Nuclear Power to lead the U.S. to Clean Energy Independence?

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Ghost, Jun 25, 2010.

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  1. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    He's mentioned clean coal in the first joint session and every SOTU, including this one. But I think it's basically to appease Republicans saying we should try a little of everything. I agree that biofuels won't get us anywhere. The main points of his energy plan seem to be electric cars and solar/wind.

    VadersLaMent, did you see Obama's outline on innovation, that he released a few days ago? He seems to be putting a lot of focus on nanotechnology, biotechnology, advanced manufacturing and spacecraft.

    EDIT: Here is it, I thought you'd like it, very futuristic goals in some parts... http://www.whitehouse.gov/issues/economy/innovation
    and the executive summary http://www.slideshare.net/whitehouse/a-strategy-for-american-innovation-executive-summary
  2. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Electric cars are ridiculous. Incidentally, if you had an electric car in many parts of the US, you'd be contributing more greenhouse gases than a gas powered car.
  3. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 9
    The nano and bio sound good, and I really like what it says int he educational reform section. Space stuff is in limbo right now. There is no real shuttle replacement in the works at NASA. They have some ideas sitting there, the funding is not settled. I even glossed over a headline today which said they might try to extend the life of the shuttles for a bit longer.

    I think the gov should go to Venter and give him a lot of money. He already has a few billion from Exxon(which bugs me, I was hoping he would dodge the oil companies). If we want to get off oil, if we want to clean up the environment(literally reverse climate change) synthetic genomics is the key. I like to think of it as a real life Robotech Protoculture.

    For NASA, unless they run it like a business and make the suppliers drive prices down they might as well get out of the launch business all together but keep the funding there for R&D. NASA is great at science, it is just a slave to open contracts. Space-X is getting NASA contracts, and since they are going to be cheaper than other launchers the other companies will have to compete to stay in business. Virgin Galactic also is making great steps.
  4. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

    Chapter Rep
    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2003
    star 8
    China now tops the Global Clean Energy Table, having become the world leader in green energy investment spending $54.4billion. The USA down to 3rd behind Germany, which spent $41.2billion

    So much for China apparently becoming the world's number one polluter, seems they take this climate stuff seriously after all.
  5. Vivid_Scripts Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 21, 2004
    star 4
    Whether you believe in the climate stuff or not, alternatives would be great because it produces none of the conventional pollutants like sulfur dioxide.

    In China, where they've built so many coal plants so quickly to power their rapid growth, any kind of relief from the insane conventional air pollution caused by their factories, power plants, cars, etc, would be welcome. You think asthma is bad here...over there it must be positively terrible. They have a much greater incentive for developing alternatives than we do.

    Also, even though Nuclear energy is much more efficient than burning coal or wood or gasoline, there's still a hard limit on how much uranium there is in the world. We'd be substituting inputs. Not good enough for a true long term solution, IMO. We need to look at the sun, the original source of energy, for our solutions.
  6. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    What, fusion? That's years away and may not be the 'holy grail of energy' everyone is hoping it to be. Solar also has its limitations, especially with the rotation of the Earth. Nuclear really is the best option available.

    And the future of nuclear depends on fast breeder reactors and reprocessing facilities. For each spent fuel rod, there is roughly 95% U-238 of which can't be used in conventional reactors. It just so happens that fast breeder reactors can transmute this into useful plutonium, thereby yielding a 20-fold output of energy for a given fuel rod. With reprocessing, you could potentially turn 60 years' worth of radioactive waste into a new source of untapped energy.

    Unfortunately you would have to fuel a breeder reactor with a unit of highly-enriched uranium (weapons grade levels) to actually begin the process of converting the inert U-238 into useful plutonium. However there is still a significant sum of U-235 in spent fuel rods. Reprocessing would allow you to extract that 1% U-235 and to fabricate new rods specifically for breeder reactors. Once you've started the process of breeding nuclear fuel, it could be sustained indefinitely with the addition of U-238 until all spent fuel has been used.
  7. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

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    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2003
    star 8
    I don't see why wave/tidal power isn't used more. The Gulf stream could be harnessed to produce a lot of energy, and the Hoover Dam generates a lot of power.

    There was talk of a $500billion investment to place solar panels on the Moon. This would generate enough energy to meet the world's needs and then we could have Earth-based power stations to give poer to those countires which don't have it already.

    If the G20 all contributed, I don't see why it's not doable.
  8. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Huge capital investment; small return.

    Just to give you a sense of comparison... even assuming a basement cost of $1 billion for a booster managing to land a 5-ton payload to the surface of the moon, there is absolutely no way the energy output could possibly justify the cost. You would be much better off investing that billion dollars into traditional solar panels and/or wind turbines. Any kind of space-based source of energy is just a fantasy. Maybe it could be done, but there would be many more down-to-earth solutions which would be more likely to work.

    And the problem with trying to harness the gulf stream energy is that it constitutes an extremely low energy density... meaning that you would have to build a dam costing in the trillions to really harness a noticeable amount of its energy.
  9. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 9
    I'm just posting THIS again because of this piece of news:

    Saudis turning to renewable energy

    Ok so, either they bought the Sun or we all might want to consider switching. You don't need to goto the Moon, just take a look at the map in the link.
  10. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    That makes it look so easy, but it's not clear the world could produce enough solar panels to fill out those dots. Also, installations that big would kill whatever arid ecology they were built over. Maybe it's worth the sacrifice.
  11. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 9
    Though the locations shown are probably ideal we are certainly not limited to them. In fact it would be stupid to have just those locations as our energy producers given that they then become targets to shut everything down. It is probably better to think of them as illustrative of the space needed and that is only at 8% efficiency.
  12. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Definitely I would be in favor of more solar energy, but I think solar thermal would be a far better option than voltaic cells. And remember that each dot on that map constitutes the world's energy demands. So the respectable estimate would be to assume you'll spread out solar installations across each continent, concentrating near populated areas with the highest concentration of sunlight. Higher efficiency and less land area would be more likely.

    Unfortunately transmission is going to be of a greater issue than the availability of sunlight, as you're not likely to power homes in New York with solar energy in Nevada or wind energy from North Dakota. Reliability is another concern, as wind's unpredictable and because solar works on a 24-hour cycle. Deserts and solar thermal energy are an ideal solution for reliability, as you can substitute with natural gas for night and cloudy days. Even at night, a plant can still operate with latent heat generated during the day. This isn't really an option with voltaic cells.
  13. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 9
    I think it is Aurtralia that is experimenting with solar thermal towers that can run 24/7 without battery storge. Essentially the tower works on the spot and stores the heat. They are large to be sure but not unwieldly and would make for supply locally rather than transmission. There is also thin and flexable low efficiancy solar cells which ease burden by being able to be placed anywhere.

    Yes there are details to be figured out but as Nader once said the only reason we are not now all living off of solar energy is because the oil companies don't own the Sun.
  14. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    I do find solar thermal chimneys to be an intriguing concept, although they're still far from practical. You're talking about building such a massive structure at least 500 meters in height and well over a kilometer in area around the base. This also isn't the most efficient means of collecting solar energy. If this were to take advantage of the land under the canopy, then there may be other practical uses for such a power plant. Desalinization may be another benefit that could they could draw from this kind of project.

    I don't follow your logic here. We are dependent on oil companies for most of our transportation and coal for over 50% of electricity.

    The problem with solar and wind is that they are not energy-dense forms of kinetic energy.
  15. VadersLaMent Chosen One

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    Apr 3, 2002
    star 9
  16. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Obama's Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, with its focus on "clean coal" leaves out an important potential alternative energy source: soylent green energy.

    China for example is running out of room to bury the 9 million people who die in the country every year. It seems to me there's an opportunity for them, and for any populous country, to incinerate corpses for electricity. China's bumper crop of dead people would likely power tens of thousands of homes annually. India probably has a similar number - imagine how much fossil fuel could be saved by using a corpse/coal fuel mix in conventional power plants.

    Personally, a lot of people would be comforted knowing that their earthly remains could be put to good use, that they could power someone's high definition tv or charge someone's cell phone before being reduced to ashes.

    I'm surprised this hasn't been tried already. The economics have to be better than corn-based ethanol.
  17. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 9
    I just saw a headline that there will be a corn shortage this year. I assume that if we made a switch to corn ethanol things like this would be kept under control. Personally I think we should switch to sugar ethanol if we are going to do ethanol.

    I don't Obama's clean coal crap. There is no such thing as clean coal.

    GE to build nation?s largest solar power plant


    By the numbers given if they built enough to power 300+ million people in the U.S. it'd cost 625 billion.
  18. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    carbon storage and sequestration just isn't possible/economical on a large enough scale to make a difference. In some locations it can be pumped into declining oil fields to help with secondary and tertiary recovery efforts. Integrating the word "clean coal" into a short term energy strategy is nothing short of a damned lie.
  19. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Well this certainly doesn't help matters. Even I'm starting to reconsider that the risks of nuclear energy may outweigh its merits.

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/04/12/japan.nuclear.reactors/index.html?hpt=T1

    Don't get me wrong... I'm still going to be an advocate for nuclear energy, but I'm deeply concerned about how this will end. I still remember those first few days and how everything was 'under control.' I even remember experts assuring the public this won't get anywhere near the scale of Chernobyl... so much for that.

    I hope to someone else's god that they can contain the situation before it gets any worse.
  20. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Obama came out with a plan a few weeks ago to cut our oil imports by one third, which could keep the price of a barrel of oil below $40 if it succeeds and buys us more time to formulate a more long-term strategy. It's basically a mix of CNG-vehicles and fuel efficiency, plus some more oil drilling and some more nuclear plants, a little more biofuels. That doesn't sound like it would be enough to me, but I don't have the numbers. But it doesn't sound like an inspiring plan at all, which is probably why it didn't make headline news.
  21. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2007
    star 4
    Well certainly even if nuclear energy should reemerge as a dominant energy source, it would only act to keep coal and oil demands stagnant. Remember that the US has got about a hundred reactors either decommissioned or approaching the end of their life span. If nuclear energy doesn't quickly become adopted and new plants built, we're going to lose that 15-20% of the power grid they represent. So to reduce our fossil fuel dependence within the next 25 years, we could very seriously have to replace over half our current energy demands.

    Just pushing nuclear would at best maintain that fraction of the power grid it constitutes. We'd seriously have to consider at least 200 new power plants be built if we are to hope for a serious atomic energy future.
  22. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    With Japan now at the same level as Chernobyl, the left is going to put up a huge fight now just to maintain and replace the nuclear reactors we have, even though it's common-sense.

    I wish we could all just move to Mars and start over from scratch. :p
  23. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    This is Obama's Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future that I linked to above.

    U.S. oil imports are now down for the third straight year as the result of high oil prices, followed by near-depression, followed by a stagnant economy, followed by a return to high prices, all made inevitable by China and India taking up an increasing percentage of available oil exports worldwide, which themselves have declined year on year as the world's remaining oil exporters consume increasing percentages of their own production.

    Energy independence is slowly being thrust upon us. Obama has recognized an irreversible trend over which he has no control and has shrewdly integrated it into his energy "strategy." Thus our relative economic decline is hailed as a brilliant plan to reduce our reliance on foreign oil, which it most certainly will.
  24. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

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    Oct 3, 2003
    star 8
  25. Raven Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 5, 1998
    star 6
    The major result of this is going to be one of two things.

    A) Some time after 2022 Germany finds itself unable to power itself, as gas/oil/coal prices continue to rise as the costs of extracting the raw materials increase, and it becomes increasingly unfeasible to site more wind/solar plants due to poor kilowatt hours per square kilometer. The German economy quickly collapses.
    B) Germany buys all of its power from France. France chuckles in that irritating Gallic way as their cheap, safe nuclear power plants subsidize the retirements of millions of retiring workers.

    Really, B is the better option for everyone involved.
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