Decarbonizing the power sector

News Release 19-Nov-2019

Decarbonizing the power sector

Renewable energy offers most benefits for health and environment

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)

Electricity supply is one of the biggest CO2 emitters globally. To keep global warming well below 2°C, several paths lead to zero emissions in the energy sector, and each has its potential environmental impacts – such as air and water pollution, land-use or water demand. Using a first-time combination of multiple modelling systems, an international team of researchers led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) has now quantified the actual benefits and downsides of three main roads to decarbonisation. They show that relying mainly on wind and solar would bring most co-benefits for the health of people and planet. Switching to carbon capture and storage in combination with fossil and biomass resources, in turn, is likely to convey significant environmental costs by devouring large areas at the cost of biodiversity, and by releasing pollutants to the environment.

“A main winner of decarbonisation is human health”

“When looking at the big picture – from the direct emissions of power installations, to the mining of minerals and fuels for their construction and operation, to the lands necessary for the energy supply infrastructure – we found that the best bet for both people and environment is to rely mainly on wind and solar power,” Gunnar Luderer explains. He is lead author and deputy chair of PIK’s research domain on transformation pathways. “A main winner of decarbonisation is human health: switching to renewables-based electricity production could cut negative health impacts by up to 80 per cent. This is mainly due to a reduction of air pollution from combusting fuels. What is more, the supply chains for wind and solar energy are much cleaner than the extraction of fossil fuels or bioenergy production.”

For their study published in Nature Communications, the authors compared three scenarios of decarbonising the power sector by 2050: One focused mainly on solar and wind power, a second relying mainly on carbon capture and storage in combination with biomass and fossils, and a third route with a mixed technology portfolio. In all scenarios, land use requirements for power production will increase in the future. By far the most land-devouring method to generate electricity is bioenergy. “Per kilowatt hour of electricity from bioenergy, you need one hundred times more land than to harvest the same amount from solar panels”, Alexander Popp, head of the land use management group at the Potsdam Institute, lays out. “Land is a finite resource on our planet. Given the growing world population with a hunger for both electricity and for food, pressures on the land and food systems will increase, too. Our analysis helps to get the magnitudes right when speaking of the at times much-hailed technology of bioenergy.”

“Shifting from a fossil resource base to a power industry that requires more land and mineral resources”

The researchers used complex simulations sketching out the possible paths of decarbonising the electricity supply (Integrated Assessment Modelling) and combined their calculations with life cycle analyses. Anders Arvesen from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) says: “In combining two pairs of analytical spectacles, we were able to look at a wide range of environmental problems, from air pollution to toxicants, from finite mineral resources needed to manufacture wind turbines to the extent of lands transformed into bioenergy plantations if relying on negative emissions. This is a promising approach also to tackle other sectors, like buildings or the transport sector.”

“Our study delivers even more very good arguments for a rapid transition towards a renewable energy production. However, we need to be aware that this essentially means shifting from a fossil resource base to a power industry that requires more land and mineral resources,” adds Luderer. “Smart choices are key to limiting the impact of these new demands on other societal objectives, such as nature conservancy, food security, or even geopolitics.”

Producing electricity in a climate-friendly brings huge benefits for our health – mainly due to a reduction of air pollution from combusting fuels.


Article: Gunnar Luderer, Michaja Pehl, Anders Arvesen, Thomas Gibon, Benjamin L. Bodirsky, Harmen Sytze de Boer, Oliver Fricko, Mohamad Hejazi, Florian Humpenöder, Gokul Iyer, Silvana Mima, Ioanna Mouratiadou, Robert C. Pietzcker, Alexander Popp, Maarten van den Berg, Detlef van Vuuren, Edgar G. Hertwich (2019): Environmental co-benefits and adverse side-effects of alternative power sector decarbonization strategies. Nature Communications [DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-13067-8]

Web link to the article:

Previous related research: Michaja Pehl, Anders Arvesen, Florian Humpenöder, Alexander Popp, Edgar Hertwich, Gunnar Luderer (2017): Understanding Future Emissions from Low-Carbon Power Systems by Integration of Lice Cycle Assessment and Integrated Energy Modelling. Nature Energy [DOI: 10.1038/s41560-017-0032-9] (see press release here)

For further information please contact:

Twitter: @PIK_Climate

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Phil Rae
November 20, 2019 2:16 am

Without nuclear, as far as I’m aware, it’s almost impossible to “decarbonise” the power sector and it certainly isn’t feasible with wind & solar!

Anyway, why would we want to replace the use of relatively cheap energy-dense hydrocarbons that provide both base load & peaking power production with costly & unreliable “renewables” like wind & solar? It just doesn’t make any sense at all.

Reply to  Phil Rae
November 20, 2019 4:17 am

Even nuclear is a stretch. Roger Pielke Jr. points out that we have to build a nuclear plant every day from now until 2050. link The alarmists consistently understate the magnitude of the challenge.

Reply to  commieBob
November 20, 2019 5:43 am

Check out 250 MW Thermal in a 20′ 30-ton shipping container, easy to factory-build, no 150-atmosphere plumbing, no need for 2000-atmosphere steam bomb containment dome. I really see the need for MSR powered microgrids as the next massive CME will take out global power.

Reply to  Walter J Horsting
November 20, 2019 8:30 am

“…no need for 2000-atmosphere steam bomb containment dome.”

Ummmm…”2000-atmosphere steam bomb containment dome”…what bad science fiction movie was that in?

Reply to  Walter J Horsting
November 20, 2019 8:57 am

MSR has been touted here in the comments for several years now. Much like “new battery tech” and Cold Fusion, it seems to always be ‘soon’. I’ll believe it when I see it.

Reply to  Walter J Horsting
November 20, 2019 9:26 am

The plant I worked in had a “containment dome” rated for 50 psig, a little over 3 atmospheres. Not sure where 2000 atm came from.

Charles Higley
Reply to  commieBob
November 20, 2019 5:57 am

We should be doing nuclear for sure, but not for the purpose of decarbonizing, which is a stupid idea in the first place.

We should be building nuclear plants to get rid of all the wind and solar atrocities that have been built, to build a reliable and cheap energy supply and keep up with growing energy demands. It is not the emergency building program needed if we pretend that we have to decarbonize.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Charles Higley
November 20, 2019 6:33 am

“We should be building nuclear plants to get rid of all the wind and solar atrocities that have been built”


And we don’t have to build a nuclear reactor per day, we can just use nuclear to replace the powerplants that are retired in the future. Eventually, all fossil-fueled powerplants will be retired, but it won’t happen in 12 years. Twelve years is just an artificial deadline anyway. The 1.5C limit is just a figure pulled out of thin air. There’s nothing to fear here.

Powering the world with windmills and ground-based solar is not feasible. The problems with doing so are insurmountable. Of course, that won’t stop some fools from trying to do it. It won’t happen as long as Trump is in charge.

Reply to  Charles Higley
November 20, 2019 6:38 am

You are correct Charles H.

15. Atmospheric CO2 is not alarmingly high, it is too low for optimal plant growth and alarmingly low for the survival of carbon-based terrestrial life. The real danger is not too much CO2 – it is CO2 starvation. Over geologic time, CO2 is ~permanently sequestered in carbonate rocks.

Plants evolved at atmospheric CO2 concentrations of 2000 ppm and greater, and many grow best at about 1200 ppm CO2 – about 3 times current levels. That is why greenhouse operators pump 1000-1200 ppm CO2 into their greenhouses.

Major food crops (except corn) use the C3 photosynthetic pathway, and die at about 150 ppm from CO2 starvation – that is just 30 ppm below the minimum levels during the last Ice Age, which ended just 10,000 years ago – “the blink of an eye” in geologic time. Earth came that close to a major extinction event.

During one of the next Ice Ages, unless there is massive human intervention, atmospheric CO2 will decline to below 150 ppm and that will be the next major extinction event – not just for a few species but for ~all complex terrestrial carbon-based life forms.

Reference: “(Plant) Food for Thought”
(first posted in January 2009 on, published on in December 2014)
by Allan MacRae, Dec 18, 2014

Reference: “Should We Celebrate Carbon Dioxide?”
by Patrick Moore, October 15, 2015

Excerpted from:
CO2, Global Warming, Climate And Energy
by Allan M.R. MacRae, B.A.Sc., M.Eng., June 15, 2019

Reply to  Phil Rae
November 20, 2019 4:20 am

“It just doesn’t make any sense at all.”
It does if you sell windmills or sell solar panels. Of course those purvayers of junk don’t like to talk about the need for 100% backup or its cost.

That they are not really interested in CO2 reduction is pretty much proven by their opposition to the ONLY cost effective alternative to fossil fuels: nuclear.

Farmer Ch E retired
Reply to  jim K
November 21, 2019 9:30 am

“Producing electricity in a climate-friendly brings huge benefits for our health – mainly due to a reduction of air pollution from combusting fuels.”

This is true if you ignore the downside health effects induced by more expensive energy (which translates to “more expensive everything else” including home heating and medical care), open pit mining, damage to nature (by replacing foliage, birds, and bats with solar panels, wind turbines, and elaborate transmission systems), etc. The unintended consequence is to benefit the wealthy at the expense of the taxpayer and nature.

Charles Higley
Reply to  Phil Rae
November 20, 2019 5:54 am

They specifically do not list the cons of wind, solar, biofuels, carbon capture. Let us count the ways.
1. Both technologies require rare metals and minerals of which there are not enough to do what they want and the related mining is environmentally and humanly damaging.
2. Both technologies take up much more land than carbon or nuclear power.
3. Both technologies require an intensive infrastructure and much more materials than carbon or nuclear..
4. Both technologies require consistent maintenance of widespread equipment. Offshore wind is particularly a challenge and often requires placing turbines rather far from the end user.
5. Both technologies produce diluted electrical energy, not the high voltage, quality energy needed for industry.
6. Both technologies do not work when the wind dies and the sun sets, respectively.
7. Solar is not useful in the high latitudes as panels cost more than they produce over their lifetime.
8. Wind turbines are placed where it is windy and more turbines mean placing them in less favorable sites.
9. Solar panels and turbines have relatively shortly lifetimes. 12-15 years, which is short compared to carbon and nuclear.
10. Solar panels lose efficiency over time and thus would require even more panels to maintain output.
11. Wind turbines suffer front blade edge erosion, which along with any surface dirt, decreases efficiency greatly.
12. Both technologies include lots of materials that cannot be recycled, such that with their short lifetimes, we will quickly be buried in related trash, lots of it.
13. Wind turbines approach their best efficiency when the blades are moving so fast that they have to be decelerated to lower speeds to save the equipment.
14. Wind turbines need to be heated during periods of cold air and no wind, placing a drain on already low electricity production as they are not working.
15. Solar panels have been found to leak heavy metals as they age.
16. Solar panels are seriously fragile in the face of storms and heavy weather and leak heavy metals to the environment and also need to be cleaned of snow, ice, leaves, and dust almost everyday to remain efficient.
17. Solar thermal, also only useful in daytime, requires lots of land, lots of technology, a very sunny region, and lots of water, which creates water demands on water usually used for agriculture in that sunny region. Storing energy for night-time has not been feasible.
18. Storing generated energy creates demands for batteries for which the composite elements are not readily available and even in short supply in toto. There is no known way to store enough energy to form a useful backup for a blackout event of even one day, let alone a few days.
19. During major cold events, these high pressure systems are windless and snowy, such that wind and solar are not going to save any lives, but cause death instead through lack of power.
20. Biofuels are broken window economy, and emit more CO2 than they consume. It is a waste of land, time, and resources to pursue biofuels.
21. Carbon capture and storage is just plain stupid. CO2 is plant food and cannot warm the climate.

This list does not even begin to address the environmental and health issues with these energy plans. There are loads of problems, from wind turbines wiping insects, bats, and birds out of the air and the infrasound and shadow effects on human health, to creating areas of unusable land in solar farms and related heavy metal leakage, solar thermal frying birds in the air, to demanding arable land for biofuels instead of food and all of the related equipment for the involved farming and processing.

Nuclear and carbon energy have well-defined limited footprints and do not require advance technology that involve mountains of rare, thus unsustainable, elements and non-recyclable materials. They can also be placed, and are already placed, close to the areas for which the energy is generated.

All efforts to decrease CO2 emissions are patently wrong and a waste of time, money, resources, and land. Their initial premise that we have to decrease emissions is fatally flawed, so everything after it is either wrong or misguided or unnecessary. Attributions of damage to human health only apply in countries that have not upgraded to current anti-pollution technology. We should be helping them get there.

Reply to  Charles Higley
November 20, 2019 6:17 am


““When looking at the big picture – from the direct emissions of power installations, to the mining of minerals and fuels for their construction and operation, to the lands necessary for the energy supply infrastructure – we found that the best bet for both people and environment is to rely mainly on wind and solar power,” Gunnar Luderer explains.”

Another utterly delusional ignoramus bloviating falsehoods.

The entire claim is dependent upon his false strawman premise.

Mark Luhmwn
Reply to  Charles Higley
November 21, 2019 5:34 pm

“Solar is not useful in the high latitudes as panels cost more than they produce over their lifetime.” I think the truth of the mater they cost more in energy consumption to produce that they will every recover no mater where you put them.

Patrick Healy
Reply to  Phil Rae
November 20, 2019 8:26 am

Come on Mr Rae,
It was never supposed to “make sense”.
You cannot retool the world’s political system into a Marxists utopia by making sense.

Reply to  Patrick Healy
November 21, 2019 5:43 am

Marxism made simple! For examples, consider current political cesspools Zimbabwe and Venezuela – and there are ~100 similar failing leftist states.

The fearless leaders are Groucho Marxists – they want power for its own sake at any cost, and typically are sociopaths or psychopaths. The great killers of the 20th Century, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, etc. were of this odious ilk – first they get power, then they implement their crazy schemes that do not work and too often kill everyone who opposes them.

The followers are Harpo Marxists – the “sheeple” – these are people of less-than-average intelligence who are easily duped and follow the Groucho’s until it is too late, their rights are lost and their society destroyed. They are attracted to simplistic concepts that “feel good” but rarely “do good”, and politicians’ promises of “lots of free stuff”.

One can easily identify crypto-Marxists – they are Democrats, Liberals, Greens, Socialists, Labourites, and today’s self-styled “Progressives”.

Almost 100 countries are now descending into the Marxist cesspool. Apparently, the untimely deaths of over 200 million innocents in the 20th Century were not enough. Do we really have to do this all again?

The great American statistician and philosopher George Carlin explained the appeal of leftist politics as follows:

Carlin said: “Think of how stupid the average person is; and then realize half of them are stupider than that!”

November 20, 2019 2:22 am

I hope that this article from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Lunacy & Impacted Research will help keep people in touch with and informed about the thinking of the Enemy.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  nicholas tesdorf
November 20, 2019 6:29 am

Maybe they just need a good laxative.

November 20, 2019 2:26 am

You mean that wind and solar won’t be “devouring large areas at the cost of biodiversity, and by releasing pollutants to the environment” at least in the manufacture, installation, and maintenance processes? How does that work? Wishful thinking and unicorn breath? Typical Potsdam!

Steve Keohane
Reply to  Newminster
November 20, 2019 6:17 am

Exactly! This article is junk.

November 20, 2019 2:26 am

There is one and only one currently feasible path to zero carbon emissions. This is to replace all fossil fuels with nuclear.

The US currently uses the equivalent of about two and a half terawatts from fossil fuels.

A modern nuclear power plant puts out about a gigawatt.

So it would take about 2,500 nuclear power plants to replace US fossil fuel consumption.

These lunatics wish to “decarbonize” by 2050, that is to say, in thirty years.

To get decarbonization done by then, we’d have to get permits for, build, test, and commission new one-gigawatt nuclear power plants at the rate of ONE COMPLETE POWER PLANT EVERY FOUR DAYS FOR THE NEXT THIRTY YEARS!!

And don’t even get me started on how much solar and wind it would take to do it, not to mention the amount of land that would take, and even then we’d need nuclear for backup power …

This whole bogus “decarbonize by 2050” nonsense is a sick green fantasy. Permit, build, test, and commission one nuclear power plant every four days for thirty years?

Get real.


Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 20, 2019 2:57 am

Escaped feral circus-clowns don’t do math.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 20, 2019 3:07 am

Obviously you are unaware of the next generation of nuclear power – small modular reeactors that require little space, can be constructed in factories and require little site preparation and produce power more cheaply than typical fossil fuels (4 cents per MW hour) . Molten salt reactors, which are safer than any other means of power production , will commercialize within the next 7 years or so. The future is molten salt reactors – most every other country knows that and is racing to commercialize the technology.

Reply to  Col Mosby
November 20, 2019 3:46 am

MSR’s are fine but, are you going to be able to commission new MSR’s at a rate faster than 1 every 4 days (since we have to wait 7 years for commercialization)? If not, then it doesn’t much matter what tech you use, PWR, BWR, MSR… Nuclear is the only way to go if you are really interested in ‘decarbonizing’ the power grid, regardless of the nuke tech used (unless some benevolent aliens want to transfer some new physics and tech to uplift us out of our squalid, barbaric existence). 😉

Besides, if it isn’t wind and/or solar, the Watermelons will oppose it.

Charles Higley
Reply to  SMC
November 20, 2019 6:02 am

Actually, they are working on a modular nuclear reactor design in the UK that allows the reactors to be manufactured in a factory and then the desired number of modules installed at the power plant. More can be added as demand increases. Building the colossal nuclear power plants that we have been doing is not a wise way to do it. I believe the French have also been using relatively small nuclear reactors, which are cheaper and easier to build.

Reply to  Col Mosby
November 20, 2019 4:49 am

You may be right. On the other hand, as far as I can tell, the first commercial versions are due next year in Russia and China. link I won’t believe anything until I see the promises delivered.

Reply to  commieBob
November 20, 2019 6:53 am

Yes likely, but others are working on it too. So this is encouraging.

Major molten salt nuclear fuel test completed

Molten salt irradiation test completed at Petten

As I’ve read, Oak Ridge is also currently working on a similar project.

Reply to  Col Mosby
November 20, 2019 6:19 am

They’ve been discussed and discarded.

When they are welcomed by the bureaucracy, let us know.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 20, 2019 3:21 am

Pentagon Considers Shift To Nuclear Power For Air Force, Army Bases

At the beginning of next year, the U.S. Defense Department will embark on a four-year experiment. Nuclear reactors have reliably driven aircraft carriers and submarines for 60 years, and the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) now wants to find out if the concept could be expanded to Air Force and Army bases on land.

Reply to  rovingbroker
November 20, 2019 9:00 am

That’s daft.

They are already efficiently and cheaply powering them with solar panels.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  griff
November 20, 2019 4:28 pm

You’re daft. When an entity (DoD) gets funding from an infinite source (US taxpayer + debt) real costs don’t matter. Or maybe they do, otherwise they wouldn’t be looking into it.

Michael S. Kelly LS, BSA Ret.
Reply to  rovingbroker
November 20, 2019 5:16 pm

The original molten salt reactor at Oak Ridge was built as part of the nuclear-powered aircraft program of the 1950s. That program draws lots of snarky derision when discussed these days, with people asserting that there was no way to fly an aircraft emitting so much radiation. The same snark accompanies discussion of nuclear powered manned spacecraft, propelled by the NERVA engine.

Yet we’ve had 60 years experience with the nuclear navy, running submarines and aircraft carriers powered by nuclear reactors just a few feet away from, for example, crew berths in Ohio class submarines. How is it that hundreds of nuclear ships and submarines have logged thousands of years operation without any radiation effects among crews, but we can’t figure out how to do the same thing with either aircraft or spacecraft?

Jon Jewett
Reply to  rovingbroker
November 21, 2019 7:43 pm

The Army tried that. They designed a small reactor that used dirt for shielding. It could be flown to a remote location and assembled. It used dirt for shielding, reducing the weight to be transported.

They did have a problem, though. One you probably never heard of.
for more detail

Urban legend has it that one man on the crew was having a relationship with the wife of the man who pulled the rod out the 20″. There is some speculation that it could have been murder/suicide as the technicians should have been aware of the possibilities of that action. The reactor had been refueled and was filled with cold water making it the most reactive possible condition. It has been said that the reactor vessel holds the world high jump record.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 20, 2019 3:26 am

Nuclear?? Only but fossil fuel also powers cars, busses tractors, aeroplanes etc? Decarbonize is a complete fraud anyway.

Reply to  John
November 20, 2019 4:25 am

“Only but fossil fuel also powers cars, busses tractors, aeroplanes etc?”
One can make liquid fuels from carbon and hydrogen + ENERGY.
Hitler ran 1/2 of his war machine on fuel made from coal.
Sasol is making fuel from coal. Also from natural gas.
It is a small step to use the same processes starting with hydrogen from water. Carbon can come from the air given enough energy.

Jan de Jong
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 20, 2019 3:47 am

The most realistic nuclear effort in the short run is the one by Thorcon, I believe.
They have a solid plan to build 250MW reactors at 1 $/W (installation cost) in ship yards, semi-supertanker size. Mass production projected in 8 years or so.
Building on the calculation above, the US would need 10,000 of such semi-supertankers built in 30 years, 333 per year. A warlike effort, and for 30 years. Unnecessary but maybe not impossible.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 20, 2019 4:27 am

Willis the correct response is I can’t see how this works, can you do it on your country so we can copy your template.

ferd berple
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 20, 2019 4:54 am

power plant every four days for thirty years
Not to mention the capital costs. In effect our children and grandchildren will have to be sold into slavery to pay for this. And for not zero benefit.

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 20, 2019 6:31 am

Nuclear? Pfft! Anti-matter!

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 20, 2019 11:46 am

Actually worse than that. Unless you want to extensively modify the grid to combine smaller electric plants, you need to replace each fossil-fueled plant in situ. There are about 9700 power plants in the US. Subtracting hydro- and nuclear plants leaves about 7200 plants. Replacing a facility at each of 7200 sites requires turning up a new facility every 1.5 days for the next 30 years.

Regardless, it is absurd to consider.

Some people have a poor grasp at understanding the scale of some things. I remarked to one person that EVs can’t begin to challenge ICE cars until there is a dense network of fast-charging points. His claim was that they were already all over the country. So I looked at his map. There are five charging points between Atlanta and Orlando on I-75. Considering the heavy traffic on that route, and the hundreds of gas stations serving it, I could only shake my head.

Mark Luhman
Reply to  jtom
November 21, 2019 5:42 pm

Try driving an electric vehical from Arizona to North Dakota using the west slope, that’s through or near eastern Utah and Western Colorado and the East side of Wyoming the either Easter Montana or Western South Dakota, Good luck with that, Harding County in western South Dakota has a population density of .5 per square mile and not a lot of gas pumps.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 20, 2019 1:07 pm

Interesting numbers you bring in here Willis. You show that to eliminate all carbon emissions in just 20 years is not possible.

However, the headline in this article is about decarbonizing the power sector only, and that is doable. The total electricity production is 4 350 TWh annually, this is similar to an average power production of 500 GigaWatt.

Thus,the US need approximately 500, one GW nuclear reactors to get carbon free, and pollution free, electricity.


William Astley
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
November 20, 2019 1:24 pm

All of our beliefs concerning fission power (cost, safety, time to construct, fuel efficiency, and so on) are based the 1945 design, water cooled, pressurized, fuel rod reactors that can melt down and exploded which makes them expensive to build and operate.

Fuel rod reactors can and do leak radiation as their fuel rods can crack releasing up to two years of radioactive gas and leak water soluble cesium and iodine.

There are 50,000 fuel rods in a typical pressure water reactor, a third of which must be removed and replaced every year just before the fuel rod cracks.

We are sitting on a civilization changing fission nuclear power design. That does not make sense. It does not make sense that we hide civilization changing breakthroughs. Every decision is political and money drives politics.

The civilization changing fission reactor design is the solution to the fake CAGW problem and will effectively and drastically reduce human CO2 emission with no downside.

The new fail safe reactor (that was built and tested 50 years ago) can be mass produced with an optimum output of 660 MWA and no practical limit of number of units.

The waterless, liquid fuel reactor can compete on cost (installation and operating) with the cheapest hydrocarbon alternative and all green alternatives.

We have a fission reactor design that operates at atmospheric pressure and produces heat at 600C and that is six times more fuel efficient and that can be mass produced as compared to a pressure water reactor. The no fuel rod reactor is sealed so it is possible to near zero radiation leakage and risk of leakage over the lifetime of the reactor lifetime which is seven years limited by its graphite core. At the end of 7 years the small reactor vessel is drained and replaced with a new reactor, so there is zero dismantling costs and the reactor is always new.

As there is no containment building and no catastrophic failures the no fuel rod, liquid fuel reactor building can be constructed in 4 years.

Reply to  William Astley
November 20, 2019 9:47 pm

Sounds a little bit “too good to be true” to me. You are talking about the molten salt breeder reactor where the fuel is dissolved in the liquid, right?

I agree that it is probably the safest and best reactor concept available, but so far it has been tried a couple of places around the world, but have never been a success. So perhaps we should lower the hype a little.

November 20, 2019 2:33 am

The PIK Potsdam is a more or less a ridiculous institution- with much political influence – simply lobbying for renewbles. We call them “potsdämlich”. During hearings in the German “Bundestag” they were not able to describe a CO2 molecule and spread the hilarious idea, that CO2 is – based on its triangular physical form like a rooftop – warming the earth. Thes guys are really not very familiar with climate issues except demanding a higher price for CO2. They also stated in this hearing that the average temperature in 1850 was 15 degrees Celsius and could not explain the rise of temperature since then – no wonder: Today the average temperature is 14.8 degrees.
One of their geniuses predicted that Germany will be flooded in 2040. Climate alarmism is their business model.

Carl Friis-Hansen
Reply to  Dr.E.Höfler
November 20, 2019 7:08 am

Are the Bundestag hearings recorded? I would love to listen to this stupidity while having a beer.

November 20, 2019 2:54 am

Don’t fall for the ideological bait. The correct response is, “Why would someone be so stupid as to want to ‘decarbonise’ anything, let alone an energy sector?”

It’s barking mad. The objective is as unnecessary as the proposal is insane. These people need to be parodied and howled-down for their extraordinary ignorance, and time and money-wasting utter stupidity. Why are these people not in a padded-room already is the appropriate question to demand some answers to? Who gave these over-rated circus-clowns these positions and allowed them to publish such loony drivel?

Jonathan Ranes
Reply to  WXcycles
November 20, 2019 5:20 am

This is my sentiment, excel energy in Denver runs a commercial every minute about their glorious path to carbon free energy. I really think they are just letting us know that Colorado has fallen, because for an energy company to believe they are going to make zero carbon energy they have to be trolling right? They can’t be that dumb??

Reply to  WXcycles
November 20, 2019 5:27 am

Yep. The insanity of the word salad is beyond me

Reply to  WXcycles
November 20, 2019 7:29 am

Carbon guilt forms the basis of post-modern usury. In other words, all men by nature are guilty, and therefore owe interest on their debt via carbon tax.

November 20, 2019 3:12 am

How one can ignore the obvious ftuture of power production – small modular molten salt nuclear reactors fueled by either spent uranium or Thorium, stretches credulity to the breaking point. They are only cheaper, easilly constructed in factories and installed practically on any site with minimal preparation, safer than any other energy technology, etc etc Don’t these energy experts know anyhting about future technologies?

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Col Mosby
November 20, 2019 6:34 am

When I can fuel my car with garbage, then i’ll be convinced.

Reply to  Col Mosby
November 20, 2019 8:19 am

How can one ignore the obvious future? Because only irrational people believe the future can be predicted.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  Col Mosby
November 20, 2019 1:45 pm

Col Mosby:

A reference to recent events depicting forward progress with MSRs would be appreciated, to supplement the copious and extravagant claims you post.

I remember years ago when ISDN was a sure-fire coming thing. The phone company claimed ISDN stood for “Integrated Digital Services Network”, but those of us on the receiving end of the hype soon started using alternate definitions: “It Still Does Nothing”, “I Still Don’t kNow”, “It Sounds Darn Neat”, “I Seek Dollars Now”, etc.

In this vein, when I hear empty promises such as you offer, I think “MSR” stands for “Maybe Someday Reality”.

Seriously: don’t claim a given future is assured without a lot more practical experience than we have so far with Thorium molten salt reactors. I’d love it if true, but if wishes were horses even beggars would ride.

November 20, 2019 3:19 am

I didn’t see any mention of nuclear power, the one form of generation that, because of the very very high energy density of the fuel, needs very little land per TWh generated (and its life is 60 years, not the 20 years of wind and the 30 years of solar)

November 20, 2019 3:25 am

“The international community has agreed to limit global warming to well below 2C, and to reach net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions neutrality in the second half of the twenty-first century1. Electricity supply is the single most important emissions source sector, accounting for around 40% of global energy-related CO2 emissions. It also offers the largest low-cost potential for emissions reductions, and thus cost-optimal strategies for keeping global warming to below 2C ”

Before we undertake a costly and uncertain power supply revamp, it must be shown that the emission reduction thus achieved will have the desired effect of reducing the rate of warming.

Three links below …

Reply to  chaamjamal
November 20, 2019 5:30 am

What warming? Grand solar minimum coming.

Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
November 20, 2019 7:49 am

Up here in northeastern BC, we just had the coolest summer in ten years, almost double the July rainfall of any of the previous 9 years, and only 22 sunny days total during June, July, and August. Could the solar grand minimum already be here?

Reply to  PeterT
November 20, 2019 9:31 am

We had the coldest year so far in living memory. Coldest February, Coldest Winter, Coldest Spring, Coldest Summer, Coldest Fall.

Reply to  PeterT
November 20, 2019 11:20 am

Better ask Zharkova et al. 2020 at the earliest AFAIK.

Roger Knights
Reply to  chaamjamal
November 20, 2019 9:25 am

““The international community has agreed to limit global warming …”

Three-quarters of the international community has agreed that the other quarter should do all the limiting.

Reply to  Roger Knights
November 20, 2019 11:28 am

Roger Knights

Brilliant Comment

Mark Luhman
Reply to  chaamjamal
November 21, 2019 5:51 pm

Yep the world is bordering on hypothermic not hyperthermia, we are to cold not to warm. The snake oil salesmen have lied to us long enough.

Emily Daniels
November 20, 2019 3:31 am

How delusional are these people? I would bet that they didn’t include the 20-30% efficiency of wind and solar or the fact that the amount of energy available isn’t the same in every location into their analysis. And they obviously didn’t consider the intermittency problem.

Bruce Ploetz
November 20, 2019 4:10 am

Their analysis fails to factor in the health benefits of widespread starvation.

Just decarbonize the transportation industry. After the huge concentrated populations in the centralized hives die off, we can go back to locally produced food supplies. Too bad if you want a banana, but who likes United Fruit anyway?

With a population closer to the levels of the 1800s we could successfully return to the gloriously decarbonized antebellum era. No need for massive wind farms, most of the population will go back to labor intensive food production. Horse-drawn hoes and planters don’t need electricity at all. Think of all the natural fertilizer!


November 20, 2019 4:12 am

“Land is a finite resource on our planet. Given the growing world population with a hunger for both electricity and for food, pressures on the land and food systems will increase, too.”

But we can waste the space for wind and solar.

Andy Mansell
Reply to  lee
November 20, 2019 6:40 am

They’ve been using this argument as far back as I can remember, certainly in the 60s. By their reasoning, we should have died out years ago, or not even been born! Somehow, human ingenuity solves the problems time and again.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  Andy Mansell
November 20, 2019 9:24 am

Yes, and does it every time through the application of reliable, inexpensive energy, without which modern human existence couldn’t be sustained.

Paul Stevens
November 20, 2019 4:12 am

Clearly these folks are all in on the PM 2.5 mortality rates as claimed by the EPA. There is no other way to project 80% lower impact on health because of combustion pollution.

Reply to  Paul Stevens
November 20, 2019 5:36 am

In other words, they’re lying.

Reply to  Chaswarnertoo
November 20, 2019 10:07 am

Why don’t we see people dying of PM2.5 if it is as dangerous as they claim?

Roger Knights
Reply to  Paul Stevens
November 20, 2019 9:28 am

“Clearly these folks are all in on the PM 2.5 mortality rates as claimed by the EPA.”

How can those EPA numbers account for the failure of mortality rates to drop, AFAIK, in conjunction with the drop in auto-particulate emissions in the past 20-plus years?

November 20, 2019 4:21 am

More attribution statistics mirthness, I can only thank the lord that Nick Stokes wasn’t around when this trash started getting pushed as science. It’s a horrible virus from marketing that has made it’s way into medicine and now crawls like the disease it is into other fields.

Can you guess why this trash is being peddled right now? ….. COP25

World Health Organization (WHO) has a whole presentation in which it is going to try to backdoor the gutting of human rights from the Paris agreement at COP24 by sliding in a right for humans to have health outcome expectations 🙂

Even the politicians aren’t that stupid and it is going to get a funnier death than the special report got at COP24. The UN and WHO are going to need divine intervention to make this dead turkey fly, I hope they are flying in the Pope.

The UN, WHO and all SJW’s may think that telling people that they will live 30 days longer if only they use renewables and it will save thousands of children from there Climate Change induced trauma is a winner.
For the rest of us watching this whole thing get shredded at COP25 will be climate comedy at it’s finest …. HOW DARE YOU.

Bruce James Russell
November 20, 2019 4:31 am

Fossil fuels are the power behind the most dramatic lifespan increases in history.

Reply to  Bruce James Russell
November 20, 2019 7:56 am

And not just lifespan increase, but also life enjoyment as well. I mean, seriously, how can playing video games in A/C controlled environments be compared with hoeing/harvesting tobacco in brutal southern heat/humidity conditions after school hours and during summer breaks, which some of my former co-workers spent their youths doing?

Private Citizen
November 20, 2019 4:31 am

Scew decarbonization. We want clean air. Replacing hydrocarbon fuels is a good idea to remove acidifying gasses, smoke and toxic particulates from our breathing zone. Exhaust free vehicles and heating systems made good sense until some idiots tried to make fossil fuel emissions a friend of climate-change skeptics.

As for miseducated ideas that nuclear is needed to supplement renewables, that is nuclear industry propaganda. The nuclear fuel cycle is a major polluter, period. We got a lot of open land and sea area. I would rather have wind and solar farms than build the 25,000 new nuclear reactors needed to replace the world’s fossil fuels’ supplied energy demand for the next 25 years. You can’t afford nuclear power anyway, it’s more expensive per watt than any other form of energy.

Global warming is a nuclear energy industry gag.

Reply to  Private Citizen
November 20, 2019 5:45 am

Very funny. Or were you actually seriously? Do the math. Moron.

Reply to  Private Citizen
November 20, 2019 5:45 am

Very funny. Or were you actually serious? Do the math. Moron.

Rick C PE
Reply to  Private Citizen
November 20, 2019 9:47 am

PC: Perhaps you are math challenged so let me help you out. Instead of Willis’s nuke plant every 4 days for 30 years we could do 69,000 4 MW wind turbines every year for 30 years. Well not quite — in 20 years we’d have to double that to replace the failing 20 year old ones so that would be 138,000/year. And we’d better get started immediately building the new steel mills, cement plants, iron mines, limestone quarries and fossil fueled power plants that will be required to produce all these turbines, foundations, towers and transmission lines. By the way the entire current US wind turbine fleet is 58,000 turbines with most significantly less than 4 MW.

If you think this is remotely possible technically, politically or economically you’re dreaming in color.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
Reply to  Rick C PE
November 20, 2019 2:06 pm

“We” in the context of Willis’ calculations is just the US, and our energy use is relatively flat (although a very large base value). Most energy growth in the next 20 years will be coming from the non-OECD countries, lead by China and India.

According to consensus IPCC science, declared “settled” by 97% of climate scientists, each molecule of CO2 emitted anywhere in the world has precisely the same contribution to world climate disaster as any other molecule. Which means de-carbonizing US electrical production achieves nothing if it is more than balanced by emissions growth elsewhere.

You you have to at least double the numbers for new carbon-free power generation to actually see an actual emission reduction from the power sector.

As I’ve noted previously, if their solutions to climate change are this far divorced from engineering reality, we’d be foolish to assume their perception of the problem could not be equally faulty.

Bruce Cobb
November 20, 2019 4:33 am

“A main winner of decarbonisation is human health: switching to renewables-based electricity production could cut negative health impacts by up to 80 per cent. This is mainly due to a reduction of air pollution from combusting fuels.”

Notice the change in tactic here, with another big whopper of a lie. They just can’t stop lying.

Andy Mansell
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
November 20, 2019 6:45 am

Notice the change in tactic here, with another big whopper of a lie.

The above comment has got me lusting after a Whopper from BK… fact stuff it, I’m off for one now…

November 20, 2019 4:40 am

As a farmer, is there anyone I can sue for reducing my access to naturally occurring CO2 plant food?

steve case
Reply to  dunc
November 20, 2019 4:48 am

dunc November 20, 2019 at 4:40 am
As a farmer, is there anyone I can sue for reducing my access to naturally occurring CO2 plant food?

Wow! Best post I’ve seen on the “What should we do?” question.

Maybe Al Gore should be sued after all his Inconvenient Truth opus was full of lies, misdirection and plain old bullshit.

Jeff gold
November 20, 2019 4:40 am

Anything is possible if you dont know what you’re talking about , as proven by the crackpotsdam institute .

Ed Zuiderwijk
November 20, 2019 4:56 am

The Potsdam Institute is Climate Change Central of Germany, if not of Europe. Just ignore what comes out of it.

Ed Zuiderwijk
November 20, 2019 5:10 am

Except for nuclear, fossil fuels have the highest energy density of all carriers. Electric planes are a laughable non-starter. Planes running on biofuel maybe not. Therefore I have a proposition:

In a world without fossil fuels we would have invented synthetic fuels because any engineer would immediate recognise their superior qualities in a myriad of applications. And when the fossil fuels really run out, in 5 centuries or so, than we will be making synthetics using nuclear as primary energy source.

This whole decarbonisation idea is just a wet dream of some ignorant eco loons that will never happen.

old white guy
November 20, 2019 5:59 am

Ignoring the fact that you cannot decarbonize anything.

Russ Wood
Reply to  old white guy
November 24, 2019 7:17 am

But didn’t you know? A couple of years ago there was an advert for “CARBON-FREE SUGAR”. Now, seeing that the basic sucrose molecule is C12 H22 O11 , then removal of Carbon leaves only H2 and O. Ahhgh! The dreaded DiHydrogen Monoxide!

Jeff Alberts
November 20, 2019 6:21 am

“Electricity supply is one of the biggest CO2 emitters globally. To keep global warming well below 2°C, several paths lead to zero emissions in the energy sector”

When they start off with a fairy tale, there’s no need to read further.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
November 20, 2019 10:27 am

Have they equated Electricity and the Energy Sector?

Bruce Cobb
November 20, 2019 6:22 am

The good news (bad news for the decarbonistas): coal production is on track to be nearly 3x what the doomcoughs think should be the level required to keep the projected temp. increase to 1.5C. Overall, fossil fuel production is on track to be 120% of the level they believe is required. Oh, there will be plenty of verbal diarrhea produced at COP25, including handwringing and finger-pointing, about how “we” must do better, and how “we” must all pull together, and blah blah blahbidy-blah, but it is all a complete sham. They have already lost the “war on carbon”, hard as they try to convey otherwise.

More here:

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
November 20, 2019 6:40 am


I see what you did there! 🙂

November 20, 2019 7:19 am

The goal isn’t decarbonization. It’s control and ration of the worlds life blood, and as such control of humanity.

That’s the end game. The rest is just the means to get to the final destination.

There will always be fossil fuels in great abundance. Just not for the proletariat.

Joel O’Bryan
November 20, 2019 7:32 am

They show that relying mainly on wind and solar would bring most co-benefits for the health of people and planet.

I wonder how healthy it is to sit in the dark, in a cold house in winter after the wind stops blowing? I doubt they modelled that no electricity scenario impact on human health. And did they model impacts to human health when the electricity becomes so expensive that the elderly on fixed incomes can’t afford heat in the winter?

I have no doubt based on the starting assumptions they used, their results put solar and wind at the top. Sort of a predetermined conclusion. But I doubt these PIK geniuses went the Sweden route of high % nuclear power. And solar in Northern and Central Europe is about as useless and costly a power source as can be had. You gotta make some very dubious assumptions, Mark Jacobson style, to make wind and solar appear workable. Bad assumptions like a 1000 years production quantity of batteries will just magically appear, and no wind conditions at one wind farm doesn’t simultaneously occur at adjacent wind farms. And that when its all done electricity is so expensive it bankrupts the country trying to subsidize it. The result being of course electricity rationing.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
November 20, 2019 9:02 am

There is plenty of solar in northern Germany and northern UK.

You forget that in the summer there are long, long hours of daylight and even in winter in Scotland solar provides some power… you will of course have noted that in winter northern parts are well supplied with wind.

Reply to  griff
November 20, 2019 8:33 pm

Tell me griff, do you use solar and wind as your sole electron generation source?

Btw those are not ‘de-carbonized’, no pat on the head for you, if you use them you are very naughty and should desist forthwith, now go down to K-Mart and buy a magic wand, you’ll need it if you want a warm dinner again.

(And I’m curious what Greta’s eating … 6 or so hard-core vegans … in a small enclosed boat cabin … eating nuts and vegetables and legumes … for weeks … do the math … when you spend weeks at sea your sense of smell becomes very sensitive … not good.)

Reply to  griff
November 21, 2019 12:53 am

And you almost forgot that in the time when the vast majority of solar capacity additions occurred, German CO2 (2009-2015 – capacity quadrupled adding 30GW), emissions from the grid were flat according to clean energy wire.

I suspect you are a solar fan rather than a de-carbonisation fan.

Reply to  griff
November 22, 2019 4:28 am

Yes, Griff, but there’s not much demand for domestic summer air-conditioning anywhere in the UK, whereas there’s massive demand for winter domestic heating, especially when people are home from work after sunset. Our domestic energy demand is extremely unbalanced winter/summer and our leaders, in their wisdom, want to replace the current winter heating based on gas, which is flexible and storable, with renewable electricity, which is neither.

November 20, 2019 7:48 am

“The international community has agreed to limit global warming to well below 2C”

But those nuts have no clue where the climate knob is or even whether it exists in reality.

AGW is not Science
Reply to  Petit_Barde
November 20, 2019 12:19 pm

Ultimate hubris – the notions that (1) WE are suddenly in “control” of the climate and (2) that WE are responsible for any specific change that has occurred that is (a) measurable and (b) separable from natural variations, without identification of all of the natural forces acting upon the climate nor enough data of sufficient quality over a sufficient period of time to tell us much of anything but the causes of any but the “broadest brush” changes.

Joshua Peterson
November 20, 2019 8:00 am

As a carbon-based life form which emits oxygenated carbon as a matter of function, I fundamentally oppose and reject the concept of decarbonization. There’s only one way to achieve that, and it may involve nuclear, just not in any of the ways discussed.

November 20, 2019 8:20 am

It seems the psychosis is strong now…..

Coeur de Lion
November 20, 2019 10:01 am

Hey, guys, a ‘must read’ is the Global Warming Policy Foundation annual lecture by Prof David Kelly – an engineer – who shows conclusively that the decarbonisation of the UK is not possible to any timescale. One of his diagrams had a herd of unicorns filling a gap between reality and the decarbonisation future. But it’s not funny.

Reply to  Coeur de Lion
November 20, 2019 11:24 am

Bummer of a Surname in the UK, as an honest scientist…

Len Werner
November 20, 2019 10:19 am

Philosophical question: Do you suppose, in this universe, that a carbon-based life-form could evolve that is so effing stupid that it exterminates itself because it somehow comes to the conclusion that carbon is a pollutant?

Nah, just too crazy; never happen.

Steve Z
November 20, 2019 11:08 am

“A main winner of decarbonisation is human health”

What is the basis for this statement?

While it is true that the combustion of some carbon-based fuels (notably coal and heavy fuel oils) can result in emission of toxic pollutants, for power-generation purposes, advances in pollution control technology (scrubbers, baghouses, SCR for NOx removal, etc.) since the 1970’s have significantly reduced the emissions of pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, and particulates while power generation has increased. Natural gas is a carbon-based fuel, but produces very little air pollution that can affect human health.

The PIK’s conflating of carbon capture and storage and bio-energy into a single group masks a lot of differences. Carbon capture and storage from existing power plants basically uses 20 to 30% of the energy generated to compress CO2 and bury it underground. This doesn’t require much additional land use, but increases the amount of fuel required to generate the same amount of electricity, resulting in more rapid consumption of resources.

“Bio-energy” can include many vastly-different processes, not all of which consume a lot of land. It is true that trying to make ethanol from corn uses land that could otherwise be used for food production, and is a net energy loser.

But some “bio-energy” projects attempt to capture methane from livestock manure (mostly from pigs), and burn the methane to generate electricity. The net energy produced per acre is not very high, but the land is used for pork production anyway, so there is not much additional land use specifically for the generation of electricity. Similar projects attempt to capture methane from landfills, and they don’t consume additional land beyond what is already allocated for the landfill.

Still other projects convert animal fats and/or cooking grease to bio-diesel fuel, usually burned in trucks, not to generate electricity. The net cost of producing such fuel is currently higher than that of distilling and hydrotreating diesel fuel from crude oil, but such plants do not use much land, and the raw materials are usually waste products from slaughterhouses, butcher shops, or restaurants, which would otherwise be rotting in landfills, and emitting methane and/or CO2 to the atmosphere in the process.

By failing to distinguish the various bio-energy processes, and lumping them in with carbon capture and sequestration, the PIK analysis becomes worthless.

Bill S
November 20, 2019 12:08 pm

Three problems not addressed
1) No acknowledgement, much less solution, for the intermittency problem, No information or discussion of high capacity low cost storage of electricity when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine. No acknowledgement that no viable low cost high capacity storage solution exists today.
2) No acknowledgement of the increase in energy cost. Higher energy cost means a lower standard of living in advanced economies, and increased starvation for the Third World.
3) No acknowledgement of the vulnerability of power supply from windmills and solar panels to severe weather, ie hurricanes.

I live in the SE US. Hurricanes wreak havoc on the distribution system, but the generating capability of coal, oil, gas, and nuclear facilities remain intact. A hurricane in 2050 when we are 100% wind and solar will destroy the electrical generating capability of offshore and onshore windmill farms, solar farms, and roof top solar.

Currently, power is restored within a few days or a week or two at the most. Gas is available for transportation, so grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants are quickly replenished.

In the wonderful world of 2050, power from windmills and solar farms will not be restored for months if not years. Because all transportation in this brave new world is now electric under President AOC’s edict, replenishment of goods and delivery of services stops. Grocery stores go empty and people starve, and loot, and riot. Civilization in the affected areas comes to a halt.

4) The most promising response to Climate Change not considered is adaptation. The world has gone through great changes over the centuries, and on the whole mankind has successfully adapted.

Chris Hanley
November 20, 2019 12:26 pm

‘Electricity supply is one of the biggest CO2 emitters globally …
… A main winner of decarbonisation is human health …
… This is mainly due to a reduction of air pollution from combusting fuels’.

Notice how within a few paragraphs the article glides almost imperceptibly from CO2 emissions to air pollution, two completely separate and unrelated topics.

November 21, 2019 3:11 am

“Switching to carbon capture and storage in combination with fossil and biomass resources, in turn, is likely to convey significant environmental costs by devouring large areas at the cost of biodiversity, and by releasing pollutants to the environment.”

So again silly humans think they are in charge of the carbon cycle — no, fail.

If CCS were tried on a truly massive scale it would still fail!
Atmospheric CO2 levels are NOT the product of humans, it is a product of the biosphere. Attempting to reduce the atmospheric CO2 level to any significant degree would mean the partial pressure of CO2 with that of the oceans would alter causing more outgassing from the oceans (for the temperature they are at), and so nature (not humans) ensures the atmospheric CO2 level remains where it would have it and not were puny humans believe it should be.
The only way to prevent that is to massively cool the oceans so they retain more CO2 — now there’s a thought, eh?

Johann Wundersamer
November 27, 2019 11:46 am

Ask Greta pippilotta longstocking Thunberg.

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