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August 24, 2007

Mars soil could be 0.1% extremophile microbe life

New intrepretation of Viking science data could mean 0.1% of Mars soil is made up of “extremophiles” - in this case, microbes whose cells are filled with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water. That is roughly comparable to biomass levels found in some Antarctic permafrost, home to a range of hardy bacteria and lichen.

Joop Houtkooper from Justus-Liebig-University in Giessen, Germany, claims the Viking spacecraft may in fact have encountered signs of a weird life form based on hydrogen peroxide on the subfreezing, arid Martian surface.

“We suggest that the design of future organic instruments for Mars should include other methods to be able to detect extinct and or extant life.”


Scientists hope to gather further evidence on whether or not Mars ever supported life when NASA's next-generation robotic spacecraft, the Phoenix Mars Lander, reaches the planet in May 2008 and probes the soil near its northern pole.

Nanosensors for oil reservoirs

Nanowerk reports that the Advanced Energy Consortium (AEC), is to develop subsurface nanosensors that can be injected into oil and gas well bores.

By virtue of their very small size, these sensors would migrate out of the well bores and into the pores of the surrounding geological structure to collect data about the physical characteristics of hydrocarbon reservoirs. The data collected could enable the more efficient exploitation of hydrocarbon resources


You would able to know more precisely how much oil was left and where it was so you could better determine how to get the most out.

Centenarians have protective genes

Scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have discovered favorable “longevity” genes that protect very old people from the effects of bad genes. People who live to a hundred have just as many if not more bad genes which cause disease as people who live shorter lives but they have genes to negate the effects. The novel method used by the researchers could lead to new drugs to protect against age-related diseases.

Looking at the SENS model

Damage from the bad genes is occurring but is blocked or reduced by the good genes. I would think that this is mostly gerontology effects of minimizing the accumulated damage.

August 23, 2007

Bussard Fusion may be funded

The Bussard fusion reactor might have gotten funded There have been some prior false alarms on funding.

Prior articles on Robert Bussards Inertial Electrostatic fusion system

Robert Bussard the designer of the Bussard ramjet has an electrostatic fusion device that is supposed to be 100,000 times better than other electrostatic fusion systems.

He will get a chance to make an improved demo which if it works would be a prelude to a full system costing $100 to 200 million. This would be a bargain relative to the billions of dollars for 40 years for the International Tokomak Fusion system.

A discussion board where some insiders like Tom Ligon provide information

The website for the Bussard fusion project


The 2005 prototype.

My two other favorite projects which I think could enable a nuclear energy future.
Trialpha energy's colliding beam fusion which has been funded by over $50 million by Venrock, Goldman Sach's, Paul Allen etc...

The Z Machine

Advanced thorium fission reactors can also be very good

Thorium energy blog has lots of technical details

Lieberman / McCain Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act could triple nuclear power

The Energy Information Administration of the Dept of Energy has forecast the Energy Market and Economic Impacts of S.280, the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act of 2007. This looks like very good legislation which would greatly reduce coal usage and reduce greenhouse gases and pollution. Coal usage could fall to as low as 11% of total power from 50% now. Nuclear power could increase to 42% of US electrical power. The reduced economic activity is projected to be 0.2% of total GDP from 2009 to 2030 (Less than half what has been spent on the Iraq war). I do not think they calculate the offsetting reduction in health costs and tens of thousands of lives saved, which could change the reduced economic activity into a positive.


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Status of the bill -go to govtrack (embedded script stopped working). It is in committee as of late July.

The gases regulated under S. 280 are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and three classes of fluorinated gases—hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride. Covered entities include those in the commercial, industrial, and electric power sectors with annual emissions at any single facility in excess of 10,000 metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent; refiners and importers of petroleum products sold for transportation; and producers and importers of fluorinated gases.

The specific S. 280 allowance caps for each time period are:

2012 to 2019. . . . . . . 2004 emissions level
2020 to 2029. . . . . . . 1990 emissions level
2030 to 2049. . . . . . . 22 percent below 1990 emissions level
2050 and beyond . . . .60 percent below 1990 emissions level



Greenhouse gas emissions are reduced

Allowances prices (in 2005 dollars per metric ton carbon dioxide equivalent) range from $14 to $31 in 2020 and from $31 to $58 in 2030 in the main S280 cases.

Coal prices are most significantly impacted, in both absolute and percentage terms, because coal has the highest carbon content among the fossil fuels and is lowest priced of the fossil fuels. The price of coal to the electric power sector in the S280 Core case is 129 percent above the reference case level in 2020 and 245 percent above it in 2030.

Coal use in the S. 280 cases is much lower than in the reference case in all years and lower than current consumption in 2030. To reduce its CO2 emissions, the power industry is expected to shift away from its historical reliance on coal generation. In the reference case, coal accounts for 58 percent of total generation in 2030, but its share falls to between 11 percent and 35 percent in the main S. 280 cases.

An estimated 145 gigawatts of new nuclear capacity is added in the S280 Core case, increasing nuclear generation to 1,909 billion kilowatthours in 2030, 120 percent above the reference case level in 2030. Across the three main S. 280 cases, nuclear generation in 2030 provides from 22 percent to 42 percent of total electricity generation, compared to 15 percent in the reference case.

The renewable share of power sector generation in 2030 is 9 percent in the reference case, and grows to between 22 percent and 28 percent across the main S. 280 cases. In the reference case, biomass generation grows from 38 billion kilowatthours in 2005 to 111 billion kilowatthours in 2020 and 131 billion kilowatthours in 2030. In the S280 Core case, biomass generation in 2020 is over three times that of the reference case, and by 2030 is almost 8 times greater than the reference level. Wind generation grows from 15 billion kilowatthours in 2005 to 51 billion kilowatthours in 2020 and remains at that level through 2030 in the reference case. In the S280 Core case, wind generation in 2020 is nearly double that of the reference case, and by 2030 is 2.5 times greater than the reference level.

Total discounted GDP over the 2009 to 2030 time period is $533 billion (-0.22 percent) lower in the S280 Core case and ranges from $471 billion (-0.19 percent) lower in the Fixed 30 Percent Offsets case to $572 billion (-0.23 percent) lower in the No International case.


Other Climate bills



Greenhouse gas reduction from different bills

Hopefully some merged bill makes it through to a successful vote and passage this fall

More news about the alliance of business and environmentalists that appear to making progress to some kind of legislation this year Any deal would have to curb coal usage which will benefit nuclear energy to some extent as nuclear is the lowest cost non-climate changing energy technology.

Carnival of Space 17 at the Planetary Society blog

Carnival of Space 17 is up at the Planetary society blog

My contribution was my look at key technologies that are achievable and which would make for a non-technologically crippled future in space within fifty years

Centauri Dreams looks for Astronomical phenomena for clues to dark matter and spacetime manipulation

August 22, 2007

DNA controlled self assembly of nanoparticles

DNA is being used to control nanoparticle self assembly

Learning how to control and tailor the assembly of nanoparticles, which have dimensions on the order of billionths of a meter, could potentially lead to applications ranging from more efficient energy generation and data storage to cell-targeted systems for drug delivery. “We can synthesize nanoparticles with very well controlled optical, catalytic, and magnetic properties,” Maye said. “They are usually free-flowing in solution, but for use in a functional device, they have to be organized in three dimensions, or on surfaces, in a well-controlled manner. That’s where self assembly comes into play. We want the particles to do the work themselves.

The research group previously used rigid, double-stranded DNA to speed up and slow down the speed of nanoparticle assembly. Most recently, they also perfected a method for regulating the size of the resulting particle clusters by incorporating multiple types of DNA strands.

August 21, 2007

Space 2057 : triumph of technology

Mark Whittington had a submission for the week 16 space carnival on what could happen in 2057 for space The following is my scenario for space in 2057. At the end of this article, I provide pointers to key projects that should be pursued to enable this version of Space in 2057.

Developing key technologies such as molecular nanotechnology, advanced fission and fusion for energy and propulsion would open the solar system and provide a leap in available power greater than the move from small steam engines of the 19th century to 20th century power plants. These are the major technologies that are needed to fully realize the next level of human capability. Trying to achieve space applications without these technologies is like people trying to be creative with pullies and levers and hand dug canals before the advent of steam engines. You can do a lot but it is harder and more limited.

Projecting a future 50 years from now without these technologies would be like projecting the capabilities of a baby fifties into the future who never learns to walk or develops manipulative skills beyond toy blocks or develops cognitive skills beyond a five year old level. A lot more effort and resources should be put into developing the key capabilities instead of day to day hand to mouth needs. By not developing these technologies we would have a severely crippled future with more dangers caused by the lack of capabilities.

You will also notice that I do not discuss any of current chemical rocket engine plans or efforts. While those are useful and I encourage these efforts (especially the establishment of industries like tourism in space), the efforts translate to how fast we are rolling while the engine is shutoff at the start of the Indy 500 or how fast people are rolling on the ground with their hands and feet tied. For true success, the plans need to start with untieing ourselves or starting the engine or in this case developing the key technologies (or using existing key technologies like nuclear fission to its full potential.)

Here are some predictions that I had made in early 2006


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The critical predictions and assumptions for any future scenario and in particular space 2057 are:

What happens with moderately advanced nanotechnology like carbon nanotubes ?
What happens with advanced nanotechnology like molecularly precise nanofactories?
How hard do things like peak oil and climate change hit ?
Does some other catastrophe strike ?
What happens with energy ? nuclear fusion ? mass produced nuclear fission ?
What happens with Artificial intelligence, computers, and quantum computers ?
For this scenario, I will be following trends which indicate that all of these key technologies work out fairly well. A huge number of details need to be worked on very hard, but once we clear certain technological hurdles the avalanche of technological capability will start and what is possible economically will radically change.

I have already reviewed the announced projects for carbon nanotube factories, which will be producing 6,000+ tons/year in 2012. Up from 60 tons/year now. Prices will drop from $100-50,000/kg to $1-100/kg Prices will drop even more in the years after 2012 and volumes of production will also increase.

A lot of cheap carbon nanotubes which we have learned to integrate into all our products and manufacturing means super high performance solar sails.



Graphene paper will be making an impact over the next few years and graphene computers and electronics will have major impact by 2020

Carbon nanotube superthread appears to have been developed in 2006 which would bring 50GPa strength material into widescale use by 2020

Based on my tracking current progress towards molecularly precise manufacturing, I believe we will have full blown advanced nanofactories no later than 2025


Nanofactory would use convergent and exponential assembly.

In convergent assembly, an assembly line of progressively larger manipulator arms assembles product subcomponents and passes them onto the next stage of larger manipulator arms, until finally a human-usable product is created.

Exponential assembly is a manufacturing architecture starting with a single tiny robotic arm on a surface. This first robotic arm makes a second robotic arm on a facing surface by picking up miniature parts — carefully laid out in advance in exactly the right locations so the tiny robotic arm can find them — and assembling them. The two robotic arms then make two more robotic arms, one on each of the two facing surfaces. These four robotic arms, two on each surface, then make four more robotic arms. This process continues with the number of robotic arms steadily increasing in the pattern 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, etc. until some manufacturing limit is reached (both surfaces are completely covered with tiny robotic arms, for example).


Advanced nanotechnology means huge performance for space systems

This paper
Challenges of Molecular Nanotechnology for Space Exploration, Thomas L. McKendree, Robert A. Freitas Jr., Al Globus, M. Creon Levit, C. David Sherrill , Mo Li and Ralph C. Merkle 2005.
discusses the implications of molecular nanotechnology on space.

Such materials, if used to reduce parasitic rocket mass, can reduce rocket dry masses by ~98% and thereby triple rocket payloads to Earth orbit. Depending on the cost model, this can improve launch costs by a factor somewhere between 3 and 235.

Use tiny motors to individually steer reflective solar concentrators 0.1 mm in diameter. Their small size allows them to hold optic tolerance while presenting 3 x 10-4 kg/m2 of mass per unit area to the Sun, and this raises the specific power to 739 kWe/kg, available for a further factor of 70 improvement in solar-electric ion engines and other purposes. At this level interplanetary trips can take weeks with reaction mass a minority of initial vehicle mass.


McKendree, T. L., “A Technical and Operational Assessment of Molecular Nanotechnology for Space Operations,” Ph.D. Dissertation, Industrial and Systems Engineering Dept., Univ. S. Cal., Los Angles, CA, 2001.


Although we cannot now assume that the technology which I believe is highly likely will actually arrive on schedule, if they do, then peak oil and climate change will be easily solved with mass produced solar power and nuclear power.

Achieving molecularly precise nanotechnology will mean that we will have room temperature superconductors

I will predict that both Colliding beam fusion and Z-pinch fusion will be successfully developed


Colliding beam fusion reactor


LTD rapid fire device for z pinch


Z pinch machine

Even with fusion, mass produced and clean thorium fission can also be very powerful

With the energy growth of civilization accelerating to 20% per year, by 2057 humanity will be near Kardashev level 1 (10**16 watts of power which is about 700 times more than we currently have)

We would be able to have the most advanced fusion form of external pulsed propulsion and nuclear powered vehicles. A fusion powered version of project Orion would max out at about 1,000,000 ISP. Molecular nanotechnology materials and fusion power would enable constant acceleration up to several g's to significant fractions (1-10%) of light speed. Laser propulsion with fusion power sources would enable travel to other stars at speeds up to 10-99% of the speed of light. Higher fractions of light speed would mean a lot less weight and cargo for the object being sent.

Advanced photonic laser mirror array propulsion would be developed


Laser launch

We will have the hardware for very strong artificial intelligence, super quantum computers and regular computers

Productive nanorobotic and robotic mining and construction on the moon, mars and asteroids will have taken place by 2057.

Flying into and around the solar system will be cheaper and easier than current international flights. Although trip times to Mars will still be several days.


Nuclear propulsion would enable easy travel around the solar system


Hypertelescope, world imaging telescopes would be deployed on a massive scale with multi-kilometer size elements making up multi-million kilometer flotillas of telescopes. Detailed imaging of planets across the Milky way galaxy would be performed.

Conquering major technologies will enable the conquering and colonization of space that would be well underway in 2057. Although we will still be laying the groundwork for another 10-20 years, the transformation will happen in earnest starting from 2017-2037.

The 1499 other articles (and counting) on this site go over the details of the different technologies and detailed developments which are converging. If we collectively make the right choices and focus on bringing about the right technologies (molecular nanotechnology, cleaner thorium nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, life extension, space propulsion) we can bring about a powerful and confident future.

Projects to support and increase funding for today to bring about space 2057:
A few tens of millions of dollars now for each project would be sufficient to significantly advance them to the stages where other non-governmental funding sources could start taking over. Although the advanced nuclear fission and nuclear fusion will and have cost billions, the payoff is still worthwhile. The payoff is all matter and energy in the solar system and beyond. Some additional loan guarantees would be needed to help reduce risk for the buildout. A 10-50% chance at 70000% return over fifty years would be worthwhile. It would be like people in history not being willing to fund steam engines or ships to America. Those were and these are the critical investments for the future.

Nanofactory Collaboration

UK Ideas factory

Follow up the work of the now closed Nasa Institute for Advanced Concepts

Thorium reactors for complete burning of nuclear fuel instead of only 1% now. Complete burn through means 99% reduction in nuclear waste.

A forum where nuclear reactor design issues are discussed

Trialpha Energy fusion is Aneutronic fusion which would be a very clean and inexpensive source of power.

Z-pinch fusion concept paper (52 pages)

Fusion propulsion information

A discussion of nuclear propulsion

Advanced laser/photonic mirror and fusion propulsion research at BAE institute

Electric bicycles and scooters

Electrical bikes and scooters are making a significant impact on transportation The biggest impact is in China where 450 million bicycle riders are converting to electric bicycles. 12-18% are converted to electric bicycles (Over 60 million by the end of this year). Higher performance electric bicycles can achieve speeds of 36-42 mph ($2000). Electric scooters can achieve 70 mph.

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Last year, Chinese bought 16 million to 18 million electric bicycles, up from 10 million the year before. Some see sales hitting 25 million to 30 million this year. But so far, the diandong zixingche, as the bike is called here, is a unique Chinese phenomenon, with limited export appeal.

In many major cities, electric bicycles now make up 10 to 20 percent of all two-wheeled vehicles on the roads, a trend that could have an impact on the nation's rising greenhouse-gas emissions and poor air quality.

Many Chinese cities, including Shanghai, with its population of 20 million, have banned motorcycles and motor scooters as dangerous and polluting, giving a huge sales boost to what the bike trade has dubbed e-bikes.

They spend less than 2,000 yuan (about $260) to buy an electric bike, and they don't have to pay for public transportation," Ma said. "Some people pay 10 yuan (about $1.30) a day in public transportation. An e-bike costs just a few cents a day."

Experts say e-bikes can run 30 miles on 5 cents' worth of electricity, a rate of energy consumption that makes them even more efficient than fully occupied buses.


Outside China, sales of electric bicycles remain low. About 100,000 units a year are sold in the United States, and about as many in Europe. But it is China that now leads the world in electric bike production and sales. And many of its 450 million bike riders are increasingly trading up to electric.

In the United States, consumers are also migrating in greater numbers to e-bikes, drawn in part by lighter and more powerful batteries and practical aids like bike lanes and lockers. E- bike sales are forecast to double by 2009 to 200,000 from 100,000 in 2005

Encouraged by the trend, local governments in some regions have started offering incentives to get more people pedaling e-bikes. In Pasadena, California, a rewards program has been developed, with cash handouts for frequent e-bikers and a $500 subsidy.

But India, perhaps, offers the most e-bike promise. Scooter-like e-bikes appeal to penny-pinching hipsters, and an e-bike craze is running fast among India's call center crowd.

The arrival of Ultra Motors, a British electric vehicle upstart which just won recognition from Red Herring, a technology Web site, and from the World Economic Forum, attests to India's e-bike potential.

In only two months, the company has sold 4,000 e-bikes with its strategic partner, Hero, India's biggest bike maker. Ultra is incorporating its more efficient motor, designed by a Russian scientist, into Hero's bikes; it plans the same for scooters and rickshaws, for sales of up to 300,000 vehicles by 2010.

IEEE spectrum reviews the trends in China and has several pictures


Pizza delivery via e-bike in China


Man riding an e-bike in Shanghai

The Biggest Challenge facing electric-bike makers may not be municipal bans, conservative standards, or even technology. It may be the roads. China is following the development path of Western countries like a map, rapidly redesigning its cities around the automobile. Across China, cities are rejecting a mixed-use model and redeveloping along a strict zoning model, razing residential buildings in center cities to make way for shiny office towers and paving farmland on the periphery to create large industrial parks.

Car culture is a disaster for the bicycle. Road widening often comes at the expense of bike lanes, while highways are off-limits to bikes and nearly impossible to cross. On the smaller roadways, rush-hour traffic blocks the bike lanes and intersections, prompting outbursts of road rage from frustrated cyclists. Yu used to cycle 20 to 30 minutes between work and home, but he now drives—a 10- to 60-minute trip, depending on the traffic. "It's too dangerous to bike, so people give up. I gave up," he says.

Yu is confident that, in the long run, it is the gas guzzlers that will be forced to give way. One reason is gridlock. Another is China's endemic urban pollution

If China can find a way to make relatively efficient electric bikes a significant part of its transportation system, it could have major repercussions elsewhere in the developing—and developed—world.


FURTHER READING
High speed bicycle and tricycle kits

A study of electrical bike adoption in China. 10 million sold in 2005

Bion X, electrical bike conversion. Kits can be used to convert different bicycle or tricycle configurations
4 multiplying effort levels: The motor can boost your thrusting power by 25%, 50%, 100%, or 200%,depending on the sssistance level selected

http://www.alienscooters.com/

Source of electric bikes


24 and 36 volt e-bikes
http://www.e-lectricwheels.com/?gclid=CM6mysSuh44CFQ9lHgodcShPPA

sources of bikes and reviews
http://electric-bikes.com/others.htm

http://www.ecospeed.net/index.html

bicycles and trykes (48, 56 volt) up to 42mph
http://www.speedbykes.com/
http://electric-bikes.com/trikes/kits.html#EZ-3
http://electric-bikes.com/trikes.htm

Electric bicycles have mileage equivalence of about 400 mpg

Electric scooters in China


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Quantum computer RAM blueprints

Three physicists in Italy and the US have proposed a method for retrieving quantum information from memory that should make total quantum recall more reliable.

A quantum computer uses not bits but qubits, which can be a blend of 0 and 1 – a quantum superposition of the two states. Therefore, in quantum RAM, the address qubits would not identify a single memory cell but a certain superposition of all possible memory cells.

However, if a quantum-computer designer were to copy how classical RAM is accessed, they would hit a problem, according to a paper posted online by Vittorio Giovannetti of the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Italy, and colleagues.

This is because an address qubit would control a lot of switches simultaneously at each level of the RAM memory tree. With so many quantum systems linked together, or "entangled", they would become highly susceptible to interference from the environment. Their delicate quantum states would get scrambled, and the information would be lost before it can be retrieved.

A quantum computer built this way would come up blank every time it tried to retrieve something from its memory.

Giovannetti's idea is to send the address down the branching tree of connections in such a way that it only affects one switch at a time.

The first address qubit sets a switch at the first branching point to go one way or the other; the second qubit is sent that way and sets the switch at the next branching point, and so on. The total number of entangled quantum systems is smaller, and they are not so susceptible to interference, allowing information to be retrieved from memory intact.

August 20, 2007

Rocket powered mechanical arm, ten times power of commercial arms

We are getting closer to cyborgs that are as strong and as fast as people.

The prototype rocket powered mechanical arm can lift (curl) about 20 to 25 pounds – three to four times more than current commercial arms – and can do so three to four times faster.
“That means it has about 10 times as much power as other arms despite the fact that the design hasn’t been optimized yet for strength or power,” Goldfarb says.



Rocket arm

The mechanical arm also functions more naturally than previous models. Conventional prosthetic arms have only two joints, the elbow and the claw. By comparison, the prototype’s wrist twists and bends, and its fingers and thumb open and close independently.

The Vanderbilt arm is the most unconventional of three prosthetic arms under development by a Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) program. The other two are being designed by researchers at the Advanced Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who head the program. Those arms are powered by batteries and electric motors. The program is also supporting teams of neuroscientists at the University of Utah, California Institute of Technology and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago who are developing advanced methods for controlling the arms by connecting them to nerves in the users’ bodies or brains.

Goldfarb’s power source is about the size of a pencil and contains a special catalyst that causes hydrogen peroxide to burn. When this compound burns, it produces pure steam. The steam is used to open and close a series of valves. The valves are connected to the spring-loaded joints of the prosthesis by belts made of a special monofilament used in appliance handles and aircraft parts. A small sealed canister of hydrogen peroxide that easily fits in the upper arm can provide enough energy to power the device for 18 hours of normal activity.

One of their immediate concerns was protecting the wearer and others in close proximity from the heat generated by the device. They covered the hottest part, the catalyst pack, with a millimeter-thick coating of a special insulating plastic that reduced the surface temperature enough so it was safe to touch.

To allow for thermal expansion, the engineers replaced the arm’s nine valves with a set machined to a slightly lower tolerance, approximately 100 millionths of an inch. “We were astonished at by the difference between 50-millionths and 100-millionths: It made all the difference in the world,” says Goldfarb.

Their biggest problem operating with hot gas turned out to be finding belt material that was strong enough and could withstand the high temperatures involved.
They found a material that works: the engineering thermoplastic polyether ether ketone

Possibilities and rumors of US War with Iran 2007/2008

Time magazine is reporting that various people in the CIA and in the US bureaucracy think that an attack against Iran nuclear facilities and the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps could happen within 6 months

Update: More discussions of the possibility for war with Iran

I had made a wildcard prediction of the possibility of war between the USA and Iran

The original prediction article is here

Alternet talks about possible war with Iran scenarios I would count an exchange of direct bombings as a war. Although such an exchange would likely not stop as a one of exchange but would likely escalate. The taking of the British prisoners was close and I would have counted it as at least a partial correct prediction if there had been deaths.

In regards to my wildcard prediction of war with Syria in 2008, there is rumbling of the USA encouraging Israel to hit Syria I would count a proxy war as a war.

August 19, 2007

Nuclear power uprates

Many people who are in favor of developing wind energy and solar energy use the argument that nuclear energy is slower to develop. I am in favor of wind energy and solar energy development, but I recognize that there has been less of both than new nuclear power even without new nuclear reactors. The total wind energy in the USA is now at 31 billion kwh. Nuclear is at 780 billion kwh and this increased by 200 billion kwh since 1990.


total nuclear power by year

Most of the increase has been from operating efficiency increasing from 56% to 90% and over 4.8GW of power uprates.

A discussion of the three kinds of power uprates for nuclear reactors In addition to the 4,845 MWe of approved uprates through mid-2006, the NRC is reviewing pending applications for another 1,057 MWe to be added by early 2008. In addition, based on a September 2006 survey, the NRC expects 25 additional uprate applications from 2007 to 2011 that will increase output by another 4,150 MWe.

Extended power (20%) uprates are most often performed on boiling water reactors (BWRs).

Florida Power & Light Co. wants to upgrade each of its four nuclear reactors - two at the St. Lucie plant on Hutchinson Island and two others at the Turkey Point plant near Miami. The move would add 414 megawatts of power to the grid between 2011 and 2012. FPL, owned by FPL Group Inc. (NYSE: FPL, $58.97), also reiterated that it wants to build two more reactors at Turkey Point by 2018 and 2020 and wants to choose from one of five reactor designs by early next year.

Hypothetically, U.S. utilities could add the equivalent of 20 new nuclear reactors by 2020 through the uprate by upgrading the maximum power level of the nation’s existing 104 reactors. The National Energy Policy estimates the nuclear up-rate potential at 12,000 MW. Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), in its Vision 2020 publication, expects the industry to add 10,000 MW of capacity through increased efficiency and improved performance of the existing 104 reactors. NEI also states that a cornerstone of the nuclear industry's vision is to add 50,000 MW of new generating capacity by 2020. So far public plans are for 5 new reactors that will supply about 9GW by 2020. 12GW of power uprates and 9GW of new reactors would be about 200 billion kwh of power added each year by 2020. I believe that more of the 29 license applications will be submitted over the next two years and perhaps half will be completed by 2020. Eleven more reactors in addition to the other five for about 17GW more power for a total of about 360 billion kwh in added power or an average of about 20 billion kwh per year in new nuclear power. This is a faster rate than what wind power has been able to achieve in the USA.


The US wind industry hopes to achieve the power additions described above. Note: 1GW of added wind is about 2.5 billion kwh while 1GW of nuclear is 8.5 billion kwh because of the operating efficiency. (sometimes the wind is not blowing)

Of the four incomplete reactors, Browns Ferry 1 has been completed and activated, Watts Bar 2 has announced plans for 2013 completion. Atlantic Energy (Seabrook) 2 in New Hampshire, and Washington Public Power System 1 are the other two incomplete reactors.

As I have noted before, MIT researchers have found a way to boost the amount of energy that nuclear reactors produce by 50%.

Westinghouse is interested in commercializing the new design because the greater efficiencies achievable with the annular fuel would allow new light-water reactors to be significantly smaller, Lahoda says. "The biggest cost in a nuclear reactor is the building... If you can reduce the size of these things—especially the containment building—or keep them the same size and get more power out of them, then you've made money," he explains. At least 10 years of work would be required to commercialize the new technology in the U.S., Lahoda predicts.


The American Wind Energy Association hopes to get 6% of the US electricity generated by wind by 2020 This would be about 300 billion kwh or nine to ten times more wind power than is generated today by wind (31 billion kwh) The EIA project wind power to increase form 31 billion kwh to 52 billion kwh.