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TEDTalks 2010: Bill Gates on energy and climate change

Written By: - Date published: 12:07 pm, February 21st, 2010 - 20 comments
Categories: climate change, energy - Tags: ,

At TED2010, Bill Gates unveils his vision for the world’s energy future, describing the need for “miracles” to avoid planetary catastrophe and explaining why he’s backing a dramatically different type of nuclear reactor. The necessary goal? Zero carbon emissions globally by 2050.


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20 comments on “TEDTalks 2010: Bill Gates on energy and climate change ”

    • lprent 1.1

      I’m not advocating nuclear power here – in fact I can’t see the point with the number of renewable generation resources we have here. If Brownlee would ever get off his butt and do something to help get them online….

      But the size of the nuclear plants is a major issue in siting plants in NZ because they typically start at about 800MWe for the smallest viable one and typically are over 1000MWe. Of course with NZ’s volatile geology you really wind up with a much bigger bill as well. Smaller plants (if they work out) would be better but I’d hardly want NZ to be a testbed for their use.

      Of course then there is the issue about transporting waste to somewhere that is geologically stable (ie nowhere in NZ) for the indefinite storage.

      Renewables look a hell of a lot easier

      • Quoth the Raven 1.1.1

        I’m not advocating it either. It’s just that advances have been made and will continue to be made and the kind of attitude that completely writes off nuclear energy (which I once held myself) is a little naive.

      • Lanthanide 1.1.2

        “Of course then there is the issue about transporting waste to somewhere that is geologically stable (ie nowhere in NZ) for the indefinite storage.”

        Like Australia. Most of it is a desert anyway. IMO Australia should be lobbying to be a destination for nuclear waste from the US and any other countries. Then when the other countries finally get around to building more advanced reactors that can use the ‘waste’, OZ can sell it back to them.

  1. lprent 2

    I don’t discount it – I just see too many issues for this country.

    The nuclear power companies haven’t exactly been (as your link pointed out) doing much effective engineering for anything apart from massive base generators of about 1000MWe.

    NZ generates about 8000MWe in total (and about 600MWe goes to the smelter). Why would we want to put in a station of about 1/8th of the total market as a step? Not only does it have a massive build time, it also leaves a real problem when it gets decommissioned (just like the 1000MWe at Huntly is causing conniptions now).

    The of course you have the Japanese problem of an unstable geology. They shift their high-grade waste halfway around the world over very sensitive ocean (losing waste into the ocean food-chains scares the crap out of me) mainly because they can’t handle it locally.

    Even smaller plants once they’re proven have much the same issues in NZ for waste disposal.

    We’re better off putting a lot of small renewable plants on line, and using the existing dams as storage devices for surplus generation. But that requires a *lot* better grid. Which Brownlee is ignoring – probably because he’d have to do some serious thought and decision making + it involves strategic thought.

    • Quoth the Raven 2.1

      I’m not saying it’s feasible for New Zealand. I don’t think it is yet. I’m just saying with the renewed interest and new advances that there is now a future for nuclear energy, one that I couldn’t see before, but maybe not in New Zealand.

    • Clarke 2.2

      Why would we want to put in a station of about 1/8th of the total market as a step? Not only does it have a massive build time, it also leaves a real problem when it gets decommissioned.

      Engineering-wise, the bigger problem is that when you need to take the nuke plant offline for maintenance or refueling, you need to have an equivalent 1/8th of baseload available to take up the slack. Given the perverse incentives in our electricity market that result in “just in time” investment in capacity, this would effectively mean that we need either two nukes or a hydro dam that’s pretty much sitting idle until needed. I hate to think what the capex implications would be …

  2. Steve 3

    NZ must go Nuclear Powered one day. Once we liked to be first in the World. First in the World to BAN Nuclear Power is history. Hope you protesters don’t need cancer treatment, we only have small Chemotherapy places.
    When is the right time to change?
    If you start to rave about North Korea, China, Iran etc; I will not bother to read your pre-programmed propaganda.

    • lprent 3.1

      1. I don’t think we need to. I notice you didn’t say why we should?

      2. I think the high level waste problem for NZ is pretty close to being unsolveable. We’re too geologically unstable to be able to store it for the periods of time required safely. It is incredibly dangerous to ship, and to try and do so will make it much more expensive than alternatives.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2

      NZ must go Nuclear Powered one day.

      Uranium Depletion and Nuclear Power: Are We at Peak Uranium?

      If we’re lucky we might get a decade or two of nuclear power if we started building plant now. Quite simply, NZ investing nuclear power would be as much as an economic loss as the roads that NACT+MP are building. Probably even worse.

      • Quoth the Raven 3.2.1

        If that were true then Obama must be really stupid investing in new nuclear power plants. Skimming through the comments section it seems like that is an unbalanced overly pessimistic piece. Wikipedia puts it like this:

        Economic uranium resources will last for over 100 years at 2006 consumption rates, while it is expected there is twice that amount awaiting discovery. With reprocessing and recycling, the reserves are good for thousands of years.

        and the point of this post was the new technology that Bill Gates is promoting which push such numbers even further.
        You’ll always going to find overly optimistic estimates and catastrophists peddling their messages I think we should look for a bit balance.

  3. infused 4

    Pretty good. Always thought there was room for improvement in Neclear technology. Long term, this seems the only solution in the world. Renewable is good, but it hardly has the output and stability of something like nuclear.

  4. Rich 5

    It’s a bit worrying when somebody that can’t cope with capitalisation thinks nuclear power is a good idea.

  5. Rich 6

    NZ doesn’t need nuclear power. If we build all the wind farms for which sites are identified, plus a bit of new hydro, tidal and geothermal power, we can get well beyond 100% renewables and start replacing fossil fuel use in transport and direct burners.

    The Hyperion system referenced costs a quoted USD30million for a 25MW reactor (which the supplier recommends building in pairs, so that one can be running while the other is being serviced). Add on fuel, cost overruns, shipping costs, insurance, security, siting, waste disposal and decomissioning, and the cost is going to be more than wind power.

    (Project Westwind cost maybe NZD400 million for 140MW, at a 47% load factor). Westwind is 5 year old technology – the Hyperion reactor hasn’t even been prototyped yet).

  6. illuminatedtiger 7

    If it will run Windows we should all be very worried…

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