Skip to main content

Asking Some Uncomfortable Questions

Our friend Norris McDonald snuck into a press event promoting the release of Insurmountable Risks: The Dangers of Using Nuclear Power to Combat Global Climate Change by Bruce Smith of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER). One reporter managed to ask an uncomfortable question:
Mr. Smith provided us with a complimentary copy of the book and we will review it soon. Their reliance on wind energy as a replacement for nuclear power is the weakest of their arguments. One reporter questioned how many windmills it would take to back out their estimate of 2,500 nuclear plants needed by 2050 and the number was astronomical. It is also unacceptable to single out nuclear power for opposition while accepting all other forms of electricity generation. The world needs a mix of energy sources, particularly nuclear power, to meet current and future electricity needs.
Technorati tags: , , , , ,

Comments

Anonymous said…
Come on guys, this is dirty pool. You're well aware that no one needs to "sneak into" press conferences at the National Press Club; they're open to the public. It's irresponsible to intimate that IEER was attempting to keep pro-nuclear advocates out of the event.
Norris McDonald said…
But doesn't the 'sneaking in' description sound so much more intriguing?
Kelly L. Taylor said…
So glad you endorsed it, Norris. I like the sound of it, but then, it sounds just like me!
Tom Gray said…
Sorry to see the cheap shot at wind. Do we avoid such tactics or not?

Regards,
Tom Gray
American Wind Energy Association
www.awea.org
www.ifnotwind.org
David Bradish said…
Tom,

Where's the cheap shot?

IEER says it would take 1,000 nuke plants or more to make a difference. Nuke plants are the largest sources for capacity on average.

So if nukes are the biggest how much would be needed from other sources such as wind? 5,000 wind farms? 10,000?

The largest nuke plant in the U.S.(Palo Verde) is 4,200 MW and the largest wind farm in the U.S. (Altamont Pass) is 330 MW. So if wind builds 1,000 GW instead of nuclear, that's more than 3,000 Altamont Pass'. And that's just matching GW. This figure doesn't even account for the intermittancy of wind.

These aren't cheap shots. IEER tries to dismiss nuclear by saying 1,000 nukes are an impossible build yet do not provide how much of the alternatives are needed.

David, NEI
Anonymous said…
David, figuring a 25-30% capacity factor for wind energy sources (a reasonable average), you're looking at 9,000 to 12,000 facilities the equivalent of Altamont Pass. If 1,000 GW of nuclear capacity is an impossible build, how impossible does that make putting up 12,000 Altamont Passes?

But the real Achilles' Heel of intermittant, dispersed, low-capacity energy sources is managing a grid-type system based on these sources. Having been in the hot seat of the dispatching center of a "traditional" transmission company trying to balance load and supply with more conventional, intense sources, I can say that doing even that is often a challenge. Trying to manage tens of thousands of little bitty generators, all subject to local variations in environmental conditions, is truly a nightmare of monumental proportions. And, no, it isn't just a matter of "software". There's a lot more to it than just updating computer programs.

Popular posts from this blog

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

Seeing the Light on Nuclear Energy

If you think that there is plenty of electricity, that the air is clean enough and that nuclear power is a just one among many options for meeting human needs, then you are probably over-focused on the United States or Western Europe. Even then, you’d be wrong.

That’s the idea at the heart of a new book, “Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century,” by Scott L. Montgomery, a geoscientist and energy expert, and Thomas Graham Jr., a retired ambassador and arms control expert.


Billions of people live in energy poverty, they write, and even those who don’t, those who live in places where there is always an electric outlet or a light switch handy, we need to unmake the last 200 years of energy history, and move to non-carbon sources. Energy is integral to our lives but the authors cite a World Health Organization estimate that more than 6.5 million people die each year from air pollution.  In addition, they say, the global climate is heading for ruinous instability. E…