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Author Topic: Obama could kill fossil fuels overnight with a nuclear dash for thorium  (Read 15262 times)
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« Reply #15: September 07, 2010, 02:57:59 pm »

When why were you asking for perfect side-effects?

This is something that really, honestly, bugs me a lot, the idea that nuclear reactors have to go through extra hoops and have higher standards than other forms of power production, because, I don't know, they come with extra boogety-boo or something.  If radiation is ooky-spooky, shut down the coal plants.  They're worse.  (In addition to, y'know, smoke, carbon emissions, etc.)

Since I expressed similar sentiments, I can tell you I don't expect perfect side-effects but that doesn't mean I shouldn't be wary of jumping into a new problem that we don't have solutions for either.  Nuclear power may indeed  be the lesser of two evils, but we should seek to minimize the evil to an even smaller degree and to look for non-evil solutions as well (like solar and energy efficiency).
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« Reply #16: September 07, 2010, 03:05:35 pm »

Since I expressed similar sentiments, I can tell you I don't expect perfect side-effects but that doesn't mean I shouldn't be wary of jumping into a new problem that we don't have solutions for either.  Nuclear power may indeed  be the lesser of two evils, but we should seek to minimize the evil to an even smaller degree and to look for non-evil solutions as well (like solar and energy efficiency).

I think the solution is to look at everything and do a mix - yes solar and wind are good and clean (except for the not in my back yard problem), but if they are not enough then hydro and nuclear and coal and EVERYTHING should be part of our energy package.  It seems that most of what I hear is looking for a single solution - bit it's not there!!!!!  Look for a complex package with different solutions for different areas.
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« Reply #17: September 07, 2010, 03:09:55 pm »

I wasn't asking perfect side effects. I asked about the waste because nuclear plants produce nuclear waste, which can be dangerous.

Coal plants put out more radioactive waste than nuclear ones.  Uranium and thorium by the ton.
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« Reply #18: September 07, 2010, 04:13:11 pm »

When why were you asking for perfect side-effects?

This is something that really, honestly, bugs me a lot, the idea that nuclear reactors have to go through extra hoops and have higher standards than other forms of power production, because, I don't know, they come with extra boogety-boo or something.  If radiation is ooky-spooky, shut down the coal plants.  They're worse.  (In addition to, y'know, smoke, carbon emissions, etc.)

I don't have a problem with a nuclear power plant going through extra hoops and safety, because if something does go wrong, it may not blow, but there is still a heck of a lot of damage that it can do, that other things don't do.

That said, once we've done that, and don't have chernobyl's in power, then we should use the power plants.  We should also start cookie cuttering them, instead of using a different pattern everytime.  My understanding is that that's what the european countries have done with their nuclear power plants, and it makes controlling things easier.

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« Reply #19: September 07, 2010, 04:36:12 pm »

Coal plants put out more radioactive waste than nuclear ones.  Uranium and thorium by the ton.

And that's bad as well. But there's debate as to whether it's more radioactive or not. More pollution, but less radioactive. Less pollution, but more radioactive. It's hard to say which is better. The pollution from coal plants and nuclear plants are both bad. And this is why I'm just not convinced that putting our eggs in one basket and switching to nuclear is much better. As best, to me, it's a little better. I don't see that as enough.

To me, it's like packing up all of your belongings, and moving across town to a house that's slightly better. Is it worth it? Or should we hold out for the really good house with the pool? My main concern is the waste. Which is also my main concern with all other forms of power. If there were a way to make it a bit less dangerous, I'd be on board. But as it stands, I think we are just making another problem for another generation to clean up.
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« Reply #20: September 07, 2010, 05:35:44 pm »

I don't have a problem with a nuclear power plant going through extra hoops and safety, because if something does go wrong, it may not blow, but there is still a heck of a lot of damage that it can do, that other things don't do.

There are two reasons uranium fueled nuclear reactors have more regulation. First, the process requires lots of expensive protective measures that have to be done right or they are next to worthless. The nuclear industry has a history of trying to save money by taking shortcuts with them. Second, people are scared of nuclear power because of nuclear weapons and demand lots of regulation and oversight.

Other types of nuclear reactors work differently and don't require the many of the expensive protective measures that uranium reactors require. For example, back in the 1950s people were talking about mini-reactors powering cars and the like. That sounds extremely dangerous and certainly would be if one was going to use uranium as the fuel source.  While it still might not be a great idea, it isn't a totally insane idea if you fuel the reactor with some other nuclear fuels.
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« Reply #21: September 07, 2010, 08:02:30 pm »

Start by Christianizing a lot of the enviromental movement from the 1980s and 1990s.

The problem is political, not technical, and to a lessor extent not economic. Nobody in the US wants anything with the word nuclear near them. Heck they don't want anything industrial near them.

I doubt the 5 year forcast, but 25 years maybe, depending upon how much money you want to spend tearing down suburban houses.


I could swear I read something a few years ago, when there was brief debate about going nuclear on TV "news" shows, to the effect that, were we to go to nuclear power as our primary energy source, we'd run out of uranium in 3-5 years.  I'd have to look it up if you want a citation, but the point is that uranium is what we use now, and uranium is IIRC a pretty finite resource.

Plus, doesn't the majority of it come from Africa?  If so, we're trading dependence on foreign oil for dependence on foreign uranium, and since Africa is just as unstable as the ME, overall, it doesn't seem like a trade w/much to gain.

So, it seems to me like an issue w/a lot of feasibility problems.  Which is why I wondered if thorium might be the real solution we've all been hoping for.

And who are these people who don't want anything industrial near them?  Maybe it's just living near factories, but I don't have a problem, or know anyone IRL who has a problem, living near an industrial site, as long as it's not dumping a bunch of waste into the water supply.  In fact, I don't think most people I know even give it a thought.
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« Reply #22: September 07, 2010, 08:10:12 pm »


As far as I know, thorium is a theoretically better choice for fission reactors that uranium, but no money was for it in the early nuclear age as it did not produce any by-products useful for nuclear weapons (unlike uranium). Now it isn't used because the entire nuclear industry is tooled up for uranium.  Could we have thorium reactors producing commercial power in five years? Possibly, if the government funded it heavily and designed nuclear law and regulations to strongly encourage it and we were lucky. Ten years would be a better guess, but that's a long time for the government to pour lots of money into that isn't pork, defense, or an entitlement program.

I know it's a long time for the gov't to do anything not supported by a powerful lobby; what would it take to build a powerful lobbying coalition on a single issue?  Preferably one more successful than the pot lobby.

But surely an argument can be made, and pretty fully disseminated, that spending on energy independence is proactive spending on defense?  Don't most people get that, or am I hanging out w/an insufficiently ignorant crowd?

Quote
However, getting the public to accept it would be even harder. The average person has this relatively insane fear of nuclear power plants -- that they might blow up like an atomic bomb. That's somewhat more likely than the sun rising in the west tomorrow, but I wouldn't bet any money on either happening.

I was always more afraid of cancers and mutations caused by improperly stored waste, but thorium makes that an almost moot issue, if I understand right.
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« Reply #23: September 07, 2010, 08:17:39 pm »



Energy density. There isn't enough watts per sq meter coming from the sun.

I've heard that mentioned on some peak oil blogs, but nobody expands upon that.  Is it a set ratio, like 5m2 to every gallon gas, or is it more fluid than that?  And if it's more fluid, what kind of energy source combination would on average equal what amount of oil?  Or is it more a question of what can be replaced where w/what sources in what combination?

Sorry, I'm fascinated by the whole energy situation, but my math and physics are a little poor for coming up w/numbers myself. Sad
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« Reply #24: September 07, 2010, 08:26:07 pm »

I think the solution is to look at everything and do a mix - yes solar and wind are good and clean (except for the not in my back yard problem), but if they are not enough then hydro and nuclear and coal and EVERYTHING should be part of our energy package.  It seems that most of what I hear is looking for a single solution - bit it's not there!!!!!  Look for a complex package with different solutions for different areas.

Personally, I'd like to see an end to hydrocarbons.  Partly because they're pretty filthy in and of themselves (how much more mercury can our waterways take?), partly because extraction is incredibly polluting, and largely because I'd like to have a climate at least livably similar to our current one.

I'm hoping that wind, solar, geothermal, and water turbines will be enough, supplemented w/thorium reactors (at least until practical fusion).  And frankly, if the damn population would stabilize, it might be.
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« Reply #25: September 07, 2010, 09:34:19 pm »


I've heard that mentioned on some peak oil blogs, but nobody expands upon that.  Is it a set ratio, like 5m2 to every gallon gas, or is it more fluid than that?  And if it's more fluid, what kind of energy source combination would on average equal what amount of oil?  Or is it more a question of what can be replaced where w/what sources in what combination?

Sorry, I'm fascinated by the whole energy situation, but my math and physics are a little poor for coming up w/numbers myself. Sad

The solar constant hitting the earth's surface is 1 kW / sq meter. You then have to factor in the efficiency of the solar electric cell.

For comparision, Pilgram Nuclear station generates 685,000 kW (684 MW).  Wikipedia states that's enough to power almost 600,000 homes.

The common house is on a 1/4 acre, so figure you'd have to completely cover the land of 650 houses. Not the roofs, but the entire yard. Think of a giant parking lot of blue glass. That's if the cells are 100% efficient.

While looking on line, I saw a claim of 24%, so multiple the size of land needed by four. Oh, and then multiple the amount of land by at least 2 since the sun shines only part of the day. For New England in the winter, that might be by 3 since you have about 8 hours of daylight.

Found a discussion here: http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/home/question418.htm

Now to the second part of your question.

It's a rubes game to compare electricity with gasoline. The uses are different. It's possible to convert all of the measurements to ergs, but unless you are looking at redesigning the landscape, it's not a really useful number.

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« Reply #26: September 07, 2010, 09:41:36 pm »

I could swear I read something a few years ago, when there was brief debate about going nuclear on TV "news" shows, to the effect that, were we to go to nuclear power as our primary energy source, we'd run out of uranium in 3-5 years.  I'd have to look it up if you want a citation, but the point is that uranium is what we use now, and uranium is IIRC a pretty finite resource.

Plus, doesn't the majority of it come from Africa?  If so, we're trading dependence on foreign oil for dependence on foreign uranium, and since Africa is just as unstable as the ME, overall, it doesn't seem like a trade w/much to gain.

So, it seems to me like an issue w/a lot of feasibility problems.  Which is why I wondered if thorium might be the real solution we've all been hoping for.

And who are these people who don't want anything industrial near them?  Maybe it's just living near factories, but I don't have a problem, or know anyone IRL who has a problem, living near an industrial site, as long as it's not dumping a bunch of waste into the water supply.  In fact, I don't think most people I know even give it a thought.

Take a look at the folks who are protesting Cape Wind. Or talk to folks in the power industry, paper or refining industry.

Africa is currently cheap uranium. Canada has tons of the stuff. We can make fuel for reacters fairly easy. The tech is simple, but has the side effect that it produces plutonium. It's called a breeder reactor.
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« Reply #27: September 10, 2010, 01:48:46 pm »


Take a look at the folks who are protesting Cape Wind. Or talk to folks in the power industry, paper or refining industry.

As long as they're not polluting these people's groundwater or something, people need to get over it and recognize that the price of living in an industrial society is living with industry, unless you're gonna build everything out in the boonies and bus in the workers or something.

Quote
Africa is currently cheap uranium. Canada has tons of the stuff. We can make fuel for reacters fairly easy. The tech is simple, but has the side effect that it produces plutonium. It's called a breeder reactor.

I figure it's like oil, and we'd use the cheap stuff as long as possible, even after it started to cost us more in military interventions than it would to just start buying from Canada.

But, IIRC, the thing I was reading said that 3-5 years would be using the world supply, not just Africa's.  Though I don't remember if it said whether that would include powering the whole world, or just the 1st world, or just us.  I think it was the current world demand, but I'm not sure.  I'll have to try and find it, though it may be a few days before I have time to do an extensive search.

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« Reply #28: September 10, 2010, 03:42:16 pm »

But, IIRC, the thing I was reading said that 3-5 years would be using the world supply, not just Africa's.  Though I don't remember if it said whether that would include powering the whole world, or just the 1st world, or just us.  I think it was the current world demand, but I'm not sure.  I'll have to try and find it, though it may be a few days before I have time to do an extensive search.

I suspect that's powering the entire world and NOT using breeder reactors. With breeder reactors we have a effectively "endless" supply. Thorium reactors can even burn some nuclear waste from current reactors. We aren't in danger of running out of nuclear fuel in the foreseeeable future -- unless we choose to run out.
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« Reply #29: November 10, 2010, 11:25:43 pm »

The average person has this relatively insane fear of nuclear power plants -- that they might blow up like an atomic bomb. That's somewhat more likely than the sun rising in the west tomorrow, but I wouldn't bet any money on either happening.

Without enough fissionable material in place to create a critical mass ...
That would be nearly impossible
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