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One of the oldest known human settlements is about to be flooded by a dam (latimes.com)
170 points by pseudolus 19 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 166 comments

It is not just that we flood regions, but that we cause large scale 2nd order events due to population migrations. Ataturk Dam in Turkey is at least partly responsible for the mess in Syria due to severe multi year droughts.

From the end of the article:

  The Turkish authorities began filling the reservoir last year but stopped after drought-plagued Iraq requested it keep the Tigris flowing. In this arid part of the world, locals fear the dam will spark “water wars” with Turkey’s neighbors who depend on the Tigris.

  Hasankeyf tourist guide Mazlum Yildirimer said he feared the dam will become a source of “endless problems.”

  “For the last 100 years, there have been problems with our neighbors because of a lack of water,” he said. “Changing the course of rivers changes the world.”

The same thing was done in the US in the 50s with the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in North America (possibly older than this one it seems):


The falls still exist and could be restored if the dam was removed.

Well it's sometimes better to give people drinking water than to have old settlments.


Kudos to that article for apparently writing with the general public as the target audience, but still using proper technical terminology (including thalwag, one of my favorites).

But an emerging principle in infrastructure design is that demand grows to saturate supply, and that's not usually sustainable.

This is true for traffic on the interstate (people avoiding rush hour traffic, until a lane is added) or for water availability (the existence of Las Vegas).

Engineers are uncomfortable with the concept, as it tends to veer into public policy. In the case of flood risk management, us policy is catching up with engineering, and FEMA has been offering block grants for relocation of flood prone communities for some time now.

Sometimes the right answer is to help people move to an area that can sustain them.

There's nothing unsustainable about Las Vegas or Phoenix. The desert is a good place to put a lot of people.

I mostly agree, as it is today. But Vegas would not exist without the Hoover Dam.

And I'm all for improving civic development and people's standard of living, fully knowing that it's at some expense to nature. That still meets my definition of practical sustainability.

That said...

The Hoover Dam does have a design life and an expiration date. From an engineering perspective, that's sustainable as long as we have a replacement or mitigation plan figured out and in place by that date.

As for right now, there are real present day environmental costs, up and down river, and throughout the desert. The low flowrate of the lower Colorado certainly is not sustainable, although it's also certainly not 100% due to the Hoover dam. And Lake Mead is filling up much quicker than expected. Some people see that the status quo can't last forever, and say that's not sustainable.

It's not much different than New Orleans relationship with levees, although I suspect few people have thought of it that way.

Either way, to think that Vegas could survive without the Hoover Dam is flat out wrong. I'm not saying tear it down and move. I think it was the right decision to build the dam when they did. But if it weren't built yet, would it be the right decision to build it today? I doubt it, at least designed as is.

How does a dam like Hoover effect the flow rate of water down stream after filling the dam?

My assumption was that after the dam is filled the flow rate can be regulated very close to pre dam levels of at least 95% flow rate factoring in any losses due to evaporation.

Because that's literally what it was designed to do. Absorb the floodwaters and release them slowly.

All the water being siphoned out to supply Vegas and irrigation comes from somewhere. And doesn't make it downstream. Plus all the water retained by Urban build out (ponds, vegetation, pools) that normally would flow straight into a river and head downstream.

Over burden pressure from the lake forces water into the ground. The temperature of the water in the lake rises, causing chemical changes and making evaporation downstream more likely. Sediment drops out of the water column, allowing light to penetrate deeper than it normally would.

All of that is before you even get into the flow rate variance. Because winter floods don't "flush out" the canyon, there are problems with sedimentation downstream, which causes water to slow and evaporate more...

And this is just hydrology/hydraulics, before you touch any of the biological / ecological aspects.

It gets complicated, quickly.

Even if you assume it's only 5% evaporation reduction and exclude what's pumped out, there are at least what? 15-20 major dams that feed the Colorado? Even if you assume 3% times 15 dams, that's almost half the flow of the river, before you even pump anything out.

It's not obvious to me why the desert (Las Vegas and Phoenix, specifically) is a good place to put a lot of people. What makes them a good place to put a lot of people?

On the plus side, the land is generally flat, and not all that useful for any other purpose (without a lot of irrigation), and is generally considered "wasteland". So instead of locating millions of people on land that's better used for agriculture, or left to wilderness (like major forests), putting people in a desert wasteland may seem like a good idea.

On the other hand, it's extremely hot there, and not really an enjoyable place to live unless you like being inside most of the year. On top of that, all the asphalt and concrete causes a "heat island" effect, making the city even hotter than the surrounding desert, and unlike the open desert, it never cools off at night (all that concrete and asphalt constitutes thermal mass). And since people don't like living in 100F+ conditions continuously, a lot of energy is used running air conditioners to try to make the place habitable.

Regrettably, humanity is not as advanced or kind a species as we think we are. Politics and war mean that it's not possible to stop this dam.

On the bright side for the archaeology, the water will protect some parts of the city, and in a century when the existing Turkish government is ashes and dust, some of that will remain to be discovered.

That doesn't help the present residents, but given the situation in their country (which we and other countries have contributed to) nothing will.

We're all to blame, because we share the world.

Maybe if we don't need dams anymore...

A neolithic henge, drowned by a dam, was recently exposed for a while due to low water levels. People could visit. I don't think there was serious talk of destroying the dam, even though I doubt it would be built to day.

Prevention beats cure.

I mean technically war (or just a few dropped bombs) could stop this dam. But I know that's not what you meant.

The RAF bombed dams in the Ruhr valley during WW2.


Water is just about the worst thing for “preserving” things. Especially in a hot dry climate like this.

This is completely false. Water does a pretty good job of preserving shipwrecks, even from thousands of years ago. We're still finding ancient Greek ships now, preserved by the oxygen-free water in the depths. Many wrecks have been found in the Black Sea, not far from where this place is, and many more surely remain to be discovered.

If/when the optimism for metal-organic frameworks is realized, we can finally stop doing this.



Deserts are already pretty fragile environments, seems like removing what little moisture there is in the desert air could have some unintended consequences. Large swaths of the USA are a few ecological disasters away from becoming uninhabitable deserts.

>Despite local and international objections, the city and its archeological sites are soon to be flooded due to the completion of the Ilisu Dam.

People who object to nuclear power often claim that in the worst case scenario, the plant might blow up and render large area uninhabitable. And yet we routinely flood settlements and fields with water for "clean reusable energy" even before any energy is generated! And in the worst case scenario the dam will burst and flood even more cities! Not sure how seismically active this area is, but a nuclear plant near this town might've been more preferable in all possible ways, including the amount of energy produced.

Hydro can actually (easily) keep up with nuclear in terms of power capacity and actual generated energy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_power_stations

Hydro is on par with nuclear in capacity, but has caused an order of magnitude more deaths per kWh. EDIT: Almost an order of magnitude if you take the favorable numbers


Given the most favorable estimate for nuclear (0.2) and the most deadly for hydro (1.6) from that source, that's not even a single full magnitude.

Flip the favorable/deadly bias around, and hydro looks to be safer (1.0 vs. 1.2).

EDIT: Also, what's with that variance on nuclear? Another thing is that calculating the long term effects of nuclear fallout is quite difficult. How much evidence for and against could we have for rising cancer rates in Europe since 1986? (I don't actually know what the cancer rates are, but figuring out causation is probably very difficult, and may or may not have something to do with Chernobyl)

You sort of answered your own question re variance. I was shocked, after growing up hearing how horribly deadly Chernobyl was, to discover there were only 30 directly related deaths. Maybe 60 for eventual cancer deaths for people that were actually on-site. But some studies claim 60,000+ cancer related deaths, and growing up, I always assumed there was a morgue somewhere that had thousands of victims piling up in the weeks after meltdown. I felt duped to find that wasn't the case.

And cancer rates in general have been rising for 80+ years, so yes, causation is difficult.

> there were only 30 directly related deaths

A better statement would have been that "the soviet union reported 31 immediate deaths at the time".

That 30 number was highly disputed unto itself, and doesn't include fatal cancers directly caused by radiation exposure.

There's an entire wikipedia page about it if you're interested in learning more.


I'm familiar with all the various claims. Although I haven't seen anything seriously disputing the 31 on-site number, beyond +/-5. I said

>>Maybe 60 for eventual cancer deaths for people that were actually on-site.

It's the 10,000+ numbers that I take real issue with. And am skeptical of even the 4,000 "agreed-upon" estimate. I don't doubt radiation was released. I don't doubt radiation exposure can increase risk of cancer.

But when you need statistical methods to calculate deaths, that's just not as meaningful as counting body bags on-site. I get that radiation plays a part in increased cancer risk.

Claiming that there were 1,010,000 cancer deaths, but there should have only been 1,000,000, and not being able to tell which 10,000 were "caused by Chernobyl" is problematic for me. It diminishes the pain of the other 1,000,000. Is this logical? Idk

Some studies in Fukushima claim over 1,000 more people have died by continued forced evacuation, than if they been had been allowed to return to the exclusion zone after a few weeks.

It just gets hard to take these numbers seriously when you only have statistical speculation to rely on. Moreso to treat them with the same equivalence as deaths on-site.

> But when you need statistical methods to calculate deaths, that's just not as meaningful as counting body bags on-site.

Agreed, but it's necessary if the government lies to you -- which of course was a frequent problem with the soviets.

More recently, the Puerto Rico death toll for Hurricane Maria was just 64, and remained that way for a year. The only way it was eventually changed was proving (through statistical analysis) that the death toll was in fact higher.

Yea, I have a major problem with how they did that one also. That's not proof or causation, it's at most correlation. But there's no way to normalize for variable independence. If a 99 year old was on life support when the power went out and died a month earlier than they otherwise would have, that got counted. But Maria didn't kill that person. I get that this is somewhat debatable semantics, but it shouldn't be.

And that's my point. There are really two sets of numbers that are being called the same thing when they clearly are not.

The death toll stayed for a year at 64, making it look like there was no real human suffering. The US President used that as political cover for denying the funds for disaster relief.

You can say "See, Chernobyl wasn't so bad. Nuclear power accidents aren't as bad as they say." Meanwhile the mismanagement of Chernobyl is still regarded as one of the greatest atrocities that came from the Soviets.


In the immediate aftermath, Trump repeatedly complained about how expensive it was to help the island, and said the hurricane wasn’t a “real catastrophe.”

“If you look at the — every death is a horror, but if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds of people that died and what happened here with a storm that was just totally overbearing. No one has ever seen anything like that. What is your death count?” he said during his visit after the hurricane.

I don't think Chernobyl was nearly as bad as what's been told. That's my point. It can still be "one of the worst" without claiming thousands died.

And I still think 64 is closer to the real death toll for Maria. It's certainly no where near 3000. People who have been through a hurricane know what it's like. You don't need to inflate your numbers to get sympathy. A body count based on "expected mortality rates" is by-definition, not a body count.

"Which meant that in the first few weeks and deaths after the storm, doctors failed to record many deaths that were indirectly related to the storm..."

They even admit that they're "indirect" deaths. Maria didn't kill those people. If people that died weeks later are being counted, that's absolutely wrong.

You can be against Trump's policies, but no one can claim with a straight face that Puerto Rico wasn't at fault for the state of their infrastructure. Or empty bank accounts.

The reporters needed a shock-value to try and get people in the US to care. It didn't work.

(Also, vox isn't exactly a neutral source, even by mainstream standards.)

I do not want to dismiss those deaths, but the very terrible consequence of Chernobyl were ecological. In particular the fact that a significant area is going to be uninhabitable for a long time.

Humanity could survive to even thousands of accident each killing thousands of people, but a thousand Chernobyl would be quite problematic.

1.3x-8x multiplier per that source

8x is about 90% of an order of magnitude (calculated via log-base-10 of 8).

Just meant to clarify, not dispute. Mostly because 1.3x is only 11%.

Everyone agree that statistics are on the side of nuclear power. The problem is that in the case of a very wrong accident the consequences can be very dire, as in transforming half a continent in nuclear wasteland.

The question is how much we want to trust the risk.

Half a continent? The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone[1] is 30km in diameter, Fukashima's is 20km I believe[2]. Obviously a nightmare if you happen to live in the neighborhood, but I don't think there are any nuclear power plants big enough to turn even a small country into a "nuclear wasteland".

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_Exclusion_Zone 2: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2015/oct/11...

The sum total of exclusion zones due to nuclear power is tiny when compared to the exclusion zone that will be created by rising sea levels due to global warming.

No, that is not a valid counterargument to the statistical argument of Nuclear's safety. One catastrophic accident is not necessarily worse than many small accidents. In fact that's the whole point behind the argument.

I agree that my comment was ill formed. My point was that when comparing the kind of worst case scenario of nuclear against other energies you get a very different result.

In part I am also worried about nuclear power plants in case of war.

I understand that there are many advantages on many sides, but in my opinion it is not worth it considering what could happen if thing go very wrong.

>Hydro is on par with nuclear in capacity, but has caused an order of magnitude more deaths per kWh.

Is this factoring in all future deaths from existing nuclear incidents?

If nuclear causes 1 death a year for 500 years and hydro causes 100 immediate deaths, which one is more lethal? Also consider the morality of pushing the costs of a failure generations down the road.

Nuclear waste is not as dangerous as you think. One, its contained within a very small area (which increases its lethality but substantially decreases your risk of exposure). Two, some waste products decay alpha particles which are basically harmless unless consumed. Three, some waste products have short half-lives which increases their risk in the short term but substantially decreases their risk over a 500 year period. Four, most deaths from nuclear waste would be slow and probabilistic (e.g. 18% increase cancer risk for an individual with high exposure) whereas deaths from some other power source would be immediate and devastating (e.g. flood, destruction of habitat).

I don't mind hydro. I don't particularly like the habitat destruction but they provide tons of clean power and tons of fresh water. But those dams have to be maintained for those 500 years. A collapse of a dam is pretty catastrophic.

> One, its contained within a very small area (which increases its lethality but substantially decreases your risk of exposure).

There are two cases to consider. Accident and normal waste. Accidents aren't nearly as contained. Normal waste is contained for now, but what about long term? We are looking at time length longer than any government has been stable.

>Two, some waste products decay alpha particles which are basically harmless unless consumed.


Also, what vectors could these particles enter into food when you consider their lifespan?

>Three, some waste products have short half-lives which increases their risk in the short term but substantially decreases their risk over a 500 year period.

But to what extent are these the ones being pushed for?

>Four, most deaths from nuclear waste would be slow and probabilistic (e.g. 18% increase cancer risk for an individual with high exposure) whereas deaths from some other power source would be immediate and devastating (e.g. flood, destruction of habitat).

Are we really suggesting that the death isn't comparable because it is a long term probabilistic? Imagine if some company dumping sludge into drinking water was making the same argument. Would we find it acceptable?

> We are looking at time length longer than any government has been stable.

98% of radioactive waste is "safe" after 40 or so years. After 40 years the radiation is 1/1000th of its initial waste state. The 1,000 - 10,000 year period generally cited is for the radioactive products to decay back to their original ore's radioactive intensity.

> Also, what vectors could these particles enter into food when you consider their lifespan?

Russian FSB.

> Are we really suggesting that the death isn't comparable because it is a long term probabilistic?

Yes. Would you rather die now or have a 10% increased chance of developing a cancer that may or may not be treatable 10 years from now?

>Actually, we already are to some extent with trans individuals. While most groups that support LGB also include the T, there are a few who do not and take offensive.

That isn't the comparison being made.

> Nuclear waste is not as dangerous as you think.

That'll be great news for all the governments who haven't come up with a plain "solution" that'll definitely work for all the time it needs to work, because only God could really make sure of that:


> It is widely accepted that spent nuclear fuel and high-level reprocessing and plutonium wastes require well-designed storage for periods ranging from tens of thousands to a million years, to minimize releases of the contained radioactivity into the environment.

Compared to tens of thousands, 500 years sounds great. Though you do have a point in that dams are not great, either, because 500 years are a long time, too.

But a risk being "probabilistic" also applies to dam accidents, since not every single last person in the wider area of it dies. I know it sucks either way, but having cared for cancer patients, I would rather drown in 5 minutes than over the course of months like one might with lung cancer.

The UN estimates (https://www.un.org/press/en/2005/dev2539.doc.htm) 4,000 deaths total for Chernobyl.

The EPA estimates zero deaths for Three Mile Island.

The worst dam failure in history (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banqiao_Dam) killed somewhere between 150,000 and 230,000 people. Hydro has a big head start.

The main purpose of those dams which were built right after 1949 in Huai river basin was flood control, not power generation. The dam you link, was built in 1958, but the power generators were installed almost ten years later at 1968, the electricity was just not the the priority for those dams. And it was not just one dam failure, but multiple dam failures, 62 dams in total failed in this extreme weather event, Banqiao was just the largest one, and only one with power generators at the time. After dams lost, there were constant floods in downstream areas, and almost all dams were rebuilt in 80s and 90s.

The 150k-230k death toll most likely is estimate for whole flood event, not just for this dam. We can say that if the constructions of the dams or coordinates between dams were better death toll can be much lower. But if dams were not existed at all, for that level of heavy rainfall, some people at some specific locations may be alive, but for the whole basin, I don't think there will be a huge difference.

Chernobyl is so different from a modern reactor, that it's not really useful to judge to current risks with existing reactors, let alone planned new Gen III+ reactors which are orders of magnitudes safer.

In fairness, the same is probably true for dams, as well - we've gotten a lot better at engineering them.

Recent California flooding makes me question this.

Yea, people talk about not being able to fully predict nuclear disasters, then turn around and claim sun, rain, and wind are totally predictive enough to rely on. I get that the risks vary, but man, a lot of people really don't understand statistics and probability.

And in particular the recent near-failure of the dam in Oroville. That could've significantly impacted hundreds of thousands of people.

The UN estimates for Chernobyl are based on the known bad LNT model for radiation exposure. Anything approaching 4,000 is unlikely if you apply more realistic models.

To clarify for others - LNT refers to "Linear No Threshold", the most conservative [0] model for assessing deaths from radiation exposure. Under LNT, if some amount of radiation leads to a 1% chance of death, 1/10th that amount leads to a 0.1% chance of death. This is most likely overly conservative, as cancer rates in the states do not seem to vary with radiation exposure as would be predicted by LNT.

So 4,000 is a good upper bound, if anything.

0: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linear_no-threshold_model

Thank you for the further explanation. However, I think that it could also be referred to as a "wildly exaggerated upper bound." Although I understand what you're saying, it's a terrible upper bound to use for risk assessments, or anything that you need to make sound engineering decisions based on. The true number of deaths from Chernobyl, outside of the actual plant fatalities, is likely closer to 0 than to 4,000.

Are those UN estimates time bound to any period of time and if not, what assumptions do they make of the future?

Also, per the Wikipedia link they included following famine in the numbers killed. Is that accurate?

The Chernobyl death toll estimates have been widely criticized as wrong because of the influence of the Soviet government trying to hide the problem. Some estimate the death toll to be at least an order of magnitude higher, and the area is still uninhabitable today many decades later.

The UN's estimate from 2005 is unlikely to have had much Soviet influence in its preparation.

How much data/information that the UN used was able to be influenced by the Soviet Union and its records? genuinely curious, I have no idea where the UN estimates come from nor a particular thought/agenda on the matter

Nuclear plants only need cooling water. Hydroelectric plants additionally need steep valleys and steep drops. Many fewer of those are available; that's why hydro plants tend to be so enormous. So the total capacity of nuclear power is immensely greater.

However, it's mostly a moot point now that photovoltaic is so cheap.

I believe hydro is also used by nuclear plants in the situation where they need a dark start.

Maybe in one plant somewhere, but that's not common. Not unless you're talking about the plant using grid power that just happens to come from a Hydro plant.

No? Where do nuclear grids usually get black start capacity?

"To provide a black start, some power stations have small diesel generators, normally called the black start diesel generator (BSDG), which can be used to start larger generators (of several megawatts capacity), which in turn can be used to start the main power station generators."

i.e. you don't need someone else's power plant, you can have a small one dedicated to black start.

Yes, hydro works really well for this. But it's not the only option.

Sure, it's not the only option, but isn't it the most common option? I admit I don't know much about black start.

No it's rare, if it exists anywhere at all. (Other than via a distant grid connection)

I'm no expert, but you clearly have no idea what you're talking about. You're confidently making strong assertions that are wrong or in some cases not even wrong.

Isn't black start almost always provided via a distant grid connection? Do you work in transmission or generation?

As I understand it, in the US, the NRC prohibits nuclear power plants from providing black start, for safety reasons: https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2019/05/f62/Hydro-Bl...

From the same source: "Historically, power systems have relied heavily on hydropower plants for black start capability. ... About 40% of the units in the United States maintained and tested for providing black start are hydropower turbines, although hydropower makes up only about 10% of overall US generating capacity."

It also answers the question of what is usually used, namely, gas combustion turbines — in the US, that is. Gas turbines provide over 50% of both black start capability and black start events in the US.

Maybe nuclear plant black start diesel generators do provide black start in some other countries? Where? Bueller? Bueller?

That's in the context of bringing the entire grid back up- a grid black start, not a nuclear plant black start. The 40% number is not nuclear specific- it's all types power plants (and it appears to be based on a 1967 New York blackout.) It's also not historical in the sense of what's been done, but was a hypothetical asked of plant operators akin to "if you have multiple options, which power source are you bringing online first?"

But to suggest that nuclear is sited near hydro for that purpose is just wrong.

As I said, in the US the NRC prohibits you from attempting a nuclear plant black start — that is, starting the plant during an ongoing LOOP event. So, at least in the US context, it's nonsense to talk about "a nuclear plant black start". Black start is a grid event, not a power-plant event.

The 40% number is not based on the New York blackout, which was in 1965 and not in 1967 as you say, and it is not hypothetical; one number is based on the black start capacity system operators file and pay power plant operators for, and the other is based on actual black start events.

It is true that that is not why nuclear plants are sited near water.

Just because the nuclear plant is connected to an active grid (in the process of restarting or otherwise), doesn't mean the grid has capacity to supply power for the plant to start.

The 1967 study was conducted in the wake of the 1965 blackout.

The never finished first polish NPP had hydroelectric starter in the form of pumping water plant built with reservoir on nearby hill. But that kind of setup appears to be pretty rare.

Technical aside, but China built a dam at upstream of Mekong River and then control the water level of the river downstream, risking lives on the banks of multiple countries like Myanmar, Cambodia, Lao, Thailand, and Vietnam.

As long as there isn't a drought.

...probably lots of solar power then, and the excess energy during the day can be used to pump up the remaining water into the hydro reservoir for energy at night.

And that's only if they build a hydroelectric dam somewhere where it runs such a risk. They aren't cheap either, and I doubt they'd just build one without careful considerations beforehand.

1- people like to look at renewables as complimentary to one another. Sometimes it's true, but it's not usually efficient (yet), because you have to significantly over build support infrastructure for a given supply of power. And it's the opposite- you would want hydro to supplement solar or wind (as it's got some on-demand flexiblity) and you could use it to saturate distribution lines when sun/wind is lacking. It takes scaling waaay up to make smart grid load-balancing efficient. Batteries will eventually help this, but they have their own problems that people like to ignore.

If you build renewable power generation, but still have to build a backup power plant, the renewables lose a big chunk of efficiency by the very nature of that plants existence (in the form of wasted embedded energy/cost). You could choose to also operate the backup regularly, but then you need to over-build transmission capacity, and you're admitting defeat in needing to operate non-renewables to justify the renewables. As usual, it's complicated. But it doesn't make sense to rely on solar to supplement hydro during a drought.

2-You're talking about hydraulic storage, which is really inefficient, but has some valid use-cases. But drought isn't one of them, for quite a few reasons. If there's a water shortage you want (and are probably treaty bound) to allow that water to flow downstream.

By definition, dams were favored in places with irregular rainfall patterns, because in most cases, flood control was the primary use.

If applicable, navigation is typically a primary or secondary use. If the area is also dry, irrigation supply is secondary / tertiary use.

Power generation is usually last; a happy by-product except in a few cases- with the Manhatten project being the prime example. Sometimes flexiblity allows for on-demand operation, but only after the other use conditions are satisfied (usually during fall draw-down). But even TVA dams operate based primarily on flood control parameters.

Nuclear, Hydro and Geothermal are pretty much the only energy sources that are truly fossil-fuel free and are able to replace coal and natural gas - though hydro/geothermal need particular geography for them to be viable. Hydro does have huge detrimental environmental impact but it's probably worth it.

Anyway, everytime there is some headline blaring about some region or country being 99% renewable based (for example, Costa Rica[1]) is because it leverages one or more of those.

For example, here's a live view of the energy of my home province: http://live.gridwatch.ca/home-page.html .. we're pretty much carbon free because of Nuclear and Hydro. On the other end, Germany decided to go with solar and wind and they aren't expected to be carbon-free until 2060s because they need natural gas as backup. This is also why they are spending billions on pipelines to ship MORE natural gas from Russia.

Makes you wonder why we're bothering with solar and wind, which can't power a modern economy without fossil-fuel backup and therefore are only good for niche applications.


Solar and wind are much cheaper. That's why.

Cheaper, but intermittent. Factor in the cost of massive energy storage and the cost is no longer competitive. This is largely academic anyway, the technology to store energy at the capacities necessary to power whole nations on wind and solar hasn't moved off the drawing boards.

They aren't, but let's say for argument that they are. So what? If they can't actually replace coal and natural gas, then what's the point?

And they can't. Solar and wind are intermittent power sources, meaning that there are times when you aren't generating any energy because the sun ain't shining and the wind ain't blowing. There is also no battery technology that can scale to the level of cities or nations for a period of hours, days or weeks (and we would need around 8 to 16 weeks of storage to bridge seasonal intermittency). Instead what we're seeing are those regions that heavily invest in solar and wind need to make a comparable investment in natural gas to make them viable.

None of this is correct, except that solar and wind are intermittent, and there are a lot of new gas stations being built, but mostly not because of renewables. Well, and in Antarctica you actually do need to bridge seasonal intermittency; McMurdo isn't going solar anytime soon.

Which part is incorrect? Can you elaborate?

Yes, but I think I'll do it in Dercuano instead of the comment section here; it'll be a lot more readable that way. I've started a “vulgar misconceptions” category in it, and you've given me a lot of great material here, since it appears you're sincerely misinformed, not trolling.

I have no idea what a 'dercuano' is.

Can you make a little effort here?

Just something that would demonstrate to me that I'm incorrect. I want to be wrong.

Right now it sounds like you feel like I'm wrong but you can't actually explain in what way. So instead you've decided to tell me I'm wrong (but not why). And now you've decided to insult me as well.

Here's what I see:

- We don't have a battery technology that can store enough energy to power an economy for even minutes. In solar/wind deployments we would need batteries to store energy for up to weeks. If there is, please tell me what it is. Lithium Ion doesn't work at that scale and cannot be relied upon to hold weeks of storage. Pumped storage is expensive but more importantly need particular geography to work. There are no examples of this large scale energy storage in practice.

- Because we don't have such a battery technology, solar and wind deployments require burning some fossil-fuel (coal, natural gas garbage, corn etc.). We see this in regions that decide to double-down on solar and wind. A perfect example is Germany. As they increase their solar/wind footprint, they are increasing their natural gas dependency by spending billions on NEW pipelines to Russia to ship their natural gas for decades. What do they know that you don't?

- There are also NO regions that power their economy wholly on renewables that don't involve nuclear, geothermal and hydro. No regions have plans in the immediate future (e.g. within 10 years) to do so either.

- There are a lot of other major issues with solar/wind, such as the huge land area requirements, and the need for large quantities of rare earth materials and lack of recycling. All these issues will be magnified as more and more regions invest in large-scale solar/wind deployments. I shudder at the thought of 100x or 1000x increase in solar cell production and what that would do to the environment, especially as these cells reach the end of their 20-25 year life.

I don't think any of those statements are wrong or controversial.

I'm not happy that this is the case. I would like solar and wind to be viable, but nobody will ever tell me how they could be without arguing that we will invent some new technology (like a better battery) to make it all work. To me it looks like nuclear, hydro and geothermal are the only real answers (with solar/wind having niche applications).

This is a live view of the energy mix of my home province (pop:14m): http://live.gridwatch.ca/home-page.html - depending on when you look you may see 98% carbon-free energy generation. Don't need to wait until 2060 (the time that Germany is expected to be carbon-free)

To me this looks like the future.

> Can you make a little effort here?

I appreciate the invitation, but I decline.

No problem. I found your gitlab blog, and I'll check it periodically for the 'vulgar misconceptions' section. Maybe for once someone will explain to me what a proper renewable-based energy mix (with solar/wind backbone) actually looks like.


Coal is being replaced as fast as they can build new capacity with cheaper sources. Coal costs around $100/Mwh. So does current nuclear (fantasy future tech doesn't count). Fracked natural gas costs around $40/Mwh, new onshore wind costs slightly ore ($42 or so), PV solar costs less than $60/Mwh, but its costs have dropped over 80% in a single decade so it's hard to say where it'll be in even a year, much less another decade or two.

Existing coal and nuclear plants are shutting down before end-of-life because they're losing customers to cheaper competition.

Intermittency for wind/solar are well understood problems, with a growing body of performance logs, which makes them very predictable (and "wind ain't blowing" is much less of a problem than you probably think). That makes cost modeling for storage predictable as well, and storage technology costs are improving as fast as production costs. This isn't magic. The math is very straightforward. As long as renewable + storage + gas is significantly cheaper than coal/nuclear - and it already is - we're going to see the industry shift rapidly in that direction.

Is this a perfect, carbon-free solution? No. Is it radically better carbon-wise than the old coal plants? Yes. Is it significantly cheaper than the old coal and nuclear plants? Yes. I'll take two wins and a draw over three losses.

>Coal is being replaced

Wherever coal is replaced it is replaced with natural gas (occasionally with hydro and nuclear).

>As long as renewable + storage + gas is significantly cheaper than coal/nuclear ...

This is a red-herring. It wouldn't matter if solar and wind were free. We can't use them without fossil-fuel back-up, which today means coal or natural gas.

This is also why natural gas companies are one of the biggest lobby groups for solar deployments.

>(and "wind ain't blowing" is much less of a problem than you probably think)

It's actually a huge problem. If the wind speed is too high, you can't generate electricity (due to risk of damage to the turbine). If the wind speed is too low, you can't generate electricity.

But the elephant in the room is storage. You can always dump more and more money to over-provision your generation capacity (meaning that in certain seasons you would have a ton of generation capacity sitting around doing nothing). The problem is that we don't have storage figured out at all.

>which makes them very predictable

Yes as much as weather can be predictable.

>and storage technology costs are improving as fast as production costs.

To be clear, we don't have storage technology that can store enough energy to power a reasonably sized city (pop:~1m) for a few minutes, much less a modern economy for weeks. There is no such storage technology on the horizon either. You need natural gas as back-up. Maybe in certain geographic region you can build a pumped-storage reservoir (at a great environmental cost).

Take a step back and look at the big picture. No region with a reasonable population is currently being powered by solar and wind even though there is huge amount of pressure to do so - why is that?

From your analysis sounds like natural gas is the way to go. Consistent, cheap power.

Except natural gas is still contributing to global warming, and someday we'll run out of it.

Your cost estimates are contradicted by a variety of sources. Almost everyone puts coal at a cheaper price than gas. That's why emerging economies like India are so heavily dependent on coal.

Furthermore your estimates for nuclear are contradicted by real world performance. How is it that France's electricity is 20-25% cheaper than the EU average despite 70% of it coming from the purportedly more expensive nuclear power?

A variety of sources? Fine. Show your work. 2018-2019 vintage sources only, not something from twenty years ago.

edit: Start here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source

Feel free to offer rebuttals of the numbers in there, with sources.

From an unregulated, no subsidies, no externalities perspective, coal is still cheapest. It's no longer so because of regulation, or market uncertainty of future regulation.

In the US, it's not the cheapest by a long shot, even excluding subsidies and externalities.

I'd be perfectly happy to see new coal plant construction banned from a regulatory perspective, but right now there are ZERO new coal plants being built in the US. The rest of the world will not be far behind.

Emissions controls counts as a regulation. That on it's own is a substantial cost. I think you're using a narrow definition of the word regulation.

Not knowing what the next administration is going to change adds cost of uncertainty.

If it weren't due to regulation, that would mean it's due to technology or raw cost. Both of which are ruled out by the fact that the US is the third largest coal exporter in the world, and exports have increased in the last 3 years.

If our coal weren't cheap, it wouldn't be worth exporting. If coal power plants weren't cheap, developing countries would be switching to the cheaper technology.



https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.... <- Note that in this one, coal is only counted with carbon capture technology, which increases cost

Coal is among the cheapest conventional source. Note that solar (other than solar thermal) and wind do not include cost of energy storage. Gas combined cycle (basically, a jet engine + a steam turbine heated by the jet exhaust) does beat coal in many of these estimates, but this is new technology that has only been deployed widely by first world countries. Generally, only countries with developed aerospace industries have that infrastructure to built thermally efficient gas turbines. Thermally efficient gas turbines need advanced materials and fabrication techniques like monocrystal casting.

These figures are highly dependent on the kind of infrastructure available to a country. What's cheap for a country like the US with extensive gas turbine manufacturing is not going to be cheap for other countries. There's a reason why so many developing countries use coal: it's a much more low tech solution that does not require complex industry. If your claim about the lower cost of gas was limited in scope to the US and similarly developed countries, I'd agree, but I was talking in global terms. Many countries are sticking to coal because it's cheaper:




There are good reasons to move off of coal, regardless. Coal extraction is dirty, and it generates pollutants that are much worse than gas turbines. It'd probably be good policy to facilitate the export of gas turbines to developing countries.

10 to 50 years ago you were right, and that's when most of the EU's and India's power plants were built. But that isn't true any more.

Incorrect, at least as far as Asia is concerned. Asia continues to expand its coal power plants:




As well as Africa: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/05/lamu-island-...

South America, fortunately, is more mountainous and countries get by with more hydroelectric power.

Countries with established gas turbine production can build gas combined cycle plants at a cheaper cost, but other countries without established aerospace industries (most countries other than Europe, and North America) would be looking at building up gas turbine production capacity largely from scratch.

Response to the comment below, my work IP is getting rate limited:

The articles definitely have a pro green energy stance, I don't deny that. But these articles' optimism is contradicted by the actions of the countries in question. They're building coal plants. The fact that the articles think this is a bad choice does not change this fact. Their claim that the region will see a decline in coal usage is speculative. Furthermore the fact that countries are continuing to build coal plants despite bank's reluctance to offer capital reinforces the fact that coal is the most accessible energy source for much of the world.

> As for turbines, most poor countries buy their turbines (of whatever type) from rich countries

Which costs more and makes them dependent on foreign countries for energy production. Hence why they choose coal.

Quoting from your link:

> While the region “has been a laggard” on renewable energy he points to game-changing recent developments. “The finances are shifting to green globally. Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand will all pivot over the next two years.” Vietnam, for instance, has seen a surge in solar power development in the last year alone.

> “No-one forecast Vietnam can do that. That’s how quickly you can pivot markets,” [sic] said Buckley. Earlier this month an auction for a solar power project in Cambodia saw the lowest power purchase tariff for solar so far in Southeast Asia. The Asian Development Bank, which supports the scheme, described it as “a new era for renewable energy development in Cambodia and the region”.

> In a survey of regional leaders last year, media platform Eco-Business found “the ever-increasing risk of stranded fossil fuel assets” was another factor that would drive Southeast Asia’s transition to a greener economy. A big sign of the shifting financial backing for coal regionally came in April as three top Singapore banks said they would stop financing new coal-fired power plants. And in a June meet of Asian coal leaders in Indonesia, they talked of the difficulties of securing finances for projects. Some experts believe that the majority of proposed coal plants won’t emerge.


> It’s a “tipping point” in Southeast Asia, said Justin Guay, director for global climate strategy at The Sunrise Project, an environmental group. “It’s the last major region on earth where we are seeing the transformation” away from coal and “it’s a question of when not if.”

> “In many ways Southeast Asia reminds me of where India was five years ago,” he added. “They built a significant number of coal plants, but now they’ve got stranded assets. It’s a big problem. Southeast Asia has the opportunity to avoid that.”

...this is your evidence for nuclear power being the cheapest source of energy and coal being second? That banks are increasingly refusing to lend money to finance plant construction because already-built plants in India have become stranded assets that can't compete with solar?

The NPR link is equivalently pessimistic about the future of coal plants.

As for turbines, most poor countries buy their turbines (of whatever type) from rich countries.

> > As for turbines, most poor countries buy their turbines (of whatever type) from rich countries

> Which costs more and makes them dependent on foreign countries for energy production. Hence why they choose coal.

This makes no sense. Perhaps you aren't aware that coal power plants universally generate electricity using steam turbines? Do you think they're using pistons like an old steam locomotive?

> But these articles' optimism is contradicted by the actions of the countries in question. They're building coal plants.

Well, no. I mean, Indonesia is, but India isn't, and China isn't, and the articles claim that Vietnam is rapidly ceasing to. And politicians' choices often have explanations that go beyond maximizing profit.

> This makes no sense. Perhaps you aren't aware that coal power plants universally generate electricity using steam turbines? Do you think they're using pistons like an old steam locomotive?

Steam turbines are subject to much less heat than gas turbines. Are you aware of the difference between how combined gas cycle turbines and steam turbines function? In a coal plant, coal is burned to heat water into steam which turns a steam turbine to rotate a dynamo. In a combined gas cycle plant, gas burns in a gas turbine to rotate a dynamo. Then the gas turbine exhaust is used to boil steam to turn a steam turbine to rotate a dynamo.

Gas turbines are subject to much greater heat than steam turbines. Without advanced metallurgy, the turbine blades would melt. There's a reason why the steam turbines were first used in earnest in the 1890s while gas turbines didn't get used extensively until the 1930s and 40s.

Not melt, but creep catastrophically, but yes, I'm aware. You seem to have accidentally stuck “combined cycle” into your sentence about gas turbines, though, which makes it pretty confused.

> Countries with established gas turbine production can build gas combined cycle plants at a cheaper cost, but other countries without established aerospace industries (most countries other than Europe, and North America) would be looking at building up gas turbine production capacity largely from scratch.

What about this is confusing? Combined cycle plants require gas turbines to build. The term gas turbine exclusively refers to turbines burning gas (or gasoline if "gas turbine" is being used to refer to gasoline turbines) to generate an impulse. Plants that burn natural gas to heat a boiler don't use gas turbines, they exclusively use steam turbines. Gas turbines (both the gasoline and natural gas kind) are complex to fabricate and few countries have the technical ability to manufacture large and efficient turbines needed in combined cycle plants.

Wind and solar are also killing millions of birds, and are likely affecting the local weather in unpredictable ways. Messing with turbulent boundary layer flow does not have predictable results.

We just don't fully appreciate side effects of new technology until it's fully deployed. It took decades to realize that fish hatcheries weren't going to solve the salmon problem for hydro. If anything history should teach us to approach all new miracle tech with skepticism, especially when deploying it on a massive scale.

Nuclear power requires that we have safe nuclear storage facilities for the next 10,000 years or so. That's a huge investment. Considering most Western governments change hands every 4 years or so, then the vote to keep the nuclear storage facilities maintained must succeed at least 2500 times in a row.

Also, do not forget that Fukashima is still an ongoing disaster that's only just recently begun to stabilize.

Dams do damage now, but at least they can be removed later if power needs change. The dammed area and rivers can restored.

"3 Dams to Be Removed in American West to Restore Rivers A new $50 million fund will help communities remove “deadbeat dams,” starting in California, Oregon, and Washington." https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2016/11/dam-removal-...

> requires that we have safe nuclear storage facilities for the next 10,000 years or so

Not really, no.

You should take a look at how many people die due to coal, and how much long term environmental damage coal is responsible for.

Even in the worst case scenario of a Nuclear Accident, I would still rather that happen, than deal with the effects of coal.

> Also, do not forget that Fukashima is still an ongoing disaster that's only just recently begun to stabilize.

Reactor design has changed significantly since Fukashima was built. Newer reactors are far safer.

Fukashima is older than Chernobyl in fact, by 5 years

One is high pressure water, the other is molten salt.

I can't separate civilian & military. Nor past, present, future. Nor the fissile material and all the byproducts. Nor the gathering (mining) and the disposal (reburying) of same.

I'm strongly in favor of traveling wave reactors. We need more tools for reducing, mitigating our stockpiles.

When the Hanford Nuclear Reservation's contaminants in the water table reach the Columbia River, everything downstream dies.

For me, any discussion about new civilian nuclear is fullstop until all the other aspects are addressed. Meanwhile, we prop up the nuclear power we have during the transition to wind, solar.

Chernobyl was just restabilized after 30 years, and will have to be restabilized again in another 100.

No, the design lifespan of the new containment is 100 years, but decommissioning will be finished before then.

What do you mean by restabilized?

Most nuclear waste is stored on areas that are already severely irradiated, more so than they could be just from nuclear waste. There are plenty of places like that after the cold war nuclear tests.


Sorry. It took more than a moment to realise this was a call for a spelling correction. I can't edit the parent, but thanks, it was fat fingers.

I’m not a huge fan of nukes for various reasons but dams have a number of problems not well appreciated by the general public. There is often an ecosystem issue (as they cut of migration of animals and plants) which can have cascading fissures, and can build up a reservoir of heavy metals, farming runoff etc behind the dam.

These problems have lead to dam removal (in he western USA at least) to restore fisheries and other resources.

Nothing is without consequences of course so it’s hard to praise or condemn any single approach.

I've never heard of using "nukes" to refer to nuclear power plants. I assumed bomb at first.

Turkey is very seismically active, they just had a 5.1 earthquake there 2 days ago.

As a proponent of nuclear I still feel compelled to point out that a nuclear catastrophe in Turkey could render much of Europe and the Middle East uninhabitable for hundreds of years. Chernobyl very nearly was that serious.

I tried asking physicists about how much damage can be done by a nuclear power plant in the hands of a bad actor. I wanted to write it into the plot of a story/game I was dreaming up.

The response was ultimately: "way less than you'd think."


You asked specifically about water contamination. Water isn’t the most destructive method of spreading radioactive fallout. A massive explosion under an exposed core would do far more damage by spreading fallout through the air.

Like how much more? 100x, 1000x?

I'd say much worse than that. The total fuel release from Chernobyl was only 1.5 - 3.5%, but radiation was detected hundreds of miles away - in the Scottish Highlands for example. The west learned about the accident from Geiger counters in Sweden.

The explosive force of the steam that would have erupted underneath the already exposed reactor is, without a doubt highly debatable. But suppose it only ejected 30% of total fuel - about 20x what happened in Chernobyl. Chernobyl's exclusion zone is - today - about 1000 square miles. Would it have to be 20x that? I don't know. Would very much depend on the weather probably.

The wikipedia article on the disaster is a pretty good introduction to the topic.


To put some numbers in perspective: the punchline was that you could contaminate 3 million liters of water. That sounds like a lot, but that's roughly how much NYC consumes in a minute.

>Chernobyl very nearly was that serious.

No it wasn't. At no point did Chernobyl threaten to make 'much of Europe and the Middle East' uninhabitable for hundreds of years. About the worst that could have happened with Chernobyl happened. There just wasn't enough radioactive material in the reactor to have that big of an impact at that scale, and saying this does not invalidate the regional devastation that it did cause.

No, it actually could've been much worse: https://www.businessinsider.com/chernobyl-volunteers-divers-...

I don't think so. I'm trying to find some sources, and it seems like all the clickbait articles reference a book by some guy named Andrew Leatherbarrow, "Chernobyl 01:23:40" (and Leatherbarrow is just some guy without any particular expertise). I can't find any justification for why there was a chance that millions would have died and half of Europe was almost rendered uninhabitable. It smells like clickbait bullshit.

I actually agree with you that the article sounds click-baity, unfortunately, HBO has made it so much harder to get good information regarding Chernobyl on the Internet nowadays[0].

Just one of four reactors "melted down". I'm no expert, but I imagine the worst possible is all four reactors literally exploding simultaneously, or one after the other in a rapid chain reaction, or something like that.

[0]: https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2019/05/09...

No, nearly all the uranium was contained at Chernobyl. If it had melted down a little faster it could have hit a flooded basement before it was drained. The steam explosion would have distributed uranium dust over potentially thousands of miles.

Do you have a source for the likelihood of that, as well as the likelihood of it rendering those thousands of miles uninhabitable?

I think this theory has been mostly debunked, ironically because it pretty much happened in multiple reactors at fukashima without that disastrous result.

There was no core breach at all in Fukushima.

It didn't fully breach the concrete floor, but it breached the pressure vessels in at least 2 reactors and fell into a "basement" of pooled water, without the catastrophic stream explosion hypothesized for Chernobyl.

> nuclear plant near this town might've been more preferable in all possible ways

Nuclear plants typically need to be paired with storage, which often involves pumping water. Thus, a nuclear plant in this location could still result in some form of a dam or artificial lake.

Nowhere near the same magnitude as a hydropower setup though. We're talking about large swimming pools vs. flooding the entire valley.

It also could be done independently and without affecting the natural flow of a major river/ecosystem.

But I've never actually heard of nuclear requiring storage, except for emergency cooling.

Not even emergency cooling but for regular cooling. A place to stash hot detritus while it cools off over the course of a few weeks or months. Things like irradiated valve covers, spent fuel rods, etc... They toss them into a big pool and let the water moderate the neutrons until the part is cold enough to move to long term storage.

Not that kind of storage, hydraulic power storage. Dam / large lake scale stuff.

Off course they need cooling pools with radiators, but that doesn't require a dammed off river.

Nuclear plants need utility-scale energy storage? Citation needed! Typically the situation is the opposite.

[Citation needed] for sure, but probably true if the idea is "to use 100% nuclear power you need utility-scale storage"?

Nuclear as used doesn't need utility-scale storage, but that's because it's almost always providing the base load with mixed generation. Modern European plants are sometimes load-following, but that's generally just two phases of high and low output. And even then, it's often more efficient to run at peak output 24/7, with cogeneration during low demand.

As far as I know, nuclear has never been used for peaking demand, but doing so would presumably require battery or pumped-water energy storage. (Since current nuclear is steam cooled, I don't believe molten salt storage is especially viable outside of theoretical high-temp plants?) Although pumped-storage hydro doesn't necessarily look much like damned-river hydro, so I don't think it's a great comparison there either.

That said, the gulf between where we are now and "nuclear as all of base load and some load-following output" is absolutely massive, and I'm not sure anyone actually intends 100% nuclear generation?

That's true, although with nuclear power, utility-scale resistors are a likely cheaper alternative to utility-scale storage. Naval reactors are dispatchable, as I understand it, so maybe that's an option too.

It's still on-demand, just with a slight delay. And 99.99% predictable. Both of Which mean any theoretical storage needed would be on a much smaller scale and more predictable size. And centralized. So no massive collection grid sitting underused/idled.

But this assumes 100% nuclear. Even a couple of fast reacting natural gas plants (or hydrogen or biodiesel or anything fast reacting) solves this.

Wait, what's on-demand and predictable? (Not sarcasm, I lost the antecedent for that sentence.)

Nuclear's on-demand ramping does actually seem to be between coal and gas, but my impression was that actually doing that absolutely destroyed cost-efficiency, to such a degree that it's usually better to just run at optimal efficiency and do whatever you can to recoup some money on the waster power.

Of course, we totally agree on the last point. There's room for major nuclear scaleup even in pure base load, and with a nuclear-heavy grid in mind it's not hard to work out a few peak sources.

And in practice that is exactly what happens, as fast acting gas plants are a thing and can charge enough money to not run all the time, and still make a profit. Specifically because the margin between them and nuclear is so big.

But also nuclear has at least the flexibility to do it when needed [0]:

German Isar 2 nuclear power plant holds the record among currently running plants in adjustability. The reactor's nominal output is 1,400 megawatts, and it can be adjusted in a range of 400−1,400 megawatts, with an adjustment speed of 40 megawatts per minute. The need for this great an adjustment capacity has resulted from Germany's current energy policies.


I believe they're referring to (spent)fuel storage.

No, I'm referring to pumped water storage like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bear_Swamp_Hydroelectric_Power...

It was built to pair with nuclear power stations on the Connecticut river, specifically, to pump water at night during low demand, and then generate during high demand.

Interesting, thanks! That page doesn't mention anything about nuclear plants; where can I find more information?

If so, why would they talk about pumping water? You don't need to pump water to store spent fuel, normally.

I'm not sure what they're referring to with the pumping needs WRT storage. It is true however that nuclear reactors typically need an abundant water source nearby for cooling purposes.

I suspect they're confused about what exactly requires the pumped water though.

I never looked at it like that, but you're right. Nuclear seems more attractive than many hydropower projects that get much less criticism. If only we humans were more rational about making decisions.

Hydropower has started to get a worse rep, at least. First-world countries are generally tearing down more large dams than they build, and the Green New Deal explicitly excluded large-scale hydro (i.e. dams) from its definition of "renewable" on this basis.

But it's true that the public backlash to dams is far weaker than nuclear. And together with developing nations being free to dam rivers, but blocked from refining uranium, bulk hydro is probably going to keep outpacing nuclear for a while.

good point, i think there is a backlash against hydro as well. turkey is planning some nuclear facilities https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_energy_in_Turkey

With the hydro plant you at least get advance notice.

The book Atomic Accidents by James Mahaffey start with the description of an accident at a Russian dam that happened without pretty much without any warning and killed 75:


Edit: I'm pretty sure that's the right accident - been a while since I read the book!

I don't think there's much of a practical difference. With the exception of withholding public knowledge, as in the case of Chernobyl.

If anything nuclear warning systems (in the us, at least) are extensive within the ~30 mile zone (sirens everywhere), and have published plans for a ~60 mile zone, while I've never heard of warning systems for dams. Which isn't too say they're not-existant.

Also, dam failures tend to happen during bad weather where evacuation is greatly hindered. This was an issue with the Oroville dam partial failure in 2017.

Whereas in Fukushima, the warning and evacuation was effective even in the midst of the tsunami aftermath.

I saw some dam failure warning sirens in Alaska. They were mostly in narrow, valleys in mountainous areas, or bridges crossing them. Here’s a brief article about testing them: https://www.ktoo.org/2013/07/17/aelp-to-test-sirens/

Yes, and hydro often has incredibly large negative effects on the environment. Same with wind energy that kills more birds than almost anything else.

For instance, the Aswan dam on the Nile has decimated the flood deltas ecosystem and disrupted traditional eco friendly farming practices. https://www.quora.com/How-has-the-Aswan-Dam-negatively-impac...

Can't they build a wall around? It can't be that big. If it's a site that satisfies the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage criteria, maybe it could be financed internationally?

Turkey wouldn't allow it even if the money showed up. This dam is all about control of the Tigris, and flooding the city is a bonus strike against the Kurds as far as Ankara is concerned.

If the political will to call them out for the whole Armenian thing doesn't exist, I don't think you're going to find the will to save a Kurdish archeology site.

>Over the millenniums


dam, this sucks

Instead of commenting please use your network to let this be voiced to the right person.

We already sinned Chernobyl.

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