Well, it is year end, so lots of review is taking place, to include whether nuclear power is or is not a suitable option for mitigating carbon emissions that definitely are changing life on the planet, and, if business continues as usual, quite possibly will eradicate life as we know it.
“No new nuclear reactor have been built in the US in decades; investors and the public were spooked after the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island… A new reactor costs about $7 billion dollars to build–not an insignificant sum–and new reactors won’t be online for at least 8 or 9 years, even if they get the green light. Congress in 2005 authorized $18.5 billion in loans, but that money has not yet been used… Of course,” observes Dan Kessel, “that could all change with a new climate bill on the horizon.”
Via the Big (How does one say Happy New Year in Australian?) (the swim suite edition) Gav, we see that the Sydney Morning Herald raises some objection to Mo’ Nuclear. The opinion deals with the economics of nuclear power, moving from the significant investment and insurance to an even more significant concern:
But the biggest cost, especially for Australia, could be the opportunity cost of throwing these vast sums into an old technology dominated by other countries, rather than investing in new renewable technologies and industries of the future. From relatively modest funding Australia has already produced world-beating solar-photovoltaic and solar-thermal technologies, even if both have moved offshore due to lack of investment support. Geothermal power has just received government grants, which will allow full prototypes to be tested in a few years. Many scientists believe that it is inevitable that these technologies will be viable, provide so-called baseload power cost-competitively, and that their maturation would be faster than the typical construction schedules of nuclear power stations if comparable budgets and subsidies were deployed.
Which relates to a previous assertion by this blog that investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy is better than more nuclear power stations. In general, Peak Energy and After Gutenberg agree, “Nukes are Stupid,” despite the allure from Generation IV reactors, i.e., IFR (Integral Fast Reactor) and LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors)
Image credit: america.gov
“In the somber wake of COP15, it’s easy to feel disheartened with the environmental movement and the world’s failure to make the effort necessary to combat climate change.”
OTOH, necessity is a muthah, and this blog has been struggling with the math. The main clean energy sources are wind and solar, and it is possible to switch over to these sources; Germany proves that such growth is possible. Nevertheless, most optimistic treehuggers concur that the Solar Industry could provide 15% of electric power; and, wind power could provide 25% with the decade.
Yet RePower America has as its goal 100 percent of our electricity from clean sources within the same 10 years. The obvious question is: How? Where to we get the other 50-60% electric power. Or, if you believe that life on the planet as we know it can survive the next decade and beyond with 20% fossil fuels, where do we get the other 30-40%?
Such an amount gained from energy efficiency is a tall order, and demand is dynamic, so it is possible that increased demand cancels gains in negawatts.
And, unfortunately, more nuclear, either fancy-schmancy or the just plain TMI (Three Mile Island), Yucca Mountain, Chernobyl Zombie kind, is the wrong answer. Not because of nuclear waste (Ecology), not because of nuclear Economics, and not because of “nuklar terrists” (Equity).
Sorry to tell you, especially if you were counting upon denial and delay as viable options. It is the wrong answer because there is insufficient time. It takes a decade to bring a nuclear power station on-line. We (the “intelligent life” of this planet) lack such luxury.
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- Australian Academy of Science: Australia’s Renewable Energy Future (peakenergy.blogspot.com)
- Nukes are stupid (peakenergy.blogspot.com)
- New-Generation Reactors Help Reduce Nuclear Waste (innovationtoronto.com)
- Getting Green Power: If You Want It, Prove It (treehugger.com)
- Nuclear Power: Climate Fix or Folly? (treehugger.com)