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positive potential future of nuclear power
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meemoe_uk
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2011 1:47 pm    Post subject: positive potential future of nuclear power Reply with quote

I haven't seen it anywhere on this forum, so I thought I'd put up what I think is of central importance wrt energy supply - the postive outlook for uranium energy. Bear in mind that boffin concensus is thorium's potential is at least 4 times better than uranium's ( not including extraction from seawater ).
This stuff is easy to find. Wiki is a simple start.

wiki wrote:

The IAEA estimates that using only known reserves at the current rate of demand and assuming a once-through nuclear cycle that there is enough uranium for at least 100 years. However, if all primary known reserves, secondary reserves, undiscovered and unconventional sources of uranium are used, uranium will be depleted in 47,000 years.[citation needed] [24] [27]

* OECD

The OECD estimates that with 2002 world nuclear electricity generating rates, with LWR, once-through fuel cycle, there are enough conventional resources to last 270 years. With breeders, this is extended to 8,500 years.[28]

If one is willing to pay $300/KgU uranium, there is a vast quantity available in the ocean.[29]

* Kenneth S. Deffeyes

Deffeyes estimates that if one can accept ore one tenth as rich then the supply of available uranium increased 300 times.[30][31] His paper shows that uranium is log-normal distributed. There is relatively little high-grade uranium and a nearly inexhaustibly large supply of very low grade uranium.

* Huber and Mills

Huber and Mills believe the energy supply is (effectively) infinite and the problem is merely how we go about extracting the energy.[32]

* Bernard Cohen

In 1983, physicist Bernard Cohen proposed that uranium is effectively inexhaustible, and could therefore be considered a renewable source of energy.[33] He claims that fast breeder reactors, fueled by naturally-replenished uranium extracted from seawater, could supply energy at least as long as the sun's expected remaining lifespan of five billion years.[33] - whilst uranium is a finite resource mineral resource within the earth, the hydrogen in the sun is finite too - thus, if the resource of nuclear fuel can last over such time scales, as Cohen contends, then nuclear energy is every bit as sustainable as solar power or any other source of energy, in terms of sustainability over the finite realistic time scale of life surviving on this planet.

We thus conclude that all the world’s energy requirements for the remaining 5×109 yr of existence of life on Earth could be provided by breeder reactors without the cost of electricity rising by as much as 1% due to fuel costs. This is consistent with the definition of a “renewable” energy source in the sense in which that term is generally used.

* Ernest Moniz

But the basic premise of reuse is open to question, said Ernest J. Moniz, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a former deputy United States Secretary of Energy.

He told the group that most of the thinking on reusing the fuel dated from decades ago, when uranium was thought to be scarce. But now, “roughly speaking, we’ve got uranium coming out of our ears, for a long, long time,” Professor Moniz said


This was one of the keys I used to unlock myself from the PO panic. When you spend time researching this, checking it, crossreferencing it, finding the experts and talking to them, you realise that PO, even if it's now ( it ain't ) isn't a desperate problem.
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biffvernon



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PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2011 2:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
The IAEA estimates that using... undiscovered...sources of uranium ..., uranium will be depleted in 47,000 years.


Anyone who can estimate an undiscovered resource to two significant figures is writing rubbish. That guy is saying it will last 47,000 years, not 46 or 48 thousand.
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RenewableCandy



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PostPosted: Sun Jan 09, 2011 9:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh dear. R**'s gorn Nuclear.
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 4:10 pm    Post subject: Re: positive potential future of nuclear power Reply with quote

meemoe_uk wrote:
that PO, even if it's now ( it ain't ) isn't a desperate problem.


I think this view is spot-on. Fred Hoyle said much the same about uranium and thorium resources in the 70s. There's that much of the stuff that we might just as well regard it as a renewable resource.

We do need oil products for transport and chemicals though . . .
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 4:39 pm    Post subject: Re: positive potential future of nuclear power Reply with quote

meemoe_uk wrote:

This was one of the keys I used to unlock myself from the PO panic.

That says it all. You were looking for anything that would contradict your fears, not for objective facts.

These estimates are based on "undiscovered" uranium. "Undiscovered" means "probably doesn't exist, God knows we've been looking for it for long enough".

"World food problem solved by estimates of undiscovered pink fairy cakes."

Twelve years ago optimistic estimates of oil production were being published that included "unidentified" oil (http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/1999/04/thenextoilshock/). Funnily enough, this unidentified oil is still unidentified.
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Last edited by Ludwig on Sun Jan 30, 2011 4:48 pm; edited 1 time in total
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2 As and a B



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PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 4:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thorium - purely hypothetical. If so brilliant, and has been known about for years, why isn't it in production?

Sea-water extraction - just think about the one, single in-your-face problem with this. Same problem applies to the "limitless" uranium ores.
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clv101
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 4:50 pm    Post subject: Re: positive potential future of nuclear power Reply with quote

An Inspector Calls wrote:
There's that much of the stuff that we might just as well regard it as a renewable resource.


Quite, but unfortunately comparing uranium to oil is a case of comparing apples to oranges. The nuclear industry is fundamentally a industrial, capital intensive process (with uranium as a minor input). The oil industry is the opposite, sure some capital and industry is required, but it all all about the resource to reserve mobilisation and extraction.

The key factors of nuclear power are capital, IP and politics. Uranium reserves simply aren't a key component. The key factor of the oil industry is the state of the resource.

Whether there's 100 years, 1,000 years or 47,000 years of fissionable material has no impact on the current 5.5% of world energy provided by nuclear or its trajectory over the next few decades (the peak oil timeframe). If anyone is suggesting that nuclear is some kind of mitigator to peak oil (35% world energy), they need to show how global nuclear capacity can increase by an order of magnitude over a couple of decades. That is a problem of capital and politics - not a problem of uranium reserves.

Remember nuclear power has it's own decommission problem. Not many nuclear powerstations have been built in the last 20 years, most of the existing fleet are to be decommissioned over the next couple of decades. If all goes well with the nuclear industry, it will manage to build fast enough to replace the decommissioned plant. However, expecting a small energy player (5.5%), which much of its infrastructure at end of life, to grow fast enough to mitigate the decline from a major player (35%) is wishful thinking. That's before one even considers that electricity is not a like for like replacement for liquid hydrocarbons.

Also remember that 5.5% figure as been 'uprated' assuming thermal efficiency of 38%. If you compare a kwh of nuclear electricity to a kwh of chemical energy in oil, the 5.5% contribution drops to just 2.1%.
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biffvernon



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PostPosted: Sun Jan 30, 2011 6:37 pm    Post subject: Re: positive potential future of nuclear power Reply with quote

An Inspector Calls wrote:
Fred Hoyle said much the same about uranium and thorium resources in the 70s. There's that much of the stuff that we might just as well regard it as a renewable resource.
Hoyle was one of those people who had some really good ideas...and some that turned out to be rubbish.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2011 11:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

clv101

Your point that 'there has only been a small growth in nuclear power over the past 20 years and thus no expectation that it can grow faster than this in the next 20' is flawed by the observation that the industry has been crippled by reaction to the Chernobyl incident. Perhaps that caution was correct, but the causes and consequences of that accident have been reviewed in detail and I would contend, lessons have been learned. History does not support your contention that we are not capable of a massive, rapid expansion in nuclear power. In the sixties and seventies we built all the magnox stations, and threw in three massive pumped storage stations as well (Ffestiniog, Cruachan and Dinoriwg).

You also, rightly, cite decommissioning difficulties. This is especially true in the British case where non of the magnox stations were designed with any recognition of future decommissioning. The issue is further (deliberately) clouded by lobby groups (Greenpeace, FoE) citing massive decommissioning costs when these
(a) apply to the UKs entire nuclear research, and weapons production and servicing activities as well as power production,
(b) an improper economic assessment of the costs spread over a long time period with no application of DCF and
(c) forgetting that these oosts have already been met to a large degree by the overt nuclear levy on our electricity bills in the 80s.
Given modern standardised design techniques and a full need for decommissioning (good old CDM requirements) the next generation of stations can resolve those problems at low cost.

The point that oil represents 35 % of energy consumption, which would require considerably more nuclear generation is valid. However, nuclear power can remove oil and gas use from all of the non-mobile uses of energy usage, leaving what's left of our oil for transport. This is McKay's point; he views the nuclear/heat pump option as a more viable stragtegy than CHP.

35% is a huge target to aim for, which you say nuclear can't achieve. Well, if nuclear can't achieve it, certainly wind can't for several reasons:
1) wind turbines are as capital intensive as nuclear - the costs per MW installed capacity are similar when it is remembered that wind turbines have one third the life of a nuclear station. Wind needs massive subsidies; no one is offerring the next generation of nukes any subsidy - that says it all.
2) wind turbines are an insecure source of supply such that, for example, E.On claims only a 9% capacity factor from their operation.
3) massive investment in wind power will require massive capital expenditure on transmission resources since wind farms are usually located at sites further remote to load centres than ever nuclear was built.
In fact, no renewable other than hydro can compete on capital costs with nuclear (DoE The Future of Nuclear Power 2007)

Our response to the threat of peak oil (real, imagined, or exaggerated) needs to be nuanced to recognise the considerable virtues of nuclear power.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2011 1:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Thorium - purely hypothetical. If so brilliant, and has been known about for years, why isn't it in production?
Sea-water extraction - just think about the one, single in-your-face problem with this. Same problem applies to the "limitless" uranium ores.

Thorium isnt in production because no one has paid for it.
The nuclear industry as it is existed to provide materials for nuclear weapons.
Nuclear electricity reached a fork, one road was thorium, which generated electricity, one road was uranium, which generated nuclear weapons.

No one was interested in electricity generation, we had coal plants.
People were very interested in nuclear weapons.
So all the funding was ploughed into uranium reactors. Electricity generation from them was more an after thought.

Ambrose covered it a while back
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/7970619/Obama-could-kill-fossil-fuels-overnight-with-a-nuclear-dash-for-thorium.html


Quote:
If anyone is suggesting that nuclear is some kind of mitigator to peak oil (35% world energy), they need to show how global nuclear capacity can increase by an order of magnitude over a couple of decades. That is a problem of capital and politics - not a problem of uranium reserves.

Its not that we lack capital, its that we refuse to spend it.
Finlands new reactor has been an utter disaster, but the exact same reactor types were on time and budget in Japan.
The UK's Peak electricity usage has been about 60Gw.
Nuclear reactors are up and running 17 months out of 18, so we would need 63Gw of capacity.

Finlands 1600mw reactor is actualy two 800mw reactors, which look like they're going to cost $3.5bn each.
Lets say £2.5bn for 800mw.

The UK therefore needs 80 reactors to cover all of its needs with nuclear.
80*2.5bn = £200bn
Over a decade, thats £20bn a year. Government spending is £661bn this year and will be £724bn in 2014.
Thats chicken feed.

Obviously, we cant be 100% reliant on nuclear, and thats just current electricity usage, it doesnt cover heating post gas/oil peak or driving (although 40mn electric cars solves the load following night power problem quite well...).
If theres the will, the money is there.
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RenewableCandy



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PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2011 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Well, if nuclear can't achieve it, certainly wind can't
This is a fair point.

However, it has been the case so far that you hear more nuclear than wind proponents saying that their chosen tech is the answer (note the Definite Article here), which to some extent justifies the "it can't do it all" response you tend to hear from us windies.

Also, nuclear as it is done in this country isn't flexible for load-following. That includes the latest proposed reactors, which iirc can only flex by 25% and/or only 100 times per year.

Wind is variable but, as more interconnectors are being built (for entirely different reasons, viz "making the electricity market more efficient/transparent/competitive...") these variations will be smoothed out more and more. Looked at from a Europe-wide point of view, the fact that France has so much nuclear capacity, all of which does "baseload", makes it harder, rather than easier, to include more of the non-dispatchable types (both nuclear and wind) into the European grid.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2011 5:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

[quote="RenewableCandy"]
Quote:

Also, nuclear as it is done in this country isn't flexible for load-following. That includes the latest proposed reactors, which iirc can only flex by 25% and/or only 100 times per year.
Well, if they flexed by 25 % we'd have no problem. There's no reason why modern nuclear can't do limited load flexing (i.e. reserve) since with enriched fuel (rather than magnox fuel) there's no argon 'poisoning' problem. Nuclear could in fact offer both primary and secondary response by using the energy stored in the steam range drum. It won't be sustained response, but then, it's not sustained from coal either - only PS can do that.
[quote="RenewableCandy"]
Quote:

Wind is variable but, as more interconnectors are being built (for entirely different reasons, viz "making the electricity market more efficient/transparent/competitive...") these variations will be smoothed out more and more.
This is a myth. The difficulty is that winter highs can be pan European. They're certainly pan UK: on 30 December last the total output from all the UK's wind turbines (3,500 MW installed) fell to just 20 MW! You just can't rely on the fuel route for the turbines.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2011 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

An Inspector Calls wrote:

RenewableCandy wrote:

Wind is variable but, as more interconnectors are being built (for entirely different reasons, viz "making the electricity market more efficient/transparent/competitive...") these variations will be smoothed out more and more.
This is a myth.
Hey, no-one's saying they'll be smoothed out completely. That's what tidal, wave, hydro/storage, Spanish solar, and the odd bit of biomass are for. Not to mention usage management in one form or another.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2011 5:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Also, don't forget that when it's not windy, there is likely to be less demand than when it is windy. But that's a bit of a moot point, similarly the point that "no generation when the wind doesn't blow" is also.
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2011 6:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One of the reasons we went for uranium rather than thorium was that fast breeder reactors would provide more fuel than they consumed. Now where have we heard about all that free energy before? This was, unfortunately another of those free energy scams but on an industrial scale.
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