backtop


Print 101 comment(s) - last by Integral9.. on Mar 10 at 8:32 AM

New research into nuclear's feasibility shows that it simply does not make for a sole fossil fuel replacement.

The death knells of the Earth's dwindling fossil fuel supply have helped to prompt a growing push for alternative fuels.  Whether it be cellulosic ethanol powering the next generation of hybrid vehicles or microbial hydrogen driving advanced fuel cells, America's top technology corporations are making massive investments in alternative energy.  Basically, alternative energy advocates remain split about what is the best solution -- solar power, wind power, biofuels, hydrogen, and nuclear power are seen as the best bets.

Not holding out much hope for an exotic solution, many have turned in the last few years to seriously considering nuclear as a potential replacement to fossil fuel demand.  The result has been resurgence in nuclear efforts.  In the U.S. an application has been filed by NRG Energy for the first new nuclear plant in 30 years.  In Canada, a nuclear research reactor taken temporarily offline was quickly brought online after swift legislative action.

However, despite the growing enthusiasm there has already been one major hiccup.  The record drought that has been plaguing the U.S. Southeast is threatening to cripple the nuclear industry in this region, as many of the plants require large amounts of water.

Now, a new research study, conducted by Physicist Joshua Pearce of Clarion University of Pennsylvania puts another dent in nuclear efforts.  Professor Pearce's research, published in Inderscience's International Journal of Nuclear Governance, Economy and Ecology, indicates that while nuclear research and small-scale growth remain promising, large scale growth remains non-viable.

Professor Pearce is actually an advocate for nuclear power.  He warns that his research should not be misinterpreted.  Professor Pearce suggests that the nuclear power industry focuses its efforts on improving efficiency.  He gives two easy ways to accomplish this.  The first is to utilize only the highest grade ores, saving on refining energy costs.  Secondly, he suggests the industry adopt gas centrifuge technology for ore enrichment, which is considerably more efficient than the currently used gaseous diffusion methods.

Professor Pearce feels that plants must also adopt technology for capturing and distributing their waste heat.  He points out that nuclear plants dump large amounts of heat into their surroundings, a practice which both wastes energy and can cause significant harm to the environment.  Professor Pearce believes that current nuclear weapon stockpiles worldwide should be dismantled and their nuclear fuel "down-blended".  He points out that this could produce a bounty of nuclear fuel.

The not-so-good news which Professor Pearce points out is that nuclear is simply not a viable candidate for large-scale growth.  In order for nuclear power to maintain growing future power demands and the shrinking fossil fuel power supplies, between 2010 and 2050 a growth rate of over 10 percent a year would be necessary according to Professor Pearce.  This, he says, is simply not possible.

Professor Pearce points out that such a growth program would simply cannibalize older plant's power output to provide the power needed to maintain the processes involved with building the new plants and refining ore for them, leaving no power for human needs.  Large-scale growth would require massive power investment in terms of plant construction, plant operation, mining infrastructure expansion, and energy investments to refine ore.  Professor Pearce says the books simply don't balance -- these power needs could not be met by the energy produced from the refined ore.

He points to a significant problem with large scale growth.  Large-scale growth, barring the discovery of new reserves would necessitate the use of lower grade uranium.  This sets an additional limit on growth.  As Professor Pearce points out, "The limit of uranium ore grade to offset greenhouse gas emissions is significantly higher than the purely thermodynamic limit set by the energy payback time."

Professor Pearce also points out to environmentalists and global warming skeptics alike that nuclear power is hardly an "emission-free panacea", as he puts it.  All aspects of plant operation, including plant construction, mining/milling of uranium ores, fuel conversion, enrichment, fabrication, operation, decommissioning, and long-term and short-term waste disposal, require massive amounts of energy provided by fossil fuels.  The burning of these fossil fuels will create large amounts of greenhouse emissions, a criticism oft-leveled against the solar and wind power industries by nuclear advocates.

While emissions are certainly troublesome, the simple energy requirements infeasibility, if accurate, would almost certainly nix the large scale expansion of nuclear power in its current form.  If Professor Pearce's research withstands the test of review then it offers little choice but to pursue his suggested strategies -- develop more advanced nuclear power on a smaller scale and pursue other alternative energy solutions as a major source of capacity.



Comments     Threshold


This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Perspective
By isorfir on 3/5/2008 2:12:22 PM , Rating: 5
I'm glad to see someone that advocates for nuclear power putting things into perspective, not just saying “It will free us from dependence on foreign oil, provide cheap, clean energy and grant everyone three wishes.” It leaves behind a better taste than the usual biased arguments. Personally I'm for nuclear, but I'm also a realist and realize that it can't solve all of our problems. Thank you Professor Pearce.




RE: Perspective
By Entropy42 on 3/5/2008 2:41:06 PM , Rating: 2
For anyone who follows the link to "more advanced nuclear power" There is no way that fusion is the answer to anything but our long term power demands. Barring a massive breakthrough, commercialized fusion power is decades away.


RE: Perspective
By Polynikes on 3/5/2008 4:46:16 PM , Rating: 4
I'm looking forward to MicroFusion Cells.


RE: Perspective
By murphyslabrat on 3/5/2008 5:58:05 PM , Rating: 3
I vastly preferred the weapons that used either 4.7mm caseless or 2mm EC.


RE: Perspective
By Some1ne on 3/5/2008 9:22:43 PM , Rating: 2
You're mistaken. .223 pistol all the way!

Well okay, the M72 does kick its fair share of ass, but it only exists half of the time. The .223 is always there for you, no matter where you happen to be.


RE: Perspective
By Polynikes on 3/6/2008 10:07:40 AM , Rating: 1
.223 FTW. My favorite gun of all time in any game, bar none.


RE: Perspective
By 7Enigma on 3/6/2008 1:47:37 PM , Rating: 1
Along those lines I'll take the Bozar.

.223 BURST-FIRE, rediculously overpowered for the majority of the game. Most interesting build I've done to date was a big gun/unarmed character. Ventured almost immediately to NCR, stole the Bozar from the guard in combat armor outside the vendor that looks like a little person, then proceeded to lay waste to groups of enemies that would otherwise have outclassed my character at the beginning levels.

I then traveled to San Fran, purchased the mega-power fist from the vendor in the oil derrick, and proceeded to have some fun with my fists.

Overall it was the fastest/easiest jaunt through the game I've had to date, and VERY satisfying. Match this character up with the bloody mess trait and you'll have a gibbingly good time.

Let's just hope Fallout3 doesn't completely destroy the franchise....


RE: Perspective
By Some1ne on 3/6/2008 6:09:57 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Let's just hope Fallout3 doesn't completely destroy the franchise....


Agreed.


RE: Perspective
By murphyslabrat on 3/8/2008 7:35:37 PM , Rating: 2
The Vindicator made up for its initially low damage through the obscene fire-rate and the excellent damage/armor penetration qualities of the 4.7mm Caseless.

The initially low damage stops being a factor for high-luck/high-perception characters, who are smart enough to pull the Sniper perk at level 24. Considering that 2/3 of the crits bypass armor, that's a pretty sweet deal.

In the end, and with a well thought out char, the Vindicator is the most powerful weapon short of Hogan's gun. In addition to this, caseless ammo is easily farm-able around San Fran, something you cannot say for the .223 used by the Bozar.

Omigosh, I wasted a lot of time with FO2...Here's to hoping that 3 is as good.

And, for fuel, farming San Fran gets you plenty of power-cells.


RE: Perspective
By Polynikes on 3/6/2008 10:08:10 AM , Rating: 2
So did I, but portable fuel for my car wouldn't hurt. :)


RE: Perspective
By geddarkstorm on 3/5/2008 2:56:02 PM , Rating: 5
Diversity of power sources is apparently the key. We can't rely completely on nuclear, or solar, or wind, or hydro; but all those combined makes a potent force. We definitely need some new breakthroughs though.


RE: Perspective
By AngrySaki on 3/5/2008 3:17:12 PM , Rating: 3
Ahhh, the Captain Planet Approach (tm).

By your powers combined...

uhhh... yeah


RE: Perspective
By geddarkstorm on 3/5/2008 3:52:48 PM , Rating: 5
"Nuclear!" "Wind!" "Solar!" "Hydro!" "HEART!"

"By your powers combined.. I am.. GODZILLA!"

Either that, or a really horrible case of congestive heart failure.


RE: Perspective
By Haltech on 3/5/2008 10:23:14 PM , Rating: 2
unfortunetly many people dont see it this way and think if everyone puts solar panels on their houses then greenhouse gases are no more. Education is Power


RE: Perspective
By Ringold on 3/5/2008 11:21:22 PM , Rating: 2
I simply don't see the inherent wisdom in such comments. We've got diverse supplies now; oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydro in places. That the future resembles the past should just be obvious.

That said, France seems to have little trouble relying heavily on nuclear.


RE: Perspective
By BlackIceHorizon on 3/6/2008 5:42:42 PM , Rating: 2
We absolutely need to continue research into future energy technologies. But the truth is that today and for the next several decades, there is no other viable alternative that could simultaneously

1) Replace coal as the majority (or even the plurality) of our electricity production.

2) Provide this power with the high levels of up-time required for a consistent power supply.

3) Do so without incurring a massive economic cost.

For all of its nay saying, this article addresses no new issues. Notice the absence of quantified evidence for the supposed lack of nuclear's viability? Consider the following - and do your own research into the technicalities - before you make up your mind.

The main claim this article brings forth is that scaling nuclear power to supply the majority of our energy is not feasible, because it will require too much energy. First note the lack of quantitative evidence, then consider the following facts:

- For nuclear plants running on Uranium enriched through gas diffusion, the lifetime ratio of power produced:power consumed, including all mining, construction, operation and amortization costs is >30:1

- If nuclear plants run on Uranium enriched by centrifuge (easily feasible technically, just currently not used in the U.S. for overstated proliferation concerns), the energy production:consumption ratio is >50:1

- This the highest energy production:consumption ratio currently available. It's higher than coal, oil, natural gas, wind and solar. I think the ratio for coal, our current favorite, is between 20:1 and 30:1. It will only be lower for plants that have to pump CO2 underground when carbon taxes come.

- Biofuels are terrible in this regard. Ethanol produced from corn barely breaks 1:1 and even cellulosic ethanol, one of the most efficient, only increases this to around 6:1

Clearly, his assessment that the integration of more nuclear power into our energy mix is energetically impossible is either 1) incorrect or 2) there is literally no way to meet the world's future energy needs without causing brownouts or blackouts. I strongly doubt the latter.


RE: Perspective
By FITCamaro on 3/5/2008 3:00:10 PM , Rating: 4
I think it can solve our energy (read electrical power) problems. Yes it requires investment in the short term and will use resources. But so does solar, wind, or even new coal or gas power plants.

So the question is do we invest in new plants that produce far less energy, no emissions, and are unreliable for constant use(solar and wind), plants that are reliable and produce more energy but are subject to fossil fuel costs (coal and oil), or plants that produce far more energy, no emissions, and requires new fuel only every so often?

My vote is for option three. I mean if we solved the mystery of cold fusion tomorrow but it meant significant investment of materials and energy to build the plant should we just say screw it since other, less capable options are cheaper?


RE: Perspective
By spluurfg on 3/5/2008 3:13:26 PM , Rating: 2
Out of interest, an Ethanol plant producing about 50m gallons of ethanol per year will require about 250m gallons of water per year. Of course this doesn't include the water needed to grow whatever it was you're converting to ethanol. Water is just one of those incredibly useful things, but in terms of economic feasibility, it's an easier thing to price.


RE: Perspective
By BladeVenom on 3/5/2008 5:29:13 PM , Rating: 5
Maybe someone should have told France. They get 80% of their electricity from nuclear energy. They are also a huge exporter of electricity. Are you going to believe him or France?

If France is brave enough to convert to nuclear power...


RE: Perspective
By eman7613 on 3/5/2008 9:41:51 PM , Rating: 4
yes, but France began their nuclear power plans years ago, the point is nuclear is a very long term solution. The resources and cost required in getting large numbers of new nuclear facilities up in a decade would either dramatically affect - or cripple parts of the economy.


RE: Perspective
By mindless1 on 3/5/2008 10:06:03 PM , Rating: 3
So we'd spend money on things needed instead of things that aren't needed so much? Doesn't seem to be much of a problem, running out of power is not an option.


RE: Perspective
By FITCamaro on 3/6/2008 11:42:53 AM , Rating: 2
On the contrary. It would help the economy. A national push to build numerous new nuclear plants could create thousands of jobs. Yes it might drive up the costs of some materials, but at least its for a good reason.


RE: Perspective
By Integral9 on 3/10/2008 8:32:44 AM , Rating: 2
agreed. Building projects like the "Green Towns" from the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 were excellent economy boosters. Not only providing jobs during the depression but in this case, affordable housing during a housing shortage. Fast forward to 2008 and we need jobs and affordable energy. So it only makes sense to me that we should be building nuclear energy plants.

Just remember to say 'no' to project "Boot Strap" or we might get a bunch of Homer Simpson Safety Inspectors.


RE: Perspective
By ajfink on 3/5/2008 5:55:05 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed - I'm all for the expansion of nuclear energy, but done so responsibly. While it can't account for ALL of our energy needs, and shouldn't, it can greatly supplement other means.

Now if we can just get people to give up some unused beaches and not worry about birds, wind can grow. And the new, massive solar plant being built in Arizona? Good stuff.


RE: Perspective
By FITCamaro on 3/5/2008 6:06:37 PM , Rating: 2
The "massive" solar plant being built in Arizona will put out a fraction of the energy a nuke plant would. And its far less reliable. And wind power is very unreliable as well while requiring a huge amount of space. Each turbine is only good for a few MW. And if the wind stops blowing, you've got no power.


RE: Perspective
By Ringold on 3/5/2008 11:27:44 PM , Rating: 2
If we could sacrifice the view from the balconies of condo's in Naples, we could drill for oil off the coast of Florida like there's no tomorrow, too.

But of course, NIMBY rules the day.


RE: Perspective
By emarston on 3/6/2008 10:03:35 AM , Rating: 2
True, but they are gonna get those platforms anyway since Cuba can allow drilling of those sames reserves on their side of the border. So instead of US gaining benefit from it the Cubans likely will.


"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997














botimage
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki