Nuclear power; the No. 1 weapon to fight global warming
In the fight against global warming, there is one source of energy with an even greater potential for success than renewables and improvements in energy efficiency, and that is advanced nuclear power.
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#1 Oct 18, 2013
I have a few issues with this piece.
"Important as renewable energy sources like solar and wind power might seem, they alone can't meet our needs, because they supply power intermittently only when weather conditions permit -- and, moreover, energy storage systems aren't available. "
We don't have advanced nuclear plants either. Their lack is NOT an argument against. You have to build whatever. More storage, or nuclear. It will depend on the decisions.
"The surest way to tackle the problem is through joint projects with China and other countries to develop and demonstrate advanced reactor systems that are safe and affordable"
It is VERY important that we help the emerging nations to switch from coal to 'safe nuclear'. And China, with it's large reserves of Thorium, would be best to adopt the Molten Fluoride Salt Thorium Reactor. There was a design tested in the US and the data is still available. As it generates it's fuel as it operates (like the travelling wave plant) it is safe against proliferation.
" and generate electricity even more efficiently than conventional nuclear plants in the United States, which operate on average 90 percent of the time. Recently, high-tech guru Bill Gates went to China for that very purpose. "
For 'efficiency' as low downtime, you want the CANDU 6 which can be 'refueled' while operating. It also can use Mixed Oxide Fuel to burn up Plutonium stockpiles.
"Gates is chairman of TerraPower .. that has designed a reactor that runs on nuclear "waste," could provide cheap energy and reduce the risk of nuclear-weapons proliferation. Known as a traveling-wave reactor, it uses depleted uranium, a material stockpiled around the world as leftovers from natural uranium after it's been enriched."
The travelling wave reactor is also a good design, but most useful in 'mini-reactors' for isolated communities.
"The reactor uses sodium, not water, for cooling. "
and anyone that tried the sodium in water demonstration in school knows that you want to keep this kind of reactor SMALL to limit the danger of a sodium fire.
"Among the designs now in the works are small modular reactors that run on thorium fuel and molten salt as well as pebble bed and other types of reactors that operate at high temperatures."
Pebble bed would be perfect for hydrogen generation, for industrial processes and as feedstock for liquid fuel improvements.
"Additionally, there are designs for small and large advanced reactors that use conventional light-water technology. "
Light water reactors will NEVER be safe. They have to be ACTIVELY COOLED even when shut down. One of the reactors at Fukishima was SHUT DOWN when the cooling system went off and metled down despite the damping rods being fully inserted.
New designs just have a few days of 'gravity fed' cooling which doesn't change the odds all that much.
"Fortunately, China has embraced nuclear power to provide large amounts of non-polluting energy, without detrimental impacts on the climate.The number of nuclear plants under construction in China has grown to 25 and 50 more are planned, in addition to 15 in operation. China's ambitious nuclear-power program is enabling it to shut down scores of coal plants. "
Yes. Having endured 'killer smogs' from coal power, and major embarrassment from the Olympics air quality, China is leading the way on the issue of clean power.
The US nuclear industry could use the boost, the planet could use the relief and the solution could work (with recycling using the 'pyroprocessing' method for a century or more. Enough time to create other solutions.
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