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    • Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and a group of others have been investing in energy innovations through a billion-dollar fund. One Gates-backed company is TerraPower, which uses depleted uranium as fuel to minimize waste. They had a deal with China to build a plant there but changes to our policy with China put the kibosh on it. So Gates is going to try to convince the U.S. to build one.

      I dunno, popular opinion in the U.S. seems to have turned against nuclear long ago. Do you think it can happen?

      đź“·: Gates as secret Santa

    • Interesting article, I hadn’t heard of this project.  Personally, I think the risk of Climate Collapse outweighs the risks associated with nuclear power.  

      I’m listening to the audiobook, Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker.  He talks about how Germany is closing its nuclear power plants and increasing their use of fossil fuels as a result.  He also sees nuclear as a necessary component of a responsible energy policy.

      I read several years ago about the concept of small scale nuclear reactors that could use depleted uranium and could be mass produced for rapid deployment compared to the five years that it takes a typical large scale facility to go online.

      I think it’s difficult to know if public opinion will sway in favor of nuclear power. On the one hand, the loss of life from nuclear power plant accidents over 50 years is quite low and every person who seems to know what their talking about says that solar and wind power are insufficient to replace fossil fuels entirely. On the other hand, I still remember reading about the volunteers who went into the Fukushima plant after the accident, knowing full well that their volunteering could be a death sentence.

    • Jovica Popović

      It needs to happen. We simply cannot turn our back on what can be the best base-load power generation technology available just because of irrational fears.

      But, a Dutch comedy show (something like The Daily Show) made that point much better than I ever could (it has english subtitles):

    • Awesome video. As an undergrad, I briefly majored in nuclear physics because I believed it was the safest and cleanest fuel, but I changed back to geophysics when I could see how hardened public opinion was against it. I think it's like air travel: it's really scary and dangerous whereas you can relax in cars, not scary.

    • The great thing about nuclear power is that it's pretty safe and pretty clean, especially compared to fossil fuels and coal.

      But the big problem with nuclear power is that it literally can't solve our short-term energy problems in time to make a meaningful difference to climate change, and it can't solve our long-term energy problems either because it still relies on a non-renewable fuel source that must be mined and that will someday inevitably run out.

      In the short-term, nuclear power can't save us because nuclear power plants are extremely expensive and time-consuming to construct. Even in the most optimistic hypothetical scenario, it would currently take 4 to 5 years to construct a new nuclear plant. A more realistic non-hypothetical time based on real-world examples would be more like 7 to 8 years. And that's not including time required to overcome regulatory and political hurdles. We simply don't have the time to build all the plants we need, because we need them right now.

      And in the long-term, nuclear power won't be sufficient indefinitely. It still requires fissile fuel (typically uranium), which is a non-renewable natural resource that must be mined. Even if we're willing to accept the environmental cost of mining, we can't get around the fact that Earth will eventually (in a matter of centuries) run out of usable fissile material.

      If it were possible for nuclear power to delay or reverse the effects of climate change in the short term, then the long-term problems might be worth the short-term benefits. But given that nuclear power can't help us now and will still incur a debt against future generations much like fossil fuels do (albeit a less costly one), I don't think nuclear power is worth significant investment.

      Solar, wind, and hydro all have issues of their own, but they actually can solve both our short-term and long-term problems. I think that's where our efforts should be focused right now. Nuclear power is a costly quagmire.

    • What an amazing video that was hilarious even with subtitles. And simultaneously most informative on nuclear power.

      The one factoid that screamed out at me is this:

      You need 600 windmills to generate the energy equal to one nuclear power plant that you chose not to build.

      So I started doing some research to answer a few questions that came to mind.

      How many wind turbines are currently in the world right now?

      341,000 wind turbines

      Source: CNBC

      How much CO2 do those wind turbines avoid spewing into the atmosphere?

      637 million tons

      Source: See above

      How much CO2 does one large scale nuclear power plant avoid spewing?

      I don’t know

      How much energy does an average wind turbine produce?

      About 3 mega watts (MW).

      Source: ewa.org

      http://www.ewea.org/wind-energy-basics/faq/

      How long does it take to build wind turbines?

      Construction time is usually very short – a 10 MW wind farm can easily be built in two months. A larger 50 MW wind farm can be built in six months.

      Source: See ewa.org above

      Could more large scale or small scale nuclear power plants, or a combination of both be our best option over wind and solar?

    • Bill Gates knows what worldwide problems to focus on and seems to have great people he takes advice from. I'm thinking he knows what he is talking about a heck of a lot more than the Luddite president and many other world leaders. Fusion is too far in the future and alternative energy isn't ready to take over significantly until we at least have a reasonable battery solution. We need nuclear.

    • Jovica Popović

      Short term? Just keep existing nuclear power plants online (something both Germany and Japan foolishly decided against). Medium term? Develop better, cheaper and safer nuclear power plants (what BillyG was trying to do). Most of current designs are over 50 years old, we can certainly do a lot better with the technology and knowledge we have now.

      And, about the mining? Although there is more than in enough in Australia alone to supply the whole Earth a couple of centuries, we actually don't need to mine for Uranium at all. It's estimated that there is at least four billion tons of uranium in seawater, which should tide us over for a good fraction of, well, forever.

    • Unless or until there's a breakthrough in fusion reactors, nuclear power seems like a losing proposition, especially compared to wind and solar. Besides the well known accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima (plus other less severe ones in the UK, US, USSR, Japan and France) there is the still largely unsolved problem of waste management. It is much more expensive to build than other competing clean technologies:

      Key point:

      The levelized cost of nuclear power is
      relatively high compared to other energy sources: the minimum cost per
      megawatt hour to build a new nuclear plant is $112, compared to $40 for
      utility-scale solar, $41 for combined cycle gas, and $29 for wind.
      Nuclear power is only able to remain viable in power markets due to subsidies

      Rather than subsidizing nuclear power it makes more sense to spend money on improving and deploying wind and solar (and the associated battery technologies). The cost of renewables has declined far faster than anyone expected 20 years ago, and AFAIK, there's no reason to think that further progress can't be achieved.

    • Hmm, I didn’t know that the uranium in sea water was a billion year supply.

      The science explained in your article is encouraging:

      So whenever uranium is extracted from seawater, more is leached from rocks to replace it, to the same concentration. It is impossible for humans to extract enough uranium over the next billion years to lower the overall seawater concentrations of uranium, even if nuclear provided 100% of our energy and our species lasted a billion years.

    You've been invited!