IEEE SPECTRUM, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.: IEEE Spectrum’s editors and writers investigate a dozen of the world’s most promising projects to cut greenhouse gases. We soaked up some of the best thinking on the use of tech to cut carbon emissions. But what did it all suggest collectively? Could these projects, and others like them, make a real difference? Let’s just say that they don’t call them “miracles” for nothing.
Nadine Freischlad, writer for Mongabay Series: In the early 2000s, Kirk Sorensen had begun trying to revive interest in an alternative type of reactor, one that uses the element thorium instead of uranium to start the nuclear reaction, and liquid fuel instead of solid rods to sustain it. He believes thorium could make the next generation of nuclear power plants safer and easier to manage, and provide the world with an abundance of clean, cheap and safe energy. Nuclear had been considered in Indonesia before, but plans never materialized due to safety concerns. After all, Indonesia is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis, a country of thousands of islands draped across the seismic Ring of Fire.
Fritz Vahrenholt, PhD Chemistry, Chairman, German Wildlife Foundations: You have called the German energy transition a "disaster". How so? Fritz Vahrenholt : First of all, after the tsunami in Japan, the German government decided within a weekend to renounce nuclear energy, which until then had created the base load for German industry. Since then, the government wants to replace this secure energy with fluctuating electricity from sun and wind. Everyone knows that this is not sensible.
Vaclav Smil, Czech-Canadian scientist and policy analyst. Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Manitoba in Canada: The age of commercial nuclear electricity generation began on 17 October 1956, when Queen Elizabeth II switched on Calder Hall, on the Cumberland coast of England. Sixty years is long enough to judge the technology, and I still cannot improve on my evaluation from the early 2000s: a “successful failure.” He says that we have to have better technology. The record for nuclear safety and production of electricity exceeds all other forms of generating electricity. For some, nuclear will never be safe or good enough.
Fritz Vahrenholt, PhD Chemistry, Chairman, German Wildlife Foundations: The foundation of the Paris Climate Change Agreement has collapsed. By 2100, whatever we do, we will not exceed the 2 degree limit. What happens to the worldwide use of coal? There is no departure from coal except in Europe and Canada. China and India, according to the Paris Agreement, like all developing countries, massively expand coal-fired power stations. In China, 280,000 MW will be added, in India 174,000 MW. By comparison, the entire brown coal fleet in Germany has a capacity of 22,700 MW. 1600 coal-fired power plants are built in 62 countries worldwide, most of them by Chinese power plant builders and with the help of Chinese loans