Bill Gates says] it doesn’t matter how efficient wind and solar technology become. Neither tech possesses the necessary oomph to “deal with our climate problem … because the climate problem requires more than 90% reduction of CO2 emitted, and no amount of efficiency improvement is enough.” For every one step forward developed nations make in becoming more energy efficient, the billions of energy consumers coming on-line in the developing world will take the globe two steps back — and they’ll use dirtier fuels to do it.
California has ambitious plans to use 33% renewable power by 2020. Right now it’s at about 12% so there is a long way to go. Several huge solar projects are planned for California deserts and when completed their aggregate output will be 4.2 GW or what one big nuclear plant can do. It’s that oomph thing. Wind and solar just don’t have it plus their power is variable, which makes things worse.
Gates is an investor in Terra Power, a startup with a plan to use depleted uranium in nextgen Traveling Wave nuclear reactors that could run for 50 years without refueling and with far less waste.
There are currently 700,000 metric tons of this low-level nuclear leftover product in the United States. Using a TWR, an 8-metric-ton canister of depleted uranium could generate 25 million megawatt-hours of electricity – enough to power 2.5 million U.S. households for one year.
It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that renewable energy on its own simply won’t be able to provide the power we need. Other methods of generating power will be needed too.