Not Business But Personal: Nuclear Energy

Posted on January 29, 2013
Posted By: Ferdinand E. Banks
Topic: Nuclear
 
"Not personal but business" is one of the famous lines delivered by Al Pachino in the film 'The Godfather'. In this short contribution I move in the other direction, because nuclear energy happens to be an essential input for the maintenance of my standard of living. Without it I might have to play less indoor tennis, reduce my consumption of beef, and definitely will have to stop dreaming about long summer vacations on the French or Italian Riviera, or maybe even the Swedish west coast.

According to a European Commission report, Europe's nuclear reactors require an investment of 10-25 billion euros in order to ensure that a Fukushima-like disaster cannot take place. The expression stress-test is sometimes used when discussing the contents of this report, and in case you are not aware, it is the kind of 'lingo' introduced by liars and hypocrites in the United States (U.S.) and elsewhere in order to provide a scientific nuance for their silly condemnations of the U.S. financial system.

More numbers might be useful with regard to the present topic. According to the EU Energy Director, Güenther Oettinger, there are 145 reactors in the EU, and turning the 10-25 billion euros cited above into dollars, we find that that we are talking about 92-230 million dollars per reactor. It perhaps makes more sense to look at dollars per megawatt, because if we did, we immediately come to the conclusion that an average investment of e.g. $160 million per reactor would put the EU reactor inventory in apple-pie order. In these circumstances, introducing macroeconomic considerations, and being familiar with the unimpressive 'efficiency' (i.e. capacity factors) of alternatives for nuclear, makes it clear to me that 160 million dollars is nothing less than a bargain.

At the same time I want to inform one and all that if the writers of the above-mentioned report had come to the conclusion that EU reactors could be made earthquake and tsunami 'impervious' for a measly ten dollars a giga-watt (=1,000,000,000 watts), it wouldn't cause me to change the tone of this appraisal. In choosing between EU engineers and managers, and the kind of parasites and charlatans usually involved with humbug reports of the above kind, I put my trust in the former. More important, I happen to know a great deal about the lies and misunderstandings being circulated about the frailty of nuclear, and the reliability and economy of the so-called renewable assets that people like the Swedish energy minister want to take the place of nuclear. Unfortunately however, I do not know enough to convince her to leave nuclear policies to those of us who can add and subtract.

As you may or may not know, there have been three major nuclear accidents: Three-Mile Island (in the U.S.), Chernobyl and now Fukushima. Three-Mile Island was at least a partial meltdown, but I remember being told that there were no human casualties. Chernobyl of course was an unmitigated disaster, the details of which I have yet to understand, but after that disaster took place, in my articles and lectures, I proposed that similar nuclear installations within the (for Sweden) heavy 'fall-out' range of a possible nuclear accident should be removed, and in addition Sweden and other countries in the same situation should assume the cost of removal. Apparently, some of this is taking place, but it is not taking place as rapidly or comprehensively as it should. For instance, assuming that the reactor at Ignalina (Lithuania) is in the 1000-1500 megawatt class, its replacement by one of the latest (Gen 3) designs makes all the economic sense in the world, both for Lithuania and surrounding countries.

Probably because of the Chernobyl tragedy, the two Swedish reactors across from Copenhagen have been liquidated. Unless I am mistaken, Sweden is going to need the electric energy that has been lost, although the reactors providing it should obviously not be located across from Copenhagen and next to Malmö. The same kind of reasoning applies to Fukushima. The basic issue here in case anyone is interested is the blatant lack of all-inclusive and imaginative regulation, the kind of regulation that would have prevented those reactors from being wrongly located, and I have been informed that the Japanese government is now determined to ensure that Fukushima is the last nuclear regulation blunder in that country.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has also promised the faithful that she will take steps to ensure that Germany is not the victim of a nuclear accident. Of course, six months earlier she assured the German people that more nuclear was essential. The reason for her change in opinion was a poll, or estimate, or nightmare indicating that in order to remain at the head of the German government after the next election in that country, she would probably require increased assistance from environmentalists and various other anti-nuclear voters outside her party.

Many persons in Europe and elsewhere are unconcerned about this bogus democratic foolishness, however it happens to be true that renewables cannot possibly replace nuclear, and so to begin with a German nuclear withdrawal (if it takes place) would feature a very large increase in their import of electricity. Last year, at a conference in Stockholm, a Belgium researcher claimed that a German nuclear retreat could mean a rationing of electricity in Belgium. This caused me to immediately tell him and everyone standing next to him that what Belgium should do is to construct a 1500 MW reactor that produces electricity only for Germany, and for which Germans would have to pay the highest electric price in Europe. As for the rest of the electricity being produced in Belgium, it would be reserved for domestic households and industries. The same kind of reasoning has led me to recommend that Sweden should put an export tax on electricity, and not just for electricity being sold to Germany. Why should Swedish consumers agree to play the fool when mistakes with the production and deployment of energy could have perilous consequences for the Swedish economic future?

The next time I teach energy economics, I am going to stress that if a new nuclear facility costs between 4 and 5 billion dollars in China, then regardless of present costs elsewhere, 4-5 billion dollars should be thought of as the cost of a nuclear facility everywhere in the industrial world, though perhaps not the next day. The source of this wisdom is mainstream economic theory and economic history, and my students will be asked to unreservedly accepted it if they prefer a passing to a failing grade The logic here turns on the ability of intelligent people and countries to eventually correct mistakes made in the short run, and is one of the few aspects of neo-classical economics that I present with a clean conscience to everyone attending my lectures.

By way of closing, I would like to remind everyone that a high demand for electricity is an essential and unavoidable feature of economic development and/or developed economies. For instance, on a global level, electrical energy as a share of final global energy consumption increased from 15.5 to 17.3 percent during the period 2000 - 2009. Moreover, during the same period, in China, electric energy in final energy consumption increased from 11.7 percent to 18.4 percent.

Earlier in this discussion I said that a German nuclear retreat would begin with an increased import of electricity, but the leading energy economist in Germany, Jeffrey H. Michel, has indicated that in the course of such a withdrawal, some environmental goals/intentions would be dumped (2012). He notes that Herr Oettinger announced in a speech to Merkel's CDU that the EU must be "reindustrialised", and Europe's share of the global economic product should be substantially increased. The bottom line here is that without a resort to nuclear, reindustrialisation means that more coal plants will have to be put in operation. The number given by Michel is 17 new facilities between 2012 and 2020, and so it is my sad duty to inform friends and neighbours that Germany will not be the roll-model that many of those ladies and gentlemen assured me that it would become.

References

Banks, Ferdinand E. (2012). Energy and Economic Theory. Singapore, London and New York: World Scientific.

Michel, Jeffrey H. (2012). Durch klimatschutz mehr kohle. (Working Paper).

 
 
Authored By:
Ferdinand E. Banks (Uppsala University, Sweden), performed his undergraduate studies at Illinois Institute of Technology (electrical engineering) and Roosevelt University (Chicago), graduating with honors in economics. He also attended the University of Maryland and UCLA. He has the MSc from Stockholm University and the PhD from Uppsala University. He has been visiting professor at 5 universities in Australia, 2 universities in France, The Czech University (Prague), Stockholm University, Nanyang Technical
 

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Comments

January, 29 2013

Harry Valentine says

Good perspective Dr Banks,

France generates some 80% of their electricity from nuclear power, using uranium imported from their former colony of Mali. There are other countries willing to sell uranium to France, including Canada. Most of France's (and Western Europe's) nuclear power using cooling towers . . . so the Fukushima comparison is of zero relevance.

During hot summer weather, France's (air-cooled) nuclear power stations operate at partial output . . . they could adopt the cooling tower technology developed by Prof Kroger at Stellenbosch University in South Africa . . . can cool a coal-fired powered station of over 4,000-MW. Using Kroger's cooling towers could go far in terms of keeping France's nuclear power stations operating at full power during hot summer weather.

There are proposals to import electric power from North Africa (hydroelectric from Inga Falls in Congo, plus future power from Ethiopia) as well as power from Iceland, via undersea power cable. Icelandic power would provide only a partial fraction of future European power demand. These options would involve lower cost than the investment of wind and solar power generation.

The other low-cost option would be to import electric power from Russia.

January, 29 2013

David Bush says

Thanks Dr. Bank. A good summary of nuclear power. I work in the mining industry which is a very energy intensive industry and usually in remote location. As much as we would like to use renewable energy such as wind and PV, it will never be reliable enough to supply base load to a mine site. If you are close to geothermal opportunities then maybe but we are talking 100 to 150 MWs for a large mine and 10 to 20 MWs for a moderate mine site. So that leaves the only alternative for remote locations – diesel generators. But if you are in Australia where a carbon tax has been implemented, the cost of a kWh is going to be high (0.30 to 0.50 per kWh). If you are in Africa, now you have to build an infrastructure to transport 15 to 20 tanker trucks per day to the generator. You could put the generator on the coast and run power lines through the jungle at 1 to 2 million US dollars per mile.

Or one could utilize a small modular nuclear power reactors (SMRs). In my humble option, this makes perfect sense. No GHG emissions to worry about or report to the Climate Registry. One just buries several units in the ground run the piping in at the location of the mine and no worries about power for the next 10 to 15 years. After that they are pulled out shipped back to the manufacture and refurbished for the next installation – no fuss no muss. But alas - it probably won’t happen for 10 years or more due to the political backlash against nuclear. If only engineers were running things!

January, 30 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Thanks Harry and Victor

I understand that many persons do not want nuclear, and increasingly I can respect their dislike. But it won't work. To reject nuclear means endangering their standard of living, and presenting all the goodies to China. But I have become more philosopical about all this. Remembering my military service in Japan and Germany, and what I saw there, makes it clear to this former American soldier that voters and their political masters can make enormous mistakes.

I said once before and I will say again that technology is on the side of nuclear. There is no getting away from this, and everyone should learn to live with it.

January, 30 2013

Len Gould says

Good article Fred, as usual. I just hope these items are getting wider circulation than just us at EnergyPulse.

January, 30 2013

Len Gould says

Just watched HardTalk on BBC, interview of Mark Lynas. (BBC Stephen Sakur interviews Mark Lynas. May be difficult to get on internet outside Britain). He's a former Greenpeace activist type, lead the fight against GM foods in Europe, including illegally destroying crops. He's now campaigning loudly FOR GM foods and nuclear power. His point, Back in the 1990's when I began this, I'd never actually read a peer-reviewed science article on the subject. But when I got involved with the climate change issue, found myself arguing that understanding and trusting the concensus of scientists is important. I then reviewed the science on GM and nuclear power, and changed my mind".

I think this guy's "conversion" might be a significant turning point?

January, 31 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Thanks Len. These conversions are important. For instance, I was celebrating the completion of my new book yesterday at the economics institute with the help of some champagne, and ended up giving an impromptu lecture on energy economics to three PhD students. On the way home, I decided to go through the first and last chapters in my book and take some of the 'cuteness' out. I also try to mention EnergyPulse a great deal, because these discussions are marvelous.

Of course, I dont intend to be converted about George W., because he has ruined things for everybody, and I also wonder what Mr O. is going to come up with next, although he probably doesn't know himself.

January, 31 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Good article Fred...always enjoy reading your stuff.

Don't mind folks like Mark Lynas changing their mind - as long as it is accompanied by an apology for all the people he trashed along the way to making his inaccurate points. But I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies.

One of the points in climate change that I do agree with is that burning all of the current oil, gas and coal reserves in the next 100 years is sure not going to be good for the earth (or us). The long term future MUST be nuclear. There is no other option. And this is the issue I cannot get many to understand. You either get into it now or later. You can only prolong the "later" for so long.

Even if standards of living were to dramatically drop as predicted by Don Hirschberg due to the sheer numbers of us - just meeting basic electricity needs will be a major challenge. Instead all we do is wring our hands about a few containers of used fuel that pose no risk to anyone. So the simple question for each and everyone of us to ask is "Do we continue to burn our store of chemical energy to make electricity or do we use Uranium that has no other use and save our coal oil and gas for better uses."

If the answer is no - we are all done like a dinner.

Malcolm

January, 31 2013

Len Gould says

Canada should help the US by making a formal public offer to accept and permanently store all spent fuel from power reactors, present and future, for a reasonably small fee and provided ownership is transferred to Cdn. govt. We've plenty of isolated old mines in the permanently stable Cdn Shield rock, and plenty of communities willing to accept. It would eliminate one of the obstacles.

January, 31 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Len - that is a really good idea. Unfortunately the political fall out in Canada would be enormous. I was invited to a Nuclear Waste Management Organisastion (NWMO) seminar convened to discuss the long term solution to spent nuclear fuel and transporting it along public highways and while people gladly accept the transport of LNG and petrochemicals in relatively lightweight containers along side their cars they are afraid of a few bundles of Uranium in massive steel containers.

So it is OK to get blpwn up and fried by LNG vehicle failures - it is not OK to get a few gamma rays from Uranium fuel. This goes back to my oft repeated statement that no-one cares about the 4000 people killed at Bhopal or the tens of thousands who still live with the terrible outcome of that disaster but Fukishima and Chernobyl in which a combined total of 30 people lost their lives is somehow so much worse.

Of course one feels deep compassion for the fire fighters that lost their lives at Chernobyl but more people die from gun violence EVERY DAY than were killed at both Fukushima (0) and Chernobyl (30) combined.

There is no safer industry than nuclear energy and I defy anyone to prove otherwise.

Why would Denmark have any objection at all to Barsbaak nuclear power station being across the strait from Copenhagen. I visited both Ignalina and Baarsback and there is simply NO comparison. Baarsback was a beautifully operated plant. The Danes should have no fears from that facility. Their only fears are those cleverly manufactured by the socialist media who (like Mark Lynas) and all the other twits in Green Peace know nothing about nuclear energy.

Malcolm

January, 31 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Len the real issue is that nuclear fuel is considered dangerous for thousands of years when in fact it is quite safe even after only 80 to 100 years. Most of the high intensity gamma emissions have gone away after 100 years leaving the long lived alpha emitters . If my basic physics serves me well a piece of paper will stop all alpha emissions. Perfectly safe. This material is not dangerous AT ALL.

But we do not challenge the BS pumped out by CBS, CBC and BBC and even if we did they would never publish the facts because they are controlled by people who know nothing about science and technology. How can one expect some bozo with a history degree to know beans all about emissions from nuclear fuel.

Therein lies our problem. More scientists - less history professors.

Malcolm

February, 01 2013

Len Gould says

You raise a good question Malcolm. Are not people in our society over-specialized, especially in their education? Can a person really be qualified for elected office with only a law degree, if that? (Or, we must admit, with only engineering or science qualifications? See Ms. Merkel in Germany.) Somehow in the past 40 years particularly, specialists have taken over. To call someone a generalist today is tantamount to insulting them, yet that should be THE overriding qualification for anyone to be a journalist, rather than some questionably useless arts degree whose only purpose has been to guarantee the student can spell almost as well as the nearest word processor and perhaps assemble grammar nearly as well as the average word processor's grammar checker.

February, 02 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Malcolm. I'm sure that Barsebäck was a beautiful operation, but I can understand that it was the wrong place to have it. What I cannot (easily) understand is that the people who make decisions about nuclear, could not understand the importance of the electricity produced by Barsebäck for this country. Ignalina was a different situation, because it was probably identical to the Russian reactor that...you know.

But the basic thing here is that people who are capable of understanding the importance of nuclear refuse to do so. For instance, the PhD in technical physics who bossed the Swedish nuclear agency probably pretended not to understand nuclear, but it may be likely that he believed that nuclear could be replaced by wind and solar. Dealing with those people is really a bore, unless of course you are full of champagne, as I was the other day. Then it was a pleasure.

February, 02 2013

Michael Keller says

Seems to me at the root of the dichotomy that is nuclear power is that most folks have difficulty with reason and logic and are easily swayed by the dishonest out to make a buck by playing on emotions. The green movement is a pretty good example. However, in the final analysis, if folks want to march off to oblivion, that is their prerogative.

In my opinion, nuclear energy has to soundly beat the competition on price of power if the technology is to prevail. In other words, appeal to man’s finer nature: a fatter wallet.

February, 03 2013

Len Gould says

"Ten years ago, coal use in China was 700 gT. Now it is 3,200 gT" -- Quote from a wealthy Chinese person in a BBC interview in program Changing Fortunes.

February, 03 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

My position here is simple, Michael. Energy is something for governments, and not and not for half-educated self-appointed energy experts. Voters give governments the right to start or participate in BS wars, what about giving them the right to provide us with the energy we need and deserve, by which I mean supporting energies that make sense, and ignoring the others.

February, 03 2013

Michael Keller says

Have to part ways with you on that. The government is the last outfit I'd want providing energy. They are simply too ponderous and infested with bureaucrats siphoning off part of any dollar that comes into the government's ever expanding maw.

Private industry does quite well at providing the energy we need. The government only manages to increase our costs as a result of their ham-fisted meddling.

February, 04 2013

Len Gould says

I'd like to jump right in between you guys.

Fred. Here in Ontario, we discovered about ten years ago that the politician who'd been appointed to CEO of our provincial electric utility had (secretly) re-directed, on his personal whim, a pile of ratepayer fees into "purchasing Amazonian rainforests for environmental protection". That from a utility which was carrying a huge debt burden. I don't trust representatives.

Micheal. In many ways, for many reasons, private-only electric utilities on the present model "such the big one". They don't swing the mass needed to builb nuclear power stations. They add a significant overhead (about 15%) to the cost of electricity generation over "well-managed government-financed monopolies". And they are VERY resistant to any technology which MIGHT reduce consumption.

My proposal. Maintain government control by regulation, BUT minimize the influence of government regulators. Let regulators worry about issues which belong in the public domain (eg. how to finance new nuclear plants), but keep them out of the detailed day-to-day operation of proven generation technology.

February, 04 2013

Len Gould says

Ouch! sorry about spelling! "such the big one" should be "suck the big one".

"builb nuclear power stations" should be "build nuclear power stations".

February, 04 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

I have no problem at all with keeping the government out of the energy business, and leaving everything to private interests, except that it doesn't make economics sense. Private interests in this case means e.g. young fools on Wall Street and in the City of London coming to a conclusion that nuclear does not pay, and now is the time to put your money into wind and solar.

Energy is too important to leave to private interests, although perhaps the best arrangement is the one proposed by Thornton Bradshaw 30 or 40 years ago which was cooperation between government and industry. Something like during WW2 to be exact.

Len, here is Sweden the ignorant energy minister proposed dumping nuclear and replacing it by wind and solar. A former prime minister concluded that nuclear was "obsolete" - and so on and so forth. But why should stupidity and ignorance and greed keep us from the energy we need and deserve in the same way that it is keeping our schools - on the whole - from educating children/young-people the way they should be educated? This, incidentally, is why I cannot stand Mr Obama, because he comes from a part of Chicago where it is clear to everyone with half a brain what sub-optimal education means.

But yes, government control by regulation is OK with me, and I propose that in my new book. Of course, whether that will be enough to keep the Chinese from going home with all the marbles is another matter.

February, 05 2013

George Kamburoff says

Anyone who uses silly and offensive terms and phrases such as "parasites and charlatans usually involved with humbug reports" disqualifies himself as a rational observer.

Is this guy ready to take all that terrible radioactive waste home to his children and theirs, for the required 200,000 years?

February, 05 2013

George Kamburoff says

It is obvious by some of the comments this has become a captive board of conservatives concerned with partisan politics.

It is your obituary as a column if it persists. Those who make their technical decisions based on politics, greed, or emotion are doomed to massive debts, unending wars, tax schemes that impoverish America, and a deeply-divided nation.

February, 05 2013

Jim Beyer says

Google sort of had it right. We need to have renewable energy cheaper than coal. Barring that, we need to have nuclear power OR renewable energy cheaper than coal. That's if you believe the global warming stuff (which I do). Though the residents of Bejing perhaps have other reasons to move away from coal at this point. (I.e., so they can breathe...). Of course Google failed in its quest, and quietly closed it's 'renewable is less than coal' program.

Renewable energy isn't getting cheaper than coal anytime soon, nuclear at least has a chance, But they have to get their act together. Dealing with nuclear waste in a definitive and stable manner is a must. That's the elephant in the room that's keeping nuclear from getting anywhere. And it has for the last 30 years.

George, I'd rather deal with radioactive waste than a carbon loaded atmosphere.

February, 05 2013

George Kamburoff says

Jim, thanks for the reasoned reply. If "externalities" are included, coal is dead.

Economists do not like to include the total costs to society, since it makes most activities unacceptable. If the power companies had to pay for the health care of those downwind, we would have NO coal plants. If nukes had to pay in advance for storing their wastes essentially forever there would be no nuclear power.

Only renewables are honest power, energy that does the least damage to our descendants, who are already burdened with the residue of our folly and selfish short-sightedness.

February, 05 2013

Fred Linn says

George---------" It is obvious by some of the comments this has become a captive board of conservatives concerned with partisan politics."---------

You have got that pegged George.

February, 05 2013

Steve Radel says

George: Those terrible fossil fuels have saved many more lives than you claim they have killed. As you said earlier, those that make "technical decisions based on politics, greed, or emotion are doomed to massive debts, unending wars, tax schemes that impoverish America, and a deeply-divided nation." You captured the climate change folks with this statement. You also captured our present US leadership. Big govt (regardless of party) is loading up all of the worlds economies with debt that future generations will be forced to pay (all the usual reasons are used to load up on this debt from healthcare to climate change - but the results will be the same - the industries overtaken are made worse and the citizens pay the price literally and figuratively). The same political logic is being used to drive energy policy. Spending money we don't have on inefficient power systems, regardless of total costs of these systems, with these borrowed monies funneled to groups and people with close ties to the leading political party (ies) is adding to the massive debts and impoverishment of the US and Europe. I guess if it sounds good and makes us feel good it must be OK. Unfortunately, in the real world, we should be focused on using the natural resources we have while we expand the nuclear program across the world. You need to kill alot of birds to offset a 1500 MW nuclear plant and of course most of the power is generated at night when we don't need it. Nuclear power has to be a major part of the world's power generation systems. Any countries smart enough and with the courage to seize this technology in the face of the alarmists will be poised for significant growth in the future. sr

February, 05 2013

George Kamburoff says

Steve: This former Senior Engineer in Technical Services for PG&E has a Master of Science in Environmental Management, a technical degree concentrating in energy and the environment. I have been watching and following for more than 30 years as our worst fears came to be realized.

Please understand the depth of knowledge required to make appropriate assessments of complex situations. Someone who spends their life in one field or associated fields has no set of viable perspectives, only one biased view, with other factors not observable. One needs to have been in many fields, and have a multi-disciplinary education to make good assessments.

We are in a fix. It is not a scheme concocted for economic or political gain, and those who assert scientists would lie are betraying the characteristics of their field, not science. Science is facts, science is provable, science is predictable.

Science is telling us we are in a mess of our own making.

February, 05 2013

Fred Linn says

George--------" We are in a fix. It is not a scheme concocted for economic or political gain, and those who assert scientists would lie are betraying the characteristics of their field, not science. Science is facts, science is provable, science is predictable.

Science is telling us we are in a mess of our own making."---------

You are correct of coarse George.

You can not however, exchange information with a bunch of grannies who are only interested in their own short sighted personal and political biases.

You'd have more success talking to Billy's Mule.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncqlf6RoW8U

February, 05 2013

George Kamburoff says

I am a generalist, having been in many industries and differing fields. In 1979 I was a Research Engineer testing components to reduce the hydraulic shock from the Safety Relief Valve operation in GE Mark I and II BWR's. The nuclear engineers with whom I worked were bright, sincere, hard-working, and dedicated to providing mankind with plentiful energy, . . ., guys who took the hard classes, who persisted in a complex field, . . but were wrong in their choice.

During the tests, we got to a natural pause for some analysis, just as TMI II melted down. As Met Ed lied to everyone, and the government helped them, I had great sympathy for those folk who had spent their lives in this field.

The dream has become a nightmare of complexity, danger, and a waste of which we cannot guarantee our safety and that of those who follow us, essentially forever in Human terms.

We must now grow up, accept our responsibility to stop the plunder, stop burdening future generations and start living in harmony with the Earth, the Universe of which we are a part.

February, 05 2013

Len Gould says

George -- " As Met Ed lied to everyone" -- You'll need to come up with some SOLID documentation of that, or prove yourself worse than all the insults you've posted against us. And not some insignificant nonsense, provide evidence of lies about some serious issue, Are you honest, or just another one of those Greenpeace types?

On the waste issue of nuclear, get a grip man. After 100 years the spent fuel essentially becomes simply an alpha emitter which can be shielded by a sheet of paper.

February, 05 2013

Len Gould says

[QUOTE] In the midst of the crisis, when any number of things were going wrong, MetEd put out a news release claiming that the plant was “cooling according to design.” Months later I asked the PR director how he could justify such a statement. Nuclear plants are designed to survive a serious accident, he explained. They are designed to protect the public even though many things are going wrong. So even though many things were going wrong at TMI, the plant was, nonetheless, “cooling according to design.”[/QUOTE]

IAEA Bulletin - Tell it Like it is: 7 Lessons from TMI No-one from Met Ed lied. They clearly did a poor job of managing public communications, but that's about it.

February, 05 2013

George Kamburoff says

We knew early in the morning the core had melted by scintillators tethered on long wires under helicopters. I was told that first morning, while Met Ed was saying they would be back online, the core had melted, it would never restart, and would cost at least a billion dollars to clean up. Years later, I saw the pics of the inner wall of the reactor vessel with the hole burned through it and the rubble in the bottom.

I brought it up because it happened exactly 32 years to the week before Fukushima, where a torus cracked, something we were trying to avoid a those decades before with our unsuccessful trials of technology.

If one has a technology of which most of the system is designed to keep it from kill us, maybe we should look at other kinds of systems.

February, 05 2013

Len Gould says

same source [QUOTE] Sources tend to speak more complexly when they’re upset. Some of this is unconscious; your anxiety makes you hide behind big words and fancy sentences. Some of it is intentional. Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials at Three Mile Island were worried (mistakenly, as it turned out) that a hydrogen bubble in the containment might explode and cause a meltdown.[/QUOTE]

At TMI, the core never did a meltdown. I think you may be further missrepresenting the Governor's error, a condition which, this far after the event when you've had plenty of leisurely time to get it right, makes YOU the source in error, probably deliberate.

[QUOTE]That’s why Pennsylvania Governor Dick Thornburgh ordered an evacuation of pregnant women and preschool children. MetEd was saying the amount of radiation escaping the site didn’t justify any evacuation—and MetEd, it turns out, was right. But MetEd had been understating the seriousness of the accident from the outset. When the head of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) misinterpreted a radiation reading from a helicopter flying through the plume, thinking it was probably an offsite reading of exposures reaching populated areas, Thornburgh didn’t even check with the no-longer-credible utility (which could have told him PEMA had misunderstood the situation).[/QUOTE]

February, 05 2013

George Kamburoff says

Len, I guess you never saw the pics of the melted core of TMI II?

Got any buddies with Bechtel?

February, 05 2013

bill payne says

China consumes nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined

http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=9751

Straight answer from you.

Right or wong?

Five new generators are on track for completion this decade, including two reactors approved just a few weeks ago (the first new reactor approvals in the US in over 30 years). Those will add to the 104 reactors that are already in operation around the country and already produce 20% of the nation’s power.

Those reactors will eat up 19,724 tonnes of U3O8 this year, which represents 29% of global uranium demand. If that seems like a large amount, it is! The US produces more nuclear power than any other country on earth, which means it consumes more uranium that any other nation. However, decades of declining domestic production have left the US producing only 4% of the world’s uranium.

With so little homegrown uranium, the United States has to import more than 80% of the uranium it needs to fuel its reactors. Thankfully, for 18 years a deal with Russia has filled that gap. The “Megatons to Megawatts” agreement, whereby Russia downblends highly enriched uranium from nuclear warheads to create reactor fuel, has provided the US with a steady, inexpensive source of uranium since 1993. The problem is that the program is coming to an end next year.

The Upside to a Natural Gas Downturn Marin Katusa, for The Daily Reckoning Monday April 2, 2012

February, 05 2013

bill payne says

We are in a fix. It is not a scheme concocted for economic or political gain, and those who assert scientists would lie are betraying the characteristics of their field, not science. Science is facts, science is provable, science is predictable.

Science is telling us we are in a mess of our own making.

http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/99/14/9266.pdf

February, 05 2013

bill payne says

BURNING BURIED SUNSHINE: HUMAN CONSUMPTION OF ANCIENT SOLAR ENERGY

http://globalecology.stanford.edu/DGE/Dukes/Dukes_ClimChange1.pdf

No open mouth or written words.

AA battery discharge/ grid/solar charge. LED cathode and white LED power.

Approved, Mr Vess?

February, 05 2013

bill payne says

Energy Pulse post :)

Well, since the energy payback for a solar panel is 2-3 years if a plant has been in production for three years then is has produced enough panels to power its operation.

I.e., we've been there for quite a while.

Which solar company is powering its plant from the solar panels it produces?

Data please?

regards. bill

February, 05 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

George, Good intelligent posts. To some extent I agree with your position on nuclear power however if as you say humanity must live in harmony with the natural world you must accept very large numbers of human deaths since this planet cannot support 7 billion people.

You make it sound as though the natural world is a friendly utopian place full of joy and love. It is not. It is a dangerous merciless very hostile place that condones without passion death in all its many forms.

If that is the world to which you aspire you're in for a bit of a disappointment.

While I certainly agree TMI was a comedy of errors and did indeed wreck the reactor and melt the fuel inside the key fact omitted - I will assume you just forgot to mention it - is that not a single person was injured or died as a result of TMI - not one. If that is considered a disaster - how do you rank the London Plague (an all natural phenomenon) or Spanish Flu (another doozy of a natural disaster) or Krakatoa, Mount St. Helens, Vesuvius, The Boxing Day Tsunami that wiped out hundreds of thousands.

Sorry my friend but if the trade off to living in a world where my house is warm at the flick of a switch, I have access to top notch medical care if I am sick as well as all the other incredible things you and I both take for granted - all for a few bins of safely stored nuclear fuel. That is by far the better choice than leaving matters in the hands of Mother Nature who is vicious and cruel in the extreme.

If the authorities would allow me I would gladly store used fuel flasks in my back yard. Perfectly safe. May even keep the Coyotes away - who are quite mean when they gobble up the baby rabbits alive.

Malcolm

February, 05 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Len, I think the core at TMI suffered from a couple of problems. One was the H2 explosions inside but I do recall there was some core melting. But I will be pleased to stand corrected if my memory is faulty.

The issue George raises is that technology is not fault free and can never be.That includes nuclear and I do not think there is a single person in the nuclear business that thinks that it is. But of all the industries we humans have developed nuclear power is demonstrably the safest there is by at least an order of magnitude. Far safer than coal, oil or natural gas. And, I would argue, much safer than solar or wind if all the industries necessary to make and install them are included.

I fail to see the difference is between someone getting killed by radiation exposure or falling off a roof installing a solar panel. The latter of course is far more likely than the former.

I think Mr Payne made a comment that we are going to be short of Uranium when the Russian warhead agreement comes to an end in 2013. There will be a temporary shortfall but Bill doesn't read very carefully since I have said numerous times here that your friendly neighbour to the north (Canada) has more than enough Uranium in KNOWN deposits to last the continent for hundreds of years and we will be pleased to sell it to you - as we do already.

Also I will point again to the World Nuclear Association website which provides a wealth of information regarding the operation of the world supply chain for Uranium. In a nutshell if you have not the time to go there it goes something like this.

Uranium becomes in short supply (end of 2013) Price of Uranium goes up (Late 2013 - early 2014) Price exceeds the cost of extraction for low grade ores 2014 Existing companies step up production to meet shortfall 2013-2014 More companies explore for Uranium and/or develop their known deposits 2014 - 2018 Uranium supply increases 2020 Price of Uranium goes down again.

The good thing is that making nuclear electricity is very insensitive to the price of Uranium - only a very small percentage of the operating costs. Price of Uranium could easily go up five fold with no measurable effect on nuclear electricity costs.

So yes there will be a temporary shortfall of Uranium - Bill is right - but of course that only tells half the story.

Malcolm

February, 05 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Fred, I thought Barsebäck was a perfect place for Swedish built reactors. very well operated by very competent engineers but unfortunately not very well supported by your incompetent politicians.

Yes indeed Ignalina was the twin sister of Chernobyl. I had the pleasure of visiting Lithuania and the Ignalina facility shortly after the Russians had departed although most of the personnel at the plant were Russian operators. I met some top notch Swedish engineers there who were helping them out. Immediately following that experience I went to Malmo in Sweden to visit Barsebäck. There was no comparison in the standards of operation. Although Ignalina (and Chernobyl) were safe reactors if operated correctly and the safety features were not deliberately vetoed on the orders of political masters the plants at Barsebäck were superbly run and only someone with no brains and an eye to getting a top job in the EU with the Danes as new found friends would have thought that closing it was good for Sweden.

When the general population realizes that covering Sweden in windmills and solar panels is not enough to keep their hot tubs and saunas humming along in the manner to which they have become accustomed then we will see more nuclear reactors built along that coast.

Malcolm

February, 05 2013

peter snell says

Another good writing, Dr. B. A few nits: does read: "roll-model" should read: "role model"

does read: "unreservedly accepted it" should read: "unreservedly accept it"

[I regret you're 94% wrong on GWB, probably for most of the same reasons you that DON'T reside in the good-ole US.]

February, 06 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

First of all, let's deal with George.

The people that I have worked with in the universities in Sweden at the level of professor, and some researchers in economics, are for the most part parasites and charlatans, or worse. The people in the US who would not give a brilliant teacher - ME - a job instead for foreigners who are bad teachers are unreservedly worse. As for the statement about nuclear waste and 200,000 years, that is just ignorance. It wouldn't make any difference if it were 2 million. Take a course in logic, George, but not mathematical logic. When I was expelled from Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, I bought (or most likely stole) a book in mathematical logic, learned it perfectly, and twenty years later came to the conclusion that it was a waste of time.

Malcolm, Barsebäck was too good. It put the stone age countries that certain Swedes are so fond of to shame. Tell a Swede that Swedish engineers are brilliant, and he (or she) is liable to call you out. And of course, the Swedish nuclear 'industry' - or whatever it should be called - was a masterpiece, and could have been even better if...well, I wont go into that.

Peter Snell, I can't think of anyone since Douglas MacArthur who has caused as much damage to the United States of America (and the rest of the world) as GWB. If the US is attacked, then we have to respond. Agreed. But to keep a war going that might eventually cost a trillion dollars - what kind of sense does that make? And to start a war based on a lie - or do you think that it wasn't a lie?

Speaking of lies, Germany is NOT going to dump nuclear, regardless of what the gorgeous Angela says. And role model - that's me in a class or seminar room - because I take no prisoners. Do you see where I am going with this?

February, 06 2013

Len Gould says

George stated -- [QUOTE] We knew early in the morning the core had melted by scintillators tethered on long wires under helicopters.[/QUOTE]

My only bone to pick, George, is that this statement above is untrue IN THE WAY THE GENERAL PUBLIC THINKS OF MELTDOWN, which is core overheating/melting causing breech of the reactor vessel and significant radiation leakage. The statement is partly an exercise semantics to equate "some melting of fuel rods" with "full disastrous meltdown" to confuse the public.

Now that N. America has apparently found a lot of supplies on N. Gas, hopefully enough to get through until Fusion reactors can become commercial, I'm less concerned about such (IMHO dishonest) attempts to kill fission power in N. America. HOWEVER, I'm still concerned about the global warming effects of a large switch to N. Gas and failure to maintain at least present volumes of fission, and with other places in the world using coal rather than nuclear.

I suspect that the only reason Merkel agrees to shut down nuclear in Germany is because the conservative politicians in her party who advise her have convinced her that global warming cannot be a problem, a view which I emphatically do not share.

February, 06 2013

Michael Keller says

So George K, how many folks die each year because they or their country have insufficient energy/electrical resources? Thousands. How many perished at the TMI and Fukishima nuclear disasters? Ah yes, nobody.

You sound like the classic leftist: complete inability to logically evaluate a problem and use science and reason to come up with viable solutions. Instead, resort to shear hysteria and hand-wringing.

February, 06 2013

Len Gould says

Micheal. I consider myself both a) capable of logically evaluation a problem, and b) most definitely not a "rightist". (A Red Tory by Canadian standards, certainly a "leftist" by US standards as much as that means "democratic socialist who accepts the necessity of properly regulated markets.")

February, 06 2013

bill payne says

Words. words, and more words.

Open circuit voltage and shorted voltage and amps solar panel measurerments.

http://www.prosefights.org/battery/battery.htm#pved

February, 06 2013

Jon Wharf says

"The basic issue here in case anyone is interested is the blatant lack of all-inclusive and imaginative regulation"

I think this is worth an exploration all of its own, particularly in the light of Fukushima's repetition of the human mistakes of Chernobyl. And the subject I'd like to apply it to is: evacuation.

Fukushima's most contaminated region - possibly excluding one or two square kilometres - is already below the natural background in other parts of the world. And large areas of Fukushima's original evacuation zone NEVER REACHED the over-restrictive radiological limits now being applied to entry into the zone.

So my question, for a future all-inclusive and imaginative regulator, is this: Where was the personal autonomy of those people that were forced out of their homes? Where was their ability to make their own decisions about the relative values of their community, their local economy, their houses, and some tiny or perhaps non-existent chance of contracting cancer many years in the future?

There is ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT that mass evacuation is a worse public health choice then keeping the population in place with a few simple counter measures. Add in careful monitoring and a clear flow of accurate information that allows residents to make their own choices, along with support for those who wish to leave areas that are more radioactive than any natural inhabited site, and you have an area that can continue to function and thrive with good outcomes through a radiological incident.

Instead the drama-merchants get to take their photos of deserted streets and impute deadliness to the abandoned houses, when what I see is government cowardice and a failure of rational risk assessment.

February, 07 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

I wondered for a while what language you were speaking, Jon, but you got it right. Government cowardice and a failure to think about and calculate - rationally - risks is what it is all about. As for the Japanese however, never forget one thing: on the average they have the longest life spans of any people in the industrial world.

And once again, Merkel came out in favor of nuclear, but when she and her foot soldiers took a close look at the polls, they came to the conclusion that dumping nuclear was the right way to stay in power. I dont see anything wrong with that: for politicians, staying in power is the name of the game. After all, if the voters are dumb enough to think that solar and wind can replace nuclear, they can eventually blame themselves for what happens.

February, 07 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Couple of things. Len - good points raised - there is a great lack of logic in most of the anti-nuclear rhetoric but the application of logic over emotion is difficult for many in this human race of ours. There is always semantics-a-plenty when dealing with those who oppose everything nuclear - I am very used to it. It cannot be dealt with by logic. You are quite right of course that what happened at TMI was not a "meltdown" in the strictest sense of the word - but a very serious event for us in the business from which we learned many lessons.

The way the public understands "meltdown" is something melted and went down which of course is designed to conjure up the China Syndrome which is a complete load of bunkum of course.

I have a number of colleagues who have visited Fukushima and surroundings and report a very different story to that of the media. Many of the local inhabitants wished they had been INSiDE the plant at Fukushima since it was one of the very few structures that survived. While all but one of the workers survived the worst earthquake to hit Japan in a century or more and the worst Tidal Wave on record AND multiple reactor failures only one person on the site was killed when the crane he was operating toppled over during the quake.

Unfortunately most of the families of those working at the plant died because they did not have the protection of incredibly strong and durable buildings.

While a serious event - like TMI - no-one died from the reactor failures and no-one will die from radiation exposure.

It all depends on how one ranks a "disaster". If it is in terms of fatalities then it doesn't rank as a disaster in my book.

More people died because they were evacuated and it would have been far safer leaving people in their homes instead of scaring the living daylights out of them with radiation doses less than a tooth X-ray. But here I am back with that old logical thinking again.

Now World War 1 and World War 2 - they were disasters worth mentioning.

Well, well well Bill Bill Bill word words words again. I would like you to write something worth reading once in a while. All contributions are valuable even if I I do disagree with every word - but you don't seem to write anything intelligible. MAybe I am missing a hidden meaning. Ooops logic again - gotta stop doing that.

Malcolm

February, 07 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Jon,

Of course you are absolutely right. It is my opinion that nuclear facilities should scrap evacuation plans. They will almost certainly do much more harm than good and it plays right into the hands of the anti-nuke crowd.MUST be dangerous if they have evacuation plans. If it was safe they wouldn't have any.

The local propane filling facility that caught fire and exploded sending propane cylinders crashing on to the local 6 lane highway did not have an evacuation plan but was far more likely to kill people than the nuclear plant nearby. The nuclear plant has elaborate evacuation plans for a non-existent risk while the propane plant has no evacuation plans for a major risk.

But there I go again applying that logical thinking. Try telling any nuclear operator that the nuclear evacuation plans themselves are more risky than anything the plants can dish out and even the industry insiders will look at you as though you are off your rocker.

Such is the emotional and illogical world we live in.

With 30 a day killed in the US from gun violence should someone not be describing that as a disaster? Or is that an acceptable risk?

Malcolm

February, 08 2013

Dilip James says

At first glance, and taking the short sighted view of things, nuclear energy does seem to have a lot to offer. A 1 Giga watt nuclear plant uses about 72 Kg of fuel a day or roughly 30 tons annually. Fantastic! A similar sized coal fired plant would need about 8600 tons of high grade coal or 24,000 tons of low grade coal every ,day which works out to roughly 3.5 million tons and 10 million tons of coal respectively on an annual basis. The problem as , most people are aware, is disposal of toxic nuclear waste. For instance when you burn a million tons of coal what you have left is a whole lot of fly ash about 80,000 tons of it. Most of this can be re-processed used as landfill and so on. Nuclear fuel is not like that, when you use a ton of fuel rods what you have left at the end is a ton of spent fuel rods, all of it highly radio-active and likely to stay that way for thousands of years. So when a proposal is made to increase the number of nuclear plants, it is not really a very good idea. A look at the dismal record in the U.S in this regard illustrates the point. All around the country spent fuel rods have been sitting beneath 45 feet of water in pools situated near the nuclear power plants themselves and have been doing so for as long as the plants have been producing power. The only reasonable solution is to take things easy and not go head over heels into something that can so easily get out of hand and which furthermore, about which even after 80 years, very little is known.

February, 08 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Well, Mr Dilip James, I think you mean very little is known by self-appointed experts, but I can assure you that I know everything that I need to know about the subject being discussed. The way to handle those rods is to burn all the fuel out of them, which is what they eventually plan to do in France.

What you and apparently some other people dont understand is that there is a cost for not using nuclear. That cost is a lower standard of living. As for what you call "the dismal record" of the US, you mean I hope the reelection of George W. Bush, and the failure of the Democratic party to choose a presidential candidate who can add and subtract, particularly in the matter of education reform.

And this ignorant talk about thousands and hundreds of thousands of years makes me wonder if the educational standards at US universities have sunk as low as those in primary and secondary education. The US went from jack-rabits and buffalo chips to nuclear reactors in a couple of hundred years, and here you are wondering if some fuel rods can be guarded for "thousands of years". That reminds me of Becky Somebody on CNN and her talk about stupid stories resonating "thousands of miles away".

February, 09 2013

Len Gould says

Mr James. Interesting (to me) that you fail to mention in your comparison of the coal fuel cycle to the nuclear fuel cycle, how much radioactive nucleides normally exist in coal. Last time I checked, that "3.5 million tons and 10 million tons of coal respectively on an annual basis" contains more radioactive nucleides than the " roughly 30 tons annually" of the nuclear reactor. See, plants tend to concentrate heavy nucleides in their structure, and then it gets formed into coal.... Difference is, the coal plant simply blows it up their smokestacks, whereas the reactors are required to sequester the stuff and store it on-site until a "proper permanent disposal" process can be gotten approved over the objections of your type of fools. Unbelievable how well you guys can be suckered by the coal lobby. LOL.

February, 09 2013

John K. Sutherland says

Fred, a small correction. Windscale (England) was the first significant nuclear accident. It took place long before TMI. No-one died from that, either, except in theory.

Unfortunately, we now have an idiot on one of the TV channels who is talking about a nuclear accident at Oklo (2 billion years ago), that might have set evolution off in the direction it went.

February, 09 2013

Dilip James says

Mr. Gould, The amount of radio-active wastes released into the environment by coal fired plants, is a hot topic of discussion, especially since an article in Scientific American seemed to endorse this view. A study conducted by ‘Science’ states that typical Uranium and thorium concentration from coal fired plants is 10 parts per million, which is very , very low. I am not advocating the use of coal fired plants, just saying that it is still a better alternative to nuclear. It may well be possible that some of the by-products of coal fired plants are dangerous to health. Still look at the facts. Take the statement ‘Spent nuclear fuel rods are kept underwater in specially constructed pools usually situated near the nuclear plants themselves.’ This is a seemingly innocuous statement that has most of us believing that the situation cannot be so bad, if just storing these rods underwater is enough to keep them safe. What is not generally known is that the spent fuel rods from a nuclear reactor, generate a huge amount of heat. For instance if a spent fuel rod were kept exposed to the air it would spontaneously combust, releasing highly toxic air borne nuclear particles that would be deadly to human life. So in order to keep these rods safe they have to be constantly monitored. The temperature of water in the pool, the level of the water in the pool, the percentage of boric compounds etc., has to be constantly monitored and adjusted by pumps and motors. If by chance the electricity supply fails and the pumps and motors stop working, what would result is a melt down involving multiple spent fuel rods resulting in the release of severely toxic waste into the environment. Over the years storage of spent fuel rods in these pools has accumulated to the point where each pool contains thousands of these spent fuel rods. The solution or a part solution would be dry storage where the rods, when they have cooled down for twenty to thirty years, are encased in concrete and stored in heavy metal drums. Unfortunately this process is very expensive and no-one, least of all the owners of these nuclear power plants, seems to want to undertake the task.

February, 10 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

What coal is and isn't does not interest me, Mr James, although there is some sense in your last post I think. When I consider nuclear, and I consider it a great deal, I think of the US and Sweden: I am a citizen of the US and I live in Sweden. The approach to energy economics in the US is disgraceful, because stupidity, ignorance and greed have been given the green light, but I am willing to believe that things will get better.

As for Sweden, according to yours truly, the parasites and charlatans in the university faculties have been given too much freedom to flaunt their inferiority complexes, but I still trust the Swedish engineers, and the scientists are probably OK.

As for the expense that worries you so, it the money wasted by the US in Eye-raq and now in Afghanistan had gone into education and into the nuclear sector, the US might be what I want it to be.

I think that I heard the news about Windscale...think, but I know about TMI.

February, 10 2013

Len Gould says

Mr James. Your screed may be scary to the poor know-nothings who are obviously your target, but is not news to anyone here.

February, 11 2013

Fred Linn says

The State of Vermont has already voted to close down their nuclear power plant next month. This is due to long standing problem with radioactive leaks that have remained unresolved for years.

An initiative vote has been filed in California has been filed that calls for shutting down all nuclear power plants in California until the NRC has a suitable radioactive waste handling site and policy in place and operating. The NRC says that this can not be done until at least 2050.

February, 12 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Mr Fred Linn, a plant that doesn't work should be shut down. The same thing should be done to the economics department in a university run by parasites and charlatans that does not function the way that it should function, or a regiment like my former regiment in one of Uncle Sam's wars.

And here I am talking about California. If the US can spend almost a trillion dollars for a stupid war in Afghanistan, but cannot spend a few million to plug some leaks in a nuclear facility, then something is definitely wrong. Even you must understand that.

Of course, where nuclear is concerned, millions of Americans are being forced to play the fool, just as they have been convinced to play the fool with that stupid war. The same thing is happening in Sweden, where the cost of greed, stupidity and ignorance is reaching new heights, and is being paid in terms of health care and education.

Wake up Fred. You and George and Dilip deserve better than the tripe served up by ignorant journalists.

February, 12 2013

Jon Wharf says

Fred Linn, your description of the Vermont Yankee status is completely wrong. Vermont voted long ago to block their technical assessment panel from issuing a new certificate of public good for Vermont Yankee, but it does not relate to next month and the decision has been thrown out by the courts.

The tritium leak there was resolved within a few months of discovery.

As for California - anyone can file an initiative vote for $200. It is no indicator of public sentiment or the presence of real issues.

February, 12 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Dilip, Having worked in the nuclear business for well over 40 years I have to say your statements are either very poorly worded or not correct. So let me correct a few of the misconceptions perpetrated by your posts above.

Firstly the heat from used fuel bundles comes from radioactive decay of fission products and from no other source. The sources of radioactive decay are alpha particles (helium nucleii), beta particles (electrons) and gamma rays. When initially removed from the reactor the fuel bundles requires shielding from gamma rays. The alpha and beta emissions are easily stopped by the fuel casing. Gamma rays (like X-rays) are more penetrating and require shielding. The heat produced by radioactive decay must be removed. Water is the obvious choice since it has a high heat capacity, is cheap and provides good shielding.

However note the use of the term DECAY. The more active a fission product the more rapidly it decays away. After just a few years (about 10) much of the radioactivity has decayed away to nothing. Cooling is not required as the amount of heat generated is minimal. The long lived radioactive materials are mostly alpha emitters since most of the gamma radiation has gone.

So it is entirely untrue that fuel bundles are highly dangerous for thousands of years. Storage of used fuel in uncooled concrete shielding containers is perfectly feasible and is already done. So used fuel bundles (a) do NOT require storage under water for thousands of years. (b) are not toxic (unless you eat one or two bundles (c) are relatively harmless after about ten years.

And Fred is 100% correct that the best thing to do with used fuel bundles is to separate the large amount of fissile material still in them and re-use it.

It is estimated that only about 2% of the Uranium in a CANDU fuel bundle is actually consumed in the reactor. The remaining 98% is discharged. To use your analogy that is like burning 1000 tons of coal and having 980 tons left at the end of the day. Why would you not re-use it.

Malcolm

February, 12 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Regarding coal versus nuclear - I did get myself roped into operating a coal plant during a labour dispute many years ago. Since I had operated a nuclear plant I guess the powers that be figured operating a coal plant was right up my street.

I can assure you that if you ever need convincing of the merits of nuclear power go and work in a coal plant for a week. It is THE most dangerous place I have ever worked. Everywhere is covered in fine coal dust or fly ash and you're breathing it in all the time. From the enormous pile of coal in the coal yard and the equally enormous machines required to move it to the coal conveyors dumping hundreds of tonnes a minute into boilers there is simply no comparison to a spotlessly clean nuclear plant where you literally can eat your dinner off the floor.

Instead of a vast coal dump you have a few fuel bundles pushed automatically into the reactor every day.

Nuclear kills nobody. Coal kills thousands every year, digging it out, transporting it by rail and ship, unloading it at coal plants and moving it into boilers. All very dangerous occupations that do regularly kill people.

Give me a few used fuel bundles any day of the week. Far far safer.

Malcolm

February, 13 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Let me tell you what I hope. I hope that the people reading the above comments develop an open mind where nuclear is concerned. This does not mean that I want a nuclear reactor on every street corner, nor that people should learn to love nuclear. The point is to start by understanding that nuclear cannot be replaced by X, Y and Z.

And incidentally, nobody needs more open mindedness than I do in the matter of shale gas. Something doesn't smell right there, but I could be wrong.

February, 14 2013

Len Gould says

" Something doesn't smell right there," -- Agreed Fred, I feel the same, though I need to keep reminding myself that just because the stock markets have foisted endless (scams / bubbles) on the small investor, everything from the S & L (scam / bubble) in the 1980's to the internet (scam / bubble) of the 1990's

February, 14 2013

Len Gould says

(Not sure, hit a wrong key somewhere lol...)

... to the Natural Gas generator scam of the 2000's to the sub-prime mortgage scam of the 2000's, and several others I've missed, doesn't mean that the next POTENTIAL investor scam is certainly an actual scam. However, I have learned to be VERY wary.

February, 14 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Fred it is obvious to anyone with a half ounce of common sense that solar energy and wind energy cannot meet the energy demands of a modern society. In some parts of the world in some cases yes it can make a contribution but on a large worldwide scale it is a non starter.

The logic is very simple. The wind does not blow all the time and the Sun does not shine all the time. These are simple but inescapable facts. You can rant and rave about thermodynamics all you want but when the Sun is not shining no solar panels produce anything. That is half the time. You can talk to me about how great wind turbines are but the fact is the wind blows only 20 and at the most windy sites only 30% of the time.

When the wind does not blow and the Sun does not shine does modern society stop? If society does not stop (or you do not want that to occur) then something else MUST be there to generate the electricity. Otherwise if my electrical theory serves me correctly the lights go out.

That something is either hydropower, coal, gas or nuclear - take your pick. My pick is nuclear. Ultra safe, ultra clean, zero waste (I do not consider used nuclear fuel as waste) with enough resources to last centuries.

What is not to like about that. It is certainly better than living in the dark.

In Ontario we just finished rebuilding the largest nuclear facility in the world. Eight units 6300 MW. THAT is what is keeping the lights on in Ontario and allowing the phase out of coal.

It is not wind and solar panels making that possible. Good, clean, reliable, nuclear. Nothing else comes close.

I fail to comprehend why intelligent people cannot understand the simple facts. But then again there are engineers who believe a perpetual motion machine is possible and the Flat Earth Society is still going strong and there are people still winning he Darwinian Awards.

I guess that should tell me all I need to know.

Malcolm

February, 14 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

I too am somewhat of a sceptic when it comes to the longevity of shale gas deposits but when the Chinese give out contracts to 19 companies with the horizontal drilling and fracking technology to exploit Chinas vast shale gas reserves then I sit up and take notice.

That occurred this week. The Chinese are not dummies and they do not waste money either. When they invest big money into shale gas extraction you better believe there is money in it and the gas is there.

The natural gas glut is not just being created by shale gas. Coal bed methane and conventional gas fields are also being located and exploited at a rapid pace. In addition combined cycle gas plants are more than doubling the efficiency of electric generating plants so we get double the electricity for the same gas input cost.

The Transcanada plant at Halton Hills and the jointly owned Portland Energy Centre in Toronto (TCP with OPG) use this technology and are also part of the reason Ontario is almost done with coal fired plants.

That is the future of power generation. Maximise hydroelecric power with nuclear as the base load workhorse and gas plants for some base load and peaking. Safe clean and work around the clock. The better way to run a modern society.

Malcolm

February, 15 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Well, Malcolm, I guess that maybe shale gas is the real deal. In fact, it was the Chinese failure to exploit the stuff, and instead to go looking for energy resources in South Sudan that worried me. After all, they are supposed to have more of it than the US.

But even so I am tempted to hold my endorsement for two reasons. One, my endorsement isn't worth anything, and two, I want to do some algebra on the depletion issue.

February, 16 2013

Dilip James says

Forgive me, if in my opinion, your post borders on gerrymandering, filled as it is with truths and half truths. The truth is that if toxic nuclear waste was as easy to dispose of as you state, requiring just concrete shielding after 10 years, believe me there would be no problem at all, everyone would be able to afford it and it would be safer and cleaner than coal or oil, everyone would be satisfied. Nuclear Energy as it applies to the US and Canada, uses Uranium Oxide as fuel, the end products contain a large percentage of Plutonium which has a half life of 27000 years, there is also Cesium with a half life of 30 some years. The US and Canada opted for this technology because of the problem of nuclear proliferation, using fast breeder technology so much plutonium would be available that there would be great difficulty in keeping it safe. Plutonium can be utilised in the making of a nuclear bomb. So like it or not the problem of toxic nuclear waste is real, and it is not going to go away. Fast Breeder reactors actually make an excess of plutonium which can then be re-used as fuel. The latest technology, fast neutron reactors, will leave behind so little toxic waste that there would be practically no problem in disposing of it. But, here again, the technology is untried and untested. France, the biggest user of nuclear power tried this technology and then closed it down after a year. So while this technology may well be a good solution, the question as Bill Gates (who advocates this technology ) puts it is, who is going to do the research and which country will undertake to do it ?

February, 16 2013

Dilip James says

When the wind does not blow and the Sun does not shine does modern society stop? If society does not stop (or you do not want that to occur) then something else MUST be there to generate the electricity. Otherwise if my electrical theory serves me correctly the lights go out.

Mr Rawlinson, Would you believe me when I tell you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, faint now, but growing brighter by the hour, that will soon eclipse the sun. I am talking about a technology that will change our life styles for ever. The Professor is worried about his standard of living, let me tell you, that his standard of living will undergo such tremendous changes, that he will soon begin to wonder what exactly was so attractive about those standards of living that he so appreciated. I guarantee you that if this new technology is implemented , the professor will find himself with a whole new set of values, he will find himself wondering why he ever bothered with things that seemed so important before but are seemingly insignificant with this new technology in place. And no, I am not some unholy Jihadist, advocating nuclear annihilation. I am just an ordinary person interested in sustainable Green renewable energy, who has kept his nose to the ground until a solution was found. My technology has the promise of a minimum of 10Kw produced 24 x7 throughout the year. It is based on tried and tested technology, if implemented it could be put into practise in a significant number of households all over the world by the end of the year ! It is a cost effective technology and would solve the at present seeming insurmountable problems of transport and electricity generation in on all encompassing solution.

February, 16 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Well don't keep us in the dark Dilip please tell us or at least give us a little clue as to what great invention you have been laboring away at. I too have been labouring away at green energy and played my role in bringing 2 x 800 MW generators back on to the grid. No coal, no oil, no gas just good clean green nuclear power.

When you say "a significant number of homes by the end of the year" can you be more specific?

Use a number like 10, 20, 30, 100, 200, 50,000 then we would understand how big a dent you are going to make in the energy distribution system at only 10kW a pop. Presumably the device is free so as to gain the maximum market penetration in such a short time.

Best of luck with that my friend.

Malcolm

February, 16 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Fred, Really liked your last note here.....it made me laugh.

I for one value your opinion and endorsement very much (which either makes me an idiot or a genius - you can decide that) and I agree it seems too good to be true. On the other hand a lot of businesses are sinking a lot of cold hard cash into these wells. The inscrutible Chinese I watch carefully...I did report their recent foray into shale gas incorrectly. It was contracts with 16 companies granting them exploration rights in 19 areas of shale gas. I got my numbers mixed up but nevertheless it is still their money and I am quite sure they expect a good return from it.

Thanks Fred your articles and comments are as always a joy to read.

Malcolm

February, 16 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Dilip - it is quite apparent that you do not know anything about nuclear technology and you sure do not understand the basic principles of radioactive decay.

Yes of course Plutonium has a half life of 27000 years but it is an ALPHA EMITTER. A sheet of paper will stop all alpha emissions from Plutonium. The fuel pencil prevents ANY alpha particles from escaping the fuel. Same with BETA EMITTERS.

Concrete shielding is ONLY required for GAMMA EMITTERS. GAMMA radiation decays away quite rapidly after the fuel leaves the core. In 10 years the majority of gamma emitters are decayed away to nothing leaving just a few like Caesium 135 and Strontium 90. These materials are not "TOXIC" they are radio-nuclides that give off gamma radiation just like the Potassium 40 isotope that is in your bones right now irradiating you as we speak courtesy of mother nature not nuclear power plants. Look it up if you do not believe me.

If you are worried about nuclear fuel after 10 years you sure better stop eating bananas with all the potassium-40 they contains and having chest and dental X-rays that zap you with Gamma radiation from Cobalt 60. Way more dose from that.

Nuclear fuel is quite safe and gets safer by the day and no risk to the public whatsoever. Suggest you brush up on your nuclear theory before berating me for telling the truth about radioactive materials. Malcolm

February, 17 2013

Ferdinand E. Banks says

Malcolm, Dilip means well. The same is true of the other members of the anti-nuclear booster clubs. You see, they simply have not received the educations they need and deserve. The last time I was in the US I dropped into some book stores to see what they had in energy economics, but with the exception of my books, they didn't have anything. The caused me a problem, because I thought that while in the 'Land of the Free' I should do a little stealing, by which I meant stealing ideas from the academic work of others, only there aint no others.

Dilip, I hate to say this, but BS journalists and the like cannot tell you what you need to know about energy economics. Cancel your subscription to your local newspaper and spend a little time in you local library. That's what I did after they bounced me out of engineering school because I failed everything.

February, 17 2013

Dilip James says

My sincere apologies to Dr. Ferdinand E Banks, I didn’t realise that his field of expertise is energy economy, I guess I am a bit out of my depth and am honoured to read his views and opinions. At the same time I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Michael Rawlinson, apart from his work in Nuclear Energy is also keen on Green energy. As regards plutonium and the risks it poses. Here is a link: http://leroymoore.wordpress.com/2011/01/16/fact-sheet-risk-from-plutonium-in-the-environment-at-rocky-flats/ Coming back to the topic of sustainable renewable energy, I do have a solution, and I will repeat that at a minimum 10 Kw of electricity can be produced 24/7. I just wanted to emphasise the kind of impact that having free energy and transport will have on Society. Things will change beyond recognition. Because with that kind of security, there will ( or should ) be a shift from the rapacious, acquisitive mindset that prevails in the present day, to a more nurturing and concerned mindset in the future. After all if your energy, heating and transport are all free, all you have to worry about is food and clothes, working hours will be shorter and people may even begin to grow vegetables and other things in their gardens once again. This is what I meant by a nurturing mind set. Of course the environment would also start to clear with almost immediate effect........

February, 17 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Dilip, There is no such thing as "free" energy. When I hear these terms used it makes me flinch in disbelief. Even if you have succeeded in developing a technology that can extract 10KW of energy there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it uses materials of some sort to do that. Materials are never free. There is some cost to producing the device and it is not zero.

So 10kW of free energy - that sounds like an awful lot of baloney - always pleased to be proved wrong but in this case I doubt I will.

Malcolm

February, 17 2013

Malcolm Rawlingson says

Dilip,

Let's analyse what you are saying a little more. You say you have a device that can make ... and I quote "energy heating and transport" free. OK that simple statement lays off millions of workers around the world. How are they supposed to make a living now. They have no job - no income that does not seem like the road to prosperity to me. While your goals may be laudible the practical application of your philosophy will lead to poverty not prosperity.

Sorry but that is reality.

Malcolm.

March, 28 2013

Marc Metteauer says

Dr. Banks,

This is late coming, but energy storage needs to be a part of the solution as well, as we all know. Have you reviewed the recent patent of Dr. James Corum?

http://www.prweb.com/releases/RingPowerMultiplier/ACBattery/prweb10457921.htm

Best, Marc M.

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