Emissions Nuclear

We need a real global plan for carbon mitigation

I’m in Japan this week, attending the 1st Asian Heads of Research Council Joint Symposium in Nagoya, with a follow-up workshop for training junior researchers later in the week. This is my fifth trip to Japan, but it’s always an exciting place to visit. Today, after an intensive morning session at which I gave a keynote talk on my work on integrating bioclimate and population models to improve forecasts of species extinction under climate change, we visited the Ramsar-listed Fujimae Tidal Flats and the stunning Kaisho forest.

Reflecting on the energy situation in Japan and its chances for complete decarbonisation, this is a country with few natural advantages — almost no domestic fossil fuel reserves or uranium supplies (fast breeders anyone?), poor conditions for solar thermal (today was 32C and cloudy — such is the rainy season), and few suitable locations for onshore wind (offshore may be more viable for any serious expansion). Its hydro resource is mostly tapped. The Greenpeace [r]evolution scenario for Japan, for what it’s worth, demands huge gains in energy efficiency and conservation, and yet is still left with a disturbingly large dependence on fossil fuels (one wonders why they eliminated Japan’s nuclear power…).

Anyway, to the main point of this post — to reproduce the third in a series by Steve Kirsch on IFRs as a solution to the global energy crisis. Like the previous two articles, Steve published this originally on the Huffington Post. I’m mirroring it here because its material is obviously highly relevant to the ongoing BNC discussion on the prospects for IFR nuclear power — and Steve (now a good friend of mine via regular electronic  conversations!) has a real knack of asking the right questions about climate change mitigation. He, like me, is seeking a real solution, that will WORK, globally. Take it away Steve:


How Does Obama Expect to Solve the Climate Crisis Without a Plan?

The climate crisis is the most important issue of all time. But the White House has no plan to solve it. How do we save the planet without a viable plan?

The ship is sinking slowly and we are quickly running out of time to develop and implement any such plan if we are to have any hope of saving the planet. What we need is a plan we can all believe in. A plan where our country’s smartest people all nod their heads in agreement and say, “Yes, this is a solid, viable plan for keeping CO2 levels from touching 425ppm and averting a global climate catastrophe.”

At his Senate testimony a few days ago, noted climate scientist James Hansen made it crystal clear once again that the only way to avert an irreversible climate meltdown and save the planet is to phase out virtually all coal plants worldwide over a 20 year period from 2010 to 2030. Indeed, if we don’t virtually eliminate the use of coal worldwide, everything else we do will be as effective as re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Plans that won’t work

Unfortunately, nobody has proposed a realistic and practical plan to eliminate coal use worldwide or anywhere close to that. There is no White House URL with such a plan. No environmental group has a workable plan either.

Hoping that everyone will abandon their coal plants and replace them with a renewable power mix isn’t a viable strategy — we’ve proven that in the U.S. Heck, even if the Waxman-Markey bill passes Congress (a big “if”), it is so weak that it won’t do much at all to eliminate coal plants. So even though we have Democrats controlling all three branches of government, it is almost impossible to get even a weak climate bill passed.

If we can’t pass strong climate legislation in the U.S. with all the stars aligned, how can we expect anyone else to do it? So expecting all countries to pass a 100% renewable portfolio standard (which is far far beyond that contemplated in the current energy bill) just isn’t possible. Secondly, even if you could mandate it politically in every country, from a practical standpoint, you’d never be able to implement it in time. And there are lots of experts in this country, including Secretary Chu, who say it’s impossible without nuclear (a point which I am strongly in agreement with).

Hoping that everyone will spontaneously adopt carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is also a non-starter solution. First of all, CCS doesn’t exist at commercial scale. Secondly, even if we could make it work at scale, and even it could be magically retrofitted on every coal plant (which we don’t know how to do), it would require all countries to agree to add about 30% in extra cost for no perceivable benefit. At the recent G8 conference, India and China have made it clear yet again that they aren’t going to agree to emission goals.

Saying that we’ll invent some magical new technology that will rescue us at the last minute is a bad solution. That’s at best a poor contingency plan.

The point is this: It should be apparent to us that we aren’t going to be able to solve the climate crisis by either “force” (economic coercion or legislation) or by international agreement. And relying on technologies like CCS that may never work is a really bad idea.

The only remaining way to solve the crisis is to make it economically irresistible for countries to “do the right thing.” The best way to do that is to give the world a way to generate electric power that is economically more attractive than coal with the same benefits as coal (compact power plants, 24×7 generation, can be sited almost anywhere, etc). Even better is if the new technology can simply replace the existing burner in a coal plant. That way, they’ll want to switch. No coercion is required.

Since Obama doesn’t have a plan and I’m not aware of a viable plan that experts agree can move the entire world off of coal, I thought I’d propose one that is viable. You may not like it, but if there is a better alternative that is practical and viable, please let me know because none of the experts I’ve consulted with are aware of one.

The Kirsch plan for saving the planet

The Kirsch plan for saving the planet is very simple and practical. My plan is based on a simple observation:

Nuclear is the elephant in the room

70% of the carbon free power in America is still generated by nuclear, even though we haven’t built a new nuclear plant in this country in the last 30 years. Hydro is a distant second. Wind and solar are rounding error. Worldwide, it’s even more skewed: nuclear is more than 100 times bigger than solar and more than 100 times bigger than wind. If I drew a bar chart of nuclear vs. solar vs. wind use worldwide, you wouldn’t even see solar and wind on the chart.

So our best bet is to join the parade and get behind supporting the big elephant. We put all the wood behind one arrow: nuclear. We invest in and promote these new, low-cost modular nuclear designs worldwide and get the volumes up so we can drive the price down. These plants are low-cost, can be built in small capacities, can be manufactured quickly, and assembled on-site in a few years.

Nuclear can be rolled out very quickly. About two thirds of the currently operating 440 reactors around the world came online during a 10 year period between 1980 and 1990. In southeast Asia, reactors are typically constructed in 4 years or less (about 44 months)

Secondly, the nuclear reactor can replace the burner in a coal plant making upgrading an existing coal plant very cost effective. Finally, it is also critically important for big entities (such as the U.S. government in partnership with other governments) to offer low-cost financing to bring down the upfront cash investment in a new nuclear reactor to be less than that required to build a coal plant.

Under my plan, we now have a way to economically displace the building of new coal plants that nobody can refuse. People will then want to build modular nuclear plants because since they are cheaper, last longer, and are cleaner than coal. No legislation or mandate is required.

My plan is credible since it doesn’t require Congress to act. Power companies worldwide simply make an economic decision to do the right thing. No force required.

My plan would provide huge economic benefits to the United States. We’d create jobs, improve our trade deficit, and get a nice on-going monthly cash flow from the plants we finance. So whether you believe in global warming or not, this plan works.

The only political impediment to overcome is to convince those countries that have a ban on nuclear to reconsider. However, this is not strictly required since the few countries that have such a ban have relatively small coal emissions compared to the countries that have no such ban.

Nuclear waste and proliferation issues are quite manageable. These issues are covered in my Huffington Post article “Climate Bill Ignores Our Biggest Clean Energy Source.”

Do we really think we solve our biggest crisis without a plan? That would be insane. If the White House doesn’t like my plan then they should propose a more viable plan, communicate it to the world, and start implementing it now, while there is still time.

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By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

40 replies on “We need a real global plan for carbon mitigation”

Japan of course uses a lot of Australian coal and LNG. All the evidence points to continuing procrastination and giveaways on carbon cuts in the developed world and nowhere near enough investment in alternatives. Those countries should get real about CCS eg Rudd must explain how Australia could safely bury .5m cubic metres of CO2 every day for decades.

I think the first response must be a mix of drastic conservation and unavoidable carbon charges. Every country should levy the equivalent of $20 per tonne of CO2 with no freebies like offsets and exemptions. Countries that declined to participate get a stiff carbon tariff on their exports.

The billions raised would pay for insulation, smart meters, solar hot water and the like. Forget CCS and spend the promised money on a mass produced IFR design. My fear is that both the atmospheric and economic climate will deteriorate long before we see Gen IV become standard.


The three branches of government are the executive, the legislative and the judicial. Democrats do not control the judiciary (neither do republicans: it is not an elected or a partisan institution.)

I guess you mean that Democrats have the presidency and majorities in the house and senate.

I agree with you 100% about having a plan. It is fashionable to think economics will supply sufficient plans all by itself (magical rational market thinking). Purely economic ideas are but one very important facet within a complete plan. Economic incentives or punishments have limits.


Baiscally Romm makes the numbers up out of whole cloathe after surveying a bunch of university studies and then making the nuclear costs higher. If it was demostrably provable that nuclear is the cheapest base load, Romm would simply ignore it.

He’s recently grabbed onto natural gas as the “way to go” to fight climate change. So now he’s “pushing gas”, like the former head of the German Green Party who now a gas company exec. It all fits perfectly.

The anti-nukes have a real problem. More and more plants under construction, including first of a kind new builds, will be going on line from 2013 onward. As the world realizes that the costs are NOT that great, they can be brought in at budget and on schedule, fossil shills like Romm will have a real problem. This is why they are fighting western Nukes so hard and *totally ignoring ones built in China and S. Korea*.



“Unfortunately, nobody has proposed a realistic and practical plan to eliminate coal use worldwide or anywhere close to that. There is no White House URL with such a plan. No environmental group has a workable plan either.”
There are many plans, what Kirsch is saying is that he doesn’t think they are practical. This one is worth looking at, but warning, although it projects an important role for nuclear it also considers solar, wind, biomass and energy efficiency.

It worries me that Kirsch seems to have a bias against renewable energy:
70% of the carbon free power in America is still generated by nuclear, even though we haven’t built a new nuclear plant in this country in the last 30 years. Hydro is a distant second. Wind and solar are rounding error

EIA figures for April 2009 give nuclear 21%, hydro 8%, wind 2% and biomass 3% of US electricity production. I won’t say wind energy is a rounding error especially as it accounted for about half of new capacity installed in 2008 and is growing at 30-50% per year.World wide wind energy provides about the same proportion(10%) of nuclear; must be a very small bar graph not to see wind power. It’s a total exaggeration to say nuclear is 100 times larger when it’s in fact 10 times larger. Why link to figures for 2004 year, when we know solar and wind have increases ten times in last 5 years( of course nuclear hasn’t increased at that rate) and why ignore hydro it has also been growing rapidly?

Nuclear can be rolled out very quickly. About two thirds of the currently operating 440 reactors around the world came online during a 10 year period between 1980 and 1990. In southeast Asia, reactors are typically constructed in 4 years or less (about 44 months)

A more accurate statement would be ” in time(5years?) the world could expand capacity to build 40 reactors per year”
The issue is not how many reactors were completed between 1980 and 1990, it’s the 3 year back-order on reactor vessels now, with about 40 reactors under construction we certainly are not completing construction of 40 reactors per year and do not have the capacity to do so at present.
The construction time is not relevant if essential components are back-ordered.
The same thing occurred in 2008 with wind turbines preventing growth in new capacity beyond 30% world-wide. In time these capacity restraints can be overcome but should not be dismissed with the statement:”nuclear can be rolled out quickly”

“The only political impediment to overcome is to convince those countries that have a ban on nuclear to reconsider. “

This is not even relevant, the US has not built a new nuclear plant in 20 years and it has no ban on nuclear. The issue is economics and financial risk of a large investment over a long time period with costs that cannot be controlled.
It’s a shame that good plans are promoted by people with obvious bias, I guess we have to look at the plan not the promoter.


No, there aren’t any plans I’m aware of. The plan you point out is a US plan.

I said there are no plans that tell us how India and China are going to eliminate all the CO2 from their coal plants.

The numbers I referred to in “100 times larger” are from Barry’s site. It is worldwide power generation, not US generation. 6.5% for nuclear vs. .064% for wind. Yes, that data was from 2004 so if the worldwide generation increased 10 fold over the last 5 years, then you’re right, it’s only a factor of 10.

And yes, it will not be easy at all to do in today’s environment, I agree. The point was that we’ve been able to roll out nuclear quickly in the past and there are others smarter than I am who believe that if the US made it a national
priority, we could move quickly.

If the US government got serious about nuclear and restarted the IFR and proved we can use the nuclear waste in fast reactors, I see no reason we can’t restart nuclear.

Also, when you say there is no ban on nuclear, that is not really true. You cannot build a new nuclear plant in California by law.


The world wind capacity is increasing by 29% per year and is now approx 12% of nuclear(40GW wind average;125GWcapacity; there are 436 nuclear power plants operating with a capacity of 372MW at 0.90 capacity factor would be 334GW average). The new plants under construction will add increase this by 8%( over 4 years).

I thought the issue in California was new nuclear must have a permanent waste storage solution in place, not a ban on nuclear. Possibly one IFR would quality as a solution.

Re-starting an IFR program is an excellent idea, but this is not going to start eliminating coal use world-wide, in next 10 years, lots of Gen III reactors have to be built by China and India ( as well as in US).
In the US the fastest build up of electricity generation was the NG fired capacity added in 2000-2004, 200% per year. For similar reasons wind power capacity could be increased NOW at similar rates because most capacity bottle-necks have been removed with the expansion of modular decentralized manufacturing of components.
IFR has the same possibilities some time in the future, but not yet. The fastest expansion of nuclear at present seems to be China, but China has added more wind and hydro in the last 4 years than nuclear and will probably be adding more wind and hydro in the next 4 years than nuclear.
If we can wait until 2030 or 2040 to reduce CO2 emissions then could do it all with nuclear. If we have to start now, we need to expand NG, wind, and nuclear ASAP.


I agree with almost everything you say here Neil. My point of difference is that we (i) must be quickly eliminating baseload NG, and (ii) must have a viable plan to phase out all NG within the next few decades (and replace with biogas, load following NPPs, thermal storage, pumped storage, etc.). NG is a carbon-intensive fossil fuel. It’s not part of a low carbon energy future and should not be promoted as such. It’s NOT ‘green’ power in any way, shape or form.


Neil, as always you provide a very level-headed, albeit somewhat pessimistic POV on new nuclear but one that is heart felt and full of facts.

If we were to get 40 new starts a year for nuclear I’d be jumping joy. Obviously you point to finances as the biggest bottle neck, but it’s interesting that most new builds in the world today are directly gov’t supported because the are *owned* by the gov’t (as they should be IMO). The mere fact that there is this reluctance on the part of private investors to invest in nuclear shows me that private enterprise is NOT the place to look for innovation or developing new technologies (oooohhhh!!! Did David REALLY just state that???).

We know we can develop the needed infrastructure. It is really on now just beginning. I’ve talked about this before. It’s sort of a “come back in 5 years” and then we’ll talk sort of thing. Every aspect of the new nuclear infrastructure is being developed, somewhat exponentially, certainly ‘centrifugally’ but definitely outward and upward.

Another bottleneck is qualified operators and engineers. There are not enough. This too is being ‘dealt with’ but not nearly fast enough. There are not enough qualified anything right now and this IS a problem.

But all that are “good problems”, challanges if you will. The Chinese are actually building whole universities to train their people. So we should do the same thing. Who knows…maybe 40 is the low number. We have to look at again in 5 years and 10 years.



This is my understanding of the Kirsch plan:

I’d start by focusing my resources on my most promising technology. So I’d invest in commercializing our IFR technology that we invented 25 years ago. I’d do that immediately while the people who worked on the original project are still alive. This would have a side benefit in that it would give the people in our national labs a fantastic project to work on: a project that is both important to the world and scientifically challenging, much like the 1960’s space program that put man on the moon.
The assumption has to be several years planning and 4 years construction( say by 2015), the first demonstration reactor is built.

Once a few plants have been built, I’d invest lots of money to figure out ways to lower the construction costs through modularization and mass production. Then I’d have the US (in partnership with other countries we want to share the wealth with) finance construction of the plants in foreign countries, and make partnerships with the local government to jointly build and operate the plants so they would benefit too. In short, we could be the power supplier to the world if we are aggressive in investment and capturing market share.

This second part of the plan seems a little fuzzy, what if China decides to go it’s own way as it is doing with wind power, and seems to be doing with nuclear?. What would be the time frame to start mass producing reactors in US( 5 years?) so may start in 2020 replacing existing 100 US reactors and begin building 20 new per year in 2025 for completion 2030-2035, so that 50% of today’s coal powered electricity would be replaced by nuclear in 25 years.

While this would be very worthwhile, it is not living up the the claims of quickly displacing coal. This is about the same progress that DOE envisions in 20% wind by 2030, which in 2009 is about 4 years ahead of the schedule envisioned in 2006. Both could together displace coal by 2035.

I find this the most incredible part of the plan;
“My plan is credible since it doesn’t require Congress to act. Power companies worldwide simply make an economic decision to do the right thing. No force required.
So is Kirsch saying US power companies and GE will invest billions of dollars in a new plants without loan guarantees or Federal funding, and 10-15 years down the road they will be exporting nuclear plants to China and India and building 20 reactors per year in US?
I would agree that the IFR’s should be built, but there is no way they will be built in any country without massive government support!Kirsch is dreaming!


Neil, I think Kirsch is dreaming too. But it is dreams like these that can come to fruition. You really haven’t stated why it can’t happen. I think where he is wrong is in his belief that a company like GE will invest billions in new plants without loan guarantees…GE doesn’t “build plants”, the utilities do and they are the ones who have to come up with the money, in the U.S. anyway.

The U.S. is already “exporting” power plants. But few countries, er, companies, are totally vertically integrated. In fact in “the West”, only Aveva has this sort of integration. The IFR (or LFTR) will be products of massive government support, just like all great civil engineering projects have been.


It’s not that I don’t think we need new nuclear reactors, or that IFR are not important for the long term future of the industry it’s that Kirsch’s plan seems to be that IFR will be built quickly and without government assistance. All low carbon energy has been receiving some form of assistance.
I see two problems (i)getting sufficient GenIII reactors started now with shortages of infrastructure and back-orders, in time to reduce coal fired electricity and replace aging reactors(ii)getting one or two IFR’s built in US at some time in the future to start removing nuclear waste showing that this is not going to be a long term problem.
We can’t move too quickly on either wind, solar or nuclear energy, all are needed, even though theoretically any one could supply all our energy needs, no one can do it quickly enough.


Technologies are not as much of a serious barrier as lack of political will and problems achieving international cooperation. One of the best ways to get a good outcome out of the Copenhagen negotiations is to ensure that our political leaders are there. Negotiators are acting on policies determined by political leaders, so the required compromise will not happen without a significant amount of heads of state there.


I wonder if there is any intention within governments to seriously tackle climate change and begin even restraining the growth of the use of coal let alone reduce it. Anyone watch 4Corners? I saw zero acknowledgement that climate change has relevance to expanded coal mining. Not from Ministers or departments, not from farmers and definitely not from the mining industry (“800 years of brown coal and 300 years of black coal”). Perhaps the issue was deliberately avoided in order to focus on the danger to prime agricultural land, but surely climate change is an imminent danger to that same aquifer reliant agricultural land.
A few days ago I was thinking it’s inevitable – mainstream Australia would come to accept the CSIRO and BoM over the Doubt, Deny, Delay voices: The Australian would see a new editorial team that doesn’t include Bolt or Marohasy: the Conservatives would see a changing of the guard that treats the new climate reality as a real danger to our future prosperity and security: a bipartisan effort that takes this with the real seriousness it deserves gathers momentum: no special deals for fossil fuel interests as they struggle to do a deal that lets them dodge the inevitable climate change lawsuits.

After having my nose rubbed in the coal dust of the massive expansion of mining that is currently going on and the ‘everybody knows that’s how it goes’ acceptance (apologies to Lenny Cohen; another good song ruined by advertising)… all my optimism was washed away by the cold water of the appalling irrelevance with which climate change is actually treated.

Apologies for the OT rant.


Not only that Wayne Swan factored in $25bn a year in coal exports for the next decade in the budget projections. I note one of the coal companies was Chinese. I thought they were trying to wean themselves off coal a.s.a.p.

This shows that State and Federal governments are totally unserious about national and global carbon cuts.


Some +ve movement here in Australia – politicians tend to listen to these types…

PM Kevin Rudd told nuclear is best hope by Rio Tinto

Matthew Franklin, Chief political correspondent | July 22, 2009
Article from: The Australian

MINING giant Rio Tinto has urged Kevin Rudd to immediately begin work on a regulatory regime allowing use of nuclear energy in Australia, arguing the viability of energy alternatives has been dramatically overstated.

The company has advised the government to consider “every option” for power generation because its pledges on reducing carbon emissions and using renewable energy will expose industry and consumers to huge increases in their power bills.

And it says that overly optimistic assumptions on the viability of alternatives such as wind and geothermal power, as well as so-called clean coal technologies, have created a “false optimism” which the government must challenge by commissioning new research.

The arguments come in a Rio Tinto Australia submission to the government’s review of energy policy obtained by The Australian last night.

Read on here:,25197,25817955-601,00.html


If you’d told me twenty years ago I’d be making common cause with the mining executives over nuclear power I’d have laughed in your face. Strange days indeed ..


Barry, right now Australia is tying in increased coal exports. China hasn’t forked out $300M for exploration and not expect they’ll be mining what they find. I do wonder if the time scale for those contracts could get longer, even deliberately so, with conditions that mean future changes to regulations and permits, that might restrict coal exports, can’t be applied without leaving gov’t open to big lawsuits. I certainly suspect that behind closed doors big coal is being reassured that it’s business as usual.

Whilst Rio Tinto may be urging that nuclear be back on the table it’s very clear that coal miners have vast clout through the revenue they generate and will resist any efforts to hold back the mass expansion of mining and use of coal. Their spokeperson said 800years of brown coal, 300 of black coal and seemed to mean it. I can only believe it’s the majority view of those he represents that they will strongly oppose coal mining being restricted – into the far future.

I am beginning to think it will only be when successful class actions can be brought against them for climate change damages that this will change.


Sadly, I agree completely with your pessimistic assessment of the power of embedded interests, Ken. The only other hope is that an energy technology be developed that is demonstrably cheaper than burning coal, such that the market for Australia’s 1000 year supply evaporates and it makes us uncompetitive to continue to burn the stuff ourselves. This was indeed the thrust of Steve Kirsch’s article.


Martin Ferguson has elaborated on his views in a piece in today’s Australian:

Humanity can’t power progress with green faith

During the next few decades, uranium and LNG are set to play a significant role in the global response to climate change and, put simply, blanket opposition to these industries is a political stance, not a practical one. As an energy-rich nation with a wide range of options, Australia does not need to pursue a domestic nuclear power industry, yet many nations are not so lucky. For them, a nuclear energy capacity is vital to respond to the challenges of climate change and energy security.

One might add that the Minister’s opposition to a domestic nuclear power industry is also a political stance.

Also in today’s Australian is some further reporting on reaction to Ferguson’s statement:

Wind and solar are not enough, says Resources Minister Martin Ferguson

RESOURCES Minister Martin Ferguson has savaged environmentalists for demonising nuclear, gas and coal-fired energy despite knowing solar and wind energy are not viable on current technology.

Mr Ferguson yesterday challenged the green lobby to embrace a “rational, science-based pathway” to energy generation, saying its blanket rejection of traditional energy sources is politically motivated.

The comments drew a sharp response from Greens leader Bob Brown, who labelled Mr Ferguson “a lackey of the mining industry” who was unwilling to embrace the future.

And finally, Ziggy Switkowski was on Radio National Breakfast talking about the necessity for nuclear power in dealing with climate change, referring to wind and solar as “cottage industries” that just won’t power an industrial society:

Is this the start of our national debate on nuclear power?


Is Rio Tinto’s chairman merely spruiking his own company’s interests as a uranium miner or would he be as keen to see Oz go nuclear if it’s strictly IFR or similar that won’t need the product of his mines? Will he get up at a meeting of the Minerals Council and vote against the interests of coal miners? I seriously doubt it.

Apologies Barry, but I am extremely dubious that this represents any kind of shift in attitude amongst Australian mining companies.


Ken, I’ve no doubt that Rio Tinto see it in their best interest to spruik nuclear power. Perhaps they see greater Uranium sales in it, and frankly, that’s likely to be true given the current worldwide build out of Gen III Light Water Reactors. But I think he could also be looking at it from the perspective of trying to secure cheap abundant baseload energy for his mining operation in a carbon constrained future. At the very least, his comments are a welcome ladle in further stirring the pot.


Warren Mundine, in fact. Although I’m sure Anthony could be very persuasive if enlisted to the cause ..


A remarkably sensible statement from MacFarlane.

“I’m confident, shown the real facts, having a debate over four or five years, where the truth is put on the table, there will be communities more than happy to have a power station in their backyard which will be amazingly much more clean than perhaps the coal fired power station they’ve got in their backyard now.”

The timescale seems about right, and fits nicely with that part of Barry’s sketch plan:

“Clearly and accurately (no spin!) educate the public and decision-makers about the advantages of next-generation nuclear energy, including fostering healthy debate to ‘clear the air’ about the differences between old-style and ‘newclear’ (and the problems Gen IV nuclear solves). Then, after about 2015, certify and construct one or more advanced (Gen III+) light water nuclear reactors .. “


You said “The best way to do that is to give the world a way to generate electric power that is economically more attractive than coal with the same benefits as coal (compact power plants, 24×7 generation, can be sited almost anywhere, etc).”

Energy cheaper than from coal is the subject of a talk about the liquid fluoride thorium reactor. It transforms thorium-232 to uranium-233 just at the rate the uranium is consumed. Long-lived radioactive heavy metals in the waste stream are orders of magnitude below that of conventional nuclear reactors. Aim High is a introduction to the technology and benefits of the LFTR, at There is a Google Tech Talk on the subject at


Unfortunately, nobody has proposed a realistic and practical plan to eliminate coal use worldwide or anywhere close to that. – Kirsch

This is of course absurd. LFTR supporters have developed advanced cost lowering approaches as part of the comperhensive LFTR plan. It appears quite likely that LFTR manufacturing costs will be lower than IFR costs. It has not been demonstrated that the IFR can operate on a part time basis while the LFTR can. The LFTR can load follow, and perform in a low cost peak reserve roie. The LFTR can serve as a sea going reactor, while who would want to be on a ship with all that liquid sodium sloshing around in the storm? The LFTR is capable of operating at a higher temperature, and is able to provide industrial process heat. Thus it would appear likely that the LFTR will be able to perform almost any energy generation role. The one exception would be providing direct power for flight.


Charles, I agree that the LFTR plan is a potential coal eliminator. But it is still a 4th Gen nuclear solution to the apparently unsolvable problem. As I understand it, SK was talking about plans proposed by political parties and major advocacy organisations (e.g. Greenpeace), none of which include a serious role for nuclear.

Regarding your other points, whereas you seem to see it as a LFTR vs IFR debate, I see it as an IFR+LFTR solution. I put IFR first in this summation because it is closer to commercialisation — no other serious reason. I fully support accelerated deployment of LFTRs too and my money is on them playing an astoundingly important role in the future of energy.


I have written a review of The Greenpeace plan, which actually relies on non-renewable natural gas. Other “green” energy planners seem to like natural gas just as much. I see some uses for a few IFR, for example as neptunium burners, but LFTR advocates have paid much more attention to cost and flexibility issues, and it will probably be the case that there will be some real LFTR cost advantages as well as significant flexibility advantages.


[…] Global warming can only be tackled seriously by a massively reduction in anthropogenic greenhouse gas production. It’s that simple. But just hoping for this to gradually happen — locally, regionally or globally — by tinkering at the edge of the problem (carbon prices, alternative energy subsidies, mandated targets and loan guarantees, “100 ways to be more green” lists, etc.), is just not going to get us anywhere near where we need to be, when we need to be. For that, we need to develop and implement a well-thought-out, practical and cost-effective action p… […]


[…] Global warming can only be tackled seriously by a massive reduction in anthropogenic greenhouse gas production. It’s that simple. But just hoping for this to gradually happen — locally, regionally or globally — by tinkering at the edge of the problem (carbon prices, alternative energy subsidies, mandated targets and loan guarantees, “100 ways to be more green” lists, etc.), is just not going to get us anywhere near where we need to be, when we need to be. For that, we need to develop and implement a well-thought-out, practical and cost-effective action p… […]


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