Joe Lassiter's bio page describes him as a deep thinker and straight shooter. He starts his TED Talk, We need nuclear power to solve climate change, with frank statements: Last night one billion people went to bed without access to electricity. Two and a half billion people need access to clean cooking and heating fuels.
Every country makes its own energy choices, influenced by climate, development path and access to light and natural resources. Lassiter discusses the situations face by China and India and their reliance on coal. He says that rich countries get to choose their path but poor countries don't have that same luxury.
Between eight hundred and sixteen hundred coal plants are being built between now and 2040. Lassiter cites Vinod Kosla's Chindia Test: moving China and India off of fossil fuels would require an energy that is viable, accepted by the people of China and India, able to scale up to billions of users, and the energy had to be secure and sustainable. Since the Kyoto Protocol we have not yet developed the energy that will pass this test.
The only solutions that Joe sees to this depressing future state is scaled solar energy or next generation nuclear plants. He says that new nuclear could be ready for demonstrations by 2025 and scaled up by 2030. Outdated regulations and yesterday's mindsets are holding back new generations of nuclear reactors. These plants are estimating power at five cents per kilowatt hour and 100 gigawatts per year of production.
This speech filmed in June ends abruptly after heavy depressing facts and not much in the way of solution details. Fortunately Lassiter has been giving interviews and communicating his ideas in recent years. Martingale in Tavernier Florida, Transatomic Power in Cambridge Massachussetts, and Terrapower in Bellevue Washington are the three organizations that have been cited in other articles and seminars as leaders of this new nuclear movement. New plants are expected to run on uranium and radioactive waste. Energy solutions are usually controversial and a reinvented generation of nuclear power plants is no different. These developing reactors will definitely be interesting to watch in the next few years as engineers worldwide continue to work on energy challenges.
(Images courtesy TED.com and Spanginator)