Much of the debate in North America and Europe ends up being how much should government subsidize wind and solar or push for another few nuclear plants. This is debating what next the 1% per year (10% for a decade) of power generation should be ? Whether that is more wind, solar or nuclear or natural gas is not that relevant.
The US could generate 5300 TWh of electricity in 2020, but more power could be obtained from existing coal and natural gas plants by running at higher capacity. That mean only about 10% new power generation might need to get built. Many of those projects are already underway. China will add about 4000 TWh of power by 2020. Over 35% of all OECD power production now.
I believe that climate change is probably happening but I do not know exactly how much. It does not matter because air pollution is more clearly a problem and should be dealt with. This also effects CO2 and other emissions and impacts.
I believe that carbon dioxide is less important than soot for the next 4 decades.
This is aligned with a UN study that shows that soot mitigation would have a 0.5 degree celsius impact by 2040 while CO2 mitigation does nothing until 2050.
Dealing sooty cookers and heaters and shifting from slash and burn to slash and char in the developing world would not only help with climate but would save about 1-2 million lives per year from reduced indoor and outdoor particulate pollution.
Most new energy generation is being built in China, India, South Korea, Russia and other countries with high growth.
All of the economic arguments should look at the costs in those countries, where nuclear is half the cost of nuclear in the West.
The US and Europe have 0 to 1 % growth in new generation.
So any big shift in generation has to mostly look at the old power that exists already. Although as has recently been seen, the old power plants can be used a lot less. Coal is used less and Natural gas is used more.
Nuclear can be scaled by 15% within 2 years by shifting policy to maximize extended power uprates.
New annular fuel (cylinders with pebbles and not rods) would enable another 20-50% uprate of existing nuclear plants.
A global analysis that looks at the technology and economics that exist now and will be developing over the next ten to twenty years is needed for better planning.
As it stands China, India, South Korea, Russia and other countries with high growth do have a strong commitment to nuclear power and the economics work quite well for them. The public debates in the US and Europe do not have that much impact on the world situation.
The only way it would have impact would be big pushes for a lot of uprates, annular fuel and other policies that would greatly impact the existing mix of generation or on soot or on concrete, construction and cars.
The debate over whether the next 1% of power generation should be more wind, solar or nuclear or natural gas is not that relevant. A major impact would be to radically alter the emissions related to the existing power plants, cars, ships and construction.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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