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Earth Power Technology

Climatologist James Hansen Defends Nuclear Energy 345

First time accepted submitter prajendran writes "James Hansen, the former director of the Goddard Institute of Space Sciences, has been a strong defender of using nuclear energy to replace coal and renewable energy. He and three other researchers had written a letter, arguing just this. In this interview with, an Indian news site, he was asked to address some concerns surrounding the issue, especially given the strong feelings generated by it. It may not be Hansen's best interview, but it did bring out his passionate side."
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Climatologist James Hansen Defends Nuclear Energy

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  • Yeah, I have a passionate side too. And I like to take long walks in the park. And it's not just about 'climate change', it's about survival.

    Every little bit helps though.

    My letters on energy:
    To The Honorable James M. Inhofe, United States Senate []
    To whom it may concern, Halliburton Corporate []

    • Every little bit helps though.

      Sometimes it does, and sometimes it makes no difference whatsoever...

      There are things in life that are all or nothing, this is one of them. Either we stop burning coal, oil, and gas, or we don't. Burn them in 20 years, 50 years, or 200 years, if we keep burning them, we'll burn them all.

      It is like flying across the ocean in a plane, saying that a little bit of extra fuel helps only if it gets you to the land on the other side. If you run out of fuel 50 miles from shore, is that any better than runni

  • is how to keep somebody from tricking the electorate into privatizing it with the promise if big, big savings from the more efficient 'Free Market' approach, and then cutting corners and/or not retiring plants when it's time. It was pretty well documented that the Fukushima plant had outlived it's safe operational time. My favorite argument was that these kind of disasters happen once a century, when the last record of such a disaster was about 100 years ago...

    Basically, Nuclear power can be safe, but it
    • Blatant disregard [] for people's health and safety isn't something new for Japan. Chernobyl accident happened due to human error too. You won't see accidents if nuclear plants are operated with a modicum of competency.
  • by prefec2 ( 875483 ) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @04:26PM (#45634237)

    In summary he states that present nuclear technology is too dangerous, but that it is possible to create systems without the flaws. Well in that case we need prove. In addition we need a plan to do when we run out of what ever the source is for such nuclear technology. However, I cannot see how they can build a device which is able to recycle all waste.

    Renewable sources are much easier to build, they allow to produce energy in a distributed matter reducing the risk of blackouts by plant failure. The only open issue is cheap and reliable energy storage. Presently, there exist technology to fill this gap, but they are not convenient enough due to their cost or their requirement (like pumped-storage power stations). Still this is much closer to a solution than the save and clean nuclear technology.

    • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

      "Renewable sources are much easier to build,"

      Easy to build is one thing - easy to build AND make them viable is another.

      "reducing the risk of blackouts by plant failure"

      Riiight. And how often do you hear of a power plant , regardless of its fuel , going completely unplanned offline? And even if it did there is usually enough resilience in the system to cover it. Whereas wind and wave power goes offline every time its a calm day and solar power is useless at night! I'll go with the minute risk off a whole po

      • by amorsen ( 7485 )

        And how often do you hear of a power plant , regardless of its fuel , going completely unplanned offline? []

        It happens daily.

        • Yes, and coal cannot match a cities demand curve any better than solar or wind, the "resilience" the GP speaks of doesn't just magically appear with coal plants, there are gas turbines and hydro dams involved to store/boost the energy when the plants flat output curve does not match the wavy demand curve. The idea that an individual generator must produce a consistent 'baseload' output is nonsense. Supply must match the demand curve, and no method of power generation does that by itself, including coal an
          • Supply must match the demand curve

            And to do that you conventionally used a mixture of plants. You used something with high capital costs but low running costs (coal, nuclear, possiblly CCGT) to run all the time and then you use something that has low capital costs but high running costs to cover the peaks. You may also use hydro dams (which have the unusual characterstic of having a peak power much higher than their continuous power due to the limited water supply) if they are available.

            So where do wind and solar fit into this? not very wel

    • ...because nuclear plants represent the closest thing to absolute power in our economy, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It becomes a confidence trickster game of convincing a community to commit their ratepayers to large projects where the costs can then be jacked up 900%.

      Nuclear energy "works", but only certain cultures in certain eras have been able to manage it responsibly.

      Let me also point out that the French are very lucky to have such a mild environment and geology; they too blew some tops imm

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @04:47PM (#45634353) Journal
    In case anyone is wondering what James Hansen's passionate side looks like, here a relevant quote:

    It makes me wonder: Do you hate science? Did your mother beat you with a stick and say this stick is science? I'm just kidding, but it is bothersome that you seem to have swallowed a lot of anti-nuclear propaganda.

    • It makes me wonder: Do you hate science? Did your mother beat you with a stick and say this stick is science?

      Good questions, actually. The interviewer was an idiot.

  • by Todd Palin ( 1402501 ) on Sunday December 08, 2013 @04:49PM (#45634365)

    If you ask questions about our energy future from a nuclear context, you will get nuclear answers. If you think about it from en environmental viewpoint you get environmental answers. If you think about it from the economic perspective you get economic answers. If you think about it from the renewable context you get renewable answers.

    Unfortunately, the solar industry looks at the issue from the context of huge solar power plants instead of dispersed solar installations. That is where the money is. If the solar energy issue is addressed from the dispersed solar context it looks way different. Imagine empowering businesses like WalMart to cover every store with solar panels. Imaging requiring every new home to have solar panels. Imagine retrofitting all the appropriate buildings in the country with solar panels. Imagine the hydroelectric power plants changing their generation schedules to generate at night when solar power goes away, instead of in the day like they do now when demand is highest.

    This can be done much quicker and more cheaply than the nuclear path. It takes twenty years to get a nuke online. Dispersed solar can be online in a year or so. The cost of solar panels comes down almost every day. If you think dispersed solar, the equation changes on everything.

    • Imagine empowering businesses like WalMart to cover every store with solar panels.

      Ok, so, what is stopping them now?

      • Nothing. Wal-Mart is one of the non-energy businesses with the most installed solar. But they'd install more if the power companies had to pay a fair price for the power when it's sold back to the grid. In states where this is the case, there's a lot more solar installs. The power companies have a state-granted monopoly for good reason, but part of the tradeoff is being forced to actually serve the interests of the people. Well, it's supposed to be, and more to the point, it is fairly so.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Imagine a world full of solar tax subsidies. If you ask in a political context, you get a political answer.

      Today, the price point of solar depends on those subsidies. take them away and one of two things will happen: Solar will fall flat on its face. Or the supply-demand curve will shift to a point where non-subsidized solar will make sense. Until that happens, the cost will stay high enough (and the payback low enough) that the only place solar will pay is in the magic fairy land of subsidy. And that is s

  • by wherley ( 42799 ) * on Sunday December 08, 2013 @05:14PM (#45634473)

    What makes them interesting is being able to "burn" up existing nuclear wastes. So use LFTRs to clean up existing long term nuclear waste and get power as a byproduct.

    • LFTRs still have considerable problems to be worked out, which is why the technology has never been implemented on any large scale. They are a possibility but one that would require a huge amount of development before they could be a major commercial solution. I wouldn't count on this type of reactor having any impact in the foreseeable future, due to the U-233 required for startup, the highly radioactive waste that is still produced, proliferation risks, and a host of other concerns that would be very expe
  • I always thought Kermit was more of a "Cerenkov" green than a "frog" green. . .
  • This is the primary call of the open letter, Responsible Nuclear Advocacy. Despite my criticisms of the Nuclear Industry I support the development of a reactor that addresses the issue of 70,000 tons of Pu-239 (and much more U-238) currently stored in reactor sites around America, simply because it's irresponsible for our generation to foist these issue onto later generations.

    One of the core reasons I support the development of such a reactor because it is capable of utilising weapons grade plutonium as fu

  • Can we put all that Radio Active Waste in your back yard?
  • by Quila ( 201335 ) on Monday December 09, 2013 @10:41AM (#45639139)

    This should be fun.

    Also fun, watching the Republicans praising him for suggesting more nuclear energy.

"Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed." -- Robin, The Boy Wonder