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#26 2017-06-16 07:48:23

Antius
Member
From: Cumbria, UK
Registered: 2007-05-22
Posts: 1,003

Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

louis wrote:

I bet Texas's population density is somewhat lower than Denmark's...

As to Texas's suitability for wind energy...

https://www.ecowatch.com/6-reasons-why- … 96525.html

I guess it depends where you are coming from.

For the purposes of this discussion, I am not denying that nuclear energy can produce a lot of energy on a small footprint. But it is also very, very expensive. We are having to guarantee the price of nuclear in the UK for future installations at over

Our next nuclear power station could cost £37 billion for 3.2 GW of electric power. So about £10 billion per GWe.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/201 … up-to-37bn

But what is going to happen to the price of solar power and energy storage over the next three decades? All the signs are that both will continue to fall rapidly.

Nuclear power reactors are really only as expensive as we choose to make them.  They are inherently simple things – basically just boilers and they have very high power density.  If they are costing £10billion/GW it is a sign that we as a nation are doing something badly wrong, not that the concept of generating energy from fission is inherently expensive.  Part of the problem is that no one has built a nuclear reactor in the UK for over 20 years.  So Hinkley is essentially trying to start a whole new industry.  Our regulatory regime is also very efficient at increasing build times, which really pushes up the cost of a nuclear reactor.

Take a look at the link below.  The US was able to build nuclear power plants for as little as $500/kW back in the 60s and 70s.  The South Koreans and Indians are able to build for $2000/kW today.  The French built the majority of their fleet at <$2000/kW.  By that measure, Hinkley C should cost £5billion.

Bottom line is, if someone is trying to rip you off charging you above the odds for a new car, would you conclude that all cars are expensive, and therefore it’s better to buy a horse, or would you take steps to find a cheaper car?

https://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/p … r-reactors


louis wrote:

The issues in relation to Mars are far less about cost and much more to do with suitability, flexibility and reproducibility. My view is that within ten years, a Mars settlement could be producing all its power from ISRU manufacture of PV panels.  It could also store all the power it needs as methane/oxygen, manufacture methane/oxygen generators, and produce chemical batteries in abundance. A 1000 person settlement would have no problem generating say 20 MWs constant using solar as the power source.  That might require say (guesstimate) 2 million sq metres of PV panel. If the settlement can produce panels at a rate of 400 sq metres per day, that means they could produce that many in under 14 years.  Obviously they don't need to achieve that rate immediately.

We have already gone over why Mars built PV doesn’t work very well.  It would have very long energy payback times and energy storage makes that problem even worse.  If it were a simple matter to manufacture solar panels using 3D printers then it would be widespread here on Earth and established PV manufacturers would be going out of business.   The reality is that PV manufacture is a capital intensive and energy hungry industrial process.  Making your own at a hobby level is rather like trying to make your own microchips.

I have no doubt that a colony will make use of Mars built solar power in places where its modularity make it useful, but the poor energy rate of return makes this a bad investment for bulk power supply.  For a colony on Mars, the most favourable energy investment will be the one that gives them the most energy back, the most quickly for the smallest amount invested.  That much should be obvious.  It should also be obvious that the highest rate of return comes from the most power dense systems.  This is just simple physics.

Last edited by Antius (2017-06-16 07:53:15)

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#27 2017-06-16 07:59:40

Antius
Member
From: Cumbria, UK
Registered: 2007-05-22
Posts: 1,003

Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

For those interested:
https://thebreakthrough.org/images/pdfs … _Cheap.pdf

Last edited by Antius (2017-06-16 08:15:39)

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#28 2017-06-16 10:50:22

kbd512
Administrator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 7,429

Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

louis wrote:

I bet Texas's population density is somewhat lower than Denmark's...

Houston, the city I live in, has less the same number of people living in Denmark in 10K square miles versus the 16K square miles Denmark has.  I compared a single city with the population of Denmark.  Irrespective of whether or not Texas has more land area, it has higher energy consumption.

louis wrote:

As to Texas's suitability for wind energy...

We have people here who can't count, either.  They're called "environmentalists".

louis wrote:

https://www.ecowatch.com/6-reasons-why- … 96525.html

I guess it depends where you are coming from.

For the purposes of this discussion, I am not denying that nuclear energy can produce a lot of energy on a small footprint. But it is also very, very expensive. We are having to guarantee the price of nuclear in the UK for future installations at over

Our next nuclear power station could cost £37 billion for 3.2 GW of electric power. So about £10 billion per GWe.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/201 … up-to-37bn

Costs are measured in terms of output per year, not nameplate capacity.  This is another "trick" that "environmentalists" (people who hate clean air and water) use to sucker people who can't do math into buying into their "renewables" nonsense.

Solana Generating Station will cost about $2B, already has a loan for $1.42B from the banks, and its capacity its planned output is 944GWh.  This is typical for a 550MWe installation or thereabouts.

South Texas Nuclear Generating Station puts out 22,000GWh from two reactors and runs at 91.7% capacity.  That's pretty typical for a nuclear generating station.  Let's divide the output of a prototypical nuclear power installation that produces 2.5GWe by the output of a prototypical solar power installation that produces 550MWe.

22,000GWh/yr / 1,000GWh/yr = 22

22 * 2B/GWh = $44B

New reactors cost around $10B/GWe.  We know this because there are new nuclear reactors being built every year, even some in the US where costs to build anything are sky-high.  For nuclear reactors that cost about $25B, you get about 2.5GWe rated output which translates into about 22,000GWh/yr.

louis wrote:

But what is going to happen to the price of solar power and energy storage over the next three decades? All the signs are that both will continue to fall rapidly.

All solar power plants require coal or gas turbine power plants to provide continuous power.  Factor in the cost of a coal or gas turbine power plant with that solar power plant.  The economics become even worse and you're still dumping CO2 into the atmosphere.  Nuclear power has higher up-front costs as a function of actual output, but produces far less waste, requires far less land, and produces very predictable output.  Virtually all nuclear generating stations operate at 90%+ capacity.

I want you to objectively review the costs associated with producing 1GWe continuously for 1 year and then tell me what you've learned.  Stop changing the subject, playing games with construction cost versus output figures, and just tell me what you can determine about what it costs to construct and then operate a PV farm and coal or natural gas combination that produces 1GWe continuously for a year in the US or UK.

louis wrote:

The issues in relation to Mars are far less about cost and much more to do with suitability, flexibility and reproducibility. My view is that within ten years, a Mars settlement could be producing all its power from ISRU manufacture of PV panels.  It could also store all the power it needs as methane/oxygen, manufacture methane/oxygen generators, and produce chemical batteries in abundance. A 1000 person settlement would have no problem generating say 20 MWs constant using solar as the power source.  That might require say (guesstimate) 2 million sq metres of PV panel. If the settlement can produce panels at a rate of 400 sq metres per day, that means they could produce that many in under 14 years.  Obviously they don't need to achieve that rate immediately.

For various reasons related to output, mass, and thus cost, you should know full well that what you're proposing is never going to happen in the real world.  PV farms don't work very well here on Earth and the situation doesn't improve on Mars.

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#29 2017-06-16 12:37:17

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 7,208

Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

Let's assume 100 grams of purified silicon in a sq metre of solar panel...we'd be talking about processing a mere 40 kilograms of silicon per sol in order to get to 2 million sq. metres in under 14 years.  These are not impossible figures - very doable for a settlement in the hundreds.

Wind energy comes in at about $1.7 m for 1Mw capacity. So for 4Gw capacity (rough equivalent to get 1Gw output)  that would be $6.8 billion. 



kbd512 wrote:
louis wrote:

I bet Texas's population density is somewhat lower than Denmark's...

Houston, the city I live in, has less the same number of people living in Denmark in 10K square miles versus the 16K square miles Denmark has.  I compared a single city with the population of Denmark.  Irrespective of whether or not Texas has more land area, it has higher energy consumption.

louis wrote:

As to Texas's suitability for wind energy...

We have people here who can't count, either.  They're called "environmentalists".

louis wrote:

https://www.ecowatch.com/6-reasons-why- … 96525.html

I guess it depends where you are coming from.

For the purposes of this discussion, I am not denying that nuclear energy can produce a lot of energy on a small footprint. But it is also very, very expensive. We are having to guarantee the price of nuclear in the UK for future installations at over

Our next nuclear power station could cost £37 billion for 3.2 GW of electric power. So about £10 billion per GWe.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/201 … up-to-37bn

Costs are measured in terms of output per year, not nameplate capacity.  This is another "trick" that "environmentalists" (people who hate clean air and water) use to sucker people who can't do math into buying into their "renewables" nonsense.

Solana Generating Station will cost about $2B, already has a loan for $1.42B from the banks, and its capacity its planned output is 944GWh.  This is typical for a 550MWe installation or thereabouts.

South Texas Nuclear Generating Station puts out 22,000GWh from two reactors and runs at 91.7% capacity.  That's pretty typical for a nuclear generating station.  Let's divide the output of a prototypical nuclear power installation that produces 2.5GWe by the output of a prototypical solar power installation that produces 550MWe.

22,000GWh/yr / 1,000GWh/yr = 22

22 * 2B/GWh = $44B

New reactors cost around $10B/GWe.  We know this because there are new nuclear reactors being built every year, even some in the US where costs to build anything are sky-high.  For nuclear reactors that cost about $25B, you get about 2.5GWe rated output which translates into about 22,000GWh/yr.

louis wrote:

But what is going to happen to the price of solar power and energy storage over the next three decades? All the signs are that both will continue to fall rapidly.

All solar power plants require coal or gas turbine power plants to provide continuous power.  Factor in the cost of a coal or gas turbine power plant with that solar power plant.  The economics become even worse and you're still dumping CO2 into the atmosphere.  Nuclear power has higher up-front costs as a function of actual output, but produces far less waste, requires far less land, and produces very predictable output.  Virtually all nuclear generating stations operate at 90%+ capacity.

I want you to objectively review the costs associated with producing 1GWe continuously for 1 year and then tell me what you've learned.  Stop changing the subject, playing games with construction cost versus output figures, and just tell me what you can determine about what it costs to construct and then operate a PV farm and coal or natural gas combination that produces 1GWe continuously for a year in the US or UK.

louis wrote:

The issues in relation to Mars are far less about cost and much more to do with suitability, flexibility and reproducibility. My view is that within ten years, a Mars settlement could be producing all its power from ISRU manufacture of PV panels.  It could also store all the power it needs as methane/oxygen, manufacture methane/oxygen generators, and produce chemical batteries in abundance. A 1000 person settlement would have no problem generating say 20 MWs constant using solar as the power source.  That might require say (guesstimate) 2 million sq metres of PV panel. If the settlement can produce panels at a rate of 400 sq metres per day, that means they could produce that many in under 14 years.  Obviously they don't need to achieve that rate immediately.

For various reasons related to output, mass, and thus cost, you should know full well that what you're proposing is never going to happen in the real world.  PV farms don't work very well here on Earth and the situation doesn't improve on Mars.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#30 2017-06-16 15:04:19

kbd512
Administrator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 7,429

Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

louis wrote:

Let's assume 100 grams of purified silicon in a sq metre of solar panel...we'd be talking about processing a mere 40 kilograms of silicon per sol in order to get to 2 million sq. metres in under 14 years.  These are not impossible figures - very doable for a settlement in the hundreds.

Wind energy comes in at about $1.7 m for 1Mw capacity. So for 4Gw capacity (rough equivalent to get 1Gw output)  that would be $6.8 billion.

Here on Earth, where there are billions of people for manufacturing and access to all the resources required to produce PV panels or nuclear reactors, a PV farm still costs more to generate equivalent output, with respect to a nuclear reactor, and it still requires another coal or gas power plant to produce power when the Sun goes down every day.  The Sun goes down every day on Mars, too.  The only thing that's different is that you need 2.74 times as much solar panel mass to make up for being 50% farther from the Sun.

Topaz Solar Farm cost $2.5B and outputs 1,301GWh/yr.

The 2 fission reactors at STNP output 22,179GWh/yr and cost $5.5B.

That means Topaz Solar Farm would require 17 times as many PV panels as they already have to produce equivalent power.  That's nearly $35B to produce equivalent capacity and 425km^2 worth of land area.

PV prices have to drop by 40% and then a coal or gas power plant has to cost nothing to build before output is equivalent to a pair of nuclear reactors that use technology that existed before most of us were born.

It doesn't work, Louis.  It'll likely never work the way you want it to work within our lifetimes.  Basic math says it doesn't work.  Actual costs from actual power plants says it doesn't work.  Either everyone involved is lying all the time about what things cost and how much they weigh, or sooner or later you'll have to warm up to reality.

In the real world, pound for pound and dollar for dollar, nuclear power out-produces all other competing electric power production technologies by an incredibly wide margin.  Take away the fossil fuels and no other technology can produce utility grade electric power 24/7/365.  Any real advancement in nuclear technology, like liquid fueled Thorium reactors, would make the power equation even more ridiculously lopsided in favor of nuclear than it already is.

Online

#31 2017-06-16 16:41:41

RobertDyck
Moderator
From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 7,810
Website

Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

Elon Musk has already made a sale for a lithium ion battery module for a solar farm. So it charges during the day, runs off batteries at night.
Tesla Gives the California Power Grid a Battery Boost

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#32 2017-06-16 17:51:05

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 7,208

Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

Looking at historic costs for solar and nuclear is irrelevant. Look at contractual costs now. And look at the direction of travel.

A solar panel, when all is said and done is a very straightforward piece of kit. The processes are highly technical but that doesn't mean they can't be largely automated. A nuclear reactor is going to involve a hell of a lot of sticking stuff together that will involve human labour.

Sun goes down on Mars, but so what? We know how to bridge that.  A community of 1000 using 5Kws average constant per person (a pretty large figure)   during hours of low or no light would need only 400 tonnes of chemical batteries to bridge that gap (leaving aside methane for the moment). If they could produce just over 100 kgs of chemical batteries per day, they could build up that within 10 years.

kbd512 wrote:
louis wrote:

Let's assume 100 grams of purified silicon in a sq metre of solar panel...we'd be talking about processing a mere 40 kilograms of silicon per sol in order to get to 2 million sq. metres in under 14 years.  These are not impossible figures - very doable for a settlement in the hundreds.

Wind energy comes in at about $1.7 m for 1Mw capacity. So for 4Gw capacity (rough equivalent to get 1Gw output)  that would be $6.8 billion.

Here on Earth, where there are billions of people for manufacturing and access to all the resources required to produce PV panels or nuclear reactors, a PV farm still costs more to generate equivalent output, with respect to a nuclear reactor, and it still requires another coal or gas power plant to produce power when the Sun goes down every day.  The Sun goes down every day on Mars, too.  The only thing that's different is that you need 2.74 times as much solar panel mass to make up for being 50% farther from the Sun.

Topaz Solar Farm cost $2.5B and outputs 1,301GWh/yr.

The 2 fission reactors at STNP output 22,179GWh/yr and cost $5.5B.

That means Topaz Solar Farm would require 17 times as many PV panels as they already have to produce equivalent power.  That's nearly $35B to produce equivalent capacity and 425km^2 worth of land area.

PV prices have to drop by 40% and then a coal or gas power plant has to cost nothing to build before output is equivalent to a pair of nuclear reactors that use technology that existed before most of us were born.

It doesn't work, Louis.  It'll likely never work the way you want it to work within our lifetimes.  Basic math says it doesn't work.  Actual costs from actual power plants says it doesn't work.  Either everyone involved is lying all the time about what things cost and how much they weigh, or sooner or later you'll have to warm up to reality.

In the real world, pound for pound and dollar for dollar, nuclear power out-produces all other competing electric power production technologies by an incredibly wide margin.  Take away the fossil fuels and no other technology can produce utility grade electric power 24/7/365.  Any real advancement in nuclear technology, like liquid fueled Thorium reactors, would make the power equation even more ridiculously lopsided in favor of nuclear than it already is.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#33 2017-06-17 06:00:42

kbd512
Administrator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 7,429

Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

louis wrote:

Looking at historic costs for solar and nuclear is irrelevant. Look at contractual costs now. And look at the direction of travel.

I am looking at contractual costs right now, Louis.  Nuclear reactors still cost less than PV farms before the coal or gas power plant is included in the cost paid to provide equivalent capacity.  All fission reactors, both historically and currently, produce extremely reliable and consistent output that is not subject to local weather conditions.

No matter which way you try to go with this subject, the math doesn't work out in favor of PV.  Unless all past and present evidence regarding cost, mass, volume, and materials consumption are irrelevant, then there is no case for PV providing prime power on Earth, never mind Mars.  PV is most suitable for providing peak output as local weather conditions permit.

The only arguments left for not using nuclear power have nothing to do with math or science and everything to do with personal beliefs.  That said, no power production technologies of any sort work the way they do because of what someone believes.  If merely thinking something could cause it to be so, then the world would be a very different place.

louis wrote:

A solar panel, when all is said and done is a very straightforward piece of kit. The processes are highly technical but that doesn't mean they can't be largely automated. A nuclear reactor is going to involve a hell of a lot of sticking stuff together that will involve human labour.

PV panels and batteries are a straightforward poor solution to a problem that only gets worse as continuous output requirements increase.  All PV and battery solutions scale linearly.  Nuclear reactors do not.  Core volume increases measured in inches produce output variances measured in tens of kilowatts to megawatts.

Here's a visual that shows real PV space flight hardware from SolAero:

Satellite-Heritage-Space-Background-March-2017.jpg

None of those satellites produces 10kWe in Earth orbit and the PV arrays cost millions of dollars.  The minimum purchase order from SolAero is $7,500 USD.  CubeSatShop website lists Honeywell PV panels for 2,000 Euros, each.  They produce a maximum of 2.41We of power, each.  This is how much real PV space flight hardware costs.

louis wrote:

Sun goes down on Mars, but so what? We know how to bridge that.  A community of 1000 using 5Kws average constant per person (a pretty large figure)   during hours of low or no light would need only 400 tonnes of chemical batteries to bridge that gap (leaving aside methane for the moment). If they could produce just over 100 kgs of chemical batteries per day, they could build up that within 10 years.

A 5MWe reactor sent to Mars from Earth would provide that sort of output in a package that a single Falcon Heavy could deliver to Mars.  Use of regolith for radiation shielding is not a major problem.  The reactor is not some giant pressure vessel the size of a building.  It's smaller than a 55 gallon drum, even if it weighs substantially more.

I think batteries, solar panels, and gas turbines are all fantastic technologies, but when mass, cost, and environmental conditions actually matter, as they always do in real life, some solutions are more suitable to purpose than others.

Online

#34 2017-06-17 07:04:10

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 7,208

Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

I think you make my point for me. You would rather send a 400 tonne nuclear reactor to Mars, than send 400 tonnes of anything else, whether it be fertiliser, 3D printers, robot production lines, laptops, computers, furnaces, kilns, communications gear or anything else that is going to accelerate Mars's industrial development.  You'd rather Mars was kept on a drip feed from Earth.

Your following claim is simply not true. Or did you mean "after" rather than "before"?

"Nuclear reactors still cost less than PV farms before the coal or gas power plant is included in the cost paid to provide equivalent capacity. "

Do you accept that if the price of PV and energy storage continue to fall that at some point they can beat nuclear, coal and gas at providing utility scale electricity? Just wondering, because sometimes it sounds like you think there is a law of physics preventing that.

kbd512 wrote:
louis wrote:

Looking at historic costs for solar and nuclear is irrelevant. Look at contractual costs now. And look at the direction of travel.

I am looking at contractual costs right now, Louis.  Nuclear reactors still cost less than PV farms before the coal or gas power plant is included in the cost paid to provide equivalent capacity.  All fission reactors, both historically and currently, produce extremely reliable and consistent output that is not subject to local weather conditions.

No matter which way you try to go with this subject, the math doesn't work out in favor of PV.  Unless all past and present evidence regarding cost, mass, volume, and materials consumption are irrelevant, then there is no case for PV providing prime power on Earth, never mind Mars.  PV is most suitable for providing peak output as local weather conditions permit.

The only arguments left for not using nuclear power have nothing to do with math or science and everything to do with personal beliefs.  That said, no power production technologies of any sort work the way they do because of what someone believes.  If merely thinking something could cause it to be so, then the world would be a very different place.

louis wrote:

A solar panel, when all is said and done is a very straightforward piece of kit. The processes are highly technical but that doesn't mean they can't be largely automated. A nuclear reactor is going to involve a hell of a lot of sticking stuff together that will involve human labour.

PV panels and batteries are a straightforward poor solution to a problem that only gets worse as continuous output requirements increase.  All PV and battery solutions scale linearly.  Nuclear reactors do not.  Core volume increases measured in inches produce output variances measured in tens of kilowatts to megawatts.

Here's a visual that shows real PV space flight hardware from SolAero:

Satellite-Heritage-Space-Background-March-2017.jpg

None of those satellites produces 10kWe in Earth orbit and the PV arrays cost millions of dollars.  The minimum purchase order from SolAero is $7,500 USD.  CubeSatShop website lists Honeywell PV panels for 2,000 Euros, each.  They produce a maximum of 2.41We of power, each.  This is how much real PV space flight hardware costs.

louis wrote:

Sun goes down on Mars, but so what? We know how to bridge that.  A community of 1000 using 5Kws average constant per person (a pretty large figure)   during hours of low or no light would need only 400 tonnes of chemical batteries to bridge that gap (leaving aside methane for the moment). If they could produce just over 100 kgs of chemical batteries per day, they could build up that within 10 years.

A 5MWe reactor sent to Mars from Earth would provide that sort of output in a package that a single Falcon Heavy could deliver to Mars.  Use of regolith for radiation shielding is not a major problem.  The reactor is not some giant pressure vessel the size of a building.  It's smaller than a 55 gallon drum, even if it weighs substantially more.

I think batteries, solar panels, and gas turbines are all fantastic technologies, but when mass, cost, and environmental conditions actually matter, as they always do in real life, some solutions are more suitable to purpose than others.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#35 2017-06-17 16:11:08

Antius
Member
From: Cumbria, UK
Registered: 2007-05-22
Posts: 1,003

Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

louis wrote:

I think you make my point for me. You would rather send a 400 tonne nuclear reactor to Mars, than send 400 tonnes of anything else, whether it be fertiliser, 3D printers, robot production lines, laptops, computers, furnaces, kilns, communications gear or anything else that is going to accelerate Mars's industrial development.  You'd rather Mars was kept on a drip feed from Earth.

That's a rather daft statement.  The reality is that you need all of these things from Earth until you can make them yourself.

louis wrote:

Your following claim is simply not true. Or did you mean "after" rather than "before"?

"Nuclear reactors still cost less than PV farms before the coal or gas power plant is included in the cost paid to provide equivalent capacity. "

Do you accept that if the price of PV and energy storage continue to fall that at some point they can beat nuclear, coal and gas at providing utility scale electricity? Just wondering, because sometimes it sounds like you think there is a law of physics preventing that.

Unlikely.  There have been some impressively cheap PV projects in the past several years largely because the Chinese invested tens of billions of dollars in state owned enterprises to produce PV for their domestic market.  The market in China has crashed and they are now dumping these panels on the global market at less than their manufacturing cost.

http://fortune.com/2016/09/14/china-sol … roduction/

The Chinese tend to do things like this to keep their population in work.  It is inefficient, but that's Communism for you.  As long as the global market remains small the Chinese can keep selling these things at a loss and can trade them for real resources in other countries.

On top of this, renewable energy subsidies are now mandated by law in Western countries.  In most places, utilities are required to purchase increasing proportions of electricity from renewable sources.  The cost is passed on to customers and tax payers through a complex set of mechanisms.

http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/bar … lectricity

Solar advocates tend to obscure or ignore these inconvenient facts.  Recent declines in price have more to do with market distortions and politics than technological advancements.  They remain possible only as long as demand is relatively small.

One must also consider that the relative price of energy sources varies from place to place.  A small country or isolated region with few domestic fossil fuel resources and little in the way of technical expertise may indeed find it cheaper to import a solar power plant from China than a continuous supply of natural gas from Qatar.  That doesn't mean that solar power is cost competitive with fossil fuels or nuclear energy in large markets.  It means that a subsidized (dumped) commercial product happens to have a short term, local advantage in that place.

Ideological advocates of renewable energy tend to capitalize on local anomalies like this and use them to suggest that a new age is upon us.  But the devil is in the detail that they purposefully leave out.  Political ideologues will always find ways to advocate things that they believe in.  It is often difficult to see propaganda for what it is.  But no amount of ideology, propaganda or manipulation can turn a bad solution into a good one.

Last edited by Antius (2017-06-17 16:29:33)

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#36 2017-06-17 16:37:46

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 7,208

Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

Think you're whistling in the dark...

https://cleantechnica.com/2017/02/09/ch … city-2016/

The Chinese doubled their solar capacity last year, adding some 35 Gws.  As the article notes, however energy efficient coal might be, it's no good if it's poisoning your citizens in major conurbations (especially your more prosperous citizens who can affect policy decisions).

The point about about importing nuclear technology to Mars is that it retards industrial self-sufficiency if it prevents the importation of a range of technologies that will enable the Mars settlement to become self-sufficient. Your recommended approach is the equivalent of telling the original Virginian colonists to import grain from the UK to feed themselves...no doubt, if someone was prepared to bankroll it, that would be a great solution, but the USA would have died in the crib.

The times they are a-changing:

http://reneweconomy.com.au/energy-disru … 2017-2017/

This is Australia on the back of pretty conventional PV panels. 

There are going to be game-changing technologies coming into play that will change the equations across the temperate zone of the globe where most people live.

Antius wrote:
louis wrote:

I think you make my point for me. You would rather send a 400 tonne nuclear reactor to Mars, than send 400 tonnes of anything else, whether it be fertiliser, 3D printers, robot production lines, laptops, computers, furnaces, kilns, communications gear or anything else that is going to accelerate Mars's industrial development.  You'd rather Mars was kept on a drip feed from Earth.

That's a rather daft statement.  The reality is that you need all of these things from Earth until you can make them yourself.

louis wrote:

Your following claim is simply not true. Or did you mean "after" rather than "before"?

"Nuclear reactors still cost less than PV farms before the coal or gas power plant is included in the cost paid to provide equivalent capacity. "

Do you accept that if the price of PV and energy storage continue to fall that at some point they can beat nuclear, coal and gas at providing utility scale electricity? Just wondering, because sometimes it sounds like you think there is a law of physics preventing that.

Unlikely.  There have been some impressively cheap PV projects in the past several years largely because the Chinese invested tens of billions of dollars in state owned enterprises to produce PV for their domestic market.  The market in China has crashed and they are now dumping these panels on the global market at less than their manufacturing cost.

http://fortune.com/2016/09/14/china-sol … roduction/

The Chinese tend to do things like this to keep their population in work.  It is inefficient, but that's Communism for you.  As long as the global market remains small the Chinese can keep selling these things at a loss and can trade them for real resources in other countries.

On top of this, renewable energy subsidies are now mandated by law in Western countries.  In most places, utilities are required to purchase increasing proportions of electricity from renewable sources.  The cost is passed on to customers and tax payers through a complex set of mechanisms.

http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/bar … lectricity

Solar advocates tend to obscure or ignore these inconvenient facts.  Recent declines in price have more to do with market distortions and politics than technological advancements.  They remain possible only as long as demand is relatively small.

One must also consider that the relative price of energy sources varies from place to place.  A small country with few domestic fossil fuel resources and little in the way of technical expertise may indeed find it cheaper to import a solar power plant from China than natural gas from Qatar.  That doesn't mean that solar power is cost competitive with fossil fuels or nuclear energy in large markets.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#37 2017-06-17 18:53:39

SpaceNut
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Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

The one difference that matteris is the volume of ships required for solar is greatly larger than a single reactor even when cost and mass are ignored, its all in the number of launchers that matter at that point.

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#38 2017-06-17 19:33:26

louis
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From: UK
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Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

Er no. Think about it. The key question is whether you can create an energy source on Mars with ISRU while the settlement is still small, under 1000. My contention is you can as long as you go for PV power. If you can, then you don't need to import anything more from Earth relating to energy production.  It's the end of that particular story. But with nuclear it will be a long time before a Mars settlement can produce nuclear reactors. So in the meantime any tonnage related to nuclear power displaces other much needed tonnage.

SpaceNut wrote:

The one difference that matteris is the volume of ships required for solar is greatly larger than a single reactor even when cost and mass are ignored, its all in the number of launchers that matter at that point.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#39 2017-06-17 20:02:18

kbd512
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Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

louis wrote:

I think you make my point for me. You would rather send a 400 tonne nuclear reactor to Mars, than send 400 tonnes of anything else, whether it be fertiliser, 3D printers, robot production lines, laptops, computers, furnaces, kilns, communications gear or anything else that is going to accelerate Mars's industrial development.  You'd rather Mars was kept on a drip feed from Earth.

Actually, I made the point that your point is not currently mathematically valid.  You said you thought the Martian colonists would need 5MWe continuous power for a thousand people or so.  I said a fission reactor could supply that kind of power for far less tonnage than the batteries or the equipment you'd have to send to Mars to construct batteries or PV panels.  In order to make anything on Mars using Martian resources, you need a lot of power.

A 5MWe fission reactor core is literally inches larger in dimensions than SAFE-400 and that includes the reflector assembly.  Both Kilopower and SAFE-400 use the same basic heat-pipe cooled design and are constructed with the same materials, with the exception that SAFE-400 uses UO2 fuel instead of Kilopower's UMo fuel to permit operation at higher temperatures.  UO2 is what most commercial reactors use, so its mechanical and chemical properties are better and more universally understood than UMo.  A 4MWe SAFE-400 derivative would be about 24 inches (.6m) in diameter and about 28 inches (.7m) in length.  A SAFE-400 core is 12 inches in diameter and 20 inches in length.  Once again, nuclear reactor output does not scale linearly with core dimensions.  Power density goes up dramatically as operating temperatures increase.

Kilopower was designed in such a way that you could literally detach the entire cooling system from the reactor and there'd be no possibility of a meltdown.  DOE likes to test these sorts of things for themselves.  They took a piece of depleted Uranium metal, alloyed it with the quantity of Molybdenum they intended to use in the production articles (various alloys were tested), machined it to the exact dimensions of the core, and then electrically heated the sample to the peak thermal output that Kilopower could generate.  That's how DOE "knows" things like that.

A 5MWe fission reactor is something that a single Falcon Heavy flight can deliver to the surface of Mars using current TMI mass figures.  The fact that some regolith has to be present to provide adequate shielding is not a problem.  There's no shortage of regolith on Mars and there never has been.

louis wrote:

Your following claim is simply not true. Or did you mean "after" rather than "before"?

My claim simply is true, Louis.  Look at the actual output from PV plants and the actual costs to build them.  China and India may be able to build solar power plants that are cost-competitive with nuclear power plants because they own the PV panel manufacturing plants and use what amounts to slave labor for construction.  Neither of those things are true in the US.

Topaz Solar Farm cost $2.5B to construct.  Topaz Solar Farm output is 1,301GWh/yr of power.  Solana Generating Station will cost $2B to construct.  Planned output is 944GWh/yr.  Solana uses molten salt for energy storage and occupies a parcel of land similar in size to a nuclear generating station, even though it only produces 1/20th the output of a prototypical nuclear generating station.

To be frank, as a function of the molten salt reactor technology developed between the 1960's and the 1970's, nobody alive today under the age of 50 should know what a gas or coal power plant is, except from pictures in history books published before they were born.

New nuclear generating stations cost $10B to construct.  Those are actual construction costs for new manufacture nuclear generating stations that have recently been built or are being built as I write this.  The nuclear generating stations with a pair of reactors typically output 20,000GWh or more.  In Tennessee, Watts Bar #2 was authorized for construction in April of 2012 and certification to produce electric power was received on October 19th, 2016.  Watts Bar #2 was estimated to cost $4B to $4.5B to construct and the actual cost to construct was $4.7B.  That means the cost estimates and actual costs align very closely.  Watts Bar gets paid by DOE for Tritium production, so I'm sure the $200M over budget was quickly offset with repayment for DOE for their valuable isotopes.  Watts Bar #1 has operated at 92.1% capacity.  2016 output was 11,248GWh.

louis wrote:

"Nuclear reactors still cost less than PV farms before the coal or gas power plant is included in the cost paid to provide equivalent capacity. "

That's an absolutely true statement based on actual construction costs for actual PV and nuclear power plants.  For PV farms to provide equivalent output to Watts Bar #2, you'd have to spend $23B for solar thermal or $21B for photovoltaic arrays.  To provide equivalent capacity to the 2 operating reactors at Watts Bar, you'd have to spend $46B for solar thermal, $42B for photovoltaic, or $10B for nuclear.  Physical reality currently makes that impossible because gas or coal power plants have to provide electricity when the Sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow.

louis wrote:

Do you accept that if the price of PV and energy storage continue to fall that at some point they can beat nuclear, coal and gas at providing utility scale electricity? Just wondering, because sometimes it sounds like you think there is a law of physics preventing that.

Do you accept that basic math and recorded history contradicts every single argument you've made thus far against using nuclear power?

Apart from fossil fuels, there are no other sources that remotely approach the continuous and reliable output of nuclear reactors for providing electricity required by municipal services and manufacturing.  You can't shut off a waste water treatment plant.  You can't shut off a steel manufacturing plant.  We're also supposed to be limiting our use of fossil fuels to end pollution of our environment, not using ever-increasing quantities of fossil fuels as worldwide demand for electric power increases, year-over-year.

A total of 13 people have died in the US from nuclear power (4 - electrocutions, 4 - 500F steam from a burst pipe in the generator room, 3 - in a US Army test reactor explosion following improper removal of a control rod, 1 - radiation exposure from a criticality accident in a fuel processing plant, 1 - falling generator part dropped by a crane) since January 3rd, 1961.  On average, the US has lost 51 people each year to lightning strikes over the past 2 decades.  If I had to live in a nuclear power plant for the rest of my life or live outside in Texas without a roof over my head, I would happily live inside the nuclear power plant.

In any event, we have more than 50,000 wind turbines in the US that generated a whopping 226.485GWh in 2016.  Each wind turbine occupies a parcel of land the size of a small office building.  The 99 operating nuclear generating stations in the US generated 805TWh in 2016.  1TWh = 1,000GWh for those who can't count.  Maybe if we cut down enough trees to replace our beautiful American landscape with 150,000 more of these wind turbines, we can install enough wind turbines to account for 1/805th of the output of our 99 nuclear reactors.  If we only had 161,000,000 of these things, then we could produce as much power as our 99 reactors provide.

I can't wait to see what you change the subject to next.

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#40 2017-06-17 21:15:16

SpaceNut
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From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 28,863

Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

Well just how many ships and tons of cargo will be needed to be able to turn on insitu manufacturing, mining, processing...ect... when we can not even send a crew of 2 which I feel is do able but its going to cost us in preloaded landing site and thinking of survival first not science....

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#41 2017-06-18 19:10:52

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 7,208

Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

Not that many is the answer... we are talking about small scale industrialisation .  It only takes a 100 g of silicon to make a square metre of PV panelling. These are huge numbers. As the settement grows, so will the numbers. But there is no requirement to leap to mass production, especially in an era of 3D printing, CNC machines and robotics.

PV panel manufacture is not a thing for Mission One or even Mission Two, but I would hope that after 6 years it's possible on a v. small scale and that by 10 years in we have a proper production line in place that then expands and expands.

SpaceNut wrote:

Well just how many ships and tons of cargo will be needed to be able to turn on insitu manufacturing, mining, processing...ect... when we can not even send a crew of 2 which I feel is do able but its going to cost us in preloaded landing site and thinking of survival first not science....


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#43 2017-06-30 19:11:37

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 7,208

Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

The idea that NASA will get to Mars before Space X is risible. And I think Space X are much more likely to use PV power if for no other reason that Musk doesn't want to damage his brand which is all about solar.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#44 2017-07-06 20:31:37

SpaceNut
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From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 28,863

Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

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#45 2017-07-07 15:07:09

kbd512
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Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

I estimate that the total delivered (to the surface of Mars) tonnage that Falcon Heavy can achieve using HIAD is around 7t or less out of the 16.8t it can TMI.  I estimate that SLS could land 20t, maybe 25t at most, but at more than five times the cost.

It should be instructive to the advocates for solar power that a system that produces the same quantity of LOX in 200 days longer than the system with a nuclear reactor running at less than 70% of rated output weighs just 300kg less than the nuclear system.  If you provide equivalent capability with current generation solar and battery technology, then you're talking about more mass and more landings because our current all-retro-propulsion EDL technology can't affordably land more than 7t or so.

NASA and DOE are working on Kilopower because...

1. Their rover can tow a 10kWe Kilopower reactor to wherever they want to go and this is a design consideration for the crater exploration they want to undertake on Mars.

2. Minimum output is more or less guaranteed, so they can determine how much power they need and then work out how many reactor units they must deliver.  Output variability is significantly reduced by using a nuclear power source and the 90%+ of rated output capacity that nuclear generating stations average here on Earth is a significant design consideration.

3. From a mechanical standpoint, Kilopower is utter simplicity and built like a tank.  It's nothing but blocks of various metals that are proven to withstand the thermal and radiation environment and it requires a pair of D cell batteries to initiate startup.  As a function of surface area to volume ratio, a meltdown would require human intervention to make that possible, even if the cooling system was removed entirely from the reactor.  Apart from testing to ensure the mechanical reliability of the electric generators and PMAD equipment, it's about as close to bulletproof as a nuclear reactor design will get.

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#46 2017-07-07 19:00:28

SpaceNut
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From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 28,863

Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

The other point of the units is that they can be powered down for less radiation exposure while moving them. Safe distance was indicated a 1km other wise unless we put it in a pit.

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#47 2017-07-07 20:19:15

kbd512
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Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

SpaceNut,

I'd agree that operational prudence should always be at the forefront of any power provisioning solution, but in space loss of power is every bit as lethal as radiation from a nuclear reactor.  Digging a pit smaller than a five gallon bucket should not require advanced tools or endless studies.  Give an astronaut a shovel, put him in a suit, and see if he can dig a small hole.  If he can, then problem solved.  We don't need to spend millions of dollars to test the "perfect" shovel, either.  If it can survive being used several hundred times at -70 below, then it's good enough for use on Mars.  Add a sturdy shovel or two to the packing list and move on.

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#48 2018-06-16 18:32:35

SpaceNut
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From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 28,863

Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

another place to post this in:

RobertDyck wrote:

louis: Nuclear is an option that gained a bad reputation based on ignorance. America chose to developer nuclear reactors for navy ships, then use those designs for commercial power. There are several problems with that. Ship reactors were designed to operate without maintenance of the core for years at a time, refueling required shutting the reactor down for 3 months at a time. You may be ale to do that with a navy ship, but not commercial power plant. Furthermore, fuel required enrichment. Enrichment is expensive, but significantly reduces mass carried by the vessel. That mass reduction holds no benefit what so ever for a ground based power plant. But a power plant cannot shut down. Furthermore, these old designs resulted in a significant proportion of uranium absorbing a neutron to be transmuted into a different element, and the reactor was not designed to use those other elements as fuel. This created significant radioactive waste. Modern reactor designs use these other trans-uranic elements as fuel. Furthermore, a thorium reactor starts with 100% Th-232 as fuel, requiring a two-step reaction. 1) absorb a neutron to become Th-233, then a few days to decay to U-233, then that uranium is split by another neutron. Modern thorium reactor designs do not provide enough neutron radiation to sustain a reaction. After all, splitting uranium releases on average 3 neutrons with each atom split, so a uranium reactor only requires 1/3 of the neutrons to hit another U-235 atom. But with thorium, 2/3 of the neutrons must be productively used, one to transmute thorium into uranium, the other to split uranium. This requires a small high-intensity neutron radiation source to keep the reactor going. That neutron source is mounted on an arm so it can be quickly and easily removed, allowing the reaction to die. It's a safety feature. But it also means 100% of raw fuel is fissile. And U-233 abosbs neutron radiation more readily than either Th-232 or U-235, so U-233 is consumed as quickly as it's produced, and extremely little is transmuted into undesired trans-uranics. When fuel rods (Th or U) become contaminated with too much fission fragments (nuclear waste) that waste product "poisons" the reaction. So fuel rods have to be replaced. Reprocessing separates unused fuel from waste, so unused fuel can be made into fresh fuel rods. This dramatically reduces nuclear waste. And fission fragments are high radioactive elements that decay quickly. Fast decay means they can be stored for months, then the vast majority becomes non-radioactive. The non-radioactive material can be separated from still "hot" radioactive.

This research was proceeding, but unfortunately anti-nuclear activists campaigned against research to effectively eliminate radioactive waste. They actually campaigned against reactors that use trans-uranic elements as fuel, against reprocessing facilities, against any advancement.

As for Japan, their reactors were designed to use plutonium as fuel. The most plentiful trans-uranic in waste from American nuclear reactors was plutonium, so Japanese reactors were designed to use that waste as fuel. The problem is they designed Fukushima class reactors to survive either an earth quake or tsunami, but not both. But Japan is an island, any major earth quake will cause a tsunami. They realized this, designed a new model of reactor to resolve this. A new reactor was under construction, Fukushima was scheduled to be shut down just 3 months after the accident. If they had completed construction that much sooner, the accident wouldn't have happened.

Mars: MGS already mapped deposits of thorium. It's an indicator mineral for uranium, but why not use the thorium itself?

In the thread "updating Mars Direct", I suggested taking mobility components from Curiosity rover (new components) and bolting them to a SAFE-400 reactor. That reactor is the same as SP-100, but newer and lower mass, designed by the same team. The result would be the same mass as Curiosity. Wheels, suspension arms, motors, nav-cam, navigation computer, but the body and RTG and science instruments replaced by the reactor. A self-driving reactor is easy to get out. Of course that's sized for a science mission, not settlement.

I should also point out, Mars Direct included a nuclear reactor on the ERV, delivered without crew. The reactor would be parked in a bottom of a crater a safe distance from the ERV before the reactor is turned on. Crew would ride in the hab, with solar. Crew would never ride with a reactor. Radiation from uranium is mild; in 1987 I saw a video that was old at that time, showing Canadian nuclear reactor workers filling fuel rods, they stuffed yellow cake uranium oxide powder into stainless steel tubes using their fingers. They wore the same loose plastic gloves you get with oven cleaner, white lab coat, paper filter mask over their nose/mouth, lexan eye protection, and plastic shower cap over their hair. That's all they needed. Uranium is that safe before it goes into the reactor. The dangerous stuff is the fission fragments, after atoms are split. You want a concrete wall several feet thick between you a fuel rod as it comes out of a reactor, or 12 foot deep pool of water. A reactor that has never, ever been turned on is so safe that the casing of the reactor is all the protection you need. Once the reactor is turned on... But transporting the reactor to Mars in a vehicle without crew is a definite safety feature.

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#49 2018-06-16 18:55:59

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 7,208

Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

Re-reading this thread reminds me that nuclear power most definitely does condemn the early colony to dependence on Earth. There is no way a small community of say 500 or even a thousand could find the resources required to build nuclear reactors (given all the other activities that have to be undertaken). That means you have to import them from Earth. But a small community could definitely manufacture ISRU PV panels using largely automated processes, thus freeing up tonnage imported for other vital tasks necessary to building a self-sufficient industrial infrastructure.

For me that is the real clincher.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#50 2018-06-17 02:15:18

Terraformer
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From: Ceres
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Posts: 3,817
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Re: Magnox Nuclear Reactors for Mars

louis, a settlement of 500 *is* going to be dependent on Earth, unless manufacturing technology advances far beyond what we have today.

Also, there's no reason why  the *entire* reactor has to be importing. Shielding can come from Mars. The turbine to turn the heat into electricity can come from Mars. Piping can come from Mars. With that, it could compare well with imported solar cells (you *do* know what's involved in manufacturing them, right?).


"I'm gonna die surrounded by the biggest idiots in the galaxy." - If this forum was a Mars Colony

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