My point with Romm was that the LFTR was promising technology that should be explored as a sustainable energy source that could serve as the basis for the human energy economy into the a very long future. Romm in effect repeatedly dismissed the argument as being not worthy of his consideration. Kirk Sorensen, attempted to run similar arguments past Romm. Both Kirk and I eventually got frustrated with Romm.
In an article on nuclear power published this week on Salon, Romm sets out his case against nuclear power. Romm is not quite an anti-nuk, but he is a kindred spirit. According to Romm, nuclear power is the "Ishtar" of power generation.
Romm's case against nuclear is fairly simple, "nuclear plants have become so expensive that cost overwhelms the other problems." In contrast to nuclear power, Romm argues that Renewables are far cheaper. Romm tells his readers, " Jigar Shah, chief strategy officer of SunEdison, explained to me that he could guarantee delivery to Florida of more kilowatt-hours of power with solar photovoltaics -- including energy storage so the power was not intermittent -- for less money than the nuke plants cost."
Romm adds, "Many other forms of carbon-free power are already cheaper than nuclear today, including wind power, concentrated solar thermal power and, of course, the cheapest of all, energy efficiency. Over the past three decades, California efficiency programs have cut total electricity demand by about 40,000 gigawatt hours for an average 2 to 3 cents per kilowatt-hour."
Many Salon readers of Romm's nuclear article responded to it in the comment section. In fact these comments are an indicator of the extent to which public opinion has shifted against nuclear nay-sayers like Romm. Jeffrey Radice summed up the general concensus of many Salon readers:
"Romm had his thesis a priori, and pigeonholes the facts to support his opinion."
Radice adds, "It's heartening to see that salon readers are not so gullible to swallow this anti-nuke diatribe without critique."
Brian from Seattle wrote, "this article really just chooses one dimension of policy analysis to beat up on Nuclear power again, which makes little sense. You need a full spectrum of criteria to analyze, then create a final conclusion taking into account all criteria for a particular energy policy. This certainly does not do it."
Bspeakmon noted, "Among the many other problems, Romm seems to think that the only possible nuclear reactor design is a submarine reactor scaled up. Ridiculous.
There are many new designs, . . ."
Willard Roker wrote, "It is time to get pass the knee jerk reaction we have to nuclear power. It is a vast, clean energy source that can produce all the electricity needed by the US and do it in the foreseeable future."
Roker added, "You do more environmental harm just getting oil and coal out of the ground than a nuclear power plant will ever do and when you figure in process and burning nuclear power is many time cleaner. It is time to embrace the future not wallow in the past."
Skeptical Scientist commented sarcastically, "Mr. Romm argues convincingly that it is impossible to generate affordable nuclear power. This is, of course, much like "proving" bumlebees can't fly (er, they do.) Most electricity in France is from nuclear power. Perhaps the "can't do" Americans need to get a helping hand from the "can do" French."
Ssgman noted, "According to my (conservative) calculations, the 2,200 megawatt plant costing 14 billion will generate power at 2.42 cents per kw hour, if it runs for 30 years. If it runs for 50 then it will be almost half of that. A solar installation will cost about $5,000 per kilowatt and that it only runs during daylight so it really costs about 10k. So Romm's math is really wrong."
Many of the Salon commenters seconded Ssgman in questioning Romm's calculations.
Jeffrey Radice complains, "The fact of the matter is that all alternate energy technologies have hidden costs. Romm either purposefully ignores those of solar and wind, or he has seriously underthought these issues."
I might add that Romm has been confronted in the past about his once over lightly approach to renewables' costs, by Kirk Sorensen, by me and by many others.
Radice notes what he describes as a disingenuous statement by Romm:
"In fact, from 2000 through October 2007, nuclear power plant construction costs -- mainly materials, labor and engineering -- have gone up 185 percent!"
Radice asks, "How about providing comparable numbers for the costs of wind and solar construction?" Radice retorts, and then adds, "Is steel not a primary component in wind turbines? How much has the material cost of steel gone up since 2000? I'd be willing to bet well in excess of 185% The same could be said for polysilicon. I would not at all be surprised to find that construction costs for wind and solar per watt have escalated in excess of 185% since 2000. Yes there have been dramatic technological advances improving the efficiency of both power sources, but at what cost?"
Finally Radice castigates Romm, "Casting stones at viable nuclear power while downplaying the inefficiencies of competing wind and solar does nobody a favor."
In addition to the Salon comments, bloggers are beginning to "Fisk" Romm's latest "Bomb."
Clearly then Joe Romm received thrashing at the hands of Salon readers. Romm needs to pay attention to what his critics say. Romm's approach to energy issues is based on confirming his a priori theories, without a careful review of what the data really shows. Romm has been confronted about his intellectual short comings in the past, so his failure to change his views in the face of telling criticism is either a manifestation of arrogance or of intellectual incompetence. Romm needs to clean up his act, or he will be left behind, just as global warming skeptics are being.
The Salon readers' comments on Romm revealed that there is a well informed group of people who access the internet, and who know far more about energy issues than most policy makers. People like them should undoubtedly be given a voice in future national energy debates and discussions.