Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Thorium silver bullet.

A just released report of the Energy Information Administration, titled International Energy Outlook, 2009 highlights just how difficult the fight against AGW is going to be during te next 20 years. A press release which announced the prblication of the report states,
World marketed energy consumption is projected to grow by 44 percent between 2006 and 2030, driven by strong long-term economic growth in the developing nations of the world, according to the reference case projection from the International Energy Outlook 2009 (IEO2009) released today by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). . . . Total world energy use rises from 472 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu) in 2006 to 552 quadrillion Btu in 2015 and then to 678 quadrillion Btu in 2030
The press release states:
Worldwide, industrial energy consumption is expected to grow from 175 quadrillion Btu in 2006 to 246 quadrillion Btu in 2030. Industrial energy demand varies across regions and countries of the world, based on levels and mixes of economic activity and technological development, among other factors. About 94 percent of the world increase in industrial sector energy consumption is projected to occur in the emerging economies, where—driven by rapid economic growth—industrial energy consumption grows at an average annual rate of 2.1 percent in the reference case. The key engines of growth in the projection are the so-called “BRIC” countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), which account for more than two-thirds of the developing world’s growth in industrial energy use through 2030.
The report contains very bad news on CO2 emissions:
n the IEO2009 reference case, which does not include specific policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are projected to rise from 29.1 billion metric tons in 2005 to 40.4 billion metric tons in 2030—an increase of 39 percent. With strong economic growth and continued heavy reliance on fossil fuels expected, much of the increase in carbon dioxide emissions is projected to occur among the developing nations of the world, especially in Asia.
The report does not ignore renewables:
supported by high prices for fossil fuels and by government incentives for the development of alternative energy sources. From 2006 to 2030, world renewable energy use for electricity generation grows by an average of 2.9 percent per year (Figure 1), and the renewable share of world electricity generation increases from 19 percent in 2006 to 21 percent in 2030. Hydropower and wind power are the major sources of incremental renewable electricity supply.
Clearly then we can expect strong economic developments which will dramatically increase carbon based energy use outside the United States during the next 20 years, and this increase in greenhouse gas emissions will not be prevented by the increasing use of renewables technology. Only the rapid emergence of a new low cost, highly scalable post carbon energy technology could impact these adverse trends.

Thus given the current course of international energy demands, and the projected sources of that energy, the stress on global climate due to AGW will be increasing during the next 20 years and mitigation efforts will fail. The often cited climate tiping point of 450 CO2 PPM will come and go by 2030 without CO2 emissions still not under control.

Are there any solutions? Joe Romm recommends a world wide authoritarian system that will impose energy goals, and will ruthlessly enforce them. Call Joe's approach the Stalinist system. Are there any other alternatives?

Lets talk about nuclear. The rap on nuclear is that it is too expensive, takes too long to build, cannot be built in large enough numbers, is dangerous, leaves nuclear waste, and is not sustainable. What if all of these problems of nuclear could resolved within a ten year span of time? Impossible you say? Very possible would be my response. We just have to think of using a different nuclear technology.

We need a nuclear technology that is low cost, scalable, with the potential for very rapid wide spread deployment, is low costs, can provide most of the energy requirements of the planet, is sustainable for at least a million years, is safe, produces little waste, can be deployed anywhere, provides electricity day and night. Renewable advocates will answer with renewable energy scheme that are expensive and unreliable. With renewables out goose is cooked, and so is every goose on the planet.

The energy source has to be nuclear, and has to rely on breeding to provide sustainable low waste energy. I have repeatedly pointed to one nuclear technology, developed in Oak Ridge from 1947 into the 1970's, the Molten Salt Reactor and in particular the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor. As I have argued on Nuclear Green for the last year and a half, the LFTR has the potential to be the low cost, scalable, with the potential for very rapid wide spread deployment. The LFTR has the potential to provide most of the energy requirements of the planet, provide that energy in a sustainable fashion for at least a million years, be safe, produce little waste, be deployed anywhere, and provide electricity under any climate conditions day and night. The LFTR then is the silver bullet.

12 comments:

The North Coast said...

Notice how Joe Romm and the other authoritarians of the world will seize upon any excuse to impose heavy-handed statist controls on the world.

Energy allocation by central state control will guarantee a world war over remaining fossil fuel supplies and will retard development of viable alternatives such as nuclear, as well as the development of such "renewable" energy sources as may actually be viable.

The heavy hand of government policy has already retarded the nuclear development we need, by turning the whole issue into a political football. This is not a matter for politicians, for it is basically an argument among experts, and given individual choice in the absence of government controls-i.e. the free market- the nuclear technologies you talk about on this site will be the winners hands down, and there additionally will be more deployment of "renewable" sources where they actually serve.

P.M.Lawrence said...

I wonder if you can comment on something that is related to a liquid fuelled reactor, the fluidised bed reactor (FLUBER), in particular if it could be used as a thorium breeder? Perhaps you've already posted on this.

Charles Barton said...

As i understand the term fluidised bed reactor, it refers to a chemical rather than a nuclear reactor.

Barry Brook said...

Whether you agree with me or not Charles, my view is that there's not one 'silver bullet' to solve the climate and energy crises.
There's two, and they're made of depleted uranium and thorium.

Charles Barton said...

Barry, we agree on a nuclearvsolution, just nor on what is the best nuclear technology. Fruendly revalries don't always hurt.

David Walters said...

Two things: I am a passionate believer that a thorium bullet, or a 'heavy-metal' bullet, exist.

In Venezuela, Ecuador and Brazil, they have a non-carbon, renewable, electrical generation bullet: it's called hydro and it provides over 80% of their power. That, folks, is a "silver bullet".

If a fission source, thorium in this blog's case, or, the IFR in Barry's case, can provide 100% of our energy, then it...does and it represents such a 'bullet'.

It is very fashionable today...as opposed to scientific, to argue against silver bullets of any kind for anything. You have to be, to be "PC", for 'an energy mix'. Why? There is no scientific basis for this whatsoever.

We have written here about the need to proceed toward a 'Thorium Economy'. It is but one such vision, just like the IFR and other fast-reactors represent a move toward a "Plutonium Economy".

Just on "North Coasts" comment: You are letting ideological and a-historical prejudice get in your way. The French have a very highly centralized, 'statist' socialized energy system that is VERY successful and based on fission. I WISH we had their system for the U.S.

Your turn.

David

AlexP said...

I think an important issue maybe not enough debatable is how to solve the liquid fuel energy problem;

the thorium LFTR or the DU IFR (or an effective liquid fuel fast version) can contribute to solve this through : 1) electrification of collective (trains,including goods, metros, trams, inside the cities) and private (electric and plug-in vehicles) transportation; 2) the production of liquid syn fuel, there are a lot of choices for this - maybe the best one is the methanol as gasoline substitute (and dimethyl ether for diesel and airplanes gas turbine) solution

Jason Ribeiro said...

I'm glad that someone brought up the idea of the Silver Bullet. In wikipedia someone wrote:

The term has been adopted into a general metaphor, where "silver bullet" refers to any straightforward solution perceived to have extreme effectiveness. The phrase typically appears with an expectation that some new technology or practice will easily cure a major prevailing problem.

Given that definition, nuclear energy in general is a silver bullet solution to emission free electricity generation. It could eliminate almost all CO2 from electricity generation in the United States. Senator Lamar Alexander's 100 new nuclear plants is a good start in that direction, but we must have a plan to close down the coal and gas plants.

Warren Heath said...

Regarding Hydro and Liquid fuels. In the North, peak winter heating load is up to 8 times average energy consumption. So even though there is lots of Hydro potential in the North, it is not much good at supplying heating loads due to the extremely high - I guess you would call Crest Factor. And to make matters worth Hydro is lowest in the Winter when heating demand is highest. You can talk expensive storage systems like Pumped Hydro, CAES, Molten Salt or Batteries but they won’t even come remotely close to supplying peak Winter Heating Loads. You can put in a Nuclear or Hydro system that is oversized by a factor of 8, but then you will pay 8 times the capital cost for the same return on investment. That leaves only one good option – that is Natural Gas or Liquid Fuels for Winter Heat Load. Natural gas is usually not available in Northern Communities due to the extreme cost of pipelines. That leaves only the Liquid Fuels option.

According to a recent report of the EIA, it is expected energy demand in developing countries is going to increase rapidly for the next 20 years. With Peak Oil imminent, this is going to put us in a desperate situation for liquid fuels. The best alternative is Methanol, as it can fairly cheaply be made from surplus or peak electricity and atmospheric, waste biomass carbon or flue gas CO2 to be Carbon Neutral. That is precisely why the Oil & Gas industry is doing their damndest to block Methanol as a fuel. It is incredible stupidity and corruption that all that Arctic NG has been sitting their for over 30 years, waiting for environmentally contentious pipelines to be built, when it could be converted to Methanol for 7 cents a liter and shipped by tanker to communities presently burning noxious Fuel Oil. The latest stunt of the Oil Industry is to have their cronies in the EPA try to declare Methanol a human carcinogen, based on one ludicrous, undocumented study. Just as they managed to get the EPA and the Canadian Government to lower NOx emission standards for Passenger vehicles to 1/6th that of Europe’s. No problem with carcinogenic Particulates, CO2, or SOx emissions – about the same as Europe’s - just NOx, which effectively killed the high efficiency diesel passenger vehicle in North America. Criminally corrupt arseholes. The latest Mercedes Benz 3.0 litre BlueTec diesel in the Jeep Grand Cherokee has only a 15% better fuel economy than the 3.6 litre gas engine, in spite of diesel fuel having 13% more energy content – this is precisely due to the ridiculously low NOx level set for light duty vehicles in North America.

The best and cheapest way to provide that extremely important Peak Demand energy is from existing Oil & Gas supplies. Wasting them to supply baseload energy is inexcusable stupidity. A criminal assault on the survival of future generations. And one of the biggest culprits in that category is Wind Energy. It uses mostly NG to complement its output – thus effectively wasting NG for baseload energy while the wayward Wind supplies some unpredictable Peak Energy. Wind requires the waste of our precious NG supply to supply baseload power – and inefficiently at that – using almost as much additional NG, due to the inefficient cycling of Open Cycle Gas Turbines, as it replaces when generating power. You might as well attach a NG pipeline to each Wind Turbine. That’s why I’ve decided to change the term “the Renewables” to “the Refillables” since they burn so much fuel in their Backup Cycle.

We need NUCLEAR to supply ALL BASELOAD ENERGY – CONSERVE OUR NG! A message to the two fossil fuel lackeys – Pickens and Gore.

P.M.Lawrence said...

No, a fluidised bed is a mechanical arrangement that can be used for a number of things, from deep freezing to chemical reactions like combustion - and even nuclear reactors; it's just that "reactor" is also used of chemical processing. FLUBERs use fluidising to provide an analogue of liquids, so I was wondering if you knew anything of work in this area. As well as the example I just linked to, I can certainly imagine an analogue of an Aqueous Homogeneous Reactor that used (say) uranium carbide particles fluidised in sugar charcoal by carbon monoxide or some other suitable gas.

George Carty said...

Energy allocation by central state control will guarantee a world war over remaining fossil fuel suppliesIsn't that what TPTB want, to solve the alleged "overpopulation" problem?

Alex P said...

How pratical is methanol as liquid fuel for transportation? Is methanol particurally more toxic than gasoline?

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