I had the genuine pleasure of talking to Rod Adams of the terrifc site Atomic Insights this evening, along with my friend Barry Brook of Brave New Climate, for the purpose of his Rod’s podcasting show. Rod recently came across Decarbonise SA and was kind enough to give the site a great write up, so I was delighted to return some of my time to him today.
Subscriber Patrick Greene pointed me towards this TED talk from Bill Gates. It’s a cracker. For starters he, like Decarbonise SA, is clear that half measures are totally inappropriate in the face of climate change. We either decarbonise fully, or we fail. He puts forward an excellent and succinct argument regarding the pressures of population, service consumption and energy efficiency on our total output of greenhouse gas, with an emphasis on the need to alleviate poverty. He then gives a highly pragmatic outline of the potential energy solutions before exploring his preferred: 4th Generation nuclear power. Here is the video, it’s 20 minutes plus questions. I have some criticism to follow.
Last week I gave this fairly lengthy interview to Stan Thomson of ABC South East in Mt Gambier ahead of my presentation that evening. We took four callers, which was great. Particular thanks to caller Geoff who gave my presentation a huge wrap, and acknowledged that he had now done a full turn around on nuclear. I think those voices are the most potent.
How do you get people to open their minds to nuclear power, a subject as vexed, emotional and filled with misinformation as any? How do you accelerate awareness of the only energy source with the potential to restore balance to our climate while serving a growing world?
45 minute presentations like mine are good when you get the opportunity, but the opportunity doesn’t come every day… you need something fast, engaging, enjoyable, and easily passed on.
That was the challenge. Here is the result. I’m proud of this collaboration. If you like it, please make it available through your channels: Facebook, Twitter, email the link, everything.
Some background. A few months ago, while en route to deliver our presentations on nuclear power to the Alternative Technology Association, I mentioned to my friend Barry Brook (Brave New Climate) that I had tentative plans for making a film. Barry replied that he wanted to create a short video with some (well deserved) prize money that he had received for being such an excellent science communicator. He had a film maker in mind, and asked would I like to jump in to the making?
Slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, awareness is growing that there is some incredible new technology in nuclear power; Generation IV uranium reactors, and thorium fuelled reactors. These technologies bring significant advantages above and beyond the best commercially available and near –commercially available nuclear technology today. Neither is theoretical, both have been proven and demonstrated. India is building the first Generation IV plants now with the prototype fast breeder reactor plant (PFBR) to be completed at the end of this year. The advantages of the new technology over the current are basically these:
- Remarkable passive safety
- Extraordinary amounts of energy per unit of fuel
- Truly negligible quantities of much shorter lived waste
The thermal baffle being lowered into the 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor in India, May 2010. Generation IV nuclear is not a myth.
For those less familiar with the technology to which I am referring, this article by Tom Blees will bring you nicely up to speed.
The basic issue with the technology is that it is very new to commercialisation (in the case of Generation IV uranium reactors), or a little way off commercialisation (in the case of thorium). That means we have some time to wait before manufacturing, marketing and selling of the technology is ramped up, and we might expect a few teething problems along the way. That says nothing about the technology; it’s the normal pathway of such things.
But the basic concepts are so good that it is enough to get even hardened nuclear opponents thinking twice, and leads to the refrain that is becoming more common, “We should use nuclear power, Generation IV”. I have heard that quite a bit now from a number of different people. The unstated (or sometimes very clearly stated!) implication being, we should not use what could be bought off the shelf and built more or less immediately.
I disagree, and I’m using the diagram below to explain why. I’ve mentioned before that diagrams are not my strong suit. Be nice.