Peak Oil: Isn’t It Time to Start Promoting Safe, Clean, Abundant Nuclear Power?

Even in the age of an apparent oversupply of oil & gas, the world is full of “peak oil doomers.” Such doomers believe that human societies are on the verge of a global energy collapse, with a subsequent collapse of global economies and civilisations. They have believed this kind of thing since the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. And most of them still alive claim that they still believe it — more than ever! Did I hear you say “there’s a sucker born every minute?” Too right.

Even if one accepted the doomers’ premise of imminent global energy scarcity, wouldn’t these doomers appear more responsible (and credible) if they were at least attempting to find alternative supplies of energy capable of supporting global economies and civilisations? Do they perhaps want to see a global collapse more than might be healthy for them, or us?

Many of these doomed and troubled souls claim to support “renewable” forms of energy such as big solar and big wind energy. But not only are such forms of energy unpredictable, intermittent, and unreliable — their EROEI is for crap.

The many claims that renewables alone, or in the majority, can fuel our future are not consistent with their EROI. America’s present EROI averages about 40.

Economies with access to higher EROI energy sources have greater potential for economic expansion and diversification. Thus, the rush to coal by developing countries like China and India. __ http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2015/02/11/eroi-a-tool-to-predict-the-best-energy-mix/

The author of the piece above is being overly generous to wind and solar. Why? Because since a huge proportion of wind and solar energy is produced at an unpredictable time — generally when it is not needed by demand conditions — much of the energy is necessarily dumped, or wasted. A fragile power grid for industrial societies requires abundant, affordable, high quality power on demand. And that is a combination that “renewable” energies cannot meet.

Nuclear power not only provides a higher EROEI ratio, but it also provides an energy density many orders of magnitude higher than any other available form of energy.

Energy Density: Nuclear vs. the Rest Fusion, Fission Orders of Magnitude Better than Chemical and Other Energy Sources

Energy Density: Nuclear vs. the Rest
Fusion, Fission Orders of Magnitude Better than Chemical and Other Energy Sources

Making nuclear power safe, clean, and abundant is what doomers should be focusing on. That is true for the climate apocalypse doomer as well as the peak oil armageddon doomer. It is also something the rest of us should be focused on as well.

We can learn much more about the state of development in the nuclear energy field by following The Nuclear Energy Blogger Carnival, and other sites such as the NextBigFuture “Nuclear” label.

One interesting new design for a “meltdown proof” nuclear reactor, is covered by Rod Adams at Atomic Insights blog. The design is a high temperature reactor that is cooled by fluoride salts, and utilises an efficient Brayton cycle gas turbine to generate electric power, as well as providing high quantities of valuable industrial process heat.

Brian Wang presents more details and images of this reactor on his website.

Brian Westenhaus at the New Energy and Fuels website also keeps an eye on developments in Fission and Fusion. In fact, Brian Westenhaus recently presented an intriguing update on “Cold Fusion,” or Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR).

As for conventional fusion reactors, a new study suggests that smaller fusion reactors with a radius of only 1.35 metres may be able to generate power at 180 MW “with a Q of 5.” Such a reactor would be 1/20th the size of the massively expensive ITER fusion reactor.

Small fission nuclear reactors is another hot area of nuclear research that promises to yield much earlier dividends than fusion — if the US government would only break out of the “nuclear foot-dragging mode” it has adopted under President Obama.

Because of their small size – 300 MW or less – SMRs have many unique applications, including generating emission-free electricity in remote areas with little or no access to the main power grid, or providing process heat to industrial applications. Some SMRs will have long operating cycles between refueling and don’t use water as a coolant or a moderator, making them better adapted to desert regions.

Whether they’re molten salt designs (IMSR), air-cooled, liquid metal, advanced fast-reactors (TerraPower; General Atomics) or variations on the traditional light-water reactor (NuScale), these new small reactors build on the successful experience of previous designs and the redundant safety systems developed over the last 60 years.

SMRs are modular in design, which means they can be manufactured completely in a factory and delivered and installed at the site in modules, allowing incremental increases in power as demand grows or fossil fuel plants like coal and oil are phased out. __ SMRs

So whether you are interested in ongoing progress in conventional nuclear fission, conventional fusion, LENRs/Cold Fusion, or small modular reactor (SMR) fission, the several links in this article should help you keep up — particularly the ones to the Brian Wang and Brian Westenhaus sites.

More: Talk-Polywell.org discussion forum on the Bussard fusion approach and sometimes other hot fusion topics.

https://alfinnextlevel.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/nuclear-fusion-still-a-force-to-be-reckoned-with/

We have the choice of becoming defeatist doomers, or useful problem-solvers in the style of Julian Simon or Buckminster Fuller.

The Al Fin Foundation for the Education and Upraising of Dangerous Children is all about the combination of a broad competence with a resourceful creativity and an ambitious “can-do” attitude. As such it is often at loggerheads with the doomers and stasists who control so much of media, academia, and government.

But it is not as difficult to teach children to escape the enslaving clutches of media/academia/government as you might think. The trick is in immunising the young minds of children against ideology, while making them skilled in philosophy, basic thinking, and reasoning. Since “doomerism” is one of the most destructive ideologies in today’s milieu, the child’s mind is freed up for more constructive pursuits.

In future issues we will look at more details of the ideology / philosophy dichotomy, and the importance of training young minds to make that important distinction at a much earlier age than is typically taught in schools.

Nuclear Process Heat Opens the Door to Abundant Fuels and Materials
http://alfin2100.blogspot.com/2012/11/peak-oil-meet-3-trillion-barrels-oil.html


Follow these links to discover some amazing things that you can do with industrial process heat from high temperature nuclear reactors.

  1. Unlock the trillions of barrels oil equivalent in oil sands (PDF)
  2. Unlock the trillions of barrels oil equivalent in coal to liquids and gas to liquids (PDF)
  3. Unlock the trillions of barrels oil equivalent in oil shale kerogens 
  4. Provide abundant industrial process heat for production of fertilisers, refining fuels, making plastics, etc 
  5. Split CO2 into CO to use as a hydrogen carrier 
  6. Overturn conventional fears of EROEI and Peak Oil 

The only kind of peak oil you are likely to see, is political peak oil — energy shortages caused by abysmally bad government policies.

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12 Responses to Peak Oil: Isn’t It Time to Start Promoting Safe, Clean, Abundant Nuclear Power?

  1. ianbrettcooper says:

    Safe nuclear power? Tell it to the people who live around Chernobyl and Fukushima. Oh, wait – you can’t, because there AREN’T ANY people living in either place because both areas are nuclear wastelands because nuclear ISN’T SAFE!

    • alfin2101 says:

      It is instructive to compare deaths caused by all forms of power generation. Brian Wang provides a good look. Here is a closer look at Fukushima and deaths from exposure to various forms of radiation.

      You may not want to consider the potential for safer, cleaner nuclear power with high quality industrial process heat that can convert any carbonaceous material into high quality fuels, plastics, fertilisers, lubricants, and other high value materials. You may be stuck on quite old reactor designs, or you may just want everything to “all fall down.” Doomers are like that.

      Yes, it’s a pity about the tens of thousands of people who died of radiation poisoning in Fukushima . . . But wait! The people died of a massive earthquake and tsunami, not radiation poisoning! Never mind. 😉 Chalk it off to poor design and lack of backups for powering-down.

      That’s the trouble with 60 year old designs that haven’t been upgraded to meet once in a hundred or once in a thousand year possible natural disasters.

      The Chernobyl design was even worse, with a Russian management that was negligent to say the least.

      As for Chernobyl, we are learning how many species of plants and animals can thrive under radiation levels once though highly mutagenic or lethal.
      http://mentalfloss.com/article/56621/animals-chernobyl

      Fukushima is another elevated radiation zone that is likely to create a boon for zoologists studying the effects of low dose radiation on animals and plants.

      Radiation hormesis is an important area of study that has been neglected due to low level radiation hysteria. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation_hormesis. There is a pressing need to get beyond the hysterical ideology stage of pseudo-science and do the proper research.

        • ianbrettcooper says:

          As for deaths from natural disasters, last time I checked, we don’t build natural disasters. We do build power plants and they do keep going wrong.

          • alfin2101 says:

            We actually do build natural disasters, if we fail to take them into account when we build bridges, buildings, dams, power plants, etc. etc. By looking at deaths from natural disasters we learn where we can make the biggest difference in saving lives by adapting to potential natural disasters.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_natural_disasters_by_death_toll

            Humans are going to keep on building bigger and bigger until they build right out of this solar system, and eventually out of this galaxy. When you start branching out that far, there will be all kinds of natural disasters to look out for, on a cosmic scale. We need to start thinking bigger.

            I understand that you are afraid. It’s alright to be afraid, it’s a natural human trait. Just try not to get trampeled by those who actually want to accomplish something.

      • ianbrettcooper says:

        Guess what, these new designs that are so much better, we’ll start finding problems with them too when they get old. Designs are never perfect, and when you add 30, 40 years, stuff starts going wrong. If nuclear power were so safe, it wouldn’t have mattered that we didn’t replace these old designs before they became a problem.

        Nuclear power is not safe. It’s extremely dangerous, especially when we leave old designs to rot for 40 years while they’re still producing power.

        • alfin2101 says:

          Nuclear power is far safer per TWH produced than any other form of large-scale power generation. Check the EROEI table above, compare safety and EROEI combined. If you add in reliability — capacity factor on-demand — and you see that nuclear power looks even better. In terms of long term fuel availability, nuclear is best there as well.

          For some reason, you remind me of one of those peak oil doomers who is afraid of nuclear, terrified of climate apocalypse, with few interesting ideas beyond your many fears of doom. If you are like most people, you believe what you want to believe, and don’t take the trouble to challenge any of your beliefs. That is only natural. Eventually, each of us will meet his doom. Only some of us choose to wallow in doom unproductively, unnecessarily.

          • Stephen says:

            Hopefully Aubrey de Grey will turn out correct and personal doom can be greatly postponed for most of us. 🙂

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  3. Alan S. says:

    One of the pieces of nuclear safety that repeatedly ends up at “Well, we didn’t -know- about that fault” or in a legal battle is the whole site-suitability problem.

    Stop doing it that way.

    Design the core and all the key pieces needed for a safe shutdown on a barge and float it – on an artificial lake if need be. Done right, you can decouple the entire “what about earthquakes” question and the pricey legal battles entirely from the plant design problem. And this decoupling also allows standardizing the design on the expensive and critical pieces.

    • alfin2101 says:

      The important thing is to learn to think outside the box, then test exhaustively. Don’t get too attached to any particular design until it is well proven.

  4. Abelard Lindsey says:

    Ultimately , nuclear power is the only solution because nuclear processes are six magnitudes of order more efficient at generating power than chemical processes.

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