My most recent blog posts have focused on the problems with intermittent wind and solar. Nuclear clearly has its problems too. Toshiba’s and others (Areva) problems at minimum show how hard current nuclear is, without even getting to how it could be modified to be more sustainable and load follow. With reactors being shut down in Europe, the US and Japan and cost overruns leading to no new orders, nuclear is not going anywhere. China is the only country adding any significant nuclear capacity. This would seem to end what had been seen as the beginnings of a nuclear revival.
Most nuclear advocacy centers on new designs to remedy problems with current reactors. Nuclear takes a long time from experimental to demonstration to production power plants. Minimally the sequence takes decades and costs billions to tens of billions of dollars.
So, nuclear power and wind and solar face similar problems. Neither are viable replacements for fossil fuels and it will take significant development of new unproven technologies to make them so. Compare this with StratoSolar. Much of StratoSolar is just today's PV. The unproven parts are relatively simple engineering based on existing mass produced technologies. To follow the nuclear model, the first step is to build an experimental platform. This could be done in less than a year for a few million dollars. An experimental nuclear reactor is many years and hundreds of millions of dollars. Relative to a new nuclear reactor, StratoSolar demonstration and production platform steps are equally as fast and low cost as the experimental platform. The point is that StratoSolar is no more speculative than wind, solar and nuclear, when the development paths of each that lead to viability are objectively analyzed.
The perspective that wind, solar and nuclear are all unproven and speculative is not the perspective of their advocates. Wishful thinking rules the day. Recently Bill Gates led the founding of Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), a fund to invest in long term energy ventures. Given Bill Gates fondness for nuclear power, funding nuclear power is probably the focus of the fund. Given the funding required to get to production plants, its very unlikely that a private fund could raise the tens of billions required even to develop one new plant. Presumably the plan is to fund the earlier cheaper development stages and persuade governments to foot the major bills. Perhaps we can persuade BEV to fund StratoSolar? It might be high risk but its cheap and fast. Its actually a typical venture funded opportunity.
By Edmund Kelly
Rod Adams: reporter
Jim Green: Friends of the earth:
Michael Schellenberger: The breakthrough institute