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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.

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


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. :)

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