Friday, July 11, 2014

Skeptics on Climate - Lovers of Nuclear

Subtitle: They Know Not What They Do

Reflecting on the 9th International Climate Change Convention earlier this week, there were many moments when I agreed with the words that were spoken, but there were also a few moments when I cringed.  I also muttered a few quiet words at times, such as "BS" or "Not true!."   I didn't quite do a Wilson and yell out YOU LIE!!!, but I did feel like I could have.  

The moments at issue were those when somebody at the microphone said something pro-nuclear energy.  I cannot recall who, nor the exact words.  What concerned me most was the obvious approval across the room, and it is a big room.  It comfortably held 600 people seated at round tables.  There was a smattering of applause.    I knew before the convention that many, if not most, climate skeptics are pro-nuclear.  I knew I would be in a small minority, perhaps a minority of one at the meetings.  

I remember thinking, if only they all knew what I know about nuclear power.  I wish I could convey to each one of them the truth about nuclear power, have them read and understand the many, many issues that show nuclear power is not economic, not safe, and will not ever be safe nor economic.   Instead, it appears they have blindly accepted the talking points from the nuclear advocates.  (a 30-part series on Truth About Nuclear Power begins at this link)

This is just a bit odd, because nuclear advocates have taken to cheering for nuclear because it emits no carbon dioxide - it is "carbon free power" in the latest incarnation of their talking points.  Yet, as climate change skeptics, why would anyone want a power source on that basis?  Surely, more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not harming the planet, so why use a source that produces zero carbon dioxide?  

One of the speakers mentioned that Germany's government is shutting down nuclear plants because, and I believe I have the quote correct, "Chancellor is afraid a tsunami will hit Germany."  That line drew laughter from the audience.    The Chancellor is well aware that a tsunami will not hit Germany - but she is also keenly aware (after Fukushima) that nuclear plants will meltdown with devastating consequences for any number of unforeseen circumstances.  In short, if the grid goes down for an extended period, and the backup generators fail, the nuclear plant and surrounding population are in a world of trouble. 

I have also read in other places the talking points that nuclear power is low-cost (it is not), see link, the fuel is readily available for thousands of years (it is not), the reactors are perfectly safe and new ones are much safer (they are not), see link,  nuclear power reduces dependence on foreign oil (not true, unless a country is actually burning oil for power, which almost no country does), nuclear plants use very small land area (true only in some cases, but not for those that built their own cooling lake such as South Texas Nuclear Project, and the land area does not consider the uranium mining and processing plants).    Few web sites mention the points raised by Professor Derek Abbott, that both uranium fuel, plus raw materials for the plants are limited and running out, and that suitable plant locations are few and getting fewer as more plants are built.   see link

Also, almost nobody mentions the huge consumption of cooling water in a nuclear plant - four times that of a comparable gas-fired combined cycle plant.   see link

I also read in other places that nuclear plants are highly reliable, yet I wonder if those people who repeat that talking point know the truth: nuclear plants shut down at a moment's notice and with great regularity.  Upon shutdown, the grid operator must somehow find 900 to 1200 MW of power rather quickly, as in a few minutes, or drop some load to balance the grid until the replacement power is humming.   These same pro-nuclear voices complain that wind power and solar power are both unreliable, that they must have "full-time backup" power.  Actually, every nuclear plant also must have 100 percent backup for the times when they shut down.  

I also read that nuclear plants "last for 60 years," which they do not.   see link

Finally, I read that alternative energy technology requires subsidies for their very existence, that no wind turbines and no solar power plants would be built absent these substantial subsidies.  I wonder, though, how many of these people making those subsidy claims are aware that nuclear plants also are heavily subsidized, that nuclear plants would not exist at all unless the government takes on the substantial liability of a major nuclear accident - a meltdown with radiation release that injures or kills people.  see link

Yes, I felt a bit sad at the ICCC9 when people were applauding the pro-nuclear power statements.  I suppose it is best to forgive them (for now), for they know not what they do.   Hopefully, I will be able to present to them the truth.  Whether they will follow the data and question the dogma from the nuclear industry, as they have done with climate science, is another matter.  

Roger E. Sowell, Esq. 
Marina del Rey, California


OmegaPaladin said...

While I am aware that you owe your living to natural gas and oil processing and refining, people who are not thus indebted to the industry are free to consider the advantages of nuclear energy as a component of our energy strategy. I'm familiar with your list of a dozen articles complaining that nuclear is not exactly like natural gas, which you have made the gold standard for fuels.

Also, I'd figure you would be busy helping to keep oil refineries from exploding and natural gas power plants from igniting to complain about the safety of nuclear energy.

Roger Sowell said...

O. Paladin writes a very interesting comment. The implication is that I am biased, due to indebtedness to nuclear power's competitor, natural gas. Surely O.P. does not consider oil a competitor, for if he did he would be very wrong. Oil does not generate much power in the world these days. I am not indebted to any entity nor industry, as any exchange I made in the past was fairly compensated, work for cash. O.P. also implies that I do not know of any advantages of nuclear power. Yet I do know the industry talking points, that the variable costs are low, and they provide somewhat-reliable baseload power. Beyond that, I do not agree that nuclear fission power has any advantages. O.P. then makes the mistake of assuming that I favor natural gas-fired power as the "gold standard," but my preferred power source is renewable with storage. My blog has many such references. Hydroelectric with pumped storage, wind with storage, solar with storage, and geothermal which needs no storage all are preferable. O.P. then attacks using ad hominem, a classy move. Oil refineries seldom explode, and natural gas plants seldom ignite. The benefits provided by petroleum are irreplaceable in modern society - we simply cannot do without oil refineries. And yes, I do strive to make the refining and natural gas processes safer.

Thank you, O.P., for articulating the pro-nuclear viewpoint so very well. It is instructive that you made no argument against any of the hundreds of factual points I made in my more than 5 dozen articles on nuclear power. Perhaps you truly have no arguments to make, and resort therefore to attacking the person.