Heavyweight physics prof weighs into climate/energy scrap

Zero-carbon UK plans for all: Greens, nimbys, even Libs

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

Moving on to fusion power, MacKay says:

Fusion power is speculative and experimental. I think it is reckless to assume that the fusion problem will be cracked, but I’m happy to estimate how much power fusion could deliver, if the problems are cracked.

At [US levels of consumption] and 6 billion people, [deuterium] fusion would last 1 billion years.

MacKay is keen to stress that oceanic uranium extraction, the thorium energy amplifier and especially fusion are all unproven — though fast breeders are established kit. This is why he sees nuclear as a “stopgap”. He freely admits, however, that building new nuclear power stations is the most economic way of generating low-carbon power — and he confirmed to The Reg that in his view there would certainly be ample supplies of uranium to last the lifetime of any likely number of new UK plants.

MacKay sees nuclear as a “stopgap” and perhaps a “gamble”, but he fears that he may still have painted it in so positive a light that people will brand him as “pro-nuclear”. He emphasised to The Reg that he absolutely isn’t, and we believe him.

You can see why he’s worried about getting that label, though. Worst case, assuming that only the known technologies work and only the known reserves exist, MacKay tells us that the entire human race could power itself — transport, domestic, industry, the lot — at hugely profligate American levels using nothing but fission for around a century. Since it’s unlikely that everyone will suddenly ditch fossil and ramp up to that level of use overnight, realistically you’re talking about at least a couple of centuries; longer if people only fancied being Europeans rather than Americans. It wouldn’t even cost much, compared to renewables.

A pretty useful stopgap, then. And if any of the gambles pay off — oceanic uranium, new thorium tech or fusion — the human race can pretty much relax. We’re sorted for at least a millennium, by which point we’ll hopefully be mining other planets.

Having lined up his numbers, MacKay tries them out for size on various different agendas. He takes the low-hanging fruit in every plan, as he cuts off the oil and gas.

Firstly most transport is electrified, allowing millions of vehicle batteries to be used as power reservoirs to deal with grid fluctuations — though MacKay admits that people might be upset if the wind inconveniently dropped at the wrong time, perhaps leaving their cars flatlined when they needed to be charged up. He also allows some big land areas for growing biofuel to handle things which can’t be electric — some aviation would still be feasible, for instance.

Also, MacKay assumes big savings from more energy efficient buildings, universal home solar thermal and the use of heat pumps — helped out with “the promotion of sweater-wearing by sexy personalities”. Biomass heating is also used to the limit in every case, as is generation of energy from domestic waste.

All this leaves electricity consumption roughly tripled, and daily demand swings get worse. The difference in the various plans is how you deal with this.

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Microsoft's anti-bug breakthrough: Wire devs to BRAIN SCANNERS
Clippy: It looks your hands are shaking, are you sure you want to commit this code?
prev story


Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.