Numbers, not adjectives (thank you, professor MacKay!)

This website has been inspired by David MacKay’s wonderful book ‘Sustainable energy without the hot air’. The late British energy professor urged us urged us to do the math. MacKay claimed that the only ethical demand he made for energy plans was: make a plan that adds up. And do your own calculations, so that you may understand.

Making one’s own rough calculations is the basic strategy to understanding. On these pages, we will use this approach to assess some often heard notions on nuclear power. Especially important is to what degree can nuclear energy be called sustainable. The sustainability of nuclear energy is often questioned by stating ‘we don’t have enough uranium’, or ‘we only have uranium for xxx years’.

As we will see, this very much depends on one’s assumptions. So it helps to clearly state one’s assumptions, and the sources they are based on. In the case of nuclear, it not only matters what geological data underlies the assumptions concerning the abundance of key materials. It also matters what kind of reactors one assumes to be available for transforming the materials into energy.

The very process of making these rough calculations, is a powerfull way to check your thinking and reasoning. In my experience, finding the basic information you need can be tedious and time consuming. Checking sources is hard work. And you don’t even have to do THAT much calculations before start seeing how easily information gets flawed.

Once you have sources, and once you have discovered how to turn these into usable units, it’s time for the fun part: making the calculations. So far, I’ve made the following ‘numbers’ pages:
– Let’s produce a GWye!
– 1 tonne = 1 GWey
– How much uranium and/or thorium do we need per year?
– How long will our supplies of thorium and uranium last?
How big is that thorium ball?