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View Diary: Solar Energy Cheaper than Coal? (351 comments)

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  •  Please be gentle - (11+ / 0-)

    but don't forget nuclear for base power. I know that I should fear to write that in these parts, but Japan and France would seem to show that nuclear can work. Would you settle for 20 - 30% nuclear-generated with the remainder coming from photovoltaic, wind, and to-be-named - assuming nuclear fuel recycling a la the French model?

    •  And waste disposal? (11+ / 0-)

      I haven't heard any advocates for nuclear provide a satisfactory answer for the obvious objection.  Fuel can be recycled, but the witches-brew of fissile byproducts won't go away.

      I'd much prefer to see the money that would go to a nuclear industry invested in, say, geothermal or tidal generation.  Much cheaper and cleaner, and no pesky 100,000-year toxic risks.

      Rudy Giuliani is a small man in search of a balcony. -- Jimmy Breslin

      by Dallasdoc on Tue Dec 18, 2007 at 05:04:15 PM PST

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      •  Fast reactors may help (4+ / 0-)

        Because they run not only on fissile U-235 and plutonium, but on fissionable U-238 and the fissionable daughter products as well, they don't require enrichment, leave only fairly short-lived waste (isotopes such as used in medical applications) that can be mixed in glass and stored comparatively safely, and extract 20x the energy per unit of uranium.

        Downsides: no proof of commercial viability, and I'm not as trusting of the prospects for on-site reprocessing (to keep the plutonium produced in the fuel cycle and out of nefarious hands) as its advocates.

        But it's worth studying, IMO.

        •  Worth studying. But not proceding until we are (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          billlaurelMD

          pretty sure about dealing with the reprocessing and waste issues.

          •  Fission by products last 1/10th as long... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            wondering if

            Fully recycling spent fuel into new fuel and fission by-products solves much of the waste problem and Robobagpiper is incorrect in that it is more like 100x the energy per unit of mined uranium when fuel is recycled.

            A big problem with waste right now is that the mixture of fission byproducts with longer lived "fuel" primarily plutonium creates waste that needs to be safely stored for 10,000 years.  The fission by products only need to be stored for 1000 years which is a much simpler storage problem.

          •  remember that the actual waste is (0+ / 0-)

            only 3 to 5 percent of the spent fuel, which is what is called nuclear waste in the US.  So reprocessing reduces the amount of waste 20-fold or more, while also removing much of the difficult to deal with long lived stuff.

      •  Take a look at the Finnish nuclear system (4+ / 0-)

        both ongoing and planned. Their information is quite transparent.

        Though the Finns are not 'recycling' at this point, the reconcentration process leaves a residue of the relatively less potent nuclear waste, which actually can be stored with less danger. In particular there is no bomb-grade material there to steal or scavenge.

      •  One quick mention... (0+ / 0-)

        Not that it addresses the issue of nuclear waste, but German design has a ceramic-coated pellet design that is aircooled, not watercooled; in addition, it cannot melt down.

        The French take nuclear waste and vitrify it.  While those glass blocks are toxic, they won't leak into the groundwater.

        There are probably other ideas out there, but I'm not familiar with all the latest developments in nuclear power.  It's true that final disposition of radioactive materials has not been solved.

        "You can't teach an old dogma new tricks." Dorothy Parker

        by AnnCetera on Tue Dec 18, 2007 at 07:27:40 PM PST

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      •  That's THE key issue for me (0+ / 0-)

        It's a huge leap of faith that I'm not willing to make.
        Tidal seems especially promising these days from what I've read lately.

        •  I'm more concerned with nuclear proliferation (0+ / 0-)

          I think nuclear weapons should be banned.  And so should all the nuclear processes that can produce them.

          Including nuclear power plants.

          Editor, Red and Black Publishers http://www.RedandBlackPublishers.com

          by Lenny Flank on Tue Dec 18, 2007 at 08:06:51 PM PST

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        •  Sure, if you don't mind destroyed ecosystems (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wondering if

          Tidal has had not wonderful effects in the areas where it has been tried.  There is a cost to it.

        •  I'm secondinf concern on tidal/wave power (0+ / 0-)

          there is potential negative environmental effects, which is why at first you build trial systems on a relatively small scale.

          Remember, there's no reason why a corporation can't hide the bad effects of their tidal power generation in the same way coal based power producers downplay the negatives from mining and burning coal. Nuclear power was once the white knight that was going to rescue us from dirty coal...

    •  Solar. Nuclear. Wind. Gerbils. (8+ / 0-)

      Try everything.

      One of the many things that drive me crazy about the rightwingers is their hatred of alternative fuel sources.

      They often rail against enviromentalism and deny global warming.  (Crazy, I know.)

      But there are just so, so many reasons for us to get off of fossil fuels that have nothing to do with the environment.

    •  No. (0+ / 0-)

      I am further of the opinion that the President must be impeached and removed from office!

      by UntimelyRippd on Tue Dec 18, 2007 at 06:20:15 PM PST

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    •  50% is actually a target figure in many cases (0+ / 0-)

      You often don't want nuclear any higher than that as a power source because reactors have one feature: you can't throttle them.  They're either going full on or full off.  If you're exporting power (like France) you can go higher, but for a self-contained system like the North American grid, you probably don't want much more than 50% of the base load being nuclear because you want a percentage of the load to be able to be turned up or down as required.

      New Brunswick, for instance, gets about 40% of its power from the Lepreau plant and talk of a second reactor isn't going anywhere because of this fact: you don't want to tie up too much of the baseload into generation that you can't adjust up or down, and there isn't enough transmission lines to move the electrons out of province to other buyers who may or may not exist.

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