the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

Blog Power

Posted by Jeff Id on September 22, 2010

Oliver K. Manuel left this version of Sutton’s law in a comment last night.

Like the bank robber who robbed banks because “that’s where the money is,” I am absolutely certain that mankind will return to nuclear energy because “that’s where most of the energy is!”

On this we think alike.   Today we have the ability to make safer better nuclear plants than ever before, and the more we implement them, the less pollution we emit.  Theoretically of course.

My opinion is that even with massive money spent on implementing nuclear power worldwide and regulations made on CO2, humanity will still burn the coal.  Even if we have all the nuclear power we want in the US and cleaner thorium reactors or some kind of fusion reactors are built everywhere, the coal will still be heavily burned.  If Mr. Fusion is developed for $1000 tomorrow and we can simply chuck old beer cans in it,  then we can save the coal, if not, the coal is toast.

I still laugh when I think about Pielke’s ‘decarbonization’ paper.  He and his coauthors outlined a process by which slightly less carbon is emitted per joule generated each year as the path to green salvation.  With China and India as building hundreds of new plants with 40 or 50 year expected lifespans.  I don’t care if they are slightly more efficient — the difference in efficiency of a coal plant is entirely, completely and without any question — moot.  It takes an amazing twisting of reality to imagine anything different. My god man, it’s burning coal, it does release CO2 in proportion to the amount of H-C bonds broken.  Duh!

My opinion that CO2 has not been shown to be dangerous aside, there is probably a limit to what we can dump in the atmosphere each year and still be happy monkey’s.  In the meantime, coal plants are cheap, efficient, and clean generators of electricity. This remains true despite the sandwich board claims of certain doom and endless exaggeration by climate science.  It is a near certainty that we will find out one way or another exactly how much emission we can tolerate.  Fortunately, God and Sutton have conspired to create a perfectly workable solution that we can start on right away.

It would be a great day though if US industry were allowed to lead the world toward nuclear power.  Deregulation of some aspects is required in exchange for increased regulation of others.   For instance certain Thorium reactors don’t need the same controls on the fuel source as the Uranium and Plutonium ones.  Several versions have already been built and operated and even India is already doing it for god’s sake.  Different regulations are required for fuel handling and licensing considering vastly reduced risk of meltdowns.  Not all reactor designs can Chernobyl on you.  Just allowing companies to have the opportunity to build them will be enough.  They will spring up everywhere and the zero emission energy that our lovable green government leaching climatologists demand will happen all by itself.  Of course not much different will happen in the repressed communist ‘developing’ nations, because coal is cheap and very low tech and as long as people oddly continue to embrace these forms of government, low tech will be required.

But no, as we all know, the greens have other goals which include the limitation of our economies and way of life.  I can still remember when I first realized they were serious about forcing us to not eat meat — for climate change!! What a bunch of idiots.  Rather than the silly cost balances of capitalism that force limited consumption and lift people from poverty, they see sustainable living as being regulated by government to what one can have, where one can go, which lights can you use, all through failed wealth redistribution methods.  Cost does a pretty good job of telling me what to consume  already.

It doesn’t matter though, like capitalism, nuclear power and coal use don’t need government to make them possible.  They will happen through the natural forces of capitalism even in the most dictatorial countries. The only power government really has is to hold them back – which they have done very effectively here in the US in recent decades.  Oddly, we can still sell our coal to the rest of the world though.

Did you know that California’s VOC policies have forced companies to manufacture boats in other states yet they still can buy an unlimited number of boats?  How does that help the environment?  It’s the same kind of thinking the left has with respect to coal.

Of course there is also the possibility, or even likelihood, that low cost workable solar power will be developed in the next 30 years.  Local generation at the home with good storage technology, doesn’t sound like a bad way to live to me.  Even cost effective panels without storage can reduce daytime peak load enough that less power plants will be needed, I’d love to see the power and phone lines go away.  Try and work that method for global transportation or even bigger aluminum or iron processing plants and you probably aren’t gonna make it.

What’s more, is that in the future we will need more energy, not so others can achieve the US lifestyle, but so that everyone’s lifestyle can improve beyond that.  We often forget what we humans had 120 years ago.  Imagining that change, which was unquestionably caused by technology and capitalism, will stop suddenly, requires a leap of imagination beyond my capability.  We need more power, and cheaper power, not less and more expensive.  We need bigger industrial processing centers, not smaller. We need desalination plants in California not water limitation.  The very concepts of ‘water shortage’ or ‘energy shortage’ are so asinine that people who utter the words should not be allowed to vote.  Our planet has more water than land or air folks,  if you’re thirsty, go get some.  Yes that sometimes takes energy but in a universe-wide conspiracy, energy is more plentiful than even water.  Shortages of these two things are caused by only one thing, stupid government policies and greenies (reds) who see government forced limitation as a utopia.

So that is my long winded way of saying, nuclear power is the future of energy generation, because that’s where the energy is.  If we won’t build coal plants, we should change policy and begin implementation of new safer, lower cost nuclear designs so we can lead the world toward cost effective emission free energy production, if we don’t do coal or nuclear, we can watch others do it for us and rightfully reap the benefits.  Either way, we are all heading to the same energy generation destination, because God didn’t give us a heck of a lot of choice in the matter.

16 Responses to “Blog Power”

  1. stan said


    Remember, “thinking is hard — which is why so few people try it.” And being a green (red) is the ultimate embodiment of that axiom. They don’t have to think about the science. It’s settled and the scientists will tell us all what to think.

    These are folks for whom “hope and change” sounds like a coherent political platform. Think of the headaches that are caused when people are stuck in traffic behind a lefty’s car and they try to make sense of the bumper stickers. That can be almost as damaging to normal intellectual development as getting educated in an inner city school system (not surprising given the similarities).

    They know not what they do.

  2. DeWitt Payne said

    The VOC regulations in CA are there for a specific reason, LA smog. I went to college in Pasadena in the early 1960’s. On bad days it wasn’t pleasant, to put it mildly. There are three components needed to form smog, branched chain hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides (NOx, not N2O) and sunlight. It’s like the fire triangle, reduce any one of them and you reduce smog. You can’t do anything about sunlight. Unfortunately, when the idiots first wrote the regulations on car emissions, somebody got a bee in their bonnet about carbon monoxide. As a result, NOx emissions actually increased and even though VOC levels dropped, smog got worse. It wasn’t until catalytic converters were modified to reduce NOx levels as well as hydrocarbons that things actually got better. Building boats somewhere that doesn’t have temperature inversions for weeks at a time is a small cost to pay. The VOC’s (terpenes) emitted by pine trees are perfect for smog formation. Lightning makes NOx. That’s how the Smoky Mountains got its name and the origin of Reagan’s comment about trees making smog.

  3. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    “My god man, it’s burning coal, it does release CO2 in proportion to the amount of H-C bonds broken. Duh!”

    There are not so many C-H bonds in coal; some of course, but nothing like petroleum. Most of the energy comes from carbon, and it is mostly C-C bonds being broken (which takes a lot of energy!) but even more energy is liberated when C=O bonds are formed, so the oxidation process liberates heat.

    Coal comes mainly from pyrolysis of cellulose (C6H12O6 —> 6C + 6H2O), and so is very much like the conversion of cellulose to charcoal. Of course, lots of other stuff got buried with the cellulose (both organic and inorganic), so coal is a cocktail of compounds, and varies quite a bit in composition between sources.

    But it is still mostly carbon where the energy comes from. Sorry to quibble, but I am a chemist.

  4. Jeff Id said

    #2 and 3 — you can’t always be right, especially in blogland. The guys I know of weren’t in LA though.

  5. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    “But no, as we all know, the greens have other goals which include the limitation of our economies and way of life.”

    This was painfully obvious on the very first Earth Day. I listened to the political speeches that day, and it soon became obvious that environmental pollution was only distantly related to the ‘environment goals’; the real objective was vastly increased government control of most all individual behavior. It was page right out of Orwell’s ‘1984’.

    So I discounted the budding greens as loony left nut-cakes that would never have any significant influence. That was a mistake; you need only look at Mr. Obama’s appointees and the idiotic things those folks have done to see my error.

  6. Thank you, Jeff, for quoting the statement I borrowed from someone else.

    Comments would be appreciated from you and other readers on my recommendation for the safe use of nuclear energy in the future:

    “Previously, governments allowed nuclear energy to be developed before there were good plans for dealing with the radioactive waste. To avoid that pitfall again, . . .

    Since radioactive waste is, in fact, an inconvenient but useful form of energy (much like geothermal energy), I recommend that governments require utility companies using nuclear reactors to show how they will encapsulate and use the radioactive waste to generate additional energy (e.g., heat water, drive turbines, etc.).

    I object to plans to bury radioactive waste because I doubt if anyone knows how long the radioactivity would be contained, if it were hidden “out of sight.” But if radioactive waste were being used, leaks could be observed and remedied as they occur.

    Comments would be appreciated, especially from engineers like you.”

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel, PhD
    & Emeritus Professor of
    Nuclear & Space Science

  7. Jeff Id said

    Reprocessing the waste makes more sense than burying it, but I didn’t really mind the burial either. It’s just that there is workable energy still there.

  8. Thanks, Jeff. Unlike you, I object to burying nuclear waste.

    Once we have highly concentrated radioactivity, like in nuclear waste, then utility companies should be required to:

    Encapsulate the waste and use it to generate additional energy!

    Let’s not make the same mistake we did earlier and accept useless promises that the nuclear waste problem will be solved later or hidden out of sight for some future generation to solve later.

    I repeat: a.) Encapsulate the waste and use it to generate additional energy!
    OR: b.) Do not use nuclear energy because you cannot contain the waste!

    I would endorse the use of power reactors if utility companies had to operate under the above [ a./b. ] constraints.

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel

    PS – Geothermal energy is, in my opinion, energy from dispersed radioactivity inside the Earth.

  9. Chuckles said

    Well said Jeff, and keep repeating it, as often as necessary. One of the most crucial points it is possible to make,is that to alleviate poverty, one of the most vital components is energy. More specifically,cheap and plentiful energy.
    The developing countries are getting tired of 1st world guilt tripping, obstruction and pressure and will simply not take it much longer. Anyone who thinks they are not going to develop their economies is deluding themselves. So, many coal plants on the way, with hopefully a switching to nuke there too.

    I would imagine the US Navy has several compact and very safe nuke designs floating around, together with several suppliers of same? I would imagine these could be pressed into service in power gen roles fairly swiftly?
    That said, there is nothing particularly difficult about building safe nuke stations, that’s a solved problem. Any problems are regulatory. And last I heard, any nasty leftovers can simply be dumped into a plate subduction zone, back from whence they came.
    Roger P Jr.has a post on similar topics today, but reaches different conclusions….

  10. AusieDan said

    One thing missing from this post is economics and return on investment.
    Providing there are sufficient stocks of coal, gas, oil and radio active materials, then whichever can be used to generate power, so as to earn the best return on capital, will prevail in a free market economy.

    But back in the real world xxxxxxxxxxxx

  11. Steve Koch said

    Great blog, Jeff.

    It would be interesting to see a discussion of thorium reactors. They can use existing waste from nuclear power plants as fuel, thus reducing that waste by a couple orders of magnitude (IIRC). It seems like we should at least operate enough of these thorium reactors to consume the nuclear waste that we have already created and will create in the future.

    I believe the Navy is doing a new destroyer that will have a thorium reactor.

  12. Geoff Sherrington said

    Here is a quote from World Nuclear News, 7th September 2010 issue, from Russia –

    ‘Russia’s Putin shoots the breeze
    The Russian prime minister has said that nuclear energy is the only
    alternative to traditional energy sources. As energy demand
    increases, energy consumption patterns will only undergo minor
    changes, he said. “You couldn’t transfer large electric power stations
    to wind energy, however much you wanted to. In the next few
    decades, it will be impossible.” Nuclear energy is the only “real and
    powerful alternative” he asserted, calling other approaches to meeting
    future electricity demand simply “claptrap.”

    ‘Russia relies on gas for half of its electricity and has a policy of
    replacing gas-fired generating plant with nuclear as fast as possible so
    as to be able to export more gas to Europe. Its latest projection is to
    increase nuclear capacity from 24 to 43 GWe by 2020, and is on track
    for that.’

    Enough said?

  13. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: Geoff Sherrington (Sep 24 07:48),

    Yes, but what’s that as a fraction of the total generating capacity? Pielke, Jr. has a post on Chinese electrical generating capacity. Their total capacity is 900 GW of which 10 is nuclear from 6 plants. They plan to increase that to 60 GW by 2020. Assuming the same size plants, that would be an additional 30 plants or 3/year. Last I heard, they were commissioning new coal fired plants at a rate of 1/week. Nuclear may indeed be the power source of the future, but that future is not all that close. Anyone who thinks we can, if needed, drastically reduce CO2 emissions in the near future, i.e. by 2050, by replacing coal with nuclear, hasn’t done their homework.

  14. Geoff Sherrington said

    13 DeWitt

    Agreed, but it has always been my preference that nuclear should stand on its own merits. It does not have to be seen as a means of reduction of CO2; it is enough that it beats wind and solar hands down and depending on local or country risk factors, gives most forms of fossil fuel burning a run for their money.

    As for China, recent figures are –

    ‘Mainland China has 12 nuclear power reactors in operation, 24 under construction, and more about to start construction soon.
    Additional reactors are planned, including some of the world’s most advanced, to give more than a tenfold increase in nuclear capacity to 80 GWe by 2020, 200 GWe by 2030, and 400 GWe by 2050.
    China is rapidly becoming self-sufficient in reactor design and construction, as well as other aspects of the fuel cycle.’


    From the Pielke Jr site you referenced, the total of 900GW at present (I assume electrical GW) needs comparison with the 400 GWE China plans by 2050. If the targets are reached, nuclear might not be the majority generator by 2050, but it will be significant on a global scale.

    As for safety, China is working closely with the IAEA and this year had a major inspection with a few recommendations, but mostly no concerns.

  15. Steve Koch said

    True. Having said that, nuclear power is a much more serious candidate for replacing coal than wind or solar power. If one has the goal of minimizing CO2 emissions, then embracing nuclear power over solar and wind is the way to go.

    By far the biggest problems that nuclear power has in the USA are political and legal. Discussing how other countries are moving ahead with nuclear power might help reduce public concerns about the safety of nuclear power. Once the public realizes that nuclear power does not emit CO2, that may expedite the acceptance by the public of nuclear power.

  16. AusieDan, Geoff, Jeff, Stan, et al.

    Please comment on the following:


    1. Mankind will return to nuclear energy – that’s where the energy is.

    2. Greed has destroyed good plans and good intentions in the past.


    Utility companies using nuclear energy will be required to show how they will encapsulate and use the radioactive waste to generate additional energy.


    Leaks of waste radioactivity will be observed and remedied as they occur, if the radioactive waste is being used to generate useful energy.


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