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9588Re: permanent energy crisis

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  • mauk_mcamuk
    Feb 18, 2006
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      >--- In carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com, Doug Salzmann <doug@...> wrote:
      > 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.

      I am terribly sorry, but this is a common misconception that is,
      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:


      > Of course, fast-breeder reactors could produce an unlimited supply of
      > fuel, along with an unlimited supply of that Pu element.

      Er? I'm sorry, but plutonium IS reactor fuel, and a very good one.
      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 >hundreds
      > or thousands of such facilities tucked away in every corner of the
      > including, oh, say, Liberia.

      No, imagine thousands of very small reactors with 20 year cores tucked
      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.

      > > Then there's the minor problem of nuclear waste.
      > Which minor problem continues to be utterly intractable after,
      > generations of grappling with it.

      Heh. If you call "grappling with it" "sticking it in a hole and
      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,
      > > 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
      >generation is
      > not a long-term solution.

      Er, you DO know the Sun is powered by nuclear power, right? Nuclear
      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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