Nuclear Power & Climate Change

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WeWork

575 5th Ave · New York, NY

How to find us

It's "575 5th Ave", but the entrance is on the south side of 47th Street, about 100-200 feet east of 5th Ave. Scan your photo ID at the front desk as a guest of WeWork employee Garrett Cockayne and say you're going to the global warming meetup.

Location image of event venue

Details

Nuclear is a very low-carbon source of energy

Statistically, nuclear has a much, much lower rate of deaths per kilowatt-hour than most other sources, even if Chernobyl and Fukushima are taken into account. People installing rooftop solar frequently fall off of roofs and die, so that statistically, solar energy doesn't come out looking that good. Fossil fuels, particularly coal, are just awful in terms of safety. And sometimes dams fail, unleashing a tidal wave that wipes out whole towns or cities downstream -- one dam in China killed 170,000 people when it failed. It's not fair to exclude that catastrophe unless you exclude Chernobyl, too, which you shouldn't. Here is a list of deaths per kilowatt-hour from various energy sources: https://tinyurl.com/jjgppmd

Nuclear is MUCH more expensive than wind or solar on a sunny, windy day, but on a calm night, wind and solar can't be had at any price. Enough battery storage to reliably keep the grid on every day and night of the year for an exclusively renewable-based grid is still very prohibitively expensive.

Known land-based uranium reserves are only enough to last another 90 years, but the cost of extracting uranium from seawater, while more expensive than mining it on land, is not prohibitive, and that supply could last us billions (billions, not millions) of years. https://tinyurl.com/y8on9g89

Thorium is more plentiful than uranium, and thorium nuclear power is harder to convert into weapons. There would be a large R&D effort needed to develop thorium power, but India and China, both of whom have large thorium reserves, are undertaking that R&D effort.

The regulatory cost of licensing a new design of nuclear plant is high, so the countries with successful programs, like France, Sweden, and South Korea, have based on their efforts on repeating standard designs.

Most of the cost of nuclear energy is the cost of the plant, with fuel being less than 2% of the total. So it doesn't really make economic sense to build a plant and then not run it at full throttle. Also, powering a plant up and down frequently puts a lot of thermal stress on it and wears out the equipment sooner, which is expensive. Existing plants generally take days to power on or off, so it isn't really feasible to have nuclear plants turning on or off to make up for the intermittency of wind and solar energy.

We will also be talking a bit about future technologies.

Free pizza will be served.