Skip to main content

COP21 and the Nuclear Tool in the Workshop


French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius
 and his on-message gavel
How many times is nuclear energy mentioned in the climate change agreement signed by 219 countries this past weekend? None.

Wind, solar? None. Coal, natural gas? You guessed it.
Renewable –and sustainable - energy do get a mini shout out:
“Acknowledging the need to promote universal access to sustainable energy in developing countries, in particular in Africa, through the enhanced deployment of renewable energy…”
But that’s it. You get the feeling that the directive-heavy agreement has nothing specific to direct about energy generators. Whether by plane, train or automobile (electric, if possible), its not how you get there that matters, it’s just that you get there. And this is the there:
Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change…
This is about what has been predicted as necessary to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, but many commenters consider it very modest – especially because of concessions granted to get countries on board with the agreement and that it’s all voluntary -  so modest in fact that it has had considerable push back. I’ve read that the lack of a carbon tax turned a lot of people off it, but it likely would have turned off a lot of the negotiators, too.

Here is Bill McKibbon in the New York Times, trying a different approach:
So the world emerges, finally, with something like a climate accord, albeit unenforceable. If all parties kept their promises, the planet would warm by an estimated 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or 3.5 degrees Celsius, above preindustrial levels. And that is way, way too much. We are set to pass the 1 degree Celsius mark this year, and that’s already enough to melt ice caps and push the sea level threateningly higher.
McKibbon, a big name in the climate change activist community – you can read more about him and his group, 350.org, here - recognizes that this accord points a direction in which virtually every country has agreed to go:
But what this means is that we need to build the movement even bigger in the coming years, so that the Paris agreement turns into a floor and not a ceiling for action. … With every major world leader now on the record saying they at least theoretically support bold action to make the transition to renewable energy, we’ve got a new tool to work with.

So, let McKibbon focus on renewable energy if that’s his particular favorite – as we noted, the accord is not very specific on how to implement emission reduction. There is still plenty of room in the workshop for nuclear energy. If new build benefits the nuclear industry, fine, since it also benefits the world. Nuclear energy, it is fair to say, can do a fair measure to help achieve the goal set in Paris.

Comments

hasan odesk said…
Really impressed together with your writing abilities as well as with the format for your weblog. Anyway stay up the excellent high quality writing, it is uncommon to see a nice blog like this one today.
Plastic Flow Meter

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…