1. Rod, if the leaders of the Nuclear Industry had a better product to sell, they would be far more confident. Coal is a very bad risk for the long run, and anyone who is selling coal for the long term has to invite his or her potential customers to ignore the risks. Given Coal’s role in global climate change, long term investment in coal fired power plants carry a big risk premium for the investor. Anyone who invests in a new coal fired power plant should be aware that if the climate change problem becomes acute, the government may act to cut off his income stream.

  2. I’m wondering: how many hydroelectric dams could in theory be built? China for example is building another dam upstream of the Three Gorges Dam. What are the limitations? Water speeds, size of reservoirs, elevations above sea level.. Disregarding environmental impacts, if the maximum amount of energy would be pulled out of each river, could we actually go 100% hydroelectric?

  3. Notice that the presentation repeats the bogus claim that “Coal is the Only Fuel That Can Meet the World’s Rising Energy Demand.” Methinks they doth protest too much. As Rod points out, it’s entirely possible to replace coal with nuclear completely, even with a less focused conversion process (in relation to GDP) than France went through in the 70s and 80s.
    Donb, we don’t necessarily need to keep using fossil fuels for aviation or any other liquid fuel needs. We can quite readily create liquid fuels (or anything else we currently create from fossil fuel sources) from any organic material using plasma conversion systems, and we can easily produce ammonia for transportation fuel with electricity that can be generated with nuclear power. The whole idea that we need to keep using fossil fuels for chemicals is entirely bogus. Once we have abundant electricity the fuels can be made without resorting to fossil fuel sources. Unless you happen to be one who discounts the threat of climate change, that’s a pretty important fact.

  4. That presentation doesn’t just remind me of Bob Hargraves Aim High presentation – it irritates me because they flat out plagiarized Bob’s work. One of the major premises Bob presented was the need for energy cheaper than coal and they’ve spun that into “coal is the only fuel…” Plagiarism is really sinking low and they should be called on it.
    On the other hand, building 1100 or so new nuclear plants seems pretty doable. At least they included that.

  5. Coal replaced the burning of wood because coal was more energy dense. Kerosene replaced whale oil because it was more reliably gotten and didn’t endanger the long-term availability of the source. Atomic power has only had a 50 year life-span compared to the 150 year head-start of coal. Even if coal-fired plants were outlawed tomorrow so no new plants could be built, it would take 50-60-80 years to retire all existing coal plants with the various sizes of NPPs. (And some of the more interesting designs are 10+ years before deployment, right?)
    From my non-professional, non-engineer vantage point, there is room for everything in its proper application. Do we allow the ‘perfect’ to be the enemy of the ‘adequate’ or ‘acceptable’, particularly if solving the energy poverty problem is the goal? Is it morally defensible to deny Ghana a World Bank loan to build a coal-fired power plant if they don’t qualify (economically or stable government-wise or whatever else is the metric) for a nuke?
    And I believe the new term is “Global Climate Disruption”. Brilliant.

    1. I don’t object to developing nations trying to get the energy they need. My objection with this presentation is the insincerity of it. They ripped off the original work of Dr. Hargraves and for that they deserve no respect. I don’t believe for a second that they could have come up with those ideas on their own.
      I’m looking forward to the day when Ghana can buy their first reactor.

      1. @Jason — I yearn for the day, too, that not just Ghana, but virtually any and every country -1st, 2nd or 3rd World – can utilize the undeniable superiority of nuclear power for electricity, desal and industrial heat. That day won’t arrive until SMRs are commercially available and the time frame for that is between 10 and 30 years, from what I’ve read. Even with B&W or NuScale using known technology and conventional LWR fuels, that window is at least 5 years away.
        Then there’s the issue of scaling up production and priority of deployment within any given country. The capital city and other population-dense areas will be supplied first, with outlying areas far down the list.
        What do these countries do in the meantime? Endure the squalor that energy poverty forces upon them? You and I wouldn’t tolerate going more than a couple days without immediate access to on-demand power and the conveniences we’ve come to expect. Why should we expect them to do with less — unless our fear of their ascendancy conflicts with our “concern” for the environment. Please.
        If Peabody plagiarized from Dr. Hargraves, shame on them. Give credit where credit is due.

        1. Doc, incidentally Ghana is actually planning for nuclear power. And at this time, reactor technology is not the huge stumbling block, it’s operational readiness. As we can see a from the example of Dubai, it will take them a good 15 years from planning to actual deployment of a reactor.
          There’s still a way to go before a ready-made reactor can be dropped into a small prepared site, hire some 24 hour security guards, and be controlled from a remote control room via satellites or other telecommunication links. But the technology to do that is here today. So any country, by all means, should be planning now to have nuclear power as more suitable reactor choices become ready. Meanwhile, I don’t begrudge any country doing what it needs to do to improve life for its citizens.

    2. I have global concerns about coal – climate change – which we shall not discuss here, local concerns about coal – mountaintop removal, and efficient use concerns about coal – burning it for electricity is stupid when we have nuclear power…
      …when coal, perhaps mixed with biomass, is more efficiently used as a chemical feedstock and as a source of synthetic natural gas, or synthetic oil, with carbon sequestration of the process output.

      1. @Ed — I guess because I monitor the news daily I assume others have heard of this by now, too. Yes, our chief science czar, who warned us of Global Cooling in the 1970’s, has coined the new phrase to cover all “contingencies”. Now that’s science you can count on.
        Do I hear the Fat Lady exercising her vocal chords?

        1. If it weren’t for global warming, there are plenty of people who would take more of a “let the market decide” approach to nuclear power rather than government programs like loan guarantees, direct subsidies, or being quite as insistent on removing market barriers like over-regulation to the development of large-scale nuclear power. Nuclear technology is very intriguing, even exciting in all its manifold possibilities, and certainly can more than hold its own in competition, but it is not in and of itself a “killer app” (excepting in special usages, like naval ones) until we start running low on fossil fuels – we kind of are, but then there’s all that coal – or unless there’s something like AGW.
          Because of AGW, I favor a different approach, namely throwing every dollar we can spare at nuclear.
          Many people, including yours truly, are not using AGW as a stalking-horse to promote a certain agenda – rather, to myself – as well as a more than a few others, including many Democrats in the Administration in Washington – who have recently rediscovered nuclear’s advantages – AGW is dictating the agenda, and that means nuclear power and lots of it. You might not believe AGW stands a good chance of happening, but we do, and that’s why we’re supporting the nuclear industry with the degree of vigor that we are. Maybe promoting nuclear has become kind of an end in itself to some – those who find the technology interesting and powerful – but it’s also a means to an end, too.

          1. @AC (clever handle!) — As I’ve said here before, atomic power is already a Goliath among midgets, energy production-wise. Others on this blog understand the orders of magnitude difference far better than me. So because of its inherent superiority in all respects – raw materials in fuel, in construction, in land-use footprint, in reliability and dependability – it doesn’t need to rely on concerns, real or imagined, about “Global Climate Disruption” – let’s use the term that is now in vogue.
            What it needs is an honest presentation of the pros and cons compared to other forms of energy production and weave it into a plan — gosh maybe call it a “National Energy Plan”. But that would take leadership that isn’t afraid of dealing with entrenched forces, interests and agendas. Somebody or group that actually has accomplished that kind of broad assessment of disparate interests and show how the sum could be greater than the individual parts and how each part can win, if they are willing to compromise for the betterment of the whole – for long-term stability and gain.
            Businesses prefer stability and predictability over fluctuations and interruptions, so they can plan hiring, purchases, inventories, expansion into new markets, R&D, etc. The Chinese government is actually taking a business-like approach in their 50-year energy development plan. Rather impressive, IMHO.

    1. In other news, Secretary Chu has been busy this week telling the IAEA General Conference in Vienna that he believed the world should transition to “nuclear energy from the sun” and phase out nuclear fission. If these people (Democrats like Obama and Chu) remain in power, coal has a bright future. 😉

          1. Thanks for the link, Jerry. These comments were made during a press briefing, not in Chu’s actual address.

      1. Chu’s actions in funding new nuclear energy research, loan guarantees, BRC (to reverse the flawed laws on the land using science-based process), they speak louder that few words which were taken out of context: If the bridge to solar technology in hundred years long, his statement is just placating the “romantic” environmentalist, the green nuts, with no policy consequences.
        Republican administration liked to talk about how they like nuclear energy, and made sure the talk stays talk. They even told us just few days ago they pledge to be the same they were. Good luck with that.

        1. Oh … I think that Chu has been caught in one of his more candid moments. He doesn’t really believe in nuclear power; his heart is clearly not in it. Certainly, his knowledge of nuclear technology that he has displayed while in office has been severely lacking of any depth. I’m sure that he sincerely believes that fission is a temporary stop-gap that will only be needed until his dreams of “energy from the sun” can be realized.
          Consider that Chu has also been caught going on about other ridiculous ideas, like painting the tops of buildings white. He’s a life-long researcher and government lab administrator, and thus, he is somewhat divorced from the more practical aspects of the world.
          I agree that his actions speak louder than words. Let’s consider those actions, shall we?
          1. “Funding new nuclear energy research,” such a the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP), a program that was initiated in the Bush/Cheney administration. Has Dr. Chu initiated his own “new nuclear energy research” programs?
          2. “Loan guarantees,” a program that was put in place by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which was signed into law by George W. Bush. The nuclear parts of this bill were championed by Senators Domenici and Craig, both Republicans.
          3. “The Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC).” Finally, we have encountered something original that the Democrats have accomplished, namely to throw out decades of scientific and engineering work that cost the utility rate-payers billions of dollars. They must be proud.
          And Obama claimed that his administration would promote science-based policy. What a joke! When it comes to this issue, Obama and Chu don’t want anything based on science; they’re terrified of what science will say. This is why they don’t want the licence application reviewed by the NRC. They know that the licence application will pass, because the science is sound, which is why they’re doing everything they can to stop it, including hiring a team of lawyers to defend against lawsuits from the states and companies that are getting the royal shaft.

          1. @Brian – Though the science may be sound that it would be safe to bury used fuel at Yucca Mountain, I do not think that the question should be one of science at all.
            There are an almost infinite number of ways to safely take care of used fuel. Heck, one of the cheapest and safest was the old proposal to drop containers into a remote area of the deep Pacific as described in “Power to Save the World”.
            The issue is NOT safe handling, IMHO. The issue is the best use of valuable material. It never made any sense to me that we were spending billions to have a bunch of geologists and vulcanologists drill holes and do core samples to prove long term stability. Why? The material is not hurting ANYONE right now and will not hurt anyone as long as the current protectors take some reasonable precautions. It does not even have to cost very much money if obstructionists would be told to bug off, the science and technology is sound and lawfully proven.
            As I said many years ago, Yucca Mountain was the Right Answer to the Wrong Question. The BRC has its issues (especially its inclusion of John Rowe) but it is at least questioning something that deserves to be questioned.

            1. I just had a look at your Yucca Mountain article again, and was struck by these two assumptions which you claimed were made re nuclear waste disposal:
              * Future generations will not be able to read signs or warning labels; the waste must be so isolated that they will not stumble upon it by accident.
              * Human organizations will cease to exist; the storage scheme cannot require any maintenance.
              Why are some people willing to forego nuclear energy (and thus greatly increase the risk of industrial civilization collapsing and killing billions when the fossil fuels run out), because of some potential risks from nuclear waste which would only become a real threat anyway in the aftermath of such a collapse?
              Any thoughts?

            2. Rod – Yes, and I have said for quite some time that, for an answer to a bad question, Yucca Mountain is a pretty damn good one.
              To understand what I’m talking about takes a little thought, so please bear with me.
              The “old proposal to drop containers into a remote area of the deep Pacific” is a horrible idea, if you ask me. The material would be virtually irretrievable, which would be a terrible waste. Future generations would look at us as a bunch of idiots.
              I realize that this material is perfectly safe and fine where it is today. The pressure is political, not technical, and is the result of politicians promising to do something and passing laws to that effect. Well, we know that politicians are undependable, fickle people, so their promises are worth nothing.
              So a permanent solution is needed, if for no other reason than because politicians change their mind with the direction of the wind. You are working on the assumption that recycling is inevitable. I’m not so optimistic. All it takes is a politician like that ambulance-chasing, skirt-chasing Edwards to become president, and any hope for new nuclear plants in the next decade or two dies a swift death.
              What happens to the waste then?
              With Yucca Mountain, all of the material is collected in one place. By law, it is required to be retrievable for an extended period of time — approximately a century or more — which is more than enough time to figure out how to best recycle it. If, however, nuclear power were somehow outlawed or the civilized world came to an end (which is pretty much the same scenario), then the mountain could be sealed and the material would be safely stored in perpetuity.
              “It does not even have to cost very much money if obstructionists would be told to bug off, the science and technology is sound and lawfully proven.”
              Now that you have taken a position with B&W and have joined the nuclear industry, perhaps you will realize that you will never be able to tell the obstructionists to “bug off.” Sorry, ain’t going to happen. Period. This is the cost of living in a democracy, and it is the cost of working in an industry that has to be painstakingly transparent, mostly because of the legacy of the cold-war nuclear-weapons programs, as unfortunate as that is.
              There will always be intervenors. The important thing to remember, however, is that, when you’ve won a battle, you don’t cut your knees out from under you at the last minute. This is what the Obama administration has done. They have taken a near victory, obliterated all gains, and reset the clock (and some would say staked the deck). So now, we’re back to square one. This is not progress.

          2. @Brian, before you go knocking painting flat roofs of commercial buildings white (roofs that aren’t seen by the public, mind you, they’re FLAT), consider this:
            What is light? Energy.
            What is the Sun? A gigantic fusion reactor 93 million miles away that provides the vast majority of heat that we on the crust of the Earth live with.
            How does that heat energy get here? Radiation.
            What is the means of transport? Light.
            Why does it get hot during the summer? Because the angular tilt of the Earth makes the Northern Hemisphere more exposed to the Sun than the Southern Hemisphere.
            Where does excessive heat during the summer come from, and how does it get into buildings? Two major ways: from solar radiation and from hot air.
            What happens when light is absorbed? Does it disappear into nothingness? No, it’s converted into heat.
            What happens when light is absorbed by a black-colored roof? The roof gets hot.
            What happens when the roof gets hot? Some of the heat is transferred into the building.
            What is heat getting into the building when you have air conditioning? Extra load on the system.
            What is extra load on the system mean? Higher equipment costs for larger equipment and higher running costs and maintenance costs as that equipment has to work more often.
            What is the largest consistently sun-exposed area on a flat roof building? The flat roof.
            So, does it make sense for the largest sun-exposed area of a building that needs to be kept cool in the summer (when there is no insulating blanket of snow on top) to be painted with a color that absorbs energy or reflects energy? What is the color that reflects energy? White.
            Now, riddle me this: Is Sec. Chu’s idea of painting flat roofs white so ridiculous after all? Or are you looking for something to knee-jerkedly write off as “brainless pothead liberal smelly-underarm hippie nonsense” without thinking it through?
            (P.S. Do consider that Wal-Mart (a corporation known for being very parsimonious to everyone) buys into this “ridiculous idea” of painting their building roofs white.)

            1. Dave – I’m not saying that the idea doesn’t have some kernel of merit. My opinion is that, as a policy idea, the concept is half-baked.
              Sure, white roofs make sense in tropical climates. This is why you see so many houses in Bermuda or in the Bahamas with white roofs and light-colored walls. The enhanced albedo does keep the houses cooler than they otherwise would have been. Nevertheless, these bright roofs don’t come without a cost. If you want to keep your roof shining brightly, you need to have it cleaned every now and then. The situation becomes even worse in urban areas, where soot from cars, chimneys, or combustion power plants can dull and darken a broad, white surface.
              In Bermuda and the Bahamas, the roof is often also used to collect rainwater, so there are other incentives to keep them clean and white.
              Have you ever worked in a metal-roof structure without air conditioning during the middle of summer? Although the roof might be bright, shiny, and highly reflective, the temperatures soar inside. When it comes to keeping the inside cool, insulation does a lot more than a reflective roof. This is not surprising; it’s a simple, well-understood heat-transfer problem.
              The putative benefit of white roofs is not in energy savings, however. These days, it is being pitched as a geo-engineering solution for fighting “climate change.” While I can see where it could possibly have the benefit of reducing (slightly) the urban heat island effect, I have my doubts as to whether the reduction would be all that significant.
              Yes, I consider WalMart’s idea of painting their store roofs white to be ridiculous. It is especially ridiculous when you consider that each and every WalMart store is located next to a dark asphalt parking lot that is at least as large as the roof of the store and is often quite larger. How much effect do you expect that white roof to have?
              What’s worse is that nobody talks about the other side of the coin. A highly reflective roof is one that (1) does not radiate heat as efficiently during summer nights, keeping the inside hotter when it should naturally cool, and (2) does not warm as quickly from the sun on cold winter days.
              This is why bright colored roofs are most commonly found in hot regions of the world, where they make sense. In other places, they are often more trouble than they are worth. In Chu’s mind, however, they are yet another dream, which like solar power, will not make much of a difference in the real world.

              1. OK. If they are being promoted as geoengineering measures, that’s pretty whacky. If that’s what you were referring to, I apologize. FTA: “*It was a geo-engineering scheme that was

        2. The BRC is the most egregious example of politics trumping science that I have seen in a long time. It is simply a political payoff to Harry Reid. You can wallow in your denial all you want, but the commission is simply a stalling tactic, as I have pointed out before. Its composition is also based more on politics than on science. The only hope that I can see is that there are one or two sensible members, such as Pete Domenici (a Republican), who might bring some order to the chaos.
          Nevertheless, naming a commission that is supposed to provide “a thorough, comprehensive review based on the best available science” unless this science happens to suggest that the long-term solution to our used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste storage is to bury it in a remote area at the edge of the Nevada Test Site, is a total farce.
          Chu’s real thrust has been to concentrate the DOE’s efforts on research work. Well, that’s all nice and fine — and not surprising considering Chu’s background — but it isn’t worth much. Dumping a ton of money into a make-work program for government scientists doesn’t get much built, as experience has shown. Even worse, these programs almost always waste large sums of money, because they have a strong tendency to be terminated by some dumb politician just before they are able to produce something real. The two most obvious examples are Yucca Mountain and the Integral Fast Reactor. The first was terminated by Obama and Reid, the second was terminated by an effort that was spearheaded by John Kerry.
          Notice that all three “dumb politicians” who brought the programs to an end are Democrats and all three are strong believers in the faith of climate change.
          I’m sure that Peabody Coal could not be more pleased.

          1. @Brian – you are right that Peabody Coal – and a whole bunch of other fossil fuel companies – love the idea of DOE spending money on research that does not actually produce any competitive energy. They invest their money carefully into the political process, buying access and influence with both parties to make sure that the organization remains an unproductive employer of “visionaries” who do not actually interfere in the supply demand balance of the important energy business.
            It has nothing to do with the kind of political maneuverings that you seem to think are important. It is not about “liberals” versus “conservatives”. It is all about “haves” versus “have nots” and protecting existing business models (scarcity of fossil fuels) from upstart competitors like abundant nuclear energy from fission.

    2. Most environmentalists are “romantic” environmentalists that reject nuclear power along with all the greater achievements of mankind (automobility, skyscrapers, fertilizers, genetic research etc.) In their view, there is no difference between a large coal burner and a large nuke, because both are too differnet from untouched nature. Small items like a cell phone, a little battery, a solar panel collecting nature’s sunlight, a wind turbine catching nature’s wind like a big tree, these are still accepted. Only *very* few environmentalists are “pragmatic” and want to fix environmental problems scientifically.

      1. @Jerry – have you ever had close associations with a mainstream environmental group? Have you attended their soirees? Have you talked to the employees, cruised through their parking lots, visited their homes?
        I have done that kind of research and recognized that most of the people who call themselves environmentalists are just like most of the rest of us and like their creature comforts. Yes, there are some who are a bit misguided and would benefit by healthy conversational engagement, but please do not fall into the trap laid by the fossil fuel industry to dismiss people who actually care about leaving the world in better condition than they found it in.
        Most environmentalists that I know value human contributions and changes to the natural state of things; they just do not think they should be made without some consideration of the long term consequences.

  6. Coal has a wide base of economic support and a wide influence on the economy in many many directions. Would nuclear plants have the same wide impact? I wonder about that. One of the best ways to get a local community involved in nuclear is if we can show them how they as a local community can make money from it. Coal does that very well. I believe that small reactors can do that too. Coops that can purchase a small reactor and make a steady income from selling the electric would be very attractive, especially if the initial capital cost were reasonable. People allow their land to be stripmined because they need the money. They are often poor and the offer of the coal company is better than anything else. Besides, they get their land back in nice condition these days. Nuclear must compete on a local level.

  7. I don’t know how fellow Thorium enthusiast, Robert Hargraves, feels about being so closely copied in form and mimicked in content by a major coal company like Peabody. If it were me, I would be somewhat flattered that a major coal company had lavished respectable amounts of time studying my materials and liked them well enough to so closely copy them. I think the lesson might be that if you put effort into providing a clear “big picture” view of an important subject like energy you will start to shift the collective landscape of conversation and understanding. When billion dollar coal companies start aping your presentations you are beyond starting to get through with your message. Very well done indeed, Robert Hargraves!

  8. Even if there is a huge scale up in nuclear.. going over even the most optimistic official projections by the IAEA..
    Coal still has a very bright future. So does natural gas for electricity. The developing world really needs that much electricity that there is more than enough room for all 3.. and a substantial hydro build to go along.
    India alone will need ~1000GW of capacity over the next 40 years.. and that is to get to per capita electric capacity of 1/4th the 2010 US level. Even if they build 300GW of nuclear, they will need hundreds of gw of coal and natural gas.
    The USA itself might need far more electric capacity than anyone imagines. Take a small annual per capita demand growth of 1% a year, and the US 1% a year population growth.. and by 2050 the USA would need another 1000GW of capacity.

Comments are closed.

Recent Comments from our Readers

  1. Avatar
  2. Avatar
  3. Avatar
  4. Avatar
  5. Avatar

Similar Posts