Friday, October 16, 2009

Nuclear Weekend Reading

For those who may be stuck inside all weekend due to bad weather (it's supposed to continue to be dreary around DC for the next couple days) there are quite a few excellent and fun readings I recommend.

First is Dan Yurman's third-party perspective about the push for nuclear in Idaho. His frank descriptions on the actions of the battling parties involved make for an entertaining read:

The SRA [Snake River Alliance] describes itself as a "watchdog," but as Idaho’s self-appointed nuclear watchdog, the Snake River Alliance (SRA), has also demonstrated that having one around sometimes results in a lot of barking at the wrong things.
...
Unlike most nuclear energy companies, which take over-the-top, anti-nuclear rhetoric in stride, thin-skinned AEHI CEO Don Gillispie threatened to sue the SRA for libel. SRA then exploited the situation it had created by charging AEHI with trying to shut it up with a “slap suit.” But both parties backed down after a cooling-off period.
Ah, politics. Next on the rec list is Steve Kirsch's push to receive federal funding for the Integral Fast Reactor which he posted at Barry Brook's blog:
Congress should add a provision to the climate bills to authorize $3B to have DOE work with industry to build a demonstration Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) plant in order to jump-start this critical clean energy technology.
Make sure you have 15-20 minutes to read Steve's piece because it's quite long yet informative on the potential of the IFR technology.

Charles Barton shared his thoughts on a Denmark wind study. And Luke Weston decided to relate Blog Action Day on climate change to nuclear power in Australia.

Last but not least is the debate and discussion going on at Grist started by one of nuclear's biggest critics, Amory Lovins, that aims to debunk Stewart Brand's claims to promote the benefits of nuclear. Steve Kirsch (STK) and Rod Adams have represented the pro-nuclear side exquisitely and have even gotten Mr. Lovins to comment. That's a rarity considering the last time we heard from him and the Rocky Mountain Institute crew was when they were going to supposedly respond to our shellacking of their last study yet never did.

We're still mulling over Mr. Lovins' study but from first glance, it's toned down the anti-nuclear rhetoric a little bit compared to previous studies. Of course, it still has many exaggerations in our opinion such as this (p. 6):
Modern solar and wind power are more technically reliable than coal and nuclear plants; their technical failure rates are typically around 1–2%.
The use of the word reliable in this case stands contrary to what many would consider to be reliable. How can technologies that produce power based on the intermittent wills of the sun and wind gods at only a small fraction of their rated capacities be considered more reliable than nuclear that produces power more than 90% of the time? This doesn't even pass the sniff test for me but of course we've got to provide facts and figures to rebut this claim. We'll let you know what we think of Mr. Lovins' latest study over the coming weeks.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!

7 comments:

Adam said...

I read most of Lovins' new report, and it's more of what we've come to expect from him. The report is chock full of cherry-picked data, invalid comparisons, unsupported claims, extensive self-referencing, and even contains some familiar chartjunk.

I'll share some highlights:

Lovins' notes that the unreliability of wind power can be addressed by interconnecting several geographically diverse plants (stretching from Texas to Canada) you can improve the combined reliability of them, but then on the following page says that the grid is the real source of unreliability, and power production should be moved off the grid.

To support the reliability of wind power, he notes several German *states* that got a large fraction of their electricity from wind without reliability issues, failing to mention that this reliability was contingent upon the collective electricity production on the grid.

He routinely compares renewable energy installations to nuclear power plants in terms of capacity, not actual generation.

He notes, when countering Brand at one point, that an author can shop for references to a desired conclusion, in the midst of a section which he does precisely this, readily dismissing sources giving contrary opinions in favor of his preferred, 'independent' sources.

He lumps fossil fuel generation in with renewable energy under the euphemisms 'micropower' and 'decentralized generation'. The vast majority of electricity generated in these categories is, of course, fossil fuel. (See Fig. 3, p. 27)

He cites himself 9 times and his Rocky Mountain Institute another 8 times.

Needless to say, he's stayed busy.

Anonymous said...

This is neat. Amory Lovins says,

"Over the next five years, nuclear construction costs about tripled. Was this due to pricey commodities like steel and concrete? No; those totaled less than one percent of total capital cost."

If the materials needed to build nuclear plants are less than 1% of the current prices (which is correct), then there is a lot of room for these prices to come down as the nuclear supply chain gets built up and factory prefabrication and modular construction methods become finely tuned.

Amory Lovins really believes what he believes, but it's only possible because he routinely ignores the obvious. This explains his poor predictive power over his career as an energy guru.

Rod Adams said...

Anonymous - as you mentioned, Lovins has a rather poor record as an energy prediction guru. However, he keeps getting some pretty plush consulting deals from well established energy companies and even from that establishment of establishments called the Pentagon.

Why?

That is the question that I like to address, but when I do, Lovins accuses me of ad hominem attacks.

Oh well. . .

Woofa said...

Pundits who use weasel words like "ad hominem" show a lack of confidence in ordinary usage and common values. Unquestionably a shifty character.

D Kosloff said...

Woofa,

Are you serious about your comment on the use of the phrase "ad hominem"? The phrase has a specific meaning and is used by many ordinary folk, so how could it be a "weasel word"?

What common value is advanced by making ad hominem attacks instead of cogent arguments?

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