In case you missed the May Day bulletin, the financial world just tipped on its axis a bit more toward clean energy.
In Forbes, that bastion of conventional wisdom on Wall Street, Jeff McMahon posed the following question in a bold headline:
The gist of the story is that, at a divestiture debate held at Northwestern University in Chicago on Thursday, “famed nuclear critic” (McMahon’s characterization, not mine) Arnie Gundersen (aka: a member of the Board of Directors of Fairewinds Energy Education), stopped Argonne Laboratories director Dr. Jordi Roglans-Ribas dead in his tracks when he based his case for nuclear energy on that tired old saw with which we are all so familiar:
“Roglans-Ribas had just finished arguing that any future free of fossil fuels would need nuclear power, which provides carbon-free energy 24 hours a day, supplying the reliability lacking in renewables like solar and wind.”
Gundersen called that claim a ‘marketing ploy.’
“We all know that the wind doesn’t blow consistently and the sun doesn’t shine every day,” he said, “but the nuclear industry would have you believe that humankind is smart enough to develop techniques to store nuclear waste for a quarter of a million years, but at the same time human kind is so dumb we can’t figure out a way to store solar electricity overnight. To me that doesn’t make sense.” ”
I love it.
…And Arnie Gundersen had the inside story to back-up his position. He broke the news to the assembly of earnest young minds that at 10:00 p.m. they could expect an historic announcement from entrepreneur, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, that an industrial scale storage battery was about to enter the market, ushering in an era in which the cost of energy storage (and therefore truly clean alternatives) would ultimately be driven down to rock bottom.
And so it was.
The details are laid out on Tesla’s own site, but Arnie summed up its implications for nuclear:
“So the nuclear argument that they’re the only 24-7 source is off the table now because Elon Musk has convinced me that industrial scale storage is in fact possible, and it’s here.”
It’s just a matter of time before the cost of energy storage drops as precipitously as has the cost of computer memory over recent years.
That’s the top line news, but here’s where we dive into a little speculation…something with which investors are not unfamiliar.
Overnight, nuclear has been transformed for the ‘smart money” from a prince to a toad.
This could well be one of those infamous “tipping points” which Malcolm Gladwell wrote about years ago; the signature moment when Wall Street finally gets off the nuclear merry-go-round and on with the move to clean renewables.
Maintaining that nuclear energy is a clean, sustainable option is like having closets and an attic filled to the rafters with trash while you keep the front room clean for guests and simply pray that the whole place doesn’t collapse on your head.
It’s a losing bet.
At last, Wall Street, that Supreme High Roller of Loaded Dice, seems to be coming around to recognizing that it isn’t even worthy of the gamble.
In April of 2015, Fairewinds’ Chief Engineer, Arnie Gundersen and the Fairewinds crew headed to Quebec City for the World Uranium Symposium. Attended by more than 300 delegates from 20 countries that produce uranium for nuclear power and weapons, the symposium brought together experts who are calling on governments throughout the world to end all uranium mining. In this speech about the Fukushima Daiichi Disaster, Arnie introduces new scientific evidence to prove high radiation exposures in Japan.
Fairewinds in the News:
Forbes Magazine contributor Jeff McMahon covered a Northwestern University debate sponsored by students with Fossil Fuel NU and Divest NU. Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen unleashed an inside scoop regarding the price of solar battery storage only hours before the formal announcement by Tesla CEO Elon Musk about Tesla’s new line of batteries for households and businesses, which will allow distributed electrical storage from renewable sources like solar.
McMahon attended the debate between Arnie and Dr. Jordi Roglans-Ribas, the director of the Nuclear Engineering Division of Argonne National Laboratory, who centered his pro-nuclear argument on nuclear power being the only truly reliable option in a world without fossil fuel. Gundersen countered that this argument is a “marketing ploy” and stated,
“the nuclear industry would have you believe that humankind is smart enough to develop techniques to store nuclear waste for a quarter of a million years, but at the same time human kind is so dumb we can’t figure out a way to store solar electricity overnight. To me that doesn’t make sense.”
Gundersen emphasized the high cost of nuclear power when compared against renewables by announcing the Tesla Energy launch of, ”a suite of batteries for homes, businesses, and utilities fostering a clean energy ecosystem and helping wean the world off fossil fuels.” There were pre-existing rumors of the batteries but not the low price. Originally believed to be about $13,000, they will in fact begin sale at $3,500. Furthermore, it appears that they’ll be able to produce these large batteries for about 2 cents per kilowatt-hour, a vast improvement to the proposed 16 cents per kilowatt-hour for power generated by a reactor. As McMahon said in his report, this news appears to be “putting the final nail in the coffin of nuclear power.”
McMahon follows up in Forbes on his initial article with “Why Tesla Batteries Are Cheap Enough To Prevent Nuclear Power Plants”, in which Gundersen’s predictions at the Northwestern University debate are reiterated and backed up by further studies conducted by energy expert analysts such as The Brattle Group. Their study concludes, “Considering both the impact on electricity bills and improved reliability of grid-integrated storage, total customer benefits would significantly exceed costs.” Read more to learn why!
Chicago National Public Radio WBEZ host Jerome McDonnell interviewed Fairewinds Energy Education board member Arnie Gundersen about the future of nuclear energy as US electric users look to cut back on carbon emissions. Arnie spoke with Jerome about looking at nuclear energy through an economic lens. By examining the latest nuclear industry push for mini reactors, Arnie points out that we have a carbon problem right now, not 20 years from now. We need something ready to go now, yet construction and operation of these mini reactors are at least 20 years out before they might be a working solution, at which point carbon emissions will continue to grow. Most importantly, the trillions of dollars spent on this construction of mini reactors would significantly escalate carbon use and use money that could be spent on renewables and conservation initiatives that save energy rather than produce it.
Following the news of the Tesla power battery, The Ecologist writes about the transformation in store for the energy market noting that this battery signifies an end to fossil fuels and nuclear energy reliance. Citing Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen, The Ecologist explains that Tesla’s selling price to customers equates to approximately 2 cents per kilowatt-hour. Currently grid prices average 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.
In an article titled, “Tesla 'R' Us: more solar firms partner with the Powerwall”, PV Magazine discusses the exciting bundling of services and products happening between solar companies and Tesla since Tesla’s latest announcement of their breakthrough battery storage. Worldwide, companies are jumping at the opportunity to integrate the Tesla Powerwall home battery into their services and provide smart decentralized power and storage systems. The article mentions Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen whose timely announcement of Tesla’s newest invention exposes the nuclear industry’s claim that nuclear power is the best-fit replacement for fossil fuels as the ultimate “marketing ploy.”
Reinventing Fire by Amory Lovins & the Rocky Mountain Institute
In his book Reinventing Fire Amory Lovins, a Friend of Fairewinds Energy Education, shows how business -motivated by profit, supported by civil society, and sped by smart policy- can get the US completely off oil, coal, and nuclear by 2050. Lovins reveals pre-existing market based solutions in transportation, building, industry, and electricity that don’t rely on energy from fossil fuels or nuclear and yet save industry trillions of dollars. Former President Bill Clinton hails Reinventing Fire as, “A wise, detailed, and comprehensive blue print.”
With the debut of Tesla’s Powerwall battery, Lovins’ book is more relevant than ever.
Scientific American journalist David Biello examines why fast reactors are not the solution to plutonium waste problems, the highly radioactive element that accounts for the bulk of long term damage caused by nuclear weapons that remains radioactive for thousands of years and is found in the residue of spent nuclear fuel. Fast reactors get their name from faster initiated fission than conventional reactors, this faster rate of fission reacts better with the worst elements in nuclear waste like plutonium for a very loose form of what the nuclear industry would consider cleanup. The major problems that have consistently accompanied fast reactors is related to what's used to cool them—liquid sodium, an element found in table salt but has some seriously dangerous, explosive reactions with water, and air. Safety controls on fast reactors are extremely complicated and expensive and numerous fires from leaking systems, operating sodium-cooled fast reactors to date have been shut down more than they have run. "You can't take the top off and look down in the reactor and correct any problems," physicist Thomas Cochran of the Natural Resources Defense Council notes. "You have heroic maintenance issues any time you need to go into the reactor."
This may be why these fast reactors have been designed on a smaller scale, but even that effort doesn’t appear to have resolved the main issue of fast reactors constantly being at risk to explosive leaks. In both France and the UK, fast reactors have proved too difficult to run reliably and have been shut down. Not to mention this idea that a fast reactor is the answer to nuclear waste management is false, as journalist Biello points out, “even with a fleet of such fast reactors, nations would nonetheless require an ultimate home for radioactive waste, one reason that a 2010 M.I.T. report on spent nuclear fuel dismissed such fast reactors.”
Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun interviews Yauemon Sato, the ninth-generation chief of a sake brewery operating in the Fukushima Prefecture since 1790 who now runs more than 20 solar power plants through Aizu Denryoku, an energy company Sato founded in 2013 as a reaction to the aftermath of the Fukushima meltdown. Sato refers to the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi as the “caldrons of hell” and with the constant leak of radioactive substances into the ocean and environment, Sato says that the nuclear disaster “continues to recur everyday.”
In the VICE News video of Elon Musk’s debut of the Tesla Powerwall VICE details why this recent Tesla breakthrough is among the most significant recent technological innovations. "Just think of where we're going to be in five years. Think of your first cellphone and think of the one you have now. In a very short amount of time they're basically almost two different devices," Brian Keane, President of SmartPower, a nonprofit-marketing firm that specializes in green energy told VICE News. "It looks like Tesla's cracked the code on battery storage. It's an incredible success story and, quite frankly, we're at the very beginning of it."