GHG emissions: it’s the developing world that needs help

This is not exactly the “elephant in the room”. But certainly worth repeating — the biggest impact advanced economies could have on global warming is by helping China, India, Brazil to convert rapidly and safely from fossil fuels to nuclear. John Newlands commented at BNC:

A combination of factors seems to prevent us from mentioning the elephant in the room, namely that increasing fossil fuel use by China and India must cook the planet. Reasons include
1) we got rich now its their turn
2) selling them coal helps both us and them
3) many retail items are cheaper than ever in real terms
4) their efforts to decarbonise will take a while.

If a combined 2.5 bn people increase their emissions by just 5t CO2 per head that will increase global anthropogenic CO2 nearly 50%. I see no sign that this process will abate voluntarily. For a perspective on China’s emissions growth see BBC.

In a following comment Harry emphasized that China can’t proceed safely without the required quantity of high-skilled nuclear workers. That is obviously one area where the western nuclear powers could lay on a moon-shot effort to assist with training, mentoring and direct contracting of talent. E.g., the US nuclear Navy has its existing training pipeline which, with funding, can be expanded in capacity. And what about the ex-Navy nuclear staffers leaving for non-nuclear jobs every year?

A combination of factors seems to prevent us from mentioning the elephant in the room, namely that increasing fossil fuel use by China…. I see no sign that this process will abate voluntarily

China was exporting steam coal for $22/ton in 2002. The mine-mouth price of Australian coal is quite attractive, by the time if get’s loaded onto a train, then loaded onto a boat, then floated to china, unloaded from the boat and ends up at a Chinese power plant it’s not ‘cheap’ anymore.

The US NRC has 4,000 full time employee’s. The Chinese equivalent had 300 as of March 2010.

http://www.chinausfocus.com/energy-environment/how-safely-will-china-go-nuclear/

in March 2010 the central government allowed NNSA to increase its staff to 1000 within 2-3 years.

The US has a significant advantage in finding the necessary ‘skilled workers’ for the Civilian nuclear industry because we have a ‘nuclear powered navy’ from which to draw trained specialists.

IMHO What is driving Indian and Chinese coal consumption is balancing ‘need it now’ with avoiding building NPP’s without sufficient regulatory oversight. It takes time to expand highly technical organizations. I know I wouldn’t want to live next to a NPP inspected by someone with 90 days of experience.

I recommend the China Focus article linked by Harry. I don’t think we have very detailed knowledge of China’s knowledge/capability nuclear skills gap. I.e., it could be worse than the concerns of Kong and Lampton. We do have evidence of corruption and bad incentives at the local levels. So I’ve been worried for a long time that China could have a nuclear screwup like the 2011 Wenzhou rail disaster, or the even worse 2008 rail crash.