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December 10, 2008

Steven Chu named Energy Secretary


Steven Chu, nobel prize winning physicist, has been named Energy Secretary Steven Chu is pro-nuclear and has a deep understanding of all the technical issues around energy. This is a great choice. It is definitely an example of real change from the previous Bush administration in selecting extreme competence. It is not in any way a guarantee of correct energy choices because there is still political reality and actually enacting legislation and policy based upon the actual facts that are known.

Steven Chu in wikipedia

Steven Chu (Chinese: 朱棣文; pinyin: Zhū Dìwén) (b. February 28, 1948, St. Louis, Missouri) is an American experimental physicist and according to MSNBC and other media outlets, President-elect Barack Obama's choice for Secretary of Energy. He is known for his research in laser cooling and trapping of atoms, which won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1997. His current research is concerned primarily with the study of biological systems at the single molecule level. He is currently Professor of Physics and Molecular and Cellular Biology of University of California, Berkeley and the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. As global warming warnings grow more dire, Chu is currently pushing his scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and industry to develop technologies to reduce the impact of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Chief in Chu's campaign is an unprecedented research pact reached between UC Berkeley, oil industry giant BP, the Lawrence Berkeley Lab and the University of Illinois.

Nearly US$400 million in new lab space will expand energy-related molecular work centered at Lawrence Berkeley that involves partners around the world; a US$160 million Energy Biosciences Institute (scheduled to open in 2010) and funded by BP will include Chu's separate solar-energy program.


Steven Chu's Publicly Stated Energy Opinions
Steven Chu has made public pro-nuclear and anti-coal speeches.

"Nuclear has to be a necessary part of the portfolio," Chu, the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, said during the annual economic summit organized by Stanford University.

"The fear of radiation shouldn't even enter into this, he said. "Coal is very, very bad."


Steve Chu's talk on climate change in 2007 is here

Steven Chu signed (Aug 2008) a nuclear energy position document along with the other directors of the national labs. The position was : A coherent long term nuclear power strategy is needed and nuclear power is a major and essential part of solving our energy problems.

-maximize current reactors (plant life extensions, uprate)
-deploy advanced light water reactors
-license Yucca mountain and research advanced fuel management
-aggressive R&D on advanced reactors

From another talk [reference to some kind of nuclear deep burn]:

Suppose instead that we can reduce the lifetime of the radioactive waste by a factor of 1,000. So it goes from a couple-hundred-thousand-year problem to a thousand-year problem. At a thousand years, even though that's still a long time, it's in the realm that we can monitor - we don't need Yucca Mountain.

And all of a sudden the risk-benefit equation looks pretty good for nuclear.


3MB powerpoint presentation from 2005 by Steve Chu

slide 15 and 16 show peak oil. "world production predicted to peak in 10-40 years from 2004."

"energy conservation can lengthen time by a factor of about 2 but the fundamental problem remains"

In 2007, 2008. Helios project replacing oil with solar and advanced biofuels.





Carol Browner as energy "czar" reporting to the president.

Chu was also involved with biofuels: Researchers such as Caltech's Simon have been analyzing microbes extracted from the termite's digestive system, looking for the enzymes that enable the bugs to turn wood cellulose into sugars.

FURTHER READING
Helios, light to fuel 10% efficiency by about 2017, project at berkeley national labs

NY Times profile
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