IN AN EMERGENCY:
If the situation gets really bad, some have suggested our governments might be forced to take a Command Economy approach to energy and climate matters. But what technologies exist in the 3 areas of Electricity, Transport, and Climate Control that they could turn to?
Believe it or not, nuclear power is SAFE. Today’s nukes would EASILY have survived the cooling systems failure at Fukushima. The reactor cores cool themselves if they start to overheat. Banning nuclear power because of Fukushima is like banning aviation because of the Hindenburg!
They are also cheaper, because instead of one-of-a-kind projects, nukes are going up on the assembly line!
“By the 2030s, China will likely have built out hundreds of nuclear reactors. They will also have factory mass produced one piece reactors like their 200 MWe HTR-PM (High temperature pebble bed reactor). Those reactors could be built in Chinese factories and shipped for installation overseas. This would enable the China price for nuclear power which is currently about $1.5 to 2 billion per GWe. This is 2-3 times cheaper than current prices in the US and Europe. Each nuclear reactor module would likely be buildable in 2 years or so by that the 2030s.”
Even today’s AP1000’s are being modularised and put on the production line to slash costs. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AP1000 Even America is getting in on the act, with it being the first Gen3.5 reactor being approved.
Tomorrow’s Integral Fast Reactors (like GE’s S-PRISM)
will be mass produced, bringing the capital cost of nuclear *way* down AND solving the nuclear waste problem permanently. Remember, as all good permaculture people say, waste = food. This could not be more true than with nuclear ‘waste’, which we should start calling ‘once through fuel’. This new *resource* is not a problem to be stored for 100,000 years, which would be as mad as refining your best sweet crude into jet fuel just to try and bury it forever! Instead, in a few decades all our ‘waste’ will into highly secured nuclear energy parks where today’s waste alone will be converted into 500 years worth of energy for the whole planet. After going through the breeding cycle dozens of times, the final waste is stored in a concrete bunker for 300 years and then is safe enough to let your children play with it. One golf ball of uranium would power a whole human life, cradle to grave, including all transport and agricultural fuel costs as well. One golf ball weighs 1kg. With today’s technologies we can extract 1kg of uranium from seawater for $300. That’s a lifetime of FUEL (not the capital costs behind all this infrastructure) for just $300.
(a) I fully support new city plans that don’t require as much driving in the first place, with walkability built into the town core and the primary emphasis being on trains, trams, and trolley buses.
(b) But for those people and industries that *do* require cars, a command economy could legislate for all electric vehicles for domestic driving, and / or rechargeable boron or hydrogen for larger vehicles like trucking, construction, mining, farming, etc. Boron can even be used for car-hire clubs for various fuel dependent 4WD holidays or long road trips where an EV just will not cut it. James Hansen’s “Science Council for Global Initiatives” recommends boron in the FREE book, “Prescription for the planet”. Download as PDF here. (It’s awesome!)
Just as we have a mix of gas, petroleum, and diesel in today’s garages, tomorrow could see a mix of electric vehicle quick-charge with boron and hydrogen pumps as well.
3. CLIMATE CONTROL
If the Sulphur Shield does indeed prove to be too risky, then there’s always massive biochar schemes, and growing our food in seawater greenhouses in the desert which has already proved financially viable. This would soak up some carbon emissions.
Then there’s the Olivine solution, which would cost $200 billion annually to negate ALL our CO2 emissions, pretty much without side-effects.
But, obviously, that money would be better spent on prevention, rather than this last-minute ‘cure’. As Engineer Poet says:
“Investing €200 billion per year in nuclear powerplants would produce 100 GW of new plants per year, which would cut emissions by about 790 million tons/yr each year. Ten years into a construction program at this pace, the net CO2 emissions from coal combustion would be cut by about 7.9 billion tons per year, roughly 1/3 of the total human emissions of 26.4 GT/yr.”
Maybe we’ll leave weaning off fossil fuels so late that we have to use Olivine AND a command economy deployment of all energy solutions? The global economy has a $70 trillion budget. Allocating $800 billion to fast deploy both nukes and olivine would use just over 1% of the world economy. We could completely mop up this energy and climate crisis in a few decades, while cleaning up our cities, creating trendy New Urban areas to live in that focus on moving people, not cars. We could use electric robot-cars to gradually wean some of the population off having to *own* their individual family car because a robot-taxi cab would be the cheap option either end of a fast train trip. We can do this. It’s time to get started!