The Chicken (A) and the Egg (B): Why Nuclear Power and Electric Cars Need Each Other

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Here’s (A). And here’s (B).

The power grids of this country are already stretched thin—so thin, in fact, that failures of the grid in one place can cause massive effects in other, seemingly unconnected places. Relatively recent events are evidence of the veracity of that statement. So when an inventor proposes a grid-powered electric car without an appropriate increase in the robustness of the nation’s power grid, it should come as no surprise that anybody who understands this country’s power distribution systems meets the proposal with derision.

If, as proponents state, the plug-in electric car will solve a considerable amount of our country’s oil and pollution problems, then we need to beef up the power grid and generation capacity of our country. The problem is that with an environment-first political culture prevalent for at least the next four years in this country, there’s no way that distribution capacity (let alone large-scale generation capacity) is going to keep pace with the requirements of a purely-electric fleet of automobiles on America’s road. And while cars such as the Prius are pretty good at decreasing fuel consumption, they’re still not quite what Shai Agassi, the proponent of the all-electric fleet, has in mind. Furthermore, at best, “…up to 20 percent of the U.S. vehicle fleet could be switched over to plug-in hybrids without overtaxing the existing grid.” (Goodell, Environment360.yale.edu, 2008-09-25.)

…But what about the other 80%? Well, they’re going to still suck oil, or conversion will require an upgrade to the grid. And neither option is attractive.

Meanwhile, a company proposes putting nuclear stations in third-world villages. Why, as their home page shows, are they proposing to put generation capacity in countries where thatch-roof huts are the prevalent form of housing? Because Americans are too stupid to recognize that the benefits of nuclear energy far outweigh the minimal risks, so not in my back yard, thanks. All we can picture are Chernobyl and Three-Mile Island, when these bureaucracy-induced disasters are not anywhere close to reality as demonstrated flawlessly in, for example, France.

I’ve long been a proponent of the concept that Hyperion is touting. But without a “killer app,” (no pun intended, of course) there simply won’t be enough push from anybody to get the regulators to approve their generation scheme for use in the US.

And here’s where these two initiatives are perfect for each other. For Agassi, Hyperion is the solution to the power problem. And for Hyperion, Agassi’s cars are the killer app. And with the kind of capital that both have raised, there’s quite a good chance that lawmakers in the US may be influenced appropriately to see that the two can work together to decrease our gigantic environmental footprint. Furthermore, by working with that capital, we could even try to educate the public—teach, not shove down our throats, of course—the differences between Hyperion and everything else on the planet. If you consider the buzz that the Prius generated, it’s entirely possible that the public might even get excited about this kind of partnership.

Imagine that: lawmakers working for the good of the environment, people excited about saving the environment, less waste, lower bills of all sorts, and self-reliant energy generation. It’s a no-brainer.

So, as I’ve said before, I’ll say again: Let’s go nuclear!

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