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Open Thread

Open Thread 3

The last Open Thread has just slipped off the BNC front page, so time to launch a new one. The Open Thread is a general discussion forum, where you can talk about whatever you like — there is nothing ‘off topic’ here — within reason. So up on your soap box!

The standard commenting rules of courtesy apply, and at the very least your chat should relate to the broad theme of the blog (climate change, sustainability, energy, etc.). You can also find this thread by clicking on the Open Thread category on the left sidebar.

Although I don’t want to direct commentary along any particular pathway, here are a few items I’ve read recently that you might find worth discussing:

1. The Bureau of Meteorology has released a Special Climate Statement on the recent exceptional rain and flooding events in central Australia and Queensland. 28 February was the wettest day on record for the Northern Territory while 2 March set a new record for Queensland. Over the 10-day period ending 3 March 2010 an estimated 403 cubic kilometres (403,000 gigalitres) of rainfall fell across the NT and QLD!

2. A really excellent and easy-to-read paper has been published in the latest issue of Sustainability. It’s called “Is Humanity Doomed? Insights from Astrobiology” by Seth Baum of Penn State Uni. It’s open source (free to download, here). The author is not focused on whether humanity will go under anytime soon, but rather he is interested in a long-term view — especially, what astrobiology has to say about the Fermi Paradox (which I discussed here, way back in the early days of BNC). Fascinating paper.

3. Joe Shuster, in cooperation with the Science Council for Global Initiatives, has published an energy planning primer called “Want to see the future? Look at energy.” (download the 21-page PDF here). It’s a sharp review of fossil fuel limits, smart grids, wind, solar, hydro, biomass and natural gas, and the future role of plasma remediation and nuclear energy in the US energy economy.

His 2040 plan ends up with 42% nuclear, 12% natural gas, 5% plasma arc syngas, 6% bio/geo/tides/waves, 5% hydro and 30% wind/solar. For the latter, he says 30% is really the upper limit he can conceive, with any probable shortfall being met by more nuclear. Cost? About $6 trillion in direct investment over 30 years, but which results in an economy-wide cost saving equivalent of $8.5 trillion (mostly from no longer needing to purchase foreign oil, plus efficiencies etc.). All in all, it’s a plan well worth looking at, and fits nicely with the ‘real-world applicability’ criteria I described here.

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By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

526 replies on “Open Thread 3”

I wrote this in an email to someone els this morning so I’ll post it here. Hopefully, someone might pick it up and develop it further.

“What I would like is a list of the unfair imposts on nuclear power, and what is the cost of them.

Off the top of my head here are a few:

1. Nuclear is some 10 to 100 times safer than coal per kWh, yet we demand ever more safety from nuclear and accept coal as it is. Why don’t we simply demand the same level of safety from nuclear as coal gives us? After all, we already accept the level of safety of coal because we recognise the enormous benefits of low cost electricity to society?

2. We subsidise wind by $65/MWh (correct me if I have that figure wrong) and solar PV by about a factor of 12, yet we ban nuclear. This is a case of governments picking winners; it must be just about the worst case ever.

3. Our government subsidises CCS yet balks at any contribution to assist nuclear to get started in Australia. A government contribution is essential to send the message to investors that the government also has some interest in the success of establishing nuclear here. Without some significant government involvement (such as loan guarantees) we are not going to go anywhere with nuclear in Australia (while the unlevel playing field remains in place).

4. The government has stated it will accept all the risk of leakage for CCS, but places ridiculous requirements on the storage of once-used nuclear fuel (i.e. fuel that has had only 1% to 10% of the useable energy actually used so far).

5. We don’t require any other generator technology to manage its waste and emissions (to water, air and land) to the same extent as we do for nuclear.

6. We require that a nuclear power plant must be able to withstand the highest possible earthquake and must be able to withstand impact from a fully loaded jet liner, yet we don’t require the same of all the tanks containing highly poisonous gasses that are located throughout our cities. And whereas a nuclear accident may cause a small number of early fatalities, toxic chemicals kill manny immediately. Chernobyl 31 immediate deaths, Bhopal, 6000. Many other examples. “Ah, but what about the latent fatalaties?”, I hear some scream at me. Chernobyl: projected 4000 early deaths in a population of 200 million over 70 years. That is an almost unmeasurably low rate of early deaths when compared with the early deaths from all the chemicals we emit to the environment from all our industries.

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The Australian today has an article exposing gross exaggeration by the Department of Climate Change (DCC). The department exaggerated the emissions cuts that the insulation would achieve.

In a similar vein, I seem to recall that Charles Barton wrote an article on the scamming involved in the whole ‘energy-efficient green buildings’ strategy for reducing GHG emissions. To cut a long story short, it seems that the benefits to be had from green architectural innovation have been greatly exaggerated. I’d link to the post, but I haven’t been able to find it. I’m sure it’s there somewhere on http://nucleargreen.blogspot.com/ amidst Charles’ prodigious output.

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Click to access NC-Wind-Solar.pdf

“The annual utility load was taken to be 90 billion kWh, a somewhat
more energy-efficient version of the present 125 billion kWh load … The reductions were based on the author’s data set of measured energy use in more than one hundred North Carolina homes.”

So presumably there is no industry in North Carolina? Only residential homes.

Oh, wait. Let me Google that for you, http://tinyurl.com/ybvlmfu

160 aerospace and aviation companies
160 motor vehicle parts companies
520 bioscience companies
1700 banking and finance firms
3000 IT companies
1500 textile complex facilities

Here John Blackburn, let me give you a leg-up http://tinyurl.com/leg-up

Quit lying to us!

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Phil McKenna has an “Insight” item in New Scientist on how the US is going with AP1000 LWRs in its new loan guarantee backed nuclear construction push, whereas other nations are pushing ahead with more contemporary technology:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20527503.800-the-us-is-lagging-on-nuclear-reactor-technology.html

The online version does not contain a small table which appears in the print version, as follows:

Nuclear reactors, present and future

Generation III (Light water reactor)
Coolant: Water
Available: Now worldwide
Pros: Proven track record
Cons: Low efficiency. Low temperature waste heat is less useful. Cannot burn recycled fuel efficiently.

Generation IV (High temperature gas reactor)
Coolant: Helium
Available: 2013 in China
Pros: Produces useful heat. Increased efficiency and safety.
Cons: High pressure coolant poses possible safety risk.

Generation IV (Fast reactor)
Coolant: Liquid sodium or lead
Available: France, Japan and Russia
Pros: Produces useful heat. Can burn spent fuel.
Cons: Requires spent fuel from conventional reactors to be processed into plutonium. Safety issues with coolant. Early-stage technology.

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to go from 90 billion kwh to 125 billion kwh would be a 38.8 percent increase.

to go from 125 to 90 would be a 28 percent decrease.

here is the entire quote adam refers to:

The annual utility load was taken to be 90 billion kWh, a somewhat
more energy-efficient version of the present 125 billion kWh load. Average hourly loads in each of the four seasons were taken from Duke Energy’s 2006 load profile. These were modified to show some reduction in summer and winter peaks as structures become more energy-efficient and enjoy
disproportionate reductions in heating and especially cooling energy demands. The reductions were based on the author’s data set of measured energy use in more than one hundred North Carolina homes.

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Yeah, sorry, got that upside down. Just realised as I was riding to work it’d be the other way round and 28%. Oops. Can see why I never went to Uni.

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@Peter Lang: at

https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/03/05/open-thread-3/#comment-49544

you state that various bodies such as WWF, Greenpeace, FOE etc. “brought us anti-nuclear protests and much other nonsense” since the 1970s”.

I assume you as economic neoliberal and possibly foreign policy neocon are also referring here for AU to the military testing of nuclear weapons (41 French atmospheric A-tests at Muroroa 1966-74; 147 below -ground to 1996) British testing at Maralinga in the 50s and knock-on consequences thereafter).

I would comment as follows:

1. it does not seem tactically advisable for nukies to conflate their wish for civilian nuclear energy rollout with non-civilian use in any way. Possibly you are not aware of this or do you view US nuclear status as a guarantee that AU will not be overrun by Indons or Chinese, given 20+ US bases in AU incl. Pine Gap?

2. assuming that neither fallout from AU or Polynesian tests nor the geological containing structures are hazardous, see e.g.

http://www.abc.net.au/quantum/info/mururoa.htm,

the fact remains that the “anti-nculear protests” you are referencing were directed in part against proliferation.

“Other nonsense” on the part of Greenpeace, FOE etc. since the 70s includes environmental campaigning unrelated to nuclear energy or proliferation, so that your allegation implies hostility to any and all efforts to preserve biodiversity, and various other conservation concerns as well.

Given your apparent stance, it is not clear how your intend to “change the minds”, as you put it, of such nonsensical people and bodies. Because nonsense is not amenable to persuasion, is it? Does it not have to be suppressed by the “social engineering” you advocated on BNC some weeks ago? What form should this engineering take? Is China not a model in this regard?

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north carolina’s total power consumption is roughly 827 billion kwh (299 milion btu/person times 9.4 million divided by 3.41 million btus to get unit of 1000 kwhs). I think I did the math right.

presumably, we want to electrify most of this. it puts the ieer plan into perspective, which claims to budget for 90,000 billion kwhs.

That said, I don’t think the ieer piece (I have not finished it yet) takes into consideration overbuild or transmission line changes, etc. does it, alastair? (will answer my own question in time but perhaps you can save me work!)

it means to show that the basepower argument is wrong.

so it just “scales up” wind and solar based on insolation and wind data. does it look at capacity factor? if solar is to provide around 40 percent of electricity consumption (a little more than 4 gigawatts of energy given the grandiose efficiency improvements), does that mean 20 gigawatts installed capacity etc?

20 percent cf would be optimistic given that much pv use in this plan would be residential. doesn’t mackay say that affordable solar now has much lower cf?

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question for barry and peter etc:

the north carolina ieer report has this footnote, referring to Jacobson:

The authors studied hourly wind generation data
from 19 separated wind farm sites in the Midwest. Among their significant findings they noted that wind energy had a base-load equivalent of 33% to 47% as compared to coal plants. That is, in 87% of the year’s
hours (the operating hours of baseload coal plants) wind plants together were generating 33% to 47% of their average output. Another study is Troy Simonson and Bradley Stevens, Regional Wind Energy Analysis for
the Central United States, Energy and Environmental Research Center, Grand Forks, North Dakota. Ms. Hansen, cited in note 7, found the same effect in her study of three sites for North Carolina.

The note reminds me of course of the study here made of Jacobson.

can someone translate? is this 33 to 47 % of average output referring to the average output of the wind farms or the coal plant? The reference of “their” is not clear. or is this number 33 etc percent of the capacity factor?

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in this study, the only reference to capacity factor I found was to a 22% capacity factor for the natural gas turbine operating as auxiliary power.

also, above, I lost my senses and wrote 90,000 billion kwh when I meant 90 billion kwh.

arrrghhh.

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V2G:

people here have commented periodically on V2G scenarios.

does anyone have some links where these scenarios are critically analyzed?

the problems here would be partly analogous to the problems of having to divert renewable energy to any kind of storage, right? and then there would be both large scale coordination problems (how to get enough cars to be storing instead of driving at the right times) and price: I never understood the idea that our plug in hybrids could be charged off peak, drawing on excess wind power at night. wouldn’t millions of cars charging at once cause a power problem? like, during hot summer nights? plus, if millions of cars are charging at once, would not off peak then become peak?

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@gregory meyerson – you can do a Google search for the phrase “Vehicle to Grid scam” and come up with a few.

Look, this doesn’t require a deep analysis. Even its supporters admit it will need a massive upgrade to the grid to accommodate this system, and commonsense shows that individuals are going to realize a net economic loss participating in this scheme. It is just not practical, no matter how good it looks at first glance.

This is just another part of the Anything-but-Nuclear campaign being waged, by several interests right now. V2G is a very seductive idea, but it just falls apart under any sort of detailed scrutiny. It is not a solution to grid based storage, and never will be.

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I’m going to try and parse Blackburn’s paraphrase of Jacobson. You folks in AU are probably sleeping (what’s the time difference?)

if “their average output” refers to wind capacity factor, then following barry, that gives us 33 % to 47 % of 35% (optimistic wind cf) operating 87 percent of the time.

the thing is, if I’m correct in parsing B’s paraphrase, isn’t it highly disingenuous for Blackburn to omit capacity factor? You might have 33-47 percent of dispersed wind functioning as base power, but it’s not a lot of power. 14-16 percent of nameplate. while B expects to get about 4 GW from wind, he never says what his wind’s nameplate is.

If we apply Jacobson’s numbers (run thru barry) to the N.C. situation, with .35 CF, Blackburn’s nameplate would be 11.43 GW, 14-16 percent of which he’d get as baseload equivalent: about 1.7 GW.

okay my energy tutors. does this make sense?

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thanks dv:

in the blackburn piece, just to emphasize how much power renewables can provide, there is a section on V2G in which B says this:

These last three arrangements [V2G, purchased power and auxiliary generation–gm] bring enormous new demand-shaping and storage possibilities to the electric grid. They complete the task of accommodating grids to intermittent power sources. They permit the utility systems to operate with a complement of backup generation capacity which is smaller than the backup facilities commonly used in the present systems and their huge centralized coal or nuclear baseload plants. [24-5]

As you can see, DV, and I’m not cherry picking, there’s no reference to the obvious difficulties you raise about massive upgrades.

I agree with Finrod that this sort of analysis functions to narcotize the renewables camp. They can answer the challenge posed by nuclear greens and do it with lots of graphs and numbers.

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skysails just updated their systems to new steering units and doubled the sail area to 320m².
The new system does optimize operation time and saves 30-40% anualy.
It would be possible for skysails to employ over 3000 systems over the next 10 years saving 1-2tonns of oil per ship and day.
Operational systems have a tow force of 8-16 tonns.
They plan to operate sails of up to 130tonns by 2012.

We would need ways to finanze retrofitting of ships. The system costs 500.000-1Mio €.
It pays for itself in 3-4 years but there is no money for the investment.

Ships emit about 2% of global GHG.

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@heavyweather0 – Yet again this is more of an Anything-but Nuclear ‘solution’.

There is no mode of transport more able to adapt to small modular nuclear power than big ships. Sealed units that only need refueling every 30 year, not only are available now, but collectively have over a million hours and more of operation at sea with several navies.

If windjammers were so good, why did the shipping industry abandon them for steam?

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I have nothing in priciple against large wind-powered commercial vessels as long as they do what is necessary, but I doubt they would be able to match the performance of powered vessels in speed and reliability. If it wasn’t for that, the industry might well look at the fuel savings to be had from sails.

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DV8
Because they had no kites and missed the automatisation needed to operate a power kite at 500m atlitute?
Your question is as stupid as asking why they needed so many people to rig the things.
Now it is automated.

Finrod:
The kite actually makes the vessel faster and takes load off the engine and drive train.
Sails are another technology. Sails take space and would be very hindering unloading containers.

Ships do not need to go fast btw.
Actually the are building/designing diesel engines to go slow now because shipping companys like to operate them slow but keep all ships at sea even when there is less demand.
This slower operational speed puts more wear on the engines.

While not nuclear related it is CO2 related.
I don`t believe nuclera can deliver a fast solution or shipping.
60.000 kites is easy compared to 60.000 ship nukes.

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heavyweather0, Said:

“Because they had no kites and missed the automatisation needed to operate a power kite at 500m attitude?
Your question is as stupid as asking why they needed so many people to rig the things.
Now it is automated.”

Categorically not. Steam replaced wind because it was more versatile, faster and could serve more ports of call on schedule than sailing ships ever could. And just to illustrate the depth of your own ignorance, later steel-hulled, iron-masted cargo ships were working right up to WWII carrying grain, on very small crews, they were not as labor intensive as the steamships of the era were.

Your claim that slower operation puts more wear on a diesel engine is also way off base, and again demonstrates you have no idea what you are talking about.

And where did you get 60,000 ships? There are less than 25,000 vessels over 5,000 Dwt. registered in the world at the moment. Only 6800 of these are container ships of the sort that can benefit from powerkites.

Or is that another stupid question?

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Ships do not need to go fast btw.
Actually the are building/designing diesel engines to go slow now because shipping companys like to operate them slow but keep all ships at sea even when there is less demand.

Yes, but the reason they’re building slower, low-power ships is for economy in the face of high fuel prices. If they went nuclear, that would no longer be an issue. In fact, they could probably be designed to go a bit faster than the ~25 knot standard set when the fuel was cheaper.

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The current hard reality:
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/look-whos-cooking-with-coal/story-e6frg71x-1225839757197

Look who’s cooking with coal
The Minister for Resources spells out some green truths

HERE’S the dirty little secret of the Rudd government’s refusal to negotiate with the Greens over its emissions trading scheme. It couldn’t. Talking to Bob Brown and his colleagues would have revealed the truth about the emissions trading scheme – that this was fudged policy designed to do very little about reducing carbon emissions. It has been clear to this newspaper from the start that the ETS was a minimalist scheme with limited impact. But it was Martin Ferguson’s appearance on Lateline on Wednesday night that belled the cat about the fine line walked by Labor on climate change. Mr Ferguson’s old-school Labor manner is easy to dimiss in an age of Twitter politics, but there is nothing out of touch about the Minister for Resources and Energy. On Lateline, his grasp of his portfolio detail was matched by a grasp of its politics. No way, he told interviewer Tony Jones, would the Rudd government move to close down coal-fired power stations such as Loy Yang and Hazelwood without a base-load alternative. “If we were to close Hazelwood tomorrow, we’d have an absolute backlash from the Australian community . . . they couldn’t go home of a night, put the lights on and cook their evening meal.” Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce and Tony Abbott could not have put it better. There you have it: the government’s approach to climate change, no matter how it has been sold to the inner-urban green crowd, has always been designed not to scare the horses in Labor-held coal electorates in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. Here the promise is of funding for research and development of clean coal and other alternatives, along with the guarantee Labor will not turn off the lights. Coal stays until there’s a proven alternative source of base-load power.

Mr Ferguson says that 2015-20 is the “window of opportunity” to prove low-emission technologies such as carbon capture and storage because we are “very quickly approaching maxing out” the energy system. With the gap between base load and peak load disappearing fast, we need to invest in new generation capacity or we will all be in trouble. The minister isn’t picking winners but likes the look of gas and wind along with geothermal and biomass. He says the missing link is a price on carbon to launch the market race for low-emission alternatives.

Mr Ferguson didn’t say it, but the truth is if we can’t make algae et al work, the only option is nuclear power. That’s an argument the Prime Minister does not want to have. Given his self-described status as a “practical pragmatist”, perhaps it’s one for the Minister for Resources.

Nuclear power, anyone?

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One point on shipping: Half the world’s shipping is about moving around dirty, climate changing fossil fuels. Yep, half.

After peak oil and hopefully a bit of sensible climate policy kerbs demand for coal on the international market, we’ll halve the world’s shipping Co2 simply because we won’t need it.

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eclipsenow, on 12 March 2010 at 21.07 Said:

“Is an aluminium factory really just a super-cheap, giant battery waiting to be discovered? Surprises in energy storage? Who woulda-thunk-it?”

Before declaiming the birth of a Black Swan, maybe you should look into just what is being said in the video attached to the link you posted.

Molten metal batteries are not aluminum smelters run in reverse, they use different metals and different designs. The only place an aluminum smelter comes up in this story is as the seed of the idea the researcher had.

These things are not small, a megawatt would be the size of a bus, they have a high net loss due to the need to keep the cell at temperature, and like all electrochemical cells, are high-amperage, low-voltage devices that will need to be built in large numbers to have any real impact.

hey have a very long way to go before they will have any impact on the grid, if indeed they ever do.

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Hello everyone. I’ve been away for two weeks including from my computer, which I can’t use very well anyway. Very interesting catching up on this blog however. Uncle Pete – I have a car sticker now three years old which states “BE COOL WITH NUCLEAR” Barry, you’re right. We need to ignore ATC and the other anti nukes for that matter [Diesendorf, Noonan etc]. They persist in recycling 40 year old objections to nuclear power even while most countries are going “hell for leather” in developing or increasing it. On the cost comparisons of steel/concrete for wind and nuclear I note that steel rebar gets a mention. Is that the same steel rebar that was used in a huge block of apartments in Taiwan about 15 years ago? It contains Cobalt60 and that’s radioactive. It scared the hell out of the Taiwan authorities when they discovered that fact and so they set about checking the effects of the additional radiation on the residents of the apartments. Surprise, surprise. Those people had a lower incidence of cardio-vascular disease and cancer than the general population and there were fewer childhood abnormalities noted as well. Admittedly it was only a small sample [about 10,000 tested]. But scientists conducting the study concluded that low level chronic radiation seemed to act like an immunisation. Other similar studies, especially the Nuclear Shipyard Workers Study carried out by the US Dept of Health in association with Johns Hopkins University discovered similar results and in a huge sample of nuclear workers [27,000] compared with 31,000 controls. The conclusions indicated that the low level radiation exposure of the workers contributed to DNA repair and stimulation of the immune system. These findings contributed to Prof Paul Davies writing in the Adelaide Advertiser in 1998 that ” the effects of radiation have always been ludicrously exaggerated”
I’ve been to the Lucas Heights facility [three years ago] and I also visited the Chalk River nuclear research facility in Ontario in 1981. That’s one of the reasons I converted from an anti to a pro position on nuclear power. Most rational people change their minds when they know the facts. Not Diesendorf, Noonan etc though. We must not let them dictate our future energy policy. Cheers guys.

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Just as a heads up to people, I’m about to hop on a plane to Singapore and will probably be offline for ~24 hours. If you’re comments accidentally get diverted to the SPAM queue during that period, sit tight and I’ll clear them when I can.

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adam: the taiwan case is discussed in william tucker’s book, Terrestrial Energy. perhaps both cases are. G. Cravens discusses LNT at length also, with refs to cases like those you point out.

I can look up the refs if you like.

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John D Morgan:

I read the the IFR-related cite you linked to and was prompted to ask a couple of questions which you may be able to address.

1) What can one infer from the information cited that GE is ready to build a rector vessel for $50 million? I am unable to interpret the significance of the statement, given that I have been led to believe that a completed nuclear plant would be likely to cost $4 billion/GW.

2) Sodium cooled reactors have, in the past, been more often than not associated with fires. These haven’t been dangerous but have caused disruptions, delays and rich sources of adverse propaganda in democratic states. It appears that only the Russians have been pragmatic enough to put the fires out and carry on producing power. I was therefore wondering whether lead, should corrosion issues be satisfactorily addressed, could be substituted for sodium in the IFR design without major modification? I can imagine that the lack of need for secondary cooling loops and inert gaseous atmospheres would not involve major design changes and would, in fact, make things less expensive.

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Douglas:

1. $50 million is for the reactor vessel only – it can be filled with water, but I understand its construction is helpful for NRC certification.
2. Molten lead is quite corrosive to steel, very heavy and hard to keep circulating, prone to freezing (melting point is 327C, lead-bismuth eutetic @125C helps here), and rarer than sodium (perhaps an issue when there are 1,000s of such reactors). It is certainly possible that it will be adopted in 4th Gen designs, and the Russians are happy to pursue this reactor coolant; the corrosion issue, as I understand it, is the biggest stumbling block. See Table 3 here for the list:
http://www.gen-4.org/Technology/systems/lfr.htm

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Hi Douglas,

To add to Barry’s remarks, and I have no insight into GE’s plans, the reactor vessel is just the metal bucket which would hold the core, the sodium pool, and parts of the coolant circulation loop. GE recently testified to the US congress and remarked that a next step for them would be construction of the vessel and first filling it with water for further engineering studies (sorry, can’t quickly find the link). I assume the reason why you would do this is that liquid sodium has very similar viscosity and density to water, so you would be able to check internal flow behaviour against simulations, and maybe structural behaviour as well. As a complex bit of metalwork its probably worthwhile prototyping. Its the sort of activity you would undertake as part of a process scale up from a pilot scale (which the EBR-II would be) to full scale.

When I met Tom Blees at ANSTO recently, I asked him just how much pilot scale proofing or development of GE’s PRISM design would be required before the reactor could be commercialized. While GE would do water experiments, the Russian approach is, they’d just go ahead and build a working plant to start with. And given the quality of existing fluid dynamics simulations, structural analysis and mechanical design tools, etc., I don’t really see a problem with that.

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OK, ANSTO visit again. I have the wednesday 31st of March locked in, so please confirm your interest for that date.

Once again, this is for a visit to the Lucas Heights research reactor, for a tour focussed more on power production than other nuclear science. Its open to anyone who can make it, so if you’re interested just add you name to the list here – all welcome, including lurkers, not just regular commenters.

Current interest:

1. John M
2. Peter L
3. Finrod (prefers weekend; possible delegate for weekday)
4. Ewen L (can’t make it – sorry Ewen)
5. Pip (prefers week)
6. Robert S (prefers 10:30 – 14:30)

Peter, what time would suit, coming from Canberra?
Finrod, are you still unavailable?

Could you all please email me contact details, to my gmail address, username john.d.p.morgan?

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I have lost an URL, maybe I will find it from here.

It’s a collection of very good and complete texts about many different kind of energy sources. Texts from a professional, but I don’t remember the name. Very realistic and objective. Tells the truth about renewable energy sources just as is it, with all limitation and benefits.

All the texts are also published as a book, but also available on-line. Hope someone here could help me to find this site.

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Peter, Finrod, Pip, Robert, I’ve got a rough programme together for the ANSTO visit, as below. I’ve suggested a 10:30 start – how does that sit with Canberrans?

Barry, could you possibly email Pip and Robert Smart in case they miss seeing this post?

——-

I have locked in the date with Andrew Humpherson as he would like to greet you when you arrive. Andrew is our General Manager, Government and Public Affairs. I will endeavour today to lock the date in with the other managers involved.

The draft program would be roughly:

Arrive a ANSTO, have ID’s checked, valuables& mobile phones in lockers
Tea/Coffee and morning tea on arrival.
Welcome by Andrew Humpherson
ANSTO overview by our Education Officer including nuclear medicine.
Travel to OPAL, discussion with OPAL Reactor Manager and tour of OPAL models.
Travel to Waste, 20-30 minute discussion on waste.
Travel to Environment, 20-30 minutes at Environment.

Doing my timing, this whole program would take approx. 3.5 hours.

Would this be okay with you? If I start it at 10am it would finish between 1.15-1.30pm.

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Kaj, that Climate Progress link doesn’t offer any credible economic argument against nuclear power. Its main claim is that nuclear power is too expensive at 1 trillion dollars for the US. Thats based on 100 plants at $10 billion per plant, which is ludicrous. And as one commenter remarks, how much would any realistic alternative cost?

There’s more, but its equally superficial. But there’s an interesting discussion running in the comments. Thanks for the link.

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I BEG (Peter Lang: if you help me out, I’ll never raise non energy issues again) someone to help me out with the following. I really need the information. The IEER author of the recent piece on North Carolina cites Jacobson’s wind studies as a model. The author says:

The authors studied hourly wind generation data from 19 separated wind farm sites in the Midwest. Among their significant findings they noted that wind energy had a base-load equivalent of 33% to 47% as compared to coal plants. That is, in 87% of the year’s hours (the operating hours of baseload coal plants) wind plants together were generating 33% to 47% of their average output. Another study is Troy Simonson and Bradley Stevens, Regional Wind Energy Analysis for the Central United States, Energy and Environmental Research Center, Grand Forks, North Dakota. Ms. Hansen, cited in note 7, found the same effect in her study of three sites for North Carolina.

Now I don’t know if this is the exact study Barry critiqued, but it’s similar enough. Blackburn’s language is slightly different and so I was wondering whether he meant what Jacobson meant (based on your parsing).

If “their average output” refers to wind capacity factor, then following barry, that gives us 33 % to 47 % of 35% (optimistic wind cf) operating 87 percent of the time. You might have 33-47 percent of average wind output as base power, but it’s not a lot of power. 14-16 percent of nameplate. While Blackburn expects to get about 4 GW from wind, he never says what his wind’s nameplate is.

If we apply Jacobson’s numbers (run thru barry) to the N.C. situation, with .35 CF, Blackburn’s nameplate would be 11.43 GW, 14-16 percent of which he’d get as baseload equivalent: about 1.7 GW.

Or: does 33-47% of average output refer to the average output of the coal plants? (not too clear to the layman from the quote) that would be an entirely different number. For every GW of coal, .33-.47 gw of wind?

Such a number would be much more favorable to IEER case and I wonder if he misreads Jacobson.

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The Climate Progress link is the best outlook on the future of nuclear.
If it can`t be finanzed it wont happen.
It does not matter what any other solution will cost because there will be multiple solutions.
There will also be some nukes in that mix.

Like one of the linked articles concludes one industry can`t drain all the budget.
When there is no private money what money is left?

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heavyweather, if we can’t afford to build the nukes, we can’t afford to build the more expensive renewable alternatives. There’s unlikely to be a mix of a cheaper solution which works with more expensive ‘solutions’ which don’t.

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Thanks Greg Myerson for providing AdamB with the Taiwan study, Much appreciated. It was good to read it all again. I used that study in a pro-nuclear speech I gave to several groups during 2005.I told you I’ve been at promoting nuclear power for a long time, 12 years in fact.

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Hi Finrod, Peter Lang, and anyone else interested in touring ANSTO on Wed 31st March (next week),

Can you please email me at john.d.p.morgan at gmail.com ?

I will need to get the following ID details from you this week in order to book in:

Anyone UNDER 18 Years of AGE: Name, Address and AGE ONLY.

Anyone OVER 18 years of AGE: Name, Address and either a Driver’s Licence, Passport or RTA Proof of Age Card. If the tour participant is OVER 60 years of age and does not have any of the previous 3 forms of identification, a Pension Card No. will be accepted.

Finrod, please pass that on to your friends. I’ll probably bring some colleagues along too.

I’m awaiting confirmation that the programme will run through10:30-13:45. ANSTO have kindly offered to shout us lunch, too.

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I note the recent publication of an Australian version of David MacKay’s “Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air” prepared by Peter Seligman, with the Melbourne Energy Institute at the University of Melbourne as the institutional affiliation:

Australian Sustainable Energy –
by the numbers

or MacKay’s site:

Australian Sustainable Energy –
by the numbers

This is a pretty substantial document at 125 pages, and probably deserves substantial review. I’ve barely scanned it.

Disappointingly, the document does not even mention nuclear power, aside from a brief paragraph on thorium (presumably thorium=good, uranium=bad, plutonium=evil). There is no discussion as to why nuclear power is not considered, its just ignored out of hand. I guess the idea is that its inadmissable by its nature and that is simply obvious to everyone. The author’s perspective is, from the Foreword,

.. the UK cannot supply all its needs from renewable energy, it would have to go offshore, or treat nuclear as renewable. In Australia, the situation is quite different. We could supply all of our needs many times over. In fact, in theory we could supply the whole world with renewable energy, if we were prepared to do it ..

Unlike MacKay, Seligman offers some treatment of the costs involved. However, just on a cursory scan, I can’t find headline numbers that would allow an easy comparison of options, or with, say, Peter Lang’s calculations.

I’ll quote the author’s conclusions here. I think finding the key numbers and understanding their origin in the analysis is important. I can see this study being widely cited in support of the idea that we can do it all on renewables alone, and that we should not consider NPP, and that this will carry, by association, some of David MacKay’s authority:

Conclusions
1. In theory, Australia could comfortably supply all of its power requirements renewably.
2. In practice, for some interim period, the use of some non-renewable sources may be necessary but the overall carbon footprint can be reduced to zero in time.
3. The major contributors would be geothermal, wind and solar power.
4. To match the varying load and supply, electricity could be stored using pumped hydro, as it is at present on a much smaller scale. In this case, seawater could be used, in large cliff-top ponds.
5. Energy efficiency would be a key aspect of the solution.
6. A comprehensive modelling approach could be used to minimise the cost rather than the current piecemeal, politically based, ad hoc system.
7. Private transport and other fuel based transport could be largely electrified and batteries could be used to assist with storage.
8. In a transition period, liquid fuel based transport could be accommodated by using biofuels produced using CO2 from any remaining fossil fuelled power sources and CO2 generating industries.

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“I’ll quote the author’s conclusions here….”

The usual ‘anything but nuclear’ list that betrays the real agenda of the author.

Note that in points 2&8 it is implied that there needs to be bridging with carbon-based fuels. Where have we heard this line before?

The usual sop to energy efficiency without any real indication just how this can happen.

Brine does not make a good working fluid for pumped storage hydro unless you are a glutton for punishment.

“A comprehensive modelling approach could be used to minimise the cost rather than the current piecemeal, politically based, ad hoc system.” Just buzzing that means absolutely nothing when you examine it up close.

Name dropping biofuels while describing a synfuel process, because ‘bio’ is more PC than ‘syn’ these days.

Jesus weeps

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I’m not making a substantive post here John, but just looking at the summary, the plan outlined sounds almost exactly like the model I would have advocated before I became persuaded that nuclear power was key to serious progress on CO2 abatement.

Solar, sea-based pumped storage, biofuels, energy efficiency, V2G … and later I added thorium to the things I thought worth putting into the mix. He doesn’t mention algae biodiesel or butanol or panicum but I can forgive that.

That’s just spooky …

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Mark Diesendorf was his point of reference for the viability of thorium energy. Say no more…

A 10 min scan of it left me profoundly disappointed. The working scenario fails to account for the problems of low supply times and the concomitant storage problems that arise from this, as detailed by Peter Lang. I’ll probably have a more substantial go at critiquing it on BNC within the next few weeks. But beyond the banal conclusion that Australia is bathed in lots of sunlight and buffeted by lots of wind — far more than we could ever use, IF we could somehow harness it in a cost competitive way — I’m not seeing what this document is adding.

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Fran, me too. DV82XL, agreed. Barry, I noticed the “Diesendorf – personal communication” reference too.

Here’s the headline cost: Seligman estimates the cost of going completely renewable at $253 billion over 25 years.

The appropriate comparison from Peter Lang’s work is probably the capital cost of the solar, wind and gas option – figure 9 in Emission Cuts Realities – Electricity Generation. That’s $520b out to 2050,but it only replaces 50% of fossil fuel consumption.

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One interesting idea I got on a link to that site John was a (possibly tongue-in-cheek) BETS — a bicycle emissions trading scheme which applied the FIT for solar PV of 60cents per KwH to pay bike commuters an average $8 per 30km round trip to ride their bikes to work.

I suppose there would have to be bike ways and bike storage provided too, but it was a fun idea.

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“7. Private transport and other fuel based transport could be largely electrified and batteries could be used to assist with storage.”

This is the big black swan as far as I’m concerned… the great unknown. Just how much energy will V2G EV’s be able to store, and how frequently will they be able to dump vast amounts of stored energy back onto the grid?

If society proves to be too paranoid about nuclear energy, I wouldn’t rule out incredible innovation from engineers, people, the marketplace, and other social synergies all interacting to meet our needs in new ways, especially if the New Urbanism meme takes over.

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Yeah, I saw that too Ewen, I think it was only semi-serious. I see they also have some interesting seminars coming up:

April: The Future of the Grid – Integrating Energy Supply
June: The Future of Nuclear Energy in Australia
August: The Future of Cities in the Low Carbon Economy

Pretty much what we’ve been talking about here. Maybe someone in Melbourne could go and post back here.

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New Pew Environment Group report: Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race?: http://www.pewglobalwarming.org/cleanenergyeconomy/ (China leads)

My take:
1) China aims for 30 GWe of wind power by 2020 – at 33% capacity factor, that is 9 GWe average power (before accounting for storage)

2) China’s new announced nuclear target is 70 GWe by 2020 – at 90% capacity factor, that’s 63 GWe with no storage required

3) So China will have 7 times more delivered nuclear energy than wind by 2020, and won’t need storage for it, and the Pew Group ignore this??

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“before accounting for storage”

If we see the wind power as mainly for charging EV’s then storage is a non-issue. The average car sits still 22 hours a day. If plugged in at work, rest, and play then as the wind blows it can charge away! And with V2G standard in Better Place cars, the fleet can sell back to the grid as needed. The batteries for the Zone are already paid for in the Better Place plan.

What storage problem?

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Whoooops! Ha ha ha!

My family were all blabbing about my boy heading off to a kids club called the Zone, and I meant to write:

“These batteries for the GRID are already paid for in the Better Place plan”.

So anyway, it’s similar to the Blees complaint against European wind blowing when there is no demand. If the EV’s are plugged in 22 hours a day, most won’t really care *when* they’re charged. With more and more ‘smart’ devices like this, with flexible demand and supply (like industrial fridges that *store cold* when the juice is flowing for the periods when the energy is not as abundant), I can see the potential for more surprising synergies between various “Black Swans” down the track.

Remember: I’m with you on having *some* nuclear power where reliable baseload power is absolutely required. However, I can see all sorts of other surprising solutions down the track.

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How many V2G cars will China have in 2020? And will the grid in the vicinity of the wind farm / end user be compatible with two way flow by then?

Does the general population of China know or care about any of this?

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I don’t think anyone really cares about peak oil right now. Give it 5 years and we’ll hear more about peak oil than global warming as the world economy shrieks in pain.

THEN they’ll care about EV’s, V2G, and all that.

PS: I’ve been talking about what is possible with today’s technology, not what is.

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Counterpoint, a Radio National broadcast had Kirk Sorensen giving a very positive (and easy to listen to) talk on thorium reactors

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/counterpoint/stories/2010/2852923.htm

A comment left on the page by a Dr Clarence Hardy (whom I googled and seems not to be shy of nuclear but may be happier with uranium) took exception to Sorensen’s presentation. He doesn’t say why. I wonder what and why he disagrees.

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… beryllium oxide …

As I recall, it’s too expensive and too toxic. Not quite as good a moderator as carbon, but incapable of burning, so it was once used in a nuclear ramjet motor — “Pluto” was the name, I think — that was tested on the ground, but never flown.

Among untried transparent incombustible moderators, heavy boron oxide, (11-B)2O3, is the really interesting one. Boron. Is it ever not the answer?

(How fire can be domesticated)

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Beryllia isn’t cheap, but it isn’t all that expensive. Beryllium is used as a high worth neutron reflector in many pool-type reactors.

But I cannot comment on the link because, indeed it is 404 for me too.

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Sorry, the link to the beryllium oxide story doesn’t appear to work.

I think it was bait to encourage investment in a small Canadian company that had a lot of beryllium and needed investment. As far as I understood the claims, the nuclear industry was falling over itself to obtain the material so that a mixed beryllium and uranium oxide fuel, allowing better heat dissipation, could replace uranium oxide. This would give one 25% more bangs for one’s buck and be worth millions.

In the meantime, I have come across another story which might interest Peter Lang and Eclipsenow and relates to giant offshore wind turbines directly hooked up to CAES underwater storage bags. This cheaper than coal, green source of dependable energy will be brought to you courtesy of Nimrod Energy Ltd, a spin off company from the University of Nottingham.

I hope this link works:
http://communications.nottingham.ac.uk/News/Article/Cheap-and-green.html

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Well, that is a *very* interesting story. They’re going to get BIGGER (and as a result catch more air, change the ‘capacity factor’ and make the overall price of electricity cheaper!) and come with cheap storage!

Why, IF they pull this off it could be yet *another* Black Swan.

BIGGER

““I believe that the ethical/green investment market is effectively waiting for precisely this company to appear. We have already demonstrated that the energy storage system can work. We have not yet built a 230m diameter turbine, but we know what it looks like. A neat mechanical engineering concept called ‘structural capacity’ shows directly and quantitatively why these new machines will be far more cost effective,” added Professor Garvey.”

CHEAPER STORAGE

“He believes it is possible to store energy at costs well below £10,000/MWh — less than 20 per cent of pumped hydro energy, the cheapest competing technology.”

http://communications.nottingham.ac.uk/News/Article/Cheap-and-green.html

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Oh yeah, and not all the wind power MUST be pumped into storage… the grid can handle a certain amount of flexibility already, and with a whole new fleet of EV’s on the way…. things get more and more flexible.

The future for our grandchildren gets brighter and brighter… if we can just avoid the nasty little detail of peak oil wars in the meantime.

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Sorry, meant to attach this to the comment above:

“If you have 1MW of integrated compressed air system (including large energy stores) for every 3MW of conventional generation, then the whole set of offshore wind equipment starts to look like a very versatile power generating system which can adjust its output to match demand — notwithstanding what the wind is doing.””

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It sounds like Nottingham should look into Kitegen.

Floating 230m diameter turbines vs. floating 150-500m² kites.
The kites would still be cheaper and need less storage.

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as I understood the claims, the nuclear industry was falling over itself to obtain the material …

There was a story a few years ago about … I was going to say experiments were done, but I’m not sure of that. It may be that only computer simulations were done, at MIT I think, of how good this extra thermal conductivity would be.

If sufficient non-simulated trials had been done — this would take years — the nuclear industry might now be falling over itself to do slightly larger-scale trials in one commercial reactor. And anyway, BeO is an obtainable material now-a-days. USGS Be information.

(How fire can be domesticated)

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The problem of balance also applies to energy

No it doesn’t. The idea that we need a variety of electrical power sources, and that there can be no energy silver bullet is nonsense.

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Come to think of it, after watching Heavywheather’s linked video, it’s not clear what Lennon actually meant by ‘balance’ in relation to population growth anyway.

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Ocean whitening with bubbles. Hmm. The proposer is suggesting generating 5 micron bubbles in the ocean to reflect light back to space. There’s not much detail, but there is a submitted paper that presumably addresses the question of required scale.

My initial reaction was (i) those bubbles will dissolve pretty fast – they have a high internal pressure, and (ii) how do you pump the ocean full of bubbles – how do you achieve scale? 5 um bubbles have a very slow rise time, so loss by flotation probably doesn’t figure.

Then I realized that if you blew the bubbles with helium, they’d last a very long time – helium is pretty insoluble in water, and helium bubbles actually scavenge dissolved air from water. In fact you’d only need to blow air with some helium mixed in to achieve that stability to dissolution.

So far as scale goes, a helium enriched bubble sparger carried by commercial shipping would cost practically nothing and there’s a lot of boats out there. Gas tank, air pump, sparger. Simple.

There is an idea out there about fleets of boats generating salt water aerosols for cloud whitening – Barry had a post on this a long time ago but I can’t find it. But it was one of the more plausible albedo modification schemes. This seems more feasible than that idea if the scale works out. All the caveats already stated about geoengineering in general and albedo modification schemes in particular still apply.

So in the spirit of Mythbusters, I’m prepared to call this – Plausible.

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@ Barry: What, the underwater balloon compressed air storage is WA as well? I hadn’t taken that in. I thought I was reading a British website. The original link was from Douglas Wise.

@ John Lennon says he doesn’t believe in overpopulation and that people believing in overpopulation is all a conspiracy!! Yeah, good one John, way to set the broader environmental discussion back a decade or so.

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Eclipsenow’s, undoubtedly well-intentioned goal is to replace fossil fuels with, well, just about anything but nuclear energy. What he seems not to realize that many of his ‘black swans’ imply a stunning and unprecedented re-engineering of the power grid and the energy inputs underpinning all economic activity. Real, productive people need real, industrial-sized power, and this just cannot be reliably supplied in the quantities necessary, but Rube Goldberg contraptions based on over-active imaginations.

Any practical energy technology is not the result of revolutionary ideas, springing out of nowhere, regardless of how it looks to outsiders. It is a product of a long development cycle, with lots of dead ends, disappointment, and failures. This process is usually also very expensive.

Look at wind in Denmark. They were not fools, they looked at what they had, and what they wanted to accomplish, and did their damnedest to engineer a system that could harvest the wind efficiently. But they failed. If, however, you were to look closely at the work they had done before hand, you would see that they used the best assumptions that they could, and used them properly. The point being here, that the best laid plans….

We cannot afford to go chasing every idea out there on an ‘anything but nuclear’ quest, we just don’t have the time, and history shows that MOST of these will fail to meet expectations. We cannot afford to consider solutions that would require the wholesale overhauling of energy distribution networks. But most importantly we cannot afford to continue to believe that the West is still making the calls on what technology will be used for the rest of the world.

We have a solution at hand. Maybe it is not a elegant as everyone would like, but it does work, and it can do the job – its the only practical choice.

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Maybe at this point I am about to ostracize myself from this board, but why does anyone pay any attention to eclipsenow and heavyweather?

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Minds are there to be changed Lawrence. EN has in fact shifted and developed in his ideas since first posting here. As have I.

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Eclipsenow’s, undoubtedly well-intentioned goal is to replace fossil fuels with, well, just about anything but nuclear energy.
Totally incorrect. Ask almost anyone else here what my view is and I think they’ll sum it up as

“OK with nuclear — if we *have to* — but still agnostic over which energy source will be the final winner due to the increasing developments in renewables across the globe.

Any practical energy technology is not the result of revolutionary ideas, springing out of nowhere, regardless of how it looks to outsiders. It is a product of a long development cycle, with lots of dead ends, disappointment, and failures. This process is usually also very expensive.
Agreed, except that…. many of the developments I’m talking about have had millions and millions of dollars invested in development and testing and are now in the deployment stage. Some are in existing industries that are now approaching tens of billions of dollars and decades of experience.

EG: Wind meets all of your criteria above, with billions in deployment and decades of real world feedback.

Instead of upwind blades they’re now playing with downwind blades that can be more flexible and durable and cheaper. They’re making them bigger. They’re making them connect to underwater pressure bags for compressed air. So many of the developments I’m talking about are “Black Swans” only in the sense that YOU probably couldn’t see them coming (or admit to even their possibility.

And so they’ll surprise you as much as the first Europeans that discovered that enigma of the Black Swan here in Australia.

So while there may be some ground in current criticisms of wind, when these synergies come together who knows what the final price of wind will be? Bigger, downwind blades + EV’s that are a constant demand market whenever the wind is blowing + ultra-cheap underwater compressed air storage + some other developments in materials I haven’t guessed at yet or some *other Black Swan* may just equal energy cheaper than the full cost of nuclear. We shall see. This is why I’m ‘agnostic’ over it.

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Minds are there to be changed Lawrence. EN has in fact shifted and developed in his ideas since first posting here. As have I.

John, thanks for acknowledging this. DV8’s straw-man of my position only shows he doesn’t read.

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It would be nice if one of these ‘black swans’ didn’t start growing turkey feathers just after the downey stage.

If this undersea compressed air energy storage business can be made to work, instead of wind turbines, why don’t we anchor a few nukes on barges out at sea and use them for peak load?

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Because I thought nukes were already meant to be the silver bullet and didn’t need any peak load adjustments. ;-)

The real reason? Safety. If a wind turbine breaks, it sinks to the bottom and I guess someone has to rebuilt it. If a nuke sinks to the bottom, that coastline is poisoned. Oops.

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The real reason? Safety. If a wind turbine breaks, it sinks to the bottom and I guess someone has to rebuilt it. If a nuke sinks to the bottom, that coastline is poisoned. Oops.

Everything should be OK so long as containment isn’t breached. The safety factor will depend on the design, of course. Kirk Sorenson is quite the enthusiast for submerged LFTRs as a high-dafety power source, and has looked at the technical issues involved.

There have been a number of nuclear submarines wrecked by accidents and lying on the seabed. Their containment all held. Apparently the nuclear plants were among of the toughest components on board.

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