On my recent trip I had the good fortune to address the Canadian Nuclear Association in Ontario. My thanks to the CNA for the invitation, I was glad I could make it.

In this presentation I seek to describe the impressive but seriously flawed processes and trajectory of human development and the essential role of dense, clean energy in recreating our future: getting back to a time and mindset where we really view the future as something we are doing, not something that is decided. Since I was addressing an industry audience, the messages are targeted at how that industry must approach this challenge, however I think the messages are valuable and important for all of us to play our part.

Credits to friends Robert Stone for several of the beautiful images in the slides, to Michael Shellenberger for giving me some of my best lines (I’m asking forgiveness rather than permission…) and Ted Nordhaus for the COP21 analysis. Thanks Terrestrial Energy for being a nuclear company that walks, talks and acts like this stuff really matters. Finally thanks to friends old and new Stephen Tindale, Kirsty Gogan, Tom Blees, Frankie Fenton, Rauli Partinan, Janne Korhonen, Valerie Faudon (with Isabelle Jouet and others behind the scenes), Eric Myer, Nova Skylark (not shown), Francois-Marie Breon, Jim Hansen, Ken Caldeira, Kerry Emmanuel and Tom Wigley for coming together in Paris to enable me to make an important point: civil society cares about this issue and wants nuclear on the table.

17 comments

  1. We will need nuclear power for shipping especially defence showing the way.

    Can Silex here in Australia show the way with small nuclear power plants and go commercial.

    Does Australia have anything better than Silex.

    I assume passenger aircraft could never be nuclear powered.

    Are you aware of GGG getting excited with Uranium and rare earths from Greenland? Would this have advantages over the resources in US that Silex could process very cheaply?

    Cheers

    John

    02-9974 4420 Sydney

  2. A great presentation Ben.

    I believe more should be made of the fact that the most threatening thing to life is “air pollution”. We have known this for a long time, but I think the climate change issue has somehow hijacked this known fact.

    How can we make this important again to solve?

    1. Realities in major cities especially in Asia are pushing this back onto the agenda more strongly of late it seems. I feel the rural impacts remains poorly appreciated overall.

      As to the climate change issue, for those of us fortunate to have basic security today, looking ahead to 4 deg C or more temperature rise by end of century is serious cause for concern and demands and deserves attention.

      But, as I tried to get at, putting that above and beyond the realities for so many people alive today is a dead end and yes, for those people pollution is a greater problem though, frankly, the bigger problem is simple poverty and energy access.

  3. I agree that SA should draw heavily on the experiences of both Ontario and Argentina, the missing ingredient being hydro. Under the present grid network twin AP1000s are for the eastern states.

    I think cheap hydrogen could be the key to industrial heat over 300C. Like oil and gas there could be some substitution with transport fuels. Hydrogen gas has less combustion energy than hydrocarbon fuels so it could be converted to ammonia, acetyline, synthetic methane, dimethyl ether or methanol using recycled bio-carbon. When the wind is blowing and the sun is shining nuclear plants could make these fuels in their downtime. It won’t happen as long as there is no penalty on CO2 from fossil carbon.

    1. The IMSR from Terrestrial Energy is looking to provide reliable, large quantities of heat up to about 700 deg C in the first incarnation. So that directly answers a number of industrial heat requirements, though not all. Hydrogen, I agree, a good response to get those higher temperatures using low-marginal cost electricity from optimal combinations of renewable and nuclear though, frankly, to get everything we need we are going to need a committed fleet of generators, not just the leftover capacity at low-demand times, particularly wrapping in the need to make transportation fuels. Lowest possible cost nuclear again stands out.

      1. I’m finding it hard to imagine a reactor right next door to a steelworks or brickworks. For PR and security purposes NP plant should look clean not grimy therefore some distance away from the heat application.

        Blown sawdust can evidently achieve 1,000C
        http://www.architectureanddesign.com.au/news/sawdust-fuel-fires-australia-s-first-carbon-neutra
        with offsets questionably used to excuse the diesel or gas starter flame. Little specks of grit add character to bricks not sure about moulded glass.

  4. Well done Ben. I’m eagerly awaiting the licensing of the worlds first commercial molten salt reactor here in Ontario. Kudos to David LeBlanc and his great team at Terrestrial Energy. I still find it hard to believe that our nuclear engineers have in their hands the key to saving the world, but we never hear from them! They should be shouting from the roof tops.

    Liked your idea of connecting on shared values. Eliminate poverty, raise the standard of living for everyone while returning most of the worlds land back to wild nature for future generations to enjoy. This will require a clean energy technology with a massive energy density and energy return on energy invested. Fission is just such a technology, nothing else comes close.

    Other technologies will help with land use. I have high hopes for genetic engineering, indoor high yield, highly automated, aeroponic systems for growing crops in cities, year round, regardless of weather and unassailed by pests and weeds and vastly fewer chemical and water inputs. As you pointed out, it’s immoral to appropriate land from nature or indigenous people’s to feed us in cities. We must learn to feed ourselves in cities. With companies like Memphis Meats and Muufri we may free up most of our pasture lands as well. Advanced aquaculture is well on its way to relieving most of our burden on the oceans.

    Exciting times. Keep up the good work Ben.
    Cheers.

    1. Legend Dino, thanks.

      Terrestrial Energy do indeed have a fantastic technology and they have a great team and brilliant attitude to match. Let’s hope they can make their current run of progress continue. I’m right behind them.

  5. Great presentation, Ben. Your comments about France and UAE silence re nuclear in Paris are indicative of how far we have to go in turning around a defensive and inward-looking mindset.

  6. As I commented on the video on YouTube, brilliant presentation and ideas, Ben. I love that you’re challenging every person who knows the power of nuclear fission to step up to the plate and be a messenger for the moral necessity of humanity having power and energy, and NOT getting them by draining them out of the rest of the living world.

    I think you could take Michael Shellenberger’s story of the ‘celebration of the whales’, when we stopped using whale oil for lighting, to the next level. Imagine the ‘party of the forests’ and the ‘party of the jungles’ and the ‘party of the steppes’ when we reduce our land use. When we stop draining of the life out of the rest of the living world to power our world. When we reduce our pollution – CO2, fertilizer runoff, combustion particulates, concentrated toxics in coal ash, all the usual suspects. When we clean up after ourselves. What a party that will be, when we accept and act on our responsibilities as conscious adults in the living world!

      1. You’re more than welcome Ben! Include it in your oratory, and keep moving people to speak and act. I’ve been following your progress and you are a real inspiration to me.

  7. This Deloitte Access Economics study is actually 100% about South Australia
    http://www.energycouncil.com.au/policy/energy_markets_and_the_implications_of_renewables_1
    The report says what is needed but doesn’t make direct recommendations. SA needs more synchronous generation or its equivalent but there is no mention of the N word. It seems to say there is no point in SA getting more wind power without balancing mechanisms.

    I suspect the 540 MW Northern coal station that was supposed to close last month now next month will remain on longer perhaps with some deal equivalent to capacity payments. That’s despite reduced demand from the closure or downsizing of major employers Holden and Arrium.

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