We are still screwed: the coming climate disaster



If you believe climate change is a threat to mankind I don’t know how you can avoid funding nuclear. Is it the most economical option? No. It is, however, the only non-carbon baseline power source we have right now. If we were serious about this, we’d be pouring all kinds of money into wind,solar,nuclear, and fusion research. In addition, pour money into grid-sized storage solutions. You don’t have the luxury of picking winners up front.

If you are just trying to do slightly better on the carbon front while being as cost effective as possible, then I guess you just stick with wind, solar, and natural gas. Hope that the storage solutions come online before too long and you can phase out the gas plants.


Isn’t his the topic were a few people tried to claim that population doesn’t matter, but then we wind up with a chart that has… population as a huge part of energy consumption.

It’s not really small government to hand a private company a chuck of land, tell them to bypass all regulations, tell anyone upset about it to take a hike and then ensure that same population hands that private company money for the electricity because they have no other choice. Government is already heavy in in the utilities fields.


This has been a good discussion / argument as it helps me update my own thoughts and opinions. So thanks!

That nuclear waste is a “trivial problem”, I simply disagree. The US has spent $70 billion on it and haven’t begun to solve it. And there’s a surprising amount - not 1000 cubic feet @Timex, more like 5,400,000 cubic feet - in the UK alone. I get it, you think we should just listen, because it isn’t that big of a deal. But it is a big deal. No matter how dire the warnings of climate change, no-one, not even a rural sparsely populated county in Nevada, wants it. Yes we ‘could’ just bury it. But we can’t. We don’t have licenses or permits to do that. If your state or utility chooses to do that, those people will go to jail and it will get dug up and put back in storage.

The regulation framework we have is the one we have. It’s actually a pretty great tool as it helps protect the environment, manage development, and supports people’s and property rights. But it’s not well suited to the climate change issue.

Yes, we may ‘need’ to start demolishing small towns in America to make way for nuclear power plants, but it just… won’t… happen.

That’s actually a pretty fair equivalency to me.

No, you can’t just buy it. There are people that don’t want to sell, that don’t want market value or even $5 million for their $80K house. You’re going to need to take away their personal freedom and constitutional rights. They’ll be able to show the judge the photos of the family farm, the wildlife, the creek and the local endangered eel. Have fun, see you in a decade or two.

The energy picture is pretty complex. A lot goes into cement and construction and industrial processes that could occur mostly during daytime / wind time, but don’t because electricity is baseline priced. I personally don’t use that much between midnight and 7AM. A lot goes into residential, but residential other than perhaps car charging and heat is pretty doable with renewables and batteries, especially with market pricing and/or subsidies.

Natural gas is less than half the CO2 emissions of coal, plentiful, and less polluting too. It’s as easy to set up as buying a jet engine and hooking it up to an existing gas line. Shouldn’t we perhaps do that while we debate about nuclear, along with installing all the renewables and storage options we can? Fortunately that’s what is happening, under current market forces.

Fundamentally the problem is just that power is too cheap. Making electricity much more expensive and market priced reflecting CO2 would make high-cost storage options like thermal and batteries and flywheels and other new inventions much more competitive (along with nuclear). @Timex you want government to intervene and manipulate the complex market and regulatory system to force expensive nuclear power construction to subsidize cheap limitless electricity. How about another scenario - a non-complex carbon tax that makes alternatives viable on an otherwise left-alone market?


Also by the way, I still agree that nuclear is probably the best solution, and needs to be pursued as base load replacement to coal in the US and worldwide. I’m just discouraged by the lack of progress and suggesting other approaches at the same time. Hope you agree it’s a good discussion.


I already explained why your “you want government intervention!” Isn’t going to work, right?

Yes, this is called eminent domain, but even in this case you are assuming that the only place you could build a nuclear plant is a place with someone who refuses to sell that land. Hell, there’s tons of government owned land you could use

So then carbon emissions aren’t really that big a deal. We can keep burning fossil fuels, just less dirty ones than coal. Good to know.




Well, since we are really good at building and operating naval nuclear power plants, I guess we could just build a whole lot of carriers and plug them into coastal power grids.


Show me the places in your state where nuclear power will go unopposed. Also I’m not saying it’s not possible, things do get built. Nuclear power just takes a lot of time and money, which won’t change.

Yep. Targets aren’t zero. The world has an enormous capacity to absorb CO2. We just need to get and stay below that capacity, and it’s very, very difficult.


This is funny when you do the math.

The Nimitz cost about $1B in 1975. Translated to today, that’s around $4.5B.

It had two Westinghouse A4W’s, each rated at about 500MW.

So for $4.5B, we built a gigawatt of nuclear capacity, including 20 years of fuel… Plus an entire freaking city around it.

Also the city floats and carries planes and weapons and stuff. And can shoot the airplanes with giant steam catapults.


Only $2B for an Ohio class. I sense a plan coming together!


Sorry, but I still don’t really understand what this means. You know about coal ash ponds and the resulting disasters, right? The US has spent who knows how much and hasn’t begun to solve the problem of coal-fired energy waste, but that doesn’t man there are no coal plants.

The solution to nuclear plant waste is that it will have to be stored. That’s pretty much it.


I cannot recall if I saw this linked in this thread or somewhere else, but I’m posting it because I found it quite enlightening.

One of the things that stood out to me is that nuclear waste is being dealt with unlike the waste of other energy forms, which is just dumped back into the environment.


So what’s the verdict? We’re arguing the relative merits and generally agree nuclear is needed.

But the US is closing a bunch of nuclear power plants, and not building new. Six have closed since 2013. France, Germany, Japan are closing, not building. The UK is building one new plant costing $40 billion and 20 years of arguments. China is building 60 nuclear power plants (!) and also 259 new coal power plants.

How to turn the tide? Is there even time if they take so long?

In Ontario, Canada, the government was frustrated that transit projects take so long to plan, design, get approvals, and construct, and always went over budget. They created a new category of regulations designed specifically around speeding up transit, called the Transit Project Assessment Process or TPAP. Pretty cool.


So for everyone on the more-nuclear-power train here, how are you proposing that it be kept from causing environmental disasters? Fukashima was just a few years ago, caused by a natural disaster that no one anticipated could happen. Disasters are getting more severe and more common, so whatever you think of now, chances are very high something worse will happen to a plant in the next 40 years. How about human error? That’s how we got Chernobyl and (to a lesser extent) Three Mile Island. That’s a risk factor that never goes away.

I’ll answer my own questions - you have independent regulators overseeing safety, and engineer nuclear plants to be resistant to disasters. We have the technology, we can build it! But there’s plenty of examples where this has not worked…see above, plus plenty of “near misses” where we’ve simply gotten lucky that a disaster didn’t strike in the wrong place. (Want details? I refer you again to Jaczko’s book.) Those “independent” regulators are subject to political pressure, and putting the technological solutions in place is costly and therefore fought tooth and nail by the owners of the plants. So let’s modify the question - how do those of you supporting more nuclear power intend to ensure that the standards and technology required for nuclear power safety are actually implemented in all those new plants?

You could argue that this problem of regulatory capture is no different than other energy production industries, and there’s some truth in that. (And I’d argue they need more oversight, too, but that’s a different discussion.) But other industries don’t contaminate hundreds of square miles of countryside with radioactivity when even a single plant fails. Nuclear power needs to be held to a higher safety standard because of the greater impact when something goes wrong. All the new technology and better standards in the world are useless until you address the political and economic issues that fight against implementation.

  1. Very few locations, if any, in the US are going to suseptible to being hit by the largest Tsunami in history. I’d probably avoid building the plants on the San Andreas fault line, or in Yellowstone. Other than that? I think we’d be fine.

  2. The AP1000 has a maximum core damage frequency of 5.09 × 10−7 per plant per year. It’s designed such that it’s virtually impossible to suffer significant core damage, much less an uncontained melt down.

We’ve run tons of nuclear reactors for decades, with much older designs, and have had no significant environmental accidents.


Things are getting worse in terms of disasters. What’s worked up to this point isn’t any guarantee. You need to be constantly updating risk assessments and preventative measures.

Just because Fukashima was a tsunami doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of other potential disasters. Floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, maybe even volcanoes, and I’m sure there’s plenty more I’m not thinking of.


Again dude, it’s a core damage frequency of 5.09 × 10−7 per plant per year.

It means that they basically can’t melt down.

Probably don’t build it on a volcano.


Eh, screw it, I give up. “Nothing can possibly go wrong” isn’t an argument, it’s an article of faith. No arguing with zealots.


I’m not sure earthquakes are getting worse.