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Global warming with an early switch to nuclear power


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If the 20th century was especially generous to nuclear power and by 1990s-early 2000s most of the world derived most energy from nuclear power, how would the rate of climate chnage be compared to the actual one?

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42 minutes ago, Hans de Vries said:

If the 20th century was especially generous to nuclear power and by 1990s-early 2000s most of the world derived most energy from nuclear power, how would the rate of climate chnage be compared to the actual one?

There is breakdown here of CO2 emissions by economic sector:https://www.statista.com/statistics/276480/world-carbon-dioxide-emissions-by-sector/

And here is a split of powergen by type of generation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_energy_consumption

You could use this to see what the impact would be if most electricity generation were nuclear. You can see from these figures that power generation is a very large contributor to CO2, so it would make quite a large difference.  But I'm not going to go through the number crunching on this: you can do that.😉 

 

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On 6/8/2021 at 8:09 AM, Hans de Vries said:

If the 20th century was especially generous to nuclear power and by 1990s-early 2000s most of the world derived most energy from nuclear power, how would the rate of climate chnage be compared to the actual one?

Also worth considering,  if most power were nuclear by 2000, how many Fukushimas,  Chernobyls, 3 Mile Islands would there have been along the way,  and how might that have affected the amount of habitable land,  arable land,  etc.  Ten percent of the world's electrical power comes from nuclear.   So,  if it had been 90% instead,  that would be a s--t-ton of reactors.  And spent fuel we'd be struggling to safely dispose of and keep sequestered for many thousands of years.     

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On 7/13/2021 at 12:50 AM, TheVat said:

Also worth considering,  if most power were nuclear by 2000, how many Fukushimas,  Chernobyls, 3 Mile Islands would there have been along the way,  and how might that have affected the amount of habitable land,  arable land,  etc.  Ten percent of the world's electrical power comes from nuclear.   So,  if it had been 90% instead,  that would be a s--t-ton of reactors.  And spent fuel we'd be struggling to safely dispose of and keep sequestered for many thousands of years.     

Possibly not even one. Chernobyl and Fukushima were very peculiar incidents that occured due to very particular circumstances. Given that for example France generates 80% of its energy by nuclear power and has not had a single accident. 

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Not sure I follow.  If there had been nine times as many nuclear plants, then there would have been FEWER "very peculiar incidents"?   In many cases when you multiply "particular circumstances" by nearly an order of magnitude, you have more opportunities for anomalous events. 

Also, I'm wondering if every nation would have the regulatory framework and responsibility of France.  Maybe, but I remain skeptical on that one. 

And the question of more nuclear waste remains.  The US still has not found a place for much of its nuclear waste, and locations like Yucca Mtn. have been tied up in litigation for decades.  A lot of it is sitting in aboveground tanks or pools of water - what could possibly go wrong there?  :-)

 

 

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Well, a whole lot of things would need to have been different and not just absence of anti-nuclear activism, which I think has been amongst the least of nuclear's problems. I suspect nuclear technology itself would have to have been different - more like the still yet to be achieved mass manufactured, ultra-safe, foolproof, tamper-proof, ultra-reliable, low maintenance modular power plant. And cheaper than coal or gas or oil.

I am not sure it is going to provide much illumination to run through possible alternative histories: the impacts of no protesters and subsequently more relaxed shit happens approach to accidents and to nuclear weapons proliferation: when or even if global warming concerns sufficient to demand action on transport and industry and land use emissions would have reached critical mass: whether the development of wind and solar, EV's and batteries - successful, useful, working technologies now - would have been proceeded anyway or been delayed.

We have to start from where we are and nuclear is still yet to achieve its promise, despite at the time of the emergence of mainstream global warming concerns nuclear standing alone as credible replacement for fossil fuels.

The way I see it mainstream politics balked at emerging evidence of global warming from the world's number one waste product - CO2 - and nuclear energy has been a casualty of an unfortunate failure to show leadership. Enviro types got worked up about it - to be expected - but I don't really think they expected to get handed the podium in "you care so much, tell us how you'll fix it" style. They distrusted nuclear and preferred alternative, clean energy technologies - solar and wind mostly, which didn't work, mostly. Which mainstream politicians still funded in what I suspect was a cynical mix of empty gesture politics and give em enough rope. Fortunately others besides enviro protester types took up the challenges of climate change and clean energy - scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs - and they made solar and wind and batteries and EV's and etc cost effective despite the doubts and the derision and fossil fuels getting the biggest energy subsidy of all, the enduring amnesty on externalised climate and health costs.

Unfortunately when large parts of mainstream politics fled the field on climate and clean energy they took most of the existing support for nuclear solutions with them; if there is no climate problem there is no need. As I see it most of the latent support for nuclear energy as principle clean energy option has been rendered ineffectual, behind a Wall of Denial. Climate science denial has no redeeming features - it's proponents appear to have no compunction about nuclear as collateral damage in the fight to prevent fossil fuels being accountable for climate change.

Not strength of opposition but weakness of support meant the nuclear industry was unable to take full advantage of the unparalleled opportunity it has to save the world from global warming. In the world we have now nuclear energy faces the problem that when the Conservative Right's Wall of Denial comes down and Right politics commits to clean energy for real... those voters can no longer be presumed to support nuclear over renewables; just as wind and solar was opposed on the basis of cost back when they got started with Doubt, Deny, Delay politicking, they could oppose nuclear now... on the basis of cost.

Edited by Ken Fabian
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On 7/12/2021 at 11:50 PM, TheVat said:

Also worth considering,  if most power were nuclear by 2000, how many Fukushimas

How many Fukushimas does it take to end the world? 

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That was the question implied in my first post.  Perhaps not world ending,  but enough releases of radioactive material to cut into arable land and water supplies in a serious way.   Murphy's Law is not something to be dismissed here.   

 

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1 minute ago, TheVat said:

That was the question implied in my first post.  Perhaps not world ending,  but enough releases of radioactive material to cut into arable land and water supplies in a serious way.   Murphy's Law is not something to be dismissed here.   

 

Tomorrow we'll know...

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I do think major growth of nuclear energy in the absence of opposition would have resulted in more accidents as well as nuclear weapons proliferation and potentially incidents of use of them; those were and remain real, not imaginary issues and those concerns gained a deal of mainstream tolerance and support for anti-nuclear activism. The drive to build reactors that cannot melt down came in part as response to safety concerns raised mostly by activists.

I also suspect the desire of major powers to limit weapons proliferation was a significant factor (after cost and difficulty) in why that major uptake did not happen - the attraction of nuclear weapons was and remains a significant factor in the decisions of many nations to adopt nuclear and there were efforts to limit that, with nuclear energy growth a casualty.

In Australia's case - where I live - I suspect it was the decision to NOT develop an Australian nuclear weapons capability that meant we abandoned nuclear energy ambitions and that choice would likely have been urged on us by powers like the US and UK, to keep a lid on WMD's. On the basis of energy costs it was never a good deal - especially not for a nation that floats on deep beds of coal... in an absence of climate considerations. The energy industry in Australia may not have opposed nuclear but it had no good reason to develop it, until global warming... and then the energy industry chose climate science denial, not nuclear.

Climate concerns would probably have been delayed but not eliminated by large scale take-up of nuclear energy. From producers and transport and industrial users of fossil fuels there would still have been strong opposition to climate accountability so we could have ended up with the same kind of conflicted politics we have been seeing, but without the illusion that people who like fossil fuels and people who like nuclear - united in their dislike of anti-nuclear and environmental activism - are on the same page.

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