Saturday, September 15, 2018

Nukes are having a make-over

Given that we now likely need to take more carbon out of the atmosphere than we put in, are we now forced  back toward nuclear power?

There appears to be a PR campaign for nukes underway. I’m just catching up on episodes of Madam Secretary but the program I just watched had one of the characters making an impassioned case for the need for nukes. This also came up in the Helsinki-based series, Deadwind, but in that episode, nukes didn’t win the debate. Have you seen this argument showing up in other programs?

Now MIT has released a report saying we need nuclear power.

"Our analysis demonstrates that realizing nuclear energy's potential is essential to achieving a deeply decarbonized energy future in many regions of the world," says study co-chair Jacopo Buongiorno, the TEPCO Professor and associate department head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT. He adds, "Incorporating new policy and business models, as well as innovations in construction that may make deployment of cost-effective nuclear power plants more affordable, could enable nuclear energy to help meet the growing global demand for energy generation while decreasing emissions to address climate change."

Granted, the nuke designs today are much safer, and some can reprocess spent fuel, reducing the quantity of nuclear waste. But we still have no solution for  storing the waste and no reliable way to protect those stockpiles for 10000 years. And then there’s the risk of dirty bombs. And the possibility of Peak Uranium.

What do you think? Is there a viable alternative? Can we ramp up action on the priorities in Project Drawdown (like replacing refrigerants and switching to a plant based diet)? Personally, I’d rather give up bacon than have a nuke in my neighborhood. (See Project Drawdown recommendations here: If, that is, if it will be enough to avert disaster. It may be that we’ve waited too long.

If we do start considering nukes again, we need to take a full life cycle comparison of options, comparing the costs and carbon impacts of building, fueling, operating and decommissioning along with storing and protecting waste products. If you take into account the entire supply chain, like mining uranium, etc., according to this research, nukes have a similar carbon impact to wind.

MIT Energy Initiative study reports on the future of nuclear energy - SCIENMAG

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