Debunking James Hansen’s claims on nuclear power fixing climate change

No 2 NuclearPower No 81 January 2016  “……NASA scientist James Hansen headed Paris to berate climate campaigners for failing to support nuclear power. Hansen ignores renewables and energy efficiency, setting up a false choice between fossil fuels and nuclear. (3) Writing in The Guardian (with Kerry Emanuel, Ken Caldeira and Tom Wigley) he says he has “become so concerned about humanity’s slow response to the climate challenge” that he “must clearly set out what we see as the only viable path forward”. He doesn’t just want more nuclear power stations, but he wants next-generation nuclear power stations fuelled with weapons-useable plutonium, extracted from spent fuel in reprocessing plants. (4)
New reactor types In his book, Storms of my Grandchildren, Hansen says the problem with conventional reactors is the nuclear waste – particularly the transuranic actinides which have a lifetime of about ten thousand years. And conventional thermal reactors extract less than 1% of the energy in the original uranium. But trying to “transmute” these long-lived radionuclides into elements that have shorter lifetimes requires an elaborate strategy involving the reprocessing of spent fuel, multiple rounds of special fuel fabrication, and irradiation in fast reactors all of which would cause large quantities of radionuclides to get released into the environment. Six decades of global experience with breeder reactors has shown that they are very problematic, much more so than nuclear power in general. So any strategy based on rapid construction of these untested No2NuclearPower nuClear news No.81, January 2016 3 technologies is very likely to suffer from setbacks. There is simply not enough time for us to go down these blind alleys. (5) ……..
Writing on the Climate Progress website, Joe Romm who was acting US assistant secretary of energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy in 1997, also points out that Hansen et al’s 115 reactors per year is far beyond what the world ever sustained during the nuclear heyday of the 1970s, and far beyond what the overwhelming majority of energy experts, including those sympathetic to the industry, think is plausible. He says Hansen ignores the fact that the nuclear power industry has essentially priced itself out of the market for new power plants and seems unable to avoid massive delays and cost overruns. Romm asks why do such smart people advance such an indefensibly absurd scenario? Because when you drop the numbers to more plausible (but still highly optimistic) levels, such as imagined by the IEA and NEA, you immediately realize that nuclear power isn’t going to be a major player in the fight to avoid catastrophic warming. (7) …….
Stanford University engineering professor, Mark Z. Jacobson’s response to Hansen points out that it takes around 10-19 years from the start of planning for new reactors to the start of operation compared with 2-5 years for wind or solar. Nuclear is just too slow to help solve climate problems. (8) Bill Gates also made a lot of headlines with his “Breakthrough Energy Coalition” fund to come up with new energy solutions, including “advanced” nuclear reactors. It’s not that innovation isn’t welcome, but what the climate really needs right now is the large-scale deployment of existing technologies which, according to investment bank Goldman Sachs, are already cost-effective and climate-effective. The problem is, an Apollo-style push for what Gates has called “Energy Miracles” is not only a misguided strategy for mitigating climate change, it could also distract funders with the enticing idea that invention is going to rescue us from climate change. They really should be distributing funds to empower communities, and incentivize the massive deployment of energy efficiency and existing renewable technology now rather waiting for miracles which might never happen, or will happen too late to make a difference. (9)  ……

One Response to “Debunking James Hansen’s claims on nuclear power fixing climate change”

  1. A Green Road Project Says:

    Debunking Citizens Climate Lobby, A Front Group Promoting New Nuclear Plants Via Carbon Taxes; Greenwashing False Pro Nuclear Claims And Deception By James Hansen, Wigley, Emanuel, Ken Caldeira

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