Why I changed my mind about nuclear power | Michael Shellenberger | TEDxBerlin

For more information on Michael Shellenberger, please visit www.tedxberlin.de. Michael Shellenberger is co-founder and Senior Fellow at the Breakthrough Institute, where he was president from 2003 to 2015, and a co-author of the Ecomodernist Manifesto.
Over the last decade, Michael and his colleagues have constructed a new paradigm that views prosperity, cheap energy and nuclear power as the keys to environmental progress. A book he co-wrote (with Ted Nordhaus) in 2007, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism
to the Politics of Possibility, was called by Wired magazine “the best thing to happen to environmentalism since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring,” while Time Magazine called him a “hero of the environment.” In the 1990s, he helped protect the last signi cant groves of old-growth redwoods still in private hands and bring about labor improvements to Nike factories in Asia. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx
Nuclear energy is the only practical alternative that we have to destroying the environment with oil and coal.
-Ansel Adams, 1983 (14 min)

The $3 Billion Plan to Turn Hoover Dam Into a Giant Battery

.. Now it is the focus of a distinctly 21st-century challenge: turning the dam into a vast reservoir of excess electricity, fed by the solar farms and wind turbines that represent the power sources of the future.

.. wants to equip it with a $3 billion pipeline and a pump station powered by solar and wind energy. The pump station, downstream, would help regulate the water flow through the dam’s generators, sending water back to the top to help manage electricity at times of peak demand.

The net result would be a kind of energy storage — performing much the same function as the giant lithium-ion batteries being developed to absorb and release power.

.. The Hoover Dam project may help answer a looming question for the energy industry: how to come up with affordable and efficient power storage
.. when solar and wind farms produce more electricity than consumers need, California utilities have had to find ways to get rid of it — including giving it away to other states — or risk overloading the electric grid and causing blackouts.
.. The target for completion is 2028, and some say the effort could inspire similar innovations at other dams.
.. Using Hoover Dam to help manage the electricity grid has been mentioned informally over the last 15 years. But no one pursued the idea seriously until about a year ago, as California began grappling with the need to better manage its soaring alternative-electricity production — part of weaning itself from coal-fired and nuclear power plants.
.. estimated that utility-scale lithium-ion batteries cost 26 cents a kilowatt-hour, compared with 15 cents for a pumped-storage hydroelectric project. The typical household pays about 12.5 cents a kilowatt-hour for electricity.
.. engineers propose building a pump station about 20 miles downstream from the main reservoir, Lake Mead
.. “Hoover Dam is ideal for this,” said Kelly Sanders, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Southern California. “It’s a gigantic plant. We don’t have anything on the horizon as far as batteries of that magnitude.”
.. “With lithium-ion batteries, you have durability issues,” Mr. Narayan said. “If they last five to 10 years, that would be a stretch, especially because we expect to use these facilities at full capacity. It has to be 10 times more durable than it is today.”
.. its proposal would increase the productivity of the dam, which operates at just 20 percent of its potential, to avoid releasing too much water at once and flooding towns downstream.

Breaking from GOP orthodoxy, Trump increasingly deciding winners and losers in the economy

President Trump is increasingly intervening in the economy, making decisions about corporate winners and losers in ways that Republicans for decades have insisted should be left to free markets — not the government.

.. On Friday, citing national security, Trump ordered the Energy Department to compel power-grid operators to buy from ailing coal and nuclear plants that otherwise would be forced to shut down because of competition from cheaper sources.

.. The order came one day after the president imposed historic metals tariffs on some of the country’s strongest allies and trading partners. Now the Commerce Department is further picking winners and losers as it weighs thousands of requests from companies for waivers from the import taxes.

“It replaces the invisible hand with the government hand,” said Mary Lovely, a Syracuse University economist. “You’re replacing the market with government fiat.”

.. The president has chastised individual companies, second-guessed the U.S. Postal Service’s business arrangement with Amazon and put pressure on Boeing and Lockheed Martin over the cost of their products.

.. Of course, Trump isn’t the only one to tinker with market forces. President Barack Obama backed subsidies for wind and solar power. And about 30 states have adopted laws mandating minimum purchases of renewable energy.

Obama also won passage of a health-care reform package that created winners and losers. Republicans criticized the Affordable Care Act at the time for forcing people to make purchases through the individual mandate.

.. Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) said that he and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) would co-sponsor legislation “to rein in the executive branch’s power to impose unilateral tax increases like these.”

.. “One of the reasons tariffs are not good policy in general is that it is a form of corporate welfare,” said Stephen Moore, an economist at the Heritage Foundation. “You’re saying consumers will have to pay more so this auto company or steel company or aluminum company stays in business. It’s the ultimate form of picking winners and losers.”

Aging And Unstable, The Nation’s Electrical Grid Is ‘The Weakest Link’

So California especially, they balance solar with natural gas. In Germany, they balance wind with coal. And this leads to this very ironic situation where the places with the highest penetration of renewables also have greenhouse gas emissions which are going up.

DAVIES: And this is a fascinating thing that you describe where a utility will literally have an old plant running on fossil fuels – coal or diesel – and it sits idle until there’s a decline in some other energy source. And then they fire up this expensive, antiquated, polluting equipment?

BAKKE: Exactly. Yeah, either a dip in another energy source or a big surge in use. So we usually use – they’re called peakers, and we usually use them, for example, on a very hot August day when everyone turns up their air conditioning. So that’s another case where the plants that are making electricity aren’t making enough. And so these plants have to get turned on.

But you need all the coal sitting around to run them. You need the people sitting around to be called in to run them because they’re complicated machines – giant complicated machines.

DAVIES: So if we – if the people, if the utilities, if the grid could figure out a way to manage all this renewable energy coming in and not have to have these old, antiquated plants at the ready, it would save a lot of money, effort and pollution, right?

BAKKE: Absolutely. Absolutely. And one of the things, for example, that Texas is doing right now, they have the highest amount of wind energy in the country. And they – their – Texas wind blows at night, so they’ve done two funny things. One is that there’s one utility that just gives away electricity after 9 p.m.

So the electricity is free, again, because they need people to use it. So everybody at 9:00 p.m., everybody sort of stands up and turns on their dishwasher

 

.. I think that this idea – the idea that with either zero or we’ve failed needs to be put aside a little bit to say, what would it look like if we could get to 80 percent? How would we have to revive – what would we have to do to the system in order to get to 80 percent renewables – because once we can do that, then we can look at and say, how do we get to 90 percent – as opposed to this sort of we’re going to completely eliminate any kind of fossil fuel, leave it all on the ground, and we’re going to run all on renewables.

The upside of renewables is that they can for sure make more electricity than we need. There’s not – there’s not a shortage problem. There’s, in a way, an excess problem. But that is not – that’s not the issue. That’s in part why I feel like this book actually matters is because it’s not about generation. That’s not the end of the story. That’s the beginning of the story. And the rest of the story is about the ways in which we use that power, the ways in which we transmit that power, the ways in which we care for that power, we store that power or we don’t store it, we balance it – all of these grid-related sort of human questions.

So, yes, absolutely, I think it’s absolutely possible. But let’s get to 50 percent. Let’s get to – I think 80 percent – by the time we get to 80 percent renewable and integration, we are going to have confronted all of the big problems that are facing us right now.