainstream green group can say something like this:

We won’t meet the carbon targets if nuclear [power] is taken off the table.

That’s from Jeff Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute. Here’s the opening to the Guardian story:

Combating climate change will require an expansion of nuclear power, respected economist Jeffrey Sachs said on Thursday, in remarks that are likely to dismay some sections of the environmental movement.

Prof Sachs said atomic energy was needed because it provided a low-carbon source of power, while renewable energy was not making up enough of the world’s energy mix and new technologies such as carbon capture and storage were not progressing fast enough.

Incidentally, it appears that the headline in the Guardian article is incorrect (as was pointed out by Jesse Jenkins on Twitter), since nothing in the piece supports Sachs suggesting nuclear power is “the only solution to climate change.” Anyway, should be interesting to see what the reaction to Sachs is from various enviro/climate quarters.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: climate change, nuclear power
  • RickA

    Yep.But even better would be new technology which makes non-carbon power generation even cheaper than coal, oil or natural gas (which are themselves quite a bit cheaper than nuclear).So Nuclear is the way to go until we can invent that non-carbon cheaper energy source.Nuclear, with recycling (like France), and regional storage of waste.

  • http://burden.ca/blog/ Tim Burden

    Yeah. That silly old Luddite Amory Lovins just wrote a whole book on how to accomplish substantial decarbonization with a mix of efficiency, conservation, distributed renewables, and natural gas:

    Reinventing Fire shows how to run a very prosperous 2050 U.S. economy — 2.6 times today’s — with no oil, no coal, no nuclear energy, one-third less natural gas and a $5 trillion lower net-present-value cost than business as usual. We also found the transition requires no new inventions and no Act of Congress and can be led by business for profit.

    Seems reasonable?

  • crf

    Listen to the following: Just replace “Dollars with Watts” and “Classified” with “Solar panels”. And you’ve practically written the latest Amory Lovin’s masterplan.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mubCkCAEiDQ

  • http://burden.ca/blog/ Tim Burden

    @crf #3: Oh, good argument. I capitulate.

  • RickA

    Tim:I have not read the book.How does he propose to do this (as it does sound very nice).

  • Vinny Burgoo

    Some of my friends in the ’70s and early ’80s were anti-nuclear greens. Their opposition to nuclear power had as much or more to do with localism and self-reliance as worries about meltdowns and how to store nuclear waste and keep it safe from baddies. (Economics and ‘renewability’ didn’t feature at all.) Nuclear power plants were bad because they could be built and run only by big corporations and/or strong central governments. Unlike wind or solar, you couldn’t build one in your kitchen (as that Swede found out recently) and they couldn’t work at all unless someone somewhere was wearing a suit and tie. Nuclear power was Da Man writ large in massive concrete and electrified fences, man.

    Has much changed? Not at the big NGOs, it hasn’t. Localism is now called sovereignty (google with ‘energy sovereignty’; also, for GMOs, ‘food sovereignty’) but otherwise it’s the same old irrational ‘small is beautiful (even when it’s huge)’ thing. This is and always was a form of control-freakery. Or perhaps, more kindly, a fear of complexity.

  • http://burden.ca/blog/ Tim Burden

    @RickA #5: Lot’s of reports and graphs, basically following the outline of the whole book, are available here.

    This in an important chart here, which outlines the CO2 emissions cuts.

  • http://burden.ca/blog/ Tim Burden

    @vinny #6: I’d say your anti-corporatocracy friends were right, even more so today. You just have to look at the seeming inability of Canadian and U.S. governments to react appropriately to the issue to discover this. Think Koch Bros.

    Up here in Canada, our government seems to have been captured by the tarsands lobby, and so has embarked on a war on the environment, literally (literally!) labelling environmentalists as terrorists.

  • BBD

    Tim Burden

    Renewables will not displace coal for baseload. Nuclear is the only proven, scaleable technology capable of doing that. It’s one of those uncomfortable facts we all have to face up to at some point. Like the fact that CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Would that it were otherwise, but it isn’t.

  • Keith Kloor

    Tim (2)

    No, sounds like fantasy.

  • http://burden.ca/blog/ Tim Burden

    @bbd #9: False. You could store the excess in the natural gas network.

    @kk #10. Can you point us to something a little more substantive?

  • jeffn

    #2 Tim, this is awesome! Thanks!
    “We also found the transition requires no new inventions and no Act of Congress and can be led by business for profit.”

    There you go, problem solved, next subject. No need for a cap-n-trade, an international treaty, a carbon tax- (all of which, I’m sure you know, require acts of Congress). So, why are you waiting for acts of Congress?

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    We have a portfolio to choose from. Need them all. Match to regional characteristics. Solar in Arizona, ground source heat pumps in Montana, wind in Washington, nuclear near megacities and to power special projects like bullet trains. Hybrid and electric vehicles powered by rooftop solar. Cogeneration of heat and power with district heating/cooling. Conservation and investment in energy efficiency.We will need about twice as much nuclear as we have today.None of this needs to happen by midnight tonight.

  • John F. Pittman

    It is by a 90% renewable distributed system 10% NG regen. The problems
    are numerous with the claim of current technology use. At present wind can only
    supply more than 7% with either exponential increase in cost or the reception
    area is 3 times larger than the supplied area listed on paper, Denmark case, or
    by non-existent technology as in a wind study here in the US to get to 21%. Further, there is
    an implicit assumption that not only are we going to increase efficiency more
    than has ever been done, but it can be implemented at the state regulatory
    level, where you can’t even get all of them to sing the Star Spangled Banner
    together, because 12 of them want to sing Dixie instead. Those are just two
    pipe dreams in the first paragraph explaining electricity “solution”. It also
    appears that the growth rate is much below 3%, yet the assumptions of cost as
    far as the implied “smart grid” would be much more. The solution appears to be
    making money out of thin air scenario. There are other unexplained problems
    that can only be examined with the basis of certain claims that were not available
    in what I saw. One is that it appears that energy demand is going to grow very slowly or
    actually decline, while having positive economic growth which is something also not seen. But once again, a basis is
    needed to nail it down with certainty. The information on the assumptions in
    the interview, and basis that is there to be seen in the electricity section indicate a
    large departure from reality about current technology etc.

  • Anteros

    Tom @13. When you say ‘we’ do you mean Americans? Because for the world as a whole (which I always mean when I say ‘we’ on world-wide blogs) doubling nuclear will have a non-noticeable effect. Two times 400 plants is 800 but we’d need 12,000 to replace coal. I’m quite pro-nuclear but given all the opposition – irrational or not – I don’t see nuclear making a significant dent in the coal-shaped hole that most of us would like to see appearing over the next 2-4 decades.

  • BBD

    Tim

    That is at best, hand-waving. We have got where all discussions of displacing baseload with renewables end up with record speed.

  • BBD

    Germany will just use the gas lines it already has.

    Not for hydrogen it won’t. Enthusiasm is no substitute for some sort of grasp of engineering reality.

  • Anteros

    Tom Fuller – I agree with your comment entirely (forgot to mention) and in the US a doubling of nuclear would certainly have a significant impact. Has the gas revival of the last decade made that even more unlikely though?

  • BBD

    WRT the renewables-to-gas link…

    Having chased down the most informative reference I could find from this link, the usual issues stand out:

    - How much does generation exceed demand under real-world conditions? (Consider i/. all-year 24 hr demand vs SPV daytime/optimum conditions/summer months constraints; ii/. all year demand vs wind intermittency).

    - How much energy is used to produce hydrogen?

    - To run the hot Sabatier process to produce the natural gas analogue?

    - How much is lost in conversion inefficiency when gas is burned to fuel turbines for electricity generation?

    - Net of these attritions, how much actual gas backup capacity will *really* exist on any given day, week, month?

    This, like all such proposals, has a strong whiff of perpetual motion machine about it.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Hi Anteros, where you been hiding?Well, if you click on my name you’ll go to my thinking on the subject. Nuclear is all over the map. China’s on the way to building 150 plants, Germany and Japan between them look set to retire 60. I don’t know what’s going to happen–I hope modular pre fab plants are feasible, because I think that’s the real solution.

  • Jack Hughes

    “Sorry”

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @9

    i wouldn’t get so hung up on the ‘proven’ bit. there are plenty of ways to displace baseload that don’t involve one-to-one switchouts (e.g. increased grid interconnects, time-of-use-pricing, etc.). More importantly, I don’t think anyone is suggesting that we turn off all coal-fired power tomorrow and replace it with 100% wind or solar. there’s an important staging aspect to all of this that, frankly, I think you gloss over.  As you say, we’ll see how it pans out. I’m more than willing to accept 10:1 odds — i get 10 since my stuff isn’t as ‘proven’ ;-)

    @10

    have you read the book? Lots of people smarter than you (see the quotes on amazon) seem to believe otherwise. to be fair I haven’t so i reserve the right to withhold judgement, but I will note that his book is very much couched in aspirational language. Given your comment on the subject just now, don’t be surprised if you get a nasty phone call from the BTI-third way high priests…

  • Dean

    Nuclear – the new litmus test.

  • Keith Kloor

    On a related note, over at the Discover thread, there’s an interesting exchange on the nuclear issue worth checking out. It’s between Russ Finley and Alan Nogee. See comments 38, 42, 51 

  • http://burden.ca/blog/ Tim Burden

    @Tom Fuller #13: The mix you propose looks totally reasonable to me. I could live with an “all of the above” carbon-free strategy that meant a doubling of nukes. Is there a link to a particular post on your site that explains the mix?

    But I must say it would be preferable to me to find a solution like Lovins’ that the whole world could use. I doubt there is enough uranium to support the world’s energy needs, even in the proportion you specify, projected out to 2050.

    As for the rest of you: wow. Who’s the Luddites? “It can’t work because it’s not proven.” (BBD). “Sounds too good to be true” (KK). “Unintelligible sarcasm” (jeffn)

    This is the “If there are NOT nukes, we dismiss” club.

    Seriously, if that’s the case this is just another enviro-cult. One that is calling itself “progressive” because it clings to dangerous, expensive cold war technology.

    A lot of engineers put a lot of time and effort into the RMI plan. Surely it deserves more than trite, baseless dismissal.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Hi Tim @25. I broached the topic here but did not pursue it to conclusion: http://3000quads.com/2012/04/18/fuel-portfolio-of-choice/

  • Marlowe Johnson

    A lot of engineers put a lot of time and effort into the RMI plan. Surely it deserves more than trite, baseless dismissal. 

    well said.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Here’s what I wrote about solar: http://3000quads.com/2012/02/06/mountain-high/

  • Keith Kloor

    Marlowe,

    Tim gave an overview of the book in #2. He asked if I thought it sounded reasonable. I suppose I could have just answered no. 

    You call it aspirational, I call it fantasy. Semantics. But as I do take those guys at RMI seriously, I will put the book on my to-read list.

    Also, when I think of energy and climate change, I tend to think in a global context, not U.S.

  • http://planet3.org Dan Moutal

    <p>As much as I think Nuclear should be on the table, I am not sure it will ever be a major component of our energy system. It just seems far too expensive and getting more so, while other renewables, PV solar especially, are dropping in price. (yes this is an over-simplification)</p><p>But, I am not confident enough in my assessment to keep nuclear off the table, since the risks of nuclear are far less worrisome than the risks from unmitigated GHG emissions.</p>

  • http://planet3.org Dan Moutal

    sorry for hmtl in my previous comment. Apparently the commenting system doesn’t like paragraphs 

  • BBD

    Dan @ 30 – the pro-renewables chaps all say: build more and it gets cheaper. Same rules apply to nuclear. I have to agree with Sachs. Nuclear will be necessary.

    The commenting system is broken at the moment. To force paragraph breaks, type comment (without html) and use the button bar for bold and italic.

    Press the blue < > button to open html view. Insert cursor after </p> tags and hit Enter twice to get para breaks. Submit.

  • BBD

    Tim @ 25

    I’m not a Luddite. I’m a pragmatist. # 19 isn’t anti-technology. It’s objective. You misrepresent me. Noted.

  • BBD

    Luddite = ‘nuclear = dangerous Cold War technology”

  • http://planet3.org Dan Moutal

    Re: #32 The price trajectories seems wrong for Nuclear though. Seems that every new plant is more expensive than the last. Though I’ll grant you that there are fewer data points than I’d like.

    There are other important differences between traditional renewables and nuclear that work in favour of cost reductions in renewables, that don’t apply to nuclear. It is much easier to tinker with a windmill design than a reactor design, for example.

    So I remain skeptical, but I still want nuclear on the table. I don’t think it will be the best solution most of the time (I might be wrong though, hence why I want it on the table), but in the few cases where it is we absolutely should build it.

  • BBD

    Dan @ 35

    If/when a substantial build-out of GenIII+ gets under way, the cost per plant will fall. Assuming basic economics holds true.

    Reactor design evolution has come a very long way over the last 30 years (to Gen III+). It is more than ready for large-scale deployment. The barriers are not technological.

    While it may be possible to tinker with windmill design there are two certainties:

    - no really significant efficiency gains remain to be achieved 

    - you can’t get rid of intermittency and slew (variability)

    The latter is by far the most important inherent limitation. A third consideration not often aired is the problem (an understatement) of maintenance for offshore fleets. The *actual feasibility* of doing this on a large scale is unclear. Take a moment to consider this. The ongoing cost looks to be so high that in the UK – where we have made a bit bet on offshore deployment – it is simply not being discussed. 

    This is *not* to say that we shouldn’t go ahead and expand renewables (region-appropriate technologies, obviously). But like you with nuclear, I have grave doubts. Nevertheless, like you, I believe everything must stay on the table.

  • http://planet3.org Dan Moutal

    Re: #36 So we agree… at least where it matters. 

  • harrywr2

    #1Yep.But even better would be new technology which makes non-carbon power
    generation even cheaper than coal, oil or natural gas (which are
    themselves quite a bit cheaper than nuclear)
    Oil is running at about $16/MMbtu.For nuclear to be ‘cost competitive’ with a 35% percent efficient fossil fueled power plant the ‘fuel cost’ needs to be at least $4/MMBtu.<br:</br:For most of the world nuclear is already cost competitive for baseload with coal and gas and oil. I.E. Benchmark European and Asian prices for steam coal are above $5/MMBtu and natural gas prices are about $10/MMBtu.<br:</br:Peakers are a different story. Nuclear doesn’t compete with anything as a ‘peaker’.  There is a fundamental problem trying to mix wind mills with nuclear in that windmills can only be paired with peakers.The Columbia Nuclear Plant produces electricity at a wholesale cost of 3 cents/KWh(including allowances for decommissioning and fuel disposal). Nothing is cheaper then power from a 30 year old nuclear plant that is paid for.

  • kdk33

    What a green modernists would say?  Well, for starters one would acknowledge that people and their well being – lifting the poor from poverty – take priority over preserving some mythical wild state.  One might also take the view the people are part of and interact with – not seperate from and act on – the environment.  Yes, one might adjust ones worldview in light of these.

    A green modernists might also see that US natural gas is $2/mmbtu – $2 freaking dollars.  Shale gas structurally changes US (and eventually other) energy markets.  As long as gas can be had with associated liquids, the price is likely to stay below $3, maybe even at $2.  Even without associated liquids the dry gas cost curve is likely flat at a bit over $4.

    So, absent government mandates, the bar for renewables and nuclear just went up.  Way up.  OTOH, gas might can displace some coal.  But, if you are after aggresive decarbonization, is coal to gas a meaningful change?

    A green modernists would seperate environmentalism from CO2.  Would recognize that readily available low cost energy is necessary to create the wealth required to address environemntal problems.  Would recognize the uncertainty in the ‘climate sciences’.  Would see the costs – both in dollars and in human lives (rarely acknowledged, but real) – and risks – both in squandered wealth (opportunity costs) extremely undesirable government (centralized control) and dangerous politics (who punishes carbon cheaters). 

    A green modernists would take a wait-and-see approach to CO2 and direct resources to solving real environemtnal problems and improving the lot of other human beings.

    Some might be republicans.

  • kdk33

    Nothing is cheaper then power from a 30 year old nuclear plant that is paid for.

    If only we knew how to buld them that way.  :-)

  • Marlowe Johnson

    What I find interesting about this particular thread is that it has highlighted a broad area of agreement among people who routinely disagree. all energy options should be on the table. When Tom and I agree on something that should set off some warning bells.

    Incidentally, my skepticism about nuclear economics is based on this sort of thing

  • BBD

    Marlowe @ 41

    Something very strange happened back in 2009. Perhaps Ontario PA should consider an alternative reactor design (perhaps it is doing so). In the US, IIRC, Vogtle 3 &4 (2 x AP1000) is estimated at about $14bn and V.C. Summer 2 & 3 (2 x AP1000) at about $10bn.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @BBD

    indeed. but considering what this guy said, i’m not holding my breath.

  • http://burden.ca/blog/ Tim Burden

    @BBD #34: I was referring to the idea that, somehow, not being in love with 50 year old technology – while embracing an energy Internet, synthetic gas, modern EVs, efficient buildings, and so on – automatically makes you a Luddite.

    And nukes DO come with massive risk and they ARE expensive. To say otherwise is ludicrous. It’s a trade-off we might have to make, though, if it is the only way to achieve a low-carbon electricity system. Which it might be, I don’t know yet.

    Let’s cut out the unproductive name-calling. I’m sorry I participated. But will note that I didn’t start it.

    So let’s get back to the matter at hand. I have pointed to a plan that does not include nukes. And it is a good plan, because, as far as I can tell, it satisfies everybody except the coal and oil lobby:

    it’s pro-growth, projecting a U.S. economy 158% larger than today’s
    we get to drive cars
    business runs more efficiently, and makes more money
    meets CO2 targets
    etc.

    And the reason nukes are not in the mix is not fear-induced scaremongering, but pragmatic and twofold:

    economic: massive nuke projects are riskier for business
    incompatibility with renewables

    That second point is important. If you’re going to go heavy on intermittent renewables, then fixating on baseload is the wrong approach. Fixate on peakers instead, which in this plan is handled with natural gas and demand management.

    There’s some great charts in the book which outline this perception shift but I can’t find them on the RMI site right now.

    Lovins points out in the book that the two scenarios are incompatible, the one with big centralized generators and heavy transmission lines, and the one with smaller, decentralized generators and island-able microgrids. And it’s important that we choose a scenario wisely and stick with it.

  • grypo

    No idea what Pile’s point is.

  • BBD

    Tim Burden

    Gen III nuclear is not ’50 year old technology’. We can start by ditching that misleading meme ;-)

    Nukes do not come with a ‘massive risk’. That is factually incorrect. Emotive. A subjective misrepresentation.

    I’m not in a position to comment on Reinventing Fire because I haven’t read it – yet. But – I was talking to Marlowe about this recently and it is (now definitely) on the reading list.

    Baseload is more efficient and therefore more economical than a mix of load-following and peaking plant. Hence its logical dominance in the energy mix. Rather ask the markets to stop functioning…

    Nuclear is not incompatible with renewables. That’s Dave Roberts I think. See here for an alternative take that (to my mind) is much more closely grounded in fact.

    Nuclear is expensive, but so are renewables – when properly costed with the necessary energetic storage and shiny new supergrid. Again, an objective approach is essential for productive debate.

    You seem intent on pushing nuclear off the table. I don’t think we have that luxury (see exchange with Dan Moutal, above). Rational energy policy must surely be inclusive and flexible, not dogmatic and selective.

  • http://burden.ca/blog/ Tim Burden

    @BBD #46: Would you at least agree that if you can get away without using nuclear, then you should? That the problems with uranium availability, waste disposal, frequent cost overruns, massive insurance subsidy, threats relating to terrorism and national security, business risk, and jellyfish in your pipes are at least significant enough to warrant careful exploration of alternatives?

    If not, please define dogma.

    That chart looks similar to the one in the RF book, except that instead of a straight baseload line at the bottom, the renewables curve wriggles around under the demand curve and the red section is made up of peaker gas, demand management, and some storage (mainly in EV batteries).

  • Marlowe Johnson

    BBD for context, I believe that Tim Burden hails from my neck of the woods in Ontario and thus is less than enamored by economic arguments regarding nuclear power generation.

    which reminds me. since BBD is having a beer at present, maybe Tim and I should to :) . It is Friday after all!

  • http://burden.ca/blog/ Tim Burden

    @BBD #46: Also, nuclear incompatibility with renewables is straight from Lovins. I think in the book it was more about the disconnect between small, numerous, near-customer generators vs. big, remote powerplants.

    I don’t have the book with me. I did find this (PDF) on Google though hinting that Lovins has been saying pretty much the same thing for 35 years.

    You can’t blame Dave Roberts for everything :)

  • http://burden.ca/blog/ Tim Burden

    @48: tim @ burden dot ca

  • Nullius in Verba

    #47,

    There are no long-term problems with uranium availability or waste disposal. Fast breeders can burn waste, and unenriched uranium from seawater both.

    Cost overruns are primarily down to the way they’re managed – the suppliers have to borrow the money and build it before getting paid, and if the customer causes a five year delay mid-construction while they dither, the interest charges are considerable. And if you ask the suppliers to foot the bill for any overruns, they’ll add it to the price. (Which is what happened in the case Marlowe cited in #41.)

    Insurance subsidy is a matter of nuclear paranoia in a litigious society. As we’ve noted multiple times, nuclear power is far safer than many other industrial processes – including coal mining. As a terrorist weapon, radioactive material is a poor choice. There are plenty of easier, cheaper, harder to detect, and more toxic poisons around.

    And jellyfish are a problem for any thermally-based power station – they all rely on cooling water.

    France has been operating a significant nuclear generating operation for 30 years. It’s clearly feasible. By contrast, governments have been pushing and subsidising wind and solar for 20 years, and they’ve yet to get off the ground. If it was possible to do it without subsidy, then it ought to have certainly succeeded with. How could Solyndra have possibly failed?

    But the real issue is not the technical details, but the way some people will demand support at all costs for clearly uneconomic and environmentally damaging technologies on the grounds that the impending climate catastrophe justifies all measures, but they’ll suddenly switch gears to argue and nitpick costs and risks like any right-wing climate ‘denier’ when they’re offered a clean, safe solution that meets all their requirements and is even supported by the other side.

    What does that tell us about their reasons?

  • http://burden.ca/blog/ Tim Burden

    @Nullius #51: The jellyfish was just a joke.The rest of it isn’t. Nuclear costs are going up, solar going down. And unless you live in Canada or Australia, you probably don’t have your own uranium. Tell us about YOUR reasons.

  • BBD

    Tim

    Would you at least agree that if you can get away without using nuclear, then you should?

    Of course. But the key word is ‘if’.

    EV batteries are for powering EVs. Using them as an energetic reserve is always going to be problematic. Robbing Peter to pay Paul will periodically mean that Peter can’t drive to that meeting in Ohio in the morning. The shadow of the perpetual motion machine is always with us :-)

    SPV panels are getting cheaper, but no costed, proven energetic storage complement currently exists. The cost of renewables needs to be accounted in full. As does viability (#19). 

    It’s probably time to repeat that I welcome the German experiment. At last, we will get a chance to see what works and what doesn’t. The ‘if’ will become less of an unknown and that can only be good.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #52,

    Nuclear power costs are going up for reasons that have nothing to do with the fundamentals of nuclear technology – regulation and bureaucracy, mainly. And lots of people have uranium – while mines are currently the cheapest source and will be used preferentially while they last, there’s enough extractable uranium in seawater to last 10,000 years. The fuel is not the cost driver in nuclear, anyway.

    I expect that in 50 years or so, solar power will indeed be cheaper, and we’ll probably move over to that without the need for any pressure when the time comes. But we’re not there yet, and it’s damaging to try to force it before it is ready. If you think you can do it now, then please get on with it and don’t come to the taxpayer asking for free money.

    I already know that the un-modernist greens are never going to agree, though. It’s not about what is necessary, or economic, or environmentally friendly. We can discuss the technicalities of power generation or rare earth mining or bird strikes endlessly, and it will make no difference. Saving the world from our sinfulness has to involve heroic sacrifice, and nuclear power would allow us to carry on the way we’re going with no penalty. Psychologically it’s unacceptable.

    Everything else is rationalisation.

  • http://burden.ca/blog/ Tim Burden

    @Nullus #54:

    I already know that the un-modernist greens are never going to agree, though.

    Jesus. I completely resent this moniker. Must you? Can’t we just argue the thing without the labels?

    …there’s enough extractable uranium in seawater to last 10,000 years.

    At ten times the current price, according to the World Nuclear Association

    If you think you can do it now, then please get on with it and don’t come to the taxpayer asking for free money.

    What are you talking about here? The plan I pointed to is a business plan, specifically requiring no input from Congress.

    @BBD #53: I completely agree with everything you said there.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #55,

    The label comes from the title of Keith’s post. I didn’t say it was referring to you – although if you think it fits…

    Thanks for the link. Bear in mind that since the fuel is only a tiny portion of the cost of nuclear power, even at ten times the price, the price of the energy would not rise that much. And of course, that’s with current technology, which is at the field prototype stage at the moment. That’s like where solar PV was 50 years ago.

    As your link says: “From time to time concerns are raised that the known resources might be insufficient when judged as a multiple of present rate of use. But this is the Limits to Growth fallacy, a major intellectual blunder recycled from the 1970s, which takes no account of the very limited nature of the knowledge we have at any time of what is actually in the Earth’s crust. Our knowledge of geology is such that we can be confident that identified resources of metal minerals are a small fraction of what is there. Factors affecting the supply of resources are discussed further and illustrated in the Appendix.” One could also add that it takes no account of technological progress.

    People keep saying we should transition to renewables, but then keep on going to government to get subsidies and tariffs and favourable regulation to make it possible. (cough… Solyndra… cough…) If you’re saying that renewables can be profitable without being propped up by government, then they should stop asking for subsidies and get on with it. (I’m all in favour – I’ve nothing against solar power per se. I think the technology is pretty neat and I expect great things in a few decades time.) If they need subsidies and favourable regulation to be financially viable, then please stop telling us we can transition now and it isn’t going to cost us a whole lot more. Because we can’t and it is.

  • http://3000quads.com/ Tom Fuller

    Well, if we’d like to know what a green modernist would say, let’s go to today’s news:

    Clive Hamilton, Vice Chancellor’s Chair, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics

    “Perhaps Richard Bean’s next project will be The Heretic 2, another “funny, provocative and heart-warming family drama” in which the maverick academic David Irving, lone defender of the truth, uncovers definitive evidence that the Holocaust never happened. Sent to Coventry by his fellow historians “” a spineless lot who have for years been manipulating the evidence to protect their funding and their reputations “” David is in the end vindicated; the Holocaust was a Zionist plot after all.”

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Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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