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John Benson's picture
Senior Consultant Microgrid Labs

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: Microgrid Labs, Inc. Advisor: 2014 to Present Developed product plans, conceptual and preliminary designs for projects, performed industry surveys and developed...

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  • Aug 3, 2021
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I’ve known for some time that, in the U.S., in summer, weather patterns can stall in one place for some time, because I read an article in Scientific American about it in 2019, and consequently wrote the paper on the climate change effect that caused this.

I occasionally use and reference writings by Dr. James Hansen. If you know anything about climate science, you know who Dr. Hansen is. Once or twice a month his team sends me a brief paper. The words and images below are about this same effect and others, and are from his most recent paper (7/13/2021). There are also words on the same effect and others from other sources.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 3, 2021

EVEN THE GREENEST governments and the most rapid emissions cuts will not be able to reverse the nascent destabilization of our climate. A certain amount of further warming is already baked into our future, since carbon dioxide lingers in the atmosphere for at least 300 years and will keep trapping more heat. Recent extremes are not a "new normal;' scientists say, but likely evidence of the end of any kind of normal or stable climate altogether

Harrowing, to say the least. The refrain 'we're running out of time' has been used so long, but this is showing that-- to a certain degree-- we've already done irreversible damage. 

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John Benson on Aug 3, 2021

Hi Matt:

Thanks for the comment.

The point made by Time was well-presented and also needed. For better or worse, we are on the verge of a long series of additional disasters that will keep on coming. We still need to do what we can to evolve to a society that no longer emits significant greenhouse gas, but even when we reach this milestone, there will per a long period (probably centuries) before the climate stabilizes, much less starts to return to the old normal. The above evolution will be made more difficult by the need to devote an increasing amount of our resources to adaptation. 

Fortunately, I wrote an earlier paper on adaptation linked below.

https://energycentral.com/c/ec/economics-and-climate-change-refugees

-John

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Bob Meinetz on Aug 4, 2021

"The above evolution will be made more difficult by the need to devote an increasing amount of our resources to adaptation. "

or:

"...devoting an increasing amount of our resources to adaptation will make the above evolution more difficult."

Responding to environmental hazards, even existential ones, only becomes real when individuals suffer their consequences. Making it easier to live with climate change, for the countries causing it, will make it easier to ignore it.

Justice will be served when developed countries take responsibility for a problem of their own making. Any money for adaptation should go to developing countries; the rest should go to preventing the problem from getting worse.

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Bob Meinetz on Aug 3, 2021

"All hell will break loose."

In this 15-minute video abstract of his paper "Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise, and Superstorms",  Dr. Hansen explains why the world's most populous cities (New York, London, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Mumbai, others) will be swallowed by seawater within one century unless drastic steps are taken immediately to reduce carbon emissions.

In a letter to attendees of COP21 in Paris, Dr. Hansen and other esteemed climate scientists describe why nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change.

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John Benson on Aug 4, 2021

Hi Bob:

Thanks for the comments and resources.

I believe that it is too late for "drastic steps". There is simply too much heat baked into our biosphere. Not that any major governments are too interested in doing this anyway. That is why I used the text from Time.

Regarding low to zero-GHG electric generation, I try to stay close to home, and it looks likely that California will rely on PV + storage, onshore wind + storage, offshore wind + storage, and lesser amounts of other renewables. Speaking of this, my post next Tuesday will be on Hydro (start of a three part series) and next Thursday, "Rooftop Solar Energy Tug of War."

I strongly believe that areas that don't have the land-area and/or off-shore access for wind or PV, nuclear represents a reasonable option, especially small modular reactors like NuScale and the GE BWRX-300.

-John

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Bob Meinetz on Aug 4, 2021

"I believe that it is too late for 'drastic steps'. There is simply too much heat baked into our biosphere. Not that any major governments are too interested in doing this anyway."

No doubt it's too late to limit global temps to +2°C, but I'm heartened by the fact drastic steps can work, and work well.

France's Messmer Plan succeeded in reducing its carbon footprint by 75% in 12 years (1975-1986), and that wasn't even its purpose. To avoid dependence on OPEC, France would completely replace its oil-fired power plants with nuclear power plants. It was opposed by oil interests, environmentalists, activists from virtually all corners of French government. It never would have happened, had Prime Minister Pierre Messmer not ordered it by parliamentary decree.

With democracy faltering in the U.S. it's unlikely a conversion from gas to nuclear could be accomplished as quickly here - not for lack of resources, but leadership. Biden is tip-toeing into 2022 and 2024, eager to unite the country. A sweeping executive order to address climate change would be perceived as a power grab, and could re-elect Trump. And four more years of Trump is to democracy, what climate change is to environmental health.

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John Benson on Aug 6, 2021

Hi Bob:

I agree with everything you say, and would like to add a bit of information from inside the nuclear industry.

I graduated from Texas Tech with a BSEE in 1975, I went into the nuclear industry. I don't believe that this was because I was a tree hugger (although I did belong to the Sierra Club then), but because I though it had a great future. Working in the industry for five years convinced me otherwise, There were two reasons for this.

One was the Atomic Energy Commission. They were conservative to a fault. They would not allow us (reactor manufacturers) to use a component called a "computer" in a reactor (of any kind). In the meanwhile the French used the most advanced computer technology available in their Phénix (French for phoenix) Reactor - the first commercial-sized LMFBR (233 MWe, commissioned in 1973, decommissioned in 2010).

The second problem was extremely poor management at the top (read: "by the government"). The federal government tried to make everyone happy in the end they created an industry that was not financially viable, particularly when the interest rates went through the roof.

Be happy that the U.S. never built their LMFBR (Clinch River Breeder Reactor Plant). The project management on this was the worst I've ever seen. There was an inside rumor among the RMs that the original name was the "Clinch River Atomic Plant". They should have left this alone, because it was...

-John

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Bob Meinetz on Aug 9, 2021

Interesting, John. Re:

"One was the Atomic Energy Commission. They were conservative to a fault. They would not allow us (reactor manufacturers) to use a component called a 'computer' in a reactor (of any kind)."

In your opinion, what's the basis for AEC/NRC conservatism (which continues to this day)? I know during a design review, the NRC once complained to engineers at NuScale the preliminary drawings for their Small Modular Reactor (SMR) didn't show the containment vessel. Engineers tried to explain NuScale's SMR didn't require a containment vessel, that it was passively safe, that it couldn't melt down. They showed him extensive computer models examining every possible outcome of a loss-of-coolant accident, loss of power, operator error, even sabotage - but the NRC reviewer had to see that containment vessel, or they couldn't proceed to the next step of the design review.

I know GE-Hitachi has been going through similar runarounds since 1998 with its PRISM liquid sodium-cooled reactor. There is one 2017 memo where an obviously-peeved project manager complains of NRC incompetence being the biggest obstacle to securing Combined Design/Operating License (COL) approval for advanced reactors.
Hard to make progress when GE and Westinghouse are trying to develop newer, safer designs, but the NRC will only approve older, less-safe ones.

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John Benson on Aug 10, 2021

The NRC is mainly composed of bureaucrats, and have virtually no good engineers. Any that worked there quickly got frustrated and left. As the nuclear energy industry shrinks, this situation only gets worse, as the remaining employees are only interested in making it to retirement. 

New stuff: no hablé.

The only solution I see is to break the NRC into two organizations. One deals with old-stuff, and the other new stuff.

-John

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