Listen to Scientists (Except for Nuclear Power)

We're ignoring our best shot.

Listen to Scientists (Except for Nuclear Power)
Qingbao Meng

I watched along with the rest of my elementary school as the space shuttle Challenger exploded.

Later at home, I watched the news with my parents and a journalist asked an engineer if there could have been any fail safes put into place.

The engineer told him that you can't make a rocket ship fail safe. You can make a train's brakes fail safe by automatically braking and stopping the train if the system is damaged, which we have, but there's no way to make a rocket ship explode safely.

This was before the days we had PR people to sugarcoat everything and actually got a few straight answers.

There is a scientific consensus that nuclear is our greenest, cheapest, safest, and only option, and this consensus is not only shared by climate and energy scientists, but by mathematicians and logisticians as an unavoidable reality.

When factoring for as many salient variables as possible, what the data tells us is undeniable, and the data is all that matters. Not your irrational fears, your love of nature, or your personal biases.

This is why we have math and science.

Our first response is emotional, and math and science mitigate this by showing us just how out of whack our emotions and opinions are with reality.

One reactor equals about four million panels or four thousand of the largest wind turbines before accounting for transmission loss and dependability. Per kWh, nuclear power takes up less than 1/1000 of the space of wind and solar and operates at maximum capacity over 90% of the time--which is even more dependable than fossil fuel– while wind and solar are at about 30%.

Panels produce direct current, which means they need phased inverters to be plugged into the grid. Wind produces alternating current, but requires a converter to be changed into direct current, then back into alternating current that matches the phase of the grid.

If you use a phased inverter off the grid, it's still not a true alternating current, which shortens the lifespan of every appliance in your home with an electric motor, or basically anything that spins, from washers and dryers to the fans in your computer.

Scientists know this, our leaders know this, and fossil fuel companies know this, which is why we're seeing them produce more commercials advertising wind and solar as the perfect partners for fossil fuel. They know wind and solar lock us into reliance on fossil fuel because they're too unreliable to work without it.

The countries that are transitioning to nuclear power 100% as a primary energy source are making the change more quickly and using less fossil fuel than countries trying mixed solutions, and use considerably less fossil fuel the more reactors are built.

In every region reactors have been shuttered--primarily for political reasons–once the local government decided there was enough wind and solar to supplant it, the cost of electricity and the use of fossil fuel has gone up.

I mentioned the Challenger earlier because today's climate scientists are ruled by agencies more concerned with messaging. They try to slide nuclear power in between wind and solar, and they're bad at it. They sound like used car salesmen. When pressed about nuclear power, the standard answer is to say we'd be foolish to dismiss any of our options, but among themselves, there's a growing sense of frustration.

One of them, along with a lawyer who cared deeply about the environment, immolated themselves because we don't have the time to care about messaging anymore.

Luckily, several countries, including the US, have started just building and developing new reactors quietly.

Public support for nuclear power in the US has steadily grown since 2020, from 43% to 57%, and has received the most legislative support from Republicans.

In 2020, Republicans successfully included the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act in annual defense authorization legislation, to provide investments in nuclear research. As part of annual appropriations, Republicans increased funding for nuclear power initiatives at the Department of Energy.

I've been writing about this for years, and two comments stand out. One was from a nature lover praising the sun as our giver of life, but he didn't comprehend the difficulty of getting that energy to come out of a power socket.

More disturbingly, when I pointed out the constant mining and maintenance wind and solar require, one person responded that this is a good thing, as it creates more jobs.

We have more than enough bullshit jobs as it is, and the point used to be to build things that actually did what they were supposed to do.

Nuclear power alone is not enough. We need to live more sustainably, too, but nuclear power makes everyone who uses electricity live more sustainably. No more mining for coal, no more building millions of panels and turbines, and no more carbon emissions once they're up and running.

Mining for lithium is an environmental nightmare, and there isn't enough extractable lithium on Earth to make wind or solar reliable. The only way would be to build thousands of hydroelectric reserves, making the already enormous footprint of wind and solar even larger and disrupting more ecosystems, and the majority of environmentalists are against this.

The most salient factor for me is that this is what Generation Z increasingly wants, and most of them care about the data and don't dismiss nuclear power based on outdated ideas that were wrongheaded to begin with.

Our newest reactors are powered by what was once considered to be nuclear waste, we have enough to power the entire US for over 100 years, and compared to wind, solar, and fossil fuel, the amount of waste was negligible even before we figured out how to reuse it, and unlike any other power producing industry, nuclear is the only one 100% responsible for all of its waste.

I'm 48 years old. I at least got the chance to fuck up my life on my own terms. These kids deserve the same, and most seem to understand what a lot of us don't.

The data is all that matters. When we ignore it, we end up fucking ourselves and the planet.

There's a growing consensus that wind and solar are a net loss, or require more power to build than they produce over their lifetimes, and this is endemic of our economy's reliance on endless growth.

So what if it doesn't work?

It's actually even better that way. The poor huddled masses will have to keep working and buying forever. No one cares until it's their house that's flooded or burning, and even then, they won't accept nuclear power until they have trouble charging their phones. Maybe for once, we should address this looming disaster before it destroys us? We won't, but it's worth considering. So listen to scientists, including when it comes to nuclear power.

They're right.

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