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The Alternative to the Climate Nuclear Option is Innovation

Matthew Stepp's picture
Center for Clean Energy Innovation

Matthew Stepp is the Executive Director for the Center for Clean Energy Innovation specializing in climate change and clean energy policy. His research interests include clean energy technology...

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  • Oct 22, 2014

avoiding the climate nuclear button

Out of fear the world is running out of time to aggressively act against climate change, some climate advocates are calling for the climate nuclear option: limiting economic growth to deeply decarbonize the global economy. It’s easy to see why—world leaders continue to propose weak policy options that all but guarantee dangerous global warming. Yet pitting economic growth against climate mitigation misses a crucial caveat: deep decarbonization and economic growth can be accomplished at the same time if nations significantly expand pro-growth clean energy innovation policies to rapidly speed-up technology advancement.

According to the International Energy Agency, even if every country—including the United States—meets its voluntary carbon targets, global emissions will still be 60 percent higher than necessary to prevent dangerous warming. It’s clear cautiously cutting carbon emissions will not, in the long-term, position the world to adequately fight climate change.

So what is preventing countries from committing to deep decarbonization? Most countries recognize deep decarbonization through conventional climate policies like carbon pricing represent to high an economic cost in the short-term. High income countries are hesitant to aggressively deploy clean energy because of the potential for higher energy costs and grid reliability issues that not only impact consumer spending, but can make domestic industries internationally uncompetitive. And low income countries simply want more access to cheap energy to accelerate economic development, even if that means burning fossil fuels.

It’s the quintessential tradeoff in the climate policy debate, and it’s holding the world back from addressing global warming in a meaningful way.

that is a big red button

For some climate advocates, the meager carbon cuts pledged by the international community is too little too late. Carbon cuts need to start very soon and on a scale not seen in modern times. As a result, climate advocates like David Roberts, Naomi Klein, and Mark Buchanan, are pushing a more modern version of the ‘limits to growth’—the need to slow economic growth as a last ditch ‘climate nuclear option’ to deeply decarbonize the planet as quickly as possible.

This is in contrast to many leading climate advocates arguing the world doesn’t need to tradeoff the wellbeing of our climate for our economy. For instance, a series of new reports (here, here, and here) by leading international organizations argue that cutting carbon emissions quickly and growing the global economy can be achieved at the same time.

This division among climate advocates is important because if the global community’s meek policy responses to-date are any indication, the climate nuclear option—even under the very good intentions of averting climate catastrophe—is destined to be at worst a non-starter for global policymakers and at best even slower at climate mitigation than the modest strategies deployed today. A pro-growth climate strategy is the only quick and viable path to deep decarbonization.

Unfortunately, pro-growth climate advocates are still relying on conventional and economically tenuous climate strategies from the past to counter anti-growth proponents. Pro-growth reports appeal to sometimes vague notions that potential future economic returns from a clean energy economy will exceed the higher cost of deploying the technology.

Yet, even if it is true that moving to a clean energy economy provides a greater future economic rate of return, it still ignores the very real cost and base load limitations that cause consumers, industry, and governments to hesitate going all in on clean tech. This is particularly true because clean tech is still cost and performance limited under many circumstances where government incentives aren’t generous enough (or don’t exist) or where solar and wind intermittency begins to limit high levels of deployment.

To make a stronger pro-growth argument for climate policy, advocates need to appeal to individual self-interest: How do we make clean tech a cheaper and more economically palatable option than fossil fuels for everyone as quickly as possible?

The key way of doing so is clean energy innovation policy—an aggressive strategy of investment in clean tech research, development, commercialization, and manufacturing as well as innovation-based reforms in key energy institutions, regulations, and tax incentives.

To a modest degree, some climate advocates are at least starting to recognize the need for a climate innovation strategy. At least two of the studies cited here explicitly call for increasing investments in energy innovation.

From the study by the World Resources Institute:

“The United States should increase federal funding for research, development, and commercialization of low-carbon and energy-saving technologies. This would help foster opportunities for American businesses and manufacturing by helping the country remain a world leader of innovation.”

And from the study by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate (their 10-point global action plan):

“Scale up innovation in key low-carbon and climate resilient technologies, tripling public investment in clean energy R&D and removing barriers to entrepreneurship and creativity.”

In both cases, climate advocates are including investments in innovation as part of their pro-growth climate strategy—a positive first step! But in both cases it’s a low priority and not part of the organizations’ core climate policy outreach strategy.

Moving forward, pro-growth climate advocates need to create an expanded, cohesive, and higher priority clean energy innovation strategy to counter the climate nuclear option and provide the most viable policy alternative to achieve deep decarbonization.

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 22, 2014

Mattthew, there’s no small amount of irony in the fact that in what you want to avoid lies our salvation.

The literal nuclear option – abundant safe and clean nuclear energy – is the only way we will be able to provide unlimited growth without destroying the environment. If that’s not abundantly clear by now, it should be.

Hops Gegangen's picture
Hops Gegangen on Oct 22, 2014


The reality is that reasonable western lives require energy and there is no substitute for fossil fuels for many tasks.”

Name one….

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Oct 22, 2014

If we allowed specific solutions in an absurdly vague dialog we might get somewhere. Given that none of the usual bloggers has produced enough energy or saved enough environment to cover their own needs, much less provide humanity in perpetuity, it gets a little funny reading all the indignation.

Today I dropped a few 50 foot mature poplar trees that served life well. Some poplar, cedar, oak, maple, etc. trees will fill their domain. There is a profound sense of energy when that weight hits the ground. The power of the sun to put that weight high in the air is interesting to a Biophysicist. Photochemistry should be an area of innovation.

And the quantum mechanics of proton chemistry needs attention. Do the many bloggers know that pH is actually photochemistry?

We can flip the “nuclear” or “solar” terms forever. We are going on half a century now! I truly wish the loudmouth politics would cease, and allow some VERY interesting science to be discussed before scientists all become extinct.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 22, 2014

Rick, why aren’t specific solutions allowed? I’d love to hear yours, but instead of ideas in your posts we get pseudoscientific posturing, mixed with backwoods-survivalist chest-thumping.

Let’s start with this: the sun takes seventy or eighty years to put tons of wood high in the air. How might the profound sense of energy that generates be converted into energy we can use – besides simply burning the wood?

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Oct 22, 2014

Thanks Bob.

The molecule water is the foundation of biochemistry. Oxygen and hydrogen. Water molecules bind to one another in solid and liquid forms by sharing hydrogen ions, which are entirely unique in all of chemisry since hydrogen ions are fundamental particles; protons. There is no quantum mechanical difference between shared electron solids like crystal silicon and shared proton structures like crystal ice other than weight and charge of the different fundamental particles.

The weight of a proton vs. electron has direct impact of excitation frequencies. The proton excitation frequencies for vibrational stretch modes are in the near infra-red for water molecules, while electronic excitation frequencies are in the ultra-violet down to visible for conduction band excitation in crystals. Relaxation times for proton and electron excited states are similarly different. Catching and holding excited state electrons requires some battery magic. Catching and holding excited state protons requires acids and bases and chemical bonds that can make or break carbohydrates (carbon + water, cellulose).

Biomolecules such as protein are also remarkable. The peptide bond is a hybrid structure that hydrogen bonds with itself or water molecules. This hybrid structure is very much a conductor embedded in insulator. Large electro-active structures have been recognized in biochemistry; things like alpha-helix, beta-sheet, heme ring current, ferro-electric phospate lipid cell membranes. Connecting physics with biostructures started “nano-technology.”

Believe me, connecting physics with biomolecules was impossible in my day. Advocating solid state physicists learn biochemistry, or biochemists learning solid state physics was hopeless. So I applied it to infrared wavelength division multiplexing, and excellent engineers made it into the dynamically addressable fiber optic internet.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 23, 2014

Rick, I’ll take the lack of backwoods-survivalist chest-thumping as a sign of progress. We’re halfway there!

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Oct 23, 2014

You seem deeply confused about many things Bob.

First, I have never seen you describe any energy or environmental technology that has been shown to work. Using the word “nuclear” in conjunction with a barrage of endless insults is the sum total of your input.

Second, describing various forms of sun + water + CO2 = carbohydrate is not “survivalist chest-thumping.” It’s how the Earth works almost since life began. We eat it, shelter in it, use it for fuel. Learning about it would seem normal discourse.

So how about you share with us which star, planet, or country “nuclear” (I presume) fission has peacefully done anything more than boil water for limited energy use. I’ll admit I’m unaware of any such example, and would be quite interested in learning more.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Oct 23, 2014

… High income countries are hesitant to aggressively deploy clean energy because ..”

Germany’s Energiewende shows that such hesitance is based on fiction:

– “… potential for higher energy costs…
Germany has an expensive legacy from the past as it had to develop a volume market for PV-solar and Wind. So it is still paying Feed-in-Tariffs >50cnt/Kwh for PV-solar installed in the period until ~2005.

A country that starts now won’t have that legacy as the cost price of new PV-solar decreased to ~10cnt/KWh or lower. Similar with wind. For both the costs are still going down further with ~8%/a (solar) and ~3%/a (wind). Cost prices that are near or lower than those of fossil power plants (new nuclear is anyway >2times more expensive)!
That implies that the Energiewende costs of a country starting now, will be much much lower than Germany’s costs (thanks to Germany’s pioneering role).

Germany is now subsidizing battery storage in combination with solar, expecting that creating a mass market will deliver price decreases similar as those with PV-solar.
Such storage will be needed when solar & wind penetration reach ~30%.

It takes >10years for a country that starts its own Energiewende now, before wind & solar penetration will reach 30%. At that time the costs of battery storage will haved decreased so much that it is competitive, as the German experts expect. So that issue will also not generate major costs. The country that starts now simply lifts

– “…grid reliability issue…”
Wind & solar implies highly distributed generation, often near the sites where electricity is consumed.
As the experience with the German grid shows, such distributed generation improves reliability substantially.

Few reasons:
– Indeed wind & solar production is variable. However highly predictable. The thousands of small units imply no sudden failure shocks. Compare that with big power plants who can fail in a second shocking the grid.
– Grid management can fast and easy increase or decrease (switch) wind and solar capacity via remote control. It delivers faster, more easy and accurate regulation!

– “…make domestic industries internationally uncompetitive…”
German industry stays to be, or became even more, competitive.
While only industries in which electricity costs are important part of the cost price are partly or totally exempted from the Energiewende surcharge.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Oct 23, 2014

It’s funny how you use the word “nuclear” in the title, presumably to invoke that solution. I agree that mere carbon restrictions, though needed to cause indirect action, will not directly solve the problem, since a “nuclear winter” is a somewhat synomonous definition to what happens in a world of 10 billion people without hardly any fossil fuels (devoid of reliable energy replacement).

You ask “So what is preventing countries from committing to deep decarbonization?” The answer is clearly the inability to implement the proven nuclear solution. I ask “What is it, that is preventing the known and proven molten salt reactor concept, which is the more powerful solution to fossil fuels, from being re-developed, standardized and deployed world wide?”. This, or other nuclear is obviously the only solution we have at this time which can scale to planetary proportions without relying on massive amounts of land and storage.

Even nuclear proponents claim that it will take twenty years to come up with a single such reactor. They are wrong. It took only a few years for the technology of fifty years ago to do so, even without such urgent need (at the time at ORNL). It would have taken only a few more to standardize a global solution! Surely, in this 21st century, we could do these things on an even faster timescale (like we did with cellphones).

Even if it did (for some very inappropiate reason) take twenty years to get a good molten salt (or similar) reactor “mold” for mass deployment, the overall excess CO2 emissions after a 30 year timeframe would be far less than emissions in a world using carbon restrictions without new nuclear deployment. If, in a ten year period (starting twenty years from now) we deployed just 20 reactors the first year, with a growth rate of 50% per year (which is less than recent solar), the world would have almost 1,200 such reactors by the tenth year and 66,000 by the twentieth year, which is probably the upper limit to any energy needs for a highly advanced (and prosperous) civilization.

The obvious rebuttle to this argument is that there may not be enough startup fuel, becuase it is usually thought that any advanced reactor requires on the order of 20% or more fissile fuel. However, there is a company which claims that can start up with as little as 1.8% fissile – even lower than today’s LWR!

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Oct 23, 2014

Transatomic Power wants to build a reactor based upon the walk away safe concept of the molten salt reactor, developed by Alvin Weinberg which was a science advisor to JFK. TAP’s concept improves upon the original design by requiring far less start up material (and more efficient thermal to electric).

Obviously, the mastery of fission is an option that can not be overlooked, since all the other renewable options require vastly much larger amounts of land – and storage.

There is nothing wrong with all the renewables except the idea that they alone can provide the power to, 1, build themselves, their storage (which requirement is on the order of the inverse of their capacity factors) and the inefficiency of storage, 2, Develop the world to high standards necessary (and to prevent overpopulation) and 3, provide the energy necessary to sequester, by mineral and biological means, most the excess CO2 we will have collectively put into the biosphere by that time which the solutions replaces the vast majority of the hydrocarbon energy infrastructure.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 23, 2014

Rick, what do you feel is limited about boiling water (especially in places like sub-Saharan Africa), powering transporation, creating artifical light, enabling online discussion, etc. etc.?

I’ll admit I’m deeply confused by your earlier posts, and I apologize if you felt insulted by criticism of them – you seem to be a very intelligent and thoughtful person – but most of the time I have no idea what point you’re trying to make.

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Oct 24, 2014

I’m probably one of the few regulars on this board that did some advanced physics. I totally agree, nuclear derived energy is an essential contributor to our future. But I always avoid discussion admitting I know far too little to pass judgement. I do know the technology and infrastructure required to safely deliver nuclear fission derived electric power to civil populations is staggering and humbling. Those that have questions aren’t dumb.

You certainly don’t owe me any apology for my mumbling. Usually I’m just coming indoors angry at snow, bugs, dirt, tractor fumes, cement dust, etc. and really try hard to again pretend I’m civilized on TEC. This farm gig is nice part-time work that soon consumes your life.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Oct 24, 2014

“…no excuse for not knowing the basics about nuclear power!”

Warming-up the earth is an important basic of nuclear power.
Each 1GW nuclear power plant generate ~3GW new heat which is added to global warming!

While PV-solar converts heat of the sun into usable energy. Which implies that no new heat is added to the world.
Same applies for wind turbines!

So those two are fundamentally much better for stopping global warming!

Joris van Dorp's picture
Joris van Dorp on Oct 24, 2014


Fossil fuels as chemicals and feedstock

Largely replaceable – at little extra cost – with biomass feedstocks, and at a scale which is small enough to be sustainable, (contrary to using biomass for raw energy production, which is not sustainable at scale)

Fossil fuels as cheap heating for homes and industry

Electric space heating using (air or ground-source) heatpumps is a fine solution and is cost competitive in all countries (with some exceptions).

Fossil fuels as cheap energy for transport. Land air and sea

Direct nuclear (for ocean shipping) and nuclear powered synfuel production (at <$100/barrel equivalent) can substitute all current demand for liquid fossil fuels. (with some exceptions)

Take nat gas at a steelworks for heating processes.  1.5 centst per kwh vs how much for retail electricity derived from wind and solar 15 cents?

Heat for such processes can be provided at similar cost by direct nuclear fission up to about 1000°C (gas or lead-cooled reactors).

The settled-down cost of advanced nuclear heat and power can be less than 2 and 5 cents per kWh respectively. 

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Oct 24, 2014

All steam to electricity conversion is less than 50% efficient, such as the new coal plants being built worldwide. What is worse, a little wasted heat and a manageable amount of decaying new elements from water boiled by fission… or a little wasted heat from water and the extra infrared absorbers boiled by coal? Solar is good for nitch applications such as off grid, lighting and communications. Solar is not suitable to power even a large fraction of a prosperous civilization until subsidy is removed and when unfathonable amounts of storage is almost free and provides distribution across the globe. Wind has a better eroei, and a better CF, however, still requires vast storage. Again, these should be used once the subsidy is (almost) completely removed.

Concerning the “heat” argument, add up all of humanity’s wasted heat (which is ALL useful energy as well) and compare to what the planet recieves by solar insolation… it’s absolutely next to zero!

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Oct 24, 2014

Solar and wind electricity consumption (or wasting it) doesn’t heat the earth. But nuclear electricity does; such consumption adds ~3times more heat than the consumed electricity! 

Bill Hannahan's picture
Bill Hannahan on Oct 24, 2014

Bas, calculate the temperature rise that would be associated with an all nuclear powered world (hint; the sun delivers about 20 million watts of heat per person).

Now calculate the temperature drop associated with the elimination of most fossil fuel combustion.

If you think this is a good anti nuclear argument, think again.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 24, 2014

Bas, this is so nonsensical it defies a response.

Could you include a link to someone who knows how to say what you’re trying to say?

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Oct 24, 2014

Innovation efforts that will probably become succesfull.

A. Decreasing the costs of electricity generation by wind substantially:

1. New blades that torque with sudden increases of the wind (blasts). So the blade then:
– has less resistance within a fraction of a second (=  also less pressure on the nacelle & tower, etc); and
– will accelerate less, hence the speed of the blade will stay more constant.
With such blades a wind turbine can have larger blades that can continue to run/turn in much stronger winds. Hence those will enhance the Capacity Factor of wind turbines greatly (>50%)!

2. Strong materials, such as Dyneema, that can be produced at much lower costs. Or great price decreases of those materials. 
So blades can incorporate much more of those exceptional strong materials, while the costs stay acceptable. That will also facilitate much larger blades.

These two points allow for wind turbines with blades of 150meter, so a rotor diameter of 300meter, which implies 25MW wind turbines. However then the nacelle, even of a direct drive, will become very big and heavy. So, a.o. lifting it on the top of the tower at 250meter altitude becomes a problem.
Hence another development becomes necessary:

3. Reliable superconducting magnets (~20Tesla) in the nacelle, together with a reliable cool unit.
Also important because the super strong magnet fields allow that the 25MW can be generated in a much smaller nacelle (= less weight and easier to transport).

B. Decreasing the costs of Solar (PV-panels).
In addition to further integrated optimizers and invertors (=cheaper to produce):

4. Accurate (<10nm details) fully automated production machines that can produce large (50cm) multi-layer cells using different materials for the different solar wave lengths.
Those will allow for efficiencies of >36%, which implies a production capacity of >350Watt/m².
So same # of panels generate twice the MWh.


Together with the ongoing price decreases of battery capacity, those renewable may compete even the new lignite power plants in the lignite mines out of the market halfway this century.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Oct 25, 2014

Actually, assuming solar and wind does not heat, the excess CO2 from the required fossil fueled backup WAY negates your argument. However, since solar is still less than 20% efficient (for the most part), a certain fraction of the other 80% of the sunlight will be converted into heat. If already on a black roof, then no or even less heating, but if placed on the millions of square km of light tan colored dessert sands required to actually trump fossil fuels, THEN we might really have a major localized heat problem!

I see no problem with wind in that respect because I assume the alternators to be rather efficient. Still, the wind’s hydrocarbon backup’s excess CO2 will warm the planet FAR more than its (or any other power source’s) mere heat waste. Remember, that no matter how efficient, 100% of the energy generated from any source will become “waste heat”. We could paint everything white, but it would be FAR more effective to do the right thing – reduce emissions, for two reasons, warming is separate from acidification and the amount of space required to be painted white is somewhat proportional to the amount of space required for an all solar powered world.

Thus, the argument for nuclear is in its lack of CO2 emissions and in our ability to contain its wastes, and in its potential to save the planet from our folly.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Oct 25, 2014


No need for fosil fuel back up with wind & sun.

But nuclear needs that backup as that can and does fail suddenly.
E.g. Belgium lost half of its nuclear fleet this summer and now has a real electricity supply issue, installing as much wind as possible, etc.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Oct 25, 2014

The alternative to decarbonization is fear… Forever Eliminate Advanced Reactors.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Oct 25, 2014

An imperative condition for a successfull decarbonization process is a low cost level (unsubsidized) compared with present situation (=coal & gas power plants).
That implies electricity production for ~4cnt/KWh.

The combination of PV-solar & Wind, together with grid extensions & batteries is gradually reaching that needed competitive cost level. Thanks to long term yearly cost decreases of 3% – 10%.

Taking the expectations of experts seriously, you can expect that level will be reached in the 2018 – 2030 time frame. In some regions early (e.g. Italy, SW-USA). other regions late (e.g. Canada).

Based on further electricity costs decreases transport can also be decarbonized gradually.
The same with room heating, assuming heat pumps (with e.g. stirling motors) will become much cheaper.

When renewable cost price reaches 1cent/KWh, power-fuel conversion will become economical. Hence planes can use that fuel.

So then near all decarbonization is done!

I do not understand why you think that fear plays a role in this process?

As the new reactors show, the cost price of electricity produced by new nuclear is way off (now ~3times more expensive than renewable).
Worse, there is no indication that the price will decrease substantially, while the trend is further price will increases. History shows that costs are rising greatly when reactors are nearing implementation.

Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Oct 26, 2014

The public mostly believes that nuclear is more dangerous than fossil fuels (hence the fear). There are many varieties of the molten salt reactor, said to be built sometime in the 2020’s. IHopefully, I’ll see it, but it will not happen if everybody is convinced that they are not safe.

Hopefully, machinery can be developed to cause such a large price reduction in the renewables and storage that you believe is possible. To power 8 or 15 billion people at high standards, we will have to convert A LOT of mass into solar, wind and storage if we do not include nuclear – to the tune of millions of square km! That is why renewables and storage is intrinsically more expensive to achieve 90% fossil free as compared to the much smaller land foorprint of advanced nuclear.

New nuclear is still not mass produced (as it should be), thus the high prices, however, these will last three times longer and are more dependable. Small modular molten salt reactors could provide many multiples of today’s power requirements – why would anyone not want that?

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Oct 26, 2014

The Chinese have a full team on the development of the MSR. They expect the first commercial deployments at ~2030.
At that time general price levels of renewable will be at €2 (solar) – €4 (wind) levels. 
So chance is big that MSR than cannot compete either. Especially since the problems that Oak Ridge experienced with MSR indicate that the cost price may be higher than PWR/LWR.

New small modulair nuclear such as SMR’s (e.g. 60MW) are predicted to cost more per KWh as they miss the economy of scale, hence far more expensive steel etc is needed per KWh.

NPP’s have a footprint of ~2KW/m² (e.g. Hinkley C).
Big wind turbines have a footprint of >20KW/m². That is 10 times better!
Wind turbines at sea do not take any ground!
Rooftop PV has also no footprint at all!
If 50% of all roof surface is covered with PV panels, than those generate all electricity needed!

So in line with you statement; renewable are already intrinsically cheaper.
And they go on becoming cheaper and cheaper.

Joris van Dorp's picture
Joris van Dorp on Oct 27, 2014

The energy tax structure and (temporarily) very low gas prices in the US hurt the economics of using heat pumps for retail customers, but in most other countries the situation is much better.

$100 synfuel using nuclear power as an energy source can be done, the US Navy and other institutions reported on this for years.

Direct nuclear for process heat can be done. Thousands of small nuclear heat plants can be done perhaps not done to kW, but to MW it can be done. What stands in the way of this is unnecessary safety regulations which should be corrected according to science, rather than appeasement.

While you think this is all farfetched, the alternative (solar, wind and biomass) is not just farfetched but simply impossible. The cost in terms of money and environmental costs of a non-nuclear option is too great. The future will be either fossil fuels (for a few centuries at most, and with massive climate change as a result in the long run), or nuclear power. I know which I would choose. And I know it can be done cost effectively. The science supporting this is solid and for all to see.


Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Oct 27, 2014

The power density inside the reactor cores at Indian Point is about 338 megawatts (338 million watts) per square meter. Even if you include the entire footprint of Indian Point – about 250 acres – the power density at the site exceeds 2,000 watts per square meter. Advanced nuclear reactors will most probably be located underground or at sea. There is no reason to worry about diffuse power generation with nuclear!

Wind and solar must allow lots of nuclear in the mix (to replace hydrocarbon backup) if we are to effectively deal with the problems that invokes using renewables in the first place – depletion, warming and acidification AND have the power to raise BILLIONS out of poverty.

Bas Gresnigt's picture
Bas Gresnigt on Oct 27, 2014

“Wind and solar must allow lots of nuclear in the mix…”
Denmark predicts that already in 2020 wind alone will produce >100% during 100 days.
The generation situation will fluctuate even more than depicted in the right picture of fig.14 (page 14).
Nuclear simply hasn’t the level of fexibility required.

Hydro, pumped storage and batteries have. So those will fill the gaps together with geo-thermal and some waste.

“…problems that invokes using renewables in the first place – depletion, warming and acidification AND have the power to raise BILLIONS out of poverty.”
New renewable electricity is clearly much cheaper than new nuclear, so I don’t understand what you want to state here about a possible role of nuclear. Sorry.


Robert Bernal's picture
Robert Bernal on Nov 1, 2014

New renewable electricity that is cheaper is not reliable 24/7. 90% fossil free renewable requires a lot of very cheap storage or the mastery of nuclear, like MSR (type) deployment. You can’t refute Alvin (as he also liked solar)!

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