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#151 2021-07-20 03:23:05

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,854

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

Well, another way of thinking about this is that fossil fuels are themselves a kind of energy storage system. Certainly they require a substantial infrastructure: drilling sites, pipelines, ports, roads and rail and storage facilities close to the power generation site before they can be used. Seen in those terms, in situ hydrogen storage, near a water source at a power generation site is not so crazy. It all comes down to cost.

The difference between me and a swivel eyed green fanatic is that I am a gradualist who says these things could and should happen as price allows. I also do think there is a role for the state in (a) assessing the overall economic benefit to the community and (b) subsidising development of new technologies and creation of economies of scale.  Capitalism won't do (a) as it views profit at the level of the firm but energy independence can deliver real economic benefits in terms of domestic employment and balance of payments that can boost your economy and GDP. Re (b) some things just won't happen unless someone is prepared to make an investment. The state is good at creating opportunities for new technology e.g. look at NASA and its spin-offs. I very much doubt that solar or wind would be where they are now without a strong subsidy element at the outset.


kbd512 wrote:

Louis,

I love your creativity and I like the premise / theory behind a lot of it, but you have a very cavalier attitude towards spending other peoples' money, as well as resource consumption.  The goal of sustainability is not to attempt to do it no matter the cost or complexity involved, or damage done to the environment in other ways, but to do it in an affordable and practical way that limits consumption and waste production.  There's nothing particularly sustainable or environmentally friendly about consuming 10 to 1,000 times more resources, at a global level.  As of right now, grid level storage at the scale required is every bit as expensive as nuclear power is here in America and then some.  There's no feasible way to produce a power plant that costs 10 times more than a competing alternative does to simply construct, because it requires 10 to 1,000 times more resources, and then proclaim that to be "green energy".

When I evaluate a proposal and think to myself, "this could work because it uses well understood principles demonstrated at the scale required" or "this won't work using present technology or has yet to be demonstrated at the scale required".  I approach it the same way I'd approach any other engineering problem.  We can either demonstrate an affordably repeatable process at the scale required or we can't.  I don't think I've seen anyone else ignore that principle quite so often as you tend to.

If you can generate power, then you don't have to store it.  You don't need mega-scale engineering projects that consume resources at an alarming rate, only made possible by the cheapest and dirtiest forms of energy production.  As with all other forms of energy generation, wind and solar have practical limits, but you're unwilling to accept that, because it means something that you don't personally agree with will have to play some part in the energy mix.


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#152 2021-07-20 05:04:18

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 1,154

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

Hydrogen at 45MPa @room temp, results in some embrittlement of ductile low alloy steels, but they remain sufficiently ductile to allow for their continued use in hydrogen pipelines.
http://www.nlcpr.com/3878REV.pdf

For higher strength alloy steels, embrittlement is more of a problem.  For carbon steels, it is important to avoid work hardening.

A more significant issue may be leakage of hydrogen through seals, leading to buildup of explosive atmosphere in pipelines not designed to carry it.

Conversion of hydrogen into anhydrous ammonia is a good idea, as ammonia is a storable liquid at modest pressure.  The haber process is a steady-flow process, that takes place at 500°C and 200 bar, over an iron oxide catalyst.  The alkaline electrolysis cells can be engineered to work at 200 bar pressure, such that hydrogen evolving at their cathodes can be vented directly into the reactor (it is much energetically cheaper to pump water at 200 bar into the electrolysis cells, than it is to compress the evolved hydrogen to 200 bar).  Once full, the reactor will convert hydrogen and nitrogen into ammonia, which is a mildly exothermic reaction.  The process requires substantial heat input to start.

One thing to note: At the temperatures and pressure at which ammonia synthesis is carried out, thermal cycling should be avoided.  Thermal cycling will result in steady crack growth which will limit the life of pressurised components.  To achieve low product cost it is also beneficial to run this expensive capital equipment at 100% capacity 24/7, as this achieves best amortisation of capital costs.  Also note that running the process intermittently will substantially increase thermal energy costs.  This has implications for energy source used to drive the process.  Intermittent energy isn't a good idea.

Ammonia is combustible in air at concentrations 15-28%, but burns too slowly to build up the overpressure that is associated with explosion.  In fact, ammonia engines may need a combustion promoter to operate efficiently at high speeds.  Maybe less of an issue for big marine diesel engines.  Not sure how ammonia would work in a gas turbine.

https://www.ammoniaenergy.org/articles/ … n-engines/

It is irritant and toxic at high concentration.  This needs to be factored into how it is used for vehicle applications.  Chemical compatability with steels is good, but polymers should be avoided.

Last edited by Calliban (2021-07-20 05:40:38)


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#153 2021-07-20 08:02:21

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 7,208

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

For Calliban re #152

SearchTerm:Ammonia analysis of - manufacture - distribution - risks - optimum performance

For Louis ... thanks for your observations about fossil fuels as energy carriers.

A larger concern (not the first time I've mentioned this) is that ** burning ** fossil fuels will be regarded as criminal negligence by future humans needing oil and other lubricants.

The sooner we stop wasting that valuable resource the better for everyone's sake.

(th)

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#154 2021-07-20 12:13:24

GW Johnson
Member
From: McGregor, Texas USA
Registered: 2011-12-04
Posts: 4,563
Website

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

The X-15 with the big XLR-99 engine burned anhydrous ammonia with liquid oxygen.  You just need enough chamber residence time to get it burnt before it enters the nozzle throat.  That's the propellant combination it used setting all those speed and altitude records.

The X-15 attitude control thrusters used 90+% hydrogen peroxide as a decomposition mono-propellant.  You offload and dilute with water after every flight to prevent spontaneous explosion.  You re-distill it up to strength right before you load it for the next flight.  Flights have to be short (only an hour long at most). 

GW

Last edited by GW Johnson (2021-07-20 12:13:36)


GW Johnson
McGregor,  Texas

"There is nothing as expensive as a dead crew,  especially one dead from a bad management decision"

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#155 2021-07-20 12:28:34

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 1,154

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

Fossil fuel combustion results in several million early fatalities every single year from air pollution.  How bad do you think nuclear safety would need to be before we reached that kind of body count?  There would need to be THOUSANDS of core melt accidents, in LARGE power reactors, every single year.  At present, there aren't enough nuclear reactors on the planet to result in that outcome, even if we blew them up deliberately.  We would run out of nuclear reactors to blow up, before we reached the body count that fossil fuels produce every single year.

That is something worth remembering about Louis's much beloved renewable energy sources, which are really just fossil power stations, with wind and solar farms modestly reducing the fuel bill (and body count).  Unfortunately, the steel and concrete used to build those monuments to the green sun goddess, are made using fossil fuels and are transported to site and assembled using fossil fuels.  Isn't that just hilarious.

On another note, even the horrific human consequences of fossil fuel air pollution would seem to be something that human beings have no trouble living with, as our life expectancy has more than doubled in the past two centuries and our numbers have increased almost ten fold.  This should tell us that the benefit-cost ratio of even the dirtiest energy production are well above unity.  The only thing we really need to worry about is that one day, if we don't get off of fossil fuels before their net energy diminishes too much, it all might end.  Whilst nuclear radiation and fossil fuel air pollution are risks that we take, failing to produce sufficient net energy is something that would certainly result in a devastating reduction in human life expectancy, as well as the collapse of our civilisation.  I don't think Louis really gets that.  But it a risk that we are seriously running in attempting to replace our legacy fossil fuelled energy system with an ambient energy based system, that requires orders of magnitude more materials and embodied energy just to do the same job.

Last edited by Calliban (2021-07-20 12:34:35)


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#156 2021-07-20 13:46:23

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,854

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

The EU does have a plan to convert the North Sea into a green energy hub. Denmark has already announced plans to create an energy island some 80 miles off the coast. Making hydrogen obviates the need to lay cables from wind farms to the coast and, it seems, they think they can use existing natural methane pipelines to pipe hydrogen back to the mainland for use in power generation. Perhaps they are thinking in terms of upgrading the seals?


Calliban wrote:

Hydrogen at 45MPa @room temp, results in some embrittlement of ductile low alloy steels, but they remain sufficiently ductile to allow for their continued use in hydrogen pipelines.
http://www.nlcpr.com/3878REV.pdf

For higher strength alloy steels, embrittlement is more of a problem.  For carbon steels, it is important to avoid work hardening.

A more significant issue may be leakage of hydrogen through seals, leading to buildup of explosive atmosphere in pipelines not designed to carry it.

Conversion of hydrogen into anhydrous ammonia is a good idea, as ammonia is a storable liquid at modest pressure.  The haber process is a steady-flow process, that takes place at 500°C and 200 bar, over an iron oxide catalyst.  The alkaline electrolysis cells can be engineered to work at 200 bar pressure, such that hydrogen evolving at their cathodes can be vented directly into the reactor (it is much energetically cheaper to pump water at 200 bar into the electrolysis cells, than it is to compress the evolved hydrogen to 200 bar).  Once full, the reactor will convert hydrogen and nitrogen into ammonia, which is a mildly exothermic reaction.  The process requires substantial heat input to start.

One thing to note: At the temperatures and pressure at which ammonia synthesis is carried out, thermal cycling should be avoided.  Thermal cycling will result in steady crack growth which will limit the life of pressurised components.  To achieve low product cost it is also beneficial to run this expensive capital equipment at 100% capacity 24/7, as this achieves best amortisation of capital costs.  Also note that running the process intermittently will substantially increase thermal energy costs.  This has implications for energy source used to drive the process.  Intermittent energy isn't a good idea.

Ammonia is combustible in air at concentrations 15-28%, but burns too slowly to build up the overpressure that is associated with explosion.  In fact, ammonia engines may need a combustion promoter to operate efficiently at high speeds.  Maybe less of an issue for big marine diesel engines.  Not sure how ammonia would work in a gas turbine.

https://www.ammoniaenergy.org/articles/ … n-engines/

It is irritant and toxic at high concentration.  This needs to be factored into how it is used for vehicle applications.  Chemical compatability with steels is good, but polymers should be avoided.

Last edited by louis (2021-07-20 13:47:04)


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#157 2021-07-20 14:47:21

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 7,208

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

For Louis re #156

Thank you for the update on Danish thinking about shipping Hydrogen from offshore to land where it can be used directly for power, or in manufacturing.

For Calliban, your careful attention to efficiency of various processes has increased my awareness of losses in various processes.  In this case, it sure ** looks ** to me as though cutting out the middleman would make a lot of sense. 

The source of Hydrogen would (presumably) be sea water, so losses will inevitably occur in desalination and electrolysis.

On the other hand, engineers may be tempted to try to achieve Hydrogen production directly from sea water.

A system that could do ** that ** efficiently would be competitively advantageous.

One thing that bothers me (a bit) about the scenario Louis described, is that Oxygen is not mentioned as a valuable byproduct of the production of Hydrogen.

Oxygen is going to be increasingly valuable for space launches, and that is true regardless of the fuel consumed.

(th)

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#158 2021-07-20 18:20:14

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,854

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

Video on the Danish Island Project.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GC3VcB0gLY

The Danes are no fools.


tahanson43206 wrote:

For Louis re #156

Thank you for the update on Danish thinking about shipping Hydrogen from offshore to land where it can be used directly for power, or in manufacturing.

For Calliban, your careful attention to efficiency of various processes has increased my awareness of losses in various processes.  In this case, it sure ** looks ** to me as though cutting out the middleman would make a lot of sense. 

The source of Hydrogen would (presumably) be sea water, so losses will inevitably occur in desalination and electrolysis.

On the other hand, engineers may be tempted to try to achieve Hydrogen production directly from sea water.

A system that could do ** that ** efficiently would be competitively advantageous.

One thing that bothers me (a bit) about the scenario Louis described, is that Oxygen is not mentioned as a valuable byproduct of the production of Hydrogen.

Oxygen is going to be increasingly valuable for space launches, and that is true regardless of the fuel consumed.

(th)


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#159 2021-07-21 12:15:43

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 1,154

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

The Chinese are now experiencing electricity supply disruptions due to inadequate coal supplies.
https://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News … emand.html

China's coal reserves are substantially depleted.  Peak production occurred around 2013.  Average mine depth is now 600m.
http://www.its.caltech.edu/~rutledge/Ru … 18ACS.pptx

The Chinese have been replacing old and inefficient powerplants with more efficient super critical powerplants in an attempt to stay ahead of depletion.  Australian imports have been banned in an attempt to keep coal prices high enough for deep mines to remain profitable.  But over the past year, the Chinese have been forced to make withdrawals of coal from strategic reserves to prevent mass blackouts.

The end of Chinese economic growth may be closer than many economic analysts expect.  Most of those analysts do not have a physics background and do not understand that an economy is a thermodynamic machine.  I believe that the Chinese do understand this.  Their efforts to railroad development of renewable energy and nuclear power, widely lauded as heralding a sustainable future, are more likely acts of desperation.

Last edited by Calliban (2021-07-21 12:18:32)


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#160 2021-07-21 14:39:46

kbd512
Administrator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 4,601

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

Here's a translation of Calliban's last post:

The nations of the Earth need to quit fighting with each other and start working together to solve problems that are much much bigger than any single nation on the planet.  We don't need more fighting.  We already had a century of that.  Nothing good came of it.  Despite the fact that military technology advanced through fighting wars, all of the major technological developments occurred during peacetime, and war merely accelerated the development timeline, often before it was truly ready for prime time.

Jet engines came before WWII.  Transistorization of electronics occurred after WWII.  EFI / EI came in the late 1950s, following transistor development.  Microchip development came about for the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs.  GPS was developed during the Cold War, but didn't have a major effect on business until long after that war ended.  IOT, the internet, etc, were developed during peace time.  Reusable rockets were an entirely civilian invention.  Modern medicine is almost entirely civil in nature.  Aerodynamics and aerospace materials improvements were largely centered on space exploration or civil aviation to make it affordable to the masses.  Practical photovoltaics were originally developed for NASA.  Lithium-ion batteries were developed for portable electronics.  I could go on, but I think I adequately made my point.  The military certainly plays an important role in technology development, but when it hits the private sector, then it really takes off.

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#161 2021-07-21 15:33:08

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,854

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

Japan had virtually no indigenous energy resources but managed to become the second biggest economy on the planet with just 120 million people (at its height).

I wouldn't be surprised if China copies the Danish approach and we see islands being built for energy purposes in the South China sea - killing two birds with one stone.




Calliban wrote:

The Chinese are now experiencing electricity supply disruptions due to inadequate coal supplies.
https://oilprice.com/Latest-Energy-News … emand.html

China's coal reserves are substantially depleted.  Peak production occurred around 2013.  Average mine depth is now 600m.
http://www.its.caltech.edu/~rutledge/Ru … 18ACS.pptx

The Chinese have been replacing old and inefficient powerplants with more efficient super critical powerplants in an attempt to stay ahead of depletion.  Australian imports have been banned in an attempt to keep coal prices high enough for deep mines to remain profitable.  But over the past year, the Chinese have been forced to make withdrawals of coal from strategic reserves to prevent mass blackouts.

The end of Chinese economic growth may be closer than many economic analysts expect.  Most of those analysts do not have a physics background and do not understand that an economy is a thermodynamic machine.  I believe that the Chinese do understand this.  Their efforts to railroad development of renewable energy and nuclear power, widely lauded as heralding a sustainable future, are more likely acts of desperation.


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#162 2021-07-21 19:24:08

kbd512
Administrator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 4,601

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

NBC News reports that a man in Haverford, Pennsylvania became trapped in his brand new (he had the car for a whole 3 days) 2021 Tesla Model S Plaid Edition (a $130,000 car- 1 of 250 made) when it caught fire while he was driving it.  The vehicle in question was not involved in an accident, apart from the fact that it lit itself on fire.  He managed to bust out the windows and suffered only minor injuries during his escape, but the fire department said it required almost 200,000 gallons of water to put the fire out.  It took two fire crews more than 2 hours to finally put the fire out.  By specific firefighting instructions provided by Tesla to fire departments, they used a continuous water deluge.  NBC News reports that combustion engine powered vehicles can require up to 300 gallons of water to extinguish, whereas battery powered vehicles can require upwards of 25,000 gallons of water to extinguish.  Someone pointed out that electric vehicles are 10 times less likely to catch fire as compared to internal combustion engine vehicles, which is a good thing because they can require 83 times (on average) to 666 times (in this case) more water to extinguish.

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#163 2021-07-21 19:51:21

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 7,208

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

This post is not intended to detract from the impact of #162 about a Tesla with (what must have been) a manufacturing defect catching itself on fire, but it ** is ** offered in hopes of encouraging Calliban to continue (?) working on a plan for a 1 Megawatt reactor that could be built in the hundreds if not thousands, and deployed all around the world in secure locations for 10 year trouble free, totally reliable delivery of power to customer groups, from communities through factories all the way to (latest news) bitcoin server farms!

I asked Google for help, and it came up with a "Count of Electric Power Industry Power Plants, 2009 through 2019.

The list is (apparently) showing 1 Megawatt or greater systems.

https://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/ … 04_01.html

There appear to be on the order of 3,000+ fossil fueled systems that might be candidates for replacement by well designed, modular fission reactors.

The global opportunity would presumably be considerably greater.

The dearth of energy that Calliban sees coming could most definitely be alleviated by robust deployment of modular nuclear plants, independently of whatever the renewable enthusiasts come up with.

(th)

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#164 2021-07-21 20:09:42

SpaceNut
Administrator
From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 23,024

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

Lithium battery fires require a no water effort to get the fires out as this is a metal fire. One would think that a fire crew would know that water is what will make a lithium fire keep going hotter for a period of time and thats why it needed so much water to extinguish.

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#165 2021-07-22 04:49:04

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 1,154

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

louis wrote:

The EU does have a plan to convert the North Sea into a green energy hub. Denmark has already announced plans to create an energy island some 80 miles off the coast. Making hydrogen obviates the need to lay cables from wind farms to the coast and, it seems, they think they can use existing natural methane pipelines to pipe hydrogen back to the mainland for use in power generation. Perhaps they are thinking in terms of upgrading the seals?

Chinese energy demands are so huge and so heavily dependent upon coal, that they cannot afford to neglect any option at present.  China cannot import more than a fraction of its coal requirements, for the simple reason that it consumes more coal than the entire rest of the world produces together, at present.  Likewise, it is now the world's largest natural gas importer, in spite of natural gas providing just 3% of generated power.  It is an energy consuming monster.

But I doubt they would attempt to emulate Denmark.  Below is a link to a global wind resource map.
https://windenergy.dtu.dk/english/news/ … 787f84503a

The North Sea and North Atlantic area, have the best wind energy resources in the world, by a long shot.  With access to these resources, Denmark is planning to build an offshore 3GW hydrogen production facility, for the less than bargain price of £20bn.  Chinese wind resources are nowhere near as good.  For as long as the Chinese have some coal production, it will be much cheaper to burn it in thermal powerplants for backup, when solar and wind are not meeting demands.

I would point out that Chinese nuclear generating capacity is expanding rapidly.  Starting from a low base in the early 2000s, they now have over 50GW of generating capacity and plan to have available 300GW by 2030 and 1400GW of fast neutron reactors by 2100.  This is probably the only way that the Chinese will be capable of supplying first world levels of energy to a population of 1.5bn beyond 2050, absent the development of nuclear fusion.  Reactor build times are much more rapid than Western world standards, with reactors completed within 5-6 years of start of construction and in some cases as little as 4 years.  For this reason, project costs are much lower and nuclear power is a cheap means of generating electricity in China.

I would agree with Kbd512's sentiment that now is a good time to pursue international cooperation on energy and resource issues.  But history is less than encouraging on this point.  It was energy supply shortages that led to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.  They needed the US Navy out of the way before they annexed Indonesia, with its abundant energy reserves.  Likewise, the Japanese invasion of Machuria was prompted by shortages of coal and minerals.

As an aside: The Japanese economy was the first casualty of rising energy cost of energy.  As an importer of virtually all of its fossil energy, Japan was more vulnerable to declining EROI than any other industrial nation.  Before Fukushima, they had plans to roll out fast neutron reactors to meet the majority of their energy needs by mid century.

Last edited by Calliban (2021-07-22 05:02:34)


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#166 2021-07-22 05:42:20

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 1,154

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

tahanson43206 wrote:

This post is not intended to detract from the impact of #162 about a Tesla with (what must have been) a manufacturing defect catching itself on fire, but it ** is ** offered in hopes of encouraging Calliban to continue (?) working on a plan for a 1 Megawatt reactor that could be built in the hundreds if not thousands, and deployed all around the world in secure locations for 10 year trouble free, totally reliable delivery of power to customer groups, from communities through factories all the way to (latest news) bitcoin server farms!

I asked Google for help, and it came up with a "Count of Electric Power Industry Power Plants, 2009 through 2019.

The list is (apparently) showing 1 Megawatt or greater systems.

https://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/ … 04_01.html

There appear to be on the order of 3,000+ fossil fueled systems that might be candidates for replacement by well designed, modular fission reactors.

The global opportunity would presumably be considerably greater.

The dearth of energy that Calliban sees coming could most definitely be alleviated by robust deployment of modular nuclear plants, independently of whatever the renewable enthusiasts come up with.

(th)

No need.  There are already dozens of small modular reactor concepts, in various stages of development.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_modular_reactor

In the western world, these will cost so much to develop that most of them will never get off the drawing board.  The Russians and Chinese are already building them.

If I were to pick a favourite from existing concepts, for sustainability and scalability, it would be the lead cooled fast reactor, using metallic tube-in-duct fuel.  Excellent neutron economy, high operating temperature and an inert coolant with good compatability with steam, CO2 and stainless steel.  The coolant is also non-pressurised, reducing the potential for loss of coolant accidents.  The high operating temperature allows a reactor plant to lose lots of decay heat by thermal radiation from the primary circuit.  That makes it very suitable for a 'throw the switch and walk away' mode of operation.  A compact S-CO2 generating plant would be suitable for a portable modular power source, that is mass produced in a factory environment and then shipped by road or rail as a whole unit or as modular components that can be assembled rapidly.

For a 1MWe unit, we want a powerplant that can fit into one of these.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_668

The core would be in the form of a metallic cartridge, with stainless steel lined cooling tubes running through it.  The central core would be uranium-plutonium-zirconium alloy.  The outer core would be 238U-Zr alloy.  As the reactor operates, neutron leakage from the inner core would breed plutonium in the outer core.  This would maintain the reactivity of the core, as inner core plutonium burned up, allowing long core life.  Control rods would be stainless steel clad boron steel.  Shielding and reflection would be provided by molten lead, both coolant and shield tank.

Last edited by Calliban (2021-07-22 05:52:57)


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#167 2021-07-22 07:05:53

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 7,208

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

For Calliban re #166

Thanks!  SearchTerm:reactor modular preferred by Calliban
SearchTerm:modular reactor
searchterm:lead cooled fast reactor breeds plutonium in U238 blanket

Government controls (and by government, I mean "the rest of us") need to be strong, reliable and resilient to manage an economy based upon such dangerous materials and practices.

Distrust of those venturing into these technologies is well earned.

Young people who can be trusted are needed in great numbers to facilitate such an economy.

Young people in great numbers who can be trusted are needed to sustain the economy we ** have **.

Chairman Xi has a system in place to generate millions of young people who can be trusted.

The United States seems (to my eye anyway) to be faltering badly.

I think the need for a cadre of ** really trustworthy ** humans is the Achilles Heel of the entire nuclear power scenario on Earth.

(th)

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#168 2021-07-22 08:25:50

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,854

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

"throw the switch and walk away"

Don't forget to first alert your local branch of AQ or any otherterrorist group interested in such matters.

Calliban wrote:
tahanson43206 wrote:

This post is not intended to detract from the impact of #162 about a Tesla with (what must have been) a manufacturing defect catching itself on fire, but it ** is ** offered in hopes of encouraging Calliban to continue (?) working on a plan for a 1 Megawatt reactor that could be built in the hundreds if not thousands, and deployed all around the world in secure locations for 10 year trouble free, totally reliable delivery of power to customer groups, from communities through factories all the way to (latest news) bitcoin server farms!

I asked Google for help, and it came up with a "Count of Electric Power Industry Power Plants, 2009 through 2019.

The list is (apparently) showing 1 Megawatt or greater systems.

https://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/ … 04_01.html

There appear to be on the order of 3,000+ fossil fueled systems that might be candidates for replacement by well designed, modular fission reactors.

The global opportunity would presumably be considerably greater.

The dearth of energy that Calliban sees coming could most definitely be alleviated by robust deployment of modular nuclear plants, independently of whatever the renewable enthusiasts come up with.

(th)

No need.  There are already dozens of small modular reactor concepts, in various stages of development.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_modular_reactor

In the western world, these will cost so much to develop that most of them will never get off the drawing board.  The Russians and Chinese are already building them.

If I were to pick a favourite from existing concepts, for sustainability and scalability, it would be the lead cooled fast reactor, using metallic tube-in-duct fuel.  Excellent neutron economy, high operating temperature and an inert coolant with good compatability with steam, CO2 and stainless steel.  The coolant is also non-pressurised, reducing the potential for loss of coolant accidents.  The high operating temperature allows a reactor plant to lose lots of decay heat by thermal radiation from the primary circuit.  That makes it very suitable for a 'throw the switch and walk away' mode of operation.  A compact S-CO2 generating plant would be suitable for a portable modular power source, that is mass produced in a factory environment and then shipped by road or rail as a whole unit or as modular components that can be assembled rapidly.

For a 1MWe unit, we want a powerplant that can fit into one of these.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISO_668

The core would be in the form of a metallic cartridge, with stainless steel lined cooling tubes running through it.  The central core would be uranium-plutonium-zirconium alloy.  The outer core would be 238U-Zr alloy.  As the reactor operates, neutron leakage from the inner core would breed plutonium in the outer core.  This would maintain the reactivity of the core, as inner core plutonium burned up, allowing long core life.  Control rods would be stainless steel clad boron steel.  Shielding and reflection would be provided by molten lead, both coolant and shield tank.


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#169 2021-07-22 09:25:38

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 7,208

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

For Louis re #168

Your pessimism about the trustworthiness of human beings seems well founded in the history of the human race.

It is for that reason that first tier societies establish frameworks for identification of trustworthy individuals, and then try to maintain them.  In the United States, the society is struggling with the consequences of decisions made long ago, not properly curbed, and propagated to the present day.

In order for human society to achieve the ability to live successfully and abundantly in the Solar System, let alone elsewhere, it MUST master atomic energy in all its forms.

However, as I look out over the scene in 2021, I see a great number of failures of families to raise honorable, trustworthy citizens to take their places.

This is on top of systematic practices designed specifically to destroy any families that my try to take hold.

Now, today, in 2021, we (humans) are on the verge of having the ability to meet all material needs by mastering atomic energy on one hand, and processes that operate at the nano scale on the other.

But our collective inability to raise honorable, trustworthy citizens is a blight upon that bright potential future.

(th)

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#170 2021-07-22 10:04:19

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 1,154

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

These sorts of trust issues are the main reason why nuclear energy has tended to remain centralised, within relatively large powerplants, with auditable controls and good security.  There are two aspects to trust:

1) Trusting that people are competent enough, not to monkey around with something in ways that make it dangerous;
2) Trusting that people are decent enough, not to deliberately crack open the core and use the plutonium to make a bomb.

The first problem is easier to solve than the second.  We would aim to make reactor units that are idiot proof.  By this I mean control systems that cannot be tampered with, decay heat removal systems that do not require operator action of any kind to keep the reactor safe.  The plant would need to be tolerant of abuse.  That means able to stay cool through natural heat loss through its outer casing.  Tolerant of being pitched at any angle.  Tolerant of drops from height.  I think this sort of thing is possible using a small lead cooled reactor, housed in a thick, welded steel tube.

The second problem is less easy to solve.  Even a crude nuclear weapon could kill thousands of people.  What is to stop someone with evil intentions taking a cutting torch to the unit, in an effort to steal the plutonium?  I have heard suggestions of control units that are in radio contact with central authorities, that would alert them if attempts were made to tamper with the unit.  There is also the fact that these units will weigh many tonnes and will not be easy to steal.  Anyone breaching the reactor shielding would receive a lethal dose of radiation.  These units could be enclosed within facilities in a way that make them difficult to breach.

But the fact of the matter is, you can design a system that will withstand idiocy most of the time.  But you can never design a system that will remain safe against malicious attack reliably.  Such things can only ever be so safe.  How safe is safe enough?  There must clearly remain a sufficient level of oversight, even with a very safe nuclear system, to ensure that units are not being grossly abused or stolen.  As with anything in life, the determination of where one should stop with safety, if dependant on the amount of residual risk one is prepared to tolerate.  Here in the UK, one of my farmer neighbours has several tonnes of ammonium nitrate on his facility, just a few hundred feet from my house.  If it is stolen, it could be used to build a bomb that would devastate a town or city centre.  Fatalities could easily run into the hundreds.  One might reasonable ask, how we can tolerate a farm hick having access that much potentially explosive material?  Even worse, there are thousands of other hicks just like him.  The answer is that he is vetted, along with all of the others.  The material would not be easy to steal in large quantities.  In the final calculation the risk, whilst not zero, is small enough compared to other risks that we face in life.  This is the sort of calculation that would need to be applied to small, distributed nuclear power sources.  How do we make them difficult enough to steal, that the risk is acceptable?  I think it will end up being a combination of things.

Last edited by Calliban (2021-07-22 10:28:30)


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#171 2021-07-22 10:44:25

tahanson43206
Moderator
Registered: 2018-04-27
Posts: 7,208

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

For Calliban re #170

Thank you for your thoughtful opening post on risks of the atomic energy infrastructure we (humans) MUST have in order to succeed in setting up shop away from Earth.

SearchTerm:Risk Opening post on risks of creating and operating an atomic energy infrastructure
SearchTerm:Atomic
SearchTerm:Nuclear
SearchTerm:Fission nuclear

This topic resides within Science, Technology and Astronomy

The concern I am pursuing would also fit in Human Missions and Culture Index levels.

It seems to me the Chinese have been intently pursuing evolutionary selection of humans willing to accept and even thrive in a hive society.  Meanwhile, the Americans (and others) have been experimenting with individual freedom.

Of the two approaches, things sure do seem to favor the Chinese for long term success.  They've been in this game for 3,000 years or so, and the blip with Western and Japanese incursion will seem like bad colds to a society of that age.

One thing the Western and Japanese incursions ** did ** achieve was to stir the Chinese out of unproductive patterns.  They appear to have successfully integrated authoritarian collective thought with (controlled) capitalism, to achieve significant gains for their population.

Because this (recent) series is about atomic power, I would venture a guess that the Chinese will be successful in raising a generation able to reliably and confidently manage nuclear power plants of a wide range of sizes and capability.  Thus, the nation is quite likely to find itself on the positive side of the energy divide that Calliban has been pointing out as a significant danger in decades ahead.

The helter-skelter, thoroughly disorganized Western activity along these lines ** may ** achieve success in places, but chances of a wide distribution of the benefits of abundant energy seem (to me at least) vanishingly small.

(th)

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#172 2021-07-22 13:01:51

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 1,154

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

Some $173 trillion would need to be invested to meet net zero, by 2050.

https://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy … ments.html

This assumes investment focuses on renewable energy sources.  It amounts to 7% of global GDP for the next 30 years.  I have not read the report in detail, but can see a number of problems straight away.

1. Present GDP estimates are grossly exaggerated, as large parts of measured GDP captures increases in asset price valuation, which is grossly distorted by quantitative easing and loose monetary policy.  Inflation has been underestimated since the 1990s, through inclusion of hedonic measures.  This means that real wages in the West have been declining, since the turn of the century, but fake, paper-GDP has kept growing.  Politicians and economists are largely oblivious to this.  Check out: http://www.shadowstats.com/

2. The cost of energy transition is based on prices for RE infrastructure, which will not be sustainable when interest rates rise and we are no longer able to use cheap fossil energy to produce RE infrastructure.  RE infrastructure has much greater embodied energy requirements than fossil or nuclear infrastructure of equivalent power.  In a world where net energy from fossil fuels is shrinking, that simple fact will compound shrinking systematic net energy, as diminishing fossil fuels are used to construct high embodied energy renewable sources.

3. GDP figures do not reflect the declining prosperity (discretionary buying power) of the majority of people.  Wealth inequality has risen substantially since 2000.  Rising energy costs disproportionately impact the poorer parts of society.  Declining prosperity means that these people are less able to absorb rising costs of essentials, without a disproportionate drop in living standards.

A net zero world based on RE will be a much poorer world.  That world is unlikely to have sufficient surplus wealth to support idealistic dreams like the colonisation of other planets.  I think that the Chinese government understands this.  But the western world appears to be living in a collective fantasy.  Our leadership caste have spent too much time listening to pseudoscience quacks like economists and green tech obsessives, and not enough time listening to engineers and physicists.  Declining net energy is a physics problem.  Unfortunately, the world appears to be going insane at the very time that sanity is most needed.  Western society is literally destroying itself.  Our leaders have turned patriotism and normally into crimes; and perversion and treason into virtues.

In other news, global trade in merchandise (finished goods) appears to have peaked around 2008.
https://data.worldbank.org/topic/trade

This would suggest to me, that real global GDP has probably peaked as well.

Last edited by Calliban (2021-07-22 13:40:02)


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#173 2021-07-22 17:01:11

kbd512
Administrator
Registered: 2015-01-02
Posts: 4,601

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

SpaceNut,

SpaceNut wrote:

Lithium battery fires require a no water effort to get the fires out as this is a metal fire. One would think that a fire crew would know that water is what will make a lithium fire keep going hotter for a period of time and thats why it needed so much water to extinguish.

Did you miss the part where Tesla supplied the firefighting instructions that were followed by the local fire department?

Your beef is with Tesla, not the fire department.  The fire department did what Tesla instructed them to do.

What kind of reliability rate is 1 in 250 catching fire while driving, no accident involved, within 3 days of purchase?

It's their flagship model.  They only made 250 of them.  Tesla can afford to take a little extra care during manufacture and assembly.  It's $30,000 more expensive than a fully optioned top-of-the-line Cadillac Escalade, so it should be built to that level of quality.  If $100K Escalades were catching fire and trapping their owners inside, within 3 days of purchase, do you think that might put a dent in their sales?

I can turn the Escalade off completely, even remove the battery so the vehicle has no power at all, yet I can still lift the door handle and exit the vehicle.  Something about Tesla's basic design is fundamentally wrong if you can't do that.  I'm not putting my kids inside something that locks you inside while the vehicle is on fire.  That's idiotic in the extreme.  Seriously, who designs a car that way?

Even if Tesla's vehicles caught fire every time they were involved in an accident, I could still accept that.  There's a very good reason why you don't crash cars into things- because fire and explosions are distinct possibilities.  That said, I don't expect a brand new vehicle, not involved in any accident whatsoever, to catch fire, trap its owner inside the vehicle while its moving, and then burn itself to the ground.  Even the Ford Pinto had to be rear-ended before it caught fire.

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#174 2021-07-22 17:27:59

Calliban
Member
From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 1,154

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

Lithium in the battery reacts exothermically with water, yielding hydrogen.  Also, the high battery mass in an EV drives the use of fibre reinforced polymers in the body in an attempt to keep vehicle weight down.  A much larger proportion of the vehicle is combustible and lithium reacts violently to water and burns on contact with air.  So, if a Tesla catches fire, you ain't going to put it out.  The fire will extinguish when the fuel is depleted.  By which point, the only thing remaining of your car will be a puddle of melted metal on the road.

Last edited by Calliban (2021-07-22 17:30:19)


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#175 2021-07-22 19:26:42

louis
Member
From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 6,854

Re: Nuclear vs. Solar vs. Others

A number of interesting points in your post.

I did know NW Europe had some of the best wind resources in the world, but thought the South China Sea wasn't so bad...looking at the map I don't think it is that bad but not as good as NW Europe, I will accept.

I can see that they might follow a "French" policy of Big Nuclear. It is obviosuly a solution and a big country like China can afford a nuclear accident or two, especially given their totalitarian system of politics.

But educated people in China don't trust their government to even do the basics on public health checks re food products like milk. They know their government lie. Their government will lie about nuclear power as well.

So. well it's the choice of the Chinese people, but I don't accept it's the best policy. China has plenty of renewable resources and longer term I think they are a safer bet.

Yes, if we had sane politics across the world, now would definitely be a good time to pursue international co-operation. Aiming to make every country energy independent seems to me like a really good first step. But there will be big losers from such a policy!




Calliban wrote:
louis wrote:

The EU does have a plan to convert the North Sea into a green energy hub. Denmark has already announced plans to create an energy island some 80 miles off the coast. Making hydrogen obviates the need to lay cables from wind farms to the coast and, it seems, they think they can use existing natural methane pipelines to pipe hydrogen back to the mainland for use in power generation. Perhaps they are thinking in terms of upgrading the seals?

Chinese energy demands are so huge and so heavily dependent upon coal, that they cannot afford to neglect any option at present.  China cannot import more than a fraction of its coal requirements, for the simple reason that it consumes more coal than the entire rest of the world produces together, at present.  Likewise, it is now the world's largest natural gas importer, in spite of natural gas providing just 3% of generated power.  It is an energy consuming monster.

But I doubt they would attempt to emulate Denmark.  Below is a link to a global wind resource map.
https://windenergy.dtu.dk/english/news/ … 787f84503a

The North Sea and North Atlantic area, have the best wind energy resources in the world, by a long shot.  With access to these resources, Denmark is planning to build an offshore 3GW hydrogen production facility, for the less than bargain price of £20bn.  Chinese wind resources are nowhere near as good.  For as long as the Chinese have some coal production, it will be much cheaper to burn it in thermal powerplants for backup, when solar and wind are not meeting demands.

I would point out that Chinese nuclear generating capacity is expanding rapidly.  Starting from a low base in the early 2000s, they now have over 50GW of generating capacity and plan to have available 300GW by 2030 and 1400GW of fast neutron reactors by 2100.  This is probably the only way that the Chinese will be capable of supplying first world levels of energy to a population of 1.5bn beyond 2050, absent the development of nuclear fusion.  Reactor build times are much more rapid than Western world standards, with reactors completed within 5-6 years of start of construction and in some cases as little as 4 years.  For this reason, project costs are much lower and nuclear power is a cheap means of generating electricity in China.

I would agree with Kbd512's sentiment that now is a good time to pursue international cooperation on energy and resource issues.  But history is less than encouraging on this point.  It was energy supply shortages that led to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.  They needed the US Navy out of the way before they annexed Indonesia, with its abundant energy reserves.  Likewise, the Japanese invasion of Machuria was prompted by shortages of coal and minerals.

As an aside: The Japanese economy was the first casualty of rising energy cost of energy.  As an importer of virtually all of its fossil energy, Japan was more vulnerable to declining EROI than any other industrial nation.  Before Fukushima, they had plans to roll out fast neutron reactors to meet the majority of their energy needs by mid century.


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