On the topic of climate change and what we might do about it, the Times provides an answer to the question I posed yesterday - yes, they can spell 'nuclear'. OK, it takes them awhile in this article hidden in the Science Section about the "Deep Decarbonization" studies done by engineering experts, but they eventually get there:
A Path for Climate Change, Beyond Paris
By JUSTIN GILLIS DEC. 1, 2015
FWIW, Justin Gillis wrote yesterday's Timesplainer about climate change and never mentioned nuclear power. Hmmph.
All of which raises a provocative question: What would a truly ambitious plan to tackle climate change look like?
“The arithmetic is really brutal,” said Jeffrey D. Sachs, a prominent Columbia University economist. “We’re in such a dreadful situation that every country has to make this transformation, or else this isn’t going to work.”
Dr. Sachs helped start what is perhaps the most serious effort to draw up a detailed road map for the energy transition: the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project, based in Paris and New York. Over the past couple of years, the effort enlisted teams from 16 countries, which account for the large majority of global emissions, to devise such plans.
The analysts used conservative assumptions about current technologies and their costs. They also presumed that developed countries would not be willing to make big changes in their way of life — that people would continue to insist on transportation, refrigerators, electric lights and so forth — and that poor countries would keep striving to reach higher standards of living, requiring more energy.
The experts also made a point of ruling out energy miracles, such as technologies like nuclear fusion that could help enormously if they became available but are still largely on the drawing board. “If we couldn’t put on a hard hat and go visit a technology in the field, at least in pilot stage, then we didn’t include it in our analysis,” said Ben Haley, a senior consultant at Energy and Environmental Economics, a consulting firm involved in the work.
Damn, don'tcha hate it when they rule out the unicorns and fairy dust?
Perhaps the single most crucial finding of the project is that the technologies available today, while good enough to get a running start on the transition, are probably not good enough to finish it.
That means experts who have long argued for a more intensive research program on clean energy have a point. The 16-country analysis suggests that many technologies, like electric cars and offshore wind turbines, have to become cheaper and better.
But we know there is one proven technology sitting on the shelf in the US and Europe...
The scenarios laid out by the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project echo Dr. Jacobson’s plans to a degree, in that they call for substantial amounts of renewable power. But these scenarios also suggest that the energy transition would be easier and cheaper with additional technology options, including some that are disliked by the environmental movement.
For instance, in some countries with growing power demands, like China, the research found that nuclear power would be essential for staying within a strict emissions budget. Mr. Jenkins said that new nuclear plants would also be needed in some American states that had few other options.
When progressives touch that third rail do they experience electrocution or radiation burns? I guess we'll find out!
And many experts believe the United States, even if it does not build many new nuclear plants, would be foolish to shut down the ones it has, given that they supply 19 percent of the country’s electric power with minimal emissions. Yet some of them have shut down lately, occasionally because of safety fears but mainly because of low power prices prompted by the abundance of natural gas.
And that is the entirety of the nuclear discussion. Baby's first step!
SINCE YOU ASK... Normally I save this discussion for the less-nimble cocktail partiers I manage to trap in a corner at holiday time, but I have just one word on our nuclear future - thorium. India has huge thorium resources; India, China and Japan have huge energy needs and capable scientific communities, so this will probably move forward in spite of Obama. And the Times.
[Back in the 60's] Conventional nuclear power using a fuel cycle involving uranium-235 and/or plutonium-239 was seen as killing two birds with one stone: reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil, and creating the fuel needed for nuclear bombs. Thorium power, on the other hand, didn’t have military potential. And by decreasing the need for conventional nuclear power, a potentially successful thorium program would have actually been seen as threatening to U.S. interests in the Cold War environment.
Today, however, the situation is very different. Rather than wanting to make weapons, many global leaders are worried about proliferating nuclear technology. And that has led several nations to take a closer look at thorium power generation.
Of course, it is business as usual in the Times coverage of India's role in the Paris Prayer Session - no mention of nuclear power or thorium appears.
MORE HMMM... David Brooks can spot Republican denialism but can't spell 'nuclear'. Too bad, because he makes many good points about the conflict between these proposed climate agreements and basic human nature. Well, maybe he is skipping nuclear so as to bond with his progressive readership. The seas will rise, millions will die from flood and famine, yet Yucca Mountain will remain pristine. Thank you, Barack Obama and Harry Reid.