There are technologies that decouple human well-being from their ecological impacts. There are politics that enable these technologies. Join me as I interview world experts to uncover hope in this time of planetary crisis.
Adam Blazowski is a co founder of the Polish pragmatic environmentalist group FOTA4Climate. FOTA came together in 2018 out of a frustration with the limits of the mainstream environmental movement. The organization includes a broad spectrum of experts and activists ranging from energy analysts to herpetologists and characterizes itself as a “tech agnostic group.”
FOTA are supportive of nuclear energy not because of a bias towards the technology but rather because they believe it is the most effective means to the end of preserving bio-diversity, mitigating climate change and maintaining human development.
Poland is a highly fossil fuel dependent country with 80% of its electricity generated by coal. As these plants reach the end of their life, and climate and air pollution become more pressing concerns, there is growing support for nuclear energy as a replacement on climate and energy independence grounds.
Adam and I explore wheter there is a role for wind as a transition technology and fuel sparing tool in the context of such a fossil fuel heavy grid or will increased investment in wind lock in natural gas infrastructure that will become difficult to retire for economic reasons?
We examine why Poland has no nuclear energy while its neighbour Ukraine gets 50% of its electricity from nuclear despite the Chernobyl accident? We explore some of the underlying geopolitics facing Poland with a need for energy independence from both Russia and Germany.
We also discuss the EU politics, the green taxonomy with its loopholes that favour the use of biomass and what it means for the funding of nuclear projects in Poland. Adam explains that with the nuclear shutdowns in Sweden and Germany these countries are increasingly importing Polish coal fired electricity to meet their shortfalls.
Fota4Climate is a small but growing volunteer grassroots organization which on a shoestring budget has managed to do impressive on the ground activism. They participate regularly in climate events and even staged a protest against the closure of the Phillipsburg Nuclear power plant in Germany with 20 Poles travelling over 800 kilometers to condemn the clilmate vandalism of the AtomExit.
Adam Blazowski is a founder of the Polish pragmatic environmentalist group FOTA. He is a software engineer, manager, author and activist with over 15 years working in energy efficiency, smart cities, renewable energy and advocacy for tech agnostic decarbonisation
Carbon capture and storage. Loved by some, hated by others, essential to many an energy transition modeller for achieving net zero emissions. On today's show we explore some of the science and engineering challenges underlying Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS.) We look at CO2 capture at the stack, from the air and oceans examining the technical possibilities, the energy and material costs and the scaling difficulties.
The history of human influence on the climate system is thought to predate the industrial revolution. For example the Little Ice Age is correlated to massive human population die offs and accompanying reforestation secondary to the Black Death and old world diseases running rampant in the Americas.
Since the industrial revolution the burning of fossil fuels has taken us from an atmospheric concentration of 280ppm to 417ppm of CO2 with an accompanying 1C increase in global average temperatures. The laws of thermodynamics make reversing our centuries long liberation of hundreds of millions of years of stored carbon unimaginably difficult.
Enslaving carbon by emitting a trillion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere to power an army of machines and chemical processes has brought humanity unimaginable wealth, freed slaves and extended lifespans but threatens future prosperity. Truly reverse engineering that process to put that CO2 back underground comes with a near impossible price tag, new infrastructure and energy requirements.
Keeping carbon in the ground and abating emissions as much as possible is an urgent matter however many environmentalists and climate activists chearlead the closure of zero emissions nuclear plants like Indian Point last week. An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure but in a global society utterly dependent on fossil fuels for energy, transportation, cement, steel, fertilizer and many other vital processes is CCS part of the solution?
I am joined by Sean Wagner a materials engineer with a masters of science in engineering focused on nanotechnology from the University of Alberta. Sean is a master science communicator and lead writer and editor at the Alberta Nuclear Nucleus, a co-founder of Canadians for Nuclear Energy and the lead science advisor for the Decouple Podcast.
On May 1st at 11am in a matter of minutes New York State lost more clean energy than all of it’s solar and wind energy fleet combined. This act of climate vandalism occurred in the context of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act which mandates 100% carbon free electricity by 2040 and a massive increase in electrification of the heating and transportation sectors. On the sidelines environmental organizations like the National Resource Defense Counsel chearled the closure.
The premeditated shutdown of Indian point led to the building of several large methane gas fired plants to fill in the gap of electricity generation. 1000 intergenerational high paying jobs were lost and the Village of Buchanan will be devastated by the loss of work, taxes and revenue. To add insult to injury as it stands up to 50% of the 15 million dollar community fund set aside by the plant operator may be claimed by River Keeper the NGO that was so instrumental in the premature closure of the plant.
The volunteer activists of Nuclear New York worked tirelessly to save Indian Point and put nuclear onto the political and media agenda as a keystone climate solution. They were up against environmental NGO’s with budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars. Despite their best efforts the plant has been shuttered, 81% of New York’s downstate clean electricity has been lost and marginalized communities will have to endure the burden of the air pollution resulting from increased methane gas generation.
Their struggle was not in vain. Many lessons were learned and new strategies and tactics developed which might yet be employed to save furhter nuclear plants at risk of political closures across the USA. I am joined by Dietmar Detering and Isuru Seneviratne for an in depth discussion.
Heather Hoff is the co-founder of Mothers for Nuclear, and the mother of Zoe. She is a materials scientist, nuclear reactor operator and lifelong environmentalist.
In the words of their website Mothers for Nuclear is an organization of environmentalists, humanitarians, and caring human beings.
"We were initially skeptical of nuclear, but learned through asking a lot of questions. We started Mothers for Nuclear as a way to share our stories and begin a dialogue with others who want to protect nature for future generations."
Heather describes her trajectory as the daughter of an eccentric tinkerer growing up without a flush toilet in the desert in Arizona, to the co-leader of her campus recycling program, to her unexpected employment at Diablo Canyon as a reactor operator and her role as a co-founder of Mothers for Nuclear.
I am joined by Edgardo Sepulveda, a telecoms regulatory economist with an interest in the electricity sector, focused on restructuring and privatization. Edgardo provides a comparative and long-term perspective on the sector.
We begin with the first private companies at the dawn of electrification in the 1880’s and the populist push to exert some form of public control to curb abusive pricing, including setting up regulatory commissions to protect the public interest (in the USA, the New York PSC was set up in 1907!).
Consolidation from this multi-private operator model to the “traditional” monopoly vertically-integrated firm mostly occurred after World War II (WWII), when the idea that strategic sectors should be publicly-owned via state-owned enterprises (SOEs) drove a series of unifications/nationalizations: Hydro Quebec (1944); ENDESA in Chile (1945); EDF in France (1946); BEA/CEGB in UK (1947), etc.
These SOEs expanded the grid and drove electrification. In the US, where public ownership never took off (with a few exceptions (TVA (1933)), the monopoly investor owned utilities (IOUs) also expanded, facilitated by rate-of-return (ROR) economic regulation that guaranteed a stable long-term return on the vast investments needed to meet demand.
Starting in the 1980’s, neoliberalism and then environmentalism challenged this structure. Demand, after growing 5% to 6% annually for four decades after WWII, shrank to less than 1% in the last two decades. The neoliberal agenda of competition and privatization was kicked off 1980 in Chile under dictatorship, pushed forward by Thatcher in the UK later in the decade, so that by the California energy crisis in 2000, more than 50% of the USA and 3 out of the 10 provinces in Canada had “restructured”.
The idea was that while distribution and transmission remained “natural monopolies” and should continue to be ROR-regulated, generation could be provided competitively and thus “deregulated.”
So many vertically-integrated firms were “broken up” (restructured) to allow for a generation market to be created – markets would now set the prices and decide on how much and where to invest. In parallel, many SOE’s were privatized.
So what is the verdict? Edgardo and Chris discuss the implications of these two models, for consumers and technologies, in the context of our need to double or triple generation by 2050 to meet decarbonization.
Some reports that Edgardo refers to during the podcast, for an even deeper dive:
For the USA, Borenstein & Bushnell argue that evidence shows that the restructuring hope was mostly hype in terms of performance: “The U.S. Electricity Industry after 20 Years of Restructuring” (2015)
Given the above-noted discussion, Edgardo and Chris close of the discussion focusing on nuclear and the available options. A good nuclear-centric analysis of how liberalized markets under-perform from an investment perspective is by Koenig and Kee in “Nuclear New Build - How to Move Forward” (2021)
https://nuclear-economics.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/2021-01-atw-NECG.pdf, in which they also develop one particular proposed solution (there are many).
Edgardo’s Twitter handle is @E_R_Sepulveda
Edgardo’s take on the Ontario electricity sector is here
https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/monitor/power-people and more blogs here:
Environment, Social, Governance investing is a paradigm that is quickly becoming a driving force for global finance. Investors are increasingly paying attention and demanding disclosure of ESG metrics to guide their decisions.
At best, nuclear energy sits in an ESG limbo. At worst, it is listed alongside alcohol, tobacco, and pornography as a sin stock. In the EU, the battle over whether to include nuclear in the EU Green Taxonomy still hangs in the balance.
Nuclear checks all of the ESG boxes, providing ultra-low lifecycle emissions electricity without any air pollution, containing all of its waste, providing high-quality intergenerational union jobs, and submitting itself to the most intense regulatory frameworks on earth.
What is the relevance of nuclear achieving ESG status? Would this change the cost of capital and make new builds in the west more economical? How would the Uranium sector be impacted by ESG eligibility?
I am joined by Arthur Hyde, a partner and portfolio manager at Segra Capital Management. In the words of its website, “Segra Capital focuses exclusively on contrarian or underfollowed investment ideas,” and today we dive deep into one such topic.
Russia has been in the nuclear energy game now for over 75 years and its nuclear industry has bounced back to become the leading exporter of reactors around the world. What accounts for this success?
In the context of oligarchs balkanizing and profiteering off of sectors of the USSR's formerly centrally planned economy the Russian nuclear industry managed to re-consolidate itself into Rosatom, a collection of over 360 enterprises.
Rosatom is a vertically integrated state owned enterprise which offers partnering countries around the world the full suite of services and training to bring it nuclear energy generation capacity.
The core of Russia's nuclear program is the VVER design however Russia is also a world leader in SMR and advanced reactor technologies with concepts that have left the computer simulator and are connected to the grid gaining real world engineering and operational experience. What lessons can we learn from its advanced reactor program?
I am joined by Mark Nelson, managing director of the Radiant Energy Fund. Mark is a leading researcher and speaker on the status and prospects of nuclear and alternative energy around the world. He holds degrees in mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering as well as Russian language and literature.
The decision by the Japanese government to begin releasing 1.25 million tonnes of treated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant site over a 10 year period has caused a major stir not only amongst environmental NGO's but also regional countries with historic emnity to Japan.
Greenpeace alleges that radionuclides released into the sea "may damage DNA of humans and other organisms." China states that "the release is extremely irresponsible and will pose serious harm to the health and sagety of people in neighbouring countries and the international community."
So what are the politics and science behind the controversy?
The Fukushima water has been treated and the almost all radio-isotopes have been removed except for tritium. Just how dangerous is it? Tritium is a weak beta emitter with 70x less energy then the the naturally occuring and ubiquitous intracellular radioisotope Potassium 40 which undergoes 4600 radioactive decays per second in our bodies.
The health impacts of a radioisotope are multifactorial. The type of radiation emitted, the energy of that decay, the physical and biologic halflife of the isotope. The amount of tritium that one would need to drink to match a dose from something like a CT scan is simply impossible to ingest.
In response to the Fukushima accident in an effort to gain the trust of the population Japan has already reset its regulatory limits for radiation in drinking water at 1/100th that of the EU. Are these efforts actually counter productive?
Dr. Geraldine Thomas is a senior academic and Chair in Molecular Pathology at the Faculty of Medicine of Imperial College London. She is an active researcher in fields of tissue banking and molecular pathology of thyroid and breast cancer. She is also the director of the Chernobyl Tissue bank.
While hydrogen fuel cells were once hyped for use in personal transportation, hydrogen is now being marketed as an energy panacea and a vital part of a 100% renewables grid. Most of the world's hydrogen is currently produced through steam methane reformation and is used as a very carbon-intensive feedstock for ammonia for fertilizer and other chemical industry applications. Decarbonizing this sector is already a monumental task.
Green hydrogen produced by wind and solar-powered electrolysis is now being proposed as a solution to the problem of renewable intermittency. Is this viable? What are the challenges?
I am joined by James Fleay, an Australian engineer and project manager who has worked in the power and oil and gas sectors. He has also been a solar industry investor and is the founder of DUNE, Down Under Nuclear Energy
We live in a world transformed by big tech and exponential advances in computing. It is no surprise we hope this pattern can be repeated with an energy transition as anxieties mount over the implications of climate change. Unfortunately, magical thinking leaves us far from deep decarbonization and brings with it some staggering implications when it comes to resource extraction and the waste stream of dilute and intermittent energy sources.
Mark P. Mills is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a faculty fellow at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, where he co-directs an Institute on Manufacturing Science and Innovation.
Mark Z Jacobson's roadmap is cited by politicians like AOC, Bernie Sanders, and many others as an article of faith that a 100% renewables system is achievable and desirable. With great power comes great responsibility, and it is essential that those in the political class wrestling with climate change are well-informed about the consequences of their policy decisions.
Enter Michael Conley and Tim Mahoney, who in their book "Roadmap to Nowhere" work through the implications of Mark Jacobson's plan. This includes a massive parallel HVDC transmission system to connect far-flung wind and solar installations to load centres, and a "fuel-less" system that matches supply and demand with very little reserve, predicated on a weather modeling system designed by Mr. Jacobson himself. Lastly, the plan calls for a dramatic increase in hydro involving increasing current capacity by 13x, which would result in discharges that would regularly dwarf historic 100-year floods and wash away population centres on America's major river systems.
Rather than quaint scenes of small-scale, localized, democratically controlled infrastructure, the plan calls for industrialization of America's countrysides with almost 500,000 wind turbines 35 stories high and 14.5 billion square meters of utility solar panels.
When Jacobson's plan was criticized in the academic community, rather than defending his ideas in scientific journals, he responded with a 10 million SLAPP lawsuit alleging defamation. This lawsuit was subsequently thrown out, and Jacobson has been ordered to pay the defendants' costs.
It's time for policymakers to devote themselves to energy literacy, understand the studies that they reference, and make informed decisions to guide us through something as consequential as an energy transition.
What happens to our decision-making when we turn nature into God? Humans crave cognitive shortcuts to spare us the metabolically costly mental labour of reasoning through complex decision-making. The heuristic of "Natural Good, Unnatural Bad," has become one such shortcut. But what is natural? Why have we come to deify nature? And does worshipping it help us to make the best decisions for humanity and the environment?
Natural is not always what is good for humans or the environment. Nature, for instance, is very good at killing off children under the age of five. Charcoal production, while quite natural, is leading to rapid deforestation throughout Africa. And biomass burning is treated as carbon neutral by many government regulations partially because it feels natural.
Humans are not the first species to radically alter the planet and its atmospheric chemistry. During the Paleoproterozoic era, the first mass extinction was caused by cyanobacteria metabolizing CO2 into O2, turning the oceans and atmosphere from a reducing to an oxidative environment which wiped out most of life on earth. Humans, via our harnessing of technology, have radically altered the carbon, nitrogen, and hydrological cycles of the planet. As a result, standards of living have improved but a deep existential angst and fear of technology is building as we threaten the ecosystem life support services that "nature" provides us with. Can humanity have its cake and save nature too?
While some dispute the very notion of nature claiming that everything is natural and made of stardust, traditional environmentalists and ecomodernists both heavily reference nature, though they have radically different conceptions of it and tools for how to preserve and interact with it. Environmentalists favour harmonizing with nature through agroecology and renewable energy, with human populations and energy infrastructure distributed diffusely across the land. Ecomodernists favour "decoupling" from nature by continued urbanization and intensifying agriculture and energy production on the smallest footprint possible to allow rewilding.
We live in strange times where rather than setting clear goals and searching for the best tools to achieve them we make emotional decisions based on deifying nature and what feels natural. We are at risk of relying on simplistic labels and slick marketing in making our most consequential decisions like how to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Alan Levinovitz is a professor of Religion at James Madison University. He works at the intersection of philosophy, religion, and science, focusing especially on how narratives and metaphors shape belief. His most recent book is "Natural: How Faith in Nature's Goodness Leads to Harmful Fads, Unjust Laws, and Flawed Science."
Sapiens: Noah Yuval Hariri
Factfulness: Hans Rosling
Biologist and science communicator Iida Ruishalme used to sing a Finnish antinuclear protest song about hiding from the Chernobyl plume in her youth. More recently, she had the chance to visit Chernobyl with a group of scientists and filmmakers. With her trusty Geiger counter in hand and her relative risk thinking cap on, she drew some very interesting conclusions from her visit. We continue our exploration of the concept of hazards and relative risks as Iida describes her flight to Ukraine through the radioactive cosmic rays of the upper atmosphere; to smog-choked Kiev; to the city of Narodychi, which refused to evacuate from the exclusion zone; to the dogs and wildlife of the zone; and finally to touching the switch in the control room that was the last straw in the tragedy of errors which caused the accident.
China is currently 3rd in the world in Nuclear Energy capacity with ambitious plans to have the most reactors in the world by 2030. The Tsinghua climate plan calls for a 7-fold increase by 2050. Is China on the verge of a historic moment like the French Messmer plan, which saw France accidentally decarbonize by nuclearizing its grid in 15 years while electrifying a significant amount of heating and rail transport? The answer is a very complex "No."
At great expense in a time of post-civil war, crushing agrarian poverty and "great leap forward" economic mismanagement, China managed to join the nuclear weapons club in 1964. It was, however, very late to develop power reactors, with its first coming online only in 1991. Since then, China has imported many different turnkey projects from Europe, the USA, Canada, Russia while also developing its own indigenous designs culminating in the Hualong 1.
For a variety of pragmatic reasons, including the transport and air pollution externalities of coal and the ability to make nuclear cheap and profitable by very low-interest financing, nuclear is on the rise in China. However, coal use is still rising, as is energy demand, with data centre and 5G infrastructure expected to use as much energy as is currently produced by the entire Chinese nuclear fleet.
I am joined by Francois Morin, the China Director of the World Nuclear Association, to discuss the fascinating past, present, and future of nuclear energy in China.
On the progressive side of the political spectrum, it is assumed that with an increasing acknowledgment of the reality of climate change will come default support for a progressive Green New Deal agenda. There is, however, another possible outcome of the far-right abandoning climate denial: Avocado Politics, green on the outside, brown(shirt) on the inside.
In the words of Nils Gilman, "The strong state demanded by right-wing environmentalists will not be one that is liberal, tolerant, or inclusive but rather one that prioritizes the welfare of the native-born and ethnically pure while enforcing punitive restrictions against foreigners, immigrants, and the ethnically impure."
A Green/Far Right alliance has sprung up in Austria which calls not just for 100% renewable energy, but also banning Islamic headscarves and detaining asylum seekers. The El Paso and Christchurch shooters both centered their manifestos around ecological justifications for their mass murders.
There is a deep intellectual history for these ideas going back to Social Darwinism and beyond. The founder of the term "Ecology" Ernst Haeckel also invented the term Lebensraum which the Nazis used to justify their destruction of the peoples of Eastern Europe. In America, up until the 1990s, the Sierra Club was one of the fiercest anti-immigrant organizations in America.
Nils offers a sweeping history and analysis of the phenomenon of Avocado politics and cautions progressives that catastrophist language may have unintended and unfortunate consequences.
Nuclear has not always been a culture wars issue. Is there an opportunity for the Left with its concern for climate action and the Right with its trust in large scale energy projects to come together around the importance of nuclear energy to address our social and environmental challenges? Historically many nuclear build outs were accomplished by social democratic governments with support accross the political spectrum. Why is harnessing this support from a more traditional left and right politics so difficult at present? In some ways the modern political expressions of Left and Right traditions are unrecognizable to their founding thinkers.
On the Left the science part of scientific socialism has eroded away as the left has moved away from a broad based working class politics into the safety of liberal arts departments on university campuses. The Left's new embrace of "small is beautiful" post-modern politics are hostile to notions of progress and the large centralized projects that have successfully brought basic services to the masses. Degrowth and eco-austerity is the guiding light of so called "eco-socialists" articulating a romantic vision for a way out of our ecological challenges.
On the Right, modern conservatism has undergone a mutation due to exposure to neoliberal economics which has given social license to greed. The value of conserving all different kinds of capital: social, human, cultural and the meta resource: a habitable earth for future generations has been replaced with an ideology that only values a short sighted maximization of financial capital. Free market fundamentalism has led to a fear and loathing of government and a belief that markets are the only way to organize the economy including basic human services and the monopoly that is the electrical grid.
Can we find commonalities across our ideologies again to support Nuclear energy, a technology which can deliver prosperity not austerity, reliability not black outs and economic growth without ecological collapse?
"What man desires is not knowledge but certainty." Winston Churchill In this episode Iida Ruishalme, the brains behind "thoughtscapism" discusses science and risk communication. We explore the inner workings of human thought and the cognitive biases that make us vulnerable to junk science and its prophets. We identify some of the red flags that should cue us to move from intuitive thinking to analytical thinking and we look at the real harm of fearmongering around vaccines, biotech and nuclear energy.
In the developed world we have been liberated from the major hazards and risks that have plagued humanity and shortened lifespans through public health measures like vaccination, the regulation of pollution and abundant energy which has enabled a high quality of life.
However notions of purity and anxieties around contamination have led to dramatically inflating the sense of danger from trivial or imagined hazards and the concurrent rise of anti-vaccination, anti-biotech and anti-nuclear activism that threatens some of the fundamental advances of the 20th century.
Iida Ruishalme is a biologist specialised in biomedical research, an environmentalist, a writer and a science communicator. She is also a mother who takes the future of her children very seriously. She has become well known and respected for her blog Thoughtscapism.com
The Tohoku earthquake which led to the Fukushima accident was the 4th most powerful earthquake in the world since modern measurement and record keeping began in 1900. This earthquake was so powerful that it redistributed earth’s mass sufficiently to shift the earth’s figure axis by 17cm and shorten our days by 1.8 microseconds.
There’s a tendency in the West to forget about the earthquake in our fascination with the nuclear accident in Fukushima. Paul Blustein is a former Rhodes scholar, journalist and writer who has written about economic issues for more than 40 years and lives in Kamakura Japan with his family where he experienced the earthquake and its aftermath. Paul was an early voice of reason dispelling some of the worst radiation fear mongering at the time. He has made a point of supporting the farmers of Fukushima by eating and promoting produce from the prefecture where safe radiation limits are set at 1/10 those of Europe.
In this episode we discuss the lived experience of the earthquake and its aftermath as well as the enormous damage caused by the failure of NRC chairman Gregory Jackzo to correct the record on a modelling error he publisized. This led to suspicion that the Japanese government was suprressing the seriousness of the accident and significantly eroded public trust and exagerated panic.
The conference of the parties (COP) is where almost every nation on earth, each with an equal vote, gathers to talk climate change and attempt to hammer out a consensus on the way forward. So far nuclear has been on the fringes of policy discussions. Activists like Arun Khutan are working to change that through an initiative called Net Zero Needs Nuclear. Delayed due to COVID, COP 26 promises to be interesting with countries that were previously reluctant to make climate committments changing course. The Biden administration has rejoined the Paris Agreement and China has signalled goals of Net Zero by 2060 which includes a massive scaling up of their nuclear sector. Arun and I talk shop on COP, Nuclear advocacy strategy and the Net Zero for Nuclear campaign. Arun Khuttan is a chemical and nuclear engineer who is an active advocate for nuclear and is leading the UK Young Generation in nuclear's activities towards COP 26 this year.
For more information about the campaign
A deep dive into Bill Gates most recent book "How to prevent a Climate Disaster" with Leigh Phillips. Bill Gates has burst onto the climate scene and is generating a lot of press. Will he grow to monopolize the debate as he has with Global health where it has been said that “you can’t cough, scratch your head or sneeze in public health without coming to the Gates Foundation.”
In this entertaining read Gate's provides an accessible birds eye view of the problems and scale of climate change. He draws attention to hard to decarbonize sectors like Agriculture, Cement and Steel and introduces the concept of the "Green Premium" as a metric to identify decarbonization innovation priorities.
Gates pours cold water on the common use of Moore's law as a model for rosey energy sector modelling. He points to the importance of marrying mitigation to adaptation in order for those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change to have the best chances to endure it.
Leigh and I talk agriculture, energy, innovation and most importantly the politics including taxation that can enable the state investment in R&D and deployment that Gates calls for and yet has resisted many times as a member of the billionaire class.
Leigh Phillips is a science writer and political journalist whose work has appeared in Nature, Science, the Guardian, and Jacobin. His areas of specialization include climate change, energy systems, the earth system, and microbiology. Leigh is the author of 2 books, The People's Republic of Walmart and Austerity Ecology.
The UK has made a legally binding commitment to net zero emissions by 2050. Boris Johnson recently released a 10-point green plan, which included the claim that all UK households will be powered by wind energy by 2030. The UK Committee on Climate Change has recommended a big expansion of wind and solar but says that up to 40% of electricity in 2050 will need to be firm, low carbon...which means either gas or biomass with carbon capture, or else nuclear. They've also suggested electricity demand will double from now to 2050. While today 18% of UK electricity is supplied by nuclear, almost all of this will disappear by 2030 as the advanced gas reactor fleet is retired this decade. Indeed, of today's electricity generation, none will be on the grid in 2050 except possibly Sizewell B. Gas and wind are growing to dominate the grid with an unhealthy serving of biomass (fuelled by wood pellets imported from the US). 120 GW each of wind and solar are being contemplated to meet climate goals but will result in 500 sq miles of solar farms needing to be built in the densely populated "sunny" south of England and 24,000 5MW offshore wind turbines.
The UK enjoys bipartisan support for nuclear power but has committed to private financing with its only new nuclear build financed with a 9% interest rate. Cost remains a serious concern. As Tim Stone, chairman of the UK NIA, has said: "Only two numbers matter in nuclear construction: capital cost and the cost of capital.' Some institutional investors are resportedly shunning the proposed Sizewell C nuclear project, citing uncertainty over environmental, social and corporate governance concerns. However, the UK government is now in negotiations with EDF to find a financing model that reduces the cost of finance and leads to a better deal for consumers. This is likely to involve more government support than previous projects.
I am joined by David Watson, a nuclear safety engineer from the UK, to discuss this and more. David has over 10 years' experience in consulting supporting the operation, construction and decommissioning of nuclear power plants. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Generation Atomic blog recently started an instagram channel called atomic trends, which he refers to as the "nuclear dream factory".
The Philippines exports its people to earn foreign exchange to, amongst other things, pay for imported fossil fuels to power the country. Families are broken up, parents absent for years at a time, and many of the brightest Filipino minds leave the country causing a significant brain drain. While its neighbours have experienced steady economic growth and improvement in standards of living, the Philippines has stagnated, burdened by high energy prices and unreliable power that has deindustrialized the country and discourages foreign investment and development. Nuclear energy due to its low fuel and transporation costs and the ability to stockpile years of fuel onsite has the potential to deliver the energy security and the reliable power needed for economic development at an affordable cost and prevent the hemorrhaging of so many Filipino's from their country and families. It can also address the water and air pollution caused by coal ash which has significant impacts on the health of Filipinos. What's most surprising is that there is a nuclear plant, Bataan, that was built in the 1980's that was 100% complete and ready for fuel loading but never actually brought online. It has stood idle for 36 years while the Filipino grid has been strained and electricity prices have been some of the highest in the world due to fossil fuel and shipping price volatility. I am joined by Mark Cojuangco, a former Representative of 5th District of Pangasinan and the vice-chairman of Committee on Appropriations. He is the author of the House Bill 04631 that sought the immediate re-commissioning and commercial operation of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.
Due to the global geopolitics of the 1940's Canada became the unlikely centre for the world's second largest nuclear research infrastructure at the end of World War II. Devoting itself to the peaceful use of the atom It went on to develop a unique power reactor design, the CANDU, based on the use of heavy water to avoid the need for uranium enrichment and pressure tubes to get around the need for a heavy forging industry for reactor vessels. These features make the CANDU ideal for export and technology transfer to less developed countries with industrial capacity resembling that of Canada back in the 1960's.
CANDU reactors provide 61% of the power for the Ontario grid, the largest province in Canada, making it one of the cleanest electricity grids on earth and allowing for the complete phaseout of coal. CANDU has been exported internationally and delivered on budget and on time in China, South Korea and Romania. Alongside it's high grade uranium deposits which are the richest in the world, Canada has a unique ability to foster a made in Canada reponse to climate change. It can export its ultra low carbon technology to address its climate debt by helping developing countries to leapfrog fossil fuels on their way to ultra low carbon energy.
CANDU meets many of the criteria for an advanced reactor design with passive safety elements, modular design, and the ability to use nuclear waste as fuel. Why then is CANDU languishing especially in a country where the supply chain is 95% in country?
Dr. Jeremy Whitlock former president of the Canadian Nuclear Society and Section Head of the Dept of Safegaurds at the IAEA walks us through this incredible history. He is the brains behind nuclearfaq a treasure trove on the history of nuclear energy in Canada. http://www.nuclearfaq.ca/
The Texan grid AKA the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is a house of cards. It is an energy only, deregulated market which does not reward keeping spare generation capacity on board and keeps a razor thin cushion to buffer against unpredictable surges in demand. It has isolated its grid from the rest of the conry in order to avoid federal reguation. Texas has made the decision to invest heavily in wind and natural gas, pairing an unpredictable and intermittent energy source with a dispatchable source that relies on just in time delivery of its fuel.
In the clutches of a polar vortex which has covered wind turbines in ice, frozen natural gas infrastructure and driven up demand for gas for both home heating and electricity ERCOT is strained to the breaking point with rolling blackouts affecting millions in this freezing weather. Welcome back for another Decouple short. We are joined by energy analyst Mark Nelson, the managing director of the Radiant Energy Fund to understand this breaking news out of Texas.
While wealthy countries in the West are engaged in an energy transition obstensibly away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy the developing world is emerging from energy poverty largely through the use of fossil fuels. Four million people die every year as a consequence of indoor air pollution from cooking using biomass in poorly ventilated homes. This is more lives lost year after year, every year than COVID in 2020 and more than Malaria and HIV/AIDS combined. The transition away from biomass towards sources like liquid petroleum gas cooking fuels is an undeniable global health benefit.
How do we balance the immediate needs of people to exit energy poverty with the fossil fuel driven threat of climate change that looms on the horizon. What are the consequences of market interventions and economic planning when policy makers struggle with basic energy literacy?
Dr Scott Tinker is a geologist, educator, energy expert and documentary filmmaker. He is the bureau of economic geology at the University of Texas and the chairman of the Switch Energy Alliance which aims to inspire an energy educated future through film.
Just as the political spectrum is divided between left and right, thinking on environmental problem solving is similarly split into two rival camps exemplified by the archetypes of the Wizard and the Prophet. Award winning science writer Charles Mann explores these archetypes as personified by the father of the Green Revolution, Norman Borlaug and the intellectual godfather of the environmental movement, William Vogt.
Crudely put wizards are foremost humanists who eschew limits believeing that our growing population and appetites can be accommodated by the wise application of decoupling technology. Prophets are foremost environmentalists who believe that carrying capacity is limited and that humans must remain within natural energy flows or risk ecosystem and civilizational collapse.
Understanding the origins of one's opponents ideological beliefs and values goes a long way to depersonalizing a sometimes ugly debate and perhaps finding a small patch of common ground.
Prophets who have contributed some impressive advances in natural resource stewardship such as water conservation must wrestle with an ugly history of malthusian ideas which at their worst have justified horrific campaigns of coercive population control. Despite the success of technofixes that fed billions and averted famines wizards must temper their scientific rationalism with a sociologic understanding of the dark sides of modernization such as enclosures of the commons.
This conversation challenged my cognitive biases more then I was expecting. I hope it does the same for you.
Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. When environmental NGO's morph into fossil fuel companies something is very wrong with environmentalism. The company Greenpeace NRG sells a product they label as ProWindGas made of 99% fossil methane and less than 1% hydrogen from water electrolysis.
"Our long-term goal is to increase the proportion of wind. Since the production of renewable hydrogen is still comparatively expensive today and we want to keep our gas price competitive, we can only increase the hydrogen share slowly..."
While aiming to increase the share of hydrogen from wind over time, the amount of green hydrogen in Greenpeace NRG's Pro Wind Gas has actually decreased and remains at or below 1%.
Welcome to our inaugaral "Decouple Short" episode. A 15 min or less episode that compliments our long form interviews by bringing you expanded coverage and breaking climate and environmental news.
Is part of our rejection of expertise, distrust of science and weaponization of the precautionary principle tied to how suicidally close we came to mutually assured destruction during the cold war? What are the cultural drivers that have led the modern left to reject nuclear energy? How did we come to exaggerate the potential harms from a nuclear accident to biblical proportions? How is the idea of nuclear apocalypse different from climate apocalypse in terms of its imagery and cultural framing? I am joined by Spencer Weart the retired director of the Center for History of Physics for the American Institute of Physics to answer these questions. Spencer holds a Ph.D. in physics and astrophysics and has devoted much of his career to working as a historian of science. He is the author of a number of books including “The Rise of Nuclear Fear.”
There is money to be made in Nuclear Fear. Consider this. In Japan over the last 10 years since the Fukushima accident, approximately 50 billion USD a year in additional fossil fuels have been traded to supply energy demands that would have been provided by Japan's shuttered nuclear plants. The ability to terrify people with the prospect of serious health harms from low dose radiation has kept most of the Japanese nuclear fleet idle and created an enormous market for LNG and Coal as well as a significant burden of disease secondary to particulate air pollution.
On June 12th 1956 the National Academy of Sciences released its report on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR.) It became part of the basis for a paradigm shift in radiation protection towards the Linear No Threshold model which proposes that radiation is a uniquely dangerous toxin with no safe lower dose limit.
The BIER report was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation whose endowment came directly from the Standard Oil Company. Did the Rockefeller Foundation and its fossil fuel baron patrons have a vested interest in exagerating the dangers of radiation to disparage a potentially disruptive, air pollution free technology that threatened the market share of the fossil fuel industry? Was their support coincidence, conspiracy or just good business acumen?
I am joined by Rod Adams, a former US nuclear submarine engineer officer, who runs the Atomic Insights blog and hosts the Atomic Show podcast to discuss this tantalizing question.
I am joined by Robert Bryce, an American author, journalist, filmmaker and podcaster in a wide ranging discussion of the politics of the world's unfolding energy transitions.
Energy illiteracy is epidemic and basic concepts such as power density and scale are absent from most policy discussions. We discuss the impacts of fracking on the nuclear renaissance and the mounting resistance to wind and solar farms in rural America.
Big decisions lie before our government representatives and the technological choices they make will be hugely consequential not only to limiting climate change but also the health and stability of the commons in the form of the network that underlies all modern networks, the grid.
Fusion is supposed to be even more powerful than fission but without the baggage. It resonates with the appeal to nature fallacy with notions of bringing the power of the sun down to earth. 39 years ago Dr. L. Lidsky wrote that "The scientific goal of fusion energy turns out to be an engineer's nightmare."
Building a reliable, affordable power plant that requires achieving temperatures hotter than the sun and as cold as physically possible within several meters of each other all under the materially challenging conditions of high energy neutron bombardment is only the beginning. Low power densities and parasitic load further chip away at the potential performance of "the ultimate solution" to our clean energy challenges.
Gerrit Bruehogg is a nuclear engineer with a background in fission reactors and particle accelerators who is currently doing his thesis at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics on inertial confinement fusion. Join us for a lively discussion that leaves no subatomic particle unturned.
Decouple is a show which is fundamentally about attitudes to technology and the role that decoupling technologies, so called technofixes, can play in mitigating and solving our environmental challenges. As we are becoming increasingly aware, geology and its earth systems have not just shaped us, we are shaping the earth through our technologies and indeed our most current geologic epoch, the anthropocene, bears our name as a result. In this episode we dive deep into geologic determinism and a history of technology made more entertaining by the thought experiment of exploring how to rebuild civilization after a global cataclysm with astrobiologist and polymath, Lewis Dartnell who is the author of the books "Origins" and "The Knowledge."
Nick Touran is a Ph.D. nuclear engineer and advanced reactor designer who runs the science education website whatisnuclear.com. Advanced and Small Modular Reactors have become the only politically safe nuclear power that western politicians are willing to touch with a 10 foot pole. Meanwhile existing plants doing much of the heavy lifting of decarbonisation are facing politically motivated premature closures and new builds of existing designs are seen as politically and financially unfeasible. There is a lot of hype around thorium, molten salt reactors, breeders and burners. There are also a lot of unanswered questions these designs will face if and when they are exposed to the challenges of existing in real life. Banking the West’s nuclear future and our climate response on potential paper tigers is a high risk move given the stakes and timeline of climate change.
"China will cut carbon emissions by over 65% by 2030" according to Chinese President Xi Jinping. In addition two new studies published by the leading and highly influential Chinese Climate research institutes at Tsinghua university model net-zero emissions by 2050 and carbon neutrality by 2060. These models suggest a 10x increase in solar and wind and a 7x increase in nuclear by 2050. By 2050 China is forecasted to have more nuclear capacity then the rest of the world combined.
What explains the policy shift away from a logic of differential responsibilities whereby climate change was seen as a problem created by the west and the west's responsibility to mitigate?
China is vulnerable to climate change. Energy security is a another major issue with the memory of a US imposed oil blockade during the Korean war and 70% of its oil being imported via the strategic and vulnerable straights of Malacca. Finally in the context of Trump's abandonment of the Paris Accords Chinese leadership on climate change comes with some soft power benefits.
I am joined by Dr. Seaver Wang a climate and energy analyst at the Breakthrough institute to break it all down for us.
Sometimes an outsider's perspective can lead to startling conclusions. Bret Kugelmass is a successful tech entrepreneur turned climate activist. His empiric analysis of the problem of climate change led him towards embracing nuclear energy as the only technology capable of scaling to achieve deep decarbonisation and powering negative emissions. After conducting well over 1000 interviews with nuclear engineers, regulators and analysts, Bret has developed some very bold and very controversial policy solutions to make nuclear energy cheaper then coal and unleash its climate change fighting potential. All he's got to do is convince an industry that it is its own worst enemy and to abandon some of its most central dogmas.
Dr. Rudolf Virchow, one of the founders of scientific medicine, said that "Medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing more than medicine on a large scale." Beyond caring for the sick, doctors have played an important role in calling attention to the social determinants of health. International physicians for the prevention of nuclear war (IPPNW) played a pivotal role in the cessation of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing at the height of the cold war. This anti-weapons activism later came to be directed towards civilian nuclear energy by the likes of anti-nuclear crusader Dr. Helen Caldicott who is well known for her unwillingness to back up her outlandish claims with scientific evidence. Doctors for Nuclear Energy is a new international group of physicians who argue that nuclear energy is a keystone technology for the elimination of air pollution and CO2 emissions. Co-founders Dr. Van Der Merwe and Dr. Keefer share their perspectives on relative risk assessment, radiophobia and its public health consequences and our clean energy future.
The host becomes the guest as I hand over the microphone to film maker and long time friend Jesse Freeston. Jesse got the Decouple podcast rolling by interviewing me about my vision for the project for our very first episode. He's back for a check in to explore what I have learned on the Decouple journey so far. Twenty three episodes in we have a lot of ground to cover. We welcome you behind the scenes. https://www.patreon.com/posts/decouple-on-41428860
The Campaign for a Green Nuclear Deal calls for a dramatic increase in nuclear energy to supply 50% of US electricity by 2050. Beyond being a policy proposal for decision makers, the campaign bases itself in a grassroots mobilization of Nuclear energy workers to make a revival of nuclear energy the tool with which to rapidly decarbonize and reindustrialize the US economy. It seeks to bridge the divide between climate concerned Democrats who want to rapidly deploy effective climate solutions and Republicans who have struggled to develop climate policy but have historically had a more positive attitude towards nuclear energy. While ambitious this plan would cost about 1/2 of the 1.7 trillion dollars promised by the Biden administration for its "Plan for Climate Change and Environmental Justice" plan or 2/3 of the projected costs of the F-35 figher program. Madi argues that a resurgent domestic Nuclear Industry building a standardized AP-1000 design can revitalize the US economy and trade union movement while reducing the environmental impacts of energy production and rapidly achieveing deep decarbonisation.
Ted Nordhaus is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Breakthrough Institute, the world's first and most prominent Ecomodernist think tank.
We talk about the origins of the concept of ecological decoupling, the New Left's ceding of class and materialist politics to the right and the empty radicalism of the Green New Dealers.
Ted shares his thoughts on the wicked problem of climate change which he compares to a chronic disease like diabetes rather then an acute problem like an asteroid strike.
Ted also opines on energy policy where he argues that the most effective root to deep decarbonization, a centrally planned and coordinated massive build out of gigawatt scale nuclear, is not viable given the political economy of our time. He argues instead for a pragmatic, non-radical strategy that adapts itself to our liberalizing energy markets with a mix of renewables, natural gas, and advanced small scale nuclear.
Please support Decouple with a donation to our patreon so that we can continue to build our library of transcriptions on our website and produce more engaging content.
A wide ranging conversation with Michael Shellenberger exploring the Malthusian origins of environmentalism and what happened to the left as it morphed from a promethean movement concerned with material improvement of the living conditions of the masses towards a romantic longing to return to a pre-industrial Eden. Michael explains that modern infrastructure such as flood control systems, weather prediction and modern healthcare have played a decisive role in the 100 fold drop in mortality from extreme weather events in the 20th century and demonstrate the need for ongoing industrialization within countries most at risk of climate impacts. We also explore recent developments in the UK with the pending approval of Sizewell C and the end-game for renewables as the marketing claims begin to wear thin and the taboo on criticism falls away.
The European Union finds itself at an energy crossroads. Germany, the economic powerhouse of Europe, has been rushing to shut down its nuclear plants as quickly as possible while leashing itself to Russian natural gas via the Nordstream 1&2 pipelines. France's nuclear electricity infrastructure is being eroded through premature political closures and taxes on ultra low carbon nuclear to pay for gas backed renewables which is enticing de-electrification. Green taxonomies are being contorted to favour the financing of fossil gas and punish nuclear. The geo-political implications of the control of the master resource of energy is leading to a revival of nuclear energy, recently with US funding, as smaller EU countries like Poland, Romania, Finland, Czechia and others seek to maintain energy independence in the face of Russian and German influence. Energy analyst Mark Nelson breaks down this great game for the control of Europe's energy future with his usual verve and deep knowledge of the players and history.
The Green New Deal has become a catch phrase but very few people, including the politicians who envoke its memory, have a solid grasp of the context and pragmatics of the original New Deal. Today I am joined by Emmet Penney, to discuss an article he co-authored with Adrian Calderon titled “Why we need a Nuclear new deal not a Green new deal.” Emmet walks us through the context and consequences of the New Deal and provides a history of US industrialization with an emphasis on the role of the automobile.
Over the last 40 years the USA has become an "undeveloping" country due to offshoring and globalization. Its creaky economy is increasingly based on finance, service industries and dollar hegemony. Given the urgent need for decarbonisation and a revival of American industry in order to meet the environmental and economic challenges ahead Emmet lays out why Nuclear energy must replace the automobile as the driver of US re-industrialization and the why and how of a Nuclear New Deal.
In France we don't have oil but we have ideas! Myrto Tripathi is the founder and president of Voices of Nuclear. We explore the past, present and future of Nuclear Energy in France. Devoid of fossil fuel resources and seeking energy independence, France turned to nuclear energy in an ambitious build out which saw 59 reactors built in just 15 years. The rallying cry was "Nuclear Electricity and Electrify Everything!" Inadvertently this energy transition provided a powerful roadmap of what rapid and deep decarbonisation looks like. We discuss why centralization and specialization in energy systems are actually a reflection of social solidarity and why French nuclear is under threat in a Europe more obsessed with substituting renewables and natural gas for nuclear than tackling climate change.
The Grid has been described as one of the preeminent engineering accomplishments of the 20th century and the world's largest machine. However, when people debate the best strategies to manage a successful energy transition they often limit their analysis to electricity generation. What is neglected is the elephant in the room: the grid. There is an obvious reason. To non-specialists it is complicated. My guest Meredith Angwin is going to help us get a grip on the grid so that we can make informed decisions about the best way to move forward to clean, reliable electricity that can get us to deep decarbonisation while meeting the demands of the world's poor to fight their way out of energy poverty.
Meredith is a physical chemist and one of the first women to be a project manager at the Electric Power Research Institute. Over her career she has headed projects to help power plants become more reliable and less polluting. In the past decade, she has studied the grid as a system, and taken part in grid oversight and governance.
Dharnai Live was Greenpeace's showcase rural electrification project that aimed to prove that solar microgrids were the way to meet rural India's power needs in a sustainable manner. The solar electricity proved to be frustratingly unreliable and insufficient even for the most basic subsistence needs of the villagers. So much publicity was generated by Greenpeace that when the day came for the ribbon cutting ceremony the Chief Minister of Bihar attended. He was met with placard waving protestors demanding real, not fake electricity. One week later a transformer was installed and the village was connected to the grid. Gayatri Vaidyanathan walks us through the history of this project and the contradictions between the environmentalist's values and rural Indian realities and perspectives.
Paris is the Director of Outreach and a former analyst at Environmental Progress who oversees the organization’s outreach and engagement efforts.
In 2019, she organized the first global pro-nuclear movement called Stand Up for Nuclear held in over 30 different cities and 19 countries around the world. This year we have just begun Stand Up Season and it promises to be even bigger. Join us as Paris explains the origins of this grassroots movement and where it is going next... Hint its coming to a city near you!
In this episode Isabelle Boemeke and I talk about the ins and outs of Nuclear Advocacy with a special look at "Influencers" and the use of novel platforms like instagram and tik-tok. Isabelle is the founder of Isodope, a revolutionary way to teach younger generations about the benefits of nuclear energy. She is passionate about science and the environment. She leverages her background in the fashion industry and culture to transform complex nuclear energy concepts into accessible, youthful entertainment for everyone. When she’s not producing content for Isodope, she actively models, having worked with some of the biggest brands and photographers in the fashion industry. She’s influenced by the work of Carl Sagan, Lil Miquela, Rosalía and Sam Harris.
Dreams of advanced nuclear and the SMR revolution around the corner which will solve all of Nuclear's problems such as economics, safety and load following are very popular within the Nuclear Energy community. These technologies are exciting and an inevitable addition to the nuclear energy mix but are they the quickest nuclear route to deep decarbonization? Are they a substitute for our existing cutting edge large scale nuclear technology like the recently unveiled Barakah station in the UAE or our "old" reactor designs like CANDU which can burn used nuclear fuel and thorium?
I am joined by Mark Nelson, the managing director of Radiant Energy Fund and a leading researcher and speaker on the status and prospects of Nuclear Energy to wade into this controversy. Mark is a former generation fellow at the Breakthrough Institute and was a senior analyst at Environmental Progress. He holds degrees in mechanical, aerospace and nuclear engineering.
This is gauranteed to be a controversial show and I look forward to the debate it will spark. Please follow us and join the debate on Twitter @decouplepodcast and on our Decouple Podcast Facebook page.
On the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombing Dr James Conca returns to Decouple to talk about Nuclear Weapons, disarmament and the Megatonnes to Megawatts program in which 20,000 Nuclear warheads worth of Russian highly enriched uranium was turned into fuel for America's nuclear reactor fleet and provided 10% of US electricity for two decades. We also touch on the Beirut explosion, Supernovas and the origin of planet earth, Tritium and so much more!
There is a popular misconception based upon charicatures of Mr. Burns from the Simpsons that Nuclear Energy is an evil, capitalistic and undemocratic form of Energy. In fact almost every major deployment of Nuclear Energy has been a publicly funded social democratic project. This week we talk about Sweden, the homeland of Greta Thunberg and one of the world's foremost social democracies which boasts one of the fastest ever decarbonisations of its electricity thanks to a strategic investment in Nuclear in the 1970's. We explore the past, present and future of Sweden's Karnkraft with John Ahlberg the co-founder of Kärnfull Energi, Sweden's first 100% nuclear electricity provider which is celebrating its 1 year anniversary this month.
In his most recent book, Apocalypse Never, Michael Shellenberger has stirred some major waves particularly in his promotional efforts where he recently penned an article professing an “Apology on behalf of environmentalists for the Climate Scare.” and where the key messaging seems to be “Everything you thought you knew about Climate Change and the environment is wrong.”
In this Episode Leigh Phillips, a science writer and author of "Eco-Austerity and the Collapse Porn Addicts" and I discuss Michael's book. Themes include: Climate Alarmism vs Catastrophism, Eco-Imperialism, Big Green's problem with fossil fuel funding and the need for economic planning vs. the free market to meet the challenges of climate mitigation and adaptation.
A lively and entertaining conversation with polymath Dr. James Conca about the ultimate environmental bogeyman. Jim is a science communicator and renaissance man with an amazing bredth and depth of knowledge on a diversity of subjects like Nuclear physics, Geochemistry, Radiobiology. He has worked at the NASA jet propulsion laboratory and at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Join us on this episode as Jim helps us make sense of the sensible way to manage the very small amount of Used Nuclear Fuel generated by civilian nuclear energy.
Why are we so afraid of nuclear: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2013/03/24/imagine-theres-no-fear/#21f61c913d9c
Used Nuclear Fuel Youtube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JfJEK3R1k0
Low dose radiation for COVID induced cytokine storm:
Mark Lynas is a science writer and author of numerous books on the environment including High Tide, Six Degrees, The God Species, Nuclear 2.0 and Seeds of Science. His most recent book is ‘Our Final Warning: Six Degrees of Climate Emergency" In this book Mark summarizes thousands of IPCC source material studies and lays out degree by degree the human and environmental implications of our warming world. Mark has demonstrated a principled committment to following where the science leads him. He was a prominent anti-GMO activist who changed his mind after after studying the scientific consensus supporting the safety of GMO's. Mark was a co-authot of the Eco-Modernist Manifesto and is currently a visiting fellow with the Cornell Alliance for Science at Cornell University, which engages in pro-science advocacy and research around the world.
“Science adjusts its views based on what is observed. Faith avoids observation so that belief can be preserved.”
Zion Lights is a British author and environmental activist. She was a prominent spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion and the founder and editor of XR's Hourglass newspaper. Zion holds a masters in science communication and is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Green Parenting. Most recently Zion has made waves by resigning from her role as one of Extinction Rebellion’s most well known media spokespersons and joining Environmental Progress, an environmental group focused on promoting Nuclear Energy. Listen in to find out why.
Dr. Geraldine Thomas is the director of the Chernobyl tissue bank and a Chair in Molecular Pathology at the Faculty of Medicine of Imperial College London. Surprisingly her research on the health impacts of the Chernbyl accident led her towards a pro-nuclear position due to the technologies clear benefits of slowing climate change and saving lives by producing no air pollution. Dr. Thomas shares that contrary to popular belief there is a scientific consensus that the Chernobyl accident has resulted in the deaths of less than 55 people as a result of radiation. This is based on the work of the UN scientific committee on the effects of atomic radiation (UNSCEAR) and the Chernobyl Forum that involved 8 major UN agencies and the participation of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Alternative reports quoting death tolls orders of magnitude higher are methodologically flawed and were sponsored by the European Green party and NGO's like Greenpeace who had an ideological objective and cherry picked evidence to match their hypotheses. For more information from Dr. Thomas see below
Politics, confidence in science and attitudes towards surveillance technology have led to very different outcomes between the East and the West when it comes to COVID-19. Many Asian countries have achieved containment of the virus while the West largely remains caught in a quagmire with no end in sight. What explains these differences? Cultural attitudes? Neo-liberalism vs. State capitalism? Bankrupt social welfare systems? Distrust of elites and institutions? I am joined by Nils Gilman of the Berggruen institute who helps us unpack the complexities and learn the lessons of our COVID successes and failures.
Ecomodernism holds out the promise of decoupling human flourishing from environmental impacts through investment in mission-oriented research, development and deployment of an array of breakthrough low emissions technologies that can transform industry, transportion, agriculture and energy systems. It is a movement founded and largely based in the USA which tries to create a big tent and appeals to an all of the above politics. It embraces the roles of private sector entrepreneurs, free markets, civil society and the state in pursuing their goals. I am joined by Jonathan Symons who argues that a real crisis like climate change requires collective agency in the form of state funded democratically controlled intervention. It's how we got a man on the moon, how we developed nuclear energy and how competent nations like Taiwan and Australia are containing the COVID pandemic. The market isn't up to the challenge. To fulfill its promises ecomodernism requires a social democratic politics.
Germany has pursued a bold 550 billion euro transition plan away from Nuclear Energy towards a 100% renewables energy system. The Energiewende as it is known also aims to phase out fossil fuels but remains heavily reliant on coal, natural gas and biomass to firm up its fleet of intermittent renewables. Thies Beckers, a dutch energy analyst, joins me for a discussion about how the Energiewende is going and discusses his upcoming documentary, Atom-Exit. For more information about the film and to make a donation please visit www.easynuclear.com and follow Thies on twitter @thiesbeckers.
Between 2005-2014 the Canadian province of Ontario phased out its coal fired electricity generation in what some call the greatest single greenhouse gas reduction initiative in North America to date. It was the equivalent to taking 7 million cars off the road. Climate benefits were accompanied by dramatic improvements in Air Quality with smog days dropping from 53 per year to zero once the phaseout was complete. The elephant in the room that noone wants to talk about is the role that Nuclear Energy had in making this historic energy transition possible. Our guest Steve Aplin shares Ontario's example for the world as we aim for a transition to a zero emissions energy system.
My name is Chris Keefer. I am an Emergency Physician concerned with fighting climate change and poverty. Join me on my journey into the frontiers of science, technology and politics as I explore solutions to the climate and poverty crises. I’ve moved from being a green environmentalist advocating degrowth and opposing new technology towards embracing technologies that can decouple human well being from its environmental impact and imagining the kind of politics and economic system necessary to pursue this goal. Welcome to Decouple. In this inaugaral episode Jesse Freeston and I dive deep into it all. Fasten your seatbelts and dive on in.
Charles C Mann: The Wizard and the Prophet,
Noah Yuval Hariri: Sapiens,
Daniel Quinn: Ishmael,
Leigh Phillips: The People's Republic of Walmart,
Jonathan Symons: Technology, Politics and The Climate Crisis,
James Lovelock: A Rough Ride to the Future,
Lewis Dartnell: Origins,
Tim Maloney and Mike Conley: Roadmap to Nowhere