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>

1 comment:

  1. The problem with Fast Breeder advocates is that they are usually institutionalized academics who don't live in the real world.

    For example, the most efficient way of using fossil fuels or hydrogen is via the Stirling engine process or fuel cell, both of which offer more than double the efficiency of an IC engine process. However, outside of a small number of narrow roles, currently the Stirling engine just isn't a practical solution and fuel cells are still too immature, expensive and unreliable.

    Now things might change, fuel cell technology is advancing rapidly. I've seen designs for Electric/Stirling hybrid car engines that have been moderately successful in tests. But for the interim I would argue in favour of sticking with IC engines, even for future cars running on hydrogen or biofuels.

    Many in the renewables movement get mesmerized by the performance of heat pumps. I would argue, that yes they have their place, but its a very narrow remit. CHP or existing condensing boiler technology is still the better solution.

    Similarly, Fast reactors are too immature and too unreliable. The cheapest & most practical way to make nuclear energy is via Uranium fuelled LWR's (or Gas-cooled reactors) using once-thro fuel processing, with the waste disposed of via deep geological storage. How in blue blazes do you propose a Fast reactor that is much more expensive to build & operate, that comes with higher fuel processing costs and has a lower capacity factor can possibly compete?

    If you're argument is that LWR's aren't up to the job, then you're argument is the same as Greenpeace's - that nuclear power is a waste of time!