However, I looked up the article on "fusion power" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusion_power) and it says "but to date, no design has produced more fusion power output than the electrical power input, defeating the purpose."
Can anyone help explain what I am missing, or what is not explained well? My common-person impression is if a laboratory experiment cannot even produce desired outcomes, what makes people think that an engineered, faulty-prone system will? The way I see it is that researchers produce the proof-of-concept, and engineering will attempt to reproduce that at scale. Isn't this preemptive? Or, from the article, it seems that it is necessary to build this thing in order to get any conclusive research results.
There is of course much more complicated answers, all the way up to full-device simulations using gyrokinetic codes like Gene or Gkeyll that take millions of core hours and predict that ITER will work (and that predict performance of existing devices correctly).
Science, as an institution imo undervalues good marketing and good PR. For profit enterprises are under no illusion that they can succeed without good marketing and public perception.
If large expensive projects like this are needed to increase public awareness and support for basic scientific research then I am all for them. Society is willing to spend billions on projects that give no tangible return and are all perceptions (for example, sports stadiums) so if some of that instead is spent promoting Science that’s a good thing.
Any actual discoveries in fundamental science that come out would be a bonus too, but getting people excited about research is an end unto itself.
And let's be real, which is worth more? A super collider that runs for decades or the F35 (which cost more, but we'll pretend they are the same and that America would be the only one funding a multi-national facility)?
Fun (perspective) fact: any of the top 30 billionaires in the world could personally pay for one of these colliders.
I’m in favor of pursuing basic research, but there is always a cost. When you take a group of your smartest people and focus them on non-economic activities, the economy loses something.
I would argue this entirely the other way; whenever the smartest people are sucked away from foundational work to make money "up the stack", it makes us all the poorer.
The claim was that there is a trade off - which is a pretty common sense assertion... The comment you to which you are responding even asserted that basic research does have value - and does not assert that the trade offs go one way or another.
The implication of the comment as I read it was that we should at least critically think about those trade offs rather than just writing a blank check to whatever basic science scientists are requesting to pursue.
Your comment, in contrast, claims that the tradeoff always is worth it - that 'whenever' money is not diverted to basic research, then we are all poorer. You have no evidence for this claim.
In fact - no one really understands much about how best to evaluate this tradeoff. A helpful contribution to the discourse would provide us with tools to think about how to evaluate it, rather than just the endless tribalistic drum beating for one side or the other.
It also happens to be wrong.
If more projects that require nuclear physicists get funded, more people can become nuclear physicists. We're nowhere near the point that we're going to run out of potential nuclear physicists who could be trained if there was more demand for them.
At some kind of abstract level there are a finite number of people in the world so anybody who does something can't be doing something else, but there are more than enough people for whom the "something else" is either unemployment or some net-annihilating occupation like divorce attorneys or advertising that we shouldn't have to worry about people spending their time doing something actually beneficial.
>> It also happens to be wrong.
Wow. The startup guy gave an actual example of the tradeoff. Am I correct that you see that not as a tradeoff but as a loss?
So the trade off wasn't between physics and software. We could've had both of those at the "cost" of fewer divorce lawyers or lower unemployment, neither of which are actually costs.
There is a theoretical point where having people do physics is less productive than having them do anything else they might've done, but we're nowhere near it. We still have people working in advertising only to cancel out the work of other people working in advertising.
This going further down this path only lead to misery
I'm not debating your assessment in an absolute sense, or the direction that resources are deployed, I'm just saying relatively speaking, the world has been approaching an asymptote, so how far does it have to go to be enough? At what point does some disaster that we weren't expecting happen that proves we went too far in being future oriented? Like, I dunno, an actual plague?
I meant this to express something more than just another "well actually" comment - I think COVID-19 really raises existential questions about whether people in the wealthy countries have gone too far in a future orientation, as if everything was certain and we and our civilization were all immortal. It may not make a bit of difference for some, but I observe it's changing a lot of people's outlooks. Something that has stuck in my mind is how plastic bags were banned in my area just before the pandemic hit, and whether or not there was an actual repeal, everyone has brought them back. Is this something to lament, to cheer, or just to observe and contemplate? If everything is bad, is anything?
COVID demonstrates lack of being prepared and future orientated, we did not have PPE stockpiles and did not takw actions that would contain the virus to save the economy now. The more future oriented you are, the safer you are.
You can use "future oriented" to mean being prescient or omniscient, but I think that's a useless way to define the word, because it's not a thing that exists.
The US invasion of Iraq was a drastic pivot of the US towards a more future oriented foreign policy, and I assume we would agree it was a huge mistake, right?
WeWork was a tremendously future oriented company, that wanted to be everything to everyone, but it wasn't, and won't be, the next Amazon.
It would be bad for society for similar projects to suck up all the resources in preference to short term needs.
"it is difficult to make predictions, particularly about the future" - Mark Twain
Which aspects of the invasion of Iraq were future oriented? Thinking it was "mission accomplished" in 2003? Having no exit strategy? Creating a power vaccum, which was eventually filled by Islamic State? Aquiring oil, in a world which is trying to divest from it, and which is being damaged by its use?
The planning of it, which, you know, happened before "mission accomplished" and all the things that went wrong. It has been widely reported and asserted that the planning started considerably before 9/11, too.
“Future” oriented thinking would be Phase IV Occupation plans. That filing cabinet was empty (by design) and “It’s the UNs problem now” is not very future-oriented strategery.
That's 6 years before the invasion, so slightly longer than a single election cycle, and significantly shorter than the duration of the war itself. I wouldn't exactly call that 'future oriented', especially since 3 of those years were spent under the Clinton administration; Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld pulled the trigger pretty quickly once in power.
It's also incredibly short-term compared to its contemporaries, like Russia's "Foundations of Geopolitics" or China's "Peaceful Rise".
After 9/11, most Americans became more future oriented than immediately before; both advocating for the invasion and addressing "root causes" in different ways are different forms of that. Either was more focused on the future than maintaining sanctions and occasional airstrikes.
I really can't tell if you're trolling at this point.
Declaring war against an intangible form of political violence, as a knee-jerk reaction to a specific incident, which ends up perpetuating that form of violence, is a classic example of short-term thinking.
Hard to say.
1) It is unknown what economic impact that the SSC would have had. It could produced more value or less than that which you and similar industries contributed to from the benefit of these scientists. A search shows that without accounting for the impact of the fundamental science, CERN's revenues exceed the costs by ~3bn euros (report seems to also ignore ambiguous contributions like spin-offs). So the companies that benefited from the closure would have to at have near this revenue.
2) Scientific projects are fundamentally long term economic investments. These scientific projects have returns on investment of larger than 20 years and sometimes upwards of 100. These are impossible ROIs for companies, but great for civilizations.
These factors are huge and we're not even talking about the local economy boom because and influx of smart people which typically leads to higher quality schools in the area and tech startups that grow because subcontracting, consulting, and spin-offs. We're also ignoring the cultural impact as labs serve as a form of cultural exportation, which is important in the global game played between countries (the economic value of which is difficult to quantify), and this is what you are directly responding to.
It is fairly difficult to answer these questions, so I think your answer is too simplified.
We could use a lot less of this, and a lot more Einsteins in research laboratories and universities.
I think the trade-off is more than worth it to better understand the nature of our universe.
You seem to imply that basic research has no long-term economic benefit, or maybe that the long-term benefit does not outweigh the short term cost. That seems like a pretty difficult implication to defend.
Maybe this person had better career successes in the SW field than in the Physics field
Plenty of completely economically worthless tech startups.
(of course, this is the comment of someone who painfully gathers 3000 bucks a month, that is who has 0 firepower except a few donations here and there, a few signature, etc. Not everybody is blessed with "the good idea").
Not to mention that they would be paying for an immense and unambiguously good scientific gift to posterity that would be free of all the complications, interest conflicts, mismanagements and so forth that come with building a mega-charity like the Gates Foundation (the conspiracy theories around that alone have been absurd, despite all its excellent health programs for the developing world).
It's always hard for a person to say what they'd really do if they were in other shoes, but if I had the sort of fortune that a Bezos or Zuckerberg has and especially with the relative youth of these guys, it wouldn't be hard to convince myself to make such an investment.
The Large Hadron Collider cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 billion dollars. Bezos alone saw his net worth grow by a multiple of that in 2020 alone. This huge cost would barely dent anything else they're doing or funding and in no way dent their personal quality of life.
I'm not at all arguing that they owe something like this to the world, or trying to paint any kind of anti 1% resentment, just pointing out that paying for this doesn't even seem like such a bad idea for people like them and their image for posterity (something always important to most billionaires).
The top four or five billionaires in the world could even cover most of ITER's much larger budget without permanently or seriously denting their fortunes.
I do agree that this would be a great PR move. Especially as we've seen Bezos grow his wealth by $65bn in the last 4 months or Elon by $44bn (more than doubling) in the same time frame. But the practicability is also a little naive considering that these numbers do not equate to liquid cash that they have available. Though someone like Gates has much higher liquidity than Bezos or Elon.
But it is interesting. Maybe if my metric catches on someone will build one (or another mega science project) :D
 One could even make a concession and let the wealthy choose among a list of approved charities/projects to spend the taxed money on.
Not really. They use the "mob"'s roads and banks to make their business work and store their wealth. They use the "mob's" courts and police to protect themselves and their property. We live in a society, if your worry is that they are too powerful for them to participate in that society (e.g. because their power would let them hide their wealth away), then that just makes the ridiculousness of their wealth all the more apparent.
I mean, super science mega charity is going to have worse conspiracy theories. It's going to be the Gates foundation stuff mixed with the LHC stuff.
Like he's opening a portal to hell to mine energy from or something. No wait that's DOOM.
I mean, first of all, mega-science is just as prone to grift and mismanagement as any other type of mega-project, and far more so than vaccine programs or malaria treatment. And just imagine, what would the absurd conspiracy theory nuts say about a supercollider?
Of course, hey, wait a second, Gates and/or the Gates Foundation already do this (e.g. TeraPower, e.g. CFS), so your whole line of reasoning that it'd have considerable PR benefit is proven false. Fortunately the Gates Foundation isn't very motivated by PR.
So no, I didn't quite prove the idea of its PR value false. Conspiracy nuts will always find a reason to consider anything made by some people or groups as suspect or outright nefarious, no matter how straightforward it is. but foundations oriented towards education, medical research and healthcare for the developing world are easily much more prone to that kind of narrative manipulation than a fixed, specific and extremely complex scientific device that will be used for a more limited range of possible things over a certain period of time.
The same applies to the differences in opportunities for graft and corruption between the two: Dishonest contractors and consultants could find ways to milk a privately funded super collider project during its construction and even during administration, but the scope of their opportunities would be fairly limited beyond a certain point, especially if the (presumably not stupid) billionaire funding it is keeping an eye on details.
Imagine on the other hand how many opportunities something like the Gates Foundation could offer for bad financial administration down the decades after its creator and main benefactor dies of old age or etc. Most of the collider's budget as covered by a billionaire in my scenario above will be a single sunk cost spent during a very limited period of time. The endowment of a giant foundation with flexible goals can on the other hand be managed (or mismanaged) ambiguously for decades.
The two things are not the same either administratively or philosophically.
There were times when countries would actively block maritime routes and steal cargo. A well integrated global economy, with open and secure maritime trade is beneficial for everyone and particularly the USA.
Totally agree on open trade.
And as far as the F-35 is concerned, I think it was an attempt to be the end-all NATO, and global, fighter craft. Didn't work out that good, so far at least.
I'm not really sure how to express this, but the huge amount of time just diminishes the impact of it for me.
This is something a fusion reactor doesn't have (I guess they could do tours or something maybe?).
Not to mention, this could be an attraction. Sell tickets for guided tours. I would gladly give money to have a guide walk me through that. Granted, at $100 a ticket, and 10,000 people a year, it'll take 20,000 years to recoup the investment.
Therefore, they need to make ITER romantic to have millions of people flock to rekindle an affection as powerful as the sun, and fuse humans as ITER fuses atoms.
You need to create a ritual. A couple would go, each holding a cup of water in their hand. They would then pour the water into the system as individual cups, and ITER would fuse atoms forever.
Now you can have millions of couples instead of two people like me.
Apparently, there are 80 million people per year who visit the frigging mall in Dubai. Many also visit the Eiffel tower, which was built for an exposition by the way.
Making money isn't really the goal for ITER, though. PR and education is. The tour left us with a pleasant feeling about ITER, but we weren't the ones to convince. I didn't see that kind of tour advertised in any brochure.
I’d argue getting people excited about sport, and society as a whole playing more of it, is an unbounded good.
I even know some research scientists who play sport recreationally, and follow professional-level sport.
Plenty of room and resources for both!
But it's an arbitrary good, because it's determined culturally. The rules of soccer could be changed at any time, and it would probably be just as exciting. Soccer is fun because we all agree it's fun, and no other intrinsic reason.
There's no reason we can't get excited about a monument to science the same way. If we have to spend billions just to get excited about science (without producing actual research), we should do it, just as we spend billions on sports just for fun and not because it produces any physical goods.
That's prohibitively expensive for private markets. No one will take that bet. It needs to be proven to be possible first.
I believe this is the DoE position. Leverage AI/ML to design smaller magnetic confinement. With the goal toward commercialized products and partnerships.
JET was on track to breakeven. And I think most of the researchers involved believe they would have gotten there if the funding hadn't been cut. I think what they want is simply long term commitments. The sort of thing that is risky in fiscal budgets that can change year to year ;)
Final Report of the Committee on a Strategic Plan for U.S.Burning Plasma Research (2018)
MIT-affiliated company building a reactor using these magnets: https://cfs.energy/technology
Even if it is proven to work that's no proof that it's economically sustainable. The enormous complexity and required scale are huge barriers to adoption.
Most of the advantages of fusion reactors are already enjoyed by fission reactors, and it's not like the fusion reactors are going to have that much of an easier time managing public perception. "They're building a H-Bomb in your back yard!"
Worse, since fusion reactors aren't useful for making bombs government investment is basically guaranteed to be tepid. It's only advantage is saving the environment, which doesn't get votes, and environmental groups will likely be lukewarm on the plants just like they are with fission. Sure it doesn't release CO2, but /nuclear waste/ is a huge boogeyman, even when you're talking about low level incidentals like irradiated gloves and bits of piping.
If it is proven to work, then it removes one of the key unknowns: Does it work?
If it can produce more power than it consumes, then it's ahead of the smaller demonstration reactors that have already been built and demonstrated.
> The enormous complexity and required scale are huge barriers to adoption.
Hence they're building this one.
> Most of the advantages of fusion reactors are already enjoyed by fission reactors,
Say what? What do you think the advantages of fusion reactors are, and same question for fission reactors?
> and it's not like the fusion reactors are going to have that much of an easier time managing public perception. "They're building a H-Bomb in your back yard!"
'This reactor can be built far enough away that even if it explodes - and it can't - you won't notice. You won't notice it going off, and you won't notice cancer and birth defects, vast tracts of land cordoned off, water sources rendered toxic, etc for the next few hundred years. And we don't have to bury the waste product somewhere for a millennia or more.'
Sounds like a much easier sell.
> Worse, since fusion reactors aren't useful for making bombs government investment is basically guaranteed to be tepid.
How many power stations are owned by governments around the western world today?
It feels like most of the interesting things happening in high tech now are all privately funded. If / when this works, and there's money in it, government lack of interest due to inability to make bombs from it (and that all sounds dubious to me) is irrelevant.
Regarding simulations, plasma physics can in a very real sense be viewed as the predominant driver for supercomputing research and funding. Ratio of fusion budget allocations to total global energy demand remains woefully pitiful. On order of something like 30B / 100T or 0.03%.
LuaJIT. Neat. I assumed this stuff was still all in FORTRAN.
>nuclear power is the only realistic way to solve the looming energy crisis of the 21st century while still maintaining the same standard of living for everyone
This is just not true, there's no way you can say this. Solar costs are going down massively. Hydro is dirt cheap already. So renewables can absolutely be part of an energetic transition in the near future, while fusion is at best many decades away. So while I think fusion energy has the potential to transform energy generation, and by extent everything about our life, it's wrong to assume renewables aren't probably our safest bet in the near future.
Also there's something amusing about "Here's my sure assessment. Anyway I checked the wiki page on fusion power and".
Anyway, I tend to agree that going forward solar + storage is probably workable. The storage part isn't proven yet but I have faith we'll figure it out. There are lots of promising options under investigation and the proven fallbacks aren't that horrendously expensive, all things considered.
It's just a pity we stopped building nuclear 40 years ago because it was viable all the way back then. Heck, we got to 20% nuclear! Compare to 2% solar today. If we had merely continued building nuclear at the same pace instead of stopping in the 1980s our grid would be 100% low-CO2 today instead of maybe 30 years from now if we hurry. But that didn't happen. We made the super-mature and responsible decision to fill our atmosphere with CO2 instead and now we get to live with that decision. So it goes.
This is a very flawed and short-sighted argument. Averages don't matter when you are talking about fat-tailed/power law risk distributions.
Nobody would be opposed to PVs on roofs in their neighborhood b/c some construction workers fall to death every year - this risk is well calculable.
But (almost) everyone would be opposed to a fission plant or nuclear waste facility next door - and rightfully so.
Without enormous direct and indirect subsidies, nuclear (fission) isnt commercially viable anywhere in the world. Heck, you still can't insure a fission plant.
Yes, in theory fission would have been the best option for carbon-free energy. No, in practice humanity never figured out how to safely and efficiently use this power source and now renewables are a way safer and cheaper bet. You won't find any objective economic analysis (that incorporates such indirect subsidies as the implicit state guarantee and realistic building and waste handling/storing costs) that can show otherwise.
Reading this kind of debate from France is a good laugh.
If you're interested you can check where our electricity comes from here: https://www.rte-france.com/eco2mix/la-production-delectricit... (between 60 and 70 percent of nuclear energy today).
New nuclear is dead in France just like it is in the US.
It was not economic for them either (tho back in the day it displaced coal - try having a coal plant next door)
France demonstrated its first fission bomb in 1960 and its first thermonuclear bomb in 1968:
The 1970s and 1980s build up of nuclear power in France had nothing to do with desperation to have its own nuclear weapons. France already had them before the Messmer Plan.
No. Oil is much cheaper
To maintain a nuclear arsenal a nuclear industry is needed.
It is the only economic justification for nuclear power
How is this even an argument.
Nuclear risks are also calculable. The regulatory hurdles nuclear has to go trough, even for testing reactors, to meet risk criteria (among others), are enormous. The vast majority of nuclear, as exposed by deaths/TWh generated, is extremely safe. Flying vs driving argument.
Take the worst nuclear catastrophe. Take the wildest overestimation in deaths. It's still less than most other sources, including renewables.
No, in practice humanity never figured out how to safely and efficiently use this power source
What? France. All their active residues probably fit in one or two football fields. 3th/4th Gen will consume them, making medical radioisotopes in the process. You can't contain megatons of CO2 this easily.
In the meantime, air pollution kills in the range of 6-8 million people a year. German support for keeping nuclear grows
Just because something has more concentrated risk doesn't make it fat tail. Nuclear power's winning safety record already includes Chernobyl and Fukushima.
On the safety tail risks, IMO it's more of a psychological/perception problem than a problem of actual risk. We've had a number of serious accidents in the history of nuclear power, and none of them have led to anything close to the death toll of a single year of running coal plants.
It hasn't helped that no civilian nuclear operator has demonstrated the ability to sustain safe operations with zero incidents and consistently prioritize safety over the course of decades. Every operator has a string of nuclear incidents of varying severity and i think more than anything, the Fukushima thing shook people up because while you could excuse away Russian and American accidents with cultural factors nobody perceives Japanese to be careless or irresponsible (and this was expressly the reasoning that led Angela Merkel to reverse her stance)
So yeah in abstract at a nation level, it's not a major risk but for the families possibly affected, it's a catastrophe - as opposed to increased chance of a few people getting cancer over their lifetime from Coal.
Therefore given the asymmetric risk and demonstrated inability of the nuclear industry in ensuring zero incidents, there's naturally grassroots opposition which translates into political pressure that no amount of "risk is so low" data-flashing can wave away.
I know a lot of Germans who think that reversal was just opportunistic pandering to environmentalists to grab votes from the Green party.
What you said is a tautology and brought nothing new to the table. (non cheap) nuclear can't compete against cheap renewables. Everyone knows that but almost nobody knows why nuclear is so expensive today.
The reason why nuclear power is not commercially viable is that it doesn't benefit from economies of scale. If you build custom tailored humongous monolithic nuclear plants you're going to pay a huge amount of money. Just think about how expensive it would be to build one giant solar panel with a total area of 1 km² instead of a million 1m² panels.
It's absolutely nonsensical yet it happens every single time a nuclear plant is being constructed. The few success stories like France simply standardized on a single design. General corruption and budget bloat probably did more to stop nuclear than all anti nuclear hipsters combined.
There are other alternatives, and grid scale batteries are viable now. Just cheaper to burn gas/coal and fsck the future!
The obvious alternative is pumped hydro, that is well established. Another is demand management, unexplored because the greed heads in control do not believe that our society can work together for the common good.
Coming from Aotearoa, as I do, I know that is a fat lie.
Demand management is also a great idea in concept but the commercial viability is questionable as long as people can just turn on the cheap gas burners. Commercially, turning off production and keep the industry closed when renewable are not producing is much more expensive compared to just paying what ever price society currently demands when burning fossil fuels.
Remove fossil fuels from being viable choice in the energy grid and the economic viability would change dramatically for every other energy source, including hydro pumps and nuclear. Demand management might even become a possible strategy to a point where it can have an significant impact on the energy grid. For now most grids operates by combining cheap renewable with cheap fossil fuels, with the environment taking the real cost when the fossil fuels burns.
So it is not my job, it is taken care of.
Here is some info on it via the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences: https://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2016/11/human-health-risks...
"Microbes convert naturally occurring mercury in soils into potent methylmercury when land is flooded, such as when dams are built for hydroelectric projects. The methylmercury moves into the water and animals, magnifying as it moves up the food chain. This makes the toxin especially dangerous for indigenous communities living near hydroelectric projects because they tend to have diets rich in local fish, birds and marine mammals such as seals. "
Most solar power will not be distributed power, but large-scale solar power plants. All large-scale solar power plants I've read about are on the ground, which makes sense since, unlike with wind power, increasing the height of the panels on a solar power plant gains nothing.
If people are putting installing solar panels at ground level in expensive urban settings, then yeah I think that's pretty weird. (It might be an artifact of land use planning rules in some towns where people put solar panels in places where they aren't allowed to put buildings or parking lots, for whatever reason.)
Then you also can't practically do certain things like install trackers, because they break more often and it's too expensive to maintain them if you have to have a crew go out there instead of your on-site maintenance people just go over to the broken tracker/panel.
Overall the costs of rooftop solar are just more expensive than a central solar farm. Plus, you can site the solar farm where there is better sunlight and land is cheap.
Ultimately this is the problem I have with solar: It puts an effective cap on our energy use. Solar will never be more than 100% efficient, and there is only so much land that it is reasonable to use, so if we say, wanted to expand our worldwide energy usage 10x, it's not really feasible.
Isn't this exactly why we should be installing solar on rooftops. It might be more exensive, but it's a bettet use of space. Plus most of the extra cost is labour, and aren't we constantly worrying about how their aren't enough jobs. Seems like a win-win to me.
The limiting factor is cost of instalation and eqioment, not land.
Additionally there are mnay deserts which are totally uninhabbited and uninhabbitable.
Once the solar energy output is established then the shed can be used for productive work. Preferably with some level of energy storage but a lot of productive sheds don't need much overnight electricity.
Well, not nothing, since less atmosphere means less energy dissipated before light hits the panels, but certainly it’s a better tradeoff cost-wise to keep them low.
As to nuclear, it’s horribly expensive when you try to scale it. France was regularly exporting and importing vast amounts of electricity to other countries and their power plant utilization was still 10% below the US etc. That directly equated to significantly higher prices.
Really, this makes me think one thing, jobs. We can take steps to make jobs safer, but if solar/wind get even close to nuclear but employ a lot more people, then that's a huge gain overall.
Reducing personnel costs is a gain for a company's bottom line. Increasing personnel costs is good for society, as it means either more employed or higher wages (assuming it's not higher wages that somehow results in fewer people). Decreasing company/product costs with a new technology that also does so while employing significantly more people is a huge win for everyone (except those that refused to diversify from the old technology).
Edit: whoops s/jobs cheaper/jobs safer/
This is your brain on capitalism. :p
More seriously: more jobs, more human effort, more accidents and injuries and death, less free time... this is objectively a bad thing. It's only from the lens of the current economic system that it becomes a positive thing, which speaks volumes in itself.
We keep automating away jobs. People want/need work, mostly for money, but also because want to feel they are doing something and part of something. So I don't take it as a given that less free time and more human effort is objectively a bad thing. It really depends on the person and whether they feel a sense of accomplishment in their work.
As for death and accidents, that's somewhat addressed by my typo fix.
> It's only from the lens of the current economic system that it becomes a positive thing, which speaks volumes in itself.
The thing about the current economic system is that it's the current economic system. It can change, in small ways and big ways, but I'm not not sure it will (even if we're probably in the absolute best time to try out UBI we'll see in our lifetimes, and it will be a shame if/when it passes us by in that respect, even if it means life is much better overall).
Solar's main problem is that it's not reliable everywhere. Try setting up solar in Chengdu and you'll find that there's just not enough cloud free days in the year to make it worthwhile.
We need baseline power and renewables are not usually enough. If you're lucky enough to have a river or sunny climate then great, but that's not possible in some places.
There were some studies claiming nuclear has lower deaths/kWh, but as I recall they (1) used old numbers for wind that do not reflect current safety figures, (2) assumed solar was rooftop instead of utility-scale which is now dominating installations (because it is so much cheaper), and (3) ignored deaths from uranium mining, which is where most of the release of radioactive material is in the fuel cycle.
Are solar roofs significantly more dangerous to work on than a normal roof for some reason? Roofs are going up whether they have panels or not.
And it was fine, until said robber barons decided not to maintain the dam.
That may be so. But solar and wind are clear winners when it comes to cost/watt, and that's what determines which gets built.
Safety is not a real problema in rebewavles, they are much safe than mining/ fossil fuels of any kind.
Rooftop solar is an option but the models I have seen show a theoretical max around 1,200 MW which is about 1/30th of the NYC metro area electricity requirements.
I just don't see how solar is even close to being viable for anything outside of small cities with access to massive swathes of empty land.
Generally, low latitude places want more solar + batteries, high latitude ones want more wind + hydrogen. When optimizing with these four, plus nuclear, with the costs at that site, nuclear typically optimizes to 0%.
Right now I don't think people are pragmatic enough for that to be politically viable in most western countries, but that may shift as the adverse effects of AGW start to be more acutely felt (and, hopefully, as more and stricter carbon taxes are implemented across the world).
Using the 2030 data is proper, since any nuclear reactor we begin to build today won't be available until about then (which renewable and storage systems can be built in just a couple of years.)
Some of their cost figures are already too high, btw. Their 2030 estimate for the cost of electrolysers was 600 euro/kW; it's already down to half that (or even less, in China).
Unfortunately, power transmission suffers from line losses. Even a few hundred miles requires several hundred thousand volts to avoid losses. Maybe that's an easier problem to solve than fusion.
You know, easy stuff to build and maintain.
But I am not even remotely concerned about nuclear safety. If noise and traffic were no concern I would live right next to a nuclear power plant.
Personally I don't think solar is ever feasible for industrial scale work, covering like 1/3 of your landmass is a ridiculously large project and needed to fuel industrial operations that currently use fossil fuels to fuel them including fertilizer production. Even if you can shrink that down a bit, how much of it is competing for farmland? Or replacing natural forests or plains or other wildlife housing.
Apparently, hydro produces a significant amount of greenhouse gases within the first 100 years or so, resulting from decaying plant matter and so on.
There was a story on HN a few years ago, IIRC it listed hydro providing 4% of the world's electricity while being responsible for 1% greenhouse gases.
I couldn't find the original story, but I didn't look too hard. Here's the first other source I found:
There are many efforts underway removing old hydro dams to restore the environments and ecosystems that were totally devastated by them.
A notable recent example is the Elwha River Dam removal that finished about 4 years ago in Washington: https://therevelator.org/elwha-dam-removal/
Keeping in mind that electricity production has to increase significantly to absorb the shift from ICE to EV vehicles I would tend to agree that there is no way to meet demand without nuclear even if renewables are, and should be, pushed.
Being part of does not mean being sufficient.
Solar is still negligible in terms of penetration in many places in the world (even though it and wind are the cheapest new build primary energy today, so expect this to rapidly change). As well, you can add quite a bit of solar to a grid before curtailments become necessary.
Add that solar and wind pair together (when it’s not sunny, it’s often windy and visa versa). Many grids today (Uk, Denmark, Germany, etc) can have decent penetration of renewables with 0 energy storage.
Add in large scale grid interconnectivity (sunny in Nevada, windy in Idaho, Hydro in pacific north west) it will always be sunny and windy somewhere.
This is clearly not my assertion.
I don't really see that as a huge problem. There's loads of free area for solar panels on rooftops. Sure, it's more expensive to build solar there. But that's not even an engineering problem, it's simply a matter of allocating funds to it. And most of the cost is labour. Which is arguably a bit of a bonus in a world where we're constantly worrying about there not being enough jobs.
Of course, things get much more complicated once we start talking about lifetime emissions and external environmental impacts.
His argument is that sometime in the next 275 years we have to make some change to our economic system, unless economic growth decouples from energy use growth during that time.
What he doesn't say is that it has been decoupling for decades even before he wrote that post, and, by an equally valid extrapolation argument, economic growth will become completely decoupled from energy use globally in another 50 years:
It's possible that our inability to recycle (in an economically efficient way) will end up putting some limit on economic growth, but this is very different from the global thermodynamic argument being made by the article that I was responding to above.
It's an odd choice to use global accumulated wealth rather than the global equivalent of GDP (GWP). What are the error bars on the calculation for how much the entire planet is worth in dollars?
For reference, GWP growth rate has been between 3% - 6% in the period considered by that paper. If the net world wealth growth rate was 1.82% during that period, it would suggest that depreciation effects are significant in determining that figure.
No, it isn't. If you own a house that has already been build it does not influence GDP. Yet you need to finance repairs and maintenance (and therefore Energy).
The problem with most infrastructure is actually not to build it but to sustain it.
"According to US News and Freddie Mac, homebuyers should actually budget up to 4% of the property’s value in annual maintenance costs." 
"house price rises have averaged more than 5 percent over the last few years." 
A lot of smart people would beg to differ.
Said HN reader as the Three Gorges dam was about to burst in China, submerging millions of households.
"Meanwhile, Wang Hao, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and an authority on hydraulics who sits on the Ministry of Water Resources’ Yangtze River Administration Commission, has also assured that the dam is sound enough to withstand the impact from floods twice the mass flow rate recorded on Saturday."
Citation needed for your claim "was about to burst"
That's all you need to know. If you don't understand what I'm telling you, go watch "Chernobyl".
Personally, I think nuclear (fission and hopefully fusion) are the best options, though I can accept a minor niche role for tech like solar.
So I dislike these conversations because they seem to be framed as Solar/renewables VS nuclear. When really the conversation should be "should nuclear be part of the solution?" I do believe that the answer is yes (because above factors), but the phrasing matters. This is because it leads to the next obvious and more important question: "If yes, how much?" Clearly a fully nuclear grid is not a smart idea, just like a fully solar grid wouldn't be. But the framing matters. It isn't a "OR" debate, it is an "AND" debate.
This is also not true if we dealt with the massive overpopulation of the earth instead of acting as its some sort of moral crisis not to stuff as many people as possible onto a planet with finite renewable resources.
Also "we don't know where the point is, but we have passed it" is a very bad argument. "What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence".
As for land, well Europe is the same size as America and has twice the population. And neither have anywhere near the density that China or India does. So there's quite a bit of evidence that we shouldn't be overly concerned about these issues.
And what looks like the best way to solve them is by helping other countries develop more rapidly (which is actually a bonus for tackling climate change too!) but this is a pretty unpopular opinion.
We need nuclear to meet baseload because the storage requirements (for PV particularly, by far the largest renewable) would be absurd without it. But since peak load can be several times average and nuclear plants can't be spun up in a day, we also need storage, and with storage around renewables can be cheaper than nuclear. It's not an either-or question; both should be used.
Climate agreements have largely avoided the thorny question of providing nuclear power to the developing world, but if they're to achieve a prosperous standard of living in a sustainable future based on foreseeable technology, this has to be addressed.
The property you really want is “dispatchable”. There when you want it. Not when you don’t.
That doesn't make sense. At all hours of the day there is some demand on the grid:
If you only have to store for the fluctuations vs. having to store all night you end up with massively less storage.
Electric cars won't do it either. There are less than 300 million registered vehicles in the US and a car battery holds about 100 kWh. That's 30 billion kWh and overnight demand may be as high as 5 billion kWh/night. You'd need an extremely high compliance rate to pull that off.
But seasonal productivity fluctuations are the bigger issue with solar and wind. You might get way more power in July than you need and way less in January -- wind is also seasonal, but the peak month varies by region. You're not going to store months and months worth of electricity in cars and even grid storage facilities would become cost-prohibitive, and you can't reset a nuclear reactor on a weekly basis, but one or two starts a year might be achievable if you design for it. Currently that's not legal:
Go there and model (with real historical weather data) how much a solar/wind/battery/hydrogen system would cost to deliver steady power. Then compare against new nuclear. Sorry, nuclear.
(The hydrogen part is essential in some places, like northern Europe, and its impact is not fully appreciated by many nuclear fans.)
The problem with statements like this is that when they're proven wrong (they aren't always, but when they are), it's often because of some massive underlying shift that makes a bunch of assumptions wrong, leading to a wrong prediction.
If we envision a system where not only delivery, but storage is centrally managed, then yes, there's a massive amount of energy storage required, and that's hard to justify and invest in for large companies.
If instead you assume that maybe electric cars will act like large battery reservoirs, and stuff like the powerwall will also be used to supplement it, then we end up with a massive amount of battery storage already distributed to different endpoints, an d paid for by individuals instead of a few massive companies.
Whether that's all that likely, or even possible at a huge scale because of required rare materials is a question, but that's an entirely different type of scenario than "energy companies invest in massive batteries to leverage solar/wind for efficiently", and the type of thing that's hard to predict and because of that often overlooked. That doesn't mean stuff like that doesn't happen all the time. In fact, I would say there's a major shift like that every decade or so, we just don't necessarily notice them unless we look at them.
The internet itself was a major thing. Just relating to the internet, there have been major advanced every few years. The rollout of new major advancements is unevenly distributed and often over the span of a decade, leading to it being hard to notice them. Just this last year, the massive increase in remote work will likely cause a major shift in the economics of many markets, and change how many predictions would play out.
Bringing this back to energy, consider that it seems like every year California is having massive fires, and is bankrupting its public utility provider to the point that the state is prepared to take it over if it gets much worse. At that point, if the state decides it needs to actually replace a lot of infrastructure that PG&E needs to maintain, maybe pushing for some partially distributed model starts to make sense.
These are all things that go into making predictions about energy really hard, since we're at an inflection point where a lot of stuff that used to work is not working very well, and new technologies are just at the cusp of being useful.
This is not true. With a properly designed solar/wind/battery/hydrogen system, a steady stream of power can be delivered more cheaply than what you could get from a new nuclear reactor.
This wasn't true even ten years ago, but it's true now, and many (such as yourself) have not updated your priors.
The idea is essentially that to get the parameters needed to make net energy with tokamaks, you need either very strong magnets or a large device. At the time of ITER's design, they used the strongest magnets they could find and then made the thing big enough to get the energy gain they wanted.
The speaker of this talk argues that it's size that stalled progress in tokamaks, since they'd become so big that building them became a massive, multinational project.
It would be interesting whether the availability of better superconductors would change the design of a fusion reactor much, and allow significantly smaller ones.
Breakthrough in Nuclear Fusion? - Prof. Dennis Whyte (2016) - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkpqA8yG9T4
Timeline (in case you want to skip over some parts):
00:01:00 - introducing Dennis Whyte, MIT department head for nuclear science
00:04:24 - presentation starts
00:06:00 - identifies breakthrough with REBCO magnets
00:07:25 - explains deuterium-tritium fusion
00:12:30 - basic metrics for reactor performance
00:17:15 - energy output of other previous fusion experiments
00:19:00 - examines ITER and the problems of its approach
00:22:00 - problems solved by high energy magnetic fields
00:28:15 - full scale reactor concept, teardown of REBCO magnets
00:37:00 - design limits and margins
00:39:00 - fixes plasma instabilities found in weaker magnetic chambers
00:40:00 - maintainability, lifespan, component replacement
00:45:00 - solution to neutron damage and energy capture
00:50:30 - cost and profitability
00:54:00 - full graph of field strength vs reactor scale (and thus funding requirements)
01:01:50 - Q&A
01:30:00 - question about the biggest risks
Compact high field tokamaks have better power density that ITER or DEMO would, but they still are very inferior to fission reactors. And fission reactors are far out of the running economically.
PS: Google found DOI 10.1088/0029-5515/56/6/066003 but I didn't read it carefully.
I'm pretty sure that Commonwealth Fusion Systems is the entity affiliated with MIT that has been doing work to prove out the recently available higher magnetic field strength superconducting materials and apply them to tokamak construction to bring size down dramatically. They had a bunch of press in 2018/2019 when they first got underway, and it looks like they've received a lot more investment over the last few years and likely made quite some progress since then.
0 - https://cfs.energy/
1 - https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2018/03/09/new-approach-... (op-ed in the Boston Globe by a Vice President at MIT)
2 - https://cfs.energy/press/
I assume by "energy crisis" you mean "how do we continue to generate energy while drastically decreasing climate effects"? Because if we're not worried about climate there's no looming energy crisis. There's plenty of oil, gas, and coal out there still.
And so if we're talking about climate stuff... is nuclear really the only way? Renewables continue to get cheaper and scale up; grid storage with batteries and pumped hydro is already a thing, and plenty of other storage methods are in development, it seems unlikely not a single one of them will turn out to be useful?
Plus, carbon capture for fossil fuel electrical generation is possible, just expensive, and not all fossil fuels are equally bad for the climate, so possibly carbon capture + cleaner fossils could be part of the future, too?
I think people have been saying "it has to be nuclear, so it has to be fusion" since way before we had the alternative sources (and storage) we now have, and are continuing to develop. Is it just a trope now, that maybe should be revisited?
(I find the possibility of fusion power really exciting and interesting. I'm just not sure it's necessary)
Similarly, I don't think there's much reason to believe that fission nor fusion will be able to compete with renewables on cost. Even if fusion is a completely free source of heat, you still need to convert heat to electricity with a steam turbine and it won't be long before renewables are cheaper than a steam turbine and cooling infrastructure on a free heat source.
People have this strange faith in fission and fusion as being cheap, at some point in the future, but nobody can ever explain why it will be cheap. What is the mechanism that could drive this along?
Solar is the current cheap electricity that will drive carbon capture. There are even startups that have plans for using atmospheric carbon capture to generate synthetic fuels, that plan to be profitable with the current cost curves of solar and the rest of the industrial process.
The world is a very different place than 20 years ago when it comes to technology, and I think it's time to re-evaluate the potential promise of fusion as an energy source. I don't think it has much promise for terrestrial power, but as always, I would love to have my skepticism conquered.
You may as well say that we can't build any more houses, or make more clothes, because of the waste. If the rate becomes a problem, in some way, we will recycle the necessary parts. But unlike, say, coal ash, the waste is easy to handle, and easy to repurpose if we find the need to.
That's an absolutely extraordinary claim. How could a wind turbine ever be cheaper than a traditional generator and turbine, since it consists of a generator + rotor + massive tower in a remote location with a very low utilisation rate?
You know you cannot just assume a trend will continue infinitely, especially if the conclusion is so non-sensical.
We have been optimizing steam turbines for more than a century, but are just barely getting started on optimization for wind and solar. So far, the rate of improvement hasn't start to slow at all, so I'm fairly confident that due to greater simplicity, wind and solar will end up being less costly than steam turbines. Predicting the future is tricky business, but in the 90s it would have been foolish to think that semiconductors wouldn't get better for more than just a few years. And we are in a very similar place with wind and solar techs now as we were with semiconductors in the the 90s.
We run steam turbines as high pressure because that gives us efficiency, not because we have to.
"he rate of improvement hasn't start to slow at all, so i am confident"
You have no evidence, so you are confident?
Also airdinamics are well understood, there are no miraculous effficiencies coming to wind turbines
The learning rate will not stop overnight with wind turbines; there is more than enough research and industrial improvements that are in the works that we will start to see a slowing of the learning rate before it suddenly stops.
Also, airdynamics and not well understood as it relates to wind farms, and new research comes out all the time to improve efficiency of future designs.
For somebody who's claiming that the other person is not providing any evidence, you are operating without any links, only with certainty that I must be wrong about predictions that I admit are tricky to make.
Obviously old coal powerplants are the worst, but there's more evidence every year that the allegedly "clean" natural gas is nowhere as clean as advertised once you account for fugitive methane emissions that in practice are largely untracked. And flooding the market with cheap fossil fuel like methane as a "transition fuel" – another marketing gimmick – will only delay the transition to renewables for obvious economic reasons.
I'm not optimistic about big shots like fusion, but small modular nuclear reactors for example could be operating relatively soon if only we had the desire to go in that direction.
None of this makes nuclear, and fusion in particular, necessary in order to avoid a "looming energy crisis"? That's what we're talking about. If we wanted to have better emission tracking and/or carbon capture for natural gas we could probably do it, I'd guess, and it's still not clear natural gas generation is required at all in the face of improving renewables and storage.
Small modular nuclear on the other hand could be economically feasible in places that don't have the money to pay extra for renewables but still want to drop their GHG emissions.
Nuclear might be nice to have, might be better for various reasons, might be lots of things. But is it absolutely required "to solve the looming energy crisis of the 21st century while still maintaining the same standard of living for everyone"? That's my question.
If you want more renewables then you need a more flexible grid. All that crappy coal baseload clogging the grid needs to disappear and make space for renewables. Gas plants are cheap to build but expensive to operate. They will be mostly used when there is a temporary shortfall of renewables. They are also necessary for power to gas if you actually want to reach 100% renewables.
Current accepted way is to build solar/wind and redesign grid to deal with intermittency. Solar and wind are even more energy diluted than fossil fuel, they take 500 times more space, more land out of nature/alternative uses.
Nuclear has already demonstrated that it can decarbonise industrial economy up to 80%, see France. and they did it just in 10 years.
This is bascally the reason i think this is the way out of crisis
In reality >90% of worlds valuable land use is farming. Factories, cities, houses, etc. all hardly matter.
Besides, to make these solar panels you need to spend energy too. and EROI for advanced solar is about 20, where for nuclear it is 80+.
I think people should stop using nature when they can get the same/better results without using it/using several orders of magnitude less of it.
I view nuclear as a bit of a lost cause to be honest, they take long time to build, cost a lot upfront, you need a lot of expertise around them, and they would require a miracle of PR. It does not appear likely that countries that do not have an established nuclear industry will suddenly become nuclear powered. Thats just the way things appear to be heading, and its a shame.
Besides, don't underestimate the infrastructure needed to refine fuel, manufacture fuel rods, deal with waste, etc. If you outsource all of that, you are not terribly energy independent.
I think the only hope for nuclear industry is small modular reactors, and that's only if a massive amount investment comes through.
I frankly dont understand how an energy source that can shift from 100% to 5% capacity on its own whim, independent of its user's needs could get so much attention and considered viable replacement for something predictable..
There was not a single economy decarbonized on solar\wind, even for those that tried really, really hard (see Germany). And we have example where it worked, in short 10 years.
There are countries still that can build nuclear on time and on budget - see South korea for example. Wonder why they don't get all the orders for urgent decarbonisation needs.
I was under the impression we only had ~100 years worth of oil left, just that its not talked about because climate is more pressing and normal ecconomic pressures will fix the problem if we run out of supply. Is that wrong?
Maybe one of them will work out. Do you want to bet the planet on that?
> Plus, carbon capture for fossil fuel electrical generation is possible, just expensive, and not all fossil fuels are equally bad for the climate, so possibly carbon capture + cleaner fossils could be part of the future, too?
Yes, there are a bunch of other things that might work out. But fusion is the possibility that's closest to proven. Surely it's worth trying? If it turns out we figure out a storage mechanism that's good enough to make solar viable (say), great. But let's not abandon one of our most promising approaches until we're sure.
It looks like proven track record of decarbonisation if there is one.
At the same time, concerns are way overblown about fission. You know, it is regulated to 1/10000 amount of radioactive increase that is known to ever cause harm.
This is causes the designs to be order of magnitude more expensive then they could be. For example, for BWR, fukushima, there is no graphite inside, and reaction is going on only when water is present. There is no reason to have super expensive air-tight building around it.
Moreover, in fukushima case, the fact that it was airtight actually caused it to explode, as hydrogen formed inside it. Should there be ventilation, there would not be chance for it to explode and disperse material further than otherwise.
Secondly, unneeded evacuation actually caused ~1k deaths when they were removing patiends from life support equipment, for example.
As for the waste - it is again purely political problem, you can totally reprocess it, as they do in France and they end up with a few slabs of glass for 30 years of powering Paris. Even if you dont reprocess it first, it takes ridiculously little space, and never harmed anyone.
Compare coal - 14000 tons of coal daily. Just imagine that, and compare this to the fact that it is possible to store _all_ nuclear waste right _on site_, ready for politicians to come to their senses. :)
To look at it this way, most dangerous nuclear plant is the one that does not get built, as it will be for significant part will be replaced with something burining dinosurs.
Entirely true. But unfortunately there are a lot of nuclear plants not getting built at the moment. Tragic as it is, developing working fusion is probably an easier way to change that than political persuasion.
even the most active proponents of solar/wind will continue to lag way behind in decarbonisation, as the bigger percentage of renuables on the grid the more difficult it is to manage.
at some point optics of the situation will catch up, and political persuasion will happen this way.. in my opinion it will happen much faster than cheap fusion
If that's all you care about we can do without nuclear fusion. We have a sun in our neighborhood so we can just harness its energy in various forms such as wind, fossil fuels, biomass or via PV. The real reason we need nuclear fusion is because it is necessary for interstellar travel. There's no sun in deep space. You'll have to bring your own fusion reactor with you.
" 4.7. Methanation scenario - In the Methanation scenario the conversion of hydrogen to methane is allowed, which can then be fed into the natural gas network for use both in the heating and electricity sectors. Since the carbon dioxide required for the methanation is captured from the air, the methanation has a low overall efficiency (60%), but the resulting methane is extremely valuable to meet the peak heating demand.Despite the costs of the methanation equipment, total system costs reduce by 11% compared to the Heating scenario. In the heating sector, a substitution of heat pumps with gas heating can be observed in Figure 9. Significantly reduced CO2pricesand average marginal prices for electricity and heating are also seen in Table 3. Furthermore, the benefit of transmission reinforcement is weakened, since the methanation allows the use of cheap gas storage to smooth synoptic and seasonal variations of renewables. Optimal transmission reduces the total systems costs by only 17%, compared to 25% in the Heating scenario,and the optimal transmission volume is also lower. The total volume of synthetic methane produced with no transmission is 708 TWhth, compared to 795 TWhth from natural gas. With optimal transmission the volume of synthetic methane reduces to 263 TWhth as transmission smoothes more synoptic variations of wind."
EDIT: should have qualified my statement with "in man-made objects"
Fusion science has evolved to the point where it is necessary to bring the fusion engineering on the same level.
the lab experiments delivered the desired results. The data made it possible to project how a fusion reactor can work. The same happened with nuclear bombs. They did a lot of small scale experiments until they knew what was needed to produce a function nuclear fission and later fusion bomb.
Remember how nuclear fission was going to be "too cheap to meter"? Turned out it's expensive to build and operate the plants, regardless of how cheap the fuel is.
The neutron activated materials are safe after a century and there is not much of it.
All of the cost in a fusion plant sits on manufacturing and maintenance. If you can build a GWe plant for $30Bn or less, then it’s a no brainer. The five trillion dollar question is how much investment fusion power research needs before we get to that point.
Also, the need to replace major reactor components many times over the life of the reactor, due to cumulative neutron damage, will itself cause very large operating costs.
That's thermal power, not electricity, so that's not enough yet to break even as a power plant, but it's a big step in the right direction.
I guess there are too many physicists who can lobby well and their income depends on it.
I don't expect any results after the many attempts (as opposed to fission, which had almost immediate results).
The sun is nuclear fusion, so it is proven to work if your scale is big enough ;-)
"nuclear power is the only realistic way to solve the looming energy crisis of the 21st century"
"most people around the world think that nuclear fission is scary"
then we are fucked as a species.
Science does not respect people's feelings. If people have scary feelings about energy/climate change/wearing masks to prevent a disease that travels in the air, then those feelings need to be changed, or those people need to be sidelined.
What we must not do - what we cannot afford to do - its to derail the science to assuage the deniers.
In short, it takes a very long time for a nuclear power plant to become profitable. Investors would rather pick something like gas that starts being profitable earlier, so they have the profits available to reinvest into other enterprises.
I think this, rather than public perception, is why we don't do nuclear power (after all, our society does plenty of other things despite similar levels of outcry).
Holistic yet science-driven conversation on climate change doesn’t seem possible anymore in public discourse and everyone is angry, which doesn’t make them sound exactly objective either.
The problem isn't politics, the problem is construction logistics. Nobody knows how to build large projects effectively anymore, whether it's the Big Dig or something super complicated like miles of piping with precision welds and specialized concrete pours.
If you want to find out why nuclear hasn't worked, look into all the individual cases of construction from Vogtle to VC Summer to Hinkley to the UK's Sizewell C, to all of France's EPR efforts.
What you will find is that political fear and regulations are not the problem. It's just management. And when you go back to the US's failures in the late 70s and 80s, you see a similar story of management failure causing construction financial disasters.
Even South Korea's apparent successes in construction have been rocked by revelations that inspections were skipped and completed through corruption, nor competence.
The primary reason nuclear survives in discussion, IMHO, is as a political wedge issue. Actual political discussion has no connection to reality of the subject matter (as is the case with too much of politics). Shelleneberger is a prime example of the afactual debate when it comes to nuclear. He's looking for ways to convince people, and attract followers, not in rational and informed discussion, and a few minutes of fact checking typically makes short work of his screeds. The anti-nuclear political argumentation is just as bad, and as easily destroyed.
The solution is to elevate the debate, and look for actual ways to build nuclear if one thinks it will be a useful tool. That means abandoning the large reactor model and trying SMRs; however I have little hope of those being economical, unless the waste heat or primary has some specialized industrial uses that are uneconomical from electrically driven processes. But at least the will likely be constructable.
Where do you see the crisis? Unless you want to provide everybody with an abundance of energy, people need food and shelter, some electricity for electronics and some transportation once in a while.
Of course, any amount of energy can be burned for simulations and bitcoins but that's simply limited by supply. There will be a crisis when bitcoins and simulations are more valuable than human lives, but that's not changed by offering more energy.
Modern shelter, food and transportation means a lot of energy.
Modern shelter means operating energy for heating or air conditioning, plus embedded energy used to create its components. If the shelter is green, or "energy efficient", it means it is operating energy efficient, but it contains a huge amount of embedded energy in the insulation and heat exchange components.
Air conditioning doesn't necessarily have a worse bottom line, energy wise, than just heating. It's all about the time * temperature difference envelope. Air conditioning usually has a much lower temperature difference between the outside and the inside. If it's 40 C (as hot as it gets in places where masses of people live) outside, air conditioning has to drop by 15 C to get the inside to 25. If it's freezing (0 C) outside, heating has to heat by 25 C.
Double that for a modern workplace - office, warehouse or manufacturing, they all consume a lot of energy to keep the workers comfortable.
Modern high-speed transportation means a lot of energy too. We move crash-resistant 1500 kg structures at highway speeds around daily.
Moving around massive cars by burning gasoline is a perfect example of a hugely inefficient and primitive system. Mere electrification requires many times less energy.
The US depends on massive amounts of energy because we outlaw city construction that enables car free living, but that will begin to change too if younger generations can ever wrest control away from the boomers.
By far most energy is used to produce things (including the transportation requirements to do so). And as it turns out, the hunger for producing and buying new things is very hard to temper. This hunger is evident from the fact that the ways we are measuring "economic success" strongly correlates with the amount of things we produce, or even with the speed at which we are increasing the amount of things we produce.
People buy as much as they can. If they get less energy for their money, they buy less. Everybody had had-made clothes and ate organic food. Those times passed with hardly anybody complaining about receiving less.
6 months of people staying at home are causing economic crisis.
Large cities literally depend on cheap energy to survive, to bring in food and move away the trash. If there is no power for a week, London and every other megacity turns into a mass graveyard
There will be energy in the future, even if there is not the abundance of nuclear fusion. So I don't see why there is a looming crisis.
That reminds me of something I heard early on in the pandemic.
"The economy is collapsing because people are only buying the essentials".