Gore v Brand re nuclear energy

Reason wonders How Green Are Your Nukes? and describes the views of Stewart Brand and Al Gore in recent books. Brand tends to favor nuclear energy because it excels at providing base load capability, has a low earth footprint, has a low global warming contribution, and is a large scale effort needing governmental support and regulation.

Al Gore, who criticizes “the grossly unacceptable economics of the present generation of reactors.” He opens his chapter on the nuclear option by calling it a “radioactive white elephant”—that is, an object that costs more to maintain than it’s worth. This turns out to be one of two chief arguments Gore makes against nukes. The second is the risk that nuclear fuel might be diverted to produce atomic weapons. Like Brand, Gore acknowledges that nuclear power is safe and that the issue of how to store nuclear waste could be solved. … somehow Gore’s cost consciousness gets lost when he considers his pet solutions, such as solar power. Elsewhere in the book, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate does a lot of hand waving

The discussion concludes that “The best way to figure out which technologies are the most economical is to set a price on greenhouse gas emissions and let various energy sources compete against each other. No subsidies needed.” The only problem here is that costs of energy sources include much more than the technology and infrastructure costs. Political activism has resulted in significant regulatory and litigation burdens that taint simple cost evaluations. If it was left to the engineers, the problem would be solved. But meeting energy demand has put engineering in the background and daydreams and fantasies and ideology paramount. That does not bode well for any road to solving problems.

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