Feeds

Heavyweight physics prof weighs into climate/energy scrap

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

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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.

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
FORGET the CLIMATE: FATTIES are a MUCH BIGGER problem - study
Fat guy? Drink or smoke? You're worse than a TERRORIST
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
LIFE, JIM? Comet probot lander found 'ORGANICS' on far-off iceball
That's it for God, then – if Comet 67P has got complex molecules
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Internet Security Threat Report 2014
An overview and analysis of the year in global threat activity: identify, analyze, and provide commentary on emerging trends in the dynamic threat landscape.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.