[FoRK] Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Thu Mar 24 03:12:02 PDT 2011

On Thu, Mar 24, 2011 at 02:04:41AM -0700, Stephen Williams wrote:
> On 3/24/11 12:42 AM, Eugen Leitl wrote:
>> ...
>> We're running on 15 TW. A typical reactor is 1 GW. That's
> That's 15 TW in 2008 for all energy used, period.  And it went down 1.1% 


90% of that is fossil, period. We have peak fossil, so we need
to substitute all that within 40 years. We're currently at
7 gigamonkeys, 2 living borderline well and the residual
5 aspiring to their living standards. There will be about
9 gigamonkeys by 2050. As GDP is closely related to
energy consumption even in efficient economies like
Japan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Japan_energy_%26_GDP.png
and the only energy source capable to keeping up with
energy demands of immediate future is solar
why are we having this dicussion, again?

> in 2009.  Electricity is only 1% of that. [1]  20% of the US's 

This means that we need to boost electrical production by
two orders of magnitude by 2050. Still think nuclear is up
to the task?

Do you think you can build 500 breeders/year, every year,
for the next 40 years? Including fuel reprocessing, and spent
fuel storage, and mining?

Do you realize how ludicrous this sounds, even if you have
a small inkling of this world's physical realities?

> electricity is already provided by 104 nuclear plants, so it only takes 
> 400 more to be 100% nuclear.  But hydroelectric is already about on par 
> with nuclear, so that would only mean 300 more plants.

Germany runs on 85 GW peak. It can afford switching 9 reactors
now (of 17 total) because photovoltaics (only 2% of total, doubled
from 1% within about a year) because it peaks at 17 GW, ignoring
other renewables. I'm sure you realize that within 3 doublings
solar alone would produce >100% of peak, at less than 16% of
total -- ignoring other renewables.

> Hard to tell how the electricity vs. oil mix will end up, but bio 
> oil/diesel with a very efficient plant/algae source will likely be  

You'd do better to run synfuel driven by PV photovoltaics.
There's no way algae in photobioreactors with CO2 enrichment
will be able to beat the >20% efficiency of solar synfuel.

> interesting for at least non-fuel oil needs.

We need to move to circulated electrons where it is feasible.

>> 15000 reactors, arguably 20000 reactors by the time you're
>> done. These need to be breeders, which are a much more difficult
>> control space.
>> Are you seriously suggesting that this planet can tolerate
>> 20000 reactors without the equivalent of Chernobyl going off
>> about every month or so, and making the bad old days of
>> athmospheric nuclear tests looking like cakewalk?
> As of 2009, there were 436 commercial land nuclear reactors already, 
> producing almost a TW.  (Plus 180 marine and 250 research reactors.)  
> Maybe you should be in your bunker already?

Maybe the politicians and nuclear industry managers should be cleaning
up Chernobyl and Fukushima with their bare hands?

> Electricity production should be as much hydroelectric, solar, wind, 
> wave, and geothermal as possible with nuclear providing the remaining.  

In practice solar will kill about everything, long-term.

> We should save coal for the post-apocalypse.  With electric cars, perhaps 
> some portion of oil usage can shift to nuclear also.

Just substitute nuclear with solar, and you're there.

> The only serious threat of a Chernobyl is the continued operation of 
> obsolete reactors.  This is probably mostly caused by A) popular pressure 
> that is blindly against any nuclear progress and B) lack of pressure to 

Your detachement from reality would be amusing, wouldn't it be
so appalling.

> innovate and upgrade existing facilities to modern standards.  While B 

Because it costs *money*, of course. And you're trying to *make* money,
not lose it.

> seems like the owner/operators fault, I think the real roadblock is A.  

You realize, of course, that Germany's operators have been switching
off new, safer reactors to transfer operation licenses to old, unsafe
(demonstrably so by a long chain of incidents that are hair-rising)
because the old ones were written off and the new ones were?

Just in case you didn't get it, this has just destroyed your argument
by empirical observation.

I think I'm done with this thread, because we're obviously not
going anywhere.

> With new plant research, design, and production, old plants would have 
> the benefit of consistent production rather than the current situation of 
> more or less one-offs that are carrying all of the overhead.
> In any case, we're likely to see far more than 3, or 10, or 20x of 
> current plants:  It appears that the main solution to all of the  
> pressure against large plants is leading to building safe, small, 
> self-contained units that are hermetically sealed and are returned as 
> modules for recycling:
> http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/advanced/hyperion.html
> 25 MWe
>> The HPM is sealed at the factory, sited underground, and eventually 
>> returned to the factory for waste and fuel disposition after a useful 
>> life of seven to ten years. The principle materials in the core are 
>> uranium nitride (UN) fuel, stainless steel as the structural material, 
>> lead-bismuth eutectic (LBE) as the coolant, quartz as the radial 
>> reflector, B4C rods and pellets for in-core reactivity control and 
>> shutdown. The LBE permits ambient pressure operation of core, 
>> eliminating pressure vessel requirements.
>> The outer diameter of the entire reactor system, including the outer 
>> reflector and coolant downcomer, is limited to 1.5 m to be able to seal 
>> the reactor vessel system at the fabrication facility and transport it 
>> to the site in a conventional nuclear fuel shipping cask. The total 
>> mass of the reactor vessel with fuel and coolant is <20 metric tons.
> These seem likely to be popular for insta-cities all over, or even 
> autonomous buildings / campuses.  Google data centers.  Cruise ships...
> Or perhaps a cluster of them to make a large plant.
>> Sorry, Dr. Strangelove, I'll be in my bunker.
> [1] https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/World_energy_resources_and_consumption
> Good documents for the US:
> http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/nuregs/staff/sr1350/
> http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/analysis/nuclearpower.html
>> existing U.S. plants are performing well. Nuclear power plants now 
>> operate at a 90 percent capacity factor, compared to 56 percent in 
>> 1980. Additionally and in contrast to oil and gas, nuclear fuel costs 
>> are low and relatively stable. Fuel costs now average less than one 
>> half cent per kilowatthour. This is well below the costs of major 
>> competing fossil fuels. Production costs for nuclear power, operation 
>> and maintenance plus fuel costs, are also low, averaging 1.8 cents per 
>> kilowatt-hour. This cost roughly matches coal and is significantly 
>> below the costs of operating a natural gas plant.
>> The oldest reactors still operating in the United States were licensed in 1969.
> http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf01.html
>> *56 countries operate a total of about 250 research reactors and a 
>> further 180 nuclear reactors power some 140 ships and submarines.*  
>> Today, the world produces as much electricity from nuclear energy as it 
>> did from all sources combined in 1960. Civil nuclear power can now 
>> boast over 14,000 reactor years of experience and supplies almost 14% 
>> of global electricity needs, from reactors in 30 countries.  In fact, 
>> many more than 30 countries use nuclear-generated power.
>> About 140 ships are propelled by some 180 nuclear reactors and over 
>> 13,000 reactor-years of experience has been gained with marine  
>> reactors.
>> Russia also operates a fleet of six large nuclear-powered icebreakers 
>> and a 62,000 tonne cargo ship which are more civil than military.  It 
>> is also completing a floating nuclear power plant with two 40 MWe 
>> reactors for use in remote regions. 
> [Table showing that France gets 78% of its electricity from nuclear, etc.]
> Not cross-checked yet, but seems correct:
> http://www.nofreewind.com/2009/06/replacing-nuclear-power-plants-in.html
>> In 2007 Pennsylvania used 
>> <http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/nuclear/page/at_a_glance/states/statespa.html> 
>> 152,000,000 MWhours of electricity. How much did our 5 nuclear plants 
>> contribute to our electricity needs? Convert the 76,000 million kwh 
>> nuclear generation by dividing by 1,000 to convert to MWhours and then 
>> multiply by 1,000,000 to convert from million MWhours to simple  
>> MWhours and the result is 76,000,000 MWhours. Almost half of the 
>> electricity needs of Pennsylvania were produced by 5 nuclear plants.
>> How many wind turbines would we need to replace these 5 nuclear plants? 
>> Most of the turbines in Pennsylvania now are rated at 1.5 MW, however 
>> the new ones constructed are rated at 2 MW. The wind turbine only 
>> produce electricity when the wind blows greater than 12 mph making 
>> their average output somewhere between 25-30%, we will use 27%. This 
>> means that a 2 MW tubines with a 27% output yields an average of .54 
>> MWhours throughout the entire year. To find out how much electricity 
>> that is we must multiply by the hours in a year which is 8760. One 2 MW 
>> turbine makes about .54 MW x 8760 = 4,730 MWhours per year. We would 
>> need 76,000,000 divided by 4,730 or 16,000 large turbines to replace 
>> our 5 nuclear plants.
> [Plus, pointing out that wind is not constant, and doesn't tend to blow in PA at peak summer points.]
> sdw
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