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The Future, The Shifting Ground, and Bachmann

242184471_88a6043925_d Bob Metcalfe has an interesting futurist editorial in the Wall Street Journal:

The good news is that the big names in nuclear energy -- like Areva, Hitachi, General Electric and Toshiba -- have recently been joined by a bevy of high-tech start-ups seeking to develop advanced nuclear-reactor designs for both fission and fusion energy production. So far, there are five fission and two fusion start-ups, among them Hyperion, NuScale and Tri Alpha.

We don’t want to quote much – too much on Metcalfe’s mind to paraphrase. He considers current nuclear technology too expensive, though he give a kind of indirect thumbs up to the kinds of mini-reactors Babcock & Wilcox recently introduced, and perhaps oversells fusion – still essentially a lab project.

Even as a peek into the future, we found ourselves quibbling a lot. But it tweaks the brain and is therefore worth a read.


Geothermal’s in town and shaking things up. While prospecting for heat in Basel Switzerland a few years ago:

the project set off an earthquake, shaking and damaging buildings and terrifying many in a city that, as every schoolchild here learns, had been devastated exactly 650 years before by a quake that sent two steeples of the Münster Cathedral tumbling into the Rhine.

That’s not good. Even worse:

… An American start-up company, AltaRock Energy, will begin using nearly the same method to drill deep into ground laced with fault lines in an area two hours’ drive north of San Francisco.

We have no brief on geothermal energy, but this does give us pause:

But because large earthquakes tend to originate at great depths, breaking rock that far down carries more serious risk, seismologists say. Seismologists have long known that human activities can trigger quakes, but they say the science is not developed enough to say for certain what will or will not set off a major temblor.

We vote for finding out what might cause a major “temblor” - in San Francisco – in a fault line riven area – before proceeding apace. The story has a lot of good material about geothermal energy, so do read the whole thing. You may or may not find yourself quaking.


Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s (R) statements sometimes zoom straight into the ideological ether - where the air can get a little thin, and her message, however valid, becomes easier to dismiss. But credit where it’s due, and in The Hill, Bachmann effectively brings nuclear energy down to the local level:

One of the current U.S. nuclear generators is in my district, in Monticello, Minn. Last year, as the Xcel Energy site celebrated 38 years as a good neighbor, strong business and excellent power source, they met with area environmental groups that were re-thinking their long-held opposition to nuclear power. In a Star Tribune article (“No Protests as Xcel Ramps Up Nuclear Plans,” by Heron Marquez Estrada, July 27, 2008), Bill Grant, Midwest director for the Izaak Walton League of America, a leading national conservation group, was reported as saying that “he would not be surprised if the group revises its policies to include a nuclear option in its vision of how to fuel the nation’s future energy needs.”

Well, we’ll see, but hope, it does spring eternal. Bachmann zings the Democrats a few times, rather mildly, but has some salient points to make. Have a read.

Basel, Switzerland. Those are likely the steeples near the middle of the picture the Baselians would like to keep upright.


Ioannes said…
Mark, you really don't like Democrats being zinged. Your leftist partisanship shows in your posts. Here's the facts: for 20+ years the Dems sided with the anti-nuke leftist zealots. Now a few of them have rgained some common sense at least on nuclear power, but it doesn't pervade the Obama Administration, and anti-nuke Jackzo is still in charge of the NRC. So don't expect the feet of your leftists friends not to be held to the fire now that they are in charge. May Heaven help us all!

I like how your democracy works - give voice to the leftists when Bush is Prez and slam the rightists when Obama is Prez. At least you're consistent.
David Walters said…
Ioannes...don't be SILLY! If Mark were "leftist" he wouldn't give any play to the certifiable loon known as M. Backman, the embarrassment to all Minn. Republicans.

Leftists don't say ANYTHING nice about her period, least of all telling people they should *read what she says*!!!!

The IDEA, dude, is the remove nuclear energy from partisan politics. Do you really think that the Incredibly Shrinking Party known as Republicans should be a the vanguard of pushing nuclear energy? Do you? We need Democrats to support energy from the atom, not oppose it. Get real!
Joffan said…
You're funny, Ioannes. Mark has to be held over a slow fire to even acknowledge that Democrats exist. You're probably confused from trying to breathe that ideological ether all the time.

Mark: Bachmann, like Inhofe, is of the sufficiently extreme variety that her support is definitely a negative.

Meanwhile, backing away a little from the political battlefield:

Nuclear power - like all other forms of preferred-by-policy energy - can best progress under a reasonably bipartisan agreement that encourages development and minimizes the kind of discontinuity of regulation and incentives that makes investors unhappy.
David Walters said…
I would say that the most articulate, intelligent, and simply non-partisan advocate in Congress for nuclear energy is Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski.

You know...the women who was NOT chosen as McCain's running mate. We need more statements like she made, more arguments for nuclear in her style, and we might actually win over anti-nuclear Senate members! But *Backman*???? You realize she runs in the most conservative district in here state and she almost LOST because of her...eccentric view of the world?
Anonymous said…
One thing we have to do is stop this "such-and-such party is going extinct" crap. Both are going to be around for awhile. Things go in cycles. The Pubs lost every Presidential election from 1932 until 1952, then stomped the Dems. The Dems lost three elections in a row between 1980 and 1992 and came back. The Dems ran the House with an iron fist from 1954 to 1994, then got booted out, and then came back. So there is an ebb and flow in the electorate. Right now the Dems are up because of fatigue with the Pubs and a promise of greater material comfort. I have no doubts that will swing back. We need to push nuclear as being a good idea regardless of who holds power. That means holding on to your friends (yes, including people we may not like, like Ms. Bachmann) and trying to persuade those who are against us, for whatever misguided reason, to change their views.
djysrv said…
Here are five ways to reduce the cost of licensing small reactors

Change NRC cost recovery rule
Anonymous said…
"Right now the Dems are up because of fatigue with the Pubs and a promise of greater material comfort."

They're "up" because of two wars, an economic collapse, a police state in the name of fighting terrorism, and eight years of incompetence and criminal malfeasance under the GOP reign.

I'd prefer discussion on this board be confined to nuclear power, but if all these other posters are going to push for the Republicans, we should at least hear both sides.
Anonymous said…
The Dems are "up" not because of two wars (which Obomba is continuing) or a "police state" (last I checked, the Constitution was still intact, for now, assuming Oboma doesn't continue tearing it up), but because of two words: free money. When you convince enough people that your candidate will "pay your mortgage" for you, you'll likely gather quite a lot of support.
Anonymous said…
Read the papers much? US troops are leaving Iraqi cities this week. Obama's continuing the fight in Af/Pak but he didn't start it. And I notice you don't mention the economic collapse caused by the previous administration's complete deregulation of everything, including the securities and mortgages sector.

As for police state, you've obviously never heard of the NSA, warrantless wiretapping, torture and all the other unconstitutional and/or illegal activities "authorized" by Bush-Cheney.

I still say confine this board to nuclear power discussions, but as long as some posters spout uncontested right-wing/GOP nonsense on unrelated issues, you should be able to hear both sides.
Mark Flanagan said…
Hey, all -

Careful, this isn't a political blog. Heaven knows, there are a lot of those for Dem-Repub set-tos.

We don't mind some back and forth when we mention politicians, but at least get nuclear issues in there someplace.

On a personal note, a little less red meat would be appreciated, too, as nuclear will persist beyond party changes, Presidents, etc. We need everyone on board.


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