April 9, 2005

An aging hippie actually gets it!

The Misanthropist reads about Stewart Brand so we don't have to. He found this link which indicates that Mr. Brand actually has a clue about Nuclear and the Environment: From the Misanthropyst:
The clue-bulb goes on over the head of an aging hipster -- Stewart Brand realizes nuclear energy is green. It also solves our energy independence and terrorism issues. It's a shame that the oilmen are in charge [Exxon Mobile posted 2004 profits of $21.5 Billion -- why would they want things to change?]
From the Technology Review column by Stuart Brand:
Over the next ten years, I predict, the mainstream of the environmental movement will reverse its opinion and activism in four major areas: population growth, urbanization, genetically engineered organisms, and nuclear power.
And his thoughts on Nuclear Power specifically:
Letís Go Nuclear
Can climate change be slowed and catastrophe avoided? They can to the degree that humanity influences climate dynamics. The primary cause of global climate change is our burning of fossil fuels for energy.

So everything must be done to increase energy efficiency and decarbonize energy production. Kyoto accords, radical conservation in energy transmission and use, wind energy, solar energy, passive solar, hydroelectric energy, biomass, the whole gamut. But add them all up and itís still only a fraction of enough. Massive carbon "sequestration" (extraction) from the atmosphere, perhaps via biotech, is a widely held hope, but itís just a hope. The only technology ready to fill the gap and stop the carbon dioxide loading of the atmosphere is nuclear power.

Nuclear certainly has problemsóaccidents, waste storage, high construction costs, and the possible use of its fuel in weapons. It also has advantages besides the overwhelming one of being atmospherically clean. The industry is mature, with a half-century of experience and ever improved engineering behind it. Problematic early reactors like the ones at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl can be supplanted by new, smaller-scale, meltdown-proof reactors like the ones that use the pebble-bed design. Nuclear power plants are very high yield, with low-cost fuel. Finally, they offer the best avenue to a "hydrogen economy," combining high energy and high heat in one place for optimal hydrogen generation.

The storage of radioactive waste is a surmountable problem (see "A New Vision for Nuclear Waste," December 2004). Many reactors now have fields of dry-storage casks nearby. Those casks are transportable. It would be prudent to move them into well-guarded centralized locations. Many nations address the waste storage problem by reprocessing their spent fuel, but that has the side effect of producing material that can be used in weapons. One solution would be a global supplier of reactor fuel, which takes back spent fuel from customers around the world for reprocessing. Thatís the kind of idea that can go from "Impractical!" to "Necessary!" in a season, depending on world events.

The environmental movement has a quasi-religious aversion to nuclear energy. The few prominent environmentalists who have spoken out in its favoróGaia theorist James Lovelock, Greenpeace cofounder Patrick Moore, Friend of the Earth Hugh Montefioreóhave been privately anathematized by other environmentalists. Public excoriation, however, would invite public debate, which so far has not been welcome.
He certainly hits the nail on the head. The overall environmental impact is a lot less than Coal -- mining, refining and waste disposal. The volume of fuel is minuscule compared to Coal and we have Nuclear ores in abundance in the USA. Considering that there is about a ten year lag from the first plans to commissioning the plant, we need to get going now. Faster! Please! Posted by DaveH at April 9, 2005 10:29 PM
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