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THE Thorium Thread (merged)

Discussions of conventional and alternative energy production technologies.

Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby Dezakin » Thu 03 Mar 2011, 19:23:43

Beery wrote:Yeah, I mist admit, I know next to nothing about the issue. I was just looking to see if there was anything to the thorium thing - casting a critical eye over the whole thing, and the materials expanding and contracting problem just really struck me as the potential 'achilles heel' - especially since they seemed kinda cagey and dismissive about the solutions.


I'm not entirely sure what you're talking about. We know how to build a number of different types of fluid fuel reactors today, and have built several in the past. The only unresolved issues we currently have are what engineering compromises we are forced to take and what we can solve. We can use graphite moderation to reduce fissile load and make the core more compact while reducing the cost of the initial fissile startup cost, but then we have to deal with the neutron wear on the moderator causing swelling in the graphite. We don't have to use graphite moderation (and I'm convinced that eliminating the graphite moderator is a good idea) and that means a higher fissile load. Perhaps you were thinking of the graphite swelling?

We can use a simple two fluid reactor with nearly no neutron erosion of the outer wall with a sacrificial barrier that exists in a hell of neutron radiation that must be replaced every ten years or so, or we can have a single fluid reactor with highest neutron flux around the moderator with a much more complex reprocessing scheme. We could use a very large thorium containing blanket volume or we can use bismuth reduction to extract and partition the protactinium for the breeding to reduce the blanket volume.

There isn't anything that we fundamentally don't know if we can do or any unresolvable issues. The largest unknowns are which compromises are the least costly.
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Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby rangerone314 » Thu 03 Mar 2011, 19:24:43

NIMBY problem is easy to solve: take the most vocal NIMBY's and disappear them to Gitmo as enemy combatants. Problem solved.
An ideology is by definition not a search for TRUTH-but a search for PROOF that its point of view is right

Equals barter and negotiate-people with power just take

You cant defend freedom by eliminating it-unknown

Our elected reps should wear sponsor patches on their suits so we know who they represent-like Nascar-Roy
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Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby Dezakin » Thu 03 Mar 2011, 19:35:32

TheDude wrote:
Dezakin wrote:I'm unimpressed with that article.


It just showed up in the first handful of hits searching for 'thorium reactor.' Mostly I was driving home the point that this has been hashed out in the past, believe it or not.

Start over, you're being very opaque. Most people don't understand fluid fuel or thorium reactors, and certainly don't understand their potential. I can't even still figure out if you even have a position.
The article in the OP was another one of those fervent op eds that failed to impress me in any way as well; like you say, why not just build out pitface CTL if we want gobs more liquid fuel? Perhaps this will be the form of Obama's "Cardigan Sweater Moment," where he cements his impression in the American peoples' mind as a POTUS void of direction, feebly attempting to bring in a cheap fuel utopia with some colossally expensive boondoggle.

Invoking Obama already? I think you might be confusing CTL with corn ethanol...

Not that Sasol and the Nazis haven't demonstrated that CTL works, but at what cost? The Chinese seem to have shot their wad attempting to liquify coal, too. My money's on solutions that work at the consumer level - eBikes, mass transit, carpooling. Boring stuff like that, with some mileage improvements by the by. The US meeting China in the middle, as our needs contract and theirs expand.

When oil is demonstrably above $50 even in the midst of a deep recession, large capital will start chasing where the money is. The trouble is it takes a long time to position a trillion dollars worth of infrastructure. I'm convinced CTL will grow very fast.
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Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby kildred590 » Mon 07 Mar 2011, 00:24:17

Thorium, as well as uranium, can be used as a nuclear fuel. Although not fissile itself, Th-232 will absorb slow neutrons to produce uranium-233 (U-233)a, which is fissile (and long-lived).


http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf62.html

What's the point ?
You have to source the neutrons from fissible material like U-233 or plutonium to start with. So the source of power is the uranium or the plutonium, not the thorium.
We can use spent fuel rods (bombarded with neutorns) now to produce fissible material. There is no extra fuel source being created here.

Over the last 40 years there has been interest in utilising thorium as a nuclear fuel since it is more abundant in the Earth's crust than uranium. Also, all of the mined thorium is potentially useable in a reactor, compared with the 0.7% of natural uranium in today's reactorsb, so some 40 times the amount of energy per unit mass might theoretically be available (without recourse to fast neutron reactors).


That is very naughty of them. They know perfectly well that "natural" uranium is not the primary source of power, but plutonium.
So in fact, almost all the uranium is consumed, not just the fissible radioactive portion.
So this statement is complete BS.
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Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby Dezakin » Mon 07 Mar 2011, 02:27:47

kildred590 wrote:What's the point ?
You have to source the neutrons from fissible material like U-233 or plutonium to start with. So the source of power is the uranium or the plutonium, not the thorium.
We can use spent fuel rods (bombarded with neutorns) now to produce fissible material. There is no extra fuel source being created here.

Uh... what? A breeder reactor with a breeding ratio above 1 turns fertile material into fissile material, and there new fuel is being created.

Over the last 40 years there has been interest in utilising thorium as a nuclear fuel since it is more abundant in the Earth's crust than uranium. Also, all of the mined thorium is potentially useable in a reactor, compared with the 0.7% of natural uranium in today's reactorsb, so some 40 times the amount of energy per unit mass might theoretically be available (without recourse to fast neutron reactors).


That is very naughty of them. They know perfectly well that "natural" uranium is not the primary source of power, but plutonium.
So in fact, almost all the uranium is consumed, not just the fissible radioactive portion.
So this statement is complete BS.

This is a comparison between LWR once through cycles and thermal breeder cycles. Thorium is appropriate for a thermal breeder cycle, but uranium238/plutonium239 isn't.
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Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby Frank » Mon 07 Mar 2011, 23:39:19

My understanding is that CTL is horribly polluting from a global warming standpoint. We need to stop burning so much stuff! Use electricity to charge batteries whenever possible. It's 4-5 X as efficient as internal combustion.

The other issue is coal supply; some (ex. Heinberg) think that peak coal will be an issue in 10 years or so.
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Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby Pops » Tue 08 Mar 2011, 14:26:12

Sounds like miracle whip pie to me:

Wall Street Journal poll: Most popular spending cut is subsidies for new nuclear plants
The survey found that the most popular potential spending cuts were subsidies to build new nuclear plants, with 57 percent support….
...
Government subsidies to the nuclear power industry over the past fifty years have been so large in proportion to the value of the energy produced that in some cases it would have cost taxpayers less to simply buy kilowatts on the open market and give them away ….
If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.
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Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby Dezakin » Tue 08 Mar 2011, 14:39:22

Pops wrote:Sounds like miracle whip pie to me:

Wall Street Journal poll: Most popular spending cut is subsidies for new nuclear plants
The survey found that the most popular potential spending cuts were subsidies to build new nuclear plants, with 57 percent support….
...
Government subsidies to the nuclear power industry over the past fifty years have been so large in proportion to the value of the energy produced that in some cases it would have cost taxpayers less to simply buy kilowatts on the open market and give them away ….

Der... cutting loan guarantees and Price-Anderson doesn't exactly save money on the budget seeing none of these paid out. It's standard misleading antinuclear dogma from grist, not exactly the most credible source; And from Joe Romm who consistently lies on this issue.
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Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby Pops » Tue 08 Mar 2011, 15:09:14

Dezakin wrote:Der...

I don't know Jon, how about Craig?
Generation costs/kWh for new nuclear (including fuel & O&M but not distribution to customers) are likely to be from 25 - 30 cents/kWh. This high cost may destroy the very demand the plant was built to serve. High electric rates may
seriously impact utility customers and make nuclear utilities’ service areas noncompetitive with other regions of the U.S. which are developing lower-cost electricity
http://climateprogress.org/wp-content/u ... s-2009.pdf
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Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby Dezakin » Tue 08 Mar 2011, 15:41:30

One wonders how France runs their entire country on nuclear power with enough to export while having some of the lowest electric rates in Europe. Joe Romm is a disingenuous, feckless antinuclear zealot who's got an axe to grind who, when not cherry picking data, just outright makes crap up.

Regarding the paper by Craig Severance, it's cherry picked nonsense that uses the worst experiences of nuclear power plant construction coupled with ridiculously high debt rates to come to the conclusion of ludicrously high electricity costs. We can assume these to be true, but then we'll have to assume similar things for every other power production regime. Coal won't be any cheaper, nor wind. Especially not after including externalities.
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Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby Lore » Tue 08 Mar 2011, 17:13:52

Dezakin wrote:We can assume these to be true, but then we'll have to assume similar things for every other power production regime. Coal won't be any cheaper, nor wind. Especially not after including externalities.


I agree with this statement. None if it, from here on out, is economically scalable in reflection of the world's future economic condition.
The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.
... Theodore Roosevelt
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Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby Pops » Tue 08 Mar 2011, 17:47:20

Dezakin wrote:One wonders how France runs their entire country on nuclear power with enough to export while having some of the lowest electric rates in Europe.

I dunno, maybe because the government owns Areva and would like to sell a bunch of nukes elsewhere? Like to the US?
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Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby Dezakin » Tue 08 Mar 2011, 21:49:50

Pops wrote:
Dezakin wrote:One wonders how France runs their entire country on nuclear power with enough to export while having some of the lowest electric rates in Europe.

I dunno, maybe because the government owns Areva and would like to sell a bunch of nukes elsewhere?

And this is a bad strategy because? France is the example of what a country can do to disentangle itself from coal power consumption. And if coal prices rise (or anyone ever bothers to tax enternalities of coal) you don't even need national policy to do that.
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Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby Pops » Tue 08 Mar 2011, 22:29:34

Dezakin wrote:And this is a bad strategy because?

I didn't say it was a bad strategy, Airbus is not a bad strategy either but that doesn't mean all governments can export airplanes.

I merely pointed out US citizens aren't in the mood for subsidies.

Nukes are like tar sand as an alternative to light sweet crude oil, they need high prices to be viable and of course high prices are exactly the problem. The latest excuse is low natural gas prices, so no, now is not the time to build expensive nukes.

I've been saying the same thing for years: if we don't have the money to change now - with relatively cheap energy, how will we have the money to change when energy is expensive?
If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.
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Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby Dezakin » Thu 10 Mar 2011, 16:29:53

Pops wrote:
Dezakin wrote:And this is a bad strategy because?

I didn't say it was a bad strategy, Airbus is not a bad strategy either but that doesn't mean all governments can export airplanes.

A bad analogy because all governments can buildout nuclear in the way the French have. Their low cost electricity isn't dependent on an export market for reactors.

I merely pointed out US citizens aren't in the mood for subsidies.

Reasonable if nuclear reactors actually received subsidies. They don't. The closest thing they receive to subsidies is liability caps which have never paid out and loan guarantees which doesn't cost the taxpayer a dime.

Nukes are like tar sand as an alternative to light sweet crude oil, they need high prices to be viable and of course high prices are exactly the problem. The latest excuse is low natural gas prices, so no, now is not the time to build expensive nukes.

No its not isomorphic at all. Nukes are high capital low operation cost items that contrast to low capital high operation cost like natural gas and coal. They're more dependent on built out economies of scale. The more that are built the cheaper they are.

I've been saying the same thing for years: if we don't have the money to change now - with relatively cheap energy, how will we have the money to change when energy is expensive?

The same way we built our energy industry at the start when the economy was a hundredth the size. We don't change now because its cheap. You're postulating a minimum global economy to afford alternatives that is below the economy after energy gets more expensive. That assumption isn't likely or even well defined. Just because you've been saying it for years doesn't mean it makes any sense.
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Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby dsula » Thu 10 Mar 2011, 16:43:31

Dezakin wrote:The same way we built our energy industry at the start when the economy was a hundredth the size.

That is probably wrong. Back in the days was enthusiasm and potential for enormous growth. Today it's about maintaining status-quo, or even worse, softening the decline. Not a friendly scenario for captial heavy investments.
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Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby Pops » Thu 10 Mar 2011, 17:38:35

Dezakin wrote:
Pops wrote:
Dezakin wrote:And this is a bad strategy because?

I didn't say it was a bad strategy, Airbus is not a bad strategy either but that doesn't mean all governments can export airplanes.

A bad analogy because all governments can buildout nuclear in the way the French have. ...
Reasonable if nuclear reactors actually received subsidies. They don't.


So Ariva receives no support or advantage because it is owned and operated by the government of France and any company anywhere could start building nukes at any time and fill the grid with cheap energy without government help?

Dezakin wrote:They're more dependent on built out economies of scale. The more that are built the cheaper they are.

But this brings us back around to my initial question, if they are so cheap tobuild and [edit] operate then when are we going to see them popping up in every town? We've been talking about the problems with FFs for decades.

Dezakin wrote:The same way we built our energy industry at the start when the economy was a hundredth the size.

Which of course isn't going to happen until we eliminate unions, OSHA, EPA, minimum wage, etc, so everything is just like it was in the good old days.

Dezakin wrote:We don't change now because its cheap.

But don't you get it? That's the whole point - if it is going to be more expensive, it isn't Miracle Pie.
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Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby Dezakin » Thu 10 Mar 2011, 18:09:24

Pops wrote:
Dezakin wrote:
Pops wrote:
Dezakin wrote:And this is a bad strategy because?

I didn't say it was a bad strategy, Airbus is not a bad strategy either but that doesn't mean all governments can export airplanes.

A bad analogy because all governments can buildout nuclear in the way the French have. ...
Reasonable if nuclear reactors actually received subsidies. They don't.


So Ariva receives no support or advantage because it is owned and operated by the government of France and any company anywhere could start building nukes at any time and fill the grid with cheap energy without government help?

You're mixing two quotes of mine into one argument. Areva has marginal French government help. US reactors don't. US reactors had they government backing would replace coal without much cost to the taxpayer and provide low cost electricity the way it does in France. As is US nuclear merely competes with coal and doesn't consume subsidies.

Dezakin wrote:They're more dependent on built out economies of scale. The more that are built the cheaper they are.

But this brings us back around to my initial question, if they are so cheap tobuild and [edit] operate then when are we going to see them popping up in every town? We've been talking about the problems with FFs for decades.

Probably another couple of decades. Coal is still very cheap and you need structural support for capital heavy projects (like hydroelectric dams and nuclear reactors) but future reactors are likely to be much less capital intensive and thus less sensitive to debt cost, because of work on existing reactor regimes today and future reactors.

Dezakin wrote:The same way we built our energy industry at the start when the economy was a hundredth the size.

Which of course isn't going to happen until we eliminate unions, OSHA, EPA, minimum wage, etc, so everything is just like it was in the good old days.

Seriously, no.

Dezakin wrote:We don't change now because its cheap.

But don't you get it? That's the whole point - if it is going to be more expensive, it isn't Miracle Pie.

Its more expensive only to start. France has demonstrated that after buildout its less expensive that operating coal.
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Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby Dezakin » Thu 10 Mar 2011, 18:10:31

dsula wrote:
Dezakin wrote:The same way we built our energy industry at the start when the economy was a hundredth the size.

That is probably wrong. Back in the days was enthusiasm and potential for enormous growth. Today it's about maintaining status-quo, or even worse, softening the decline. Not a friendly scenario for captial heavy investments.

I'm pretty sure you're confusing these forums with the real world.
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Re: Miracle Energy source? Or Pie In the Sky?

Unread postby ian807 » Thu 10 Mar 2011, 18:41:34

In the end, the only sustainable energy sources we have are captured solar in some form (panels, wind, hydro, wave, biofuels, ocean temperature differential) or geothermal. Like it or not, eventually the hydrocarbons run out, and ginning up fissionables has some serious downsides. Absent a very large leap in technology (e.g. sustainable fusion), this is how it's going to go eventually.
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