Barry can be thought of as following Karl Popper's model of science in his blog. Barry's hypothesis is, that nuclear power offers the only satisfactory long term energy solution to the post fossil-fuel era. One null hypothesis, offered by renewable advocates is renewables advocates is that renewable energy (and efficiency) offer a long term energy solution to the post fossil fuel era. Brave New Climate has, I would contend, offered convincing evidence that the Null Hypothesis is not true. This in its self demonstrates that the implementation of the nuclear solution is required if our form of energy intense civilization is to survive, and expand to the rest of the people on earth. Nuclear Green has followed the same path to the same conclusions.
Critics of nuclear power have offered a second null hypothesis which Barry addresses. The limitations of nuclear power are so serious that nuclear power forms an unacceptable form of energy. Those alleged limitations include:
* Unacceptable safety risks due to the inhalant design flaws of nuclear reactorsBrave New Climate has certainly not ignored this null hypothesis. Like Nuclear Green, Brave New Climate relies heavily on the potential development of Generation IV nuclear power plants as a to correct defects in current NPP designs. Generation IV technology offers solutions enhanced nuclear safety, solve the problem of nuclear waste, assure the availability of nuclear fuel for millions of years to come, potentially lower nuclear costs, and offer solutions to the scalability limitations of current nuclear technology. Beyond the potential technological improvements, nuclear advocates including Barry Brooks and other Brave New Climate posters have point out evidence that suggest that the problems of the current generation of nuclear power plants are not nearly as bad as critics claim.
* Unacceptably dangerous risks to the human and environmental future posed by nuclear waste
* Unacceptable limitation on available nuclear fuel
* Unacceptable risk to the human future posed by the increased risk of nuclear proliferation and subsequent nuclear war, posed by a link between civilian nuclear power and nuclear weapons manufacture.
* Unacceptable costs of power reactors
* Unacceptable scalability limitations of the nuclear solution.
Barry's approach to nuclear technology is more as an educator, than as an explorer of possible nuclear futures. A review of Barry's 100+ posts related to nuclear energy will demonstrate how Barry organizes knowledge in a textbook type fashion, and lays it out in easy to understand language. It is not without reason that Barry has won an award for his contributions to science education.
I do have one major disagreement with Barry. Barry bought into Tom Blees view that the Integral Fast Reactor offered the best rout to the nuclear future. I support another Generation IV technology involving the use of Molten Salt Reactor technology, especially by realizing its potential to breed new nuclear fuel from thorium. Barry's liquid sodium cooled fast breeding, IFR, while offering many attractive features, would have some disadvantages when compared with the Liquid Fluoride (Salt) Thorium Reactor (LFTR). Kirk Sorensen has created a grass roots movement around his pro-LFTR blog, Energy from Thorium that has not been matched by IFR supporters. EfT along with BNC practice open science, but the open science of EfT focuses on problems that likely would be encountered during any implementation of the LFTR designed. BNS does not look at similar IFR technical issues.
EfT offers links to hundreds of research based documents, that chart the development of MSR technology in Oak Ridge. Some of those documents are reviewed on EfT while discussions often center around research findings reported in ORNL documents. Nothing like this level of technical specificity exists in IFR related discussions on BNC. I would not describe this as a BNC weakness, but it is a weakness of the IFR advocacy that nothing like EfT has come out of their advocacy efforts. EfT has very successfully controlled discussion of Molten Salt Reactor technology, by offering superior information resources, coupled to a very high level of technically oriented discussions. EfT has become a major resource to MSR/LFTR advocates in their very successful outreach campaign which has made their basic concepts known to a much wider audience. It would be very helpful to IFR advocates if they could reference a similar site.
This should not be taken as a criticism of Barry. He has created in Brave New Climate an outstanding and important web site, that deals with both climate and post-carbon energy issues. In addition to his important contribution to increasing understanding of the limitations of renewables, Barry has made an important contribution to increasing public understanding of nuclear energy. The importance of this contribution cannot be overestimated. Barry has done a first rate job of organizing educational materials that can aid the public in better understanding the nuclear option. This is a remarkable accomplishment in two years, and Barry dissevers public recognition and accolades for his accomplishments.