Peter Schwartz and Ralph Cavanagh – “Nuclear Power, Climate Change and the Next 10,000 Years”

Posted on Sunday, January 1st, 02006 by Stewart Brand
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Ralph Cavanagh and Peter Schwartz

Climate change and nuclear prospects

Given the power to decide who would go first— anti-nuke Ralph Cavanagh from Natural Resources Defense Counsel or pro-nuke Peter Schwartz from Global Business Network— the large audience Friday night voted for Schwartz to make the opening argument.

It is the threat of “abrupt climate change” that converted him to support new emphasis on nuclear power, Schwartz said. Gradual global warming is clearly now under way, and there is increasing reason to believe that human activity is driving it, mostly through the burning of coal and oil. If warming is all that happens, it will be an enormous problem, but some regions of the Earth would gain (Russia, Canada) while many others would lose…

Read the rest of Stewart Brand’s Summary

  • is reporting that a senior energy official in China is saying that nuclear is just a transitional step for them.

    ” Nuclear power is not the long-term answer to China’s energy needs due to limited global uranium supplies and problems with nuclear waste disposal, state media on Monday quoted a top official as saying.
    “Nuclear power cannot save us because the world’s supply of uranium and other radioactive minerals needed to generate nuclear power are very limited,” Chen Mingde, vice chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, said in comments quoted by the China Daily newspaper.

    State media reported last week that China intended to set up a strategic uranium reserve amid plans to build as many as three new nuclear power plants annually over the next 10 years.”

  • Peter Russell

    While I agree that electrical energy generated from nuclear plants is not the solution to slow or stop global warming, it could be one of them, and an important one at that. If technology is developed to re-use spent fuel effectively, the relatively small supply of uranium in the world would go much farther. In addition, while I am an enthusiastic exponent of wind generated energy and other renewables, the world’s centralised electrical grids as they are presently operated require base or uninterruptable power to mitigate the erratic effect of renewables like wind turbines. Here in Alberta, Canada, we have found that the stable ratio is about 90% “base power” and 10% “interruptable power”. I’m sure this ratio will change as we develop the grid for more renewables, but we will always need a large quantity of base power for the forseeable future.

    It isn’t “all or nothing”. Conservation, wind, solar, biofuels, and nuclear can work in harmony to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Coal should have an ever decreasing importance in the mix and should be phased out whenever it can be replaced by a more efficient method. The cost of coal fired thermal plants goes way beyond the cost of the fuel and the plant maintenance and the public will have to pay one price or the other.

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