Science Council for Global Initiatives

scgibannerConcerns continue to mount over climate change — driven by spiralling carbon emissions, dwindling global oil supplies — fomenting ongoing regional conflicts,  air pollution — including sulphates and soot leading to chronic health problems, degraded waterways and forests — caused by acidification and heavy metal pollution. The list goes on, and these are just the fossil-fuel-related environmental problems we must tackle. In this context, the lack of a coherent sustainable energy policy — from virtually any nation — almost leads one to despair. Steve Kirsch has written about this failure recently with reference to the US, but the lack of vision is near universal. Is this simply the product of human nature — an inevitable failure of societies to recongnise the seriousness of unsustainable practices until it is all too late?

I don’t believe it must be this way. There are positive visions out there — aspirations for a future world in which all people’s basic needs are met, and opportunities are created to allow for ongoing improvement in quality of living, without ‘powering down’ some baser, lower-energy state. Aims to achieve a global society that is recognisably modern and ‘high tech’, yet is one which also strives to protect biodiversity from destruction, maintain vital ecosystem services, and ensure a vibrant, habitable and sustainable planet in perpetutity. It can be done, and it must be done.

These are bold ideas. But how to realise them? No one can say with certainty, but that must not stop us trying our damndest to achieve such goals. In that spirit, and with these initiatives as our inspiration, I am proud to announce that a group of concerned global citizens has founded an organisation called the Science Council for Global Initiatives (SCGI).

Our Vision

Humanity already has the technology to implement a global energy revolution. We can now usher in a post-scarcity era while solving the most intractable problems that threaten life on Earth.

Our Mission

The Science Council for Global Initiatives is a growing international group of scientists, politicians, activists and other concerned men and women working together to articulate cohesive, efficient policies for solving the most serious problems ever faced by mankind. Resource wars, globe-girdling pollution, the threat of serious climate disruption; these challenges demand immediate international cooperation and inspiration on an unprecedented level. The world-class members of SCGI are creating the foundations for political and social structures that will enable us to meet the formidable challenges of the 21st century.

The technologies available will not, in and of themselves, solve our problems. While their deployment and utilization are critical, powerful industries and traditions will resist the paradigm shift that must inevitably take place. The solutions must not only be presented to our national and international leaders. The citizenry must become informed and vocal enough in their advocacy of these remedies to overpower the special interests that strangle political leadership in so many countries around the world.

On the SCGI web site you will find an ever-growing resource base to understand the technologies that can turn the tide and lead humanity not just back from the brink of global crisis, but which can take us to the threshold of an era beyond scarcity. SCGI is dedicated to uplifting the standard of living of everyone, not just the relative few who enjoy the comforts of a “developed country” lifestyle.

We can now accomplish these goals:

  • Reduce human-caused greenhouse gas emissions to a trickle
  • Eliminate air pollution
  • Recycle spent nuclear fuel
  • Power our vehicles with zero-emission energy systems
  • Bring the fossil fuel era to an end
  • End resource wars, including looming water wars
  • Provide abundant energy and fresh water to every nation
  • Diminish the world’s nuclear arsenals, turn old nuclear weapons into energy
  • Effortlessly recycle virtually all of our waste products

Technologies that can lead us to a post-scarcity era:

Founding members of SCGI include the following: Tom Blees (SCGI President, author of Prescription for the Planet), Barry Brook (yours truly), Yoon Chang (former Associate Director of the Argonne National Laboratory and co-developer of the IFR), James Hansen (head of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies), Steve Kirsch (inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist), Joe Schuster (chemical engineer and author of Beyond Fossil Fools), George Stanford (nuclear reactor physicist and author of Nuclear Shadowboxing: Contemporary Threats from Cold War Weaponry), Dan Meneley (Engineer Emeritus, Atomic Energy of Canada), Louis Circeo (Director of Plasma Research, Georgia Tech Research Institute), Charles Till (Associate Director of Argonne National Laboratory prior to Yoon Chang, and co-developer of the IFR), Eugene Preston (power systems engineer and electricity transmission planner) and Ray Hunter (former Deputy Director of the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology at the US DOE). David Mackay (newly appointed appointed Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change) is a guest contributor to SCGI. A number of other significant members of SCGI (some more big international names) will be announced in due course.

The Board of Directors includes Adrian Borsa (Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego), Douglas Carroll (General Electric Nuclear Energy Project, retired — directed the PRISM Project, an Integral Fast Reactor design), Ron Gester (retired emergency physician), J. Bernard Minster (Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, Scripps), Michael Williamson (marine geophysicist and CEO of Williamson & Associates, Inc) and Nicole Blees (SCGI Secretary).

For those who’ve read Prescription for the Planet, SCGI is the real-world genesis of the GREAT (global rescue energy alliance trust) initiative described in detail in Chapters 10, 11 and 13. So prepare yourself, and stay tuned — SCGI has truly grand plans afoot, and little time to lose!

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61 Comments

  1. Sorry but on first reading it sounds a bit fascist. We don’t need central planning. Perhaps on second reading it will sound better.

    The problem at the moment is that we have more climate policies than you can poke a stick at. If emissions are a problem then lets get rid of MRET, ETS, renewable subsidies and all the hoopla and red tape and have a simple straight forward tax on emissions with the revenue raised used to cut other taxes. For instance a major simplification would be to abolish fuel tax^ and fold it into a broadly based carbon tax that applies to both mobile and stationary energy. Or if you care about jobs you could abolish payroll tax. If you want to help those on low income you could lift the tax free threshold. If you want to encourage investment cut the company tax rate. Set a price on emissions and then turbo charge the economy by lifting the boot off other parts of it.

    Of course lets remove the ban on nuclear, cut back on bureaucracy and have sane and simple approval processes.

    ^ http://www.cis.org.au/policy_monographs/pm80.pdf – see page 5

  2. Libertarian policies won’t build a modern industrial society. Central planning, very broadly speaking, was at the heart of every generation system in the world today, be it through highly regulated utilities, to highly efficient public power enterprises, to the building of most of the worlds hydro units, none, that I’m aware of, built with direct gov’t financing.

    If the issue is climate change, and nuclear is the only way to alleviate the situation then not only subsidies, but outright financing and nationalization is called for. The market won’t work for everything (see healthcare in the US), especially in the energy fields.

    Yours for public power,

    David

  3. David – I don’t really want to debate health care here but I disagree with your implied assertion that the US healthcare market has failed in a vaccum. It took a lot of regulation to make the US healthcare market fail. Just as it took a lot of initiative to make the public healthcare system in the UK a failure. On balance given these two examples I’d rather get sick in the USA.

    Whilst we are talking about the USA I’d like to point out that it went from being an impoverished agrarian backwater to a modern industrial society during a long period of primarily libertarian policy. It was only after becoming modern that it started shifted to central planning. And that sort of thinking led to the modern US health care system.

    I’m a little sceptical about the benefits of privatising electricity distributors in Australia (I’d probably mutualise them). However leaving electicity generation to the private sector is a no brainer. It is hard to send price signals without a functional market.

  4. p.s. I should say that I’m not against planning. Just autocratic central planning imposed by governments using the coercive instruments of the state. If nuclear is a good idea then ask yourself why we are not building them today. Surely nobody can claim it is due to market failure. The proper role of government is to get out of the way as much as possible. At least in so far as that remains consistent with protecting us from the coercive nature of others.

  5. I think we’re headed for energy rationing like it or not. A CO2 cap (if it ever got serious) would limit coal burning while replacement generation would slow in coming. The bean counters would start calculating how many kwhs per day people really need for cooking, water heating, lighting etc. Next would be cross tiered pricing with not only peak/off-peak but allowance/over-allowance. Done with ‘smart’ meters or radio control as proposed for air conditioning.

    When that fails to achieve the required cuts the government will then step in to regulate the profits of private energy resellers. They must hard sell customers on less electricity or gas, not more, or face nationalisation. With liquid fuels some are predicting a return a return to 1970’s style odd and even number plates. Alternatively if you want more than the 20 litres a week your fuel ration card allows buy it off someone else.

    Here in the Lucky Country we’re in a buzz over La Nina, the Gorgon bonanza, bushfire survival and the fact China keeps buying. Soon there will be many years when things don’t go so well.

  6. Hey Tejep,

    “Just as it took a lot of initiative to make the public healthcare system in the UK a failure.”

    Uh!!

    I’m a long time resident here in London. So tell me how is the NHS a failure (as some one is also Australian and so has experienced both health systems). The UK handed its death panels over to private industry years ago leaving the NHS to get on with better health outcomes (don’t you watch John Stewart?).

  7. TerjeP, maatee……

    “On balance given these two examples I’d rather get sick in the USA. ”

    When I travel to the US my travel insurance in its thickness resembles the expenses manifest for a bonus operator from Goldman Sachs, no other advanced industrial society needs the same cover. When I’m in Australia I have to pony over money to health funds that also need my taxes to keep them afloat.

    When I travel to the UK I leave my insurance back in Australia. Needed stitching the other week here in London, waited 5 mins at the GP, and then she and the practice nurse both applied the steri strips while trying not to laugh as they asked me once again how I managed to fall off my bike.

  8. Healtcare in America…the land of the market, is totally busted and doesn’t work. We are 39th or something on health care statitistics. Most *civilized* countries have some form of socialized medicine, hell it’s a function of civilization.

    Public health is overwhelmingly popular in Canada, Cuba, the UK, France, and even in developing countries, the public aspect of health care is very popular. The idea of ‘letting the market decide’ is basically telling poor people to get lost, and, an increasing number of working people like myself. I lost my job (thanks to capitalism) and, my wifes health insurance now eats up 40% of our income. So, EVERY poll in the US sees that ‘the market’ doesn’t work in the US and never will with regrds to health.

    As for energy…every major power plant, dam, grid was built with tremendous amounts of planning and gov’t subsidies. NO dam, that I’m are of, no hydro system, anywhere in the world, was built without gov’t ownership.

    The relegion of the market place is simply a-historical and never really existed. Even the massive subisidies in the form of *stealing land* for rail roads, ever conceivable service in the ear of the Trusts and Robber Barons was done with the ‘subsidy’ of the State via free money from the gov’t, armies paid for by taxes for strike suppression, gov’t funded water ways (there were no private water systems in the US during the 19th Century) without which there would of been no industrialization.

    Nuclear cannot be built soley by private funds, it can, and only has, ever been built with massive gov’t planning, regulation, financing, etc. It doesn’t mean it’s not economically viable on it’s own but no one but the most batty CATO Institute fanatic thinks the gov’t “ought to stay of the energy business”. Been there done that, it doesn’t work.

    David

  9. On this new council. I think it’s a positive development and hopefully can shift the debate on nuclear some. I think the mistake, and this goes for LFTR advocates as well, is to downplay the *current* Nuclear Renaissance. I think Gen III reactors and their current deployment are integral to the future of any Gen IV reactor scheme. The Council doesn’t make that clear enough, IMO.

    Secondly, obviously, I think that not including LFTR as one of the ‘waste eater’ and ‘zero-waste generators’ is a huge mistake, *politically* for a group organized as this Council is.

    David

  10. David, I totally agree about the paramount importance of the Gen III/Gen IV synergy, as I think you know. I’ll take back the message that this needs to be clearer. The thrust of this initiative is preparing for the future today, so the emphasis is on getting demonstration Gen IVs built as soon as possible — the longer we delay with this, the harder that smooth synergistic transition will be, and the more public resistance we are likely to meet from a public who sees no plan beyond the current nuclear renaissance.

  11. @12,13 David,you beat me to it on the LFTR plug, but you’re probably more awake at this hour! If you look through the SCGI site article by Dan Meneley, he states that we will build a lot of thermal reactor plants before we get round to building IFRs, and that the eventual energy system will be a mix of fast reactors generating excess fuel and thermal reactors burning it, with best results if the thermal reactors have a high conversion ratio. All he’s missing is the ultimate high conversion ratio thermal reactor, LFTRs with a conversion ratio >=1 that need only an initial start charge of U233 to be made in an IFR, and then sustain themselves on thorium forever.
    An analysis of the contribution to be made by each reactor type if you want to do a serious nuclear build out has been published by the University of Grenoble reactor physics group. See for links to the full text if interested. There are major synergies between the reactor types. A balanced mix of PWRs, fast breeders and LFTRs will give you nearly twice the power (yes, power not energy, start charges are the limiting factor over the next 50 years) for a given uranium consumption than IFRs alone, while LFTRs alone breed too slowly.

    Luke

  12. Barry,
    Any idea of the date when Australia could replace the last coal-fired power plant(ie keeping existing hydro, OCGT and wind power), assuming we start on the “nuclear vision” after the next Federal election?

  13. One can make guesses from other countries’ experience. How hard to you want to try? The fastest rate the French managed was 3.4 Gw/year, which would give you Oz’s 25 Gw average load in under eight years. France’s population is twice yours, but techniques have improved over the last 25 years. Say five years to get organised and ramp up, slow down at the end, 15 years from committing 100% to the goal. Of course, opponents will get the lawyers in and it will take 50 years instead!

    Luke

  14. @Barry and @Luke, thanks for your responses. Keep in mind this Council is good and I endorse it’s work.

    Certainly the IFR is the far more ‘talked about’ and recognized Gen IV reactor, probably second to the PBMR (canceled now in S. Africa but breaking ground in China). And, I really want to see it succeed, since it’s a lot closer to fruition than the LFTR is.

    But I’m glad Barry you will raise this, and, actually, especially in the issue of the Gen III relationship to the IFR and any Gen IV reactor. We stand and fall together.

    dAvid

  15. This looks like an excellent initiative: congrats.

    One thing, though: SGCI needs a new logo (and website banner), fast. The current ones look like a jump back in time a couple of decades, whereas it should be more like a jump forwards.

  16. Barry – I will reread the site. As I said a second reading may include some altered perspective. What is P4TP?

    Others – I’m not going to hijack this discussion by digressing into arguments about healthcare markets beyond my assertion that they don’t demonstrate that markets don’t work. If you wish to debate me on this point you can google “TerjeP Medicare HECS” and comment on the libertarian blog article you find. Feel free to quote any of my comments from here. I’d offer a url but I’m blogging on my mobile phone and it can’t do cut and paste.

  17. If the issue is climate change, and nuclear is the only way to alleviate the situation then not only subsidies, but outright financing and nationalization is called for. The market won’t work for everything (see healthcare in the US), especially in the energy fields.

    David, I’ll disregard the health issue as that isn’t relevant to the thread, but suffice to say that you’re wrong. The US doesn’t have a private system. It has a convoluted government mandated one where competition don’t really exist.

    I think you’re really ignoring the reality of the situation at hand. Nearly all energy investment these days is being met through private means. Certainly there are market distorting subsidies for solar and wind etc, however almost all the capital that’s channeled in that direction is from the private market. France’s largest nuclear power operator is a private concern EDF (Electricte De France). So much for European countries running nationalized grids.

    Here’s a link saying the EU is forcing France to open it’s market up further to competition.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20090915-704767.html

    I think you’re confusing Nationalization with centralized energy production which allows economies of scale to force down unit costs. It’s different.

    One last thing…. Which Western government now has the billions upon billions of dollars needed to convert energy production. I can’t think of one, especially the US where the Feds are running an unprecedented deficit of 13% of GDP.

    Lastly, you argue that the market won’t work for everything… Perhaps you could show me which market doesn’t have a downward sloping demand/supply curve.

  18. Lastly, you argue that the market won’t work for everything… Perhaps you could show me which market doesn’t have a downward sloping demand/supply curve.

    Healthcare, energy, education, housing, but you don’t want to talk about the former or the later.

    But WSJ article only talks about selling *nuclear* energy to other markets. France was *forced*, I might add, to open it’s market for internal generated wind and solar by European rules, meaning it was obligated to pay 8 cents euro per kw hr to *any* producer. Hardly a free market.

    JC…in the world today, and while it’s under attack by the forces of monopoly privatization, most of the grids are nationalized and state owned. The infrastructure for this, like water supply systems, were generally supported by billions and billions of dollars in development monies provided by the state.

    Where the very recent phenomenon of private money going into energy resources, most notably almost all wind and solar projects is 100% based on:

    1. Gov’t mandates to build these renewable projects and
    2. VAST amounts of subsidies available from manufacturers to end users.

    In the US I get announcements everyday, really, for this or that conference on “how to invest” in the “growing market for wind or solar” which is based, and they are quite open to it, in the Production Tax Credit. Thus, T. Boone Pickens now abandoned but much publicized “4000MW” wind farm was an effort by Pickens to mine subsidies from both ends: the PTC for wind and, the smaller PTC for natural gas which of course is where he made his money.

    The British, French and other European countries nationalized their energy resources after WWII because they were tired of the big boys *controlling* such an important resources. The post-war strike wave that hit western Europe was the result of a heightened class struggle movement that looked toward openly socialist solutions. It served them well for decades and it’s how France built it’s incredible nuclear infrastructure and why the unions and other energy activists there *oppose* EdF’s privatization.

    In a less dramatic effect, the total bankruptcy of New York City’s subway system in the early 1900s after it was built showed the inability of private industry in transportation to provide this basic service. So the whole system was municipalized…than god.

    In the US, Public Power entities, which supply about 16% of the power in the US, do so *cheaper* and more reliably than regulated utilities or private, merchant ones.

    So, no one today is building nuclear, renewable or even fossil plants, not in the US or Europe, with out massive gov’t intervention. Thank the gods we don’t have a “free” market for this.

  19. France was *forced*, I might add, to open it’s market for internal generated wind and solar by European rules, meaning it was obligated to pay 8 cents euro per kw hr to *any* producer. Hardly a free market.

    David, France was forced to open its market to other EU energy producers. This promotes competition and it is a move towards freer markets. Not free market but freer markets. Of course it isn’t my idea of a free market, however that isn‘t what we’re talking about. We’re talking about you’re assertion that energy markets should be/need to be nationalized. In fact this highlights it’s going the other way.

    JC…in the world today, and while it’s under attack by the forces of monopoly privatization, most of the grids are nationalized and state owned. The infrastructure for this, like water supply systems, were generally supported by billions and billions of dollars in development monies provided by the state.

    No that isn’t true. The vast proportion of energy asserts in the western world (which is what I’m talking about are not state owned.

    Where the very recent phenomenon of private money going into energy resources, most notably almost all wind and solar projects is 100% based on:
    1. Gov’t mandates to build these renewable projects and
    2. VAST amounts of subsidies available from manufacturers to end users.

    That may be true but the capital is being expended by private sources.

    The British, French and other European countries nationalized their energy resources after WWII because they were tired of the big boys *controlling* such an important resources. The post-war strike wave that hit western Europe was the result of a heightened class struggle movement that looked toward openly socialist solutions. It served them well for decades and it’s how France built it’s incredible nuclear infrastructure and why the unions and other energy activists there *oppose* EdF’s privatization.

    I don’t really get the point here.

    In a less dramatic effect, the total bankruptcy of New York City’s subway system in the early 1900s after it was built showed the inability of private industry in transportation to provide this basic service. So the whole system was municipalized…than god.

    David the NYC subway system went bust because the private owners were mandated the rate at where they could sell tickets. The rate was left lingering at 25 cents (1/4) for around 10 years or so while costs were going up, so of course it went broke.

    It’s broke again and the city subsidizes its operation. In short it’s a mess.

    In the US, Public Power entities, which supply about 16% of the power in the US, do so *cheaper* and more reliably than regulated utilities or private, merchant ones.

    You mean like LIPPA, Long Island power supplier that is the most expensive on the east coast and second only to the other mess in California.

    So, no one today is building nuclear, renewable or even fossil plants, not in the US or Europe, with out massive gov’t intervention. Thank the gods we don’t have a “free” market for this.

    Why would you thank the gods? What services do you get in the US derived from the government you can say are terrific? I can’t even say the experience of renewing my driver’s license was anything short of a nightmare.

  20. David, France was forced to open its market to other EU energy producers. This promotes competition and it is a move towards freer markets. Not free market but freer markets. Of course it isn’t my idea of a free market, however that isn‘t what we’re talking about. We’re talking about you’re assertion that energy markets should be/need to be nationalized. In fact this highlights it’s going the other way.

    No it promotes anarchy and, corners cut, safety declines as it does with all for-profit quests. But it is true that privatization is slowly increasing and advancing, in one’s interests but the profiteers. Europe’s grid worked fine without, it doesn’t need it, and it should be reversed.

    David the NYC subway system went bust because the private owners were mandated the rate at where they could sell tickets. The rate was left lingering at 25 cents (1/4) for around 10 years or so while costs were going up, so of course it went broke.

    No, it was nickel (5 cents). You are talking about another era, the 1970s. That’s not when it was municipalized. It was municipalized over 3 steps: 1932 the city set up a line to compete with the two private companies, the ISS line. In 1940, the two private lines gave up the ghost and the city bought them out. The final step was the full, widely popular I might add, final municipalization of the bus lines and remaining subways in 1953 (I think that was the year).

    The system is subisidized but it’s well worth it as it moves about 3 million people a day. It’s why New York City has the lowest carbon footprint of any major city in the US today, and does so by leaps and bounds. Thanks in large part to municipalization.

    I’m not against subisdies at all. I for it being directed toward that which is in line with human needs, like energy, specifically nuclear energy.

    As I noted without such subsidies no private enterprise would enter the energy market. This is especially true with solar PV but as true for wind and Solar thermal as well. It’s just a waste of money in my opinion.

    By the way Long Island Lighting…yeah, Shorem, remember that? Please, PG&E the *largest* investor owned utility in the US has the *highest rates* in the US. The lowest? SMUD and the various municipal utilities. Energy should be in the hands of the people, not pirates. See Energy crisis of California: 2000.

    David

  21. You last point: when you turn on the tap and water comes out, thank the government for that. Oh, in California…the two most expensive water systems are the only two privately owned water systems in the state.

  22. Barry – P4TP was ordered a week ago. It has not yet arrived and so I have not read it yet. However I’ve read what reviews and extracts I could find and on the technological side of things it does seem quite promising. My earlier comment was meant to be descriptive not dismissive but perhaps it misses the mark.

    When I arrived in Sydney in the late 80s water tanks were prohibited. Now they are mandated. I find this both ironic and annoying and somewhat symptomatic of much government policy. I’d be very supportive of the ban on nuclear energy being lifted. I’d be somewhat annoyed if their construction was subsequently mandated (which if government built owned and operated amounts to much the same thing). We need open access to the best of the best technological and commercial solutions. In energy policy terms we need government to be permissive not prescriptive. If we had never banned water tanks and nuclear energy wouldn’t our nation look somewhat different today?

  23. Reading The Oil Drum today a couple of things struck me. First there seems to be general acceptance that renewable energy cannot replace more than 25% of current energy use. Second is the fact that France with a third the per capita emissions of US or Australia is to lead the pack by introducing a $30 a tonne carbon tax. It seems the less dependent you are on fossil fuels the easier it is to wean yourself away from them.

  24. Gen IV nuclear is THE ONLY RATIONAL answer to the question of our long-term electricity supply. And a major part of the solution to stabilising CO2 levels. So why aren’t governments rushing like mad to build these things RIGHT NOW? As for finding a replacement for oil (as fuel for the transportation sector), I don’t see governments treating this issue seriously at all. The public (at least those who take an interest in this subject) seem resigned to the “powering down” of modern civilisation. Some environmental groups are doubtless licking their lips at the prospect. I just don’t understand it. I mean, it’s like we have lost confidence in ourselves as a species.

  25. Ijon – the transport sector is on the cusp of a major revolution. Only this time it really is. Batteries breakthroughs are making the whole plug-in hybrid concept workable and we will be electrifying our transport fleets pretty rapidly pretty soon. Soon means over the next few years we will see all major manufacturers include plug-in hybrid models and a few years after that it will become the norm. There are too many breakthroughs in the pipeline for this to not happen even with zero government assistance.

  26. David Walters – way back up @ 13

    I understand what your saying – in that Gen III will most likely have to come first – however I think it’s the promise of Gen IV which will make the Gen III proposal acceptable.

    I often hear people saying they are reluctant converts to nuclear power. I take that to mean they can see we need something more than renewables and nuclear is our only other option, but issues such as long lived waste and uranium mining make nuclear, in the publics mind, a less than ideal solution. How much ground swell support can one expect from such reluctant beginnings?

    These negative aspects of nuclear power are swept away by Gen IV. It simultaneously suggests an alternative to previous types of nuclear – if that is what’s wanted – and provides something of a panacea for the perceived problems of any existing or proposed Gen III reactors, thereby making Gen III builds more acceptable.
    Without the promise of an IFR or similar, nuclear still has a hard sell on it’s hands. We need to get IFR out to the general public if we are to have any nuclear power embraced as an optimal solution.

  27. All the names & their specialities given show that the SCGI is grossly imbalanced with people having a similar nuclear interest or preference. This really isn’t acceptable. The apparent goal of that group sounds commendable at first sight, but I for one am very satisfied (from my own long research) that there have been significant additional new discoveries in the area of classical physics that can easily overshadow anything that the nuclear specialists can devise. Why aren’t these represented? Where are there any names of people with that background & training featuring on your list of directors & founders? I’m not just talking about any reps from the solar, wind, tidal, geothermal interests etc (although they probably should be there as well), but someone representing the really new breakthroughs that are still largely unknown. If you really want to win public trust & approval, & not give the impression of a blatant front for nuclear-only solutions, then please locate some good experts to help balance out your SCGI group. Nuclear technology in all its forms has such obvious high-risk varying dangers that the public recognise, that nothing short of a guarantee from the IFR supporters is required that no more Chernobyl-type accidents can possibly happen under any circumstances. If that sort of confidence isn’t demonstrated to the public, then don’t expect them to support the IFR technology. We really need a lot better solutions than ‘paint everything white’ (Stephen Chu-USA) or potentially dangerous nuclear reactors. Already, exaggerated expressions are being used by Barry Brook in describing ‘effortlessly recycling virtually all waste products’. Although I appreciate the different recycling method proposed, the experience of THORP in the UK has been a very expensive disaster which has been recognised by their govt. The significant amount of handling required of reprocessing materials (directly or indirectly) by humans is a very significant issue & cannot be regarded as effortless. With all the extra reactors proposed by the IFR camp to fix the world’s problems, can you really be so certain that another Chernobyl accident won’t happen somewhere in the world? And if it did happen, would govt’s have the courage then to spend additional large sums to remove the expensive reactors that your followers so heavily promoted? We need science to make honest & correct decisions now, not let’s try the new IFR & hope for the best. We cannot afford to make any more expensive mistakes. Recall how even the well funded NASA has had several tragic accidents. If the Chernobyl accident had occurred here in Adelaide (Torrens Island) the major part of the surrounding suburbs would have had to be abandoned for decades at least. We are really supposed to be getting smarter as time goes on, yet the best the nuclear camp can do is another variation of toxic reactor. It is far better to have a benign but still useful technology to replace the deadly coal plants. I am satisfied there is such a replacement while not having any of the disadvantages of existing plants & should still be able to generate G/Watts when correctly engineered. The only advantage of nuclear piles is that they certainly do generate huge amounts of heat, but the associated radioactivity is too difficult to isolate from organic life continuously without any mishaps. Researchers like David Marples have shown well enough the effects of the Chernobyl accident are significantly worse than the trivialized suspect version we read about from some pro-nuclear writers . So please guys, lets make a genuine effort to help the planet & represent the best alternatives to nuclear as well, or do you really only just wish to promote the IFR & metal fuelled vehicles?
    IJon Tichy (11:30 16th)seems to be making the same error as many others. Nuclear power of any kind, isn’t really the last resort at all when considering a centralised power generating system, so it isn’t the only rational solution left as he claims. There are new ideas emerging right now that should be considered as they are so different to the familiar fuel-buring habit we have used for centuries. Obviously for propriatory & security reasons, details can not be provided yet.

  28. Marion Brooks (#35),

    I think the point you make in post #35, is very important.

    People need a reason to change their mind. A reason to justify taking a new look at the issues and to justify a change in position.

    It’s politics.

  29. Barry, congratulations to you and the other founders on the launch of this council. I wish you every success in this endeavour.

    I’m unclear on the modus operandi of this organization. Is it intended to be a high powered lobby group? A think tank? A popular organization, or closed membership? Is the intent to influence the policy makers, or to reach out to the public and run campaigns? How does the organization plan to achieve its aims?

    The Directors cover the technical side very well. I think the Board needs representation to cover the governance and political side – regulatory approach, what are the new institutions required and how should they be constituted, how to manage the transfer of power – economic and political power – from the production of fossil fuel to nuclear power.

    I see the present focus is very much on Tom Blees’ blueprint. I think it should be broadened, unless the intention is to keep a very specific focus. I would include the LFTR on the agenda, as well as technologies and policy development for electrification of transport and tractive power for production, which is in part the rationale for the IFR etc. (and I’ve expressed my skepticism towards the boron concept before, and battery vehicle technologies are available now/soon, so that must be part of the thinking).

    I’d also imagine geoengineering options would be within the scope of this organization, especially those that can make use of clean power. Abundant clean power would enable numerous CO2 drawdown approaches.

    I look forward to seeing where this goes. Good luck.

  30. John, here is what Tom said about SCGI aims on the Thorium Forum when questioned about where LFTR would (or wouldn’t) fit:

    SCGI is just beginning, and is not going to be just an IFR advocacy group. The early members are mostly people who developed it or know a lot about it, but there will be others joining (including from AREVA) who not only advocate nuclear power in general but who have expertise in zero-emission vehicle fuels, resource utilization and recycling, climatology (a couple are already there), economics, electrical distribution analysis, etc. Most of us (Jim Hansen, Barry Brook, myself) feel that LFTRs should be developed, but the fact is that the PRISM is ready to build and we want to get started. All three of us have publicly and privately advocated for pursuing LFTR development, and have done our part to bring it to the public’s attention. It was me who suggested to Jim Hansen that he invite Kirk to a conference of energy specialists in Washington last November.

    There is more over there from Tom on sodium coolants etc. Perhaps Tom will also post here about his thoughts on SCGI’s modus operandi. In my view, it will be some advocacy, some public education, some think tank work/planning, and the intention is to influence both policy makers and the public. Ultimately, I’d hope it would evolve into something akin to the GREAT organisation discussed in P4TP — this is what is needed.

  31. Lawrence@#45:
    “Is it possible #36 is talking about the Polywell and other similar fusion proposals?”

    It’s possible, but given the rather irrational attack against nuclear fission included in the post, and the mention of ‘classical physics’, along with the lack of names for the ‘experts’ mentioned, I suspect it’s some kind of 2nd-law-violating free-energy scam.

  32. Barry,

    I think one area of expertise that’s seriously lacking in SCGI members is on energy efficiency. It will be great if you can convince a few scientists / engineers who have expertise on reusing industrial heat, construction of energy-efficient buildings etc. May be, Dr. Mackay can help you in finding the necessary experts. Please give this a try. This will definitely boost the green credentials of your group.

    Allan Kay,

    Solar and wind power are good, but they are hardly sufficient for the scale of problems that we’re dealing with right now. At worst, they are diversion tactics to continue with natural gas power plants (and to burn more coal in the future). I don’t think we need to spend much time discussing them, because there is a lot of publicity already on these technologies. Dr. Mackay’s book is a good introduction for explaining the vista of this new energy technologies. And it is good that he is serving as a guest writer of this group.

  33. Prof. Mojib Latif, the recipient of several international climate-study prizes and a lead author for the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has come out to say we are facing a period of Global Cooling! The Professor says that the warming will resume once the variations in the North Atlantic Oscillation return but, my question is if his Climate Models weren’t able to factor the current cooling cycle then how can he be so sure the warming will continue at a future date?

  34. Thanks for all the comments. I’ll try to address the commenters’ points as much as time allows (and these days it doesn’t allow much). Some have already been hashed out by subsequent commentators (such as #3’s aversion to central planning), so I won’t bother to belabor such issues.

    #6: …leaving electicity generation to the private sector is a no brainer.

    That’s ideology, pure and simple. If you want to control nuclear proliferation amidst the spread of nuclear power around the world, then you’d better abandon such concepts and embrace the idea of nuclear being controlled by an international regime. Nuclear power and the private sector leads to all sorts of potential problems, as I discussed at length in my book. Nuclear power isn’t like dealing with any other kind of power. The free market is best for everything line just doesn’t fly here. It’s blatantly untrue when it comes to nuclear power.

    #13: I think Gen III reactors and their current deployment are integral to the future of any Gen IV reactor scheme. The Council doesn’t make that clear enough, IMO. Secondly, obviously, I think that not including LFTR as one of the ‘waste eater’ and ‘zero-waste generators’ is a huge mistake, *politically* for a group organized as this Council is.

    Give us time to get rolling here. Virtually all of our contributors so far, and more to come, recognize the evolution of nuclear power to include Gen III reactors in our near future. We’d just like to get Gen IV off the ground ASAP for a host of reasons, not the least being that once the public is aware that there’s a solution to the LWR waste issue, Gen III systems will face a lot less resistance. As I pointed out in Prescription for the Planet, if we want to ramp up fast enough to get to zero power system GHGs by 2050, we’ll have to either build lots of Gen IIIs even as we start up IFRs as fast as fuel supplies allow, or we’d have to build massive amounts of IFRs from 2035 on. As the Grenoble study that Luke linked to in #15 states (Thanks, Luke!), the best possible scenario is one that includes LWRs, IFRs, and LFTRs. On that last point, we intend to discuss LFTRs on the SCGI site, but would prefer to do it in a manner that doesn’t pose them as an either/or choice or exaggerate the hazards of sodium. We’re interested in the strengths and weaknesses of various systems, but not in fostering rivalries. We’ll have AREVA people on our site too, and as you know they’re not exactly fans of IFRs.

    #17: How hard to you want to try?

    In P4TP, the speed of the nuclear ramp-up I propose, as ambitious as it sounds, is based on France’s nuclear build-up under considerably less urgent conditions. I did the analysis based on GNP to illustrate how little economic stress would be involved even if we build over 200GW per year worldwide. Your own country’s mileage may vary, but you might consider doing a quick analysis for Australia using such a comparison, for the facts of the French model are indisputable, and very encouraging. I might add that industrial bottlenecks common to LWRs are largely eliminated with IFRs because of the fact that they operate at near-atmospheric pressure and so avoid the difficult forgings needed in LWRs.

    #19: SGCI needs a new logo (and website banner), fast.

    If you’re willing to provide them, we’ll be happy to look at them.

    #31: In the Council mission statement: I like the term “post-scarcity”. I assume this means that technology can now, if unleashed, provide abundance for all.

    That’s the idea, not restricted solely to nuclear power but to a mix of synergistic technologies, which is what P4TP is all about. SCGI is our attempt to take the futurist label away from that vision and make it a reality. Clearly providing abundant energy for all, economically and environmentally sound, is a basis. But management and total recycling of the resources that provide our lifestyle comforts is critical. Plasma recycling can do the lion’s share of that, along with better management of renewable resources like wood, etc. The challenge is to do all this even in the face of population increases projected to add another few billion people to the planet. While I believe it can be done, I don’t think we’ve got much time to dither if we want to avoid all sorts of chaos.

    #34: …we will be electrifying our transport fleets pretty rapidly pretty soon.

    Too bad, because we don’t have the excess generating capacity to power them, except for one country: France. All the more reason to get our nuclear show on the road.

    #36: All the names & their specialities given show that the SCGI is grossly imbalanced with people having a similar nuclear interest or preference. This really isn’t acceptable.

    Oh, excuse me! It’s true that we’re nuclear-heavy now, due to the group I’ve been working with for a long time being the first participants, and also to the critical importance of getting nuclear running. Without abundant energy, the whole scenario comes apart. We need that foundation. Plenty of clean energy is the key. As for your secret systems that you just can’t tell us about yet, I’m sure we’re all waiting with bated breath for future revelations. Meanwhile, I propose we implement the things we know will work.

    #40: I’m unclear on the modus operandi of this organization. Is it intended to be a high powered lobby group? A think tank? A popular organization, or closed membership? Is the intent to influence the policy makers, or to reach out to the public and run campaigns? How does the organization plan to achieve its aims?

    We’re a nonprofit so we can’t act as a lobbying group. SCGI is a think tank, essentially. The members contributing their expertise are there by invitation, though we definitely intend to disseminate the information to both the public and policy makers. We’ll be putting out a weekly newsletter highlighting each week’s new material to make it easy for people to keep up without having to go dig through the site. Soon we’ll get our archive and indexing started so people will be able to quickly access information on a variety of topics related to the post-scarcity vision. I’m sure you realize that this doesn’t all happen overnight, and I beg your patience as we get up and running. I do believe it will evolve fairly quickly into a go-to place for technically rigorous information on a variety of topics, as well as for opinion pieces by its members. We’ll also be responding to events and media developments with press releases, and establishing a speaker’s bureau for SCGI members to engage with the public at all types of events. With respect to your further points, a variety of professionals with different specialties as you suggest are already in the membership pipeline, including geoengineering and electrified transport, among other things. It’s not going to be an all-nuclear group. Give us a couple months to flesh it out.

    #47: I think one area of expertise that’s seriously lacking in SCGI members is on energy efficiency.

    As you point out later in your post there in relation to wind and solar, vakibs, there is so much out there already about energy efficiency, and it pretty much goes without saying that that’s the low-hanging fruit that all of us expect to pick. What we’re focusing on is provision of clean energy supplies to replace existing baseload and vastly increase the new clean baseload around the world. We will certainly also be delving into various types of vehicle propulsion systems (note the article about ammonia power on the site now, not just boron, with more variations to come), and of course resource management/reuse, as well as nonproliferaton issues.

    #49: The transport page says it links the boron chapter of P4TP, but it doesn’t.

    Fixed. Thanks, Graham.

  35. While it would be nice to see thorium reactors in the future, and they should continue to be persued, I feel claims about these reactors being better than fast reactors are exaggerated. Commonly, it is argued that such reactors were supported by Eugene Wigner and Alvin Weinberg due to proliferation concerns, and that Enrico Fermi wanted to go the U-238 route to produce plutonium for bombs. While true, the pyrometallurgical process of IFRs poses reduced proliferation risks, virtually none whatsoever– even less than in LFTR. While Pu-239 will fairly often fail to undergo fission on neutron capture, producing Pu-240, the corresponding process in the thorium cycle is relatively rare. Thorium-232 converts to U-233, which will almost always undergo fission successfully, meaning that there will be very little U-234 produced in the reactor’s thorium/U-233 breeder blanket, and the resulting pure U-233 will be comparatively easy to extract and use for weapons. Thorium reactors are also likely to be more expensive. The low breeding ratio of U-233 means continual reprocessing, and Tl-208, found in LFTR fuel, is a hard gamma emitter.

  36. “Thorium-232 converts to U-233, which will almost always undergo fission successfully, meaning that there will be very little U-234 produced in the reactor’s thorium/U-233 breeder blanket, and the resulting pure U-233 will be comparatively easy to extract and use for weapons. Thorium reactors are also likely to be more expensive. The low breeding ratio of U-233 means continual reprocessing, and Th-208, found in LFTR fuel, is a hard gamma emitter.”

    I’m of the understanding that the U-233 bred by a LFTR would be contaminated by enough U-232 to make weapon fabrication, storage, maintenance and firing highly problematic.

  37. I’m of the understanding that the U-233 bred by a LFTR would be contaminated by enough U-232 to make weapon fabrication, storage, maintenance and firing highly problematic.

    I don’t think 232-U is that big of a hindrance, at first anyway. The gamma rays that 232-U gives rise to, it gives rise to indirectly, by decaying to 228-Th, which has a ~2-year half-life, and then there is a fairly quick sequence of other decays, and then your thallium-208, which does the gamma emitting.

    So in storage and maintenance there is indeed an increasing gamma ray problem, but making a sphere and then quickly doing one’s best to make it blow up, one would not run into gamma ray problems. More here.

    (How fire can be domesticated)

  38. Not just contaminiation, but it’s *hot*, very hot. Couldn’t get near it for years. There is a reason the US gave up trying to make a U-233 bomb: to expensive and dangerous. No, the making of nuclear WMD will be continued to be made exactly the way it is today: w/dedicated ‘research’ reactors with graphite moderators. Much simpler and cheaper. There is simply in incentive to make a WMD bomb from U-233.

  39. Barry, I seriously doubt the energy sector in Australia will support any major change in the way they do things. Nuclear or renewables; they don’t want to change and will be continue to drag their heels.
    I’m not sure I like the new focus of strong opposition to renewables on your site although I do appreciate the sincerity. Is the failure to develop utility size energy storage due to intrinsic difficulty or long term lack of any will (R&D efforts) to do so?
    I think we can cope with more expensive energy as well as cope better with variable costing according to energy supply variability than some of the assumptions about absolute minimum requirements suggest. But having failed to treat climate change as a serious urgent matter it’s not any surprise that the results to date are disheartening. Sorry, but I suspect assurances of nuclear’s great promise will become one more excuse for Australian governments to fail to act.

  40. Ken@56 “is the failure to develop utility size energy storage due to intrinsic difficulty or long term lack of any will to do so?””
    The cheapest, most cost-effective way of storing electricity on a large scale is still the lead-acid storage battery. This technology was invented before the civil war. And one gallon of gasoline (125,000 btus) contains as much energy as one ton of lead-acid storage batteries. Fossil fuels have proven to be an incredibly dense form of energy storage. Battery technology will likely never be able to replace gasoline 1:1. Although, Boron might, as discussed in “Prescription for the Planet.”

  41. Zachary, I more had in mind things like phase change, thermal and compressed air of the stationary kind. I think that very large energy storage has been more of an afterthought than a serious development goal.
    I don’t doubt we’ll end up with nuclear but not any time soon and in the meantime I don’t believe that it’s wasted effort to develop renewables as far and as fast as possible – given the scale of the issue the amount of expenditure so far is miniscule and there is still a lot of potential to cut costs. I am very concerned that the potential of nuclear will become just another excuse to make minimal efforts at a time when Australia is rapidly expanding it’s mining and export of fossil fuels, when CCS and natural gas are hotly promoted as viable low emissions solutions and when a real carbon tax without fear or favour looks even further away.
    Between an energy and mining sector that’s putting more effort into convincing people there’s no climate crisis than act on it and a lot of entrenched denialism throughout Australia at large I think that it’s not good timing to engage in all out attack on renewable energy. Given that we aren’t ever going to lead the way with IFR and a steep carbon price will probably win the argument anyway, focus on getting that carbon price in place and knocking some holes in CCS.

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