Saturday, January 9, 2016

Another questionable article by a highly acclaimed expert in Climate Change : Joe Romm

ClimateProgress has an excellent writer, and his name is Joe Romm, another highly acclaimed person, set out to prove Hansen wrong and to make sure that nuclear energy get's another unsubstantiated hit, whilst trying to sprinkle fairy dust over renewable energy.

Let's have a look at this highly estimable influencer of people.

Look at that! A PHD in physics from MIT. I presume that he is able to do some simple calculations. As always I'll start off by adding this little caveat, he has actual experience in Academia, I have none, all I will bring to the table is my limited brain capacity, some common sense and high-school understanding of mathematics, physics and chemistry.

What does Joe have to tell us?

"Why James Hansen is wrong about Nuclear Power"

Exciting! This is an interesting title, let's find out what James Hansen has to say about nuclear power?

""Climatologist James Hansen argued last month, “Nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change.” He is wrong."
"They ignore the core issues: The nuclear power industry has essentially priced itself out of the market for new power plants because of its 1) negative learning curve and 2) inability to avoid massive delays and cost overruns in market economies."

The significant difference between you - Joe - and James Hansen, is that he actually cares about solving this issue and knows that it is TECHNOLOGICALLY feasible to do it using nuclear energy AND Renewable energy sources, but that each technology needs to be implemented in the smartest possible way. James Hansen understands the limitations of either technology, and since this is a technological challenge, his stance is in this is warranted. Joe, however, is going to question this technological feasibility by introducing questions about the economics of nuclear energy and the delays within nuclear energy, which are mostly caused by regulatory hurdles.

What do economics and regulations have to do with technological feasibility? Nothing.

Basically I have already refuted the entire article already, Joe is trying to build an elaborate non-sequitur to discredit James Hansen's suggestion that 115 NPP's might be required to supplant the fossil fuelled electricity generation.

Also note that this argument :

" renewable power, electricity storage, and energy efficiency — have seen steady, stunning price drops for a long time."

Is proposing solutions based on the wrong metrics, price drops are meaningless if you do not have the materials to do it. Furthermore the "energy efficiency" myth will be blown out of the water sooner rather than later. But hey, it's a nice buzzword to use, right?

Does Joe understand the necessity of decarbonization?

We do not have a minute to spare, which means that we cannot discount ANY non-GHG-emitting energy generator / capture-device. Even I accept that we should be building renewables, albeit for different reasons, and with different contexts.

Where it is true that the warming the planet has to be mitigated and as such we need to stop adding potent heat trapping gasses to the atmosphere, there is one even more dire possible outcome of our emissions and this is set to happen before 2050 : Ocean Acidification and the extinction of vital oceanic organisms that can cascade upward in the food chain, eventually hitting humanity, quite soon I might add.

I am one of those people who doesn't herald the COP21 accord as a victory over Anthropogenic Climate Change. In fact, I think the COP21 accord is yet another postponement of critical measures required to mitigate the immediate threat of Ocean Acidification, Sea Level Rise, Crop Failures, Diminishing Water Supplies and other dire effects of our activities.

So what are we doing here? Jacobson for instance loves to bash nuclear while peddling a 100% WWS dream with cherry picked facts and ignoring vital effects of our current 400PPM transgression. Oreskes follows in his wake by trying to play a nice weather woman and citing Jacobson. And now this clown has risen to the challenge.

I am inclined to start building a list of number-obfuscators, cherry pickers, climate-change populists (People who love to stand on stage, and that enjoy the attention their "cosy good news show" gives them).

I am not saying that Climate Change isn't real, but it seems to have given rise to a new sort of people that like to push an agenda while ignoring critical facts that should force them to alter their stance, particularly because they are academics. As soon as people start peddling nonsense in order to influence the public opinion against valid solutions offered against the most dire threat in our existence, I will step up to the plate... It is time this nonsense stops.

Here's the cardinal question I'm going to submit to you, Joe :

Do we want to step into the ring against a formidable prize fighter, knowing we're at full strength, or are we going to accept that we've crippled ourselves before we entered the fight - of life and death?

Here's my counter argument :

Since you are willing to cripple our ability to fight Greenhouse emissions and the effects of Anthropogenic Climate Change, I think you are an immoral human being and do not fully grasp the seriousness of the situation we're in.

"Why Joe Romm is wrong about Nuclear Power"

consider this graph shared by Joe :

First of all note the long lull in nuclear development, which basically runs from 1987 until 2004 after which shows a clear sign of revival, also note that Fukushima caused another drop, but soon after the nuclear industry started ramping up again.

That lull of 17 years had nothing to do with natural constraints imposed on nuclear energy. The only constraints that exist are these : Public acceptance (based on irrational fear) and economics. And you can clearly see it, because the causes are shown...

If economics are going to dictate what we do in order to ensure that the biosphere (of which we are a part, and depend on) doesn't get destroyed, we're going to lose. It is as simple as that. And there lies the true issue we need to resolve. Are we willing to let economics dictate the efficiency by which we tackle Anthropogenic Climate Change, or are we going to use science, reason and our technological fortitude to do it?

This is what the same graph looks like if you plot the averages and the baseline average.

This graph tells us that we can reasonably expect an addition of at least 14 NPP's per year, furthermore we have no reason to suspect that this technology is limited at least below the 42 NPP's per year. I therefore dare to assume to a reasonable degree of certainty that James Hansen's target of 115NPP's is not unreachable. The constraints are not by any means insurmountable.

Also note that these are not standardized concepts or designs. Many nuclear power plants in operation today had different design specifications, and it took the industry a long time to standardize designs.

Now we do have standardized designs and there are developments that ensure ship- / plane-building style construction plants for Small Modular Reactors and Molten Salt Reactors. This last technology has been proven to work in the 1960's during the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment. Currently there are four notable start-ups working on designing new MSR's. Also consider the fact that TU-Delft (a highly esteemed technical University in the Netherlands) is now also working on MSR Technology. Your own Alma Mater (MIT) has dedicated time and money to MSR technology and is the origin of one of the most promising start-ups (Transatomic Power) in MSR technology. The MSR movement is growing, the interest is growing, there are credible designs, there is investment money.

Also consider this graph which is a projection by the IEA and NEA based on a What-if scenario :

What conclusion can we derive from this chart? It shows us that we would NEED to grow from approximately 400 GW in 2012 to ~900GW of nameplate capacity in 2050, in order to keep track of the 2 degrees scenario. That's adding roughly 500 GW in 40 years, 12.5 GW each year. That's roughly ten AP1000 reactors. Hardly exiting. That's 105 short of Hansen's figure. But it is also four units below the baseline average, and 32 below the first production spike of 1976.

This is not taking into account the efforts and potentiality of the start-ups.

This gives me confidence, that nuclear energy will remain growing up until the 6600 TWh by the 2050's

Note the positive correlation between share of capacity installed and share of electricity generated.
Also note that it shows a negative curve for Europe and a positive curves for India and China.

Let's extrapolate these figures though, because context matters, as you know I always translate into annual generation figures. Let's do this for the following metrics :

Wind : Annual addition 50GW / Capacity Factor 30
Solar : Annual addition 50 GW / Capacity Factor 20
Nuclear : Annual addition 12,5 GW / Capacity Factor 90

These graphs are not stacked on top of one and other, they are placed in front of each other in order to compare the possible, yet linear, growth lines.

As you can see, even with a significant lesser number in annual added capacity, Nuclear remains ahead of the technologies until at least 2030. By then it is reasonable to suspect that Generation IV MSR's have been thoroughly tested and become commercially available.

Mark Z Jacobson suggests that we can run the world on 110.000 TWh of electricity generation.  (Omitting cumulative upkeep & replacements, emerging economies, growing population, increased water troubles and the need for carbon capture and sequestration). Let's put some additional context in this picture :

Note the discrepancy between the growth required and the additions of nuclear, wind and solar...
If the EIA is correct in it's predictions, 110.000 TWh will not cut it, at all. Which basically means that a call for increased nuclear development is warranted, since given the current scenarios we will still have massive emissions.

Current electricity consumption is around 20.000 TWh, so IF we could keep current projected growth rates, we might be able to nearly reach that mark, however all technologies are faced with replacement requirements as well. Where NPP's have a lifespan of 60 years, wind turbines and solar panels have a functional lifespan of 15 to 25 years.

Note that current growth rates are completely and utterly unable to achieve the task that Jacobson requires of his technologies. Also note that for this to happen some fairy dust needs to be sprinkled on renewable energies, making them grow exponentially. The sad thing is that there's always a limit to exponential growth, especially when placed in the domain of the real world, and not in nebulous issues like money & economics.

By this token WWS / RE is required to grow by 3.100 TWh annually. Omitting cumulative upkeep & replacements which start to occur at the 15 year mark and will grow exponentially from thereon. The current growth-rate of Renewable energy is about 220 TWh, which Is about 2.900 TWh short of Jacobson's own requirement.

Also note that it is unrealistic to presume that energy demand is going to drop, simply consider this graph from the IAEA : Link to original 

The implications of this concrete expectation is that we cannot discount any technology, regardless of the problems it faces. Especially if those problems are non-technical hurdles. There are no insurmountable technological difficulties in the Nuclear Energy Industry. So why the adamant push against it?

Projections of BP, the EIA and other organizations support the growing and not declining energy demand forecasts. They expect the energy consumption to grow to 240.000 TWh by the 2050's. Obviously converting from thermal energy to electricity provides some efficiency, it is not always as efficient, so it is safe to bet that we'll still be needing more energy than we currently consume. Even if we would introduce BEV's, Solar Heat, Electrical cooking, etc. etc.

Joe then wants to ridicule Sweden's and France's progress and dismiss it as meaningless. Here Joe again assumes something without backing it up.

"” the IEA and NEA explain what level of capacity additions would be required in the 2 degrees Celsius scenario: “In order for nuclear to reach its deployment targets under the 2D scenario, annual connection rates should increase from 5 GW in 2014 to well over 20 GW during the coming decade.” That means returning to a nuclear build rate previously achieved for only one decade — 20 gigawatts per year during the 1980s."

20 Gigawatts of annual nuclear additions equal 158 TWh of annual additions, which basically equals 50 Gigawatts of annual wind additions (which we currently have). So what's your point, Joe?

"The IEA and NEA themselves note that “such rapid growth will only be possible” if several actions take place including vendors demonstrating “the ability to build on time and to budget, and to reduce the costs of new designs.” Also, both governments and the industry need to maintain and improve safety. If such advances do occur, then new nuclear plants could provide a moderate amount of the needed new carbon-free power for the 2°C scenario."

Do you suppose that the nuclear energy industry has been standing still, do you presume that they won't get over these issues? But Joe takes it one step further :

"Seriously. Apparently they don’t think it relevant to let you know that Sweden has precisely … wait for it … 10 operational nuclear reactors! Yes, the fact that Sweden connected 10 reactors to the grid over a period of 15 years is somehow evidence the world could build “115 reactors per year to 2050.”`

Have you any idea how stupid this remark is? Sweden has about 10 million inhabitants, which means that it builds 1 reactor per million inhabitants per 15 years. We're not done yet though, Joe ramps up his stupidity and also takes France into account, thank you for that...

And what about the nation best known for its reliance on nuclear power? According to the online database of the International Atomic Energy Agency, France has 58 operational reactors, which took the country more than two decades to connect to the grid! That would be a rate of under three per year.

France has 66 million inhabitants (back then there were less French, but hey, 66 million get's the message across, right?), it has 58 reactors which means that there are 0.9 million French per Reactor, given a period of 20 years they build 1 reactor per 1.1 million inhabitants per 2.9 years.

Suppose this build rate (the French one) could be achieved globally?

We would be building 6.634 reactors in 2.9 years, that would be about 2.200 reactors per year. Now sure build-speeds will vary all over the globe, but suppose that each country in the world will start building one reactor each three years from now until 2050, we would have electricity to spare. China and India start building dozens, though, so they offset the micro-countries that do not need NPP's, but would be perfectly content with some wind turbines and solar panels and some batteries.

The build-rate per capita, per unit, per year is the metric you should focus upon. Just that two countries have done it, and done it according to their standards, within a meaningful time, doesn't mean that that's the maximum build-rate of the world. Nor is it a fact to ridicule, if it did anything, it was exposing your own blatant narrow-minded vision.

What if Scotland wanted to fully decarbonize using Nuclear Power? According to this article it would require FOUR AP1000 reactors, and they would have electricity to spare... And that for a country with 5.5 million inhabitants.

Do you now recognize the stupidity of your argument, Joe?

The limitations set on RE are in the use of rare-earth materials, that have not been stockpiled, and of which production rates are constantly under pressure, whereas nuclear energy can easily continue functioning based on the amount of spent-fuel alone.

Did Mark Z Jacobson consider the cumulative upkeep and replacements for wind for instance? What would he have to say about the grey areas of these graphs provided by Actinideage ?

As we all know, Wind Turbines have a limited lifespan, it's generally between 15 and 20 years. Some people claim that they can run for 25 to 30 years but this is rather risky. Metal Fatigue, increased maintenance etc. render the functional lifespans of these energy capturing devices rather short. The same applies to Solar Panels, the problem with Photo voltaic panels is chemistry. PV panels degrade and there's no stopping it. Which means that they also need to be replaced within a fairly limited timeframe.

And these are not the only issues with WWS / RE, but I think we've reached the end of this already long and exhaustive article.


It is still not a matter of choosing winners and losers, it is now a matter of ramping up production capacity to such an extend that we can A. supplant Coal, Gas and Oil and B. that we have enough to increase prosperity, increase fresh water availability and perhaps even most importantly : start with Carbon Capture and permanent sequestration in Basalt.

In the long run it will be nuclear power that will come out on top and become the dominant energy source on Earth. It is not that hard to see happening. All the possible potential is there, it outstrips any form of renewable energy by light years... Even though we are currently using - touted as dangerous - Generation II reactors to create energy, we may only conclude that the track record of this industry has been excellent. There is no evidence to suggest that Chernobyl (an archaic and illegal design) and or Fukushima will have any long term lasting effects. In fact consider the wild-life refuge the Pripyat Area has become, consider for instance one of the largest herds of rare wild horses that roam there, or the countless of wild boars, wolves, owls and other wild-life that show no harm from the increased radiation levels at some point.

Even though the AP1000 design has been plagued by some delays, we may expect that once the last issues have been ironed out, the build time and costs of this design will drop, and the time it will take to construct these will drop. Why? Because it is inherent in it's standardized design and production scheme.

Also note that the nuclear industry is not stagnant, research and development - like in the RE industry - is ongoing. The revival of the MSR, the introduction of the PBR and many other designs will ensure that the curve on nuclear additions will rise. Why? Because these designs all cater to the notion that nuclear power plants have to become 1. Cheaper 2. Safer 3. More efficient 4. Proliferation resistant 5. easier to operate.

Do you, Joe, really think that the nuclear industry is blind? Or ignorant? It surely seems so, and there are some other RE acolytes out there that have the same naïve and simplistic way of thinking. The only you thing you people are doing is seeking out the most pernicious facts and try to demonize a technology that has the potential to keep us out of trouble.

Again I'll reiterate my list of upcoming and new champions for the Nuclear Renaissance :

Thorcon power
Flibe Energy
Terrestrial Energy
Transatomic Power

And Bill Gates's


The main thing we need to keep in mind is that wind and solar respectively require 22 to 36 times more materials to get build than contemporary Gen II reactors. And I am quite honest, if there are countries that want to build Gen II, they may pick the safest and most successful design and start building. But I am quite confident that aforementioned companies will revolutionize the Nuclear Industry within the coming decade. Don't worry, in the meanwhile at least four or five dozen reactors will have been built. But when Thorcon or Terrestrial hits the market, we'll be building them like airplanes...

The most specious argument of all is the feasibility argument, the argument that by reducing costs for RE, it will be possible to save the planet by mass implementation. This argument forgoes all the requirements that need to be met beforehand. Those are not negligible, those are true and set in stone. We're talking about resource limitations, manufacturing limitations, cumulative upkeep & replacements, recycling requirements, transportation requirements, required denudation of pristine lands, etc. etc. If we weigh these metrics, we firstly conclude that there are set limitations against RE in general and also see that the growth curve will be too limited. This strengthens James Hansen's case for 115 NPP's added annually, or at least the target thereof. Even if we only build 20 or 30 or 40 each year, it will mitigate our GHG emissions considerably. Note that the material investments of solar and wind dwarf those of nuclear (Generation II reactors).

Because Jacobsen, Oreskes, and now Romm try to push the 100% WWS scheme, I will deem it justified to strip them of their titles and ranks and no longer consider them academics. Why? Because they are people who omit vital facts that render their fantasy not only dangerous but - in the end - also catastrophic.

"Hero of the environment"? MY ASS!!!!

Not only are Joe and his ilk misinforming the general public, I submit to you that they are endangering our existence by discarding one of the most potent forces in the fight against anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide and other elements that are hazardous.


  1. It's terrible that such an authoritative person is playing against the important cause for implementing the only possible short and mid term solution for Human survival.

    1. Que-∑-Corréct you Are, Wilhelm, über such ~Evil~ "Entrenched Interests", which are, at best, Immoral!!
      Such somehow have acquired the "Authority" to supress Mankind's "Única" short- *and* Long-term Solution!
      Confira, favôr: