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January 16, 2007

Comments

Mark C R
James, here is a SUMMARY of the bill from Lieberman's office: If I find the ACTUAL Bill orignal format/wording - I'll post it here


Mark
SUMMARY Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2007 .

Chin Hsien

Is direct release of heat from combustion making significant contribution to global warming? I roughly calculate (very rough) the ratio of heat generated by combustion to the heat gain from sun radiation is about 1/million.

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

This is the correct bill number: S.280
CORRECT FULL TEXT FOR 2007 VERSION

S.280 : A bill to provide for a program to accelerate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by establishing a market-driven system of greenhouse gas tradeable allowances, to support the deployment of new climate change-related technologies, and to ensure benefits to consumers from the trading in such allowances, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen Lieberman, Joseph I. [CT] (introduced 1/12/2007)
Cosponsors (6)
Committees: Senate Environment and Public Works
Latest Major Action: 1/12/2007 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Ender

Nuclear should not be supported. The only way to deal with increasing demand is to vastly increase efficiency to halt the rise. Nuclear power feeds our inefficiency. Supply side solutions are not the main answer - demand side should be addressed before we take a long hard look at the emissions and problems of nuclear power and decide if it is really worth it.

Senator McCain should now obviously support Iran's peaceful use of nuclear energy. If he can't then this in a nutshell is the main problem of nukes. Threatened nuclear states cannot be trusted not to make a few bombs 'just in case'.

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

NOTE TO "ENDER":

"ENDER" - Not all nuclear reactors produce byproduct Plutonium (only useful in weapons development really). Not all nuclear reactors require "weapons grade Uranium" either for fuel. Iran has been developing technology that can only really be used in weapons programs.

Iran has refused generous funding from the west (US/EU) for building one of these such reactors, known as a "light-water reactor". I would like to know why?

The point is - what is the Iranian government's real intentions????

Don't begin bringing such a massively complex matter as Iran's nuclear ambitions to CLIMATE CHANGE - Climate change refers to OUR SUSTAINABLE INDUSTRIAL/SOCIOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT fundamentally.
Iran is a whole separate issue of "potential territorial" intent - and regional geopolitics.

Needing SEPARATE SOLUTIONS!

SEE: Viewpoints: Iran's nuclear crisis BBC REPORT

See: USA Today 06/06/2006
"...The European offer of light-water reactors meant for civilian nuclear energy purposes was revealed last month, but there had been no previous suggestion that the Americans would also agree to help build Iran's civilian nuclear program if Tehran freezes enrichment and agrees to negotiations.

Asked about reports that the offer of Western technology includes U.S. technological assistance, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: "Well, I've seen a lot of reports flying around the past couple days about what may or may not be in this package. I would just caution everybody, until we actually are able to discuss what is in the package in public, take reports with a grain of salt."

The United States also reportedly sweetened the offer by saying it would lift some bilateral sanctions on Iran, such as a ban on sales of Boeing passenger aircraft and related parts...."

Engineer-Poet

You clowns ought to know how to close an open <b> tag.

There.  Geez, if you want something done right you have to do it yourself....

amazingdrx

2050? Renewables will take 15 years? Experimental waste eating nukes in 10 years?

Fine job.

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

Engineer for some reason some blogs aren't reading the basic HTML I type in occasionally Or the closing tag at any rate...

I know about tags < b > & < / b >

Indeed whenever I've previewed the comment - it looked fine


Anyway - so whats your take on this bill?

PS. E-P Clowns wear make up, plus I've just looked at the Ergosphere...

Doug

Chin: you are correct, direct heating from man's energy consumption is insignificant to global warming; the problem is entirely the indirect effects of lengthening the duration of incoming solar energy's stay on the Earth. Incidentally it doesn't matter whether the heat comes from combustion or another source such as nuclear power - heat is heat. It does matter if the energy comes from a renewable source. Also note that just because releasing heat isn't a global warming problem doesn't mean it's no problem at all - heat from things like power plants can still be a localised environmental problem.

Mike Glover

TES, Thermal Energy Storage can eliminate the need for new coal fired power plants in Texas. About half the existing power plants are only used in the heat of the day in summer to generate electricity for air conditioning.

TES solves this air conditioning problem.

Charge a fee for all new construction that does not have a flat peak load profile. Use this money to fund retrofit of existing residences to TES. TES systems are now available for residential systems

JohnBo

This bill seems pretty sensible. At least they recognize that markets are better than regulators to accomplish such a task (actually true for about any task) and that nuclear power needs to be utilized. I'm in favor of many nuclear plants.

I like the bill mostly because it moves us toward sustainable energy supply. I am not concerned about global warming. The earth doesn't care what it's equilibrium temperature happens to be or whether it's rising or lowering. Since humans are creatures of the tropics I think we could use higher temperature, it sure would be welcome here today where everything is covered in ice. I would be far more concerned if the temperature were decreasing. I don't think man on earth will be able to do much about it either way. I know global warming is currently the politically correct thing to fear.

But global warming has some real benefits. It brings folks together to fight the perceived monster. It brings a lot of great opportunities to us all. It's much better to battle temperature than each other... etc. etc. I am not writing this to upset any of the believers. I say, lets make the best of it, really. After all, the very very worst that can happen is, "you gonna die". Face it, we are going to die anyway. I hope a different view point is not too upsetting to folks. JohnBo

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

TES, Thermal Energy Storage ?

I've never heard of this before - I'm off to Google it...

Is it feasible - I mean ? Is it physically possible? For large amounts of Energy?

amazingdrx

Yep Mark, it works. Best for heating/cooling of buildings. When extra wind or solar power is generated it is used to store heating/cooling energy in the building.

But imagine a distillation plant that runs 24/7 on molten heat storage salt.

When extra solar or wind energy is available the salt is melted, storing heat, then it distills the liquid even when the solar or wind energy dips.

Or a silicon fabrication facility or glass or metal recycling plant. It melts the silicon or glass or metal when solar or wind energy peaks then as it cools the waste heat is used to generate electricity.

There are also efforts to smooth solar power generation with molten salt storage, it reduces the efficiency quite a bit. Better to combine this effect with manufacturing and recycling though, the economies are obvious.

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

I'm having trouble imagining the thermodynamics here of such a system...

Thermodynamics is not my best or favourite subject!

What sort of "salt" is it predominately NaCl?

Incidently I was born near the UK's largest salt mine - theyre actually in Winsford, Cheshire, UK...

If you have any links on TES and related topics - you think you could either post them here, or email me them?

The Green Chemistry Technical Blog

Best regards,

Mark

amazingdrx

http://thefraserdomain.typepad.com/energy/2005/09/aabout_solar_to.html

Jim's article on it. Best source anywhere.

Doug

JohnBo:
No question there will be winners and losers amongst the Earth's inhabitants if things warm up. Ignoring for a moment other species that may be threatened, it's still widely acknowledged that it will be a bad thing for mankind. While some people (farmers in Greenland) may benefit, large numbers of costal cities and homes could be underwater if sea levels rise significantly. There may not be much we can do about the temperature, but we need to try. Sure we're all going to die, but that doesn't mean the environmental conditions we leave to future generations don't matter. Peace.

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

Thanks.

BTW the original Bill 2.80 Library of Congress link I put up is for some reason is broken.

So go to this page (that is the online directory):
http://thomas.loc.gov/
THOMAS
In the spirit of Thomas Jefferson, legislative information from the Library of Congress

AND type in the bill number and do a bill number search.

NOTE: the library hasn't recieved a copy yet - and I expect it will arrive by after its been through all your US senate committees!

Much like Westminster here, it takes time for the bureaucracy wheels-to-turn!

Jim from The Energy Blog

Sorry I left out thermal energy storage(TES) as a means of reducing or at least delaying the construction of new power plants.

TES for storing energy for air conditioning of buildings is usually done by making ice during the night and then recovering the "cold" during the day time.

TES for storing energy for making electricity is done with molten salts as explained by my previous post, as was pointed out by amazingdrx. The example pointed out is but one possible version of the technology.

I have only seen molten salts used with thermal solar power. Ice storage could be used with wind power.

Ender

Note to Mark C R (Chemist) UK
"Don't begin bringing such a massively complex matter as Iran's nuclear ambitions to CLIMATE CHANGE - Climate change refers to OUR SUSTAINABLE INDUSTRIAL/SOCIOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT fundamentally.
Iran is a whole separate issue of "potential territorial" intent - and regional geopolitics."

So don't go bringing a massively flawed and dangerous 'solution' to the problem of climate change. No matter what the issues of terrorism or whatever you think the Iranians are they are no worse or better that Pakistan that has nuclear weapons and provided, albeit unknowingly, the technology that Iran and most other rogue nuclear states are using.

Nuclear power is not the climate change solution. It is part of the problem. The fundamental problem that nuclear power does nothing for is that our society is at its heart unsustainable. Nuclear power is just a method of continuing the party for few years until the high grade ore runs out. Then we will need to strip mine the Earth for lower grade ore. We need fundamental changes to the way our society works. Basing society on natures flows rather than nature's stores will allow a truly sustainable society that will not be at the mercy of the next resource running out. Nuclear power at best puts off the problem for a few more years.

Either nuclear power is safe for anybody or it is not. Iran's nuclear ambitions are exactly why nuclear power is so dangerous. I would defy any state that possesses nuclear power to resist developing nuclear weapons when threatened. Try to name one nuclear state that has not done so. Pakistan, Israel, India etc are shining examples of peaceful nuclear power leading to a nuclear weapons program that now, in Pakistan's case, lead to 'cheap and easy' methods of enrichment that has lead to the current proliferation into Iran. Also perhaps you should have researched the LWR a bit more:

"3.3.2. NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROLIFERATION
Do technologies on which the LWR relies (or the LWR itself) facilitate the proliferation
of nuclear weapons? (See WCED 1987b, IEA 1998, and Rogner 1999.) LWR technology's main proliferation risks are (1) its reliance on uranium enrichment technologies (which can be
used to produce weapons-grade uranium) and (2) its production of fissile materials, such as plutonium, in its SNF (which can be reprocessed to produce weapons-grade plutonium). While some nuclear technologies reduce the production of weapons-grade plutonium (e.g., by employing the thorium fuel cycle), the LWR technology does not appear well suited to the production of weapons-grade plutonium. Most weapons-grade plutonium has been produced in dedicated (non-LWR) reactors. Further, the production of a plutonium-based weapon is more difficult to construct than one based on highly enriched uranium.
Therefore, it is not the LWR creation of plutonium in its SNF that poses the primary
proliferation risk; it is its reliance on uranium enrichment. Continued improvement in
enrichment technologies (through advanced instrumentation and control, robotic manufacturing and operations, and the development of corrosion-resistant materials) increases the possibility of nuclear weapons proliferation. Given the lack of intrinsic (technology-inherent) controls over this proliferation risk and given that reliance on extrinsic (institutional) controls (e.g., through the International Atomic Energy Agency) cannot be assured for 500 years, the LWR fuel cycle cannot be considered socially sustainable based on this criterion."
from
http://siepr.stanford.edu/papers/pdf/02-11.pdf

The nuclear power renaissance has nothing to do with climate change and everything to do with continuing and extending the massive subsidies that allow nuclear power to be competitive and line the pockets of corporations and their shareholders.

amazingdrx

Fine job Ender. Better than I usually do.

Proliferation, excellent.

Consider this strange tale too. I saw a nuclear scientist on MSNBC commenting on the Pollonium poisonings. He said that all a terrorist would have to do to produce Pollonium is to insert Bismuth into a reactor. Out comes Pollonium awhile later. One of the most deadly elements.

So dirty bombs are easy for anyone with access to a reactor to make. This makes nuclear power too dangerous for anyone, anywhere.

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

Yes fine - I acknowledge all the points you make about the nuclear industry Ender.

But you brought up Iran in the first place. Talking about Iran was not what I was wanting specifically.

Let keep this on the sustainability issue.

So what do you mean by "following natures flows" exactly?

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

Ender NB* I think you will find I was factually correct on what I actually said:
MCR wrote:"Not all nuclear reactors produce byproduct Plutonium (only useful in weapons development really).Not all nuclear reactors require weapons grade Uranium" either for fuel. Iran has been developing technology that can only really be used in weapons programs."

A general LSW description on the web:
The light-water reactor uses uranium 235 as a fuel, enriched to approximately 3 percent. Although this is its major fuel, the uranium 238 atoms also contribute to the fission process by converting to plutonium 239 — about one-half of which is consumed with the reactor. Light-water reactors are generally refueled every 12 to 18 months, at which time, about 25 percent of the fuel is replaced.
Light water reactors are simpler and cheaper than heavy water reactors, and although they have the same power-generating capabilities, it is far more difficult to use them to produce weapons-grade plutonium, as the reactor must be shut down and the fuel rods replaced every four months because if they stay in any longer, the plutonium-240 concentration will become too high and poison the plutonium-239. A disadvantage of light water reactors is that they must use enriched uranium, while heavy water reactors can use natural uranium."

Also I think you will find the that weapons grade Uranium is between 20-90%... thats orders of magnitude more than 3% for LSW. I fear Iran's procurement of the enrichment technologies to get it above 3%!

The key to solving Iran's aspirations (I hope) is for third party fuel supplying, along with the reactors, with additional monitoring and removal to third startes of the Pu. That's if they go for this? If not what happens next???? Possibly unthinkable...

Unfortunately, Iran is not going to go for this - since they have other agendas. So note this is A FUDAMENTAL POLITICAL PROBLEM.


And in the meantime we're all still stuck with the climate change problem!!! I agree we need to get rid of this sort of "energy feudalism" where "political dictatorships" are generated and centre around energy sources as their power base.


Contrary to what you may think - I'm actually involved in renewable resources heavily.

So I'm not outside the mainstream thinking in alt-energy like you seem to imply.

I'm rather excited by the technological possibilites of several alt-energy projects.

I also don't think a "one size fits all" policy is going to work anymore in energy and climate change.

I'm looking at this from an industry perspective additionally. Isn't that a development - when industry itself is looking to do better?


What are environmental fundamentalists (are you one Ender?) going to protest about when some of these problems get solved????

Engineer-Poet

The amazingly ignorant one wrote:

He said that all a terrorist would have to do to produce Pollonium is to insert Bismuth into a reactor. Out comes Pollonium awhile later. One of the most deadly elements.
This looked very odd to me (particularly in view of proposals to cool breeder reactors with lead-bismuth alloy), so I did some checking.

Natural bismuth is 100% Bi-209.  Neutron capture would give you Bi-210m, which has a half-life of 3 million years decays by alpha, or Bi-210 which has a 5-day half-life and beta-decays to Po-210.  But the neutron capture cross-section of Bi-209 is only 19 millibarns (U-235 is about 100 barns), and any which winds up as Bi-210m isn't going to wind up as polonium at all.

It looks considerably harder than just throwing bismuth in a neutron flux.

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

That was not "ignorant" Engineer-Poet - that was merely him being "possibly mistaken". There is a difference. Ignorance is also not accepting another opinion or even listening.

Indeed - I found you calling him ignorant more objectionable.

Please refrain from personal attacks.

We're having enough of those here in the UK at the moment - from truly ignorant people who have never contributed anything to society in their lives. I sometimes give up at times like this... we've had our country's name dragged down - by the truly ignorant!

So again. Please debate with courtesy!

Paul Dietz

It looks considerably harder than just throwing bismuth in a neutron flux.

Well, you need a strong enough neutron flux, yes, and you would want to separate the Po afterwards. But this is how Po is made commercially.

(particularly in view of proposals to cool breeder reactors with lead-bismuth alloy),

Polonium production with that coolant is an issue that class of reactors has to deal with (they also have to deal with buildup of the alpha-emitting isomer of 210Bi, which has a long halflife).

I understand the pile cross section for (n,gamma) on 210Bi is around 30 mb, not 20. About 2/3 of these captures eventually lead to the ground state, not the isomer, so perhaps the cross section for that branch is what you were quoting.

amazingdrx

Thanks for the clarification Paul. It's hard to get the complete story from cable news. That separation would probably be difficult for most terrorists, but not impossible for the truly motivated like al queda operatives.

I can't imagine security arangments in nations like Pakistan or Iran that could secure access to reactors that could be monitered by some outside authority.

A lot of personal insults lately seem to originate with one source here (I won't name names). Doesn't bother me, but it might be detrimental to the usually polite dialogue here.

Paul Dietz

pile cross section for (n,gamma) on 210Bi

I meant on 209Bi (yielding 210Bi and its isomer).

Bill Hannahan


Energy and sustainability are two separate and distinct subjects. Mixing them creates confusion about both. Sustainability is vastly more important than energy in the long run.

How do you know if a lifestyle is sustainable or not? There is a simple thought experiment to answer this question.

1 Imagine a world in which every person is living the lifestyle in question.

2 Imagine that each person in subsequent generations lives the lifestyle in question.

3 Extrapolate out as many generations as necessary to determine which of two possible endings occur. It may end in catastrophic failure with enormous human suffering, or it may end with a soft landing leaving the earth in beautiful pristine condition.

You will find that the only variable that determines the sustainability of a lifestyle is the number of children produced. More than two leads to catastrophe, not sustainable, two or fewer leads to a soft landing.

I believe that each person should have the right to contribute half the DNA to two children if they stay out of serious trouble. People who want more than two children should have to purchase the rights from people who choose not to use theirs. The price would be set by the law of supply and demand.

I suspect that the price would be fairly high, maybe $50,000 each.

Let’s say the right is activated when you graduate from high school.

Imagine your 18 years old, you just graduated from high school and sold your reproductive rights on EBay. You have $100,000 dollars in the bank, what do you do next?

1 Finance a first class education

2 Take a 2 year trip around the world

3 Take a 1 year trip around the world and finance a good education

4 Blow it all on sex, drugs and gambling

Now imagine your 25, you’ve fallen in love and gotten married, you want some kids. Now you have to work hard to buy the rights from some 18 year old kid.

Your kids will be raised by a mature, responsible, honest, hard working productive adult, not a teenage high school dropout living in public housing on welfare.

The kid who blew his money is 25, working a dead end minimum wage job and can’t afford kids. What’s the downside here?

By the way, the kid who took the two year trip around the world is in the import/export business making $20 million a year and has a big family.

Don’t confuse energy with sustainability.

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

With due respect Bill Hannahan, Energy & sustainability are INTRINSICALLY LINKED.

Everything manufactured has an energy input.

Reducing energy input (therefore increasing energy efficiency)ALONG with the corresponding mass-intensity metrics:

MAKES INDUSTRIAL PROCESSES - MORE SUSTAINABLE. THEREFORE CONTRIBUTING TO THE "SUSTAINABLE SOCIETY"

That is part of the basis of my Chemistry PhD thesis

ADDITIONALLY,

THE NATURE OF THE FEED STOCK, for both energy and (chemical) industrial processes contributes to the SUSTAINABILITY overall.

Both are petrochemically based predominantly at present. Green Chemists are trying to change - BOTH situations.

And in ENERGY - they are doing this with OTHER ALT-ENERGY SPECIALISTS... trying to change the "overall energy mix" to one that is a) renewable b)sustainable c)Clean-technology

SO Bill, I beg to differ on you proposition.


Energy AND SUSTAINABILITY AND sustainable development:

Are fundamentally linked - because every economic process within an economy UPON which SOCIETY depends HAS AN ENERGY INPUT.

(and from a GHG and climate change perspective - a corresponding CO2 emission)...

Final point:
I make the suggestion at one point in my thesis - regarding solvent transportation ... (much like fuel miles) ... requiring energy... (TANKERING).

BIOBUTANOL (BP/DUPONT) - can be pipelined...
Whilst traditional
(BIO)ETHANOL - has to be tankered...
(MORE ENERGY DEMANDING TRANSPORTATION)

BOTH ARE INDUSTRIAL SOLVENTS - and RENEWABLE FUELS (ENERGY)

This is similar to the "food miles debate".


This is a positive development if implementable in terms of sustainability... and provided the LCA of there use compares favourably to other alternatives...

A JOINED UP APPROACH TO INDUSTRY, FUELS AND ENERGY IS BETTER THAN - "A SEGREGATED APPROACH"

Indeed, it has taken us years to get Industry TO TAKE A JOINED UP APPROACH IN THE FIRST PLACE


For further debate on this issue - please come and see my weblog:


The Green Chemistry Technical Blog

Regards,

Mark

Ender

Mark C R (Chemist) UK - "So what do you mean by "following natures flows" exactly?"

Natures flows are what the ecosystems of the planet have used for the last billion or so years to sustain life on the planet. We are all solar powered as we have self assembling nano machines called plants that make all food from solar energy and raw materials. The only long term sustainable way forward is to fit in with this and also get enough energy, and there is still plenty to go around, from systems that are not stored energy. Fossil fuels are concentrated solar energy that are convenient and easy to transport and use. Uranium is store of energy that can be released - when it is gone that is the end of it. Even thorium, if you take a long term view is limited eventually. You have to take a really really long term view to find the end of solar energy.

We can only do this by becoming vastly more efficient in the way we use energy. We need to find ways to get along doing the same things we are doing now with lots less input. It can be done it just requires changes - ones we in the first world are reluctant to make because for some reason our lifestyles are non-negotiable. We are exporting this non negotiable, highly wasteful lifestyle to other countries like China where up until now they have been quite energy efficient consuming only a tenth or a twentieth of the per capita energy of the USA or Australia.

You cannot build enough nuclear reactors to give each person in the world the lifestyle we have now. So therefore the nuclear/clean coal route of increasing supply at all costs will always only be for the first world leaving billions much as they are today without energy and scraping as best they can with what they have while we in the First World continue to use most of the Earth's energy. This will continue until the last one runs out then we will all be stuffed.

If we do not go down this route and make wholesale changes to the way we use energy and make big cuts ourselves, while still preserving most of the advantages of our first world lifestyles, we can adapt to working within what energy is given to us from the sun and not drawing on limited stores and/or creating millions of tons of waste that has to be guarded for longer than humans have been farming.

Another advantage of this is that in using less energy and resources we can export this lifestyle model and it just might be sustainable for more than just 20% or so of the world's population. The Earth might, at this level, have enough to sustain 50% or 60% at a reasonable level of lifestyle rather than grinding poverty.

Now I mentioned Iran only because it highlights the fundamental problem of nuclear power ie: its inseperable dark side of nuclear weapons. If nuclear power is to be the climate change saviour that you think it could be then it will have to be rolled out to countries worse than Iran with all the attendant problems.

It would be far better for all concerned if nuclear power was just phased out, the waste we have generated up till now stored somehow, and then we just got along with what we have. I do close my mind to nuclear power as a solution to climate change much like I close my mind to murder as a solution to personal problems. Sure killing the person would solve the issue I have with them however killing comes with so many other problems that it is not really a solution in the first place only a diversion.

I am not an "environmental fundamentalists" as you are insinuating. I guess this is a desperate attempt to belittle my arguments by pidgeon holing me with fundamentalists that do not think about what they say but only hold positions because of some predjudice. I am against nuclear power so vehemently because it only leads to a continuance of the unsustainable party that we find ourselves in at the end of the brief fossil fuel age. We took at quick and easy turn with the Industrial Revolution that has brought us many advantages which I will be the first to acknowledge and use as I am using one right now. We now need to find the wisdom to use that technology to make another turn to working with Nature again but this time at a much higher level using much more of the sun's output in many different ways.

The alternative is to arm ourselves to the teeth with whatever weapons we can make and fight over the last remaining energy resources until there is nothing left. That is what is happening now and the drive for nuclear power and clean coal is only a mad attempt to continue this stupidity because we lack the imagination to think that there is any other way.

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

Dear Ender,
I did not wish to "pigeon hole" you as an "environmental-fundamentalist" as you have quite obviously described the situation so eloquently. Indeed, if anything I was trying to "tease the real discussion" out of you. Successfully it seems.

I found your piece on the contrary to real "environmental-fundamentalists" who in my experience have often known less about the subject than they should (and are merely jumping on the bandwagon for other political reasons!). Often they've made ridiculous suggestions - like we should all live in tents or revert to hunter-gathering...

I accept everything you wrote about eloquently. Indeed that was an excellent general piece about the problems we currently face and difficult choices we must make.

Do you not see Fusion-power as contributing to our long term future?
By any measure far more evironmentally friendly than Fission reactions - provided the correct technology is utilised.

Although not a short or medium term solution, this could as you say "put off" (even further) many of the problems we face.
By some reckoning Fusion could last thousands of years in terms of the energy supply it could provide.

Hypothetically, allowing humanity to "leave Earth" to live as Prof Steven Hawking claims we need to do, and many science fiction writers frequently write about.

I do agree however, that in our generation the widespread adoption of RENEWABLES is necessary for environmental AND ECONOMIC REASONS!

MCrab

Ender, you seem to believe that nuclear power is unsustainable because its raw material is finite and will eventually be exhausted. By this logic solar power (and hence wind and tidal power) is also unsustainable as the sun will one day run out of its hydrogen fuel.

Of course talking about something being unsustainable when it will last for billions of years is ridiculous when relating it to a human civilisation measuring only millenia in age. This is why your statement about nuclear being unsustainable is so puzzling to me. There are adequate currently identified uranium reserves to last for any likely nuclear build up this century and, given its relative geologic abundance, good reason to assume more will be discovered.

Advances in nuclear technology also promise a far more efficient utilisation of the raw material. In the nearer term, this means improvements in enrichment technology that make it more economic to leave less U-235 in the tails (i.e. using the uranium more efficiently) and high temperature gas reactors (e.g. the pebble bed) that acheive high burn-ups and thermal efficiencies. In the longer term, you have various varieties of breeder reactor that will reduce the fuel needs by almost two orders of magnitude and bring thorium, an element almost three times as common as uranium, into play.

There's also a problem with your assertion that nuclear couldn't produce enough energy for everyone to live a western lifestyle. Nuclear power is produced as electricity. Electricity that will ultimately mean heat pumps and electric cars, which means you can get the same standard of living using less energy.

Ender, you claim you're not an environmental fundamentalist, that your position is not based on prejudice, yet you make claims about nuclear's sustainability that aren't remotely true. Furthermore, you compare nuclear power to murder and take the very naive view that a lack of nuclear power would mean no nuclear weapons. Is it not possible that your objection to nuclear power is based more on your aesthetic dislike of its large, centralised, industrial nature and that your arguments stem from this rather than a dispassionate examination of the facts?

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

- I say nothing at this point -

(Coming from the point of view working on the fundamental economic process... chemicals the building blocks for manufacturing many products...

I simply advocate the use of advanced technology to do so more efficiently and cleanly...)

Ender

Mark C R (Chemist) UK - "Do you not see Fusion-power as contributing to our long term future?
By any measure far more evironmentally friendly than Fission reactions - provided the correct technology is utilised."

Very long term perhaps fusion will contribute however large unsolved problems remain even if ITER was 100% successful. The containment and heat transport material that surrounds the fusion core of a working reactor must survive an incredibly harsh environment of high thermal flux and radiation. No material exists today that would last in a production reactor. It will take a huge research effort just for this. Tritium supply is another problem. The tritium for a working fusion reactor can only be made economically inside a working reactor. The supply we have now is sufficient just for experiments and we could make enough to kick start the first reactor. All subsequent reactors would have to wait until sufficient tritium was made to start their reactors. You could not, at the moment build 20 simultaneously as there would not be sufficient tritium fuel.

If ITER or other experiments work then perhaps 10 years will pass until we are in a postion to build a reactor. 10 or 20 years of research with a pilot reactor could lead to a production reactor being built taking another 10 years. We are looking here at 40 years if everything goes right, which it seldom does, until the first reactor could be built. Then we would have to wait longer still to make enough tritium to fuel any more reactors. It would take nearly 100 years before any meaningful contribution could be expected from fusion.

Ender

MCrab - "Ender, you seem to believe that nuclear power is unsustainable ...

Yes I agree that the sun will run out one day however it is a far larger time scale than uranium which is limited as are all the Earth resources.

"There are adequate currently identified uranium reserves to last for any likely nuclear build up this century and, given its relative geologic abundance, good reason to assume more will be discovered."

Any build up?? That is a pretty sweeping statement. High grade uranium ores will not last that long and we will have to do what this reference says:

"Whatever the merit of these groups’ goals, these arguments are based on a false premise. Long-term uranium supplies are simply not a real problem. Even if (in the distant future) uranium ore does get really expensive, market forces, and nuclear technology, are equipped to handle it. Advances in extraction technology, along with higher ore prices, will exponentiate the recoverable reserves"
http://www.americanenergyindependence.com/uranium.html

This is supportive of your position that uranium supplies are not really a problem however it does point out that a massive build up of nuclear power would lead to lower grade ores being used that require much more energy to mine and enrich.

Breeder reactors make proliferation all the more easy and deadly. How comfortable would you be with a county like Iran having a breeder reactor? If nuclear was the long term sustainable answer then this should be OK. However both you and I know that it is not. I don't think ANYONE can be trusted with that much readily fissionable material and guard it for the required 1000 years. Banning nuclear power will not make nuclear weapons go away as the people that have them will not give them up. However the less countries the better should have nuclear weapons for the coming resource wars.

"There's also a problem with your assertion that nuclear couldn't produce enough energy for everyone to live a western lifestyle. Nuclear power is produced as electricity..

If you had read my blog you will know that I am a huge proponent of electric cars. However I am not a fan of energy at all costs. I am pretty sure my assertion that nuclear power cannot sustain the world's population at our levels of consumption is reasonably correct:

"That is the tough issue of which Cheney speaks, and the algebra to prove it is conservative. If, for example, everyone on earth consumed as much energy as U.S. citizens currently use, worldwide energy production would not have to go from 316 QBTUs to over 600 QBTUs, but instead to over 1,900 QBTUs!"
http://www.ecoworld.com/home/articles2.cfm?tid=294
Now 1900 Quadrillion BTUs is approx 410 million GWh. If you divide this by 365 X 24 then this is 46 803 GW. ie this is the output of 46 000 1 GW nuclear reactors running flat out for a year. That is a lot of reactors. They would consume 1 404 109 tons of uranium per year and produce 70 million tons of waste. Do you think that this is viable? This is also a picture with no population growth. How long do you think even the low grade uranium would last?

"Is it not possible that your objection to nuclear power is based more on your aesthetic dislike of its large, centralised, industrial nature and that your arguments stem from this rather than a dispassionate examination of the facts?"

Yes quite possible as I really am in favour of distributed renewable power using smart grids. However could your own advocacy of nuclear power be from exactly the opposite - a love of centralisation with an equal lack of examination of the facts?

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

"The containment and heat transport material that surrounds the fusion core of a working reactor must survive an incredibly harsh environment of high thermal flux and radiation. No material exists today that would last in a production reactor."

Yes but the effort has already started... I unfortunately had to miss a seminar on this issue from a vistor to the institution I was affiliated with. Chemistry certainly has an input on this problem.

Advanced material design has potential spin offs in other areas. So I'd advocate it.

Thinking about it - I should have attended the seminar now, even though its not my area. Shame

Ender

Mark - "Yes but the effort has already started... I unfortunately had to miss a seminar on this issue from a vistor to the institution I was affiliated with. Chemistry certainly has an input on this problem."

I never said that it was impossible I just think that it will take some time to achieve. Right now, without a working reactor, we can only approximate the conditions inside one. Until fusion is achieved we will not be able to really make headway on the material science side.

I just hope we can maintain society while all this is going on. Part of lowering our energy consumption might be pure survival if things go badly.

Bill Hannahan

Here are a few interesting facts.

The average American consumes 1,550 watts of electricity.

Converting 5.4 ounces of uranium into fission products will release enough heat to generate an 80 year lifetime supply of electricity. Less than one ounce will be radioactive at end of life.


The fission products will be less radioactive than uranium ore in 500 years.

We mine 58 pounds of uranium to generate 5.4 ounces of fission products, using primitive first generation reactors.

Breeder reactors can do it with 7 ounces.

Fossil fuels account for 86 % of all the energy that supports our lives.

The average American consumes 11,300 watts of source energy.

Converting 13 oz (0.8 lb) of uranium to fission products will release enough heat to generate a total lifetime supply of energy for one average American, with no CO2 emissions.

To produce 13 oz of fission products using primitive first generation nuclear power plants we mine 137 lb of uranium.

Breeder reactors can do it with 15 oz

The natural decay of 13 ounces of natural uranium to stable lead produces about seven times the radiation produced by the decay of 13 ounces of fission products. In the end, the natural process leaves you with 13 ounces of lead that remain toxic forever, whereas most fission products decay to non toxic atoms.

The oceans contain 4.5 billion tons of uranium, sufficient to support 10 billion people for over 30,000 years.

In reality the oceans are continuously resupplied with uranium by the erosion of land, so the uranium supply is effectively unlimited.

The solar power intercepted by the earth is 175,500,000,000,000,000 watts. Dividing by earth’s population, 6.5 billion, reveals that earth receives 27 million watts of solar power for each human on the planet. That’s not just at high noon on a clear day, that’s 24 hours a day every day.

The 11,300 watts that support our lives equals 0.04% of our share of solar incidence.

Every human on the planet can enjoy a lifestyle more energy intensive than our own as long as we do it in a way that does not interfere with the natural energy balance of the earth.

To review the calculations and references see the Excel spreadsheet at

http://www.jimholm.com

and click on “Things Everybody Should Know About Energy”

Ender

Bill Hannahan - "The average American consumes 1,550 watts of electricity."

Hope you did not base all your calculations on this one as I think it is wrong. 1,550 watts is not a consumption figure it is a measure of how much electricity a device will use in a second. A 1550W device will consume in one hour 1.550kWh. You cannot say that the average American consumes 1,550W as this does not make sense.

I looked at a few websites and came up with this:
http://www.statcan.ca/english/research/11-621-MIE/2005023/tables/table1.htm
The average consumption of energy for a person in the USA is .3441 TJ per year. This equates to 94,750kWh. Not all this is electricity of course however a proper measurement of energy consumption should include transport.

It is true that there is plenty of solar energy, more than enough for all of humanity. We do use an enormous amount in the solar collecters we plant. They only have a 3% efficiency. Given that why bother with the dangerous business of nuclear energy.

BTW not sure where the 500 year thing came from. Certain radionucleides are dangerous for many thousands of years however I found this:

"If spent fuel is directly disposed of without reprocessing it will remain more radioactive than the corresponding quantity of uranium ore for over 30,000 years. The principal objective of spent fuel reprocessing is recovery of plutonium and uranium for recycling as reactor fuel. There are also substantial waste management advantages removal of plutonium and uranium reduces the period in which the remaining high level waste will be more radioactive than the corresponding uranium ore to around 2,000 years[11]."
from
http://www.asno.dfat.gov.au/annual_report_9900/nuc_waste_management.html#_ftn11

Now removing the plutonium gets us right back to the point of who do you trust with it. Looks like we will have to guard waste for twice as long as the Roman Empire lasted - good luck on that one. Are you sure your facts are correct?

BTW2 how the hell do you think we can generate the energy to process enough sea water to mine uranium?

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

Hey you do realise all this is "empirical" Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA)?

Maybe some of you should generate a Wiki where you could do a comparative LCA on this?


At the very least look the topic (LCA) up Bill & Ender.

It's sort of the part and parcel of what I do with chemical processes.

However the environmental impacts of these - don't have the "prelonged times" of radio nucleotides.

*sigh*
I'll stick to chemicals...


Just a suggestion on the LCA anyway.

MCrab

Ender: "...would lead to lower grade ores being used that require much more energy to mine and enrich."

The lowest ore grade mined today is in the Rossing mine in Namibia, which is 0.035% uranium by mass. This is orders of magnitude lower than the highest grade mines, such as McArthur River in Canada, which has an ore grade around 25%. If you look here you can see that in 2005 Rossing used 1.15 PJ of energy to mine and mill 3,711 tonnes of Uranium. Making the conservative assumption that a 1 GW reactor uses 200 tonnes of natural uranium per year, then the uranium mined by Rossing will generate 585 PJ of energy.

Thus we can see that even for the lowest grade uranium mines currently operational, the energy cost of getting the raw material is a minute fraction of the energy generated. This suggests that even using unconvential sources of uranium such as phosphates, which are 10-20 times lower in grade than Rossing, would not prohibitive.

Of course mining and milling are not the only energy costs associated with nuclear power, but all others are static with respect to ore grade. As I stated in my previous post, however, enrichment technology continues to improve. France currently uses two nuclear reactors to power its diffusion enrichment plant, but plans to move over to centrifuge enrichment, which use a fiftieth of the energy. Obviously this changes the energy balance even more in favour of nuclear, making ore grade even less of a factor.

Ender: "...worldwide energy production would not have to go from 316 QBTUs to over 600 QBTUs, but instead to over 1,900 QBTUs"

"...this is the output of 46 000 1 GW nuclear reactors running flat out for a year."

Wow, there are so many mistaken assumptions implicit in these figures that I almost don't know where to start...but I'll give it a try:

1) Assumes everyone on earth attains a first world lifestyle. This is unlikely to be the case for many decades, perhaps centuries.

2) Assumes that a first world lifestyle require American levels of energy use. As this link shows, many advanced nations have less than half the energy use per capita of the US.

3) Assumes cars are still powered by internal combustion engines. ICEs are around 20-30% efficient. Add in the refinery losses and you get a well-to-wheels efficiency of 16-24%. So in a best case scenario, three quarters of the energy in each barrel of oil is wasted. Now compare this to an electric car: the engine is 90% efficient or more, you lose 10% in electricity transmission and 10% in charging the battery. Thus, you have an overall efficiency of about 73% (not taking account of regenerative breaking which would make this figure higher). This shows the fallacy of your 46,000 nuclear reactor example, where you calculate that replacing today's oil use would require an equivalent amount of electricity. If you're using electricity for transportation - whether from nuclear, wind, solar, hydro - then you're using a lot less energy.

4) Assumes similar patterns of domestic heating as today. At the moment, most people heat their homes by burning a fossil fuel (oil, gas, coal). This can be done very efficiently (80-90%), although some heat is always lost in the flue gases. If electricity is used, however, it can be converted to heat at 100% efficiency. But we can do much better than that! If the you use your electricity to power a heat pump, then you can get 3-4 times as much heat produced (possibly even greater in future, as this isn't yet near the theoretical limit). So, again, we have a similar conclusion that using electricity reduces total energy use.

5) Assumes nuclear provides all future energy requirements. Not even the most ardent nuclear supporter would claim this will ever be the case. The 400 or so nuclear reactors in existence today do, however, generate 16% of the world's electricity. Would doubling or tripling this number over the next few decades really be such a bad thing if they replaced carbon belching, conventional coal plants?

Ender: "They would consume 1,404,109 tons of uranium per year and produce 70 million tons of waste."

70 million tons of waste?! And there I was thinking that nuclear reactors consumed mass in accordance with E=mc2 :D. In reality, the amount of high level waste produced by nuclear power is very small. In the UK, fifty years of nuclear power - including decades of supplying more than 20% of our electricity - has produced 2,000 cubic meters of high level waste (and a lot of this was with older, inefficient reactors). This amounts to a cube 12.5 meters in diameter. Compared to the vast amount of waste produced by coal plants or domestic waste, this is vanishingly small.

Ender: "Looks like we will have to guard waste for twice as long as the Roman Empire lasted - good luck on that one. Are you sure your facts are correct?"

The vast majority of radioactivity in spent fuel is from the fission products, which will decay to background levels in as little as two or three centuries. As to how radioactive it is at this point, it depends on what grade of uranium ore you want to compare it to. Take a look at this graph. As you can see, it does indeed take thousands of years for the actinide portion of spent nuclear fuel to decay to the radioactivity of the low grade ores typical of Australia. However, it only takes a few centuries until it is comparable with the high grade uranium ores found in Canada. These ores are not monitored for safety, largely because they've been part of the earth since the beginning of time!

Ender: "BTW2 how the hell do you think we can generate the energy to process enough sea water to mine uranium?"

I believe that the idea is to suspend a polymer fibre absorbent into an ocean current and thereby extract the uranium passively. This approach may well be energy positive for current generation LWRs and certainly so for breeder reactors. Of course, it will take many millenia for us to exhaust the vast land based deposits of uranium and thorium, so a discussion of seawater extraction is only of use in debating nuclear's long term sustainability.

Ender: "Now removing the plutonium gets us right back to the point of who do you trust with it."

If it's not weapons grade, then it's merely a disposal problem.

Ender: "Yes quite possible as I really am in favour of distributed renewable power using smart grids. However could your own advocacy of nuclear power be from exactly the opposite - a love of centralisation with an equal lack of examination of the facts?"

My requirements for an energy source are that it is clean, economic, reliable and secure. I couldn't care less if it's centralised or distributed. I'm often pegged as a nuclear supporter, but this is inaccurate. Given the challenges of climate change and fossil fuel depletion, I'll support any viable energy technology that meet the criteria I gave above. Part of the reason I love reading this blog is that it exemplifies this ethos.

As for not examining the facts, I was once of a similar opinion concering nuclear power as you. I thought it was an old, failed technology that was on its way out. Examining the facts (and not just those on anti-nuclear or environmental websites) forced me to re-evaluate that opinion. Nuclear power has improved greatly since its seventies heyday and will continue to do so in future. Other than hydro-electric, it is the only mature, low carbon, baseload generation technology currently available. You can certainly argue about what percentage of mix it should be, but to advocate its phase out at this point in history, based on nothing more than an aesthetic liking of small-scale distributed power, is particularly daft.

amazingdrx

Actually the average household uses around 10,000 kwh per year. That per person calculation is wrong and not really very useful.

With other energy uses, non electric heating, transportation, and industrial/commercial power electric and fossil fuel uses, you would divide the total energy used by the number of people.

If you want to think of it on the basis of an average home, around 1.2 kw of generating capacity would yield that 10,000 kwh.

Around a half of that use on the average is due to heating/air conditioning. that can be nearly eliminated with geothermal heating/cooling using direct circulation and heat pumps.

And those savings would make powering homes with distributed renewable generation possible.

Ender

MCrab - "As I stated in my previous post, however, enrichment technology continues to improve. France currently uses two nuclear reactors to power its diffusion enrichment plant, but plans to move over to centrifuge enrichment, which use a fiftieth of the energy. Obviously this changes the energy balance even more in favour of nuclear, making ore grade even less of a factor."

Except for the environmental cost of mining all this ore and processing it. Are all the trucks and loaders and crushing mills all going to powered by electricity? Where do the tailings go from sustaining this level of nuclear power by mining very low grade ore?

"Wow, there are so many mistaken assumptions implicit in these figures that I almost don't know where to start...but I'll give it a try:"

No the example I gave clearly stated if everybody on Earth consumed as much energy as a person in the USA. The USA is a clear leader in per capita energy use. Other countries that you point to have smaller cars, less airconditioning at less extravagent lifestyles. Are you saying that the USA should cut back on energy use so that nuclear can power them and the rest of the world. This is almost exactly what I have been saying however the idea of nuclear and clean coal is to increase the supply so our non-negotiable lifestyles are not a risk. Now you are saying Americans and Australians have to cut back. If they are going to cut back then we may as well do it properly and go for a power source that we do not have to end up strip mining the earth and disposing of toxic waste.

"70 million tons of waste?! And there I was thinking that nuclear reactors consumed mass in accordance with E=mc2"

No if that was the case then the waste would be measured in nanograms as only a minute fraction of mass is turned into energy. Do the maths yourself and see how much mass is required to produce 1GWh of energy.
1,000,000.0000 Kilowatt Hours = 3,600,000,000,000.0000 Joules which is equivelent to m = 360000000000/(2.998X10^8)^2= 4 X 10^-5g

The problem is that an average nuclear power station produces about 30t on spent nuclear fuel per year.
http://www.uic.com.au/nip09.htm
"A typical large (1000 MWe) light water reactor will generate 200 - 350 m3 low and intermediate level waste per year. In the case of used fuel (when this is considered a waste), 20m3 (30 tonnes) is produced per year, which corresponds to a 75m3 disposal volume following encapsulation."

46000 reactors producing 30 tons a year is the figure I gave.

"I believe that the idea is to suspend a polymer fibre absorbent into an ocean current and thereby extract the uranium passively."

If this works why not do it for gold?
"Gold occurs in sea water to the extent of 0.1 to 2 mg/ton, depending on the location where the sample is taken. As yet, no method has been found for recovering gold from sea water profitably."
If you can't do it now for gold why do you think suddenly it will be OK for uranium?

"My requirements for an energy source are that it is clean, economic, reliable and secure. I couldn't care less if it's centralised or distributed. I'm often pegged as a nuclear supporter, but this is inaccurate. Given the challenges of climate change and fossil fuel depletion, I'll support any viable energy technology that meet the criteria I gave above. Part of the reason I love reading this blog is that it exemplifies this ethos."

Yet nuclear power is neither of these. As yet there is no proven method of storing the waste in long term storage so how can you claim that it is clean? We cannot seem to regulate one country to stop producing nuclear weapons and yet you propose that same country receive breeder reactors that produce material that can more easily be processed into weapons grade fissionables. How is this secure? Only by ignoring these 2 facts can you claim that nuclear is clean and secure so surely you are more in denial than I.

Large centralised power plants imply huge distribution networks. These do not exist in all parts of the world. Renewables work well in small or large scales without having to construct the massive and fragile infrastructure that we have built over the century to allow large central power stations. It would be far far easier to improve the life of Third World people with renewables that bypass the need for vunerable electricity lines. However we cannot do this while the large power station mentality is prevalent in our society. Third world countries will always aspire to what we have as we are models of prosperity and wealth. If we change then we CAN ask them to change - at the moment we would only be the hugest of hypocrites.

"Other than hydro-electric, it is the only mature, low carbon, baseload generation technology currently available. You can certainly argue about what percentage of mix it should be, but to advocate its phase out at this point in history, based on nothing more than an aesthetic liking of small-scale distributed power, is particularly daft."

Do you understand what baseload really is? Baseload refers to a type of power station that due to their design and operating characteristics it is more economical to run them flat out 24 X 7 rather than trying to vary them in response to changes in demand. Two types of baseload power stations are thermal coal and nuclear. Baseload has nothing to do with reliablity or availability is just refers to the type of station. Intermediate plants and peaking plants are what do most of the variations with the large baseload plants being switched in and out sill consuming energy but producing nothing because you cannot turn them off easily.

Renewables can do 'baseload' if the systems are designed properly with storage to cope with times when the renewables are not available. Storage is done now with pumped hydro however better methods are in the pipeline like V2G and flow batteries that can interact with renewables. Also thermal power stations like coal and nuclear should be replaced with intermediate and peaking power like IGCC and natural gas turbines. Both these types of power can vary their output in minutes and cope better with renewable power.

Large centralised power stations are good for corporations however distributed microgrids are good for people. They are far less vunerable and take the pressure off fragile distribution networks that are already stretched to the limit. They allow communities to be generate power locally from truly clean sources and get closer to what makes society tick - a much better apprecitation of energy and its use.

A renaissance of nuclear power will not only need power stations but a huge upgrade of the electricity network and in the case of the Third World in many cases a brand new one from scratch that has to be guarded ceaselessly.

Nucbuddy

Ender wrote: "Gold occurs in sea water to the extent of 0.1 to 2 mg/ton, depending on the location where the sample is taken. As yet, no method has been found for recovering gold from sea water profitably."
If you can't do it now for gold why do you think suddenly it will be OK for uranium?

google.com/search?q=gold+seawater+uranium

The concentration of gold in seawater is much lower than that of uranium.


google.com/search?q=garwin+seawater+uranium
nci.org/conf/garwin

Ultimately, we may have safe, economical breeder reactors, but we can take centuries to perfect them. Because in addition to the 200 million tons of terrestrial high-cost uranium, there are four billion tons of uranium in the oceans-2000 years of operation of a population of 10,000 LWRs. Half of this seawater uranium could be harvested without substantial increase in cost above that of harvesting the first seawater uranium in bulk. And that might cost from $100-$1000/kg-- probably still cheaper than recycle and breeders, but even at the higher figure the cost of fuel is still affordable.

If all enrichment costs and tails fraction remain the same, to buy 200 tons of uranium at $1000/kg to fuel a typical LWR for a year would involve costs of $200 million. This would approximately double the cost of power from an LWR, but the additional cost per kWh would be some 2 cents per kWh-- easily affordable in comparison with the 10 cents or 20 cents per kWh charged to the consumer and the 40 cents or 70 cents per kWh recently experienced in California.


Ender

Nucbuddy - "Half of this seawater uranium could be harvested without substantial increase in cost above that of harvesting the first seawater uranium in bulk"

So giant plants sucking in millions of tons of seawater and processing it is better than cutting back and using renewable power?

Why bother - with this kind of technology we would be better mining Jupiter for tritium. It is about as practical as basing our energy future on processing millions of tons of seawater for uranium.

Mark C R (Chemist) UK

Oh my head hurts now.

Nucbuddy

Ender wrote: So giant plants sucking in millions of tons of seawater and processing it is better than cutting back and using renewable power?

For an objective comparison to be made, you will have to state your performance criteria. However, without that information it can be said that the energy density of uranium and thorium as fission-fuel acts as a latent factor weighting nuclear-fission toward compactness, worker-safeness, public-safeness, low energy cost, and environmental benign-ness -- in relation to such low-density energy sources such as wind and solar PV/thermal. It is because of this density-derived weighting factor that any type of solar power (wind, etc.) stands such a poor chance of competing against nuclear fission in any given contest featuring multiple diverse performance-criteria.

Please state the criteria you used to determine that the plants would be "giant".

The plants do not take in seawater. Rather, they dangle strips of adsorbent material. Natural current-flow continuously exposes fresh seawater to the strips. Periodically, the mineral-saturated are drawn up and taken to shore for processing, or processed on-site (on the barge or platform from which the strips are dangled). This blog-posting has more details, and enlightening illustrations:
peakoildebunked.blogspot.com/2006/01/207-uranium-from-seawater-part-1.html

Ender

Nubuddy - I don't even have to answer this one - it was done really well in comments to the post:

" You need to understand that most of the uraniums are not useful nuclear fuels. There are U238 and U235. You need U235, which is one part of 137 part of total Uranium.

They harvested 1 kg of Uranium in terms of yellow cake. Of these, there is maybe 7 gram of the useful U235. That, at the cost of 350 kg of specially made material and one years of operation of the facility. You have got to wonder whether that 7 gram of U235 would give you back enough energy to pay back the energy cost of manufacturing the special material and the operation of the facility. So, ah ha, EROEI gets in your way again.

The earth does not lack Uranium, which is more abundant than even the lead. But the earth lacks economically mineable uranium. Uranium from the sea water may not be economical, in terms of EROEI.

Quantoken

At 10:58 AM, Quantoken said...

Another way of considering it is consider how much uranium, the U235 kind, the world currently consumes per year in nuclear power plants. My estimate is above ten thousand tons per year.

But let's be very conservative. Let say we only use one thousand ton. Which is way too conservative. To harvest 100 ton of U235 per year, use the Japanese device which harvests 7 grams per 350 kilogram speciality material. A simple calculation shows you need 5x10^10 kilogram of those materials, averaging 8 kilogram per person. Which does not seem to be something you can ramp up in scale."

Paul Dietz

You have got to wonder whether that 7 gram of U235 would give you back enough energy to pay back the energy cost of manufacturing the special material and the operation of the facility.

The special adbsorbing material, almost certainly. The energy yield from fission will be on the order of 1 million eV per nucleon. The polymer absorbs .01% of its weight in uranium, so the energy yield will be around 10 gigajoules per kilogram of plastic, per cycle (remember, some of the 238U also gets burned, even in thermal reactors, by fast fission and conversion to plutonum, some of which then fissions). This is orders of magnitude higher than the combustion energy of the adsorber (a reasonable BotE proxie for the energy cost of making it).

The energy cost of eluting the uranium from the adsorber is even smaller, so the EROEI there should be even higher.

A simple calculation shows you need 5x10^10 kilogram of those materials, averaging 8 kilogram per person.

We burn much more fossil fuel than that, per person, each year. Morever, this material can be reused, so the production per year could be even less. So I consider this aspect of your rejection of the concept to be spurious. 8 kilograms/capita/year would be an entirely acceptable rate to produce the material, even if we had to make it entirely from non-fossil feedstocks.

The better criticism is not the adsorber, but the support structure for the adsorber. This is heavier, probably represents more energy, and definitely represents more expense. However, if the idea is economically practical, it will probably be energetically practical as well.

Paul Dietz

The polymer absorbs .01% of its weight in uranium,

I meant, 1% in uranium.

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