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Nuclear fission is still a dead end.

There are still no real solutions for the mining process, shipment, processing, and storage for 100,000 years for the spent fuel.

Now go away and take your CBO WHOOPS bonds with you to France!

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 17, 2008 10:57 AM

I was digging around all over trying to find out what the carbon footprint of building one of these new fast reactors is. Because nuclear plants have a huge up-front industrial cost. I sort of picture this vast spewage of carbon as we scramble to build all those plants.

How's that pencil out?

Posted by elenchos | June 17, 2008 11:11 AM


An insightful point. I'm not sure if it is known, as most of these designs aren't even at the pilot stage yet. We can make some educated guesses, however.

Just because they involve much less movement of fuel and waste, thanks to more efficient usage, I suspect they'll have less of a carbon impact than existing pressurized water reactors per mWh. Likewise, most of these designs are more compact, requiring less concrete (and therefore fewer carbon emissions during the setting.) By using up existing fuel stocks, another major source of carbon emissions could be reduced.

Relative to a new coal plant, the energy per mWh (over the lifetime of the plant) should be less. Relative to wind, geothermal or solar it's tricky. Most solar technologies are quite environmentally damaging to produce. Both wind and solar require fairly broad geographic impact. Geothermal is probably about the best, but among the least generalizable of technologies.

The short of it? Conservation remains the best. After that, it rapidly becomes a wash.

Posted by Jonathan Golob | June 17, 2008 11:29 AM

If fission is a dead end then why are the Chinese and Russians spending so much money on plans to mine the moon for Helium Three? Helium Three is a clean alternative to nuclear waste and could be mined for about the cost of the Alaska pipeline in today's dollars. At least, that's what I've heard from scientists.

Posted by Vince | June 17, 2008 11:33 AM

Vince@4 Oh man, that's funny stuff. Mining the moon. Begin holding your breath... now for until that happens.

Spoiler: manned space travel is never going to happen again

Posted by Just Sayin' | June 17, 2008 11:53 AM

I know a place where the summers aren't so summery.

Posted by left coast | June 17, 2008 1:30 PM

I'm inherently wary of these sorts of reports people rush to report ice shelves collapsing and then forget to report on them refreezing.

Current data from the National Center for Environmental Prediction (NOAA) is suggesting the Antarctic has a HIGHER sea ice area than the 1979-2000 mean. The Arctic is trending lower than the mean and the total sea ice (Antarctic + Arctic) is almost exactly equivalent to the 1979-2000 mean. See for details.

Does anybody have a link to a similar dataset from the Envisat ASAR? That would be an interesting dataset to see.

Posted by nak | June 17, 2008 2:20 PM

On the other hand, now the penguins won't have so far to walk!

Posted by Greg | June 17, 2008 3:48 PM

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