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Brave New Climate is the blog of Australian Climate Scientist, Barry Brook.  Brook uses his blog to explore energy solutions.  The Brave New Climate debate on the Brook-Lang wind thesis (see also) has largely wound up.  Wind advocate Neil Howes, confronted with the seemingly intractable problem of electrical demand during the summer period of weak wind conceeded:<div>

For peak summer demand, mothballed coal plants could be used for a few weeks until the time that another another 400GW of nuclear, 100GW to replace existing and 300GW to replace most of the coal-fired.

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Warren Heath brought my attention yesterday to a couple of documents from the National Wind Watch. The document was a statement prepared for the Environmental Court of New Zeeland by Bryan William Leyland, a consulting mechanical and electrical engineer who was extremely well qualified to evaluate costs related to electrical generating systems including wind generating systems. Leyland had been retained by an party to a matter before the Environmental Court, to offer his views on the likely cost of a wind generation project in New Zeeland. Leyland had been involved in wind projects as long ago as 1980, and had consulted on a wide variety of electrical generating projects as well as serving as a consultant on an electrical shortage to the New Zeeland government.

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I have followed Ben Sovacool's escapades as an anti-nuclear scholar and/or pseudo-scholar for sometime, and recently noted an improvement in his scholarly discipline in a review on one of his recent papers. But alas the improvement may turn out to be a fluke. David Sella-Villa, the Editor-in-Chief of the William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review, has kindly provided me with a copy of Sovacool's most recent paper, "Nuclear Nonsense: Why Nuclear Power Is No Answer to Climate Change and the World’s Post-Kyoto Energy Challenges," which Sovacool coauthored with Chris Cooper. The paper is long, but unfortunately contains numerous flaws that mare its conclusions. My usual approach in reviewing long books or long papers is to focus on a section or sections that contain material that I am most familiar with and examine how well the author or authors treated their subject. I also attend to rhetorical strategies including the selection and use of authority, and the selection of information.

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Probably no more than a thousand people in the entire world fully understands the paradigm, although thousands more understand bits and pieces of it.   Much of the paradigm was shaped by Eugene Wigner, a authentic genius and a man of singular vision.   Wigner foresaw the need for extracting the enormous energy potential from thorium and using it to sustain human civilization. Wigner's vision included a heavy water fluid core reactor as the instrument through which thorium was to be transformed into nuclear fuel.  Alvin Weinberg, Wigner's former sidekick  and another genius,  realized that the Molten Salt Reactor was a far superior tool for realizing the full energy potential of thorium fuel cycle, and the potential to increase energy efficiency to increase its energy potential even further by coupling it with massive desalinization projects in desert countries.

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The Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer was the bad boy of 19th century German Philosophy. Schopenhauer attacked the sober, serious but optimistic world views of the philosophic followers of Kant and Hegel and helped set the stage for the 20th century post-modern movement among scholars in the humanities.

Schopenhauer was aware of the limitations of knowledge and of the human capacity to know, and those limitations of knowledge are certainly at the heart of his thinking.  In particular Schopenhauer offered to the will a central role in knowledge, and indeed suggested that the will and our mental representations of the wprld were one in the same.  Thus knowledge itself has non-rational foundations.

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This post started as a comment on the Energy from Thorium comment section.  It got way to long for a comment, so I decided to turn it into a bog post.  I have written everything i have to say here before.  But I flatter myself that these things are important, and probably can stand to be repeated.  So if all this sounds familiar to the point of being boring, please be patient.    

I learned of the CO2/AGW theory during am informal briefing at ORNL by Jerry Olsen in 1971.  Jerry was attached to the ORNL-NSF Environmental Studies Program that I was working for.  Ihad at the time what amounted to an Internship.  Jerry Olson was a plant ecologist who specialized in the role of plants in the world carbon cycle.  I suspect he had just briefed Alvin Weinbero on the increase of the CO2 content of the atmosphere, and its implications for world climate.

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George Hart of the Ocean Energy Institute has recently proposedthe building of a huge 5 billion watt generating capacity wind arrays in the Gulf of Maine.  There is little doubt that New England states and the State of Maine in particular are in need of new energy resources.  Winter heating is, in particular, heavily reliant on heating oil.  But the cost of heating oil is subject to the wild gyrations of the oil market, and the cost of home heating during cold New England winters threatens to depopulate the region.  New technology, a form of air source heating designed to operate in New England winters, offers the possibility of replacing oil with lower cost electricity in New  England home heating.  

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Some how great ideas come across as crazy when you first hear them.  I thought that Jim Holm's idea of recycling coal fired power plants by converting them into nuclear power plants was crazy the first time I encountered it.  I now think it is a terrific idea.   I wrote about the idea in May and it recently bubbled up on the "Energy from Thorium" discussion form.  I usually don't openly discuss ideas that come up on the discussion form, because I think what is said in the discussion form is a private conversation.  But in the case of converting coal fired power plants into LFTR plants, this is an idea that has been floated by Holm, and which I seconded in May.  

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The United Kingdom faces an crisis.  During the next decade electrical generating plants representing one third of the countries generating capacity are slated to be shut down.  While the British Government has made some plans, including the construction of a 40 GW wind generation system serious doubts remain about those plans.  But the plan is not working according to Professor Ian Fells who describes the British situation as "watching a slow-motion train crash".

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Recently Google's Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt make a number of extremely problematic statements about a future energy plan which Google is backing.   Among the google assumptions is the idea that energy demand can be made to decrease by 33% through greater energy efficiency.  This notion has been contradicted by virtually every economist who has studied the relationship between energy efficiency and energy consumption.  At best the idea is a questionable assumption, that should not serve unexamined as a basis for policy.  At worse it is a failed hypothesis, that has been repeatedly tested during the last 150 years, and failed the tests.  The failed hypothesis view states a single person, a self promoter, who does not have any special knowledge of economics, has hyped the efficiency idea as part of his business.  The idea, despite its falsification, has proven useful to politicians who otherwise would be forced to look at radical and extremely controversial energy plans.  

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On Fridat I posted a discussion of Federal subsidies to the nuclear industry on Daily Kos .  One of the first responces I received was from "shann" who argued:

Facts aside, Nuclear Power generation is not a Progressive cause, it is political poison on this forum. End of story, lets get back to windmills and solar power, they are substantially more popular here.

Note that "shann" tells us that facts do not counts for progressives.  What progressive want, shann claims, is windmills and solar power.  Progressives, according to shann are identical to Daily Kos readers, who believe such energy forms to be progressive.    

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Thu Sep 25, 2008 at 04:27 PM PDT

The Myth of Nuclear Subsidies

by Charles Barton

A new study. titled Analysis of Federal Expenditures for Energy Development  challenges the assertion that nuclear power receives large subsidies from the Federal Government.  The study, by About Management Information Services, Inc. ( MISI),  demonstrates that much of that the Federal investment in nuclear research included a broad spectrum of projects, and was not simply confined to civilian reactor research.  MISI has a long history of research of energy and economics issues for the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Department of Energy and others.

MISI looked at Federal energy related expenditures between 1950 and 2006.  It demonstrates that Federal spending on Nuclear power research peaked during the 1950's and dropped significantly after.  The study finds that among energy sources oil, natural gas, coal, and Hydro-electric generation have received larger federal subsidies than nuclear during the time frame.

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