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DailyDirt: If Only We Had A 'Mr. Fusion' Generator Handy...

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Nuclear power seems to have gotten more intense scrutiny recently, so taking a look at other alternative energy technologies makes sense. There's no silver bullet to solve the world's energy problems, but exploring the diversity of ways to generate electricity and fuels is probably a good strategy. Here are some interesting discoveries that might help wean us off burning non-renewable hydrocarbons. As always, StumbleUpon can also recommend some good Techdirt articles, too.


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  1.  
    identicon
    Kurata, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 8:02pm

    http://www.lesechos.fr/opinions/chroniques/0201239996560-certes-sortons-du-nucleaire-mais-.htm

    In a nutshell, France has 58 nuclear plants working at 3/4 of their max capacities.
    The Greens demands to go to green energy and give up on nuclear.
    What this means, is putting up 3 rows of windmills on france's coasts, but actually more since wind is not a constant, and the current ones have been put up in the most optimal places already, producing optimal amount of energy 1/4 of the time.
    Solar energy : half the time is night, not enough sun during the day either. Also, energy consumptions peaks are during sunless days.

    German model : actually pollutes more with their green-friendly system (441 grams of CO2 vs 83 in france atm, but nuclear produces nuclear wastes, so...)

    to look like an ignorant guy that i am (i know nothing about ecology), what do?

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Bengie, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 8:03pm

    Perpetual energy

    Solar panel and a light bulb does it for me.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 8:27pm

    The real problem with nuclear power is that we are using a military solution to a commercial problem.

    I can't take credit for all this, I found it in a comment on reddit, so I paste it anon.

    Have you heard of a Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) http://blogs.howstuffworks.com/2009/12/01/how-a-liquid-fluoride-thorium-reactor-lftr-works/ ?

    This link explains why we are using a military grade answer instead of a commercial one.
    Energy From Thorium: A Nuclear Waste Burning Liquid Salt Thorium Reactor http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZR0UKxNPh8

    Aim High: Using Thorium Energy to Address Environmental Problems
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgKfS74hVvQ


    The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor: What Fusion Wanted To Be
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHs2Ugxo7-8

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Lyle D, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 8:41pm

    Australia wants to produce 10x more Uranium

    While all the hype is on atm with nuclear energy..

    There was a mainstream news feature last night about the Uranium Mining industry.. And how they want to increase production 10 fold and open up to 50 mines in Victoria...

    It's a big money spinner for Australia ^^

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Ryan Diederich, Mar 21st, 2011 @ 10:02pm

    Nuclear Power

    I never understood why people were so against nuclear plants. They are so powerful and so efficient, and we put the waste 5 miles into a mountain.

    Besides, I believe reactors in the US use graphite rods (or similar) to control the reaction, so what happened in Japan could never happen here.

     

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  6.  
    icon
    AdamBv1 (profile), Mar 21st, 2011 @ 10:18pm

    Re: The real problem with nuclear power is that we are using a military solution to a commercial problem.

    You might be interested in http://energyfromthorium.com/

    The best possible solution can be found here as its a combination of fast neutron reactors that will run off current waste and help produce startup fuel for LFTRs that we will use to generate the bulk of our energy.
    http://energyfromthorium.com/2010/03/29/kirk-sorensen-teac2-talk/

     

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  7.  
    icon
    JustMe (profile), Mar 22nd, 2011 @ 4:33am

    What could possibly go wrong?

    "Scientists still don't quite understand why it works"

     

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  8.  
    icon
    chris (profile), Mar 22nd, 2011 @ 7:36am

    why not use a distributed model?

    greater numbers of smaller facilities spread out over a large area, using the technology similar to what nuclear submarines use.

    if there is an accident/disaster, the smaller facilities should be easier to contain and if for some reason they cannot be contained, the contamination would be smaller.

    here is an example of a small propulsion system:
    http://www.atomicengines.com/engines.html

     

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  9.  
    icon
    Michael Ho (profile), Mar 22nd, 2011 @ 10:52am

    Re: why not use a distributed model?

    Chris,

    You're not the first person to think that smaller, distributed reactors would be a better plan, but I've seen some practical reasons why it doesn't happen:

    1) The regulatory process for obtaining a license to operate a nuclear reactor is fairly long and costly -- imagine doing it for each small reactor and dealing with different local politics to do so... It's not like the license would be that much easier to obtain just because you say, "But this is a *small* reactor!"

    2) Current facilities store waste on site. At a smaller facility, this might not be possible -- so then you have to actually deal with the problem of waste storage (which would be a good thing in the long run, but isn't happening any time soon).

    3) There are presumably efficiencies of scale with larger reactors. The cost to build a small reactor might be coming down soon, though. There are mini-reactors that can be mass produced. But operating and maintaining and permitting costs aren't significantly cheaper....

     

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  10.  
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    chris (profile), Mar 22nd, 2011 @ 12:16pm

    Re: Re: why not use a distributed model?

    1) The regulatory process for obtaining a license to operate a nuclear reactor is fairly long and costly

    so... politics. we'll see how well those hold up against skyrocketing energy prices and 20% unemployment.

    2) Current facilities store waste on site. At a smaller facility, this might not be possible -- so then you have to actually deal with the problem of waste storage (which would be a good thing in the long run, but isn't happening any time soon).

    how does the navy deal with waste on its ships?

    how much waste is there?

    a smaller installation would presumably produce smaller amounts of waste. smaller amounts would presumably be cheaper and easier to store on site, or to move safely to a storage facility.

    3) There are presumably efficiencies of scale with larger reactors[...]But operating and maintaining and permitting costs aren't significantly cheaper....

    i understand that the navy can afford to operate a reactor at a significant loss because it's the navy, but the loss can't be *THAT* great or it wouldn't be feasible from a military standpoint.

    so then it's a question of how great is the loss?

    speaking of the navy, there are amateurs at work on fusion reactors: http://gizmodo.com/#!5570817/no-sleep-til-fusion

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    teka, Mar 22nd, 2011 @ 5:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: why not use a distributed model?

    1 response) politicos have never been the type to allow reason and fact to interfere with their eagerness to pander to the loudest and dumbest parts of their constituency.

    2 response) Spent fuel from naval reactors is removed at the end of its operational life or at decommissioning (something like 20 years or more of service from a single set of rods). High rad waste (the fuel and reactor vessels themselves) are cut right out of the sub or carrier and stored at the appropriate naval base, lower rad waste is disposed of commercially.

    3 response) Naval Nuclear programs (Along with non-warships like russian nuclear icebreakers) are not operated on atomics because it is Cheaper then diesel (for example), but because it allows an incredible increase in power, speed and operating range, which is terribly important for aircraft carriers, submarines and far-north icebreakers.

    There are certainly economies in scale with larger plants (which are oriented around a cluster of divided reactors anyhow) that would be difficult to reach.

    Just off the top of my head, and -aside from engineering and/or storage reasons-

    -a few large reactors will require less shipments of radioactive materials (both new materials in and 'spent' materials out), easier to secure and watch.

    -same note for things like grounds security (a plant twice as big is not necessarily twice as manpower intensive to guard, while a tiny plant will still require at least a certain amount)

    None of this should suggest that i am Against distributed nuclear power generation. I am a big fan of "pebble bed" reactors, which have the potential to provide compact energy once kinks on the handling side are resolved, but that is an entirely different kettle of fission.

     

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  12.  
    icon
    chris (profile), Mar 24th, 2011 @ 9:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: why not use a distributed model?

    politicos have never been the type to allow reason and fact to interfere with their eagerness to pander to the loudest and dumbest parts of their constituency.

    agreed, but that assertion could be living on borrowed time.

    the cocktail of high energy costs and high unemployment could be the one-two punch that knocks america out of its political stupor. or it could already be too late.

    Naval Nuclear programs [...]are not operated on atomics because it is Cheaper then diesel (for example), but because it allows an incredible increase in power, speed and operating range

    fossil fuels cost less than atomics right now, but that may not always be the case, especially if the peak oil theorists and the sustainability types end up being right.

    There are certainly economies in scale with larger plants (which are oriented around a cluster of divided reactors anyhow) that would be difficult to reach.

    economies of scale are great, especially when you measure economy based solely on watt hours of output per dollar spent, but there might be more important issues going forward like:

    fault tolerance - what happens to the power grid when there's a problem with the only plant in the region?

    adaptability - how much does it cost to build up, run and decomission a large centralized plant? how much will it cost to upgrade or downgrade that plant's capabilities once it is operating? what happens when new technologies become available to make the plant safer or more efficient?

    time to market - can we afford to raise the billions it will require for a single large plant? can we afford to wait the decade or two necessary to bring something like that online?

    also, in colder regions (like the north eastern US where solar doesn't work so well) waste heat could be recycled to offset heating needs.

    -a few large reactors will require less shipments of radioactive materials (both new materials in and 'spent' materials out), easier to secure and watch.

    -same note for things like grounds security (a plant twice as big is not necessarily twice as manpower intensive to guard, while a tiny plant will still require at least a certain amount)


    again, let's see how well that idea holds up in the face of skyrocketing energy costs and unemployment.

    what politico, on the right or the left, isn't in favor of creating blue collar jobs for joe sixpack AND stabilizing his utility costs?

    guarding/transporting nuclear plants and materials sounds like a great job for either a republican privatized contractor, or for a democratic union.

    or both so they can have a competition to settle the argument once and for all.

     

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