29 July 2012

Learning to live with your local SMR (Small Modular Reactor)

"....The [US] Energy Department has taken a number of steps to help jumpstart America’s nuclear industry and ensure that nuclear power continues to play an important role in the U.S. energy mix. As part of these efforts, the Department has worked to advance small modular reactors, which provide an important opportunity for America’s manufacturing sector to make and sell cutting-edge technology...."The U.S. Energy Department Boosts SMR Technologies

Transportable by road, rail and water, this is how living with your district nuclear power facility will look - it's just another unit at the back of your Retail Park:  SMRs - Now you can see just what it's going to look like!


Baroness Worthington gets William and Kate onside for Thorium

60 years ago, the young Queen Elizabeth II was handed a plastic bag containing plutonium The 
drama of plutonium 

And here's Baroness Bryony Worthington moving the debate into the 'SECOND NUCLEAR ERA':  Baroness Worthington at TEAC4 Only a matter of a week or two ago, in front of throng of thorium supporters, she came up with the 'sound-bite' of the decade - the Duchess of Cambridge being handed a gift-wrapped package of thorium. We'll be on all of the front pages tomorrow!!!

And guess who's handing the package over?  It's Will himself!

28 July 2012

Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Go! - Does it matter where?

"....The TMSR project is to utilize the thorium energy via the development of molten salt and molten salt-cooled reactor technologies, in order to secure the long-term nuclear fuel supply by diversifying the sources of the fuel...."

"....The Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics is leading the efforts to build a 2 MW molten salt research reactor in five years...."

"....By around 2035, the TMSR project shall build a 1000MWe molten salt-cooled demonstration reactor and a 100MWe molten salt demonstration reactor (liquid fuel), as well as possess the technologies that pave the road to commercialization of the thorium-fueled nuclear energy systems...."

Monday, 06 August 2012. A Presentation at the Department of Nuclear Engineering, University of California, Berkeley.

20 July 2012

Breeder Reactor Advocates Across The World.

This is an extract from a new post on Brave New Climate by Barry Brook and Geoff Russell  on 20 July 2012:
Life is about choices. In 1994, Bill Clinton chose to shut down the US "fast [breeder] reactor" program.
Now the Chinese, the Indians, the Russians and the South Koreans are building these reactors.
With a fast [breeder] reactor, you get much more than 100 times the energy from the same amount of uranium. With fast [breeder] reactors you can use current nuclear waste as fuel. With fast [breeder] reactors, we can shut down all the world's coal mines. We can stop ripping up the boreal forests for tar sands in Canada and elsewhere. Bill Clinton blew it.
Fast [breeder] reactors will run on what is called depleted uranium, or on nuclear waste. There is enough of this already mined not only to shut all  the world's coal mines - but also  to make the Olympic Dam expansion unnecessary.
So our last questions to Jim are: How worried are you about those tailings? How worried are you about climate change? Worried enough to risk the occasional deathless Fukushima accident and go with clean energy from fast [breeder] reactors? Or are local scare stories more important than solving the major environmental problems and keeping our eye on the big picture?
Geoff Russell is a mathematician and long-time member of Animal Liberation in SA.
Barry Brook is professor of climate science at the University of Adelaide.

Is the Olympic Dam Mine a special case?

The full post is well worth a read. Barry Brook is one of the most mild mannered people around and his video and podcast discourses on climate change and energy are level-headed and informative. This piece is a bit rumbustious, so I imagine there's plenty of Geoff Russell in it>

16 July 2012

Linear-No Threshold Theory (LNT) - What does it take to kill it off?

The sad death this year, of Dr. Bernard L. Cohen.

A couple of tasters from a man of conviction:

In a 1989 article titled “The Myth of Plutonium Toxicity,” Cohen famously challenged activist Ralph Nader: “I offered to eat as much plutonium as he would eat of caffeine, which my paper shows is comparably dangerous, or given reasonable TV coverage, to  personally  inhale  1,000  times  as much plutonium as he says would be fatal.”
Nader did not take up the challenge.

In a 2005 interview with RSO (Radiation Safety Officer) Magazine, Cohen recommended to the scientific community: “Don’t be enslaved to the linear-no threshold theory of radiation-induced cancer; it is almost certainly not valid and over-estimates the risks from low-level radiation. … As a nation, we are wasting tens of billions of dollars cleaning up little bits of radiation. The worst thing is that we are largely giving up on nuclear energy because of this.”

15 July 2012

Oliver Tickell - A Semi-Informed, Strong, Unshakable, Renewables Advocate.

This is the 'Briefing' document authored by Oliver Tickell, April/May 2012.     Thorium: Not ‘green’, not ‘viable’, and not likely

This is a facebook  comment, by a staunch LFTR enthusiast, whose sagacity on matters scientific and, in particular, nuclear is evident from every utterance:   

Robert Steinhaus 
Thorium (dis)information - (Semi-informed Thorium hit-piece from a strong, unshakable, renewables only point of view).

The report is semi-informed, and raises many challenges, economic and technical, to Thorium molten salt technology. While most (all) of the disinformation could be rebutted by a skillfull informed advocate , it would require a fairly lengthly document/presentation to do so. As it stands, all of the document's many claims based on half-informed disinformation and untruths serve to "muddy the water" and introduce fear and uncertainty into public discussion of future nuclear energy planning.

You could try to do a point by point rebuttle of all of the false claims but I am not sure the public would want to read that. Maybe combining a point by point rebuttle document with a public debate might be more effective at dispelling this misinformation.

This is a Claverton Energy piece, and it is obvious that, editorially, they are also vehemently opposed to nuclear energy:     Claverton Energy Article

This is a comment I tried to tack on to the Claverton Energy piece, but it seems to be in suspended animation, awaiting moderation (I fear it will never see the light of day):  

This Briefing just can't get away from continually mentioning the benefits of LFTRs over 'conventional' nuclear - that's PWRs for all of the soon-to-be 'New Nuclear'.

There is tacit acknowledgement of explosion-free operation, impossibility of core meltdowns and minuscule amounts of waste, which decays to background radiation levels in 300 years. Now don't these three benefits pull the rugs from under the vitriolic anti-nukes? And, wouldn't these same facts quell the very doubts, among the public at large, that hold back widespread acceptance of nuclear energy?

In a world of declining hydrocarbon resources, where developing nations will fight (let us hope diplomatically) to improve their standards of living (meaning energy use) and developed nations will fight (ditto) to maintain or improve their standard of living (ditto), it is imbecilic to believe that a spaghetti-like interconnection of windmills and squares of plastic will maintain peace, stability and law and order.

Such conditions could be rushing headlong towards the children of today's young parents. The decision makers of that generation need to appreciate that, in simple arithmetic terms, it is possible for breeder reactors to supply all of the energy needs (including carbon-neutral liquid fuels and ammonia - as feed stock for nitrate fertilisers to feed 9 billion) of every individual on the planet (at developed world standards), until the end of time (from inexhaustible sources of thorium and uranium fuels).

The only conclusion those decision makers will need to reach is - will those reactors be LMFBRs or MSBRs?    Breeder Reactors it is - but will it be---Fast or----Thermal?

14 July 2012

Energy Efficiency and the Jevon's Paradox

Energy Efficiency  
a main plank in Greenpeace's 
Energy [R]evolution.

Energy efficiency is a key component of climate change policy, and is promoted as a low cost means to reduce greenhouse emissions and reduce peak demand. Energy efficiency is also a key component of the “soft energy path”, originally articulated by Amory Lovins in 1976 in his famous article in Foreign Affairs as a solution to energy supply concerns and declining resources, then later adopted as a solution to climate change.

Yet Jevon’s Paradox, or the energy efficiency rebound effect, suggests that some, or all, of the gains of energy efficiency are “taken back” in the long-run

Examples of Jevon's Paradox. 

The steadily declining cost of refrigeration has made almost all elements of food production more cost-effective and energy-efficient. But there are environmental downsides. Most of the electricity that powers the world’s refrigerators is generated by burning fossil fuel. Since the mid-nineteen-seventies, per-capita food waste in the United States has increased by half, so that we now throw away forty per cent of all the edible food we produce. According to a 2009 study, more than a quarter of U.S. freshwater use goes into producing food that is later discarded. 

Also discusses the improved efficiency of air-conditioners. In the United States, we now use roughly as much electricity to cool buildings as we did for all purposes in 1955. The problem with efficiency gains is that we inevitably reinvest them in additional consumption. Paving roads reduces rolling friction, thereby boosting miles per gallon, but it also makes distant destinations seem closer, thereby enabling people to live in sprawling, energy-gobbling subdivisions far from where they work and shop.
Read more:      http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/12/20/101220fa_fact_owen#ixzz20ceOJXx3

The paper has two main findings.
The first is that Melbourne’s buildings and heating appliances are much more energy efficient than they were 50 years ago – they’ve shown sustained improvements over a long period, but what we tend to do is “spend” the efficiency dividend – we build bigger homes, we heat larger areas for longer, we have less people living in each home, and so on. The remarkable thing is that we use about the same energy per-person on space heating as we did in 1960, and the trend hasn’t changed much over the ensuing 50 years, even though modern homes are more than ten times as efficient. So the efficiency dividend has given us comfort that our grandparents could only dream about, so that’s a good thing, but if the objective is using efficiency to reduce greenhouse emissions, then it simply hasn’t worked. What has worked in Melbourne has been a shift to natural gas, which has relatively lower greenhouse intensity to other heating fuels.

The second main finding is that Melbourne’s heating is going to continue to rely on conventional large-scale energy, whether it is gas, or if we convert to electric heat pumps, then conventional dispatchable power. We hear a lot about renewables and smart-grids and electric vehicles plugging in and supporting the grid, and they capture the public’s imagination, but when you look at all of these things carefully, it becomes apparent that they’ll always struggle to move beyond a supplementary role. The reason for this is simple – during winter on cold or near freezing mornings, and in the early evening, people need affordable and reliable heating and this requires large-scale power on demand. Melbourne’s heating season lasts for 4 or 5 months, so you have this need, twice daily, for large scale dispatchable power.

02 July 2012

En Route To Building The First-Of A Kind LFTR In The UK!

PRISM is not the only reactor that 
can 'burn' our 

What a chance this would be to get some molten salt reactor experience. We could scale up the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE), operated at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) from 1964 to 1969, under the Directorship of a true doyen of nuclear energy, Alvin Weinberg. In the last few months of operation, the feasibility of 'burning' plutonium, as a fuel in the reactor core, was put to the test.

For a pittance of a Government investment, we could get this operationally proven technology up and running in 5 years - after all, in 5 years from funding approval, the MSRE was designed, manufactured and 'switched on', in the days of slide-rules, tee-squares, protractors and compasses - what could we do now, with CAD/CAM and 3D computer modelling and planning?

Has Paul Howarth, The Director of the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), charged with assessing the likely effectiveness of GE Hitachi's PRISM, got the vision and the guts to at least mention this to Ed Davey as a possible alternative?  

This hot salt reactor plant is just 'glorified' chemical plant and the UK has the design and technological expertise and manufacturing capacity to produce this reactor in its entirety. If we could get a couple of years of operational experience on a plutonium 'burning' unit, we'd be within a shout of getting the first-of-a-kind Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) built and, for the UK, this would mean manufacturing jobs, growth and prosperity we have not seen in 3 generations; plus, as a little aside, operators could halve the price of electricity to domestic and industrial users and still make a handsome profit - because you get twice as much bang for your bucks from a LFTR 'fired' power station.