Carl Gustaf Lundin of @IUCN_Marine on nuclear ships and @PandorasPromise

Last week I had the pleasure of listening to a presentation by Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of the Global Marine and Polar Programme at the IUCN, hosted by the Commune in the Rolle Castle.

I was particularly curious about the topic as the title of the presentation could have been quite controversial, especially on climate-related issues, the title being:

From plastic pollution to climate change: major threats to the oceans and how to fix them

What I found was a different kind of an environmentalist, someone who is deeply knowledgeable in his direct field, but also does not live in a vacuum and knows really well that the role played by fossil fuels and nuclear in our society is quite important, and must not be played down nor “forgotten” like many other pseudo-environmentalists do.

Also, the climate-related points he raised seemed to be quite subdued, as he definitely is not a catastrophist, and seem to take a very reasonable approach to “climate change” as opposed to what many other pseudo-environmentalists do.

Two points raised by Mr. Lundin in his presentation were especially relevant for me:

  1. he mentioned the oil&gas industry as a very minor source of pollution for the oceans and polar regions. The pollution generated is very small and very local, and can be dealt with fairly easily with the technology we have today. Even in the unfortunate cases of accidents like the major oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon accident,  a tragic event which costed the lives of 11 people and created major environmental damage, the effects were very local and will not last too long.
  2. commercial ships carry 95% of the goods worldwide, they truly are the workhorse of the commerce industry. Such ships are very pollutant, since they run on fuel oil for the most part, but it is inevitable and impossible for our society to prosper the way we are doing without them.

It was obvious to me that Mr. Lundin has both his feet firmly on the ground of coherence and realization that, while some damage to the environment can and does happen due to what men does on this planet, we have to recognize that we cannot do without such wonders like commerce and the cheap and reliable energy coming from burning fossil fuels.

His position triggered some interest in me, and during the question and answer after his speech, I took the microphone and asked his point of view on the possibility to use a much cleaner form of energy to propel ships across the globe, nuclear power, like the civilian Russian icebreakers are doing already.

Much to my surprise, Mr. Lundin answer in a very open and mildly pro-nuclear way, knowing full well both the benefits and limits and inherent issues that come with nuclear power. After all, he comes from Sweden, a country where 40% of the electricity is generated from nuclear power!

He also hinted to the future developments in nuclear technology, including thorium-based fuels, which he is very much in favour of given the better qualities of thorium in the nuclear non-proliferation field, as thorium would be very difficult to use to make nuclear weapons.

During lunch I had the pleasure to exchange a few words with Mr. Lundin, and found a very knowledgeable person in the field of energy, who knows very well the limits to the “green renewables” and is very aware than fossil fuels are here to stay, and while they do create some pollution, at this time they are something we simply cannot do away with.

He is also very positive on nuclear energy, and hopes to see more research and new technology come out in the future.

I told him about “Pandora’s Promise”, a movie which tells the story of different environmentalists who have changed their mind on nuclear, and he was not aware of this movie. He also said that within IUCN there are many who would not touch the nuclear topic at all, which is what I am always afraid of.

This is the kind of environmentalist the world needs! Someone who is able to understand why and how a society thrives, and that policies which will damage people in the name of the environment are doomed to fail.

A tweet from Rod Adams

I became deeply interested in energy in 2011, a few weeks after a powerful earthquake and tsunami swept the eastern shores of Japan, killing many thousands of people and badly disabling infrastructure needed to safely operate the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which later suffered major breakdown due to hydrogen explosions caused by fuel meltdown.

Luckily no one was hurt at the accident site due to the radiation release, and neither any citizen has ever received any meaningful amount of radiation, thought there is a lot of media misinformation and hysteria still going on after almost 5 years since the accident happen.

But inquiring minds want to know. And that is when my trip thru nuclear knowledge began.

I was always fascinated by technology, and generation of power is something I knew little about, except for visiting an hydroelectric plant on the Adda river south of Bergamo, Italy, during school.

So I had to study, and my research for trusted sources of information quickly pointed me to Rod Adams and his “Atomic Insights” website and blog active since 1995, a must-read for nuclear and energy aficionados.

Not only Rod has a great website, but he also been running a podcast, “The Atomic Show” (iTunes link here) since March 2006, and I became so passionate about the topic and the critical thinking and knowledge exposed by Rod and his guests that I went back to the very first episode of the show, and listened to each and every one of them, including the early ones in which he had a great co-host, Shane Brown, even more technical than Rod.

Last year, when I discovered Alex Epstein and his book “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels” thru this event at The Cato Institute, it dawned on me that the dry technical matters behind nuclear could very well benefit from the deeper philosophical thoughts that Alex Epstein has always highlighted in his work.

I then emailed Rod about Alex Epstein and his work, and he told me that he had already been in touch with Alex and an episode of “The Atomic Show” with Alex as guest would be upcoming. Episode 230 was released on December 12th 2014 and I have added some comments on the relevant blog post. A must listen in my view.

Why am I talking about a tweet, then?

Because as recently as last Friday December 18th 2015 Rod Adams posted this update via Twitter, something which I liked very much, as it shows a deeper understanding on the whole energy discussion, broadening his view from the purely nuclear space.


It’s nice for me to see how two of my main influencers in the energy space are coming full circle back to the most important aspect of energy: every bit of energy counts, nuclear needs fossil fuels and fossil fuels needs nuclear moving forward.

We have to defend our right to energy access and deflect the attacks from those who would like to limit our access to energy. They are the really dangerous people to be on the look for.