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Global Warming and Sunspots

Ron_Johnson Scientific American’s John Horgan relates how Gwyneth Cravens and her book Power to Save the World (now in paperback) brought him to realize that nuclear energy has much to offer and not as many pitfalls as he thought. A fair amount of what he writes will be familiar to readers of nuclear energy blogs and other sites, but it is sometimes nice to find some factoids nicely summarized, even if you kind of know them.

For example:

Nuclear power in the U.S. has grown steadily more efficient and cheaper. Plants now operate at 90 percent of peak capacity (up from about 50 percent a few decades ago) compared with 73 percent for coal, 29 percent for hydroelectric, 16 to 38 percent for natural gas, 27 percent for wind and 19 percent for solar. In 2005 nuclear power was cheaper per kilowatt than any alternative.

I knew some of those percentages but not all.

If you, as an average American, got all your electricity from nuclear plants, you'd generate one kilogram of nuclear waste during your lifetime, enough to fit in a soda can. If you got all your electricity from coal, you'd generate almost 70 tons of waste.

I didn’t know that one at all – well, the coal part of it – but it makes sense. The article is well worth a read as is Cravens’ terrific book.


Where does not passing a climate change bill get you? The jury’s not fully in on that question, but here’s what Kevin Parker, a Deutsche Bank official thinks.

"You just throw your hands up and say ... we're going to take our money elsewhere."

And what does Parker do?

Parker, who is global head of the Frankfurt-based bank's Deutsche Asset Management Division, oversees nearly $700 billion in funds that devote $6 billion to $7 billion to climate change products.

And what will he do with his hands thrown up?

Amid so much political uncertainty in the United States, Parker said Deutsche Bank will focus its "green" investment dollars more and more on opportunities in China and Western Europe, where it sees governments providing a more positive environment.

Now, Parker and Deutsche Bank have a set agenda with the bank’s investment funds and a reason to tweak a very big market – there’s plenty of projects for Deutsche Bank to invest in here if it has the will to do so – plus, the problems of an election cycle will clear next year and that will likely put the climate change bills back in play. A fair number of elements remain unsettled, in other words, and not necessarily in Deutsche Bank’s disfavor. So there’s all that on one side.

But on the other side, this is what happens when you don’t pass a climate bill.


But maybe it really doesn’t matter. Here’s Ron Johnson, running against Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) this year:

"I absolutely do not believe in the science of man-caused climate change," Johnson said. "It's not proven by any stretch of the imagination."

Johnson, in an interview last month, described believers in manmade causes of climate change as "crazy" and the theory as "lunacy."

"It's far more likely that it's just sunspot activity or just something in the geologic eons of time," he said.

Excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere "gets sucked down by trees and helps the trees grow," said Johnson.

So there you go.

Ron Johnson on the campaign trail. Here’s his campaign site. (He has a primary challenger named Dave Westlake; they will face each other September 14.) And here’s Russ Feingold’s site, if you want to compare and contrast.


Anonymous said…
I'm not sure the coke can waste is accurate for our once thru fuel cycle- I have freqently heard AREVE give the soda can volume for a lifetime in a closed fuel cycle. I suspect ours is larger
Tor Hershman said…
Yep, moi's been sayin', "More Nukes," for years.
DocForesight said…
"Where does not passing a climate change bill get you?" Hopefully, a reprieve. Considering how much confusion, computer-modeling failure and creative data farming there has been, it would be prudent to do nothing (as Bjorn Lomborg advises) than spend billions chasing policies that may do little for the climate but cost dearly in economic development and stability.

India and China, alone, will swamp what the USA would attempt to do.
gmax137 said…
Regarding the volume of waste (Gwyneth’s ‘coke can’):
What’s the per capita energy use? I don’t know, let’s say 1 kw. Over a 70 year lifetime that’s 613,200 kw-hr. If the thermo efficiency of the electric generation is 30%, that requires an integrated core power of 2,000,000 kw-hr.
That requires fissioning about 90 grams U235.
If the enrichment is 4%, you have used 2240 grams uranium fuel (note, that’s 5 pounds).
That 2240 grams U is about 2540 grams UO2. And that has a volume of about 231 cc, or 8 fluid ounces: 2/3 of a standard 12 ounce soda can.
Maybe someone else here can check my estimate.
Alice said…
Rather than ridiculing civilians who are freely and voluntarily taking the skeptical stance that trained scientists should be taking, it would be best for nuclear advocates to stick to their job: advocating nuclear power and nuclear energy.

Carbon hysteria is the better term, rather than the euphemistic "climate change."

An over-riding fear of the dioxide form of carbon, based upon slipshod science and naked obfuscation and doom-mongering.

The NEI is doing some great work. Try to stay on track.
Anonymous said…
it would be prudent to do nothing

Continuing to pump billions and billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, year after year, is not "doing nothing"

Plus, most of the improvements needed to reduce GHG emissions also increase jobs and economic output, at least in the medium to long term.

Doc Foresight's insights are based on the sound incisive science of the Lyndon Larouche organization. The same people who brought you such Nobel-worthy insights as you can get AIDS from a handshake and the Queen of England is a drug dealer.
Anonymous said…
Bad analogy. Recycled coke cans cannot be converted into nuclear bombs.
Anonymous said…
"Bad analogy. Recycled coke cans cannot be converted into nuclear bombs."

A no proliferant state has ever converted used power reactor fuel into nuclear bombs, either.

But, if we want to stretch the analogy as far as you're trying to, aluminum, such as that from a recycled coke can:
-can be reacted with HCl to form hydrogen gas, WHICH KILLED LOTS OF PEOPLE IN THE HINDENBURG
-is part of the compound Aluminium borohydride, an additive to jet fuel. JETS CAN BE CRASHED INTO THINGS.

The possibilities for destruction are endless. Aluminum, the most dangerous material on earth?
Joffan said…
gmax137: Your numbers seem to check OK, although you come up with a higher mass of used fuel than Gwyneth does.

Anon said:
"Bad analogy. Recycled coke cans cannot be converted into nuclear bombs."
- and neither can nuclear power waste. This is one of the more persistent falsehoods used by anti-nuclear groups - although they are retreating from using it in public spaces where it can be exposed for what it is: fearmongering.
Brian Mays said…
Here is my calculation. Assumptions:

Electricity consumption in the US (IEA 2007): 13616 kWh/captia

US life expectancy (World Bank, World Development Indicators): 78.4 years

Fuel burnup: 40 GWd/ton

Efficiency of electricity generation (average US, IEA 2007): 33%

Density of UO2: 10.97 g/cc

Thus, the nuclear "waste" (i.e., used nuclear fuel) produced from generating the electricity used by the average American (including electricity for the commercial and industrial sectors) for his or her entire lifetime is only about 3 kg (6.5 pounds), which would fit in a volume of about 320 cc. Since 12 fl oz is 355 cc, all of this material would fit inside a coke can.

This result is for a once-through fuel cycle, with a burnup that is typical for today's light water reactors. Obviously, recycling this material or using advanced reactors with higher burnups or higher thermal efficiencies would dramatically reduce the amount of material.

"Recycled coke cans cannot be converted into nuclear bombs."

The hell they can't! Coke cans are recycled for their aluminum. Fat Man, the nuclear bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, used a pusher shell that was made out of aluminum. It is far easier to use a recycled coke can in a nuclear bomb than it is to use material that has spent four or five years inside the core of one of the US's commercial nuclear reactors. The isotopes are all wrong for making an effective nuclear weapon.
SteveK9 said…
There is no 'confusion' on climate change. The National Academy of the United States tried to put this to rest some years back when they stated that scientific theories don't get much more certain than this (a paraphrase of course). I don't know what kind of 'foresight' is indicated when the suggestion is to do nothing. China and India may increase their CO2 emissions in the near term, but they are strongly committed to the most rapid buildouts of nuclear capacity in the world. Asia will lead the world in nuclear technology in the decades to come, since the Europe and particularly the US seem to have lost the capacity to act.
DocForesight said…
@SteveK9 and Anon(I) -- I really don't understand your adherence to the alarmism surrounding CO2. Certainly you know the basic facts about its current and past concentrations, its low heat radiation and the uncertainty of whether the computer models accurately predict a positive or a negative feedback. Appealing to authority or 'consensus' has no place in this debate.

Yes, China is engaged in the largest and fastest nuclear build-out of any other nation; they are also rapidly bringing new coal-fired plants on-line (I believe it's every 2 weeks). The shear volume of coal being burned will dwarf whatever piddly efforts we do here.

I am not a Lyndon LaRouche devote' by any stretch of the imagination, but why don't you address the "Nuclear 2050 Build-Out" suggested at Perhaps that would assuage your guilt for living in a climate-controlled home/office and driving a vehicle equipped with the same technology, allowing you to navigate to the nearest 'organic' feed zone.

Nuclear power wherever it makes sense, as soon as it makes sense.
Anonymous said…
We shouldn't appeal to consensus? When all you offer on the other side of the scale is Larouchies? Sorry, science is not a democracy; not all ideas, and not all sources, are equal.
Anonymous said…
The standards for informed policy discourse are, or at least should be, somewhat higher than those for a 2-minute conversation with a guy handing out pamphlets at the airport (Doc's source).
DocForesight said…
@Anon - I guess you missed my clear statement about LaRouche. Please re-read -- unless you are opposed to the "Nuclear Build 2050" concept.

The 'appeal to authority' is what the alarmists have relied upon in order to thwart much of the debate since this "threat" was made famous by James Hanson in 1988 (and became Al Gore's Holy Grail). All ideas should be subject to the same scrutiny, data and method transparency and honest peer-review and let the chips fall where they may. When the UEA-CRU "lost" their data, everyone was prevented from making that basic scientific assessment. How unfortunate. Doesn't that trouble you?

When was the last (or any) moderated debate between equally informed, credentialed and substantive scientists on this topic? Probably at the Non-governmental International Conference on Climate Change in Chicago this year. Many viewpoints were heard, respectfully, with disagreements welcome. Unlike Al Gore's staged events and photo ops.

Why don't you address the substance of my questions on positive or negative forcings, or the computer modeling failures rather than engage in 'guilt by association' smears?
Anonymous said…
Why? Because you keep citing publications by lunatic cults as the SOLE support for your points. In one breath you say you're not a Larouche supporter; then in the same sentence you say "read their literature."
DocForesight said…
@Anon -- By suggesting that you read an article, that does not automatically indicate I endorse the publication or author or content. Are you really that afraid to consider opposing viewpoints?

I read stuff from DailyKos and from and much in between. So try to define me as a cultist - another smear. So how many nuclear plants per year will need to be built between 2030 - 2040 in order to hit the 5,000 1GWe NPPs by 2050? - assuming we start with 10 NPPs per year in 2010.
DocForesight said…
@Anon -- On a slightly different topic but in the same vein, consider that many in the "environmental" movement would use poor Africans as pawns rather than use what works to save their lives from malaria.

But don't take my word for it, read from someone 'on the ground' in Uganda:

Or read "Dead Aid" by Dambisa Moyo on the stifling effect of foreign aid on African nations and populations.

Unless you are a Rachel Carson apologist or think Africans are too stupid to ever advance, you will acknowledge the abject disaster that has been foisted upon them by western elites.

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