Chris, Are you aware of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor Technology? A proven solution to the energy crisis?

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Chris, Are you aware of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor Technology? A proven solution to the energy crisis?

Chris,

I was wondering if you were aware of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors?

We build and tested prototype LFTRs in the 60's and they ran find for several years.

We know the technology is viable.

The LFTR project was canned because it wasn't suited for generateing weapons grade material.

 

We have thousands and thousands of years worth of thorium fuel, in the usa we have 1-2 thousands years of known reserves.

This accounts for projected increases in electrical consumption, EV and fuel cell vehichles, as well as producing liquid fuels from atmospheric CO2, and hydrogen from sea water. 

LFTRs cannot melt down or explode.

LFTRs produce 1000's of times less transuranic waste than existing reactors.

It isn't fusion but it's better than any other solution we are currently aware of.

 

More on LFTR technology from Kirk Sorensen who was a scientist at nasa.

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Re: Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor

And Chris is supposed to be able to help how exactly? It's not like he has a hot line with Obama to tell him stuff like: "Hey there, please build a couple of those reactors, please!"

Anyway, the point is, people are not taking this stuff seriously, and even if they would, it would take 20+ years to build even just a couple of prototypes to figure out if they could work longer than the Oak Bridge experiment, and then build bigger ones, another 20+ years if it goes well... And on top of that, we're supposed to do that during a depression, taking energy away from Hollywood movies and trips to Mars, so... People won't let them get built anyway.

Samuel

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If we wanted it bad enough

If we wanted it bad enough we could transition to it before we ran out of oil,  however the general public has no idea this even exists.

 

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  "20+ years to build

  "20+ years to build ...then build bigger ones, another 20+ years."

Huh?

It's all about supply and demand.  Investors won't fund projects unless theirs a reasonable chance they will see a return.  Right now there simply isn't enough demand.  Oil is still relatively cheap.  Natural gas is way cheap.  Coal is cheap.  Nuclear options (and other alternatives) will certainly be expanded but not at these prices.  Should conventional options dry up rapidly  you will see things fast tracked (just as we saw during the commodities surge of 07-08).

I understand Chris' point on the risks and political will surrounding Nuclear.  They are real.  But folks, if energy becomes expensive or scarce politicians heads will roll (just ask former California Governer Davis).  

I know this is heresy, but I suspect energy availability is likely not going to amount to much more than a nuiessance in our lifetime.  Prices for transportation may rise but consumers will respond.  Look at the US post peak oil production curve.  It's not that dramatic - losing only ~1% of oil production per year.  If that's our blueprint going forward I believe we will see a combination of higher transportation prices, greater use of alternative fuels (coal, gas, nuclear, cheap renewables), and mild changes in consumer behavior.  Higher prices will make alternatives more viable.

 

 

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A good description of why LFTRs are not a panacea

While this guy clearly has a political bent against Libertarians (his article would have been better without the political commetary), it does seem to layout some of the issues with LFTR reactors:

http://daryanenergyblog.wordpress.com/ca/part-8-msr-lftr/

It basically comes down to yes, you can build them, no they are not the great solution made out by the LFTR fan club.  There are many engineering issues for a production size system that the simple test version built in the 1960s did not address.  Hmm, this reminds me of one of latest blog articles by Robert Rapier on issues with liquid fuel replacements.  Many of the same problems apply.

 

 

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you don't have 20 years
neutrino wrote:

 

I know this is heresy, but I suspect energy availability is likely not going to amount to much more than a nuiessance in our lifetime.  Prices for transportation may rise but consumers will respond.  Look at the US post peak oil production curve.  It's not that dramatic - losing only ~1% of oil production per year.  If that's our blueprint going forward I believe we will see a combination of higher transportation prices, greater use of alternative fuels (coal, gas, nuclear, cheap renewables), and mild changes in consumer behavior.  Higher prices will make alternatives more viable.

No way is the US oil depletion rate 1%, it's more like 3%.

Prices are the least of your "nuisances".  Just wait until it's rationed or simply unavailable.  Mexico is set to stop selling the US ANY oil within ~3 years.  And if there's ANY turmoil in the Middle East (lots of sabre rattling with Iran and Syria right now), or a Lybian style revolution in Saudi Arabia, you can kiss your gasoline goodbye.....

Mike

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20 years?

Iran's oil industry has been exempted from the recent sanctions imposted by the west. However, if the West does impose an embargo on the Iran's energy sector, global oil prices will soar up to USD 250 per barrel.

http://www.presstv.ir/detail/213553.html

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Just because some armchair

Just because some armchair physicist with a blog makes some criticisms doesn't mean they are valid.

Alvin Weinberg the guy who invented and held the patents for the light water reactor (the type of nuclear reactor we use today),   spent the rest of his career at oakridge national labs campaigning for LFTR technology.   The powers that be told him to shut up, and he wouldn't so he was fired.

That alone should speak volumes here.

To the best of my knowledge the only thing hold LFTR back at this moment is a lack of funding. Run these criticism by the guys in the energyfromthorium forum, see if you can't get some answers and rebuttals.     The Chinese might be the first ones to make LFTR  happen, I really hope we don't wind up buying Chinese LFTRs. 

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 Wow mike, "My Gasoline"...

 Wow mike, "My Gasoline"... I must be pretty rich!!

Maybe you're right - I don't profess to have a crystal ball.  I just don't assume doom right off the bat.  Stable production decline could just as easily be mitigated by reduced demand, behavior change (that is afterall the function of price), substitution from alternative sources  (coal, nat gas, nuclear, ethenol, misc).  Nothing changes behavior like price.  We saw consumption decline in the late 70's, early 80's for exactly this reason.  But yes, you are correct if the spigot is suddenly turned off in the morning there will be mass hysteria by the end of the week and geopolitical events can cause disruptions in supply and price spikes. Allowing for these, I simply do not expect a precipitous fall-off of oil production.  Provided that remains the case then a gradual decline associated with higher prices allows substitutions and behavior changes to meet the new energy supply/demand mix. At $250/bbl Americans will change their lifestyle. 3 cars per household will be reduced to 1 or 2.  Car-pooling, telecommuting and mass transit will become all the rage.  Billions of people alive today live much much higher fuel to income costs right now.  Things will be change but for gawd sakes the US uses 25% of global oil production yet comprises only 5% of Earth's population. We have a lot of fluff and a diet would do us just fine.

Regarding Mexico's stopping of oil exports in 3 years, I doubt that.  Price performs a another wonderful function - it provides incentive.  You can bet your butt that if oil is $250/bbl Mexico will sell their oil. I would bet dollars to doughnuts they continue to sell it on the open market to whoever buys it.  Whether they sell it internally or externally or (most likely) a combination thereof will be born out by economics. And $250/bbl avg. is a reasonable in 5-7 years in todays dollars.  

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The energy trap

Hi Neutrino,

Interesting thoughts.  You wrote,

neutrino wrote:

"I know this is heresy, but I suspect energy availability is likely not going to amount to much more than a nuiessance in our lifetime.  Prices for transportation may rise but consumers will respond."

  I hope you are right!  There is at least a chance that you will be right, if the cards fall the right way.  We do have a lot of wasted capacity that we can draw from.  If push came to shove, and we could use only 1/2 as much electricity and fuel as we currently do, and only eat food that was produced locally and in season, it wouldn't be the end of the world.

The U.S. currently uses 69bbl of oil per day per 1,000 people.  Denmark uses half that.  France, Germany, and Switzerland use substantially less than half.
 

Let's assume that all foreign oil sources were cut off, and we are restricted to living only on our domestic oil production.  That puts us in the neighborhood of Croatia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, and Russia.  Not too bad; we'd still be among the most self-sufficient countries in the world, especially considering our other natural resources such as farmland. 

Now what if that number were cut in half yet again? (that's ~ 16% of our current oil usage per capita).  That still puts us on a par with Romania, Albania, Turkey, Macedonia, and Poland.  Not the greatest places in the world, but I'm sure there are many people in Macedonia who are living very fulfilling lives.  And this isn't counting our nation's coal reserves.

Of course, old fashioned back-breaking labor may come back into vogue.  And true poverty may once again be seen in this country.  Certainly the "reset" button will have to be pushed on our economic and monetary system, which currently assumes unrealistic rates of growth.

The truth is that our domestic oil production (assuming we're living on that alone) would have to fall below 10% of its current level before we would be in undisputed Third World nation territory.  And U.S. domestic oil production is not projected to fall to those levels for a long, long time.  Not until about 2040.

Oops.  So as Chris would say, there are a few wrinkles in this story.

neutrino wrote:

"It's all about supply and demand.  Investors won't fund projects unless theirs a reasonable chance they will see a return.  Right now there simply isn't enough demand.  Oil is still relatively cheap.  Natural gas is way cheap.  Coal is cheap.  Nuclear options (and other alternatives) will certainly be expanded but not at these prices.  Should conventional options dry up rapidly  you will see things fast tracked (just as we saw during the commodities surge of 07-08)."

  Well, first of all, coal and NG are cheap only at current levels of demand.  If they had to carry oil's burden, they would be very expensive.  And no alternative energy program has been proposed that would allow us to replace liquid fuels (not electricity, which we already have plenty of) without a massive investment in infrastructure, most critically in agriculture.  I am less optimistic than you are about the possibility of a "crash program" to built out an alternative energy infrastructure, due to the "Energy Trap," a speculation by Dr. Tom Murphy.  He explains it best:

Dr. Tom Murphy wrote:

In brief, the idea is that once we enter a decline phase in fossil fuel availability—first in petroleum—our growth-based economic system will struggle to cope with a contraction of its very lifeblood. Fuel prices will skyrocket, some individuals and exporting nations will react by hoarding, and energy scarcity will quickly become the new norm. The invisible hand of the market will slap us silly demanding a new energy infrastructure based on non-fossil solutions. But here’s the rub. The construction of that shiny new infrastructure requires not just money, but . . . energy.  And that’s the very commodity in short supply.  Will we really be willing to sacrifice additional energy in the short term—effectively steepening the decline—for a long-term energy plan?  It’s a trap!

Let’s say that our nation (or world) uses 100 units of energy per year, and needs to come up with 2 units of replacement energy within a year’s time to fill an emerging energy deficit.

...If we launch [an alternative energy program costing 6 units of energy], of the 100 units of total energy resource in place in year one, only 92 are available for use—looking suddenly like an 8% decline. If we sit on our hands and do not launch a replacement infrastructure, we would have 98 units available for use next year. It’s still a decline, but a 2% decline is far more palatable than an effective 8% decline. Since each subsequent year expects a similar fossil fuel decline, the game repeats. Where is the short-term incentive to launch a new infrastructure?  The timescale needed to reap the benefit of the program is beyond the typical horizon of elected politicians. This is why I call it a trap.

...Another aspect of the trap is that we cannot build our way out of the problem. If we tried to outsmart the trap by building a massive 8-unit replacement in year one, it would require 32 units to produce and only dig a deeper hole. The essential point is that up-front infrastructure energy costs mean that one step forward results in four steps back, given EROEI around 10:1 and up-front investment for a 40 year lifetime. Nature does not provide an energy financing scheme. You can’t build a windmill on promised energy.

(Tom Murphy, PhD., is an astrophysicist at the University of California at San Diego.  He has started a monthly blog called "Do The Math," about the limits to economic growth, energy, peak oil, and natural resources).

http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/10/the-energy-trap/

 

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Energy Trap

 

 Jrf29,

Excellent insights. Part of the US (and the worlds) spare capacity lies in the wasteful use of fuels right here in the USA.  One problem you cite is a suitable replacement for transportation fuels.  While this is very true, this also happens to be the area where energy wastage is most prevalent.  That is why I suspect we will encounter nuisance lifestyle changes vice a crushing descent into poverty. I consider car pooling, mass transit, telecommuting, small efficient auto's and less of them to be a niusance change.  As you point out we could do fine with just half of what we use just in our transportation habits and get along like our European friends who are a far far cry from digging in trashcans for dinner.  I privately suspect a habit change of this sort will, after a transition, eventually bring about more positive changes than negative but that is a discussion for another time.

You are also correct regarding the reason for the current cheap prices of alternatives to crude - namely their current utilization. However their present cheapness implies a certain amount of excess capacity. We can expect prices of all forms of energy to be pushed upwards in response to any major source scarcity, especially crude.

Mr Murphy had some great insights and point out the challenges of trying to attain more energy when energy is required to do so..

A couple of flaws I see in his thinking:

"The timescale needed to reap the benefit of the program is beyond the typical horizon of elected politicians. This is why I call it a trap."

Here he assumes politicians will provide a solution.  They will not.  They can only provide roadblocks to a solution by preventing the massive shift in investment focus that high energy prices will provide.  Should they provide a roadblock in the face of a crisis, they will find themselves out of a job in short order. We saw this vividly display during the commodities boom of 2007-2008.  All sorts of energy technologies received investor money.  There was a shortage of viable investments due to the compressed nature of price increases.  Money to energy projects soared.  Wind, Tide, off shore drilling, Methane Hydrate, Traveling wave nuclear reactors, Thin film Solar and a host of other potential technologies were well funded and received serious attention by money centers, politicians, the media and the public.  I humorously remember a demonstration in Santa Barbara of all places to Drill, Drilll, Drill! And more to the point, politicians reacted to the demands of their constituents.

 

Stocks, bonds and various financing schemes are well suited for long term projections.  Humans by nature are forward looking and with proper incentives I am very confident we will allocate recources to finding a viable solution.  And trust me those incentives, demonstrated by price, will be there.

One other potentially flawed assumption:

If we launch [an alternative energy program costing 6 units of energy], of the 100 units of total energy resource in place in year one, only 92 are available for use—looking suddenly like an 8% decline. If we sit on our hands and do not launch a replacement infrastructure, we would have 98 units available for use next year. It’s still a decline, but a 2% decline is far more palatable than an effective 8% decline.

Again I will point to political, public and investor behavior.  Yes, we will divert and sacrifice resources to achieve a long term gain.  Recent history bears this out as this is precisely what we witnessed during a period of implied scarcity.  The California High Speed Rail initiative has been promoted and voted on for over a decade.  The bond measure finally passed recently at the worst possible time despite a severe budget crisis and economic uncertainty. Its proximity to the 07-08 energy spike was no coincidence.

This is not to say all things will go smoothly.  Mike mentioned the potential for geopolitical disruptions to cause short term pain.  These are very real and should be expected when resources become more constrained.  I hate to keep harping but these too will ramp up incentives, in the form of price and attract all sorts of interest, in the form of present and future money.

Change always delivers a certian amount of anquish, but I wouldn't expect a Zombieland future either.

 

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Re: energy trap

Your points are very reasonable, and you caught a flaw in Tom Murphy's argument that I honestly overlooked.   Maybe forward-looking private investment will be able to plug the gap in the long-run (accepting the possibility for an unpleasant changeover period), although some concerted state action will be needed.  For example, the land for wind and solar in many parts of the country may need to be taken by eminent domain, and these actions may need to be coordinated at the state level.  But, of course, this doesn't require direct monetary investment by the government.

There are risks not to be ignored, but I don't think we're inescapably bound for a miserable future, either.  Of course nobody can predict the future, especially at key turning points.  Even an empty appeal to "prepare for the risks" is tricky, as so often the risks lie in completely different areas than one would suspect.  That said, I think it's very likely that the transition to a lower energy economy can be made relatively painlessly (at least during our lifetimes). 

neutrino wrote:

I privately suspect a habit change of this sort will, after a transition, eventually bring about more positive changes than negative but that is a discussion for another time."

No doubt about that.  People in war-torn, dirt-poor Nigeria are among the happiest in the world, and far happier than Americans. 

More than one lifetime out, the population will at some point need to contend with long-term carrying capacity of the earth, and it is at least arguable that we have already overshot this or are on a trajectory to do so.  That argument would be based more on our dependency on non-renewable resources like phosphorus (also, here too, we have left the lowest and most difficult grades for last), along with the continual destruction of prime topsoil by mechanized farming methods.  At the very least, human population will continue to expand until those on the margins are constantly at risk of the seasonal famile and associated die-off that has characterized human life for most of history.  But I have no reason to think these issues will necessarily come to a head during our lifetimes.

As for the risks I mentioned, it seems to me that the greatest danger comes in the form of temporary crises, caused not by the lack of energy itself, but instead by angry human reactions to the "reset" of our more brittle economic and monetary systems which were designed in anticipation of a level of growth that will not exist.

Telling masses of people that the era of steadily-rising standards of living is over forever is not an easy task, especially when there are demagogues ready to say, "It's a lie!  You are being robbed of what was promised to you!" and who are only too happy to lead a hunt for the guilty parties.

neutrino wrote:

Stocks, bonds and various financing schemes are well suited for long term projections.  Humans by nature are forward looking and with proper incentives I am very confident we will allocate recources to finding a viable solution.

  Here's where I think I see the most risk, should massive investment be required during a time when the markets for stocks, bonds, and other capital-raising tools are in a larger crisis caused by failure of growth assumptions, then the ability to raise sufficient capital for a large-scale infrastructure overhaul might be delayed for several years, possibly at the very time we need it most.  This could result in a few years of increased economic discomfort, and, to the extent energy availability continues to decrease while we wait, limit our options further.

It's also possible that some of the necessary investments will never pay a net return during the life of a typical investor, but instead (like a levy, or a dike around a town) are simply necessary to prevent greater pain in the future.

And, if we're relying on private investment it is very likely that there won't be any incentive for build-out in rural areas where wealth and population is diffuse.  I think I mentioned in a previous post that my (rural Massachusetts) town has no cell phone towers, nor high speed internet, nor cable tevevision.  Nor are companies showing any interest in building them here (which frankly makes me happy).   In small towns like mine, through the 1960's many people didn't have electricity.  In fact, while we're on the subject, there are houses in my area that are still not served by electricity.  Nice, expensive, well-maintained houses from the 1700's, but they are located in inaccessible areas that the power company simply never got to. 

....But there will always be freak outlying areas. The point is that if the infrastructure in question was something more critical, many people living in such areas of the country might find that they have dropped out of the 20th Century, and are now economically marooned, without the wherewithal to immediately re-enter it.

Ultimately I agree with what Chris said in his report just posted - he is optimistic about a future industrial activity (indeed holding silver is, in part, an implicit bet on future industrial activity), but perceives risks that could lead to an economic dark patch between now and then.

I think the possibility of economic and political disruptions is a very serious risk that cannot be ignored by prudent humans, given the debts and obligations that certainly will never the repaid.   As for energy, there is a risk that energy changes which are mere nuisances overall can seriously impact individuals who are positioned poorly.  Of course the same has been true for all big events, even those that were strongly positive on a net basis, like the industrual revolution, which destroyed the careers of many an artisan.  And of course, prudently looking out for risks doesn't mean that you anticipate doom at every turn.

neutrino wrote:

Change always delivers a certian amount of anquish, but I wouldn't expect a Zombieland future either.

  I agree.  It will certainly be interesting.

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Well said.

Well said.

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Export Land Model
neutrino wrote:

Regarding Mexico's stopping of oil exports in 3 years, I doubt that.  Price performs a another wonderful function - it provides incentive.  You can bet your butt that if oil is $250/bbl Mexico will sell their oil. I would bet dollars to doughnuts they continue to sell it on the open market to whoever buys it.  Whether they sell it internally or externally or (most likely) a combination thereof will be born out by economics. And $250/bbl avg. is a reasonable in 5-7 years in todays dollars.

They would be facing a revolution at that stage......  I doubt the Mexican Government would starve its own people to sell YOU their oil.  You have heard of the "Export Land Model"?  If not, Google it....

Mike

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I doubt the Mexican

I doubt the Mexican Government would starve its own people to sell YOU their oil.

 I certainly hope not because if their relying on MY money they are in sad straits indeed!   

BTW, Which government are you talking about?  The "official" government or the Narco's?  You sound inflexible and emotionally attached to your assumptions. That can sometimes hinder clear, critical thought.

It's a simplistic to assume oil is the most important internal commodity for Mexicans. At the end of the day oil is a commodity like anything else.  It's value relative to other commodities is reflected in its price. Look at it this way, you cannot eat oil. Mexico has two major exports, oil and drugs.  Revenue from these buy the things they import.  While the present import/export revenue mix is likely to change somewhat, it's not likely to completely reverse in 3 years.  More likely is the emergance of a new economic equilibrium as a result of higher prices interracting with supply and demand. I believe Mexico will continue to let the open market (and to a growing extent the black market) decide who gets their oil.  If they have suffiecient internal economic resources to consume all of their own oil and not miss the revenue it would otherwise bring in then yes they will be the buyers of all their own oil.  

I stand by my assesment - I doubt it. Feel free to differ but please spare the emotion, it's not useful. Afterall in just 36 short months we will see.

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Re: 20+ years to build
neutrino wrote:

It's all about supply and demand.  Investors won't fund projects unless theirs a reasonable chance they will see a return.  Right now there simply isn't enough demand.  Oil is still relatively cheap.  Natural gas is way cheap.  Coal is cheap.  Nuclear options (and other alternatives) will certainly be expanded but not at these prices.  Should conventional options dry up rapidly  you will see things fast tracked (just as we saw during the commodities surge of 07-08).

I understand Chris' point on the risks and political will surrounding Nuclear.  They are real.  But folks, if energy becomes expensive or scarce politicians heads will roll (just ask former California Governer Davis).  

I know this is heresy, but I suspect energy availability is likely not going to amount to much more than a nuiessance in our lifetime.  Prices for transportation may rise but consumers will respond.  Look at the US post peak oil production curve.  It's not that dramatic - losing only ~1% of oil production per year.  If that's our blueprint going forward I believe we will see a combination of higher transportation prices, greater use of alternative fuels (coal, gas, nuclear, cheap renewables), and mild changes in consumer behavior.  Higher prices will make alternatives more viable.

Ok, explain this data:

Economics of New Nuclear Power and Proliferation Risks in a Carbon-Constrained World

And if you cannot figure out what is wrong with this picture, ask yourself, why has the cost of nuclear been following the price of oil? Oh heresy yes

Samuel

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 Sam: "why has the cost of

 Sam: "why has the cost of nuclear been following the price of oil?"

Are you implying the cost of building nuclear power stations has risen due to the cost of oil? 

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Rising Cost of Nuclear Power vs Photovoltaics
neutrino wrote:

Are you implying the cost of building nuclear power stations has risen due to the cost of oil? 

It looks that way doesn't it? And what is it they say about nuclear fuel again? That it's insignificant compared to the plant cost? Oops! Still no alarm bells ringing in your mind ... ? Now let's look at the production cost of photovoltaics over that same period of time:

 

Smaller, cheaper, faster: Does Moore’s law apply to solar cells?

 

Now that's technology with a potential future. Can we say the same about nuclear? I don't think so

Samuel

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Export Land Model
neutrino wrote:

Look at it this way, you cannot eat oil.

Oh but you can......  in fact you DO every day!

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Rising Cost of Nuclear Power vs Photovoltaics

Of course you realise much of this plummeting cost is largely due to China treating its labour fotce like sh*t don't you......?

Mike

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 Gaurdia, The dramatic

 Gaurdia,

 

The dramatic rise in Nuclear Power Plant costs came as a result of the accident at Three Mile Island which launched a comprehensive design overhauls, halted contruction for some plants and shuttered others.   As you can see from the long term oil chart below the costs for power plants increased just as oil was plummeting.  In reality the correlation to crude is low as these are essentially industrial facilities, albiet costly for other reasons.  in todays dollars the estimate is $5-9 billion/unit (reactor) depending on the siting.  China is in the midst of a nuclear boom now with ~25 plants under construction.  These are the streamline Westinghouse AP1000 design.  We should get a good idea of costs from this effort in the next few years.   The approach of a single design versus the numerous customs designs the US built in the 60's, 70's and 80's should keep cost overruns manageable and benefit from the economy of scale.  We'll know more soon.

 And what is it they say about nuclear fuel again? That it's insignificant compared to the plant cost?

Actually fuel is one of the cheaper inputs. If I recall correctly (and I could be way off a 1/3 core refuel costs ~$40mm for a 1250 MW reactor and will last 18 months.  It's very, very cheap fuel that works out to less than a penny/kW.   I guess I don't follow you.

 

 

Regarding Solar Power it is certainly a solution that will be used in the future. I am impressed at some of the gains made in the area of technology.  However there is a reason for it's limited use now and limited projected use in the future.  It is a very energy diffuse source of power meaning you need a lot of panels to capture significant energy.  It doesn't mean Solar is not useful however I don't think it will be a national workhorse.  I just can't see it suppling more than 5% of our electrical production in the next 30-50 years and to achieve 5% we need oil above $150-200/bbl in todays dollars. And remember too we're just talking about electricity which is a small slice of the energy pie.

Lets use California as an example.  California has a daily energy demand in the neighborhood of  20,000 to 36,000 MW .  Lets compare this with the one of the largest Solar facilities, the 140 acre facility of the Nellis Solar Plant which produces 14 MW.  Using crude back of the envelop calculations we can see that in order to meet California's Energy demand we would need 2000 plants just like Nellis covering an area nearing 300,000 acres.  But keep in mind too that the capacity factor for solar plants is very low so you would need to back-up power available from a non solar source to augment non peak light conditions (dusk/dawn), night time, and unfriendly weather. Additionally the Energy Return on Investment is low, i.e they cost a lot even with recent improvements.
 
Don't get me wrong, it will be part of our energy future, however the physics relegate it to a limited role in my opinion.  

 

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Re: Rising Cost of Nuclear Power vs Photovoltaics
Damnthematrix wrote:

Of course you realise much of this plummeting cost is largely due to China treating its labour fotce like sh*t don't you......?

There's that, but I wonder how China has managed to treat their people ten times sh*ttier today than 30 years ago? Let's not exaggerate here... "China increased market share from 8% in 2008 to over 55% in the last quarter of 2010." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cell#Cost so we can remove that last bit in the graph, and it is essential correct, minus China.

Samuel

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Re: Gaurdia, The dramatic
neutrino wrote:

The dramatic rise in Nuclear Power Plant costs came as a result of the accident at Three Mile Island which launched a comprehensive design overhauls, halted contruction for some plants and shuttered others.   As you can see from the long term oil chart below the costs for power plants increased just as oil was plummeting.  In reality the correlation to crude is low as these are essentially industrial facilities, albiet costly for other reasons.  in todays dollars the estimate is $5-9 billion/unit (reactor) depending on the siting.  China is in the midst of a nuclear boom now with ~25 plants under construction.  These are the streamline Westinghouse AP1000 design.  We should get a good idea of costs from this effort in the next few years.   The approach of a single design versus the numerous customs designs the US built in the 60's, 70's and 80's should keep cost overruns manageable and benefit from the economy of scale.  We'll know more soon.

blah blah blah blah ... *ugh* Fukushima *ugh* blah blah blah (oh and look at that, the price of oil has gone back to levels beyond 1979! do oil shocks come in pairs with nuclear disasters? that's an interesting theory)

Was that convincing enough a rebuttal?

That's at least one good thing that came out of Fukushima, we don't have to enter mind numbing arguments to convince people anymore...

And BTW, the company in charge of the control systems for every single one of those Chinese nuclear power plants is exactly the same company responsible for the high speed bullet train and subway accidents earlier this year... that looks promising

Quote:

 And what is it they say about nuclear fuel again? That it's insignificant compared to the plant cost?

Actually fuel is one of the cheaper inputs. If I recall correctly (and I could be way off a 1/3 core refuel costs ~$40mm for a 1250 MW reactor and will last 18 months.  It's very, very cheap fuel that works out to less than a penny/kW.   I guess I don't follow you.

You do realize you are repeating exactly what I said?

Quote:
Don't get me wrong, it will be part of our energy future, however the physics relegate it to a limited role in my opinion.  
 

Current technology, possibly, but it is getting cheaper. Besides, I just proved the same is true for nuclear, which has NOT progressed and has NOT gotten cheaper over the last 30 years, unlike PV technology.

Samuel

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LFTR Costs

Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors are estimated to be significantly cheaper to build once the design work has been completed.

They should fit into large existing buildings and would not require the security staff or cooling towers that existing reactors must have.

 

 

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LFTR's would still need the

LFTR's would still need the cooling towers, they still operate on the Rankine Cycle so it's no different, it's all just converting heat into electricity. I admit I don't now a whole lot about the thorium flouride nuclear process iself but they sound good and I hope they are investigated more thorougly. However, as mentioned before, realistically we are looking at least 20 years before we could see any concrete results. But since we have about 40 years of oil left that may give us time.

I think once Peak Oil hits big time and everyone accepts it as reality we should see a lot more attention paid to alternatives. Right now I think a lot of people believe the high oil prices are a result of eco-freaks getting in the way of drilling programs. Once people realize that it's actually because .... we are running out of cheap oil, then the sentiment may change.

But I don't see a painfree energy transition ahead because the US imports most of its oil, and when its currency collapses in the near future it will no longer be able to do so. And unlike Europe, it hasn't been built around a low energy reality, so it's going to be facing a lot of problems in the near future. There really is very little oil left in the US, so even though it currently produces a few million barrels a day that won't last long. If they open up ANWR and other places they might get a few more years. And oil shale is basically a lost cause, the EROEI is too low.

Possibly Alberta will offer up its tar sand (I don't know what the US could pay for it with to offset the trade imbalance -- maybe gold since we gave all ours away a few years ago?). All of Canada's oil would supply the US for about 20 years which may enable them to build out a renewable infrastructure.

I also firmly believe that the transition to electric cars will happen quickly once it catches on. I just got my Nissan Leaf and it is a riot. My friend just got a hybrid Civic and he was like, whatever, and then I'm like, hmm, dude, let's go for a spin. Whoa, he sure converted over fast! He's like, "People just don't know about this". Then I was like, yeah, dude!

I personally am an EV / photovoltaic kind of guy because it puts the power back into the hands of people, out of the hands of oil companies and Mr. Burns from the Simpsons.

But, the bigger problem that I don't hink is solvable is the population crunch. There are simply too many people in the world and when fossil fuels become scarce we won't be able to feed everyone and this will cause many conflicts, starvation, and war; basically a Malthusian Collapse. I personally don't think the world's population is going to 9 billion, and if it does it won't stay there for long.

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To the best of my knowledge

To the best of my knowledge LFTR's will not use cooling towers.  We wouldn't be 20 years away if we threw half the money we've blown on war on terror at it. 

 

Mark_BC wrote:

LFTR's would still need the cooling towers, they still operate on the Rankine Cycle so it's no different, it's all just converting heat into electricity. I admit I don't now a whole lot about the thorium flouride nuclear process iself but they sound good and I hope they are investigated more thorougly. However, as mentioned before, realistically we are looking at least 20 years before we could see any concrete results. But since we have about 40 years of oil left that may give us time.

 

http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/02/aim-high-plan-for-factory-mass-produced.html

Quote:

Technical LFTR Advantages [Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor]

1. LFTR has no refueling outages, with continuous refueling and continuous waste fission product removal.

2. It can change power output to satisfy demand, satisfying today's need for both baseload coal or nuclear power and expensive peakload natural gas power.

3. LFTR operates at high temperature, for 50% thermal/electrical conversion efficiency, thus needing only half the cooling required by today's coal or nuclear plant cooling towers.

4. It is air cooled, critical for arid regions of the Western US and many developing countries where water is scarce.

5. LFTR has low capital costs because it does not need massive pressure vessels or containment domes, because of its compact heat exchanger and Brayton cycle turbine, because of intrinsic safety features, and because cooling requirements are halved.

6. An LFTR will cost $200 million for a moderate size 100 MW unit, allowing incremental capital outlays, affordability to developing nations, and suitability for factory production, truck transport, and site assembly.

7. It will be factory produced, like Boeing airliners, lowering costs and time, enabling continuous improvement.

8. It can make hydrogen to synthesize vehicle fuels from recycled waste CO2, reducing foreign oil dependency.

9. It could convert air and water to ammonia for fertilizer, whose production today absorbs > 1% of all the world's energy.

10. Its molten salt fuel form facilitates handling and chemical processing.

11. LFTR is intrinsically safe because overheating expands the fuel salt past criticality, because LFTR fuel is not pressurized, and because total loss of power or control will allow a freeze-plug to melt, gravitationally draining all fuel salt into a dump tray, where it cools convectively.

12. 100% of LFTR's thorium fuel is burned, compared to 0.7% of uranium burned in today's nuclear reactors.

13. LFTR is proliferation resistant, because LFTR U-233 fuel also contains U-232 decay products that emit strong gamma radiation, hazardous to any bomb builders who might somehow seize control of the power plant for the many months necessary extract uranium.

14. In the LFTR, plutonium and other actinides remain in the salt until fissioned, unlike today's solid fuel reactors, which must refuel long before these long-lived radiotoxic elements are consumed, because of radiation and thermal stress damage to the zirconium-encased solid fuel rods.

15. No plutonium or other fissile material is ever isolated or transported to or from the LFTR, except for importing spent nuclear fuel waste used to start the LFTR.

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Issues with Thorium

 

maynoth wrote:

14. In the LFTR, plutonium and other actinides remain in the salt until fissioned, unlike today's solid fuel reactors, which must refuel long before these long-lived radiotoxic elements are consumed, because of radiation and thermal stress damage to the zirconium-encased solid fuel rods.

 

It is nice to read the thread finally make it back onto the Thorium question. I see great promise in Thorium fission, but the approach has some pretty significant challenges too. That bit about metal fatigue in fuel rods?...

 

Thorium tetra Fluoride melts at 1100 C (about the melting point of silver). Hot fluids are difficult to contain.  I think in the long term Thorium reactors face metal fatigue risks every bit as much as fuel rods. Sure fuel rods have that pesky little “China Syndrome” problem and Thorium does not. But when Thorium leaks out you have a different problem… Thorium is an alpha particle emitter.

 

You could not pay me enough money to work in a plant leaking alpha-particle emitters. This type of decay is what makes Plutonium so incredibly toxic. The cause and effect are extremely certain… Get an alpha particle emitter into your body, get cancer. The only questions after exposure is, how long do you have left? I think this risk is why Thorium Oxide has steady been eliminated from commercial products through the past 40 or 50 years.

 

All that said Thorium fission is still the best candidate I’ve read about that “could” meet a significant chunk of the world’s energy needs. The fuel is abundant, now we just need to figure out how to build the vast amounts of infrastructure this fuel source would require.  It is nice to know people think this technology is worthy of consideration.

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trendsearcher,   http://www.

trendsearcher,

 

http://www.energyfromthorium.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3455&start=0&...

"Cyril R" wrote:

First off, the melting point can be lowered to 400-500 degrees Celcius by adding different salts, such as LiF, NaF etc. These are called carrier salts. They 'carry' the fuel and improve melting point, viscosity, heat transfer properties etc. So the reactor can operate at 600 to 700 degrees Celsius with lots of thorium fluoride.

Second, the alpha particle emitters are all bound up in fluoride form, and are non-volatile and dissolved in the fuel salt. That makes containment intrinsically easier. Furthermore, the reactor will be housed in a hot cell. Such hot cells are designed to be in highly radioactive fields, they are hermetically sealed and automatically operated with robot arms, remote manipulators, etc, no humans are allowed except during very rare extended shutdown maintenance (replacement of really big parts every few decades or so). This technology is well proven in various fields, including medical isotope production. ORNL also developed remote welding and cutting technology so that pipes and HXs, etc. can be replaced using robotic arms.

The best way to think about this is to say the hot cell is the reactor vessel boundary, with the actual reactor being only part of the 'reactor internals' such as core shrouds, support plates etc.

If there is any spill, then this will drain to another set of dump tanks, because the hot cell is shaped like your kitchen sink.

Third, the longevity of the materials. Metal fatigue is not an issue for superalloys that are specifically designed with high temperature creep and fatigue in mind, such as Hastelloy N. Due to the low pressure the stresses in the alloys are very low, eliminated a whole flurry of stress related fatigue and corrosion issues. Stress corrosion cracking, overpressurizing failure, all eliminated.

The molten salt reactor experiment (MSRE) ran for 4 years, it lasted perfectly, and the alloy was improved after the experience with the MSRE, to make it more radiation resistant and more resistant to tellurium attack. They also ran in more chemically reducing mode, simply by adding a metal to selectively corrode rather than the vessel alloy, this proved highly effective in reducing cracking and such.

The corrosion and stress related failure life is much better for the LFTR than for a pressurized water reactor. Pressurized water at over 300 degrees Celsius is actually really corrosive. The big pressure difference over the primary to secondary loop (water to steam generator) is also a big stress issue. The LFTR does not have this, it uses an intermediate salt loop that is at similar pressure to the primary (fuel salt) loop. This means barely any pressure difference over the radioactive primary loop to the second loop.

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Nice to get into some details!

 

If you wouldn’t mind… help me understand the hot cell of a Thorium reactor a little better. The Uranium reactors use water as their heat transfer medium. In the Thorium reactors the molten salt becomes the heat transfer medium correct? This “fission in the liquid state” is what gives these reactors an intrinsic safety profile. Fission does not occur in the solidified salt. So with a fuel dump we quench the fission reaction.

Dumping seems to be a challenge. 

  • Dump the water from a Uranium reactor and you’ve got a little pond with elevated levels Tritium to deal with. You can solve that problem with one liquid handling pump.
  • Dump the Thorium salt and we’ve got a bulk amount of highly toxic, highly reactive solid on our hands. Robots could be part of the answer to move this stuff around, but I am not able to imagine robots completely addressing the solid material handling needs.

BTW Sodium Fluoride adds its own complexities to the mix. Sure we brush our teeth with the stuff, but at high temperatures it becomes very dangerous. NaF + H2O => HF + NaOH. I think we are going to need to keep water out of that system.

And as a side note I’ve done some work with Hastelloy and anhydrous HF in the past. I was my experience that the metal maintained its mechanical strength very well, but it was not impervious. We used to clean out nasty green gunk every time we opened up that system. Nice friendly Nickel compounds with their own highly dangerous toxicity profiles. I took this observation as an indication that eventually my nice & expensive piece of Hastelloy was slowly becoming a lump of steel.

The abundance of Lithium and Nickel are also problematic. These are both very rare materials.  This confounds wide spread deployment.

I still like the Thorium idea.  But I am imagining many, many areas for risk. It doesn’t look easy.  It doesn't look as easy as Uranium.

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My appogies but I think I'll bow out Maynoth

Thanks for bringing up the subject Mynoth. I think it is an important topic. And I hope it gains safe traction in the future.

I just read the thread over at the energyfromthorium forum. I thank Cyril R for his thoughtful reply and assure him that I am not the person from his ealier correspondence.  These were my first posts on the topic. I think I will bow out of the exploration of this topic. All the best.

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This video offers a better

This video offers a better explanation of LFTR designs than I ever could but I will give it my best shot.  I am not a physics or chemistry major, although I wish I was.

 

 

and

 

http://blogs.howstuffworks.com/2009/12/01/how-a-liquid-fluoride-thorium-...

 

There are two salts the core salt which has u233 which fissions and releases neutrons and a blanket salt which has thorium 232 which absorbs the neutron and is eventually transmuted into u233.   the u233 is extracted chemically and reintroduced into the core salt to keep the reaction going,  during this process almost 100% of the thorium is consumed as fuel which reduces the transuranic waste stream dramatically, it produces thousands of times less transuranic waste than a light water reactor we use today.

both salts are in liquid form to the best of my knowledge. 

If the salt is dumped it is dumped into a drain tank that is passively cooled by the earth underground, until the reactor can be made operational again, then it is heated up liquified and pumped back into the reactor.   The salt is automatically dumped in the event of a malfunction, loss of power, or reactor breach, terrorist attack etc.

 

 

 

 

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