Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Waking Up to Nuclear Energy Before COP21

cop21_11Times are bracing. The first fall chill contributes, of course, but it’s bracing, too, that the spotlight has fallen so strongly upon nuclear energy. The White House Nuclear Energy summit two Fridays ago contributed mightily to this sudden attention and so has the COP21 conference in Paris next month.  
These two events seem to have spurred exceptional interest in the atom, even when the summit or the upcoming U.N. climate change conference are not explicitly mentioned.
From The Los Angeles Times:

Nuclear energy's importance in reducing emissions is beyond dispute. In January, the International Energy Agency called nuclear power “a critical element in limiting greenhouse gas emissions.” It calculated that global nuclear generation capacity must more than double by 2050 (to about 750 gigawatts) if there is any hope of limiting temperature increases to the 2 degrees that is widely agreed as acceptable.
This story from Power covers the Washington summit:
Even some former nuclear opponents are getting behind the energy source now. Ken Caldeira, climate scientist working for the Carnegie Institution for Science, Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University, noted that he was arrested while demonstrating against nuclear power near the front gates of the Shoreham facility—which was never placed into commercial operation—in the early 1980s. After studying climate science in graduate school, Caldeira changed his tune.
“The environmental community should be embracing nuclear power as one of the very few technologies that can provide high-density power in an environmentally acceptable way,” Caldeira said.
Another story, this one tied to COP21, tries a local angle to make a more general point:
America’s contributions toward combating climate change will fall short of what’s expected from this country – and seem double-faced – if the U.S. is also shutting down nuclear-generating capacity, which is its largest source of carbon-free energy.
This is from the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press. It makes the point that New Jersey generates most of its electricity from nuclear and yet Oyster Creek plant is closing in 2019. That’s what the “double-faced” comment refers to.

We know that COP21 might be delayed due to the terrible events in Paris last Friday. COP21 remains important, but it’s not the most important thing occupying our minds right now.

Even so, the conference will happen and it will likely issue the first viable global climate change solution since the Kyoto Protocol. Nuclear energy, it is safe to say, will enjoy more attention than it has received in these quarters for some time. If we have to wait for it a bit longer, we’ll wait.

1 comment:

JRT said...

George Monbiot is quoted as stating in The Guardian:

"The International Energy Agency estimates that the global use of coal will increase by 65% by 2035."

This is an existential threat to the future of the Earth

This is what must be addressed if future Global Warming is to be limited. To do this will require more than just pledges by countries at COP21. It will require a plan and action will need to be taken to provide the 2nd and 3rd worlds with Carbon free energy. Otherwise, they will burn coal, as their cheapest available source, to obtain it. The 1st world must take action to develop Carbon free energy that is cheaper than coal which can directly replace coal by providing 24/7 dispatchable electric power. Currently there appears to be only two possible technologies available:

Enhanced geothermal power

Generation IV nuclear power

We need to work on development of both of them ASAP.

Other technologies are in early R&D and may play a role later.

We also need to realize that although wind and solar can provide some Carbon free energy that they will not be able to replace coal, oil, and natural gas as nuclear power can.