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Book advocates Integral Fast Reactor (IFR)

Tom Blees, Prescription for the Planet
The Painless Remedy for Our Energy & Environmental Crises

Solving our planet’s most pressing dilemmas requires more than simply setting goals. We need a roadmap to reach them. Technologies that work fine on a small scale cannot necessarily be ramped up to global size. Worldwide environmental and social problems require a bold vision for the future that includes feasible planet-wide solutions with all the details. Prescription for the Planet explains how a trio of little-known yet profoundly revolutionary technologies, coupled with their judicious use in an atmosphere of global cooperation, can be the springboard that carries humanity to an era beyond scarcity. And with competition for previously scarce resources no longer an issue, the main incentives for warfare will be eliminated. Explaining not only the means to solve our most pressing problems but how those solutions can painlessly lead to improving the standard of living of everyone on the planet, the lucid and provocatively written Prescription for the Planet has arrived not a moment too soon. There is something here for everyone, be they a policymaker, environmental activist, or any concerned citizen hoping for a better future.
(April 2009)
Author claims that Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) is the silver bullet for our energy needs. Links and sample chapter at the website.

Suggested by readers PN and KW who are interested but skeptical. The technofix tone turns me off (“The Painless Remedy for Our Energy & Environmental Crises”), but the technology seems more promising than many others.

Apr 22 interview on KPFA
Radio Parallax interview.
Tom Blees: Rebuttal to Greenpeace on nuclear
Bill Totten replies to Tom Blees who writes:

Your book, ?rescription for the Planet: The Painless Remedy for Our Energy & Environmental Crises (2008) apparently focuses on so-called fourth-generation nuclear technology – better known as fast-breeder reactors {2}. I’d love to believe in fourth-generation nuclear technology, but I am not willing to “bet the farm” on unproven technology and this seems no more proven than the Golden Fleece, Philospher’s Stone, Fountain of Youth, or Perpetual Motion Machine.

And from what I’ve read {3}, current problems even with second-generation nuclear energy are too immense to give much hope for fourth-generation nuclear energy in the foreseeable future.

I’ll be happy to consider fourth-generation nuclear technology or fast-breeder reactors when a few have been built and proven safe and economic for several years. In the meantime, I’ll place my hopes on reducing energy consumption in the very richest nations toward as little as the vast majority of Earthlings use today and as even those in the richest nations used until a generation or so ago. We know this works in the vast majority of the world today and did work in the richest nations until a generation or so ago.


Getting Real on Wind and Solar

James Schlesinger and Robert L. Hirsch, Washington Post
Why are we ignoring things we know? We know that the sun doesn’t always shine and that the wind doesn’t always blow. That means that solar cells and wind energy systems don’t always provide electric power. Nevertheless, solar and wind energy seem to have captured the public’s support as potentially being the primary or total answer to our electric power needs.

Solar cells and wind turbines are appealing because they are “renewables” with promising implications and because they emit no carbon dioxide during operation, which is certainly a plus. But because both are intermittent electric power generators, they cannot produce electricity “on demand,” something that the public requires. We expect the lights to go on when we flip a switch, and we do not expect our computers to shut down as nature dictates.

James R. Schlesinger was the first secretary of energy and established the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Robert L. Hirsch is senior energy adviser at Management Information Services Inc. Previously he managed the federal renewables program at the Energy Research and Development Administration, the predecessor to the Energy Department.
(24 April 2009)
Robert Hirsch was lead author of the Hirsch Report, one of the most important documents examining peak oil.

Criticism of the article at The Oil Drum leads off with this comment by Alan Drake (“AlanfromBigEasy”):

However, large-scale electric energy storage is possible only in the few locations where there are hydroelectric dams.


Pumped storage (see Ludington, Bath County, VA and Raccoon Mountain, all larger than any nuclear power plant) can use an existing reservoir for the lower reservoir, or they can use the Great Lakes or two new reservoirs.

Any area (even deserts) with significant hills or mountains can have pumped storage installed (an initial fill of water and then evaporation losses. Floating balls can reduce evaporation in desert areas). In theory. mines could be used for pumped storage in flat land.

Overall cycle efficiency at Bath County Virgina pumped storage is 81% (I talked with them when they presented a poster at a hydroelectric conference).

I have also talked privately with Dr. Hirsch and he simply does understand the details of integrating renewables into the grid and does not see Climate Change as a major threat.

California takes on King Corn

Matthew Cimitile, The Daily Climate
Golden State may rule corn ethanol no solution to climate change.

California regulators, trying to assess the true environmental cost of corn ethanol, are poised to declare that the biofuel cannot help the state reduce global warming.

As they see it, corn is no better – and might be worse – than petroleum when total greenhouse gas emissions are considered.
Such a declaration, to be considered later this week by the California Air Resources Board, would be a considerable blow to the corn-ethanol industry in the United States.

If passed, the measure could serve as a model as other states and the federal government tackle carbon emissions.

That has the ethanol industry in a full-court press against the proposal, saying it risks killing investments needed to create the next generation of cleaner, more efficient biofuels.

But California’s regulators say they have no choice.

The state must asses the full climate change impact of corn ethanol under a California law requiring a sharp cut in carbon emissions from transportation fuels. The board must encourage the use of cleaner alternatives like electricity, hydrogen and cellulosic ethanol, said board spokesman Dimitri Stanich.

The proposal would work like this: If increased production of corn-based ethanol in the U.S. raises corn prices and accelerates the conversion of rainforests and conservations lands to farmland worldwide, greenhouse emissions and loss of the carbon sink associated with such deforestation and disruption must be counted towards the biofuel’s total emissions.

“Losing a carbon sink would defeat the purpose of this regulation to reduce greenhouse emissions,” Stanich said.
(20 April 2009)