The previous Open Thread has gone past 550 comments, so it’s time for a fresh palette.
The Open Thread is a general discussion forum, where you can talk about whatever you like — there is nothing ‘off topic’ here — within reason. So get up on your soap box! The standard commenting rules of courtesy apply, and at the very least your chat should relate to the general content of this blog.
The sort of things that belong on this thread include general enquiries, soapbox philosophy, meandering trains of argument that move dynamically from one point of contention to another, and so on — as long as the comments adhere to the broad BNC themes of sustainable energy, climate change mitigation and policy, energy security, climate impacts, etc.
You can also find this thread by clicking on the Open Thread category on the cascading menu under the “Home” tab.
Some possible conversation starters:
- Here is an interesting lecture on the theory behind nuclear fusion — short, and interesting for a scientifically literate audience
- A provocative article by John Cameron from University of Wisconsin Madison, entitled: How to ignore data that contradict the LNT hypothesis (on radiation health physics)
- A comment made on an energy mailing list to which I subscribe, talking about technosolar:
I am reminded of a Johnny Carson show many, many years ago when he had Dixie Lee Ray as a guest. I think it was around 1973, and she was the new chairman of the US AEC, and Carson engaged her in a discussion about energy. Carson clearly favored solar and wind. She posed a question to him about the value of nuclear energy which went something like this—If you had several hundred freshly cut very tall and heavy trees at the top of a mountain, and you needed to get them down to the river, what would rather have: a couple of bull elephants or several million ants? Which would you chose? He was nonplussed as I recall to say the least. I never forgot that story. For small jobs, the solar/wind sources can be useful. For the really heavy lifting—nuclear is your winner. There simply is nothing else waiting in the wings.
- The previous quote reminds me of the PBS TV Frontline interview with Dr Charles Till:
A: I think that many engineers would agree that there is limited, additional gain to be had from conservation. After all, what does one mean by “conservation?” One simply means using less and using less more efficiently. And there have been considerable gains wrung out of the energy supply and energy usage over the past couple of decades. We can probably go somewhat further. But you’re talking, you know, 10% or 20%. Whereas over the next 50 years, it can be confidently predicted that with the energy growth in this country alone, and much more so around the world, it would be 100%, 200%, or some very large number.
And so what energy source steps in? There is only one. It’s fossil fuel. It’s coal. It’s oil. It’s natural gas. Some limited additional use of the more exotic forms of things, like solar and wind. But they are, after all, very limited in what they can do. So it will be fossil.
Now the question, of course, immediately becomes, well, how long can that last? And everyone has a different opinion on that. One thing that is certain, and that is that the increase in the use of fossil fuels will sharply increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Another thing is certain. You will put a lot more pollutants into the atmosphere as well, in addition to carbon dioxide, which one could argue the greenhouse effect exists or doesn’t exist. One can point to natural gas. Well, natural gas has fewer pollutants, and it gives you some considerable factor of perhaps two–more energy for the amount of carbon dioxide put into the air than does coal. But if you’re increasing the amount of fossil fuels by a large number, like five then the use of natural gas is not any long-term answer. It simply somewhat reduces what may be a very serious problem.
Q: What about Solar and Wind?
A: No. Small amounts. Small amounts only. The simplest form of pencil calculation will tell you that. But you know, energy has to be produced for modern society on a huge scale. The only way you can do that is with energy sources that have concentrated energy in them: coal, oil, natural gas. And the quintessential example of it is nuclear, where the energy is so concentrated, you have something to work [with]. With solar, your main problem is gathering it. In nuclear, it’s there. It’s been gathered.
Q: What about the rest of the world? What will it do for energy?
A: Well, parts of the rest of the world are very much powered by nuclear electricity today. France, of course, is the principal example. But all of the Western European countries. Japan will continue an orderly increase in the amount of nuclear power. There’s no question about that. There will be a tremendous increase in China and in Asia of both the use of coal and the use of nuclear energy. I hope that most of it’s nuclear.
I happen to think Ray and Till are fairly close to the mark, but you may well disagree. Either way, I look forward to the always entertaining conversation that ensues.
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