Developing a "comprehensive and coherent" energy policy

A dedicated group of diarists over at Daily Kos have been hammering away at developing a "comprehensive and coherent U.S. energy policy that could be used by Democrats and other energy security advocates." Their latest draft is entitled Energize America: A Blueprint for U.S. Energy Security. The post has descriptions of marketing material (bumper stickers, sound bites, and flyers) as well as actual legislation proposals.

To give you a taste, I've put the business card version below the fold, but I encourage you to follow the link for the whole story. I will forward your comments on to the authors.

Update [2005-12-13 12:22:59 by Super G]: Remember, TOD is non-partisan, so if you are aware of similar efforts on the right, please draw our attention to them.

Energize America - A Blueprint for U.S. Energy Security

Increase energy diversity to strengthen our national security and economic stability
Energize America will provide 20% of electricity from renewable sources.

Replace current energy policies that leave America vulnerable
Energize America will reduce imported oil and gas by 20%.

Promote energy efficiency and conservation to protect Americans and the environment
Energize America will reduce carbon emissions by 20%.

Invest in renewable energy to create jobs and enhance America's technological leadership
Energize America will make America the global leader in renewable energy technology, equipment and production.

By 2020, Energize America will:
  • make the nation safer from unstable regions of the world - where most of the global oil supply is located;
  • insulate the U.S. economy from energy supply disruptions - both natural and human-made;
  • create several hundred thousand new American jobs in high-value manufacturing and service industries;
  • preserve the environment for future generations by shifting from fossil fuels to clean and safe renewable energies;
  • enhance U.S. political power and expand U.S. military options;
  • reestablish America as the world leader in renewable technologies and economic growth;
  • significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution
Energize America - A Blueprint for U.S. Energy Security
Before "We" put a man on the moon, somebody drew up a set of plans. The Appolo space capsule did not magically appeararize on top of the Titan booster, the launch pad complex did not magically appearize at Cape Canavral (aka JFK space center).

Hello Houston, we need a plan.

Of course the Apollo capsule didn't appear on the Titan, it appeared on the Saturn. The Titan was the booster for the Gemini flights and Atlas was the booster for most Mercury flights. If you are going to use NASA for anologies then bone up on some history first instead of insulting the memories of us oldtimers.
Don't forget the Agena!
Well the policy shouldn't be all about energy and economy but also on agriculture, population and the state of the planet. When making plans for the future, we have to follow the nine law's of ecological bloodymindedness. Otherwise we create more trouble for the future.

Nine 'Laws' of Ecological Bloodymindedness [1]

The First Law

For every action on a complex, interactive, dynamic system, there are unintended and unexpected consequences. In general, the unintended consequences are recognised later than those that are intended.

The Second Law

Any system in a state of positive feedback will destroy itself unless a limit is placed on the flow of energy through that system.

The Third Law

Any sedentary community, by virtue of its sedentism, will encounter problems of sanitation. The manner in which sanitation is managed will affect the manner in which supporting agriculture is managed.

The Fourth Law

For every increment in the agricultural surplus there is a corresponding increment in the volume of urban sewage.

The Fifth Law

Stability or resilience in ecosystems requires that all essential reactions within the system function within ranges of rates that are mutually compatible

The Sixth Law

The long-term survival of any species of organism requires that all processes essential for the viability of that species function at rates that are compatible with the overall functioning of the ecosystem of which that species is a part.

The Seventh Law

If any species of animal should develop the mental and physical capacity consciously to manage the ecosystem of which it is a part, and proceeds to do so, then the long-term survival of that species will require, as a minimum, that it understands the rate limits of all processes essential to the functioning of that ecosystem and that it operates within those limit.

The Eighth Law

Long-term stability or 'sustainability' in ecosystems (including agricultural systems) is dependent in part upon the recycling of nutrient elements wholly within the system or upon their replenishment from a renewable source, provided such replenishment is not itself dependent upon a finite source of energy.

The Ninth Law

If a population continues to grow exponentially it will eventually consume essential resources faster than they can be replenished. The provision of or access to additional resources will extend the 'life' of such resources, and hence the duration of growth of the population, only to a very small extent.

[1] Feed or Feedback, A. Duncan Brown, International Books, 2003


These laws BartB has posted are the foundation of our lives as a conceptualizing species. No matter what we may think may happen, or what we wish may happen, the facts of physics and ecological process trump human hubris. Engineers and technological apologists often look to the future with the idea that the next big thinkg is around the corner. They live in a fantasy world. Entropy and the innate carrying capacity of the planet will bring technology back to earth. Now, having said this, no doubt the people who went to school when the policy was "no self-esteem left behind" will chime in to tell me not to be so dour, so negative. Telling someone that they, like every living thing, will die someday is not negative. It is a fact. It is emotionally neutral, unless the reader wishes to supply the emotion.

If the goal of this discussion is the furtherance of technology, then we are seriously screwed. Back to business as usual -- busy shortening the lifespan of homo sapiens. If the goal is to understand where we fit into the giant life and energy web called earth with as little destructive effect as possible, then we have a chance. But my gut feeling is that people are, well, to put it bluntly -- idiots. They will live in the most appalling circumstances for years, decades even, because they believe that they have no other choice. The elites, who rely upon this destructive enterprise, are loathe to change the status quo even if it means killing thousands upon thousands, even if it kills their golden goose.

At this point someone usually says, "What is your great idea?" There was a time when I would have told them we can create livable communities that work within the parameters of nature, that we could make our lives enjoyable again. And they would counter with arguments about free markets and personal freedoms and how technology will invent the latest, shiniest gonculator and save our asses. And I realized that no matter how many times you tell a human to quit hitting themselves on the head with a hammer, they will continue swinging until the hammer either wears away or they die. And that is why I now respond to their question about my great idea by looking them square in the eye and saying, "We will self-regulate through dieoff. No intervention is necessary."

Technology is the name on our tools.
To not use tool and better tools means giving up.

We can of course do all sorts of things with our tools.
Tools is ability, not wisdom or stupidity.

I think the question is what kind of tools do we want?  Should  we pour our resources into technology that in the end will be unsustainable, even though it helps us in the short term?  Or should be try for simpler technology, that may not provide as many immediate benefits, but which our great-grandchildren will still be using?

I agree with your statement that we should not give up, and also that technology is a tool.  But look at what we have done with our tools and continue to do with them.  We have traumatized each other with our tools. We have devastated our planet with our tools, and all the tools in the world can not bring back the natural ecosystems that we have decimated.  Only time can heal that and time is not on our side.....

We have the potential to live in a more balanced relationship with our planet, but that requires immense sacrifice, wisdom, and time.   I feel we have moved beyond the point of finding that balance for 6 billion people.  Like Cherenkov said, "We will self regulate through die off.

I think the best thing to do is follow your heart, do what you need to do, and do it with love.  

Time can heal ecosystems or making the planet our garden.
The later do not give a "natural" earth but an nice one to live on.

We are either way so manny and so powerfull that humanity can be classified as a god in several mythologies. We better try to play a caring god then one with her eyes closed wayving her armas around at random.

Having sacrifices as target can easily get suicidal or give enemies that fight to not be sacrificed. We have to change priorities but it must not be a sacrifice, it can be getting the new thing or habit most everybody want. Like jogging isent sacrificing your sofa. And I would prefer hardship rather then sacrifice, hardship like not being able to afford a new sofa.

Thanks for calling me on that.  Sacrifice does rouse all sorts of nasty possibilities.  A dramatic change in behavior and priorities are the meaning I am trying to convey.
Well said Cherenkov!
It works with animal populations....they self regulate through die-off.  Last time I checked, we are animals, too.  Sentient, cognitive, tool-making animals, but animals none the less.
Hey, Cherenkov, that's 'Plan C' (mitigate resource depletion through die-off) people aren't meant to know about it until they discover there's no Plan B.

I'm sure the US capitalist machine can devise a bigger die-off, too ;)

Sure, provided that someone can make a buck on it.

With a slick advertising campaign, and even the end of western civilization can look attractive.

Thank you.

Ecology has long had other ideas for humanity than humanity has had for itself. That we've created a phantom carrying capacity with the use of fossil fuels for agriculture and centralization (concentration) is the most important realization of all. It would seem we're in a collective state of denial about the largest elephant in the room, which is that we're destroying the biosphere. Our home.

People are slightly aware of global warming, but what about catastrophic losses of biodiversity? What about topsoil loss? What about the cutting down of the rainforest for agriculture? Where is the awareness of the ecological basis for our entire existence?

Quite simply, it's just not there. And I don't think awareness is going to help on this account. So thank you, for speaking the truth, even when it's not going to make that much of a difference.

A few of us can and will create liveable communities within the parameters of nature, and will be able to have enjoyable lives again. I wish you the best of luck in creating yours.

What about the cutting down of the rainforest for agriculture?

The rainforests are being cut down for grazing land.  I've posted before about how ending animal agriculture frees up lots of land for biomass crops.  Ending animal agriculture (grazing in this case) removes the primary reason rainforests around the world are being cut down.  Indonesia is cutting down its virgin forests to grow palm oil.  They should be planting it on grazing land.

BartB: Thank you for the enlightenment !!!
Never heard of these Laws before

For the inquisitives out there, Here is a Google search on them

This is something they did not teach in Engineering school.
(We did learn about positive feedback systems though, aka oscillators.)

I think it's great, if the point is to give Democrats the right things to say to get elected.  Which I suspect it is.  :)
Those are my sentiments precisely.  20% reductions in 15 years!  Umm, what about annual growth rates?  Taken those into account?  If you increase renewables by 20%, how much oil and gas does that actually replace.  Since one resource is good for heating and electricity, while the other (notably oil) is good for transportation, um, what is the point of simply saying we will reduce one by 20% while raising the other by 20%.  What about national depletion rates?  How do we rely on less "foreign" sources, when every single day we produce less and less of our own.  How can an "energy task force"  that is web-savvy be so uninformed about energy and depletion dynamics?

I stopped reading political blogs because they are often long on public-relations style empty rhetoric and short on any fundamental understanding of pretty much anything structural or processural.  That is, of course, when they are not obsessing over the shiny, pretties that roll across the news wires from one minute to the next.

Targets are 20% reductions over today's levels, so as an example the target is a 35% reduction in the EIA's projected CO2 emissions in 2020.

It also calls for close to a 45% reduction in projected petro product and crude imports in 2020 as domestic petro sources are depleted.

I think you are making some assumptions as to my lack of intelligence.  But hey I never really considered myself to be that smart either.

I've read through the DK article and think it is an outstanding proposal, particularly the comprehensive, specific and quite detailed legislative proposals. It even has the balls to recommend an increasing gasoline tax - which I think is essential since it gets through to the numskulls that think oil and gasoline prices will go down. Sadly that is the part most likely to get headlines and cause a 'no way' reaction amongst the sheeple and their malignant shepherds.

One area that seems to be lacking is proposals and incentives for community mini-grids which could be helpful in making some wind, hydro, geothermal, wave etc micro or mini power generation systems viable. It should also help make the electricity grid more resilient.

I would add a couple of taxes that don't seem to be there: an appliance inefficiency tax and some form of carbon tax on electricity generation.

On second read through I reckon it's the best such set of proposals I've seen.

Thanks for some positive feedback. We are struggling with the development of proposals for "distributed" generation and mini-grid projects.  The next release will address these further.  If you have any good ideas please send me an email.

We purposely avoided a direct "carbon tax".  I'm not sure it was the correct decision, (from a modeling perspective it would have been a lot easier), but we will be beefing up the "carbon" program for the next release.

This is sheer nonsense - political posturing by energy dilettantes and a huge waste of capital to boot.

People - get off the energy dream boat!  Hope is not a plan.  Renewables are an energy sink and unreliable.  Physics trumps "ideals",

What will happen short-term (10 to 20 years) will be:

  1. increased coal generation, albeit laden with increasingly effective pollution control equipment but no carbon sesquesion.

  2. a "fast-as-we-can" rampup in nuclear power,

  3. more LNG imports but these resources will exhaust in a decade or three,

  4. rampup of the Hirsch alternatives (GTL, CTL, oil sands, heavy oil) at a capital investment rate doubling our current oil and gas E&P rate

Longer run (30+ years), nuclear-produced hydrogen and/or synthetic hydrocarbon liquids for transportation fuels.

In 50 years, we'll be in a much better position energy-wise.  Nuclear will produce a much larger share of our energy needs and it will do so without pollution and with minimal impact on the environment.  It will require a larger energy investment per unit output than the era of cheap oil and gas but not all that bad (EROEI of 50 to 100). Carbon intensity will decline and stabilize.

After extracting the easy carbon and hydrocarbons and fully exploiting hydropower and some geothermal, uranium and thorium are the Earth's next most profitable energy resource.

Let me add that the acknowledgement of the role of nuclear power in the Kos plan is welcome (section 13 - The Standard Nuclear Power and Demonstration Project Act.) However, most of this is already in place and rolling - why didn't they know that or explain how their plan would differ?

New, advanced designs have been undergoing certification for over a decade with several now certified and competing in the marketplace for sales.  Even the beloved pebble bed reactor (nice but no panacea) has a demonstation plant underway in South Africa with a Canadian architect/engineer and the reactor vessel to be fabricated by Mitsubitisi in Japan.  MAndating ONE design for the whole country is just an abuse of power with little to gain.

The new Bush policy is to reprocess nuclear spent fuel into easier to handle waste forms and additional recovered nuclear fuel materials.  That knocks the Yucca Mountain storage requirements from 1 million years to 1 thousand years and allows use of pyrex glass waste forms which are much more resistant.

I also have to admit that I love trains.  I'm for that part!

If you hope to ever get that future then the reactor boys are actually going to build a full-size demo plant in the U.S.  And yes, it will probably be in the middle of nowhere and no, the guys who build it will make no money from it for a while.  Build the pilot plant or no go.
"Middle of Nowhere"?

Port Gibson, Mississippi; North Anna, Virginia; Bellefonte, Alabama..... these are some of the places under consideration for the next round of nuclear construction - I've seen the draft site plans.

The pebble bed reactor demo is "sorta" planned for west of Idaho Falls, Idaho, out near where the Apollo astronauts trained for moon walking.

OK, I'll grant your point about "middle of nowhere" but we DO intend to make a profit!

There will never be another commercial nuclear reactor built in this country unless there is an alliance made between advocates of renewable energy and nuclear energy.  The dedicated scientists and engineers who have been laboring on renewable technologies for the last several decades are your only hope to serve as emmisaries to break down the resistance to nuclear power within the environmental community.  Otherwise, you guys are toast, and well deservedly.

The fact is, it is nothing but ignorant to claim that all or even most renewable technologies are energy sinks.  Any serious scientist working in the field spends a lot of time and effort modeling the energy balance of the processes required for the technologies under development.

There are irresponsible actors in every sector.  We don't need to revisit all the waste stored in 55 gallon drums do we?

We are talking about two different paradigms each of which will need to be deployed.  Large central generation facilities for which nuclear will have to play a role, and distributed power generation for which renewables will excel.  Neither is inherently superior.  They are different and fulfill different needs.

Fortunately not all nuclear engineers are as narrow minded as you appear to be, so I do still hold out hope for such an alliance.

Allow me to expand on my position on "renewable energy".

Commercially valuable energy supplies are serve several markets.  One metric is "energy quality."  The highest quality energies with a major market are electricity and transport liquids like gasoline.  The lowest quality energy use is domestic hot water and heating.

Renewables are generally low quality energy sources.  The energy density of wind, waves, and solar insolation are very, very low.  Plus they are intermittent and not under human control.  

Hydro varies from a run-of-river dam with maybe 10 pounds per square inch (psi) (~60 kPa) to high head mountain dams with over 1,500 psi (10 MPa).  By building dams we do have some control over these but they are still outside our complete control over the seasons.

Electricity is the highest quality energy in the market, plus we offer it on demand, 365/24/7,  Matching a intermittent, low quality source with a high quality, on-demand end-use is asking for trouble.  Isn't that obvious????

Where renewables DO have a role is in domestic hot water from solar panels and in proper architectual design of homes for passive heating and cooling.  These I support.

Using photovoltaics to supply the electric grid is a complete misdirection of resources and a waste of time and money.  Don't expect better than a 25% capacity factor at a cost of $10,000 per kW for photovoltaics where nuclear has  90% capacity factor and less than $2,000 per kW.  Wind is not much better.


I can't decide if your post is serious or tongue in cheek, Whitehall, please enlighten me.

For now I will respond as though it is straight.

In some ways I hope you are right that things turn out OK in 50 years because there is a fair chance that is the road we are taking in the short term.

But the probabilty is you are very wrong. I hope you and the fools who keep us going down that road live long enough to suffer greatly along with the many, many other millions who will.

And what of uranium depletion?

Love that price of yellowcake!  However, please note that most yellowcake is sold on long-term contract with a four or five year lead time before it gets into the reactor.  Plus yellowcake is but a tiny piece of the cost structure for nuclear electricity.  This chart doesn't reflect long term sales, only the thin spot market.

If we go to reprocessing of the spent fuel planned for Yucca Mountain, we could fuel $1 trillion worth of wholesale electricity:

As to future yellowcake availablity, we have gobs. These guys explain it best:

Here's a current mining market outlook:

Essentially, most heavy metal ores have a 10 to 15 year proven reserves while uranium has a 50 year reserve.  With that market overhang, nobody is going to blow money looking for more ore bodies.  Australia, for one, stopped exploration a couple of decades ago to prevent further price deterioration.

For further reading, I suggest "Yellowcake: The Story of the Uranium Cartel."

Of course, we could also go to a thorium 232/uranium 233 fuel cycle if yellowcake ever got too pricy.

No, uranium resource limitations aren't.

No, uranium resource limitations aren't.

True, at least with caveats (and I'm on your side, I see no way out without lots and lots of fission). Is your reserve figure at current rates of consumption, or at rates two to four times as high? Do you include fuel reprocessing that we currently lack the infrastructure (and possibly some of the know-how) to do? Do you assume breeder reactors?

Minus reprocessing and breeders, the jump from the world's current "20% of electricity" use of fission to, say, 40% of total energy (roughly a four-fold increase, assuming flat future demand growth -- ask China and India about that) burns through the known uranium reserves quite quickly.

Projections of yellowcake demand depend on projections of the construction of nuclear reactors and the retirements of old ones.  The Australians seem to think that there will be lots for a long time.  Read the links....

As to infrastructure for reprocessing, in my EnergyPulse article linked above, the estimates for completing Yucca Mountain are unofficially about $100 billion while we could build 1) reprocessing plants, 2) MOX fuel fabrication facilities, and 3) actinide burner reactor(s) for maybe $20 billion.  I could be off a bit on my ballpark estimates but it is clear that reprocessing is much cheaper than continuing with Yucca Mountain as planned.

It would take a decade or two to get this up and running but we've plenty of weapon-grade uranium and plutonium from the US and Russia to burn through in the mean time.

An alternative view can be found at

Chapter 1 ( reviews CO2 emmisions from the complete nuclear life cycle as a function of ore concentration.

Chapter 2 ( has some graphs on net energy production as a function of ore concentration (and also considers the hardness of the source rock). Table 10 (p18)might interest many.

The picture presented is not as rosy as that presented above.

I have no association with this paper... provided only for info.

That "paper" has been throughly debuked elsewhere.  

Try here:

For example, the first process for enriching uranium for weapons was gaseous diffusion which was an energy hog of a process.  In the US, TVA built special coal plants ("dirt burners") to power the AEC's enrichment plants.  

Of course, those plants have been closed for decades now.  The new process is centrifuges - remember Saddam's aluminum tubes?  These are an order of magnitude+ more efficient.

Today, half of the nuclear electricity, or 10% of the total US consumption requires NO enrichment as it comes from Russian nuclear warheads and submarine cores.  That will last maybe another decade or two when we get to our plutonium stocks.

Going to fuel recycle will further offer large supplies of fissile materials requiring little or no enrichment or supplemental uranium.

Where they get their indictment of ore extraction and processing is beyond me - the operations are not that big a deal since uranium is such a concentrated energy source that even low grade ores are very productive.

"The picture presented is not as rosy as that presented above" is because some people don't want to face the easily verifible facts.  Some people want to spread gloom and doom to capture political power.

As to nuclear "rosiness", a nuclear-based economy will not yield the net free energy we've been lucky to experience the last century - the systemic nuclear EROEI is half that of a Ghawar or Spindletop.  Slower growth will result as more capital is required to build nuclear plants.  Hopefully, population growth will also slow.

As to nuclear "rosiness", a nuclear-based economy will not yield the net free energy we've been lucky to experience the last century - the systemic nuclear EROEI is half that of a Ghawar or Spindletop.

Exactly.  Were it otherwise, nuclear would be more widely used.  We have a lot of nuclear hangups, but other countries do not.  Nevertheless, breeder reactors in Japan and Europe are being mothballed.  Can't compete with fossil fuels.  

Of course, that may change.  But it will still be working for a living, not the free ride we're used to.

I'm also concerned about the infrastructure nuclear requires if we're to scale it up.  Goodstein estimates that we'd need something like 10,000 of the largest nuclear reactors currently built to replace the energy we get from oil.  Right now, there are less than 400 nuclear plants in the world.  The amount of steel and concrete it would take to build that many power plants is mind-boggling.  China fixing up Beijing for the Olympics caused shortages of steel and concrete last year.  The price of steel doubled, and companies started hoarding it.  All to give Beijing a facelift.  What's going to happen when the whole world is rushing to build power plants?  And will we be able to manufacture all that steel, etc., without cheap oil?

Goodstein is pro-nuclear, but he believes that nuclear fission will be at best a bridge.  Perhaps to fusion?


Goodstein estimates that we'd need something like 10,000 of the largest nuclear reactors currently built to replace the energy we get from oil.

If we consider the US... from the EIA for 2004, total energy consumed 99.74 quads, fossil fuels 85.65 quads, petroleum 40.13 quads, nuclear electricity 8.23 quads, 104 licensed reactors (all sorts of sizes). Ratio of petroleum energy to nuclear is 4.88, so replacing total petroleum with nuclear electricity (ignoring assorted problems that remain to be solved in the transportation field) is ~500 reactors. US consumption is about 25% of world consumption, and overall percentages by fuel not that much different from the world as a whole, so ~2000 reactors to replace oil used. Less than that if you build nothing but really big ones. Replace all fossil fuels worldwide, you get ~4300, which is a scary number.

Local politics for 500 reactors in the US are going to be UGLY -- based on population, California needs to build >50 of them. Only good news is that you don't have to build them all at once. If you assume you have 50 years before you have to replace fossil fuel use completely, California has to build one reactor per year basically forever -- these things do have a limited lifetime, although we've demonstrated that they can be run well past their original license period. The existing 104 reactors (more than that as some have been shut down) were built over about 25 years, so 500 over 50 is feasible, although challenging. 2000 is rather daunting.

This is a useful back of the envelope exercise, though, for purposes of sizing the problem. If fossil fuels, starting with petroleum, are indeed going to be in shorter and shorter supply, it will take a very large effort to provide the replacement.

That is basically Goodstein's view.  He believes it's possible...but we have to start now, and it has to be a massive effort.  Not just nuclear, but solar and wind, too.  Building this new infrastructure must be the nation's #1 priority if we hope to succeed.  

I'm more pessimistic, myself.  I don't think we'll start until it's too late.  Building (and maintaining) the necessary infrastructure will be a serious problem.  We would have trouble doing it now.  If energy gets scarcer, it will become even more difficult.  Steel and concrete take a lot of energy to produce, and if everyone's rushing to build new energy infrastructure, there will be shortages.  

BTW...I suspect the difference in the numbers between your calculations and Goodstein's is that he takes into account the 2nd law of thermodynamics.  The energy losses due to conversion, the energy costs of building the new infrastructure, etc.
If we consider the US... from the EIA for 2004, total energy consumed 99.74 quads, fossil fuels 85.65 quads, petroleum 40.13 quads, nuclear electricity 8.23 quads

I was always interested aren't we comparing apples and pears here. Petroleum 40.13 quads - ok but this is not net energy; if the petroleum went to oil power stations like uranium, instead in cars it would have produced just 16 quads of electricity. And if we go to electrical cars which have 4+ times higher efficiency we'd need only 10 quads of additional capacity from nuclear or just another 100 reactors. Does this sound scary too?

On a world scale we're going to need additionally another 400 reactors which is also not "scary", IMHO. What is scary are my thoughts of what will happen if we do not build them.

Another 400 will be needed to replace declining NG reserves mostly for electicity generation. The rest can be generated with coal using carbon sequestration and we will be done both with PO and Global Warning.

One factor is that we can build more powerful reactors on smaller patches of land.  A new generation reactor is half again as powerful as the last (1500 MW vs. 1000 MW) and they use less steel and concrete too.  Today, we're not looking at greenfield sites (maybe one in Florida) but additional units at existing sites.

As to displacing oil, nuclear generated hydrogen would require about 150 to 200 production reactors, largely scattered around the country near the transportation end users.  This compares to 155 oil refineries in the US today, largely concentrated in oil patches and at ports of entry.

Frankly, I have my doubts about automobiles using pure hydrogen.  While pure hydrogen is preferrable for GHG emissions, I think that we'll go with synthetic hydrocarbon lquids, much like today's gasoline, JP4, and diesel fuels.  Mix water and coal at 900 deg C and you can get hydrocarbons.  That 900 deg C is the required temperature for pure hydrogen production using the sulfur-iodine cycle now under development.

Hot water from nuclear power plants is often used at Asian plants for community swimming pools.  Its cheap and easy to do.  

District nuclear heating plants are under active development - a Japanese firm has filed for a license for one in an Alaskan town - we'll see how far that goes but the new designs are passively safe and proliferation-resistent.  there is definitely a market!

Debunked? Maybe... I'm no expert...

But who is the Uranium Information Centre (

From the site...


The Centre is funded by companies involved in uranium exploration, mining and export in Australia."

Director affiliations inlcude such notables as...

CSR Limited
Union Carbide
WMC Resources Ltd
Rio Tinto Uranium
BHP Billiton

... so I guess they have an interest in the issue.

Now, I'm not against nuclear power, just sceptical.

And I would have thought that ramping up nuclear power
as suggested here is EXACTLY the same profligate strategy already tried with oil.

This is a quandry - the people who know the most about a subject, in this case uranium ore supply, often have a self-interest in the subject.  Does that mean that we should a priori deny everything they say?  I think not.

If I want to know something about mining, I'll ask a miner, not a baker.

The companies that support the Uranium Information Centre do have an interest in expanding the demand for uranium so prudient skepticism is not misplaced.  However, testing their statements and conclusions against other factual sources shows, to me, that they are generally straight shooters.  The issue of uranium availablity in the long run was throughly explored in the early days of the technology and the conclusions haven't changed much.

In general, how we approach civil discourse is the underlying problem.  I try hard to speak conservatively knowing that my reputation is on the line and that I might be called to deliver.  You'll find that engineers are like that since making things work as promised is our only guarantee of future livihood.  I do get a bit frustrated with those who promise goodies that I don't think can be delivered.

Certainly companies can and do lie - witness Enron - but most companies cherish their public perception as reliable, trustworthy public citizens.  the ones that don't get caught and busted.

Politicians live by another set of rules.

Environmentalists should be focusing on shutting down the coal plants to alleviate global warming, and usefully freeing up coal for liquid fuels. Renewables are not going to do anything useful in reaching this goal - only fission will work.

Reprocessing nuclear fuel is critically necessary, both to reduce the amount of waste and the length of time the waste remains radioactive. With reprocessing both the nation's spent fuel and the mountains of depleted U238 become available for fuel, enough to replace the existing coal,ng and nuclear plants for hundreds of years.
An excellent article of a breeder that consumes all the actinides is in the Dec 2005 Scientific American.

What a load, renewables won't do it only nukes, because we say so! What really has gotten us into this problem is the inertia and the power, social, political, economic, of established technologies.

What I like about the nukes is that they talk as if the solution is as simple as just plugging in new plants to the same old energy dump system we developed in the 20th century.

Peak-oil is just one of the problems our species needs to deal with in moving into this new millenium. While hard, I think we can do it, but the nuke advocates make me less hopeful. There's more than enough energy if we use some intelligence, but it requires social, political, and economic change, that's actually a lot harder.


So you would IMPOSE your ideas for "social, political, and economic change" on other people just because YOU think that YOU know better?

Frankly, I don't trust you to make those decisions for me or for anyone else.

You seem to see energy as an EXCUSE for YOUR power over others.  Yet, I can't read anything useful into your comment.

I espouse nuclear power because it works, it's proven, and that there is clear evidence that it can continue to offer vitually unlimited energy for mankind.  

I suspect that's what you don't like about it.

Yes, we just plug'em in - give me a site and a check for $3 billion and we'll have the most powerful machine on the face of the earth cranking out gigawatt-hours in from 6 to 10 years.  How many do you want?

"Renewables", in my experience as a former member of management of the electric utility with the largest renewable capacity in the world, are the "load."  I've seen them up close and in action and they are worst than worthless.

You lose your credibility with a statement like that.
Would you expand on your statement "You lose your credibility..."

I didn't catch your reference point.


You make a strong argument. Can you go a bit further?

Where I live, it is below zero degrees Fahrenheit right now, yet our house remains warm inside at around 60 degrees F, thanks to a recently-filled propane tank buried in our yard. If propane will be unavailable in 30 years, where in your prescription is the energy source that will warm individual households? Will we all start burning coal again, delivered to our homes by CTL fuel trucks? Electric heating systems at the residential level are notoriously inefficient. Are you proposing that all homes in the future will be heated by electricity provided by nuclear power?

I don't know if you do, but if anyone here thinks that wood will make a signficant difference, I doubt it. I live on the edge of a vast forest. My neighbor is cutting down most of his 30 acres for short-term, inefficient home heating (with a functioning 24/7 wood furnace, but a continuously-burning fireplace that they rarely even look at).

My heart sinks to think that someday, the forest in the northeast US may all be "nationalized" and cut down so that "our children may remain warm", with no plan or regard for sustainable forest management beyond the short term. It will take far too long for the forest to regenerate after any "emergency" culling for it to be of use in the long term.

Anyway, Whitehall, in your vision, how do individual households remain warm in winter? Thanks.

Nuclear power plants waste more than 60% from the fission energy, being thrown away in the form of hot water. If we build several hundred reactors and termal heating infrastructure in the vicinity of the huge population centers we can solve the problem of may be 70-80% of the population.

Well this doesn't fit the way we currently build cities, right? To this I think Suburbia will be dead long before we hit the house heating problem.

So we'll all be living around nuclear reactors if we want to stay warm... so much for building them in the middle of nowhere!

Hell, Vermont Yankee is powering part of my house right now. No one here wants to see that thing go offline.

Vermont Yankee - A nuclear power plant located on the Connecticut River, at the southern end of the state. This single reactor plant, which went on line in 1972,  produces 550 megawatts, enough for 500,000 homes. It is the only major power plant in the state, and produces nearly 80% of the electricity produced in Vermont.

It was Three Mile Island and Chernobyl that stopped nuclear development in this country. Not just the accidents themselves, but the incompetence of the management, and the secrecy and denials in the official responses.

The industry should make a major effort to develop safer designs and to communicate the new safety features and procedures to the public if we are indeed going to have a nuclear future.

It failed earlier then TMI.

Construction costs were neeedlessly high due to lack of standardisation.
The major suppliers sold parts, not powerplants, and local contractors designed the same things over and over again repeating and inventing mistakes.

Intrest rates went up wich hurt their economy badly since nuclear plants are expensive to build.

They electricty demand was too small, some utilities overinvested. ( When electricity demand increased later natural gas was cheap. )

The US nuclear industry inherited a culture of secrecy and scary (often true) stories from military use of nuclear technology. This hurt public relations.

Your culture of using lawyers to sue and the legal system set up to provide lots of work for lawyers gave a very effective weapon for people against nuclear power to delay the building of nuclear powerplants untill the intrest on the investment killed the utility company.  Even today a lot of people think it takes 10 years or more to build a nuclear powerplant.

Interesting information... thanks. So how long DOES it take to build a nuclear reactor, without lawsuits?
I have some data from BWR:s built in Sweden and Finland by Asea when they built nuclear powerplants.

Name     "generation"  Fuel load     Building time in months from start of
                                   date            foundation work to fuel load.

Oskarshamn 1    1     1970-12     47
Ringhals 1          2     1973-08     46 (Not sure about "generation")
Oskarshamn 2    2     1974-02     43
Barsebäck 1        2     1975-01     45
Barsebäck 2        2     1976-12     46
Forsmark 1         3     1980-04     62
Forsmark 2         3     1979-11     60
Olkiluoto 1         3     1978-07     53
Olkiluoto 2         3     1979-10     50
Oskarshamn 3    4     1985-01     48 (Same technology level
Forsmark 3         4     1984-08     69  as japanese ABWR )

Mean time 52 months.

The EPR being built In Finland right now started building this spring and should if it goes accoring to plan start delivering electricity in 2009. But it is the first of its kind so they will probably get some delays.

We're seeing a pulse of interest in new reactors world-wide and the major vendors are jockeying for position.  A major selling point is schedule but the "critical path" in the construction of a new plant is usually the delivery and placement of the reactor vessel on its foundation.

There are only a 4 to 6 shops in the world that can fabricate a reactor vessel for a 1500 MW plant but the REAL lead time is procurement of the steel (SA533, a low alloy steel, if memory serves).  You know that this is a serious market because vendors are putting up their own money to option the steel production for multiple projects.

As to the EPR, the French beat my team for the job.  We were left wondering how they could deliver their promised schedule with a design that was only 25% completed (much less built) while we offered the fifth of a kind plant.  That means we had vendors, experience, and detailed designs (down to wire pull sheets and small bore instrument tubing supports).

My speculation was that politics was the selling point.  France and Finland were butting heads over ministrial appointments to the EU - France wanted 5 ministers while the Finns lead a group of small nations insisting on 25 ministers.  The Finns got their crowd of minstrial appointments and the French got a reactor sale.

Bottom line is that new Finnish plant will probably NOT startup on schedule but don't blame the engineers.  In general, politics mucks up schedules - that and lack of adequate, timely cash flow to construction.

I still want to know how the Finns can pour all that concrete in the middle of their winter?  Here in California, our definition of severe weather includes heavy contrails.

Simple, you warm the gravel and water before mixing and pour warm concrete and then you use mats to insulate it from the cold air untill it sets.  Small and medium size foundations are pourd on top of an insulating layer of foamed plastic, sometimes foamed glass and if no insulation is requierd a layer of washed gravel to stop moisture  and that insulates a little. If you pour onto bedrock you an heat it beforehand. Most of the heating need is usually covered by insulating the ground before the cold weather starts, for instance with a layer of straw bales covered with a tarpaulin.

My guess were that they hade done a lot of engineering work between the EPR project announcement and the sale. But I have (yet) no contact with the insides of the business. It would be very intresting to be a fly on the wall listening to the finnish expertise on running their reactors meating the supplier while solving issues.

I have heard some rumours that the finns were sorry Westinghouse former ABB Atom former Asea Atom did not bid an BWR 90+ since they  were happy with the Okiluoto 1 and 2. Correct?

Should not any steel mill making large batches of steel directly from ore be able to make any low alloyed and pure steel?  But it would cost extra if they already are at full capacity for other customers. And new tooling for pouring new shapes would take months to plan and build.  My local example is SSAB Oxelösund making low alloyed extremely hard and high strenght plate steel.
They good thing with low alloy and pure steels is that you get fewer elements in the steel that are activated by neutron radiation into radiocative substances that makes maintainance and scrapping harder.

Interesting information Whitehall.  I'm particularly intrigued by your comment about steel procurement.  Is this because it's a special type of steel (with relatively low production)?  Is it something that steel maker producing different types of steel could switch to within a couple years?

How would scaling up nuclear production affect the steel market generally?  Do you think there are other significant bottlenecks (you mentioned reactor vessels)?  Training engineers come to mind.

I read that 12/05 Scientific American article on efficient reprocessing combined with fast reactors (as opposed to the current slow thermal designs), and they make a very convincing case for the technology.  In a nutshell, the reprocessing they describe eliminates 99% or more of the transuranic waste that's the worst (10,000+ year decay) part of the current waste stream.  The fast reactor and new reprocessing is also superior to the European reprocessing with PUREX in that its fuel is much less dangerous from a nuclear proliferation standpoint.

But it's not what's generally in deployment now, and the authors suggest 15 years or so before the reprocessing technique could be deployed broadly.

Do you (Whitehall or others) have any comments on the feasability of building new fast reactors and/or new reprocessing techniques?  

Supplies of high quality and specialist steel is quoted as a constraint affecting new drilling rig lead times, too.

Cement is tight as well, though a probable slow down in the Chinese building boom should help that. It's not clear whether copper may be a problem - earlier this year people were saying there should be a surplus by now but latest data suggests maybe a shortfall through 2006.

I'm in favour of a nuclear power plant building program but I don't think it will solve more than half the shortfall in the next 3 decades. Local scale renewables and demand reduction measures like conservation, taxation, incentives can be implemented much faster and will need to provide at least as much to solving the problem IMO.

Reprocessing nuclear spent fuel and transmutation of the worst parts has become the new Bush Adminstration policy.

I wrote an article about 10 weeks ago laying out the rationale and the huge savings this would bring compared to continuing with the Yucca Mountain plan.

Persuasive or just good timing?  I think the latter.

I just got the SciAm issue last night so haven't digested it yet.  The special fast reactors to transmutate the actinides ("actinide burners") are yet to be deployed although preliminary work has been underway in the designs for years.  There is no reason to suspect that this can not be done safely and economically.  Note that there are several possible schemes so a decision on the alternatives will have to be made - it might be a little early to do so.  However, the nuclear physics point to a very hard neutron spectrum, ie, a "fast reactor".

BTW, "PUREX" was the first fuel reprocessing technology, implemented during the Manhattan Project at the Hanford site near Richland, Washington.  I think we've come up with some better ideas since then but that's not my field of expertise.

Not every steel mill can supply nuclear-grade steel for a reactor pressure vessel.  You have to have a very rigorous quality program and the trained people to implement it and all the cerifications - those can take a year or two and several million dollars of expense to obtain.  As the market grows, other mills will make that investment to get a piece of the growing pie.

Once the steel ingots are produced and inspected, they go to a fabrication shop.  There would be more but the market has not supported the overhead.  They too must have the certifications and people plus super-heavy forges and gamma ray inspection machinery, tempering ovens, etc.

A ramp-up on the reactor vessel steel and fabrication procurement chain could take several years but it's not magic - just flash some serious money and they will come - the miracle of the free enterprise system.

Total global steel production is another matter - the lead times for new blast furnances, electric arc melters, etc is longer - nuclear needs will not drive this expansion but would be part of the total demand dominated elsewhere.

Matthew Simmons has written and spoke widely on the state of global energy development infrastructure.  His concerns apply to nuclear as well as to oil & gas.  The long capital investment slump ha hollowed out our energy industries.

However, in a big nuclear ramp-up, people will probably be the limiting factor, at least for the next 10 years.

Anyone with nuclear experience want a job in the nuclear power business?  OK to work in the US?  Clean arrest record?  Not a druggie?  Write me at - we're offering bounties (to me!)

Do we have any other real alternative? Nukes away from major population centers were an affordable option in energy abundunt world, but I'm pretty sure they will not be when we feel the cold.

We live in a borrowed time, we've forgotten what it is to stay cold or hungry and it is easier to fantasize for a wind mill and a heat pump in every backyard. The truth is that if we have just one year of severe NG shortages we will quickly rediscover the self-evident answer to our energy problems.

Well, I have a good question. The energy crisis will be a GLOBAL crisis. If there is no real alternative, all countries will need go nuclear. Mind you, IRAN will need go nuclear too....

That bring a serious question, who will determine if a country cannot have nuclear energy? We all know that nukes are dangerous because, well, the military can use them to make nukes. But ban a country from the nuclear energy will be the same that make that population stay cold or hungry.

We really need invest at better options than nuclear energy. We need better thecnologies to make wind power or solar power more cheap, because these energy sources are safer geo-politically than nuclear power.

For now there is no moral ground to US want that Iran don't have nuclear energy if nuclear energy continue to be the only option possible. The third world countries never will buy it at the international forums, because they know that they will need nuclear power too. The third world countries evidently never will want that first world countries determine that third world countries can use nuclear power or not if nuclear energy is the only viable option.

I think it is better use our resources to develop more safer options to bridge our civilization while fusion power thecnology is not ready.

This threat is controllable and also being strictly controlled now. All we need is an open access and control of all nuclear facilities. You can not build nuclear weapons out of sight that easily, not to mention that using them would be a complete suicide. I know a lot of people tend to think that other people are out of their minds, but the nuclear paranoia has not yielded anything useful yet.

In exchange developed countries may open their nuclear technologies for the public and also make some money along the way. IMO the "nuclear threat" is largely inflated baloon, mostly by USA aiming to keep monopoly on nuclear technologies including nuclear weapons.

LevinK wrote:

"This threat is controllable and also being strictly controlled now. All we need is an open access and control of all nuclear facilities. You can not build nuclear weapons out of sight that easily, not to mention that using them would be a complete suicide."

I think you are right, but the problem is that the current US government don't think so. Bush government don't think open acess and control of all nuclear facilities are enough, they want simply shut down Iran's nuclear facilities. That is not a good PR, the third world countries are geting uneasy with that US international behavior. See you, who lined to defend Iran's position at the international institutions? And why?

There is also a precedent -- all that steam coming out of the streets of NYC is cogenerated from power plants, and is still being used to heat buildings. But boy, there is going to have to be a real safety advance in nuclear generation if there is ever going to be a reactor(s) built in Manhattan.
I once suggested that we could start building these underground. They don't need oxygen to burn or smokestacks to exhaust. Probably it would be 2x times more expensive but it might be worthed. BTW with good insulation the heating pipes could stretch miles without significant losses, so you don't really need to place it in the middle of 5th avenue.

Otherwise - nuclear safety is an issue but life usually
makes us choose between two evils.

Yeah, and with tens of thousands of deaths attributable to particulates from coal power plants in the US each year, nuclear power would have to be more dangerous than even the Simpsons would suggest to even start to compete.
People don't care 'bout thousands of deaths they don't see on TV, that's core of the problem.

50 000 people are killed in car crashes in this country each year in contrast to about hundred or less in plane crashes on average. Yet most people are afraid to fly, while nobody gives up his car.

Asea Atom made scetches of building their BWR underground in the early years. My impression is that it got too expensive and was harder to build.

One idea was indeed to build reactors inside Stockholm and at that time there were a small experimental combined heat and power heavy water moderated reactor running underground in Farsta, a suburb to Stockholm. It was called Ågestareaktorn and gave 12 MW electricity and 68 MW of district heating between 1964 and 1974.

One neat idea for an unerground full scale BWR was to fill the shaft used for building access with crushed gravel. If there were a severe accident with release of radioactive steam or a release from the safety valves the gasses would pass thru this gravel and the gravel would filter them and trap most of the radiaoctive substances.

The idea was later uses in full scale a Barsebäck with a giant gravel filled silo for filtering any overpreassure.
All our other nuclear reactors has since gotten much smaller filters where the eventual gasses are bubbled thru a water tank and then pass thru a moisture separator.

It was called Ågestareaktorn and gave 12 MW electricity and 68 MW of district heating between 1964 and 1974.

Was it a success? Is is feasible to have multiple, small reactors in the suburbs of large cities to generate both power and heat?

Do you know that maximum distance from which heat can be delivered from a reactor to residential / business areas? Does burying them underground make them safer against terrorist attacks, tsunamis and other threats?

> Was it a success?

No and yes. It was at least twise as expensive to build as calculated and was economically a failure. It could not compete with oil but that dident matter since the first generations of Swedish reactors those with heavy water moderation were part of our nuclear weapons program. () I have read that it ran well during the later years and it might have made economical sense to run it for a few more years during the oil crisis. It and its larger sibling Marviken wich never were started helped Asea and Swedish subcontractors to learn how to build nuclear systems. This expereince helped Asea when they designed their line of commercial BWR:s optimised to produce power.

> Is is feasible to have multiple, small reactors in the suburbs of large cities to generate both power and heat?

I think it is better to have 2-3 and size them so that only 1 or 2 need to run to keep the system hot enough to only get a few complaints from the customers. You need redundancy and all the security and support systems makes reactors cheaper per MW the larger you build them.  

Asea atom did design a reactor with competely passive security for district heating, google for SECURE and they also scetched on a larger combined heat and power version PIUS.

> Do you know that maximum distance from which heat can be delivered from a reactor to residential / business areas?

My home town Linköping has a 30 km district heating pipeline to the small town Mjölby to sell heat to Mjölby from our garbage incineration plant. Unfortunately I do not remember the temperature loss exactly, it is about 10 degrees C.

> Does burying them underground make them safer against terrorist attacks, tsunamis and other threats?

Not tsunamis and other kinds of flooding but otherwise yes.

() The Swedish nuclear wepons program was cancelled before building any weapons. Only laboratory scale production of plutonium were made. People from the program later helped with international monitoring of nuclear wepon development. Luckily it was abandoned well before the tide turned in the public debate about nuclear power. I guess it got too expensive and too politically hot during the 60:s and that we got some kind of assurance for help from Nato if Sovjet were to attack us. I am quite happy about that, I rather have USA, Great Britain and France as friends then have expensive and morally questionable weapons. I have only read about the program in newspapers and a books, especially one in Swedish by Wilhelm Agrell.

Sorry about that, I dident think trying to indicate a footnote would make me "scream" and dident preview.
Thanks for the interesting reading, it tells a lot of things.

I'd just like to add that at least according to my amatuers estimate, putting the thing underground should not be that expensive. A big underground metro station costs in the range of 2-300 million, and the sizes are probably comparable. They could also place just the reactor and the primary and secondary circuits underground, with generators and control centers onground.

You do not have to move a large and very heavy reactor vessel into a metro station or lots of heavy prefabricated modules.  The underground room needs to be big enough to have room for a building site, not only the final result.

The SECURE and PIUS designs do not have a monolitic steel preassure vessel.
They have one made up of welded steel membranes with the preassure held with lots of prestressed steel cables in a thick concrete shell.   Its the same kind of design but thicker and with more cables as a BWR containment and the most popular way of building a PWR containment.

Don't think that district heat from nuclear power plants would be free - it won't be.

Nuclear electric stations are optimized for electricity production - for a given licensed reactor power, we make just as many megawatts as we can.  That means that we reject heat at the lowest temperature possible so that our Carnot thermodynamic cycle efficiency is as high as we can make it.

Consequently, we would prefer to use direct cold water cooling.  Since 1972, the US EPA has ruled that we can't use natural bodies of water for cooling, hence all those cooling towers.  The switch can cost 1% or more in output.

However, the steam that gets condensed with all this water is only about 100 deg F.  If you want heat HOTTER then, say, 90 deg F ( allowing for loss in heat transfer), you have to REDUCE the efficiency of the electric generation cycle and hence electrical output.

District heating usually is 212 deg F (100 deg C) steam or hot water close to that, say 200 deg F.  That would have to come at the expense of MWs.  Of course, there are large distribution heat losses and pumping expense.

What will probably happen is more electric heat pumps installations.  These are cooling air conditioners in the summer.  For even better efficiency, make them ground-source rather than air-source.  These can also backup our solar hot water systems.

Warm water for attached swimming pools is a freebie but widespread district heating is a definite expense.

Heat pumps are extremely popular in Sweden. Heat pumps and pellet furnaces are more or less dividing what is left of the heating oil use wich shrinks with 20% per year. I guess firewood isents as popular among the people who still have oil power.  Most of these heat pumps are ground source, drilling an aprox 120m hole in bedrock is more popular then digging up the garden for a much longer tube and most have the fairly heat conductive bedrock within reach.

A lot of air source heat pumps are installed to complemet houses with resistive electrical heating. Direct electricity heating was popular when we overbuilt with nuclear powerplants but the demand for electricity have catched up. These are worthless when it is realy cold outside since it is harder to pump heat from a cold source. They do pay for themselves in the spring and autumn and during mild winter days.

Another popular air source heat pump is one that takes its heat from the outgoing ventilation air. It becomes a super efficient heat exchanger that produces hot tap water and recycles the heat. This makes most sense in a well insulated house and a lot of its economy is in making cheaper tap water year around.

Combined heat and power generation makes sense depending on what you main business is. If you have an industrial process that needs medium or low temperature steam or hot water or a district heating network it makes a lot of sense to heat your steam as much as your fuel can provide, burn som extra fuel and then extract the extra heat as mechanical work sold as electricity. This since electricity can be sold with a good profit and you do not need to buy a condenser.

The other way around you have to build the district heating network. It might still make sence and it is not unrealistic that heat + electricity gives more income then only electricity.  But district heating require some kind of central planning or a ban on small boilers in a densely populated area.

Over here it has been built in a large scale due to the municipals practical monopoly on evererything having to do with pipes in the ground. It was often initaited to get rid of polluting smoke or use a nearby source of nearly free industrial waste heat. We then had a wave of oil fired combined heat and power plants before building nuclear plants and then a wave of garbage incinerating ones that still is building. Practically all unsorted garbage will soon be burnt and the largets incinerators manage to also make some electricity wich is hard with such a wet and low heat content fuel. There is also natural gas fired combined plants recently built or building.

I think the big plus with district heating by water pipes is that you can use waste heat, waste fuels and mix those heat sources.  District heating via electricity and heat pump needs little extra infrastructure, is very good if you have other uses for the electricity when the heating need is low and do not depend as much on central planning or getting 75% of the houses in an area to sign up right away.

What makes free hot water for swinning pools a good idea is that you do not need to build a cooling tower for running your garbage incineration plant during the summer. An even better idea is to us an absorption cooler run by district heating hot water and sell district cooling.

We are on the same side on this.
I will just dare to predict that LNG will never take out on a large scale. They are dangerous, expensive, do not produce any energy and need to ends (liquefying plants on the other). On the last point I expect in an energy starving world the exporting nations (Russia, Qatar, SA) to begin hoarding NG (and oil) and this will move LNG terminals to the end of the investment list.
LNG is already used in a large scale but not in USA.
You are right though the numbers are not that impressive:

With total of 6.3 Tcf LNG exports/imports account for less than 7% of the current world consumption (2003 - world 95.5 Tcf, USA - 22.3 Tcf).
My point was that when real shortages become apparent, exporters will have options to decide whether to sell the NG to the local market (first priority), whether to export it via pipeline (second priority) or build more LNG which I put at the last place.

Now they are bulding LNG terminals because there are still places with huge local surpluses that can not be exported via pipelines; when the surpluses dry out LNG will be the first to be shut down, not to mention to build more.

The funny thing about LNG is that with Henry Hub spot prices pushing $15/mmBTU, the four US terminals are NOT operating at capacity according to the EIA.

The reason is that there is no LNG available on the spot market!  Most global liquefaction capacity is locked into long term contracts.

In the future, producers and US terminals and end-users will get locked into long term contracts but that's years away.

From the World Nuclear Association -

"Current usage is about 68,000 tU/yr. Thus the world's present measured resources of uranium in the lower cost category (3.5 Mt) and used only in conventional reactors, are enough to last for some 50 years. This represents a higher level of assured resources than is normal for most minerals. Further exploration and higher prices will certainly, on the basis of present geological knowledge, yield further resources as present ones are used up. There was very little uranium exploration between 1985 and 2005, so a significant increase in exploration effort could readily double the known economic resources, and a doubling of price from present levels could be expected to create about a tenfold increase in measured resources, over time."

Even with this exceptionally rosy projection for uranium resources, consider that in 50 years under your scenario we will be approaching peak uranium, if not passed it.

And that's not even considering the waste disposal issues.

I suspect that you are right that we'll see a ramp up of nuclear. Whether it can get done before the economy collapses is a question, but even if it does, it is no solution to the problems resulting from the worship of growth and the ignoring of ecological limits.


Where did you come up with your estimate of "Peak Uranium"?

I see several issues:

  1. Most of the reactors in operation use an extremely wasteful nuclear fuel cycle.  The Bush Administration has just announced that this will be changed in the US to one more economical with uranium (reprocessing).

  2. a big step in economical use of uranium awaits the introduction of U/Pu breeders.

  3. the next big step is breeders using a Th-232/U-233 fuel cycle.  We have ten times the known resources of thorium as of uranium, if I remember correctly.

  4. Uranium ore body exploration has been stagnant for decades, as noted.  Our detection instruments and geological understanding of crustal uranium concentration processes has improved over the interim.  Also note that uranium is a fairly common element in the Earth's crust, more so than lead!  Every atom of uranium can be used, unlike carbon.

  5. A substantial percentage of all extracted uranium went into the production of nuclear weapons during the Cold War - over half of the US production and probably more so for Russia.  Those supplies has not been consumed and are being made available for commercial energy production under the Megatons-to-Megawatts program.

  6. hydrocarbon resources and uranium concentrations seem to follow different mechanisms so Hubbert's derivations would need to be reconsidered for uranium.  In fact, his original article was about uranium!

There has been a substantial body of work on uranium resources for the long term.

So talk of "Peak Uranium" needs more work before its ready for public debate.

I welcome your further discussion.....

It was, admittedly, a seat of the pants calculation. But my thinking went like this.

  1. At current usage we have fifty years of uranium.

  2. The "experts" say we might actually have ten times that amount.

  3. To implement the sort of plan you are proposing we would have to increase nuclear energy production ten fold (actually, it would probably have to be more than that, but it made the math easy).

4)Not figuring in any period for implementation I multiplied 50 by ten and then divided by ten for a peak fifty years out.

Now, like I said, this is a seat of the pants projection and does not include things like ramp up, more efficient use of uranium, etc.. But that wasn't my point. The point is you are suggesting the replacement of one non-renewable with another. Of course, technological advancements are possible, but those require time. And if we head into an economic depression within the next few years due to peak oil, just how many of those nuke plants will be built? and how much of that research will get done? And consider that if the depression is bad enough you lose the infrastructure capable of supporting a nuclear industry.

I too worry about the financial wherewithall of our industrial economies to handle changes in energy infrastructure.

During the Carter Administration, interest rates went to 20%.  For a plant with billions in sunk costs and not yet operating, that interest was added to the final cost.  That's why many plants were cancelled or wound up costing so much - compound interest at 20% or more over years of extended construction.

We will see a growing demand for investment capital in energy that will divert it from other uses.  As the EROEI of the economy lowers from a shift away from easy oil, there will be less surplus capital to go around and yet more demand for oil's replacements.

I did a quicky calc on the Hirsch alternatives and found, ballpark, that we could keep up with a 3% depletion rate by about doubling the current E&P investment rate per year.  What that shift will be and what investment market share will be required would be an interesting piece of research.

High interest rates are bad for capital intensive replacement energy sources.  That's one reason I rail at people advocating renewables just because they think them a noble undertaking - they swallow so much capital for so little return that imposing them as government policy is suicidal.  It takes away investment that can be better spent in more EROEI and productive ways.

As to uranium supplies under a nuclear rampup scenario, we need to look at this more closely but I bet we'll find little to worry about for the intermediate future.  It might lead to further research on breeders.  In any case, just because a resource is non-renewable, doesn't make it evil.  Oil lasted 150 years and brought us great prosperty and rapid cultural advance.  Nuclear should last as long or longer.  

Maybe by then we'll figure out what fuel UFOs use.

Whitehall wrote:

"I too worry about the financial wherewithall of our industrial economies to handle changes in energy infrastructure."

If we consider that USA is having a huge twin deficit now (a trade deficit and a budget deficit) and that there are economists that think that next year trade defic will go to US$ 900 billion next year (a stronger dollar at 2006 and oil prices at the current levels), I think that the prospects are good. And if we are really going to peak oil, the prospects for the US economy will be not better, because the trade defict will be unsustained if the imported oil prices go up to US$ 200/barrel.

By the way, I don't hope that the federal budget defict will go better while there are the tax cuts... so I cannot think we will see huge governemntal investment at research to develop better fission reactors(or to research for fusion energy) and we need remember that the private sector will not invest to develop these thecnologies, there are some reasons that made the Manhatan Program and the Apollo Program be governemental projects and not private projects, the same reasons that made the Roover Dam be built with governmental money (or tax payers money)....well.... we are at the worse of the worlds (if the Iraq's civil war that is happening now not extend itself to Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arab, well, that can make the things a lot worse).

By the way, nuclear EROEI is worse than oil EROEI, so fission nuclear power never will "brought us great prosperty and rapid cultural advance" as the oil did. As uraniun is a non-renewable resource and as we really not know how much uraniun exist, we can discover that it can be a resource that will end sooner than we can like.

I fear that our economic resources will be a lot more limited at the near future and that if the oil peak is really coming our civilization resources will be more excarse. Nuclear fission energy never will be cheap because it need safeness measures and lower the safeness to lower the cousts will be suicide, disasters ans acidents ever happens.

If the uraniun reserves are more limited that our wish-thinking want to believe, to invest our limited resources (that will be a lot more limited at the near future) at fission nuclear power will be not our bridge to the fusion nuclear era, but a dead end to our civilization.

Well, too bad we haven't an edit button and too much bad I am not good writing at english.


If we consider that USA is having a huge twin deficit now (a trade deficit and a budget deficit) and that there are economists that think that next year trade defic will go to US$ 900 billion next year (a stronger dollar at 2006 and oil prices at the current levels), I think that the prospects AREN'T good.

From what I can tell, here is the real crux of your argument:

" In any case, just because a resource is non-renewable, doesn't make it evil.  Oil lasted 150 years and brought us great prosperty and rapid cultural advance.  Nuclear should last as long or longer."

Clearly a resource has no moral value. It's use, however, does. Your comments about oil out you as an apologist for global capitalism. The great prosperity you speak about has only impacted a fraction of the world's population, it has impoverished a far greater number. And as for that rapid cultural advance - to advance you have to know where you are going. Where you see a positive culture, I see a wasteland of mislead consumerism and a great loss of connection with nature and our inner selves. If this is your "advance" I would rather be backwards.

If nuclear power really did serve as a straight up substitution for oil for the next 150 years would we be looking at a global population of 20 billion? Would 10 billion of them live in grinding poverty so deep they don't know where their next meal is coming from? Will we be out of wild spaces? out of rain forest? Will there be any open land that isn't farm or mine? Will we all be plugged into the 3V and subject to its mindless marketing message? CONSUME?

Two hundred fifty years ago, my forefather and his wife left what was to become Germany and settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to escape religous persecution and to seek a better life.  His son fought in the American Revolution and was rewarded with a small land grant on the frontier, then in NE Ohio. His grandson pioneered Northern Indiana where HIS son was first county sheriff.

My grandfather raised my dad on a farm in Indiana, growing corn, tomatoes, pigs, dairy cattle, sheep.  They grew most of their own food and supplemented their income by trapping muskrats.  They slaughtered their own animals so they could eat them.  I never heard either my father or my grandfather complain about their "inner selves" - they went to church instead.

Today, my sons and daughters live in comfort in California.  My father, who is 82, remembers living off the land and the hard times of the Great Depression.  Ask him, or anyone who has lived that life, if substantance farming is preferrable to modern American living and you will get laughed at to your face and thought a fool.

The issue of nuclear power really comes down to that, does it not?  You have some fantasy of a morally superior life with the bulk of mankind being poor and vulnerable while you would live the life of an aristocrat.

You think that somehow the bulk of the world's population has gotten poorer as a result of the Industrial Revolution?  In both absolute numbers and as a percentage of total extent population, you are absolutely WRONG.  Today, the fraction living in deep poverty is the lowest in history and even those have opportunities that never existed 300 years ago.  Population growth stops with enough prosperity.

You see "a great loss of connection with nature and our inner selves."  I'm telling you that you speak for your self.  I see a tremendous flowering of human welfare and culture - longer, healthier lives, better education, less suffering. While I would also like to commune with "Nature" more, too much more is likely to result in frostbite.  I have a lovely suburban backyard and have a short drive in my gasoline-fueled car to redwood forests and waterfalls.

I will give you the point about buying too much crap.

Your "inner self" is your responsiblity - don't blame any shortcomings within on nuclear power or oil companies and don't use that excuse to stand in the way of keeping my family warm, clothed, and well-feed.

This is really a religous war, isn't it?  The Lost Soul Romantics vs the Normal People.

 "We will self-regulate through dieoff. No intervention is necessary."
- Cherenkov

Huzzah!  Truth has been spoken.  If leaders of government and industry had followed the suggestions of the Caltech think tank (Harrison Brown, James Bonner, & John Weir) study on overshoot published in 1957 as "The Next Hundred Years", it would have been a different world.  At that time the world population was 2.8 billion and used 5 billion barrels of oil a year.  Yet extrapolation showed resource and demographic catastrophe looming in the early 2000s.

Humanity failed the test, behaving like bacteria in a dish rather than a sentient life form.   Now dieoff cannot be avoided.  It is too late to save the oil age culture and economy.  The prudent are making plans for personal family survival through the coming decades of political turmoil and infrastructure decay.

I don't think the proposals they made are any sort of magic bullet, but it is the most realistic proposal that I have seen put forth that has any hope at all of attracting support, that can do some real good.  It is certainly better than trying to drill our way out of the situation, ala ANWR, or just hoping/praying for a technological silver bullet.  At the very least many of the proposals are a step in the right direction.
I can't remember who said it, but "The longest journey begins with but a single step."
I especially like the fact that they have tried to use the market as a means of correcting the problems.  Especially, the goals that state x% of energy must come from renewable sources without mandating what renewable will be acceptable.  I also like the energy credits idea, which is a variation on the pollution/CO2 credits of Europe, that have already been shown to do some good.

I think this is the sort of proposal that should looked at with a skeptical eye for improvements, not impossibilities.  I know that many of the things they said aren't 100% accurate, or old news to many on this site, but to people without a professional background in energy or sciences, some of it is news.

Thanks for the feedback, if you see any flaws in the plan please let me know.
I'm not sure how this plan is different from the Apollo Alliance plan or Lester Brown's Plan B. Brown's is more comprehensive and aware of the sort of natural system feedbacks that the poster with the nine laws raises.

I think plans like these are along the lines of the first steps of grief a la Kubler Ross. To meet all the ecological and carbon-reduction needs that seem to be required to maintain the Holocene, what is actually required is much more drastic, at least to Americans: something approaching the disappearance of the car, and all that implies.

The DK plan sucks, it's all about micromanaging private entities.

When the price of oil and gas goes up, people will use less, this is basic supply and demand, and I don't really see what the problem is.

How's this one for similar logic:

When the price of bread goes up, people will eat less ... I don't see what the problem is.  Geez, "Calling Marie Antoinette..."

That's the scenario we are trying to avoid.:)
The bread shortage is supposedly one of the main factors that energized the French mobs during their Re-volution.

According to historians, Mary Antoinette never did actually say the "let them eat cake" line. She did not even know "they" existed until "they" stormed into her castle. Then it was too late.

(Rejuvenize America before our energy bread runs short)

The most belivable version I have heard were that the bakeries were forced by law to sell a certain kind of simple bread for a fixed price and then they could sell finer breads and cakes with free pricing.  If the simpler bread ran out they had to sell the finer breads and cakes for the low fixed price.

This gives that eating cake when there is no bread makes sense.

But the trouble were that the bakeries were out of flour and could not bake enough of anything.

In my view, all broad policy statements and all corporate 'mission' statements belong in a Doonsebury cartoon, and in reality they aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

When I see a 'policy statement' that states 'we will commit to spend X billion dollars over the next Y years on such and such alternative energy projects, then I will take that policy statement seriously. Until then, it's all about wanking each other and feeling good about it.

Here's my policy statement: "I will be nice to little puppies, I will help old ladies cross the street, and I will only eat free-range chicken."  Now doesn't that help!

Money talks: bullshit walks!

Furthermore, what does it really mean to have a 'policy'? Having a policy implies that one has the means to enforce whatever the policy calls for; and that is rarely the case. So, you can have all the policy statements you want; if you haven't got the stuff to back it up, it's all just empty words.

Errata: Should be ......'Dilbert cartoons'..........
I resemble that comment:)
Did you folks (Joule, Half Sigma, Dex3703) read the legislative proposals in the DK plan? I've read the Apollo alliance site and DK is much more specific in its proposals. If the plan was only slogans and policy statements I would dismiss it too.

They did include increasing the tax on gasoline by $1.20 per gallon over 10 years btw, though I happent to think that will make the difference between $20 per gallon gas and $21.20 per gallon.

Cherenkov has stated 'Plan C' here, is that what you prefer?

At least our resident nuclear lobby have voiced alternative proposals, though I am sure that would fall well short of providing alternative energy in time.

Just for you, the projected costs of the Energize America Plan At least for the programs I've modeled so far. and the revenues from the "energy cents" gas tax.
A great graphic of the Liberal Philosophy applied to Energy Policy:

Tax and Spend

While a carbon tax would enrich my career, I still can't see burdening the economy with that yoke.  Let the free people in a free market work.

Briliant analysis can't wait to buy one of your nuke plants.  As opposed to the $150 Billion a year for wars now, borrowed against the future incomes of our children and grandchildren.  Lets see, thats about twice the annual cost of the our plan, which actually funds itself, and does't require the deaths of tens of thousands of people.  If that is the Liberal Philosophy, sign me up.
People always need a police force.  The US and its Allies have to provide that for the globe.  The oil fields of the Middle East can be too potent a weapon in the wrong hands.

Suggest "The Pentagon's New Map" for an explanation of our leading global export - security.  Think of our security expenditures as overhead for an orderly global society and free trade.

Would you have us close down domestic police forces and use the moneys for your energy initiatives?

BTW, your plan DOES NOT "fund itself" - the taxpayers fund it.  Forget that at your peril.

But thanks for the nod to nuclear. We'll do our best to deliver clean, competitive electricity.

So how do your specific proposals differ from the Bush Administration's nuclear energy policies and those in the recent Energy Bill?  Your's look more restrictive rather than more productive.

I thought you conservatives didn't want us to be an international police force?  Anyway, it's not a police force.  We don't do what we do to keep the world safe, we ain't "serving and protecting", we're taking what we can.  I would imagine that a good portion of the world thinks that OUR hands are the wrong hands for the ME oil fields to be in - after all, we use far more of the world's energy per capita than anywhere else.

Think of our security expenditures as overhead for an orderly global exploitation of other people's resources.

we ain't "serving and protecting", we're taking what we can.

Wadda ya mean?
Everybody wants to buy a little "protection".
Badda bing. Know what I mean?

signed affectionately,
--Tony Sopranao

Hey. We're all "family" here, right?

...what does it really mean to have a 'policy'? Having a policy implies that one has the means to enforce whatever the policy calls for; and that is rarely the case. So, you can have all the policy statements you want; if you haven't got the stuff to back it up, it's all just empty words.

The people in charge have a policy: A permanent military presence in the Middle East to secure oil for the SUVs of suburban Americans. The people over at Daily Kos are proposing an alternative.

There's an election coming up, and the choice can be framed between the status quo and an alternative. If people like the alternative, the candidates who propose the plan get into office, and then they "have the means to enforce whatever the policy calls for".

Are you saying that political candidates should not bother to propose policies? Should we just vote for the guy that we most want to have a beer with?

I have a great non-partisan solution, and I personally guarantee it will work.

In fact, it is the ONLY solution that will work long term.

All other solutions will one day fail spectacularly unless you implement this solution I am suggesting.

Stop breeding. That's it. Stop making new people.

Infinite exponential growth on a finite world will always fail, without exception.

Prove me wrong please. Someone, anyone.

"Stop breeding" is not a solution. As pointed out earlier, humans are subject, like all animals, to immutable biological and ecological laws. And reproduction is a basic biological drive.

Absent force - or dieoff - there is no way to "stop breeding."

Our partisan "policy" institutions suffer from debilitating complexity (a form of cultural entropy) and are staggeringly out of touch with reality.

A fundamental question for us all is where to invest our limited personal resources - building liferafts or patching up the Titanic?
Well, the current President of Iran has a new "final solution" to excess breeding of infidels in the Heartland of Islamhood

BTW, if your significant other is not in a Burkah, you are an infidel too
... from How can you tell if you are an infidel?

Why does the oil spice involve everything humanity does on this Duned Planet? Hmmm...

Birth control aerosols, constantly released into the atmosphere?  
A pill that negates the effects, and a birthright lottery?

Award winning sci-fi author David Niven's possible future.

Larry Niven?  David was the actor.

Kurt Vonnegut had an interesting take on birth control in Welcome to the Monkey House.  Some scientist was offended by zoo monkeys playing with their genitals, so he developed a drug that dulled their genital nerve endings, or something.  Gov't decided to give it to everyone to control population.

Oops!  Righto, Larry Niven.  It has been many years since I read a Ringworld book.
Tiptree's 'Timesharing Angel'. An alien or angel comes by in response to a prayer and makes it so only one of your children is awake at any time. You can have as many kids as you want, but you will still be changing diapers at 87 if you do!
We should be able to stop over-breeding.  

As I mentioned before, in low-energy, preindustrial societies not everyone even had the chance to marry and procreate.  Hence you read about second and third sons without prospects entering the military or joining a monastery, and daughters without dowries being packed off to nunneries.  There was lots of prostitution, lots of rape and lots of infanticide.  This is not pleasant to think about, but it happened.

Today, many prosperous people have voluntarily limited themselves to one or two children.  And some people have no children or raise stepchildren, or adopt.

Yes, it is quite true that many people that occupy  the higher socioeconomic levels choose to either only have one or two children or none at all. It's been quite well established (at least in the US) that the number of children you have is, on average, inversely proportional to your education level. And your educational level corrolates very well with your intelligence level (smart people tend to get more education than unintelligent people).

Thus, what we have is a situation where the less intelligent breed much more 'successfully' than the more intelligent.  As an example, I know of an extremely well-educated couple with a combined IQ of probably over 300 who have elected to be childless. Hence, all those smart genes will be lost forever. On the other hand, we all know of all sorts of dumb misfits and low-life who carelessly breed like roaches.

 If this trend continues, I wonder if it means that the human race, on average, will gradually get dumber and dumber.  The other implication is that there might be a driving force toward an even smaller population of the elite who run the show and an even larger population of unintelligent proletariat.  Perhaps micro evolution at work?

(Just Idle speculation and not a theory I'm proposing,)

This process has sometimes been called de-evolution.

Some have argued that human evolution effectively ceased as soon as the first sustainable model of 'civilization' (even on a small tribal level) was created.  
Those humans within society that natural selection would have eliminated (such as those with genetic birth defects, or the mentally ill) or fallen to natural causes (such as predation, famine, or disease) were now cared for by society as a whole, and in many cases survived to reproduce. This process has accelerated along with advancements in civilization, 'perhaps' now effectively running in reverse.

Intelligence is quite safe as a genetic trait as long as we play complex social games about who beds whom.
Naive question: Has it been established that intelligence has a genetic basis?
Has it been established what constitutes intelligence?

Winning on Jeopardy is great, but there are many critical skills and much knowledge that won't get you into Mensa.

The Mayo clinic ID twin reports in the early '80's published in the redoubtable "Science" showed rather clearly, that all things being equal, about 70% of the performance on the Stanford-Binet IQ test, which predicts scholastic success, was inheritable. IQ seemed to be the most heritable mental trait they had studied.

Herrnstein, in a landmark work on genetic and environmental effects on IQ in the 1970's, postulated that the more environment was optimized, the more the genetic differences among people would stand out. This has not been confirmed.

Several years ago a study involving California school tests, and Army IQ tests taken over a period from 1938 to 1978 showed that people in the US were becoming smarter, by an average of 15 IQ points over those 4 decades. The finding was seen across all racial, cultural and age groups, and presumably is continuing. It was not confined to any one region, either.

Presumably these decadal increases in intelligence continue, if real. And if continuing into the 2030's the average intelligence in the US will be such that half will have IQ's over 140, which is the genius level. If true, that will be a rather astounding social change.

On the other hand....
As far as human beings becoming less intelligent, the statististics do reliably indicate that people in the US are far less Educated than they were 30 years ago and recent studies out of Los Angeles showed that 90% of the people there cannot functionally read or write in any useful way. This has been plausibly related to the collapse of public schools in LA and many cultural factors which do not emphasize scholastic performance.

A report showed that the average S. Korean male had twice the post hi school education of his US counterpart. Because knowledge is often power, this is suggestive of outcomes.

Reports out of the UC system, the upper level of public universities in California, was that nearly half of the students enrolled were Asian, who make up about 10% of California's population. This is probably a cultural effect, if real.

But Education in the US seems to be viewed as less and less important.

So, given these finding, there are huge environmental influences on human mental activities, and given the facts that even with the known genes for serious mental disorders, even in ID twins are expressed only about half the time, these genetic influences, coupled with our abysmal lack of ANY real knowledge about the specific genetics of the abilities measured by the Stanford-Binet, would put into serious question any statements that 'people are getting less intelligent' due to breeding patterns or much else.

Very likely the average American is less well educated than his counterpart in Europe and in the advanced nations of Asia, such as Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, and S. Korea. But this does not indicate less intelligence, but less development of it. Altho, functionally, it can look the same.

Intelligence is clearly genetic AND environmental. But to what extent and how much from individual to individual, we simply do not know to any degree of reasonable assurance.

The brain neurochemical, AMPA has been reliably related to IQ and intellectual performance. AMPAkines, which raise brain AMPA levels, are being developed to treat Alzheimer's and results in a very profound improvement in these cases, where they are not terribly bad. IN other words, with Ampalex there is an improvement in verbal learning and retention, finding one's way around and increases of 20-25% in mental and physical reflex times.

It's probable that in cases of dementia, the loss of AMPA and its receptors is as critical to the intellectual losses as dopamine is to causing Parkinson's. Which is why AMPAkines correct the dementia to a great extent.

Because neurochemicals are part and parcel of the brain and the levels of such substances can be genetically influenced, this suggests that the AMPA genes and receptors might be genetically related IQ factors.

Surely, AMPAkines reverse the most serious defects in moderately affected Alzheimer patients by 50-80%.

It's being developed by CortexPharm(who hold the entire patents for the drug family of Ampakines) out of Irvine, CA, in association with UC Irvine and one other drug company. A recent report showed that an Ampakine also reliably raised awareness and performance in persons who were tired or otherwise slowed down. Clearly, DARPA has an interest in it, as well.

1 + 1 = 3 , yes
But not true is that
moron + moron = moron

Each child is a genetic crap shoot of cross mixing genes from both parents. We all came from apes, remember? That's what Darwanism is about. Some of the freak mutations happened to have had higher levels of intelligence which at the time turned out to be a selectvely advantageous trait.

Often you will see high incidence of:
genius + genius = dysfunctional child
because a recessive geek gene in each parent becomes a phenotype in the child (i.e. autism)

So the speculation above about how the dumb give birth to dumber kids is all wrong.

Often times people merely appear to be "dumb" because they never got the educational opportunities that the elite in some countries get.

We really do not know what "intelligence" is. There are many dimensions to it. IQ does not measure all.

I'm afraid I can't agree with all you've said.  It has been well established that intelligence, mental faculty, or whatever you want to call it, has a very high inherited component. Not totally, as environmental development also plays a big part, but nonetheless, the single most important thing in determining your own intelligence is whether your mother and/or father were intelligent.

Therefore 'moron + moron = genius' has a much lower probability of occuring than 'genius + genius = genius'.

Admittedly, general intelligence is somewhat of an operational definition, i.e., it's that which you measure on an IQ test. Imperfect as it is, the IQ test is a pretty good indicator of general intelligence. True, not all 'intelligent' people are talented, and many talented people are not particularly intelligent, at least as measured by an IQ test.  But nonetheless, when dealing with large populations, the IQ test is a good indicator of what we conceptualize as 'intelligence'.

I will agree that it is not always easy to tell the difference between an intelligent person who is merely ignorant and a dumb person who is ignorant. The former can usually be fixed through education, while the latter usually cannot. The reverse is also true. One of the most naturally intelligent persons I have ever met never finished high school, and though he was ignorant about many things, his superior intelligence was unmistakable.

The whole subject of variations in intelligence among racial/ethnic groups is a really dangerous mine field, hopelessly intertwined with politics and  ideology, as evidenced by the nasty controversy that surrounded the arrival of the book 'The Bell Curve' in the 1990s.

The thought behind my previous post is that I have some concern that the more intelligent and better educated people in the US appear to be reproducing at a much lower rate than the less so, and whether this means anything bad in the long term.

Pre-industrial societies went through the same cycles of reproductive pressure, intensification of production, and resource depletion that we are experiencing. It was not by choice that hunter-gatherer societies "progressed" to more labor-intensive and lower protein producing horticulture.

One way that populations were controlled historically (and are still to a degree) is by female infanticide, since it is the nubmer of females that ultimately controls the rate of reproduction. Thus you find relatively high ratios of males to females in earlier societies.
It certainly seems that China's one-child policy has inadvertently led to female infanticide and a high male population.  Around 1970, there was TV movie about ZPG (Zero Population Growth) being the law in America.  The heroine tried to hide being pregnant but had to escape to Canada.

OK, here it is: ZPG 1972

Remember, TOD is non-partisan, so if you are aware of similar efforts on the right, please draw our attention to them.
The Democrat Party would never be in the left wing around here.

just kidding....
However, I caution that this subject must be treaded somewhat lightly (if at all), as TOD is really not the place for a discussion of eugenics.  
Just to be clear, I am NOT espousing or promoting a discussion of eugenics.
This is a most interesting site and thread. I have no problems with nuclear or any energy form that will intelligently (i.e., economical,clean,widely available,etc)provide the energy necessary to provide an improving standard of living for all peoples of our world.

My question is how is nuclear going to get my Honda Accord from Ohio to Florida? Or a load of Chinese auto parts from Long Beach Port to a warehouse in Denver?

Not to be smart alecky here but the most immediate problem facing us is transport fuels and there seems to be no mention of such fuels in the above discussion. Battery technology is finally beginning to draw research dollars but has a long way to go to get to a 300 mile range and what about trucking freight across country?

Nuclear power could provide the hydrogen needed to for complete upgrade of heavy oil, coal or biomass to liquid fuel.

Most of the transport could be done on electrically powered rail. There is no reason to use truck freight across country, use it at the ends so you do not have to build a rediculous ammount of railway lines.

Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure - there's so much of it that needs to be built/replaced.  Nuke plants, windmills, the power grid, rail systems, automobiles, home heating systems.  My inner skeptic (ok, it's an outer skeptic) says No F------ Way!  How much for all of it?  I cannot imagine that we'll have the economy for it.  
The global physical capacity for building infrastructure is the greatest it ever has been. It will be enourmous even during a decline in oil production. But we have to work hard with few lets-plan-an-sue-eachother-for-a-few-years delays.
IMO we can build it (yet), but with each passing day I beleive less and less in us doing it.

I think that all estimates of how much we need to build the necessary infrastructure are inevitably flawed; as we see with tar sands, oil shales etc. heavily investing in resource constrained world is extremely difficult... productive usage of natural capital (e.g. oil, NG, to build rails, nuclear plants etc.) have to compete with the already getting hungry consumers end-usage. It will be becoming more and more difficult with time because the letter will always receive higher priority.

For example should NG shortages in UK occur, the government plans are to shut down the industrial usages first, which is understandable. What is hidden though are the ripple effects this would cause throughout the economy and the positive feedback of more and more people who stay in their heated homes instead of going to work.