9588Re: permanent energy crisis
- Feb 18, 2006Hrrrrm.
>--- In email@example.com, Doug Salzmann <doug@...> wrote:I am terribly sorry, but this is a common misconception that is,
> On Sat, 18 Feb 2006, J.H. Crawford wrote:
> > The supply of fissile material is quite limited in terms
> > of supplying most of the world's energy for more than
> > an interlude of a couple of generations.
> Exactly right. There is not nearly enough fissionable uranium
> in the Earth's crust to power a world of 6.5-billion-and-growing
> out of our energy shortage.
fortunately for our grandkids, wrong.
Uranium is actually quite a common metal in the crust, due to the odd
chemistry of the actinides, which tends to concentrate it in the
granitic rocks of the crust. The same also applies to thorium, the
"other" nuclear fuel, the one nobody ever hears about. :)
For example, let's look at one fairly well-studied resource, the
Chattanooga Black Shale.
The Chattanooga Black Shale contains roughly 50 parts per million
Uranium. Properly burned in a closed nuclear fuel cycle (which is
what the GNEP is moving towards) that means that every ton of shale
mined contains as much energy as 500 barrels of oil, or about 100 tons
of high-quality coal.
There are roughly 600 BILLION tons of shale in the Chattanooga Black
Shale, counting just the easy-to-mine parts. That equates to 60
trillion tons of coal, or 300 trillion barrels of oil.
Today, the world uses about 30 billion barrels of oil a year (yes,
that's a lot.)
That means the Chattanooga Black Shale can supply the entire world for
10,000 years at current rates of usage.
And the Chattanooga Black Shale is only ONE resource! There is far
more uranium in phosphate rocks that we'd be mining anyway for
fertilizer, for example.
If you don't like the idea of burning the uranium efficiently, then
reduce the above amounts by a factor of about 100.
Here's a very good website that works to debunk a lot of these
misconceptions as well:
>Er? I'm sorry, but plutonium IS reactor fuel, and a very good one.
> Of course, fast-breeder reactors could produce an unlimited supply of
> fuel, along with an unlimited supply of that Pu element.
Indeed, EVERY element, and almost every isotope, in the actinide
elements sequence (Uranium, Plutonium, Neptunium, Curium and
Americium, mainly) makes excellent reactor fuel if you just build your
reactors to burn them.
In the GNEP proposal, the "Advanced Burner Reactors" are designed to
do just that. Once the burners are finished with the stuff, there is
no plutonium left to worry about, aside from the amount that cycles
around in the system.
More importantly, this is kept commingled. IE, the plutonium is kept
mixed with the Uranium and the Curium and the Neptunium, etc. This
makes it very, VERY hard to divert it or make it into a weapon.
Seperating and purifying this stuff is non-trivial under ideal
conditions, and when you deliberately mix it up, well, it is quite
proliferation resistant. :D
>Imagine >hundredsNo, imagine thousands of very small reactors with 20 year cores tucked
> or thousands of such facilities tucked away in every corner of the
> including, oh, say, Liberia.
away like so. When a core burns out, the whole thing is shipped back
to maybe five or six central reprocessing plants, likely one each in
the USA, Japan, France, Russia, and China. That's the whole point of
the GNEP: New nuclear countries get free or discount fuel for ensuring
a closed fuel cycle.
The total volume to be shipped would be amazingly tiny, too, about as
much as one coal train a month, worldwide.
>Heh. If you call "grappling with it" "sticking it in a hole and
> > Then there's the minor problem of nuclear waste.
> Which minor problem continues to be utterly intractable after,
> generations of grappling with it.
waiting" then sure. :)
As I said before, President Carter created the whole nuclear waste
issue with one executive order, and the problem can be untangled about
as quickly once we decide to stop fiddling around. :)
> > I agree that we'll probably see quite a few more nukes built,Er, you DO know the Sun is powered by nuclear power, right? Nuclear
> > but I don't think it's going to change very much.
> Yep. Nukes will be stop-gap measures in certain times and places >(and
> will continue to be extremely dangerous), but nuclear power
> not a long-term solution.
power is THE long-term solution, period. In a very real sense, wind
and hydro are both nuclear powered. :D
We will embrace nuclear power, or learn to love the cold and the dark
once more. :(
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