About half a year ago I wrote “The collapse of the They/Them empire“, where I explained that feminized Western elites behave like a clique of high school girls, who live under the mistaken impression that physical reality doesn’t matter and only control over the diffusion of information does. Banning Russia from SWIFT was part of an attempt to deal with Russia the way they would deal with Alex Jones: “You’re not allowed to use our platforms anymore!”
It’s the fundamental lack of respect for the limitations of physical reality, that’s going to be our deathbed. Right now, there are essentially two schools of thought on physical reality. On the one hand, there exists the Western upper class, which effectively believes that physical reality is obsolete. Rather, control over the flow of information matters. You decide what people believe and people have to follow your rules to exchange information with others within your network. When you exclude people from those networks, they become irrelevant and obsolete.
And then at the bottom of the social totem pole exist the conservatives, contrarians and dissidents, who are excluded from the networks of information exchange. They have their own school of thought, namely, that seizing control over physical reality is a source of unlimited power.
They happen to be very angry, not just at those who believe reality is decided by controlling the flow of information. Rather, they are really angry at those who point out to them that they can not seize complete control over physical reality and that it will never be a source of unlimited power, that by utilizing their physical power they exhaust its potential. They get into irrational fits of hate whenever they see a picture of a certain Swedish teenage girl, I can imagine the spit flying across the room.
Anyone who like me has been warning that “hey that war against Russia isn’t going to be as easy as you expect” tends to fall for this cognitive fallacy, the idea that Russia might construct our physical reality for us by delivering us condensed sources of energy, but that we could do it all on our own, if only we interacted with physical reality in the right way, by harvesting the power of the atom.
This is a product of industrial era thinking, when it looked as if the only limits mankind faces are technological: His own failure to understand how to most efficiently exploit his environment. To a 19th century man, the power to be gained from nature would have seemed infinite, if only he knew how to harvest it. There were infinite layers of coal beneath the Earth, but they were unreachable, as they were below groundwater. Then came the steam-powered mechanical pump and now he had infinite energy.
Then after the limitations of fossil fuel became apparent, he observed the energy contained within the atom and envisioned a new era of plenty, that of energy too cheap to meter. Now seventy years later, we can see what has become of that: We have two new accidental wildlife reserves, respectively in Japan and the former Soviet Union.
First it would take three years to cleanup Fukushima, then ten years later they were still busy, as the price tag began to balloon. The ultimate cost the clean the whole thing up was estimated in 2016 at 21.5 trillion yen, four times the 2011 estimate. Then in 2017 the estimate became 70 trillion yen, then in 2019 an update arrived at 80 trillion yen, or about half a trillion euro. I wouldn’t call that too cheap to meter. And keep in mind: Most of the nasty shit was blown out into the ocean, they massively lucked out.
But Japan is a big unified prosperous country, that can afford this stuff. Now tell me: What happens if humanity doesn’t luck out and the reactor that blows up happens to be in Greece, or in Belgium? Can you imagine European nations bickering over the cleanup bill of a nuclear accident?
And when you point this out to these types who think it could have all worked out, you get the same reaction as you get from a communist when you point out the awful mess his experiments have left behind: “That’s not real nuclear energy! Real nuclear energy has never been tried!”
It went wrong in the Soviet Union, but they’re communists. It went wrong in Japan, but they built their reactors near a fault line. Where did it work out? There’s no success they genuinely wish to claim, it always lies somewhere in the future. In Ukraine the reactors turned into great devices to hold millions of people hostage: Blow up some of their reactors and it’s over for the country for generations to come. Any terrorist group can now do what people wrongly believe happened to the Carthaginians: You can salt the fields of those nations dumb enough to build these reactors.
Those stupid woke green Germans listened to an autistic Swedish girl and shut down their nuclear reactors, so now they’re dependent on Russia, right? Well, explain France to me then:
More than 75% of their electricity comes from nuclear, you can see how well it’s working. Turns out when the river runs dry or the water simply gets too warm, you have to shut down your plants. And I know what the response to this is:
“That’s what happens when you’re using outdated model XIEREWIFIII plants and don’t update your infrastructure! Real nuclear has never been tried!”
Well it’s kind of strange then that there’s not a single country in the world we can look at that got it right, that built these hypothesized thorium/generationwhatchamacallit plants just around the corner that would solve our energy crisis, even as we have a variety of political regimes, from totalitarian to democratic, none of which seem to be thriving by chasing the nuclear dream.
France faces blackouts this winter, Belgium has faced the threat for a few winters now, Japan is still busy cleaning up its accidental wildlife reserve, Ukraine, which already gave birth to an accidental wildlife reserve, faces fighting around its reactors, but other than that the whole thing works fine. As long as we have uranium of course! Where does it come from?
Oh. Well shit. Kazakhstan is Russia’s closest ally after Belarus, so European reactors run on Putin’s blood-uranium. It turns out having a big country that occupies a lot of physical space, gives you control over all sorts of useful natural resources. Who could’ve seen that one coming? Anyway, we should start sanctioning Putler’s blood-uranium and Kazakhstan’s too while we’re at it.
“But the new reactors!” I’ve seen this claim for over a decade now. First about Thorium, but then it gradually became quiet as the experts opened their mouths. All the hypothesized benefits are inflated, who could’ve seen that coming? You need to remember that all these reactors will require two things:
-A fuel source
-A source of coolant
And that’s where you run into trouble. The source of coolant is generally water, which is becoming more difficult to acquire every summer.
The fuel source is generally uranium, the consumption of which would have to jump up dramatically if you wish to build these reactors everywhere. We would run out of Uranium within a few decades, if consumption increased as massively as the fanboys want.
As Vaclav Smil has documented so well, changing your entire energy supply inevitably takes time. You could gradually nodge up the percentage of electricity your grid gets from nuclear. But just because you can build a single new reactor in ten or twenty years, doesn’t mean you could switch an entire continent to nuclear in ten to twenty years. The construction personnel with the proper expertise needs to be there too.
The problem here is just a mentality: A refusal to accept that there are limits to human prosperity, that you can’t have everything your heart desires. And as you dig your heels deeper into the sand, it becomes more embarrassing to admit that you blew the chance we had to avoid this catastrophe, by refusing to acknowledge the existence of limits.
The same crowd peddling the “it could have worked if nuclear” story, is the crowd that refused to accept we had a problem to begin with. These are the same people who insist that fossil fuels would last forever and that we can just dump carbon into the atmosphere without consequences.
The fluxes of energy we could capture would always be limited however. Even if we had transitioned to renewable energy, our energy consumption would have had to go down: We don’t have any proper material to build all of the batteries necessary to store the electricity we capture at any significant scale. Everything we’re doing is subject to economies of scale. The first solar energy you add to your grid is pretty useful. By the time you want to add enough solar to have enough electricity in the middle of winter in Germany, you’re well beyond the point of diminishing returns.
I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind, nor does it genuinely matter at this point in time. But to be a constant witness to human ignorance and delusions of omnipotence becomes frustrating after a while.