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Response to NeoGreen (Reply #2)

Wed Oct 17, 2018, 09:20 PM

4. Well, I would certainly disagree with your contention in this post.

Last edited Thu Oct 18, 2018, 06:19 AM - Edit history (1)

This one, specifically:

Not quite "antinukes" and not at all "very stupid people".


Nothing in your argument in this space in any way dissuades me from this deeply held opinion to the contrary. I have yet to meet an anti-nuke who I would regard as being anything other than stupid.

Now, of course, if one were to look through my journal on this site, one might find support for a claim that somewhere, roughly, between 50 and 75% of what I write refers to the primary scientific literature.

If one were to read through my writings, one might see that I often admire what's written, but also that there are many instances where I have disagreements with the contents of a paper, and often make comments along these lines. Sometimes I don't comment in writing, but nonetheless, even if admire the general content of a paper, I emphatically disagree with the putative rationale for which the paper is written.

Over the years, if not here, than certainly elsewhere, I've commented on PNAS papers, although frankly PNAS is somewhat lower on my reading list than other journals that better reflect my general interests.

For instance, today in "prestigious" journal Nature, to which I am a subscriber, I came across this paper, which on one level I admire: Ceramic–metal composites for heat exchangers in concentrated solar power plants (Sandhage et al Nature Volume 562, pages 406–409 (2018))

The paper, is an excellent Materials Science paper, and features this very impressive graphic:



The caption:

The power density is computed for a 17.5-MW-thermal (MWth) heat exchanger with 95% effectiveness for heat transfer to sCO2 at 873–1,073 K. As the maximum allowable stress of the material increases, thinner plates may be used, which decreases the required solid volume and increases the power density. Dashed regions correspond to the range of maximum allowed stresses for selected metal alloys8 (the stainless steels 304 SS and 316 SS and the nickel-based alloys Inconel 617 and 740H) and upper and lower values of failure strengths of ZrC/W-based composites divided by an FOS of 2 or 3.


Excellent. I love papers like this about refractory high temperature heat transfer materials. In a world inhabited by and run by intelligent people, this basic materials science would have outstanding applications in the nuclear industry.

Of course, this does not imply that I think that the title of this wonderful paper makes any sense at all, although I would have no doubt that a dumb ass anti-nuke who can't read very well might misread this paper as a statement that solar concentrators will work and are a done deal.

By contrast, someone who thinks critically might note that there are literally thousands of papers over the decades - I'm sure I've personally seen upwards of a thousand myself - on solar thermal refractories, but nonetheless, the solar thermal industry as a whole has been as useless - maybe even more useless, more destructive, and more wasteful than the rest of the solar industry on which we bet the planetary atmosphere, with future generations forced to pay the debt for the fact, that the bet has been lost.

I don't expect anyone with the mentality of an anti-nuke to get this, but the average data for the week ending April 22, 2018 showed a concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere hit 411.68.

This is after the world spent 2.2 trillion dollars in the period between 2007 and 2017 on solar and wind alone:

Frankfurt School/UNEP Global Renewable Energy Investment, 2018, Figure 3, page 14

I hold anti-nukes and their weak minds responsible for this outcome. Now, it would be unsurprising to find an anti-nuke to disagree with this. Of course, these are people who had a outrageous knee jerk reaction to Fukushima - ignoring that most people killed in the event were killed by seawater and comparatively few were actually killed by radiation - and burned gas to carry on about the reactors.

(How many people died from radiation again?)

Thus I feel absolutely free to state that even if the basic science in the paper I just cited above is excellent, the title is nonsense. Of course, it is not necessarily the case that the authors are all that attached to the title. It's quite possible that the title reflects nothing more than a requirement attached to it by the people providing the grant, which was, as it happens, the DOE Office of Renewable Energy and Efficiency.

There's only one minor problem with the political existence of this office: So called "renewable energy" hasn't worked; it isn't working; and it won't work. And while they do fund good papers like this one on mixed zirconium/tunsten carbide materials, the requirement that the title include an obvious nonsense statement does no good for humanity or the planet.

The world is dying, and solar thermal plants will do nothing to stop it.

Now the fact that there is a DOE Office of Renewable Energy reflects a political fact (just, as I will argue below) as the open sourced PNAS paper linked in the OP doesn't reflect a technical argument about nuclear power, but reflects a sociopolitical statement which arguably the authors find regrettable when they write, referring to the now discredited (by events) Pacala and Socolow paper from 2004 in the prestigious journal Science:

Given the myriad technical, economic, and political constraints that challenge the deployment of all energy infrastructure, relying on a large number of different technologies and strategies, executed in parallel, would reduce overall costs and risks (6, 7), with each one of these contributing a “wedge” to the overall mitigation effort (8). Indeed, most models of decarbonization incorporate a large suite of technologies and assume that they are deployable when the political will to mitigate emissions emerges.

Nuclear power is one of those technologies.
For several years, we have been evaluating the potential role that new nuclear power technologies might play in this decarbonization by conducting a variety of studies that investigate the technical, economic, and political challenges that face it, both in the United States and around the world. We have concluded that, barring some dramatic policy changes, it is most unlikely that nuclear power will be able to contribute to decarbonization in the United States, much less provide a new carbon-free wedge on the critical time scale of the next several decades. With the exception of a few other nations, including China, the same may also be true across the rest of the world.


The discredited (by events, we hit more than 411 ppm this year, 14 years after the paper was written) Socolow and Pacala paper is reference 8. The bold is mine.

Policy changes...

Political challenges...

Again, the United States built more than 100 reactors 30 or 40 years ago using technology from the 1950's. I note that anti-nukes are notorious for changing the subject when asked, point blank, to address this point, and start whining, for instance, about the prestige of journals or some such equally absurd thing.

In saying this, I'm not knocking PNAS, or the authors published in PNAS, although I will point shortly to an author published in PNAS - an anti-nuke - who I decidedly view as an idiot.

Of course, since I have no respect at all for the intellectual integrity - or for that matter the ethical integrity - of anti-nukes, I'm unsurprised that they can't read any better than they can think. Good thinking is often attached to good reading skills, but anti-nukes neither read, think or speak well. They just repeat cant, slogans and scare stories that do not focus at all on what is really scary, that being climate change.

Now, let's turn to the claim that I have dissed the authors of this particular PNAS paper because I don't find their argument compelling or wise.

Publications in peer reviewed journals are not true or false because of the prestige of the journal. Here for instance is the retraction page for Nature:

Nature: Retractions

Here is the retraction page for PNAS:

Retractions, PNAS


In pointing to these retractions - at the risk of hearing a distorted reading of the point by a dumb anti-nuke - I am not stating that the PNAS paper referenced in the OP should be subject to such a retraction. Many of the statements in it are true.

They state the following:

For three decades, roughly 20% of US electric power generation has come from large light water nuclear reactors (LWRs) (9) that were developed at the beginning of the atomic age. Because of low natural gas costs, these facilities are no longer the cash cows they were only a decade ago. Moreover, an increase in the penetration of renewable energy sources has turned nuclear reactors into mid-merit generators. Combined, these two phenomena have made operating smaller, older reactors cost-prohibitive. As a result, the United States is in the midst of a series of shutdowns of LWRs that will take ∼10 GWe of reliable, low-carbon capacity offline (10⇓–12)


The bolded statement is true, but a better paper would ask why gas prices are low; and note that one factor allowing for these putative "low costs" is that the owners of gas plants are absolutely free, without charge, and with due contempt for all future generations, allowed to indiscriminately dump all of their waste directly into the planetary atmosphere, where it migrates to the ocean and other bodies of water acidifying them.

If the gas industry were required to meet the requirements artificially set for the nuclear industry - that it prove that no one ever at any time be injured at all by any of its operations lest jerk-off knee jerk anti-nuke assholes get themselves into full twittery on the internet - it would collapse in a New York minute, and along with it the so called "renewable energy" industry that serves as the gas industry's marketing tool.

If the natural gas industry needed to pay, as I noted in the text generating this benighted comment to which I now respond, a carbon tax commensurate with the damage it causes in climate change related effects, it would collapse in a New York minute.

I note people get blown up all the time by gas explosions and still anti-nukes burn electricity generated by burning natural gas to publish their bullshit about Fukushima and Chernobyl, this on a planet, as I often point out, where 70 million people, more or less, have died in the last ten years, from air pollution.

A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990–2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (Lancet 2012, 380, 2224–60: For air pollution mortality figures see Table 3, page 2238 and the text on page 2240.)

(An updated version of this study has been published, but I haven't read it in its entirely yet. It suggests, however, that air pollution deaths are climbing outdoors and climbing over all, although indoor air pollution deaths have decrease slightly owing to improved home ventilation and improved stoves for impoverished people.)

In short, the reason that gas prices are low is because every damn living thing on the planet is required, without consent, to bear the external cost.

This paper makes a statement this is apparently true - the internal cost of gas is (temporarily) low - but ignores the fact that gas is actually extremely expensive because of its external costs.

It is, by comparison, not true that the external costs of nuclear power even remotely approximate the external costs of natural gas. There are thousands of papers showing as much.

So, to approach the conclusion, if one claims that something is true because it is published in a prestigious (or any peer reviewed) journal, one is merely showing a very, very, very, very, very weak understanding of science, something I note about every pixilated and confused anti-nuke whose drivel I find myself hearing.

This is why many very good journals feature sections wherein a scientist may comment on the quality or connection to the truth of a paper published after peer review in that journal.

For example, here is the Nobel Laureate Burton Richter commenting on a paper written by the anti-nuke Stanford Professor Mark Z. Jacobson, who I regard, at the risk of being sued apparently, as a complete fool.

Jacobson wrote this paper claiming, among other things, that the reactor at Diablo Canyon represented a real threat to be another Fukushima:Worldwide health effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident

Richter responded, as noted by other highly intelligent people, that even in light of Fukushima, nuclear power in Japan saved lives. He also noted a fact which knee jerk anti-nukes couldn't care less about, that most people died from seawater, not that anti-nukes give a rat's ass about climate change.

Opinion on “Worldwide health effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident” by J. E. Ten Hoeve and M. Z. Jacobson, Energy Environ. Sci., 2012, 5, DOI: 10.1039/c2ee22019a

What struck me first on reading the Ten Hoeve–Jacobson (T–J) paper was how small the consequences of the radiation release from the Fukushima reactor accident are projected to be compared to the devastation wrought by the giant earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011. The quake and tsunami left 20 000 people dead, over a million buildings damaged and a huge number of homeless. This paper concludes that there will eventually be a 15-130-1100 fatalities (130 is the mean value and the other numbers are upper and lower bounds) from the radiation released from reactor failures in what is regarded as the second worst nuclear accident in the history of nuclear power. It made me wonder what the consequences might have been had Japan never used any nuclear power. My rough analysis finds that health effects, including mortality, would have been much worse with fossil fuel used to generate the same amount of electricity as was nuclear generated.


The mild remonstrance from a Nobel Laureate didn't stop Jacobson of course from prattling on with delusional rhetoric however. He went on to publish this in, um, PNAS:

Low-cost solution to the grid reliability problem with 100% penetration of intermittent wind, water, and solar for all purposes

I've been hearing this 100% renewable crap my whole damned life, and publication of nonsense like this in PNAS in no way changes what I observe and which is widely reported: Solar and wind combined, after half a century of mindless cheering, didn't produce 10 of the 576 exajoules of energy humanity was consuming as of 2016.

Other scientists apparently felt similarly, and published in PNAS the following paper, questioning his analysis:

Evaluation of a proposal for reliable low-cost grid power with 100% wind, water, and solar.

There's something like 20 authors listed, some from Jacobson's own institution.

They wrote, correctly in my view, although I quibble with many of their comments:

In our view, to show that a proposed energy system is technically and economically feasible, a study must, at a minimum, show, through transparent inputs, outputs, analysis, and validated modeling (13), that the required technologies have been commercially proven at scale at a cost comparable with alternatives; that the technologies can, at scale, provide adequate and reliable energy; that the deployment rate required of such technologies and their associated infrastructure is plausible and commensurate with other historical examples in the energy sector; and that the deployment and operation of the technologies do not violate environmental regulations. We show that refs. 11 and 12 do not meet these criteria and, accordingly, do not show the technical, practical, or economic feasibility of a 100% wind, solar, and hydroelectric energy vision. As we detail below and in SI Appendix, ref. 11 contains modeling errors; incorrect, implausible, and/or inadequately supported assumptions; and the application of methods inappropriate to the task. In short, the analysis performed in ref. 11 does not support the claim that such a system would perform at reasonable cost and provide reliable power


Jacobson, showing his deep respect for science, rather than respond in a journal, filed a $10,000,000 lawsuit against PNAS and the authors of the paper: Jacobson v. National Academy of Sciences

He later dropped his suit, bitching and moaning all the way: A Stanford professor drops his ridiculous defamation lawsuit against his scientific critics

Of course, the whole affair is entirely consistent with my view of anti-nukes in general. I regard them as very poor thinkers, with dangerous obsessions and poor quality arguments that focus on minutiae at the expense of the grand reality, which is that climate change is real, that it matters, and that reality matters.

Oh, and I would make a note of something that troubles me in this age of Trumpism. It does seem to me that a lot of people are latching on to the word "fake" used by the Idiot in Chief.

I note that in mimicking this small minded and rather dangerous man, they are ignoring that he uses the word whenever he is about to tell a lie or to grotesquely misrepresent a fact.

It is entirely unsurprising to see that many of the people who adopt this absurd usage are definitely and clearly in his intellectual league.

Have a wonderful day tomorrow.









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