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September 24, 2010

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 20 - Zeroing out coal is achievable and necessary

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The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 20 is up at Idaho Samizdat

At the bottom of this article is a review of a Peabody coal presentation which promoted coal energy use. I point out it is very feasible to zero out coal and review urgency for zeroing out coal because of the environmental, health and economic damage from coal power.

This site contributed these two articles:

The Iranian nuclear reactor may have been the target of the Stuxnet computer virus.

Roundup of news on nuclear reactors in China, India, Pakistan and uranium in Kazakhstan, Australia and Kyrgyzstan.


Dan Yurman, Idaho Samizdat, had an article that reviewed a recent MIT nuclear study.

An MIT study finds no shortage of uranium for nuclear energy, but recommends against recycling spent nuclear fuel. Instead, scientists at the prestigious university call for a sustained R&D program worth nearly $700 million a year

The wide-ranging recommendations of the report, addresses economics, current and future fuel cycles, waste management, nonproliferation, and an ambitious R&D program. Highlights include:

* Eliminate financial risk premiums for 7-10 new reactors to keep the price under $4,000/kw. Once they are built, assuming they come in on time/budget, future reactors will be cost competitive with coal and natural gas.

* Keep the once-through fuel cycle using LWR reactors for the rest of this century.

* Develop a central disposal site for spent nuclear fuel with a transition period of 50-100 years. Establish a quasi-government firm to take over management of spent fuel.

* Invest in R&D at the rate of $700 million/year for up to 50 years to determine if fast reactors, or anything else, can be designed that make economic sense.

Atomic Insights by Rod Adams reviews a presentation by Peabody Coal which promotes maintaining acoal intensive future (Energizing the World: One BTU at a Time: Equal Energy Access: The Power of Coal.

This site does not agree that coal should be 50% of future energy.

Highlights from the Peabody coal presentation- Boyce (CEO of Peabody coal) is aggressively predicting that coal will win in at least half of the market battles for new power generation. Here are the final take aways from the slide show.

* Eliminate Energy Poverty and Propel Global Economies by Ensuring that Half of New Generation is Coal-Fueled

* Replace 1,000 GW of Traditional Coal Plants with Advanced Coal (Supercritical and Ultrasupercritical) Plants

* Develop 100 Major Carbon Capture, Storage and Use Projects Around the World by 2020

* Deploy Significant Coal-to-Gas, -Chemicals, and -Liquids Projects Around the World by 2020

* Commercialize and Deploy Next Generation Clean Coal Technologies to Achieve Near-Zero Emissions

What would it take to zero out coal ?

According to Peabody's calculations knocking coal out of the ring would require one (or a mix) of the following:

* 1000 times the world's inventory of solar systems (with something to provide back up for night and cloudy days)
* 2.5 million wind turbines (with something to provide back-up when the wind does not blow)
* 1,150 nuclear power plants
* 70 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (3 times as much as Russia currently produces)
* 2,250 large hydro electric dams

I would add uprating existing (375 GW) of nuclear power by 50% using annular fuel and extended uprates. This would equal 180 GW of new power.

There are 59 nuclear reactors being built now (60 GW of power) and 149 reactors in the planning stages (163.7 GW) and 344 proposed reactors (365 GW of power by governments and companies). In total about 590 GW. Those reactors could also be uprated with annular fuel for another 280 GW. Combined the uprates and new reactors would be 950 GW of new nuclear power. This would be achievable by 2030 even without any crash program. China is already planning to add about 200GW of hydro power. There will be a few hundred GW of wind power added. So zeroing out coal power is achievable.

However, China is planning to new build supercritical and ultracritical coal plants and upgrade existing coal plants. So it will be tough to get off coal and any plan to do so will take a few decades even with a strong coordinated effort to achieving that objective. It would be a very worthwhile effort, as I have described the coal power and coal waste details before.

As of 2005, there were 1,522 coal-fired electric generating units in the U.S. These plants had a total 335,891 (megawatts) MW of production capacity. Just looking at the US coal pollution and not China and the rest of the world.

Each year coal preparation creates waste water containing an estimated 13 tons of mercury, 3236 tons of arsenic, 189 tons of beryllium, 251 tons of cadmium, and 2754 tons of nickel, and 1098 tons of selenium

86 plants have a capacity of 107.1 GW, or 9.9% of total U.S. electric capacity [but about 6% of total when converted to GW hours], they emitted 5,389,592 tons of SO2 in 2006 – which represents 28.6% of U.S. SO2 emissions from all sources.

The 1.05 billion tons of coal burned each year in the United States contain 109 tons of mercury, 7884 tons of arsenic, 1167 tons of beryllium, 750 tons of cadmium, 8810 tons of chromium, 9339 tons of nickel, and 2587 tons of selenium. On top of emitting 1.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year, coal-fired power plants in the United States also create 120 million tons of toxic waste. That means each of the nation's 500 coal-fired power plants produces an average 240,000 tons of toxic waste each year. A power plant that operates for 40 years will leave behind 9.6 million tons of toxic waste. This coal combustion waste (CCW) constitutes the nation's second largest waste stream after municipal solid waste.

One out of every six women of childbearing age in the United States may have blood mercury concentrations high enough to damage a developing fetus. This means that 630,000 of the 4 million babies born in the country each year are at risk of neurological damage because of exposure to dangerous mercury levels in the womb.

US coal-fired power plants pollute the environment with some 200,000 pounds of mercury annually.

In the United States, 23,600 deaths each year can be attributed to air pollution from power plants. Those dying prematurely due to exposure to particulate matter lose, on average, 14 years of life. Burning coal also is responsible for some 554,000 asthma attacks, 16,200 cases of chronic bronchitis, and 38,200 non-fatal heart attacks each year. Atmospheric power plant pollution in the United States racks up an estimated annual health care bill of over $160 billion.

While the annual number of worker fatalities on-site in the 2,000 U.S. coal mines has fallen to around 30, pneumoconiosis—commonly known as black lung disease—kills an estimated 1,500 former coal miners a year.

Train and truck accidents and deaths moving 1 billion tons of coal in the United States

40% of freight rail cargo is coal. There are about 900 rail fatalities per year Coal statistical share of that is 360. The 1 billion tons of coal also sometime travel in large trucks. There were about 5000 large truck fatalities per year in the united states

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