Why nuclear power will never supply the world's energy needs

May 11, 2011 by Lisa Zyga report
Nuclear power plant in Dukovany, Czech Republic. Image credit: Petr Adamek.

(PhysOrg.com) -- The 440 commercial nuclear reactors in use worldwide are currently helping to minimize our consumption of fossil fuels, but how much bigger can nuclear power get? In an analysis to be published in a future issue of the Proceedings of the IEEE, Derek Abbott, Professor of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Adelaide in Australia, has concluded that nuclear power cannot be globally scaled to supply the world’s energy needs for numerous reasons. The results suggest that we’re likely better off investing in other energy solutions that are truly scalable.

As Abbott notes in his study, global power consumption today is about 15 terawatts (TW). Currently, the global supply capacity is only 375 gigawatts (GW). In order to examine the large-scale limits of nuclear power, Abbott estimates that to supply 15 TW with nuclear only, we would need about 15,000 nuclear reactors. In his analysis, Abbott explores the consequences of building, operating, and decommissioning 15,000 reactors on the Earth, looking at factors such as the amount of land required, radioactive waste, accident rate, risk of proliferation into weapons, uranium abundance and extraction, and the exotic metals used to build the reactors themselves.

“A nuclear power station is resource-hungry and, apart from the fuel, uses many rare metals in its construction,” Abbott told PhysOrg.com. “The dream of a utopia where the world is powered off fission or fusion reactors is simply unattainable. Even a supply of as little as 1 TW stretches resources considerably.”

His findings, some of which are based on the results of previous studies, are summarized below.

  • Land and location: One plant requires about 20.5 km2 (7.9 mi2) of land to accommodate the nuclear power station itself, its exclusion zone, its enrichment plant, ore processing, and supporting infrastructure. Secondly, nuclear reactors need to be located near a massive body of coolant water, but away from dense population zones and natural disaster zones. Simply finding 15,000 locations on Earth that fulfill these requirements is extremely challenging.

  • Lifetime: Every nuclear power station needs to be decommissioned after 40-60 years of operation due to neutron embrittlement - cracks that develop on the metal surfaces due to radiation. If nuclear stations need to be replaced every 50 years on average, then with 15,000 nuclear power stations, one station would need to be built and another decommissioned somewhere in the world every day. Currently, it takes 6-12 years to build a nuclear station, and up to 20 years to decommission one, making this rate of replacement unrealistic.

  • Nuclear waste: Although nuclear technology has been around for 60 years, there is still no universally agreed mode of disposal. It’s uncertain whether burying the spent fuel and the spent reactor vessels (which are also highly radioactive) may cause radioactive leakage into groundwater or the environment via geological movement.

  • Accident rate: To date, there have been 11 nuclear accidents at the level of a full or partial core-melt. These accidents are not the minor accidents that can be avoided with improved safety technology; they are rare events that are not even possible to model in a system as complex as a nuclear station, and arise from unforeseen pathways and unpredictable circumstances (such as the Fukushima accident). Considering that these 11 accidents occurred during a cumulated total of 14,000 reactor-years of nuclear operations, scaling up to 15,000 reactors would mean we would have a major accident somewhere in the world every month.

  • Proliferation: The more nuclear power stations, the greater the likelihood that materials and expertise for making nuclear weapons may proliferate. Although reactors have proliferation resistance measures, maintaining accountability for 15,000 reactor sites worldwide would be nearly impossible.

  • Uranium abundance: At the current rate of uranium consumption with conventional reactors, the world supply of viable uranium, which is the most common nuclear fuel, will last for 80 years. Scaling consumption up to 15 TW, the viable uranium supply will last for less than 5 years. (Viable uranium is the uranium that exists in a high enough ore concentration so that extracting the ore is economically justified.)

  • Uranium extraction from seawater: Uranium is most often mined from the Earth’s crust, but it can also be extracted from seawater, which contains large quantities of uranium (3.3 ppb, or 4.6 trillion kg). Theoretically, that amount would last for 5,700 years using conventional reactors to supply 15 TW of power. (In fast breeder reactors, which extend the use of uranium by a factor of 60, the uranium could last for 300,000 years. However, Abbott argues that these reactors’ complexity and cost makes them uncompetitive.) Moreover, as uranium is extracted, the uranium concentration of seawater decreases, so that greater and greater quantities of water are needed to be processed in order to extract the same amount of uranium. Abbott calculates that the volume of seawater that would need to be processed would become economically impractical in much less than 30 years.

  • Exotic metals: The nuclear containment vessel is made of a variety of exotic rare metals that control and contain the nuclear reaction: hafnium as a neutron absorber, beryllium as a neutron reflector, zirconium for cladding, and niobium to alloy steel and make it last 40-60 years against neutron embrittlement. Extracting these metals raises issues involving cost, sustainability, and environmental impact. In addition, these metals have many competing industrial uses; for example, hafnium is used in microchips and beryllium by the semiconductor industry. If a nuclear reactor is built every day, the global supply of these exotic metals needed to build nuclear containment vessels would quickly run down and create a mineral resource crisis. This is a new argument that Abbott puts on the table, which places resource limits on all future-generation nuclear reactors, whether they are fueled by thorium or uranium.

    As Abbott notes, many of these same problems would plague fusion reactors in addition to fission reactors, even though commercial fusion is still likely a long way off.

    Of course, not many nuclear advocates are calling for a complete nuclear utopia, in which nuclear power supplies the entire world’s energy needs. But many nuclear advocates suggest that we should produce 1 TW of power from nuclear energy, which may be feasible, at least in the short term. However, if one divides Abbott’s figures by 15, one still finds that 1 TW is barely feasible. Therefore, Abbott argues that, if this technology cannot be fundamentally scaled further than 1 TW, perhaps the same investment would be better spent on a fully scalable technology.

    “Due to the cost, complexity, resource requirements, and tremendous problems that hang over nuclear power, our investment dollars would be more wisely placed elsewhere,” Abbott said. “Every dollar that goes into nuclear power is dollar that has been diverted from assisting the rapid uptake of a safe and scalable solution such as solar thermal.”

    Solar thermal devices harness the Sun’s energy to produce heat that creates steam that turns a turbine to generate electricity. Solar thermal technology avoids many of the scalability problems facing nuclear technology. For instance, although a solar thermal farm requires a little more land area than the equivalent nuclear power infrastructure, it can be located in unused desert areas. It also uses safer, more abundant materials. Most importantly, solar thermal can be scaled to produce not just 15 TW, but hundreds of TW if it would ever be required.

    However, the biggest problem with solar thermal technology is cloudy days and nighttime. Abbott plans to investigate a number of storage solutions for this intermittency problem, which also plagues other renewable energy solutions such as wind power, in a future study. In the transition period, he suggests that the dual-use of natural gas with solar thermal farms is the pathway to building our future energy infrastructure.

    Explore further: Ambitious EU targets for renewable energies make economic sense

    More information: Derek Abbott. “Is nuclear power globally scalable?” Proceedings of the IEEE. To be published.

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    NotAsleep
    2.5 / 5 (11) May 11, 2011
    He's assuming that we never figure out how to perfect fusion. Speaking of which, has anyone heard anything new about the Italians that claim to have perfected cold fusion? I still haven't seen anything disproving them yet...

    The latest article on them is at livescience dot com on 15 april. Seems as though they've wowed two more prominent scientists
    antialias
    3.6 / 5 (16) May 11, 2011
    He's assuming that we never figure out how to perfect fusion.

    No. He's (rightly) assuming that fusion reactors will require the same kind of shielding that fission reactors do (e.g. special treatment against embrittlement of the containing structure, etc. )
    Isaacsname
    3.7 / 5 (6) May 11, 2011
    He's assuming that we never figure out how to perfect fusion. Speaking of which, has anyone heard anything new about the Italians that claim to have perfected cold fusion? I still haven't seen anything disproving them yet...

    The latest article on them is at livescience dot com on 15 april. Seems as though they've wowed two more prominent scientists


    I think they are on a positive track, from what I've managed to glean from the interwebz. I am keeping my fingers crossed.
    technicalengeneering
    3.6 / 5 (5) May 11, 2011
    nah just another hoax..
    interesting story though

    jep and we would get hafnium shortages when using fusion tech but hey no pollution, no smog, no large nuclear accidents..
    Skeptic_Heretic
    3.3 / 5 (17) May 11, 2011
    There are a mnultitude fo assumptions in the work above. Energy needs increase and decrease based on consumption, distribution, waste, and population as well as many other factors.

    To make a cut and dry statement without trending the other factors makes the abstract above almost a shot in the dark. This is more sensationalist than enlightening.
    NotAsleep
    4.3 / 5 (7) May 11, 2011
    I spoke too soon, there's a newer article from energydigital dot com from 4 days ago. Defkalion Green Technologies is buying a 1 MW plant and the Italians have agreed that no payment is necessary until the plant is up and running. Seems pretty bold...

    @ antialias: since no one has actually pulled off economical (and proven) fusion, who's to say that the end product will emit radiation? It also means no Uranium is required, which seems to be a major limiting factor for fission.

    Perhaps I should stay away from the "what if's"... but "what if" is more exciting than "can't be done"
    OdieNewton
    2.9 / 5 (9) May 11, 2011
    I think the analysts just have incredibly poor faith in the scientists working on energy. I really doubt that we've already made nuclear energy as efficient, safe and potent as we possibly can. I'm not advocating either side, but it's not fair for people (bloggers, mind you, not the researchers) to broadcast that areas of study that have not been refined to their full potential are lost causes.
    TabulaMentis
    3.2 / 5 (9) May 11, 2011
    No. He's (rightly) assuming that fusion reactors will require the same kind of shielding that fission reactors do (e.g. special treatment against embrittlement of the containing structure, etc.)
    The same is true with hydrogen engines becoming brittle. As time goes on those things will be figured-out. The main problem with 'Nuclear Fission' is that is costs so much, however the politicians love it because they can strap people with debt for years filling the politicians and their cohorts pockets with gold.
    NukeEater
    5 / 5 (11) May 11, 2011
    No, nuclear embrittlement is fundamentally different. With hydrogen there is a solution: operate in the correct temperature range. With nuclear, you simply cannot avoid high energy neutrons. You are putting a highly ordered metal lattice in a situation where there is high entropy production and you simply cannot have both reliability and efficiency simultaneously. You have to sacrifice one of them.
    grgfraiser
    3.5 / 5 (11) May 11, 2011
    he does not mention new generation reactors, or lftr, or thorium. what gives.
    lhc
    4.1 / 5 (13) May 11, 2011
    Some claims seem a bit odd and shortsighted, like the need to find 15000 locations for reactors. I'm sure that when locations are limited, you build multiple reactors at one site. So this number can be divided by 10 or some bigger number depending on long energy transfer/storage capabilities.

    Although build and decommission time can be greatly optimized when mass-producing.

    Same goes to other areas, accident rate should be already better with newer generation plants (all major accidents have happened with old designs) and rate decrease should be possible in orders of magnitude.

    Exotic materials shortage looks like most limiting factor IF old vessels recycling is not possible due to radioactivity.

    Sure there are limits but not so exessive.
    Quantum_Conundrum
    2.8 / 5 (13) May 11, 2011
    Uranium sources that cost up to $500, and perhaps even ~$1000/kg (which would increase nuclear power's cost by 1-2 cents/kW-hr) can still be economic, especially in a CO2-emission-constrained world, and/or a world where gas and oil have started to run out. Even at $1000/kg, advanced nuclear plants should be able to produce power at ~6 cents/kW-hr or less...

    ...The source with the largest overall quantity of uranium is the granite in the earth's crust. This actually has a much higher concentration than seawater, and has tens or hundreds of thousands of years worth of uranium.


    americanenergyindependence.com/uranium.aspx

    Yeah...80 years my arse...
    NukeEater
    3.3 / 5 (4) May 11, 2011
    Exotic materials shortage looks like most limiting factor IF old vessels recycling is not possible due to radioactivity.


    Yep, you get long half-lives and so you have to bury old vessels for 100,000 years. That would create a huge shortage problem. Even if you could bring down vessel burial to a few hundred years, it still wouldn't be feasible.
    Scottingham
    3.9 / 5 (18) May 11, 2011
    These arguments are valid only if you use the fission technology that is decades old.

    This is like saying it is too expensive to make a petaflop super computer, but you're only allowed to used computers from the 1970s!

    The 5 years of fuel argument only works if you aren't allowed to reprocess the waste (which is over 95% fuel).

    The problem of sites doesn't take into account multiple cores at the same site or even underground cores.

    This article also does not even mention new nuclear technologies such as Integral Fast Reactors or Traveling Wave Reactors. The latter of which is being designed to run without human intervention for 60 years then become its own waste disposal site, underground.

    100% nuclear doesn't make sense for a future society, but 100% renewables sure as hell doesn't.

    So your choice becomes Xnukes + Yrenewables + Zfossil fuels. Lets get Z down to 0.
    NukeEater
    3 / 5 (6) May 11, 2011
    he does not mention new generation reactors, or lftr, or thorium. what gives.


    Check this part, where it says: "This is a new argument that Abbott puts on the table, which places resource limits on all future-generation nuclear reactors, whether they are fueled by thorium or uranium."
    Modernmystic
    2.9 / 5 (23) May 11, 2011
    Same old BS we always hear from the anti-nuke shills....move along...
    TabulaMentis
    1.3 / 5 (3) May 11, 2011
    No, nuclear embrittlement is fundamentally different. With hydrogen there is a solution: operate in the correct temperature range. With nuclear, you simply cannot avoid high energy neutrons. You are putting a highly ordered metal lattice in a situation where there is high entropy production and you simply cannot have both reliability and efficiency simultaneously. You have to sacrifice one of them.
    No, I thought because the hydrogen atoms are able to squeeze between other molecules that cause the embrittlement problem somehow? Anyway, I thought I read somewhere that the neutron radiation problem should be overcome in thirty years or so?
    antialias
    4.8 / 5 (9) May 11, 2011
    since no one has actually pulled off economical (and proven) fusion, who's to say that the end product will emit radiation?

    Look up what fusion means. Or just look up. The sun is an ongoing fusion reactor. It emits one hell of a lot of radiation.

    The whole point of a fusion reactor is to emit radiation which can then be caught in a heat exchange medium. Because fusion reactions are very energetic the spectrum of that radiation (if we get only photons) is all over the place from infrared to hard gamma. Almost all fusion reactions also emit neutrons which need to be caught by the reactor shields (as they are not susceptible to confinement by magnetic fields). This neutron radiation can cause the material of the shield to become radiactive (neutron activation)

    The only viable aneutronic fusion process seems to be hydrogen/boron. But that requires lots more energy and better confinement than the current (as yet unreached) types do.
    antialias
    4.2 / 5 (13) May 11, 2011
    I'm sure that when locations are limited, you build multiple reactors at one site. So this number can be divided by 10

    No, because the cooling needed heats up the river. If you heat it up too much you kill everything in there. Over here in germany we had to shut down 7 nuclear reactors last year because the rivers were already too hot in the summer. So you cannot simply scale up reactor numbers wherever you want.

    Also one should remember that many times rivers flow in fissures which were originally created by earthquakes. Using rivers as sites for nuclear power plants is inherently risky as it tends to concentrate these structures in disaster-prone areas.

    100% nuclear doesn't make sense for a future society, but 100% renewables sure as hell doesn't.

    And your argument that renewables don't make sense is...?
    AlwaysRight
    2.1 / 5 (7) May 11, 2011
    I'm sure that when locations are limited, you build multiple reactors at one site. So this number can be divided by 10

    No, because the cooling needed heats up the river. If you heat it up too much you kill everything in there. Over here in germany we had to shut down 7 nuclear reactors last year because the rivers were already too hot in the summer. So you cannot simply scale up reactor numbers wherever you want.

    Also one should remember that many times rivers flow in fissures which were originally created by earthquakes. Using rivers as sites for nuclear power plants is inherently risky as it tends to concentrate these structures in disaster-prone areas.

    Actually you can build reactors near larger bodies of water that do no appreciably increase the temperature. Cooling towers can also take away waste heat. Improvements in utilizing waste heat can easily be made. And what is this argument about rivers being disaster-prone areas? That is nonsense.
    El_Nose
    3.1 / 5 (12) May 11, 2011
    @Scottingham

    100% nuclear doesn't make sense for a future society, but 100% renewables sure as hell doesn't.


    Well sir the issue with your statement is that all other sources of energy have limited amounts of fuel. Yes it is true that one day we WILL run out of oil, coal, and natural gas... the only alternatives are renewables and figureing out how to create synthetic versions faster and with a high enough delta on energy output to input(creation of the synthetic)

    so how do you plan on powering the future?? 100% renewables can do the job at 100x over it's only real opposition is getting governments to work together because that is necessary to get solar energy in Africa and Austrailia to the USA when it is night here and sunny there and back again when the reverse happens... past that its energy storage but with superconducting energy grid lines coming on baords worldwide that problem dissappears
    emsquared
    4.3 / 5 (3) May 11, 2011
    I really, really hope that next he does this exact same analysis for solar. We'll compare the two feasibilities.
    AlwaysRight
    4.4 / 5 (10) May 11, 2011
    "100% renewables can do the job at 100x"

    Someone doesn't realize technology needs to maintained and requires material inputs that will eventually become scarce. This is especially true if you scale up these technologies to theoretically provide all of the world's electricity demands. An energy mix is the way to go for this reason and many others.
    marraco
    3.6 / 5 (10) May 11, 2011
    Nuclear energy is a proven source that can last centuries.
    Most arguments presented here are irrelevant.
    For example, the supposed "scarcity" of fuel, is just because there are a small number of explored and exploited mines. It also ignores that some nuclear fuel can be manufactured.
    Other limitations argued are just limitations of old technology, which of course will be minimized with new developments.
    Husky
    3.7 / 5 (6) May 11, 2011
    his "peak-nuclear" article raises interesting and valid points but it kind of assumes that in the future we still would be stuck with oldskool PWR tech and all the problems associated with that, instead, there is tremendous room for improvement, thorium fission in molten salt reactors alone would ease or mitigate a LOT of these issues, safety , proliferation, landuse (smaller safety zone, no fuel reprocessing or weopanizing plants) large untouched thorium vs decreasing uranium abundance etc. etc.

    Also i am confident that thorium would bridge the gap for the decades needed for the smoke of the fusion pipedream to finally condensate into commercial application, the Z-machine, the Bussard device or some magneto/electro/inertial fusion tech will eventuale come to fruitation, solving the economics of extreme confinement
    GSwift7
    4.4 / 5 (10) May 11, 2011
    Thankfully it doesn't matter at all whether this guy is right or not. The construction of various types of power generating stations will continue to be driven by economics and policy on a case by case basis. In cases where it is not feasable to build a nuclear plant, we will not build one. In cases where it makes sense (like the ones nearing completion here in South Carorlina) we will build them until it doesn't make sense to do it any more. As with any prediction of the future, this is of very little value to anyone.
    El_Nose
    5 / 5 (2) May 11, 2011
    @Alwaysright

    Someone doesn't realize technology needs to maintained and requires material inputs that will eventually become scarce. This is especially true if you scale up these technologies to theoretically provide all of the world's electricity demands. An energy mix is the way to go for this reason and many others.


    My issue is we WILL run out of everything else -- that's not an opinion thats a fact -- Opinions try to put dates on when we will run out. So lets put a date really far out and work towrds that one -- in 200 yrs will we still be able to have oil plants ?? natural gas plants?? coal plants???

    to heck with of technology will save us -- there is only so much energy stored in these items and humans have never had a significant reduction in energy usage.

    That is the only technological breakthrough that will divert this out come
    LoboSolo
    3.7 / 5 (9) May 11, 2011
    What utter rubbish! BTW, Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR) do not require a reactor containment vessel because they do not have a traditional solid reactor core that could suffer a core meltdown.

    An LFTR doesn't need huge quantities of water so that argument is out too.

    I could go down the line. The author clearly failed to do his research and clearly has an agenda of renewables ... which is laughable. Sun doesn't shine at night and the wind doesn't blow strong enough and often enough to be reliable for modern, industrial society.

    Fusion may be closer than you think, check out General Fusion.
    Husky
    3.5 / 5 (2) May 11, 2011
    Also he assumes we would not be able to master aneutric fusion, because if we will, powerplants and its precious metals would not be bombarded and could have lifetimes of 100 years and nuclear waste would become so much smaller in volume and possibly fed to heavy actinide burners to extraxt the last drop of energy out of it while getting rid of it.
    Mikeal
    1 / 5 (1) May 11, 2011
    Whatever happened to Blacklight Power? Is there any news group following the construction of the purported 11 Customers using a BLP license?
    Gawad
    4 / 5 (6) May 11, 2011
    In agreement with S_H and (I think) MM here. Abbott makes a number of dubious claims and implications.

    1st, this is presented as if anyone is suggesting energy production be completely moved over to fission. This would be ridiculous. That I know of, fission plants are only ever presented as a viable alternative to building coal & oil plants.

    2nd, in arguments involving energy density, solar and wind fair far worse than fission.

    3rd, while uranium may be the most common fuel in the sense that it's the most widely used, thorium is at least three times as common in term of abundance (at least as far as conventional sources).

    4th, his 'calculations' that drop seawater supplied uranium from a total of usable 300 000 yrs to economical 30 yrs seem deeply suspect. A factor of 10 000? Really? Wouldn't we need to have pumped a fair portion of the world's oceans a couple of times over at least? In 30 yrs? I sure would like to be able to check his figures!
    Husky
    4.5 / 5 (8) May 11, 2011
    To me, his analysis merely describes tunnelvision from wearing solar powered sunglasses. While I am all positive for develope a broad mix of energysources, including solar, his suggestion of throwing in the towel at the moment we are actually passing the doorstep of a nuclear renaissance is shortsighted at best.
    GSwift7
    3.2 / 5 (6) May 11, 2011
    to heck with of technology will save us -- there is only so much energy stored in these items and humans have never had a significant reduction in energy usage.

    That is the only technological breakthrough that will divert this out come


    Hydrogen from sea water would be the silver bullet. It is storable, transportable, recycles itself after use, the raw material is easy to get to, etc. We just need one little catalyst and accept the fact that people will blow themselves up once in a while.
    A_Paradox
    1.8 / 5 (5) May 11, 2011
    What about breeder reactors which convert U238 into Plutonium?

    And what about the Adams Atomic Engine? The Adams Atomic Engine is/will be a fission powered gas turbine in which the coolant/heat transport fluid is nitrogen. Google it and see! a very neat solution scalable down to one MW size and able to be assembled/disassembled as modular units and transported by large trucks.
    MP3Car
    3 / 5 (4) May 11, 2011
    I stopped reading halfway through this article... it has too many subjective views and opinions.

    finding 15,000 locations...that fulfill these requirements is extremely challenging.
    The author assumes you can't put two traditionally sized reactors close together. Transmission loss exists of course, so it's ideal to have them spread out. However, you don't have to spread them out to be 500 miles apart.

    MP3Car
    4.5 / 5 (4) May 11, 2011
    These accidents are not the minor accidents that can be avoided with improved safety technology; they are rare events that are not even possible to model in a system as complex as a nuclear station, and arise from unforeseen pathways and unpredictable circumstances (such as the Fukushima accident).

    Unforeseen?? An Earthquake and resulting Tsunami in Japan? Why do they have tsunami warning systems and walls in Japan? It must be because a tsunami is an unforeseen event... Accidents that can't be avoided with new technology? So the author knows what new technology is going to be discovered/invented? And what about the technology I've read about that uses passive cooling systems that don't require power/pumps? Would that not have helped in Japan's case?
    TabulaMentis
    3 / 5 (3) May 11, 2011
    Here is an article today about new reactors in America: New study confirms US Nuclear plant gaps, new plants will go ahead. Link: http://www.examin...o-ahead.

    Thorium fuel cycle reactors sound interesting, but will they work. General Fusion also sounds great, but only several million dollars is being put into its development.
    TabulaMentis
    3 / 5 (3) May 11, 2011
    Sorry about the link: Article is titled: "New study confirms US Nuclear plant gaps, new plants will go ahead."
    Skeptic_Heretic
    4.4 / 5 (7) May 11, 2011
    Hydrogen from sea water would be the silver bullet. It is storable, transportable, recycles itself after use, the raw material is easy to get to, etc. We just need one little catalyst and accept the fact that people will blow themselves up once in a while.
    They'll probably blow themselves up a lot less than the use of coal combustion (steam ships) and gasoline combustion (you name it we've destroyed it) would. The modern internal combustion engine is the result of a great many catastrophic malfunctions.
    Javinator
    3.5 / 5 (8) May 11, 2011
    Considering that these 11 accidents occurred during a cumulated total of 14,000 reactor-years of nuclear operations, scaling up to 15,000 reactors would mean we would have a major accident somewhere in the world every month.


    That's quite a stretch. Linear scale-up of accidents with no consideration for the conditions of the accidents? (ie. reactor age, causal factors, etc.) Very unbiased...
    Skeptic_Heretic
    4.6 / 5 (8) May 11, 2011
    Beyond that, what is considered a major accident?

    Are we considering 3 Mile Island to be a major accident? It was a partial core meltdown that was so well contained that no one knew the core actually melted down until the rods were inspected.

    Or are we talking something akin to Chernobyl, which was catastrophic because the design of the reactor was horribly flawed and never revised intentionally due to cost?
    GSwift7
    2.8 / 5 (5) May 11, 2011
    They'll probably blow themselves up a lot less than the use of coal combustion (steam ships) and gasoline combustion (you name it we've destroyed it) would. The modern internal combustion engine is the result of a great many catastrophic malfunctions


    LMFAO, too true. You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs. Think of it as man made natural selection? :)

    SmaryJerry
    1 / 5 (3) May 11, 2011
    15,000 Nuclear Reactors? The article's assumptions that we will use 1 technology to cover all energy is rediculous. Who ever said 100% renewables won't work also is 100% correct. Until better technology is invented no one source will be able to power all the energy we need. We will need some dams, solar, some wind, some gas, some coal, and some nuclear.

    Speaking to rivers getting hot, if the rivers get too hot, build a dam to cool them down and extract more energy.
    dnatwork
    2.6 / 5 (5) May 11, 2011
    The only real solutions is to reduce energy usage. The gasoline engine is the least efficient option available. Incandescent lights are the least efficient option available. Intel computer chips are the least efficient option available. Guess which option is used over 90% of the time?

    We need, and it is feasible to get, improvements in efficiency to reduce the use of energy by 90%. (I'm making up that statistic, but prove me wrong. Pointing to existing technology will prove you wrong, by default.) Then solar and wind could meet all our needs, and we could just plug all the oil wells and pour a billion tons of cement over the existing nuclear plants.
    Vendicar_Decarian
    0.6 / 5 (45) May 11, 2011
    Global consumption is currently 15 TerraWatts/Year but that isn't going to remain the case for long.

    In fact a global economy with U.S. levels of energy waste - globally - would require the construction of almost 15 times as many reactors as this author presumes, assuming a peak global population of 15 billion people.

    Go go totally nuclear, the world is looking at the construction of some 200,000 new nuclear power plants under the above assumptions.
    Vendicar_Decarian
    0.5 / 5 (44) May 11, 2011
    "15,000 Nuclear Reactors? The article's assumptions that we will use 1 technology to cover all energy is rediculous." - Jerry

    The number is much closer to 200,000 Jerry.

    But then you are agreeing with the author's point that nuclear will never supply the worlds energy needs.

    Maybe you should read the article title before responding.
    Vendicar_Decarian
    0.4 / 5 (42) May 11, 2011
    "And what about the Adams Atomic Engine?" - Paradox

    Ya, they were a really big deal in the children's series. Thunderbirds.

    FAB

    SmaryJerry
    3.4 / 5 (5) May 11, 2011
    Vendicar Decarian, my point isn't that the title isn't correct. The point is I could write an article about how we can't use only sugar to feed the world and it would be just about as useful.
    Vendicar_Decarian
    0.4 / 5 (42) May 11, 2011
    "this is presented as if anyone is suggesting energy production be completely moved over to fission. This would be ridiculous." - Tard

    So you agree with the author then that nuclear will never be a primary supplier of energy to the world.

    Excellent.

    Now can you tell us why you couldn't manage to read the article title?

    Or was it that you read it and that you are incapable of comprehending it's meaning?
    Vendicar_Decarian
    0.4 / 5 (41) May 11, 2011
    "Whatever happened to Blacklight Power?" - WhoCares?

    Same thing that happened to Mango Power.

    TheQuietMan
    3.7 / 5 (3) May 11, 2011
    This struck me as more a propaganda piece than anything. It was full of assumptions (that everyone else has pointed out), and a lot of the problems listed are basically political rather than technological. The technological problems list also assumes things never change, which is a favorite tool for people with an agenda.
    Vendicar_Decarian
    0.7 / 5 (44) May 11, 2011
    "Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors..." - LoboLoco

    Let us know when someone actually manages to build one.
    Vendicar_Decarian
    0.3 / 5 (43) May 11, 2011
    "He's assuming that we never figure out how to perfect fusion." - Little Lupe

    We already have. It is called the sun.

    You might have seen it hovering over your head sometime around noon.

    If not... Take off your hat.
    Scottingham
    4.3 / 5 (3) May 11, 2011
    Imagine a solar/wind power farm.

    Now imagine a tornado ripping through it and the effect it would have on capacity for months afterwards.

    Intensero
    4.5 / 5 (2) May 11, 2011
    I am hoping for room temperature superconductors and some new magnetic energy production to replace all of this in the next 30-40 years.
    Quantum_Conundrum
    2.9 / 5 (12) May 11, 2011
    In fact a global economy with U.S. levels of energy waste - .


    You moron.

    The U.S. makes 70% of world food production and only around 13% of world pollution.

    It isn't "waste".

    We are easily the most productive country in the world.
    TRC
    4.8 / 5 (5) May 11, 2011
    If Abbott were being intellectually honest, why would he need to offer any argument other than "there's not enough fuel for more than 5 years"?

    The answer is simple - he knows that there are sound counter arguments for every one of his points, but hopes the reader won't see through all of them, and so will assume that the remaining arguments prove his position.

    Proceedings of the IEEE is about to embarrass itself, publishing such an obviously biased article. If they're smart, they'll get it reviewed, realize that many of the arguments are bogus, and seek out a more honest author to present all the evidence, pro and con.
    Husky
    5 / 5 (2) May 11, 2011
    Vendicar, the chinese will let you know if thorium works or not, they are throwing money at it as we speak.
    NukeEater
    2.3 / 5 (3) May 11, 2011
    The answer is simple - he knows that there are sound counter arguments for every one of his points, but hopes the reader won't see through all of them, and so will assume that the remaining arguments prove his position.


    And your sound counterargument to the point that neutron embrittlement means that in the end-game you'll be replacing a nuclear station everyday, thus leading to a mineral resource crisis is.....?
    Eikka
    3.3 / 5 (7) May 11, 2011
    Many of the problems with land use, the need for exotic materials, high costs and requirement of a large body of water nearby are caused by politicians and not the technology.

    Because it's so friggin hard to get a permission to build a nuclear reactor in the first place, they have to make them immense in size, and materials and technology doesn't scale linearily so you need advanced materials and over-engineering it five times just to make it work, let alone be safe.

    Making the reactors smaller would lift many of the restrictions, because they would be easier to manage and contain, a malfunction wouldn't necessarily lead to a meltdown, and even in the case of a serious accident the effects would be a fraction.
    Eikka
    3.4 / 5 (5) May 11, 2011

    And your sound counterargument to the point that neutron embrittlement means that in the end-game you'll be replacing a nuclear station everyday, thus leading to a mineral resource crisis is.....?


    Neutron embrittlement can be reversed by a process of annealing, in which the parts are heated until the microstructure of the steel changes back to what it was, and then returned to service.

    It's mighty difficult for huge reactor vessels, but trivial for small ones, which is another argument for why nuclear reactors should be much smaller than they are today.
    NukeEater
    not rated yet May 11, 2011
    Making the reactors smaller would lift many of the restrictions, because they would be easier to manage and contain, a malfunction wouldn't necessarily lead to a meltdown, and even in the case of a serious accident the effects would be a fraction.


    Proliferating the world with tens of 1000s of small reactors is problematic in that it is impossible to maintain accountability of them all. They would be wide open to abuse and misuse.

    Also going small doesn't avoid the fundamental problem of embrittlement and non-recyclability of nuclear vessel leading to a mineral resource crisis. Many small reactors would probably make this problem worse. Many small spheres have a greater surface area than one big sphere. So ultimately small reactors are going to use up more material in their construction in order to generate the same equivalent power.
    Eikka
    3 / 5 (4) May 11, 2011
    Neutron embrittlement is also mainly a problem on the welds, but not on the bulk material of the reactor vessel, because the welds are the weak spots. If you make a reactor small enough that it doesn't need to be welded together, or the only welds necessary can be placed where they don't experience much neutron flux, it stands up to neutron embrittlement much much longer.

    Annealing the welds is a common procedure in nuclear reactors that have these design problems of having them in the wrong places. Not all of them do.
    Eikka
    3 / 5 (4) May 11, 2011
    Many small spheres have a greater surface area than one big sphere. So ultimately small reactors are going to use up more material in their construction in order to generate the same equivalent power.


    You forget the volume of the larger sphere, because the material has to have thickness in order to stand up to forces.

    The larger sphere must be proportionally much thicker in order to withstand the same proportional stresses. It's the same reason why an ant can casually carry 40 times its body weight while humans start to break when you load them with one.
    Eikka
    3.9 / 5 (7) May 11, 2011
    non-recyclability of nuclear vessel leading to a mineral resource crisis


    I don't see why they couldn't be recycled.

    The residual radioactivity is not a very large stumbling block.
    NukeEater
    3 / 5 (2) May 11, 2011
    Neutron embrittlement is also mainly a problem on the welds, but not on the bulk material of the reactor vessel...


    Sure. A light bulb pops if there are hotspots. If you make the "perfect" light bulb with no hotspots it does indeed last a little longer but it still pops.

    The massive entropy production in a nuclear vessel is going to cause it to age and need replacement just like a lightbulb, nomatter how perfect your welds are. And as the vessel is irradiated you have to bury it for 100s of years and so you end up with a mineral resource crisis as there is no recyclability. And don't forget we are talking about relatively rare metals.
    NukeEater
    5 / 5 (1) May 11, 2011
    The larger sphere must be proportionally much thicker in order to withstand the same proportional stresses.


    Nope. Because you need to shield against a certain neutron flux you still need a lot of thickness. The mechanical stresses are not the only consideration.
    Vendicar_Decarian
    0.5 / 5 (44) May 11, 2011
    "The U.S. makes 70% of world food production and only around 13% of world pollution." - QC Retard

    The U.S. became a net importer of food under the Failed Bush Jr. Administration.
    NukeEater
    5 / 5 (1) May 11, 2011
    Neutron embrittlement can be reversed by a process of annealing, in which the parts are heated until the microstructure of the steel changes back to what it was, and then returned to service.


    And ultimately how do we anneal/recycle 100s of these small irradiated vessels everyday whilst avoiding human contact?
    Vendicar_Decarian
    0.4 / 5 (42) May 11, 2011
    "Proceedings of the IEEE is about to embarrass itself, publishing such an obviously biased article." - ReactoRetard

    Translation, ReactoRetard can't stomach the truth.

    200,000 new nuclear reactors are required to power a world of 15 billion people at U.S. levels of consumptive waste.

    Good luck with that...
    Eikka
    2.3 / 5 (3) May 11, 2011

    Nope. Because you need to shield against a certain neutron flux you still need a lot of thickness. The mechanical stresses are not the only consideration.


    Not necessarily. It depends on the design.

    Besides, a smaller reactor produces a smaller neutron flux.
    Eikka
    2.3 / 5 (3) May 11, 2011

    Sure. A light bulb pops if there are hotspots. If you make the "perfect" light bulb with no hotspots it does indeed last a little longer but it still pops.


    But the lifetime of these "better lightbulbs" is hundreds of years. Even now with well designed reactors, neutron embrittlement isn't a problem for the whole 50-60 years a reactor might work.

    And ultimately how do we anneal/recycle 100s of these small irradiated vessels everyday whilst avoiding human contact?


    The annealing is generally done in-situ with induction heaters while the reactor is having its service break. It's already being done without problems.

    The recycling I don't know, but I would assume it involves robots.
    Eikka
    1 / 5 (2) May 11, 2011
    Besides, the major reason why you need to build the reactor vessel out of very exotic materials is because of its size, because ordinary alloys would simply buckle and fail at that scale.

    A small reactor doesn't necessarily need to be made out of rare and precious materials if you can simply use more common materials to achieve the same ends.
    Hesca419
    3 / 5 (2) May 11, 2011
    Besides, the major reason why you need to build the reactor vessel out of very exotic materials is because of its size, because ordinary alloys would simply buckle and fail at that scale.

    A small reactor doesn't necessarily need to be made out of rare and precious materials if you can simply use more common materials to achieve the same ends.


    Zirconium is required for fuel rod cladding because it is transparent to neutrons. No other material will suffice. Hafnium is used in the control rods and only another solid element with a large neutron cross-section could replace it. Niobium would not be necessary but only if the reactors had shorter lifespans, say every 20-30 instead of 40-60 years. As you may have noticed in the news, persuading the power companies that operate these things to turn them off when their time is up has been a bit of a problem. Component size has nothing to do with the necessity or functionality of these materials.
    Quantum_Conundrum
    2.5 / 5 (8) May 11, 2011
    "The U.S. makes 70% of world food production and only around 13% of world pollution." - QC Retard

    The U.S. became a net importer of food under the Failed Bush Jr. Administration.


    And you are a damn liar.

    Anyone who wants to know the truth can find it online, you moron.

    arosjoa
    not rated yet May 11, 2011
    Well not everywhere you can set a nuclear reactor, just check the Japan incident, there will be allways something you dont take into account that a natural disaster could flip you out. I even think we should focus more in efficency rather in producing much more, but people dont learn the word restrain because in the top parts of the world the Philosophy is 200% confort. I would bet more in quantum mechanics improving our everyday that 15000 nuclear power plants powering everything we got as a solution.
    Hesca419
    5 / 5 (1) May 11, 2011
    What utter rubbish! BTW, Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR) do not require a reactor containment vessel because they do not have a traditional solid reactor core that could suffer a core meltdown.


    LFTR will require Hastelloy-N, an alloy that has, according to the producer, "good oxidation resistance to hot fluoride salts in the temperature range of 1300 to 1600°F," for all salt-contacting surfaces. The Molten Salt Reactor Experiment showed that this material was not as good at handling neutron embrittlement as originally hoped. Using that alloy or, even better, a superior but untested alloy on the industrial scale would require regular examination and replacement, something industry has shown they are rather unwilling to do with their current nuclear fleet. Hastelloy-N also uses cobalt, one of those materials we get from the politically-unstable Congo.
    Quantum_Conundrum
    3.9 / 5 (7) May 11, 2011
    arosjoa:

    The author of the article is ridiculous and arguing against a straw man.

    We do not need 100% nuclear, nor will we ever need 100% nuclear.

    The U.S. has 20% as hydro, and that number is going to stay about the same or go up as new and improved turbines replace older ones, and as new technologies for tapping waves and ocean currents emerge.

    We are also going to have significant improvements in the percentage as solar.

    If people in America just knew, there are some cheap, home-made solar technologies they can use to cut their home's net energy bill by about 1/3 to 1/2 using solar water heaters year round, and solar forced air heaters in winter. The setups pay for themselves within 1 to 3 years, and save several hundred to around $1000 in total electric bill, gas and/or oil costs per year.
    unknownorgin
    not rated yet May 11, 2011
    I remember reading an interesting article about reactor imbrittlement. American reactors have embrittlement problems but reactors in the USSR did not, The reason is american reactors are made of the purest steel while russian reactors are made from scarp metal and the copper contaminating the steel prevented the problem by accident not by design.
    CyberRat
    not rated yet May 12, 2011
    [quote] This is a new argument that Abbott puts on the table, which places resource limits on all future-generation nuclear reactors, whether they are fueled by thorium or uranium.[/quote]

    Try this again, and now calculate all uranium from the sea and thorium from earth AND the moon. Also thorium doesn't have all the problems they mentioned in this news item. Is this copied from some stupid greenpeace report?
    bugmenot23
    5 / 5 (2) May 12, 2011
    Check out the rebuttal article :
    Nuclear Power is globally scalable if it does not follow rules made up by the anti-nuclear side
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/05/nuclear-power-is-globally-scalable-if.html
    DaveMart
    5 / 5 (1) May 12, 2011
    Amongst umpteen other absurdities:
    'Moreover, as uranium is extracted, the uranium concentration of seawater decreases, so that greater and greater quantities of water are needed to be processed in order to extract the same amount of uranium.'

    The author is perhaps not aware that as the continents erode new supplies of uranium are washed into the sea.
    antialias
    3.7 / 5 (3) May 12, 2011
    Well not everywhere you can set a nuclear reactor, just check the Japan incident, there will be allways something you dont take into account that a natural disaster could flip you out.

    Mississippi river? Any plant curently situated along that stretch of river would be inundated. We'd have our next nuclear crisis on our hands in no time. And with these kinds of occirences getting more frequent I don't see how the linear extrapolation of accident frequency can be anything but an UNDERestimate.
    PaulieMac
    5 / 5 (1) May 12, 2011
    The U.S. makes 70% of world food production


    Really? Doesn't sound right... Where did that number come from?
    lurch
    4.5 / 5 (2) May 12, 2011
    Now imagine a tornado ripping through it and the effect it would have on capacity for months afterwards.


    LOL. Tornados move in lines, solar plants occupy areas. So a tornado would have very little effect on regional capacity and virtually none on global.

    Nuclear plants on average are getting safer (as the old ones blow up). Solar cells and batteries are getting cheaper and more efficient. Economics will decide. Let's just hope we never find a need for all that uranium we are destroying and that our descendents don't consider us a bunch of idiots for fooling around with such a clumsy short term gain long term loser technology.
    wtf_now
    1 / 5 (2) May 12, 2011
    "The U.S. makes 70% of world food production and only around 13% of world pollution." - QC Retard

    The U.S. became a net importer of food under the Failed Bush Jr. Administration.


    Quantum_Conundrum,
    the 70% figure is difficult to believe, could you let us know where you come up with such a figure? Wiki en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agriculture rates US agriculture output as either 3rd or 4th(dependent upon counting the EU as a single entity)

    And you are a damn liar.

    Anyone who wants to know the truth can find it online, you moron.


    Eikka
    2.3 / 5 (3) May 12, 2011
    Zirconium is required for fuel rod cladding because it is transparent to neutrons. No other material will suffice.


    Really, there's absolutely no other way to make a nuclear reactor?

    Zirconium is extracted from beach sand, and it's not a part of the reactor vessel which is what I was talking about.

    As you may have noticed in the news, persuading the power companies that operate these things to turn them off when their time is up has been a bit of a problem.


    And no wonder, because once they shut one down, the politicians won't let them turn it back on, or build another one in its place, or even refurbish the old one.

    It's gone, and then they have to think of wasting a load of money building fossil fuel plants to replace it and paying the carbon taxes, or importing the electricity, or wasting yet more money on windmills and whatnot.
    ShotmanMaslo
    3 / 5 (2) May 12, 2011
    Neutron embrittlement can be reversed by a process of annealing, in which the parts are heated until the microstructure of the steel changes back to what it was, and then returned to service.


    And ultimately how do we anneal/recycle 100s of these small irradiated vessels everyday whilst avoiding human contact?


    Why 100s? Even this article mentions one new reactor per day as needed to sustain 15 000 reactors. With annealing, that means roughly one annealed reactor per day.

    ShotmanMaslo
    3.7 / 5 (3) May 12, 2011
    And here is a response to his demagogy:
    http://nextbigfut...-if.html
    ShotmanMaslo
    4 / 5 (4) May 12, 2011
    And regarding his claims of renewables as a better alternative, lets use the same criteria for them: How much land would we need to produce the required 15 TW with solar power? How many resources would it take to build and maintain such amounts of solar panels (or solar powerplants)? How long would they last without degradation? What about the costs of required power storage infrastructure (since sun does not shine at night)?
    rbrtwjohnson
    5 / 5 (1) May 12, 2011
    I still believe aneutronic fusion power is that will supply the world's energy needs, without radioactive wastes, nuclear accidents, weapon proliferation. It will be the most experimentally friendly source of energy, producing an enormous quantity of electricity using small area, just releasing clean and safe helium-4 as byproducts. http://www.crossf...iew.html
    ShotmanMaslo
    4.2 / 5 (5) May 12, 2011
    "Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors..." - LoboLoco

    Let us know when someone actually manages to build one.


    Here you go:
    http://en.wikiped...periment

    http://en.wikiped..._reactor

    They have been built in the 60s and operated flawlessly. The reasons why we dont use them now is Cold War politics and industrial inertia (partly caused by anti-nuclear ecoterrorists). See this study:
    http://www.thoriu...aves.pdf
    JayBee
    not rated yet May 12, 2011
    I am interested to see what assumpions are made as regards type of nuclear - obvious alternatives are Molten Salt Thorium and Fusion.
    I also think world nuclear substitution seems an exessive bar to raise - why 100%? where there is hydro - use hydro ,
    where there is sun use sun
    I hope this document is free access - I would be interested to read it
    As a Thrium optimist _ am keen to see this developed as it promises smaller safer operation far less waste and far less toxic waste - it may be part of "the answer" if such a thing exists at all
    antialias
    3 / 5 (2) May 12, 2011
    As a Thrium optimist _ am keen to see this developed as it promises smaller safer operation far less waste and far less toxic waste

    Since alternative energy concepts are already cheaper (if you take all ancillary costs into account) are 100% safe and produce no waste at all there's really no point in looking to nuclear reactors which are safer and produce less waste than currently existing ones.

    Only exception may be for uses where alternative energy sources are not available: Exploration outside our own solar system.
    Vendicar_Decarian
    0.3 / 5 (42) May 12, 2011
    "And you are a damn liar." - QC Retard

    Then let me rephrase for you...

    The U.S. became a net importer of food under the Failed Bush Jr. Administration.

    GSwift7
    3 / 5 (2) May 12, 2011
    The U.S. makes 70% of world food production

    Really? Doesn't sound right... Where did that number come from?


    Yeah, that's a bit exagerated. It also depends on how you measure it. If you look at dollars then the US is a net importer because we export cheap stuff and import expensive stuff. Much of the world does depend on US grains, but the US also depends on things it gets from the rest of the world. No country today is food independent. Here's a page that lists production statistics by country, from the UN:

    http://www.fao.or...?lang=en

    As you can see, the US makes a lot of food, but not as much as China in most things. The above claim of 70% doesn't seem to be substantiated, but we do make a lot of food. The numbers might not be so much in favor of the US if you looked at it in terms of food/square mile though. The US has the advantage of being very large.
    antialias
    3 / 5 (2) May 12, 2011
    and only around 13% of world pollution

    'Only'?

    The US population makes up about 4.5% of the world's population. So your 'only' means that every one in the US is already polluting at triple the average rate.
    GSwift7
    4 / 5 (4) May 12, 2011
    contintued:

    Here's a statement from the University of Kentucky that shows once again how Vendicar Dracarian is a complete waste of oxygen. The US is the largest exporter of food in the world, and his attack against a president that hasn't been in office for more than two years was untrue.

    http://www.ca.uky...orts.htm

    Eikka
    2.3 / 5 (3) May 12, 2011

    Since alternative energy concepts are already cheaper


    Which ones? Why can't they operate anywhere without subsidies?

    Alternatives like biomass burning aren't safer since they cause particulate emissions which do in fact cause a significant number of deaths each year.

    Besides, if anybody argues for resource shortages, what makes them think that we have enough neodymium to make enough wind turbines to power the world, or enough indium to make solar panels?
    antialias
    3 / 5 (2) May 12, 2011
    Which ones? Why can't they operate anywhere without subsidies?

    All of them. If you deduct the direct and indirect subsidies from nuclear (tax breaks, state funded research programs, state funded waste disposal, state funded cleanup necessary due to environmental pollution and environmental impact of mining/drilling/pumping/transport, state funded health care costs due to environmental impact of the plants themselves ... ) then we're looking at 2$/kWh for nuclear and almost thereabouts for coal/oil - which is nowhere near competitive.

    Alternative power sources are from 0.1 - 5 cent per kW/h more expensive than today's subsidized fossil/nuclear energy prices.

    Alternatives like biomass burning aren't safer since they cause particulate emissions which do in fact cause a significant number of deaths each year.

    Biogas plants produce no particulates - and should only be used when absolutely needed (i.e. during the few sunless/windstill/waveless moments of the year)
    Modernmystic
    2.7 / 5 (7) May 12, 2011
    I think it's extremely perplexing that obviously intelligent people think you're ever going to run a modern industrial economy on a power source that's at best good for half the day and would utterly fail if we happened to get a lot of rain in a critical part of the country for more than three days.

    It's just ridiculous...
    Modernmystic
    3 / 5 (4) May 12, 2011
    Also this guys statistics are EASILY torn apart. If we built big we'd need just over 2,000 stations for 15 TW.

    http://en.wikiped...formance

    Do the math, that's 7 billion watts in one station...

    That's just the most simple one to debunk.

    Land use is utter BS too as we could just build down if needed. Proliferation is nonsense too, he gives no reason WHY he thinks it would be a problem it "just would be". Plus since we don't need as many stations as he claims this is specious logic at best anyway. Others have dealt with the accident rate, which is very low with nuclear stations to begin with, but with fewer stations that stat can be thrown out....

    I don't really need or want to go on, the article is a complete utter and unqualified b******t job that didn't even bother to cover it's blatant anti-nuke agenda.
    antialias
    5 / 5 (1) May 12, 2011
    Then you haven't been paying attention: A recent trial run here in germany of a distributed infrastructure using solar thermal, PV, north sea wind and biogas was well able to produce base load electricity all year, day and nigh, summer and winter for the connected 11000 households.

    That alternative power sources can 'fail' is an urban myth. They can only fail if you are reliant on one, local power plant for your personal energy needs. But that has never been the intended deployment scheme for this kind of power generation.

    Most recent reports (comissioned by the current, conservative, nuclear-loving government) based on actual weather data of the past years say that we could have 50% of our base load covered by alternative power with biogas and biomass taking up the slack when conditions are unfavorable nationwide by 2020.

    Impartial studies put that date at 2018 while 'ecofriendly' studies say it could happen even sooner.

    2020 would be good enough for me.
    Modernmystic
    2.6 / 5 (5) May 12, 2011
    Show me the money.

    When it happens I'll be satisfied, until then it's a pipe dream that doesn't even pretend to be tenable except for on an emotional level.

    If Germany manages to do it and actually continues to grow it's economy and advance its infrastructure and technology without the import or aid of countries that are using other power generation technologies then you've sold me.

    Until then fission is a PROVEN source of power...get it?
    TabulaMentis
    1 / 5 (5) May 12, 2011
    Until then fission is a PROVEN source of power...get it?
    If you like proliferation of fission nuclear material, then we do get it! Obama likes it too, however he wants everyone to give up their nuclear weapons. Sound like a coup to me or stupidity!
    Skeptic_Heretic
    5 / 5 (3) May 12, 2011
    Until then fission is a PROVEN source of power...get it?
    If you like proliferation of fission nuclear material, then we do get it!
    You don't seem to understand that fissionable nuclear material can be made to prevent weaponization while still producing energy.

    Look up Cerium processing.
    ShotmanMaslo
    4 / 5 (4) May 12, 2011
    "Alternative power sources are from 0.1 - 5 cent per kW/h more expensive than today's subsidized fossil/nuclear energy prices."

    Dont be ridiculous. Renewables get FAR more subsidies per TWh produced (the ONLY meaningful comparison) than nuclear. The research going into renewables is tremendous, still with little effects when compared to nuclear power.

    http://nuclearfis...-kwh.jpg
    antialias
    4 / 5 (4) May 12, 2011
    If Germany manages to do it and actually continues to grow it's economy and advance its infrastructure and technology without the import or aid of countries that are using other power generation technologies then you've sold me.

    We're doing just that. The number of jobs are sharply rising in that sector and the exports of technolgy and know-how are booming. Currently we supply 17% of our energy needs from alternative power sources and it hasn't hurt us one bit (and we're still exporting energy - even after half our nuclear reactors went offline after Fukushima for 'inspection').

    On the contrary: Total subsidies to nuclear to date: 186bn Euros. Total subsidies to alternative power: 46bn euros.
    (Nuclear supplies 22% of our energy needs). You do the math which is more cost effective.

    Alternative energy powerplants ARE a future technology sector. And with many countries which are yet underdeveloped (e.g. Africa) ideally placed for them we're in an ideal position to go to market.
    Skeptic_Heretic
    4 / 5 (2) May 12, 2011
    SMM, antialias is completely correct. Alternative energy certainly will be the future of energy generation. The US is losing out on a massive windfall and freedom from fossil fuel imports for energy generation. Nuclear has a place as well, in both being a stopgap to leave fossil fuels behind and as a filler for when alternative energy requires support.
    dnatwork
    3.7 / 5 (3) May 12, 2011
    It's bizarre that so many of you rail about "costs" in isolation. If it costs some amount to produce a thing, then someone got paid that amount. That money flows back into the economy when that person spends it. No one loses, but some of the people who have a lot of money now will have a smaller share afterward.

    Also, all of the cost comparisons of fossil and nuclear seem to leave out the costs of pollution on health and the environment, clean-up, and long-term storage of wastes. Factor those in, and solar/wind/biofuels/tides all start to look much cheaper. As though the simple dollar cost is what matters anyway.
    ShotmanMaslo
    3.7 / 5 (3) May 12, 2011
    Considering that France already gets around 80 % of its electricity from nuclear, and is a net electricity exporter, it is clearly proven in practice that nuclear alone CAN supply the energy needs of a developed modern economy.

    With advanced deep burn reactors and thorium, we have enough resources to supply the whole world with power for hundreds of years solely on nuclear.

    Anyway, the moral of the story is, whether with renewables, nuclear, or some combination, the future of energy needs for humanity looks bright...
    ShotmanMaslo
    3 / 5 (2) May 12, 2011
    Also, all of the cost comparisons of fossil and nuclear seem to leave out the costs of pollution on health and the environment


    These are negligible for nuclear, there is no pollution.

    and long-term storage of wastes.


    300 years for thorium cycle fission products. That is not so costly.
    Modernmystic
    2.6 / 5 (5) May 12, 2011
    SMM, antialias is completely correct. Alternative energy certainly will be the future of energy generation. The US is losing out on a massive windfall and freedom from fossil fuel imports for energy generation. Nuclear has a place as well, in both being a stopgap to leave fossil fuels behind and as a filler for when alternative energy requires support.


    It's a good stop gap until we're all running on fusion with the possible exception of a few isolated areas or space stations using solar, but I'm sorry SH I don't see a type I civilization getting all it's power needs from panels planted in the ground or 21st century windmills...

    Help me out.
    Fionn
    5 / 5 (2) May 12, 2011
    Glad so many people are mentioning both fusion and thorium. Both should be part of the solution: thorium for short-term (next 50-150 years), and then fusion when and if we can make it sustainable and commercially feasible.

    We can't meet the current grid needs with just solar and wind. They aren't constant, so they can't be baseload. And even with enough panels to capture during the day/summer enough excess energy to store for winter/night time, how will we store it, and transfer it to less sunny regions?

    Just because nuclear has been done the wrong way previously does not mean that there is no right way to do it. China is building a thorium reactor; they know which way the wind is blowing, and they're realizing they can't poison their own people with coal much longer.
    Skeptic_Heretic
    4 / 5 (1) May 12, 2011
    They aren't constant, so they can't be baseload. And even with enough panels to capture during the day/summer enough excess energy to store for winter/night time, how will we store it, and transfer it to less sunny regions?
    Hydrogen storage from electrolysis of water.

    It's a good stop gap until we're all running on fusion with the possible exception of a few isolated areas or space stations using solar, but I'm sorry SH I don't see a type I civilization getting all it's power needs from panels planted in the ground or 21st century windmills...
    No I don't see alternative as being the perfect tech for a type 1 civ, then again, we're no where near a type 1 civ. Harnessing all the energy of an entire planet is millions of magnitudes beyond our needs or capability at this time. By definition, a type 1 civ would necessarily employ ALL of the previously mentioned methods, nuclear, alternative, and fossil fuel and would still be many fold short.
    ShotmanMaslo
    1 / 5 (1) May 12, 2011
    screw it
    Skeptic_Heretic
    5 / 5 (1) May 12, 2011
    We currently use about 0.16% of the Earth's available energy. I think it was Sagan who proposed that humanity is approximately a type .72 civ.
    ShotmanMaslo
    2 / 5 (4) May 12, 2011
    Here, we can read a tragic story of Richard, a 30-year old solar panel installer that has fallen from the roof and died. How many more lives will the deadly solar power industry claim?

    http://www.cdph.c...llFS.pdf

    Another two sad cases:

    http://www.cdph.c...lity.pdf

    Nuclear is the safest source of electricity per TWh produced:

    http://ecocentric...-energy/

    Stop the madness, go nuclear! Your child may be the next victim..
    TabulaMentis
    1 / 5 (1) May 12, 2011
    The best stop gap for American energy requirements until fusion becomes available is natural gas turbine power generation. America has an abundance of natural gas. But what needs to be done is to add emission filterization systems to remove most of the pollutants created by burning natural gas.
    Modernmystic
    2 / 5 (4) May 12, 2011
    No I don't see alternative as being the perfect tech for a type 1 civ,


    Me either.

    then again, we're no where near a type 1 civ.


    Granted.

    a type 1 civ would necessarily employ ALL of the previously mentioned methods, nuclear, alternative, and fossil fuel and would still be many fold short.


    A type I civ could only employ mature fusion technology and "make it". More likely though they'd employ a method that's only theoretically possible or even unknown to us. My point is that with solar you're going to run out of space, same with wind, with tides etc etc etc. With fusion there is no theoretical upper limit on your energy production. Kinda like a hydrogen bomb (OK not the best comparison, but you get it I think).
    dnatwork
    not rated yet May 12, 2011
    You would not run out of space for solar if it were more efficient or space-based. Now someone will say that would cost too much, without considering all the costs of the current paradigm or the potential of future technologies to make space-based systems feasible.

    How about sending up a small machine that sweeps up space dust to self-replicate nano-scale solar power satellites. To stay in orbit, they'd use solar sails; I'm assuming it will be possible to tack in the solar wind, so these little guys could go anywhere you like, given enough time. They'd use solar energy as their power source, and they'd either beam energy down or we'd have some way of relaying it down on carbon nanotube filaments. It would not be necessary to have a tether that stretched all the way from the planet to geostationary orbit if you had a layer that reached down, brushing a layer that reached up.

    Of course, it will never be possible to build such a system at any point in the future, due to the cost.
    Skeptic_Heretic
    not rated yet May 12, 2011
    A type I civ could only employ mature fusion technology and "make it". More likely though they'd employ a method that's only theoretically possible or even unknown to us.
    I think our definitions of a type 1 differ, or at least the potential end design of a type 1.

    A type 1 civ is defined as utilizing the total energy of a planetary body. That would be solar insolation, wind, tides, geothermal, nuclear fission, and if hydrogen is present, fusion. Fusion alone still wouldn't make us a type 1.
    dnatwork
    3 / 5 (2) May 12, 2011
    Type I civilizations sound greedy and stupid.
    NukeEater
    3.7 / 5 (3) May 12, 2011
    I still believe aneutronic fusion power is that will supply the world's energy needs


    It still releases 1% of the levels of neutrons in present reactors, so you still need all the usual safety precautions. The big downside is requires 10 times the temperature of the D-T cycle we presently use. That's huge. And where are you going to get all the lithium from? If you don't use lithium, list out the elements that will get transmuted so we can discuss it.
    NukeEater
    3 / 5 (2) May 12, 2011
    arosjoa:

    The author of the article is ridiculous and arguing against a straw man.

    We do not need 100% nuclear, nor will we ever need 100% nuclear.


    You didn't read the article. 15 TW is just a number for testing scalability limits. The article then goes onto say: "Of course, not many nuclear advocates are calling for a complete nuclear utopia, in which nuclear power supplies the entire worlds energy needs. But many nuclear advocates suggest that we should produce 1 TW of power from nuclear energy, which may be feasible, at least in the short term. However, if one divides Abbotts figures by 15, one still finds that 1 TW is barely feasible. Therefore, Abbott argues that, if this technology cannot be fundamentally scaled further than 1 TW, perhaps the same investment would be better spent on a fully scalable technology."
    NukeEater
    3 / 5 (2) May 12, 2011
    arosjoa:

    The author of the article is ridiculous and arguing against a straw man. We do not need 100% nuclear, nor will we ever need 100% nuclear.


    The choice of 15 TW in the article is to test scalability limits. It just happens to be 100% of the energy we use today. In 30yrs time it will be a lot higher.

    The article also actually says this: "Of course, not many nuclear advocates are calling for a complete nuclear utopia, in which nuclear power supplies the entire worlds energy needs. But many nuclear advocates suggest that we should produce 1 TW of power from nuclear energy, which may be feasible, at least in the short term. However, if one divides Abbotts figures by 15, one still finds that 1 TW is barely feasible. Therefore, Abbott argues that, if this technology cannot be fundamentally scaled further than 1 TW, perhaps the same investment would be better spent on a fully scalable technology."
    Skeptic_Heretic
    5 / 5 (2) May 12, 2011
    NukeEater:

    Even the IAEA recognizes that a large thorium infrastructure is sustainable for thousands of years, and very few organizations are more dour on the continued use of nuclear than they.

    http://www-pub.ia..._web.pdf
    Modernmystic
    1.8 / 5 (4) May 12, 2011
    A type I civ could only employ mature fusion technology and "make it". More likely though they'd employ a method that's only theoretically possible or even unknown to us.
    I think our definitions of a type 1 differ, or at least the potential end design of a type 1.

    A type 1 civ is defined as utilizing the total energy of a planetary body. That would be solar insolation, wind, tides, geothermal, nuclear fission, and if hydrogen is present, fusion. Fusion alone still wouldn't make us a type 1.


    Our definitions may be different, nevertheless my point is that we can make up the difference of wind, tides, solar, geothermal with fusion. A type I civilization doesn't have to use all the available power of a planet at once, just match the power output of the planet second for second. There's a big difference.
    frflyer
    5 / 5 (1) May 13, 2011
    When someone mentions solar thermal, my ears perk up. It is unique among renewables. Steady dispatchable power day and night from the sun.

    CSP's dispatchability makes it easier to integrate more intermitten PV solar and wind power into the grid. CSP can follow the load. Nuclear and coal do not.

    An area 42 by 42 miles, in U.S. Southwest premium solar resource areas, filled with CSP (solar thermal) plants, would produce as many megawatt hours as all the coal plants in America. This assumes heat storage. Is that a lot of land? About twice the size of the area now evacuated around Fukishima? That's just my wild guess, but it must be in the ballpark.

    Arizona alone, at 285 GW, has solar thermal potential of about 120 nuclear plants, adjusting for capacity factors.
    Molten salt heat storage equipped CSP plants can have capacity factors of 40-70% depending on type and amount of storage built in.

    frflyer
    5 / 5 (1) May 13, 2011
    Here's how the NREL says a plant with 3.5 hours heat storage would operate on a
    mid summer day in Nevada.

    The plant would start saving heat at sunrise. A few hours later, it would start generating electricity and continue storing heat in the salt. By 1pm when the sun peaks, it would be at full rated power, say 1250 MW. It would continue to put out at least it's full rated power, while increasing output and peaking at about 3,000 MW at 5pm, exactly when demand in the grid peaks in the southwest. It would continue putting out steady but declining power until midnight. No fluctuation when clouds pass by.
    Cloudy periods, which are rare in the southwest can be planned for by the plant manager and utility, from weather forecasts. In the daytime in what the NREL calls Premium Solar Resource areas, there is sunshine all but about 4% of the time.

    3.5 hours heat storage means enough to provide 3.5 hours at full rated power, without any input from the sun.

    frflyer
    5 / 5 (3) May 13, 2011
    Solar thermal or concentrated solar power (CSP) is a prime example of a renewable technology that mostly needs deployment to become cost effective. The NREL, for instance, thinks that solar thermal construction costs will come way down when the industry is up to scale. This is not a power source that is in need of some major technological breakthrough. Its pretty low tech and can already produce power cheaper than PV solar, even though its not as far along in commercial development. According to NREL, after an initial learning curve spanning the first few gigawatts development, there will be an initial drop in costs. Further cost effectiveness will come with economy of scale. They project 4-7 cents/kWh eventually.

    Also, the larger the solar farm, the more economical it is to build and run You only need one steam generator and power block, no matter how many solar collectors you want to add.
    GSwift7
    4.2 / 5 (5) May 13, 2011
    It's bizarre that so many of you rail about "costs" in isolation. If it costs some amount to produce a thing, then someone got paid that amount. That money flows back into the economy when that person spends it. No one loses


    Over the past decade my average salary has remained about the same, adjusted for inflation/cost of living it has gone down. I'm a full time single parent who gets no help from anybody. If you want to raise my utility bills to promote a more costly form of power I will oppose you. Here in SC, almost all of our power is from hydro and nuclear and we export power to GA and FL. I don't think we need solar here. We also have massive natural gas available just off the coast if we were allowed to go get it. This state is one of the poorest in the country. Many of the places where solar would work (the southern ones) are among the poorest. If the North wants to pay to install and operate solar/wind in poor southern states then that's fine I guess. We can't.
    Skeptic_Heretic
    5 / 5 (1) May 13, 2011
    Many of the places where solar would work (the southern ones) are among the poorest. If the North wants to pay to install and operate solar/wind in poor southern states then that's fine I guess. We can't.
    It would be in the entire country's interest to Federally fund a solar project in the south. SC isn't the norm. A lot of southern states have a non-negligible coal infrastructure that could be partially if not totally eliminated. Nuclear base load with a kick in from solar to reduce prices would be a godsend for southern manufacturing and industry.

    But, a solar farm wouldn't achieve that. Decentralized solar ie: a voucher program for people who want to install their own is in order. A large scale managed farm wouldn't beneficially reduce pricing.
    ShotmanMaslo
    3.7 / 5 (3) May 13, 2011
    "But, a solar farm wouldn't achieve that. Decentralized solar ie: a voucher program for people who want to install their own is in order. A large scale managed farm wouldn't beneficially reduce pricing."

    Why? One large scale solar power plant has potential to generate cheaper electricity than hundreds of small ones. Economies of scale.

    "Solar thermal or concentrated solar power (CSP) is a prime example of a renewable technology that mostly needs deployment to become cost effective."

    Exactly. CSP (mechanical) is actually the only solar power system that has a chance of being a real alternative (in well insolated areas). Photovolaics are no alternative at all, if you factor in their small and overtime decreasing efficiency, production costs etc.

    In my opinion the best course of action humanity should take is to provide majority base power with advanced nuclear, and the rest with CSP plants and maybe wind power (if really enough of sun and wind is available in the country)
    antialias
    5 / 5 (2) May 13, 2011
    Why? One large scale solar power plant has potential to generate cheaper electricity than hundreds of small ones. Economies of scale.

    Decentralized power benefits the middle class (those who have it on their roofs and the small business who set them up)

    Large power plants just benefit the large companies who will just use the power of centralization to blackmail everyone into paying higher prices per kWh than need be because:
    a) They want to make a buck
    b) They have to pay all their useless CEOs and managers

    Decentralized setups also greatly reduce variability in output over the entire system.
    TabulaMentis
    2.3 / 5 (3) May 13, 2011
    Frflyer is absolutely correct. Where there is lots of sun, thermal solar is #1.
    GSwift7
    3.7 / 5 (3) May 13, 2011
    Decentralized setups also greatly reduce variability in output over the entire system


    Let's pretend that you could install small wind and solar on homes and in communities. When the sun is shining consumption drops then on a cold night consumption will surge up. The power company can't just stop operating their base load plants when consumption is down. They still need employees and it takes time to warm up and cool down turbines and such. You generate a lot of waste that way. Waste is bad since it increases real cost. I'll repeat. Waste is bad. On the West coast they are seeing a lot of waste because of the unpredictable surges in wind power and because of waste issues from load balancing and long distance transmission. The majority of their wind power is small to medium sized distributed generation which hooks into local grids rather than the main lines. That seems good except then you have huge drops in load on the main lines followed by huge surges later.
    GSwift7
    3 / 5 (2) May 13, 2011
    It would be in the entire country's interest to Federally fund a solar project in the south. SC isn't the norm


    Actually, SC is fairly close to the average around here. The TVA supplies power to several states and is almost completely hydro and nuke. The lake of the ozarks is a hydro project. Cumberland lake in KY is hydro. hoover dam of course. Most of the coal that I'm aware of is in the northern midwest, like from kansas city and farther north, where they are relatively close to the big coal mines in the Northwest states like the Dakotas. In those big coal using states like ohio and michigan the winters are just too long and cold for solar or wind to make sense. You can't run a windmill or a solar panel with ice on them, and the winter days are very short there, and the peak demand is during the long cold nights. Service lifetime of solar and wind equipment is not good in cold places. Windmills tear themselves apart if they run with ice on them.
    Javinator
    4.4 / 5 (5) May 13, 2011
    I still believe aneutronic fusion power is that will supply the world's energy needs


    It still releases 1% of the levels of neutrons in present reactors, so you still need all the usual safety precautions.


    I don't understand your point. Neutron shielding is nothing.

    The safety factors wrt to a fission reactor have to do with keeping the fuel cool both when the reactor is running and when it's not. That cooling has little to do with neutrons being produced and more to do with the heat generated by the rapid radioactive decay of the fission products concentrated within the fuel rods.
    Skeptic_Heretic
    5 / 5 (3) May 13, 2011
    Why? One large scale solar power plant has potential to generate cheaper electricity than hundreds of small ones. Economies of scale.

    Loss due to transmission. Don't forget you're also required to deliver in alternating current where as short run DC can be converted with less loss locally and transmitted over DC at a lower loss in total. I agree with your point, however transmission is the real killer when it comes to energy. Solar panel based power is AFAIK DC only at the moment.
    GSwift7
    3.5 / 5 (4) May 13, 2011
    And don't even begin to talk about chemical batteries in homes. The most feasable rechargable battery types are the ones similar to the lead-acid battery in your car or in a forklift. It takes an equivelant of 10 car batteries to make 120 volts. That will give 120 volt at about 10 amps for about an hour. A small house uses at least 40 amps, so that's the equivelant of 40 car batteries for an hour (double that for a medium sized house at 80 amps service). Then if you want to have heat all night, you need at least 8 hours of storage, so that's equivelant of 320 car batteries (640 for a medium house). They will lose efficiency after a few hundred charge/discharge cycles so you need to over-engineer the system with even more batteries than that to get off the grid completely. Most of the cost is materials and it scales linearly with capacity, so 320 * $40 = $12,000 ($24,000 medium house). Replace them every two years.
    Skeptic_Heretic
    not rated yet May 13, 2011
    GS, with the advancements in hydrogen sotrage, I would see it as feasible to bury a sealed fuel cell in your backyard, similar to the old style septic tank. We would just need a cheaper catalyst, preferably one that didn't utilize palladium.
    dnatwork
    1 / 5 (1) May 13, 2011
    GS, you mention the average house, but the average house is very wasteful. What about the possibility of insulating your house better, to reduce the need for heating/cooling? What about CFL or LED lighting? Those two would probably cut your amperage needed in half.

    My point is only that the stated need for energy in the future is wildly overestimated because the assumption is that no efficiency or conservation will ever occur. Huge gains are available, and most are low-hanging fruit.
    ShotmanMaslo
    2.5 / 5 (2) May 14, 2011
    Dnatwork - any decrease due to efficiency would be probably offset by increase in consumption over rime.
    Avitar
    5 / 5 (3) May 14, 2011
    The IEEE has a lot of people who are very Green. This is in sense of people who have never done anything successfully in their lives.
    The assumptions made in this article are so primitive I would disregard the man's opinions on everything else. I see no reason to believe that he check his references.
    The small truck transportable reactors and breeder reactors are only a little over fifty years old but cannot be disregarded in any serious discussion of nuclear power. This does still disregard what has been done in the last forty years in nuclear technology.
    antialias_physorg
    5 / 5 (1) May 14, 2011
    When the sun is shining consumption drops then on a cold night consumption will surge up. The power company can't just stop operating their base load plants when consumption is down.

    There are several tried and true ways to get through these 'low availability' times.
    1) Storage (either as compressed air, hydrogen, water power in fjords, molten salt, ice (crystallization energy) ... )
    2) The wind always blows somewhere - that is why you don't only connect to a local grid but a national one. Off shore is an even more constant source and you can add wave energy.
    3) Have biogas power plants as backup for the few days where the above doesn't suffice

    The average energy generation capacity per year is pretty much known in advance - as is the bandwith of fluctuations. A network of such power plants has been - successfully - tested in germany. And we're not exactly blessed with sunshine and wind. If it works here it'll work anywhere.
    A_Paradox
    5 / 5 (2) May 14, 2011
    This article is very disappointing, and a lot of the commentary also.

    Above, first time through I forgot that he does actually mention "fast breeder reactors" and credits them with "x 80" extension of uranium supply. But he is hopelessly negative about the process. Surely only some nuclear plants would need to be breeders.

    The person who disparaged my mention of Adams Atomic Engine surely did not bother to look it up. The idea is perfectly feasible and as Mr Adams writes [also Wikipedia] the pebble bed fuel technology has been tested and works, so also the nuclear gas turbine.

    As for disposal of radioactive waste, there are umpteen thousands of square kilometres of deep ocean floor that are covered in very thick mud. Concrete/synrock containers buried in that mud would lie undisturbed for as long as required.
    Sanescience
    5 / 5 (2) May 15, 2011
    Fluff piece by somebody who wants attention. Was refreshing to see a lot of people calling BS. All of these evaluations of atomic power based on the idiotic reactor designs of the 50s that are light water reactors.

    The topic of energy production is one of the most serious subjects facing mankind. And any "researcher" who does not care to address known methodologies that invalidate the presented analysis represents a frightening level of crassness. People are living horrid suffering lives and a little power for a sewage treatment plant or a hospital could make transformitive differences in millions of peoples lives.

    What happened to modern reactor designs?

    And when these obviously dangerous and inefficient reactors were shown to be dangerous and inefficient, and when those who worked to block their replacements say "See, they are dangerous and inefficient..." Thanks for nothing.
    Doug_Huffman
    1 / 5 (5) May 15, 2011
    "Nuclear power won't", alternative energy can not.

    Oh noes, we're all gonna diieee! Drill baby drill. Call-up the Smokers' Deacon, Captain of the Deeze
    antialias_physorg
    1.8 / 5 (5) May 15, 2011
    The final decision about whether we want to go nuclear or alternative is:

    Do we forever want to be under the reign of monopolists who:
    - mine the resources
    - own centralized power plants
    - oversee removal of waste products
    - have control over scarce resources and profit by speculating on them by artificially reducing output
    - where we have to pay for any accidents (with our health and our money)

    ...or do we want 100% safe energy production under OUR, individual, control in a way that no one can fleece us.

    To me the choice seem clear.
    bliskater
    1 / 5 (1) May 15, 2011
    This article is nonsense. It might've made a good article titled. "Things To Overcome In...", but today "shouldn't, won't, can't" are the key words in addressing the human condition. I have yet to read or hear, where it has been rationallyshown that there is no solution to any technical problem what-so-ever....ever.
    e1e2k3n4t
    1 / 5 (2) May 15, 2011
    @Scottingham:
    Imagine a solar/wind power farm.

    Now imagine a tornado ripping through it and the effect it would have on capacity for months afterwards.


    Ok, a tornado devastating a solar and wind farm with power outrage in months or a year as a result. But if an accident happen nuclear plant (or even hydropower plant) outrage will be for a decennium or so. Accidents on those power plants are like avalanches, smaller bad luck phenomenon adds up to big hazardous problem, whatever it is toxic nuclear radiation, or flooding from dam break.

    However, that is not the case with solar and wind farms, they are also cheaper and quicker to rebuild.
    rwinners
    not rated yet May 16, 2011
    Another scientist with a vision. I hope he can build a consensus among scientists, bit I doubt he will.
    I do agree: We need all of the available sources of renewable and scalable energy. Nuclear should be part of that solution, even if temporary. It surely makes better sense than building new coal plants and probably, gas fired plants too. Coal and gas can be used to provide our needs for hydrocarbons in the manufacturing process, far into the future. They are too valuable to burn.
    Bigblumpkin36
    5 / 5 (1) May 16, 2011
    The is too much money invovled in big oil for new reserch on nuclear fission anyway, Nuff said
    wwqq
    5 / 5 (3) May 16, 2011
    Check this part, where it says: "This is a new argument that Abbott puts on the table, which places resource limits on all future-generation nuclear reactors, whether they are fueled by thorium or uranium."


    He's simply wrong. There is no requirement for any of these "exotic" materials. You can make control rods out of high-boron steel or boron carbide.

    The fuel in pebble bed reactors is in the form of graphite balls filled with uranium fuel particles coated with alternating levels of silicon carbide and graphite.

    A molten salt reactor doesn't even strictly need to have control rods. To load-follow, let the fuel salt heat up(doppler-broadening and thermal expansion reduce the activity). To shut the reactor down, stop cooling the freeze plug and the fuel will drain out into a passively cooled, subcritical drain-tank.
    GSwift7
    4.2 / 5 (5) May 16, 2011
    GS, with the advancements in hydrogen sotrage


    I said today, not 20 years from now.

    but the average house is very wasteful


    that's true. find a way to upgrade millions of apartments and office buildings and you'll win a Nobel prize.

    There are several tried and true ways to get through these 'low availability' times


    No, those technologies are unproven. They are in developement or pilot stages. Here's a DoE page with links to evaluations of the technologies you are talking about. They are only working on the most feasable ones, so pie in the sky ideas like compressed air aren't talked about here. Try this link:

    http://www1.eere....rts.html

    The wind always blows somewhere - that is why you don't only connect to a local grid but a national one


    There is no such thing. It would take decades to build one. There isn't even a standard for voltage/frequency, so interconnection is an engineering problem.
    GSwift7
    4 / 5 (4) May 16, 2011
    The wind always blows somewhere - that is why you don't only connect to a local grid but a national one


    also keep in mind that there are security benefits to having the grid somewhat broken up into pieces. If you get the grid too interconnected then you will have the risk of massive regional blackouts like the one in the northeast US a couple decades ago.

    And, the more intermitent power you add to the grid the more you need to over-engineer the grid. You need to upgrade the junction nodes to handle the peak loads when you need to unload surges of electricity from a windy place to another place. They are having trouble with that on the US West coast this year and they had the same problem last year. There's only so much capacity at the choke points that connect one grid to another. It's also wasteful to transmit long distances.
    Gawad
    5 / 5 (1) May 16, 2011
    So you agree with the author then that nuclear will never be a primary supplier of energy to the world.
    No retard, I'm pointing out that Abbott's spin is misleading. Go back to grade school and fix your double ignorance reading problem.
    antialias
    3.7 / 5 (3) May 16, 2011
    Funny ... we have a national grid (even a continental grid) over here in Europe - and no blackouts.

    Doesn't take much to connect local grids into a national one. But go ahead: Keep buying fuels that will be ever more scarce and ever more expensive. Not everyone has to be smart.
    GSwift7
    3.7 / 5 (3) May 16, 2011
    Funny ... we have a national grid (even a continental grid) over here in Europe - and no blackouts.

    Doesn't take much to connect local grids into a national one. But go ahead: Keep buying fuels that will be ever more scarce and ever more expensive. Not everyone has to be smart.


    Electricity prices by country, USA #25 of 31, all EU countries much higher:

    http://en.wikiped..._pricing

    gas prices by country, USA #101, all EU countries much higher:

    http://www.nation...e-prices

    I ask you this: can you give me any reason why the US should do what the EU is doing? Who seems to be doing things the smart way and who seems to be doing something wrong?
    GSwift7
    3.7 / 5 (3) May 16, 2011
    Germany, leading the charge on renewable energy saving themselves from high energy costs by using renewables. Over 30 cents per kWh in 2009 compared to 9.3 cents per kWh in the US in 2006 (before Obama. I imagine it's higher now).

    Yeah, I want a big bag of whatever they are smoking. Nah, not really.

    Notice the huge jump in electricity price once you get down past Russia (sort by price). From 13 to 17, and it skyrockets up as you go down the list from there. Those last 10 or so countries are just insane. They are around 3 or 4 times the US price. Wow.
    antialias
    3 / 5 (3) May 16, 2011
    I ask you this: can you give me any reason why the US should do what the EU is doing?

    Because those prices won't stay there once other countries start to want to have their share (China, Africa). Resources will become scarce - they don't replensih forever.

    No, those technologies are unproven. They are in developement or pilot stages.

    As posted already: The energy mix of several alternative power plants was already able to supply BASE and PEAk loads all year round. What storage do we need that isn't already developed?

    If you really want one: Closing off a fjord and using it as a huge power storage basin isn't rocket science.
    Modernmystic
    2.3 / 5 (3) May 16, 2011
    If you really want one: Closing off a fjord and using it as a huge power storage basin isn't rocket science.


    BAHAHAHAHAHHAHAAHHAhahahahahaahahahahahha......Oh that's a good one. Yeah you OBVIOUSLY don't live in America bud. If you even THINK of building a damn in this country you'll have 12,338 friends of the court briefs or lawsuits filed against you by 500 different envirowacko groups trying to save some worm, or fly without which the sky will fall, the ecosystem will collapse and we'll all die horrible agonizing deaths....
    antialias
    2.3 / 5 (3) May 16, 2011
    The stupidity of a people is not my problem.

    You can only lead a horse to water...
    GaryB
    5 / 5 (3) May 16, 2011
    We clearly need breeder reactors, especially things like thorium breeders -- that will solve the limited uranium problem and also means we'd need fewer power plants overall.
    Modernmystic
    2.3 / 5 (3) May 16, 2011
    The stupidity of a people is not my problem.

    You can only lead a horse to water...


    Then don't kindly don't preach to us if it's not your problem...
    antialias
    2.3 / 5 (3) May 17, 2011
    So why do you even argue when you already don't want to have the superior solution.

    You basiocally admit that it's better just that people won't accept it.
    I wonder if you'll buy a house next to a (thorium) reactor?
    ShotmanMaslo
    3 / 5 (2) May 17, 2011
    I wonder if you'll buy a house next to a (thorium) reactor?


    I live 10 km from a nuclear plant, and I am not afraid at all. House prices are quite high, too. Heck, there is more danger that a wind turbine falls on my head than that nuclear plant melting down..

    Not to mention that some thorium reactors are physically impossible to melt down.
    GSwift7
    3.4 / 5 (5) May 17, 2011
    The stupidity of a people is not my problem.

    You can only lead a horse to water...

    So why do you even argue when you already don't want to have the superior solution


    About 90% of my power comes from hydro and nuke (the hydro plant has to go into backup mode about 20% of the year because of enviro nuts telling them they have to open the spillways for the fish, and it burns coal in backup mode). I would LOVE to see the two new reactors under construction in my area be completed. If we could just kick the European backed enviro nutcases out of our State then we would be doing much better. You guys need to keep George Soros and his friends in Europe and keep him out of our business. Maybe we should have just stayed out of WW1 and WW2, or maybe Germany should still be two countries. It's time for Americans to put our foot down and tell these enviro nuts to go back home and shut up. I don't fully support the tea party stuff, but they have that part right. Leave us alone
    antialias
    4 / 5 (4) May 17, 2011
    If we could just kick the European backed

    LOL. Here's your tinfoil hat...
    The greens have enough trouble getting heard in Europe. I'd be rather surprised if anyone had the funds left to 'back' anyone in another country on that issue.

    It's time for Americans to put our foot down and tell these enviro nuts to go back home and shut up.

    if the US would teake care of all the resukting damage to the environemnt itself instead of polluting the air, water, and doing their very best to aggravate global warming, then we'd all be happy to NOT give you any advice.

    However we all live on one planet. And letting the papmeperd baby sulk and cry in the corner while wrecking it wrecks the planet for everyone else is NOT an option.
    GSwift7
    2.6 / 5 (5) May 17, 2011
    while wrecking it wrecks the planet for everyone else


    Wreck the planet? lol, what does that even mean? That's just a silly catch phrase that doesn't have any real meaning. Calm down and get real. Rational people stop listening to you when you say things like that. That's why more and more people are saying "no thanks" to you enviro-nutcases. Crazy talk is only for crazy people.

    is NOT an option.


    How many stealth bombers do you have? None? Oh that's too bad. Then I guess it IS an option IF WE SAY SO. lol.

    Crying baby. lol. Yeah, you can tell when you have beaten an enviro-whacko in a debate when they start the name-calling. It doesn't usually take long.

    ...and when I call you a nut-case or a whacko, I mean that in the best possible way. No offense is intended.
    antialias
    4 / 5 (4) May 17, 2011

    How many stealth bombers do you have? None? Oh that's too bad. Then I guess it IS an option IF WE SAY SO. lol.
    Brilliant argument. Will you be able to eat stealth bombers when the climate goes tits up?

    Wreck the planet? lol, what does that even mean

    Well, if you haven't been totally blind the past few decades then you might have noticed that we are increasingly making our planet less and less habitable as we influence everything from water quality to air quality to resource availability to climate in a negative way. How long do you think we can go on like this iwth an increasing population and increasing energy needs?

    Closing your eyes and going off to Lala-land isn't going to change reality.

    And since that seems the type of 'argument' you use then someone with a more adult attitude has to start telling you that you are behaving like a child. Sometimes such education has to be accorded to whole nations and not only individuals.
    GSwift7
    3.8 / 5 (5) May 17, 2011
    If you even THINK of building a damn in this country you'll have 12,338 friends of the court briefs or lawsuits filed against you by 500 different envirowacko groups trying to save some worm


    They do that even when we try to build solar or wind power, and the only ones who benefit from the whole deal are the lawyers.
    GSwift7
    3 / 5 (6) May 17, 2011
    Brilliant argument. Will you be able to eat stealth bombers when the climate goes tits up?


    first, the idea that there will be food shortages is a myth. However, even if it were true, it would not be the US who ends up short on food. It'll be too bad if EU countries can't afford to pay more for our extra corn than what it's worth to us as fuel to burn in our cars. We gotta go shopping you know.

    we are increasingly making our planet less and less habitable


    lol, I asked you to explain your first vague generalization and you used another in reply. What in the world are you talking about? less habitable? I see fertile lands that were once deserts and land being reclaimed from the sea. I see rivers being contained and tamed with dams. I see wild malaria infested jungles and swamps being cleared and turned into productive farmland and logging. I see third world countries getting running water and electricity. That isn't damage my friend. That's improvement.
    ILIAD
    2.5 / 5 (2) May 17, 2011
    Fusion can supply the worlds needs. (end game)
    antialias
    5 / 5 (1) May 17, 2011
    corn than what it's worth to us as fuel to burn in our cars. We gotta go shopping you know.

    And you don't find these kinds of statements childish / short sighted? Well...go the way of all empires: into stagnation and obsolescence. Who cares?

    I just hope it will be before the rest of the world has to pay the price for it.
    ShotmanMaslo
    3.8 / 5 (4) May 17, 2011
    Actually its "envirowhackos" who want to burn precious corn in cars. I think we should utilise energy source that is able to provide enough electricity for electric (or hydrogen, generated by electrolysis) cars, so we dont need to do such things. The only energy source which will be able to satisfy the huge increase in demand due to all transportation becoming electric or hydrogen is advanced nuclear such as thorium (excluding presently infeasible concepts such as fusion).
    GSwift7
    3.2 / 5 (6) May 17, 2011
    And you don't find these kinds of statements childish / short sighted?


    It doesn't matter. As I said, the whole idea of food shortages is merely theoretical, and the consequences of an event that won't happen are moot. The poor people of the world will starve tomorrow just like they are starving today. The places may change, but someplace will always be poor. Today it is Somalia. Next year it might be Greece. In 2100 it could be the sovereign nation of California. It won't be caused by climate change. It'll be caused by the changing socio-economic/political climates just as it always has. The effects of those changes will dwarf climate change in speed and magnitude. Even if you invented a fusion reactor, you still couldn't build one in Somolia or Darfur. Even if you had billions of tons of free food, you still couldn't feed them. We've tried. Problems from climate change will be so slow and subtle that you won't be able to detect them against the noise of high frequency events
    ShotmanMaslo
    3 / 5 (3) May 18, 2011
    "Even if you invented a fusion reactor, you still couldn't build one in Somolia or Darfur."

    Yeah, that would be the case with Tokamaks (maybe not with Polywells tough).
    But not wiht thorium reactors, they are easily scalable.
    GSwift7
    4 / 5 (4) May 18, 2011
    What I mean is that those places don't have the infrastructure to support anything like that. There's no power grid. There are no people qualified to run it. You can't get qualified people to go there because there are no schools for their children, homes for them, shopping centers, etc. You would need to build whole communities from scratch and those new communities would be completely seperate from the people there now. The corrupt governments would seize your plant and use the profits to buy guns, so their enemies would destroy the plant or just kill the people who run it. I know that is what would happen because that is what happens when we try to send medical or food aid. They steal the goods and kill the workers then buy guns. If you run electric wires they will tear them down to sell for scrap value.
    Skeptic_Heretic
    5 / 5 (3) May 18, 2011
    So GS, I completely agree with you, and past precedent does as well, however, you wouldn't build one in the middle fo no-man's land.

    You'd slowly creep thte infrastructure in from more civilized regions, slowly culturally elevating the people through delivery of technology that has appreciable benefits. Similar to other technological and industrial revolutions.
    GSwift7
    3.7 / 5 (3) May 18, 2011
    yes, but he difficulty has been more social/political than technical. Those places have actually gone backwards from where they were 50 years ago. When piracy is a better career choice than engineering, you won't get bridges built or maintained. You can get people to use better cook stoves and you might build a few schools, but there's a steep learning curve to really get them out of the hole. They don't have a currency or a banking system for example. They don't have any mail delivery system. The only legal system is the one based on the philosophy of Mikhail Kalashnikov. There's a whole generation of adults in those countries now that have never attended a day of school or received a paycheck, since the problems have been going on longer than they have been alive.
    Skeptic_Heretic
    5 / 5 (2) May 19, 2011
    yes, but he difficulty has been more social/political than technical. Those places have actually gone backwards from where they were 50 years ago
    I agree, but not all of these places have made such a slide. Many countries are improving in the region. Primary reasons for such degradation are poverty and rarity of foodstuffs. If you start in the areas that remain relatively civilized, like South Africa, Egypt, etc you could creep into the less civilized areas, bringing defined benefit that will change the local populace. It would have to be multigenerational, there's no magic bullet here; on this point we strongly agree.
    GSwift7
    3.8 / 5 (5) May 19, 2011
    We've drifted somewhat away from topic here, as usual. To the point of the main article, nuclear isn't an option for supplying the bulk of world power needs, but his reasons are way off. As we've discussed here, the bigger problems are more due to the fact that the bulk of world population live in places where social and economic factors prevent it. It would be like trying to give automobiles to dolphins. Just aint gonna work. The solution needs to fit the problem on a case by case basis.
    ShotmanMaslo
    1 / 5 (1) May 19, 2011
    GSwift7 - I dont think such conclusion follows from what you wrote. Yes, you cant build advanced nuclear power plants easily in the worse parts of the third world, but such unindustrialised places also have very low power consumption, so they collectivelly make up only tiny fraction of world energy usage. So you definately can supply the bulk of world power needs with nuclear, since bulk of world power consumption is in first and developing world, where nuclear is not a problem.
    GSwift7
    3 / 5 (2) May 19, 2011
    you are confusing power use with power needs. They need it, but they just don't have it. Unless you are suggesting that they are better off without modern things like refrigeration and clean water.
    NukeEater
    not rated yet May 24, 2011
    We clearly need breeder reactors, especially things like thorium breeders -- that will solve the limited uranium problem and also means we'd need fewer power plants overall.


    It seems you missed the whole point of his article: whatever reactor technology you use, you run out of the materials to make the reactor itself.