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Costing the Earth, Wednesday -- new nuclear build
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An Inspector Calls
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 1:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Japanese prototype of seawater extraction (haven't you looked into this yet?) didn't use any forced circulation, but suspended arrays of absorbant - the ocean current provided all the circulation necessary.


Quote:
My figure for the calculations was 0.024g/m3, which is roughly 24mg/tonne -- ten times higher than your figure.
I got the 3 mg/ton figure from another site. If it's ten times higher according to your figures, it makes the possible extraction rate ten times higher - so what's your point? You don't need a faster rate of extraction as the proven extraction rate is already sufficient - and you can't afford to do that anyway.

What have house prices got to do with the price of tea - god save us! I think I've given you a transparent, simple estimate of the extraction rates for uranium the nuclear industry can withstand. I don't think there's any need for some comparison of nuclear economics along the lines of house pricing.

You can invoke the thermodynamics of extraction if you like as a handy method of obscuring your weak argument, but actually the economic argument will suffice. Are you trying to suggest that somehow there's going to be a devious plot by the nuclear industry to hide the supposed uneconomic uranium extraction costs behind a smoke-screen of low nuclear generation costs!!!! Oh yes, that'll work!!!

As for higher percentage burn-ups: that's a thing for the future. 20 % has been achieved in FBRs already.
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kenneal - lagger
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 3:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think that Mobbsey was trying to tell you that at his figure, which was ten times better than yours for your argument, the thing didn't work in thermodynamic terms so with your figures the result is even worse.

What is the mesh size of these nets, Inspector? I would think that they are pretty small to efficiently sweep the ocean current. In order to get the rate of extraction required very large areas of nets would be needed. How would these large obstructions affect marine life,especially the plankton that is the base of all marine life and floats along with the current? If the mesh size is larger the nets could separate small fish from their predators.

How would this concentration of uranium affect marine life. If bacteria are to be used how will they be contained to prevent the concentrated uranium moving up the food chain?

But them what is the natural world when compared to our own overriding human needs? The rate of extraction of the resource to feed a growing demand is the problem not the size of it, just as with oil.
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kenneal - lagger
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 3:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

An Inspector Calls wrote:
As for higher percentage burn-ups: that's a thing for the future.


So is fusion and that has been only 40 years in the future for the last 50 yearsand still is. Would you base your economic future on winning the lottery? Because that is what you are asking us to do.
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An Inspector Calls
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 9:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The reason I don't want to use Mobbsey's figure for mass concentration of uranium in seawater is because I don't trust his figure. The problem I have is one of knowing how to move from a parts per million concentration to a mass concentration in a complex, dissociated liquid like water (a mix of water molecules, and hydroxyl and hydrogen ions) - seawater in this case, even more complex. So, what's wrong with simply using a value for the mass concentration taken from a seemingly reliable web page?

Since no one seems to be able to look up a reference to discover what the PROTOTYPE trial actually did, here's a (spoon-feeding) extract from my first reference in this thread. Lots of big words, mind:

Quote:
Using a chemical adsorbent to accumulate uranium from the seawater is a widely developed and promising method. The uranyl ion, due to its unique linear shape and additional oxygen atoms, allows for the use of specific ligands tailored towards these properties. Modern adsorbents include hydrous titanium hydroxide, amidoxime capped polymers, and synthetic organic ligands that can be attached to a stable support. These have been selected from a wide variety of possible absorbents due to their high affinity and selectivity, their stability and ability to function in seawater conditions, and reusability, however research towards better ligands continues even today. These adsorbents then must come into contact with a large amount of seawater, slowly accumulating and capturing uranium. After a lengthy accumulation time, the uranium can then be extracted. A sample extraction from titanium hydroxide involves soaking in sodium bicarbonate and dilute nitric acid, a relatively simple procedure. Current benchmark standards include 30% adsorption efficiency, and greater than 90% desorption efficiency.

Recently, a larger scale test of these adsorption methods was undergone by a Japanese team of researchers. They lowered a cage of 350kg of braided amidoxime polymer into the ocean for 240 days, and extracted greater than 1 kg of "yellow cake" uranium, the product needed for further enrichment. While more tests must be done, the researchers claim such a system could extract uranium at a cost of $200-300/kg uranium, two to three times the current cost at $100-150/kg. It has been argued that fuel is a small proportion of the cost of a nuclear power plant, so this increase will not drastically affect the cost of electricity.


If you want, there are copious cross references in that article which will allow you to drill deeper into the matter.
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mobbsey



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PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

An Inspector Calls wrote:
The Japanese prototype of seawater extraction (haven't you looked into this yet?)

Yes, I have, and it's broadly similar to the Indian experiments a decade or so ago. However, the "array" in those experiments is different to the Indian work (which were more like free floating junks).

An Inspector Calls wrote:
I got the 3 mg/ton figure from another site. If it's ten times higher according to your figures, it makes the possible extraction rate ten times higher

No, my figure assumes 100% collection of the uranium, for which you'd need a pumped ion-exchange process. You're intimating a diffusion-based system which, as I pointed out, have far smaller collection efficiencies.

An Inspector Calls wrote:
You don't need a faster rate of extraction as the proven extraction rate is already sufficient - and you can't afford to do that anyway.

To illustrate the difference between pumping and diffusion, let's quantify the extraction efficiency from some data from the Japanese research, for example -- http://nextbigfuture.com/2010/12/scaling-up-uranium-from-seawater.html I'll quote the two relevant lines from this article:
Quote:
The Black Current off Japan carries approximately 5.2 million tons a year. This amount is equivalent to the earth's remaining inventory of this ore.

Quote:
Using polymers, the total amount of uranium recovered from three collection boxes containing 350 kg of fabric was over 1 kg of yellowcake after 240 days of submersion in the ocean

Now there's a little problem here as to whether this the use of 'ton' in this Amercian-based article really means the US short ton or, because the Japanese use the metric system, a metric tonne. Let's assume they're metric tonnes:

( 1kg yellowcake per 240 days x 0.001kg per tonne x 1.521 ) / 5.2 million tons per year flow = a collection efficiency of 0.00000003%

[note, the 1.521 figure is a correction factor to express 240 day experimental yield as if it had been carried out for a full year]

Now you see the problem with diffusion as a means of collection -- it's pretty damn slow! Also the 'yellowcake' isn't quantified (it might by UO2 or U3O8) as that makes a small difference to the yield of uranium metal from the process.

Now, whilst the collection efficiency of the polymers has an impact upon the uranium yield. what's more interesting is the energy-return on using energy-dense polymers to collect uranium to produce energy. In the Indian research, the polymers used as an absorption media required oil to make them -- and the energy involved in that process wasn't included in the energy balance. If you're putting energy into making the collection medium then such a low collection efficiency will mean the energy return on energy expended is also going to be very low -- which will in turn have a significant effect on the energy return of the nuclear cycle.

As I outlined before, and which you clearly don't comprehend the significance of (like most modern economists who "don't do entropy"), obtaining a yield from a high entropy source of material will always involved a significant energy expenditure, and that in turn lowers, and can even negate, the energy or economic rewards from carrying out the process.

An Inspector Calls wrote:
You can invoke the thermodynamics of extraction if you like as a handy method of obscuring your weak argument, but actually the economic argument will suffice.

Are you implying that the economic argument does over-ride the thermodynamic argument then?

An Inspector Calls wrote:
Are you trying to suggest that somehow there's going to be a devious plot by the nuclear industry to hide the supposed uneconomic uranium extraction costs behind a smoke-screen of low nuclear generation costs!!!! Oh yes, that'll work!!!

Both the nuclear power industry and the uranium mining industry benefit from various forms of state subsidy. For example, without a nuclear power industry to pay for graduate training the nuclear weapons programmes of the nuclear armed states would have to pay the full costs of supporting research and production -- without nuclear power the costs of nuclear weapons would be unaffordable (why do you think civil power was developed in the first place? -- especially in the UK and France. The maintenance of nuclear weapons, or a pork-barrel mining industry in North America, is one of the less well debated/discussed reasons why governments continue to support the concept of nuclear power. E.g.:

http://www.pewenvironment.org/news-room/opinions/inaction-on-mining-reform-comes-at-a-steep-price-8589934616

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/04/nuclear.nuclearpower

An Inspector Calls wrote:
As for higher percentage burn-ups: that's a thing for the future. 20 % has been achieved in FBRs already.

If the Fukushima plant had been using more highly enriched uranium chances are they wouldn't have got the reactors "under control". The higher the level of U-235, the higher the thermal density of the core/the nuclear reaction, the higher the level of heat generating fission products in the fuel that can drive a meltdown.


OK, so far, I've sought to answer your queries. Now perhaps you could answer a couple for me:

Firstly, why do we need all this energy in the first place -- what's the purpose; and why nuclear?, why not concentrating solar power? (which arguably represents a bigger source of electricity-only energy at a comparable price to nuclear)

Secondly, given that nuclear power is such a small part of global primary energy supply (6% -- less than the contribution from hydro-power), and as I said earlier nuclear only really works for electricity supply rather than other forms of energy, how do you expect to substitute nuclear power for the currently problematic supplies of oil/gas/coal without destabilising the price equilibrium and capital flows of the economy?
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An Inspector Calls
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 10:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

mobbsey wrote:
An Inspector Calls wrote:
You can invoke the thermodynamics of extraction if you like as a handy method of obscuring your weak argument, but actually the economic argument will suffice.

Are you implying that the economic argument does over-ride the thermodynamic argument then?


No, merely that the economic argument makes it far easier to detect and itemise costs accrued in a process, and then to manage them. In this case, yes, there's energy involved in producing the absorbent: one has to assume that this is reflected (quite naturally) in the charge made for the absorbant; I doubt that process is camouflaged by subsidies.

And as Fred Hoyle also remarked: in that same reference:
Quote:
Before proceeding to this calculation it is worth noticing that the strict requirement for estimating the availability of uranium/thorium fuel is that more energy should be derivable from the fuel than was expended in its acquisition. However, we saw already in Figure 3.2 that a good general correspondence exists between energy expenditure and the monetary value we attach to commercial activity. Over the broad spectrum of industrial activity, as one has in the manufacture and operation of mining equipment, or as one would have in the chemical extraction of uranium from sea-water, energy expenditure and monetary costs are so well-correlated that money values can be used as a measure of energy values (provided only that the margin of the calculation is not tight - it certainly will not be tight here).
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 11:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

An Inspector Calls wrote:
And as Fred Hoyle also remarked: in that same reference:
Quote:
However, we saw already in Figure 3.2 that a good general correspondence exists between energy expenditure and the monetary value we attach to commercial activity.


That's clearly not the case. One of the central problems within the way the economics of resource supply and production operate is that the externalities of production are not reflected in the cost. Therefore, be it the carbon emissions from coal, or the unquantifiable costs of waste management from nuclear, the "commercial costs" in no way represent the total costs of the activity. Consequently the market will not operate at equilibrium because of the price distortions accumulating externalities within the economy that will have to be accounted for at some point in the future -- be that the $20 billion cost of the Fukushima accident, or the fact that the production of essential minerals are reaching the ecological limits of the human system.

You know, you're coming across as, dare I say, someone with an unquestioningly pro-nuclear agenda Wink

If the economics of nuclear power worked we would have far more nuclear power stations today. The reason we don't is not down to the work of the anti-nuclear brigade (lest their heads swell at the idea they've halted the expansion of the nuclear industry). The reason is that no state is willing to take the regulatory risk in return for the minimal benefits that nuclear offers compared to other energy technologies. There are reasons why certain states maintain a nuclear capacity, irrespective of the capital cost to the economy as a whole (e.g. France, Britain); but globally nuclear will never make a significant difference, to the thermodynamics or the economics of energy supply, because it simply doesn't offer sufficient incentives for its widespread adoption.

The reason coal was better than wood was that it has five times the energy return per unit weight -- and in an era when transport was difficult that gave it a clear advantage; likewise the reason steam was better than water power was that it permitted a rise in delivered work for a minimal outlay of infrastructure (compared to water power); and the reason the transistor replaced the thermionic valve, or the integrated circuit the discrete transistor, was that the cost savings on manufactured goods and new potential applications for the technology gave them a competitive advantage over previous technologies.

Nuclear doesn't have that because the supply of uranium will always represent a limiting factor on the thermodynamic, and hence economic performance, of the system compared to other potential technologies. It's simply not "good enough" to compete.


Last edited by mobbsey on Tue Mar 22, 2011 4:01 pm; edited 1 time in total
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An Inspector Calls
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 2:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just love it when the renewables brigade get on their high horses and tell us about the externalities of fossil fuel activities and the hidden subsidies, the implication being that the renewable brigade are as pure as driven snow. I think I'll stick with Profesor Sir Fred Hoyle's viewpoint rather than yours.

What's the subsidy on offshore wind again?

And those power-dense solar panels on your roofs?

No externalities in either of these activities, oh no. And there's full provision for decommissioning . . .
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 2:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

LOL.
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mobbsey



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PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 3:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

An Inspector Calls wrote:
I just love it when the renewables brigade get on their high horses and tell us about the externalities of fossil fuel activities and the hidden subsidies


"Externalities" are a feature of economic theory -- the concept wasn't created by "greens" (well, unless you mean the 'filthy lucre' "green" of the economic world). An externality is any cost within a transaction that is not reflected i the price and which a third-party, or the economy in general, is called upon to bear.

And from that statement do I take it that you think I'm in the "renewables brigade"?

If you look at my past history I think you'll find that I've represented community groups against wind farm developments, as well as other (in my view) spurious "green" technologies. That's the problem about basing your views on the available evidence to demonstrate what can best be judged as "objective reality" -- you end up offending both camps.

Renewable energy will not save modern technological society; nuclear power will not save modern technological society; that's because the problems of human ecology are far more complex that meeting a predicted level of energy supply. We could build 500 nuclear power stations around the world next year, or enough solar capacity to power Europe, and it would make no different in three or four decades because climate is only one of a number of limiting factors to human development.

From the credit crunch to space junk, the various "problems" various groups talk about are innately part of our general consumption of all resources. Until we resolve our demand as a species with the ability of the biosphere to sustainably provide that demand, the outcome over the course of this century will not change.

Anyway, to get back to the point I made earlier, you still haven't answered my queries (are you in search of dialogue, or are you merely a pay-per-view nuclear troll?). So, I ask again:

# Why do we need all this energy in the first place -- what's the purpose; and

# Given that nuclear power is such a small part of global primary energy supply (6% -- less than the contribution from hydro-power), how do you expect to substitute nuclear power for the currently problematic supplies of oil/gas/coal without destabilising the price equilibrium and capital flows of the economy?
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 3:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mobbsey: Look, you stupid offensive man, youve got no arms left.
An Inspector Calls: Yes I have.
Mobbsey: Look!
An Inspector Calls: Just a flesh wound.
Mobbsey: Look, stop that.
An Inspector Calls: Coward! Coward!
Mobbsey: Look, Ill have your leg. Right!
Mobbsey cuts off the An Inspector Callss leg.
An Inspector Calls: Right, Ill do something bad to you for that!
Mobbsey: Youll what?
An Inspector Calls: Come here!
Mobbsey: What are you going to do, bleed on me?
An Inspector Calls: I cant be beaten!
Mobbsey: Youre a crazy person.
An Inspector Calls: An Inspector Calls always wins! Lets fight! Come on then.
Mobbsey cuts off the An Inspector Callss other leg.
An Inspector Calls: All right; well say the fight was equal.
Mobbsey: Come, Patsy. (to his servant)
An Inspector Calls: Oh, oh, I see, running away then. You cowardly offensive man! Come back here and take what you deserve to get. Ill bite your legs off!
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mobbsey



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PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 3:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

emordnilap wrote:
Mobbsey: Look, you stupid offensive man, youve got no arms left.


That's a bit direct... after all, "you're all individuals".

I think I'd prefer --
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We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are
responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon
come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be
taught it in fire and blood and anguish. Good night.

(The Inspector's closing dialogue from An Inspector Calls, J.B. Priestley, 1945)
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Bandidoz
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This thread reminds me very much of Newman & Baddiel's "History Today"...

"Nuclear power from seawater is economic"
"No it isn't"
"Yes it is"
"Here are the figures that demonstrate that it isn't in terms of thermodynamics"
"The laws of physics do not apply to nuclear power"
"Yes they do"
"See that steaming pile of poo in the corner there. That's you that is....."
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An Inspector Calls
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 7:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bandidoz wrote:
"Here are the figures that demonstrate that it isn't in terms of thermodynamics"


I see no figures.
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An Inspector Calls
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 22, 2011 7:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mobbsey,

I demonstrate that economically the cost of uranium extraction can quite easily ccomodate prices as high as $1,000 a kilogram, based on a fuel component cost of 1/3p/kWh in the genration costs. In fact, we could extend that quite easily to a cost of $10,000/kilogram by considering improved efficiency of the nuclear plant (Hoyle was basing his calculation on the performance of magnox stations whereas the PWRs, etc all run with 600 C steam temperatures and can achieve 40% and allowing the fuel component to rise to a still insignificant level.

But you cry foul, we must consider the thermodynamics - and then silence, no supporting evidence from you as the thermodynamic failure of uranium extraction.

Then I point out the well established relationship between economic value and energy costs common in civilised activities, but that doesn't support your argument so you plead externalities - and again, silence, no supporting evidence from you as to these externalities.

And both these failures to provide an argument to support your claim for the future shortage of uranium fly in the face of the huge price tolerance you can demonstrate on the extraction price for uranium - nearly 100 times higher than at present.

Now we have the diversion technique: try to go off at a tangent by asking irrelevant questions.

No: you want to postulate a thermodynamic failure - you demonstrate it. Give us your numbers to demonstrate that uranium extraction will be thermodynamically limited in the not too distant future. I await your erudite reply.

And here's a strange thing: your original article pleading the shortage of uranium fuel makes no use of the thermodynamic argument either . . .
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