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The Nuclear Power Thread

by russ_watters
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russ_watters
#73
Nov30-03, 04:13 PM
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Originally posted by wimms
So, the only way to deal with overloads in grid is to AVOID the overload. That needs ideally complete knowledge of all main lines and their load, and is quite computationally intensive to make right decisions, that in addition has to be made damn fast.
Well, either that or what I said before: have enough excess capacity that you don't have to make those decisions and can handle a little hickup without taking any action. The drop in excess capacity is the key difference between the way the grid handles fluctuations today and the way it did 10 years ago. And the solution as I said before is obvious....

.....get back to nuclear power!!
Nereid
#74
Nov30-03, 06:10 PM
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Russ, wimms,

Many thanks for your replies to my ignorant posts. I see now that introducing telecoms was, on balance, more of a distraction than a benefit.

Back to my original comment ("A good infrastructure should be able to isolate local failures, irrespective of how heavily loaded it is; it's surely not a very challenging technical problem."), and a (hopefully!) wiser re-casting of it.

this is a 0-th order take; many devils - a.k.a. details - are licking their lips in anticipation of ambushes on the road ahead

Demand varies seasonally (~100 days characteristic time), weekly (~10 days), daily, and hourly. A significant part of this demand is predictable; much detailed historical data is available to characterise variance about (modelled) means within all periods.

Broadly speaking, supply is available to meet all but peak hourly demand. However, there are unplanned supply failures, and the characteristic time for indications of incipient failure ranges from days ("that unit sure has been acting strange!") to milliseconds (or less). Further, a great deal of historical data is available to characterise the root causes, frequency, and 'phenomenology' of all failure modes.

Technology to detect, analyse, and transmit useful information about demand, supply, and failure already exists. As long as the response times are greater than 1 second, 'pre-canned' or algorithmically-based automatic response decisions can be implemented. These automatic decisions can, in principle, be optimised according to a wide range of equipment, supply, demand, down-stream impact, ... conditions. These optimisations can be performed both 'off-line' (independent of the particulars of the event) or 'on-line'.

... and that's as far as technology could take us, in a reactive sense.

Proactively, we could fairly accurately characterise future demand, supply, and improvements in failure detection and remediation capabilities. Through risk analyses (crudely, prioritisation by the 'impact' metric - probability of event x cost of event), main areas to be addressed can be confidently identified (and research investment targeted to improving the probability and cost estimates of the top 3 risks, say). Installing, testing, and refining equipment, maintenance schedules, operations proceedures, etc then follows, using standard QA methodologies.

Finally, the key dimension, economics. Crudely, economics is all about how to better match supply and demand, though price. In the case of grid-supplied electricity, IMHO, there is enormous opportunity for basic economic principles to be better applied. For example, as wimms said "When you switch on consumer device, power starts to flow, and grid has no control over it other than cutting off completely". Yet no (residential) consumer has ever been asked what price they would be prepared to pay for 99% (or four/five/six/seven 9s) availability. With today's technology, I would guess, a multi-tiered set of service contracts could be easily implemented - from 'el-cheapo' electricity (but can have supply cut for up to 10 hours with no notice), to guarranteed 99.9999% availability and 10 seconds restoration in the event of failure (for a VERY large fee).

This is the kind of thing I was referring to when I said "the root cause is bad regulation and wilful ignorance of economics. Behind that there is, without a doubt, the hand of Big Oil [...]
A competitive market should be able to meet demand, unless the regulatory barriers are inefficient.
"
xeguy
#75
Nov30-03, 09:34 PM
P: 38
Interesting thread. I think the Germans are shooting themselves in the foot if they continue with this policy. The nuclear bogeyman looms large over everything thanks to the scaremongers. There's a reason why they dropped the "nuclear" from MRI!

Nuclear power = good. Let it power our space probes and homes.

Fusion will be here...eventually...

It's only a few years overdue. ;-)
wimms
#76
Dec1-03, 02:25 PM
P: 473
Nereid,

what you described, looks good on paper, with 15 minutes of thought put into it. After you put about 1000 hours of thought into it, it would look like total nightmare to you. I don't think we can come up with something top people of energetics haven't thought of. Lets mean no disrespect to them. There are soo many things we can't even imagine _needs_ to be thought about.

Reality checks. Technology exists, on paper, but it doesn't think. People do. To program all that people can costs more than its worth. To install all the needed technology is too expensive, and consumer isn't willing to pay for it. Rare epic blackouts cost less. Economics? Case closed.

As to historical data, yeah, there is plenty of it. So plenty, that no blody mortal can make any sense of it anymore. For statistical analysis it isn't precise, structured nor standardised enough. Its best output is a "gut feeling" of experienced dudes.

No residental customer is ever asked because residental customer exists only because of regulation. As always, its business where money is, and it needs all the nines. To install residential cut-off switches is insane, and only adds to costs, because individual households matter nothing in any of the events, and ability to switch off zillions of homes as per individual sla isn't easy nor cheap. The "el-cheapo" electricity would cost more to electric companies than "el-normo" one. Guess why they aren't eager to offer choice?

For a VERY large fee, electricity providers are not needed. There are factories that build their own nuclear plants nearby and sell excess energy to the grid, and use grid as a backup. no ****. They have all the nines, and even get PAYED for it.

Well, yeah, looks like I'm arguing. Infact, basic idea is that the whole thing is too damn complex, that its cheaper to live with it than to fix it. And the cheapest way to fix it is to "take the larger hammer".
Nereid
#77
Dec1-03, 05:56 PM
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Thanks wimms, these kinds of reality checks are very welcome!
No residental customer is ever asked because residental customer exists only because of regulation. [...] To install residential cut-off switches is insane, and only adds to costs, because individual households matter nothing in any of the events, and ability to switch off zillions of homes as per individual sla isn't easy nor cheap. The "el-cheapo" electricity would cost more to electric companies than "el-normo" one.
The sooner we get the regulations changed the better! Let's start charging 'residential' customers a fee that's closer to the marginal cost of producing the electricity they consume, and offer them choices. With the cost of technology decline (courtesy of Moore's law and globalisation), how long before it becomes cost effective? With entrepreneurial suppliers - perhaps 'virtual' - when will biz cases that offer differentiated residential services begin to make sense? With the extraordinary inefficiencies in the industry, re-regulation (soundely based in economics) would surely open a number of juicy niches to creative capitalists?
As always, its business where money is, and it needs all the nines.
Hmm, perhaps they need all the nines because they've never had any real choices? If there were a competitive supply market, with a rich range of nines/time-of-day/etc choices, how many CFOs would start suggesting to their CEOs that they seriously consider re-engineering their processes to take advantage of the cost-saving opportunities that have just opened up? Bet we'll never find out until the possibility becomes real enough
Technology exists, on paper, but it doesn't think. People do. To program all that people can costs more than its worth. To install all the needed technology is too expensive, and consumer isn't willing to pay for it.
Well, it has happened in airline reservations (when's the last time you spoke with a profitable travel agent?), banking, telecoms ( ), quite a lot of B2B commerce, ... what is unique about the energy sector?
Its best output is a "gut feeling" of experienced dudes.
So let's you and I hire them as our technical advisors, once we have the VC funding to start VirtuEnergy
russ_watters
#78
Dec1-03, 10:26 PM
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P: 22,239
Originally posted by Nereid
If there were a competitive supply market...
Maybe I'm missing the context here, but in most states now there IS a competitive supply market as a result of "deregulation." I put "deregulation" in quotes because it requires new regulations of course. If done well (Pennsylvania), it leads to a small reduction in energy costs for customers. If done poorly (California) it leads to Enron, doubling of energy prices, and region-wide blackouts. Either way it makes electric power supply a pretty complicated issue for consumers - and thats a pretty lucrative thing for my dad...
wimms
#79
Dec3-03, 12:15 PM
P: 473
Originally posted by Nereid
The sooner we get the regulations changed the better! Let's start charging 'residential' customers a fee that's closer to the marginal cost of producing the electricity they consume, and offer them choices.
No problemo. They can offer you electricity closer to the marginal cost of producing it .. AT their plant. You are free to take it somehow and deliver it where you want, the way you want, at costs you want. If it hadn't occured to you yet, then crucial function of regulation is to force development and maintenance of distribution network, that means wires to your home, your town, your area, country, and protecting you from paying insane money to get your electricity to your home.

when will biz cases that offer differentiated residential services begin to make sense?
When costs begin to relate to differentiated pricing. Already the case. To get the nines, you pay extra. What you have by default, is a free lunch, payed for by someone who needs the nines. No room for whining, be it down for a week if they like. Epic blackouts impact whole economy, thats why they get the front page.

Hmm, perhaps they need all the nines because they've never had any real choices?
Have you ever owned UPS? They need all the nines because downtime costs them money, much more than all the nines they pay for. Please name one crucial business that can run without energy in todays world.

If there were a competitive supply market, with a rich range of nines/time-of-day/etc choices, how many CFOs would start suggesting to their CEOs that they seriously consider re-engineering their processes to take advantage of the cost-saving opportunities that have just opened up? Bet we'll never find out until the possibility becomes real enough
How many CFOs today seriously consider building nuclear plant to SELL electricity instead of buying it? Who cares what it costs if its compensated? The only "CFOs" who will seriously consider re-engineering their processes are residential losers who will take advantage of the cost-saving choices to find more opportunities in whining about the choices. Perhaps also that it has damn rare major blackouts.

And, seems its not obvious to you that "nines" are not function of production of energy, but of reliable distribution of it. By competitive supply market, you are implying alternate distribution network, grid. You are welcome to build your own nationwide grid thats better, cheaper, more flexible. There are thousands of energy suppliers waiting for you.

Well, it has happened in airline reservations (when's the last time you spoke with a profitable travel agent?), banking, telecoms ( ), quite a lot of B2B commerce, ... what is unique about the energy sector?
Nothing has happened there. Planes are crashing, banks are robbed, telecoms have outages. Unique to energy sector is that every damn business stops without energy.
russ_watters
#80
Dec4-03, 11:34 AM
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P: 22,239
Nines?
wimms
#81
Dec4-03, 11:49 AM
P: 473
99.9999% uptime guarantee - 6 nines
Nereid
#82
Dec14-03, 11:20 AM
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Reading the lead News Scan article in the November 2003 Scientific American, I learned that:

-> a significant contributory factor in the August 14 blackout is likely to be the fact that degulation of the industry left transmission "lagg[ing] behind [generation systems] because of the patchwork of interstate regulations and jurisdictions. Many policy and grid experts say that in the short term, the [FEMC] should enact nationwide policies covering transmission systems operation, capacity and investment."

-> "Once the government decides how the grid should operate, 'we have the technology to implement it almost on the shelf or coming down the pipe,' says Paul Grant, science fellow at [EPRI] ..."

-> technologies mentioned include installation of more heat-resistant lines; better communication systems among power stations (e.g. dedicated fibre optics, and GPS-based time-stamps); faster, smarter switches; a master transmission control computer; and automatic, adaptive 'islanding'.

-> on the über-computer, the article notes "[p]ostmortem studies by the industry suggest that such a global view would have prevented about 95 percent of customers losing power during the 1996 blackouts in the western U.S."
{I wonder who said this:} A good infrastructure should be able to isolate local failures, irrespective of how heavily loaded it is; it's surely not a very challenging technical problem.

A competitive market should be able to meet demand, unless the regulatory barriers are inefficient.
The SciAm article did not mention a need to increase generating capacity.
russ_watters
#83
Dec16-03, 12:30 PM
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P: 22,239
Originally posted by Nereid
-> a significant contributory factor in the August 14 blackout is likely to be the fact that degulation of the industry left transmission "lagg[ing] behind [generation systems] because of the patchwork of interstate regulations and jurisdictions. Many policy and grid experts say that in the short term, the [FEMC] should enact nationwide policies covering transmission systems operation, capacity and investment."

The SciAm article did not mention a need to increase generating capacity.
I guess the implicaton there is that regardless of the actual generation capacity, the transmission capacity isn't where it needs to be. So even IF there is enough generation capacity, the lack of adequate transmission capacity will prevent the power from getting where it needs to go.

Sounds like an interesting article - maybe they have it up on their website...

When I was discussing that command center with my dad a month or so ago, we also talked about transmission lines. Near as we can tell there are only 3 lines going from Limerick into Philadelphia and the surrounding counties (I've actually hit one of them several times with a golf ball as its strung over the 5th fairway of a course I frequent). A bad car accident could black out a million people just by knocking down one pole. And a guy with a handful of backpacks of C-4 could take down most of SE PA for a while.
Nereid
#84
Dec16-03, 09:49 PM
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Sounds like an interesting article - maybe they have it up on their website...
try this:
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?cha...8C83414B7FFE87
Argentum Vulpes
#85
Oct2-04, 07:22 PM
P: 83
I'm slightly disappointed that I did not get on this thread before it turned into a power distribution network debate, so I'll play catch up and address some things that I think need to be added.

First briefly on the subject of coal, there is another reason to not want coal in this day in age. Besides the fact that it pumps CO2, NOx, SO2, and Hg into the atmosphere, one fact that is not discussed is it also puts uranium into the air. Now if we are going to get all huffy about Nuclear power because it uses uranium and might put some extra amount of it into the environment, could we please look at the entire power industry and judge it all by the same standards.

Quote Quote by enigma
Give me the nuclear plant in my backyard over a coal plant any day.
I totaly agree with this statement

As for all of the talk of Chernobyl there remains a vary important fact about Chernobyl that everyone seems to overlook. This fact is that Chernobyl was a RBMK type of reactor, whos main purpose in life was to create bomb grade Pu. The fact that it produced electric power was a happy side-effect for its main mode of operation. This type of reactor would never be allowed to be open in the US, or for that fact most of the world because of its main purpose and its many deadly design flaws. Two of the flaws are that it operates with a positive void coefficient, and because the fuel needs to be constantly changed there is no secondary containment structure. This info came from www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/nuclear-faq.html, and this also explains what a positive void coefficient is.

So this is my two cents on this debate. Hopefully if this debate will get back on track of the original post.
i_wish_i_was_smart
#86
Oct3-04, 10:46 PM
P: 111
Argentum, i agree with you on everycount, the fact that Chernobyl was poorly maintained and that it used carbonfiber(which can overheat and cause damage and so on) and not HeavyWater as a moderater is a major design flaw, not counting it had no containment structure, he have learned on others mistakes and we have vastly improved the design and operation of Nuclear facilities. If only people weren't so quick to judge half of Canada would be Nuclear powered, Uranium is a source we have plenty of, and we are one of the leaders in nuclear powerplant technology, i'm sure mostly everyone has heard of Candu reactors, and they are currently designing a "next-generation" reactor, many of the Candus were sold all over the world(including *cough*korea*cough*)

but our reactors do produce Trinium, a big part of the hydrogen bomb is made out of trinium (for those reading this that dont know what trinium is, its an isotope of hydrogen) but there is a good side to that, we sell it to you guys for a pretty penny
russ_watters
#87
Oct4-04, 09:57 AM
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P: 22,239
Besides all that, there is the fact that as bad as Chernobyl was, it killed only about 40 people, most of them firefighters (that said, we wouldn't want to have to evacuate Pittsburgh).
i_wish_i_was_smart
#88
Oct4-04, 06:48 PM
P: 111
which is why, to keep people content, and to keep it on the safe side, we put nuclear reactors in more desolate areas, well i guess the US cant really do that
Morbius
#89
Oct15-04, 11:46 AM
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P: 1,152
Quote Quote by Argentum Vulpes
I'm slightly disappointed that I did not get on this thread before it turned into a power distribution network debate, so I'll play catch up and address some things that I think need to be added.

First briefly on the subject of coal, there is another reason to not want coal in this day in age. Besides the fact that it pumps CO2, NOx, SO2, and Hg into the atmosphere, one fact that is not discussed is it also puts uranium into the air. Now if we are going to get all huffy about Nuclear power because it uses uranium and might put some extra amount of it into the environment, could we please look at the entire power industry and judge it all by the same standards.



I totaly agree with this statement

As for all of the talk of Chernobyl there remains a vary important fact about Chernobyl that everyone seems to overlook. This fact is that Chernobyl was a RBMK type of reactor, whos main purpose in life was to create bomb grade Pu. The fact that it produced electric power was a happy side-effect for its main mode of operation. This type of reactor would never be allowed to be open in the US, or for that fact most of the world because of its main purpose and its many deadly design flaws. Two of the flaws are that it operates with a positive void coefficient, and because the fuel needs to be constantly changed there is no secondary containment structure. This info came from www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/progress/nuclear-faq.html, and this also explains what a positive void coefficient is.

So this is my two cents on this debate. Hopefully if this debate will get back on track of the original post.

Argentum Vulpe,

I also agree with you - and with enigma about the coal plants. See:

http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/...t/colmain.html

from scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory who state,

"Americans living near coal-fired power plants are exposed to
higher radiation doses than those living near nuclear power plants
that meet government regulations".


and

"The population effective dose equivalent from coal plants is
100 times that from nuclear plants."


The population receives more radiation exposure from coal plants
than nuclear plants because coal contains trace amounts of uranium
and thorium which gets tossed into the atmosphere when the coal is
burned.

Because the USA burns billions of tons of coal per year - the amount of
uranium and thorium tossed into the air amounts to a few thousand tons
per year.

As I stated in another post - the Chernobyl reactor is "over-moderated" -
it has too much moderator. When one removes water - either by heating
it so that it is less dense - or by boiling or "voiding" the water - one is
reducing the amount of moderator. Since the RBMK is over-moderated -
reducing the amount of moderator shifts the amount of moderator
closer to the optimal point - and the reactor GAINS reactivity - which
is the "positive void coefficient" that Argentum Vulpes speaks of.

Yes - many people get "bent out of shape" if someone were to suggest
siting a nuclear power plant next to them - but wouldn't mind a coal
plant as much - all because of a fear of radiation.

They are the ones that need to be informed that they get 100 times as
much radiation exposure from the coal plant than they would from the
nuclear power plant as the scientists from Oak Ridge point out.

Dr. Gregory Greenman
Physicist LLNL
Argentum Vulpes
#90
Oct15-04, 06:31 PM
P: 83
Thanks for pointing out the web site Morbius. I couldn't find that again when I was typing up my last post (I had used it about ten years ago for a debate on energy production in the US). As for nuclear reactors out in the middle of no where there are plenty of areas in the US that count as that. Montana, The Dakotas, and Wyoming, this I will say for certain as I lived in Montana and traveled across the Dakotas and the north eastern part Wyoming several times.


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