The New Energy Equation

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The pandemic changed our perception of many things – including time. More specifically – what’s possible in a short time frame. Fast change became a necessity instead of an empty phrase. To most if not all of us. And just about everybody learned a lesson or two. 

One of those lessons, maybe the most important one, was that ‘impossible’ expires fast. Like – in January 2020 most considered working from home impossible. In March it was the new normal. Digesting many such experiences changed us. We – again, many of us – became less rigid, more open to consider yesterday’s impossibilities again. 

A new attitude, and a reminder that not only is necessity (still) the mother of invention, it’s also a ‘pusher’ for fast change. And that it more often than not takes a crisis to create that necessity, to remove political, institutional, emotional and other more or less perceived obstacles.

The pandemic was – and is – a crisis, one that we’re slowly learning to live with. Whether we’re handling it is a different story – if you’re interested in the real picture, read Eric Topol’s newsletter (look up his GroundTruths on Substack). The war in Europe is another crisis with countless worldwide consequences, one of them being energy shortage. Exacerbated by climate challenges, the energy situation will only get worse towards winter, triggering a big ‘what do we do now’ question all over the west. And suddenly, the nuclear option is back on the table.

When I wrote about the nuclear option a year and a half ago, listing the objective facts that make it more attractive than any other energy source by orders of magnitude – even from a climate perspective, I got a categorical thumbs down from many readers, one of whom wrote ‘I completely agree with you, but forget it, the fear of nuclear disaster, the negative attitude cannot be beaten’.

18 months is a long time when crises loom. A couple of months into the Ukrainian war, the attitude started to change. The news about Finland opening a new nuclear plant and having several under construction made headlines all over. A year earlier it would have been invisible. In the past few weeks, Sweden, Germany and the US have openly discussed reopening closed plants and postponing planned closures. France, the apparent laggard in the climate/security-motivated exodus from nuclear power, is suddenly the leader in a positive way, intensifying maintenance and expansion. All because it’s possible – and necessary.

Reality beats principles. Reality is that we have an energy crisis on our hands. And that nuclear is ‘better’ than any available alternative by just about any metric. Much safer and much more efficient than only 20 years ago, even faster to build. As evidenced by the new nuclear alternatives – from Rolls Royce in the UK; which has been around for a couple of years, and from a more recent source in the US – New Atlas. Small, efficient, fast to build, safe – and more.

This is good news – and there is more, as I’m discussing in this week’s post on Mars is closer, survival is not… Which may sound gloomy, but is the opposite: Survival is a choice. So is extinction. Really easy, right?

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