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I haven't written too many diaries on energy or climate change, mostly because I don't have any real expertise on the subjects.  I'm interested in them, much as I'm interested in health reform.  But it's much easier to come up with an idea on health reform-there's none of that pesky science involved.  But I received my lates issue of Esquire magazine today, and there was an article about nuclear energy I just had to share.

In other diaries I've commented that I am quite bullish on nuclear power.  It is carbon neutral and done on a large scale around the world.  There is a down side, of course, and it's a pretty big one: safety.  The nuclear process generates deadly waste that lasts forever and is seemingly immpssible to store.  But there may be a solution: the sodium fast reactor.  

The man selling this possible solution to our energy crisis is Eric Loewen, a former United States Navy officer with a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering.  His plan relies on recycling nuclear waste, which is 95% uranium, 1% transuranics, and 4% other radioactive elements.  Transuranics are highly radioactive elements not usually regarded as sources of energy.  But Loewen has a solution for that:

"But if I build a different kind of reactor that uses liquid sodium instead of water to slow things down, I can have a higher neutron speed and that stuff becomes a fuel. You just mix it in the crucible, put in the transuranics, put in some uranium, put in some zirconium, and you cast it into thin rods."

A more detailed description of the process can be found here.

There is a 7 step process by which Loewen proposes to turn nuclear waste into an asset that can meet our energy needs, carbon free.

  1. Uranium mining, done all over the world, mostly in Canada and Australia.  Estimates are that reserves are plentiful, with maybe thousands of years worth available for energy production.
  1. Fuel fabrication: uranium powder is formed into pellets the size of a pencil eraser and put into 14 foot metal tubes, which are bundled and sold to nuclear power plants.
  1. Nuclear power plants
  1. Spent fuel: if not recycled, this waste will take 1 million years to return to the radioactivity level of the ore from which it was produced.
  1. Advanced recycling center: the used fuel is seperated: transuranics are used to make more electricity.  The uranium is recycled, the other radioactive elements are shipped to a geological repository.
  1. Geological repository: similar to a repository we know of now, except that the waste is radioactive for 500 years as opposed to 1 million.
  1. Electricity: electricity sales pay for steps 1, 2, & 3.  Sales of electricity from the recycling center will pay for the operation of the recycling reactor, and companies will pay the center to take the spent fuel.    

Perhaps the best part of this process is that we've already done a huge amount of research on the process.  GE started researching it after the Nixon administration dropped an initial effort.  After spending $1 billion, they were ready to build a prototype in 1992.  But, for some reason, the Clinton Administration killed it.  Maybe it was a safety issue.  There are certainly many concerns about nuclear plant safety.  But remember this: in 61 years, commercial nuclear power has not killed a single person in the United States.  

I have often said that nuclear is not the only answer to our energy crisis.  Solar can be used in the southwest, wind can be used in the plains and coastlines.  But nuclear can and should help fill in the gaps.  And it can certainly be a bridge until we get to the point where wind and solar can be a complete solution, if we ever get there.  I would love to hear from the many kossacks much more informed on this subject than I.

Originally posted to mark louis on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 04:37 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (7+ / 0-)

    "I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass... and I'm all out of bubblegum."

    by mark louis on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 04:37:13 PM PST

  •  Do a diary on the IEA report released today (0+ / 0-)

    IEA

    The executive summary has lots of good hooks.  Their comments about US energy use alone bear real thought.

    -7.75 -4.67

    "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

    There are no Christians in foxholes.

    by Odysseus on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 05:36:30 PM PST

  •  Excellent high-level discussion about (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, kbman

    the role of new nuclear power in eliminating the use of fossil fuels: http://www.bravenewclimate.com  

    The Integral Fast Reactor features prominently in discussions there about the future of sustainable nuclear power.  

    You might also want to learn about the Molten Salt Reactor.  A fluid fueled reactor has many advantages, and the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) is one of the leading contenders for sustainable nuclear.  It "burns" Thorium by breeding from it U233 in a thermal spectrum, which offers many design advantages.  The liquid format makes things much easier, from a chemistry point of view, to manage the fuel cycle and the response of the fluid to heat guarantees a negative reactivity coefficient translating into inherent safety (impossible for a runaway reaction).   Thorium is also much more abundant than Uranium.  Check out these technical talks:

    http://www.youtube.com/...

    http://www.youtube.com/...

    Other new nuclear advances are in the realm of mini and small reactors.  These will offer the advantages of factory mass production of complete reactor assemblies addressing issues such as regulatory risk and time from start of construction to getting power flowing (capital risk reduction).  Small reactors, inherently safe ones, would also make possible options for industrial process heat and residential/commercial district heating.  Factory mass production: think Henry Ford principles applied to reactors and the possibilities for massive cost reduction.

    In the realm of small / mini reactors coming down the pipe, Google up: Toshiba 4s, Hyperion Power Generation, Babcock & Wilcox mPower, NuScale.

    The intrinsic nature of Power is such that those who seek it most are least qualified to wield it.

    by mojo workin on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 07:24:29 PM PST

    •  So how about combining concepts ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose

      According to information from davidwalters diaries I've learned that a type of thorium salt reactor, the Liquid Chloride Thorium Reactor, can also use spent fuel as fuel.  These being molten salt reactors they can also be scaled down in size and produced in the modular approach you describe.  Why not site groups of small, modular LCTR's at the locations of existing light water reactors?  They could then use the spent fuel without needing to transport it very far.  Also, nuclear plant sites tend to be large and out of the way so there is likely available land for these projects at many of them, plus the site specific environmental and geological studies have already been largely completed, needing only to be updated for the specific footprints of the proposed reactors.  They also already have off-site power service available and existing distribution infrastructure, though it may need upgrades in some instances to serve both the light water and molten salt reactor complexes.

      Modular units could also be sited to replace the production at existing coal plants.  Shut down the furnaces and plug the generator output from modular LFTRs into the existing distribution lines.

    •  This diary is already talking about (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Mcrab

      the Integral Fast Reactor. (Although I suspect that the diarist doesn't realize it.)

      Last I checked, Eric Loewen works for GE, and the "liquid sodium" reactor that he mentions is their PRISM design, which is essentially the same thing as the IFR. (GE kept working on it after Clinton pulled the plug on DOE funding for the project.)

      It's a shame that you never see this in any of the GE "ecomagination" advertisements. They're all smart grid, wind turbines, and fairy dust.

      An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
      -- H. L. Mencken

      by bryfry on Wed Nov 11, 2009 at 03:35:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Whenever something this slick gets proposed, (0+ / 0-)

    I start looking for the "gotchas." For one thing, how much of this new fuel can actually be produced and at what cost?
    How costly and how safe are the reactors that will burn it?
    And the real question without which there can be no assent to a nuclear future in my opinion:
    If you are so damned certain that nuclear energy is safe, will you consent to a repeal of the Price-Anderson Act so that nuclear utilities can be held responsible for any damage they might incur without shelter from the taxpayers?
    If you can't answer yes to that then fuck you.

    •  We have quite a bit of experience with reactors (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bryfry, Mcrab

      of this type. The first electricity generated from nuclear power in the US came from a reactor of this type. We had a commercial fast reactor operating in the United States for a number of years. I don't know what the cost would be. It is a valid question but I suspect the larger reason we don't already go whole hog into reactors of this type is technological inertia. Regulators and utilities are already very comfortable with light water reactors of they type now used. Designing and licensing such reactors would be a lengthy expensive proposition and would require significant economic advantages before utilities would go out on a limb.

      Price-Anderson doesn't shield utilities from responsibility, it is what holds them accountable by requiring them to purchase insurance and consent to indemnity agreements. All insurance has limits. The airline industries didn't carry nearly enough liability insurance to cover the lawsuits they faced following 9/11 for example. Congress retroactively limited their liability and paid the difference. Conversely, the nuclear industry has paid all claims against it without taxpayer help for over 50 years, including following Three Mile Island.

      •  But (0+ / 0-)

        Price-Anderson doesn't shield utilities from responsibility, it is what holds them accountable by requiring them to purchase insurance and consent to indemnity agreements.

        But it automatically provides catastrophic accident liability coverage for free.

        Can we get this in our daily lives?  I mean, that'd sure be nice if the government would pay my car's liability insurance coverage for any accident over $500 for me...

        The airline industries didn't carry nearly enough liability insurance to cover the lawsuits they faced following 9/11 for example. Congress retroactively limited their liability and paid the difference.

        1. Two wrongs don't make a right.
        1. We actually have a choice about where our power comes from.  Air travel really isn't optional in many cases.
        •  But ... but ... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mcrab, Blubba, marybluesky

          But it automatically provides catastrophic accident liability coverage for free.

          No it doesn't. You have no idea what you're talking about.

          Can we get this in our daily lives? I mean, that'd sure be nice if the government would pay my car's liability insurance coverage for any accident over $500 for me...

          You want P-A-type insurance? Sure. First, we'll require you to purchase your own insurance for your car (which is already a little more strict than what states often require). In addition, we'll require you to purchase the maximum amount of coverage that is available on the market. You don't get a choice of how much insurance you buy.

          Next, you'll also need to buy additional insurance (on top of your basic coverage) that insures not only your car, but 100 or so cars of your friends as well. So if your idiot friend Steve has a little too much wine with dinner and plows into a store on the way home, you're shit out of luck. Your insurance is going to have to help cover it, if the damages go above Jack's basic coverage, and you'll be hit with higher premiums as well.

          You don't even get to complain that this is not fair, because all of this insurance is no-fault insurance. Thus, you can't even plead in court that an accident was not your fault. Your insurance is going to pay anyway. You'll have to deal with the consequences. Get used to it.

          If you agree to that, then you can have your liability limited at the level above the coverage of the insurance that you've been compelled to purchase if (and only if) the government says you can, because the legislature will have to decide, when that time comes, whether they are going to charge you additional money to cover the damages. So, I suggest that you start sucking up to your representatives early.

          Of course, meanwhile, a deadbeat who pays the relatively tiny uninsured motor vehicle fee can drive around in his car without insurance, and if he hits someone or something and is sued, he can declare bankruptcy. He'll have a hard time getting a loan for several years, but he gets to keep his clothes, his house, and what's left of his car. Meanwhile the claimant gets virtually nothing. This is why people purchase insurance to cover the case when the other guy doesn't have insurance.

          We actually have a choice about where our power comes from. Air travel really isn't optional in many cases.

          Ah ... I guess you haven't heard of such things as boats, trains, cars, donkeys, skateboards, etc. They've been around for quite some time, you know. ;-)

          I don't know about you, but I can choose whether to take a train, a boat, a plane, or a car to any destination that I fly to (I rather like taking the train); whereas, I don't get much say in what my electric company uses to generate my electricity.

          Besides, we don't have to give up air travel. We could simply limit the size of aircraft below a point where they could the level of damage that was done on 9/11/01.

          The 9/11 attacks were not the first time that a plane crashed into a building. In 1945, a B-25 bomber (not a small plane for the time) crashed into the north side of the Empire State Building. This accident killed 14 people (including the crew of the plane), but the building survived. This crash was nothing when compared to the event that took down the World Trade Center towers.

          In fact, partially because of this accident, the towers were designed to withstand the impact of a Boeing 707, but a Boeing 767, fully loaded with fuel, was simply too much for them. If we had limited the size of commercial aircraft to that of a B-25 or even a 707, the towers would still be standing, and thousands of victims would alive today.

          So when are you going to come out against large planes as virulently as you attack nuclear power? A little more consistency and a little less arbitrariness from you would be nice.

          An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
          -- H. L. Mencken

          by bryfry on Wed Nov 11, 2009 at 11:23:31 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, it does. (0+ / 0-)

            No it doesn't. You have no idea what you're talking about.

            Yes, it does.  Operators only need to cover a bit over $10B of liability coverage.  The rest is provided by the feds at no charge.

            You want P-A-type insurance? Sure. First, we'll require you to purchase your own insurance for your car

            That's already done, which is why I chose that as an example.  Car accident liability coverage is mandated so that if you screw up and wreck someone else's property, you can afford to fix your mess.

            The sweetheart deal the nuclear industry gets is that while they're required to insure against wrecking someone else's property -- which only makes common sense -- the government pays all of their coverage over a base amount.  Which would be analagous to the government only requiring me to carry $500 worth of liability coverage and in the event of bigger car accidents, them footing the bill.  I wreck a Pinto, I pay for it.  I wreck a Bugatti Veyron, the government foots almost the entire bill.  Sign me up for that!

            Next, you'll also need to buy additional insurance (on top of your basic coverage) that insures not only your car, but 100 or so cars of your friends as well.

            Do you even know what liability insurance coverage is?

            Ah ... I guess you haven't heard of such things as boats, trains, cars, donkeys, skateboards, etc. They've been around for quite some time, you know. ;-)

            Boats: ~30mph
            Trains: ~60mph
            Cars: ~65mph
            Donkeys: ~2mph
            Skateboards: ~3mph
            Airplanes: ~600mph

            Sorry, not a substitute.  And I look forward to your next transatlantic skateboard crossing.

            Different sources of electric power have no impact on the consumer apart from rate.  Different forms of transportation have a HUGE impact on the consumer, in addition to rate.

            •  Name one. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              bryfry, marybluesky

              Different sources of electric power have no impact on the consumer apart from rate.  

              So, you are saying CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants have no effect on consumers? You are saying that large direct government subsidies for renewables don't impact consumers? A failed hydroelectric dam would have no impact on consumers?

              And I look forward to your next transatlantic skateboard crossing.

              You can always travel by ship. My favorite all-time author, Isaac Asimov, had an IQ that was off the charts but nonetheless refused to fly. He always traveled by boat or train. But it isn't like he did the math and calculated that rail and sea travel was significantly safer. He had an irrational fear of flying. But at least he had the sense to recognize it for what it was and made self-deprecating jokes about it. The few risk studies I've seen, such as the one in WASH-1400, consistently show that there is far more fear of nuclear power than is justified statistically.  

              •  Re (0+ / 0-)

                So, you are saying CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants have no effect on consumers?

                Who's talking about coal here?  We're talking about new electric infrastructure.  Coal is dead.

                You are saying that large direct government subsidies for renewables don't impact consumers?

                1. Don't act like I didn't say "except for rates".
                1. The PTC is not large.

                A failed hydroelectric dam would have no impact on consumers?

                Hydroelectric dams should be required to carry liability insurance for the full cost of a worst-case accident scenario.  Every power type should.  Nuclear doesn't because the feds provide catastrophic coverage for free.  That, and because there's not an insurance company in the world that would insure, say, Indian Point against the damage a meltdown there would cause to the upper NYC metro area.

                You can always travel by ship.

                Yeah, enjoy your cross-Pacific crossings on a ship to get to a business meeting in Tokyo.  Sorry, it's simply not a replacement.

                •  Oh yeah? (0+ / 0-)

                  Yeah, enjoy your cross-Pacific crossings on a ship to get to a business meeting in Tokyo. Sorry, it's simply not a replacement.

                  I suggest that you don't rely on either wind or solar for this trip. See my other comment. ;-)

                  An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
                  -- H. L. Mencken

                  by bryfry on Wed Nov 11, 2009 at 02:05:11 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Holy change of topic, Batman. (0+ / 0-)

                    This subthread came about on after you raised the spectre of the airline bailouts.  I never once suggested that air travel was a substitute for solar power or anything of that sort.

                    •  No you miss the point (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      marybluesky

                      Do you mean the "airline bailouts" that have already happened?

                      (By the way, Blubba raised the point of airline bailouts, not me.)

                      That's one solid "spectre" you have there. I would say that it is hardly ghost-like at all. It's more than just speculation

                      Meanwhile, you continue to talk about a "bailout" of the nuclear industry, which has not happened and haven't even come close.

                      Who is talking reality and who is talking fiction here?

                      Meanwhile, you claim again and again that the alternatives to air travel are not enough. Well, fine, I get your point. Here's my point:

                      The alternatives to nuclear are not enough

                      Without nuclear we will not be able to maintain a system that allows you to post stupid comments via your electrically powered computer to a web site that is hosted on a cluster of computers that run non-stop 24/7, eating electricity the entire time.

                      An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
                      -- H. L. Mencken

                      by bryfry on Wed Nov 11, 2009 at 03:20:54 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Oh give me a break (0+ / 0-)

                        How much can you dodge the issue?  You brought up airline bailouts as thought they had even the tiniest bit of relevance to whether nuclear power plants should have to carry full liability coverage paid for by the industry itself.  It's a ridiculous line of argument and you should disavow it.

                        The alternatives to nuclear are not enough

                        Which is, of course, a completely BS claim.  Let me break it down for you:

                        1. Intermittent + Peaking = Baseload
                        1. Intermittent + Storage = Baseload
                        1. Intermittent + Increased Geographic Distribution = Less Intermittent
                        1. Intermittent + Different kind of intermittent = Less Intermittent
                        1. Not all non-nuclear green power is intermittent.  Nor is hydro the only non-intermittent source.

                        Current peaking supports ~20% penetration of wind, far more of solar.  Economical peaking additions can economically have wind alone approach reach up to 50%.  Peaking can even be integrated right into solar thermal plants, such as SEGS, which provides baseload with an average of about 90% solar, 10% NG.  You get your peaking plant practically for free.

                        Storage tacks a penny or two per kWh onto the cost of generation, in cases where it doesn't already exist or can't be simply retrofit to exist (such as uprating existing hydro).  It's cheap enough that China already uses pumped hydro to store power from its power plants during the night to use during the day (many of the pumped storage plants being gigawatt-scale) rather than having to build new power plants.

                        •  Christ you are a tiresome little nitwit (0+ / 0-)

                          You brought up airline bailouts as thought they had even the tiniest bit of relevance to whether nuclear power plants should have to carry full liability coverage paid for by the industry itself.

                          Er ... no. It wasn't me, it was Blubba:

                          All insurance has limits. The airline industries didn't carry nearly enough liability insurance to cover the lawsuits they faced following 9/11 for example. Congress retroactively limited their liability and paid the difference.

                          Care to contradict me again, you little shit? ;-) Go ahead and make a fool of yourself again.

                          If you can't even get the simple stuff right, which is clearly posted on this web page, why should I accept your unsupported claims about storage, peaking, baseload ... yadda, yadda, yadda ... at face value?

                          You provide no references and no believable figures to support your claims.

                          For example, I could make the claim, with as much supporting evidence as you have provided, that fairy dust could provide all of our energy needs by 20XX (provide your own digits for "XX," I don't care). So now you have two claims to refute:

                          1. nuclear is essential
                          2. fairy dust can provide all of our energy

                          Since you have had a poor showing in refuting the former, I'm willing to bet that you will do even poorer refuting the latter, but have fun trying. ;-)

                          Frankly, you have no clue. Good night.

                          An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
                          -- H. L. Mencken

                          by bryfry on Wed Nov 11, 2009 at 07:15:41 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  You know what? (0+ / 0-)

                            I honestly didn't even notice that you had taken over replying for Blubba.  Don't take that as a compliment, by the way.

                            And coming back from your change of topic, we get to your "I'm going to demand that you reference all of your assertions despite the fact that I haven't referenced any of mine" argument.  Okay, we don't get to that right away -- first we get a personal insult.  But then we get to it.

                            The actual way to address this is instead of requiring me to provide a reference to every bloody piece of common knowledge on the subject (when, again, you don't do the same yourself), instead stating which things you don't accept.  I'm not going to waste my time digging up a link for every bloody line in every post.

                            Don't believe that SEGS operates at under 10% NG?  here you go (I've run into better refs in the past, but I have Things To Do(TM)).  Don't believe that China uses a huge amount of pumped hydro?  Here you go.  Name the issue that you don't believe and I'll ref it.  But quit playing games here.  I'm trying to hold a serious debate and you're talking about fairy dust.

                •  Coal is far from dead. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  bryfry

                  China alone completes a coal plant large enough to serve the need of city the size of Dallas every week to ten days. For all Germany's touted green power, it has dozens of new coal plants on the drawing boards. EIA predicts coal usage will increase by almost 50% by 2030. Like it or not, coal will continue to be part of "new infrastructure" for several decades to come.

                  1. Large direct government subsidies are not a part of rates. They are an entirely different exception from "rates".
                  1. The PTC is too large. In fact, until recently it was huge. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the multiplier effect tax credits have. Whereas a tax deduction allows pre-tax income to be reduced, a tax credit has a multiplier effect. Imagine you are a company that earned $5 million in profits and the corporate tax rate is 20% (for the sake of argument, I have no idea what the actual rates are) resulting in a $1 million tax bill. $1 million in PTC effectively wipes out that tax bill! If wind earned a mere income tax deduction the taxable income would be reduced to $4 million instead and the tax would be $800,000, only a $200,000 reduction. I have heard stories of wind developers actually paying to have their power put on the grid during periods of low demand when it isn't needed so they could earn the PTC.

                  Hydroelectric dams should be required to carry liability insurance for the full cost of a worst-case accident scenario.

                  The really large dams like Hoover and Grand Coolee are federal projects. As far as I can tell they are "self insured", which means that if they failed tax revenues would be used for restitution, whatever the cost. But for privately operated dams what you are requesting is not how business is normally done. Companies get liability insurance to protect themselves, not the public. If things go really awry and the liability claims exceed the insurance and the assets of the company, the company simply declares bankrupcy. Plus, "worst-case accident scenario" is generally a meaningless term. Should airlines be required to carry adequate liability insurance to deal with multiple simultaneous hijackings that target filled sports stadiums? What is "worst case"? Even for dams, the "worst case" could be hard to pin down.

                  Nuclear doesn't because the feds provide catastrophic coverage for free.  That, and because there's not an insurance company in the world that would insure, say, Indian Point against the damage a meltdown there would cause to the upper NYC metro area.

                  Actually, American Nuclear Insurers (ANI) does insure Indian Point, as it does all nuclear plants. A meltdown, in itself, would not cause damage to the upper NYC metro area, any more than TMI damaged Pennsylvania.

                  •  First off, may I say... (0+ / 0-)

                    that I respect that you're actually debating the issues, unlike bryfry.  That said, down to the reply.

                    Like it or not, coal will continue to be part of "new infrastructure" for several decades to come.

                    That all depends on what sort of legislation and climate frameworks get passed.  My view is that we're arguing from a perspective of, "If I ran the world...".  Clearly what you or I think of nuclear, or wind, or solar, makes no difference in who builds what in reality.  But for the purposes of this debate, we're both in agreement that coal has to go, so what costs coal should have to pay for its pollution seems to be a rather tangential point.

                    1. Large direct government subsidies are not a part of rates. They are an entirely different exception from "rates".

                    We pay for it either way.  Perhaps a better wording than "rates" would have been "per-kWh generation costs"?

                    2. The PTC is too large.

                    I fail to see how 2.1 cents per kilowatt hour for an emerging tech is unfair.  With all of the DoE money that still goes into nuclear, and the many billions that went into the nuclear industry when it was an emerging tech, I don't think it's unfair in the least.

                    Companies get liability insurance to protect themselves, not the public.

                    That attitude has been slowly changing -- for example, Superfund is basically a giant liability insurance program.  I am strongly of the belief that all industries need to be required to pay for insurance to cover their liability to the general public, at least when it exceeds the company's ability to pay.  Companies causing great damage and then going bankrupt without repairing the damage is simply unacceptable in my book.  I don't care if it's a nuclear power plant or a company that makes carcinogenic chemicals; I don't want the damage foisted on the public.

                    Certainly you can see the reason in that view, no?

                    Should airlines be required to carry adequate liability insurance to deal with multiple simultaneous hijackings that target filled sports stadiums?

                    Yes.  If it's a foreseeable accident, it should be covered.  The rocket launch industry already has to insure against crashing into a public place -- why shouldn't the airline industry have to?

                    On the other hand, I wouldn't want industries to be required to insure against accidents that nobody could have foreseen.

                    What is "worst case"? Even for dams, the "worst case" could be hard to pin down.

                    Rapid rupture of the dam with water cresting and with saturated soil downstream.

                    Actually, American Nuclear Insurers (ANI) does insure Indian Point, as it does all nuclear plants.

                    Not against catastrophic coverage.

                    A meltdown, in itself, would not cause damage to the upper NYC metro area, any more than TMI damaged Pennsylvania.

                    TMI only underwent a partial meltdown, and if the H2 had detonated, we could have had a very different scenario on our hands.

                    •  First off, may I say (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      bryfry

                      I appreciate your willingness to engage in an intelligent exchange of views and information too, unlike some I could mention.

                      My view is that we're arguing from a perspective of, "If I ran the world...".  Clearly what you or I think of nuclear, or wind, or solar, makes no difference in who builds what in reality.  But for the purposes of this debate, we're both in agreement that coal has to go, so what costs coal should have to pay for its pollution seems to be a rather tangential point.

                      Actually, I'm simply basing my comments on analysis like the ones Princeton has performed and those of other reputable organzations that draw similar conclusions. Even if Obama waves his magic legislation signing pen, the consensus opinion seems to be that coal, including new coal plants, as a practical matter will be a part of the mix for a long time.

                      I fail to see how 2.1 cents per kilowatt hour for an emerging tech is unfair.  With all of the DoE money that still goes into nuclear, and the many billions that went into the nuclear industry when it was an emerging tech, I don't think it's unfair in the least.

                      I don't begrudge R&D for emerging tech to come up with ways to make a technology better and cheaper in the long run. Nor do I have a problem with loan guarantees to help commercialize the technology. By and large this is all nuclear has ever received. I do have issues with direct incentives like the PTC, however, because they are the sort of thing that stifle incentives to innovate and become cost effective. Moreover, the PTC is the sort of thing that the wind industry is quickly developing a permanent dependency on, much like price supports for farmers. It simply isn't healthy to prop an industry up this way. Nuclear indeed has benefited over the last 50 years from significant federal R&D, and consumers have used a lot of electricity from nuclear plants over the years such that the costs have been smeared out to the point that a KWh of nuclear power is subsidized to the tune of about 1.2 - 1.6 cents, depending on who is doing the figuring. This is less than the PTC alone. In addition, wind benefits from accelerated tax depreciation and state incentives like their own PTC (Iowa) and renewable energy mandates. EIA estimates wind gets 24 cents per KWh, although admittedly much of that is R&D that, like nuclear will be smeared out over time. The question isn't whether we should help wind. It is how to do it in a healthy way.

                      That attitude has been slowly changing -- for example, Superfund is basically a giant liability insurance program.  I am strongly of the belief that all industries need to be required to pay for insurance to cover their liability to the general public, at least when it exceeds the company's ability to pay.  Companies causing great damage and then going bankrupt without repairing the damage is simply unacceptable in my book.  I don't care if it's a nuclear power plant or a company that makes carcinogenic chemicals; I don't want the damage foisted on the public.

                      Superfund isn't about accident liability. It is about site remedation. Most industries are now required by law to collect funds over the life of the project to restore a site to green field or other suitable condition. Nuclear plants have long had a requirement to collect funds for eventual decommissioning, not to mention collect for the permanent disposal of the waste. I don't disagree that industries should be held accountable for their liability. The nuclear industry has been. The federal government hasn't bailed it out yet and probably never will. The issue seems to be the common belief that we know how much a large accident would cost and that it is a lot more than Price Anderson provides for. The embarassing thing is we don't but should in the next couple years. What we have are some really old and really awful studies that the antinuclear crowd loves to trot out. I've been thinking of writing a diary about just how awful we now know they were. The NRC is working on the first realistic estimates (SOARCA) but they won't be out for a couple years. The results may end up being a lot lower than most people would have thought.

                      Yes.  If it's a foreseeable accident, it should be covered.  The rocket launch industry already has to insure against crashing into a public place -- why shouldn't the airline industry have to?

                      I believe the term of art is "credible accident". A rocket crashing into a public place is credible. A rocket crashing into CDC in Atlanta and unleashing a highly virulent pathogen for which there is no immunity - not so much. Airliners have crashed into populated neighborhoods in the past and had insurance to cover the effects. Crashing intentionally into the World Trade Towers or  Pentagon - not something anyone before hand would have thought credible. In fact, crashing into the World Trade Centers could be considered an act of war, which insurance doesn't cover, and the insurance industry considered not paying on policies for that very reason.

                      Rapid rupture of the dam with water cresting and with saturated soil downstream.

                      I would argue that is a credible accident but does not define the "worst case". What if a train carrying tankers of concentrated toxic chemicals was crossing the river just as the surge hit and emptied the rail cars into the flood and contaminated downstream water supplies for months? That would be worse, no? But would it be credible?

                      TMI only underwent a partial meltdown, and if the H2 had detonated, we could have had a very different scenario on our hands.

                      Probably not that different. On the 25th anniversary of TMI, the NRC historian gave a talk to the staff that recounted the tragedy of errors, including errors in communication, that took place at TMI and discussed the hydrogen bubble at length because there are so many myths and misconceptions about it. The bottom line is that the NRC at some point made a comment that a question had been raised whether the bubble might explode and they were going to check into it. The press took it and ran with headlines that the NRC was concerned about a possible explosion. In the end it was definitively determined that a hydrogen explosion was not possible. Even if it had occurred, it would have damaged the reactor vessel but not the containment that kept most of the radioactivity, well, contained. It would have made the ultimate cleanup inside the plant more problemmatic, but mght not in itself have changed the releases outside that much.

                      •  Yeah (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Blubba

                        The bottom line is that the NRC at some point made a comment that a question had been raised whether the bubble might explode and they were going to check into it.

                        The guy at the NRC who was raising all of the concern was using the wrong formula. The presumed "hydrogen explosion" was never possible.

                        This simply demonstrates the danger of presuming that you know too much and is why the very minimum requirement for any credible Quality Assurance plan is to have all work/calculations checked by an independent, qualified reviewer before they have any effect.

                        An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
                        -- H. L. Mencken

                        by bryfry on Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 08:19:03 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

              •  Azimov (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Blubba

                was a notorious agoraphobe. That's why he refused to fly.

                Similarly, John Madden also eventually refused to fly, because of his fear of flying, and used a customized coach-bus, the "Madden Cruiser," to travel the country to cover football games.

                It's simply not true that one has to fly to conduct business these days. Flying is a mere convenience.

                An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
                -- H. L. Mencken

                by bryfry on Wed Nov 11, 2009 at 02:15:20 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Er ... sorry ... no (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              marybluesky

              Once again, you manage to peg the needle on the clueless monitor.

              Sadly, there is just no excuse for this. I can only assume that you are either mentally defective or simply too lazy to take the time to learn anything about this topic. It's not as if the information isn't readily available. Hell, even an notoriously unreliable source as Wikipedia manages to get it right (emphasis mine):

              If a coverable incident occurs, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is required to submit a report on the cost of it to the courts and to Congress. If claims are likely to exceed the maximum Price-Anderson fund value, then the President is required to submit proposals to Congress. These proposals must detail the costs of the accident, recommend how funds should be raised, and detail plans for full and prompt compensation to those affected. Under the Act, the administrators of the fund have the right to further charge plants if it is needed.

              I strongly suggest that the Wikipedia page should be required reading for all Kossacks before they are allowed to comment on Price-Anderson one way or the other. It would save a lot of time.

              By the way, the cap is now over $11 billion (but what's a billion here or there?). If you had actually done your homework or even bothered to read the Wikipedia page, you would know this.

              Car accident liability coverage is mandated so that if you screw up and wreck someone else's property, you can afford to fix your mess.

              Oh dear, you don't even know how car insurance works. It's no wonder you are so confused when it comes to Price-Anderson.

              You might have already purchased liability insurance, but that doesn't mean that everybody does. Where I live, they have what is called an "uninsured motorist" fee, which means that you are allowed to pay some money and drive a car without insurance.

              Do you deny that this exists? If you do, then how do you explain that insurance companies offer insurance for damages "caused by an at-fault uninsured or hit-and-run driver" so that "if you are involved in an accident where the other driver is at fault but has no insurance" you are not left high and dry?

              Apparently, I know a lot more about insurance, including liability insurance, than you do. Sorry, but you don't know jack about how Price-Anderson works. Yet, you keep posting totally brain-dead comments. Why?

              Finally, when it comes to transportation, apparently convenience is the most important factor in your estimation. Otherwise, why would you claim that a boat trip is any less effective than a jet trip? Both get you to where you're going. Furthermore, you ignored my call for a size restriction on airplanes ... are small planes not good enough for you?

              Well, if you want to make analogies to transportation, how about this:

              Nuclear - Aircraft carriers, which move a 100 thousand ton vessel at 30+ knots, nonstop with fuel that lasts for decades

              Wind - Sail, which can reach 51 knots, but only for slightly over 0.5 km in a race. More typical: 100 tons at 10+ knots, if the wind is blowing.

              Solar - Well, there's your skateboard. A tiny, tiny toy (weighing only 300 kg) travels 12,500 miles in 267 days or about 47 miles a day. But it can potentially do 300 miles in a day (or 11 knots, if the weather is sunny) and can reach a top speed of 75 mph (65 knots).

              It only costs half a million dollars (what a bargain!). Who wouldn't want to spend that amount of money to move a trivial amount of material at a pitifully slow rate?

              An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
              -- H. L. Mencken

              by bryfry on Wed Nov 11, 2009 at 02:03:47 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Er, sorry, no yourself. (0+ / 0-)

                Sadly, there is just no excuse for this. I can only assume that you are either mentally defective or simply too lazy to take the time to learn anything about this topic.

                Everything you wrote still doesn't change the basic fact that nuclear power plants are not required to have liability coverage over a certain threshold.  Dance around it all you want, but that remains true.  

                So Indian Point melts down and the upper NYC metro area has to be abandoned, causing $5T in economic damage.  Let's just say the US government decides not to pay.  Well, like any nuclear power operator has $5T just sitting around in the bank.  They go bankrupt.  Nobody gets the money.  NYC is screwed.

                -- This is not an acceptable option --  Understand?

                f you do, then how do you explain that insurance companies offer insurance for damages "caused by an at-fault uninsured or hit-and-run driver" so that "if you are involved in an accident where the other driver is at fault but has no insurance" you are not left high and dry?

                Oh, my bad!  Apparently if you don't have insurance, a magical force prohibits you from picking up a set of car keys and getting into the driver's seat, right?

                It is illegal to drive without liability insurance in most parts of the world and almost all of the US (with just a few exceptions).  Just because it's illegal doesn't magically prevent people from doing it.  Most illegal immigrants, for example, have no insurance.  But to them, so what if they're driving illegally?  They're here illegally.

                Your use of illegal actions as your justification is just ridiculous, and a massive red herring from the issue: if the nuclear industry wants to operate, they should have the legal requirement to purchase full liability insurance, including catastrophic coverage (tens of billions of $ or more)

                Finally, when it comes to transportation, apparently convenience is the most important factor in your estimation. Otherwise, why would you claim that a boat trip is any less effective than a jet trip?

                Because almost no businessperson in the world is able to both operate a business and take multi-week trans-oceanic cruises each direction every time they need to travel.  Your notions are quaint, and would fit very well in the 1920s.  Not the 21st century business world.

                •  Fail (0+ / 0-)

                  if the nuclear industry wants to operate, they should have the legal requirement to purchase full liability insurance, including catastrophic coverage (tens of billions of $ or more)

                  Duh ... read the Wikipedia page. They already have coverage through a pooling arrangement for over $10 billion. They are required to purchase this insurance by law. Not only is it full coverage, it is also no-fault coverage.

                  P.S. It is legal to drive in the US without insurance.

                  An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
                  -- H. L. Mencken

                  by bryfry on Wed Nov 11, 2009 at 03:19:07 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Fail (0+ / 0-)

                    P.S. It is legal to drive in the US without insurance.

                    Only in a few states.  In the overwhelming majority of the US, it is illegal to drive without liability coverage.  Some states won't even let you get your license without proof of insurance.

                    They already have coverage through a pooling arrangement for over $10 billion.

                    "Power reactor licensees are required by the act to obtain the maximum amount of insurance against nuclear related incidents which is available in the insurance market (as of 2005[update], $300 million per plant). Any monetary claims that fall within this maximum amount are paid by the insurer(s). The Price-Anderson fund, which is financed by the reactor companies themselves, is then used to make up the difference. Each reactor company is obliged to contribute up to $111.9 million in the event of an accident. As of 2008[update], the maximum amount of the fund is approximately $11.6 billion if all of the reactor companies were required to pay their full obligation to the fund. This fund is not paid into unless an accident occurs. However, fund administrators are required to have contingency plans in place to raise funds using loans to the fund, so that claimants may be paid as soon as possible. Actual payments by companies in the event of an accident are capped at $17.5 million per year until either a claim has been met, or their maximum individual liability (the $111.9 million maximum) has been reached. [1] [2]"

                    The entire industry doesn't have to pay a dime more than $11.6B under any circumstance, and the individual plants, far less.

                    Now, do some logic here for me.  Indian Point is just upstream from NYC.  NYC has a GDP of nearly 1.2 trillion dollars.  Explain to me how a meltdown at Indian Point that leads to the evacuation of the northern NYC metro area will be paid for.

                    •  Well, I'm glad that you finally (0+ / 0-)

                      learned how to read. Congratulations, and thank you for quoting that Wikipedia text so that the readers of these comments can see how my "car insurance" analogy is an accurate description of how Price-Anderson works. You're really helping to get the word out. ;-)

                      Nevertheless, you left out the following line (don't worry, I quoted it above),

                      Under the Act, the administrators of the fund have the right to further charge plants if it is needed.

                      which totally undermines your flawed argument -- unless you want to argue that "under any circumstance" doesn't include the circumstance in which the fund administrators decide to charge the industry more than the $11.6 billion that is covered by insurance.

                      Nevertheless, I don't want to be a negative Nancy. I think that we're finally making progress.

                      An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
                      -- H. L. Mencken

                      by bryfry on Wed Nov 11, 2009 at 07:13:33 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Heaven forbid I not quote the entire article (0+ / 0-)

                        which totally undermines your flawed argument -- unless you want to argue that "under any circumstance" doesn't include the circumstance in which the fund administrators decide to charge the industry more than the $11.6 billion that is covered by insurance.

                        You just don't get it, do you?  Here, let's spell it out in words an eight year old could understand:

                        1. Indian Point melts down.
                        1. Upper NYC metro is evacuated, costing trillions of dollars.
                        1. The government tries to pass the cost on to Entergy, who owns the plant.
                        1. Entergy, having an annual income of only $13 billion, clearly can't afford to pay it.
                        1. Entergy goes bankrupt.
                        1. Either NYC is screwed or the government foots the bill.

                        #6 is not an acceptable option

                        •  This was already covered (0+ / 0-)

                          in another part of these comments here:

                          Your arguments are typical of those posed by the anti-nuclear crowd in that you focus on imagined consequences but completely ignore probabilities. People like you will be going to your graves worrying about nuclear accidents that never happen but boldly step into your car every day believing your trip to the store is "safe".

                          You might as well be talking about a Godzilla attack on Tokyo, since you haven't addressed the probability of your scenario.

                          A "meltdown" of Indian Point is highly unlikely; "trillion dollar" evacuation of upper New York City is even more remote.

                          For what it's worth, my money is on Godzilla taking out Tokyo long before New York is threatened by Indian Point. In fact, I'm willing to bet that Godzilla takes out New York before Indian Point does. ;-)

                          After all, Three Mile Island melted down, and Harrisburg still exists.

                          An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
                          -- H. L. Mencken

                          by bryfry on Thu Nov 12, 2009 at 06:29:16 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  If you think it's so unlikely (0+ / 0-)

                            Then why would you be opposed to them having to pay for coverage for it?  Do you not believe what you yourself are claiming?

                            After all, Three Mile Island melted down

                            No.  It was only a partial meltdown.  And even still, Harrisburg is very lucky they didn't have an explosion of the pooled hydrogen.

                          •  Sigh (0+ / 0-)

                            Then why would you be opposed to them having to pay for coverage for it?

                            I'm not opposed.  In fact, I'm the one supporting the scheme whereby the licensees are required to max out their liability coverage -- that is, they must purchase as much liability insurance as is available.  They do pay for coverage. Haven't you been paying attention?

                            An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
                            -- H. L. Mencken

                            by bryfry on Fri Nov 13, 2009 at 05:14:44 PM PST

                            [ Parent ]

                    •  Oh and ... (0+ / 0-)

                      Only in a few states. In the overwhelming majority of the US, it is illegal to drive without liability coverage. Some states won't even let you get your license without proof of insurance.

                      I didn't realize that one's right to drive ended at the state border.

                      Actually, it doesn't. If I were a deadbeat without any insurance who met the requirements in one state, I can drive in any of the 50 states and quite a few places overseas.

                      Am I wrong?

                      Of course, this has nothing to do with nuclear. I keep going on this point simply because you are so insistent on being wrong. It's amusing to watch.

                      An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
                      -- H. L. Mencken

                      by bryfry on Wed Nov 11, 2009 at 07:22:35 PM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Yes, you are wrong. (0+ / 0-)

                        All states are required to recognize licenses from other states.  That doesn't mean you can ignore their driving laws.  If you drive into my state, Iowa, with 20/40/15 liability coverage, you're breaking the law.  You can no more do that legally than you can ignore our speed limits or our seatbelt laws.  If you want to test your hypothesis, come on down here without insurance, let me know when you'll be arriving, and I'll have the police greet you at the border.

                        I keep going on this point simply because you are so insistent on being wrong. It's amusing to watch.

                        Hold a mirror to yourself sometime.

                        Of course, this has nothing to do with nuclear

                        Right.  Liability coverage has nothing to do with the nuclear industry having to pay for full liability coverage.  Or something like that.

                        •  Corr. (0+ / 0-)

                          That should read without 20/40/15 liability coverage.

                        •  Oh really? (0+ / 0-)

                          Then perhaps you'd better set these guys straight, because they seem to think otherwise:

                          Surprisingly, the Hawkeye State has no compulsory car insurance laws.

                          While it is true that "non-residents cannot operate or register any vehicle in Iowa until all requirements are met," these requirements don't include having to buy automobile liability insurance. All one has to do is to complete a "settlement of all damages or injuries" or even to simply "file an agreement to pay the other damaged or injured parties on an installment plan." That sounds kind of like a mortgage or loan, doesn't it?

                          Nobody would ever default on a mortgage or loan, would they? ;-)

                          Then again it's probably best to go with the flow, which is why "experts recommend simply buying and maintaining basic auto liability insurance or higher amounts if you can afford it, including uninsured motorist coverage, comprehensive and collision coverage (which covers damage to your car) , and medical payments insurance (for you and your passengers) although none of this is required."

                          An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
                          -- H. L. Mencken

                          by bryfry on Thu Nov 12, 2009 at 06:39:37 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                •  Um, (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  bryfry, marybluesky

                  Everything you wrote still doesn't change the basic fact that nuclear power plants are not required to have liability coverage over a certain threshold.  

                  So what makes nuclear power unique in this regard? NOTHING is required to have liability coverage over a certain threshold, if liability coverage is required at all. YOU don't carry personal liability insurance adequate to deal with any "worst case scenario" like a world renowned heart surgeon slipping on your steps and incurring a permanent brain injury that leaves her in a vegetative state.

                  Your arguments are typical of those posed by the anti-nuclear crowd in that you focus on imagined consequences but completely ignore probabilities. People like you will be going to your graves worrying about nuclear accidents that never happen but boldly step into your car every day believing your trip to the store is "safe".

                  •  *All* businesses should be required to. (0+ / 0-)

                    But what is the catastrophic failure scenario of, say, a solar farm?  The reason it's an issue for nuclear is because of the tremendous costs a major accident can incur -- hundreds of billions to trillions, in some cases.  Not so much through loss of life, but through rendering land unusable for decades.

                    And since you seem to know so much about me, you may be surprised to learn that just a couple months ago, on a different forum, I was arguing in favor of nuclear power.  Whoops -- sorry that I don't fit your preconceived notions.  

                    My stance on nuclear is very, very simple: they've been a commercial-scale tech for five decades.  They need to stand on their own and insure against risk like the mature industry that they are.  If they can do so and still be economically viable?  Good for them.  If not?  Tough beans.

                    The reason I usually end up on the anti-nuclear side on this forum is because you obstinate pro-nuclear folks who don't simply see it fit to defend nuclear, but to spread complete falsehoods about wind, solar, and other types of power in your attempts to promote nuclear.  If it wasn't for that, I'd probably be arguing on your side at least half the time here.  Yes, the health risk issue is overblown.  Yes, the waste storage issue is overblown.  Yes, there are some good next-gen designs.  But when people come here and assert nonsense about how imaginary scaling factors prevent us from mass-producing wind or solar, or pretend like storage is outright impossible rather than just being an added cost per kWh and a tech that's already in wide use in parts of the world, or pretend that all renewables are intermittent, or so forth, don't expect me to sit back and just let that slide.

  •  Stupidest idea ever (0+ / 0-)

    Nuclear power sucks.  Don't let anyone tell you any different.  There are so many important facts missing in this diary, its like it was written by a teabagger.

    Humans fuck up, thats what we do.  Always have, always will.  Think about Titanic, Exxon Valdez, Chernobyl.  Often it is the dumbest cause, like a drunk captain.  Then everyone says "thats a shame", and "god bless the victims", and self-serving bullshit like that.  "Remember this: in 61 years, commercial nuclear power has not killed a single person in the United States".  STUPID STUPID STUPID TEABAG.  I see you give nuclear power about 1000 years (more about that later).  In 1061 years, nuclear power will cause plenty of deaths, and much more importantly render large parts of earth's land uninhabitable.  Anyone who even attempts to convince you that nuclear power is anywhere near safe, should be punched in the face.  Wouldn't you like to punch the captain of the Titanic in the face?  Or the dumb bitch who ran over your kid while txting?  Thats how we will irradiate big chunks of the planet.

    We, and the next few generations will build plenty of new reactors, because we will have to, and they are still better than gas/coal.  But they must not be exotic, high pressure reactors, because these  have only one failure mode...explosion.

    But the biggest problem is fuel.  You say there's fuel for 1000 years.  I guess you just forgot to add the caveat...AT CURRENT LEVELS OF USAGE.  In only 100 years, oil and gas will cost $100 PER GALLON.  So in that period we will see the number of reactors increase 10 fold.  Suddenly 1000 years becomes 100. The FACT is, the earth's crust will be depeleted of fissile material, BEFORE it runs out of oil and gas.  Thats why nuclear fission as an energy solution is a joke.

    When planning for Apollo, Nasa realized it had to decide FIRST what the best was to get to the moon, and then apply its resources ONLY to that option.  Dinosaurs were around for millions of years, humans will probably be around the same.  I have strong reasons to beleive there will NOT be any star trekking around the galaxy, we will spend those millions of years ONLY on this rock.  Our limited access to energy will keep us here, just as it has trapped all the other intelligent life in the universe to their home worlds.

    There is only one sustainable, clean energy source that will last that long...the sun. Maybe geothermal too.  That is the direction we must go, especially now while we still have oil to help us.  Comparing the energy density of oil with solar, we see that humanity is going on a huge energy diet, and its going to happen real soon.

    The good news is that our energy limits will solve climate change automatically.  The bad news is we will be driven into a new, literal, "dark age" for at least the next 500 years, possibly for the remainder of our species' existence.

    Of course, I could be wrong....

    •  You have a point (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose

      in that building legions of high-pressure fail-hazardous reactors is almost certainly not a good idea. But the LFTBR would be unpressurized & inherently fail-safe--which tends to minimize the damage caused by fucking up--so you shouldn't dismiss the concept out of hand.

      But some other things you say are simply flat-out wrong, e.g.:

      The FACT is, the earth's crust will be depeleted of fissile material, BEFORE it runs out of oil and gas.  

      You'd have to show us the numbers on this, & I'm quite sure you don't have them, because they aren't there.

      I happen to agree with you that there's a real danger of a new Dark Age--if we can't generate the power to run our civilization & put the brakes on GHG & climate change before we're out of options. I think nukes have to be in the mix--low-pressure, fail-safe, proliferation-resistant nukes, not the submarine-motors-on-steroids we've been building for over half a century.

      May I bow to Necessity not/ To her hirelings (W. S. Merwin)

      by Uncle Cosmo on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 09:09:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Don't insult those who disagree (0+ / 0-)

      I support nuclear power.  It moves us away from CO2-forming, global-warming-inducing fuels.  

      There are many technical issues to overcome, to be sure. But it is not constructive for someone against nuclear power to say, with no support, that it will render large parts of the earth uninhabitable, and that anyone who thinks otherwise should be punched in the face, and is stupid and a teabagger, and like the captain of the Titanic, or a person who ran over your kid.

      I have enough trouble with mainstream media talk shows with hosts that shout down their guests and insult them and call them unpatriotic for attacking the Iraq war, and so forth.  I don't need to see this kind of bile here on DK.

    •  Every form of energy generation has limits (0+ / 0-)

      "Remember this: in 61 years, commercial nuclear power has not killed a single person in the United States".  STUPID STUPID STUPID TEABAG.  I see you give nuclear power about 1000 years (more about that later).  In 1061 years, nuclear power will cause plenty of deaths, and much more importantly render large parts of earth's land uninhabitable.

      Coal mining kills many more people than peaceful nuclear power applications.  Coal is horrendously unregulated compared to nuclear power.

      But they must not be exotic, high pressure reactors, because these  have only one failure mode...explosion.

      From this I must conclude that you are an uninformed jackass.  The 10 or so things that have to go wrong for something like that to happen wouldn't happen in any US plant because there are multiple redundant safety systems to prevent it.  We LEARNED from the Russian's mistakes and from our own at Three Mile Island.  The nuclear industry invests more time and energy in safety than any other electricity-related energy, and just because you don't read about it doesn't mean there aren't millions of pages of documents on the subject.

      But the biggest problem is fuel.  You say there's fuel for 1000 years.  I guess you just forgot to add the caveat...AT CURRENT LEVELS OF USAGE.

      Really?  Show me your citations.  Studies about resource utilization ALWAYS take into account growth factors, because otherwise they would be useless.

      There is only one sustainable, clean energy source that will last that long...the sun.

      Now we get to the heart of it.  If we built enough solar energy collectors to supply all our energy needs, we would run out of silicon (the principal ingredient in PV systems) before it was done.  PV-making technology is also very wasteful, because of the ultrapure way in which the systems must be fabricated.

      We'd also run out of viable territory to build generating plants, not to mention the enormous losses in transportation that would result from wiring that electricity from a few select areas all across the country.

      We cannot just rely on solar power--it's impractical.  We have to diversify, and the smartest energy management strategy is to use large, non-CO2 sources (of which nuclear is the only viable choice at the moment) to generate a steady base, and use wind, solar and other methods to suppliment peak power.

      So don't just blindy assert that you have all the anwers, please.  Those of us who are energy scientists only feel compelled to roll our eyes.

      "If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going." - Professor Irwin Corey (1914 - )

      by CaelanAegana on Thu Nov 12, 2009 at 10:10:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hahahahaa (0+ / 0-)

        Now we get to the heart of it.  If we built enough solar energy collectors to supply all our energy needs, we would run out of silicon (the principal ingredient in PV systems) before it was done.  

        Hahahahahaaaa!! Thanks a lot -- I literally chuckled out loud at work.

        For Your Information

        One of the many names for silicon dioxide is sand.

        This is just the most amusing of the ~dozen glaring errors in your post; I'd be glad to tear into the others if you'd like.  Please stop making stuff up for your fearmongering and let people who know what they're talking about speak, "energy scientist".

        •  I know what SiO2 is, thanks. (0+ / 0-)

          There's only so much of it you can practicably utilize.  If we could harvest vast quantities of the Earth's crust, we could make enough PV to power the world.  Unfortunately, it'd mean environmental diaster to harvest and process it.

          I have books and books full of studies to back up my information.  They're sitting here on my desk.  What have you got?

          "If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going." - Professor Irwin Corey (1914 - )

          by CaelanAegana on Thu Nov 12, 2009 at 02:43:08 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  No. There is not. (0+ / 0-)

            Bulk, pure silicon dioxide is one of the most common, cheapest raw materials on the planet, and will always be, as it's bloody everywhere.  Silicon dioxide that's just simply melted and cast is known as glass.  The reason silicon solar cells are expensive has absolutely nothing to do with silicon.  It's because the silicon is purified through CVD, which is a high capital cost/low throughput process, rather than a metallurgical one.  

            I have books and books full of studies to back up my information.

            Let me guess: the main characters a monkey and a man with a yellow hat.

            By all means, if you want me to tear up the rest of your post, keep pushing!

            •  Oh don't bother. (0+ / 0-)

              Clearly you are just trying to provoke and belittle me without actually trying to make a substantive argument.

              Know more than me?  Prove it.

              "If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going." - Professor Irwin Corey (1914 - )

              by CaelanAegana on Thu Nov 12, 2009 at 03:13:48 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I already did. (0+ / 0-)

                Bring out your "books", "energy scientist", and counter me.

                You do know that "energy scientist" isn't a real profession, right?

                •  You're such a fucking child. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  bryfry

                  Did it even occur that I might have been using a generalized category for my job description?

                  I'm a chemical engineer.  Energy utilization is what we're trained to know about.

                  "If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going." - Professor Irwin Corey (1914 - )

                  by CaelanAegana on Thu Nov 12, 2009 at 03:40:39 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Sure you are. (0+ / 0-)

                    And I'm the Queen of England.  Hellooo!

                    Sorry, but I doubt there's a single chemical engineer in the country who doesn't at least have a general idea of the relative abundance of silicon dioxide on Earth.  Smash a random rock.  There's your silicon dioxide.  Bloody find a way to run out of that.

                    Hellooo!

              •  To put it another way: (0+ / 0-)

                The absolute worst situation for any element's recovery is if the element is evenly scattered across the planet.  Even if that was the case for silicon, that'd still mean that over 50% of your raw material (by mass) would be silicon dioxide, of which almost half would be silicon.  Your concept of running out of silicon is more ridiculous than the notion of us running out of saltwater.

          •  Just as random examples (0+ / 0-)

            Granite, which is one of the most common rock types on Earth, averages 72.04% silicon dioxide.  

            Sandstone, another of the most common rock types, is also largely silicon dioxide (white sandstones are often over 95% silicon dioxide)

            What about basalt?  That averages about 50% silicon dioxide.  

            Pick any random rock on the planet, run it through a hammer mill, and odds are that about half of what you get out will be silicon dioxide, which can then be swiftly separated from the tailings by flotation separation, magnetic separation, aero-electrodynamic separation, or a whole host of other techniques.  But the kicker?  You Don't Need To Do This.  There are such vast amounts of nearly pure quartz sand on the planet that it's laughable to even imagine going through even a measurable fraction of it.

            Oh, but wait, there's more!  

            •  You neglect supply and processing bottlenecks (0+ / 0-)

              In fact, you even said, here:

              the silicon is purified through CVD, which is a high capital cost/low throughput process.

              It doesn't matter how much granite you smash if you can't process it any faster than the process will allow.  And because silicon PV panels don't live more than 30 years or so at best, meeting the constant demand will be incredibly difficult, and require an even larger energy investment.

              I'll concede that in my first comment, I mistated that it was supply of silicon and not the processing that was the problem.  But you're taking broad facts and failing to apply the very real constraints that resource management and industry supply-and-demand chains pose.

              Not to mention that most PV panels aren't made with pure silicon, because they're too inefficient.  To boost efficiency, panels use rare earth metals like Gadolinium.  They're called rare earth minerals for a reason; we don't have much of them.  And these same materials are used in everything from batteries to wind and hybrid car magnets.  There's vast industry competition for them, which drives up prices and again decreases practical application.

              In an ideal world, yeah, pure solar power would be awesome.  But nobody who works in the industry and actually DEALS with these types of applicability problems (*ahem*) believes it's feasible.

              "If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going." - Professor Irwin Corey (1914 - )

              by CaelanAegana on Thu Nov 12, 2009 at 03:38:30 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  More errors! (0+ / 0-)

                It doesn't matter how much granite you smash if you can't process it any faster than the process will allow.

                1. The capital costs are factored into the sale price.  Sales are the limiting factor toward how many plants are built.  Nobody looks at a market and says, "Huh.  I could make money if I built a silicon plant because we're not making as much as there is demand for, but I don't really want to make money."
                1. New metallurigical solar-grade silicon processes are nearing commercial production.  In fact, most market forecasts call for a glut of solar grade silicon in the coming years.
                1. Non-silicon based PV takes more of the market away from silicon every year.

                And because silicon PV panels don't live more than 30 years or so at best

                Wrong.  PV panels are generally warrantied for 25-30 years, but the warranty typically only guarantees that they'll have over 80% of their original capacity.  PV panels virtually never "die" unless they're physically damaged.  And some of the thin-films are even better; in some lab tests, CIGS has been shown to anneal and repair damage faster than it occurs under normal operating conditions.

                I'll concede that in my first comment, I mistated that it was supply of silicon and not the processing that was the problem.

                Yes, I got a good laugh out of your comments.

                Not to mention that most PV panels aren't made with pure silicon, because they're too inefficient.

                Noooo.... they're not made with pure silicon because you can't make them with pure silicon at all.  You can't kick out electrons and have them move only in one direction without a p-n junction.

                Why are you continuing a conversation that you know nothing about?

                panels use rare earth metals like Gadolinium

                No.  Solar cell p-dopants are typically aluminum or boron.  n-dopants are most commonly phosphorus, but things like antimony and arsenic can work as well.  

                They're called rare earth minerals for a reason; we don't have much of them.

                Once again, you make a joke out of your claim to be a chemical engineer.  No, they are not.  They are called "rare earths" because they were first isolated from rare oxide minerals.  They are, however, abundant.  Cerium, for example, is the 25th most abundant element on Earth.

                And these same materials are used in everything from batteries to wind and hybrid car magnets.

                Ugh.  Sad that this is the closest thing you've written to something that's correct, and it's still largely wrong:

                1. Batteries: Only largely applies to NiMH.  Li-ion batteries, which are phasing out NiMH, do not use rare-earths.
                1. The modern standard of doubly-fed induction generators for wind turbines means no permanent magnets.
                1. Hybrid cars generally do use DC motors, which have permanent magnets, which consumes rare earths.  But electric cars, which is the ultimate goal, typically use AC drivetrains.  No permanent magnets.

                Oh, one more thing: Thanks for reminding me that I forgot to mention that most commercial solar power is solar thermal, not photovoltaic, so your entire argument is moot.

          •  Let's do the breakdown! (0+ / 0-)

            PV-making technology is also very wasteful, because of the ultrapure way in which the systems must be fabricated.

            Wrong!  Nobody throws away something that sells for $40/kg.  Tailings are circulated back into the casting process.

            We'd also run out of viable territory to build generating plants

            Wrong!

            not to mention the enormous losses in transportation that would result from wiring that electricity from a few select areas all across the country.

            Wrong!.  Los Angeles to NYC would only be about 20% losses with HVDC.  As though you'd have to go that far.

            non-CO2 sources (of which nuclear is the only viable choice at the moment)

            Sure.  It's so practical that Moody's just downrated investments in nuclear power again.

            to generate a steady base, and use wind, solar and other methods to suppliment peak power.

            You don't pair "a steady base" with intermittent.  You pair peaking with intermittent.  Nuclear makes for poor peaking.

            •  You're twisting my words. (0+ / 0-)

              I already wrote up a counterargument to everything you've said, but I'm not going to bother to post it because it'll never get through your skull anyway.

              You're arguing against things I didn't say and making petty insults, and it only makes you look like a bloviating, juvinile jackass.  Grow up.

              "If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going." - Professor Irwin Corey (1914 - )

              by CaelanAegana on Thu Nov 12, 2009 at 04:25:19 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Sure I will. When you learn to (0+ / 0-)

                stop using the debate tactics of "making stuff up and hoping nobody calls you on it" and "pretending to be something you're not".

                Yes, I've been harsh in this, and yes, I've been snarky.  And no, neither my posts here or anywhere else are usually like this.  But believe me, I'll open up with both barrels on someone who feels they can get away with the above two tactics.

                (And "arguing against things I didn't say"?  Then who was I quoting, your evil twin?)

  •  IMO Loewen has the right idea BUT (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, kbman

    not the best vehicle for pursuing it.

    One word:

    Thorium.

    With four more words:

    Liquid Fluoride Thorium Breeder Reactor.

    The basic points:

    1. Lots more thorium than uranium lying around, much of it in easily-mined monazite beach sands.
    1. Liquid fuel allows for constant fuel replenishment, integral in-loop reprocessing, & removal of fission products that poison the reaction.
    1. Very little "hot" waste produced--anything with a long half-life (that would require secure storage for 10,000s of years) gets used or transmuted within the reactor, & what's left would need storage for maybe 100 years.
    1. No Chernobyls or TMIs: when the reaction gets out of control, system shuts down by itself.
    1. Small size because no pressure vessel needed.
    1. High temperature of operation permits use of much more efficient gas turbines to generate electricity.
    1. Prototypes were built & successfully operated even earlier (1960s) for the abortive nuclear-powered airplane projects (I did say these were small, didn't I?)
    1. Integral reprocessing & judicious spiking of the thorium with isotope 232 make it very hard to build bombs from the fuel stream.

    Have a look at the Energy from Thorium website (here's a link to the introduction & basic principles page) which doesn't seem to be carrying water for any particular business interest or political persuasion--some of the folks are 6 parsecs right of Grover Norquist, some post on dK.

    IMO this is the best prospect of all the Gen IV reactor concepts out there, & it's near criminal we aren't pursuing this as national policy. I have a sinking feeling that 20 years down the line we'll be licensing the technology from China or (more likely) India in order to install small LFTBRs next door to current nukes to burn up their waste, no transport required, & eventually supplant them as a power source.

    May I bow to Necessity not/ To her hirelings (W. S. Merwin)

    by Uncle Cosmo on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 07:51:02 PM PST

    •  I had a stale browser copy and missed this (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RunawayRose, Uncle Cosmo

      I channeled your last paragraph above in a proactive form ... proposing that this be done in the near term.

      I've read some of David's diaries on this technology and find it amazing that it is not being pursued more aggressively.  Especially the development of a standard modular system, perhaps as small as 200MWe to start.  Then even smaller down the road as the technology matures and other applications become acceptable.

      •  I think the reason is the Three In's: (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, kbman

        Investment, infrastructure, & inertia.

        Current nuclear power plants are essentially scaled-up advanced versions of the reactors that powered our first nuclear subs. Once the Navy had invested all that money in development, it was cheaper & quicker to build from existing technological infrastructure than researching different designs. But the inherent problems with pressurized water reactors (PWRs), which the Navy could live with, bedevil civilian users: The plants are fail-hazardous, requiring all sorts of active systems in case of an accident, and they generate a lot of waste that's mostly unburned uranium but is difficult & hazardous to reprocess & hazardous for a brazillion years wherever you stick it.

        The main reason that molten salt reactors (of which the LFTBR is a family member) are as well understood as they are is that the military was investigating them for use in--

        (grab a seat, this will rock you)

        --airplanes, specifically gigundous bombers that could stay in the air for weeks or months at a time. Fortunately, in a rare (for the DoD) display of common sense, the nuclear airplane idea was dropped ca. 1965, but not before a couple of research reactors had been built & run.

        But again, the existing nuclear industry (from the guys who make the reactor components to the construction companies that build them) is heavily invested in PWRs, so what gets pursued are ideas for tweaking those monsters to make them safer (e.g., the subcritical reactor with a particle accelerator attached) so as to keep the nuclear construction industry more or less intact. (Same reasoning as with insurers vs HCR but slightly less ghoulish.) That's my opinion anyway.

        May I bow to Necessity not/ To her hirelings (W. S. Merwin)

        by Uncle Cosmo on Tue Nov 10, 2009 at 09:42:46 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Well (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, kbman, Mcrab

        I've read some of David's diaries on this technology and find it amazing that it is not being pursued more aggressively.

        With all due respect to David and the advocates at the Thorium website, this technology is simply being over-hyped. It's a promising concept, but potential designs are very immature, so it's difficult to know what engineering challenges will pop up before such a reactor is ready to enter commercial operation.

        I know that its advocates will point to the successful run of a small test reactor, but that is worth less than they usually claim. Yes, it is true that the Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment was a successful program. The Shippingport reactor also had a highly successful run, and even managed to breed fuel (something that the MSRE didn't do), so there could never be any problems with Light Water Reactors ... right? ;-)

        I suggest that you take some of the more radical claims with a healthy grain of salt.

        I really don't have a problem if a reactor enthusiast is a little overly infatuated with his pet design. What bothers me, however, is that these armchair reactor designers often level unfair criticisms on other designs to bolster interest in their own. Some of the "problems" that they point out are not really important issues at all. Some of the supposed advantages of their design that they claim I find unconvincing.

        Engineering is all about tradeoffs. A feature that is an advantage for one requirement is a disadvantage for another. Be wary of claims that something does everything better than everything else. Perfect is the enemy of good.

        An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
        -- H. L. Mencken

        by bryfry on Wed Nov 11, 2009 at 04:21:43 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Nuclear scientist here (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bryfry

    Thank you for posting some good info for people about nuclear technology.  People really need to understand that the benefits of nuclear power can be very much worth the risks.  (Let's face it, most types of power generation have risks.)

    I have something to add, briefly:

    Advanced recycling center: the used fuel is seperated: transuranics are used to make more electricity.  The uranium is recycled, the other radioactive elements are shipped to a geological repository.
    Geological repository: similar to a repository we know of now, except that the waste is radioactive for 500 years as opposed to 1 million.

    The majority (I can't remember offhand, it's somewhere in the 60-80% range) of the radioactivity in the recycling leftovers dissipates over as little as 30-50  years, since a lot of what doesn't get recycled has a short half-life.

    When the company I work for was designing a recycling plant, we had planned for a 30-yr repository on-site before the waste was shipped to a national repository.  This is the best strategy for waste security and safety.

    "If we don't change direction soon, we'll end up where we're going." - Professor Irwin Corey (1914 - )

    by CaelanAegana on Thu Nov 12, 2009 at 09:49:55 AM PST

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