Archives for posts with tag: Nuclear energy

I’ve paid attention to climate change my whole life. In my youth, it was pollution, soot and sulfur compounds, etc., that were causing, not only dirty, unhealthy living conditions, but coming ice sheets as our current ice age deepened and the glaciers reasserted over most of the northern hemisphere. Later, that fear morphed into global warming, now, just change. Of course, change is the only constant, and we hear most everything blamed on this supposedly alarming change in the undefined and undefinable climate.

Trying to keep things simple, I take advantage of the fact we humans are inherently religious. No matter what we are talking about, we frame it in a religious framework. Currently, the high priests, the bishops, and the popes, like Algore, tell us we are sinning by burning things, especially in our motor vehicles, and by eating (which is still burning). The alarmist religious leaders pretend we can be absolved if we drive unsafe tiny cars (and drive less) and if we eat unhealthy foods (meaning only plants grown in manure).

Of course, there are bigger sins, like coal, but that is a slow-motion effort that mostly hurts people directly involved in coal, and less coal does amount to less pollution to deal with for the rest of us.

Since essentially all of us are unwilling to repent of our sinful ways, the powers that be preach that “god” (Gaia, in this case) is punishing us with weather. All of what we used to call weather (which we admitted everyone talked about, but no one could do anything about) is now hailed as proof that we sinners must repent and stop burning anything and stop eating anything.

Again, we humans are going to continue eating. As we grow wealthier (in the developing nations) we will eat more meat. We will burn more fuel. That is the fact. It isn’t going to change. We will consume more and more energy (food is simply our tasty form of energy). It is inexorable. If you oppose it, you espouse death and slavery. Harsh? Not at all. The internalization of the fact that every individual has independent intrinsic value and the fact of the industrial revolution, specifically the burning of fossil fuels in productive industry, have been the significant factors in the reductions of slavery and death and abject poverty in the world.

I think that worth emphasizing: Understanding the worth of every individual as an independent good and the burning of fossil fuels are why things are better now than they were a century ago. We can step that back by century, still seeing progress for a few, but the same cannot be said of a couple millennia ago. Specifically, at that time, only the powerful were valued. All wealth was merely the effective use of enslavement. Life was dirty, brutish, and short unless you were powerful enough to use slaves. Restricting the use of energy, even fossil fuels, is turning to slavery and impoverishment.

The big picture is that energy is the single most important factor to the flourishing of humanity as a whole. Energy causally correlates to societal wellbeing.

Deficient engineers and bad politicians devised means of producing power without directly burning fossil fuels. These so-called renewables meet our religious need of blood sacrifice. These sacrificial altars kill insects by the millions, bats by the thousands, and rare birds by the hundreds continuously. These sacrificial altars provide us self-flagellation as well, at least for those forced to live within proximity. Eventually, the harm caused by renewables will be so self-evident that the religious leaders of environmentalism will turn the tables, and these will be the new sin. (Over and over for over 3,000 years, we have abandoned windmills. We will this time, too, and someone will have to clean up the mess.)

It cannot be over emphasized that the ready availability of energy as inexpensive, reliable electricity and fuel, is the essential requirement for a flourishing human society. It is globally and locally true. We must have more and more reliable energy availability. The alternative is death and slavery. It is harsh, but those are the cold equations (reference Tom Godwin).

Much of what we humans do is not life or death. Energy is.

Such notions as the “green new deal” deny reality and physics.

Such notions as socialism deny reality and human nature.

To deny reality is to invite death.

Is climate changing? Yes. It always has. It always will.

Is climate changing because of our consumption and burning? Is it because of the new sins of the new environmentalist religion? I can’t see that it matters. Climate has changed far more in the distant past than it can in the near future. I don’t think we can define climate in the near-term. I think climate must be defined over several generations. It isn’t useful to define climate in terms less than several centuries. Too many other factors affect all we are considering when looking at averages of various factors of weather.

I assert we are in no danger societally from any pending climate change. Our sins of burning are not going to kill us, and Gaia simply doesn’t care. Climate and earth will not kill us. (That big rock coming our way might, but we can’t say much about when.)

Teach your children the historical fact that fear and alarmism have never accomplished anything good and usually result in grave harm.

Bottom line: We must have more energy. It must be more readily available to all, and it must be reliable.

There is a clear and proven way to make more energy available in an environmentally responsible way, nuclear.

Nuclear fission power production is our only long-term option.

Repeating the bottom line: We must have more energy, and nuclear is the only realistic way to do it.

It would seem phys.org deals in magic now. https://phys.org/news/2019-05-machine-lithium-fusion-earth.html The article deals deceptively with fusion energy production by the D-T reaction. Nothing can protect materials from 14-MeV neutrons, not even magic. I commend the folks at PPPL, but this article, no.

This experiment looks mostly like wasted government money, but the PPPL folks are good at making lemonade from lemons. Perhaps we will advance science in spite of wasteful government grants and bad science writing.

So far, only D-T fusion looks doable. While there is ample deuterium readily available to assert inexhaustibility, there is zero tritium. That is, tritium is already exhausted. We have to make it, and we make it from lithium. Lithium is obviously plentiful now since we use it in so many ways, but it is limited. We likely can use it for several centuries, but it is exhaustible. https://en.wikipedia.org/…/Abundance_of_elements_in_Earth%2… (We make more arsenic than lithium, and lithium is 13 times more abundant. It is unlikely to be limiting.)

Lithium is useful inside the vacuum chamber for the fusion. (Yes, the plasma for fusion is in a vacuum chamber. There is almost nothing inside the volume of a tokamak except a very few atoms of superheated deuterium and tritium, close to zero psi. https://www.iter.org/ ) During D-T fusion, four of the five nucleons fuse to form helium, and the fifth careens off with enough energy to smash through several atoms in a solid lattice. It is a nanocannonball vaporizing a nanosized jet of material in whatever it hits. It damages the material cumulatively. Lithium on the interior surface will take some of the hits, and since it has no mechanical duties, it can take the damage, and it will absorb some of the neutrons and produce tritium, replenishing the supply for further fusion. So, good to go, but maintaining heat and protecting the walls is trivial. Plasma flares and 14-MeV neutrons make the materials problems more wicked than the physics problems. The engineers will get it to work, but these are not yet economically solvable problems. ITER will help, so will LTX-β, but we must do fission first. Our grandchildren are depending on us.

Opposing nuclear fission power production is the gravest sin of our generation. The longer it takes for nuclear power production to dominate our energy needs, the longer we prolong unnecessary human suffering and degradation to our environment and all living things.

Nuclear now, no delay.

I started reading the article here, https://nei.org/news/2019/viewers-guide-to-hbo-miniseries-chernobyl, A Viewer’s Guide to HBO’s Chernobyl Miniseries. A few comments are in order.

I fully support the first few paragraphs. Then the author , Matt Wald, seems to go overboard on simplification. Overall good job, but Wald didn’t take the pains necessary to keep things accurate.

The lead up to the accident includes many tedious details. Authors are justified in oversimplifying the preliminaries. However, “The reactor was designed in classic Soviet fashion: gigantic, cheap and unsophisticated,” is simplistic and inaccurate. It gives the wrong impressions.

In the early days, several reactor designs were put forth. Only one of those early designs was inherently stable. All nuclear reactors put into operation were based on the stable designed except the Chernobyl-type reactors, which only the Soviets built. While I suspect Mr. Wald could defend most every point and simplification in his article, I don’t like dismissing Soviet engineering. Obviously, Soviet priorities depreciated safety, but we err when we discount the professionalism of the engineers. My point in writing here is to object to implying engineers were unsophisticated. Engineers innately understand people’s lives depend on their work. Decent engineers never take that fact lightly.

I’ll be making this post tedious by addressing the NEI post line by line, but that is why I’m writing.

The reactor was in a containment building, but it was hardly like western designs. Mr. Wald is right in pointing out most containment structures are designed to be even airtight. Nuclear power containment structures are typically designed to be impervious and impregnable, even to deliberate attack. The Chernobyl building lacked improvements intended to withstand most any scenario.

Graphite is practically charcoal. Does anyone need me to point out that charcoal is flammable? Graphite bricks, hand stacked, were how the researchers built the first nuclear reactor, well, first manmade sustained fission chain reaction, in a basement at the University of Chicago during the Manhattan Project. It is correct to point out that graphite is good and safe in most conditions. Using graphite inevitably provides fuel for fire. High-temperature power production leaves only oxygen wanting. That is, if the provisions for keeping oxygen from reaching the graphite are compromised, an enduring fire will result. Most of the injuries and deaths at Chernobyl in 1986 were from the fire.

“Workers and lower-level managers were afraid to raise objections when they saw something wrong. And, the accident occurred when an electrical engineer was running an unauthorized, unanalyzed and unsupervised experiment on the reactor.” True enough, but it leaves out very important details. Politics and bureaucratic clout were the keys. There were expectations to meet and VIPs to impress. My information isn’t thorough and suffers from passage of years, but the unwise “test” was driven by hubris in the high officials and fear in the operators. Operators had families to feed, and none of them were eager to violate safety or other protocols, but in the old Soviet system, speaking up could result in transfer to the Gulag.

The politics and bureaucratic control were probably as bad as could be imagined, but “denial” had nothing to do with it, and I don’t appreciate the swipe at climate realists. If you fear CO2, you have an obvious and excellent fix, nuclear.

I’m not sure what Ward means when he describes the steam explosion as unprecedented. The unwise “test” of the reactor set several problems in motion that resulted in an extreme increase in power generation within the reactor, and the high pressure water was heated well above the boiling point, even for those pressures, and initial boiling led to increases of power production, and extreme overheat and overpressurization became inevitable. The explosion was just steam, but anyone with boiler experience can vouch for the power potential. Again, the reactor design is unique, and other nuclear reactors cannot set up runaway heating. If unprecedented meant no other steam explosion had been driven by such an energetic heat source, okay, but without checking, I expect there have been worse steam explosions. I do suppose there hasn’t been a steam explosion with more energy, more Btu or J output.

I only just found this, https://chnpp.gov.ua/ua/home. It looks like an excellent source. I notice this https://chnpp.gov.ua/ua/about/labour-glory/heroi-likvidatory I prefer to think of those who sacrificed as heroes.

Regarding the immediate deaths, I reiterate the primary factor was fire. There were survivors of astonishing dose (without burns from the fires). Our regulations are based on overly conservative estimates based on our only actual extreme radiation event, the atomic bombs ending WWII. Since, we have learned better, but our fear of radiation remains irrational and driven by factors other than health and safety.

The Soviets have much blame, even shame, in the handling of the accident, but their medical personnel proved their worth. Many medical reports assumed radiation or other accident factors that were not warranted. Their paperwork and records were lacking, to say the least, but those medical personnel never shirked their duty. The did all they could and then some, and they were trained and ready because nuclear war was still a significant fear there.

I second Mr. Ward’s assertions that nothing like Chernobyl can happen in the US. His explanation is solid.

Overall, Mr. Ward presented a good article, but there are vast amounts of data on the subject, and simplifications are necessary but generally overdone.

In closing, I’ll point out how electrical power has vastly improved living conditions in the world. The biggest factor in remaining poverty is lack of reliable electricity. There is only one “scare” I allow for in electrical power, and that is the potential harm that will result for not having it. The other problems of electrical power generation are trivial compared to having no power at all. Pollution is a significant problem, but even those harmed live better, fuller lives before pollution mattered to them.

One can call me names, and one can pretend my credentials aren’t adequate, but it isn’t my opinion and expertise that matters. Physics matters. Whether this or that result might occur is nothing compared to what does occur, what has occured. Politics driving taxes and coercive programs has always caused harm. Weather has always changed. Review of the data clear shows all aspects of weather and effects resulting from it are stable or improving. None are worsening.

The overarching fact is we must have electricity. All the people of earth need ever increasing electrical power production. The only reasonable means of generating all the power our billions of neighbors need is nuclear. We have done it safely for generations. We must acknowledge its supremacy and build out. We will burn everything we can for fuel until we no longer need to. We will need to until we have more than enough atomic power. That is the fact.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_Nuclear_Power_Plant

I posted this to Facebook, and as I seem often to do, I decided to record it here:

Nuclear is inevitable. We are going to use uranium. We will eventually use, and probably switch entirely to thorium, but regardless, we are going nuclear. Fission for decades, perhaps centuries, then fusion, but don’t hold your breath. Good points here, and toward the end it discusses Washington (the state) specifically.

“Nuclear energy accounts for 63 percent of carbon-free electricity in the U.S. and people need to know that,” Brown said.

Most of the 37% remaining is hydroelectric. (Look it up for yourself if you wish. Something like 2% is wind and solar. Hard to pin down given various complicating factors, including incentives to be disingenuous in reporting.)

Washington has tremendous hydroelectric resources. Grand Coulee Dam and the system on the Columbia is awesome. It is, however, max’ed. Also, enviros, including Algore, hate the dams. They even brag when they get one of them torn down. So, there is good reason for Washington to not offer incentives for hydro. However, nuclear is another matter. I don’t like incentives, but if they are going to give them for stupid stuff like windmills, they might as well provide them for smart things like SMRs.

Final thought on this article, carbon dioxide is an essential ingredient of life on earth. Carbon dioxide is not detrimental in any way. It is plant food, and plants are animal food. Water and oxygen, the other two essential ingredients, are far more damaging to humans and our infrastructure. Water kills millions, including hundreds of young children, every year. Carbon dioxide ensures we have enough food to feed ourselves. We will burn until we have no need. We will burn everything that will burn until electricity is inexpensive and readily available for all energy needs. We will burn for decades to come. If burning worries you, become an activist for nuclear. Educate yourself and get busy.

I was referring to this Forbes article: http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2015/03/12/cant-all-nuclear-just-get-on-the-same-page/

 

%d bloggers like this: