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October 26, 2006



James Howard Kunstler has reported that world oil production reached a peak in December 2005 and has plateaued in the months since then. Haven't checked with the folks at the peak oil conference at BU this week but it may very well be that we're already past the point of no return and preparatory planning.

Watching CSPAN2 on Friday, October 6, 2006, I heard a VP from Westinghouse, Edward Cummins, say that it will take nine to ten years to license and build new nuclear power plants and thus, if we have to reduce our carbon emissions within the next ten years in order to avoid climate change, nuclear power will be little or no help at all - and that goes double for peak oil.

I assume that he is taking into account the expedited system, complete with subsidies for helping nuclear power companies do their paperwork, now in place at the NRC but I could be wrong.

Since peak oil will manifest primarily as a liquid fuel problem, nukes will be of even less help as well as eating up funding that could be used for efficiency and renewables.

I'm happy I have solar LED lights and a solar/dynamo radio which I had modified to charge AA batteries. One room is now essentially off-grid, costing less than $200, and I'm ready for most emergencies or disasters.


Nine-ten years would be a reasonable estimate for working under normal conditions, without an "expedited system".
If you are willing to cut down the paperwork you could go faster.Construction time for modern reactors should be around four-five years,(IIRC,it has been a long time since I looked into the timetables).Let's say an average of around seven years or so with some paperwork and the additional stuff included. Expanding existing nuclear power plants with additional reactors should not take much more time than bare construction time.So if you wanted you could have large amount of nuclear power coming online after ten years although of course you would have nothing for the first three-four years.

The chinese are building with these timetables

Construction start Start up
Tianwan-2 PWR 1000 MWe 2000 2007
Lingao-3 PWR 935 MWe 2005 2010
Lingao-4 PWR 935 MWe 2005 2011
Qinshan-6 PWR 610 MWe 2006 2010
Qinshan-7 PWR 610 MWe 2006 2010



"Since peak oil will manifest primarily as a liquid fuel problem, nukes will be of even less help as well as eating up funding that could be used for efficiency and renewables."

For that matter solar and wind do not help much on the liquid fuel front either.
Increasing substantially efficiency is a tricky thing. At the best it requires replacing still perfectly usable items with others often more expensive up front.At the worst it requires lifestyle changes which might be unpalatable to many.
Wind power is running into a wall of NIMBY opposition.
And about CO2 production nothing will be done about it.


Check out Mike Strizki's work. We did a video of him at Boston's AltWheels Fest in September this year

He has a house with 10kw of PV that also produces the hydrogen for his fuel cell car. This is the initial prototype and it cost on the order of $150,000.

He and his work were also featured on ABC Nightly News on Friday, October 20, 2006.

What's the usual cost reduction from initial prototype to production system?


"He has a house with 10kw of PV that also produces the hydrogen for his fuel cell car."

I have heard about very similar demonstrations. Mass production isn't an easy proposition however.Handling and storing hydrogen is tricky thing, fuel cells need more development and so on.Some of these problems are not easy to solve and even if they are dealt with the retooling necessary for widespread adoption will not happen in an overnight.
Furthermore solar panels mounted on the roof can get you only so far.Large amounts of energy are used at concentrated locations, such as industries, cities and so on. This still requires large scale production taking place in conventional power plants, large wind farms etc.
My impression is that the current trend is tilting towards the diffusion of coal fired plants, being relatively convenient and presenting the path of least resistance from the political point of view.


Note that Germany, one of the most forward looking countries in terms of renewables, is is aiming to satisfy the 20% of his energy needs with renewables by 2020 and 50% by 2050.Which is all well and good but the remaining 80%-50%will have to come out from somewhere.

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