Skip to main content

ironies and Little Failures

paint-can In rummaging around the radiant news of the day, we often run into stories that not only don’t quite fit any particular theme that interests us, but seem determined to not fit any particular theme at all. We sometimes put these in a cold oven back near the pilot light to see if we can come back and make some sense of them later. For example:

Nathan Lewis, a chemistry professor at the California Institute of Technology, has spent three decades researching another option: harnessing solar power to create fuels that can replace oil and gasoline.

Well, that’s interesting and we do like to check in with our renewable cousins. But we realize that Lewis has a bit of sale to make:

N&O [News & Observer]: Tell us what you'll be talking about.

Lewis: I'm going to talk about where our energy comes from now. That gets at the scale of the energy problem. It's not fixing a few light bulbs in Fresno. It's not building 50 nuclear power plants. Even if you conserved energy at twice the level you need [it wouldn't be enough].

N&O: What would it take?

Lewis: Something like 10,000 nuclear power plants within the next 50 years somewhere in the world. That's a pretty stunning number to most people, but it's in fact the scale of energy.

We’d hate to tell Professor Lewis how many solar panels he might need to produce an equal amount of energy, but it’s really the 10,000 that caught our eye. A very stunning number indeed.

Here’s Professor Lewis’ idea:

Lewis: I work in technologies to capture, convert and store sunlight. Solar paint: stuff you can paint on your roof, and maybe ultimately make fuel directly. Artificial photosynthesis: How do you build a leaf? Nature built it. We know it works. We just gotta figure out a way to do it ourselves better.

We wish Professor Lewis a lot of luck.


rolando This seemed a promising headline:

Peru needs a nuclear energy program.

We don’t disagree, and the story promises encouragement:

In an interview with reporters from El Comercio newspaper, [Rolando] Páucar affirmed that it was important for Peru to develop a nuclear energy program to seek the development and production of safe and clean energy.


Even though nuclear specialist Rolando Páucar has pushed for Peru to use nuclear plants to produce energy, the Andean country’s Ministry of Energy has not paid this scientist or his requests much attention.

Hmm! Viva Rolando Paucar?


AppleStrudel-thumb The Viennese are unhappy:

"We were really aghast when we heard that it's being taken back into use," was the angry comment from Herwig Schuster - spokesperson for the Austrian branch of Greenpeace - at the news that the Bohunice V 2 nuclear power station, located just 100 km from Vienna in neighbouring Slovakia, is to re-open.

And why are the Slovaks reopening the plant?

But now, because of the problems with the supply of gas from Russia, the Slovak government has indicated that it wants to bring the reactor back into use.

And why should this bother the Viennese?

All in all it's no wonder that - as research has shown - Vienna comes in third place behind Saint Petersburg and Kiev as the European city most under 'threat' from nuclear power stations, despite Austria's own nuclear-free status.

Love to see that research! We suspect it proves precisely what the Viennese want it to prove. We suspect the Slovaks roll their eyes at the Austrian research. We really suspect the Viennese have not been as affected by Russia’s mischief as the Slovaks.

The Austrians claim that the gas problem with Russia is just an excuse, because only eight percent of Slovakia's energy actually comes from gas.

Or maybe the Slovaks want the benefits of nuclear energy despite the “threat” to Vienna. We suspect – well, we just do.


Joffan said…
The research on European cities under threat was no doubt a report on how people feel, not on real threats. If you tell a population often enough that they are in immediate danger (of whatever) it would be only natural for some significant propotion to start believing it. The Viennese have been stampeded into worrying about nuclear, so now they feel under threat.
Marje Hecht said…
Nathan Lewis is right on one thing: To keep up with demand, the world will need 6,000 nuclear plants ( of 1,000-MW equivalent) by the year 2050. Jim Muckerheide explains how to do it at .
Matthew66 said…
I suspect that the Czechs an Slovaks like to take any opportunity to annoy their former imperial overlords. I imagine that any new plants built in the Czech Republic or Slovakia will be sited near the Austrian border, not just for spite, but to sell electricity to Austria and others in the EU.
Joffan said…
Interesting article Marje, thanks, bookmarked... and I assume that's you writing the "nuclear waste" info box at the end of that article.

Popular posts from this blog

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…