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Creator of the Gaia Hypothesis Urges Nuclear Power 1185

Posted by Hemos
from the making-those-splitting-decisions dept.
SteamyMobile writes "Professor James Lovelock, creator the Gaia Hypothesis and long-time intellectual leader of the Green movement, says that global warming is a dire threat, more urgent than was previously realized. He compares the threat of global warming with the threat of the Nazis in 1938, and says that in both cases, the Left was not able to grasp the urgency of the situation and see the necessary solution. What is the necessary solution to stop the global warming problem? He says it's nuclear power. Needless to say, the Greens don't agree with him, and he chides them as having irrational phobias of a safer, cleaner energy sources. Even if the "Left" isn't fully aware of the urgency of the world's energy problems, it seems like Slashdot is."
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Creator of the Gaia Hypothesis Urges Nuclear Power

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  • Wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Noryungi (70322) on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:44AM (#9236042) Homepage Journal

    If a guy like him advocates nuclear power as a way to avoid global warming, the risks must be enormous indeed.

    Even if global warming is not as bad as predicted, the about face is certainly interesting.
    • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

      by replicant108 (690832) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:20AM (#9236179) Journal
      Lovelock has been advocating nuclear energy for a while now.

      From a September 2000 article in the Guardian:

      "And then they say: what shall we do with nuclear waste?" Lovelock has an answer for that, too. Stick it in some precious wilderness, he says. If you wanted to preserve the biodiversity of rainforest, drop pockets of nuclear waste into it to keep the developers out. The lifespans of the wild things might be shortened a bit, but the animals wouldn't know, or care. Natural selection would take care of the mutations. Life would go on."

      Guardian article here [guardian.co.uk]
  • by drizst 'n drat (725458) on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:47AM (#9236050)
    FOr the most part nuclear engery is not a bad solution to the ever growing problem of increased fossil fuel prices and declining stocks of oil reserves. Burning coal -- no way. Sure, nuclear power got a bad deal when 3 Mile Island and Chernoybal had their problems, but then those designs were old to begin with. There are reactor designs that are safer and more efficient. I think it's time to start bringing back nuclear power plants again. You need energy to power your computers ... what's the problem.
    • Reactor safety (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lachlan76 (770870) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:04AM (#9236120)
      I don't know very much about three mile island, but as I recall, the Soviet reactor designs were all quite unreliable. At the time, I guess what the Soviet Government really cared about was the electricity plutonium that the reactor produced. I think Chernobyl melted down around 82? In the 80s I think. I'm only 14, so I don't remember the Soviets, but being towards the end of the Cold War, the Soviet economic situation would have been quite poor, and they could not have afforded maintenence, etc. as well as we can now.
      Since technology has improved, I would have thought that today's reactors would be safer and more efficient than designs from 20 years ago. I'm from Australia where we don't have nuclear rectors (except for Lucas Heights, near Sydney, but that is used for research, producing isotopes for radio-medicine, and producing more pure silicon (neutron bombardment doping, i think) by using neutrons to turn 1 in a billon silicon atoms into phosphorus, producing N-Type silicon. Lucas Heights has 15% of the world market, and I would like to see how well a processor made of this would overclock).
      Nuclear power will be the way of the future, but Australia will take time to adopt it, with a supply of coal to last hundreds of years.
      • Re:Reactor safety (Score:5, Informative)

        by mikerich (120257) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:48AM (#9236325)
        I don't know very much about three mile island, but as I recall, the Soviet reactor designs were all quite unreliable. At the time, I guess what the Soviet Government really cared about was the electricity plutonium that the reactor produced.

        The RMBK reactor was designed to generate power and plutonium. It was unusual in that it allowed on-line refuelling. Bomb-grade plutonium is almost pure Pu239 which is made by U238 capturing a neutron. If Pu239 is left in the core for longer, it can capture another neutron or two to make Pu240 or Pu241 which dramatically affect reliability of the weapon.

        The RMBK used a robot crane to extract fuel elements after a short period of time, consequently the lid of the reactor was pieced by hundreds of fuel channels through which fuel was added and removed. This is unlike the Pressurised Water Reactor in which the lid is sealed for months at a time.

        When the reactor failed, the fuel channels proved a fatal weakness, so the lid was blown off and allowed radiation into the environment. The RMBK design was fairly elderly at this time and no more were planned by the Soviet Union. However, Chernobyl was a new reactor with relatively good safety equipment and excellent reliability. It was just misused.

        It would have been better had Chernobyl had a true containment facility like PWRs, but none of the RMBKs were so fitted.

        The Soviet Union was in the process of changing over to its own PWRs - called VVRs which did have proper containment. There had been a number of technical issues with their development.

        The UK looked at a Chernobylesque design in the 1960s, but concluded that it presented an unacceptable risk in the event of a minor problem.

        And finally, Three Mile Island turned out to be an economic disaster for the operators, but its environmental impact was essentially zero. The PWR is a good reactor design, it showed its relience at TMI, and it has been improved since.

        Best wishes,
        Mike.

        • Re:Reactor safety (Score:4, Insightful)

          by turgid (580780) on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:48AM (#9236734) Journal
          It would have been better had Chernobyl had a true containment facility like PWRs, but none of the RMBKs were so fitted.

          It would have been even better if the reactors had been designed so as to make prompt criticality unatainable. Prevention is better than the cure.

          • Re:Reactor safety (Score:5, Interesting)

            by mikerich (120257) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:11AM (#9236886)
            It would have been even better if the reactors had been designed so as to make prompt criticality unatainable. Prevention is better than the cure.

            Yep, it was just that problem which stopped the British developing their own graphite moderated, water-cooled reactor in the 1960s - they even told the Soviets of their concern.

            The Soviet Union was aware of the problem and had committed to PWRs, however, it had never managed to perfect the technology of creating the very large pressure vessels required in a power plant PWR. The VVR was still very new technology at the time, but energy demand in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc required new nuclear capacity.

            So Chernobyl had 'stretched' RBMKs - believe it or not, they were considerably more safe than their predecessors!

            Best wishes,
            Mike.

        • Re:Reactor safety (Score:5, Informative)

          by Maxwell'sSilverLART (596756) on Monday May 24, 2004 @11:35AM (#9238209) Homepage

          Bomb-grade plutonium is almost pure Pu239 which is made by U238 capturing a neutron.

          Essentially correct; you didn't mention the double beta decay, but that's essentially a given, considering the instability of Uranium 239 and Neptunium 239.

          However, Chernobyl was a new reactor with relatively good safety equipment and excellent reliability. It was just misused.

          Enh...not so much. Yes, Chernobyl was a new facility; that said, it didn't have a good safety record. RMBK 1000 reactors all over the Soviet Union had problems, but the KGB clamped down on that information; it is only recently that such information has come to light. In fact, Chernobyl 1 had problems to the now-famous Chernobyl 4, but not so severe; the KGB moved in and hushed things up so quickly and efficiently that even the other Chernobyl reactor operators didn't know about the problem. With such a closed, secretive attitude toward reactor safety, it was inevitable that mistakes would be repeated, and, indeed, they were. The only reason Chernobyl 4 became well-known is that the radiation cloud moved into western Europe, where people started raising questions. In any case, the safety issues with the RMBK-1000 reactors were serious, and known (if only to some) even at Chernobyl.

      • Re:Reactor safety (Score:5, Informative)

        by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:22AM (#9236982)
        I think Chernobyl melted down around 82? In the 80s I think. I'm only 14, so I don't remember the Soviets, but being towards the end of the Cold War, the Soviet economic situation would have been quite poor, and they could not have afforded maintenence, etc. as well as we can now.

        Chernobyl is interesting. The design was inherently less safe than it could have been, but one must remember when it was built. At that time, the design looked quite good. However, that wasn't actually the problem.

        Chernobyl melted down as a result of a test by the Soviet version of the NRC. Someone wanted to find out how much power could be extracted from a reactor that was melting down. This information would allow them to better plan for dealing with a reactor meltdown. So....

        The Soviet NRC guys came out, disabled all the safety interlocks in place, and tried to "simulate" a reactor meltdown. Worked like a charm! The "simulation" was so realistic they couldn't hardly believe it (that last was sarcasm, if it wasn't obvious).

        With the exception of possible undocumented losses of nuclear submarines by the Soviets, there have been four or five nuclear problems serious enough to ruin a reactor (not all of them were serious enough to escape into the environment). That's not a terribly bad safety record, especially since none of them have been technical issues - in all cases, the problems were induced by human stupidity. Of which, I admit, we have an abundant supply.

    • by Epistax (544591) <epistax@noSPam.gmail.com> on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:06AM (#9236128) Journal
      I am a full supporter of nuclear power. To start off with there is no doubt that it's the best thing we have--when nothing goes wrong. When things *do* go wrong, we need to be ready. Meltdowns can be made physically impossible at nearer plants and miniaturization allows us to have quadruple redundancy (or more) on all vital control systems.

      To me there are only two real threats caused by nuclear power. The first is gradual degradation of components at a plant may not be properly noticed. There is a very good chance of this happening but as long as we activity examine all potential radioactivity releasers we won't have a problem. The second is waste disposal. Our current technique is to truck across the country. The public belief is when you do this often enough, eventually something has to go wrong. I would wonder if it's possible to build the disposal system into the plant. The actual size of the waste increases by at least one order of magnitude when we prepare it for cross-country freight.

      What happens if we find out fusion cannot make a sustainable energy source? Oil won't last a hundred years and coal might be extremely destructive to our planet. Our technology isn't good in solar power yet but there is hope there. As far as I can tell, the only real world solution is nuclear power.
      • We have the technology to make safe, efficient, and clean nuclear plants in the United States. We haven't had an accident. Even Three Mile Island, oft-quoted as a disaster, completely contained the malfunction and it is safe to tour the site today as it was right after the incident.

        The only problem with Nuclear power is that the plants take years to build. There is no hope that after investing hundreds of millions of dollars to build a plant that politics will shut it down once it starts up. In effect, no investor will approach it.

        The United States needs to start a campaign to educate its citizenry about the benefits and real drawbacks to the nuclear power industry. We need to teach in our schools the facts of nuclear power from where we obtain the raw materials, how they are processed, how much waste is produced, and how efficient it is. If we laid out the facts, including how long the isotopes will last and where we will store them, then maybe we can get some serious private investment and some serious growth in the industry. Perhaps we can totally replace our coal and natural gas burning plants with nuclear ones. Maybe we can retrofit our commercial ships with the safe reactors that our submarines and battleships have.

        The bottom line is that there is so much misunderstanding about radiation, nuclear isotopes, and the like. The restrictions placed on background radiation on the Yucca Mountain was more severe than the restrictions placed on granite statues in the capitol building. A smart researcher brought his geiger counter with him and demonstrated that some of the statues we adore are actually more radioactive than the Yucca Mountain would be allowed to be!

        http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,21015,00.htm l

        I for one am still hoping our 1950's utopian dream about nuclear power will be realized.
      • by egarland (120202) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:52AM (#9237228)
        I agree that Nuclear power is a good answer that has been overlooked for too long. It never reached it's potential due mostly to PR problems that caused people's deep fear of the technology. Now that we've been living with Nuclear for a long time and it has proven itself much safer than people feared, it might be a good time to take another look at it.

        Environmentalists, real environmentalists, should love nuclear power. The problem is most people who call themselves environmentalists aren't. They care more about themselves, their health, their safety and controlling what goes on around them then they do about preserving nature and the environment. They would be more appropriately called "my environment-ists". This guy is right, radiation from nuclear waste poses basically no threat to nature, it's only really a threat to us. Leaving it around on the surface of the earth is a really bad idea, we should dispose of it deep underground, but it illustrates an important point. Nuclear waste is a danger to us, not nature, and it's a danger that we know how to deal with. To continue poisoning the environment the way we are so that we don't have to worry about radioactive waste is irresponsible and selfish.

        Secure transport to a disposal site is very important and, in my opinion, the biggest issue with the current system of nuclear power generation. We should be expanding our nuclear power production capabilities but not in the way we built them before. Put them together in large clusters near the disposal site so that you can control access to all aspects of the operation of the pants and disposal of the waste. That way, you don't have to truck radioactive material through every city and town in the country.

        I think the US government should build two huge clusters of nuclear power plants. The first cluster should be near enough to Yucca Mountain to facilitate secure transport of the waste without traveling near populated areas. The second one should be in Alaska with it's own waste disposal site if possible. The only way on and off of both should be an air strip. The clusters would be huge sites with restricted airspace and lots of security around dozens of small, well protected reactors. They should be designed so a failure of one would not prevent the operation and maintenance of the others. They should be housed in separate buildings separated by relatively large distances to make it hard for a terrorist attack or nuclear strike to do damage to more than one. Each cluster should be capable of powering the entire US by itself (for security reasons) and each should be able to expand to twice it's initial size to accommodate the inevitable rise in power consumption.

        This may seem wildly expensive but if done correctly it could dramatically help the economy of the US. First, we could we cut the huge flow of money out of the country from purchasing oil and also reduce the demand for oil further reducing prices. But also, secondly, if we overbuilt production capability we could sell power to other countries creating a flow of money into the country instead of out. Clusters could be run much more economically than current facilities by sharing resources for engineering, inspection, security, maintenance.

        If done correctly, this setup could be much safer than our current system of power generation. People who work at the sites should spend several months working at a time, not commute on and off the base every day to reduce the flow of people in and out and allow for much stricter security as people arrive and leave. The only way in and out should be by plane. There should be an airforce base at each of the two sites to help defend it like they do with other sensitive locations. You could even keep one reactor offline at every time to provide a reference model if anything goes wrong.

        An alternative that I've heard about that seems horribly irresponsible is selling and building inexpensive small nuclear reactors all over the world. I heard about a company that
      • by Spamalamadingdong (323207) on Monday May 24, 2004 @10:47AM (#9237767) Homepage Journal
        The actual size of the waste increases by at least one order of magnitude when we prepare it for cross-country freight.
        Are you sure about this? It was my impression that the shipping casks were just that, shipping casks.
        I would wonder if it's possible to build the disposal system into the plant.
        The US taxpayer paid for the development of a system to create disposal-ready packages of radwaste at reactor sites (mostly the fission products, not the uranium). It is called pyroprocessing, and it was to be part of the Integral Fast Reactor. The process involved electrolytically dissolving the spent fuel in a molten salt bath (no water), plating out the useful elements and leaving the rest dissolved in the salt. The spent salt would be adsorbed into the pores of a zeolite (making it insoluble), putting the cold salt powder into stainless steel cans, hydraulically pressing the cans to solidify the powder and then encasing the cans in ceramic.

        The purpose was to build a proliferation-proof breeder reactor, with the fuel so highly radioactive at all stages that it would be impossible to remove it from the "hot cell" areas around the reactor proper. The only thing that would ever leave the reactor would have been the processed radwaste. However, this scheme can be used in a somewhat modified form to process and separate UO2-based PWR fuel as well. The advantage is that there are no organic solvents or water-based chemistry involved, so the problems evident at Hanford become impossible.

        The US taxpayer paid for this, but nobody will be benefitting from it; the anti-nukes have succeeded in killing any consideration with a well-orchestrated scare campaign.

  • Damn Straight (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mphase (644838) on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:48AM (#9236053) Homepage
    I really like it when people involved in saving the planet and all that are still able to think rationally use see things like nuclear power as useful. And it is useful, even if only for a few generations nuclear power is one of the best options available. That said I want an array of satellites collecting solar energy and sending it down to earth via microwave as soon as is feasible. And then after that I want feasible fusion damnit.
  • by osewa77 (603622) <naijasms@noSpaM.gmail.com> on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:49AM (#9236056) Homepage
    The recent movie The Day After Tommorrow [afriguru.com] makes global warning seem like a more imminent threat than it probably is. Could it be that those more concerned about the risks have taken its release as a good opportunity for sounding their views (since people will be more receptive?)
  • by trs9000 (73898) <trs9000.gmail@com> on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:49AM (#9236057)
    overheard in springfield, ??:

    excellent!
  • by Rolo Tomasi (538414) on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:50AM (#9236059) Homepage Journal
    What about solar towers, like this one [nsw.gov.au]. What keeps us from plastering earth's deserts with these things?
  • Well.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by manavendra (688020) on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:50AM (#9236065) Homepage Journal
    While the analogy of threat of global warming to threat of Hitler can be argued, if nothing else, non-conventional means of energy shall soon be required since there aren't that many natural resources available anymore.

    Maybe it is urban legend, but we all keep hearing about the number of years after which gasoline would be unavailable. No matter how inaccurate that claim is, the current gas prices do seem an indicator of that :-

    Nuclear energy has always been safe and a lot less polluting than the conventional means. Coupled with the almost limitless harvestation of it and the relative safefy with which it can be produced, I think it is time the world woke up to it.
    • There's one. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by thatguywhoiam (524290) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:31AM (#9236233)
      While the analogy of threat of global warming to threat of Hitler can be argued, if nothing else, non-conventional means of energy shall soon be required since there aren't that many natural resources available anymore.

      There is one prominent natural resource that we still have plenty of....

      Unfortunately that resource is coal. And burning coal is some of the nastiest shit we've ever done.

      That is a whole 'nother worry about the oil situation: at some point, oil prices will start to go up, and won't ever stop. Maybe that's happening now. We'll have a choice - do we supplant our flagging energy sources with clean, risky, expensive nuclear... or clean, inadequate, expensive wind/solar... or dirty, plentiful, cheap coal?

      We as a species have made decisions like this before and it doesn't look promising. Frankly, the problem of dealing with spent rods is a lot more palatable than a resurgence in coal burning....

      (Aside: let's not forget, nuclear critics... 'threat of terrorism' is not a good reason to stop doing anything worthwhile)

  • These green people are ultimatly interested in saving the human race...not the planet.

    Do we really think that we, with a few fossil fuels and other environmental crap we throw into the air and water over the past 150 year, can really change the Earth?

    The Earth will shuck us off like a bad case of fleas. 1 million years from now...which is but an eyeblink to the Earth...we'll be long gone. A footnote as it were. The Earth will heal itself.

    So please, stop with the "Save the planet" high-horse. The planet isn't going anywhere...WE ARE! So say what you really mean...save the humans.

    (paraphrased quite a bit from George Carlin btw)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:55AM (#9236077)
    While it's true that nuclear power is one of the best int the short term but I think in the long term renewables are preferable.

    With renewables:

    - You don't have to mine

    - You don't have to pay except initial investment and maintainance

    - You don't have to take care of waste.

    - It's distributable. Everybody can have it in their houses.

    - Recent breaktrhoughts in solar cells will make them efficient and cheap.

    • by pfdietz (33112) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:53AM (#9236346)
      With renewables you do have to mine. What do you think the equipment is made of, fairy dust?

      Not having to pay for initial investment and maintenance is damning with faint praise. For most renewable technologies, the investment cost makes them noncompetitive for most applications.

      Waste: some forms of renewable energy have a great deal of waste. Geothermal, OTEC, biomass. And all the equipment eventually has to be disposed of as it wears out.

      'Recent breakthroughs' usually don't pan out ('Popular Science Syndrome'), and even if they do they take much longer than we'd like to be reduced to workable products.
  • by smoker2 (750216) on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:56AM (#9236081) Homepage Journal
    Ok, we all know that the sea levels will rise, the weather will be come (even more) unpredictable, etc,etc. But every documentary I have seen on this subject, seems to use 2 different sources for its data. At first, they use data gained from antarctic ice cores that show that this has happened ("global warming") time and again over a considerable amount of time. Then suddenly, the doomsday scenario is based on the fact that the changes in the global climate have happened in the 400 or so years since records began.

    How can you accept both points of view ? It is misleading to suggest that humans are the cause of global warming. I fully agree that we as a race should seek some non-polluting energy source over one that has shown to be bad for us, let alone the planet, but to use misleading information to achieve social indignation is wrong.

    Global warming is a catch-phrase, being used to describe potential doom. Even if we all stopped using electricity and cars etc, then the planet would still go through immense environmental changes, as it has done since the beginning. News flash, the sahara used to be green and pleasant, and before that it was under water. Are we as humans responsible for that too ?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2004 @06:58AM (#9236092)
    Wow, the OP compared global warming to nazis, thus invoking Godwin's law [catb.org] before the discussion even started.
    I have no choice but to declare this thread officially closed...
  • by Eunuchswear (210685) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:04AM (#9236117) Journal
    Come on, we're already up to 75% of our electricity from nukes.

    Oh, you're not in France.

    Get with the act you luddites.

    This message submitted with the help of the friendly atom.
  • by Talisman (39902) on Monday May 24, 2004 @07:05AM (#9236122) Homepage
    For those who doubt the effects of global warming, I recommend taking up SCUBA. Not only is it a great sport, you'll get to see first-hand the effects of global warming, and it WILL scare you.

    The Seychelles reefs [disasterrelief.org] are just about gone. What was once arguably the best reef to dive in the world outside the Great Barrier is now a graveyard.

    And this knowledge isn't from reading an alarmist's evaluation of the situation, it is from seeing it with my own eyes on dives I did last year on Mahe, Praslin and La Digue. A conservative estimate would be that 90% of the reefs are dead. Probably closer to 95%, but as I didn't dive every square inch, I can't say there aren't some pristine patches somewhere. There very well may be, I just didn't see them.

    As for the Florida and Great Barrier reefs, I can also attest to their ailing health. I live just above the Keys and dive them regularly, and I dove the GB Reef about 10 weeks ago. The destruction is real.

    Don't take anyone's word for it. Go strap on a set of tanks and see it for yourself. It's a wake-up call.

    Tal
  • nuclear power... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Malor (3658) * on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:07AM (#9236448) Journal
    What's really frustrating about nuclear power is that the Greens are so vehemently opposed to it, and they're exactly the people who should love it and embrace it. They fear it because they think it's bad 'for nature', when in fact it's only bad FOR HUMANS. Humans are uniquely vulnerable to radioactivity. Most(all?) other species are not.

    Consider Bikini Atoll. It was the site for many, many bomb tests, including the first hydrogen bomb. You probably think of it as a blasted desert, but in actual fact, it's a tropical paradise. It is in BETTER shape now, ecologically, then it was when humans lived there! It's even safe to visit, but you wouldn't want to eat the bananas. :-)

    In other words, nuclear power is WONDERFUL for the environment; the more radioactivity, the better (within reason at least), because it chases nasty humans out of the area and lets normal plants and animals live in (relative) peace.

    The primary beneficiaries of nuclear power are also the ones who are hurt most by it, which seems eminently fair. We need to be very careful with nuclear waste for OUR OWN sake, but as far as Nature is concerned, it just doesn't matter all that much. This is exactly backwards to our existing power generation, in which we get all the benefit but pay virtually none of the cost.

    Additionally, although many people simply will refuse to hear this, we have made many improvements in nuclear power since we last built plants. We had a tendency to grandiose engineering in the 70s, and we paid for that. There are much cleaner and simpler designs now. Materials science has improved enormously as well. Couple that with our much improved ability to monitor remotely, and we should be able to build plants that are nearly failproof. And if they DO fail, well, it's only humanity that will suffer.

    I just don't understand why the Greens aren't all over this.... if they don't embrace this idea, it seems likely to me that their true motivation is less about "loving Nature" and more about "hating humans".
  • by cdn-programmer (468978) <terrNO@SPAMterralogic.net> on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:22AM (#9236540)

    You can find it on the BP [bp.com] website and specifically look here: BP reports [bp.com]

    While there is a LOT of energy falling on planet earth and alternate energy forms can yeild a significant source, it is unlikly that these sources combined with reduced wastage can make the kind of difference we need.

    The BP reports show 2002 oil ouput in ALL middle eastern countries has been in decline since 2000 and that Norway and North Sea have been in a rather serious decline since 1999.

    The 2004 report showing 2003 production is expected shortly. What I hope this report shows is an increase in production in certain countries like Saudi Arabia. I suspect it will not show this. This will put us more than 3 years past the peak.

    If within the next couple years we do not see an increase in world oil ouput then I supect we can conclude that looking through the rear veiw mirror we have seen the Peak of World Oil Production. THere is a lot of information to be found at the Hubbert Peak Website [hubbertpeak.com]

    If one assumes a 5% reduction per year and this might be generous, then consider how much the world consumption is cut back within say 10 years or 20...

    I am sure slashdotters can do this math and can add the number of years to their age. The bottom line is they may be growing old in world without oil.

    However you slice it, do not expect Alberta to be able to pick up much slack with Tar Sands, even though we have about 1.8 trillion barrels in resources. The trouble is our tar sands reserves are only about 300 billion barrels and our TOTAL natural gas supplies (which are needed to supply hydrogen so the bitumin can be chemically lightened) are not even sufficient for 10% and North America is already in a Natural Gas crisis.

    WE NEED nuclear plants (CANDU, not enriched, because CANDU burns natural uranium unlike the stoopid USA enriched reactors which I think were designed that way to justify enrichment facilities so bombs could be made)

    Not only this, we needed to start building them 10 years ago. We are going to have some major power problems over the next few years.

    • by Spamalamadingdong (323207) on Monday May 24, 2004 @11:21AM (#9238069) Homepage Journal
      (I'd love to know who modded the parent "overrated", because the moderator is an idiot. This was one of the most informative posts among the +5's when I started browsing this thread, and since I only have time to look at the +5's I would have missed it otherwise.)
      The trouble is our tar sands reserves are only about 300 billion barrels and our TOTAL natural gas supplies (which are needed to supply hydrogen so the bitumin can be chemically lightened) are not even sufficient for 10% and North America is already in a Natural Gas crisis.
      You can make up for anything with sufficient equipment. The Texaco gasifier is quite able to turn powdered coal or petroleum coke into a syngas of hydrogen and carbon monoxide; the syngas can be shifted to hydrogen and CO2 if you need hydrogen. Since you'd be doing this with methane anyway, the only thing you'd need to add to use bitumen instead of methane for the hydrogen feedstock is to install the gasifier and its air separation plant. The bitumen could probably be sprayed in as a liquid, making the process that much easier than coal handling.
      While there is a LOT of energy falling on planet earth and alternate energy forms can yeild a significant source, it is unlikly that these sources combined with reduced wastage can make the kind of difference we need.
      I believe that you are correct in the short term, but very wrong in the long term. Natural energy flows on Earth are truly staggering.
  • Pebble Reactor (Score:5, Informative)

    by Foobar_Zen (774905) on Monday May 24, 2004 @08:35AM (#9236637) Journal
    Lets not forget about the pebble reactor's [fact-index.com] when talking about nuclear technology. They are supposed to be a lot safer and a lot more efficent than most of the reactors used today.
  • by fluffy666 (582573) on Monday May 24, 2004 @09:29AM (#9237029)

    We are often told that nuclear waste is unavoidable, massively dangerous and has a very long half life. This is not strictly true.

    We are quite lucky with fission products, because they all have half lives under 35 years. This site [doe.gov]gives an overview of the common ones. Sr-90 and Cs-137 have the longest half lives, at around 30 years. The relatively small amount of genuine waste only needs containing (or recycling into nuclear batteries) for a few hundred years, instead of the tens of thousands usually quoted.

    The other products should be recycled back into fuel; without reprocessing, nuclear waste does become a major problem. Breeding of fuel - which reduces the amount of uranium mining and the amount of depleted uranium you end up with - should also be used; this extends the fuel supply to over a hundred years (assuming you use it for everything and grow by 5% per year).

    Nuclear plants are easiest and most economic to run on a 24/7 basis. This could be achieved by providing an alternate load, in the form of a methanol plant (or choose your favorite liquid fuel); instead of the hard task of regulating the electric grid by switching electric plants on and off, you just vary the rate of liquid fuel production. The fuel than keeps your SUV on the road. With such a set up, even more variable sources such as wind, solar and hydro could easily be plugged in to make more fuel.

  • by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Monday May 24, 2004 @10:02AM (#9237323)
    The uber-parent has two fundamental misconceptions as written, and as such serves to mislead those who may not have had the time nor exposure to differences of opinion.

    Firstly, it is highly questionable if the "Left" failed to stop Nazism, or even logically could have, as Nazism was an outgrowth of socialism combined with nationalism. The economist F.A. Hayek, in "The Road to Serfdom," noted that socialism would almost inevitably grow into a nationalist ideology. It is worth noting that the full name of the Nazi party was the "National Socialist German Worker's Party." Only those who deny the reality that socialism has a strong tendency to evolve into a totalitarian government, especially as the private means of production allows one to direct their own life as they see fit, and the state appropiation of this would lead to total control over the populace, if the program of socialization was utter and total.

    As for global warming, the consensus among the scientific community is by no means solid. Perhaps 10% at most are convinced that global warming exists, that it's effects would be harmful to humanity, and that this could not be checked by human innovation. The vast majority of the scientific community, on the other hand, is either not convinced of its existence, or believe that the effects of global warming would be far less catostrophic that the Cassandras would have us believe. Indeed, it has been theorized that slight global warming would lead to longer growing seasons and greater crop production. As for the claim that such diseases as malaria would extend its reach beyond its current reach, we must remember that malaria was once widespread among the United States, and that it was public health initiatives, not a more temperate climate, that eliminated this scourge from the nation. Others point out that we are still coming out of an ice age, and that tropical conditions once existed far north and south of the Equator as at present, and they believe global warming is only a result of the natural cycle of the Earth's climate.

    Let me make clear that I am in no way stating that those who believe otherwise are flawed or otherwise of poor character. The vast majority who hold views contrary to my own no doubt hold good intentions, but are in my opinion, due to the lack of diversity of thought throughout much of the common media, misinformed, or at the very least not confronted with alternative viewpoints that may challange their preconcieved notions of the world. However, let it be made clear that while one can disagree whether Nazism was on the "Left" or the "Right," it was an outgrowth of socialist thought of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Likewise, regardless of where one stands on the theory of global warming, the fact of the matter is that the scientific community as a whole is divided on this issue, with the current consensus of the vast majority that it either does not exist, is occuring naturally, or is occuring naturally and/or is man made, but will overall be beneficial to humankind.

    • by fluffy666 (582573) on Monday May 24, 2004 @10:52AM (#9237803)

      Firstly, it is highly questionable if the "Left" failed to stop Nazism, or even logically could have, as Nazism was an outgrowth of socialism combined with nationalism.

      Then why was the left of the day going off to fight in Spain against the Fascists, who were supported by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy? Both of these were more corpratist/nationalist than socialist - indeed, the socalist elements in the Nazi party discovered just how sincere their leadership was about socalism on the night of the long knives. The Nazi party was funded by the largest german cooporations with the express intention of repressing the german communist party. I strongly suggest that you read your history books without ideological filters on next time.

      As far as global warming goes.. you are completely wrong to say that we are 'just coming out of an ice age'. Temperatures peaked around 6000 years ago and had been slowly declining since then. Man made global warming is accepted by the vast majority of scientists, whatever you wish to assert; it is the magnitude that is up for debate.

  • by IAmMaxHarris (750973) on Monday May 24, 2004 @11:37AM (#9238223) Journal
    Frequently asked questions about nuclear energy [stanford.edu]

    (John McCarthy is known for being the man responsible for Lisp, and some AI research, among other things. I'm surprised that the pages I'm pointing to haven't been mentioned yet in this article.)

    Also, you may be interested in his take on progress and sustainability [stanford.edu].

  • by Hibernator (307430) on Monday May 24, 2004 @11:49AM (#9238390)

    Most people don't seem to be aware of the fact that coal power plants are more radioactive [ornl.gov] than nuclear power plants.

    It is also now possible to design nuclear power plants so that they fail safe [popularmechanics.com], unlike the poorly designed plant at Chernobyl.

    Safety-driven memes [surrey.ac.uk] are difficult to counter, but once we run out of options [dieoff.org] perhaps we'll do what we must.

  • by TheNarrator (200498) on Monday May 24, 2004 @12:00PM (#9238515)
    You know that oil consumption in China since 1990 has more than doubled Source [doe.gov]. India's is growing rapidly too Source [doe.gov]. I think it's time we realized that the rapid economic development of 2 countries containing a mere 2 billion+ people has something to do with rising oil prices in the U.S and the increase in Greenhouse gas emmissions. Guess what! The Indian government doesn't care to much about what the European/U.S centric green movement says and the Chinese care even less. That's why they demanded to be exempt from the provisions of the Kyoto treaty.
  • by aquarian (134728) on Monday May 24, 2004 @01:42PM (#9239558)
    Environmental issues aside, what are the real costs of nuclear power? In the early days it was sold as the cheapest energy source available -- "practically free." The question is, how cheap is it, really? How much of the cost is actually being carried by the taxpayer?

    From research and development to mining and processing uranium to disposing of waste, everything is subsidized by government programs. Since many of these are high security defense programs, we'll never know the true cost. Furthermore, government contractors like Bechtel who do this work also do other government work, obscuring the true cost of the nuclear work. A similar example would be Boeing -- its cost of producing airliners is subsidized by cushy defense contracts, but we'll never really know by how much.

    I'm not arguing that government subsidies are wrong. But we must know the true costs if we're going to make fair comparisons, and the true costs of nuclear power are very well hidden.

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