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Earth Power Science Technology

Why James Hansen Is Wrong About Nuclear Power (thinkprogress.org) 645

mdsolar writes: Climatologist James Hansen argued last month, "Nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change." He is wrong. As the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and International Energy Agency (IEA) explained in a major report last year, in the best-case scenario, nuclear power can play a modest, but important, role in avoiding catastrophic global warming if it can solve its various nagging problems — particularly high construction cost — without sacrificing safety. Hansen and a handful of other climate scientists I also greatly respect — Ken Caldeira, Tom Wigley, and Kerry Emanuel — present a mostly handwaving argument in which new nuclear power achieves and sustains an unprecedented growth rate for decades. The one quantitative "illustrative scenario" they propose — "a total requirement of 115 reactors per year to 2050 to entirely decarbonise the global electricity system" — is far beyond what the world ever sustained during the nuclear heyday of the 1970s, and far beyond what the overwhelming majority of energy experts, including those sympathetic to the industry, think is plausible.
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Why James Hansen Is Wrong About Nuclear Power

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 10, 2016 @02:08PM (#51273181)

    If it doesn't solve it completely, don't do it at all. Selectively applied of course..

    • by stomv ( 80392 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @02:34PM (#51273331) Homepage

      mdsolar's point isn't that we should build no new nuclear, at least not in this thread. His point is that nuclear can't, in and of itself, decarbonize the electric sector. We simply don't have the capacity to build that many nuclear power plants simultaneously, nor do we have the fuel, nor do we have the money.

      The first one might be overcome. After all, if world leaders were able to simultaneously lay out this plan and get political support for it, part of the plan would include training more engineers, trades, and other jobs necessary. We might not be able to build 100 per year in 2016 (or even 2020), but we could ramp up.

      The second one might be overcome. After all, with pressure for more fuel, we might go out and find more fuel, develop new techniques to find, recover, and process more fuel, etc. I doubt we could overcome it, but generally speaking if we went "long" on nuclear, at least some more fuel would turn up.

      The third one is the toughest. Nuclear power, today, is more expensive than wind and in some places, more expensive than solar. Given that wind and solar don't have the political opposition, don't have 10-15 year lags from "let's build it" to "let's turn it on", and can be built in more places at far smaller increments, it's really tough to argue that we should spend the money on nuclear when there are cheaper options. But -- that could change. Improving the regulatory climate could help lower construction costs, as could improvements in design. Wind and solar $/kW will continue to fall for a while, but perhaps their supply inputs will become scarce and, at least for wind, the locations for the best wind become scarce. At some point in the future it's possible that the $/kWh for nuclear will become cheap enough, but it's not there now.

      My view: don't put any option off the table, but let's spend our money to get the most decarbonization per buck. Right now, that means going long on energy efficiency, retiring the old coal units, building wind and solar where we can, and keeping (most) nuclear units already built up and running, so long as their safety is secure. Simultaneously, we should price carbon appropriately, eliminate subsidies on oil, coal, and gas, and be working to lower the cost of all no-carbon generating options using both technology and regulatory approaches. All of those things, together, will result in a steady least cost decarbonization of our electric sector, and if/when/where nuclear can beat out wind and solar, so be it.

      • Offshore wind (Score:4, Interesting)

        by mdsolar ( 1045926 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @02:49PM (#51273443) Homepage Journal
        Offshore wind looks to have a good chance at getting very cheap. The capacity there is overwhelming.
        • The problem with offshore winds is the high initial costs and high maintenance costs.

          • Higher cost than nuclear?

            • Re:Offshore wind (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @04:32PM (#51273915)

              > Higher cost than nuclear?

              Nuclear scales up better, and is more consistent than wind power. It also stands up to tropical storms much better, for those parts of the world that have them. The much larger difficulty for nuclear is its waste, which has never been handled well. Another is its limited supply: until and unless we can switch to thorium as a more plentiful nuclear fuel, uranium and similar high energy yield isotopes are rare. And refining "fuel grade" uranium is very awkward, and dangerous if misused to make weapons grade uranium. One can use breeder reactors to enhance low grade uranium, but it still consumes the low grade uranium.

              • Re:Offshore wind (Score:4, Informative)

                by MarkRose ( 820682 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @06:29PM (#51274481) Homepage

                "Fuel grade" uranium can be very cheap, depending on the reactor technology chosen. For instance, CANDU reactors run find on unenriched uranium. CANDU can also burn thorium.

                I think LFTR is the way to go, once the technology is fully developed, since it is much more efficient and produces far less waste.

              • The waste solution (Score:4, Insightful)

                by GPS Pilot ( 3683 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @09:02PM (#51275175)

                waste, which has never been handled well

                We built a perfectly good, and safe, and vast long-term waste sequestration facility inside Yucca Mountain [oregonlive.com]. It was never put into use thanks to brain-dead Nevada politicians. Never mind that it's not even in anyone's back yard.

      • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @02:59PM (#51273499) Homepage

        These "X can't solve our energy" problems debates all generally come back to the concept of, "I personally can't imagine it". They see what vast scale of effort/material/etc it takes to build something, declare it impossible, and then declare something that they don't know as much about and haven't yet been overwhelmed by to be the solution.

        Let's make it simple. If you're making hundreds of megawatts from something (let alone gigawatts), it's going to be mind-bogglingly huge and expensive, period. Doesn't matter whether you're talking about wind, water, solar, geothermal, nuclear, or whatnot - anything that can make and harness that much power is huge.

        Since this is about nuclear: here's a cutaway [wordpress.com] of a "small" (180MW) reactor. This is just the reactor building, not all of the associated buildings, such as the (very large) turbine house, primary and backup support systems, power distribution infrastructure, and on and on. Again, that's a small reactor. And not only does all of that have to be built, but engineered to great precision, for the obvious reasons of the toxicity of what it's containing and the highly corrosive environment that it creates. Now think of how much you'd have to build to add new/replacement 3-4 terawatts. It's mind bogglingly vast.

        But you know what, it's all mind bogglingly vast. 3-4 terawatts of dams is mind-bogglingly vast. 3-4 terawatts of wind turbines is mind-bogglingly vast. 3-4 terawatts of solar panels and the factories to churn them out is mind-bogglingly vast. And on and on and on. There's a reason why electricity production eats up such a large chunk of the planet's GDP - it deals in mind-bogglingly vast things. Some things take less material and more manpower, while others take more manpower and less material... and ultimately material itself equates to manpower. All of these things are captured in the construction cost figure, which amortized plus maintenance and operations costs yields the cost of the electricity. So one doesn't have to trust some sort of "I can't conceive of that, it's too big!" sense - they just need to look at what the power costs (undistorted by external factors). The market will pay for whatever is cheapest, and will build whatever factories or mines or whatnot that it needs to in order to make it happen.

        Turnaround times are an issue, but they're not be-all end-all. Because even the longest turnaround times on projects are generally no more than a decade to a decade and a half. Climate change is an issue that needs to be approached over the course of decades. So even if the need to ramp up production of the projects' "dependencies" before the projects themself can commence, there's still plenty of time. IF there was confidence that that it's the best option.

        Ultimately, however, since people can't see the future, nobody knows what's going to be cheapest. Different people have different views. Different countries offer differing market conditions and resources. So ultimately, no one solution is going to be taken up as the "be-all, end-all". Many routes will engage in parallel, and with each iteration, the data gleaned from earlier attempts will influence decisions as to what to make next.

        But one thing is for sure: what ever is built, it's going to be mind-bogglingly vast. That's what we 7,4 billion humans do.

        • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @05:29PM (#51274203)

          Yes imagination can get you when you don't see how simple the construction itself is. That building, it's simple. Yes it requires the use of special materials but the structure itself is far simpler than any skyscraper would ever be. Those reactors? Simple by any standard used in the process industry. Which only leaves the question of scale.

          I was right there with you in my thoughts. I thought scale was an incredible problem right up until I visited the largest oil refinery in Europe after visiting a tiny one in Australia. Everything was the same, the equipment was the same, the way they worked was the same, the effort put into maintaining it was the same. Things were only slightly larger though. A refinery that had 6 times the throughput had far less than double the foot print and the reactor vessels etc were less than double the size. Likewise on the co-generation facilities. Turbines with 10 times the power generation capacity were also less than double the size.

          I also had the opportunity to visit a large industry motor / generator repair house to go check on the progress on one of our 2.5MW motors while they were overhauling a 300MW generator for the local power station. The diameter of the rotor was maybe 5 times the size of our little baby but the duty was over 100 times the power. My mind was absolutely blown. Powerlevels and throughput of industrial machinery scale what seems like exponentially with the size of equipment.

          • Correct: the systems shown in the cutaway diagram [wordpress.com] are not that complex. In fact, over the decades, more engineering has gone into the subsystems inside the tractor-trailer truck that's included in the picture; its engine, and electronic engine control system, and diesel exhaust scrubber, and even the design of its tire tread, to name a few examples.

          • Not exponential. Cubic.

            Everything you've described is a cubic relation. Take the motor: 5^3 * 2.5 = 312.5, bang on the 300MW you quoted. And the 10x improvement for double the size? Well, the cube root of 10 is a bit over 2. It makes sense. Size is generally considered in terms of linear dimensions. Stuff happens in the volume however, and that grows as the cube of the linear dimensions.

            Exponentials are better, but cubes ain't bad either. For example, the sun has about the same power density as a compost he

        • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @05:39PM (#51274259)

          But you know what, it's all mind bogglingly vast. 3-4 terawatts of dams is mind-bogglingly vast. 3-4 terawatts of wind turbines is mind-bogglingly vast. 3-4 terawatts of solar panels and the factories to churn them out is mind-bogglingly vast.

          This is what people don't seem to get. They compare Fukushima to a single wind turbine failure and proclaim wind is safer. Um no, Fukushima's generation capacity was equivalent to about 7,000-10,000 wind turbines. And on a global aggregate, the number of deaths caused by wind turbines per MWh of energy generated far exceeds the number of deaths caused by nuclear, Fukushima and Chernobyl included. Nuclear is safer, its deaths are just more exotic radiation deaths which, like an airliner crash, happen all at once and grab headlines, not mundane falls by maintenance workers which don't even make the local news.

          The global installed PV capacity is about 200 GW. But that's just peak generating capacity. Once you factor in night, weather, angle of the sun, maintenance, PV solar only has a capacity factor of about 0.125 [euanmearns.com]. So that 200 GW of capacity only generates 200*0.125 = 25 GW on average throughout the year. Fukushima Daiichi I had a capacity of 4.7 GW, and nuclear's capacity factor worldwide is about 0.9. So its average generation had it remained operational would've been 4.2 GW. In other words the combined power generation of every PV solar installation in the world is slightly less than just 6 Fukushima-sized power plants.

          That's the huge difference in scale we're talking about when comparing these technologies. How many people died installing and maintaining all those PV installations throughout the world? If it's more than 1/6th what Fukushima killed, then PV solar in regular operation kills more people than half-century-old nuclear technology on its worst day.

          • This is what people don't seem to get. They compare Fukushima to a single wind turbine failure and proclaim wind is safer. Um no, Fukushima's generation capacity was equivalent to about 7,000-10,000 wind turbines.

            So much of the story is left untold, thank you for telling. No one ever seems to ask: What is good about Fukushima Daiichi?

            Fukushima's first reactor went on-line in March 1971 [cite [wordpress.com]] and 5 others followed up to 1979. Without accounting for cumulative downtime (hard to find), let's keep it simple, cut everything here by a third if you like, I come up with a combined total of ~159.12 Gigawatt-years of electricity. That's ~636.5 million tons of coal [cite [eia.gov]] that did not have to be expensively imported and

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by vtcodger ( 957785 )

        "The third one is the toughest. Nuclear power, today, is more expensive than wind and in some places, more expensive than solar."

        Not if you can handle fourth grade arithmetic. If wind and solar are so cheap, why do you have to bribe people to build them?

        The answer is that wind and solar are intermittent power sources and unless you can match them to a load (e.g. solar and air conditioning) you need to include the costs of storage and or (much of the cost of) backup generation. When you compute the actual

        • by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @03:56PM (#51273763) Journal

          Note that the world leaders in green power -- Denmark and Germany have retail customer electricity prices approaching 40 cents a kw/hr. And German carbon emissions have actually been increasing despite their massive wind and solar buildout.
          Wrong on all accounts.
          Neither is CO2 emission increasing nor do we have so high prices. The typical price mentioned in the internet is something like 28cents. And that is only so high for two reasons: we don't use much power, so we have a relatively high "base cost" and we have taxes, note able CO2 taxes on power.
          It would make more sense to compare a 900 sqare feet flat total energy costs in your country with mine ... I have something like 3500kWH per year, for the flat, two persons. So mine is something like 1750kWh. As my combined gas and electricity bill is more 720EUR per year, 2/3 of it for gas. This is roughly 235EUR for electricity, which turns to 13cents ... see: the "average of 28 cent" is already wrong for my personal electricity bill. But perhaps I have it wrong in my mind and electricity versus gas is 1/1 and I pay 360EUR per year for electricity, that would be: 20cent. Oh, I forgot, I got a refund of 500EUR this year, so last year I only payed 1000EUR (720*2-500), so the prices above are much lower even.

          In Denmark electricity prices are high because of the even higher taxes.

          Comparing Apples with horse shit makes no real sense. You want to argue that going for wind and solar would make electricity expensive in your country, but it would not. Both are meanwhile cheaper than coal and nuclear, so regardless of the tax scheme or what ever reason keeps your electricity prices low, it wont change just because you switch to green energy.

          • by FlyHelicopters ( 1540845 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @05:35PM (#51274231)

            https://www.ovoenergy.com/guid... [ovoenergy.com]

            That says German average price is 35 cents per kWh.

            Do you dispute that number being the average across Germany?

            The US number given is 12 cents, and that is accurate for the average, but I pay much less, just over 7 cents in Texas. That doesn't make the 12 cent number wrong, just that it isn't MY number.

            Maybe your number is lower, but I suspect that 35 cents is correct as a national average in Germany.

        • by jblues ( 1703158 )

          In some Jurisdictions, the choice was taken to subsidize initially, however Wind turbines reached grid parity (the point at which the cost of wind power matches traditional sources) in some areas of Europe in the mid-2000s, and in the parts of the US around the same time. Falling prices continue to drive the levelized cost down and it has been suggested that it has reached general grid parity in Europe in 2010, and will reach the same point in the US around 2016 due to an expected reduction in capital costs

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by kenwd0elq ( 985465 )

        The biggest cost factor for nuclear power _IS_ the level of irrational political opposition. When you have to litigate and re-litigate and re-RE-litigate every application and every engineering change a dozen times over, it becomes nearly impossible to do anything.

      • Nuclear power, today, is more expensive than wind and in some places, more expensive than solar.

        While this is true for the actual generation of the power it does not take into account the additional costs connected with these technologies.
        Storage; These technologies are not dispatchable. One can not turn up the wind or sun when needed. They are also variable. Wind speeds can change minute to minute and storms can vary solar output hour by hour. To overcome this storage is needed to level out the flow.
        Transmission; These technologies are only viable in certain area. For example, solar in Michigan would

      • by w3woody ( 44457 )
        But we have the capacity to entirely replace our electric grid with solar and wind?
      • by Xyrus ( 755017 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @04:03PM (#51273789) Journal

        mdsolar's point isn't that we should build no new nuclear, at least not in this thread. His point is that nuclear can't, in and of itself, decarbonize the electric sector.

        Yes, it can. Nuclear power has a ridiculous energy density.

        We simply don't have the capacity to build that many nuclear power plants simultaneously,

        We most certainly could. The biggest hurdle is policy, which adds enormous cost and time to nuclear power projects and makes it so that only handful of companies even want to try.

        nor do we have the fuel,

        Again, this is not really issue. Compared to the massive increase in mining that would be required for, say, building billions of solar panels the increase needed to support increased nuclear is a mere pittance.

        nor do we have the money.

        Yes we do, if we had any sort of a sane process. Most of the cost of a solar plant is spent just dealing with that. The actual cost of the plant is just little more than an equivalent coal plant, and takes about a year or two longer to build.

        I'm all for renewables, but the ramp up and resulting ecological disaster zones that would be created by creating massive pit mines to get all the materials for building out on the scale necessary to "decarbonize" never seems to be discussed. We would have to increase production by orders of magnitude, and we simply cannot do that in any reasonable time frame. We can't even do that with all nuclear.

        In the meantime, a mixture of both will get us towards that goal but we need to set aside for "adaptation" strategies.

        The real problem, of course, is this should have been started several decades ago.

  • Worthless post (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 10, 2016 @02:11PM (#51273197)

    mdsolar, this is absolute trash. No citations, only "it can't work". Fuck you and your worthless do nothing attitude. Please leave. You are approaching Bennett Haselton levels here. No, actually, he prodives bad arguments and poor citations. This is actually worse. This is Jon Katz level.

    • Re: Worthless post (Score:3, Interesting)

      This is Jon Katz level

      Damn, dude, that is harsh.

      Straying back on target, fast breeder reactors are the only way to clean up the nuclear waste mess previous generations have left us to deal with (leaving 300kilo-year waste is wildly irresponsible - the "greatest generation" were selfish assholes, thematically speaking). Accepting that, decarbonization is a convenient side effect for those who don't want a warmer world.

      115 per year is similar to a number I posted here a decade ago - it's only unachievable if

      • Has a breeder program. Sounds like a great plan.
        • You already know this, but you're too busy trolling to be accurate: all isotopes of Plutonium are not equal. Yes, you create Pu-239 in a breeder reactor. And if you aren't looking to create weapons, you leave the thing turned on for an economical amount of time instead of the incredibly short time required for making weapons, and you also get Pu-240 and Pu-241 in ever-increasing concentrations... which makes the material unsuitable for weapons.

          But I guess sharing the true nature of what's going on doesn'

      • decarbonization is a convenient side effect for those who don't want a warmer world.

        The only way to not have an unbearably warmer world is to reduce our energy usage. If energy usage continues to grow at it's current rate, regardless of the technology used to generate it, earth's oceans will boil away in a few hundred years: http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the... [ucsd.edu]

        • by khallow ( 566160 )

          The only way to not have an unbearably warmer world is to reduce our energy usage. If energy usage continues to grow at it's current rate, regardless of the technology used to generate it, earth's oceans will boil away in a few hundred years:

          So the only way to avoid exponential growth in energy consumption for the next few centuries is to cut our energy usage right now. Did I get that right?

          • "So the only way to avoid exponential growth in energy consumption for the next few centuries is to cut our energy usage right now. Did I get that right?"

            You have it right. I'm sure the news that not only can they not have two SUVs parked in front of the yurt, but running water, indoor plumbing, refrigeration, etc are out also will come as welcome news to the 6 billion or so souls living in undeveloped and developing countries.

            They won't mind. Riiiiiiight. Of course they won't. They LIKE living in pover

        • Don't worry by the time our energy usage is that high, the mass of humanity will form a singularity due to population growth.

          Oh you think it's ridiculous to use an exponential growth projection for population indefinitely into the future ? Hmmmmm

    • RTFA http://thinkprogress.org/clima... [thinkprogress.org]
    • Re:Worthless post (Score:5, Informative)

      by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @02:41PM (#51273385) Journal

      mdsolar, this is absolute trash. No citations, only "it can't work".

      There's a link in the summary. I suggest clicking on it. It contains supporting evidence for what is stated in the summary, which is what most people would consider a 'citation.'

  • Wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @02:15PM (#51273225) Homepage

    {anything} is the only viable path to {anything}

    Is wrong by definition.

  • by tylersoze ( 789256 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @02:16PM (#51273231)

    In all these debates I'm always amazed how the simple "big picture" of the physics involved is disregarded. It all boils down to energy density. Is there any other power generation technology that comes close? The only other alternative is to reduce our energy usage and if that ain't gonna happen you need to build lots of reactors producing lots of energy. Sure you can cover the surface of the Earth in solar panels I suppose, but that seems to be a bit of a maintenance headache (not to mention the energy cost of creating the panels in the first place). It seems to me all the negatives of nuclear boil down to the cost of making it safe which surely we can do a more efficient job of? We can't keep holding out hope for fusion, we need to make plans for relying on fission for the foreseeable future.

    • Thermal power plant need cooling and nuclear need the most to protect the fuel. Already cooling resouces are limited and will become more so. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/... [bloomberg.com]
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ericloewe ( 2129490 )

        Wow, that is some incredible circular logic.

        Global Warming is threatening our ability to cool stuff using water [Citation needed], by the way.
        We can't stop Global Warming using nuclear power because we won't be able to cool stuff using water.

        Do everyone a favor and stop spreading FUD.

        • Well that is definitely a consideration that would need to be taken into account in the short term, but yeah is a circular argument that shouldn't take nuclear off the table.

          On a minor note, any power generation technology that isn't using the energy from the sun is technically contributing to warming the Earth since we're liberating energy that is currently stored. Although I presume that's probably irrelevant since that eventual thermal energy is radiated from the Earth and small compared to the overall e

          • If (big if there) direct warming of the Earth is an issue with Nuclear, just build a few more and use the power to trap carbon dioxide. I hear long chains of carbon with hydrogen are quite easy to store underground. Bam, less greenhouse effect, more cooling and the waste heat problem is solved. If it even exists.

            As a bonus, apparently, these long chains also work well as a fuel, so it would be a carbon-neutral solution for applications where batteries or similar technologies won't work (like aircraft).

        • Why you need a citation for a no brainer is bejond me ;)

          We can't stop Global Warming using nuclear power because we won't be able to cool stuff using water.
          Do you know why Germany is selling so much power to France during summer time?

          I guess not. It has something vague to do with cooling of nuclear power plants, google is your friend, so I can spare me citations for what is considered 'common knowledge' here in my world ....

      • Yes, uranium reactors need massive amounts of cooling. Thorium reactors don't. Given the immense reserves of thorium on the planet(as common as lead) if the greens had been pushing that since the 70's, we could have eliminated coal completely and the majority of oil and LNG usage within the next 30 years.

    • by SoftwareArtist ( 1472499 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @03:16PM (#51273593)

      > Sure you can cover the surface of the Earth in solar panels I suppose, but that seems to be a bit of a maintenance headache (not to mention the energy cost of creating the panels in the first place).

      Ok, you just managed to make three totally false claims in the space of one sentence:

      1. You would need to cover the entire surface of the Earth in solar panels to supply all our energy needs. No. Not even close. Consider that if you cover the roof of a typical house in solar panels, they will generate more energy than what is used by that house. You can find lots of details at http://www.techinsider.io/map-... [techinsider.io]. "If solar is 20% efficient (as it has been in lab tests) at turning solar energy into power, we'd only need to cover a land area about the size of Spain to power the entire Earth renewably in 2030." In fact, solar compares quite favorably to other energy sources in terms of land area required, if you take into account things like the land needed to mine coal or the area of the reservoirs needed for hydroelectric. And for solar, much of that "land area" can just be on top of roofs that are already there.

      2. Solar panels require more maintenance than nuclear power plants. Seriously? Is that a joke? Once installed, solar panels take almost no maintenance at all. Operating a nuclear power plant is a very complicated, very expensive business. There's no comparison at all.

      3. Creating solar panels takes more energy (or almost as much energy) as they produce. This is a myth that's been floating around for years, but has never been true. From http://solarcraft.com/solar-en... [solarcraft.com]: "A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory conclusively demonstrates that the manufacturing energy cost versus the energy production payback for solar modules is generally less than 4 years." And you think it takes no energy to build and operate nuclear power plants, not to mention mining uranium?

      • by FlyHelicopters ( 1540845 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @06:01PM (#51274361)

        Consider that if you cover the roof of a typical house in solar panels, they will generate more energy than what is used by that house.

        There are several things wrong with that statement.

        First, that isn't true of all houses. I've had my house looked at, covering my roof would provide only 1/3 of my total energy use, and that is taking into account multiple energy efficient improvements that I've made.

        Second, houses do NOT use the majority of power. They actually are a modest user of power. Manufacturing and industrial uses use far more power.

        • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

          There's nothing wrong with that statement.
          you're using a personal anecdote to refute an engineering analysis based on nationwide averages.

          the analysis has been done.
          we know how much energy humanity uses.
          we know how much area with today's panels it would take to generate that much energy.
          we know many different ways of finding that much area.

          such as installing on every residential structure in the US. that alone with panels would create more energy than the entire planet uses. add in commercial and you double

    • In all these debates I'm always amazed how the simple "big picture" of the economics involved is disregarded. . .

      The nature of some technologies result in centralized and monopolistic markets. In contrast, some technologies are conducive to decentralized and competitive markets. In the end, commoditization wins through rapid advancements and by pricing everything else out of the market. For instance, look at all the centralized land phone lines NOT being installed in Africa, yet phone usage is booming [mit.edu].
    • > Sure you can cover the surface of the Earth in solar panels I suppose,

      Solar flux arriving at the Earth's surface is 25,000 TW, accounting for night and weather. That's 1400 times more than civilization's total energy consumption from all sources of 18 TW. Throw in other sources like wind, hydroelectric, nuclear, and biofuels, and you maybe need to cover 1/40th of 1% of the Earth. That's about 1/6th of the land area already covered by cities, so you can provide most of the needed area from rooftops a

  • LFTR (Score:5, Informative)

    by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @02:18PM (#51273247) Journal
    Nuclear powers' 'various nagging problems' won't be an issue if we started using thorium-based reactors [slashdot.org].
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rei ( 128717 )

      Everything in ((Field X)) would be so much better if they simply used ((Trendy Technology Y)) that I only have a superficial understanding of - yet all of those sheeple who actually work in the field refuse to give it the attention that I think it deserves! Check out this article in the Huffington Post that talks about how ((Trendy Technology Y)) could solve all the world's problems in ((Field X)) with no downsides!

    • Yes! Absolutely! Why don't our politicians get behind this technology? Well... I can't imagine it has anything to do with Thorium reactors being crap at making weapons grade fuel yet fantastically safe and cheap for making electricity. :P
  • Lack of fuel (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mdsolar ( 1045926 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @02:18PM (#51273249) Homepage Journal
    The proposal also runs out of uranium before all the reactors are built. http://slashdot.org/journal/53... [slashdot.org]
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ericloewe ( 2129490 )

      That bullshit argument again?

      IIRC, it was thoroughly debunked by some simple investigation.

    • Umm, thorium reactors anyone?

  • Solved problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @02:22PM (#51273263)

    If you're going to complain about high construction costs it's worth looking at what has caused those costs. Nuclear power is completely unaffordable. We simply can't build any more plants. Yet somehow the world has built hundreds already with many in the USA which currently has very cheap power. The east is still building them. So what is this mythical high cost? After all the cost of materials has reduced, the cost of construction has only increased marginally and the designs these days aren't very complicated from a control perspective.

    Oh that's right regulatory overhead.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 10, 2016 @02:26PM (#51273281)

    James Hansen is right about this. Nuclear reactor technology has advanced to the point that safe-by-design reactors can be built, with technology that prevents meltdown in the event of total power and coolant failure. No other technology offers the energy density necessary to replace fossil fuel power plants.

  • The one quantitative "illustrative scenario" they propose — "a total requirement of 115 reactors per year to 2050 to entirely decarbonise the global electricity system"

    Who can write this with a straight face ? The premise that humankind should emit no carbon is ridiculous, even if you subscribe to the global doom claims. Even if you do feel that your net carbon emission should be zero (be sure not to get cremated) since when is Atomic Power the only non carbon emitting source of energy ?

  • Thorium reactors.
    • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @02:40PM (#51273367) Journal
      It's not the 'least worst option', it's the best option. Thorium is plentiful compared to uranium, and more to the point it's plentiful here in North America (no need to buy it from someone else), thorium reactors don't need the complicated high-pressure reactors that uranium-fueled reactors need, thus lower construction costs, easier and cheaper management, they can't 'melt down', and the list of problems solved goes on and on. People need to get over their paranoia about anything with the word 'nuclear' in it and allow themselves to be saved by LFT reactor technology.
  • renewables (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @02:40PM (#51273369) Journal
    There are two problems with solar: night and clouds. There is one problem with wind: it's not always windy. Wind installations are typically combined with natural gas burners to supplement electricity when it's not windy enough.
    Nuclear is the only power source that can handle a huge load constantly without interruption. That is why Hansen supports it, because if you want to stop releasing CO2 into the atmosphere without messing up our lifestyles, it's the only way with current technology.

    The article cites this paper [stanford.edu], which claims to have found a way to handle electricity generation from wind/water/solar while dealing with the interruptions. It assumes by 2050 all residential and commercial heating will have thermal storage, like this community in Alaska [wikipedia.org]. It is up to you to decide if that is a reasonable or practical assumption.
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      Fortunately, wind and solar complement each other nicely. The wind tends to pick up around sunrise and sunset, two times when solar is far from its peak. Storms also tend to bring increased wind at the same time they block the sun. As a result, wind and solar are anticorrelated, and the sum of the two is much more consistent than either one alone.

      But in any case, all this means is that we need to incorporate storage into the grid. That's a big project, but it doesn't require any new technology. Existin

  • But capable of %80. It's going to take a combination of everything. Run nuclear the backbone but use up renewable where and when you can get it.

    And I'll gladly live next to a reactor if I get a little something out of it... like free power for life. You could build it in the desert and I'd move right next to it and just crank up the AC.

    But really we need to focus more on small thorium reactors with enough classic reactors to breed the thorium. And truly our country needs to get off it's ass and start recyc

  • Nuclear power is NOT the be-all and end-all. That being said, Beijing is so polluted that it's sickening the country's LEADERS! As such, they have built some 25 Nuclear plants with another 26 or so coming on-stream. The French have an excellent nuclear program. Ontario does too (except for ridiculous cost overruns).

    Sloth: Sticking our heads in the sand rather than making the science better solves nothing.

    Thorium: Pretty much not able to go critical. The flaws are very high corrosion of the system but thor

  • by Applehu Akbar ( 2968043 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @03:09PM (#51273557)

    I have always suspected that the high upfront cost of new reactors is primarily caused by the Greens' legal delay strategy. Stretch the construction timetable out far enough, and bonding cost will eventually eat up any conceivable budget. Look to China to see what can be done where Greens have no input to the process. According to Reuters, China is building eight reactors of the standard AP-1000 design for $24 billion. In the US, we are close to spending about that much for just one new plant.

    And yes, the China program went through the same post-Fukushima safety check cycle as in Japan. Like Japan, they chose to proceed.

  • Renewables first. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by tchdab1 ( 164848 )

    Until we make a concerted national effort to maximize renewables throughout the grid and the country, any new nuclear should remain on the design table where it belongs. Nuclear will always be a neutron source and always result in a large amount of very toxic and persistent byproducts, and must be a last resort, always. Don't even consider a new nuclear reactor until sun, wind, water, tides, and even fart energy has been harvested to the max, or else you're just a mouthpiece for an industry looking to grift

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Sunday January 10, 2016 @04:22PM (#51273877)

    But I first need one answer: What are we going to do with the waste?

    I am certainly NOT going to accept that companies build reactors, reap the profits and then miraculously go out of business when the reactors are no longer profitable and society gets the spent fuel dumped on its back. Anyone building a nuclear reactor must prove that he not only has a plan for how to get rid of the waste but also the monetary background to do so. That money could e.g. be parked in government bonds, these things tend to have a long run time, much like those reactors.

    And we can ensure that way that the companies will clean up after themselves when everything's said and done. Because that's the one problem we face today whenever one of those things go out of business: They are dumped upon the population and we're stuck with a rotting piece of radioactive trash that costs a fortune to get rid of.

"The pyramid is opening!" "Which one?" "The one with the ever-widening hole in it!" -- The Firesign Theatre

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