Nuclear for 1.5°C

Hope and Fantasy in Equal Measure

Last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a major report on pathways to limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. The report is mostly a modelling exercise, as the 1.5° target is significantly more ambitious than most analysts consider feasible. The Paris Agreement formalized an international commitment to limiting warming to 2°, and even achieving that target may prove impossible. Nonetheless, IPCC reports deserve at least some attention, as they reflect the international scientific consensus around climate change.

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Deregulation and Decarbonization

Exploring the Evidence

Hopes were high when American electricity market deregulation began in the 1990s. By breaking up traditional utility monopolies on generation, transmission, and distribution, reformers hoped to create competitive markets that would increase dynamism while lowering costs. But despite the big promises of electricity deregulation, it appears to have had little obvious impact on innovation or prices.

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RIP Transatomic Power

Long Live the Advanced Nuclear Industry

Innovation is a messy business. With the benefit of hindsight, successful innovators are visionary seers while those who fail are tragically flawed: myopic, delusional, or incompetent, victims of forces they never saw coming or intractable problems they should have anticipated.

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Progress (Or Not) in Global Emissions

Decarbonization Stagnation by Sector

We talk a lot about decarbonization in the electric power sector, possibly because there are so many solutions on the table: nuclear reactors, renewable energy, carbon capture, and on and on. But electricity is only about one-fifth of global final energy consumption, and decarbonization outside the power sector is pretty disappointing. If we want to really tackle the emissions challenge, we’ll need innovation and deployment of technological options far beyond zero-carbon power generation.

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Toward a Half-Earth Future

How Agricultural Intensification Can Minimize Conservation Trade-offs

Over the last several years, a growing network of conservationists, through efforts like the Nature Needs Half network, has proposed an audacious goal for 21st century conservation: set aside half of the earth’s land area for nature. As an aspirational goal, the concept has inspired. Rather than framing global conservation as an exercise in damage control, the new effort offers a vision of an ecologically vibrant future in which people and nature thrive together.

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Beyond Yucca Mountain

Innovative Solutions to Nuclear Waste Management

Most nuclear advocates, often including us here at Breakthrough, tend to dismiss the issue of nuclear waste, noting that “you could fit all of the nuclear waste in the US on a football field at a depth of less than ten yards.” But that answer is insufficient: just visualizing the amount of waste won't make the political and technical challenges of managing nuclear waste (or “spent fuel”) go away.

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BP’s Annual Energy Rorschach Test

Progress and Disappointment in Global Energy Transition

It’s finally summer, and energy wonks know what that means: the annual release of energy data from BP. While the data can be extremely useful for all manner of analysis and modeling, it also serves as tea leaves, allowing people to proclaim the truth of their preferred narrative, clearly reflected in the mess of data.

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Breakthrough Welcomes 2018 Fellows

Scholars Join the Breakthrough Institute for the Summer

Each summer, the Breakthrough Institute welcomes a new class of Breakthrough Generation fellows to join our research team for 10 weeks. Generation fellows work to advance the ecomodern project, by deepening our understanding in the fields of energy, environment, technology, and human development. 

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