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On Intermittent Renewables and Electricity Markets

Those projects have been a little delayed due to the author's untimely incarceration in William Rankine Prison for the Terminally Inane, convicted of destroying entropy and violating the laws of thermodynamics.

August 18, 2013    View Comment    

On The Future of Energy: Why Power Density Matters

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August 11, 2013    View Comment    

On Evolution of Energy: From Torches to Solar Panels

Sarah - allow me to add two big "could have been" milestones:

1976 - The AEC terminates funding for the Molten Salt Reactor because it "was in competition with the fast breeder program at the time, which got an early start and had copious government development funds being spent in many parts of the United States. When the MSR development program had progressed far enough to justify a greatly expanded program leading to commercial development, the AEC could not justify the diversion of substantial funds from the LMFBR to a competing program."

1994 - The heir to the LMFBR, the Integral Fast Reactor, was cancelled because "With the election of President Bill Clinton in 1992, and the appointment of Hazel O'Leary as the Secretary of Energy, there was pressure from the top to cancel the IFR. Sen. John Kerry (D, MA) and O'Leary led the opposition to the reactor, arguing that it would be a threat to non-proliferation efforts, and that it was a continuation of the Clinch River Breeder Reactor Project that had been canceled by Congress."

Ironically, either of these designs, if seen to fruition, would have been major steps forward in providing endless carbon- free energy, consuming nuclear waste and warheads, and securing energy efficiency for the United States. I look forward to the date, hopefully in the near future, when our society realizes that nuclear energy is the New Fire.

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February 14, 2013    View Comment    

On Can Natural Gas Push Nuclear Out of Energy Market?

"How does natural gas stack up now?"

Deadlier than Fukushima:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_explosions

February 8, 2013    View Comment    

On Nuclear Energy Making an Ultimate Comeback?

This is just too easy:

"it needs to she shut down ever 18 months to refule." The plant near me shuts down for 25 days every 24 months to "refule" and perform maintenance that can't be done online. It has a 91.3% capacity factor.

"all the deadly watse is stored on site." Show me an example of a single person who has been harmed, let alone killed, by this "deadly watse".

"Why don't you live next door to a Nuclear plants?" I do.

"Why don't you have a Nuclear power system at your home?" I would in a heartbeat if the government would let me.

"I have Solar and it runs my entire 100% electric home, car and the power company pays me since I made more than I uses each entiire year !" You lie about as well as you spell.

February 7, 2013    View Comment    

On Can Natural Gas Push Nuclear Out of Energy Market?

"dangerous expensive nuclear plants"

You have an odd understanding of "dangerous".

Dangerous is what happened a few days ago under the Pemex tower in Mexico City, killing 37, injuring 126. 

Dangerous is what happened in Springfield MA a few months earlier, obliterating two buildings and injuring 21. 

Dangerous came calling to an apartment building in Arkhangelsk, Russia killing 58.

The list is incomplete, yet is almost interminable, and goes back for a hundred years: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gas_explosion#Notable_gas_explosions

One has to go back to 1986 and the former Soviet Union for a nuclear event that is remotely comparable.

February 7, 2013    View Comment    

On Nuclear Energy Making an Ultimate Comeback?

"I could write pages on why nuclear energy should not be an option"

I have no doubt you could write them - the question is, would there be any validity to them? Judging from the website you have cited as authoritative, I would think not.

"citing the nuclear "effluent" which is radiation released during the daily operations of nuclear power plants"

Why don't we introduce you to a concept called "science"? Get a geiger counter and a couple of one-liter bottles. Go to a nuclear plant of your choosing and take samples of water and air as close as you can possibly get. Then take samples 10 miles upstream or upwind. See any difference? Now go to a grocery store of your choice and buy a big bunch of bananas and a big bag of Brazil nuts. Run your counter over them. What do you find? Please report back.

"and citing the radioactive waste which 20,000 generations will be paying to store"

If certain politicians and antinuclear radiophobes would get out of the way we could reprocess and extract useful materials out of this "waste", ensuring energy self-sufficiency for centuries, and reducing the volumes by a factor of twenty and the decay time (to equal the activity of the rocks it came out of) to 300 years.

"and citing that the U.S. only utilizes 8.26% of nuclear energy according to a Lawrence Livermore chart"

Don't know which chart you are looking at, but we are indeed under-exploiting our already-mined fissionable resources, and the answer again is recycling. Dr. Barry Brooks has estimated that the value of electricity that could be extracted from once-used nuclear fuel in next-generation reactors is several trillion dollars. See bravenewclimate(dot)com

February 3, 2013    View Comment    

On Yucca Mountain is Dead. Long Live Yucca Mountain!

To Steve and NNadir, especially - I know you read extensively on the chemistry of reprocessing. 

I just got introduced to this: “Nitrogen Trifluoride Based Fluoride-Volatility Separations Process: Initial Studies”, http://www.pnnl.gov/main/publications/external/technical_reports/PNNL-20775.pdf

Have you come across this? What do you think?

December 16, 2012    View Comment    

On Yucca Mountain is Dead. Long Live Yucca Mountain!

First of all, a very entertaining and informative post Steve.

When you cite "a dictatorship run by scientists and engineers", that is a close first approximation to the People's Republic of China, whose current ruling elite have largely been trained in those disciplines. They will be building Gen III LWRs, FBRs, and even MSRs more assiduously than any other nation. History will decide in 50 years which type of society has prevailed, theirs or the ones nominally ruled by the technically ignorant unwashed masses, but in reality manipulated by mass media and self-aggrandizing speachifiers.

Perhaps the most useful assignment you could give your students would be "learn Mandarin!"

December 5, 2012    View Comment    

On A closer look at Jazcko's replacement

I am aware of Garwin’s theories. In his discussion when he talks about R-Pu, it does not appear that he is talking about the very high-burnup material produced by today’s LWRs with 18-24 month fuel cycles. I also see no mention of the spontaneous neutron contribution of the higher transuranics beyond Pu240. 

His statement also relies heavily on J. Carson Mark, a brilliant bomb designer of the fifties and sixties. I believe that later in his life, perhaps regretting his substantial contributions to the technology of warfare, Mark overcompensated by providing data that exaggerated proliferation fears. I doubt one will find someone of Dr. Mark’s capabilities crouching in the foothills ofKandahar. 

Then there is the confounding fact that, if it is so easy, and with tens of thousands of tons lying around for the taking, why has not one single weapon or test device has ever been constructed from “spent” LWR fuel? 

Garwin gives a lot of figures and offers a lot of unproven statements as if they were certain – but “the proof is in the pudding”. I repeat, no explosive devices, let alone weaponizable bombs, have ever been built from LWR fuel. Unfortunately the excellent tutorial “Why You Can't Build a Bomb From Spent Fuel” seems to be offline. When it returns see http://depletedcranium.com/why-you-cant-build-a-bomb-from-spent-fuel

If concern about R-Pu stockpiles persist, the best way to achieve permanent disposal would be fissioning it completely, and simultaneously generating massive quantities of electricity. I tend to suspect the motives of those who, on the one hand lament the presence of tons of R-Pu, but on the other hand oppose the development of the fast-spectrum reactors that are the best means of permanently eliminating these materials. 

If terrorists obtain nuclear weapons, which is the current focus of many in the non-proliferation community, they will most likely be diverted from already-fabricated nation-state warheads. Reprocessed LWR spent fuel, because of the extraordinary difficulty - if not impossibility - of weaponizing it, is not where the focus of attention should be, 

In fact this provides fodder for the anti-nuclear activists who would deny the essentiality of constructing next-generation reactors to extract energy from the existing Pu stockpiles and provide emissions-free electricity for a rapidly growing world population.                          

May 30, 2012    View Comment    

On A closer look at Jazcko's replacement

If you know that much, then you also know that the material used againstNagasakiduring WWII was produced in a machine specially designed and operated to produce Pu with a specific isotopic concentration, as the author indicated. 

You should also know that no weapons have ever been made, or ever will be made, from the used fuel issuing from LWRs. To say it was “Reactor Plutonium” is true in thatHanfordB was “a reactor”, but incredibly misleading in implying that it was, or could have been, produced by the machines that power 20% of theUSA. 

This is precisely the kind of half-truthful misinformation that has been spewed consistently by the anti-nuclear industry, including some of the non-proliferationists with which Dr. MacFarlane has previously aligned herself. Like the average citizen, I don’t think she knows enough about nuclear technology to discern when she is being technically BS’ed or not. 

Maybe let her on the commission as a member – the NRC Chairmanship is not the place for an amateur to climb her learning curve.

May 29, 2012    View Comment    

On Overheated rods & rhetoric

The last sentence of the reference you cited is “Because of the large inherent safety margins in the design and construction of spent fuel pools, this [genereic] issue was RESOLVED and no new requirements were established.” http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/nuregs/staff/sr0933/sec3/082r3.html

That's why they are required to be constructed to seismic category 1. The SFP at North Anna experienced a beyond design basis quake last year and was completely undamaged.

May 11, 2012    View Comment