Forbes Flips

Reposted from Fairewinds Energy Education.



In case you missed the bulletin, on May Day, the financial world just tipped a bit on its axis toward clean energy.

Forbes, that bastion of conventional wisdom on Wall Street broke with its tradition of support for nuclear energy when Jeff McMahon posed the following question in a bold headline:

“Did Tesla Just Kill Nuclear Power?”

The gist of the story is that, at a divestiture debate held at Northwestern University in Chicago last Thursday, “famed nuclear critic” (McMahon’s characterization, not mine) Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer of Fairewinds Energy Education, stopped Argonne Laboratories director Jordi Roglans-Ribas dead in his tracks when he based his case for nuclear energy on that tired old saw with which we are all so familiar:

Roglans-Ribas had just finished arguing that any future free of fossil fuels would need nuclear power, which provides carbon-free energy 24 hours a day, supplying the reliability lacking in renewables like solar and wind.

Gundersen called that claim a “marketing ploy.”

“We all know that the wind doesn’t blow consistently and the sun doesn’t shine every day,” he said, “but the nuclear industry would have you believe that humankind is smart enough to develop techniques to store nuclear waste for a quarter of a million years, but at the same time human kind is so dumb we can’t figure out a way to store solar electricity overnight. To me that doesn’t make sense.”

I love it.

…And Arnie had the inside story to back-up his position.  He broke the news to the assembly of earnest young minds that, at about 10:00 that same evening, they could expect an historic announcement from entrepreneur, Elon Musk of Tesla Motors, that an industrial scale storage battery was about to enter the market, ushering in an era in which the cost of energy storage (and therefore truly clean alternatives) would ultimately be driven down to rock bottom.

And so it was.  The details are laid out in Tesla’s own site, but Arnie summed up its implications for nuclear:

“So the nuclear argument that they’re the only 24-7 source is off the table now because  Elon Musk has convinced me that industrial scale storage is in fact possible, and it’s here.”

It’s just a matter of time before the cost of energy storage drops as precipitously as has the cost of computer memory over recent years.

That’s the top line news, but here’s where we dive into a little speculation…something with which investors are not unfamiliar.

Overnight, nuclear has been transformed for the ‘smart money” from a prince to a toad.  

This could well be one of those infamous “tipping points” about which Malcolm Gladwell wrote; the signature moment when Wall Street finally gets off the nuclear merry-go-round and on with the move to clean renewables.

Maintaining that nuclear is a clean sustainable option is like having closets and an attic filled to the rafters with trash while you keep the front room clean for guests and simply pray that the whole place doesn’t collapse over your head.

It’s a losing bet.

At last, Wall Street, that Supreme High Roller of Loaded Dice, seems to be coming around to recognizing that it isn’t even worthy of the gamble

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

2 thoughts on “Forbes Flips

  1. Let me preface this by saying that I think that our grandchildren will look back at us and decide that digging up radioactive materials and processing them to lethal concentrations was the stupidest thing humans ever did. I’m already of that belief.

    Still, the Tesla battery is not our savior. It’s a somewhat less expensive lithium chemistry battery in a designer package. I can buy lithium batteries of that scale for about $550 a kWh. The Tesla battery is more like $350 a kWh. That’s a good thing in itself.

    However, it delivers DC electricity at 400 volts. There is nothing in your house that runs on 400 volts DC and there are no battery based inverters (DC to AC converters) on the market that run on that voltage. There is one manufacturer that says one of its inverters could do it with a firmware tweak.

    Also, it can deliver 2,000 watts maximum on a continuous basis. That’s slightly more than one standard wall outlet. Even if you can find a 400VDC inverter, you won’t be running your whole house on one Tesla battery. The battery stores 7 kWh of electricity, but an average American home uses three times that in a day. Your average homeowner wouldn’t get set up for $3500.

    Nuclear will eventually fail because nobody can do it “right” and still make money. The Tesla battery is an evolutionary development, but not a turning point.

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