April 20, 2010

Continued Future Energy Debate with Weird Science

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I am discussing uranium and nuclear power with Weird Science. Weird Science has his second article.
Part 2 summary

Weird Science Future energy source like to haves: * Future energy source should be abundant and must last at least for 700 years.
* It should have least environmental impacts.
* It should meet with increasing needs of energy and should be least pollutant.
* Future energy source should have least harmful wastes and which could easily be disposed.


Weird Science then mentions solar, wind and tidal power. Has Weird Science examined those power sources in detail ? How many deaths per Terawatt ? How much steel and concrete (which have CO2 when we make those materials). How much material in the factories ? How are the energy storage and grid build out issues handled because those are intermittent power sources. How fast can those scale to start displacing coal and oil which kill 3 million per year from air pollution ? Over the course of over on thousand articles on energy, I have examined all of those issues. I will hit some highlights later in this article. But to start here is article where I look at CO2 emissions by energy source based on the work of Per Peterson

Weird Science had his first article here The first article complained about

1. Economics and CO2 from nuclear power and uranium mining
2. Inability to economically extract abundant uranium below 100 ppm ores
3. Lack of technically feasible breeder or deep burn reactors


My first responses were Insitu leach (ISL) mining can economically extract low grade ores. ISL could get at 10 ppm and in article 12 of the 150th carnival of space In the carnival I addressed the economics of nuclear and that breeders exist and operate and will become abundant and have better models soon.

Did Weird Science want to acknowledge whether the first three points from part 1 were addressed in my responses ?

Breeders no good - There were breeders that ran successfully and the Russian Beloyarsk 3 has run for 30 years and there a dozen new reactors that are coming over the next 8 years. Plus Hyperion Power Generation and the Russian SVBR 100 could enable hundreds of fast neutron reactors. The China HTR-PM will have higher burn rate and over the course of hundreds that they will make they will stepwise increase the burn up rate towards 650 GWd/t and increase the thermal conversion to the Brayton cycle.



With cheaper neutron sources even if the recycling is done offsite the cost of recycling fuel will drop. You will have a closed cycle in 20 years. I think it is 40 years max to get to a closed cycle nuclear industry. China will lead the way if the USA does not. Any future unburned fuel (aka nuclear waste) would have no actinides (everything that remains has a halflife of 30 years or less). The remaining components have other technological uses. It is not waste.

If Weird Science is saying in part 2 that he thinks there will be no more coal or oil energy in the future, then the CO2 complaint goes away against nuclear power. Even as it is nuclear has CO2 levels comparable to wind and solar

Uranium - Insitu leaching enables economic recovery down to 10 ppm. And the economic recovery rate will improve with better reactors. Those factors and known uranium in phosphate means well over 100 million tons of uranium even before going at seawater. By using dual purpose seaweed. Bio-engineered seaweed where the seaweed is taken and processed for biofuel. then the costs of gathering the uranium are shared.
<>Br If you are now saying that you are looking at 700 year energy sources. You want to have business as usual for the next 70 years ? coal and oil and natural gas ?

Look at the deaths from fossil fuel and deaths per TWh for all energy sources, which I did here
* We have to get off of coal and oil as fast as possible. To save millions of lives per year and help the environment. You would compare a football field of stacked barrels of unburned fuel that will wait for 40 years for new reactors to billions of tons of ash, particulates and smog every year that goes into the air. Plus mercury, toxic metals, arsenic and thorium and uranium in the particulates * if nuclear fission is not the energy source of the future then weird science needs to compare and present what the alternative is that he supports.

Coal power and waste details are here and coal is relavant because it used for 50% of the world electricity now. How many decades to switch from coal and what would weird science propose we use to do that as fast as possible to save one million lives per year ?

I sat, we can convert coal plants to nuclear by leaving most of the turbines,grid connections and balance of plant and replace the coal burner with a high temperature nuclear reactor to achieve the right thermal power source replacement.


Closed cycle nuclear fission can be achieved in 20 years if there was funding. China has it funded and in the plans to start in 2030 and be the main way forward starting in 2050 (closed cycle breeders or deep burners)
One possibility is factory mass produced liquid flouride thorium reactors
Subcritical molten salt reactors that are accelerator driven is another option.

FURTHER READING
CO2 mitigation methods

Energy subsidies compared for all energy types
Energy costs with externalities compared, which includes global warming and pollution costs for each power source


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