The NEI and Me

David Walters and I had an online conversation yesterday. It was clear from the conversation why we are both bloggers, and why we are nuclear bloggers. We discovered during the course of the conversation that we were among the few people in the world to have watched the NEI’s YouTube videos of its President and CEO Marvin S. Fertel’s February 12 Wall Street Briefing. I was very impressed with Fertel, who came across as intelligent and articulate, and aware of many of the issues that I raise. The NEI’s YouTube videos were so poorly edited that I suspect that the NEI outsourced that job to Greenpeace. Greenpeace also appears to be in control of the distribution of these videos, because most of them have been seen 10 times or less, despite having been posted a week ago. Both David and I were favorably impressed with Fertel’s briefing.

I must admit that I have largely discounted the NEI up till now, because it represents the interests of the conventional nuclear industry, but I believe that I need to take another look at the NEI on the basis of the content of Fertel’s briefing. Fertel acknowledged the two problems that first lead me to think about the Molten Salt Reactor/LFTR as an alternative to conventional nuclear power. Those problems are the high cost of conventional nuclear power, and limitations on potential deployment of nuclear power. Those limitations are imposed by the expensive by expensive and difficult to manufacture parts required in the construction of LWRs, the daunting organizational task that LWR construction demands, and the 12 Million plus hours of labor that must go into every large LWR.
I suspect that if I could talk with Fertel off the record, he would have no problem with my solution to the problem of LWR limitations. If you are a freelance blogger, who has no illusions about making money from your efforts, you have no constraints on what you can say. If you are charged with taking “the nuclear industry’s message” to Wall Street and the media, what you can say is limited by your social context. If you rise at 4:00 AM and sit in front of a computer in a state of partial undress, you are compensated with a certain freedom to say what you think, but not by money.
It will be not without irony then, that I certainly and David I suspect, are going to serve as “the running dogs of capitalism” by helping the NEI to get its message out. This despite the fact that I am an open critic of the conventional nuclear industry that Fertel and the NEI represents. I am of course not a crazy critic like Amory Lovins and Joe Romm.
My criticism of the industry which Fertel represents has nothing to do with seeing it as somehow evil. Rather it comes from a concern about three problems. The first is problem is that of anthropogenic global warming, which if not certain is certainly a probable future for global society. The second is the cost of replacing fossil fuel basis energy generation with conventional nuclear and reliable renewable energy sources. I felt that this was a problem before the wreckage of the global financial system began to become apparent. From the prospective of 2009 rather than 2007 the issue of affordability has become much more urgent, as the world economy appears to be precariously close to an abyss. The losses of the last year will not easily be salvaged, and will be an impediment to expensive energy fixes for years if not decades to come. The third problem is twofold. The first is consequences to advanced societies of significant energy shortages. Not only will these shortages effect the quality of life enjoyed by ordinary members of advanced societies, but it will adversely effect efforts to improve the lives of members of the worlds poorer societies. All boats rise with abundant energy, and fall with energy poverty.
The NEI’s Fertel, acknowledges that with today’s preferred energy solutions energy is going to become more expensive in the future. For me, and for other alternative nuclear bloggers like David Walters and Kirk Sorensen, this is unacceptable. We think that there are other, more acceptable energy solutions.

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