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So what do you think of nuclear energy???

Post in 'The Green Room' started by Swedishchef, Nov 2, 2012.

  1. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    Ok, I looked briefly at the thorium thing. Sounds like a nice reactor technology, already demonstrated. It seems the fuel cycle is actually U-233 based, and that is made from Thorium by neuteration. Overall it seems a superior fuel cycle re waste and safety. BUT, it inherently does require fuel processing which in past experiences has had both cost and maintenance and safety issues. That salt will still be quite radioactive, hard to handle for reprocessing, and producing traces of product species that could lead to corrosion.

    Would I support a $200M project to explore thorium cycle in the US? If the nuclear engineers said it looked feasible, I would. Is it clear that it is easy as pie and the solution to all our problems? Not yet.

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  2. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    Dune: I agree that burrying radioactive materials is not the best solution. Nor is dropping off fiberglass in a dump. Will the fiberglass kill us via chrosomal mutiny or radiactive poison? Nope. However, I feel that there will be safe technologies to bury this stuff soon enough.

    Here's an interesting link regarding the waste of LFTR: "In theory, LFTRs would produce far less waste along their entire process chain, from ore extraction to nuclear waste storage, than LWRs. A LFTR power plant would generate 4,000 times less mining waste (solids and liquids of similar character to those in uranium mining) and would generate 1,000 to 10,000 times less nuclear waste than an LWR. Additionally, because LFTR burns all of its nuclear fuel, the majority of the waste products (83%) are safe within 10 years, and the remaining waste products (17%) need to be stored in geological isolation for only about 300 years (compared to 10,000 years or more for LWR waste). Additionally, the LFTR can be used to "burn down" waste from an LWR (nearly the entirety of the United States' nuclear waste stockpile) into the standard waste products of an LFTR, so long-term storage of nuclear waste would no longer be needed."

    http://energyfromthorium.com/lftradsrisks.html
  3. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    We live in an equally damp, mild climate and mini-splits are starting to rule here. The newest generation perform excellently, inspite of the dampness and that is down to low digit numbers.
  4. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I have heard that statement for over 40yrs now. Exactly what is acceptable as "soon enough" when govts. and nations often have a half-life of less than 500 years. Just what budget maintains this stuff then? It's wishful thinking and a kick the can down to the next generation attitude.
    semipro likes this.
  5. Ehouse

    Ehouse Minister of Fire

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    +1.

    Ehouse
  6. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    That is what society is doing right now: burning non-renewable fossil fuels on a regular basis.

    I know one thing, I don't plant a tree every time I cut one down. That is my own fault. And I believe that if all homes in North America started heating with wood (only), our forests would take a severe kick in the rear end with their lack of ability to sustain themselves...
  7. Ehouse

    Ehouse Minister of Fire

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    That's the answer I expected, but not the one I'd hoped for.

    Ehouse
  8. pdf27

    pdf27 Member

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    In theory they should be great, practice seems to have been problematical so far. We'll hopefully see a lot more data in the next few years as a fairly large subsidy for them is in the process of being introduced.

    It is, but the problem is there's a limit on how much can be added easily. Roof insulation is a doddle and now mostly done, as is filling the cavity between the two layers of masonry. Problem is the cavity tends not to be very thick (IIRC ours is about 2-3"). After that the only options are internal or external insulation - internal isn't really an option due to small house sizes (ours is ~1000 sq ft and larger than average for a 3 bedroom house) and due to a tradition of pebbledash/render being used to cover up dodgy brickwork there is resistance to external wall insulation. Until we overcome the resistance to external wall insulation we're not going to knock consumption down very far.
    To give you an example, I figure it would cost £7-10,000 to fit external wall insulation to my house at current prices, and it would be harder to sell as it would then be the only non-brick house in the terrace. My current gas bill is ~£300/year. The economics of doing so are clearly crazy, but if we are to get down to the consumption levels given in Without Hot Air then we have to do it. Incidentally my consumption works out at about 100kWh/m2/year, .vs. the Passivhaus standard of 15kWh/m2/year which is more what MacKay is thinking of.

    The government would like to, but is insistent that it's paid for by private industry. That's unclear - the Germans have dropped out, but were bought out by Hitachi last week for more than expected. At a guess it'll happen, but probably only enough to replace our current reactor fleet (~20% of generation IIRC).
  9. dougstove

    dougstove Member

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    Great thread, thought provoking.
    My concern with nuclear is human attention span and sustained attention to detail.

    I live near a CANDU going through a refurbishment that went way over budget and way over time, with things like major components getting dropped off a barge into a salt water harbour, known defective parts being installed (after the installers were over-ruled), and then having to be removed etc.

    I fear that human organizational psychology is not up to the sustained attention to detail needed for nuclear power. An earlier poster noted the examples of military power plants, but in a civilian, profit driven, day-in, day-out routine, the average primate is too distractable.
    If someone gets negligent around a gas fired boiler, it blows up and kills the work crew.
    The same negligence around a nuclear plant creates a 500 year exclusion zone in the Ukraine.
  10. Swedishchef

    Swedishchef Minister of Fire

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    Hey Doug

    The idea of this thread was to generate discussion and I think it has served it's purpose!

    Good ole Point Lepreau eh? What a mess that is.... Situations like you mentioned happen when you take the lowest bidder on the refurbishment project!!!!

    Andrew
  11. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    It isn't flamable or soluable in air or water and is very stable over a large temperature range (boils at 1500c and the thermal limit is 600c, so in essence it "can't"). A spill may contaminate the immediate ground area but it won't explode into the atmosphere, spreading radioactivity over the planet. It also won't continue to heat up and melt the fuel rods, pooling in the bottom of the reactor to eventually burn whatever it can find and leak/vent into the atmosphere.

    The thorium fuel cycle has it's issues which would most likely lead to on-site refinement and large scale reactors being the only cost effective option. I'm not sold/married to thorium, but all reactors should be standardized/licensed so the custom shop prices can be avoided. They should also be walk-away safe, and not require pumps or positive cooling. We've got to think of something other than keeping 60yr old facilities running past their decommision date.
  12. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Absolutely false. Take a drive. It will be a long time before this technology is anything but a minority in our region. Mostly, of course, because we overwhelmingly heat with hot air and the standard mini split heats hot air with that gawd awful indoor unit. The specs are amazing and the cost per btu is outstanding, just an unconventional method of delivery to the heated space will take a long time to be accepted, much less "rule".
  13. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    It could work with cheap juice. If we paid power companies the way we pay farmers to grow grain we could push power prices down. I know the money has to come from somewhere garndarnit, I wanna nuke plant.
  14. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    I was referring to, and quoted, BG's post about mini-splits which somehow appeared here in a nuke thread. Electric is very cheap here in WA and heat pumps work great.
  15. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

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    I am in contact with two local installers. This technology has become a large part of their heating business that is growing nicely. Your personal opinions on looks don't seem to be deterring a larger local business case. Heck you just bought an ugly stove with blacked out glass. I rest my case. ;lol
    raybonz likes this.
  16. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    The mini-split discussion seems on-topic, since in a fossil-fuel free future a large proportion of folk's space heating will have to be high eff electric, powered by either wind, solar, fission, LFTRs, tokamaks, etc. As pdf points out, if the seasonal energy load peaks in the winter....then that IS bad for solar+wind, even with massive (diurnal) storage systems and load mgmt. And seeming to require some dispatchable (low/zero carbon) electric.

    I get 95% of my BTUs now from a low-end ASHP using ~8000 kWh of wind power/season. Cost per BTU today? About 1/2 that of oil, and dead even with delivered wood in my area. Works for me, but like the 'grid-battery' of current PV systems, if everyone tried it, the grid would fail.

    Personally, I think we should do a build out of home superinsulation to get space heating and AC loads way down, and for the natural cooling rates to be so low that you can fire the tiny ASHP central heaters by central control only when the sun/wind is 'on'. Use the thermal mass of the enitre superinsulated housing stock as a thermal battery we all live in.
  17. Ehouse

    Ehouse Minister of Fire

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    Woodgeek, I'm always baffled as to why small and medium hydro is always left out of the discussion. what's your take on that?

    Ehouse
  18. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    I know you asked Woodgeek specifically but I think I can give you at least one good reason:
    in many states its illegal to dam waterways without a permit from the State and the permits are very hard to get.
    Falling water is both a material resource and potential energy source. Start altering flows or storage and neighbors can get agitated quickly.
  19. Ehouse

    Ehouse Minister of Fire

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    Open question to anyone, of course. In my neck of the woods there used to be several what I would call small to medium hydroelectric set ups to provide local juice.

    Some of the newer turbine designs for small installations (Czech drop tube) reduce head requirements and seem to be very low impact on the watercourse. Municipal entities are looking into it (Cooperstown NY for one).

    Ehouse
  20. macmaine

    macmaine New Member

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    Swedishchef

    I have a good friend who has been talking up Thorium as well. I love his and yours enthusiasm
    It sounds like it so much better than the usual nuclear reactor.
    I think we need to explore all options to get off carbon especially after Sandy demonstrated how much damage global warming is doing

    I think however solar and wind will clean the clock of all nuclear for the following reasons:

    Compare
    SOLAR WIND GEOTHERMAL
    1) Free Fuel Forever
    2) Installed cost dropping like a rock
    3) Democratic, distributed electricity consumers can be producers "the sun shines everywhere"
    4) Safe
    5) No storage issues
    6) Timeline for deployment is in months
    7) Easily insured
    8) IvanHoe Molten Salt Solar = 100% solar round the clock power

    NUCLEAR
    1) Fuel costs mining transport etc.
    2) Costs are going nowhere but up in nuclear
    3) Centralized, long term inflexible issues
    4) Safety Fukushima; Sandy??
    5) Storage of nuclear waste, can we dump this in your backyard please?
    6) Timeline for deployment is decades
    7) NO private insurers. Only governments ie taxpayers insure these plants:why?
    8) Nuclear can do round the clock as well but as noted cannot throttle back and forth for low power needs at night.

    Please note GERMANY my hero solar nation, produced 50% of its electricity on a weekend in May 2012!
    BTW Germany has a terrible solar resource compared to New England let alone the southwest.
    Germany installed Gigawatts of solar in 2010
    Worldwide in one year Solar industry installed 17 Gigawatts of Solar; that is in one year 17 nuclear power plants produced.
    IOWA, my hero wind state, produces 18% of electricity from wind today.

    Also note on this graphic the solar circle is ANNUAL production while uranium coal oil is the entire planets supply.
    That is one year of solar dwarfs all the coal and nuclear oil on earth.

    [​IMG]
  21. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    Mac, could you provide a link to the source of that graphic. I'd like to know more about it.
    Thanks.
  22. macmaine

    macmaine New Member

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  23. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    You got me there BG, I may also install a mini-split someday since the technology is so dang darn appealing. Appealing enough to overcome the obvious aesthetic shortcomings. What is not happening, is a mainstream conversion to this tech. I am seeing new houses built and they absolutely do not get these ugly mini splits installed. Our local energy provider, PSE, heavily subsidized retrofit installations which is likely a large part of the business that your local installers saw.

    I really wish that we could get some development of minisplit water heaters for both domestic supply and hydronic heat. Everybody needs to heat water.
  24. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    Already answered above...not enough of it. Very useful otherwise (when done right).
  25. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    It is just a matter of time before the conventional split ASHP systems catch up to the minis in terms of performance. The 'greenspeed' units are already there, just wait for the premium to come down. I suspect that the mini's are a 'teaser' for early adopters, and best for certain retrofit applications. Ultimately, I think new construction will run a central unit with nice big ducts in the conditioned space. Or even hydro-coil systems with distributed air handlers. The distinctions blur.

    Not to go political, but the transition could easily be sped up with some slightly tougher min nominal HSPF requirements at the federal level.

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