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Scientists pour cold water on Bill Gates’ nuclear plans

”The recent attention on nuclear energy is fully driven by the declining industry’s desperation for capital and its related lobby depicting it as a solution for climate change,” 

The Natrium reactor is what we call a fast breeder reactor type. These reactors are proliferation nightmares,” 

“They are delivered together with the reprocessing technology that also is necessary to isolate material for nuclear bombs. For that reason alone, I think the ideas of Gates in this respect are outright dangerous,”

Scientists pour cold water on Bill Gates’ nuclear plans  https://www.dw.com/en/scientists-pour-cold-water-on-bill-gates-nuclear-plans/a-59751405

Companies owned by billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are planning to launch the first so-called Natrium nuclear reactor project. Many experts see the project as a misguided attempt to hit CO2 reduction targets.

Bill Gates’ nuclear energy firm TerraPower and power company PacifiCorp — owned by Warren Buffett’s holding company Berkshire Hathaway — teamed up in September 2020 to launch the Natrium project. It’s about a small modular reactor they say will be commercially viable by 2030…….

Gates said the site of the reactor to be built by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy will be in Wyoming, the United States’ top coal-producing state. “We think Natrium will be a game-changer for the energy industry,” he said……….

“They aren’t that small, this is 350 MW,” Antony Froggatt, a research fellow at Chatham House, told DW.

“While much smaller than existing reactors (1,000 MW), they are still large and may not be as modular as intended and this undermines the argument that they can be built in factories and then shipped out, which is how they are supposed to be cheaper,” he warned. ……..

“Bill Gates has continually downplayed the role of proven, safe renewable energy technology in decarbonizing our economy, playing up instead more dangerous and risky technology like geoengineering and nuclear,” Michael E. Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University, told DW.

Mann, a signatory to a recent declaration calling for decarbonization through 100% renewable energy, says he finds it troubling that Gates is trying to profit now from what he calls  “misdirection.” 

It’s misguided and dangerous, because it leads us down the wrong path. The obstacles to meaningful climate action aren’t technological at this point. They’re political,” Man argued.

Others agree. “Nuclear energy is a diversion from urgent climate action,” Jan Haverkamp of Greenpeace told DW. 

The recent attention on nuclear energy is fully driven by the declining industry’s desperation for capital and its related lobby depicting it as a solution for climate change,” he added.

“New nuclear power, be it large reactors evolved from the existing fleet, or new small designs, can deliver only a marginal part of greenhouse gas emission reduction,” Haverkamp said, adding that a doubling of current capacity would yield less than 4% reduction compared with business as usual.

“It also does so too late and at a far too high cost. To make a dent in greenhouse gas emissions, we would need hundreds of new reactors, spreading the risk of proliferation,” he said.

“The Natrium reactor is what we call a fast breeder reactor type. These reactors are proliferation nightmares,” said Haverkamp. “They are delivered together with the reprocessing technology that also is necessary to isolate material for nuclear bombs. For that reason alone, I think the ideas of Gates in this respect are outright dangerous,” he went on.

“These are what we call PowerPoint reactors: They are in the design phase and before they are ready and tested and approved to go commercial, we will be well beyond 2030, for most of them rather around 2050. That means they have no role to play in urgent climate action,” he added.

Critics say production of these reactors would be a very capital-intensive enterprise. “So my short answer is: No, these reactors will most probably not play any significant role in climate action, if any,” Haverkamp said.

“Today, wind and solar energy are far cheaper, far faster to deploy, and far safer than traditional nuclear plants,” Robert Howarth, professor at Cornell University, told DW. 

“Might the plants envisioned by Gates and Buffet be better than traditional nuclear plants? Perhaps, but this is still just an experiment. And I doubt the claims being made. In any case, they are a distraction, and we are best off giving up on nuclear power and moving to 100% renewables as quickly as we can,” Howarth concluded.

November 9, 2021 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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