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Hansen Joins Up With Nuclear Ecomodernist at Bonn COP23

Ted F


James Hansen has done great work as a scientist and as an activist willing to put himself and his career on the line. He is, however, now working closely with Michael Shellenberger, founder of the Breakthrough Institute and, recently, founder and president of Environmental Progress, a 510(c)(3) that he assures us does not accept fossil-fuel industry money. Here is the presentation the two of them did at the Bonn COP this month arguing for nuclear power. This argument will not go away easily as scientists like Hansen despair of political solutions and begin to see nuclear as the only way to avert near-term climate disaster.

I have two obstacles to even considering nuclear power. First, after more than half a century of nuclear power, there is still no plan for safe disposal of the waste produced by nuclear reactors. Leaving that problem to future generations is colossal hubris. Second, the massive capital required for and the centralized nature of nuclear power generation virtually ensures that it will be administered by a highly secretive bureaucracy enveloped by a culture that ensures lack of accountability, coverups of mistakes, and reckless behavior. After Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl, if you had asked me to name the one country on Earth that might have been best adapted technically, culturally, and politically to safely manage nuclear power, I would have guessed Japan. Then along came Fukushima.

What do you think are the chances that this argument will gain traction? Has anyone torn Shellenberger and Hansen's road show apart?

Paul Lafreniere

New Member
Thank-you Ted F for a sincere reflection on nuclear power. Your concern and skepticism is warranted. Please make sure those in authority deliver. Frankly as a grandfather I am more concerned about the unfettered proliferation of e-waste, heavy metals, etc from our digital and RE society. There is no solution in sight to the free release of gargantuan quantities of toxic material. Uncontrolled releases from developed nations cruelly intersect with too many children promoting a deadly form of child labour simply because of where they were born. Why are we not confronting society on these issues?
I have been involved with many forms of toxic waste including nuclear waste for 40 years ago. Transparent solutions to ensure adequate control, exist for all types of waste. They are working well now as they will for the next 100 years. There is little doubt that improved solutions such as Life cycle design, Finland nuclear spent fuel repository and advanced fuel cycles will overtake any residual concerns. It is time to level the playing field.

Ted F

Here's a powerful rebuttal of Michael Shellenberger's happy talk about Fukushima ("nobody died!") in the video.

Fukushima Darkness

by Robert Hunziker, Counterpunch (November 22, 2017)

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

The radiation effects of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant triple meltdowns are felt worldwide, whether lodged in sea life or in humans, it cumulates over time. The impact is now slowly grinding away only to show its true colors at some unpredictable date in the future. That’s how radiation works, slow but assuredly destructive, which serves to identify its risks, meaning, one nuke meltdown has the impact, over decades, of 1,000 regular industrial accidents, maybe more.

It’s been six years since the triple 100% nuke meltdowns occurred at Fukushima Daiichi d/d March 11th, 2011, nowadays referred to as “311”. Over time, it’s easy for the world at large to lose track of the serious implications of the world’s largest-ever industrial disaster; out of sight out of mind works that way.

According to Japanese government and TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) estimates, decommissioning is a decade-by-decade work-in-progress, most likely four decades at a cost of up to ¥21 trillion ($189B). However, that’s the simple part to understanding the Fukushima nuclear disaster story. The difficult painful part is largely hidden from pubic view via a highly restrictive harsh national secrecy law (Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, Act No. 108/2013), political pressure galore, and fear of exposing the truth about the inherent dangers of nuclear reactor meltdowns. Powerful vested interests want it concealed.

Following passage of the 2013 government secrecy act, which says that civil servants or others who “leak secrets” will face up to 10 years in prison, and those who “instigate leaks,” especially journalists, will be subject to a prison term of up to 5 years, Japan fell below Serbia and Botswana in the Reporters Without Borders 2014 World Press Freedom Index. The secrecy act, sharply criticized by the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations, is a shameless act of buttoned-up totalitarianism at the very moment when citizens need and in fact require transparency.

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David Klein

A piece a few years ago by Mark Jacobson makes short work of the Hansen/Shellenberger proposition. Jacobson is not an ecosocialist and he does not challenge capitalism or even confront its grow-or-die imperative, but he and his co-researchers are right that 100% renewable energy (non nuclear) is possible even with existing technology, despite recent false "rebuttals" (which unfortunately some ecosocialists have bought into). It is a powerful indictment of capitalism that no serious effort is being made to do this.

Excerpts below.


Nuclear power is too risky - CNN.com
Nuclear power is too risky
By Mark Z. Jacobson, Special to CNN
February 22, 2010 4:27 p.m. EST


"For nuclear to meet all the world's energy needs today -- 12.5 terawatts (1 terawatt = 1 trillion watts) -- more than 17,000 nuclear plants would be needed. Even if nuclear were only 5 percent of the solution, most countries would have nuclear plants."

"What's worse, the nuclear industry wants to reprocess waste to obtain more energy from increasingly scarce uranium. But this only produces more weapons-grade uranium and plutonium."

"A global push toward nuclear energy would mean that uranium enrichment -- and efforts at nuclear weapons development -- would certainly grow throughout the world."

"Nuclear proponents argue that not enough clean renewables exist to power the world. However, part of our work at Stanford University has been to map world renewable energy resources. Enough wind and solar exist in high-wind and sunny locations over land to power the world for all purposes multiple times over. There is no shortage."


"In sum, if we invest in nuclear versus true renewables, you can bet that the glaciers and polar ice caps will keep melting while we wait, and wait, for the nuclear age to arrive. We will also guarantee a riskier future for us all."

"There is no need for nuclear. The world can be powered by wind, water and sun alone."

Paul Lafreniere

New Member
Re: Mark Jacobson "no need for nuclear"
News flash: Glaciers are still melting; CO2 is on the rise again! COP-23 was a bust. Just maybe, it is time to try something different. We were in mortal combat in world war II but the allies were smart enough to enlist all forces, even communists, to defeat the scourge of Hitler. It takes courage to admit we need to cooperate with enemies and bring all "clean energy" proponents into a big tent to "defeat" the scourge of fossil fuels. Future generations will judge harshly all those who bet the planet on their rigid ideologies; all those who stood in the way of a Marshal plan to expand use of all clean energies including nuclear power. This is not about personal likes and dislikes nor is it about our definition of good and bad attributes. It is about "Who goes to war with an arm tied behind their back". For one, zealots who insist "there is only one solution to a problem, their solution", do not have a great track record. Successful leaders consistently demonstrate secular thinking; they value a flexible risk management plan using every means at their disposal. Great Leaders in a time of peril, accept "the enemy of my enemy, is my friend", they hold their nose and accept what works and this includes the proven ability of capitalism and a level playing field to select winners in the cauldron of the real world. Who honestly believes we have the time to let rigid ideology block any potential solutions and impede efforts to promote innovation and paradigm shifts. Great leaders know "one size fits all" solutions do not exist in the real world. Great leaders exploit the positive attributes of the spectrum of solutions at their disposal and they work to improve the odds of success by expanding this spectrum of solutions. Many countries have shown nuclear power can scale up fast under the right conditions, to defeat coal and foster the social and economic development sought by all peoples. It is not right for everyone nor everywhere. But by disparaging nuclear power, you demonstrate you are not a "clean energy" team player, or perhaps you believe that the planet is not in immediate danger. My plea is simple: Stop betting the planet, leave nuclear alone to sail or sink on its own merit. Please concentrate on climate change. My grandchildren expect nothing less.

David J

Paul, it is possible you didn't notice that the name of this site includes the phrase "system change". But it is also more than a little ironic you don't regard "capitalism and a level playing field" as "a rigid ideology". If you like WWII analogies, consider Chamberlain and Stalin's practical, pragmatic, flexible "cooperate with the enemies" approach and how that worked out. Maybe they weren't "great leaders"(?)

There is a reasonable debate to be had over energy mixes, risk -reward, and where to prioritize efforts. And your heart-felt concern is obvious. But don't call nuclear "clean". I have little doubt you will get your wish because of the large profits to be made from an ever accelerating flow of electricity, production and accumulation (ie growth) but it only pushes the day of reckoning a little into the future. If more people found the courage to seize the current crisis of market failure as an opportunity for deep, structural change, maybe future generations wouldn't have to. Instead of caving.

Paul Lafreniere

New Member
Thank-you David for your insight. It is correct; I prefer small; "c" system change to upheaval. Your perspectives interest me because they shed light and they get me out of my comfort zone. Your "day of reckoning" is a great metaphor and not to be taken lightly. You raise some issues that are beyond me but maybe we can agree the key issue right now is people change and apathy.

So why join the blog? I cheered as the old order yielded power to NGO's and advocates of every stripe. I have a nagging doubt that many advocates have lost sight of how people and the planet will come out at the other end. To "feel good about themselves" many get lost in things like a debate over technical attributes or who makes a fast buck. Some are caught between moral hazard and hubris that obscures pragmatism and minimizes the plight of a large part of humanity. Just as some people fixate on the 1% rather than carry the burden of having to look back over their shoulders at the 5 billion have-nots, these advocates need to re-focus for all our sakes. Bernard Russell's "In Praise of Idleness", taught me to think twice before we villainize those at the top of the pyramid.

I have lived to see millions exit poverty and the living hell of a coal-based subsistence, to breathe clean air and drink clean water. Nuclear power often did the heavy lifting in countries not blessed by nature. Nuclear power is now old hat; it is no longer sexy. Some would even call it a Faustian bargain but I can assure you that those recently removed from that living hell, including many friends overseas, would not hesitate to do it again. Nuclear power succeeded in making a dent in the hegemony of fossil fuels and saved millions from premature deaths. It alone can scale in the next two decades to "base-load" power a new world order, without destroying this planet's natural capital. Why bet the planet when Nuclear power is more than "clean enough" and it leaves us with a "clean" conscience.