“[Nuclear power] has been pretty reliable and very safe and compared to other energy sources, all told, reasonably priced …. and good…. It’s unclear if safe and reliable nuclear energy can compete with just where solar and wind are going …. That’s the reality.” (Other Lab Chief Executive Officer Saul Griffith)
“There’s more work to be done on nuclear than on any other area for it to be a competitor.” (Daniel Kammen, California Berkeley)
It’s a strange time when Yale University, up there with Harvard University atop the academic universe, publishes a rag of amateur analysis from the likes of one Peter Sinclair. (For Sinclair vs. Kevon Martis, see here.) But the Yale School of the Environment is in the business of publishing a newsletter of quick hits with double standards galore.
The latest is Sinclair’s “What role for small modular nuclear reactors in combating climate change?” With the subtitle, “Time, a steep ‘learning curve,’ and, of course, costs pose daunting challenges for those backing small modular nuclear reactors,” the fix is in for nuclear.
The article tries to be objective by offering a bit of hope for nuclear as part of the climate ‘solution.’ The bias of the article is that wind and solar, with battery backup as needed, is the solution to generate virtually all electricity to, in turn, electrify everything.
This article refers to interviews in Yale’s “This is Not Cool” video, where nuclear does not receive any of the benefit-of-the-doubt that wind and solar or EVs do.
Experts interviewed in this Yale Climate Connections “This is Not Cool” original video in some cases hold out hope. But they also confront timing, economic, and communications obstacles that could be prohibitive.
So nuclear is expensive–welcome to the climate club’s tiny free-market view (one that I hold). Nuclear has “communications obstacles”–the climate club helped make that possible. Nuclear is very late in starting–ditto for the climate club.
Here is how Sinclair spins it:
Nuclear energy, [Saul] Griffith says, “has been pretty reliable and very safe and compared to other energy sources, all told, reasonably priced …. and good.” But he backtracks some: He readily acknowledges “huge political headwinds” and concerns about availability of adequate cooling water supplies, a view expressed also by water resources expert Peter Gleick.
Water issues as a major barrier? Seems that technology can address that if it has not already. And “water resources expert Peter Gleick“–isn’t he the one that fraudulently penetrated the Heartland Institute? 
Griffith points to what many – among them proponents of nuclear energy – fear may be an Achilles heel: “It’s unclear if safe and reliable nuclear energy can compete with just where solar and wind are going …. That’s the reality.”
Here is the big rub. The wind/solar/battery lobby just does not like nuclear in its game. No technological optimism or interest.
And Sinclair chooses to interview just the pessimists.
University of California Berkeley nuclear engineering professor Daniel Kammen says he’s hoping nuclear energy can fill some needs that renewables may not resolve. But he points to a stiff “learning curve.” In addition, Kammen says “There’s more work to be done on nuclear than on any other area for it to be a competitor.”
Less optimistic on the new nuclear technology is Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. He says small modular reactors are attracting a lot of interest in part because “big ones have failed.” He is concerned by projections that the reality of small modular nuclear reactors may be close to a decade away. Too long a wait, Makhijani says: “We must have overwhelming momentum to zero carbon energy by that time.”
These two may well be correct that the next generation(s) of technology will fall short, but if it is all a matter of cost, isn’t that what forced energy transformation is all about? Subsidizing inferior energies for their own sake or in the hope of big breakthroughs somewhere down the line?
The article ends with Bill Gate’s view that nuclear is the great (and probably last) great hope for CO2 reduction at scale.
Energy Density, Reality
James Hansen, father of the climate alarm, has warned the policy side that it is nuclear-or-bust for a scalable alternative to oil, gas, and coal in power generation.
Suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.
Yes, a few scientists assert that renewables alone are sufficient, a position that gets applause. As for me, I would prefer to stick to science and tend my orchard.”
So why the futile crusade against fossil fuels minus nuclear power. Perhaps, just perhaps, the reason is that energy per se is the enemy when trying to de-industrialize economies, a theme I explore here.
 The Guardian (February 20, 2012) reported:
A leading defender of climate change admitted tricking the libertarian Heartland Institute into turning over confidential documents detailing its plans to discredit the teaching of science to school children in last week’s sensational expose.
In the latest revelation, Peter Gleick, a water scientist and president of the Pacific Institute who has been active in the climate wars, apologised on Monday for using a false name to obtain materials from Heartland, a Chicago-based think tank with a core mission of dismissing climate change.
“My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts – often anonymous, well-funded and co-ordinated – to attack climate science,” Gleick wrote in a piece for Huffington Post.
Remorse from Gleick? Hardly:
But Gleick does not appear to have experienced immediate remorse. He did not move to claim the ruse until there was already feverish online speculation about his involvement. He responded to a request by The Guardian for comment last Wednesday by saying he did not wish to comment.
Those actions may have undercut an entire career, the journalist Andrew Revkin wrote.
“Gleick’s use of deception in pursuit of his cause after years of calling out climate deception has destroyed his credibility and harmed others,” he wrote.
“The broader tragedy is that his decision to go to such extremes in his fight with Heartland has greatly set back any prospects of the country having the “rational public debate” that he wrote — correctly — is so desperately needed.”