Monday, January 26, 2009

The era of energy confusion

Current thinking about renewables is to say the least confused. The limitations and true costs of renewables are systematically ignored by psuco-scholars huxters like Mark Z, Jacobson. Is it any wonder then that the thinking of politicians about energy issues is distorted by myths and illusions. After believing for a generation that fossil fuels could solve our energy problems, we are finally becoming aware that this is not the case. Two threats, those of anthropogenic global warming and peak oil, appear to be bring the age of fossil fuels to an end. Resolution of long standing energy issues cannot be put off for much longer. Decisions must be made soon. But like a man waiking up from a drunken sleep, thinking about energy is at the moment amazingly confused and distorted. Consider the following pronuncement:
Because the production of nuclear weapons material is occurring only in countries that have developed civilian nuclear energy programs, the risk of a limited nuclear exchange between countries or the detonation of a nuclear device by terrorists has increased due to the dissemination of nuclear energy facilities worldwide. As such, it is a valid exercise to estimate the potential number of immediate deaths and carbon emissions due to the burning of buildings and infrastructure associated with the proliferation of nuclear energy facilities and the resulting proliferation of nuclear weapons. The number of deaths and carbon emissions, though, must be multiplied by a probability range of an exchange or explosion occurring to estimate the overall risk of nuclear energy proliferation. Although concern at the time of an explosion will be the deaths and not carbon emissions, policy makers today must weigh all the potential future risks of mortality and carbon emissions when comparing energy sources.

Here, we detail the link between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons and estimate the emissions of nuclear explosions attributable to nuclear energy.
First lets note the ambiguity of Jacobson's language. He speaks of a general class of "buildings and infrastructure". Now what they all have in common is their association "with the proliferation of nuclear energy facilities and the resulting proliferation of nuclear weapons." Here we run into a logical problem. Let me cite some examples of facilities that are clearly associated with the proliferation of nuclear weapons. K-25, the Hanford reactors and the Sevannah River reactors are all facilities associated with thre building of nuclear weapons, but technically not of their spread. Because these facilities did not contribute to the spread of nuclear weapons beyond the United States. Thus they do are not examples of the case which Jacobson wishes to make. Now conisder Watts Bar Unit 1, a nuclear power plant not a great many miles distant from the location of K-25. Now it would be absurd to assert that Watts bar Unit 1 has caused the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries. Thus Watts Bar Unit 1, is not an example of the case Jacobson is trying to make as well.

But Jacobson would appear to have us believe than notonly is Watts Bar Unit One linked to the spread of Nuclear weapons to other countries, but through this link will be a cause of a future nuclear exchange between unnamed countries.

Jacobson also relies on factually inaccurate arguments. for example he links the presence of civilian nuclear energy programs in countries with the emergence of military technology. In fact, there were no civilian nuclear energy programs in the United States in 1942, at the inception of the Manhattan poroject, and no Civilian nuclear Energy programs in the United Kingdom, The Societ Union, or the PRC prior to the emergence of their nuclear weapons programs. Other examples, including North Korea could be pounted too. Thus the Civilan energy program caused nuclear weapons simply is not credible, and would never be made by a person possessing the slightest shred of rationality. The detonation of nuclear weapons in a nuclear exchange has not been shown to be linked to Watts Bar Unit 1, in anyway, and further the nuclear exchange takes place only in Jacobson's imagination. The terrorist bomb also is a product of Jacobson's imagination, and Jacobson demonstrates no link between Watts Bar Unit 1, and the very unlikely acquisition of nuclear weapons by terrorists.

Thus Jacobson resorts to a factually incorrect, illogical, and wholely implausible argument to make the case that the acquisition of nuclear weapons by North Korea would be caused by say, the completion of Watts Bar Unit 2. What can be said about's Jacobson's argument? For that matter what can be said about the fact that virtually no one except Brian Wang and I have criticized it? People are either asleep, or have not awakened enough to distinguish between dreams and waking reality. Dreams do not obey the rules of logic or are they expected too. Jaconson applies the logic rules of dreams to his argument, and that appears to be assceptable to his still slumbering readers.

Those few of us notice, shake our heads and wonder. "If you cannot be saints of knowledge, then, I pray you, be at least its warriors."


donb said...

With his ambiguous language, Jacobson is trying to link civilian power reactors to nuclear weapons.

As has been discussed here previously, civilian power reactors could possibly be used to produce bomb-making materials, but it is quite difficult if not impossible. One of the easier ways requires no reactor at all -- highly enriched natural uranium.

By Jacobson's argument, we should deny the world the use of civilian power reactors because it might be possible to make bomb-grade material, even though there are much easier ways to make a bomb without a reactor.

Brad F said...

Jacobson starts with a false premise, and it goes downhill from there. "Because the production of nuclear weapons material is occurring only in countries that have developed civilian nuclear energy programs, ..." is demonstrably false. Then he follows with the logical fallacy that nuclear energy = nuclear weapons.

After this most recent study hit cyberspace, I finally took a close look at his 2007 study, the much ballyhooed Stanford "Wind can be Baseload" study. The conclusions drawn are not supported by the data, but rather are based on a misinterpretation of the meaning of the term baseload.

It looks like Jacobson is more interested in headlines than scholarship.


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