April 16, 2007

Vinod Khosla debates Herman Scheer on energy solutions

Vinod Khosla debates Herman Scheer about energy solutions at CNET Vinod says many things that are correct but is only half right on nuclear. He indicates that it was a mistake not to advanced nuclear power over the past 30 years, but then he says it is too late for nuclear to make an impact over the next 20 years. Vinod says that Nuclear cannot make a material difference in carbon emission in 20 years. This is not correct.

However, 29 nuclear plants are being constructed now around the world and they will be done in 4 years. They will add 23GW. This is a 6% increase in nuclear power. It moves the 16% of electricity provided by nuclear power up to nearly 17%. Another 66 plants are scheduled to be completed by 2017 for another 71GW. By 2027 (the 20 year timeframe) a total of 220GW of nuclear power is scheduled to be added including the 93GW mentioned in the first 10 years. this is a 4-5% reduction in global CO2. This seems like a material amount and does not include up-powering nuclear reactors by 50% over the next 10-15 years using donut shaped fuels and nanoparticles. The 50% increase (an MIT innovation) would move currently in motion plans to 6-7.5% CO2 reductions.

China is looking to add 100GW by 2030 and 300GW by 2050 of nuclear power.

India is also building a lot of nuclear and planning to add more.

Vinod indicates that he thinks nuclear is good but is just concerned about getting it implemented fast enough. Unless Vinod is indicating that his CSP and other solutions will eliminate all coal energy usage within 20 years, then it seems that we should hedge and continue to push ahead as fast as possible with nuclear power as well.

Vinod does not know for certain and does not seem to be even claiming that the CO2 problem will be completely solved by 2027 so continuing to use nuclear power as part of the solution makes sense until the CO2 problem is completely solved. This would be when there is no fossil fuel usage (coal or oil). They are also both ignoring the air pollution problems and deaths that occur every year, which puts a greater urgency on any steps to clean up and reduce fossil fuel usage.

Note: For nuclear waste. Nuclear waste is mostly (95%) unburned uranium. Japan and France reprocess their waste.

For proliferation. There are already 443 nuclear power plants. US, China, India all have nuclear weapons. 40 countries already have the knowhow and the material for nuclear weapons. Iran and N Korea were proliferated with knowledge to in the 1980s from Pakistan. What is the incremental risk from more nuclear power ? Nuclear material for nuclear weapons is better made from reactors that are not designed for nuclear power.

There are better nuclear plant designs such molten salt reactors.
http://thoriumenergy.blogspot.com

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