January 17, 2014

Debating geoengineering and nuclear

Commenter Sebtal made the following comment on my Al Gore article. I interpreted Al Gore's statements in the Guardian UK. Al is against geoengineering and does not want to support adding nuclear power. Although Al did support nuclear power for decades while in elected office. Al changed his position when he wanted to get in front of the green movement with his Inconvenient Truth movie and book in 2006.

1. Personally I [Sebtal] agree [with Al Gore], I [Sebtal] think Geo-engineering is a complete non-starter. If you think the compensation arrangements around BP/Moccando are slightly fraught, Imagine the arguments you could have over "your geo-engineering experiment co-incided with my drought which killed x, thousand people, so we are entirely justified with the cruise missile strike that blew it up" kind of arguments you could have around this.
Geo-engineering is a complete non-starter.

Nextbigfuture -So the only ones allowed to geoengineer are those who mix their chemicals in with the coal that they burn ?

Coals used as boiler fuels or for coking require less than 10% ash content. So when we burn 7 billion tons of coal you can have up to 700 million tons of ash. Other impurities are nitrogen and sulphur that are chemically reduced during coalification to the gases ammonia (NH4) and hydrogen sulphide (H2S), which become trapped within the coal. However, most sulphur is present as the mineral pyrite (FeS2), which may account for up to a few per cent of the coal volume. Burning coal oxidizes these compounds, releasing oxides of nitrogen (N2O, NO, NO2, etc.) and sulphur dioxide (SO2), notorious contributors to acid rain.

It is ok to burn another billion or 4 billion tons of coal to go along with the 8 billion tons every year now and along with it flouride or mercury or sulfur if they are found in some ratio in the coal deposits. It is not just pure coal but coal and a few tens of millions of tons of other material.

Mercury (Hg) 0.10±0.01 ppm
Arsenic (As) 1.4 – 71 ppm
Selenium (Se) 3 ppm

Part per million for coal right now means 8000 tons.
Burning billions of tons of oil and natural gas are ok too because those are for other purposes.

Wind Power is directly blocking wind. If it is scaled to displace all coal power it will have a big climate effect

The general word circulation model simulations that some climatic effects at maximum wind power (18-67 terawatt) extraction are similar in magnitude to those associated with a doubling of atmospheric CO2. We are now at 290 Gigawatts of wind, which makes about 450 TWh. Wind is heading to 1.2 Terawatts by 2030 which would be about 1800 TWh. This is one of the primary proposed solutions. If Wind were to completely displace coal power say in 2050, it would have to be scaled to about 15 TW.

22000 TWh for electricity now. 6 times that amount for all energy uses (heat, transportation industry)
41% of electricity from coal. 8800 TWh from coal now. Increasing by 40% or so by 2035 and 70% by 2050.




When does geoengineering become too big ? too dangerous ? Vs regional ?

We can do geoengineering at a city scale. China will be spraying water from skyscrapers.

Only geoengineer if its accident or side effect at first

Are those the rules geoengineering has to be a side effect ? You do not trust companies to do something with the sole purpose of geo-engineering. They have to do it unintentionally.

Only Peabody Energy or other Chinese the coal plant operators can be trusted to geoengineer. They are happening to geoengineer for this thing called climate change but we are ok to have that stop growing in a few decades.


Sebtal 2. What he [Al Gore] says about Nuclear is that he doesn't think the technology we have now is cheap enough or safe enough to play a role in time. We can argue on safe - on cheap he's correct. There is no way to scale up nuclear fast enough to limit CO2 growth as much as he would like.
This is the complete opposite of the position you claim - but that is because you are putting your assumptions - which he does not share - into his reasoning. He thinks renewables are more likely to scale faster than the nuclear tech we have now. You think the reverse.
Arguing he doesn't take climate change seriously because he doesn't share your optimistic view on nuclear is juvenile.


When does cheap enough come into the equation of solutions to climate change. There are groups promoting a trillion dollars per year for the clean tech solution. And trying to ramp it up by 2050.

China could build 100 CAP1400s every year for less than $400 billion per year. That would be 1000 TWh per year starting in about 5 years.Within 25 years the world would be at about 70% electricity from nuclear power. Power uprates from annular fuel would boost existing reactors and the new reactors by 40% which would speed the nuclear build.


If you liked this article, please give it a quick review on ycombinator or StumbleUpon. Thanks

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