1. What would be the point of a headline if it was not misleading enough to get you to read what follows? Rod did not provide moral imperatives for building new nukes. I think there is a moral imperative to provide everyone in the world affordable power and clean drinking water. Certainly, nuclear is an important part of doing that but morality is not a factor any more than using solar is.

    1. What is your problem? I don’t mind people being critical if there is some rational reason behind it, even if I don’t necessarily agree with it or them. But you seem to have issues like you where his ex-girlfriend – criticism for its own sake, just to get noticed.

  2. Oh dear. I didn’t see the Dalai Lama directly mentioned in your post, and I didn’t notice your link at the end of the post, to the same story I linked to. Sorry for the repetition!

  3. Your post reminded me of all the times friends and coworkers (usually much older coworkers) marvelled that I entered the “doomed” field of nuclear power AFTER Three Mile Island rather than pursue computers like the smart people. It turned out to be a crazier ride, but the nuclear filed has taken me to strange and faraway places (and without a submarine). Not a bad gig. Keep up the moral struggle.

  4. Blees states in his book that graphite moderated and pebble reactors should not ne built as their wastes can’t be recycled in IFR types reactors. He also discards the hydrogen economy.

    1. Can anyone explain to me why the waste from graphite/pebble reactors can’t be fissioned in a fast breeder? Do they tend to produce a different mix of isotopes which are hard to fission?

      1. Jeff, the fuel used in a pebble bed reactor (TRISO fuel) would not be suited to the electro-refining used in the IFR.

        If I remember correctly, the whole point(s) of the TRISO fuel is that it has too high of a melting point to be of any meltdown concern and also possibly to allow a much higher burnup than with “traditional” solid fuel rods.

        As a consequence of this, once the uranium is in the middle of the pebbles, by design it’s not coming back out. Thus, pebble bed reactors seem to be very much tied to a once-through nuclear fuel cycle, with no realistic possibility of recycling to make use of the unfissioned uranium nor the fissile transuranics that would be formed in the core of a TRISO pellet during operation.

        1. Even though it can’t be processed in the electro-refining process, might there be other processes by which it can be reprocessed? Is it just a matter that it cannot be reprocessed at a competitive price?

          I mean, in theory, *anything* can be melted down if you raise it to a high enough temperature, and once melted down, there should be chemical and/or physical (e.g. things like centrifuges, etc) ways to separate the fuel?

          Perhaps it doesn’t really matter if we can’t reprocess them. I like the idea of pebbles for certain applications – like the Adams Atomic Engine for commercial ship propulsion. Even if the reactor lost all its pebbles on the ocean floor, I don’t think it would be much of a radiological/ecological problem.

          Someone, one upon a time, explained to me that A) All the fission and decay products which might be a contamination issue will stay locked up in the graphite pebbles for close to forever, and B) The “emitted” radiation would be stopped by the sea water after just a few meters. That’s a really nice set of properties for marine reactors.

          If we ramped up thorium LFTR reactors, I wonder if we could just produce the pebbles from U-233 bred in LFTRs?

        2. It would be more a case of either the monetary economics and/or the Energy Return on Energy Invested not working out. At some energy price point, it might be feasible, but it would seem highly unlikely.

          Regarding LFTRs, I don’t think using U233 in TRISO pellets would provide any advantages, and would simply add a great deal of undesirable complexity.

          Any excess U-233 that might be produced in a LFTR as part of a future thorium fuel cycle scenario would most certainly be pegged for use as initial fissile startup material for a subsequent LFTR installation. Putting the U-233 into use in TRISO fuel would divert it from that purpose and would seem to be a massive waste if LFTRs had already been successfully commericalized by that future point.

        3. It is true that the TRISO fuel is primarily intended for direct disposal. However, although it would complicate head-end processing there are no showstoppers for its reprocessing.

          The fuel would not be melted but subjected to crushing and and reaction with leaching agents. Most likely, this would be a conversion of carbon and carbide form into oxide forms by high-temperature reaction with oxygen or steam. Other approaches are also possible. The resulting oxides would be a compatible feed to already established separation processes (dry or aqueous):
          please see http://www.ne.doe.gov/peis/references/RM923_DelCuletal_2002.pdf

          1. @Martin – agreed. In fact, the crushing processes are already well developed and tested since producing the particles of fuel is not a perfect process; a substantial portion of them fail post-manufacturing inspections. If it was difficult to remove the coatings, those rejects would have to be discarded, making the carefully composed fuel a waste product. That is not the case; the rejects are ground up and the fuel particles recycled. I have seen the machines in action.

        4. So, recycling TRISO fuel is technically feasible, but I still think the question is whether it would be economically feasible on any kind of a short time-frame.

          Here in America, other than some startup companies, there’s not yet much of a move away from the once-through fuel cycle.

        5. Thanks for the replies. The reason I asked about U-233, even though I suppose you’re right that in the short term, it doesn’t make sense, I’m just keeping in mind the argument that current known reserves of U-235 are relatively small, so trying to think of options for ships in the future, if there should ever be a supply “pinch” for making pebbles with Uranium.

          Of course, there’s possibly the oceans as a large source of Uranium, but that’s still kind of speculative technology (I know the Japanese have been doing some research and having some success with seawater U extraction, but we still don’t know for sure that would be a viable source of fuel). So, I’m trying to consider what other alternatives there might be.

          Perhaps plutonium recovered from a fast-breeder reactor could be an economical source of fissile isotopes for TRISO fuel?

        6. Jeff,

          My best guess is that advanced reactors making better use of fissile and fertile materials will supersede the need for reactor designs using TRISO fuel long before uranium is in short enough supply to necessitate utilizing any fissile material other than naturally-occurring uranium (enriched to a desired level) for TRISO fuel’s fissile material.

  5. Speaking of waste, why don’t we join European countries that don’t change their clocks every november and april. This is no longe smart.

  6. Although I suppose it’s good news that Dalai Lama favors nuclear power, I have to ask – I mean no disrespect to the Dalai Lama, but do we really look to religious leaders for advice on energy policy? Does that really make sense? I mean, is he really qualified to make such decisions.

    However, the truth is, there are probably people out there who *will* look to the DL for his opinion, even if that makes little sense, so I suppose from that standpoint, it matters.

    1. Jeff,

      I think the Dalai Lama’s endorsement of the peaceful use of nuclear power is incredibly important. Religion and spirituality are a huge influence on people’s individual decision making, and well as cultural and societal decision making. At the heart of the energy debate is a humanitarian and ethical problem, which is that health and prosperity are in direct proportion to how much energy a person (or country) has access to: http://stone.undp.org/undpweb/seed/wea/pdfs/chapter11.pdf

      Framing the energy debate in these terms also makes it more meaningful to everyday people- the technology, politics and finances of energy are very complex, often requiring specialed training to fully understand- but the humanitarian aspect of the debate (energy=prosperity) is simple, clear and directly relatable to all 7 billion of us.

    2. Well most of the Western world looks to experts like movie stars and ex models.

      So heck.. top tier Religious Leaders… Why not.

    3. On a humanitarian level, in an attempt to meet his goal of poverty reduction and “do no harm”, I think it is important to take into account the Dalai Lama’s stance on many subjects. He may not be a nuclear physicist, but he is recognizing methods that support his goal, nuclear being one of them. He’s the Dalai Lama for a reason and I’m not sure anyone in their right mind would debate his “do no harm” way of life.

      I was pro-nuke before reading this, but am happy that he feels nuclear power could help developing countries. It makes plenty of sense when considering other alternatives. Now, the real problem lies in funding nuclear plants.

      1. The medical community’s mantra has its uses, but Naval officers also have a useful mantra – “He who will not risk, cannot win.” There is no activity that is of any use to anyone that does not carry some risk of failure.

        Building new nuclear plants is hard work. As you say, it is also difficult to attract the necessary funding and human resources to the task. I maintain that there is value in working to Duce the artificially imposed barriers that make the process even harder than it is naturally. We need to ensue that the NRC can handle more than one project at a time, we ned to eliminate unfair, short-sighted rules like the aircraft impact rule, and we need to use a more realistic model of risk associated with low levels of radiation.

        I am glad that the Dalai Lama is recognizing the potential benefits of nuclear energy for the poor of the world. That fact has been one of my main motivations for at least two decades. Here is a link to a paper I presented in the mid 1990s to a group of African scientists about how nuclear energy could be used in remote areas?


        1. Rod,
          I have some deep concerns regarding the ability to build new nuclear plants in the USA.

          We are on the verge of a resurgence of Nuclear in the USA with 2 new plants in Georgia and 2 in South Carolina. I am deeply concerned that this could fizzle due to cost over runs and utilities no longer interested in investing in these plants. This stems from the fact that one EPC contractor is now building 6 AP100 plants 2 in China and the 4 in the USA. This company has never built one single Nuclear plant. They recently sold their share of Westinghouse and they had purchased Stone and Webster, which was going bankrupt. Stone and Webster is an excellent engineering firm, however their construction abilities were not quite stellar.

          The Votgle plants are budgeted at $14.5Billion. Using the Bechtel model I could probably bring these plants in under $10Billion on time. Why…skilled workers build plants, not management meetings and not computers. If the focus is on the actual construction site and the fabrication facilities with strict cost control and adherence to a CPM, quality, and engineering and inspectors who actually work with the trades it creates a synergy in the project, worker feel rewarded and motivated to meet that schedule and take pride in the quality of work.

          On Shaw’s website they proclaim placing “first concrete” as a major technical and engineering accomplishment. Hello…is anybody home? They had to close their modular construction facility in Louisiana for a period because of “quality issues”. I believe they have taken on more than they can handle. A new nuclear plant license has not been issued in 20 years and unless they bring forward folks as consultants who have been there and done that, they will have to learn the hard lessons and the industry may very well suffer a relapse because they may be unwilling or unable to get beyond the mastery of the ego, their computer screen or their management meetings.
          The lessons learned from the first generation plants need to be brought forward to today for success tomorrow.

  7. Each citizen of the world is an opinion influencer of other citizens. It is not difficult for a citizen of the world to desire an energy source were all of the waste is captured rather than put in the air. A religious leader, a plumber, or even an environmentalist can want an energy source that does not gradually kill the oceans. You do not need to be an elite scientist to be practical.

  8. I would contend that the discussion of intergenerational responsibility is a moral issue. It is the question of about why we are here and what is our purpose.

    Lately I have been reading a great deal on this subject. In “Sustainability: An Economists Perspective”, Solow described the responsibility of the current generation as maximizing the wealth of future generations. His definition is partial and is ridiculed by many, because they perceive, incorrectly, that his definitions contained only to monetary wealth. Focusing on monetary wealth is what got us here in the first place. Our global economy is only a small fraction of the natural economy. We consume 15 terra watts of primary energy. The Sun provides the natural economy 173,400 terra watts. Our economy is chump change compared to the environmental economy that supports us.

    Ray Anderson in “Confessions of a Radical Industrialist”, lays out a borader case for wealth from a capitalists perspective. His argument is strong and well reasoned. He argues that our historic economic trade-offs are not tradeoffs but stem from insufficient reason. He then remodeled his company to eliminate waste, reduce the environmental footprint and begin to create a closed cycle economic model. Think of the age of steam engines with open thermodynamic cycles which were about 3-5% efficient (about where our economy is) to that of closed thermodynamic cycles of today, 30-45% efficient. Ray Anderson’s argument is a moral one, based in reason, and empirically demonstrated.

    Reason offers its own morality. I contend that reason is the strongest morality that we may know as it is the culmination of the entirety of our knowledge. It does not ignore information, because it is inconvenient. Thereby preventing us from justifying any action that is conceivable. It restricts us to the actions supported by what we know.

    Ray Anderson misses one key point. To close the economic cycle will require a great deal of energy. His focus was on shifting energy production to renewable energy, which is a common goal in the environmental movement. The intensity of renewable energy is insufficient to drive our economy today. Wind in its current manifestation has an entropy of about 9 bits. That means on average it takes 9 binary questions to fix the state of wind. Nuclear is around 0.09 bits. Using the first and second laws of thermodynamics ∆Q=∆W and ∆Q=T∆S, we see that by reducing our systems entropy we achieve a much higher level of economic activity (the economic temperature) for a given energy input. To achieve a similar level of economic activity using a high entropy source requires the addition of useful work and capital, think energy storage, to allow the economy to operate at an equivalent temperature, but with much higher overall energy demands.

    The current state of renewable energy does not recognize this physical fact and forces those costs to be externalized into the broader economy. Not to mention the environmental impact of the low energy density renewable sources will have on fragile ecosystems that they disrupt.

    Regarding fossil fuels, I am going to leave that to Ayn Rand in her essay, “The Left: Old and New” as she talks about pollution, “[I]f a man creates a physical danger or harm to others, which extends beyond the line of his own property, such as unsanitary conditions or even loud noise, and if this is proved, the law can and does hold him responsible.” I am not a big fan of the National Academies, however their 2009 report on the external costs of energy sums up and succinctly proves the damage to the anthropocentric economy done by our consumption of fossil fuels. This does not take into account GHG emissions. If we look to broader damage to the environmental economy it is much more (in terms of joules).

    So what moral choice remains? What course of action do we have to pursue other than to deconstruct our economy or to advance nuclear power. My fear of a potential deconstruction is that it will lead to continual environmental degradation due to the collapse of our political structures. Thus the only moral option we have is nuclear energy.

    Disclaimer: I have a start up company that develops technologies that allow nuclear heat to be used in industrial applications. The philosophy that I laid out above is why I started my company. I am also writing a paper that formally links economics to thermodynamics through von Neumann and Morgenstern utility. There are other published papers that make a connection but from a heuristic approach similar to classical thermodynamics, notably Saslow and Smith. Those papers fail to make the direct connection of utility to energy, where mine succeeds.

    1. Looking forward to your dissertation, Cal. Sounds like some light reading (tongue-in-cheek).

    2. I support your comment, Cal. However, it is a sad commentary that the corporation bottom line and share holder satisfaction with corporation financial statement often pushes morality and integrity to the background. This pervades the current political atmosphere as well in the DOE and NRC policy making.

      1. I have never met a person who in conversation mentioned how they are glad their 401(k) or stocks are making less returns now than in the past. I have heard every single person say how the greedy stock holders force companies into only focus on quarterly numbers and profits.

        Depending upon the definition of profits, pursuing higher profits could be the greatest moral decision a company could make. Again, depending upon how one defines it.

        1. What most people are truly angered by (if they stopped to think about it) is not corporate profits themselves, but greedy rent-seeking top managers…

      2. This is the very reason why nuclear power will
        not make a resurgence. A total lack of professional ethics and honesty. While skilled craftsmen languish on the unemployment line, the corporate politic get entertained in an ongoing line of management meetings, computer games and engineering debacles. It is time for top to bottom honesty and bottom to top rewards. Get these plant projects underway and skilled workers back on the job. Meet with the employees, work with them and end the self gratification, greed and dishonesty.

    3. Anderson’s company Interface runs almost completely off of land-fill methane. Still a fossil fuel, albeit just a slightly more responsible way to burn NG. Of course, it is far from renewable- landfills can only produce so much energy, and since the infrastructure for the company is in place, they will just switch to NG from another source when it runs out (presumably from local utilities). I don’t think they actually made any meaningful switch to renewables, although do use many recycled synthetics in their manufacturing process. (Perhaps this strengthens Rod’s ongoing renewables=natural gas hypothesis?)

      1. I would just add that landfill gas won’t exactly “run out”, but there will be a point reached where they are essentially consuming 100% of what’s being produced. From that perspective, it *has*, in a pretty meaningful way, I suppose, “run out”, as you cannot increase production much beyond that point.

        1. Except that all of these plans to burn garbage requires that the garbage be generated.

          Amid a world where conservation and recycling are some of the largest buzz words, it does not make sense to create an energy station to use a fuel you are also trying to eliminate from the system.

          1. I spent 10 years in a county with a waste to electricity power plant. (Pinellas County, Florida.) We lived at the far north end of the county, more than 20 miles through difficult traffic from the power plant. Our trash haulers, however, were required by law to take their trash to the power plant rather than the landfill that was just across the county line, less than 5 miles from my neighborhood. Do you realize how much diesel fuel gets burned to move a load a trash 20 miles instead of 5 miles? I ran the numbers one time and found out that the energy delivered compared to the energy invested was nearing zero, but the waste plant did not have to buy the fuel for the trucks.

            That power plant, with monopoly powers over the waste generated in one of the most densely populated counties in Florida, produced just 50 MWe at a relatively modest annual capacity factor. (When you burn unsegregated municipal solid waste, boiler maintenance is a constant headache because of all of the weird chemical interactions that could not be predicted during the material selection portion of the design phase.)

            The county also took plastic bottles off of its recycling program because those were some of the best fuels for the power plant due to their high portion of hydrocarbon bonds.

            The whole experience made me realize just how silly it is to burn garbage while branding it as “renewable” or “green.”

        2. Burning MSW (municipal Solid Waste) with plasma converters would make sense according to Blees’ latest book. He convinced me.

  9. Well, at least to me, the ultimate “moral” aspect comes in crystal clear when I see the media and anti-nukers out to crucify atomic energy for eaches own quasi-scientific philosophical beef citing the mega-death dangers of nuclear power primarily on idealized but yet realized worst case _speculations_ largely busted by TMI and Fukushima — yet these same folks are almost perfectly content to allow (sacrifice) tens of thousands of lives stricken yearly by long proven and measurable respiratory aliments from smog and pollution. The number of the public health cases caused by nuclear power vs other plants. It should be a no-brainer to every government on earth, yet the dismaying contrary is the warped morality of the health/safety hypocrite anti-nuke advocate and media.

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

  10. I remember 4 months ago an entire delegation of monks marching against nukes in Japan. Sweet.

  11. ell James what smog are you talking about?

    I love moral outrage about problems of the past. I am not sure how old James is but smog is a distant memory for even an old guy like me. Smog was caused by millions of cars without pollution controls and thousands of houses using coal to heat.

    For those like James who are confused, go collect some dried animal dung. Take it home and cook your food with it. Tell me what your indoor air pollution is like.

    The moral outrage should be about the the billions who do not have electricity to cook with and why the Dalai Lama does not oppose nuclear power.

    There is no technical reason why all children in the world can not live in an all electric home with clean drinking water and running water to take waste to the sewage treatment plant.

    The benefits of affordable electricity are huge and the ‘public health’ concerns are simple contrived.

    1. When was the last time you were in the Los Angeles area? I was there a few months ago and what did I see? Smog! Pollution, or whatever you want to call it. There seems to be consistant layer of haze layer that sits around 800-1200 ft or so in air there.

      Either you live in a relatively pollution free area or you need your eyes checked.

      1. Jason it has been 10 years since I have been southern California but I was stationed in both Long Beach and San Diego in the early 70s when smog was bad but not the killer kind that they had in the 50s. What you will not see Jason is any coal plants. It is the millions of cars that cause the problem not making electricity.

        When I worked at Rancho Seco, we lived above 2000 feet to stay above the smog. Again no coal plants just lots of cars.

        1. Blees has a solution for propelling car without gas. He thinks that we are not that far away from a boron propelled engine. All we need is the willpower.

        2. @Daniel below. I’m so concerned about the pollution that cars cause as I am the price of transportation (gas) and access to well thought-out public transportation services.

          The LA metro system reached its ridership targets 5 years ahead of schedule. Obviously, there are a lot of people who would prefer to get off the freeway traffic and onto a train. This is the type of local system that needs expansion, not the bullet train system currently proposed by the state of California, that would cost billions and have long stretches between stations in the California Valley. We don’t have the same types of population densities that Europe, China and Japan do to make this type of system cost competitive with air travel within the state.

          Even Northern California has the BART metro system and that system has been notoriously mis-managed and the ticket costs are very high. Yet, BART is in need of expansion, including station parking expansion, to better serve the area. Lots of people would like to take the train but don’t because they can’t find a parking space at the station or they’ve figured out the cost of the commute is not cost competitive against driving their cars.

          As much as I like the idea of bullet trains, the state of California and its people have made a bad decision with this idea. I know this diverts from the main topic quite a bit, but I just had to get that off my chest.

      2. @Jason C – Kit lives in a beautiful area with relatively clean air. We are protected by low population density and associated low power plant density along with prevailing breezes that carry the stuff that is produced to our west over our heads while the stuff that is produced locally also gets blown towards my former home to the northeast of here. If you go back and look through old threads, Kit was roundly critical of my decision to live and work in Washington. He blames cars for all of the pollution but neglects the many coal fired power plants that ring the city.

    2. Kit

      I see. So the occasional smog alerts I see on NYC and Philly and Weather Channel are relic figments of our imagination, uh? Smog doesn’t exist anymore, uh? Emphysema and air pollution-related lung diseases that are way all too real don’t exist, uh? Coal-fired emissions are just squeaky clean, uh? Man, anti-nukers are something else!

      As for “moral” factors helping sell nuclear energy, it’s always going to be the health factor/clean environment issue FIRST that determines this, NOT whether poor countries are due their share of electricity — a legit issue but not the prime mover nuclear energy’s image needs now. Were that true, there’d be zero fear debates roadblocking nuclear around most the world and blogs like this would be moot. The primary reason these nuclear blogs exist is not to hawk power to poor nations but to get all people over this off-the-wall Doomsday perspective of anything nuclear to start with TO do anything about the poverty problem. THAT will decide whether Indian Point and Vermont Yankee will stay open or whether there’ll be anymore nuclear plants, not any major altruistic concern for plugging the poor into a wall socket. There’re other energy contenders out there more than happy to win the ignorant over by scaring the bejeezus out of them by brandishing the evils of nuclear energy.

      James Greenidge
      Queens NY

  12. Exelon should recruit the Dalai Lama to replace John Rowe when he retires.

    Dalai Lama doesn’t need $20 Natural Gas to execute a new build.

    Dalai Lama won’t hold out for a federal loan guarantee. Things will turn out right – when the motive is right – and that’s all any of us can count on.

  13. Besides pebble and graphite reactors, Blees also thinks that AHTR (Advanced High Temperature Reactors) are not needed since they are aimed at the hydrogen economy and that we have solutions today that are better than hydrogen.

    Hydrogen has a lot of drawbacks on the environment with many technical issues which are not likely to be resolved (storage and transportation) anytime soon.

    1. AHTRs could have many other industrial applications, completely independent of hydrogen, so I would say Blees is off on that point.

        1. Would the AP 1000 be ‘customizable’ for desalination as well as all the other reactors (AREAVA & TOSHIBA) in the midst of being certified by the NRC ?

        2. Desal has little to do with the reactor itself – once you have the heat and can move it, how it’s used is not related to the fission side of the plant.

          The feasibility of integrated nuclear desalination plants has been proven with over 250 reactor-years of experience, chiefly in Kazakhstan, India and Japan. In Japan alone, some ten desalination facilities linked to pressurised water reactors operating for electricity production yield some 14,000 m³/day of potable water, and over 100 reactor-years of experience have accrued.

    2. Hydrogen could be used for steel production among other industrial uses, build your reactor next to the smelter.
      With regard to pebble bed reactors, I thought that a problem that emerged with the German prototype was that the pebbles had much more friction against each other in a helium atmosphere than had been expected, so more radioactive dust got into the works. Would that still be a problem with Rod’s low power density nitrogen cooled version? There’s a container ship aground on a reef here in New Zealand they’re trying to suck all the bunker oil out of, before it gets disgorged onto the beaches; it’d be nice to have an alternative to offer

      1. I actually have worked on a preliminary design for smelting using nuclear heat. The process uses the direct reduction of iron using a combination of CO and H2 as the reducing agents from coal or biomass gasification. The process occurs at about 800C. So to boost the outlet of the gasifier 600 C to the necessary temperature would be done through partial combustion of the syngas. Another benefit to collocating a iron smelter with the reactor is that you can use the hot feed from the smelter to an Electronic Arc Furnace. Since the furnace is so close to the reactor it could have its own heat engine to supply electricity.

        Hydrogen would be produced (high temp electrolysis) to be used as a bulk chemical for the reduction of CO2 to CO using the reverse water gas shift reaction. The heat pump I designed uses steam at 800 C as a heat transfer media and feed stock to the gasifier (600 C). Divert a portion of the steam to the electrolysis and you have a party!

        Hydrogen is pesky to store and transport. Thus keeping it onsite is pretty cool because it opens the reactor up to be able to do nitrogen fixation (Haber-Bosch).

        The problem with coal is that we keep on burning it. It is much more useful as a chemical feedstock for coal gasification/liquefaction and iron reduction.

        Nuclear reactors (500C) can very easily be used to produce liquid fuels, methane, iron production, nitrogen fixation, and desalinization all in one convenient location with no line losses, no CO2 emissions, and synergistic use of waste heat and effluent products.

        Problem is nobody, other than me (that I know of) is trying to figure out how to do this.

        You want support for nuclear power broaden your customer base. Nuclear ain’t for electricity anymore.

        Now to convince the NRC it is safe… (Damn that LNT dose model!)

      2. So let’s repower all these darned coal plants around the country with 500C reactors and see what happens to American heavy industry. Talk about a third industrial revolution!

        I ran some numbers on the taxes from producing and selling gasoline domestically. The tax revenue on corporate profit alone is 1 trillion in a 10 year period. Screw taxing the rich here is your golden goose.

        Using the coal plants as a base of operations gives you:
        1. direct grid tie in, no new right of way
        2. heavy rail transportation for bulk products
        3. distributed transportation fuel around the country, no more Katrina’s taking out the Gulf oil refineries.
        4. location somewhat near population centers (the coal tended to keep people away) 75% of existing coal sites can be repowered with marginal effort in licensing restrictions.

        Now all we need is a 500 C reactor. GE time to get off your duff and get PRISM licensed!!

        1. I forgot one thing doing this and this alone we achieve a 70% reduction in GHG emissions from 2005 levels. To get the 80% gotta tackle vehicle efficiency.

        2. Of course, we could also use high temperature gas reactors whose TRISO coated fuel has been operated for decades at temperatures as high as 950 C.

        3. Indeed, but now you have the technical problem of being at high temperatures. Those reactors need to be design tested and built. Fuel forms have to be perfected and, resources for nuclear grade graphite developed. Either road is not going to be easy. The higher temperature has more technical problems that need to be resolved.

        4. Rod
          Got to thinking about what you wrote. Fort St Vrain operated for a decade and ha a core outlet temp of 750C. Which is definitely hot enough there are numerous patents out there to get the temperature hotter. So a nuclear mix is needed. Salt storage can still be adapted to the HTGR but you have to use a more expensive salt eg FLiBe or other lithium based salt. It does have the benefit of not requiring Li enrichment or requiring salt replacement due to lithium consumption.

          My hesitation for this method is that the fuel infrastructure relies on large centralized facilities. This means we have to build the infrastructure for the fuel in lumps. IFR the fuel infrastructure is added as plants are built.

          Th-U with the thermal reactors is an excellent combination with U-Pu in fast reactors. many ways to integrate the fuels.

        5. Some great discussion here. Contemplating getting all these other potential markets tied-in is potentially even more exciting as an idea to me than reading about some of the different Gen IV reactor designs and all of their promise of future benefits.

          I would have to say, however, that this shift of excitement might not be at all feasible if I didn’t already understand that abundant nuclear energy is available to us if we can eventually get some Gen III, then Gen IV designs completed in a reasonable timeframe.

          Without that prerequisite knowledge that the amount of primary energy that will be available to us utilizing advanced reactors will not be severely constrained (as will/is the case using fossil fuels as a primary energy source), I wouldn’t be able to get excited about Cal’s ideas.

          A major education effort is needed. Buy-in from coal mining companies (Peabody?), major oil companies (XOM?), utilities(?), and others would be needed to get these ideas tied together in a meaningful way. A 20-30 year time horizon would seem to be optimistic.

      3. Hydrogen has enormous environmental impacts that have never been adressed. We all know we can’t contain it and that it evaporates and goes up in the atmosphere.

        What we don’t know yet, and must apprehend, is what will happen when the stuff comes back down to the surface. Some scientists say it is harmful to the environment.

        Are we framed with Hydrogen the way we are with Fusion. Not in this lifetime as far as I am concerned.

        1. Diatomic hydrogen is very chemically reactive. I doubt its residence in the atmosphere would be very long, especially compared to CO2 or CH4. The other thing is that the hydrogen is produced on site and consumed on site. It would not need a massive infrastructure investment for the “hydrogen economy”. Transportation fuels would remain hydrocarbon. Just where you get the hydrogen and carbon from is different.

        2. Huh? Hydrogen, like helium, drifts off into space. The vast majority of space (the “vacuum”) is composed of very-low-density hydrogen.

        3. @ Brian,

          Here is what Blees has to say about hydrogen and the impact on the environment in his book ‘Prescription for the planet’:

          1) According to a Cal Tech study, if the world’s entire fleet were converted to hydrogen, the resulting leakage would possibly cause the levels of hydrogen in the stratosphere to increase to the point that the ozone layer would be seriously damage

          2) … but the process of absorption of atmospheric hydrogen by soil bacteria is quite hazy. That is a big unknown.

          Plus let’s keep in mind that hydrogen is not a source of energy. We have to burn energy to obtain it. Sounds like gold that we dig out of the ground to burry it back into the ground again. What’s the point ? We can do better than that.

        4. Daniel,
          I am a little confused as to what you think I propose with hydrogen, so I wanted to give a little more explanation.

          In regards to the hydrogen production. Hydrogen is produced from high temperature electrolysis. DOE estimated that 800C was most economical. The hydrogen is used for three main purposes.
          1) reducing agent for CO2 through CO2+H2CO H2O
          2) heavy oil cracking including Fischer-Tropsch synthesis, there is a myriad of chemical processes in this realm.
          3) Nitrogen fixation through the Haber-Bosch process N2+3H22NH3

          I am not talking a hydrogen economy. I am talking mass production of a very useful chemical reactant.

          Because of the need for rapid implementation of the technology, it focuses on integrating with the existing energy infrastructure. It keeps the same coal handling and shipping infrastructure, same electrical transmission infrastructure, same liquid fuel infrastructure (this is the biggest capital investment, planes trains and automobiles).

          The only thing that is done is to change out the heat source at coal fired power plants and the construction of the syn-fuel facility and any other incumbent processes. The whole changeout would be on the order of $1-2 trillion for the entire nation. The trick is that rent seeking would destroy the process, as would subsidies. All profits would have to fund new construction for rapid implementation. That means dividends would be held to 1-2% depending on the utilities financing. I don’t think our country is used to that level of no joke investment.

          The oil companies which have pretty good capital reserves at this point would fund the construction of the liquid fuels facility. The liquid fuels can be built now and use natural gas to repower the coal plants temporarily until reactors can be built. Just leave space for the nuclear island. Thus we use natural gas like the dickens while its price is low and use coal for something more useful than electricity.

          In WWII, we could build a ship in 4 days. In 10 years, Rickover had us underway on nuclear power. Its America, anything is possible. We just seem to have forgotten how remarkable we are.

        5. @ Cal

          I would like coal to get out of our economic systems. You obviously are very knowledgable about a lot of things, but plasma converters could get some of the stuff you are talking about done.

          I see no use for hydrogen per se. Joseph Romm who worked under president Clinton wrote an comprehensive book on hydrogen. According to Romm, any hope linked to hydrogen would only result in a wild goose chase.

          No matter what you do, hydrogen evaporates at 8% per day. Nothing you can do about it. What a waste. So a car with a full tank of liquid hydrogen would lose its fuel in 10 days, no matter what.

          Also, the material to create an hydrogen proof fuel tank does not exist today. A new material has to be discovered. (not unlike the material to make the walls of a fusion reactors. Still not have been discovered)

          According to Peter Eisenberger, hydrogen storage is a show stopper.

          We can all do without coal and hydrogen. I think.

        6. Daniel,
          Thank you for the information I did not know that that technology was that mature. I’ll go ahead and add waste disposal and landfill elimination to the mix.

          Closing the material loop on the economy will be a huge step forward for us. I thought that garbage stuff was Sci-Fi. This solves a bunch of problems with recycling computers and reclaiming the heavy metals. Thank you, that is a very cool technology.

          The next new things will be garbage trains. Hopefully the rail system will not let the garbage cars sit for too long…

          I don’t know what you have against coal, or hydrogen. To be able to make liquid fuel you need carbon and lots of it. There will be a good bit of it in the garbage, which would likely be re-used to make plastics. Thus we need a net input of carbon to make fuel. Where to get it from is the question.

          On my ships we had 2000 psig hydrogen that we used for lots of different things. As it was an explosive gas, I owned it. At the beginning of deployment the bottles that we didn’t use would read 2000 psig and at the end of the deployment, 7 months later, they would read 2000 psig. Not sure what you are talking about with not being able to store it.

          As for the “hydrogen economy”, I think we are agreed that the infrastructure change and technology gap are non-starters for hydrogen as a transportation fuel.

        7. The U.S. hydrogen industry currently produces about ten million metric tons of hydrogen a year. Most of this hydrogen is used for industrial applications such as chemical processing, treating metals, and in food, cosmetic and pharmaceutics production.

          Industrial production of hydrogen currently is done by a process called steam reforming. High-temperature steam separates hydrogen from the carbon atoms in CH4 producing waste CO2. Nuclear powered H2 production could replace this process, eliminating the CO2.

        8. Of course when we have the opportunity to create synthetic oil with hydrogen and carbon at high temperature, I am all for it.

          Hydrogen can be used in industrial quality products as a turnaround byproduct of high temperatures.

          I just don’t want to waste energy trying to store a volatile product that is gone after 10 days

          Sorry if I did not make my positions clearer. No hydrogen for transportation and no coal.

        9. No coal period, Daniel?

          Not even if it is economically displacing imported foreign oil by being converted into liquid fuels, via predominantly nuclear-generated process heat as Cal is proposing?

          If that is your position, is it due to your dislike of mining impacts?

        10. We could have done without coal 20 years ago. Why are we still burning coal is totally beyond me. Who can be against me on this ?

          The other things that are beyond me are 1) why SMRs are not already commercially available 2) the slow pace of transmutation in treating waste. The last breakthrough was done by the French by mistake when they discovered how to make Tc 100 ou of Tc 99 in just a few minutes.

        11. Not my dislike of mining impact. My dislike of burning coal when we have other means to provide base load energy and have been able to do so for the last 40 years with nuclear.

        12. Daniel,

          I think you’re missing what Cal’s proposal is for using coal.

          I would guess that Cal would agree that burning coal for electricity is far from the optimal situation. His proposal, however, is to use coal as a feedstock for liquid fuels, utilizing nuclear heat as part of the conversion process.

          I personally feel like this could potentially be a much-preferred (and quite possibly more economic) use of coal, rather than burning it directly for electricity production. There are major, major implementation hurdles that would need to be surpassed for such a scenario to play out, but it could happen.

        13. To stress the point of importance of coal for use in coal to liquids, is peak oil. Some may argue that we are there or that it is not real. I put together a model last week using oil price and oil production and am very confident that we are at peak oil now. We will fluctuate around this price level for a while and begin to see gas shortages, especially if Iran gets froggy.

          Thus the President’s abdication of Keystone XL is not good for us. I hazard to guess that possession will become more important than price. Thank you President Obama, yet another reason not to vote for you.

          We cannot change our economy overnight or even over a decade. It will take a lot to initiate a change. To think that the change is not coming is insanity. How are we going to manage the change is important. Tar sands, an environmental anathema, will help ease the transition. Wind and solar as somebody said on a different post are smoke and mirrors. We need carbon to make our cars go. That leaves ethanol and coal. Ethanol is a waste of good farmland and that leaves us with coal. Unless we want our economy to shut down because we don’t have gas for our trucks and cars, we need to start pushing for coal to liquids. The only way that I see we have enough energy to do this is using nuclear heat.

          I was deployed during the last gas shortage, and was too young to remember the Iranian revolution. If you live in a suburb ask yourself how you are going to work if you can’t get gas in your car? Companies like Amazon are going to be significantly threatened. Oil companies are going to start to go bankrupt or undergo consolidation.

      4. @John – besides using nitrogen gas as the coolant, my concept for pebble bed reactors includes stationary beds where there is no circulation of pebbles. Instead, the reactors would use movable neutron absorbers in the form of either rotating drums, control rods inserted through guide tubes or a combination of both of those.

        The continuous circulation model adds complexity with no real return as far as I am concerned. It also introduces questions about taking relatively lightly irradiated fuel out of the reactor – I have no desire to answer those kinds of questions. With good rod programming and the high burn-up fuels that the US DOE fuel program is producing, the stationary cores should last a very long time and get good use out of the fuel on the first try.

  14. James, if you want to be better informed about good US air quality try this link which I check weekly.

    Be sure to check the actual ‘current’ data rather than the conservative ‘forecast’.

    Also James you do know that ‘Emphysema’ is caused by smoking 2 packs a day for 40 years not making electricity.

    “Man, anti-nukers are something else! ”

    I work in the nuclear industry and feel no need to defend our record with junk science. It amazing that some will say that low doses of radiation will cause not harm and then claim that coal plants are killing people.

    There is a good reason not to bash fossil fuels. The people who decide are not ignorant of how electricity is produced because they own nuke, coal, and gas power plant All large power projects require and EIS. Zero is the number of nuke projects that have been denied a permit.

    There is no road block for building nuke plants where they are needed.

    1. “There is no road block for building nuke plants where they are needed.”

      Yes because not being denied a permit means that it will be allowed to start and run for its entire mechanically sound lifetime.

      Yes, because no plans for nuclear plants where they are needed were shot down before the EIS permit was issued.

      1. Oh i almost forgot.

        All of the countries (and states) that have nuclear power banned must also have no need for it either.

        If you are going to criticized others for making not completely factual statements regarding the grouping of fossil fuel plants into the air pollution problem you should not also make stupid comments about the nuclear industry.

    2. @Kit – please provide more information about any laws that require a federal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for any power sources other than nuclear. As far as I know, the only law that requires that process applies only to major federal actions – like granting any kind of nuclear plant license, even for a small reactor.

      There is no federal licensing process for fossil fuel facilities, thus any required environmental impact statements are state and local, not federal and do not involve the Environmental Protection Agency and its anti-nuclear bureaucrats.

      1. Rod the EIS issue is a mute point since no EIS for a nuke plant has been rejected. For most states, the state equivalent of the EPA issues the EIS. You may want to read the EIS for North Anna III since it is now in your backyard. Renewable energy alternatives are rejected because they are too small to meet out power needs in the region.

        I have also read EIS for some ‘large’ solar thermal plants in California. Nuclear is not considered as an alternative as a matter of state public policy. Energy policy is California is based on fairy dust. California is the largest importer of electricity from other states.

        Just for the record, where I live and in most of the US the air is not ‘relatively’ clean it is very clean. There are a few places like Washington DC where the air quality is only ‘relatively clean’.

        Rod did you check the link I provided?

        My problem is with people who live in a cesspool like Queens or commute to a cesspool like Washington DC and then whine about pollution. Where you live is your choice but spare me the false morality.

        Because we choose to raise out children in a clean environment with good schools, no crime, and low property taxes does not infer that your choices are bad, just different.

        1. @Kit – the EIS issue is hardly “moot” simply because none have ever been denied. They take a great deal of time and money, adding yet another discouraging burden to the process of building a new nuclear power plant. They are also more opportunity for obstruction. I actually attended the meetings about the EIS for both Calvert Cliffs Unit 3 and for North Anna’s ESP. I stayed until the bitter end of each meeting and spoke for my allotted three minutes in support.

        2. Rod – I’ve always enjoyed a good laugh at the “logic” that assumes the nuclear plants must be unsafe because the NRC has accepted too many license renewal applications and too many Environmental Impact Statements.

          That’s like claiming that someone must be a poor student because he passes all of his exams. The argument is just that silly.

          The implicit assumption is that the school is not testing the student hard enough, but you can’t make that claim unless you actually look at what the school is doing. The real world doesn’t grade on a curve.

  15. Many States are running out of blue gold …

    …Water scarcity is now recognized as an issue of strategic importance. The U.S. government forecasts that at least 36 states will face water shortages within the next few years…

    So how long again before we get nuclear plants that are scoped for this kind of work ?

    1. Great question. Desalination would seem to be a relatively simplistic addition, particularly in comparison to the chemical processes that have been proposed to be tied to using nuclear heat.

      I’m glad to see that you asked what other applications could be tied to an AHTR, as it generated some high quality responses.

  16. This just out:

    Even as Indian anti-nuclear activists continue to cite the Fukushima accident to draw public support in their agitation, Japan has moved ahead in the last six months to plan for as many as 16 new nuclear reactors, all of which will have much improved safety features.

  17. From NHK World News Japan:

    Japan’s government plans to disclose its view on the health impact of low-level radiation exposure from the Fukushima nuclear accident.

    After achieving a cold shutdown of the disabled reactors, the government is to review the 20km no-entry zone surrounding the nuclear plant.

  18. Without looking at the numbers we can quickly get seduced by China’s efforts to expand Nuclear Energy but it’s still only makes up 2% of their energy output while coal is somewhere around 70% So let’s hope the moral imperative becomes a bigger incentive everywhere to build more nuclear plants.

  19. I spent 11 years at Pilgrim nuclear, a GE Mark 1 BWR and 3 years at Seabrook a Westinghouse PWR also operations combined cycle units. I am a huge advocate of nuclear power. I felt safer in the nuclear plant environment than I did in the combined cycle environment. I would say the combined cycle design concept originated from a can of right guard and a butane lighter.
    My viewpoint on nuclear is that it has an unparalleled safety record. I believe that it are the terms “nuclear” and “atomic” that conjure up thoughts in peoples minds which connect them to possible thoughts of Armageddon. The liberal main stream media simply loves to play on the politically correct flavor of the day. They will even announce that radiation from Japan has been detected in California. My question is “did it come with a made in Japan label?” At the end of the announcement they claim it is small and will not harm anyone. Why announce it if it is not news. For Fukushima to be such a big deal when no one in the Japanese population to have been killed or injured by this nuclear incident to date, yet there was a root cause of this incident that wasn’t news and should have been. There was a historic earthquake and Tsunami that hit Japan killing thousands and destroying many villages. Where was that in the news. The nuclear incident took over. For all of those who believe the main stream media think twice. Thousands dead as the result of a Tsunami…none dead because of a nuclear plant. For 60 years nuclear plants have been operating in the United States. There has been no one outside of a nuclear plant who has been killed or injured. There are other technologies employed by the American people during those same intervening years Planes and autos where hundreds of thousands have been killed or injured. Yet you are willing to step on a plane and get into your automobile because it is worth the risk. The risk of nuclear power is the lowest, it is the safest, why can’t people see this and support it. Fukushima is a bell weather. The next generation of power plants will be even safer and lessons learned are always employed by the industry. Even advances toward reprocessing of spent fuel are being made and soon that will not be an issue. Please wake up, look at what our energy future needs to be. The paranoia needs to end and the media needs to stop it’s PC game.

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