back to article Renewable energy 'simply won't work': Top Google engineers

Two highly qualified Google engineers who have spent years studying and trying to improve renewable energy technology have stated quite bluntly that renewables will never permit the human race to cut CO2 emissions to the levels demanded by climate activists. Whatever the future holds, it is not a renewables-powered civilisation …

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  1. Permidion

    reducing energy consumption

    maybe thats why we are also talking about "reducing energy consumption" in addition to "renewable energy" ?

    1. Thomas Gray

      Re: reducing energy consumption

      Except you'd pretty much have to stop using any sort of power for anything other than making renewable energy generating plant. Which means there wouldn't be any money for building that plant, nor any food to feed the people building that plant, nor and heat for them in the winter or light in the dark.

      Reducing energy use is a real goal, particularly as nearly all raw energy eventually ends up as heat. But it is a separate issue to where the energy comes from.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: reducing energy consumption

        It's all very well us in the developed nations using huge amounts of power trying to cut back a bit - but remember the billions in the developing countries who use relatively little now but of course that will change. We need new nuclear power - not to rely on old plants well past their sell by date.

      2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: reducing energy consumption

        "...nearly all raw energy eventually ends up as heat."

        I try to heat my electrically-heated house with consumer electronics.

        Since our heating season in Canada is literally eight months long, any energy savings from low power netbooks and LED lightbulbs is thus 67% ineffective, since the electric heaters have to compensate for the reduction in "waste" heat. The big problem is not "deniers", it's that most environMentals are uneducated about such technical details.

      3. Saigua

        Re: reducing energy consumption

        That's a fine conclusion just as soon as you explain how the previously solved (cough) condition of sustainable growth for...you know, non-electric non-carbon-burning nuclear power products...is the tallboy can of protoculture of the future that runs into no mineral shortage. Carbon fiber clothes, kitchenware and whiteboards, very nice...

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: reducing energy consumption

      The big things we need for comfort, like heat and clean water and being washed more than twice a year are not something we really want to give up.

      Transport is another that we could do much better on, but ain't going away so long as we operate efficient farming, etc, that moves large amounts of stuff globally.

      And we have a LOT of folk still in 3rd world misery and they also deserve something better.

      So efficiency might help a bit, like 20-50% perhaps, and reducing birth rate would help a lot long term, but really the Google guys are right - we need so much energy for a comfortable life that when either fossil runs out or it screws our climate beyond achievable farming and population relocation changes, we are fscked.

      Unless we do something now about large scale generation that is not fossil based.

      1. Khaptain Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: reducing energy consumption

        >The big things we need for comfort

        The crux of the problem lies within the above phrase. Who is willing to give up their comforts today in order that tommorrows generation can also have a minumum chance?

        The consumer society pushes us towards the consommation of products, many of which we don't "need" but that are very comfortable to possess/use.. This is turn gives us a very comfortable lifestyle but has the negative adverse effect of requiring massive a mounts of energy....

        We need to cut down on consommation, reduce the population, basically to stop dipping our hands in the cookie jar. BUT as long as the rich can continue to grow richer this will never stop. Be carefull about the evalutation of "rich", it is not necassarilly the top 1%. If you have a roof over your head, own a car and eat two meals a day, have a few pounds/dollars in the bank, you are already on the list of the rich.

        1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

          Re: reducing energy consumption

          >The big things we need for comfort

          The crux of the problem lies within the above phrase.

          He said the BIG things. So this is not about consumer products etc. This is about having heating, light, hot water, cookers etc. All things that a civilisation the size of ours needs.

          As also pointed out in the article, just to make the renewable generation equipment, we need vast amounts of energy. So we need more energy to produce more energy generating equipment... You see the vicious circle?

          I agree with the article: What we need is a large investment in modern nuclear fission power (as well as continued research into fusion), as well as some small reductions in red tape. We also need to continue developing renewables, but stop the hidden subsidies (if the govt want them subsidised, do it, don't make US subsidise through our bills).

          1. HelpfulJohn

            Re: reducing energy consumption

            What the article is saying but does not actually spell out is that no solar-pv, wind-power or geothermal unit ever pays off its initial costs. They *all*, without exception, cost more than the "free" energy is worth.

            Coal and oil are cheap because the cost of getting the energy out of them even at point-of-use many megametres from their source is far less than the usefulness of said energy. Oil is an extremely energy dense substance, far better than any battery technology we have and many times more so than hydrogen or any of the other alternatives for mobile power plants like vehicles. Dreaming of running cars from second-hand solar power, like wind energy, is the rankest of idiocies.

            The solution to our power needs is obvious and always has been. It just is one the greenies hate, loath and detest and will, for their own religiously bigoted reasons, never admit is really viable or desirable. We need nukes. More nukes, better nukes and eventually *fusion* nukes.

            With sufficiently good nukes we would not have the issue of "radioactive waste" for all the radioactive stuff would be consumed as fuel. If it glows it can power something. That is obvious even to a chimp. Only tree-huggers could possibly miss that most blatant fact and they only do so because their religious dogma will never allow them to admit that nukes can be made far safer, cleaner, cheaper and better than anything solar or windy. Also greener.

            Domes can be painted.

            With sufficient nuclear input, petrol, gasoline, can be *made*. We can still use petrol-driven cars, only better, safer and cheaper ones that do not pollute and do not create carbon emissions. Any carbon the cars exhaust into the air will be consumed by the fuel *making* industry. No drilling for oil ever again. Safe, clean power.

            Yes that is a stupid idea and it is a stop-gap and it is so very typically human but it would allow us to keep the things we have and love and still drive our micro-buses to protest rallies where we could plug in our amplifiers and electric guitars so we could sing about how evil and satanic electricity is while smoking weed grown using artificially created fertilisers. Nuclear-created petrol would give us the time we needed to develop real high technologies to replace the internal combustion engine. It would give us breathing room.

            But the greenies would have fits were it proposed. Their religious hysteria driven delusion that nuclear is evil won't let them consider the idea that plutonium orbiting Jupiter can't harm baby seals so they are never going to be able to cope with the idea that a technology that utterly consumes radioactives and removes them from existence forever is a good idea. While the green lobby are stuck in their delusionary world of magical unicorns and electric guitars that never need batteries, and the parasitic politicians use these hordes of half-wits as a support base, the human species, for all of its innovative macguyvering will be doomed.

            We need more nukes. Nukes are the safest and gentlest and greenest form of power generation possible.

            They are even better than solar-powered, photo-voltaic, microwave beaming satellite power stations and the greens would have litters of porcupines, breech, if anyone ever suggested those.

            We also need to spread the human species, and those other species that we feel worthy of coming, to the stars, but that idea would cause tree-hugger heads to detonate.

            An economy based on ever-expanding off-world activities would never collapse and could grow at an astonishing rate for many millions of years. By the time resources became an issue the Sons of Earth would have evolved into things smart enough not to *need* economies so off-world is basically a ticket to immortality.

            Best of all, no human walking the worlds of another star could club baby seals in Canada. (They could club mutated baby-seal descendants on their own worlds but *we* won't tell the greenies this and they are far too lacking in vision and imagination to notice it by themselves.)

            Greenpeace and their coterie of hysterical lack-wits should be pushing manned space-flight and ardently, religiously supporting nuclear power. But they are far too dim-witted to see their own best interests. Like most religious cults.

            If you can do simple arithmetic you can see that nuclear is the only safe, green power source. Sadly, greenies can't.

            1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge

              Re: reducing energy consumption

              HJ: "...greenies can't."

              Self-proclaimed greenies, with their lack of common sense and dangerous idealism, are a vastly greater threat to the planet than the harmless lunatic "deniers".

              The Siberian-Chinese natural gas deal *by itself* shoiuld contribute roughly a 1% reduction in CO2 global emissions (by displacing dirty and 2x CO2 coal), plus a vast incalculable reduction in NOx, a much worse GHG (even more benefit to climate change). Thank godness China is a one-party state. Else the idiot Greenies would be knee-jerk protesting the pipelines from Siberia, cause the project to be halted, and China would then continue to smolder dirty coal.

              The greenies would then stare blankly at the Beijing smog wondering why it isn't going away.

              1. Psyx

                Re: reducing energy consumption

                "Thank godness China is a one-party state. "

                Wow.

                Big supporter of Communism, then?

                I guess in our primitive democracies we'd have not bothered putting out those massive underground coal burns or dealt with the choking pollution issues, either.

              2. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. Wilseus

              Re: reducing energy consumption

              If you can do simple arithmetic you can see that nuclear is the only safe, green power source. Sadly, greenies can't.

              Encouragingly, there's a growing minority who can, such as Patrick Moore (the environmentalist, not the late astronomer)

          2. csmac3144

            Re: reducing energy consumption

            "(if the govt want them subsidised, do it, don't make US subsidise through our bills)"

            Uh, where do you think the money comes from if the government decided to "do it"? Hint: the taxes lopped off your pay. There's no free lunch.

          3. CarbonLifeForm

            Re: reducing energy consumption

            The energy density of nuclear power is staggering... I recall reading how one of the founders of Greenpeace is now a nuclear proponent. He gave a speech at a large hall in NY indicating that this energy density, combined with zero emissions, was what would save humanity. (I personally believe natural gas is the bridge to the nuclear future.If we're going to burn something in the meantime,. let it be natural gas.)

            Anyway, for the mathematically inclined, according to e.g. http://www.ocean.washington.edu/courses/envir215/energynumbers.pdf, the energy density in Joules for a pound of oil is 2.4 x 10^7, whereas for a pound of Uranium-235 3.7 x 10^13. 13-7=6, so ~1 million times the energy density.

            Thorium is even more abundant than uranium, and cannot be used to make a bomb at all. It needs to be lit by a uranium "match". The tin-foil crowd says that thorium was abandoned because its unsuitability for bomb-making made it unattractive to e.g. the US military, who wanted to be able to dip into the uranium of the civil nuclear industry to get feedstock for nuclear bomb making. Who knows? It is being worked on extensively in India.

            There is no energy crisis. There's just a brain crisis - as in, we refuse to use them.

        2. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

          Re: reducing energy consumption

          Reducing energy consumption is simply impossible without killing off the civilization.

          To me, anyone pushing for the former is implicitly calling for the latter.

          Short of this, any attempts to use administrative of fiscal measures to reduce energy consumption will invariably result in the opposite - an increased use and/or the use of cheaper and dirtier sources (e.g. coal) as it will suppress investment into cleaner sources. Watch Germany to see how such things fail.

          There is one direction for us - increase efficiency and intensity of power generation and soon. And that means - nuclear.

          @Khaptain - reduction of population is impossible in anything approaching long term. Your only hope is a reduction of the rate of growth of the population and that is only possible with increased per-capita energy use. The rule of thumb is - people leaving in shit multiply fast, while people living comfortably barely sustain replacement rate. The higher the living standards, the more expensive are children to make and bring up.

          1. tapanit

            Re: reducing energy consumption

            Vladimir Plouzhnikov: "reduction of population is impossible in anything approaching long term."

            I rather think it's trivial in the long term: human population will naturally reduce to zero. Possibly it doesn't even take all that long a term.

            Even in short term, say a couple of centuries, chances of a catastrophe that'll wipe out 99%+ of the species are not impossibly small.

        3. Alan W. Rateliff, II

          Re: reducing energy consumption

          First off, "consommation;" I invoke the spirit of Inigo Montoya.

          Secondly, I had a very enlightening conversation with a gentleman who moved from one of those third-world countries over in Africa (maybe second and a-half, really.) During our discussion a number of things became more clear to me. In particular, one thing he mentioned was how he found himself caught up in the excesses that our country has to offer.

          A very real solution is to not over-indulge in what we have available to us. A long time ago I saw a bumper sticker which sticks (ha!) in my mind as a perfect summation of our circumstances: "Conservation means doing with less, not going without." I come from a family in which I was constantly hounded about not leaving lights on, water running, etc. Even though we received such amenities for "free" being a military family*, I was taught a life of using what is needed and necessary. Today I live that for the most part, with the understanding that we are also allowed escapades of fancy: if I want to drive to California for AmiWest, then that is perfectly acceptable. If I want to idle my car in the driveway until the tank runs empty I am free to do so, but doing so is wasteful and shameful.

          * The military is, of course, paid for by taxes. However, the idea of "free" (as in beer) living in the military is a myth only revealed within the past decade or so when paychecks began reflecting how housing and other amenities are actually deducted from a member's base pay. Once you retire you really begin to see how the military life is not free at all.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: reducing energy consumption

            problem is, many people make the mistaken assumption that most other people are not ALREADY conserving out of fiscal necessity.

            All blanket legislation, is always a "one size fits all" which while bringing down the visible excessive consumers, actively *harms* what I believe is actually a majority who are already working down to the minimums.

            take the following for example. Subsidies used to fund deep discounts in power bills for people who reduce their power x% per month. When you're leaving lights on and running the heat up, you can make that award level by turning down the thermostat a little. later on, by switching to LED bulbs, and again by turning off ones you don't use. So people who start at the high waste level are golden.

            Now take those of us who see efficiency in our lives like a game-we're looking to score points, so as a hobby (and as a gadget enthusiast) we've swapped our bulbs with whatever new "energy saving" tech comes along, so by now we;ve already surpassed CELs and are on second generation LEDs. We already turned off bulbs we weren't using because our parents raised us that way. Thermostat is set to absolute minimum since it controls the whole apartment, and heat is provided through either single room electric heaters (closed door, rest of the house at around 60 degrees or less) and a nice new thermal blanket. Kill A Watt devices on our fridge and freezer, and even the TV swapped from plasma to LCD, I even personally underwent the medical procedure to assure that my personal biological carbon footprint ends with me.

            So this program comes along, and I can't do d*ck to drop consumption. I live in an apartment and can't get the landlord to replace the fridge (energy star rated from 15 years ago) to something newer and more efficient, or the decades old electric range with something more effective.

            What I do receive are nag letters monthly how my power consumption is "15 percent higher than other similar homes". Because I have a wife who works from home using the computer, and I have the network controller/file storage box with the RAID array to keep her stuff safe, and an old tape drive that gets run once a month. the "average" apartment in my area, has mostly kids on smartphones streaming internet over cell tower data plans.

            Government level programs for "conservation" have not in the past, nor I suspect will they in the future, take this into account. Like all those cheering high gas prices because such prices keep them from wasting gas on useless trips, they fail (or choose) to recognize that a large number of people have already chosen or been forced to the minimum amount of fuel usage already.

            Especially here in the Land of Tesla. People have been building their own EVs for so many decades, a short commute sees dozens of Leafs ever day, and 100mpg mopeds, e-bikes and almost every marque and age of bicycle are on the trails on weekends when people want to go somewhere for fun and not necessity.

            Giving politicians control over energy usage will reward the wasteful and harm those with the forethough and attitude to be frugal already. While managing to pass that cost onto their best allies.

          2. Marshalltown

            Re: reducing energy consumption

            ... is wasteful, shameful, and expensive. -- Fixed it.

          3. Doubtful1

            Re: reducing energy consumption

            Conservation and living without extravagance are anathema to business and government. Most governments are hugely in debt and spending beyond their income, and see increasing GDP as the way out of their dilemma. Increasing GDP depends, in part, upon the public buying more and more "stuff" that they don't really need, but which advertising prompts them to buy. The more stuff people buy, the more manufacturing activity, and the more the workers and businesses earn, and the more the governments can take in taxes (and the more energy and resources are consumed, and the more pollution is produced). In other words, artificially created demand is a key element in the strategy of governments to cover financial problems. Wasteful as artificially-created demand is, it is now seen as essential in the fight to stave off economic recession.

            Overcoming our addiction to consumerism would require painful adjustments. Cheap and readily-available credit has enabled excessive consumption to flourish for the last 30 years or so, but the public and governments are at or beyond the debt levels that they can service. If interest rates are not kept artificially low, defaults are inevitable. At the same time, we have enjoyed low energy costs as we consumed the most readily available cream of the fossil energy supply. As energy costs rise, more adjustment is forced on us.

        4. Rick Brasche

          Re: reducing energy consumption

          derp

          it's not "the rich" that are increasing the population at 2-4x their replacement levels.

          1. Tom 35 Silver badge

            Re: reducing energy consumption

            "it's not "the rich" that are increasing the population at 2-4x their replacement levels."

            Just shutting down anything linked to planned parenthood, birth control, education. Got to keep their poor/stupid/low pay workforce growing.

            1. Psyx

              Re: reducing energy consumption

              " Got to keep their poor/stupid/low pay workforce growing." - Well, who else is going to pay your pension?!

          2. Marshalltown

            Re: reducing energy consumption

            There is a recognized negative correlation between birth rate and wealth and that correlation has been present since the days of Classical Greece at least. Poor people have strong reasons for many children, not least that child mortality increases as wealth decreases. To have any surviving children and thus a family to care for you in your old age, you need more children in proportion to the incidence of child and infant mortality, and that is the case at present in industrial societies. Drop back a few centuries when the majority were agrarian and not only are you worried about your old age but simply getting the harvest in. More children is more working hands and thus lighter work. Overseas Chinese families often operate this way even at present. Even farther back, hunter-gatherers need large families because individual heads where the culture resided - that's what a "traditional society" is, one that operates in head space alone.

            The "replacement levels" for the poor are not the same as for the rich. The point here is that the aggregation of large amounts of wealth in a very few hands may indeed cause overpopulation. Not deliberately but just the same.

            1. JohnMurray

              Re: reducing energy consumption

              ¨The replacement levels for the poor are not the same as for the rich¨

              Quite right. If the rich want to have their incontinence pads changing they use other peoples´ children.

              The poor just smell and stay wet.

              The point being missed in pushing for a zero-rate level of population increase is that at some point over-population will change, quite rapidly, to under-population, and then to extinction.

              When the ¨age demographic¨ changes dramatically, coupled to other consequences of first world society (such as having children later in life) you come to a point where the population has aged to a point where increase just becomes a word with no action. You then import population increase.

            2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: reducing energy consumption

              Marshalltown "Poor people have strong reasons for many children, not least that child mortality increases as wealth decreases. To have any surviving children..."

              I documented this inverse to common sense relationship more than a decade ago. Very few have understood it, and policy makers haven't all brought it on board. You're one of the few to have instinctively grasped in on your own. It's not rocket science, so I'm frustrated that most people still don't get it.

              High child mortality (e.g. 50%) has a high random deviation. So to achieve a high confidence of two surviving kids, you can't trust just having four babies, because you want better than 50/50 odds. So you have eight babies and end up with four kids on average to guarantee two.

              .: High child mortality leads directly to high population growth. <- THAT! Simple math.

              Low child mortality (modern world), has little room for variation. Want two, have two, end up with two. Leads to very low growth.

              The nonsense about "educating women" (a very good thing anyway) is a red herring. Except possibly as a secondary effect that helps to lower child mortality. Mostly it's all about wealth and health of modernity leading to lower population growth via the above described counterintuitive mechanism.

              Thank you.

          3. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: reducing energy consumption

            "it's not "the rich" that are increasing the population at 2-4x their replacement levels."

            The funny thing is, that once the "poor" become "rich", they decrease reproduction rates of their own accord.

            last time I was in Myanmar (Burma), I was a little surprised to hear people talking about having children for the specific purpose of ensuring someone would be there to look after them in their old age - but when you think about it, that's been one of the prime drivers for reproduction all along.

          4. Vargs

            Re: reducing energy consumption

            No, it's the very poorest. You know, those without electricity or running water or healthcare or sufficient food.

        5. Lis 0r

          Re: reducing energy consumption

          If you're going to give up comfort, why bother to live at all? What really is the point? Why bother to breed, for that matter - all you'd be doing is condemning another soul to a life of misery, a grossly selfish and wicked act just to satiate your animal instincts.

          Or we could ignore retards, spark up a few nuclear plants, and everyone could live in luxury.

          I know which sounds more tempting to me.

          1. Khaptain Silver badge

            Re: reducing energy consumption

            @Lis Or

            Kind of personifies what is wrong in contemporary society, "I'm all right Jack".

        6. Marshalltown
          Coat

          Consommation???

          What, pray, is "consommation?" If it has anything to do with thin, clear soup, it is off topic. Besides, I doubt that consomme is a genuine environmental problem.

          1. Vic

            Re: Consommation???

            What, pray, is "consommation?"

            Don't ask - just be thankful he didn't say "consummation"...

            Vic.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Consommation???

            @Marshalltown

            "Besides, I doubt that consomme is a genuine environmental problem."

            You've clearly never seem my wife attempting to cook.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Consommation???

            For environmental reasons - I think Gazpachomation would be better - because Gazpacho soup is eaten cold. No energy wastage there.

            For similar reasons - I also recommend eating Ginsters pasties cold. Though these are quite difficult to eat with a soup spoon or direct from a mug.

        7. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: reducing energy consumption

          "If you have a roof over your head, own a car and eat two meals a day, have a few pounds/dollars in the bank, you are already on the list of the rich."

          You need to travel more. Only the car claim is true. The world is doing vastly better than it was a few decades back. Roof and two square meals a day is now widespread. Not universal, but certainly the rule.

      2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: reducing energy consumption

        PC: "...reducing birth rate would help..."

        This isn't the 1970s. Reduced birth is already a fact in most countries. Overpopulation isn't the big issue it once was. We'll probably peak at about 9B around 2050, and most of that in Africa. The new issue is too few young people leading to skewed to elderly demographics.

        It's pretty much an over-solved problem.

        1. ian 22

          Re: reducing energy consumption

          Reducing birth rates is one half of the equation. The other half is reducing the number of existing humans. Mother Nature could easily take care of that in the way she usually does with populations that outgrow their resources: disease, famine, and conflict.

      3. cortland

        Re: reducing energy consumption

        "Unless we do something now about large scale generation that is not fossil based."

        Will the fossils in government agree?

      4. salazarm

        Re: reducing energy consumption

        Reduce the human population. Either artificially or wait until catastrophe strikes and it happens naturally. Planet ain't big enough for us to grow exponentially.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: reducing energy consumption

      So, this article makes clear that according to these well respected Google engineers, man-made climate change is real and a 'massive' danger.

      Interesting.

      1. Psyx
        Pint

        Re: reducing energy consumption

        I'm not sure how they're 'Top Google enginners', either: There were only two of them and they couldn't do the job they were asked to. They sound like dregs to me! :)

        1. BillG Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: reducing energy consumption

          I'm not sure how they're 'Top Google enginners', either: There were only two of them and they couldn't do the job they were asked to. They sound like dregs to me! :)

          Just because you don't like their conclusions doesn't mean they're wrong.

          Like the article said, anyone with a decent understanding of physics knows that "renewable energy" isn't the answer. Those of us with degrees in engineering figured it out right away. And the people that claim that "we need to make new discoveries" are people that don't understand basic physics.

          If you want to have fun with someone who keeps making claims about renewable energy and climate changes, ask them one simple question: "What causes rain?"

          1. Psyx

            Re: reducing energy consumption

            "Just because you don't like their conclusions doesn't mean they're wrong."

            /facepalm. smiley face + pint glass = joke, trite comment.

            It doesn't mean they're right, either. Or indeed that I don't think they are.

            We have two people here saying it won't work, and that's good enough a sample for Lewis to churn an article out.

            "Like the article said, anyone with a decent understanding of physics knows that "renewable energy" isn't the answer."

            That's not true at all. Quite the reverse: I'm fully aware of just how much energy pours down on our heads. Given the size of that number it's more likely people who DON'T understand physics who see it as insufficient. Anything like a decent conversion rate and we should be harnessing that free stuff. We can't because we're not good enough and need something else, but in theory that's an insane amount of energy.

            "Those of us with degrees in engineering figured it out right away."

            Never been down a hot, sweaty mine, either then?

            Playing the 'I've got an engineering degree and you'd have to know nothing about physics to see that renewables don't work" is essentially your argument, and one based on smugly demeaning others, rather than facts. Your engineering degree does not make renewable enrgy your field of expertise, which you know more about than anyone else, so don't pretend that it does.

            "And the people that claim that "we need to make new discoveries" are people that don't understand basic physics."

            We need better engineering solutions. Those are new discoveries.

            "If you want to have fun with someone who keeps making claims about renewable energy and climate changes"

            wow: Seriously: For all your intellect you're still in the tiny minority of educated minds who don't swallow the climate change thing, despite the...y'know...tons of evidence?

            1. NumptyScrub

              Re: reducing energy consumption

              For all your intellect you're still in the tiny minority of educated minds who don't swallow the climate change thing, despite the...y'know...tons of evidence?

              There is a significant difference between agreeing that global temperatures are increasing (a trend in the observed data), and agreeing the anthropogenic CO2 emissions are responsible for the majority of the increase (a theory to explain the observed data).

              If I recall correctly, the current models / theories don't support the observed decade+ hiatus in increased temperatures, correct? If so, that would suggest that the model is inaccurate, and needs to be revisited. That's how science works; you make a theory to explain observed measurements, and if it doesn't properly predict things then you tinker with it until it does. Sometimes you need to throw the whole thing out and start from scratch, because some of the initial assumptions turn out to be incorrect (like atoms being a hard billiard ball with electrons embedded in the surface).

              Generally though, what I tend to see are an awful lot of people who are overly invested in their favourite climate model, to the exclusion of actual science. Anyone who would state "it doesn't fit observed period X but the rest of it is sound" is arguably not being scientific enough. If it doesn't fit observed period X, then it needs to be changed so that it does fit observed period X. If it cannot be changed so that it does fit observed period X, then it is arguably unfit for purpose as a scientific model.

              It is highly unscientific to base policy on a prediction of between +2C and +4C by the end of the century, if the model failed to account for a decade of no observed warming. If the model actually does account for a decade of no warming then please let me know, as I will support it 100%.

            2. CarbonLifeForm

              Re: reducing energy consumption

              If you mean solar radiation, yes, it is a lot of energy, but it is somewhat diffuse, variable due to weather, and only available during daytime. Solar power satellites have always been a way around the variability issue, and partially around the diffuse issue if you make really big ones that capture a lot of energy.

              But these also require huge investments, and wireless power transmission from e.g. geosync orbit down to ground is a thorny problem both in an engineering and socio-political sense - any such transmission beams could be weaponized, and would likely cause fits among some environmentalists.

      2. NumptyScrub

        Re: reducing energy consumption

        So, this article makes clear that according to these well respected Google engineers, man-made climate change is real and a 'massive' danger.

        Interesting.

        Don't forget the renewable energy part.

        According to these well respected Google engineers, man-made climate change is a clear and present danger, and renewables are a complete waste of time and money that would be better spent elsewhere.

        I'd like both parts to be taken into account when asking for policy changes to be made, please :)

        1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

          Re: reducing energy consumption

          Don't worry, this is just the first stage - getting rid of the windmills.

          The second stage of pointing out that CO2 is harmless comes later...

        2. Marshalltown
          Headmaster

          Re: reducing energy consumption

          You are not reading closely. Both parts ARE considered and the truth is that current "renewable" technologies are too expensive and too inefficient to do the job that those who are afraid of AGW ask for. Not only can these technologies NOT do the job, they never will be able to. You are up against the laws of thermodynamics. That is why these engineers are saying that we need a "disruptive new energy technology." Both solar and wind power are, when applied on an industrial scale, environmental catastrophes. Look up for instance the problems with the Ivanpah solar plant in the Mojave desert. The "development" of that plant destroyed - yes, destroyed - several thousand acres of desert habitat pushing aside desert tortoise and kit fox, and archaeological remains, not to mention the mining, manufacture, and transportation of the materials to construct it, in order to send power to greater Los Angeles. It has never met the production levels that were "expected" because clouds and dust interfere more than expected. The odds are the plant never will meet those levels for any significant span. A couple of new nuclear plants in the LA basin would have done the job vastly more efficiently with far LESS environmental impact, even considering the threat of earthquakes, which is just as high at Ivanpah as it is in LA.

        3. larokus

          Re: reducing energy consumption

          Consider yourselves lucky you don't live in Ontario Canada. 300 billion dollars of provincial debt to install wind farms and convert agricultural land into ground level solar farms. Electricity bills? Set to quadruple over the next 10 years. And who needs food when you have a little solar power? The people's response? Re-elect the tard politicians responsible for the mess. I'm all for environmental responsibility on a personal level and have made major efficiency upgrades at home but I've been lobbying against this madness as best I can, because our economy is crumbling. Yay!

      3. Fluffy Bunny
        Megaphone

        Re: reducing energy consumption

        "according to these well respected Google engineers, man-made climate change is real and a 'massive' danger"

        Please don't misrepresent the facts. These Google engineers started with the assumption that climate change is real and not a massive boondogle created solely to make a lot of poor scientists much wealthier and more self-important than they actually are.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: reducing energy consumption

        "according to these well respected Google engineers, man-made climate change is real and a 'massive' danger."

        That hasn't been in any scientific doubt for at least a decade now.

    4. Stuart 22

      Between a rock and a hard place

      Yes reducing consumption is an important factor - should, for example, all lighting be LED within 10 years - more/less? Does anyone have a plan or is it left to the 'market'?

      But the real problem is the war between the greens and the fossil eaters (aided and abetted by the climate change deniers). The one thing they all agree on is no nuclear power. And they do know how to freak out the man in the street. But not, usually, the man or woman in a white coat.

      So, in reality, who is taking a purely rational view of the options forward including how to handle significantly higher energy costs? We have had a rehearsal in the 70s oil price hike. It caused problems but the world didn't end. Planned increases would be easier.

      1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Between a rock and a hard place

        "...(aided and abetted by the climate change deniers)..."

        Naive and idiotic environmentalists with their innumeracy and hair dresser skill sets are a bigger danger than the harmless "deniers". Are people too busy arguing with the deniers that they don't have time to install a thermal blanket on their hot water tank?

        The deniers are no more an impediment to action than the Flat Earth Society were an impediment to the Apollo space program.

        Really getting tired of hearing that as an excuse. It's not acceptable.

        1. EvilPixieMan

          Re: Between a rock and a hard place

          Harmless deniers? These "harmless" deniers are vocal enough to get a media platform, seeding doubt in the minds of voters, and allowing the election of politicians with similarly denialist positions. When nation leaders are swayed by the denialist viewpoint (e.g. Abbott the maggot from Aus) then I don't think it's fair to say that the denialist position is all cream and cupcakes.

        2. unitron

          Re: Between a rock and a hard place

          The Flat Earth Society didn't have lots of lobbyists renting or buying lots of congresscritters to get them to de-fund NASA.

          Why isn't there a robber baron icon, other than fear that it'll get worn out from use?

          1. Fluffy Bunny
            Holmes

            Re: Between a rock and a hard place

            "robber baron icon"

            If you get a robber baron, I get a socialist stooge. Yes, it would look a lot like Tim Flannery

      2. Mark Pawelek

        Re: Between a rock and a hard place

        @Stuart 22

        The problem at the moment is that we are ONLY focusing on energy efficiency. The Google engineers say we really need game-changing - disruptive technologies. 10% of all energy R&D should be spent on such tech because we need to change the rules of the game. Apart from fission research, no meaningful money is currently being spent on such disruptive non-carbon tech. The UK has spent nothing on fission research for the last 20 years. This one dimensional focus on energy efficiency has fooled many people into thinking there's a RE-only solution to stop global warming. No such RE solution exists. Solar and wind remain absolutely dependent on fossil fuel. In UK, the so-called "Saudi Arabia of Wind", we often have very long low-wind periods lasting weeks. Such periods can happen at any time of the year. For example 1 to 20 Sept 2014, when wind produced only 5% of nameplate capacity. Battery backup for each 2MW windmill would need to store 200MWh - that's about 200 container sized batteries for each windmill!

        We need to spending 10%, or more, of our energy R&D on disruptive tech such as nuclear molten salt reactors, liquid metal-cooled reactors and fission. It's not happening. The blame for this lies at the door of the green movement.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Between a rock and a hard place

        "The one thing they all agree on is no nuclear power. And they do know how to freak out the man in the street. But not, usually, the man or woman in a white coat."

        Unfortunately the men in white coats don't have any canvas huggy jackets(*) to put on the anti-nooo-cle-ar nutters.

        (*) The ones with 4 foot long wraparound sleeves.

        LTFRs really do look like the way of the future. Uranium may be ubiquitous now, but it's worth bearing in mind that the amount of energy required in the United States to enrich natural uranium to "fuel grade" levels is a closely held secret.

        BWR/PWR reacters are a decent technology at 5-10MW (ie, shipping engines) , but scaling them up to civil power requirements is on par with using piston-based steam engines to generate electricity. There's a reason that steam turbines are used at those scales.

        1. Expectingtheworst

          Re: Between a rock and a hard place

          I hope I am note repeating what someone else has said, I have only read about 5 of the answer pages !

          One of the main problems with wind and solar renewables is that none can provide a consistent and 24/7 supply. This is compounded by the problem in northern climes that during winter the day is at its shortest and often during the coldest periods there is little wind. Backup supply is therefore needed and whilst continuous output gas turbines are efficient, they can only be reduced by about 10%. To have a gas turbine that can by varied to cope with the variation of renewables the units used are much less efficient and the latest idea of using diesel powered generators as ultimate backup makes it very inefficient and puts lots of CO2 into the atmosphere. Altogether the inefficiencies add up to very little saving, if any, from using all high efficiency continuous gas turbines.

          I will not go into the farcical situation of paying wind turbine owners money to turn them off when the power is not needed or to windy !

          If we could get wave power or similar to work, it would be far more useful as the tide times are known, there are 2 per day and change times round the coast, so a set around the coast could provide a consistent output 24/7. How much is an unknown ?

          This really leaves us with nuclear.

          I know to many this is a horror story, but as has been stated the death rate due to nuclear is small compared to most industries. The Japanese problem was not the earthquake or really the tsunami, but the security feature of turning off the power plant in the event of an earthquake. This caused a loss of power to the cooling pumps. Compounded of course by not putting the standby generators inside the protective building. Thus the generators were destroyed. The nuclear building survived the tsunami and earthquake. The problem was human.

          So to be safe we need a ‘safer’ version of Nuclear – Thorium.

          The Thorium cycle was one of the generating proposals looked at by the Americans in the early days and was the favourite. However not by the military as it did not produce very much plutonium, which they wanted for weapons. This now is a very good reason to use Thorium. It cannot sustain a nuclear reaction and needs a neutron source to supply enough neutrons to keep the reaction going. We have lots of this – High level nuclear waste and plutonium.

          So an ideal reactor would have liquid lithium salts fed by neutrons from nuclear waste, which if something went wrong and the neutron source could not be withdrawn quickly enough, a thermal plug would melt and dump the whole thorium salt liquid into a sump. I could only solidify as it could not continue its nuclear reaction. Very simple mechanical fail-safe.

          The Thorium cycle produces the majority of its breakdown products with half lives of 50 years or less. Only a small amount of Plutonium is produced and could be processed and used as a neutron source. As the process is based on a liquid cycle – it is however possible to use a similar process as is used in existing nuclear power plants, but a lot of the advantages are lost – allows the liquid to be processed to remove ‘impurities’ without shutting down the plant for months.

          It is estimated there is enough Thorium for about 1000 years.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Between a rock and a hard place

        "Yes reducing consumption is an important factor - should, for example, all lighting be LED within 10 years - more/less? Does anyone have a plan or is it left to the 'market'?"

        They already banned all incandescent light bulbs most places. You can really only buy them in backwards / third world countries or on eBay now.

    5. Decade
      Thumb Down

      Did you read the same article I did?

      I read the paper in IEEE Spectrum, and I think it says something very different than what Lewis Page seems to think.

      The PhD engineers didn't say that renewable energy was insufficient for producing electricity. They were saying that even if we could wave a magic wand and turn all electricity production into renewables, we've already exceeded the “safety threshold” of CO2 concentrations. We exceeded that limit about 25 years ago. And besides electricity, there are plenty of uses of energy that are not anywhere close to ready to be replaced by renewable energy, so at best RE electricity will just slow down the increase of CO2.

      Their point is that renewable energy is necessary, but not sufficient, to halt the climate change. We need to focus on the bigger picture, and fund the research and development to fix it.

      1. Fluffy Bunny
        Holmes

        Re: Did you read the same article I did?

        "Their point is that renewable energy is necessary, but not sufficient, to halt the climate change"

        But did they do anything to explain why the climate hasn't warmed for 18 years, even in the face of China increasing it's CO2 output by that of Australia every month?

        No? Thought not. It's still just a boondogle to pay the wages of a bunch of half-scientists.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Did you read the same article I did?

          "But did they do anything to explain why the climate hasn't warmed for 18 years,"

          Not sure where you got that idea, but you are wrong. We have just had the warmest 12 consecutive months on average globally since records began in 1880.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Did you read the same article I did?

        "so at best RE electricity will just slow down the increase of CO2."

        Which is still a good start at addressing AGW.

    6. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Naive -> "What’s needed are zero-carbon energy sources..."

      What's the old saying? "Perfection is the enemy of good enough."

      Instead of holding out for perfection ("zero-carbon"), why don't we actually *do* something in the near term, even if it's not "zero". Do this: Reduce the amount of electricity made from coal and increase the amount of electricity made from natural gas, with half the CO2. When the renewables perhaps, maybe, eventually, hopefully, actually come online, then simply turn the handle on the pipeline to ramp down the use of Natural Gas.

      With this approach, our windmill and solar panel factories could be powered by clean burning natural gas instead of dirty coal that also emits twice the CO2.

      It's not and end state. It's a logical stepping stone.

      And eventually the natural gas fueled power stations could have fast reacting gas turbines to provide backup power when there's no wind, no sunshine and no tides at the same time. Low duty cycle hopefully.

      1. PyLETS

        Re: Naive -> "What’s needed are zero-carbon energy sources..."

        The main problem with wind energy is storage, due to wind variability. Putting big reservoirs on the top of hills is expensive and unsightly. One option being looked at is storing excess wind energy in the gas grid, using C02 captured from residual fossil fuel plant in the medium term, and I guess from biofuel in the longer term. Again, all of this is feasible given acceptance of higher energy costs, but not a perfect totally "carbon free" solution during several decades of transition.

        The alternative is much higher energy costs externalised into costs of sea level rise, more frequent storms and flooding etc.

    7. Fluffy Bunny

      Re: reducing energy consumption

      I see a lot of people "talking about "reducing energy consumption", but nobody actually does anything. If Australia stopped generating any electricity at all, China would make up for it after just one month.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: reducing energy consumption

      "No less than 99.7 per cent of this "waste" is actually intermediate-level, meaning that it basically isn't radioactive at all: you could theoretically make half a tonne of ordinary dirt into such "intermediate level nuclear waste" by burying a completely legal luminous wristwatch in it. (If you did that inside the boundaries of a licensed nuclear facility, the dirt really would then become ridiculously costly "waste".)"

      NO - utter invented drivel as usual. Intermediate-level waste contains higher amounts of radioactivity and in general require shielding, but not cooling. It certainly is in general very radioactive.

  2. chivo243 Silver badge

    I seem to remember

    something called Geothermal energy from my school daze. Why isn't this explored? I think there is enough heat coming from the Earth's innards to at least investigate this concept further.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I seem to remember

      The article mentions that RE<C looked into this in some depth.

      1. DaLo

        Re: I seem to remember

        "... in some depth"

        Aha, I see what you did there, very well played.

      2. chivo243 Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: I seem to remember

        @AC

        The term Geothermal is mentioned once in a catch all sentence of all the things not in the mainstream. That doesn't seem to me as some depth. However, I have not followed googles every move such as RE<C.

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: I seem to remember

      It is a good approach, but not many places are suited to using it (i.e. close to the magma's heat). Iceland is a good example, but few others I can think of.

      1. petur
        Thumb Down

        Re: I seem to remember

        The fact that Iceland has usable geothermal energy has some adverse effects:

        Since energy is quite cheap, a lot of energy-hungry industries (aluminium,...) went there, causing the power requirements to rise quite high.

        So now they are not only using geothermal, but wasting a big part of nature, building a dam + hydroelectric plant to make more electricity.

      2. Psyx

        Re: I seem to remember

        "Some depth" - I wouldn't call a one-sentence statement any kind of depth at all. Call me a cynic but it was rather brushed past in a hurry to get across a message which coincidentally completely agrees with that of the piece's author.

        "It is a good approach, but not many places are suited to using it (i.e. close to the magma's heat). Iceland is a good example, but few others I can think of."

        Chap, we're all only 20 km from geothermal energy!

        The whole thing defies basic rational common sense to me. We have a massive fusion reactor in the sky that pours down an impressive Wattage per square meter and a bunch of heat only a few tens of km straight down. If we can't figure out how to harness that, then we're not as smart a species as we think.

        Ultimately, renewables should be a stop-gap until we figure out how to make fusion work. However, I do believe them to be a more viable and sensible stop-gap than scattering our nations with piddly little fission reactors, which are horrifically expensive to construct, just as expensive to take down, create waste that we don't want to face up to and deal with properly, and occasionally go wrong in ways that we don't like things built near population centres to go wrong.

        1. dwieske

          Re: I seem to remember

          you make no sense at all, making ignorant statements is easy, but useless...

          ONLY 20km from geothermal energy? we have never, in the history of humanity drilled that deep, the current record is 12km, drilling deep isnt as simple as you are....

          the wattage per square meter from solar radiation is next to nothing, not "impressive", the surface area you would need to replace a single proper plant is enourmous, and I'm not even bringen unrealibility (mistaken for intermittency) and limited production hours into the equation.

          renewables as stop gap to fusion is beyond retarded and the fact you propose that shows you did not even read this article, or didn't understand it....the only sensible stopgap to fusion is called nuclear energy, preferably GEN IV as that would give us a few centuries to get rid of our nuclear waste while generating power with it.....getting rid of nuclear power and destroying humanity by going "renewable" is also an EXPLICITE choice to get stuck with nuclear waste forever....

          you are absolutely clueless on this subject and should really stop putting that on display you used many many words, but not a single statement you typed made ANY sense in this reality....could we please divert the money wasted on "renewable" to education so we can put a stop to this kind of destructive nonsense? fyi, nuclear reactors are SMALL but produce enormous amounts of power very reliably 24/7, they are FAR cheaper than renewables (eg. 1billion euro for a 700+MW prism plant that runs on nuclear waste vs 3 billion for a 300mw solar collector which only produces a few hours a day)....

          stop being a part of the problem, STOP lobbyen for us to get stuck with nuclear waste forever and mainly stop participation in discussion on subject you are 100% clueless about...

          1. Psyx

            Re: I seem to remember

            "ONLY 20km from geothermal energy?"

            Much less than that, obviously. Been down a mine recently? It's hot. Real hot. We wouldn't need anything like 20km in reality: Just some clever thinking.

            "drilling deep isnt as simple as you are...."

            At least I can use an apostrophe and discuss energy consumption without going straight for the personal insults. Hope you're proud of your intellectual capacity.

            "the wattage per square meter from solar radiation is next to nothing"

            100W+ is nothing? We suck at converting it, but that's an engineering issue, not physics. And again: It's a stop-gap, not a solution. Our own Fusion is the real solution, rather than the sun's.

            You're not thinking big enough either. It's not like we need the Sahara for anything much, for example. Big power production needs to be a global project, not national ones. Scattering fission plants all over the place is a bad idea when we can centralise to large areas of sand that nobody uses, to my mind.

            "beyond retarded"

            Twat.

            " you did not even read this article, or didn't understand it....the only sensible stopgap to fusion is called nuclear energy, "

            Lol. No, I read and understood it. But that does not mean that I was instantly converted to Lewis' solution. Did you have an open mind before reading, or were you already pro-Lewis? If the later then I suggest you look up confirmation bias. Or are you suggesting that I should be utterly swayed by Lewis' article ?

            "you are absolutely clueless"

            Twat.

            ".the only sensible stopgap to fusion is called nuclear energy"

            It's not black and white. Having worked in the energy industry, I know just how crap we are at making them on-budget and shutting them down on-budget. they cost a lot, too. And y'know: People hate them. I don't have such issues, but the majority do, and we live in a democracy, not a technocracy. Fission is not something that human beings are willing to accept living next to, so as a solution it's not as good as it is on paper (A bit like Communism, which is rendered utterly unworkable by basic human nature).

            "STOP lobbyen for us to get stuck with nuclear waste forever"

            I don't recall 'lobbyen' for anything, and certainly not that.

            "and mainly stop participation in discussion on subject you are 100% clueless about..."

            So, you want people who do not agree with you to butt out of the discussion. Not really a discussion, is it? I don't think you understand the word 'discussion'.

        2. LazyLazyman

          Re: I seem to remember

          "However, I do believe them to be a more viable and sensible stop-gap than scattering our nations with piddly little fission reactors, which are horrifically expensive to construct, just as expensive to take down, create waste that we don't want to face up to and deal with properly, and occasionally go wrong in ways that we don't like things built near population centres to go wrong."

          "I do believe"

          And thats the problem. So much public "knowledge" of the problem is nothing more than faith. Fission reactors are mostly horrifically expensive to construct because of the red tape, we would not need to be "scattering our nations" with them, as we would need less than the number of coal or gas plants, they are less difficult to remove (and leave the environment radioactive in the surrounding area www.scientificamerican.com/article/coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste/) and the waste produced is actually only deemed unsafe because of the paranoia of people. Nuclear "waste" is mostly less radioactive than the soil of Devon or any other area on granite bedrock. And the high level waste can now be re-used (Old reactors could not use it, but new ones can). The reactors are far less of a danger than coal, oil or gas overall, but people are not interested in the hundreds of thousands of deaths from these every year, as they are not sensational.

          1. Psyx

            Re: I seem to remember

            "And thats the problem. So much public "knowledge" of the problem is nothing more than faith."

            I've worked in the energy sector, have a mate who is a nuclear engineer, and another who 'buys' energy for the nation as a day job. Just because I'm not agreeing, it's not grounds for saying that I don't understand the maths. What are your qualifications in the field, if I may ask?

            "Fission reactors are mostly horrifically expensive to construct because of the red tape"

            Damn all those safety regulations and public opinion, eh?

            The answer is not to trample public opinion and make them jump through less safety inspections and other red tape though really, is it?

            Ultimately, public opinion does matter; hence my comment that building them in a centralised manner a long way from anywhere is the way to make fission viable to the majority.

            "we would not need to be "scattering our nations" with them, as we would need less than the number of coal or gas plants"

            I know. But still more than one or two for a piece of land the size of the UK. That's 'scattering our nations', to my mind.

            "they are less difficult to remove (and leave the environment radioactive in the surrounding area www.scientificamerican.com/article/coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste/)"

            Wow, really? Not convinced.

            And ash is indeed unpleasant. Burning black rocks is not the answer to the problem; we can agree on that.

            "and the waste produced is actually only deemed unsafe because of the paranoia of people."

            Depends what flavour. Plenty of it is VERY nasty. And it's often not the fission waste but the equipment it's been in contact with that's the problem. Ultimately though, if the majority of the public disapprove then it's not viable, because we are lucky and live in a democracy. yeah, it sucks. And I'm not saying that fission is an out-and-out bad idea because 'radiation is bad, innit'; I'm saying that it's not viable for us to build a dozen plants in a nation as densely populated as the UK because there are some issues with it historically which have ensured that the majority of the voting public won't accept it.

            "Nuclear "waste" is mostly less radioactive than the soil of Devon or any other area on granite bedrock."

            Yes, but 'mostly' doesn't really cut it in such cases, unfortunately. Would you fly in a plane which was only 5% lethal?

            " The reactors are far less of a danger than coal, oil or gas overall, but people are not interested in the hundreds of thousands of deaths from these every year, as they are not sensational."

            True. but -historically - people have a damn good reason not to want to live next to a fission plant.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I seem to remember

          Lets not forget the nasty chemicals involved in production of PV cells, that both need to be disposed of as industrial waste and end of life waste.

        4. lampbus

          Re: I seem to remember

          All about how little geothermal can get us :

          http://www.withouthotair.com/c16/page_96.shtml

      3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: I seem to remember

        PC "Iceland"

        We need longer HV DC power cables in the gigawatt class. Plenty of them. Iceland could be the power supply for NW Europe.

        Plus, all aluminium (whatever that is?) should be smelted with such renewable energy.

        I hope the Saudis didn't actually go through with the giant oil pipeline to power an aluminium smelter over towards Yemen or such. Really have to outright ban such projects.

        1. Expectingtheworst

          Re: I seem to remember

          The actual official international name is Aluminium.

          The confusion started when Charles Martin Hall misspelt the word on a handbill publicising his aluminium manufacturing process and the spelling stuck. He thought it was too expensive to scrap and reprint.

          So the citizens of the USA are perpetuating a misspelling.

          1. LoboSolo

            Re: I seem to remember

            1812, coined by English chemist Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829), from alumina, name given 18c. to aluminum oxide, from Latin alumen "alum" (see alum). Davy first called it alumium (1808), then amended this to aluminum, which remains the U.S. word, but British editors in 1812 further amended it to aluminium, …

            The IUPAC states: - “Aluminum” and “cesium” are commonly used alternative spellings for “aluminium” and “caesium.”

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I seem to remember

      some Geothermal is used in the UK. I've been to farms and some larger house country house use it. The issue is you usually have to sink a bloody great bore hole into the ground and then pump the heat out. This isn't that big an issue, the issue is getting the machinery there in the first place.

      1. Adolph Clickbait

        Re: I seem to remember

        >>bloody great bore

        Whom do you choose? John Prescott maybe?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I seem to remember

        I heat my house with a Ground Source Heat Pump. The pump is powered by a 2ft square Solar Panel. This covers 95% of my heating needs for the year. If my roof was suitable for a full solar panel, I could go off grid for most oy my domestic energy needs.

        I'd really like to know what those so called geeks from Google are smoking.

        The good folks at http://www.cat.org.uk/index.html would also disagree with them

        as would the millions of people all over the world with small PV panels powering devices where there is no grid in the first place.

        1. Andy 73

          Re: I seem to remember

          I think the issue is that you may indeed heat your house with a GSHP (nice big garden?), but I bet you still have lights, washing machine, dishwasher, tumble-dryer, wifi, tv and a dozen other electronic gizmos plugged in or on charge. I would bet you travel to work in a car (or rail, bus) and fly abroad at least once a year. I imagine your house is relatively new to be efficiently heated by GSHP - so the materials are likely to have high carbon cost.

          The cost of moving to renewables is not just magically switching on the GSHP we all have hiding in our gardens, but building them, delivering them, ensuring the housing stock is sufficiently energy efficient to use them. On top of that, some huge percentage of the population are not in locations where GSHPs can be installed. Even if they were, they would still commute, use modern tech and fly abroad on holiday. You can airily wave away the needs of the third world countries ("let them all use solar!"), but beyond nice, very low powered (and not very bright) LED lights, the moment they start pulling themselves up to a better standard of living, they'll need massively more energy too.

          Your personal heating is a gnat's testicle compared to the steaming pile of energy we all use all the time. This is from someone who has a low energy home, heats it through solar and on-site biofuels (logs!) and has looked into the options for off-grid and renewables.

        2. Remy Redert

          Re: I seem to remember

          Do you drive a car? Would you like to have food today? Where do you think the energy came from to build your pump, your solar panel and dig the hole for the ground source heat pump to work?

          With a lot of efficiency improvements, many homes could have their power supplied by renewables. But the power to build those homes, make those efficient improvements, install the renewables, transport people and goods and produce those goods and food? That's a vastly larger amount that renewables have no chance to support whatsoever.

        3. rcp27

          Re: I seem to remember

          "I heat my house with a Ground Source Heat Pump. The pump is powered by a 2ft square Solar Panel."

          Right, but where did the energy come from to build the heat pump and the solar panel, transport them to your house, and instal them? The point of the study is that the energy requirements for installing renewables are far from trivial.

        4. Alister Silver badge

          Re: I seem to remember

          @AC

          Yes but your anecdotal evidence doesn't translate well to most use cases. You couldn't power any useful industrial plant with what you do, and most people don't have the luxury of being able to install a heat pump and PV panels. The only way your solution would work country wide would be if nearly all roofing and spare ground in the UK was to be covered in PV panels, and that's not going to be acceptable to most people.

          1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

            Re: I seem to remember

            There are examples of large scale renewable energy use. Google use some of them themselves.

            The Apple Datacentres in North Carolina are mostly powered by Solar and renewables.

            Then there was the story of the 'No 2' bus being powered by our own 'No 2's'.

            The waste from 5 families can power a bus for around 300miles.

            Yes the likes of China and their thirst for coal fired power stations is a problem but as the Tesco advert says, 'Every Little Helps'.

            You have to start somewhere, out of little acorns do mighty oaks grow etc etc etc/

            As has been said, yes there is a cost in making the kit for renewable generation but once that is a capital cost not a recurring one. The problem with most of our energy consumption is the recurring costs.

            1. dwieske

              Re: I seem to remember

              the neverending cost is the infrastructure you need to cope with the unrealiability (inttermittency)

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I seem to remember

              "The waste from 5 families can power a bus for around 300miles."

              Before people sh*t themselves that's the waste from 5 families for a year

              1. HelpfulJohn

                Re: I seem to remember

                ""The waste from 5 families can power a bus for around 300miles."

                "Before people sh*t themselves that's the waste from 5 families for a year "

                Yes, and everyone I know collects their poops, their friend's poops when visiting and all of the poops of their dogs, cats and goldfish, all year in little baggies just in case a passing bus may need the effluvium.

                It doesn't take up hardly any room and the extra heating is welcome ...

                Somehow, I don't see this as a home industry ...

            3. Cynic_999 Silver badge

              Re: I seem to remember

              "Then there was the story of the 'No 2' bus being powered by our own 'No 2's'.

              The waste from 5 families can power a bus for around 300miles."

              A whole [i]year's[/i] waste from 5 families. That's less than a mile a day. You might as well suggest walking.

              "As has been said, yes there is a cost in making the kit for renewable generation but once that is a capital cost not a recurring one. The problem with most of our energy consumption is the recurring costs."

              Wrong. No installation lasts forever. Those windmills and solar panels have a very finite life cycle, after which they will need to be replaced at the same capital cost of money and energy. If you do some real calculations on the total cost of PV energy (without government subsidies), you will find that it is more expensive per kWh than coal or gas.

            4. Benjol

              Re: I seem to remember

              Re "Every little helps", may I point you to this book: Sustainable Energy – without the hot air.

        5. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: I seem to remember

          >I heat my house with a Ground Source Heat Pump.

          But you drive a 3ton SUV 150,000mi/year, made of aluminium that took more energy to smelt than the car will use in its lifetime.

          For almost all people in the west transport is the majority of their energy demands - not their house. The most energy city in the USA is New York, because they don't drive they use 1/3 the energy per-year of somebody in Houston or LA

          1. HelpfulJohn

            Re: I seem to remember

            The one very good thing about aluminium is that once smelted from ores it can be recycled basically forever and recycling it is cheap. Much like glass.

            Well, cheaper than purifying it in the first instance. So long as the metal is in fairly large lumps, like drinks can or larger, it is economically viable to mine our rubbish rather than to mine new ore. There are problems with plastic pill trays covered with aluminium films and other such low-yield uses but these can be overcome with a bit of effort.

            Aluminium is lovely stuff from a green perspective.

            1. Psyx

              Re: I seem to remember

              "Aluminium is lovely stuff from a green perspective."

              Well, apart from the extracting it in the first place. Rather a lot of 'leccy there.

              But yeah: Great to recycle.

        6. dwieske

          Re: I seem to remember

          I guess your house is representative for the whole society....can I have some of what YOU are smoking?

        7. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: I seem to remember

          I heat my house with a Ground Source Heat Pump. The pump is powered by a 2ft square Solar Panel. This covers 95% of my heating needs for the year.

          You live in the Caribbean?

          A 2ft square Solar panel will receive ~ 350W max incident power, so even the most efficient panels aren't going to give you more than about 70W electricity from that.

          GS heat pumps can generally generate about 4x the energy required to drive them, so if you're using 70W of electricity to drive the pump, you'll get maybe 300W of heat pumped. At best, during bright sunlight.

          If you can heat your home with 300W you're either living in a shoebox or in the tropics. Or it's BS, of course.

          1. James O'Shea Silver badge

            Re: I seem to remember

            "If you can heat your home with 300W you're either living in a shoebox or in the tropics. Or it's BS, of course."

            My money's on BS.

            Let's do some math.

            1 Solar constant (the average power density delivered by the Sun at 1 AU): approx 1360 watts per square meter. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_constant This is the power delivered _outside_ the atmosphere. A lot of that doesn't make it through 100 km of air. A lot of it is in forms which can't easily be converted into electricity. For purposes of argument, let's assume that 100% of that power gets through and 100% can be converted. This makes for an upper limit for solar powered whatever, photovoltaics, mirror-fed steam, whatever.

            2 let me consider just the room I'm sitting in now. I have flourescent lamps in the ceiling, totaling 100 watts. (It's a big room.) I have three desktop computers, each with 650 W power supplies, and each with a monitor eating around 100-150 W. (I looked at the little sticker on the back and did P=IV.) I have a server which googles another 700 W. (No monitor, I remote into that machine.) Without adding in the assorted external hard drives, routers, switches, the two printers, or the share the room has of the power used by the central air (I'm in _Florida_. It gets hot, even in November. Though right now it's around 75 F outside.) that adds up to (650x3 + 120x3 + 100 + 700) or 3110 watts. That's around 2.3 square meters, _just for this room_. Then I need to double that, to have power to feed batteries (which are, of course, 100% efficient) so I can have light at night. That's 4.6 square meters. Then add an additional 50% to cover more batteries for cloudy days (yes, even in Florida there are cloudy days, though the Palm Beach County Tourist Board would probably hate me for pointing this out. Indeed, today _is_ a cloudy day; that's one reason why we're down to a mere 75 F. We're supposed to have thunderstorms later, and to have thunderstorms off and on until Wednesday next week. We'd better have enough battery power, and enough square meterage of PVs or whatever to feed the batteries, to hold on until next Wednesday while getting only limited inputs on a daily basis... (God help you boyz in London....)

            3 now let's consider something a bit more realistic. At best somewhere between 300 and 500 watts per square meter gets through and is usable. Call it 500. At best PVs have 10-20% efficiency and the boys at PG&E once got 22% out of their mirror-fed steam unit. (Which was in the Mojave desert...) Westinghouse and TRW once got close to that from their solar heat engine off the coast of Hawaii. Hmmm. 22% of 500 is... 110 watts per square meter. How many square meters do I need just to power this room? Hmm. 28 square meters. And to have power at night, 56. And to cover for clouds, 84.

            Eighty Four Square Meters. It can be done. it just won't be easy or cheap. So now we account for the rest of the building... If efficiencies go up, that figure comes down. if the range of the Sun's output which can be used goes up, that figure comes down. Don't count on either happening anytime soon.

            We could, I suppose, turn off our machines to save power. Except that then there'd be no bloody reason for us to employ people in here. It'd certainly save power if I turfed all the guys (and gals) out and let 'em starve in the dark.

            1. Jes.e

              Re: I seem to remember

              Should be more upvotes.

              Too many Cornucupians in here, (along with one manifest space destiny individual who somehow got into here.)

              The Google folks are only pointing out the central dilemma of our civilization.

              No way forward and no way back, or even sideways.

              I think our political leaders, militaries, and corporations doing long term planning all know these facts.

              This is why, for example the tar sands mining and XL pipeline are being done here in North America.

              Sign of desperation.

              That cliff edge our civilization is racing toward is getting ever closer.

              BTW. You know why when you pass a field of wind turbines, a few of them are not working?

              The reason is the gearboxes break down easily.

              Fortunately there is a solution, direct drive generators which don't use gearboxes!

              So why aren't we using the direct drive generators?

              Answer.

              They require a rare earth material which is in very short supply to create the super powerful magnets required. (and all the supply is in China and rare earth exports are being restricted due to strategic importance.)

              So we use the ordinary powered magnets which require a higher generator rotation speed of operation and thus the gearboxes.

              Oh yes. These are the same magnets required by my electric bicycle hub drive AND electric cars which could alleviate our gasoline reliance.

              Downer. I know..

              ..and speaking of downers- you know where the button is..

              1. fnj

                Re: I seem to remember

                <blockquote>They require a rare earth material which is in very short supply to create the super powerful magnets required</blockquote>

                Sorry, but with all due respect, I don't believe you. There were electrical generators (and electrical motors) before Neodymium was even discovered, let alone refined commercially. No doubt the alternatives are not as efficient, so you get less electricity out. Essentially that means it costs more, but definitely not that it can't be done. You can also replace the permanent magnets with field coils, again at a cost in efficiency.

                There definitely was no Neodymium in WW2 submarine electric generators, and they worked fine.

            2. Chimel31

              Re: I seem to remember

              Your computer having a peak 650W PSU does not mean it's using 650W. Use a watt meter if you want to know how much they consume. There's lots to say about the rest of your maths or how having 3 computers and a server in your room is realistic or representative of the average consumer as well...

          2. HelpfulJohn

            Re: I seem to remember

            "f you can heat your home with 300W you're either living in a shoebox or in the tropics. Or it's BS, of course."

            A living human body produces about 100 to 150 Watts of heat all day, every day. As everyone who has ever suffered though a power-cut in an all-electric home in Winter can tell you this is enough, barely, to heat the duvet on a bed but nowhere near enough to warm a small room. When you step out from under the covers, the room is *cold*.

            This is well-known and obvious to everyone but tree-huggers.

            1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
              Pint

              Re: I seem to remember

              "...A living human body produces about 100 to 150 Watts of heat..."

              I was told it's closer to 80 watts.

              Replace your bed partner under the blankets with a 100 watt light bulb and I think you'll quickly see that 100 watts has to be an overestimate.

        8. TwoEyedJack

          Re: I seem to remember

          Let's see you actually produce something with your setup. Like grow crops, process food, get it to market, extract and refine minerals and metals, pump water, build semiconductors, etc. You know, all the things that we depend on each and every day.

        9. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: I seem to remember

          "The pump is powered by a 2ft square Solar Panel."

          Sure... Water exchange pump? You forgot to mention that the heat pump itself is powered through a 30A circuit breaker using grid power.

          If you're claiming that the heat pump is powered by a small panel, then you either live in a bread box or you're a bald faced liar.

        10. jonathanb Silver badge

          Re: I seem to remember

          I live in a flat (en_US: apartment), therefore ground source heat pumps and rooftop solar panels are not an option for me.

    4. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: I seem to remember

      > ...something called Geothermal energy from my school daze. Why isn't this explored?

      And I've thought of the perfect place a geothermal energy complex needs to be set up. A place called Centralia PA ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centralia,_Pennsylvania )

    5. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: I seem to remember

      Geothermal has been explored. Like so many other ideas it falls over as soon as you do the detail work and find that a practical engineering implementation would (1) be far too expensive per unit generated over the life of the plant and (2) would not generate sufficient electricity to make a great deal of difference. Not to mention the fact that you would have to fend off all the doomsayers who would immediately pronounce that removing heat from the interior of the Earth would lead to earthquakes, volcanoes and the end of life on the planet. I have always believed that the best source of electricity at present in nuclear, and that we should have started building nuclear power stations as fast as we could 30 years ago.

      1. Dagg
        Mushroom

        Re: I seem to remember

        >Geothermal has been explored. Like so many other ideas it falls over as soon as you do the detail work and find that a practical engineering implementation...

        You what!

        I've seen installations that have been working for about the last 50 plus years and they are competing with hydro, gas and coal. The Wairakei plant in the North Island of New Zealand is an excellent example.

        New Zealand is still building them, I think the last one was sometime last year, so much for not being practical!

  3. A J Stiles

    Then we're fucked

    Non-renewable energy sources will run out sooner or later, by definition.

    If renewable energy sources can't meet our needs, then our needs are simply going to end up unmet.

    It really is that simple.

    1. choleric

      Re: Then we're f****d

      In 5000 years. Using uranium. And one hopes that we might have cracked fusion by then, which would allow us to continue for a considerable amount of time longer.

    2. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Re: Then we're fucked

      "Non-renewable energy sources will run out sooner or later, by definition."

      Then we go out and find some more. I heard there is a big gas storage tank full of natural gas, a few blocksAUs farther away from the Sun then we are. It's called Jupiter or something...

      1. dwieske

        Re: Then we're fucked

        not true, we will much sooner run out of the resources to built the renewable shit than run out of eg nuclear fuel we have a 20k+ years of supply, and that's not even into account filtering uranium from seawater

        1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
          Childcatcher

          Re: Then we're fucked

          we will much sooner run out of the resources to built the renewable shit than run out of eg nuclear fuel we have a 20k+ years of supply,

          One of the renewables that almost never gets brought up in these discussions is wood (or other vegetable sources). We've used it for more than a few millennia and have worked out most of the issues associated with it. There are a few wood-fired electrical plants out there and they seem to be doing reasonably well. To be sure, you have a much better ability to produce more energy in less area with nuclear power, even if you throw in waste storage, but for those who are ideologically opposed to this and want to push renewable sources, why not at least bring a sane-ish argument to the table?

          1. squigbobble

            Re: Then we're fucked

            The wood fired plants are doing well because it allows them to hit their CO2 targets with minimal changes to the machinery. There isn't enough land mass, let alone arable land, on the planet to provide all of humanity's energy needs via biomass.

            Also, photosynthesis is far less efficient at capturing energy than photovoltaics and you have the added inefficiency of converting the heat from burning the plants into electricity.

            1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

              Re: Then we're fucked

              "Also, photosynthesis is far less efficient at capturing energy than photovoltaics and you have the added inefficiency of converting the heat from burning the plants into electricity."

              It is however a lot cheaper per sq meter to make photosynthesising convertors than PV panels in both money and energy, and is self-replicating so won't need the whole installation to be replaced every 15 years or so. It also stores the energy in chemical form so as to be available when needed. However it would need more acreage devoted to growing enough biomass to supply any reasonable percentage of our energy needs than we could possibly spare

          2. Benjol

            Re: Then we're fucked

            So you're planning on cutting down trees to heat your home and cook your food?

            Isn't that exactly what you keep telling Africans to stop doing?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Then we're fucked

        "I heard there is a big gas storage tank full of natural gas, a few blocksAUs farther away from the Sun"

        So you're going out of this gravity well, out to Jupiter, into its huge gravity well, then back out of that hauling a huge load of gas, return to Earth, and then find some way of re-entering a massive cargo of methane - and after all that you're going to burn it to produce even more CO2.

        1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

          Re: Then we're fucked

          Well, if you don't want the gas - I'll sell it to the Martians. I'm sure, they'll pay good money for it. And with shorter turnaround time I'll do double the volume.

          Come to think of it - you, Earthers, won't be able to afford my Jovian gas. Make your own stuff, man.

          1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

            Re: Then we're fucked

            ...Well, if you don't want the gas - I'll sell it to the Martians. ...

            The Martians are already getting all the methane they want from Titan. Give us 50 years and that's where we'll be getting it from, too...

            1. aqk
              Pint

              Re: Then we're fucked

              Methane! Yes!

              Let's put the Earth in orbit around Saturn! Think of all the free methane we can cadge from Titan!

        2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

          Re: Then we're fucked

          Titan?

        3. DropBear Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: Then we're fucked

          So you're going out of this gravity well, out to Jupiter, into its huge gravity well, then back out of that hauling a huge load of gas, return to Earth

          Good grief man, why would you say that?!? We'll beam the energy back from Jupiter directly - we just need to go there once, find the Monoliths, push the Big Red Button (or whatever they have as starter), then sit back and enjoy all the warm sunshine from the ignited second sun...

        4. Basic

          Re: Then we're fucked

          Why "haul" it anywhere? Set up a plant there that converts the gas into something more easily transported / more dense energy, then shoot that back at Earth. Yes, you're going to need a considerable delta v but then, you've got Jupiter as an energy source.

          If you can't use the resources of an entire gas giant to send something to Earth, you don't deserve the title of Engineer.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Then we're fucked

            "If you can't use the resources of an entire gas giant to send something to Earth, you don't deserve the title of Engineer."

            You so miss the point !

    3. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      Re: Then we're fucked

      Oddly, non-renewable energy sources never run out. This has never happened throughout recorded history.

      What happens is that humanity moves to other, better energy sources. For more information, read Julian Simon

      1. fnj

        Re: Then we're fucked

        <blockquote>Oddly, non-renewable energy sources never run out</blockquote>

        You are of course undeniably correct that at some point in the decline of supply it becomes economically unfeasible to perform the extraction. So yeah, nobody ever uses every single bit. In the extreme, they die first.

        But you do understand the concept of FINITE SUPPLY, right?

    4. Jes.e

      Re: Then we're fucked

      Yes. We are as you say, "fucked".

      Welcome to the future!

    5. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      Re: Then we're fucked

      ...Non-renewable energy sources will run out sooner or later

      Apart from the fact that things like Thorium won't, have you ever stopped to wonder why people have said what you have just said since the 1600s? And they've ALWAYS been wrong.

      The reason, as Julian Simon carefully explained in the 1960s, is that technology does not stand still. People from 1600 worried about wood running out, and they could calculate just when that would happen. By 1850, they said, Britain could not have a Navy, and would probably get invaded. And yet, by 1900, we had the biggest navy in the world. No one in 1600 realised that you could use steel to build boats.

      Future generations will use power sources which we know nothing about, because they haven't been invented yet. This development has been the case throughout ALL recorded history. And yet people insist on scaremongering - even after 'Peak Oil' was shown to be a fallacy.

      If you still want to argue that we MIGHT need hundreds of billions of tonnes of hydrocarbons in 100 years time, I invite you to look at the surface of Titan....

  4. johnaaronrose
    Thumb Up

    Nuclear Power

    It all depends on what type of Nuclear Power you select. Fusion power, for the last 5 decades, has been stated to be 10 years away. Uranium (fission) is still simply too dangerous to mine, extract & use as well as the dangers of theft. So the most likely candidate is Thorium fission which has minimal disadvantages compared to Uranium fission. Hwoever, it does have the disadvantage that it would be very difficult to make nuclear weapons from its products. The science for it has pretty much solved but the engineering has not. Currently, Norway has an experimental plant, China is trying to convert its Uranium stations to Thorium and India intends to produce the majority of its power from Thorium within 2 decades.

    1. Novex

      Re: Nuclear Power

      You read my mind. Add to those non-weaponisable nuclear forms things like molten salt and waste annihilating molten salt reactors, and we might get somewhere. But no-one until recently has wanted to invest anything in the development of purely domestic systems of nuclear power generation.

      1. fnj

        Re: Nuclear Power

        <blockquote>waste annihilating molten salt reactors</blockquote>

        That sounds so cool. Fanciful, but cool.

    2. Fading Silver badge

      Re: Nuclear Power

      Citation required: Uranium (fission) is still simply too dangerous to mine, extract & use as well as the dangers of theft.

      Please provide deaths per MWh in comparison with all other forms of energy generation. Also add in protected bird and bat populations as well ;o)

      Seriously though fission is good and safe enough for the majority of base load generation (ask France) with gas (either fracked or not) for peak loads. Of course though all fuels are renewable (many take a bit longer than others) it's the rate of use that may not be sustainable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nuclear Power

        "Citation required: Uranium (fission) is still simply too dangerous to mine, extract & use as well as the dangers of theft.

        Please provide deaths per MWh in comparison with all other forms of energy generation. Also add in protected bird and bat populations as well ;o)"

        Do the deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki count?

        The only reason we have nuclear power as it is, is because it is part and parcel of the weapons program here in the US and other countries.

    3. streaky Silver badge

      Re: Nuclear Power

      Commercial fusion isn't 10 years away, it's 25 which is coincidentally roughly the lifespan of a fission reactor. If you're building them roughly right now then you're fine.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Salts

      Re: Nuclear Power

      As reported in the article, the perceived dangers of Uranium for power generation are not born out by the facts. Production of nuclear weapons by rouge states/terrorists, well if it could be done that easily it would have been done by now.

      The fact is nuclear energy has been the only sensible option for a while now, I am not knocking Thorium, but we need energy now and what is available now in quantity is fission.

      If the energy companies were to offer two tariffs one based on nuclear at a sensible price and the other based on renewables, which do you think the average working Brit would go for? I am all for looking after the planet etc. but I don't want to do it from a cave hunting food and with no healthcare, F$%^ that as they say.

    5. phil dude
      Thumb Up

      Re: Nuclear Power

      If you read the literature on fusion "science" you will see it has come a long way!!

      The reality is with scaling factors of 106 or 109, there is absolutely no alternative to atomic energy (fission/fusion whatever we can manage).

      The place for renewables is exactly where they make sense;

      Live in a sunny place? Stick some solar panels/black painted radiator on the roof.

      Live in London that's what the wall socket is for.

      But, society as a whole would benefit from bigger batteries to even out the uneven of renewables.

      The comet lander Philae summaries the renewables argument on Earth very well -

      "We have a solar panel in the shade..."

      If *only* we had a nuclear battery...

      P.

    6. petur

      Re: Nuclear Power

      Thorium reactors have more disadvantages than not being usable for weapons.

      Please put an end to this myth.Read up on the subject before posting.

      Thorium reactors are being investigated for a long time already, if they were the ideal solution, there would be many of them in use, because governments are looking for cheap/safe energy, regardless of what the paranoid people claim.

      Thorium is still in experimental stage and I hope they can work around most issues one day as it does look promising.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nuclear Power

        @petur.

        Sorry old boy but thorium reactors have been about in the UK since the Dragon HTR was started in 1964. It ran and produced electrical power until 1973 and was only partly decommissioned in 2005.

        The main reason it wasn't improved and put into wider use was the fact it couldn't be used to produce weapons grade nuclear material. If that hadn't been a requirement there would have been more development and such reactors would most probably have been in use today.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Nuclear Power

        There aren't many of them in use because they can't be used to make weapons material so research into them is (or was in the 40s. 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s) of no interest to the US, UK, USSR, France, China, Isreal, SA, India, Pakistan etc. It might be of interest to them now - but all their experts have spent the last 50 years researching Uranium.

        They are, in theory, of interest to non-weapons states. If you believe that if Iran or N Korea or Syria said - we are starting a major program of research into thorium reactors - then the US would suddenly say "hey that's wonderful, join the club, come over for a barbecue, marry our daughters."

        About the only country with a reason to do Thorium is India, it has lots of people, no fossil fuels and no Uranium but lots of Thorium.

      3. dwieske

        Re: Nuclear Power

        indeed thorium has no advantage over other gen IV designs like the IFR and is much less mature

        1. cray74

          Re: Nuclear Power

          "indeed thorium has no advantage over other gen IV designs like the IFR and is much less mature"

          Wait...you know thorium (or at least U233) works in conventional reactors, right? A light-water reactor might not breed U233 too well from thorium, staying at below break-even quantities unless modified (e.g., Shippingport achieved a 1.01 breeding ratio), but with the correct fuel pin configuration, U233 is usable in existing plants.

          You just need a source of U233 to keep those reactors fed. And existing CANDU reactors seem able to breed U233 from thorium at low rates. See this article and its discussion on reactors able to run with some Th/U fuel pellets.

          http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Current-and-Future-Generation/Thorium/

          Point being, "thorium reactors" are much better developed than Gen IV reactors because, well, they exist. They're operating around the world today. Few people bother to feed them with thorium, but it's possible and been demonstrated.

    7. dwieske

      Re: Nuclear Power

      there is no advantage in using thorium over any other GEN IV design, but the thorium designs are much LESS mature..I"ll take a GE Prism (IFR type reactor) over a thorium pipedream every time

    8. cray74

      Re: Nuclear Power

      " So the most likely candidate is Thorium fission which has minimal disadvantages compared to Uranium fission."

      Well, if you're being nitpicky, the biggest problem with Thorium fission is that it doesn't really happen. Thorium-232 isn't fissile, but it is fertile and can be bred into Uranium-233, which fissions just fine. But beyond that there are a lot of advantages to reactors running on U233: far less long-lived waste (you don't get so many transuranic elements), much more bountiful source material, no need for enrichment, and so on.

      "Hwoever, it does have the disadvantage that it would be very difficult to make nuclear weapons from its products. "

      Depending on the reactor and weapon design, yes. A well-designed thorium-fed reactor will lack the features to separate U233 out of its fuel. And U233 has some inconvenient issues as a weapon, primarily is unavoidable buddy U-232, which spews gamma rays all over the place - you'd need a well-shielded weapon for safe handling. However, U233 does work in nuclear weapons and has been tested at least 3 times.

      Don't think I'm opposed to the thorium fuel cycle. I like it because it can really undermine arguments about nuclear waste, and thorium's much more bountiful than U235. Just had a couple of nitpicks to make.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    economic growth would cease

    ok, so it would. Which means, precisely....?

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: economic growth would cease

      And looking at recent economic history, one could wonder if it hasn't already happened anyway, or at least begun to...

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: economic growth would cease

        Just being diverted and destroyed wholesale by Keynesian chimps.

  6. a_mu

    heat ?

    Nuclear yes, sounds great

    Question. Thermodynamics,

    does all that energy we generate end up as heat ?

    If we go greatly nuclear, and generate in the world say 100 times more per day than we do now,

    can we get rid of that amount of heat into space ?

    I don't know,

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: heat ?

      Relatively minimal to what is being dumped onto us by the big Sun.

      This falls into a subclass of "greenhouse effect mitigation". Solvable with some slight planetary engineering while other people resolutly try to get out of the medieval age.

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Tiny heat:

      A square meter orbiting the sun at the same distance as Earth gets 1.362 kW of solar radiation (source). The radius of the Earth is about 6300km, so the Earth gets 1.7x10¹⁷W. As the Earth is not heating up quickly, it must radiate heat into space at about the same rate. To make comparisons difficult, large amounts of power are given in TWHour/Year. 1.7x10¹⁷W = 1,500,000,000TWHour/Year.

      You can find figures for world energy use here. In 2008, the world used 143,851TWHours, or about 0.01% of the energy that the Earth radiates into space every year.

      While looking this up, I came across an interesting couple of numbers. On average, fossil fuel generators are 38% efficient. The most modern fossil fuel generators are 55% efficient. Upgrading old fossil fuel plants with modern equipment would get at extra 52376TWHour/Year of capacity without increasing carbon emissions (2008 figures). The total power output of renewables in 2008 was only 18,492TWHour/Year, so replacing all renewables projects with a fossil fuel upgrade program would have reduced carbon emissions.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Tiny heat:

        That effiecncy gain means replacing everyone's car engine with a CHP gas power station.

      2. Meerkatjie

        Re: Tiny heat:

        How much extra heat can be radiated - as you say the earth can radiate the suns heat but can it radiate a little or a lot more?

        I'm assuming that our 0.01% energy use would likely climb once we had access to cheaper and more available energy. It may get to a point where we will need to know.

      3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Tiny heat:

        @FK

        Google: Carnot

      4. fnj

        Re: Tiny heat:

        <blockquote>To make comparisons difficult, large amounts of power are given in TWHour/Year.</blockquote>

        I'm not questioning this if you essentially say this is standard practice, but in what universe does it make any sense at all to measure power in TWh/y instead of the dimensionally equivalent TW?

    3. cray74

      Re: heat ?

      "If we go greatly nuclear, and generate in the world say 100 times more per day than we do now, can we get rid of that amount of heat into space ?"

      Sure. In the end, a super-sized nuclear power network be generate the amount of heat any other power source of the same output. It'd also be a great deal smaller than heating from the sun. Nuclear power is not exceptional in the heat it releases.

    4. HelpfulJohn

      Re: heat ?

      "If we go greatly nuclear, and generate in the world say 100 times more per day than we do now,

      can we get rid of that amount of heat into space ?"

      The radioactives exist. They are decaying anyway. All nuclear power stations do is concentrate the stuff in small points and suck the power out at a rate slightly larger than the hills of Devon are doing right now.

      Earth's core is, to a certain extent, powered and heated by nukes. It has lots of heat left over from the time of infalling rocks when the planet was building itself but there is a considerable amount of energy being generated by nuclear decay of primordial radioactives like uranium. Left to its own devices, without any heat from the Sun, Earth's surface would be marginally warmer than the dark side of Pluto from its own internal heat. At best it would be.

      The heat generated by the radioactives currently on and in the planet is far, far less than would be needed to liquefy the atmosphere. So, yes, the globe could emit all the waste heat to its environment.

      Two points: were humans to use the radioactives to power Civilisation those radioactives would be gone from the universe. They would no longer exist. They would not be able to harm the bunnies and baby seals. Unstable atoms don't harm baby seals and cute bunnies much as they are but they do cause some mutations and always have done. Once used and reduced to stable isotopes like lead this would never, ever happen again. Greenies should think about that one.

      And massive use of nuclear power to replace the coal, oil and horses we use now would mean that we are concentrating the warming into small regions and small intervals of time, which would cause local and temporary heating of the place but this would eventually even out. Heat disperses. It is in the nature of heat to disperse. This is known as "getting cold" and is a phenomenon familiar to everyone save tree-huggers (who avoid it by using magical, electricity-free electric blankets). Sure, the world may warm up for a while (and this would be no bad thing as less snow means fewer road accidents caused by slidiness) but in the long run all the nuke plants would be doing is moving juice around a little. Nuclear power does not *create* energy. It merely dams it and taps it a bit.

      All of this is obvious to a cat sunning itself on a window-sill but can never be grasped by a tree-hugging greenie who hears the word "nuclear" and is instantly unable to hear anything following.

  7. DHJ

    Safety of Nuclear Power

    Perhaps there have only been 56 deaths acredited to the nuclear power industry because of the 'imposition of cripplingly high health and safety standards'?

    1. dogged

      Re: Safety of Nuclear Power

      This is almost certainly the case.

      However, we still have hippies^Wpeople who think 56 is 56 too many and we must shown all nuclear power. Because of reasons.

      Honestly, more people have died from bloody windfarms..

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        The biggest killer per kWH generated is ...

        ... solar. (Incompetent installers fall of the roof.)

        The obvious way to deal with those hippiespeople is to send them some DIY install solar panels.

      2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: Safety of Nuclear Power

        Honestly, more people have died from bloody windfarms..

        And coal-fired power stations emit more radiation than nuclear ones. But it doesn't fit with the treehugger agenda to recognize that.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Safety of Nuclear Power

          But the nice thing about coal is that it's Chinese or South African workers who die in the mines and eastern europeans who get the smoke, as long as you put the actual plants in the north where nobody can see them - they are almost an ideal source of power.

          Throw in a couple of truck loads of bark chippings, shipped from Canada, and you can claim that they are "partially" biofuelled, recycled and carbon neutral.

  8. Pete 2 Silver badge

    On the bright side

    > such expensive luxuries as welfare states and pensioners, proper healthcare (watch out for that pandemic), reasonable public services, affordable manufactured goods and transport, decent personal hygiene,

    That scenario sounds like it would lead to a dramatic decrease in life expectancy, greater susceptibility to life-threatening diseases and accidents and an increase in infant mortality. So the logical conclusion would be that the number of people on the planet would drop - which would reduce the need for energy: whether renewable or not, hence lowering the drivers of climate change.

    Isn't that the plan?

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: On the bright side

      That sounds like usual government policy. The last time we had conservatives in power, they decided to reduce cycling accidents by making cycling more dangerous. Decide for yourself whether this was to work by discouraging cyclists or killing them. A year later they decided they needed to do some greenwashing, so they promoted cycling as a way to reduce carbon emissions. I asked for more cycle paths, but they must have heard psychopaths because they reduced the capacity of mental institutions in favour of 'care in the community'.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: On the bright side

        @ Flocke Kroes

        "The last time we had conservatives in power, they decided to reduce cycling accidents by making cycling more dangerous."

        To be fair cyclists will try to kill themselves regularly anyway. I do wonder if it is a darwin thing or if there is a parasite in their brains suggesting they should use the roads but pretend there are no rules and no etiquette.

        1. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

          Re: On the bright side

          use the roads but pretend there are no rules and no etiquette.

          To be fair, this phenomenon is not limited to cyclists. Car drivers often cut down the wrong lane and dangerously push in front of me, motorcyclists filter at high speeds on motorways, lorry drivers pull out to overtake but then realise they can't, but stay there anyway as they are now alongside, bus drivers consistently fail to travel faster than 20mph, holding everyone up. There are inconsiderate road users in every type of vehicle.

          I do get very wound up by cyclists breaking red lights. Unfortunately, this is often "forced" by car drivers using the advance stop lines, so technically breaking the red lights themselves. More should be done to crack down on both of these.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    three "disasters" so far - Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima

    methinks it doesn't make sense to extrapolate, on the basis of 3 (three) disasters, that the nuclear is safe Build 1000 TIMES that many nuclear power-stations we already have on this planet - and see how many disasters happen (arguably the ratio could go either way, depending on whether "many" means "more efficient, safer, etc", or "cheaper to put up = faster to fail".

    Also, if you advocate lowering safety standards (as currently high standards make them economically impractical as mass-source of energy, you say), common sense tells me that when you lower safety standards, you increase (by how much?) of something going wrong, very wrong.

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: three "disasters" so far - Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima

      Fukushima was NOT a nuclear "disaster" it was a severe natural disaster which impacted an otherwise safe nuclear power plant.

      1. Psyx

        Re: three "disasters" so far - Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima

        "Fukushima was NOT a nuclear "disaster" it was a severe natural disaster which impacted an otherwise safe nuclear power plant."

        So if - during bad weather - a tree falls on a train and kills 50 people, it's a natural disaster, not a train wreck?

        C'mon: Stop playing semantics. It was ultimately an engineering failure: we weren't smart enough and didn't plan for something that happened.

        1. Darryl

          Re: three "disasters" so far - Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima

          "So if - during bad weather - a tree falls on a train and kills 50 people, it's a natural disaster, not a train wreck?"

          No, more like if a hurricane blows in and takes a train out, killing 50 people, which, incidentally, is 50 more people than were killed by the Fukushima plant getting hit by a record tsunami.

          Better ban trains.

          1. Anomalous Cowturd
            Joke

            Re: three "disasters" so far - Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima

            Re: Better ban trains.

            Don't be silly. BAN KILLER TREES!!!

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: three "disasters" so far - Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima

        50,0000 died at Bhopal but we still allow farms using weedkiller.

        Of course they were brown, foreign and poor ....

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: three "disasters" so far - Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima

        "Fukushima was NOT a nuclear "disaster" it was a severe natural disaster which impacted an otherwise safe nuclear power plant."

        Tepco's record is such that it was only a matter of time before something went seriously wrong. They'd had their wrists slapped by the regulatory authorities on multiple occasions (thus proving that the wrist slapping was having no meaningful effect).

        The fact that an entirely predictable tsunami overtopped Fukushima's known to be undersized sea defences should be proof of this. The only thing that wasn't predictable was exactly when it was going to happen.

        1. aqk
          Black Helicopters

          Re: three "disasters" so far - Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima

          Yes- but won't somebody think of the <sarcasm> thousands of children that died at Three-Mile Island? </sarcasm>

    2. Bleu

      Re: three "disasters" so far - Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima

      I am not anti-nuclear. In fact, I think breeder reactors are a good idea in terms of efficiency and reduced waste, ours was taken out of start-up several years before the earthquake and wave that hit, not just Fukushima Number 1, but a huge swathe of the Pacific coast.

      Sure, it was a natural disaster. Well over 20,000 dead. I had been planning to take a rail holiday there at the time, I thank the fates or god that I didn't feel good at the time, so didn't go.

      Am yet to see a figure on how many carriages were swept away.

      I still travel through the area at times.

      In the southernmost city in Fukushima Prefecture, a lovely park, even this spring, a long way from the reactor, has been stripped of its soil. Why? Too radioactive. Signs were posted to display the before-and-after millisievert levels.

      Try telling all of the evacuees that it wasn't a major nuclear disaster, on top of the quake and the wave.

      Try telling the small army of day labourers actually working on the ineffectual cleanup that it wasn't a nuclear disaster. They enjoy being put up in good hotels on the periphery, but they are the ones who take the risks, and, according to our press, sometimes play (or used to play) tricks with the dosimeters to stay on in the work (nice hotel in the evening).

      Only three major disasters so far, perhaps. There have been many smaller ones.

      British had one earlier than the others listed. It was called Windscale, the government even renamed the location (to something like Sellafield?) in an attempt to make people forget.

      Here, also two incidents at the Tokaimura reactor, on the other side of the island.

      First was an explosion, limited venting of radioactive gas, but overexposure for about forty people.

      Second, about fifteen years ago, workers were putting powdered fuel in buckets, it reached criticality, two were dead in short order, several others got a radiation overdose.

      There must have been many similar incidents in other places.

      France seems to have the best record in using fission for power safely. Germany also seems to have had a good record until they made the mad political deal to shut down all of their plants.

    3. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      Re: three "disasters" so far - Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima

      ...it doesn't make sense to extrapolate, on the basis of 3 (three) disasters, that the nuclear is safe Build 1000 TIMES that many nuclear power-stations we already have on this planet - and see how many disasters happen...

      So, you are saying that we don't have enough stations to make a proper prediction, and we should build more to get one - but we mustn't build more because we don't have a proper prediction...?

      ...if you advocate lowering safety standards (... common sense tells me that when you lower safety standards, you increase...of something going wrong,...

      If your safety standards are currently at sensible minimums, lowering them will cause more accidents. If your safety standards are currently at stupidly high maximums, lowering them will cause few problems.

  10. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Holmes

    Mutations not included

    > 56 dead from the Chernobyl pratfall

    I see where you want to go with this article but I still take issue with that kind of statement. Even the rose-colored and scented WHO stats are above this number. Good thing is, one gets a natural park with open-air experiment in genetic changes of unforseen size in the middle of Europe.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Correct - it's nuclear or bust

    That is all

  12. streaky Silver badge

    Disposal.

    "can only ever - perhaps - be finally disposed of in a wildly expensive geological vault"

    Yarly?

  13. Zog The Undeniable

    Oh, lovely cherry-picking on the death figures. How many premature deaths do you think Chernobyl is going to cause? Thousands? Tens of thousands? And a large area of Ukraine is uninhabitable for decades. Imagine that in an economically productive area of the UK, for instance.

    I'm actually a fan of nuclear power but the safety standards have been shown time and time again to be not only necessary, but probably insufficient, and certainly flouted by the monkeys running the facilities. Some of the things that went on at Dounreay were appalling and the clean-up is seriously expensive and difficult. The real answer is to use reactor technologies that create less waste and are inmherently safer to operate. Maybe not fusion, but thorium.

    1. Chris Miller

      And Chernobyl was caused by: an antique flawed reactor design that no-one but a Stalinist state would ever have thought of building; and an approach to operational safety that can only be described as bordering on lunacy. Something only slightly less strong could also be said of Sellafield/Windscale (a zeroth generation reactor whose only real purpose was military). Bundling these all together and then scaling it up for a putative thousand plants is like applying accident statistics from the Wright Flyer to modern airliners, completely barking unless you have a (not very) hidden agenda.

      So the only nuclear accident that has happened to anything resembling a modern PWR facility (and even that was nearing end of life, and to a design chosen for political not engineering reasons) was caused by a magnitude 9 earthquake followed by a 14m tsunami (which themselves causing tens of thousands of 'natural' fatalities, including one broken dam) and had a death toll of precisely zero.

      1. Psyx

        "And Chernobyl was caused by: an antique flawed reactor design that no-one but a Stalinist state would ever have thought of building."

        If we're talking about using nuclear in the future, then plenty of desperate little states will repeat the mistake.

        "and an approach to operational safety that can only be described as bordering on lunacy. "

        And which wasn't even living under the capitalist pressure of a continuous desire to reduce costs, in a nation where senior figures are never held adequately criminally accountable for their actions. Imagine how much worse it could have been.

        C'mon: Let's not be dishonest with ourselves: we build a thousand reactors to solve the problem in the places and manner that we have built them in the past and there is going to be trouble: Corners will get cut for political reasons *somewhere*, *somewhere* natural disasters will cause mayhem, and *somewhere* conflict will overspill. It'd be asking for it.

        Not that it completely writes off the fission option, of course. Personally, I'd build a massive 'reactor farm' in the middle of a few of our deserts and put them under UN guard the moment the local situation started looking fishy, and have them controlled in a way that maximised safety and never cut corners to save a few bucks. Of course, that'll never happen because it's far too sensible a way to deal with the issues.

        1. Chris Miller

          There are (proven, certified) reactor designs that can't experience the problems that loss of coolant caused at Fukushima. No-one is proposing any new reactors based on the RBMK installed at Chernobyl (for very obvious reasons), though there are still 11 being operated.

        2. 9Rune5

          "If we're talking about using nuclear in the future, then plenty of desperate little states will repeat the mistake."

          So tell me: What exactly is it that keeps desperate little states from repeating the mistake of employing outdated first generation nuclear reactor designs _today_?

          And how does this situation change as the western world turn to gen IV designs?

          1. Psyx

            "So tell me: What exactly is it that keeps desperate little states from repeating the mistake of employing outdated first generation nuclear reactor designs _today_?"

            The threat of the US dry-gulching them financially, with the potential for being bombed if that doesn't curtail them.

            "And how does this situation change as the western world turn to gen IV designs?"

            It doesn't. Other factors come into play there, such as convincing the majority of people [voters] in the Western world that Gen IV designs are safe.

            We see prior disasters. We see that our governments can't even manage to run a bus service and that people who sit on the boards of things like banks willingly break the rules to take more profit and are never held criminally responsible.

            Can you blame people for not wanting to live 20km from a fission plant in the Western world?

  14. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Nothing works until it works.

    Two highly qualified engineers....

    How many others are working on solutions? No offence to these guys but many of the greats have been made fools of by people who didn't know it was impossible and so go it working.

    I agree that there is a very high chance that renewables will never permit the human race to cut CO2 emissions to the levels demanded by climate activists but that wont be the fault of renewables - more other vested interests.

    1. Eric Olson

      Re: Nothing works until it works.

      If you read the article, the takeaway is rather different. The short story is that they couldn't find a way to make existing technologies cheaper than coal without subsidy or carbon taxes, a sudden ceasing of all CO2 emissions tomorrow would still lead to ruinous climate change as it takes centuries for it to naturally leave the atmosphere, and there is not nearly enough money spent on R&D for new or disruptive technologies as it's all being spent on incremental gains for existing generators.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nothing works until it works.

        Eric, you seem to forget that CO2 is an essential plant food. Reduce the quantities in the atmosphere and you start to get a reduction in crop yields which, in turn, leads to hunger and a general downward spiral in everything.

        Just in case you are interested a large number of producers that use greenhouses, poly tunnels etc. actually increase the amount of CO2 in the enclosures to promote greater crop yields .

  15. M7S

    Problem: Not enought power from renewables to sustain the demands of the population

    Solution:

    http://lyrics.wikia.com/Gilbert_And_Sullivan:As_Some_Day_It_May_Happen and variations thereon

  16. Dan Paul

    Hairshirt, Sackcloth and Ashes

    The climate change advocates will not be satisfied until we are all living at a level equal with the Middle Ages. I am reminded of "Life of Brian".

    Dark, Cold and Damp are not going to cut it for me. Let the climate change advocates be the martyrs.

    New nuclear technologies will allow reactors to be less capable of producing weapon grade fissionables and likely be safer over all. We are a long long way from the designs of 3 Mile Island and Chernobyl.

    I suggest we think about disposing of any waste in a subduction zone. It will be millions of years before that could surface and by that time will be bound in magma and greatly diluted beyond background radiation levels..

    1. Eric Olson

      Re: Hairshirt, Sackcloth and Ashes

      Nuclear is all well and good, but the costs to building a single plant are huge... and sadly the know-how has disappeared due to the unspoken moratorium on building them since the late 80s. Only France has any real experience, and even there many of the plants are 20+ years old.

      Can you describe how we ramp up from 0 to 120 on these plants, all without driving up construction costs because everyone decides to employ the same set of experts across the planet?

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        @Eric Olson

        Imagine how bad it would be if you tried going for hardly any to more than the rest of the world combined with wind turbines. Too late - the wreckage of that policy has already given us hefty electricity bills.

      2. L W J

        Re: Hairshirt, Sackcloth and Ashes

        Look up thorium verses uranium, you be surprised.

      3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Hairshirt, Sackcloth and Ashes

        Ahhhh.... Economics. As hard ad no-go theorems but always conveniently brushed aside by the people in charge who demand to have innovation on tap and expect that payment in fresh paper money will be sufficient to get the process going-

      4. Naughtyhorse

        without driving up construction costs...

        We probably can't

        But really there are no other options.

        You need to do something radical, like for eg. abandoning the market (Gasps from onlookers, ladies fainting and all) It really hasn't worked for energy, and we have given it 25 years or so and a few restarts when it turned out that 'trading types' turned out, by and large to be sociopathic crooks (who'd have thought).

        To build a nuke you need to be able to flog the resulting nimble amps for an agreed price _for the productive life of the station_ thats why edf needed to be given extra time in the comfy chair and blowjobs all round to build hinkley, and walked away from sizewell. with a bogus market in place, such price guarantees are meaningless.

        The real killer for us in the UK is the way the regulator is letting the renewable gravy train runaway at full speed!

        Just you wait until you see what they have planned next... actually you probably wont see it, as the lights going out is going to be a far more frequent occurrence than even your average Nigerian is used to.

        We are chucking billions at this non solution, basically softening the fall for all the developers that suffered a hard landing when their plans to cover every flood plain in the land with houses met the economic meltdown caused (in no small measure) by flogging dodgy mortgages to idiots seeking to buy jerry built houses on flood plains.

        The one upside is that I'll almost certainly be gone by the time the shit really hit's the fan, so file under 'someone else's problem' :-)

      5. Basic

        Re: Hairshirt, Sackcloth and Ashes

        "the costs to building a single plant are huge"... So is the cost of pointless wind farms and the sheer volume of resources wasted on renewables which have no realistic chance of even breaking even!

    2. HelpfulJohn

      Re: Hairshirt, Sackcloth and Ashes

      "I suggest we think about disposing of any waste in a subduction zone. It will be millions of years before that could surface and by that time will be bound in magma and greatly diluted beyond background radiation levels.."

      We tried that with an oil rig or something. Greenpiss had kittens, conniptions and temper tantrums like two-year-olds with their lollipops stolen. Not one of the tree-huggers could grasp the simple idea of "buried = gone forever".

      Next to the otherwise completely useless dump of Venus, which I'll admit would take some engineering to use but which would provide an off-world industrial base as a spin-off, subduction zones are about the best places to store all of those unwanted bombs, decaying ammunitions, WWI tyres and clothing, bio-weapons, chemical weapons and other trash but convincing the greenies of their safety is impossible. They are even green as they recycle the atoms, the minerals and metals that would be the constituents of the rubbish but greenies will never understand this.

      It's a religious thing. They see potential harm to bunnies and seal cubs and their blinkers slam down like hammers.

      And as greenies are fodder for politicians seeking election or power or whatever sense and utility is trumped by religious nuttery every time.

  17. Eric Olson

    I've heard this somewhere before...

    Granted, the details might have been different, but the structure is the same. Week after week, someone somewhere makes a proclamation, and because they have a couple letters after their name or a tangential relationship to the field they are prognosticating, those predictions are followed by stories from both sides about how this supports them or refutes the other.

    Here is a passage from the linked article that seems to describe why Google pulled the plug:

    For us, designing and building novel energy systems was hard but rewarding work. By 2011, however, it was clear that [the project] would not be able to deliver a technology that could compete economically with coal, and Google officially ended the initiative and shut down the related internal R&D projects.

    In short, the plug was pulled because current technology did not allow Google to monetize the project. Crucially, they made assumptions that things such as carbon taxes or subsidies would not be used and it would require a true level of parity on a kWh basis. The rest of the article also goes on to point out that we're already screwed because CO2 lingers in the atmosphere for a long time, so even a complete ceasing of carbon emissions tomorrow would still likely lead to ruinous climate change.

    Also glossed over is the that the researchers talked about the importance of shifting R&D from existing technologies to disruptive or experimental ideas. It's the only way we can meet the world's escalating needs.

    I'm all for repeated looks at the economics, "doing the maths", and serious discussion regarding our energy economy in the future. But we can't take our eye off the ball for the sake of short-term point-scoring; we are going to need alternative sources of energy. Coal isn't just a CO2 threat; it harms human health through soot, mercury, sulfur, and NOX emissions, and the mining of it has massive costs in terms of human lives (even in the US, permanent injury and death are very common) and destroys the environment.

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. Velv Silver badge
    Boffin

    Necessity is the mother of invention. We will need to reduce energy consumption and we will need to find cleaner ways to make energy.

    To take a steer from Douglas Adams: "fruit and berries on strange planets either make you live or make you die. Therefore the point at which to start toying with them is when you're going to die if you don't."

    And in the grand scheme of things, we're closer to death than you can possibly imagine.

    1. phil dude
      Thumb Up

      Bill Bryson...

      "A short history of nearly everything".

      "How much notice will we get if an asteroid hits the Earth?"

      "None".

      P.

  20. John Savard Silver badge

    A Ray of Sunlight

    I am so happy to read an article that tells us the truth about what we have to do to allow civilization to continue and avoid a serious disaster. This truth has been mentioned a few times before, but sadly there is still no constituency for it - one has the fossil fuels business as usual camp, and one has the green camp that is dead set against fission, between which we are headed for serious problems.

    It used to be we could count on a certain level of intelligence from politicians, and necessary but unpalatable measures would have bipartisan support. Now, it seems the only thing that gets bipartisan support are excessive expansions of copyright.

  21. Psyx

    Same drum, same drummer.

    "The Piper Alpha gas rig explosion of 1988 on its own caused three times as many deaths as the nuclear power industry has in its entire history. Bizarrely though, no nations ceased using gas."

    There are plenty of good arguments for nuclear energy, but that's not one of them.

    We can make more humans. We can't make more land to replace Chernobyl.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Same drum, same drummer.

      "We can make more humans. We can't make more land to replace Chernobyl."

      I guess land reclamation and bulldozing are myths, then? Besides, what if the plant's in the middle of nowhere?

  22. ToddR

    Thorium Flouride reactors were developed in the fifties, but didn't go mainstream as they don't make Plutonium.

    As regards not being ideal ,that would because dumbo politicians need a quick fix, aka Areva, (except they can't build and commission a PWR in less than 20 years.

    Thorium salt reactors would be a great tech for the UK to specialise in, IMHO :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      One problem is that Thorium reactors can still produce fissile Uranium in small quantities. But given enough desperation...

      1. cray74

        "One problem is that Thorium reactors can still produce fissile Uranium in small quantities. But given enough desperation..."

        No, so-called thorium reactors MUST produce uranium or they don't run. Thorium isn't a nuclear fuel - it doesn't make energy in a nuclear reactor. Rather, thorium is a fertile material that can be bred into uranium (uranium isotope 233), which is the nuclear fuel for the reactor.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium_fuel_cycle

        I mean, the thorium fuel cycle is great, but it isn't perfect. It's worth taking a minute to learn its drawbacks so you don't oversell it.

        You can design thorium-fed reactors that make it very awkward to extract usable uranium, but that's hardly a problem to someone in possession of the reactor. By the time someone's operating a nuclear reactor on their home turf, they're usually able to get the fuel you want no matter how you think you've hindered that. Look at how India pulled a fast one on Canada after getting a CANDU reactor.

  23. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Translation: Windmills won't power the Google Server Farm.

    Maybe the elephant in the room is that we need less internet capacity sucking up all the megawatts?

    Or perhaps we need to relocate the server farms somewhere it is cold all year round, making more passive A/C possible? Somewhere where the energy *can* be found from, if not renewable sources, clean ones. Somewhere that desperately needs the income this would generate.

    Like maybe Iceland? Cold, broke and sitting on top of the world's most reliable geothermal sources.

    Barges in hot, humid SF or NYC don't really cut it in comparison.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      Maybe that's because the elephant's really a frozen mammoth?

      Let me put it like this. How would the world be able to produce over 1 yottawatt of sustainable power per year without any more significant energy outlay to build and transport it in the process? Even if you put the server farms in blankin' Antarctica it probably wouldn't be enough. And the alternative too all this information flow is to go back to using dead trees...

      As for using Iceland, I think it's already tapped out by aluminium plants and other things that have no other way to run except electricity (electricity is the only practical way to extract aluminium, so they're always built near power plants).

    2. Psyx

      Re: Bah!

      "Or perhaps we need to relocate the server farms somewhere it is cold all year round, making more passive A/C possible? "

      I believe Google are also doing that.

      They also use propriety kit which reduces energy consumption. They tell us that this is done because they care. (but obviously not enough to let everyone else use the same kit!)

      "Maybe the elephant in the room is that we need less internet capacity sucking up all the megawatts?"

      Apparently Google searches use a crap-load of energy.

      So too does bitcoin mining.

      I read something the other day that said 5% of our energy consumption is spent crushing and grinding up rocks. I'd be interested to know if that's true.

  24. b166er

    A home fitted with solar PV and a ground source heat pump, would surely require very little in the way of fossil fuels, if any at all. And that's achievable right now.

    Regarding the cost, it's a simple supply and demand argument. When plasma TVs first launched, they were around £4000 each. Driven by market demand, this fell to £400 pretty quickly.

    If ground source heat pumps and PV roofs were mandated on all new build, the price of installing it would plummet and therefore be more accessible to retro-fitting for owners of older properties.

    So if each domestic property was self sufficient (including charging cars, at least for the daily commute), then attention needs to turn to industrial processes. Again, if the large sheds that businesses live in were covered in PV, a large amount of energy requirement would be removed. Converting industrial waste into energy is already being done by various companies, I believe Sainsbury's have a store powered entirely by food waste. There are a good few countries that have close to 100% renewable electricity generation through geothermal or hydroelectric.

    I'm far from being an expert, but these things I can see with my own eyes, so I refuse to believe it's not going to be possible.

    I'm sure saying this will probably prove unpopular.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Don't think in terms of operating costs. Think in terms of manufacturing costs, and by that I mean the entire manufacturing process: from mining the rare earths and other difficult-to-extract minerals needed for the devices to function to all the complicated and energy-intensive processes needed to actually extract them from the ores to the costs needed to operate the delicate machinery to apply these materials into your panels and such.

      Remember, with infrastructure like this, there are always two costs: upfront costs and upkeep costs. A low upkeep cost doesn't always justify a monstrous upfront cost.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "Regarding the cost, it's a simple supply and demand argument. When plasma TVs first launched, they were around £4000 each. Driven by market demand, this fell to £400 pretty quickly."

      BTW, plasma TV prices didn't really fall because of demand but because they fell out of fashion. Plasma TVs were hot for a time, but they had a couple issues: burn-in problems and issues with service life. LCD TVs caught up with plasma due to economies of scale (helped by their use in multiple industries) and basically out-perked plasma (LCD TVs weren't as prone to burn-in and had comparable if not better service lives). So plasma didn't drop due to demand but due to lack of it. Lack of demand and/or a supply surplus can both drag the equilibrium price lower.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So you are saying that the house shuts down at night, unless you have some way of making the PV array work in the dark (maybe something like the Spanish did with lights except there is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine).

      There is also the problem that, to be efficient the PV array should be facing south, facing north does not generate very much power.

      1. squigbobble

        "solar storage"

        Google it. Pretty expensive, though :/

    4. Salts

      @b166er

      When I was a young lad, the BBC had a program called house of the future, loved it, at the age of 11 ish started my love of renewable and such, but as I got older realized, to me at least nuclear is the only sensible option.

      The cost of a drilling rig alone makes ground source without significant subsidy not worthwhile, there are many things as an individual we can do that 'benefit the individual' but for the human race as a whole, nuclear, is the only option that makes economical sense, 40 years of looking at it, that is me :-)

      Side note:

      Dropping a nuclear bomb or two on Japan, was criminal, but it also hurt the good that it could achieve.

      PS why criminal, because testing weapons on civilians is criminal, well if not it should be :-(

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @b166er @Salts

        Please stop the mistaken attempts at legal/ethical interpretations of any of the World Wars. Your brainwashing is showing.

        We did not "test" nuclear weapons in Japan, we lit "Trinity" off at Alamagordo, New Mexico.

        The government knew full well what those bombs would do.

        Sadly, dropping those two bombs in Japan likely saved more people than were killed because the Japanese people were considering mass suicide rather than surrender or capture.

        Conventional warfare would have resulted in many more deaths over a longer period.

        The horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are only beneficial in that knowing what would happen if more were used, has prevented anyone from using Nuclear weapons again.

      2. ilmari

        Re: @b166er

        Buying a drilling rig to just make one hole is very silly.

        As someone living in the Nordics, where groubd source heatpumpd are now withib top-3 modt popular heat source for new or newly renovated houses, i csn tell you the hole doesnt cost that much.

        Roughly speaking, changing to gshp is a 15kE investment, of which roughly 5k goes to the dude that comes over and parks drilling rig in your yard and naps for 2days as the machine works away.

        Oil heating running costs on the order of 3-5kE annually, electric even more.

        Wood fired central heating needs something on the order of 3-5ha of forest for comfort, and 2-4 weeks of work put into it, to harvest and process the "free" fuel.

        Rules of thumb for renovations or new houses: 100cm of rock wool above and below, same or atleast 60cm on walls. Forced air ventilation with heat exchanger (or even a heat pump), and underfloor heating. Underfloor heating allows system temperature to be kept at around 40C instead of 60-80C as with radiators. Lower system temperature boosts overall efficiency considerably.

      3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: @b166er

        Salts: "The cost of a drilling rig alone makes ground source without significant subsidy not worthwhile..."

        Huh?

        Around here, in the glorious suburban sprawl, everyone has a drilled well for water. Our drilled well is over 300 feet deep. Neighbours are mostly in the 200 foot range. Solid bedrock all the way, with occasional cracks where water pours in. It's so much per foot. Write a cheque. Not a big deal compared to building lot and building an entire house. Not a big deal, but it could add up if you need four holes!

        For heat, one over-ambitious neighbour opted for a lake sourced heat pump. $30,000+ at 20 years ago!!, plus a machine room for the gear. Payback period, both fiscally and embodied resources, is about three lifetimes ...of the Universe. Not to mention his system needs more power than my 10kw baseboard heaters. Bad decision.

        If you're trying to save money or save the planet, then investing a fortune and the associated embodied resources, is a very bad first step. Blame innumeracy.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @b166er

        God, what happened to Tomorrow's World ? I fucking loved that. Bring back Tomorrow's World.

    5. cray74

      "There are a good few countries that have close to 100% renewable electricity generation through geothermal or hydroelectric"

      And they're mostly small countries (under 10 million people). The sum of Iceland's vaunted hydro- and geothermal sources (2.2GW) is less than a major power plant in Europe, Asia, or the Americas. For that matter, it doesn't even rate on the top 10 list of geothermal developments, and the total output of its dams is smaller than dozens of the largest dams in the world. Other most-hydro nations tend to be small like Norway, Georgia, Costa Rica, and Sweden, or are under-developed and have small electricity needs (like Colombia and Venezuela).

      Larger developed nations like the UK, France, Germany, Japan, and the US don't have enough hydropower for their own needs, let alone enough conventional geothermal.

      Hydroelectric power is great stuff when it's available and you don't mind traumatizing the riverine ecosystem, but it isn't endless. For example, the Himalayan nations are about the last great untapped source of hydropower with about 100 gigawatts waiting to be tapped...but that'd be about 1/10th of India's needs when India is fully developed to Western levels, assuming China and the Himalayan nations were going to share all that. Meanwhile, the Americas and Europe are mostly tapped out of large hydro sources, at least those that won't get mobbed by angry environmentalists (because hydro power is now evil, apparently.)

      And geothermal? With conventional systems, the available sources aren't going to be powering too many cities - there might be 35GW of power across the planet for existing technology. That'd light up about half of Britain, but those choice geothermal sources aren't in Britain.

      1. Dagg
        Holmes

        @cray74 - there might be 35GW of geothermal power across the planet

        >And geothermal? With conventional systems, the available sources aren't going to be powering too many cities - there might be 35GW of power across the planet for existing technology

        Epic fail 67,246 GWh already exists!

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geothermal_energy

    6. Basic

      "I'm sure saying this will probably prove unpopular."

      Yes... Not because the goal is bad, but because you clearly have no idea of the numbers involved.

      Covering a factory and ancillary sheds in PV would do nothing significant to the external energy requirements.

      Yes, a modest home can become (almost) self sufficient after the installation of PV/Geothermal, but the energy cost to produce them, ship them to the home and install them is considerable.

      The amount of energy used by industrial processes is many orders of magnitude higher than a residential property and makes up a significant proportion of the global energy usage.

      Look at construction in the UK alone... More than 400 million tonnes of materials get delivered to site each year. Consider what that costs in terms of energy consumption!

      The bottom line is that PV is a drop in the ocean and always will be unless we give up our current lifestyle and regress to the middle ages. Since it's unlikely that the vast majority of the population would ever accept that as an answer, it's time to start investing more in Nuclear.

    7. Richard 126

      If ground source heat pumps and PV roofs were mandated on all new build, the price of installing it would plummet and therefore be more accessible to retro-fitting for owners of older properties.

      Nice idea but in reality the price would go up not down. Once something is mandated you have to have it and then the manufacturers can and do charge whatever they like. In this situation the price always goes up as the manufacturers exploit the market and all manufacturers maintain similar prices.

      Richard

  25. Craigness

    Solar Roadways show our future

    If you want to know the future of energy, look at the Solar Roadways project. It's been soundly debunked by various sources on grounds such as the energy it could provide would be produced far more cheaply by other methods and without the maintenance headache (tilted solar panels by the side of the road, for example). But because it's "cool" (it's solar! - free energy!) people who see the debunkings retain their faith in it, and have given the kickstarter project ridiculous amounts of money. The US taxpayer has chipped in too.

  26. L W J

    Thorium Nuclear Reactors

    Thorium nuclear reactors could provide non-carbon energy indefinitely. Thorium is three times more abundant than uranium, cleaner and easier to extract from the earth, much more stable, less 'radio-active', and much harder to weaponize. It is also much more efficient rendering energy per kilogram. The technology is already here (e.g. Candu nuclear reactors can be configured to burn thorium), so there are many reason to go this route for energy.

    One of the main reasons countries have not settled on thorium is because it is much more difficult to weaponize the thorium fuel cycles. Gov'ts long ago decided they wanted the nuclear power reactors of their respective nations to produce material for nuclear bombs (who cares about the environment, right(?)); so, thorium was dropped in favour of uranium as the choice for nuclear fuel.

    This needn't be the case going forward.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thorium Nuclear Reactors

      "One of the main reasons countries have not settled on thorium is because it is much more difficult to weaponize the thorium fuel cycles. Gov'ts long ago decided they wanted the nuclear power reactors of their respective nations to produce material for nuclear bombs (who cares about the environment, right(?)); so, thorium was dropped in favour of uranium as the choice for nuclear fuel."

      I recall that myth was debunked as the military got all the materials they needed decades ago and could obtain it through specialized military breeder reactors.

      1. L W J

        Re: Thorium Nuclear Reactors

        [Quote]

        The connections linking nuclear power and weapons is more than political or historic. Consider: l FISSIONABLE MATERIALS: It is the same nuclear fuel cycle with its mining of uranium, milling, enrichment and fuel fabrication stages which readies the uranium ore for use in reactors, whether these reactors are used to create plutonium for bombs or generate electricity. In the end, both reactors produce the plutonium. The only difference between them is the concentration of the various isotopes used in the fuel. Each year a typical 1000 mega-watt (MW) commercial power reactor will produce 300 to 500 pounds of plutonium -- enough to build between 25 - 40 Nagasaki-sized atomic bombs. [/Quote]

        http://www.neis.org/literature/Brochures/weapcon.htm

        1. Robert Sneddon

          Re: Thorium Nuclear Reactors

          That's great, 500lbs of plutonium from a LWR in a year! Problem is it's a mix of Pu-239, the good bomb-making isotope and Pu-240 which is not fissile and which prevents a bomb going off "right". It's also intensely radioactive and self-heating to point where a bomb core would be at a temperature of several hundred degrees, not quite a dull red. It also takes a big expensive processing plant to get the plutonium out of spent fuel, lots of power and special chemicals, technicians and engineers. It's easier to make a few hundred kilos of pure Pu-239 for a small nuclear arsenal using a dedicated breeder reactor the way, well, everybody with any sense ever did (I except the North Koreans from this august assemblage).

          The US has about a hundred tonnes of weapons-grade plutonium in storage at the moment, Britain about 70 tonnes, Russia lots and lots. The nuclear weapons states don't want or need more bomb-grade plutonium as they've got nothing they can use the surplus for but they've still got to keep it safe which costs money and effort. The non-nuclear states such as Vietnam tend to buy in their nuclear installations as turnkey operations where the reactor builders (in Vietnam's case, Rosatom) will supply the fresh fuel and take away the spent fuel afterwards.

          1. L W J

            Re: Thorium Nuclear Reactors

            "The nuclear weapons states don't want or need more bomb-grade plutonium "

            So they're clear to switch to thorium!

            1. Robert Sneddon

              Why thorium?

              Why switch to non-fissile thorium when uranium is cheap and abundant, now and for at least the next fifty years and we already have a lot of experience using it to fuel existing reactors and their replacements currently under construction? Of course at the end of that time we can reprocess the spent fuel that's in store and fuel another generation of uranium reactors for fifty years and more from the "waste". If all else fails there are proven techniques to extract uranium from seawater, cost estimated to be about USD 300 per kilogram.

              Thorium is difficult to use as a nuclear fuel. It's not fissile, it needs to be converted in a high-temperature high-neutron-flux breeder cycle into U-233 to make it into a fuel that can produce energy by being fissioned. The theory, and it is only a theory, is that this can be done in a continuous process. Further theory suggest it can be done in a molten-salt stream but it's never been achieved in the real world, just in Powerpoint slides and at TED talks.

              No, the molten-salt test reactors that were run at ORNL and elsewhere fifty years ago didn't use thorium, they used U-233 and later U-235. Some reactors have used thorium, usually pebble-bed designs which were not a great success (see the German HTHR-300 for an example) and they were mostly fuelled by U-235 and in some case Pu-239/240 with a little added thorium to season for taste.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fukushima's cost

    But how much did Fukushima cost and how much energy is it producing today?

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: Fukushima's cost

      I am sure you say that about every place hit by a big natural disaster (or 2 in this case)

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Without Hot Air.

    David MacKay has done a lot of the calculations required for a reasoned argument about most forms of renewable or carbon-free energy. Look for withouthotair dot com. Quite a surprise to find out that someone that well informed advises the government...

  29. Jim O'Reilly

    And thorium cycle nuclear power is even better!

    Using an alternative thorium-based nuclear cycle, radioactive waste can be reduced to a fraction of the waste from the current uranium cycle. The thorium approach also prevents Fukushima type accidents.

    We have enough thorium for 3500 years ready to be mined, and could probably increase that 10-fold with less rich sources.

    1. dwieske

      Re: And thorium cycle nuclear power is even better!

      no need to wait for a thorium design to do this, any gen IV (like the GE PRISM) can do this today, it's even safer than a MSTR and you don't need to mine anything to power it, we already have enough nuclear waste and nuclear warheads to power the world for centuries with this type of reactor

      1. Robert Sneddon

        PRISM = Powerpoint

        There's a lot of paper exercises, grad student TED talks and general blue-sky bullshit around in the nuclear biz. PRISM and all the other wonderful Great Ideas all suffer from one fatal flaw though; nobody's building any of them. There's research money around, a few million dollars here and there, enough to fund some computer modelling or materials testing and pay for some PhDs but no-one is bending metal and pouring concrete on the GE PRISM or any of the other glossy-brochure reactors in the public eye.

        What IS getting built right now around the world is nearly all light-water reactors, GenIIa and GenIII designs based on fifty years and more of operation of hundreds of GenII reactors because the operators aren't interesting in advancing the technology but in generating cheap electricity. There are a few, a very very few experimental power reactors being built or commissioned like the Russian BN-800 fast spectrum reactor and the Chinese quasi-modular HTR-PM pebble-bed design but Russia and China are stamping out cookie-cutter LWRs by the dozen, the Soviet-derived VVER family and the Chinese CPR-1000, a home-grown version of the Westinghouse AP-1000 because they and their customers need the electricity.

      2. aqk
        Facepalm

        Re: And thorium cycle nuclear power is EVIL!

        Thw world is being run by LADIES. And with their lack of scientific knowledge, they deem anything that is "nuclear" must be EVIL!

        Say hello to the dark ages again.

  30. jelabarre59 Silver badge

    Localized generation

    The problem with a lot of these grand schemes to solve the energy problem is that they usually involve some massive, centralized, one-size-fits-all solution. That's not how it's going to happen. It will involve a mix-and-match of multiple sources (wind, solar. hydroelectric, nuclear, etc), *plus* highly localized generation. Solar generation would work so much better if considered a localized solution: Consider making the lid of your laptop computer a solar panel, one that can be flipped up to collect energy when the screen is open. Could be useful for those long staff meetings/presentations, although at many of those there's not a whole lot of light and illumination. Maybe give your kids an exercise-bike generator, which they have to pedal in order to watch TV. And localizing power generation reduces line-loss from distant generation sources.

  31. ecofeco Silver badge

    Context is everything.

    What they really said: (from the linked article, big caption on left hand side under the charts)

    "Yet because CO2 lingers in the atmosphere for more than a century, reducing emissions means only that less gas is being added to the existing problem. Research by James Hansen shows that reducing global CO2 levels requires both a drastic cut in emissions and some way of pulling CO2 from the atmosphere and storing it."

    Thus, renewables, JUST BY THEMSELVES, will not reduce CO2.

    Context is everything.

  32. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    This is not news

    The calculations behind this are NOT NEW. Some engineers have been saying this for 10 years or more. They have been ignored, sidelined and sacked if they kept saying it.

    The only thing that's changed here is that society is slowly stopping vilifying people who raise these objections. This whole extraordinary popular delusion has cost humanity many billions - trillions before it will be finished, and has set back human progress by about 30 years.

    1. hamlet101

      Re: This is not news

      how come Portugal gets around 50% of its electricity from renewables then? Google it.

      1. cray74

        Re: This is not news

        "how come Portugal gets around 50% of its electricity from renewables then? Google it."

        I did Google Portugal, and noted it has a population of 10.5 million people with average electrical needs of 5.8GW. In other words, it has smaller electrical demand than a city like London, Paris, or Atlanta.

        Like I said elsewhere in these comments, there ARE nations that get a majority of their power from renewable resources. They tend to be small (have populations under 10 million) like Sweden, Iceland, and Norway; or they have undeveloped economies with small electrical needs (like Kenya and Venezuela), or both (like El Salvador).

        Note that the nations that generate the largest absolute quantity of renewable power - China and the US - only get a small percentage of their power from renewable resources.

      2. RFMarine

        Re: This is not news

        \\how come Portugal gets around 50% of its electricity from renewables then? Google it.\\

        not all renewables are the same. geothermal and hydropower work, we know that because they are non intermittent although not all areas can use them. intermittent power sources are the ones in question

        "In the first 10 months of 2014, renewable energy production supplied 62% of consumption: 32% from hydro, 24% from Wind, 6% from biomass and 1.3% from solar."

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_Portugal

        25.3% from wind and solar is much less impressive than 62%.

        Plus portugal is connected to the european power grid. Portugal and all other european countries that use wind and solar power import power whenever its not windy/sunny and if you average out all the wind/solar installations in the entire interconnected european grid then the percentage of wind/solar as a total of the entire european grid's generating capacity becomes smaller

  33. Michael Habel Silver badge

    The Op is on to something with Nuclear Energy... Shame that a few bad Apples have to ruin the whole bunch. I was too young to know (or care about...) why Three Mile happened. Chernobyl happend 'cause the Russians should have shut it down yonks before the fact... Barring that having invested more Money in its upkeep to prevent that whole incident. As for Fukushima?

    On the One Hand its hard to blame the Japanese on that front 'cause of their Topography. But, placing a Nuclear Plant in a region known for Earth Quakes, and Tsunamis probably wasn't very wise in hindsight. The fact that Western half the County are on 120v 60Hz. while the Eastern (Tokyo), side use 240v @ 50Hz probably didn't help either, and was more or less the leading cause of that Meltdown. 'Cause they couldn't get power up in the intervening time to prevent it.

    While these things are very much regrettable... They were more or less (sans Fukushima), largely preventable. And, like it or not nothing right now is as cheap, or indeed as clean as Nuclear.

    But the Green-Freaks had to go and, ruin it for everyone. The same Green-Freaks lead by the former Vice President Al Gore, who was bitching about the World only having ~ca. Forty Years of Dinosaur Sludge left... AND THAT WAS OVER TWENTY YEARS AGO!!

    So where are the Dinosaur Sludge alarmists then? Or were they in fact so only full of shit?

    If I have only One reason to cut back on my 'Leccy use. It too would be a question of being Green... Specifically about those apathetic little Green pieces of Paper, that are largely in the whole not unhappy. For if the Universe is infinite.. My Credit isn't.... And Electricity is now my second largest expense after Rent. Sadly this is a problem that only gets worse Year on Year so we can fund Pie in the Sky Windmills that can't do shit...

    1. Psyx

      "The same Green-Freaks lead by"

      I was not aware that environmentalism was an organisation with an appointed head.

      Gore attempted to become a spokesperson. Badly. To everyone's detriment apart from those who which to tar the entire movement with his reflected stupidity.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Strap line for UKIP?

    "But the fact is it would probably make more sense to spend money on making sure that people don't reach voting age without understanding basic mathematics and facts about risk and energy."

    I think that's one of your best.

  35. Mrd000

    The information is not exactly precise

    I'd like to remind that there was more damage from Chernobyl (I'm not sure about the other cases). It's not just about the staff and the rescue team.

    The radiation was spread around for hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of miles around. I know that there are still some places in forests in Russia quite close to Moscow (~300km) where places of excessive radiation can be still found today. Somebody mentioned radiation rains after the Chernobyl explosion. To give some impression, you will spend a day driving to these places from Chernobyl.

    Many people died later because of radiation exposure even living far far away from the plant. Many suffered some diseases caused by radiation and probably some still suffer. We are talking about really a lot of people. It's just not something widely emphasized due to general russian and ukrainian authorities ignorance about normal people.

    I get the idea that climate change can cause something worse than that, but it does not mean the real consequences of tragedies like Chernobyl should be ignored. Also, the explosion was caused by human error rather technology and the technology was not smart enough to safeguard from total stupidity of the staff. But the human factor should not be taken out of the account in the future (including possible terrorist attacks as well). As well as the fact that nuclear stuff can be easily turned to a very high impact weapon.

    1. Michael Habel Silver badge

      Re: The information is not exactly precise

      Yes and, why did it happen... Because the Russians were to broke to properly maintain the upkeep, and maintenance on Chernobyl. Chernobyl needn't have ever happened. It may well be the same story with Three Mile Island. In those cases it was poor oversights that lead to those Deserters.

      Fukushima on the other Hand, though was doing fine... Right up to the moment of that Earth Quake & Tsunami. Which was, and IS an even BIGGER Deserter then Fukushima ever was. Had that incident never happened, then the chances of us discussing it right now would be null....

      No Nuclear IS NEITHER SAFE or simple. It requires constant control from People far more skilled then you'd find in some Cartoon to be able to run it.

      But, its so much nicer to push a "Green Agenda" when you can grip said masses in fear of something called Global Warming.... (Down in Australia perhaps?), Here in Germany I'm freezing my arse off right now!!

  36. lord sake

    hooray

    so it took them a few years to figure out retard energy will never work over oil,gas, coal.,nuclear?

    sorry they dont sound so smart.

    the earth is a HHUUUUUUUGGGGE planet.

    lots of air..lots of water,, desalt water and tri level farming..

    plants love carbon...

    arghhh you global worry warts are all so brainwashed and stupid.

    good luck with your other myriad of psychosis you have.

    flame suit on.,..or should i say global warming climate weather change suit on...

    DDUUUUH!

  37. JRW

    Thorium - Problem Sorted (Maybe)

    Thorium, nuclear power without the bombs, or nasty waste. Problem sorted (maybe), if research was funded.

    1. cray74

      Re: Thorium - Problem Sorted (Maybe)

      "Thorium, nuclear power without the bombs, or nasty waste."

      Thorium, when it gets done being bred into Uranium-233, works fine in nuclear bombs. It has some handling issues (gamma rays from U232), but 3 nuclear bombs have been tested with U233 in their primaries.

      Further, the thorium fuel cycle does produce "nasty waste." It just produces waste with a much shorter half life (300 years) than higher actinide fuels (80,000 years). That is one of two great reasons to use a thorium fuel cycle.

      "Problem sorted (maybe), if research was funded."

      There's not a lot of research required to get thorium into existing reactors for some benefits of the thorium cycle. You won't have a happy, closed breeding cycle like India's researching, but you can defray the need for enriched uranium. Problem: it's more expensive than mined and enriched uranium right now.

  38. This post has been deleted by its author

  39. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    " Consider making the lid of your laptop computer a solar panel, one that can be flipped up to collect energy when the screen is open."

    They did consider that in a sense I think; solar panels, the generators in wind farm wind mills, use rare earth metals, and more power regulation and power storage hardware would have to be put into the grid. The existing solar and wind arms may well save more CO2 than used to make them, since they are in pretty ideal sun and wind locations. Once you try to replace a large percentage of current power usage with it though, the prime spots would be taken and you'd have some panels and windmills not contributing that much power. I think a laptop solar panel sounds cool, but honestly mine's almost always indoors or in a bag.

    And yeah, my understanding is that the conventional reactor produces these depleted fuel rods as waste, a breeder reactor will use the depleted rods as fuel and you end up with nice hot plutonium fuel rods to go back into the conventional reactor. But, some percentage of this plutonium is weapons grade, so reprocessing depleted rods was stopped dead in it's tracks years ago and it's all stored away. Some of the reactors running presently, the designs are not as safe as they could be and they are getting very old; it would be a good idea to decommission them eventually. But even 1980s-era (as opposed to 1960s-1970s) designs were much safer (Chernobyl used a 1973-era design with a few later 1970s revisions), newer design reactors are particularly safe.

  40. earl grey Silver badge
    Flame

    i don't even care

    one jet leaving the local airfield is using more fuel, creating more pollution, than me and my entire family will do in a lifetime.

    you don't have to be a PhD to know that the so-called renewable fraud is exactly that. Can't and won't ever pay for itself and i'm not willing to go live in a cave to meet some idiots desire.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: i don't even care

      Example of innumeracy:

      Earl grey: "one jet leaving the local airfield is using more fuel, creating more pollution, than me and my entire family will do in a lifetime."

      First of all, if you and your entire family go on the occassional airplane trip, then much of this imagined vast fuel use would be on both sides of the comparison. On one vacation to Asia alone, we had a total of twelve flight legs with a party of five, thus adding up to sixty of your imagined aircraft seats on a jet "leaving a local airfield." That's just one vacation. Do you take vacations?

      Next obvious flaw. Why is my personal gasoline consumption and electricity bill per year so much vastly higher than the average cost of our occasional vacation? If aircraft used a "lifetime" of fuel, then ticket prices would be £30,000 each. They're not. Price is a very strong clue of *total* embodied resources.

      Next subtle fact. Many travel agencies will provide you an estimate of your CO2 from a flight. It mght be for example, 150 kg. Your annual CO2 per person might be 5 to 10 tonnes. A family of five IN ONE YEAR (not lifetime) might roughly balance a 100-passenger aircraft on a typical 2 hour flight. Roughly.

      Next number fact: aircraft are a fairly small part of CO2. More visible to you than your local coal fired power station. Air travel is a small part of the issue overall. For your claim to be true, it would have to be top of the list. It's not.

      Innumeracy is dangerous. Leads to demands for bad policy. Please be more careful.

    2. cray74

      Re: i don't even care

      "one jet leaving the local airfield is using more fuel, creating more pollution, than me and my entire family will do in a lifetime."

      Jet airliners typically outperform cars on mileage *per passenger,* achieving in excess of 100 miles per gallon per passenger. Lies, damn lies, and statistics, right? :)

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_economy_in_aircraft#Example_Values

      Also, your family would have to be car-less to be unable to match an airliner's total fuel consumption. A 737-Max carries a maximum of 6875 US gallons of fuel. At 12 gallons per week for 1 car, a car owner would need 11 years to match that - not a lifetime.

  41. Herby Silver badge

    All of this shows...

    The general public is gullible (is it in the dictionary?) and ill informed as to any science. They were sold a bill of goods and like the politicians which seem to want to control us at every turn lapped it up. We here in the USA got sold a back room deal a couple of years ago that will never work as designed. Sounds typical given recent events.

    The only way to be "green" is to reduce the world's population to about 1000AD levels. It was colder then as well.

  42. hamlet101

    get your facts right!

    "well-under-one-per-cent renewables level in the UK" ?????

    Last year we got 15% from renewables, well on the way to the 20% by 2020 goal (a target that was scoffed at a few years ago).

    Scotland currently gets 30% from renewables, and Portugal over 50%.

    Also, in northern Australia solar is now cheaper than coal, without any subsidy at all.

    The right renewable solution in the right place really does work - Scotland has almost constant wind. Northern Australia will be getting around 1Kw of solar energy per square metre, and with the efficiency of modern solar panels improving all the time (some prototypes are around 50% efficient now).

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: get your facts right!

      Nova Scotia is building windmills every day. We presently get about 25% of the electricity from renewables, and will continue increasing to 40-50% range. They're even building a cable to connect us through Newfoundland to Labrador for more hydro power.

      On the other hand, we have Lingan. It burns coal and produces 25% of the power but emits about 4 or 5 tonnes of CO2 per person in NS. Not to mention vast clouds of dirty pollution that drifts across the Atlantic and straight into Paddington Station. They could have run a natural gas pipeline under the sea from Sable Island to Lingan, but they didn't.

    2. SleepyJohn
      WTF?

      Re: get your facts right!

      Even in Scotland the wind is not predictable, and I understand that the wind farms therefore have to be supported by backup fossil fuel power stations. These run most of the time in standby mode, in which they produce more noxious by-products than they would if they simply ran normally and the wind farms were dispensed with.

  43. --. --- -..

    "(even the present well-under-one-per-cent renewables level in the UK has pushed up utility bills very considerably)."

    1% ? What figure is that for, renewables are at least 9%.

    www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk tells me that our electricity supply is currently 40% from coal, 13% from nuclear, 25% from gas and 7.7% from wind. Wind has grown a lot.

  44. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    But the British/American governing classes, so fatally committed to renewables, often seem willing to listen to Google even if they won't listen to anyone else.

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”

    Upton Sinclair (1878-1968), I believe, rather than H. L. Mencken...

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thank you I read most of those comments (almost a first)

    The thing that I struggle with, people and lack of effective sticks.

    Talking to an engineer in the workplace, tap running behind him, steam coming off the stream of water between the tap and plughole. I say you've left the tap running, he laughs and says yes I'm always doing that and contiunues his conversation ignoring it.

    For f**k sake don't ignore it! don't laugh and ignore energy waste, I had to walk over and turn it off myself genuinly appaled at the lack of respect for energy use and the planet.

    I see screens left on all night while some test kit is running (here's a tip guys, the thing will still run with the screen off). I see the aircon set to heat so that the guys can sit in summer clothing. So after all this talk unless we have some stick to beat some sense into us ignorant first worlders most of it will be pissing up a wall.

  46. Jim84

    Molten Salt Nuclear to the rescue

    The Chinese are now research molten salt nuclear power plants in earnest. These things cannot melt down in the event of power loss to a plant, run at atmospheric pressure, and don't need massive expensive steel pressure vessels which take years to build properly on site. The real cost saving would be that you could build them in a factory and ship them to where needed on the back of a truck. The thorium versions (LFTRs) are even super difficult to use to make weapons.

    There is a cross party group of politicians in the UK who have created the Weinberg Foundation to try and promote research into these reactors:

    http://www.the-weinberg-foundation.org/

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Molten Salt Nuclear to the rescue

      The Chinese are clever, for example they are switching as much as possible from coal to natural gas as an interim measure. Our environMentals will insist we keep burning coal until zero-carbon energy sources are ready.

      The most effective thing we could do the the short and mid term is focus on replacing coal with anything better. Just concentrate the campaigning on replacing coal first would be more effective.

      Is being effective important?

  47. Twister

    many hands make light work

    perhaps the problem isn't in the source, but the overall blanket statements. let's play the what if game:

    let's say we hire a few college graduates, sit them in a house, where their entire purpose is to design renewable energy sources on a 'micro' scale (regenerative heat exchangers, small scale solar panels, exercise equipment that converts KE into Volts, etc). then, with every idea, hire a subcontractor to come out and install said system. the engineers test the system fully (limitations, possible improvements, temperature ranges of environments best suited for, etc). then, move on to another project. rinse repeat.

    every few projects, scrap the house, rebuild with the new designs, etc. compare data to see how much power the house uses, before and after. use that to determine the limitations of power production for installed systems. when you have a house that produces a significant amount of its needs ('significant' is completely relative of course), boom... start offering them up on the market.

    the purpose, this way, wouldn't be to create one large facility, to produce for all the nation's needs. instead, to be many locations helping to lighten the load on the over all grid.

    in other words... stop thinking about how we can make one block, in one location, do all the work, and start thinking about how many blocks, all over, we need to be sufficient. when gathering in the wild, we don't look for one tree to fulfill all our needs for sustenance... we look for any and all sources, all over, with many different kinds of options. think like a mammal....

    i know it is a money sink at first. but, think about it... IF we had done this the last 40-50 years, we probably wouldn't need nearly as many commercial power production facilities. if the commercial power production companies want money from it all, then they could control the installations and maintenance on it all. i mean, it opens doors that a football stadium of solar panels in a desert does not. just sayin.

  48. Palf

    Nobody mentions space-based solar power, and you should

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space-based_solar_power

    Launch costs will have to come down below $200/Kg for this to be viable.

    Therefore railgun.

    Thinking Big Picture like this will generate new industries that are of direct benefit to all of us.

    In the meantime, aneutronic fusion is a desirable near-future goal - perhaps Focus Fusion will win the day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Nobody mentions space-based solar power for good reason

      There's the big problem of getting the energy back down. Any method you can think of will instantly evoke images of sabotage and an impromptu space-based laser.

  49. roger stillick
    Coat

    Geothermal energy ?? Ask US DOE...

    About 20 years ago the US DOE announced they had developed a ceramic electrically heated drilling head that could sink a shaft through solid rock by melting it... at least that was their claim...part of a stopped magma probe project, Glomar Explorer (actually a ruse to steal a Russian sunken submarine w/lost nukes).

    Move foward to a few years ago and the Canadian Tar Sands oil production facilities...similar 100Kw ceramic heaters used for in-place tar sands refining into liquids that can be removed as crude oil.

    IMHO= the big question is, can that ceramic electrically heated probe be used to cheaply drill down to hot magma, resulting in a geothermal well ?? Probable answer= only the US DOE knows and the origional use was a cold war ruse...

    REF= WIKI, Geothermal energy, there's a lot more out there (X-Files anyone ??)...RS.

  50. John Tserkezis

    So, how is this to be done?

    Easy, do what the Australian Government does when it encounters "inconvenient" numbers.

    They change the specification. Problem solved.

  51. MedusaMilena

    Time to start return thorium molten salt reactors back then.

  52. P Herb.

    Cack!

    Whilst everyone here argues amongst eachother, what was missed was that it was a totally biased and crap article in the first place. Thers is no mention of the inherent dangers involved in extracating Uranium from the Earth. To say that Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima are the only nuclear accidents is utter nonsense. The means used to describe the inherent 'safety' were death figures relating to direct exposure to radiation. What about the long term effects? We don't and won't know as the data would be hidden. So yes, lets all pay a private, non National company to build more fission plants in the UK and be completely at the mercy of the markets. Or am I wrong in thinking we don't have massive Uranium deposits in the Uk?

    Bottom line is, there's a storm coming and it's going to cost us the Earth.........................

    1. Naughtyhorse

      Re: Cack!

      what about the long term effects of living with smog, soot, co2?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cack! & Re Cack

      the storm is humanity, a rapidly reproducing itself, despite a large brain volume.

  53. johnmc

    When the participants to IPCC meetings stop jetting around the planet and use electronic conferencing instead; THEN I will believe that global warming is real.

  54. CarlF

    Nuclear is still the best option long term

    The US has spent about $120B on climate change, including windmill, solar, research, etc. That's just what government spent and does not include all the costs placed on the population that was paid directly, like for ethanol in gasoline that the EPA requires. Much of this money was wasted on failed windmill and solar plants, political payoffs, and other cesspools of corruption. In the end, very little has been accomplished.

    Meanwhile, China is buying Westinghouse packaged nuclear plants for about $2B apiece. That isn't the total cost of building and starting the plant, but probably 80% of it. That is competitive with the latest costs for modern coat fired plants, which surprised me. At this time, nuclear is the only dispatchable power source that can be built virtually anywhere, has a small footprint, does not emit CO2, and has a reasonable cost per KW. The Westinghouse design is inherently safe in event of power outage, unlike the Fukushima plant. China just signed a deal of 10 more of them.

    A standardized nuclear plant design like the one that Westinghouse has developed is the obvious route to take at this time if you are concerned about climate change. Remember that much of the world is demanding that they have cheap and plentiful power like Europe and America, and no one really wants them to use up all the coal, oil and gas in the world to get the power they want. I feel they should have the opportunity to have the better life that clean power can help them achieve.

    I don't have any financial interest in Westinghouse, but as an engineer I am impressed by their work.

  55. The Morgan Doctrine

    The sure-fire bet is when people say something can't be done, it sure as hell will be accomplished by some entrepreneur in a garage. Personally, my bet is on fuel cell technology. Besides, I remember one of Larry Ellison's favorite stories: "When I want someone to work in Oracle kernel development, I get the top of the class at MIT. When I want someone to work on applications, I get the top of the class at U.C. Davis. And when I want someone to run the mail room, I get the top of the class at Stanford." Net net, a Stanford PhD doesn't carry a lot of credibility with me.

  56. Twilight

    Nukes are the answer

    I've been saying for years that nuclear power is the answer.

    If you don't believe me, look at France. France gets 75% of its power from nuclear plants, is the world's largest exporter of energy, is on its 3rd generation nuclear plant, and 17% of the nuclear power uses recycled fuel.

    Since 14 Mar 1980, France has had 10 nuclear "incidents" but *all* of them except one (27 Dec 1999) were INES 0 or 1 (and the 1999 was only 2) for a total cost of roughly $235m and *0* fatalities for the incidents (by far the most expensive was in 2002 when they screwed up installing condensers which forced a 2-month shutdown of a plant). In 1979-1980, they did have 2 INES 4 incidents but still 0 fatalities and only about $35m in cost. That's pretty good for 58 nuclear plants - show me another power generation method that matches that safety record.

    Note however that "greenies" apparently got into the French energy policies in 2014. They are now planning to reduce their nuclear energy generation to 50% of total by 2025 with a hard-cap of their current nuclear power generation (63.2GWe) while at the same to reducing energy usage by 2050 to 50% of 2012 levels (which sounds completely unreasonable to me barring a new disruptive technology).

  57. edmh

    look at the numbers

    for confirmation of the numbers from reliable sources see

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/11/21/renewable-energy-solar-and-wind-power-capital-costs-and-effectiveness-compared/

    Across The USA Germany and the UK when compared to Natural Gas Fired Power

    wind power ~20% of nameplate capacity and ~16 times more expensive

    large scale solar power ~11% of nameplate capacity and ~34 times more expensive

  58. DrM

    Here we go again

    Mr. Page is one of my favorite authors here -- accept when he pimps the nuclear power industry. His comments and ideas here are worthy of being torn apart in a Register article written by Lewis Page.

    Gee, let's compare death tolls, that will be a perfect test of feasibility! And I mean people killed right at the plants at the time. Yeah, wouldn't want to compare people killed after the accidents by the radiation. Don't compare how much public economic damage was done. How about areas? How many square miles of the sea are now contaminated and unusable after Piper Alpha?

    Mr. Page, you really are one of the most insightful writers I read. Why this passion for nukes? One befriended you as a child?

    1. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: Here we go again

      @ DrM

      "Mr. Page, you really are one of the most insightful writers I read. Why this passion for nukes? One befriended you as a child?"

      Probably because they work. Beyond working and being damn good at it they are pretty safe and reliable. Add that to the recent obsession with co2 and it is a very good source of power. Add that to the fossil fuel capabilities and we have good energy generation. And of course add wind and solar farms to demonstrate a catastrophe in common sense.

  59. cmb

    fits nicely

    fits nicely - google, "home of the evil", and nuclear energy (According to Vyacheslav Grishin of the Chernobyl Union, the main organization of liquidators, "25,000 of the Russian liquidators are dead and 70,000 disabled, about the same in Ukraine, and 10,000 dead in Belarus and 25,000 disabled", which makes a total of 60,000 dead (10% of the 600 000, liquidators) and 165,000 disabled - Le Monde. April 7, 2006)

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the answers are here if one cares to look...

    Why is it that we still have to pretend that we need fossil fuels to power our needs?

    Could it be that the Oil companies have brainwashed us into thinking this way?

    There are numerous examples of how we can get cheap non-polluting energy - simply look at Tesla, energy from the vacuum and these two examples below.

    www.keshefoundation.org

    http://deusnexus.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/india-free-energy-device/

    I believe it's only when we see that the Emperor hath no clothes that we will be able to use these forms of energy.

  61. JD Evora
    WTF?

    The whole article is misleading !!!

    The whole article is a misleading interpretation of the original IEEE one....

    They never say that the Renewables are not worth to invest in... They say that the change they make won't we QUICK ENOUGH to avoid the climate change. That is why we new new disruptive technologies

    And the last part, defending the fission is as misleading... In the article they mention nuclear FUSION!!! a completely different horse.

    Even with those strident security measures, we have now TWO huge portions of the Earth completely inhabitable, imagine if those measures were not as strident.

    Cheers

    1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

      Re: The whole article is misleading !!!

      "we have now TWO huge portions of the Earth completely inhabitable"

      Why, well, that's a good start. I thought we should still have had more than TWO though? Have the others been rendered uninhabitable by windmills or solar panels?

  62. WizzerWotsit

    We're only human

    I think the fundamental problem is that we're human.

    The "Shepherds" among us have their own agendas (which are rarely for the common good), the "Sheep" among us follow, trusting the shepherds know what's right and wrong.

    Judging by the comments left here prove that no-one can agree a way forward. What chance do the "experts" have when even the experts can't agree.

    Ever been in a meeting with more than three people - how often does everyone leave that meeting with a common goal and the enthusiasm to make it happen ... and bear in mind one thing we do all agree on is that its no quick fix - how do we drive that enthusiasm for a century or two, when politicians/parties/agendas change on a weekly, monthly, annual basis.

    We need some industry "shepherds" who are prepared to drive the technology and fund the change, Microsoft, Apple, maybe GE, FORD, and the like - governments I don't believe, have the stamina to deliver (even if they say they do), they can however be trusted to implement legislation to effect change.

    Of course the other point is that this argument affects every aspect of our lives. We are not just talking about the fuel & electricity, we need to reduce energy consumption. We need to change our mindsets to accept that energy is a luxury rather than a right - this alone could take a generation.

    After all, we're only human

    :o)

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    zero-carbon energy source

    The only source of energy potentially clean, dense and safe is fusion power. http://youtu.be/u8n7j5k-_G8

  64. interested*observer

    At last! A rational discussion of the plain truth. As an electrical engineering educator familiar with electrical power production, distribution, and consumption, I always challenge the overly simplified arguments for renewables with the true scale of human energy needs. The proponents of de-industrialization insist that we can have prosperity from impossibly small sources of energy. The greatest threat to the environment by far is the creation of unnecessarily vast human misery and disintegration of society through politically limited access to energy.

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Solution for the next 150 years.

    1. Power up as many nuclear plants as possible.

    2. Generate hydrogen with them for the purposes that fossil fuels alone can perform today.

    3. Profit with your habitable planet.

  66. Wzrd1

    Nuclear, just not uranium based

    Thorium reactors would be less expensive, as thorium is less rare than uranium. Thorium reactors can also "burn" the waste of uranium reactors, further reducing long term storage.

    There are now designs for intrinsically safe units, where complete loss of coolant wouldn't cause an issue.

  67. johnksellers

    Should we trust this reporter?

    By all means, why should we pay attention to any other expert when this guy reports on Vampires and Ninjas?

    On the other hand...

  68. Chimel31

    Just because RE<C stopped in 2011 does not mean the RE world has not progressed since. Google has a history of stopping great projects such as their RSS feed Reader (which gave rise to even better products such as InoReader). RE<C was mostly a research facility building prototypes, they never went into the industrial stage. Current solar panels from the existing industry are already cheaper than coal, so that "Renewable Energy < cost of Coal" motto is already a reality for many states and countries. Since this year, there are already solar power plants that sell electricity to utilities at a price inferior to coal electricity, and we're only going to see more of them going forward.

    And sorry to say, but combining one 2008 Hansen study with one 2011 Google study does make this exactly what the article says it isn't, a theoretical exercise based on stats analysis. I'd much prefer to go with the IPCC 2013 report for a broader picture. Their point of view also seem very limited to technology, with mentions such as "truly disruptive technologies are what our planet needs. To reverse climate change, our society requires something beyond today’s renewable energy technologies." We do have zero-carbon technologies already, some cheap, some more expensive, we just don't use them, or barely, so it seems to me that the most important factor is a change in society, how and what we consume energy, food, etc., and also a strong political determination by ourselves and our leaders to encourage the adoption of existing technologies and the research of new or improved ones. I don't dream about "disruptive" or revolutionary new technologies. If we find them, all the better, but there's work enough to implement what we have.

    There are also other considerations that could use a bit of the same creativity that these two engineers say we should apply to such issues. For instance, when they say that agriculture will keep using fossil fuel, that's only because of a lack of such creativity. Farmers are not in the field with tractors every day, mostly during planting and combining and a few times in between, or to dry grain, that's when they use the most fuel. But there's plenty enough used oil coming from the fast food restaurants that could be used to make biodiesel to cover all agricultural needs and then some. There's also biomethane digesters deployed more and more at cow farms. Governments could encourage cover crops used to bury carbon and build humus by making the seeds cheap enough so that it becomes a mainstream practice wherever applicable. Eventually, we'll need to move toward systematic irrigation and drainage to control water usage and reduce cultivated acreage because of the corresponding higher yield. We'll need much more water, and also ways to bring it into drylands such as the Midwest, because while corn and soybean yields are high in the U.S., they rank around number 50 worldwide for dryland crops such as wheat. This is a total waste of resources, especially in drought years. We just can't allow weather to dictate how much food we get anymore, every grain planted counts.

    And as far as society is concerned, since a lot of crops are grown as animal feed rather than human food, a small reduction of 10% of the Western World's meat consumption would have a tremendous impact on carbon. I am sure there are hundreds of other ideas that may even cost nothing to implement that could be part of a global strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I don't believe however that a technology could suck up existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, we'll probably need to work with forestry and agriculture with regular plants for that. Even if they can help, no need to wait for bio or other technologies for that. But yeah, it is clear that GHG in the atmosphere will not go down quickly but in the matter of several decades, between the long life cycle of carbon and the increased release of methane because of higher temperatures. Maybe we need to sequester more carbon with carbon fiber in our cars and buildings, and carbon nanotube batteries to store solar energy!

  69. This post has been deleted by its author

  70. proud2bgrumpy

    Environmenatlists - the cause of 'Man Made Global Warming'?

    Interesting that Nuclear is now thought to be the cleanest way of generating energy, if the environmentalist lobby groups hadn't been so successful in campaigning against it in the 1960's/70's we probably wouldn't be in quite the 'supposed' mess we're in now with what used to be called 'Man Made Global Warming', then simply 'Global Warming' and most recently 'Climate Change'.

    As the Environmentalist lobbies are slowly climbing down and re-branding 'Man Made Global Warming' into the more innocuous 'Climate Change', we should all recognise that the resources that we are currently burning to release energy would be much more usefully used to make stuff that should be reusable - not simply recyclable.

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ho hummm...

    "we are DOOMED! just like all the other critters that reproduce like virii in a lush, warm, closed environment (that's our planet, CLOSED, limited, confined, limited, delicately balanced, limited, millions of evolutionary tests and LOTS of failures along the way !)

    guess what, we are one of those 'tests', humanity, another result of trials and errors, aand we still keep making lots of errors, most which we are not intellectually capable of comprehending (sorry, we may be on the top of the brainy list, but if we knew everything, this crisis would simply disappear, or fail to get our undivided attention?)

    ROFL

    maybe this is why all the human religions have sought to obscure reality, and create a fantasy concept of 'The Great Creator"" who will deal out fairness and equality to all. ROFL more.. "

  72. veti Silver badge
    Flame

    Blatant clickbait

    I have rarely seen more blatant misrepresentation than this article and headline, even on El Reg.

    To anyone who's read this far: please take the time to click on and read through the article on IEEE Spectrum, it's not paywalled or anything. And it doesn't say anything even remotely close to what this article claims it does.

  73. 1340Mike398

    Tesla Wireless Electricity Stations...hint

    Lookup why funding was pulled and why he had to pull his funding for Tesla's Wireless Electricity. Lookup specifically why Tesla was building wireless electricity stations.

  74. Hans 1 Silver badge

    Lewis should stop making a fool out of himself:

    "Like the article said, anyone with a decent understanding of physics knows that "renewable energy" isn't the answer."

    ROFL

    Quite the opposite is true. But, that is debatable, what follows is proof of Lewis' lack of knowledge on the very tech he assumedly backs!

    That said, for a fission backer, he does not even know about the new reactors that are being built, one of which I think is operational... these evolutions make the search for uranium in the sea plain useless. The new reactors use the 99% of uranium that we have been putting aside for decades. You can only enrich 1% (for the el'reg self-appointed physics/fission etc EXPERTS). The funny part is, the coolant in the primary cycle is sodium, whoever thinks that is a good idea should be shot. Then again, ressources-wise, it was a giant leap.

    He does not know, although I have already mentioned it here, that you can only "recycle" (I think decycle is a more accepted word) 8% of used fuel. The rest, we in France, "sell" to Russia, who dispose of it in the open. My understanding is the UK dumps it into the north sea/irish sea and gets hefty fines from the EU as Norwegian trout gets contaminated and Norwegians get miffed. BTW, I used the term "sell" as that is what the press reported, once greenpeace managed to interfere with a transport.

    So, I do not know lewis, next time you want to back something, at the least get the help of a 1st year student that's on a course dealing with the matter.

    Now, honestly, I read the full article and was amazed, so much wrong there, I have just taken out the really gross stuff.

    As for the el reg experts, unlike fusion power, renewable power is highly energy positive. There was a story that photovoltaic cells in calculators were energy negative, not the kit you put on your roof - if you do not know that you should not be allowed to comment.

    As for the casualties of nuke power, source is WHO (2005), go onto their website and see who contributed... yes, the rag has as much value as a report on tobacco casualties where Philip Morris contributed, ROFL, believing that is denial. France is now counting cher nobly victims in southern France and Corsica... because "officially" the Cloud stopped at its borders and ppl ate mushrooms etc... and they are in the 100's. corsica is not exactly close to Ukraine, weird hey, thought so.

    I have got work to do and cannot comment further.

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Think with your brain, research the numbers and stop spouting naysayer rubbish.

    Really for a site devoted to techies and techie stuff, I'm disppointed with the level of comments on this subject. Did anyone read the source article. Back in 2011 Google with their RE<C project tried to do utility scale solar generation using Concentrating Solar Power CSP, cheaper than coal.They couldn't. That doesn't mean all of the other technologies don't work.

    Right now here in blighty you can get a quote for a 4kW PV solar system fully installed (ie including with scaffold and labour etc) for £5,500. If you want to add 10kWh of battery back up so you can use the electricity you collected in the day on into the night or in power cuts that we have been promised are due to green energy policy, it will cost you £8,000. Based on that generating 3,600kWh/year for at least 20 years (actually really 40) it works out at just under 12p kWh - at least 4p lower than grid bought electric. You can relegate the grid to winter time back up and be self sufficient from March to October. Just the PV without batteries is about 9p/kWh if you are at home in the day to use it.

    Think PV uses a lot of energy to generate... it might, but if you followed one of the earlier links to a fairly pessimitic view of solar PV - you'll see the carbon life time cost of PV panel works out at about 30-100g/kWh depending on where it was made and where it is installed. That includes manufacturing and transport. Worse case 100g/kWh is 1/4 that of the best CCGT gas plants, and 1/8 that of coal. And that is just the generation to plug... not a full carbon life cost.

    By generating at home you are cutting out the costs of future fuel price rises, distribution network costs, any green levies which you all hate, social costs, metering and customer service costs and unpaid bills by other customers (one of the big 6 I worked at writes off £100m a year in unrecovered bill payments). And lastly - VAT on all of the above.

    This is in cloudy blighty and available now. I haven't even mentioned feed in tariffs... which clearly should be cut to zero immediately.

    So it's economically viable, lower CO2 than any fossil generation, despatachble (with battery back up). Exactly what the conclusion of the report suggested... cheaper despatchable power.

    What are you waiting for? Hybrid PV cells - using water cooling to raise the PV efficiency and heat the hot water tank, with excess heat dumped into an underhouse geothermal store, using 25m boreholes, in summer, to be pulled back in winter with a ground source heat pump. The excess summer electricty can be used in an electric to fuel system (H2, or one of the research project making liquid fuels). Stored in LPG like tank either for your Fuel Cell EV or a conventional gas combi boiler for when the GSHP isn't so efficient. All of that available now, expensive, but cheaper than buying gas and electric for 20 years. You'd do that as heat is 60% of the demand for residential properties, not electricity. Probably best to retrofit a good amount of insualtion first to lower the system cost.

    The one thing google were right on... you need to take a war like approach if you want to switch the energy industry over. 25% of PV cell being used to make new PV cells. The rest sold - to places not in the UK with more sunlight. 1700kWh/kw/year Vs our 900.

  76. Smoog

    The crux...

    Anonymous.. opps. I was going to conlcude what works at large scale isn't the same as what works at small scale. Remember google were looking for something to work at grid generation scale to power data centres, cheaper than coal. Not run a fridge feezer 24x7 and some AV kit.

    The other think I fogot to add.. - having that 10kWh battery back up, means in winter you can buy your electric at night when it's only 8p kWh and stop yourself contributing to the evening spike.

    Theoretically you could do away with the PV system too... but that would be cheating. ;-)

  77. Rocketscience

    Does Google know all?

    I think the Google experts are missing the point on this one. Every source of energy we use is renewable including nuclear and yes, fossil fuels. Remember that fossil energy was not always here, it established over aeons and in fact this process continues today; peat bogs are a good example. Nuclear energy sources in the form of convertible fissile materials are constantly being created throughout the universe...the Big Bang was only the beginning. Geothermal energy generation, a product of gravity, pressure and radioactive decay is an ongoing process too. From the perspective of humanity and its relatively short place in history, all of these things along with wind, tidal and solar are "renewable". So the real effort should be directed towards effective and efficient use of every source of energy we have at our disposal. One thing is clear to me. We do not have an energy shortage, and never will.

    What climate change is telling us to do is change our energy use to a more appropriate form and combination than we currently make use of. The facts are clear that we have become complacent in our use of energy and it is having an impact on the survival of our species, and many others besides.

    The argument in favour of conservation should not be about reducing our standard of living but of improving how we achieve it. From my perspective I see that we may have already reached a plateau in energy consumption ( excluding the Internet...but that too will change). We are starting to use less energy per task than in the recent past, witness as an example, the surge in LED lighting, even though the lumen output we require is substantially the same. This incremental, and in some cases revolutionary, improvement can be applied across all activities and technologies. Yes there is a cost to this technology, but there was a cost to the current technology and it was not trivial; if it were the Google paper would be a moot argument.

    The cool thing to contemplate is all the opportunity a renewables Renaissance represents...loads of it. Whereas, to yearn for a golden solution or to do nothing in the interim...no opportunity and no salvation exists down that road that I can see. So, you choose your future.

  78. robmxa

    Currents

    I think fusion and fission are both good solutions but think one missed in this discussion is taking advantage of the energy in currents like the Gulf Stream. Unlike tidal, wind, geo or solar it is constant and predictable. The Gulf Stream has a speed of 5.6 kn/hr. Putting turbines in its path could provide all the power we need. Florida Atlantic University is working with a company to install test turbines in the Atlantic Gulf Stream off Dania Beach. I am sure there are and will be problems with this approach but it seems promising to me.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Currents

      Yeah, the same problem wind turbines generate: once you suck out the power from that current, there's less down the line. I don't think the UK would be too thrilled if Florida's experiment with the Gulf Stream sucks most of the energy out of it, leaving little to warm the English waters...

  79. Clemmo

    We need Thorium

    This article ignores the fact that we have had a proven (since the 1950s), much safer, less wasteful, and potentially much cheaper source of nuclear power that so far hasn't been tapped. No I'm not talking about Fusion, I'm talking about Thorium. This entirely new nuclear fuel cycle will be able to deliver us ALL from climate change, energy shortages, fresh water shortages and could even lead us towards the hydrogen economy, it just hasn't been exploited! I'd hope that these Google scientists have this already on their radar, but if not you only have to look here to be convinced that this is truly the answer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97GtL98kmPA

    That guy Kirk Sorensen has this stuff worked out - consider how game-changing it would be to have a large town powered by a nuke small enough to fit on the back of a truck?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: We need Thorium

      If you read carefully, you'll find that the Thorium cycle DOES actually produce quantities of Uranium-232, which IS weaponizable. Granted, it's too difficult for a terrorist-class adversary to use, but you can never count out a state-class adversary determined to make a statement. Also, in general, Thorium is not all roses. For one thing, making it reactor-grade is more difficult than with uranium, plus most of the radiation is photonic gamma rays which are harder to contain than the alpha particles that are the norm of uranium reactors.

  80. California Hal

    There is a viable solution for this problem as outlined ...

    There is a solution for this problem as outlined ...

    We all agree that fusion of some sort is necessary for neither fossil fuels, nor renewables, nor fission can sustain the energy needs of the planet which require an increase of 14 TW of new energy sources plus replacement for our aging systems. Our current primary energy sources, fossil fuels and fission, are either polluting the air we all breath or they have unacceptable consequences when something goes wrong. Increasing the number of fission reactors by a factor of ten or more over the next few decades is simply untenable.

    Fortunately, there is another means of achieving the energy needs of the world that is clean, green and very safe, - the fusion goal that we all desire. That is the ICF process know as RF Accelerator Driven Heavy Ion Fusion (HIF) that was studied extensively in the 1970s. The boundary conditions for successful ignition are set by the Lawson Criteria which simply states that the number of nuclei in a given volume must be large and the temperature very high for long enough for the fusion reaction to take place. The goal of the NIF was to demonstrate this was possible; a goal that was not achieved. The same goal is sought in Tokomak like devices: also never achieved in a fully sustainable way for times long enough to suggest viability as a power production facility. The comment attributed to Teller that says “if it involves plasma, it vont verk” seems very appropriate after the spending of 10's of Billions of dollars on the experiments at NIF and ITER and there predecessors.

    But, the studies made at Argonne National Laboratory in the 1970s and incorporated into the HIDIF report in 1998 suggest that there is another way to meet the Lawson criteria. NIF has shown that frozen hydrogen can be compressed to densities of several hundred gm/cc. Unfortunately the NIF experiment needed a uniform compression of near 3000 and that goal has remained illusive, But compression using ion beams for both the compression and for a separate heating pulse, known as fast ignition, relies on the need for uniform extreme compression to a much more modest 100 fold compression terminated by a separate heating pulse that raises the fuel to temperatures approaching 100 million degrees.

    The HIDIF design provided the compression and heating by a complex design utilizing a source of four heavy isotopes to accelerated to about half the speed of light in a linear accelerator. The resulting pulses of ions were stored in a storage ring until sufficient beam current was accumulated to provide the pulse current needed. On paper this seems appropriate, but in reality, this cloud of pulses was not a single beam but a shot-gun like blast of beams each with a different focus. This is the Achilles heel of the HIDIF design.

    Re-examination of this design by Dr. Robert J. Burke and Dr. Charles E. Helsley, of Fusion Power Corp in California, has led to an elegant solution. If one dispenses with the storage ring and replaces it with a large collection of ion sources all aligned prior to acceleration one could compensate for the loss of the multi-pulse storage ring. Moreover, the use of more isotopes can be shown to be advantageous in energy deposition at the fuel pellet and the progressive conversion of a long sequence of pulses into a single multi-isotope beam, each isotope moving at a separate velocity and timed to arrive at the target simultaneously. Calculations show that such an accelerator does not violate any of the parameters that are in the accelerator designer's handbook until after the final focus. At that point the beam must be neutralized but this is only meters from the target. Calculated energy on the target can be as high as 1015 watts deposited in 10s of nanoseconds. Basko has calculated that this amount of energy deposition assures ignition with a burn efficiency of nearly 40 percent. Thus a modern version of the HIDIF fusion driver appears both feasible and economically viable.

    The availability of a process that could achieve fusion by use of heavy ions provides an alternative path that will lead to success.

    Ion sources can achieve currents of approximately 100 milliamps. To get enough energy on the target one needs a beam current of about 1000 amps at 140 GeV. - this is no small feat. But it can be done if one merges the ion current from say 500+ sources and accelerates them via a linear accelerator. But one also needs pulse compression. and this is achieved by using multiple isotopes and accelerating each to a common magnetic rigidity so that subsequent beam manipulations involving bending of the beam do not produce dispersion of the various isotopes. Each isotope has a different velocity in such a device and this proves advantageous for it allows the higher velocity isotopes to 'catch up' with the slower ones just as the target is encountered. This telescoping of the beams and the careful maintenance of the micro-bunches in each of the beams is what makes the high current required achievable in the FPC design.

    Since the beams are essentially unidirectional, the ideal geometry of the target is cylindrical. Cylindrical targets have been examined by Basko (ref) and the target dynamics indicate that the conditions necessary for fusion can be achieved. (ref G Logan) But the use of multiple isotopes of varying mass, suggests an even better mechanism. The focusing of the slower isotopes on the axis of the target just after the compression pulse allows the creation of a fast ignition pulse that heats the pre-compressed fuel to fusion ignition temperatures. Moreover, This two stage ignition mechanism allows fusion to take place at considerably lower total applied energy, perhaps lower by a factor of 7. This in turn reduces the length of the accelerator thus reducing the cost of the driver.

    The chambers operates at a modest vacuum being set by the temperature of the rain of lithium sheets and droplets sprayed into the chamber between pulses – a vacuum of about 10-5 Torr. These droplets also provide for pressure wave damping and their vaporization provides a working fluid for the transport of heat to the heat exchangers to extract the energy to be used in the electrical generators, etc.

    The use of lithium or lithium-lead or FLIBE is essential for each moderates the neutrons to a degree necessary to remove most of the devastating effects of the unchecked neutron radiation. Again, not a new idea, but one investigated extensively in the 1970 to 1990 period.

    What is needed at this point in time is a willingness to change course away from ITER and NIF and toward a technology that was endorsed for demonstration almost three and a half decades ago by the scientific community. If anything, our ability to do that demonstration has greatly improved through the advent of superior computers, higher frequency drivers, and new means of construction. Our need to resolve the CO2 problem (GHGs) is urgent.

    I believe that the use of heavy ion driven fusion is the only way it can be achieved in the next decade – not the next century. This is the ‘Apollo” project for this era. HIF needs the funding and the political will to move down a known path to successful fusion.

    RFADHIFusion has the ability to provide the world the energy it needs without additional GHGs, radio-active waste problems and the danger of a meltdown.

  81. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If alternative energy really is the holy grail proponents claim it to be, why isn't private enterprise pursuing all this in search of the Next Big Thing: going outside national reach if need be to avoid regulation?

  82. BrotherRog

    This is why sensible use of thorium based nuclear reactors needs to be part of an serious energy plan. Sensible means not locating them near earthquake fault lines or coasts; Thorium, because unlike plutonium and uranium, it isn't weaponizable.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Don't be so sure. Thorium still produces weaponizable Uranium (U-233, I think) in its fuel cycle, and a determined state actor out of options may go through the lengths to extract it.

  83. glsjr03

    Merely transforming highways into an enclosing structure will innovatively allow the various distribution processes to begin technologically evolving without nearly all the time energy and resource consumptions of today.

    Whose numerouse exponentially increased efficiencies and enhanced capabilities will revolutionize human abilities.

    Simply integrating the processes into a secure and controlled environment.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Tunnels trap vehicle emissions. That's why car tunnels have ventilation and at one time trains closed the windows before entering long tunnels.

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