# YOU!: Fix the US Energy Crisis

by russ_watters
Tags: crisis, energy
 P: 197 There is no energy problem there is just a political problem. Any government that has not provided for the future needs of the country is a failure. Any government the uses restrictions, limits, conservation, or rationing to solve a problem that it has all the resources for is a failure. We have and have had for over 50 years all the energy that we will ever need for the next 2000 years or more. Only by political pressure from shortsighted Dark Age intellectuals have we failed to develop this energy. Nuclear power is the answer.
Mentor
P: 22,000
 Quote by 4newton There is no energy problem there is just a political problem. Any government that has not provided for the future needs of the country is a failure. Any government the uses restrictions, limits, conservation, or rationing to solve a problem that it has all the resources for is a failure. We have and have had for over 50 years all the energy that we will ever need for the next 2000 years or more. Only by political pressure from shortsighted Dark Age intellectuals have we failed to develop this energy. Nuclear power is the answer.
That is true except for what to do about cars and ships. They would still need to be converted over to some form of electric power - battery, fuel cell, or other. That's not a trivial task, but certainly converting all of our gas/oil/coal power to nuclear is the first task.

My proposal called for heavy research for fusion power. Fusion power would be nice, but the truth is, we really don't need it. But I fear that we won't build another nuclear plant until we hit peak oil production in 50-100 years and the economics (and environmental problems) are too ugly to ignore.

Maybe it starts with education: somewhere people are learning that nuclear power is dirty and unsafe. They need to be taught that it isn't.
P: 416
 Quote by russ_watters That is true except for what to do about cars and ships. They would still need to be converted over to some form of electric power - battery, fuel cell, or other. That's not a trivial task, but certainly converting all of our gas/oil/coal power to nuclear is the first task. My proposal called for heavy research for fusion power. Fusion power would be nice, but the truth is, we really don't need it. But I fear that we won't build another nuclear plant until we hit peak oil production in 50-100 years and the economics (and environmental problems) are too ugly to ignore. Maybe it starts with education: somewhere people are learning that nuclear power is dirty and unsafe. They need to be taught that it isn't.
Nuclear energy is an excellent way to generate hydrogen as a fuel for transportation:
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf70.htm

But hydrogen has lots of problems, this may be a better solution:
http://www.unh.edu/p2/biodiesel/article_alge.html

 Sun, wind, tides and waves cannot be controlled to provide directly either continuous base-load power, or peak-load power when it is needed. In practical terms they are therefore limited to some 10-20% of the capacity of an electricity grid, and cannot directly be applied as economic substitutes for coal or nuclear power
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf10.htm
P: 30
Cliff,

Thanks for the information. That's a good system for the carpool lane then, very intersting and imaginative.
I took a look at the site you provided and also saw some information on what London did when was decided to keep cars out of the center of the city and for what i read it seems other cities are trying to implement this system wich also seems a good idea.

 I think the idea of increased nuclear power production is a very good use of technology and resources with low costs (unlike solar with its hidden costs of manufacturing the panels).
I don't know exactly what are the hiden costs of manufacturing the panels. I can tell you again about that solar central in Portugal and the investor is private and not a big company. And the production of solar panels is getting bigger, i think Greece leads the production.

 That's not a trivial task, but certainly converting all of our gas/oil/coal power to nuclear is the first task.
As i see it and many other people see it converting all of the gas, oil and coal power to nuclear (or other any energy source) is a big mistake. The reason for this is very simple, the uranium reserves are not ilimited and we would eventually fall into the same problems of finding alternative energy sources and the problem of oil dependacy that many countries suffer today would become a uranium dependacy. I'm not saying that nuclear power shouldn't be used at all, i'm saying, as i said before, energy sources should be diversified, its benefical for everyone.

 My proposal called for heavy research for fusion power. Fusion power would be nice, but the truth is, we really don't need it. But I fear that we won't build another nuclear plant until we hit peak oil production in 50-100 years and the economics (and environmental problems) are too ugly to ignore.
Saying that the peak of oil production will be in 50-100 years is completly irrealistic. First the oil reserves are not estimated to last that long, second as time goes by the oil available decreases and because of the decrease in the reserves and the oil demand that increases every year the price will go up to a value making oil useless, a simple law of market.

Rui M.
P: 789
 Quote by russ_watters Maybe it starts with education: somewhere people are learning that nuclear power is dirty and unsafe. They need to be taught that it isn't.
I'd say its pretty universal and the media did nothing for it with the 3MI and Chernobyl coverage (even though that could use more to help raise money to fix it before it gets worse). Its like what the movie Jaws did for public perception of sharks and so on. As a kid I remember both being mentioned a lot and no one mentioned the pollution and deaths from other power generation. Maybe because of the vested interest in the coal production in the state and economic benefit of keeping that industry around.

Ever watch the Penn & Teller show on Showtime? Its entertaining and thought-provoking as they examine both sides of an issue (and then poke fun at one side). The show they did on recycling was very interesting as it was based on a paper that showed recycling as a waste of resources. They brought up the barge in the 80s as a media event that worked well with an EPA report that said the number of landfills was decreasing (without mention of the size of the landfills). Their point was how we have been tricked by subsidies and inaccurate information that leads us to support a wasteful activity. The only thing they said they supported was aluminum recycling and made no mention of industrial recycling which both have clear numbers (and with aluminum the electricity needed to convert bauxite is staggering).

Aquamarine - that was an awesome link for biodiesel. If you've ever driven through farmland in the US its amazing how much productive land the government pays farmers to keep idle that could easily be turned into production for energy purposes. At least they've started testing something:
http://www.fsa.usda.gov/pas/publicat.../biomass00.htm

But I think it would be an easy sell to the population that such a readily available source is already in their backyard and under-utilized. I especially like the EROI method of determining the viability of a fuel source. And since the sulfur content of biodiesel should be low (ignorance?) then pollution would easily be on par with current vehicles without many modifications.

My question would be why Europe with its far higher diesel car density hasn't made progress to adopt biodiesel when their fuel prices are so incredibly high in comparison to the US? I know that Britian has made efforts to switch cars over to LPG, but this seems so much easier (assuming people drive diesels).

Cliff
P: 1,382
 Quote by Cliff_J My question would be why Europe with its far higher diesel car density hasn't made progress to adopt biodiesel when their fuel prices are so incredibly high in comparison to the US?
Before-tax mineral fuel prices in Europe are about the same as they are in the US. Fuel taxes in Europe are higher, though, making the pump price higher:
• taxes comprise $2.82 of the$4.07 gallon in France, $2.56 of the$3.91 gallon in Germany, and $2.53 of the$3.97 gallon of fuel in Italy. In the U.S., fuel taxes comprise about 39 cents of the average \$1.64 gallon of gas.

What is high everywhere is the before-tax price of biodiesel in comparison with that of mineral diesel. This would help explain why, in Europe, mineral diesel is preferred over biodiesel.
P: 416
More on Biodiesel:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodiesel

 Quote by Cliff_J But I think it would be an easy sell to the population that such a readily available source is already in their backyard and under-utilized.
There seems already to be a growing grassrot interest, this forum is quite active:
http://forums.biodieselnow.com/default.asp

A somewhat optimistic thread, "Can oil producing algae be grown at home ?"
http://forums.biodieselnow.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=3414
 Sci Advisor P: 789 Umm, I just watched part of a program on the History channel about what happened at 3 Mile Island. I almost change my vote from nuclear to anything else after that, no wonder the population doesn't want more nuclear plants after the extremely poor planning by the designers and actions by the company running the plant. After the first nuclear power plant ran by the military had its problems I guess I assumed there would be better planning, but I guess maybe even partial ignorance is bliss. Cliff
 Mentor P: 22,000 Could you be more specific as to what the program said, Cliff_J - I studied the TMI incident in school and the conclusion I drew is that the incident shows how safe nuclear power is.
 P: 4 I think you had the right idea in starting this thread, but you're assuming alot. I think only Brewnog touched upon this, which everyone else passed over. What you are assuming is that we have the time to implement these solutions. Do we though? 40% of our (United States) energy comes from oil. Domestic production of oil peaked in the 1970s. Today we are dependent on other areas to provide for our (relatively large) oil needs. Unfortunately, these sources (the Middle East) will reach their peak, by some estimates, in the year 2010, 2015, 2020, or in some places, right now. Oil is behind every part of our everyday lives. Our economy is dependent on oil. When the output of an oil reserve has peaked, it means it is now heading downward. This means that there will be less production and the obvious negative economic effects are numerous and wide-ranging. To put it simply, the world will produce less and less oil, and the economies that we have built around our energy resources will fall. Hard. So yes, solutions are sorely needed. I think addressing this issue is perhaps a start so I'm glad you brought the energy issue to bear. I think some of the solutions presented are optimistic, but nonetheless moot if we cannot employ them to replace oil (Oil is everything, especially in the U.S.) in time. I liked how many of you linked to articles which talked of potential energy sources. Here's another link which addressess many of those alternatives. I don't know if you can really solve this problem. Some of you may have supported altering our lifestyles, like driving more fuel efficient cars. It is actually a fact that we will have to adapt and change. We will need to reorganize our communities, and start "living locally". Everything we need will have to be produced "in our area". If we can do this, then we can soften the blow we will take as we run out of cheap oil.
P: 416
 Quote by gech I think you had the right idea in starting this thread, but you're assuming alot. I think only Brewnog touched upon this, which everyone else passed over. What you are assuming is that we have the time to implement these solutions. Do we though? 40% of our (United States) energy comes from oil. Domestic production of oil peaked in the 1970s. Today we are dependent on other areas to provide for our (relatively large) oil needs. Unfortunately, these sources (the Middle East) will reach their peak, by some estimates, in the year 2010, 2015, 2020, or in some places, right now. Oil is behind every part of our everyday lives. Our economy is dependent on oil. When the output of an oil reserve has peaked, it means it is now heading downward. This means that there will be less production and the obvious negative economic effects are numerous and wide-ranging. To put it simply, the world will produce less and less oil, and the economies that we have built around our energy resources will fall. Hard. So yes, solutions are sorely needed. I think addressing this issue is perhaps a start so I'm glad you brought the energy issue to bear. I think some of the solutions presented are optimistic, but nonetheless moot if we cannot employ them to replace oil (Oil is everything, especially in the U.S.) in time. I liked how many of you linked to articles which talked of potential energy sources. Here's another link which addressess many of those alternatives.
The usual malthusian scenario that have always been wrong before. The link contains gross inaccuracies.

There is enough nuclear fuel to last at least thousands of year. Certainly enough time to get into space and to build an economy based on solar power:

Read my prior links on biodiesel. The price of fuel for transportation can rise but not more than to the cost of producing biodiesel.

 I don't know if you can really solve this problem. Some of you may have supported altering our lifestyles, like driving more fuel efficient cars. It is actually a fact that we will have to adapt and change. We will need to reorganize our communities, and start "living locally". Everything we need will have to be produced "in our area". If we can do this, then we can soften the blow we will take as we run out of cheap oil.
This is of course what the extreme environmentalists want, energy crises or not. They hope for a breakdown of the capitalistic society which will create a socialistic/anarchistic utopia.
P: 30
 There is enough nuclear fuel to last at least thousands of year. Certainly enough time to get into space and to build an economy based on solar power: http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=46366
I just took a look at the links you provided. The first report from the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency is highly speculative. Sometime ago i found several reports stating that even taken into account the unknown and undiscovered uranium resources, at current rate of uranium consumption, it would last around 150 years. So current estimates (with current comsuption of uranium) project that uranium use should end around 2060 or so.

Another problem is the geographical distribution of the uranium reserves, wich the same report makes believe that they are more well distributed then oil. The uranium reserves are well localized and that would take us back to the dependance problem, not counting with the processing of the uranium, wich only a few countrys have the technology.

But let me say again that i'm not against or in favor of new nuclear plants, i do am against, like i already stated on this thread, substituting all the oil and coal plants for nuclear plants. For obvious reasons it would be better economically and socially that the energy resources of one country isn't based primarly on one type of energy but on several.

On a final note regarding oil and uranium dependance, just because one country is rich in a determined energy source it doesnt mean they will use it before using another country resources. Thats whats happening in the US, they don't have the need to import has much oil has they do, the US has one of the biggest oil reserves, they do this to prevent a faillure on import oil supply and to make sure the US will have enough oil to use when the world reserves are low.

Rui.
P: 416
More on the supply of uranium and thorium:
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf75.htm
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf62.htm

The only way to get the low supply figures quoted by the malthusians is to ignore thorium, breeder technology and that higher higher uranium prices will automatically increase economically usable resources.

On other other power sources:
 Sun, wind, tides and waves cannot be controlled to provide directly either continuous base-load power, or peak-load power when it is needed. In practical terms they are therefore limited to some 10-20% of the capacity of an electricity grid, and cannot directly be applied as economic substitutes for coal or nuclear power, however important they may become in particular areas with favourable conditions
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf10.htm

This may change if hydrogen or other ways to store massive amounts of energy ever becomes feasible. But even so there will energy lost converting to and from storage.
P: 30
 The only way to get the low supply figures quoted by the malthusians is to ignore thorium, breeder technology and that higher higher uranium prices will automatically increase economically usable resources.

I certanly am not ignoring thorium or how technology will evolve through the years. What i'm saying is that those reports are very speculative (also including the last links provided), it's easy to see that.
And regarding proven and estimated uranium resources the main problem is not their physical limitation but their economical limitation, as the uranium price starts to get higher (and it will also suffer peaks of high cost due to many unpredictable factors) it won't automatically increase the investment on new technology to make use of other type of high cost uranium resources. This is what is happening with oil. With a current elevated oil price no one is investing on new technlogy to extract other un-familiar and abudant types of oil resources, simply because there are many factors involved, it's not that linear. I'm not saying this on what i assume because i'm not an economist but i'm saying this based on reputed economists and not some malthusian theory from the 18th century.

Rui.
P: 416
 Quote by RuiMonteiro I certanly am not ignoring thorium or how technology will evolve through the years. What i'm saying is that those reports are very speculative (also including the last links provided), it's easy to see that. And regarding proven and estimated uranium resources the main problem is not their physical limitation but their economical limitation, as the uranium price starts to get higher (and it will also suffer peaks of high cost due to many unpredictable factors) it won't automatically increase the investment on new technology to make use of other type of high cost uranium resources. This is what is happening with oil. With a current elevated oil price no one is investing on new technlogy to extract other un-familiar and abudant types of oil resources, simply because there are many factors involved, it's not that linear. I'm not saying this on what i assume because i'm not an economist but i'm saying this based on reputed economists and not some malthusian theory from the 18th century.
Those new technologies are less speculative than those required for a hydrogen economy or for other power sources. There have already been functioning breeder and thorium reactors.

And in contrast to oil, uranium is ubiquitous in nature. There will not be a sudden decrease as when large oil fields deplete. Just a slow conversion to minerals with lower concentration of uranium.

Regarding uranium price, if it increases, it will greatly increase available resources without have a large effect on final energy price.
 The fuel's contribution to the overall cost of the electricity produced is relatively small, so even a large fuel price escalation will have relatively little effect. For instance, a doubling of the 2002 U3O8 price would increase the fuel cost for a light water reactor by 30% and the electricity cost about 7% (whereas doubling the gas price would add 70% to the price of electricity).
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf02.htm
P: 789
 Quote by russ_watters Could you be more specific as to what the program said, Cliff_J - I studied the TMI incident in school and the conclusion I drew is that the incident shows how safe nuclear power is.

Sure, here's what I remember.

General maintenence ends up causing something to go wrong. Ok, no big problems.

Pressure builds up and a safety vent allows excess pressure to escape. Still no problem.

Safety vent sticks but light in control room goes out as computer merely tells them the signal was sent and not the position of the valve. The pressure drops allowing more coolant to evaporate and temperature rises.

Somewhere in the operator training to never let the reactor "go solid" by completely filling with water and the vibrating pumps from low water level the operators drop the control rods and completely shut off flow of water.

Designers are unreachable by phone, NRC is unable to get in as only one phone line exists and all they get are busy signals.

Power company lies to NRC and public (repeatedely) and downplays extent of problem (no idea on timing here, memory fuzzy). The lies told here seem to be only one step shy of the Soviet government's intial lies about Cherynobl but I digress.

Designers of reactor finally get through and tell operators to turn on water, forget the "go solid" or not just get some water in there to get temperature down. Temp gauges only go to 700F but reactor is at 4000F and reaches china syndrome at 5000F and has been sitting without coolant for 15 hours. Estimates are that 30-60 mins more without coolant would have been threshold for meltdown.

Carter sends out a direct person from NRC to run the show, finds that now the long running reaction has filled containment room with lots of H2 that could easily explode. Some NRC people thinks its nearly critical, others think its days away. Carter flies out and makes on-site visit since he trusts his man and has experience with nuclear subs in navy. Later NRC people find mistake in calculations and find H2 is days away from critical.

One person tries to go in and finds water inside reactor that is to be pure is actually green and bubbling, holding a beaker of it for a few minutes would have killed him and that he measured 10,000 REMs which they said was a lot. Nothing besides robots has gone into building since.

So here is my short list of issues I compiled from the show:

- Poor training where 'go solid' was placed above meltdown
- unclear control interface (light that goes out regardless of valve position)
- gauges that do not allow monitoring of temperature (although if its that hot shouldn't common sense overrule 'go solid'??)
- no CC cameras at all to see vent or inside the reactor or even the flooded basement as the vent leaked out the water
- one phone line
- no direct communication to designers

Obviously I've left stuff out and maybe got a couple things out of order but anyways it didn't paint a real safe picture of what happened. The message of the shows was that ignorance, complacence, and confidence in technology leaves us vulnerable to failures. They mentioned that the promise was that nuclear power was suppossed to produce electricity so cheap that it wouldn't make sense to meter it. The series of shows went on to feature the Kursk as the sign the russian military lacked the funds to maintain an advanced sub and the space shuttle as a sign that NASA implemented policies that placed frequent missions over the safety of the crew.

The NRC and all nuclear facilities are suppossed to have learned from the mistakes made and implemented changes to make things safer. But 3MI and Chernobyl are seperated only be severity and luck in the historic TV shows I've seen and this show shocked me at how close we came to a meltdown.

Cliff
P: 416
Obviously, there is always the risk of a serious accident. But the new generations of plants will have greatly reduced risks:
 The greatest departure from second-generation designs is that many incorporate passive or inherent safety features* which require no active controls or operational intervention to avoid accidents in the event of malfunction, and may rely on gravity, natural convection or resistance to high temperatures. * Traditional reactor safety systems are 'active' in the sense that they involve electrical or mechanical operation on command. Some engineered systems operate passively, eg pressure relief valves. Both require parallel redundant systems. Inherent or full passive safety depends only on physical phenomena such as convection, gravity or resistance to high temperatures, not on functioning of engineered components.
http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf08.htm

But even today, the risk associated with realistic alternatives like coal are much greater than for nuclear. Both in the form of increased diseases like cancer and effects like global warming.

And to not find replacements for oil and gas means the starvation and death for most of humanity.
P: 30
 Those new technologies are less speculative than those required for a hydrogen economy or for other power sources. There have already been functioning breeder and thorium reactors. And in contrast to oil, uranium is ubiquitous in nature. There will not be a sudden decrease as when large oil fields deplete. Just a slow conversion to minerals with lower concentration of uranium. Regarding uranium price, if it increases, it will greatly increase available resources without have a large effect on final energy price.

Are less speculative? I would say the speculation is likely the same. I am aware of the new technology for new nuclear reactors but the technology to provide a constant supply of uranium for a very good amount of time is highly speculative. What would be the point to search for an alternative to oil if the resources for the alternative presented ends around the same time oil ends. But let me clarify, i'm not excluding nuclear energy here, what i said already is to make sure there are wider sources of energy available.

Now, economists predict the price will go up, nevertheless, and i'll repeat again what i said, it's not linear or automatic that the new technology will appear if the prices go up, this is a wrong assumption, i already mentionated a concrete example. You actually have a contradiction here, if before you assumed that the uranium price will go up, now you're saying IF it goes up.

And it's also wrong to assume that the final energy price won't suffer a large effect, i'm not saying it will, i'm just saying you are, again, assuming. Economy can be very complex but it follows simple rules and there are many impredictable factors that we cannot prevent, but don't confuse me with a negativist, this is just what many specialists say, not to mention this is merely common sense.

But back to the uranium availability. Sure that uranium is ubiquitous on nature, but that doesn't mean it is possible to make use of all of the mineral. Even the site you provided doesn't make a direct connection. Uranium reserves are well localized, not to mention that there isn't the necessity of many uranium processing facilities as there are for oil refining.

The question would be, in my opinion, with the available uranium we have and the capacity to recycle spent fuel (for a maximum of an estimated number of cycles with spent fuel), with other energy sources and other measures already discussed in this thread, how can we reach a more well equally balanced energetic system?

Rui.

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