Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Only Nuclear Energy Can Save the Planet (wsj.com)
55 points by jseliger 70 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 84 comments

A good benchmark for nuclear vs wind turbine is France (2nd country with the most installed nuclear power) and Danemark (Can run almost entirely on wind turbines). Well, France is producing about a factor of 2 or 3 less CO2 than Danemark.

Another important point. France is producing still far too much CO2 because nuclear is just about 20% of its energy consumption.

So let's not focus on electricity, but let's stop using fuel for transportation and gas for heating.

Personal transportation is one thing, but the figures for overseas shipping, airplane exhaust, and animal farming constitute well over 30% of total GHG emissions. It's scary. Nevertheless, eliminating fossil fuels in personal transportation (about 13%) is a necessary step.

Another benchmark: Canada's largest province, Ontario, gets 60% of its electricity from nuclear. It has more than twice the population of Denmark, and one-fifth that of France.

EDIT: I misunderstood. I see now you were comparing a nuclear-dominant country with a wind-dominant one.

Airplane is just 2% of world CO2 emissions. It makes sense of course to reduce it, but at the world scale, farming and coal are the real burden!

Building nuclear reactors takes a long time. At this point it's probably too late to start without pursuing many different strategies to reduce our carbon output. I don't think we have enough time left for a painless transition to carbon neutrality. If we had started in earnest when it was first clear that global heating is happening, so forty years ago, we would have been able to switch to alternative power sources with a lot less economic impact. But by now only radical changes to our way of life can limit (not prevent!) global heating. The longer we wait, the larger the risk that we hit some nonlinearities that our climate models have failed to take into account.

How ironic that it was the environmental groups who destroyed nuclear forty years ago.

In the US it takes about 14 years for a new fission plant. You can make a lot of PV panels, wind turbines, and storage in that amount of time. You will also get economies of scale benefits and technology improvements.

Wind turbines are surprisingly land-intensive:

> Meeting present-day US electricity consumption ... would require 12% of the Continental US land area for wind at 0.5 W_e/m^2, or 1% for solar at 5.4 W_e/m^2.

Source: http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aae102/m...

On the other hand, we have a lot of empty, mostly-useless land, like that managed by BLE for grazing. Wind power also lines up well with rural manufacturing decline; since it must be built in rural areas it can replace some of the lost jobs.

You should compare all aspects. How much land it uses, how much energy it produces over 50 years, how dirty is the manufacturing process (solar panels involve extremely toxic materials to be made) etc... Its not black and white.

how many thousands of square miles of arable land did we hand over to corporations to turn corn into biodiesel? How many of those square miles dump phosphorous-rich run-off into the Mississippi, creating a deadzone of how many thousands of cubic miles in the Gulf of Mexico?

Ever been out West? The suburban roofs alone provide enough real estate for most solar. Imagine if we turned the roads into solar. There's plenty of space for solar.

Roads are terrible places for solar panels.

Biodiesel is a terrible investment. That's a pretty low bar to set.

Rooftop solar doesn't use any additional land and the US has vast tracks of mostly uninhabited deserts.

I would be very interested in a comparison between solar and nuclear regarding their manufacturing. It's not like nuclear fuel pellets grow on trees either. Do you have any sources perhaps?

Helen Caldicott's book (linked above) has quite a bit about this. One aspect of nuclear that's never brought up is that the mining process is carbon-intensive (all gas powered machines) and very dirty. It pollutes the surrounding environment terribly. The entire process of producing uranium pellets is really toxic and unsafe.

Another aspect that's never counted in the costs of nuclear power is decommissioning. This gets passed onto the consumer in the form of rate hikes -- after the plant has been turned off! There has never been a real assessment of the costs of nuclear power that includes all these factors.

> One aspect of nuclear that's never brought up is that the mining process is carbon-intensive (all gas powered machines)

So is the process of making solar panels: there's so solar powered machine manufacturing the solar panels after all! However I would wage the ratio of carbon consumption over the lifetime of a nuclear plant is extremely favorable compared to the lifetime energy output.

> in the costs of nuclear power is decommissioning

How about the costs of recycling/destruction of solar panels? They don't last forever (far from that) and you also need to take in account that the cost of solar panels (already heavily subsidized in many countries) does not include that kind of things either. As for decommissioning nuclear plants, it's not "unknown" in any way, there are already multiple cases in the US and in Europe where plants have been stopped and decommissioned and the economic impact can be estimated and calculated.

The bulk of the Manhattan Project's $33B budget went into uranium and plutonium production. The K-25 plant at Oak Ridge gives you a sense of the scale:


> Rooftop solar doesn't use any additional land and the US has vast tracks of mostly uninhabited deserts.

The problem of putting solar panels in deserts is well known: it's not where people live, so you need a way to transport the electricity, and you lose a lot of energy between where it is produced and where it is consumed. So, putting them in deserts is a terrible idea. On rooftops it makes a lot more sense in regions that get good sunlight.

The only thing that can save most of humanity is a method that can scrub 100M metric tons of green houses gases from the upper atmosphere on a yearly basis.

If the earth’s climate were a person it would be 5ft tall, weigh 600lbs and eat 15,000 calories a day, and the plan to save it would be to have it reduce its food intake to 12,000 calories a day. We are not fixing anything, the earth’s climate would just get fatter a little slower.


"This image should terrify you. It should be on billboards.

As you can see, in either scenario, global emissions must peak and begin declining immediately. For a medium chance to avoid 1.5 degrees, the world has to zero out net carbon emissions by 2050 or so — for a good chance of avoiding 2 degrees, by around 2065.

After that, emissions have to go negative. Humanity has to start burying a lot more carbon than it throws up into the atmosphere. ... Thus far, most demonstration plants of any size attaching [carbon capture] to fossil fuel facilities have been over-budget disasters. What if we can’t rely on it? What if it never pans out?"

The solutions are already in front of us.

Solar, wind and gas for electricity. No more coal. Technology already exists. Side effect: cleaner air.

Electric cars and trucks for transport. Technology already exists. Side effect: cleaner air and better cars.

No more beef. Pork, chicken, insects and plants instead. Technology already exists (has for thousands of years). Side effect: less water use, healthier diets.

Mostly these things would come faster with a broad enough carbon tax, instead they are coming slowly. I'm completely certain that we could do all of the above in 5 years.

At most the above would entail minor inconveniences for the average person. It just takes the political will to place a minor inconvenience on a population whom you hope will still vote for you.

>"It just takes the political will to place a minor inconvenience on a population whom you hope will still vote for you."

And this is why the future is looking so grim, unless we can somehow convince the population at large to accept this inconvenience.

The public tends to vote for people who decrease inconvenience, and shun those who propose to increase it.

How can we change the minds of millions/billions of people away from that mindset?

It's a minor inconvenience to you - because you'd want those things to happen even if there was climate change was not a thing.

It would be as if someone suggested saying a prayer before going to bed would save the world. What's the problem, it's a 2 minute prayer? And yet a large number of people would be up in arms about it.

I understand that you're shouting "Science" before telling people how to live their lives. Hey, maybe it will work. But it's profoundly political and even if they don't articulate it as such that's how people will see it.

I'm not telling people how to live their lives. I'm saying that in order to not fuck up the environment even more than we already have, there will need to be massive changes to the way we live our lives, and that we'll need to accept a level of inconvenience that a lot of people won't be comfortable with.

And yes, it is political, because the only way we'll be able to counteract climate change is by concerted, collective political effort.

Join a political party and propose it yourself. You would be surprised how few motivated people it takes to join up as members and change policy. Many/most people don't vote, even fewer joins parties and even fewer run for election!

I am already politically active, to the extent that I am able and can afford it. It very often doesn't seem to make a lick of a difference, when people just patently refuse to listen to anything that doesn't align with their prejudices.

High performance buildings, both newbuild and retrofit. Another case where the problem is solved technically, but that's not the issue. The issues are organisational, political and other 'soft' reasons which make it more difficult than flicking a switch in a democracy.

Right now the 600 pound person is eating 500 calories per day more each year, and the plan is to reduce the increase in calories a little bit.

For climate change, the total amount of released carbon is what matters. So far we haven't been able to even get the second derivative to point in the right direction.

Speaking as someone who lives off grid: solar technology today is more than good enough to solve this problem, but people will have to adjust their lifestyle to consume less energy. Switching to a finite off grid battery bank it's remarkable how quickly you adapt to just doing less energy intensive stuff.

Personal solar installations are the least efficient and least reliable form of renewable energy. It’s great for people like you who are really motivated to do it, but telling people to demand less energy is not a solution to the worlds energy demands. I highly question how responsible it is to promote such a patently unviable solution as being a realistic way to meet global energy demands.

It does have two appeals though:

1. Decentralized generation may be good for the network. Even if we have large utility-owned solar plants, it would be better if you can put a few hundred square metres in each neighbourhood, rather than 500 square kilometres together in the middle of nowhere. Reduced waste of energy from transmission-wire resistance, and less load on old/fragile parts of the grid if most of the current is being drawn from a nearby solar farm.

2. A way for consumers to hedge on electricity prices. From a financial perspective, there's not a big difference between "You get this 20-year lease/financing for a 5kW solar setup for $80 per month" and "You're contracting for 900 kilowatthours per month for the next 20 years, at a fixed rate of about 9 cents per kilowatthour, regardless of inflation or rate hikes."

It’s appealing for lots of reasons. Consuming clean energy that the sun freely deposits on your roof is a remarkably appealing idea. But sadly it does not appeal as a realistic solution to energy demands.

> A way for consumers to hedge on electricity prices. From a financial perspective, there's not a big difference between "You get this 20-year lease/financing for a 5kW solar setup for $80 per month" and "You're contracting for 900 kilowatthours per month for the next 20 years, at a fixed rate of about 9 cents per kilowatthour, regardless of inflation or rate hikes."

This is a hedge against improvements in energy production as likewise you may be locked into a higher rate.

The current rate of electricity use in the western is not viable. The choice is keeping the lifestyle for the next few decades and excepting the fact that future generations are fucked. Reality is that in the next decade or so even if the developed world brings down it's carbon output. The devolping countries which are 80% of the world population will be increasing theirs as they keep developing. Nuclear might be an option for the developed world but unless something drastically changes in world politics the majority of where the carbon use going to come from are not going to have access to it.

>The current rate of electricity use in the western is not viable.

This simply isn’t true. Nuclear and even hydro are fantastic renewable sources. Wind and large scale solar isn’t bad in many places either. The problem is that environmentalists (and others, especially NIMBYs) strongly oppose most of those options, especially nuclear and hydro.

Any proposed solution that relies on mass lifestyle overhauls is a non-starter, and isn’t even required for renewables to be leveraged properly. At that point it just becomes idealism, and any idealist view of society that requires significant changes in behaviours and motivations, on mass, is really just navel gazing.

>"Any proposed solution that relies on mass lifestyle overhauls is a non-starter"

Too bad, because that is what we actually must do, in order to halt this disaster.

The scale of our problems cannot be overstated, humanity is genuinely capital-F Fucked, unless we make drastic changes. We can't just coast along and hope for the best anymore.

With the scale of what we're facing, we need big changes like moving to collective living rather than single-family housing, and scaling down our consumption drastically. We need to start sharing everything on a massive scale, instead of insisting on everyone having their own personal collection of junk that just sits unused 99% of the time.

We need to stop shipping junk literally around the world for profit margins. We need to stop buying so much stuff to fill the emptiness in our lives. We need to cool off the incessant bull-headed drive for every bigger profits, ever more growth. We need to either put the brakes on capitalism itself, or kill it entirely.

All of this is of course heresy of the worst kind to capitalists and other profiteers. And since these people sit on the majority of capital and basically own our politicians outright, it's one hell of an uphill battle. They would literally rather doom humanity than take the necessary steps to save us.

You can write me off as a doomsayer or idealist, but simply put, the odds are that if humanity still exists by 2100, it will look massively different from today's societies, because we took the necessary steps to save ourselves.

This right here, aside from being wrong, is why a majority of the worlds population are completely disengaged with environmentalists values. You’re promoting a completely impractical solution as if it were the only one available, when it’s absolutely not, and your demonizing the very people you’re (presumably) hoping to reach. Telling people that they’re to blame, and that if they don’t change everything about their life then they’re going to die is a message you’re never going to be able to sell to people. I couldn’t even imagine a better method of getting people to disengage than that, you’re doing a far better job than any oil company PR department could even dream of. In addition to that you’re also demanding that the rug be pulled from beneath the entire global economy? None of that is required, and if you can’t see how dangerous this message is, then there’s nothing I could say that would help you.

The rug does need to be pulled out from under capitalism. Our relentless march for ever greater profits and "productivity" is what's dooming our society. Until we put the future of humanity, of life and of the environment above profit and everything else, we are doomed.

While we do need to act as individuals and we will have to accept important and significant lifestyle change, the greatest changes will have to made in industry and shipping. We need to stop the massive exploitation of the environment by industry and big business.

Your reaction is perfectly normal, it's hard to accept that we're standing face to face with our doom. Your approach appeals to a more "sensible, step-wise and piecemeal approach", one that won't inconvenience people too much.

How would you suggest that approach would work? Gradual reduction, slow adoption of more sensible policies over the next century or so? What is your proposed solution, that will actually be effective enough to make the required change?

If we stick with our current systems, at the very least we need politicians who realize that the environment is our #1 priority, above anything else, and are competent enough to sell that message to the public. And to convince people that massively reduced consumption at all levels is the way forward.

You appear to have a problem with capitalism, consumerism, and carbon emissions, as if they were all one inseparable package. Which is intellectually nonsense. The worlds largest pollutor is communist China. There is no system of economics that is either more or less friendly to the environment. All systems of economics revolve around production and consumption.

Aside from all the FUD and illogical nonsense that people like you spread, the core problem you have is extremism. You can’t accept a workable solution, because anything less than your view of a perfect solution is impossible in your eyes. It doesn’t matter how viable nuclear and hydro could be, and how beneficial they could be overall, because they are less than perfect, they are unacceptable.

Yes, I do have a problem with capitalism and consumerism, because they are at the root of our increasing mistreatment of the world we live in.

The entire focus on economics as the only way to run the world is crazy. Money and economics are nothing but abstract concepts invented by humans, they're not some sort of natural universal truth.

We cannot consume nor bargain ourselves out of this problem, the solution will not be market-based. We need an entirely different paradigm, to use a hackneyed term. One that revolves around cooperation, rather than competition.

China has been "communist" in name only for decades, and you will note that their emissions increased sharply when they started adopted western capitalist ideas and let the market economy take over. Partylr because we started exporting our dirtiest industries to them.

Have you read the IPCC report? You really should, it's a rather sobering read. It gives us 12 years to reverse our doomed course. 12 years.


And then consider that the IPCC is even considered optimistic by some environmentalists, ostensibly written that way to not rock the boat too much and cause panic.

I am not joking. It is that serious. So we can either act and try to change the world, or we can go about our business as usual and cause our own extinction.

In other words, the planet isn't dying, it's being killed.

But please, explain which solution you think could solve or at least halt the problem within 12 years?

I think you should save this little exchange, and revisit it in 10 or 20 years, and consider what we could have done, but didn't do, because it was "too extreme".

Nuclear is hardly renewable. Every uranium pellet has to be mined (a carbon-intensive and highly polluting process) and none of the reprocessing methods we've tried so far are viable (which is why we don't try it anymore.) Hydro? We gave up on that in the US a long time ago because of the environmental impact of screwing with the water flow.

I did see something a few years ago about a new type of hydro that worked in-line with the water flow using small turbines alongside a river. It put the water back into the river after spinning the turbines so as to minimize the environmental impact.

>and none of the reprocessing methods we've tried so far are viable (which is why we don't try it anymore.)

This is an outright lie. Fast reactors which produce negligible waste (and which can be fueled by existing stored waste) are proven to be viable, have been used in the past, and are currently in use now in some places. The reason they are not being widely developed is entirely political.

Here's what Wikipedia says (source quoted there): In 2010 the International Panel on Fissile Materials said "After six decades and the expenditure of the equivalent of tens of billions of dollars, the promise of breeder reactors remains largely unfulfilled and efforts to commercialize them have been steadily cut back in most countries". In Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States, breeder reactor development programs have been abandoned.

Is there some economically viable breeder reactor that you know of? Where is it?

Even the base plants aren't economically self-sustaining. If governments didn't subsidize nuclear, no company would be involved at all.

Russia has two commercial operating ones. There are numerous experimental ones around the world, and India and China are both currently building them. They can also be used to recycle nuclear waste from normal thermal reactors. The only reason they’re not being widely developed is misguided political opposition to them, the same reason traditional thermal reactors are no longer being built.

The two reasons new plants aren't being built are costs (in the US) and safety concerns (in the EU).

Of course, these are the same issue. The industry doesn't like to have it pointed out that costs are out of control because of the attempts to make the plants safe.

The safety concerns are anti-scientific misinformation. Even presuming that absolutely no progress had been made in nuclear safety, and that accident rates would be identical to what they were in the 20th century, in perpetuity (which is obviously absurd), nuclear power poses orders of magnitude less risk to lives and the environment than fossil fuels do.

Capital costs are higher for sure, but even taking that into account, the cost of production over the lifespan of a plant are quite competitive with other sources. Nuclear power can also be scaled more readily and reliably than solar, wind and hydro, and has far less operating costs than all of them. The primary barrier to adoption of nuclear power is public sentiment, which is based almost entirely upon misinformation and FUD.

I don’t think they meant it was the only solution for everybody on the planet.

>Speaking as someone who lives off grid: solar technology today is more than good enough to solve this problem

Their opening sentence tells a different story to be honest. Anybody who goes out and does this for themselves is only going to be doing good, but the argument is fallacious at best, and dangerous at worst. People hear this often enough, and it will end up changing their behaviour. They’ll end up voting for politicians who want to subsidize personal solar installations (which has to be the least efficient form of public investment in renewables), and taking stands against things like nuclear (or even wind) for environmental reasons.

The opportunity cost is very real, and it’s entirelt reasonable to see how an argument like this can end up doing more harm than good.

Really though solar is not being used anywhere near its potential. And I don’t think there is any serious-omg-danger being posed by someone pointing that out on an internet discussion board. It seems to me they were just opining that a great solution already exists. For there to be an actual opportunity cost, the entire world would have to take that one comment as gospel. There’s really no danger of that. The marketplace will ensure that plenty of solutions compete, including some bogus ones with real problems alongside the good ones.

It’s potential isn’t really relevant at all, because there’s better ROI in just about any other form of renewable. The argument put forth in the parent comment already has been very damaging, and can’t simply be dismissed. It’s a fact that many governments around the world have wasted a lot of money on subsidising personal solar installations, money that could have been better spend on just about any other renewable initiative. It’s another fact that many environmentalists are against, and some lobby very firmly against, nuclear energy (there are even those environmentalists who are against wind), a position very strongly bolstered by ideas like solar is “more than enough”. If you put your energy into promoting a bad solution, the best case outcome is that you get a bad solution. You also can’t rely on market forces here because of how regulated energy markets are, and how much politics plays into it. There’s plenty of political will behind solar, and plenty against nuclear. Market forces aren’t going to influence that.

> there’s better ROI in just about any other form of renewable

What? There really isn't. Solar power is less than $1/watt, basically maintenance free, can be directly used or stored in batteries, and (if you're using rooftop solar) requires almost no additional infrastructure or land usage.

What other renewables are better than this?

As you can see from my comment history I'm pretty bullish on solar. I think he's right about personal (rooftop) solar. Utility scale solar is about $1/watt, installed, in the US. Residential rooftop is more than $3/watt, installed, for retrofits. Up until now most rooftop systems have been retrofitted instead of built with the house.

Retrofit or not, rooftop systems can't use sun trackers like utility scale systems. Rooftops also tend to be less optimized for insolation than solar fields. So the annual-energy-per dollar gap is even wider than the installed-watts-per-dollar gap. If I had to decide how to allocate a billion dollars between utility-scale and rooftop solar systems, I'd put 100% into utility-scale.

I'll be more optimistic about rooftop systems if the US can get installed costs down. Not requiring any additional land is nice. But the US has too much open space and too high costs for rooftop installation for rooftop PV to be a cost-effective decarbonization method at present.

You use a lot of words, but solar is simply not a “bad solution” as you suggest. It’s working great for a lot of cases. And nobody is saying it has to be the only solution.

>nobody is saying it has to be the only solution.

As long as the alternatives aren’t wind, or hydro, or geothermal, or nuclear. Because all of those are supposedly bad for the environment in one way or another. The original commenter outright said that solar was “more than enough” to meet energy demands, as a way of dismissing consideration for nuclear (a solution which actually can).

Environmentalists do a terrible job of marketing their message, to a public that is already largely apathetic. The original commenter would rather you not consider realistic solutions, because you can achieve the same outcome with a massive capital outlay, and a major lifestyle adjustment. How out of touch do you have to be to expect that this is a solution that would be acceptable to the average consumer? And you can’t say that ‘nobody is saying’ that, because that’s exactly what the parent comment said.

>How out of touch do you have to be to expect

OK, this is not a constructive dialog.

It’s more than good enough to solve the problem, as long as you redefine the problem sufficiently?

The problem is becoming carbon neutral without turning the clock back to before we discovered coal.

What were your biggest lifestyle changes?

how do you cook?

Bill Gates gave an interesting TED talk on this subject[1]. He said that in terms of the real politics, the only way to move to 100% renewable energy is to make it cheaper than fossil fuels so the naysayers have no reason to object. To that end, he has been investing heavily in TerraPower, a company developing a new kind of nuclear reactor that promises to be much safer and use the depleted uranium from other power plants as fuel.

Unfortunately, TerraPower recently received a major setback. It took them 10 years to secure a deal with the Chinese government to build one of their prototype power plants there, and now the Trump administration's aggressive stance toward China has killed that deal. Hopefully they'll be able to find another arrangement before they run out of funding.

[1] https://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates?language=en#t-814991


„six years after it was founded, TerraPower has not yet produced a working prototype. Last week, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, the company revealed that it is now pursuing a different advanced reactor concept: a molten chloride reactor“

That was 2016. Any improvements since?

There are 3 possibilities: we go extinct we lose civilisation, we do just fine. Science does not us 30 years, it gives us 12, nowhere near enough to build nukes. With the loss of coordinated civilisation, whatever spent fuel pools, will dry up and catch fire. Spent fuel needs 3 decades onsite before it can be moved anyway. So to prevent all the SFP's putting their toxic load into the atmosphere, and killing everything bigger than bacteria, we need to decide to take an alternative to the scorched earth policy.

To clarify - your argument against nuclear energy is that the world is going to collapse in 12 years;therefore something with a 30 year investment and maintenance cliff is foolish? Because it may start post-apocalyptic wasteland fires?

Also what are SFPs?

Everyone in this post (or any other on HN) that brings up any anti-nuclear facts gets downvoted and I'm sure this comment will be no exception... but here goes.

Nuclear is not safe. Every plant has had accidents and leaks. Nuclear power is uninsurable and no insurance company will touch it. Major accidents like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima cannot be cleaned up at all -- ever. Nuclear is not carbon neutral. Mining and processing uranium use lots of carbon-powered machines. Nuclear waste is a problem still unsolved and, IMHO, unsolvable. And nuclear is not cost effective so it relies on huge government subsidies.

Many countries are pulling away from nuclear power for these reasons.

A great resource for anyone interested in some facts about nuclear which are not widely discussed should check out Helen Caldicott's book, Nuclear Power is Not The Answer: https://www.amazon.com/Nuclear-Power-Answer-Helen-Caldicott/...

Nuclear waste is mostly a political problem. We could build breeder reactors and burn up 99% of the so-called waste, leaving behind only short lived isotopes. We don't because of proliferation fears.

I'm also reasonably sure that nuclear still produces a lot less carbon dioxide than coal or gas fired plants, even if you account for mining operations.

Safety is indeed a problem, especially with the old designs we're running now. But you have to weigh the risks of localized disasters with the risk of catastrophic climate change.

The main problem is the high cost of nuclear plants and the long time it takes to build them. It is entirely unclear whether investing into new plants right now makes sense, or whether we should rather dump the money into battery storage. What doesn't make sense though is turning existing nuclear plants off, as we did for example in Germany, or building new coal plants instead of new nuclear plants because base-load plants are still necessary.

The reason it's so expensive and time consuming to build plants is precisely because of the safety issues. This is the elephant in the room when it comes to costs

You say that you are presenting facts, but you appear to only present claims.

> Nuclear is not safe.

First, why is this the case?

Second, how do you know that your supporting "why" is true? Is it possible that your source of information is biased in some way? Is it possible that there could be technological advances that have happened since 2006 when Helen wrote her book?

No, we haven't. The reason nuclear power is so expensive is because plant operators are trying to mitigate the safety issues.

In its argument against solar the article makes on fundamental mistake: It does not take into account that prices for solar-panels are falling exponentially (1/2 every ~6 years).

I visited Chernobyl last month. Nuclear energy is not the future.

Good point. Do you know many people died in Chernobyl? 31 during the accident. 11 since (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster). Do you know many people died every year with fine particles? 2.1 millions. Nuclear is even competitive with solar panels in terms of death. (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_accidents)

Death is of course not the real measure. But it gives you a real insight of the dangerousness.

Good to know thanks. It remains an immensely lower level than coal or fuel.

Yes thanks I do know how many official deaths there were and I also know that alternative numbers in the low thousands are still under reported.

We met with a variety of people there and the coal miner deaths alone are in the thousands. Liquidator deaths are far closer to tens of thousands.

Oh and you think Chernobyl was bad as it was? If the inital coal miners hadn't been sent down in the first few days you would have been looking a far far far worse explosion that would have irradiated (and effectively made unihabitable hundreds of kilometers). So bad the USSR was plannning on the basis it would have had the radiation effects expected of a 4+ megaton nuclear weapon. Oh and to top it off they assumed the explosion would have also destroyed and set off the other still working reactors...

Nuclear is not the answer.

Well comparison of Tchernobyl has its limits also. For sure now coal miners would not be sent on the core. But also, nowadays, nuclear power is a much more mature technology. 3rd generation (EPR) are extremely safe: it can resist to a 8m-height wave or a plane crash!

Anyways, even by accepting a death roll of 4k (the biggest estimate of death for nuclear power) over 70 years, it has a lower death rate than wind turbines or PV (https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2012/06/10/energys-d...). Energy has a human price, and nuclear is definitely not the most costly energy source.

The goal of our generation is to live in a world where coal and fuel are never used. Coal represents 36% of world CO2 emissions and kills every year several millions of people. But coal is one the cheapest and most reliable energy source, while being generally well politically accepted by populations.

To remove coal, when you can't install hydro, you need nuclear. Please don't tell me wind turbines will save us from coal, because Danemark has enough wind turbines to run (and a perfect spot for offshore wind turbines) but no real storage tech, and thus its burns a lot of coal.

Chernobyl is not representative.

It's one of three major meltdowns that left a permanently "scorched earth," as another poster called it. There have been many more which were not so well known. In fact, every nuclear plant around the world has had leaks and safety problems.


Don’t sleep on space solar power.

It seems unlikely that we’ll invent that before it’s too late. Nuclear is feasible today.

Sure, bet against human ingenuity, that's a good bet!

Is there a non-paywalled version?

Solutions that concentrate control in the hands of a centralized authority? No thanks.

I prefer solar, which is still highly underutilized and way easier to keep independent of central control. And wind, and hydro. And I just take the headline to mean that somebody at the WSJ stands to profit from a (unlikely) nuclear power resurgence.

BTW for anyone who brings up the problem of the sun not shining at night, that is a solved problem, with the ongoing advances in and availability of battery technology.

This is a good point. Local energy co-ops can create their own solar farms.

I remember one dude wanted to cover moon with solar systems and then take that energy to earth with some laser or smth. He said it will require 1trln dollars but it will cover all people energy needs. I suppose nobody wanted to risk such money and people with oil business didn't want it to succeed.

Now I think we should diversify and make more nuclear power plant. Also while it's building think about more ways to make energy. I dunno why scientists didn't figure out great way to make energy.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact