nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Bill Gates and techno-fix delusions

When elites try to change the world, it’s not usually for the better for the rest of us

Beyond Nuclear By M.V. Ramana and Cassandra Jeffery 14 Nov 22

Bill Gates, the businessman, made one of the world’s biggest fortunes by designing, selling and marketing computer technology. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that when it comes to climate change, he’s pushing more technology.

When wealthy people push something, the world pays attention. Practically all major media outlets covered his recent book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, and Gates has been interviewed dozens of times. All this pushing came with the pre-emptive caveat expressed in his book that the “world is not exactly lacking in rich men with big ideas about what other people should do, or who think technology can fix any problem.”

In his account of how elites try to “change the world,” journalist Anand Giridharadas explained: “All around us, the winners in our highly inequitable status quo declare themselves partisans of change. They know the problem, and they want to be part of the solution. Actually, they want to lead the search for solutions…the attempts naturally reflect their biases.

Gates is no exception to the rule; his bias favors maintaining the current economic and political system that has made him into one of the richest people in the world. The same bias also underpinned his stance on preserving intellectual property rights over Covid-19 vaccines, even at the cost of impeding access to these vaccines in much of the world.

Just as the pandemic was accentuated by insisting on the rights to continued profits for pharmaceutical companies, climate change is exacerbated by the current economic system that is predicated on unending growth.

A focus on technical solutions without fixing the underlying driver of climate change will not help. What is worse, some of the proposed technologies are positively dangerous.

Exhibit A: untested nuclear reactors like the ones that Gates is developing and endorsing.

Puzzling Choices

In an interview with CNBC following the publication of his book, Bill Gates announced: “There’s a new generation of nuclear power that solves the economics, which has been the big, big problem.”

To understand the economic problem, consider the only two nuclear reactors being built in the United States. These are in the state of Georgia, and the cost of constructing these has ballooned from an initial estimate of $14 billion to over $30 billion.

Even worse was the case of the V. C. Summer project in South Carolina, where over $9 billion was spent, only for the project to be abandoned because cost overruns led to Westinghouse, one of the leading nuclear reactor companies in the world, filing for bankruptcy protection.

These high construction costs naturally result in high electricity costs. In 2021, Lazard, the Wall Street firm, estimated the average cost of electricity from new nuclear plants to be between $131 and $204 per megawatt hour, whereas it estimated that newly constructed utility-scale solar and wind plants produce electricity at somewhere between $26 and $50 per megawatt-hour.

Likewise, in June 2022 NextEra, a large electricity utility, estimated that wind and solar energy, with four hours of electricity storage to allow for generation even when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing, ranged between $25 and $37 per megawatt-hour. Electricity from renewables is thus far cheaper than nuclear power, a difference only growing as solar and wind continue to become cheaper.

Many reactors have been shut down because they are unprofitable. In 2018, Bloomberg New Energy Finance concluded that more than a quarter of U.S. nuclear plants don’t make enough money to cover their operating costs.

That year, NextEra decided to shut down the Duane Arnold nuclear reactor in Iowa, because it was cheaper to take advantage of the lower costs of renewables, primarily wind power. The decision, NextEra estimated, will “save customers nearly $300 million in energy costs, on a net present value basis.”

It is this economic conundrum that Gates is claiming to address through new nuclear reactor designs. He is not alone. A number of other investors have backed “new” nuclear technology, and dozens of companies have received funding to design “advanced” or “small modular” reactors.

But these nuclear reactors of the future are no less problematic than traditional reactors. Besides unfavourable economics, there are at least three other well-known “unresolved problems” with nuclear power.

First, the acquisition of nuclear power technology increases the capacity of a country to make nuclear weapons, and thus increases the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.

Second, despite assurances about safety, all nuclear reactors can undergo major accidents, albeit infrequently. Chernobyl and Fukushima are the best-known examples, but not the only ones.

Third, the multiple forms of radioactive waste produced during the nuclear energy generation process pose a seemingly intractable management problem. Exposure to these wastes will be harmful to people and other living organisms for hundreds of thousands of years.

Wastes must therefore be isolated for millennia from human contact. The storage and disposal of these wastes often take place in poor, disadvantaged communities, typically far away from the gated homes of people like Gates.

It is not possible to simultaneously address all of these four challenges — cost, safety, waste, and proliferation — facing nuclear power. To a greater or lesser extent, all these problems will afflict the reactors being developed by TerraPower, the nuclear power company backed by Gates………………………………………………………………………….more https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2022/11/13/bill-gates-and-techno-fix-delusions/

Advertisement

November 12, 2022 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, spinbuster

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: