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4 Prominent Scientists Say Renewables Aren't Enough, Urge Support For Nuclear

timothy posted about 5 months ago | from the which-dragon-to-tickle dept.

Earth 776

First time accepted submitter Paddy_O'Furniture writes "Four prominent scientists have penned a letter urging those concerned about climate change to support nuclear energy, saying that renewables such as wind and solar will not be sufficient to meet the world's energy needs. Among the authors is James Hansen, a former top NASA scientist, whose 1988 testimony before the United States Congress helped launch discussions of global warming into the mainstream."

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776 comments

thorium (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318007)

let's do it right, please. no more melt-downs...

Thorium wars (4, Informative)

thej1nx (763573) | about 5 months ago | (#45318183)

Looks like after the oil wars, it might very well soon be India's turn...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium#Reserve_estimates [wikipedia.org]

Re:Thorium wars (3, Insightful)

kyrsjo (2420192) | about 5 months ago | (#45318409)

Thorium is pretty abundant, so its probably not worth figthing over. Most countries have access to enough of the stuff.

Assumptions (0)

duckintheface (710137) | about 5 months ago | (#45318559)

What assumptions is Hansen making here? Of couse there will "enough" renewables if demand is scaled down by conservation and the price of fossil fuels is raised high enough. Global warming is an externalized envionmental cost of fossil fues. If those costs are internalized in the price of fossil energy, the free market will take care of the problem. Or we can just raise taxes on fossil energy and use the money to build renewables.

What Hansen is really saying is that there will not be enough renewables if we continue with business as usual, including subsidies to the fossil fuel and nuclear industires. That is true but it relies on the wrong assumtions.

Re:Assumptions (5, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | about 5 months ago | (#45318579)

Of couse there will "enough" renewables if demand is scaled down by conservation and the price of fossil fuels is raised high enough.

Didn't take long for "shiver in the dark" environmentalism to raise its ugly head.

Re:thorium OR ??? (1)

BoRegardless (721219) | about 5 months ago | (#45318281)

For many coastlines, how about deep ocean water currents? Relatively low tech, w/no surface effects. Easy to pull up and service. Getting better efficiencies on superconducting transmission lines for longer distances. Massive amount of power in those sub-surface rivers.

Re:thorium OR ??? (1)

Barsteward (969998) | about 5 months ago | (#45318389)

i think its like everything else, they want to make one huge machine to power an area rather than loads of smaller ones

Re:thorium OR ??? (3, Interesting)

pla (258480) | about 5 months ago | (#45318603)

i think its like everything else, they want to make one huge machine to power an area rather than loads of smaller ones

This, this this, a thousand times this.

Renewables absolutely have the capability to meet out energy needs. Solar alone has reached to point where a sub-$10k installation can power a reasonably efficient house, even in the Northern US; in places that get enough wind (a lot more places than you might expect), a single small turbine can power a house, or a modest sized tower can power an entire neighborhood.

It absolutely amazes me that building codes haven't evolved to require incorporating one of those two technologies into every new building. The baseline residential load could become a net generator within a decade.

But, it then becomes hard for the utilities to justify charging people for power the people themselves produce. I don't want to suggest we have any sort of vast conspiracy here - More like hundreds of individual companies all actively dragging their feet and refusing to upgrade their infrastructure to make distributed generation practical.


"Funny" story - Five years ago, I started playing with a small plug-and-play solar installation at my house. During the day, with no one home, my old analog electric meter would actually spin backward and credit me for excess production. Two years ago, my local power company rolled out a forced upgrade to digital smartmeters (and when I say "forced", I mean we had actual protests and lengthy court cases trying to block the change). And whatd'ya know, the new meter doesn't go backward. I effectively give my extra power production to the grid for free.

Of course, I have the option of contracting with the utility for a second meter basically installed backward - For which they charge me to sell them electricity. Last time I checked the numbers, I'd realistically need to produce over a megawatt hour per month just to break even on their BS fees - And with my current toy 400W installation, that won't happen.

Re:thorium (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318555)

If we replace all the reactors that were built before the 80s then perhaps we will not have as many melt-downs.

Re:thorium (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318611)

Send the bill to their billing address!

What happened (-1, Offtopic)

pjbgravely (751384) | about 5 months ago | (#45318013)

What happened to the story about the Obomacare web site I clicked on. Was I imaging it?

Re:What happened (-1, Offtopic)

pjbgravely (751384) | about 5 months ago | (#45318039)

Oops, browser went nuts and refused to update properly. I should never post on a whim.

Bye Bye Karma (2)

ScottCooperDotNet (929575) | about 5 months ago | (#45318379)

What happened to the story about the Obomacare web site I clicked on. Was I imaging it?

Oops, browser went nuts and refused to update properly. I should never post on a whim.

Stop getting your advice from Dan Quayle and Karl Rove.

Re:What happened (3, Funny)

Smallpond (221300) | about 5 months ago | (#45318253)

What happened to the story about the Obomacare web site I clicked on. Was I imaging it?

That site crashed under the load.

An easy way to decrease our energy needs (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318025)

Just let all the faggots and junkies die of AIDS.

Energy shouldn't be cheap. (2, Insightful)

ThePhilips (752041) | about 5 months ago | (#45318069)

"Those energy sources cannot scale up fast enough" to deliver the amount of cheap and reliable power the world needs

The cheapness of the energy is IMO the largest part of the problem. We have way too many devices slowly sipping the power, while an average house still leaks way too much of the (heat) energy. We are overconsuming way too many goods (which cost energy to produce) and then go through even more energy wasting to compensate the overconsumption.

Re:Energy shouldn't be cheap. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318119)

I love it when someone like you tells the rest of us how much and what we can consume. It just reconfirms my suspicion that everyone else is an authoritarian at heart.

Re:Energy shouldn't be cheap. (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | about 5 months ago | (#45318199)

Would you prefer to consume everything so that your children have nothing left to consume?

Re: Energy shouldn't be cheap. (1, Insightful)

JWW (79176) | about 5 months ago | (#45318275)

No, I would prefer for the market to determine the value of rare commodities. Then as rare commodities run out, their prices will rise and we'll look for new inexpensive commodities to fill our needs.

Re: Energy shouldn't be cheap. (4, Insightful)

ThePhilips (752041) | about 5 months ago | (#45318383)

The problem is that when the "rare commodities run out," it would lead to a major reshape of our economies, states and societies. Historically that means: poverty and inequality, civil wars and wars.

IMO on the line here, is to prove that we as civilization are mature enough not to shoot ourselves into the foot.

Degenerating into primitive fighting over the scarce resources is precisely what society strives to avoid.

Re: Energy shouldn't be cheap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318623)

That's happened before and will happen again. Do you think you can fix that? How's your whale oil supply?

Re: Energy shouldn't be cheap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318541)

The market already determines the value of rare commodities. The problem is that the price of rare commodities is depressed by subsidies and legislation (foreign and domestic) that prevents the development of new inexperience commodities.

Remember when China banned the export of rare earth metals? Chances are you didn't even see a blip in hard drive, solar panels or rechargable batteries. For those in the industry, it was a fucking nightmare and there are those who are STILL trying to hedge their bets against China ever since.

Re:Energy shouldn't be cheap. (2)

ThePhilips (752041) | about 5 months ago | (#45318259)

I love it when someone like you tells the rest of us how much and what we can consume. It just reconfirms my suspicion that everyone else is an authoritarian at heart.

May be.

My point is more about the relative cost. The energy now is cheap because when producing it, we disregard the future effects.

Yes, energy costs should go up, to pressure on the business and users to figure out ways to do more with less. Take smartphones as an example: driven by the limited battery capacity, they manage to do much much more than PCs of only 10 years ago - at a fraction of energy consumed.

But I wouldn't go as far as calling it "authoritarian". Levies and taxes throughout the history were used to regulate supply and demand. Energy is just another commodity which requires the regulation.

Re:Energy shouldn't be cheap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318641)

Yes, energy costs should go up, to pressure on the business and users to figure out ways to do more with less. Take smartphones as an example: driven by the limited battery capacity, they manage to do much much more than PCs of only 10 years ago - at a fraction of energy consumed.

You're looking at a Mars Bar, marvelling at how so many calories are packed in to such a small package, then complaining that a plate of vegetables is bigger and can't be carried in your pocket. They're different things, made with differing goals and requirements. While it's good to see energy saving techniques brought over to laptops, have you seen broadcast quality video editing being done on smartphones? How about professional image editing? What about gaming? I was doing all of the above on computers 10 years ago. My smartphone is nowhere near ready either in terms of power or ergonomics.

Are you expecting the full desktop experience on the power draw of a typical smartphone SoC? Not going to happen.

Re:Energy shouldn't be cheap. (1)

Barsteward (969998) | about 5 months ago | (#45318287)

ahaa.. so you are the greedy AC bastard who doesn;t care about anyone else but yourself then....

Re:Energy shouldn't be cheap. (1)

gox (1595435) | about 5 months ago | (#45318219)

Our entire systems are based on the paradigm of production and consumption. Even if the peoples of the world began acting so contrary to their education and upbringing, there would need to be a tremendous change in balance of power throughout the globe for what you say to become the norm.

Re:Energy shouldn't be cheap. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318339)

Expensive energy hurts the poor and minorities the worst. Why are you a racist?

Turn liberalism back on them I say.

Re:Energy shouldn't be cheap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318381)

I live in a small cottage with no power and bike to work, why can't you all d this. That's progress!

Re:Energy shouldn't be cheap. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318449)

The cheapness of the energy is IMO the largest part of the problem. We have way too many devices slowly sipping the power, while an average house still leaks way too much of the (heat) energy. We are overconsuming way too many goods (which cost energy to produce) and then go through even more energy wasting to compensate the overconsumption.

Energy is everything. With cheap energy there is almost nothing that can't be accomplished. Food, housing, transportation, everything. Define "overconsuming". Compared to what? Caveman, bronze age, 19th century? What's the standard and who sets it?

energy should be as cheap as the market dictates (2, Insightful)

globaljustin (574257) | about 5 months ago | (#45318567)

energy should be as 'cheap' as the market dictates...which, in a properly competitive market, means really large companies with big time resources would then fund the *best* Research and Development to compete with each other to bring the cheapest & most sustainable (read: clean) energy that modern science can provide

your idea attempts to solve the right problems, but does it in the most contentions, unworkable way possible...this is why you fail

see, you identify some problems most would agree with:

We have way too many devices slowly sipping the power, while an average house still leaks way too much of the (heat) energy. We are overconsuming way too many goods..

everyone agrees with this...hell even some Republican Wal-Mart executive would agree with this even though they profit from it...

your solution of purposefully, artificially inflating prices is nothing more than a **giveaway to energy companies for doing nothing**

your idea guarantees a revenue chain for said energy companies, takes away incentives to do R&D on better technology (instead its marketing R&D), and ensures that the current, **unsustainable** fossil fuel model will continue

you are way, way off from solving the problems you identify

Re:energy should be as cheap as the market dictate (1)

smpoole7 (1467717) | about 5 months ago | (#45318637)

> in a properly competitive market

The problem is ensuring that it's truly competitive. What has been happening is that corporations are merging to *eliminate* competition and ensure a continued revenue stream, even though the technology might be old and "unclean" (as far as emissions).

Corporations are also allowed to buy up patents which might clean up energy, but which are then tabled and never put into production. The only reason the corporation bought that patent is to (once again) *prevent* competition and to maintain the status quo.

Both problems are quite solvable: on the one hand, here in the United States, start rigorously enforcing the anti-trust laws. For patents, if someone doesn't make a good faith effort to produce that technology within, say, a few years, the patent becomes invalid and the innovation falls into the public domain.

Do note, by the way, that I'm writing as a conservative/libertarian in philosophy. But I'm not a fool, either. From my point of view, this is precisely one of those things that government could and SHOULD be doing, but isn't. :)

Correction (4, Insightful)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 5 months ago | (#45318095)

Nobody can get obscenely rich from renewable easy to produce energy, therefore it is not, nor will ever be practical.

Getting rich from renewable power (1)

tepples (727027) | about 5 months ago | (#45318221)

Should oil prices rise and remain high, producers of wind turbines, PV panels, solar thermal collectors, storage batteries, and maintenance services for same can get rich.

Re:Correction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318235)

I'm so glad you've time traveled all the way here from 1992 to remind us of that.

Re:Correction (1)

lennier1 (264730) | about 5 months ago | (#45318273)

The money isn't in the energy itself but in producing more and more efficient hardware to harvest that energy so the customer has a financial incentive to upgrade.

Re:Correction (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318415)

You are joking right? Even after you get past the Solindra's and the like, the line of companies and individuals getting obscenely rich is a long one. Yea, GE is producing all those windmills for free.

The big difference is that renewables are largely getting obscenely rich by taking money directly from the government, while traditional energy sources actually have to produce some electricity first.

Re:Correction (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 5 months ago | (#45318469)

Nobody can get obscenely rich from renewable easy to produce energy, therefore it is not, nor will ever be practical.

Except Al Gore, of course (kidding). But seriously, lower cost, easier to produce, reliable and clean energy that can scale up is a combination that would make you very rich if you could devise such a thing. Meanwhile, there are people today making big money off of wind and solar. It is popular, relatively easy to build or install, and is highly incentivized, making it a great place to 'make a killing' if you know how to do it.

Logic! (5, Insightful)

onyxruby (118189) | about 5 months ago | (#45318097)

Logic is a wonderful thing and we need more critical thinking and less hyperbole with regards to green energy. Strident hyperbole with regards to the anti-nuclear energy has resulted in the real world build of coal power plants as renewals simply are suitable for baseline power. Coal power plants also release far more pollution and for the ignorant they also result in a lot of radiation being released into the air.

Nuclear energy is proven, has the lowest pollution, best carbon footprint of anything we have (it's largest footprint comes from the concrete used in it's construction) and could be far cheaper if it wasn't severely over-regulated. Thorium reactors are also starting to get planned for production and deserve a good look (and if fact a proof of concept plant was built in the past). Thorium reactors have the green advantages of nuclear reactors and should be included.

It's time to get real about getting green and put the likes of Greenpeace out to pasture. They have done far more harm to the environment than just about anyone short of the Koch brothers.

Re:Logic! (2, Interesting)

gweihir (88907) | about 5 months ago | (#45318161)

Lowest pollution? I guess little things like Windscale, Tchernobyl, and Fuckushima are removed from that calculation...

Re:Logic! (5, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 5 months ago | (#45318203)

Lowest pollution? I guess little things like Windscale, Tchernobyl, and Fuckushima are removed from that calculation...

Nope. Go ahead and include them. You'll get to about .1% of the emissions of coal power plants with every nuclear disaster. Ever. Including all of the nuclear bomb tests, the two bombs we dropped on Japan, three mile island, and more.

Fun fact: Coal plants collectively emit more radiation in a year than all those disasters combined [scientificamerican.com] have, and that's when you include into the figures the yearly radiation the nuclear plants emit into the environment as well.

Coal: Because glowing green is fun.

Re:Logic! (3, Insightful)

jonbryce (703250) | about 5 months ago | (#45318349)

How many square kilometers of land have been made completely uninhabitable for the next 200 years or so as a result of coal power?

Re: Logic! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318445)

Go to the mining areas of PA or WV and yoy can answer that.

Re:Logic! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318497)

How many have for nuclear? We don't know. It's only been 30 years since the Chernobyl accident. While we can accurately predict radioactivity levels based on decay rates, we don't know what we will or won't invent for cleaning them up. The areas might be uninhabitable for thousands of years, or we might discover a cleanup method in 20 years.

Re:Logic! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318499)

It's not so much that coal makes kilometers of land uninhabitable, as it kills off small chunks of land in maybe 50 square meters at a time. Stuff like Fly ash [wikipedia.org] and what not aren't particularly good at killing off kilometers of land in big accidents like nuclear is, but they are good at killing off hundreds of thousands of people/animals in relatively small areas over a large area.

Re:Logic! (5, Interesting)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 5 months ago | (#45318537)

How many square kilometers of land have been made completely uninhabitable for the next 200 years or so as a result of coal power?

A lot. Not only for discarded waste, but mine fires. Centralia, Pennsylvania [wikipedia.org] has been burning since 1962 and will be burning for the next 1000 years by most estimates. Then there are other mine fires [wikipedia.org] all over the planet. It does look like there may be some success with extinguishing these on the horizon. But regardless, they are devastating to the local ecosystem and have all of the problems with burning coal for energy ,but with none of the energy.

Re:Logic! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318549)

0. Due to reclamation projects.

Re:Logic! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318527)

Fun fact: You're a fuckin' faggot.

Re:Logic! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318225)

Well, actually with those disasters (which were avoidable), the pollution is still much less compared to the unavoidable pollution of fossil fuels.

Re:Logic! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318265)

Nope. In fact, if you multiplied all of those disasters by 10, nuclear would still pollute less than solar energy if you normalize for TWHs produced. The reason isn't that solar is fundamentally bad, but that most solar cells are produced in China where those pesky environmental regulations don't get in the way. The US Fed'ral Gub'ment would never trust China with our nuclear supply chain.

So basically, we should start producing solar panels in the first world. But then you run into that little issue of cost.

Re:Logic! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318433)

Nope [wikipedia.org], even including those things the overall pollution is less. The best analogy is to imagine Nuclear power as Flying around the country on a commercial airliner while coal, oil and other traditional power is driving around in a car. Statistically you're more likely to die to a car accident than to a plane crash, however an individual car crash does not necessarily kill you, and even in the worst of cases has a relatively low fatality count (most cars have 1-4 people in them, and most accidents are 2-3 cars, so even if everyone in the involved cars dies (which is also unlikely) you have maybe 10 dead people from a car crash). On the other hand if a plane goes down, it's almost certainly going to have 50-500 people on board, and the fatality rate of a crashed plane is much closer to 100% than a car accident.

There have been only 2 (!!!) major accidents [wikipedia.org] involving nuclear power in over 60 years of it's use. That's pretty good track record by my book, and even if you count some of the level 5-6 events on that scale, the impact of nuclear power is still 'big boom' lots of people are affected, then nothing happens again for another 30 years, instead of the constant flow of industrial accidents, contaminants, and yes, radiation being pumped out by coal power every day. The nuclear impact may affect more people when it does come around, but the coal power has a constant stream of little impacts every day.

Re:Logic! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318165)

Maybe instead of looking for a different power source we should strive to live better with less required energy? I know I know, where do I get these crazy ideas thinking that the world is finite and we can't grow exponentially forever

Regulations are needed (4, Insightful)

Joe U (443617) | about 5 months ago | (#45318245)

Nuclear energy is proven, has the lowest pollution, best carbon footprint of anything we have (it's largest footprint comes from the concrete used in it's construction) and could be far cheaper if it wasn't severely over-regulated.

Pure bullshit. Those regulations are there to stop the local energy company from cutting corners and blowing up something. Something that they do on a regular basis in non nuclear energy.

The most dangerous aspect of nuclear energy is the energy company.

Re:Regulations are needed (0)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about 5 months ago | (#45318405)

Nuclear energy is proven, has the lowest pollution, best carbon footprint of anything we have (it's largest footprint comes from the concrete used in it's construction) and could be far cheaper if it wasn't severely over-regulated.

Pure bullshit. Those regulations are there to stop the local energy company from cutting corners and blowing up something. Something that they do on a regular basis in non nuclear energy.

The most dangerous aspect of energy is the energy company.

Fixed that for you.

I ask you the same thing I ask all anti-nukes. If it's good enough to put to sea, then why isn't it good enough to be put on land?

Re:Regulations are needed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318543)

Those regulations are there to stop the local energy company from cutting corners and blowing up something. Something that they do on a regular basis.

FTFY. TEPCO lied (and still does) every time they state anything. Do you belive ANY nuclear plant is different?

Re:Logic! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318293)

Lowest pollution? Because hydro power, wind power, solar power... totally pollute more than nuclear wastes.

My problem with nuclear (3, Interesting)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 5 months ago | (#45318521)

is completely based on people. Everything starts out fine with the Gov't watching it and making sure it's safe, but safety costs a lot of $$$, and sooner or later somebody notices they could have that $$$ for themselves. The argument that every dollar gov't spends is just bureaucratic waste is pervasive and worse, it sounds plausible because it's easy to find pork projects and waste. Human's are pretty inefficient to begin with but when it's private waste you never know about it, because what company goes out of it's way to tell investors they spent $50 million on a software project that could've been done for $10 if it wasn't for hindsight :P. Gov't is public so that's all out in the open...

So the myth of bureaucratic waste passes the 'truthiness' test, and it gets applied to stuff like Nuclear safety inspections. They get privatized and before you know it a perfectly safe plant is now a disaster waiting to happen. The rich guy that pocketed the savings is 1000 miles away from ground zero so he doesn't care either. Worst case scenario he pays a $1 million dollar fine on $1 billion in profits...

I haven't been able to come up with a solution for this. Heck, most people don't even recognize it as a problem. They focus on the technical problems not the human ones. Until Nuclear can be done so safely that there's no money in ignoring safety it won't work...

Re:Logic! (2)

Alarash (746254) | about 5 months ago | (#45318617)

What about private companies who go easy on safety to turn a quick buck? See Fukushima where years before the incident reports were written indicating that the facility wouldn't survive a tsunami. Or when Areva drops nuclear waste in the rivers of France? The problem isn't with nuclear power per se, it's what our brilliant capitalistic society makes of it. We, as a civilization, are too bent on the short-time, low-hanging fruit of easy money to be trusted with anything as dangerous as nuclear fission reactors. When money isn't the only real God we worship, maybe we could consider it. How about storage of the nuclear waste? That's not going anywhere and is a huge problem by itself, and you should consider it in your carbon footprint calculation.

What about (2)

rossdee (243626) | about 5 months ago | (#45318099)

Geothermal ? Theres plenty of energy there...

Re:What about (4, Informative)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 5 months ago | (#45318169)

Geothermal and Solar have basically the same problem. Quite plentiful, way more than we'll ever use until we become truly space going (centuries) but dispersed enough that gathering and storing it becomes impractical.

The main problem with renewable sources isn't the availability, it's the storage for later use. Coal/oil/uranium already have this part solved by nature, though with all the downsides that go with them. Dams solve the storage issue for hydro, but can't really be built in many more places than they are already and have their own negatives as well.

Re:What about (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 5 months ago | (#45318179)

I was going to say the same thing.

The problem here, I suspect, is not that renewables are insufficient to our energy needs, it's that they are often not available in jurisdictionally convenient places. Iceland likely has geothermal capacity great enough to power a goodly chunk of Europe, but it's stuck in the middle of the North Atlantic, which means there cost of building and maintaining transmission capacity is very large.

The same applies where I am in British Columbia. The north coast of BC has huge geothermal potential, but no one wants to put up the capital. The government will bow who knows how much money making massive upgrades to transmission lines to isolated places like Kitimat to produce LNG, which will have to be supplied by the rest of the grid (read: electricity ratepayers and taxpayers) but won't investigate in any meaningful way geothermal capacity that could once again make BC a frequent net exporter of electricity.

Re:What about (1)

amorsen (7485) | about 5 months ago | (#45318311)

Geothermal ? Theres plenty of energy there...

No. No there is not. Geothermal flux is measured in mW per m2. Yes there are local exceptions like Iceland, but if you tried to produce sufficient energy for hundreds of millions of people, you would find the hot spots going cool very quickly.

The problems with nuclear aren't pollution.... (2)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | about 5 months ago | (#45318103)

1) Expense. nuclear power is incredibly expensive to do safely, because if bad things happen at a nuclear plant nobody can ever live in that County ever again. Just look at Fukishima and Chernobyl. If bad things happen at a coal or gas plant, OTOH, the worst consequence is that it blows and you need to buy a new one. You need lots of very smart people to monitor it 24/7, and sophisticated computerized systems and robots to make sure the people don't screw up, and even that won't save you forever.

2) If every democracy uses uses nuclear power everyone else will want it. And if you have a nuclear plant you have most of the really hard bits of a nuclear weapons program. Untrustworthy countries who probably shouldn't have the temptation of city-vaporizing weapons will want them. And it's kinda hard to convince an Iranian who thinks his country is perfectly trustworthy (to him it's those nasty Israelis you have to worry about) that everyone's life would be so much easier if his country didn't have the physical capability to finish the Holocaust. It's even harder to convince the Israelis, who (probably) currently have nuclear weapons, that everyone's lives would be so much simpler if they just switched to solar.

In other words if the choices are one or two more degrees of global warming, or letting every country in the world develop nuclear power, we're probably better off living with the warming.

Re:The problems with nuclear aren't pollution.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318135)

There are many nuclear reactor designs that are not usable for development of nuclear weapons. Plus the whole "thorium" thing cannot be used for nukes either.

Re:The problems with nuclear aren't pollution.... (1)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | about 5 months ago | (#45318301)

There are many nuclear reactor designs that are not usable for development of nuclear weapons. Plus the whole "thorium" thing cannot be used for nukes either.

That's possible. OTOH if you were actually serious about convincing people to adopt these proposals you wouldn't call it nuclear power, because people who don't follow the issue closely assume all nuclear reactors produce weapons-grade material. You'd call it Thorium-based Fission.

Moreover it doesn't get around problem one: namely that even with Japanese-quality safety engineers a really bad accident can ruin hundreds of square miles of your country.

Re:The problems with nuclear aren't pollution.... (1)

amorsen (7485) | about 5 months ago | (#45318331)

Plus the whole "thorium" thing cannot be used for nukes either.

Sure it can. You can fairly trivially produce and separate Uranium 233 if you have a thorium fuel cycle running. It is an unusual choice for nuclear bombs, but perfectly suitable.

Re:The problems with nuclear aren't pollution.... (3, Insightful)

dnaumov (453672) | about 5 months ago | (#45318167)

2) If every democracy uses uses nuclear power everyone else will want it. And if you have a nuclear plant you have most of the really hard bits of a nuclear weapons program. Untrustworthy countries who probably shouldn't have the temptation of city-vaporizing weapons will want them. And it's kinda hard to convince an Iranian who thinks his country is perfectly trustworthy (to him it's those nasty Israelis you have to worry about) that everyone's life would be so much easier if his country didn't have the physical capability to finish the Holocaust. It's even harder to convince the Israelis, who (probably) currently have nuclear weapons, that everyone's lives would be so much simpler if they just switched to solar.

In other words if the choices are one or two more degrees of global warming, or letting every country in the world develop nuclear power, we're probably better off living with the warming.

This is one of the shittiest arguments ever. Out of all countries with nuclear capability, US happens to be the only one who has actually used nuclear weapons against another country. Additionally, the US has started several new wars in the past decade alone. So if we go along with your "trustworthy" line of reasoning, the US should be #1 on the list of countries to be denied any access to nuclear technology.

Re:The problems with nuclear aren't pollution.... (5, Insightful)

NicBenjamin (2124018) | about 5 months ago | (#45318217)

That's kind of my point.

If the country that helped defeat but the Nazis and the Soviets can't be trusted with nuclear weapons, why the fuck would we insist that all 54 African countries, everyone in Latin America, Asia, etc. has to build reactors capable of producing those weapons? Hell if the Japanese, who aren't known for inferior engineering, can't keep a non-weapons producing facility safe what are the odds that everyone else can pull that shit off?

Global warming is bad, but if it's a choice between moving all NYC residents to Detroit (we'd actually have room for a quarter of them within the Detroit city limits, the D' population has fallen that much since it's peak in '55), and giving all 192 countries in the world nuclear power then I'm gonna go with moving everyone to fucking Detroit.

This's one of the dumbest proposals ever.

Re:The problems with nuclear aren't pollution.... (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 5 months ago | (#45318227)

I'm with you on the downsides of nuclear, but given the projected sea level rise, the cost of the warming is going to be much much worse than a few nuclear plants going boom. Flooding out the coast lines worldwide will displace far more people than even if all the nuke plants went FUBAR.

We probably need nuclear for the next 50-100 years at least until we can get the energy storage technology ramped up enough for grid scale usage of renewable sources.

Thorium nuclear has lots of potential as well, without the proliferation aspects. That needs lots of R & D before being usable too though.

Re:The problems with nuclear aren't pollution.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318239)

1 - Wrong. OK, let's look at Fukishima and Chernobyl. Not that they were not bad, they were. But ultimately the death toll is not impressive compared to deaths in coal mines, oil fields, and other non-nuke energy accidents. The deaths from the Fukishima plant are trivial compared to the deaths from the Tsunami itself. Second on this point - most commercial nuclear plants today are BWR or PWR designs that are evolutionary improvements of the reactors designed in the 1950s. There are far safer, more efficient designs available today. There is nothing technical making them more expensive. Regulatory hurdles however do.

2 - Wrong. If you get away from the BWR/PWR designs there are a lot of other reactor designs that do not use a fuel cycle or related technology that is suitable for nuclear weapons. production. Look up thorium molten salt reactor.

Re:The problems with nuclear aren't pollution.... (2)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 5 months ago | (#45318391)

Nuclear is very expensive to build, but overall cost including fuel, waste, O&M and regulation is very competitive. You can look at states or countries....power prices are lower where there is nuclear baseload. There is a marginal profit line today though, as natural gas has eroded that in recent years. Nat Gas is very low cost today, and the gas companies will keep it low until their is a greater dependency.

Re:The problems with nuclear aren't pollution.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318403)

The nuclear accidents were in old style nuclear reactors. The management of these power stations were poor which lead to disaster.

Have a look at France where nuclear power has the highest share of their domestic market. No nuclear disasters in France.

Your argument is like the frog being slowly boiled, the frog says "everything is fine" and the frog is eventually boiled alive and dies. This is the problem of human culture, no action is taken until it is too late.

Re:The problems with nuclear aren't pollution.... (1)

Gareth Iwan Fairclough (2831535) | about 5 months ago | (#45318421)

1) Expense. nuclear power is incredibly expensive to do safely, because if bad things happen at a nuclear plant nobody can ever live in that County ever again. Just look at Fukishima and Chernobyl. If bad things happen at a coal or gas plant, OTOH, the worst consequence is that it blows and you need to buy a new one. You need lots of very smart people to monitor it 24/7, and sophisticated computerized systems and robots to make sure the people don't screw up, and even that won't save you forever.

2) If every democracy uses uses nuclear power everyone else will want it. And if you have a nuclear plant you have most of the really hard bits of a nuclear weapons program. Untrustworthy countries who probably shouldn't have the temptation of city-vaporizing weapons will want them. And it's kinda hard to convince an Iranian who thinks his country is perfectly trustworthy (to him it's those nasty Israelis you have to worry about) that everyone's life would be so much easier if his country didn't have the physical capability to finish the Holocaust. It's even harder to convince the Israelis, who (probably) currently have nuclear weapons, that everyone's lives would be so much simpler if they just switched to solar.

In other words if the choices are one or two more degrees of global warming, or letting every country in the world develop nuclear power, we're probably better off living with the warming.

"Fastest way to build a bomb is to just build a bomb."

I wish I knew who said that.

Yeah, but like everyone, they can be wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318107)

Here, they are.

They maintain that renewables are insufficient.

BULLSHIT.

That is not the case.

Re:Yeah, but like everyone, they can be wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318125)

""Those energy sources cannot scale up fast enough" to deliver the amount of cheap and reliable power the world needs"

Yeah, they quoted part and then added their own words to the letter.

But that statement itself shows it's bullshit: it'd take 10-20 years with current desings already known to be a problem. You can build a shitload of renewables in that time. Look what Germany did in 3 years.

Easy for them to say (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318131)

Five nuclear power plants in the US have closed this year, [upi.com] due to a combination of competitive and operating issues. An industry analyst quoted in the article expects more plant closures to come.

Now we're stuck with these decommissioned plants. Anybody want a high-paying job? Sign up to help clean up and tear down those zombie plants.

Re:Easy for them to say (1)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about 5 months ago | (#45318473)

Yes, before we make (implicit) claims about nuclear being able to scale, maybe we should prove that we can decommission the 300 or so ones that are due to close over the next two decades.

Next problem: while doing that, build 150 new plants (each twice as powerful) to replace the ones going out of service.

Next problem: while doing all of the above, build more plants, i.e. the actual scaling...

Meanwhile the amount of installed PV capacity on the planet is doubling each two years on average. Those are probably also going to be a recycling nightmare, but at least they allow us to kick the can another 30 years down the proverbial road.

Re:Easy for them to say (2)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about 5 months ago | (#45318595)

Yes, before we make (implicit) claims about nuclear being able to scale, maybe we should prove that we can decommission the 300 or so ones that are due to close over the next two decades.

No, we're talking about building new plants, which means new designs, not old ones. So, we have to prove that building a plant with a new design and operating a new design and decommissioning a new design is more cost effective and environmentally friendly than coal, gas, oil, the wars we're fighting because of oil, the overall economic impacts of sending more money out of the country to buy oil, etc etc.

Meanwhile the amount of installed PV capacity on the planet is doubling each two years on average. Those are probably also going to be a recycling nightmare, but at least they allow us to kick the can another 30 years down the proverbial road.

Um, what? If new nuke plants are built, it's going to be more than 30 years before we need to go down that proverbial road...hypocrite? Don't get me wrong, PV is great, the more the better as far as I'm concerned, but why do you argue against new nuke plants by saying decommissioning will suck in the same post that you say we don't have to worry about PV decommissioning for a few decades so it doesn't matter?

Is it just me. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318139)

Or is everyone sick and tired of hearing about what the "world" needs. Like I could give a flying fuck anymore. I "need" about $300 a month worth of electricity or about $20,000 in solar panels and another $5,000 in solar water heating modules. The magic price point for me is when it gets below $20K, and then the penguins and the tree huggers, and Al Gore can all go fuck themselves because I will be taking a chain saw to the power pole out in the front yard. I'm not doing it to be carbon neutral. I'd be doing to just be able to ignore 30% of what's on the news and to get big business and gov't out of my business and my check book.

Quite the opposite: Nuclear is not enough (3, Interesting)

gweihir (88907) | about 5 months ago | (#45318143)

Why does everybody overlook that uranium resources are limited and that what is available today barely can feed the existing reactors? Money talks is the only explanation I have. Nuclear energy has brought nothing but trouble and wasted shiploads of money.

Re:Quite the opposite: Nuclear is not enough (4, Insightful)

ScottCooperDotNet (929575) | about 5 months ago | (#45318347)

Why does everybody overlook that uranium resources are limited and that what is available today barely can feed the existing reactors? Money talks is the only explanation I have.

Breeder reactors [wikipedia.org] solved this a long time ago, before enriching uranium [wikipedia.org] became practical.

Nuclear energy has brought nothing but trouble and wasted shiploads of money.

Would you prefer more coal plants polluting the air? Hydro-dams preventing fish breeding? Wind turbines slicing birds apart? Every energy-generation system is going to have its drawbacks. Ever play SimCity?

Re:Quite the opposite: Nuclear is not enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318357)

Current known deposits of Uranium are plenty for our current consumption for a very long time. So no one is looking for new deposits. To take that to mean that there ARE no more deposits is some very strange thinking.

Re:Quite the opposite: Nuclear is not enough (1)

amorsen (7485) | about 5 months ago | (#45318437)

If nuclear power plants were cheap, you could extract uranium from sea water and still provide power at competitive prices. Uranium in sea water is an extremely large resource.

Unfortunately nuclear power plants are extremely expensive to build, and so they would be hopelessly uncompetitive if they had to pay the additional costs of extracting fuel from sea water. As it is, even in the UK, on existing nuclear sites (so approximately no problems with NIMBY), new builds require guaranteed prices way above market rates for 35 years. Even solar can compete with that.

Re:Quite the opposite: Nuclear is not enough (4, Informative)

jonbryce (703250) | about 5 months ago | (#45318457)

The price of uranium is about $35/lb ($77.16/kg) at the moment, and it costs about $40/lb ($88.18/kg) to produce the stuff at the moment[1]. 1kg of uranium gives you 83TJ of energy, the same as 3464 tonnes of coal. Coal costs $71.34 per tonne[2], so to get the same amount of energy from 1kg of uranium in coal, you would need to spend $247,133.65.

The fact that uranium is currently selling for less than the cost of production suggests that there is a massive surplus of inventory in the channel at the moment, not that resources are limited.

Sources:
1. http://www.businessinsider.com/uranium-is-set-for-a-violent-move-higher-2013-10 [businessinsider.com]
2. http://dawn.com/news/1053697/rising-coal-prices-to-hit-profit-margins [dawn.com]

"will not be sufficient" ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318201)

Looks like these prominent scientists never left First World nations... With enough solar panels in the Sahara, we could easily feed most of the energy needs almost for free....but most "investments" require high profits (unless it's coming from taxpayers).....and which company is going to invest in a product which could make oil useless??

Re:"will not be sufficient" ? (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 5 months ago | (#45318363)

Sure... if we had ways to actually distribute that power to where it was needed at no cost.

When you transmit power over a distance, you end up losing part of it, and the further you are transmitting it, the more that you lose.

Invent a room temperature superconductor first... then we'll talk.

Not good at math (5, Interesting)

TrumpetPower! (190615) | about 5 months ago | (#45318299)

You only need to cover a half a percent of the Earth's surface with off-the-shelf 15% efficient PV panels to provide all of humanity all of its energy needs. If we covered all residential rooftops in the States with PV panels, we'd generate about as much electricity as the industrialized world needs -- and that's just residential rooftops just in the US.

To suggest that solar somehow isn't enough is just laughable. Hell, with the kind of abundance that solar offers, we've got far more than enough available to distill CO2 out of the atmosphere and turn it into hydrocarbons -- an incredibly energy-intensive process -- and use those hydrocarbons as our storage and transportation mechanisms just as we do today.

What we don't have is the willingness to invest our hydrocarbon inheritance in bootstrapping ourselves into such an energy-wealthy society. Instead, we'd rather squander our inheritance on monster SUVs and petroleum-based fertilizer to feed dozens of billions of people.

Here's some perspective from somebody who can actually do the math:

http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2012/02/the-alternative-energy-matrix/ [ucsd.edu]

Cheers,

b&

Make solar available to everyone (2)

Barsteward (969998) | about 5 months ago | (#45318365)

Instead of giving power companies subsidies, why not install solar on every home and business and then the grid becomes a fall back and not a single point of failure. Power generation should be distributed rather than concentrated.

Re:Make solar available to everyone (5, Insightful)

yankeessuck (644423) | about 5 months ago | (#45318443)

This is not politically viable in the US. A large percentage of the population has no problem with the government giving free stuff to companies but then get all up in arms when it gives stuff to the people.

Nuclear Fission Power is a primitive energy source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318471)

You're effectively using radioactive material to heat water to generate steam to turn turbines to generate power. It's one of the most dangerous and expensive ways to generate electricity mankind has ever devised.

Humanity can do better.

And if you want a solution to global warming and air pollution and long term concerns about radioactive waste simply use fusion power. Now there are a number of ways to go about it. You have Cold Fusion (which works but has repeatability issues that can be rectified with sober experimentation without skeptical hyperbole), Polywell, Plasma Focus, and possibly other methods which are far more expensive such as the Tokamak.

So we see then that the future of power production belongs to energy sources that don't involve the burning of fossil fuels. So inexhaustible energy sources like Solar, Tidal, Wind, and Fusion will be in use in the coming decades to an even greater degree. All that remains is determining how quickly it occurs.

And various governments can and should invest in these technologies, but also the billionaires that like spending their money on useless trinkets can spend it on a laudable goal such as this.

why soo serious? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318493)

hihihi lol.
leave the oil and gas in the ground because oxidizing it might overwhelm the planets ability to radiate the generated heat
into outer space - BUT- digging up fissile material and turning it into potent carcinogenic poison that last for thousands of years with the
tiny extra benefit of it being able to generate steam to blow on some "windmill-in-a-case" is .. OK?
bloody hilarious!
methinks, a brain-washing advertising push needs to be made: if people want a dry house, they need a roof. if they want to flush the toilet, take a
shower and wash the dishes and car,t hey need a well, if they want electricity they better freaking add some solar to the roof.
i'm sure there are some building codes that state what kind of dwellings are allowed to be built. these codes need to be updated. if it says that you
need a septic tank that holds all your sh1t, then most certainly .. and i'm sorry you need to spend more ... if you want electricity, then you are also required to
install solar panels on your roof! blame global warming not your government for the change in the building code!!!
simple!
"buy some solar panels for your roof today and save the toddler in a poor oil rich country from being bombed!"

Re:why soo serious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45318581)

-or- "buy some solar panels for your roof today and save your future grandchildren from being dirty-bombed!"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_bomb

bring on the nukes (1)

globaljustin (574257) | about 5 months ago | (#45318643)

I am of two minds on opposition to nuclear power.

On one hand, I don't want to think about places like Pakistan, North Korea, Thailand, FSR's, etc having free reign to use nuclear power. It's like giving your redneck neighbor in Kentucky a vintage Ferrari. They litterally wouldn't be able to do anything but tear it up (try finding an oil filter for a 80s Italian sports car in rural Kentucky...)

On the other hand, its immoral to stifle technology and human development. We have harnessed the power of the atom and we need the energy it can provide or our species will **destroy itself**

In the final analysis, pushing down technology and progression of human knowledge is a delay tactic at best...that's why I favor a full frontal R&D assault on nuclear power...let's kill it...pin it down like a butterfly...

Fusion is in this conversation somehow, but it's not just about R&D for new types of nuke power...we can do both...

We should have "Mr. Fusion" processors on our cars...or at least powering our homes...the tech is there to do it safely if we only put the R&D into the engineering of it (which is not a simply task of course)

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