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View Diary: A Calculation: How Many Trillions of Dollars of Environmental Damage Will IGCC Coal Cost? (48 comments)

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  •  It isn't the spent fuel rods that are a problem (0+ / 0-)

    It is the great deal 1000 - 1 of radioactive byproducts generated in the making of the fuel rods, that need to be disposed of.

    Peak Oil is a suicide strategy!

    by OldPerlGeek on Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 06:02:58 PM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  I don't agree in any way with this statement. (0+ / 0-)

      The mass of so called "depleted uranium" is rather small compared to the mass of say, coal ash.

      I regard "depleted uranium" as an important resource for the future.

      Most of the world's television sets, I note, required the disposal of many metric tons of "radioactive" thorium, which is a by product of the refining of lanthanides.

      I regard this thorium as a precious resource as well.

      In general, I don't buy "waste" mentalities.   My environmental philosophy depends wholly on the use of waste materials as resources.   This is especially true of nuclear materials.   My model is biological systems which have been doing this almost for eternity - if you don't count the fact that over hundreds of millions of years living systems buried the coal, oil and natural gas that we are so anxious to dig up.

      All of the "radioactive" by products of nuclear energy are products that have existed, in equilibrium with uranium and thorium since the formation of the earth.

      In any case, I refuse to look at nuclear energy in isolation from its alternatives.  

      Nuclear energy need not be perfect to be better than all of its alternatives.   It only needs to be better than all of its alternatives.   I find myself repeating this tautology often.   The statement of that tautology is the whole point of this entry.

      If you have a solution for the billions of tons of by products from the coal industry, or the oil industry, or the gas industry, that would be interesting.   However you don't.

      •  Ignoring the negatives (0+ / 0-)

        always makes nuclear look good.

        For every ton of uranium ore mined, there is almost exactly one ton of highly radioactive waste produced, because the yields for most uranium mining activities are significantly less than 1%.

        That's over 200 million tons in the US alone, and about 150 million tons in Canada. That's to support a nuclear industry that only provides 20% of our electricity. More nuclear electricity, more tailings - and more than proportionally more, because we will exploit increasingly poorer ore bodies.

        Of course those tailings could be disposed of safely - they just aren't, and the cost of doing that is rarely reflected in calculating the $ cost of nuclear energy. For example, the LA Times series Blighted Homeland about the lethal outcomes of uranium mining on the Navajo reservation.

        And of course in most cases, the government gets stuck footing the bill for cleanup, because the mining company that made the mess no longer exists, is bankrupt, or otherwise manages to avoid responsibility - not a new story in any kind of mining, but particularly lethal when radioactive wastes are involved.

        Of course if you can talk about nuclear waste as an energy source (and even thorium reactors produce waste that has to be sequestered for upwards of 500 years), I'm free to discuss any renewable I choose at fractions of a cent per kilowatt - since neither exists, and the possiblility or practicality of either is far from certain.

        The entire story would include the hazards (many of them lethal) from mining to refining to waste disposal to decommissioning and not dwell only on the relatively benign and very short interval of actual plant operation.

        I agree that for nuclear to make sense, it has to better than all of the alternatives - few non-fossil alternatives are likely to produce as much environmental degradation as nuclear will.

        There is no more New Frontier - we have got to make it here - Henley/Frey

        by badger on Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 06:34:17 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  All of these costs are included in external cost (0+ / 0-)

          calculations.   All you have to do is look at them.

          You are trying to view nuclear in isolation from its alternatives.

          I regard this as an absurd approach, hence the diary entry.

          Maybe you want to tell me that coal mining is harmless in your view?

          •  Not at all (0+ / 0-)

            The nuclear-coal choice that you present is simply a false choice. Your denial of any other possible alternatives is at odds with nearly every other writer on energy issues - even General Electric, which is making large investments in wind power.

            So you're saying that for example, mining companies are actually paid for restoring green field conditions, and then the Federal government pays a second time to actually do the work (or sometimes it doesn't, and the work never does get done, as in the LA Times story linked), or just that it never gets factored in at all, or gets factored in and ignored? I'm not sure which you mean, because the truth is there are lot of places where no restoration or remediation is done, for example this article

            Have you posted about the hazards and history of fatalities linked to nuclear mining and processing? The CO2 production? If not, you seem to be guilty of what you're accusing others of doing.

            You have a lot of time to write diaries - why not write one that discusses these topics honestly so we have all of the information necessary to arrive at an informed conclusion, and not just the edited, sanitized versions you present?

            There is no more New Frontier - we have got to make it here - Henley/Frey

            by badger on Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 07:17:30 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  First of all, wind power is not an alternative to (0+ / 0-)

              either coal or nuclear.

              Neither is it an exajoule scale form of energy.

              In fact 100,000's of thousands of people, if not more have died from coal mining, and many, many people have died from oil field disasters of many types.

              The fetish that nuclear energy is the only for of mining that has health or environmental consequences is exactly that, a fetish.

              Earlier this year, 65 Mexican miners were killed near the US border.   They didn't even look for the bodies.   I note that the coal mined in that mine could have been used for the manufacture of steel but you don't care either way about that, since you are indifferent, just like the rest of the planet, to the fate of these miners.  

              Still you can tell me all about the Navajos, who were injured in the 1950's.   Why, exactly is that?

              I'm sure you can tell me all about Chernobyl as well.   But since Chernobyl many thousands of Ukrainian coal miners have been killed, and they do not drip off the tip of your tongue.   Why is that?

              For the record, I haven't said jack shit about whether uranium mines can be restored to greenfield status.   It doesn't matter at all.    Nuclear mines don't have to be perfect to better than coal mines that remove entire mountains or huge open pit strip mines.   They just have to be better than these mines.   The holes from coal mines are visible from outer space.   Fires in coal mines in places like Centralia, PA, have been burning out of control for decades.   There is no way to put out this fire or for that matter a much worse one in China, and still you can quote articles all about uranium mines which are not visible from space and do not have out of control fires burning indefinitely.   Why is that?

              I know full well that historically nuclear fuel mining has not been harmless but you insist in an intellectual dodge of very obvious proportions that it must be absolutely harmless in order to be acceptable.   You do not apply the restriction that any other form of energy must be harmless, only nuclear.

              I call this ridiculous and absurd position "nuclear exceptionalism."   It is the position that nuclear is special because - well, maybe - because it begins with an "N."

              Let me help you.   Nuclear energy is is not harmless.   Neither is it harmless to mine iron or coal to make the steel for windmills.   Neither is silicon chemistry harmless, as any one who has considered the nature of computer disposal knows immediately.  If I proved that someone was killed manufacturing steel for a windmill that would have no bearing at all on whether windmills are preferable to natural gas plants.   However this is a useless discussion entirely.   If windmills were good enough to displace coal, or oil, or natural gas, they would be doing so, but they are insufficient.

              Climate change is not getting better because people are building windmills.   On the contrary it is getting worse and the reason it is getting worse is primarily magical thinking.

              I don't care what other writers you read say.   The world needs 467 exajoules of energy and renewable energy does not provide even 5 of them.   It's time to put up or face the music.  I'm not here to say that no one should build windmills.   I welcome any that are built.   .  It is therefore, a wishful thinking fantasy and a dangerous fantasy at that - since it allows people a fatal bit of complacency that is not at all justified.

              This rote complacency and the continuous muttering about non-continuous forms of energy - solar, wind, biofuels, blah, blah, blah - is about as bad as a coal plant, which, as I have shown, is very bad indeed.

              I am here to say that people who oppose nuclear energy are being fools.   Nuclear energy is not a perfect choice nor an ideal choice but it is the best choice.   The alternative is effectively doing nothing.   That's what I'm fighting, doing nothing.

              For the record, not that it will matter to you, because of the high energy density of nuclear fuels, it is possible to concentrate them using a technique involving the use of in situ leeching.   Previously in situ mining - which isn't all that different from an oil well and requires very few personel involved sulfuric acid as a leachant.   This incurred an environmental cost.   However the carbonate complex chemistry of uranium is now understood.  It is now - and how ironic is this - possible to extract uranium by injected sodium bicarbonate into the ground.  Further many scientific papers have been published demonstrating the effective recovery of uranium from seawater.   It is the high mass/energy density, about 77 trillion joules/kg that makes nuclear energy cleaner than all of its alternatives.

              I have previously noted elsewhere that the uranium already mined can theoretically supply the world's energy needs for decades.   The coal mined this year by contrast, would not last for one month if coal mining were banned, as it should be.

              •  There isn't any single technology (0+ / 0-)

                that will replace coal, including nuclear. There are technologies which are locally applicable which when summed can replace a lot of the energy currently derived from coal (and nuclear). Norway derives something like 99% of its electricity from hydro. Brazil over 50% of it's energy from sugar cane. Wind farms are usable in many parts of the US and Europe, so is rooftop wind. Solar is viable in the US SW, both as distributed or centralized PV or concentrated (non-PV) solar. Hydro already exists in the Pacific NW and many of the dams - Grand Coulee, the largest, for example - haven't been built out to full generating capacity. Biomass can be utilized across the US, so can biofuel to a limited extent. Geothermal installations already exist.

                All of those technologies already exist and are subject to economies of scale which can make them more competitive than they are now in limited use. Conservation can probably "provide" more our energy requirements than any one of those technologies. And yes, all of those have downsides, but not as serious as nuclear in my estimation. The semi industry uses nasty chemicals, but they don't intentionally pump them into aquifers or release them from the surrounding rock formations.  If you want to discuss the downsides of any renewable, I'll be happy to - I don't feel the need to hide facts to make my case.

                Let's do a tech by tech comparison, including nuclear (and all of nuclear, not just the happy, shiny parts), so we can see what the realities are. If you've already done that, you can just post the results. If you haven't, then you really don't have anything useful to say until you do it, and your opinion isn't worth any more than mine.

                As far as many renewables being non-continuous, there has been very little research into high-density storage (for example superconducting magnetic storage) beyond military applications. There are techonologies to accomplish that - flow batteries are one - but some of the current tech relies on some fairly exotic materials, or hasn't been updated to newer tech (like higher temperature superconductors). OTOH, there have been hundreds of billions spent trying to put lipstick on the nuclear pig.

                So there is no false choice between nuclear and coal. There are alternatives, most of them implementable faster than over the 20 year time span you quoted in another post to replace just half of coal, and for comparable or possibly less expense.

                ISL still generates large amounts of waste and hazardous conditions for workers, and threatens aquifers (actually has already contaminated in several instances). Provide me an example where an ISL site was restored to pre-existing conditions, without loosening standards - I haven't seen one, but would be interested. Alternatively, how many links would you like to ISL sites where containment failed or satisfactory conditions couldn't be re-established? I have lots - some with entire aquifers contaminated. Do you think we don't need water - just nukes uber alles? We have to destroy the environment in order to save it?

                You can mine almost anything from seawater - hardly anybody does it because the economics stink (unless you're talking about salt). You can mine gold from seawater too, and gold is still more valuable than uranium by weight, I believe. How much gold is produced annually from seawater (your chance to make me look foolish, because I have no idea, but I'm guessing not much on a percentage basis). What kind of inputs are required, and what kinds of wastes are produced?

                In fact uranium simply isn't much different than fossil-fuel. It just isn't mined and used on the scale coal is now, but it has a lot of the same negatives - environmental degradation and hazards of mining, large amounts of radioactive waste produced, dependence on foreign supplies, exploitation of third world countries, corporate domination of markets, the mythology of cheap energy. Pretty much the whole shebang. I think once around that track is sufficient.

                It's nice to create your strawman of "nuclear exceptionalism" - anyone who disagrees with you is pathological - but it doesn't fly either. I was relatively neutral or even slightly resigned to being pro-nuke until I started reading the whitewash diaries and comments on the subject that appear here. If I thought nuclear was a safe, economical method for replacing fossil fuels, I'd be in favor of it. My biggest concern was - and still is - the complexity and reliability of nuclear when implemented an order of magnitude or two beyond what currently exists. But there's a lot to be concerned about before and after the reactor phase, and you don't want to talk about it - it's "nuclear exceptionalism" to actually present the complete picture and want to weigh it against other alternatives. Name-calling is always a cool way to argue when you don't have anything else to fall back on.

                Your own posts on economics, and the willingness of others to ignore any downsides or realities regarding nukes, and the research that has spurred me to do has me pretty well convinced that nuclear is the last thing I want to see replace coal, and I've only scratched the surface of my objections here. I definitely would like to see something done now about the problems of fossil-fuel - I just don't think swallowing the nuclear fantasy and trading bad for potentially worse is part of that something.

                As far as I'm concerned, this isn't a political debate where you get to provide only one side of the picture - it's a technical evaluation where you look at the entire picture, both good and bad, and weigh that against other alternatives. It doesn't much matter to me if you've already done that (which I seriously doubt) - I get to do my own evaluation, even if you think calling me a fool is part of it. If you don't want to honestly discuss and evaluate the downsides, it appears to me that you have an agenda rather than a solution, and agendas are what led to the mess we find ourselves in today.

                There is no more New Frontier - we have got to make it here - Henley/Frey

                by badger on Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 09:20:34 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Again, if you could produce 30 exajoules of (0+ / 0-)

                  renewable energy, your faith would be interesting.

                  The world production for renewable energy is here:

                  World production of non-hydrorenewable energy.

                  Maybe you think that I should be impressed with 1.2 exajoules (334 billion kilowatt-hours) but I know how weak this is.

                  By the world, I am not the only one who is uninterested in your fantasies.   The entire planet is uninterested in fact.   Current proposals call for doubling nuclear output to 60 exajoules, about half of the 120 exajoules now devoted to coal.  Japan built 5 new reactors in the last several years, each of which managed, on a few hectares of land, to match the entire solar output of the planet.   Nations like Romania and Lithuania and Vietnam and Finland are going nuclear.  

                  You keep insisting - and I keep rejecting as nonsensical - that I prove that uranium mining is harmless.   I have already confessed that it has some impact, but not the same impact of a strip mine.  Until you defend coal, it is meaningless to discuss nuclear.   You may not want to consider "nuclear exceptionalism," but I suspect that this is because it is an element of religion with you.   You refuse to engage in any comparison, and by so do doing you accept the status quo.

                  Maybe you should watch Al Gore's movie.

                  You come here and tell me that it isn't either/or for nuclear but that there's a third way, and carry on with all kinds of prayers about wind solar and biomass.   But the data is clear.   It has not produced 0.5% of our energy.

                  •  As I've already pointed out (0+ / 0-)

                    that's a non-sensical argument. Here's a couple variations on it.

                    One is that it's like saying, circa 1900, that cars will never replace horses - there are so few cars and not even any roads to drive them on.

                    Another is to examine what the current situation is: economics favors coal right now, not nuclear, not renewables. If it weren't for the environmental impact, coal would be the economic choice for electricity generation. Nuclear exists on the scale it does only because of 100s of billions of dollars in subsidies and liability shields. So after putting those hundreds of billions into nuclear and next to nothing into renewables, you say, "Look - renewables don't provide any electricity, but nuclear does!" What a fucking surprise.

                    I'm not sure what the logic of that argument is - the free market (assisted by hundreds of billions in government subsidies) has spoken? Renewables aren't feasible because without subsidies they can't compete with heavily subsidized nuclear? The miracle is that renewables exist in any form at all given the all-but-neglect they've faced for most of the last 50 years.

                    Whatever the logic of the argument is, I don't have to call it "religious" or "renewable exceptionalism" - it's just the sheerest nonsense.

                    I don't insist you prove uranium mining is harmless - I accept your standard: prove it's less harmful than alternative technologies; prove that in situ leaching won't contaminate every aquifer it's close to. I'm impressed that Romania, Lithuania and VietNam are going nuclear. I think we should emulate those countries and their economies, and with the expense on nuclear, we'll certainly have the opportunity. Show your work (the dog ate it?).

                    Meanwhile, I'll continue to look at costs, feasibility, risks and benefits. If you want to consider that faith-based or religious, be my guest. Because you don't seem to have much of an argument beyond that and a lot of hand-waving.

                    It's called propaganda, no matter how well it's written.

                    There is no more New Frontier - we have got to make it here - Henley/Frey

                    by badger on Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 11:10:59 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  You desire that I both prove a negative (0+ / 0-)

                      and educate you with respect to that which every educated person - who is interested in climate change and energy - should already know.

                      I have been through thousands of papers on the environment and nuclear fuel processing in the last several decades.

                      I've started this thread with data, and I predicted people would wiggle about it and deny it.

                      I don't think you read the scientific literature, but if you did, you could probably trace through the references in Ind. Eng. Chem. Res. 2003, 42, 5900-5904, to see at least one approach to uranium "mining" that is essentially zero risk.

                      Since we're into proving negatives:  Prove to me that having fantasies about renewable energy won't produce so much carbon dioxide through inaction that humanity isn't rendered extinct.

                      •  I desire (0+ / 0-)

                        that you quit pushing nuclear industry propaganda and provide some real, objective information about nuclear or energy related issues.

                        I'm not holding my breath.

                        You can feel free to characterize my arguments or call me names, and I'm sure you'll continue to do that. What I'm sure you won't do is respond in an honest or objective fashion to the actual issues raised.

                        For example, you put forward in situ leaching as a solution to the hazards of mining, I asked for one - one - link demonstrating that is was safe, in terms of restoring groundwater to previous conditions. You respond with misdirection - some other fantasy about some other unproven technique that you claim is "essentially zero risk" - the same kind of thing you claim about ISL, but are unable to demonstrate when asked. I didn't ask you to prove a negative - simply to provide one instance where ISL was successful in restoring the environment it operated in. You can't.

                        I'll be impressed with your latest claim when calculators come with an "essentially zero" button.

                        I'm sure you're well-versed in what the nuclear industry wants people to believe about nuclear energy. Most of us here would just like to see a clear exposition of both sides of the issue - something you've proven incapable of doing.

                        Starting with your false choice of nuclear vs. coal, your false equivalence arguments about health and environmental safety, your non sequitor about the status of renewables vs. nuclear, and your bandwagon "the whole world is going nuclear", you mostly provide an excellent case study in the practice of propaganda. That might be worth a diary in itself.

                        There is no more New Frontier - we have got to make it here - Henley/Frey

                        by badger on Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 11:18:38 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  I assume that you claim I wrote the ExternE (0+ / 0-)

                          report, or the Scherrer report.

                          I see that you didn't read the Ind Eng. Chem report either.   I referenced it, but apparently you were too lazy to look it up.

                          Neither are you really interested in understanding risk minimization in energy.   You are interested in making a statment, and not a very rational one either.  

                          I could go over the ten or twenty papers on my hard drive on amidoxime resins, but to what point?

                          For the record, I don't work with or in the nuclear industry - although you seem to wish to assume I do.   That said, if I had my life to do over again, I would become a nuclear engineer, because it is an excellent field for servicing the future, and quite intellectually challenging as well.

                          Your use of the word "propaganda" of course indicates that you are in no way interested in analysis, but rather in spin.   So you're incompetent to discuss the issue since you hear only what you want to hear.

                          A description of the Beverly mine in Australia, a carbonate leach mine is here:

                          The Beverly carbonate leachage mine.   Do you get it?

                          Note that the mine will improve the water quantity by causing the decay products of uranium to leave elquilibrium.    Note also that the water quality was very bad, in part because there was too much naturally occurring radiation there.   When placed in nuclear power plants that material will fission, destroying decay chains consisting of 10 or more radioactive species.

                          You say you want to see a calculation?   What kind?   Have you ever done an energy calculation of your own?   I can show by appeal to the Bateman equation solution sets that all nuclear fission products asymptotically approach maxima, meaning that nuclear energy is unique in that it's maximal amount of side products is fixed.   I can discuss at length the chemistry and physics of nearly every major actinide and every major fission product.  What evidence do you offer that you are qualified to understand such a discussion?   What might you bring to such a conversation beyond snarky little whines?

                          I know your type, and in general, they're not very interesting.   Few have ever been graced with an original thought.

                          As for holding your breath, by all means don't.   Drop by my diary entries and whine if you wish, but please don't expect me to take you seriously in the future.

                          Good day.

                    •  Wouldn't NOW be right for some numbers, Badger? (0+ / 0-)

                      Where are the NetFruits of the NetRoots? Nancy? Harry? Steny?

                      by ormondotvos on Sun Dec 24, 2006 at 07:35:32 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  question about the math (0+ / 0-)

                    I am a megawatt guy, not a joule guy. The stuff I read says the world will need another 10,000 billion annual kilowatt hours by 2025 (EIA, 2006).  Won't a 1000 Megawatt generating facility produce 1000 mw x 1000 = 1 mm kw x 8760 = almost 9 billion kw/hrs?

                    So the world needs about 1100 new generating facilities  of 1000 MW apiece (10,000 divided by 9) and/or equivalent amounts of conservation by 2025?

                    I think that coal sucks too. But I'd like to make sure we are doing math on the same page before I say anything more.


                    •  Your math looks right to me but... (0+ / 0-)

                      ...I think we have to look beyond new capacity for increased consumption.

                      We have to replace the already existing coal capacity to survive climate change, and we have to reduce consumption by a large amount.

                      I'm not very optimistic that it can be done, and I think the result will be very tragic indeed.

                      I have estimated crudely that the world could get by with 4000 nuclear power plants but this would require a vast international effort of a type never seen before.

                      •  confused (0+ / 0-)

                        I looked at the Rafaj report (8/05, version 2) at page 5, and at the "Externe" report, pp. 32 and 37.  It isn't clear to me how these reports calculated the external costs of nuke power plants.  

                        Does these reports give some additional detail on how the nuke externalities are calculated?

                        Because the bigger issue is that I did not see portions of both reports that explicitly state that 3 Mile Island and Chernobyl-style release costs are figured as external costs.

                        Or the external costs of placing nuke reactors in the hands of folks like Mr. A in Iran, that character in North Korea, those jerks in the former Burma, or in the stateless areas of Afganistan or Somalia, or in the so-to-be stateless areas in Africa, the Middle East, or elsewhere.

                        I think you have to consider the external costs of pirated nuke fuel being massively misused by these or other folks at least once in the next century.

                        WATER USAGE
                        I am concerned about talking about 4000 new nukes for another reason.

                        Where will the water come from? A typical nuke, for instance the Edwin Hatch plant in Georgia, USA, uses 57 million gallons a day (about 90 cubic/feet/second) or about 21 billion gallons of water a year.

                        The USA uses about 20% of the world's electricity so  about 800 of those new nukes will be here. I can't begin to think of 800 rivers in the USA that have that kind of water capacity available.  

                        You may have to start lining up the nukes along the Mississippi,Columbia, Missouri and Ohio Rivers elbow to elbow but then you will need thousands of miles of new transmission lines and the resulting power losses.

                        To some degree you could try and site the new nukes where the old coal plants were, and reuse those power lines, but where there was enough water for a coal burner (about 3 cfs needed), there may not be enough for a new nuke (Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Montana, etc.)

                        And internationally, there are dozens of countries along the equator and elsewhere that lack the water capacity to site these nukes.

                        And when those nukes start boiling that water, well, water vapor has greenhouse properties itself.

                        WIND CAN BE BIG
                        You stated that wind is only a petty energy source (not an exajoule source) because it supplies such a small percentage of energy at this point.

                        Being a megawatt guy, I don't know about wind being an exajoule source, but multi-hundred megawatt wind farms are popping up all over the US.  A couple of those wind farms have the capacity  of small coal or nuke plants and don't deserve to be written off. Wind could fill a huge energy gap and it is not a fool's fantasy.

                        SOME PICKY ISSUES
                        P 37 of the Externe report does mention that radioactivity from mine tailings is considered. But it isn't  clear that the costs of uranium tailings are for unreclaimed or reclaimed tailings.

                        You said IGCC is unproven.  There is at least one full-scale IGCC plant operating in Tampa,Florida, and large plants were successfully operated at Pinon Pines, Nevada, and by Texaco in the southern California desert.

                        I still agree with you that coal, even IGCC coal sucks and pollutes awfully.

                        Coal wastes are reusable as construction materials in cement and other uses.

                        I did not see large scale gas fired cogeneration listed and evaluated in the Externe report.

                        4000 new nukes could cost ($6 billion x 4000) $24 trillion. Who will pay? Wind is 2/3rd of that, natural gas is 1/3rd, although gas as carbon problems of its own.

                        Some Carbon sequesteration from exhaust gasses is already taking place in a matter of speaking.  Some pump mills make their own calcium carbonate by "scrubbing" the carbon out of their exhaust gasses with a calcium compound.

                        COAL STILL SUCKS
                        I greatly appreciate you taking a hard look at coal and enumerating its massive health impacts, which which I completely agree. I simply cannot buy into nukes the way you suggest, however, for these reasons.

                        •  You need to read both reports comprehensively. (0+ / 0-)

                          The methods of the ExternE program can be found by going through the Externe parent website.

                          The external cost of mill tailings is included.   So far as I am aware, zero people have been injured by mill tailings.   Of course, coal slag, which is infinitely more massive is a similar issue that is almost never mentioned.

                          The use of water is required in all thermal plants, coal and gas alike.   The laws of thermodyanmic efficiency require high temperatures for high temperature inlets.   All power plants release heat to the atmosphere.   In particular IGCC coal plants depend on supercritical water.   Combined Cycle Gas plants also use high inlet temperatures.   The advantage of doing this is that one gets more usuable work (electricity) per unit of energy.

                          The Palo Verde Nuclear station in Arizona uses the sewage outfall water for cooling.   It is one of the most successful nuclear plants in the country.   The series of 5 CANDU reactors, including the 2 now operating, have been designed to use waste heat for district heating.    The GTHTR300C reactor in Japan is designed to use high temperatures for the thermochemical sulfur-iodine hydrogen production reaction, generate electricity, and desalinate water.   This gives an efficiency of 80% for useful work.

                          I believe that the coal industry is a continuous catastrophic failure.    Three Mile Island is the only case of a catastrophic failure in a pressurized water reactor, and the external cost was trivial inasmuch as no one was killed or injured.    Chernobyl should not be represented in a calculation of external costs anywhere since no one is ever going to operate a graphite moderated reactor with a positive void co-efficient in Western Europe.   Only a few RBMK type reactors still operate in the world, and no one will ever again repeat the type of operating errors that lead to the disaster.

                          Thus I think your point about including these has little merit.

                          I am quite sure that the ExternE report did not include the Banquio dam disaster - which killed a quarter of a million people in China in 1975 - in their calculation of external costs for hydroelectricity.

                          I believe that a proposal to rely on wind energy - which does have a low external cost - to do what nuclear does, provide baseload energy, is pure wishful thinking.    Not one nation that uses wind for a large portion of its energy - Denmark for instance - has eliminated the use of fossil fuels.   The Estonians have recently rejected wind on the grounds that wind will have no effect whatsoever on their fossil fuel demand because of spinning reserve requirements.    They have opted to co-operate with Lithuania, Latvia and Poland to build a new nuclear reactor in Lithuania.   Further I note that the Danes, whose wind capacity represents 33% of their capacity have announced an intention to stop building more plants on economic grounds.   They import nuclear power from Sweden and Germany.

                          Your figure about six billion dollars per plant is wrong.   Japan has just completed a series of 5 Advanced Boiling Water Reactors for a cost of under 3 billion each.   India recently completed several reactors ahead of schedule and under budget at less than 2 billion.    I think you just don't understand the economics of nuclear power at all.  I don't think you have a real grasp on the economics of wind either.   A better appreciation of costs would introduce the capacity factor, which for wind is considered excellent at 30% - and very few plants actually do this, there are wind faciliites in the UK that run at less than 10%.   A nuclear plant that operated at 30% would be considered a failure.   Most nuclear power plants however operate at capacity factors close to 90%.   This explains why they are an alternative to coal and why wind is not.   Coal capacity factors are typically 80%.

                          However were the costs as high as you say - and they're not - nuclear plants would still be worth it, since climate change will clearly do much more than 24 trillion dollars in damage.   Indeed, I have shown that merely replacing existing nuclear plants would cost almost 1/3 of that.

                          I detect a sort of "nuclear exceptionalism" in your remarks, which attempts to raise points about nuclear energy that apply to all other forms of energy as well as if they are only important in the nuclear case.

                          This sort of thinking is very unfortunate and, in my view, very dangerous.

                          Finally, with respect to IGCC plants, the Tampa station (Polk) is 260 MWe, a demonstration plant scale.   TECO built and completed an 1800 MWe coal plant after they had operated Polk for almost 8 years.   This suggests that they were less than impressed with their IGCC plant, since they built filthy plants after their experience.

                          I don't know about Nevada, but two large conventional coal plants at 1400 MWe each are proposed at Granite Fox.   They can't be just goo-goo eyed over what unquestionably is a demonstration plant there as well.

                          Finally, there are zero sequestration plants anywhere on this planet that can accomidate even 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year.    Meanwhile the actual output is 27 times larger than one billion tons per year and the rate of release rising, not falling.   To my mind, sequestration is a pipe dream for people who want to make excuses for coal.   I further note - again pointing to "nuclear exceptionalism" that these wastes - the carbon dioxide - would need to be sequestered for eternity.   By contrast, fission products decay into non-radioactive materials.   Moreover, since fission products decay as they are formed, they are subject to equilibrium, i.e. at a given power level one can only accumulate a certain amount of material before it is decaying as fast as it is formed.    This issue, which is an element of elementary nuclear engineering, is the most frequently overlooked matter in the discussion of energy by products.

                          •  wait a second (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            peace voter

                            Other commentors provided references to instances of uranium mill tailings causing considerable deaths and injuries, specifically the LA Times story about the New Mexico indians.

                            You called my references to nukes' huge water use as nuclear exceptionialism since other thermal plants also use water.  

                            True, but nukes use 10-100 times more water per megawatt than other types. Coal and gas fired plants have established methods of air cooled and hybrid cooling systems that use around 100,000 gallons/day.

                            The Palo Verde plant that you cite uses about 90 million gallons/day. That is all the waste water from the 14th largest city in the USA. Where can we find another 4000 sites world wide or 400 in the USA with that amount of available water?  Some of the largest rivers in the USA practically run dry during years of low rainfall or are oversubscribed to other uses. If there is not enough water for continuous operation then the ability to site nukes, and resulting nuke reliability will suffer.

                            I am still waiting for an answer on this issue, and on the issue of how nukes' vast increases in water vapor add another greenhouse gas to the air.

                            Another unanswered issue is the potential outcome of siting nukes in currently unstable and potentially future stateless countries around the world.

                            You say the Chernobyl plant design will never be used again.  True. But you are assuming there are no currently-unknown flaws in the new designs, as prosaic as a stuck temperature gauge,  that will be revealed, over time, as human error during operation, exerts itself.

                             And the impact of the combination of unforeseen design flaws and human error will be huge. Although, as you point out frequently and I agree, it will not be as severe, although far more dramatic, as the slow-motion Chernobyls we suffer from coal plants every day.

                            You say there were no injuries at 3 Mile Island.  You are right. None proved. But even the industry admits that tens of thousands of folks got an extra hit of radioactivity from the 3MI releases.  However, the exposed folks couldn't prove in federal court that those doses  caused injuries and deaths, although there were reportedly many out-of-court settlements.

                            You can argue there are harmless levels of increased exposure to radioactivity, for instance what took place at 3MI. I'm less confident.  I listened for 20 years to scientists claim there were harmless levels of increased air pollution from coal fired power plants because the exposure was "below standards." More recent studies showed they were wrong because the (particulate) standards were too lax.

                            Now you and others cite these new studies about coal-related pollution impacts at low levels as a reason to shut coal down.  I agree, but I am uncertain about giving low levels of radioactivity a free ride.

                            I look at articles about the tritium releases to groundwater at Palo Verde, one of your cited plants, at the radioactive effluent spewed into the Ocean from Sheffield in the UK and from some of the Russian plants, and I cannot accept that the cumulative impacts of these and other so-called trivial releases are still harmless, or that these types of releases will never happen again.

                            Again, these impacts could still be less harmful than the daily impacts of coal firing, but harmful nonetheless.

                            Good for the folks were are able to build new nukes for only 2 or 3 billion dollars. The bad news is that other plants have cost over $12 billion.  Maybe my figure of $6 billion/plant was too high in some cases. But my 20 years of experience in various aspects of the power plant construction industry
                            compels me to use a conservative figure.

                            Tampa was a demo plant? 280 megawatts is a pretty big deal.  I consider a demo plant to be a 1-10 MW plant like the small nukes built early on, or the research facilities like what was built near some universities.  Tampa was in commercial operation for almost a decade and generated $1 million a week in income.  Hardly a demo plant.

                            Sure the utilities want to build more pulverized coal plants now rather than IGCC.  It's far  cheaper. But that doesn't necessarily mean that IGCC is a failed technology regarding genration of economic energy.

                            Of course, we both agree that any kind of coal, including IGCC coal, is a failed technology because of the carbon emissions.

                            I take some exception to your characterization of my lack of understanding of power plant economics.  For  the last 20 years, I have listened to, and reviewed plans of the smartest people on the room,  about how their fluid bed coal boilers and their combined cycle natural gas turbines and heat recovery boilers, with selective catalytic reduction, were super-efficient and super clean.

                            My participation in review of those projects helped contribute to 90% reductions in water use and air pollution, in some cases.

                            But few people, including me, realized the implications that the cleanest fossil-fueled power plant still cranked out unacceptable levels of greenhouse gasses, gas less so than coal.

                            I am very troubled by this situation but am unwilling to accept that a fresh coat of paint on nuclear energy is a flawless solution.

                          •  Of course you realize that coal releases more (0+ / 0-)

                            radioactivity than the average nuclear plant, particularly when western coals are burned.

                            If you insist that radioactivity is the only risk from power generation, I really can't help you.   I find the position silly and completely arbitrary.

                            You say that Three Mile Island "increased radioactive exposure," but you make no representation about whether this is worse from a health impact from "increased mercury exposure" from coal power that has contaminated every living thing on the planet, especially the fish.  

                            In short, you want to view nuclear power in isolation from its alternatives.

                            I think you're being arbitrary, and that goes for the water argument as well.    Any plant that is a heat engine - and this goes for very dirty coal plants as well as nuclear plants - must obey the second law of thermodynamics and discharge heat.   In fact many of the cooling towers around the world are associated with coal plants.   It happens that any cooling mechanism that is used with coal plants is applied to nuclear systems with pretty much the same ease.   Once again, I am hearing "nuclear exceptionalism," the insistence - the irrational insistence - that what is true for every other case is only important in the nuclear case.

                            Apparently you refuse to believe in the external energy calculations, on the grounds you don't like what they say.  

                            I have calculated that the number of lives lost on tritium around the whole world can be estimated at 12 for 1995 (2 liters of water ingested per day assumed to be average).  Twelve is vastly lower than the number of coal miners killed in that year and vastly lower by several orders of magnitude from the number of people killed by coal related air pollution.  

                            On the other hand, I have calculated that the number of lives lost to tritium in 1963 - before nuclear power was widely used, but while open air nuclear testing was still practiced - the number of tritium deaths world wide was about 1200.

                            Nuclear power is a trivial contributor to the flux of tritium, which is in equilibrium with production in any case.  The concentration of tritium in the atmosphere - which is measured every year has been falling drastically since 1963 which happens to coincide with the time that nuclear power plants started to be used in large numbers.

                            A "tritium unit" is defined as 0.118 beq/liter of water, meaning that would need to drink ten liters to experience one decay per second, even as you experience thousands of decays from your body's natural potassium.   In 1963 the TU was over 5000 in Vienna, Austria.   By the late 1980's, after most of the world's nuclear power plants began to operate, it had fallen well below 50.

                            I would give you more of the details but I know exactly where you are coming from.   You want me to tell you what you want to hear, but the evocation of "tritium" immediately informs me of whence you come.   A discussion associated with "tritium" and nuclear power is always an attempt to isolate nuclear power from its alternatives - all of which are actually far more dangerous from nuclear power.

                            In fact, ingesting 20,000 pCi of tritium deliberately would raise one's cancer risk by one in one million.    To accumulate this much tritium one would need to drink 3 liters per day of water for 51 years from directly under the San Onofre nuclear station.   Of course no one does this.

                            Tritium risk: one in 14 trillion per cCi.

                            The number of people who have ingested 20,000 pCi of tritium because of nuclear power plant operations is zero.

                            The number of people who will die from breathing particulates - even with scrubbers - anywhere near any type of coal plant is not zero.

                            You say that "nuclear power is not a flawless solution."   If you read the diary entry on which this post is based, see if you have seen anywhere where I have argued that a "flawless" form of energy exists.   It doesn't exist.   It is "nuclear exceptionalism" to insist that only nuclear energy need be perfect, while competitors can be as far more dangerous and still be declared acceptable, mostly on the grounds that they are not spelled with an "N."

                            If the approach is to insist on "flawless energy" the result will be to continuously use extremely dangerous energy by an appeal to inaction.   This is why you are telling me all sorts of happy horseshit about coal, where you claim to have reduced water use by 90%.   Big deal.   Water use associated with coal plants is a problem but it is no where near being the most serious problem with coal.   One could reduce nitrogen oxides by 95% and water use by 95% and sulfates by 95% and coal would still be environmentally disasterous.

                            I have never said that nuclear energy is perfect, nor have I said that it can ever be flawless.  I have merely asserted that it is better than all other forms of energy, which it is and has been for many decades of observable operational experience.   One doesn't have to posit all kinds of new nuclear reactors to show that.   Existing pressurized water reactors have been operationally the safest exajoule scale energy systems ever developed by human beings, with the possible exception - in some places - of hydroelectricity.

                            You also say that you have listened "to the smartest people in the room."   You could, and prehaps should, go into to rooms where the "smartest" person is "smarter" than the "smartest" person in the rooms where you have been.    In fact, many of the developers of nuclear reactor systems were Nobel Prize winners.   For instance, you could google "Hans Bethe."

                          •  please show us (0+ / 0-)

                            If you insist that radioactivity is the only risk from power generation, I really can't help you.   I find the position silly and completely arbitrary.

                            — NNadir

                            Perhaps I missed it.  Where did 6412093 insist that readioactivity is the only risk from power generation?



                          •  sorry (0+ / 0-)

                            We are just talking past each other at this point.  I, like you, have strongly criticized coal about every 4th sentence as an unacceptable energy source.

                            I said that even after my 20 years of involvement, mainly in review of natural gas fired plants but also coal, that despite seeing and causing 90-95% reductions in air and water pollution from these sources, the previously-unrealized carbon impacts are still deal-killers for gas and coal fired electricity.

                            You seem to read most of what I write as pro-coal. Not true.  For the 10th time, coal sucks.

                            What I am seeking is critical review and discussion of the significant adverse impacts of nuclear energy.  To me, Nuke's excessive water use (10-100 times greater than gas or coal) is a little-known problem and renders it unworkable for arid climates.

                            To others, the nuclear industry's run of the mill radioactivity discharges and the spectre of catastrophe are far more important issues. Folks already discuss those issues widely, so I thought it would be helpful to bring up the neglected issue of water use.

                            I've known and dealt with several Nobel Prize level scientists at the University of California.  The ones I've known were concerned about nuclear energy because of the possibility of nuke plants leading to the spreading around the world of the feedstock materials for nuclear weapons.

                            Hans Bethe (rest in peace)was a very bright fellow.  Trouble is, he or someone like him won't be the CEOs of the profit-driven contractors like Halliburton and utilities like FirstEnergy who will build and run the next generation of nukes.

                          •  I've written elsewhere in my diary on nuclear (0+ / 0-)

                            terrorism or weapons.  I'm sorry, it's not as big a risk as climate change.

                            You seem to think that it is not either/or coal.   But it is.   There are no other forms of scalable energy beyond nuclear.

                            The number of nuclear wars that have resulted in the destruction of cities as the result of commercial nuclear power is zero.   The number of cities destroyed by weather events is not zero.

                            Climate change is a certainty.   Nuclear war using commercial nuclear fuels is not a certainty.

                            Climate change will almost certainly damage many cities and cost hundreds of millions, if not billions of lives.

                            Nuclear weapons are so expensive and difficult to make, that it is very unlikely that without a national program, it will never occur.   Is the risk zero?    No it isn't.   However the expectation value (risk times number of people injured) is infinitely higher in the climate change case, since the risk of climate change is 100% now.

                            Your objection is still specious.   You insist that nuclear power be without risk, but you do not insist that any other form of energy be without risk.   It ain't gonna happen, and that decision, that only nuclear energy be declared associated with Halliburton - the logical fallacy of "guilt by association" - is arbitrary and will cost human lives.

                            For the record, Halliburton runs neither the Japanese or French nuclear programs, nor the Romananian, nor the Belgian, nor the South Korean...

                            You can blah, blah, blah all day about renewable energy, I bet, but you can't show me 3 exajoules of it.   That's a problem since the default is coal.

                          •  oh yeh? (0+ / 0-)

                            The number of cities destroyed by Chernobyl was more than zero.

                            59,900 MW of wind power already installed worldwide.  How many exajoules? You tell me.

                            Energy conservation, especially in highly industrialized countries, would be an important factor, properly subsidized.

                            Natural gas combustion produces far less carbon than coal and could provide a less damanging source of
                            base load capacity.

                            Laast time I talked to the Nobel prize-level scientists you suggested I talk to (at Lawrence Labs/UCB), some of them were working on energy generation from ocean wave action, including functioning pilot projects. I admit, its been a while since then.

                            I share your skepticism of carbon sequesterization because I don't trust the monitoring of the calculations, but properly audited, planting more "trees in Belize," required as mitigation for gas-fired power plants, could reduce the carbon impacts from natural gas usage.

                            In the Northwest, the State Energy Councils require new thermal power plants to invest in carbon offsets.  At least 2 IGCC plants are coming up for approval. I can barely wait to see what kind of carbon mitigation these coal-fired plants will offer to the agencies.  It could be among the biggest lies ever told.

              •  Oh and a couple of other things (0+ / 0-)

                Navajo are still dying from nuclear contamination - it goes well beyond the 1950s because nobody did anything about it, and still haven't. The Navajo are also fighting coal mining right now (there was diary and links last night).

                Also, there's a big difference, especially in the desert, between leaving a mountaintop stripped by coal mining unremedied, and leaving several hundred million tons of radioactive waste laying around in the desert. In that limited case, nuclear is much, much worse than coal.

                You didn't bother to read the LA Times series and don't really know anything about it, but you're ready to assure us it just doesn't matter. Try reading something other than nuclear industry web sites and literature.

                There is no more New Frontier - we have got to make it here - Henley/Frey

                by badger on Fri Dec 22, 2006 at 09:30:47 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  NNadir, you are one hard SOB! Exactly (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                What We Need.

                You present numbers, consider all alternatives, and are SO diplomatic.

                Two outa three ain't bad.

                Carry on. I love this type of discussion. Kinda like the Olympics of debate.

                You're killin' 'em.

                I have NO idea if you're helping the human race.

                But this level of intellectual honesty about Nuclear Exceptionalism is what is needed. And not just in Nuclear Exceptionalism.

                Christian Exceptionalism, American Exceptionalism, Male Exceptionalism.

                Magical thinking makes us stronger...

                Where are the NetFruits of the NetRoots? Nancy? Harry? Steny?

                by ormondotvos on Sun Dec 24, 2006 at 07:29:53 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

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