Thursday, January 28, 2010

Response to CP(ML) Liberation on nucelar energy Part III

This is Part III of Donald Vaughn's reply to the Liberation article published in 2008:
http://www.cpiml.org/liberation/year_2008/august/Jail_Bharo.html
[Liberation is the journal of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, a large communist party, one of dozens, that exist in the Indian Sub-Continent.]

Part I is here or scroll down.

Part II is here or scroll down.
Liberations comments are in italics and Vaughn's are in normal text.
--D. Vaughn (D. Vaughn is a former power plant operator in the United States and Mexico, a union activist, socialist, and nuclear energy expert).


Is Nuclear Energy Cleanest and Greenest?

With climate change and global warming as a result of burning of fossil fuels emerging as a major environmental threat, our Government is claiming that nuclear energy is a cleaner source of energy.

This is not simply the domain of the Indian government, it's the consensus by most scientists and engineers and governments the world over: nuclear is a low carbon energy source, therefore it lowers carbon emissions, particulate and, solids like fly ash and other pollutants associated with coal burning.

But as we have seen, nuclear energy is nowhere close to replacing other fuels: at best it can produce electricity; while other sectors of the economy that are responsible for the bulk of carbon emissions will continue to do so.


I have already show here on Left-Atomics that this a false, misleading statement. We are primarily talking about phasing out coal which is the biggest stationary source of pollution from carbon in the world today. Advanced nuclear energy, such as the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor/MSR (LFTR) will be able to produce synthetic fuels from atmospheric CO2, reduce the volume of real nuclear waste and lower it's radioactivity to a mere 200 years.

Even where electricity is concerned, nuclear power cannot be the solution for climate change because according to the IPCC Working Committee Report on Climate Change, it accounts for a very small part of the world’s supply: just 16% of the world’s electricity supply in 2005, and an estimated 18% share of the total electricity supply in 2030. For reducing greenhouse gases to address climate change, there is no other viable way except to change our way of life, promote public transport, and explore renewable energy sources like hydro, solar and wind power and clean coal technologies.

This statement, unfortunately, reflects the views of Western "Green" NGOs and not one based on the material reality of science and development. 16% is about 10,000% more than all the renewable (non-Hydro) alternatives that exist in the world today. That "16%" represents over 400 nuclear reactors, everyone of which replaced a potential coal plant. The later half of the statement above only indicates that 16% is "not enough". I agree. So we should do what we can to double, triple and quadruple that number, as the Chinese are attempting to do, indeed, which even the Congress government in India has set out as a "goal". It is un-Marxist to such development based on ONE report as a static inevitability. If we use the idea of a collectivized economic plan based on human needs, then the rapid and need goal of low-carbon nuclear energy would be a priority and we word to that goal!

Secondly, clean coal, or, as the western advertising agency that came up with the highly oxymoronic concept of "Clean Coal", is simply not scalable to make a serious difference. It is only designed to deal with the CO2 content, some of the CO2 content, from burning coal. Disposing of millions of tons of liquid CO2 has not been solved; fly ash is still produced in prodigous quantities; particulate will remain a killer of hundreds of thousands of people every year.

Thirdly, the green-utopian goal of using the very non-dense forms of energy derived from solar and wind cannot, and have not, replaced baseload fossil fuels anywhere in the world. It is way to expensive, requiring massive full price subsidies to exist presently to stay "in business". The Green capitalist solution of wind and solar is an economic failure and a waste of research and development monies better spent on advanced nuclear energy. Wind energy, for example, takes up to 8 times the amount of concrete and steel for unit of energy produced than nuclear! Which is really the 'cleaner' energy generator with this in mind?

The US, one of the worst offenders against the environment, has arrogantly refused to consider such solutions, declaring that the “American way of life is non-negotiable” and arguing absurdly that cows in India produce more greenhouse gases than cars in the US! The same irresponsible US is preaching that India should sign the Nuke Deal to combat global warming!

That the U.S. declares this…well…it is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the big U.S. based fossil fuel producers…most notably the coal & gas industry, the National Assn. Of Manufacturers and dominant finance capital in general, that has declared this in not so many words with their overall denial of human caused global warming. It is also absurd to think that the 'standard of living' of the US as the capitalists would declare is necessarily reliant on massive use of fossil fuels. Perhaps that is another blog entry that Left-Atomics and Liberation will allow me to write on here in the future.

It is true that nuclear reactors themselves do not directly emit greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change. But the “emissions” from those reactors take the form of extremely radioactive waste that is dangerous for tens of thousands of years, is also dangerous to transport, is an obvious target for terrorists, can be used to make “dirty bombs,” and is endlessly expensive to endlessly manage.

This is a myth on several levels. The 'emissions' from nuclear power plants is almost the same as any large concrete structure. There is little or no evidence that any radioactive emissions add to background radiation. None is recorded and while pressurized water reactors one or twice in as many years do emit air that has a very low radioactive signature to relieve excess pressure, there is zero evidence that this is at all recordable incident or represents as health risk at all. It is way less that the radioactive signature than we record from the massive amounts of coal ash, high enough in…uranium that the Chinese have pilot plant in operation to mine coal ash for it's uranium fuel content! Part of developing any industrial concern is risk assessment. If you compare the risk assessment of a nuclear plant at every level to that of any fossil plant, plus, add up what the world is facing with climate change, and the massive deployment of nuclear energy comes out on top.

Radioactive waste can, and has been dealt with by closing the fuel cycle with 100% recycling of spent nuclear fuel. Thus the actual waste of a country such as France which employs such reprocessing is about 1/10th the amount and level of radioactivity that countries such as the US which do not. India's plan, as it happens, is to do just that: close the fuel cycle and reduce by 90% the amount of "waste" needed for dry cask or geologic storage.

Secondly on the is, it is not, in my opinion, the proper political perspective to invoke the US sponsored perspective and false category of "terrorism", employed against the Left and all groups fighting for liberation, that they be "dirty bombers". This is the language of the Imperialists and not those supporting liberation from imperialism.

Thirdly, a dirty bomb is far more easily constructed from medical radioactive waste than the very 'hot' material from a nuclear plant. There is very little evidence that the spent nuclear fuel from a nuclear plant can be used in a "dirty bomb" of any sort. This sort of fear-mongering is best left to the purveyors of the War on Terrorism than a Marxist-Leninist party.

Recent research highlighted in the prestigious British journal, The Ecologist, estimates that when the entire production cycle is accounted for, nuclear power emits less greenhouse gas than burning coal but far more than alternatives such as wind, solar, and conservation.

Well, quoting a noted anti-nuclear publication and purveyor of energy-starvation and the reactionary, anti-human "use less" mentality of the Greens is not the best source. But the IAE, the UN's own energy commissions, and just about every non-industry affiliated journal on this subject notes that nuclear not only produces less GHG than coal & gas by way less and only a little more than wind, solar and "conservation".

Secondly, and we will cover this later in this series, "conservation" is a red-herring…especially in country like India that has over 300 million people living with out any source of on demand energy at all. Conservation, always a worthwhile concept, is not, for a country like India what is at issue…at all. India's per=capita energy use is at starvation levels and needs to by raised not lowered! How does a peasant in Kerala or West Bengal 'conserve' when their main source of energy is charcoal? When their main source of lighting are lanterns? When their main source of cooling is a stream? Communists in India need to develop a plan to expand, not contract energy use. Only nuclear can seriously be deployed to develop the grid and other requirements for India's future socialist development.

Thirdly, the problem with conservation is that it has a falling rate of return. One can only 'conserve so much' before real aggregate growth stymies the positive returns one gets from overall conservation. Population growth, economic development and overall expansion of the productive forces needs and requires more and more energy, cheaply and safely.

50 comments:

DV8 2XL said...

It's a healthy sign that the far-left is politically mature enough to be able to harbor criticism like this. Too often in the past a sometimes misguided emphasis was placed on solidarity over reason, and a discussion like this would have never made it out into a public forum.

It's a refreshing change, and one that shows that the Left still has something to contribute.

D. Walters said...

Thanks DV! Ideally...the fight should be across the board about who are the best pushers of nuclear energy, and put the anti-nukes on the fringe of politics. I'll let Donald Vaughn know you commented.

新衣 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
gm said...

David: Gwyneth Cravens cites an IAEA report on life cycle emissions where nukes come out ahead of solar, and about equal to wind. actually lower.


That's I think what the Externe E reports also say.


And Gwyneth told me that the wind numbers did not include things like grid costs.


what do you think?


also: I'd like to get hold of that wwf article that decides to raise nuke ghgs to the level of natural gas just because they don't favor nuclear.


got a friend who doesn't trust data about lifecycle electricity costs from sweden and france. keeps insisting the lifecycle for nukes can't be taken into account. usual stuff.

DW said...

I trust Gwyneth a lot so this would be likely. I think, generally, 'life cycle' differences between solar, wind, nuclear are statistically irrelevant. It hurts the antis tremendously when they try to cite numbers that are clearly artificial creations. Like Jabobson's inclusion of "nuclear war" to boost the CO2 figures for nuclear. Carp like that.

Stranded Wind said...

Hey, we're doing a Netroots Nation panel and we need a thorium reactor guy - can you hunt up me (Stranded Wind) on DailyKos, find my email, and contact me?

glox said...

Check out J. Bonometti's presentation about the liquid fluoride thorium reactor on youtube. He may be a good person for the Netroots panel.

rgwalther said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gm said...

hi david:

I have this friend who is really locked into developing a "global solar infrastructure." He hasn't read Peter Lang's excellent pieces on the total unfeasibility of such plans but he has read Barry's critique of the jacobson plan and has chosen to avoid the central points.

One of the reasons he is opposed to nuclear is that he does not think it can be a central part of an immediate movement led energy transition due to nuclear power in u.s. being too bound up with the military industrial complex.

He's not prey to caldicott scare tactics, however.


at any rate, what do you as a marxist say about movements of the working class and nuclear power, especially with respect to the state, military etc., national security state?

would you advocate an immediate public fight over "civilianizing" npps? I really would like to know what you think on this? what in short is your view of the energy transition to nuclear while weakening the capitalist state?

she said...

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彬彬 said...

先告訴自己希望成為什麼樣的人,然後一步一步實踐必要的步驟。........................................

郭美娟 said...

噴泉的高度,不會超過它的源頭。一個人的事業也是如此,它的成就絕不會超過自己的信念。 ....................................................

黃欣幸 said...

困難的不在於新概念,而在於逃避舊有的概念。......................................................

DW said...

Marxists are for nationalizing the energy sector...at the very minimum supporting municipalization and Federal takeovers, like the TVA was intended to be.

DW said...

Marxists are for nationalizing the energy sector...at the very minimum supporting municipalization and Federal takeovers, like the TVA was intended to be.

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原秋 said...

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韋于倫成 said...

A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery on a detour. ....................................................

文辰 said...

春冰薄,人情更薄;登天難,求人更難。 ............................................................

伯臻伯臻 said...

命運,就是自己行為的結果。..................................................

佩GailBohanan1蓉 said...

Make yourself necessary to someone.............................................................

renew said...

所有的資產,在不被諒解時,都成了負債..................................................

benjaminga said...

成熟,就是有能力適應生活中的模糊。..................................................

hernande said...

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韋富 said...

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EulaliaS_Bro仁豪 said...

生存乃是不斷地在內心與靈魂交戰;寫作是坐著審判自己。....................................................................

江婷 said...

很棒的分享~~~來留個言囉~~~~.................................................................                           

法邦法邦 said...

所有的資產,在不被諒解時,都成了負債............................................................

胤綸胤綸 said...

人生是故事的創造與遺忘。............................................................

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第一次來這裡 愛上你的部落格 感謝你的分享............................................................

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精彩的部落格 要繼續加油 ..................................................................

淑娟淑娟淑娟 said...

才華在逆境中展現,在順境中被掩藏。..................................................................

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有用的才華若不用,便如同日晷儀放在陰暗之中............................................................

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Of two evils choose the least...................................................

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凱許倫 said...

來問個安,誰不支持這個部落格,我咬他.................................................................

筱朝宜財 said...

快樂,是享受工作過程的結果..................................................

王辛江淑萍康 said...

說「吃虧就是便宜的人」,多半不是吃虧的人。......................................................................

偉曹琬 said...

知識可以傳授,智慧卻不行。每個人必須成為他自己。. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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江仁趙雲虹昆 said...

認清問題就等於已經解決了一半的問題。..................................................

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