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Another doom prediction ignoring the glowing mutant elephant in the room.

If the lights start going dim, what will happen is not the collapse of industrial society, but the collapse of the legal, economic and political barriers currently blocking great big dams and nuke plants. because while a quick-and-dirty nuke plant might not be as safe as could be desired, it will be a lot less fatal than trying to do without juice. The mortality rates of nations correlate very well with the reliability and potency of their electric grids, and that is not an accident

by Thomas on Wed Nov 10th, 2010 at 02:10:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How much additional hydro can be built?

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by A swedish kind of death on Wed Nov 10th, 2010 at 02:36:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mostly in "developing" nations.
Brazil is going gangbusters, but is running into limitations due to climate change (dams are less full than predicted), which makes them more difficult to build profitably.

India has huge potential that they are just getting round to planning for. Various backwaters in Africa, Southeast Asia and South America have a lot of potential in medium-sized projects.

I've no idea how much it all adds up to, perhaps I could do some research...

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Thu Nov 11th, 2010 at 03:47:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's cute.

But "when the lights start going out," it's about ten years too late to start doing something about it.

Our civilisation is not so stable that it will be able to manage ten back-to-back years with non-existent to intermittent electricity without major disruption. And our construction technology is not so advanced that we can build a nuke plant overnight. Oh, and you won't have fuel for all those nuke plants, even if you can get them built.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Nov 10th, 2010 at 03:10:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
eh.. the thing is, the original, very primitive nuke plants got built in months, not years, and very cheaply per mwh.  Emergency solutions do not look anything like the EPR or the ap1000.

if the alternative is "freezing to death", lead cooled fast breeder designs ripped of soviet sub reactor  designs could be mass produced in factories, and "containment domes" could be redefined to "put it in the cellar". This would not be very sensible, of course, but the laws of physics do actually prevent it. And societies that are in trouble have a very long history of doing things that are not sensible and fixing the problems later.

by Thomas on Wed Nov 10th, 2010 at 04:14:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
to clarify: I am not advocating this - it is what I think will happen if we fuck up our long term energy supply planning. What I would actually like is an orderly transition to safe and reliable energy sources (EPRs, ap1000s, what hydro we can. desert solar if the price is right) with a long term plan that is more conservative of natural resources than light water reactors (ELSY, Astrid, IFR or whichever design turns out to be most economical)
by Thomas on Wed Nov 10th, 2010 at 04:24:14 PM EST
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You have now joined the mainstream of American physicists, who never really thought there was another alternative...
by asdf on Thu Nov 11th, 2010 at 08:47:43 PM EST
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See, for example:

It appears that the future will bring large economic forces to start new orders for nuclear plants.

from "The nuclear power industry in the united states: Status and projections (1988)"

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B75KG-4K9JFYT-5&_user=10&_cover Date=01/31/1988&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=browse&_origin=browse&_sort=d&view=c &_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=5b91015ea319b1ce754da0 921e72d09e

by asdf on Thu Nov 11th, 2010 at 08:58:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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