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On The Alternative to the Climate Nuclear Option is Innovation

When you use the term "affordable price" are you excluding external costs?

Because the statement would not be true if external costs are included, as arguably, they should be, actually must be to make a survivable planet.

We live in the Golden Age of Chemistry.   There are basically no high production, HPV, value chemicals, none, produced from dangerous fossil fuels that cannot be either replaced or reproduced with access to syn gas.    The technology to do this has been known for more than half a century and it has some cases this technology has operated on an industrial scale, not only in places like Nazi Germany and Apartheid South Africa, but places like Tennessee.    Although the source of the syn gas in most of these cases was coal, there is no intrinsic chemical reason that it need be.   Indeed coal based syn gas is rough on catalysts.

That syn gas is mostly produced from dangerous fossil fuels is largely a function of the fact that these fuels are subsidized with damage to the biosphere, including for example, human lung tissue, damage to the hydrosphere and damage to the atmosphere.

I'm not an Amory Lovins type fool when I say this - I'm not offering glib "no pain" hand waving solutions when I say this - but syn gas is definitely obtainable from nuclear heat, and with a little imagination, a little interest in future generations, a little less contempt for our children, our grandchildren and their decendants, we already have the technology to replace oil, gas and coal.  

Unfortunately, the international culture has a huge shortage, if not of dangerous fossil fuels, at least of imagination and courage, and hence we think we "need" dangerous fossil fuels.  

We don't. 

October 26, 2014    View Comment    

On Low Oil Prices: Sign of a Debt Bubble Collapse, Leading to the End of Oil Supply?

In general, I agree with most of the points of your riposte, but I would like to add a caveat to your remark that a nuclear power plant is a good investment.

That depends on what one means by "good investment."

A nuclear power plant should be designed to operate for 60 years or more, and this has certainly been demonstrated.     However, for reasons that certainly do involve fear and ignorance, as you imply with your remarks on the tragic effects of "antinuclearism" the up front costs are high, and thus they are a long term investment opportunity and not a "quick buck."

Unfortunately the first world economic culture has focused only on short term thinking.

A nuclear power plant is an investment in the future, the main benefits will accrue to our children, our grandchildren and great grandchildren.

It's very clear that as a culture, we couldn't care less about the future.

I believe nuclear energy is the only form of truly sustainable energy and I would argue that a complaint about what might happen should the world economy collapse when the observed effects of dangerous fossil fuels without the collapse of the economy are disasterous, is inherently absurd.

But as much as I know nuclear energy is the only moral form of energy that exists, I do not expect it to be allowed to succeed as it might do, any more than it was allowed to do what it might have done.   One is a fool if one underestimates the power of fear, the power of ignorance.

I use this analogy a lot, because it sticks in my mind is seems dead on:   Many lives might have been saved from the bubonic plague if people merely cleaned up the garbage on which rats fed.    The actual means to address the crisis was not that however; it was prayer.

With nuclear energy we might clean up the garbage.    But that won't happen.   What will happen is just more prayers to the sun God while the devil within all of us burns ever more quantities of coal, oil, and gas, until the last molecule of CO2 that can be squeezed into the atmosphere is squeezed into it.

October 7, 2014    View Comment    

On Plastic Bags, Nuclear Waste and a Toxic Planet

You say that so called "nuclear waste" poses a deadly threat.

The nuclear industry is more than half a century old.   According to Jim Hansen, writing in the scientific journal Environmental Science and Technology last year, nuclear energy saved close to two million lives in its history, lives that would have been lost to air pollution - which kills 7 million people each year - were it not for nuclear power.   

Let's cut to the chase:  Can you name anyone in this country who has been killed by so called "nuclear waste" in the United States in the last half a century?   Wouldn't it be required to show that something has actually killed someone to assert that it is "deadly?"


September 24, 2014    View Comment    

On How Does the People's Climate March Stack Up Against the Largest Protest Rallies in U.S. History?

I was at both NYC Iraq war protests.

They did nothing to stop the war, which went on happily in spite of it.

I recall the "Live Earth" concerts of 2007 to stop climate change, which featured Rock 'n Rollers wearing "No Nukes" tee shirts, prancing around on the stage with amplifiers and sound systems that consumed the power, say, equal to the average continuous power demand of 1,000 Cambodians.

My sister-in-law, who lives in New York, invited me to come to the protest, knowing how I feel about climate change, and I seriously considered going, because a protest always involves one coming away feeling good.

But there is a huge difference between "feeling good" and being serious about doing something.

Climate change is not some issue of glib bourgeois politics.    It is a serious matter, and all solutions are exceedingly difficult and challenging.    They are all involved with poverty, with economics, with justice, and with science.

I will bet that the protests, which I declined to go to lest I be photographed with some lightweight fool with a "No Nukes" tee shirt, were very weak on that last point, science.

If this protest were 5 times larger it would have the same effect as the previously unmentioned "Live Earth" concerts, which is to say none at all.

September 23, 2014    View Comment    

On Would Solar Roadways Work? A Government Engineer Discusses the Controversial Technology

When you say "no one is seriously suggesting that solar will be the sole solution," I assume you don't get out much.

There are oodles of people who seriously suggest that the expensive, failed, toxic and useless solar industry can do precisely that, for instance the idiot professor at Stanford, Mark Z. Jacobson, anti-nuke, who for reasons that strike me as irrational, is sometimes taken serious, even though he's clueless.

These people are destroying the world, as far as I'm concerned, if only because their half a century of wishful thinking has entrenched the dangerous fossil fuel industry indefinitely, mostly because their reactionary program of returning the world to the 18th century hasn't worked, isn't working, and won't work, and thus the unsustainable status quo is the default.

I have universally and consistently opposed all dangerous fuels, which is why I oppose the so called "renewable energy" industry because its only function is to serve as a bait and switch marketing tool for the dangerous fossil fuel industry.

The solar industry does not produce enough electricity to run all the servers dedicated to telling everyone how wonderful it is.


September 7, 2014    View Comment    

On Solar Could Grow Faster if We Had a Functioning Federal Government

Clayton, with whatever respect is due you, when you deign to speak about "nuclear progress," it's rather like having the Ayotollah Khamenei discuss appropriate ways to decorate Christmas trees in Iowa in a way that Santa Claus will find pleasing.

I am a chemist by formal training, and I would suspect, from this remark you make about "chemical storage," with its obliviousness to the laws of thermodynamics suggests that your knowledge of chemistry is comparable to your knowledge of nuclear engineering.

The pressurized water reactor saved millions of human lives.   It is an outstanding invention, the basic theory of which was developed by a Nobel Prize winning physicist, Eugene Wigner.   The reactor type was built, and continues to be built, because it is a mature robust technology.

Now, I happen to know a considerable amount of nuclear engineering, and I believe that better reactors are available for more complex missions than merely generating electricity - it is great that nuclear can do what wind and solar will never be able to do, eliminate coal burning - but I believe that nuclear means are possible to eliminate the other two toxic fossil fuels, natural gas and oil.    The Pressurized Water reactor, despite it's half a century of proved success cannot do this.     But for you to announce blithely that nuclear technology is limited is basically an open confession of ignorance.

And let's be clear:   Ignorance and fear are the two most powerful factors that have prevented nuclear saving many of the 210 million people who died from air pollution in the last 30 years, while people spent oodles and oodles and oodles of more money thinking up ever more tortured (and toxic) ways to make solar energy work.   

But it doesn't work:

You say solar prices have been falling for thirty years.    How come, after soaking the world for more than a trillion bucks over that same period, this industry does not produce a single exajoule of energy per year?

Nuclear has produced, despite caviling by the ignorant, between 25 and 30 exajoules of primary energy for each of the last 30 years.

I note that you report a period that is only after the awful excuse for a human being - who now makes his living "consulting" for fossil fuel companies, including oil sands companies - Amory Lovins told us that solar energy was "already competitive."    If you knew anything about the history of energy thought, you might not be so glib about pushing your very, very, very, very, very, very expensive bourgeois fantasies on a world with rapidly diminishing resources.

You want solar cells on your roof?   Good for you.   Pay for them yourself.   As far as I'm concerned, they're useless to the rest of humanity, and deserve not a single additional red cent of public money.   I would rather learn that you also learn about what it might cost to dispose of any solar cells you pay for when they are transformed into yet more electronic toxic waste, and that you set this money aside, as any solar cells purchased tomorrow surely will be so transformed in almost no time, but I'll settle if you just agree to stop taking money out of schools, health care, opportunity for the needy, and, yes, basic nuclear research to pay for this grotesque failure, the fig leaf for the fossil fuel industry that advertises itself as "renewable energy."

You may call what I do "bashing."   I call what I do an effort to spare human lives from the consequences of ignorance, because more than any other factor in human history, ignorance kills.

Have a nice weekend.

September 4, 2014    View Comment    

On Would Solar Roadways Work? A Government Engineer Discusses the Controversial Technology

Nothing solar works - after 50 years of breathless schemes breathlessly announced, the solar industry doesn't produce 1 of the 550 exajoules humanity consumes each year - and yet we burn more coal, gas and oil to come up with ever more hype and more tortured excuses for spending even more money to do more of nothing.

Humanity deserves what it's going to get.

The last thing the world needs is more tires coating ever larger surfaces of roadways with toxic metals from glass that upon shattering, will leach electronic waste directly on to them, and worse, into the ground water.

A great idea!

Let's send the guy a trillion dollars.

If the guy raised $2.2 million for this, it terrifies one to think of all the good and decent things that might have been done with the money.

September 4, 2014    View Comment    

On Plastic Bags, Nuclear Waste and a Toxic Planet

Lots of people have been burning coal, gas, and oil to tell us all about how scared they are of so called "nuclear waste."

Which has killed more people, coal, oil and gas burned in order to run servers around the country or the storage of so called "nuclear waste?"

The comparison of so called "nuclear waste" with plastic bags is specious, mostly because plastic bags are dangerous.

The nuclear energy industry is more than half a century old.   In the last 50 years, how many deaths have been recorded because of the storage of used nuclear fuel?    As many people as will die in the next 20 minutes from air pollution?   More?  Less?

Basically obsession with so called "nuclear waste" has killed more people than the so called "waste" has.

September 4, 2014    View Comment    

On Can Nuclear Energy Secure Financing? Nuclear Power and the Capital Challenge

B.S.   Really?

I'll take your remark as a Q.E.D. for my comment above, particularly the "they have hydrocarbon systems that can back them up forever."

Like I said, there are zero "renewables will save us" advocates who are not defenders of dangerous fossil fuels, zero who care how many people dangerous fossil fuels kill.

For export...for export...

Most of these comments coming from "renewables will save us" squads border on delusional, but this one is a classic.

For the record, nuclear energy is the world's largest, by far, source of climate change gas free primary energy, having produced between 25 and 30 exajoules of said energy for decades with an extremely low loss of life.    The solar and wind industry, after sucking a trillion bucks out of the pockets of poor poeple for more than a decade, doesn't even produce 5 exajoules.

For export...for...export...

Definitely a classic...

Enjoy the rest of the week.



September 2, 2014    View Comment    

On Can Nuclear Energy Secure Financing? Nuclear Power and the Capital Challenge

I disagree.   Everyone who is pushing the so called "renewable energy" scam is a supporter of fracked gas and coal.

One may appeal to Edmund Burke's comment, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Germany is building new coal plants, right this damn minute.    I hear not a peep of outrage from the "renewables will save us" squad.    What I hear instead is excuses, prevarications, soothsaying and evasion.

Not a word of protest is heard.  Not a word.   Why?   Because their scam depends openly and irrefutably on access to dangerous fossil fuel powered powerplants. 

The wind and solar renewable energy scam has failed, and failed at the cost of over a trillion dollars.  Biomass fuels are responsible for three million deaths per year from air pollution.     We have basically run out of rivers to destroy with massive dams.

And what is the response from the "renewables will save us" squad.   Rather than offer a shred of outrage for the gas and coal they do nothing about, they rail against nuclear energy, using specious trivialities and nitpicking that borders on outright lying; they attack the world's largest, by far, source of climate change gas free energy, the precise form of energy that according to Jim Hansen prevented the dumping of 64 billion tons of the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide and saved nearly two million lives.

Prevented Mortality and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Historical and Projected Nuclear Power

Whether or not these people - the reciters who chant the "renewable will save us" canon as if it were connected with reality, these apologists for German coal, Californian gas, and similar tragedies around the world - possess enough honesty and insight to know themselves, others can clearly see them for what they are.    And to be clear, my own experience with these people suggests that they cannot see themselves, because, insight is precisely the thing they lack in spades.

August 31, 2014    View Comment    

On The Catch-22 of Energy Storage

I always know I'm speaking to a rote anti-nuke exceptionalist when I hear "too cheap to meter," a remark made by a McCarthyite cold war syndic, Robert Strauss, who knew not a shred of science, much like the anti-nukes who quote him incessantly.

How many forms of energy are too cheap to meter, or is your concern based on the idea that only nuclear energy be free and perfect, or otherwise other forms of energy will be free to kill and maim at will?

If solar and wind - trivial forms of energy that don't produce 1% of world energy demand combined - are "too cheap to meter," how come their always asking for vast subsidies amounting to tens of billions of dollars a pop?

Bill Gates invests in lots of things - he is a big player in the so called "traveling wave" Terrapower reactor based on Seikomoto's "Candle Reactor Concept."    Some things in which he invests are better than others.    Maybe you should write him though, to see if he's stuck in the 1950's and gives a rat's ass about nuclear not being "too cheap to meter."

Nuclear energy provides between 25 and 30 exajoules of primary energy each year, this on a planet now consuming 550 exajoules each year.

You seem to have avoided my question, and I expect you will avoid the repeat:   How many exajoules of wind energy were stored in any kind of compressed air system in the last decade?

I note, with due contempt for wishful thinking, that the same people who use the so called "renewable energy" bait and switch for supporting the dangerous fossil fuel status quo, like to appeal to emptied underground storage of dangerous fossil fuel waste, carbon dioxide, in those same structures.

Like CAES, that won't work on scale either.

You may want to check with these dangerous fossil fuel waste dump folks about the simultaneous availability of the structures for the compressed air scheme.



August 29, 2014    View Comment    

On Materials Innovation: Designing Better Surfaces for Energy

Thanks for posting this.

Surface chemistry is really exciting, particularly, as the post says, with respect to refractory corrosive systems.   In order to recover the maximal amount of exergy from the use of primary energy, we definitely need to go to very high temperature systems, precisely the systems where corrosion is the most problematic.

I wasn't familiar with Dr.Yildiz's work, but will certainly check it out.

Another great scientist working to some extent on surface work is the materials science theoretician Dr. Emily Carter at Princeton.   She is the director of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment.   One interesting thing she has published about is her approach involves the application of orbital free density functional theory (OF-DFT) to make predictions about the behavior of surface coatings.   These types of calculations can include the behavior of millions of atoms.   Certainly some of it is over my tiny head, but the results are all that are important, as is the realization that we have that capability.   

August 29, 2014    View Comment