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YOU!: Fix the US Energy Crisis

by russ_watters
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Count Iblis
#217
Oct30-08, 08:34 PM
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Radioactive waste is just a few tons per year. You can store the nuclear waste from a few Gigawatt powerplants from one year's operation safely in your garden. It is only a few cubic meters in volume.
russ_watters
#218
Oct30-08, 08:40 PM
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Quote Quote by Topher925 View Post
I'm curious Russ, why the big support for nuclear energy?
-It is very inexpensive (intrinsicly).
-It is 100% pollution free.
-It is domestic.
-It has the capability to supply massive amounts of power.
-There is a lot of fuel available.
With major technological advancements in support of solar micro-generation being made in the past few years, and in the years to come....
Solar power has a long way to go to become viable and we don't have time to wait for advances in technology that may never come. We need more power and cleaner power now.

The US's current electric generation capacity is 1100 gigawatts. If solar increases by 25% a year (a goal of solar proponents: http://photovoltaics.sandia.gov/docs/PVRMChapter_4.htm ) by 2030, it'll account for about 7% of today's peak generation capacity, which is essentially pointless since it it won't come close to overcoming increases in demand. And that's not even considering that the load factor of solar power is like 25%, so the with a capacity of 7%, we'll only get 2% of our electrical energy from it. In other words, if the best wish of solar advocates comes true, we'll still need much more of our conventional power sources for at least another 20 years and in 20 years, solar power will still be basically irrelevant as a player in our national electric grid. We'd need about 7 new nuclear plants to generate that much power.

That's not a solution, it's a 20 year delay in even starting to deal with the problems we face.

Other issues:
-Night/rain.
-Cost.
What will we do with the hundreds millions (if not billions) of tons of hazardous waste? We can't just keep dumping the stuff into Canada, eventually that country is going to fill up.
The nuclear waste problem is quite simply nonexistent. More than 98% of the fuel is recyclable, but for political reasons, reprocessing was banned by Carter in the '70s. It'll be back, though, as the political situation improves.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_reprocessing

And that's not even considering Count Iblis's point. Even if you wanted to store it, it isn't a big deal.
mheslep
#219
Oct30-08, 10:53 PM
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The MIT report assumes a growth from the existing 336 plants worldwide to 1500 plants by 2050, generating 1500GWe. That assumption requires per year, depending on the fuel cycle:

Once through cycle:
306,000 tons of Uranium ore.
29,864 tons UOX waste (or 19T per plant/year)

Recycle:
257,000 tons U ore.
4764 tons MOX waste + processing waste (or ~3T per plant/year)
plus 167 tons of separated Plutonium accumulating per year

http://web.mit.edu/nuclearpower/
Table 4.2
mheslep
#220
Oct30-08, 10:58 PM
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Quote Quote by russ_watters View Post
-It is very inexpensive (intrinsicly).
-It is 100% pollution free.
-It is domestic.
-It has the capability to supply massive amounts of power.
-There is a lot of fuel available.
Solar power has a long way to go to become viable and we don't have time to wait for advances in technology that may never come. We need more power and cleaner power now.

The US's current electric generation capacity is 1100 gigawatts. If solar increases by 25% a year (a goal of solar proponents: http://photovoltaics.sandia.gov/docs/PVRMChapter_4.htm ) by 2030, it'll account for about 7% of today's peak generation capacity, which is essentially pointless since it it won't come close to overcoming increases in demand. And that's not even considering that the load factor of solar power is like 25%, so the with a capacity of 7%, we'll only get 2% of our electrical energy from it. In other words, if the best wish of solar advocates comes true, we'll still need much more of our conventional power sources for at least another 20 years and in 20 years, solar power will still be basically irrelevant as a player in our national electric grid. We'd need about 7 new nuclear plants to generate that much power.

That's not a solution, it's a 20 year delay in even starting to deal with the problems we face. ...
That's 2020 in the Sandia report, or 10 years out; the figures there are of course for PV only which doesn't include solar thermal. And note wind jumped 45% 2005-2006. Still, point taken, we'll need some more nuclear.
russ_watters
#221
Oct30-08, 11:08 PM
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Quote Quote by mheslep View Post
The MIT report assumes a growth from the existing 336 plants worldwide to 1500 plants by 2050, generating 1500GWe. That assumption requires per year, depending on the fuel cycle:

Once through cycle:
306,000 tons of Uranium ore.
29,864 tons UOX waste (or 19T per plant/year)

Recycle:
257,000 tons U ore.
4764 tons MOX waste + processing waste (or ~3T per plant/year)
plus 167 tons of separated Plutonium accumulating per year

http://web.mit.edu/nuclearpower/
Table 4.2
Just as a basis of comparison, coal fired electricity produces about 3.7 million tons of CO2 per plant per year, dumped straight into the atmosphere. And even if one doesn't buy into global warming, there is plenty of other nastiness there: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/coalvswind/c02c.html
russ_watters
#222
Oct30-08, 11:09 PM
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Quote Quote by mheslep View Post
That's 2020 in the Sandia report, or 10 years out
No, I extrapolated an extra ten years to make the timeframes match.
mheslep
#223
Oct30-08, 11:28 PM
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Quote Quote by russ_watters View Post
Just as a basis of comparison, coal fired electricity produces about 3.7 million tons of CO2 per plant per year, dumped straight into the atmosphere. And even if one doesn't buy into global warming, there is plenty of other nastiness there: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/coalvswind/c02c.html
Yes, if its not captured and stored back underground.
russ_watters
#224
Oct31-08, 05:17 AM
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Quote Quote by mheslep View Post
Yes, if its not captured and stored back underground.
What do you mean "if it is not captured"? It isn't captured. We don't know how too do that yet!

Again, you cannot base a national energy policy on maybes. You have to do what works.
gmax137
#225
Oct31-08, 06:42 AM
P: 844
Quote Quote by mheslep View Post
Yes, if its not captured and stored back underground.
Is this "capture & store undergound" explained and discussed anywhere? I have to admit I don't understand just how this would work. What would keep the CO2 from bubbling back up? What if it leaks into my basement? What keeps me from suffocating to death down there?

Really, what structure will prevent the CO2 from migrating back to the surface? What's the design life of that structure? If Yucca Mtn has to demonstrate confinement for ten thousand or one million years (based on > ten half lives), how long does the CO2 storage have to be designed for (actually forever?)

I really would like to find out more about this idea.
Topher925
#226
Oct31-08, 10:14 AM
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Quote Quote by russ_watters View Post
What do you mean "if it is not captured"? It isn't captured. We don't know how too do that yet!
I thought CO2 scrubbers were already being employed in many coal plants?

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/mar2...6-03-15-06.asp

I guess we have some conflicting information about nuclear power. I believe that most of the waste which can not be recycled is from high-level waste such as cooling rods which can only be stored. However, I wouldn't call their storage a "non-existent" issue.

[crackpot link deleted]

I know for a fact that nuclear waste storage in France is a major issue that no one has yet to resolve. I believe they are currently just storing their high-level waste on site. This is stuff that can kill you with in minutes and is not something you can keep in your garden.
mheslep
#227
Oct31-08, 10:29 AM
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Quote Quote by russ_watters View Post
What do you mean "if it is not captured"? It isn't captured. We don't know how too do that yet!
Of course we know how chemically, and there's a little bit of early practical experience, just not enough to provide confidence in the economics. Storage is trickier still.
http://www.economist.com/specialrepo...ry_id=11565676
Quote Quote by Economist Special Report on Energy
...The “capture” part is not that hard. Carbon dioxide reacts with a group of chemicals called amines. At low temperatures CO2 and amines combine. At higher temperatures they separate. Power-station exhaust can thus be purged of its CO2 by running it through an amine bath before it is vented, and the amine can be warmed to release the gas where it will do no harm. ...

All this processing is expensive, but there is no reason why it should not work. An experimental plant in Denmark that uses monoethanolamine as the captor has been running for two years. Alstom, a French firm, has almost finished building one in Wisconsin that uses ammonia....
Again, you cannot base a national energy policy on maybes. You have to do what works.
Ok, but the economics of nuclear in this country are still a maybe. I agree that 'intrinsically', as you say above, nuclear can be cheap, but in reality it is not, at least not here. Again, I'm all for anyone who can put forward a plan to reduce the cost of all the red tape. Sen. Obama for instance specifically said he's against turning on Yucca, that's going in wrong direction, making nuclear more expensive.
mheslep
#228
Oct31-08, 10:33 AM
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Quote Quote by gmax137 View Post
Is this "capture & store undergound" explained and discussed anywhere? I have to admit I don't understand just how this would work. What would keep the CO2 from bubbling back up? What if it leaks into my basement? What keeps me from suffocating to death down there?

Really, what structure will prevent the CO2 from migrating back to the surface? What's the design life of that structure? If Yucca Mtn has to demonstrate confinement for ten thousand or one million years (based on > ten half lives), how long does the CO2 storage have to be designed for (actually forever?)

I really would like to find out more about this idea.
Storage...
...It is what comes next that is the problem. The disposal of carbon dioxide needs to be permanent, so a lot of conditions have to be met. To be a successful burial site, a body of rock needs to be more than 1km underground. That depth provides enough pressure to turn CO2 into what is known as a supercritical fluid, a form in which the stuff is more likely to stay put. The rock in question also has to have enough pores and cracks in it to accommodate the CO2. Lastly, it needs to be covered with a layer of non-porous, non-cracked rock to provide a leakproof cap.

So far, only three successful CCS projects are under way. The Weyburn-Midale CO2 project is burying carbon dioxide from a coal gasification plant in North Dakota in a depleted oil field in Saskatchewan. The Salah gasfield project in Algeria, run by BP, strips CO2 from local natural gas and injects it back into the ground. And Statoil, a large Norwegian oil and gas company, performs a similar trick at two places in the North Sea. None of these projects is actually linked to generating electricity. Still, a few years ago they were touted proudly. But the touting has become more nervous, and no new projects have come on stream.

The scale of the problem is awesome. The three showcase projects each dump about a million tonnes of CO2 a year. But America’s electricity industry alone produces 1.5 billion tonnes, which would mean finding 1,500 appropriate sites, and nobody knows whether the country’s geology can oblige. Even transporting that amount of gas would be a huge task.
http://www.economist.com/specialrepo...ry_id=11565676
Apparently all of the major US coal power providers have looked into this. Its known that some large areas of the country are geographically unsuitable - the Southeast in particular.
gmax137
#229
Oct31-08, 02:02 PM
P: 844
"The scale of the problem is awesome. The three showcase projects each dump about a million tonnes of CO2 a year. But America’s electricity industry alone produces 1.5 billion tonnes, which would mean finding 1,500 appropriate sites, and nobody knows whether the country’s geology can oblige. Even transporting that amount of gas would be a huge task."

So, does anyone believe it is possible to put the CO2 back underground?

(soory, I couldn't figure out how to 'quote' your quote...)
mheslep
#230
Oct31-08, 03:09 PM
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Quote Quote by gmax137 View Post
"The scale of the problem is awesome. The three showcase projects each dump about a million tonnes of CO2 a year. But America’s electricity industry alone produces 1.5 billion tonnes, which would mean finding 1,500 appropriate sites, and nobody knows whether the country’s geology can oblige. Even transporting that amount of gas would be a huge task."

So, does anyone believe it is possible to put the CO2 back underground?

(soory, I couldn't figure out how to 'quote' your quote...)
It certainly doesn't look like CCS will happen universally. But then, nothing in the centralized energy business is small or particularly cheap. For comparison:
The approximately 144,000 Class II wells in operation in the United States inject over 2 billion gallons of brine every day.
http://www.epa.gov/safewater/uic/wells_class2.html
russ_watters
#231
Oct31-08, 05:23 PM
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Quote Quote by Topher925 View Post
I thought CO2 scrubbers were already being employed in many coal plants?

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/mar2...6-03-15-06.asp
Read the title and the first three sentences of your link!
I guess we have some conflicting information about nuclear power. I believe that most of the waste which can not be recycled is from high-level waste such as cooling rods which can only be stored. However, I wouldn't call their storage a "non-existent" issue.

[crackpot link deleted]
And on that link, you should have known after reading the first sentence that it was outright crackpottery. Racist?? C'mon. You need to have at least a little ability to judge the quality of your sources. I read most of the link, and everything I saw was an outright lie or intentional mischaracterization. I saw not a single valid point. [edit] Correction: after reading the whole thing, I found one (see your pm): nuclear power uses a lot of water.
I know for a fact that nuclear waste storage in France is a major issue that no one has yet to resolve. I believe they are currently just storing their high-level waste on site. This is stuff that can kill you with in minutes and is not something you can keep in your garden.
France's reprocessing was halted for the same political reasons ours was never started.

Regardless - even if you do want to store the waste, it still isn't a big deal. Air pollution kills somwhere on the order of 100,000 people a year worldwide. The fact that nuclear waste is 100% contained makes it vastly easier to deal with, even if we do decide to store it in a cave in New Mexico (which is the current choice). Again, what is making that expensive is pure politics. There is nothing inherrently expensive about storing a small volume of trash in a cave.
russ_watters
#232
Oct31-08, 05:30 PM
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Quote Quote by mheslep View Post
Of course we know how chemically, and there's a little bit of early practical experience, just not enough to provide confidence in the economics. Storage is trickier still.
http://www.economist.com/specialrepo...ry_id=11565676
Just to be clear: when I talk about feasibility of solutions, I always mean both technical and economic. Often the two are intertwined and like you say, we don't even know if those issues are surmountable.
Ok, but the economics of nuclear in this country are still a maybe. I agree that 'intrinsically', as you say above, nuclear can be cheap, but in reality it is not, at least not here. Again, I'm all for anyone who can put forward a plan to reduce the cost of all the red tape.
Yes, I think you understand, but just to be clear: when I talk about economic viability and I use the word "intrinsic", I am talking about the cost of the technology, materials, design, etc. itself. Nuclear, by comparison, has very little in the way of these real economic problems: virtually all of nuclear's economic problems are simply created by the political problems. That means that as energy prices rise (and get ready: if you're an American and you don't know about the deregulation coming in 2 years, watch out!), political opposition will drop, and the price (and time to construct a plant) of nuclear will drop substantially.
Astronuc
#233
Nov2-08, 12:33 PM
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Reseachers derive 'green gasoline' from plant sugars - Sept. 18, 2008
http://www.news.wisc.edu/15627
Alternative energy doesn't always mean solar or wind power. In fact, the alternative fuels developed by University of Wisconsin-Madison chemical and biological engineering professor James Dumesic look a lot like the gasoline and diesel fuel used in vehicles today.

That's because the new fuels are identical at the molecular level to their petroleum-based counterparts. The only difference is where they come from.

Funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy, Dumesic and his team have developed a process that creates transportation fuels from plant material. The paper, published in the Sept. 18 online version of the journal Science, explains how they convert sugar into molecules that can be efficiently "upgraded" into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

"Domestically, there are large amounts of lignocellulose available that are not being used effectively for energy," says Dumesic. "This work is a step along the way to making it practical to use biomass as fuel."

Lignocellulose refers to nonedible sources of biomass, which is biological material that can be converted into fuel. Instead of relying on corn as a source of energy, Dumesic notes that the goal of researchers in the field of "cellulosic ethanol" is to turn the carbohydrates, or sugars, from agricultural waste, corn stovers (leaves and stalks), switchgrass and forest residue into ethanol. Dumesic now suggests that instead of converting the water-soluble sugars derived from cellulose to ethanol, it may be better to convert these sugars to gasoline, diesel and jet fuels via this process.

. . . .
In the fall, when I see piles of leaves, I have to wonder if there isn't a way to turn them into fuel. Similarly, when I see piles of grass.

We shred the leaves and grass and put the matter in a compost pile with the kitchen scraps (without meat and dairy products). The compost is used in our gardens.
Count Iblis
#234
Nov9-08, 11:58 AM
P: 2,158
For renewable and nuclear energy, a major problem is how to store energy. This is obvious for wind and solar energy. But it is also an issue for nuclear energy, because nuclear powerplants cannot be started up fast enough to deal with peak demand unlike coal fired powerplants.

A possible way to deal with this problem is by using excess power to produce hydrogen and then build powerplants that can burn hydrogen. Another way is to use excess power to pump seawater up to some elevation. This can then be used to generate hydro power to meet peak demand.


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