Dan Kammen on New Nuclear

July 23, 2020

Above, the very well informed Dan Kammen on “New” nuclear power ideas.

Below, my video from last year on the state of nuclear energy.

15 Responses to “Dan Kammen on New Nuclear”

  1. indy222 Says:

    Disappointing. He’s said nothing about the inherent safety of the molten salt reactors, and nothing about the low eco-footprint of molten salt thorium reactors, where the thorium is already lying around in old mine tailings. Nor about the fact that these produce almost none of the long lived nuclear waste that conventional reactors do, nor that the conventional reactors were chosen mainly because they produce plutonium for weapons, while thorium reactor do not. The whole nuclear field is such an awful case of tarred by association. Association with horrible designs (Fukishima), with weapons proliferation, and with the awful politics that guarantees such drag-foot permitting that the cost of financing alone is enough to ruin the cost case for going nuclear. It’s got nothing to do with the actual promise of the designs. It’s all political, and so tragic, since the scale of solar PV necessary to power the world is so far beyond what can be installed on rooftops and buildings, that it is a huge blight on the very Nature I thought we were trying to preserve. Nor was there any mention of the coming problem with solar PV panels made of cadmium and silver (dwindling supply and skyrocketing costs) which are likely to end up – just like so much high tech stuff – being taken apart and valuable melted back out by poor people in Cambodia or Africa or similar. It’s not a problem yet, but solar PV panels don’t last forever, and it’s going to be a big environmental problem of the future. Solar PV is cheap if you are just skimming the cream off the top of the Duck Curve, but once it really penetrates beyond 20% or so, you must have storage, and that’s going to cost a lot in materials and hence environmental damage. Solar is great – on rooftops and parking lots etc. It’s got it’s niche for sure. So does wind, over ag fields. But the scale of energy needed to power the world – 20 Terrawatts – has a huge environmental footprint compared to molten salt thorium reactors, that we need to consider, in the words of Nate Hagens – “we cannot know what to DO, until we know what we ASPIRE to”. And any sane Earth-loving future-loving, and life-loving person will aspire to a human species which does not clomp it’s giant and growing footprint on top of the rest of Nature, just for it’s selfish short term addictions to Growth Uber Alles.

    • sailrick Says:

      LFTR thorium reactors are something I got interested in, after reading about them. But this article at cleantechnica gave me pause. Not sure what to think.

      Why Thorium Nuclear Isn’t Featured on CleanTechnica Redux

      “Contrary to the claims made or implied by thorium proponents, however, thorium doesn’t solve the proliferation, waste, safety, or cost problems of nuclear power, and it still faces major technical hurdles for commercialization.”

      https://cleantechnica.com/2019/10/30/why-thorium-nuclear-isnt-featured-on-cleantechnica-redux/

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      It’s got nothing to do with the actual promise of the designs. It’s all political…

      As I have droned on about here before, the only future I see for getting over the initial technology hump of new nuclear plant designs are fiat governments (like China and Russia) that do not have to deal with the overlapping jurisdiction and budget sources that Western economies have.

      Nor was there any mention of the coming problem with solar PV panels made of cadmium and silver (dwindling supply and skyrocketing costs) which are likely to end up – just like so much high tech stuff – being taken apart and valuable melted back out by poor people in Cambodia or Africa or similar.

      At least in the western industrial nations, that will be made illegal (though of course there are always criminals to skirt the laws). On the flip side, getting rid of coal* and combustion vehicles will eventually improve air quality for the urban poor, and reduce the aquifer pollution problems associated with in-ground gasoline tanks.

      …once [PV solar] really penetrates beyond 20% or so, you must have storage, and that’s going to cost a lot in materials and hence environmental damage.

      PV solar, wind and storage, unlike fuel-based systems, are industrial systems with long life cycles. Material from larger-scale batteries is a much easier recycling problem than all of the household hazmat and e-waste that’s collected essentially in an ad-hoc way in municipalities that handle it. On a per-household basis, PV panels, EV batteries and grid-storage batteries require a tiny fraction of the recycling effort that household goods take.

      And Peter has posted about molten salt (not necessarily thorium) technology used to store energy. (Molten salt requires much more expensive plumbing and maintenance than, say, that “liquid air” battery he posted about last week.)

      ____
      *Coal combustion has been a major source of radiation-caused illness, as they put the trace radioactive elements in a convenient, easy-to-breathe format.

      • John Oneill Says:

        (Molten salt requires much more expensive plumbing and maintenance than, say, that “liquid air” battery he posted about last week.
        That is unlikely. Liquid air has to be kept 220 C below ambient, or it will boil – so you usually need vacuum insulation and a pressure barrier. Molten salt has to be kept ~a hundred and thirty degrees above ambient or it will solidify, with no major problems. Molten salt is already used for thermal storage in concentrating solar plants, but with high-temperature nuclear, it could be part of the normal operating system ( keeping the nuclear island separate from the turbines or industrial plant ) but with a full time power source, instead of one limited, even in deserts, by nightfall and the occasional cloudy or dusty day.

        • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

          Liquid air has to be kept 220 C below ambient, or it will boil – so you usually need vacuum insulation and a pressure barrier.

          I am not an industrial systems process engineer, so I had my skeptical sister (who is) review the tech presented in the Just Have a Think video.

          First, I had to get past my annoyance of how he used the word “battery” to describe the process. I guess nowadays “battery” = “energy storage and transformation”.

          60% seems reasonable, but I bet they only get that with very attentive operators. Kinda like the way Andre attends to nat gas usage during the rice drying process. Percent efficiency always gets down to proper operation and preventive maintenance. And proper equipment sizing. If the operators find shortcuts to make their job easier, or some bean counter cuts PM to save money, or there are cuts to engineering that allow the system design to go south, kiss your efficiency goodbye.

          Cryogenic systems call for certain (tough) alloys, but not unusual or pricey. If max pressures are only 15 times atmospheric, then systems are “Class 150” flange rating. Easy peasy.

          I, an equipment specifier, took exception to his use of the phrase “off the shelf” for equipment, but he is forgiven. I understood him to mean that the process uses well established equipment designs.

          As for safety: It’s way safer than a refinery since the pressures and temps are low and no VOC’s to worry about.

          As for skill set: Like the man said, the O&G jobs easily transfer over. Pumps, compressors, valves, tanks. Easy peasy again.

          This has potential.

          • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

            On the subject of 60%, did your majestic sibling offer an opinion? The number has no parameters, just like a seen claim that coal plants work at 90% efficiency.

          • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

            In years past (many of them) have hung up a large propane bottle to chill the beer. The gas exited with impressive force and energy. On the other hand, it did not take much to chill the can and after a few squirts, frost accumulated on the bottle, and this was in the tropics. In short, an apparently large endothermic input.

    • Glenn Martin Says:

      Run nuclear waste through a LFTR and you end up with under 5% of it. ?This is the most economical way to deal with present nuclear wast stores. This is why this technology will end up being developed anyway.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      molten salt thorium reactors
      You mean URANIUM-thorium. Thorium is bred to yield Uranium-233. They have serious beryllium and fluoride toxicity, no economic advantages, delayed neutron factors mitigating toward inflexible and uneconomic larger reactors, less-than-break-even breeding, (an advantage as far as I’m concerned) and lots more development needed before we even know if they’re workable, by which time the crisis will be over, resolved by either clean safe renewable energy or the collapse of civilization.

      where the thorium is already lying around in old mine tailings.
      And you think that’s part of the GOOD news?

      …produce almost none of the long lived nuclear waste that conventional reactors do
      No, they produce other kinds, that only stay radioactive for a little while. For example, if Peter the Great had a thorium reactor the same year he established St. Petersburg, the waste produced the first few years might be OK by now—if it had stayed secure through the usual couple of invasions (including the 2½ year WWII siege of Leningrad, “one of the longest, most destructive, and most lethal sieges of a major city in modern history”) and revolutions, freeing of the serfs, the capitalist anarchy that’s reigned there ever since the breakup of the USSR etc.

      Unfortunately, the next 300 (plus whatever length of time we kept using the reactors) are bound to be more chaotic and less stable than the last 300 and the chances of there being no targeted theft and use of it in all that time for nefarious purposes are almost zero.

      conventional reactors were chosen mainly because they produce plutonium for weapons, while thorium reactor[s] do not. The whole nuclear field is such an awful case of tarred by association.
      Tarred by own behavior, you mean. Ohio is just the latest in a string of thousands. And protactinium is weaponizable.

      Association with horrible designs (Fuk[u]shima)
      Yes, exactly. Is there any better reason to use wind, all the forms of solar, hydro, geothermal, tidal, and other variable and dispatchable clean safe renewable energies…? We live in the real world, where there are horrible designs, shoddy construction, fraud, and shortcuts, especially in an unprincipled industry pressed by people trying to make it safe[r] while it tries to compete with cheaper sources. If we try to build enough reactors to matter we’ll have to relegate most construction and operation to the B team, the F team, the Z team…

      with weapons proliferation, and with the awful politics that guarantees such drag-foot permitting that the cost of financing alone is enough to ruin the cost case for going nuclear.
      It’s got nothing to do with the actual promise of the designs.

      Hang the promise. It has everything to do with the actual designs. Look at the reality: the reality in which relentless, decades-long lying by the nuclear industry has destroyed any possibility of trust, so “promise” is meaningless. The industry and the right wing created the politics; they’ve consistently chosen lying and externalizing over openness and actual ecologically benign production.

      It’s all political, and so tragic, since the scale of solar PV necessary to power the world is so far beyond what can be installed on rooftops and buildings
      Everything is political, but the rich and the right have poisoned the world by trying to dominate all people and all nature. That’s THE great tragedy of history and it’s been unfolding for 10,000 years. Nuclear weapons and reactors are just twin offspring of that twisted need.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      ”Solar PV is cheap if you are just skimming the cream off the top of the Duck Curve, but once it really penetrates beyond 20% or so you must have storage, and that’s going to cost a lot in materials and hence environmental damage…
      Solar is great – on rooftops and parking lots etc. It’s got [its] niche for sure. So does wind, over ag fields.”

      All deception.

      Here’s the amount of land it would take to power the entire world with solar—which of course NO ONE is suggesting.

      Or only with wind.

      Most wind can be offshore from now on, and on an ever-shrinking land area or a constant area producing ever more power. In practical terms, we’ll need less than half of each of these areas, because of tech advances since, and about to happen, and use of buildings, parking lots, roadways, waste lands, (some of the ever-expanding stain of land wrecked for fossil and fissile fuels, for example) and “offshore” solar, clothesline paradox solar (passive and active solar water and space heating and cooling, eg.), efficiency, wiser lives…
      Add hydro, most of which we already have, geothermal, tidal, tiny amounts of biomass, etc..

      www[DOT]yaleclimateconnections[DOT]org/2018/08/wind-power-is-getting-more-efficient/
      “A newer wind turbine in Altamont Pass.”
      “On the rolling hills of Altamont Pass, east of San Francisco, one of the country’s oldest wind farms has produced power for more than 30 years.
      In Altamont Pass, almost 1,500 old turbines were taken down in recent years. Only 82 new ones were installed in their place, but they produce about the same amount of electricity.”
      [with a larger capacity factor and lower kick-in speed so more availability per day and per year.]

      ”…PV panels made of cadmium and silver (dwindling supply and skyrocketing costs) which are likely to end up – just like so much high tech stuff – being taken apart and valuable melted back out by poor people in Cambodia or Africa or similar. It’s not a problem yet, but solar PV panels don’t last forever, and it’s going to be a big environmental problem of the future.”

      These deceptions come from Michael Shellenberger and the like, spread by right wing media and corporations. (Forbes, Institute for Energy Research, eg.)
      desmogblog[DOT]com/search/google/institute%20for%20energy%20research
      1) Shellenberger has no credibility, as shown on this and many other sites; he lies constantly to prop up the dying nuke industry and stop clean safe renewable energy. He, IER et al. are primarily right wing economic ideological tools.
      2) These are minuscule amounts of materials, especially compared to coal, gas, oil, and yes, nukes—the only nukes we have or will in our lifetimes or the length of the crisis.
      3) Toxic products—in fact many of the same ones in much vaster quantities—are produced by coal burning, cell phones and other electronics, and many industrial processes that are far less important to society. Uranium/thorium mining also produces extremely damaging poisons that leach into indigenous, wild, and other lands, water and air. I’m sure someone who feels this strongly about minuscule amounts in solar panels that last well over 30 years (another lie by the creators of this attack) must have felt even stronger about the enormous amounts and has written often about them. I’d like indy to show us his or her history of objections to the pollutants in those.

      With advances in solar, and recycling, and equality to prevent use of people as slaves/machines, all the problems imagined by indy can be avoided with solar and wind, though not with thousands of decommissioned nuclear reactors and the anti-democratic economic systems that accompany them. It will be an infinitely smaller challenge than climate catastrophe and dozens of Z-team-built Chernobyls and Fukushimas. People are already solving the challenges of clean safe renewable energy; they would have solved them already if fossil and fissile-funded climate denying delayalists and ARFs hadn’t been lying, cheating, stealing elections, bribing politicians, and manipulating everyone for decades.

      ”Solar PV is cheap … but once it really penetrates beyond 20% or so you must have storage”

      30% …and at that level it’s even cheaper. Complementary sources like wind, hydro, geothermal, tidal, CSP, clothesline paradox solar with built-in storage…and distributed generation, demand response, efficiency … and tiny amounts of biomass fill the need. Which we we’ll do, once the naysayers stop lying and get out of the way.

      ”…and that’s going to cost a lot in materials and hence environmental damage…”
      Any number of technologies have and will disprove that. Solar and wind WITH storage are now cheaper than all fuels in most places and soon will be MUCH cheaper everywhere. Their ecological impact is and will continue to be MUCH, MUCH less than all those fuels.

      indy seems perfectly willing to overlook the enormous amount of land that coal, oil, gas and nukes take up and foul virtually forever with continuous mining, refining, waste storage, etc. with the unending spillover of their pollution into every inch of land from pole to pole, and its body burden in every living being on Earth. Wind goes on wasteland too, and in water; when it’s on land 98% of the land it’s on is available for other things. Did you forget all that, not know it, or leave it out because it completely disproves your point?

      Either solar or wind could supply all the energy humanity uses many times over. Both together, with other variable and dispatchable clean safe renewable energies, the other techniques mentioned, plus small amounts of overbuilding for back-up (like we do with nukes and fossils) and storage, can do it easily.

      “Where there’s a will … there are a thousand won’ts.”

      ”But the scale of energy needed to power the world – 20 Terrawatts – has a huge environmental footprint compared to molten salt thorium reactors”
      So using uranium-thorium reactors reduces the “scale” of energy needed—whatever that means? Is that the same as the amount of energy? By how much does it reduce either of those or both? What exactly are you comparing? An amount of energy vs. some reactors? How does that work? It’s like comparing apples to numbers of lawns cut.

      All the energy Germany, the EU, or the world uses could be provided by a tiny area in the Sahara
      ilsr[DOT]org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/imageedit_10_9751538828[DOT]png

      or a small and shrinking area in the North Atlantic and Souther Ocean (for seasonal balancing)
      electrek[DOT]co/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2017/10/solar-possner-wind-na[DOT]jpg

      ”… [continues with irrelevant distraction.] And any sane Earth-loving future-loving, and life-loving person will aspire to a human species which does not clomp it’s giant and growing footprint on top of the rest of Nature, just for it’s selfish short term addictions to Growth Uber Alles.”
      OMG! HUH? WHERE did that come from? Those I know who do aspire to all that take some comfort in the fact that no matter how much money, time, expertise, labor, legislation, hope, and other resources are wasted on these turkeys, no sizable U-Th reactors will ever be built in our lifetimes. Unfortunately, wasting all those things on nukes may substantially slow the development of both a sense of the real emergency and the clean safe renewable energy we really need to solve the actual crisis, rather than the perceived profit crisis of the already-rich, the domination crisis of the narcissistic psychopaths, and the destruction-salvation crisis of the nihilists.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      Solar and wind are typically complementary over the course of a day and a year.

      Daily and yearly solar potential, an approximation:
      http://www.electrek.co/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2017/10/solar-nh-seasonality.png

      Daily and yearly wind potential, an approximation:
      http://www.electrek.co/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2017/10/solar-possner-seasonality.jpg?quality=82&strip=all
      The vertical axes are not equivalent)

      You can get to 70% of energy needs most places with the proper amount of just wind and solar in a continent-sized grid. Then you use the others to fill in—hydro, micro-hydro, CSP, geothermal, clothesline paradox solar, tidal, biomass, etc. and for whatever is left, storage (pumped hydro, battery, etc.) and demand response, etc.—From Ramez Naam
      9:15 in video: rameznaam[DOT]com/2018/09/18/the-energy-transport-and-automotive-disruption-is-happening-faster-than-ever/
      11:15—Lots of different battery chemistries

      From the article cited by sailrick:
      “the most realistic timeframe for fusion in actual utility-scale generation is 2050 at the earliest (and more likely much later), and there are exactly zero thorium nuclear plants operating in the world. …
      The thorium crowd likes to point at India and China, but China has committed to only build a couple of molten salt reactors with a 12 MW capacity that might use thorium at some future date, and India has even less ambitious plans.”

      Currently being tested in Rotterdam is a 12MW wind turbine with an expected capacity factor of 63%.

      The only advantages to uranium-thorium reactors are that there aren’t any, and no one knows anything about them for sure, which means all kinds of stories can be made up about them and there’s less solid information to convincingly debunk the nonsense and false hopes denying delayalists and ARFs raise. So even nonexistent reactors are used to slow the deployment of clean safe renewable energy—what a magic trick. indy should stop spreading these lies.

  2. redskylite Says:

    Al Jazeera; 24/7/2020 : Have to agree with Nick on this one.

    “The trouble is, we do not have time to argue about it.”

    https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/nuclear-power-problem-solution-200723135009141.html

  3. neilrieck Says:

    I have always been a fan of heavy-water reactors like Canada’s CANDU which can be easily shut down by poisoning the heavy-water (this is part of the safety system). In the past, traditional CANDU’s have been very expensive because each one was custom-built on site. Since then, CANDU Canada has announced the ASR-1000 where much of the reactor can be manufactured in a factory (at lower cost) then shipped to the final destination.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_CANDU_reactor
    One final point, CANDUs can optionally employ DUPIC technology where depleted uranium from any technology can be burned as fuel which means much lest waste.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reprocessed_uranium
    Several CANDU’s in Korea and one in China were licensed to do this.


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