By: Joshua D. Rhodes, University of Texas at Austin; Michael E. Webber, University of Texas at Austin; Thomas Deetjen, University of Texas at Austin, and Todd Davidson, University of Texas at Austin

SolarU.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry in April requested a study to assess the effect of renewable energy policies on nuclear and coal-fired power plants. The Conversation

Some energy analysts responded with confusion, as the subject has been extensively studied by grid operators and the Department of Energy’s own national labs. Others were more critical, saying the intent of the review is to favor the use of nuclear and coal over renewable sources.

So, are wind and solar killing coal and nuclear? Yes, but not by themselves and not for the reasons most people think. Are wind and solar killing grid reliability? No, not where the grid’s technology and regulations have been modernized. In those places, overall grid operation has improved, not worsened.

To understand why, we need to trace the path of electrons from the wall socket back to power generators and the markets and policies that dictate that flow. As energy scholars based in Texas – the national leader in wind – we’ve seen these dynamics play out over the past decade, including when Perry was governor.


Nuclear energyA joint research effort from Rice University and Kazan Federal University is demonstrating a new way to pull radioactive elements out of contaminated water. The researchers behind this study believe their results could go a long way in purifying the hundreds of millions of gallons of water that were contaminated after the Fukushima nuclear plant accident.

(MORE: Listen to the ECS Podcast with Way Kuo, nuclear energy expert and Fukushima consultant.)

This from Rice University:

They reported that their oxidatively modified carbon (OMC) material is inexpensive and highly efficient at absorbing radioactive metal cations, including cesium and strontium, toxic elements released into the environment when the Fukushima plant melted down after an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.


“We all need to understand each other and what we can do together to benefit the greater community.”
-Way Kuo

Way Kuo is president of the City University of Hong Kong. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, and a Foreign Member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, and Russian Academy of Engineering.

He was the first foreign expert invited to discuss nuclear safety following the Fukushima incident. He argues that a holistic view of energy development is required, one that prioritizes the production and use of reliable energy sources over that of polluting and volatile ones. He maps out a policy that encourages and rewards the conservation of energy and efficiency in energy use.

You can meet Kuo in person at the 231st ECS Meeting this May in New Orleans, LA, where he will deliver the ECS Lecture, entitled “A Risk Look at Energy Development.”

Listen to the podcast and download this episode and others for free through the iTunes Store, SoundCloud, or our RSS Feed. You can also find us on Stitcher.


NuclearMany scientists believe we’re at the tipping point of our energy technology future. With the advancement of new, alternative energy sources, some are left to wonder what will happen to the energy landscape as a whole.

While nuclear power has energized much of the world over the past 50 years, the establishment of new nuclear power plants has been nonexistent in recent times in light of other alternatives such as solar and wind. Now, with California phasing out its last nuclear power plant in Diablo Canyon, many are left to wonder just what role nuclear will play in the future of energy.

A turning point

During the oil crisis of the 1970s, global conversations about the future of energy production began to hit the mainstream. If fossil fuels don’t warrant consistent dependency, how would the U.S. power future generations? The answer: nuclear.

“At that time we were thinking we’d build up these nuclear power plants everywhere and they would provide free electricity because it would just be too cheap to meter,” ECS Secretary Jim Fenton previously told ECS.

The thought was nuclear could provide such cheap and plentiful amounts of energy that not only would it be free to the consumer, but there would be an overproduction. This encouraged new research in devices such as flow batteries to store this excess energy.

But those expectations turned out to be wrong.


Simpler, Cost Effective Electropolishing

Nb cavityPhotos and text by E. Jennings Taylor.

In a response to a recent call for photos, ECS Treasurer E. Jennings Taylor sent us some great shots of the innovative research coming out of Faraday Technology Inc. Here’s the first one:

Regarding this photo, it is a superconducting radio frequency (SRF) cavity made of niobium.

These SRF cavities are used in particle accelerators, such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), as well as accelerators for medical isotope production and ion therapy treatment.

So, why is this relevant to electrochemistry? The internal surface of these SRF cavities must be electropolished in order for them to achieve their particle accelerating characteristics. Faraday Technology Inc. electrochemists are developing a simpler, more cost effective electropolishing process based on pulse reverse electropolishing .

Take a look at the research in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society.

PS: Do you have interesting science photos you’d like us to share on the ECS Redcast Blog? Send your pictures and a short write-up to We’re always looking for great guest posts!