Project Dilithium – Boldly going back to a place our ancestors visited and prematurely abandoned 1

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  1. “That still didn’t explain the relatively low use of nuclear propulsion on ships.“

    Apparently, the Navy’s quick answer to that question at the moment is cost.

    I recently had a conversation with a very bright NavSea senior engineer out of the Washington Naval Yard. He mentions he’s working on an ice breaker design, that all the tension and compression forces on the hull are very interesting for ice, etc I cut him off and asked, “nuclear, like the Russians?” He responds, no, “too expensive. “

    1. That answer isn’t very satisfying to a former Navy cost analyst/requirements officer.

      There are nuances that the “very bright” NavSea senior engineer did not mention.

      Feel free to recommend that he contact me if he is really interested in making the best possible choices, including cost, to provide the capabilities desired.

      1. @Rod;

        I remember you wrote in a post years ago that someday you would write an article on the true economics and politics of U.S. Navy nuclear-powered surface ships. Ever since then, I’ve been waiting eagerly for that article. 🙂 I have my answers for merchant ships, but not yet for naval.

    2. Ask the NavSea Engineer what the Ice Breaker does when stuck in the Ice for a month or so with no fuel, no electricity. What is the total cost to extract the crew? The loss of the Ice breaker especially if someone claims salvage rights?

      1. @Rich

        Good question. The US and Canada actually conducted a theory to practice exercise that illustrated this situation. In July 1994, a tag team of one Canadian and one US icebreaker embarked on a mission to reach the North Pole.

        The American icebreaker suffered a casualty that damaged one of its two propellers.

        It couldn’t go fast enough to break through the ice where it happened.

        Fortunately, the story had a happy ending. A Russian ice breaker saved the day.

        All documented in the 1996 A&E documentary “Icebreaker to the North Pole”

  2. I’m going to throw in something I found elsewhere that might form another piece of this puzzle.

    Over at Green Car Congress, there is news of a solar panel which makes hydrogen from sunlight and the moisture in air.  Specifically how they do this is not given, but since the device looks like an ordinary PV panel it’s all but certain that it is not a direct photolysis system but some dry electrolysis mechanism which can hoover up humidity and is fed by PV.

    Of course, if it’s fed by PV it could just as easily be fed by a nuclear turbogenerator.

    Hydrogen is a rather inconvenient fuel but if air capture of CO2 could also be arranged, the ORNL electrocatalytic ethanol cell could convert CO2 plus water into fuels.  The process also generates CH4 (in small amounts), CO and H2 which can be converted to methanol with some additional CO2.  The energy efficiency of this is nothing to write home about (see my fresh analysis at The Ergosphere, post title “Electric alcohol”) but if all you need is your portable nuclear power plant and air, you’ve got yourself pretty much set for energy in the field.

    One last need is just plain water.  It’s my understanding that even hot deserts often cool down to the dew point at night.  If your nuclear plant can run chillers to collect frost and recover humidity from activities like bathing and cooking, that is one more need that can be supplied without having to ship commodities.

  3. Michael Shellenberger has an excellent article supporting Nuclear power on Forbes dot com. “It Sounds Crazy, But Fukushima, Chernobyl, And Three Mile Island Show Why Nuclear Is Inherently Safe”
    Washington Examiner has an article on the NRC tightening the ratchet wrench, again “New regulations for US nuclear plants 8 years after Fukushima disaster.” Covers “Mitigation of Beyond Design Basis Events rule.” So, after implementation you will be 1×10 ^-24 safer. Yes, less than winning both the Powerball AND MegaMillions with only one ticket each.

    1. The Examiner article also implies most of the fleet has already implemented the new plant blackout measures in response to Fukushima, and that these new regs lock in the changes.

  4. “According to Ed Lyman, the current go-to representative of nuclear opposition from the Union of Concerned Scientists, people who have determined that small, transportable, durable, high endurance nuclear reactors can be built in the near future are guilty of “naive optimism.””

    Wow! Just wow. It’s a good thing he wasn’t around to talk with the Wright brothers. These guys are supposed to be scientists. I mean – These guys don’t even want to try. What happened to the push the envelope mentality of successful innovators of the past?

    Thomas Edison quote on inventing the light bulb, “I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

    I guess he had “naive optimism.” I’m glad he did.

  5. Some welcome news from WNN: New England commits to value of nuclear.

    This has to do with Connecticut’s support for Millstone NPP:

    “The 10-year, 9 million MWh per year contract between plant operator Dominion and utilities Eversource and United Illuminating was announced on 15 March by Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont and Katie Dykes, commissioner of the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). The two-unit 2088 MWe pressurised water reactor plant generates about 45% of Connecticut’s electricity but had been at risk of retirement by 2023.

    “The loss of Millstone would have been catastrophic for our state and our region,” Lamont said. The shutdown of the plant would have exposed the region to a nearly 25% increase in carbon emissions as well as increased risks of rolling blackouts, “billions of dollars” in power replacement costs and the loss of over 1500 jobs, he said. “With this deal in place, we can start moving forward with new investments in renewable and clean energy needed to transform our grid.”

    There’s more there, including a regional commitment-in-principle that recognizes “wholesale markets are designed to select resources in a “fuel-neutral way at the least cost” rather than to achieve environmental mandates.”

    “A particular challenge is the retirement of nuclear generation resources,” it notes, adding that the closure of Millstone would have increased winter energy security risks across the region as well as increasing regional greenhouse gas emissions by 25%.”

    Emphasis added. A refreshing bit of recognition.

    1. The joint commitment by the governors of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont

      This is so ironic after the vicious and underhanded campaign to close Vermont Yankee.

      Perhaps a petition is in order to have VY re-commissioned under its old license terms and restarted.  So what if the NRC has no procedure for doing this?  Create one!

      1. @E-P

        I’m not sure if a petition would work and it’s not because of a lack of an NRC process. The virulently antinuclear folks of Vermont have been working hard to speed the decommissioning process along. As a result, I’m afraid a fair amount of rebuilding might be necessary. I also know there were some major components (specifically condensers) that were getting close to replacement criteria.

        It might be more productive to convince the current site owner to consider beginning process of obtaining a site license with a planning envelop that encompasses a 720 MWe NuScale 12 pack. That could be an extremely useful and profitable addition to the New England power grid.

      2. I’m afraid Rod is right, and am wondering if it’s even still possible to save Pilgrim NPP on Cape Cod. This is it’s last scheduled year of operation. Holtec expects to take possession and begin rapid decommissioning next.

    2. “we can start moving forward with new investments in renewable and clean energy needed to transform our grid.”

      I find that part disheartening though. They still don’t get it. “Renewables” don’t help.

      1. I keep reminding people on Green Car Congress and elsewhere that the scalable “renewables” (wind and PV) have decarbonized exactly ZERO fossil-based grids used by industrial societies, and that they cannot do this because of their unreliability which forces dependence on fossil backups.  Meanwhile, France, Ontario and Sweden are existence proofs that nuclear has already done what ruinables have not and almost certainly cannot.

        I have not made a single convert.  Renewables are a religion.

        1. @E-P

          Have you ever considered the notion that The “religious” people you encounter refuse to convert because they actually like the limitations (or personal prosperity) resulting from fossil fuel dependence?

      2. To incorporate these renewables in the grid we will need to double the number of high voltage transmission lines both AC and DC. They will be met with more protests that the pipelines as they are visible, intrusive, will need to be in different areas, and running in different directions and providing little or no new service to the homeowners land that they cross. As I recall it took over 15 years to get an approved line from Canada to NYC built after the 5 plus years for approval. Problems in the lines in California that started the fires were due to the massive overuse of line importing power from the north. If new lines are not built there will be no place to send the power.
        The most wind power is where the least number of people are. Look at the map of available solar energy for the US. As you get away from Southern CW, NV, AZ, NM and FL the numbers decrease to 1/2 and 1/3 the further north you go. The complete south facing rooftop north of California – Virginia will not provide enough for 100% the home. The power has to come from somewhere else.
        I also read that states in the NE are restricting the connections to NG for home heating – that means Electricity for home heating. Where do you get that electricity? Or do they want wood stoves?

      3. Have you ever considered the notion that The “religious” people you encounter refuse to convert because they actually like the limitations (or personal prosperity) resulting from fossil fuel dependence?

        There might be some paid shills like Harvey D over at GCC, but none of them are either rich enough or smart enough to do this on their own.  Of course, I don’t rub elbows with the class of people who can buy themselves the governorship of a state.

      4. @E-P

        Shills paid by directly by dark forces are not required to explain fans of Green media sites. Residential solar owners who have spent $10K or $20K for a rooftop array have ample incentive to i) ignore that fat utility cable that remains on the side of the house and to ii) believe they are entitled by a deity to that net metered, residential rate reimbursement for their solar power which is useless to the utility. Like they say, “Where you stand depends on where you sit.”

      5. Residential solar owners who have spent $10K or $20K for a rooftop array have ample incentive to i) ignore that fat utility cable that remains on the side of the house and to ii) believe they are entitled by a deity to that net metered, residential rate reimbursement for their solar power which is useless to the utility.

        None of that describes HarveyD, who claims to live in a condo building in Montreal which is served by Hydro Quebec.

        Years of explaining to HarveyD that most of the world hasn’t the terrain, rainfall or blessedly low population density of Quebec and thus cannot rely on hydro (doesn’t scale) has failed to change his tune.  As I’ve written before, you could produce a very good facsimile of his writing with a Markov chain generator primed with phrases like “5-5-5 batteries” and “24/7 REs” and “400 km BEVs”.

        What’s the payoff for someone like that?  Maybe they just have a monomania, but you’d think even a monomaniac would be redirected by new information.  But a paid shill?  They’d be on-message all the time because their check depended on it.

      6. To Engineer-Poet:
        The Shills & the True-Believers won’t be affected, but someone who is actually interested in finding out truth should be affected by this website.

        Checking it out at different times will show that the regions that *consistently* have low CO2 per kwh from the electric generators use a mix of hydro & nuclear. The regions that install a lot of wind & solar go from sometimes low to sometimes fairly high because they burn natural gas for electricity when the wind & sun don’t provide.

      7. Pro tip, E-P:
        Fossils don’t “backup” anything. The very term stands the RE situation on it’s head, leaving a bad taste of enablement. I personally prefer “co-generation”, being at least modestly more honest.

  6. Those operators interested in a Nuscale 12pak are strongly encouraged to place an order as soon as may be. The queue is likely to rapidly grow long.

    1. @DB Benson:

      Romania to explore NuScale deployment:

      “The Department of Energy applauds this important agreement to evaluate how small modular reactor technology could be utilised in Romania… We are enthusiastic about the possibilities for the future and being on the cutting edge of nuclear generation technology.” –Rick Perry

      Sheesh! Talk about being a paid shill. Who knew?

      1. Edward Leaver, I did. The DoE promotes energy sources, including nuclear power plants. In particular, the DoE has put quite a bit of $ towards the development and licensing of the Nuscale SMR.

  7. You guys have mentioned a few times that all of this excess exuberance (irrational exuberance) that has caused the building of many wind farms and solar facilities is causing an excess of power.

    Is this an opportunity? Could this excess power be put to get use for a process when it is available. It is intermittent. Could it be used to make hydrogen or even a liquid fuel. It seems similar to excess material or a waste product. If a fuel could be produced, could it be marketed at a premium price as a “green” fuel. I see organic produce as having similar marketing.

    1. Is this an opportunity? Could this excess power be put to get use for a process when it is available.

      I believe so, yes.  I’m working on it in a desultory fashion.  If I win the Powerball tonight you can bet that will speed up quite a bit.

      It is intermittent. Could it be used to make hydrogen or even a liquid fuel.

      Of course it could, the question is can you make it pay?  I am looking at what I believe is an overlooked possibility for making conversion equipment with low capital cost and high flexibility.

      It seems similar to excess material or a waste product. If a fuel could be produced, could it be marketed at a premium price as a “green” fuel.

      If you can so much as sell RINs for making it, you can get an extra revenue stream beyond the sale price.  There may be other revenue streams that the right technology could tap into by providing various services as part of operations.

      As I said, working on it.

      1. One only look at how wind has been used through history and the farmlands throughout history. The prairie Aermotor water pumps – Windmill. Simple; a tower, an Aermotor on top, and a watering trough. The rotation pulled up the shaft which was hooked to a hand pump. Doing the pumping action of the lever. Had one on my parents farm. Worked great 95% of the time, with the properly sized trough and Aermotor. Very little maintenance. I only remember one time that it needed maintenance in my 20 years there. The shaft from the Aeromoto came off or broke and needed fixed. Neighboring farmer had a tank near the top of his tower and had running water in the house. Had to drain it in the winter though. Yet when we got electricity every one put in a pump and forgot the Windmill. My biggest complaint was that you had to check the trough on a schedule that assured there was enough water until the next time you were scheduled to check it and refill as necessary. When we had dairy cows, that was daily. No wind – No water. It was normal that the trough needed filled every day for over a week, sometimes two weeks, every summer. I got to hail water in an open farm tank in a wagon behind a tractor. usually 1/2 of it got their. I would never use them for an assured source of electricity unless you had a battery that lasted three weeks.

  8. Brave New Climate Discussion Forum
    now has a proper moderator and is available for discussions about climate change and energy for society generally.

    For example, RICE generators are of some small interest but have nothing to do with matters nuclear.

    1. I had to look that acronym up. I know I’m not the only one out there that didn’t know what it was. Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines.

      Here’s a link to some that are being installed in Michigan:

      They are closing down a major coal plant and these will replace them.

      It does relate to the topic at hand. These are in a rural area. Small nuclear generators could be doing the same job without polluting the air and contributing to global warming. Granted, these engines will be burning natural gas which is fairly clean, but it is still emitting greenhouse gases.

      It would be great to see a plant that just runs supplying electricity and perhps pumping water without having to be refueled for 20 years. It seems odd that we aren’t making more of an effort to put a few of these in as pilot plants.

      1. Engineer-Poet, I just key in
        Brave New Climate Discussion Forum
        and my search engine always brings up the link to

    2. Here is one good aspect of ICE running a generator. About 45 years ago a large new mall in my home town had decided to provide their own onsite power generation rather than pay the utility for the very high cost of extending the needed service out to them. They needed at minimum a 69 kV Primary service to feed the many transformer boxes around the mall. It was more than five miles from the city limits and probably double that from the nearest substation. Todays price is over $300,000 a mile. That with the fact that using the cost per Btu NG was much cheaper than electricity then. The Mall decided to use a half dozen NG operated Diesel Generators for the electricity. They would then use the waste heat of generation to operate several lithium bromide absorption refrigeration systems for the HVAC. Little heating was needed as most heat came from the lighting, equipment and people. Analysis showed that they would be getting free electricity for what it cost to air-condition the mall. Diesel engines running on NG have much lower maintenance costs than when run on diesel fuel. Many of the larger “Home” emergency generators have a NG option. If I got one, I would definitely get a NG Diesel generator – install and forget!
      There was a system at one of the malls near Harrisburg, PA when I lived there also. The Federal Power Commission regulations limiting the price of interstate gas kept the price low – until the OPEC Oil Embargo and the increased use of NG. To my knowledge, neither of these malls are using NG today. With the doubling and tripling of NG prices over the years these systems fell out of favor. NG prices today though make them rather appealing.

      1. I once read of a potential product that I’ve always wondered a bit about. A quiet generator installed in your basement could heat the home with waste heat from the exhaust. The electricity could be sold to the utility and help prevent baseload plants from being constructed. Perhaps the air conditioning could also have been done with absorption chilling. I guess the economics are not there for I’ve never sen the product sold.

  9. Chernobyl’s disastrous cover-up is a warning for the next nuclear age
    Kate Brown
    2019 Apr 04
    The Guardian

    is not credible, despite the author’s position. It does need appropriate responses.

    1. “There’s no problem in Conspiracy Theory that cannot be solved with another level of conspiracy.”

  10. It seems that the powers that be find it much more important than national interests or the benefit of mankind to keep the world on an inferior more damaging power source, since we become much too dependent on getting infusions of it on a daily basis, as this will keep us poorest, them richest, and us more well-enslaved.

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