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A better mousetrap. A nuclear-free, carbon-free energy future is not only possible; it’s closer than you think…

Governments in their death throes—those unable to adapt to change--tend to use fear and spread fear as a tactic. For recent examples, one need think no further than Libya, Egypt, Syria. So do social movements. The Tea Party spreads unfounded fear of socialism and worse to mask its true fear: the reality of a changing society. No matter how potent it seemed in 2010, changing demographics mean it too is in its death throes.

Dying industries, those unable to keep pace with technological change, often do the same. They typically argue the old way of doing things was better. Horse and buggy drivers warned of noise and dangers with newfangled automobiles (hmm, maybe they had a point…). But technology marches on: TV supplanted radio as the main entertainment medium; CDs supplanted LPs, which supplanted 78s; DVDs supplanted the short-lived reign of videotapes; the internet is working on supplanting all of them. Build a better mousetrap, and the people will buy it.

The principle applies well to energy. The nuclear and fossil fuel industries of the 20th century are in their death throes. In a desperate effort to extend their lifespan before obsolescence, they try to make themselves appear necessary and the alternatives scarily uncertain. Nuclear proponents like blogger Rod Adams call renewables “unreliables.” Utilities heavily invested in nuclear and fossil fuels warn that only mammoth dirty power plants can provide “baseload” power and that modern industrial society cannot survive without that “baseload” power. Frightening forecasts of future skyrocketing global energy demand are issued, with the clear implication being that we need more behemoth power plants to face the future.

Understanding that the public believes in modern, clean energy, these industries also try to rebrand themselves as clean and green and attach themselves to “clean energy standards” and the like—but for them it is no more than marketing. It’s not possible to make coal, or nuclear, or even natural gas clean or green; it’s only possible to try to sell them that way.

Which future are you on?
In the best of times, nuclear reactors (and other fuel cycle facilities) release dangerous radiation on a routine basis, in the worst of times we get Fukushima and Chernobyl. And while some could thus accuse us of using fear ourselves as a tactic, at least this fear has scientific basis: the National Academy of Sciences acknowledges that there is no “safe” level of radiation exposure, every exposure carries some small level of risk that rises with the amount of exposure. If nuclear power turns out to be unnecessary, why would anyone accept even low levels of radiation exposure that can cause cancer and other diseases? We’ve already contaminated the entire planet with radiation through weapons testing, Chernobyl, Fukushima (and a score of lesser accidents), and routine releases. It just might be wiser—if we can avoid it—not to continue that contamination.

As an illustration, think of that radioactive tuna fish from Fukushima that showed up on California’s coast, contaminated with Cesium-137 and the shorter-lived Cesium-134. Measurements showed that it contained about 10 times the amount of Cesium-137 normally found in tuna not from Fukushima—still a fairly low level. But the real question is: why is there Cesium-137 in tuna at all? Cesium-137 is not found in nature, it’s a man-made element that is produced through nuclear fission. Tuna—and almost everything else we eat and drink and live with--has measurable background levels of Cesium-137 because of the nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear weapons testing and nuclear power accidents. It shouldn’t be there at all and 75 years ago, it wasn’t. With a hazardous life of 300 years, Cesium-137 is going to be in tuna, and everything else, for a long time to come. Thus, when the next Fukushima happens—and if we continue with nuclear power, there will be a next Fukushima—our new standard will be “only ten times higher than usually measured,” which of course means 100 times higher than pre-Fukushima tuna and infinitely higher than the fish our great-grandparents ate. This is how we slowly and invisibly contaminate the planet and raise the rate of cancer, infertility, birth defects and other radiation impacts.

Given the reality of forced radiation exposure from nuclear power, and the tons of carbon spewing into our atmosphere from fossil fuel use, few, excepting perhaps a few serious nuclear diehards, would argue that a nuclear-free carbon-free energy future would not be preferable to our current energy system based primarily on fossil fuels and nuclear power.

The Better Mousetrap, or, technology moves forward…
The good news is that a nuclear-free carbon-free energy future is not only feasible, practical and economical, it is much nearer than most people realize—and could be even closer if the right policy choices are made now, before hundreds of billions of dollars are spent on new nuclear and fossil fuel choices that are both unnecessarily polluting and unnecessary period.

In August 2007, Dr. Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research published a groundbreaking study: Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy. Using as a guideline that the U.S. would spend no greater percentage of GNP on energy as we do now (about 8%), he laid out a plan for the U.S. to close all of its nuclear and fossil fuel power plants and replace them with clean energy sources by 2050.  As Dr. Makhijani noted at the time, if the global goal is an 80% reduction in greenhouses gases by 2050, then the U.S. would have to cut our releases by essentially 100%.

Less then five years later, Dr. Makhijani asserts that clean energy technology is advancing so rapidly that the carbon-free, nuclear-free goal could be achieved by 2040. Although the conceptual basis of Dr. Makhijani’s work is sound, people can quibble about the exact scenario he proposed. But several more recent major studies have agreed with the fundamental point.

*In March 2009, Greenpeace International published a report it commissioned from Germany’s counterpart to NASA, showing how all nuclear, coal and oil power plants in the U.S. could be economically retired by 2050, with a net reduction in carbon emissions of about 85%.

*Another Greenpeace study in January 2011 showed how Europe could go 100% renewable energy by 2050.

*In November 2009, Scientific American published a cover story and accompanying interactive guide showing how the U.S. could go 100% renewable by 2030.

*The World Wildlife Fund came out in February 2011 with a comprehensive new study laying out a plan for a 100% renewable powered world by 2050.

*In March 2011, the Institute for Policy Research and Development in London published yet another study showing a pathway to a 100% renewable U.S. by 2050.

While each of these studies presents slightly different ways and timelines for getting there, they agree that nuclear-free and essentially carbon-free is feasible and economical by mid-century. That they haven’t received much attention from the media is a testament to the ongoing power of the nuclear and fossil fuel industries, even in their fading days. Fading because while new nuclear and coal construction costs keep rising, costs for new solar especially are tumbling. By 2010, for example, economics professor and former chancellor of Duke University John Blackburn published a study showing that in North Carolina—a state about average for the U.S. in its solar potential—costs of new solar power had dropped below that of new nuclear.  Since then, solar has become so cheap that it threatens to actually slow down the industry (see, eg, Solyndra, whose technology was no longer economical).

In a recent legal case we (NIRS) brought against the proposed Calvert Cliffs-3 nuclear reactor in Maryland, we learned that household rooftop solar potential in Maryland alone, which has slightly less solar potential than North Carolina, is a staggering 5,000 Megawatts. But, it doesn’t stop there—another 5,000 MW or so of solar potential is available on the rooftops of existing business and industrial buildings. Even with solar’s lower capacity factor, and the reality that some people and businesses just won’t want solar, this alone would be enough to replace Calvert-Cliffs-3, without a single square foot of unused land required (so much for solar’s supposed large land footprint). Add solar PV above parking lots, and the numbers can skyrocket.

Maryland’s real renewable energy goldmine, however, is in offshore wind, where the potential is spectacular (if a little further off timewise). That’s why Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has been trying hard, though so far unsuccessfully, to get the Maryland legislature to enact a law that would encourage development of that industry.

Of course, as we hear ad nauseum, solar only works during the day when it’s sunny and the wind doesn’t always blow, so these renewable sources are “unreliable.” Those bloated and big baseload plants are needed to keep society humming.

Actually, solar does work when it’s cloudy and raining (just not as efficiently) and it works best when power is needed the most: on hot and sunny days. And while wind may not blow in any given location 24/7, it is always blowing somewhere. With our existing grids stretching hundreds, even thousands of miles, switching from one wind farm to another just isn’t that hard—especially when no given wind farm provides a large portion of the grid’s capacity. Plus, complementing solar nicely, wind is usually stronger at night, when solar is weakest (researchers in Idaho recently invented solar panels that actually capture nighttime ultraviolet rays to create electricity; too expensive for commercial use right now, but so was solar PV 20-30 years ago).

Modern electrical grids and distributed generation using renewables (also including geothermal where available, small-scale hydro where available, and possibly some carefully chosen biomass, along with possible future technologies like microalgae) can indeed provide reliable power 24/7—the goal of “baseload” power. And, in fact, they can provide power more reliably than the large baseload power plant systems of the 20th century. Think about it: when a 1,000 MW plant goes down for maintenance or refueling (or meltdown), it has to be replaced—quickly—by another 1,000 MW of power. When a 200 MW offshore wind farm temporarily is quieted by lack of wind, that’s a lot less power to replace. And the grid would never even notice if a household—or even industrial-sized—PV system somehow went down. (For a more complete discussion of how renewables can actually provide power more reliably than the 20th century baseload model, see “The Nuclear Illusion,” by Amory Lovins and Imran Sheikh,
In some areas, large centralized solar thermal power plants, which actually can provide power 24/7 using molten sodium or other storage technology, are being built. Not quite as large as average nuclear or coal plants, but still pretty big. And storage technology generally is taking off—advanced batteries, compressed air systems and the like—meaning that the availability of renewables, even large-scale renewables, is growing almost daily.

We’re already seeing glimpses of the future. In Germany, which no one will ever confuse with a sunny resort nation, solar power provided fully 50% of the entire nation’s electrical demand on the weekend of May 26-27, 2012. On a day earlier this year, a single power source—wind—provided 60% of Spain’s electrical demand (Spain, of course, is also a leader in solar power).

It won’t happen overnight, of course. But new nuclear reactors don’t happen overnight either—average construction time of a reactor is eight or more years. Over the next two or three decades, if the right choices are made now, a solid, reliable, economical nuclear-free, carbon-free electricity system is indeed possible.

With construction costs for new nuclear reactors running some $6,000-$10,000/kw, while wind costs about 1/3 to ½ that (a bit more for offshore wind), and new solar PV is as low as $2,000/kw installed, the future of our power supplies seems obvious. Necessary transmission and grid improvements needed to implement a renewable, distributed generation do add to the cost, but still keep it below new nuclear. Add to that the obvious environmental and public health benefits of a nuclear-free, carbon-free energy system, and it’s clear why this vision of the future will in fact become the future. The only real question is how soon, and how much further pain we will have to endure from radiation releases and carbon spewing from obsolete nuclear and fossil fuel behemoths.
--Michael Mariotte, June 7, 2012, from Netroots Nation, Providence, RI

Originally posted to nirsnet on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 12:37 PM PDT.

Also republished by Nuclear Free DK.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Precisely and thank you so much for dispelling (9+ / 0-)

    the tired, sagging, old dichotomy that if someone is against nuclear power, they are magically "for" dirty, carbon-based fuels. That's simply not the case for those of us who think in terms of nuance.

    I presume this is a repost of a speech given at Netroots Nation this year. Thanks for posting it here. It's important and should be read by all.

  •  And, the answer is??? (0+ / 0-)


    It won’t happen overnight, of course. But new nuclear reactors don’t happen overnight either—average construction time of a reactor is eight or more years. Over the next two or three decades, if the right choices are made now, a solid, reliable, economical nuclear-free, carbon-free electricity system is indeed possible.
    Nuclear/Carbon free is what?  

    oh, water...corn...dandelions?....geez...

    Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

    by EdMass on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 12:59:46 PM PDT

    •  Sorry, spoke too soon (0+ / 0-)
      Modern electrical grids and distributed generation using renewables (also including geothermal where available, small-scale hydro where available, and possibly some carefully chosen biomass, along with possible future technologies like microalgae) can indeed provide reliable power 24/7—the goal of “baseload” power.
      Love the "carefully" chosen biomass. Poop?  Gotta be good, just ask the farmers that organically fertilize...

      Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

      by EdMass on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 01:03:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent topic (7+ / 0-)

    Divert the massive taxpayer-funded subsidies that this nation lavishes on oil and nukes, and alt-E could and should supply half of our electricy.

    We have to move faster than we thought and use the tech we have.

    We don't have much time.

    Excellent diary, Fish.

    Both parties are beholden to their corporate sponsors. The Democratic Party deigns to throw us a few bones from the table on which to gnaw and squabble over, but it's just kabuki.

    by ozsea1 on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 01:03:53 PM PDT

    •  Ditto! Many new alt. technologies are suppressed. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Jim P, ozsea1, John Crapper

      ~Navy is testing solar cells on subs.
      ~Solar Planes.
      ~"Free energy" ideas are not sci-fi fantasy!
      Just found this link yesterday, has much info that all should see/share/think about ...

      Stay tuned...

      Let's hope we can all live in peace together, as we attempt to survive the current nuke poison that curiously, we have YET TO SOLVE?

      Perhaps the future is not so "distant" after all!

  •  The problem is your timeline (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    EdMass, jam, erush1345

    actually requires we do new nuclear plants now.

    You admit we will not be able to generate all of our electrical needs with renewables for 40 years, but you want to get rid of all the baseload generation right now.  That, to put it mildly, is nuts.

    I suggest we install state of the art nuclear plants now while we phase out, as quickly as possible, coal plants.  If the predictions of 2050 for going 100% sustainable are true, the nuke plants we build now would just be reaching the end of their lifecycle.

    •  Actually, (7+ / 0-)

      reactors built now won't be online for ten years or so, so the timeline doesn't work well for them either. And it's not that renewables need to provide all of our power now, or tomorrow, but they should be implemented as quickly as possible. All but one or two of our current fleet of reactors will be closed by 2050; the idea is to replace them, along with coal plants, with renewables. It can be done.

      •  Not as cleanly (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        By saying "no more nukes", you resign yourself to having at least some coal plants on board until you can go 100% renewable.

        That should be unacceptable.

        Put new nuke plants online and get rid of coal as fast as possible.. ten years? so what?  you still have another 30 years before you can decommission coal or nuke.. 30 years of zero carbon footprint nuclear plants is far more preferable to 30 years of coal.

        •  still a false choice (6+ / 0-)

          nuclear power is not zero carbon; nuclear is low carbon compared to fossil fuels, high carbon compared to renewables and efficiency. (6x wind, 2-3 times solar). And, of course, carbon is not the only pollutant in the world--cesium, stronium, plutonium, etc. are also extremely damaging pollutants, and come only from nuclear power.

          But there is no need to build new nukes in order to retire coal plants; that's a false dichotomy. The real solution is to ramp up renewables and efficiency, which is already happening to a degree but certainly could be accelerated, as we retire coal and nuclear plants.

          Finally, nuclear power, for many reasons, is actually counterproductive at addressing our climate crisis, for reasons I detailed here: and which have only proven more compelling since that was published.

          •  I've never seen a study (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Jerry J, erush1345, SpeedyGonzales

            that showed nuclear as having higher carbon than PV. It is usually comparable to wind as the lowest. Do you have a source for those numbers?

            •  here's the best study we have seen on this.... (4+ / 0-)

              From Benjamin Sovacool of VA Tech & Univ. of Singapore; a review of more than 100 studies comparing carbon emissions from nukes and fossil fuels:

              •  Prof. Sovacool is outstanding (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                nirsnet, John Crapper, SaraBeth

                I've spoken with him personally, previously invited him to this site, and have read a number of his papers now. He's really spot-on and very, very well-reasoned. I highly recommend his expertise to anyone interested in nuclear issues as well as other energy issues.

              •  interesting (0+ / 0-)

                thanks for the link.

                Interesting dichotomy for someone doing a critical survey of 103 studies on nuclear for him to take his numbers for renewable from a single source, no?

                I've just read the abstract, but this paper seems more in-line with his screening method (admittedly, this paper was written four years after Sovacool). Might be good to add to your arsenal. I would put life cycle carbon of nuclear and solar as essentially equal. Obviously, PV is dependent on the resource so nuclear would likely have the edge in Germany (ironic, no?) with PV having the edge in Arizona.


                Published scientific literature contains many studies estimating life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of residential and utility‐scale solar photovoltaics (PVs). Despite the volume of published work, variability in results hinders generalized conclusions. Most variance between studies can be attributed to differences in methods and assumptions. To clarify the published results for use in decision making and other analyses, we conduct a meta‐analysis of existing studies, harmonizing key performance characteristics to produce more comparable and consistently derived results. Screening 397 life cycle assessments (LCAs) relevant to PVs yielded 13 studies on crystalline silicon (c‐Si) that met minimum standards of quality, transparency, and relevance. Prior to harmonization, the median of 42 estimates of life cycle GHG emissions from those 13 LCAs was 57 grams carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt‐hour (g CO‐eq/kWh), with an interquartile range (IQR) of 44 to 73. After harmonizing key performance characteristics (irradiation of 1,700 kilowatt‐hours per square meter per year (kWh/m2/yr); system lifetime of 30 years; module efficiency of 13.2% or 14.0%, depending on module type; and a performance ratio of 0.75 or 0.80, depending on installation, the median estimate decreased to 45 and the IQR tightened to 39 to 49. The median estimate and variability were reduced compared to published estimates mainly because of higher average assumptions for irradiation and system lifetime. For the sample of studies evaluated, harmonization effectively reduced variability, providing a clearer synopsis of the life cycle GHG emissions from c‐Si PVs. The literature used in this harmonization neither covers all possible c‐Si installations nor represents the distribution of deployed or manufactured c‐Si PVs.
        •  Jerry J, you wrote' (0+ / 0-)
          30 years of zero carbon footprint nuclear plants is far more preferable to 30 years of coal.
          Are you forgetting the carbon footprint that building the plants, maintaining the plants, digging out and refining the uranium, transport of all of the materials used in both building the plant and mining/refining the uranium?

          Talk about Big Foot!

          "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~ Edward Abby

          by SaraBeth on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 06:51:07 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I am actually getting to the point (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    EdMass, Gooserock

    that I think that it doesn't matter a rat's whisker what we do. Our civilization depends on hug amounts of cheap energy. That fuels everything - every thing. And, sure, there are plenty of strategies for sustainability that would work. The problem is that the world is not going to embrace any of them. The Earth will exceed our most pessimistic assessments of global temperature rise over the next century, and there is little that will be done about it. Nuclear, non-nuclear, whatever. I give up.

    The universe may have a meaning and a purpose, but it may just specifically not include you.

    by Anne Elk on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 01:08:43 PM PDT

    •  Well Government Can't Act Appropriately; All Our (0+ / 0-)

      developed governments evolved during the thousand years of cheap inputs from underdeveloped and new worlds, so they all default to liberty too much to deal successfully with a lifeboat planet where there is absolutely nothing extra to go around without it being taken from somebody who already possesses it --in this case, waste capacity. The worst adapted system to our present seems to me to be the American system.

      I think the case needs to be put directly to the biggest businesses and their owners/investors. They're the only force that could allow government to act; they're not all wedded to dirty energy, and it's presumable that at least some of their leadership could be persuadable.

      I think a small group of scientists, and possibly some clean energy entrepreneurs, needs to find a way to make the rounds of some board rooms. Somehow you'd hope that this would be understood at the yacht clubs if not the country clubs.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 01:28:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm sorry, Gooserock. (0+ / 0-)

        I don't mean to be all Debby Downer here. Of course, you are absolutely right about all of the things that could be done and should be done. But I have zero faith that any of these things either will be done or will be done at sufficient scale to make any difference. You remember the original Titanic movies? There's a scene in there that I always found poignant. There's a guy that thinks he can build a raft out of deck-chairs but in the end he and the deck chairs just go plunging down the sloping deck. I think of myself as being more with the band playing "Abide With Me".

        The universe may have a meaning and a purpose, but it may just specifically not include you.

        by Anne Elk on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 01:43:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Don't give up....adapt (0+ / 0-)

      Humankind does not need government to tell them what to do for themselves. There will not be a top down fix for what we face in the coming years. To much money and to much politics.

      It will be small groups and/or individuals who can and have the will to adapt to change. No matter WHAT we do, our lifestyles ARE going to change.

      It does not mean they HAVE to change for the worse....

      "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~ Edward Abby

      by SaraBeth on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 06:58:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There's no rec button under your comment (0+ / 0-)

      At least not on this screen. But definitely this kind of rec to let you know you've been heard. What you bring up is so difficult I can't reply before coffee.

  •  I support clean energy (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jam, erush1345

    and long term planning to take advantage of the falling costs of wind and solar (I find the solar-thermal designs to be rather elegant).

    That said, hand-waving on safety does not advance any argument. There is no amount of driving that is safe. Every mile you drive is a increasing change of accidents.

    There was a study going around that said that solar was more dangerous then nuclear because of the deaths from people doing rooftop installations.

    I don't know if we can or we can not get to 100% renewable, but renewable + modern design nukes looks to have a better environmental impact than renewable + coal.

    "All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality." -Al Gore

    by Geek of all trades on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 01:44:21 PM PDT

    •  but neither is as attractive... (7+ / 0-)

      as renewables + distributed generation + more intelligent grids. Nukes vs fossil fuels is not a useful choice for our energy future, and it's not a choice we need to make. Renewables and modern technology (and, of course, energy efficiency) can, and if we're smart, will power our future.

      Btw, any study that says solar is more dangerous than nuclear is simply BS. Remember, a solar spill is called a nice day; a nuclear spill is called Fukushima. And even routine radiation releases from nuclear facilities are exposures that we do not need to accept.

      •  um (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        #s 15, 13, 11, 10, and 6 are all applicable to solar.

        Replace #6 roofer with #5 (coal) miner and you can make the argument that they are all applicable to nuclear as well. However, on a per kWh basis, my instinct tells me that there is more of each for PV than for nuclear.

        Granted, this "analysis" doesn't incorporate the dangers of a large-scale accident, but at some level, it is a real argument that PV is more dangerous than nuclear.

        •  Then, based upon your analysis, (0+ / 0-)

          We should stop, not just solar power construction projects, but ALL construction...because it is too dangerous.

          "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~ Edward Abby

          by SaraBeth on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 07:16:03 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  how is that possibly my conclusion? (0+ / 0-)

            I didn't say it was "too" dangerous. I said it was "dangerous". A former "Occupational Safety/Security/Emergency Manager" obviously has to understand Risk Management.

          •  maybe it wasn't clear (0+ / 0-)

            that I am in the solar industry. I'm saying that people that are saying solar is perfectly safe because there is no such thing as a "solar spill" are being absurdly short-sighted. I'm saying that roofing, construction, electricity, and vegetation management are dangerous occupations and if solar PV is going to go from 0.1% to 10% - a hundredfold increase - of the electricity market, it is going to need to focus on safety a hell of a lot more than it typically does.

      •  Blanket calling studies BS (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        erush1345, jam

        is anti-scientific BS.

        They may be problematical studies, or of a limited context, or they may not.

        However, the facile solar spill line does not have anything to do with the real end-to-end consequences of solar vs. the real end-to-end consequences of nukes.

        You can argue that you prefer a risk-cost scenario with higher average consequences in order to avoid the less likely catastrophic consequences. You can't argue that studies are wrong because you intuitively feel they are not right. Otherwise, why have studies?

        "All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality." -Al Gore

        by Geek of all trades on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 02:46:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  You should have seen the reaction (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Geek of all trades

      at a solar conference where I stood up in front of a couple hundred of the staunchest solar advocates on the planet and basically said that we, as an industry, need to be prepared for the number of people that are going to die doing installations. There was a survey that had just come out about the most dangerous jobs and something like 4 of the top 20 were directly applicable to PV. I can remember roofer, construction worker, and electrician.

      I was speaking in support of more training and a higher level of safety focus in the industry.

      •  So, again.... (0+ / 0-)

        we should just stop not just solar power construction, but  ALL construction...?

        "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~ Edward Abby

        by SaraBeth on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 07:18:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  very odd (0+ / 0-)

          that a

          Retired Occupational Safety/Security/Emergency Manager with 16+ years in the American health care industry.
          would not be in favor of:
          more training and a higher level of safety focus in the industry
      •  More training, higher safety focus, better pay. (0+ / 0-)

        Roofing is dangerous because the guys who do it - 95% Mexicans around here - don't make enough money to buy decent boots, can't take a break when it's too freaking hot and generally they are disposable. Low pay is a safety hazard in most high risk jobs.

        I've worked construction all my life. One "service"  ancillary to the industry is gangsters who dispose of dead Mexicans. Any number anyone comes up with for construction fatalities is low. The deaths are not all reported. Never have been.

    •  Well, then your rooftop installers need to use a (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      bit more safety equipment.  I've helped roof a couple of houses, and we were just amateurs, up there in tennis shoes on sloping roofs with no safety lines, but a 'professional' anything who works on roofs probably needs to have some sort of OSHA regulations requiring various pieces of safety gear.

  •  as a renewable energy engineer (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    erush1345, SaraBeth

    I can tell you that this quote:

    solar power provided fully 50% of the entire nation’s electrical demand on the weekend of May 26-27, 2012.
    is not exactly correct. More like 50% of peak load demand meaning that at midday, PV was providing half of the load. Subtle difference but one that folks that are anti-PV will pounce on as being misleading.
  •  3/4 of a Trillion (with a 'T') dollars (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    brasilaaron, SaraBeth

    That is what China is investing in renewable energy.  Where we be if instead of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we invested in renewable energy?

    'Osama Bin Ladien is still dead and GM is still alive' - Joe Biden "Dems kill terrorist. The GOP keeps them around as a boogeyman - so they can continue to steel."

    by RichM on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 02:53:36 PM PDT

  •  What's your take on thorium reactors? (0+ / 0-)

    I am not an expert, but from what I have read, risks associated with plants designed to use thorium instead of other radioactive elements are very small.

    In addition, it might be possible to make a case that thorium reactors would present far less environmental/health risk and economic disruption than plants that burn fossil fuel or plants that sit on dammed rivers.

    What do others here think of thorium technology?

    •  resource on thorium reactors (4+ / 0-)

      Here is a resource on thorium reactors that we have found useful, and debunks some of the myths surrounding their hype:

      •  Very informative. Thank you n/t (0+ / 0-)
      •  He get's it so wrong it's crazy. If you want (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        erush1345, SpeedyGonzales

        I'll list where he has it factually wrong and then where he proves saying it creates the same waste as uranium fuel plants. Seriously? It's not a serious paper at all. Makhijani really could of done a better job. Almost everything he states has been debunked...including that the leading company is Thorium Power, which it's not. He fails to really discuss the technology. We can could have a really good discussion here on this, but that paper is basically worthless. He basically admitted as much and promised to do a better one later which he never did. But now, since this paper, there have a been a small spate of start up companies, the British gov't has expressed interest and the Chinese are actually building a LFTR due to be on line in 2017, then I suppose he'll be motivated to return to the subject. I hope he does, just more seriously this time.

        In the mean time, read this which has actual facts on Thorium.

        Dr. Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny ...'"

        by davidwalters on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 08:14:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  [citation needed] (0+ / 0-)
          the Chinese are actually building a LFTR due to be on line in 2017
          Any details? Name? Location?

          Last I heard, China's thorium plan announced in 2011 was to aiming to produce a reactor in 20 years.

          There was an announcement in 2010 by a Japanese company/consortium called IThEMS (or something like that) which had plans to complete a small thorium reactor this decade if they could get funding - where it would be built I don't know - but I'm not aware of any progress reports since then.

      •  Actually, to deunk the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        2009 paper, there is the main rebuttal:

        It rebuts the paper point by point. Thorium is exactly what its supporters claim to be, which is what scares the likes of nirsnet.

        Dr. Isaac Asimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny ...'"

        by davidwalters on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 08:30:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  OTOH (0+ / 0-)

    Supplies of natural gas are proving to be both abundant and cheap and the discovery of vast new oil fields in Siberia was just announced. Were I a betting man, my money would be on carbon for the foreseeable future.

  •  "household rooftop solar potential in Maryland " (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Did you see this post on Greater Greater Washington:


    OK -- it's DC, not Maryland, but still....

    Coming Soon -- to an Internet connection near you:

    by FischFry on Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 09:11:08 PM PDT

  •  I could not agree more... (0+ / 0-)

    and I can think of so many other ways solar and wind could be used.

    Think of those huge flat roofed shopping malls and public schools. Covered with solar panels they could probably provide enough light & hot water as to be self-sufficient.

    I was visiting Willingboro NJ last year. And almost all of the street lights I saw had their own little solar panel.

    If every home built had solar panels integrated into their roofs...or covered with solar shingles, they could be independent of the grid.

    Small towns could uses solar and wind to power their whole town if built right.

    And, what no one in the nuclear or fossil fuel industries will admit to is that they are running out of resources. If oil and gas were still easy to get at, we wouldn't be needing to drill miles deep in the oceans or resort to fracking. The harder it is to get it out of the ground, the more expensive it is. When something is rare - it is always more expensive. but they won't admit it.

    One thing I have learned about MegaCorps... do not listen to what they say, watch what they do. No new nuclear plants have been built in 30 years... Why not?

    Because nuclear power plants are simply too expensive and take at the very least ten years to build. All the while relying on a fossil fuels for all stages of the construction, maintenance, extracting, and processing of nuclear fuels.

    And, like oil, coal, and natural gas Uranium is also a rare and finite source with its own production peak.

    They cannot even get private insurance. Across the board, nuclear accidents are largely covered by the state. Which means the taxpayers pay. Little to nothing is carried by private insurance because a worst case nuclear accident would be astronomically expensive. Nor could the operators of the plants afford the cost of private insurance, even if they could get it.

    (Notice how the profits of a nuclear plant are privatised, but the risks are socialized?)

    A quote from the World Nuclear Association states:

    While there are plans for a number of new reactors the prospect of low natural gas prices continuing for several years has dampened these plans and probably no more than four new units will come on line by 2020.

    Remember, it takes at least 10 years to build a nuclear power plant, so to meet that 2020 deadline construction should have started in 2010...  

    Using wind and solar and other renewables and becoming as independent of the grid as possible we could enhance our national security. It's a lot harder to take out a grid and shut down the power in a nation that has no power grid. Nor would we be beholden to other nations for our sources of power.

    There is one more thing. The MegaOil talks about how we would have to stop using our cars because they cannot be powered on wind and solar.

    But electric cars CAN- if they are being charged in a garage with solar capabilities...or hooked to the city grid that uses wind power...And electric run high speed rail and other forms of public transportation could meet our needs.

    In my opinion, we ~might~ have to change our lifestyles in the face of the peak resources... but to my mind, that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

    "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~ Edward Abby

    by SaraBeth on Fri Jun 08, 2012 at 06:43:19 AM PDT

  •  If not nuclear, how about nothing? (0+ / 0-)

    We use too much power. Our non-negotiable American way of life squanders energy massively and thoughtlessly. At some point we will power down. The paradigm of permanent growth is stone cold dead in spite of all the rearguard action to defend that dinosaur.

    At some point we will power down. There is no need to replace all our current electric capacity one to one with solar or wind.

    My electric bill says I use 1/4 of the juice someone my age and station is expected to use. I make zero sacrifices. I have no elaborate energy-saving schemes in place. I have simply declined to fill my living space with mountains of consumer crap. The American economy is based on crap. Cut the crap.

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