April 11, 2005
Will Most Environmentalists Decide To Support Nuclear Power?

Science writer Joe Kaplinsky argues that the same environmentalists who most fear global warming caused by carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels are going to oppose nuclear power as a solution because they see the same human character flaw of hubris as motivating the use of both fossil fuels and nuclear power.

The idea that nuclear power has a role to play in reducing greenhouse emissions makes sense only if we disregard the mythic dimension of the global warming discourse. Science has established that rising concentrations of greenhouse gases are likely to lead to warmer temperatures. The 'myth of global warming', however, goes beyond those facts, interpreting them through a story of man's arrogant attempts at mastery leading to a revenge of nature. There is no place for nuclear power as a hero in this myth. Rather, nuclear power is the original villain - the hi-tech, scientific, large-scale solution to economic development. Seen in this light it is apparent that while a higher profile for global warming might give nuclear power a boost, in the end it will hold nuclear energy back. A substantial revival of nuclear power could only occur if the case was made for science and technology contributing to social progress. Without that case being made nuclear technologies will remain hedged in with restrictions, and society will be unable to realise their potential.

How dare we mere humans, faced with the mightiness of nature, think we can harness nature's forces and use them wisely. But I see a contradiction in this paganistic attitude: Why would infinitely wise nature give humans the innate ability to develop technologies that could cause such damage to Gaia? Or do the environmentalists fear that if we step too far up the ladder of high technology then mother nature will strike out and destroy us for our impudence?

I see a shift of public opinion back in favor of nuclear power as more likely to occur in the United States than in Britain. Why? Americans are less afraid of technology. For example, genetic engineering of foodstuffs attracts little political opposition in the United States while it is strongly opposed by environmentalists in Britain.

Why the difference? I see the lesser fear of technology in America as due in part to the wider spead belief in Christianity in America as compared to Britain. In the Chrisitian view humans stand above nature while God stands above humans. Humans then have a God given right to control and master nature. Take away that Christian world view and some (though not all) Westerners revert to a paganistic view of nature as being imbued with supernatural qualities. To master or redesign some part of nature becomes sacrilegious to a pagan who sees life forms in nature as more authentic and legitimate than devices which are the product of human minds.

Looked at this way the French, with their continued enthusiasm for nuclear power, might be more authentically unreligious (in the sense that they didn't just shift from Christianity to paganism) than the Germans who are shutting down all their nuclear power plants.

Does this explanation really work? Lots of influences come together to cause changes in public opinion. So at best the decline of Christianity and the lingering echoes of pagan cultures explain only part of the differences in views toward nuclear power or genetically modified foods. But the opposition to genetic engineering of crops seems especially difficult to justify on any scientific grounds. So explanations for the opposition must be sought in culture, religion, and other influences.

Whole Earth catalog founder and environmentalist Stewart Brand expects environmentalists to shift back in favor of nuclear power and change their tune on other issues as well.

Over the next ten years, I predict, the mainstream of the environmental movement will reverse its opinion and activism in four major areas: population growth, urbani­zation, genetically engineered organisms, and nuclear power.


Along with rethinking cities, environmentalists will need to rethink biotechnology. One area of biotech with huge promise and some drawbacks is genetic engineering, so far violently rejected by the environmental movement. That rejection is, I think, a mistake. Why was water fluoridization rejected by the political right and “frankenfood” by the political left? The answer, I suspect, is that fluoridization came from government and genetically modified (GM) crops from corporations. If the origins had been reversed—as they could have been—the positions would be reversed, too.

I have one quibble with Brand: In America the mainstream environmental movement abandoned opposition to population growth decades ago. Why? Immigration and concerns about racism. Opposition to population growth was seen as opposition to reproduction and migration by non-white people. White fertility was falling more than that of other races and ethnicities (leaving aside Japan) back in the 70s and 80s and so to continue to push for birth control efffectively became a push for birth control by people who are not white. For similar reasons the environmentalist movement in the US dropped its opposition to large scale immigration. So while environmentalists were upset by California reaching 20 million population (and I agreed with them fwiw) they make nary a peep about the nearly 40 million now in California and the projections of 50 plus million for California's future population. This issue has come back to life as Richard Lamm and allies have tried to gain control of the Sierra Club and return it to its previous opposition to immigration. The Sierra Club's members are even voting again on this issue in April 2005. But population growth is not a big issue for most American environmental organizations.

Genetic engineering of plants for food crops strikes me as a very pro-environment development. Why? Plants can be improved to produce more food in less land area, thereby freeing up lots of land to return to nature. Advances in agricultural technologies have already caused this to happen in the United States where there are far more trees now than there were 100 years ago. Though in the future population growth will continue to spur the development of previously natural areas and may increasingly offset the gains from higher agricultural productivty per acre. Also, if the enthusiasm for biofuels is translated into wider spread use of land to grow crops for energy this could more than wipe out any gains in land made available for nature that come from higher agricultural productivity.

I predict that when genetic engineering produces treatments that rejuvenate our bodies then opponents of genetic engineering of food will find themselves in a small minority even in Britain and Europe. The public will see genetic engineering as capable of delivering wonderful benefits and will tend to give most other applications of the technology the benefit of the doubt.

Brand thinks the alternatives to nuclear power all add up to not enough.

So everything must be done to increase energy efficiency and decarbonize energy production. Kyoto accords, radical conservation in energy transmission and use, wind energy, solar energy, passive solar, hydroelectric energy, biomass, the whole gamut. But add them all up and it’s still only a fraction of enough. Massive carbon “sequestration” (extraction) from the atmosphere, perhaps via biotech, is a widely held hope, but it’s just a hope. The only technology ready to fill the gap and stop the carbon dioxide loading of the atmosphere is nuclear power.

Whether these alternatives add up to a sufficient set of solutions to various projections for carbon dioxide emissions depends on whether you think the effects of CO2 emissions create a problem that really needs to be solved and how urgently you think it needs to be solved. Even if you think CO2 will cause large changes in climate (and I remain unconvinced) and even if you think humans can not adapt to those changes without a big net loss in our collective well being (and again I'm unconvinced and suspect a warmer world might even be a net plus) the feeling of urgency in some quarters to start implementing ways to do CO2 emissions reduction today seems like a wrong response. The longer we wait the larger the array of lower cost technologies we will have to prevent or reverse global warming.

Most temperature projections from those unproven climate models show the bulk of the warming will occur in the second half of the 21st century. Why not spend the next 20 to 30 years funding many research and development efforts to produce new technologies for creating and harnessing and reducing emissions from various sources of energy? Yes, these technologies are all "just a hope". But so is funding of research for the development of cancer cures. Does anyone really believe that cures for cancer will not eventually come or that ways to make cheap photovoltaics or better batteries will not be found? To argue that we must use nuclear power is to argue that the brighter scientific and engineering minds will fail to develop other alternatives.

Mind you, I say all this as a person who likes nuclear power. I think we should develop pebble bed reactors and continue to do research on fusion energy. I would even go so far as to say that it be imprudent not to build more nuclear reactors and not to develop more advanced nuclear power technologies. Why? First of all, wind and solar power are not reliable sources of energy under some natural catastrophe scenarios. For example, at 600,000 to 700,000 year intervals massive volcanic eruptions have been occurring at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Such an eruption would release so much sunlight-blocking ash and gasses into the atmosphere that photovoltaics would be rendered useless in much or all of the world. The reduced light levels might last for a period of years. In comparison, nuclear power is an uninterruptible power source. Yes, reactors have to shut down periodically. But with thousands of reactors we'd always have thousands running even though hundreds would be shut down down for maintenance at any given moment.

While some people are shifting toward support of nuclear power due to concerns over global warming I see other environmental reasons for nukes. First off, unlike coal, nuclear power does not emit mercury, other toxic metals , oxides of sulfur and nitrogen, assorted organic compounds, or particulates. The uranium emissions from burning coal are causing far more health damage than radiation from nuclear plants. Also, nuclear power does not require strip mining operations. Plus, nuclear power avoids the need to cover the landscape with windmills or to convert land to crops for biomass energy production. On the downside nuclear power is still not "too cheap to meter". Plus, political opposition has prevented the development of good ways to store the waste. But those problems are probably solvable should public sentiment shift in favor of nuclear power.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2005 April 11 05:09 PM  Energy Nuclear

Tom Slater said at April 11, 2005 6:53 PM:

Dr. Jerry Pournelle says the solution for nuclear waste
has been figured out. Vitrify and drop off in a subduction
zone. As best as I remember.

gmoke said at April 11, 2005 8:06 PM:

Yep, let's build lotsa nukes - they make great targets for terrorists of every stripe.

Kurt said at April 11, 2005 8:21 PM:


This recent posting is exactly the reason why I enjoy reading your blogs. It effectively and concisely describes the logical inconsistancies and hypocracy that has built up in the left-wing and especially environmental moverment over the past 30 years. I basically "quit" the environmental movement in 1989 when they came out in opposition to "cold fusion" (if it were to have been real) for the non-sensical reasons that you have exactly described in our article. The whole "green' movement is much more an "anti-human, anti-industrial" movement than it is a genuine pro-environmental movement. Your article sums it up nicely.

toot said at April 11, 2005 8:52 PM:

Interesting discussion. I am not sure that Christians are alone in their belief in the God--human--nature hierarchy that you mentioned, although in the U.S. it is certainly Christianity that forms the primary barrier to the paganism that you describe. Who was it who said something to the effect that those who cease to believe in God do not then believe in nothing, but rather they become susceptible to belief in anything?
A renewed interest in nuclear energy on the part of liberals has been my precondition for taking global warming seriously, so maybe I had better look further at it now.

Invisible Scientist said at April 12, 2005 2:39 AM:

Randall Parker:
"Mind you, I say all this as a person who likes nuclear power. I think we should develop pebble bed reactors and continue to do research on fusion energy. "

Although the Pebble Bed Reactor might appease the environmentalists due to the fact that it is 100 % safe from a meltdown and that it would not release radiation even if the inner core of the reactor is ruptured by terrorists, the fact is that its uranium fuel efficiency is not much better than the pressurized water reactors. This is a major impediment for building a lot of reactors, because the total amount of uranium reserves in the world, is not enough for building a lot of uranium based reactors, and we would then end up with a uranium shortage instead of oil shortage.

However, the breeder reactors which generate generate plutonium as their own fuel while the uranium is burned in the core, basically turn out to be up to 100 times fuel more efficient in terms of fuel, because only about 0.7 % of the mined uranium is actually U-235 that is useful for fission. By using breeder type reactors, almost all of the mined uranium can ultimately become fuel. Among the breeder reactors that need to be developed, is the Integral Fast Reactor, which has the capability to burn its own plutonium while it is generated inside the reactor, so that the fuel rods do not need to be shipped to a distant reprocessing plant to extract and concentrate the plutonium.

Another type of breeder reactor is the Thorium based reactor, which basically converts Thorium into Fissile Uranium. It turns out that Thorium is far more abundant than Uranium, and countries like India are working on Thorium reactors, since they have more Thorium than Uranium.

Due to unexpected technical difficulties, it really looks like it will take a lot more than 25 years to make fusion work, possibly 100 years. Nobody knows. On paper fusion always looked great, but in practice, it turned out very difficult to implement. So it really seems that the traditional fission is the way to go, provided that we invest enough money with some government assistance, since the fission reactors are now feasible, and sufficiently competititive. In fact, even if thousands of the breeder reactors like the Integral Fast Reactor were built, then Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage would not be needed, since if the long term nuclear waste would be burned as fuel, and the remaining fuel would have a half-life less than 300 years.

To reassure the environmentalists, let me mention that many thousands of lung cancer patients die in the United States because the total amount of uranium that is released in the air from burning coal (yes, coal contains a lot of uranium, and we are burning incredible amounts of coal in the United States!) during any given year, is greater than the total amount of uranium that is used in all the nuclear reactors, even though absolutely no radiation is released into the atmosphere by these reactors.

The whole "green' movement is much more an "anti-human, anti-industrial" movement than it is a genuine pro-environmental movement. Your article sums it up nicely.

If fact, some of the so-called "green" people I have met, were secret racists and fascists disguised as left wing people.

michael vassar said at April 12, 2005 8:23 AM:

I've been thinking a bit about food consumption. It seems to me that while modifying plants is part of the solution, you could Really reduce the food requirements of humans by developing cellulose metabolizing bacteria capable of surviving in human stomaches (but highly vulnerable to antibiotics, bacteriophage, etc for control purposes). Also, if you could chemically reduce the metabolic set-point you might lower food requirements and extend life. Roy Walford once extended the lives of mice by implanting heat generating electrodes in their hypothalmuses. Of course, I bet there would be side-effects to this approach, but some yogis have been documented to lower their core temperature to

Jim said at April 12, 2005 11:03 AM:

i think ignorance has a lot to do with the hysterical liberal resistance to nukes..... blogs like this help. if more people understood the real trade-offs (i.e. if not nuke, then coal), then they would agree with nukes.

Ian said at April 12, 2005 11:25 AM:

If the US nuclear establishment weren't tied down to monolithic reactor designs and could adopt a campaign to push pebble bed reactors, I would expect to see a lot of US environmentalists turning to favor nuclear power. However, the March 20th FuturePundit post noted that none of the recently proposed US plants are radical departures from old designs.

I don't think it's unreasonable to demand the highest level of certainty when dealing with the possibility of catastrophic failure, particularly given the memorable nuclear disasters that have already occurred. Pebble bed reactors provide that certainty, and current US plans don't. As a skeptic (and not an environmentalist) I must oppose dangerous nuclear plant design until my skepticism is satisfied by proof.

Regarding the religious tangent, while the discussion is certainly novel (and therefore interesting) it's also bizarre. Perhaps Christianity teaches a feeling of superiority over the rest of nature, but "superiority" is a horrible reason to throw science out the window. If there is a very good scientific reason for a nuclear plant to melt down, then no Christian belief of "man over nature" will protect you from the consequences of said melt down.

In short, if it's some Christian belief that caused us to rush into several decades of dangerous nuclear plant design, then thank god we were spared for our arrogant delusions. ...And now, as a skeptic, I say, "give me pebble bed reactors!"

J. D. said at April 12, 2005 12:40 PM:

ITR would have been the developement phase for much of the generation III and IV concepts. Unfortunately it was cancelled during the Clinton administration due to pressure from anti-nuclear lobbies. I can't fault the nuclear industry for being conservative in this. Design changes, especially radical ones, need to verified. Have faith in engineers but rely on testing.

Randall Parker said at April 12, 2005 12:45 PM:


Irrational opposition to genetically engineered crops is causing millions to go blind and die needlessly in Africa and other places.

The most memorable nuclear reactor disaster to date was Chernobyl. It probably killed far fewer people than the emissions from coal-burning electric plants kill every year. The death toll from coal is going up dramatically because of China's industrialization. Yet all the deaths from coal are tolerated because for many less technically minded people coal pollution does not seem as scary as nuclear power.

Too many arguments against nuclear power ignore the costs of the alternatives. Jim is right to say that the real choice we face is coal versus nuclear. I'd take a lot more of the most improved light water reactor designs over coal plants at their current emissions levels.

However, if we required the coal plants to cut down all mercury, lead, cadmium, uranium, particulates, and other emissions by 95+% then coal might still be cheaper than nuclear. What is less clear in my mind is whether the CO2 emissions from burning coal will cause costs down the road that are too high to be acceptable.

In any case, I agree with you that pebble bed nuclear reactor development should be accelerated.

I also agree with Invisible Scientist that we should be developing breeder reactor technology to greatly stretch our uranium supply and to reduce the amount of nuclear waste that needs to be disposed.

And while I'm at it: We should be spending a half billion dollars a year each on photochemistry and electrochemistry research that would evenutally lead to cheaper and better photovoltaics and batteries respectively.

Rob McMillin said at April 12, 2005 12:49 PM:

I have a few questions that I've forwarded over to the folks at NEI Nuclear Notes for comment, one of which involves fuel supply. In discussions of nuclear power, it's often conceded that the amount of uranium is not really adequate for anything like "renewable" timespans (i.e., a majority of the world's power production) and even less so now. This is one reason I don't really support pebble bed reactors, nor do I think these same are really feasible in the long term; we need that "waste" so we can process and burn the plutonium.

Randall Parker said at April 12, 2005 12:53 PM:


You bring up an important point that has a more general form: Nuclear power has not advanced more rapidly because the staunchest opponents of nuclear power do not want to see nuclear reactor designs that are safer or that produce less waste or that cost less. They want to keep nuclear power as unattractive as possible.

To the extent the political Left takes global warming seriously and really believes it is a threat they are going to increasingly find their opposition to nuclear power to be at odds with their views about the environment. Toot is quite clever to use signs of a shift on the Left toward support for nuclear power as an indicator of whether the Left really is worried about global warming.

What continues to amaze me is that environmentalists do not push hard for a big ramp up of energy research. It seems they are more intent on sticking it to industry and punishing SUV drivers and care less about actually coming up with solutions to the environmental problems that they claim to see building up.

Ken said at April 12, 2005 1:47 PM:

I have supported nuclear for 50 years because the alternatives were worse.

The environmentalists make an error by fighting anything less than perfect. They should ask "is the technology an improvement?"

With nuclear power we would not destroy thousands of acres by strip mining, spill millions of barrels of oil at sea, pollute the atmosphere, and face the problem of obtaining foreign fuels.

toot said at April 12, 2005 1:49 PM:


I sometimes wonder if it is well understood just how dependent we are on energy and what our lives would be like if it were not plentiful. Some folks you run into are the woodsy-mossy types who imagine that we could all get by if we just installed wood stoves and rode bicycles. And of course there are the paranoiacs who think that it is only the malice of the oil companies and car manufacturers that prevent us from having carburetors that would allow our cars to run on water. The problem is the difficulty of maintaining one's perspective when extrapolating what little we know to large scale operations. I wish someone would make an estimate of how many windmills distributed over how large an area would be required to equal the power output of a power plant like Three Mile Island. My son lives about 4 miles from Three Mile Island, and he is largely oblivious of its existence. I suspect that if Three Mile Island were a wind farm of the same capacity, he would have windmills all around him. I drove through a wind farm just east of Los Angeles, and the experience left me with a queasy stomach.

Randall Parker said at April 12, 2005 3:04 PM:


I share your reaction to windmills. I do not want them covering the landscape. It might be cute to see them in just one place. But I like scenic vistas. Better nuclear than wind in my view.

I've been in arguments on my blog and elsewhere on whether solar photovoltaics would be a practical alternative if photovoltaics were only cheap enough. I think photovoltaics would be practical if costs of the photovoltaic materials were low enough. But we need better battery or other energy storage technology to allow photovoltaics to reach their full potential.

The argument that we would have to cover too much land area to make photovoltaics work does not stand up to close scrutiny. Look for "David Goodstein" in this post and check out his numbers on surface area. Note that higher conversion efficiency photovoltaics will eventually be achievable. So an even smaller area could be used eventually.

Once photovoltaic materials are developed which can be used as roof tiles and siding and on other surfaces that humans create we can use existing structures as photovoltaic collectors. Currently structures in the United States cover an area equal to Ohio. At 10% conversion efficiency we could get enough energy for current needs of the United States with just half the area of Ohio. In other words, putting photovoltaics on half the existing structures would give us the energy we need. Throw in siding and we could do better still. Though I see a serious challenge in coming up with photovoltaic materials that would make for good road surfaces. So what percentage of the total covering is buildings versus parking lots and road? My guess is that parking lots and roads are more than half of all surfaces.

I'm assuming that the US currently uses a quarter of the world's energy when I say we'd need half the area of Ohio. Bop up photovoltaic efficiency to 50% and the picture looks even more favorable. My guess is at 50% efficiency we could certainly get enough energy using photovoltaics only on buildings. Also, migration patterns in the US are moving people toward areas of greater average sunlight.

I very seriously doubt that the laws of physics make it impossible to find materials that would be cheap to use to make photovoltaics. I also seriously doubt that cheap photovoltaics will always have to have low conversion efficiencies. Smart physicists and chemists view photovoltaics as a solvable problem. My guess is they are right.

But we can't implement a solar economy right now. Currently our only practical alternative to fossil fuels is nuclear fission of uranium. We could probably develop breeder reactors pretty quickly (say in 10 to 15 years) and stretch out our uranium by orders of magnitude. I've never bothered to investigate the breeder reactor details because we can't even get past the political opposition to convention nuclear power to the point where we would need to solve the uranium supplies problem.

I keep coming back to energy policy on my blog because energy is the only rate-limiting natural resource. Everything else has substitutes given enough energy to change the substitutes into suitable materials. Iron, aluminum, wood, concrete, plastics, many other structural materials are highly substituteable. With enough cheap energy we can grow food indoors in the dead of winter. We can go places, do things, build things, grow plants. Energy is key.

Oil is getting used up and so is natural gas. Our realistic choices for alternatives are nuclear, solar, and coal. Coal is cheapest if you ignore environmental damage. Coal is being made moderately cleaner and could be made much much cleaner. Nuclear could be developed to tbe point of being cheaper but by how much? Nuclear can certainly be made safer and already has been. Solar requires lots of scientific research to discover how to make it cheap and flexible enough.

All of the alternatives to oil present us with storage problems - especially for transportation. This is why I favor much more research into both batteries and fuel cells. We also need dynamic pricing for electricity so that the market can adapt to using sources that are not consistently available.

Rob McMillin said at April 12, 2005 3:34 PM:

Coal? Clean? I was looking at one website talking about coalbed methane extraction the other day; they have to pump thousands of gallons of fossil water out of those coalbeds, and it's always thick with salts. They had a few pictures at U. Montana of the results. Not. Pretty. Also, coalbed methane sucks down the water table, something that's likely to anger folks in the dry, dry West.

J. D. said at April 12, 2005 6:29 PM:


Sadly I don't have the links anymore due to HD suicide last month but one gentleman did do the math. His premise was that using .65 meg windmills, and allowing for adequate space for the airflow to stablize before hitting the next windmill, you could plant ~70 per square mile. Of course then you have to add electrical lines, service roads etc.

A good point that many people miss is that even when you find an ideal wind zone for use it may be impractical to use because of remoteness or simply (as in Oklahoma IIRC) the location is in historical tornado alleys. Same applies for coastal wind/wave systesm. What bank group is going to finance a huge investment in such structures when a category III or higher hurricane would cut wide swaths through them at anytime. Now I whole heartedly agree with using these systems when practical. But while a well designed nuclear powerplant could survive a tornado or even a suicide plane strike and be functional again within days what happens when a cat IV tornado tracks through your 80 square mile windfarm. Unless I'm sadly mistaken America has about the most violent overall weather of any nation.

Photo voltaic. Great. Love it but be practical. Take coastal CA for example. The sunligh tables I've seen give an average of 5.7 hours of daylight year round. Okay it can help but it won't be anything I'd rely on till energy storage makes a major breakthrough and it won't be practical nation wide till some form of superconducting trasmission is available.

So.. bring on the nukes. Better yet bring on the breeder nukes. Also if fusion never works out maybe we could get a refund and use the cash as a fuel source at least:) Hmm how long could I heat my business burning 50B in one dollar bills....

gmoke said at April 12, 2005 7:28 PM:

Greens are racists and fascists. GE and Westinghouse have our best interests at heart and a perfect track record of public service. The more nukes the better and wind and solar are pipe dreams. Energy conservation and efficiency are for fools and sissies. Glad to know that this is a place for close reasoning and hard science.

Randall Parker said at April 12, 2005 8:48 PM:


This is also a place where you can come and paint up a really misleading strawman of people whose views you obviously disagree with.

Have you actually read the full thread here? I find it hard to square some of your comments with what has been said here.

As for "conservation": To me that means developing technologies that allow energy to be used more efficiently. I am all for that and have repeatedly argued for increased research funding to develop better batteries to better enable, for example, the increased energy efficiency that comes from regenerative braking for cars.

I missed the part where someone said that GE and Westinghouse have perfect track records of public service.

Notably missing from your own post are both close reasoning and hard science. But do throw stones.

J. D. said at April 12, 2005 10:44 PM:

Mr. gmoke

If you want to discuss the issues fine. Sarcasm is not a good argument though. I dislike both the stereotypical greedy corporate entity and the wacked out extremist gia worshipper. There has to be logic involved. Corporations must be held to a higher standard and the extremists must realise that to achieve their world vision about three out of five of us would have to die.

We, as a world, are now committed to an industrialised society. There's over six billion of us now and steadily growing. We either use our options logically or collapse backwards. No other real options. Now there's a lot of technological potential just on the horizon but it's just that, on the horizon. The world has to keep developing to reach that horizon.

toot said at April 12, 2005 10:47 PM:

J. D.

The numbers that you give sound plausible. To keep it simple, we might consider enough 0.5 Mw. windmills to equal the capacity of a 1 Gw. power plant. That would mean 2000 windmills. At 70 per square mile, they would have to cover an area of nearly 29 sq. miles, or a circle of about 3 miles radius. I guess that would keep my son out of the primary field, but the windmills would be prominent on one horizon. Also, I wonder whether they can be packed 70 per square mile without losing efficiency.

Patrick said at April 13, 2005 1:18 AM:

Getting back to the original argument,

"the French, with their continued enthusiasm nuclear power, might be more authentically unreligious (in the sense that they didn't just shift from Christianity to paganism) than the Germans "

I'd say that another explanation is that one of the "pagan gods" is worship of the state. The French trust their state-god more than the Germans do (for obvious historical reasons) so are more prepared to go along with state owned nuclear power and weapons.

Jim said at April 13, 2005 7:47 AM:

regarding wind power - benevolent ge is also dominant in this field, because it makes good economic sense. in places where it works, it is just about a better solution than any alternative on a $/energy basis. emissions are nothing. fuel is nothing. and the technology exists now (imagine how much more efficient it'll be after ge has built a million of them). it can be installed incrementally and by individual land owners (it's hard to attack a dispersed target). i've made previous estimates here: http://www.futurepundit.com/mt/mt-comments.cgi?entry_id=2574

the downsides are simple enough - not everywhere is high wind value where it makes sense - see this link for nice maps, etc. (>4 rating is needed) http://rredc.nrel.gov/wind/pubs/atlas/
also they only produce power when the wind blows. birds crash into them and die (that's gotta be a solvable problem though). and there is the aesthetic reason that some people (RP included) don't like the way they look - that's subjective though, because i've seen fields of them and like it (look on the illinois map due west of aurora, due south of rockford).

they are designed to withstand hurricanes (tornados maybe not) - a bank did want to finance them off the east coast but they were stopped because environmentalists were afraid how they'd look.

toot said at April 13, 2005 8:58 AM:

". . . but they were stopped because environmentalists were afraid how they'd look." In this particular case, I tend to agree with the environmentalists. Also, the windmills make noise that can be disturbing to people living nearby. I suppose it would be like having a helicopter overhead all the time. However, given the priorities of these environmentalists, it would seem that global warming is not quite the serious threat that we are led to believe.

jlw said at April 13, 2005 9:23 AM:

I think gmoke's comment was the perfect antidote to the green-bashing so common here. It's like each of you were shot down by some beautiful hippie chick in college and now want to exact your revenge.

In any event, I think we are in a transition period, and coal and nuclear power stations, as well as wind farms, are gonna be needed to get us through to the next dominant technology. Coal is filthy simply because no one thought about or cared about their emissions when these plants were built a generation or two ago. Modern technologies such as IGCC can capture all the nasty byproducts and even the CO2. And there are technologies still in the lab that promise to take the energy conversion efficiency well beyond the Carnot limit. One of the best things we could do for the environment (if that's not a dirty word here) is to phase out every coal-fired boiler in the U.S. and replace them with zero-emission coal plants. Starting next Friday.

I don't have problems with nukes per se, but I think people are kidding themselves if they believe nuclear reactors are safer than other technologies. I mean, the day the nuclear power industry gives up its catastrophic liability protection under the Price-Anderson Act is the day we'll know that the technology is both mature and robust. Until then, I think we need to kick in money for a series of pilot reactors using the Gen-IV designs to see what will work and what's a dead end.

And c'mon. Wind turbines work. And unlike nuclear power plants, they aren't forever. After we make the transition to something else, we can take them down and the landscape reverts back to its original state. But in the mean time, we need the energy, they are producing relatively low-cost electricity, so what's not to like?

Randall Parker said at April 13, 2005 10:33 AM:


I want cleaner air and cleaner water. I want cheaper energy and more efficient and cleaner technology for using energy. So why do I bash greens? Because lots of them are irrational.

Look, just because the people in some movement think they are on the side of angels and at first glance they are fighting for a good cause (clean air and water) does not make it so. For example, the greens who have opposed market-based mechanisms for preventing resource depletion (e.g. by opposing property rights on fisheries) have not done the environment any favors. (and even a recent UN report surprisingly acknowledges this - the truth is reaching leftist redoubts such as the UN - amazing)

Much of the green movement is far too ideological. You want me to drag out some links for quotes from green organizations in Britain on what they say about genetically modified foods? (I got example quotes in some files and so this would be easy to do) The whole British and European debate on GM foods illustrates how unempirical the greens over there really are. Bjorn Lomborg has also demonstrated green irrationality on a number of subjects in detail in his writings.

Perhaps I should bash the greens in more detail so that my readers understand what I'm talking about. I just assumed that most readers here know what the greens in Europe say about GM foods and are familiar with the debate between Lomborg and his critics and the past claims by Paul Ehrlich and other supposed environmentalists that turned out to be totally unsupported by evidence. But maybe I need to demonstrate more examples of what leads me to bash the movement greens. Is that necessary?

The energy from wind turbines is not relatively low cost. If it was then European governments wouldn't need to engage in all sorts of state intervention to get the turbines installed. Most wind turbine installations are not being placed there as a result of an evaluation by private companies that they are the cheapest form of energy.

jlw said at April 13, 2005 12:15 PM:

Mr. Parker:

Please don't trot out quotes that you've saved. I think anyone that has spent enough time reading blogs realizes that there are insane people supporting almost any position imaginable. That in and of itself doesn't mean that the position is wrong. Or sometimes people make predictions that are wrong. The fact that Lewis Strauss projected that nuclear electricity would be "too cheap to meter" shouldn't be an indictment of all high technology, but somehow Paul Ehrlich's well publicized statements about overpopulation has become evidence that all environmental concerns are overblown.

I find it interesting that you find an attitude of caution or skepticism toward the mass dissemination of genetically modified organisms beyond the pale, and yet you adopt an attitude of caution or skepticism toward the necessity of acting to slow or reverse the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And forgive me if I don't kow-tow toward Bjorn Lomborg, but he tipped his hand in the way he stacked the deck in his Copenhagen Consensus project. I can't claim that I know what Lomborg's game is, but I've come to see him as less than an honest broker of information.

I'd like to see your sources for believing that wind turbines are expensive. The electricity generated by new wind turbines costs about the same as that from a combined cycle gas turbine, the only other technology that is anywhere as clean. The lower cost from existing nuclear and coal plants come about in large part from ignoring external costs, such as site remediation after the plant inevitably closes. And if your belief that wind is expensive comes from the fact they receive a public subsidy, then what of nuclear? Heck, in France, all the nuclear plants are owned by the government--obviously a sign that they are economically suspect!

We only have one planet. I view these issues with an eye toward the world my four year old son and his children and his grandchildren will live in. And I think it prudent to be cautious before making hard-to-undo changes--whether it's introducing new species or genetically modified organisms to an environment or altering the chemical make-up of the atmosphere or expanding an industrial process that produces toxic and difficult-to-handle waste. That's not a "no" or especially a "never," but it is a "let's be careful about doing things that take ten times as much effort to undo." Is that too much to ask?

Randall Parker said at April 13, 2005 1:18 PM:


First off, apply logic. If wind was not more expensive then the large number of coal-fired electric plants planned for the United States and China would not be on the drawing boards. The rising cost of natural gas has obviously shifted US electric power generators toward coal (which was always cheaper but harder to get approval for). Corporations are profit-maximizing entities. They pursue lower cost solutions. I take the voluntary choices of many electric power producers as a strong indication of what is more or less expensive.

I figure nuclear power must be close to competitive because 4 different electric power producers in the United States have begun to move toward applying for licenses to build nuclear plants.

I agree, external costs are certainly a problem. I favor tighter emissions regulations on coal plants for this reason. But here's my problem in trying to account for this: What is that uninternalized cost of coal power? If you could somehow measure that cost what would it be if added to each kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by a coal-fired electric plant? A penny? 2 pennies? Enough pennies to raise coal-electric up to the cost of wind electric? My guess is that coal's emissions and hence its external cost could be lowered relatively cheaply (measured in pennies per kwh) by an order of magnitude or more. The production cost increases due to NOX and SOX scrubbers (which remove the bulk of the mercury as an added benefit and might also remove the uranium - anyone know?) and particulate scrubbers for coal electric would leave production costs so low that coal electric would still sell for much less than wind electric. So I see coal's pollution as a regulatory failure due to the lack of demand for cleaner air on the part of the voting public.

Also, what is the distribution energy loss from having wind towers far away from populations? The towers would have to be widely distributed because wind can be slow in any one area. Plus, wind towers would need to be backed up by capital investment in surge generation capacity using natural gas both for when wind doesn't blow and when demand surges. Wind electric has to be cheaper than surgeable electric power sources and reliable electric power sources precisely because it is not available when you want it or need it.

Of course if we had really great batteries we could charge vehicles and store house energy when the wind was blowing. But we do not have great batteries now.

My take on the public is that most people are unwilling to have their electric bills to double in order to pay for cleaner air. I see estimates for wind electric up around 5 to 10 cents per kwh even in areas where the wind is strong. Well, the public in American are migrating toward areas where wind is weaker.

In the United States the wind production tax credit (which I'm not sure is still in effect) was 1.5 cents per kwh in 1992 and I think was 1.8 cents when it expired at the end of 2003. So wind has not been competing purely on production cost either. The same sort of thing goes on in other countries and some states have had tax credits and subsidies for wind and solar.

Here we can see from a proposal from Wyoming that wind power is probably about twice as expensive as other ways to generate electricity:

The Wyoming wind plant is one of several being built around the country to take advantage of improved technology that has lowered the cost of producing power from the large turbines. Although still not equal to low-cost hydroelectric power in the Northwest, the cost of producing wind power has fallen by more than 70 percent since the mid-1980s.

THE BILL: A customer choosing a 10 percent wind power option would pay an additional $3.09 for every 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity consumed.

That compares with an additional $7.73 per 1,000 kilowatt hours for the 25 percent option, $15.45 for the 50 percent option and an additional $30.90 for the 100 percent wind power option.

The average residential customer uses 1,250 kilowatt hours per month and pays $54.46 (including a $5 basic charge). A customer using that much electricity would pay an additional $3.85 per month for the 10 percent wind power option or up to an additional $38.50 a month for 100 percent wind power.

The cost for wind electriic in Wyoming then works out to an additional 3.85 cents per kilowatt-hour. That $54.46 base price includes the cost of the electric polls, billing, the distribution grid, and all that. So the raw electric cost is probably twice as much when it is wind power - at least in relatively windy Wyoming. But in less windy places (and see that map I linked to above) the cost of wind electric would be much higher.

If you click thru on the link I have about American electric utilities planning nuclear plants you will see in the comments a discussion about nuclear power costs. One projection has a new Westinghouse AP1000 nuke delivering power at 3.6 cents per kwh. That is highly reliable baseline power which is worth much more on the market than power that bursts when you don't need it and can drop when you do need it. It can also be sited in areas of the country where there is little wind.

Rob McMillin said at April 13, 2005 2:16 PM:
How dare we mere humans, faced with the mightiness of nature, think we can harness nature's forces and use them wisely. But I see a contradiction in this paganistic attitude: Why would infinitely wise nature give humans the innate ability to develop technologies that could cause such damage to Gaia? Or do the environmentalists fear that if we step too far up the ladder of high technology then mother nature will strike out and destroy us for our impudence?
I would posit another reason: environmentalists have a primitivist view of man's relationship to nature, and believe we should all be down on the farm (dammit), where our natural place is -- and the hell with everyone else who disagrees. Fortunately, they aren't in a position of power.
jlw said at April 13, 2005 2:24 PM:

Crikey! No wonder you are down on wind--your info is dated. New wind farms are producing electricity for less than 5 cents per kWh (that's before the production tax credit, mind you). In fact, according to Ryan Wiser and Edward Kahn of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, a wind farm built by a public utility using internal financing could get costs as low as 4.35 cents/kWh. (These "green power" options you wrote about involve independent merchant operators and have a fairly healthy profit built into the price structure.)

And as the machines get bigger and taller, the costs go down further; getting to 3 cents per kWh is just a matter of engineering--no breakthroughs required.

I mean, this isn't some pie-in-the-sky, handwaving exercising: wind farms are being built by private sector firms using private sector money.

For comparison, the recent range of prices I've seen are 3 - 3.5 cents for nuclear, 2.5 - 4 cents for coal and 2.5 - 5+ for IGCC (and probably higher with the recent gas prices). Wind is right there in that mix, and it has fewer externalized costs.

Wind is not perfect, nor is it the total solution. No, it can't be used as baseload, though at the recent Electric Power conference in Chicago I was surprised to learn that industrial scale batteries have made enormous strides. (VRB Power Systems installed one in rural Castle Valley, Utah, to supply peak power.) Such systems can help align wind's ability to make electricity with the consumer's demand for it. Wind also has a specific geographic distribution, but no more so than hydroelectric. And just as the abundance of hydropower helped draw people to the Pacific Northwest, exploiting wind power on the Great Plains may help nearby regions--the Colorado Front Range, the Twin Cities--expand. (I also think they could help power a system that draws CO2 from the atmosphere to make methane via a Sabatier reactor, but that's too speculative for this discussion.)

Personally, I don't think our positions are that far apart. No one serious thinks that wind could power the entire U.S. But it can provide a surprisingly large fraction of it. And because wind turbines have little or no long-term impact on their surroundings (you can haul them away) they can provide a great transition from where we are now to whatever long-term, sustainable-over-centuries energy system we finally settle on in 2050 or so. We'll need other power sources too--heck, we'll every power source that won't wreck the planet.

gmoke said at April 13, 2005 2:43 PM:

Reliance on nuclear power necessarily implies that GE and Westinghouse and Bechtel will be almost perfect in everything nuclear that they do as that's what the tolerances require. To assume otherwise is hopelessly naive and, dare I say it, stupid. Look at their track records, study their history, especially as it relates to nuclear power. Why do you think there is a Price-Anderson Act?

I've been anti-nuclear for decades because I tend not to like overly centralized solutions and because I don't trust large corporations to have my own best interests at heart. Legally, corporations have a commitment to profit over just about everything else. What makes you think nuclear power is going to be any different? What makes you think that, historically, nuclear power has been any different? Talk to the people at Three Mile Island, for instance, or take a look at how many pounds of plutonium have gone missing or talk to the folks around Pilgrim Station who followed a truck filled with low level nuclear waste to a local dump. That's safe and responsible disposal for you!

>The whole "green' movement is much more an "anti-human, anti-industrial" movement than it is a genuine pro-environmental movement. Your article sums >it up nicely.
> --------------------------------------------------------------------
>If fact, some of the so-called "green" people I have met, were secret racists and fascists disguised as left wing people.

I believe that statements like these in this thread are very well worthy or sarcasm. They are indicative of knee-jerk foolishness rather than reasoned thought and considered debate. The fact that you can't take my fairly mild disdain for such silliness shows how weak your thought bubbles of a nuclear future actually are.

I first posted on this thread about nuclear power in relation to a world where terrorism is a major concern. Nobody that I can see has bothered to respond. How are we going to protect another 100 or 1000 nuclear power plants when we can't responsibly protect the 120 or so we have now? That's reality, as far as I can see, and the techno-utopians here don't seem to want to deal with it.

And terrorism is merely an ancillary issue. Jerry Pournelle may have the answer to nuclear waste disposal but the practical politics of the issue have stymied the NRC for nearly 30 years. It's not something you can fix with a wrench but the fears and desires of the people of Nevada or whatever National Sacrifice Area you choose have to be dealt with before you can responsibly build a whole new passel of nukes. And then there are the issues involved with mining uranium (at least 25% of the Navaho miners came down with lung cancer last time I looked at the statistics, radioactive tailings were allowed to blow away on the breeze and contaminate wide areas downwind), processing is still paid for by the US government if I am not mistaken and I'm sure that waste and disposal is not perfect or even nearly so, and then how much over-budget is the decommissioning of Vermont Yankee now?

Folks here may be scientifically literate but the level of real human debate is not worthy of a kindergarten. If you want to talk about the pros and cons of nuclear power, get real. Please. Right now you are living in a fantasy world.

>First off, apply logic. If wind was not more expensive then the large number of coal-fired electric plants planned for the United States and China would not be >on the drawing boards.

Right, sure. I truly do believe that the marketplace is always and ever completely logical and the best and least expensive option is always and ever the one that wins out. Yep, tell it to the Betamax.

GM foods are perfectly safe even though superweeds have been reported and genetic contamination has decertified local organic crops. Global warming doesn't exist even though the snows have vanished from Kilimanjaro a couple or more decades ahead of prediction and the Austrians are considering insulating their Alpine glaciers during the summer months to prevent their total loss. Nuclear power is an economically viable energy alternative even though the industry couldn't exist without the limits on liability imposed by Price-Anderson and the enrichment processing that the government largely underwrites.

Nuclear is way better than wind and solar and tidal power because the machines are so much bigger and that industrial thrum is so much more powerful and sexier. That's what your arguments sound like to me, just another pissing contest by the immature.

Randall Parker said at April 13, 2005 3:01 PM:


Regards Ryan Wiser and Edward Kahn: Their study appears to have been done in 1996. Their argument appears to be that if a wind power source was going to cost 5 cents per kwh using some higher cost source of capital would cost only 3.69 cents per kwh if using big utility supplied capital.

The Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory study found that a 50-MW wind farm delivering power at just under 5 cents per kWh would, if using typical natural gas project financing terms, generate electricity for 3.69 cents per kWh.


"Alternative Windpower Ownership Structures: Financing Terms and Project Costs," Ryan Wiser and Edward Kahn, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Energy and Environment Division, 1996.

But that is a big "if".

So I dug further and found the original report on the LBL web site (thank Google for the ability to do site:.gov). Here is what Wiser and Kahn say:

Due to the real and perceived risks associated with wind turbine technology and wind resources, privately owned and financed wind projects typically receive financing that is both more costly and restrictive than is available to more traditional gas-fired generation sources. Using our pro-forma cash-flow model, we conclude that the financing advantage afforded to gas-fired NUGs is significant. If wind developers received similar financing terms and costs as gas-fired NUGs, the nominal levelized cost of windpower might decrease by 25% (12 mills/kWh) compared to our base-case private ownership results. As wind turbine technology matures, resource evaluation becomes more accepted, and information becomes readily available to the financial community, debt and equity costs and terms may become less restrictive and costly for project-financed windpower facilities. These risks may never drop to a level equivalent to that of gas-fired power-plants, but significant reductions in financing costs may be achieved. Additionally, there are a number of policy approaches that could be used to either directly reduce finance costs or indirectly reduce costs by reducing project risks.

That is a different statement than what some of the pro-wind power web sites claim they say. You have to assume the 5 cent a kwh generating wind farm in the first place in order to cut its cost below 4 cents by use of a cheaper source of capital that is miraculously less afraid of the risks. But is wind really as low risk as natural gas? That report was written 9 years ago. Has the market already developed a more accurate assessment of the risk of wind investments? Is there a market failure in evaluating the risks of wind power?

Randall Parker said at April 13, 2005 3:06 PM:


BTW, I also agree that our positions are not that far apart. I am quite willing to be convinced by evidence that some energy source has higher or lower production costs than I currently think is the case. I am also eager for better data on pollution reduction costs for coal and for externalized cost estimates.

On one other point, the Price-Anderson Act: I had a thought about this: Car drivers routinely drive around without enough insurance or net worth to pay for the harm they can cause. Suppose a poor and poorly insured careless or reckless driver kills the wage earner for a family. Well, the costs of that death might be measured in the millions. Yet we do not require that each individual buy insurance for the full potential liabilities that they could inflict.

How is the underinsurance of individuals against damage they might inflict any different than underinsurance of nuclear power plants? Should individuals be required to carry a few million in liability insurance against the threat of maiming or killing others? I am far more afraid of being killed or maimed on the highway than I am by injury or death from a meltdown at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

Randall Parker said at April 13, 2005 4:02 PM:


Just because no one responds to some point you make does not mean they have no response. People here have brought up many points. Not every point has gotten a response from others. Mature people have to realize that they can not expect everyone to hang on their every word.

Navajo miners: Go back 50 years and you can find people getting cancer from working in chemical plants, in paint shops in car manufacturing plants, and in numerous other industrial setting. Workplace accidents were much higher in many and perhaps all industries. We have come a long way. Unless you have evidence (and you are really short on evidence for your various assertions) that uranium miners in the United States still do not get adequate protection I really do not see you have made a valid point about the dangers of nuclear power today.

As for relying on perfection: Do you ever fly in airplanes? Do you rely on Boeing and American Airlines or Delta to be perfect? Do you drive on roads? Do you rely on other drivers being perfect? Tens of thousands die and more suffer brain damage and other permanent injury from car accidents. Yet I still see a lot of people out there on the roads running the risks.

Kilimanjaro's snows are not vanishing due to warming.

What was learned The data and their analysis reveal, in the words of Molg and Hardy, that "the main energy exchange at the glacier-atmosphere interface results from the terms accounting for net radiation, governed by the variation in net shortwave radiation," which is controlled by surface albedo and, thus, precipitation variability, which determines the reflective characteristics of the glacier's surface. Much less significant is the temperature-driven turbulent exchange of sensible heat, which the two scientists say "remains considerably smaller and of little importance."

What it means
Molg and Hardy conclude that "modern glacier retreat on Kilimanjaro and in East Africa in general [was] initiated by a drastic reduction in precipitation at the end of the nineteenth century (Hastenrath, 1984, 2001; Kaser et al., 2004)," and that reduced accumulation and increased ablation have "maintained the retreat until the present (Molg et al., 2003b)." Buttressing their findings is the fact, as they report it, that "detailed analyses of glacier retreat in the global tropics uniformly reveal that changes in climate variables related to air humidity prevail in controlling the modern retreat [e.g., Kaser and Georges (1997) for the Peruvian Cordillera Blanca and Francou et al. (2003) for the Bolivian Cordillera Real (both South American Andes); Kruss (1983), Kruss and Hastenrath (1987), and Hastenrath (1995) for Mount Kenya (East Africa); and Molg et al. (2003a) for the Rwenzori massif (East Africa)]." Hence, the take-home message of their study is essentially the same as that of Kaser et al.: "positive air temperatures have not contributed to the recession process on the summit."

I like to have discussions based on real facts about science and technology and keep injecting links to evidence into the discussion. If you want to persuade me you are going to have to produce more evidence for your assertions.

jlw said at April 13, 2005 5:20 PM:

Mr. Parker:

I won't be able to continue this discussion and am pressed for time as it is. I am embarrassed that my Googling up the number that I'm looking for and taking the first hit fell apart. I hate resorting to authority (it's a weak argument), but I've researched wind turbines for an article in an engineering magazine a couple years ago and heard the 5-cents-now-3-cents-soon info from a number of people. That's where things are going, but I don't have access to my notes/docs right now.

The only current "data" I can cough up right now is here, which jibes with what I know from other sources that I can't lay my hands on. I would understand if you reject this info source on ideological grounds, but this fella knows his stuff.

On the Price-Anderson Act: Sure, companies and individuals often have potential liabilities that they aren't insured against. I think in most cases, if companies have to pay out on these uninsured liabilities, and if the liabilities are large enough, the companies eventually are placed in receivership. In the case of nuclear power, I imagine the liquidation value of a company is far less than the remediation cost of a serious accident. Thus, unless we want to leave areas unremediated and simply shaft the property owners of this unremediated land (as the property values would take a beating) the government would have to step in--hardly a different case than what we have now.

Again, when the Price-Anderson Act is no longer necessary because private insurers feel the risk is low enough for them to offer full coverage--that's the day I'll embrace new nuclear plants with gusto. But if the market thinks the technology is too risky, who am I to disagree?

Anyway, the bottom line is that I'm not a wind-ie by any stretch, but I think it's fashionable in certain circles to pooh-pooh wind turbines when in fact they are pretty amazing bits of engineering. Thanks for the discussion.

jlw said at April 13, 2005 5:23 PM:

Oh, and by the way, you can't fit 70 of the big turbines on a square mile. More like about five. But it doesn't really matter--the Great Plains are really, really big.

toot said at April 13, 2005 6:45 PM:

Thanks, jlw. Inasmuch as you're a wind power advocate, I'll accept your more pessimistic number. At 5 windmills per square mile, 400 square miles are required to accommodate the 2000 windmill array I was figuring on. That means an 11 mile radius circle, which as I had originally estimated, places my son well within the array if it were centered at Threemile Island. I suspect that when the cost per kilowatt hour are given for wind power, it is assumed that the land for the array will come for free.

Randall Parker said at April 13, 2005 7:04 PM:

Rob McMillan,

I have in mind other technologies for making coal cleaner. SOX and NOX scrubbers remove both the oxides of sulfur and nitrogen and mercury as well. Those scrubbers probably remove other heavy metals too. Also, scrubbers that remove particulates could be installed.

Another approach is to use bacteria injected into coal beds to eat away at the coal to release methane. This has been proposed. Another blogger even solicited my opinion on whether it is possible. I raised a number of issues about practicality. But I don't know. Maybe with genetic engineering of a microorganism this could be done.

Randall Parker said at April 13, 2005 7:16 PM:


If I understand your original use of 2000 .5 MW windmills to equal one 1000 MW Westinghose AP1000 nuclear generator you were assuming the windmills would be operating at capacity. Correct? What is more realistic? I've read that windmills operating at 25% of capacity would be more realistic. Though the answer obviously depends on the location.

If we need 8 .5 MW windmills to reliably generate a single MW of power then we are suddenly up to 1600 square miles. That's a square box 40 by 40 miles in dimension.

I'll see if I can dig up the national average electric demand to see how that stacks up against area needed.

J. D. said at April 13, 2005 10:35 PM:


Any links you might maintane would be appreciated. I'm still sitting here drudging my memory (and cursing my son occasionally for screwing with my box and killing my HD with all my links) and keep coming up with 70 .65 MW per square mile. Not argueing, just going off memory. Perhaps the individual's assesment was some totally ideal (read could never happen in real life) setup or I may be miss-remembering the unit size i.e. it may have been .06 equivalents such as were built in 80's.

As a side note the Germans are working on a unit with a 70 meter vain length with a potential of I believe 8 MW output. The Germany government statement though of windmills now being cheaper to construct and operate per MW than any other power system is a bit decieving. Thier licensing/zoning/landuse cost etc. are very high whereas the windmills, to be built offshore, are government subsidized.

gmoke said at April 14, 2005 12:51 PM:

Looks like you've turned me into your straw man. The fact that nobody has picked up my point about nukes and terrorism is germane not because it's my particular hobby horse but because it's an important consequence of a reliance on nuclear power. A "scientific" mind would recognize that I would think.

BTW, under Rasmussen's estimates aren't we due for another catastrophic nuclear power accident soon?

toot said at April 14, 2005 1:06 PM:

There is already a great number of nuclear power plants, as well as other targets that a terrorist would regard to be "lucrative". The solution to the problem is not to attempt to eliminate all the facilities that a terrorist might target, but rather to eliminate the terrorists. Otherwise we would come to live in a paleolithic lifestyle without the terrorist needing to lift a finger.

Jim said at April 14, 2005 1:11 PM:

no hard data, but anectdotal...

1) near the nw outskirts of the chicago burbs lies a region naturally high in wind (4 rating on the usgs scale) and private capital is sprouting huge turbines like crazy. there are existing powerlines heading straight to chicago, the land is all farms (and the farmers are happy to have them, about 1 per acre gross estimate).
2) ge wind is a rapidly growing part of ge.

both of these indicate that there are real economic reasons to build wind farms where it makes sense (granted theremay also be some 'dot-com' effect).

Randall Parker said at April 14, 2005 1:15 PM:


I fail to see how anyone has misrepresented your arguments here. So your reference to being turned into a strawman is absurd.

As for terrorism and nukes: I get tired of debating some aspects of an issue unless someone brings some new observation to the table. So far you haven't. I am more interested in the economics of energy at the moment. But, yes, I recognize a number of problems that terrorists pose for energy policy. For example, see my posts "On Public Electric Power Grid Reliability And Terrorism" and "Terrorist Threat From Nuclear Spent Fuel Rod Storage" and "Nuclear Power Has Cost And Proliferation Problems".

But, hey, since you insist you have the trump card against nuclear power I will tell you why I don't think so. I see the big nightmare catastrophe from nuclear power and terrorism would be if terrorists got a nuke, got it into the United States, and then managed to blow it up near a nuclear power plant. Terrible radioacive fallout would ensue. My problem with this scenario is that I think it far far more likely that terrorists would blow up New York City or Washington DC. They are drawn to political power. They want to kill lots of people and centers where leaders are concentrated.

But then I think: We should stop terrorists before they can nuke anything in the United States period. To protect ourselves from the big nuke fallout scenario we either would have to dismantle all existing nuclear power plants and stash their stuff underground or we'd have to stop them getting nukes into the country in the first place. I favor the latter option. Why? Because if we dismantle all the nuclear reactors we take a huge economic hit. Plus, the terrorists with nukes would still blow up cities and kill millions of people. I want a better outcome than that.

Jim said at April 15, 2005 7:35 AM:

i think the scariest terrorist threat to nuke plants are a small group that drives a power-boat bomb into the intake plumbing -- decent change to cause a melt down, depending on the plant

gmoke said at April 15, 2005 12:21 PM:

Saying that I claim to have the trump card against nuclear power is a clear misrepresentation of my position. I have reservations about nuclear power from the ground up to the cooling towers and beyond. I have written in this thread about a few of them and there has been little or no serious engagement with any of them, as far as I am concerned.

Toot writes, "The solution to the problem is not to attempt to eliminate all the facilities that a terrorist might target, but rather to eliminate the terrorists." Randall Parker writes, "We should stop terrorists before they can nuke anything in the United States period." Gee, how are we going to identify all the terrorists before they can act? And if we can't identify all of them pesky terrorists before they act how are we going to stop them (you know, THEM) from nuking anything in the USA period? Personally, I think such statements as those of Toot and Randall Parker are juvenile but I could be wrong. Maybe they are infantile instead.

In any case, please enlighten us all and tell us exactly how you plan to implement your cunning anti-terrorist plans. Remember, accuracy may not count but 100% effectiveness is mandatory.

Randall Parker said at April 15, 2005 12:41 PM:


I have responded to some of your inaccuracies and irrelevancies and you have ignored my responses. You still want to claim that the snow on Kilimanjaro is melting due to human-caused global warming? Are you claiming that Navajos are still exposed to deadly uranium while mining and that this is a reason to oppose nuclear power?

You are short on facts and long on insults.

No, we can not prevent all terrorist attacks. But terrorists are far far more likely to be able to build a truck bomb and blow up a building than to get a nuke.

You also ignore my point that terrorists who manage to acquire and bring nukes into the country nukes are a disaster regardless of what they blow up.

Do you advocate the abandonment of cities because we can't with 100% certainty prevent all terrorist attacks against cities? After all, you don't believe 100% effectiveness of defenses is possible.

gmoke said at April 16, 2005 6:42 PM:

"After all, you don't believe 100% effectiveness of defenses is possible."

You seem to believe that 100% effectiveness is possible. You also imply that such faith-based reasoning is enough to launch a massive construction plan for nukes.

I'm sorry if quoting your words back to you is considered an insult. I take your misrepresentation of my own words as a given based upon your track record.

Randall Parker said at April 16, 2005 7:01 PM:


I have not misrepresented you.

If you think the threat of terrorists blowing up a nuclear reactor with a nuclear weapon is an absolute winning argument against nuclear power then, yes, that argument is a trump card as far as you are concerned. You appear to hold that view. You didn't call it "a trump card" but that term is an accurate representation of your view of that argument.

I do not know whether terrorists will some day get a nuke. If they do I don't know if they will decide to use it in America. If they do I do not know if they will succeed in getting it here. My guess is that the odds drop by orders of magnitude at each step. If they do manage to get it there I do think the odds are very high they will take out NYC or DC before blowing up anything else. Though they might instead just blow up any port they can manage to reach as soon as they get there. So nuking nukes is not at the top of my list of fears from terrorism.

Also, I rate all of our odds of death from terrorism to be orders of magnitude lower than our risk of death from old age and my guess is we are at far greater risk of death from accidents than from terrorism.


1) If nuclear terrorism is inevitable then do you also argue for the abandonment of cities in order to protect current city dwellers by spreading them out?

2) Do you still claim Kilimanjaro's snows melted due to human-caused global warming?

3) Do you believe Navajo miners working today are getting cancer in substantial numbers as a consequence of their mining jobs?

5) Is some technology or way of living carries with it less than 100% certainty of safety is that a reason to oppose it?

6) Do you ever fly in airplanes? Do you rely on Boeing and American Airlines or Delta to be perfect?

7) Do you drive on roads? Do you rely on other drivers being perfect?

Tdean said at April 18, 2005 10:16 PM:


Your straw man arguments are really pathetic.

The discussion here is about alternatives with regard to energy production, which is essential to our civilization. There are several economically viable alternatives to nuclear energy. At present there are no alternatives to cities that are compatible with our civilization. This is a straw man. Knock it down, big guy.

As I pointed out before, the current generation of nuclear reactors are vulnerable to more sorts of terrorist attacks than nuclear explosives. I have talked to several people in the government who acknowledge that precision guided penetrators constitute a serious threat to high pressure boiling water reactors. They know it - you don't and your ignorance is dangerous. A melted nuclear core has the potential to be a semi-permanent, radioactive version of Old Faithful when it hits the water table. The potential damage from such an event is greater than all the economic benefit of all the reactors since they were invented. Try to pull it out of your butt. The rest of your list of straw men are not worth commenting on.

Your appalling, reactionary nonsense is a good reason why I have missed your weak attempt at appearing enlightened lately. I have a sensitive stomach.

Tdean said at April 18, 2005 10:16 PM:


Your straw man arguments are really pathetic.

The discussion here is about alternatives with regard to energy production, which is essential to our civilization. There are several economically viable alternatives to nuclear energy. At present there are no alternatives to cities that are compatible with our civilization. This is a straw man. Knock it down, big guy.

As I pointed out before, the current generation of nuclear reactors are vulnerable to more sorts of terrorist attacks than nuclear explosives. I have talked to several people in the government who acknowledge that precision guided penetrators constitute a serious threat to high pressure boiling water reactors. They know it - you don't and your ignorance is dangerous. A melted nuclear core has the potential to be a semi-permanent, radioactive version of Old Faithful when it hits the water table. The potential damage from such an event is greater than all the economic benefit of all the reactors since they were invented. Try to pull it out of your butt. The rest of your list of straw men are not worth commenting on.

Your appalling, reactionary nonsense is a good reason why I have missed your weak attempt at appearing enlightened lately. I have a sensitive stomach.

Randall Parker said at April 18, 2005 11:03 PM:


You are acting childish and petty. As for your sensitive stomach: I would recommend antacids. Also, perhaps you should stay away from debates. You obviously don't have the stomach for them.

Either of us can toss out all sorts of risks to human life. The question not so easily answered is just how probable a given risk really is. There is a human tendency to exaggerate the risks of all sorts of disasters. That is why disaster movies are so popular.

Yes, if the USAF was overwhelmed by enemy bombers equipped with bombs equivalent to our JDAMs they could penetrate our nuclear reactors. They could also blow up natural gas storage facilities and kill tens of thousands if not more, knock down skyscrapers and even kill tens or hundreds of thousands by blowing up chlorine processing plants.

Yes, there are alternatives to cities. We could live more dispersed. If nuclear weapons smuggled into America are really such a threat then I'd even advise moving away from some of the obvious targets such as NYC, Washington DC, and LA.

So far you haven't described to me anything I hadn't either thought of or read about. So, no, I'm not ignorant. I just unconvinced that the terrorist threat is reason enough to abandon nuclear power.

Economically viable alternatives to nuclear? Today the only viable alternative is fossil fuels. Solar will eventually be competitive. But it is not competitive today.

Tdean said at April 18, 2005 11:39 PM:

Randall, glad to see you're still up. "Yes, if the USAF was overwhelmed by enemy bombers equipped with bombs equivalent to our JDAMs they could penetrate our nuclear reactors." That wasn't the situation on 9/11 and it still isn't the threat. I personally watched two unmarked Lear Jets penetrate our border over Big Bend National Park, almost certainly carrying cocaine, almost certainly once or twice a day. If they can each carry about a ton of cocaine they can each carry a 2000 lb penetrator which would take out a nuclear reactor, whether or not it contained explosives. Our air defenses can't stop these planes and they couldn't stop them from releasing penetrators on nuclear power plants. So your post proves your ignorance and your 1950's cold war mentality. Thanks so much.

Cities provide essential economic advantages at our current level of technology. Maybe it will be economically viable to disperse cities some day. It isn't now.

And in our previous discussions you never answered my simple argument with regard to the viability of nuclear power:

If it isn't viable without Price-Anderson protection against large scale disasters before the risks of terrorism were accounted for, how could it be now that we know for certain that sophisticated international terrorists are trying to break the reactors? That's because you don't have an answer.

And if you are going to attempt some sort of scientific argument against global warming as in your bit about Kilimanjaro, why don't you try a mainstream science source rather than an industry funded shill group like CO2science.org? REALLY pathetic.

Randall Parker said at April 19, 2005 10:37 AM:

TC Dean,

CO2Science accurately quoted from the research. See, for example, the Moelg and Hardy 2004 paper.

The energy balance model employed incorporates radiative fluxes, turbulent heat fluxes, and the energy flux in the subsurface. On a monthly basis, results show that radiative energy dominates energy exchanges at the glacier-atmosphere interface, governed by the variation in net shortwave radiation. The turbulent latent heat flux, which is always negative (i.e., continuous mass loss due to sublimation), is the second important energy flux. In contrast, turbulent exchange of sensible heat remains of minor importance. The marked difference in ablation between the two periods can largely be explained by a difference in surface albedo. Albedo depends on precipitation amount and frequency and directly controls net shortwave radiation receipt. In the context of modern glacier retreat on Kilimanjaro the results support other evidence that Kilimanjaro’s glaciers are extremely sensitive to precipitation variability.

If the international terrorists are so sophisticated then why haven't they managed to carry out another attack in the United States since 9/11? Could it be that they managed to get away with it only because everyone was incredibly complacent and that 9/11 woke people up to the threat? Could it be that Al Qaeda is now a shadow of its pre-9/11 self with its training grounds overrun and many of its top leaders dead and with many more law enforcement and intelligence agencies around the world now watching for its members?

You are long on insults and unproven assertions and short on evidence.

Tdean said at April 19, 2005 4:49 PM:


The JGR is a good source, but how would I know that since your original link was either broken or required a subscription to CO2"Science". No thanks. You have proven your ability to cut and paste but not to interpret scientific literature. This citation says that surface albedo is affected by precipitation, and that more ice will melt when the precipitation drops. In the tropics, precipitation drops in areas downwind of areas that have been deforested. That describes Kilimanjaro. So it is still human induced climate change that is causing the rapid loss of this glacier. And this is based on just one incomplete computer model. The surface albedo of glaciers also depends on the deposition of airborne carbon and dust particles also increased by human activity, but that study didn't consider that effect of human activity that strongly influences glacial ice. So, what was your point?

I'm glad you're feeling so cozy four years after 9/11. Given that it was about eight years since the previous Al Qaeda attack in the US, I can only imagine that you were feeling even more cozy on 9/10. These are very patient people with attention spans significantly longer than your own. You still haven't answered my point about the Price-Anderson act. Slipped your mind, I guess. P-A provides an escape from liability for nuclear plant operators, which is another way of saying that the Federal Government has given them permission to destroy your private property with no recourse. This is what you advocate when you advocate nuclear energy. Aren't you a supporter of the "culture of ownership"? If there were an insignificant risk of a large scale disaster, why does the nuclear power industry insist on P-A to cover their asses? It is simply because without the government selling out private property owners and citizens, nuclear power plants could not be insured and the industry would not be viable. You know it's true, but you simply aren't man enough to admit you are wrong.

You are short on insight, arguments, guts and honesty.

Randall Parker said at April 19, 2005 8:16 PM:

TC Dean,

If my postings are so worthless why are you here?

As for my use of CO2Science as a source: I got it from Benny Peiser's emailings on climate sicence which he added me to. I figure since the many climate scientists on his list did not object to that excerpt after a few weeks (and they do not hesitate to send him responses which he passes on when they disagree) I figured it was an accurate summation.

Deforestation: Which is a totally different thing than CO2 and you are really reaching. My point remains: A temperature increase caused by CO2 didn't melt the snow on Kilimanajaro. I brought up the evidence because another poster tried to argue otherwise.

Al Qaeda and 9/11: I was warning people in the 1990s we were far too complaisant and was arguing for the overthrow of the Taliban in the 90s and thought Clinton's cruise missile attack was a totally inadequate response. I was never complaisant and was not shocked by what happened.

Price-Anderson: Imagine it was lifted and nuclear power plant operators could manage to raise money to build nuclear plants. You would still oppose nuclear power, wouldn't you? Isn't Price-Anderson really besides the point? Aren't you really opposed to nuclear power for other reasons that are quite independent of that act? That is the case for the vast bulk of opponents of nuclear power.

I see oil subsidized by the US Navy keeping the Persian Gulf open. I see coal effectively subsidized by external costs the coal burners are not forced to pay. I see lots of solar panels and wind towers built as a result of tax credits, regulatory interventions, and subsidies. I also see ethanol produced because the corn growers and ADM lobby for the federal money to pay for it. The energy industry is full of subsidies. But I do not argue for or against use of any energy source because it is or is not subsidized.

I'd rather shift away from subsidies and toward more government funding of R&D. But I spend far more time pushing for the latter than arguing against the former for all forms of energy. I want the R&D. That is my main focus because that is my main interest.

Tdean said at April 19, 2005 8:46 PM:

Your citation of the Moelg/Hardy paper is typical of the sort of misleading crap that you appologists for big energy come up with by distorting the conclusions of good science. Here is what Hardy himself had to say about the misuse of his work by the head-in-the-sand gang: "But UMass-Amherst climatologist Douglas Hardy, a coauthor of the 2004 paper on Kilimanjaro cited, says Crichton is distorting his work. Crichton is doing ''what I perceive the denialists always to do,'' says Hardy. ''And that is to take things out of context, or take elements of reality and twist them a little bit, or combine them with other elements of reality to support their desired outcome.''

For example, while the case of Kilimanjaro does seem more complicated (with factors like drier conditions and less cloud cover also implicated in its glacial retreat), Hardy notes that for other glaciers, especially in tropical latitudes, ''the link is very clear between changes in tropospheric temperature and [glacial retreats].'' And even in the case of Kilimanjaro, Hardy adds, climate change may be playing a role."

So we learn once again that virtually all climate scientists doing real research have no doubts about the reality and importance of human induced climate change. Only right-winged crazies and industry hacks are twisting research or just outright lying about the volumes of research strongly supporting the role of greenhouse gasses in climate change. So are you getting money from Exxon-Mobil, too?

Randall Parker said at April 19, 2005 10:06 PM:

TC Dean,

Hardy's paper doesn't prove what Hardy thinks is happening.

Look, the overselling of every environmental event as proof of anthropogenic global warming is undermining the credibility of those believers. It is ridiculous. They overstate their case and in the process undermine their position.

You think this is just the opinion of climate skeptics? Have you familiar with why Chris Landsea resigned from the IPCC? From Landsea's resignation: (same letter here)

Moreover, the evidence is quite strong and supported by the most recent credible studies that any impact in the future from global warming upon hurricane will likely be quite small. The latest results from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (Knutson and Tuleya, Journal of Climate, 2004) suggest that by around 2080, hurricanes may have winds and rainfall about 5% more intense than today. It has been proposed that even this tiny change may be an exaggeration as to what may happen by the end of the 21st Century (Michaels, Knappenberger, and Landsea, Journal of Climate, 2005, submitted).

It is beyond me why my colleagues would utilize the media to push an unsupported agenda that recent hurricane activity has been due to global warming. Given Dr. Trenberth's role as the IPCC's Lead Author responsible for preparing the text on hurricanes, his public statements so far outside of current scientific understanding led me to concern that it would be very difficult for the IPCC process to proceed objectively with regards to the assessment on hurricane activity. My view is that when people identify themselves as being associated with the IPCC and then make pronouncements far outside current sc ientific understandings that this will harm the credibility of climate change science and will in the longer term diminish our role in public policy.

My concerns go beyond the actions of Dr. Trenberth and his colleagues to how he and other IPCC officials responded to my concerns. I did caution Dr. Trenberth before the media event and provided him a summary of the current understanding within the hurricane research community. I was disappointed when the IPCC leadership dismissed my concerns when I brought up the misrepresentation of climate science while invoking the authority of the IPCC. Specifically, the IPCC leadership said that Dr. Trenberth was speaking as an individual even though he was introduced in the press conference as an IPCC lead auth or; I was told that that the media was exaggerating or misrepresenting his words, even though the audio from the press conference and interview tells a different story (available on the web directly); and that Dr. Trenberth was accurately reflecting conclusions from the TAR, even though it is quite clear that the TAR stated that there was no connection between global warming and hurricane activity. The IPCC leadership saw nothing to be concerned with in Dr. Trenberth's unfounded pronouncements to the media, despite his supposedly impartial important role that he must undertake as a Lead Author on the upcoming AR4.

Here is More from Prometheus blog on the Landsea resignation.

Randall Parker said at April 19, 2005 10:53 PM:

As for the fears of terrorism against nuclear reactors via an airplane filled with explosives I asked a Ph.D. physicist friend and played the part of those who think the risk is considerable. Here is my friend's response:

You are probably assuming that a random damage to a reactor would make it critical. I think this is quite unlikely.

First, reactors are protected with thick steel reenforced concrete walls that are hard to penetrate.

Second, an explosion in the air above the ground directs a tiny fraction of its energy toward a ground
target. The explosives are effective when they work in enclosed volumes, like the bunker buster bombs.

Damaging a reactor may cause a spill of radioactive material but such things have happened many times
and they are not as bad as a meltdown.

The easiest way to protect the structure is to build it below grade.

Tdean said at April 20, 2005 12:03 AM:


"If my postings are so worthless why are you here?" I am beginning to wonder. I was just working on a reply for about 20 minutes and a window got opened and blew it all away. You can do better than that, can't you? And call it sport. I enjoy trap shooting as well. And like you, I think that the public needs to see all sides. You also bring up some good topics that interest me. Why do you ask? Can't take a little heat?

"A temperature increase caused by CO2 didn't melt the snow on Kilimanajaro. I brought up the evidence because another poster tried to argue otherwise." That's not what the authors said in their summation. They said it wasn't the most important factor. You are going way beyond reaching. You are stretching and distorting.

"Price-Anderson: Imagine it was lifted and nuclear power plant operators could manage to raise money to build nuclear plants. You would still oppose nuclear power, wouldn't you? Isn't Price-Anderson really besides the point? Aren't you really opposed to nuclear power for other reasons that are quite independent of that act? That is the case for the vast bulk of opponents of nuclear power." I really can't figure why you have such a hard time understanding my position. Let me try it this way: The risk weighted value of nuclear power based on the current technology in an environment of technically sophisticated terrorism is strongly negative. That the Price-Anderson act is necessary for the viability of the nuclear industry proves that statement with 100% certainty. That P-A sells the rights of American citizens to billion dollar corporations and gives them carte blanch to reek destruction with no recourse is an abomination. You have a severe reading comprehension problem if you think it is beside the point. What the hell is wrong with your sense of ethics? Subsidizing massive risk is not comparable with the other examples you give. A subsidy is something that should be awarded for an industry that benefits society, not to shield private industry from responsibility for reeking havok on society. I am very much for subsidies for research that has a high likelihood of strongly benefitting society. But that determination should be made by scientific panels, not in smoke filled rooms. That is one thing that we seem to agree on for the most part.

Tdean said at April 20, 2005 12:12 AM:


"As for the fears of terrorism against nuclear reactors via an airplane filled with explosives I asked a Ph.D. physicist friend and played the part of those who think the risk is considerable. Here is my friend's response:"

What nonsense and diversion. An airplane filled with explosives is not at all what I am talking about and you know it. What an unadulterated snow job. I am talking about a highly aerodynamic, dense penetrator that is dropped at around 30,000 feet and on impact is moving over mach 2. The "thick" steel pressure vessel that you learned friend is talking about is about six inches thick. A tiger tank with an 88 mm gun would have no trouble at all penetrating that.

I can't believe how low you will go to try to win a point. Jesus!

Tdean said at April 20, 2005 12:34 AM:


"Have you familiar with why Chris Landsea resigned from the IPCC?" I are not. Why is a political argument between two scientists regarding a highly disputed area of climate research really all that big a deal? Sure some scientists overstate the degree of certainty about some of their theoretical predictions. But that does not change the fact that the vast majority of legitimate, working climate scientists understand that global warming is happening and it is detectable and it is significant to the future of humanity. One pissed off scientist is inconsequential, but you try to use it as some sort of amazing revelation of a conspiracy of communist scientists trying to take over the world. Give me a break. Find you copy of the Warren Report.

"The Lavoisier Group Inc was established to ask questions about:

greenhouse science;
greenhouse economics;
the Kyoto Protocol;
the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC);
the impact on Australian sovereignty of the Kyoto Protocol;
the changes to Australia's prosperity and national well-being should the Kyoto Protocol be ratified;
the integrity or otherwise of the IPCC's reports and recommendations; and
the history (ancient and modern) of the earth's climate. "

Just another bunch of lonely, ultra-nationalistic, right-winged pinheads down under. I guess you believe everything you read on the internet.

Randall Parker said at April 20, 2005 12:41 PM:

TC Dean,

You are being a thorough hypocrite when you accuse me of distorting. I provided two links to the same Landsea letter. I frequently do that because some links expire. Landsea does not work for the Lavoisier Group. The other link is from the Prometheus blog. You ought to click thru and read the commentary there. You could learn something about the global warming debate if you did.

You also distorted what I said by building it into a strawman about a conspiracy.

Price-Anderson was not passed to deal with Islamic terrorism. So to claim that it was seen as necessary to deal with that threat is distorting.

You are rude, obnoxious, and do not argue in good faith. You consistently distort what I say and then accuse me of distorting. This is dishonest and then you turn around and accuse me of dishonesty. Again, hypocrisy. I really do not see the point of continuing this discussion. Henceforth I will ignore you.

Tdean said at April 20, 2005 9:33 PM:


Obviously you can't take a little heat or make coherent argument. When you flat out lose you make falacious charges and walk away. What a chump.

When you can't answer a point you bring up a totally irrelevent tirade by a whimpy scientist who doesn't have the guts to put up a fight for something he thinks is wrong. Landsea said "It is beyond me why my colleagues would utilize the media to push an unsupported agenda..." That is a strong suggestion of a conspiracy on the part of the other scientists and his letter is used by other fanatic denialists to make that precise charge. Why did you include it? What did it have to do with our debate? Nothing.

Where did I say or even suggest that Price-Anderson was passed because of terrorism? This is a blatent distortion! It was passed in the '50s because it was the only way to get the industry off the ground. How many times have I asked "If the industry wasn't viable without Price-Anderson before the advent of terrorism..."? You are totally dispicable to suggest I am the one distorting here.

I suppose if I got my ass kicked as badly as you I'd run away too.

Tdean said at April 20, 2005 9:57 PM:


When you can't answer a point or make a coherent argument you make falacious accusations and walk away. What a chump.

What did the tirade by whimpy scientist who wouldn't even stand up and fight for what he thought was right on the IPCC. Landsea said "It is beyond me why my colleagues would utilize the media to push an unsupported agenda..." That is a strong suggestion that the other scientists were conspiring lie to the media and his letter is being used by radical denialists to make that precise charge.

Where did I say or even suggest that Price-Anderson was passed to deal with terrorism? This is an outrageous distortion! Price-Anderson was originally passed in the 50's in order to get the industry off the ground since there was no way that the insurance industry would have anything to do with them. How many times have I asked the question "If the nuclear industry wasn't viable without Price-Anderson protection against large scale disasters before the risks of terrorism were accounted for, how could it be now that we know for certain that sophisticated international terrorists are trying to break the reactors? " You never answered in a coherent way, you question my motivation and then you lie about what I say and accuse me of distortion. That is dispicable.

I suppose I would run away if I got my ass kicked as badly as you.

Randall Parker said at April 20, 2005 10:35 PM:

TC Dean,

So you think you beat me at debate? You are deluded. I just learn nothing from you and get a lot of insults, distortions, and misrepresentations. You do not argue in good faith. You are too convinced of your own moral and intellectual superiority. Your arrogance makes exchanges with you unproductive.

I'm responding one last time. But, again, I get nothing from my exchanges with you. You bring little information. You distort. You engage in hypocritical behavior. You sidestep my points by claiming that I sidestepped yours rather than respond to points and to questions I raise. Questions and points others raise are deemed by you as needing no response whereas unless someone else hangs on your every utterance you feel wronged and vindicated in your position.

You said:

The risk weighted value of nuclear power based on the current technology in an environment of technically sophisticated terrorism is strongly negative. That the Price-Anderson act is necessary for the viability of the nuclear industry proves that statement with 100% certainty.

Again, Price-Anderson was not passed in response to the threat of terrorism. You haven't proven there is an environment of "technically sophisticated terrorism". We know some terrorists hijacked planes and crashed them into big buildings and that this has become much much harder for them to do. Hijacking is not technically sophisticated. We have no evidence that terrorists can build deep penetrator precision guided bombs, let alone adapt a commercial aircraft to deliver them. The vast bulk of Middle Eastern governments couldn't pull that off, let alone some smaller and poorer group of terrorists.

Going to admit that bringing up the Lavoisier Group was an irrelevant distraction that you engaged in to avoid having to deal with more substantial arguments? Or that you were too lazy to bother reading what Landsea said and what other scientists said in response?

Where did Landsea said there was a conspiracy? You are imagining things. This is so typical of you and why is it so futile to argue with you. You just make up crap to knock down a strawman you put up and them proclaim you have proven something.

Tdean said at April 21, 2005 7:53 AM:


Again, you prove your ability to cut and paste, but not to think. My second statement does not in any way tie the origin of the Price-Anderson Act to terrorism. It says that the PAA is required for the viability of the nuclear industry. As I said many times, terrorism only makes it that much less viable. Your are distorting my clear statements to set up a straw man and you are without integrity. And you cannot comprehend what you read.

"We have no evidence that terrorists can build deep penetrator precision guided bombs, let alone adapt a commercial aircraft to deliver them. " So, we need to find blueprints before we should worry? We have direct evidence that Al Qaeda is targeting nuclear reactors. The US developed a deep penetrator during the first Gulf war in about three weeks for under a million dollars. There are no technological roadblocks for Al Qaeda. What is so difficult about releasing a bomb from any plane? Pathetic nonsense. It is unimaginative, head-in-the-sand attitudes like yours in the government that got 3000 people killed on 9/11.

What was an irrelevant distraction was the Landsea statement itself. Pointing out the extremist agenda of the Lavoisier bunch just showed how far out to the extreme fringes you are willing to go to find your irrelevant nonsense. Why is Landsea relevant and why should I care what one disaffected scientist says about future hurricane probablilities in the wider scheme of things? Hardy's statement was relevant because he authored the paper you distorted the conclusions of, and he showed that you are doing what all denialists do - yank disconnected statements out of context and plug them into a tortured and distorted, pseudo-scientific argument. Landsea is involved in a completely different area that is reasonably contentious, but that was completely irrelevant to our discussion.

"Where did Landsea said there was a conspiracy?"
Landsea's statement indicated that he believed that a group of his colleagues worked without his knowledge to deceive the press. That would be included in the definition of a conspiracy. Get a dictionary.

In all your blathering I cannot find a substantial argument and I know for sure you have not answered my question regarding the viability of the nuclear industry before or after 9/11. You are a waste of my time.

Randall Parker said at April 21, 2005 10:07 AM:

TC Dean,

Again you reply with assertions and insults. Al Qaeda is "targetting" all of the United States. They just can't seem to hit anything.

Again, the Lavoisier site is irrelevant. I knew about Landsea's resignation letter having read it originally on the Prometheus blog. I googled for his statement and included links to two sites. You were too lazy and worked up into a tizzy to acquaint yourself with the controversy surrounding is resignation or about his standing as a hurricane researcher. You response was irrelevant. You were wrong. You can not admit it. Instead you have to start impugning the character of Landsea. Geez, that is such a typical tactic coming from you.

Again, Arab governments do very little weapons innovation. Again, very few countries develop precision guided weapons. Again, Al Qaeda can't even manage to explode a simple car bomb in America let alone deliver precision guided munitions.

Terrorists are a threat we have to take seriously. But it is foolish to hobble our economy in ways that are unnecessary. We'd be better off putting more effort into border control and visa evaluation as well as into foreign intelligence operations against terrorists rather than limit our energy technology options.

James Aach said at October 24, 2005 9:04 PM:

You might be interested to know that Stewart Brand has recently endorsed a techno-thriller novel about the American nuclear power industry, written by a longtime nuclear engineer (me). This book provides an entertaining and accurate portrait of the nuclear industry today and how a nuclear accident would be handled. It is called “Rad Decision”, and is currently running as a serial at RadDecision.blogspot.com. There is no cost to readers.

“I'd like to see RAD DECISION widely read.” - - Stewart Brand.

One thing missing in the nuclear energy debate is a firm grasp of the American nuclear industry today – just what exactly is going on behind the security fence? As a longtime nuclear worker, I can state that few outside the industry have a clear picture of this. Unfortunately TV, movies, magazines and academic books have not captured the real story in a way the general public can understand and appreciate. Things are much different than you might imagine. (Both good and bad.)

Those interested in future energy issues will benefit by taking a look at Rad Decision - - and they will be entertained as well.

If you find the book worthwhile, please pass the word - I'd like more readers.

James Aach

(sb quote used with permission)

Sam Amy said at March 21, 2006 8:06 AM:

To all those in favour of nuclear power...presumably you have some wonderous means of looking thousands of years into the future? How else would you have access to the certainty that our civilisation (and indeed the biogeographical makeup of our planet) will remain in any way as it is today and therefore able to protect ever-growing stores potentially devastating nuclear waste? I continue to be astounded by the short-sightedness of those in favour of nuclear power - how can you just ignore the enourmous timescale (most of the radioactive isotopes in high level waste have extremely long half-lives -some longer than 100,000 years) before the waste will settle to safe levels of radioactivity. How can anyone POSSIBLY guarantee the required levels of social, political, human intellectual-psycological or environmental stability to ensure that this waste will be stored safely for the period of time required for it to decay sufficiently? In addition to this, we MUST remember that this waste will continue to accumulate at rates MUCH higher that those at which it will break down....I think the argument of the 'pro-nuclear' exposes an inate inability to think on a temporal scale compatable with that of the potential of biological life on earth?

Anirb said at June 22, 2009 5:19 AM:

Nuclear power does benefit the ecology. With nuclear waste, yes it stays thousands of years & what physicists must learn to do is make it harmless & reuse it. Currently nuclear waste can be used for limited purposes such as medicines & electricity. Nuclear power will always be around. I support nuclear or atomic power subject to guideleines. Nuclear powerplants are safer than coal. They determine size. If physicists can learn to make nuclear waste harmless & better yet reuse it, then what is waste today will be useful tomorrow. It's a ? of what the nucear physicsts can figure out.

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