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Some nukes

20 Feb 2019 | OP ED Watch

There are some serious people out there. Mike Schellenberger of Environmental Progress, who Time Magazine has called a “Hero of the Environment”, denounces socialist Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and “her progressive enablers in the media” for failing “the most crucial test of moral political leadership of our time” on climate, namely support for nuclear power. He says bluntly “You can't call for closing down our largest source of zero-emissions energy and claim ‘world is gonna end in 12 years if we don't address climate’”.

To say Schellenberger “called her out” would be a euphemism; his Tweet actually used modern let-it-all-hang-out language we won’t repeat here. And Microsoft founder Bill Gates, in less earthy terms (“so disappointing”), just denounced faith in wind and solar particularly given the inability of current batteries to store enough power for big cities. He went on to ridicule proposals for financial firms to rate companies on their CO2 output, asking “How are you going to make steel?” or fertilizer, cement or plastic, or get airplanes aloft, from your desks on Wall St.

Gates, like Schellenberger, worries about climate change. Like Schellenberger, he favours nuclear as an available, reliable, baseline source of the massive energy that makes people’s lives warm and comfortable in the developed world. And Gates is putting his time, money and innovative energy where his mouth is, serving as Chairman of the Board of TerraPower, a company developing highly advanced nuclear reactors that convert non-fissile to fissile isotopes on site and use liquid sodium as a coolant.

Well, trying to develop them. None are yet under construction and the concept might not work. But it’s a welcome break from political idiocy, scientific distortion and economic fantasy to see someone who, even if he is wrong about the scale and urgency of the threat from man-made CO2, is looking in all the right places for a response.

One final comment: It is odd that so many people think we can bury billions of tons of CO2 where it will never trouble us again (carbon capture and storage) but cannot dispose safely of small amounts of nuclear waste or build a reactor that won’t melt down.

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