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from oil to…nuclear?

by on June 6, 2010

Stewart Brand and James Lovelock have both spoken for nuclear as the energy solution for climate and peak oil. Amory Lovins is opposed. What are the arguments?

Here, overheard from Theoildrum

Interesting thought I had about this today: did the worst-case risk curve for oil just cross that for nuclear?

This disaster has really changed my view of oil’s environmental cost. In the past I saw it as more of a constant thing… you have the manageable level of damage done by drilling, and then you have the emissions from using the stuff as fuel. Nuclear on the other hand could, if used without a high level of respect for its hazards, lead to big game-changing accidents like Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

The deepwater horizon leak seems to change that equation. I think this disaster already looks worse (at least from an ecosystem damage point of view) than the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster, which was the worst nuclear incident in U.S. history. If the worst-case projections are correct and it ends up taking months and months to stop this thing, it could actually approach Chernobyl scales of damage. So it would appear, at least with deepwater drilling, that it’s possible to have a petro-Chernobyl.

Meanwhile, nuclear has gotten safer. Look into current modern designs like CANDU or even modern conventional plants and their safety systems. Then there’s stuff further down the line like LFTR that’s potentially even safer than those.

So did the risk curves just cross?

Douglass Carmichael

MAHB Millennium  Assessment of Human Behavior

Stanford Media X , Stanford Stratgey Stdios and  Palo Alto StrategyStudios

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Posted via email from Doug Carmichael reflections


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One Comment
  1. Luis Gutierrez permalink

    Maybe they crossed a while ago and we didn’t notice because of the way nuclear power has been demonized?

    I’m nowhere near being an expert on this topic but from what I’ve heard from scientists, we freak out about the possibility radiation from nuclear plants but don’t care about other sources of radiation like coal combustion, which realeases uranium straight into the atmosphere; or even the sun, which kills far more people every year than nuclear power has ever killed with its accidents included.

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