Power Crazed

17 12 2013

I follow George Monbiot’s writings, and generally agree with most of what he has to say, even if some of it is a monbiotbit too ‘English’ for me to get riled up about.  George and I totally agree on the seriousness of Climate Change for instance.  I like to think I may even have had some influence on George back in the days he did not understand Peak Oil.  When it comes to what to do about Climate Change, however, we part ways in a substantial manner……. and he no longer takes emails from the public.

What prompted me to write this post was his latest effort titled “Power Crazed”.  I don’t need to elaborate on why this resonates with me to anyone who has been following DTM for any length of time.  There is no doubt modern society is power crazed.  Just look at the map George published on his website showing the number and size of coal fired power stations in China… and the health impact of these monsters.

This graphic, apparently published by Greenpeace on 27 December, shows the premature deaths caused by coal plants in China. The research it commissioned suggests that a quarter of a million deaths a year could be avoided there if coal power there were shut down……. Yes, a quarter of a million.  Of course, in a nation of 1300 million, 250,000 people is ‘only’ o.2% of the population.  If the same statistic was applied to Australia, the number of deaths would be some 45,000.  Research in fact shows our rate of premature deaths to be roughly one tenth that..:

Australian fossil fuel-based power pollution deaths.  The data in  #2 suggest that coal plants producing 77% of Australia’s annual 255 TWh of electricity from 51 GW capacity (i.e. 0.77 x 255 = 196.4 TWh/year; see: http://www.uic.com.au/nip37.htm )  might kill about 196.4 TWh x 668/27 TWh = 4,859 people annually in Australia (population 21 million); in Australia 255 bn kWh x $0.04/kWh = $10.2 bn; 0.77 (coal-based) x $10.2 bn = $7.85 billion; $7.85 bn /4,859 deaths means that Australian electricity consumers pay for electricity @ $1.6 million per fellow Australian killed by coal.

powercrazed

Obviously, things look grim in China.  However, when George states “Why do we transfer the real health risks inflicted by coal onto nuclear energy?” I saw red…..  like all those red dots on that map!

I think people like George simply want to ‘fix’ Climate Change, at no cost to their lifestyle.  George correctly exposed renewables some time back as unable to keep Business as Usual going, so he went to the dark side and now supports nuclear power.  He wants all the energy he currently consumes, no matter the cost.  Nor does he seem to understand Limits to Growth.  He needs to read Dave Pollard’s writings…….!  In particular, he needs to see Dave’s CHART.

The red that I saw, was a sea of nukes in China, thousands of them, all ending up as non decommissioned dinosaurs leaking radiation or worse for thousands and thousands of years……..  and for what?  So we can watch TV and charge our iPhones?

Now, George of course poo poos the entire notion that Fukushima is as bad as I think it is, and has been over dramatised:

The World Health Organisation’s analysis of the Fukushima disaster concludes that “for the general population inside and outside of Japan … no observable increases in cancer rates above baseline rates are anticipated.”(3) Only the most contaminated parts of Fukushima prefecture are exposed to any significant threat: a slight increase in the chances of contracting cancer. Even the majority of the emergency workers have no higher cancer risk than that of the general population(4). And this, remember, was caused by an unprecedented disaster. The deaths in China are caused by business as usual.

George further says “Since the tsunami in 2011, the internet has been awash with ever more lurid claims about Fukushima. Millions have read reports which claim that children on the western seaboard of the US are dying as a result of radiation the damaged plant released. It doesn’t seem to matter how often and effectively they are debunked: they keep on coming. But children in the US really are dying as a result of pollution from coal plants, and we hear almost nothing about it.”

I’ve read loads of such reports, and have even written one or two up on this site.  Who to believe?  Both sides sound convincing, but neither is willing to lower consumption.  The problem with all these issues, Climate Change itself, is that the consequences are so far into the future, everyone’s gambling our collective futures on being correct.  George himself even says “You don’t have to be an enthusiast for atomic energy to see that it scarcely features as a health risk beside its rival. I wonder whether the nuclear panic might be a way of not seeing. Displacement is something we all do: fixing on something small to avoid engaging with something big.”

Yes George…..  you are guilty of “Displacement”.  You are power crazed.  Thankfully, Limits to Growth will put an end to all this “Displacement”.  And as luck would have it, the Guardian, a British newspaper George regularly contributes to has published this article in July this year……

The coming nuclear energy crunch

Impending global uranium supply gap heralds end of cheap uranium, future of ‘involuntary phase-outs, blackouts and worse’

As the British and American governments signal their renewed commitments to nuclear power as a clean, abundant source of energy that can fuel high growth economies, a new scientific study of worldwide uranium production warns of an imminent supply gap that will result in spiralling fuel costs in the next decades.

The study, based on an analysis of global deposit depletion profiles from past and present uranium mining, forecasts a global uranium mining peak of approximately 58 kilotonnes (kton) by 2015, declining gradually to 54 ktons by 2025, after which production would drop more steeply to at most 41 ktons around 2030. The peer-reviewed study, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, concludes:

“This amount will not be sufficient to fuel the existing and planned nuclear power plants during the next 10–20 years. In fact, we find that it will be difficult to avoid supply shortages even under a slow 1%/ year worldwide nuclear energy phase-out scenario up to 2025. We thus suggest that a worldwide nuclear energy phase-out is in order.”

This kind of supports what the Energy Watch Group predicted four months earlier..  Dave Pollard’s chart just says it all really.  We may well be saved yet.

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11 responses

17 12 2013
Graham

Most, if not all of the assumptions, yours excepted, appear based on the need to address carbon emissions and hence global warming providing there is little or no impact on our lifestyles. As if the underlying problem was getting rid of the rubbish and not the cause of the ‘rubbish’ being dumped into the atmosphere in the first place.
We humans are a weird bunch that cannot seemingly cannot ever take a step back. Progress is always linear forever upwards. We need to pay more heed to the analogy of the boiling frog, for it is humanity that is proving this a most apt description of our predicament. What killed the frog? Many of us would say the boiling water. But the truth is, what killed the frog was its own inability to decide when it had to jump out.

17 12 2013
Graham

Revised comment
Most, if not all of the assumptions, yours excepted, appear based on the need to address carbon emissions and hence global warming providing there is little or no impact on our lifestyles. As if the underlying problem was getting rid of the rubbish and not the cause of the ‘rubbish’ being dumped into the atmosphere in the first place.
We humans are a weird bunch that seemingly cannot ever take a step back. Progress is always linear forever upwards. We need to pay more heed to the analogy of the boiling frog, for it is a most apt way of describing what is happening to humanity. What killed the frog? Many of us would say the boiling water. But the truth is, what killed the frog was its own inability to decide when it had to jump out.

17 12 2013
Llewellyn

George needs to read this from; Nafeez Ahmed http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2013/jul/02/nuclear-energy-crunch-uranium-peak-blackouts
The end of cheap uranium!

17 12 2013
mikestasse

Thanks for the tip…. I incorporated it in the story now.

17 12 2013
Bob

OT but….

have a look at some new wind turbine tech…this is interesting!

http://www.industrytap.com/bladeless-turbine-harvests-wind-energy-2-3x-efficiently-bladed-turbines/17217

18 12 2013
thetinfoilhatsociety

There seems to me to be a connection between our increased ‘need’ for continuous power to fuel our internet/smart phone/Facebook society and the documented increase in levels of depression and anxiety suffered by those in the Western world. The 1940’s for instance were much less energy intensive, and food rationing continued here in the US until at least 1950, yet levels of life satisfaction were much higher. Perhaps the way to get people on board is to keep pushing the much higher levels of satisfaction and happiness people will have if they power down intelligently and willingly. Else they will power down eventually whether they want to or not. And I don’t think that is going to contribute to any sort of decrease in depression or anxiety.

18 12 2013
lemmiwinks

Dear old George, like most of mankind (take that political correctness!) can’t see past the end of their nose. Radioactivity has no smell, taste, sound and you can’t see so in most people’s minds the dangers are clearly exaggerated. Also, apart from extreme doses like those received by the first responders to Chernobyl (and I’m sure it will be revealed, those at Fukushima) it takes a while to kill you, so therefore, Fukushima goes bang and people don’t drop dead in the next week = nuclear power is perfectly fine.

Pro nukers like George also conveniently forget that the “solution” for “spent” fuel rods is to store them (in the case of Fukushima, above the reactor which went pop, cue Fukushima the worst nuclear disaster in the history of the world: part two). Except they’ve got to be kept cool by circulating very clean water around them.

So we store them like that until when? The fissionable products have decayed sufficiently that they no longer require cooling? Then what? More storage? Isn’t that known as “fouling the nest” or “shitting where you eat”. The mind boggles.

18 12 2013
Ally

I remember at the end of ‘Storms of my Grandchildren’ James Hansen wrote about clean thorium reactors and I was quite taken by it (though may be pie in the sky). Hansen also writes about coal-related deaths. And Mark Lynas (of ‘Six Degrees’) is now a nuclear advocate. I can see their logic. The need to drastically cut emissions is so pressing that we have to throw everything we’ve got at it – even nuclear. I guess highlighting current deaths from coal may seem a more persuasive reason to stop burning coal than the future deaths from climate change (because lately no one seems too bothered by the latter). I know what you’re saying Mike, but I don’t agree that Monbiot is power crazed or is making excuses for our endless-growth over-consumption economy. I reckon he knows as well as anyone we’re on Limits to Growth’s standard run, and there’s little hope left. But you can’t write that, can you? He’s just being pragmatic. And surely he’s correct on the basics: nuclear, for all it’s dangers, doesn’t kill as many people as coal, and it could help us reduce emissions.

18 12 2013
mikestasse

To start with, nuclear doesn’t reduce emissions much.
https://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/does-nuclear-energy-produce-no-co2/

Then, I can see how post economic collapse and post fossil fuels it will be impossible to decommission ancient nukes…… The idea of having hundreds of decrepit nukes running out of coolant all over the world fills me with dread…. think Fukushimas spread out everywhere (except, thankfully, the Southern Hemisphere..)

18 12 2013
Ally

Yes, fair enough. Thanks for the link – I read the Kimble article with interest. I agree it’s too easy to forget about the full life cycle and just focus on the end-emissions. But even so I’d argue that nuclear is the lesser of two evils in respect to C02 – 30-120g per kWh for nuclear (across life cycle including mining, processing, concrete etc) compared to 950g per kWh for coal across life cycle (see Figure 3 p.5 in this paper http://80.237.155.114/oekodoc/315/2006-017-en.pdf).

However re your second point, yes, that’s a pretty scary scenario and all too likely looking at how Fukushima seems to be going. Does it mean we shouldn’t build more nuclear power stations? Yeah, probably! But I still reckon it’s a shame to see countries like Germany move away from the nuclear they have back to coal.

18 12 2013

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