Global Warming’s Golden Opportunity

Opportunity knocks, but not often. Right now, it’s knocking loud and long.

That opportunity is renewable energy. There are many forms, including solar, wind, geothermal, and biofuels. There are certaintly challenges, including energy storage, deployment, and efficiency. Yet despite the challenges, costs are plummeting while installations are muliplying. The race is on: whatever nation or nations find the technological solutions first, and make them available in markets world-wide, is going to WIN BIG. As in, win SO big that they will become the economic powerhouses of the next few decades.

Whatever nations drag their feet, too sluggish to keep up with the rapid advance of renewable energy technology because they’re still banking on fossil fuels, are going to LOSE. Lose BIG.

If you don’t believe global warming is real, you’re not just mistaken, you’re committing economic suicide. Renewable energy technology is already way beyond the early “model T” phase, moving rapidly into the era of computerized and efficient high performance, while you’re still married to the horse-and-buggy days of energy. How do you think that’s going to work out?

Unfortunately, the backward thinking of the Trump administration has doomed the United States to depending on fossil fuels just when they’re poised to go the way of the dinosaurs.

Each year brings us closer and closer to a world in which nobody wants your fossil fuels. It’s still a way off, but it’s still a sure thing. When I was young, a trip to the moon seemed so far off that many believed president Kennedy’s committment to get there before the decade was out was just a hopeless fantasy. But the Russians were working hard at it, and we wanted to beat them there so: the race was on. We won — and not just the race to the moon, but the economic race to develop the new technology, new knowledge, new manufacturing, that would ensure our dominance for decades to come. We got a lot more out of winning the space race than just some moon rocks, a lot more than just an explosion of amazing technology, we also got pride, pride in a job brilliantly done, in achieving something good in the name of peace and progess, something for all mankind. America led the way.

Not any more. China leads the way while the U.S. crawls backwards. The banner of world leadership, economically at least, is leaving America and heading overseas. As economic pre-eminence deserts us, so too will moral leadership. Trump and his partners are handing the world to China on a silver platter.

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59 responses to “Global Warming’s Golden Opportunity

  1. Well said sir. Politicians limited to short term thinking and abject cowering to big funders not only move us closer to untold devastation, they miss the boat on the business opportunity climate change provides. Other countries compete with us on manufacturing cost through low wages. But we are (at least were) still the leaders in R&D. We could still think and innovate better than the rest. Pulling back on resources is degrading that but we still have that mojo, for now. Trump’s denial of not just scientific truth, but of objective truth in any form, is not just amoral and evil, it is economically and strategically a loser’s retreat. If you don’t haven a hospitable environment, you don’t have an economy to protect.

  2. We receive repeated lessons, and learn when we can. Now it’s suddenly a great risk to be stupid.

  3. It’s not just the Trump admin, the Obama administration failed to create a green energy jobs program when it took office in the economic downturn and also fought to stop the children’s equal protection lawsuit regarding climate change. The Supremes slammed the door on that suit recently and many folks are blaming the right wing folks for stopping this court action, but both major parties fought to prevent the children getting their day in court.

    The dems are awful on climate response, the republicans are almost unspeakably worse than the dems. We have the best democracy that money can buy.

  4. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse

    Trump and his partners are handing the world to China on a silver platter.


    Meanwhile, in Canada, the federal government is now the sole owner of the Trans Mountain Pipeline – a pipeline dedicated to delivering some of the dirtiest and least efficient fossil fuel from the Alberta tar sands to the BC coast for export by tanker ship – mostly to China.

    Kinder-Morgan shareholders approved the sale. Think about that.

    The environmental legacy of the tarsands is, and will be, horrific. It’s almost as though the Chinese are after pay-back for all the pollution that was emitted making our cheap televisions, smartphones, and play-stations.

    And when China stops buying up all that lovely dilbit, as they surely will, Canadian taxpayers are going to be left holding onto a record-setting stranded asset.

    It’s not that the Chinese are smart, so much as we Canadians are stupid.

  5. The US have an amazing capability to achieve things when they really want it. Problem is they don’t want.
    I have a remark about world leadership in climate issues though. For me the world leaders are the nations with low per capita emissions may they be economically undeveloped or not. No developed – or even threshold economy like India, Brazil – can claim any leadership here, if numbers have any meaning. We have to catch up with, say, Tanzania or Ghana, as paradoxically and uncomfortably as this may sound.
    China has achieved about the same mean per capita emission as Europe, lately. And the most developed parts of China, as she is a very diverse county, has per capita emissions comparable to the rich norther european countries like Germany. So there is hardly a reason to find any “climate leadership” in China.
    Interestingly, the big white english speaking countries, US, Canada, Australia – except New Zealand, Great Britain!!! – have the highest per capita emissions of the world. Great Britain has a nice track record of getting down her emissions, putting a price on carbon, shutting down coal power and so forth, but some of her former colonies not so.
    See (nice to play around with p.c.emissions…)!ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=en_atm_co2e_pc&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=region&idim=region:ECS&idim=country:AUS:NZL:DEU:GBR:CAN:USA:CHN&ifdim=region&tdim=true&hl=en_US&dl=en_US&ind=false

    • Don’t give NZ a pass .
      We have hydro power based electricity generation that long predates knowledge of the present conundrum.
      The right wing propaganda driven denial impacts here just as it does in the rest of the English speaking world.
      NZ has done nothing to reign in emissions. NZ’s contribution has been rising from both agriculture and transport over the last few decades. Official counts dont include sea freight and air passenger emissions A significant and often overlooked issue when you are thousands of miles from your markets.
      Just like many of the USA’s climate aware I have abstained from voting for the rightwing party’s because of their refusal to engage on the issue.

  6. Global warming wouldn’t be a problem if the green parties around the world wouldn’t have been opposing nuclear power for decades.
    The only workable solution for global warming is nuclear power, and lots of it.

    And for all those who fear radiation and accidents and the high price of construction etc:

    • The accidents scare me less than the waste. That is the primary reason why there is no new construction now. Companies see a big liability down the road, and they are terrified.

    • rhymeswithgoalie

      It doesn’t help that advocates for nuclear power plants promised a level of safety and security that investors don’t actually want to pay for. The French model of standardized models for plants might have worked, but the cost of designing each new power plant from scratch, under different states’ and regions’ political rules and unique funding each time, meant that the American model of individualized planning and constructing were always more likely to fail cost-benefit analyses.

    • Um, no. When the mainstream conservative right chose, of their own self interested free will to reject climate science and oppose a transition to low emissions they Built a Wall, within their own political parties, that prevented the largest body of support for nuclear from being mobilised. Failure to provide leadership allowed leadership default to others, and whilst I think early support for renewables was as much “give em enough rope” as shallow gesture politics, that is no longer the case; even long running fossil fuel based power companies concede that the lowest cost new electricity in most places is from wind and solar – with costs of ‘firming’ included in those calculations.

      Support for nuclear is not a measure of the seriousness with which someone takes the climate problem and the “just build nuclear, all fixed” notion never as simple or certain as the slogans suggest. It has the surface appearance of being as simple as the slogans – and appeal most to those most taken by surface appearances. Which could be why so many people taken in by climate science denial simultaneously seem to be taken with this simplistic ‘solution’ – and seem to think it is some kind of winning “gotcha” to use against ‘green’ politics. It isn’t.

      Most of the informed and concerned people pushing for action do not support renewables because they unthinkingly follow what green extremists tell them, but because renewables have been made to work, cost effectively – not by people in white overalls and gas masks, or dreadlocks but well manicured people with engineering degrees who wear suits.

      Nuclear trolling, I’ve heard it called – nuclear, not as solution (or you would be arguing with climate science deniers who like nuclear to give up the denial), but as one more plank in a wider anti-environmentalist platform, with environmentalist influence enhancing widespread climate concern the principle issue, not it’s anti-nuclear activism.

      I have encountered very few unthinking opponents of nuclear energy at sites like this – and a lot who would support and probably will when conservatitve politics ends it’s sordid affair with climate science denial and conservatives start facing the climate problem head on, with eyes open and start offering solutions. Of course, it is highly likely that they too will discover that nuclear is not the silver bullet it is so often portrayed to be and that renewable energy, whilst not yet the whole solution, still offers more than nuclear does under current conditions.

    • It’s untrue that ‘nuclear power is the only solution.’ In fact, at this point it’s not a solution. There quite simply isn’t the capacity to build enough nuclear capacity fast enough to be effective. Not enough investor appetite; not enough financing; not enough engineers and tradesmen. Even in China, where most of the current reactor construction is taking place, and where central control can impose nuclear technology in spite of grassroots reluctance, it’s far too slow.

      For instance, Sanmen, the first Gen 3 reactor, is supposed to come online next month:

      But that’s still a 10-year build:

      I’m not anti-nuclear; I think that we should support continued, and indeed extended, operation of existing reactor–that helps with the so-called ‘firming’ that Tamino referred to–and I think that we should continue research and development of better reactor technologies. But the only thing on the horizon that can scale sufficiently is renewable energy, mainly wind and solar–well, that and energy efficiency, which is often the single best thing to implement, from an economic point of view.

      The idea that nuclear power is some sort of magic bullet for climate is, in my view, complete fantasy. Nuclear can help. But it can’t carry the load.

  7. There’s more than one way to achieve reduced fossil fuel usage too, higher efficiency helps. Some years ago Princeton University was looking to replace their old on-campus heating plant. A group of engineering faculty wrote to the trustees suggesting they look at cogeneration. The trustees hired a consultant and went with cogen saving $millions a year also much improved fuel efficiency. Added a solar field recently, also cut costs of keeping the grass down by ‘hiring’ a flock of sheep.

  8. Kiss, renewable energy can do it all, with or without nuclear. Nuclear is expensive, dangerous, and takes forever to deploy. The idea that the only hope for global warming is nuclear is sheer nuclear fantasy.

    • quite right, BPL! I can’t figure out why the enthusiasts for nuclear don’t spot the parallels between fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Both seem to have some very toxic longterm consequences. We should do our best to deploy infrastructure that will not be a burden to our grandchildren and their grandchildren. It’s hard to do that. Sometimes it’s hard to spot the longterm drawbacks and consequences. That is not the case at this time with fossil or nuclear energy sources. The nuclear technocrats who believe that their idea will save us all should demonstrate their capability by cleaning up a nuclear accident or waste site (TMI, Chernobly, Fukushima, Hanford). I would take my hat off immediately and be more inclined to believe in technocrats if they can develop and deploy technology to clean up past technocrat mistakes before they chide others about our reluctance to embrace their ideas and solutions. Prove you can handle the technology when it goes wrong, then I will get on board.

  9. Renewables can not do it all in any forseeable future, let alone in the last 50 years we could have deployed nuclear.

    And it is lunacy to stop building nuclear power and instead open new coal plants like eg. germany is doing!

    It is purely a religion type ideology of the green parties around the world to oppose nuclear power. It is amazing that they claim to be pro-nature and have blocked nuclear power for half a century.

    If you would read my linked article then you would learn that nuclear is not expensive nor dangerous (if you would deploy it according to realities and not the scaremongering of the green’s and “environmental parties” all over the world).

    For some amazing reason private corporations would be ready to build and deploy nuclear power with 100% their own funding (unlike renewables), if they would just be permitted to.

    • rhymeswithgoalie

      As head-spinning as the thought of building new coal plants in Germany is, I would almost rather for a modern, designed-for-regulations coal plant replacing some of the crap lignite plants that Texas has grandfathered in.

      • “I would almost rather for a modern, designed-for-regulations coal plant replacing some of the crap lignite plants that Texas has grandfathered in”

        _This_ is the problem with anti-nuclear thinking. It is completely mad to suggest that new coal plants are a better idea then new nuclear plants. Germany is busy proving it at the moment. Now actually Texas (which is reliably windy _and_ sunny, and spacious) is one place on the planet where you can manage without any significant dispatchable generation (the analysis has been done), but there are plenty of places (generally at higher latitudes) where you really do. And nuclear makes a hell of a lot of sense there, certainly in comparison to coal.

        If you want to stop emissions you can’t have _any_ coal, and not very much gas. In some places that currently means some nuclear, because the combination of available wind/hydro/solar/storage/demand/biogas does not produce adequate reliability at a plausible cost.

        We can probably get rid of the nuclear eventually, but there is lots of evidence that it’s not yet practical in some locations. It’s incumbent on people suggesting that it is, to do the analysis and demonstrate it. The danger is that you head off down the ‘renewables-only’ road, only to find that you can’t actually decarbonise in this way with the money/resources available, so you get stuck with say 20% of fossil generation you have no practical way to remove. That way lies massive climate change.

        I see a lot of people who want to head off down this road without knowing what the end-game is, and that seems a very risky thing to do with our planet. It’s fine if it works, but an epic (and avoidable) disaster if it doesn’t.

        Everyone – please look at the numbers for the location in question and understand the general enormous difficulty of the transition before asking for any technologies to be excluded. It really is hard enough already.

    • What are your plans for the following:

      1. No private capital is available to cover the full losses of a nuclear accident. These risks can only be covered by government subsidies which as we all know are very bad thing?

      2. Dealing with wastes for 10s of thousands of years into the future?

      • Indeed
        Cost of Chernobyl $250 billion so far with risk for the site ongoing for the next 25,000 years.
        Fukushima $180bn as of now.
        Maximum liability for a nuclear plant in the USA 12 billion japan 108 million.
        The nuclear industry operates under privatize the profits socialize the risk.
        450 plants built and two catastrophic failures so far.
        For the number needed to replace fossil fuels the failure rate would be unacceptable particularity as they would be of necessity proliferate in economy’s with less stringent regulation oversight than even the cold war cccp provided.
        Not worth the risk when we have cheaper alternative technology’s available now in pumped hydro ,geothermal, solar and wind.

        Nuclear proponents often resort to pushing technology that does not exist as yet such as thorium salt and small scale modular reactors.
        We dont have the time to risk betting the future on the successful development of as yet theoretical technology .

      • KiwiGriff. Hydro has exactly the same problem as nuclear: If it goes wrong, it can go really wrong, way beyond what insurance can deal with. Indeed hydro has a much worse record for deaths in major accidents:
        Most notably Banquio (26,000), Sayano-Shunshenkaya (75):

        I’m not sure how many hydropower dams there are in the world (180>1MW, but lots more smaller ones) so it’s hard to compare the ‘2 disastrous failures in 450 plants) figure, but the deaths/MWh for hydro are a lot higher than nuclear. For some reason these are largely ignored whilst fretting about nuclear’s generally good safety record (better than all other generation, with the possible exception of ground-mount PV) is widespread. ‘Nuclear bad, Hydro good’, really doesn’t make any sense on a risk basis.

      • Hydro does NOT have the same failure problem as hydro except if you limit your analysis to the moment of failure and stop there. Failed dams do NOT cause anywhere near the lethal aftereffects that have to be dealt with for centuries and millennia with very high level technology than failed reactors do.

  10. What about the costs of global warming? Isn’t this the big worry we are talking about, not some hypothethical nuclear accidents? What about the costs of air pollution (and radiation emited by the plants!) from coal plants which in reality are needed to replace nuclear (at least have been for decades and probably will be needed for multiple decades to come).
    Fukushima was a natural disaster, they cost. Chernobyl was a badly run military reactor, well military action is also costly.
    Dealing with waste was covered in the article I linked. It is a trivial and cheap problem to solve.

    How about you put some dollar number on the deaths of coal plants which have been needed for over 50 years we could have efficiently deployed nuclear? The human cost and misery of the air pollution etc, not to mention this thing called global warming. This is what I’m talking about, not some pipe dream of renewables solving all the problems in the near future, they wont.

    So my solution is: nuclear AND renewables. How about it?

    • KTB: You are working against ab unfortunate psychological “fact” for many: The costs of global warming are “normal”. The costs of changing to a different energy generation/delivery mix is “abnormal”.

      Change is hard both for those at the top profiting off the old system and for those at the bottom who are simply used to the old ways.

  11. David B. Benson

    The World Nuclear Association has a factual page on Chernobyl. Recommended.

    As for small modular reactors, Nuscale has a design going through NRC approval for licensing. They will build some modules in about 2024.

    • The first modern solar cell started coming out in the late 50s early 60s. They have only recently scaled up to utility grade after over 60 years. How long do you figure it will be before small modular reactors become a significant part of the grid if the first models come out in 2024? Can we wait on them while doing nothing about installing solar/wind/etc.? Is the waste problem solved? Are the insurance problems solved?

      • David B. Benson

        jgnfld — The so-called waste problem is entirely political. The technical solution is understood: first and foremost, use fast spectrum neutron reactors to eliminate the long lived wastes while generating much electricity. Second, glassify wastes and store in salt domes. The salt domes are long lasting, to put it mildly.

        The Nuscale small modular reactor design is the latest version of pressurized light water reactor, in continuous use and development since the 1950s.

      • So very simple!!! Odd that all this hasn’t been implemented even though glassifiying wastes, for example, has been discussed for decades.

        Yes coal kills many. That is one reason coal is not a great solution.

        Even if you were correct about wastes, which you are not, there is still the insurance problem. Point out a private insurer that will insure the entire liability of a utility scale nuclear plant, please.

  12. As to Fukushima Daiichi being “just a natural accident,” the point is how vulnerable nukes are to such accidents. In this country we have a nuclear plant built over the San Andreas Fault and many along coastlines. I don’t buy that Fukushima Daiichi or Chernobyl “don’t count.” Nor does anyone with half a brain.

  13. Apparently you are incapable of reading the material I linked, or provide any concrete comparisons of nuclear vs. the alternatives.
    Yes there are accidents, in everything (more people have dies in solar panel installations than in nuclear accidents, by some magnitudes). Nuclear is still by orders of magnitudes a better option than anything else we have.

    It’s just irrational fear as you have demonstrated. A century of coal power killing hundreds of millions and even producing more radiation than nuclear power and you are still afraid of nuclear, just because some “flashy” accidents like chernobyl (which was a military type reactor which nobody is advocating we build, normal reactors don’t have the same failure modes), and fukushima where nobody actually died as a direct result of “nucular”.

    You probably fear dying in a terrorist attack also more than dying in the shower or on the highway. And all of these are still orders of magnitude more dangerous than nuclear power :)

    Just an excerpt:
    “In Chapter 8 we will show that our reactor safety programs have spent billions of dollars per expected life saved. This is irrational for two reasons. First there are many opportunities for saving lives with medical screening programs, highway safety measures, and the like, at a cost of about $100,000 per life saved, so the money spent to save one life from a nuclear reactor accident could save over 10,000 lives if spent in these other areas. Second, as a result of the cost increase for nuclear power plants, utilities are forced to build coal-fired power plants instead of nuclear plants, and the air pollution from a coal-fired plant is estimated to cause several thousand deaths over its operating lifetime. This irrational attitude toward nuclear reactor safety in the United States is, therefore, leading to thousands of unnecessary deaths every year, and wasting billions of dollars that could be used to save thousands of other lives. “

    • I just referred to your book link . “The Nuclear Energy Option: An Alternative for the 90s” Was published in 1990.
      It is so out of date as to be laughable.
      Solar and wind have both declined in price considerably and will continue to do so into the future. Renewables now represent the cheapest option for new build generation ahead of even combined cycle gas plants.
      Nuclear cost have increased.

      If that is what you are relying on for information you can be ignored until you get with this century .

    • Oh, I read your stuff. Not impressed.

      KTB: “Dealing with waste was covered in the article I linked. It is a trivial and cheap problem to solve.”
      So, if that is the case, why are there spent fuel rods sitting in disposal ponds all around the country? Why is there not a single operational disposal site for high level waste? Why are there no breeder reactors operating?

      I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the greens are nowhere in charge. They are not the decision makers. They hold no influence among financial institutions or energy concerns. If nukes made sense, they’d stampede over the heads of the greens and never look back.

      There is no single answer to this crisis. Nukes are likely part of the answer, but they are not sustainable and they have serious issues–waste being the biggest and if you opt for breeder reactors for the waste, then you have proliferation issues. Neither is a problem to wave aside lightly as you have done.

      It’s been my experience that those who bash “greenies” for opposition to nukes as a solution to a new energy infrastructure are usually more interested in bashing greenies than finding solutions. Now, why would that be, comrade.

      • “Why is there not a single operational disposal site for high level waste?”

        Politics, in most countries. It’s hard to find a site people agree on and there is no rush (waste needs to be stored on the surface for 30+ years first anyway), so it tends to get punted. The US built one then decided not to use it, and leave stuff sat around elsewhere instead. Finland is furthest ahead with a nearly finished high-level waste site currently due to become operational in 2023.

        Why are there no breeder reactors operating?

        There are breeder reactors operating: The BN-600 Fast Breeder at Beloyarsk, Russia: has been running since 1980. In 2014 the larger BN-800 started operation. India has a small test reactor (BFTR) running (, and is just commissioning the 500MW PFBR

    • “more people have dies in solar panel installations than in nuclear accidents, by some magnitudes”

      Did you count uranium miner/worker deaths in this “some orders of magnitude” more safe than solar?


      • “Did you count uranium miner/worker deaths in this “some orders of magnitude” more safe than solar?”

        They are included for coal, so I’m pretty sure they will be included for Uranium too, but the link that would prove it is now 404, so you’ll have to ask the Author to confirm.

        Rooftop PV is one order of magnitude more that nuclear (0.44, vs 0.04). I would like to see numbers for ground-mount solar, which removes the main PV risk (falling off roofs). That could easily be as safe as nuclear – perhaps even safer. Anyone got any numbers?

  14. Solar and solar plus electric vehicles are now ways for US to do something. I just published a book on 15 families across the country that have cut their fossil fuel use by 75% or more, several are now carbon negative. We CAN make a difference.

  15. How Many U.S. Nuclear Plants are Located Near Earthquake Faults?
    I will generally just ignore the nuclear trolls, but I do enjoy a good laugh now and then, like nuclear waste is a trivial matter. You have to laugh at that one.

    • More to the point, how many us nuke plants are operated by idiots. If we include in the class of idiots all those who drive with less than 5 car lengths when traveling at speed on a highway, it’s probably a pretty high proportion–and would even include me at times. The biggest obstacles to nukes are waste and “the stupid problem”, because all humans are stupid some of the time.

  16. Abbott 2011 lists 13 reasons why nuclear power will never be able to scale up to supply a significant amount of world power. Nuclear proponents have not even tried to answer his arguments. Nuclear cannot scale up.

    Nuclear has failed because it is not economic. It is by far the most expensive power. Nuclear cannot load follow. With renewable energy you need flexible peak power, not baseload like nuclear. That is why nuclear is shutting down now, nuclear cannot compete with even a small amount of renewable energy.

    Even if they build model small reactors in 2024 It will be too late to build them out to supply commercial numbers for the needed electricity by 2050. At Vogtle, Georgia, they are currenlty in the 6th year of a three year build and they estimate they will finish in three years!!! Nuclear physicists have been saying they would have a breeder reactor ready in 15 years for at least 50 years. Anyone who believes they will have commercial modular reactors before 2050 is dreaming.

    A reference to 1990 arguments. What a joke.

    • “Nuclear has failed because it is not economic”.
      It hasn’t failed yet – it’s still 11% of world energy generation. It has been declining due to cost, and may well continue to do so.

      “It is by far the most expensive power.”
      No it isn’t. CSP costs more, tidal stream costs (much) more. Tidal barrage costs somewhat more. Geothermal costs more in most places.

      “Nuclear cannot load follow”.
      Untrue. Most designs, especially modern ones, can load-follow quite fast. All the French 1980s reactors can (typically 50-100% range, 1.5-5% ramp rates). EPRs are designed to load-follow from 30-100%. The reason that it doesn’t happen much is that it generally doesn’t make much financial sense to.

      “With renewable energy you need flexible peak power, not baseload like nuclear. That is why nuclear is shutting down now, nuclear cannot compete with even a small amount of renewable energy.”

      You have that sort-of backwards. A small amount of renewables is (now) cheap. The more you add, the more expensive it gets per MWh, because you either end up over-installing or having lots of storage, more usually both. It’s a tricky analysis as there are a lot of variables, but at some point it usually makes more sense to have some dispatchable power, depending on costs and availability of storage, demand management and interconnects.

      LCOE is not the only measure for that is significant for a grid. This analysis for the UK comparing nuclear and renewables costs is very informative about the tradeoffs:

  17. David B. Benson

    Oh dear. There are a few commenters here who, it seems, fail to understand that we have a planetary emergency and that all modes to alleviate the problem of too much carbon dioxide are to be welcomed. Yes, that includes nuclear power plants where appropriate.

    • There are a few commentors who fail to recognize that if we waste our resources on failed technology we will never be able to solve the problem.

      At least $25 billion has been wasted on the Vogtle Generation 4 nuclear plants. If that money had been spent on renewable energy we would currently be seeing reduced CO2 emissions. Generation 4 plants have been described by the site engineers as “unbuildable”.

      Abbott 2011 shows that nuclear cannot provide more than a tiny fraction of future power. Even that small fraction would permantly render radioactive significant amounts of rare materials (like beryllium and hafnium) needed for other purposes.

      Suggesting we should wait for an untested technology where the first pilot plant cannot be built before 2024 is not rational. If their time line is adhered to as closely as the Vogtle plant it will be after 2030 before the pilot is completed. I saw an article about modular nuclear plants where the developers of the plants said they require a $500 billion guarantied contract from the government to start building plants. For that you could build an entire rneewable system including storage.

      This is generation 6 of nuclear power. The first 5 designs have failed. Please give me a reason to think generation 6 will overcome the strict problems Abbott has identified.

      Renewable energy is proven. Nuclear energy has failed.

      • David B. Benson

        Nuclear power plants are alive and well around the world. For example, the Kepco build in the UAE is on time and within budget. For another, England is repowering, in part, with a new generation of nuclear power plants.

        Seriously, Mr. Sweet, stop paying attention to the propaganda from Fiends of the Earth, mispelling intentional.

      • michael sweet

        David Benson,

        In England only the Hinkley plant is under construction. It is years behind schedule and grossly over budget. Engineers say it may be unbuildable. It is entirely financed by government, Britan, China and France, no businesses would put up any money. The British government has guaranteed a price almost double the cost of wind energy. A great example of nuclear success.

        As for the TEPCO plant in the UAE “Earlier this month, the UAE said that its first nuclear reactor would come online in late 2019 or early 2020, further delaying the launch of the Arab World’s first atomic power station.

        Construction of the first of four reactors at the $20 billion Barakah plant has been completed and had been due to come online last year [2017].”
        I guess that only 2 or 3 years behind schedule counts as on time for a nuclear plant.

        I note that you are unable to counter Abbott 2011 and his 13 reasons why nuclear cannot provide more than a small fraction of power in the future. He does not even address that nuclear is uneconomic.

        Seriously Dr. Benson, continuing to pursue a failed technology is a sure method to fail at solving AGW. Your suggestion that I read Friends of the Earth is false. I get my information from Nuclear supporters like you. It is easy to GOGGLE your transparently false claims.

  18. “The British government has guaranteed a price almost double the cost of wind energy”.

    That is misleading. Hinkley Point gets £93/MWh. All the offshore wind that has been installed in the UK so far gets £120, £140 or £155. New projects planned for the future will get prices less than Hinkley (£80, £60). So at the time of purchase Hinkley was cheap in comparison to the other low-carbon alternatives. At the time of startup it will be more expensive. But dispatchable electricty is worth a lot more than variable if you are short of variable so simply comparing LCOE is only part of the story.

    There is no realistic assessment suggesting that the UK can decarbonise without any nuclear power (remember that the size of the grid needs to at least double to allow for heating and transport). If you have a realistic plan for doing so, I’m sure lots of people would be very interested to hear it. Note that whilst we have an excellent wind resource, and convenient shallow seas, our high latitude (higher than most of Canada) severely limits winter solar contribution. It probably is _possible_ to make a nuclear-less UK grid, but it would be a great deal more expensive and less reliable than one with some nuclear, unless storage costs drop by a factor of 10 or so. For this reason it seems likely that we will retain some, along with other high-latitude countries (Scandinavia, Canada, Russia at least).

    • I am not completely anti-nuke. What I am is anti-not assessing full life cycle costs and risks. (In this vein I live in Newfoundland which is completing a quite ill-thought-out, poorly costed out hydro megaproject. It looks to double electricity rates when it comes on line. This in one of the most fruitful potential places in the world for wind power.

      But as badly as this megaproject has been handled, if it physically fails, there is no need for centuries and millennia of additional costs in order to clean up damages and protect future generations. Until the sunshine pumpers pushing nuclear deal with these long term risks more honestly, I think it should generally never be a first choice. Just glassify and forget really isn’t an option. Or even technically possible or the entire waste stream. It’s hard, for one example, to glassify radon.

    • Wookey:

      …almost double the cost of wind energy”.

      That is misleading. Hinkley Point gets £93/MWh. All the offshore wind that has been installed in the UK so far gets £120, £140 or £155.

      Yeah, but that’s *offshore*. The predominant form of wind energy is still onshore–which, however, has been largely put on hold by the Conservative government for political reasons.

      Of course, you can’t dismiss ”political reasons.” It’s tempting, but they have their own reality.

  19. David B. Benson

    michael sweet —- I finally read Abbott 2011; it is replete with assumptions no engineer should ever make. Primarily, that no progress shall be made henceforth. But Rankine steam turbines are most likely to be replaced, on site, by supercritical carbon dioxide Brayton cycle turbines. Such are at least 7% more efficient and require almost no cooling water.

    In the 1950s I read “The Next Hundred Years” and “The Challenge of Man’s Future”, both by geochemist Harrison Brown. Both suggested that we would run out of copper within 100 years. Well, it’s 50 years later and there is no sign of running short of minable copper.

    Abbott makes the same error and more, assumes no substitute materials are available. For example, what did auto bodies used to be made from? What are many made from now? So it goes.

    Last, for this criticism, Abbott suggests solar thermal as a replacement. But he forgot to include enough storage even though solar thermal generators are already generate more expensive electricity than new nuclear power plants. So there is a reason that Finland is building two new nuclear power plants. For a similar reason the UAE is acquiring 4 and Saudi Arabia is planning on a dozen. You might think that the Gulf Coast states would consider solar power. You can go figure out why that option has been rejected.

    But as a last word in this missive, I never have advocated 100% nuclear power. Talk about a straw man…

  20. David B. Benson

    michael sweet — The name of the consortium of Korean companies building nuclear power plants in the UAE is Kepco. Kepco is indeed building on time and within budget, as I wrote. The first unit is finished and ready to begin generating. The UAE has yet to start using it. But it does stand ready.

    The other contractors who build nuclear power plants on time include the Russian Rosatom and the Chinese consortium. It just takes competent construction management.

    • David Benson,
      Your claim that a power plant that was supposed to start generating in 2017 but will not connect to the grid before 2020 was completed on time summarizes your entire argument. It cannot be on budget since interest for the three years it has not connected is substantial.

      Your unsupported word is not much of an answer to Abbott 2011. Your argument that future engineers will solve current intractable problems only addresses 2 of his 13 issues with nuclear.

      I think other readers will be able to determine the quality of your position.

      Nuclear is uneconomic. It has been uneconomic for decades and has only been kept running by the extreme subsidies they receive. Nuclear is collapsing world wide because it is too expensive, cannot be built to a timeline or budget and is unsafe.

      • David B. Benson

        And yet, for example, the Indians and the Chinese keep building nuclear power plants. Perhaps they know something that you don’t.

      • michael sweet

        From China Dialogue
        Is China losing interest in nuclear power?
        Slowing demand for electricity and competition from renewables have halted new reactor approvals, writes Feng Hao.
        I was referred to this article by a nuclear supporter. The entire article is very negative about nuclear.

        Goggling “India nuclear power” finds this as the third hit:
        from the Institute for Energy Research:
        India Cuts Back on Nuclear Power Plants; Will Likely Turn to Coal
        “The Narendra Modi government cut its original 63,000 megawatt nuclear power capacity target to 22,480 megawatts by 2031. ”

        Every post you cite a new country as I show the old ones have given up on nuclear. Saudi Arabia has no nuclear under construction or near construction. They appear to have given up on nuclear to pursue renewables. Finland has only one plant under construction, currently 10 years behind schedule. They have a proposed plant that has not begun construction.

        Your arguments are transparently false. Nuclear has failed. It is uneconomic.

  21. The entire paradigm under which modern civilization operates is completely unsustainable. Proposing energy efficiencies or even more foolishly nuclear power can only slightly delay the inevitable collapse. Ideas and fundamental values are so deeply entrenched in the competitive paradigm that most people are blind to the immense futility are many of our activities. For example, the immense daily migration that occurs in modern civilisations to and from the place where in large part they play their games in order to derive their share of wealth, is unquestioned. Games it largely is, very few jobs are actually wealth generating. The only option we have to possibly avoid the misery of collapse, is a paradigm shift, from competitive to cooperative. The foolishness of nuclear power is that it enables us to delay the essential paradigm shift.

  22. Tamino, I think the Golden Opportunity that Renewable Energy present us is principally political, as a tool for changing people’s minds. It has nothing directly to do with nuclear – and it is unfortunate that these discussions still seem to devolve down to renewables versus nuclear. Despite the pointlessness of arguing about nuclear I do find myself drawn in again and again, in part because I have a different view on how and why nuclear-for-climate fails to mobilise the significant in-principle support that I think does exist, than most people.

    Renewables are our one bit of political good fortune in all this mess – an unexpected resource for tackling the second of the two principle obstructionist memes; alarmist economic fear of a transition to alternatives fossil fuels. (The first being distrust of climate science).

    What renewables being lower cost – even intermittently – than fossil fuels (nothing to do with nuclear) does is undermine what was strong unity within business lobbies to universally obstruct and oppose climate policy actions. When lots of businesses that have no PR game or involvement in energy tech start putting solar panels on their roofs to save electricity costs and long running electricity companies commit to investing in RE that is a profound shift of thinking amongst a very influential sector – business – within our societies and economies.

    Climate science denial has been losing it’s popular appeal in the presence of real world global warming and renewable energy policy, with it’s “green” political associations, has long been a kind of proxy target to go after along with climate science – and until recently it was an easy to hit, easy to make mock of kind of target, it’s inevitable failure both a foregone conclusion and an expected political opportunity to take down climate action politics more broadly when it fails to deliver. Wrong. Haven been given enough rope (thanks guys) renewables pulled themselves up into commercial viability – even the optimists have been surprised.

    Isn’t an enemies mistake supposed to be a gift, not to be wasted? If ever there was a time to push back against the deniers and obstructors it is now, and the ground to fight it on isn’t arguing the climate science, it is in support for renewable energy. Ultimately even nuclear will be advantaged by the broader collapse of denial and obstruction that the successes of RE are making possible.

    • Well-said, IMO. The only point in which my perception differs a bit is that it seems to me that attacks on renewables have increased over recent years, as it became belatedly clear that the threat to BAU they pose is actually real. But that doesn’t really matter–it’s too late, I think, for such tactics now. And the best way to make sure that’s true is to do exactly what you said:

      Repeatedly and forcefully point out that there is a viable way forward–a path towards clean energy that’s workable in the real world.

  23. David B. Benson

    Those interested in reliable information about nuclear power plants and construction thereof are encouraged to read the country information pages of the World Nuclear Association website.

    For example, Nuclear Power in China, updated this month, states that China has about 15 nuclear power plants under construction and more about to start construction. The plan calls for 58 GWe operating by 2020 with another 10 GWe under construction at that time.