Taking the bloom off of the nuclear rose
Yesterday I came across a New York Times front page article from July 7, 1971 titled Nation’s Energy Crisis: Nuclear Future Looms. It is the second article in a three part article on the energy crisis that was capturing America’s attention in 1971 – two years before the Arab Oil Embargo.
The discovery knocked me for a bit of a loop, because the article helps to explain so much of what happened to nuclear technology development in the succeeding years. Here is a picture of the first part of the article.
Aside: I highly recommend a digital subscription to the New York Times. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, there is incredible value in being able to search the archives of the nation’s “paper of record” all the way back to 1851. Though I believe that statement, I am also making it in hopes that it prevents anyone from being offended by me posting an image of a snippet from the article. (grin)End Aside.
That article continued on for 2200 words under the following, page-wide banner headline.
The article layout included several large graphical images. Again, being a little judicious with my “fair use”, here is just one of the images that accompanied the article.
There is a key quote from the article that caused several thoughts to surface and bump together in my sleep-deprived brain.
Nuclear power is technically difficult, initially expensive, a source of thermal pollution and the subject of acrimonious controversy and widespread anxiety about possible radiation hazards.
And yet to a growing number of technologists, economists, and political leader, it is the only way within the traditional economic system to meet the ever rising consumer demand for a steady supply of reasonably inexpensive power without ravaging the environment.
Thus the Nixon Administration has made nuclear power the keystone of its “clean energy” plan for the decade. And future Administrations, barring unforeseen discoveries, can be expected to follow the same general policy.
For nuclear power, despite its drawbacks, is without doubt more plentiful, ultimately cheaper and relatively less damaging to the environment than other fuels. The alternatives, in other words, could be worse.
The first thought that surfaced was a dimming memory of a mid 1990s talk that I attended at an American Nuclear Society meeting. The speaker was Dr. Patrick Michaels. We were talking about ways to encourage more public acceptance of nuclear energy. Someone from the audience said that they did not understand why the nuclear industry did not do more to emphasize the environmental benefits of an energy source clean enough to power submarines.
Aside: Come to think of it, I might have been the person who asked that question. Maybe not, I used to be a lot more reticent than I am today.
Dr. Michaels’s response was memorable. “Don’t align with the Environmentalists. You tried that in the 1970s. That didn’t work out so well.”
The other thought that came to mind is the one that serves as the title for this post. There is a section in William Engdahl’s A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order titled Taking the bloom off the ‘nuclear rose’. That section continues to haunt me and to inform the way that I understand some otherwise confusing economic and political history.
That section begins right after Engdahl has just explained how he has concluded that there were business and political leaders that saw the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 as a golden opportunity to profit and also to increase America’s power in the world.
Here’s a quote:
One principal concern of the authors of the 400 percent oil price increase was how to ensure their drastic action did not drive the world to accelerate an already strong trend towards construction of a far more efficient and ultimately less expensive alternative energy source — nuclear electricity generation.
Some very powerful people had strong reasons to be concerned. Quoting again from Nuclear Future Looms:
The trend toward nuclear power is strong. Although only 21 commercial nuclear reactors are now in operation, supplying less than 1 per cent of the nation’s energy needs, more power-generating capacity is now on order for atomic plants than for the conventional types. There are 54 under construction in this country and orders for 42 more. Even a major Texas utility, in the heart of gas country, plans to go nuclear.
Engdahl goes on to name people and organizations that were motivated to slow or stop that trend. He also described how large and widespread the trend was in Europe, the Asian subcontinent, and South America. Here is another key quote:
Clearly, the Anglo-American energy grip, based on their tight control of the world’s major energy source, petroleum, was threatened if these quite feasible programs went ahead.
Nuclear energy represented in the postwar period precisely the same quality of higher technological level, which oil had over coal when Lord Fisher and Winston Churchill argued at the end of the last century for Britain’s navy to convert to oil from coal. The major difference was that Britain and her cousins in the Unite States in the 1970s, held the grip on world oil supplies. World nuclear technology threatened to open unbounded energy possibilities, especially if plans for commercial nuclear fast breeder reactors were realized…
There is no doubt that abundant nuclear energy threatened the grip of petroleum on the world energy market. Nuclear energy may not be able to directly power individual automobiles, but it can certainly displace enough of the other ways that society currently consumes oil to free up vast supplies that would have to compete against each other for customers.
If the rich and powerful individuals and groups that Engdahl credits with “taking the bloom off the ‘nuclear rose’ had failed, the world would be a completely different place. It would be cleaner, more prosperous, have a more stable climate and be less threatened by supply interruptions. There would also be a more equitable distribution of wealth and probably a much better educational system in place.
It’s not too late to do some pruning, move the atomic rose bushes into better direct sunlight, knead some fertilizer into the soil, and take care to spray once in a while to keep the mold from overtaking the rose bushes. (In one of our previous homes, my wife and I once maintained a gorgeous rose garden, following those guiding steps. It might be time to plant another one.)
Rod, I want to be clear about what you are saying… is it a rose by any other name is still a rose? mjd.
You’ve got it, even if people have worked really hard for the better part of 5 decades to change the name and the appearance to something else.
“There would also be a more equitable distribution of wealth and probably a much better educational system in place.”
Considering the profession of ‘nuclear engineer’ is under severe threat of disappearing due to cost cutting, I have no idea how your paradise can be realised. If Big Oil is Big Business, nuclear is even more centralized. Big oil has a large number of jobs associated with it…I see far fewer with nuclear and electrification of transport. Electric cars require far less maintenance, so the diesel mechanic heads straight to the soup line.
As for education, how many reactor designers and project managers does the world need. Not very many, obviously.
You can’t be pro-labor and anti-labor (reducing construction costs) at the same time. Either you have a concrete plan as to how the nuclear industry enriches the common man or why even bother with the PR? Small business isn’t going to operate with batteries under the hood of 1 ton trucks.
If the objective of a task is to keep busy, then your spot on. If on the other hand the objective of a task is to change state, then following your perspectives aren’t very useful.
Big oil has a large number of jobs associated with it
ExxonMobil captures an annual revenue in excess of $440 billion. It employs just 80,000 people. Sure, that sounds like a lot of people, but the sales per person is incredibly high.
I’m not a nuclear engineer. Never have been. However, I’ve had plenty of good employment associated with nuclear energy.
Most of the construction cost reductions I’d like to see are associated with a reduction in interest costs and regulatory charges, not wages. You don’t like bankers do you?
The real aim should be to create wealth, not jobs. Central power stations create an enormous amount of wealth (in the form of power and heat for entire cities) at very little effort – only a few hundred workers in each plant. This wealth trickles down to everybody, government gets its “cut” by taxation, consumers get cheaper prices (provided there is competition in the market).
“This wealth trickles down to everybody, government gets its “cut” by taxation, consumers get cheaper prices (provided there is competition in the market).”
LOL. Trickle down economics…the very same doctrine of Big OIL!
Consumers? Another LOL. No jobs, no consumption.
You fellers have no economic platform whatsoever. Slogans and nothing else.
In fact, with no growth possible in nuclear systems, its not even obvious how the fractional reserve banking system can function.
Adams says there will be jobs. Like what? Start naming them.
“This wealth trickles down to everybody, government gets its “cut” by taxation, consumers get cheaper prices (provided there is competition in the market).”
LOL. Trickle down economics…the very same doctrine of Big OIL!
starvinglion, you are so right. It is so much better to continue the present trickle up economics of high oil prices. Why would anyone in his right mind want to have lower energy prices for everyone? With lower prices, no one will want to consume more energy to build more wealth, and the economy will grind to a halt.
I truly hate to agree with anything Starving Lion writes, however, from Evangelii Gaudium by Pope Francis:
In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.
One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
I really recommend reading the entire Apostolic Constitution in its proper context. Tid bit extracts fail to give it justice.
I am waiting for the Latin controlled version to come out so that I may verify that that is what the Holy Father really said. But I for one am sick and tired of expecting either Socialized Big Business or Democratic Big Government to take care of the people. Both have failed miserably, and case in point is what both are doing about nuclear power – strangling it. This is a Republic, not two wolves and one sheep voting on what’s for dinner. Rule of law and individual responsibility commensurate with individual rights are sacrosanct.
PS, unlike the exhortation in the original blog above, I refuse to read the NY Times with its adulation and fawning over everything left wing and Marxist. Corporate socialism that benefits fossil fuel and the current economic malaise are its fruit, and we see that in our own nuclear industry with VY, Kewanee, SONGS and Crystal River now all gone by the way side.
“PS, unlike the exhortation in the original blog above, I refuse to read the NY Times with its adulation and fawning over everything left wing and Marxist. Corporate socialism that benefits fossil fuel and the current economic malaise are its fruit, and we see that in our own nuclear industry with VY, Kewanee, SONGS and Crystal River now all gone by the way side”
Ny Times, left wing, eh? Yeah, tell that to Judith Miller, and the NY Times editors that greased the skids for the disastrous and disengenuously justified invasion of Iraq. It cracks me up, reading these Fox News inspired distortions of reality that the rabidly partisan spit out by rote. Our press is simply beholden to the highest bidder, and it has nothing to do with “left wing” “right wing”. The NY Times can be biased in either direction, depending on the issue, who is “reporting” on it, and who thier current big dollar advertizer is.
And once again Paul forwards the absurd premise that the “left wing” is somehow responsible for this ridiculous fantasy of “corporate socialism” he asserts is being practiced by the big oil entities.
I see, often, the LA TImes accused of the same asinine premise, (of being a member of the myth known as the “liberal press”). To accept that premise, one has to totally ignore the week that they dropped Robert Scheer, and brought in Max Boot to crap all over thier opinion page.
I’d like to extend the challenge, to Paul, to formulate an argument that places the practice of climate change denial in the lap of the “left wing”, and its so called “corporate socialists” (HUH???).
How ’bout it, paul, why don’t you absolve your right wing heroes and mouthpieces of denying climate change, and lay it on the left wing? However, I suggest you don’t look to Fox News, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh, when seeking allies to buttress your ridiculous distortions. (Uh oh, that pretty much shuts the window on your information intake, doesn’t it?)
Personally, I’d like to see more foundries. Hundreds of electric arc furnaces sold and installed. I’d like to see differentiation in Aluminum, fabrication, Steel, and a insane heavy growth and differentiation in Titanium. I’d like to see differentiation and specialty steels, improving products, and inventing new products.
I’d like to see a brand new Titanium fast growth industry competing toe to toe in many existing markets now dominated by the Aluminum industry.
The problem is, staid old established industries tend to be low growth, and financial improvements are made by cutting costs. New industries in new markets tend more to focus on capturing market share requiring fast changes requiring an adaptable adroit and large labor force.
We saw a IT bubble which created a great number of good jobs. I can see such an industrial bubble also that could be brought on by prodigious electrical energy.
“Adams says there will be jobs. Like what? Start naming them.”
It’s a Luddite argument. New technology with automation abolishes previous labour intensive jobs but increases wealth throughout society by improving labour productivity (allowing us to do more in less time). Improving productivity is the motor of long-term economic growth – not keeping people in work.
Cheaper and more plentiful energy allows the economy to expand in new directions. Nuclear energy can potentially give us far more energy than any other form. [ There’s enough thorium to power all the world’s current energy needs for 20 billion years. ]
Here’s an example: fruit picking. Manual fruit harvesting is a hard, low paid, occupation often done by immigrants. We are now inventing robot fruit pickers. These are only possible because we have energy to power them. They will displace jobs but will also allow marginal agriculture to happen because the cost of labour will no longer ration what’s possible. Cheap energy could desalinate water and fertilize desert areas too.
New jobs will be in designing, building, programming, maintaining and operating fruit-picking robots. These will be higher skilled jobs.
Energy doesn’t abolish jobs it displaces them. Higher productivity is only possible because we can lever energy to carry tasks which had previously been too labour intensive [ energy to pump water into our households, Coolers to keep our food fresh and cold, trains and automobiles to take us to work, planes to take us on holiday half a planet away. ]
The Luddite sustainability argument is fundamentally pessimistic. It promotes poverty and helplessness as goals for humanity. It’s no accident that deep greens are such avid anti-humanists; it’s mandatory. [ See Murray Bookchin’s “Re-enchanting Humanity” for more on that. ]
“New jobs will be in designing, building, programming, maintaining and operating fruit-picking robots. These will be higher skilled jobs”
The amount of workers necessary to develop, manufacture, and market the technology will not hold a candle to the amount of workers displaced by the technology.
And “higher skilled jobs”? I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our educational system here in the states is not producing those skilled workers required to fill these “higher skilled jobs”. Currently, we are churning out a whole shitload of burger flippers, and on the “skilled” end, attorneys. How’s that working out for us?
I got news for you. You take the “unskilled labor” equation out of the central valley of California, or any other agriculture dependent area, and you will have widespread poverty,crime, and a caste division that makes today’s poverty problem pale in comparison. What jobs do you propose to give to the millions of uneducated and “unskilled” workers you’re so ecstatic about replacing with your R2D2 apple picker? Maybe we can get them all to pedalin’ little mini generators on each street corner, eh? Ya better dream up something, because, otherwise, they’re gonna be hoppin’ your back fence for a bite to east.
Or, uh, has Rush and Sean convinced ya these folks you’re replacing with R2D2 just don’t matter none?
(And do you really think the damned thing will be manufactured here when China is paying its “skilled” workers less than we pay our “unskilled” workers?)
Replace “energy” with “climate” and “Nixon” with “Obama” and Id swear id read it yesterday unfortunately. There is no need to be so reluctant or apologetic approaching nuclear power. That is something that should have changed, even more so as the tech has advanced.
Sometimes I feel that people in the field are get caught up in their own sausage making they forget there are messy details to fixate on in all industry, especially energy. That they deal with them openly and honestly, with such a policed low/no release agenda, should not be such a hindrance and liability. That is another huge asset of this technology.
To think this was before climate change, acidification or fracking too.
Kindna hidden away in the USGS news a couple days ago was this:
Man-Made Earthquakes Update
Studies show one to three magnitude 3.0 earthquakes or larger occurred yearly from 1975 to 2008, while the average grew to around 40 earthquakes per year from 2009 to mid-2013.
“We’ve statistically analyzed the recent earthquake rate changes and found that they do not seem to be due to typical, random fluctuations in natural seismicity rates,” ( http://www.usgs.gov/blogs/features/usgs_top_story/man-made-earthquakes/?from=title )
Unlike low dose radiation; Its amazing here they had a known and explained mechanism, strong statistical correlation (with proximity!) AND experimental proof and somehow the oil and gas industry was able to make it just go away for years. Poof! Even now id wager few probably know this can occur or that there are over 30,000 such disposal wells, not to mention the active wells where fracking is used.
I watch NG so closely I kinda missed this, propane ( http://www.eia.gov/oog/info/twip/twip_propane.html ) is a byproduct of NG and oil refining, we import some too:
Propane shortage takes toll on rural America
last year, we were paying about $8 a day to heat the house. and this year we’re up about $15 a day.
15 states from oklahoma to maine have emergency declarations in place, easing limits on how many hours propane truck drivers can be on the road. the transportation department has declared a home heating fuel emergency,
relaxing regulations in 24 midwest and northeast states.
industry officials say they’re talking to regulators about further steps. ( http://www.nbcnews.com/video/nightly-news/54128520/#54127341 )
@John T Tucker
I live in “rural America” and purchase propane. Fortunately, our propane is just a supplement in the form of a pretty fire place that takes the chill off of the living room now and again.
The last time our tank was filled, it cost $3.30 per gallon (delivered). It is almost exactly the same as the price of gasoline. Unfortunately, the heating value of propane is only about 70% that of heating oil or kerosene.
Propane at $3.30 per gallon turns out to be equal to slightly less than $36 per MMBTU.
That is pretty darned expensive heating fuel, but when there are no pipelines, many people have no choice.
Our main heat is an efficient (12 SER) heat pump supplied by electricity that costs about 6.2 cents per kilowatt hour. According to the handy comparison available from Duke Energy http://www.duke-energy.com/indiana/savings/heating-costs.asp our heat pump costs approximately $8.00 per MMBTU.
Can you see why I like having cheap electricity?
I do. I didnt realize there was such a incredibly good argument for electric heat. I guess the heat pump makes the difference.
I am poor and fortunately in Fla so I run the electric heat sparingly and I would not be comfortable with gas or heating fuels in the house although it is relatively safe. In the back of my mind I know there is a lot more that can go wrong with it.
Rod are you not kinda shocked by the background work the Government is doing to ensure Gas is distributed and remains cheap?? Can you imagine them doing the same to keep the nations one proven dependable source of clean energy up and running? Esp after last year? It seems scandalous to me.
I checked and its not just propane but all “home heating fuels” covered, of course. So NG as well.
( http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/about/alerts/Emergency-Declarations_2013.aspx )
I checked and NG delivery by truck is kinda rare but it does exist ( http://www.tuckergas.com/trkpg02.htm ) [no relation – I think lol] I guess the next big beneficiary of those declarations is heating oils.
Is that a ground source heat pump, or is the air consistently mild enough where you live to use that as the cold end of the heat pump?
Here in Calgary the air temperature is now +1 °C but a few weeks ago we had lots of -20 ° weather, in which an air source heat pump would have been useless.
I live in south central Virginia. The mid Atlantic climate is mild enough on all but the very coldest days of the year for an air heat pump. The system includes resistance heaters for those very cold days. Even those end up adding heat at a far lower cost than the $36 per MMBTU propane that we burn in the fire place.
In propane’s defense, it provides pretty heat at a cost that is cheaper than firewood and a lot less trouble and mess.
Our system even has a remote that makes my wife very happy. Our aging cats love to curl up in their beds by the fireplace on a cold winter evening, so I don’t actually begrudge the propane vendor.
Propane cheaper than firewood ? That’s surprising, I’ve just seen a graph according to which wood pellet in France are around 5,3 and 7,3 €/KWh (depending on conditioning), and propane is at 14€. And electricity is about 14,75€ (it’s cheap relative to Europe, not to the US).
Ground source heat pumps are better, air heat pumps mean that everyone will turn to the resistance mode when it’s coldest and the use is highest, which means a very large peak in use that is as problematic as the gas use peak.
That’s the problem France has, despite electric heating not actually being the most used heating mode (it’s gas, even in France), and let’s be honest, that’s a serious difficulty if one wishes nuclear generated electricity to become the most used heating mode.
In my opinion, it’s not unsolvable but it means you must make homes very efficient in their heating use, this helps making the peaks not too large, but also have fossil/biomass alternatives for the coldest days, as well as a some non-nuclear electricity backup solutions for the worst days. Also well insulated homes can keep their heat for several hours, which means you could disable electric heating during the daily peak of use, this would make the situation much more manageable.
For you there are two heat pump solutions:
1. Ground source heat pump. The heat source for these is far enough under the surface that the temperature is nearly constant. Air temperature has essentially no effect except for how much the system runs.
2. Cold climate heat pump. These heat pumps have a second compressor and several valves to redirect refrigerant flow. They maintain their high efficiency long after single stage heat pumps have approached unity efficiency.
Of course, both of these solutions cost more than a single stage heat pump.
donb, i had a reverse cycle heat pump on the sailboat i lived on. first year aboard i decided to live-aboard in the water, for the winter (lake erie, it freezes over). when it got cold i switched the mode from A/C to heat, so function of evap and condenser reversed. soon had water running out of the wall of the locker it was installed in. you guessed it, no condensate drip pan installed under the condenser which was now the evaporator. i explained the problem to the manufacturer, they said “oops, we’ll make one & send it to you, btw what kind of bonehead would live on a boat frozen in the water? the new design worked until the water temp reached ~45 degrees, then when the system extracted heat from the lake water (in the new evap section) to heat my boat, that water temp dropped so low it froze in the water coil flow path of the unit. so much for that “eye deer.” i’m just an operator, lesson? never trust an engineer or a salesman. mjd.
Your description makes me remember that there’s a third solution, which I just don’t understand why is not more well known : Thermodynamic solar panels
See a description here :
This is the best of several worlds, they work simultaneously as a solar panel and as a heat pump. The use of a cold refrigerant means that they have a positive COP down to a temperature much lower than a normal heat pump. And with no water they are much lighter and easier to install than a standard solar panel.
Advertising often underscores that they can be used with a bad orientation, or even during the night. But in that case they only extract heat from the air, which means it’s not the smartest use. The best case is still a good solar orientation, where they both work as heat pump *and* make direct use of light energy. They are many climates where cold days can nonetheless be quite sunny, and rainy one are frequently not that cold. The weak point is that they can freeze, and then become a lot less efficient. I’d say the limit is that they are still not an ideal solution for a climate that can become really, really cold.
Unfortunately, $.062/KWh is not what many of us up in the Northeast pay for electricity. It would be better if VY, MY, CY, and Millstone I weren’t shut and we had more transmission from Hydro Quebec.
The COP of heat pumps means the price of the input energy is divided by that coefficient. They can still be very price competitive even with a costly electricity.
The weak point is that they are a significant investment, and like any complex system, they can break, where a simple electric resistance is very cheap and can be used for tens of years.
As Russia and especially China continue to build nuclear reactors on a large scale, I think there is going to be pressure in the US to rapidly expand its nuclear power capacity. But you’re still going to have the ‘not in my back yard’ folks trying to stop the opening of any new nuclear sites. That’s just reality! So I think the opening of brand new nuclear sites in the US is going to continue to be very slow.
Fortunately, we have an existing legacy of over sixty nuclear sites distributed around the country. The introduction of small nuclear reactors to these– existing sites– could enable us to gradually increase the electrical capacity of each site by simply adding more and more small nuclear reactors.
There’s no reason you couldn’t grow an existing site to an 8GWe capacity and still have a heat island effect below that of a major city. So, in theory, we could easily replace all base load fossil fuel electricity in the US by simply increasing the production of electricity at existing nuclear sites by gradually adding small nuclear reactors to these sites.
This could also allow us to increase the generation of electricity at a particular site with the new generation of small nuclear reactors while simultaneously shutting down old reactors at the same site: replacing already safe reactors with– even safer reactors!
I would love to see this idea come to reality. Two things stand in the way, as far as I can see: Cheap natural gas and the NRC.
NG prices will likely rise, but the NRC is a much bigger long term problem. The NRC is not an intelligent or efficient regulatory agency that does huge harm to the industry and provides little safety benefit (when including the harm down by making nuclear non-competitive with dirtier fossil fuel generators) in return.
A President or a large number of officials in the legislative branch need to push for the NRC to move back to something closer to the AEC. Without strong forces in government pushing for the restructuring of the NRC, nuclear will continue to shrink in the U.S. I fear (In my opinion).
NOAA Global Analysis is out for December and all of 2013.
As another monster snowstorm hits the US east coast it was the third warmest December on record globally and the forth warmest year globally ever recorded.
Here is the site link again ( http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/2013/13 )
Running the entire US energy structure on a nuclear basis is completely feasible: electricity for most applications, high-temp reactors for industrial process heat, and synthetic liquid fuels (powered by nuclear heat and electricity) for transportation.
Elimination of jobs in the fossil fuel industry isn’t anti-labor, it’s pro-civilization.
I know it’s not fashionable to mention such things, but there are few industries in the world that have resulted in more income disparity than the petroleum industry. The people at the top can own fleets of 747 to carry entourages to month long vacations on the Riviera. The people who live in the areas where the resource is extracted often deal with almost unbelievable environmental degradation and poverty. A company like ExxonMobil has annual revenues that are 2.5 times as large as the US Navy’s entire budget. ExxonMobil has 80,000 employees; the Navy employs more than a million people that all participate in the growth and development of strong communities and economies, nearly all inside the borders of the United States.
I like the fact that most of the cost of nuclear power is paid out in good salaries to the people who build and operate the plants and not to the profits of the oligarchs who, often by geographic accident, supply the consumable fuel of a natural gas, coal or petroleum fueled plant.
Five or six union workers earned more than a $Million last year at Fort Calhoun on the refit/restart. More than that made more than the VP and President/CEO. And they still have the vacation they earned the last two years to use!
“…electricity for most applications, high-temp reactors for industrial process heat, and synthetic liquid fuels (powered by nuclear heat and electricity) for transportation.”
Except for the tiny problem: none of what you claim actually works. Its all pie-in-the-sky.
Nuclear means trains: all those truck drivers and service personnel are on food stamps in your magical pro-civilization.
Its funny how you guys bash coal. Right now, coal is being shipped to China. Why don’t you get interested in CTL using natural gas instead of pipe dream synthetic liquid fuels from the imaginary high temp reactors? But you are not interested, are you?
Aside from synthetic fuels (which have been demonstrated from plasma gasification, driven by electricity, but which are too expensive for most uses) there is nothing on your list that’s remotely impossible. Nuclear energy for process heat was going to be a central feature of Dow Chemical’s Midland plant, until botched construction (possibly sabotage) forced a shift to gas-fired cogeneration.
Nuclear works for trains, and we could certainly benefit from removing a lot of freight from our freeways and putting it back on rails. But roads can also be electrified. Siemens has already demonstrated trucks which draw power from overhead wires, falling back to diesels when they need to change lanes. There are demonstrated battery chemistries with more than enough specific energy to power heavy trucks. By 2020, I doubt this will be a problem.
Nuclear-driven CTL is just throwing a sop to coal interests. I don’t want to see mountains levelled, acid drainage or funerals from roof collapses any more, whether to generate electricity or pump fuel. Just replace the stuff and move on.
Same topic, but wonder why Reuters killed any comments?
Because they know its riddled with misinformation. He counters the opinions of respected scientists with the same old wrong arguments and the opinions of the NRDC. He seems to be somethign of a coal apologist as well. (thats odd in itself)
A reasonable person could make him look quite foolish in the comments id imagine.
That is a snapshot in time about the economic conditions and promise of nuclear in 1971. I think I may even have remembered that nuclear map from years ago. But I would suggest that you have to consider the economic conditions of the 1980’s and the high interest rates that caused nuclear to not be built and many plants to be cancelled after partial construction. Some nuclear advocates promote the idea that if only they could convince environmentalists that we need nuclear, then nuclear would be built. But it’s the large capital expense that is a large factor in building nuclear plants. The same can be said for wind and PV’s, with high interest rates, the high capital costs means they all don’t get built.
As many people who are opposed to nuclear energy like to say, “nuclear is just another way to boil water.” The machinery is essentially the same as the machinery used in all other steam plants. I believe that the reason that nuclear steam plants cost so much more than fossil fuel heated steam plants is that their planning, licensing and construction processes have been so heavily burdened with delay-causing paperwork and legalistic reviews. Delays are always expensive in a capital intensive construction process because productivity is reduced, interest costs are increased by a longer borrowing time before revenue generation and increased project risk raises interest rate premiums.
If people who like clean air, clean water, and reduced hydrocarbon consumption started pushing nuclear projects forward instead of holding them back, those delays could be reduced. If projects start coming in on time and on budget, more would be funded and costs could start coming down due to practice and reuse of capital investments in manufacturing capacity.
Capital costs for wind and solar have come down, but there is not much room for improvement because of the underlying costs of materials associated with building large collection systems that capture diffuse, unreliable flows of energy. Unlike nuclear, whose capacity factors improved from about 55% in the late 1970s to now average close to 90% year after year, wind and solar plant owners have little control over the output of their plants.
One more thing – nuclear fuel costs about the same today, in nominal dollars, as it did in 1971. In contrast, the price of petroleum has increased by a factor of 50, and even today’s “cheap” natural gas costs 5-10 times as much as it did in 1971.
In power production, fuel costs matter a lot. Just imagine how the total cost of operating a car would change if you put the “pedal to the metal” for 60-90% of the hours in a year.
Putting petals to the metal is what the flower children did on their Microbuses.
“Putting petals to the metal is what the flower children did on their Microbuses”
Not me. I never over revved mine.
Putting petals on Microbus metal is done on the exterior, not in the engine compartment.
“Nuclear works for trains, and we could certainly benefit from removing a lot of freight from our freeways and putting it back on rails”
If you knew the amount of derailments that occur annually around the Tehachapi Loop, and are kept quiet by the press, you might be rethinkin’ that.
If they can be hushed up, they probably have few or no fatalities. Property damage isn’t that big of a deal, and if the rails weren’t so over-subscribed they could probably be maintained well enough to eliminate most of the derailments. Better budgets from more traffic would help do that.
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