Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Letters to Jesse 6: General Conclusions, More Debates

Dear Jesse, I have decided to bring this series to a close, although I will be open to answering questions, about what I have written for you, I will, of course, continue to write about what I see as the potential of nuclear energy and advanced nuclear technology. I will also continue to expose misinformation about nuclear power and alternative energy forms. I am distressed when I read poorly informed attacks on nuclear power by people who should know better. Unfortunately many people who seek to shape public opinion on energy issues are nuclear illiterate and cover their ignorance with a shallow, poorly informed opposition to nuclear power. We have unfortunately much of the same problem among politicians, some of whom I otherwise admire.

We need nuclear power in a post-carbon world. Our current energy and environmental issues were foreseen by scientists in Oak Ridge, at Argonne National Laboratory, and at Idaho National Laboratory. They sought to forge advanced energy technologies, technologies that would provide abundant, safe, and low cost energy for society over a time span that could last indefinitely, could last for millions of years.

Like the opponents of nuclear power The first generation of nuclear safety. I know because my own father did nuclear safety researcher in Oak Ridge. He saw during the 1960's that the USAEC and congressional leadership opposed strong research programs directed toward identifying finding nuclear safety programs. Eventually nuclear safety research funding was shut off. My father's boss, Alvin Weinberg, a strong advocate for nuclear safety, and for safe advanced nuclear technology was fired as Director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Eventually, the Three Mile Island accident proved that Weinberg's safety warnings were not mistaken.

During the 1970's, Weinberg also warned that CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels could lead to a climate catastrophe. Weinberg spoke to nuclear critics like Ralph Nader and Amory Lovins about the problem. Unfortunately they did not understand what Weinberg understood, that it was possible to introduce much safer nuclear technology that would answer environmental concerns, and that their blind opposition to nuclear power produced a destructive fanaticism. Lovins and Nader both backed fossil fuels in opposition to nuclear power, and their short sightedness still distorts our dialogue about post carbon energy issues.

Energy discussions are still distorted by anti-nuclear illusions about energy. There is in fact substantial reason to doubt that energy efficiency will reduce energy demand over the next three generations. Despite a large body of research by economists, which demonstrates that energy efficiency leads to a rebound in energy use, self styled energy experts still insist that energy conservation amounts to "a low hanging fruit" in the straggle against global warming. It is just not so, and developing countries like China and India, each of which has a population larger than the United States and Europe combined, will continue to demand more energy during the present century. There is probable cause to believe, contrary to the claims made for energy efficiency, that world wide energy demands will be substantially higher 40 years from now than it is today. Our concerns should not be that developing countries be offered greater energy efficiency, but that they be offered technologies that bring them the greatest carbon reduction for their energy investments.

Secondly advocates of renewables, need to pay more attention to their cost, and to the cost of making a renewables dominated grid reliable. Renewables advocates too often rely on incomplete or just plain inaccurate cost analyses. Pro-nuclear critics of renewables offer a strong case that the cost of solar and wind generated electricity is substantially higher than the cost of nuclear power, and that the cost of making renewables as reliable as nuclear generated electricity would be impossibly expensive.


In my blog, Nuclear Green, I attempt to argue the following:

1. There is a very strong case that continued emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel sources, will adversely effect the world's climate, and that climate change will have large consequences for hundreds of millions of people and for many national economies.

2. There is a strong case that mitigation of an Anthropogenic Global Warming will cost far less than the cost of mitigating its consequences.

3, There is probable cause to believe that renewable energy souses cannot replace fossil fuels in a cost effective fashion.

4. Replacement of fossil fuel energy sources by renewable energy sources, will not lead to a favorable outcome.

5. There is probable cause to believe that mass world wide deployment of nuclear electrical generation technology is feasible lf a well funded research and development program begins quickly.

6. There is probable cause to believe that the deployment of Generation III and III+ nuclear technology is the most cost effective way to mitigate global warming and should be vigorously pursued until lower cost Generation IV nuclear technology becomes available.

7. There are good reasons to believe that Generation IV technology can be mass procured at a lower cost than current nuclear costs in Europe and North America.

It is my intent to focus more attention on these critical issues, and to foster more debate between the supporters of nuclear power and the supporters of renewables. I am very encouraged by the emergence of Barry Brook's blog, Brave New Climate, which addresses the same issues I do, and does a better job than I do in fleshing the problems out.


donb said...

Charles Barton wrote:
3, There is probable cause to believe that renewable energy souses can replace fossil fuels in a cost effective fashion.

Charles, I think you meant to write:
3. There is probable cause to believe that renewable energy sources can NOT replace fossil fuels in a cost effective fashion.

Jesse Jenkins said...

Charles, never had a chance to say thanks for writing such a voluminous series of educational posts. Much appreciated.


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