“Renewable”, “Sustainable” And The Brundtland Commission

The phrase “renewable energy” conjures up visions of wind, solar, tidal power – clean energy sources that last forever and which will power the world into a green, sustainable future that will last forever. But what, exactly, is sustainability? How is it defined? When we examine the official definitions we find two things: First that renewable energy is not necessarily sustainable and sustainable energy not necessarily renewable: and second that there’s far more to sustainability than just energy. Sustainability contemplates a complete restructuring of the global economy and the world’s social fabric, and energy policy has, unfortunately, been nominated to take the lead in achieving it.

The term “sustainable development” was coined and defined in Our Common Future, a report released by the UN World Commission on Environment and Development, more commonly known as the Brundtland Commission, in 1987. This Commission, chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former prime minister of Norway and a lady of impeccable green credentials, was set up to determine what it would take to mobilize “a united international community with shared sustainability goals by identifying sustainability problems worldwide, raising awareness about them, and suggesting the implementation of solutions”. The Brundtland Commission accordingly made these determinations, and its conclusions, recommendations and definitions subsequently underpinned the Rio Declaration, “Agenda 21”, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. They still set the ground rules for achieving “sustainable development”.

So if we want to know what sustainable development officially is we must consult the definition given by the Brundtland Commission. We find what we are looking for in the very first sentence of the relevant section of the Brundtland report:

3. Sustainable Development

Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.

Nothing too complicated here, it would seem. Any development that meets present needs and doesn’t compromise the needs of future generations is sustainable (always provided of course that humanity has the ability to implement it, but we will address that question later).

Let’s now examine how this definition applies in practice. First we will consider whether fossil fuels are sustainable. I don’t know anyone who would claim that they are, but when we apply the Brundtland definitions we find that in fact they might be.

One thing the Brundtland Commission doesn’t tell us is how many future generations we have to provide for, which  leaves us at liberty to pick a number, and I’m going to pick three. Can we string fossil fuels out for another three generations – roughly 75 years? The oil reserves/production ratio presently shows around 50 years of global reserve life and continues to edge up, so I’m going to assume that we can. I’m also going to put on my green hat and assume that carbon capture and storage will shortly become reality, thereby minimizing any risks posed by climate change. Now, what are the chances that within the next 75 years we can commercialize a new, clean and sustainable source of dispatchable energy generation that can replace fossil fuels, maybe fusion? Well, who in 1940 could have foreseen nuclear power? So I’m going to assume we can do that too*. With these three assumptions fossil fuels become sustainable because a) they meet the needs of the present and b) continuing to consume them doesn’t compromise the needs of future generations.

*Note: These are assumptions, not predictions. They are disputable, but no more so than many of the other assumptions made to construct future energy scenarios.

Now let’s apply the same reasoning to energy sources like wind, solar and tide. They will be around for a few billion years yet so they are unquestionably renewable, but are they sustainable? We might expect that at some point a solution will be found to the intermittency problem, whereupon renewables will become capable of meeting the energy needs of future generations. But this point is probably several generations down the road, and until it’s reached they will remain incapable of meeting the needs of the present. So according to the Brundtland definition renewables are in fact unsustainable, at least at the moment.

So without bending the rules too much we have already made fossil fuels sustainable and renewables unsustainable.

But it doesn’t end there. Sustainability covers more than just energy. The Brundtland Commission goes on:

Poverty is not only an evil in itself, but sustainable development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to fulfil their aspirations for a better life. A world in which poverty is endemic will always be prone to ecological and other catastrophes.

In other words, sustainability won’t be achieved until poverty is eradicated.

How to eradicate it? The currently-accepted approach, officially endorsed by the Kyoto Protocol, is to encourage the developing countries to grow their economies, which they are proceeding to do by burning lots of fossil fuels. Can they grow their economies to developed country levels if we can string out fossil fuels for another three generations? Certainly they can. Japan and Singapore already have. By this yardstick fossil fuels are again at least arguably sustainable. On the other hand continuing to burn them without CCS, which is what is presently happening, is projected to bring on a CO2-induced climate catastrophe that will allegedly leave the developing countries even more poverty-stricken than they were to begin with, so by this yardstick fossil fuels are unsustainable. Renewables will supposedly avert a climate change catastrophe, so by this yardstick they are sustainable, but there is no way the developing countries are going to grow their economies to developed country levels with wind farms and solar panels, so by this yardstick they aren’t. Now both renewables and fossil fuels are unsustainable.

But having the developed countries develop their economies still won’t be enough to pull them out of poverty. The rich countries must send them money, and maybe also submit to world government:

Meeting essential needs requires not only a new era of economic growth for nations in which the majority are poor, but an assurance that these poor get their fair share of the resources required to sustain that growth. Such equity would be aided by political systems that secure …. greater democracy in international decision making.

And it doesn’t end there. According to the Brundtland Commission society won’t necessarily be sustainable even if poverty is eradicated. Before sustainability can happen we energy hogs in rich countries must change our lifestyles:

Sustainable global development requires that those who are more affluent adopt life-styles within the planet’s ecological means – in their use of energy, for example.

And do something about population growth:

Sustainable development can only be pursued if population size and growth are in harmony with the changing productive potential of the ecosystem.

And with this we are taken completely out of the realm of energy and into the realm of sociopolitical engineering. Yet the Kyoto Protocol and its predecessor documents make no distinction between the two. Sustainable energy and a sustainable global society are to be achieved at the same time, with energy policy leading the way. And current energy policy is of course driven largely by the fear of man-made global warming, which supposedly threatens the world with one of the “ecological and other catastrophes” that the Brundtland Commission contends makes our present society unsustainable.

The Brundtland definition begins with the claim “Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable”. I often think that many of the energy problems the world has   burdened itself with reflect the inability of green visionaries to recognize the total impracticability of what they are proposing.

Brundtland then concludes by leaving the implementation of sustainable development up to the politicians:

Thus, in the final analysis, sustainable development must rest on political will.

Which probably explains why the drive towards the Brundtland Commission’s vision of a sustainable future, spearheaded by visionary renewable energy mandates, continues to make no significant progress.

Clearly an excellent case can be made for abandoning the drive towards sustainable development until the world is in a position to achieve it. But if the world is determined to forge ahead regardless then the first thing it needs to do is adopt an unambiguous definition of “sustainable” in the context of energy. Here is my proposal, with a definition of “renewable” thrown in for good measure. First “renewable”:

1. Any energy source that generates energy indefinitely regardless of the level of exploitation, specifically solar, wind and tidal power (the non-dispatchable renewable energy sources).

2. Any energy sources that generates energy indefinitely provided it is not overexploited, including hydro, biomass, biogas, biofuels and geothermal (the dispatchable renewable energy sources).

3. Any energy source powered by terrestrial resources provided the resources are sufficient to last for at least a thousand years.

Second “sustainable”:

Any renewable resource, as defined above, that:

1. Meets society’s energy needs 24 hours a day year-round, or which can be combined with other renewable generation sources to meet society’s energy needs 24 hours a day year-round, and which also:

2. Has an ERoEI high enough to sustain the downstream energy demands of society.

And what does the world presently have in the way of commercial-scale energy generation technology that might allow it to meet these criteria? Fast neutron reactors, commonly known as “breeder” reactors, are the closest we can come.

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68 Responses to “Renewable”, “Sustainable” And The Brundtland Commission

  1. Peter Lang says:

    And what does the world presently have in the way of commercial-scale energy generation technology that might allow it to meet these criteria? Fast neutron reactors, commonly known as “breeder” reactors, are the closest we can come.

    I agree.

    Now, what are the chances that within the next 75 years we can commercialize a new, clean and sustainable source of dispatchable energy generation that can replace fossil fuels, maybe fusion?

    I suggest an option that is closer to being viable is breeder reactors providing electricity and electricity producing unlimited transport fuels (petrol, diesel, jet fuels and all other hydro carbon fuels) from seawater; these could (possibly) be commercially viable in well under 75 years. US Navy and Audi are both estimating costs of $3-$6/gallon using current technology.

    US Navy – jet fuel:
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2013/01/16/zero-emission-synfuel-from-seawater/

    http://www.nrl.navy.mil/media/news-releases/2014/scale-model-wwii-craft-takes-flight-with-fuel-from-the-sea-concept

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/apr/10/game-changer-us-navy-can-now-turn-seawater-jet-fue/

    Audi: diesel
    http://www.sciencealert.com/audi-have-successfully-made-diesel-fuel-from-air-and-water

    http://www.energytrendsinsider.com/2015/04/30/is-audis-carbon-neutral-diesel-a-game-changer/

    The costs is predominantly in providing the hydrogen. The above costs use hydrolysis. However, the following shows the costs of production hydrogen from nuclear power plants are very much lower. So much lower that this could halve the cost of the fuel.

    I have links to a discussion and fully worked estimates somewhere, but haven’t looked for it for this post. However, this provides estimates of the cost of hydrogen from nuclear power:

    http://fsl.npre.illinois.edu/2010%20NPRE%20470/A24265%20Schultz%20large%20scale%20production.pdf

    • Lars says:

      http://euanmearns.com/the-thermodynamic-and-economic-realities-of-audis-e-diesel/

      I realise you suppose future electricity for electrolysis will be cheaper with breeder reactors, but there is still the question why we should convert electricity to fuel for cars and trains. Shouldn`t these be electrified in such a scenario to utilise the energy directly? Fuel for planes is another story.

      There is also the question where the CO2 for conversion would come from in a supposedly decarbonized world?

      • Peter Lang says:

        Yes, I agree, to the extent it makes economic sense. I expect some transport will be fueled by liquid fuels for a very long time yet.

        The CO comes from seawater. See the first link I provided.. High temperature nuclear reactors can produce hydrogen as well as electricity. Other contributors here will know more about this that I do.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        It will be interesting to see what happens to electric car sales in light of recent action on the energy markets. I’d agree that trains and short car journey’s should be electrified. In the long term I guess liquid fuel will still be needed for trucks in the mining industries.

        • Lars says:

          Right now electric cars are heavily subsidized in different ways in some markets, but I suppose lower price for petrol and diesel will affect sales as you indicate.

          Longer term I expect that even the enthusiasts realise that an electric car is not particularly “cheap” to drive when we factor in the cost of the battery in addition to the cost per Kwh.
          A Tesla 85 Kwh battery for instance costs between 5- and 600 US$ per Kwh although Musk has stated it will come down to 160-200 US$ within 2020-2025. Let`s wait and see.

          That`s between 43500 and 51000 US$ for a battery pack that will start declining after about 10 years. If you give the battery a life span of 15 years it will cost you at least 43500/15 = 2900 US$ annually which will be reflected in the second hand value of the car which will be close to zero. Probably most cars will be wrecked at that age instead of investing in a new battery. There is no free lunch although too many people never give that a thought.

  2. Rob Slightam says:

    in other words a plutonium ecomomy

  3. I found your first couple of examples rather bizarre. You first chose an arbitrary number of future generations, claiming that the lack of a number left you free to choose your own. However, the obvious (IMO) interpretation is that there is no number and it encompasses all future generations. This is a bit like whether something is sustainable. One can say “sustainable for the next 10 years”, i.e. can be sustained for the next 10 years, but “sustainable” without a conditional period means “for ever”. Then you give assumptions which, if true (and given the arbitrary number of future generations that have to be accommodated), allows fossil fuels to be sustainable, within your interpretation of the definition. Well, you admit that they are disputable so perhaps you could have offered reasons for why they are sound assumptions. If you don’t think they are, then your first example is rather moot.

    Your second example also contains a big assumption – that the intermittency problem can be solved, but not, necessarily within your arbitrary 3 generations. It also assumes that you know the “needs” of future generations. The definition actually says nothing about how those needs might be met or what they are (e.g. their power requirements). So it’s impossible to determine if our use of renewable energy would compromise the needs of the next 3 generations to meet their energy “needs”.

    That aside, the best definition of sustainable that I’ve seen can be distilled down to: the consumption of any resource beyond its renewal rate is not sustainable.

    • Peter Lang says:

      mikeroberts2013,

      The definition actually says nothing about how those needs might be met or what they are (e.g. their power requirements).

      per capita energy consumption has increased logarithmic since humans first learnt to control fire and domesticate animals to do work (from about 8 MJ per day for primitive man to near 1000 MJ.day for technological man). Future humans are likely to want to travel around the universe. It’s a reasonable to assumption the growth will continue unabated.

      the best definition of sustainable that I’ve seen can be distilled down to: the consumption of any resource beyond its renewal rate is not sustainable.

      In that case, renewables are definitely not renewable. They use around 10 times more resources per unit of energy supplied as current nuclear power stations and that is likely to increase to near 1000 when breeder reactors are mature.

      • The definition mentions “needs”. I think you’re talking about “wants”.

        I don’t see how renewable energy is unsustainable from my definition but if you mean wind farms, solar PV farms etc, then I’d probably agree.

        By the way, I forgot a further part of the definition: the consumption of the resource in a way that degrades the environment is unsustainable. There are some provisos to that bit but I’m trying to keep it simple.

        • Peter Lang says:

          “needs versus want, is being pedantic. With 200,000 year trend of per capita energy growth, from 8 MJ/d to nearly 1000 MJ/d, you need to provide very sol,.id evidence that the trend will not continue for as long as humans survive.

          I don’t know which other so called ‘renewables’ you might be referring to. Only the fuel is renewables. The materials they are made of certainly are not renewable and they are some 10 times more than for thermal nuclear and up to 1000 times more than for mature breeder reactors. So, definitely renewables are not sustainable as nuclear on the basis of material quantities required per TWh of energy produced.

          The there is the ERoEI. Wind and solar are not sustainable on this basis of ERoEI: http://bravenewclimate.com/2014/08/22/catch-22-of-energy-storage/

          If you are meaning hydro, then the remaining undeveloped capacity is strictly limited; new hydro developments will not be sufficient fo hydro to maintain its current share of global electricity generation as demand grows. Biomass is also strictly limited. Likewise: Wave, tidal, ocean currents, etc.. Geothermal is a large resource but not economic and probably wont be other than in volcanic regions. Little real progress since the 1980’s. If these others had potential, they’d have demonstrated more progress towards becoming a larger proportion of global electricity by now.

          Therefore, I’d suggest nuclear is the technology that is nearest to being ‘sustainable’ over thousands of years.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            The material resource needs and land resource needs are all too often overlooked. I’m still amazed to the point of being dumbfounded as to why renewables enthusiasts will happily overlook these facts. They ware environmentalism on their sleeve while evidently not really giving much of a toss about the environment.

            Contacting John Morgan is on my very long to do list.

          • I don’t think it’s pedantic. If, for example, humans could live comfortable lives (maybe even the lives they live now) with a fraction of the energy, then they might be inconvenienced, compared with now, but their needs could be met. “Wants” are not equivalent to “needs”, not by a long stretch.

            I understand the per capita energy use peaked around 1980 until the growth in Asia took off around the turn of the century. Even if BAU continued, that suggests per capita energy use (“wants”) would peak again.

            I agree that only the fuel is renewable for so called renewable energies. As Euan points out, the materials and land use is rarely, if ever, mentioned in renewable dreams articles (and even papers – there was one recently).

            You rightly point out the EROEI is important, and that is also rarely mentioned. The article you linked to perhaps gives a bit more realism to the situation, though I suspect that an EROEI of 7 is probably still not enough to power our developed industrial societies and definitely not developing industrial societies.

            So I’m not sure what we’re arguing about and I think my definition of renewable still stands. If one wants to only be “sustainable” for a particular length of time, then that requires different calculations but what happens to humanity as that time period is traversed?

          • Peter Lang says:

            mikeroberts2013,

            Your stuck in a time warp. You need to look at the long term trend and make a case as to why it wont continue.

            Why do you believe it won’t continue? Why do you believe humans wont want better services.

            Do you think humans are suddenly gong to cease being inquisitive and want to travel around the universe.

            And, I reiterate that needs v wants is pedantic and irrelevant to this discussion about growing energy demand. You may not want the energy that gives you the standard of living you have. But I note you are blogging on a computer from, presumably a wealthy country and I presume you have no intention of moving to Antarctica and living off the land and shunning all imports, are you?

            Per capita energy demand will continue to grow over the long term, (probably at about the rate it has been growing for the past 200,000 years). It’s inevitable. That doesn’t mean that it will, grow every decade, obviously.

          • Hah, I’ve already explained why the distinction between wants and needs is not pedantic. I’ve also said that per capita energy use did peak around 1980 and only started to rise again when China and India started to develop. So the lesson from history is that, in a BAU situation we can expect energy use to peak again. If you don’t think so then look at the per capita energy consumption for all developed nations.

            Of course people will want to have more and more but that’s my point. It is a want, not a need. Maybe if we adopt the Gross Happiness Index or the Happy Planet Index, instead of GDP as a measure of progress, this may change. People’s happiness generally doesn’t increase with GDP once a certain standard of level is reached. If you always want more, then you can’t be happy and the more you have the more you want. Of course, this is human nature but the overt consumerism that we’ve seen in the last century or so is an anomaly in the human experience. As energy declines, that will also decline.

            On a finite planet, there are limits (and getting off the planet seems problematical).

          • ‘Wants’ are usually understandable and leave little open to question.

            ‘Needs’ are usually what we (frequently politicians and bureaucrats) think other people ought to have; and they leave much to question.

    • Mike Roberts:

      perhaps you could have offered reasons for why they are sound assumptions

      Well no, I couldn’t, because they aren’t sound assumptions. None of the assumptions presently being made to guide the world along the primrose path to sustainability is sound. If we make only sound assumptions there is no sustainability at any time in the foreseeable future, whereupon the entire concept, not just the definition, becomes academic.

      the best definition of sustainable that I’ve seen can be distilled down to: the consumption of any resource beyond its renewal rate is not sustainable. That makes a hundred thousand years of uranium reserves unsustainable because the renewal rate is zero.

      • Yes, I agree with your comment. They aren’t sound assumptions. If there is a thousand years of affordable extractable uranium reserves, then their use would also be unsustainable, as you say.

  4. burnsider says:

    I was heartened by the last sentence in the post!! I worked at Dounreay (GB’s only commercial scale fast breeder reactor development site) for 33 years and watched the project go from working towards Commercial Fast Reactors generating on the multi-gigawatt scale to decommissioning and decline. EROI was not to the fore when I worked there, but it was stated at one point (1980’s, I think) that there was enough depleted uranium sitting in storage at Capenhurst (UK enrichment site) to supply all of the UK energy needs for 1000 years if burned in FBR’s. The timescale might be a bit less now, given the growth in energy consumption, but the basic point is still correct.

    The key as ever lies in the EROI and I haven’t seen one published for FBR’s. I imagine it will be a bit better than PWR’s and the like as there is no new uranium to mine. A useful energy analysis of varous energy systems is at http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Energy-and-Environment/Energy-Analysis-of-Power-Systems/. Notable are the wide variations in the estimates of EROI for the different candidate systems-choose the one that best suits your point of view!!

    I used to wonder while I was working at Dounreay if I would live long enough to say “I told you so” about nuclear power. I’m now fairly sure I won’t

    • enough depleted uranium sitting in storage …. to supply all of the UK energy needs for 1000 years if burned in FBR’s.

      No need to mine any more uranium. And carbon-free generation too. Sounds like something worth pursuing.

      But if you had built an FBR plant and applied to the Kyoto people for carbon credits for the FF generation you were offsetting they wouldn’t have given you any because nuclear was not on their list of acceptable low-carbon technologies.

    • roberto says:

      ” there was enough depleted uranium sitting in storage …. to supply all of the UK energy needs for 1000 years if burned in FBR’s.”

      Not so fast!… unfortunately to run an FBR in real “breeding mode” one needs a large amount of plutonium… the fertile DU is not enough… but, sure, if one never starts one never reaches the goal.

      The russian have just started, at a very minimal power with a new type of fuel, the BN-800… let’s hope it works.

      • burnsider says:

        For info, the necessary plutonium (about 100te or thereabouts) is already in store at Sellafield, plus a further large amount awaiting processing in the form of thermal reactor fuel. The whole founding principle of the fast reactor programme was that a first generation of thermal reactors would burn up about 1% of the natural uranium (U235), make some plutonium and that would be used in second-generation FBR’s to burn up the rest of the U

  5. Kirk Gothier says:

    Burning and inhaling fossil fuels, which take hundreds of billions of years to create and are essential for feeding billions, is not “sustainable,” and “renewables” are not projected to meet a significant portion of our energy needs: http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/issues/energy/renewables-and-nuclear-at-a-glance.

    It is past time for all of us to join the only relevant conversation about how to prepare a comprehensive set of integrated energy system policies, with a clear path towards delivering clean air and water, sustainable communities, and economic prosperity: http://www.ecomodernism.org.

    Coming to agreement about the best path forward for energy production is what matters, and the endless bickering between the fossil fuel and “renewables” industries is not helping. So, join the conversation ASAP!

    Social systems are blissfully the only serious threat to our survival at this point in time, and economic deflation will define our species for the next 1,000 years…

  6. Kirk Gothier says:

    Oops, “hundreds of millions”… sorry for the typo!

  7. A C Osborn says:

    Roger, there is one thing you only mention in passing when you talk about EROI, which is cost.
    But in the Green, Agenda 21, UN world, Cost is immaterial as the hoi poloi will be paying.
    While the Elites enjoy the fruits of the world.

    Obama and co are still talking CCS, which you also mention even though their flagship CCS plant is Bankrupt, they truly do not live in the same world as the rest of us.

  8. Euan Mearns says:

    Roger, you got me thinking. Right now I have too much to think about and could probably use 4 weeks in the Caribbean to think and philosophise. Its been a while since a reader stuck £5K in the donations box 😉 The thing I like most about this post is the historical context set by Brundtland. And the way this has insidiously filtered into national energy policies via the UN and the EU. It is this lack of democracy and presumption by those making these decisions that they are right that makes me mad. Even though they probably don’t know the difference between kW and a MJ – for that matter nor do I without looking it up.

    I think that defining renewable is easier than defining sustainable. And defining renewable is not easy.

    Now let’s apply the same reasoning to energy sources like wind, solar and tide. They will be around for a few billion years yet so they are unquestionably renewable, but are they sustainable?

    I disagree with this. New renewables as we know them (wind solar et al) are currently 100% dependent on FF to create the capture devices and for load balancing services. And I don’t see a change to this in the near future – though never say never to innovation. To be renewable, wind electricity would have be able to recreate the turbines that are in fact manufactured in a global economy woven together by FF. Lets start by getting Nd out of monazite using wind electricity – mining, purifying, extracting. It just ain’t going to happen in the near future.

    Peter has posted several times a link to John Morgan’s Catch 22 of Storage post and if true, it shows that new renewables will never stand on their own to provide dispatchable power. So what everyone currently calls and thinks are renewable are not. No surprise there in the Orwellian wilderness that the UN has created for us.

    And you may get pissed off with me now following the review batting match 😉 I think you need to set a time scale of 1000 years for the sustainability test – you in fact use two time scales, one 75 and one 1000 years.

    Even ardent optimists agree that FF will be running scarce by the end of this century let alone by the year 3000 AD. They are plainly not renewable and cannot sustain humanity as is into the distant future.

    And as you pointed out in an earlier post, nuclear fission as currently configured will run out of U some time this century.

    So its not rocket science to run through the options of where we must go if we want to preserve the evolution of industrial society. And that is using breeder reactors. Recent post by Hubbert Flocard showed that Th fueled fast molten salt reactors may be several decades away. But U cycle fast reactors are up and running today. As one commenter said – we are destined to use the Pu economy. Main problem with Pu is its toxicity and not its radiation. I think the weapons proliferation argument is just another BS argument in a stream of BS arguments offered by Greens.

    I think the term renewable needs to be banished since I don’t believe it actually exists. All that it does is to cloud reasoning – its taking us down a cull de sac right now.

    Sustainability is a different issue. Currently the only way future generations will be able to enjoy nutrition, health and education is through adoption of nuclear breeder technology. Perhaps fusion is cracked one day, but I’m sceptical about that. Getting the energy out of a sealed pressure cell looks rather tricky to me.

    At one level I think it is right that the current generation considers what we leave to future generations. We are at a point in history where Man has acquired the technology to believe he can plan this at the global scale. And I think it is ironic that a swathe of humanity wants to dismantle the system that provided us with those tools in the first place.

    • Euan: Let me quote you back at yourself. Easier to handle that way 🙂

      The thing I like most about this post is the historical context set by Brundtland. And the way this has insidiously filtered into national energy policies via the UN and the EU.

      Those unsightly wind turbines up there on the hill can in fact be traced all the way back to the UN Stockholm Declaration of 1972, which called for things like global equality, political freedom, a clean environment etc. etc. I remember reading some articles on how the Stockholm Declaration mutated into the Brundtland Commission, the UNFCCC, Kyoto etc. and to the current push for renewables and sustainability. I’ll see if I can dig some up.

      New renewables as we know them (wind solar et al) are currently 100% dependent on FF to create the capture devices and for load balancing services. And I don’t see a change to this in the near future – though never say never to innovation. To be renewable, wind electricity would have be able to recreate the turbines that are in fact manufactured in a global economy woven together by FF.

      Leaving renewables aside for the moment, anything that depends on non-sustainable energy to keep it going clearly isn’t sustainable. (Which, incidentally, raises a question about the sustainability of fusion power, which as I understand it requires deuterium and tritium as feedstock. Deuterium is present in sea water but tritium comes from nuclear reactors. Is this true?)

      Peter has posted several times a link to John Morgan’s Catch 22 of Storage post and if true, it shows that new renewables will never stand on their own to provide dispatchable power. So what everyone currently calls and thinks are renewable are not.

      I really should have stuck with my original title for this post – the difference between “renewable” and sustainable”. The fact that wind and solar don’t supply dispatchable power means that they aren’t sustainable, not that they aren’t renewable. Read my definitions.

      I think you need to set a time scale of 1000 years for the sustainability test – you in fact use two time scales, one 75 and one 1000 years.

      75 years was an assumption; 1,000 years is a condition. You can vary the time scale to taste, but the important thing is not to lose sight of technological advances. We can no more predict what the next 100 years will bring than we could have predicted what the last 100 years have brought back in 1915.

      Even ardent optimists agree that FF will be running scarce by the end of this century let alone by the year 3000 AD. They are plainly not renewable and cannot sustain humanity as is into the distant future.

      Correct for oil, gas and coal. But how about a 1,000 year supply of uranium, which FBRs offer potential for?

      And as you pointed out in an earlier post, nuclear fission as currently configured will run out of U some time this century.

      It will run out only if the world “goes nuclear” in a big way and builds only LWRs. If nuclear continues to stagnate global U resources will probably last for centuries.

      I think the term renewable needs to be banished since I don’t believe it actually exists.

      I think what needs to be done is to replace “renewable” and “non-renewable” with “dispatchable” and non-dispatchable”, although “usable” and “unusable” might be a better way of getting the message across.

    • Euan: I’ve been thinking some more about all this and have concluded that a sustainable society that sustains itself for ever and ever and ever amen can’t use any fossil resources that might eventually run out. This means no oil, gas, iron, copper and uranium, no lithium, cerium and neodymium, no bricks, mortar and concrete, no paint and no plastic. About the only things society could use in an everlastingly sustainable fashion would be fabrics and rope hand-woven from vines and plants and wood cut and fashioned with flint axes – and the wood would last only until the forests were all cut down or the flint ran out, whichever came first. The bottom line seems to be that a sustainable society is unsustainable without unsustainable resources to sustain it, or if you like that the concept of a sustainable society is itself unsustainable. Over to you.

      • You’ve hit the nail on the head. This stark reality (that sustainable societies – as currently configured, at least – are not possible) is difficult to contemplate so people would rather arbitrarily pick some time scale that seems long (1000 years, perhaps) but, of course, every day, the end point for that time scale has to be pushed back a day (otherwise “sustainable for 1000 years” becomes “sustainable for 950 years”, in 50 years time). If “society” survives another 500 years, the members of that society might be cursing our decision which only gives them another 500 years.

    • Jim Brough says:

      At one level I think it is right that the current generation considers what we leave to future generations. We are at a point in history where Man has acquired the technology to believe he can plan this at the global scale. And I think it is ironic that a swathe of humanity wants to dismantle the system that provided us with those tools in the first place.

      How true. Without the CO2 emissions civilisation would not have happened. No tin, no bronze, no iron, no steel, no aluminium, no silicon for solar cells and rare earth elements to make the guts of wind power generators and mobile phones.

      I have seen an ad in a glossy mag advertising a “carbon-neutral ” brick. I asked how this was calculated but got no answer.

    • roberto says:

      @euan

      “Main problem with Pu is its toxicity and not its radiation. ”

      … you are right, chemical toxicity is waaaay more dangerous than Pu’s radiation… otherwise the thousands of people who have lived for decades without a single problem with Pu-powered pace makers places one inch away from their hearts would not have existed.

      Considering the chemical toxicity, let’s not forget that the troposphere of the earth has between 4 and 6 tons of Pu in it… thanks to the Cold War craze.
      According to popular green anti-nuclear galore (based exclusively on fiction not facts, see footnote link (*)), one milligram of Pu should be deadly (or something of that tune)… so we humans of the last 2-3 generations have breathed every day of our lifes air with the “killing potential” of 4-6 billion people… while epidemiological data show that never has our life expectancy ceased to increase, and no radiation-related illnesses or pathologies known to be related to Pu contamination have been recorded.
      To find someone who has been killed or got sick due to plutonium you really have to go to extreme cases… but really extreme, far away of the contamination levels which could be associated to ANY nuclear accident… not even Chernobyl’s open-pit fire, lasting weeks, dispersing Pu all over millions of km2 have done any noticeable damage.
      In order to simulate the effect of Pu accumulation in biological tissues, they had to inject hundreds of milligrams per Kg of body weight to dogs and other animals, just to mention some published data…

      Cheers.

      (*) http://www.greenpeace.org/france/fr/groupes-locaux/avignon/actualites/plutonium-danger/

      …. sorry, it’s in French…. what they basically says, the GreenPiss sect’s aficionados, is that the french popluation is in danger because of the transport of Pu, under strict controlled conditions, in SOLID FORM!…. then people tell me that I am too critical of GreenPiss???… they should be treated like Scientology… it’s exactly the same… fake-science surrogate hiding a new form of religion.

      “Danger maximal, personne n’est a l’abri”… highest possible danger!… nobody is safe, nowhere!… what is this?…. knowledgeable and accurate information or the kind of “information” that leads to cases like that this?

      http://euanmearns.com/who-killed-hamako-watanabe/

      The besGreenPiss france can give is this:

      http://www.greenpeace.fr/stop-plutonium/risques.html

      …. which starts from line 1 bullshitting the reader:

      “Comme métal lourd, le plutonium est toxique chimiquement, mais c’est sa radiotoxicité qui est déterminante.”

      … “as all heavy metals, Pu is chemically toxic, BUT IT IS ITS RADIOTOXICITY which is most important”

      … and continues:

      ” Les effets de l’exposition sur le corps humain sont relativement peu connus, notamment, en grande partie parce que les gouvernements n’ont pas systématiquement rassemblé et analysé les données concernant les travailleurs exposés au plutonium.”

      … which is also100% BS: there are tons of published studies available!…

      F….g liars!

    • roberto says:

      @Roger Andrews

      “raises a question about the sustainability of fusion power, which as I understand it requires deuterium and tritium as feedstock. Deuterium is present in sea water but tritium comes from nuclear reactors. Is this true?)”

      Tritium NOW comes from fission reactors… true… but the sustainability of thermonuclear fusion power comes from the fact that Tritium (H-3) can be generated by bombarding with neutrons so called “Lithium blankets”… which generate enough/more tritium than needed.
      Some proof-of-principle studies involving microscopical amounts of H-3 have been carried out already since decades…. the industrialization of the process is yet to come, of course.

      The interesting part of thermonuclear fusion is the fact that non-sustainable (in another sense) fusion, i.e. a fusion cycle which does not reach energy break-even, is already available now: a “simple” fusion reactor is used to generate a copious flux of neutrons, which irradiate a natural uranium blanket and makes it from being fertile to being fissile… and that U is used in fission reactors. The energy lost in the fusion part of the process is amply re-gained by the fission part downstream of it.
      This is called a hybrid fusion-fission cycle. It has been proposed, as far as I remember, by some russian scientists DECADES ago, in Cold War times…. and is presently implemented/studied in Russia and China (although South Korea has also expressed interest into it).

      http://www.rt.com/news/196088-russia-hybrid-nuclear-reactor/

      Cheers,

      R. (formerly at ITER)

  9. burnsider says:

    For information, the “easiest” fusion reaction which might be used in a power reactor requires both deuterium (plentiful) and tritium (currently only available from fission reactor sources). (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_fusion). As they say, other fusion reactions are available, but are currently too difficult to consider for near term use in power reactors. It is possible to breed tritium using the neutrons generated in the fusion reaction by trapping them in a lithium blanket.

    Fusion may or may not be the ‘fuel of the future’ (and may or may not always be so). It suffers from the same limitation as most other ‘alternative’ (to fossil fuel) energy sources in that the energy produced is in the form of electricity which can substitute for some but by no means all fossil fuel energy uses (and much less so when chemical feedstock, etc is considered).

    A challenge for wind power enthusiasts:

    You can have the first wind turbine courtesy of as much fossil energy, oil-based chemical feedstock, etc as needed. For it to be renewable/sustainable, build the second and subsequent turbines using only the electricity from the first one (or even using only energy from ‘renewable’ sources). This is to include mining and shipping iron, copper, etc ore, processing into steel, wire, etc, fabrication of components, construction and so on. When this is demonstrated with a useful EROI, wind power will be genuinely renewable and sustainable. I’m not holding my breath.

    • Burnsider: Thanks for the info. If fusion reactors can manufacture their own tritium by trapping them in a lithium blanket then it seems that they really would be sustainable – provided of course that world doesn’t run out of lithium.

      Sustainability gets complicated when you consider all the potentially unsustainable things you need to sustain it.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Burnsider, you worked at Dounreay. Are you able to provide any background to the reasons for the plant closing. Scotland was a world leader in the energy of the future. I find it difficult to swallow that we threw that away.

      • burnsider says:

        The main reasons were costs and politics (as ever). Uranium looked as if it was going to be a very limited resource in the 1950’s, so fast reactors were seen as the logical step to allow the 99+% of the uranium which can’t be burnt in thermal reactors to be used in fast reactors instead. Alas (for the FBR anyway), uranium turned out to be more plentiful than first thought and the price of U dropped, undermining the economic argument for fast reactors.

        In parallel with this, fast reactors turned out to be a lot more expensive than thermal reactors, mainly due to the absolute need for reprocessing as part of the fuel cycle (in thermal reactors, new uranium is used to refuel, in fast reactors, the fuel is bred in a uranium blanket, which has to be processed to extract it). Also, the use of liquid sodium as coolant raised a number of more or less expensive issues.

        On the political side, plutonium has never had a good press, so it was difficult for the idea of a plutonium-based energy-generating system to get much traction. Proliferation and public health issues eroded support. It has always been very easy to make emotional arguments against the use of plutonium – a few words like “plutonium, babies, leukemia” usually sufficed.

        It was once said (I think by Greenpeace) that 1 gram of plutonium could wipe out the entire population of the earth (if placed a minute particles in the lungs of every inhabitant and if these went on to cause a cancer which killed the victim before old age or whatever did so instead). I note above that the small matter of the 6 tonnes or so of plutonium vapourised into the atmosphere between 1945 and 1963 by hooligan elements among the superpowers has already been alluded to. You could make a similar silly argument about coal – 1kg of coal could kill everyone on earth…. if fashioned into a club and if I could smash the population’s heads in fast enough.

        The programme was brought to a close in 1994, when the Prototype Fast Reactor was shut down for the last time (it had been generating 250MWe and slightly higher at times during its extended last hurrah). The grid connections from Dounreay have been upgraded in recent times to take the torrent of ‘renewable’ energy which will, apparently, start gushing from Caithness and the Pentland Firth. I find this really ironic as one of the big arguments against any further reactor development at Dounreay was the remoteness of the site from population and industry and the cost of transmitting the electricity. Doh!

        The powers that be in Edinburgh are implacably anti-nuclear, so there is little likelihood of anything other than decommissioning and site closure in the pipeline for Dounreay. The operational and practical fast reactor and fuel cycle knowledge is either retired (like myself) or heading that way. A glimmer on the horizon is to be found at https://www.gen-4.org/gif/jcms/c_59461/generation-iv-systems – the putative next generation of reactors is predominantly fast. But first we have to get past the issues of cost and politics (which is where it all came unstuck last time)

        • burnsider says:

          I forgot to mention that, when I started at Dounreay in 1975, the fast reactor programme envisaged a fleet of large (1GWe) commercial fast reactors (CFR’s), CFR number 20 was programmed to start construction in 1999.

          A grand if ultimately flawed vision indeed

    • roberto says:

      “As they say, other fusion reactions are available, but are currently too difficult to consider for near term use in power reactors. ”

      Try googling TriAlpha Energy… a privately owned company, a start-up of some californian university, they’re aiming at exploiting the a-neutronic reaction with Boron.

      By pure chance, they were in the news yesterday:

      http://phys.org/news/2015-08-tri-alpha-energy-reportedly-important.html

  10. burnsider says:

    Fusion reactors are sustainable with respect to tritium – just – since one neutron is produced per D/T fusion and that neutron produces one atom of tritium from lithium in the blanket, ie very efficient capture is required. One source suggests that a ratio of 1.04 tritiums per D/T fusion can be achieved, which allows a second reactor to be fuelled from the surplus tritium from a first one (www.scirp.org/journal/PaperDownload.aspx?paperID=28222)

  11. jacobress says:

    I think that the most acute problem for the developed and prosperous human beings is the dubious ability of humankind to maintain a peaceful, ordered human society. It is not the lack of natural resources.

    The highly developed human society, based on science-technology-energy requires order and peaceful cooperation between people. This is not a given. The developed Roman society of antiquity succumbed to barbarity. That is the most grave danger the present human society faces, too.

    Humanity is better at coping with the physical world than it is at coping with itself.
    Maybe that’s beyond the scope of this blog, but I find predictions about natural resources 1000 years from now a futile if not ridiculous endeavor.

    • I think this is what worries me most about an possible dash to nuclear (at least with current commercial designs). If the society in which those reactors are embedded start to break down, how will that affect those operating reactors and their decommissioning (or the handling of any catastrophes)? I think the assumption of the nuclear advocates is that nuclear societies will be sustainably peaceful and ordered.

      • jacobress says:

        Of course. This is a major problem with nuclear power. It needs a functioning, competent, smooth, technological and social-economic organization for support. It cannot work in a vacuum, cannot even be abandoned safely in time of crisis. It is a very dangerous device, despite Euan’s assurances to the contrary in the previous post.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          One of the Green Paradoxes. I think with nuclear power we maintain an orderly and advanced society. Without it we don’t.

          • jacobress says:

            I wish it were so easy. Iran, for example, has a civil (electricity) reactor. What happens there when the next “revolutionary guards” take over? Turkey is building one… With so many of these countries going nuclear, some mishap is going to happen sooner or later.

          • roberto says:

            “With so many of these countries going nuclear, some mishap is going to happen sooner or later.”

            Egypt has a small research reactor since several decades, it is full of fundamentalist organisations, and yet nothing has happened.
            Same for North Korea, which has been ruled by a series of lunatics since more than half a century.

            Even if the mishap happened, its effects would be smaller, in terms of human health and environmental costs, of the alternatives… it is sufficient to look at the past.

          • I assume that you mean we need the energy to maintain an orderly and advanced society. Whilst that may be a necessary prerequisite, it is not sufficient. I think it is a huge assumption to believe that if only we can get enough energy, societies will remain stable. Societies across the globe are already showing cracks and we have abundant energy, at the moment. Environmentally, we’re already in a greatly accelerated extinction rate, even without much effect from climate change, yet. And scientists examining critical boundaries think we already crossed many of them and are approaching several more.

            No, I don’t think it is going to be possible to guarantee peaceful orderly societies just because of nuclear power. Do you think that should be guaranteed before a major nuclear build out in any particular society? If so, then how do you guarantee it?

    • Peter Lang says:

      jacobress,

      I don’t see this as a major issue. Even when nuclear plants fail they are no worse than coal plants operating routinely. You accept fossil fuel fired electricity, so why oppose safer nuclear. EPA says coal fired electricity generation caused 15,000 to 30,000 fatalities per year in the USA. Nuclear causes virtually none.

      The fact the anti-nukes need to get their head around is that the consequences (immediate and latent fatalities) of nuclear plant accidents are small compared with other energy sources.

      In short nuclear is safer than the viable alternatives.

      Countries that are going to build nuclear power plants are more advanced now than the countries that built nuclear power plants in the 1950’s were. And the pants are getting safer all the time. Furthermore, the faster they are rolled out the faster their safety will be improved (as happened with air transport).

      Your argument against nuclear is similar to the argument that required a person to walk in front of a car carrying a red flag.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        I believe its also the case that coal emits way more U than does nuclear power. Germany shuts down its radiation safe nuclear power stations in favour of coal that spews out U. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

      • jacobress says:

        “Even when nuclear plants fail they are no worse than coal plants operating routinely. ”

        In case of war, revolution or civil war (like there is now, and always was, in the ME), a nuclear plant might be abandoned by it’s crew, auxiliary electricity unavailable, cooling off, and then it’s meltdown and spewing of radioactive waste into the environment, rendering large areas uninhabitable for hundreds of years.
        It is not an impossible scenario…Happened twice… (for other reasons).
        When a coal plant is abandoned – nothing happens…

        • roberto says:

          @jacobress

          “rendering large areas uninhabitable for hundreds of years.”

          What??… you are afraid that IN THE MIDDLE EAST large swaths of land could become uninhabitable for hundred of years?… Saudi Arabia”s (and neighbouring countries) have most of their land area covered by such “natural” uninhabiteable areas since millennia… they are called deserts.

        • roberto says:

          @jacobress

          “When a coal plant is abandoned – nothing happens…”

          You’ve got to be kidding!… ever heard of “coal bed fires”?

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centralia_mine_fire

          “The Centralia mine fire is a coal seam fire that has been burning underneath the borough of Centralia, Pennsylvania, United States since at least May 27, 1962. The cause of the fire is suspected to be from a trash burning that hit a coal strip in a cave.
          The fire burns in underground coal mines at depths of up to 300 feet over an eight-mile stretch of 3,700 acres.[1] As of 2015, the fire continues to burn. At its current rate, it could burn for over 250 more years.[2]

          —–> The blaze has resulted in most of the town being abandoned. Population dwindled from 2,761 in 1890 to only 7 in 2013, and most of the buildings have been leveled.” <—-

        • Peter Lang says:

          jacobress,

          “rendering large areas uninhabitable for hundreds of years.”

          You haven’t been keeping up. The contamination from accidents isn’t rendering the land uninhabitable. The regulations are what is causing the evacuations. But they are based on ALARA instead of AHARA (as low as reasonably achievable instead of as high as relatively safe). Not when word “relatively”. That is important.

          Have a quick look at this brochure: http://home.comcast.net/~robert.hargraves/public_html/RadiationSafety26SixPage.pdf

          Then carefully consider the evidence presented in this video and tell me if you are willing to reconsider the basis for your beliefs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZ6aL3wv4v0

          • It’s great that nuclear advocates have no fear of nuclear, even if a nuclear society breaks down (would Fukushima have been so tame if it happened at a time of societal breakdown?). But there are only 450 reactors now, globally. Relying on nuclear would presumably raise that tenfold. More eventually. We then reach a different ball game. And why are the Finns constructing Onkalo if nuclear waste is so safe?

            The point is moot, though. Politically, such a build out will not be possible. IMO. Though you don’t mind it, lots of other people would, whether rationally or not.

      • jacobress says:

        A good thing that there were no nuclear rectors in Syria or Iraq. What might have happened to them is an ugly speculation. And, that there were no reactors there is not because they declined to build them….

        • Jacob raises a valid point here. What would have happened to a nuclear plant in the ISIS-occupied parts of Syria or Iraq? Questions as I see them are:

          1. What would the consequences of the plant melting down be? Would they be worse than the consequences of, say, blowing up a dam, or of the war itself?

          2. Being just as terrified of radiation as anyone else, would ISIS have taken steps to avoid a meltdown beforehand?

          3. And going on from 2, is it possible that a meltdown might have brought the war to an end? (Not trying to be flippant here. Dying a slow death from cancer is not the way one gets to Paradise. Combatants in the irradiated area would be unlikely to stick around.)

        • roberto says:

          @jacobress

          “A good thing that there were no nuclear rectors in Syria or Iraq. ”

          you are wrong on this too!… amazing!

          “IAEA studies Syrian request to switch to lower grade nuclear fuel”

          http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/06/08/us-syria-nuclear-idUSKBN0OO1O920150608

          Not only they have a reactor, it is even fuelled with highly-enriched uranium, like many research reactors do.

  12. roberto says:

    @jacobress

    ” It cannot work in a vacuum, cannot even be abandoned safely in time of crisis. It is a very dangerous device, despite Euan’s assurances to the contrary in the previous post.”

    Totally disagree on this.
    Reactors, once they have been de-fuelled, can be left unattended, without any problem. The only really activated parts are so massive that there is no way that anybody could steal a piece of it, and even if he/she did it the danger would be really minimal.

    All that’s needed is that society provides the water level of some pools full, for the spent fuel.

    I can see no country on this planet who couldn’t afford to do just that, not even the poorest.

    The nuclear waste “threat” is an hoax.

    • jacobress says:

      “All that’s needed is that society provides the water level of some pools full, for the spent fuel.”
      Yes. You need auxiliary electricity, working pumps, and some expert workers there to tend to it, you also need some outside support in case something malfunctions. You need fuel for auxiliary generators, spare parts maybe.
      If there is war, revolution or turmoil, like there is now in some parts of the Middle East, these conditions don’t exist.

      • Lars says:

        Jacob, I agree with you and I think you are basically saying that some nations and perhaps geographic areas simply aren`t trustworthy enough to let them develop even a civilian nuclear program. Take Iran as one example, and take North Korea as the best example since it started with civilian nuclear and ended up with nuclear weapons in the hands of a despotic regime.

        And Israel presumptively destroyed the construction of some kind of nascent nuclear reactor in Syria in 2007. If this attack didn`t occur one can only speculate what its destiny would be like with the ongoing civil war and ISIS holding large swaths of the country.

        I think your fear is quite rational compared to what happened in Japan and Germany after Fukushima. There were no good reasons technically speaking that Japan should shut down all its nuclear power stations and Germany its oldest ones.

        • some nations and perhaps geographic areas simply aren`t trustworthy enough to let them develop even a civilian nuclear program

          Although it may be easy to point to some present societies that shouldn’t have nuclear power, the bigger problem is pinpointing those societies, currently viewed as trustworthy, that may not be so trustworthy during the lifetime and decommissioning time of a new nuclear reactor. We can’t guarantee any society will be so stable, and it really has to be guaranteed to be able to satisfy the worry.

          • Lars says:

            Mike, that`s a good point and it makes the potential challenges even bigger like you say.
            Today noone argues that Germany and Japan have or should have nuclear, but 70 years ago that would be a disastrous scenario in all probability. We simply cannot know for sure what happens during the next 70 years.

            I am in favour of nuclear power, but I fear the spread of civilian nuclear technology to “dysfunctional and religiouos apocalyptical states”. One can argue like Roberto does and claim a nuclear economy will help make those states more functional, but will it work? What came first, the chicken or the egg?

      • roberto says:

        “If there is war, revolution or turmoil, like there is now in some parts of the Middle East, these conditions don’t exist.”

        You are partially right… in some parts of the ME these conditions don’t exist… also because they have not developed a society capable of running nuclear reactors.

        On the other hand in the ME they don’t run many wind turbines or solar panels either… ask yourself why.

  13. ristvan says:

    Breeders come in two forms. Fast sodium and slow molten salt. Molten salts can use either fertile thorium or fertile uranium. There is plenty of the latter sitting around, some in spent fuel. The TransAromic Power white paper (availble on their website) is a must read for anyone interested in gen 4 nuclear development. A pity that a portion of ‘renewables’ spending is not directed toward serious engineering development. Ditto for Lockheed Skunkworks high beta magnetic confinement fusion.

    • burnsider says:

      As I noted above, but worth repeating in this context, other breeder system are under consideration – https://www.gen-4.org/gif/jcms/c_59461/generation-iv-systems. Fast sodium- and lead-cooled reactors and molten salt reactors are all pretty much intrinsically safe. You can hit the off switch and walk away and they won’t melt down or do anything nasty.

      The Prototype Fast Reactor at Dounreay had an emergency cooling system which used a convective loop to carry heat from the core to a radiator (similar to a car radiator) on the roof of the reactor hall. In the event of a reactor shutdown and loss of power to run the core cooling pumps (like Fukushima), convection removed heat fast enough to prevent overheating and meltdown of the core due to the heat from short-lived fission products (megawatts at the moment of shutdown). By way of putting their money where their mouth was, the reactor operators carried out a full power shutdown and switched off the cooling pumps and it worked perfectly, as predicted. Funny how maths and engineering can achieve such things….

  14. Terry Krieg says:

    The late prof Bernard Cohen, former president of the US Health Physics Society became so fed up with Ralph Nader 35 years ago that he, Cohen, challenged Nader that he would eat as much plutonium as Nader would eat pure caffeine. Nader never did take up the challenge. And Eric Voice, plutonium man, had Pu infused into his system and then injected directly into his bloodstream to show that it had no harmful effects on humans.

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