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Pandora's Promise and the Problem of "Solutionism"

Unknown Lamer posted about 10 months ago | from the blind-faith dept.

Earth 293

Lasrick writes "Kennette Benedict of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reviews Pandora's Promise, a new documentary that focuses on environmental activists like Stewart Brand who have gone from vehemently anti-nuclear to vehemently pro-nuclear views. Good points brought up by Benedict that weren't really addressed in the film." From the article: "The flaw in the film's approach is its zealous advocacy of one solution — one silver bullet — to meet the tremendous challenges of providing for some nine billion people by 2050, while also protecting societies from the ravages of climate disruption. The kind of thinking that led some of these environmentalists to single-mindedly protest nuclear power plants during the 1970s and 1980s leads them to just-as-single-mindedly advocate a push toward nuclear power 40 years later."

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293 comments

NIMBY (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984681)

Of course they want nuclear power -- they just don't want it here.

Re:NIMBY (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984739)

while also protecting societies from the ravages of climate disruption.

This is based on a flawed assumption- that the only way to protect society is to prevent disruption of climate. Climate will, ultimately, become disrupted through some mechanism or another. The goal should be to evolve our various societies to the point where humans are mobile enough that civilization can shift to follow the climate. The current goal of keeping the planet in perpetual stasis is foolhardy and unrealistic.

Re:NIMBY (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984817)

The current goal of keeping the planet in perpetual stasis is foolhardy and unrealistic.

Yes, let's grow gills and learn to live with less food. I think radiation will help with the first part, so I think all parties agree nuclear is the best of all worlds.

Re:NIMBY (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 10 months ago | (#43984837)

You want to evolve society so that 50% of the population can pick up and move? So that we not only grown enough food to feed everyone but also store enough to give us a couple years to switch plots and establish new farm land? So that we can all move toward the poles when the average temperatures at the equator are 2-5 degrees C more than they are today? Or will you just install 5 ton central AC in everyone's home, including all the people living on $2 a day? Or did you just mean the rich people? Or do you honestly think we can uplift the 9 billion people on the world so that everyone can afford the ludicrously lavish lifestyle that we all consider normal?

Re:NIMBY (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985371)

Or we can do what the environmentalists want, and kill off 90% of the human population.

Re:NIMBY (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984857)

I agree, especially since in the long term, there is no human species, just like there wasn't one a million years ago. Evolution is still happening.

Re:NIMBY (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 10 months ago | (#43984947)

Agreed, no matter what we do the climate is going to shift drastically. Unless we're light enough on our feet that we can adapt as things change, it's going to cost more in the long run, lives and money. That's going to need a rethink of how we operate on a lot of levels but needn't lead to a reduction in quality of life. I have some difficulty imagining such a society in fact, but recent technological advances will make it much easier, ubiquitous communication and computing, the unification of many devices into one, and of course renewable energy.

Re:NIMBY (1)

rioki (1328185) | about 10 months ago | (#43985011)

Come back to me when you invented FTL and found a suitable "M class" planet. Yea then we can all just "move away".

Re:NIMBY (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 10 months ago | (#43985131)

I have some difficulty imagining such a society in fact, but recent technological advances will make it much easier, ubiquitous communication and computing

If you're facing the need to relocate X billion people from place A to place B in a matter of three to five decades or so, your iPhone 13 will do you a fat lot of good.

Re:NIMBY (4, Interesting)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 10 months ago | (#43985401)

On the contrary, portable computing (albeit of a larger form factor than the phone) is a tremendous help to a population on the move, because it represents access to both instantaneous news, weather reports, supply points and so on, as well as a vast depth of knowledge, which allows skills to propagate and spread with ease. Think of a question - google the answer. Need to fix a car, search for the schematics and instructions. I did just that last week, never touched the internals of a car beyond the basics before in my life, next thing you know I was crimping electrical wiring together and diagnosing problems, and it worked fine.

You have the largest library, trade school, and university ever imagined right at your fingertips, and believe me knowledge is power. We haven't even begun to realise the implications of this as a society.

And don't ever underestimate the power of communication - Genghis Khan didn't conquer most of Eurasia because his troops were super badass ninjas, he won because his forces had far superor communications than the opposition, due to his fast riders. People able to communicate are people able to work together, and there's not much that can't be done with enough people working together.

I'm not worried about the basics, food, water, energy, we have and will always have a surplus of those. Mostly due to the last part there, with enough energy you can easily get food and fresh water, and we are drowning in energy.

Re:NIMBY (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | about 10 months ago | (#43985141)

while also protecting societies from the ravages of climate disruption.

This is based on a flawed assumption- that the only way to protect society is to prevent disruption of climate.

Does it actually say that?

Re:NIMBY (3, Insightful)

blueg3 (192743) | about 10 months ago | (#43985343)

If you think curbing CO2 emissions is expensive, wait until you see the cost of relocating New York City.

Re:NIMBY (2)

slim (1652) | about 10 months ago | (#43985437)

You're absolutely right about that. But the position (I'm not sure whether it's *my* position) is that we're going to have to move NYC (and London, and Rio, etc.) eventually, whatever happens. So why not stop throwing money at preventing the problem, and start throwing money at mitigating it instead?

James Lovelock is convinced that CO2 has passed the tipping point, the damage can't be undone. He's suggested abandoning all efforts to stop/slow it, and go all out in building flood defences, inland settlements, developing crops that work in the new conditions, etc.

Re:NIMBY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985447)

Nah, better to evolve society to the point that it can better sustain artificial environments, so people don't have to move.

Re:NIMBY (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 10 months ago | (#43985459)

Lets take that approach to medicine. "Yes, you are suffering from tuberculosis, but if it weren't for that, you'd just get sick from another disease, so just make yourself immune to disease."

The two goals are not mutually exclusive, and we will be better able to evolve to whatever it is you're suggesting if we have to spend less effort dealing with the effects of climate change.

Also I suspect you're only callous to the effects of climate change because your home doesn't happen to be a low-lying island which has been fine for generations but will soon be underwater because idiots prevented us from switching to nuclear power, and we instead kept burning coal.

China (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984781)

They will build them in China then, along with all jobs and industry. You will still have your banksters and McJobs of course.

Re:NIMBY (1)

gewalker (57809) | about 10 months ago | (#43984891)

Power lines are not favored by lots of environmentalists either -- they are concerned about the increased risks of cancer that they claim result from living next to power lines. If you really want to make extreme environmentalists happy, you need to kill off most people. Me, I prefer nukes as a "sure-bet", but if we waste fuel in light water water reactors without reprocessing, there is not enough uranium to power the world for a little more than 200 years at current usage rates. To make uranium last a long time, you need breeder reactors -- a technology that has yet to be proven to be safe and realiable (at least as far as I am concerned).

Thermal breeders (as opposed to fast breeders) would require a thorium fuel cycle because the number of neutrons produced per fission are less than or barely over 2 for the other potentially viable fertile/fissile isotopes.

Schadenfreude (0)

sycodon (149926) | about 10 months ago | (#43985333)

You have to admit there is a certain amount of Schadenfreude when watching the environmentalists trying to reconcile the fact that nuclear is the only practical solution to AGW and power needs and their distaste for nuclear.

I agree (2)

Andrio (2580551) | about 10 months ago | (#43984715)

The "you can only skip six times an hour" does indeed suck!

Re:I agree (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984761)

Q1) Women are nothing more than sex objects that men can abuse and discard.
A) True
B) True
C) True
D) True
E) All of the above.
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
|
(Correct Answer: E)

How is it not a silver bullet? (4, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | about 10 months ago | (#43984731)

It is the power of the stars, thousands of times more dense than any other energy source. Nuclear alone CAN stop the lights from going out as fossil fuels run out or become untenable due to the huge world population.

If that doesn't happen, it will be because solar undercut the price of nuclear without the waste or security problems... in that case, even better!

Uranium means it is not a silver bullet (2)

brunes69 (86786) | about 10 months ago | (#43984821)

Creaating nuclear power efficiently today requires uranium, something that is very limited on this planet.

If Fukashima has not occurred, we would be currently looking at a global uranium shortage in the next 5 years as existing major sources (re-purposing from old warheads) dry up and are not replaced with new mines.

Whenever production of power plants comes back on track, we will once again be facing such a shortage.

Not a silver bullet, but a hold-over tactic (5, Insightful)

dcmcilrath (2859893) | about 10 months ago | (#43984937)

If Fukashima has not occurred, we would be currently looking at a global uranium shortage in the next 5 years as existing major sources (re-purposing from old warheads) dry up and are not replaced with new mines.

Whenever production of power plants comes back on track, we will once again be facing such a shortage.

Yes there are limited reserves of uranium like everything else on the planet, but there is a lot more than 5 years... more like 200 according to this article. [scientificamerican.com] This is important because it buys us time to get technologies which are actually clean (looking at you, solar energy researchers) up to the speed of our current energy sources. Or find something else

Re: Not a silver bullet, but a hold-over tactic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985135)

Solar energy is not clean, nor will it ever be, unless we find a natural way of converting light into energy. Long way to go.
Looking at the progress humanity has made in the past 50 years, the future does not look too good. Since the space/atomic age, nothing fundamentally new has been discovered. What could be improved is at a virtual standstill. The us does not even want to reprocess nuclear fuel. It rather wastes everything... New reactors, nothing much happening there. Wind, there is only so much you can squeeze out of a mechanical process.

Re: Not a silver bullet, but a hold-over tactic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985279)

I think what you mean is that the semiconductor fab. process uses some pretty nasty chemicals, and that current photovoltaic tech isn't that efficient. Long way to go.

You come off like a negative nancy though -- what do you propose we actually do about the challenges we face?

Re: Not a silver bullet, but a hold-over tactic (2)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 10 months ago | (#43985385)

Solar energy is not clean, nor will it ever be, unless we find a natural way of converting light into energy

Like, say, chlorophyll?

Re: Not a silver bullet, but a hold-over tactic (1)

blueg3 (192743) | about 10 months ago | (#43985357)

...unless we find a natural way of converting light into energy.

Yes. If only there were such a thing.

Re: Not a silver bullet, but a hold-over tactic (4, Insightful)

Elder Entropist (788485) | about 10 months ago | (#43985391)

Solar energy is not clean, nor will it ever be, unless we find a natural way of converting light into energy. Long way to go.

Hold on, let me ask this tree....

Looking at the progress humanity has made in the past 50 years, the future does not look too good. Since the space/atomic age, nothing fundamentally new has been discovered.

This is completely wrong. There have been tons of fundamentally new discoveries in many fields.

Re:Not a silver bullet, but a hold-over tactic (1)

Elder Entropist (788485) | about 10 months ago | (#43985381)

The article in question has two stipulations that make its conclusion unrealistic:

1) Current energy use. In reality, world energy use doubles about every 30 years. That alone drops the uranium supply under 100 years.

2) Current energy mix. Not changing the percentage of total energy that fission contributes. If you're advocating more fission energy from its current 6% for environmental or depletion of other supply reasons, that 200 years will drop dramatically. 100% fission at today's energy use would be good for 12 years.

Re: Uranium means it is not a silver bullet (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984975)

With Uranium and something more efficient than the USA's once-through fuel cycle, we have well over a thousand years of energy given current known reserves at roughly today's economic recovery costs. Allow for thorium and breeders and we easily have 10,000 years of energy, all without needing any vast new reserves to be discovered.

In short, you are grossly misinformed. Stop spreading your ignorance around.

Re:Uranium means it is not a silver bullet (4, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 10 months ago | (#43985045)

Very limited?
You can recover it from seawater.

Mines will open before the shortage occurs. Markets are pretty going at this.

Re:How is it not a silver bullet? (5, Informative)

50000BTU_barbecue (588132) | about 10 months ago | (#43984883)

Hello, nuclear fusion in stars actually has a very LOW power density. It's just that stars are very large. This is why getting fusion to produce power on Earth is so damn difficult, we are not trying to RECREATE the conditions inside a star, we need to SURPASS those conditions.

Re: How is it not a silver bullet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985015)

Fusion in our sun uses a fusion process we will never try to use on earth. Quantum tunneling fusion at the bottom of a sun-sized gravity well isn't going to happen here. The fusion that we are trying to achieve is ... Monstrously more powerful.

Re:How is it not a silver bullet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985089)

Do you actually believe yourself? A fission device the size of a small car had the equivalent power of some 750,000 tons of TNT in the mid 40's. By todays standard, a very small yield, and fusion is even higher and you're claiming this is low density? What are you smoking? I promise you, if I burn hydrogen and oxygen, I get way less power out of it than if I were to fuse it. Like several orders of magnitude (read probably 4 or 5) less.

Re:How is it not a silver bullet? (1)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about 10 months ago | (#43985289)

Comparing a nuclear weapon to a nuclear reactor (of any kind) is rather like comparing the burning of a lump of coal to the detonation of gunpowder. Sure, the chemical process is more or less the same, but have you tried running a power station or a train using gunpowder? Combustion/fission/fusion is all well and good, but if it happens too quickly and too intensely to be controlled or harnessed then what good is it? Mass suicide perhaps?

Re:How is it not a silver bullet? (4, Informative)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 10 months ago | (#43985337)

Let me help, what he said: "Nuclear fusion in stars actually has a very LOW power density." And that's extremely true. The sun gives off about the same energy per cubic meter as a compost pile, it's just that the sun is big, really big. The person you are replying to was pointing out that getting useful energy out of fusion requires energies that are actually much higher than those present in the sun. You are confusing power with energy. Yes, the sun has a crap ton of energy... but it releases that energy very, very slowly (i.e. over the course of several billion years).

Re:How is it not a silver bullet? (1)

Myu (823582) | about 10 months ago | (#43984885)

It's maybe a silver bullet in another sense - nuclear fuel still needs to be mined, which means a new kind of geopolitical conflict over precious resources. It would probably solve a whole lot of problems, but as long as the means to distribute nuclear power remains in the hands of interested parties in our current energy market, we don't have the global social infrastructure needed to carry out that solution. And as long as we do have the infrastructure we have at the minute, it just means more Iraqs lie on the horizon.

Re:How is it not a silver bullet? (4, Insightful)

Beyond_GoodandEvil (769135) | about 10 months ago | (#43985019)

nuclear fuel still needs to be mined, which means a new kind of geopolitical conflict over precious resources.
Considering the fact the neither potable water nor arable land are distributed equally about the surface of the earth, there will always be geopolitical conflict over precious resources. So that's not really a problem to worry about.

Re:How is it not a silver bullet? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 10 months ago | (#43984959)

Money. Well, to be fair, the real answer is externalities and how poorly our system copes with them. In fact, you can say that about almost every major problem we face today: if people would look at the externalities and factor their costs and benefits into the equations the world would be a much better place. Until you factor in the costs associated with pollution from fossil fuels, nuclear won't be cost effective. In fact, that's what cap and trade is supposed to do: put a price tag on the damage pollution does. But no one wants that, or at least, no one is willing to pay for it.

Re:How is it not a silver bullet? (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about 10 months ago | (#43985121)

It's not a silver bullet because of the biggest risk of fission power technology: nuclear proliferation.

If the nuclear energy is the one solution to the worlds energy needs, then ALL countries, including Iran, Syria, and every single state in Africa will need its very own nuclear power industry. And every one of those countries realizes that a nuclear weapon would be the trump card that prevents them from being invaded by hostile neighbors, and it would make even GWB think twice about an attack.

With orders of magnitude more nuclear facilities sprinkled around the world than we already have, and huge amounts of fuel reprocessing added on to supply all of that, it would be easier than ever to hide weapons programs or feign plausible deniability. And of course, with more and more unstable countries cranking out nukes, that just increases the odds of getting these weapons into the hands of The Terrorists.

Every single country that has acquired nuclear weapons since the 1960s has hidden their work under the guise of nuclear power generation or "research" (and you wouldn't have much excuse for "research" if not for power).

And no handwaving about how some new and untested reactor technology is going to make that impossible, or somehow today's dysfunctional international regulators can be fixed. All of that is just rehashing the No True Scotsmen line.

Re:How is it not a silver bullet? (1)

JWW (79176) | about 10 months ago | (#43985257)

And no handwaving about how some new and untested reactor technology is going to make that impossible, or somehow today's dysfunctional international regulators can be fixed. All of that is just rehashing the No True Scotsmen line.

Oh yeah, right. Basically you're saying that since new reactor technology that doesn't cause nuclear weapons proliferation does not exist yet, we should not research new reactor technology.

Re:How is it not a silver bullet? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985163)

I don't want to be pedantic, but isn't solar power *also* nuclear power?

i bet they all make money from it (1)

alen (225700) | about 10 months ago | (#43984737)

around 2000 there was a huge push for natural gas. lots of greenie talking heads on TV and ads on TV saying how natural gas was awesome and oil was evil
demand surged, prices surged. people spent lots of money converting from oil heating
we got fracking which the same environmentalists now say is evil along with natural gas which now causes global warming. but it didn't 13 years ago.

Ethanol had the same story a few years later

i would be looking to invest in some nuclear power. these people aren't rooting for the environment, but are leeches looking to make a buck for themselves at the expense of everyone else

Re:i bet they all make money from it (3, Insightful)

brunes69 (86786) | about 10 months ago | (#43984935)

Natural Gas burns clean. Environmentalists are not against natural gas produced conventionally. They are against fracking because it affects the water table and has been shown to affect seismic activity as well. States that are heavily fracking are playing with fire.

Re:i bet they all make money from it (2)

sycodon (149926) | about 10 months ago | (#43985425)

They believe it affects the water table and has been shown to affect seismic activity as well.

As far as I know, there is none of those legendary peer review studies that actually shows it, much less a consensus.

Re:i bet they all make money from it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984941)

What?

What I've heard fro the environmental movement was that Natural Gas is cleaner than oil or coal, and therefore it's the best of those three.

But as usual, one has to be careful about oversimplifying things and who to blame. For example, out West environmentalists get most of the blame for impeding hydro electric growth - all those damn screw up the river's ecosystem - and this is important - the salmon fisheries (No, the fish ladders aren't that good). The environmental "whack jobs" as the right wing media likes to call them are the public face and get the blame. But ask yourself, where do a bunch of aging hippies other losers get the money for all those court battles and lobbying? GreenPeace or the Sierra Club? They WISH they had that kind of power.

Industry.

Many times when another industry with a vested interest in a resource needs to fight, they'll team up with a political organization. They'll use an environmental organization as a proxy - and the environmental organization just loves the backing.

So, what industry has a problem with hydro electric damns?

Salmon fisherman.

It's all strategic. And the ignorant TV/Right Wing Radio listening public falls for it every time.

A person is smart. People are stupid.

-K

Re:i bet they all make money from it (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 10 months ago | (#43985063)

Then they are stupid.

Gas is cleaner than oil or coal. It burns more completely and is cleaner to drill for than oil or coal is to mine.

Re:i bet they all make money from it (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 10 months ago | (#43984963)

I think you are distorting environmentalist’s views on natural gas and global warming. I don’t know of a single environmentalist who every believed that natural gas did not cause global warming. The argument was always that natural gas was less damaging then coal.

Then add the fact that the time period you are referencing, 2000s, fracking was a new, novel concept, and the amount of gas it produced was low.

Re:i bet they all make money from it (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 10 months ago | (#43985395)

Fracking has been going on for about 100 years in the oil industry. Fracking shale for gas is new. It used to be uneconomical.

Re:i bet they all make money from it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984973)

Do you base your opinions on your assumptions of what other people's motives are? You paint a picture of 'they' that isn't necessarily the same people. You do realize that one fuel can be better than another and yet still worse than another. Just because natural gas burns cleaner than coal or oil doesn't mean it's cleaner than nuclear or solar. Did we know what fracking might do 13 years ago? Intelligent people change their minds as information changes. Only the ignorant have opinions that don't change. Stop worrying about what 'they' think and start thinking for yourself. Is your opinion based on anything besides being against 'them'?

Re:i bet they all make money from it (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 10 months ago | (#43984985)

along with natural gas which now causes global warming. but it didn't 13 years ago.

If you absolutely had to be shot, would you rather be shot in the shoulder with a .45 or a .22? Ok, here we go! What do you mean you don't wanna be shot, you just agreed the .22 was the better option!

Re:i bet they all make money from it (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | about 10 months ago | (#43985405)

which the same environmentalists now say is evil

Do you know this for a fact, or are you idiotically assuming all environmentalists are legitimate and all believe the exact same things?

Actually, it sounds like you believe environmentalists are responsible for the nation's energy policy and the choices of billion dollar energy companies. Bless your heart.

Lead bullet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984749)

It's not a silver bullet, but it's probably the best shot we've got.
It's a great field for the government to subsidize for basic research, so we can move away from the technology of the 60s.

In b4 deluge of thorium posts. (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984757)

Can anyone tell me how and end-to-end thorium fuel ecosystem is supposed to work? All of the arguments I hear go like this:

Thorium! Its cheap and abundant
Put it in a special reactor
???
Power!

Well that ??? part is usually described as "fuel reprocessing". Nobody, as far as I can tell, has explained how that should work. And it's not a trivial issue. As far as I can tell, what's coming out the wrong end of a thorium reactor will be a molten salt soup of toxic, possibly very corrosive, and VERY radioactive materials. This is because the thorium breeding cycle can't go on forever, and the stuff needs to be processed to get rid of undesirable reaction byproducts (or refine out desirable ones?)

In any case, the above does not sound very pleasant. It sounds expensive and dangerous and potentially hazardous, a lot like how we store spent fuel rods now.

Re:In b4 deluge of thorium posts. (2)

Gizzmonic (412910) | about 10 months ago | (#43984829)

As far as I can tell, what's coming out the wrong end of a thorium reactor will be a molten salt soup of toxic, possibly very corrosive, and VERY radioactive materials

As opposed to what comes out of the "wrong end" of any coal-fired plant?

In any case, the above does not sound very pleasant. It sounds expensive and dangerous and potentially hazardous, a lot like how we store spent fuel rods now.

Dangerous *and* potentially hazardous? Well, let's give up and start living in caves then.

There's plenty of info on thorium reactors. Google can help you there. But you're not really interested in anything but spreading FUD. Carry on, then.

Re:In b4 deluge of thorium posts. (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 10 months ago | (#43984889)

Plenty of information, no actual reactors.

Don't count your less radioactive chickens just yet.

Re:In b4 deluge of thorium posts. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985153)

I've read plenty of goggled info on thorium reactors! Have you?

Every source glosses over the fuel reprocessing step, and yet it is probably the most important part of any molten salt thorium reactor "ecosystem". They also describe problems like "We don't really quite know how to fully control this molten soup of constantly transmuting radioactive materials. It would be bad if it started eating through reactor vessel walls over long periods of time"

Of course it sounds dangerous! How else would you describe purposely taking molten-hot goo out of nuclear reactor, then subjecting it to contracted, lowest bidder industrial process?

Try to avoid 9 billion (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984769)

The most important thing for us to be spending our money on is trying to avoid that 9 billion, or at least trying not to go beyond it. Universally available (heavily subsidized) contraception is the first place to start. Secondly try to counter those who actually WANT to increase population numbers, like Erdogan & Romney and their respective religions. Once that's done there'll still be plenty of money left to pay for nuclear power.

Re:Try to avoid 9 billion (5, Insightful)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 10 months ago | (#43985061)

Unless you are talking about forced sterilization, free contraception has little impact on population growth. The biggest effect it has is to delay when a woman has their first child, not how many they have.

Wealth is one of the better ways to curb population. When people move from abject poverty to poverty child births go up. When people move from poverty to middle class their child births go down. This effect is magnified if you have educated women in the work force. You hit the replacement rate about when everybody needs a college education and said college education costs about as much as a house.

Of course, to produce wealth you need a vibrant economy, which implies a lot more energy use.

Re:Try to avoid 9 billion (3, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 10 months ago | (#43985119)

Contraceptive access is a requirement for controlling population growth, but not sufficient in itsself. It needs education and a cultural change too - the original goals of feminism, to give women an equal status in society where they can (and are expected to) study, work, and have a career of their own. In much of the world this still isn't an option - women are treated as property and incubators. It's no good providing access to contraception if the local culture insults the manhood of any man who uses it, and women are afraid to seek it out for fear they will be labeled as promiscuous.;

Re:Try to avoid 9 billion (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 10 months ago | (#43985313)

I think that the biggest (and possibly hardest) link in the chain will be creating and artificial Creche that can bring a child to term safely.

right now we have very talented (and intelligent) women not giving birth due to not wanting to deal with the problems of being pregnant.

(of course if somebody gets one going we most likely will find out that the kids turn out to be "Joker looks like Mr Rogers" crazy)

Re:Try to avoid 9 billion (1)

slim (1652) | about 10 months ago | (#43985367)

right now we have very talented (and intelligent) women not giving birth due to not wanting to deal with the problems of being pregnant.

Good. Fewer people is fewer people. Don't worry, we've a long way to go before there are so many people refraining from breeding that we can't find "talented (and intelligent)" offspring anywhere.

Re:Try to avoid 9 billion (2)

mdielmann (514750) | about 10 months ago | (#43985465)

right now we have very talented (and intelligent) women not giving birth due to not wanting to deal with the problems of being pregnant.

Good. Fewer people is fewer people. Don't worry, we've a long way to go before there are so many people refraining from breeding that we can't find "talented (and intelligent)" offspring anywhere.

So actively dropping the median is okay, then. Gotcha.

Concerns (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 10 months ago | (#43984775)

Ironically, my mind has almost done the same but in reverse. As a sci-fi buff, and futurist, I love the idea, and have since the '70s, but the potential for megadisaster, though incredibly low, is severe if it ever happens.

Maybe the US and Western Europe can do it right, or right-er, anyway, but what about plants popcorning up all over the world? Will they follow the latest and greatest? Especially if it involves nationalism by local politicians to design it themselves.

Disasters (1, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 10 months ago | (#43984853)

Chernobyl. Fukushima. Two megadisasters in my lifetime doesn't count as "incredibly low potential" in my book. Though frankly, I am more concerned about the lack of long-term storage facilities for high-level waste. Meltdowns can only happen while the reactor is operating; radioactive waste is a disaster waiting to happen any time in the next 10,000 years.

Re:Disasters (5, Insightful)

ducomputergeek (595742) | about 10 months ago | (#43984989)

Really, those two disasters are some how worse than the tonnes of crap we've been pumping into the air unfiltered the past 150 years and continue doing today and at an increasing rate (here's looking at you China).

And there is a thorium fuel cycle that would use up most of that waste while providing plenty of affordable power for next 500 years. Yes it would probably take 20 years to get the first thorium reactors up, running, and certified for commercial use, but politics happen the be the biggest barrier here, not technology. In particular non-proliferation treaties.

Thorium reactors (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 10 months ago | (#43985179)

I think thorim reactors [wikipedia.org] have a lot of potential. It's frustrating if non-proliferation treaties are in the way because thorium reactors don't produce bomb material. You still have the waste-storage problem, though.

Re:Disasters (5, Insightful)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 10 months ago | (#43985095)

How is fukushima a mega disaster?

Chernobyl was not an accident, they did everything they could to destroy that reactor. Negligence sure, but no way accidental.

High level waste is not that hot after 10 years, much less 10,0000. Things would those kind of half lives are not that radioactive.

Re:Disasters (2)

Nemyst (1383049) | about 10 months ago | (#43985213)

If Fukushima was a megadisaster, then we should also ban solar panels, coal power plants, hydro dams and just about every other source of power because there have been a lot more deaths for individual "disasters" with those than with Fukushima. Fukushima was a consequence of one of the worst tsunamis ever recorded, and didn't even kill anyone. There were more injuries from hydrogen explosions due to buildup than from radioactivity. Fukushima was transformed into a gigantic backlash because the media played off the fear of the public with anything that concerns nuclear.

Re:Disasters (3, Informative)

confused one (671304) | about 10 months ago | (#43985223)

Review those designs and accident reports. Two too many failures; but, they could have been mitigated.

Graphite moderated reactors were considered too dangerous for commercial use by the late '50's or early '60's by every country except the U.S.S.R. It was cheap and they needed power so they built quite a few of them. It is difficult to know exactly what happened; but, it appears an ill advised and unauthorized experiment was run on the system, with all the safeties turned off. When the reactor crashed, the operator(s) panicked and they tried to do something which was known to cause explosive power surges which could result in catastrophic failures. And it did. This should not have happened.

Fukushima Diachi was a 1960's design that is considered quite dated and had a few known failure modes. The company operating the reactors basically refused to do all the expensive updates to improve the reactor's safety. They also ignored warnings that the sea wall was inadequate for worst case tsunami, which happened. It flooded their electrical system(s) and generators, which were at or below grade level. Because the earthquake knocked out their grid power supply, they had zero options for power. This led to the loss of cooling. Then, for political reasons, the operator tried to downplay the damage, rather than ask for help when they desperately needed it. It did not have to be this way.

Frankly, with the aging inventory of reactor systems operating in the world, I do not expect these to be the last. Having said that, for the purposed of full disclosure, I live near two large power reactors, a major naval base, and one of the two shipyards where they build, overhaul and test nuclear powered ships in the U.S. I don't fear it.

Waste storage is something we do need to solve. Either through re-use or through deep storage somewhere. I don't have an answer for you that's based on real engineering.

Different lessons (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 10 months ago | (#43985353)

I think we're drawing different conclusions from similar information.

Fukushima Diachi was a 1960's design that is considered quite dated and had a few known failure modes. The company operating the reactors basically refused to do all the expensive updates to improve the reactor's safety. They also ignored warnings that the sea wall was inadequate for worst case tsunami, which happened.

You seem to be saying nuclear power is safe because the risks were known, but nobody did anything about them. I say nuclear power is unsafe, for exactly the same reason.

Re:Disasters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985225)

Chernobyl barely deserves to be cited as an example when it comes to nuclear safety, though. Yes, it was a true megadisaster, but it was also caused by a unique confluence of bad ideas, design flaws, and incompetence that are thoroughly unlikely to occur today.

I spent some time this morning reading an account of the events leading up to the meltdown. It's fascinating just how many safety protocols were bypassed. (And fascinating how many safety protocols were bypassable by a bunch of night-shift shmucks!)

Re:Concerns (1)

MalachiK (1944624) | about 10 months ago | (#43984909)

the potential for megadisaster, though incredibly low, is severe if it ever happens.

But the point is that whereas nuclear power might cause problems if something goes wrong, it seems that fossil fuels will certainly cause problems even if everything goes perfectly as planned.

The only renewable that I can see providing real power is wood - but people get upset by the idea of burning trees. Other than that we've just got to wait for someone to work out practical fusion energy generating - and fusion power is always only a few decades away!

Re:Concerns (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 10 months ago | (#43985107)

Solar already beats wood in efficiency. Solar also does not have a particulate emissions issue. Before any night time silliness comments please look into solar thermal systems.

What else can provide enough clean power? (3, Insightful)

guanxi (216397) | about 10 months ago | (#43984845)

The review doesn't disagree that nuclear is a big part of the solution, it just complains that the authors sweep aside all other considerations and doesn't like their attitude toward anti-nuclear activists. In other words, it wants the anti-nuclear activists to have a voice.

What is disingenuous about Pandora's Promise is the way the new judgment is conveyed. The film mocks groups that continue to protest nuclear power, treating one-time colleagues as extremists and zealots. An audience discussion after a preview at the University of Chicago made it clear I was not the only one who sensed the self-righteous tone of the newly converted in the film's narrative. In the end, by dismissing the protestors and failing to engage them in significant debate about the pros and cons of nuclear energy, the film undermined its own message.

Nobody loves nuclear power, but what else can provide sufficient power to the world without damaging the climate? Burning carbon, including natural gas, will cause a catastrophe. Wind, solar and geothermal can't ramp up fast enough to meet power demand, AFAIK. Only nuclear power provides sufficient energy without causing more climate change.

Re:What else can provide enough clean power? (4, Interesting)

Rockoon (1252108) | about 10 months ago | (#43984921)

In other words, it wants the anti-nuclear activists to have a voice.

..as if they didnt already?

The anti-nuclear activists have destroyed the prospects of widespread nuclear adoption in more than a few countries, including the United States.

The problem is that their voice has been the only god damned voice, so fuck em if they are crying now about not being able to continue to drown out any discussion.

Re:What else can provide enough clean power? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985427)

What else you ask?
Well, the most widespread and cleanest available energy source is energy conservation.
We should divide our consumption by a factor 4 or 5 first, and then discuss about coal/nukes/PV/wind/whatever....
We'll get huge problems otherwise, regardless of the energy sources we use.

Assumptions (0)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 10 months ago | (#43984847)

The extreme pro-nuclear brigade always assume that energy consumption will rise indefinitely, or at least linearly with population. That simply is not the case.

LED lights are a good example. Brighter, better colour and consuming far less energy. Tablet computers and laptop use less power than desktops.

Re:Assumptions (5, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | about 10 months ago | (#43984863)

Empirically, across a pretty wide range of situations, energy efficiency improvements tend to actually increase rather than decrease net energy usage, an observation known as the Jevons paradox [wikipedia.org].

Re:Assumptions (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about 10 months ago | (#43985237)

Increasing energy efficiency is STILL a good thing, because it means that the increased use of it comes at a lower cost, raising overall standards ofThe living.

In other words, this is an interesting observation, but completely irrelevant to the question of whether increased efficiencies are something to promote or not. They are only relevant to the question of how "how much energy are we going to need in the future" and to "what kind of policies do we want to pursue if we want to reduce the usage of energy". The answer to the latter is always "use tax".

Re:Assumptions (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 10 months ago | (#43984913)

And lighting and computer use are just a small fraction of the total power budget.

The elephant in the room is population and the desire for same to adopt higher standards of living (imagine that...) which ALWAYS results in using more energy.

Re:Assumptions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984939)

When you give people a way to consume less energy, i'm pretty sure they will just find more ways to maintain the energy level they are already at. Sure tablets and phones use less power than a computer, but surely not having phones and tablets at all would be less energy than everyone having desktops, laptops and tablets. For every person coming up with a way to save energy, there are 10 more people thinking up creative new ways to waste it. Energy consumption has been going up since the beginning of time, why would it slow down now, at the height of the electronics age?

Re:Assumptions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985171)

Improved efficiency can not compensate for the rate of population increase indefinitely. Your logic assume gains for energy savings with meet or exceed demand increases, which statistically has never been true.

pffffft simpletons (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 10 months ago | (#43984855)

What is this, 1950? I'm leaving these old timers behind and hopping on the pro-random-matter-fusion energy plant bandwagon. Yeah, the project is like 3x over budget and congress wants heads to roll but I want my Mr Fusion damn it. Also, I'm pre-pro-antimatter/matter reaction-based energy too. As in it hasn't technically been formally invented yet but I'm still all for it.

Still? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984907)

people are still arguing about this nonsense? If we don't need nuclear plants, then we don't have to take the extremely minimal risk they pose. But if the energy we have isn't enough or is messing everything else up, why not use it? Answer seems pretty clear to me.

energy is like food (5, Insightful)

spectrokid (660550) | about 10 months ago | (#43984977)

Best to have a diversified diet. The government needs to do only 2 things: don't subsidize, and make sure every energy form pays for its REAL cost. And that means one motherfucking hefty CO2 tax, and a big piggy bank full of money next to every nuclear plant to pay for dismantling when the time comes.

Re:energy is like food (4, Informative)

nojayuk (567177) | about 10 months ago | (#43985205)

And that means one motherfucking hefty CO2 tax

So you want a War on Coal, do you, throwing thousands of miners out of a job? Heartless bastard. Raising the cost of a gallon of gas? Unthinkable!

and a big piggy bank full of money next to every nuclear plant to pay for dismantling when the time comes

A Lie That Will Not Die, the taxpayers have to pay for decommissioning nuclear power stations. False.

That "piggy bank" you speak of already exists, and has done so since the 1980s in most Western nations that have nukes. Operators of nuclear power stations in the US have to pay into a fund to cover future decommissioning of individual plants. It's more than the coal-fired station operators, wind turbine and solar generators do to clean up after themselves and after forty or fifty gigawatt-years of generating power for a given reactor it adds up to quite a large amount, including interest. The San Onofre nuclear power station, even though it's being shut down only 30 years after being built, has about 3 billion bucks in its "piggy bank" for decommissioning, and using a long-term custodianship system (aka SafStor) it won't spend much of that for another fifty or sixty years meaning more interest accruing into the fund.

Re:energy is like food (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985253)

"don't subsidize"
"hefty CO2 tax"
"big piggy bank full of money"

Tell me more about how I can not subsidize all the while I spend my time dealing with moving money from column a to b.

Re:energy is like food (1)

Zobeid (314469) | about 10 months ago | (#43985315)

Yeah, let's keep the government out of it... except, of course, for the massive distortions of the market that you happen to favor and advocate. :P

Still a 50/50 solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43984981)

The problem becomes the cost to create a plant the cost to maintain it. Then you have to deal with the waste, what do you want to do dig out any and every mountain side to bury it, as well as having security in place to prevent it from being stolen and used for evil purposes, or the containment building collapsing.
The "severe weather" from said global warming, as well as earthquakes, and other unforeseen events, doesn't really make the nuclear idea all that great. And it has been a known fact the industry has always pushed this idea because it can make ridiculous globs of money. I would dare to think this idea will lead to people not being able to afford the power bill, with the cost of building a plant, maintaining it (which is also suspect) and having to put in place proper security.

However if I remember right they are trying to create chambers that will allow a full molten state, and or use up the life of the radioactivity.

Yes for the most part they are safe, however who (country) and how any "trouble" is being reported accurately is also something I have questions over. And the ones that became disasters were because of laziness to make sure, depending on the region, that backup systems are in safe locations and fully functional.

Doesn't matter (4, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | about 10 months ago | (#43984995)

Doesn't matter if you blame the hippies - the bankers are the ones that are not going to let nuclear happen.

Re:Doesn't matter (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 10 months ago | (#43985211)

Why do you say that?

I agree with the statement but I am going to guess for different reasons.

If I am a banker, you are asking me to underwrite a 30 year loan that is based on the assumption that you will competitively produce electricity for the next 30 years. Trying to figure out what the market for electricity is going to do for 10 is hard. 10 years ago it looked like with high fuel prices that Nuclear would be profitable. Fracking came along and natural gas prices, and the electricity it produces, dropped like a rock. Bye bye profitability projections.

Why is this not a rational response?

salvation in Nuclear power (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985039)

I can hardly wait to see this documentary. So far all I have
see is the rejection of the view that the solution that nuclear
power represents, MUST NOT be used. To be replaced with the view
that Nuclear power should be considered promentaly in the solution.

I don't know who is more useless... (4, Insightful)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | about 10 months ago | (#43985139)

people selling snake oil or people whining about "solutionism".

Since when is a documentary required to promote every possible agenda? I haven't seen the documentary, but I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that it does not ignore nuclear power's downsides, especially considering its focus on previously anti-nuclear environmentalists.

"Solutionism" is a thought terminating cliche [wikipedia.org], a way to dismiss any solution because it doesn't encompass every possible solution. It's a ploy for people who only know rhetoric and politics to wrestle control of the debate from people who know science and engineering.

Consider the vacuous absurdity of the closing of the article:

A more powerful approach to this complex threat to humanity would be to film a fact-based, passionate debate that explored the alternatives, trade-offs, and consequences of various energy options. Such an exploration might move us from the usual politics of zealotry to new habits of thought, and perhaps to new forms of action based on all the facts.

No one is under any obligation to please you, the head of an anti-nuclear activist group, which is no stranger to zealotry [wikipedia.org]. If you want other options, make your own documentary to promote them. You can make it "fact-based" too!

Re:I don't know who is more useless... (3, Insightful)

JWW (79176) | about 10 months ago | (#43985413)

Yep. So many of these naysayers, when asked "what do we need to do" advocate drastic reductions in energy use, drastic draconian policies to make it happen, and always in the end come out with the root solutions of "we need a whole lot fewer people on this planet." Their final answer is eliminating BILLIONS of people.

Anyone who advocates that has lost all credibility with me. We can create cleaner power, and we will be cause we need to. Necessity is the mother of invention after all. Getting everyone in the world to go along with "less, less, less" isn't going to happen. We've solved complicated problems before, and we can do it here. I completely agree with the premise that anti-nuclear advocates need to go the heck away.

waste time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#43985255)

if you double efficiency you can go from the now ~5 billion people to 10 billion no problem.
the problem is that that is NOT profitable.
we want growth and growth in profit too which means to waste!
"TEH BEST(tm)" economy wise would be 150 watts light bulbs inside the fridge and MOER nuclear power.
srsrlsy tho, car traffic in cities can still see major efficiency gains, like 300% better, which means 3x less
gasoline consumption. RED lights are like "TEH WORST(tm)" for gasoline consumption.
jsut don't forget that "efficient" is NOT equal to "profit". less money spent also means less money earned.
so either make them robots/machines that make nearly everything real smart and thus the
products next to free -or- scale the way of living now and thus scale waste and inefficiency too.
to be honest this post is completly inefficient because decision makes (or future shapers) won't have
time to read this anyways : )
you think this is a democratic world? you think you're free? dream on in your virtual machine : D

You dare propose a solution? We love that problem! (3, Insightful)

tp1024 (2409684) | about 10 months ago | (#43985443)

Solutionism?

Seriously?

How deprived of all faculity of thinking must a movement become to come up with the idea of "solutionism" as a critique? There is a problem and people think about solutions. Any solution would, of course, be reason for existential difficulties of the problem. But the problem is the basis of power of said movements. When the problem goes away, so does the power that came with it, when the movement came into existence and so does the only solution the movement sanctioned: complete austerity and refraining from any use of technology and any interaction with nature as much as in any way possible.

"Solutionism" is the latest, most ludicrous and hopefully last, attempt at defending the only solution "environmentalism" ever came up - by denying the adequancy of any solution of their problem whatsoever. Thus perpetuating their claim to power indefinitely - you know, the UNSOLVED PROBLEMS of technology.

Go and rot in hell.

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