Monday, November 4, 2013

Why Not "Clean Coal" or "Safe Nuclear"?

A stunning development has taken place in the environmental protection culture.

Some climate scientists are changing their perspective on whether or not nuclear power plants are a viable way to slow down global warming induced climate change.

The world renowned climate scientist and activist James Hanson, and several other climate scientists, are expressing approval for nuclear power plants:
Some of the world's top climate scientists say wind and solar energy won't be enough to head off extreme global warming, and they're asking environmentalists to support the development of safer nuclear power as one way to cut fossil fuel pollution.

Four scientists who have played a key role in alerting the public to the dangers of climate change sent letters Sunday to leading environmental groups and politicians around the world. The letter, an advance copy of which was given to the Associated Press, urges a crucial discussion on the role of nuclear power in fighting climate change.

The letter signers are James Hansen, a former top NASA scientist; Ken Caldeira, of the Carnegie Institution; Kerry Emanuel, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Tom Wigley, of the University of Adelaide in Australia.

Environmentalists agree that global warming is a threat to ecosystems and humans, but many oppose nuclear power and believe that new forms of renewable energy will be able to power the world within the next few decades. That isn't realistic, the letter said.
(Top Scientists Ok Development of Nuclear Power). The same question can apply to coal, oil, and nuclear: "what do you mean by 'clean' and what to you mean by 'safe', considering Chernobyl, Fukushima, Three-Mile Island, and San Onofre - to name a few?

Further, the premise of their argument: The belief that "new forms of renewable energy will be able to power the world within the next few decades ... isn't realistic" is based on what?

Let's look at Europe, where Germany has passed laws to fully shut down all current nuclear power plants, and see what they have in mind:
[The European Wind Energy Association] EWEA and others believe Europe could achieve an electricity which is 100% from  renewable sources, with wind energy providing 50% of this.

The European Commission believes wind energy will supply between 32% and 49% of the EU’s electricity by 2050. The key will be a Europe-wide power grid which will transport wind energy from where it is produced to where it is consumed – the wind is always blowing somewhere.

Today, in Denmark, over 26% of electricity demand is already supplied by the wind, and is managed successfully by the grid operator. The Danish government aims to get 50% of its electricity from wind by 2025. In Spain 16% of electricity demand is met by wind, and at times wind provides over half the electricity needed.
(EWEA FAQ, emphasis added). There have been more optimistic statements about wind energy in the U.S:
A worldwide survey of wind energy by the Stanford team of Cristina Archer and Mark Jacobson concluded that harnessing one fifth of the earth’s available wind energy would provide seven times as much electricity as the world currently uses. For example, China—with vast wind-swept plains in the north and west, countless mountain ridges, and a long coastline, all rich with wind—has enough readily harnessable wind energy to easily double its current electrical generating capacity.

In 1991 the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a national wind resource inventory, noting that three wind-rich states— North Dakota, Kansas, and Texas—had enough harnessable wind energy to satisfy national electricity needs.
(Earth Policy Institute, emphasis added). Then there is solar, both photo-voltaic (PV) from solar panels, and solar-thermal generating which turns water into steam to power electricity generating turbines.

As concerns liquid fuels, Dredd Blog has a series that made various references to the use of methanol (not ethanol) and tidal powered turbine generators:
In the post Some Way Out of Here on The Ecocosmology Blog, two technologies or parts thereof were mentioned, as tools to be used on the path back to sanity, away from the current realm of social dementia.

That post mentioned methanol, which was first isolated in 1661 by Robert Boyle, as well as mentioning a tidal electric generator long ago conceived, but recently improved upon.

There are many forms of alternative energy generation and storage, but these two have formidable transitional characteristics, so without disrespecting any other clean energy, we focus on these two in this post.

The hope of methanol is that it can be produced from some of the green house gases, (e.g. CO2 and methane), natural gas, and biomass, just to name a few.

Methanol can even be made from (can come from) "thin air", by using electricity to distil it as CO2 is removed from the air in the process.

Ocean tides are billions of years old, are still working strong 24/7 around the globe, and can generate electricity constantly, wherever tidal generators are placed, for as long as there are tides.
(A Methanol Economy Way Out Of Here, see also A Methanol Economy Way Out Of Here - 2, A Methanol Economy Way Out Of Here - 3, A Methanol Economy Way Out Of Here - 4, A Methanol Economy Way Out Of Here - 5). I am not convinced that those scientists are correct on this, even though there is talk of "safe and clean" thorium nuclear power:
Another place liquid salt is used for power generation has been around for quite a while.

The administrator of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, top physicist Alvin M. Weinberg, wanted a Thorium Molten-Salt Reactor (MSR), but was fired by Nixon for advocating MSR.
(Solar Power Even At Night). There are pro-thorium and anti-thorium arguments, so I wonder what is behind the four scientists and their nuclear about face.

Could it be triage ideology (How Fifth Graders Analyze Hurricane Sandy - 2)?

Do they see that there is not enough co-operation among nations to bring it about (Will Copenhagen Be Snuffed Out? - 2)?

Is Oil-Qaeda too powerful within the Epigovernment?

Or are we all going crazy under the pressures that global climate change is projected to cause (The Peak of Sanity - 3, The Criminally Insane Epoch Arises)?

The four climate scientists need to make their case.

1 comment:

  1. Another view that makes those 4 scientists difficult to understand: Link