PDA

View Full Version : Nuclear Power


Please visit our sponsor:
 

AikiWeb Sponsored Links - Place your Aikido link here for only $10!


David Orange
02-21-2010, 01:17 PM
Since our last discussion of nuclear power, in the thread about the motorcycle girl touring Chernobyl, I've been reading about sodium fast reactors and I have to say, if any kind of nuclear power makes sense, this seems to be it.

http://www.esquire.com/features/best-and-brightest-2009/nuclear-waste-disposal-1209?click=main_sr

and

http://www.esquire.com/search/fast_search?search_term=fast+reactor

This kind of reactor uses nuclear waste as its fuel, entirely eliminating the need for long-term waste storage that is one of the stupidest aspects of existing nuclear power generation schemes.

I'm not sure how it stacks up in other areas, but if the US is going to consider further development of nuclear power, it should first be in this direction, getting rid of all existing nuclear waste, before moving forward on any more conventional reactors.

Or am I missing something on this?

David

thisisnotreal
03-03-2010, 07:55 PM
liquid thorium reactors (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHs2Ugxo7-8):: Pretty interest talk, if you like geeking out on that kind of thing :freaky:

Or am I missing something on this?
politics?:confused:

Rob Watson
03-03-2010, 08:53 PM
nuclear waste

No such thing! Phrase invented to turn folks against nuclear power. Except for the US everyone else on the planet reprocesses depleted fuel rods and keeps on using them. There is very little of any real unusable material that could be termed waste.

http://kgoradio.com/Article.asp?id=1409613&nId=7&spid=33320

Considering the vast amounts of radioactive materials spewed by coal fired power plants either we are fussing over nothing or are totally screwed and it has nothing to do with nuclear power.

http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html

Most folks are shocked to find out that 104 nuclear power plants have been operating in the US 24 hours day for the last 50 years. Everyone has heard of Three Mile Island. How many know what actually happened there?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Mile_Island_accident

Whether one like wikipedia or not the page gives lots of good jumping off points and a reasonable summary of events.

Pretty much a good plan is to switch to natural gas for transportation (huge reserves ya know - probably more than oil) and go exclusively nuclear for electric power generation. Localized use of alternatives like wind and solar ,etc are encouraged but economically not quite ready for prime time. The president or congress could start tomorrow and require all new federal vehicles to be natural gas ready - that will push the major manufacturers to increase capacity. A pretty significant percentage of the fleet is already running on natural gas so all it takes now is will power. The distribution system is almost complete already as almost every household in the nation is fitted for natural gas delivery.

The backbone of modern industrialized economies is clean steady power (cheaper is better).

The situation in California is simply too pathetic and frustrating to even bother going into detail.

lbb
03-04-2010, 08:11 AM
Pretty much a good plan is to switch to natural gas for transportation (huge reserves ya know - probably more than oil) and go exclusively nuclear for electric power generation. Localized use of alternatives like wind and solar ,etc are encouraged but economically not quite ready for prime time.

Define "ready for prime time". Hell, so-called biodiesel works when it's just one guy driving around town, collecting used fryolator oil from all the restaurants in town to power his french-fry car. Trying to fuel all the autos in town, given typical use...not so much. The same is true for electricity: is wind power sufficient for the electrical needs of the average household? Again, define "needs": we've got one hell of a lot of electrical appliances that we apparently think we "need", but that didn't even exist in our parents' time...it's amazing they managed to survive :crazy: If those are your "needs", then no, you're probably not going to be able to take care of yourself with the solar panels you hang on your house or the wind turbine you set up on your lawn. And if those are our "needs" as a society, then we're stuck with nuclear -- because long term, there is no other means of generating a lot of electricity. And that's just plain stupid. I'm not against nuclear power per se...but I think it's just plain bone-headed stupidity that we're not giving ourselves a choice, and for what? Stupid crap like home entertainment systems. We must have electricity for big-screen TVs; therefore, we must have nuclear power.

phitruong
03-04-2010, 09:49 AM
fusion power is the future http://www.iter.org/default.aspx

i don't believe high-tech society can survive without some sort of high concentrated power plan in form of nuclear power. it would be awfully hard to power a maglev high speed train with solar, wind or even natural gas. also if humanity ever plan to go beyond the solar system, it will need some serious fusion power plan.

C. David Henderson
03-04-2010, 09:50 AM
This is a good discussion. I do agree that the availability of an "out" such as nuclear power encourages people not to question their personal choices. I hope it does not dampen development of other options for people who want to reduce their footprint or get off the grid.

To me, the geopolitical and climatic consequences of reliance on fossil fuels is another factor weighing in favor of nuclear power nonetheless. We're facing historical choices with the society we have, not necessarily the society we might want. But our national interests in maintaining political stability in and extraction from the world's oil fields is something that may well be unsustainable itself. And I dread what would come crawling out of that can. As for climate change -- despite the snowy winter, I accept the prevaling scientific consensus.

Best

Rob Watson
03-04-2010, 11:14 AM
We must have electricity for big-screen TVs; therefore, we must have nuclear power.

Household power consumption pales compared to industrial and commercial uses, The only thing that comes close is air conditioning use in the hot season and when those go down people die.

One could quite readily provide power at home using a bicycle rigged to a generator if one so chooses (along with a judicious selection of appliances). In terms of the bigger picture to serve 300+ million folks and their economic engine we can choke ourselves on coal combustion byproducts (that's what we are doing now) or we can scale up the only other viable alternate and build out our nuclear power capacity-along with bolstering the distribution grid.

My main point is coal is killing us for certain while well designed and built nuclear power plants are incomparably safer and suitable for long term high capacity needs.

Folks that insist on consuming large amounts of power pay correspondingly higher bills. Incremental advances/changes in the system we have is realistic while drastic alternatives are not. Some folks will not give up the plasma TV +$100 extra electric bill in favor of hand cranked laundry appliances and a good book. No matter how 'stupid' they are held up to be.

Besides, milking the gullible of their hard earned cash is the american way.

Rob Watson
03-04-2010, 11:16 AM
Define "ready for prime time".

$/kWHr and/or large scale applicability.

mathewjgano
03-04-2010, 02:58 PM
No such thing! Phrase invented to turn folks against nuclear power. Except for the US everyone else on the planet reprocesses depleted fuel rods and keeps on using them. There is very little of any real unusable material that could be termed waste.

I didn't see in the article if it says quite what the waste rate is though. I get it that the rods can be reprocessed, leaving a "relatively small" amount of waste, but how quickly does that waste add up and, more importantly, what is the nature of that waste? Is it super-concentrated? And what do we then do with that "small" amount that (I'm assuming) decays in hundreds and hundreds of years? Do we have storage that will decay at least as slowly?
I understand solar power isn't effective enough right now (perhaps if we had national policy behind it like the lunar landers did?), but it seems to me that harnessing the best fusion system we've ever seen might be a better approach. Also, a solar power system seems more flexible in what size a footprint it leaves (you can put one on your roof) while nuclear power always seems to take up a big volume (air space is always an issue around nuclear plants)...which also makes them good targets for would-be attackers...imagine if that Texas pilot who crashed into the IRS building had beef with nuclear power instead.
That last bit might be more of a red-herring than I realize, but it just seems like more could be done in areas which require less working parts to operate.
...But maybe that's the problem: it could end up being so cheap to make energy that it would cease to be a money-maker? And then where would we be? A whole section of an industry out of work?
...Sorry for the more random thoughts.
Take care.

lbb
03-04-2010, 05:23 PM
The only thing that comes close is air conditioning use in the hot season and when those go down people die.

Do they really? People will freeze to death a lot faster in an inadequately heated home, yet nobody gives a damn about that. I lose interest in the hypothetical discussions when no one cares (or is even aware) about what people are doing now just to survive the winter. If I told you the measures that people in my community routinely resort to, you'd be horrified.

Rob Watson
03-04-2010, 05:50 PM
yet nobody gives a damn about that

If you say so ...

Electric heaters consume great amounts of power so without ready power those fail as well.

Abundant clean steady power from nuclear power plants (also less $/kWHr) goes a long way towards opening options for ameliorating a great many problems like heating, cooling, clean water, waste management, transportation and on and on. There are a multitude of causes of suffering that are exacerbated by the lack of electric power.

As for freezing or cooking to death I choose to live elsewhere so I can die in an earthquake instead (not sure how nuclear power addresses that problem).

Hypothetical? Nuclear power plants and natural gas powered vehicles of proven technology. There is no dispute that coal (while very abundant is still limited) is dirty nasty stuff (clean coal is a myth and certainly well within the realm of hypothetical). Burning natural gas in power plants is a misuse of a resource that can be used to replace gasoline and diesel powered vehicles. Perhaps I'm a bit dense but where is the hypothetical?

h2o
03-04-2010, 06:17 PM
Household power
My main point is coal is killing us for certain while well designed and built nuclear power plants are incomparably safer and suitable for long term high capacity needs.
.

Yes, assuming they're well designed, well built, and I would add well operated and maintained.

People make mistakes. I think it's a pretty foolish enterprise to commit to a wide deployment of an extremely complicated technology when the negative impact of a failure is so high. Add to that the increased risk from transportation, processing and storage of very dangerous waste, which must be actively managed for tens or hundreds of thousands of years. Yeah, dunno. Something will go wrong, somewhere. And the results will be nasty.

It's worth adding that many countries will struggle to do nuclear technology well. There are equity issues here. As always.

That said, risk is part of life, and maybe this will be one we have to take. However, I think it has to be seen as a last resort in the instance that we can't figure anything else out. If we can get fusion to work? That will be a new age.

As an aside - I reckon it's really interesting how the area around Chernobyl is now absolutely thriving as far as natural ecosystems go, since we're no longer there. Like most environmental issues - it's not really about the "planet", but us. Nature will be just fine. In my opinion the whole save the planet rhetoric underestimates (and I would add disrespects) how powerful and resilient life and nature is. It's more of the same anthropocentric arrogance that causes the problems in the first place. We may certainly struggle, though, when nature's feedback mechanisms go further down road of self correcting us out of existence.

Scott Harrington
03-04-2010, 06:49 PM
I seriously considered walking in the Nuclear Power path, but with Three Mile Island hysteria and the terrible fictive Jane Fonda movie "China Syndrome", the whole engineering section for Nuclear work was a ghost town.

Nuclear produces no carbon dioxide, less radiation than burning coal (through emissions), and is remarkably clean (the Soviet accident is just one more aspect of the failure of communism.)

The leftists and so-called greens just wanted something to rant about and think they were 'changing the world.' It is the same as global warming - the talk in 1975 was global cooling. Good science perverted for ideology.

Scott Harrington

Mike Sigman
03-04-2010, 07:21 PM
Besides, milking the gullible of their hard earned cash is the american way.Not to mention their votes and unreasoned passions.

M.

thisisnotreal
03-04-2010, 07:24 PM
Not to mention their votes and unreasoned passions.

M.

it is the way of man.

Mike Sigman
03-04-2010, 07:35 PM
it is the way of man.

So is war, rape, murder, pillage, and corruption. But let's be non-jiudgemental. ;)

Rob Watson
03-04-2010, 08:14 PM
Yes, assuming they're well designed, well built, and I would add well operated and maintained.


Do you know how many nuclear power plants are currently operating and for how long they have been operating? Three Mile Island was a bad design operated poorly and nobody does anything remotely similar anymore (mostly). Chernobyl (sp?) was even worse designed and operated and no reactor designed in the last 30 years comes even a whisper close to that ....

Where is all the 'waste'? Treated better than gold because it is worth way more than gold and is recycled via reprocessing (except in the US-stupidly).

I presume you would apply the same restrictions on coal fired power plants which are ridiculously under regulated and spewing out toxins and radioactive materials by many tons every year?

Rob Watson
03-04-2010, 08:16 PM
Not to mention their votes and unreasoned passions.

M.

Do people still vote these days? I thought I was the last one ...

Unreasoned passion=oxymoron? We have a contest here on the slickest self cancelling phrase ... I like 'pretty ugly' but then I'm easily amused.

Adman
03-05-2010, 09:04 AM
As for freezing or cooking to death I choose to live elsewhere so I can die in an earthquake instead (not sure how nuclear power addresses that problem).

I'm guessing you were tongue-in-cheek, but FWIW...

Nuclear Power Plants and Earthquakes (http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf18.html)

lbb
03-05-2010, 09:44 AM
If you say so ...

Hey, look at public policy and energy policy. It's clearly not a priority.

IElectric heaters consume great amounts of power so without ready power those fail as well.

Abundant clean steady power from nuclear power plants (also less $/kWHr) goes a long way towards opening options for ameliorating a great many problems like heating, cooling, clean water, waste management, transportation and on and on. There are a multitude of causes of suffering that are exacerbated by the lack of electric power.

Providing cheap and abundant electricity to solve the problem of inadequate heating is like throwing a ten-foot rope to a person drowning 50 feet from shore. Real human beings need complete solutions, not ones that can't solve real problems.

C. David Henderson
03-05-2010, 10:58 AM
I saw a program about energy efficient housing somewhere in N. Europe (Germany?) that saved an enormous amount of energy. Efficiency seems, however, most economically attractive when faced with high energy costs. When gas prices spiked in the summer of 08, everyone was talking seriously about electric or hybrid cars; now, not so much.

The marketplace, I suspect, will tend to favor cheap energy over energy efficiency, when and if alternative sources become prominent, just as it probably will tend to promote large scale energy production and distribution over local, more small scale alternatives.

Kind of like natural selection favoring large animals, only to produce species more susceptible to sudden die-off...

This is where public policy could make a difference, but as government appears broken, I'm not optimistic about any near term fixes.

Rob Watson
03-05-2010, 11:43 AM
Hey, look at public policy and energy policy. It's clearly not a priority. .

I looked but I could find neither policy ... 'you're on your own' is about the closest I could come to finding a policy.

Providing cheap and abundant electricity to solve the problem of inadequate heating is like throwing a ten-foot rope to a person drowning 50 feet from shore. Real human beings need complete solutions, not ones that can't solve real problems.

Electric heaters are a poor choice compared to gas, oil or even wood fired heaters but they do provide warmth. No one is suggesting that nuclear power will solve all our problems. I just think it is way better than continuing to build more coal fired plants and natural gas fired plants.

Try living with no electricity and see how that goes!

I'm all for well built houses and buildings using sustainable and renewable resources as well as efficient design (insulation, ergonomics, etc). Suggesting otherwise is silly and besides the point.

We have to be reasonable in this discussion in that nuclear power plants provide electricity and will displace other sources of electricity. The only other large scale and efficient ($/kW/Hr) sources are coal and natural gas plants. I'm suggesting that natural gas is better suited for another purpose (replacing oil fuels for transportaion) and while coal is amazing stuff it is better used for things besides generating electric power. Problems not solved by electric power as a rebuttal are non-sequitur and disingenuous. Electric wart removers notwithstanding.

Solar, wind, etc are all well and good but are expensive and cannot serve the large scale requirements of on demand power delivery. When appropriate to the local conditions they are great additions that cannot be ignored. One of the largest solar panel deployments in the state of CA is Santa Rita prison which is also one of the largest electric power consumers in the county. It is sunny enough in the Livermore valley to almost be economically viable (it is not).

In the US trying to blame poor public or energy policy is simply a non-starter for me because we the people are the govt so get off your backside and get on it. Expecting the nanny state to solve our problems is a loosing proposition.

jonreading
03-05-2010, 12:24 PM
What the heck...

I have a friend in energy who works with the federal governement. He mentioned in converstation that for the last [many] years independent research placed before the White House and FERC has listed nuclear energy as the most viable option given its cost, efficiency, and sustainability. Don't kid yourself, nuclear energy is a back-burner concept because of politics and lobbies, not because it is a poor source of energy.

Some energy like coal is cheaper but clearly has a strong impact on the environment. Some energy is more efficient and cleaner, but more expensive (natural gas or refined fuel). Green energy right now has a very high price tag. The US population also has an energy consumption problem and we need to address that issue in whatever solution addresses the generation of energy. We need to make a choice about what kind of energy we want, and then stand up to the consequences of that choice.

Now for the politics:
1. I believe that nuclear energy is a stable, efficient, and cost-effective energy solution. Nuclear energy is heavily regulated and there exists considerable oversight in maintaining a safe environment. I think nuclear energy represents one of the best energy solutions for the immediate future. The new nuclear reactor options are clean, efficent, [relatively] cheap, and the technology exists now. Nuclear energy research also represents the future of advanced energy (fusion, space travel, light sabers, etc.). I accept that the byproduct of nuclear energy is difficult and expensive to manage, and I also believe we need to commit to using that byproduct efficiently and retiring it appropriately.
2. I believe that green energy is not a viable solution for a consumer market, but it is a luxury. I believe Americans who have the means to pay for green energy should be allowed that option as research and development continue to make green solutions more efficient and affordable. Heck, I got a box on my power bill that allows me to support green energy development. I don't have that disposable income, but I appreciate the choice and I hope that those who are committed to that cause support it.
3. I think if the consumer market (minimally regulated) is allowed to function, natural gas and other more efficient fuels will [slowly] phase out other options (such as coal and oil). I wholly support the conversion to more efficent fuels for consumption. I think consumers have the choice to vote with their money and they will choose to purchase energy-efficient products and support companies conscience of the environment and our future. I think many companies have already caught onto this concept and are adjusting to meet this expectation.
4. I believe that the population should advocate the moderation of energy and commit to the everyday decisions that will move towards less consumption and better efficiency in the energy that we currently have available. I make this decisions by choosing to recycle, by using energy-efficient appliances, by maintaining my house and my vehicles, and by turning off the G$# D#@$% lights when I leave a room (which I now have to fess up to my dad he was right all of those years he yelled at me...). I am not of financial means to participate in the more expensive decision such as hybrid vehicles, the green energy bills, or solar panels ...But if I ever reach that state I will consider those options.

It seems stupid to say so much, but the energy debate can be volatile and I wish to be clear in my comments. I think energy is a priority under the current administration and it will become a popular topic of conversation over the coming years.

C. David Henderson
03-15-2010, 11:04 AM
Nice post, Jon.

I think you are right about the politics of nuclear energy.

Thinking about the kind and level of regulation that is desirable in the energy market reminded me of the classic economics concept of market "externalities."

For argument's sake, let me suggest that a substantial part the cost of the foreign policy of most industrialized countries, e.g., in the Middle East or other oil producing countries, should be viewed an "externality" of the energy industry -- a societal cost that is real, and distorts the fabric of both energy exporting countries and energy importing ones, but nonetheless fails to find direct expression in "economic" decisions.

The same criticism that validly has been levelled at the ethanol industry -- that it is propped up artificially by government action -- also applies in the above sense to whole of the petroleum industry, to the extent the world has spent and will continue to spend such a large amount of "blood and treasure" to secure access to, control over, or ownership of it.

What if every tank of gas had a war tax attached to it? How would that affect our perceived national interests and our perceived economic choices?

The same kind of dynamic seems to underlie the assertion of regulatory authority by the federal government over greenhouse gasses, and Texas Gov. Perry's pending lawsuit challenging this authority and invoking the economic interests of "farmers and the petroleum industry."

Setting aside any debate about the merits of the underlying science relative to global warming in particular, pollution emissions are used as the classic text book example of an economic externality. This underlying dynamic tends, I think, to favor economies in the production of energy rather than efficiencies in the consumption of energy.

That's why I tend to think of this as an area where government has a vital role in regulating the economy, because these economic blind spots distort our choices and our future. However, as I mentioned, I'm pessimistic right now that in this country at least we have a government that can fulfill that important role.

Just my personal view, of course. YMMV.

Respectfully,

thisisnotreal
03-18-2010, 06:50 AM
Yeah.... that *was* a nice post.
This was my favorite part.
What the heck...

Nuclear energy research also represents the future of advanced energy (fusion, space travel, light sabers, etc.). : ]
I agree. Uncovering the specific fundamental dynamics here will definitely open up new field. As Tesla wrote... "hooking up to the very wheelwork of nature".
Something I still get stuck on.... Energy can be neither created nor destroyed...only changing in form or state, right? Isn't that right there saying that the universe is, by definition, a perpetual motion machine?
I know..I know... the uspto can't be wrong. I'm kinda half kidding here. I still believe (fwiw=0.02$) that the losses (=energy leaking out of the thermodynamic system we are trying to control) which we count as inefficiencies in reactions (chemical, mechanical, nuclear..) are actually only uncontrolled energy transfer mechanisms...why we see such weird stuff at quantum levels of interaction.... (The energy transfer modes are limited).

anyhoo...this was wicked cool (right at the junction of quantum, mechanics, thermodynamics and chemistry)
http://www.thenewamerican.com/index.php/tech-mainmenu-30/energy/3133-nanotech-energy-source-discovered

jonreading
03-19-2010, 12:08 PM
I think we all silently await the development of a functional lightsaber...

David-
I think you are spot on in your assessment that people would benefit from greater transparency in energy market factors. I think regulations, special interests, international policy, and pork barrel spending all should be considered external influences on the market. I also think that if all of those costs were applied as a excise tax on their appropriate energies, we would collectively feel differently about our energy choices. Throw in the earmarks that use what little tax revenue in generated for other purposes, and now you have a poor business model for managing an industry... Which [may] explain in part the poor state of our energy industry.

I think you also have a valid point identifying the relationship of energy production v. energy consumption. The US is a large consumer of energy, but we don't export [relatively] much energy. The US is at a disadvantage because we are not energy independent; energy dependence disadvantages our country's domestic policy and our foreign policy. I argue we are disadvantaged when our taxes subsidize an imperfect energy solution. I argue our foreign policy is disadvantaged when we have to consider consequences resulting from political decisions in countries from which we depend on energy. We may acknowledge and accept those disadvantages and accept the consequences of our decisions.

I am fairly strict in my federal powers so I am not a huge fan of government regulating any industry beyond that minimally necessary to maintain the safety of the population. However, I think the government should align the country's domestic and foreign policies with [in part] our economic choices. As representative of its citizens, I advocate the government should reflect the will of its people. However, I think in general the people are not educated about the true cost of our energy industry, nor is government forthright in clearly and concisely providing that information to its citizens. I tend to agree with you that the current federal government administration (and the previous several) has not been able to satisfactorily fulfill its role in this capacity.

C. David Henderson
03-20-2010, 02:11 PM
Hi Jon,

Seems like we are in substantial agreement on these issues. I really think there's probably room for a lot of common ground on the underlying questions among a majority of the people in this country. I really wish we had a political system that promoted action on those issues, rather than the manufacturing of disputes over how to arrange the deck chairs ....

I believe there is in fact a relationship between the lack of education about the costs of our energy choices and the constant offerings of "bread and games" that is our modern political culture.

Regards,