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Earth Power Politics

4 Prominent Scientists Say Renewables Aren't Enough, Urge Support For Nuclear 776

Posted by timothy
from the which-dragon-to-tickle dept.
First time accepted submitter Paddy_O'Furniture writes "Four prominent scientists have penned a letter urging those concerned about climate change to support nuclear energy, saying that renewables such as wind and solar will not be sufficient to meet the world's energy needs. Among the authors is James Hansen, a former top NASA scientist, whose 1988 testimony before the United States Congress helped launch discussions of global warming into the mainstream."
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4 Prominent Scientists Say Renewables Aren't Enough, Urge Support For Nuclear

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  • thorium (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 03, 2013 @11:38AM (#45318007)

    let's do it right, please. no more melt-downs...

    • Thorium wars (Score:5, Informative)

      by thej1nx (763573) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @12:01PM (#45318183)
      Looks like after the oil wars, it might very well soon be India's turn...

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium#Reserve_estimates [wikipedia.org]

      • Re:Thorium wars (Score:4, Insightful)

        by kyrsjo (2420192) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @12:21PM (#45318409)

        Thorium is pretty abundant, so its probably not worth figthing over. Most countries have access to enough of the stuff.

        • Re:Thorium wars (Score:5, Informative)

          by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @04:58PM (#45320215)

          Thorium is pretty abundant, so its probably not worth figthing over. Most countries have access to enough of the stuff.

          Furthermore, you don't need much thorium. Uranium is only 0.7% U235. The other 99.3% is U238, which is mostly removed in the enrichment process. But with thorium, you can use all of it as fuel, and it is four times as abundant as uranium to start with. The biggest problem with thorium, is a lack of experience with the reactors. Several small research reactors have been built, but there are no existing, proven designs for big plants. Fortunately, both India and China appear to be getting behind the technology. Lots more info here [wikipedia.org].

    • For many coastlines, how about deep ocean water currents? Relatively low tech, w/no surface effects. Easy to pull up and service. Getting better efficiencies on superconducting transmission lines for longer distances. Massive amount of power in those sub-surface rivers.

      • i think its like everything else, they want to make one huge machine to power an area rather than loads of smaller ones
        • Re:thorium OR ??? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by pla (258480) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @12:49PM (#45318603) Journal
          i think its like everything else, they want to make one huge machine to power an area rather than loads of smaller ones

          This, this this, a thousand times this.

          Renewables absolutely have the capability to meet out energy needs. Solar alone has reached to point where a sub-$10k installation can power a reasonably efficient house, even in the Northern US; in places that get enough wind (a lot more places than you might expect), a single small turbine can power a house, or a modest sized tower can power an entire neighborhood.

          It absolutely amazes me that building codes haven't evolved to require incorporating one of those two technologies into every new building. The baseline residential load could become a net generator within a decade.

          But, it then becomes hard for the utilities to justify charging people for power the people themselves produce. I don't want to suggest we have any sort of vast conspiracy here - More like hundreds of individual companies all actively dragging their feet and refusing to upgrade their infrastructure to make distributed generation practical.


          "Funny" story - Five years ago, I started playing with a small plug-and-play solar installation at my house. During the day, with no one home, my old analog electric meter would actually spin backward and credit me for excess production. Two years ago, my local power company rolled out a forced upgrade to digital smartmeters (and when I say "forced", I mean we had actual protests and lengthy court cases trying to block the change). And whatd'ya know, the new meter doesn't go backward. I effectively give my extra power production to the grid for free.

          Of course, I have the option of contracting with the utility for a second meter basically installed backward - For which they charge me to sell them electricity. Last time I checked the numbers, I'd realistically need to produce over a megawatt hour per month just to break even on their BS fees - And with my current toy 400W installation, that won't happen.
          • Re:thorium OR ??? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by geoskd (321194) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @01:49PM (#45319073)

            Renewables absolutely have the capability to meet out energy needs. Solar alone has reached to point where a sub-$10k installation can power a reasonably efficient house, even in the Northern US; in places that get enough wind (a lot more places than you might expect), a single small turbine can power a house, or a modest sized tower can power an entire neighborhood.

            No, renewables can't meet the demand today, and possibly never will. You have made the classic mistake of assuming your experience is typical of everything everywhere. A typical solar installation is capable only of meeting a normal households power needs part of the time. Even with neighborhood wind turbines, you will not cover 100% of the power needs. Now consider that household power only accounts for 21% of the U.S. energy consumption. The overwhelming majority comes from industrial and commercial power use which has a much higher land density, and simply cannot be covered in any meaningful way with solar or wind power. Now you're back to needing industrial scale power generation which requires massive amounts of land for the scale required by industry and you're back to needing big again. If you covered the entire island of Manhattan (every square inch of exposed surface) with solar panels, you would only add up to about 1/4 of the total power demand. Sure you have lots of open space in Arizona, but you have to get the power from Arizona to Manhattan and its just not that simple. Also, how much deforestation are you willing to undertake to supply the energy needs of industrialized nations?

            You are a very large part of the problem. Your arguments are bunk and fail to stand up to the realities of the world, and yet on the surface sound plausible enough to convince at least three moderators to mod you up on Slashdot (which I like to think has a smarter than average population). You and your ilk will have us so paralyzed following dead end projects that we'll all end up cooked thoroughly from global warming before any one of you will even be willing to concede that you're not half as smart as you think you are.

            A group of very intelligent individuals from some of the most highly recognized institutions of the world tells you that renewables cannot be made sufficient to stop global warming, and you are going to tell the rest of us that they are wrong because of your own anecdotal experience? I think its high time we started calling your type out for the BS you're spewing.

            • by Jmc23 (2353706)
              You do know that those highly educated people saying renewables can't sustain us is because they know that a large part of the population is too stupid and wasteful to reduce energy expenditure to reasonable levels. Besides that 'fact', it is doable.

              Really, it's not the posters fault that he hasn't realized the stupidity of those around him.

              You know how much energy could be saved if companies turned their lights out at night? Unfortunately, you guys are a bunch of savages that would gut every single one

            • Re:thorium OR ??? (Score:4, Interesting)

              by pla (258480) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @02:24PM (#45319251) Journal
              A typical solar installation is capable only of meeting a normal households power needs part of the time.

              The sun always shines somewhere. The wind always blows somewhere. And the tides ebb and flow with the regularity of... Well, of the tides.


              Now consider that household power only accounts for 21% of the U.S. energy consumption.

              So every household needs to make 5x as much as they use. Hey, there you have an opportunity for the utilities to stay relevant - Pay me to install more capacity than I need, and sell the excess to industry.


              Sure you have lots of open space in Arizona, but you have to get the power from Arizona to Manhattan and its just not that simple.

              'Fusion" counts as hard in the sense of "we don't quite know how to do it yet".

              A superconducting cable from the Mojave to Manhattan amounts to a mere matter of logistics. We have a known solution. We know how to build that solution. Doing so would cost less than many of our foreign boondoggles. The only real "limitation" to doing so amounts to debates over NIMBY and profit sharing.

              Pave Death Valley with solar panels. The rest amounts to political pissing contests.


              A group of very intelligent individuals from some of the most highly recognized institutions of the world

              I can find you "four prominent scientists" who believe that God created mankind, who roamed the planet concurrent with the dinosaurs, 6000 years ago. Argument from authority [wikipedia.org] doesn't validate; and when the argument flies directly counter to what anyone can plainly see for themselves, that argument has a higher than normal burden of proof.

              If you want to tell me the world doesn't have enough gallium to pave Death Valley with CIGS-based PV panels, we can work with that. "Dr. So-and-so said so!", however, doesn't amount to squat.
              • Re:thorium OR ??? (Score:5, Insightful)

                by ilsaloving (1534307) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @04:25PM (#45319997)

                Please don't handwave "logistics" as if it's triviality. Logistics is a significant issue, IMO bigger than generating the power to begin with.

                You say we can just lay down lots of superconducting cable? A quick google search tells me that last year, the "worlds largest" installation of superconducting cable was being deployed. How big is "worlds largest"? One kilometer.

                For a long time now, we've had the ability to generated power in a variety of different ways. Getting the power delivered exactly where and when it needs to be, is a different story, as is far from a 'known solution'.

                Combine that with NIMBYs and such, I'm not optimistic that we can get our collective thumbs out and do what needs to be done. Hell, the gov't of Ontario managed to squander several hundred million dollars in an (successful) effort to satisfy said NIMBYers.

                • by pla (258480)
                  Please don't handwave "logistics" as if it's triviality. Logistics is a significant issue, IMO bigger than generating the power to begin with.

                  Fair point, but "hard" still beats "we don't currently know how to even do it".

                  I think, though, that I probably took the wrong approach with following the GP's lead about death vallet to Manhattan. A properly distributed grid doesn't require any such massive-scale superconducting long haul transmission lines - It simply requires average population density over a
    • by TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @12:54PM (#45318649)

      Funny you should mention Thorium.

      Here are a couple of letters (postal+email) I have written to Senator Inhofe and Halliburton Corporate. They express my sense of urgency. I invite everyone to review them and comment. Flames are welcome too. Whopee! I have a 'foe' now! Movin' on up.

      And if your own process of discovery also leads you to some conclusion that is best expressed by getting the word out -- please do so. Whether you are not a thorium advocate, please consider the underlying issue, the necessity for an urgent PUSH to develop energy independence.

      To The Honorable James M. Inhofe, United States Senate [scribd.com]
      To whom it may concern, Halliburton Corporate [scribd.com]

      It's about keeping the lights on.
      Thanks for reading this, that and the other thing.

  • "Those energy sources cannot scale up fast enough" to deliver the amount of cheap and reliable power the world needs

    The cheapness of the energy is IMO the largest part of the problem. We have way too many devices slowly sipping the power, while an average house still leaks way too much of the (heat) energy. We are overconsuming way too many goods (which cost energy to produce) and then go through even more energy wasting to compensate the overconsumption.

    • by gox (1595435)

      Our entire systems are based on the paradigm of production and consumption. Even if the peoples of the world began acting so contrary to their education and upbringing, there would need to be a tremendous change in balance of power throughout the globe for what you say to become the norm.

    • energy should be as 'cheap' as the market dictates...which, in a properly competitive market, means really large companies with big time resources would then fund the *best* Research and Development to compete with each other to bring the cheapest & most sustainable (read: clean) energy that modern science can provide

      your idea attempts to solve the right problems, but does it in the most contentions, unworkable way possible...this is why you fail

      see, you identify some problems most would agree with:

      We h

    • by greg_barton (5551) <greg_barton AT yahoo DOT com> on Sunday November 03, 2013 @12:56PM (#45318665) Homepage Journal

      In other words, "third world people should stay in their place."

  • Correction (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fustakrakich (1673220) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @11:48AM (#45318095) Journal

    Nobody can get obscenely rich from renewable easy to produce energy, therefore it is not, nor will ever be practical.

    • Should oil prices rise and remain high, producers of wind turbines, PV panels, solar thermal collectors, storage batteries, and maintenance services for same can get rich.
    • by lennier1 (264730)

      The money isn't in the energy itself but in producing more and more efficient hardware to harvest that energy so the customer has a financial incentive to upgrade.

  • Logic! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby AT comcast DOT net> on Sunday November 03, 2013 @11:48AM (#45318097)

    Logic is a wonderful thing and we need more critical thinking and less hyperbole with regards to green energy. Strident hyperbole with regards to the anti-nuclear energy has resulted in the real world build of coal power plants as renewals simply are suitable for baseline power. Coal power plants also release far more pollution and for the ignorant they also result in a lot of radiation being released into the air.

    Nuclear energy is proven, has the lowest pollution, best carbon footprint of anything we have (it's largest footprint comes from the concrete used in it's construction) and could be far cheaper if it wasn't severely over-regulated. Thorium reactors are also starting to get planned for production and deserve a good look (and if fact a proof of concept plant was built in the past). Thorium reactors have the green advantages of nuclear reactors and should be included.

    It's time to get real about getting green and put the likes of Greenpeace out to pasture. They have done far more harm to the environment than just about anyone short of the Koch brothers.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by gweihir (88907)

      Lowest pollution? I guess little things like Windscale, Tchernobyl, and Fuckushima are removed from that calculation...

      • Re:Logic! (Score:5, Informative)

        by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @12:04PM (#45318203)

        Lowest pollution? I guess little things like Windscale, Tchernobyl, and Fuckushima are removed from that calculation...

        Nope. Go ahead and include them. You'll get to about .1% of the emissions of coal power plants with every nuclear disaster. Ever. Including all of the nuclear bomb tests, the two bombs we dropped on Japan, three mile island, and more.

        Fun fact: Coal plants collectively emit more radiation in a year than all those disasters combined [scientificamerican.com] have, and that's when you include into the figures the yearly radiation the nuclear plants emit into the environment as well.

        Coal: Because glowing green is fun.

        • Re:Logic! (Score:4, Insightful)

          by jonbryce (703250) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @12:15PM (#45318349) Homepage

          How many square kilometers of land have been made completely uninhabitable for the next 200 years or so as a result of coal power?

          • Re:Logic! (Score:5, Interesting)

            by The Grim Reefer (1162755) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @12:40PM (#45318537)

            How many square kilometers of land have been made completely uninhabitable for the next 200 years or so as a result of coal power?

            A lot. Not only for discarded waste, but mine fires. Centralia, Pennsylvania [wikipedia.org] has been burning since 1962 and will be burning for the next 1000 years by most estimates. Then there are other mine fires [wikipedia.org] all over the planet. It does look like there may be some success with extinguishing these on the horizon. But regardless, they are devastating to the local ecosystem and have all of the problems with burning coal for energy ,but with none of the energy.

          • Re:Logic! (Score:5, Interesting)

            by geoskd (321194) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @02:00PM (#45319135)

            How many square kilometers of land have been made completely uninhabitable for the next 200 years or so as a result of coal power?

            That would be none. The wildlife is still quite happy living in and around every nuclear disaster site. It is just picky humans that refuse to live there. People are afraid that they will get cancer and die (some of the dumber people imagine mutating...). Fun fact: The cancer rates in and around coal mining towns are obscenely high, as are the increased frequency of various ailments related to air quality just about everywhere on the planet... If we applied the same paranoia to the statistical odds of illness from coal related diseases, half of Pennsylvania would be "uninhabitable", just to name one area. People have an irrational fear of nuclear power and radiation. They would be better served by being afraid to get behind the wheel of a car...

        • Re:Logic! (Score:5, Informative)

          by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspAm.world3.net> on Sunday November 03, 2013 @01:09PM (#45318771) Homepage

          Er, no. Fukushima alone has put out about order of magnitude more radiation than every coal plant in the history of the world ever. This [stackexchange.com] response completely debunks the article you linked to, and this [xkcd.com] chart shows how what was released from Chernobyl compares to all coal and nuclear emissions ever combined.

          In fact the paper that the article you linked to is based on doesn't even support what the article says, but I guess you didn't read it.

          • Re:Logic! (Score:5, Informative)

            by geoskd (321194) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @02:21PM (#45319239)

            Er, no. Fukushima alone has put out about order of magnitude more radiation than every coal plant in the history of the world ever. This [stackexchange.com] response completely debunks the article you linked to, and this [xkcd.com] chart shows how what was released from Chernobyl compares to all coal and nuclear emissions ever combined.

            Ok, lets use the information from stack exchange. They quote the uranium limits from coal plants as being less than 10 parts per million. Lets use 10% of that as the baseline. 1 part per million. The annual coal emissions [ucsusa.org] are on the order of 1.7 billion *tons* of CO2 per year. 1 part per million would be on the order of 1700 tons of uranium per year. By contrast, Chernobyl had about 180 tons of nuclear material, and blew up once... Fukushima had about 10 times that much at the facility, the vast majority of which never left the facility. Three mile island contained all but trace amounts of the core material.

            So in the history of nuclear power, coal has released somewhere in the neighborhood of 85,000 tons of uranium into the atmosphere, and all of the nuclear accidents combined have released... wait for it... less than 300 tons.

            Wow, just wow.

    • by Joe U (443617) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @12:08PM (#45318245) Homepage Journal

      Nuclear energy is proven, has the lowest pollution, best carbon footprint of anything we have (it's largest footprint comes from the concrete used in it's construction) and could be far cheaper if it wasn't severely over-regulated.

      Pure bullshit. Those regulations are there to stop the local energy company from cutting corners and blowing up something. Something that they do on a regular basis in non nuclear energy.

      The most dangerous aspect of nuclear energy is the energy company.

    • by rsilvergun (571051) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @12:37PM (#45318521)
      is completely based on people. Everything starts out fine with the Gov't watching it and making sure it's safe, but safety costs a lot of $$$, and sooner or later somebody notices they could have that $$$ for themselves. The argument that every dollar gov't spends is just bureaucratic waste is pervasive and worse, it sounds plausible because it's easy to find pork projects and waste. Human's are pretty inefficient to begin with but when it's private waste you never know about it, because what company goes out of it's way to tell investors they spent $50 million on a software project that could've been done for $10 if it wasn't for hindsight :P. Gov't is public so that's all out in the open...

      So the myth of bureaucratic waste passes the 'truthiness' test, and it gets applied to stuff like Nuclear safety inspections. They get privatized and before you know it a perfectly safe plant is now a disaster waiting to happen. The rich guy that pocketed the savings is 1000 miles away from ground zero so he doesn't care either. Worst case scenario he pays a $1 million dollar fine on $1 billion in profits...

      I haven't been able to come up with a solution for this. Heck, most people don't even recognize it as a problem. They focus on the technical problems not the human ones. Until Nuclear can be done so safely that there's no money in ignoring safety it won't work...
  • by rossdee (243626) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @11:48AM (#45318099)

    Geothermal ? Theres plenty of energy there...

    • Re:What about (Score:5, Informative)

      by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @11:59AM (#45318169)
      Geothermal and Solar have basically the same problem. Quite plentiful, way more than we'll ever use until we become truly space going (centuries) but dispersed enough that gathering and storing it becomes impractical.

      The main problem with renewable sources isn't the availability, it's the storage for later use. Coal/oil/uranium already have this part solved by nature, though with all the downsides that go with them. Dams solve the storage issue for hydro, but can't really be built in many more places than they are already and have their own negatives as well.
    • I was going to say the same thing.

      The problem here, I suspect, is not that renewables are insufficient to our energy needs, it's that they are often not available in jurisdictionally convenient places. Iceland likely has geothermal capacity great enough to power a goodly chunk of Europe, but it's stuck in the middle of the North Atlantic, which means there cost of building and maintaining transmission capacity is very large.

      The same applies where I am in British Columbia. The north coast of BC has huge geot

    • by amorsen (7485)

      Geothermal ? Theres plenty of energy there...

      No. No there is not. Geothermal flux is measured in mW per m2. Yes there are local exceptions like Iceland, but if you tried to produce sufficient energy for hundreds of millions of people, you would find the hot spots going cool very quickly.

  • by NicBenjamin (2124018) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @11:48AM (#45318103)

    1) Expense. nuclear power is incredibly expensive to do safely, because if bad things happen at a nuclear plant nobody can ever live in that County ever again. Just look at Fukishima and Chernobyl. If bad things happen at a coal or gas plant, OTOH, the worst consequence is that it blows and you need to buy a new one. You need lots of very smart people to monitor it 24/7, and sophisticated computerized systems and robots to make sure the people don't screw up, and even that won't save you forever.

    2) If every democracy uses uses nuclear power everyone else will want it. And if you have a nuclear plant you have most of the really hard bits of a nuclear weapons program. Untrustworthy countries who probably shouldn't have the temptation of city-vaporizing weapons will want them. And it's kinda hard to convince an Iranian who thinks his country is perfectly trustworthy (to him it's those nasty Israelis you have to worry about) that everyone's life would be so much easier if his country didn't have the physical capability to finish the Holocaust. It's even harder to convince the Israelis, who (probably) currently have nuclear weapons, that everyone's lives would be so much simpler if they just switched to solar.

    In other words if the choices are one or two more degrees of global warming, or letting every country in the world develop nuclear power, we're probably better off living with the warming.

    • by dnaumov (453672) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @11:58AM (#45318167)

      2) If every democracy uses uses nuclear power everyone else will want it. And if you have a nuclear plant you have most of the really hard bits of a nuclear weapons program. Untrustworthy countries who probably shouldn't have the temptation of city-vaporizing weapons will want them. And it's kinda hard to convince an Iranian who thinks his country is perfectly trustworthy (to him it's those nasty Israelis you have to worry about) that everyone's life would be so much easier if his country didn't have the physical capability to finish the Holocaust. It's even harder to convince the Israelis, who (probably) currently have nuclear weapons, that everyone's lives would be so much simpler if they just switched to solar.

      In other words if the choices are one or two more degrees of global warming, or letting every country in the world develop nuclear power, we're probably better off living with the warming.

      This is one of the shittiest arguments ever. Out of all countries with nuclear capability, US happens to be the only one who has actually used nuclear weapons against another country. Additionally, the US has started several new wars in the past decade alone. So if we go along with your "trustworthy" line of reasoning, the US should be #1 on the list of countries to be denied any access to nuclear technology.

      • by NicBenjamin (2124018) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @12:05PM (#45318217)

        That's kind of my point.

        If the country that helped defeat but the Nazis and the Soviets can't be trusted with nuclear weapons, why the fuck would we insist that all 54 African countries, everyone in Latin America, Asia, etc. has to build reactors capable of producing those weapons? Hell if the Japanese, who aren't known for inferior engineering, can't keep a non-weapons producing facility safe what are the odds that everyone else can pull that shit off?

        Global warming is bad, but if it's a choice between moving all NYC residents to Detroit (we'd actually have room for a quarter of them within the Detroit city limits, the D' population has fallen that much since it's peak in '55), and giving all 192 countries in the world nuclear power then I'm gonna go with moving everyone to fucking Detroit.

        This's one of the dumbest proposals ever.

    • I'm with you on the downsides of nuclear, but given the projected sea level rise, the cost of the warming is going to be much much worse than a few nuclear plants going boom. Flooding out the coast lines worldwide will displace far more people than even if all the nuke plants went FUBAR.

      We probably need nuclear for the next 50-100 years at least until we can get the energy storage technology ramped up enough for grid scale usage of renewable sources.

      Thorium nuclear has lots of potential as well, with
    • Nuclear is very expensive to build, but overall cost including fuel, waste, O&M and regulation is very competitive. You can look at states or countries....power prices are lower where there is nuclear baseload. There is a marginal profit line today though, as natural gas has eroded that in recent years. Nat Gas is very low cost today, and the gas companies will keep it low until their is a greater dependency.
  • Easy for them to say (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 03, 2013 @11:53AM (#45318131)

    Five nuclear power plants in the US have closed this year, [upi.com] due to a combination of competitive and operating issues. An industry analyst quoted in the article expects more plant closures to come.

    Now we're stuck with these decommissioned plants. Anybody want a high-paying job? Sign up to help clean up and tear down those zombie plants.

    • by gdshaw (1015745)

      Five nuclear power plants in the US have closed this year, [upi.com] due to a combination of competitive and operating issues. An industry analyst quoted in the article expects more plant closures to come.

      ... which shows that gas can undercut nuclear at current prices (and subject to current environmental regulations). So, yes, if you think it is OK to carry on burning fossil fuels, then nuclear power does not make economic sense at the moment. The same goes for wind and solar power in most circumstances.

      The case for switching to nuclear and/or renewable power rests on the premise that continued fossil fuel use is not sustainable. Cheap gas prices reflect increased availability of the fuel, but not increased

  • by gweihir (88907) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @11:56AM (#45318143)

    Why does everybody overlook that uranium resources are limited and that what is available today barely can feed the existing reactors? Money talks is the only explanation I have. Nuclear energy has brought nothing but trouble and wasted shiploads of money.

    • Nuclear is not just about uranium. Look at Thorium -- a plentiful and safe alternative that is more than just theoretical.
    • by ScottCooperDotNet (929575) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @12:15PM (#45318347)

      Why does everybody overlook that uranium resources are limited and that what is available today barely can feed the existing reactors? Money talks is the only explanation I have.

      Breeder reactors [wikipedia.org] solved this a long time ago, before enriching uranium [wikipedia.org] became practical.

      Nuclear energy has brought nothing but trouble and wasted shiploads of money.

      Would you prefer more coal plants polluting the air? Hydro-dams preventing fish breeding? Wind turbines slicing birds apart? Every energy-generation system is going to have its drawbacks. Ever play SimCity?

    • by amorsen (7485)

      If nuclear power plants were cheap, you could extract uranium from sea water and still provide power at competitive prices. Uranium in sea water is an extremely large resource.

      Unfortunately nuclear power plants are extremely expensive to build, and so they would be hopelessly uncompetitive if they had to pay the additional costs of extracting fuel from sea water. As it is, even in the UK, on existing nuclear sites (so approximately no problems with NIMBY), new builds require guaranteed prices way above mark

    • by jonbryce (703250) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @12:29PM (#45318457) Homepage

      The price of uranium is about $35/lb ($77.16/kg) at the moment, and it costs about $40/lb ($88.18/kg) to produce the stuff at the moment[1]. 1kg of uranium gives you 83TJ of energy, the same as 3464 tonnes of coal. Coal costs $71.34 per tonne[2], so to get the same amount of energy from 1kg of uranium in coal, you would need to spend $247,133.65.

      The fact that uranium is currently selling for less than the cost of production suggests that there is a massive surplus of inventory in the channel at the moment, not that resources are limited.

      Sources:
      1. http://www.businessinsider.com/uranium-is-set-for-a-violent-move-higher-2013-10 [businessinsider.com]
      2. http://dawn.com/news/1053697/rising-coal-prices-to-hit-profit-margins [dawn.com]

    • by cartman (18204) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @03:45PM (#45319749)

      Why does everybody overlook that uranium resources are limited and that what is available today barely can feed the existing reactors?

      Because the claim isn't true.

      Nuclear energy has brought nothing but trouble and wasted shiploads of money.

      What? Nuclear energy has provided almost 20% of electricity worldwide and has powered entire first-world countries such as France. It has averted millions of deaths (over 30+ years) that would have occurred if we had burned coal instead. Is that really "nothing"? Is it really a waste of money?

  • Not good at math (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TrumpetPower! (190615) <ben@trumpetpower.com> on Sunday November 03, 2013 @12:10PM (#45318299) Homepage

    You only need to cover a half a percent of the Earth's surface with off-the-shelf 15% efficient PV panels to provide all of humanity all of its energy needs. If we covered all residential rooftops in the States with PV panels, we'd generate about as much electricity as the industrialized world needs -- and that's just residential rooftops just in the US.

    To suggest that solar somehow isn't enough is just laughable. Hell, with the kind of abundance that solar offers, we've got far more than enough available to distill CO2 out of the atmosphere and turn it into hydrocarbons -- an incredibly energy-intensive process -- and use those hydrocarbons as our storage and transportation mechanisms just as we do today.

    What we don't have is the willingness to invest our hydrocarbon inheritance in bootstrapping ourselves into such an energy-wealthy society. Instead, we'd rather squander our inheritance on monster SUVs and petroleum-based fertilizer to feed dozens of billions of people.

    Here's some perspective from somebody who can actually do the math:

    http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2012/02/the-alternative-energy-matrix/ [ucsd.edu]

    Cheers,

    b&

    • What we don't have is the willingness to invest our hydrocarbon inheritance in bootstrapping ourselves into such an energy-wealthy society.

      I dispute that. I know many many people, me included, who would go all solar if I had the capital available to do so. I don't have the capital available because all of the efficiency gains of the information age have been eaten by the wealthiest 1% of the population. I got none of it. My father got none of it. Environmentalism propaganda has worked. It's just that the targets of that propaganda don't have the financial ability to act on it. I haven't bought a new vehicle in 11 years, but I still don'

    • by cartman (18204)

      You only need to cover a half a percent of the Earth's surface with off-the-shelf 15% efficient PV panels to provide all of humanity all of its energy needs.

      This is true, but the problem is, solar power is at the wrong place and time.

      It would be entirely feasible to power Arizona using concentrating solar plants. Those plants could use thermal storage to provide power during the night. They could provide baseline power, all year long.

      If we wanted to power the United Kingdom with renewables, however, it woul

  • by Barsteward (969998) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @12:17PM (#45318365)
    Instead of giving power companies subsidies, why not install solar on every home and business and then the grid becomes a fall back and not a single point of failure. Power generation should be distributed rather than concentrated.
  • by quax (19371) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @12:48PM (#45318591)

    What most people don't realize is that nuclear waste can be treated to render it harmless more quickly. And it can be done with a sub-critical reactor design. [wavewatching.net]

    I don't understand how you can call yourself an environmentalist and not be in favor of this technology.

  • by cheesecake23 (1110663) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @01:28PM (#45318899)

    IAAESS (I am an energy system scientist).

    These are four of the most prominent *climate* scientists in the world. But not one of them has published a single paper on energy systems (as far as I can see in their online lists of publications). There is a whole field of science concerning integration of intermittent renewables, and these guys have never demonstrated any expertise in this area.

    I'm sure all four of them get extremely annoyed when scientists in fields completely unrelated to climate change spout climate skeptic nonsense all over the media (I do too). Now they are guilty of the exact same sin.

  • by gbnewby (74175) * on Sunday November 03, 2013 @01:46PM (#45319055) Homepage

    I think this could be a hoax. It's not a scientific paper, not in a peer-reviewed journal's letter section. It appears via a Google circles posting from Kerry Emanuel who is a well-known, though partially reformed, climate [blogspot.com] denier [moonbattery.com]. It looks like the Google+ account the letter is published in was just created. Plus, the facts are either skimpy & wrong. Saying we cannot ramp up solar & wind power fast enough, but can ramp up nuclear, is directly in opposition to what's happening. Solar installations are going up by double-digit percentage points [seia.org] each year, and meanwhile we haven't had a new nuclear power plant in over 40 years. The only pair [cnn.com] that is underway (which is pictured in the Yahoo! story) is years from completion [nytimes.com]. There are only 19 permit applications active [nrc.gov] for new nukes in the US, and the power industry (which is notoriously risk-averse [google.com]) has for decades shied away from their huge liability and expense.

  • It is about SPEED (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Artagel (114272) on Sunday November 03, 2013 @04:33PM (#45320043) Homepage

    Hansen's principal point is moving fast enough. His point is that if you are too slow, certain irreversible things will happen. Therefore you have to go with currently executable plans. The United States went dam-happy after Hoover dam, so it is not like we have hydropower waiting to happen. Nuclear is the one thing that we can execute on large scales to provide 24x7x365 power for many nations right now.

    Hansen's problems are not with leading engineers. They are with politicians, activists, amatueur busy-body fearmongers and their me-too hangers on. He thinks a tipping point is coming, and that the other side of that tipping point outweighs any worry you have about nuclear power. And you can theorize all you want about your solar panels, windmills, etc. Nuclear is what has been proven to provide a substantial portion of world power without carbon load.

    He is not interested in theories. He is interested in precedented engineering. Nuclear provides 20% or so of electricity in the U.S. today, around 80% in France. There is no "renewable" that provides so much power to a major country today.

    The fact is that a lot of the global warming band wagoners are only on board so they can bash the same enemies they have been bashing for 40 years. When they hear they have to team up with some of their old enemies or the world is going to flood, well, they get off the bandwagon. They do not give an actual rats ass about the planet. They forgot about it 30 years ago.

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