From Earth to CNN: No, a nuclear-powered superyacht won’t save the world
Who knew that a sexy nuclear superyacht could save us from a climate catastrophe? That was great news from CNN’s travel bureau yesterday.
CNN was not alone. Forbes, BBC Science Focus Magazine, and a host of other media have already hailed the global rescue potential of what CNN has described as “an emissions-free mega-ship that will bring climate scientists and the wealthy together on a daring quest to save the planet.”
“Gather” sounds like an apt description of a potential fusion between luxury tourism and climate action. You can put these two things together in one sentence, but in the real world, they mix as easily as oil and water.
And there’s another big problem with the plan for this oversized 300-meter-long ship and its global research: Earth 300, as the $ 700 million superyacht is called, will be powered by a molten salt nuclear reactor that does not yet exist and will not be certified for at least five years. The company’s website illustrates the reactor with a scale model of an experiment performed in the 1960s at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The website also states that the scientists on board Earth 300 will have the world’s first oceanic quantum computer. But that too remains to be built.
Meanwhile, the climate crisis requires immediate attention. “We are really out of time,” warned UN Secretary-General António Guterres this month.
While waiting for a modular nuclear reactor that may never arrive, the developers of Earth 300 say they will use green synthetic fuels. They are liquid fuels derived from coal or natural gas in a process that captures carbon. However, they are much more expensive than fossil fuels. Aaron Olivera, the entrepreneur behind Earth 300, told CNN that he plans to “eventually” modernize the yacht with a reactor developed by UK firm Core Power in conjunction with TerraPower, a US nuclear engineering company chaired by Bill Gates.
Globally, there are at least 171 motorized mega-yachts with a length of 75 meters (246 feet) or more. Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, is said to be buying a superyacht so large that he will have a dock for his own “support yacht”. Eclipse, an even larger superyacht owned by billionaire Russian-Israeli businessman Roman Abramovich, has its own missile defense system. The largest yacht currently in service, Azzam, is 180 meters (590 feet) long and consumes 13 tons of fuel per hour at its top speed of 33 knots. That’s about 0.01 miles (or just over 50 feet) per gallon.
Earth 300 would be much bigger.
And the clients Olivera would like to attract – the richest people in the world – also tend to have the largest carbon footprint in the world, in large part thanks to their habit of traveling on superyachts and private planes. According to the calculations of two researchers at Indiana University, a superyacht with a permanent crew and a helipad is “by far the worst asset to have from an environmental point of view.”
Earth 300The luxury suites will each be rented for $ 300,000 per day, which will likely cover the personnel and expenses necessary to operate the ship and its 22 science laboratories. But construction won’t start until 2025 at the earliest, and any groundbreaking scientific discoveries or billionaire epiphanies that could help stabilize the climate are even further away.
Construction is already delayed on another 600-foot-long yacht that will combine climate research with charters for paying customers. Funded by Kjell Inge Røkke, a Norwegian billionaire who made his fortune in fishing and oil drilling, REV Ocean will study climate change and ocean acidification, plastic pollution and overfishing, but the non-profit project is at least three years behind schedule.
Who will be on board these superyachts? CNN asked Olivera what famous people he would like to welcome on his future ship, and he named Elon Musk, Michelle Obama, Greta Thunberg, Naomi Klein and Yvon Chouinard. Like the superyacht itself, some of these potential guests seem more ambitious than realistic.
The richest 1% produce twice the combined CO2 emissions of the poorest 50%.
“We need to reduce overconsumption and the best place to start is overconsumption among polluting elites who contribute far more than their share of carbon emissions.” Https://t.co/0bEwESnE9O
– Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) April 13, 2021
Greta Thunberg does not take planes or motor yachts. Elon Musk is not taking a vacation. And Bill Gates might be hurt not to be on the A-list.