By Dr. Chris Keefer
There are technologies that decouple human well-being from its 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.
Is Russia’s War the End of Climate Policy as We Know It?
Ted Nordhaus, executive director of The Breakthrough Institute, discusses his recent article in Foreign Policy: "Russia's War Is the End of Climate Policy as We Know It." The current energy crisis and Russian invasion are quickly causing us to prioritize energy security over climate targets. Could this, paradoxically, be a good thing for the climate? Nordhaus argues that the carbon intensity of the global energy system fell faster in the 30 years before the first major U.N. climate conference than after it—a result of rising energy efficiency, the spread of nuclear power, and the changing composition of the global economy. With new pressure to fortify ourselves against dependence on gas and energy imports, he argues that climate and energy policies, especially in the West, may shift from subsidizing demand (for things like solar panels and electric vehicles) to deregulating supply (of things like nuclear power plants and high-voltage transmission lines). This could put clean energy policies on a much firmer economic footing and better align climate objectives with energy security imperatives. Read the Foreign Policy article here: https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/06/05/climate-policy-ukraine-russia-energy-security-emissions-cold-war-fossil-fuels/
June 27, 2022
Something's Rotten with French Nuclear
With Europe held hostage due to its dependence on Russian oil and gas, France had the potential with its gargantuan nuclear fleet to defend Europe’s energy independence. Instead, in its moment to shine, the French nuclear fleet is performing shamefully. Why? Mark Nelson, managing director of Radiant Energy Group, breaks down how France, a world leader in CO2 emissions reductions and energy independence, has become an example of how NOT to manage a nuclear fleet, as mismanagement and unplanned outages threaten its future.
June 20, 2022
Testing the Credibility of Linear No-Threshold
Kilometers below the Canadian shield, in a laboratory painstakingly designed to eliminate nearly all sources of background radiation, radiobiologists Douglas Boreham and Chris Thome study the impacts of ultra low dose radiation environments on living cells. In a conversation sure to delight our most nerdy of listeners, we explore the science surrounding the claims of the linear no-threshold model and Doug's plan to send yeast into deep space.
June 13, 2022
What Does a Just Transition Look Like?
Dan Campbell, a licensed nuclear operator, reflects on losing his job at the coal-fired Nanticoke Generating Station during Ontario's coal phaseout and his subsequent move to the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station. As we discuss the elusive "just transition," Dan shares a unique inside perspective on the possibilities for transitioning fossil fuel workers to new, high-quality jobs; the importance of considering working people when deciding on energy policy; and how it felt taking pride in his work at Nanticoke while learning of the harms that coal causes through air pollution and carbon emissions. Hang on to the very end of the episode for an extra treat. In yet another first for Decouple we have the honour of premiering Dan's band latest single called "Town Line." Enjoy and keep an eye out on the charts for the "Charlie Eddie and the Dan" band.
June 06, 2022
Who Killed Nuclear Energy?
Emmet Penney, creator of Nuclear Barbarians, Grid Brief, and the ex.haust podcast, walks us through the rise, fall and future prospects of nuclear power in the United States. Emmet dives deep on the historical, regulatory, political, and environmentalist forces behind nuclear energy's decline, with his signature, unapologetic critique of all sides involved. Read the article in American Affairs, Who Killed Nuclear Energy and How to Revive It: https://americanaffairsjournal.org/2022/05/who-killed-nuclear-energy-and-how-to-revive-it/ Grid Brief: https://www.gridbrief.com/ Nuclear Barbarians: https://nuclearbarians.substack.com/ Ex.haust: https://exhaust.fireside.fm/
May 31, 2022
Sri Lanka's Fast Track to Agricultural Collapse
Saloni Shah, a food and agriculture analyst at The Breakthrough Institute, dives into the policy disaster that was Sri Lanka's sudden ban on the importation and use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides for farming. How did the policy come to be, and how did it go so wrong? Read Saloni Shah's and Ted Nordhaus' article in Foreign Policy: https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/03/05/sri-lanka-organic-farming-crisis/
May 24, 2022
Getting Serious About Our Energy Future
Michael Edesess, a mathematician, economist, and former chairman of the board of the Rocky Mountain Institute, discusses his recent article for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, "We need to get serious about the renewable energy revolution—by including nuclear power." We discuss changes in energy spurred in the 1970s, Michael's personal acquaintance with the mastermind of the soft energy path, Amory Lovins, and the shortcomings of the all-renewables vision of our energy future. Read the article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists: https://thebulletin.org/2022/05/we-need-to-get-serious-about-the-renewable-energy-revolution-by-including-nuclear-power/
May 17, 2022
Old Nuclear, New Ideas
Bret Kugelmass, host of the Titans of Nuclear podcast and Managing Director of the Energy Impact Center, joins with Dr. Keefer to share their experiences advocating for nuclear energy. They reflect on nuclear messaging, how the nuclear sector can rebrand, communications pitfalls, finding the right audience for nuclear advocacy, and the intersection of nuclear, politics, and public opinion. Dr. Keefer dives into his energy advocacy journey and recent work before the highest levels of Canadian government, which represents one of the best-positioned supply chains in the world to meet the nuclear energy needs of emerging economies. This episode was cross-published on Bret's podcast, Titans of Nuclear. Check out Titans of Nuclear: https://www.titansofnuclear.com/ Learn about the Energy Impact Center: https://www.energyimpactcenter.org/ Support Decouple on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/decouple
May 10, 2022
Public Power Politics
Matt Huber, a professor of geography at Syracuse University, discusses his recent piece for Jacobin Magazine, "In Defense of the Tennessee Valley Authority," co-authored by Fred Stafford. He discusses the politics underlying our energy choices, from large public power projects to distributed energy resources like solar and batteries. Do distributed energy resources align with the idea of an "energy democracy," or is this an illusion? Is it time for the political left to once again embrace large, centralized public power? Read Matt Huber and Fred Stafford's article: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2022/04/new-deal-tennessee-valley-authority-electricity-public-utilities-renewables-green-power
May 03, 2022
Dr. Keefer Goes To Ottawa
Decouple Podcast Host Dr. Chris Keefer is called as a witness to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada to answer questions from members of Parliament on how best to "create a fair and equitable Canadian energy transformation". This is Chris' testimony (edited to take out the boring parliamentary parts).
April 26, 2022
From Consultant for Gazprom to Belgian Energy Minister
Marco Visscher, a Dutch writer and editor, discusses some of the actors, including Tinne Van Der Straeten, who are behind the now partially postponed Belgian nuclear phaseout and their links to the natural gas industry.
April 19, 2022
Edgardo Sepulveda, energy economist and seven-time Decouple guest, returns to delivers a synthesis episode. We draw together our previous analysis of the financial and regulatory conditions that enabled the initial build out of our grid, explore the Amory Lovins lost decades that saw electrification atrophy and examine the tools at our disposal to achieve an electrfication 2.0 to deliver a doubling of our current grid to help us meet net zero goals. This conversation builds off of Edgardo's recent research piece on the critical role that nuclear energy has played in the decarbonization of the electricity sector and what should be done to make sure this legacy is continued. Over the last six months Edgardo has compiled an extensive electricity and emissions dataset for 30 countries over the last 50 years at https://edecarb.org/. Based on this project, Edgardo was invited by Myrto Tripathi, head of the France-based nuclear advocacy group the Voices of Nuclear, to prepare this think piece, which went out as the March Newsletter in English. Sepulveda calculates that, over the last 50 years, countries that adopted nuclear power consistently reduced emissions intensity by more than three times as much as those that went without nuclear. Looking forward, the massive “Electrification 2.0” that will require a doubling or tripling of electricity generation by 2050 would provide the financial rationale for the needed massive capacity investments, particularly in nuclear. Lastly, we discuss market reforms that would be needed to correctly value the low-emissions, firm electricity provided by nuclear energy.
April 11, 2022
Doomberg: Famine on the horizon?
Doomberg, the anonymous author of the popular Substack publication on energy, finance, and the economy at-large, walks us through their recent piece titled "Farmers on the Brink." "Never have we been more certain in our beliefs while fervently wishing that we are wrong," is how Doomberg describes their prediction of widespread foot shortages following the "perfect storm" of record gas prices, Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and skyrocketing costs for virtually every important farming input, such as fertilizers, herbicides, propane, diesel fuel, machinery, and even labor. Who will get hurt, who will be fine, and at what cost? Read Farmers on the Brink: https://doomberg.substack.com/p/farmers-on-the-brink Support Decouple on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/decouple
April 04, 2022
India's Nuclear Past and Future with Dr. Anil Kakodkar
Dr. Anil Kakodkar—the former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India, Director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre from 1996–2000 and recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian honour —walks us through the evolution of India's nuclear program. We discuss the early days of the program, technical choices in reactor design, the task and potential advantages of developing economies in obtaining high technology like nuclear, the importance of education, and India's ultimate goal of developing thorium technology to make use of the country's natural abundance of the element.
April 01, 2022
The Energy Poverty Returns on Energy Malinvested
Commodities investor Leigh Goehring breaks down the supply AND demand origins of our current energy crisis and its dire consequences, especially for our food system. We also explore the Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) frame for understanding how an energy transition based on wind, solar and batteries will constrain human potential, societal complexity and ultimately our ability to mitigate and adapt to climate change. This interview is based on this Goehring and Rozencwajg report. https://f.hubspotusercontent40.net/hubfs/4043042/Content%20Offers/2021.Q4%20Commentary/2021.Q4%20GR%20Market%20Commentary.pdf
March 28, 2022
The Finns Know How to Green Party
Tea Törmänen discusses the exception to the rule that is Finland's pro-nuclear and biotech-curious Green Party. Tea is a member of Viite, an umbrella association of the Finnish Greens, founded in 2008. The most important goal of the association is to advance political decision making that is based on scientific knowledge. Viite combines a green value system with the methods of scientific research. Tea is also the Executive Director of RePlanet, a humanist citizens movement focused on evidence based solutions to climate change, biodiversity loss and rewilding. Check out RePlanet: https://www.replanet.ngo
March 21, 2022
The Canada Green Bond Framework Needs a Rework
Edgardo Sepulveda, a regulatory economist and the creator of edecarb.org, responds to the exclusion of nuclear energy from the recently-released Canada Green Bond Framework, alongside “sin stocks” like firearms, tobacco, and gambling. We explore the exciting world of bonds, taxonomies, and what the lack of official definitions for "green" or "sustainable" means for this framework. If you are a Canadian citizen, sign the petition to include nuclear energy in the Canada Green Bond Framework: https://www.canfornuclearenergy.org/green-bond-framework Check out Edgardo's Profiles in Decarbonization: https://edecarb.org/
March 14, 2022
The War on Energy
Kalev Kallemets, CEO of Fermi Energia, joins Dr. Keefer to reflect on energy, geopolitics, and SMRs in the context of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Recorded on February 24, 2022. The current geopolitical situation with Russia and Ukraine is fast-moving, and this interview does not reflect the most recent developments.
March 07, 2022
The Fog of Peace Lifts on the Energy Transition
As the politics of energy factor heavily in the Russia-Ukraine war, Dr. John Constable, Director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, shines a light on the faltering illusion that the transition towards an energy paradigm of intermittency can progress without serious upheaval.
March 02, 2022
So You're Telling Me There's a Chance: Germany's Nuclear Wobble
Mark Nelson breaks the news that the German Ministry of Finance is discussing rolling back the country's nuclear phaseout. Why? How foreseeable was this? And what would it mean for Germany? Mark Nelson is the Managing Director of Radiant Energy Group. https://www.radiantenergygroup.com/
February 28, 2022
Russian Troops at Chernobyl
Mark Nelson provides early insight on the news that Russian forces have captured the Chernobyl nuclear plant. Mark is the managing director of Radiant Energy Group. He holds degrees in mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering, as well as Russian language and literature.
February 25, 2022
The Lazard People Are Taking Over
Mark Nelson, managing director of Radiant Energy Group, explains one of the most cited yet misunderstood metrics in the energy debate: LCOE, the Levelized Cost of Electricity. What is it, what is it good and bad for, and what other metrics exist to understand the cost of electricity? Mark brings insight on energy investments, discount rates, and the conceptual differences between cost, price, and value. The most popular LCOE figures come from financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard: https://www.lazard.com/perspective/levelized-cost-of-energy-levelized-cost-of-storage-and-levelized-cost-of-hydrogen/ Learn more about Radiant Energy Group: https://www.radiantenergygroup.com/ If you enjoy listening to Mark, check out his numerous other interviews on Decouple!
February 21, 2022
Iida Ruishalme, biologist and science communicator behind the blog Thoughtscapism, digs into the origins and dogmas of organic agriculture. Does the public perception of organic foods as healthier or more environmentally sustainable withstand scientific scrutiny, or is it another example of the naturalistic fallacy? Join us as we peel back the layers of the organic onion. Read Thoughtscapism: https://thoughtscapism.com/
February 14, 2022
My Mother Explains Romanticism to Me
Janice Kulyk Keefer, literary theorist, writer, award-winning poet, and my mom decodes the Romantic tradition for me. Janice weaves a compelling narrative connecting Germany's founding national myths in the dark primordial forest of Herman the German to William Blake's dark satanic mills and Thoreau's Cabin at Walden pond. Through her storytelling, she helps us understand the importance of the Romantic tradition as an essential foundation of the environmental movement. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janice_Kulyk_Keefer Watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/5aEtsu26DfI Read Janice Kyluk Keefer's essay on German Romanticism: https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vQ2-iYQDTPtVZYv2N1bxUozsKoweyMLyGRokK7XcwlUTpc3w2tI5gr4pHtKjNnTQ73FvwhPI0B_csGO/pub
February 07, 2022
Keeping the Northern Lights On
Madeleine Redfern is an Inuit businesswoman and former two-term mayor of Iqaluit in the far northern Canadian territory of Nunavut. Redfern describes the harsh energy situation in Canada’s remote, indigenous communities, which face extreme darkness and cold, a reliance on diesel generators, limited ability to fundraise for new projects, and high costs. She assesses the merits of different energy technologies for these communities, making clear the challenge of choosing an energy path in a situation with so many constraints. Madeleine Redfern has been a prominent advisor and consultant on telecommunications, transportation, and energy in Canada, including for Canadian Nuclear Laboratories. She has also been a central member and volunteer of several Aboriginal and Inuit organizations addressing issues of housing, education, and health.
January 31, 2022
A Hard Landing for Soft Energy
Mark Nelson joins me to discuss Amory Lovins, the man behind the “soft energy path” and the intellectual godfather of Germany’s Energiewende. Amory Lovins shot to relevance in the 1970s for advising against the prevailing model for electric utilities, which was to build as much generation capacity as possible. Lovins charted an alternate path, which focused on efficiency and distributed energy sources. Mark offers his critique of Lovins, based on what he identifies as the two main faults that have persisted in Lovins’ argument for decades: 1) the idea that the “soft” and “hard” energy paths are mutually exclusive, and 2) the supremacy of nuclear “problem.” Mark Nelson is the managing director of Radiant Energy Group. He holds degrees in mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering, as well as Russian language and literature.
January 24, 2022
The Children of Chernobyl
Dr. Geraldine Thomas, Director of the Chernobyl Tissue Bank and leading global expert on the impacts of radiation, joins me to discuss the phenomenon of “radiation vacations” for children believed to have been affected by the Chernobyl accident. Chernobyl Children International (CCI) has organized close to 1 million such trips for children from Ukraine and Belarus with the claim that these vacations extend these children's lives by on average 2 years. It also supports a number of orphanages and social services in Belarus. In Ireland CCI is one of the most successful charities in the country's history having fundraised over 100 million euros to date. https://www.chernobyl-international.com/ Dr. Thomas gives an overview of the science behind transgenerational effects of radiation and assesses the scientific and medical reasoning behind claims specific to Chernobyl. Dr. Thomas also explains the very real impact of thyroid cancer upon a specific age group of children exposed to high levels of Iodine 131 during a narrow time interval after the accident and what their medical treatment involves. It is estimated that 16,000 additional thyroid cancers will occur within this age group with a mortality of 1%. We discuss the harm that radiophobia is capable of causing, illustrated in part by a critique of the Academy Award winning 2003 documentary, “Chernobyl Heart” which features Adi Roche the founder of CCI. https://youtu.be/jFwGEsJg2MI
January 20, 2022
An Indigenous Woman in Nuclear
Tracy Primeau is a retired Shift Manager at Bruce Power who is now on the Board of Directors at Ontario Power Generation (OPG). She is a member of the Nipissing First Nation, and was the first woman to make her way to Shift Manager from the shop floor. She discusses her first hand perspective as an energy worker while Ontario transitioned from coal to nuclear, and the life quality benefits it brought to both workers and the province broadly. Primeau shares her experience of what it is like working at a nuclear plant and leading company engagement with surrounding communities, especially as an indigenous woman. We discuss the importance of nuclear energy companies engaging towns as collaborators rather than groups merely to be convinced, especially given the deep-rootedness of the “nuclear waste story” in indigenous communities. Finally, we discuss paths forward for nuclear in indigenous communities, developments underway, and the likelihood of meeting stated goals to get indigenous communities in Canada off of diesel by 2030.
January 17, 2022
Doomberg Lays Out the Global Pecking Order
Is the sky falling on the west? I am joined by the green chicken avatar representing the anonymous Substack: Doomberg. Doomberg is home to entertaining and insightful essays on all things energy, industry, finance, politics, and more. We touch on each of these topics in our wide-ranging discussion of the consequences of bad energy and industrial policy, the West's hopefully reversible decline, and how we understand and feel about the future. Subscribe to the Doomberg Substack: https://doomberg.substack.com Follow Doomberg on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DoombergT
January 10, 2022
Dr. Anna Veronika Wendland is a scientist at the Herder Institute and a historian of science and technology. She calls in from Germany's Grohnde Nuclear Power Plant in its final 24 hours of operation. Germany has forced the political closure of its remaining six nuclear plants, three of which—Grohnde, Brokdorf, and Gunndremingen—are being lost this New Year's Eve, 2021. Dr. Wendland conducts her research at Grohnde and has dealt heavily with the human factors of nuclear energy and nuclear safety. As we discuss these human factors, she offers exceptional insight into the on-the-ground happenings of the plant as it prepares to close, as well as how broader anti-nuclear policy in Germany will continue to play out even as public opinion shows signs of shifting away from its historically anti-nuclear paradigm. Follow Dr. Anna Wendland on Twitter: https://mobile.twitter.com/VeroWendland
December 31, 2021
The Wicked Problem With "Don't Look Up"
In this short episode, I am joined by Alex Trembath, Deputy Director of The Breakthrough Institute, to discuss Adam McKay's film "Don't Look Up," an overt commentary on climate change. We comment on the importance of climate communication through media and art, though critique the film's use of the common "asteroid metaphor" for climate change. To Trembath, McKay portrayed climate change as a "simple problem" as opposed to the "wicked problem" that it is. Beyond the movie, we take a moment to reflect on how climate change is often thought about and framed. Who is the most affected? The most passionate? And whose fault is it? Read Alex Trembath's review of "Don't Look Up" in Foreign Policy: https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/12/18/dont-look-up-review-mckay-comet-climate-change/
December 31, 2021
The Grim Fairy Tale of German Electricity
With the closure of three of Germany’s remaining six nuclear reactors coming offline within the week, I am joined by Noah Jakob Rettberg, a young physics lab technician in training from Germany. He shares his perspective growing up embroiled in the anti-nuclear culture of Germany, as well as his impressive knowledge of the technical and political history of nuclear energy in the country.
December 28, 2021
Into the Wild: Dr. Keefer Before the MD
Many years ago, before Dr. Keefer was a nuclear power-loving, techno-optimist physician, he was a self-described neo-luddite. He made his beliefs a reality by going back to the land in a big way. Finding the agricultural revolution too modern for his tastes, he took on the hunter gatherer life as a horse-wrangling hunter and dog mushing trapper in Canada’s far northern Yukon Territory. Just in time for the holidays, Dylan Moon guides Dr. Keefer on a trip down memory lane to tell some entertaining stories around the proverbial campfire. Music from https://freemusicarchive.org/home Lobo Loco - "Old River Boat (ID 1368)"; The Anchorites - "Kingsfold(untrad.)"; Studio Noir - "Our Little Hearts Like Saturn"; The Trumpeteers - "Little Wooden Church"
December 24, 2021
Are Nuclear Plants Immortal?
Mark Nelson, managing director of Radiant Energy Group, and I dig into his claims about the functional "immortality" of nuclear power plants. We explore the physics of the limitations of reactor life and whether keeping existing nuclear online as long as possible is an intelligent investment. We take a look at the peculiarities of different reactor designs and their impacts on longevity including the unfortunate decision of the UK to go it alone with its gas reactor fleet whose internals cannot be refurbished. Finally we take a detour to explore just what is going on with the French fleet which is running at only 2/3 capacity during the worst energy crunch since the OPEC crisis. Enjoy! Learn more about Radiant Energy Group: https://www.radiantenergygroup.com/
December 22, 2021
Precision Agriculture and Angry Optimism
Dr. Kenneth Cassman joins to explore the state of innovation in agriculture. Where are the knowledge gaps? And what changes must take place if we hope to feed a growing and increasingly wealthy world population? Dr. Cassman stresses the need for open-access, high-quality climate data to accelerate not only farming technologies, but the knowledge base behind their design and implementation. Dr. Cassman is the Emeritus Robert B. Daugherty Professor of Agronomy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who among numerous other achievements is a Fellow at several leading research institutes relating to crop science and agronomy. If you enjoyed the topics covered in this interview, we recommend listening to Dr. Keefer's interview with Dr. Channa Prakash, "How to Feed a Warming Planet": https://anchor.fm/chris15401/episodes/How-to-Feed-a-Warming-Planet-feat--Dr--Channa-Prakash-e18ks0i
December 19, 2021
One Billion Tons
Rauli Partanen, an award-winning science communicator and energy analyst from Finland, comes on to discuss his new report, “One Billion Tons" on the wide-ranging consequences of Germany’s nuclear phaseout, and the benefits that would result from keeping the country’s last 6 reactors online. The title references the huge amount of added carbon dioxide emissions that will result from Germany’s nuclear phaseout between now and 2045. Rauli also provides a backgrounder on the German Energiewende and it’s impacts so far, including market aberrations such as negative pricing. Find the report here, available in both English and German: https://www.onebilliontons.org/
December 14, 2021
What's A Wind Drought? Europe's Lust for the Gust
Dr. Hannah Bloomfield, a Climate Risk Analytics research associate at the University of Bristol, describes an extreme weather event that affected European energy output significantly this year: a wind drought. We discuss how unequal warming between the poles and the equator is potentially leading to a pattern of decreasing mid latitude wind speeds, a phenomenon known as global stilling and the consequences this will have for electric systems that are becoming increasingly reliant on the weather. Follow Dr. Bloomfield on Twitter.
December 11, 2021
The James Hansen Interview
In this very special episode, I am joined live in Berlin by the "Godfather of Climate Science," Dr. James Hansen. Dr. James Hansen is the former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and is now the Director of the "Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions Program" at Columbia University's Earth Institute. He was one of the first to bring climate change to the public eye with his famous testimony before the U.S. congress in the 1980s. Since then, he has continued to be at the forefront of the climate debate. We discuss a wide range of topics: The emergence of the science on global warming from rising CO2 levels Dr. Hansen's experience as a high-caliber climate advocate The shift from climate deniers to climate lukewarmists The two most important climate actions for Dr. Hansen, a carbon tax and support for nuclear power Why Dr. Hansen didn't go to COP26 The anti-nuclear lobby The virtually unlimited government support for renewables Differential responsibility for climate change The contrast between German and Chinese approaches to climate action Fukushima, alarmism, and anti-nuclear NRC picks Reflections on geoengineering This interview was recorded live from Berlin. Watch the video! Watch Dr. James Hansen's TED Talk.
December 06, 2021
Colonialism in Green
Dr. Vijaya Ramachandran is tracking the lastest in eco-colonialism. Numerous countries and investment banks have blocked the financing of fossil fuels and even hydroelectric projects in Africa, the continent most afflicted by serious energy poverty and the related problem of vulnerability to climate change. From an environmental perspective, it is counter-intuitive that an increased use of fossil fuels should be allowed anywhere. But with Africa accounting for just 1% of global carbon emissions, Dr. Ramachandran argues that policies forcing Africa to develop only with weather-based energy systems does more harm than good. Dr. Vijaya Ramachandran is the Director for Energy and Development at The Breakthrough Institute. Read Dr. Ramachandran's article in Foreign Policy. Watch Princess Mthombeni and Shirly Rodriguez at COP26.
December 03, 2021
Let The Market Decide? A History of Government Intervention in Energy
In this episode, Dr. Keefer and economist Edgardo Sepulveda cover a lot of ground: • Edgardo’s new website that includes the electricity profiles of 24 OECD countries and whether, using which tech and at what price they have lowered emissions over the last 60 years is at (https://edecarb.org/) • Edgardo noted the increasing recognition by many expert economists that "restructured" energy-only generation markets probably cannot facilitate the massive, long-term investment necessary for electrification, especially with the entry of (subsidized) renewables, is summarized here: (https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1389298276827021319.html) • Chris and Edgardo discussed the most recent global electricity investment data from the IEA, including that for 2020’s global $800 billion investment (including $300 billion of transmission and distribution), renewables made up 45% and nuclear only 5%. Nevertheless, the global total is less than half estimated ($2.3 trillion) amount for net zero by 2050 (https://www.iea.org/reports/world-energy-investment-2021) • Nevertheless, Edgardo’s preliminary statistical analysis suggests that renewables entry is associated with electricity price increases. One example is Germany’s residential renewables surcharge, which totaled 25.6 billion in 2018 (https://www.iea.org/reports/germany-2020), which households appear to support, while in Ontario voters revolted, booting out the political party that introduced the GEA, with the incoming Government revoked the legislation and started subsidizing electricity prices, including $3.1 billion/year just for renewables https://www.ontario.ca/page/expenditure-estimates-ministry-energy-northern-development-and-mines-2021-22#section-6 • Speaking of investment, Edgardo and Chris noted that Bruce had just announce the over-subscription of what is billed as the world’s first “Green” nuclear bond for CAD$500 million. The “Second Party Opinion” (SPO) was provided by Cicero, which out of their three shades of green, gave it a “medium green” rather than a “dark green” set aside for wind and solar and the like, because of residual risks on proliferation, waste and radiation accidents: https://www.brucepower.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Second-Opinion-Bruce-Power-16July2021final.pdf • Edgardo noted that in his most recent blog looking at the cost-benefit of refurbishing Pickering Nuclear Generation Station (PNGS) versus going forward with the IESO replacement scenario (https://www.ieso.ca/en/Learn/Ontario-Supply-Mix/Natural-Gas-Phase-Out-Study), the refurbishment scenario is a better financial and cost abatement cost option (https://edecarb.org/analysis/ontario-ix)
November 28, 2021
Darth Vader On Geoengineering
The Dark Lord takes a break from singing 80s parodies outside the gates of COP26 to talk to us about his love for geoengineering. For an argument against Marine Cloud Brightening, here's a briefing from Geoengineering Monitor: www.geoengineeringmonitor.org/2021/04/marine_cloud_brightening/ Watch the video on Decouple's YouTube channel.
November 25, 2021
Can You Dig It? Should You Dig It? All About Mining
Mining underpins nearly everything in our modern lives. Essentially, if we didn't grow it, we mined it. Dr. Richard Herrington, an academic geologist and Head of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum in London, digs deep on the topic of mining. Yet in terms of public visibility, mining is perhaps even more hidden from view than agriculture in rich nations. Dr. Herrington offers a brief history of materials use, from a time when we used only a few minerals to the present, where we regularly use many dozens of different elements in a single product due to their varied and unique properties. We discuss the environmental and human impacts of mining as well as important processing stages, which often have hard-to-avoid impacts, such as the inherent formation of carbon dioxide in concrete making and iron smelting. Among Dr. Herrington's research interests are more environmentally-benign industrial processes, such as using lower temperatures or microbes. We move onto geological topics relevant to the energy transition, touching briefly on Deep Geological Repository for used nuclear fuel before discussing Cobalt, Lithium, and the utter certainty that renewable technologies will lead to increases in mining and mineral requirements. Other topics include why much of the mining and processing for rare earth metals and electric motors takes place in China and, finally, prospects for deep sea mining.
November 22, 2021
Indigenous Climate Action
Eriel Tchekwie Deranger is a member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Executive Director of Indigenous Climate Action. Eriel critiques pointing out that wealthy countries engaging in "climate action" tend to do so from a co-optive or colonial framework rather than one of "decolonizing." She argues this tendency has pervaded environmentalism from the outset, as a philosophy originating from the upper and middle classes that views nature as something external that must be protected from humans. From an indigenous perspective, Eriel says, nature is not an externality. She emphasizes the importance of solutions to environmental and climate issues "guided by relationships not only with each other but across species and with the natural world itself." We go on to discuss Eriel's personal grievances with the uranium mines in northern Canada, the impacts of uranium mining on indigenous communities, and how to balance the unavoidable mining requirements of energy production with the wellbeing of people and ecosystems. Eriel argues that by changing our attitudes on consumption, the land, language, culture, food systems, etc. to value relationships and reciprocity over extraction, we might become less dependent on the energy systems that many can't imagine living without. Learn more about Eriel's work with Indigenous Climate Action at https://www.indigenousclimateaction.com/
November 18, 2021
Is African Poverty a Climate Solution?
Special Decouple Studios mini-doc from inside the walls of COP26. Decouple's Jesse Freeston follows two young nuclear energy advocates, Shirly Rodriguez and Princess Mbthobeni, as they roam the conference searching for evidence of a meaningful plan to reduce emissions AND raise living standards in Africa and beyond. Shirly Rodriguez is a nuclear engineer, and Princess Mbthoneni is the Nuclear Stakeholder Management Advisor for South Africa's Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, as well as the founder of Africa4Nuclear. Watch the original video version here https://youtu.be/WjbvxwSy3O8
November 15, 2021
A Sober Sitdown with the German Climate Negotiators
What has the Energiewende achieved, what hasn't it? An interview with the spokesperson for the German delegation to COP26, Stephan Gabriel Haufe. We discuss the expedited nuclear phaseout, ongoing reliance on coal until 2038, advances in solar + wind energy and the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline.
November 11, 2021
France’s Second Nuclear Renaissance?
Dr. Keefer sits down in Glasgow with Carine de Boissezon, who is the Chief Sustainability Officer at the French electric utility Électricité de France. Carine brings a valuable inside perspective on nuclear power in France, a country that Decouple has frequently regarded as an exemplar of rapid decarbonization. Reversing intentions to reduce France's share of electricity from nuclear from 75% to 50%, President Macron recently announced that France would "relaunch" its construction of nuclear reactors to meet growing electricity and decarbonization needs. In this special in-person interview at COP26, we discuss how France has benefitted from nuclear power, what the nuclear "relaunch" means for the country, French public opinion, how renewables and nuclear interact, and more. Stay tuned for more COP26 content!
November 10, 2021
Will the Revolution be Funded?
Decouple mobile studios reports from Glasgow, Scotland, where Dr. Keefer and other pro-nuclear advocates are attending COP26, the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference. Dr. Keefer is joined in-person by Eric Meyer, founder and executive director of the nuclear advocacy hub Generation Atomic, to discuss the goings on of COP26, the growing pro-nuclear movement, and the taboo subject of funding.
November 08, 2021
Michael Shellenberger: A Heretic Among Heretics
In this episode, I am joined by returning guest Michael Shellenberger. We briefly discuss his new book San Fransicko, which, like his best-seller Apocalypse Never, takes a heterodox stance on an issue that progressives feel they champion -- in this case, the drug and homelessness epidemic. We then transition to his past (and future) work in nuclear advocacy. Shellenberger has paid a toll for challenging orthodoxies within the environmental and nuclear communities, including the loss of many donors to his organization Environmental Progress. At the same time, he has managed to reach and engage broad audiences in a way that most within the environment and energy spheres only dream of. We dive into the internal politics of nuclear advocacy, even offering a taxonomy of the nuclear advocacy ecosystem. In this taxonomy, Shellenberger self-identifies as a mix of Libertarian and Climate-nuclear, though he is admittedly “lukewarm” on climate. Dr. Keefer and Shellenberger both worry that the nuclear establishment will “fuck up” its opportunity for another nuclear renaissance. Its attempts to placate the renewable lobby has, among other things, distracted from the value of existing nuclear. Shellenberger would prefer “boring nuclear,” proven designs done over and over, funded with patient capital, "pension fund stuff.” There are, however, reasons to be hopeful. Shellenberger calls a recent video posted to President Macron's Twitter, which situates nuclear in the context of technological sophistication, hope, and achievement, a “watershed moment in the pro-nuclear movement.” In major news media, pieces have come out about the pronuclear movements in Belgium, Germany, Japan, and elsewhere. It is a moment we need to seize. Lastly, we touch on Shellenberger’s view of the connection between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. Moreso than other nuclear advocates, he sees them as connected. This is in fact a major topic in Shellenberger’s next book. Listen to Michael Shellenberger on Joe Rogan: https://open.spotify.com/episode/5NxzDE5TmviUV8te2eZjMP?si=pka9Kr0bTc2K1gEQMhYc1g Buy San Fransicko and Apocalypse Never.
November 04, 2021
Its Gas or Nuclear, you Pickering
In this special episode, I am joined live by filmmaker Jesse Freeston on the sunny beach in front of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station, which provides Ontario with 3.2 GW of carbon-free electricity. I hand over the interviewer badge to Jesse for a second hour-long reflection on advocacy, antinuclearism, environmentalism, the Decouple journey, and anything else that crossed our minds on the scenic waterfront. Watch the interview on YouTube: https://youtu.be/IhkGTcULU54 Listen to the first reflections episode with Jesse Freeston: https://www.decouplepodcast.org/podcast/episode/1b36a823/reflections-on-the-decouple-journey-feat-jesse-freeston Stay tuned for Jesse's first episode of Decouple Studios later this week!
November 01, 2021
Sayonara Nuclear? Japan’s Energy Transitions
I am joined by Yuriy Humber, founder of Japan NRG, to discuss Japan’s complex relationship with nuclear technology and its energy issues past and present. The first and only wartime victim of atomic weapons, it went on to embrace nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, becoming a world leader in the manufacture of nuclear technology and relying on it for 30% of its electricity before turning against nuclear after the Fukushima accident in 2011. Public opinions against nuclear energy ran as high as 80% at one point. A decade on and with new commitments to reducing emissions, public opposition is turning, and the government wants to revive nuclear power to improve Japan’s energy security in the context of the country’s high dependency on fuel imports and ongoing energy shocks around the world. Japan has started to invest in nuclear power technologies again, with some private money going into Small Modular Reactors (SMR) in the U.S. and state funding trickling into Japan’s own High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (HTGR) program. Although local municipalities have the final say on restarting nuclear power plants, Humber says that the pro-nuclear message has been re-gaining popularity with many arguing that Japan cannot meet its “green growth” strategy without it. We discuss how Japan went from being the victim of nuclear weapons to a major player in nuclear energy, tying that in with a broader history of energy of Japan, characterized by a series of rapid energy transitions. The transition from coal to nuclear could serve as an example to other countries, though it was a process that faced many challenges of its own and relied on making some promises the government ultimately couldn’t keep. As someone who lived near both the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents at the time when they occured, Humber has a first hand perspective on the cultural and political changes around nuclear in 2011. We discuss these aspects as well as technical problems facing Japanese energy supply following the closure of its many nuclear plants. Finally, we discuss the alternatives for Japanese decarbonization. The challenge of providing constant power to a megapolis such as the Tokyo metro area is immense. Already Japan has the most solar panels per square meter of any country on Earth. And it has ambitious plans for off-shore wind and eventually a hydrogen economy. Carbon capture has been discussed, yet only one geological carbon storage test facility exists in all of Japan. The obstacles to more ambitious renewables plans too are becoming clear, not only from land use, materials intensity, and issues of intermittency, but NIMBYism. About 1/10 of all municipalities in Japan have ordinances to limit wind and solar deployment or ban it completely. Offshore wind forecasts of 10 GW by 2030 and 45 GW by 2040-2045 have slowed to perhaps 2-3 GW by 2030. Even if Japan is able to rely on nuclear for 20-22% of its electricity needs, decarbonization will be a long and bumpy road, with a likely dependence on LNG and other fossil fuel imports for long into the future. Yuriy Humber is the founder of the Japan NRG platform, which provides regular information and analysis about the Japanese energy and power industry, markets, and policy. He is also a columnist on energy issues for the “Nikkei Asia” and co-author of an economic research report on Japan by the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan.
October 26, 2021
Ted Nordhaus Deconstructs Degrowth
I am joined by returning guest and co-founder of The Breakthrough Institute, Ted Nordhaus, to discuss degrowth as a proposed solution to climate change and other environmental issues. Nordhaus has written forcefully against the idea of degrowth, which posits that growth in human populations and consumption levels will inevitably bring us to the brink of what this planet can sustain. The only way to avert catastrophe is to therefore reduce human populations and minimize consumption. Nordhaus’s objections are epistemological as well as pragmatic. While degrowth risks stalling innovation and adaptation in the face of climate change, it is unclear that the proclaimed limits to human consumption (at the root of degrowth thought) are actually knowable or would even be met in the normal course of human development. Nordhaus points out the difficulty of defining the line between necessity and luxury, and argues that there is no actual science or evidence behind claims that we are approaching or have passed “planetary boundaries.” Nordhaus emphasizes that he cares about the environment and other species, but that there are “non-apocalyptic reasons to protect nature.” As for what society should do to address the climate crisis and other environmental issues, Nordhaus offers a decision-making framework that acknowledges the vast uncertainties of any future scenario: Do more of the stuff that brings us in a direction we want to go, and less of the stuff that doesn’t. To Nordhaus, foretelling disaster based on what he says are unscientific limits to growth is “an authoritarian claim” that at best leads to regressive policies and at worst creates self-fulfilling prophecies. We go on to discuss the common use of WW2 as a metaphor for the scale of climate action needed, and contrast it with a Cold War metaphor that yields more technological optimism. Finally, we touch upon a concept near and dear to this podcast: decoupling. Read Ted Nordhaus's commentary on Vaclav Smil here: https://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/must-growth-doom-the-planet
October 21, 2021
Emmet Penney and the Nuclear Barbarians
I am joined by returning guest Emmet Penney to discuss his new project, Nuclear Barbarians. The project is Emmet’s own brand of nuclear advocacy, differing starkly from most of the pro-nuclear movement, which he believes has been “captured by an environmental movement that hates it.” Emmet has set out on his own terms to convince a wide audience that nuclear power rules. Emmet offers a harsh critique of the environmental movement, tracing it from what he argues are its elite Victorian origins to the 1960s and later. In this broad conversation, we reflect on some prominent environmentalists, and search for a more nuanced vocabulary with which to understand environmentalism. Finally, Emmet laments not only the loss of manufacturing in the US, but disconnect and even resentment shown by elites to the work class. He argues that environmentalism today, as in the 60s, is an activity largely reserved for these elites that demonstrates a fairly open disdain for the working class. We discuss the importance of connecting with and valuing labour, particularly as we seek to decarbonize without jeopardizing our energy supply. Emmet Penney is a writer, the co-host of the Ex.Haust podcast, and the founder and host of Nuclear Barbarians. https://nuclearbarians.substack.com Warning: this episode contains strong language.
October 18, 2021
How to Feed a Warming Planet
In a change of pace for Decouple, I am joined by Dr. Channa Prakash for a wide-ranging discussion on crop science and agriculture. We discuss biotechnology, its history, and the great positive changes it has brought to global food production. We also assess the strongest criticisms. Among those are concerns that we have become dependent on chemical inputs for farming, namely pesticides and fertilizers, and that this has often lead to the over-application of these chemicals resulting in environmental hazards. Additionally, many are concerned that a reliance on these chemical inputs, or on genetically modified crop varieties, has led to the “corporatization” of farming. Dr. Prakash brings numerous real-world examples policy blunders regarding food, often with destructive consequences. In particular, we focus in on Sri Lanka, where the recent banning of fertilizer and pesticide imports in a move to become an all-organic food exporter has set off a farming and economic crisis. The soft face of these harsh policies is the organic food movement, which has gained popularity in recent years. While some consumers may decide to purchase organic foods for a higher price, believing them to be more sustainably grown, organic certification opposes some of the very principles that have allowed us to feed growing populations. And it opposes the crop science that may enable us to use fewer pesticides and fertilizers, meet the nutritional of the hungry, and adapt to the challenges to food security posed by a changing climate. Finally, we take a step back to reflect on our relationship with food, why we have such strong opinions about how it’s grown and where it comes from, and patterns in the social acceptance of different technologies. Dr. Channa S. Prakash is a Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Tuskegee University (USA) where he has served as faculty since 1989 and is a professor of crop genetics, biotechnology, and genomics. Everybody should follow his fantastic Twitter profile: @AgBioWorld
October 12, 2021
Europe's Winter of Discontent
I am joined again by Mark Nelson to speak on the energy shocks tearing through Europe and Asia. What are its causes, and what will its consequences be? The crisis comes on the heels of what academics and policymakers thought was an energy transition away from fossil fuels. But as countries pay record prices to scrap together enough coal, gas, and oil to avoid shortfalls, we are seeing just how unprepared they were for the fossil-free world they have been trying to create. The procurement of low-carbon energy sources was dominated by short-term thinking, favoring solar and wind over nuclear power, and pre-emptively drawing the line in the sand for fossil fuel investment. Mark reflects on European energy decisions over the past decades, the constant shaving down of reserve energy supplies for the sake of avoiding “wastefulness”, and how during the energy crises of the 1970s, some countries drew winning hands and others drew losing hands in their responses. Namely, those who drew winning hands built nuclear, and a lot of it. Mark worries that “it’s not clear that Europe knows how to expand energy production now, only reduce it.” Will this energy shock be a tipping point? Will it have sobering effects on the debate over the EU Green Taxonomy and the decision of whether to include nuclear power? As in the children’s story of the industrious ant and the worry-free grasshopper, will this winter reveal the stark differences between those who prepared and those who didn’t—those who shored up their own low-carbon energy supply with nuclear, and those who optimistically trotted down the path of solar, wind, interconnections, nuclear phase-outs, and gas imports?
October 09, 2021
Illinois' Nuclear Near-Death Experience
I am joined by returning guest of Madi Czerwinski, founder of the Campaign for a Green Nuclear Deal, to reflect on the recent win for Illinois low-carbon power. This win was the last-minute reversal of fate for Byron and Dresden nuclear power stations, which had been scheduled for an early retirement. Madi Czerwinski walks us through the strange timeline of events and the various forces at play through this year-long battle, describing the arguments and the tension between Labor and so-called environmentalists, and the role pro-nuclear advocates had in tipping the balance on this histotic win.
October 04, 2021
The EU Green Taxonomy Soap Opera feat. Myrto Tripathi
The EU Green Taxonomy has been a source of acrimony in the EU since it launched. It was meant as a tool to guide investment towards a "low carbon, resilient and resource-efficient economy" by classiflying technologies into three tiers: "Sustainable," "Transitory," or "Brown." The initial categorization committee did not include scientists or engineers but rather limited itself to green finance and environmental NGO's who constrained the sustainable definition to wind, solar and tidal, exluding nuclear and even hydro. Over time, more and more interest groups have entered the fray, exposing serious dissension within the EU member states, who are bitterly divided into blocs based on their opinions about the role of Nuclear Energy and Natural Gas. In addition to EU members, green NGOs, oil and gas, the renewable industry and nuclear advocates have stepped into the fray. As a result the sustainable category has grown to include bio-energy, geothermal, and hydro alongside wind and solar. Nuclear went under the closest scrutiny of any power generation technology, with a Joint Research Council report finding that nuclear was no more harmful to human health or the environment than other electricity production technologies already included in the sustainable category of the Green Taxonomy. As it stands, Nuclear and Natural gas have been put in a special category for further consideration, but nuclear seems to be out of the running as a "sustainable" technology. The fate of its final status will have dramatic impacts on the ability for nuclear to bring back energy sovereignty and stability to the EU grid, which is currently in crisis due to volatile and extremely high gas prices. Myrto Tripathi of Voices of Nuclear joins me to lay out the cast of characters and the soap opera-like drama of the EU Green Taxonomy process so far. Join her at Stand up for Nuclear Paris, which will be occurring Oct 9th from 1100-1700 local time. For more info go to https://www.voicesofnuclear.org/stand-up-for-nuclear-2021/
September 27, 2021
What’s up with the “Modernism” in Ecomodernism? feat. Alex Trembath
This week, I am joined by Alex Trembath, Deputy Director of The Breakthrough Institute, to deconstruct the “modernism” in Ecomodernism. Modernism is a philosophical movement born of industrialization that has influenced art, architecture, politics and so much more. It is forward looking and firmly entrenched in a notion of progress. Who have been its beneficiaries and victims? Do the problems generated by modernity like climate change require “modern” solutions? How do we make sense of this term? Decouple draws its name from perhaps the core tenet of Ecomodernism and has become a meeting place for many ecomodernist thinkers but for many the term remains elusive. What does Ecomodernism mean? Where does the “modernism” come in? What are its tenets and its caveats? Where does it stand in relation to other environmental philosophies? And what does traditional environmentalism get wrong? Join us as we discuss these topics and others, including “modernization theory” and questions of indigenous rights and environmental justice.
September 20, 2021
The Preconditions of France's Nuclear Buildout feat. François Perchet
We are often told that we need a World War 2 level mobilization to address the looming threats of climate change. What if there is a better historical precendent for climate action based on science, peace and cooperation rather than total war, competition and destruction? We often speak of France as a shining example of a nuclear buildout done right. In the last quarter of the 20th century, under the Messmer Plan, France completed 43 Light Water Reactors in 15 years out of a total fleet of 56 — a rate that is unfathomable today. As a result France has one of the most reliably low-carbon grids in the world with emissions free nuclear power continuing to supply upwards of 70% of France’s electricity. In addition France has electrified 55% of its rail network and a substantial amount of its heating with this abundant low carbon energy. The Messmer plan was not however simply a political decision delivered by the stroke of a pen. I am joined by Francois Perchet, a retired nuclear engineer at France’s state utility, EDF, with nearly 40 years of varied experience in the nuclear sector, to dive into the complexities and preconditions of the Messmer Plan. We discuss the history of France’s nuclear research, its post-war industrial and human resources, its political system, France's lack of fossil fuel resources, and the impact of the 1974 oil crisis to understand how such a buildout of low-carbon nuclear power might become replicable one again.
September 13, 2021
The Belgian Green’s Climate Own Goal feat. Rob De Schutter
In 2025, Belgium will close its last two nuclear plants, which make around half of the countries power. The plan? Replace it with gas. The day after this episode was published, advocates rallied against this climate hypocrisy in the capital, Brussels, at one of the largest Stand Up for Nuclear events yet. I am joined by Rob De Schutter, founder of the Belgian Ecomodernists, to discuss what political decisions have led Belgium to this point, how the closure of the majority of its clean energy is being rationalized in the face of states emission reduction goals, and what is being done about it.
September 10, 2021
Taiwan's Energy Gamble feat. Angelica Oung
In this episode, I am joined by Angelica Oung, an energy reporter from Taiwan, to discuss Taiwan's plan to power the island with up to 50% natural gas, 30% goal, 20% renewables, and 0% nuclear. This would mean shutting down its three operable nuclear plants, and flushing the money spent on a fourth fully constructed but never used reactor down the drain. The plan appears to be a whole-hearted embrace of what Meredith Angwin calls the "fatal trifecta" of energy: over-reliance on renewables, just-in-time natural gas, and energy imports. Taiwan produces no fossil fuels of its own, so must import 100% of its fossil fuel needs. And without any real goals of decarbonization, imported LNG is, as Oung says, "a bridge fuel to nowhere." Oung also reflects on her experience in the offshore wind industry; her shift from opposing to supporting nuclear; her realization that intermittency poses a special problem for Taiwan's isolated electric grid; the politicization of nuclear power from a journalistic perspective; and the past energy decision of Taiwanese governments.
September 06, 2021
A Natural Gas Masterclass feat. Mark Nelson
Natural gas occupies a strange place in the climate debate. By helping to phase out coal, it has led modest decarbonization efforts in the United States and elsewhere, but it continues to emit climate change-causing CO2. Environmental NGO’s have switched between loving it and hating it. In this episode, returning guest Mark Nelson joins us to deepen our understanding of natural gas, fracing [sic], its economics, and more. We touch on the chemistry of hydrocarbons; the immense infrastructure needed to enable natural gas use; the Fracing Revolution; why we are building more natural gas even as we attempt to decarbonize; public perceptions of natural gas and their causes; Nord Stream 2; Germany’s energy folly; and the unsettling economic future of gas. Mark Nelson holds degrees in mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering, as well as Russian language and literature. He is Managing Director of Radiant Energy Fund, and was formerly an analyst at Environmental Progress. Decouple YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/DecouplePodcast Boiling point of methane: -259.6ºF = -162ºC
August 30, 2021
Ontario’s Climate Retreat feat. Edgardo Sepulveda
In the past two decades, Ontario has become a world leader in clean electricity by phasing out coal generation, which it did 90% by restarting units at the Bruce and Pickering Nuclear Generating Stations. Ineffective clean energy policies now threaten that leadership. With the decision of Ontario Power Generation not to refurbish Pickering, fossil gas is set to ramp up to fill the lost capacity. The closure of 3.1 GW of nuclear power at Pickering and its replacement with fossil gas will constitute at least a 1% increase in Canada's total emissions. And on the carbon pricing front, while Ontario has adopted a carbon tax, a closer look shows it is too lax in its current form to make a real difference, exempting upwards of 90% of emissions from gas plants. And this comes at a time of massive increase in electricity demand planned due to electrification. In this Ontario-focused episode, returning guests and regulatory economist Edgardo Sepulveda takes us through what Ontario got wrong with its carbon tax and how the province is headed towards higher emissions. Read Edgardo's in-depth analysis on his blog: https://www.progressive-economics.ca/2021/07/ontario-electricity-viii-backwards-on-climate/ Learn more about the Tax the Gas & Save Pickering campaign: www.taxthegas.org
August 23, 2021
The coming European blackouts and SMR opportunities feat. Kalev Kallemets
Germany has once again embarked on a war on two fronts this time attempting to phase out its two main sources of reliable baseload power, Nuclear and Coal. Nevermind the fact that during a climate emergency nuclear, despite being almost zero carbon, is being phased out at breakneck speed while coal will languish on the grid for another 15 years. Germany is not alone. In many countries in the EU baseload electricity generation is on the chopping block. European energy systems are largely following the illogic of what Meredith Angwin calls the "fatal trifecta:" Over reliance on weather dependent renewables, just in time natural gas and imports. The weather is getting no more reliable, EU gas prices are skyrocketting and electricty imports will not be dependable given the amount of generation coming off line over the next decade. This phenomenon will lead to blackouts within the next couple of years according to my guest Kalev Kallemets. Kalev is the CEO of Fermi Energia, a company of nuclear scientists, energy experts and entrepreneurs looking to bring SMRs to Estonia and other countries in the EU as a vital tool for meeting its climate, economic development and energy independence goals. Kalev argues that ever increasing EU carbon pricing and volatile natural gas prices make an excellent business case for nuclear energy. Kalev believes that after the difficulties encountered with building 21st century large scale nuclear on budget and on time SMRs using tried and tested light water technology offer the most compelling options going forward. He argues that as has happened with Tesla in the electric vehicle market the private sector can pick a winner in order to deliver the economies of multiples required to make SMRs economic.
August 19, 2021
Assessing the Sixth IPCC report feat. Zeke Hausfather
The IPCC has released its first major update in 8 years, the sixth assessment report (AR6). Zeke Hausfather, who contributed to the IPCC report and is a climate and energy analyst at The Breakthrough Institute, joins us to help us make sense of it all. AR6 provides greater resolution and precision in terms of our understanding of climate sensitivity and the resulting temperature ranges we can expect moving into the future. It also gives us a more confident estimate of climate impacts like sea-level rise and the effect of climate change on extreme weather events. Zeke’s contribution to AR6 demonstrates that most of our historic climate models are performing well by accurately predicting the trends of the last two decades. We explore the claims of climate change lukewarmists and skeptics, such as Steve Koonin, whose recent book “Unsettled” has been making waves. We also explore the implications of ecomodernist vs. degrowth responses to climate change.
August 14, 2021
Medical Isotopes? We CANDU that!: Feat James Scongack
Medical isotopes make modern medicine possible. We depend on a steady supply to sterilize medical equipment, as radiation sources for oncology treatments and for diagnostic imaging. Canada is a world leader in the production of medical isotopes and punches far above its weight. Canada's national research reactor, which closed in 2016, provided a number of isotopes including Molybdenum 99 which treated 76,000 patients a day in over 80 countries. Now CANDU power reactors have been put to the job and crank out enough Cobalt 60 to sterlize 25 billion pieces of medical equipment and 40% of the world's single use surgical instruments. I am joined by James Scongack, chair of the nuclear isotope council and an executive at Bruce Power, Canada's largest power plant, to deep dive this topic.
August 09, 2021
SMR Economics and the Nuclear Secret Sauce feat. Tony Roulstone
In the West, many nuclear advocates have pinned their hopes for a nuclear renaissance on Small Modular Reactors, or SMRs. SMRs range from a potentially faster way for nuclear nations to build more plants; to a way for countries to start their nuclear power programs; to special application power sources that serve specific country needs, such as those under development in Russia and China. Yet-to-be-built SMR designs make a lot of bold promises. A question looming over the nuclear industry is: will they fulfill those promises? In this episode, I am joined by Tony Roulstone, a lecturer in nuclear engineering at the University of Cambridge with 10 years of experience as a nuclear engineer at Rolls Royce, which is currently developing its own SMR. We discuss the “secret sauce” of past successful nuclear buildouts; the necessity of state funding; failures of economic policy for long-term infrastructure; the true meaning of modular construction; the trade-off between small modular construction and economies of scale; the minimum order sizes for companies like Rolls Royce to actually begin manufacturing their SMRs (10 GW); the different types of SMRs; and the current status of SMR development around the world. The result is a detailed and sober conversation on the benefits, drawbacks, and challenges of SMRs. If you enjoyed the episode, please consider leaving a rating and review on Apple Podcasts to help new listeners find the show!
August 03, 2021
How Radiation Affects Us feat. Dr. Douglas Boreham
We live in a radioactive world. Every minute, 7,000 potentially cell-damaging radioactive releases occur in our bodies. How are we still alive? And what are the real risks associated with radiation? In this episode, Dr. Keefer is joined by Dr. Douglas Boreham, a world expert in the effects of low doses of ionizing radiation, to tackle the biological effects of radiation. They discuss various types of radiation; the linear no-threshold hypothesis; fears of airborne "hot particles" of uranium; our bodies' sophisticated cellular repair mechanisms; the surprising mechanics behind cell damage from radiation; the elusive idea of hormesis; and the "choreography of fear" that comes from an abundance of caution at nuclear plants. Dr. Douglas Boreham is a Professor and the Division Head of Medical Sciences at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, as well as a Professor in the Department of Medical Physics and Applied Radiation Sciences at McMaster University. He has 35 years of experience researching the biological effects of environmental and medical exposure to low doses of ionizing radiation.
July 26, 2021
Batteries, Energy Lysenkoism, and Geopolitics feat. Mark P. Mills
Intermittent weather-dependent sources of electricity need backup storage to compensate for gaps in production. Elon Musk has promised that Solar + Powerall batteries ensure that your home will never lose power. In this episode, returning guest Mark P. Mills breaks down the concept of energy storage, the physical requirements and limitations of our current storage technologies, and what to expect in the future. Batteries will play an important role in the future of the grid and will continue to improve. However, the laws of physics and chemistry dampen some of the magical thinking that surrounds batteries, putting limits on their efficiency and energy density as well as demanding dramatic increases in mining if lithium-ion batteries are chosen for grid-scale storage. In a purely wind/solar grid, storage must be able to bridge days-long periods without sun or wind, which occur several times per decade in North America. Currently, all the grid-scale lithium battery storage in the U.S. could keep the country powered for just 20 seconds. This contributes to the economic reality that battery storage is unlikely ever to be cost-competitive with the storage of fossil fuels. While wealthy nations may be able to afford to go further down the path of a "green energy" transition, these costs will be prohibitive for poor countries. The fragilization of the grid and the crises of reliability that are beginning to impact states with a high penetration of wind and solar, like California, are beginning to create some of the characteristics of a third-world grid, such as a skyrocketing demand for gasoline backup generators (learn more about Nigeria's backup generator situation: https://www.energyforgrowth.org/memo/the-love-hate-relationship-with-self-generation). This is an impending disaster for a state pursuing an "electrify everything" agenda. An outcome of the high costs and impracticality of using batteries to back up intermittent generation is that grids with high renewable penetration have built parallel generation portfolios: one low-carbon, and the other, in the absence of abundant hydro or nuclear, dominated by fossil fuels. The renewables portfolio spares some fossil fuels, but it doesn't displace the need for maintaining fossil generators to run when it's not windy or sunny. This is why Germany, despite spending 500 billion euros on renewables, has kept 70% of its coal-dominated fossil fleet and is continuing to build natural gas infrastructure such as the Nordstream 2 pipeline. Dr. Keefer and Mills also reflect on the timescales of innovation and the (un)likelihood of achieving ambitious 2030 decarbonization goals; the concept of "energy Lysenkoism"; the geopolitics of China's energy policy; and Mills' forthcoming book, The Cloud Revolution. 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. Apologies for connectivity issues throughout the interview that garbled some of the audio.
July 19, 2021
What Went Wrong at Vogtle? feat. Mark Nelson
Vogtle was supposed to be the beginning of a nuclear renaissance. The two AP1000's at this site were the first new reactors to be built in the USA in the 21st century. There was optimism that a novel modular design that economized space and materials would be on budget and on time. Vogtle, however, has become the poster child of the United States' inability to build affordable nuclear reactors. The timeline has almost doubled and the cost overrun tripled. The project bankrupted the reactor vendor Westinghouse and almost bankrupted its parent company Toshiba. Decouple veteran Mark Nelson returns to discuss what we can learn from the challenges of this megaproject. Mark argues that Westinghouse, which had become divorced by a generation from nuclear construction, created a design that looked good on paper but presented major construction challenges. Rather than learning from contemporary successful reactor builders like the South Koreans, the company believed it knew best. The design features of the AP1000 which boasted 1/5th the amount of concrete and steel of a typical reactor and modular construction were supposed to enable parallel construction and speed up the build. In reality, they resulted in unprecedented challenges such as working in confined spaces and defective modules which led to interruptions in the critical paths of the construction schedule. Furthermore, the engineering, procurement and construction firms engaged to build Vogtle had almost no workers or management with lived experience of building reactors let alone a first-of-a-kind novel design like the AP1000. Communication between the Chinese who were years ahead with their four AP1000 builds broke down and lessons were not shared with their American counterparts. The history of successful nuclear buildouts in countries like France, Japan and South Korea shows that lived construction experience and consistent designs built over and over are what bring down nuclear costs and timelines. In essence the tacit knowledge of a skilled management and workforce trumps a fancy new design especially for an atrophied nuclear sector. Vogtle is a cautionary tale for the western nuclear industry which has recently pinned it hopes almost exclusively on the role of advanced nuclear and novel SMR designs. Mark argues what is needed is humility, consulting with and employing the lessons of successful contemporary reactor builders, building simple reactors we are familiar with and focusing on optimizing construction ease over novel designs at least for now.
July 12, 2021
Nuclear Energy is Union Energy feat. Bob Walker
Nuclear energy is only possible thanks to a highly-skilled, largely unionized workforce. In popular culture, nuclear workers have been portrayed as incompetent (e.g. the Simpson) or as evil incarnate by anti-nuclear activists like Dr. Helen Caldicott. In Canada, nuclear generation is publicly owned and run by a highly unionized workforce. It provides cheap, clean, and reliable energy to the commons AKA our grid. Due to the energy density of fission, each nuclear worker has an outsized role in preventing the burning of fossil fuels and producing large amounts of air pollution-free and low emissions electricity. I am joined by Bob Walker, the national director of the Canadian Nuclear Worker's Council, to demystify what nuclear workers do, how nuclear energy is a uniquely potent job creator, and why political parties and many unions have not engaged or even turned their backs on nuclear workers and their unions. This interview was originally recorded for the January 3, 2021 episode of We CANDU It.
July 07, 2021
A Good War feat. Seth Klein
Seth Klein, a writer and public policy researcher, joins Dr. Keefer to discuss his book, A Good War: Mobilizing Canada for the Climate Emergency. Klein draws on the history of Canada during World War II, when the country massively industrialized to help Britain with the war effort in what he describes as a "true society-wide mobilization." He uses this history to argue for a similar society-wide, wartime-like mobilization to fight climate change. Klein makes a bold argument: We have tried and fail for 30 years to "incentivize our way to victory," and we will lose the climate battle if we think strategic subsidies, incentives, and taxes alone will lead to decarbonization. Rather, we need the state to take charge and institute rapid, mandatory measures. During crises, Klein argues, populations actually respond positively to mandatory measures. For example, in World War II the backlash feared from rationing and other mandatory measures rarely manifested. We have seen a similar phenomenon during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite some dissent, there has been wide support for social distancing and mask requirements. On climate change, Klein argues that people "in the main" are ahead of the political curve and demanding strong climate action. In this episode, Dr. Keefer and Seth Klein discuss the nuances of this argument, including the important question of the technological choices made during a hypothetical wartime-like mobilization, and how we can avoid making progress in the wrong direction. Seth Klein recently launched the Climate Emergency Unit following over two decades of experience at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and in various other policy roles focused on poverty reduction, social, and environmental justice. Learn more about the Climate Emergency Unit: https://www.climateemergencyunit.ca/
July 02, 2021
Fragilizing South Africa’s Grid feat. Gaopalelwe Santswere
Gaopalelwe Santswere, a nuclear physicist and regulatory expert, joins Dr. Keefer to discuss the electricity sector in South Africa whose aging coal fleet is in need of replacement. Despite operating the only two nuclear power reactors on the continent at Koeberg, and plans in the early 2000’s for nearly 10,000MW of nuclear, the government is pursuing an energy policy that prioritizes wind and solar. Gaopalelwe tracks the influence of foreign powers in the direction of South African energy policy. Countries such as Germany, as well as regional and international development banks, have taken an active role in promoting wind and solar and creating barriers to nuclear energy in Africa. So far, the wind and solar build-out has had negative consequences for South Africa, whose public utility Eskom is able to charge electric users only 40% of what it currently costs to produce the power using renewables due to generous subsidies reaped by wind and solar developers. With industry already leaving South Africa, Gaopalelwe argues that the embrace of intermittent renewables is leading to deindustrialization at a time of record unemployment and represents a regressive energy policy for South Africans and the neighbouring countries that depend on its electricity exports. In Europe and North America, the energy debate is detached from the energy poverty experienced by much of the world. Although South Africa's energy supply is more secure than in much of Africa, Gaopalelwe brings an invaluable perspective and context to a debate dominated by voices from the global north. Gaopalelwe holds a Master's degree in Applied Radiation Science from North-West University Mafikeng Campus, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. He is the president of African Young Generation in Nuclear (AYGN), and a national chairperson of South African Radiation Protection Association, SARPA.
June 28, 2021
Emergency Reactor feat. Zion Lights
Returning guest Zion Lights, a powerhouse pro nuclear advocate whose most recent initiative has been to launch the group Emergency Reactor, joins me this episode with reflections on her activism in the pandemic; her observations speaking with more receptive, younger generations about nuclear power; navigating political media; "lifestyle politics" versus data-driven activism; and confronting backward environmentalist notions such as overpopulation and the idea that we cannot make progress on climate goals without total political system change. Check out Emergency Reactor at: https://www.emergencyreactor.org/
June 21, 2021
Why Nuclear Energy Has Been a Flop feat. Jack Devanney
At its birth, nuclear energy entered a highly competitive market for electricity generation. Oil was so cheap that it was stealing market share for electricity generation from coal and driving prices to all-time lows. Despite being a brand new technology 1960s nuclear plants were hitting prices of 3 cents/kWh in today's dollars. Gaddafi and OPEC then contributed to the price of oil skyrocketing. All of a sudden, many wanted to build a nuclear plant and early adopters were reaping huge profits. Nuclear energy featured prominently in the 1964 US democratic party platform. Democrats in the USA even threatened private utilities that if they would not build more nuclear reactors the government would start public utilities that would. So what happened? The Rockefeller Foundation was plagued by guilt over its role in supporting the science that led to the atomic bomb. In fact Ernest Lawrence the inventor of the cyclotron wrote to them to tell them that “had it not been for the Rockefeller Foundation there would be no bomb.” In an attempt to atone for its pivotal role the Foundation became invested in promoting the linear no-threshold (LNT) model for radiation-induced harms as a tool to fight atmospheric weapons testing and try to force the atomic weapons genie back into the bottle. LNT was accepted by the nuclear establishment in part because of hubris. The thinking was that it didn't really matter what radiation model was in place and how conservative it was since a core meltdown and radioactive release were thought to be impossible. LNT laid the groundwork for a regulatory paradigm that has plagued the nuclear industry since, “ As low as reasonably achievable. (ALARA) What “reasonably achievable” meant was really “what can you afford?” Because early on nuclear was very profitable in the context of the oil crisis and escalating fossil fuel costs there was a lot of room to maneuver in terms of adding on more and more costly features to reduce radioactive emissions that had no impact on health. The regulatory ratchet only tightens one way, so when the coal industry got its costs under control the inflated costs imposed by ALARA on nuclear prevented it from becoming cost-competitive again. ALARA means that nuclear can never be cheaper than its rivals because it is only reasonable that it spends any difference on measures to reduce any radioactive emissions to near zero. As Jack Devanney the principal engineer and architect of THORCON and author of “Why nuclear energy has been a flop” explains, the boom of nuclear power in the USA in particular was short-lived. No new nuclear plant was ordered in the 20th century after 1974, 5 years before the Three Mile Island accident. Interestingly the safety performance of the pre-ALARA early fleet has been exemplary and TMI was the most recent design. Jack Devanney argues that accidents will happen but emphasizes that their health consequences will be very minor as dose rates that the public experiences that are even 10-20x average background rates are not a health hazard in any meaningful sense.
June 17, 2021
What's happening at Taishan? feat. Mark Nelson
The Taishan nuclear plant in the Guangdong province of China houses two French-built EPR reactors, the first of their kind in the country. For the past couple of weeks, equipment has registered slightly elevated radiation readings inside and directly outside the plant. The cause so far appears to be leaks from one or more fuel rods. Mark Nelson joins me in this brief episode to reflect on this breaking story; its coverage in the media; the phenomenon of fuel rod leaks; issues with first-of-a-kind reactors; the knowns, unknowns, and clues of this particular incident; and the issues of policy on background radiation limits. Despite media coverage claiming the leak is a disaster in the making, the minor fuel-rod leak is unlikely to cause any direct harm to people or the environment. At the current leak rate, if left unattended for two years the elevated radiation at the detection point near the plant would hardly amount to a quarter of someone's yearly background radiation dose here in Ontario. In this episode, Mark lays out possible paths along which this story could develop. We still do not know exactly how extensive the fuel rod leaks at the reactor are—whether it is a one-off or a systematic issue with the EPR design. However, Mark argues that the lack of a reactor shutdown to prevent expensive potential damage is a clue that the leak is just that, and not a cover for more concerning reactor damage. In Mark's words, the incident constitutes "bad industrial hygiene," but certainly not a "nuclear accident." Still, the leak could lead to political pressure on China, perhaps to implement a "zero leaker" policy similar to the United States. Mark's Twitter thread on Taishan can be read here: https://twitter.com/energybants/status/1404476721076781060?s=20
June 14, 2021
Small, Modular and North of 60 Feat: Jay Harris
A special crosspost from the WeCANDUIt podcast. Jay Harris, an indigenous energy consultant and proponent of small modular reactor (SMR) for remote locations talks about the energy, nutrition and water challenges facing remote northern communities. We explore the fascinating history of SMRs in remote environments which goes back to the 1950's and we look at the possibilities and challenges of SMRs in the far north. Jay is a member of the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan and has worked as an aircraft maintainer in the Air Reserves and in the RCMP in the far north. He was the first aboriginal person to attend the World Nuclear University program in Oxfordshire UK. Nuclear North of 60 Slideset https://www.slideshare.net/harrisja/north-of-60-2013-cns-toronto
June 11, 2021
Energy Democracy and Its Discontents feat. Edgardo Sepulveda
Edgardo Sepulveda, a telecoms regulatory economist, returns to the Decouple podcast to discuss energy equity and how it relates to discussions of energy poverty and energy democracy with a deep dive of the June 2 Public Power Resolution tabled by Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman. Electricity is considered a “necessity good” in economics. For a variety of reasons in the industrialized world people will use about the same amount regardless of income. Given, however, that income is not evenly distributed this means that lower-income households will spend between 5% to 10% of their income on electricity, compared to just 1% by high-income households. This results in energy poverty. Edgardo describes the types of programs established to mitigate its depth and incidence. There is broad consensus that such programs have not been sufficient, and together with the climate crisis this has resulted in calls for “energy democracy”, a term first introduced by US activists in the 2000s that has gained traction in Canada and Europe. Edgardo reviewed a sample of the literature and noted that while there is no accepted definition, it tends to mean greater “energy citizenship” – broader participation in decision-making processes – and also greater individual and community control of energy infrastructure, with a strong preference for localism and renewables. A good conceptual review article is: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629620303431 Nevertheless, the empirical evidence is that energy democracy’s gains have been modest, and many of the policies to promote greater individual and community control of energy have been regressive – that is, have resulted in greater income inequality. Figure 7 of this ex-post review shows that 29 of 37 studies looking at feed-in tariffs or NEM were regressive and 7 neutral; https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/abc11f Chris and Edgardo close off the episode discussing the June 2 “Public Power” Resolution tabled in the US House of Representatives (HR) by Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) & Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), two members of the “Squad.” The Resolution calls for the Federal government to acquire all private electricity assets and transfer them to lower jurisdictional levels and communities, while requiring 100% renewable generation. In @Dr_Keefer's words the @CoriBush & @JamaalBowmanNY resolution advocates for an "occupy Wall Street grid." Its ideological commitment to small is beautiful localism, 100% renewables & magical thinking about the grid makes a public power bill a danger to the public. As such, the resolution appears to be a good example of how energy democracy is seen by progressives in the US and provided Chris and Edgardo with a concrete proposal to discuss. https://bush.house.gov/sites/evo-subsites/bush.house.gov/files/evo-media-document/Bush%20Public%20Power%20Resolution%20FINAL.pdf Edgardo’s Twitter handle is @E_R_Sepulveda
June 06, 2021
Uranium mining past, present and future feat. Jerry Grandey
Its a basic truism but every material object that we use as humans that we did not farm or harvest from the land was mined. In the developed world we have offshored much of this mining activity and it is thus largely invisible to us. How do we decouple mining from its environmental impacts? Stringent regulation of environmental and labour practices. How does modern Uranium mining measure up? With plans for an energy transition away from fossil fuels comes major mining implications. Replacing energy dense coal, oil and gas with dilute sources and storage mediums like wind, solar and batteries will lead to the biggest expansion of mining in world history according to Mark P Mills. Meanwhile the decarbonisation impact of uranium mining is uttlery overlooked. Uranium has by far the lowest mining impact per unit of energy of any comparable fuel source. Several mines in Saskatchewan, Canada, that occupy a tiny land footprint produce enough Uranium to supply 20% of the world's nuclear power fleet which provides 4% of global primary energy. Thus Saskatchewans uranium mines can meet almost 1% of global primary energy demand. Jerry Grandey was previously the CEO of Cameco Corporation, one of the world’s largest Uranium producers. In 2011, he was nominated for the Oslo Business for Peace Award in recognition of his efforts to facilitate the dismantling of 20,000 Russian warheads (The Megatons to Megawatts program), with the resulting uranium used in nuclear energy plants for the generation of electricity.
May 30, 2021
The Climate Crystal Ball feat. Zeke Hausfather
Humanity has emitted over 1 trillion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere since the industrial revolution, raising atmospheric concentrations of CO2 from 280 to 417ppm. Every year, we add another 50 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent, meaning that in 20 years we will double our total emissions. There are signs that global emissions are plateauing, and many governments around the world have penned ambitious commitments to reach net zero. However, talk is cheap, and many plans hinge on dubious assumptions around the role of bioenergy with CCS for example. There has been a shift in the climate debate with by and large an abandonment of the “denier” position and a growth in the lukewarmist camp, which acknowledges the reality of anthropogenic climate change but minimizes its consequences. In a previous episode with Mark Lynas, we explored what 1-6 degrees of warming looks like in terms of its impacts on humanity and the environment. Today, we do our best to understand the probabilities of reaching 3+ degrees of warming. How has climate modeling held up over the years? How likely are phenomena like methane clathrates to act as a significant positive feedback mechanism? Will the climate stabilize if and when we reach zero emissions? Zeke Hausfather is a climate scientist and energy systems analyst whose research focuses on observational temperature records, climate models, and mitigation technologies. He was the senior climate analyst at Project Drawdown, and the US analyst for Carbon Brief. He has master's degrees in environmental science from Yale University and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and a Ph.D. in climate science from the University of California, Berkeley.
May 25, 2021
How to Win Friends and Influence feat. Isabelle Boemeke
Isabelle Boemeke, the nuclear influencer behind Isodope, joins me again to talk about Diablo Canyon, her experience as an unconventional advocate, staying positive, being honest about nuclear power, meeting people where they are in their understanding of nuclear power, dealing with false accusations, and how her communication styles vary between platforms. We also reflect on the women in nuclear advocacy who are leading the efforts to keep Diablo Canyon from an early demise.
May 22, 2021
Saving our clean energy cathedrals in Illinois feat. Madi Czerwinski
The Byron and Dresden nuclear plants, which supply 30% of Illinois CO2-free energy will power down in 4 months without government intervention. These plants, which are licensed to operate well into the future, are uneconomic amid deregulated energy markets and the cheap natural gas unlocked by the fracking revolution. Keeping existing nuclear plants operating in the northeast USA has a carbon abatement cost of $25/ton of CO2. This is half the social cost of carbon in Biden's proposed carbon tax of around $50/ton. By comparison, rooftop solar costs $800/ton and utility wind and solar $300/ton. As Robert Bryce has pointed out, solar gets 250x and wind 160x more in federal tax credits than nuclear per unit of energy produced. In a number of jurisdictions, legislators have recognized the important contribution of nuclear to grid resiliency, decarbonization, and clean air with measures like Zero Emissions Credits. In some areas these subsidies have paradoxically decreased the cost of electricity. The Biden administration has committed itself to a decarbonized power system by 2035. There are mixed signals from his administration of their perception of the importance of nuclear energy to have a chance at achieving this ambitious goal. Senator Joe Manchin has urged Biden to support the continued operation of the US fleet and Jennifer Granholm, the DOE secretary, has floated the idea of federal subsidies to keep existing nuclear plants open. However, firm commitments to creating effective policy that can preserve the 50% of all US clean energy that nuclear provides are lacking. If Byron and Dresden are allowed to close, they will be replaced largely by imported fossil fuels with their accompanying pollution and carbon emissions. In this context Madi and a group of committed volunteers are leading an all-out effort to save the Byron and Dresden Nuclear plants, the zero-air pollution and zero-emissions energy they provide, and the thousands of union jobs that are on the line. Sadly they are opposed by environmental NGOs, like the NRDC, which recently danced on the grave of Indian Point, which had provided 2.5x the amount of zero-carbon power as the entire New York wind and solar fleet. To learn more about the campaign to save Byron and Dresden follow @Madi_Czerwinski and the @Campaign_GND, @ByronDresden, and check out https://savebyron.com/ https://saveilnuclearpower.com/
May 18, 2021
Carbon Abatement Cost and the Social Cost of Carbon feat. Edgardo Sepulveda
In New England it has been calculated by Reiner Khur that the carbon abatement cost of rooftop solar is 800$/ton, utility wind and solar ~300$/ton and keeping existing nuclear on line ~25$/ton. In the context of a social cost of carbon and proposed carbon tax of 50$/ton the premature closure of Indian Point is a shocking indictment of the environmental NGO's that fought so hard to kill the plant. We need to add new generation to the grid not because of a growing demand for electricity but rather the need to replace our fossil fleet and “electrify everything” to get as close as possible to zero emissions. In this light the key metric by which we should judge the various decarbonisation tools from energy efficiency retrofits at our disposal is the carbon abatement cost. I am joined by Edgardo Sepulveda, a telecoms regulatory economist based in Toronto with an interest in energy economics, for another deep-dive into the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) and carbon abatement costs. The SCC is an economic construct that estimates the long-term global monetary effect of emitting a ton of carbon today, relative to a baseline. It is calculated using Integrated Assessment Models (IAM) that estimate future population and economic growth, corresponding climate changes, a “damages” function that monetizes climate changes, and a discount rate to bring all those future monetary losses from climate change due to an extra ton of carbon emitted today to current dollars. Chris and Edgardo discuss how the SCC has been around for 20-30 years and is one of the bases for setting the level of carbon taxes. They discuss how the SCC deals with uncertainty, and how new reserchers are dealing more seriously with intra and inter-generational equity considerations. The Biden administration just re-established the SCC at US$51/Ton CO2 The abatement costs is a related concept that estimates the monetary cost now of not having emitting carbon. It can be calculated for any program or technology (the numerator) against a baseline (the denominator). Conceptually, think how one kWh of nuclear with a price of USD$0.07/kWh (in Ontario) if it displaces kWh gas (the baseline with carbon intensity ≈600g/kWh), you get an abatement cost of $116/ton; if it displaced kWh coal (≈950g/kWh) the cost is $74/ton. Here is a review article looking at abatement costs, including the difference between statics and dynamic concepts https://www.aeaweb.org/articles/pdf/doi/10.1257/jep.32.4.53 It is critical to be clear-eyed about how the numerator and denominator are being calculated, and especially whether actual “full” prices, with subsidies and all, are used, rather than some theoretical levelized cost of electricity (LCOE). For example, the 2021 peer-reviewed study shows that based on average wind price in Ontario of USD$0.12/kWh, the associated abatement cost is USD$290/ton. https://www.econ.queensu.ca/sites/econ.queensu.ca/files/wpaper/qed_wp_1440.pdf Solar costs in Ontario are even higher, at USD$0.38/kWh; given past policies to install wind and solar at inflated costs, electricity prices in Ontario become a political liability and successive Governments enacted extreme measures. 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
May 15, 2021
Poland’s Pragmatic Environmentalists feat. Adam Blazowski
Adam Blazowski is a co-founder of the Polish pragmatic environmentalist group FOTA4Climate. FOTA came together in 2018 out of 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 traveling over 800 kilometers to condemn the climate 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.
May 12, 2021
Reverse Geo-Engineering with Carbon Capture and Sequestration feat. Sean Wagner
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.
May 08, 2021
Beyond Chutzpah NGO led Climate Vandalism & Indian Point. feat Dietmar Detering and Isuru Seneviratne
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.
May 04, 2021
Mothers for Nuclear. feat Heather Hoff
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.
May 01, 2021
Deregulation and deep decarbonisation feat. Edgardo Sepulveda
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) https://energy.ucdavis.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/07-20-2016-DEEP_WP001.pdf 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: https://www.progressive-economics.ca/author/edgardo-sepulveda/
April 26, 2021
Nuclear the ultimate ESG investment feat. Arthur Hyde
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.
April 23, 2021
The Russian Atom feat. Mark Nelson
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.
April 20, 2021
Fukushima & Much Ado About Tritium feat. Dr Geraldine Thomas
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.
April 15, 2021
Hydrogen Hope and/or Hype feat. James Fleay
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
April 14, 2021
Magical Thinking, Moore's Law, and Energy feat. Mark P Mills
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.
April 11, 2021
Mark Z Jacobson's Roadmap to Nowhere feat. Mike Conley
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.
April 06, 2021
Decoupling from the Naturalistic Fallacy feat. Alan Levinovitz
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." Books Referenced: Sapiens: Noah Yuval Hariri Factfulness: Hans Rosling
March 30, 2021
Thoughtscaping at Chernobyl feat. Iida Ruishalme
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.
March 24, 2021
Is China the Future of Nuclear Energy? feat. Francois Morin
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.
March 20, 2021
Avocado Politics feat. Nils Gilman
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.
March 16, 2021
Can the Left & Right Come Together to Decouple? feat. Emmet Penney and James Fleay
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?
March 13, 2021
Hazards, Risks and Science Communication feat. Iida Ruishalme
"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
March 11, 2021
10 Years Since Tohoku & Fukushima feat. Paul Blustein
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. https://www.patreon.com/decouple?fan_landing=true
March 05, 2021
At COP26 Net Zero Needs Nuclear feat. Arun Khuttan
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 Khuttan 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 https://www.netzeroneedsnuclear.com/get-involved
March 02, 2021
Bill Gates vs Climate Change feat. Leigh Phillips
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.
February 27, 2021
UK Decarbonisation: Legally Binding But Precarious feat. David Watson
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".
February 26, 2021
The Case for Nuclear Energy in Philippines feat. Mark Cojuangco
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.
February 23, 2021
Canada, Climate, CANDU & Canoes feat. Jeremy Whitlock
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/
February 17, 2021
Trouble in Texas feat. Mark Nelson
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.
February 16, 2021
The Other Energy Transition feat. Dr. Scott Tinker
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.
February 10, 2021
Wizards and Prophets, Ecomodernists and Environmentalists feat. Charles C Mann
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.
February 06, 2021
Greenpeace selling Vegan natural gas? feat. Simon Wakter
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.
February 01, 2021
The Rise of Nuclear Fear feat. Spencer Weart
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.”
January 30, 2021
Means, Motive, Opportunity: Fossil Fueled Radiophobia feat. Rod Adams
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.
January 26, 2021
The Politics of Energy Transition feat. Robert Bryce
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.
January 20, 2021
The Nuclear Fusion Energy Delusion? feat. Gerrit Bruhaug
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.
January 06, 2021
Gaia, Technology, and the Anthropocene feat. Lewis Dartnell
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."
December 29, 2020
Hope, Hype, Hubris, and Deep Decarbonisation feat. Nick Touran
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.
December 20, 2020
China’s Great Climate Leap Forward? feat. Seaver Wang
"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.
December 15, 2020
The Heterodox Anthropologist of Nuclear feat. Bret Kugelmass
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.
December 08, 2020
Doctors for Nuclear Energy feat. Dr. Anton Van Der Merwe
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. https://www.patreon.com/decouple?fan_landing=true https://www.doctorsfornuclearenergy.org/
December 01, 2020
Reflections on the Decouple Journey feat. Jesse Freeston
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
November 26, 2020
Campaign for a Green Nuclear Deal feat. Madi Czerwinski
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.
November 20, 2020
Ecomodernism's Arch Pragmatist feat. Ted Nordhaus
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. https://www.patreon.com/decouple?fan_landing=true
November 16, 2020
The Malthusian Spectre Haunting Environmentalism feat. Michael Shellenberger
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. https://www.patreon.com/posts/decouple-on-41428860
November 05, 2020
Russian Gas & Germany's War on Nuclear: EU Energy Realpolitik feat. Mark Nelson
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.
October 31, 2020
The Nuclear New Deal feat. Emmet Penney
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.
October 22, 2020
French Nuclear Energy & Social Solidarity feat. Myrto Tripathi
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.
October 16, 2020
Shorting the Grid feat. Meredith Angwin
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.
September 18, 2020
Sunset on Greenpeace's Solar Village feat. Gayatri Vaidyanathan
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.
September 12, 2020
Stand Up for Nuclear feat. Paris Ortiz Wines
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!
September 04, 2020
Isodope: Isabelle Boemeke the Nuclear Influencer
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.
August 29, 2020
Existing Nuclear and Imaginary Nuclear feat. Mark Nelson
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.
August 19, 2020
Swords Into Plowshares: How to Get Rid of Nuclear Weapons feat. James Conca
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!
August 10, 2020
Karnkraft: Sweden's Social Democratic Nuclear Climate Fix feat. John Ahlberg
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.
August 03, 2020
Apocalypse Never Review feat. Leigh Phillips
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.
July 27, 2020
Solutions for the "Impossible" Problem of Nuclear "Waste" feat. Dr. James Conca
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. Show Notes: All about WIPP geological formation. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2014/01/01/dna-evidence-sentences-nuclear-waste-to-billion-year-prison-term/amp/ 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: http://whchronicle.com/nuclear-medicine-an-old-therapy-can-save-covid-19-patients-lives/ https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2020/06/12/1st-human-trial-successfully-treated-covid-19-using-low-doses-of-radiation/#566764eedc69
July 22, 2020
Six Degrees of Climate Emergency feat. Mark Lynas
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.” Tim Minchin
July 16, 2020
Coming out as pro-nuclear feat. Zion Lights
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.
July 06, 2020
Nuclear Accidents & the Scientific Consensus feat. Gerry Thomas
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 https://www.chernobyltissuebank.com/useful-podcasts-and-videos.htm
June 30, 2020
Confucius Smiled: COVID-19 Lessons from the East feat. Nils Gilman
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.
June 21, 2020
The Death of Neo-Liberal Ecomodernism? feat. Jon Symons
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.
June 16, 2020
The Windmill and the Atom: Energiewende Germany's Energy Transition feat. Thijs Beckers
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.
June 12, 2020
Climate Cage Fight: Nuclear vs Coal in Ontario feat. Steve Aplin
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.
June 04, 2020
What is to be done? feat. Jesse Freeston
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. Referenced Books: 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
May 27, 2020