Monday, November 28, 2011

“Nuclear plants are too inflexible… ?”

COP17logoA certain cognitive dissonance:

Building new nuclear power stations will make it harder for the UK to switch to renewable energy, said one of the top German officials leading the country's nuclear energy phase-out.

And why might that be?

Jochen Flasbarth, president of the Environmental Protection Agency in Germany, who advises the German government, said: "We are not missionaries, and every country will have to find its own way in energy policy, but it is obvious that nuclear plants are too inflexible and cannot sufficiently respond to variations in wind or solar generation, only gas [power stations] do."

“Too inflexible.” That’s a new one. What Flasbarth is trying to say is that nuclear energy doesn’t give renewable energy enough room to play a significant role in energy policy, but what he actually conveys is that nuclear energy provides many of the benefits of renewable energy, but can run at 90 to 92 percent capacity rather than the 30 to 35 percent capacity managed by renewables.

Leaving aside the other upsides and downsides of nuclear and renewable energy sources for a moment, Flasbarth is saying that nuclear energy, because it works virtually all the time, doesn’t need renewable energy sources. He knows this because Germany has until recently been a big supporter of nuclear energy.

Given Flasbarth’s formulation, you might not want nuclear energy on the same portion of the grid as renewable energy, but you can use natural gas instead and live with some carbon emissions in exchange for being able to use non-emitting renewable energy sources 35 percent of the time. You can then site nuclear energy facilities where renewable energy sources cannot function well. That’s fine.

But here’s the thing: Great Britain can organize its energy policy around these choices and use nuclear energy, wind and solar and gas wherever they work best. Germany, quite famously, can’t do this anymore.

Jochen Flasbarth – making the best of a bad situation. It’s almost a cry for help, isn’t it?

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You may want to know that COP17 is happening in Durban, South Africa right about now. The Guardian has up an informative Q&A about the United Nations’ climate change conference. A taster:

There seems little possibility that the summit will produce an emissions reduction agreement, meaning the world will soon lack any binding CO2 targets when Kyoto's first commitment period expires at the end of 2012. At best, diplomats will agree on other details, such as a "green climate fund" designed to channel billions from wealthy to poor countries to fund environmentally friendly economic development there. But with rich countries facing a financial crisis it is unclear where the money should come from.

But the burning question is: How much criminal activity has there been at this year’s conference? Very little, it turns out,

There were no climate change summit related crimes on Monday, police said on Monday afternoon.

"Everything is going smoothly so far. Not... a single conference-related crime report has been given to me today," Colonel Vish Naidoo said late on Monday afternoon.

Whew! The roving bands of climatologists have been quelled at long last. Their sociopathic behavior almost trashed Cancun last year. Speaking of sociopathic:

Climate scientists have mounted a robust defense of their work and debates over science after more than 5,000 personal emails were leaked onto the internet in an apparent attempt to undermine public support for international action to tackle climate change.

As Rocket J. Squirrel says to Bullwinkle J. Moose when the latter threatens to pull a rabbit out of his hat, “Aw, that trick never works.”

Although the conference is not expected to carry much significance for the outside world – that would take a successor to Kyoto - the issue of climate change is no longer vulnerable to dirty tricks. Denying it at this point is just a self-indulgence.

The COP17 logo. Meant to evoke the big tree in Avatar? That didn’t end well for the big tree.

1 comment:

Marcel F. Williams said...

Now that's an astonishingly silly statement. Wind and solar are far more inflexible than nuclear power plants and are largely dependent of fossil fuels when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. And neither wind nor solar has peak load capacity.

The nuclear power industry could still enter the peak load electricity market (which they should) if they also built nuclear power plants dedicated to producing methanol for peak load energy production-- perhaps using the Los Alamos Green Freedom concept to produce methanol.