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Old 2019-08-05, 15:00   #133
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VictordeHolland View Post
Costs
Thorium fuel would need billions in R&D and then some more billions to build the first reactors. I don't see any companies or countries willing to take such a gamble any time soon, especially with the prices of renewables going down and cheap gas. The Westinghouse bankruptcy won't help also. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westin...ectric_Company

Unpopular
It's still nuclear, so it will be unpopular from the public opinion. There is still radioactive waste that has to be stored. The plutonium burning is not exclusive to Thorium MSR, it can also be done by mixing it with uranium and using it as MOX in normal nuclear plants.

So I don't see a new Thorium based nuclear revolution happening...
Thorium has at least these advantages:
  1. There's several times more thorium available than uranium on earth
  2. It's projected to produce about 1% as much nuclear waste as a uranium reactor
  3. Its nuclear waste decays to safe levels about 100 times sooner than for uranium.
  4. It's safer in the sense that nations with questionable motives regarding nuclear weapons would face much more significant challenges in using a thorium reactor's products to produce nuclear bombs
  5. There is much less waste per unit of generation output, around 1%.
  6. Molten salt reactors using thorium are claimed to be safer in a loss of control incident or loss of core cooling incident than pressurized water reactor uranium reactors. Therefore they are expected to be safer in a catastrophic grid failure scenario.
The US spent about $491. billion on electricity in 2017. (4090 TW-hr * ~0.12$/kw-hr) A demonstration reactor prototype could probably be done for 1% of one year's electrical expenses. Several nations have research programs. Some have run prototype reactors. It looks like India is the most committed to thorium. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thoriu..._nuclear_power

A difficulty with renewables is output fluctuates due to factors beyond the control of the utility, and peak output may be timed differently than peak demand. (High power available when you don't need it, and not available when you do need it. Solar panels produce during the brightest several hours of the day, but don't produce at night when people want lighting because it's dark, and are home using their appliances.) Renewables are not schedulable. Night is predictable but clouds are not; winds are irregular. Nuclear power involves core thermal time constants that are inconveniently long for matching output to load fluctuation and renewable source fluctuation. Gas turbines' throttles can be rapidly adjusted to provide fast time response to load and renewable fluctuations. Nuclear is good for handling base load. Battery technology, conversion losses, and capital costs make battery storage unattractive for addressing fluctuation. Pumped hydro time response is also an issue. The best sites have already been dammed.
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Old 2019-08-05, 15:18   #134
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kriesel View Post
A difficulty with renewables is output fluctuates due to factors beyond the control of the utility, and peak output may be timed differently than peak demand. (High power available when you don't need it, and not available when you do need it. Solar panels produce during the brightest several hours of the day, but don't produce at night when people want lighting because it's dark, and are home using their appliances.) Renewables are not schedulable. Night is predictable but clouds are not; winds are irregular. Nuclear power involves core thermal time constants that are inconveniently long for matching output to load fluctuation and renewable source fluctuation. Gas turbines' throttles can be rapidly adjusted to provide fast time response to load and renewable fluctuations. Nuclear is good for handling base load. Battery technology, conversion losses, and capital costs make battery storage unattractive for addressing fluctuation. Pumped hydro time response is also an issue. The best sites have already been dammed.
Peak energy usage is during the day, not at night. So solar is good for topping off the peak loads (assuming the clouds are absent) without needing storage.

But like you mention, unreliability from solar and wind is the real killer here. People want their power NOW so that they can run their machine or cook their dinner NOW.

Space based microwave mirrors (or whatever is the latest space tech) is probably the only genuinely reliable renewable energy source. But we will still need some base load capability. And thorium would be a good solution IMO. The reactors can be small and distributed giving better redundancy and safety. And if we can figure out a way to make them small enough to power a single dwelling then many others problems like transmission and security become much easier to deal with.
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Old 2019-08-05, 15:51   #135
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Quote:
Originally Posted by retina View Post
Peak energy usage is during the day, not at night. So solar is good for topping off the peak loads (assuming the clouds are absent) without needing storage.
This source has peak at about 645pm. That's when people are home after work and running appliances, including microwave ovens for heating up dinner. And maybe started a load of laundry or turned on the radio or tv or computer. https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=830 That day's peak 6-8pm stretch is when my little solar panel's output is really dropping off.
Quote:
But like you mention, unreliability from solar and wind is the real killer here. People want their power NOW so that they can run their machine or cook their dinner NOW.

Space based microwave mirrors (or whatever is the latest space tech) is probably the only genuinely reliable renewable energy source. But we will still need some base load capability. And thorium would be a good solution IMO. The reactors can be small and distributed giving better redundancy and safety. And if we can figure out a way to make them small enough to power a single dwelling then many others problems like transmission and security become much easier to deal with.
Interesting sense of humor you have displayed in that last paragraph. Even with a Nairobi beanstalk in place, the economics of space based solar & microwave transmission is pretty improbable. Space is a formidable environment for even robust hardware, between the atomic oxygen and the hypersonic micrometeorites. And where do you go as a regulated utility for insurance against the loss of microwave beam aim accident or hacking event, delivering something analogous to a Star Trek Enterprise episode's death beam from space, tracking across Florida, killing millions? Home sited nuclear, no operator or security, by the millions, maintenance neglected, accessible for some dystopian teen to tamper with. What could possibly go wrong?
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Old 2019-08-05, 16:46   #136
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kriesel View Post
This source has peak at about 645pm. That's when people are home after work and running appliances, including microwave ovens for heating up dinner. And maybe started a load of laundry or turned on the radio or tv or computer. https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=830 That day's peak 6-8pm stretch is when my little solar panel's output is really dropping off.
I'm talking globally, not locally. Other places exist. Commercial and industrial usage are the biggest users of energy.
Quote:
Originally Posted by kriesel View Post
Interesting sense of humor you have displayed in that last paragraph. Even with a Nairobi beanstalk in place, the economics of space based solar & microwave transmission is pretty improbable. Space is a formidable environment for even robust hardware, between the atomic oxygen and the hypersonic micrometeorites. And where do you go as a regulated utility for insurance against the loss of microwave beam aim accident or hacking event, delivering something analogous to a Star Trek Enterprise episode's death beam from space, tracking across Florida, killing millions? Home sited nuclear, no operator or security, by the millions, maintenance neglected, accessible for some dystopian teen to tamper with. What could possibly go wrong?
Your movie-plot disaster scenario aside (because real life isn't like the movies), one teenager fiddling with a dwelling sized power generator? Nothing unusual here actually. We already have diesel gen-sets and whatnot. The teenager might manage to kill himself. No big deal IMO. Happens all the time. What could he do with raw thorium (assuming he is still alive and undamaged)? Or any of the raw components? There isn't anything special about it. It takes a lot of clever engineering and ingenuity just to keep them running.
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Old 2019-08-05, 19:28   #137
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Quote:
Originally Posted by retina View Post
I'm talking globally, not locally. Other places exist. Commercial and industrial usage are the biggest users of energy.
New England has that. The plot was not merely for residential but for combined regional load. If you mean transmit power from the light side of the planet to the dark side, that means huge percentage losses. Regional or more local generation already incurs ~9% transmission loss. Loss percentage will scale as higher than linear with distance, for the same conductors and load.

Quote:
Your movie-plot disaster scenario aside (because real life isn't like the movies)
True, sometimes it's worse.
Quote:
one teenager fiddling with a dwelling sized power generator? Nothing unusual here actually.
Giving teens and home mechanics / DIYers physical access to substantial amounts of radioactive material has its hazards. There was a young man who dabbled in nuclear physics in his parents' garage without their permission. He amassed enough uranium ore, expired smoke alarms' tiny inventories of Americium etc to probably shorten his life by several years, and eventually result in the NRC or some such sending people in complete protective gear to treat that garage and back yard as a radioactive hazard cleanup site. I wonder how much thorium it would take for a 5KW generator, or if such scale is even possible, and what mischief that could make in the wrong hands. To a lot of the public, "someone ground up x grams of nuclear fuel and put it in the local water supply" would be a huge public panic. Never mind that thorium's hazard level appears to be less than that of uranium. As I recall, the sort of nuclear power that's small enough to be used for space probes is not thorium, it's faster decaying isotopes plus thermoelectric converters. One reference gives as a workable thorium reactor scale, "small enough that it can fit inside a standard shipping container." That's a pretty big box on the back of a semi trailer truck. Various sizes I've found listed range from 5 MWe to 520 MWe, roughly village to city sized loads. Near the upper end,
http://staging.thorconpower.com/wp-c...SpecSheet7.pdf includes "Staffing plan 72 security; 42 operations; 30 maintenance; 65 other for 1,000 MW plant."
See also https://flibe-energy.com/news/50th-a...start-of-msre/
The fiftieth anniversary of thorium molten salt reactor operation has passed.

Last fiddled with by kriesel on 2019-08-05 at 19:30
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Old 2019-08-07, 00:43   #138
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_energy_storage
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Therma...alt_technology
and, a corporate come-on:
https://solarreserve.com/en/technolo...y-storage.html

Thermal storage seems workable, though solar concentrators have the nasty feature of flash-burning birds that fly into the beams to the tower.
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Old 2019-08-20, 12:08   #139
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After what apparently was a recent missile test accident involving the release of radioactive material, Russia has been trying to hush it up, as described in many news articles, e.g. this one.

There is also a news story that four nearby Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization monitoring stations "went dark" shortly after the accident.

Quote:
Russia on Tuesday told an international organization set up to verify a ban on nuclear tests that a military testing accident in northern Russia earlier this month was none of its business and that handing it radiation data was entirely voluntary.

The Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) said on Monday that two Russian monitoring sites closest to the mysterious explosion went offline days after the blast, soon followed by two more, fueling suspicions that Russia tampered with them.
[W.C. Fields voice] It must be a coincidence [/W.C. Fields voice]
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Old 2019-08-20, 19:41   #140
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Sardonicus View Post
There is also a news story that four nearby Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization monitoring stations "went dark" shortly after the accident.
Not to defend the Russians' activities here, but you omitted to mention that said treaty is not in force because 8 countries have not signed and/or ratified it. The list of said holdout countries is interesting. Wikipedia:
Quote:
The Treaty was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 September 1996.[41] It opened for signature in New York on 24 September 1996,[41] when it was signed by 71 States, including five of the eight then nuclear-capable states. As of February 2019, 168 states have ratified the CTBT and another 17 states have signed but not ratified it.[42][43]

The treaty will enter into force 180 days after the 44 states listed in Annex 2 of the treaty have ratified it. These "Annex 2 states" are states that participated in the CTBT's negotiations between 1994 and 1996 and possessed nuclear power reactors or research reactors at that time.[44] As of 2016, eight Annex 2 states have not ratified the treaty: China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the United States have signed but not ratified the Treaty; India, North Korea and Pakistan have not signed it.[45]
Russia is not among the holdouts, so an attitude on their part of "you want to monitor us under said treaty? Then sign it yourselves" is understandable.
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Old 2019-08-21, 12:08   #141
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
Not to defend the Russians' activities here, but
<snip>
an attitude on their part of "you want to monitor us under said treaty? Then sign it yourselves" is understandable.
Oh, no, you're not defending Russia's activities here. You're merely rationalizing them!


Such feeble excuse-making is IMO undignified.

Russia's secrecy is already "understandable" without resort such rationalization.

As has been pointed out previously, it's been their practice since the days of the Soviet Union in the 1950's to deny, lie about, and try to cover up the facts of nuclear accidents. So their behavior in this case was quite predictable.

The extra added attraction of their (presumably) tampering with test-ban monitoring equipment is also "understandable" if viewed in the light of the information it might have provided about the construction of the missile that exploded. Treaty or no treaty, the Russians would not be about to let that kind of information "leak out."
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Old 2019-08-21, 19:09   #142
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Sardonicus View Post
Russia's secrecy is already "understandable" without resort such rationalization.
Just so - it's the same kind of secrecy the Pentagon maintains with regard to its weapons R&D. And the same kind of hushing-up the US military practiced w.r.to its cold war nuke testing, including the various accidents.

And if a foreign country had built monitoring stations just across the border from the U.S. near one of its top secret military test sites, I expect said sites would have suffered from "mystery outages" as well.

But thanks for today's installment of "partisan outrage theater" - you should try it with puppets someday, fun for the whole family that way.
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Old 2019-08-22, 13:06   #143
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Speaking of "partisan outrage:"

To address one of the implicit falsehoods in your rhetorical (non)justification of Russia's current shenanigans:

Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
Russia is not among the holdouts, so an attitude on their part of "you want to monitor us under said treaty? Then sign it yourselves" is understandable.
Actually, the USA was the very first nation to sign the treaty, in 1996. Apparently, the distinction between signing a treaty and ratifying it (which requires a more than 2/3 vote in the US Senate) is lost on some people.

If you have any suggestions on how to get the treaty ratified in the US Senate, I'd love to know about them.

Second, the treaty is aimed at monitoring test explosions of nuclear bombs. Thus, whatever the nature of the recent missile explosion, it is extremely unlikely it would constitute a treaty violation. Even if the missile were ultimately intended to carry a nuclear warhead, the likelihood the test included a live warhead is nil. So, whatever Russia's reasons are for tampering with the monitoring stations, they are almost certainly not connected with any possible treaty violations. So your whole (non)justification based on other countries being treaty "holdouts" is a red herring.

Third, in regard to your transparently bogus hypothetical
Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
And if a foreign country had built monitoring stations just across the border from the U.S. near one of its top secret military test sites, I expect said sites would have suffered from "mystery outages" as well.
The monitoring stations do not belong to a "foreign country," but rather to the CTBTO, pursuant to the treaty. It has 80 radionuclide detectors on line, half of which also have (or will have) noble gas detection. The stations that "went dark" are in Russia, placed there with the consent of the Russian government. Having signed and ratified the treaty, and consented to the monitoring stations being placed there, and then turning around and tampering with them, seems to be a defining instance of duplicity.

A complete list of CTBTO monitoring sites may be found here.

For ease of reference, the designations, locations and status of the radionuclide detectors in Russia and the USA are:

RN54, Kirov, Russian Federation, Certified
RN55, Norilsk, Russian Federation, Under Construction
RN56, Peleduy, Russian Federation, Certified
RN57, Bilibino, Russian Federation, Certified
RN58, Ussuriysk, Russian Federation, Certified
RN59, Zalesovo, Russian Federation, Certified
RN60, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, Russian Federation, Certified
RN61, Dubna, Russian Federation, Certified


RN70, Sacramento, CA, United States of America, Certified
RN71, Sand Point, Ak, United States of America Certified
RN72, Melbourne, FL, United States of America, Certified
RN73, Palmer Station, United States of America, Certified
RN74, Ashland [KS], United States of America, Certified
RN75, Charlottesville, VA, United States of America, Certified
RN76, Salchaket, AK, United States of America, Certified
RN77, Wake Island, United States of America, Certified
RN78, Midway Islands, United States of America, Certified
RN79, Oahu, HI, United States of America, Certified
RN80, Upi, Guam United States of America, Certified

Of these, the following also have (or will have) noble gas detection:

RN55, Norilsk, Russian Federation, Planned
RN58, Ussuriysk, Russian Federation, Installed
RN60, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, Russian Federation, Installed
RN61, Dubna, Russian Federation, Installed

RN75, Charlottesville, VA, United States of America, Certified
RN77, Wake Island, United States of America, Certified
RN79, Oahu, HI, United States of America, Certified

In addition, there are the following CTBTO laboratories in Russia and the USA:

RL13, Central Radiation Control Laboratory, Ministry of Defence Special Verification Service, Moscow, Russian Federation, Certified

RL16, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, United States of America, Certified

I leave it to the interested reader to determine how near any of these stations and labs may be to "top secret military test sites."

According to news reports, Russia has claimed that the mishap was an explosion of a "nuclear isotope power source." This may have been part of their Burevestnik ("Storm Petrel," AKA "Skyfall") missile, apparently a cruise missile powered by a nuclear reactor.

Waidaminnit! A cruise missile powered by a nuclear reactor?!?

Last fiddled with by Dr Sardonicus on 2019-08-22 at 13:08 Reason: xifnix pysto
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