Mark Jacobson has a paper with a review of global energy and the environment where he allocates hypothetical carbon emissions to nuclear energy based on terrorism and war.
He allocates for a hypothetical nuclear war to nuclear power.
I have addressed some of this before.
For the nuclear proliferation
Proliferation is more a matter of key knowledge. The key knowledge was proliferated by Pakistan’s AQ Khan back in the seventies through the nineties. Knowledge of bombs and centrifuges. The first 64 years of the nuclear weapon age has seen zero deaths from proliferated nuclear weapons. Plus there is no example of proliferation from a commercial nuclear energy program to nuclear weapons other than India and Pakistan using it as cover, but they got the materials from special centrifuges.
AQ Khan was the source of proliferation of nuclear weapons knowledge. Any new commercial nuclear reactors are not related to that historical proliferation of knowledge. There would need to be shown incremental risk from new nuclear reactor build for the case to be made that building more commercial nuclear reactors increases the risk of proliferation. The case needs to then be made showing that increased nuclear weapons increases the risk for nuclear war.
The belief that there is nuclear power leads to nuclear weapons is wrong. Countries get nuclear weapons firstly and directly.
USA bombs first. (Hiroshima, Nagasaki – pre-nuclear power). 1957 first reactor
USSR bombs first. 1949 first bomb. first nuclear reactor June 27, 1954
United Kingdom first nuclear weapon 1952, first reactor 1956
France tested its first nuclear weapon in 1960, first reactor 1963
China first nuclear weapon in 1964, reactor 1991
India 1974, first reactor 1969 (exception to the bomb first)
Pakistan 1998, Karachi 1972 (exception to the bomb first). they used
Pakistan achieved their nuclear weapon material with secret enrichment, centrifuges, not with material from the commercial program.
North Korea 2005 bomb, no commercial reactor
Israel late 1960s, bombs no commercial reactor
Incremental Risk and Lack of Correlation
Where is the incremental risk from more commercial reactors ? There were tens of Thousands of nuclear bombs before there were significant commercial nuclear power.
30,000 nuclear bombs existed by about 1960 and there were only a handful of small commercial nuclear reactors.
France added about 50 commercial nuclear reactors in the 1980s. But only USSR/Russia were making a lot more bombs during that period. Mainly USSR/Russia.
By 1990, there were 70,000 nuclear bombs with about 98-99% in USSR and USA.
The nuclear weapons buildup was independent of the civilian nuclear energy build.
Where is the correlation between those 70,000 bombs and actual nuclear war and nuclear deaths ? It was the military posture of hair triggers that had some accident risk, but that policy is no longer in place. A strong case is made that nuclear weapons deterred wide conventional war. Thus there needs to be the calculation for lives saved from prevented wars.
Going forward China, India, Russia, South Korea, Japan are going to be building most of the new commercial nuclear reactors and the USA depending on politics will also build several. How does this correlate to increased proliferation and increased risk?
Highly enriched uranium (HEU) is being down-blended for reactor fuel. Thus commercial nuclear reactors reduced any risks from higher stockpiles of HEU.
How will more nuclear reactors increase risk of Proliferation ?
If there are ten nuclear weapon countries and nuclear power in twenty others who could go nuclear if they wanted, so how will more reactors increase the risk of nuclear war ? How do you get more pregnant ?
Also, if having nuclear weapons decreases the chances of war then there should be an offsetting calculation for reduced risks of conventional and reduced risks of nuclear war. Without nuclear weapons would India and Pakistan have fought more conventional wars ? What would be the CO2 emissions of that.
Opportunity Costs – Really Scaling up, Broken Wind Turbines and Solar Power Company Bankruptcies
The opportunity cost needs to look at how quickly a large amount of wind, solar, hydro and nuclear can be scaled up and not just one project. Each solar project and wind project is smaller, but a big one like the Desertec project.
The current proposal is to generate about 12% more power than is currently generated from nuclear power by developing solar and wind for 400 billion euros if it goes according the plan by 2050. The MENA region could be provided and about 17 percent of the European electricity consumption in 2050 (2,940 TWh/a, 120×120 km² in total). So they want 500 TWhrs.
So you could uprate existing nuclear power and increase operational lifetime to get 12% more power than nuclear now and do that and have it operating within 5 years or you could try to get this plan completed in 40 years. France built all of its nuclear power over 15 years. China is adding a comparable level in about 10 years.
Capacity factory for wind and solar look at problems of generation from variable wind, sunlight and night time. There is also the capacity problem that wind turbines can be costly to maintain and many of them can lay broken, unworking and not repaired. Especially when looked at over 100 years like Jacobson does.
What about the opportunity cost of Solyndra, First Solar, and Sun Power and other energy companies. $6.5 billion of investment that appears likely to have been wasted ?
If wind or solar or the grid connecting them to consumers was damaged over the 100 year period then the energy mix at the time (which could still be mostly fossil fuels) would need to make up the difference. Wind and solar can be taken out with vandalism. In a war, those energy sources can also be taken out and replacement would start the opportunity cost from using fossil fuels to make up for it to start accumulating again.
In a paper published online Feb. 22, 2010 in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, MIT Researchers (Wang and Prinn suggest) that using wind turbines to meet 10 percent of global energy demand in 2100 could cause temperatures to rise by one degree Celsius in the regions on land where the wind farms are installed, including a smaller increase in areas beyond those regions. Their analysis indicates the opposite result for wind turbines installed in water: a drop in temperatures by one degree Celsius over those regions. The researchers also suggest that the intermittency of wind power could require significant and costly backup options, such as natural gas-fired power plants.
A paper from the Earth System s Dynamics Journal – Here we use these considerations to provide a maximum estimate of wind power availability over land. We use several different methods. First, we outline the processes associated with wind power generation and extraction with a simple power transfer hierarchy based on the assumption that available wind power will not geographically vary with increased extraction for an estimate of 68 TW. Second, we set up a simple momentum balance model to estimate maximum extractability which we then apply to reanalysis climate data, yielding an estimate of 21 TW. Third, we perform general circulation model simulations in which we extract different amounts of momentum from the atmospheric boundary layer to obtain a maximum estimate of how much power can be extracted, yielding 18–34 TW. These three methods consistently yield maximum estimates in the range of 18–68 TW and are notably less than recent estimates that claim abundant wind power availability. Furthermore, we show with the general circulation model simulations that some climatic effects at maximum wind power extraction are similar in magnitude to those associated with a doubling of atmospheric CO2. We conclude that in order to understand fundamental limits to renewable energy resources, as well as the impacts of their utilization, it is imperative to use a “top-down” thermodynamic Earth system perspective, rather than the more common “bottom-up” engineering approach.
Some level of wind is ok. About 5% of current total energy usage. The energy alternatives need to be compared against coal, natural gas and oil, which are far worse. There needs to be consistent metrics and methods for getting at reasonable comprehensive comparisons.
Wind power is directly interacting with wind and the environment.
You need to look at scaling the energy up for the overall impacts. You cannot just look at one wind turbine or one thousand or one solar panel roof but ten million or a hundred million.
Nuclear power is safe and clean and it can be the basis of a large part of the energy for a future sustainable civilization.
Solar power is safe and clean and it can be the basis of a large part of the energy for a future sustainable civilization. Solar power needs more development to achieve the needed scaling. Nuclear power should also continue to be improved.
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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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