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Sachs’ WSJ Challenge

Filed under: — gavin @ 19 September 2006

Jeffery Sachs of the Columbia Earth Institute has an excellent commentary in Scientific American this month on the disconnect between the Wall Street Journal editorial board and their own reporters (and the rest of the world) when it comes to climate change. He challenges them to truly follow their interest in an “open-minded search for scientific knowledge” by meeting with the “world’s leading climate scientists and to include in that meeting any climate-skeptic scientists that that the Journal editorial board would like to invite”.

RealClimate heartily endorses such an approach and, while we leave it to others to judge who the ‘world leading’ authorities are, we’d certaintly be willing to chip in if asked. To those who would decry this as a waste of time, we would point to The Economist who recently produced a very sensible special on global warming and proposed a number of economically viable ways to tackle it, despite having been reflexively denialist not that many years ago. If the Economist can rise to the challenge, maybe there is hope for the Wall Street Journal….


286 Responses to “Sachs’ WSJ Challenge”

  1. 151
    SecularAnimist says:

    I off-topically belabor the nuclear power question because I think it is very important.

    In my view, apart from the well documented problems, dangers and risks of nuclear technology, nuclear electricity generation has little value in reducing GHG emissions, and offers that little value at enormous cost. Thus any large scale investment — and it would necessarily be a large scale, and long term, investment — in a nuclear buildup would be a tragic misdirection of resources, sucking investment out of other alternative energy and efficiency technologies that have a lot more to offer, without all the problems of nuclear power.

    Recommended reading:

    Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer
    by Helen Caldicott

    Publishers Weekly review (from Amazon.com):

    Caldecott’s latest antinuke book searingly debunks the claim that the impending “nuclear power renaissance,” purported by some to be the only answer to global warming, is “clean and green.” She covers all the bases, from the carbon emitted in the creation of nuclear power (higher than fossil fuels if the entire process from uranium mining to waste disposal is included) to the cost of nuclear plants (too high to be viable without large government subsidies) and the health risks and possibility of accidents and terrorists’ access (more than we’d like to think). She also points out that, despite proponents’ assurances, we still haven’t found a safe place to store the waste materials for the necessary thousands of years, and that state-of-the-art nuclear plant technology is still full of unresolved problems. Caldecott’s predictable alternative is also sensible: switch to wind and other benign renewables, turn down the thermostat, wear a sweater, use energy efficient lights and dry clothes on the clothesline. Detractors will complain that she is strident and incendiary, but those who believe that facts matter will want to read her frighteningly convincing argument.

  2. 152
    Doug Clover says:

    I am sorry this is off the topic but I have just download the CEI’s critque of An Inconvenient Truth. A NZ denalist group have referred to it glowingly.

    It is the usual mixture of old out of date arguments, cherry picking and quote mining. However first up they are (mis)using Realclimate as a source to justify the old water vapour argument. Here is the extract:

    Comment: Water vapor, not carbon dioxide (CO2), is the most important greenhouse gas. Computing the exact contribution of each type of greenhouse gas to the overall greenhouse effect is complicated, because the gases â??overlapâ?? in some of the spectra in which they absorb infrared radiation. Taking the overlaps into account, RealClimate.Org concludes that â??water vapor is the single most important absorber (between 36% and
    66% of the greenhouse effect), and together with clouds makes up between 66% and 85%. CO2 alone makes up between 9 and 26%, while the O3 and the other minor GHG absorbers consist of up to 7 and 8% of the effect, respectively.”

    I went looking for the bit where Realclimate talked about the importance of understanding the difference between reactive and forcing gases but it was not there.

    Here is the 5MB PDF for those of you who want to experience deja vu all over again http://www.cei.org/pdf/5478.pdf

    Not sure anything can be done about this possibly for Realclimate to request a correction to refelct what was really said in the Water Vapour article?

    regards Doug

  3. 153
    savegaia.de says:

    Can someone tell me why Dr. Lovelock is seeing nuclear as the rescue of our problems?

    Also people should be aware that during this heatwave at least in europe (don’t know the US but should be identically in this scenario).
    Many reactors had issues cooling them, as river water were way to warm to cooldown the nuclear power plant.

    I read someone suggesting building it near oceans to prevent this from happening during future heatwaves, but then can they construct the power plant while taking in account rizing sea levels?
    Also sea water near the land will be warm too, so even this is not a solution.

    Heatwave/Nuclear Power Plant Scenario
    While during a heatwave nuclear power plants which exist and gets normaly cooled down by river water, needs to shut down or throttle when the river hits a heat tipping point, causing the outfall of electricity.
    Leading to many problems such as no air conditioning specialy for the elder people, food become bad in hours basicly without electricity our civilization is gone at seconds…

    We need sustainable energy ressources not technologys which fallout when you need them.

  4. 154
    Hank Roberts says:

    > 131, “Europeans drive small fuel efficient cars”

    And the history of that is rather comparable to the later history of tobacco, coal, polychlorinated biphenyls, chlorofluorocarbons — profit and denial for decades.

    I’ve quoted other excerpts from this elsewhere, but not this one:

    ” the early 1920s was a crossroad in the American automobile industry. It had the option of developing smaller, more efficient engines that use better grade gasoline, or the larger, more powerful engines that rely on TEL [tetraethyl lead] to boost the octane rating. This point was emphasized by Dr C.F. Kettering, then the president of Ethyl Gasoline Corporation, at the conference to discuss the public health question in the manufacture, distribution and use of TEL gasoline:

    “We have got to do one of two things: we must build motors which are more efficient — we must build motors of very much smaller size and sacrifice a great many factors which we now enjoy in the motor industry, or we must do something which will allow us to get more work out of the fuel unit. Now, in regard to the building of such motors, there is nothing of a patentable or unknown thing in the building of higher efficiency motors. Our neighbors on the other side [of the Atlantic] a few years ago built high compression, relatively high efficiency motors because we shipped to them a better grade of gasoline than we use in this country…, the automobile art today knows enough to design motors to take a better fuel, but instead it is handicapped because it has not been able to do it” (ref. 7, p. 9).

    Dr Kettering, however, enthusiastically supported Frank Howard’s (of Ethyl Corporation) vision that TEL was a “gift from God”, and that the continued development of the particular motor fuel was essential to American civilization [7]. The Europeans, and later the Japanese, however, continued to develop smaller engines that burn higher grade gasoline. ….
    … about 20 trillion (20 x 10e12) liters of leaded gasoline were produced during the 60-year period. In terms of the volume alone, leaded gasoline must be ranked among the top organic chemicals used by modern society. …
    ————
    7 U.S. Public Health Service, Public Health Bulletin No. 158, Proceedings of a Conference to Determine Whether or Not there is a Public Health Question in the Manufacture, Distribution, or Use of Tetraethyl Lead Gasoline, GPO, Washington, DC, 1925.
    —————-
    excerpt quoted from:
    The Science of the Total Environment,
    92 (1990) 13-28 Elsevier
    THE RISE AND FALL OF LEADED GASOLINE
    JEROME O. NRIAGU

    Much worth reading; PDF copy online here at the moment, worth getting. This sort of history is hard to find online. For real amusement, look further into the history of the denial and obfuscation about the health effects of lead since that day in the
    http://www.columbia.edu/itc/sipa/envp/louchouarn/courses/env-chem/Pb-Rise&Fall(Nriagu1990).pdf

  5. 155
    savegaia.de says:

    From the wiki of nuclear

    Waste heat in water systems

    Nuclear reactors require cooling, typically with water (sometimes indirectly). The process of extracting energy from a heat source, called the Rankine cycle, requires the steam to be cooled down. Rivers are the most common source of cooling water, as well as the destination for waste heat. The temperature of exhaust water must be regulated to avoid killing fish; long-term impact of hotter-than-natural water on ecosystems is an environmental concern. In most new facilites, this problem is solved by implementing cooling towers.

    The need to regulate exhaust temperature also limits generation capacity. On extremely hot days, which is when demand can be at its highest, the capacity of a nuclear plant may go down because the incoming water is warmer to begin with and is thus less effective as a coolant, per unit volume. This was a significant factor during the European heat wave of 2003. Engineers consider this in making improved power plant designs because increased cooling capacity will increase costs.

    This is also a problem for coal power plants.

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

    Though it’s not even up to date … i think with more frequent and intense heatwaves we don’t have nuclear enrergy. Also france needed to import enrgy this year during the heatwave.

  6. 156
    Mark A. York says:

    “I am not trying to be snarky or difficult, but your analysis of what you do is not how I and others see it.”

    Yes Woodrow M. and only one take is true as with many issues. Let’s see, there is NASA represented by Dr. Schimdt and plethora of supporting studies by reputable people and there are the “Raelians” led by Cucamonga or their equal the Center For Competative Enterprise paying Pat Michaels to say what they’d like to be true if at all possible. Only one is and when the facts aren’t on your side wingnuts just make it up. It’s a false equivalency. “Not seeing it” is succumbling to personal political fantasy which is Woody’s World to be sure but it isn’t scientific. Global warming is a scientific question that has been answered, but not yet solved. [edit]

  7. 157
    Andrew Dodds says:

    Re 153, 154:

    From your own post:

    ‘In most new facilites, this problem is solved by implementing cooling towers.’.

    The reason my Nuclear is seen as a viable solution to both general energy shortages and AGW is because the problems it has are ameniable to engineering fixing. This isn’t something people seem to want to hear.

  8. 158
    pete best says:

    I see that according to new scientists magazine (http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn10159-global-warming-nears-a-millionyear-high.html)

    James Hansen is now telling us that the future is effectively going to be a wild ride unless emissions are curbed soon.

    I for one am not holding my breath. We are at least 30 to 50 years away from getting a significant portion of the 800 million cars onto an alternative (if it ever happens before the Oil finally Peaks and runs dry) fuel and our electricity supply if changed significantly world wide etc.

    yer sure we may have the means (I am doubful about that at the present time) but have we got the political will? Not at the present time it would seem, all alternatives seem or need to be evaluated in the context of trade talks and the free market economy. What chance in the timeline available for the emission reductions necessary?

  9. 159
    talos says:

    The Economist’s survey seems determined that the goal is to “stabilize carbon content of the atmosphere” at around 550 ppm, i.e (sub.):

    So how does the estimated cost of climate change compare with the cost of mitigating the effects? Unsurprisingly, that is not easy to calculate either. First, what is meant by mitigation? Many experts would settle for stabilising the carbon content of the atmosphere at around 550 parts per million. There is no particular magic to that figure, but given that carbon concentrations are now at 380ppm, it looks achievable and does not make most scientists’ hair stand on end

    This figure is repeated elsewhere in their survey and I wonder if its as arbitrary as it seems. Does your hair stop standing on end at around 550 ppm?

    [Response: 550 ppm is almost a doubling of the pre-industrial value of 280 ppm. Based on our current understanding of climate sensitivity, stabilising at this level will lead to a global mean warming most likely around 3 ºC. Many experts would argue that the impacts of such a warming would be so severe that raising global temperature by that much would constitute a "dangerous interference with the climate system" - which the world including the US government agreed to prevent in Article 2 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

    The European Union has agreed to limit global warming to at most 2 ºC above the pre-industrial temperature - this is our official climate policy goal. Many think this is still too high, considering the impacts, but note that to stay within this limit with high likelyhood, the greenhouse gas concentration needs to be stabilised below 450 ppm CO2-equivalent, not 550 ppm. And note the subtle but important difference between CO2 concentration alone, and the sum of all anthropogenic greenhouse gases expressed as CO2-equivalent. The climate system of course responds to all the gases, so to meet a certain temperature limit one needs to take all relevant gases into account. This makes the CO2 stabilisation level more stringent, dependent on how effectively we can reduce the other gases. Thus, if the Economist meant to say 550 ppm CO2, rather than CO2-equivalent, then the expected warming would be even above 3 ºC. This would definitely make my hair stand on end. -stefan]

  10. 160
    savegaia.de says:

    Re +157
    Please reread my quote – Its waste/allready heated water you refering too, not fresh water.

  11. 161
    pete best says:

    Re #159, 550 PPM is over 1.1 trillion tonnes of atmospheric CO2 which I fear is far too high for my liking. I would have thought that 850 billion tonnes is a more approprriate level but one that will be surpassed within 12 years.

  12. 162
    Luke Silburn says:

    Re: #148

    Well, if the nuclear industry gets its way and gets the taxpayers to foot the bill for an aggressive program of constructing new nuclear power plants — which, unlike wind turbines and photovolaics, the private market won’t touch unless the government (i.e. the taxpayers) provides massive subsidies

    Well firstly, it’s an open question as to whether mandating that fossil-fuel generators secure their waste to a level comparable to what nuclear generators are required to do would drive commercial entities out of the fossil-fuel power business. The fact that they don’t have to pay for those externalities is of course a massive implicit taxpayer subsidy for fossil-fuel (especially coal) generation.

    Secondly, you say ‘taxpayer subsidy’ like it’s always a bad thing; whereas I say ‘sovereign-debt financing’ can have a lot going for it. Sovereign debt typically incurs interest rates well below what the best-grades of corporate paper can get (5% vs 8% say). This has a huge impact on whether a project that has large up-front costs, but low running costs (as nuclear does) is financially viable when compared to a ‘low startup costs, high running costs’ project like a fossil-fuel power station (where the price of fuel inputs are the principal determinant of cost/KWh).

    Deprecating all forms of state action is thus an implicit preference for certain categories of engineering project and infrastructure solution – one that is not derived from fundamental technological or engineering imperatives, bur rather rooted in a political or institutional choices.

    This isn’t really the venue to debate the merits or otherwise of various energy infrastructure strategies however – check out the various diaries that Jerome Guillet has written at the European Tribune which deal with the financing of energy infrastructure for more detail of where I am coming from on these sorts of issues. He’s an investment banker who works in the energy sector (financing wind projects for the most part), so he knows this stuff much better than I do.

    Regards
    Luke

  13. 163
    Woody says:

    Somewhat in defense of gavin’s jab at Sen. Inhofe, which was noted as being in contradiction to the no-politics intent of the site, one can no longer separate the science from the politics on global warming. Whether it was the politicians who hijacked the global warming issue or the many scientists who enjoyed the grants and celebrity by catering to the politicians and the press, now the issue has become clouded by opportunists. So, if a liberal politician exaggerates global warming threats and scientists on his side don’t point out his errors, then there is a credibility gap.

    The challenge of people who are sincere about global warming threats and solutions is to take back the issue from those who abuse the truth for gain. I would feel better accepting claims if I could be sure that they were sincere and objective.

  14. 164
    Zeke Hausfather says:

    Woody, Re: your comment in 144

    The problem with taking a “balanced” view of the science is that, given the current widespread consensus in the scientific community, you tend to give a disproportionate standing to a mostly fringe group of skeptics in the search for balance. Given the small number of prominent skeptics (you can count them with your hand), and the connection that many have to political organizations (AEI, Cato, CEI, etc.), its fair to look at where their interests lie. I haven’t seen Realclimate cheerleading an obviously political climate change report by, say, Greenpeace that exaggerates parts of the science of AGW in the course of their call to action, so there really isn’t grounds to claim that these groups are treated differently.

    There is a widespread scientific consensus that AGW is occurring, and its not simply Al Gore’s opinion. See http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/306/5702/1686 for one good example, or simply read Science and Nature on a weekly basis.

  15. 165
    Leonard Evens says:

    I hope that in a few years we will look back at the days when a president could seek scientific advice from a writer of thrillers and wonder how that could ever have happened. We can hope that in 2008, both Democratic and Republican candidates for president will be on the same page with respect to the science of global warming. If McCain gets elected president, he will still have the problem of dealing with congressional dinosaurs such as Inhofe and Barton, but perhaps some others in his party may begin to see the attempt to stifle the evidence everytime it pops up as a losing proposition. Let’s hope the debate will be over the best way to deal with the problem, not whether or not there is a problem.

  16. 166
    tom root says:

    That anyone could fail to see that saving the planetary environment is worth any cost, deeply saddens me. Perhaps education and the media have tragically failed us and the coming generations.
    http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/38268/story.htm

  17. 167
    pete best says:

    Reply to RC Reply #159, how can anyone or any body state that they claim to be able to limit warming to 2 Deg C or 3 Deg C. The climate is not linear is it and sudden and abrupt climate change is what the records tell us has happened regardless of what the linear models of the IPCC are telling us.

    James Hansen once again warns us against 1 Deg C of further warming.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19125713.300-one-degree-and-were-done-for.html

    Its the bogs and tundra thawing that are going to potentially release many millions of tonnes of CO2 and Methane along with the rain forests drying out that is the concern along with our inability in a short space of time to deal with ourt own Co2 excesses.

  18. 168
    James says:

    Just a question related to nuclear power plant cooling: It’s been
    a while since I took thermodynamics, but my impression was
    that cooling is required for ANY heat engine. If memory serves
    me, the generation part of a nuclear plant is pretty much the
    same as for a coal plant: a steam turbine. The only difference
    is the source of the steam. So coal plants ought to produce
    the same amount of waste heat, per megawatt, as a nuclear
    plant, and have similar cooling requirements. (And they do
    indeed have cooling ponds &c.) So is my understanding at
    fault?

    Oh, and about Europeans driving more fuel-efficient cars? I’ve
    lived in Britain and Switzerland, and didn’t notice this. They
    may drive a large BMW or a Range Rover rather than a
    a US-sized SUV, but that seems to have more to do with narrow
    streets and limited parking than the cost of fuel.

  19. 169
    Woody says:

    Re. #164 Zeke, actually I do read science publications including the two that you mentioned, but I don’t always agree with their conclusions. Increasingly I’m seeing science articles written by journalists rather than scientists, and some of them can get pretty far out.

    (A little off topic, but I got into a long debate months ago with a science journalist on another issue; and, without telling me, he just had published in a prominent science magazine an article that agrees with my claims that he originally disputed. Maybe journalists aren’t always right the first time. However, they can be quite arrogant, and it’s hard to get them to admit when they are wrong.)

    I don’t agree that there is a consensus on your side of the issue, but, even so, you don’t give weight to conclusions based upon how many accept a premise. As long as there are sincere and qualified scientists who dispute many claims of the global warming supporters, then their disputes have to be disproven by science and not editorial boards.

    Regarding the “fringe group of skeptics,’ consider these articles:
    The letter Science Magazine refused to publish 01/04/05
    Survey Shows Climatologists Are Split on Global Warming 06/01/05
    KTH, Stockholm Conference 09-19-06

    Maybe Gavin or others have dismissed these to themselves, but the articles seem to indicate that your claim that you can count these skeptical scientists on one hand is not accurate and is more an indication of how one can come to false conclusions based upon being hammered with false information by political junkies and left-wing media.

    Unfortunately, it will take hundreds of years to know if claims of the effects of global warming and if proposed solutions would work–sort of convenient for the crowd on the left whose scare theories are regularly debunked in a shorter period.

    I just want the truth about the issue and the truth about costs to fix it. Right now, the proposals in Kyoto are very expensive and do not come close to doing anything except to bring western economies down. Bottom line on that, I’m not willing to spend a lot as long as the issue is open–and, it still is not proven.

    BTW, here is some of the information passed along by major media to whip up enthusiasm for global warming. People fall for this.
    Global Warming Affecting Your Life? E-Mail Us at ABC

    Those who support global warming would help their side if they weeded out their nuts who make the rest of us legitimately skeptical.

    [Response: Well, I would have a higher opinion of your opinions if you didn't quote things that are easily demonstrated to have no substance. The Peiser commentary on Oreskes results was simply rubbish and he has admitted as much. The only citation he found that was clearly non-consensual (out of the 34 he originally claimed) was an op-ed from the AAPG - hardly a peer-reviewed paper. (See Deltoid for all the gory details). The Bray survey could have been interesting, but when an on-line survey is thrown open to everyone on the 'climatesceptics' mailling list (with no check of credentials), it is less than compelling. Regardless of these spats, the fact that the community overwhelmingly supports the consensus is evidenced by picking up any copy of Journal of Climate or similar, any scientific program at the AGU or EGU meetings, or simply going to talk to scientists (not the famous ones, the ones at your local university or federal lab). I challenge you, if you think there is some un-reported division, show me the hundreds of abstracts at the Fall meeting (the biggest confernce in the US on this topic) that support your view - you won't be able to. You can argue whether the consensus is correct, or what it really implies, but you can't credibly argue it doesn't exist. -gavin]

  20. 170
    Jim Dukelow says:

    Re #151

    Mystery writer SecularAnimist now cites Helen Caldicott, out on the loonier fringe of the anti-nuclear movement. I encourage all sentient readers of RealClimate to read some of Dr. Caldicott’s writings to get the flavor of where she is coming from.

    Again, nuclear waste has been stored safely during the six decades of the nuclear age (with the exception of mining/milling tails in some locations) and will continue to be stored safely in the future. The wastes from fossil fuel use are dumped directly into the air, groundwater, and surface water and will be for the foreseeable future. Every careful analysis shows a public health impact of fossil fuel use that is at least two orders of magnitude greater than the impact of the nuclear industry.

    The German sweetheart report that SA cited in his last message shows a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for nuclear, even if you believe their estimates, which I don’t

    Best regards.

    Jim Dukelow

  21. 171
    Peer says:

    Re 142 & 167

    What about storing wind energy in the form of liquified air. Could for instance be used to extract oxygen that could power an closed cycle/exhaust free gas turbine. The cold oxygen depleted gas left over from the extraction process might still be cold enough to freeze out CO2 from the oxygen/exhaust loop.

  22. 172
    savegaia.de says:

    Re +168
    Radioactive waste leaking into Champagne Water Supply | Greenpeace …
    http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/releases/radioactive-waste-leaking-into

    Radioactivity from fallout dumped into the oceans
    http://www.google.de/search?hl=en&q=radioactivity+ocean&btnG=Search

    However, even if we could relativly dump radioactivity items into safer places then e.g. our oceans … as i mentioned in this thread …during heatwaves nuclear power is not sustainable.
    Also from the 44x power plants worldwide you cant speculate all countrys have the same safe standards. (War, Terror, Natural causes, such as earthquakes.)

    French firm EDF buys foreign electricity in heatwave
    http://www.enjoyfrance.com/content/view/477/36/

    An

  23. 173
    Jim Dukelow says:

    Re #167

    James, you have it partly right, partly wrong.

    Basically, the thermal efficiency of a steam plant (that is the fraction of available heat that is converted to electricity) will depend on the temperature and pressure of the steam produced in the steam generator and on the temperature at which the heat is removed from the plant’s steam/water/electricity generating loop.

    For a variety of reasons, it is easier to design an fossil-fueled steam generator that produces high temperature, high pressure steam (close to the critical point for water and steam) than it is to designed a reactor core and steam generator that will do the same.

    For that reason, fossil plants average between 40-45% efficient and nuclear plants (at least the most common ones) around 32-34%. That means that for a given amount of electricity generated, a nuclear plant will have to reject to the environment about 10% to 20% more heat than a state of the art fossil plant.

    This rejected heat is dumped into the air (with cooling towers) or into rivers or the ocean. In either case, and with either fossil or nuclear plants, there may be times when the air is too hot or the river (but not the ocean) is too hot to reject all of the heat generated at full power. The plant will then have to back off of full power to continue operating. I ran into the same situation in my car a few years ago on a Southern California freeway at 15-20mph in 112 degree heat. My radiator could not reject all of the heat being produced by the engine.

    Best regards.

    Jim Dukelow

  24. 174
    SecularAnimist says:

    Jim Dukelow responds to my links to critics of nuclear power with little more than ad hominems, and in fact less than “ad hominems”, really mere name-calling.

    I am a “mystery writer”? What does that even mean?

    The study by Storm van Leeuwen and Smith is “pseudo-analysis”? Mr. Dukelow offers no justification whatever for that derogatory characterization.

    Helen Caldicott is on the “loonier fringe”? As I said, this is nothing but name-calling.

    As to the alleged “safety” of nuclear power, here is some further recommended reading. Note that the author, David Lochbaum, is currently with the Union of Concerned Scientists, who Jim Dukelow may regard as part of the “loony fringe” along with Dr. Caldicott, so I will note that Lochbaum holds a degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee and worked for nearly 20 years in the nuclear power industry prior to joining UCS.

    It’s Groundhog Day at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission
    By David Lochbaum, Union of Concerned Scientists
    September 27, 2006
    MinuteManMedia.org

    Excerpt (emphasis added):

    A new report on [long-term shutdowns of nuclear power plants] shows nuclear power in the United States is more dangerous and more costly than necessary. Since the first commercial plant opened 40 years ago, reactor shutdowns of a year or longer have occurred a staggering 51 times at 41 different plants. Most of these were due to widespread safety problems that eventually could not be ignored. While these reactors shut down before they experienced a major accident, we cannot assume our luck will hold.

    Some proponents of nuclear power have dismissed such safety concerns by arguing that no United States nuclear plant has experienced a meltdown since Three Mile Island�s partial one in 1979. That�s as fallacious as arguing that the levees protecting New Orleans were fully adequate prior to Hurricane Katrina because there were no similar disasters between 1980 and 2004.

    The tremendous cost of these shutdowns -� a total of nearly $82 billion in lost revenue -� suggests how intently operators try to avoid them, and how serious shutdowns are when they occur. But nuclear reactors that are not operated as safely as possible are accidents waiting to happen.
    [...]

    Most of the shutdowns happened because safety margins at the plants were allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that reactor operations could not continue. Inadequate attention to safety by plant owners and operators, combined with poor oversight by the NRC, caused 36 of the 51 year-plus outages. There are 104 nuclear power reactors in the United States. Forty-one have experienced year-long outages. A 1-in-3 chance of incurring a year-plus outage was not part of the bargain when these plants were built and licensed.

    Since 1973, long-term safety-related shutdowns have occurred, on average, once per year. Despite the continued need for these shutdowns, the NRC has not adequately improved its oversight of nuclear safety. The NRC should detect falling safety margins and intervene before it takes longer than a year to restore safety to acceptable levels [...] Nuclear power is clearly not safe enough when so many reactors have to shut down for so long to restore safety to acceptable levels.

    I would emphasize that these widespread, severe safety problems and the frequent, costly year-long shutdowns of nuclear plants that are required to address them occur in spite of the obvious financial incentive that the nuclear industry has for avoiding them.

    Proponents of a major buildup of nuclear electricity generation on the huge scale that would be required to have any significant impact on GHG emissions (as Storm van Leeuwen and Smith point out, less than 16% of electricity generation is currently nuclear, and electricity is only 16% of world energy consumption) should first address the very serious safety problems with the existing fleet of nuclear power plants that the UCS study documents.

    And then they still need to explain why US taxpayers should invest astronomical amounts of money in building new nuclear power plants when advanced wind turbine and nano-tech photovoltaic technology stands ready to bring as much or more electricity generation online, cheaper, faster and without the risks and dangers of nuclear power, and while private investors are pouring money into these rapidly expanding technologies as fast as they can.

  25. 175
    Gavin says:

    Please note that if your comment is rejected as spam, it probably because of frequently used words by spammers – ‘poker’ or ‘mortgage’ are most common. Put in a space or something, and as long as the spammers don’t do the same, you’ll be ok. Sorry about that.

  26. 176
    savegaia.de says:

    I think it’s time to ignore/kick/ban paid people who fraud.

    “We have begun a bold new era of environmental protection here in California that will change the course of history,” Schwarzenegger – 27th sep 2006

    SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 27 (Reuters) – In a move backers hope will inspire other states to follow suit, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a pioneering law on Wednesday aimed at reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

    http://today.reuters.com/news/articleinvesting.aspx?type=bondsNews&storyID=2006-09-27T192722Z_01_N27412441_RTRIDST_0_ENVIRONMENT-CALIFORNIA-PICTURE.XML

  27. 177
    Wacki says:

    Re #139 The last part is what got me. Tom Wigley, who just a few days ago outlined a plan to inject sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere to stop the warming, was shown in the story.

    Sulfate would add acid rain. It would also ignore the problem of ocean acidification. It’s not exactly an ideal situation. Then you have worry about this little thing:

    http://www.theoildrum.com/storyonly/2006/3/1/3402/63420

    Which may or may not be true but these guys certainly think it is:

    http://www.logicalscience.com/energy/quotes.html

    Holy crap this thread is long!

    [Response: Injecting sulphates is obviously not an ideal solution - in fact its probably a bad idea unless you're really desperate. But it may not be quite so bad for acid rain as you think - in the stratosphere the fall-out would be much slower (I'm guessing) - William]

  28. 178
    Florifulgurator says:

    Re #146: (Me no english mothertounge) Gavin probably clarified the linguistic semantopragmatics of my quoth.

  29. 179
    Leonard Evens says:

    “As long as there are sincere and qualified scientists who dispute many claims of the global warming supporters, then their disputes have to be disproven by science and not editorial boards.”

    You have it backwards. The claims of those supposedly ‘sincere and qualified scientsits’ have to be supported by the usual method, submission for publication in the peer reviewed scientific literature. So far, few of these denialists have attempted to go this route. When they have, as for example Richard Lindzen and his iris effect, they have not been turned away. But the ideas have not, so far at least, held up under criticism and through observational studies.

    Let me say it another way. We are making significant changes in the concentration of certain gases in the atmosphere. If we continue to do that as business as usual we can expect a doubling or worse of those concentrations within the next century, and it won’t stop there. These gases are known to have an effect on the radiation budget of the planet. All that is beyond any serious debate. It is incumbent on those who claim that nothing need be done about this to prove the changes to the climate system are highly likely to be benign. And they should be held to the most rigorous standards.

    Let me proceed by simple analogy. Suppose I proposed to gradually increase Benzene levels in your home so that within your lifetime, they would reach significantly higher levels. Wouldn’t you want some advance proof that doing that is not going to adversely affect your health. Or, would you just wait until you started having health difficulties?

  30. 180
    talos says:

    Re response to #159

    Thanks Stefan, I was aware of the +3 degree implication and was sort of baffled as to how the Economist has unearthed *many* experts “would settle for stabilising the carbon content of the atmosphere at around 550 parts per million”. Note that the whole “reduction is possible and economically easy” argument of the Economist, *depends* on the 550ppm target (which I’ll charitably take to mean CO2 equivalent since elswhere in the survey they acknowledge the difference).

    So apparently this level has been chosen by the Economist to make the no-sweat feasibility argument more realistic – and certainly what pete best says in #167 above makes the whole cost-benefit assessment rather difficult to formulate. Anyway isn’t the 2007 IPCC report supposed to discuss a few things about the nonlinearities involved? Will it attempt to quantify the danger of catastrophic feedbacks?

  31. 181
    Richard Ordway says:

    RE 179 “Lindzen’s Iris effect”: The following really disturbs me. I was on the NASA website yesterday and it stated, falsely, that Richard Lindzen’s Iris theory (that climate distortion [global warming] will be stopped by increasing cloudiness in the tropics) was still possibly correct.

    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Study/Iris/iris3.html

    His theory, according to my understanding, has been strongly disproven scientifically and NASA is falsifying the conclusions: “Iris Hypothesis remains an intriguing hypothesisâ??neither proven nor disproven.”

    What kind of country is this when a scientific agency deliberately falsifies scientific conclusions in order to win over naive American citizens?

    I remember reading that communist Russia (vis a vis the “inferior” quality of foreign equipment) and Nazi Germany with the “superiority” of the Arian race) did the same thing…Politicizing science.

    In my personal opinion, we are committing national suicide.

  32. 182
    Richard Ordway says:

    Re. 179 Lindzen’s Iris theory.

    I thought that scientifically, Lindzen’s theory (Iris effect) ie. that more tropical clouds would cause cooling and that would solve global warming, was thoroughly and scientifically debunked with hard evidence: “Instead of the strong negative feedback that Lindzenâ??s team found, Linâ??s team found a weak positive feedback (Lin et al. 2001). That is, Lin found that clouds in the tropics do change in response to warmer sea surface temperatures, but that the cloud changes serve to slightly enhance warming at the surface.”

    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Study/Iris/iris2.html

    Yet the NASA website includes a disturbing endnote that is not what I understand to be the truth based on evidence: that the scientific community has also agreed that the Iris theory has no proof to support it: “Currently, both Lindzen and Lin stand by their findings and there is ongoing debate between the two teams. At present, the Iris Hypothesis remains an intriguing hypothesisâ??neither proven nor disproven.”

    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Study/Iris/iris3.html

    This NASA website seems to be deliberately altering scientific findings. The evidence states that the Iris theory is dead…and NASA is stating that there is evidence where none exists…that the Iris effect is valid.

  33. 183
    yartrebo says:

    Re #162:

    Nice post, but I just want to throw my two cents in.

    What matters is not the spread between the interest on corporate and sovereign debt (which is currently under 1% for AAA corporate debt in the US) but rather the difference between government and corporate discount rates. The discount rate that corporations use is often around 15%.

    PS: The capital cost of a coal power plant is several times more than the fuel cost and, like nuclear plants, they are not very sensitive to the price of their fuel (at least at current coal and uranium prices of roughly $40/tn and $110/kg respectively). Only with natural gas and oil power plants are fuel costs the largest cost.

  34. 184
    Hank Roberts says:

    Remember this from Inhofe to Judith Curry? Found online today, ironically, only at the junkscience archive for October 31, 2005:

    “”Lawmaker hurricane talks turn turbulent”
    - “WASHINGTON – A congressional briefing on global warming and hurricanes by scientists from Georgia Tech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology came to a stormy end Tuesday when a Senate staff member charged that their presentation was “one-sided.” “You people are espousing minority views that a vast majority of scientists dispute,” John Shanahan, an aide to Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., told scientists Judith Curry of Georgia Tech and Kerry Emanuel of MIT. He then accused the American Meterological Society, which sponsored the briefing, of rigging it to exclude climate-change skeptics.” (Cox News Service)

  35. 185
    Jim Dukelow says:

    Re #174

    Mystery writer SecularAnimist, who protects his reputation by hiding behind a pseudonym, wrote:

    “Helen Caldicott is on the “loonier fringe”? As I said, this is nothing but name-calling.

    “As to the alleged “safety” of nuclear power, here is some further recommended reading. Note that the author, David Lochbaum, is currently with the Union of Concerned Scientists, who Jim Dukelow may regard as part of the “loony fringe” along with Dr. Caldicott, so I will note that Lochbaum holds a degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee and worked for nearly 20 years in the nuclear power industry prior to joining UCS.”

    Characterizing Helen Caldicott as part of the loonier fringe of the anti-nuclear industry is not name-calling, it is reportage. I continue to invite RealClimate readers to read some of her stuff and decide for themselves.

    On the other hand, I consider David Lochbaum to be a sensible critic of the industry, although I don’t agree with all of his criticisms. I do agree with him when he writes “nuclear power in the United States is more dangerous and more costly than necessary”, although he doesn’t really go into the reasons why. Among those reasons, there are few other countries that allow individual utilities to order custom-designed plants, to the extent that among the hundred plants in the U.S. there are probably a dozen basic designs and no more than 15-20 plants that are duplicates of other plants owned by the same utility. France, on the other hand, has two or three basic designs replicated dozens of times. You have a similar situation with Southwest Airlines and the struggling “legacy” airlines. Southwest standardized on the Boeing 737, so its pilots and maintenance crews need learn only one plane and Southwest can stock one set of spare parts. That has provided a significant chunk of their cost advantage.

    Lochbaum’s 51 longer-than-a-year shutdowns of 41 US plants should be seen in the context of 100 reactors and around 2000 reactor-years of operation.

    The SLS report and the German report they cite are outliers among the studies of Life Cycle Costs of energy systems, but, even so, Figure 6 of the German report shows nuclear with CO2 emissions roughly consistent with Gas-Turbine-Cogeneration and Photovoltaics and roughly a tenth the emissions of coal plants. It doesn’t give a value for non-co-generation gas turbines, which would be greater than nuclear but less than coal.

    Similarly, Figure 7 shows the cost of nuclear electricity roughly consistent with wind, co-generation with gasified wood, coal, natural gas co-generation, energy efficiency II, and biogas co-generation. Nuclear electricity is less than a third the cost of photovoltaics. Only energy efficiency I and combined-cycle-gas-turbine-co-generation are significantly cheaper. Figure 7 nuclear electricity cost figures are inconsistent with similar estimates in Table 1 on the previous page.

    You build nuclear plants because one of them is the electricity generation equivalent of about 2000 1 Mwatt wind turbines, it can be base-loaded, and will provide power at predictable times. In fact, any system using wind or solar power will need to have roughly 80% of the system capacity in base-loaded plants like nuclear, fossil, or hydropower to maintain grid stability in the face of variation in the output of wind turbines or solar plants.

    Best regards.

    Jim Dukelow

  36. 186
    Dan says:

    re: 185 Almost by definition, calling anyone part of a “loonier fringe” is name-calling. It is most certainly not reportage. It is quite sad when people can not separate personal “opinion” from “fact”.

  37. 187
    Peer says:

    Re 177 “#139 The last part is what got me. Tom Wigley, who just a few days ago outlined a plan to inject sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere to stop the warming, was shown in the story.

    Sulfate would add acid rain. It would also ignore the problem of ocean acidification. It’s not exactly an ideal situation.”

    The injection hygroscopic ‘industrial’ fertilizer salts into the lower part of the atmosphere – with the exeption of sulfates, nitrogen and phosporuos of course – is what we need to save us from being poisoned by acid rain and nuclear pollutants.

    The short version of http://www.greenfacts.org/chernobyl/l-3/4-management-contaminated-areas.htm#1 is pretty straightforward; do not eat any food produced on soils that have not been contamined by growth promoting farm chemicals.

  38. 188
    SecularAnimist says:

    Jim Dukelow wrote:

    You build nuclear plants because one of them is the electricity generation equivalent of about 2000 1 Mwatt wind turbines, it can be base-loaded, and will provide power at predictable times.

    That’s an ironic statement given Lochbaum’s finding that 41 out of 104 nuclear plants in the USA have experienced year-long shutdowns due to extreme safety problems. You seem to imply that wind turbines and photovoltaics are unable to produce power at “predictable times”, which is not true.

    I do agree with him when he writes “nuclear power in the United States is more dangerous and more costly than necessary”, although he doesn’t really go into the reasons why.

    Yes, he does: “… reactor shutdowns of a year or longer have occurred a staggering 51 times at 41 different plants. Most of these were due to widespread safety problems that eventually could not be ignored … Most of the shutdowns happened because safety margins at the plants were allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that reactor operations could not continue. Inadequate attention to safety by plant owners and operators, combined with poor oversight by the NRC, caused 36 of the 51 year-plus outages.”

    Mystery writer SecularAnimist, who protects his reputation by hiding behind a pseudonym …

    I am “hiding” nothing and I have no “reputation” to protect. I include my real email address on every comment I post.

    It is fair enough to urge other readers to read Dr. Helen Caldicott’s work and form their own opinion of it, and of course I previously linked to Amazon.com’s page for her most recent book, to facilitate doing just that. That doesn’t change the fact that referring to her as “loony fringe” is mere name-calling.

  39. 189
    savegaia.de says:

    Well who actually takes Inhofe serious? Not even republicans…

    CNN Fact Checks Inhofe�s Diatribe Against Global Warming Science

    On Monday, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) took to the Senate floor and launched into a 45-minute diatribe on global warming science. Repeating his claim that global warming is a hoax, Inhofe said, �The American people know�when they are being used and when they are being duped by the hysterical left.�

    In particular, he attacked the news media. According to Inhofe, �During the past year, the American people have been served up an unprecedented parade of environmental alarmism by the media and entertainment industry.�

    This morning, CNN hit back with a segment documenting that virtually everything Inhofe said was flatly contradicted by the facts.

    Watch CNN and other republicans … in a small stream.
    http://thinkprogress.org/2006/09/28/inhofe-diatribe/

    So and on the bottomline …

    The CNN segment concluded: �Inhofe challenged the media to get this story straight in that speech, but when we asked for an interview with him we were told he�s just too busy to speak with us this week.�

    Looks like he is too busy to talk to anyone…

  40. 190
    Mark A. York says:

    RE #182: Yeah this is no doubt part of the NOAA disinformation campaign from the internal PR office decreed from “on high.” If you can hold ambiguity that will be enough seems to be the political strategy of the administraion. I know of one fisheries scientist who quite NOAA after a trial on a management decision. It’s the order of the day. This seems Lysenkoistian to me. I’ve worked for the Forest serice and US Fish and Wildlife. The atmosphere is similar there.

  41. 191

    Sulphates are not all acidic. For dusting the upper atmosphere, it seems reasonable to choose one that is nearly neutral such as sodium sulphate (Na2SO4) or gypsum (CaSO4 plus some water of hydration).

    Relatively reasonable, I mean. Better than trying to do it with sulphuric acid mist. Relatively silly, compared to the only geoengineering proposal that makes any sense to me: strewing quicklime (CaO) over a few thousand square km, collecting it and calcining it once it has turned to lime (CaCO3), preventing the pure CO2 from the calciner from reentering the atmosphere.

    Nuclear is the silver bullet.

  42. 192
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #182: The problem with those NASA “Iris” pages is that they’re nearly five years old. Maybe the problem is that there’s no budget to update them just now, but as the Iris is now mainly of historical interest maybe the best thing would be to just delete them.

  43. 193
    Andrew Dodds says:

    Re: 188

    First, Wind and PV do not produce electricity in a reliable manner. There is some predictability, but that is not the same thing; it’s perfectly possible to lose all wind and solar output over a whole region under some weather conditions. It dosen’t matter if you can predict this or not, you’ll still have a blackout unless you have non-weather-dependant backup plants. Using any storage scheme for this raises the amount of intermittant capacity required according to one over the square of the capacity factor, which renders the whole system unviable for current CF numbers.

    Nuclear plants (as with all power generation) will have some outages, but on average they give 90% capacity factor and don’t all fail in sync. That’s a world away from renewables; even the best wind farms struggle to get 33% capacity factor and a high pressure area can stop wind generation across a large geographical area.

    Here’s my problem with Caldicott (and the Storm papers) – the distortion of science in the name of the environment. In the case of caldicott, the blatant playing-up of cancer risks – appropriate sampling can link *anything* to cancer if you try. The Storm papers, if you take the time to read them, systematically take the highest estimates of energy costs they can find at every stage, together with the worst estimates of resources, and impose some quite staggering requirements at the end (decomissioning and mine restoration). And, of course, assume that Natural gas is a viable source of long term electric generation.

    In both cases, what you are reading nears a strong resembalance to the anti-AGW propanganda pushed by the AEI, as an example, or even some of the anti-evolution stuff Answers in Genesis pushes out.

    As far as I can see, the danger from going down the renewables route is simply that twenty years hence, you find that producing 20% of electricity from wind, 10% from solar-thermal (PV is never going to get a look in, sorry), and perhaps 10% of transport fuel is various biofuels. You then realise that you can’t increase the renewables fraction without destabilising the whole grid, and there is no more land to grow biofuels on. Which means you’ve taken CO2 emissions down perhaps 15% and reached an engineering dead end. That’s nowhere near good enough if you consider AGW to be a threat.

    So what you are doing is essentially hyping up a very small theroetical risk (ie multiple severe nuclear accidents) with the consequence that a large scale near certainty – significant problems from AGW – gets ignored. That’s almost certainly not what you intend, but wishful thinking does not a reality make.

  44. 194

    SecularAnimist, I have read Helen Caldicott’s work.

    Short version: she’s wrong, and a lot of the time she’s very obviously wrong.

    For instance, her claims of widespread acute radiation sickness after Three Mile Island simply don’t make sense. If this occurred, there would have been many people hospitalised, and a number of near-term deaths, as a result.

    Similarly, her regurgitation of the Storm van Leeuwin and Smith analysis isn’t any more correct for the number of times it’s been repeated. If you want a thorough debunking, might I suggest nuclearinfo.net’s rebuttal. If SLS’s figures were correct, the Olympic Dam uranium mine would use more energy than the total electrical generation of the state it is located in, a state with 1.5 million people in it!

    Caldicott’s work is not all that different to the work of climate change denialists, in fact.

  45. 195
    richard schumacher says:

    “If the Economist can rise to the challenge, maybe there is hope for the Wall Street Journal….” Well, maybe; but the Economist is European, and thus has something like an informed and realistic perspective. The WSJ editorial board are lackeys of American oligarchs who think that they own the world now and forever.

    As for Senator Inhofe: visit his contact page and tell him to sit down and shut up about global warming until he gets the facts right. http://inhofe.senate.gov/contactus.htm

  46. 196
    Timothy says:

    Re: #185 “In fact, any system using wind or solar power will need to have roughly 80% of the system capacity in base-loaded plants like nuclear, fossil, or hydropower to maintain grid stability in the face of variation in the output of wind turbines or solar plants.”

    In fact – you are delightfully mistaken.

    Recent research has shown that, if you distribute the generating capacity from renewables fairly evenly over a large enough area [say the UK] and also have generating capacity from a variety of sources [wind, solar, tidal], then you actually find that when the wind doesn’t blow in one location, it blows somewhere else, or that extended periods of low wind tend to be associated with high pressure systems that inhibit cloud formation, so solar can take up the slack, etc. Consequently, the total power output of the system as a whole is not as variable as “conventional wisdom” states. Also, winds tend to be stronger in the early evening – exactly at the time of peak demand for electricity.

    This would require building wind turbines in locations that weren’t as obviously favourable as the locations currently used, in order to achieve a good geographical spread of generation. Of course micro-generation, with most buildings in the country having solar panels and wind turbines, fits into this idea perfectly.

    For even greater resilience you can create infrastructure that would store excess energy to be released when renewable output was low. The obvious way to do this would be to have a sufficiently large renewable energy capacity that you would use to create hydrogen for transport use. Some of this hydrogen could also be used as back-up electricity generation.

    Finally, the current electricity grid systems are designed to deal with entire power stations [100's of MW] suddenly failing and falling off the grid. They can deal with the relatively smooth variations in output from [many] wind turbines that occurs over periods of a few hours.

    Renewables are a solution. There is some work to be done, for sure, but it can be done, and it’s merely political inactivity that is holding them back.

    And, again, there’s very interesting ideas to make the use of electricity variable to match variations in supply. There are solutions, if people are willing to work, innovate and perservere.

    Nuclear is not one of these solutions. It simply produces vast quantities of dangerous waste that we have no way of safely storing for thousands of years.

  47. 197
    Pat Neuman says:

    Excerpts from The Weather Channel blogs:

    … ‘The National Weather Service has now confirmed at least 28 tornadoes from Friday and early Saturday morning in MO, IL, KY, AR, TN, and AL. That sets a record for the largest September tornado outbreak that was not spawned by the remnants of a tropical storm or hurricane’. …

    http://www.weather.com/blog/weather/8_10710.html?from=blog_permalink_mainindex&ref=/blog/weather/
    – –

    ‘an F2 tornado struck Rogers in the northwest suburbs of Minneapolis late Saturday evening, killing a ten-year-old girl. … ‘without a tornado warning.’

    http://www.weather.com/blog/weather/8_10634.html?from=blog_permalink_mainindex&ref=/blog/weather/
    – –

    End of excerpts from The Weather Channel blogs:

    So how come The National Weather Service (NWS) has not informed the public that this has been ‘the largest September tornado outbreak that was not spawned by the remnants of a tropical storm or hurricane’?

    And how come NWS has not informed the public how ‘unusual’ it was for the Sept 16 tornado to hit in MN after dark (approximately 10 PM)?

    Are people at NWS, NOAA and DOC afraid that the public might claim they are being scaremongers if they suggest there may be a connection between Fall tornadoes and climate change or global warming?

    Is there a connection between late night tornadoes (that cannot be been seen by spotters due to darkness) and climate change?

    – — ‘maybe there is hope for the Wall Street Journal’,realclimate.org)

    But is there any hope for NWS? … and when?

  48. 198
    Luke Silburn says:

    Re; #183

    PS: The capital cost of a coal power plant is several times more than the fuel cost and, like nuclear plants, they are not very sensitive to the price of their fuel (at least at current coal and uranium prices of roughly $40/tn and $110/kg respectively). Only with natural gas and oil power plants are fuel costs the largest cost.

    Sure. Gas (especially) has been a huge part of new-build in the last decade however and if longterm fuel prices continue high (as I suspect they will) that will turn out to look pretty silly.

    As you say the financing structure for coal plant is much more comparable to nuclear. If the waste management externalities and climate impact risks were accounted for properly I suspect (but do not know) that they would end up looking broadly similar to a nuke plant. Coal generation is a familiar concept however and has an influential lobby, so the risk factors are disregarded.

    Regards
    Luke

  49. 199
    Luke Silburn says:

    Re: 185

    Lochbaum’s 51 longer-than-a-year shutdowns of 41 US plants should be seen in the context of 100 reactors and around 2000 reactor-years of operation.

    Whereas the briefing note on French nuclear power I googled up from the Uranium Information Centre shows that the French nuclear fleet has ~800 reactor-years of operation. It would be interesting to see the comparable shutdown statistics for EDF, but my lunch break wasn’t long enough for me to track any down. I suspect that they would be significantly lower than the US stats.

    Secular Animist – I think both Jim and myself would argue that the correct conclusion to draw from Lochbaum’s findings is that US civil nuclear power has been poorly implemented and should not form the institutional basis for any future expansion.

    The EDF example shows that nuclear power can be built and operated to a high standard at a comparable cost (3 cents/kWh at present) to other forms of generation however. So nuclear can be done well and I would suggest that any future programme in the States should look to the French and Finnish examples (and the US Navy for that matter – they seem to be much more effective nuclear engineers than the US civil sector) for guidance and models on how to do it.

    Regards
    Luke

  50. 200
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 193

    Andrew Dodds, thanks for the realistic appraisal of the role of renewables. You said, (and it is worth repeating):

    [As far as I can see, the danger from going down the renewables route is simply that twenty years hence, you find that producing 20% of electricity from wind, 10% from solar-thermal (PV is never going to get a look in, sorry), and perhaps 10% of transport fuel is various biofuels. You then realise that you can't increase the renewables fraction without destabilising the whole grid, and there is no more land to grow biofuels on. Which means you've taken CO2 emissions down perhaps 15% and reached an engineering dead end. That's nowhere near good enough if you consider AGW to be a threat.]

    We advocates for public response to AGW have a responsibility to lead with technical alternatives to the BAU, fossil fuel-driven energy sector. Offering the public 80-90 percent carbon reduction options that are not technically feasible – regardless how popular they might be – serve no purpose, waste time and damages our credibility. Renewables have a part to play but transmission grid realities will limit their role.

    I realize this page is not an electric engineers blog but climate scientists can and should offer their perspective on AGW and possible impacts on cloudiness and changing wind patterns, e.g., I could suggest the work of Dr. John Walsh on Arctic cold air outbursts.

    Maybe RealClimate could help all of us separate the wheat from the chaff on the whole renewables discussion by posting a thread from a contributor such as Mr. Dodds or someone from EPRI or MIT. And, it would be of real value to have some discussion on the impact of electric utility dereg and how that has taken, in some states, the decision-making on power generation choices, out of the hands of utility commissioners and put them into the hands and wallets of Wall Street investors — not an inconsequential element in the equation.


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