Friday, July 19, 2013

Kent Hawkins Comments on Nuclear Power

MasterResource, in general, and Kent Hawkins, in particular, have not given a great deal of attention to nuclear power in the past. MasterResource has its' origin in the fossil fuel industry and indeed from within one of the more notorious fossil fuel businesses, ENRON. Hawkins is by no means anti-nuke. He recognizes that in the near future global society faces major changes in energy technology, but until quite recently has not focused on nuclear power as offering a potential for energy change, however in a recent post Hawkins discussed the potential of nuclear power:


Nuclear has the characterisitc of the least emissions in electricity production, relatively speaking virtually none. Its share of electricity production globally is only about 12% for a variety of reasons. It also has the capability to supply the majority of our long-term energy needs, which might be made possible with strong R&D initiatives, including those addressing current concerns, along with public education programs. Think in terms of the electrification of transport and desalination of water as indicators of the extent of future electrical energy needs.

Roadblocks to a substantial early increase in its deployment are considerable and include high implementation costs and long implementation times of about six-plus years (although the result is long term, economic reliable supply of electricity). Public concerns about safety, used fuel handling and nuclear weapons proliferation will likely be shown to be largely unwarranted and counter-productive.

The financial roadblock is especially significant if all forms of government support are withdrawn from electricity generation projects, as some would recommend, and this approach has some merit in that it removes government interference. If left solely to the operation of free markets, it is unlikely that significant growth in nuclear can occur in the short term in Western democracies due to the inevitable absence of stable, long-term energy policies. Growth will occur in developing nations, such as China and India, which already plan over 30% increases because demands for energy growth are large and government intervention is almost certain.

Even so, with more advanced technologies, including some available today, and a better informed public, the medium-to-long term will likely show considerably increased use of this energy source in all countries. For example there are developments with the generation IV  Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) technology that are notable and could be commercially deliverable within a decade.

The plants using IFR technology are modular in design, inherently self-regulating and less complex than today’s nuclear plants, which adds to their operational safety. They have the capability to significantly reduce both the amount of nuclear waste and its long-term effects, including existing stockpiles and disposal of weapons grade materials, as well as reduce risks of proliferation.

Another possibility is that of small (sometimes referred to as nuclear ‘batteries’), and even medium scale nuclear electricity plants in undeveloped nations, under strict controls and physically confined, to assist these in their economic development without the attendant emissions impact."
- See more at:

Hawkins is, quite obviously, not well informed on new nuclear options. Whether or not he has heard of Molten Salt technology and the LFTR is open to question. At this point, it does not matter. He is aware of the promise of nuclear technology and the problems created by hostility to it. Hawkins recently left a note on my original blog post about him so maybe he will learn something from Nuclear Green. Welcome on board Kent.

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