US Energy Independence by 2020

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Guest post by David Archibald

Ira Glickstein’s post promoting clean coal has prompted me to offer a few slides from a presentation I had prepared. One of the things that gets me about clean coal is that the same people who are urging restraint are quite happy to halve the life of our coal reserves.

My thesis is that the rising oil price will drive inter-fuel substitution to the highest value markets, which are those transport applications that require a high-density liquid fuel with good storage characteristics – essentially diesel and jet fuel. Coal will be substituted for oil into the transport fuels market. That in turn will make it too valuable to burn for power generation, in which nuclear will substitute for coal. I am a thorium nut as well as a coal-to-liquids (CTL) proponent. The nuclear industry has financed a lot of the AGW hysteria, as they saw this as the only way they could sell nuclear plants against coal. They needn’t have bothered. At the current oil price and above, coal is diesel that is waiting to go through a CTL plant. At US$120 per barrel, it becomes worthwhile to close existing coal-fired power generation and replace it with nuclear, taking the hit on the capital charge of the idled coal plant.

Some people call for US energy independence but have no practical idea of how that could be achieved. Others, strangely, rail against the concept. So, here follows a plan for US energy independence by 2020. The technology exists and it is costed and affordable.

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226 thoughts on “US Energy Independence by 2020

  1. I like it David, a lot.
    I’ve heard of thorium but haven’t looked into it. What is it’s biggest obstacle right now?

  2. Better get crackin. Takes years to engineer and construct plants. Of course regulatory permitting can take years if projects don’t get entangled by the likes of NGOs.

  3. Nuclear power generation makes all kinds of sense. It is a reliable, robust, and affordable alternative to coal and it produces no CO2. Wind, solar, and other energy sources will only play a minor part and can never be the foundation of our energy future. I don’t care about CO2, but if we set a national goal to replace coal with nuclear over the next 20 – 30 years, it would be perfectly fine with me. Our energy future would be secure, and the climate alarmist crowd would have to find something else to whine about.
    If the climate alarmists, the UN, and politicians were sincere, they would be pushing nuclear like crazy. The fact that they do not promote nuclear power generation as the best alternative to coal makes me question their true agenda.

  4. I’m a big fan of all things nuclear, and I like your plan but I’d like evidence that the nuclear industry is financing (alleged) AGW hysteria.

  5. I also believe your nuclear plant cost assumption is high by at least a factor of 2. The new modular designs should be brought in at 2000 MWe for about $1.5 billion, barring legal delays. Throw in potential legal delays and it might get higher.

  6. Oops, hit the “Post” button too soon. In my ‘April 1’ comment, I meant to add that it’ll take a miracle (or catastrophe) to get our government to approve scary nuke power. In other words, the political will is lacking. Not sure how to get popular support for such an endeavor… and that’s the key, and that’s the challenge.

  7. David–
    You said, “The nuclear industry has financed a lot of the AGW hysteria, as they saw this as the only way they could sell nuclear plants against coal. ”
    Can you support this assertion more convincingly than those who have asserted that Big Oil funds(ed) the skeptic movement?

  8. Are you promoting the Liquid Fuel Nuclear Reactor article by Robert Hargraves and Ralph Moir? http://www.energyfromthorium.com/forum/download/file.php?id=791
    Nuclear power is definitely the added path we need to overcome fossil fuel cost and meet our needs for energy. Too bad we live in an era of obstructionistic attitudes from the likes of those who marched around the halls of IPPC conventions.
    I recall we were all supposed to have our own small backyard nuclear powerplant to power our homes. I liked the idea, but the ignorance of politicians, bureaucrats, and media has poluted real energy progress in the U.S.A.

  9. Nukes are great. Don’t forget creating the nuclear work force in the planning. Current plants are struggling with aging workforce issues. Throwing new construction into the mix will aggravate that — it already has in the little bit of recent movement towards new nuclear and probable construction restart of the mothballed Bellefonte reactors.
    2020 is only 9 years away. After 38 1/2 years of nuclear related experience, I don’t see things turning around that quickly.

  10. I love fairy tales. The next technology break-through is always around the corner!
    Have you wondered why no one has built a commercial thorium reactor? Maybe, because it is not economically practical.
    Also, instead of spending money on CTL, wouldn’t it be cheaper to do battery electric vehicles (Nissan Leaf) or beter yet, extended range electric vehicles (Chevrolet Volt). That way we can use coal to generate electric power ( a known technology) to power electric or extended range electric vehicles (also known and proven technology).

  11. After reading this article:
    http://www.wfaa.com/news/gasoline-84801677.html
    I wrote the professor referenced.
    He said the university has been told by legal counsel not to discuss anything regarding this technology.
    Sounds like someone is getting ready to start producing gasoline from coal at $30 a barrel.
    Greenies are just going to have a fit over this.

  12. David-
    After reading the presentations at:
    http://www.energyfromthorium.com
    I, too, have become a thorium nut. It appears that it was Ike’s “military/industrial complex” that kept us from going to thorium years ago.
    Anyone with any doubts about nuclear power in this form, should go to the website above. Yoo too will be convinced.

  13. The extensive programs required to bring thorium reactor research & development to actual commercial viability aside, the existing mature & proven light water reactor designs can be online relatively rapidly with known excellent safety & performance records.
    John

  14. Your thoughts essentially mirror my own. The problem of course is that politicians have no great love of logical and practical plans.
    The free market will solve that you say? Well, not after government influence promoted by environmental whackjobs is done screwing it up.

  15. gallopingcamel says:
    January 1, 2011 at 7:46 pm
    Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the place to look for information on the Thorium cycle:
    Comment. Oak Ridge also host the CDIAC (Carbon Dioxide Information Access Center) and employ very staunch AGW people like ocean acidity alarmist Richard Feely.
    Lawyers use a “Chinese Wall” when different parts of the firm are representing different angles. Surely it is not beyond the with of ORNL to do this.

  16. http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2010-08/thorium-reactors-could-wean-world-oil-just-five-years
    I’ve been aware of Thorium for about 2 years now and when looking at the stats, it should be a not brainer.
    Back in the 50’s. Thoruim was a contender for power plants, but, due to the cold war and the need for fissionable materials for weapons, Uranium won out. Thorium’s waste is not weaponizable.
    Besides the upside of non-weaponizable waste, the storage life of Thorium is in the hundreds of years instead of thousands. Compare the 200 to 1 ratio of Uranium to Thorium needed for the same amount of energy and the amount of waste is another upside. With Thorium being about 3 times more plentiful than Uranium, another upside.
    I have read that, with modification, present reactors can be capable of Thorium energy production.
    I suppose the military would require a balance between a Uranium and Thorium power infrastructure.

  17. I cant begin to comprehend the problem of every car in the USA having a battery for power.
    Natural gas to liquid, coal to liquid, mine the ocean bottom for Methane Clathrates.
    There are hundreds of alternative methods of getting liquid fuel being researched.
    Thorium powered nuclear energy plants. Its all available and it is within reach, so please lets let wind and solar power become personal and private concerns.
    The USA has only itself to blame for not being energy independent. And those “ourselves” need to be voted out.

  18. Electric cars………hmmmmmmmmmm.
    Maybe, electric cars should only be allowed to recharge from their own power grid….like solar, wind….etc. I mean, in maintaining the highest standards of saving the planet and all. I wonder how that would work out in the UK in the winter time. Trouble with electric cars is someone owning one needs a real car to do everything else…such a waste of resources.

  19. Mustafa –
    The magnets used in electric vehicles make heavy use of rare-earth elements. The prime source of such material is China. China has ALREADY declared that it will tighten the limits on its rare-earth exports.
    We would be no better off than using OPEC oil.

  20. Nuclear energy is a proven industrial technology. Check with France. According to world-nuclear.org France derives over 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy. This is due to a long-standing policy based on energy security.
    France is the world’s largest net exporter of electricity due to its very low cost of generation, and gains over EUR 3 billion per year from this.
    France has been very active in developing nuclear technology. Reactors and fuel products and services are a major export.
    It is building its first Generation III reactor and planning a second.
    About 17% of France’s electricity is from recycled nuclear fuel.
    Also check in with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, DOE, and the US Navy for additional information.

  21. Deekaman says:
    January 1, 2011 at 7:39 pm
    I’m a big fan of all things nuclear, and I like your plan but I’d like evidence that the nuclear industry is financing (alleged) AGW hysteria.
    —————————————————————————-
    I don’t know about financing the hysteria, but mega-utilities like Duke and Entergy with a nuclear component in their generation mix were sure pushing cap and trade in Congress…

  22. @ Mustafa 8:06

    Ummm, maybe the shrieking monkeys of the anti-nuke hippy movement encapsulated in the EPA? Maybe the rabid fear of nukes engendered by the Big Oil people, who realise that the supply of cheap energy is gradually slipping out of their grasp?
    Maybe the Big, Big Oil powers of the Middle East do not like the prospect of neighbourhood mini reactors.
    Mustafa, got to admit that I lost you when you referred to the Chevvy Volt as an example of ” extended range electric vehicles” . The range of the Volt is the basic problem.
    Once we suck dry the world’s light crude, we can then focus on cost-effective local nuclear power generation. The Middle East is royally screwed.

  23. After much reading it seems thorium is the future, more chemical processing (good paying jobs) but a plus in every corner. Current reactors require less daily handling but in reality they are more costly especially environmentally due to the long half-life byproducts. Nothing is free but we all live in a real world, pluses and minuses. Go nuclear, the U.S. is dying without it. Read about it, it is rather safe and the technology is decades old. The test reactor would shutdown every weekend and dump the core due to nothing but personal preference (laziness), never a problem, now that’s impressive!

  24. I’m also a thorium nut, and was unaware of the possibilities of thorium fluoride, however thorium does have some problems.
    The major US rare-earths mine at Mountian Pass California was shut down by environmental regulators because it spilled thorium contaminated water onto a dry lake bed. Normally the thorium is supposed to spill into the dry lake bed by eroding off the mountain where they mine it, but once man has touched thorium it apparently becomes a toxic heavy metal. This still stumps me, as I have a bedroom chock full of thorium in the form of vacuum tubes and thoriated tungsten welding rods.
    Regarding coal to diesel, it’s much easier to convert coal gas to methanol (with a copper catalyst) and then to Dimethyl Ether (with a gamma-alumina catalyst). The steps can also be combined to produce DME in one step.
    DME’s vapor pressure, energy content, and combustion characteristics make it virtually identical to propane for storage and use, but it’s also a better diesel fuel than diesel fuel is. The only engineering issue for an engine is that DME doesn’t act as a lubricant for the valves. The Chinese are already running some buses with it. It should be fairly trivial to convert trains from diesel to DME, with a converted propane tank car behind the engine. DME can also run turbine engines and when mixed with propane it can also run gasoline engines.
    For further advantage, DME can be converted to octane via dehydration using ZSM-5 zeolite, which is the Mobil process.

  25. Mustafa,
    I think you’ll find that the main reason that Liquid Thorium Fluoride Salt reactors aren’t being built is that a political decision was taken back in the fifties to promote U cycle systems that would produce Plutonium as a by-product. At that time the alternative Integral Fast Reactor technology was sidelined. That decision was clearly seen as desirable (at that time) for a bunch of strategic reasons.
    In addition to the Oak Ridge discourse above, you can find some really good background reading, viewing and links at Prof Barry Brook’s site: http://bravenewclimate.com/category/ifr-facts-and-discussion/
    cheers.

  26. Thorium is a “yet to be tapped” resource. What is needed is a large, commercial demonstration of the technology. This is something Canada’s CANDU program should have demonstrated, a long time ago. Now we all must wait and observe India’s program.

  27. Mustafa
    The Chevy Volt has a revised battery range of 25 miles prior to the engine taking ove. Let’s say you take a 30 mile round trip, are you going to plug the car in when you return home, or let it idle in the driveway to recharge the battery?
    Either way, you need electricity from oil/coal/Uranium…….etc.
    Or else, again, plug in to a dedicated green power source, wind/solar…etc. that is weather dependant.

  28. 50% of US oil is imported from Canada. Read Ezra Levant’s FANTASTIC book “Ethical Oil” and then tell me liquefying coal makes sense. I assume our southern friends don’t equate importing oil from Canada with that from the middle east, Venezuela, Sudan, Nigeria and the likes. Remember, ALL future risk expectations are built into the price of oil. That includes supply, political, substitution, etc. Let subsidy free economics dictate which way we go.

  29. OT – could someone explain why this site is unformatted in Firefox yet is formatted in IExplorer? It only started in the past day.

  30. Yes, thorium sounds good. Another option is discussed in this article from the blog resilientearth which explains a similar concept developed by a New Mexico based company. Unfortunately they can’t get NRC approval to build and deploy this design in the US so they’ve take it to China and deploying it internationally. The NRC needs to be disbanded and replaced by agency interested only in sound technical designs that solve the US’s energy needs without excessive regulation(strangulation).
    http://theresilientearth.com/?q=content/americas-atomic-folly

  31. Great article absent one major (in my tiny little mind at least) point.
    Coal to Liquid to replace oil and then thorium power generation to replace coal fired power plants is even more economical if you consider one additional factor. Coal is one of the best sources of thorium there is. It can be extracted from fly ash, and my assumption being that it could also be extracted in the CTL process, you don’t even need to mine thorium. Just get it from the coal in the first place.
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste

  32. Having worked in the nuclear industry and later on CTL albeit over 30 years ago, I admit that SASOL have a working system using Lurgi slagging gasifier technology but it is far from being commercial: the plant was originally built and continues to operate at a loss for political reasons.
    Thorium plant is a largely unproven technology which would take 30 years to develop into commercial reality: if it could be. Whereas the PWR is well proven and there is no shortage of fuel. But personally I think its future does not lie in big baseload stations but in the equally well proven small scale, 10 MW or so, sealed reactors which can be mass produced very cheaply at capital cost per MW [including generating plant] of about one third that of large scale units. Faster load following over a wider range without the risk of cold slug failure and the ability to automatically gang up units across a widespread network make this solution commercially attractive.
    But the USA doesn’t need any of this at the moment. It has ample supplies of natural gas.
    For domestic or industrial heating and cooking etc. this can be burned directly. Dual phase gas/steam turbine plant for electric generation is very well proven, fast to build, with a capital cost a fraction that of coal or nuclear.
    Moreover natural gas synthesis into liquid hydrocarbons, sometimes called GTL, is also well proven and relatively cheap and further produces a highly refined and very pure product compared to using coal as a feedstock. Costs are much lower, the industry, which already has far more GTL capacity than Sasol’s CTL capacity assesses commercial cost including cost of capital at between $40 to $50 BBL and the product is of course far better controlled and purer than the best refined petroleum even from low sulphur feedstock like Brent.
    What is really holding back the development of these resources to provide cheap and abundant energy is a political, commercial and environmental nexus.
    There is plenty of private capital ready to build the energy infrastructure needed and the engineering and technology to do it. But as long as it remains a political football to played for the profit of a few and the mulcting of the mass of the people it is not going to happen.
    Kindest Regards.

  33. An interesting interview by IEEE with Dr. Sinha who heads India’s Mumbai nuclear development program.
    http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/nuclear/qa-thorium-reactor-designer-ratan-kumar-sinha/2
    I wasn’t aware of this:
    Sinha “The supply of uranium is not perpetual. With the rate at which nuclear programs are growing worldwide, it is projected that by 2028 any new power plant will not have a guaranteed lifetime of uranium supply. So, one has to go for recycling as well as thorium. I don’t see any shortcut as such.”
    An initial downside to Thorium:
    Sinha: “Thorium has a much lower neutron multiplication rate than plutonium, and hence you cannot achieve power levels in a reactor as high as with plutonium. When burned, thorium initially acts like a blotting paper for neutrons and keeps absorbing them. But this exercise also means it is getting enriched and converted into U-233, which will pay dividends later on.”
    Nuclear companies that support AGW hysteria:
    Two letters: GE

  34. People will start to get the importance of energy independence (or at least being as independent as possible ) in the next 24 months as demand for oil in China & India outpace our collective ability to supply it & the price of liquid hydrocarbon soars.
    In the past, US demand / economy / politics was always the prime driver on price & the concept of energy independence wasn’t very relevant to the US – what the US did economically or politically largely controlled the price. Not so any more. China & India will be in control via their ever increasing demand & drive all our prices up & we will have no control over it. Our destiny will not be in our control. Then the concept of energy independence will sink in with the American public & politicians – we can not control our destiny with out a large degree of energy independence.
    How do you think ever increasing fuel prices will effect the economy? It will be a continued drag – so this is about more than just the price of oil – it is about our overall economic well being. It could become a defining concept to US society sooner than most can imagine. We won’t have the luxury of picking & choosing what energy sources are preferred – we will need & want them all.
    As an exploration geologist whose job is to find new hydrocarbon resources & looking at what is going on worldwide in terms of what resources are being found & developed vs. what is going on as far as demand, I think you can take this idea to the bank. This is precisely why you see the oil companies of these emerging economies scouring the world and buying up resources which would be considered marginal by historic standards – because they understand where supply & demand are going & they are positioning themselves so they are not left without supply. Too bad the US doesn’t have the same foresight.
    So, when your price at the pump skyrockets over the next 24 months, don’t blame the dreaded “Big Oil” – blame China, India & your government for lack of foresight for developing an energy independence plan , as this situation that is coming is patently obvious to most anyone in the business right now

  35. Is a commercial design ready?
    Are architectural documents finished?
    Are sites selected?
    How many plants are needed? X?
    Are environmental impact statements finished for all X sites?
    Have any regulatory agencies (local, state, Feds) signed any necessary licenses?
    Have all NIMBY court cases been concluded favorably?
    Is financing in place for X plants times cost per plant?
    Can X plants be built simultaneously? Or only a few at one time?
    Is France (high nuke infrastructure) energy independent? Why not?
    . . .
    . . .
    As these plants begin to supply energy, will other types see a drop in price?
    Place your bets.
    How many of these plants will exist in the USA in 2020?
    ~~ None;
    <= 5
    <= 100
    more than 500
    What is X?

  36. I am a strong supporter of nuclear power and have had a lifetime’s experience in its development. There has been a great deal of hysteria whipped up over the impact of radiation on life. The precautionary principle, whilst properly employed in the industry’s infancy, has resulted in the present day (in my view) overly cautious impact regulations.
    I can thoroughly recommend Prof. Wade Allison’s book “Radiation and Reason”, as providing a modern analysis of the problem.
    Prof. allison is a nuclear and medical physicist at the University of Oxford and says :-
    ” I have no axe to grind, I have no links with the industry, I just want the truth out there. So many people have been under a misapprehension for so long. The book is based on recent scientific data that are now established and it brings good news – but are people of the world ready to re-examine past assumptions in the light of current science? It is important that they do, because, without nuclear energy, the future for mankind looks bleak.”
    I should add that I have never met Professor Allison and have absolutely no connections with the book, (look on Amazon) other than as a reader.

  37. I see that I am about to make myself very unpopular by throwing a little cold water of reality all over this issue.
    (1) Why are all you good American people so concerned about energy self sufficiency?
    Are you not aware that the USA is the most powerful country in the world?
    Not by a little bit, but by a huge amount.
    You talk as if your country was frightened.
    World trade is good for your country and for the rest of the world.
    If you can produce power in its various forms more economically than by importing it, then go on, make it domestically.
    Otherwise import.
    (2) I am not an expert about the relative cost of various methods of energy generation.
    I do know that it takes much time and great cost and investment to get new major industries off the ground.
    (That after all is much of the stupidity of the AGW hysteria).
    And doesn’t your government and your foreign trade balance have, how can I put it kindly, some little defecits that need attention?
    This seems hardly the time to go further into hock to develop new methods when you already have much working sunk investment in very effecient existing facilities.
    My prediction is that the sources for electricity and transportation in 2020 will not be too different than today – the mix will change, but in as yet unknowable ways.
    But self sufficiency (or CO2 free) by 2020?
    Wheeeeeeee!
    It’s only a short ten years away.

  38. Coal liquification is fraught with problems, not the least of which is that it’s energy intensive. As the cost of crude goes up, the cost of coal liquids goes right up along with it. Add the high capital cost of the liquification plant and you don’t have much to work with. The process typically creates large quantities of toxic waste that require incineration or disposal. Last time I checked, there were about 50 different CTL processes. Most of them are hopelessly inefficient.
    Mustafa says: “…we can use coal to generate electric power ( a known technology) to power electric or extended range electric vehicles (also known and proven technology).”
    Satisfactory electric vehicles are NOT proven technology. They’ve been oversold to the public and supported by endless quantities of propaganda. Honda hybrids are particularly prone to problems. The dealers install new control software that is supposed to fix the problem, but often turns out to be just a form of hand-waving to get the owner back out the door. Replacement batteries, with labor, are about $3,000 to $4,000. You could buy a lot of gasoline for that. Or even a real car.

  39. My impression of coal to anything else (gas or liquid) is that it was plagued with problems such as requiring coal that has few impurities. Otherwise, you end up with a huge sulfur & heavy metal contamination, especially important for some catalyzed reactions. So, I’m highly skeptical of its immediate practicality. Are there real-world performance numbers for any industrial-scale production?

  40. One of the most important things about building nuclear plants is very simply this: have as few plant designs as possible. This is the reason nuclear power is much cheaper in France than in Britain, where just about every nuclear plant is a unique design.
    In France, economies of scale in having similar plant designs has resulted in huge operating and capital cost savings. As for using thorium as fuel, its supply is inexhaustible, but the technology is still a very long way from being commercially proven.
    Fears of the world running out of uranium are largely unfounded, as with every commodity, long term supply is largely a matter of price. Few geologists have looked for uranium since the late 1970s and hence there have been only a few discoveries since that time.

  41. There are large reserves of Thorium in Idaho. Similar (possibly larger) deposits exist just north of the border in British Columbia (Canada).
    Only two problems. The enviros won’t let it be mined in the US and in BC its illegal to mine it.

  42. Why do we keep having to reinvent the wheel? Has everyone forgotten why we spent so much research money on breeder reactor technology back in the 1970’s? It was because we knew that if the U.S. actually built all the commercial nuclear power plants we had on the books at that time, the entire U.S. supply (in the ground) of fissionable uranium would be used up in 20-30 years and we would then be reliant on outside sources.
    On a world-wide scale, the race to develop commercial breeders (or fusion as an alternative) was even more urgent because had the entire world gone nuclear for power production we would rapidly havegotten “past the point of no return” when the entire world supply of fissionable uranium would have been exhausted before the breeders could have done their job of creating a perpetual supply.
    Breeders were never commercially realistic because of the “plutonium problem”. I’m ignorant on the thorium cycle, but I suggest that before everyone goes bananas on the subject, we make sure it doesn’t lead to a dead-end similar to the fissionable uranium cycle.

  43. David claims
    ———–
    The nuclear industry has financed a lot of the AGW hysteria, as they saw this as the only way they could sell nuclear plants against coal.
    ———–
    Sort, real skeptical about this. Show us the money trail.

  44. David enthuses
    ——–
    I am a thorium nut as well as a coal-to-liquids (CTL) proponent.
    ——–
    I would like to believe this.
    BUT
    The last design for a thorium reactor presented here had a molten salt transfer loop.
    I would make a wild guess and suggest that molten salts are seriously corrosive. If this guess is correct it makes for some seriously challenging technical problems. As in it would eat the pipe work in nothing flat.

  45. From a pure energy standpoint your argument makes sense, but it makes little sense in the real world where politicians cannot deal with opening a national location to store nuclear waste and the greens have the ability to drag any nuclear plant therough multiple environmental studies and then the nuclear agenicies have such onerous rules on building the pkants that the costs ALWAYS shoot through the roof (this is why they are not built here, not that power companies do not want them).
    Your argument is also grossly simplistic in ignoring many other options outside those currently in major use, such as oil sands. As oil prices go up oil sands became very economical to acquire oil from thus place a top on oil prices over time, screwing up you simplistic economic arguments.
    A futurist you are not…

  46. Here’s one of you problems David, although there are many more. Oil sands require no change to our energy infrastreucture either, namely you make good old gasoline from them in the end, not some new fuel.
    Oil sands projects do not appear overnight, but as they do they will increase the capacity for oil output greatly, the real question will they keep pace with demand in the long and short term. In the short term we will get price spikes, but will we in the long term? Who knows as there is huge oil sand capacity:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tar_sands
    The cost per barrel needs to $75/barrel to make this viable. New technologies may reduce that though, and even lower the price of oil over time:
    http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/002981.html
    The model forwarded by Archiblad also completely ignore infrastructure changes. Think about how much infrastructure is out there to refine, move, and use oil and gas from pipelines to ports to accept it to refineries to pipes to move refined product (e.g. gasoline) etc. You can’t flip a switch and change energy sources – another reason we will stick with oil to the bitter end.
    Electric cars are more likely than any other technology to lower demand – why? They are cheaper to build (although the parts are currently pricier) and the infrastructure is in place to deliver electricity.

  47. Mustafa says:
    January 1, 2011 at 8:06 pm
    Mustafa says:
    January 1, 2011 at 8:06 pm
    I love fairy tales. The next technology break-through is always around the corner!
    Have you wondered why no one has built a commercial thorium reactor? Maybe, because it is not economically practical.
    Also, instead of spending money on CTL, wouldn’t it be cheaper to do battery electric vehicles (Nissan Leaf) or beter yet, extended range electric vehicles (Chevrolet Volt). That way we can use coal to generate electric power ( a known technology) to power electric or extended range electric vehicles (also known and proven technology).

    “Proven technology” .. are you kidding me? .. the only thing the Leaf and Volt have proven, is just how poor and expensive electric vehicles can be, and talk about not being cost effective. sheesh… Not even to mention the problems with depletion of rare-earth metals and other such exotic materials and fabrication necessary to make electric vehicles practical. Electric vehicles have been around since the early 1900’s, and yet they still cannot compete on any level with combustion propulsion vehicles. Talk about “fairy tales” .. one would think that 100 years of development would be ample time to develop a “practical” technology, but it hasn’t yet happened with electric vehicles. And don’t get me wrong, I would dearly love to see electric vehicles work, be economic, practical and most of all, kind to our environment, but thus far they fail short on ALL accounts.
    Sorry, try again…

  48. Chris F says:
    January 1, 2011 at 7:12 pm
    Commercialisation will take about $1 billion, and a bit of vision.
    R. Shearer says:
    January 1, 2011 at 7:14 pm
    When the US standard of living starts declining due to energy costs, a whole lot of unpleasant things will be jettisoned, including the Sierra Club. Eventually the Sierra Club will be thanked for stopping those 139 coal-fired power plants – the coal has a better use in CTL plants.
    Deekaman says:
    January 1, 2011 at 7:39 pm
    I gave a presentation to an aviation conference in Hong Kong a couple of years ago. The chief salesman for Airbus told me that the French AGW effort was led by an Areva executive. I have heard similar for the UK.
    geo says:
    January 1, 2011 at 7:43 pm
    I am an oilman and a sceptic, and I can tell you that the oil industry rolled over and played dead on this issue. Even Exxon signed on to the voodoo cult when Lee Raymond retired. Here in Australia, the oil industry has been actively promoting AGW so they could displace coal in the power market with natural gas. The LNG market is now going to suck every spare molecule out of the country at the oil price equivalent and they needn’t have bothered. But the AGW scare they contributed to is taking a long time to kill.
    highflight56433 says:
    January 1, 2011 at 7:53 pm
    Yes, I am a proponent of the two fluid molten salt breeder reactor. The thorium route has one thousandth of the high level waste of the light water reactors. Radiation falls to the original ore level after three hundred years, not the 1.3 million years of the light water route.
    Mustafa says:
    January 1, 2011 at 8:06 pm
    From coal in the ground to power at the wheel, the CTL route is more efficient than power generation/transmission/battery. Similarly, CNG vehicles are a more efficient use of natural gas than burning natural gas in turbines and recharging batteries. There is a role for electric vehicles and possibly a big one, but they make most sense when charged from nuclear or hydro power. Otherwise you would keep your fossil fuel as a gas or liquid.
    Geoff Sherrington says:
    January 1, 2011 at 8:24 pm
    Thankyou Geoff. You reminded me. The CDIAC is the contribution from the US nuclear industry to the AGW effort. That is why it is based at Oak Ridge, one of the two main US nuclear labs. Some of the stuff they do is risible, such as doing plant growth experiments at enhanced CO2 levels and using ozone to suppress the plant growth. Otherwise the results would be too good.
    Puckster says:
    January 1, 2011 at 8:28 pm
    Actually there is thorium for millions of years of use.

  49. Thorium may be great…who knows since there are no commercial thorium reactors. Uranium fission reactors are a well known technology available right now. There is plenty of uranium available the only thing lacking is the will. People are worried about the spent fuel…only due to pure ignorance and the ability of a few to whip up fears of the unknown. Having been the operator during several fuel loadings on both BWR’s and PWR’s I know something of the process.
    Nuclear is a good source of cheap power, but the only way to wean ourselves off of imported oil is to do away with the ICE. Beamed microwave energy…another proven technology. Line the interstates with MW transmitters and have vehicles with mast mounted power receivers. Yeah we may kill a few birds, but the envro’s don’t care about them anyway (see windmills).
    Diesel trucks will still be needed for a while since they need more power than is possible to transfer with todays technology. Give me 5 years and a trillion dollars then sit back and watch…

  50. What alternative fuel is there that I can pump into the tank of my Buick, other than alcohol, which is just wastefully burning food and less efficient than gasoline?
    So far the alternatives are less efficient than gasoline, getting less distance from the same volume of fuel. They also cost more to produce and use more energy to produce than gasoline.
    Using solar energy to grow genetically engineered algae to produce alcohol or oils suitable for diesel and turbine engines solves the energy cost, but that still leaves out all the gasoline engines. Let’s genetically engineer some goop that excretes 92 octane gasoline, at a retail price of $2 a gallon, including taxes.
    Meanwhile, stop this nonsense of fermenting corn and grains into alcohol.

  51. So, where will all that coal and natural gas come from? Are you thinking of mining it from Jupiter, just as the IPCC folk seem to intend?
    Anthony, through all these years of WUWT, you have always failed to recognize that the fossil fuel galore is an AGW fabrication. Without it they can’t through around the +6º, +7º, +12º figures they like. Publishing a braindead post like this is paying an important service to the IPCC, the HS Team, the Hadley Centre and the like.
    Though almost three ears old, our proposal on the IPCC dreamcasts is still up.
    Happy 2011, may it bring enlightenment.

  52. Aside from BigNuke’s alleged support for AGW (I can refer to support from individuals but not sure about the Industry itself), and the well known claim that all us nasty Deniers are in the pocket of BigOil (cheque STILL hasn’t arrived), are you aware that we are also catspaws of Osama Bin Laden?
    One for Climate Craziness of the Week, Anthony?
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ac/20101231/lf_ac/7503666_how_global_warming_denial_aids_terrorists
    Happy New Year to one and all. (Excepting the ecotard trolls.)

  53. I dont think the majorities in the western democracies should listen too much to the greens. They protest here in Norway even when we want to expand our hydro resources. That tells me that they are really against humanity.
    There are wast thoeium deposits in Norway. Farmers could easily build their own small hydro plants.
    All the regulations is the problem.

  54. jtom said:
    “The magnets used in electric vehicles make heavy use of rare-earth elements. The prime source of such material is China. China has ALREADY declared that it will tighten the limits on its rare-earth exports.”
    It is feasible to build efficient electric motors without the use of rare-earth elements. The rare-earth elements allow the motors to be smaller and lighter. Most industrial motors do not use rare-earth elements. The lack of rare-earth elements is not a game changer for electric vehicles.
    We have lots of rare-earth elements in America. The reason we get most of them from China is that they are expensive to process.
    China is a problem only in the short term.

  55. Deekaman says:
    January 1, 2011 at 7:39 pm
    I’m a big fan of all things nuclear, and I like your plan but I’d like evidence that the nuclear industry is financing (alleged) AGW hysteria.
    I have no evidence but I made the following point on this blog two years ago.
    A few months after the 3 Miles Island Nuclear disaster a relatively unknown scientist called Hansen was given a platform in front of Congress to present a relatively unknown and unproven theory about the effects of CO2 on climate. I do not know much about the US but my guess is that one does not get this sort of opportunity without some powerful lobbying. After 3 Mile Island the perception in government and the general population was that Nuclear was no longer safe. If I had been in the Nuclear industry at the time I would have had to do something to change that perception and there would have been no better way of doing that than proving that the alternatives were not safe either.
    So I have nothing to implicate the Nuclear industry in the scare but I believe they would have been betraying their shareholders if they had not actively promoted it. Unless you change the law to say that companies can only support things that they know to be absolutely in the interest of truth and society’s wellbeing then we cannot complain.
    So, although I have fought against global warming hysteria for 10 years now, I am still happy to let the very people who I think started it win out. Who cares, if we end up with a sustainable clean and cheap source of power into the future as a result? I am not sure about thorium, because the devil is always in the detail, but on the surface it looks great. At least we would be investing in something that has some real value rather than investing in ways to tax people.

  56. I am sorry but I left Chernobyl out of my last post. Hansen was put in post just after Three Mile Isand but it was a few months after Chernobyl that Hansen’s presentation to Congress was made. Three Mile Island might have led to the end of the growth of the US Nuclear industry anyway but Chernobyl threatened to put the lid on the coffin.

  57. Mustafa says:
    January 1, 2011 at 8:06 pm
    “I love fairy tales. The next technology break-through is always around the corner!
    Have you wondered why no one has built a commercial thorium reactor? Maybe, because it is not economically practical.”
    Mustafa, your statement is not informative as you have not presented any evidence for it.

  58. I like the idea of energy independance, sadly the UK Gov’t is driving for the opposite for us. Now where can I invest in Thorium?

  59. Finally someone going in the right direction. The bottom line is if you have energy you can manufacture/process just about any hydrocarbon you wish. Using existing technology, if you have electricity, you can “recycle” the atmosphere for the raw materials need for hydrocarbons – namely hydrogen, oxygen and carbon (think dry ice and electrolysis). It’s all just one form of “synfuel” using technology that’s been around since Hitler made the mistake of not locating Germany over a petroleum reserve. All produce increasingly “cleaner” forms of hydrocarbons. Thus, really “clean” gasoline with zero (0%) contaminates. And the nuclear path is “sustainable” (dry ice, electrolysis) for a few billion years.
    Oil’s price per barrel today makes synfuel within reach based on cost. Given no cost difference, one would seem to want to opt for the smallest environmental “footprint” which would make nuclear anything the winner. Better to build one nuke plant, of whatever type, than kill all those soon to be endangered chopped up birds sacrificed at the alter of CO2 worship.
    Of course nothing like this will happen in your lifetime unless the States assert their power under Article V. As some have noted, you can count in generations how long it will take with the current Federal system to double our nuke power generation.
    Better to go to Panama, build dozens of synfuel nuke powered plants and sell the US the fuel it needs. The greenies would be a tad happy having shut down the US while you’d be happy on the profits you’d make.

  60. Some people call for US energy independence but have no practical idea of how that could be achieved. Others, strangely, rail against the concept.
    Yeah cuz free trade is a bad thing and only an odd person with strange ideas would oppose trade protectionism.
    Go [snip ~ language! ~jove, mod]].

  61. The main argument for thorium is that it is more abundant.
    However, thorium power plants don’t exist because of technical issues – uranium is simply easier to react.
    Far from clear that it is a conspiracy issue.
    Secondly besides the fact no functional thorium power plants exist outside of laboratories, the method by which thorium is to be theoretically commercially viable is via a thorium breeder plant. This sounds cool but in reality even uranium breeder plants are few, produce all sorts of nasty weapons grade products/waste, and just are nowhere as economically beneficial as theory would have it.
    Lastly one huge issue with nuclear power is the waste. Not the physical aspects of it, but actually the accounting. To be clear I am not against nuclear power per se – but the method by which nuclear waste is treated is exactly like toxic mortgages: if you play games with the models and numbers, you can make a collection of toxic mortgages seem harmless. And while loads of toxic mortgages may irradiate a bank and an economy, loads of toxic nuclear waste irradiate in considerably more permanent fashion.
    Again, not a problem that cannot be solved, but there is gigantic potential for abuse of how nuclear waste is accounted for – the companies operating nuclear power plants have a gigantic financial incentive to minimize the true lifetime costs of safely handling nuclear waste.

  62. LazyTeenager says:
    January 2, 2011 at 12:14 am
    “I would make a wild guess and suggest that molten salts are seriously corrosive. If this guess is correct it makes for some seriously challenging technical problems.”
    Technical problems…………We can do it!
    Understanding Engineers
    Three engineering students were gathered together discussing the possible designers of the human body.
    One said, ‘It was a mechanical engineer. Just look at all the joints.’
    Another said, ‘No, it was an electrical engineer. The nervous system has many thousands of electrical connections.’
    The last one said, ‘No, actually it had to have been a civil engineer. Who else would run a toxic waste pipeline through a recreational area?’

  63. “here follows a plan for US energy independence by 2020. The technology exists and it is costed and affordable”: affordable by whom? Who will lend the insolvent USA the money to do this? (Or the insolvent Eurozone, Japan, UK, etc?)

  64. I think the time scale 2020 as not feasible. It takes 10+ years to develop and certify a reactor design.
    So why not stick for the time being with uranium. It has several certifed reator designs;
    ABWR
    AP1000
    ESBWR(estimated certifaction 2011)
    If you want use uranium more effectively the USA should not use the Once-through nuclear fuel cycle.
    Also the use of CANDU reactor could enhance the efficiency.( DUPIC fuel cycle)
    CTL is a proven technology and still being used in South Africa. It would be wise to build such a plant in USA even if it was at the moment economical to gain experience.
    But there lots of alternatives to CTL.

  65. Doesn’t Thorium need Uranium to make it fissile, except in a breeder reactor they haven’t developed commercially yet? How much will Uranium be at $120 oil, still “too cheap to meter”? I think not.
    All these “such and such will be cost effective at $120 oil” scenarios fail to recognise what happens to the global economy at $120 oil.
    I can’t see there being investment in anything, with the global economy on it’s arse and every government up to it’s eyeballs in debt, $120 oil means $40 oil is coming soon. Commodities will plummet as demand is eviscerated.
    2011 – year of the margin call

  66. In the UK we are committed to EU directives regard CO2 reductions.
    Nuclear is the only viable way of doing this.
    Windmills sorry turbines and solar are merely window dressing.
    Coal power plants can be quite thermally efficient some of the best modern plants are
    45% or better. It would appear to me that big reductions in coal consumption could be achieved by upgrading plants that are only 30 to 35% efficient. The gains in Thermal efficiency appear to be from the use of higher temperatures and pressures.
    One interesting fact about battery only electric cars is the drop in range when using the heater. The Nissan Leaf 100 mile range drops to 55 is you want to say warm. I think that they should have put a LPG tank on board to run the heater from.

  67. jorgekafkazar and JDN,
    Coal to liquids doesn’t have any strange requirements or metal problems. Sulfur could always be handled, and is now simply reduced to trivial levels with a fluidized bed and limestone additions, where the limestone reacts with the sulfur to make calcium sulfate (gypsum), which stays with the ash. The CO and H2 come off as gases, along with mercury which is most cheaply cleaned by passing the hot gas past molten tin (which stays hot because it’s in the furnace exhaust). The mercury combines with the tin for form an amalgam which is later processed back into tin and mercury. Other metals are going to stay with the ash, which is why coal ash is a good source of feedstock for thorium and other elements.
    Much like burning wood, the ash contains all the essential trace elements like copper while the smoke consists of light hydrocarbons, nitrogens, carbon dioxide, and such. Kodak runs a major coal to liquids plant in Bristol Tennessee, making methanol, and such plants were in routine operation in Germany well into the postwar period until the Saudis dropped the price of oil so low in that coal conversion couldn’t compete.
    The reason coal prices go up when oil goes up isn’t the production cost, it’s that the demand for coal goes up as competing fuels become more expensive. Electric companies go to great lengths to decrease oil usage and put all the load on coal fire plants, but most importantly the coal price goes up due to the law of “whatever the market will bear.” The only petroleum used in production would be in surface mining and transport. Coal to liquids plants don’t use any petroleum, other than what the employees use driving back and forth to work. All the energy they use comes directly from the coal.
    Keep in mind that bituminous coal, on a BTU basis, is still ten times cheaper than propane and about five times cheaper than natural gas. Last month I bought a 60 pound bag (because the geology student downstairs had never seen it burn) and the yard wouldn’t even take a dollar for it because it wasn’t worth their trouble. The guy in front of me filled the bed of his pickup truck to overflowing and probably paid $40. When was the last time you went to a gas station, filled your tank, and they didn’t even bother ringing it up because gasoline was too cheap to meter in retail quantities?

  68. cal says:
    January 2, 2011 at 2:15 am

    I have no evidence but I made the following point on this blog two years ago.
    A few months after the 3 Miles Island Nuclear disaster a relatively unknown scientist called Hansen was given a platform in front of Congress to present a relatively unknown and unproven theory about the effects of CO2 on climate.

    From http://theclimatefix.com/?p=4

    In the summer of 1988, global warming first captured the imagination of the American public. In early June of that summer Senator Al Gore (D-TN) organized a congressional hearing to bring attention to the subject, one that he had been focusing on in Congress for more than a decade. The hearing that day was carefully stage-managed to present a bit of political theater, as was later explained by Senator Tim Wirth (D-CO), who served alongside Gore in the Senate and, like Gore, was also interested in the topic of global warming. “We called the Weather Bureau and found out what historically was the hottest day of the summer. Well, it was June 6th or June 9th or whatever it was. So we scheduled the hearing that day, and bingo, it was the hottest day on record in Washington, or close to it. What we did is that we went in the night before and opened all the windows, I will admit, right, so that the air conditioning wasn’t working inside the room.”
    The star witness that day was Dr. James Hansen, a NASA scientist who had been study climate since the 1960s. Hansen had decided that “it was time to stop waffling so much and say that the evidence is pretty strong that the greenhouse effect is here and is affecting our climate.” Hansen emphasized three points in his testimony: First, that “the earth is warmer in 1988 than at any time in the history of instrumental measurements;” second, “global warming is now large enough that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship” to the emission of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide; and third, the consequences are “already large enough to begin to affect the probability of extreme events such as summer heat waves.” The hearing’s public impact surely must have exceeded even its organizers expectations, as the temperature in the room and the scorching weather outside combined resulted in Hansen’s testimony receiving wide coverage in the national and international media.

  69. @Brad says:
    January 2, 2011 at 12:55 am
    all good arguments until you state:
    Electric cars are more likely than any other technology to lower demand – why? They are cheaper to build (although the parts are currently pricier) and the infrastructure is in place to deliver electricity.
    The infrastructure is not in place to deliver sufficient electricity if everyone moved to using electric cars. Back of an envelope calculation will show you just how much energy (plus heat wastage) will be required to be transmitted to drive all those electric cars their range of say 60 miles per day. Most urban electrical supply lines would not support the drain.
    Then the practicality problem – its cold and snowy and the 15 mile drive home that should have taken 20 minutes has taken 3 hours of stop go and wheel spinning driving (many have had that experience recently) – the car lights, wipers, demisters and heaters have necessarily been running all that time and your power runs out. Now what? You cannot walk to get a gallon of electricity, a good Samaritan cannot offer you some fuel. The only way is to be towed – and of course the snowy road is now littered with people with dead electric cars.
    Its not as if these cars reduce pollution as the energy they use has been generated somewhere else – they are NIMBY cars.

  70. Luís says:
    January 2, 2011 at 1:58 am
    This is amusing because the reason I offered this post up was that WUWT had had a post promoting “clean coal”, which is one of the most inane proposals on the planet. The same people who want to ban plastic shopping bags and incandescent light bulb to save minute amounts of fossil fuels are quite happy to double the amount of coal used to generate power, and thus halve the coal reserves we leave our children. Just insane.
    I am well aware how much coal there is, and natural gas, and that is why we need to go nuclear as soon as possible. When oil goes through $200/bbl, you won’t be so choosy about where your liquid fuels come from, and you will even be grateful to have an electric bicycle.
    Joshua Corning says:
    January 2, 2011 at 3:48 am
    The Germans effectively pay $260 per barrel at the pump because they have a lot of fuel tax. As a consequence, they drive smaller and more efficient vehicles. If the US vehicle fleet was as efficient as the German one, the US would be burning 12 million barrels per day instead of 20 million. My plan has the US producing or replacing its entire current requirement of 20 million barrels per day. If consumption became price constrained, as I expect it will, and fell to 12 million barrels per day, then the US could export 8 million barrels per day. The world will readily take that and be grateful, as non-OPEC production will start falling by 2 million barrels/day/year by mid-decade at the latest. So 8 million barrels per day will be only four years of world oil production decline.
    By the way, China has installed or is in the process of building 600,000 barrels per day of CTL capacity. Who allowed the CTL gap with China?

  71. I like it. I would add to the list a requirement for all new houses over a certain size (2000sq ft?) to have solar panels tied to grid that are sized at least 1watt/sqft (a 2000 sqft will have at least a 2kw panel)

  72. Deekaman says:
    January 1, 2011 at 7:39 pm
    “I’m a big fan of all things nuclear, and I like your plan but I’d like evidence that the nuclear industry is financing (alleged) AGW hysteria”.
    GE, Siemens just to mention a few.

  73. Mustafa and his electric cars – funny. I saw the first tv ad for the Leaf the other night. Looked real slick – says your garage is your gas station. There was a camera shot of a man removing a charger plug from where the gas filler cap would be, and another shot of a sleek, laptop sized battery. How cool is that! So I decided to check on the internet, just for a laugh.
    The laptop sized battery, it turns out, is but one of 48, which altogether weighs 300kg. Thats like carrying the weight of 2 adult male African lions in the trunk, if you’re interested. But that aside, how much would I need to pay for a new Leaf? In the UK the sticker price is £23,350 which includes a £5,000 tax payer subsidy. Out of this, the car is worth about £13,000 and the battery £15,000. That’s right, the battery costs more than the car, which once it becomes knackered in 5 to 7 years (depends on whether you buy in the US or the UK), renders the car useless. Imagine the depreciation on a battery that costs £15,000 with a useful life of 7 years? And then you have to add the depreciation of the car onto that.
    The problem is, nobody really knows what the car will be worth after 3 or 4 years. This is uncharted territory. And then there’s the range – about 100 to 140 miles per charge. That immediately makes it a second car only. What sort of person will spend £23,350 on a second car? Oh, that’s right – a rich person. So we have the absurdity of tax payers forced to subsidise rich peoples second cars. Outrageous.

  74. The quickest and least bloody way to get this done is to suck Middle East wells dry as dead bones, and then move on to sustainable energy such as hydro and wood bio-waste incineration, and long term energy such as nuclear and coal.
    The Middle East thinks they are the ones winning this war. Not while my rig is on the road and my 43oo square foot old mansion needs heat. Every mile I drive and every drop of heating oil I use is another nail in their coffin.
    Countries that can make money on exports can wage winnable wars. If you suck a country’s exports dry, the money they need to wage winnable wars dries up. They may make a great initial splash, but it is only a flash in the pan. They can’t sustain their effort. This may sound harsh, but that’s the way it is.

  75. In reply to A Jones.
    Kindly note that SASOL is now a privatised company and has a listing on the NYSE.
    Granted that like Canadian Tar Sands, sponsored by the Canadian Federal Government, SASOL received government funding to expand. Last I looked it produced about 45% of South Africa’s requirements; which doesn’t say much, as it is in Africa.
    For the Tar Sands operations to break-even, only covering operational costs, you need a price of about US$15-00 per barrel. For SASOL to break-even, you need a somewhat higher price. For capital payback you obviously need a higher price.
    The latest SASOL technology produces Diesel and petrol (petrol is what we use in the commonwealth to power our cars; we heat our homes with gas) from gas, which comes from Mozambique. The diesel from this process is amazingly pure with an extremely low sulpher content.
    The danger to the SASOL and Canadian Tar Sands operations , as perceived by the financial gurus that advise investors, is the fact that the Saudis could swamp the world with their low cost US$2-50 per barrel reserves. And this is not going to happen, real soon.

  76. So we give away oil for use by our enemy while purchasing a high percentage of goods from China and the rest of the third world and manufacturing and selling little.
    They become powerful with the technology of the West and the West ceases to exist.


  77. That depends on where you live. I have a 400 V line in my carage. It is connected to a nearby 115 kV line. New nuclear power plants, more gridlines and pipes for natural gas are under construction and design.
    It is -15 C outside, -25 C is forecasted for coming week. My car is warmed for the start in the garage, which is quite normal because there are electric sockets for warming to half of the cars in the country.
    It is snowing lightly, but the roads and higways are open. Based on past more 30 years of driving history I expect to drive 150 miles in less than 3 hours, not just 15 miles.

  78. David,
    You will NEVER see a Thorium reactor built.
    This is a “free-market” system where profits matter more than good technology.
    I have had personal dealing with Siemens and the technology of a high effiecient turbine. 18 less turbines is quite a profit to loose in the manufacturing business.

  79. Brad says:
    January 2, 2011 at 12:44 am
    ” but it makes little sense in the real world where politicians cannot deal with opening a national location to store nuclear waste”
    The nuclear waste issue is a bit of a straw man argument. Even mining Uranium hasn’t been particularly profitable since Reagan and Gorbachov agreed to cut our nuclear arsenals. All those nuke bombs ended up being recycled as nuclear reactor fuel.
    Once we are done recycling nuclear bombs, and once mining Uranium becomes profitable again, recycling nuclear waste from power plants will become financially interesting.
    Why spend money burying something that we will want to dig back up in a few years?

  80. Natural gas is the not even mentioned in the article.
    The biggest news in energy in the last five years has been the development of shale gas. Domestic reserves and production have soared, and gas prices have stayed low. The technology has hardly been used outside of the US, but the potential for shale gas exists in many places. Total of France has bought into some US projects to gain expertise, and activity is starting up in Poland. India is already running many trucks and buses on CNG.
    We won’t be messing with thorium with $4.50 gas available.

  81. Dear Mr. Archibald…
    Ditto the comment on the “Nuclear Industry” financing AWG hysteria.
    I’ll make a $100 wager right now that you can find NO evidence of this. Prima facia,
    not second hand.
    I worked in Nuclear power for 20 years. The so called “nuclear industry” is VERY fragmented and has NO centralized “control”. Maybe in Russia or France, but not in the USA.
    Please RETRACT that comment. (This is a sincere request for you to do that.)
    Yours,
    Max

  82. The real question to plan any future development is: What kind of energy facilities would work in every climate and in every possible situation?

  83. MattN says:
    January 2, 2011 at 5:34 am
    I like it. I would add to the list a requirement for all new houses over a certain size (2000sq ft?) to have solar panels tied to grid that are sized at least 1watt/sqft (a 2000 sqft will have at least a 2kw panel)
    Are YOU going to pay people to do this? If not, who appointed you dictator?

  84. Interesting, thought-provoking, and timely guest post by Mr. Archibald.
    A few comments:
    1.. Nuclear is indeed the rational path to effective energy self-sufficiency (note I didn’t say complete energy independence, which would be difficult and may not even be desirable). For those who have not made the trip, highly recommend the following links at Idaho National Laboratory (INL):
    http://www.nextgenerationnuclearplant.com/
    https://inlportal.inl.gov/portal/server.pt/community/nuclear_energy/277
    See especially lower-level ”fact sheets” and ”papers/presentations” menus in last above for a huge amount of pertinent info.
    2.. Thorium-cycle reactors are very interesting and deserve serious and expanded attention, BUT: As noted in other comments solving the technical, financial, regulatory, and large-scale production issues associated with that new technology is not something that will happen quickly. See for example even current discussion on home page of:
    http://energyfromthorium.com/
    Meanwhile:
    The Generation-III+ reactor designs are essentially ready to go; we need to start building those now (yesterday, actually). See again above INL link on NGNP.
    3.. Have to respectfully disagree with Mr. Archibald if he is suggesting that effective U.S. energy indepence can actually be achieved by 2020: IMO a long list of technical, political, and financial real-world impediments make that impractical, even with a max effort.
    BUT:
    The sooner we get serious and start, the sooner it will happen. I would suggest that a 2030-2035 time-frame is more realistic. And in fact even if it takes 20-25 years, with careful planning and proper leadership at the national level to set priorities and achieve the most important goals ASAP I think it will work (we’re probably not going to run out of oil quite as soon as some people claim; see recent major plausible additions to world reserves). But we can’t dawdle and waste another 30 years like we did after the 1970s-era ”oil shock” either, or the whole world is in BIG trouble. . . .

  85. Thorium is a no-brainer when compared to any other current energy technology out there. It is also a comfort when considering the future of the human race to know that this technology can supply us with energy at below today’s energy cost for many thousands of years. The only hurdle is the regulatory environment – politics. In a sane world we’d already be running our economy on thorium.
    Having said that, though, I’m betting on our energy future being dominated by Blacklight Power’s recently announced CIHT (Catalyst Induced Hydrino Transition) technology. http://www.blacklightpower.com/ With capital costs projected at $25 per kW of capacity, and fuel costs essentially zero, this technology will blow away every other energy technology as soon as Blacklight Power gets it perfected and into production. I’ve followed Blacklight for ten years. They are for real, and they are steadily and surely advancing their technology.

  86. Joshua Corning says:
    January 2, 2011 at 3:48 am
    Some people call for US energy independence but have no practical idea of how that could be achieved. Others, strangely, rail against the concept.
    ======================================================
    Yeah cuz free trade is a bad thing and only an odd person with strange ideas would oppose trade protectionism.
    Go [snip ~ language! ~jove, mod]].
    ======================================================
    Oh yeh, well, our version of free trade has worked out soo well for us. Goes to show that free and fair are not synonymous. The way “free” trade is operated these days, is to let cheap labor manufacture goods. In other words, if fully practiced, the wages must be held low or the jobs go away. You know, jobs, those thingys that allow the common man to feed and house his family. In the U.S., we’ve “free traded” ourselves out of producing much of anything with intrinsic value. We’ve gone from the world’s largest industrialized work force in the free world to a bunch of office dwellers that do very little and produce nothing. There is no currency or economy that can sustain this course. Care to venture why the U.S. has sustained near 10% unemployment? Because the employers have nothing for the workforce to do.
    Free trade; go buy an American made HP computer. Or a pair of Levis trousers. (There’s thousands of other examples) We don’t even make the steel that goes into the whirligigs that was suppose to be part of all of the “green” jobs we made. Your “free” trade has had an enormous cost to all nations that aren’t in the developing stage. Worse, as the labor force moves to other country, our lunatic leaders decided we should be a service industry worked by educated peoples. Sounds nice, except, there are people that simply lack the ability to apply the knowledge gained to anything useful. But we hand out diplomas and degrees like they were printed for the Sunday morning newspaper.(Mostly paid for at taxpayer expense.) We’ve managed to produce millions of sophomoric managers, scientists, engineers, and general “skilled” workers. Its a small wonder why most of the hyperbole surrounding our climate comes from developed nations. The twits don’t have anything else to do and are too stupid to understand the harm they are creating.
    If “protectionism” means to be able to see the disastrous effects on our economy and by extension to the people of this nation, of such insidious machinations like NAFTA, or the WTO, and understand that none of it was necessary. Then, I’m probably and proudly a protectionist. What is a nation, but the whole of its people?
    An illustration. There is a nation of hunters that gather hides and meats. They’ll trade the hides to a nation of sewers for the finished product of clothes. Of course, the finished product is more expensive than the raw, so they also have to kick in some meat. But if the nation of hunters were also a nation of sewers, what sense does it make to send the hides and meat to the other nation? Especially considering when the sewers in hunter/sewer nation is our own sons and daughters and brothers and sisters?
    Prosperity isn’t some happenstance occurrence. It is worked for and earned. And like all things worked for and earned, it should be jealously kept. History is laden with examples of societies, economies and nations that failed to do so. Trade with other nations should be encouraged, but only when it is a benefit to this nation.
    Maybe you should “go [snip]”.
    For those believing this rant was particular to the U.S., it was, but you can simply substitute the places where I used “U.S.” and “American” for the nation or nationality of your choice. I can name several off the top of my head. Strangely, they are the same countries that generated the CAGW scare. On a almost related note, I wondered out-loud years ago what would happen with the marriage of Hong Kong and China. Now I know.
    There is, of course, volumes to say on this subject, but I’ll leave it there for now. BBL.

  87. Pamela Gray says:
    Maybe so Pamela. Maybe it is a strategy our government is using. Pooh! They don’t seem that smart.

  88. We do not buy crude oil to burn in our cars, trucks or airplanes, we buy a very technically specific product, gasoline, diesel fuel, or Jet-A. These products are made by breaking down the hydrocarbon molecules in a feedstock and reassembling them into the exact molecular configuration the final product needs to have.
    The only thing that matters to the retail purchaser of these fuels in a free market is price. The ONLY thing. This is because when the market is allowed to operate, supply and demand will always be in balance at the free market price
    When our great-great grand parents used hydrocarbon fuel to burn in their reading lamps, at one time the feedstock for the product’s refining process was the blubber of whales. At some point, this was replaced in the market by an oil made by refining coal. You can still find coal oil lamps in antique stores. Gradually this oil was replaced by a lighter hydrocarbon called kerosene made from crude oil. You can’t buy whale oil today and even if you could, who would want to burn it to read a book? Electricity has replaced all these hydrocarbons for this purpose. Even Coleman camping lanterns that burn a special form of gasoline, are being replaced by high efficiency LED lamps. And every one of these long-cycle transitions has been for the better, and most importantly were accomplished peacefully and without having to resort to government coercion, which always implies the credible use of deadly force. (sorry to mention that raw truth)
    Our great-great grand parents didn’t worry about peak whale and we shouldn’t worry about peak oil. If the price of fuel made from refining crude oil gets higher than the price of fuel made by refining some other hydrocarbon feedstock like coal, switchgrass, sewage sludge, soybeans or algae, then the market will adopt to the new source as the economics indicate, that is if government does not intrude to forbid, coerce or distort. The free market will do it peacefully, too. How will the market know it should move to a new feedstock source? The price of the retail product is the only signal it needs.
    If someone is still worried about where these hydrocarbons will come from to be used as feedstocks, the short answer is that the world is almost literally awash in hydrocarbons.
    Dr. Theodore K. Barna published a study done for the Defense Department on the topic of where these hydrocarbons will come from. His conclusion? The US has over 2x the hydrocarbon resources as all of Arab OPEC combined. Here is the link to the presentation:
    http://www.westgov.org/wieb/meetings/boardsprg2005/briefing/ppt/congressionalbrief.pdf
    If you are still worried, then consider a future source of hydrcarbons: methane hydrates trapped under the sea floor.
    The U.S. Geological Survey publised a summary about this energy source, Gas (Methane) Hydrates — A New Frontier. It stated:
    “The worldwide amounts of carbon bound in gas hydrates is conservatively estimated to total twice the amount of carbon to be found in all known fossil fuels on Earth.”
    see:
    http://marine.usgs.gov/fact-sheets/gas-hydrates/title.html
    Still worried about energy? We have plenty of uranium to power our nuclear reactors, but if we ever run low, reactors can also be powered with thorium. Thorium is present in abundant deposits. Some estimates have stated there is enough thorium to power the entire world for a thousand years.
    see:
    http://www.adrianforbass.com/pages/policy/nuclear/policy_nuclear_thorium.htm
    And speaking of powering vehicles, if you buy a Nissan Leaf or any other battery-powered vehicle, you should know that 52% of the electrity that will recharge its battery will come from burning coal.
    If you are still worried about energy, maybe you need to really, really have a long talk with yourself about what the hell you are thinking.

  89. James, I agree with some of what you have said. The soupy mix of imports, exports and free trade has to do with profits to the entity that exports things other countries (and their people) cannot make for themselves. Trouble is, that entity may not be the country the stuff gets exported from. Does it benefit the country OR the individual? It should, to be sustainable, benefit both.
    The wrench has to do with stock holders. Companies that sell stock in their business stay afloat by enriching their stock holders. But where do these stock holders live? If they live in the same country that the product is produced, both are enriched.
    But we live in a small, and ever smaller, world where people (and businesses) may profit from one country but live in another, thus denying that country a share in the profits.
    One thing is a sure thing. If all a country has to profit from is cheap labor (IE the country has no other internal resources to export), that country will be a flash in the pan if that and forever live on the bottom rung of the world’s ladder. Any country wanting its sustained freedom and powerful place in the world must strike a balance between benefits accrued by its businesses who export from other countries, and that country’s own workers and exportable resources and products.

  90. It’s going to be hard to field a high-tech workforce, at least in the USA. Most teenagers feel they’re missing out on life if they’re not texting or facebooking 100% of their waking hours. So, they’re not learning what they need to know to become future hi tech workers.

  91. jack morrow says:
    January 2, 2011 at 8:44 am
    Pamela Gray says:
    Maybe so Pamela. Maybe it is a strategy our government is using. Pooh! They don’t seem that smart.

    How true Jack. The current government says “Greenhouse gases are pollution.” Boy, if we could only get all the greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere!
    Lisa Jackson, EPA head, says, “Greenhouse gases are pollution”.

  92. JDN: Yes, the South African government began to produce oil from coal back in the early 1970s and eventually built three huge plants which I believe currrently supply about 10% of that countries fuel. The Sasol Plants are all located near large coal deposits and mines and also produce around 40% of the countries electricity. The “coke” produced is then supplied to and used by the ISCOR plants to produce steel… As that country has about a 3,000 year supply of coal, it has long made sense to them to use the stuff as efficiently as they can. Their mines also produce a huge slice of the world’s richest Uranium – a by product of the gold mines. Their offshore gas reserves are also quite large and come ashore at Mossel Bay where there is another large plant that converts it to liquid fuels. All of this is a legacy of the Sanctions imposed by the UN in the 1970s.
    I’m a believer in nuclear for large scale generation and I believe that the money currently expended on wind farms and other “renewable” technologies should be spent on working out newer and safer ways of dealing with nuclear waste. I learned recently that Greenpeace draws a very large slice of its funding from companies currently supplying materials or equipment for the alternatives Greenpeace and its ignoramus supporters prefer to nuclear. Not many realise that the nuclear fuel rods can be reprocessed and 95% of the material is reused. The 5% that is lost in the process is the really nasty stuff and that is what we should find a solution for.
    One of the biggest problems facing the nuclear industry is the image created of it as a dangerous cowboy run operation as portrayed in the Simpsons. Unfortunately most Simpsons fans do think this is how nuclear material is handled…
    Thorium may well provide an alternative to Uranium 235 and 238, but the big question is how to kick into touch the “Risk Averse” culture that is stifling development of any new technology? Unless this can be ejected from the present western “mass psyche” we will wind up kowtowing to China, India and probably even Tehran. We need to move fast, before things like the UK’s new Environment Act destroy all alternatives to the accursed “wind farms” and other Greenpeace claptrap.

  93. It is nice to see the economic illiterates out in force.
    Questions:
    1. Who decides what is “fair” trade?
    2. How is it decided that the trade is now “fair”?
    3. How are these not subjective?
    4. Will import tariffs increase the cost of goods?
    5. How does increasing the cost of goods benefit the consumer?

    5 Myths About Breaking Our Foreign Oil Habit (The Washington Post)
    Am I the only one here who reads any books on Energy?
    Gusher of Lies: The Dangerous Delusions of Energy Independence

  94. While it is very interesting to propose a whole new direction in energy production, would it not be more practical to modestly improve the existing system? For example, would it not be advantageous to add “buffering” to the power grid to make wind and solar power effective, to reduce the requirement of “spinning reserves” and to scavenge the overproduction inherent in the existing system?
    I am not an expert on the existing grid (someone with knowledge, please speak up) but, there seem to be many approaches to solving these problems that are relatively simple. Maybe a less complicated structure dependant on local power generation where natural gas is used io drive high efficiency turbines is the answer.
    I don’t have the expertise to answer these questions but, I do know that converting corn to ETOH and constructing a huge infrastructure based on unreliable energy sources is not the answer.

  95. Sasol is the world leader in CTL technology and also as GTL technology in Qatar. Shell is also developing a 140,000 bbl/day GTL plant in Qatar and has 20 years experience operating such plants. But the real opportunities in the US are for CTL plants using iron technology that can convert the low H2/CO ratio syngas into ultra-clean fuels such as diesel and jet fuel, both of which are “drop-in” fuels requiring no engine modifications. These fuels have been thoroughly researched by DOE (see Ultra-Clean Fuels programs under NETL and NREL). These fuels both reduce engine emissions and provide operational benefits without detriments found with biodiesel fuels from soy oils and the like.
    The only big drawback to CTL is the permitting and construction costs. But Carbon Capture will reduce the carbon footprint of CTL to that of conventional fuels, and the CO2 captured, when used with enhanced oil recovery, will yield 2 bbl additional crude for each bbl of CTL produced.
    By using Nuclear power for electricity and CTL for fuels, we will be on our way to reduced dependence on foreign crude and imported fuels. The balance of payment improvement and huge increase in domestic jobs associated with starting a new CTL industry will be most beneficial for reducing our defecit.

  96. One way to get started fast is to have the President (Congress might have to OK it also) order the post haste permitting and construction of Generation-III+ reactors on every military base in the country. They would supply the base plus feed the network on the existing power lines to the base.
    Pushed hard enough, they could probably be online in five years.

  97. John F. Hultquist says:
    January 1, 2011 at 10:34 pm
    Is a commercial design ready?
    The Thorium high temperature reactor (THTR) is similar to the pebble bed designs generating power commercially as we speak in South Africa. India is forging ahead with creating a fleet of thorium reactors for power generation, with its vast thorium resources (such as the Monazite sands which make some beaches good places to get an ionizing tan – enough natural radiation to give your radiation-superstitious Westerner an involuntary bowel movement but in reality of no health consequence).
    This “commercial readiness” argument is a red herring – the only ingredient needed – no – two ingredients – are (a) political will, and (b) populations re-educated out of their medieval-like superstitious fear of radiation.
    This pebble bed concept was created in Germany but the deep superstition and political climate there gave a new nuclear technology the chances of success of a snowball in a reactor core.
    http://www.thorium.tv/en/thorium_reactor/thorium_reactor.php
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble_bed_reactor

  98. Has anyone else seen the article on making Oil form Plastic waste?
    Now there is a Win Win deal.

  99. David
    Excellent and refreshing clear-headed thinking about a logical future for power generation.
    What are your thoughts on how the thorium technology e.g. THTR lines up against the other 4th generation technologies (fast breeding, salt / sodium / lead cooled etc.) for the long term future?

  100. Pamela,
    I think the Middle East is winning.
    They put such a scare into the U.S. that golden money streams are pumping for increased security.
    This is unsustainable and the poor house is getting pretty full.

  101. Can someone show me these “smart” guys who know best about the energy planning? We can surely do better than the Soviet Union, unlike them we have to have really “smart” government planning guys!
    I know, I know, some of you are REALLY “smart” planners and can make it work this time. You might have even played a video game on it!
    Government planning = energy independence! Yes, if only the Soviet Union thought of this first!

  102. I remember-this was in the 70’s standing in the Airport terminal at the Richland, Wa.
    Airport and listening to a DOE Nuke Engineer talk about the potential of Thorium, he said that they had an experimental reactor-whether it was at Hanford’s 300 area or not I can’t recall- may have been at Idaho Falls and the site there. He said that Pres. Carter
    was cutting funding for it-just as they were getting ready to get it working..
    I have no idea how true this is just what I heard…

  103. James Sexton,
    You sell the US short. But Intel, Apple, Microsoft, Exon, Ford, GM, Chrysler, GE, Heinz are all US companies. There are a lot more. If you want to see a country stripped of its manufacturing, visit the UK.

  104. Some people would lose their bets:
    http://seeker401.wordpress.com/2010/03/02/university-of-east-anglia-cru-unit-major-researcher-for-the-last-four-ipcc-reports-wasis-funded-by-multi-national-companies-opec-countries-nuclear-groups-and-big-oil/
    This is a well organised scam set up by very big money interests against coal, which is the cheaper fuel etc., it is very well-mixed organised crime, and CRU their love-child supported and protected by the cadre of all political parties, regime changes make no difference, and as was seen in the suppression of the e-mails scandal. CRU’s brief was to manipulate temperature records, New Zealand and the rest, and through control of IPCC.
    These interests do not want cheaper, readily available fuel for the masses, thormium power from our back gardens isn’t going to happen as long as these interests wield the power and control of it.

  105. Due to a severe shortage of antenna-reception channels (thanks a lot, digital transition), for background noise I had on a “children’s educational show” from a local ABC affiliate. The show was Eco Company.
    They were examining charcoal-burning portable stoves, as for use in Haiti etc, looking for the most efficient design. They were really worried about the global warming potential of wasteful charcoal usage, since charcoal is a fossil fuel.
    This was followed by Helpful Information about wonderful electric cars, the benefits of sustainable farming practices (versus disastrous modern industrialized farming), the dangers of plastic bags, etc.
    Before we get to Energy Independence, we may have to spend some time promoting Energy Literacy.

  106. MattN says:
    January 2, 2011 at 5:34 am
    “I would add to the list a requirement for all new houses over a certain size (2000sq ft?) to have solar panels tied to grid that are sized at least 1watt/sqft”
    Solar Insolation factors vary widely.
    The amount of sunlight hitting a roof in Seattle is less then half the sunlight hitting a roof in Los Angeles.
    Things that are ‘a little pricey’ in some areas of the country become ‘insanely pricey’ in other areas of the country.

  107. Poptech says:
    January 2, 2011 at 10:00 am
    Yes of course more government energy planning!
    Ho ho indeed.
    France in the 1970-80s made a political strategic decision to go nuclear, now have 70-80% nuclear generation, they more or less have energy independence, and are making billions exporting nuclear power technology worldwide. The UK “left it to the market” and – typically – just muddled around and procrastinated any decision making – using arguments such as yours. Now the UK is purchasing nuclear power plants at full market price from France.
    Which country – France or UK – looks in the stronger / sillier position new regarding power generation?

  108. janama says:
    January 1, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    OT – could someone explain why this site is unformatted in Firefox yet is formatted in IExplorer? It only started in the past day.

    I don’t now what you mean by “unformatted in Firefox”, but I use Firefox and see no problem with formating. The format looks the same in Explorer and in Firefox.

  109. Energy independence will require another election to sweep the political establishment (both dem and rinos) from office. Thorium reactors are feasible but will require a sea change in the way the politicos deal with lobbyists. The economy will be able to provide that if and only if the bureaucratic road blocks are removed.

  110. I agree with Pamela, pump the middle east dry and only then exploit our energy resources. I have long thought in the back of my mind this was the real reason we were barred from exploring our own continental shelf and other know reserves.
    In a way it even makes strategic sense, but as Jack Morrow says “They don’t seem that smart”.

  111. Interesting info on the Thorium fuel. Needs more advertising and pushing, I feel, especially with the woodentops in parliament.
    .
    Archie, could you also do an analysis of hydrogen as a ‘fuel’. We have a mayor of London and several influential parliamentarians who think that hydrogen is the way forward. I have been trying to tell them for some time that:
    a. Hydrogen is not a fuel, it is a ‘battery’, an energy storage medium. And since the original fuel source is mostly coal and oil, hydrogen is effectively a fossil fuel.
    b. Hydrogen is perhaps the most inefficient ‘battery’ we have. I estimate the losses being so great, that a hydrogen-fuelled car will do just 1/3 the mpg of a traditional fossil-fuelled car.
    These truths need to be broadcast widely in the media, as there is a body of opinion that is pushing us towards hydrogen as a ‘fuel’. In reports recently I saw Boeing, GM and BMW all pushing the lie that hydrogen is ’100% clean, with only water from the exhaust’ – while quietly ignoring the fact that the electricity to create the hydrogen was fossil fuelled.
    There is also a chemical process that generates hydrogen through a reduction process, but again the true fuel for this process is oil. But again the calculations that I made on this process – after you have liquified the hydrogen, stored it, and then passed it back through a fuel cell – showed that it was less than half as efficient as a diesel car or truck. In other words, the ‘clean hydrogen’ actually emits twice the CO2 and noxious gasses as a standard diesel car. Plus, the added complexities and equipment mean the fuel will be four times the cost.
    Thanks.
    (always helps if one puts the post into the right thread….! )
    .

  112. How would you call the activity of promoting windmills which do not work in winter time and, as a consequence, will cause the death of people by lack of heating?

  113. One of the things that needs to change, IMHO, is the liability legislation around any form of nuclear reactors. That industrial process should be treated just like any other industrial process. The ideal of limiting liability of the operators and constructors of reactors is nonsense.
    I’m all in favor of nuclear, but get the special legislation out of there and have the vastly stricter insurance industry supervising the processes. Chemical plants have insurance, despite the potential for huge losses. When Congress can cap losses (of the business) everyone loses.
    Were the government not so deeply involved in nuclear, I suspect that power generation firms would have jumped on Thorium reactors years ago. There is no real reason for the close regulation of plants which, by their nature, can’t produce weapons. Disposal of the waste is far less of a problem as well.

  114. Before everyone gets all exercised on “Energy Independence” ( in whatever form ) it might be wise to consider how such a strategy will impact international trade. I don’t believe that has been addressed ( at least not in depth ) as yet, and it is certainly an important consideration. It may have a negative impact on the US and Global economy that outweighs any perceived benefit. It would be nice to know.

  115. all that was missing in the hype was “too cheap to meter”
    Personally I think renewables are going to come of age this decade. I am especially optimistic we will learn to more efficiently capture and store solar energy through developing drought tolerant perennial grasses and use them as densified fuels to replace coal in thermal energy applications.

  116. Will those promoting electric vehicles please each buy one, and then, after a years use in say, Fargo, North Dakota, as an only vehicle, report back on how great it is to drive one?
    Being a DYI guy, I have several lithium battery tools. Such as a B&D GrassHog. I purchased it about 5 years ago. When new, it would run at full power for about 1/2 an hour. I have used it n o more than twice per month. As time went on, it ran for fewer minutes at a time until now it is good for about 5 minutes, and that with greatly reduced torque. It will cost me more to replace the lithium battery than it would to buy a new tool.
    I guess that you folks who love the concept of electric cars like to drive in the dead of winter without running a heater.
    These things might be fun, as a really expensive adult toy, but as a practical car for commuting to work and back, no possible way. An auto club can’t, when the battery runs out of juice, pour a few KWH into the battery in a minute or two.
    It would seem that humans are no different from the Moties after all. Crazy Eddies en mass have risen to power, destruction of our civilization is nigh.
    Note: For anything to be sustainable, it has to be affordable to the common working person. One would think that we should have learned at least something from the French Revolution. Perhaps it is time to get the guillotines polished up for use.
    There is no shortage of petroleum in the US, there is a huge amount of minable coal, and huge amounts of natural gas in the United States. We only have to be allowed by government to extract and use it. Carbon Dioxide is not “dirty”.
    And just where, exactly, will you get the electricity to charge them? Keep in mind that if these adult toys did get popular, soon there would be a road use tax on the electricity used for charging them. Roads have to be maintained, and those who drive on the roads are the ones who have to pay the fuel tax.
    There is no such thing as a free lunch.

  117. These are excellent posts, reflecting the generally high calibre of WUWT readership. Most of you will be aware that the efficiency of a heat engine is defined by the ratio of the absolute temperatures of the source vs the sink. This is why coal, used to make steam used to make electricity for 97% efficient electric cars is less than 32% efficient overall. The helium-cooled HTGR a-la –Farrington Daniels, (US) inventor of the Pebble bed reactor, operates at these higher efficiencies and has spawned the VHTGR for even greater efficiencies.
    I should point out that when it became obvious in 1944 that nuclear energy could be controlled, there was concern with a long term shortage of Uranium, and Admiral Rickover made the (fatal) decision to go with the heavier and possibly more robust PWR on ships, where weight is no concern.
    The first US HTGR (Non Ft St Vain) was http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peach_Bottom_Nuclear_Generating_Station.
    Here is an excellent review of this advanced area https://inlportal.inl.gov/portal/server.pt/document/74488/module_2a_-_history_and_evolution_of_htgrs_pdf
    With the need to upgrade condensate fuels such as kerosene to gasoline, there is a significant need for hydrogen, which may be provided some day by the sulfur-iodine cycle using HTGR heat. This would be a natural for upgrading bitumen in the oil sands. By the way, the “refinery gain,” some 2% increase in yield of gasoline over the heavier condensates, is inexplicablly charged to diesel, rather than gasoline, rendering diesel more expensive. If the need for this hydrogen was charged to gasoline, diesel, the obviously superior fuel, would be cheaper.
    Even (some) Oak Ridge people, in on the chase at the first, reconhize the need to persue HTGRs http://www.discoveret.org/fornl/Syd_Ball's_June16,2010_presentation.pdf
    Yet the overnment is currently diluting the U233 that could be used to ignite thorium fuel See http://energyfromthorium.com/2010/08/18/snyderu233/
    Sometimes I wonder if we have a brain at all…

  118. Washington Public Power Supply System Bond ( WPPSS aka Whoops ) is an example of bureaucrats, poor leadership, and political corruption, all too eager to line some pockets with public greenbacks. Not much has changed with the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Lisa Jackson as examples of the American voters inability to produce ethical leadership.
    All too bad. Nuclear power is needed to offset the dry seasons that can plague damn production, windless days shutting down wind generation, and long wintry days driving up demand.
    Now there is “SMART GRID.” An attempt to maximize existing production.
    According toUS Power Partners ( http://www.uspowerpartners.org/Topics/SECTION4Topic-SmartGrid.htm ):
    The grid will be “self-healing.” Sophisticated grid monitors and controls will anticipate and instantly respond to system problems in order to avoid or mitigate power outages and power quality problems.
    The grid will be more secure from physical and cyber threats. Deployment of new technology will allow better identification and response to manmade or natural disruptions.
    The grid will support widespread use of distributed generation. Standardized power and communications interfaces will allow customers to interconnect fuel cells, renewable generation, and other distributed generation on a simple “plug and play” basis.
    The grid will enable consumers to better control the appliances and equipment in their homes and businesses. The grid will interconnect with energy management systems in smart buildings to enable customers to manage their energy use and reduce their energy costs.
    The grid will achieve greater throughput, thus lowering power costs. Grid upgrades that increase the throughput of the transmission grid and optimize power flows will reduce waste and maximize use of the lowest-cost generation resources. Better harmonization of the distribution and local load servicing functions with interregional energy flows and transmission traffic will also improve utilization of the existing system assets.
    I assume a part of is to add additional local power generation with a percentage being new “green” power. Some of the new generation of power needs to be nuclear, such as David has so kindly pointed out.

  119. This adds up, and would really mean a considerable reduction to the CO2 emissions.
    It should be implemented by all advanced economies in the world.
    In addition to emission reduction, it would mean a considerable better trade balance in the world and improved energy safety for the most advanced economies.
    But I think it’s more realistic to say 2030 or 2040 than 2020, which is only nine years away.

  120. Nice to see the estimates for CLT and Thorium reactors and such things are definitely going to go because they will be driven naturally by economics. We should take a leaf from France’s energy book. The French are a contrary lot in the ways of world affairs but it serves them well in just ignoring their own noisy Dr Know-litttles of the anti nuclear lobby – they probably went ahead BECAUSE of such resistance. I think the time is right now that the green-anti-civilization, self-hating types have disgraced themselves with all the lies, deceipts, data twisting etc. that they have been caught out on over the past year, helped along by a cooling climate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a conservationist in heart and in my work and life and the abilities we have for detecting parts per trillion pollutants and using remedial actions could only have been born of advanced economic and technical development -I’m just quaintly (these days) an honest and practical environmentalist. Lets get the rest of the world to advanced tech and ec development and the pop explosion will stop and all can afford maintenance of a clean environmment.
    I do agree with a number of others: Mike, …. there is no way, with all green lights and doors open that this can be effected in 9 yrs. It will take that much time for feasibility studies, permitting, etc to get some drawings done. Look for 2030 for these project to begin.

  121. Doug in Seattle – I learned in a class that I took in high school (70’s) that the US was holding much of its oil in reserve , hence the lack of production . Of course , we had the “oil Crisis” a few years later , and domestic production boomed . I well remember the economic chaos that some of the petroleum producing states suffered after the Mid East reopened the pipelines . However , stifling domestic production appears to be pandering to the greenies these days .

  122. Oh and look for the plantetary defence army to raise the “nuclear ain’t economic” arguments that their own misguided economists cooked up – essentially they were showing that it wasn’t economic because we have have cheap coal energy – surely they weren’t comparing it with solar and wind power.

  123. The USA has about 30% of the world’s recoverable coal. Coal to liquid transport fuel, according to a 2010 UT study done for CANADA, can be converted to transport fuels for under $30 a barrel oil equivalent. Can someone explain why we can’t do this?
    And besides drilling, why can’t we build modular, factory built nuclear power plants, just like American companies are doing in China. I smell something rotten in the fish tank. It’s the same stink that liberals and the energy independence crowd has been stinking up our country for 40 years.
    Ever since Jimmy Carter pronounced the world would be out of oil, not one drop left he said, by the year 2000.
    I also note my free solar rooftop heaters, bought and paid for by the federal government, have been removed from our roof by the new owners. They only heated the hot tube anyway.
    I suggest the liberals don’t want the non-sense to end. Do people realize how many birds are killed by these dumb windmills? We can all freeze in the dark.
    Good article, as far as it goes.

  124. Mr. Archibald,
    Americans are great at sloganeering “Energy Independence by 2020”, but look at the historical record. How long did it take to move coal from 1 to 10 percent of consumption, how long did it take oil to move from 1 to 10 percent, how long it took to move natural gas from 1 to 10 percent and then how long did it take to move nuclear based on uranium from 1 to 7 percent. Note that we are not at 10 percent yet.
    The answer is about 40 years. Next consider that the above were percentages. Next note that consumption of all fuels have increased many fold over the last hundred years. So what are the prospects today to increase a new energy source to 10 percent, let alone sufficiently for US to become energy independent.
    Look how much we accomplished during the last decade. We went backward rapidly, squandering money in wars and pockets of those who run the financial sector. In the history of the world all countries where financial capitalism took hold were in the twilight of their eminence.

  125. P. Walker re Doug in Seattle
    I read that it was to get the dollar spread internationally, it’s now described as “oil backed currency”. Saddam Hussein sent US into a tizzy fit when he decided to change that to EU currency and China wants to see dollar lose its status as the global currency.

  126. I’m eagerly awaiting the details of the power generation turbines which operate at atmospheric pressure.

  127. This is nonsense.
    We get only two percent of our electricity from oil. Driving that to zero percent is peanuts.
    Most of the oil is used for transportation. No way can we use electricity from thorium, or anything else, to change that very much, not in 1o years.

  128. The problem with this approach is that using the present USA average coal quality as feed stock, we would have to more than double coal production to replace 1/3 of our petroleum, (about 27 quads of coal to replace 13 quads of oil). We would have to build 100 large liquefaction plants and greatly increase the mining infrastructure. By 2020? Never happen.

  129. From GARY KRAUSE on January 2, 2011 at 11:51 am:

    Washington Public Power Supply System Bond ( WPPSS aka Whoops ) is an example of bureaucrats, poor leadership, and political corruption, all too eager to line some pockets with public greenbacks. Not much has changed with the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Lisa Jackson as examples of the American voters inability to produce ethical leadership.
    (…)
    Now there is “SMART GRID.” An attempt to maximize existing production.
    According toUS Power Partners ( http://www.uspowerpartners.org/Topics/SECTION4Topic-SmartGrid.htm ):
    The grid will be “self-healing.” Sophisticated grid monitors and controls will anticipate and instantly respond to system problems in order to avoid or mitigate power outages and power quality problems.

    Much of the talk about “smart grids” revolve around the use of “smart meters” which would be coupled with “smart appliances.” As in, when electricity supplies are low, the utilities will reduce your energy consumption for you, by cutting off your air conditioning, not letting you wash your clothes by turning off your electric washer, clothes dryer, even your electric water heater, etc.

    The grid will enable consumers to better control the appliances and equipment in their homes and businesses. The grid will interconnect with energy management systems in smart buildings to enable customers to manage their energy use and reduce their energy costs.

    Not exactly. Businesses are already conscious of their power consumption, as they want to minimize costs. Residential customers are getting better educated about their energy usage, and also want to minimize expenses. Both groups are capable of managing their energy usage themselves.
    This is about encroaching bureaucratic control, letting others control your energy usage “for your own good.” Politicians pressured by Green groups have mandated more unreliable “renewable” electricity to be used, namely wind and solar. As this will result in “temporary” shortfalls in available electricity, the bureaucrats need to be able to throttle back demand as needed.
    Otherwise, the current grid is rather stable, with decent efficiency. The major reason for modernization and expansion is to deliver more electricity better, the system is straining under the current load, which is expected to increase. But, we have a Green push to decrease usage, thus negating that major reason. So why do we need this “smart grid” with the “smart meters”?
    Further bureaucratic control over the individual, more money to be sent to the large companies that’ll provide the equipment, bringing about the Green dreams of an “energy revolution” by warping reality to match… We don’t need this “smart grid,” they need it.

  130. I also have been a long time fan of thorium reactors in the form of an LFTR. What most people don’t know is that the very first US power reactor at Shippingport was actually a Thorium reactor. One of the reasons Uranium won out as the reactor fuel of choice was military requirements. No, it’s not because Uranium reactors produce weaponizable waste. They don’t. It’s because they require an enrichment infrastructure which would be too expensive long term for military use alone.
    Thorium reactors do NOT require enrichment. Because their “waste” consists only of fission products, it is small in quantity and short in half life. The “problem” with Uranium reactors is that the U238, which is the U isotope that provides 95-99% of the Uranium load of the reactor, is not fissionable, but is just along for the ride. But it does capture neutrons and gets converted into Plutonium and other higher, long lived actinides. They are what makes the waste long lived.
    Now, Plutonium is of course a scare-word for the technically challenged greens because the Plutonium isotope Pu239 is fissionable and is used to build bombs. However, the Plutonium from power reactors consists of such a wild mix of Pu-isotopes that it cannot be sufficiently purified to weaponizable Plutonium.
    With Thorium reactors there is no U-238 that converts to Pu and higher actinides in the reactor. Thorium converts by neutron capture into U233, which is a better reactor fuel than the U235 that drives Uranium reactors.
    As a result, about 1 ton of Thorium per year would create about 1 GWattyear of electrical energy in an LFTR. Because thorium is so abundant in the earths crust, the thorium content of the earth moved when building a house would supply enough energy for that house for one generation.

  131. Mr. Archibald:
    This is regarding my “bet” that I asked you for earlier. Obviously I would not make it unless I KNEW I could “win”.
    Now I will give you some reasons why I could “win”. This mythical creature, “THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY”…! Could we come up with what group represents this “Nuclear Industry”. Would it be the 30 utilities that own “nuclear power plants”, but who are completely INDEPENDENT of each other? Would it be the “national reactor labs” (AKA the Navy Nuclear system) in Idaho? Would it be the NRC? (Nuclear Regulatory Commision, specifically designated as a REGULATOR not a “promoter”.)
    Would it be the “Department of (NO NEW, VIABLE) Energy”, who gave up on promoting Nuclear power in 1978?
    Would it be “Westinghouse”, who clearly …although possesing a division which is promoting their AP1000 nuclear reactors, advertise themselves as an “energy technology” company, and make no special emphasis on nuclear.
    Would it be the “ELECTRIC POWER RESEACH INSTITUTE”, a group that finances various research projects in ALL areas of electric generation and has no obligation or madate to promote nuclear power?
    Would it be the remnant of Richover’s “nuclear navy”? (Shinking as we speak?)
    WHO, exactly, would BE “THE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY”. I hate to sound too plebian, but “riddle me this Batman”, and I’ll be impressed. I’ll send them my resume.
    The answer is, of course, THERE IS NO CENTRALIZED BODY PROMOTING NUCLEAR POWER! Hasn’t been since Jimmy Carter broke the AEC into the NRC and the DOE back in 1978.
    Thus, promotion of AWG is more aptly laid at the feet of the approximately 1.8 BILLION dollars allocated by the US FEDERAL GOVERNMENT (a definite “centralized body) for “Climate Research”. If there really is NOT a “crisis” with regard the “Climate” these monies are being “thrown to the wind”. But at the same time, I will accuse the recipients of the $1.8 Billion of having a VESTED INTEREST in promoting their agenda.
    Pardon me for being Don Quixoti and “tilting at Windmills”!

  132. Thank you David Archibald plus so many excellent comments.
    How do we communicate with and convince our political masters that there are alternatives to the completely useless wind farms? Perhaps Richard North at EU Ref. is right and we need a peaceful revolution led by the scientifically literate.

  133. What a strange thread. Reading the article and comments, I began to wonder if WUWT had been hacked, or taken over by aliens. The usually high standards seem to have fallen considerably this time around. We have conspiracy theories, calls for the government to mandate this or that, pick technology winners and back them with public money, pull up the drawbridge of trade, plus a number of plugs for people’s favourite potential energy source of the future.
    As a couple of commenters have plaintively tried to say, there is a basic lack of understanding of economics permeating the discussion. While usually WUWT posters and commenters rightly deplore wasting public money on mandated and often inefficient energy regimes, this thread has brought out the rent seeking instincts of inventors everywhere – all of whom will tell us that if only the government would show ‘leadership’ (read, $$$ and/or regulation), their pet project would rescue the country/economy/world. The reality is that there are experimental projects all over the world to develop better energy production systems, and if any of them come out in the black financially, the market will beat a path to the door. But, most of them are not even close to the efficiency and effectiveness of the current systems.
    All those who deplore the outsourcing of manufacturing to low cost countries need to consider whether Apple et al would be dominating world markets if their products were manufactured in the US. The answer is no. A Korean or Chinese competitor would be filling that space, or perhaps a Japanese or German company using outsourced manufacturing. The US made product would be too expensive. It is the price of prosperity.
    I had a quick look at world coal reserves, and find that the US has (depending on the source) around 25-30% of known reserves. Why would you turn your back on that gift horse in favour of inferior and more expensive energy sources? At current rates of extraction, there is enough to last many decades, while the wrinkles are ironed out of other technologies.
    The US fixation with ‘energy independence’ is really only about oil, as there are abundant supplies of all kinds of hydrocarbons in and around the US. Actually, it is only about the oil product used in cars and trucks. In the end, if the crunch comes, the US vehicle fleet could convert to LPG (gas) without too much trouble. It is a tried and tested technology which is already used all over the world.
    As for the trade issue more generally, reprisals against US companies abroad (including Apple and the rest) would inevitably follow. I can’t see how that would help the US economy.

  134. GARY KRAUSE says:
    January 2, 2011 at 11:51 am
    “Washington Public Power Supply System Bond ( WPPSS aka Whoops ) is an example of bureaucrats, poor leadership, and political corruption, all too eager to line some pockets with public greenbacks.”
    Actually, what happened is that the expected aluminum demand didn’t materialize.
    Boeing had a slump, folks decided maybe aluminum siding wasn’t so stylish after all and someone else decided that aluminum cans should be recycled.
    Even today, the US Aluminum industry still consumes 1.2% of all the electric power produced in the US.

  135. This board, filled with men as thoughtful as Al Gore but on the other side.
    SIMPLY BECAUSE an argument supports your side does not mean it is not just as silly as Gore on the other…THINK.
    Really? Powering cars with electricity is more insane than powering them with coal? Are you nuts? Do the math, and understand the grid, and then add the fact these cars are recaharged at night when current grid use is low. Oh ya, and then add these these (insane) thorium plants that are so trivial to add and how do not get to the electric car?
    You guys, blame others for the mistakes you make daily…this is the problem.

  136. One of the issues you are ignoring is that Oil is over $80 because the dollar is dropping. Even though the Dollar is the World’s primary Reserve Currency, our economy is so weak, for reasons we don’t need to discuss here, that the major countries are leaving it. As both the Euro, which is not backed by much in the way of oil and coal or other resources, and the dollar drops in value the cost of oil goes up.
    We could produce our own oil at under $80 per barrel easily. There is no need for CTL at this point, although I agree we need thorium reactors!! The real problem here in the US, simply put, is that the political climate will not allow Free Enterprise to start dragging our STUPID rear ends out of this hole we have dug!!!

  137. Enginer says:
    January 2, 2011 at 11:32 am

    The helium-cooled HTGR a-la –Farrington Daniels, (US) inventor of the Pebble bed reactor, operates at these higher efficiencies and has spawned the VHTGR for even greater efficiencies.

    Yet the government is currently diluting the U233 that could be used to ignite thorium fuel

    It is worth noting also that the St. Vrain HTGR design used thorium in its fuel mix, back in 1977. Being the first off commercial scale design it had some issue to work out, but it also proved some useful technology, before it was shut down.
    It was almost 2x as fuel efficient as other reactor designs, and achieved thermal efficiency of 39-40%. It accomplished this by using thorium micro-spheres in the fuel mix, which made it a thorium breeder reactor. The thorium absorbing neutrons, and converting to U233 during operation and created new fuel as it consumed the original fissile material in the fuel load.
    Newer reactor designs avoid the issues that the Ft. St. Vrain HTGR design helped sort out.
    Larry

  138. Pamela Gray rants
    ———-
    The quickest and least bloody way to get this done is to suck Middle East wells dry as dead bones,
    ———
    Last time I looked the USA is not at war with the middle east.

  139. Has anyone come up with a decent solution for handling and storing for the long term, nuclear waste? I understood that there are old mines out west that have the capacity of storing waste. There are nuclear plants that were decommissioned, but having to store waste on site until a storage solution is made. These present a huge security and health risks in the event of a accident or loss of containment. Another one of the big problems is transporting it. Rail or by tractor trailer are the only two options available. Both have their security and health concerns related to it. Any thoughts?

  140. The biggest challenge will be to sell a good plan like this to Mad, Stupid and Lunatic currently in the driver seat and execute the project before they hit the brick wall.

  141. I’m a veteran of the Nuclear Navy and was qualified on 3 different power plants at the time and also a swimming pool type reactor at the my university after I got out of the Navy.
    Molten salt, thorium based reactors are clearly the way to go from a safety standpoint, long lived radioactive byproduct standpoint and the fuel supply standpoint, there is 15 times as much thorium as uranium available, maybe more if we really start to look for it.
    The problem is: Can we sell this idea to the Public after Chernobyl? As soon as you say “nuclear reactor” it is like bringing a live rattlesnake into the discussion. I think the public will have suffer extended blackouts, with all the pain that entails, before they will listen to reason.

  142. Drill for oil here, Alaska, offshore, and in the Gulf, before the Chinese and Mexicans get it, and worry about the new stuff tomorrow. Period. We have hundreds of years of oil in an easily recoverable state. Since it is not “fossil fuel”, but produced abiogenically, this source is endless, as the Russians have found. Not to mention natural gas. Did I mention natural gas? Don’t mention it, and I won’t.
    Thorium, fusion, it will come. But let’s not distract us from surviving for the next decade. These alternatives won’t help us if we are frozen while we fiddle.

  143. Mustafa, the problem with full plug-in battery vehicles is battery life, which is why market leaders, Toyota have largely stuck with the hybrid car. Essentially-
    “The Prius battery (and the battery-power management system) has been designed to maximize battery life. In part this is done by keeping the battery at an optimum charge level – never fully draining it and never fully recharging it. As a result, the Prius battery leads a pretty easy life. We have lab data showing the equivalent of 180,000 miles with no deterioration and expect it to last the life of the vehicle.”
    In Australia, a couple of hybrid taxis have clocked 350000km and 500000km each and such stop start driving in heavy tarffic(Sydney) they make economic sense. For open road country motoring a hybrid offers no economic benefit whatsoever. To run full plug-in electric with full charge and discharge would see battery life plummet to the aforementioned power tool levels ie 2-3 years and wear that uneconomic replacement cost. Then there is the problem of massively increasing costs should all demand the resources used in such batteries when we need them for mobile comms , etc now.
    If you are interested in the pitfalls of rechargeable battery choice, particularly the use of battery power tools, there’s no better place than batteryuniversity.com to discover why they shouldn’t be sold to the home handyman. Strictly for professionals only and Nicads are still the most robust and best bang for buck battery on the market PROVIDED you understand their particular requirements.

  144. Pamela Gray says:
    January 2, 2011 at 6:24 am
    The quickest and least bloody way to get this done is to suck Middle East wells dry as dead bones, and then move on to sustainable energy such as hydro and wood bio-waste incineration, and long term energy such as nuclear and coal.
    Pamela-
    If only life were as simple as you propose. How much energy do you think is available from alternative sources in a useful time frame?
    *************
    OIL FROM PLASTICS:
    Have you done a study on the amount of plastic raw material that is available at a reasonable collection and transportation cost? I’ve read about the Pacific gyre of floating plastic, but I wonder if anyone has ever done a study of the available mass of plastic and how long it would feed a conversion plant.
    IanM

  145. Hi – have tried several times to comment and it didn’t come through. This time I saved the comment and sent it again – got a message saying – duplicate comment detected, looks like you’ve already said that. Is it in spam, and if not, any ideas what is happening? This has happened several times in the last couple of weeks.
    Thanks – johanna

  146. Vince Causey says:
    January 2, 2011 at 10:18 am
    James Sexton,
    You sell the US short. But Intel, Apple, Microsoft, Exon, Ford, GM, Chrysler, GE, Heinz are all US companies. There are a lot more. If you want to see a country stripped of its manufacturing, visit the UK.
    =======================================================
    Yep, all great US companies. Though, of the companies you’ve listed, more and more of our auto are being made elsewhere. Many parts for the auto are made elsewhere. Does GE even have a manufacturing plant in the US anymore? Intel, Apple and MS are great tech companies, but I’m not sure how many manufacturing jobs they provide or how one measures the value of their products. Also, in my mind, they represent the other side of the labor coin. I’m currently in the tech field. Each year, at the behest of the above listed tech companies, we import over 100,000 workers directly into the tech field through a visa program that that doesn’t pass my smell test. But, yes, you’ve a valid point about the UK. At some point, both nations will have to pay the piper.

  147. The United States of America is energy independent in the generation of electric power , now! It is generated by coal, nuclear, natural gas, and very little petroleum.
    See this Wikipedia article on US Electricity Production .
    We can build nuclear plants, but the extreme environmentalists in Green Peace, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Sierra Club will go to court to block any and all nuclear plant construction. The Obama Administration does not have the inclination or courage to do something sensible like advocate nuclear energy. You will be lucky to get lip service.
    We don’t have an energy problem in this country with electric power production. The problem is that we are at a disadvantage in our ability to furnish oil for our transportation industry without buying from politically unreliable foreign sources.
    A really big, and achievable solution is to convert as many trucks, buses, and cars to natural gas as possible. We have lots of that stuff, and there is no usable alternative fuel on the horizon for our cars, trucks, trains, and airplanes.
    Mr Archibald believes strongly in nuclear energy, and I agree that if we can generate at the price of 4 cents per kilowatt hour, we are obliged to do it.

  148. Paul
    ” Rail or by tractor trailer are the only two options available. Both have their security and health concerns related to it. Any thoughts?”
    Paul, we spent gadjillions on a facility called Yucca mountain.
    Full containment, 10,000 year construction, and major engineering on “casques”
    to transport the waste by rail or truck in these practically indestructible casques.
    Having invested all the money, done the construction, and engineered the casques, it was found that there was more than would fit, and environmentalists, worried about the safety of rocks in the desert, were getting louder.
    So they trashed the whole thing.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yucca_Mountain_nuclear_waste_repository

  149. The REAL problem is that the eco-Hippies don’t want energy.
    They want to return to the ‘simpler times’ of pre-1800 existence.
    (Of course they tend to forget the misery and low life-spans of that time.)
    They would do anything and everything to block anything with the word ‘nuclear’.

  150. We already have fusion. We don’t need controlled fusion – just contained fusion, and it’s been done many times before.
    Drill a deep enough hole, bury a thermonuclear device in it and plug it with concrete. Detonate the TND. Well practised old technology. There must be loads of TNDs just sitting around waiting to be decommissioned.
    Then extract the heat. Drill some more nearby holes and pump water down, and pipe the steam off to make electricity, to heat cities, horticultural glasshouses etc. Well practised old technology, just like making coffee. Geothermal energy.
    The trouble with geothermal energy is that it isn’t in the right places. Well, this way, it could be almost anywhere you want it as long as the geology is not too loose or otherwise impossible.
    But there’s more. Immature petroleum strata could be turned into active oil and gas “kitchens” using the same type of underground heat sources. Adds a new meaning to the word “prospecting”.
    When the heat dies down, just pop off another one to get things nice and hot again.
    Oh, and no waste to handle, no wildlife to relocate, or old buildings to protect.

  151. phlogiston says:
    January 2, 2011 at 9:58 am
    I am not in favour of the solid phase thorium reactors such as THTR and the Indians’. The issue is the optimum handling of protactinium while waiting for it to decay to U233. A liquid reactor has many advantages. On breeding from U238, it has to be in the fast neutron spectrum and using liquid sodium. The Russians have had a fast breeder operating happily for decades – the BN 600 reactor at the Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Station, in Zarechny, Sverdlovsk Oblast. Attempts at building sodium-cooled fast breeder reactors in the US, Japan and France have been less successful. Plutonium-burning fast breeder reactors also generate some transuranics – Americium, Curium and Neptunium – which would have to be disposed of thoughtfully. The best way to dispose of these transuranics would be to use them as fuel in molten salt reactors. We could get plutonium fast breeders to work happily enough if that was all there was, but we have thorium which is better.
    There is a vast difference in high level waste production between LWR technology and thorium. One gigawatt year from a LWR reactor produces 255 kg of transuranics, from a thorium reactor it would be 30 grams. This is one ten thousandth of the level. When we get thorium reactors up and running, we will be wondering why we ever bothered with the LWR route. LWR reactors are another artefact from the Cold War. But then all the peak scientific bodies in the western world believe in global warming, showing how irrational they are.
    A couple of things about the cost of nuclear. Current designs get their passive safety by having an enormous reinforced concrete vessel that can take a large steam explosion, with redundant backup passive cooling. Because the passive containment costs so much now, they decided to get economies of scale by making the reactors bigger. So units used to be 300 MW, and they are now 1,000 or 1,600 MW. Building nuclear reactors now is like ordering a car and having it assembled in your backyard. That is another part of the promise of thorium – building them in a Boeing-like factory setting and shipping them out on barges.
    Max Hugoson says:
    January 2, 2011 at 7:16 am
    I won’t retract it, I will re-affirm it. The CDIAC is the official contribution from the US nuclear establishment to the AGW scare. I suggest that you go to their website and have a good look around, and wonder why they were doing their tree growth tests with astronomic amounts of ozone.
    Ralph says:
    January 2, 2011 at 10:53 am
    About the only use for hydrogen I can think of is as a way to make wind turbines useful. Hydrogen for chemical processing, for example upgrading the Alberta tar sands bitumen to something than can be processed by a US refinery, comes from cracking natural gas. The natural gas price, even in the US, will go to the oil price because of the pull from the transport sector. So hydrogen is going to become very expensive. If hydrolysis using the intermittent power from wind turbines is cheap enough, that might make wind turbines finally useful.
    That reminds me of another thing. The heat for steam flooding in the Alberta tar sands currently comes from burning things that burn. There had been a proposal to build a couple of nuclear plants in the tar fields to provide steam for steam flooding. Given that the product would then be shipped to the US, the US gasoline vehicle fleet would be in part nuclear-powered.
    Stan Kormac says:
    January 2, 2011 at 12:25 pm
    When world oil production starts falling by 2 million barrels per day, by mid-decade at the latest, the world as you know it will change dramatically. At $200/barrel, the cost of producing food rises by at least 50%. The food price riots in Mexico and Egypt caused by the corn to ethanol scam were just a dry run for what is going to happen on a continuous basis just a few short years away.
    Timothy H Wiley says:
    January 2, 2011 at 3:32 pm
    Thank you. That is why I included the US Nuclear Industry Capacity Factors chart. It took three decades for US commercial nuclear plants to be run professionally. Now that the right culture is in place, the industry can be expanded. There is more than enough pain coming for the EPA, Sierra Club etc to be swept aside. The US public will see China keeping the lights on while they freeze or sweat in the dark.

  152. “New” nuclear technologies are old-hat. Argonne National Laboratories developed the Integral Fast Reactor, which had many safety features….however, the Clinton administration killed off this very promising system. See:
    http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/askasci/phy99/phy99xx7.htm
    Disposal of radioactive materials, including decommisioned reactors & whatever wastes that cannot be refined, remains an obstacle. The termination of the Yucca Mountain repository was a national tragedy, and despite all the advantages of nuclear, I don’t believe it will lead to a renaissance.
    Policy makers are chasing a dream = free solar energy, sustainable fuels etc. A lot of that can be utilized, but unless there are some significant breakthroughs, it is fossil fuels for the foreseeable future.
    Stuff like corn ethanol, which was a dream of the left and their political supporters (Hello, Iowa!), is showing itself to be an expensive scam. On we go, Happy 2011!

  153. Paul Piva says:
    January 2, 2011 at 3:08 pm
    “Has anyone come up with a decent solution for handling and storing for the long term, nuclear waste?”
    A 1,000 MW Nuclear reactor produces about 20 cubic meters(700 cubic feet) of high level waste per year. With recycling that is reduced to 3 cubic meters(105 cubic feet).
    A large Dump Truck is 729 cubic feet.
    A Ford F-150 pickup truck bed is 135 cubic feet.
    A 1,000 MW coal fired electricity plant consumes about 30,000 rail cars worth of coal per year. Coal is radioactive as well.

  154. @George Turner & The Grey Monk
    Nice answers. It sounds like things have progressed. However, DME has a low boiling point (-23 C) which, despite the fact that a diesel engine will run with the stuff, a diesel storage tank is going to have to be pressurized, like engines that run off LPG. I see from the Livermore U.S. energy chart (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/54/LLNL_US_Energy_Flow_2009.png) that about 7 quads of energy from petroleum are going to industrial uses. Is this all plastics feedstock, and, could coal liquification replace this and at what cost (i.e. why hasn’t it already)?
    You guys should get together and write something for the site on this topic (I’d read it). Has anyone written on what price-point coal & Saudi crude have to be in order to make coal conversion cost effective?

  155. Joe Lalonde says:
    January 2, 2011 at 6:44 am

    You will NEVER see a Thorium reactor built.
    This is a “free-market” system where profits matter more than good technology.
    I have had personal dealing with Siemens and the technology of a high effiecient turbine. 18 less turbines is quite a profit to loose in the manufacturing business.

    Yeah, I know. It’s really sad – radial ply tires would have been so great, but we’re still stuck with bias ply tires, with their poor tread wear and rolling resistance so people have to replace them every 15,000 miles or so.
    Ditto cars – 83,000 miles was sort of the limit for our cars in Ohio before the body rusted out (1960s or so). Detroit doesn’t care, they liked us buying the new style every few years.
    The only European cars that were a concern were the VW bugs bought by hippies and poor college students. They’ll come around and buy muscle cars and station wagons soon enough.
    </sarc>
    It can be surprising how quickly big companies can come crashing down. International Harvester is one that comes to mind even though I never learned all the details.
    You’d think there ought to be a Chinese company willing to compete with Siemens.

  156. LazyTeenager says:
    January 2, 2011 at 12:14 am
    David enthuses
    ——–
    I am a thorium nut as well as a coal-to-liquids (CTL) proponent.
    ——–
    I would like to believe this.
    BUT
    The last design for a thorium reactor presented here had a molten salt transfer loop.
    I would make a wild guess and suggest that molten salts are seriously corrosive. If this guess is correct it makes for some seriously challenging technical problems. As in it would eat the pipe work in nothing flat.

  157. Re: bob says:
    January 2, 2011 at 4:14 pm
    “The United States of America is energy independent in the generation of electric power , now! It is generated by coal, nuclear, natural gas, and very little petroleum.”
    A big “Amen” to Bob! Approximately 1.5% of total oil, both imported and domestic, is used for electric power generation.

  158. LazyTeenager says:
    January 2, 2011 at 12:14 am

    I would make a wild guess and suggest that molten salts are seriously corrosive. If this guess is correct it makes for some seriously challenging technical problems. As in it would eat the pipe work in nothing flat.

    I know you’re a lazy teenager, (well, I know you’re lazy), but take the 55 minutes to watch http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/01/01/us-energy-independence-by-2020/#comment-563978 – the speaker had some figures that showed ThF wasn’t corrosive to the materials to be used.
    Perhaps you can hunt down a source for that and refute it. He also mentioned that there are industrial processes that use molten salts already, find out what they are too, please.

  159. davidmhoffer says:
    January 1, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    Coal to Liquid to replace oil and then thorium power generation to replace coal fired power plants is even more economical if you consider one additional factor. Coal is one of the best sources of thorium there is. It can be extracted from fly ash, and my assumption being that it could also be extracted in the CTL process, you don’t even need to mine thorium. Just get it from the coal in the first place.
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste

    Once upon a time SciAm would have deserved the reference for an article like that. A more recent report than McBride’s is at http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html and is well worth reading. We (world-wide) release 15,000 tons of Thorium in coal fly ash each year. It notes “Consequently, the energy content of nuclear fuel released in coal combustion is more than that of the coal consumed!”
    If the coal power plant industry had to run their operations as cleanly as the atomic industry, they’d have a huge waste disposal problem and very expensive solutions.

  160. Regarding Nuclear companies showing up green, energy companies will hedge their bets. So if noise is made for renewables, they will put a bit of money there. It’s a “just in case” kind of thing. PACs do the same thing. They contribute to both sides of the political scene, “just in case”.

  161. Stan Kormac says:
    January 2, 2011 at 12:25 pm
    “Look how much we accomplished during the last decade. We went backward rapidly, squandering money in wars and pockets of those who run the financial sector. In the history of the world all countries where financial capitalism took hold were in the twilight of their eminence.”
    Okay, where are those countries that socialism took hold in been going? Don’t point to China, they haven’t yet learned that a capitalist Trojan Horse has been let in.

  162. Stan Kormac says:
    January 2, 2011 at 12:25 pm
    “Look how much we accomplished during the last decade. We went backward rapidly, squandering money in wars and pockets of those who run the financial sector. In the history of the world all countries where financial capitalism took hold were in the twilight of their eminence.”
    Okay, where have those countries that socialism took hold in been going? Don’t point to China, they haven’t yet learned that a capitalist Trojan Horse has been let in. And as far as other “capitalist democracies” (I’m guessing you probably refer to Europe- where else does it exist) these have begun to accelerate their decline by becoming increasingly socialist.

  163. “CDIAC is the official contribution from the US nuclear establishment to the AGW scare.”
    Mr. Archibald – Please, I hate getting into a “bodily fluid exchange match”.
    ORNL..
    Oak Ridge National Labs.
    Aside from the fact that the ONLY source we had of Enriched Uranium (although I believe some purchases HAVE been made from the French Enrichment plants now.. ) would be from Oak Ridge, by mandate, ORNL HARDLY represents a mythical “Nuclear Industry”.
    THEY NEVER SPOKE FOR ME or any of the 7 nuclear plants where I worked.
    THEY NEVER SPOKE FOR MY THE UTILITIES I WORKED FOR.
    Please, let’s get real on this. You can’t even make a claim of “vested interest” with regard to producing nuclear plants, equipment, or services.
    Yes, there are several “commercial spin offs” around Oak Ridge, which originated from Oak Ridge. But aside from the “Nuclear Fuels” connection, Oak Ridge has NO involvement or MANDATE in “promoting nuclear power”. Nor do they produce services or equipment related to nuclear power. Fuel yes, equipment (such as Westinghouse, GE, B&W, Combustion Engineering, NO!)
    Darn it! This is just as TROUBLING as having people claim that because I “don’t believe” in AWG, I’m financed by BIG OIL.
    Can you see my indignation on this. Yes Nuclear power is the way to go. However there IS NO NUCLEAR ESTABLISHMENT OUT THERE in the USA.
    I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret. By the time I left employment in nuclear power, probably 90% of all “nuclear utility” executives absolutely despised their nuclear plants, and would LOVE to do anything to “get rid of them”. (This was about 10 years ago.) In point of fact BECAUSE of the lack of “coordination”, the poor moral of the people working in nuclear power, the lack of mandate, and the generally poor level of technical education in the USA…there is no support coming out of the nuclear utilities or functioning plants, matching the lack of public support.
    I have a French contact that assures me a “first form”, or Jr. High student in France can go to a blackboard and draw a set of block diagrams, and outline the form and function of not only a French Pressurized Water Reactor nuclear plant (Westinghouse II and III generation plants), but the whole of the nuclear fuel cycle. This is because there IS a French “nuclear industry”. It’s called Electricity De’France, and it IS effective.
    INDEED if you said that the French “Nuclear Industry” promotes itself on the basis of being CO2 free, I’d say this:
    http://press.edf.com/press-releases/all-press-releases/2008/edf-ready-to-build-a-new-epr-nuclear-reactor-in-france-43007.html
    It should be clear this would validate that claim.
    AGAIN, Oak Ridge represents NO “Nuclear Industry” as there IS no “centralized authority” behind nuclear power in the USA. But Oakridge National Labs DO obtain a considerable amount of funds for “Environmental” research and for “Fusion” research. Keeping that money flowing is a lifeblood for their existence. So I can, and will accuse them of being “self serving” with regard to AWG. But let’s remember the Fusion research was started under Eisenhower, to justify the work on the “Hydrogen Bomb” to Congress, who were told that there would be a parallel effort to create a “peacetime” use for Fusion energy.
    Max
    In France, there is. The contrast is stark.
    And you might find it interesting that I’m a “neanderthal conservative”. But I personally lose standing with my fellow “neanderthals” when I tell them: THE ONLY WAY THAT A NUCLEAR POWER OPTION CAN BE OBTAINED IS BY FEDERAL CONTROL AND MANDATE!

  164. Info:
    State regulators have always made the decisions about what direction our energy policy takes. The “free market” did not build the nuclear plant I work at or virtually any other power plant in this country. That is why my electricity costs 7 cents per kWH and Anthony’s costs 15+ cents per kWH…………….stupid regulators.

  165. Energy independence is a nonsense goal.
    Suppose I waive my wand and magically rearrange world oil production so that the US produces as much oil as it consumes. Guess what, if oil demand from china and india goes through the roof, the price of oil goes up just the same. Don’t forget that the oil produced domestically is still produced by for profit entities, so unless you plan on natIonalizing the oil industry, oil energy independence buys you very little.
    Now i agree an oil supply cartel is bad,but that is different…
    James (in ca)

  166. Moderator:
    In my response to Mr. Archibald, I put my name in (accidentally) two paragraphs before I concluded.
    If I were INTELLECTUALLY DISHONEST I would be a strong AWG promoter and at the same time push for more nuclear power. I cannot do that. (As I feel, because of my strong technical background, that the feedback is negative, and the “optical transparency” has been corrupted when compared to classic values derived over the years, and the CO2 influence is commensurately exaggerated..)
    In that line of thought I must point out that I have (just) checked on the publications of the “Nuclear Energy Institute”. They are a ‘promotional group’ and nominally represent all the nuclear utilities in the country.
    This group can lay claim to representing the nuclear power industry.
    I think I owe Mr. Archibald a bet! I must admit. As noted I’ve been out of nuclear power for over 10 years. As such, I’ve not made the slightest attempt to “stay abreast” of things involved with nuclear power. (Can we say the lack of support from the “top”, the bad moral in the industry, and the lack of FUTURE in the industry would lead me to this state?)
    Therefore I was APPALLED to find that the NEI has completely “bought off” on AWG to promote Nuclear Power. This is a sad state of affairs. Incredibly sad! It harks of all the vested self interest propaganda crusades of history. Can I make it clear, I will have none of it? This will validate that statement- http://www.nei.org/publicpolicy/nuclearenergyandclimatechange/
    Apologies Mr. Archibald. You are correct. Just the wrong attribution in your response. You are free to point to the above (sad but true) source to justify your claim.
    Yours,
    Max

  167. >>Ian
    >>The infrastructure is not in place to deliver sufficient electricity if
    >>everyone moved to using electric cars
    In the UK, we use about three times as much energy on transport, as we do on electrical production. That is how much extra electrical generating capacity you would need, if everyone had electric vehicles.
    .

  168. gallopingcamel says:
    January 1, 2011 at 7:46 pm
    Oak Ridge National Laboratory is the place to look for information on the Thorium cycle:

    Thanks David Archibald for this topic thread. I learned a great deal here. I watched the (LFTR video linked to by gallopingcamel, and, like all promotional talks, it looks very good. Assuming all is true and correct, Thorium reactors look very attractive, particularly due to their relatively small size (truck trailer potentially) and relative safety for nuclear energy.
    Even if the technology is ready, which it may well be, the problem, of course, will be getting the right combination of funding and government approval necessary to make real progress towards commercial viability. The affected industries, both fossil fuels and conventional nuclear power, would have to look far into the future to invest in LFTR, convincing themselves that the long-term (and far from guaranteed) profits they may gain from LFTR would be worth having them discard their near-term profits building nuke power using their existing and very mature designs. Fossil power interests would have similar worries about their mature designs and customer base going away, being displaced by LFTR if it becomes successful. As for the government, well, paraphrasing the the speaker in the video, you can make up your own mind as to the way the Energy Department has managed nuclear and other power projects.
    On the other hand, some politically-connected entrepreneurs may be able to get some private money together and then go for government funding, perhaps based on a need by the Navy for smaller nuclear-powered ships, to pay for the necessary development. Perhaps Army forward operating bases could use this type of portable power.
    I know, from experience on advanced system engineering concepts I helped conceptualize and prototype, how far it is from technical feasibility to actual acceptance and funding from the Customer Set (the acquisition -money- people and the potential user community). And, the projects I worked on did not involve radioactive materials!
    Nevertheless, I wish them luck and good fortune.

  169. Paul Piva says:
    January 2, 2011 at 3:08 pm
    Has anyone come up with a decent solution for handling and storing for the long term, nuclear waste? I understood that there are old mines out west that have the capacity of storing waste. There are nuclear plants that were decommissioned, but having to store waste on site until a storage solution is made. These present a huge security and health risks in the event of a accident or loss of containment. Another one of the big problems is transporting it. Rail or by tractor trailer are the only two options available. Both have their security and health concerns related to it. Any thoughts?

    Yes, the technology to resolve the nuclear waste issues has existed for years, the only hurdle is social and political will to accept practical solutions instead of waiting for some magic pie in the sky perfect solution that will encapsulate the high level waste for 1000’s of years.
    One of the big issues with high level nuclear waste is heat of decay. If buried for a long time it self heats to high temperatures. Even the transport casks need to be water cooled to prevent over heating. When working for the Colorado Office of Emergency Management I watched a delivery of high level radiation sources to an industrial site. As they got ready to off load the sources, they tapped off the hot water from the cooling system used to manage the cask temperatures, it was steaming hot water.
    If someone would use more than 3 brain cells, they would realize that this is not a problem, it is an opportunity. Harvest this “waste heat” with sterling cycle generators, and make electricity off the waste heat for the next few thousand years. High temperature water has problems of its own so cool the high level waste with helium, or just like they do the cores of the HTGR’s and pipe the hot gas to a heat exchanger separate from the high level waste cooling loop.
    You solve two problems at one time, you gain a useful heat source that has a practically unlimited life time (in human terms) and like the snap reactors used in space probes you get a high reliability heat source.
    By drawing off this waste heat of decay (instead of expending energy to chill a water pool) you also avoid the primary limitation to long term storage.
    The problem is social not physical. Between reprocessing of the waste fuels to separate unused fissile material and useful isotopes, and finding constructive uses for both the waste heat and the high radiation levels (ie sterilization) we could turn that high level waste into a resource not a liability.
    Larry

  170. Ira, dont you find it sad that you have to invoke the military to promote simple economic advancement.
    Dinosaurs do what dinosaurs do, they go extinct. Its time for change and that comes about by doing it. Funding follows success not failure.

  171. observa says:
    January 2, 2011 at 3:40 pm
    Mustafa, the problem with full plug-in battery vehicles is battery life, which is why market leaders, Toyota have largely stuck with the hybrid car. Essentially-
    “The Prius battery (and the battery-power management system) has been designed to maximize battery life. In part this is done by keeping the battery at an optimum charge level – never fully draining it and never fully recharging it. As a result, the Prius battery leads a pretty easy life. We have lab data showing the equivalent of 180,000 miles with no deterioration and expect it to last the life of the vehicle.”
    __________________________________________________________
    Then there is trouble in hybrid land:
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/08/hondas-civic-hybrid-fix-doesnt-fix-the-customer-problem/
    My wife had a 2001 VW Beetle diesel 5 speed manual, while living in Minnesota, that got 50 mpg on #2 diesel in the summer time and worst case 42 mpg in the winter on winter blend diesel. So, about an average of 48 mpg considering that there are only about 4 months that required the winter blend. Laws have changed requiring 2% bio-diesel for vehicles in Minnesota. I don’t know what the mpg would be now. We don’t have the Beetle anymore and we live in Florida.
    Anyway, Honda’s civic had a 45 mpg rating, but, with the over reliance on the battery, after only about 2 years, the battery life is drawing down and the fix is to change not the battery under warranty but to change the ratio of battery to engine use resulting in about 33 mpg……………..that has to really suck.
    So, buy and electric or hybrid, and then budget for a regular vehicle for all the really necessary things.
    Then there is this:
    http://artobuono.com/north-dakota-mineral-resource-and-bakken-oil-formation-history
    The Bakken or Williston Basin. The second link says that North Dakota’s own study estimate as much as 400 billion barrels of oil possible. The basin is larger than ND and in total could produce more.
    Oil sands, Shale, near off-shore drilling……we have time to make sane adjustments to our modes of transportation…..politicians hate the thought of having time for progress.
    Then there is this:
    http://www1.eere.energy.gov/vehiclesandfuels/features/fcvt_feature_retooling_engines.html
    This is a more sane approach to transition towards the future. Hydrogen internal combustion engines. Ford has already demonstrated, along with BMW I think, a hydrogen tank that even when puntured and burning won’t explode. It fills about as fast as a regular gasoline tank and hydrogen has more energy than gasoline/LPG/CNG. If car owners can either modify or change out an engine, or by new, and not be limited in range anymore than gasoline and be cleaner than electric, I think there is a future here.

  172. How to make money from my apocalyptic visions.
    A couple of people have emailed me to ask how to make money from thorium etc. So following are some ideas from off the top of my head. There is too much thorium around to make money out of mining it.
    1. Buy coal reserves. As the oil price rises, the NPV of a barrel of oil in the ground and the NPV of a tonne of coal in the ground converge. AT$200/bbl, coal in the ground is worth $66 per tonne as feedstock for a CTL plant. At the moment you can buy some coal reserves for cents per tonne. This is a very cheap option to future-proof yourself. It is a very scaleable from buying a few thousand dollars of a coal stock to whole coalfields. Coal is the thing most hated by the Sierra Club, the EPA etc. and that is a good indicator that it is a very good thing to do.
    2. Some stupid states, e.g. Colorado, are closing coal fired plants so they can build gas-fired plants. Buy those coal fired plants on closure for their scrap price, with the coal reserves, and then sell them back to the former owners in five years time. Right at the moment Deutsche Bank is leading a push to promote AGW, so my guess is that they will start a fund to buy closed coal fired power plants and do exactly this.
    3. Buy depleted oil fields that would respond to enhanced oil recovery (EOR) using CO2. There is at least one US-listed oil company already doing this and they are constrained by a lack of CO2. As CTL plants are built, there will plenty of CO2 becoming available. Right at the moment, these sorts of depleted oil fields can be bought for cents per barrel. Or as a CTL plant builder, you could marry the two for enhanced profitability.
    4. Become the Boeing of the thorium-fueled molten salt breeder reactor industry. Apart from the research to commercialise the reactor, you would need a big long shed adjacent to navigable water. The reactors will not be physically large and neither the individual components. So the individual parts can be made by subcontractors and you will assemble the reactors on a production line, put them on a barge and out they go.
    5. CTL plants require a big cryogenic oxygen plant. There is potentially a constraint in the supply of those.
    6. The basic chemical industry left the US when it was undercut by cheap supply by SABIC etc from the Middle East. Now that the price of internationally traded natural gas has risen to the oil price, and natural gas is directly substitutable as a transport fuel, natural gas is no longer a cheap chemical feedstock. So the UAE is installing South Korean nuclear reactors so they can stop burning natural gas for power generation. This all means that the chemical industry for basic things like urea will return to the US. So buy distressed urea plants etc. now and then put a coal-fired synthesis gas plant on the front end to provide the feedstock.
    7. This idea is for Basin Electric Power Corporation, which owns the Great Plains Synfuels Plant in North Dakota. That plant was set up to convert lignite to synthetic natural gas instead of diesel etc. because, at the time, it was thought that the US had a shortage of natural gas. In fact the perceived shortage was only due to Federal legislation on pricing of interstate sales of natural gas. Now there is a big price differential between natural gas and the liquid fuels that the plant could be producing. So, pipe the synthesis gas off to new reactors that will make liquids, and then also sell access to the plant for training for the rest of the US CTL industry.

  173. @JDN:
    “Has anyone written on what price-point coal & Saudi crude have to be in order to make coal conversion cost effective?”
    About 30 years ago, the price point was $60-$80/bbl. Somehow, when it looked like coal gasification/liquification might turn a technological corner, the price of oil dropped so low that no one would fund a serious program to keep going, “just for insurance”. The real issue is the loss of all the human capital invested in these projects. It’s all the tricks, subtleties, and rules-of-thumb that go away when projects are disbanded. All the expensive lessons have to be relearned, all the mistakes remade. Trust me, no matter how many reports are written, the day-to-day knowledge of how to make these processes work is never captured. Unless you’ve got all the maintenance tickets squirreled away somewhere. They’d be worth 1000x their weight in perfect 1 carat diamonds.

  174. When I hear about new design concepts for nuclear reactors I am reminded about the death blow given to the Clinch River, sodium cooled fast breeder reactor by President Jimmy Carter. It may have been deserved because a very unworkable organization was formed between the utilities, the federal government (ERDA and NRC), the prime contractor, Westinghouse, and two major subcontractors, General Electric, and Atomics International, Division of Rockwell (Boeing). GE and Rockwell were competitors in the bid for the FBR. As a result the Clinch River Breeder Reactor was never build and the US has no commercial breeder reactor. Moreover the actual construction fell years behind the schedule that was originally proposed with a huge cost overrun. Of particular difficulty was the fact that the AEC was both promoting and regulating the development of the breeder. Now, this all happened in the mid 1970’s. Since then the major national laboratories devoted to nuclear energy have spend millions on the development of other potential sources of energy which have not come to fruition. In the mean time it has now been more than 30 years since any company in the US has built a commercial nuclear reactor in the US which means that most of the reactors operating today are more that 30 years old. Most were designed originally to last 30 years and the adequacies of the designs have had to be reevaluated by the NRC. Some have been decommissioned. When will they all be shut down and decommissioned?
    This little review of history points out a basic problem for the nuclear industry. If designs developed by Westinghouse and General Electric are proven to be safe, excluding the operators errors associated with 3 Mile Island and some other minor accidents, why have no new reactors been built? The answer is that the electric power utility industry cannot afford to build new reactors that comply with the NRC regulations on design and operation of a new plant because the designers had to change their designs to comply with NRC demands. Why does anyone think that the many proposed nuclear plants such the High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor, the Traveling Wave Reactor, Thorium Breeder Reactor, or Fluidized Bed Reactor will ever be build? Who will pay the development costs? Will NRC regulations be any less for these concepts? Can the federal government promote any of these designs while seeking to regulate the industry?
    As much as these concepts would seem to favor the environment or eliminates some the undesirable aspects of nuclear power based on enriched uranium, it doesn’t seem that there is a public will to add more nuclear plants. The public seem content with the way things are now despite the hype about global warming. What will it take for the public to change their minds about nuclear energy?

  175. LazyTeenager says:
    January 2, 2011 at 2:51 pm
    Pamela Gray rants
    ———-
    The quickest and least bloody way to get this done is to suck Middle East wells dry as dead bones,
    ———
    Last time I looked the USA is not at war with the middle east.
    ——————————————————————————
    Lazy. Where were you looking? – maybe at your navel? Sure as hell not a map!
    Douglas

  176. DA, thanks for a great article! I am a big fan of both Thorium and CTL.
    I think the two keys to developing nuclear power in this country are:
    1. Small/micro power plants.
    2. Evidence-based (aka, the best scientificly supported) regulations on multiple low-dose radiation exposures.
    The first is important because, as I understand it, we can only get the forgings for large, nuclear certified containment vessels from one place in the entire world: Japan. And they have, I believe, a multi-year back in orders from other countries. Also, the capital costs for huge nuclear power plants is, from what I hear, becoming astronomical – to the point that the much anticipated nuclear renaissance may never materialize. With smaller power plants, the upfront cost is cheaper because they can be ordered one at a time. More importantly, they can be up and running, generating electricity, and therefore generating profits, sooner than a big monolithic, site-built, multi-gigawatt plant that takes many years to construct.
    The second is important because regulations requiring unnaturally low radiation exposure levels (below background levels in some parts of the world!) complicate reactor design and emergency planning requirements. This increases the cost of reactors to the point where, in the current environment, nuclear has a tough time competing with low-cost natural gas.
    I offer the following suggestions to an already excellent proposal:
    As much as I like the many advantages of thorium, I suggest that the emphasis be on approving any and all small/micro nuclear reactor designs that improve safety and reduce the cost of building nuclear power plants as quickly as possible.
    There are many competing designs for small nuclear reactors: http://www.economist.com/node/17647651
    If we don’t go with Thorium at first, then until we do switch to that technology, we should develop a better reprocessing process that PUREX or use fast reactor designs to burn up the used fuel currently being stored on site at all the light water reactors we currently use. BTW: I heard Candu reactors can burn our used fuel for a few more years. If so, let’s build some of those or send the fuel to Canada.
    Instead of converting vehicles to run on natural gas, I would add inexpensive natural gas as another feedstock to the process of converting hydrocarbons to a liquid fuel such as gasoline or diesel.
    I think we can deploy small High Temp reactors to the CTL plants to make the process more efficient.
    Also, we need to get rid of the restrictions on drill for our own oil – offshore, federal lands, whatever. I am not optimistic that we will get this done anytime soon, so we’ll need to free up as much oil as possible to drive our economy in the meantime.
    Finally, if a multi-fuel motor ever becomes viable (like this one: http://www.ecomotors.com) we can move to producing more diesel: it is a more dense fuel than gasoline.
    fyi: I like this site for Liquid Floride Thorium reactor info: http://energyfromthorium.com
    Jack Simmons
    January 1, 2011 at 8:11 pm
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/01/01/us-energy-independence-by-2020/#comment-563986
    Jack, the article on the new CTL process developed at U of Texas, Arlington looks very promising, thanks for the link! CTL has been a “no-show” technology for years, but it looks like it may finally be getting off the ground.
    There’s going to be a presentation on the CTL process developed at U of Texas at Arlington at the 6th annual CTL and coal gasification conference next month: http://www.informa.com.au/conferences/mining/oil-gas/ctl-coal-gasification – maybe we’ll find out how it’s coming along then.
    Poptech
    January 2, 2011 at 9:19 am
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/01/01/us-energy-independence-by-2020/#comment-564260
    Poptech, you make good points. The WaPo article, “5 Myths About Breaking Our Foreign Oil Habit”, is excellent.
    I would argue that the real object is not energy independence, but rather:
    1. Develop less expensive, reliable sources of electricity and hydro-fuels for our economy (producing jobs in this country and cheap electricity to support our manufacturing industries – of which, we are still the world leader, btw).
    2. Secure sufficient quantities of hydrocarbons to fuel our military.

  177. Biosynthetic organisms are going to make all other energy sources very expensive in comparison. The nascent science of biotechnology is advancing at a pace that reminds me of Moore’s Law for semi-conductors. It’ll be mature in the time it takes to design/build/test/commission a new nuclear plant. Anywhere there is sunlight, water, and CO2 biosynthetics can generate methane (natural gas), ethanol, diesel, and even solid burnable fuels which fit nicely into extant infrastructure and can fully replace all fossil sources of energy. The best thing is that it will cost only a fraction of the price of conventional fuels. That’s what people really want. Not cleaner energy (but they’ll get that too with biosynthetics) but rather less expensive energy.

  178. janama says: January 1, 2011 at 9:20 pm
    OT – could someone explain why this site is unformatted in Firefox yet is formatted in IExplorer? It only started in the past day.

    You have css turned off. To cure in Firefox:
    click View,
    click Page Style,
    select Basic Page Style.

  179. You don’t need new reactor designs (though they can be nice to have). This company:
    http://www.ltbridge.com/technologyservices/fueltechnology/designs
    makes thorium fuel bundles to run in the existing reactor designs. No waiting…
    Just takes the desire to do it. Technology is already a done deal. (And yes, there really is more Thorium than we could ever need. About 30,000 years of it.)
    I also fully agree with the description of Coal to Liquids as the most direct path to “energy independence”. Stop selling it to China to get money to by OPEC oil and just turn it into Diesel and Gasoline. Again, no new tech needed. Loads of companies already do this all over the world.

  180. Mike McMillan said on January 2, 2011 at 10:57 pm:

    janama says: January 1, 2011 at 9:20 pm
    OT – could someone explain why this site is unformatted in Firefox yet is formatted in IExplorer? It only started in the past day.

    You have css turned off. To cure in Firefox:
    click View,
    click Page Style,
    select Basic Page Style.

    There is also an “intermittent” wordpress.com error that could be affecting you. I just got a slightly-late Christmas gift with the ending of around two months of unformatted wordpress pages.
    Details are here: http://en.forums.wordpress.com/topic/none-of-my-blogs-displaying-properly
    It’s blamed on a routing error. Specifically, the style sheets aren’t loading, which actually come from wp.com. This is one of them:
    http://s0.wp.com/wp-content/themes/h4/global.css
    From the above forum link, try testing with this link:
    http://s0.wp.com/helloworld.html
    Note it says: “The css link probably wasn’t the best test as different browsers and operating systems display it differently.”
    The issue apparently crops up somewhere between wordpress and the local-level ISP servers. I’m certain it would have made some noise if all wordpress users or all customers of my ISP were affected. Yes, the “Is it just me?” feeling is quite irritating.
    If that’s your issue, hopefully you won’t be waiting as long as I did for the “intermittent problem” to clear up. It’s hit me before, but those times it cleared up after a day to a week, making the last outage extremely annoying. In the meanwhile, you may find it amusing to discover that certain sites are hosted on wordpress.com, that you’d never have guessed they were, because they too are now unformatted.

  181. From: Dave Springer on January 2, 2011 at 10:43 pm:

    Biosynthetic organisms are going to make all other energy sources very expensive in comparison. The nascent science of biotechnology is advancing at a pace that reminds me of Moore’s Law for semi-conductors. It’ll be mature in the time it takes to design/build/test/commission a new nuclear plant.

    At which point various Green groups will loudly denounce it as inherently dangerous for assorted reasons. Did you miss the furor over genetically-modified crops and critters? As with nuclear, some will outright demand the technology not be used at all since it cannot be made safe, others will demonstrate they are not totally opposed to such by “merely” insisting on extremely expensive controls, massive oversight, endless studies, and anything else they can think of to make implementation virtually impossible, saying they merely want to “make certain” the technology is “safe enough.”
    Didn’t you get the message? Natural Green™ wind power, Natural Green™ solar power, and nothing else is allowed to be installed anymore for energy generation. There is no specific need for liquid fuels as all vehicles can be all-electric and charged from Natural Green™ sources. Anything else you can possibly think of where any type of fossil or even nuclear fuel could be used, already has solutions where Natural Green™ power will take care of it. Your problem is you don’t want to pay the extra cost or put up with any added inconvenience, you selfish uncaring Mother Earth-hater.

  182. Thorium might be an interesting technology some day, but it is far from being ready for mass production. The MSRE that everyone points to as proof of concept is still sitting in a building in Oak Ridge, waiting for someone to figure out a way to defuel it. Anyone who has ever had anything to do with really operating or maintaining a nuclear power plant will take one look at this design and say “fuhgedaboutit”. It is a maintenance nightmare, because it circulates the fission products throughout the coolant system, and contaminates an enormous amount of piping. It is combining a nuclear power plant and a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in one facility, and bringing all of the difficult aspects of each together in one place. Some people say that it produces less fission products, but that is only because there definition of fission products is transuranics, which are NOT fission products. FPs have an atomic number and mass less than the original fissile material. They include strontium and cesium and iodine and rubidium, and a whole bunch of other elements. FPs do NOT include plutonium or americium or uranium or any of the elements that are produced when the fissile material captures a neutron and beta-decays up the chain to something with a higher atomic number. All fission reactors, whether they use thorium or uranium or plutonium produce the same amount of FPs, but the distribution is slightly different for each element and isotope. The number of FP atoms is the same (2) for each atom that fissions. The number of neutrons produced varies according to the element, isotope, and the type of fission (from thermal to fast).
    Yes, there is a lot of thorium out there. There is a lot in the US, and a LOT in India. However, there is no real shortage of uranium. We just don’t let people mine for it in the US any more, for environmental reasons. If necessary, we could extract it from seawater, and although it would cost probably two times more than the highest price for mined uranium, it would not affect the cost of nuclear energy significantly because the price of the uranium itself is only a few percent of the overall cost. And there will be uranium in seawater as long as rain continues to wash down mountains into the sea, which I think can be considered a pretty sustainable source. The Indians are very excited about thorium because they have a lot of it, but very little uranium. They want the rich western countries to develop the technology so that they can take and use it with their thorium resources. We would be crazy to do this work for them. It would require building test reactors and new fuel designs and an enormous range of activities at very high cost. Maybe someday, we might want to look at this – maybe as a long-term research program. But not on a crash basis – it would be silly.
    Instead, we have at least a dozen existing reactor designs that use proven uranium fuel designs and could be built with reasonable assurance that they would produce reliable amounts of power. We also have the technology to recycle the fuel from these plants, in separate nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities, and with recycling we don’t really need to look for new technologies like thorium for a long time, if ever. The big limits here are: (1) the number of qualified people to finish the detailed designs, construct the plants, and operate them, (2) the availability of qualified industrial sources of supply for the equipment, some of which has not been produced in the US for 30 years, (3) the availability of a qualified, quality workforce that can pour nuclear-grade concrete and make good welds, (4) the availability of money to finance this, and (5) a stable regulatory environment that ensures that once the decision is made to build something, it can be completed and operated without intervention by politians, luddite environmentalists, and NIMBYs. The last item is probably the hardest to deal with.

  183. phlogiston
    ROFLMAO! How is France “energy independent” when it imports 96% of it’s petroleum, 99% of it’s Natural Gas, 100% of it’s Coal?
    You think the UK’s energy policy is based on a free market? So there are no energy taxes, subsidies, regulations, incentives or mandates in the UK on energy? Seriously?
    You seem confused. If there was a true free-market in energy in the UK (there is not) and Nuclear was cheaper than competing forms of electrical generation such as coal and natural gas then it would be used. None of which solves the problem for transportation as going Nuclear does not remove the need for a transportation fuel such as oil. It is the same in France and in the U.S. The U.S. is “energy independent” when it comes to electrical generation too.

  184. Puckster says January 2, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    “The Prius battery (and the battery-power management system) has been designed to maximize battery life. …

    Can I say it? Stated simply and in light of the
    Let’s reduce (sans marketing, wishful thinking, corruption of logical thought and function) this to what the Prius really is: “a Kinetic Energy Recovery Vehicle”.
    .

  185. johanna says January 2, 2011 at 1:42 pm
    What a strange thread. Reading the article and comments, I began to wonder if WUWT had been hacked, or taken over by aliens. The usually high standards …

    Judgment call; may or may not reflect reality.


    I had a quick look at world coal reserves, and find that the US has (depending on the source) around 25-30% of known reserves. Why would you turn your back on that gift horse in favour of inferior and more expensive energy sources? At current rates of extraction, there is enough to last many decades, while the wrinkles are ironed out of other technologies.

    Right; have you looked at the ‘output’, the products of combustion and trace elements released into the air operating a coal-fired plant? I look forward to the development of practical, relatively-clean and economical (subject to debate, obviously) energy sources myself …
    .

  186. Dave Springer January 2, 2011 at 10:43 pm says:
    Biosynthetic organisms are going to make all other energy sources very expensive in comparison. The nascent science of biotechnology is advancing at a pace that reminds me of Moore’s Law for semi-conductors. It’ll be mature in the time it takes to design/build/test/commission a new nuclear plant. Anywhere there is sunlight

    Errr … sounds strikingly close to the requirements of a ‘renewable’ (i.e. solar) …
    .

  187. Enneagram January 2, 2011 at 8:16 am says:
    While this type of energy arrives, why not trying the following at your backyard:
    Free Energy, by Nikola Tesla: …

    Really? Free?
    (One usually finds that some have misinterpreted the actual developments of Tesla to make such wild-eyed claims,usually, to sell books, videos, i.e. to profit on his name …)
    .

  188. Your comments SMART grid are correct. Consumers do not want big brother controlling their cold beer supply, boiling stew, and what is comfortable temperatures in the privacy of their homes.

  189. In the early ’70’s Nixon wanted the uS to become energy independent by building about 500 LWR’s. Problem then and more of a problem today is that the global production of stainless steels (Inox) could not supply enough material for more than a minuscule fraction of the 500. Going forward with a scaled back version of the LWR project would have driven up the price and robbed SS (or at least the chromium and cobalt) from other critical projects.
    Attempting to build a large number of breeder reactors today would cause the same headaches.
    On paper it is a GREAT idea.
    Thanks DA!

  190. A lovely little quote worth keeping in mind for those ‘elevator conversations’ about nuclear energy: from none other than the original author of the Whole Earth Catalogue – Stewart Brand – in his latest book

  191. harrywr2 says:
    January 2, 2011 at 1:48 pm
    Actually, what happened is that the expected aluminum demand didn’t materialize.
    Boeing had a slump, folks decided maybe aluminum siding wasn’t so stylish after all and someone else decided that aluminum cans should be recycled.
    Even today, the US Aluminum industry still consumes 1.2% of all the electric power produced in the US.
    Sorry Harry,
    …but the local government bureaucratic control of the funding was out of control. In January 1982, the WPPSS board stopped construction on Plants 4 and 5 when total cost for all the plants was projected to exceed $24 billion. Because these plants generated no power and brought in no money, the system was forced to default on $2.25 billion in bonds. This meant that the member utilities, and ultimately the rate payers, were obligated to pay back the borrowed money. In some small towns where unemployment due to the recession was already high, this amounted to more than $12,000 per customer. The bond holders sued and the matter wound it way through courts for the next 13 years. Plants 1 and 3 were never finished either, but their costs were backed by the Bonneville Power Administration and the power it generated from the Columbia River Dams.
    Plant 2 at Hanford was completed in 1984 and is now called the Columbia Generating Station. It produces 12 percent of the power supplied by the Bonneville Power Administration at a cost of 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour. Seattle customers pay an average of 3.89 cents per kilowatt hour. The unfinished plants were mothballed against the possibility that construction would be resumed. In 1995, WPPSS decided to demolish what remained of the structures.
    The real losers were those you speak liken the aluminum industry who no longer would pay to play in the Northwest with the new higher power rates generated by and of the WPPSS fiasco. The demise of WPPSS rests squarely on the finance management of the project.
    Consequently, the Northwest public does not trust the powers who control such purses in constructing a new facility such that David Archibald presents; regardless of specific type of fuel is used for nuclear energy.
    🙂

  192. Thanks David for summarizing some key points on thorium and coal to liquid.
    These were a great topic in the late 70’s and equally timely now 😉
    And the true history of where and why both thorium and coal to liquid have been shelved may be a great topic over at theoildrum.com.
    The generation of “goolgers” get a dangerous glut of misinformation about both nuclear and solid to liquid fuels that have been both over promoted through the propaganda machines over the last decade as either the salvation or death to our energy future. Making comments a one way bickering fest that you have to be either “for coal and nuclear” or against it. Not realizing that we are simply asking both sides to choose a more sustainable way to utilize both until we bridge the gap between fossil fuels and sustainable fuels.
    Further false beliefs in a “simple renewable energy fix” to oil and coal will only recreate a more direr situation than we are currently in. The Carter era proved we can spend trillions over decades to be “more energy independent” and then be even further away from that future than ever before.
    Just proving something wrong is not supporting something right…
    Energy, health and environmental programs are ultimately driven by politics and propaganda not good economics or intentions.
    Even the most solid and beneficial programs to society and our planet will not flourish without political and media support.
    The key is to continue to influence both with better options that they will embrace as inevitably the best choice for whatever cause or agenda they are pushing. Not a war against it.
    They need to clearly understand that unless a new breed of reactors are used, the nuclear renaissance will implode. And unless coal is done right it will be continued to be used wrong.
    If our current energy situation has any “hope for change” it is vital that we find a way to utilize military and spent fuel stockpiles to power our future. Or we don’t have one.
    Maybe not by 2020… but implementation of new reactors, waste to fuels and utilizing home/industrial cogeneration with benefits of architecture2030.org we have “hope of change”.
    As far as CTL… sorry David, I have more data against than for it.
    Thanks commentators for all the links!
    Here are a few more:
    http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/12/ff_new_nukes
    http://www.power-technology.com/features/feature78177
    http://www.halifaxcourier.co.uk/features/Can-thorium-save-the-planet.5454977.jp
    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/4971?page=1
    http://www.architecture2030.org
    And can’t forget http://www.nextbigfuture.com

  193. Poptech says:
    January 3, 2011 at 5:50 am
    Poptech says:
    January 3, 2011 at 5:50 am
    phlogiston
    ROFLMAO! How is France “energy independent” when it imports 96% of it’s petroleum, 99% of it’s Natural Gas, 100% of it’s Coal?
    You think the UK’s energy policy is based on a free market? So there are no energy taxes, subsidies, regulations, incentives or mandates in the UK on energy? Seriously?

    A very versatile posterior, one minute you’re rolling on it, the next you’re talking out of it.
    I was indeed referring to electrical energy. But your central point was energy policy should be “left to the markets” with no big brother government interference. The history of power generation policy in the UK and France are a counter-example to this argument. France intervened on behalf of nuclear and it has paid off. The UK only recently started intervening (aside from subsidies are regulation that affects everything from birdfeed to pig farming) but in the wrong direction – wind and waves, which (as has been abundantly argued on this site) is illusory power since it is intermittent and needs to be accompanied by corresponding fossil fuel capacity.
    Government has a role to play in electricity generation and there are consequences to getting it right or wrong.

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