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The latest weak attacks on EVs and solar panels

Posted on 4 June 2018 by dana1981

Over the past two weeks, media attacks on solar panels and electric vehicles have been followed by Trump administration policies aimed at boosting their fossil fueled rivals.

Efforts to undermine solar power

The first salvo came via a Forbes article written by Michael Shellenberger, who’s running a doomed campaign for California governor and really loves nuclear power. Shellenberger’s critique focused on the problem of potential waste at the end of a solar panel lifespan when the modules must be disposed or recycled. It’s a somewhat ironic concern from a proponent of nuclear power, which has a rather bigger toxic waste problem.

About 80% of a solar panel module can be recycled, but some portions cannot, and create potentially hazardous waste due to the presence of metals like cadmium and lead. The Electric Power Research Institute notes that long-term storage of used panels until recycling technologies become available may be the best option for dealing with this waste stream. Ultimately, it’s an issue that will need to be addressed as solar panels become more widespread and reach the end of their 25-plus year lifespan, much like the issue of nuclear waste. But it’s an issue that we should be able to resolve with smart policies and technologies.

It’s also not a big near-term concern, unlike the urgent need to deploy low-carbon energy, or an immediate pollution problem like for example the environmental crises that result when oil rigs fail or coal barges sink into rivers.

Shellenberger also raised concerns about the possibility “that cadmium can be washed out of solar modules by rainwater.” But that’s only a problem for broken panels, which are relatively rare except perhaps in the wake a natural disaster like a hurricane or earthquake. In a disaster area, leaching of metals from some broken solar panels is the least of a city’s problems.

In short, it’s valid to note that end-of-life solar panel recycling and disposal is an issue that we’ll have to address smartly, but unlike climate change, it’s not a big or urgent concern. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is planning to order grid operators to buy electricity from struggling coal power plants to extend their lives. This is the latest in the administration’s misguided campaign to save the dying coal industry, which can no longer compete in the free market against cheaper, cleaner alternatives. As a result, coal power plants have continued to shut down at a rapid rate. Those coal plants pose a much greater threat of pollution, including from heavy metals.

Denying the imminent transition to EVs

In the New York Times, conservative opinion columnist Bret Stephens devoted an editorial last week to attacking Tesla specifically, and electric cars in general. There are valid reasons to criticize Tesla – the company regularly falls short of its ambitious production goals – but Stephens’ piece went far beyond what’s fair. For example, it called the Tesla Model 3 “a lemon” because Consumer Reports initially did not recommend the vehicle due primarily to issues with braking distance during its tests. Within about a week, Tesla issued a software update to correct the braking problem, and the Model 3 earned its Consumer Reports recommendation. Worse yet, Stephens declared that gasoline is the fuel of the future:

The terrible idea is that electric cars are the wave of the future, at least for the mass market. Gasoline has advantages in energy density, cost, infrastructure and transportability that electricity doesn’t and won’t for decades.

That’s equivalentt to saying in 1910 that horses have advantages over automobiles, and will continue to dominate the transportation market. The experts disagree. The International Energy Agency estimated that global electric vehicle ownership increased 54% from 2016 to 2017, to 3.1 million EVs, and projects that number will increase 40-fold to 125 million by 2030. Virtually every major automaker is developing electric cars. GM plans to launch 20 new all-electric models by 2023 and the company “believes in an all-electric future.” Nissan plans to launch 8 new all-electric models by 2020and hopes to sell 1 million EVs per year by that date.

As for the infrastructure disadvantage, California, New York, and New Jersey are spending a combined $1.3bn on EV charging to address that problem. But more than 80% of EV charging happens at home. The Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Bolt have 150- and 200-mile ranges, respectively, and the average American only drives 30 miles per day. An MIT study in 2016 found that EVs with a 74-mile range could meet 87% of American car owners’ needs with only overnight charging at home; Nissan and GM have doubled and nearly tripled that range. Infrastructure is no longer a big obstacle to EV adoption for many people.

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Comments 1 to 37:

  1. While I'm impressed with solar and wind power, the following article is a fascinating read on why Schellenberger has become a convert to nuclear power, and he makes some rather persuasive points. Can anyone find fault with his views?

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  2. Nigelj,

    Schellenburger has so many errors that it is impossible to address them.  Read Abbott 2011 which lilsts about 13 reasons why a nuclear utopia is impossible because there are not enough materials to build the plants, places to site them or enough fuel for them, among other issues.   Schellenburger does not address any of them.  For only one, if we built the 15,000 needed reactors we would expect a major accident (like Fukashima) somewhere every month.  I have never heard of or seen a reply to Abbott 2011 from a nuclear supporter.

    They have found it impossible to build "safe" generation 4 nuclear plants.  The Chinese and India are building "unsafe" (according to nuclear supporters) since generation 4 is unbuildable.  Nuclear plants cost more to run than it costs to build and run renewable energy.  Nuclear plants cost too much to build: in the USA the last two plants under construction have already added 20% to the energy bills of theiir unfortunate customers and they will not begin generating for at least 4 years, if ever.  In my area customers paid $1.5 billion for a nuclear plant where they never applied for a permit to build it.

    Schellenburger cries that wind and solar have not been build out much in the past when they were not economic.  Now, just as wind and solar have become economic,  he wants to build nuclear when it is even more uneconomic.   Renewable is now the cheapest power on earth.  This article in the Guardian says that the value of fossil fuel in the ground will collapse and possibly cause an economic problem because fossil fuels will be replaced by renewable in the next 20 years. (peer reviewed article: Macroeconomic impact of stranded fossil fuel assets. Nature Climate Change, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0182-1)

    Why does the value of solar and wind go down as they penetrate the market?  Because they are so much cheaper to produce that they depress the price.  People will certainly complain when their energy bills go down 50%.  That depression of the price of energy is why coal and nuclear are going out of business in the US.

    Most peer reviewed articles on future energy regard nuclear as a non-starter. 

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  3. Hey Brett, I have an EV. Right now with warmer temperatures I'm sitting at nearly 190 MPGe with a projected total range of 345. Are there infrastructure Montana, absolutely but it's been my daily driver since December 1.

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  4. M Sweet @2, thats a good debunking. I just wanted to see if anyone could tear it apart.  It's  clear solar and wind is winning in terms of costs and quick construction.

    Bit if nuclear could overcome its difficulties, including the safety issue would you have an objection?

    Remember although uranium etc is a limited resources, so are some of the materials in wind and solar power. Nothing is ideal really unless you have a geothermal field perhaps.

    However I think its best a decision for generating companies whether they choose wind, solar nuclear or whatever or some combination. But  anything is preferable to fossil fuels.

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  5. "Nothing is ideal really unless you have a geothermal field perhaps."

    Or you just create said field. That's the idea behind enhanced geothermal or Hot Dry Rock, which is a far better solution than anything else existing today: smaller ground footprint than solar or wind, comparable span of useful life, can be readily integrated as baseline, not weather dependent, no emissions beyond that needed to build (which are far lower than those of nuclear), no waste, minimal safety issues, no adverse impact on wildlife.

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  6. nigelj, the 'materials problem' for wind and solar power is largely fictional. The various 'rare earth' materials could be mined from numerous other sources around the world... there just hasn't been a need / market for anyone to do so to date. Other limitations, especially for solar, only apply to the 'currently most popular' components. Completely different construction methods and materials can be used to produce solar panels which are currently almost as good, and which with further research may some day surpass the currently leading designs.

    As to nuclear overcoming its safety issue... it can't. Maybe we could come up with a fool-proof design to prevent accidents. Maybe some safe way of dealing with radioactive waste could be devised. Maybe we could find some way to overcome the cost and limited fuel supply problems and thus avoid their economic impact. Nuclear would still never be 'safe'. If the entire world is run on nuclear power then the entire world will have access to nuclear weapons. That's inherently unsafe.

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  7. CBDunkerson

    "the 'materials problem' for wind and solar power is largely fictional."

    Yes or I would say its not a pressing problem. However its wise to appreciate rare earths have only about 80 years of supply left on the basis of known reserves. Copper has about 40 years left, although its easy to recycle. Obviously there are upper limits because minerals are not infinite. 

    However its worse for uranium, with only 20 years left, and recycling / reprocessing is more difficult than other materials.  All according to this data.

    And yes the numbers are all probably pessimistic and more reserves will be discovered, but these things are still limited resources, and  it demonstrates some of the longer term challenges humanity will encounter.

    "If the entire world is run on nuclear power, then the entire world will have access to nuclear weapons. That's inherently unsafe."

    Good point. The safety issue is also complicated. In fact nuclear energy causes fewer deaths per capita than other forms of energy, an argument used by the advocates, but accidents are environmentally devastating on farming land, and entire towns or cities have to be abandoned. And so we have huge public opposition which is undestandable I think, and why nuclear power probably has a limited future in democratic countries. 

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  8. Nigel 1, 4 ―

    I feel your observations are worthy. I worked for several years in the engineering of nuclear power stations, altho never on matters concerning the nuclear reactions. Mostly on matters of seismic resilience (a fascinating subject, unfortunately not relevant). But because I am forever curious and incurably studious, I learned quite a lot. Mostly, that what arguments for and against nuclear power have in common is that both are like dogs widdling on the wrong fire hydrants. They tend to make me think of veganism, halalism, holier-than-thou-ism, et alia, like those wee-hours college dorm arguments I remember from the 1950's. More like dumb religion (full of sound and fury, signifying nothing), not at all like real religion (like dumb religion, sex and politcs, not to be discussed at the table).

    Myself, I'm a fan of nuclear fission power, nuclear fusion power, solar power, geothermal power, wind power, ocean power, flower power, et alia. But mostly I am a fan of conservation. Like quitting smoking rather than praying for safe cigarets.

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  9. phillipe - just the minor problem of price. That would appear to be holding back any actual development.

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  10. Nigelj,

    In fact the materials needed for a renewable energy world have been assessed.  Jacobson et al 2011 discusses this topic.

    Jacobson found that all materials needed exist in sufficient quantity except for the rare earth metals needed for the magnets in wind turbines.  Since that time the builders of wind turbines have changed their designs to use less rare earth metals so that is no longer an issue.  I have not seen a peer reviewed challenge to Jacobson's conclusion since then.  In my experience this issue is no longer discussed so I presume that the matter is considered settled.  Occasionally you see someone claim that materials are limited in a public discussion like Schellenburger's essay which is not peer reviewed.  That just shows that they are not informed on the facts.

    As I said, I have never seen a response to Abbotts clain that materials are severely limited for nuclear energy.  Since his claim has not been challenged I presume it is correct.  In any case, many more rare elements are used in a nuclear plant than in renewable installations.

    The bottom line for me is that nuclear is not economic. 

    I am getting old and ever since I was a child nuclear engineers have promised that cheap, safe power was just around the corner.  I no longer believe their claims.  The reactors at Fukushima were placed in areas where a prudent engineer would have known that they were unsafe because of tsunamis. 

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  11. Yes, I'm middle aged, and safer and better nuclear power has been promised for so long now its becoming clear there must be fundamental technical and / or cost barriers to this.

    I'm a bit of a nuclear energy sceptic at heart, but I also try to keep an open mind on nuclear energy, and avoid all the psychologcal pitfalls of confirmation bias and so on.

    However I read this terrible policy just two minutes ago: 'Economy crippling' and 'third grade' work: Conservatives pan Trump's move to save failing coal and nuclear plants

    Main points:

    *President Donald Trump has issued an order to keep failing coal and nuclear power plants open, potentially by using emergency powers.

    *Conservative and libertarian think tanks panned the plan as "economy-crippling central planning" and the intellectual work of a "third grade" student.

    * Some conservatives who study policy suggested the Trump administration is scrambling to fulfill his campaign promise to revive the coal industry.

    Sigh. What can you say to such things? I'm no libertarian, however I never thought I would see draconican, politicised central planning policies like this again in my lifetime. Gotta go now and do the shopping.

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  12. There is nothing wrong with EVs or solar per se. The problem is in the fact that they are employed and trumpeted (wow thats a loaded word now) as a way to sustain our existing paradigm, our existing lifestyle of consumption. The message people take away is that we don't need to worry the "market" will solve our problems. 

    This kind of thinking will insure human extenction.

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  13. Jef,  right now if someone wants a new car it's better they buy an electric vehicle than petrol. Whats more, there are many practical reasons to buy an ev as well as environmentally conscious reasons, so it seems plausible that we could see a huge transition to ev's in the next few decades.

    But yes you are right current rates of per capita resource use  are not sustainable long term, and are going to lead to a crash of some sort. Population growth is also obviously not sustainable. But its going to be hard convincing people to make sweeping changes to lifestyles, and it will probably take time. I think humanity has to solve problems in incremental steps, and right now electric cars are easy enough really.

    Like so many basically sound ideas,  I think the idea of markets has sort of been highjacked to justify absurdities and exploitation. And the danger with the climate problem is people will think cap and trade will "sort it out" so theres nothing for individuals to worry about. Fortunately, there are at least messages to reduce carbon footprints. The larger problem is lobby groups who twist the idea of free markets to mean any market intervention must be wrong, and so they oppose wind power subsidies and cap and trade or carbon taxes.


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  14. 'If the entire world is run on nuclear power then the entire world will have access to nuclear weapons. That's inherently unsafe.' 

    The USA didn't have nuclear power when they got the bomb. Neither did the Soviet Union, the UK, France, China, India, Israel, or North Korea. That genie is out of the bottle, like it or not. If a country with an economy the size of North Korea's can develop a nuclear weapon, so could most of the rest. Repugnant as it might be, we'll just have to learn to negociate with everyone else.

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  15. John ONeil wrote: "The USA didn't have nuclear power when they got the bomb."

    Sorry, but you've got incorrect information. The plutonium used in the first nuclear bombs was produced by the nuclear power reactors at the Hanford Engineer Works in Washington. I haven't checked all the other countries you list, but I suspect that most of them also had nuclear power reactors before they had nuclear weapons... because early on it was easier to produce weapons grade plutonium in a reactor than to enrich uranium sufficiently.

    In any case, the theoretical possibility of developing nuclear weapons without nuclear power does nothing to change the fact that development of nuclear power provides everything needed to develop nuclear weapons.

    Negotiating with countries to avoid nuclear confrontation is all well and good, but ignores the fact that global nuclear proliferation would mean rebel and terrorist groups would also inevitably get access to nuclear weapons... and then inevitably use them.

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  16. Scaddenp,

    Certainly that can be improved on for any source. However, I don't think HDR is anywhere near as bad as nuclear on that front.

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  17. @michael_sweet

    "I have never seen a response to Abbotts clain that materials are severely limited for nuclear energy."

    I'm not even within slingshot distance of an expert on the subject, but it's my understanding that most of the uranium in a load of reactor fuel is wasted when it's removed as "waste".  My (quite vague) understanding is that it becomes unuseable for the intended reactions, but contains plutonium and other fissionable elements.  It is possible to design a reactor that produces more fissionable fuel going out than is loaded going in, but the fuel will be plutonium. It's also possible to re-refine the "waste" from a conventional reactor and recover fuel (probably Plutonium), but this requires reproccessing. 

    Thus you have the problem of handling extremely nasty stuff, and if you have one or three disloyal or corruptible people in the chain, or merely a few idiots, there's a potentially grave problem. I believe France reprocesses fuel, we do not. 

    In any case, nuclear in the US is uneconomical, the layers of safety to make it idiot-proof increase the cost so much that a fossil-fired plant is cheaper, even including the lifetime fuel cost.  Nukes are a fantastic idea on paper, but at least here in the US I believe they don't have a future. 

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  18. The UK developed nuclear weapons in 1952, and the first nuclear power plant in 1956, however the main purpose of the nuclear plant was to produce weapons grade plutonium.

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  19. Well the key to HDR is fracking and I guess tight-oil/shale gas has made significant improvements to that cost. This is a tech that is mining heat and it is hardly unlimited. The lifetime of the plant is going to be a significant factor in the cost as well. Like nuclear, it seems to have trouble attracting investors.

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  20. CBDunkerson -

    The Hanford Engineer Works reactors were plutonium production reactors, not power reactors. From Wikipedia -'The N-Reactor  began production in 1963...It was a one-of-a-kind design in the U.S., being both a plutonium production reactor for nuclear weapons and, from 1966, producing electricity to feed the civilian power grid.'

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  21. nigelj - 'M Sweet @2, thats a good debunking. I just wanted to see if anyone could tear it apart.'

    I posted a rebuttal of ( almost ) all of Abbott 2011's points last night, but it seems to be MIA. If it doesn't show up i could try rewriting it - I didn't save it. Alternatively, you could read back issues of Barry Brook's blog, BraveNewClimate. Brook was at Adelaide Uni with Abbott, and is at the top of his credits list at the end of the paper, for people he's had discussions with. Having spent some time in Adelaide myself, I can see how someone there might think, like Abbott, that concentrating solar thermal is the only realistic energy future for mankind. For most other places it patently is not.

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  22. John ONeill - but any published rebuttals to Abbott? Abbott is 2011 - surely nuclear science proponents could have hit IEEE with a full rebuttal if Abbott is off mark by now?

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  23. John ONiel,

    I will have to go a long time back at BraveNewClimate, I cannot find a pro-Nuclear post there since 2014.  It says a lot that Barry Brooks  has given up on Nuclear.  James Hansen's most recent (2016) paper on nuclear only claims "Some studies project that a doubling to quadrupling of nuclear energy output is required" source, hardly a major source of energy. Like Scaddenp I look forward to seeing peer reviewed studies.

    Since nuclear supporters now claim only a small amout of power from nuclear we have to look at the big picture. In a wind and solar world  stored power on windless nights is most valuable.  Baseload, as supplied by nuclear, is not valuable at all.  That is why even with small wind penetration nuclear plants go out of business.

    We do not have to address that current nuclear designs are unbuidable, that nuclear cannot be built on a timeline or budget, they have no plan for their waste or that nuclear is impratical in countries like Syria, Zimbabwe and Myanmar (all issues that Abbott left out).

    In addition to Abbotts' issues, nuclear is not economic.   Nuclear engineers completely failed at their curret "proof of principle" plants in the USA and Europe. Existing plants are losing money and are at the end of their design life.


    Should I write an article about Abbott 2011so that these discussions can  be contained and not repeated?  Unfortunately, it would be negative about nuclear.  Nuclear proponents have not seen fit to write an article promoting nuclear.

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  24. D Abbott's field of expertise appears to be medical imaging and terahertz waves, and his current home page has no reference to energy systems, climate, or nuclear power. He's more interested in cryptanalysis and solving a cold-case body mystery. I had to track his publications list down and scroll to 2011 to find any reference to this paper, to be sure it was the same D Abbott. There must be enough other venues for those concerned to battle it out.

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  25. John ONeill, thank's for the reading references.

    Dr Abbott is a physicist and electronics engineer, according to his wikipedia page. I think a physics degree would be pretty ideal to review nuclear power. People directly specialising in the industry have vested interests so would not be that objective (no disrespect intended).

    It doesn't matter anyway. His qualifications and background is not the point and neither proves him right or wrong,  and what counts is what he has published. It has not been formally refuted, which leaves the suspicion that the nuclear advocates find it hard to refute.

    I'm pretty agnostic on nuclear power, in the sense of neither being particularly for or against it. Really I'm just an interested observer on this issue. We could debate the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power forever, and there are many of them going both ways. But right now in America they are slow and expensive to build, and some article I read claimed this was largely due to poor project and cost management.

    I'm not convinced nuclear eanergy has enough fundamental, overwhelming  advantages such that government should somehow favour it, so it seems like its up to the industry to sort its own problems out.

    Nuclear energy is a complicated debate, but I think the safety concern is still the main issue. If the world had thousands of reactors using current known technology, more accidents would be inevitable with the significant potential for something far worse than chernobyl. The public are not stupid, they probably sense this, and so you get resistance at least in western democracies which have free speech.

    I don't see that nuclear energy has enough advantages such that governments would have some right to force nuclear power onto an unwilling population. So basically the nuclear issue is rather political in the west, like a lot of things, (nimbyism) and this resistance to nuclear power can probably only be overcome with safer designs as opposed to endlessly debating the advantages and disadvantages at a technical and cost level.

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  26. 2.michael sweet at 07:48 AM on 5 June, 2018

    Hi Michael, I see you are on the Skeptical Science team, so presumable saw my long riposte to Derek Abbott's 2011 paper dissing nuclear power.

    ' As I said, I have never seen a response to Abbotts clain that materials are severely limited for nuclear energy. Since his claim has not been challenged I presume it is correct.'

    All Abbott's claims ( well, nearly all ) can and have been refuted, though not, maybe, directly in response to him. If you haven't come across the case for nuclear, I suspect you're suffering from confirmation bias. Nuclear plants were built in Europe and the US in the seventies, and in Korea, China, and Japan till now, at affordable cost and on timescales of about five years per reactor. The growth in non-fossil power generated ( as opposed to capacity built ) was considerably faster then than it has been for wind and solar more recently.

    Opponents will claim that these earlier reactors were only cheap because they were dangerous, but despite Fukushima, no deaths from radiation outside the plant boundaries have ensued.

    'Many Japanese Medical experts said these frequencies ( of thyroid nodules in Fukushima children ) were probably not unusual for Japan when the extreme sensitivity of the survey and type of cancer was considered. They pointed to similar screenings which were run in three far-distant Prefectures in 2012 and early 2013, the numbers of which were publically posted. Results showed that the Fukushima child thyroid cancer frequencies were relatively consistent with the other three Prefectures. In fact, the other three Prefectures had child thyroid anomaly rates slightly higher than with Fukushima. 5. The three tested prefectures, far from Fukushima, were Nagasaki, Aomori and Yamanashi. While the percentage of Fukushima children with detectible nodules/cysts was 41.2%, the combined percentage found in the other three prefectures was 56.6%! Further, while 0.6% of the Fukushima children with the anomalies were considered worthy of further testing, the other three prefectures had a rate of over 1%. The total number of children tested in the far-from-Fukushima prefectures was 4,300, thus the data was considered scientifically and statistically valid.'

    However, if you're not going to print what I write, I'll leave off. If you do want a factual rebuttal to Abbott's arguments, I can provide it. I don't have a physics degree ( mine is in history ), but the physics here is not really in dispute. 

    Yours sincerely, John ONeill

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS]  "so presumable saw my long riposte to Derek Abbott's 2011 paper dissing nuclear power." No comment from you has been deleted.  Computer glitch somewhere but nothing here. Links fixed. Please learn how to do this yourself with the link button in the comment editor.

    [DB] You will need to furnish a source citation for this claim:

    "All Abbott's claims ( well, nearly all ) can and have been refuted

  27. John ONeil, I think you suffer from some confirmation bias yourself. It's a common problem with everyone. I try to avoid this bias, so I  did a simple google search "advantages and disadvantages of nuclear energy" and had a quick read of several different websites that covered this, so that I get a wide picture of what people are saying, rather than just a narrow view.

    I would suggest nuclear energy stands out from other forms of energy in the rather long lists of advantages - and disadvantages. You also need to look beyond just the physics, technology and time farmes of construction to the full picture of all the issues, so also include safety issues, environmental impacts of accidents and waste disposal, construction costs, public concerns etcetera.

    Cancer also takes decades to develop so nobody really knows the  outcome form Fukushima yet. It's wise to apply some commonsense, so given radioctivity is a known carcinogen, there are likely to be problems.  

    You are also only looking at one side of the problems at Fukushima and Chernobyl. These accidents caused considerable property damage and required mass evacuations of urban areas on a permanent basis. The costs of containing the cores of these reactors are huge, and will be ongoing for centuries. Fukushima polluted the local ocean and Chernobyl polluted a lot of farmland and had huge impacts on the Ukraines food exports.

    As a result nobody wants to be anywhere near nuclear plants. Its probably no accident that the only countries building them have autocratic or dictatorial governments, or a lack of other potential energy sources.

    However I have no opposition, provided safer nuclear designs are developed that offer affordable electricty. I also see no problem with a mix of energy sources, and we get a bit obsessed with the one perfect source which might not exist.

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  28. The  considerable and ongoing impacts of Chernobyl on farming in former Soviet union countries.


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  29. John Oneil,

    Your first reference is to the Breakthrough Institute.  The Harvard University for Ethics says about them: 

    "The Breakthrough Institute has a clear history as a contrarian outlet for information on climate change and regularly criticizes environmental groups. One writer describes them as a “program for hippie-punching your way to fame and fortune.”

    A bunch of paid deniers.  Hardly a suitable reference for a scientific blog.  Your second reference is to a random blog by someone with a BA in a non-scientific field and little relevant experience.  You claim that you wrote an essay that contradicts Abbott 2011 on your own authority.  Then you dis Abbott who has over 16,000 citations in the scientific literature and is a world recognized expert in electrical Engineering.

    Since I have a Masters in Chemistry, have taught college chemistry for 10 years, worked for years with radiation and have held a Curie of high energy Beta radiation (for the untrained like you that is an immense amount of radiation) in my unshielded hand, I have much more experience and authority than you.  How much radiation have you held in your hand?  So much for your radioactive training.

    Reviewing our posts, I see that invariably I have cited the scientific literature and not relied on my experience while you have cited only blog posts, astroturf nuclear organizations and your own authority as a History major with a BA.

    Since this is a scientific board perhaps you should start by learning how to support your claims on a board that requires you to provide bonafide evidence.  Astroturf organizations and blog posts from random internet persons do not cut it.  If you cannot find a paper to support your claims, as in this case, that generally means that scientists agree that you are incorrect.

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  30. I see my posts aren't appearing, so will desist. Last word from James Hansen.

    "Nuclear, especially next-generation nuclear, has tremendous potential to be part of the solution to climate change," Hansen said during a panel discussion yesterday. ( 2015, reported by Scientific American.) "The dangers of fossil fuels are staring us in the face. So for us to say we won't use all the tools [such as nuclear energy] to solve the problem is crazy."

    For his trouble, he was labelled ' a new kind of denier ' by Naomi Oreskes.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] None of your comments have been removed.  Your ability to post comments has not been restricted.

  31. OK, I'll try again.

    'Fukushima polluted the local ocean and Chernobyl polluted a lot of farmland and had huge impacts on the Ukraines food exports.'

    Radioactivity is a carcinogen, but a weak one. For example, cesium 137 decays mainly with the emission of a beta ray - an electron - at an energy of up to about 0.5 million electron volts. Potassium 40, in every cell of your body, emits beta rays at about 1.3 MeV. Since it has a half life of about 1.25 billion years, the K40 background radiation when life originated would have been ten times stronger. Cells have had a long time to optimise their repair mechanisms. Cesium 137 is used to irradiate tumours, to kill them; the tissue surrounding the tumour gets about half a lethal dose, yet induced cancers resulting are uncommon.

    ' In July 2011, meat from 11 cows shipped to Tokyo from Fukushima Prefecture was found to have 1,530 to 3,200 becquerels per kilogram of Cs-137, considerably exceeding the Japanese legal limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram at that time. In March 2013, a fish caught near the plant had a record 740,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive caesium, above the 100 becquerels per kilogram government limit.' ( Wiki )

    'A 1972 experiment showed that when dogs are subjected to a whole body burden of 3800 μCi/kg (140 MBq/kg, or approximately 44 μg/kg) of caesium-137 (and 950 to 1400 rads), they die within 33 days, while animals with half of that burden all survived for a year.' ( Also Wiki ). That's 140 MILLION becqerels per kilo - 190 times higher than the fish, which was still 1480 times above the then regulatory limit. ( That fish was inside the closed-off dock of the plant, and had a far higher reading than any out in the ocean. ) So the lethal whole-body dose was about 280,000 times higher than the Japanese regulatory limit just for food - which subsequently, ' to reassure people ', they reduced by a further factor of 5 , to 100 becquerels per kilo.

    As a comparison, vitamin D, essential to life, can also be toxic. ' The daily requirement of vitamin D is about 200-600 units. The skin produces 10,000 units of vitamin D after total body exposure to UV light. The current tolerable upper intake level in both Europe and North America is 50 ug/day (2000 iu/day) but overwhelming bulk of clinical trial evidence indicates that prolonged intake of 10,000 units of vitamin D3 likely poses no risk. Because of this wide therapeutic index, vitamin D toxicity is extremely rare, but does occur at excessively high doses. Doses more than 50,000 IU/day raise levels of 25(OH) vit D to more than 150 ng/ml and are associated with hypercalcemia and hyperphosphatemia.'

    So a vitamin becomes a poison at about a hundred times the recommended therapeutic dose, but radiation is required to be a million times below lethal dose - and that's the whole body dose, whereas food eaten will be another two orders of magnitude lower again.

    The estimated amount of cesium 137 deposited over the whole of Germany after Chernobyl was estimated at half a kilo. The annual figure for mercury, from the coal they burn, is about seven tons.

    All the measured increase in cancer after Chernobyl, apart from the firefighters, was from iodine 129, not cesium 137. The difference is that cesium is taken up over the whole body, and takes thirty years to deliver half its beta rays.( Meanwhile, the body replaces half its cesium in about 110 days.) Iodine concentrates in the thyroid, a ~ 3,000 times smaller target, and blasts it with all its energy inside two months. The cell's efficient mechanisms can repair damage happening at normal rates - oxygen causes far more strand breaks than background radiation - but a brief assault at 500,000 times the intensity can overwhelm them. At Fukushima, people were told to avoid local milk and vegetables for the critical period, and took non-radioactive iodine supplements. A measurable increase in thyroid cancer is unlikely. Psychological effects, from being told they'd been poisoned, are likely to be much more serious, as they were in Ukraine and Belorusia.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS]If you are writing very long comments,you might being hitting a character-limit in the Sks database. (maybe 65k??). Writing your comment in a text editor and then pasting into Sks is always a good idea when putting a lot of effort into a post (on any system). If it doesnt show, then try splitting it.

  32. John ONeill @31

    What you have appeared to argue is a low dose of radiation affecting farmland like those after Chernobyl and Fukushima are harmless, because only an extremely high dose killed all dogs within a year. This is not the case. While risk level is proportional to the dose, low doses at the levels we are discussing have clearly been determined to still have a significant risk particularly for iodine. And you have also omitted the fact this low dose will be ingested many times over by many people as they eat agricultural produce.

    I stand to be corrected on this, but I think they consider a probability of a 5% or 10% increase in risk of cancer as significant. They also look at other health affects. 

    I also think you missed the point of what I'm saying a little. Regardless of the 'actual' level of risk, the public perceive theres a high level of risk, people won't want to buy contaminated food, and politicians will "play safe" with setting standards, and what agricultural produce can be sold. You are unlikely to ever change this, so the only answer is safer nuclear power. Yes you and I know its possible to get excessively hysterical about risk, and many things in life have risks, but not everyone reacts this way. You have to look at nuclear power in the context of people and the real world, as well as theory and technicalities.

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  33. Plus we will probably never know the true numbers for cancer related to Chernobyl. I don't think the data would be terribly reliable, for obvious political reasons.

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  34. John ONiel,

    It is clear from your post that you do not know the difference between acute radiation poisoning and chronic radiation damage.  You obviously do not know the chronic effects of long term exposure to radiation or the amount of radiation that causes that damage.  You do not know why Cesium137 causes different problems than Iodine 129 so the tolerable dose is different.  Since you have claimed only training in History you look like an idiot lecturing knowledgeable scientists about a subject you know nothing about.

    As I previously said, I have years of training and experience working directly with radiation.  Experience you know nothing about.  I do know the acute and chronic problems of radiation.  I know the difference between Cesium, Iodine, vitamin D and Mercury.  Your diatribe above, supported only by your reputation as a history major- you do not say where you found this misinformation, is simply ignorant ranting.  Since you have provided no references I will not provide them.

     Nuclear is uneconomic.  If you check through my old posts I do not question nuclear power on its abysmal safety record, which is the basis of your argument.  The fact that you bring an argument here that we do not use proves that nuclear is unsafe. 

    These posts are off topic so I will not continue.

    John ONiel should be banned for sloganeering off topic and complaining about the moderators that he is too ignorant to get his posts on the board.

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    [PS] Over the line.

  35. Michael Sweet -

    'Nuclear is uneconomic. If you check through my old posts I do not question nuclear power on its abysmal safety record, which is the basis of your argument. The fact that you bring an argument here that we do not use proves that nuclear is unsafe.'

    I was actually responding to nigelj's comment. 

    'In price terms, the ( Chinese ) National Energy Administration’s National Electricity Pricing report, published in 2016, ranks nuclear power second only to coal on cost, and says it is much cheaper than electricity generated from natural gas, wind and solar. In an interview last year, Ye Qizhen of the Chinese Academy of Engineering Sciences, was also upbeat about the economics of nuclear power in China. He told China Energy News that power costs from China’s Generation II+ reactor designs, which are now entering operation on the south-east coast, will be on a par with those from coal-fired power, and some may even be cheaper.'

    Of course, what they manage in China now is completely unattainable in the West these days. Glad your not bringing up nuclear's abysmal safety record.

    'Nuclear Power Prevents More Deaths Than It Causes' - paper by James Hansen and Pushker Kharecha, 2013, 142 citations

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    [PS] Fixed links. Please learn to do this yourself with the link icon in the comments editor.

  36. John ONeill @35

    Selecting China with its low nuclear costs is an example of confirmation bias, ie looking for one country that supports your case. In fact the Lazard energy analysis find that both wind and solar energy have lower costs than nuclear power and coal 'globally', and its november 2107 so is more up to date. This is a much wider, more realistic, reliable and useful review of costs than picking a media comment from one country.

    Do you want to live in a communist dicatatorship? And how many corners have been cut in the construction?

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  37. John ONiel,

    From your reference to Chinese nuclear plants:

    1. The title of the article is "Is China losing interest in nuclear power?" (the title is in your link).
    2. The subtitle is "Slowing demand for electricity and competition from renewables have halted new reactor approvals".
    3. It states "China has 20 gigawatts of nuclear power capacity under construction but plans for additional capacity are being delayed." and "The National Energy Administration did not approve any new nuclear plants between 2016 and 2017" and "“achieving targets set in the past now looks uncertain, with reactors that have been built and that are ready for fuelling and going into operation also on hold.” (!!!) and "“Work out supply and demand and you can see that the market is unable to absorb any more nuclear power,” (my emphasis)
    4. Their designs have been criticized by Western nuclear supporters as unsafe and outdated.

    It seems to me that your reference would be a better citation for someone opposed to nuclear power.  It appears that China is finishing off plants started 10 years ago before renewables became economic and are finally being completed.  Since renewable energy is now cheaper they are ending their nuclear adventure.  Look at Nijelj's reference for updated costs of power.  If that is the best you can find I think it confirms my point so I will not add any to it.

    Congratulations on finding a peer reviewed paper that supports your position!  Unfortunately, my earlier reference  showed that Hansen has given up on his claims that nuclear has to be a major part of future energy supplies and will at most be a minor energy source.  Since my reference is from 2016 and yours is from 2013 it appears that Hansen changed his mind.  Perhaps he read Abbott 2011.

    Doing background reading I noticed that nuclear reactor disasters release I-131 and not I-129 as you suggested here. When someone uses the incorrect isotope it suggests they do not understand radioactivity.  I-129 has a half-life of 16 million years, is a low energy beta emitter and only a small amount is produced in reactors so it is not a big concern in accidents. I wonder who you used as your source of information that does not use the correct isotope.  Was it the Breakthrough Institute?

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