Nuclear: An Introduction

Nuclear energy is pretty amazing, in the sense that it inspires awe. It is, quite literally, alchemy - we just don't bother to make gold much (and, ironically, it's much simpler to make gold into lead, rather than the reverse).

I'm going to avoid a scientific discussion of what goes on in an atomic reactor for now, mostly because it's beside the point - let it be noted, though, that from an objective stand-point it's pretty cool.

Instead, I'm going to focus on how nuclear power forms a stabilization wedge, whether it's feasible, and what the costs and benefits of doing so would be.

In the process, we'll touch on France (who has invested in a lot of nuclear plants), how North Korea and Iran complicate a nuclear stabilization wedge, whether reactors could be better, and just what in the world we do with all that dumb waste, anyway. Along the way, we might find out why environmentalists are so divided over nuclear power - it seems like people either think we should build as many as possible or dismantle every one of the ones we have.

To start, to get a single stabilization wedge, we'd need to double current nuclear power generation by swapping reactors in for 700 GW worth of coal-burning plants. That would mean building 14 new plants a year for the next 40 years, in addition to replacing about 7 older plants a year.

To date, we haven't built a single nuclear reactor in over two decades.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again - stabilization wedges are tough work.

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