Monday, June 01, 2009

The Bat and the Windmill

Nuclear energy is nothing – nuclear energy is everything.

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vampire-bat University of Greenwich Professor of Energy Studies Stephen Thomas would like a word with you about the utter failure of the nuclear renaissance – not just here but in Europe, too.

"We've been waiting in vain on a 'Nuclear Renaissance' in Europe since the early 1990s. Even before the recent collapse in energy prices and the financial downturn, it was clear that all of the talk of a new resurgence in the prospects for nuclear reactors was just that: talk. It is for this reason that I find it so odd that the case for more nuclear power is being built in the United States on an entirely mythical notion of some kind of international 'race' that the U.S. supposedly is losing. In reality, the nuclear power industry in Europe is in the midst of the same kind regulatory and financial uncertainty that makes the future of the industry murky at best in this nation.

I think he means England by “this nation,” but he’s pretty dour altogether. You can read all of Thomas’ piece over at Environmental Protection. Even given our perspective, this seems a bit off to us, with EDF having secured a major portion of British Power and gearing up to replace Britain’s aging fleet. Thomas does address this a bit:

The first new order is unlikely before 2013 and by this time there could be two general elections and waning governmental support, which has driven things so far.

Well, yes, that certainly could be less government support, just as there could be more or things could be not much changed at all. Perhaps a meteor will send the earth off its axis. You just never know. (We have a hunch Professor Thomas just ran out of argument.)

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oldmill6 And now Christopher Calder would like a word with you about renewable energy:

Renewable energy schemes, other than hydroelectric power, take up too much land area and produce far too little energy to be of significant value.  Biofuels are the worst disaster of the 21st century, causing the starvation deaths of millions of people worldwide by displacing food production. 

Millions of people? Ulp!

Wind power sounds like a good idea until you discover that to produce the energy output of just one automobile engine, you need a Godzilla sized windmill that costs a small fortune and kills birds and bats by the thousands.

You have to give Calder credit – he really amps up the morbidity. Well, here’s his solution:

Nuclear power is safe, reliable, carbon free, takes up very little space, and does not displace food production.  … With the use of nuclear fuel reprocessing and breeder reactors, we have enough nuclear fuel to last for thousands of years.

One could say nuclear energy’s appeal is that it doesn’t starve people or chop bats into little pieces. It’s almost enough dismay and horror to send us into the arms of Professor Thomas.

It’s one of the lucky vampire bats not shredded by a Godzilla-like windmill. And Disney’s Old Mill, from the 1937 Silly Symphony.

9 comments:

Keith Skibare said...

its garbage like this that gets printed and then distributed and people actually beleive it about wind turbines killing million of birds.....total BS, check with NREL in Golden for the numbers of birds killed! and the part about the wind turbine the size of an automobile engine??? does an auto engine go 3.0Megawatts??? What a crock of crap your article is mark hagan

Marcel F. Williams said...

Wind power is popular in the US because there is so little of it in the US.

Once wind power begins to contribute perhaps 5 to 10% of America's electricity needs by saturating our pristine landscapes and coastlines with these bird and bat killing eyesores then people will turn against this technology in much greater numbers. But the resistance against the advance of this horrible technology has already begun in many communities in the US and around the world.

Charles Barton said...

There is a terrific discussion about the limitations of wind on the Oil Drum. Gail the Actuary (Gail Tverberg) has nicely laid the issues out, and has gored a lot of oxes. The windmill cheerleaders are groaning, and blood is flowing like water. There are nearly 500 comments so far.
http://www.theoildrum.com/node/5447

Mark Flanagan said...

Keith -

I think you're missing the point.

Mark

Anonymous said...

Well, Thomas is skeptical and he is right in a way, there has been a lot of talk, a lot of "gearing up", a lot of paper flying back and forth. But the proof is in the pudding, and skepticism will continue about any "Renaissance" until someone starts making the dirt fly, pouring concrete, and building a plant. All the talk and planning and paperwork in the world isn't going to produce a single watt of power until someone actually uses that planning and paper to make something real. I've been involved in too many projects that never made it past the planning and paperwork stages, and know that if they don't it is all so much wasted time, effort, and money. If this "Renaissance" is really going to happen, industry is going to have to step up to the plate and take some risks. I don't see that happening yet.

Anonymous said...

For anyone who is interested in whether there will be a large expansion of nuclear energy, watch Westinghouse and its AP-1000. The first is now in construction in China. Westinghouse is setting a high bar for Areva and GEH to reach. But within 10 years all of the vendors should be performing to this level, although Areva needs to move past the EPR and GEH needs to figure out which plant it really wants to sell.

Matthew66 said...

The real problem for animals like birds and bats is not getting chopped to bits by windmills (or hit by cars for that matter), its loss of habitat. I don't know if you've noticed, but most if not all land based wind farms clear the ground underneath the windmills of everything but grass, which is fine for rodents, but not so much for bats and birds, which prefer trees. I like nuclear because, among other things, it requires very little land for the amount of electricity produced. I've been past Indian Point on the train, it sits on a little peninsular in the Hudson that seems smaller than the average shopping mall carpark, yet it produces 2000 MWe day in and day out.

Chad said...

Dirt is flying in South Carolina and Georgia. Non-nuclear concrete will be poured with in the next year.

As we are an industry plagued by myths about our technology, I don't think it serves us well to do the same to another.

D Kosloff said...

Nuclear power planst also provide habitat for birds and other animals.