Scientific American joins the Push for Emission Free Nuclear Power

Susquehanna steam electric nuclear power station
Susquehanna steam electric nuclear power station

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

The Scientific American reports increasing interest in using nuclear power to lower US CO2 emissions – but Presidential wannabe Bernie Sanders has vowed to decommission all US nuclear power plants.

The Nuclear Option Could Be Best Bet to Combat Climate Change

To cut CO2 pollution, experts argue for nuclear power.

Many analysts are now calling not just to preserve existing nuclear power plants, but to invest in new designs to help fight climate change. “A new round of innovation for nuclear reactors would be quite important,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz last month.

Across the United States, nuclear provides 20 percent of all electricity and more than 60 percent of greenhouse gas-free electricity. But some plants have already shut down ahead of schedule, and others may do so, as well, not because of environmental opposition but because of market forces.

“In the United States today, we have some older plants shutting down,” Moniz said. “The pattern is obvious: It’s principally plants in competitive markets faced with very low natural gas prices.”

“Nuclear is without a question the most important environmental technology in the 21st century,” said Michael Shellenberger, an advocate for nuclear power and president of Environmental Progress.

He said nuclear is the highest rung on the energy ladder that civilizations climb as they move to denser fuels from biomass, to coal, to oil, to gas and finally to uranium. “From an energy and environmental and development perspective, I want everybody to go up the hierarchy of energy,” Shellenberger said.

Under U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions in the power sector, new nuclear power plants and reactors upgraded to produce more power count toward states’ carbon goals.

The renewed interest in nuclear energy has led to startup companies developing “fourth-generation” reactor designs that are walkaway safe, meaning that if left unattended, they safely coast to a halt.

“All three generations of nuclear technology that are out there today require babysitting,” said

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates during a panel last month in Washington, D.C. “The nuclear industry has never designed an inherently safe product.”

However, existing reactors are tacking into the wind, in terms of economics and politics. Vermont independent Sen. and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has laid out a plan to decommission every reactor in the United States.

Mark Jacobson, an energy researcher at Stanford University who found that it’s feasible for much of the world to run on wind, water and sunlight, acknowledged that nuclear energy has some carbon benefits but said it has an insurmountable drawback of opportunity costs, namely the billions of dollars needed upfront and the decades it takes to plan and build reactors.

“If you’re looking at just one technology in isolation, maybe you don’t care about that opportunity cost,” he said. “But when you’re comparing the two technologies, that becomes relevant. If you have $1 to spend, would you rather spend that on nuclear or wind?”

But the nuclear industry isn’t arguing to be the only option on the table, saying instead that it wants to be an appetizing entree in a buffet of energy options to fight climate change.

“You don’t want to go all in on any one technology,” said NEI’s Keeley. “And NEI is pretty clear about that, too. We see a role for renewables. We see a role for natural gas. We see a role for nuclear.”

Read more:

The Scientific American article is quite long and wide ranging, in my opinion well worth reading in full.

As a fan of nuclear, I’m happy that nuclear power is getting more traction, though I am concerned the nuclear industry are using the climate “emergency” to promote their product – a strategy which I believe will ultimately backfire.

The hostility presidential wannabe Bernie Sanders expresses towards nuclear power is telling. From my perspective, Bernie Sanders is the kind of green hypocrite who first led me to question the legitimacy of the global warming “emergency”.

Even if nuclear was as risky as greens claim, what is the risk of a few meltdowns, compared to the destruction of the entire biosphere? Hostility to nuclear power doesn’t make sense, if you truly believe the entire world is on the brink of an climate catastrophe.

In my opinion, if socialists like Bernie and Naomi Oreskes cared more about CO2 than social engineering, they would join Scientific American, and scientists like James Hansen, and embrace nuclear power, the only energy technology which has a realistic chance of significantly reducing global CO2 emissions.

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Robert of Texas
June 3, 2016 5:57 pm

Nuclear power is really the only major alternative to fossil fuels. I do not believe CO2 is a problem, but I do support building better nuclear energy power plants – assuming they can operate at market competitive prices.
To do this – burn fuel more efficiently, solve the waste storage issue, build plants using standardized reactors, and use designs that shut down using passive systems. This really isn’t difficult engineering – its the politics that are difficult.
I used to really like Scientific American… They really went downhill the last 20 years. I sure hope this is a sign they are once again becoming more than a green activist mouthpiece.

Reply to  Robert of Texas
June 3, 2016 6:50 pm

I’ve always wondered if this is the old one two switch. Ram renewables so far down peoples throats till they are sick then sock it to them with nuclear.
I don’t think that CO2 is a problem but give the greens enough rope… They have had their run and can’t make it work so they have to give up the anti nuclear protest to save the planet from CO2.
It hasn’t gone far enough yet but if it works it is a master stroke. Touché! 😀
I am indifferent on nuclear if it is safe but that 60’s Ban The Bomb stuff runs really deep so scare people with CO2 to do an end run with nuclear.
Then again maybe I’m just and old conspiracist 😀

Reply to  EricHa
June 3, 2016 10:30 pm

I’ve always wondered if this is the old one two switch.
Renewables have been designed to fail. UK govt has incentivised unmeteredrooftop solar PV in a country that has sod-all sun !!
This ludicrously pays householders an estimated fixed amount per unit area of installation, irrespective of whether it actually produces anything and pays them a feed-in tariff. Rooftop thermal solar is several times more efficient at producing energy but has not been pushed.
Why is this ?
Because none of this was ever about saving energy or the environment but about saving the banks. If you have a solar PV contract with a guaranteed income, a bank is allowed to lend you money instantly create “wealth” in the economy and increase its assets.
The Ivanpah plant was design and built without any storage capacity which would have meant it produce in the afternoon and deliver in the evening when there is peak demand. It also means it has to burn natural gas in the morning to get it up to running temperature.
It was designed to suck up federal subsidies but designed in such a way as to be a technical failure.

Bryan A
Reply to  EricHa
June 4, 2016 9:03 am

It was is certainly far more wasteful of resources and land space to not consider the Nuclear Option
For example:
California’s Diablo Canyon facility, the generating portion of the power plant covers 12 acres, has a capacity of 2240MW and produces electricity 88% of the time day and night wind or calm.
The Alta Wind Farm covers an area of 3200 acres and has a capacity of 1547MW (roughly 70% of Diablo) but operates only 30% of the time so would require almost 12000 acres at 30% capacity to offset Diablo Canyon.
Blythe Mesa PV Solar Farm will cover 3587 acres for 485MW but will likely have a capacity factor of under 25% so would likely require almost 50,000 acres to offset the production of Diablo Canyon

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  EricHa
June 4, 2016 9:11 am

“Renewables have been designed to fail.”
So it was a government agency that caused the earth to spin on an axis that is tilted 23° to the ecliptic?

Reply to  EricHa
June 4, 2016 12:13 pm

I think nuclear can be competitive if we use thorium instead of uranium and if we manufacture prefabricated reactors that ca be transported intact to their sites.
Thorium produces several orders of magnitude less radioactive waste, and the waste it does produce has a far shorter half life. Thorium is much more plentiful than uranium. Thorium is easier to mine than uranium because it can be mined in open pits, instead of deep shafts, and, unlike uranium, does not have radioactive radon gas mixed up in its deposits. Finally, the thorium fuel cycle does not naturally produce large quantities of plutonium that can be used to make weapons.
Most of the expense of building a reactor today is for a huge containment structure and endless litigation on sit selection and custom designs.
Thorium reactors are liquid salt reactors. They are built with a plug at the bottom. If the reactor overheats, the plug melts and the liquid salt drains into an underground tank configured to stop the reaction. They don’t need the huge containment structure.
The way to make any artifact cheaper is mass production. When guns or cars were hand crafted, they were very expensive. When they were redesigned to be manufactured with interchangeable parts in factories, the costs got slashed. There is a worldwide recognition that nuclear reactors would benefit from mass production. Some of these proposals are for thorium reactors.
My blog:

Tom Billings
Reply to  Robert of Texas
June 3, 2016 7:47 pm

“I used to really like Scientific American… They really went downhill the last 20 years. I sure hope this is a sign they are once again becoming more than a green activist mouthpiece.”
In fact SciAM has been a long-term foe of non-progressive thought. From October of 1945 to 2000, there was not a single offensive US weapons system that got a positive article in SciAM. There was not a single article on economics that did not have a major portion of it in support of planned economies. Their support for Environmental Determinist Economics since 1970 has been a primary extension of the previous support for socialism.

Li D
Reply to  Tom Billings
June 4, 2016 3:42 am

Like tech that burns people alive eh? All the excellent ways of killing people Americans ( you mentioned Americans ) have invented are widely covered in the
international media if you are hungry for news of effectiveness.
For the period mentioned, I reckon old Popular Mechanics
can sate your thirst for the tech.
Li D Australia

Li D
Reply to  Tom Billings
June 4, 2016 3:46 am

Late edit.
Final line should finish with the word, information.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  Tom Billings
June 4, 2016 9:12 am

Li D: Not wrong. Just on the other side.

Reply to  Robert of Texas
June 3, 2016 10:46 pm

Ah yes, the “politics” of today. Nuclear waste could be disposed of (stored) safely and cheaply, but for the “politics”. Most of the remaining jewels of America’s industrial base could not be built today…because of politics. Take a company like Boeing; most all their site permits were obtained pre-1970; river front sites, lake front sites, wetlands filled in, etc. Today, you would wait 7-10 years just to break ground on a new plant site with an up-front investment to the tune of $100s of millions of dollars. And then still be told “no”. And a site “issue” is just one facet of a vast regulatory legal complex that must be complied with every step of the way. Recently Obama glibly commented that, “those jobs are not coming back”. You see, it’s a big mystery! We don’t control what we do control and claim to control that which we don’t; according to some.

Li D
Reply to  Robert of Texas
June 4, 2016 5:11 am

Why? If Carbon emissions aint a problem, and nuclear has some problems, just go fossil to the max.
Coals cheap and plenty if it.
Cant understand your rationale.
Problematic nuke versus no problemo fossils.
Rev that V8 and plug in the 4 burner toaster. Leave the aircon and TV on for
the kitty cat. Big mobs of no prob bob power.
Or is there indeed problems with fossil?

Reply to  Li D
June 4, 2016 1:52 pm

Coal is Dirty
“Coal is Dirty and its affiliate Coal is Clean are a joint project managed by DeSmog, Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace USA.”
Activists force the closure of nuclear power plants which in turn forces renewable energy projects as there is no other or inadequate sources of supply form other conventional power sources available.
By the way, Rainforest Action Network/RAN is also active in Canada

Reply to  Li D
June 4, 2016 4:24 pm

Greenpeace, Jan.11, 2016
More Than 20 Organizations Ask Presidential Candidates to Sign a “Fix Democracy” Pledge
Includes: Rainforest Action Network
Bernie Sanders signed this pledge.

Reply to  Li D
June 5, 2016 11:43 am

Wikipedia: DeSmog Blog, (Vancouver, B.C., Canada), founded January 2006
“The site originally targeted a Canadian audience but is now involved in global climate change coverage”
Rainforest Action Network is located San Francisco, CA, USA

Reply to  Li D
June 5, 2016 5:26 pm

National Observer, Jan.11, 2016. Offices in Vancouver & Ottawa
‘U.S. green groups call on Ontario and Quebec to rein in logging’
13 groups signed including:
Greenpeace USA
Rainforest Action Network

Reply to  Li D
June 6, 2016 6:45 am

Coal was dirty. That problem was solved back in the 70’s. Not surprised you aren’t aware of it.

Ric Haldane
Reply to  Robert of Texas
June 4, 2016 7:13 am

Robert, Those problems are being worked on. The problem will be with the NRC, slow approval and expensive ( $439/hr ).
You may wish to check:
They are one of two companies working on molten salt reactors.

Reply to  Ric Haldane
June 6, 2016 11:22 am

Ric, the count is six companies working on MSRs, the NRC needs to get out of the way for a test reactor. China is well down the part to the MSR….

Reply to  Robert of Texas
June 6, 2016 6:42 am

The waste storage issue has been solved. Decades ago.
First re-process it. Eliminate the Carter era ban of fuel reprocessing. That eliminates almost 100% of the long lived waste and turns it into new fuel.
The rest only needs to be stored for a few hundred years, at most, until it reaches safe levels.
Yucca mountain is safe and was ready to be used when Obama cancelled it.

June 3, 2016 6:02 pm

from the article: “The Scientific American reports increasing interest in using nuclear power to lower US CO2 emissions – but Presidential wannabe Bernie Sanders has vowed to decommission all US nuclear power plants.”
It seems to me that this is something the Alarmists/Greens and the Skeptics could agree on: more nuclear power. I guess we have to exclude Bernie from any such agreement, though.

Reply to  TA
June 3, 2016 7:03 pm

I’m not in the USA so it doesn’t effect me but following my above conspiracy theory (EricHa June 3, 2016 at 6:50 pm) who would be the best person to initiate this with the least damage to the current political wings? It would have to be someone that can be disowned by booth sides if it goes tits-up 🙂

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  TA
June 4, 2016 9:14 am

The anti-nuclear prejudice of the “greens” is a key proof that they are really a leftist political movement, not at all concerned with anything other than imposing a socialist regime featuring themselves as the nomenklatura. Their opposition to nuclear power is the shadow of a Soviet Dezinformatsiya campaign aimed at crippling the US’s nuclear weapons capabilities in the 1950s and 60s. It is also a graphic illustration of how they have abandoned the proletariat they once claimed to champion. One might think that the union movement would champion an energy source that created hundreds of jobs for skilled craftsmen. The union movement has been taken over by the government employees, and is indifferent, or even hostile, to the interest of the proletariat.

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
June 6, 2016 6:47 am

If you check out the leadership of most unions, going way back. They have been socialist/communist fronts from the beginning.

June 3, 2016 6:03 pm

“If you have $1 to spend, would you rather spend that on nuclear or ….” Next is a comparison of the cost of either on a specific example.
The newest and largest solar power plant in Mojave Desert has completed its second year of operation. (To see the plant, google: Ivanpah Solar Plant; one image for illustration is here on the last page.)
This type of power plant generates electricity by concentrating sun rays on a “boiler” making high pressure, high temperature steam that drives a turbine generator. The generator machinery is identical to that common in the fossil-fuel and nuclear plants, except that it has provisions for the every-day shut-down at dusk and restart with the rising sun. Usually called Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) plants, that term was coined to distinguish them from the Solar Thermal Power (STP) intended for direct heating such as in warming swimming pool water.
CSP plants were promoted by the Department of Energy (DOE) from the time the Dep’t was created under Pres. Carter. Several were built over the decades and none performed adequately. One burned up in 1986 and was rebuilt, enlarged, DOE arguing that the plants have to be big to take advantage of economy of scale.
Following that logic, this latest 392 MW (name-plate) giant was built on 13 km2 of land in Mojave Desert at a cost of 2.2 billion dollars. It generated disappointing .4 billion kWh [sic] thus producing at an average rate of 46 MW the first year and just a little more the next.
Note: It is typical for renewable energy projects to show different units for input, rated output and actual output. This practice makes performance and efficiency comparisons cumbersome, and therefore not pursued allowing misinformation to flourish. In the above paragraph, the former value is in “W” but the latter in “Wh.” The author wishes that such reporting use the same unit (preferably W, as with the 392 MW and 46 MW above) or it states, as an example, “…. the plant has been producing 12 % of its name-plate power.”
Rather than focusing on the poor performance of the plant thru its, so far, two years of operation, the following text and numbers show how the planned-for performance, capital and operational expenses, and earnings compare with those of another electricity producing plant.
The designed-for Capacity Factor of 31 % at Ivanpah indicates 120 MW to be the expected actual average output. That wattage was to justify the billions dollars investment, and it is the basis for this analysis.
The 2200 M$ price per 120 MW represents 18 $/W investment. By way of comparison, another nonpolluting source of electricity, nuclear power plant, the Millstone reactor No. 2 in Connecticut, operating at 880 MW since 1975, cost 0.5 $/W; Ivanpah is thus 36 times more expensive (inflation excluded).
With about 1000 employees receiving salary and benefits, the annual outlay for that alone is roughly 100 M$. Selling the annual 3.8 EJ at the projected 0.028 $/MJ yields 106 M$. Ouch – only 6 M$ left for other expenses, notably for natural gas whose burning produces some 8 % of the total output.
For comparison again, the Millstone nuclear plant complex employs also about 1000, and its two reactors have been producing 1870 MW actual electrical output. Assuming the same salaries, benefits, and the electricity selling price, the operating expense is 15 times higher at Ivanpah.
Note that the above two outlays are 35 and 15 times, not percent, higher and that this huge expense gap exists in an industry where a difference of just a few percent means the difference between success and bankruptcy. The magnitude of the gap hints also at the reason why the so-called “free” solar electricity is so expensive.*
As for the occupied land comparison, those 120 MW spread over 13 km2 represents 9.2 W/m2. In contrast, ground based nuclear plants produce some 2000 W/m2 thus utilizing the land area some 200 times more effectively. And they can be erected in any climate and in proximity to users.
If the purpose of the CSPs is to cut CO2 emissions, that expectation is unrealistic. The construction, operating, maintaining and eventually dismantling this plant will at best match the amount of CO2 claimed to be saved in non-burning fossil-fuels for that relatively small amount of electricity. And producing intermittent electricity causes CO2 generation elsewhere.
We must be either excessively rich or ignorant to be building power sources of the type that produce electricity we cannot afford.
Is anyone accountable for approving this already-on-paper deficient project? And for the other CSP projects in existence, being built, or planned?
It should be also pointed out, that the above ratios apply to a plant delivering its planned-for output. In contrast, the plant has averaged only 1/3rd of the plan to date meaning that those ratios are in fact three times worse. This is unusually bad for any CSP although none of them performs to industry standard, in part because they are “experimental.”
Before we close, there are other items to consider that influence the performance data: It was not apparent from the description whether the Ivanpah electric output was measured at the outlet from the generators (or transformers) or whether it was that output minus the electrical demand on the grid for electricity consumed from dusk to dawn in the plant, such as for lighting, air-conditioning, washing mirrors, water pumping, restarting machinery, etc. The plant also burns gasoline, diesel fuel and, prodigiously, natural gas as said. These considerations, if included in the performance data, would further lower the net electricity delivered and CO2 saved.
Concerning the DOE covering the invested $2.2 billions, it was not just tax- and rate-payers who paid. Google, among others, invested millions from its “green” fund, the same Google that abandoned its own PV solar facility and related R&D last year (2014).**
*In the summer of 2015 the wholesale price was 2.0 cents per kWh in New England, a region with the highest rate in the US at this time. And those two cents cover also taxes, debt-servicing, dividend payments, etc. and provide profit.

Hank Hancock
Reply to  jake
June 3, 2016 6:36 pm

A very interesting read.

Is anyone accountable for approving this already-on-paper deficient project? And for the other CSP projects in existence, being built, or planned?

Not all planned are going to make it past local objections. For example, Solar Millennium, announced plans to build two large solar farms in Amargosa Valley, Nevada. The locals opposed the plants when they learned that cooling the power plants would consume 1.3 billion gallons of water per year – some 20% of the valley’s water supply.
It seems that the best place to build a CSP can also be one of the worst.

Reply to  jake
June 4, 2016 12:30 pm

Note: It is typical for renewable energy projects to show different units for input, rated output and actual output. This practice makes performance and efficiency comparisons cumbersome, and therefore not pursued allowing misinformation to flourish. In the above paragraph, the former value is in “W” but the latter in “Wh.”
Word on the units. Watts are Joules per second, a unit of power i.e. the rate of energy use (or generated).
Watt hours is watts x time and is a unit of energy. We could use watt seconds, or watts x seconds, or joules per second x seconds. The seconds cancel out and we are left with Joules. This is a measure of the total energy produced over a period of time.
Think of 1 watt hour as 3,600 Joules and it all makes sense. The power output is measured in joules per second. The power generated is measured in joules (or calories).

Reply to  jake
June 5, 2016 9:23 am

Two additional facts of note about Ivanpah:
1) Recently, misaligned mirrors burned some conduit at the mid level of the power tower.
2) As noted, the generating part of the system is identical to fossil fueled plants. In fact, natural gas is being used to preheat the system so it will be at the pressures and temperatures needed to generate power when the sun comes up, maximizing the solar megawatts at the cost of additional CO2 emissions. The facility is considered a major emitter of CO2.

Joe Civis
Reply to  oeman50
June 6, 2016 12:24 pm

Also….the Ivanpah plant when approved was supposed to only use natural gas for 1 hour per day to do the “preheat” but has consumed natural gas on average 5 hours per day for this “preheat”, and if I remember correctly the overall output for the 2 operational years is below 25% of expected output. Though on the bright side it is pretty good at blinding pilots and burning birds out of the sky!

June 3, 2016 6:06 pm

…Of topic ,but seriously bad “Oil Train” derailment in Oregon ! live video…—mosier-oregon/?#sp=watch-live

Reply to  Marcus
June 3, 2016 7:57 pm

was this by some chance one of the trains carrying oil from Canada because they don’t have the pipelines that were going to be so destructive to the environment?

June 3, 2016 6:17 pm

Thanks to a Thorium post by Anthony about four years ago, it is clear the Molten Salt Reactor is the best way forward

Leo Smith
Reply to  visionar2013
June 4, 2016 2:38 am

it is clear the Molten Salt Reactor is the best way forward
Well no, actually it isn’t. All reactor techniques have issues and solveing those issues is what stable reactior builds have done., The MSR has not yet solved many of its issue and remains an unknown quiantity in many areas.
AGR, BWR and PWR reactors have produced enormous quantities of electricity with a proven and enviable safety record. Watt hour for watt hour they have killed far less people than even solar panels! Even with the abortion of a design at Chernobyl, which wasn’t quite either.
BY all means look into developing MSR but dont write off traditional designs like the ABWR, AP1000, EPR, and the more radical like CANDU.
Proven designs that work well enough.

Reply to  Leo Smith
June 4, 2016 6:21 am

Leo- yeah, a ABWR can work economically, except for the couple already built that don’t. The biggest problem is that with a uranium 235 fuel cycle it still has all the problems of existing BWR reactors- production of plutonium with potential nuclear proliferation concerns, an expensive fuel recycling process, many tons of long-lived un-reuseable waste(fuel cladding, radioactive elements, support structures) and not place to store it.
gives a good overview of potential new reactor types.

Reply to  Leo Smith
June 6, 2016 11:28 am

Leo, I disagree. The test MSR at ORNL met all performance goals over 20,000 hours of full power operation. Light water reactors with solid fuel are a steam bomb waiting to go off, expensive to build explosion dome, solid fuel is wasteful and pressurized water is less efficient than a MSR’s thermal load. Lower cost not having to build 75-150 atmosphere plumbing as the MSR is low pressure. The AEC recommended the technology to JFK in 1962 to be the go to tech for civilian nuclear energy due to its inherent safety. Program was shut down by the Nixon administration and Director Weinberg fired for his focus on MSR reactor safety over the LWR….

June 3, 2016 6:19 pm

Let’s just make a plan to replace all solar plants and wind farms with nuclear. We will save money on the effort, and we will save the poor birds. I saw a headline the other day that windmills have killed 573,000 birds. I don’t know if that was globally or locally, but that’s a lot of birds. Nukes can fix that.

June 3, 2016 6:28 pm

Look – Bernie is a politician, it’s real easy.
He just wants VOTES.
He will do and say anything for VOTES.

Eustace Cranch
Reply to  Yirgach
June 3, 2016 6:58 pm

Vowing to close all nuclear plants is a strange way to get VOTES, since it is a losing position politically.

Reply to  Eustace Cranch
June 4, 2016 4:52 am

Bernie’s a Socialist. His people hate people and progress.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Yirgach
June 4, 2016 9:12 am

Bernie is a true believer. People who think like you will be among the first up against the wall if he gets in.

June 3, 2016 6:33 pm

The stupidity of some people’s comments make me wonder. Is this Mark J an idiot or another sleazeball who ignores the inconvenient facts?
Quoting from the above article:
Mark Jacobson, an energy researcher at Stanford University who found that it’s feasible for much of the world to run on wind, water and sunlight, acknowledged that nuclear energy has some carbon benefits but said it has an insurmountable drawback of opportunity costs, namely the billions of dollars needed upfront and the decades it takes to plan and build reactors.
“If you’re looking at just one technology in isolation, maybe you don’t care about that opportunity cost,” he said. “But when you’re comparing the two technologies, that becomes relevant. If you have $1 to spend, would you rather spend that on nuclear or wind?”
End of quote.
How many decades have we been pouring billions of dollars into wind power? According to a article wind has had billions invested since 1980.
I quote: ‘Wind power in the U.S. has received a cumulative investment total of $135 billion since the 1980’s.’ End of quote and from this article. Warning some of what they say will make many want to barf. The article makes wind power seem great, until you notice the part about the subsidies required for the industry on top of the billions invested.
Here is the article:
And then from our government we can see in 2015 how much energy $135 billion investment in wind brought: Wind is 4.7% of US total in 2015.
Here is the source:
If you want to waste money I would say make people rely on wind power. There are more facts to dig up, but I’m trying to eat and this is making me sick.

Reply to  crystalofjedh
June 3, 2016 6:59 pm

$135 Billion would have built at least twenty nuclear power plants with cradle to grave te same CO2 emissions as Wind turbines. Now compare the actual reduction in CO2 from th amount they have spent. This tells me it is not about CO2.

Reply to  usurbrain
June 3, 2016 7:20 pm

It has never been about CO2. It has always been about power and control. CO2 and Environmentalism are just (some of) the foils being used to advance socialists agenda.

Reply to  usurbrain
June 3, 2016 8:56 pm

And certain people are getting richer.

Reply to  crystalofjedh
June 3, 2016 9:22 pm

China’s 4th gen reactors have a $1.50/W price point (that is $1500 /KW, $1,5 M/MW, etc.).
That is about the same as Wind. Wind is 25-35% efficient the first 10 years and 17-25% thereafter.with a usable life of 14-20 years vs 60. For energy that is unreliable and arrives when it wants to.
Wind can’t compete with 4th Gen nuclear.

David A
Reply to  PA
June 4, 2016 3:10 am

Wind and Solar (through their intermittency and political first right to the grid, forcing fossil fuel generators to ramp up and down) dramatically raises the cost of all conventional forms of power generation. This is their largest subsidy, and it is completely hidden in overall power cost.

Reply to  PA
June 4, 2016 5:08 pm

In stead of subsidies we should put an excise tax on Renewable energy to capture the externalities such as the costs they transfer to other generation sources.
I don’t have a problem with renewables if they paid their full load. Subsidizing something that increases your grid generation cost is crazy.

June 3, 2016 6:34 pm

I guess I don’t mind if the CO2 misinformation gives rise to nuclear power plants.

Chris Yu
Reply to  noaaprogrammer
June 4, 2016 2:43 pm

ironic in that it was nuclear misinformation that gave rise to CO2 emissions. IE the movie “The China Syndrome” and the ill timed Three Mile Island incident a few months later. the hysteria from the two caused the cancelation of all nuclear plants under construction regardless of how far along they were. Also no new permits were issued for a nuclear plant after TMI until 2012.

NW sage
June 3, 2016 6:35 pm

As an ex employee of a prematurely decommissioned ‘clean energy’ nuclear plant I agree completely that civilian nuclear energy is inevitable as the next step to keep the economy of the nation and world growing. It may take a long time, but eventually we will learn that there really is nothing else.
It has long been apparent that the ‘anti-everything’ activists are pursuing a cause which, if it succeeds, will result in a world economy circa 1880 – horses and oxen and a LOT fewer humans! A VERY unpleasant result for no good reason.

June 3, 2016 6:41 pm

Scientific American is owned by the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group, Stuttgart Germany.
Germany’s Merkel Regime announced that it would close all of its nuclear power plants by 2022.
The next German Federal Election will be held on 22 October 2017 (a Sunday).
The Obama Regime ends on 20 January 2017.
Conjecture: The Holtzbrinck Publishing Group see’s an avenue to build local and international support for the nuclear industry and at the same time to heap derision on the idiot Merkel and Obama Regimes before their welcome endings.
Ha ah

Gary Pearse
June 3, 2016 6:56 pm

The only thing I have against nuclear is that, with the climate likely to cool in the coming decades, the greens will claim climate was saved by nuclear! We need to clean out this cesspit science decisively. Otherwise, they will be encouraged to abuse science in the future for other totalitarian projects. I think the new green love of nuclear is because they have begun to have doubts about the warming and they don’t want any proof that they have been out to lunch on CAGW.
Remember the epidemic of climate science blues arising from the double whammy of psychological D*Nile when the pause hit and then climategate piled on. It debilitated a number of CAGW scientists, probably the more honest ones, who were taken in by the more ideological types. The guy who invented Gaia, James Lovelock, even admitted that the case for CO2 proved to be to overhyped. The nuclear option offers some face saving for a beleaguered cadre of diehard gamers who are desperately trying to patch up a tattered theory. These are generally the older ones who are facing a total waste of their lives and empty careers. The civil servant scientists will be foxtrotting more and more into a reversal of their theory as they prepare for Donald Trump as their new boss.

Chris Z.
Reply to  Gary Pearse
June 3, 2016 7:11 pm

If “the greens will claim climate was saved by nuclear”, that alone will be worth every effort and every $$ spent on the project! Being anti-nuclear has been the original (and for a long time, the only generally visible) reason for the German Green Party to exist at all, and their proselytizing, their demonstrations, and their generally ugly and annoying attitude (not to mention the downslide of our industries they at least helped promote) have accompanied the better part of my life as one of its less pleasant aspects. To watch these anti-human fanatics eat crow and praise nuclear powerplants for whatever flimsy reason would be a treat indeed… Not quite like seeing the whole of ISIS kneeling in front of the Pope to ask for forgiveness, but the same general idea!

June 3, 2016 6:58 pm

Folks like Bernie and the Warmistas live in their minds. They will never acknowledge mistakes because that would upset their worldview. They will blame everything that goes wrong on anything and anyone other than their own actions and policies. If Bernie manages to get into office, he will do everything he can to turn the US into Venezuela. Nuclear will be as dead as he can make it. If Hillary makes it into office, she will do everything she can to turn the US into the USSR. Nuclear won’t be dead but, it will be implemented (if it’s used at all) in the worst possible way. The real world and facts are completely meaningless unless they happen to line up with their socialist utopia worldview.

Tom Halla
June 3, 2016 7:12 pm

Much of the problems with nuclear are carry-overs from Jimmy Carter era policies inteded to stop proliferation in the third world by setting a “good example”. No reprocesing is why there is a waste problem.
We can apparently blame Carter for the solar-thermal power plants like Ivanpah, too. I am so ashamed I voted for the fool.

Reply to  Tom Halla
June 4, 2016 3:03 am

Tom Halla says: June 3, 2016 at 7:12 pm
… We can apparently blame Carter for the solar-thermal power plants like Ivanpah, too. …

Things were way different then. As a result of our support for Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, we had the Arab Oil Boycott. There were gas station lineups around the block. Energy security was a big deal. We looked at a lot of solutions like solar, wind, methane, ethanol, nuclear, coal. We were desperate. Once the crisis was past, we forgot the lessons about energy security.
The current idiocy is a self inflicted injury.
There are reasons to criticize every president, Carter included. On this one issue, I would give him a break.

Reply to  commieBob
June 4, 2016 1:17 pm

Remember, Carter was foolish enough to put solar on an old roof which soon had to be removed to repair a leaking roof. I don’t trust his judgment for any decisions. Remember, as soon as he left office the terrorism quieted down, hostages returned immediately and The Libyan Leader settled in after his family tent was bombed.

June 3, 2016 7:12 pm

What “emission free?” Everybody thought diesel was emission free – only compared to gasoline and for awhile. The definitions of “emission” and “free” are apparently quite flexible.

June 3, 2016 7:13 pm

Power generation represents about 30% of the US CO2 output. Are we going to electricate the entire other 70%?

June 3, 2016 7:14 pm

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates during a panel last month in Washington, D.C. “The nuclear industry has never designed an inherently safe product.”

Bill Gates, of all people, is critical of others for not developing inherently robust technologies.
Oh My.

Reply to  TonyL
June 3, 2016 8:58 pm

How about a Windows based control system for nuclear reactors…

Reply to  Analitik
June 3, 2016 9:09 pm

YES! I want to write the code. And do updates/maintenance remotely! Even when it’s running! And add Features, and Improve the design!
What Could Go Wrong?
My own Nuke to play with. It will be Great!

Leo Smith
Reply to  Analitik
June 4, 2016 2:42 am

Apparently the nuclear weapons program is running on a computer so old it boots off 8″ floppy discs.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Analitik
June 4, 2016 9:21 am

I recommend Windows Millennium Edition. It was such a great product! /sarc

John W. Garrett
June 3, 2016 7:20 pm

Anybody who tries to tell you that natural gas prices are going to stay at current levels for a long period of time is either a fool or a liar.
U.S. Henry Hub natural gas prices:
2003: $19.38/Mcf
2005: $15.78/Mcf
2008: $13.69/Mcf
2016: $1.88/Mcf
Number of rigs drilling for natural gas:
2008: 1,585
2016: 94

June 3, 2016 7:28 pm

The renewed interest in nuclear energy has led to startup companies developing “fourth-generation” reactor designs that are walkaway safe, meaning that if left unattended, they safely coast to a halt.

… and the Titanic was unsinkable. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Reply to  commieBob
June 3, 2016 8:21 pm

OK. What you want is the Molten Salt Reactor. The best known is the one built and run at Oak Ridge from 1965 through 1969. For walk-away, and load-following (very important for commercial applications), as the load is reduced, the core would get hotter, expand, become less dense, and the reaction would slow. All by itself, due to well considered design geometry. The reactor also used a freeze plug at the bottom of the reactor vessel. The plug was maintained by a cooling system. Turn the cooling system off, the plug would melt, and the whole reactor core would dump down into cooling tanks below.
Indeed, in the early years of running, on Friday afternoons, the engineers would just “pull the plug” on the whole reactor, and go home for the weekend. On Monday mornings, they would turn on heaters on the holding tanks, melt the salt, and pump it back into the reactor.
Towards the end of the tests, the reactor was run non-stop for endurance and reliability testing.
Here are two links which provide an overview of MSRs with a bit of detail on the Oak Ridge unit.
Here are the slides for a talk on the development of the MSR going back to the 1940s.
My point here is that the PWR (Pressurized Water Reactor) is far from the only game in town.
The PWR is the only reactor you ever hear about, in spite of all it’s problems. A cynic might suggest that PWRs are all that is considered because that is the one that has regulatory approval. Getting a new design through the (hostile) regulatory maze and quagmire would take decades and ultimately is literally impossible, so nobody even bothers.
That should get you started. Enjoy.

Reply to  TonyL
June 3, 2016 8:28 pm

There are BWRs.

Reply to  TonyL
June 3, 2016 9:00 pm

@ Retired Kit P
Ah, yes of course. Old brain cells, you know how it goes.
As long as you are here, are BWRs still considered a current design, or were they superseded by the PWRs?

Leo Smith
Reply to  TonyL
June 4, 2016 2:47 am

ABWRs are very much alive, Hitachi is building these. PWRS are not the only game in town either.
UK is still using graphite moderated AGRs, Canada has light water reactors, and thye old Chrenobyl style graphite moderated reactors are still on the go in the old soviet union.
There are many ways to skin the nuclear cat.

June 3, 2016 7:47 pm

“As a fan of nuclear, I’m happy that nuclear power is getting more traction, though I am concerned the nuclear industry are using the climate “emergency” to promote their product – a strategy which I believe will ultimately backfire.”
I am a wanna-be fan . . and feel that the lack of effective oversight, due to a “revolving door” situation with the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, leaves open the potential for dangerous goings on. Basically, from what I’ve researched, the Agency is staffed by “newbie” scientist types in the realm of nuclear physics, who can almost automatically get very cushy/lucrative jobs in the industry after a few years, IF they have not ruffled too many feathers, so to speak.
An agency that prohibited members from taking private sector jobs in the industry they are “watchdogs” over, for perhaps five or ten years, would go a long way toward bolstering my confidence it what I believe can be a rather low risk approach to power generation. Pay them very well, I say (at the expense of industry players, as is now the case) so they will be more likely to take an aggressive approach to making sure things are as safe as practicable . . but don’t allow them to take jobs within the biz, for a significant length of time.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
June 5, 2016 9:38 am

I’m with you, Eric. I worked for 5 years as a start-up engineer at a nuclear plant (back in the day). I was totally amazed at its complexity, miles of wires and piping, and myriad controls. And the ensuing operating period has demanded error-free operation from the humans in charge. I have thought those plants were incorrectly engineered, layering more systems to compensate for a weak design. Can they work safely? Sure they can, but I prefer to go back to an inherently safe design without all the bells and whistles.

Reply to  JohnKnight
June 3, 2016 8:46 pm

What revolving door policy? The US Navy is the training ground for the nuclear industry and the NRC. In 40 years, I have met three ex-NRC working in industry. The NRC compensation is the nuclear industry.
Which jobs are ‘very cushy/lucrative jobs’? Not saying the pay is not good but if you are looking for cushy and lucrative jobs, you are in the wrong industry.

Reply to  Retired Kit P
June 3, 2016 9:03 pm

Jaczko was the exception. Political appointments can corrupt any agency.

Reply to  JohnKnight
June 3, 2016 8:48 pm

Regulatory Capture is a real concern. But be careful what you wish for. Some regulatory reforms were passed for the oil industry forbidding regulators from ever having any prior industry ties of involvement. (I do not remember when, Clinton?, Bush? administrations) The upshot was that the regulators had no industry experience, and knew less about oil drilling than my neighbor’s babysitter. The stunning incompetence of Minerals Management Service (MMS) was on full display as they failed of rein in an obviously out of control BP drilling team. What BP was doing was exactly what MMS was there and had oversight to prevent. The result was the Macondo well blowout, the destruction of the Deepwater Horizon and all the consequent loss of life. In this case, the regulatory agency could not recognize and stop the worst operation going, but excelled at making the lives of everybody else a living regulatory nightmare.

Reply to  TonyL
June 4, 2016 1:13 am

I read some accounts/things about that disaster that were astounding to me, Tony. Hard to believe I wasn’t reading fiction at times . . which, granted, alone, is no longer astounding . .

Larry Hamlin
June 3, 2016 7:54 pm

Nuclear power in the U.S. is a lost cause. The Federal government promised to have a long term spent fuel storage facility operating by 1998 and collected billions for this purpose. Politics precluded any successful selection and development of a facility.
Absolutely nothing is on the horizon to fill this need. As a result each existing nuclear site will become it’s own long term nuclear spent fuel storage facility for many more decades.
No additional development of significant nuclear power facilities in the future, regardless of type , can occur until this issue is resolved and that can happen in today’s highly charged political environment.
This problem is further aggravated by the idiotic idea that non dispatchable high cost renewable energy can power a reliable and cost effective electric system.

Larry Hamlin
Reply to  Larry Hamlin
June 3, 2016 8:32 pm

The development of long term spent fuel storage “can’t happen” in today’s highly charged political environment. Typo in original message.

Reply to  Larry Hamlin
June 5, 2016 9:46 am

A couple of years ago, for some reason the NRC was required to submit a safety analysis on dry storage of spent fuel on the plant sites. Anti-nuclear groups determined the NRC had not done a proper job, so the NRC had to go back and revise the analysis. I so much wanted them to throw up their arms and say, “You are right! We can’t do it. Get that fuel off those plant sites, right now!” And then sit back and watch the fur fly.

Reply to  Larry Hamlin
June 3, 2016 8:59 pm

“Politics precluded any successful selection and development of a facility.”
Not true Larry! The NRC is currently reviewing the license application for the geological repository at Yucca Mountain. Federal judges scolded Obama about following law.
“No additional development ….”
Again not true. There was a setback in the courts requiring the EIS to consider long term on site storage. The issue has been resolved. Watts Bar 2 just went critical. Four other large reactors are under construction.

Larry Hamlin
Reply to  Retired Kit P
June 3, 2016 9:40 pm

For over 30 years the government failed to get a long term spent fuel storage facility licensed, built and in operation. Any steps now to create a facility are just in the initial licensing stage. Decades of additional work lies ahead with absolutely nothing near certainty assuring future success.
A few new nuclear plants continue to try and move ahead but they are the clear exception and the end of the line. The great majority of existing nuclear plants will simply retire over time with some getting a few more decades of operation by upgrading certain critical equipment.
Natural gas will dominate new generation because of low cost, low emissions and reliable operation.
U.S. nuclear is dead in our future. The 2016 EIA International Energy Outlook report shows the decline of U.S. nuclear over the next several decades.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Retired Kit P
June 5, 2016 11:10 am

Larry Hamlin, I don’t know when you received your K-12-Grad education, but a thing that strikes me about thinking by younger generations is that thoughts on big issues are invariably half finished. I spend time trying to provide the other half, although it probably isn’t always appreciated. Although my observation is a general one, here’s my point on fuels: yes we have discovered a lot of gas and oil (that ‘half thinkers’ didn’t expect us to be able to produce – but this isn’t my point yet!). Let us imagine that we foolishly force low cost coal to close and that we wail against the tides of new gas production and regulate it to death. These resources sit there ready to be exploited when they make sense economically (political resistance to it does change – its a no brainer). Half thinkers think that these resources have been neutralized forever. This is still not my central point.
Now let’s say politically it evolves (as it must) to be okay once again to produce (oil and) gas for power. This resource will, eventually, rundown until it gets mighty expensive to produce. With what we know about windmills and solar – even if they undergo a quantum improvement, they still will take unacceptably enormous and ever-increasing resources of LAND (let alone quadrupically costly mineral and fuel resources needed for mining and processing to manufacture them) out of alternative use if they are to replace fossil fuels. A schoolboy in the 1950s would have been able to answer today’s question, what do we go to as fossil fuels wind down? I leave the rest for homework.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Larry Hamlin
June 4, 2016 2:54 am

What has happened to nuclear power in the West boils down to there being cheap alternatives – coal and gas – and therefore no political will to combat stupid greens. So the ball has been kicked down the road. Why have a political fight over nuclear and risk a career when its not that important?
Until it gets to be important: And here the sort of undercurrent that engineers like myself have been pushing for years, that we don’t actually have any real alternative if fossil fuels falter or go high in price – seems to be getting some traction.
And as the data from renewables comes rolling in at the same time as the data on global climate does, it is looking increasingly likley to people who dont have the background that we have, that despite political expediency, renewable energy is a crock of shit, and we dont actually need it at all.
But we might after all need nuclear.

June 3, 2016 8:24 pm

‘Inherently safe’ is a marketing term for paper reactors.
The largest risk factor for the general public for making electricity is the transportation of fuel. The train on fire in Oregon passed within 100 yards of where I am sitting now passed earlier today. Daily trains carrying coal go by too. There is a stop sign at the at grade crossing.
Current LWR are walk away safe. If the target on 9/11 had been nuke plants, local residents could walk away fast enough.

Reply to  Retired Kit P
June 3, 2016 8:43 pm


Leo Smith
Reply to  Retired Kit P
June 4, 2016 3:00 am

Absolutely. 3MI was the US worst accident. Without coolant, core melted down, reactor was messed but very little radioactivity escaped and the only loss was a reactor. Which will in time be ‘cool’ enough to dismantle easily. Meantime the containment contained!
The cost of more safety systems or a passive design might actually not be worth it. If one reactor in a hundred melts down, well that’s a 1% additional cost. How much does a complex safety system add to a reactor? Way more than 1%.
The real problem is Public Fear.
Eliminaate that and we would be knocking out reactors at around $2000/kW if that.

Reply to  Retired Kit P
June 4, 2016 9:38 am

Retired Kit P…Since you mentioned the Oregon train fire it’s been bugging me all morning as the Governor rushes to be viewed for her CONCERN for the “gorgeous scenic Columbia River Gorge” how come nobody is casting a little suspicion on this derailment as a possible act of “green terrorism”. Exactly this sort of scenario has been at the center of green propaganda for the past couple of months in opposition to expanding oil terminals and shipments through the Gorge. A hearing was scheduled next week for the Union Pacific Railroad to seek approval for upgrades and expansion right nearby where this derailment occurred. Somehow having a catastrophic derailment so well timed after decades of no such event on those lines strikes me as suspicious.

Dr. Strangelove
June 3, 2016 8:29 pm

“Even if nuclear was as risky as greens claim, what is the risk of a few meltdowns, compared to the destruction of the entire biosphere?”
They are both green fantasies. Nuclear is the safest of all energy sources. Around 50 died in Chernobyl, the worst nuclear accident. 118 fatal accidents in the wind industry. Around 100 deaths every year in solar roof installation accidents. Hydroelectric industry’s worst disaster, Banqiao dam failure, killed around 250,000. Worse than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Cancer by nuclear accident is another green fantasy, Ukraine where Chernobyl is located has lower cancer incidence than California.
“if socialists like Bernie and Naomi Oreskes cared more about CO2 than social engineering, they would join Scientific American, and scientists like James Hansen, and embrace nuclear power”
Bernie is a communist and Oreskes is a lunatic. Global warming is just an excuse to promote his ideology and her psychosis.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
June 4, 2016 3:02 am

Ukraine where Chernobyl is located has lower cancer incidence than California.
Belarus copped most of the fallout though 😉

Dr. Strangelove
Reply to  Leo Smith
June 4, 2016 3:30 am

US is no. 7 in cancer incidence at 300 per 100,000 population. Belarus is no. 42 at 213 per 100,000 population. It seems obesity is a greater cancer risk than Chernobyl

Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
June 4, 2016 5:13 am


Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
June 4, 2016 9:43 am

Dr. Strangelove +10,000 Love your handle… one of my all time favorite movies!

June 3, 2016 8:34 pm

Nuclear power plants, of commercial size and from the technologies that boil water either directly (Boiling Water Reactor) or indirectly (Pressurized Water Reactor) have achieved a world-wide share of electricity generation of only 11 percent. That 11 percent results after six decades of best efforts by many countries. Also, that was in the period where natural gas prices were high, coal prices were much higher than today, and wind and solar power were far more expensive and less efficient than today. That period was the golden age for nuclear power.
Costs to build BWR and PWR reactors are far higher per kW of power production compared to coal, natural gas, wind, and solar PV. Efforts to reduce PWR plant cost by building larger and larger plants and capture economy of scale have failed.
With the economic landscape completely changed, with coal prices very low, with natural gas prices under $2 per million Btu, with wind projects installed at $1,800 per kW (in the US, reference Warren Buffet’s recent purchase of 2000 MW), nuclear plants in the US are closing their doors and shutting down rather than continue to lose substantial sums of money.
Even in the modern era, the most recent few years where inflation is fairly low and interest rates are at historic lows, new nuclear power plants are stated as costing $8000 per kWe – based on the almost-approved 3,200 MWe twin-reactor plant in UK’s Hinkley Point C location, and its stated cost at $26 billion (USD). When Hinkley Point C is finished in a decade or more, the cost will undoubtedly increase to $30 or $34 billion. Those costs represent a 15 percent overrun, and $9,400 per kWe, and 30 percent overrun and $10,600 per kWe, respectively.
The highest costs for reported new builds (to my knowledge) are the 4 new reactors to be built in Nigeria, at 1,200 MWe each for a combined $80 billion (USD). That works out to $16,600 per kWe, and will likely be much more before the plants are started up.
Power produced and sold from such plants must command a high price to pay for the capital costs, the operating costs, and for future decommissioning costs. The Hinkley Point C plant is reported to have guaranteed 15 cents (US) per kWh, double the present price in the UK for wholesale power (and approximately 5 to 7 times the present wholesale cost in the US). That 15 cents is to increase over time. One can fully expect that the 15 cents per kWh will increase as the cost overruns occur, so that the British will pay 18 to 20 cents per kWh from Hinkley Point C.
In addition to the very high costs to build, nuclear plants require almost total indemnity and subsidies from governments to insulate the plant owner from the extremely high costs for property damage and human life impacts from radiation releases. The US provides six or seven forms of subsidy and guarantees for nuclear power plants: almost full indemnity from radiation releases (in the US, thePrice-Anderson Act of 1957, as amended), construction loan guarantees amounting to many billions, protection from most lawsuits during construction, relaxation of safety regulations for aging plants so they continue operation instead of shutting down, regulations to charge existing customers an added fee to pay for nuclear plant construction, and (like wind and solar), 2.3 cents per kWh sold for the first 10 years after startup. In addition, many states require nuclear to be included in the power mix under a diversity-of-fuels doctrine.
Nuclear plants also require 100 percent backup for those periods when they shutdown for accidents, for safety violations, for adverse weather (e.g. cooling water is too hot), for routine refueling, and for permanent shutdowns when they are unable to compete in the electricity market. Examples of each type of shutdown, and the backup power required, are extensive in the literature and media reports.
It is this factual background that leads nuclear proponents to look to new technologies, new generations of unproven, costly, and even more unsafe nuclear power plants. None of the new technologies have any hope of being safer, or less costly. Indeed, when nuclear plants are required to reduce their output to load-follow, more maintenance is required, operation is less safe, and the sales price per kWh sold must increase to pay for the same capital cost by selling less of the product.
New forms of nuclear power generation include, but are not limited to small modular reactors, high-temperature gas reactors, liquid fluoride or molten salt reactors, hydrogen fusion via magnetic pinch bottle (Tokomak), and hydrogen fusion via laser inertial shock (the LIFE process from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory).
Nuclear power is a futile, ultimately wasted effort as eloquently described in “Is Nuclear Power Globally Scalable?” Abbot, D., Proceedings of the IEEE, Vol. 99, No. 10, pp. 1611–1617, 2011. see link at
Professor Abbot lists more than one dozen items against long-term dependence on nuclear power:
1. Not enough plant sites (away from population, near cooling water, etc)
2. Land area required per plant
3. Embrittlement problem (metal bombarded by radiation cannot be recycled, it is forever wasted)
4. Entropy problem
5. Nuclear waste disposal
6. Nuclear accident rate problem (more accidents as more reactors are built, and built in third-world countries)
7. Proliferation (of atomic-based weapons)
8. Energy of extraction (mining dilute ores for uranium)
9. Uranium resource limits (more costly as cheap sources are exhausted)
10. Seawater extraction for uranium
11. Fast Breeder Reactors
12. Fusion Reactors
13. Materials Resources (materials of construction, lack of rare alloy metals)
14. Elemental diversity
The above are the facts. Nuclear power cannot possibly overcome the enormous hurdles of reducing costs, increasing safety, obtaining adequate materials for construction, and sites for construction.
The above points, and many more, are described at

Leo Smith
Reply to  Roger Sowell
June 4, 2016 3:11 am

What a wonderful and skillful weaving of cherry picked data, emotive terms and downright lies!
Full marks for propaganda.
You neglect to mention that in the UK even at the impossibly stupid prices being quoted for EDF’s nuclear, its still way cheaper than renewables, even before the needful storage or co generation costs are added,.
You neglect to mention that fuel costs on a reactor, compared with coal and gas, are negligible.
You neglect to mention that full shutdown of a nuclear reactor (not the whole power station, just one reactor) happens from time to time for refuelling, and is scheduled in advance and does not need emergency starting of plant to compensate, neither do all the reactors go offline together at a given point because (a) the suns has just set (b) there is a continent wide high pressure weather system (wind).
The fact that these very salient points are totally absent from your analysis shows it is there for one reaosn only: A cynical attempt to make a case against nuclear that doesn’t exist.
Now why would you want to do that?

David A
Reply to  Leo Smith
June 5, 2016 3:45 am

Indeed Leo, much of Mr. Sowell’s comments are refuted above. One must wonder what he does for a living.

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  Roger Sowell
June 4, 2016 5:03 am

We know that was coming. But repeating it over and over again doesn’t make it true. Cherry picked all the way down.

Reply to  Roger Sowell
June 4, 2016 5:40 am

Ugh, Mr. Sowell is back. Mr. Sowell, don’t you have lawyering stuff to do?

stan stendera
Reply to  SMC
June 5, 2016 12:10 am

God help us if he does.

Billy Liar
Reply to  Roger Sowell
June 4, 2016 6:54 am

I was about to make a comment further up in the thread relating to the irrational fear on of nuclear radiation that many people have, despite the fact that they are constantly exposed to it. Nowhere is this irrationality more evident than in California where 1 Becquerel from Fukushima would have them running for the hills.
Roger Sowell eminently makes my case for me.

Reply to  Billy Liar
June 4, 2016 9:14 am

1 Bq…Oh Noes…What are we going to do! The radiation will kill us all!! It’s worse than we thought!!! The sky is falling!!!! Repent for the end is Nigh!!!!!
Wait, what do you mean the element has decayed and is now stable? That doesn’t fit our meme. I know… that radiation deposited it’s energy in the atmosphere… A gazillion nuclear weapons set off in our atmosphere per second! What are we going to DO!!…ad infinitum, ad nauseam…
(hopefully a /sarc tag is not needed)

Reply to  Roger Sowell
June 4, 2016 12:51 pm

1) Plenty of coast available in unpopulated areas. The article says we need only 15,000 in the whole world! They cannot seriously think that these could not be accommodated.
2) Land area seems similar to much conventional generation, and certainly requires a tiny fraction of total land (unlike biofuels)
3) The proportion of world metals used is tiny and could be lost without problem
4 ) Entropy problem? They are pushing the boat out here. Everything suffers from the entropy problem. Things fall apart. This is not unique to nuclear.
etc. etc. There are problems with nuclear, but there are problems with any method of generating 15TW of power.
It seems unlikely that nuclear will provide all the worlds power, but there is no valid reason why it cannot produce a whole lot more than it does now.

Reply to  Roger Sowell
June 4, 2016 4:28 pm

“Professor Abbot lists …..”
Oh, now that’s funny!

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Roger Sowell
June 5, 2016 10:23 am

Pray tell, Mr. Sowell, what ‘on earth’ is elemental diversity!! This is the chemistry you get from nimrods schooled in activist Neo Marxbrothers “humanities”, now that science is a subjective malleable concept . Diversity itself has been defined to include all but white healthy males.

June 3, 2016 8:56 pm

The world is greening so says NASA satellites. Bees like it a little warmer. It seems so obvious- burn more coal to put more carbon back into play and make the world even greener with more food potential. The Greens (NOT!!!) will have to change their name. This will give the world more time to get over their nucleophobia and get serious about developing truly “safe” nuclear. Until then permitting them (at least in the USA) will continue to be a looooooong process / project killer.
Unfortunately for the USA (in the near term), it will be China, India and Germany??? enjoying the economic benefits of burning the coal to produce low price electricity. Thanks to “Death Train” Hansen and friends.

Reply to  BuntChE70
June 4, 2016 4:43 pm

Yes, permitting is a long process. Planning ahead helps.

South River Independent
June 3, 2016 9:00 pm

I thought that France has building nuke power plants down to a cookie cutter operation. I think the French get more than half of their electricity from nuclear plants. I have not seen anything about this for a very long time. Does anyone know the current status of nuclear power in France?

Reply to  South River Independent
June 3, 2016 9:07 pm

They pretty much did but that was 2 decades ago. Worker skill loss and regulatory restrictions leading to overyly complex design has led to massive delays with the new generation of French reactors. Just google “EPR” for the sorry tale.
China is where the new skill set is being developed although they are building many different designs rather than settling on a single one.

Leo Smith
Reply to  South River Independent
June 4, 2016 3:35 am

Around 80% of Frances electricity is nuclear generated, most of the rest is hydro,. making it the lowest emitting nation per mWh generated in western Europe.
(Nuclear) electricity is Frances 3rd largest export. Without it Italy, Spain, Holland, Belgium and the UK would have a hard time coping
Its latest new generation reactors are complete dogs, and are bedevilled by regulatory overburden and are way over budget and over time in Europe (Flamanville, Olkiluoto), But are in time and in budget in the far least,. Go figure.
Frances Europhile socialist president wants to close all of the nuclear plant down forever. That is the EU stance. The same game is happening in Switzerland, 50/50 nuclear and hydro. Its doesn’t get better than that actually.
Angela Merkel is an ex DDR communist who worked in Agitprop and was allegedly a Stasi informer. Her rise to power has been marked by unexplained revelations about anyone who stood in her way. She runs the EU effectively, now, despite appearances. Her ex chums in the Russian politburo and KBB are now all executives in GazProm. Which supplies much of western Europe with gas.
In November, 1999, the C.D.U. was engulfed by a campaign-finance scandal, with charges of undisclosed cash donations and secret bank accounts. Kohl and his successor as Party chairman, Wolfgang Schäuble, were both implicated, but Kohl was so revered that nobody in the Party dared to criticize him. Merkel, who had risen to secretary-general after the C.D.U.’s electoral defeat, saw opportunity. She telephoned Karl Feldmeyer. “I would like to give some comments to you in your newspaper,” she said.
Germany if course has leapt on renewables with its Energiewiende, closed half its nukes – some illegally – (the court cases rumble on) and will close the rest shortly. Germany is still a worse emitter of CO2 that e,g. Great Britain. Because renewables don’t work it has built new lignite power stations. If there is a fuel more polluting to mine and burn than lignite, I have yet to hear of it.
So of course Europe needs gas. Lots of it, to balance the renewables,. And that comes from Russia…so no nukes in the EU. That’s policy.
Britain may vote to leave the EU on June 23rd.
There is more to this than ecology and energy.
Follow the money and follow the power.
Merkel hates Western Europe about as much as Obama hates Britain. Communism LOST FFS. Or did it?

Hocus Locus
June 3, 2016 9:14 pm

Even if nuclear was as risky as greens claim, what is the risk of a few meltdowns, compared to the destruction of the entire biosphere?

Because their dislike for nuclear energy far exceeds any commitment to — or concern for, the environment. It has always been that way. I’ve been saying this for years but I usually just get blank stares.
It is unethical to see no clear path to unbounded Energy as anything but an existential threat.
Unfortunately there is an international scam in progress and the scammers are clever, they have seized the moral high-ground because it had been left unoccupied and undefended. Those who praise humanity and progress for its own sake, and would remind others we should never judge ourselves in haste, must have wandered off somewhere.
There is also a scuffle on the Global Warming moral high-ground as the folks who run nuclear power plants are kicked in the face and tossed off the mound. They expected to be welcomed with open arms because nuclear energy will help save the planet from CO2. They did not realize the movement is rife with people whose irrational fear of radiation exceeds any commitment to the environment. Anyone who even mentions nuclear power gets a feral and brutal response. I’ve taken pity on the nuclear industry and have tried to explain the phenomenon but they’re not taking it very well. Like the Amish, our nuclear power industry needs staunch defenders surrounding it. They’re just too polite for their own good.

Reply to  Hocus Locus
June 4, 2016 5:27 am

It’s only a minority faction of the green movement that is strongly anti-nuke. But, for the sake of group solidarity (for maximum political leverage), he other greens keep quiet.

June 3, 2016 9:15 pm

Quoting Mark Jacobson as an expert and describing his work as anything rather than fantasy shows that Scientific American is no longer a credible source of information

Tippy Hedron
Reply to  Analitik
June 6, 2016 10:43 am

Wasn’t Mark Jacobson the guy who concluded that nuclear power was uneconomical because 1) he assumed outrageously high costs for borrowing money to build reactors and 2) he factored the costs of nuclear war into the costs of nuclear power?
In other words, they quoted Mark Jacobson the lying fanatic?

June 4, 2016 2:16 am

The nuclear industry HAS invented inherently safe reactors – way back in the 1960s – they are called molten salt reactors. But until advances in metallurgy and some bright ideas about new moderating
materials since then, they were impractical and required highy enriched uranium. Transatomic Power and Terrestrial Energy are both near to commercialization of their designs. I’m astounded at he apparent ignorance of this article, if it claims the new 4th reactor technologies will be upfront “expensive.”
They cost far less than current 3rd generation reactors (which are awfully safe as it is). They will produce power more cheaply than any other power generation technology. Period. Without question, molten salt reactors are THE future of energy production.

June 4, 2016 2:22 am

Bill Gates is the perfect example of how one can become a billionaire without the slightest ability to
think logically. The man whose company has produced an operating system that has had over one million bugs, or errors, many fatal to the PC, is complaining about an industry that has never has never built a reactor that killed anyone, in sixty years of operation. Gates, America’s billionaire village idiot.

Ric Haldane
Reply to  arthur4563
June 4, 2016 8:08 am

” Who will ever need more than 64K of memory “, Bill Gates.

Leo Smith
June 4, 2016 2:31 am

There’s a couple of things I wrote a few years back about exactly these subjects.
In essence I was trying for a complete review of energy generation, put the Late Prof Mackay beat me to it on energy density, so I helped him get his book published. That’s really where you need to start at
That book shows you the size of installation you need to make renewable energy work assuming some kind of storage to deal with the intermittency of wind and solar exists.
I then wrote this:
To address two further issues – intermittency and cost. The final analysis of that, is that ex of fossil fuel, there is only one other viable technology – nuclear, of one sort or another. I am not going to get into a detailed war about which technology, because frankly they all work or could be made to work, and its a matter of development costs and production costs which are largely dominated by regulatory overburden and politics.
Cost of course is somewhat a moveable feast with the likes of subsidy and government interference, but in the end a figure of quality – EROEI – energy return over energy invested is what cost tends to be a proxy for, and is a figure of quality for power generation. Recent studies suggest that is actually less than one for most solar installations, and windmills are only marginally positive, and with storage…well there’s the rub, In order to provide dispatchability, you need storage (or co generation with e.g. hydro or fossil) and then the cost goes even higher and the EROEI even lower.
(I randomly put on a bit of TV – in the UK there is a channel dedicated to the dreary outpourings of government – this was the energy select subcommittee – and there I was startled to hear the minister utter the magic word ‘dispatchable’ . Then I knew that David Mackay, who was scientific advisor to the energy department, had not died in vain, and had managed to educate them about intermittency. Maybe my essay helped. I’d like to think so).
Having concluded that love it or hate it, the only alternative to a return to the Dark Ages was nuclear power, as even if there is plentiful fossil fuel now, at economically extractable prices, it won’t be so for ever. I wrote a speculative piece of – well perhaps science fiction – to address the future of a society that has no access to cheap fossil energy resources. NOT an easy thing to do, because the whole post war society has been shaped by exactly that – access to cheap fossil fuel sources, especially petroleum. The name of the game there was to see how much industrial or post industrial society had to change to accommodate very high priced fossil fuels, (in the limit, you can synthesise hydrocarbon fuels but the price is perhaps 10 times what it is now in relative terms).
That essay is here:
What the results of a few years research and cogitation revealed were basically this:
1/. Renewable energy is barely able to meet our energy needs and then only by exploiting huge land areas at fairly insane costs. An ecological disaster in its own right. This is David’s (never stated, but actual) conclusion. David was a committed Green, but a supremely intelligent and honest one.
2/. Intermittent renewable energy (wind wave solar tidal) has the greatest potential for generation, but the lack of dispatchability makes the costs even more insane. There isn’t enough hydro actual or potential in the world to be a battery, and anything else is simply too expensive, and that means EROEI is probably around 1 or less, rendering it completely unviable and unsustainable.
3/. If CO2 reduction is what you want, there are at least 10,000 years of fertile and fissionable material at good extractable values available to generate energy at massively better EROEIs than renewables, that is constant reliable and dispatchable enough. And its cheaper than renewables, despite the massive costs imposed on the nuclear industry by regulatory ratcheting and regulatory overburden. I like to think That David, and to a small extent I, have been instrumental in making Britain almost alone on the Western world, begin to take a look at new nuclear in a serious (though currently very flawed) way.
4/. Even if CO2 reduction proves to be totally unnecessary – and I personally think it is – there are not unlimited supplies of fossil fuel and the more you have to frack it the less the EROEI is. The USA has at least 100 years of coal, and ex of Greenpiss, doesn’t need nuclear the way e.g. Britain, whose viable coal was largely worked out 50 years ago – does. But 100 years of coal and maybe 50 years of frackable gas is not 10,000 years of nuclear fuel. There is no rush to go nuclear, for the USA, but there is pressure, so to speak. A program that keeps some nuclear as a portion of the generation mix is advisable, so it can be ramped up if and when needed.
5/. Looking further into the future, almost everything we do today could be done with nuclear power, with some salient exceptions: Industrial processes that use carbon as a reducing agent (smelting) could use electrolysed water as hydrogen instead, industrial hydrocarbon feedstocks could use synthetic hydrocarbons from water and carbon dioxide…or alternatives to these products could be used. None of it is as cheap, but it is all do-able if we had access to cheap abundant nuclear power.
6/. The salient exceptions are off grid power – notably small boats, aircraft and road transport. One way to address these is to simply build railways. The UK to France channel tunnel replaces ferry boats effectively. And uses trains. Large vessels can easily be nuclear powered. Electric cars hover on the ragged edge of viability. The bugbear is energy density. There is some scope for improvement but not a lot. Hydrogen is a possibility, but its a horrid fuel to handle. Its advantage is that its easy to make by electrolysis from nuclear electricity. Fully synthetic fuel of a diesel/kerosene like character is possible, but the price is high relative to the electricity used to make it. What I suspected would happen is that all of these would vie for dominance until the most cost effective one emerged in any given niche market.
7/. Social changes would be dominated by the relative costs of transport against the relative costs of no transport: prices of goods would move around: Plastics might become expensive. Wood based products might reappear as economically viable. Work would increasingly be done without moving the people to the work: they stay at home and use a high speed internet to control robotic machines for physical labour, or teleconference for service type jobs.
AS I said, it was all extrapolation towards what is almost science fiction, but even though the essays are rough, bear much improvement and are out of date, I think the debate is worth beginning: Ex of Climate change, which I think is deader in the water than most people on both sides think, there still remains a big question of what energy we run an industrial and post industrial society on, because it needs a LOT of per capita energy to run, and there ain’t much room to reduce it.
Love it or hate it, my analysis concludes that nuclear isn’t an option: Actually its the only option.
We need to be slowly steadily and carefully keeping it going and developing it until the need arises. The USA is likely to lag here, because it doesn’t need nuclear power yet, the way places like Japan, parts of the Far East, parts of Europe, do. Places with high population densities, no oil or coal under and no mountains to speak of.

Dr. Strangelove
June 4, 2016 2:37 am

test my post disappeared censored

Leo Smith
Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
June 4, 2016 3:37 am

yep, there is some strange effects happening with the new wordpress software.

Dr. Strangelove
June 4, 2016 3:02 am

Non-problems of nuclear energy:
1. Not enough plant sites (away from population, near cooling water, etc) – Urban centers are only 3% of world land area. 71% of earth’s surface is water. Plenty of vacant land and water
2. Land area required per plant – Comparable to coal and gas plants. Solar and wind require more area
3. Embrittlement problem (metal bombarded by radiation cannot be recycled, it is forever wasted) – Medieval Japanese blacksmiths can solve this non-problem. Melting the metal and hammering it will rearrange its atomic structure. That’s how they made hard samurai swords
4. Entropy problem – It’s the 2nd law of thermodynamics. It’s unavoidable. The whole universe is ‘wasting away’
5. Nuclear waste disposal – Deep ocean trenches are a good place to keep them. Far and away from people and most of marine life (though there are a few invertebrates down there)
6. Nuclear accident rate problem (more accidents as more reactors are built, and built in third-world countries) – Its 60-year safety record proves it’s the safest of all energy sources
7. Proliferation (of atomic-based weapons) – North Korea and Iran will make atomic bombs whether or not other countries build nuclear plants. Limiting explosives manufacturing will not prevent people from having guns
8. Energy of extraction (mining dilute ores for uranium) – It’s simple economics. If the cost of mining is too high, it is not an ore. It’s true for all mineral resources
9. Uranium resource limits (more costly as cheap sources are exhausted) – Also true for fossil fuels. But fossil fuels and nuclear are still cheaper than renewable energy
10. Seawater extraction for uranium – Abundant resource if it can be economically done
11. Fast Breeder Reactors – We should use them
12. Fusion Reactors – The future of nuclear energy. Let’s develop it as soon as possible
13. Materials Resources (materials of construction, lack of rare alloy metals) – Somehow the use of rare metals such as platinum, gold, lithium, etc. in electronics and cellphones does not prevent their widespread use. Why is it immoral in nuclear industry but not in consumer electronics?
14. Elemental diversity – Amount of nuclear wastes is negligible compared to amounts of mineral resources in the earth’s crust. No element will become extinct because of elemental transmutation in nuclear plants

Leo Smith
Reply to  Dr. Strangelove
June 4, 2016 1:51 pm

Elemental diversity – Amount of nuclear wastes is negligible compared to amounts of mineral resources in the earth’s crust. No element will become extinct because of elemental transmutation in nuclear plants
On the contrary, nuclear power takes DANGEROUS LONG TERM RADIOACTIVE ISOTOPES *(U235) and turns them into stable boring lead!
Put that in your green pipe, and smoke it!

Reply to  Leo Smith
June 4, 2016 3:57 pm

Oh Noes…What are we going to do! The radiation will kill us all!! It’s worse than we thought!!! The sky is falling!!!! Repent for the end is Nigh!!!!!

Reply to  Leo Smith
June 4, 2016 5:25 pm

Speaking about epic failure, predicting the cost of natural gas to electric utilities.
Leo makes a classic mistake about radioactive material. The longer the half-life, the less radioacitve they are and therefor less dangerous.
U-235 is not radolgical hazard but is toxic as a heavy metal.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Leo Smith
June 5, 2016 12:15 am

You Americans cant recognise satire can you?
The comments below are entirely correct.
That was of course the point.

June 4, 2016 3:04 am

Southern Company has the newest PWR reactor going online built despite the regulatory environment. They generate power using coal, natural gas, solar and wind hedging their bets against the shifting political environement.
Plant Vogtle is the newest nuclear plant built in the US in the last three decades:
Company data on nuclear plant operations here

Li D
June 4, 2016 3:31 am

” ….joins the push … ”
I dont think reporting on something
is pushing for something.
Who wrote that? Worrall?
Trying to show a bias when there isnt one.
If a newspaper reports on a car crashing
into a tree, whats the ” push ” there eh?
Oh, so and so newspaper has joined the
push to promote accidents? Damage to people, cars, or trees?

Bruce Cobb
June 4, 2016 4:47 am

There is certainly a place for nuclear power. Exactly what that is remains to be seen. We would certainly be much further ahead in our use of nuclear if it weren’t for an irrational fear of it fanned by a massive campaign of propaganda and lies for several decades. We certainly don’t need more lies from the anti-carbon camp pushing for it though. What we need is an energy policy based on rationality. We need the big three – coal, gas, and nuclear. We can’t even begin to have a rational energy policy until coal is once again recognized as an important part of the three-legged stool making up our electricity supplies, instead of being killed off as an evil “destroyer of the planet”.

June 4, 2016 7:49 am

Low bid, utility scale solar will win in the end if all the DOE policy hacks would get out of the way and outlaw rooftop solar subsidy and other diversions. Nuclear is based on a huge lie about where the fixed cost is and who pays it. Wind power is based on a huge lie about who pays for transmission lines to their sites. Natural gas is competitive but based on oversupply conditions for the next 25 years. I doubt you can expect oversupply while retiring old nuclear and coal at the same time.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Resourceguy
June 4, 2016 1:52 pm

No, it wont. It takes more energy to build it than it ever pays back.

Coach Springer
June 4, 2016 8:16 am

Too little, too late. They’ve helped rig the game to bar the public and its government vote grabbers from changing course. The local paper yesterday put a front page headline of Exelon closing the nearby nuclear plant in Clinton, Il – with the sub- headline that “Experts say price spikes will be unlikely.” The “expert” was a partisan in favor of closing the plant who cited “jammed transmission lines” due to plentiful power. An actual study estimated the price increase to be 47%. So the state legislature will do nothing because they would have to fix the problem of over subsidizing wind by oversubsidizin nuclear to level the Rube Goldberg playing field. So, increased prices starting at 47%, an unreliable system, and utter dependency on power generation that requires massive subsidy to do a bad job. And more CO2 from all those windmills and their concrete foundations than the nuke. That, and a permanently marred landscape instead of a wooded recreation area on a fraction of the footprint of wind.
What is not to dislike about the anti-competitive, hypocritically anti-environment marriage of big wind, big government and big environment.

June 4, 2016 8:35 am

The huge cost of conventional nuclear is due to precautionary principle regulation. They could be built for less than one tenth the cost. We choose not to.

Reply to  Gamecock
June 4, 2016 10:00 am

Basically yes, but design and contractor over-promises have not helped.

June 4, 2016 10:48 am

With nuclear power and technology, as the saying goes “you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone”.

June 4, 2016 11:50 am

There are no green technologies. Everything has an impact from recovery to reclamation.
There are no renewable technologies, only nominally renewable drivers. Everything is consumed or transformed with progressive returns.
There are diverse applications with context-sensitive requirements that can be optimally fulfilled with different technologies.

June 4, 2016 1:00 pm

Looking at the energy requirements of the world today and into the future there are only two realistic non fossil carbon sources. Nuclear and solar. Nuclear could easily provide much more of our electricity than it does now – look at France. There is enough solar energy to power the world from a few hundred square kilometers of desert. Harnessing and distributing that energy is an engineering problem, not a thermodynamic one.
Biofuels are never going to do more than fill a niche because using natural photosynthesis to create biomass, a fraction of which is converted to fuels is horribly inefficient. The land area needed is more than we have. Wind, hydro, tides, waves can all play a part, and possibly reduce the number of nuclear or large solar plants needed globally from 15,000 to 10,000. But the bulk has to come from either fossil fuels, solar or nuclear.
If we seriously want to cut fossil fuels, we must embrace nuclear energy.

Reply to  seaice1
June 4, 2016 2:32 pm

…Nuclear ?…Absolutely…Solar, Only if we want to live in the 1,800’s ! ( Are you volunteering to pick up all the Horse Shit ? )

Leo Smith
June 4, 2016 2:09 pm

solar is a non starter. EROEI is less than unity, and that before storage is added.

Reply to  Leo Smith
June 4, 2016 3:49 pm

Looking at it from an energy density perspective, solar can do it. There is enough solar energy falling in the Earth to provide all our energy requirements using only a tiny portion of the surface. The rest is engineering and politics. If we spent a trillion dollars on a high voltage DC continent wide grid and something lie molten salt storage we could get all our electricity from solar. In Europe there is a problem because the source of the solar would have to be the Sahara desert, which is not politically stable.
This may not currently be economic compared to fossil fuels, but it could be done. Whereas using wind, tides, biofuels and hydro simply could not provide for all our needs.

Reply to  seaice1
June 4, 2016 6:04 pm

“The rest is engineering ….”
Clearly someone is not an engineer. Engineers are a limited resource as are technicians.
Maybe seauce1 will volunteer to explain why he is too lazy to become an engineer but will become a solar panel cleaner living in the desert.
Look up the word ‘impractical’.

Leo Smith
Reply to  seaice1
June 5, 2016 12:35 am

Looking at it from an energy density perspective, solar can do it.
T+Yes, looking at it form an energy densitryt perspective so nuclear fusins.
Unfortunately that isnt teh only prespective that is crucially important.
If we spent a trillion dollars on a high voltage DC continent wide grid and something lie molten salt storage we could get all our electricity from solar.
A lot more than that and you still wouldn’t be able to..
The rest is engineering and politics. >
Unfortunately it isn’t.
Current renewable technology relies on burning huge amounts of fossil energy to make and install it. MOre than it actually delivers in the case of solar.
What that means is that s system based on solar energy would never be able to generate enough energy to replace itself when it wore out, and would spend its entire lifetime trying.
In current jargon, solar energy is not sustainable.
Any energy technology has to pass three basic tests.
1/. It must have sufficient energy density that its ecological impact is less than the benefit derived from it.
2/. It must be costed both in cash and in energy terms (and even ecological terms) holistically: That is, necessary adjuncts like storage and/or co-generation and of course O&M costs must be taken into account as well as headline capital costs and fuel costs. If its costs are above a competitive technology by a serious margin, it should not be considered.
3/. IT must ultimately show an EROEI sufficiently large to make it sustainable. At least more than unity,. Otherwise all it represents is a sort of ‘battery’ which takes energy in, and later on gives some, but not all, of it back.
Apart from hydro and waste burning and a bit of geothermal, no so-called ‘renewable’ energy meets these three criteria.
That is a fundamental point I discovered.
No matter on what technical grounds you decide to place a value on energy and the ecosphere, ‘renewable’ energy never represents the best technology to use to meet demand.
I conclude therefore that the reason for its deployment has nothing whatsoever to do with the ecosphere or power generation at all, bit is 100% political.
Or as I prefer to say,
Renewable energy is a cosmetic solution to a problem that doesn’t actually exist anyway

June 4, 2016 3:08 pm

Oh my did Kosta Tspsis DIE? After all, he was their “house” nuclear power expert. A man with a tenured position at Harvard, teaching freshman physics. A many who worked at an accelerator lab at one time, while getting his Phd in “particle physics”. A man for whom NO NUCLEAR POWER PLANT WAS A GOOD ONE except ones that were shut down. I clearly remember an article he wrote on the effects of hitting nuke plants with nuclear weapons. This was during the ’80’s. Brilliant, give the Soviets a list. And tell them how effective it would be. I was working in nuclear power at the time. Fortunately there were some people who had the “chutzpah” to take on the article. While, yes, there could be enhanced contamination from such a strategy, the upshot was this: Tspsis pretty graphs, and dose calculations WERE COMPLETELY MADE UP with no real calculations and backing behind them. When that was revealed, Sci Am steadfastly refused to publish anything that made that point. As noted by other, Sci. Am. a worthless Popinjay of a fraudulent “science” magazine. How about this for Sci America and it’s “experts”: 3 years later in the May edition of Sci. America, an extensive article is published. Later in 1908, after BEGGING the Wright Brothers for info, an article was published, almost completely written by Orville Wright. Remember, being a LEFTY LOONIE, an ACADEMIC, a progressive, and an “societal proclaimed expert” means NEVER having to say you are sorry or apologize for being a boob.

June 4, 2016 3:17 pm

Found one other comment here that is a complete “lie” in many ways. The allegation that ANY nuclear reactor produces Plutonium and therefore is a “proliferation” risk. DANG, once you get a LIE like that going, it’s so hard to get rid of it. PROLIFERATION RISK? High flux (and all power reactors inherently ARE high flux devices) produce Pu alright. They produce it with Pu 239, 240 (a nuclear poison) and 241 (a “pre-detonator”, making it impossible to find an explosive to get the Pu critical mass ball together FAST ENOUGH and LONG enough to sustain a viable nuclear “explosion”. The ONLY way to use power reactor Pu is to put it through a gasseous diffusion plant or a centrifugal separation, and get the pure 239 out. THAT WOULD MEAN SO MUCH EFFORT AN MONEY that you’d be FAR better off to build a critical assembly with GRAPHITE and to merely process the Pu 239 out with Water, Sulfuric and Nitric acids, EDTA, kerosene, some glass plumbing, pulsating pumps and 304 SS tray assemblies to cause mixing in a Water/Organic counter-flow separation device. (See Benedict and Pigford, Nuclear Chemical Engineering, (See here:, if you wonder why I’m so specific and detailed…its because I want people know I’m not an “academic hoity toit” (as the Climate Wonks, and the Sci Am type), but a low level engineer…who knows how to get things done.)

Reply to  Max Hugoson
June 4, 2016 3:49 pm

…Sooooo, your instructing terrorist’s how build a workable bomb ?

Leo Smith
Reply to  Marcus
June 5, 2016 12:47 am

Its not as though this isn’t well known by anyone who cares do the research
Oh and of course thorium fuel cycle doesn’t produce plutonium directly , but U233. Nasty to make bombs out of but possible. It does produce Pu239 from that, but that is ultimately what it uses as fuel anyway.
Making a nuclear weapon really requires the resources of an organised state, unless you can steal weapons grade material, but such material is not actually made in large quantities any more.
What is touted as of more concern, is a dirty bomb, but frankly even that is pretty ridiculous. spreading a bit of radioactive material around might result in panic, but very little real effect.

Stephen Obeda
June 4, 2016 5:11 pm

Remember, life on earth hangs in the balance, so we’re going to gamble on technologies that may be 50 years away from large-scale, commercial viability and shun the mature technology with a 50 year safety record.

Reply to  Stephen Obeda
June 4, 2016 5:21 pm

…That’s just it , Liberal Socialist’s want LESS Human’s on planet Earth !

June 4, 2016 6:57 pm

I’ve got a slogan to help promote nuclear power in this country:
“The solution is not unclear. The solution is nuclear.”

Leo Smith
Reply to  MikeM
June 5, 2016 12:47 am

I really like that Mike.

Reply to  MikeM
June 5, 2016 5:00 am


June 5, 2016 12:53 am

Reblogged this on Astronomy Topic Of The Day and commented:
Scientific American has always been a reliable source for great science reporting and on-target insight; this story is consistent with that legacy. Nuclear power, aside from being carbon-emissions free, is the only viable alternative to carbon-based energy sources. Modern “Fast Breeder Reactors” for the most part, eliminate the need for nuclear waste disposal. The most common breeding reaction is that of plutonium-239 from non-fissionable uranium-238. The term “fast breeder” refers to the types of configurations which can actually produce more fissionable fuel than they use.
My only exception to this article is the author’s comment
I am concerned the nuclear industry are using the climate “emergency” to promote their product
Climate Change, caused by Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), remains one of the greatest existential threats to life on this planet that humanity has ever faced
Although I support Bernie Sanders and consider him the only real choice for the next President of the United States, he’s wrong on Nuclear Power. In a previous piece, I discuss why science has to be a priority for the next US President.

June 5, 2016 7:29 am

jake on June 3, 2016 at 6:03 pm
It is true that thermodynamic plants (fossile or nuclear fuel) have a much higher energy output per installed GW than renewable-based plants (solar, wind or even hydraulic) could ever produce.
But… how deep is your knowledge about the nuclear plant industry’s background, jake?
Over 35 years ago a dutch physicist gathered considerable amounts od informations about different primary energy sources for for electricity production, brought them together and compared them in a book published in the Netherlands („Between nuclear energy and coal“).
1. The main lesson of the book was that before comparing the use of nuclear energy for electricity production with other primary energy sources, one first should build coherent balance sheets in the financial, energetic and emission contexts for the process as a whole.
That means to calculate the cumulated costs, energy needs and CO2 emissions produced by
– extracting, refining, enriching, reprocessing, waste disposal and definite storage of all nuclear fuel components;
– construction, maintenance, dismantling, waste disposal and definite storage for all sites involved in all phases of the nuclear chain.
Having done that job you see
– how expensive the chain really is;
– that it consumes over the long term nearly as much energy as it produces (especially the breeder chain);
– that it well emits far less CO2 than coal or gas, but nevertheless more than renewables, when you consider the process in its entireity.
2. Moreover, the waste circuit of that chain is barely incredible.
A traditional nuclear plant with a gigawatt of installed power needs about 30 tons of enriched unranium every year. Together with special steal and zirconium: about 120 tons a year, most of it radioactive enough to impose a long time storage far away from civilization.
One ton of enriched fuel needs 6.5 tons of uranium oxyde; one ton of uranium oxyde requests at mining site not less than 2,000 tons of rough extracted material.
The remaining 1,999 tons plus lots of hard chemicals plus lots of water? That all lies in never processed so called tailings in Africa, Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan etc etc.
3. The immediate waste processing future doesn’t look much better: in France, Japan and Great Britain, the nuclear industry has introduced the MOX concept (a mix of plutonium and depleted uranium oxides). Used MOX fuel needs to rest for 60 years instead of 6 before processing for long time storage.
For 4G breeders building plutonium out of depleted uranium by using high energy neutrons, the cost and energy balance is even worse: more (and more dangerous) reprocessing activities, and more complex dismantling due to the high energy neutrons and to the liquid sodium technology.
The thorium is no escape at all: it is fertile but not fissile, and must be therefore be breeded into
Last not least, while so many people really believe that fusion is a clean process compared with fission, this „fact“ has been falsified long time ago. The only feasible fuel approach is the deuterium/tritium mix; and since we lack tritium on Earth (we have approx. 5 kg of it), we must breed it too 🙂 out of lithium (if we can: even for lithium/ion batteries, there might be not enough of it). Moreover, the deuterium/tritium pair produces extremely harsh neutons, what is another problem.
4. So yes, jake: solar plants are costly toys, but offshore wind energy used in Germany for example has inbetween a load factor which reaches 50%; and all these toys produce far less waste than do nuclear plants of any kind.
And yes, jake: nuclear fusion energy will be over the long term the only practicable solution. So we must invest money, thoughts, human power and energy to construct the best possible path to that solution.

Reply to  Bindidon
June 5, 2016 8:45 am

the only reply I can make to this is that the book was written 35 years ago, and likely researched for at least a few years before it was published. Do you not think we might have advanced a little in that time?
And considering that there is a good chance, given the time it was written, at the height of the Anti-nuke scare, that the author might have been biased and used worst case scenarios for all his negatives I would take his figures with a grain of salt and double check them.
I’d say if you’re worried that Nuclear does not save as much CO2 as claimed, the easy solution is to build the plant on the few acres needed, and then plant trees on the hundreds of acres that would have been used by a wind farm. I think that would nicely offset the difference.

Reply to  peter
June 5, 2016 4:47 pm

Sorry, commenter, but I had expected a far more intelligent answer, challenging for example waste amounts as indicated and the costs of their processing.
Your answer is a bit redundant, you simply eluded all problems 🙁

Reply to  Bindidon
June 18, 2016 12:46 pm

The author of the book is a known denier of settled nuclear science, so we don’t need to respond. 😉

June 5, 2016 8:51 am

The zillions dollars cost quoted by Abbot is the result of the government, not of technical issues. In my article above I quote 0.5 $/W cost for the Millstone reactor #2 that has been making electricity since 1975 and is licensed for several more years. By contrast, Unit 3 built when DOEnergy was created and got involved, cost 300 % more while having capacity only 20 % higher. It is also still in operation. Unit 1, you might be interested, was shut down permanently for, essentially, improperly filled paperwork. The whole Millstone complex is on the Long Island Sound shore surrounded by towns and frequented beaches.

June 6, 2016 4:09 am

I’m happy that nuclear power is getting more traction, though I am concerned the nuclear industry are using the climate “emergency” to promote their product – a strategy which I believe will ultimately backfire.

YES, because Greens’ loathing of nuclear energy has always exceeded their commitment to environment, species, and planet.
From a foundation of Cold War angst, which would not have turned the tide in itself because peaceful atomic power was reality… in 1972 the Club of Rome/MIT stepped in to vilify nuclear and CO2 together in the bestseller Limits to Growth… then the one-two punch Three Mile Island+China Syndrome movie set the USA onto these decades of bad road. I describe this phenomenon in the essay A brief history of nuclear energy fear in these United States which I should charge money for so more people would read it.

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