Bibliography2019-04-08T22:19:24+00:00

Rejection of Antinuclear Policies References

What is holding up the elimination of carbon emissions from our energy usage?  Is it the lack of a suitable alternative sources of clean energy? Is it opposition by powerful fossil fuel companies? Or something else?  It may surprise you to learn that we already have adequate clean energy options to eliminate emissions from electricity usage. Using nuclear power — which provides 60% of all clean energy in the U.S — as base load power, combined with solar, wind, hydro and geothermal, we could have 100% clean electricity today! Unfortunately, leaders of a few of the mainstream environmental groups choose to reject the use of nuclear power — defying most of the scientific and energy community — and seek to limit our options to just the use of renewables.  The idea may be aesthetically appealing but, because of their intermittency, experts say using just renewables doesn’t remotely pencil out to do the job. Which means that opposition to nuclear power may well be our biggest obstacle to reducing emissions right now.  Increasingly, environmentalists and public leaders who crunch the numbers are agreeing.  This is our compilation of bibliographic references regarding the broadening and increasingly urgent rejection of antinuclear rhetoric, thinking and policies..

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Key Online References (2018 and 2019 only)

The below is a reverse chronological list of articles.  For the articles from 2016-2017 click here.  For articles up through 2015 click here.  For a list of related books and blogs that deserve your attention, click here.

New York Times, Nuclear Power Can Save the World, by Joshua S. Goldstein, Staffan A. Qvist and Steven Pinker, April 6, 2019.

Expanding the technology is the fastest way to slash greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonize the economy.  New nuclear power plants are hugely expensive to build in the United States today. This is why so few are being built. But they don’t need to be so costly. The key to recovering our lost ability to build affordable nuclear plants is standardization and repetition. The first product off any assembly line is expensive — it cost more than $150 million to develop the first iPhone — but costs plunge as they are built in quantity and production kinks are worked out.  These economic problems are solvable. China and South Korea can build reactors at one-sixth the current cost in the United States. With the political will, China could replace coal without sacrificing economic growth, reducing world carbon emissions by more than 10 percent. In the longer term, dozens of American start-ups are developing “fourth generation” reactors that can be mass-produced, potentially generating electricity at lower cost than fossil fuels. If American activists, politicians and regulators allow it, these reactors could be exported to the world in the 2030s and ’40s, slaking poorer countries’ growing thirst for energy while creating well-paying American jobs. Currently, fourth-generation nuclear power receives rare bipartisan agreement in Congress, making it a particularly appealing American policy to address climate change. Congress recently passed the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act by big margins. Both parties love innovation, entrepreneurship, exports and jobs.

Harvard Business school, Op-Ed: Why Private Investors Must Fund ‘New Nuclear’ Power Right Now, by Joe Lassiter, April 4, 2019.

Many environmentalists have changed their minds about nuclear energy over the past decade. While the share of energy produced by solar and wind has grown rapidly, nuclear remains America’s largest source of clean, zero-emissions electricity. Anyone seriously interested in preventing dangerous levels of global warming should be advocating nuclear power.

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Wall Street Journal: Opinion, If governors are serious about global warming, they’ll preserve this vital source of clean energy., by James Hansen and Michael Shellenberger, April 4, 2019.

Many environmentalists have changed their minds about nuclear energy over the past decade. While the share of energy produced by solar and wind has grown rapidly, nuclear remains America’s largest source of clean, zero-emissions electricity. Anyone seriously interested in preventing dangerous levels of global warming should be advocating nuclear power.

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The Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA), bipartisan draft legislation which aims to accelerate the development of advanced nuclear technologies and re-establish US leadership in nuclear energy has been re-introduced to the US Senate on 27 March by a group of 15 senators led by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. It was previously introduced to the Senate in September 2018 and was one of several bipartisan bills supporting advanced nuclear innovation to be considered by the 115th US Congress, which ended on 2 January. One of those bills – the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act, which modernizes US nuclear regulation and supports the establishment of a licensing framework for next-generation advanced reactors – became law on 14 January. “Yesterday, a bipartisan group of leaders in the US Senate introduced the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act, which establishes an ambitious plan to accelerate the development of advanced nuclear reactor technologies,” Bill Gates, the technologist, business leader, and philanthropist, tweeted, with a link to Murkowski’s announcement. “I can’t overstate how important this is,” he said.

The Hill, Climate hedgehogs and foxes, by By Armond Cohen and Steve Brick, Opinion Contributors, February 21, 2019.

The Democratic take-back of House of Representatives and the recent introduction of the “Green New Deal” Congressional resolution have reinvigorated discussion of action on climate change. The Green New Deal resolution calls for meeting 100 percent of U.S. power demand through “clean, renewable, and zero-carbon electricity” – a recognition that it will take all of the technologies in the toolkit, including nuclear and carbon-scrubbed fossil, to fully decarbonize the power sector. Despite pressure from those seeking an end to fossil use within 10 years and power the electric grid solely with wind and solar, coupled with batteries and other forms of energy storage, the Green New Deal resolution does not exclude any zero-carbon technologies. As the Senate sponsor, Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), said in announcing the introduction of the resolution: “While the resolution does not mention any specific technology, it talks about any technology that can dramatically reduce greenhouse gases. . . .We are open to whatever works.” That is the wise approach. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, many leading environmental organizations and the last Obama White House report, argue for the broadest possible set of approaches — the use of wind and solar energy, as well as increased use of nuclear energy, scrubbing carbon out of fossil fuels, and, in some cases, the expanded use of hydropower and biomass energy.

The Washington Post, Bill Gates comes to Washington — selling the promise of nuclear energy, by Steven Mufson, January 25, 2019.

Bill Gates thinks he has a key part of the answer for combating climate change: a return to nuclear power. The Microsoft co-founder is making the rounds on Capitol Hill to persuade Congress to spend billions of dollars over the next decade for pilot projects to test new designs for nuclear power reactors. Gates, who founded TerraPower in 2006, is telling lawmakers that he personally would invest $1 billion and raise $1 billion more in private capital to go along with federal funds for a pilot of his company’s never-before-used technology, according to congressional staffers. “Nuclear is ideal for dealing with climate change, because it is the only carbon-free, scalable energy source that’s available 24 hours a day,” Gates said in his year-end public letter. “The problems with today’s reactors, such as the risk of accidents, can be solved through innovation.”

Wind and solar have come a long way since the early days. These sources now produce about 9 percent of the electricity in the United States, and their costs have declined dramatically in recent years.  We can celebrate that progress without turning it into a narrow mandate. We recently reviewed 40 studies of decarbonization pathways, and the results could not have been clearer. Without exception, every study that sought to identify the most affordable clean electricity system without artificially constraining available technology options reached the same conclusion: It was much cheaper to include so-called firm low-carbon technologies such as nuclear, carbon capture, or reliable but often overlooked renewables like geothermal or hydro dams with large reservoirs, than it would be to build a clean energy system without them.  Firm electricity generation resources are available on demand, for any length of time, any season of the year. That makes them a critical complement to weather-dependent wind and solar, as well as resources like batteries or strategies like demand flexibility (which permits consumers to reduce their electricity use in periods when supplies are strained) that are best suited to fast bursts of use. In other words, firm technologies complete the clean energy team. Wind and solar add value to the grid and can even be star players. But they aren’t cut out to win the decarbonization game all on their own.

Today, more than 80% of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels, which are used to generate electricity, to heat buildings and to power car and airplane engines. Worse for the planet, the consumption of fossil fuels is growing quickly as poorer countries climb out of poverty and increase their energy use. Improving energy efficiency can reduce some of the burden, but it’s not nearly enough to offset growing demand. Any serious effort to decarbonize the world economy will require, then, a great deal more clean energy, on the order of 100 trillion kilowatt-hours per year, by our calculations—roughly equivalent to today’s entire annual fossil-fuel usage. A key variable is speed. To reach the target within three decades, the world would have to add about 3.3 trillion more kilowatt-hours of clean energy every year. Solar and wind power alone can’t scale up fast enough to generate the vast amounts of electricity that will be needed by midcentury, especially as we convert car engines and the like from fossil fuels to carbon-free energy sources. Even Germany’s concerted recent effort to add renewables—the most ambitious national effort so far—was nowhere near fast enough. A global increase in renewables at a rate matching Germany’s peak success would add about 0.7 trillion kilowatt-hours of clean electricity every year. That’s just over a fifth of the necessary 3.3 trillion annual target.

High Country News, Is nuclear energy the key to saving the planet?, by Jonathan Thompson, December 10, 2018.

Emma Redfoot is a nuclear engineer, a devout environmentalist and an unflinching advocate for nuclear power.  She is among a growing group of environmentalists who realize the renewable energy alone is not enough to replace all carbon-emitting energy sources.  If, however,  we use nuclear together with renewables, we can begin to compete with and eliminate fossil fuel burning. This does not mean that we ignore the issues that have historically made nukes seem problematic. We address these honestly and fix them — through engineering.  In fact, nuclear is terrible with public perception in general. It’s a problem that even Redfoot, who has a bit of a Sissy Spacek-circa-1975 vibe and wears a cheery “Atoms for Peace” T-shirt, acknowledges can’t be engineered away. “The negatives are usually what people start with when they think of nuclear,” she says. So Redfoot accentuates the positives. Together with a growing collection of climate-hawk pro-nuclear folks, many of them fellow millennials, she is determined to brighten the view of nuclear energy.

The European Commission has confirmed that nuclear will form the backbone of a carbon-free European power system, together with renewables. With each Member State free to choose its own energy mix, the Commission underlines that those which are investing in nuclear agree that it can contribute to security of energy supply, competitiveness and cleaner electricity production.  Published yesterday, A Clean Planet for all outlines the Commission’s strategic long-term vision for a prosperous, modern, competitive and climate-neutral economy by 2050.

“FORATOM is delighted that not only does the EU recognise nuclear as a low-carbon source of electricity, it also acknowledges that nuclear is capable of reducing Europe’s dependence on fossil fuel imports and ensuring security of supply,” states Yves Desbazeille, Director General of FORATOM. “As our Pathways to 2050 study shows, nuclear can contribute to an ambitious decarbonisation of the European economy. By taking a step in the right direction, the Commission has demonstrated a real commitment to reducing CO2 emissions across Europe”.

The New York Post, The numbers show we just can’t get to ‘100% renewable energy’ any decade soon, by Robert Bryce, November 16, 2018.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who will be representing New York’s 14th District in Congress, supports pressing forward with the effort by Democrat to push the all-renewable scheme. There’s no doubt that wind and solar are politically popular, particularly among millennials. But the hard facts show that renewables simply cannot provide the massive quantities of energy the world demands.  The fundamental problem is scale. Renewables aren’t growing fast enough to even match the torrid growth in global electricity demand, much less displace significant quantities of hydrocarbons. Read this article to get a better understanding of the math.

Third Way: Nuclear Closures and Climate Risks

Third Way, Nuclear Closures and Climate Risks: Adding Context to UCS’s Eye-Popping New Report, by Lindsay Walter and Ryan Fitzpatrick, November 15, 2018.

After analyzing the potential loss of America’s unprofitable nuclear plants and the damage this would do to climate efforts, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report on nuclear energy that was likely to ruffle some feathers in the environmental community but was unequivocal—it defended the vital role of nuclear power plants in cutting emissions and called for policy action to protect them.  It found that losing as much as 22% of the nuclear fleet (roughly 179,000 GWh of electricity per year) would essentially “undo” all of the gains America has made in wind and solar for the past five years combined! Third Way found that by expanding the renewable standard to clean energy standard, 17 states could make sizeable increases in the amount of clean power required in the state, just by including their existing nuclear plants. This would allow some unlikely states to suddenly become leaders in the race toward carbon-free power. And if portfolio standards included nuclear, it would ensure that these plants get replaced by other low-carbon sources when they eventually retire, eliminating the very serious risk that fossil fuels will pick up the slack.

Voters in the U.S., Asia, and Europe are increasingly opting for nuclear power in response to rising electricity prices from the deployment of renewables like solar panels and wind turbines. The declining price of solar panels and wind turbines has not made the technologies more reliable, and the inherent unreliability of sunlight and wind — along with their huge material and land use requirements — have helped drive up electricity prices in places like California and Germany, even at a time of lower natural gas prices.Notably, growing voter support for nuclear energy comes both from progressives who tend to be more concerned about climate change and from conservatives who tend to be more concerned about the cost of electricity.  Economics and environment are two sides of the same coin. Had California and Germany invested $680 billion into new nuclear power plants instead of renewables like solar and wind farms, the two would already be generating 100% or more of their electricity from clean (low-emissions) energy sources.

The Union of Concerned Scientists Blog, Why We’re Taking a Hard Look at Nuclear Power Plant Closures, posted to the UCS blog, as part of a series called The Nuclear Power Dilemma by Kenneth Kimmel, UCS President November 8, 2018.

A new UCS report, The Nuclear Power Dilemma: Declining Profits, Plant Closures, and the Threat of Rising Carbon Emissions, indicates that more than 22 percent of total US nuclear capacity is unprofitable or scheduled to close over the next five to 10 years. The report also indicates that without new policies, the electricity generated by these and other marginally economic nuclear plants is likely to be replaced in large part with natural gas-fired generation (although this will vary from plant to plant). If this occurs, cumulative carbon emissions in the electric sector could increase by up to 6 percent between 2018 and 2035. While a 6 percent increase in emissions doesn’t sound that sizable, emissions from the electric sector must decrease, rapidly and substantially. The National Research Council has found, for example, that power plant emissions must decrease by 90 percent by 2040 to meet US climate goals.  Factoring all of these considerations in, our new report calls for proactive policy to preserve nuclear power from existing plants that are operating safely but are at risk of premature closures for economic reasons or to ensure that lost nuclear capacity is replaced with carbon-free sources.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, The Nuclear Power Dilemma, posted to alert readers to the full report published by Steve Clemmer, Jeremy Richardson, Sandra Sattler and Dave Lochbaum on November 8, 2018.

Nuclear power is the single largest source of low-carbon electricity in the United States. In 2017, some 99 nuclear reactors operating at 60 plants provided 20 percent of the nation’s electricity. Cheap natural gas and renewable energy, diminished demand, rising operational costs, and safety and performance problems are all threatening the profitability of nuclear power plants—and increasing the likelihood that reactors might close. If natural gas or coal replaces these plants, emissions will rise—and our ability to fight climate change will become that much weaker.  To help avoid the worst consequences of climate change—and avoid costly over-reliance on natural gas—we need carbon-reduction policies that better reflect the value of low-carbon electricity. If the current situation continues, more nuclear power plants will likely close and be replaced primarily by natural gas, causing emissions to rise. Policymakers should consider the following recommendations as they think about how to respond:

  • We need carbon pricing. A robust, economy-wide cap or price on carbon emissions would help provide a level playing field for all low-carbon technologies.
  • We need a low-carbon electricity standard. A well-designed LCES could prevent the early closure of nuclear power plants while supporting the growth of other low carbon technologies.
  • Financial support for nuclear plants should be conditioned on consumer protection, safety requirements, and investments in renewables and energy efficiency. Policymakers considering temporary financial support to avoid the early closure of nuclear plants should  couple that support with strong clean energy policies, efforts to limit rate increases to consumers, and rigorous safety, security, and performance requirements.
The Science of Sustainability
Many assume that economic interests and environmental interests are in conflict. But new research makes the case that this perception of development vs. conservation is not just unnecessary but actively counterproductive to both ends. Achieving a sustainable future will be dependent on our ability to secure both thriving human communities and abundant and healthy natural ecosystems. We compared what the world will look like in 2050 if economic and human development progress in a “business-as-usual” fashion and what it would look like if instead we join forces to implement a “sustainable” path with a series of fair-minded and technologically viable solutions to the challenges that lie ahead. Our answer is “yes,” but it comes with several big “ifs” (and one of them is accepting the role that nuclear energy can play.  See the section on “Climate, Energy & Air Quality.”)
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Time Magazine Opinion

Time Magazine, It’s time for Environmentalists and the Energy Industry to work Together, by Julia Stasch and Chris Crane, October 12, 2018.

Julia Stasch, who is the president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Chris Crane, who is President and Chief Executive Officer of Exelon Corporation, the largest operator of nuclear power plants in the United States, have gotten together for exactly the same reason that the Climate Coalition was created: to advocate for environmentalists to collaborate more inclusively towards our climate and energy goals.  They write: “The climate challenge is so large that we need to consider all energy options that accelerate our transition towards a low-carbon economy. That’s why we — one of the nation’s largest climate-solutions and nuclear risk-reduction grantmakers and one of the country’s biggest energy firms — both support four essential actions the world must take together: a limit on carbon emissions, the rapid deployment of renewables, the exploration of carbon-capture solutions, and the use of safe and secure nuclear power that does not increase the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.”
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The Guardian, We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN, by Jonathan Watts, October 8, 2018

The world’s leading climate scientists have warned there is only a dozen years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. The authors of the landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released on Monday say urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the target, which they say is affordable and feasible although it lies at the most ambitious end of the Paris agreement pledge to keep temperatures between 1.5C and 2C.

The Harvard Gazette, The Down Side to Wind Power, by Leah Burrows, October 4, 2018

In two papers — published today in the journals Environmental Research Letters and Joule — Harvard University researchers find that the transition to wind or solar power in the U.S. would require five to 20 times more land than previously thought, and, if such large-scale wind farms were built, would warm average surface temperatures over the continental U.S. by 0.24 degrees Celsius.  “Wind beats coal by any environmental measure, but that doesn’t mean that its impacts are negligible,” said David Keith, the Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and senior author of the papers. “We must quickly transition away from fossil fuels to stop carbon emissions. In doing so, we must make choices between various low-carbon technologies, all of which have some social and environmental impacts.”

L.A. Times, If California wants to go carbon-free, it needs to end its nuclear moratorium, by Ted Nordhaus and Jameson McBride, September 24, 2018

A new state law signed this month, SB 100, requires all of California’s electricity to come from zero-carbon sources by 2045. Many news reports advertised the law as a mandate for renewable energy, but lawmakers in Sacramento quietly acknowledged that the state may need more than wind turbines, solar panels and hydroelectric dams to meet its climate goals. The new law allows up to 40% of the state’s electricity to come from other zero-carbon sources, including nuclear energy and fossil fuel plants, as long as they capture their carbon emissions. Recent modeling by a team of MIT researchers . . . found that electricity systems powered entirely by wind, water and solar energy would cost substantially more than systems that have “firm low-carbon resources,” such as nuclear power.

Had California and Germany invested $680 billion into new nuclear power plants instead of renewables like solar and wind farms, the two would already be generating 100% or more of their electricity from clean (low-emissions) energy sources, according to a new analysis by Environmental Progress. The analysis comes the day before California plays host to a “Global Climate Action Summit,” which makes no mention of nuclear, despite it being the largest source of clean energy in the U.S. and Europe. The two main findings from EP’s analysis: 1) Had Germany spent $580 billion on nuclear instead of renewables, and the fossil plant upgrades and grid expansions they require, it would have had enough energy to both replace all fossil fuels and biomass in its electricity sector and replace all of the petroleum it uses for cars and light trucks. 2) Had California spent an estimated $100 billion on nuclear instead of on wind and solar, it would have had enough energy to replace all fossil fuels in its in-state electricity mix.

Joule, The Role of Firm Low-Carbon Electricity Resources in Deep Decarbonization of Power Generation, by Nestor A. Sepulveda, Jesse D. Jenkins, Fernando J. de Sisternes, Richard K. Lester, September 6, 2018

A study of the role of firm low-carbon resources in decarbonizing power generation in combination with variable renewable resources, battery energy storage, demand flexibility, and long-distance transmission. Nearly 1,000 cases covering varying CO 2 limits, technological uncertainties, and geographic differences in demand and renewable resources were evaluated, with firm low-carbon technologies that included nuclear, natural gas with carbon capture and sequestration, and bioenergy and found electricity costs reduced by 10%–62% across fully decarbonized cases. Below 50 gCO 2/kWh, these resources lower costs in the vast majority of cases. Additionally, as emissions limits decrease, installed capacity of several resources changes non-monotonically. This underscores the need to evaluate near-term policy and investment decisions based on contributions to long-term decarbonization rather than interim goals. Installed capacity for all resources is also strongly affected by uncertain technology parameters. This emphasizes the importance of a broad research portfolio and flexible policy support that expands rather than constrains future options.

Imperial College London, Nuclear energy is not as risky as climate change by Ms. Abbie Stone,

A study of the role of firm low-carbon resources in decarbonizing power generation in combination with variable renewable resources, battery energy storage, demand flexibility, and long-distance transmission. Nearly 1,000 cases covering varying CO 2 limits, technological uncertainties, and geographic differences in demand and renewable resources were evaluated, with firm low-carbon technologies that included nuclear, natural gas with carbon capture and sequestration, and bioenergy and found electricity costs reduced by 10%–62% across fully decarbonized cases. Below 50 gCO 2/kWh, these resources lower costs in the vast majority of cases. Additionally, as emissions limits decrease, installed capacity of several resources changes non-monotonically. This underscores the need to evaluate near-term policy and investment decisions based on contributions to long-term decarbonization rather than interim goals. Installed capacity for all resources is also strongly affected by uncertain technology parameters. This emphasizes the importance of a broad research portfolio and flexible policy support that expands rather than constrains future options.

Even anti-nuclear governments are turning to nuclear power to deal with a record-breaking heatwave, which has increased demand for electricity to power air conditioning around the world.  To meet rising electricity demand, South Korea’s anti-nuclear government announced last week that it would increase the number of operating nuclear reactors from 14 to 19, even re-starting two reactors that were scheduled to be closed this summer for maintenance.

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Matthew Bunn, a nuclear expert at Harvard, said that if nuclear power is going to play a role in fighting climate change, these advanced nuclear companies will have to scale up insanely fast. “To supply a tenth of the clean energy we need by 2050, we have to add 30 gigawatts to the grid every year,” he said.  That means the world would have to build 10 times as much nuclear power as it was before the Fukushima disaster in 2011. Is that even realistic?  “I think we ought to be trying — I’m not optimistic,” Bunn said, noting that the pace at which we’d need to build solar and wind to quit fossil fuels is just as daunting.

It’s currently in vogue for nuclear’s naysayers to proclaim that the cutting-edge technologies on the horizon aren’t enough to save the industry. They’re wrong — again.  A new generation of nuclear is on its way. And it is going to change the way people think about how we light our homes, power our data centers and our factories, and charge our electric vehicles. New nuclear is being designed to be affordable, and to fit better with the other clean energy technologies on the grid.

It is very exciting to finally see a fully, integrated, thoughtful, and inclusive overview of the possibilities for building a zero emissions energy system.  These 32 authors do not review the social or political obstacles, rather they review  all of the existing technologies available to address the broad, interconnected system needs of getting to net zero given constraints of cost and effectiveness of the options, without consideration of the popularity or lack thereof of those options.  We have needed this solid and scientific assessment for too long.  Here, in their own words, is the overview of this paper:

Net emissions of CO2 by human activities—including not only energy services and industrial production but also land use and agriculture—must approach zero in order to stabilize global mean temperature. Energy services such as light-duty transportation, heating, cooling, and lighting may be relatively straightforward to decarbonize by electrifying and generating electricity from variable renewable energy sources (such as wind and solar) and dispatchable (“on-demand”) nonrenewable sources (including nuclear energy and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage). However, other energy services essential to modern civilization entail emissions that are likely to be more difficult to fully eliminate. These difficult-to-decarbonize energy services include aviation, long-distance transport, and shipping; production of carbon-intensive structural materials such as steel and cement; and provision of a reliable electricity supply that meets varying demand. Moreover, demand for such services and products is projected to increase substantially over this century. The long-lived infrastructure built today, for better or worse, will shape the future. Here, we review the special challenges associated with an energy system that does not add any CO2 to the atmosphere (a net-zero emissions energy system). We discuss prominent technological opportunities and barriers for eliminating and/or managing emissions related to the difficult-to-decarbonize services; pitfalls in which near-term actions may make it more difficult or costly to achieve the net-zero emissions goal; and critical areas for research, development, demonstration, and deployment. It may take decades to research, develop, and deploy these new technologies.

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Two mainstay and false arguments of the climate debate — “It’s all a hoax” and “Renewable energy alone can save us” — are beginning to lose steam.  In place of the scientific, engineering and economic denial that has marred the last two decades of debate, a new coalition that acknowledges the growing risks of climate change and embraces a broader set of solutions is emerging. Whether the motivation here is the slow drip of evidence, the destabilizing effect of careening federal policy, or simply exhaustion, a new climate of realism is gaining adherents in industry, among advocates, and on Capitol Hill. For this movement to take hold, progressives and conservatives must both embrace ideas and partners they’ve doubted or shunned in the past. Nuclear power, carbon capture at coal and natural gas plants, technologies that remove carbon from the ambient air, and a more ambitious national research agenda must be fully embraced if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. A critical foundation for this strategy is broadening advocacy for wind and solar energy to include all forms of non-carbon energy. In addition to offering a more viable ecological pathway, broadening the solution set to include the skills, scale and shareholders of the dominant global energy producers is essential to building a political center in the long-polarized climate debate.

Two mainstay and false arguments of the climate debate — “It’s all a hoax” and “Renewable energy alone can save us” — are beginning to lose steam.  In place of the scientific, engineering and economic denial that has marred the last two decades of debate, a new coalition that acknowledges the growing risks of climate change and embraces a broader set of solutions is emerging. Whether the motivation here is the slow drip of evidence, the destabilizing effect of careening federal policy, or simply exhaustion, a new climate of realism is gaining adherents in industry, among advocates, and on Capitol Hill. For this movement to take hold, progressives and conservatives must both embrace ideas and partners they’ve doubted or shunned in the past. Nuclear power, carbon capture at coal and natural gas plants, technologies that remove carbon from the ambient air, and a more ambitious national research agenda must be fully embraced if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change. A critical foundation for this strategy is broadening advocacy for wind and solar energy to include all forms of non-carbon energy. In addition to offering a more viable ecological pathway, broadening the solution set to include the skills, scale and shareholders of the dominant global energy producers is essential to building a political center in the long-polarized climate debate.

According to Australian National University researcher Peter Lang, the ’60s and ’70s saw a transition “from rapidly falling costs and accelerating deployment to rapidly rising costs and stalled deployment.” Had the initial trajectory continued, he writes in the journal Energies, nuclear-generated electricity would now be around 10 percent of its current cost. Lang calculated that by 2015 it would have replaced all coal-burning and three-quarters of gas-fired electric power generation. Thus, over the past 30 years we could have substituted 186,000 terawatt-hours of electricity production, avoiding up to 174 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions and 9.5 million air pollution deaths. Cumulative global carbon dioxide emissions would be about 18 percent lower, and annual global carbon dioxide emissions would be one-third less. When the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in New Jersey opened in 1969, it cost $594 million (in 2017 dollars) and took four years to build. America’s newest nuclear plant, at Watts Bar in Tennessee, opened in 2016. It cost $7 billion and took more than 10 years to complete.  Rational policy revision could enable safe nuclear reactors, lower costs and faster displacement of fossil fuels.

David Roberts sheds light on the problem that environmentalists don’t seem to care about climate change enough to dislodge their nuclear prejudices (no matter how disproven).  He reacts with alarm to the fact that there is virtually no concern expressed by his fellow environmentalists to the announced loss of 40 TWh a year of carbon-free energy. He can’t understand why this is not “a four-alarm emergency.”

“That is nuts,” he exclaims.  “Environmentalists have a long, strange, and vexed relationship with nuclear power, a great historical accretion that, in your author’s humble opinion, makes it difficult for them to see this issue clearly. Part of the problem is that the question of what to do with existing nuclear plants gets tangled up in all sorts of peripheral arguments, many of which involve strong tribal loyalties.”  Roberts instead shows that this is about the “math.” He writes, “When an operating nuclear plant shuts down, a big chunk of carbon-free energy is lost. A big chunk. There’s just no way to spin that as a good thing. The five nuclear plants shut down between 2013 and 2016 alone produced as much electricity as all US solar put together. Carbon-wise, that means the next doubling of US solar will mostly be spent trying to make up for nuclear losses.

MIT Technology Review, At this rate, it’s going to take nearly 400 years to transform the energy system, by James Temple, March 14, 2018

Ken Caldeira, a senior scientist at the Carnegie Institution, calculated in 2003 that the world would need to add about a nuclear power plant’s worth of clean-energy capacity every day between 2000 and 2050 to avoid catastrophic climate change. Recently, he did a quick calculation to see how we’re doing.  Not well. Instead of the roughly 1,100 megawatts of carbon-free energy per day likely needed to prevent temperatures from rising more than 2˚C, as the 2003 Science paper by Caldeira and his colleagues found, we are adding around 151 megawatts. That’s only enough to power roughly 125,000 homes.  At that rate, substantially transforming the energy system would take, not the next three decades, but nearly the next four centuries. In the meantime, temperatures would soar, melting ice caps, sinking cities, and unleashing devastating heat waves around the globe (see “The year climate change began to spin out of control”).

The national science academies of 22 Commonwealth countries, including from the UK, Canada, India and Australia, issued a “Consensus Statement on Climate Change,” declaring that the “Commonwealth has the potential, and the responsibility, to help drive meaningful global efforts and outcomes that protect ourselves, our children and our planet.”  The statement warns that countries need to adopt stronger measures to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels—the goal of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. The statement points out that, even if countries meet their existing greenhouse gas reduction targets under the agreement, a recent report from the United Nations projects “a global temperature rise of 3 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.” In the statement, scientists from 22 national academies of sciences call on the government leaders to use the “best possible scientific evidence to guide action on their 2030 commitments” under the agreement and “take further action to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions during the second half of the 21st Century.”

The fact that we’ve failed to bring down greenhouse gas emissions amid the largest renewable energy boom in history has rendered old certainties, well, less certain: The big environmental groups have softened their stances on the issue of nuclear energy. OG climate hawk James Hansen is now saying we need it in the mix to deal with climate change.  As we begin the shift off of fossil fuels, there’s pitched debate about whether nuclear should be a part of the new energy mix. After sifting through all the evidence, the International Panel on Climate Change wrote that getting greenhouse gases out of our system “will require more intensive use of low-GHG technologies such as renewable energy, nuclear energy, and [carbon capture and storage].” Without nuclear, according to the IPCC projections, we are less likely to keep the planet from disastrous levels of warming, and the effort will be more expensive.

Stanford professor Mark Z. Jacobson made his name in the environmental movement with a paper predicting that renewable sources could provide 100% of the energy needed in the 48 contiguous states by 2050.  Yet, when more than 20 real scientists critiqued his study, he made an even bigger statement about his lack of understanding of academic rigor when he responded by suing the National Academy of Science and the lead authors with a $10-million defamation lawsuit.  He subsequently endured what was reported as “months of flak for what seemed to be an effort to stifle legitimate scientific debate by bringing it into the courtroom.”  Finally, Jacobson withdrew the lawsuit claiming that he had made his case by calling out what he believed were false claims in the critique.  Most likely because his suit was about to be thrown out by the court on anti-SLAPP grounds.  Unfortunately, his 2015 paper was embraced by those who would like to believe that the problem can be solved with just renewables — that and people in the renewables and natural gas industries, because renewables depend upon natural gas for the majority of their capacity generation.

Washington state senators introduced Senate Bill 6253, which establishes a clean energy standard. But when public hearings were held, the discussion turned decidedly ideological.  When no scientists were present to refute misrepresentations, environmentalists with an “almost-religious, anti-nuclear stance” tried to make theirs the only position considered.  In short, the legislation requires electric utilities and market customers to meet new electricity needs only with distributed energy resources and carbon-free resources.  “The whole point of this legislation is to address carbon emissions by promoting low-carbon energy sources and strategies. So you’d think that the public participants would care more about addressing global warming and not get lost in the weeds of their own ideological cravings.”  If “low-carbon” is what really matters, then nuclear energy should be in the mix.  Rep. Terry Nealey’s proposed amendment to House Bill 2042 that would add nuclear to the definition of a renewable/clean energy resource.  Unfortunately, “the amendment failed on a party-line vote, but Rep. Nealey, R-Dayton, spoke very eloquently in support of the Columbia Generating Station, nuclear energy, and small modular nuclear reactors.

America’s Democratic Party, environmental groups and clean-energy leaders pushing action on climate change are at odds over how best to address it.  Why it matters: Conflict is erupting over the best technologies and messaging, and experts worry the fighting could stifle progress toward the big thing they agree on: the need to address climate change. The divisions, brewing for years, are escalating in the face of a Republican-run government that doesn’t recognize the issue at all.  The main flashpoint: how large a role renewable energy should play in America’s future energy mix, compared to other low-carbon resources not as politically popular but that most experts say are needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions in cost-effective ways.

It’s becoming clearer that David Roberts writes like someone who has figured out that we need nuclear power but realizes that he’d damage his reputation if he comes straight out and says it, so he is figuring out other ways to share his enlightenment without abruptly alienating his readers.  In this article, Roberts provides an overview of a number of studies that have reviewed whether 100% renewables is realistic. First he lays out the scenario, that with all of the variable types of power, like wind and solar, coming online, we need sources of readily dispatchable power.  “Two potentially large sources of dispatchable carbon-free power are nuclear and fossil fuels with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Suffice it to say, a variety of people oppose one or both of those sources, for a variety of reasons.” He is well aware of his audience.  He treads very gently but he is totally clear.  He writes: “Most current models find that deep decarbonization is cheaper with dispatchable power plants.”  And “100 percent renewables hasn’t been 100 percent proven feasible.” And “Beware of natural gas “lock-in.”  Then the final wrap-up: “Keep nuclear power plants open as long as possible” and “Do relentless RD&D on carbon-free dispatchable resources, including nuclear.”   A thing of beauty . . . !

Dr. Bradshaw calls attention in this brief article to an important paper published on January 31, 2018 in Science Advances by Elizabeth Anderson & colleagues.  He writes: “The team’s paper, Fragmentation of Andes-to-Amazon connectivity by hydropower dams, pretty much highlights what many pragmatic environmentalists have been stressing for years — so-called ‘renewable’ technology rolled out at massive scales (to the exclusion of other technologies like nuclear power) can really endanger biodiversity.

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Jesse D. Jenkins presents research on comparative pathways for decarbonizing energy.  You can view a video of his presentation (and/or his slides) showing that cost-effective deep decarbonization requires at least one reliable resource playing the role of a “flexible base” for the low-carbon power system.  Energy storage and demand response provide “fast bursts” of power and play a distinct and complementary role. Furthermore, The problems with myopic “lock-in” of sub-optimal resources are reviewed along with the need for a diverse suite of low-carbon technologies to achieve the best mix of resources for a zero carbon system.

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David Roberts writes like someone who has figured out that we need nuclear power but realizes that he’d damage his reputation if he comes straight out and says it, so he simply complains about the dilemma: “Being a climate hawk is not easy for anyone.” Then he continues in an oblique way to insinuate things, without exactly saying them: “Climate change is a crisis. Serious damages are already underway, there’s enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to ensure more damages to come, and if carbon emissions continue unchecked, species-threatening damages become a non-trivial risk.  Lots of people acknowledge this. But it’s one thing to acknowledge it and another to follow all the implications, wherever they lead. Very few people have let the reality of the situation sink in deep enough that it reshapes their values and priorities. Being a consistent climate hawk, it turns out, is extremely difficult.”  [We have added the double emphasis because we know that what he is saying between the lines is that we need to “reshape our values and priorities “to accept that nuclear is not the enemy, it’s not as bad as its been portrayed, in fact it is actually rather good, and it is the only thing that can save us.

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Grist, It’s time to go nuclear in the fight against climate change, b,

 is one of the most respected environmental reporters working today, and he writes for Grist, which is one of the most reliable and independent-minded environmental news outlets.  With this article, both Holthaus and, one can assume, Grist and its editorial board, have come out in favor of protecting our nuclear power.  He writes: “After holding steady for the past three years, global carbon emissions rose in 2017 by an estimated 2 percent. That increase comes amid the largest renewable energy boom in world history. That irony points to what I see as an inescapable conclusion: The world probably can’t solve climate change without nuclear power.  Something big has to change, and fast, in order to prevent us from going over the climate cliff. Increasingly, that something appears to be a shift in our attitudes toward nuclear energy. [Emphasis added.]

Greentech Media, Diablo Canyon to Close Without Clean Energy Guarantees, by Jeff St. John, January 11, 2018

The plan for closing California’s last nuclear plant slashes a proposed budget for worker retraining—and has “no explicit provision” for zero-carbon replacements.   The decision, “which was roundly decried by community groupsclean energy advocates and PG&E alike, . . . fails to mention a key promise of last summer’s compromise — replacing the 2.3 gigawatts of always-on power that Diablo Canyon provides the regional and statewide grid with zero-carbon resources. Since nuclear power doesn’t emit carbon, adding anything else would add to the state’s greenhouse gas burden.”

ClearPath: A vision of clean energy dominanceby Jay Faison and Rich Powell, January 4, 2018

Jay Faison, a Republican billionaire, explores an alternative vision for clean energy dominance of the world market through his non-profit, ClearPath, which includes a broader role for carbon capture and sequestration.
“It’s January 2040, and under our newly sworn in 48th president, America is leading the world in clean energy technology. Thanks to a massive innovation boom, energy resources and technologies are our fastest growing exports, creating a global win-win that the left and the right fight over getting credit for:Win 1: The world pays for advanced American energy technology, boosting our economy.
Win 2: U.S. clean energy innovation makes existing global efforts to reduce carbon emissions more affordable.”

The Energy Collective, In 2017, The Myth of Powering the World with 100% Renewables Has Started to Crackby Milton Caplan, January 4, 2018

The defining issue for 2017, “the very real start of a movement that recognizes that powering the world with 100% renewables is a myth – and that chasing a myth will not get us to our global goal of meeting the world’s increasing energy needs while reducing carbon emissions and successfully combating climate change.”  What the data show “is that wind and solar are good ways to reduce fossil use, probably by about 30% or so. But they are not good ways to REPLACE fossil fuels in their entirety. This must be done by more robust alternatives such as hydro and nuclear. These are the only large-scale base load options that are both reliable and low carbon available today.”

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