Saturday, January 15, 2011

Joe Romm and reactor construction by 2050

Joe Romm belongs in my pet peeve category. Although Romm sometimes provides useful information on climate developments. On energy he is just plain loco. He is hog-wild over renewables, and his energy related beliefs are not open to discussion. He appears to systematically censor comments from nuclear supporters on his blog, Climate Progress. "Seth" commented on NEI Notes,
Romm is pretty crafty about allowing/censoring comments from those who disagree. Many like Charles Barton have complained they can't get in a word. I've tried several times with zero rhetoric links to real wind, solar and nuke projects and their costs to try to contradict his nonsense. No comments have made it past his censor.

He likes to feature a David Benson dude as a pro nuke guy then shoot down his poorly crafted argument with a "see how dumb they are "comment. Benson routinely takes a trashing on Bravenewclimate.
Notes has already considered the Romm comments on the Nuclear wedge.

Romm has his own AGW mitigation plan, and were he sane enough to post my comments, I would have offered comments on it. But as as Seth indicates, I am on Romm's "do not publish comments" list.

Romm has been playing a silly game, for some time. While not paying attention to real and potential developments in nuclear deployment plans. Romm recently discussed his comprehensive energy plan, the one I once called Stalinist. He offered a slightly revised version of his Stalinist plan earlier this week. Romm is not totally opposed to nuclear power, mind you, he just thinks that only a limited amount of nuclear power is possible within the 40 years we have between now and 2050. Romm thinks a wedge of nuclear power - the equivalent of 700 GW of electrical generating capacity is possible. He justifies this view by reference to a single 2007 report from the Keystone Center. Romm's post on the alleged limitation of Nuclear energy, along with David Roberts anti nuclear screes in Grist, posed problems to which Nuclear Green has attempted to offer solutions. In response to Romm's post I wrote,
Actually this essay (the Keystone Report) simply states the case for the mass production of breeder reactors. Only breeder technology would provide the nuclear fuel for all the reactors imagined here. The only way that such a large number of reactors could be built is on an assembly line basis. Since we are going to be recycling so called “reactor waste”, there will ne little need for long term repositories for spent reactor fuel. Assembly line production of reactors, which then can be shipped to on ships and barges to the power production sites around the world, will enable reactors to be manufactured for a fraction of their present costs.
Hence the advocacy of the LFTR a thorium breeder that is very amenable to mass production.

Recently however, MIT has offered a more optimistic view of Uranium availability. The MIT view suggests that breeders are not necessary in the short run. This actually makes things a lot easier for Molten Salt Reactor technology, because the technology for building uranium fueled MSRs was tested in the mid to late 1960's. Uranium fueled MSRs can be built using already tested technology, very likely at a significantly lower cost than LWRs.. Since MSRs require less steel and concrete than LWRs, and are simpler and more energy efficient, they can probably bebe built much more quickly than LWRs, and built in much larger numbers over a given time period. This would allow for a greatly expanded nuclear fleet.

As it is Romm's suggestion of a single nuclear wedge by 2050 seems absurdly small given the MSR potential. China appears to have set a 500 GW nuclear goal by 2050. the Indians are talking about a similar goal ca. 2060. National Nuclear Goals of such magnitude are possible, given MIT's findings on Uranium. Thus even given the limitations of conventional nuclear power, a single wedge appears unrealistically small.

We can build Molten Salt Reactors in factories. Turn them out the way Henry Ford produced Tin Lizzies, and set them up anywhere in the world. They can be air cooled so don't need coolant water. MSRs that are 1/10 the size of conventional NPPs can be built on factory production lines and turned out in very large numbers.

Joe Romm censors any information that tells his readers that he is hugely underestimating the potential of nuclear power.

Well censorship is one of the tools of any great dictator, and I came to the conclusion some time ago that Romm's energy plan owed a lot to a well known 20th century dictator, Joe Stalin. I wrote:
Joe Romm seeks inspiration for his plan to combat Global Warming.
I think that Joe Romm has offered the reductio ad absurdum of green energy policy. What Romm has demonstrated is that the Green approach can only be successful in a neo-Stalinist type economy.
Let me repeat the key point: It is utterly inconceivable that you could stabilize atmospheric concentrations anywhere near 350 ppm by using a carbon price as your primary mechanism […] A price isn’t what is needed to stop building any new coal plants and shut down every existing one in 10 years in rich countries and 20 years everywhere else — and replace all that power (plus growth) with carbon-free generation and efficiency. Plus you have to build all the necessary transmission […] How are you going to site and build all the alternative plants that fast? How are you going to site and build all the power lines that quickly? How are you going to allocate the steel, cement, turbines, etc? How are you going to train all the people needed to do all this? There is only one way. That is a WWII-style and WWII-scale government-led mobilization […] Well, we didn’t accomplish the WWII mobilization through a pricing mechanism.
The "Air High" plan and Nuclear Green have offered answers to Romm's questions. Romm offers an unreachable time frame, even with the socialist means he proposes, however if the time frame is to 2050, the task becomes doable, and doable without socialism.
How are you going to site and build all the alternative plants that fast?
Develop a factory built, transportable, modular LFTR and the factory to build it by 2020.
How are you going to site and build all the power lines that quickly?
By using existing power lines and existing access at coal and gas fired power plants that are to be recycled as LFTR sites.
How are you going to allocate the steel, cement, turbines, etc?
By making maximum use of existing power plant sites and facilities, and by housing LFTRs in underground homes rather than above ground structures, we will minimize structural steel and cement requirements. Closed cycle gas turbines will be mass produced at Jet engine factories.
How are you going to train all the people needed to do all this?
Through expansion of university and military training programs for nuclear scientists, engineers, managers, and workers. And by designing self controlling reactors that do not require on site operations staff. It is clear that within a doable time frame, all of our carbon containment goals can be meet without
a WWII-style and WWII-scale government-led mobilization.
The Aim High plan is explained in this video of Dr. Robert Hargraves "Aim High" presentation.


Soylent said...

I think you are unwisely humouring him by granting without comment his premise that governments could get toghether and phase out coal with a Manhattan-style project in the time frames he has suggested.

I think the process of getting even a simple majority of governments to agree to such a policy would take decades and is a likely candidate for touching off world-war III. Not to mention the impracticability of his Rube-Goldbergian scheme for generating power.

seth said...

I expected the Romm paper to be posted on either Huffpo or Grist -didn't happen. I believe Romm to be a coward who is deathly afraid of sites that allow relatively unrestricted commentaries.

David Roberts fanatical response to my posting a critique of a Romm article on Grist, was likely because he was hoping Romm would enhance his readership by producing regular articles.

Comments like mine scared Romm away.


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Dr. Joe Bonometti speaking on thorium/LFTR technology at Georgia Tech David LeBlanc on LFTR/MSR technology Robert Hargraves on AIM High