117. IS IT TOO LATE TO SWITCH TO NUCLEAR?
In the long run, the solution to peak oil works like this:
1) Conservation to reduce demand for energy (liquid fuels in particular) to the lowest possible level. This will involve retrofitting first world cities to eliminate the need for cars in ordinary life.
2) Using replacements (tar sands, natural gas, GTL, ethanol, coal liquefaction etc.) to substitute for liquid fuel demand which cannot be eliminated.
3) Shifting as much of the electrical grid as possible to nuclear (supplemented with wind/solar) to free up natural gas and coal for transport and feedstock applications (see #42).
4) Managing with nuclear and the remaining fossil fuels until plentiful, clean space energy (see #5, #33, #51, #104) can be brought on line.
Nuclear energy is a critical part of the solution, and the doomers often criticize it for it being unscalable. They say:
i) It takes 10 years or more to build a nuclear power plant.
This is a myth.
The new-generation nuclear reactors being talked about after a pause of three decades are not much different from those of the past, though the designs should make them safer, more efficient and easier to build.
Here are some characteristics of each of the top three light-water reactor designs and a next-generation gas-cooled reactor:
The Westinghouse AP1000:
This would have one-third fewer pumps, half as many valves, and more than 80 percent fewer pipes than current reactors. It can be built using modular units manufactured in a factory and transported to the reactor site, cutting construction time to three years.Source
ii) Nuclear power can't be scaled up quickly.
This is false. Nuclear power generation rose from 21.8 billion kilowatt-hours in 1970 to 576.9 billion kilowatt-hours in 1990 (Source: DOE Annual Energy Review 2004, P. 275). That's an increase of 2500% over 20 years -- a growth rate of about 17.7% per annum.
iii) We won't be able to build nuclear plants after peak oil because building nuclear plants is dependent on oil.
This is also false, as can be seen from the history of the late 1970s/early 1980s, when world crude oil production dropped by -15%, while nuclear power in the U.S. rose by +60% (see #69).