Guest essay by John Popovich
“Too cheap to meter” is typically attributed to Strauss, but “The Concise Untold History of The United States” includes the following on Pg. 155 (In December 1953, Eisenhower had unveiled his “Atoms for Peace” program in a speech at the UN, mesmerizing the thirty-five hundred delegates. He Promised “energy too cheap to meter,” at home and abroad.) Did Eisenhower go off script before Strauss? Is this part of the “untold” history of the United States?
The lure of free energy offered by atomic power caused many scientists to propose schemes that today seem hopelessly naive; I am old enough to have read some of them.
One of the vexing problems with fusion power plants is plasma facing materials. Not even the collective exuberance of fusion proponents can solve this problem. I am not a student of nuclear power but to give you an idea of the problems magnitude from a student of the subject: From Wikipedia “Plasma-facing material”:French Nobel laureate in physics, Pierre-Gilles de Gennes said of nuclear fusion, “We say that we will put the sun into a box. The idea is pretty. The problem is, we don’t know how to make the box.”
If any nuclear proponents on WUWT have solutions to this problem they should pursue them as it would greatly improve the prospects for fusion power.
In my youth I read a proposal for nuclear power plants that would use large underground cavities to store liquid water and steam heated by small fission or fusion explosions; something that we know how to do. The cavities which can be created by salt solution mining or by underground nuclear explosions would also seem attractive for using the heat from spent fuel rods and nuclear waste. Others may know why this scheme is unattractive. It may be that some solutions are too crude to warrant serious consideration or threaten to take money from the fusion cartel.
Locating nuclear power plants on ships seems attractive for regions near rivers or oceans. The U.S. has manufactured nuclear powered submarines and surface vessels for ~60years with a good safety record. A few floating nuclear power plants are being constructed and may offer an attractive way forward. Heat exchanger cost is greatly reduced and emergency passive cooling is more easily accomplished. Plants can be modular and standardized for efficient mfr. in a factory environment and transported to provide power where needed.
New nuclear power plants will have to compete with natural gas combined cycle power plants which have a much lower capital cost, ~twice the thermodynamic efficiency, and a large amount of low cost natural gas available from horizontal drilling and fracturing. Twice the thermodynamic efficiency means half the sink side heat exchanger cost and half as much heat dumped to the environment. Fuel costs as a proportion of total utility cost are decreasing.
Part one of the essay is here