Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Third Way, Climate Change and New Nuclear Technology

logo_previewThe Third Way, a moderate policy shop based out of Washington, has issued an interesting report that looks at new nuclear technologies. Let’s define “new” somewhat loosely in this case, as some take up older ideas and move them forward. Others are indeed innovations in nuclear plant technology. From Reuters:

Advanced nuclear power plants, which will employ techniques such as using fuels other than uranium and coolants other than water, have attracted private investments from more than 40 companies from Florida to Washington state, the Third Way think tank says in the first report specifying the number of firms and total money invested in the technologies.

Third Way makes the case that all this activity – with investment to date exceeding $1.3 billion – is happening because the connection between nuclear energy and climate change is becoming clearer over time and spurring forward-looking investors to take a serious look
(sometimes, a second look) at nuclear energy.

To stem climate change, the world needs 40% of electricity to come from zero-emissions sources, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). While we can and must grow renewable energy generation, it alone will leave us far short of meeting that demand, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have said. This is why the IPCC in November issued an urgent call for more non-emitting power, including the construction of more than 400 nuclear plants in the next 20 years. That would represent a near doubling of the 435 plants operating globally today.

Whatever one may feel about the indicators regarding climate change, the drive to move forward on combatting it is not lessening. Even if the U.S. Congress is proceeding very gingerly, environmentalists don’t wrinkle their noses at nuclear energy anymore as though they’ve encountered a dead skunk and and an impressive number of energy poohbahs have become quite enamored of the atom.

In other words, The Third Way is onto something. Even if you view the whole subject from a quizzical distance, clearly something is up with nuclear energy. This is a fairly short read, so head over there for the whole thing. I suspect that this study will stand as a new baseline for discussing new nuclear energy in the context of climate change. It’s a good survey of technologies that will begin coming to the fore and it makes a good argument for nuclear’s value as an carbon dioxide emission mitigator. Putting it all together is the trick and that’s what The Third Way has done here.


jimwg said...

I hope Third Way knows the route to the public's nuclear acceptance is through the lens of the media! I.E. Massive educational ADS! (sure royally worked bleaching the stain of BP Gulf!!)

This has been THE main problem with public nuclear acceptance and support almost everywhere. No public pop-culture champions or nuclear Carl Sagans espousing nuclear's virtues and putting its issues in perspective for fighting FUD. Nuclear has a sterling safety and environmental and operational record -- even worst accidents combined -- that most all industries would dearly wish for, yet nuclear's constantly behind the eight ball in the public perception department.

Why do people so believe that reactors are giant eggshells that just can't wait to blow? How is it that "science" TV programming always focuses on nuclear's dark "perils and hazards" unchecked and do gross misinformation such as asserting that Niagara Falls powers Toronto while totally omitting that it's nukes doing the job? If global warming was such a critical environmental emergency why aren't these shows and politicians hawking nukes more??

Total lack of public education and AGGRESSIVE PR.

Unfortunately most in the nuclear community and industry are far more focused on hardware than peopleware. I mean the NEI and ANS and other nuclear orgs hold all these back-slapping meetings and conferences where addressing battling FUD is just a side show mention if at all. Totally zero battle plans outside token nuke PR Tupperwear parties. In an odd Darwinian way I can't blame Helen and Arnie and Greenpeace and FOE & Company for getting over deceiving the public the way they have totally unchallenged. They're simply filling a PR niche that the nuclear community should've plugged since TMI -- and yet to. There're no captains on this ship.

James Greenidge
Queens, New York

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