8 Responses

  1. MikeH November 26, 2013 at 7:17 pm |

    If you go back and read David Walter’s original piece, you will see the fingerprints of the US based “progressive” think tank, The Breakthrough Institute all over it.

    The blog “Brave New Climate” that David links to is the world’s leading pro-nuclear climate blog. It is based in Adelaide, South Australia and run by Professor Barry Brook, Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change at Adelaide University and a fellow at the TBI.

    (The blog “decarbonisesa” linked to in the comments below also based out of Adelaide, SA. Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, South Australia is home to BHP-Billiton’s Olympic dam mine the largest known single deposit of uranium in the world.)

    The pro-nuclear film Pandora’s Promise that David refers to in his piece features Michael Shellenberger, President of TBI. Here is a video of the film’s director Stone and Shellenberger promoting the movie.

    This is from David’s comments below his original article.
    “I believe, firmly, that the anti-nuclear movement created the climate mess we are in today for opposing nuclear energy and this is my harshest criticism of this highly effective movement.
    Additionally, anti-nuclear activists don’t like to be shown how their movement dovetailed and in some cases were financed by fossil fuel interests.”

    David’s claim in respect of nuclear is ludicrous as well as offensive. The capitalists dropped nuclear because it was not profitable, not because it was unpopular with environmentalists.

    That comment is similar to the pro-nuclear propaganda from the TBI. When the TBI are not promoting “safe nuclear”, they are promoting “clean coal” and “clean gas”. In the view of TBI, capitalism could solve the climate crisis if not for the constraints imposed on it by the Luddites and radicals in the environment movement, supported by celebrity NIMBYs. TBI also downplay the seriousness of the crisis – hence the label “lukewarmers”.

    Here they are using exactly the same argument in respect to fracking. If you oppose “fracking” then you are responsible for global warming!

    Here is a pro “clean coal” article from Breakthrough Institute fellows Roger Pielke Jr and Daniel Sarewitz titled “Learning to Live with Fossil Fuels”

    TBI claim to be “progressives who believe in the potential of human development, technology, and evolution to improve human lives”, oppose “cap an trade” and promote “long-term government investment” to “accelerate technological progress, economic growth, and environmental quality”.

    They appear to have sucked in a few people on the left possibly because of their opposition to carbon pricing. I would suggest reading this article for some background.

    Not surprisingly, David’s article has been reprinted by the TBI.

    For readers who are interested in the technical arguments, the nuclear myths that appear in David’s article are debunked here. DA Ryan, the blog’s author describes the current pro-nuclear lobby as a scientific “cargo cult”. That desription is very apt in my opinion.

    1. Timothy Baldwin November 30, 2013 at 5:19 pm |

      The fact that non-socialists argue for nuclear power is not evidence against nuclear power. You have, at best, shown that the Breakthrough Institute can not be trusted, not that they are wrong on nuclear power.

      As to the some of the “myths”:

      1. The claim that the Fukushima “containment buildings have now been reduced to smouldering piles of rubble” is false and not supported by the cited source.

      2. The 4000 figure is an estimate based upon the controversial linear no threshold hypothesis. The Banqiao dam disaster, the worst accident with renewable energy is about 40 times worse.

      3. This is not true, there are lots of incidences of exaggeration in the media.

      4. Cherry picking EPR for construction costs and gas cooled reactors for decommissioning costs. Failure to consider that nuclear power stations last longer than wind turbines.

      5. This confuses power plant failures which are independent with intermittent availability of wind and sunlight, which will effect power plants over a large area.

      6. This fails to distinguish between known deposits and deposits which have yet to be found. The sources used support the claim that extracting uranium from seawater use too much energy provide a poor argument.

  2. Timothy Baldwin November 25, 2013 at 7:41 pm |

    “Moreover, plutonium, a necessary component of nuclear weapons … is not an element that occurs naturally on earth. It is a by-product of nuclear fission inside nuclear reactors. Hence, without a nuclear power program … it is not possible to realistically generate the required amount of plutonium for nuclear weapons.”

    Spent Nuclear Fuel contains too much plutonium 240 to be usable in nuclear bombs. See http://depletedcranium.com/why-you-cant-build-a-bomb-from-spent-fuel/ for an explanation.

    1. David Walters November 25, 2013 at 9:48 pm |

      One of slight of hands here that Chris associated nuclear weapons (intentional or not) is that he has it so wrong. As noted SNF from a *commercial* reactor is not particularly good for bomb material. *Which is why it’s never been done*!!! Chris little missive is citing Israeli, Pakistani ‘civilian’ reactors to show the ‘connection’ between energy bombs. These were not electricity producing nuclear reactors but so-called “R&D” reactors of the exact same type the U.S. builds and runs by the Dept. of Energy to make plutonium. They are built from the start as military reactors. The only Socialist answer to this is “don’t build nuclear weapons, unilateral nuclear disarmament!” It’s a question of politics, not tech.

      Had Chris been less desperate to make his false, slight-of-hand connection with weapons a and energy, I could of told him what IS in fact the connection and there is one. Actually two.

      1. The main real connection is the exact same connection the B-52 bomber is with today’s passenger airliners: the Boeings and Airbuses of today are the direct decedent of the atom-bomb carrying B-52. The proper connection for nuclear energy is the U.S. Navy Nuclear Propulsion program where small modular reactors were used to power first submarines, the aircraft carriers. It is this tech that was “plowshared” into peaceful nuclear energy. So, Chris, if you are going to make connections, at least get the right one!

      2. The other connection was under the 1950/60s planned “Atoms for Peace” program. The idea here was to use, in fact, fast reactors to produce energy and, Pu239 for bombs. The Pu239 can power any reactor (and all light water reactors get about 1/3 of their power from Pu239 fuel bred in the reactor) can, if built around a reactor designed to minimize isotopes that would ruin the fuel for WMD, be used for bombs. It never came about and even the toward the end of the program in the 1980s and 90s, fast reactors were seen exclusively as civilian energy plants.

      David Walters

  3. Gregory Meyerson November 25, 2013 at 3:28 pm |

    In case folks here have not seen this: letter from Caldeira, Hansen, Emanuel and Wigley: http://decarbonisesa.com/2013/11/04/top-climate-scientists-draw-a-line-in-the-sand-on-nuclear/

  4. Gregory Meyerson November 25, 2013 at 2:06 pm |


    some numbers: french electricity generates 70 grams CO2/kwh. Germany is a whopping 540. These are for 2011. See link above. The only way to be cavalier about differences like this is to hype the radiation scare and conflate nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

  5. Gregory Meyerson November 25, 2013 at 12:44 pm |

    a quick comment. this piece offers up cherry picked sources and stats in the service of dogma. you have to take seriously the arguments of honest pro nuclear people, experts and lay, and you have not done this. You are not facing up to the best arguments of people like Dave or James Hansen or Barry Brook or Geoff Russell, George Monbiot etc. on cost, risk, safety, life cycle emissons, on and on.

    You cherry pick “hotspots” as it they tell us something significant about the radiological situation at Fukushima. You ignore the findings of Gerry Thomas, Abel Gonzalez and Robert Gale about the minimal impacts of the radiation release (no deaths, no likely deaths). You cherry pick experts: friends of earth on lifecycle, Yablonsky of the notorious NYAS study. You wave away the real problems around intermittency and unreliability (when you can point to a real world example of wind and solar and biofuel or geothermal doing the heavy lifting, you still will not have a convincing argument against nuclear power: not without resort to the plentiful apocalyptic rhetoric, which is an insult to anyone with a brain). You ignore the real world where Germany and Japan’s emissions are rising due to their closing of nuclear plants. You cherry pick cost figures by focusing on the u.s. You ignore the promise of generation three and four reactors. Let’s break this down. why not start by offering an honest critique of Geoff Russell’s three part series on radiation: http://bravenewclimate.com/

  6. Iñigo Antepara November 25, 2013 at 7:12 am |

    The substitution of fossil fuels by nuke for CO2 reduction is an artificial discussion in Spain, but I think it’s the same in most countries. In Spain what we have is the explosion of a Gas-Power-Plants-bubble due to the crisis, and a competition between renewables and nuclear plants (windmills stopped many times during the last years, as nuclear plants cannot be stopped). And if in Spain the gas plants are used half (or less) of the time they were used before the crisis, the Spanish CO2 emissions as only slightly lower or even the same. Electricity is not the alternative to oil used in transportation of heating, which are the biggest responsible for CO2 emissions.
    Perhaps in China they can think of the substitution of coal plants by nuclear plants, but this would not avoid the CO2 emissions due to transportation and/or heating, which in the end would result in an insignificant reduction.
    D. Walters did not finished the history of using denser energy sources, as oil and nuclear were more denser 50 years ago than now (by the way, it is measured by EROI) and now windmills have higher EROI than oil. And I think antinuclear advocates are not proposing fossil fuels instead of uranium, thus, the argument of nuke being less harmless is tricky: the comparison should not be between health impacts due to radioactivity and those renewables cause?
    But I think this is because people still believe we live in an infinite flat earth. Communism is as productivism-advocate as capitalism. Few people mention energy saving as an alternative. Why more and more electricity? Why not reduction in the electricity consumption, so that nuclear plants can be closed? What’s more, nuclear power is against democratization of the energy production, it doesn’t matter if we are in a communist or capitalist country: only countries or really big companies can build nuclear power plants. World is limited, you can also hear about Peak uranium. Otherwise, what the hell is the French army doing in Mali?
    Development of poor countries is also tricky. It is well known that solving the problem of hunger is not a question of resources, but it has a political solution: it is needed much less money that banks received in the beginning of the crisis. It´s the same with access to modern energy services for me.
    Chris Williams did a good job describing the connection of nuclear energy with military industry. Trying to hide this is quite surprising: Iran is a good example.
    Also Michael Friedman, answering whether nuke is safe or not. “ALL high level waste is safely stored”, such categorical statement you won’t find in scientific literature. Nobody knows what is going to happen with corrosion of concrete and alloys used for their protection, as concrete is too “young”. It was discovered two centuries ago, thus, thousands of years is at least ten times this (one order of magnitude). Unfortunately, this is a poisoned legacy for our children.
    By the way, if it is preferable to say “spent fuel” rather than nuclear waste, the same for CO2.

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