My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad

February 2018

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28      

« France wants U.S. relations the way they were | Main | Is there a Democratic Party left? »

February 08, 2005



China plans revolutionary, 'pebble bed' nuclear reactor: report


Red, in case you didn't notice, I was raising exactly the questions you then raised all over again.

I'm saying if it's a choice between more nuclear power and the end to civilization, we really have no choice but to go with more nuclear energy.

On the other hand, it's not all that simple. What I'm urging is a debate. Right now, almost no one in power is discussing this seriously.

And next time, Red, leave out the name-calling. You can argue your point without the garbage.


Here's somthing I posted on Calpundit many months ago. Since it didn't stimulate a whole lot of response, I'll try again. ...

Nuclear Response to the Oil Peak

The intellectual world is divided into those who believe that Malthus was right and those who believe he was wrong. The former are bound by the logic; the later think that the old fool can be outwitted, and Capitalism is the tool by which we will do it.

Capitalism is indeed a wonderful thing for adapting to change. Malthusians tend to drastically underestimate its power. There is now a whole range of technologies available for improving oil supply and a whole other range of technologies available for reducing the requirement for oil. Some of these innovations will surprise you no matter how much you know about the energy business. They will each kick in at different price points, and the greatest likelihood is that we can continue to live like we do for a long time to come, at some increased expense, whether the oil supply has peaked or not.

Nevertheless, Capitalism has its drawbacks. It has little long-range vision and it has limited ability to control the externalities of production choices. If a process causes severe local pollution, eventually some sort of social action will be required to correct the situation. Capitalism will respond to social pressure by reducing pollution a little, but mostly by 1) making it less objectionable, 2) spreading it over a larger area, 3) dumping it on powerless neighbors, and 4) spreading it over a longer time frame. "See, we fixed the problem!"

We look to the state to protect us. We expect our leaders to have the necessary long-range vision. But this is not an easy job. Brazil made a wise decision to invest heavily in ethanol technologies, but it turned out to be premature. Lots of people got rich on the small print, but Brazil as a country suffered from the price differentials. In the U.S. the CAFE standards were wisely implemented and succeeded beautifully for a few years. Unfortunately, the SUV revolution intruded, due to inconsistencies in the law and lax enforcement. Now we have a grossly unbalanced tax situation where people are actually subsidized for wasting fuel. We tried to patch that a little by giving people a tax break on hybrids, which are finally doing quite well. The unintended consequence is that Americans will end up buying hybrid SUVs that save 5% on poor gas mileage and get two different tax incentives for doing so.

However, the real problem with oil, and coal too, is CO2, and the state seems powerless to do anything about it. CO2 is the Devil's externality. We can't see it, smell it, feel it or believe it. The impact is gradual (so far) and unclear. No social action will address it because people only see the cost of the repair, not the benefits. It is like AIDS where the consequences are long delayed and nobody wants to change their behavior.

Malthusians understand, that clever as all the Capitalist machinations are, we will end up paying the piper sooner or later. The only answer is transformation of the government into a body which is actually wise enough and stable enough to make good choices. Many suggestions have been made in this regard, notably by Common Cause, and the fact is that our government has done pretty well when you take into account the corrupt and divisive pressures that bear upon it, but basically, government effectiveness remains an open issue.

Nevertheless, it seems to me that European countries have been smarter on the CO2 front by keeping fuel prices high. I’m not going to say that accepting the Kyoto Protocol is a good idea, but at least it shows that Europe accepts the existence of a problem and is willing to take steps to remediate.

The other thing we, in the US, are wrong about is the use of nuclear energy to replace some of our CO2 generation. “It’s messy! It’s dangerous!” we complain. So what! If it renders portions of our planet uninhabitable, so be it. It would certainly be better than having the whole planet become uninhabitable, a situation that the unbounded increase of CO2 may well bring about. Hybrids and solar and wind and city planning and everything else mentioned in the comments above [on CalPundit] are necessary and helpful and politically correct and all sorts of nice, … but just not enough.

Carbon tax and nuclear power. Learn to like it, because it’s the only way.


Here's an excellent article about pebble bed reactors in wikipedia:

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)