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Is Nuclear Energy the Answer?

Posted on 13 June 2019 by scaddenp

Abbott 2011  and Abbott 2012 doesn’t think so but perhaps there are better analyses? For discussions of economics, levelized cost estimates of various electricity technologies can be found here and here.

Nuclear energy is quite commonly proposed as the solution to reducing GHG emissions. As soon as this gets raised on an article's comment thread, there has been a bad tendency for on-topic discussion to be completely derailed by proponents for and against.

We have repeatedly asked for nuclear proponents to provide an article for this site which puts the case based on published science but so far we haven't had a taker. The proposal would need to be reviewed by Sks volunteers. In lieu of such an article, this topic has been created where such discussions can take place.

However, in the absence of a proper article summarizing the science, stricter than normal moderation will be applied to ensure that all assertions made for or against are backed by references to published studies, preferably in peer-reviewed journals.

Update - October 2020

This post has been up for a little over a year now, and has received over 200 comments. Now seems like a good time to add some clarification.

First of all, the challenge to "nuclear proponents" to provide an article requires that the article "summarize the science". It is not the desire of Skeptical Science to provide a one-sided, pro-nuclear assertion. The expectation is that an article would provide a balanced review of all aspects of nuclear energy as a practical, affordable, realistic source of low-carbon energy.

If you think of yourself as a "nuclear advocate", then writing a balanced article will be difficult for you. This is not a place for "lawyers' science", where the role is to pick a side and pretend there is no other reasonable argument. This is not about winning an argument - it is about coming to a common understanding based on all the available evidence.

If you think that criticism of your position represents an "anti-nuclear bias", then writing a balanced article will be difficult for you.

If you think that you are the only one that truly understands nuclear energy, then you are probably wrong.

Review of any submitted article will not be at the level of a review of a professional journal article, but anyone submitting an article needs to be prepared to have their positions examined in detail for weaknesses, missing information, lack of support in the peer-reviewed literature, etc. If you find it tough to accept criticism in the comments thread, then you will not find review any gentler.

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Comments 251 to 280 out of 280:

  1. Michael Sweet @8:

    You say “Um, you mean heat? Why wouldn't you just call it heat?” No, Abbott means entropy. You obviously did not take college chemistry or physics. Heat and energy are similar. Entropy is complicated but for this discussion it is similar to randomness.

    I know I'm coming very late to this discussion, but I do happen to have a bunch of physics, chemistry AND thermodynamics under my belt.  I wouldn't be surprised if I'm the first poster in this thread to have done a detailed analysis of a steam-cycle power plant as well as picking apart the thermochemistry of the reforming of methane and solid carbon to syngas (I got partway to a patent on that, I took a refund from Harness, Dickey and Pierce on the patent work because I delayed too long and the SOTA got ahead of me).

    Coincidentally, I have not only done my best to explain entropy to the ignorant, I wrote a blues about it in the early years of this century.  I can not only summarize the science, I can make it humorous too.  That's more than you can do; at your best, you come across as a scold.

    In the scenario you describe the water coming in contact with the extremely hot salt would instantly cause a steam explosion that would destroy the facility.

    Hogwash.  In a molten salt reactor, the steam generator would be fed from a secondary salt loop and likely be sited outside the containment.  In the case of the Elysium concept, water never ENTERS the containment; superheated steam is used to boil the feedwater to saturation, and only steam enters the containment (enters saturated, leaves superheated).  This is one of the more elegant solutions to the various issues that I've ever seen; Ed Pheill has my admiration.

    In the explosion a lot of hydrogen gas would be generated from the highly reducing salt solution.

    You're full of crap; the salts are fully oxidized.  Metallic sodium would generate hydrogen in mixture with steam, but chloride and fluoride salts cannot.

    Abbott describes how many reactors would need to be built to illustrate the size of the problem.

    Abbott overstates the number of reactors by a factor of 3.  He makes errors which would fail a high-school physics exam, and his reviewers weren't competent enough to catch them.  This disqualifies all of them; their institutions should revoke their degrees, and should be publicly shamed for having granted them.

    For myself, I would prefer that reactors were made safer and not cheaper.

    Nuclear reactors are orders of magnitude safer than any other source of electric power on the planet.  I want them cheaper, because I want them to replace all the generation that's more dangerous.  If that requires accepting a bit more danger from nuclear energy, it's still better than the alternatives.

     

    (No preview, SS?  Come on, get with it!  That's been a standard feature at serious sites since the 90's!)

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [BL] You are off to a bad start at this web site. Pasting badly-formatted html into comments will be subject to immediate deletion. Complaining about the web software will always be off-topic.

    Warning #1

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can be rescinded if the posting individual treats adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

     

  2. Michael Sweet @8:

    You say “Um, you mean heat? Why wouldn't you just call it heat?” No, Abbott means entropy. You obviously did not take college chemistry or physics. Heat and energy are similar. Entropy is complicated but for this discussion it is similar to randomness.

    I know I'm coming very late to this discussion, but I do happen to have a bunch of physics, chemistry AND thermodynamics under my belt.  I wouldn't be surprised if I'm the first poster in this thread to have done a detailed analysis of a steam-cycle power plant as well as picking apart the thermochemistry of the reforming of methane and solid carbon to syngas (I got partway to a patent on that, I took a refund from Harness, Dickey and Pierce on the patent work because I delayed too long and the SOTA got ahead of me).

    Coincidentally, I have not only done my best to explain entropy to the ignorant, I wrote a blues about it in the early years of this century.  I can not only summarize the science, I can make it humorous too.  That's more than you can do; at your best, you come across as a scold.

    In the scenario you describe the water coming in contact with the extremely hot salt would instantly cause a steam explosion that would destroy the facility.

    Hogwash.  In a molten salt reactor, the steam generator would be fed from a secondary salt loop and likely be sited outside the containment.  In the case of the Elysium concept, water never ENTERS the containment; superheated steam is used to boil the feedwater to saturation, and only steam enters the containment (enters saturated, leaves superheated).  This is one of the more elegant solutions to the various issues that I've ever seen; Ed Pheill has my admiration.

    In the explosion a lot of hydrogen gas would be generated from the highly reducing salt solution.

    You're full of crap; the salts are fully oxidized.  Metallic sodium would generate hydrogen in mixture with steam, but chloride and fluoride salts cannot.

    Abbott describes how many reactors would need to be built to illustrate the size of the problem.

    Abbott overstates the number of reactors by a factor of 3.  He makes errors which would fail a high-school physics exam, and his reviewers weren't competent enough to catch them.  This disqualifies all of them; their institutions should revoke their degrees, and should be publicly shamed for having granted them.

    For myself, I would prefer that reactors were made safer and not cheaper.

    Nuclear reactors are orders of magnitude safer than any other source of electric power on the planet.  I want them cheaper, because I want them to replace all the generation that's more dangerous.  If that requires accepting a bit more danger from nuclear energy, it's still better than the alternatives.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Once you learn to properly format code, we will consider letting you continue in this discussion.

     

  3. Michael Sweet @14:

    I have provided two examples of hafnium use in civilian reactors so you have shifted the goalposts. We do not know how much hafnium is used in civilian reactors because you have provided no references to show its use is limited.

    On the contrary, YOU need to show that the use of hafnium is required by ALL nuclear fission technologies, because so many of them are fungible.  For the moment, hafnium and gadolinium are used because they are convenient.  They will stop being convenient, and stop being used, when they become too costly.  What's hard to understand?  Boron is a convenient and a pretty cheap replacement as a neutron poison.  For that matter, sub-critical drain tanks provide a completely non-neutron absorbent method of shutting down a molten-fuel reactor.  There's nothing consumed, so nothing to use up.

    If you wish to argue that enough enough metals exist for reactors you must provide a peer reviewed report that details all the metals used in nuclear plants and shows they exist.

    FFS, there are more types of nuclear reactors than you have ever counted.  PWR, BWR, LMFBR (both sodium- and lead-cooled), PBR, MSR... the list goes on.  They ALL have different attributes, and NONE of the detriments you attribute apply to even a majority of them, let alone ALL of them.

    You are also confused about citations. Scientific papers are written for peope who have done their homework and understand the subject that is being discussed.

    Obviously false in the case of Jacobson, because his reviewers couldn't understand a half-order-of-magnitude error in his energy calculations.  That should lose them their positions and send them back to teaching undergrads, if not bagging groceries.

     

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] More badly-formatted text deleted.

  4. Michael Sweet @29:

    Higher prices for nuclear are not generally considered a positive trait. In the USA we prefer lower prices.

    So why do you prefer policies which increase the price of GHG-free nuclear energy?  Be specific.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Also deleted.

  5. Excuse me, I fixed the formatting on the last one.  (It's a lot more difficult than just pasting the correct HTML, though I'm beginning to figure out the quirks of the system here.)  Can I get a break?

    I'll be happy to repost the previous stuff with the formatting fixed, so long as you're willing to cut me a little slack while I figure things out.

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [PS] A careful read of the comments policy is required to have posts accepted here. In particular, ensure that assertions are backed by links to reputably sources (eg and especially, peer reviewed literature). This is not a suitable forum for exchanges of opinion, but references to new information are appreciated. Peer-reviewed responses to Abbott in particular would be welcome.

    [BL]. Don't paste html in the main edit box. Paste plain text and format using the tools provided.The "Source" tab can give more direct html control if needed.

    ...and read the Comments policy. There is always a link to it directly above the box you use to add a comment.

  6. Michael Sweet @8:

    You say “Um, you mean heat? Why wouldn't you just call it heat?” No, Abbott means entropy. You obviously did not take college chemistry or physics. Heat and energy are similar. Entropy is complicated but for this discussion it is similar to randomness.

    I know I'm coming very late to this discussion, but I do happen to have a bunch of physics, chemistry AND thermodynamics under my belt.  I wouldn't be surprised if I'm the first poster in this thread to have done a detailed analysis of a steam-cycle power plant as well as picking apart the thermochemistry of the reforming of methane and solid carbon to syngas (I got partway to a patent on that, I took a refund from Harness, Dickey and Pierce on the patent work because I delayed too long and the SOTA got ahead of me). Coincidentally, I have not only done my best to explain entropy to the ignorant, I wrote a blues about it in the early years of this century.  I can not only summarize the science, I can make it humorous too.  That's more than you can do; at your best, you come across as a scold.

    In the scenario you describe the water coming in contact with the extremely hot salt would instantly cause a steam explosion that would destroy the facility.

    Hogwash.  In a molten salt reactor, the steam generator would be fed from a secondary salt loop and likely be sited outside the containment.  In the case of the Elysium concept, water never ENTERS the containment; superheated steam is used to boil the feedwater to saturation, and only steam enters the containment (enters saturated, leaves superheated).  This is one of the more elegant solutions to the various issues that I've ever seen; Ed Pheill has my admiration.

    In the explosion a lot of hydrogen gas would be generated from the highly reducing salt solution.

    You're full of crap; the salts are fully oxidized.  Metallic sodium would generate hydrogen in mixture with steam, but chloride and fluoride salts cannot.

    Abbott describes how many reactors would need to be built to illustrate the size of the problem.

    Abbott overstates the number of reactors by a factor of 3.  He makes errors which would fail a high-school physics exam, and his reviewers weren't competent enough to catch them.  This disqualifies all of them; their institutions should revoke their degrees, and should be publicly shamed for having granted them.

    For myself, I would prefer that reactors were made safer and not cheaper.

    Nuclear reactors are orders of magnitude safer than any other source of electric power on the planet.  I want them cheaper, because I want them to replace all the generation that's more dangerous.  If that requires accepting a bit more danger from nuclear energy, it's still better than the alternatives.

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Please tone it down if you want to continue to comment here.

  7. Michael Sweet @14:

    I have provided two examples of hafnium use in civilian reactors so you have shifted the goalposts. We do not know how much hafnium is used in civilian reactors because you have provided no references to show its use is limited.

    On the contrary, YOU need to show that the use of hafnium is required by ALL nuclear fission technologies, because so many of them are fungible.  For the moment, hafnium and gadolinium are used because they are convenient.  They will stop being convenient, and stop being used, when they become too costly.  What's hard to understand?  Boron is a convenient and a pretty cheap replacement as a neutron poison.  For that matter, sub-critical drain tanks provide a completely non-neutron absorbent method of shutting down a molten-fuel reactor.  There's nothing consumed, so nothing to use up.

    If you wish to argue that enough enough metals exist for reactors you must provide a peer reviewed report that details all the metals used in nuclear plants and shows they exist.

    FFS, there are more types of nuclear reactors than you have ever counted.  PWR, BWR, LMFBR (both sodium- and lead-cooled), PBR, MSR... the list goes on.  They ALL have different attributes, and NONE of the detriments you attribute apply to even a majority of them, let alone ALL of them.

    You are also confused about citations. Scientific papers are written for peope who have done their homework and understand the subject that is being discussed.

    Obviously false in the case of Jacobson, because his reviewers couldn't understand a half-order-of-magnitude error in his energy calculations.  That should lose them their positions and send them back to teaching undergrads, if not bagging groceries.

    (I think I've got the formatting trick figured out; write in HTML, post in "Basic", click "Source", paste over the mangled HTML with the original HTML, go back and check that it all came out right.  Takes a few go-rounds before it all makes sense.)

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Please go back and re-read commenting policies.

  8. Michael Sweet @29:

    Higher prices for nuclear are not generally considered a positive trait. In the USA we prefer lower prices.

    So why do you prefer policies which increase the price of GHG-free nuclear energy?  Be specific.

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  9. Michael Sweet @106:

    Apparently every health organization in the world and every nuclear regulatory organization in the world use LRNT.

    Health physics doesn't, and as people who work directly with therapeutic radiation on a daily basis, they're the true experts.  For instance, health physicists calculate both radiation doses and dose rates to kill tumors while doing the least damage to surrounding healthy tissue.  If LNT was correct, the mortality of healthy tissues around tumors would not be changed by dividing the total radiation dose into fractions with recovery time between them (sample paper from 1982; this has been established for a LONG time).  But it IS changed, proving LNT to be false.

    LNT has been contradicted by evidence going back at LEAST to the UNSCEAR report issued in 1958. When steady gamma irradiation EXTENDS the lives of lab rats by at least 25% and by as much as 1/3 versus controls, you've got iron-clad proof that LNT is false... and the pretense for adhering to it requires malicious intent.

    You have been informed.  You can no longer claim ignorance as an excuse.

    0 0
    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Again, please tone it down. 

  10. Michael Sweet @126:

    Abbott 2012 gives about 15 reasons why nuclear cannot produce more than 5% of world power.

    Thanks for the link.  It's much easier to debunk something that's ready to hand, rather than having to dig for it. If Abbott was serious, he'd put his strongest points first and last.  Yet what's his first objection?  Site selection!  Never mind that pretty much ANY site that has ever hosted a coal plant is suitable for a nuclear plant.  How weak is that?  Next, he goes into neutron embrittlement.  So what?  A plant is eventually going to become too expensive to keep refurbishing, though Rosatom has already changed that game with its innovative annealing technology.  Adding an additional 30 years of RPV life to a plant which can run for 80 years without it, you've got the potential for over a century of operation. Reactors like FLiBe, Thorcon and Elysium have none of Abbott's supposedly-insurmountable elemental scarcity problems.  So far as I know, none of them even HAVE control rods and none use burnable poisons either; they just drain the reactor to tanks in a sub-critical configuration.  Neither do they use zirconium.  And what's the big deal with end-of-life reactor vessels?  Just throw the metal into an electric furnace and forge it into new ones.  As for "radioactive waste", a great deal of that can either be recycled or has plenty of valuable uses (yes, even Sr-90 and Cs-137).  Frankly, after seeing how pathetic Abbott's objections are, I'm astounded that anyone is still citing him.  I'm not going to bother reading any further in his paper, I have better things to do such as refilling my drink.

    If there's any real obstacle to scaling nuclear energy to world-powering levels, it's the immediate supply of fissiles.  Fast-spectrum reactors can generate net fissiles from uranium, but the fission cross-section of transuranics gets pretty small at high neutron energies so the concentration has to be much higher than in thermal-spectrum reactors.  You can see this in the proposals for both standard and high-burnup cores for the S-PRISM reactor; even the standard core requires almost 2.5 tons at over 21% total Pu at the beginning of a fuel cycle and the doubling time is almost 42 years.  The potential for rapid scale-up exists with thorium, however.  IIUC, the total fissile inventory of a 1 GW(e) Th/U-233 reactor is around 100 kg, it consumes about 0.8 tons/year and has a breeding ratio of about 1.03.  Ergo, every year such a reactor would consume 800 kg of fissiles and generate an extra 24 kg or thereabouts.  This leads to a doubling time of less than 3 years at scale.  30 years of doublings every 3 years scales up roughly 1000x.  This is the sort of rate we need to make things happen.

    (Note that tone comes across VERY poorly in text, even given emojis and pseudo-tags like .  Sticking to the meaning of the straight text instead of assuming what was very likely not meant is generally a good policy.)

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    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Once again, you need to read the terms for commenting on this website. 

  11. Note to all:  Jacobson et al. 2018 remains paywalled in 2021.  This makes it infeasible for un-connected critics to give it a full fact-checking.

    If you wish to be fair in your demands for criticism, do please quote the specific claims and whatever references are provided for them (recursively for the references that are also paywalled).

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    Moderator Response:

    [RH] It took me less than a minute to find a full version

    [BL} Engineer-Poet. Nearly every one of your comments had required moderation of some sort. And  you have had three different moderators step in.

    In addition to finding it difficult to find easily-found papers, you seem to be having difficulty reading and understanding a simple comments policy. Amongst your many diverse forms of violations, you are being excessively repetitious, sloganeering, using ALL CAPS, and taking a very inflammatory tone.

    Final Warning

    Please note that posting comments here at SkS is a privilege, not a right.  This privilege can and will be rescinded if the posting individual continues to treat adherence to the Comments Policy as optional, rather than the mandatory condition of participating in this online forum.

    Moderating this site is a tiresome chore, particularly when commentators repeatedly submit offensive, off-topic posts or intentionally misleading comments and graphics or simply make things up. We really appreciate people's cooperation in abiding by the Comments Policy, which is largely responsible for the quality of this site.
     
    Finally, please understand that moderation policies are not open for discussion.  If you find yourself incapable of abiding by these common set of rules that everyone else observes, then a change of venues is in the offing.

    Please take the time to review the policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it.  Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter, as no further warnings shall be given.

  12. Engineer-Poet:

    Congratulations on getting your first warning on your first post!  A new record.

    I note that in your 6 post rant that you have referred to only two peer reviewed reports, both in post 259.  One report, published in 1958, is apparently an attempt by the nuclear industry to argue against using the LInear Response No Threshold model of exposure to harmful radiation.  You post this in response to my citing the most recent National Academy of Science BEIR VII concensus science report on the topic of LRNT, published in 2006.  This report was specifically written to determine the consensus of scientists on the effects of low level exposure to radiation and resolve the LRNT argument.  They strongly endorsed LRNT.  You are welcome to your opinion, but the consensus of scientific experts is LRNT.  Upthread a nuclear supporter said the data supporting LRNT was too old.  Here you use ancient data to argue against the most recent NAS report which used no data older than 1990.  Even in 1958 the consensus was LRNT.  You also link a 1982 paper that describes the medical effect of radiation.  That seems unrelated to LRNT exposure in large populations.

    In post 256 your comments on entropy are designed to start an argument.  You do not add anything to the defination of heat, energy and entropy.

    Post 256: your speculation on how future reactors might be designed is irrelevant to the question that was asked.  Again you are trying to start an argument and not answer the question asked.

    Post 256: you make the unuspported claim that nuclear reactors are safe.  The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates 27,000 deaths from Chernobyl alone.  The nuclear industry denies responsibility for the people they kill.

    Post 257: Peer reviewed papers state that not enough materials exist to build out more than an insignificant number of nuclear reactors.  See Abbott 2012 linked in the OP.   It is the job of nuclear proponents to show that enough material exists for your proposed system.  Claiming there are many undesigned, proposed reactors that might use less materials is not an answer.  You must show materials exist for your proposal.   Nuclear proponents claimed that enough materials did not exist for a renewable system. Jacobson 2011 (free copy for those who don't know how to find papers) shows all the materials needed for a renewable energy system exist.

    Post 258: Arguing that it is a good idea to build cheap, unsafe nuclear reactors will not get you many supporters.  If you think that is a good argument go for it.

    Post 260: I note you have only your own, unsupported opinion to argue with Abbott 2012.  I note that you have no experience designing or operating a nuclear power plant and have no related educational experience either.  I guess you learned a lot watching videos on the internet.

    Post 261: I linked the same copy of Jacobson 2018 the moderator found at least 3 times upthread like here and here and here.  It indicates how familiar you are with the peer reviewed literature that you are unable to find a copy of a linked paper yourself.

    I will not respond in more detail to your extended Gish Gallops.  I know that your system to issue long, repetitive, opinion statements unsupported by any data.  Eventually the moderators will ban you for sloganeering.  They have already started warning you for not adhering to the comments policy.  If you do not start producing data to support your insane claims they will not allow you to post any more.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Please let the moderators do the moderation.

  13. Michael Sweet @262:

    You post this in response to my citing the most recent National Academy of Science BEIR VII concensus science report on the topic of LRNT, published in 2006. This report was specifically written to determine the consensus of scientists on the effects of low level exposure to radiation and resolve the LRNT argument. They strongly endorsed LRNT.

    Yes, about that.  I found a great many references to it, including one taking the authors to task for failing to deal with issues straightforwardly(sadly, the full text is paywalled):

    Risk of low-dose radiation and the BEIR VII report: A critical review of what it does and doesn't say Michael K O'Connor PMID: 28826776 DOI: 10.1016/j.ejmp.2017.07.016 Abstract This article briefly reviews the history behind the BEIR VII report and the use of the linear no-threshold hypothesis. The BEIR VII committee considered four primary sources of data on the stochastic effects of ionizing radiation. These were environmental studies, occupational studies, medical studies and studies on the atomic bomb survivors. These sources are briefly reviewed along with key studies that run counter to the LNT hypothesis. We review many of the assumptions, hypotheses and subjective decisions used to generate risk estimates in the BEIR VII report. Position statement by the Health Physics Society, American Association of Physicists in Medicine, and UNSCEAR support the conclusion that the risk estimates in the BEIR VII report should not be used for estimating cancer risks from low doses of ionizing radiation.

    It wasn't until I was way down in the search results before I found the actual report itself rather than your link to a press release about it (which, strangely, did not link to the report either).  Sadly, I can't find specific quotes with which to identify details about which there is more recent research.  But here's something from the introduction:

    (4) assess the current status and relevance to risk models of biologic data and models of carcinogenesis, including critical assessment of all data that might affect the shape of the response curve at low doses, in particular, evidence for or against thresholds in dose-response relationships and evidence for or against adaptive responses and radiation hormesis;

    Except they didn't do that, or did it incompetently.  Here's a meta-study from just 3 years later, compiling studies which contradict BEIR and LNT (full text at the link):

    Media reports of deaths and devastation produced by atomic bombs convinced people around the world that all ionizing radiation is harmful. This concentrated attention on fear of miniscule doses of radiation. Soon the linear no threshold (LNT) paradigm was converted into laws. Scientifically valid information about the health benefits from low dose irradiation was ignored. Here are studies which show increased health in Japanese survivors of atomic bombs. Parameters include decreased mutation, leukemia and solid tissue cancer mortality rates, and increased average lifespan. Each study exhibits a threshold that repudiates the LNT dogma. The average threshold for acute exposures to atomic bombs is about 100 cSv. Conclusions from these studies of atomic bomb survivors are: One burst of low dose irradiation elicits a lifetime of improved health. Improved health from low dose irradiation negates the LNT paradigm. Effective triage should include radiation hormesis for survivor treatment.

    Back to you now.

    You are welcome to your opinion, but the consensus of scientific experts is LRNT.

    I know it's NOT a consensus, because the BEIR VII committee included Dr. Edward J. Calabrese, who is a strong opponent of LNT and has published a number of papers showing that it is inaccurate and often flatly contradictory to the truth.

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  14. Engineer-Poet and Michael Sweet :

    though non-expert in this area, I can point out some context for the Linear-No-Threshold (LNT) concept and radiation-hormesis concept (of benefit from low-dose radioactivity exposure).  But I won't go into the fundamental evolutionary aspects, nor the False-Binary aspects of the discussion.

    # Yet regardless of the existent/non-existent status of LNT & hormesis, the whole question is moot for fission power plants, because of the bogeyman status of radioactivity (wrt public opinion).

    # It is notoriously difficult to achieve good-quality, un-assailable scientific studies in the biological field ~ owing to the large number of confounding factors.  Animal studies are in short-lived non-primate species.  Observational studies in humans, have selection bias as well as even greater confounding factors.

    As general background, I note [without citation] that human & animal studies show health/longevity benefits of reduced-calorie (semi-starvation) diets . . . but in pragmatic terms, this will never be a politically-acceptable mode.   Similarly, the surviving Prisoners-Of-War (from Japanese prison camps in Malaya) did very well in subsequent years ~ but it is arguable whether this resulted from "hormetic" semi-starvation effect or the survivor-selection effect.  Again, moot in pragmatic terms.

    # The metastudy [linked @263] by TD Luckey (2008) shows its own red flags.   Luckey does not touch on the profound difficulties in the post-war studies (even up to the early 1980's) of atomic bomb survivors who showed increased lifespans.  Control groups from outside the blast area, included exposure to "residual radiation" [fall-out] ~ as were the subjects, to an uncertain degree.   Fetus abnormalities were assessed by "phenotypic abnormality" (i.e. by crude physical examination).   And in these early times, there was of course no possibility of technical genomic assessment of survivor subjects and controls.

    Ethically, no human experimentation is possible.  We do have retrospective studies [cosmic radiation exposure] of airline flight crews ~ the results are not-at-all  reassuring, but are as expected fraught with confounding factors.

    One of the red flags is Luckey's comment: "The redistribution of radioactive waste is a solution for better health in the 21st century."

    We have quite enough trouble with conspiracists such as the Antivaxxers and Chemtrails people.  I won't even try to imagine the political response to "redistribution of radioactive waste".

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  15. Engineer Poet:

    You are wasting your time talking about radiation safety.  My experience is that people who do not like nuclear recognize that the scientific consensus is LRNT.  People who are avid supporters of nuclear, like you, do not care how many people nuclear power kills and cherry pick their references to the few scientists who disagree with the consensus.  We are all familiar with the scientific deniers of climate change.  Citing the few outliers of the LRNT consensus does not prove your point.  The National Academy of Science strongly backs LRNT.  As you pointed out, dissenters of the consensus were allowed on the committee.

    Reviewing this thread I notice that opponents of nuclear power have never raised the issue of low level exposure to radiation as a reason not to build out nuclear.  It is raised by nuclear supporters.  I have never raised this point in debate about nuclear power.  It is a waste of time.  Neither Abbott or Jacobson mention this issue.  I suggest you concentrate your efforts on the arguments that matter:

    1) Nuclear plants are not economic.  They cost too much to build.  It currently costs more for operation and maintenance of a nuclear plant than to build a new renewable plant with a mortgage.  Nuclear plants are shutting down because they cannot make money at the price of renewable energy.

    2)  Nuclear plants take too long to build.  The breeder reactors you support have not yet been designed.  Once they have a design (at least 5 years from now), the approval of the design takes 3-5 years.  Than it is 10-15 years to build a test plant.  The earliest that a pilot plant will be built is 20 years from now.  Production of many plants can not start before 2050.  The entire energy system will be renewable by then.  A few nuclear plants cannot make money against renewable energy.

    3) There are not enough rare materials to build a significant number of nuclear plants.  You admit in your post 260 that there is not enough uranium for your plan.  Nuclear plants use many other exotic materials that are already in short supply.  

    4) Your responses to Abbott are grossly inadequate and uninformed.  For examply you claim "pretty much ANY site that has ever hosted a coal plant is suitable for a nuclear plant."  Only 10 miles from my house is the Big Bend power plant (it is switching from coal to gas).  This plant is too close to a city to be converted to nuclear and it is very seriously threatened by sea level rise.  For both reasons it is unsuitable for nuclear power.   This disproves your "ANY site" claim and I didn't even have to look past the nearest plant to my home.  The Turkey Point Nuclear plant in Miami is almost isolated by sea level rise already.  Its location is unsuitable for nuclear power. 

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  16. Nuclear Poet:

    You have made several condesending comments to me about my radiological knowledge. For example stating about LRNT "You have been informed. You can no longer claim ignorance as an excuse." (now deleted by the moderator).

    You obviously do not know that I have worked professionally for years with large amounts of radiation and have spent weeks in professional radiation safety training.  I have forgotten more about LRNT and hormesis than you will ever know.  I have held a curie of high energy beta radiation in my unshielded hand (for those with no radiation training like you that is an very, very large amount of radiation). I do not appreciate condesending remarks from internet educated wanna-bees like you. I am familiar with all the reactors you mentioned.

    Even in industry sponsored training it was obvious that the nuclear industry does not care how many people they kill and cherry picks their references. I accepted the work based on my own assessment of the risks.

    I do not normally rely on my personal experience to make an argument. Your repetitive condesending remarks provoked me to point out that you have little knowledge or training compared to me.

    I note that you claim no educational or professional training in radiation.

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  17. Engineer Poet:

    I am sorry, I put the incorrect handle for you in my last post.  It was an accident.

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  18. Michael Sweet ,  Post 265

    'Reviewing this thread I notice that opponents of nuclear power have never raised the issue of low level exposure to radiation as a reason not to build out nuclear. It is raised by nuclear supporters. I have never raised this point in debate about nuclear power. It is a waste of time. Neither Abbott or Jacobson mention this issue.'

    In fact, Jacobson has co-authored at least one paper on risk of low radioactivity emissions from Fukushima - https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2012/ee/c2ee22019a

    It's based on LNT, not clinical data, of course. They want 42 pounds to read it, or I'd do so.

    0 0
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    [BL] Link activated.

    The web software here does not automatically create links. You can do this when posting a comment by selecting the "insert" tab, selecting the text you want to use for the link, and clicking on the icon that looks like a chain link. Add the URL in the dialog box.

     

    [DB] Full copies are available for that paper, for example here.

  19. John Oneill:

    I found this free copy in less than 30 seconds.  Search on Google Scholar.  Papers displayed on the right are free.  It shows how much you read the peer reviewed literature when you cannot find free papers.

    Jacobson wrote that paper specifically to answer nuclear shills like James Conca and the Breakthrough institutes false claims that no-one was killed by radiation at Fukushima.  Jacobson was replying to false claims, not bringing up the issue.  Jacobson 2009 rates various methods of generating energy in the future.  He does not rate nuclear based on accidents.  Nuclear primarily fails because of its long lead times to build.

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  20. John ONeill:

    This paper claims that Jacobson underestimated the number of fatalities resulting from the Fukushima accident.  It estimates approximately 1000 cancer deaths world wide instead of the approximately 150 estimated by Jacobson.  

    Obviously the zero fatalities claimed by Conca, without a paper to suport the claim, is a severe underestimate.  Claims that nuclear power is "orders of magnitude safer than other energy systems" leave out the 27,000 killed at Chernobyl and the 1600 killed at Fukushima. (1000 killed by cancer and 600 killed in the evacuation.  The Russians did not keep track of the people killed in the evacuation so Conca claims none killed. a transparently false claim)

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  21. Michael Sweet @265:

    You are wasting your time talking about radiation safety.

    Oh, I don't know.  Putting your intransigence out there for all to see has value.

    My experience is that people who do not like nuclear recognize that the scientific consensus is LRNT.

    How much of said "consensus" is from people in the "radiation protection" business—in other words, people with an interest in maintaining and ever-tightening the rules so they can make money from "minimization"?  Meanwhile, health physics deals with the REAL world, and workers at university research reactors routinely take many times the dose allowed at commercial nuclear plants, yet suffer no ill effects. Why is this allowed?  It's because research reactors are not competing with the fossil fuel industry; nuclear electric plants do.  Evidence-based radiation standards would seriously reduce the operating and maintenance cost of nuclear electric plants, and applying the same radiation standards to fossil fuels would require things like the handling of radium-rich petroleum well pipe scale as radwaste with all the same protection standards as at nuclear plants.  Such cost shifts might even get people to build more nuclear and use less fossil.

    There is a LOT of uranium in the ground, and the decay chain of U-238 produces Ra-226 and Rn-222.  A lot of this uranium chemically deposits in the same strata which host coal, oil and gas, which is why natural gas from the Marcellus shale is so high in radon.  Gas stoves dump the radon straight into the air people breathe.  I don't see any major "environmental" organizations demanding protection from that,do you?

    People who are avid supporters of nuclear, like you, do not care how many people nuclear power kills

    That's libelous.  I used to spend 2 weeks a year mere miles from a Generation I nuclear power plant, and the rest of the year not too far from a university research reactor.  Neither ever killed ANYONE.  Both are gone now, with only the casks storing the used fuel showing the former was ever there (I don't know about the latter).  I now live year-round mere miles from this "danger".  Do I sound like I don't care about lives?  It's MY life on the line here.  I walk the walk.

    Know what I'd love?  I'd love a new nuclear plant on the site of the old one, causing people with radiophobia to stay away and not buy homes here.  It would reduce my property value and thus my property taxes.  Pay less money for the same or better quality of life (less crowding and cleaner air)?  Sign me up!

    and cherry pick their references to the few scientists who disagree with the consensus.

    Science is not determined by consensus.  It's determined by evidence, and anyone who will not look at the evidence has no business calling themselves a scientist. The evidence is on the side of Calibrese.  Those opposed are not scientists, whatever degrees they hold or what they call themselves.

    We are all familiar with the scientific deniers of climate change. Citing the few outliers of the LRNT consensus does not prove your point. The National Academy of Science strongly backs LRNT.

    The acronym is "LNT", and the NAS shows every sign of having been captured by special interests.  Fossil-fuel interests are notoriously wealthy.

    As you pointed out, dissenters of the consensus were allowed on the committee.

    But not allowed a voice.  Calabrese has published many papers on radiation hormesis and the errors in LNT.  None of those objections made it into the BEIR VII section on radiation hormesis, and yes I read it from end to end. What does this mean?  (lemme try list tags here)

    1. The BEIR VII report reflects a majority view, not a consensus view and certainly not a view of the actual range of opinion in the field.
    2. The majority view is subject to capture by various interests, especially wealthy ones.
    3. Those interests are overwhelmingly benefitted by fossil fuels.

    You need to acknowledge this.  (love it, list tags rock)

    Reviewing this thread I notice that opponents of nuclear power have never raised the issue of low level exposure to radiation as a reason not to build out nuclear.

    That's implicit in the use of LNT to oppose nuclear energy.

    It is raised by nuclear supporters.

    Because we see no detectable increase in morbidity or mortality due to small increases in radiation; on the contrary, the evidence supports hormesis (when you can extend the median lifespan of rats from 460 to 600 days by irradiating them with gamma rays, it very likely has the same effect in all mammals including humans).  We do see increases in morbidity and mortality with increases of criteria air pollutants and things like PM 2.5, neither of which are produced by nuclear energy.  So why are you raising these issues?  It's enough to make anyone think you're doing it in bad faith.

    1) Nuclear plants are not economic. They cost too much to build.

    France proved otherwise; France has some of the cheapest and cleanest electric power in Europe, while "renewable" Germany has some of the most expensive and continues to burn lignite.  The way you make nuclear power cheaply is the same way you make automobiles cheaply:  series production of stanard units.  That's what France did in the 80's.  That is not what France is doing now, which is why Flamanville costs so much.

    2) Nuclear plants take too long to build.

    They didn't used to.  Ever ponder what's different now?

    The breeder reactors you support have not yet been designed. Once they have a design (at least 5 years from now), the approval of the design takes 3-5 years.

    So you admit that the regulators are a big part of the problem.

    3) There are not enough rare materials to build a significant number of nuclear plants.

    Nonsense.  Nuclear plants do not require rare materials; they've just been convenient for the way we've been doing things since the 1950's.  We don't have to keep doing things that way, and there are a great many reasons not to.  Many of the new reactor concepts use other physical mechanisms than e.g. control rods to control the rate of reaction, so they have no need for the elements which go into them.

    You admit in your post 260 that there is not enough uranium for your plan.

    No, I said there's not enough land-based uranium to start the required fleet of fast-neutron reactors.  There's more than enough in the oceans, and the depleted uranium already on hand in the USA would suffice to run the entire world for about a century on fast reactors.  Also, there's more than enough thorium available to do the job (3-4x as abundant as uranium and it's almost 100% convertible to energy with thermal neutrons).

    4) Your responses to Abbott are grossly inadequate and uninformed. For examply you claim "pretty much ANY site that has ever hosted a coal plant is suitable for a nuclear plant." Only 10 miles from my house is the Big Bend power plant (it is switching from coal to gas). This plant is too close to a city to be converted to nuclear

    It's "too close" for nuclear, but far more dangerous and polluting coal (with far more radioisotope emissions from the tramp actinides) was just fine?  Ye gods, if it wasn't for double standards, anti-nukes wouldn't have any standards.

    (Mods:  there's a bug in the way the post editor JS handles closing bold and italic tags when switching from "Source" back to "Basic" after pasting in HTML; a trailing space is deleted even when it's explicitly in the source.)

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Enough is enough. You continue to violate the Comments Policy. From this point, on, any comment from you that contains a violation will be deleted in its entirety.

     

  22. Michael Sweet @266:

    I have held a curie of high energy beta radiation in my unshielded hand (for those with no radiation training like you that is an very, very large amount of radiation). I do not appreciate condesending remarks from internet educated wanna-bees like you. I am familiar with all the reactors you mentioned.

    Depends what it was, doesn't it?  A curie of tritium is about 100 micrograms, and a bit of polyethylene is enough to shield its emissions.

    If it had been Sr-90 you would have had some serious beta burns and some gamma exposure from the decay of excited isomers to their ground states.  Further, I'm certain that holding such things in your hands is a violation of safety protocols.

    Even in industry sponsored training it was obvious that the nuclear industry does not care how many people they kill and cherry picks their references.

    Which is why they have such painstaking dosimetry and exposure reporting requirements.  Which is why nuclear plants are rated by the amount of radiation exposure their workers receive, and ones at the bottom of the scale are subject to increased NRC oversight.

    I've been hanging around, reading the stories told by actual nuclear professionals, for decades now.  The tales of the work they have to do for "minimization" are head-shakingly incredible, but they all have them.  You're the one whose claims are not credible, and your talk of "does not care about how many people they kill" is simply libelous.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL} Yet more violations of the comments policy.

  23. Engineer Poet:

    You continue to waste our time discussing LRNT.  I have pointed out to you that I have orders of magnitude more professional experience, professional training and radiation knowledge than you do.

    As far as your assertion at 272:

    "If it had been Sr-90 you would have had some serious beta burns and some gamma exposure from the decay of excited isomers to their ground states. Further, I'm certain that holding such things in your hands is a violation of safety protocols."

    This demonstrates your complete ignorance of radiation.  Sr-90 is a low energy beta emitter, not a high energy emitter as I described.  I was using the daughter product of Sr-90, Yittrium-90, which is a higher energy emitter.  You do not even know about the Cerenkov gamma radiation field which is a big issue with high energy beta emitters.

    Strontium-90 has a halflife of 29 years and emits beta particles of
    relatively low energy as it decays. Yttrium-90, its decay product, has a shorter half-life (64 hours) than strontium-90, but it emits beta particles of higher energy. source my emphasis

    Since I am trained in the use of high energy radiation I was able to safely remove a sample from an unshielded vial containing a curie of Y-90.  I got no burns, the exposure on my finger ring was minimal and it is not a violation of safety rules.  Internet educated wanna-bees like you don't know what they are talking about.

    The rest of your rants just serve to demonstrate that you do not care if nuclear power plants are unsafe.  You cut off my point of sea level rise overwhelming the Big Bend power plant site.  What about the effect of sea level rise on Big Bend and Turkey Point in Miami?  80% of current nuclear plants in the USA are threatened by floods they were not designed for.  You do not care how many people you kill building dangerous power plants.

    A consensus does is not the same as a unanamous consensus.  We all know there are scientists like Linzden and Spencer who do not agree with the climate change consensus.  Similarly, there are wackos like Calabrese who do not agree with the consensus of LRNT.  Scientists have had a consensus on using LRNT for over 70 years.  The nuclear industry has argued for that to be changed but the data overwhelmingly indicates that radiation causes harm at low doses.  

    I note that you have only one citation in your entire rant.  That is to a paper published in 1958.  Perhaps scientists have learned something in the last 60 years.  You have produced nothing to answer the 15 points that Abbott made.

    France loses money on every watt they generate using nuclear power.  They have not paid off the original morgages and have not set aside funds to shut down their reactors.  The government subsidizes the power prices to make people think nuclear was a good investment.

    It is a waste of my time to respond to the rest of your Gish Gallop.  There are to many ignorant mistakes and deliberate falsehoods to respond in a reasonable amount of column length.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Please hold off on any further responses to Engineer-Poet, until moderators have had the chance to assess them (and delete them as needed)

     [DB] Engineer-Poet has recused themselves from further participation here.

  24. Engineer Poet:

    You are having trouble with the moderators.  SkS wants to encourage people to discuss nuclear power.  I have some suggestions for you to improve your relationship with the mods.

    1) At 255 the moderator does not want exchanges of opinion.  At Skeptical Science you have to provide references to support your position.  You need references for every assertion you make.

    2) At 261 there are several issues.   The moderators do not want repetition.  You have only linked two papers and you linked one of them twice.  The conversation on LRNT is now completely repetitious.  Once you and I have had our says move on to another topic.

    3)  Sloganeering is making assertions without supporting documents.  You need to provide links to information supporting all your claims.  You have made many claims with only two references, both about LRNT.

    4) Your posting style is very hostile.  Try not to be argumentative.  Hostile posts invite hostile replies and make the conversation degrade.  The forced variations thread at Real Climate has more posts insulting other posters than posts with real contributions.  That is not allowed at SkS.

    Your posts are long.  That makes it more likely that you will say something that the mods don't like.  Try to make your posts only two or three paragraphs long. 

    Keep each post to a single topic, like LRNT or power plant locations.  Only discuss one or two topics at a time.  After that topic is exhausted move on to the next topic.  When too many topics are discussed at once none get resolved.  My last post discusses 5 topics in reply to you.  It is hard to read and no topic is covered in detail.

    Upthread poster Ritchieb1234 and I had a long, thoughtful conversation.  That shows it is possible to discuss nuclear power.  He did not cite as many links as SkS likes, but his extraordinary experience made up for that.  He posted on one topic at a time.  Normal people like you and I have to cite sources.

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] All of this is pretty clearly stated in the Comments Policy.

  25.  

    [BL] Enough is enough. You continue to violate the Comments Policy.

    I've read the comments policy.  What I don't get is what you mean by it, and you keep refusing to explain.  I don't read minds.
     
    I think I'll just stop wasting my time and effort here.

     

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Moderation complaints deleted.

  26. I'm still waiting for an emailed copy of the Beyea, Sovacool, von Hippel paper which raises Jacobson et al's 125 deaths ( 15 to 1100) to more likely 1000. Papers from Sweden and Finland did not find a significant  effect from Chernobyl-

    'Sweden received about 5 % of the total release of 137Cs from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in 1986. The distribution of the fallout mainly affected northern Sweden, where some parts of the population could have received an estimated annual effective dose of 1–2 mSv per year...a possible exposure–response pattern between deposition of 137Cs and cancer incidence after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident was investigated in the nine northernmost counties of Sweden (2.2 million inhabitants in 1986)... In conclusion, using both high quality cancer registry data and high resolution exposure maps of 137Cs deposition, it was not possible to distinguish an effect of 137Cs on cancer incidence after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident in Sweden.'

    'We analyzed the relation of the estimated external radiation exposure from the fallout to cancer incidence in Finland in 1988-2007. The study cohort comprised all ∼ 3.8 million Finns who had lived in the same dwelling for 12 months following the accident (May 1986-April 1987). Radiation exposure was estimated using data from an extensive mobile dose rate survey. Cancer incidence data were obtained for the cohort divided into four exposure categories (the lowest with the first-year committed dose

      In any case, even granting 1000 deaths worldwide from Fukushima, that was the only major nuclear accident in thirty years, Increased deaths just in Germany, from coal pollution increases after the closure of nine reactors, has been estimated at 1100 people every year. Figures for Japan, where fifty reactors were shut down, and largely replaced with coal, are probably much higher. That's not even considering climate change deaths.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4102770/

    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24135935/

    https://www.nber.org/system/files/working_papers/w26598/w26598.pdf

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] Badly formatted links fixed and activated. If you want people to follow links, please take the time to insert them correctly.

    The web software here does not automatically create links. You can do this when posting a comment by selecting the "insert" tab, selecting the text you want to use for the link, and clicking on the icon that looks like a chain link. Add the URL in the dialog box.

  27. John ONeill:

    I do not think that you will convince anyone to support widespread building of nuclear power by arguing about how many people were killed by the accidents at Chernobyl and Fukushima.  Everyone knows that if you spread the damage around to enough people it becomes statistically impossible to detect how many people you have killed.  That does not mean no-one was killed like James Conca claims.  I have provided documention for 27,000 killed at Chernobyl and 1600 at Fukushima.

    Abbott 2012 does not mention this issue besides pointing out that with the 15,000 reactors needed to provide All Energy to the world you would expect one major accident every month worldwide.  I suggest that you stop wasting our time and move on to another point that Abbott makes that is more important.

    Nuclear power is too expensive, enough rare materials (like uranium) do not exist to build out a significant number of nuclear plants and the plants take too long to build to significantly affect the problem before 2050.

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  28. EU scientists at JRC examined nuclear from the do-no-significant-harm perspective for the purpose of including it in preferential, environment-oriented financing and I found it a good, comprehensive overview that may answer OP's questions.

    "Technical assessment of nuclear energy with respect to the ‘do no significant harm’ criteria of Regulation (EU) 2020/852 (‘Taxonomy Regulation’)" 

    https://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC125953

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Link fixed. Please learn how to make links yourself with the comment editor.

  29. Suggested supplemental reading:

    Nuclear Fusion: Why the Race to Harness the Power of the Sun Just Sped Up

    Fusion companies have now raised $2.3 billion in investment, believing they can begin producing unlimited amounts of zero emissions energy by the 2030s.

    by Tom Wilson & Ian Bott, Financial Times/Inside Climate News, Dec 8, 2021

    https://insideclimatenews.org/news/08122021/nuclear-fusion-why-the-race-to-harness-the-power-of-the-sun-just-sped-up/

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  30. France has temporally closed 4 nuclear power stations because of cracks and corrosion found near welds.  That is about 13% of France's nuclear power.  There is also a natural gas (methane) shortage this winter in the EU.  Electricity prices are expected to rise.  If there is a cold spell there will be difficulty dealing with it.  Hopefully it will be windy so wind can help out.  

    Tell me again about "always on" nuclear power.  These plants also shut down during hot spells in summer because there is not enough cooling water.

    Sekwisniewski:  The paper you linked is an attempt by the nuclear industry to get certified as green.  It does not address most of the objections to nuclear in Abbott (2012) (linked in the op) or Jacobson's problems with the very long build times for reactors.  Opponents of nuclear will note that in the discussion of major accidents there is no mention of large expanses of land rendered unusable for decades in Japan and Russia.  

    John Hartz: In the article you link (originally posted in the Financial TImes of London) they claim nuclear fusion might be producing electricity in the 2030's.  When I was 15 I remember reading an article about nuclear fusion that claimed they would produce electricity in 20 years.  That was 50 years ago and their objective is no closer.  I would not put a lot of weight on an article in a financial newspaper.

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  31. michael sweet wrote @280:

    The paper you linked is an attempt by the nuclear industry to get certified as green.

    The report was authored by 16 scientists working for the Joint Research Centre (JRC), which is the European Commission's in-house science and knowledge service. It lists references at the end of each section. How did the nuclear industry manipulated the conclusions of this report?

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  32. Sekwisniewski:

    This article from the Washington Post describes scientists in France and Germany arguing about wether or not nuclear power is safe and should be considered "green".  If you get a bunch of nuclear scientists together they often conclude that nuclear power is "green" while environmental scientists conclude that nuclear is not green.  I think the report you cite will be pushed by nuclear advocates but ignored by opponents.  I doubt that anything we say here will change anyones mind.

    Nuclear power is not economic and the materials to build the reactors do not exist.

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  33. The following paper provides a comprehensive assessment of the environmental footprint of the French nuclear power generation around 2010. Specifically, it compares the material throughput of once-through (UOX) and twice-through (UOX+MOX) fuel supplies. For example, it finds that both fuel supplies generate around 1.5 m3/TWhe of HLW+ILW-LL that requires geologic disposal, but twice-through requires 3.5 times less geologic storage volume due to a smaller proportion of HLW/ILW-LL. In terms of emissions there is almost no difference - 5.29 vs 5.45 gCO2eq/kWhe for twice-through and once-through, respectively. (If I’m not mistaken, this paper hasn’t appeared in this long discussion yet.)

    Poinssot, Ch, et al. "Assessment of the environmental footprint of nuclear energy systems. Comparison between closed and open fuel cycles." Energy 69 (2014): 199-211.

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  34. 'France has temporally closed 4 nuclear power stations because of cracks and corrosion found near welds. That is about 13% of France's nuclear power. There is also a natural gas (methane) shortage this winter in the EU. Electricity prices are expected to rise. If there is a cold spell there will be difficulty dealing with it. Hopefully it will be windy so wind can help out.' (Michael Sweet, 280)

    Despite the unscheduled downtime, France is still getting about 60% of its power from nuclear, at about a third the carbon footprint of the UK, and a quarter that of Germany. At the moment, Germany's 64 GW of wind is running at 4% capacity, and its 39 GW of coal is running at 54 % capacity. The 4 GW of German nuclear closed on December 31st had no mechanical faults, and nor do the last 4 GW they plan to close at the end of this year. That's been running all day at 95% or more. The 1.8 GW closed in France in 2020 also had no problems, apart from being nuclear. The French Energy Ministry is now the 'Ministry of the Ecological Transition', and the minister, Barbara Pompili, is a former Green party member with a history of opposition to the industry. (Power data from 'electricitymap.org', which anyone interested in energy should have on speed dial.)

     

     

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  35. The headline from Bloomburg today was:

    "France’s Nuclear Shutdown Hits 50% of Reactors, Squeezing Supply
    Some 28 reactors in France are now offline for maintenance
    That’s keeping power prices high amid Europe’s energy crunch" my emphasis.

    So much for "always on power".  In the greatest emergency Europe has had in decades half the reactors in France are out of comission. 

    The new reactor at Flamanville is 16 years into a 5 year build (11 years overdue) with the current target date sometime in 2023.  Who would want to go further with that record?

    John: I suggest you come back when there is better news for nuclear power.

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  36. A post here summarizes and links an article that shows nuclear power cannot provide a significant amount of world energy and the uranium supply is too small.

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  37. The following paper lists all material requirements that would be necessary if we tried to grow nuclear power 10x. It assumes expansion based on the Ringhals NPP (3xPWR, 1xBWR, Gen II) and considers the whole lifecycle from mining to disposal in a geologic repository. It appears there would be no fundamental limitation to construct reactors and repositories, although six materials might be of concern relative to the current production rate (bentonite, fluorite, indium, fluorspar, manganese and gadolinium). The main constraint of an LWR expansion would be the supply of fresh fuel (UOX) as uranium, especially at a high enough concentration, is a finite resource. There are ways to significantly increase energy extracted from fresh uranium in LWRs via higher burn-ups, reenrichment of tails, twice-through recycling (MOX), heavy reflector, improved self-breeding, but, ultimately, in the long run we would need to find a way to build and fuel reactors that don’t rely on fresh uranium. (Obviously, the stock of radioactive materials requiring long-term isolation can't grow infinitely either.) In any case, it seems unlikely we are going to globally hit those hard limits of uranium supply soon, given that most of reactors are quite old and the rate of new constructions is insufficient to replace them. Moreover, LWRs built today are Gen III+, so they are more efficient with fuel than Gen II considered in the study.

    A Preliminary Assessment of Raw Material Inputs that would be Required for Rapid Growth in Nuclear Generating Capacity,
    OECD/NEA, Paris (2011).

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  38. Sekwisniewski:

    Thank you for the reference.

    The NEA article you reference is a good start on answering the limited resource argument that Abbott 2012 makes. I note that the myriad different designs currently being pushed have different material uses than the single reactor type that they analyze. Your NEA article suggests that with an aggressive build out plan that enough nuclear plants to generate about half of all electricity needed might be built by 2085. source of needed electricity

    SInce an aggressive build has not yet started and the paper is from 2011, it will be 2095 before enough nuclear plants to generate half of electrical supply would be built. That is too late. We need a system in place long before 2095. This alone eliminates nuclear.

    They find critical shortages of two materials: uranium and cooling water. They find that the amount of uranium in the Earth is too small to supply more than about 30 years of high electricity supply with once through reactors and that after that breeder reactors will be required. I note that small modular reactors require more uranium than the reactors analyzed.

    Breeder reactors are much more complicated than once through reactors. Current reactors are already very expensive to run because of their complexity. There are currently no breeder reactors commercially making electricity. The fuel has to be reprocessed for the scheme to work with very large proliferation issues. It is unlikely that a design to start building a commercial breeder reactor will be avaliable in less than 15 years.

    We currently see in Europe that during heat waves and/or drought that many reactors on rivers have to be shut down due to lack of cooling water. So much for "always on". That leaves only sea front or a very few major lakes. Most sea front locations are threatened by sea level rise and unsuitable. Inland areas will be very far removed from the source of their electricity. I doubt that it will be possible to find enough suitable locations on sea front land to build out a significant number of nuclear plants. Closed cooling systems dramatically lower reactor efficiency.

    Reading your citation with a critical eye makes me wonder who would think that nuclear power might be a significant electrical source in the future. The problems are too gteat. We have not even started to discuss the bombs currently exploding around the largest nuclear plant in Europe. No-one cares if a solar farm is bombed.

    Nuclear power is too expensive, takes too long to build and requires too much cooling water and uranium.

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  39. 'We currently see in Europe that during heat waves and/or drought that many reactors on rivers have to be shut down due to lack of cooling water.'

    The reactors have not been shut down ( or run below full power) because they can't be cooled - the problem is that the rivers downstream of the power plants are already much warmer than normal, so a couple of degrees further from the reactor could push the river beyond limits that have been set to protect fish life. Due to the severe power shortage, some plants have been allowed to exceed these limits. This applies only to at most five of the fourteen inland power stations. The others are equipped with the iconic hyperboloid cooling towers, which reduce run-through water temperatures from a few degrees C hotter, to a few tenths of a degree. In theory, the remaining plants could be retrofitted with cooling towers, but that's unlikely. More than 60% of France's nuclear capacity is currently offline. This follows a decade of the industry being deliberately downgraded by renewables zealots, with the stated goal of reducing nuclear from 75% to 50% of the grid. Hopefully, the country will revert to having an 'energy minister', instead of an ex-Green Party 'minister of the ecological transition'. Changing the system of 'l'ARENH' -'Acces Regule a l'Electricite Nucleaire Historique' - which forces Areva to sell a quarter of it's output at below cost to its competitors, fossil and renewable - would give the industry a healthy capital boost to maintain its systems. Reactors in the USA run at capacity factors over 90%, and time their maintenance for either spring or fall, when power demand is lowest. Most of them have also had their capacity boosted by up to 25%, as increased knowledge of the reactors' behaviour allowed them to be run at higher power levels. France has traditionally aimed for highest availability in winter, when electrical heating placed most demand on the grid. Rising temperatures, and increased use of air conditioning, will force a change to a schedule more like the US. New accident-tolerant fuels, combined with higher enrichment, will allow reactors to run for two years straight, instead of eighteen months, further reducing downtime.

    One retrofit that could be cheaply applied is a recently developed system to harvest water from the cooling tower plume, further cutting water use by about a third. A wire grid can be installed at the top end of the tower, to collect water droplets, but most of them just go round the wires. By beaming ions at the water vapour column, the droplets pick up a charge, and are instead attracted to the grid. There is no loss of efficiency, and not much installation needed. The harvested water is extremely pure, and could be used for domestic supply in a pinch.

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  40. Article on adaptation of French nuclear to climate change.

    https://bonpote.com/en/will-nuclear-power-plants-withstand-climate-change-1-2/

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  41. John ONeill @289/290,
    You can blame all them cooling problems on the fishes if you like and point to wondrous solutions, but the access to cooling water from rivers for existing nuclear reactors is a problem. Yet in the grand scheme of things, the various problems nuclear would have to address are all-of-them fixable with enough time and effort, even the uranium fuel constraint. And surely even the constraint which Abbott (2012) describes as the "harder one, ... An increased demand for rare metals" is not beyond the wit of man.
    But time is a ticking and time-&-tide waits for no man, while there are also limited resources available to address AGW with the competing available technologies.
    The challenge set by the OP above is for "nuclear proponents" to provide a demonstration of approaches for fixing all these problems, and fixing them all in a useful and timely manner such that nuclear can then play a significant part of the non-carbon-emitting power required by humanity (which Abbott 2011 totals as 15TW), this within the next couple of decades and without costing an arm and a leg.
    Now that is quite a daunting challenge, but perhaps that is the measure of what is needed to set out a case for nuclear.

    So as 2050 draws ever closer, while discussion of the different approaches to cooling nuclear reactors may be an interesting one, where would demonstrating cooling problems as being fixable (or not) get us?

    Perhaps the question should be "How is the ramping-up of global nuclear capacity going?" (Note this is my 'Pudding Test' from up-thread.)

    We do have a start-point in today's 0.39TW global nuclear capacity and as of today, the output of that nuclear capacity has been flat-lining for the last two decades.
    Global nuclear capacity 1970-2021
    So not an encouraging start. But maybe there is a new dawn for the technology.

    The WNA list 53 reactors under construction completing 2022-28 (totalling 0.058TW and comprising 0.019TW, 0.008TW, 0.005TW & 0.009TW in successive years, so no sign of any accelerating in the building although an increase on the 0.004TW/yr average new capacity 2000-16 graphed in this CarbonBrief piece from 2016), this WNA listing seemingly smack up-to-date and pointing to a 0.01TW/yr of new capacity.
    The WNA also talk of 0.09TW "on order or planned and over 300 more [that's 300 reactors = 3TW pro rata] are proposed."
    Strangely, the WNA also quote numbers from the IEA for 2050 nuclear capacity variously as 0.525TW amd 0.669TW, neither of which seem to match the level of planned/proposed new nuclear described by WNA on the same webpage, a mismatch which goes without comment. But that is the nature of the WNA commentary.
    I note they have a page in which it addresses the question "In practice, is a rapid expansion of nuclear power capacity possible?" and they argue in reply that the 1980s saw a large increase in nuclear capacity with a new reactor starting up "an average of one every 17 days. .... So it is not hard to imagine a similar number being commissioned in a decade after about 2015." The actual increase in nuclear generation seen 1980-90 was 0.14TW which would pro rata add 0.39TW 2022-50, less closures of 0.15TW, yielding simplistically a 66% increase to 0.65TW by 2050.
    Perhaps it should be a more thoughtful analysis presented in the WNA's Harmony Programme which talks of a 0.033TW build rate 2025-50 and 1.25TW capacity by 2050, although if it is a more thoughtful analysis, that thought is not evident.

    So "a nuclear realist" as described by Abbott (2011) who "would only suggest that we need about 1 TW of nuclear power as part of our world energy mix" has less daunting challenge, although Abbot (2011) does conclude that "one only has to divide the results, in this paper, by fifteen to see that 1 TW still stretches resources and risks considerably." And the rate of build is yet still deep in the inadequate zone.

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  42. Economist Edgardo Sepulvda has analysed the electricity generation profiles, and the concomitant emissions reductions, for thirty OECD  countries. 'Over the last 50 years, countries that adopted nuclear power consistently reduced emissions intensity, by more than three times as much as those that went without nuclear.' 

    https://edecarb.org/

     He proposes that the faster nuclear builds in the 70s and early 80s occurred when electricity demand was growing faster than GDP, whereas demand more recently in the richer countries has been flat, so long-term investment was discouraged. To have any hope of reducing the impact of climate change, we'll have to increase non-fossil power generation by about 3x at least. Nuclear generation has been static, but that's hardly surprising when some of the governments of many countries with high nuclear percentages - Germany, Japan, South Korea, France, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan - have been actively trying to reduce or eliminate the industry. So have regional governments - Governor Brown in California, and Governors Mario and Andrew Cuomo, in New York, spent forty years trying to sabotage their respective States' largest low-carbon generators. 

    Of the twenty fastest deployments of electricity generation per capita, measured by increase in MWh produced per person during deployment, eight were from hydro and nine from nuclear - only three involved wind power.

    https://pbs.twimg.com/media/FWpposPaIAIqYC6?format=png&name=900x900

    The Olkiluoto reactor in Finland has been a byword for how slow reactor projects can be to come to completion - it has in fact taken seventeen years, just being brought up to full operation now. ( Chinese, Japanese, South Korean, and formerly French reactors have been built and powered up in about four years.) Yet this troubled plant will produce more power than all the wind turbines built in Denmark over the same period. Denmark and Finland have similar populations, though the Danish economy is larger. Denmark is famous for having the world's highest proportion of power from wind, but the electricity emissions of Finland, which has five nuclear reactors, are almost always lower.

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  43. As (mostly) a bystander to discussions of this kind, I keep thinking that I'm hearing something along the lines of "are winter tires the solution to driving with good traction?"  Emphasis on "the."

    There's no "the," it seems, if one looks at reality as it unfolds on a daily basis: USEIA Electric Power Monthly with Data for June 2022. 

    We want simple, "the," but that's very unlikely, is contradicted by plain evidence and facts on the ground. What we actully get is "it depends."

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  44. John ONeill @292,

    Really?

    Maybe I've missed something but it is quite easy to demonstrate that nuclear is not delivering.

    It is not a particularly clever analysis by this economist Edgardo Sepulvda. Cutting the world into tiny bits such that a small country with a nuclear power plant or two will suddenly have a big chunk of low carbon electricity capacity arriving in short order. Isn't that inevitable?

    Imagine. Shoe-horn a nuclear reactor into Luxembourg, press the on button and bingo - we have a winner!!

    A cleverer approach would surely be to take the global view of this. AGW is after all a global problem requiring a global fix.

    OurWorldInData shows the meatiest increase in nuclear generation occurred back in 1984 & 1985 when generation jumped by 221TWh/y & 234TWh/y respectively. This compares with the almost exponential rise in wind generation which jumped 265TWh/y in 2021. Or if longer periods are compared, both nuclear and wind  increased massively from under 100TWh/y, wind achieving 1,860TWh in the last 17 years, and nuclear 1,730TWh/y over a similar 17 year period. So the numbers are not dissimilar but the nuclear stuff was back over thirty years ago.

    Of course, we don't know for certain how tomorrow will shape out but the near-exponential growth in wind generation will presumably continue in coming years, so presumably easily exceeding a linear increase which would be 265TWh/y. Meanwhile for nuclear we know there is 0.058TW of new build expected to switch on in the next six years which. if it arrives on time to give say 90% load factor and none of the existing capacity shuts down, that would result in 76TWh/y increase in low carbon generation, a level well below 30% of the wind delivery.

    And that is why I say that, in comparison with wind, a sensible analysis shows nuclear not delivering. But then, have I missed something?

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  45. The countries Sepulveda examines are mostly reasonably large. Those with more than 50% of their power from nuclear include France and Ukraine, large countries at opposite ends of Europe both geographically and in wealth. Germany and Japan, both economic giants, got almost 30% of their power from nuclear before the Fukushima meltdown led both to turn off most of their plants - unwisely, in my view. Making an unrealistic example of a small country is mostly a crime of the renewables enthusiasts. I've often seen lists online of places 'approaching 100% renewable', those including my own homeland, New Zealand. New Zealand has actually been receding from the '100% RE' ideal lately, as low hydro production led to record imports of coal. In fact, nearly all the places touted as nearing 100% RE are small, most rely largely on hydro, and many are quite poor, with low electricity use, and associated low rankings for general well-being. Brazil is an outlier, a large economy that used to get the great majority of its power from hydro, but climate change has been causing problems with that. There are a few countries which have reached around ten percent of their power from solar, but even by that level, intermittency, and usually, out of control incentive payments, are causing intractable problems. The two countries with a large share of power from wind are Denmark and Uruguay - both comparatively small, and both able to export their surpluses, and import to cover their deficits, from the much larger economies either side of them. (Uruguay also relies mainly on hydro, which can fill the wind gaps.) Your citing of Luxembourg is a bit rich - they used to have some of the most coal-heavy power in Europe, but still felt entitled to back Austria in taking legal action against other EU countries trying to decarbonise with nuclear. Conversely, Lithuania used to get over 90% of its electricity from two Soviet-era reactors, which it was forced to close to be allowed into the EU. Instead of exporting plenty of low-carbon power, the Lithuanians now import most of it - often from Sweden, which is roughly one third nuclear-powered, and which, like France till its recent problems, exports copious clean juice to all the countries around it.

    I just listened to an interesting podcast on grid economics, among other things. The Australian interviewee points out that leaving power planning to the market, as has been the fashion of late, is getting increasingly problematic - the Australian grid operator has a 'rule book' 1,700 pages ong, but the one for the PJM ( Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland) has 4,000 pages! The way the market rules are set tends to mean that just one type of generation is built in a period - nuclear in the early eighties, coal in Australia in the eighties, wind in Germany, gas and wind in the US lately. This was a reaction against the perceived socialism or dirigism of top-down control, but has led to a situation where nobody is really making long-term, coherent plans for the infrastructure that underpins our whole existence. Stephen Wilson: Adjunct Professor at University of Queensland

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  46. John Oneill

    Sovacool et all 2000   (free copy linked here in the right column) reaches a different conclusion from your web page.   Was yours peer reviewed?  Sovacool et al find:

    "we use multiple regression analyses on global datasets of national carbon emissions and renewable and nuclear electricity production across 123 countries over 25 years to examine systematically patterns in how countries variously using nuclear power and renewables contrastingly show higher or lower carbon emissions. We find that larger-scale national nuclear attachments do not tend to associate with significantly lower carbon emissions while renewables do."

    I prefer peer-reviewed links.  I doubt that we will come to agreement on this point.

    Most of the nuclear improvements in your ten year list were made decades ago, with that remainder being single plants that took decades to build in small countries  Then people learned that nuclear was not economic and stopped building.  By contrast, all the wind and solar builds are recent.  Next year more wind and solar builds will be on the list and they will rise in the amounts of electricity generated.  You are comparing the best years of an old, failed technology to a new, rapidly expanding technology.  And you forgot solar.

    Renewable energy has only been the cheapest energy for a few years.  Nuclear has been around for 70 years.  More reactors shut down every year because they are worn out than are built.  Gas and wind have been built lately because they were cheapest.  Now, solar is also being built because it is cheap.  With the increase in the price of gas, all new build power will be renewable.

    The nuclear industry in France, the largest adoptor of nuclear, is collapsing because their reactors have reached the end of their life.  Your link from post 290 says future heat waves could cause 30% of France's nuclear to shut down during periods of highest need.  So much for "always on".  We see this already in 2022, except so many plants are closed for emergency repairs the shut downs from drought and heat are smaller.

    in post 289 you state that 60% of Frances nuclear is currently shut down during the worst electricity crisis in Europe.  Most are closed for emergency repairs with no restart date.  You keep posing conspiracy theories about governments sabotaging nuclear.

    You cite data from the 1980's to support nuclear.  Meanwhile the reactors built in the 80's are wearing out and shutting down.  Come back when you have recent data that supports nuclear.

    Nuclear is too expensive, takes too long to build and there is not enough uranium.

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  47. John ONeill @295,
    You defence of the analysis of Edgardo Sepulvda is poor to the point of hopelessness. My hypothetical wielding of Luxembourg to demonstrate the absurdity of the use of small and tiny countries in that Edgardo Sepulvda graphic you presented @292 is not well addressed by your bold assertion that "The countries Sepulveda examines are mostly reasonably large," which is eidently untrue. There are (according to Wikkithing) 32 countries where nuclear reactors are currently operational.

    The Edgardo Sepulvda graphic shows just twenty nuclear countries (here I list them with the No of current operational reactors in the order of their significance in the graphic) and most are certainly not "reasonably large," and most have less than half-a-dozen operational reactors which would suggest a 'lumpy' generation introduction, the phenomenon I demonstrated with the Luxembourg hypothesis.
    In order of significance given in the Edgardo Sepulvda:- Sweden 6, France 56, Finland 5, Belgium 7, Lithuania 0, Switzerland 4, Slovakia 4, Canada 19, Taiwan 3, S Korea 25, Germany 3, Bulgaria 2, Hungary 4, Czechia 6, USA 92, Japan 33, Spain 7, Slovenia 1, Ukraine, 15 UK 9.

    Perhaps to add further to the 'lumpy' problem that appears when an analysis addresses a global problem (AGW) by cutting-up the world into individual countries, Germany may be a powerhouse of the world economy but it is only 1.8% of global carbon emissions. In terms of countries, there are only two or three or four that are not small or tiny.
    National CO2 emissions 2017

    The selective nature of the data in the Edgardo Sepulvda graphic opens the door to possible cherry-picking, and that could extend to the choice of decadal capacity increases rather than some other period. Thus a choice of six years (the usual construction time for a nuclear reactor and so also the length of the 'look-ahead' analysis I presented @294 which you so-far ignore). And note that a six-year period analysis would reverse the placing of Germany Nuclear and Germany WInd.

    And as a final indicator of the Edgardo Sepulvda analysis being more problem than illustrative, the data given by OurWorldInData (the web engines for this linked @294) give markedly different values for those presented for Germany Nuclear and Germany WInd which gives a ratio of 122-to-100 while the graphic shows 132-to-100, a variation rather too big to ignore. (This was the one check I made, and it suggests other big errors.)

    So should we be surprised if others make similar forms of analysis and reach the opposite conclusion from you armed with that Edgardo Sepulvda graphic? Indeed this is the situation we see with the analysis michael sweet presents @296 (and do consider the 'look-ahead analysis I present @294).

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  48. The Sovacool et a larticle I cited in 296 was published in 2020 and not 2000.  The free copy link works.

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  49. Thanks, I've been looking over the Sovacool paper.

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  50. 'The nuclear industry in France, the largest adoptor of nuclear, is collapsing because their reactors have reached the end of their life.'

    In fact it's the newest reactors that may have stress cracks in some of the emergency shutdown piping - the older ones are fine.

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