Re: [asa] World sets ocean temperature record

From: Randy Isaac <>
Date: Wed Aug 26 2009 - 14:14:13 EDT

It's interesting to talk to ASA Fellow Ian Hutchinson about this. He heads the nuclear engineering department at MIT. There's a big problem with the long dearth and demise of nuclear engineering programs in the US. I think he said only about two viable departments existed a few years ago, all the others having shut down. Re-establishing those departments and training a suitable source of expertise for designing and operating nuclear reactors at the level required will take a while. Maybe up to 10 years. Ian is confident that even today's technology can make both operation and disposal safe and future technologies will improve that ability. But it's not something that can change on a dime. Fortunately he says they are flooded with interest now.

So I wouldn't say no one seems to be talking about nuclear. Some folks are at least doing something about it. Whether it's enough or not, I don't know.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Schwarzwald
  Sent: Sunday, August 23, 2009 7:24 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] World sets ocean temperature record

  Heya Rich,

  Here's one problem I have with the suggestion you lay out: No one seems to be talking about nuclear. At all. And I'm talking among the people who are urging action, action, action on AGW. (Indeed, most of the action they urge seems to come down to bureaucratic suggestions or "global initiatives" or other such. And that's when I start to wonder if AGW is really the central concern for many of the louder people.) This is doubly a concern since nuclear power isn't exactly an option environmentalists (along with the public in general) are known for being all excited about, and James Lovelock's experience has to me demonstrated that even suggesting nuclear power carries with it a risk as far as these groups go. Hey, just look at what's going on with Yucca to this day. So I'm not really encouraged by the idea that the nuclear issue will sort itself out. I'd be at the very least encouraged if nuclear was being given a prominent place in the discussion of these solutions, and as I said, I'm not even seeing that.

  Mind you, I also think there's an argument to be had for not making any massive changes or legislative approaches to the issue, even granting AGW. But even if that argument became compelling, I still view nuclear ('regular' nuclear plants and the mini-reactors) as an elephant in the room precisely because it's a viable option, a tested technology we already have on hand, and one which has been held back by what strike me as unjustified fears. And as I said, this strikes me as a worthwhile path to walk down even if the realization is "AGW isn't something we should be taking action on, or at least it shouldn't be a major world/national priority." Once AGW is on the table and treated as a serious, major concern, it nearly becomes a no-brainer. (That was the other problem I had with Kyoto, which I'm glad you recognize some problems with. If AGW is such a tremendous threat, leading to almost doomsday scenarios in the future (and again, there are people who have made these claims), why play politics with China and India's exemptions?)

  And that could be yet another case of "the same people" and avoiding pain. As in, some of same people who are demanding action on AGW are standing in the way of nuclear solutions - and seem to want to pursue a path where carbon is reduced, industry is pulled back, and any thoughts of alternative power methods are at most a distant second concern. Or worse, have some delusion that anything a nuclear power plant can do, wind power can do better.

  Anyway, what I'm saying here is that nuclear should be getting discussed right now and directly. Even if you believe that market forces after an AGW bill is passed will naturally lead to increased pressure to start building nuclear plants (and frankly, we should have been starting work on these things years ago), that just means that a serious discussion about nuclear is going to be inevitable. So why not do it now? I mean, I am excited at the prospect of stirling engines, of alternative energy sources, of a more efficient solar solution, etc. But those strike me as 'maybe someday' solutions, and AGW proponents are insisting present action is needed.

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Received on Wed Aug 26 14:15:39 2009

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