Unbelievable Mendacity

Dr. Barry Brook has read the fine print and followed the references in Jacobson and Delucchi’s upcoming article in Scientific American (you know, that thing that editors are supposed to do?) and found such a stunning lie that our nuclear blogosphere is still reeling that anyone could possibly think that they could get away with telling it:

So what’s “The Ugly”? Well, it’s something utterly egregious and deceptive. In the Sci Amer article, the following objection is raised in order to dismiss the fission of uranium or thorium as clean energy:

Nuclear power results in up to 25 times more carbon emissions than wind energy, when reactor construction and uranium refining and transport are considered.

Hold on. How could this be? I’ve shown here that the “reactor construction” argument is utterly fallacious – wind has a building material footprint over 10 times larger than that of nuclear, on energy parity basis. Further, Peter Lang has shown that wind, once operating, offsets 20 times LESS carbon per unit energy than nuclear power, when a standard natural gas backup for wind is properly considered. I’ve also explained in this post that the emissions stemming from mining, milling, transport and refining of nuclear fuel is vastly overblown, and is of course irrelevant for fast spectrum and molten salt thorium reactors. So…?

Well, you have to look to the technical version of the paper to trace the source of the claim. It comes from Jacobson 2009, where he posited that nuclear power means nuclear proliferation, nuclear proliferation leads to nuclear weapons, and this chain of events lead to nuclear war, so they calculate (?!) the carbon footprint of a nuclear war! (integrating a probability of 0 — 1 over a 30 year period). I quote:

4d. Effects of nuclear energy on nuclear war and terrorism damage

Because the production of nuclear weapons material is occurring only in countries that have developed civilian nuclear energy programs, the risk of a limited nuclear exchange between countries or the detonation of a nuclear device by terrorists has increased due to the dissemination of nuclear energy facilities worldwide. As such, it is a valid exercise to estimate the potential number of immediate deaths and carbon emissions due to the burning of buildings and infrastructure associated with the proliferation of nuclear energy facilities and the resulting proliferation of nuclear weapons. The number of deaths and carbon emissions, though, must be multiplied by a probability range of an exchange or explosion occurring to estimate the overall risk of nuclear energy proliferation. Although concern at the time of an explosion will be the deaths and not carbon emissions, policy makers today must weigh all the potential future risks of mortality and carbon emissions when comparing energy sources.

Really, need I say more? Can it really be that such wildly conjectural nonsense is acceptable as a valid scientific argument in the sustainable energy peer-reviewed literature? It seems so, which suggests to me that this academic discipline needs a swift logical kick up its intellectual rear end.

Wow. Jacobson and Delucchi make the absolutely unsupported-by-historial-evidence claim that developing nuclear power leads to nuclear weapons, and that nuclear weapons lead to nuclear way (actually they stop war from happening) and that in a nuclear exchange lots of CO2 will be emitted, so we’ll chalk that up to nuclear power to make it look bad.

Scientific American should recall their publication and expunge this trash from their magazine if they ever hope to be held in high regard again. I know that I just lost any interest in published in their magazine.



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