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Interview with Bill McKibben - author of "Deep Economy" & "The End of Nature"

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groovedaddy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-10-08 08:15 AM
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Interview with Bill McKibben - author of "Deep Economy" & "The End of Nature"
As the author of the first major book on global warming, The End of Nature (Random House, 1989), Bill McKibben is a well-respected voice in the environmental movement. His recent book Deep Economy (Times Books, 2007) challenges the ideal of unlimited growth and proposes a future in which we return to localized economies and energy generation. McKibben has considered, and largely rejected, nuclear power as a part of this future. He shared his views on the subject with Utne Reader.

Why is nuclear back on the table?

Because its low-carbonand thats the only reason. Everybodys scrambling to find low-carbon sources of power, and nuclear fits that part of the bill.

You write in Deep Economy that the global warming situation is so desperate that its wrong to rule anything out, including nuclear power.

Its wrong to rule anything out, including cosmic rays from outer space. The problem is that we have to make an enormous change in a short period of time and with limited resources. So the question becomes, where do you get the biggest bang for your buck? Analysis of risk changes over time, so you might say at this point that the risks presented by a nuclear power plant are smaller than those presented by a coal-fired power plant. One has a huge risk of something going wrong; the other has a guarantee of something going wrong, that is, the disruption of the earths climate system.

I dont think that nuclear power is going to be an important part of the solution, because the biggest risk it carries is an opportunity risk: The time and attention and money that we would waste pursuing nuclear power would give us two, three, or four times the carbon bang for the buck doing other things. The only reason were pursuing nuclear power is that there are people who stand to make a great deal of money from it, especially if they can get the government to subsidize all the potential downsides for them.

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patrice Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-10-08 08:22 AM
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1. It sure would help a lot of us if Obama would stop taking nuclear money.
That would be REAL change.

There are some things that simply CANNOT be triangulated to any constructive purpose!

If Obama can't give us at least this, I hope we go all of the way to the convention with 3 candidates and a whole bunch of un-committeds.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-10-08 09:36 AM
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2. The whole question of nuclear power is moot at this point.
  • There's too much world-wide public opposition to make any large-scale nuclear development possible at this time.
  • The plan/build cycle for reactors is about 10 years.
  • There may be a bottleneck in uranium supplies within the next 10 years.
  • There will be a global economic contraction starting this year that will probably morph into a full-blown global depression in 5 years. That change will shrink the pool of capital available for large-scale engineering projects like nuclear power.

Those impediments make any projection of a "nuclear renaissance" more wishful thinking than realistic prediction. This graph shows my most optimistic projection for nuclear power generation over the next 40 years:

The derivation and context of the graph is given in World Energy to 2050
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