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  • Chris Anderson: We're having a debate.

  • The debate is over the proposition

  • What the world needs now

  • is nuclear energy" -- true or false?

  • And before we have the debate,

  • I'd like to actually take a show of hands --

  • on balance, right now, are you for or against this?

  • So those who are "yes," raise your hand. "For."

  • Okay, hands down.

  • Those who are "against," raise your hands.

  • Okay, I'm reading that at about

  • 75-25 in favor at the start.

  • Which means we're going to take a vote at the end

  • and see how that shifts, if at all.

  • So here's the format: They're going to have six minutes each,

  • and then after one little, quick exchange between them,

  • I want two people on each side of this debate in the audience

  • to have 30 seconds

  • to make one short, crisp, pungent, powerful point.

  • So, in favor of the proposition, possibly shockingly,

  • is one of, truly, the founders of the

  • environmental movement,

  • a long-standing TEDster, the founder of the Whole Earth Catalog,

  • someone we all know and love, Stewart Brand.

  • Stewart Brand: Whoa.

  • (Applause)

  • The saying is that with climate, those who know the most

  • are the most worried.

  • With nuclear, those who know the most

  • are the least worried.

  • A classic example is James Hansen,

  • a NASA climatologist

  • pushing for 350 parts per million

  • carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

  • He came out with a wonderful book recently

  • Storms of My Grandchildrencalled "Storms of My Grandchildren."

  • And Hansen is hard over for nuclear power,

  • as are most climatologists

  • who are engaging this issue seriously.

  • This is the design situation:

  • a planet that is facing climate change

  • and is now half urban.

  • Look at the client base for this.

  • Five out of six of us

  • live in the developing world.

  • We are moving to cities. We are moving up in the world.

  • And we are educating our kids,

  • having fewer kids,

  • basically good news all around.

  • But we move to cities, toward the bright lights,

  • and one of the things that is there that we want, besides jobs,

  • is electricity.

  • And if it isn't easily gotten, we'll go ahead and steal it.

  • This is one of the most desired things

  • by poor people all over the world,

  • in the cities and in the countryside.

  • Electricity for cities, at its best,

  • is what's called baseload electricity.

  • That's where it is on

  • all the time.

  • And so far there are only three major sources of that --

  • coal and gas, hydro-electric,

  • which in most places is maxed-out --

  • and nuclear.

  • I would love to have something in the fourth place here,

  • but in terms of constant, clean,

  • scalable energy,

  • solar and wind and the other renewables

  • aren't there yet because they're inconstant.

  • Nuclear is and has been for 40 years.

  • Now, from an environmental standpoint,

  • the main thing you want to look at

  • is what happens to the waste from nuclear and from coal,

  • the two major sources of electricity.

  • If all of your electricity in your lifetime came from nuclear,

  • the waste from that lifetime of electricity

  • would go in a Coke can --

  • a pretty heavy Coke can, about two pounds.

  • But one day of coal

  • adds up to one hell of a lot

  • of carbon dioxide

  • in a normal one-gigawatt coal-fired plant.

  • Then what happens to the waste?

  • The nuclear waste typically goes into

  • a dry cask storage

  • out back of the parking lot at the reactor site

  • because most places don't have underground storage yet.

  • It's just as well, because it can stay where it is.

  • While the carbon dioxide,

  • vast quantities of it, gigatons,

  • goes into the atmosphere

  • where we can't get it back, yet,

  • and where it is causing the problems that we're most concerned about.

  • So when you add up the greenhouse gases

  • in the lifetime of these various energy sources,

  • nuclear is down there with wind and hydro,

  • below solar and way below, obviously, all the fossil fuels.

  • Wind is wonderful; I love wind.

  • I love being around these

  • big wind generators.

  • But one of the things we're discovering is that

  • wind, like solar, is an actually relatively

  • dilute source of energy.

  • And so it takes a very large footprint on the land,

  • a very large footprint in terms of materials,

  • five to 10 times what you'd use for nuclear,

  • and typically to get one gigawatt of electricity

  • is on the order of 250 sq. mi.

  • of wind farm.

  • In places like Denmark and Germany,

  • they've maxed out on wind already.

  • They've run out of good sites.

  • The power lines are getting overloaded.

  • And you peak out.

  • Likewise, with solar,

  • especially here in California,

  • we're discovering that the 80 solar farm

  • schemes that are going forward

  • want to basically bulldoze

  • 1,000 sq. mi. of southern California desert.

  • Well, as an environmentalist, we would rather that didn't happen.

  • It's okay on frapped-out agricultural land.

  • Solar's wonderful on rooftops.

  • But out in the landscape,

  • one gigawatt is on the order of 50 sq. mi.

  • of bulldozed desert.

  • When you add all these things up --

  • Saul Griffith did the numbers and figured out

  • what it would take

  • to get 13 clean

  • terawatts of energy

  • from wind, solar and biofuels,

  • and that area would be roughly the size the United States,

  • an area he refers to as "Renewistan."

  • A guy who's added all this up very well is David Mackay,

  • a physicist in England,

  • and in his wonderful book, "Sustainable Energy," among other things,

  • he says, "I'm not trying to be pro-nuclear. I'm just pro-arithmetic."

  • (Laughter)

  • In terms of weapons,

  • the best disarmament tool so far is nuclear energy.

  • We have been taking down

  • the Russian warheads,

  • turning it into electricity.

  • 10 percent of American electricity

  • comes from decommissioned warheads.

  • We haven't even started the American stockpile.

  • I think of most interest to a TED audience

  • would be the new generation of reactors

  • that are very small,

  • down around 10

  • to 125 megawatts.

  • This is one from Toshiba.

  • Here's one that the Russians are already building that floats on a barge.

  • And that would be very interesting in the developing world.

  • Typically, these things are put in the ground.

  • They're referred to as nuclear batteries.

  • They're incredibly safe,

  • weapons proliferation-proof and all the rest of it.

  • Here is a commercial version from New Mexico

  • called the Hyperion,

  • and another one from Oregon called NuScale.

  • Babcock & Wilcox that make nuclear reactors ...

  • here's an integral fast reactor.

  • Thorium reactor that Nathan Myhrvold's involved in.

  • The governments of the world are going to have to decide

  • that coal needs to be made expensive, and these will go ahead.

  • And here's the future.

  • (Applause)

  • CA: Okay. Okay.

  • (Applause)

  • So arguing against,

  • a man who's been at the nitty-gritty heart

  • of the energy debate and the climate change debate for years.

  • In 2000, he discovered that soot

  • was probably the second leading cause of global warming, after CO2.

  • His team have been making detailed calculations

  • of the relative impacts

  • of different energy sources.

  • His first time at TED, possibly a disadvantage -- we shall see --

  • from Stanford,

  • Professor Mark Jacobson. Good luck.

  • Mark Jacobson: Thank you.

  • (Applause)

  • So my premise here is that nuclear energy

  • puts out more carbon dioxide,

  • puts out more air pollutants,

  • enhances mortality more and takes longer to put up

  • than real renewable energy systems,

  • namely wind, solar,

  • geothermal power, hydro-tidal wave power.

  • And it also enhances nuclear weapons proliferation.

  • So let's just start by looking at the

  • CO2 emissions from the life cycle.

  • CO2e emissions are equivalent emissions

  • of all the greenhouse gases and particles

  • that cause warming,

  • and converted to CO2.

  • And if you look, wind and concentrated solar

  • have the lowest CO2 emissions, if you look at the graph.

  • Nuclear -- there are two bars here.

  • One is a low estimate, and one is a high estimate.

  • The low estimate is the nuclear energy industry

  • estimate of nuclear.

  • The high is the average of 103

  • scientific, peer-reviewed studies.

  • And this is just the

  • CO2 from the life cycle.

  • If we look at the delays,

  • it takes between 10 and 19 years

  • to put up a nuclear power plant

  • from planning to operation.

  • This includes about three and a half to six years

  • for a site permit.

  • and another two and a half to four years

  • for a construction permit and issue,

  • and then four to nine years for actual construction.

  • And in China, right now,

  • they're putting up five gigawatts of nuclear.

  • And the average, just for the construction time of these,

  • is 7.1 years

  • on top of any planning times.

  • While you're waiting around for your nuclear,

  • you have to run the regular electric power grid,

  • which is mostly coal in the United States and around the world.

  • And the chart here shows the difference between

  • the emissions from the regular grid,

  • resulting if you use nuclear, or anything else,

  • versus wind, CSP or photovoltaics.

  • Wind takes about two to five years on average,

  • same as concentrated solar and photovoltaics.

  • So the difference is the opportunity cost

  • of using nuclear versus wind, or something else.

  • So if you add these two together, alone,

  • you can see a separation

  • that nuclear puts out at least nine to 17 times

  • more CO2 equivalent emissions than wind energy.

  • And this doesn't even account

  • for the footprint on the ground.

  • If you look at the air pollution health effects,

  • this is the number of deaths per year in 2020

  • just from vehicle exhaust.

  • Let's say we converted all the vehicles in the United States

  • to battery electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles

  • or flex fuel vehicles run on E85.

  • Well, right now in the United States,

  • 50 to 100,000 people die per year from air pollution,

  • and vehicles are about 25,000 of those.

  • In 2020, the number will go down to 15,000

  • due to improvements.

  • And so, on the right, you see gasoline emissions,

  • the death rates of 2020.

  • If you go to corn or cellulosic ethanol,

  • you'd actually increase the death rate slightly.

  • If you go to nuclear,

  • you do get a big reduction,

  • but it's not as much as with wind and/or concentrated solar.

  • Now if you consider the fact

  • that nuclear weapons proliferation

  • is associated with nuclear energy