<em>Reporting from the UN</em>: The US Goes Nuclear…Again

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Today NRG energy announced its intention to file permit requests with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build two nuclear reactors in Texas — a phenomenon that apparently hasn’t happened in roughly 30 years.
The climate sessions today at the UN have generally shied away from the specific options to reduce carbon emissions, instead sticking to the 4 pronged agenda of discussing adaptation, mitigation, technology, and financing.
Generally the people who have led the movement to combat climate change have not been wild about nuclear power despite the fact that it provides one-sixth of the world’s electricity, carbon-free, as Deutch and Moniz, who chaired an exhaustive MIT study on nuclear power, tout. Interestingly enough, a cofounder of Greenpeace endorsed nuclear power some time ago arguing it was a necessary compromise to achieve a larger objective.

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Indeed, the work by Socolow and Pacala, which Al Gore featured prominently in his film An Inconvenient Truth, depends on nuclear power. The two Princeton scholars propose 15 carbon stabilization “wedges” to bring carbon emission levels down to a sustainable level which each wedge contributing equally. Nuclear power was left out of Al Gore’s proposal for reasons I can only speculate on — perhaps because it has been an anathema in the eyes of the public due to the horrors of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, or perhaps it raises concerns of proliferation of nuclear materials into irresponsible hands — but with the increasing demand for new, carbon-free energy sources, the taboo is eroding and we can expect to see a growing push for nuclear power both domestically and abroad.
–Sameer Lalwani

Comments

6 comments on “<em>Reporting from the UN</em>: The US Goes Nuclear…Again

  1. serial catowner says:

    Wm Ernest Schenewerk’s gobbledygook is typical of the stuff that started appearing in MIT’s Technology Review about ten years ago, eventually causing me to stop reading.
    Memo to WES- nuclear plants also take a lot of concrete and steel to build- so much that there is no net reduction of carbon footprint until the plant has run for twenty years and paid off the carbon debt incurred during the construction.
    In a related and almost funny news item, government officials who have been studying the Yucca Flats waste site for twenty years noticed a month ago that they had planned to put the buildings directly above an earthquake fault line.
    Maybe the best lesson to draw from Lalwani’s post is that people who appear to be competent in one field may be shockingly ignorant in another- which certainly, in my mind at least, raises questions about that appearance of competence in the first field.

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  2. William Ernest Schenewerk says:

    The basic problem with atomic power is that it will actully do some good. Each nuke delays CO2 doubling one week. None of the other CO2 wedgie concepts come with any analysis that shows how they will not cause CO2 to double even faster. CO2 is liberated by the production of steel and concrete required for all the “renewable energy” schemes.
    If wind energy were economic, ships would still use sails. Wind running 20% of the time means airplane motors running 80% of the time. Airplane motors running 80% of the time use more natural gas than CCGT running 100% of the time.
    Wet geothermal means hypersaline liquids that turn to concrete-chloride as soon as heat is extracted. Geothermal also requires 4 times as much cooling water as conventional power generation. Corrosion is horrific. The few dry geothermal plants that exist suffer from resource depletion.
    Solar energy is so uneconomic that my Los Angeles County property taxes would go up by more than I would save on my electric bill.
    The operative here is that the very-far-left and the labor governments hate atomic power. That is because atomic power plants run two years without refueling. Coal plants, with or without sequesterization, can only have 45 days worth of fuel. A coal pile fire can not be put out. Result is that a deep-mine strike or rail strike puts the lights out within 2 months.
    Organized labor want the lights to go out “on demand” and the very-far-left wants the lights to go out permanently. None of these people care anything about the environment. If we mine the required 200 Mt-P2O5/year, there will be enough byproduct uranium to generate 25,000 GWe. By converting the byproduct uranium to fission products, nukes actually consume radioactive waste. Otherwise it sits around, essentially forever, liberating 4 day half-life radon gas.

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  3. Steve Casburn says:

    Sameer: I think McKingford hits the key point. We still do not know how we will deal with nuclear waste that will remain hazardous for thousands of years. The safety question involved is obvious, but there is also a moral question: Why we should obligate hundreds of generations of our descendants to have to safeguard the nuclear waste byproduct of the energy we are using today? Is there really no better alternative?

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  4. kenbalbari says:

    Texas? They have tons of oil in Texas. What peaceful need would they have then of nuclear reactors? I think we should bomb them.

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  5. The Cunctator says:

    Sameer writes: “Indeed, the work by Socolow and Pacala, which Al Gore featured prominently in his film An Inconvenient Truth, depends on nuclear power. The two Princeton scholars propose 15 carbon stabilization “wedges” to bring carbon emission levels down to a sustainable level which each wedge contributing equally. Nuclear power was left out of Al Gore’s proposal for reasons I can only speculate on.”
    This is an incorrect understanding of the Socolow/Pacala work. The scholars propose 15 wedges, only *seven* of which are needed to bring carbon emission levels down to a sustainable level. One of the wedges is nuclear power. 14 of them are not.
    In other words, it’s a thought experiment (there are certainly other methods to bring down emissions that aren’t developed by Socolow and Pacala, such as making the energy distribution grid efficient) meant to help people understand both the scale of the problem and the overall policy choices that must be made.
    Their work demonstrates that you can solve global warming in a progressive way, by pursuing efforts such as more efficient buildings, reduced use of vehicles, sustainable agricultural practices, and widely distributed solar power, or in a non-progressive way, by emphasizing nuclear power, carbon sequestration, and natural gas plants, which allows the present energy monopolies to continue their hold on power.

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  6. McKingford says:

    Why was nuclear power left out by Al Gore?
    Maybe because 50 years after civilian nuclear energy has been up and running, we *still* don’t have a solution in place to deal with the waste.
    Maybe because it is *not* carbon-free. It’s not like the uranium just jumps out of the ground, you know.
    Maybe because for all the talk of peak oil, peak uranium is also a concern. There is a finite quantum of uranium, and we’ve found most of the easy stuff to mine.
    Maybe because for all the money it takes to get a nuclear reactor up and running, you get a much better return on your investment by reducing consumption or by developing alternative fuels that are much more sustainable in the long run.
    Just a thought.

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