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Bill Gates On Energy

Unknown Lamer posted about 3 years ago | from the agreeing-with-bill-gates-feels-dirty dept.

Power 474

Sam the Nemesis submitted an interview in Wired with Bill Gates on the future of energy. Gates sees nuclear as the only feasible option for base load generation. His views on the current direction of energy funding are particularly distressing: "But the economics are so, so far from making sense. And yet that's where subsidies are going now. We're putting 90 percent of the subsidies in deployment — this is true in Europe and the United States — not in R&D. And so unfortunately you get technologies that, no matter how much of them you buy, there's no path to being economical. You need fundamental breakthroughs, which come more out of basic research."

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474 comments

Say waht you will about MS (4, Insightful)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 3 years ago | (#36682448)

Say waht you will about MS but to me it appears old Bill is mostly right on this one. Things like solar and will will eventually become economical, but not in the immediate future. This is mostly due to the rising cost of fossil fuels, but there are some economies of scale. More basic research is needed but renewables will become economical on their own eventually.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (5, Funny)

sharkey (16670) | about 3 years ago | (#36682468)

As long as no Microsoft products are used in nuclear energy generation.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (4, Funny)

whovian (107062) | about 3 years ago | (#36682540)

It looks like you're having a nuclear meltdown. Would you like help?

o Get help with shutting down the reactor
o Just shut down the reactor without help
o Don't show me this tip again

Re:Say waht you will about MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682902)

I've seen Windows (And VB .NET) being used at wind turbine plants, I think the windows licensing sales for the power generation industry in total is probably irrelevant when compared to other industries.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1)

Nova77 (613150) | about 3 years ago | (#36682946)

relevant [cnet.com] ?

Re:Say waht you will about MS (5, Informative)

Sinthet (2081954) | about 3 years ago | (#36682498)

Wind power is already pretty good depending on the environment. A local ski-resort around here (BerkShire East), already runs entirely on power generated from a single windmill they put up. Not only do they manage to run the entire place on it, they make enough to sell to the local electric company. Not only are they saving money by getting rid of what I'm sure is a huge electric bill, they're making extra money they otherwise wouldn't have. So, in some situations, these alternate forms of energy are already economically feasible.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (5, Informative)

Tx (96709) | about 3 years ago | (#36682750)

That may be the case where you live, but in the UK, wind power depends on subsidies to exist at all. In fact on top of the subsidies, we've been paying wind farms to NOT produce electricity [dailyrecord.co.uk] . The trouble is our peak demand for energy is in winter, when we have a large stable high pressure zone over the UK, leading to very cold clear conditions, and that same high pressure zone means no wind. Hence wind farms are almost useless when they're needed most, but producing power when it's not needed. Until economically viable ways of storing energy from wind farms is found, they'll never be economically viable in the UK, and such storage appears to be a long way off at the moment.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682990)

There are ways of storing energy: CAES, electrolysing H20 into H2 and O2 (then storing the H2 for use in fuel cells). These are slowly becoming economical, especially the electrolysing method. The fuel cells are almost ready for mass production, in fact some very big companies in Germany and Australia are looking at waste H2 and UCG for fuel cell applications.

Obviously you're not going to produce 100% of required output through just one type of power production, a combination of nuclear, H2/fuel cells, wind, thermal, wave, UCG etc. will be the future. We shouldn't be putting all our eggs in one basket like we have done in the past with fossil fuels.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1)

stiggle (649614) | about 3 years ago | (#36683000)

Pumped storage schemes (like Dinorwig http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinorwig_Power_Station [wikipedia.org] ) - but you'll never get the planning permission in to flood a few more valleys to create them.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 3 years ago | (#36683092)

Yes, no one argue there are some specific uses for generating electricity from local sources. No rational person argues that concept However overall baseload power can't not be generated from alternative sources. It's a matter of power density.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (4, Insightful)

Stargoat (658863) | about 3 years ago | (#36682520)

There is not enough energy potential in solar power nor in wind / hydro-electric to match the energy potential from nuclear power and fossil fuels. As fossil fuels become more expensive, nuclear power will be the world's only option. Gates is right on this issue because physics dictates his correctness. No matter how much people may wish it, you cannot legislate past physical laws.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682600)

And nuclear power is totally safe. Just ask the Russians and the Japanese.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (2, Insightful)

cbeaudry (706335) | about 3 years ago | (#36682644)

Ignorance, does not a point make.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682730)

I'll ask the Russians and the Japanese how to do it wrong.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1, Interesting)

danbert8 (1024253) | about 3 years ago | (#36682938)

http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/03/deaths-per-twh-by-energy-source.html [nextbigfuture.com]

It IS the safest... How many have died in Fukushima? How many of those were from radiation?

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about 3 years ago | (#36683038)

"It IS the safest... How many have died in Fukushima? How many of those were from radiation?"

Indeed. Unlike the millions who die every year from solar and wind accidents.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36683108)

... yeah, I guess those millions of animals don't count.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | about 3 years ago | (#36683036)

Touche, but is there a source of energy that can meet global needs that doesn't have considerable health/safety/environmental issues? Keep in mind those global needs are growing hugely as much of the world develops.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682632)

You could argue that solar isn't constant and unpredictable, which could potentially be solved by better energy storage technologies, but to say that there's not enough energy potential in solar is crazy! Any idea how much energy falls on the earth, in the form of light, every moment on the day? It's several orders of a magnitude more than we're all using in a year!

Re:Say waht you will about MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682702)

We're not making floating solar plants, so there goes what, 60+% of that energy to waste. And we can't cover forests, parks and other areas in collectors, so there's more down the drain. Yeah, the sun bombards us with tons of energy, but how much can we actually gather.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (2)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 3 years ago | (#36682824)

Really you actually believe this. We get more energy from the sun than we could realistically use. If you doubt me then how about NASA [nasa.gov] . They even do the energy to mass conversion for you so we literally are getting tons (metric or short) of energy from the sun each day.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36683120)

why don't you share how to convert this to usable energy efficiently, because no one else on Earth knows how.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (2)

gnick (1211984) | about 3 years ago | (#36682848)

As fossil fuels become more expensive, nuclear power will be the world's only option.

I'm a big nuclear proponent, but fossil fuels (coal at least) is still abundant and cheap. It's not a permanent solution, but the expense barrier is mostly moving due to new restrictions rather than a lack of fuel. For the large portion of the population that simply wants cheap power in the short term rather than short-term costly but long-term essential fashion, coal is still attractive unless we can continue to shift public opinion.

Not enough energy potential in solar? (5, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | about 3 years ago | (#36682972)

What's the total life-cycle cost comparison though?

With solar I see the following:

up front:
Mining raw material for the panels, batteries, and electrical converters
manufacturing the components in a low-security factory
transporting the components on standard truck
installing the panels and conversion equipment to an existing structure or building frames to install on bare earth

down the road:
cleaning the panels
maintaining the circuitry
replacing batteries
having an electrician or homeowner possibly replace individual components over time if things fail

end of life:
remove panels from frames
remove frames from structure or earth
remove switching equipment and batteries
send panels, frames, and switching equipment to recycler
send batteries to mild hazardous waste disposal for disassembly or recycling

Potential problems:
solar panels smashed en masse in a hail storm - solar is offline until panels are replaced and structure is back on grid power. If owner has insurance, that is used to pay for the replacement.
Batteries leak, owner stops storing power for overnight use and goes back on to the grid, and replaces batteries and cleans up acid spill
Absolute Worst Case- solar system causes a fire and the small structure burns.

Contrast to nuclear:

Startup:
Spend billions to build obtain land, fight local opposition, and build the plant.
spend millions to obtain ROW to install power transmission lines
Refine nuclear fuel in a high security factory
transport fuel in an expensive manner via truck convoy
employ dozens, if not hundreds of engineers and technicians to fuel, power up, and baby sit the reactor

down the road:
continue to employ dozens, if not hundreds of engineers and technicians to baby sit the reactor
spend millions to refuel reactor as necessary
spend millions to store spent nuclear fuel in the proper fashion, forcing it to stay cool until it's no longer generating its own heat
maintain security at the facility

end of life:
spend billions to decommission and clean up plant site
find solution for storage of spent fuel?

possible problems:
contaminated water spills posing an environmental hazard requiring expensive cleanup
mismanagement of the reactor leading to core meltdown and environmental contamination (worst case similar to Chernobyl, but without the graphite moderator)
natural disaster leading to core meltdown and environmental contamination (Fukushima)
attractive target for terrorism

I'm for solar subsidy, especially once solar panel efficiency exceeds 40%, which they're almost to on the newest panel designs, especially for structures that can receive solar panels without spoiling the appearance of the structure. Commercial and residential structures with flat roofs, retrofitting houses with the backyard side on the south (as to no put the panels on the roof on the front of the house, for appearance), and building new structures with solar in mind from the planning stages all appeal to me. Give subsidy for Photovoltaics with battery storage, grid-tie-in, and intentional islanding (leaving the structure powered by the PV or batteries but separating from the grid when the grid itself loses power) and suddenly every home becomes a mini power plant. It might even cost more per unit of energy than bulk production like at large power facilities, but it also reduces or eliminates a need for more wiring infrastructure, adds failover, and in places like the southern portion of the country, provides power when it's needed most, during the sunniest days when the air conditioning is cranked down and when power grids tend to fail due to a lack of capacity. A big enough solar installation at a house can power the whole house and can sell back to the grid easily.

If people are worried about safety, have cities implement an inspection regimen at installation, significant modification, and every ten years or so. Nothing really expensive, just something to make sure that everything is hooked up properly and safely.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1)

poetmatt (793785) | about 3 years ago | (#36682522)

Solar won't become economical? Is that a joke? Have you looked at how far solar has come in the last...5, 10 years? That's not exactly a long time. Building more nuclear plants in the immediate future is not a solution when solar is getting pretty significantly efficient.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (3, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | about 3 years ago | (#36682588)

>Solar won't become economical? Is that a joke?

No, it's not a joke. And in places like here in the Northeast, it's totally out of the question.

Solar only works when the sun is out.

--
BMO

Re:Say waht you will about MS (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#36682680)

Solar only works when the sun is out.

I present to you several interesting concepts:

1. Batteries and other storage forms
2. Transmission lines
3. There has to be some good that came from stealing Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah from the Mexicans a couple of centuries ago.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (3, Insightful)

gnick (1211984) | about 3 years ago | (#36682922)

1. Batteries and other storage forms

If your goal is to save the environment, please don't bring up batteries. Although I will grant that there are other efficient and interesting power storage mechanisms (molten salt vats are kinda cool.)

2. Transmission lines

I think you underestimate transmission cost when collecting in Texas to power Maine.

3. There has to be some good that came from stealing Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah from the Mexicans a couple of centuries ago.

Texas is good for wind and the whole area is OK for solar if we can figure out how to do it right. But again, the postage necessary to transmit power from Texas to, say, NYC is non-trivial.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (4, Funny)

caluml (551744) | about 3 years ago | (#36683040)

molten salt vats are kinda cool

You're doing it wrong.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (2)

Rakishi (759894) | about 3 years ago | (#36682974)

1. Batteries and other storage forms

Go look up how many batteries you'll need to power the north for 20 hours a day during winter. We're talking about a scale where you use water and gravity as storage mediums because nothing else is really economical. Even that one is hard due to environmental and practical contraints.

So no, it's not a solution.

2. Transmission lines

These incur transmission losses, are somewhat prone to outages and most importantly don't help you at night. Or when a giant storm covers a significant chunk of your solar cells. So now you got to add in the costs of building a lot more solar cells than you need just to cover overcasts in other areas, etc, etc.

So, no, given current and foreseeable technology going solar for base load is a giant horrible expensive pain the backside. One that will never really go away baring some absurd technological improvement.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1)

lupine (100665) | about 3 years ago | (#36683098)

Pumped Water storage is 80% efficient, energy stored only depends on the reservoir size. Molten salt solar concentrators can be designed to provide power around the clock.

But the great thing about solar is that it's production curve is very similar to our electrical demand curve. Which means that expensive solar plants can replace expensive fossil fuel peaker plants.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 3 years ago | (#36682602)

I never said that solar won't become economical, actually just the opposite it will become economical. I was saying that it isn't economical now and won't be in the immediate future. Give it probably another 10 to 15 years and it will probably be able to compete without the subsidies in most of the US. The majority of the article also focused on other stuff as well such as misguided farm policies and differences between the rich nations and poor ones.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (2)

physicsphairy (720718) | about 3 years ago | (#36682752)

"Getting efficient?" So you want us to throw up a bunch of energy inefficient plants because we think in the future we will eventually have efficient ones? I don't understand why we would want to build the inefficient ones at all. Why not take that money and use it to get the efficient plants more quickly? That's what Bill Gates is suggesting, and it seems sensible to me.

Even if we get the fundamental technology in the next ten years (not guaranteed), plants do not spring up magically and instantaneously. We have to be building infrastructure *right now* based on our anticipation of our near-future energy needs. We can't wait ten years because someone is prophesying an energy miracle, be disappointed and then... what? Spend a few years of rolling blackouts while we try to get back on course?

If we think a certain line of tech is going to have a big payoff, then certainly we should invest in it. But we should not predicate the time-critical solution to our real and tangible needs on uninvented technology.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1)

poetmatt (793785) | about 3 years ago | (#36683052)

Nuclear plants have significant long term impacts. We can always replace a solar cell. You can't so easily get rid of the nuclear waste from a plant, and even when buried in concrete requires significant long term maintenance costs.

So no, spending more on nuke plants aside from fixing the maintenance that we don't even do [huffingtonpost.com] is a horrible and shortsighted idea.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (3, Interesting)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#36682524)

Things like solar and will will eventually become economical, but not in the immediate future.

As opposed to nuclear and it's ability to operate in the free economic market without government handouts, protections and subsidies? Ah, I get it. Or, rather not.

While at some level I agree with Gates that nuclear has the best chance of serving our near term (20-40 year) base load generation AND that we're better served putting a bunch more money in R&D (or at least getting rid of the remaining Gen I BWRs and the like an figuring out what to do with those neat glowing blue pools of spent fuel rods), it's not like anything other than fossil fuels can 'compete with the market'.

Now, we can argue about how fossil fuels don't count for external costs like running out of fossil fuels. pollution, gbobal warming^Hclimate change^Herrnevermind, but then we get into a discussion about economics and I don't want to ruin a perfectly good morning with that sort of unpleasantness.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682616)

$/kilowatt hour is the only metric worthy of discussion and Nuclear OBLITERATES the competition.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (2)

mellon (7048) | about 3 years ago | (#36682772)

When you can externalize all your risk, your apparent cost per kilowatt goes way down. Ask the Japanese what their cost per kilowatt, including the cost of the Fukushima meltdowns is. The problem is that when you externalize risk, the risk doesn't just magically go away. If nuclear were really economical, the public wouldn't have to offer loans to build the plants, and wouldn't have to assume liability for accidents.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (4, Insightful)

Rakishi (759894) | about 3 years ago | (#36683022)

You think fossil plants don't have this problem? They are a perpetual accident, we're just used to it and the cost (health problems, environmental damage, pollution, etc, etc.) are implicitly externalized onto society by now.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36683048)

Not when you account for all of the subsidies, especially in construction and waste disposal.

It's profitable for companies to operate, but huge amounts of government money and valuable grants of things like land and guarantees of access to cooling water get shoveled into it at the construction stage, which for some reason everyone seems to ignore when making claims about cost, and the waste isn't being properly disposed of, and everyone seems to expect government to eventually bear the unknown and indefinitely prolonged costs of that, to say nothing of the security and anti-proliferation burden.

Nuclear power plants only look good with crooked accounting.

Now, it's possible that future nuclear technologies will be economical. But we couldn't be reasonably confident of that until a decade or two of actually using them in practice, and we couldn't be certain until at least a century had passed, since nuclear power creates an indefinite burden of ongoing costs, and nuclear waste containment could turn out to be very expensive in the long term.

It's much more likely that future solar and wind and energy storage technologies will become economical in the near future. They don't have to be big projects. They can be done bit by bit by private individuals and small business. Anyone can be permitted to work on improving their technology, rather than needing government monitoring and buy-in. They are less likely to generate surprise costs.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 3 years ago | (#36682714)

I never said that nuclear can compete without subsidies and handouts. I think with the current public opinion nuclear is more or less dead in the country for some time to come. That leaves us with fossil fuels for which prices will rise due to either increased demand, lack of supply, or probably both. That is the funny thing about the market, right now nothing can really compete with fossil fuels, but as their price continues to rise due to scarcity (decreased supply or increased demand) other things will be able to compete.

Nuclear is proceeding (0)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 3 years ago | (#36682870)

Thankfully, the mania in Europe over nuclear power has not infected the U.S. - for the first time in a while new plant development is proceeding here.

If you really want to get rid of more coal plants, it is the only option for quite a long time... even if some people get panicky about it at higher levels cooler heads are prevailing (at least in the U.S.)

Re:Say waht you will about MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682662)

Solar and wind are not base load power sources... Until you understand that part anything you say about renewable energy sources has a huge gaping hole made of lack of understanding.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (3, Informative)

mellon (7048) | about 3 years ago | (#36682834)

Wind can actually be a base load power source—there are lots of places where the wind blows all the time. The problem is that the grid isn't tuned to make that work. Solar PV can't be a base load source, but solar thermal can, because of thermal mass. And you can build pump-storage power systems that pump water uphill when there's excess power, and then drain it back downhill through turbines when there's excess load [firstlightpower.com] . These systems are good for moderating load on the grid, but we don't have very many of them.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682684)

Unfortunately I agree. I wish Solar and it's cleaner brethren were more advanced (And they would be if we had done the intelligent thing 30 years ago and started really working on them) but they aren't and they aren't going to be in my lifetime. Nuclear is not the safest thing in the world (And if you doubt that, go over to Japan and ask them... or take a trip to Chernobyl) and it produces waste that we are going to have a problem with. But right now it's the only type of energy advanced enough to shoulder a large portion of the load...

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1)

whiteboy86 (1930018) | about 3 years ago | (#36682718)

I bet he is also patenting this new technology of his....., so ok, he might be right, but unfortunately for him the renewables are actually viable once the long term storage problem is resolved (so you can store the peak output for later, today this power is wasted), technology like the new flywheel energy storage using magnetic bearings are making this possible, bringing solar and wind back to the game.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1)

RivenAleem (1590553) | about 3 years ago | (#36682886)

So what you're saying is that fundamental breakthroughs, like the magnetic flywheel, are what's needed? You should be interviewed by wired instead of Old Bill.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | about 3 years ago | (#36682860)

Oil companies having using that line for 40 years. So when does the immediate future begin?

Re:Say waht you will about MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682916)

Umm. If Nuclear is economical then why is it ALL subsidized by the government. Most plants are in the red for 25 years before turning a profit which is why no company who ever build one without government funding.

Re:Say waht you will about MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682988)

What is economical is a question of politics. Nuclear energy is economical, because risks are mainly carried by the state. Who is paying for all the damage in Fukushima? Not the folks running that power plant! They are paying a lot less. They are never able to pay everything, because they were allowed to sell their power so cheap (of course everybody was happy with that).

No, Bill Gates is wrong (again). He should stay at his business. Tell us about the future of operating systems, Bill (but, please, a little more creative)!

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1)

tranquillity (137776) | about 3 years ago | (#36683080)

What is economical is a question of politics. Nuclear energy is economical, because risks are mainly carried by the state. Who is paying for all the damage in Fukushima? Not the folks running that power plant! They are paying a lot less. They are never able to pay everything, because they were allowed to sell their power so cheap (of course everybody was happy with that).

No, Bill Gates is wrong (again). He should stay at his business. Tell us about the future of operating systems, Bill! (but, please, a little more creative)

Re:Say waht you will about MS (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 3 years ago | (#36683096)

he's describing the basic model of Windows - it's not quite ready now but it'll be great in the next version when yoyu've bought the upgrade.

Also, performance is ok, but in the next round of hardware refreshes, PCs will become powerful enough to run the software well.

farst! (-1, Offtopic)

berwiki (989827) | about 3 years ago | (#36682454)

farst!

It takes 20 years to get from R&D into product (0)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 3 years ago | (#36682476)

That's waaaay too late.
 

The down side to nuclear is the waste (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 3 years ago | (#36682484)

The down side to nuclear is the waste where does it go? and Safety as all it takes is one MR burns cutting costs to make a big mess.

Re:The down side to nuclear is the waste (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682554)

You are a fucking dumbass for either (a) ignoring reactor designs that have manageable radioactive waste output or (b) not knowing about reactor designs that have manageable radioactive waste output. I can guarantee you that 20 minutes going through the past 2-3 years of Scientific American would have clued you in to the point where you wouldn't have made such a stupid fucking comment.

Re:The down side to nuclear is the waste (4, Insightful)

compro01 (777531) | about 3 years ago | (#36682590)

The down side to nuclear is the waste where does it go?

Into another reactor, then into storage for 100-ish years.

Re:The down side to nuclear is the waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682694)

well see, they take it from the ground, and... if approved, they put it back in the ground. Except they bury it deeper, and in classified form that can't seep out like the original uranium ore could. It's actually safer when they are done than before they started in some ways.

Re:The down side to nuclear is the waste (1)

tarpitcod (822436) | about 3 years ago | (#36682764)

The real fact is that the waste from a reactor is actually an upside. The processes described above, and by prior posters are much preferable to spewing radioactive material out into the atmosphere like coal plants do

Re:The down side to nuclear is the waste (4, Insightful)

NevarMore (248971) | about 3 years ago | (#36682792)

You also need to recognize that there are wastes and negative impacts from all forms of energy:
  - copper windings for any rotational generator have to be mined
  - rare earths for solar arrays are also mined
  - heavy metals (\m/\m/) and acids for batteries are not exactly harmless
  - coal ash, great big mountains of it
  - smoke and other pollutants from burning fuels
  - alteration of waterways for hydro or cooling plus runoff

The reality is we don't get energy for free and no current form of energy production is entirely without environmental consequences.To attack the challenges and consequences of nuclear power without honestly acknowledging the same from other forms of energy will lead to poor decisions.

Re:The down side to nuclear is the waste (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682850)

Not to mention the subsidy requirements. Nuclear plants are expensive and it can be really difficult to find investors -- IIRC, most Nuclear plants are heavily subsidized by the government.

Re:The down side to nuclear is the waste (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682948)

No it is not you *stupid fool*. Nuclear is the ONLY technology that actually manages its waste. The only one. If you care one bit about the environment, you would support nuclear precisely because of its waste management practices.

If fossil fuel energy managed all its waste, we would not be in the shit we are today. There wouldn't be catastrophic global warming. There would not be forest destroying acid rains. There would not be 1,000,000+ million people dying per year directly attributed to fossil fuel pollution and the diseases it produces. The ocean would not be polluted with mercury. Almost ALL lakes in the US are now so contaminated with mercury, it is not safe to eat fish from them! And the list goes on and on and on...

Nuclear waste is so *little* that even if you had to guard and monitor the dump and renew its containers for a billion years, it would still be very cheap. We are talking a few tons a year per reactor, if we don't do any r processing. Reprocessing could reduce this waste by 98% and provide more usable fuel) Simply a fund with $1-2 billion in it would be able to fund all the personnel in perpetuity simply from interest.

A coal plant burns *thousands of tons* of coal *per day*, producing hundreds of tons of toxic, carcinogenic waste *every day*, most of it going "puff" into the air you breath.

Bill Gates on climate change: (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682518)

"640 kwh should be enough for anyone"

I really hate it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682542)

I really, really, really, don't like that Mr. Gates is right about this. Not because I hate nuclear power or anything, I just don't like him being right.

Lomborg (1)

andreasg (1010787) | about 3 years ago | (#36682548)

Isn't this what Bjørn Lomborg has been saying for years?

Re:Lomborg (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 3 years ago | (#36682622)

Lomberg is staying!

I simply have to agree (3, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | about 3 years ago | (#36682564)

After the last discussion on energy options, I had since learned that many of the most desired alternative sources fail to be viable in the truest sense. Wind farms cost too much. They are expensive to maintain -- even more expensive than nuclear power plants. Solar just isn't there yet either though I feel that with more R&D, that will change... money spent on deployment of solar at the moment is wasted I think.

Perhaps only geothermal has the potential to replace nuclear as a longer-term solution but I have my doubts on that too. At the moment, it is only available to specific regions and those are also potentially unstable areas meaning that the same areas where geothermal is of use in the US also have active magma circulation relatively close to the surface. (If deeper drilling techniques were available, perhaps that problem could be overcome.) Once again, more R&D needed to make it viable everywhere.

Re:I simply have to agree (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682692)

the biggest problem with Wind Farms is not the expense, it's you cant rely on them to be at the needed capacity, so what you have is when wind isn't producing you have to rely on more traditional forms such as Coal, so what you have is you need to have to build more Coal power into the Grid to create excess capacity the more you use Wind.
When you do have the Wind that excess in Coal is still operational and polluting, so Wind Farm's actually cause more emission's indirectly.

Re:I simply have to agree (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#36682808)

Here is the base problem: It's not that everything else is too expensive, it's that fossil fuels are too cheap. Too cheap in the long run. We've had a something like 100 year run on FF and we're going to run out of cheap versions of it (the Peak Oil concept [theoildrum.com] ). We're too stupid and spoiled as a culture to really put the money down for the next base power technology so we're going to run up the credit card now and really have to change our minds on how we live in the not so distant future.

There is plenty of power around. We waste a perfectly enormous amounts of it and we know how not to, but it's not easy changing the way that billions of people do things.

So the invisible hand will slap the ever living crap out of us in about 50-60 years. Our grandkids will wake up with one hella hangover.

er, why? (0)

macshit (157376) | about 3 years ago | (#36682570)

Why are they interviewing Gates about energy? I mean, yeah, he's rich and all, but is there any reason to think he has any particular insight on the subject?

Re:er, why? (4, Insightful)

kervin (64171) | about 3 years ago | (#36682618)

1. You should into look at how Bill Gates has spent the last decade and then ask yourself your own question.
2. Even if you felt that way before the article, did he actually come off as a man who didn't know what he was talking about?

Re:er, why? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 3 years ago | (#36682836)

2. Even if you felt that way before the article, did he actually come off as a man who didn't know what he was talking about?

Had you asked me that in the waning days of the 20th Century, I would have said exactly that.

Re:er, why? (1)

ledow (319597) | about 3 years ago | (#36682620)

Of course not.

However, it's probably the only thing he's ever given an opinion on that I happen to agree with. I just find it funny that it's a comment about something far removed from IT where we actually see eye-to-eye.

Re:er, why? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682654)

In the U.S. the general assumption is that rich equals smart.

He's not qualified to speak to this.

Re:er, why? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682688)

Because he's one of the world's premier professional philanthropists with lobbyists and a research staff who's been involved with political and humanitarian advocacy full-time for ten years now?

Internet Explorer sucks and all, but Bill Gates is a very accomplished and intelligent man with a lot of influence. His opinions matter a great deal.

Re:er, why? (4, Insightful)

cbeaudry (706335) | about 3 years ago | (#36682736)

He's a technology geek, with lots of money. Has a charity foundation that's trying to find ways to help the other 80% of this earths population.

The #1 thing to help those people is to get them ENERGY.

So he invests in groups, companies, people to find solutions. That's what foundations do.

And as someone else mentioned, did you read the interview? I has very good points and insights even if some of them have been obvious to the geek /. crowd.

Re:er, why? (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 3 years ago | (#36683050)

The #1 thing to help those people is to get them ENERGY.

Yeah lets plonk some nuclear reactors down in Africa...

No what's needed first are stable political environments.

agreeing-with-bill-gates-feels-dirty (1)

kervin (64171) | about 3 years ago | (#36682638)

Yes, strange things happen when we put aside our prejudices.

Re:agreeing-with-bill-gates-feels-dirty (1)

spottedkangaroo (451692) | about 3 years ago | (#36682924)

Nonsense. When Mr. Gates isn't talking about Microsoft or Windows, he seems to be a very likable and smart public policy nerd and philanthropist.

Cool! A plug for Sadoway: (4, Informative)

Hartree (191324) | about 3 years ago | (#36682670)

One of the links is to Donald Sadoway's research group at MIT. His group works on the very topics that will make or break the shift to better energy sources and greater efficiency.

He's also a wonderful teacher who's put up a course at MIT open course ware. It's Solid State Chemistry 3.091 and it utterly rocks. If you want to understand how chemistry impacts energy efficiency and the properties of materials, this is the course for you. And, it's in a format that is great for self teaching.

3.091 course link [mit.edu]

I know it's a shameless plug, but give me a break. I work in a chemistry department that does a lot of work on improved energy related materials and methods.

Re:Cool! A plug for Sadoway: (1)

snl2587 (1177409) | about 3 years ago | (#36682822)

I was about to rip the summary for pointlessly linking to an MIT group (everything thing they do is gold and everyone else sucks, right?), but then I read the article.

Apparently, Bill Gates backs Sadoway directly. Thus, the link makes sense.

Can't forget Bill Gates didn't finish college (0, Troll)

leftie (667677) | about 3 years ago | (#36682708)

Bill Gates is smart and has a whole lot of field-specific knowledge about PCs. He's not well educated outside his field.

Let's let the let the guys with the PhDs in science, math, and engineering figure out energy policy.

Re:Can't forget Bill Gates didn't finish college (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682800)

Computer Science / Computer Engineering has an energy policy requirement?

Re:Can't forget Bill Gates didn't finish college (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 3 years ago | (#36682878)

Bill Gates is smart and has a whole lot of field-specific knowledge about PCs. He's not well educated outside his field.

Let's let the let the guys with the PhDs in science, math, and engineering figure out energy policy.

I dare say that Gates has picked up a lot since he dropped out of college. A lot of people as intelligent as him keep on learning and, with his philanthropic work, you can bet he's broadened his knowledge of many subject areas. I'm more willing to listen to him over a politician like Al Gore, or any number of celebrities that only became famous because of their looks. At the very least, I believe he is smart enough to not speak out about something that he hasn't educated himself in.

Re:Can't forget Bill Gates didn't finish college (1)

MrTester (860336) | about 3 years ago | (#36682882)

<quote><p>Let's let the let the guys with the PhDs in science, math, and engineering figure out energy policy.</p></quote>

Clearly you have no experience with how Democracies work....

Re:Can't forget Bill Gates didn't finish college (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36683104)

Actually that's exactly how they work. Policy is made by policymakers, not representatives. "leftie" is just worried that those PhD policymakers will make the "wrong" decision and go nuclear. When of course they should be deciding to use solar, wind, and static bicycles connected to generators like at Climate Camp.

Re:Can't forget Bill Gates didn't finish college (1)

tmosley (996283) | about 3 years ago | (#36682968)

Right, because no-one can ever learn anything on their own. Without that piece of paper from a university with a piece of paper saying they are allowed to give out pieces of paper saying "dis gui noes stuf" you don't know anything.

But then, I guess everybody wants to rule the world, don't they?

Re:Can't forget Bill Gates didn't finish college (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682992)

640 dollars/MWh ought to be good enough for anybody.

Re:Can't forget Bill Gates didn't finish college (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 3 years ago | (#36683044)

No way. Let Rick Perry, the GOP and the Evangelical right decide it at "The Response" prayer meeting and campaign fund raiser this August 6th. All that ivory tower elitist knowledge only gets in the way. This PSA brought to you by the great state of Texas, yee haw!

Re:Can't forget Bill Gates didn't finish college (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36683068)

Let's let the let the guys with the PhDs in science, math, and engineering figure out energy policy.

Do you have any idea what you are talking about?? Vast majority, by far, in the fields you listed are pro-nuclear crowd precisely because they are educated and know the problems and solutions of these problems. Bill Gates didn't conjure this up on his own. He is actually just saying what the science crowd has been saying for 50 years.. Nuclear is the only reliable, base-load option.

If you want solar to be reliable, base-load, then you need to get solar in geosynchronous orbit and beam down your power from there. Nothing else will really matter for reliable power.

Thorium, not Nuclear (1)

Klinky (636952) | about 3 years ago | (#36682710)

Nuclear is a waste of time, too complicated & too costly. Thorium is where it's at baby.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LeM-Dyuk6g [youtube.com]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nl5DiTPw3dk [youtube.com]

Re:Thorium, not Nuclear (1)

Klinky (636952) | about 3 years ago | (#36682774)

Yes, I am aware that Thorium is just a different fuel & uses technique for nuclear reaction.

Re:Thorium, not Nuclear (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682930)

oh, I thought you were going to power everything with old Coleman mantle lanterns. I was going to point out they needed "white fuel"

Re:Thorium, not Nuclear (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36683026)

so, why did you title your post "Thorium, not Nuclear"?

And since Thorium requires an extra step before the standard nuclear fuel cycle why is it less "complicated" than Uranium nuclear? I agree that Thorium is really promising, but I'm not sure how it's less complicated and less costly.

Re:Thorium, not Nuclear (1)

tarpitcod (822436) | about 3 years ago | (#36682826)

You do realize that Thorium is Nuclear too right?

Re:Thorium, not Nuclear (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682940)

Shhhhhh......he's on the right path. If we can just start calling it something else and abandon all the stigma of the "nuclear" keyword, we can actually get some new nuc....err....I mean thorium plants built.

Waste != waste if purposed correctly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682786)

Nuclear waste can be purposely recycled to the point of maximum returns. We're literally sitting on the pile of fuel (nuclear 'waste') that will power the world for years to come.

http://www.nationalcenter.org/NuclearFastReactorsSA1205.pdf

That's trickle-up economics (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36682846)

We're putting 90 percent of the subsidies in deployment — this is true in Europe and the United States — not in R&D.

And as a result the manufacturers get income which they can invest in R&D. Sounds better to me than blindly throwing money at them and hoping that one day they may produce something useful. It seems to work fine with both wind turbines and solar panels, both of whose costs have come [renewableenergyworld.com] down [ewea.org] significantly over the last 10 years and whose performance also has increased drastically. Trickle-up economics at its finest. And moreover a large market with quite a lot of small players, rather than a few multinationals raking in all of the cash.

Of course, with nuclear power there's the problem that you have to invest billions in research, wait for 10 years for the technology to mature, then another 10 years for the pilot projects to get built (not because people are inept or companies corrupt, but because the technology is so complex and the safety requirements are so high), and once it gets accepted then you need 40 years or more before you get a new significant market for the next technology node because it takes a long time for the initial investments to get recouped. And all the time you need all kinds of governmental support to keep the financial side of the picture bearable (insurance, research subsidies, administration of waste processing/disposal, security, ...).

And once the costs have been recouped, companies obviously want to keep the existing plants running for as long as possible since that's free cash, while dismantling gobbles up a lot of money.

Re:That's trickle-up economics (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 3 years ago | (#36683122)

"And as a result the manufacturers get income which they can invest in R&D."

It's so much more efficient to give money to an end user so they can give it to a company so that company can market, build and sell some inefficient tech and MAYBE invest their profit in R&D instead of more marketing, dividends, etc.

Yes, giving money to that same company, or a university research lab and saying "do R&D with this" is MUCH more complicated and far more inefficient.

Wrong - Again! (0, Troll)

metasepp (179540) | about 3 years ago | (#36683060)

Bill Gates doesn't get it. - Again -

He didn't get it on the Internet in 1995 and doesn't get it for renewables in 2011.

Nuclear power is only cheap if you don't include the waste disposal and the riscmanagement in the price.
If you think otherwise go to Chernobyl or Fukushima and se for yourself.

As for the disposal. No longterm deposit has been errected so far - world wide.

Including these risks onely in the Energy prices would mean to quadrupel the price per kwH.

Not to mention some other problems:
Scarcity of Uranium. Some Experts speak of "Peak Uranium" in analogy to Peak Oil.
Many nuclear byproducts are not only dangerous radioactiv matirials, some are among the most effective poisons known to man.

So please Bill, do some serious research on the subject, before blurting out some lobbiest DUMMTALK.

There is only on way to make the planet happier and better with nuclear power:
Shut it down ASAP.!

Thanks folks.

Going back to sleep now. ;-)

Graft (2)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about 3 years ago | (#36683072)

Politicians do not get enough kickbacks (I mean "campaign contributions") from the Basic Research crowd. Until this fundamental deficiency is addressed, the lack of public funding for basic research will not improve.

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