Peak Oil: Say Hello Again to $100 Oil

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Darth_Yuthura, Dec 1, 2009.

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  1. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

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    France is 75% Nuclear-powered in terms of energy output, it wouldn't suprise me if they were among the first nations to start moving into electric cars in a big way seeing as they can charge a lot of vehicles without having to worry about the fossil fuel output that generates electricity.

    Germany has been a great nation for innovation for many years, if there is a viable solution for them they will find and utilise it effectively.
  2. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Darthboba, export markets will dry up decades before anyone runs out of oil. Fifty years from now, the U.S. will still have domestic oil production, even if it is a small percentage of what we are producing today. The fear I think in Germany is that in a very few years the world biggest oil producers will be fighting over access to the the three or four countries that will still be exporting oil a decade from now.
  3. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Unsurprisingly, Germany Agrees to Extend Life of Nuclear Plants


    The German government has decided to extend the life-spans of the country?s 17 nuclear plants to promote "energy security." ... Nuclear plants that were built before 1980 will remain open for a further eight years, Mrs. Merkel said. Newer ones will be allowed operate for up to 14 additional years.


    Inevitable, and smart. The German nuclear power utilities will also have to provide several billion Euros to a renewable energy investment fund.

    There is probably nothing more expensive for a utility company than the cost of mothballing a nuclear power plant, but clearly energy security is the core reason for the extension. Even Germany, with its monumental investments in alternative energy infrastructure, cannot ramp up renewables fast enough to replace its nuclear power capacity. The only alternative is coal or gas fired power plants. Coal-fired power would put Germany into a difficult position on its emissions commitments (not to mention domestic public outcry) and natural gas-fired power would make it more directly dependent on Russia.
  4. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

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    Renewables shouldn't need to replace nucelar power. Renewables are great but I doubt most countries will be able to run entirely on energy from renewable sources. Solar & wind power don't produce a great deal of energy and are unreliable. Hydropower is good but landlocked nations will not benefit extensively from it.

    Nuclear power is a very efficient way of operating, at least until Fusion power is available since that won't have the waste problems current fission power plants have.
  5. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    The real challenge is replacing nuclear power with nuclear power. The productive lifespan of existing reactors can be extended, but not indefinitely. New facilities will be very expensive, but not as expensive as mothballing old facilities when they finally have to be shut down. Decommissioning costs of many currently operating nuclear power plants will exceed $1 billion per facility.
  6. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

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    I thought they factored decommissioning costs into the estimated productive life span of nuclear reactors. I have trouble understanding why exactly the cost of decommissioning is so significant. Any insight on that?
  7. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Dismantling, storage and entombment costs are steep, but I think it's common for nuclear power operators to maintain trust funds to handle decommissioning costs. We're talking about tens of thousands of cubic feet of radioactive material, sometimes more radioactive waste in the decommissioning process than was produced during the entire life cycle of the plant itself, depending on how long the plant operates.
  8. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

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    Can't current fission power stations simply be modified to run fusion power once that is viable? Why build brand new facilities?
  9. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    I don't know the requirements of commercial fusion power. I don't think there is anyone who does. You can ask that question again in 50 years.
  10. Neo-Paladin Force Ghost

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    While the same site can be used between a fusion plant and a fission plant, the size of a fusion reactor is much bigger than the size of a fission reactor, in all the fusion power schemes I'm aware of. Using magnetic fusion as an example, the amount of power a fusion plant can produce is the product of the fusing gas, the density of the fusing gas, and the volume of fusing gas. The first two are limited by the magnetic field the plant's magnets generate, the last is limited by cost. The ITER experiment, which I think is too small for commercial power production, will have a plant that is ~11m tall and have an external diameter of ~20m. The shielding facility will be larger still. Also a fusion plant will need a fairly sizable facility to handle Tritium on site. So using the perimeter of an existing fission plant will save siting costs, there's no way to use the containment dome from a fission plant.
  11. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

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    I've been getting the distinct impression that the future of energy is riding on one of two potential solutions. As Germany attempts to draw out the life of several nuclear reactors by up to 15 more years, critics of nuclear energy make it clear that there is a sharp divide between this and the other long-term solution.

    One of these long term solutions is atomic energy. Fission is already a viable option that will outlast oil by far, but it has many limitations that restrict its potential. Public opinion has always been a problem with nuclear, even before three-mile island. With no place to store its reactor byproducts, this has become a tremendous problem in the US. The risk of nuclear materials falling into the wrong hands... the list goes on.

    And despite its promise as the holy grail or energy, fusion is still a long way from producing practical results. As much as I would like for this technology to become perfected, we have to accept that the energy of the sun may never be ours for the taking. The conditions inside the sun are vastly different from those on Earth, and fusion may simply end up as nothing more than a dream. And even if we can eventually produce a positive return, a fusion reactor may simply end up costing too much for the limited energy it outputs.

    Which brings us to a second long-term solution which may prove to be more realistic: renewable energy.

    Wind and Solar are perpetual energies, so these will always be available. The problem with both is that they're unreliable. Only during clear skies or high winds do either of these generate power, and this electricity can't be stored. So you cannot realistically replace more than 20% of a power grid with either of these without severe risk of brownouts. So the question really isn't a matter of building more wind turbines or solar panels, but in developing a large-scale means of storing excess energy. This would allow such power plants to provide a consistent stream of energy, despite changes in weather conditions.

    Either way, both of these long-term solutions would require a significant alteration to lifestyles and infrastructure. And the truth is that the transition from petro-based fuels to something more sustainable will prove very difficult to deal with.
  12. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Commercial fusion power remains an interesting fantasy.

    Our top priority for now has to be energy conservation to limit growth in power demand. Realistically, China and the U.S. will never give up coal power until climate disaster is upon us, and almost certainly not even then. The deniers will keep denying even after the oceans have become so acidic that the last remaining coral and all shell-forming creatures have become extinct. Overfishing, pollution and climate change have killed off a significant chunk of ocean life, but ocean acidity should help finish off the job for much of the food chain about mid century when CO2 passes 550 ppm.
  13. Raven Administrator Emeritus

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    Hydro also remains a vital piece of the picture in some parts of the world. Take Canada, for example. The use of small hydro to complement wind turbines is one of the resources available that tends to get forgotten.
  14. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

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    Of course you can store the energy. How do you think solar lights work at night? They store up energy from the Sun during the day and use it once there is no Sun.

    A site I work on has a turbine hooked up to a battery that stores energy from the turbine and is used to power a few things.

    Tidal & Wave power are good ideas and various methods are in development to make the most out of it. There is already a huge underwater turbine in Scotland that can generate 1MW of energy. A whole farm of those could produce a huge amount of energy.
  15. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Wind is growing the fastest in the U.S. In five years short years it has become the largest source of renewable power. It dwarfs solar power, but that may change. Solar will need a decade of massive exponential growth to equal current wind generation, but even that level of growth in solar will still meet only one or two percentage points of our power needs.
  16. Darth_Yuthura Jedi Master

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    That's rather ironic, considering that solar is much more reliable than wind in most cases. When you build a large scale solar thermal plant, the most obvious choice would be in arid climates. Build a solar thermal plant in the desert and you will have a very reliable source of energy. They don't operate at night, but they are truly an excellent source of energy for hours of peak demand.

    And despite needing a vast amount of land in comparison to wind, solar thermal can make good use of land that otherwise would be worthless. Why solar is not growing at the same rate of wind is just beyond me.
  17. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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  18. Neo-Paladin Force Ghost

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    Solar thermal power isn't growing very fast because it only makes sense to site it where typically the people aren't. CA and NV both have projects 'in the works', but those places are more the exception than the rule as they have population centers near or in suitable sites. Also, while the supply is predictable the supply doesn't follow demand. Storage is easier in thermal systems, but you need to make underground tanks to store tons of very hot liquid. This all drives costs, and reduces efficiency in a scheme that takes diffuse power and tries to concentrate it enormously.

    That said, solar water heaters for the home needs to take off in a serious way, pretty much all over. This is a point that has been driven home to me again and again by ME's around me.
  19. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    QFT. Solar water heating is some of the lowest hanging alternative energy fruit there is. Demanding that all new home construction include it and giving bigger tax incentives for retrofitting old homes for solar water heating would make a world of difference in our natural gas consumption nationwide.
  20. Neo-Paladin Force Ghost

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    Amazingly enough, I just listened to a talk that said fusion power needs to deliver before 2050-2040 or it will be, 'too late to matter.' Past that power companies need to replacd existing plants, and we'll be largely locked in for 50-75 years. With this in mind, a national lab is talking about a demo plant before 2030, with a straight face no less. This would be followed by a 1 GW market ready demo plant before 2040. They're in a highering phase actually, so it seems serious from where I'm sitting.
  21. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

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    The Guardian newspaper recently did an interview with some of Britain's most eminent scientists.
    When asked what problem they hoped science had solved by the end of the century Dr Stephen Hawking, Dr Brian Cox & David Attenborough all said that they hoped for efficient clean energy to have been established. Hawking & Cox both said it was of the upmost importance that Fusion power be up and running by the end of the century or we may be in big trouble.
    Attenborough said it was important to have a primary energy source that produced no damaging effects but seemed more in favour of effectively harnessing Solar Energy. He hoped for desalination of the Sahara desert also.
  22. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Frankly, the numbers are overwhelming. Another 2 billion people added to the world over the next 30 years, with 1.5 billion or more people already lacking access to electricity. If I can make a prediction it will be that there is absolutely no way we're going to reduce our reliance on coal significantly over the next three decades. If fusion power were going to help, it would have to be ready today.

    Thirty years from now the global population will be at or near peak, oil production will be in steep decline (probably at less than half its current levels) and our energy challenges will be absolutely dire. Our biggest problem will be avoiding regional famines that kill off tens of millions of people in a single season. The Chinese famine of 1959-1961 will look like a cakewalk compared to what is coming within the next 15-20 years.
  23. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

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    The pattern is this:

    1. Jabba says something pessimistic.
    2. Someone else says something in the vein of : "But surely, Jabba, it can't be that bad? These and these fine minds say this and this".
    3. Jabba says something even more pessimistic.

    So the trick is to break the pattern by out-pessimisticking Jabba.
  24. Neo-Paladin Force Ghost

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    Dec 10, 2004
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    Yes and no Jabba. As I said, the decision point is coming in the 2050 time frame. At that point the question will be forced: replace decommissioned coal plants with new coal plants or something else? Utilities would love to go with something else. They see all the problems you and I see and are without a doubt more painfully aware of them, but the something else has to be viable.
  25. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

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    Super, I'm not pessimistic. At all. Because there is a way out of this mess. There's a solution. There is hope: the orderly disposal of six billion people. Achieve that and a sustainable paradise on earth is ours (or theirs, since I probably won't be one of the survivors).
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