Friday, November 18, 2005

2005 ANS Winter Meeting: Lisa's Log

I’ve spent the past week at the American Nuclear Society's (ANS) 2005 Winter Meeting. The theme of the conference was “Talk about Nuclear Differently: A Good Story Untold” and I was thrilled to see the building enthusiasm in the industry. Over the next few days I’ll try to capture some of my thoughts and impressions and I hope other blog contributors will offer theirs as well.

The conference began with one of the most interesting plenary sessions I’ve ever attended. Receiving a standing ovation after his remarks was Dr. Patrick Moore who titled his presentation “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Nuclear Energy.” We’ve mentioned Moore on this blog many times because of his dramatic departure from Greenpeace co-founder to a supporter of nuclear energy, but I’ve never heard him speak. It was riveting. I took copious notes but couldn’t keep up with him so I hope his slides appear at the ANS website and that our friend Rod Adams at Atomic Insights captured the audio file and receives permission to post it.

Moore began with a description of his early days as an environmental activist. Then he moved on to the issue of climate change and the differing views of its causes and effects. Citing fringe environmentalist opposition to all fossil fuels, plus nuclear, wind (because of bird kills and land use), and hydro (fish kills and salmon runs) he asked “What kind of environmental policy is it to be against 99.95% of generation assets?” He said that “sensible environmentalists” realize that we cannot significantly reduce the use of fossil fuels without nuclear being part of the solution. Some of his other points were:

• He is not supportive of biofuels as an alternatives source of energy. There is not much to gain and he asked “How much more clear-cutting do we really want to do to plant new crops?”
• The U.S. and Canada lead the world in hydroelectric power but there is room for more
• 75% of the world’s wind capacity is in Europe, mostly in Denmark and Germany. In those countries, enormous subsidies were required to build the wind farms.

But by far, his greatest enthusiasm was saved for geothermal technology and nuclear power. I must admit that I was not, and am not, well-versed on geothermal but after his remarks I intend to learn more! A resource he gave for more information is the Geothermal Heat Pump Consortium. I also hope our colleague Mike Stuart can post a bit on this topic since he has such a system at his home.

Moore said that a person could reduce his or her own personal carbon emissions by a whopping 50% by driving a fuel-efficient or hybrid vehicle and by installing a geothermal system in the home for heating, cooling, and hot water. In fact, he was rather irate that the environmentalist movement has focused so much attention on residential solar power at the expense of championing geothermal technology. He said that $20,000 invested in solar panels would generate about 1500 kW-hr and save the average homeowner $100 a year. In contrast, $20,000 invested in a geothermal system would generate about 20,000 kW-hr and save the homeowner $1300 per year. He said that a geothermal system can heat a home to 85F from permafrost!

Turning to nuclear power, Moore stated that the Three Mile Island event was not a serious accident. Not one person died as a result and he considered it a successful demonstration of the robustness of a nuclear power plant. Next, he said that while Chernobyl was a serious accident, only 50 people died in the immediate aftermath and the vast majority of cancers attributed to the radiation exposure have been successfully treated. He compared those numbers to the 3000 people that perished immediately as a result of the Bhopal accident.

Moore went on to say that no one has died as a result of a radiation accident at a civilian nuclear power plant in the US or Canada but that 40,000 people die each year in car accidents. He then asked rhetorically why there was no movement to ban cars.

Moore next addressed proliferation concerns. His main point was that it is fundamentally wrong to ban a technology simply because it may be used for evil purposes. He gave a statistic (I missed the number) demonstrating that worldwide, more people die of knife wounds than any other violent means, yet the machete is also one of the most important tools in farming. In his view, nuclear power is far too valuable as a means to generate electricity, hydrogen, heat, and to desalinate water to ban it out of fear of misuse, particularly when steps can be taken by the international community to effectively minimize the risk.

Toward the end of his remarks, Moore said that, ironically, the environmentalist movement is the primary obstacle to implementing realistic solutions to achieve carbon reduction around the world. Then he gave his ideas on the best ways to close the carbon cycle. They included:

• Develop and use more renewables where practical
• Aggressively implement new nuclear power programs
• Promote conservation and efficiency
• Develop and utilize biotechnology
• Develop hydrogen-powered transportation

The floor was opened to questions after the plenary speakers gave their prepared remarks, One question was, “Should the US sign the Kyoto agreement?” Moore decisively said “No.” He believes that the it is a fatally flawed treaty that will not achieve significant carbon reduction. As an example, he mentioned that Canada signed the treaty, pledged to cut carbon emissions to 6% below 1990 levels by 2010, but that it is clear today that they will miss that goal by at least 40%.

Other bloggers that were in attendance, please post your thoughts on Moore’s presentation!

2 comments:

Rod Adams said...

Lisa:

Thank you for posting the summary. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this day's sessions. If I had, the recording would not have been useful since it would have captured more of my coughing that Dr. Moore's speaking.

Sorry.

Vijay said...

Thanks for posting such a detailed account on the talk. I couldn't find the transcript over at ANS website but if you find it somewhere, can you post that too !