Listen to Software Vendors; Nuclear energy Is "Inhuman"?

Jan. 8, 2010
Are You Listening, Software Vendors? Béla Lipták's Replies to a Letter that Questioned If the Pursuit of Nuclear Energy Was "Inhuman"

Are You Listening, Software Vendors?

Here is something for you to investigate (or prod) the software people on (especially Microsoft).

One of the issues in cybersecurity is keeping the security updates up to date in our control networks. Emerson makes it easy to get them by testing them on each of the versions of the software for its DeltaV system. This is helpful, but there is still a big hurdle left to clear: Many updates require a computer restart. At the same time, many if not most systems in the process industries run 24/7, and there are machines in the control network that can't be shut down.

I understand the technical reason why some updates require a reboot. However, if it's is really important to get these security updates, we need a solution to this problem of how to load these updates without rebooting the machine. This is not a trivial problem, but I believe it is solvable.

Kent E Mitchell
[email protected]

Solar and Wind vs. Nuclear

I was dismayed to read Béla Lipták's reply to a letter in your October 2009 edition of Control magazine, in which the writer questioned if the pursuit of nuclear energy was "inhuman."

Mr. Lipták's reply was inappropriate and extremist. His remarks disqualify him as an impartial voice on the future of nuclear energy, and discredit his recent articles on the subject. Further, they trivialize the truly inhuman acts of history. It's one thing to debate its merits in a rational, scientific way, and quite another to resort to fearmongering. 

Industrial economies have evolved from energy sources of lesser energy density to greater (solar to wind to wood to water to coal to petroleum to nuclear fission) for the obvious reason that the potential labor and capital cost per unit of energy produced will be driven downward. A fuel is potentially more affordable if its energy density is greater. 

Perfecting fast breeder reactors will yield nearly limitless nuclear fuel reserves. Pursuing investment in pre-industrial solar and wind technologies isn't worth it.

We need to develop a nuclear energy culture, so that R&D in high-temperature physics will lead to the breakthroughs needed for affordable production of hydrogen, electricity and mineral reduction.

In 1,000 years, what historians will be wondering is why the world squandered resources on the folly of wind and solar in the 21st century, while nuclear fission, commercially available for power generation since 1960, was temporarily forsaken.

Al Rogers, PE
[email protected]

Béla Lipták responds:

Facts are stubborn. It's a fact that Uranium 235 is exhaustible; that inexhaustible breeder reactors operate with fuel that is directly usable to build "dirty" nuclear bombs; and that there isn't one permanent storage facility for high-concentration nuclear waste anywhere in the world. It's also a fact that 5% of the Sahara can meet the total energy needs of mankind, if we use the inexhaustible and free energy source of the sun—energy that can be safely stored and transported in hydrogen.

I also believe that each of my 1,000 MW solar-hydrogen power plants will have the same positive impact on global warming as would planting 10,000 acres of rain forests, while costing less than building the same-sized nuclear or "clean fossil" power plant. It is also a fact that what I believe matters little! On the other hand, the facts obtained by building my solar-hydrogen demonstration plant will matter a lot because they will close these debates, and thereby will end the age of mankind's experimentation with exhaustible and unsafe energy sources.
 For an extended version of this dialog, go to   

Today, we still live in the "Energy Middle Age" and the financial interest of fossil and nuclear energy corporations is to keep us there, to maintain the status quo. This means the continued wasting of our resources on delaying the inevitable, spending trillions on energy wars, on building more nuclear reactors, on deep sea drilling, on oil recovery from shale/sand and on carbon sequestration. Yet, just as the Middle ages, this "Energy Dark Age" will also be followed by a Renaissance of an inexhaustible, free and clean energy economy. If not, humankind might just follow the dinosaurs.

Béla Lipták

PS: For my detailed design of the world's first solar-hydrogen power plant, see my book titled "Post Oil Energy Technology".