Skip to main content

Amory Lovins and His Nuclear Illusion – Intro

Amory Lovins and the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) just released a 52 page paper (pdf) ranting that nuclear power is “not all it’s cracked up to be”. The report claims that the nuclear industry is misleading people that nuclear power is “competitive, necessary, reliable, secure, and vital for fuel security and climate protection.”

I’ve read and studied RMI’s claims and their “methodology”. From my examination of Lovins’ sources, it appears that many of his conclusions and claims are based on selective readings. When those readings are taken in context, they lead to very different conclusions than are presented by Mr. Lovins.

Over the next two weeks I will explain why I believe the RMI paper adds little value to the current public debate about energy policy. In the blog posts to follow, I will also show you the overall picture of how much energy we consume, how much efficiency can contribute, which energies are really making a difference, what RMI’s “solutions” really supply, and what’s up with their favorite, “micropower.”

While I disagree with much of the paper, I have gained a new appreciation for some of Amory Lovins’ and RMI’s ideas. I am a big fan of energy efficiency and I think decentralized sources of energy and cogeneration provide some great benefits. With that being said, I want to ensure that you understand the errors and limitations I found in Mr. Lovins’ latest proposals so that you can decide for yourself how seriously to take his “Nuclear Illusion”.

Comments

ken said…
Looking forward to reading your posts.
Anonymous said…
Indeed. I'm also looking forward to a look back at your archives, where we'll be able to see a clear pattern on behalf of RMI and Amory Lovins when it comes to cooking the books with their "research".
Joseph Somsel said…
While I too am a supporter of energy conservation (who isn't?) but let's differentiate between voluntary conservation and legal mandates, either direct or hidden.

The first category is both a rational calculation based on individual situations and a moral virtue ("waste not, want not.") Free markets are good at this - watch as GM shifts productions from big SUVs and trucks to smaller cars in response to cutomers' demands.

The second category is more difficult to defend, based as it is on government coercion. The hated 55 mph speed limit was enforced on the highways by men with guns on the government payroll.

A subset of that second category exists and may be justified where the one making decisions affecting operating energy costs is not the one paying for the operating energy costs. My prime example of this is the new California Energy Commission rule in Title 24 that limits the water velocity in swimming pool filter and heating systems. A pool salesman is motivated to cut the first costs of installation by using smaller pipes yet a little extra money spent in bigger pipes saves the ultimate owner a lot on electric costs of operation.

This is a useful arena for building codes. Unfortunately, we've seen this relatively hidden avenue abused by devotees of people like Lovins and government bureaucrats.
miggs said…
As you finish your posts on this subject, I'd ask you to make sure you give sufficient attention to energy efficiency and cogeneration, as you mention. Whether nuclear power should be a bigger part of our energy mix is a fine question, with good arguments on both sides. Whether current power plants should continue their gross inefficiency -- throwing out two-thirds of their fuel before the electricity even hits the grid -- should not be. I'm associated with Recycled Energy Development (recycled-energy.com), a company that does cogeneration and waste heat recovery for manufacturers. The fact is that the current system is inexcusable, with regulations protecting monopoly electric utilities and making it difficult for more efficient options to emerge. The market must become more free; the result would be lower energy costs AND greenhouse emissions, since that's what cogeneration does.

Popular posts from this blog

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…

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…