Monday, May 9, 2016

Let's determine whether we really want to save civilization or not : A rebuttal to Linda Pentz Gunter

I've just finished my newest book "Science a la carte" which will be available on Amazon within a week or two, so i finally have some time to get some rebutting done. Consider this masterpiece written by anti-nuclear activist Linda Pentz Gunter. 

Lost in Bonkers: the Breakthrough Institute’s Pro-Nuclear Quackery
In the old country, where I come from, you call a rubbish article like this one by Professor Steven Hayward, “bollocks.”  And if it’s bollocks, then it needs a bollocking.  Contrary to popular belief, we Brits are not very polite.  So sorry about that, and here goes.

Welcome to the fray Linda, how nice of you to show up. I see that you, like me, like to play the terse card. I have read your silly little article and I must say that I wasn't shocked at all, in fact, I thought you were rather nice. But hey, we can't all be me, right? I take my queues from Christopher Hitchens who used to be an Englishman and sadly enough has passed away a couple of years ago.

P.S. I am writing this to the tune of : Feierlich und gemessen, ohne zu schleppen

Let's see what Linda has to say

Firstly, the article is barely by Hayward at all.  Twelve of its 18 paragraphs were actually written by — and are attributed to — Hayward’s undeclared Breakthrough Institute crony; its president Michael Shellenberger.

Okay, Shellenberger is a crony, ad hominem attack one. We're counting logical fallacies today.

The Breakthrough Institute should probably be classified as a hate group, given the ever-thickening vitriol they pour these days on the environmental movement in general and the anti-nuclear movement in particular.

Victim complex, a clear show of cognitive dissonance. Where's the criticism on your own flock? I can criticize Shellenberger for using brush-statements and we could probably have a great  debate about it. I am a liberal, but not a joiner-upper. I guess that joiner-uppers of ideologies help these kinds of statements. I want to address the people who call themselves environmentalists and want humanity to regress, regardless of the consequences, and you are probably one of them. Next time, be more specific.

Shellenberger majors in Trump-style bombast, his acolytes repeating every phrase he utters no matter its veracity.  In the Trump culture, “nothing-could-be-further-from-the-truth” and “the actual truth” have become synonymous.

Could you please offer citations? As long as you do not cite any of these repeats, I will brush it away as mere meaningless babble.

Thus Hayward can quote this from Shellenberger: “anti-nuclear environmentalists from Germany to Illinois to California bless the burning of fossil fuels if it means they can force the closure of a nuclear power plant.”

Really use a quote mine? Be fair next time and show the whole picture, you disingenuous twat (too terse?). The omitted piece has been highlighted...

"Nothing much has changed. In flat contradiction of their stated views that climate change represents an imminent catastrophic threat, anti-nuclear environmentalists from Germany to Illinois to California bless the burning of fossil fuels if it means they can force the closure of a nuclear power plant."

Which is precisely what you are doing, albeit that some of "you" are unaware of it. As long as you keep focussing on nuclear energy coal, gas and oil are going to win the energy-fight and the substantiation of this claim can be found in EIA reports, reports from the World-Coal-Organisation, etc. etc. They all paint a grim picture of ever growing fossil fuel consumption, simultaneously a marginal growth in solar and wind and a stabilization of nuclear power, which means that fossil fuels win simply by your dogmatic focus on nuclear and the influencing of the people.

Clearly, Shellenberger knows nothing at all about the genesis of the anti-nuclear movement in Germany nor why it is so politically powerful and effective (never mind how renewables remain on track there to almost entirely displace all nuclear power and fossil fuels — including in the transport sector — by 2050.)

Citation please, can you provide evidence to support this claim? I've actually investigated the figures and I can assure you that you are wrong. You can read this in my next book, I'm not going to give away too much. I have a couple of children to feed you know...

As Angelika Claussen of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Germany, explained it at a recent UK conference, “when you ask ‘where are the anti-nuclear people, or the anti-coal people, or the pro-renewable energy people’, that’s us. We are all the same people.” 

So what? This is again nebulous and meaningless and inconsequential babble and a non-sequitur at the same time. Fallacy #2. Quote mining is fun, isn't it?

The U.S. anti-nuclear movement supports Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal and Beyond Oil
campaigns among others, as well as the anti-fracking and anti-Keystone pipeline movements and has had to practically beg to get on the stage at national climate rallies.

Which is actually contradictory to your first claim... besides who cares about movements that are founded on fallacious reasoning and scientific quackery?

Sadly, it is in fact the U.S. anti-fossil fuel crowd that, unlike in Europe, has been slow to bring the anti-nuclear movement under the climate change umbrella.  Not, as Shellenberger ridiculously suggests, the other way around.

Is this really sad?

So what else?
Shellenberger says: “Nuclear produces zero air or water pollution.”  Wrong again.  Operating nuclear power plants routinely release radioactive isotopes into the air and water.  A meta-analysis of numerous studies now clearly shows that childhood leukemia rises as much as 37% among children living close to nuclear plants that have never had an accident.

Citation needed...

And let’s not forget the uranium needed to fuel nuclear plants.  Uranium mining, particularly the in situ method, uses vast quantities of water and leaves it polluted with heavy metals as well as radioactive isotopes.
About 85% of the radioactivity in the ore mined remains behind in crushed rock, called “tailings,” and is never used to make reactor fuel or electricity.  The tailings contaminate drinking water and blow in the air as radioactive dust.
That’s pollution.  And it has killed and sickened countless numbers of uranium miners and their families, in the U.S. and around the world, mostly low-income indigenous people of color.

Citation needed...

Shellenberger claims nuclear energy “uses tiny quantities of natural resources.”Not so.  In addition to the vast amount of water wasted and polluted by uranium mining, nuclear power plants also consume large quantities of water.  This is either lost as steam or discharged as hot— and radioactively contaminated  — water into oceans, lakes and rivers.

Citation needed... Besides have you a scope on the total volume of said "polution" and have you a scope on the total volume of waste which is related to solar, wind and biomass? Chemical tailing? Rare-earths? You should dig into those numbers, they are staggering. You should seek Lake Baotau on YouTube and see what our precious electronics (including PV and Wind) cause...

Last time we looked, not only did water qualify as a “natural resource,” it has now been identified as the biggest coming stress factor due to climate change, according to the World Bank, which I’m pretty sure is not an anti-nuclear group.

In fact, we are already seeing conflicts such as the one in Syria, provoked by climate-induced water shortages.  This observation was made by the Smithsonian Institution, which is also not an anti-nuclear group.

Again a non-sequitur, having nuclear energy available for desalination practices may in fact increase fresh-water availability all over the world. But this is a blatantly simple fact you seem to overlook. Besides if cooling water turns to steam it is not lost, it returns as precipitation... Do you even understand physics? The hydrological cycle in a nutshell : evaporation, condensation, precipitation, evaporation...

Continuing to advocate for large, baseload, water-consuming electricity producers such as nuclear and fossil fuel plants, runs contrary to what’s in the best interest of mitigating climate change.
Of course, the nuclear evangelicals do not limit themselves to skewering the anti-nuclear crowd.  They hate renewables as well and must be feeling particularly green as they watch solar and wind installation wildly outpacing nuclear worldwide.

Again, nuclear energy does not consume water. And secondly wind and solar are outpacing nuclear by a very slight margin. In fact renewable additions are so feeble that it is hardly a task to outpace them. Build 10 nuclear reactors in a year and renewables can never ever catch up again. It's simple mathematics, something you do not seem to grasp, and yet you have been given this platform that serves to influence the opinions of countless of people based on fallacious reasoning and pseudo-science and as such you should be held accountable for the dangerous nonsense you are peddling. Don't tickle my callous bone, because I am only getting started...

Shellenberger says that “solar and wind require three to five times as much steel and concrete as nuclear plants,” for which the steelworkers in Germany, whose jobs have been revived by the wind energy industry, are eternally grateful.

Which is a pointless argument, since you have no idea what the total scale of renewable required is. Listen if jobs are the prime consideration we may see this whole renewable-charade as a jobs-program, no more and no less. The point is that if we want to mitigate man-made emissions, we need to be doing more with less, not less with more. Which is the green paradox after all. You seem to blissfully disregard the fact that all these materials need to be extracted from the earth, purified, transported and used. Which means that the volume is much higher, and as such you are an advocate for even more natural destruction than you care to admit. You an environmentalist? My ass!

The California-residing Shellenberger seems not to have noticed that the number one greenhouse gas problem in his state is caused by all the vehicles on the freeways.

Ask him, do you presume that he doesn't?

Reviving much-needed U.S. industries to support the supply chain that the solar and wind industries stimulate is not going to destroy the planet.  And keeping California’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant open, as Shellenberger would like, won’t save it either.  It’s a classic Breakthrough red herring.
The Breakthrough Institute majors in factual avoidance, so Shellenberger and Hayward don’t mention that the U.S. installed zero GW of new nuclear in 2015 compared to 8.5 GW of new wind and 7.3 GW of new solar but just 5.94 GW of natural gas. These numbers were released not by anti-nuclear activists but by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  They indicate an upward trajectory for renewables, which is far more relevant than the current share of the market.

And this impresses you? 8.5GW? We need world-wide growth rates of 200/300 GW per year of Nuclear, Geothermal, Wind and Solar to put a dent in Coal and Gas alone... With these numbers we haven't solved the other 90% of thermal energy consumption. So if Breakthrough pulls a red-herring through the grass, so are you. Besides if you look at actual generation capacity (accounting for capacity factors) nuclear is again trumping renewable energy (sans biomass and hydro) by a comfortable margin.

Did you know that 5.94 GW of natural gas equals 13GW of solar (yes that's right, effectively 5GW more than solar) and equals 7,6GW of wind (so basically on par). And tell me, how much coal and biomass did the US add to the mix?

And let's not lie shall we, according to the EIA the US only added 2.2GW to the energy mix in 2015. And even nuclear added 1.1GW to the mix in 2015... Which is equal to 4.95GW of solar. Yes that's right, you play the silly capacity game, but do you even understand what it means and what it delivers and how it is determined? I guess not, otherwise you wouldn't state such ludicrously silly facts that actually may bite you in the ass while you're not looking. To bad...

Furthermore, the White House reports that the U.S solar industry is adding jobs 12 times faster than the rest of the economy “and they pay better than average.”

It does not logically follow that having a high job-addition rate and a better pay means that it is able to solve an 850 Quadrillion BTu challenge, far from it. Again a meaningless non-sequitur. Even though I can SHOW you evidence that LCOE for nuclear is on par with the cheapest forms of energy on the world, I submit to you that it is not the prime requirement to get enough built in a meaningful timeframe. There are limitations which are set in stone, and these are resource availability, purification-rates, production-rates, and transportation rates. And even though these show a growing trend, they do not allow for the explosive growth that is required by schemes that are being promoted by Mark Z. Jacobson and the suchlike.

UBS sees nuclear and coal duly going the way of the dinosaurs as well.  In a June 2015 report, also quoted in the 2015 World Nuclear Energy Status Report, UBS states
We believe solar will eventually replace nuclear and coal and [be] establish[ed] as the default technology of the future to generate and supply electricity.  An important driver is the realization that solar PV will increasingly be deployed without subsidy, unlike the technology cost curves for nuclear.

Based on what evidence? Who the hell is the UBS? If it's a banking conglomerate of some sorts, well fuck them. Besides LCOE for nuclear is as low as 40-50 $/MWH which means that paying upfront for 60 years of grid stability is well worth it.

The mantra about the intermittence of solar and wind making them unable to replace nuclear and coal is so old hat it’s in mothballs.

The fact that this argument, to use a better word, is old, doesn't mean that it isn't true. What's your solution? Conservation? Smart-Grids? Storage? Great! More mining, purification and manufacturing that needs to be done. yes that's right, none of these come for free, nor are they completely circular, and as such we may conclude that in order to offset the unreliable nature of these technologies we have to add more complexity. We don't want our factories to grind to a halt, our hospitals to go dark, or our infrastructure to collapse, right? What about agriculture? Ever cared to investigate how much energy and water (again energy) is required to do agriculture in such a way that we can feed civilization? What about pest-control now the winters are becoming softer and our crops are being eaten by little critters rather than little children? Oh yes that's right, we need copious amounts of energy to get them done, are you going to do the hamsterdance in order to create this energy? Or are you going to rely on BIG solar and BIG wind and BIG batteries in order to get it done? What a preposterous and otherworldly idea. Have you ever seen the inside of a physics-classroom? Did you do well? Or are you a social-studies-twat that thinks that we can change the world by becoming politically correct and all cuddly with each other? Don't be ridiculous. Want to curb fertility rates? Want to curb deaths from malnutrition? Want to curb deaths from diarrhea? Start thinking about stable ways of creating copious amounts of energy to provide food and water for all, not just for you and me in our cozy chairs, but also the poor children in Africa and South America and Asia... And don't be so simplistic or naive to presume that producing two-, three-, four-hundred billion 200 watt solar panels per year is going to put a dent in this civilization conundrum of ours. Which is what you are, as far as I am concerned. Have you ever paid attention during mathematics or physics or chemistry classes?

The shameless Shellenberger’s final venture into hyperbole is his allegation that because of early anti-nuclear PR, “Millions were convinced a nuclear meltdown was the same as a nuclear bomb.
Mr. Shellenberger, meet Dr. Wertelecki, who has academic credentials a mile long and has actually studied the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear power disaster on human beings, especially women pregnant at the time, their subsequent children and the third generation after that.
Wertelecki’s findings are shocking and sickening and the photos are here.  Take a look. Then tell me that a gift like that, which keeps on giving birth defects down generations, isn’t as bad as the legacy of Hiroshima?

First, a total non-sequitur : you don't answer the premise of Shellenberger's statement. Can nuclear power stations explode like nuclear bombs? Second, You dare to speak about hyperbole??? Who tells me those photo's haven't been taken in South America? Who tells me that these defects haven't been caused by a hereditary genetic defect? Those pictures don't have any significance and only serve to drive home a form of paralyzing anti-nuclear fatalism. Third, what about the argument from authority fallacy? The fact that Wertelecki has academic credentials from here to the moon is meaningless, where's the actual evidence? I've seen the presentation you've linked and I must say that I didn't find it convincing. I would like to see true cohort studies that can prove cause and effect. But they aren't there, are they? This is called the false cause fallacy, correlation does not mean causation.

You do know that the WHO and UNSCEAR have investigated these issues and are still doing so and up until now have not been able to substantiate more than 4.000 cases of thyroid cancer, right? Most of which non-fatal I might add.

Hayward coos at the end of his piece that his darling “Michael is one of the environmentalists who have been leading the charge for environmentalists to change their mind on nuclear power.”  
No “Steven”, he isn’t; an environmentalist, that is.  Unless, like “true,” “environmentalist” also means the opposite in Breakthroughland.

First, what the hell does this even mean? This is quasi-important authoritative meaningless contradictory babble. You are no authority on anything and you don't get to set the rules, neither do you get to set the meaning of words, what's next 1984? Newspeak? Secondly, who the hell are you?
Linda Pentz Gunter is the international specialist at Beyond Nuclear. She also serves as director of media and development. 

Specialist in what? 

I've done some calculations and comparisons on "death-prints" from several causes, and even if (suppose) nuclear energy would have claimed 150.000 lives all over the world, it still is being dwarfed by all other causes. And this is being incredibly "generous" to the anti-nuclear crowd.

Well i'm off, there's more debunking to do! Goodbye Linda, it was fun while it lasted. You bore me, you silly old twat. 

This is how you do "not very polite..." Don't be such rebel, you...

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