Well, we have to define more closely what we are pro and against to.
Clearly, the days of the nuclear as we know it will be over. Also, as I pointed out, the conception that the "future" would be, again, large centralized reactors with some sort of "updated safety", or just smaller versions of them running on the same principles, is completely skewed and full of misconceptions, unless something really groundbreaking happens in R&D [that has been going on for decades, using enormous piles of money, with no such results yet. That, however, doesn't prove it's impossible. But I wouldn't hold my breath].
I didn't say there wouldn't still be some fields under the "nuclear" title. I agree subcriticals indeed can be very safe. Nothing's a better "passive safety" than having small enough amount of material that cannot get critical in any conditions. Actually, it's nothing new. It's been used to power up everything from pacemakers to lighthouses. However, there are still problems; that very same material can be used for wrong purposes when collected; or do you think this is not a real concern? Then again, does it produce enough power to be widely practical? -- this is actually not a question of being pro/con or being scared about it, but just wondering how important it is and will it have marketplace on its own, without political funding? I don't know that.
I also understand that all kind of approaches to try to reuse used nuclear fuel are now needed, due to our mistake that went on for decades, being ignored.
Oh, I just find the stuff fascinating because although we may not gain a new reactor from the piles of money thrown at the research, we do find anomalies that help us understand physics and the world around us in other ways. Oh, and medical use...man oh man there is some amazing tumor targeting stuff that I am privy to hear about through the pipelines.
If you can find someone who can enrich uranium or any of the other ***aniums in their basement I then would be concerned. As of now...I think underwear seems to be more frightening.
I wholeheartedly disagree with centralized resources, no matter the source (nuclear, solar, you name it). It's criminal. But, having a friend working on a few pint sized reactors is interesting because one is being beta tested by a large techno-firm and has been running for 3 years without fault powering a server bank that we all use....no water, no input, self sustaining at the moment. It's cool stuff.
I say a solar panel on every roof in New Mexico and get off of coal and nuclear. But that's just not politically possible at the moment because the government won't see any profits. Oh well.
These three points could possibly be true. It's nothing inherent though to nuclear energy that makes the three above points specifically the domain of nuclear energy though. The new designs are expensive, and power companies most definitely want them. They just don't want to be responsible for the bill if the project gets to 95% completion and then the plug is pulled. Because then they've spent $9 billion with no hopes of any profit - who wants to be in that position? They'd much rather build some coal plants using regulations from the 50's and be done with it, if they were allowed to. But I bet if you approached a utility with nuclear operation experience with a brand new power plant, all ready to go, they'd quickly fork over the money, because they know they can run these things for 40+ years at a 95% duty cycle and make the initial investment back.
Originally Posted by hrst
Working backwards, for point #5, one can look towards the coal power industry. It totally externalizes the cost of all of it's waste and air pollutants when looking out the cost/kW hour. It is absolutely true that this is an issue that needs to be taken care of with nuclear, but I would say it's something that needs to be taken care of with coal as well. Coal ash isn't fun.
For #2 and #4, those kinds of things are true with any large scale projects nowadays. Everything large scale gets out of schedule and more expensive than planned today. I personally think it's semi-intentional - big expensive and long projects are hard to get funded, so 'optimistic' plans are come up with that aren't very realistic, but easier to get support for. By the time people realize the 'optimistic' plan is not realistic, too much investment has occurred to pull the plug. But it doesn't matter why I think it happens - it just does. Don't get me wrong - I agree with you. Two of the largest science projects ever are in my field. The one is completed, but was late and 4 times more expensive than originally budgeted. The second is the world's largest scientific collaboration ever. It's budget and science are so complicated that they essentially can't decide how much it costs (you won't read that in the news). But regardless, it's still over budget and behind schedule
We simply aren't undertaking many of the large scale projects today in the US that we used to. In fact, I just read a cool article today about the largest forging press in the US, how it broke and was almost shut down. Fortunately they decided to repair it. It was brought online in 1955 - I can't imagine us having the forethought to invest in our infrastructure like that nowadays. There are plenty of other examples of things that 'could not be built' today that aren't being built for reasons other then technological, or even economical reasons.
Anyway, I'm not trying to be political or a nuclear energy shill (I'm not). Energy demand is going to be a huge issue in the future. It's a huge deal now. Nuclear is one possible way forward and not necessarily the only way forward. Some of the solutions might take 50-70 years (or longer) to make viable, and if we are going to use them, we better hope we continue to fund research on them to make sure they are ready when we need it.
By the way, the article on the forging press is here: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/...on-giant/8886/
Solar is great, and I hope we see a lot more of it in the future. When costs come down and efficiency gets a little higher, it should definitely viable. I think we are getting close to that point now - I see a lot more solar installations than I did a few years ago. However, one of the big problems that solar has is that it has a hard time providing for base load electricity demands. Wind has this problem too. Hopefully we come up with some super 'green' method for dealing with it.
Originally Posted by Klainmeister
As it stands now, solar isn't going to obviate the need for coal and nuclear, since those are the two biggest providers of base load electricity as far as I know.
The clean promise of nuclear power is impossible to achieve when corporate profitability drives design and operating decisions. In a perfect world, competent, conservative technical personnel would have the final say, thereby enabling plants that adhere to the highest engineering standard. Unfortunately, bean counters rule both the plant manufacturers and energy companies.
Originally Posted by hrst
Given that there seems to be no willingness on the public's part to accept human population growth as the root cause of all environmental problems, we're left with an ever-increasing need for electrical capacity. Alternative sources might supplement that need, but have no hope of meeting even a majority of it. My preference would be for the government to recognize that, while unable to be economic when properly done, nuclear generation, the most practical solution, is worthy of subsidization and severe design regulation. The result, while not invulnerable, could be made more safe than coal and gas plants are now. But doing so would require that a "public good" (freedom from greenhouse gasses and other pollutants) be paid for by the public, i.e. through taxes. The plants might even be best owned by the government, with engineers who quit private industry jobs in protest of design shortfalls put in charge of design, commisioning and operations. This would be a much higher, better use of government resources than the trillions spent on oil wars.
Of course, the probability of all that happening when the oil industry "owns" governments is nil.
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Thanks for that. One of the better lunch time reads I've had in a while.
Originally Posted by Tim Gray
"They are the proof that something was there and no longer is. Like a stain. And the stillness of them is boggling. You can turn away but when you come back they’ll still be there looking at you."
— Diane Arbus, March 15, 1971, in response to a request for a brief statement about photographs
The article says:
If the logistics could somehow be worked out, the Fifty could bench-press the battleship Iowa, with 860 tons to spare.
I don't know what bench-press means exactly, but if it means what I think, then I suspect the statement is wrong. The press, I suppose, can apply a pressure of 50.000 tons but it cannot shape a ship of 50.000 tons.
Biodiesel from salt-water algae grown in desert farms. It works on a small scale, but scaling algal growth to a reliable industrial process turns out to be quite hard. If it can be industrialised, a few percent of the NM desert could supply ALL of the liquid-fuel requirements for transport in the US without molesting any more retired dinosaurs. Australia would be totally set.
While we are now totally off topic.....There was a solar boom in Australia up until late last year (there is still some activity with new installations, but this has slowed) - the government decided that it would be a good idea to subsidise installations, as well as providing attractive feed in tarrif's for those who had systems that could feed back to the grid. As electricity rates were on the rise, a lot of people saw this as a perfect opportunity to have free power (more so then being green), so the expected takeup was well and truly exceeded.
Originally Posted by Tim Gray
I am happy (maybe?) to say that I bought into it and now have a glistening 3KW system sitting on my roof. While I do most certainly enjoy the reduced cost of the power (I am currently $350 in credit with my electricty company. Not too bad after 9 months, but I do have the worse 3 months of the year to go. Also granted, at this rate it will take me 7 years to get a ROI), I also did it as I thought I might actually be one cog in the big wheel to start making a difference....then again, I have had it pointed out by many suggesting that green tech is not really green tech when you take into account manufacturing processes. But then again it all has to start some where.
The thing is now a lot of these schemes have been cut (though the main one, being the subsidies for installations, did come to a natural conclusion) and now a lot of people are complaining because to make up the difference, electricity prices are on the rise. Our government have also put a price on carbon (the wrongly labelled 'Carbon Tax'), which will again drive up electricity prices.
The thing that I have concluded from my time with solar is that Green is no longer a priority and is no longer cool. Why? Because people have started to realise that it is going to cost money to move forward and people have realised that the money is going to have to come from their pockets.....I also wonder if this is why there are now so many climate sceptics around?
Anyhow, what were we talking about again?
A true question for the ages.
Originally Posted by hoffy
That's cool that you got a solar system (wordplay!). I'd love to have one, but it will be a long time until I can buy a house to even put it on Perfect example in my mind where solar is great. Though I'm sure you are now quite aware that it's nice to be able fall back on other sources of electricity.
That's a statement I've heard before as well, but I've never actually seen any hard data on it one way or the other. I chalk it up to urban legend for that reason. I'm certainly willing to be convince either way on that front, but I do need to be convinced It's too easy to use as propaganda for me to accept it at face value.
I have had it pointed out by many suggesting that green tech is not really green tech when you take into account manufacturing processes.