Following Up on China

A commenter at Roger Pielke’s blog points to this Wired article predicting the economic collapse of America from China’s new program to try to develop thorium-based nuclear power. It’s a hoot.

A Chinese thorium-based nuclear power supply is seen by many nuclear advocates and analysts as a threat to U.S. economic competitiveness. During a presentation at Oak Ridge on Jan. 31, Jim Kennedy, CEO of St. Louis–based Wings Enterprises (which is trying to win approval to start a mine for rare earths and thorium at Pea Ridge, Missouri) portrayed the Chinese thorium development as potentially crippling.

“If we miss the boat on this, how can we possibly compete in the world economy?” Kennedy asked. “What else do we have left to export?”

Sure, low cost energy is desirable, but I had no idea it was the sole input determining competitiveness. Or maybe he means that it combines with China’s low labor costs (and maybe its currency manipulation) to spell the doom of the entire American export sector? Exactly how it will cripple Midwest farmers’ ability to export grain isn’t exactly clear, but perhaps Mr. Kennedy knows something I don’t.

According to thorium advocates, the United States could find itself 20 years from now importing technology originally developed nearly four decades ago at one of America’s premier national R&D facilities. The alarmist version of China’s next-gen nuclear strategy come down to this: If you like foreign-oil dependency, you’re going to love foreign-nuclear dependency.

Foreign-nuclear dependence? How does that work? Curiously (or not), the author doesn’t even try to explain.

There are reasons to worry about the U.S. not investing enough in science, engineering, and R&D, but there’s no reason to worry that the Chinese are investing even more in it. The implication here is that the U.S. would be better off in a world where neither it nor the Chinese invested in developing thorium-based nuclear power than in a world where China did it first.

You know, just like the U.S.’s invention of the silicon chip crippled the Japanese economy.

About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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3 Responses to Following Up on China

  1. Scott Hanley says:

    Something else to add to my list of things to worry about. Fortunately, there’s always room at the bottom.

  2. DensityDuck says:

    I do have to say that if fearmongering is now going to work for nuclear power instead of against it, then maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

  3. ppnl says:

    You know, just like the U.S.’s invention of the silicon chip crippled the Japanese economy.

    Hey, I really like that. The interesting thing is that intel’s first microprocessor was developed for the Japanese company Busicon which owned exclusive rights to the design.

    I think it would be a good idea for the U.S to enter into a joint development agreement with China to develop thorium reactors. It makes far more sense than the billions we are spending on the fusion reactor that will not produce a commercially viable design for at least 50 years if ever.

    Off topic but David Frum is asking a question I have seen asked here:

    http://www.frumforum.com/help-wanted-from-economist-readers

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