Is Nuclear Power Globally Scalable? by Derek Abbott
In a "Point of view" article in the Proceedings of the IEEE in October 2011: "Is Nuclear Power Globally Scalable?", Derek Abbott starts by asserting that "robust debate" exist over climate science.
Given the awesome power density delivered by nuclear stations, it is a valid question to ask if nuclear power can be massively scaled in order to meet our global energy needs. We shall explore the consequences of a future where nuclear power is the main energy source. Currently, the total global power consumption by mankind is about 15 terawatts (TW) - so the question we address is: Can nuclear power feasibly supply at least 15 TW?
If we can show that nuclear power can viably provide massive power at this level, for millennia to come, then the investment in improving and scaling-up nuclear technology is justified. However, if we find it does not scale up, then major investment must be redirected to a different solution that is truly scalable.
This presupposes that any technology which cannot supply 100% of the planet's needs - say only 50% - is of little use and "major investment" should be reserved for a technology which could supply 100%. This view is not supported by the findings of IPCC WG3 who find that we need renewables, nuclear, and CCS for effective climate change mitigation.
It has been argued that the one renewable energy solution that is scalable well beyond 15 TW is solar thermal technology - this is where large mirrors are used to focus sunlight to heat water thereby creating superheated steam, which can then generate electricity via a conventional steam turbine. The potential is enormous, as the amount of solar power that reaches ground level is 5000 times our present world power consumption. Therefore, the pertinent question is to ask how nuclear power compares to solar thermal power as an energy resource on a massive global scale.
The reference  which Abbot gives for his assertion that concentrating solar thermal electricity generation (CSP) is a scalable alternative, is to a paper of his own, "Keeping the Energy Debate Clean: How Do We Supply the World's Energy Needs?".