Saturday, January 15, 2011

Good and better forms of nuclear energy

My big argument with Rod Adams is not about the flaws of nuclear power plants. I don't question whether Light Water Reactor nuclear power is good. I question whether it is good enough and whether we should spend the relatively small amount of money required to to make nuclear power better.
* Nuclear power is already better than renewables in many respects.

* Nuclear power is safer than solar or wind generating systems

* Nuclear power costs less than solar or wind generated electricity

* Nuclear Power is more reliable than solar or wind generating systems

* Nuclear power is capable of providing energy on demand, solar or wind generating systems cannot provide energy on demand

* CO2 mitigation costs less with nuclear power than with solar or wind generating systems

* Nuclear generated electricity will cost less to transmit to markets than solar or wind generating electricity
Needless to say these facts will be vehemently denied by renewable advocates, but the facts are firmly on the nuclear side. Nuclear advocates need t0o continue to work to make the facts about nuclear power vis-à-vis renewables known. Yet there are problems with conventional Light Water Reactors if Nuclear power is to replace coal by 2050, and Light Water Reactors are not good sources of Industrial process heat.

Although LWRs are less expensive than renewables, they are more expensive than coal fired power plants, and considerably more expensive to build than natural gas fired power plants. If Nuclear power is to offer as a marketable replacement for natural gas fired power plants, it must be offered in an alternative to light water reactor technology.

In addition there are many industrial processes that require a considerable amount of heat. It is estimated that 5% of human CO2 emissions occur during the cement manufacturing process. If anthropogenic CO2 emissions are to be reduced by 80%, this means that up to 25% of CO2 emissions will come from the cement industry, and this would most likely be unacceptably high. Although Light Water Reactors are capable of supporting some hydrogen production chemical processes, temperatures of 700 C to 1000 C are desirable to produce hydrogen, and hydrogen related chemical processes, such as ammonia and methane production. Graphite moderated helium cooled reactors and molten salt cooled reactors can theoretically operate in this temperature range. With Molten Salt cooled reactors requiring more development for the 700 C to 1000 C operation range. Current Molten Salt technology can tolerate industrial processes up to 700C, which is twice what LWRs can tolerate. Helium cooled reactors can tolerate temperatures of close too 1000 C, but also operate at lower power densities than MSRs and are potentially more expensive. to build than Liquid Salt cooled Pebble Bed Reactors.

Renewables are really not in the running for industrial heat sources. Wind and solar PV do not offer high temperatures, and solar thermal is limited to water short environments, while Industrial process heat is usually matched to high water demands. Solar Thermal systems are useful for heating water during the day time, and thus industrial uses that require heated water can be sited with some flexibility. Solar heat is not nearly as flexible for industries that require more heat than that needed to heat water. If an industry needs heat 365 days a year, or needs consistent summer-winter heat, solar may not prove satisfactory. Their operations are impaired by clouds, and by the impact of winter on solar energy.

Thus all forms of nuclear energy have significant advantages over solar and wind generated electricity, and several Generation IV reactor types including Molten Salt cooled reactors have significant advantages over Light Water Reactors for both electrical production and industrial process heat. Helium cooled graphite reactors also are superior sources of industrial process heat. Helium cooled graphite core reactors have cores that are up to 5 times larger than Molten Salt cooled reactors, and thus are likely to cost more.


John Morgan said...

To your list of advantages of nuclear over renewables, you should add

* Nuclear power has a smaller ecological footprint and lower environmental impact than renewable power

Rick Maltese said...

I don't follow what you're trying to say about cement. Is there a way of reducing the CO2 output through a heat application?

Charles Barton said...

Rick, conventional cement manufacture emis CO2 in two ways:
1. But burning fossil fuels to produce hear
2. The emission of CO2 from chemical processes in limestone used in the cement manufacture process.

Rick Maltese said...

OK I thought you wanted to say more about Nuclear somehow reducing levels. I guess if the world decided to go nuclear the amount of cement would actually be significantly reduced since the LFTR's don't need containment.


Blog Archive

Some neat videos

Nuclear Advocacy Webring
Ring Owner: Nuclear is Our Future Site: Nuclear is Our Future
Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet Free Site Ring from Bravenet
Get Your Free Web Ring
Dr. Joe Bonometti speaking on thorium/LFTR technology at Georgia Tech David LeBlanc on LFTR/MSR technology Robert Hargraves on AIM High