Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bring Nuclear Back Home

If ever there was a question about the need for nuclear power, it has certainly been dispelled now with the rising cost of fossil fuels.

The high price of oil, natural gas and coal should be a wake-up call to all regions of the country that the era of boundless use of cheap fossil fuels is over — and that nuclear power will need to play a larger role in supplying electricity to homes, business and industry.

The U.S. pioneered the development of nuclear energy, and had the first major nuclear program. Most other leading industrial countries have continued developing their nuclear programs since the last nuclear plant order in the U.S. — primarily using U.S. technology.

Today we have the means — and more important, an urgent need — to bring that technology back home.

Read full article here in IBD.

8 Comments:

At 7/30/2008 9:35 PM, Blogger bobble said...

" the era of boundless use of cheap fossil fuels is over — and that nuclear power will need to play a larger role in supplying electricity to homes, business and industry."

Amen to that. we're getting late start, but better late than never

 
At 7/30/2008 10:02 PM, Blogger David said...

Also: nuclear goes very well with electric or partially-electric (plug-in hybrid) vehicles: most recharging can be done at night, and this will spread out the grid load pattern and allocate the high capital costs of the nuclear plant over a large base.

 
At 7/30/2008 10:59 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> Today we have the means — and more important, an urgent need — to bring that technology back home.

Sorta OT*, but ditto space. Why should we cede it to the Chinese?

We should start putting up a lot of X-prizes for suitable space accomplishments -- Some suggestions:

1 vehicle flown into space and returned, refurbished, and flown again, 10x within one year

Putting an object with the mass and dimensions of, oh, a railway car or greater, into LEO for one month, then visited, and either de-orbited at a pre-defined place or offered for continued reuse, as appropriate.

Putting an object with the mass of a car around the back side of the moon and bringing it home.

Landing an object with the mass of a car onto the lunar surface.

Putting an object with the mass of a car into either the L4 or L5 position, indefinitely.

Putting a five man ("human") team into LEO or better for 3 months and bringing them back alive.

Putting a 3-man team onto the moon with a mass driver, putting 500 tons of packetized lunar material, into a fixed lunar orbit, then getting the team back alive.

... And so on. Acceptance of the prize means that the tech involved must be patented and licensed at a rational cost, so that other companies can adapt and use it for their purposes.

=======================

*Not entirely OT because you could also make an operational SPS proof-of-concept system an X-prize, too.

 
At 7/30/2008 11:03 PM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> Also: nuclear goes very well with electric or partially-electric (plug-in hybrid) vehicles

It also works well with the alternatives, either a fuel-cell based economy or a hydrogen economy -- charging fuel cells is likely to be little different from most battery concepts, and most hydrogen generation can readily be done at the equivalent of service stations at night, with the same effect of evening out demand.

 
At 7/31/2008 7:18 AM, Anonymous Machiavelli999 said...

obloodyshell,

The "Hydrogen Economy" is a non-realistic idea. There is no efficient way to transport hydrogen since its very leaky. Not to mention the safety issues involved with a reactive fuel source like hydrogen.

We are 30 to 40 years away from figuring out how to efficiently transport hydrogen. For now, we need more immediate solutions.

 
At 7/31/2008 8:29 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"The high price of oil, natural gas and coal should be a wake-up call to all regions of the country that the era of boundless use of cheap fossil fuels is over"...

Hmmm, I disagree...

The high prices of oil, natural gas, and coal in this country were driven in large part by politics...

Dumb people making dumber choices at the ballot box over the last thirty years has been one of the driving reasons for high fuel prices...

How many here remember that dumb movie China Syndrome?

Politicos with an agenda used the movie to scare silly but thoroughly clueless voters...

Do we need nuclear power to supplament the use of domestic fuel sources to power the electric grid?

As much as we did thirty plus years ago if not more so...

This is NOT a new argument by any stretch...

Thanks to the MSM and people like Walter Cronkite to many Americans were driven into what I can only describe as a catatonic trance of terror and that induced terror was reflected at the ballot box...

 
At 8/01/2008 5:31 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> The "Hydrogen Economy" is a non-realistic idea.

Your presumption shows failure to grasp that the main thing required is a breakthrough. You can't depend on breakthroughs, but to think the economy is 30+ years away is to fail to grasp that that is all that is needed. I listed it because, one way or another, it's what we're headed towards, barring a completely unrelated and unforeseeable breakthrough like some "magic battery" technology (and I seem to recall that THAT comes with some interesting caveats as far as destabilizing techs. IIRC, there are some interesting SF shorts in a book called Power). Fuel cells also require some breakthroughs -- albeit more incremental ones -- but also have possibilities, as does catalyst chemistry. Any one of these might supplant the current "best standards" within a short time, if a suitable set of breakthroughs occur. Someone stands to make one hell of a lot of money.

 
At 8/01/2008 5:58 AM, Blogger OBloodyHell said...

> Do we need nuclear power to supplament the use of domestic fuel sources to power the electric grid?

juandos, the real problem is that nukes really don't solve the transportation problem, they just shift it, but not where we want it to be -- All current electricity storage techs really suck compared to chemical energy mechanisms, esp. that represented by gasoline. Gasoline is simply cool.

Motive power begs for two qualities:
1) Range -- Ideally, the range should be such that a car can go approximately 250-350 miles, minimum, between refueling/recharging.
2) Speed of refuel/recharge -- Ideally, the time it takes to fully "reset" the vehicle should be on the close order of 10-15, maximum. If it takes longer, this can be made up for by an increase in range but it inevitably presents problems -- the short refuel times allow for a few people to drive non-stop from one side of the country to another. Any change eliminates that sort of activity, which also includes all manner of business functions.



No other current tech other than chemical energy fills this bill in a cost-effective manner (either ore-to-vehicle-to-dumpyard full cycle or upfront/refuelling expenses), and gasoline fits into a really, really elegantly nice niche for that purpose. The inefficiencies of the Internal Combustion engine over its competitors are overwhelmed by its qualities for both range and refuelling.

Tack on an additional #3 if you want to know why steam power never took off (it has some notable advantages of its own which make it similar to the IC Engine.):
3) Quick start times from door-to-roadway. A classic steam engine has to build up a head of steam to function, which generally takes 5-10 minutes in all designs.

Batteries, which is the obvious way to use nuclear energy as a motive power, have really horrendous storage losses ( actual power returned is on the order of 20% of what you put into it), which have to be added to transmission-line losses in the 40+ percent range. So the power you're getting back out of the car to move it is like 5-10% of what you initially generated. Even nuclear power ain't that cheap.

Fission, at least, to say, isn't.

So really what is needed is someone to make a suitable breakthrough in storage technologies -- either a much more efficient battery (with far fewer disposal issues), more efficient fuel cells, or a way to, as machiavelli suggests, to conveniently store and hold hydrogen, which is not nice stuff, in a form more like the volatility and characteristics of gasoline.

Nukes solve a lot of the concerns over carbon and the environment (assuming coal fired plants cause global warming, which is questionable) but coal is cheap stuff, and will stay that way -- we have loads of domestic coal sources. Nukes are still better for pollution/particulate issues, but they aren't perfect by any means -- they're just "as good as or better than coal", but not by a lot...

 

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