Stephanie SonnabendApril 15, 2021
Sudeb Dalai (follow-up)February 26, 2021
Amrita Saigal and Arun SaigalJanuary 26, 2021
Sun YooNovember 25, 2020
A Global Strategy to Advance Democracy in Hard TimesFor the past decade and a half, the world has been mired in a democratic recession, with more and more democracies decaying and breaking down. The problem has been made much worse by the growing polarization and dysfunction of American democracy. Many people say that the U.S. must fix its own problems first before it can promote democracy abroad. But people struggling to win or defend their freedom can’t afford to wait until the U.S. heals itself politically.
Republicans and Democrats agree on the need to counter China’s malign, corrupting, and coercive influence activities around the world (and they mainly agree on the need to counter Russia’s malign behavior, too.) There is also broad agreement on the value of supporting democratic media, parties, and civil society around the world. What is needed is a bold and integrated strategy to turn back the authoritarian tide, and that strategy must be built around a core strategic insight: The combined military and geopolitical power and resolve of the U.S. and its democratic allies have been and will remain critical to the fate of freedom in the world. This talk lays out a grand strategy for advancing global democracy.
Climate Change: Opportunities & RisksClimate change discussions are often full of complexity and uncertainty. Taking a different approach, Dr. Emanuel will focus his presentation on the opportunities that our adaptation to climate change creates. Dr. Emanuel will begin his presentation with a broad overview of climate science, including the history of the science itself, and what we have learned about the natural variation in Earth’s climate system through analysis of paleoclimate data, the instrumental record and, most importantly, the fundamental physics, chemistry, and biology underlying it.
He will discuss projections of future climates, made using both simple and complex models, with an emphasis on sources of uncertainty together with an assessment of whether and to what extent the level of uncertainty can be reduced.
Toward the end of the talk, he will frame the problem of global warming as a problem of risk assessment and resiliency management, including the difficulties in dealing with low probability but very high impact events, and will describe various technical and policy options for dealing with climate change. These include important and exciting opportunities in carbon-free energy sources and addressing issues of anti-resiliency that influence rapid and effective mitigation efforts.
The Future of Nuclear Energy: Have we entered a new era?Are Climate Change, War in Ukraine, Inflation, and Fossil Fuel Supply Shortages Driving a Resurgence in Nuclear Energy?
With the Russian cutoff of natural gas to Europe and the trends toward de-globalization and supply chain security, the issue of energy security has risen to the top of national agendas throughout the world. California’s legislature and governor have approved a 5 year extension of the state’s last nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon, which generates 8% of the state’s energy. Japan’s prime minister has called for re-starting its nuclear plants and for a broader policy shift toward nuclear. Germany is postponing the closure of two of its remaining nuclear plants, suggesting perhaps a second Energiewende (completing a U-turn?). France is considering up to 14 new reactors. China has 21 nuclear plants under construction. In the US, the Inflation Reduction Act provides subsidies for existing and advanced nuclear reactors. Many other countries are planning new reactors, too. These moves indicate a growing consensus that the world economy needs every megawatt of nuclear energy available.
Nearly every model of global energy demand points to the important role nuclear power must play to reduce carbon emissions. By how much can nuclear power reduce the world’s carbon emissions? Or, can renewables do it all?
“It is not a choice between the two. #solar will grow as fast as it physically can and won’t be 100%. Same with #wind, #geothermal, #hydro, #BiomassCCS, #efficiency, etc. You still have a huge political/resiliency hole that #nuclear has to fill. Every model shows it. #cleanfirm” — Jigar Shah (@JigarShahDC) August 27, 2022
The International Energy Agency projects that a doubling of the world’s nuclear output is required by 2050 to reach net zero energy.
The nuclear industry has a history of missing schedule and budget. Advocates of small modular reactors say they will be easier to build than larger ones. In the US, TerraPower and X-Energy have been chosen by the DOE to build small reactors based on new technology. China and Russia are building smaller reactors. More than $1.2 B of venture funding has gone into new fission technology in the past year. Is smaller, cheaper, faster the answer?
MIT Professor Jacopo Buongiorno, a world-wide leader in the nuclear industry, will discuss the latest developments in new technology, the changes in the market, needed policy support, opportunities for public education, new workforce requirements, career opportunities and other key issues.
Repurpose Diablo Canyon for Economical Water & Energy?Can California Repurpose Diablo Canyon
to provide both Giga-scale Drinking Water and Clean Energy?
California is in the midst of the second multiyear drought in 8 years, with drinking water conservation calls ranging from 10% to 32% across the state. California’s water supply depends on winter precipitation that is the most variable in the nation. Further, the State’s continuing investment in water supply, storage and conveyance comes at significant cost to the ecosystem, with frequent tradeoffs and delays to address environmental concerns.
Thus, there is great interest in wholly new water sources such as recycled water and desalination; however, these are typically expensive as well as capital & energy intensive. What if California could build a billion gallon per day desalination plant?
MIT faculty members John Lienhard, Jacopo Buongiorno, and John Parsons, working with the Stanford Precourt Energy Institute, have developed an innovative proposal to generate significant quantities of desalinated water as well as zero carbon electricity and green transportation fuel. By repurposing the existing Diablo Canyon Nuclear facility, they found that the nuclear plant plus a new giga-scale desalination plant could simultaneously help to stabilize the State’s electric grid with carbon-free electricity and provide desalinated water to supplement the State’s chronic water shortages at a scale potentially comparable to the largest reservoir projects.
The proposal consists of three parts:
- Build a large scale modular desalinated water facility, using existing RO technology, adjacent to Diablo Canyon that shares its large-scale water facilities and capitalizes on low-cost electricity from the nuclear plant,
- Continue to use Diablo Canyon to provide dispatchable carbon-free power to the grid to complement the State’s large renewable electric supply, while simultaneously addressing environmental concerns regarding seawater intake and heat discharge,
- Build a hydrogen fuel manufacturing facility adjacent to Diablo Canyon to generate green hydrogen fuel to further decarbonize the transportation industry in the State.
The professors will discuss the technical and economic feasibility of this design, how it can reduce carbon emissions vs. the current trajectory for how we balance renewable energy, and how it can provide new, economical drought-proof water to the State on a scale not considered possible heretofore.