Solar PV and wind are on track to replace all coal, oil and gas within two decades

April 6, 2018 by Andrew Blakers And Matthew Stocks, The Conversation
Solar photovoltaics are now the world’s leading source of new electricity generation. Credit: US Air Force

Solar photovoltaic and wind power are rapidly getting cheaper and more abundant – so much so that they are on track to entirely supplant fossil fuels worldwide within two decades, with the time frame depending mostly on politics. The protestation from some politicians that we need to build new coal stations sounds rather quaint.

The reality is that the rising tide of solar photovoltaics (PV) and energy offers our only realistic chance of avoiding dangerous climate change.

No other greenhouse solution comes close, and it is very hard to envision any timely response to climate change that does not involve PV and wind doing most of the heavy lifting.

About 80% of Australia's are due to the use of coal, oil and gas, which is typical for industrialised countries. The land sector accounts for most of the rest.

Sadly, attempts to capture and store the carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels have come to naught due to technical difficulties and high cost. Thus, to curtail global warming we need to replace fossil fuel use entirely, with energy sources that meet these criteria:

  • very large and preferably ubiquitous resource base
  • low or zero greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts
  • abundant or unlimited raw materials
  • minimal security concerns in respect of warfare, terrorism and accidentslow costal
  • ready available in mass production.

Solar PV meets all of these criteria, while wind energy also meets many of them, although wind is not as globally ubiquitous as sunshine. We will have sunshine and wind for billions of years to come. It is very hard to imagine humanity going to war over sunlight.

Australian greenhouse gas emissions in 2016. ABS, Author provided

Most of the world's population lives at low latitudes (less than 35°), where sunlight is abundant and varies little between seasons. Wind energy is also widely available, particularly at higher latitudes.

PV and wind have minimal environmental impacts and water requirements. The raw materials for PV – silicon, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, aluminium, glass, steel and small amounts of other materials – are effectively in unlimited supply.

Wind energy is an important complement to PV because it often produces at different times and places, allowing a smoother combined energy output. In terms of worldwide annual production wind is still ahead of PV but is growing more slowly. The resource is much smaller than the solar resource, and so PV will likely dominate in the end.

Complete replacement of all fossil fuels requires solar and wind collectors covering much less than 1% of the world's land surface area. A large proportion of the collectors are installed on rooftops and in remote and arid regions, thus minimising competition with food production and ecosystems.

The more widely PV and wind generation are distributed across the world, the less the risk of wide-scale disruption from natural disasters, war and terrorism.

Other clean energy technologies can realistically play only a minor supporting role. The solar thermal industry is hundreds of times smaller than the fast-growing PV industry (because of higher costs). Hydro power, geothermal, wave and tidal energy are only significant prospects in particular regions.

Biomass energy is inefficient and its requirement for soil, water and fertiliser put it in conflict with food production and ecosystems. Nuclear is too expensive, and its construction rates are too slow to catch PV and wind.

The path to dominance by PV and wind. In 2018, PV and wind are likely to comprise 60% of net new electricity generation capacity worldwide. Credit: Andrew Blakers/Matthew Stocks, Author provided
A renewable grid

PV and wind are often described as "intermittent" energy sources. But stabilising the grid is relatively straightforward, with the help of storage and high-voltage interconnectors to smooth out local weather effects.

By far the leading storage technologies are pumped hydro and batteries, with a combined market share of 97%.

The cost of PV and wind power has been declining rapidly for many decades and is now in the range A$55-70 per megawatt-hour in Australia. This is cheaper than electricity from new-build coal and gas units. There are many reports of PV electricity being produced from very large-scale plants for A$30-50 per MWh.

Solar PV and wind have been growing exponentially for decades and have now reached economic lift-off. In 2018, PV and wind will comprise 60% of net new electricity generation capacity worldwide. Coal, gas, nuclear, hydro and other renewable capacity comprise the rest. Globally, US$161 billion will be invested in solar generation alone this year, compared with US$103 billion in new coal and gas combined.

PV and wind are growing at such a rate that the overall installed generation capacity of PV and wind has reached half that of coal, and will pass coal in the mid-2020s, judging by their respective trends.

In Australia, PV and wind comprise most new generation capacity. About 4.5 gigawatts of PV and wind is expected to be installed in 2018 compared with peak demand of 35GW in the National Electricity Market. At this rate, Australia would reach 70% by 2030.

Current world electricity generation trends, extrapolated to 2032. Credit: Andrew Blakers/Matthew Stocks, Author provided

Together, PV and wind currently produce about 7% of the world's electricity. Worldwide over the past five years, PV capacity has grown by 28% per year, and wind by 13% per year. Remarkably, because of the slow or nonexistent growth rates of coal and gas, current trends put the world on track to reach 100% renewable electricity by 2032.

Deep cuts (80% reduction) in greenhouse gas emissions require that are pushed out of all sectors of the economy. The path to achieve this is by electrification of all energy services.

Straightforward and cost-effective initial steps are: to hit 100% renewable electricity; to convert most land transport to electric vehicles; and to use renewable electricity to push gas out of low-temperature water and space heating. These trends are already well established, and the outlook for the oil and gas industries is correspondingly poor.

The best available prices for PV already match the current wholesale price of gas in Australia (A$9 per gigajoule, equivalent to A$32 per MWh for heat).

High-temperature heat, industrial processes, aviation and shipping fuel and fugitive emissions can be displaced by renewable electricity and electrically produced synthetic fuels, plastics and other hydrocarbons. There may be a modest additional cost depending on the future price trajectory of PV and wind.

Electrifying the whole sector of our economy of course means that electricity production needs to increase massively – roughly tripling over the next 20 years. Continued rapid growth of PV (and wind) will minimise dangerous climate change with minimal economic disruption. Many policy instruments are available to hasten their deployment. Governments should get behind PV and wind as the last best chance to deliver the necessary solution to global warming.

Explore further: World added far more solar than fossil fuel power generating capacity in 2017

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3 / 5 (10) Apr 06, 2018
Nuclear is too expensive, and its construction rates are too slow to catch PV and wind.

That's a disingenuous argument, since the main obstacles for nuclear power are political. The people who push for renewables are making it slow and expensive to build nuclear power by double standards and extra red tape for good measure.

If the political will is there, you can go from zero to 80% nuclear power in 15 years, like France did. It's proven to work - all you have to do is choose to do it.
3 / 5 (8) Apr 06, 2018
As for the renewables replacing fossil fuels in the next 20 years, once the level of renewables globally reaches about the same as in Germany, the investments stop because the subsidies grow out of proportion and have to be cut, and you hit a brick wall with grid integration.

Cheap massive storage capacity is a pie in the sky that everyone's waiting for, but it isn't happening yet and nobody knows when or if it will happen. One thing's for sure: it won't be lithium batteries because the industry can't scale up that fast.

And if we're allowed to criticize nuclear power for self-imposed political roadblocks, then we can equally well point out that new high voltage powerlines are a massively expensive NIMBY problem and can't be built fast enough - investments and construction are already seriously lagging behind because people are squatting the land going "gimme a million or I won't move".

3 / 5 (6) Apr 06, 2018
so why is Asia building 400 coal plants ? [Eikka , another great post ]
2.3 / 5 (6) Apr 06, 2018
to convert most land transport to electric vehicles;

A simple calculation shows that this is not possible.

The world lithium battery production capacity is currently about 30 GWh/a and predicted to grow to 175 GWh/a in 2020 if the Chinese megafactories come online. For comparison's sake, let's say we're at 100 GWh/a for a starting point.

One set of batteries lasts for approximately 10 years in use^ which means 100 GWh/a can sustain a fleet of 10 million cars with 100 kWh capacity for each. There are currently about 1.3 billion cars on the roads globally, so turning them all into EVs in the next 20 years would require increasing the world production output of lithium batteries by 130x and 21x the lithium + cobalt + etc. mining.

That is to say, we need a continuous 28.5% increase in battery production every year for the next 20 years.

But that's not enough. We still need to have even more batteries for the grid energy storage.
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 06, 2018
^(Tesla accidentally revealed the expected lifespan of their li-ion batteries in the specifications for their Supercharger stations that use them for a buffer to reduce the power draw from the grid. They expect to replace them in 12 years.)

One of Elon Musk's battery factories can produce 35 GWh/a. Australia has about 19 million cars. Therefore, Australia would need five or six of Tesla's megafactories.

As the megafactory uses up about 16% of the world's lithium output, consequently, Australia would use up ALL the lithium as is being mined today. That's the scale of this issue.
4.5 / 5 (8) Apr 06, 2018
You assume everything has to be lithium, that entirely new power lines are needed everywhere, that nuclear's only problems are political.

Flow batteries are better for grid storage.

Solar and wind energy can be stored in liquid fuels that cars and trucks can use for transport.

Existing power lines can be reused. Land can be taken by eminent domain if profiteers stand in the way.

Nuclear has that little problem of meltdowns that are easily triggered by natural disasters. Like a ten-foot wave at Fukushima.

And even when it is working "perfectly" as designed, it generates a lot of deadly radioactive waste with half-lifes in the thousands of years. Can you guarantee a safe solution that will last for thousands of years?

Really, do you think they could build thousands of nuclear plants more easily, cheaply, and flexibly than deploying solar and wind power? Be serious. Solar and wind can be put on the roof of every house, with zero risk of harm to the residents.
4 / 5 (3) Apr 06, 2018
Nuclear is too expensive, and its construction rates are too slow to catch PV and wind.

That's a disingenuous argument, since the main obstacles for nuclear power are political.

NO, the mainly barrier is economic because, currently, nuclear power is one of the most expensive alternatives to fossil fuels. You only need to look up the costs over the net for yourself to verify that for yourself. Of course, just because it is currently the one of the most expensive doesn't mean it always will be BUT there is no sign that its costs will drop enough in time to do any good.

I say that as a person who is not against nuclear power in principle and a person who disagrees with many of the so-called 'environmentalists'. The environmental movement has unfortunately been largely hijacked by loony irrational extremists but that doesn't mean there is something wrong with renewables just like there isn't any thing wrong with being vegetarian just because Hitler was.
3.3 / 5 (7) Apr 06, 2018
NO, the mainly barrier is economic

Which is caused by politics, by the double standards and limits placed on nuclear power.

For example, the radiation level standards on nuclear waste are 30 times stricter than for other industry, so stuff that would end up in regular trash or into recycling has to be put into quarantine and sent for low level waste disposal. Similiarily, applying the faulty LNT model for radiation safety demands excessively large exclusion zones, causing needlessly high insurance and property costs by overstating the risks.

Simply getting permits to build a nuclear reactor is a 10 year ordeal, and governments are dealing them one at a time, forcing the builders to make massively large (and expensive) one-off prototypes to make the most out of a rare opportunity.

Nuclear reactors could be made on the cheap on an assembly line dozens at a time if they were smaller, but they can't because nobody can get a permission to build even one reactor.
4 / 5 (4) Apr 06, 2018
"Death by a Thousand Cuts" one household at a time. One store, one vehicle, one public facility, one factory at a time. And tomorrow is today. One nation at a time.

Slow, unsteady, sometimes awkward but eventually overwhelming the loony tooners of the Nuclear Police State and bankrupting the denier addicts of the Carbon Lobby Casino.

E boas notícias de Portugal. Que, em março, produziu mais de 100% de suas necessidades elétricas de energia solar.
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 06, 2018
For example, Germany is having trouble with the Asse mine which contains some 126,000 barrels of low level radioactive waste, 1300 barrels of medium, and 113 barrels of high level waste.

Now, because of the radiation safety standards, and because the mine has become unstable, they're forced to dig it all up and relocate it to a safer location.

If the 126,000 barrels were regular construction waste, even if it was just as radioactive as it is, they wouldn't have to do anything. No billions of euros wasted shifting around what's basically old rubble in steel canisters.
5 / 5 (4) Apr 06, 2018
Your saying regular construction waste has high levels of plutonium in it?
3.5 / 5 (4) Apr 06, 2018
It is very hard to imagine humanity going to war over sunlight

Givien the stupidity/greed of some politicians (and their voters) I would not rule that one out.

Biomass energy is inefficient and its requirement for soil, water and fertiliser put it in conflict with food production and ecosystems.

While I am no way a proponent of large biomass energy sectors I do think there are areas where biomass can be harvested in a way that does not compete with food or arable land. (e.g. when we're looking towards harvesting algae or using waste from the food/lumber sector). biomass does not make for a good primary energy source, but it is easy to store so it could play a role in stabilizing the grid.
4.2 / 5 (5) Apr 06, 2018
Saudi Arabia is planning large scale solar, as well as some new nuclear. https://www.pv-ma...comment/


Interestingly - both projects (if they materialize) will come on line in a similar time frame - so we should get some good numbers to compare between the two sources. I hope we do see development of renewables, as well and nuclear - and get the hard data we need to make best decisions to decarbonize. Wind, solar and storage costs are falling fast - so let's wait and see.
1.9 / 5 (9) Apr 06, 2018
"Solar PV and wind are on track to replace all coal, oil and gas..."
Wind/solar are not replacing fossil fuels even in small-scale, there isn't even a small island 100% powered by sunshine&breeze unicorn energy. Not even Greenpeace and other faux-green organizations and Eco-hypocritical celebrities rely on wind/solar placebos to generate electricity to power their ships, yachts, jets, cars and other vehicles.

Get real! Intermittent renewables are not "alternatives" to fossil fuels, they are parasites on fossil fuels, "greenwashing" for coal, oil and gas.
4 / 5 (4) Apr 07, 2018
Your saying regular construction waste has high levels of plutonium in it?

No... ordinary construction waste doesn't have high levels of plutonium in it. Doh! But neither does 99.9% of the so called low level radioactive waste generated by nuclear power plants. In fact, measured radiation levels in the ash generated by coal generating plants is much higher than almost all of the low level waste.

High level waste is quite different of course. But this problem is really limited by the very small relative amounts involved. A coal power plant easily can generate a million tons of coal ash a year, A nuclear power plant produces on the order of a ton or so of high level waste a year.

I am not saying nuclear is the way to go, or that its not. But at least try and discuss it like reasonable adults and use facts without hyperbole. Please leave that to the political sites.
2.1 / 5 (7) Apr 07, 2018
You assume everything has to be lithium

That's the best contender so far. When the other alternatives come to the market, if they come to the market in the next 20 years, we'll see about that. The point is, 20 years is an awful short time to go from zero to hero for any advanced technology, especially for the scale of this problem at hand. Remember that lithium batteries were invented in the 1970's.

Power-to-gas seems a good contender, but a bit too low in efficiency still so it would add too much to the price of electricity.

Existing power lines can be reused. Land can be taken by eminent domain if profiteers stand in the way.

New lines have to be added because the capacity needs to increase manyfold and the grid topology has to change. Likewise, reposession of lands and properties to build new powerlines is a political suicide and a government that starts doing that will get voted out.

2.3 / 5 (6) Apr 07, 2018
Nuclear has that little problem of meltdowns that are easily triggered by natural disasters. Like a ten-foot wave at Fukushima.

Then don't build them so close to shore in a tsunami-prone area. TEPCO was originally supposed to build the plant higher up the ground, which would have prevented the generators flooding and the meltdown.

50,000 died of the tsunami, zero for the meltdown accident.

And even when it is working "perfectly" as designed, it generates a lot of deadly radioactive waste

The actual volume of high-level waste is small and short-lived. 96% of nuclear waste can be recycled if politically permitted. Even the waste problem is made by politics.

Can you guarantee a safe solution that will last for thousands of years?

Yes. See deep borehole disposal.

Really, do you think they could build thousands of nuclear plants more easily, cheaply, and flexibly than deploying solar and wind power?

Yes. It's been done before.
2.7 / 5 (6) Apr 07, 2018
Be serious. Solar and wind can be put on the roof of every house, with zero risk of harm to the residents.

Solar and wind power cause more fatal accidents per TWh of energy produced than nuclear power - even including the major nuclear accidents - mainly because of mishaps during maintenance and installation, like electric shocks, houses burning down due to electrical faults, people falling off roofs... etc. etc.

For example, solar panels backfeeding the grid causes issues for linemen working their repairs. Safety isolation becomes much much more complicated when every branch of the network can generate power and doesn't necessarily respond to central control during a fault.

But as someone said, death by a thousand cuts. People are happy to take a greater risk if its dispersed and invisible, than a smaller risk if it's concentrated and identifiable on a visible target.
3 / 5 (4) Apr 07, 2018
do you think they could build thousands of nuclear plants more easily, cheaply, and flexibly than deploying solar and wind power

See chart:


Between 1968 - 1986 nuclear power capacity worldwide was growing just as fast as wind or solar power capacity are growing today, with the difference that actually, nuclear power capacity is 3-5 times more valuable Watt to Watt than the renewables because the capacity factor is higher. It makes more energy per Watt of capacity.

So actually, it was growing faster then than the renewables are now.
1.7 / 5 (3) Apr 07, 2018
60 years after and temporary above ground storage is still in use. Deep earth quakes 150 miles down are prevalent across the world. Current understanding as to how earth gases are produced may make deep burial untenable. I suspect deep sea disposal will continue to used as it is now. Seldom is it mentioned that the UN has designated deep sea radioactive disposal sites for countries with insufficient land burial sites and they are used as well as close to shore where unscrupulous countries paying off a dictator have dumped radioactive waste. Blythly discussing discussing radioactive disposal and ignoring radon production is like pretending carbon dioxide excess can be mediated by directing the household exhaust to ground level as to decrease the amount of co2 the roadways stream.
5 / 5 (3) Apr 07, 2018
Where's deep geothermal?
Works day and night.
Not a fossil fuel. Clean and safe.
Deep geothermal for the long term win.
2.3 / 5 (6) Apr 07, 2018
"Why do the sort of people who exclude nuclear energy for its radiation embrace geothermal?"
"The geothermal energy of the Earth's crust originates from the original formation of the planet (20%) and from radioactive decay of materials (80%)."

"People travel worldwide to visit these health spas with higher levels of radioactive Radon-222 or Radon-220, products of the decay of naturally occurring uranium or thorium."
4.2 / 5 (6) Apr 09, 2018
@Eikka. While I respect your enthusiasm for Nuclear power, why support dead tech? Solar and Wind can create terawatts of energy with little more than putting up a wind farm or catching sunlight on a panel. And there is very little danger from a solar farm. When you look at the future, for mankind's typical power, I think it will be solar and wind. For very compact and specialized energy needs maybe nuclear fits with special care taken to manage all of it's very negatives.
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 09, 2018
And there is very little danger from a solar...
"There is an argument, however, that solar power may ultimately be safer... Ironically enough, however, solar power is far more dangerous than nuclear, even in a year when an accident like the disaster at Fukushima occurs."
"Nuclear power kills fewer people than solar per unit of electricity, says University College London Professor Tim Stone"
death/TWh: coal 161.00, oil 36.00, solar 0.44, wind 0.15, hydro 0.10, nuclear 0.0013
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 09, 2018
The claims of safety for nuclear plants are based on ignoring the risk. Just like the stock market, past performance is no guarantee of future returns. Black swan events don't care about your statistics.

It doesn't matter where you put a plant because every place on Earth has a water table below. Three Mile Island just avoided a meltdown that could have wiped out an area the size of Pennsylvania. Fukushima could have been worse. Chernobyl (you left that one out) was worse.

Is it absolutely necessary to have hundreds or thousands of square kilometers excluded around Chernobyl. No, only a few more cancers per 1000 population would occur. Would you be willing to raise your children in that area? I would not.

Your statistics on construction and line maintenance safety are equally spurious. Any construction and any power line carries those risks.

And there have never been thousands of nuclear plants, so you can't say they've been built for less.
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 09, 2018
As for low level radioactive waste, the difference between coal ash and nuclear plant waste is the source.

You can know for certain that the coal ash does not contain plutonium or U-235 (or whichever one is the fissible U). Pile up a million tons of coal ash, and you will not get a nuclear pile with chain reaction.

Now take a pile of waste or rubble from a nuclear plant. It is emitting some radiation. Tell me you know that it does not contain plutonium or U-235, and that if you just pile up more of it you will definitely not create a pile with chain reaction.

And tell me that you, unlike anyone else in thousands of years of human history, and especially with your extreme disdain for the works of any and all governments, you will build a system that will contain and control the waste of a nuclear plant for thousands of years, despite any and all the stupid things that people do, and the unpredicability of nature.

Who would believe you?
4 / 5 (4) Apr 09, 2018
Also, dumping waste in the ocean is completely unsafe. The ocean is the source of all life, it flows everywhere uncontrollably, so you're just poisoning everyone and everything all at once by dumping waste there.

Thank you, France, by the way.
3 / 5 (4) Apr 10, 2018
...hundreds or thousands of square kilometers excluded around Chernobyl.
Ukraine and Belarus have low cancer rates, and Chernobyl is now a tourist zone.
Chernobyl is the only incident with victims, less than 60(most not related to radiation(helicopter crash, machinery explosions)).
"World's Most Exotic Tourism Destination? Chernobyl"
"The Woman Who Ate Chernobyl's Apples"

Facts are stronger than irrational fear.

3 / 5 (4) Apr 10, 2018
"The difference between nuclear & solar exclusion zones is that life thrives in the former while *all life must die* in the latter."

People receive more radiation during a commercial flight(up to 65 mSv) than in Chernobyl(5 mSv).
3 / 5 (4) Apr 10, 2018
...coal ash does not contain plutonium or U-235...
Coal ash contains naturally-occuring uranium, and the naturally-occurring uranium is comprised by around 0.7% of U-235.
Very similar to Plutonium-239, in terms of radioactivity and chemical toxicity, Protactinium-231 (Pa-231) is far much more abundant in nature as Radium.
In a single eruption, volcanoes release hundreds of tons of radioactive materials: protactinium-231(equivalent to plutonium-239 in terms of toxicity), radium-226, uranium-235/234/238, thorium, potassium-40, rubidium-87, etc.

4 / 5 (4) Apr 10, 2018
Where's deep geothermal?
Works day and night.

Geothermal has it's own problems. Several facilities have had to be shut down because they seem to be causing earthquakes (pumping something down that is effectively a lubricant causes earthquakes - I can see where this wasn't thought of during the design phase but in hindsight it makes sense. Especially since the experiences with fracking seem to be similar.)

Also geothermal doesn't last. The borehole cools down over time and then you have to drill a new one elsewhere, while making the hole isn't a big issue you have to relocate the powerplant each time with it.

Geothermal is a good choice in selected spots where the crust is thin, population is sparse and there is copious magma interchange beneath (e.g. iceland). But it's not something that works everywhere.
3 / 5 (4) Apr 10, 2018
...the waste of a nuclear plant...
In 300 years, the waste loses most of its radioactivity becoming close to natural background, while mercury(a dangerous teratogen) in coal ashes and arsenide and other chemical carcinogens present in solar panels never lose their toxicity with the time.
Commercial nuclear waste has killed no one, it is tiny and safely stored and emits less radiation than a bunch of bananas.
"Nuclear Waste: Ideas vs Reality"
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 10, 2018
Solar and Wind can create terawatts of energy with little more than putting up a wind farm or catching sunlight on a panel. And there is very little danger from a solar farm.

I think you nailed it, here.

What is it we want to achieve with technology? We want to have systems that run by themselves almost indefinitely, need minimal servicing/exchange of part and pose no risks whatsoever. Essentially we want something that is 'fire-and-forget' so we can get on with more important things. Nuclear doesn't qualify in this regard because of the mounting waste and the latent dangers associated with it.

Nuclear might be interesting off-world (where we don't care if some dead landscape gets irradiated or not). But there I'd see fusion as much more promising than fission - particularly due to the availability of fuel.
3 / 5 (4) Apr 10, 2018
We want to have systems that run by themselves almost indefinitely...
Sunlight and breeze are renewables, but wind turbines and solar panels are not.
"Wind might be renewable, but wind turbines are not."
"Sunlight may be renewable, but solar panels are not."
"Wind turbines 'only lasting for half as long as previously thought' as study shows they show signs of wearing out after just 12 years"
However, the "renewable energy" SCAM will last indefinitely, forever.

All manufactured/mined/transported/repaired/recycled by fossil-fueled machines.
5 / 5 (2) Apr 10, 2018
Nuclear is a strategic necessity. It can provide power when no other source can. It provides cheap fuel via economies of scale for vital military needs as well as future operations in space.

Reactors will continue to be built and maintained in order to provide the minimum necessary power to keep civilization functioning despite supervolcanos, megaquakes, impactors, economic collapse, climate catastrophe, NBC attack, or pandemic.

And it doesn't matter whether they are relatively safe or economically competitive. The only reason politics were turned against them was because goals had been reached and a convenient excuse was needed to end construction of new facilities.

One might even suspect that a few facilities were tested to destruction in order to reinforce this impetus; and as a matter of course in the maturing of any new and vital technology.
not rated yet Apr 10, 2018
Testing to destruction is typical and expected.

-Military vehicles are always tested this way, often in combat.

Knowing how containment vessels and mitigation systems will actually perform is vital. Remediation procedures can only be developed, and useful experience gained, under real world conditions.

And maturing this tech here, where failures and inadequacies can be tolerated, is essential rather than having catastrophe happen on mars or the moon where it could mean the loss of entire colonies.

After all we exploded over 2000 nuclear bombs, 10% of which were atmospheric, thereby subjecting the world to fallout and prolongued radiation exposure, in themselves valuable sources of info. Is it such a stretch to imagine that a few commercial and military reactors in strategic locations were constructed and/or operated to fail?

NOT when the need to know was so important.

We destroyed 2 Japanese cities for exactly the same reasons
5 / 5 (1) Apr 10, 2018
see fusion as much more promising than fission - particularly due to the availability of fuel
Fusion reactors necessarily rely on exotic materials and advanced manufacturing techniques which can only be supplied by our massive infrastructure.

Fission in contrast is simple, dumb, and effective. And fissiles are everywhere.

"it is found that the thorium and uranium contents of the volcanic Martian rocks (5 + or - 2.5 and 1.1 + or - 0.8 ppm, respectively) are similar to those of many typical terrestrial and lunar basalts"

-Much easier to ship plutonium to the moon than stellerator components.
not rated yet Apr 10, 2018
Exotic fusion reactor materials and construction...

"beryllium and/or beryllium-titanium alloys for neutron multiplication, lithium-bearing compounds for tritium generation, and the liquid metal coolants like lead-lithium eutectic in which lead acts as a neutron multiplier and lithium as a tritium breeder. The other materials that need attention of the materials scientists include superconductors made of NbTi, Nb3Sn and Nb3Al for the tokamaks, coatings or ceramic inserts to offset the effect of corrosion and the MHD in liquid metal cooled TBMs, and a host of other materials like nano-structured materials, special adhesives and numerous other alloys and compounds. Apart from this, the construction of the tokamaks would necessitate development of methodologies of joining the selected materials."
5 / 5 (1) Apr 10, 2018
@willieward, I'm against coal in the first place. It was Eikka who complained that regular construction waste and coal ash are not as tightly regulated as nuclear plant waste.

And it's not the presence of radioactive elements, it's the concentration. Nuclear fuels are artificially concentrated in a way that can never happen naturally. Coal ash will not produce a nuclear chain reaction. But again, I'm completely against coal power and coal ash, so don't throw me any more statistics about how bad coal ash is.

Nuclear can fill some needs, but it would be extremely foolish to build thousands of nuclear plants to fulfill all our energy needs.

Really, you're claiming the area around Chernobyl is safe? Go raise your children near the plant, then, or anywhere within a few hundred miles downwind of it. You wouldn't, and you know it.

Only 300 years? Name a government or any other institution that has lasted 300 years. Name a machine or containment system that has lasted 150.
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 10, 2018
Really, you're claiming the area around Chernobyl is safe? Go raise your children near the plant, then, or anywhere within a few hundred miles downwind of it.
Kids receive more radiation during a commercial flight (up to 65 mSv) than in Chernobyl (5mSv) or in Fukushima (20 mSv), or in naturally-radioactive places like Kerala/Ramsar/Guarapari(up to 800mSv).
"sunbathing on radioactive beaches"
"Earth's Most Naturally Radioactive Places"
"A Walk Around Chernobyl"
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 10, 2018
What about the waste?
"Experts forecast hundreds of thousands of tons of old wind turbine blades, batteries, and solar modules will need to be disposed of or recycled in the next decade—and millions of tons by 2050."
"Waste From Solar Panels: 300 Times That of Nuclear Power"
"While nuclear waste is contained in heavy drums and regularly monitored, solar waste outside of Europe today ends up in the larger global stream of electronic waste."
"Solar panels contain toxic metals like lead, which can damage the nervous system, as well as chromium and cadmium, known carcinogens. All three are known to leach out of existing e-waste dumps into drinking water supplies."
not rated yet Apr 10, 2018
So you're telling me we shouldn't just throw our trash in the dump, but should instead responsibly recycle it.

The elements in waste, especially things like batteries and solar panels, are highly valuable. They need to be regarded as a resource. If, for instance, no one figures out how to recycle lithium batteries, we will run out of lithium very soon. So someone will as soon as the easily and cheaply mined deposits are all claimed or depleted.

None of your waste objections are unique to solar or wind power, they are universal to all waste streams. And all waste is already problematic (see the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, etc.).
not rated yet Apr 11, 2018
The thing about coal, oil, and nuclear is that they concentrate the resource and therefore the profits in the hands of very few. Wind and solar are distributed by their very nature. The real opposition to new, distributed forms of energy is funded by those who have and want to continue to profit exclusively from the old ways.
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 11, 2018
The thing about coal, oil ... is that they concentrate the resource ... Wind and solar are distributed by their very nature...
Only big rich organizations and investors are able to get huge quantities of subsidies and/or tax credit to build wind/solar farms.
"We get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That's the only reason to build them. They don't make sense without the tax credit." - Warren Buffett
...distributed forms of energy...
You mean dilute/diffuse and intermittent/unreliable forms of energy that need to be interconnected in a super-expensive super-grid to perhaps minimize the intermittency problem.
5 / 5 (2) Apr 18, 2018
And it's not the presence of radioactive elements, it's the concentration. Nuclear fuels are artificially concentrated in a way that can never happen naturally
Just for the record

"A natural nuclear fission reactor is a uranium deposit where self-sustaining nuclear chain reactions have occurred. This can be examined by analysis of isotope ratios. The existence of this phenomenon was discovered in 1972 at Oklo in Gabon by French physicist Francis Perrin. The conditions under which a natural nuclear reactor could exist had been predicted in 1956 by Paul Kazuo Kuroda.[1] The conditions found were very similar to what was predicted."

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