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On Russia Continues Sustained Fast Breeder Reactor Effort

@Job001 Gibson

I am no Malthusian and I have a great deal of faith in human ingenuity. However, no matter how clever humans are, they still need to follow natural laws of physics, chemistry, meterology, and material science.

The technologies that the "renewable" energy industry promotes are a technological dead end, even if you assume the invention of almost magical materials.

The sun never provides much concentrated power; even if you cover a mini-van sized automobile with 100% efficient solar panels, the instananeous power production at noon on a clear day near the equator would be about 3-4 kilowatts (about 5 hp). That would make a very slow automobile unless you assume a large amount of storage, which always adds considerable weight to the vehicle.

As a long time sailor, I can testify to the fact that trying to collect and use wind power is challenging, fun, and complete unsuited for any application that needs to deliver on a schedule. There is a reason that highly refined clipper ships lost out to primitive, inefficient coal burners in ocean trading more than 150 years ago.

If you understand the potential of nuclear energy and the natural abundance of the fuel - which is an essentially inexhaustible resource - you will have great hope for humanity and our future prosperity.

Malthusian predictions could have come true if the proponents of doom had been able to convince the world that the Haber-Bosch Process should be banned or severely restricted and placed under strict government regulation because it enabled the production of explosives as well as fertilizer.

http://www.princeton.edu/~hos/mike/texts/readmach/zmaczynski.htm

July 6, 2014    View Comment    

On Russia Continues Sustained Fast Breeder Reactor Effort

@wind smith

Fission is actually more responsive to changes in power demand than combustion. Submarines and aircraft carriers can vary their power level faster than similarly sized oil burners.

The machines I propose would be competitive even without a carbon tax. The complete cost of the manufactured fuel should be less than $2/MMBTU in the early stages of commercial operation, with a lot of room for cost reductions as the manufacturing process is refined and scaled up. (The required fuel is quite different from the traditional light water fuel, so there is a very small installed production base currently limited to Chinese manufacturers. There are pilot scale production facilites in other countries, including the US.)

July 6, 2014    View Comment    

On Russia Continues Sustained Fast Breeder Reactor Effort

@Job001 Gibson

Let me rephrase - we could not wait that long and maintain any kind of organization. The ideas and the designs still exist and are under careful protection, waiting for the availability of fuel.

I admire Chinese culture and history. I admire their engineering. I do not admire their business practices or their current government. I'm not interested in having the Chinese government as a partner, no matter how much money is involved.

Patience is a virtue.

July 5, 2014    View Comment    

On Russia Continues Sustained Fast Breeder Reactor Effort

@Job001 Gibson

Interestingly enough, I founded a company in 1993 called Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. based on a design for a closed cycle gas turbine using a pebble bed reactor, nitrogen as the working fluid and a simple Brayton cycle using compressors and turbines that were designed for the combustion turbine market.

These machines could be made available in a variety of power outputs by choosing the appropriate reactor internal volume, filling it with the appropriate number of pebbles, and choosing compressors and turbines that were already being manufactured, thus avoiding the costs of design and creating whole new supply chains for unique machines run on some kind non standard gas like helium.

It is a well proven and testable fact that pebble bed reactors using TRISO fuel particles can be made so that they can withstand a complete loss of cooling without scram and still maintain all fuel temperatures below the temperature that will damage any of the elements. That statement holds true up to a thermal power level of about 300 MW, so it is not terribly interesting to people who think in terms of reactors with thermal power of 3,000 to 5,000 MW. 

However, since large combustion turbines are generally in the power range of 100-150 MWe, it is a very useful characteristic for someone interested in closed Brayton cycles that are intended to compete against combustion turbines and diesel engines.

Anyway, you can find out more by perusing the documents available at http://atomicengines.com and http://atomicengines.blogspot.com.

Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. by the way, was never successful in raising enough capital to move off of our computers and into actual machinery. Part of the problem was that the TRISO fuel particles that we initially thought had been proven to be good enough were not available anymore. There was, and remains, a very credible fuel manufacturing and testing program that is designed to meet NRC expectations being run by the DOE and the NGNP partnership. That program is scheduled to have licensable fuel ready by 2021 or 2022. We couldn't wait that long.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

July 5, 2014    View Comment    

On Russia Continues Sustained Fast Breeder Reactor Effort

@Bas

Germany's electricity reliability statistics are interesting but irrelevant in a global sense. Germany is a well developed, relatively densely populated country with an existing grid and neighbors that are quite willing to sell it power when needed or to take its excess production -- though the willingness to purchase the excess is becoming saturated.

For example: If your goal is to power a moderately sized city in the American Southeast, you would be daft to believe that wind or solar would be a significant contributor. Geothermal is a non-starter. Hydro works, but there is virtually no available waterway left to dam. (There are many places in the world with similar challenges.)

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

July 3, 2014    View Comment    

On Russia Continues Sustained Fast Breeder Reactor Effort

@Bill Hannahan

Since you reference Ray Haroldsen’s story about blowing up BORAX, I presume you actually read it. Do you recall the portion where he described in detail the creative engineering he had to invent in order to cause the rod ejection, high reactivity rate to begin in the first place?

There are many protections that prevent such an even from happening in any reactor that can be licensed and built today.

July 2, 2014    View Comment    

On Russia Continues Sustained Fast Breeder Reactor Effort

@Job001 Gibson

People are also willing to pay more for energy that is available when and where they need it. No matter how popular it might be to think that the wind and sun are all you need, no human has figured out how to control when the sun shines or the wind blows. Long transmission lines are just as vulnerable to interruption by aggressors as any other kind of fuel delivery system.

If someone owns a nuclear power plant, they are not terribly vulnerable to extortion since they can stockpile several fuel reloads if desired and each reload lasts for 18-24 months.

There are several independent fuel suppliers that are not in any kind of cartel.

July 2, 2014    View Comment    

On Russia Continues Sustained Fast Breeder Reactor Effort

@Nathan Wilson

I would put the line of demarkation in a different place. Those nations that have technically compenent, respected advisors who can do math in decision making or decision influencing positions like nuclear energy. Several of them - Sweden, France, Russia, India, South Korea, China, Iran, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and others are keenly interested in building and operating nuclear power plants and taking advantage of their impressive energy output. 

Those nations that are dominated by a love of money rather than a love of humans seem more interested in maximizing profits for their already wealthy members who have learned to prosper in a hydrocarbon-based economy. Those nations tend to have decision makers who think that laws and policies trump math and thermodyamics.

Some of the countries that can do math are not admirable and are also in the nuclear game for the benefits that it can bring to people at the very top, but at least they have not ignored the technical reality that fission is superior to combustion in a number of applications.

Sadly, at least one of the countries that recognizes the value of nuclear energy would prefer if only its friends used the technology, so it has invested time and money supporting movements that discourage nuclear energy by spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

July 2, 2014    View Comment    

On IPCC Working Group III Recommends Nearly Quadrupling Nuclear Energy

@Willem Post

I am not getting my hopes up just based on the IPCC report, but on what I see as a growing consensus among honest scientists and engineers who are justly concerned about the continuing effects of unrestricted CO2 dumping. People like Hansen, Wigley, Calderia and Emanuel are finding a voice and telling people the truth that needs to be repeated - climate change is a big risk and the most important available solution that is ready today to tackle the problem is nuclear energy.

Wind is playing a role today and may continue to grow, but it cannot do the job that we need our power sources to do. It cannot provide power when and where we need it; it is more of an opportunistic, fair weather power source that is destined to play a minor role.

April 22, 2014    View Comment    

On IPCC Working Group III Recommends Nearly Quadrupling Nuclear Energy

@Willem

Did you even read my post? Working Group III of the IPCC was formed to provide suggestions for workable solutions. They have clearly stated that nuclear is part of the very short list of suggestions and they have identified to policy makers that the main obstacles in the way of using more nuclear are political and must be solved by policy makers, not engineers or scientists.

That is a good thing. We do not have time to wait for inventions like "reliable electricity storage" or cost effective "carbon capture and storage" but we have plenty of time to allow people to change their minds. Popularity of technology like nuclear can be changed almost as quickly as we can change our minds about the best available smart phones.

April 22, 2014    View Comment    

On Some Lessons Were Learned from TMI, Others Were Not

@Bob Meinetz

You wrote:

John, TMI is dwarfed by the Santa Susana Field Laboratory accident of July 1959, which is estimated to have released 400-500 times as much radiation to the environment, and resulted in as many deaths from cancer over the years.

You mean zero, right? I have to admit that your first paragraph threw me off -- when I initially read it -- because somehow my eyes skipped the key word 'as'. That left me seeing "resulted in many deaths from cancer," which did not jive with the context of the rest of your comment.

It just goes to show that words -- even tiny little words -- matter. 

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

April 8, 2014    View Comment    

On American LNG Won’t Solve Russia's Energy Bullying

@Willem

The prices you quote in your first paragraph are for 1000 cubic FEET, not 1000 cubic meters. That makes them wrong by a factor of 35.3 on the low side.

Russia also does not sell its gas to European customers for the equivalent of $4 per 1000 cubic feet (which is also frequently stated as MMBTU for million British Thermal Units.)

The monthly prices since September 2013 have remained relatively constant at almost $11/MMBTU.

http://www.indexmundi.com/commodities/?commodity=russian-natural-gas

Natural gas from the US based on our current -- artificially low prices -- would cost about $12/MMBTU, as you stated, but that it not as far from Russian prices as you stated.

On the other hand, I agree that it is irrational to think that very many investors are going to sink the kind of capital investment required into an LNG delivery infrastructure on the hope that current North American gas prices will remain in place for the next 20 years while they recover their capital investments.

Rod Adams, Publisher, Atomic Insights

April 7, 2014    View Comment