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Nuclear Open Thread

Open Thread 22

The Open Thread 21 has passed 500 comments and is getting a little bloated, so time for 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 get up on your soap box! The standard commenting rules of courtesy apply, and at the very least your chat should relate to the general content of this blog.

The sort of things that belong on this thread include general enquiries, soapbox philosophy, meandering trains of argument that move dynamically from one point of contention to another, and so on — as long as the comments adhere to the broad BNC themes of sustainable energy, climate change mitigation and policy, energy security, climate impacts, etc.

You can also find this thread by clicking on the Open Thread category on the cascading menu under the “Home” tab.

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There was quite a bit of discussion in the previous OT on radiation levels and the Fukushima evacuation zone. Relevant to this is the recent announcement that Japan will lift the entry ban on some cities within the prefecture. To quote:

In areas where annual radiation measurements are below 20 millisieverts per year, a government safety guideline, residents will have free access to their homes during the day and will be allowed to return permanently at the earliest opportunity post-decontamination. Where readings are between 20 to 50 millisieverts annually, evacuees will also have unrestricted access during the day although their permanent return will come later. In areas where measurements top 50 millisieverts, residents will not have free access and they will not be allowed to return for a minimum of five years.

A past BNC guest poster, engineer Chris Uhlik, analysed the situation a private email distribution list, and I thought his summary with respect to LNT (linear no-threshold hypothesis of radiation damage to living organisms) was very useful. With Chris’ permission, I reproduce it below:

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The official position of every regulatory agency & scientific body, and even the people who will tell you “we don’t know what’s going on under 50 mSv”, the weight of the evidence favors LNT.

Here’s what I think is going on:

Under 50mSv/year we can’t find any epidemiological data to support LNT. There is simply too much noise and other effects to see sub-0.5% changes in cancer rates in populations where the variations from other effects (smoking, stress, chemical exposures, etc) are in the range of 20–45%.

The rates of different kinds of cancers are affected differently by radiation. Some kinds appear to increase while others decrease. Some kinds of cancer are more treatable than others and thus result in different mortality rates, even if the occurrence rate increases. Simple statements like “cancer death rates show a LNT response to radiation exposure” are way too simplistic to be true, but such statements are easy to base regulations around. When regulators feel a need to support a regulation with some math, they’d rather choose simple math than more-correct, but difficult to understand and explain math.

We can find biological data from cell culture experiments that DNA disruptions are linearly related to exposure. However, most of these experiments are not with healthy, normal, human cell cultures. Bacteria and yeast might have different DNA repair mechanisms than humans. Some human cell culture experiments show hormesis. (example)

In the absence of unambiguous scientific evidence for a simple dose response model, regulators choose a conservative, simple model. They (and the scientists) agree that the model is simple and conservative, i.e. over-estimates the number of deaths. But what gets me riled up is that we ignore the opportunity cost of being excessively conservative. For example, we’ll spend $billions to avoid tens of theoretical deaths counted by the conservative model while not spending similar amounts on things that would much more reliably save thousands of lives. And, at the same time, we take the opposite point of view with global climate change. There, we have good models that show massive disruption, but we take business-as-usual actions because changing would be inconvenient. We are totally inconsistent about what sort of inconvenience is acceptable.

All risk-avoidance regulation should take a years-of-life-lost approach where the best available model (not simplest model) of years of productive life lost are counted against a standard value for a year of productive life. If we did this consistently, we’d spend lots of money developing cures for disease and less money treating disease because treating saves just one person’s life while a cure saves thousands or millions. Likewise, coal air pollution takes thousands (maybe millions) of years of life from asthmatic children while an accident like Fukushima requires extreme assumptions to reach ~1000 years of life lost and where the evacuation has already claimed >500 lives which is at least 5000 years of life lost.

Local optimization results are often extremely sub-optimal relative to global optimization, especially for complex systems. These piecemeal regulations that ignore the greater context can be extremely harmful. The conservative LNT assumption is one such unfortunate local optimization that protects the regulator while harming the populace.

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Footnote: More here from Depleted Cranium blog: Evacuation Policy Versus Radiation Level Measurements In Japan

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.

285 replies on “Open Thread 22”

Cyril: On bioaccumulation. Vol II, Annex D, unscear 2008 has food figures which show more cs-137 in meat/milk than in plant foods and it also talks about radiocesium accumulation, first in ericaceaus plants and then in the animals which eat them … ruminants. It also talks
about the distribution of the ingested cesium in the soft tissues.

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Proteos, @ 10 April 2012 at 4:27 AM

Interesting stuff. Thanks. I certainly believe you are correct.

Your comments reinforce my view that we, in the developed world, have become complacent. Public opinion is being overly driven by (those) who can afford to argue that cheap energy is not all that important.

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Geoff Russell — I follow what you had in mind but I don’t think the BEIR is that simple. In general one has to first convert alpha, beta and gamma into some eqivalent form based on biological damage done. Of course you were just comparing gamma of different energies and numbers so that step can be ignored. However, the BEIR might not be linearly related to the energy; maybe there is something about that in the BEIR VII report, although I don’t recall it.

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Cyril: On bioaccumulation. Vol II, Annex D, unscear 2008 has food figures which show more cs-137 in meat/milk than in plant foods and it also talks about radiocesium accumulation, first in ericaceaus plants and then in the animals which eat them … ruminants. It also talks about the distribution of the ingested cesium in the soft tissues.

Of course, if cows graze on cesium contaminated grass, and continue to do so, they will accumulate a certain equilibrium amount of cesium. The point is that if you eat the meat the cesium will quickly pass from the body due to the short biological half life. To get any significant amount in your body you have to drink a lot of the milk and eat a lot of the meat every day, but that bad for your health in the first place. Eating too much red meat and drinking too much milk is one of the prime causes of several cancers. People are allowed to eat a pound of red meat a day but the government doesn’t allow them minute amounts of radiocesium in that meat. Again governments are not using a risk-based policy, which is my biggest point about the whole affair.

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@ proteus and peter lang: yes I agree with your assertions. Which is why I think a democratic based energy policy is a recipe for disaster, at the moment. If the public had its way, we would be attempting to power the country on Chanel # 5, sticks and chickens. We have a lot of work to do here.

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People in general like eating meat (and drinking alcohol, and smoking, and doing many other unhealthy things). Very few people enjoy radioactive cesium in their food. It is makes no sense to compare negative effects of substances and ignore their positive effects (where enjoyment very much counts as a positive effect).

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complete dependency on a single source of power is not a good idea.

If the power source is clean, abundant & available, I see no reason to be heaviliy reliant on one such a source. So your assertion strikes me as a popular catchphrase; hollow but it sounds intelligent. Something a politician would say to make him or her sound reasonable, even though he or she has no in depth knowledge of the actual field.

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jagdish: It’s clear there is something horrible going on for the children described in the Observer article. But it’s certainly not quite so clear that the Uranium contamination is the problem. Have a look at the WHO paper on Uranium contamination in water:

Click to access uranium.pdf

One study in Canadians drinking from highly contaminated wells (much higher than those mentioned in the Observer article) showed signs of the start of kidney problems, but nothing remotely like the Indian problems.

The dose required to produce fetal abnormalities in rats was 2.8 mg per kg. That’s a mega dose and way, way above anything that I saw mentioned in the article … did I miss anything?

Prematurely blaming uranium could waste valuable time if the real culprit is something else.

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Geoff Russell,

I just noticed this comment:

One study in Canadians drinking from highly contaminated wells

Where were the wells. Were they near Pinawa or Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba, or Lac du Bonnet Batholith?

If so, I know a little about the background to that, and know the researchers involved in that study. They also made an inexpensive filter to remove the uranium for the drinking water (if my memory servesd me correctly). Just a small trip down nostalgia lane. :)

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I found this nice article by Chris Vernon that details the issue of natural gas leakage:

http://chrisvernon.co.uk/2010/06/natural-gas-the-greener-choice/

The graph really shows how important the lifecycle leakage rate of natural gas is to its CO2 abatement effectiveness. If there’s more than 3% leakage around the chain of drilling, transporting, and combustion, then natural gas is worse than coal in greenhouse gas emissions.

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Sorry Peter, I didn’t look at the original study, just the WHO report … Nova Scotia is named … concentration 700 ug/L. It’s a 1983 study in an edited book so unlikely to be available on-line.

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sod,

let us be serious here: these offshore wind turbine will total 2GW and it’s an investment of €7bn, as stated by the winners before they start. They will have a capacity factor of about 30%, hopefully.
All the while, the Flamanville EPR, hugely over budget, cost the same for 1.6GW, will have a capacity factor of 75% or so, judging by nuclear reactor experience in France, and is dispatchable. For about the same price of €7bn.

Everything points to prices above €170/MWh for the offshore wind turbines, with a buying mandate. The EPR of Flamanville will have an LCOE of about €85/MWh, and EDF will only be able to sell power at the average price of €55-60/MWh, so some losses will be borne in part by the private investors who hold 15% of EDF.

All the while, if you wish to fully decarbonize electricity generation with intermittent sources, you need storage means, which do not exist at such a scale. These storage means could also be used in tandem with nuclear power, requiring less of them, reducing the total investments cost of the system (and land use, etc.)

So I prefer to stick to the outdated, shrinking tech if that’s the only 2 offers on the table!

As for Fessenheim, it is in a ‘moderate’ seismic risk zone, as is much of the Rhone valley. The moderate risk zone is in orange on this map:
http://www.planseisme.fr/La-nouvelle-carte-d-alea-sismique.html
you can check Fessemheim position with wikipedia if you wish:
http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fessenheim

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Fessenheim… come on now Sod. You know as well as any commenter here, the Fukushima plants were done in by a 15 meter tsunami. Not the earthquake – the reactors shut down as intended and the diesel generators all started and worked fine until that 15 meter wave flushed them out.

Fessenheim is hundreds of miles from the ocean… an ocean that has zero chance of a 15 meter tsunami in the first place. Also a 9 moment magnitude quake at Fessenheim is just geologically impossible as well.

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Some more news about the french offshore wind farms.
Today there is a piece in ‘Les Echos’ an economy oriented newspaper, which broke the news about the results. So it’s a priori well informed.
http://www.lesechos.fr/entreprises-secteurs/energie-environnement/actu/0201999084068-eoliennes-en-mer-six-questions-clefs-sur-l-appel-d-offres-qui-doit-lancer-la-filiere-310725.php
It ‘s in french, sorry.
The bottom line: the wind farms (1928MW) require a subsidy of €1.1bn a year during 20 years. That’s the part of the price above the average price of electricity (about €55/MWh). My own calculations show that this implies a price of nearly €220/MWh for a capacity factor of 40% and more than €270/MWh for a capacity factor of 30%.

Quite expensive…

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Amazing, 22 billion euros of extra subsidy in 20 years to pay for this unreliable power. 220 euros per MWh. To think that their actual market value is the nuclear fuel saved, about 10 euros per MWh.

22 billion euros. This money would buy 6 EPRs in 20 years, each delivering twice as much average power flow than the wind farms. That’s 12x as much energy. And unlike the offshore wind turbines that fall apart after 20 years, the EPR will keep going for 60 to 80 years. And unlike the wind farms, the power is reliable and therefore valuable and effective in continuing to displace baseload coal which France has done effectively for decades.

Feed-in tariffs are supposed to be the most clever and transparent method of subsidizing renewables. Clearly the energy policy people who push for feed-in tariffs are drinking Kool-Aid. The numbers make it obvious that it’s the most transparent method of wasting precious resources, and the least efficient way to stimulate innovation. It locks us into using what we know how to make today. Germany has not stimulated real innovation. It has deployed good old, pricey, silicon PV. Why is the world at large celebrating this complete high cost fraud and failure to innovate. We should all be shaking in our boots.

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In this frog vs mouse battle over renewables projects something has been overlooked, namely why have a renewables target at all? Greens Senator Christine Milne has asked the ACCC to investigate the reluctance of major energy retailers to buy 3rd party wind and solar, instead preferring their own in-house assets
http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/opinion/political-news/accc-agrees-to-look-at-greens-energy-gripe-20120410-1wn0u.html

Suggestion to Sen. Milne; drop the RET and the problem goes away. The RET is not something light and fluffy but actually quite draconian. In 2012 some 16,763 Gwh or about 2 Gw average has to be from large renewables, presumably excluding hydro. Any shortfall will be charged $65 per Mwh by the regulator ORER. The energy retailers are simply cutting out the middle man by doing their own compulsory chores.

Several key figures Garnaut, the Productivity Commission and the ACCC (now being asked to investigate) have questioned why we need a RET when we have the carbon price. Because their ideas are not taking us to the happy place they want the Greens are now piling on more regulations.

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Yes Zdenek, many people do like eating meat and drinking booze and smoking and driving fast and all manner of unhealthy and dangerous things. But generally such things are taxed or otherwise discouraged rather than being heavily subsidised as meat is both indirectly via a bloated health and disease research infrastructure and more directly in some countries by subsidising lipid lowering drugs. Meat makes people die younger, wipes out wildlife, threatens the climate and is habitually and frequently deliberately cruel and vicious to the animals involved. When you are a smoker, its hard to imagine not smoking and not enjoying smoking, but once you quit you (eventually) find it hard to understand how you could have enjoyed it. For most people who quit, its the same with meat. Only you can decide just how much you care about wildlife and the climate, enough to reduce or eliminate an unhealthy habit or … “Well not that much … after all, its only wildlife and the future of the planet that is at steak[pun intended]”!

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Interesting discussion on John Quiggin’s thread, starting here: http://johnquiggin.com/2012/03/30/weekend-reflections-187/comment-page-1/#comment-171871

John Quiggin argues in effect, the compliance cost of CO2 monitoring can be estimated based on, and limited by, the cost the of existing public servant labour force.

If this is how economists do their estimating, we are in real trouble.

Several commenters have pointed out on BNC in the past that the economists believe their elasticity figures can be applied for estimating how much CO2 emissions will be reduced for a given price on CO2; however, the economists do not seem to fully appreciate that there are physical constraints that prevent the elasticity from working. Put another way, the elasticity figures do not apply if there is no substitute available. This is the case with nuclear prevented from being a viable option.

I was very disappointed by John Quiggin’s comments (as I made clear). It seems to me he went out of his way to divert and avoid answering the reasonable and genuine question I asked here: http://johnquiggin.com/2012/03/30/weekend-reflections-187/comment-page-1/#comment-171871

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As far as I can tell, you greatly exaggerate the health dangers of meat. I.e., there are some studies confirming it being harmful. There are many others that do not. Actually, the situation is very similar to the studies on the effects of radiation — there are well-known and understood adverse effects at large doses, but for low doses, there is a little evidence of anything. Yeah, you can measure that vegetarians live longer. On the other hand, there is a very good correlation between being a vegetarian and living a healthier life in general, so it is a bit hard to point to any single reason for that.

As far as regulating smoking, drugs and alcohol, I do believe governments are going too far (for the record, I do not smoke, drink or use any drugs). What I do with my health is my concern, than you very much.

I do not have much comments on the environmental effects. Yes, they should be taxed.

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Zdenek: Consider the following analysis, paid for by Meat and Livestock Australia in a special issue of a journal that MLA paid for.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1747-0080.2007.00208.x/pdf

The author found 32 studies and in EVERY SINGLE STUDY, more meat produced more bowel cancer. That’s astonishing. It doesn’t happen in passive smoking studies … some show protective effects. In order to claim the results were “inconsistent” he had to fall back on the old not-all-studies-were statistically significant trick and refer to unpublished data. Of course not all studies of anything give SS results.

With heart disease the evidence is even clearer.

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The discussion here about costs misses one crucial point. Capital intensive projects like the construction of nuclear power plants have a hard time raising capital because in economically uncertain times like this, capital flows into projects with small up front costs and a quick return on investment, which in the electricity sector means gas turbines.

We wouldn’t have this problem if the electricity sector were run by a single public utility backed by significant amounts of public capital. Electricity production and distribution is a natural monopoly and planning electricity generation and distribution through a single public agency may well be the most cost effective and efficient option. We would also not have to bother with incentives like feed-in tariffs, credit guarantees or carbon taxing if plants and grid were in public ownership. Decarbonisation could simply be decreed, planned and executed. Wasn’t this how France achieved its rapid nuclear buildup in the 70s/80s?

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Interesting and thorough analysis of the current peak oil situation by economists and physicists, some of them big players in the oil debate.

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/guest-post-global-oil-risks-early-21st-century

A big economic indicator is that economic tolerance for high oil prices might be decreasing, not increasing. That is, we’ll feel the pain sooner and faster. We’ll react to higher oil prices sooner. We just can’t bear the constant grind of higher oil prices.

See below:

****

Hamilton (2009b) in particular highlighted the importance of the share of energy expenditure as a percentage of total consumer expenditure. When this ratio is too high, an economic recession tends to occur. Similarly Deutsche Bank (2009) showed how each country seems to have a “threshold percentage of national income at which crude pricing meets stern resistance and demand is broken.” Deutsche Bank (2009) asserts that for American consumers this point is when energy represents 7.5% of gross domestic product. This value is close to the one calculated by Hamilton (2009b) but is based on monthly data and uses a different methodology. In a more recent report, Deutsche Bank (2010) lowered this threshold to 6.5 % because “…the last shock set in motion major behavioral and policy changes that will facilitate rapid behavioral changes when the next one comes and underemployment and weak wage growth has increased sensitivity to gasoline prices. Last time it took $4.50/gal gasoline to finally tip demand, this time it might only take $3.75/gal to $4.00/gal to do it.” However, they also highlighted that “Americans have become comfortable with paying more for gasoline, and it may take higher prices to force behavior change”.

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@geoff: Interesting study. I guess I will have to live with 1.4% chance of dying by colorectal cancer instead of 1.1%. Still, checking the source studies, I remain somewhat skeptical. E.g., the Health Professionals’ Study and the Nurses’ Health Study show essentially the same risk rate for colon cancer regardless how much of the red meat you eat, as long as you eat any — HPFS shows risk rate for colon cancer 1.53 for eating it =5x a week, all compared to not eating it at all. This does not seem too consistent with a hypothesis that the consumption of red meat is the cause of the increase, as one would then expect the effects to increase as well (although the risk rates are before taking confounding into account, so perhaps this is responsible for the strange result).

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Zdenek: I’m not quite sure how you got your percentages … dangerous to get them from that paper.

Lifetime risk of getting bowel cancer in Australia (it can be really nasty even if you don’t actually die!) is here:

http://www.aihw.gov.au/publication-detail/?id=6442467673

About 1 in 17 for males, 1 in 26 for females … (guess who eats more read meat) … 1 in 21 overall.

So of 22 million Australians alive today, about a million will get bowel cancer and half a million of those will get it from red meat. This is the estimate of Cancer Council’s Graham Giles that 48% of bowel cancer being attributable to more than 1 red meat meal per week based on his Melbourne Cohort.

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Sorry, the data I cited in the previous comment got somehow lost when I submitted it. It should be 1.53 for eating it less than 3x a month, 1.35 for once a week, 1.44 for 2-4x a week and 1.35 for at least 5 times a week.

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EN interesting link on Peak Oil which I think coupled with China’s possible coal peak are the wild cards in the future economy. With extreme weather the public breathes a sigh of relief if they get through unscathed. However high food and fuel prices are insidious and will affect everybody.

I think it’s quite possible PO could have a bigger affect on coal burning than any carbon taxes. The linked article doesn’t dwell upon the conjectured need for increasing volumes of liquid fuels to help repay high levels of debt. If that theory is true a global economic downturn will depress demand for ‘stuff’ besides food. Perhaps we’re already seeing it with declining commodity demand from China.

The other affect of PO could be to cancel the miracle of fracking and the perceived gas glut. We’ll use gas as both a coal replacement due to carbon taxes and an oil replacement due to high oil prices. Suddenly gas won’t look like such a long term bet.

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Equip a fleet of NPPs with thermal stores for daytime load following. For simplicity’s sake only assume the fleet has an LCOE of 8 cents/kWh @ 90% CF. Now add enough wind farms, backed by additional thermal storaqe on the NPPs, so that the NPP fleet has CF=80% and so the LCOE is 9 cents/kWh. To balance the books, the wind farm operators must then pay the NPP operator 1 cent/kWh. Therefore the wind farms, together with the additional thermal storage which act as the short term balancing agent, can have at most LCOE=7 cents/kWh. In general the higher the penitration of wind in the grid the lower the wind farm LCOE must be. One cannot turn off any NPPs since there may be long periods with essentially no wind.

The same applies to solar PV, taking into acccount the difference between wholesale and retail electricity rates. In any case, the solar PV owner has to pay the NPP fleet owner some amount to maintain both short term and long term balancing agents.

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DBB re intermittents paying integration fees I think we are heading that way. Even the daily connection fee of around $1 per home in Australia is a kind of insurance against the home owner going off grid. Disconnect and be unfriended. In Germany there are plans to curtail unhelpful amounts of PV in sunny weather

Click to access A_case_of_sunstroke_in_Germany.pdf

The link doesn’t say but I presume this would be done via smart meters. They say a burst of sunshine can create power surges 50% greater than the grid should have to handle.

For some reason the default assumption is that the big ‘gentailers’ (= generator retailers) have to pay small generators. Why not the other way around? Perhaps at household level the rule should be use it or lose it.

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@Geoff:
“About 1 in 17 for males, 1 in 26 for females … (guess who eats more read meat)”
Males are also taller and drink more, both of which increase risk of colon cancer on about the same order as consumption of meat. There are also significant physiological differences between males and females. So there is really a little that can be concluded from the disparity between sexes (if it really exists — according to http://www.who.int/entity/whr/2004/annex/topic/en/annex_2_en.pdf
the probability of dying by colorectal cancer is about the same for males and females). Sorry about being pedantic, you make a valid argument (which I choose to ignore and enjoy life :-)

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Rates of bowel cancer are generally the same for men and women except in high meat eating countries. Here’s some data from Japan, it shows similar rates prior to the impact of changing diets.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17059355

The evidence on alcohol is complex … it isn’t considered a risk factor by WCRF for women and bowel cancer and only in large amounts for men.

Tallness is generally a cancer risk, but not particularly for bowel cancer.

From an individual view point many risks are small, but from a public health view point reducing the load from half a million cancers would be a really big deal. Your enjoyment also imposes substantial costs on the animals you eat, which you are of course, free to disregard.

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GR;
Since mortality is still stubbornly stuck at 100%, there’s the issue of sequential bottlenecks. As you reduce the virulence of one threat, the next one in line surges (apparently). Actually, it’s just taking its turn.

As for the poor animals killed for meat, they wouldn’t have been born if not for the human cultivation of large populations for that purpose. Is it better or worse to live briefly and be eaten, or never to live at all? Husbandry existentialism …

:D

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Whereas if we did not eat them, a majority of those animals would not be alive at all. I am not sure what they would prefer :-)

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Equip a fleet of NPPs with thermal stores for daytime load following. For simplicity’s sake only assume the fleet has an LCOE of 8 cents/kWh @ 90% CF. Now add enough wind farms, backed by additional thermal storaqe on the NPPs, so that the NPP fleet has CF=80% and so the LCOE is 9 cents/kWh. To balance the books, the wind farm operators must then pay the NPP operator 1 cent/kWh. Therefore the wind farms, together with the additional thermal storage which act as the short term balancing agent, can have at most LCOE=7 cents/kWh. In general the higher the penitration of wind in the grid the lower the wind farm LCOE must be. One cannot turn off any NPPs since there may be long periods with essentially no wind.

The same applies to solar PV, taking into acccount the difference between wholesale and retail electricity rates. In any case, the solar PV owner has to pay the NPP fleet owner some amount to maintain both short term and long term balancing agents.

David B Benson – do you think the wind and solar could compete with, say, installing a peaker steam turbine to go with that thermal store? Turbine-generators are not that expensive, and unlike the wind turbine, has an extremely good dispatch rate (perform-when-called upon of at least 99%). If you go to the bother of the thermal store with nuke, might as well go all the way and skip the wind turbines.

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Also, the size of the thermal store is much smaller for a peaker steam turbine – nuclear baseload setup. The thermal store with the wind facilitating idea must be much bigger for the same effective load coverage…

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Brian/Zdenek: Mortality pre 75 years is definitely not stuck at 100% and that’s what most figures measure … but the figure that interests me as I get older is years of healthy life. The first blood vessels to clog are the fine ones in the penis … hence the high rate of erectile dysfunction and the explosive success of viagra in big meat eating countries :)

Is it better to live briefly and then be eaten than never at all? Watch a lame pig limping across a concrete floor or a chicken being shipped with legs broken during the catching process in a shed where it lived its last few week crippled or a bobby calf or a sheep who dies of inanition on a live export ship. I’d say the answer is pretty clear.

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(Deleted inflammatory comment)
CR;
And the thermal store for, e.g., the UK, where they routinely have a couple of weeks at a time in winter under a cold stationary high with no usable wind, is astronomical, unobtainable. Wind is a delusion. Like solar, applicable to small isolated niche applications. Poland won’t buy any more of Germany’s off-hours and unpredictable surges, even at pfennigs on the Pfund; Denmark often has to pay neighbours to take its unusable output, then pay again at full price to cover the drops during peak demand.

Fools and their money, blowin’ in the wind.

Germany’s success with solar is legendary, however:
Solar park after 18 months:

Solar park after 20 years:

Take your pick!
MODERATOR
BH, GR etc – this conversation regarding meat eating/animal welfare is tending towards acrimony and inflammatory comments which are against BNC Comments Policy. Tit for tat arguments get us nowhere and nobody wins. Time to call a halt.

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John Newlands — With regard to residential or commercial installations of solar PV perhaps “use it or lose it” isn’t quite good enough. There is still a charge for providing the cloudy day backup.

Cyril R. — As always you have excellent ideas. Whichever alternative is the most cost effective, which might be a mixture of technologies.

Including a peaker would have to compete with a natgas peaker; I don’t know the relative economics well enough to draw any conclusion. My major point was that the intermittently available generatos have to pay the dispatchable generators not to generate when the intermittents are doing so.

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Some thoughts just having watched the ABC lunch time news
1) resignation of Bob Brown, linchpin of the carbon tax
2) biofuel trial by Qantas
3) mining industry revolt against higher diesel prices.

I think the Greens will decline in influence. BB says in retirement he will attend a Greens conference in Stuttgart Germany. I suspect they also will decline as the German economy worsens. Australia will not get a national feed in tariff. Votes will return to the major parties, noting for example the UK Conservatives are actually quite green.

The new bio-jet-fuel is too expensive. Qantas will take some more govt money then abandon the idea. Aviation must decline when we start the peak oil downslope.

The 18c /L diesel fuel rebate will go though perhaps not all at once. Mine trucks will convert to CNG and LNG (with shielded tanks) helping raise the average gas price.

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To correct what I took to be mistaken notions of the pricing of wind, both off and on shore, and NPPs I just now checked some figures. I repeat the comment here in italics: NStar’s contract with Cape Wind calls for the utility to pay US$0.187/kWh for that offshore wind farm project.

According to avionexusa wind farm contract prices are typically 10-14 cents per kWh. The nearest to here that I know about has a 20 year contract with Idaho Power with LCOE=US$0.091/kWh.

The Westinghouse AP1000s just now starting construction at VC Summer have in the justification documents approved by the state utility commission an LCOE of US$0.076/kWh. Those 2 NPPs will be Westinghouse’s 5th & 6th AP1000s so the chance of significant cost overrun is low.

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Wind and solar energy are best used in their niche, isolated places without electric grid. Storage is obviously necessary. for wind, conversion to direct and battery is not cost effective. It may be more useful to store the wind energy as compressed air directly compressed by wind energy without using costly electrification route. Compressed air can be used for ventilation/climate control with or without heat pump benefits. It could also be used for pneumatic equipment s.
Solar energy use for lighting with battery storage is already in use.

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Greg Simpson’s comment is quite right, there are several decay chains and thus several half lives contributing to the heat contribution in different proportions at any geological time. Short half lives had more influence in earlier times. My authority was “Practical Handbook of physical properties of rocks and minerals by RS Carmichael, which refers to past peak production in the bulk Earth, which is much leaner in radioactives than the crust, so gives 1.40x at 2.0 Ga. The crust, richer in radioactives, was much more, and Wikipedia said (quite vaguely) that the Earth was twice as radioactive 2 billion years ago.

My argumentglosses over an even larger variation of radioactivity — from place to place. The warm brines percolating upwards from a young granite would be expected to be particularly rich in potassium, uranium and thorium. Rich in other nutrients, such places are full of life. I imagine that if the most radioactive of these deep places were particularly selective of the organisms that evolve there, we descendants would have an extra sense that warned us of the presence of excessive radioactivity.

But we cannot sense radioactivity, so it must have presented no threat.

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This paper looks at the effect of high intensity ultraviolet radiation in evolution prior to 500 million years ago

Click to access Nr_10_Hessen.pdf

It refers to a ‘mutation meltdown’. If I understand it correctly cyanobacteria can take most credit for converting high levels of CO2 to O2 and some UV shielding O3.

Convincing forerunners of animals with backbones didn’t appear until about 500 m.y.a. along with pigments and gene repair mechanisms. However the article says that first life appeared 3.8 bn y.a. You’d think soil and water borne radionucliides would have largely decayed in that period 3800-500 mya before ‘our’ ancestors took shape.

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John Newlands — That 3.8 gy ‘fossil’ is disputably of inorganic origin. The evidence from 3.4 gya is better and that from 2.4 bya is indisputably of primative cyanobacteria.

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DBB noted. We just a TV series that seemed broadly consistent with what the UV article said. See the timeline slider that appears after about 30 secs on this
http://www.abc.net.au/tv/timetravellers/
I’d like the timeline to go 1m years into the future. Maybe the cyanobacteria will be back as the dominant species.

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Story on German energy policy tonight Dateline SBS One 9.30 EST
http://www.sbs.com.au/dateline/story/about/id/601443/n/Power-Play

If they got 2% CO2 reductions for $130 bn in subsidies what will it take to get 5%?

It’s even worse than that, actually.

Official figures from the Federal Environment Agency were released yesterday, showing total greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors of 917 million tonnes for 2011, down by 20 million tonnes (2.2%) on the year before and about equal to 2009’s low when manufacturing was hit by the financial crisis.

However, emissions from the electricity sector increased by 2-6% during 2011, the agency said, while Germany’s energy situation was supported by a mild winter that reduced demand for heating by around 9% with significant drops in demand for gas and heating oil for this purpose.

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/EE_Germany_escapes_emissions_rise_1304121.html

This is appalling. $130 billion in subsidies for renewable electricity and they still get MORE electricity CO2 emissions!!! The reductions were due to the economic crisis and high electricity prices chasing away manufacturing to overseas, ironically caused by paying for the expensive renewable electricity. Hardly a commendable effort for the renewables; they don’t actually reduce CO2 emissions, they just chase away energy intensive manufacturing to overseas to that CO2 emissions appear lower. Of course many jobs are lost in the process, and the CO2 emissions are still there in the imported energy intensive stuff, as “embodied CO2 emissions” if you will.

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Cyril R I’ve pointed out in other forums the unlamented exodus of heavy industry is white collar abandonment of the working class.

Some immediate recollections and jarring observations from the SBS Dateline story on Germany
– protests against reducing FiTs by 30%
– nuclear phaseout inevitable but may be slowed
– Jurgen somebody said 126 Mt CO2 had been saved
– street level windmills must interfere with various signals
– ‘self sufficient’ town doesn’t explain what happens on windless nights
– wind and solar remove need for petrol despite absence of EVs
– in 2012 German nuclear got more support than renewables
– methane producing pigs live in windowless shed
– German example will influence India and China
– when in doubt remember Fukushima.

I’m not sure how to get through to these people who mean well but seem to make repeated errors of both fact and logic. If it all goes badly let’s hope they will admit their mistakes.

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Geoff: here’s a reference to an earlier estimate (until 2009) of the commited subsidy cost of the German PV program:

http://uvdiv.blogspot.com/2010/04/how-much-subsidy-for-german-solar-power.html

About 60-78 billion euros committed. However it is much larger now, because at the time of the abovementioned analysis there was only 9 GWp of PV, right now it is about three times that (and the subsidy per kWh is not that much lower for the newer systems).

This is a horrible system, such inefficient spending. I have no idea why so many energy policy people get all excited about feed-in-tariffs. They are, “how not to reduce emissions at vast cost”.

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Well, the good news is that net-net energy production and use is being off-shored, where much more efficient means of returning all that trapped and sequestered CO2 from the coal beds etc. are employed. We’ve got hundreds of millions of years of over-use of atmospheric CO2 resources by mindless plants to undo!

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GR Bjorn Lomborg is one of the people citing $130 bn as per 2nd para here
http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/industry-insights/energy/dark-cloud-eclipses-sunny-german-dream
but I’ve also seen it in some sidebar articles.

I’ve noted before I think PV is borderline at Lat 43S so Germany above Lat 47N .is even less favourable. Germany seems to be in thrall to a sun god and like ancient societies will wonder why it doesn’t always work out.

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If the courts rule that no compensation has to be paid to tobacco companies for asset devaluation under plain packaging laws does that affect carbon compo? The Feds say tobacco companies could have seen the new laws coming long ago. Ditto carbon constraints I would think. Suggestion to Hazelwood; don’t cash that $266m cheque but donate it to hospitals.

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Cyril/John/Geoff

The net cost of feed in tariff subsidy in Germany can be found at the Federal Ministry for the Environment website

http://www.bmu.de/english/renewable_energy/downloads/doc/5996.php

On page 38 of the BMU brochure there is a table showing the net feed in tariff payments between 2000 and 2010. Extrapolating for 2011, the total net cost is about 53B euros or A$68B.

Using data I saw at the Energy Collective the gross payments up to the end of 2011 are about 85B euros or A$110B with gross payment in 2011 alone of 21.4B euros or A$27B.

With record solar to be added in 2012 these payments can only continue to rise steeply and I understand are locked in for 20 years from date of installation.

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DBB that website may need a reality check on its reality check. In the UK wind LCOEs are adjusted to on-demand not when-available and include subsidies. The NREL calculator doesn’t seem to allow either subsidies or carbon tax. I presume it uses capacity factor to work out average costs. To my knowledge it doesn’t rework say 30% c.f. into 100% as done by the Academy of Engineers in the UK. If this criticism is valid it’s a bit rich for them to accuse others of dishonesty.

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it is much better to take a look at the EEG effect on price per kWh. that was 2.05 in 2010 and 3.53 in 2011.

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strompreis

calculating billions over 30 years doesn t make any sense, as the real cost depends on the cost increase of electricity.

even today, it might pay out to use your own solar power, instead of selling it. after the latest change to the EEG, it will mostly pay out (one could call it “grid parity achieved”…)

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Who knows about German land use change data?

http://www.indexmundi.com/facts/germany/co2-emissions

Visit and scroll down to …

“GHG net emissions/removals by LUCF (Mt of CO2 equivalent)”

What on earth is producing the big physically impossible jump
in the graph? I’ve checked the official UNFCCC data and the jump is reflected in the data … not just in some indexmundi glitch.

Any ideas?

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John Newlands — The data is from the State of Michigan office which oversees the ‘renewables’ effort. In the US wind is a must-take generator and the wind LCOE data is taken directly from the 20 year contracts between the wind farm operators and the utility companies.

The NREL LCOE calculator doesn’t have a separate entry for the production tax credit. SUbstracting that from the NREL LCOE is a bit of trouble becuase the production tax credit is inflation linked. Ignoring inflaction, just now it is close to US$21/MWh.

The NREL LCOE calculator indeed uses CF to compute the LCOE; the formula used is available by clicking on an entry in the lower right corner area.

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GR the graph near the end of the page shows a plunge around 1982-84. Was that when East and West Germany were unified? Maybe they not only demolished the Berlin Wall but rejigged the figures. When Howard was PM Australia gave itself an extra gold star for land use changes as well.

DBB the UK Academy of engineers assume that wind will be brought up to 100% capacity by open cycle gas and hence cite much higher figures. I imagine this dialog
wind farm “We have electricity for sale at $x per Mwh”
utility “I’ll take it”
wind farm “Sorry the wind isn’t blowing at the moment”.

Which means the price quote is really conditional but the conditions are left unsaid. Therefore the price must be stated as $x per Mwh when available.

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John: Reunification was in 1990 and this LUCF emission leap was in 2000/1. It has to be a redefinition of some kind but I’d probably have to read German to find it in the official inventory reports. Australia pulled some tricks to REDUCE its LUCF emissions in Kyoto but getting “forest” suitably defined, but this German redefinition is acting to INCREASE its emissions … an unusual step!

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John Newlands — Even an NPP is on a when available basis; US average over the NPP fleet is just over 91%.
But after checking likely LCOE for new build CCGT, I suppose the utility can proclaim:
US$62/MWh when available and
US$38/MWh when not.

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How do we all feel the nuclear campaign is going?

There seem to be plenty of books on the IFR for those inclined to read technical literature with an open mind, but don’t we need something in the DVD format to convince the non-reading public? Something with sexy graphics that explores the difference between Gen2 and Gen3.5 reactors. Something akin to “The Inconvenient Truth of renewables”?

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I suspect real CO2 cuts are much less than we think due to fiddling the books. To paraphrase Richard Feynman we can fool ourselves but not Mother Nature.

I recall someone pointing out that Germany was paying feed-in tariffs to methane extraction from a coal mine. Perhaps the rationale was that it was somehow sustainable or perhaps less CO2e than otherwise. Either way it was money for pollution. Having learned nothing from the Europeans we are now hellbent on repeating their mistakes plus new ones like carbon farming. At least the Europeans don’t export huge amounts of fossil fuels like we do. We both fiddle the books but they are babes in the wood when it comes to hypocrisy.

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it is much better to take a look at the EEG effect on price per kWh. that was 2.05 in 2010 and 3.53 in 2011.

http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strompreis

calculating billions over 30 years doesn t make any sense, as the real cost depends on the cost increase of electricity.

This is such a good example of false advertising and renewables propaganda, I just couldn’t let it pass.

Sod, the 1.5 cent per kWh increase from 2010 to 2011 is very large, considering the added renewable electricity percentage is only a few percent. Wikipedia has a table that shows that the renewable electricity in 2010 was 17.1% and in 2011 it was 20.1%.

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

So an added 3% renewable electricity share adds 1.5 cents per kWh to the price of electricity. What’s, say, 60% added renewable electricity going to add to the price of electricity in Germany? Even if prices of renewables will halve and ignoring cost of storage, which is absurd, this will add 15 cent per kWh. Now add storage cost to get to a high level of grid reliability, we’re well over 30 cents per kWh added. That’s the optimistic version.

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even today, it might pay out to use your own solar power, instead of selling it. after the latest change to the EEG, it will mostly pay out (one could call it “grid parity achieved”…)

This is also ludicrous. First install expensive unproductive wind and solar, increasing the cost to the ratepayer. Then use the higher cost of electricity as an argument that wind and solar have become competitive. Like I’ve said before, this is a typical sand box economy argument we get from the greens. It is in line with, “don’t worry, the new feed in tariffs are expensive per kWh, but we won’t generate much power from solar so it won’t cost much”. Gee whiz. Don’t worry about the expensive solar panels, they’re so useless and expensive, we won’t buy many anyway.

It’s not even about households. Households here in the Netherlands for example use no more than 10% of the primary energy:

Because of the focus on household efficiency, household energy consumption has flattened out. All the other sectors have grown because we’ve failed to pay attention to the big numbers.

Manufacturing is the biggest energy hog. It requires cheap energy or it will go to other countries. Then you lose the jobs, lose the ability to get high environmental standards and excise control, and still import the energy in embodied products from other countries.

And that shows it’s not even about the higher income countries anymore. It’s about Asian countries, and they sure won’t agree to a quadrupling of electricity prices. They’ll use coal, cheap, reliable, and disgusting.

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This is discomforting news:

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/EE_More_action_needed_sooner_on_climate_change_1604121.html

While Germany is patting itself on the back and making many pretty pictures of solar panels, reality is biting ever deeper.

Power generation is the elephant in the room, even more if we electrify cars and home heating with heat pumps. That’s just where nuclear powerplants shine. Good that countries like Germany are showing the right example by closing down their only chance of carbon neutral electricity.

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Eclipse Now writes,

How do we all feel the nuclear campaign is going?

There seem to be plenty of books on the IFR for those inclined to read technical literature with an open mind, but don’t we need something in the DVD format to convince the non-reading public? Something with sexy graphics that explores the difference between Gen2 and Gen3.5 reactors. Something akin to “The Inconvenient Truth of renewables”?

Um … yes, that would certainly be good …

The first “An Inconvenient Truth” must have cost several million to make.

This new proposed film, if similar millions somehow turn up, might well include the still frame here. Meltdown-proof americium-eating reactors are fine, but for associates of a certain antinuclear outfit, even a pair of small Russian PWRs are better than relying on sails.

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There is a new film on nuclear power and environmentalism in the late stages of production: http://robertstoneproductions.com/pandoras-promise/

PANDORA’S PROMISE

The recent reactor meltdowns in Japan have ignited passionate worldwide debate about energy and the future of nuclear power. PANDORA’S PROMISE is a feature-length documentary that explores how and why mankind’s most feared and controversial technological discovery is now passionately embraced by many of those who once led the charge against it. The film is anchored around the personal narratives of a growing number of leading former anti-nuclear activists and pioneering scientists who, in the face of considerable controversy, are directly challenging the anti-nuclear orthodoxy that is a founding tenet of the mainstream environmental movement. Their stories and ideas will be brought to life through a combination of incredible archival footage from 1945 to the present and original filming across the globe.

Operating as history, cultural meditation and contemporary exploration, PANDORA’S PROMISE aims to inspire a serious and realistic debate over what is without question the most important question of our time: how do we continue to power modern civilization without destroying it?

CAST: James Hansen, Stewart Brand, Gwyneth Cravens, Mark Lynas, Richard Rhodes, Stephen Tindale, Charles Till, Anne Lauvergeon, James Lovelock, Nathan Myhrvold, and Len Koch.

I can’t reveal more at this stage, but I guarantee that it will be impressive.

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My question to the honourable Martin Ferguson, Federal Minister for Resources and Energy….do you even get what low carbon is about?

I don’t think it’d be too far off the truth to say that there is not a single politician in this country who knows a) what low carbon energy is AND b) which low carbon energy sources are scalable.

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Would a major Latrobe Valley brown coal export scheme be another ‘game-over for the climate’ project like the Keystone XL pipeline?

There are only two ways to export brown coal efficiently – gasify it and turn it into LNG (probably using a technique similar to the proposed HRL demonstrator IDGC plant), or turn it into briquettes.

Both will involve burning existing reserves of brown coal for the energy to run these processes, further increasing emissions. The SECV tried both of these methods (using the Lurgi process for town gas production and a plant at Morwell for making briquettes) in an effort to get more value out of the Latrobe Valley brown coal reserves. In the end they decided it was better to burn it and export it as electricity to SA (and after the SECV was privatised, to Tasmania via Basslink).

A far better idea would be to use SMRs that can generate process heat (such as LFTR or AHTR) to produce syngas and refine it into petrochemicals on-site for domestic consumption.

That would be much less emissions-intensive but of course, much more pie-in-the-sky than just digging it up and dumping it into a bulk carrier ship to take it to India or China.

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Hi Tom,
then how do we change that? This site often comes across as high level tech-nerdiness for professional nuclear boffins. What about attracting some non-technical but highly influential ‘Connectors’ and activists? How do we do that? What kind of posts do we need, now that the site is more than swamped with technical information? What kind of groups and activities can help? Do we need a letter writing campaign, more posters, more people putting up posters? I’m thinking quite summary posters that explain the difference in cost between renewables and nukes; provocative and well designed and painting an attractive story for our future.

With a clear activist invitation, like “Get more posters like this at…”? Anything else that is quick, cheap, and easy that we can do?

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EN, you are absolutely right, and there are major changes under way to address this problem. One of the big ones will be a major overhaul of the structure and function of the BNC website, and the launch of a new direction for future communications of these issues. I plan to detail more of this when I return to Australia next week. I can’t say more now (although I want to) because I’m about to head to Moscow Airport!

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Ha ha ha! That’s too funny! I was playing with google translator, so I just ran this Russian back the other way to check how it worked. But I didn’t realise I had made a typo, which the translator then took and ran away with!

This is what I entered.

“Go well my friend! Enjoy some Russian desert for me.”

I, of course, meant *dessert*.

This is how the Russian translated back:

By a friend of mine! Enjoy the Russian wilderness for me.

In other words, just buy one of my mates and go off into the wilderness with him. OK, I’m backing away from the computer…. and will not try to do anything *clever* for a few weeks.

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LancedDendrite proposed putting nukes in the Latrobe Valley to refine brown coal into petrochemicals. This does offer a way to store ex-nuclear energy as transport fuels, by adding hydrogen to carbon molecules.

If a carbon price ever made power from brown coal more expensive than from nuclear, it might make sense politically to convert the coal burning industry in the Latrobe Valley into a coal liquefaction industry. The brown coal has a favourable hydrogen-to-carbon ratio, but is still high in oxygen, sulphur and ash. More hydrogen is needed in the equations, but that need not imply piped gas.

Oil refineries are usually limited by the amount of hydrogen available (for desulphurisation, hydrogen cracking etc), which is effectively generated by consuming more feedstock. If high-temperature electrolysis can bypass the need for reformed hydrogen, the addition of a nuke into a refinery makes even more sense. Although hydrogenation at the cathode seems an obvious benefit from electrolysing coal, it is also possible (at the anode) to remove sulphur, and presumably other nonmetals.

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Roger: Latrobe Valley brown coal is actually quite low in sulphur and other impurities compared to other coal sources. The big problem is the moisture content. Some people have in the past referred to burning brown coal being like burning dirt – the engineers that I’ve talked to that have experience with the Latrobe Valley plants say that it’s closer to burning water!

My most realistic suggestion would be to use an IDGCC (Integrated Drying and Gasification, Combined-Cycle) plant similar to the one HRL is proposing to be built. However, instead of burning the syngas produced by the plant, it could be fed directly to a refinery set-up, with a set of NuScale SMRs to power the compressor and provide process steam for additional heating needed in the absence of any power being generated by the adapted IDGCC section. Hydrogen make-up can be added from electrolysis units also powered by the SMRs.

The simplest refinery end for it would be to use the syngas as feedstock for producing LNG, with the SMRs again being used to drive the compressors. Then you can pump it wherever you need it to go.

Of course, these sort of ideas are required to justify the existence of areas like the Latrobe Valley in a post-carbon price Australia. The sheer amount of corporate welfare being doled out to them due to the Carbon Tax/ETS system being implemented boggles me.
They currently have two resources: lots of centralised electricity transmission infrastructure (4x 500kV and 6x 220kV transmission lines going to Melbourne at last count) and 500 year’s worth of easy to access, low impurity brown coal. It’s just about the only significant mineral resource that Victoria has now that the gold has run out.

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Has anyone had a look through BZE’s Port Augusta report yet (just released)?

Click to access Repowering_PortAugusta.pdf

I only had a brief read through, but the assumptions seem wild (7.5 MW wind turbines, 135 MW solar thermal stations, no specific LCOE projections but statements of low additional cost of electricity…), and it generally seems to lack detail. They’ve also planned to match exactly the output (GWh/year) of the existing coal plants, without explicitly acknowledging the still intermittent supply their plan entails. It’s basically a scaled down, region specific version of the ZCA plan.

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The discussions on Latrobe Valley Vic and Pt Augusta SA suggest that they are roughly where Australia’s first NPP should be located. Brown coal baseload is 5 GW in Victoria if I recall and Pt Augusta has the most westerly power stations in the east Australian grid. I’m not sure I agree that something has to be done with Latrobe Valley coal. Why not leave it in the ground as pre-sequestered carbon? Get the carbon for synthetic fuels from biomass.

The problem common to both SA and Vic is that nobody knows for how much longer they can get reasonably priced natural gas. Tasmania has an underwater gas pipe from Victoria as well as the HVDC cable to Loy Yang brown coal station. The current southern gas fields will undergo fracking and horizontal drilling with unknown results. If they fail then gas replacement for coal will be off the table. Then what?

If the southern gas outlook rapidly deteriorate that’s three States left in the lurch. Quick fixes include a carbon tax holiday for brown coal, importing LNG by ship or forcing some Queensland CSG to be piped south. I can’t see nukes large or small helping in under a decade. Some commenters (eg Keith Orchison) think the southern gas crisis could be less than 5 years away.

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Eclipse Now — Those are obvious points and easy to address. New NPPs could use air cooling at some cost to thermal efficiency, hardly a mjor concern as uranium oxide acquisition is but a small percentage of the cost of running an NPP. However, far better would be do run the reject heat warm water through an underground closed loop for council heating. As this is extra cost, the beneficiars need to pay a small monthly fee to the NPP operator. Such schemes already exist in some European countries.

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An exporting country can easily maintain its own supply position by regulating exports. However, a useful idea would be to convert coal by underground gasification and conversion to di-methyl Ether. The DME can be stored as liquid like LPG or propane at ambient temperature under a moderate pressure. It could be conveniently stored as a back up to gas or exported. For exporters it is a value-added product. For importers it is a cleaner fuel free of ash with its radio-activity, arsenic and mercury. It also burns without spewing particulate matter.

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David B. Benson, on 21 April 2012 at 11:47 AM

Combined heat and power (or cogeneration, German “Fernwärme”) is a whole chapter for itself. It interests me, because that’s how I get my heating and hot water here in Germany.
We pay more than “a small fee” for the privilege, in fact they charge us 26 eurocents/kWh or 0.26€, which is pretty exactly what we pay for electricity. Then again, they must often be burning (natural gas, I think) just for the heating, and the proportion of it which is “waste-heat” must vary considerably depending on time of year.

In fact, the economics must be quite complex, and are probably far from being as open-and-shut as its advocates would have us believe.
McKay and other have been pretty dismissive of it:
http://peckhampower.org/forum/groups/steering-committee-and-general-discussion/combined-heat-and-power-versus-heat-pumps

One thing is clear: you can’t beat the 2nd. law, and if it’s going to have any chance at all, it requires the plant to be situated close to population concentration.

The idea of telling the Germans that not only do they need nukes, but they’ve got to be located right in the middle of town really tickles me!

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peterc — I certainly agree that a natgas powered CHP is not the most efficient way to provide either electricity or district heating. I also certainly agree on the superiority of ground heat pumps.

The issue at hand is how to cool the water used to condense the used steam at the bottom temperature of a Rankine cycle. Ordinarily evaporative cooling is used but this consumes water. What I propose is an underground closed loop long enough to cool the water adequately. This loop is under the street, near the edges, and does not directly connect to any building heating system; it just warms the ground. Building operators then run their ground heat pump loop out to the edge of the property near the supply from thermal electric generator. The electricity generation proceeds as is required completely independently of building heating requirements. The extra fee required is simply because the piping and pumping is more expensive than when using an evaporator so the beneficiaries should absorb that increment of cost.

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That would be really very expensive. Remember that the condenser is carrying the working fluid of the turbine, very carefully chemically controlled, deionized water. Any impurities and it will dissolve the steam generators. You would not run this water through very long burried lines. The condensate is at sub-atmospheric pressure when it condenses, so any leaks would pull untreated water into the system. Also the diameter of these lines is large.

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Chris Uhlik — There is still a condenser. The water in the underground pipes is fairly ordinary stuff, warmed via heat exchange in the condenser. The situation is rather similar to once through cooling from river water, just closed loop.

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After much travail I was finally able to register on The Economist’s website and cast my vote: ‘definitly’.

Duty finally accomplished.

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David B. Benson, on 22 April 2012 at 11:35 AM
Thanks for the explanation, and I can see the difference now.

I’m still haven’t convinced myself, though, that the generator won’t see variations in the cooling effect, i.e. the temperature in the return pipe, depending on time of year, of day and the weather.
(Correction applied to last post as required)

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Go on ya DBB for persevering :) If anyone has a Facebook account they can log on through that and the link to the Economist poll will then also be visible on your Facebook page which will elicit more responses with any luck.

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Over at the Guardian I said what I often say, that the Japanese government is making millions a day on imported LNG — every gram of it that it is physically possible to de-liquefy — and its belief in the refractory irrationality of its citizens should be evaluated in that light. And I was challenged for evidence.

So I had to find some; “its behaviour admits of no other interpretation” isn’t likely to satisfy someone who is eager to admit of just about any other interpretation. Fortunately, reality has a strong pro-nuclear bias.

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grlc the very high prices the Japanese are paying for LNG may distort domestic gas markets in exporting countries. An exporter can pay less than $4 a gigajoule for gas, presumably spend well under $1 liquefying it then sell it to Japan for $15 free-on-board. Major users of domestic piped gas will have to compete with that.

On another topic I’ve noticed PV sellers are now pushing the bill saving line, not so much saving the planet. For example
http://www.cleanenergycouncil.org.au/mediaevents/media-releases/April-2012/110413.html
Couple of problems. If PV is for rich and poor alike then drop subsidies so everybody pays directly. The other problem is that nobody seems to have asked the utilities whether this arrangement suits them. In Germany PV power surges in the middle of sunny days are said to be 50% faster than the grid can cope with. There is talk of curtailment presumably done through smart meters.

If every house had PV the grid could get swamped with surplus electricity in sunny weather. In Australia I’m thinking 12m homes each putting out say 1 kw surplus at 1pm Sydney time 11am Perth time, albeit in different grids. Smart meters will need centralised instructions to restrict grid export. That means bill savings won’t be so large. It also adds another layer of cost and complexity to what is already a costly business.

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peterc — A few meters underground the temperature is close to 10 degrees Celcius all year long. Dirt and rock are good thermal insulators. Thermal generators which use once-through river water for cooling have to cope with varying temperatures of the river water over the year; at about, say, 3 meters underground that minor variation will not occur.

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As far as I’m concerned nuclear is the second worst energy source. That is how I address the anti-nuke folks. “If you have a choice between the two, which would you choose?” Kind of puts them on the spot. I also advocate nuclear phase out but only after fossil fuel phase out. Ultimately we need sustainable communities with technologies that scale appropriately to their size. Nuclear is not a good fit, it implies in its existence a perpetual growth economy in a super mega-state. I think simpler self-sustaining communities are the answer at a much lower population level. I see nukes as a transition level technology until we get off fossil fuel.

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Nuclear does NOT imply “in its existence a perpetual growth economy in a super mega state.” It is perfectly compatible with “enough energy” to meet human needs, assuming it is not a human need to need exponentially growing amounts of energy.

No vision of society follows from the properties of nuclear power: foremost among them, energy density.

Even small is beautiful proponents could recommend nuclear power. In fact, they should since SMRs would have a much smaller footprint than “renewables.”

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