Quote of the week: the middle ground where AGW skeptics and proponents should meet up

This article was sent to me by Charles Hart, and I have to say, I really like this quote from Curt Stager in Fast Company. Between the extremes of Hansen’s pronouncements about coal death trains and people in Britain having to choose between food and fuel, this is where we need to be.

This is the middle ground I believe we can all agree on. Forget reconciliation attempts, let’s just get busy.

Stager writes:


In other words, I want you to help save the world. If green nukes are even half as promising as their proponents claim, then supporting their development may be our best hope for a sane, sustainable, and abundant energy future.

He’s talking about Thorium reactors, which we’ve covered here on WUWT before. Here are some of the stories:

Finding an energy common ground between “Warmers” and “Skeptics”

US Energy Independence by 2020

China announces thorium reactor energy program, Obama still dwelling on “Sputnik moments”

David Archibald on Climate and Energy Security

Curt Stager’s article in Fast Company is well written and appeals to the layman, cutting through a lot of the tech clutter related to thorium based nuclear power. It is also encouraging because we have a former nuclear protester having a “light bulb moment”, and it’s the good old incandescent kind, not a CFL twisty bulb. I recommend reading it, and passing it along. – Anthony

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Will Green Nukes Save the World?
BY FC Expert Blogger Curt Stager

Amidst the darkening clamor over global warming, declining fossil fuel reserves, conflicts over oil supplies, and rumors of heavy-handed governmental attempts to curb our carbon-hungry lifestyles, a welcome glow of hope is emerging on the energy technology horizon. To most viewers, it looks green, or at least “greenish.” And–perhaps surprisingly to those of us who remember Three Mile Island and Chernobyl–it’s radioactive.

As a climate scientist, I’m well-aware of the perils of global warming and I’ve long favored a timely switch to alternative energy sources. However, I’ve also drawn the line at nuclear power, having been an anti-nuke protester in college. I was therefore horrified when prominent environmentalists first began to suggest that nuclear power is preferable to fossil fuels, as though their apocalyptic climate rhetoric had trapped them into minimizing the risks of meltdowns, radioactive waste, bomb proliferation, and nuclear terrorism.

But my attitude changed recently when I raised this subject with an environmental scientist friend whose son is training to become nuclear engineer. “He’s working on a new kind of reactor,” my friend explained, “It can’t melt down, it makes only minimal waste, and it can’t be used for making bombs. It doesn’t even use uranium, which is rare and dangerous to handle; it uses thorium instead, which is common and safer to work with.”

Some proponents envision “a nuke in every home,” because self-contained thorium reactors can be built small enough to fit on a trailer truck bed. Such green nukes would dam no rivers and produce no acid rain or greenhouse gases, and their electrical output could create clean hydrogen fuels from water as well as seemingly limitless direct heating and lighting.

Full article here:

http://www.fastcompany.com/1727914/will-green-nukes-save-the-world

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Here’s what Thorium looks like:

Learn more about it here

You can even buy Thorium in the raw on as a refined rod, on Ebay.

Nuclear fuel is not so scary when you can put your hands on it so easily, is it?

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120 Responses to Quote of the week: the middle ground where AGW skeptics and proponents should meet up

  1. BoomBoom says:

    I think I saw thorium on an episode of Star Trek: TNG. Data crash landed and had a suitcase full of it. The local smithy made jewelry out of it, and everyone got sick.

    Jaden (data) then made an antidote, but the villagers were already rampaging, and took him out like he was some sort of frankenstein.

    Ah, good times, good times.

  2. Mike Mangan says:

    There’s a litmus test. A large chunk of the left will oppose ANY form of efficient cheap energy. Cheap energy means the whole world breeding and consuming and that’s what they hate most of all.

  3. John Brookes says:

    Any less CO2 intensive form of energy generation deserves investigation. This one can go into the mix with all the others. Like any other sort of energy generation, you need to count the full costs – after all, the problem with fossil fuels is that the environmental cost of pumping CO2 into the atmosphere has not been factored in.

  4. Pascvaks says:

    Nothing like this will ever fly with a true blue Green.
    (Their objective is revolution and chaos not inovation.)

  5. Tom Scharf says:

    This is a funny comment coming from a climate scientist. He is discussing comment threads on thorium reactors:

    …There’s also an unhelpful dose of ego and machismo in some of the technical discussions online, as in “I’m right because my resume is longer than yours,” that can drive potentially informative dissenters into silence…

    I wonder if he sees any irony there.

  6. Sam Hall says:

    Nuclear fuel is not so scary when you can put your hands on it so easily, is it?

    You can hold natural uranium as used in the Canadian CANDU reactors in your hand (I have done it) without harm, but the left recoils automatically against the word “uranium” so Thorium reactors may have a chance with them.

  7. Vince Causey says:

    The thorium reactor is the orphan child that nobody wanted. Unable to yield weapons grade fissionable material it was dismissed from the house, never to be seen again. Until today, when its previous failings are seen as a virtue.

    Thorium seems inevitable in some form. The tragedy is that we wasted so many years through neglect that we are decades away from commercial deployment.

  8. Dominic Allkins says:

    While it is a well written article and does discuss a (potentially) much better alternative to energy future than windmills, etc… he does show his true colours and rather spoil the article with this statement:

    And time is of the essence; cheap fossil fuels are running out, further greenhouse gas buildups could trigger a runaway super-hothouse…

    I think that the first job climatologists need to actually prove is that CO2 (and other GHGs) will actually lead to a runaway super-hothouse.

    For me that still hasn’t been proven.

  9. Alexander K says:

    With the UK government still totally wedded to wind power (or, properly, wind powerless) and their chief scientist, John Beddington harbouring Malthusian tendencies, I suspect that the prospect of cheap and reliable electricity from a nuclear source might be a bridge too far for their mad beliefs. Because of the rapidly-approaching power generation crisis, I suspect British industry will be shafted once again and cheap Thorium reactors will be purchased from China when the crisis strikes.

  10. MarkW says:

    If one were to factor in all of the environmental costs of CO2, one would come to the conclusion that the govt ought to subsidize it.

  11. tallbloke says:

    “Forget reconciliation attempts, let’s just get busy.”

    As a matter of fact, energy production and the nuclear vs wind debate got an airing at Lisbon, where some of us were ‘getting busy’ taking on the contrary views of those who hold them directly instead of preaching to the converted from the comfort of our keyboards.

    As one of the organisers said:

    “This isn’t an attempt to make people compromise. We are providing a place where the fight can take place in civility.”

  12. MarkW says:

    I’ve always thought it a bit ironic, that many of those who believe in catastrophic warming, are also convinced that “cheap fuels are running out”. If the cheap fuels run out, then their other problem, catastrophic warming, is also solved. Obviously, no fuel, no new CO2. No need for govt to act at all.

    Either they have failed to think through the consequences of their beliefs, or they aren’t revealing their real motives. Given the behavior of many warmists, it’s impossible to decide which option is more likely.

  13. Erik says:

    Are environmentalists bad for the planet?
    BBC – Transcript of a recorded documentary

    ROWLATT: A couple of years ago I was given a very
    unusual job. I became the BBC’s Ethical Man. My
    family and I were asked to spend an entire year
    exploring what we could do to tackle global
    warming. We gave up the car, stopped flying for a
    year, turned down the thermostat – everything we
    could think of to cut our carbon emissions. Because I
    thought that was what tackling global warming was
    all about. But the more time I’ve spent talking to
    people in the green movement, the more I’ve come to
    suspect that cutting carbon emissions isn’t the top
    priority for all green campaigners. What worries me
    is that the political objectives of some greens seem to
    override their interest in solving global warming.
    Solitaire Townsend runs a city PR firm, but one
    which specialises in communicating a single issue:
    sustainability.

    TOWNSEND: I was making a speech to nearly 200
    really hard core, deep environmentalists and I played
    a little thought game on them. I said imagine I am the
    carbon fairy and I wave a magic wand. We can get rid
    of all the carbon in the atmosphere, take it down to
    two hundred fifty parts per million and I will ensure
    with my little magic wand that we do not go above
    two degrees of global warming. However, by waving
    my magic wand I will be interfering with the laws of
    physics not with people – they will be as selfish, they
    will be as desiring of status. The cars will get bigger,
    the houses will get bigger, the planes will fly all over
    the place but there will be no climate change. And I
    asked them, would you ask the fairy to wave its
    magic wand? And about 2 people of the 200 raised
    their hands.

    ROWLATT: That is quite shocking. I bet you were
    shocked, weren’t you?

    TOWNSEND: I was angry. I wasn’t shocked. I was
    angry because it really showed that they wanted
    more. They didn’t just want to prevent climate
    change. They wanted to somehow change people, or
    at very least for people to know that they had to
    change.

    SAUVEN: Well, were quite clear. We’ve actively
    opposed nuclear power.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/spl/hi/programmes/analysis/transcripts/25_01_10.txt

  14. 1DandyTroll says:

    I wouldn’t put my money on it becoming a thing in every home’s trailer park since it still creates radioactive waste even if it isn’t as much it’s still radioactive waste.

    But I wouldn’t put it pass crazed hippies though since they buy into everything that has a green label on it or is just green, glowing or not. :p

    And as for acid rain . . . funny cyclical event of the common hippie. After every major volcanic eruptions the hippies scream acid rain and blame the motorists like the common combustion engine combust with such a force it is able to blow the exhaust up into the stratosphere just like the major volcano.

  15. tmtisfree says:

    There are many good reasons to go nuclear, but “saving the planet” (including decarbonizing) is not one of them: just a good solution for a wrong problem.

  16. Ed Reid says:

    John Brookes @ February 16, 2011 at 4:24 am

    “after all, the problem with fossil fuels is that the environmental cost of pumping CO2 into the atmosphere has not been factored in.”

    What is the environmental cost? Enquiring minds want to know.

  17. Bruce Hall says:

    The real commercial test for power generation is: works anywhere; works all of the time; works safely.

    Coal, for example, meets the first two criteria, but has some safety and many environmental issues [aside from the bogeyman CO2]. Natural gas improves upon coal as an energy source. Conventional nuclear power improves on natural gas because there is no continuous fuel delivery issue, but nuclear waste remains a problem. Solar power fails on the first two tests as does wind power. It remains to be seen if thorium reactors can deliver all three criteria.

    Critics can always find something to criticize… for example, the act of mining for raw materials. The real test is to be found in the benefits versus problems. The fewer beginning-to-end of process problems versus benefits weighed against the overall unsubsidized costs should tell the real story.

  18. Dave Springer says:

    I’m skeptical about liquid flourine thorium reactors (LFTR). Oak Ridge National Laboratory built one in 1964, a 7.5mw research unit, and operated it for 5 years. One might reasonably wonder why uranium reactors were chosen instead for both commercial reactors and by the military to power nuclear submarines. LFTR fans say it’s because uranium reactors produce plutonium which in turn is used in nuclear weapons and the US wanted the plutonium so much they ditched LFTR and went with the far more dangerous, larger, expensive water cooled uranium reactor. I’m as willing as the next guy to believe a conspiracy theory provided it makes sense but this one just doesn’t ring true. It’s like the 100 mile-per-gallon carburetor.

    The second concern I have is that producing electricity isn’t really a big problem except for the ecoloons who think carbon dioxide is a pollutant. There’s plenty of coal and natural gas for generating electricity. Liquid transportation fuel is the big problem. It’s too expensive already and the US is too dependent on foreign sources many of whom are either commies or Islamic neither of which are particularly fond of the west or the US in particular.

    Using hydrogen or electricity for transportation is blue sky nonsense no more capable of solving the transporation fuel problem than wind power is capable of supplying more than a fraction of our electricity for a variety of reasons.

    I have no problem with research into LFTR technology but I suspect ORNL has done all the research already and knows of a reason why LFTR isn’t practical. If it were anywhere near the too-good-to-be-true means of generating electricity we’d never have abandoned it 40 years ago.

  19. Metryq says:

    Too much nonsense, er, “non-science” in the arguments, such as “runaway” greenhouse effects and equating Three Mile Island with Chernobyl. One thing that always brings the “no nukes” protesters to a halt is explaining the political reason why the US has to bury so much waste, while France does not.

    Ignorance (and disinformation) always breeds fear.

  20. Robinson says:

    The tragedy is that we wasted so many years through neglect that we are decades away from commercial deployment

    It’s not tragic, it’s economics. It’s now economically viable to investigate alternatives. This is nothing to do with AGW but simply a function of the oil price and the fact that “peak oil” may have passed.

  21. Roger Knights says:

    Wired magazine had a January 2010 cover story on this topic, “Uranium Is So Last Century — Enter Thorium, the New Green Nuke”

    http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/12/ff_new_nukes/

  22. Welsh Wizard says:

    Aha! Some common sense.
    Although I do not believe that ‘man made’ Carbon Dioxide is a problem it just stands to reason that any form of economically sustainable energy production that minimises the production of COx, NOx and Vox is to be investigated fully. Bring on the Thorium technical debate.

  23. Coach Springer says:

    Build it and they will come -hopefully based entirely on the economics. Talk about it and they will talk about it.

    China leads in current R&D, si? I really like their approach in that they don’t really care except in terms of what works for them. The U. S. government is obstructionist based on green socialism.

    Only three questions yet to be answered: Is anthropogenic CO2 a statistically significant controller of climate? Are current measurements of global temperature better than their degree of uncertainty? If we applied IPCC preferred predictive methods to climate in the height of the Little Ice Age, shouldn’t people in Chicago expect to be buried under a mile of ice?

  24. Jimbo says:

    This is a far better solution for our energy needs than wind which is noisy, unreliable an eysore and slices wildlife to pieces.

  25. Baa Humbug says:

    John Brookes says:
    February 16, 2011 at 4:24 am

    after all, the problem with fossil fuels is that the environmental cost of pumping CO2 into the atmosphere has not been factored in.

    Hi John, we haven’t chatted in a while.
    How about you list and quantify those environmental costs for us.

  26. Dave Springer says:

    The fastcompany.com article was actually quite well balanced. None of the gilded lilies I’ve come to expect on this subject in the blogosphere. A bit pessimistic about fossil fuels and not very well informed on hydrogen but the author did enough homework on thorium to see the pitfalls and had a healthy amount of skepticism about commercial development of the technology. All in all the best article I’ve seen on the subject so far.

  27. hunter says:

    John Brookes,
    You seem to have some interesting assumptions.
    Are you implying that the full cost of windmill power has been taken into account?
    Please tell us what the environmental impacts of CO2 are.

  28. Pamela Gray says:

    I have often been an advocate for local, small nuclear-type energy plants as a proper addition to the massive hydro/coal plants currently used to serve much larger geographical areas. Maybe we are finally beginning to see the miniaturization that has long been a major effort in other technological areas, turn its attention to energy generation. For sure, the massive footprints of wind and solar fields are going in the WRONG ecological direction. And I remain incredibly surprised that environmentalists continue to advocate for the production of such monstrosities.

  29. banjo says:

    But..but but,who runs `big thorium`?
    Will prominent sceptics have to give up all the luxuries funded by big oil?
    Looks like they`ll have to sell the private jets, and fire the dancing girls.
    Mike Mangan`s right, an alarmists attitude to nukes pretty much indicates whether they`re worth talking to at all.
    If the catastrophe industry wins the gw argument, as they still might, we`re going to have to promote thorium like hell to keep the lights on.
    Maybe we should start now.

  30. Charles Higley says:

    I am afraid that your and mine first reaction is that there is a middle ground with the greens and that both sides can be reasonable.

    However, we should not forget that the extreme greens (extreme environmentalists) do not like people. They see humans as a disease and seek any way possible to decrease our numbers and/or ways to make us do less in our lives. (For them, the ideal human population varies from 100 million to 2 billion.) So, green nukes are not on the table with them as good, clean, cheap energy is the last thing they want. They see it as giving a child a machine gun; we would keep on having a good life and enjoying our world.

    Greens love the wind and solar initiatives despite the huge non-green impact and footprint of these alternative, crappy energy sources as they know that they are hyper-expensive and will put an economic burden on us that will cripple us from doing other things – we would not be able to afford as much, energy would be so expensive (between the bills and the tax-burden subsidies). They love this idea.

    It is a given to me that most people care for their environment and would like to keep it good and healthy for everybody. But the extreme greens would like to pretend that they have the moral high ground and that they are the only ones who care. How arrogant of them.

    So, we should not expect a reasonable middle ground with the environmentalists as the group is largely driven by extremists who do not want any cheap energy. They would have us go back to Little House on the Prairie as a model for living, having not even hydroelectric energy to use.

  31. John from CA says:

    Child proof nuclear reactor for the home — doesn’t sound like a “swell” idea to me but I do agree that power generation needs to be decentralized and cheap.

    Thorium reactors for commercial use might make sense.

  32. JohnM says:

    The point [of non-nuclear] is being missed.
    The article makes the point that the use of thorium reactors would mean endless and increasing availability of safe and cheap power.
    The power companies do not want cheap.
    The green/enviros’ do not want endless and plentiful.
    Nobody [much] cares about safe.
    At least not in the UK, and the gov cares not a jot about the dying elderly and/or poor…..less elderly means savings on benefits [the state pension is regarded as a benefit] and health costs.
    Ideally, all those not on private pensions should be gracious and die at thei 65th b’day !
    The “thorium” electrodes advertised are in fact thoriated tungsten electrodes. Tungsten doped with thorium oxide. They are used as welding electrodes in the tungsten-inert-gas process. I note the cost on ebay at $9.99….at a welding products supplier they are about £1.25 each here in the UK, cheaper in bulk.
    They are very mildly radioactive, but warning are given about inhaling the dust. Not that many employers pay any attention.

  33. polistra says:

    Oh, Anthony. Your naive innocence about our enemy may in the end be more dangerous than the enemy.

    Our enemy does not want clean power or clean anything.

    Our enemy wants the end of the human race. (Well, except for the saving remnant, which they imagine to be themselves.)

    You cannot compromise with mass murderers.

  34. I hope that Anthony will reconsider that recommendation “Forget reconciliation attempts, let’s just get busy”. That implies that there is a “we” who are on the right track, and a “they” who are wrong, and so who can be ignored as ignorant, immoral, and unworthy of discussion or perhaps even of existence. Perhaps I am misinterpreting the remark, since Anthony has led the way in promoting civility in the debate; and why be civil with someone who obviously unworthy of reconciliation?
    You may know that one important reason for the initial success and hopeful prospects of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions is the deep commitment of the organisers to nonviolent social change. They schooled themselves in that approach, and carried it through except when being physically attacked by Mubarek’s hoodlums.
    The recommendation that we ‘forget reconciliation’ would take disputes back to the days before Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.
    Surely Anthony did not mean that it be taken literally!

  35. LearDog says:

    Thanks Anthony –

    a good article, as it represents a call for reason. A beginning.

    But I kind of had to giggle at his quote “If overly rosy sales pitches for this new technology mislead us or even just make people suspicious, they may slow its implementation.” Thinking say ….. Wind? Solar? Ha ha ha! A good warning – but selectively applied?

    And while he sure had no problem identifying those thorium zealots on one hand he can’t see his own behavior in the same light. He took time to cry “time is of the essence; cheap fossil fuels are running out, further greenhouse gas buildups could trigger a runaway super-hothouse”. A runaway super hothouse? C’mon, man!

    How can he not see himself as zealot with statements such as “our recent forebears also unwittingly caused much death and destruction due to mining accidents, pollution, and wars”? Uhhh …. how about the positive aspects of cheap, abundant energy?

    And while I DO agree with his closing statement that
    - “there’s no such thing as a perfect solution to our energy crisis and it’s important to acknowledge that even LFTR-nukes have a bit of a dark side. Choosing the best path forward will require a thoughtful and open discussion” -

    a call for “Reason” can be implemented at ANY time.

  36. Spence_UK says:

    Advice: choose your friends carefully. This “friend” said the following:

    “It can’t melt down, it makes only minimal waste, and it can’t be used for making bombs. It doesn’t even use uranium, which is rare and dangerous to handle; it uses thorium instead, which is common and safer to work with.”

    It can’t melt down – because the reactor fuel is already a liquid. That’s not actually a good thing, because inevitably there will be a fuel leak at some point. I much prefer the idea of solid fuel that can only leak *if* there is a meltdown, rather than a liquid fuel that can leak during normal operation.

    It makes minimal waste – it makes about the same amount of waste as any other reactor, but the waste is shorter lived (only a few thousand years rather than a few hundred thousand), which is indeed a good thing.

    it can’t be used for making bombs – thorium can’t, but thorium can’t be used to generate energy in a nuclear reactor anyway. Likewise, the uranium you dig out of the ground can’t be used to make a bomb. In the reactor, uranium is bred from the thorium, and that can be used to make bombs (indeed, both the US and India have designed and tested bombs made from uranium derived from thorium). It is more difficult to work with, but this applies both to bomb making and power generation.

    It doesn’t even use uranium – false, yes it does, thorium doesn’t fission, and the thorium reactor works by breeding uranium. It breeds a different type of uranium to that found in the ground, U-233 instead of U-235, which is actually much more difficult to handle as its daughter products are strong gamma emitters. This means fuel reprocessing and waste handling has to be completed robotically behind heavy radiation shields. This makes creating useful nuclear bombs more challenging, but it is a viable material for a terrorist “dirty” bomb.

    which is rare and dangerous to handle – uranium dug out of the ground is neither rare nor terribly dangerous to handle. They used to use it in glass making not that long ago. You can buy it on eBay in fact! As if that proves anything.

    This may sound negative, but I am actually an advocate of nuclear power. But thorium over uranium is massively oversold by advocates of thorium power. On balance, thermal uranium remains the better choice (possibly augmented by thorium as per CANDU) and is likely to be for many years to come, and overselling thorium will do more damage to the nuclear industry in the long run (due to unrealistic expectations).

  37. Jeff says:

    from what I can read Stager is just another ignorant twit who claims to be a scientist. He opposed nuclear because “HE PROTESTED IT IN COLLEGE” ??? Really, we are supposed to cheer the fact that this obviously biased and ignorant moron was finally convinced by thorium ? Please, spare me … I’m certain he still calls people at WUWT “deniers” and means it in the worst way. You compromise with people like that and you end up compromised …

    REPLY: AFAIK, he’s never said a bad word about WUWT. Let’s not extend distrust without a clear example. – Anthony

  38. John B says:

    I wonder if Curt Stager’s nuclear epiphany will similarly awaken in him the realisation that there might be a connexion between his anti-nuclear stance based on prejudice, ignorance and political dogma and his stance on global warming/climate change or whatever they are calling it these days.

    Speaking personally, I do not want to be in the middle of anything, I just want to be left alone to get on with the rest of my life without being ever pestered, regulated, taxed, about what and how much I eat, drink, exercise, drive, consume, and menaced with a growing list of contagious diseases and anticipated catastrophes.

  39. James Sexton says:

    lol, an alternate reality strikes again. Mr. Stager seems to assume there is a reluctance for the skeptics to embrace nuclear energy or that somehow thorium is a “green” cause. I know of no serious skeptical point of view that doesn’t encourage nuclear energy, thorium or not. Mr. Stager, skeptics are not the obstacle to nuclear energy. But, I agree. Let’s get moving on this! We need energy, and we need it now.

    From what I’ve read on thorium generated energy is very promising. In fact, too much so. John Brookes is correct when he says, “Like any other sort of energy generation, you need to count the full costs – …” One of the things I’ve learned in my wanderings, there is no panacea. Thorium energy seems to be one.

  40. Galvanium says:

    Firstly Anthony and others, thorium is an element on the periodic table and does not require a capital T for text introduction, just like iron, carbon, helium and uranium. It’s primary mineralogical origin is monazite – probably the most beautiful and complex of all minerals, being a rare earth phoshate with more elements contained than any other, and with compositional variation. A gem size specimen shows beautiful yellow hues under the microscope. Go to beaches of Brazil, India and Australia to find specimens. I believe that in 50 years time the world will be powered by Th/U reactors.

    REPLY:
    It has a capital T in the periodic table, and that’s where I was thinking, but you are right, it doesn’t need it. Thanks for the pendantic bulletin ;-) – Anthony

  41. Juraj V. says:

    “The prospect of cheap fusion energy is the worst thing that could happen to the planet.”
    – Jeremy Rifkin, Greenhouse Crisis Foundation

    “Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.”
    – Prof Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University

  42. pochas says:

    I love nukes. They are a way to an abundant energy future without destroying the landscape looking for fossil fuels. On the other hand…

    I hate nukes. They mean an unavoidable radiation exposure for plant workers and a lasting waste disposal problem. On the other hand…

    I love nukes. They preserve natural resources for the future, which may possibly include humans in some form. On the other hand,

    I hate nukes. They can blow up millions of people and leave the world uninhabitable. On the other hand….

    I love nukes. Thorough MAAD they make war unthinkable, opening up the possibility of a future without war.

    I hate nukes. They curtail the release of CO2, which is necessary in increasing amounts if we are to feed untold billions of people. On the other hand,

    I love nukes. They rid the world of nasty, nasty air pollution.

    Yea, nukes. (on balance)

  43. Steeptown says:

    Uranium fuel rods can be handled quite safely. But people wear cotton gloves so as not to contaminate the rods. I remember a bloke who in the old days told me he carried plutonium rods in the trunk of his car.

  44. mark bell says:

    What does France do with it’s nuclear waste?

  45. Steve Oregon says:

    The rabid left would never agree to anything other than total capitulation.

    Their ability to move the goal post and cling to their prior lunacy knows no limits.

    Even if new technology arrived to allow our autos to get 100 miles per gallon and run on waste water with no emissions they would oppose people needlessly driving when they should be walking, biking & taking transit in a compact higher density community to lesson the impact on nature.
    And all of the many causes that have hooked up with AGW will always have a lengthy stream of excuses to justify the policies they demand.

  46. LearDog says:

    Thanks Anthony –

    a good article, as it represents a call for reason. A beginning.

    But I kind of had to giggle at his quote “If overly rosy sales pitches for this new technology mislead us or even just make people suspicious, they may slow its implementation.” Thinking say ….. Wind? Solar? Ha ha ha! A good warning – but selectively applied?

    And while he sure had no problem identifying those thorium zealots on one hand he can’t see his own behavior in the same light. He took time to cry “time is of the essence; cheap fossil fuels are running out, further greenhouse gas buildups could trigger a runaway super-hothouse”. A runaway super hothouse? C’mon, man!

    How can he not see himself as zealot with statements such as “our recent forebears also unwittingly caused much death and destruction due to mining accidents, pollution, and wars”? Uhhh …. how about the positive aspects of cheap, abundant energy? Lord.

    And while I DO agree with his closing statement that

    - “there’s no such thing as a perfect solution to our energy crisis and it’s important to acknowledge that even LFTR-nukes have a bit of a dark side. Choosing the best path forward will require a thoughtful and open discussion” -

    a call for “Reason” can be implemented at ANY time.

  47. Charles Higley says:

    “And time is of the essence; cheap fossil fuels are running out, further greenhouse gas buildups could trigger a runaway super-hothouse…”

    Once they figure out that natural gas and most oil is not really fossil and much more prevalent, produced from subducted/cooked ocean floor and the Earth’s core, the “cheap fossil fuels are running out” mantra will have to die.

    Recent work using calcium carbonate, iron oxide, and water showed that at temperatures typical of a subduction zone, these chemicals very rapidly produce methane. That and hydrocarbons percolating up from the earth’s core (as described by the Russians) might explain why we are finding hydrocarbons almost anywhere that we drill deep enough. At greater than 7000 feet, it is hard to argue that these are from a real fossil source similar to coal. Subducted sea floor material probably does not qualify as fossil.

  48. Dr T G Watkins says:

    Thanks for yet another article showing the way forward.
    May I recommend an essay by William Tucker titled E = MC2 in which he discusses the potential energy from various sources. I read it at Climate Realists blog 7/17/2010.
    Well worth a read for the non-specialists amongst us.

  49. Kevin_S says:

    Let’s just assume that everyone switched to thorium reactors, what would that do to nuclear medicine? Even with current reactors, the supplies run hot and cold such that it is not uncommon for nuke med departments at hospitals to sit idle for lack of material.

  50. commieBob says:

    It isn’t a question of whether thorium reactors will be used. The Chinese will use them even if we don’t. That will give them an economic advantage. If we seriously want to compete in the economic realm, we will do so too. We can go first or we can go second, but we will go; <rant>unless, of course, we don’t value our freedom and are willing to let China as the world’s greatest economic power dictate everything to us. </rant>

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/01/30/china-announces-thorium-reactor-energy-program-obama-still-dwelling-on-sputnik-moments/

  51. Mike from Canmore says:

    Along the lines of what I believe Erik is inferring by the BBC transcript

    I’ve always enjoyed when talking to an “environmentalist” asking them the question, “if you’re worries about climate change are shown to unfounded, would you be happy?”
    I get a few reactions.
    Probably most common is, hmmm, hadn’t thought about that before, let’s think for an extremely short time and toss out an answer and it is usually no.
    The next most common is No
    The next most common is get angry and call me something, or walk away
    I’m still waiting for a “yes”

    The level of understanding of the benefits society has/is derived/ing from carbon based fuels is woefully low. Those benefits are not limited to the energy produced by consumption, but also the benefits of releasing additional CO2 into the air.

    I can’t believe coal/oil/power companies just give away CO2 like that. They should charging for something they have complete title over (just kidding on the last paragraph, although technically, there is an argument for it)

  52. MattN says:

    I agree on the thorium reactors. That is the future and we better get busy on it. The “ultra-greens” are STILL opposed to thorium, because it still produces some amount of “bad stuff”. However, when you talk about “bad stuff” that gets produced in the manufacture of solar panels and flourescent/LED bulbs, they don’t want to hear about that…

  53. James Sexton says:

    Jerome Ravetz says:
    February 16, 2011 at 6:28 am
    ===========================

    That’s a pretty extreme interpretation of “Forget reconciliation attempts, let’s just get busy.” Indeed, you’re running a fine line of mis-attribution to the thoughts and meanings of such statements.

  54. 4 says:

    From the article:

    I find it ironic that a climate activist “sense[s] blind evangelical fervor” in religion and politics but, somehow his “gut” didn’t alert him to the possibility of AGW extremism.

  55. 4 says:

    From the article:
    “Now, what’s the catch? My gut tells me that anything that sounds too good to be true probably is. And I’ve spent enough time around religious and political extremists to sense blind evangelical fervor in some of the more vocal supporters of thorium. There’s also an unhelpful dose of ego and machismo in some of the technical discussions online, as in “I’m right because my resume is longer than yours,” that can drive potentially informative dissenters into silence (see it in the comment string following an article in Wired).”

    I find it ironic that a climate activist “sense[s] blind evangelical fervor” in religion and politics but, somehow his “gut” didn’t alert him to the possibility of AGW extremism.

  56. RichieP says:

    Jerome Ravetz
    “why be civil with someone who obviously unworthy of reconciliation?”

    Pots, kettles and black comes to mind here, given the standard approach of alarmists to us. I am getting used to the hysterical personal abuse from these types, which every day now becomes more strident and vile. Put your own house in order Mr Ravetz and then come and tell us how we should behave.

  57. RichieP says:

    Jerome Ravetz
    “You may know that one important reason for the initial success and hopeful prospects of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions is the deep commitment of the organisers to nonviolent social change”

    Indeed, very laudable but what has that to do with the social change envisaged by climate activists?
    [ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-Mw5_EBk0g ]

  58. Leonard Weinstein says:

    The early comment “As a climate scientist, I’m well-aware of the perils of global warming and I’ve long favored a timely switch to alternative energy sources. However, I’ve also drawn the line at nuclear power, having been an anti-nuke protester in college.” showed his basic thinking. It is true that Thorium reactors are a good solution, and I am glad he came around to this, but he still is convinced of the danger of global warming, and this would bias much of the implementation time scale he would consider. I think efforts to convince he and others of the error of CAGW is still necessary so more realistic time scale conversion to nuclear could be done (and it does eventually need to be done).

  59. jheath says:

    Can we have a bit of perspective here, please. When will the first commercially viable thorium plant be available? If modular 90 MW nukes are 2025 at the earliest, then I would bet on 2035 for this given past experience. Fine, but there is a huge amount of investment needed now in technology that works if we are to bring prosperity to the rest of the human race in the developing world, and thereby improve our environment. And if we are to maintain security of supply in developed countries. (I have no truck with the Malthusians unless they are volunteering to be the first sacrifices of a new eugenics, instead of the poor of the developing countries.) If we do not solve today’s problems re energy and power, then we have no chance of solving tomorrow’s – which is what thorium is possibly about.

    Have we not got enough dreamland energy policy about based on wind, solar and the wretched environmentally danaging biofuels (well, most of them)?

    Some basics: with the diminishing correlation between CO2 levels and global temperatures (even GISS seems to be below IPCC scenario c to me – the climate experts will know more precisely) the risk associated with CO2 has to be seen as lower than anticipated by policy makers. This is consistent with the failed predictions of global warming catastrophes from 1988 onwards – they have all proved wrong, so why should anyone trust the next set of alarms – CO2 means more cold and snow!

    So, lets manage energy policy against this new perspective of risk for now, and exploit the shale gas opportunity instead of pointless wind etc. Then if the risks remain low, move on to coal again. And in the meantime keep the nuclear option alive, but recognise the high capital costs and the level of risk. We can adapt policies if Governments are not foolish enough as to lock them into legislation.

    Can scientists and academics please stop chasing these magic bullets, and start listening to people in the energy sector once more (and I am not a lobbyist for any corporate – so no accusations on that please). Mind you – policy makers outside North America and parts of Europe are already moving this way. They are recognising the change in the risk profile and the need to deliver the energy required and are responding accordingly.

  60. Mark V says:

    The one big problem with conventional power stations is that they are inefficient, generally below 50% efficiency. The idea of having trailer sized thorium reactors or any other form of local generation based on heat has two key inherent efficiency benefits, reduced transmission losses and the possibility of using waste heat in buildings and production operations. Combined heat and power (CHP) from local generation is a sensible way forward and if thorium reactors can function in this capacity it would be a real efficiency benefit.

    Several years ago I was part of a foundation tasked with looking at clean energy futures in the UK. One of the options was looking at improving the efficiency of power generation and efficiency of conventional nuclear power. After about a year of work and economic analysis, one viable scheme (amongst several) based on existing nuclear technology and integrated generation and production was presented to government. One hour was allotted to the presentation and it was dismissed by government within that hour. The discussion ended with the simple statement “That it did not match government policy”. So my concern on something like localized thorium reactors would be that a great technology and many development opportunities can be lost because the mind shift required by the regulators has not occurred. With many governments still totally focused on managing CO2 and obtaining tax revenue from it, there is a real risk that sensible generation options will be dismissed because of policy determinations that are based on income and not environmentally sound decision making. It is possible that an energy crisis will be required or a financially very attractive generation option developed before that mind shift will occur. It would be intriguing to see what kind of taxation governments would levy on something like a thorium generation facility as the motive appears to be financial and not cleaner and efficient production.

  61. George E. Smith says:

    “”””” John Brookes says:
    February 16, 2011 at 4:24 am
    Any less CO2 intensive form of energy generation deserves investigation. This one can go into the mix with all the others. Like any other sort of energy generation, you need to count the full costs – after all, the problem with fossil fuels is that the environmental cost of pumping CO2 into the atmosphere has not been factored in. “””””

    So what if it is zero ?

    So long as the “environmental cost” mythology persists; the big spenders will continue to push carbon taxes; anything to fund their vote buying largesse; such as the $4,000 (average) per employee “bonus” being paid out by taxpayers to the employees of unprofitable Government Motors, to buy their Union Votes for Obama’s re-electrion; or the $7,500 taxpayer gift to people willing to put up with the problems of electric cars, to get them to buy one. Are you talking aboutt hose sorts of “environemtal costs”; they are fossil fuel intensive costs.

  62. Scott Covert says:

    I work in a coal plant now. I wouldn’t have a problem working in a nuclear plant. Look at the statistics, you are safer in a nuke plant than your own bathtub (not to mention your vehicle. Compare the number of deaths involved in mining coal to the deaths from nuclear power.
    I obviously have no problem with clean coal either.

    Thorium can be weaponized as stated above, we would just impose the same security as handling uranium.

  63. George E. Smith says:

    “”””” Spence_UK says:
    February 16, 2011 at 6:30 am
    Advice: choose your friends carefully. This “friend” said the following: “””””

    So Spence, as I read your post, it seems like a deja vu all over again fairy story; you know the one about the “Stone Soup”; where the vagabond helps the lady of the house to make an excellent pot of soup using nothing but an ordinary river boulder, that he keeps wrapped up in a cloth in his swag. Simply by boiling the pebble in a pot of water, the vagrant makes a wonderful soup, which he allows the Hausfrau to “season to taste”, with some salt and pepper; maybe an onion, or somecarrots; potatoes can add a nice bouquet too, and it never hurts to toss a little strip steak in or some bacon chunks; just to get the flavor right.

    And after the soup is made, the stone is completely recycleable and available for the next time the bum wants to show some other lady how he makes stone soup.

    So you’re telling us that this Thorium river rock, is the greatest thing since sliced bread; and after you deal with the Uranium 233 scum that forms, and a few other bitternesses like gamma rays, and the like; in the end, you can have your own backyard mini-nuke; with nary a problem in the world.

    Thanks for your insight Spence; how different is the view, when you can pullback the curtain and see the villain flipping all the switches !

  64. hedrat says:

    Blah. The only reason why this is considered economically feasible now is because the government is choking off exploration and development.

    Show me a peak issue (peak coal, peak oil, peak food, peak doctors, peak whatever), and I’ll almost certainly be able to show you the government regulations that triggered or exacerbated it.

    I’m all for future energy sources, but I’m not more for it than current energy. If we don’t keep drilling for oil and natural gas, digging for coal and maintaining and building the refineries needed to process oil into gasoline, we won’t survive as a culture to see these future plans come to fruition.

  65. Magnus says:

    Tom Scharf says:
    February 16, 2011 at 4:29 am

    This is a funny comment coming from a climate scientist. He is discussing comment threads on thorium reactors:

    …There’s also an unhelpful dose of ego and machismo in some of the technical discussions online, as in “I’m right because my resume is longer than yours,” that can drive potentially informative dissenters into silence…

    I wonder if he sees any irony there.
    ___________________________________________

    Nice catch. “Informative dissenters” doesn’t exist in the AGWers mind. Only in different areas of expertise. Since establishing the believer’s consensus-propaganda-machine, the IPCC, “Informative dissenters” are simply put in the category with other “deniers” and have therefore seized to exist.

    How can a world full of otherwise sane people watch this process and simply conform?

  66. Dodgy Geezer says:

    I’m TOTALLY against ‘meeting up in the middle ground’. That is a political or commercial bargaining proposal. And I do not think we should be doing politics or business.

    What I think we are fighting for is the continued existence and proper operation of Science. Make no mistake, this episode has severely damaged the scientific process – for instance, almost all the world’s scientific establishment organisations have prostituted their calling and indulged in a level of anti-scientific propaganda last seen in the time of Galileo. The medical establishment has moved the same way. We need to draw a line in the sand for absolute truth.

    If AGW is proven then I will be supporting sensible moves to mitigate it. If it is NOT proven, then I will NOT be supporting middle-of-the-road proposals to do something to allay the fears of people who believe it to be true due to activist propaganda.

    Science operates by trying to discover the truth, not by pandering to a vocal minority, or even a democratic majority. This is a fact which needs to be stressed constantly…

  67. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:

    Between the extremes of Hansen’s pronouncements about coal death trains…

    There seems to be a positive correlation between being a climatologist & being mentally ill! What’s WITH these guys??

    “Climatologist Disorder” = Defining symptoms and characteristics include a tendency to become obsessed with end-of-earth scenarios, experience strong paranoid delusions, have feelings of grandiosity, become oppositional/defiant when presented with FOI requests, etc.

    Somebody better get Hansen & his ilk some medication! Considering the power & influence these guys have (used to have), they could cause some real problems.

  68. pyromancer76 says:

    We don’t need a middle ground to agree upon when that middle ground includes the religious views that 1) CO2 is evil; 2) energy efficiency that produces affluence, thus population growth, or any growth at all, is evil; and 3) thorium is morally good because it is not uranium.

    We need science and the skepticism that is fundamental to a scientific perspective. Pollution, scientifically not religiously determined, remains an important issue. Thorium must be investigated for its polluting and dangerous qualities as must all energy sources. (Spence_UK 6:30 am). There are trade offs with every single one. We should be developing clean coal, natural gas, and oil resources as thoroughly as possible because we have had long experience with them and we know that they are connected to aspects of organic life.

    Furthermore, responsible development of all energy resources, full speed ahead, is the way to energy independence well before 2020. Waiting until 2020 is putting a noose around our necks. If we had had responsible politicians for the last 11 years, we would have arrived at that independence well before today — both Republicans and Democrats are responsible for the decline. Today the Democrats are trying to stop the full range of energy development and move us further into socialism — a religious economic-political doctrine.

    Nuclear may be the future, but we still have to store the waste (where is France’s waste going?) and build in the safety. Full speed ahead on all matters, but let’s not “partner” with those who would limit or destroy our current successes. Thorium must prove its mettle, its profitability, and its safety. Or, I emphasize OR, we will be stuck with another religious absolutist decision just like that of the CFL light bulbs — and we will be going along with it.

    David Archibald does not have it right. He understands only a small part: that we need energy independence and that we should be developing thorium as an energy resource.

  69. Matt says:

    You can also hold Plutonium in your hand – only, you don’t want any dust of it…

  70. John F. Hultquist says:

    mark bell says:
    February 16, 2011 at 6:51 am
    What does France do with it’s nuclear waste?

    Except in the USA (and maybe elsewhere?), reactor fuel is reprocessed.

    From the link below:

    “. . . 1977 change in government policy which ruled out all US civilian reprocessing as one facet of US non-proliferation policy.”

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf69.html

    This if a fairly long document but the first sections are an easy read.

  71. Michael J. Dunn says:

    There is no magic pill…or, the desired features have already been available (read up on the CANDU reactor that uses natural uranium, cannot melt down, etc., invented by the Canadians because they did not have access to Manhattan project technology).

    For decades, there used to be a mounted BOMARC missile at the north end of Boeing Field in Seattle. In later years, it had been dismounted and was slated for display at the Museum of Flight. Then one day, I noticed that the dismounted bird was no longer in evidence. Upon inquiry, I was told it was disposed of as “radioactive waste” because of the trace thorium used in the magnesium alloy of the fuselage. So, the idea that pure thorium would be regarded as No Big Deal strikes me as… optimistic.

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m not opposed to thorium. But all nuclear reactors share the same physics and produce the same products. I am opposed to unreasoning fear of uranium, however. There is nothing preventing us from moving forward with an expansion of nuclear power except for the political desire to control our society through the shortage and rationing of energy.

  72. MarkW says:

    JohnM, The power companies do not care what the price is, so long as they can sell it for a profit. All companies, even power companies do everything in their power to find ways to make their products cheaper. They do this so they can sell more, keep ahead of the competition, and make more money.

  73. John F. Hultquist says:

    Charles Higley says:
    February 16, 2011 at 6:58 am

    “At greater than 7000 feet, it is hard to argue that these are from a real fossil source . . .”

    The above part of your comment might need to be more clearly expressed. In places such as the Gulf of Mexico the sediments max out at a depth of about 15 Kms (50,000 ft) and while the oil there isn’t exactly of the same fossil source as coal, it is nonetheless well understood (and it is not from subduction). Most oil that has been recovered has been from “fossil” sources and most drilling is into sedimentary layers. If large sources of oil are to be found in subduction zones, wildcatters will soon be swarming over those regions. We haven’t seen that yet.

    http://www.gulfbase.org/facts.php

  74. Cassandra King says:

    The middle ground?

    That is easy of course, the provision of reliable plentiful cheap energy for all to access, without that foundation nothing else is possible and the acceptance that carbon dioxide is a benign and wholly beneficial trace gas.

    Greenshirt political agitators should be forced to back up their wild claims and be made fiscally responsible for the consequences of spreading lies and false scares to the public and they should be legally obliged to obey the law and be banned from indulging in criminal sabotage and inciting others to carry it out.

    Scientists should be forced to sign a behaviour and standards contract before they receive a penny of taxpayers money and face a series of professional sanctions if they are found to have been guilty of premeditated or wilful misconduct.

    Governments should never again be able to peddle a political agenda and justifying socio political changes by buying off science and scientists and scientific institutions. Governments should be held accountable for the monies they disperse to scientific research and the reasons for that dispersal.

    This would be the middle ground meeting point for a normal and rational dialogue between differing opinions, a level fair playing field to enable free discourse and trust. Trust is the key, trust is the essential ingredient, in essence it means that I trust that others do not have ulterior motives and that they cannot gain the upper hand by using of benefiting from underhanded unfair and secret methodologies.

    Only when we can come together as free equals in honest respectful honest dialogue can we hope to bridge the current divide.

  75. John F. Hultquist says:

    Dr T G Watkins says:
    February 16, 2011 at 7:01 am
    . . .
    “May I recommend an essay by William Tucker titled E = MC2 . . .

    Look here:

    http://www.energytribune.com/articles.cfm?aid=2469

  76. PaulH says:

    Someone put together a story of thorium “mash up” and posted it on YouTube:

    The style gets rather choppy and erratic at times, but if you would like a backgrounder that’s only about 16 minutes long, this video is a good start.

  77. Eric Gisin says:

    Thousands of tons of uranium have gone into coloured glass and pottery with no health effects. There is much more uranium in a concrete basement producing harmful radon. Uranium is less toxic than lead, and less harmful as shrapnel in the body.

    That Star Trek episode in the first comment is ridiculous, people live on rich thorite deposits in India. It’s pretty sad when SciFi promotes Greenpeace paranoia.

  78. harrywr2 says:

    MarkW says:
    February 16, 2011 at 4:58 am

    I’ve always thought it a bit ironic, that many of those who believe in catastrophic warming, are also convinced that “cheap fuels are running out”.

    In order to get to catastrophic warming one needs to burn about 25 billion tons of coal per year. Prior to 2002 the inflation adjusted price of steam coal on global markets had been dropping for 30 years. In 2002 the Chinese were exporting steam coal at $27/ton. It would be easy enough to extrapolate the dropping price trend along with rising consumption trend out to 25 billion tons a year.

    China is no longer exporting steam coal, they are importing it at at a price of $125/tonne. The price of steam coal on global markets has been rising for 8 years and shows no signs of stopping.(India was also an exporter and they are now an importer).

    It’s awfully hard to extrapolate the current world consumption of 6-7 billion tons of coal a year to 25 billion tons a year in the face of 20% year on year price increases.

    It has taken some in the climate movement a few years to see that their concern in 2000, an ever expanding supply of cheap coal is no longer valid.

    Of course the coal industry, hoping to lock utilities into 40 years worth of coal purchases isn’t doing anything to dispel the myth of ‘unlimited cheap coal’ either.

    The coal industry and the climate extremists both need the myth of ‘cheap coal forever’ in order to sell their solutions.

    The US is the Saudi Arabia of coal. Coal mine productivity east of the Mississippi has been trending downward for 10 years, from more then 4 tons per man hour to less then 3 tons per man hour. There is a reason that the Southeastern US Electric Utilities all have plans to build nuclear power plants, they can see the productivity trends in Eastern US coal mining.

  79. J. Knight says:

    Thorium reactors are worthy of study, no doubt, and will find a place in the energy mix if they are truly efficient and cost effective. Frankly, I have my doubts, but have no problem whatsoever with further research and development. After all, that’s the power of free markets. I just don’t want to see huge amounts of government subsidies going into thorium reactor development, just as I don’t approve of government subsidies to wind and solar, or ethanol for that matter.

    Actually, were it not for government interference, the energy crisis would be solved, just not in the way those currently in charge would like. Here we had Xerxes a couple of days ago telling us that oil is a fuel of the past, yet anyone with a mind who wishes for civilization to exist on a large scale knows this to be drivel.

    Were the Gulf to be opened to drilling again, and Alaska fully explored and engaged, and the new techniques learned in natural gas drilling fully operational in oil fields, the US could be fully energy independant in 5 years.

    I know of an oil well redrilled in a supposedly dead field, but using modern techniques of fracking, that is now producing more oil than it ever did. And there are thousands of wells where this technology could be used to the same effect, allowing billions of barrels of oil to be recovered. Many of these old fields had only 40% of the available oil recovered from them. And relatively new fields, such as the Bakken, are seeing exponential increases on the amount of oil that can be recovered. New estimates put the Bakken reserves at 24 billion barrels vs. the government estimate of 4 billion. Add trillions of feet of new natural gas reserves and we’ve hit the jackpot, people. The US has more energy potential than any country in the World.

    The new technology that caused the revolution in natural gas is now coming into play in the oil patch, and if not prevented by the government, will allow us the amount of time we need to develope new sources of power. Plenty of time. And the Chinese believe it, because they are buying up huge amounts of American hydrocarbon energy potential as we speak. This should be the main worry when it comes to energy production. Should we let the Chinese control our energy future? But that is a question for another post.

  80. Matt says:

    Why the love affair with thorium. Hyperion reators use uranium, they are safe and they are commercially available right now.
    http://www.hyperionpowergeneration.com/

  81. LarryOldtimer says:

    people in Britain having to choose between food and fuel, this is where we need to be.

    What madness this is. Without sufficient fuel, how will the fields be prepared for planting? How will the crops be harvested? How will the food be processed? How will the food be transported?

    The world isn’t going to run out of natural gas, coal or petroleum any time soon. Even higher levels of CO2 would result in more food being produced. Tractors need portable fuel, not electricity. Electric vehicles can’t be practical, which is why virtually none are being purchased.

    This is the sort of madness which can only result in massive revolutions, which, by the way, have begun, in good part because food is simply far too expensive, in case no one noticed. When people can’t afford to feed themselves and their families, people revolt.

  82. Jeremy says:

    It seems people are finally re-waking-up to the reality of energy density… only a hundred or so years after Einstein’s good year.

  83. Brian H says:

    Erik says:
    February 16, 2011 at 5:05 am

    So, Eric, whaddya think? Will the Geo-Greenists dismiss and subvert the Thorium Fairy?

    (BTW, there is also a Fusion Fairy. Watch this little seminar held Dec. 21:
    http://focusfusion.org/index.php/site/article/focus_fusion_solstice_seminar_now_available_online/

    About an order of magnitude cheaper than Thorium, and could kick in 10-20 years sooner. )

  84. Brian H says:

    Anthony;
    You realize that your call to focus on something clearly workable to produce clean power without smashing the economy is a “Put up or Shut up” challenge to Geo-Greenism?

    Someone carped in comments above that we’ll end up buying our small efficient thorium reactors from the Chinese. Mebbe so, but that still would work fine, IMO. The point isn’t “Who’s gonna make billions by selling reactors.” It’s the downstream consequences of clean, cheap power. Many greenies are on record as deploring them, starting, natch, with Ehrlich: “Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.”

  85. Jeff says:

    My bad in assuming Stager uses the term denier … he doesn’t seem to throw it around …
    My point that he was ignorant on the science of nuclear power until recently still stands …

  86. Tenuc says:

    “…Forget reconciliation attempts, let’s just get busy…”

    I totally agree. Pointless arguing about the falsified CAGW conjecture, let’s just get on with developing cheap energy sources like thorium, methane clanthrate, mass produced small scale uranium reactors…e.t.c., e.t.c.

    Without cheap energy sources the progress of mankind will be slow and the huge populations of the third world will have to resign themselves to a short life of poverty, hunger and hardship.

  87. Tom T says:

    I don’t know what will solve our future energy needs, and neither does anyone else, that is the thing about the future, it isn’t hasn’t happened yet. The best way to support that future energy is to let the private sector and the market place decide. Whatever energy sources that emerges as a future energy source should do so through competition driven by market forces, and not through government intervention.

  88. dp says:

    I’m curious about something having to do with shifting in a significant way to decarbonized energy. And it also involves fractional distillation (FD) at refineries. The scenario is decarbonized energy cannot be used everywhere. Airplanes require jet fuel and that is a product of fractional distillation. Trucks and locomotives require diesel fuel which is another product of FD.And ships require bunker fuel which is the last drop in the barrel after the other products have been used. What remains I presume is used to pave our highways.

    The question has to do with economies of scale and the FD process. Currently there is a kind of balance between what is pumped out of the ground and a market for the distilled products produced. If thorium and other innovations come along this balance will be upset in some segments. There will necessarily be abundances and these will have to be stored (costly, too), or there will necessarily be reductions in production which will lead to rationing, and there will be waste products for which there is no longer a viable market. That would be products formed in the FD process unavoidably so that other products can be produced. Lighter distillates are created on the way to heavier distillates.

    Any scaling back invokes the economies of scale law which requires that creating less product costs more to produce/unit than large scale production. Any requirement for storage is a recurring cost. Commodities we now have affordably and in abundance and which have led to a good quality of life are going to disappear, I think.

    Then there is the problem of where do you store things? The French nuclear waste problem has been raised here – the solution is to let future generations deal with it in the same cavalier way the US government passes off debt to our unborn. What will future generations do with our old oil sludge?

    So the question(s) is what do we do with the refinery by-products, and can we afford to scale back production? If there is no satisfactory answer then before we do any of this maybe we need to prove that CO2 is the problem some people think it is.

  89. Innocentious says:

    I am tired of people claiming to be scientists who believe in Global Warming, yet are completely ignorant as to the efficient creation of reasonably safe nuclear reactors with very little environmental consequence.

    They call skeptics of Global Warming ‘Flat Earthers’ and ‘Deniers’ yet they cannot see the same image in themselves when they talk about energy sources.

    Nor do they understand the fallacies in their own arguments that there are fuels that should be abandoned because they can’t last… If a fuel can’t last then as it runs out the price will raise and people will move away from it. Perhaps it is because when I was in school in the 80′s I was promised we would run out of Oil in 2010, or that there would be massive droughts in 2005 that would destroy all the crops and we would starve to death, or any number of other promises that turned out to be false that has made me skeptical of promises of the future with no direct correlation today.

    All the while they use an appeal to authority ‘I am a climate scientist I know what will happen’ when the truth is most of the research ignores possible alternative scenarios for warming and thus is fairly easily subjected to skeptical minds. Add into it the EXTREME predictions where it is all gloom and doom ( have you ever read a scientist stating that Global Warming has potential benefits? Or as they now call it ‘Climate Change’ )

    This does not mean I cannot be convinced that Global Warming is really occurring due to CO2, however there is so much noise in the data that I have examined as to shake my confidence in it being a problem. I am as of yet unconvinced of feedback loops behaving the way that ‘scientists’ believe them to behave. I am tired of policy makers excepting the reports of these scientists as doctrine.

    I wish in the USA we were pushing for more nuclear power as these plants could create wonderful energy sources.

  90. jorgekafkazar says:

    For those unfamiliar with the elements, here’s an educational little video (very short.)

    http://www.privatehand.com/flash/elements.html

  91. RockyRoad says:

    There is no “middle ground”–truth is truth, numbers are numbers, and honest scientists are skeptical and realists (meaning they don’t bend their results with politics or religion). Truth isn’t negotiable–it just is.

    A tall order? Perhaps, but that’s why scientists are so essential.

  92. Ian L. McQueen says:

    Uranium-fuelled small reactors can be made very safe. Read about SLOWPOKE [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_Canada].

    IanM

  93. Peter Miller says:

    There is an old adage: “if it sounds too good to be true, it is too good to be true.” This has clearly proven to be true with electricity generation from windmills and solar panels. I suspect the same logic applies to thorium reactors.

    Thorium based reactors must be a much more difficult thing to manufacture on a commercial basis than has been suggested here. Otherwise – and I know this sounds obvious – someone would already be commercially producing thorium reactors. Of course, it could all be a ‘Big Oil’ conspiracy.

    Stress the word “commercial”.

  94. Philip Finck says:

    in “molten fluorine salts”? I anticipate that the greenies might some day ask what is and where do you get (manufacture) molten fluorine salts?

    All that is gold does not glitter.

  95. Mike Mangan says:
    February 16, 2011 at 4:17 am

    “There’s a litmus test. A large chunk of the left will oppose ANY form of efficient cheap energy. Cheap energy means the whole world breeding and consuming and that’s what they hate most of all.”

    But that is a fundamentally illogical position. The more enriched and educated a population the less they breed.

    I think the answer is more religious in nature, a new form of self-flagellation and guilt. Sure, they think people are bad, but it isn’t enough to reduce the population. Human beings, being such monstrous creatures, must be made to suffer for their transgressions – the biggest sin of which is existence itself.

    Original sin anyone?

    I don’t know if they articulate these thoughts, but I think that is what drives the hard-core environmentalists on a subconscious level.

  96. manicbeancounter says:

    There is no middle ground to be had from an alternative form of energy production for electricity. Thorium may provide an alternative to uranium for nuclear power stations, but this is but one source of energy for electricity – and more expensive than coal and gas. Electricity is no a reasonably-priced or practical alternative for cars, so thorium is only of limited use.

    A better middle ground to go for is on policy. Rather than state “we must do something”, we should ask “Can we make the world a better place for future generations by trying to limit CO2 emissions?”

    Skeptics would reply “no”.
    But anyone who follows the Stern Review’s Cost Benefit calculations would also reply “No” if they allowed for the policy-making process which will lead to ineffective policies. We will impoverish ourselves and future generations more through the policies to curb CO2 than the catastrophic scenarios of Stern or the UNIPCC.

    I have tried to demonstrate this argument graphically at
    http://manicbeancounter.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/climate-change-policy-in-perspective-%e2%80%93-part-1-of-4/

  97. Don K says:

    “Once they figure out that natural gas and most oil is not really fossil and much more prevalent, produced from subducted/cooked ocean floor and the Earth’s core, the “cheap fossil fuels are running out” mantra will have to die.”

    That sounds like Thomas Gold’s Deep Oil hypothesis. Geologists — perhaps humbled a bit by the Wegner-Continental drift fiasco — have tended to treat it with some respect, but there really is virtually no evidence that any current gas or oil production does not have biological genesis. Neither is there any reason to believe that commercial production of non-biologically produced hydrocarbons will ever work out.

    Gold was an interesting guy and often right — particularly about the inability of the Space Shuttle program to ever come close to it’s stated objectives — but my impression is that few people who know about hydrocarbon production think he was right about this one. My feeling is that they, unlike the climate scientists, don’t have a quasi-religious position to defend. They’d be perfectly happy to find and pump non-biological hydrocarbons if such existed in commercial quantities.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Gold

  98. RichieP says:

    thegoodlocust says:
    February 16, 2011 at 11:29 am
    “– the biggest sin of which is existence itself.

    Original sin anyone? ”

    Couldn’t agree more TGL, spot on. The medieval world of invisible evil spirits and demons in the air around humans has its modern parallel in the ‘evil’ omnipresence of CO2. Depressingly, this is why real science, done well, will not alone vanquish. In religious terms, it’s a crusade or a jihad for its cultists and rationality plays no part in those things. I watched Inhofe being interviewed in a corridor by Hertsgaard and some followers. I could see the utter hatred and blind anger in their eyes. They’re the ones who have no middle ground, I fear.

  99. Tom B says:

    Mark V says:
    February 16, 2011 at 7:43 am
    “Several years ago I was part of a foundation tasked with looking at clean energy futures in the UK.”
    There’s your problem. You are in the UK. The Brits invented the digital computer, the CPU, the jet engine…. on and on. But never capitalized on it. I was at a complete loss to understand why. I think you’ve now explained that for me.

  100. Paddy says:

    I have a good information source concerning the Battelle National Laboratory Idaho activities. The Lab is doing very little research concerning Thorium reactor research because of lack of funding resulting from Congress’ failure to adopt budgets for the last few fiscal years. Continuing resolutions based upon the last budget preclude new research. So one of out two national labs engaged in nuclear energy research is hogtied by the Democratic controlled Congress’s failure to adopt an new budget since 2008.

    This is another example showing that Obama’s promises to develop new nuclear power generators is false. If he wants more nuclear power he must act affirmatively to fund essential research and engineering. Actions still speak louder than words.

  101. harrywr2 says:

    LarryOldtimer says:
    February 16, 2011 at 9:34 am

    “The world isn’t going to run out of natural gas, coal or petroleum any time soon. ”

    The world isn’t going to run out of diamonds anytime soon either. But if the price of extracting coal ends up being same as the price of extracting diamonds I’m not going to be able to afford electricity produced by coal.

    The loss(income) statement for UK Coal is pretty sad, at a mine mouth price of 45.70 pounds(75 dollars) per tonne UK Coal lost money in the first half of 2010.
    http://miranda.hemscott.com/static/cms/2/4/2/6/binary/8337229825/16526658.pdf

    The ‘cheap coal’ in Europe,Africa,Asia and the Eastern Seaboard of the US has already burned up.
    There is a nice big pile of cheap coal left in Wyoming. I’m sure the good folks in Wyoming will be enjoying cheap energy from cheap coal for 1,000 years. The rest of us need to start thinking about other options.

  102. Steve says:

    I don’t see that it’s mentioned in the article or comments, so for those tracking fusion power development…

    https://lasers.llnl.gov/about/missions/energy_for_the_future/life/

    The National Ignition Facility is still on target for fusion power generation in 2012 (test) and commercial availability in the 2030′s. Note that the LIFE concept is a hybrid fission/fusion plant, in which the fission reactor generates electricity and waste, but the waste is then used as fuel for the fusion reactor.

  103. Michael J. Dunn says:

    It’s not quite true that nuclear reactors are good only for producing electricity. Mainly, they produce thermal power. We have excellent technologies for transforming thermal power into electrical power.

    However, we also have an excellent mastery of petrochemistry. For example, we can take 3 pounds of abundant coal (mostly carbon) and 4 pounds of abundant natural gas (CH4) to produce 7 pounds of any liquid hydrocarbon you desire (approx. CH2). It just takes a little heat to nudge things along…which could easily be provided by a nuclear reactor. This might give us the ability to outproduce the rest of the world in petroleum fuels and thereby control the market price by dropping it. There’s not much wrong with our economy, or society in general, that can’t be greatly aided by cheap energy.

    Hydrocarbon fuels are, primarily, convenient. They are liquid and dense, both qualities that are useful for storage and application, particularly for transportation. If we didn’t have them in abundance, we might be strongly motivated to create them for their convenience.

  104. Logan says:

    The comments assume that conventional technology will not be extended or revised. There are several concepts that call such assumptions into question…see, for example:

    http://www.focusfusion.org/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polywell
    http://www.newenergytimes.com/v2/sr/WL/WLTheory.shtml

    The Widom-Larsen theory claims to resolve the difficulties with Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) concepts, better known by the original term, Cold Fusion. There are other radical claims that can be found by google search. The noble gas engine saga is one of more curious ones:

    http://www.infinite-energy.com/iemagazine/issue51/papp.html

    If any of the radical concepts work, it would have revolutionary effects in geopolitics, economics, and climate controversies. Confirmation of any radical idea would lead to examination of the other claims. The curtain of ridicule would be stripped away.

  105. Buzz Belleville says:

    I interact with a lot of folks who care about sustainable energy, who think climate change is a serious problem, and who are (in their own minds) environmentalists or conservationists. Those who are serious thinkers are absolutely behind expanded nuclear. It’s a bit of a strawman to suggest that those worried about AGW are also anti-nuclear … it doesn’t square with the folks with whom I interact. Even the major tree-hugging organizations, while hedging their bets in official pronouncements, aren’t the anti-nuclear watchdogs they once were. This is indeed common ground.

    Prediction: the 112th Congress will pass a relatively modest but still significant federal RPS combined with enhanced nuclear (probably a streamlined regulatory process plus expanded DOE guaranteed loans) and some lip service to expanded domestic drilling (though there is no legislative impediment to more offshore drilling right now). The fight will likely be over how much EPA authority to strip, and the guess is that they will allow but freeze current regs (the ones that went into effect 1/2/11) and hold off on enforceable NSPS standards for some period of time while the new law does its thing.

    There are areas of mutual interest between the alarmists and the deniers (and everyone in between).

  106. ShaneCMuir says:

    For a scientific site I am continually amazed at the lack of knowledge of some very fundamental issues.

    There is not, and never has been, any fuels made from fossils… tis all a myth.

    Thomas Gold was right..

    http://trilogymedia.com.au/Thomas_Gold/
    http://links.veronicachapman.com/OriginsOfOil.htm
    http://www.thunderbolts.info/forum/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=2150&start=0
    http://www.gasresources.net/

    By the way.. he has also been proven right about his electric universe theory.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-qrnsh83f4
    http://www.thunderbolts.info/

    As far as alternative energy goes..
    Cold Fusion, Zero Point Energy and harnessing energy from the waves from the sea have all been proven to work.

    No need to mess with dangerous or inefficient methods.

  107. Lady Life Grows says:

    Thorium may be LESS dangerous than other nukes, and cheaper, but that does not mean harmless.

    The worst thing about AGW being NOT “extreme” but utterly WRONG 180 degrees is the attack on the source of Life–carbon dioxide. With wind or solar or thorium, you cut CO2. I believe CO2 has no NET effect on temperatures, but that doesn’t really matter, since warm is better. It is one of the inputs to photosynthesis, and a limiter. Reduce CO2 and you reduce food supply for every endangered species as well as man.

    AGW-damaged economies caused the recent riots in the near and middle East, and contrary to the silly hysteria that these people are fighting “for freedom,” it was food prices that sparked all the riots, and riots do not bring freedom. More developed countries could also see food riots, and the fall of governments, with destructive, not beneficial, consequences to freedom.

  108. Malcolm Miller says:

    If thorium was ‘a cheap source of electrical energy’ then there would be commercial outfits producing thorium reactors now, though not in the USA, of course, since private development of reactors is not permitted. But there are plenty of countries which would be willing to make them if there was a profit involved. Praising thorium reactors while knowing nothing about the technology is exactly the same as praising ‘wind power’ or ‘wave power’. If they were viable, businesses would be making the generators NOW.

  109. George E. Smith says:

    Well you know what Margaret Thatcher said about “concnsus” concensus is geting everybody to agree to something than none of them believe.

    So much for the common meeting ground. There is no place where the AGW crowd can stand alongside the realist crowd.

    One of the two positions is quite wrong; moreover there isn’t even any evidence that supports their position. You don’t agree with somebody who is only talking half nonsense.

  110. Mike McMillan says:

    Spence_UK says: February 16, 2011 at 6:30 am
    . . . which is rare and dangerous to handle – uranium dug out of the ground is neither rare nor terribly dangerous to handle. They used to use it in glass making not that long ago. You can buy it on eBay in fact! As if that proves anything.

    Back when I was in AF pilot training, the local Diamond Shamrock gas stations were giving out dinnerware with each so many gallons of gas. Really bright orange, nice enough for a bachelor, and I had a good collection started when word came out that the stuff was radioactive.

    I’d always wondered why we didn’t need candles to get that warm glow during dinner.

    Naturally I disposed of it in a responsible manner (dumpster).

  111. Brian H says:

    India is pushing development, and so are a few other places. The devil is in the details, such as molten fluorine salts, etc.

  112. Brian H says:

    George E. Smith says:
    February 16, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Well you know what Margaret Thatcher said about “concnsus” concensus is geting everybody to agree to something than none of them believe.

    Actually, the Iron Female Person said not a word about either “concnsus” or “concensus”. She did make a comment like that about consensus, tho’.
    ;)

  113. R. M. Lansford says:

    Lucia’s Blackboard had a very interesting discussion of things nuclear, including the french layout:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/02/16/going-bananas-over-radiation/#more-34152

    Bob

  114. JimF says:

    @pyromancer76 says:
    February 16, 2011 at 8:20 am

    I couldn’t agree more. Truth should out, pure and simple.

    You also ask: “…(where is France’s waste going?)…” I think it’s going to Great Britain for reprocessing. Think of the energy involved to get natural uranium (~99.5% U238, 0,5% U235) enriched to the point of having enough U235 to work in a nuclear reactor.

    Then, when you’ve used only a fraction of that U235 in the reactor, throw the whole thing away. This spent rod is “ore” in the terminology of economic geologists. It is relatively easy to recover the U235 and add to this to reach reactor grade again. Plus there are other nuclides than can be recovered for medical and other purposes. Stick the remainder in a deep mineshaft in an old Archean craton (portion of the earth formed >2.7 BYA, and extremely stable since then) somewhere in Minnesota or in Canada and be done with it. Or maybe it can be “ore” to somebody else. Our (USA’s) whole posture on reprocessing is incredibly stupid, particularly now that any sh*tty little tyranny like North Korea can make nukes.

  115. johanna says:

    “What will future generations do with our old oil sludge?”
    ————————————————-
    I think you will find that it has broken down by then.

    Short of blowing up the planet, the ‘future generations’ and its variant ‘what about the children’ arguments have become the refuge of scoundrels.

    It is another version of Malthusianism – assuming that everything will stay the same except for one or two variables. We know nothing about what our great grandchildren’s world will be like, except for one thing – it won’t be the same as ours. Worrying about what to do with the horse manure when cities grow larger (as people once did) is pointless. It does, however, provide an emotive and irrational peg for those who fear or hate human progress to hang their hats on.

    I don’t see a need to attach ideological tags to any energy source. If thorium, or cold fusion, or any of the other proposals around, measure up – the world will beat a path to their door. I absolutely object to them being subsidised to appease AGW alarmists, just like I oppose solar, wind etc being subsidised for that reason.

    Legitimising alarmism through a different set of subsidies is wrong in principle, and bad tactics to boot. There is no forseeable shortage of combinations of coal, gas and oil for world energy needs for many decades. Plenty of time for alternatives to prove their worth in the meantime.

  116. Ryan says:

    “Cheap energy means the whole world breeding” Actually history shows the opposite. The reason people have lots of babies is to use all that extra human power when they get older and need the help. Lots of cheap horsepower in the shape of electricity removes the need to breed excess humanity.

  117. Ryan says:

    By the way, I think the common-ground that sceptics and TeamAGW should occupy is the idea of first testing the theory to each other’s satisafaction to see if warming is really happening. Once you start agreeing to daft energy projects of any kind then TeamAGW will happily pronounce the argument won.

  118. R. M. Lansford says:

    Yikes – let’s try that link again!
    Lucia’s Blackboard had a very interesting discussion of things nuclear, including the french layout:
    http://rankexploits.com/musings/2009/nuclear-power-in-deserts/

    Bob

  119. Another Ian says:

    Fort St Vrain in Colorado used thorium until re-commissioned as gas fired. See e.g.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_St._Vrain_Generating_Station

  120. E.M.Smith says:

    At one point I was very worried about the “25000 year toxic waste” of a nuclear reactor… until it was pointed out to me that that was for time to “reduce to background” but that the fuel had not started out “at background”. If you make the standard “decay to match original ore radioactivity” it’s about 250 years instead.

    I’m quite comfortable we can inter ‘nuclear waste’ as well as the original ore was burried and do so for 250 years. Kind of changes the whole perspective on it… (And this was for Uranium reactor wastes…)

    FWIW, you can make Thorium fuel bundles that work in our exiting reactors too. They are already in demonstration.

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