August 10, 2016

Until coal, oil and natural gas are eliminated from power and transportation usage any argument about solar versus nuclear is meaningless

Usually when I write an article about new safer nuclear technology, someone will comment about how nuclear is still dangerous and magical future solar will make replace all other power.

Nuclear is not dangerous and solar will not possibly replace all other power until well past 2060

1. Solar energy just passed 1% of global electricity generation. Electricity is just part of world energy usage. We still need steam and heat for industrial processes and for homes and offices and for cars until things are fully electrified.

Solar has grown by about 30% per year. But that would still take many decades to displace coal. All fossil fuels are 100 time more deadly than nuclear on a death per TWH basis.

Solar and wind have not displaced all of the new fossil fuel generation that is being added globally each year.

Energy Source              Death Rate (deaths per TWh)

Coal (elect, heat,cook –world avg) 100 (26% of world energy, 50% of electricity)
Coal electricity – world avg        60 (26% of world energy, 50% of electricity)
Coal (elect,heat,cook)– China      170
Coal electricity-  China            90 
Coal – USA                          15
Oil                                 36  (36% of world energy)
Natural Gas                          4  (21% of world energy)
Biofuel/Biomass                     12
Peat                                12
Solar (rooftop)                      0.44 (1% of world energy for all solar)
Wind                                 0.15 (3% of world energy)
Hydro                                0.10 (europe death rate, 2.2% of world energy)
Hydro - world including Banqiao)     1.4 (about 3000 TWh/yr and 171,000 Banqiao dead)
Nuclear                              0.04 (5.9% of world energy, 11% of electricity)

Most of the new energy production being added is in China and developing countries. China already is using 30% more energy than the USA which has been flat in energy usage for a decade.

World energy usage will probably triple by 2050.

2. Adopting solar or wind above 10-20% would destabilize the energy grids. Rebuilding the energy grids would take decades. Deploying batteries and electric cars will take many decades. There a few hundred thousand electric cars out of over a billion cars in the world. There will be 2 billion cars by 2030. Cars could be reduced only if there was a complete shift to self driving robot taxis. Then the world might need only 300-500 million self driving cars.

Lithium and other battery supply chain would have to be built out to 100 or more times current scale.

3. Energy usage is still growing and most of the growth is coal, oil and natural gas.

4. Advanced nuclear can deal with the unburnt fuel which is most of the "nuclear waste". The unburnt fuel is about 60,000 tons per year. This can be stacked up in barrels on a basketball court. Fossil fuel waste is tens of billions of tons of solid, liquid and gas wastes. Literally mountains of fuel and mountains of waste.

Advanced nuclear like supercritical water reactors can be cheaper than coal power and generate at the same temperature as coal. This can replace the coal burner in existing plants which are already grid connected.

5. Wind literally is being blocked for electricity. Blocking enough wind and that is directly and significantly effecting climate.

When solar is at 40% of world energy and has eliminated most fossil fuel usage then we can start talking about whether solar displacing whatever advanced nuclear is developed makes sense.

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