The Lure of Free Energy Part II

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.”[15]

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


181 thoughts on “The Lure of Free Energy Part II

    • Robert A. Heinlein wrote that the fusion power plants had to be in orbit around the earth because sooner or later they would blow up. Great little story it was.

      “Blowups Happen” was the story if memory serves me. (from 50 years ago or so)

      • “Blowups” could not happen if they are surrounded by an entire Ocean…They only happen when cooling fails.

      • Blowups Happen was written in 1940, after the concept of nuclear power was existent but before the specifics were worked out (pre-Manhattan Project). The basis of the book is that the sole nuclear power plant on the planet was powered by a massive reactor of liquid uranium (nicknamed “the bomb”) and needed constant adjustment and control to not go out of control. The resulting explosion would be so massive as to devastate either the country or the planet. A significant part of the story is about the stress this puts on the engineers, especially as they discover that the power would cause the latter instead of the former. The description of magnitude is closer to a multi-ton antimatter bomb.

        Heinlein actually apologized for the inaccuracies of the short story in the collection I first read it in, the Heinlein Universe.

      • Thanks for that description of Blowups Happen, Ben of Houston.

        Heinlein was definitely one of my favorites.

    • Well Butch, the water boils at about 100 deg. C, and the fusion reaction might be going on at 10 million degrees C, and steam is much worse for you than hot water.

      Why is it that people simply ignore the fact that the sun runs on ….. GRAVITY …… which is far and away the weakest force we know of or can even imagine.

      So fusion reactors like to be about 860,000 miles in diameter, and that is how big (minimum you would have to make your box.

      I’m guessing that the French Nobel prize winning physicist mentioned above, did NOT get his Nobel award for the design of a practical Fusion Reactor.

      As for the “box” that faces the fusion reaction, you have to continue to supply new fusible fuel to the reaction site, and you also have to continuously TAKE OUT THE GARBAGE !

      And the garbage is at millions of kelvins.

      A hydrogen bomb is a fusion reactor that works well enough using a finite quantity of fusible fuel, to just blow itself to smithereens, and let the garbage escape to where it may.

      Laser implosion ” Whack-a-Mole” machines try to do the same thing a a small scale, but they too have to clean the garbage out of the box after the fusion reaction (if there is one) is done, and then they spend months setting the whole thing up again to squish another very expensively constructed disposable “fusion box” containing a small amount of fusible fuel.

      It’s a hilarious joke, far funnier than any Rube Goldberg creation.

      It’s a very simple problem: We have four forces in nature that we can use to squish fusion fuels together close enough and hot enough and dense enough for fusion reactions to occur at a large enough scale, to extract usable amounts of energy.

      Gravity is by far the weakest; but ….. GRAVITY SUCKS ….. !

      So you don’t need ANY sort of box at all. You just need ENOUGH FUEL in one place at the same time.

      Well there’s the STRONG FORCE, which apparently ALSO SUCKS, so it can hold the nucleons close together inside the nucleus of an atom. But it doesn’t work outside that nucleus, and as hard as we have tried to put more nucleons into that nucleus, we haven’t yet even been able to double the number that exist in nature. So the strong force is no good.

      The weak force is not even worth talking about; it simply isn’t any use for anything, and it too likes the confinement of the atomic nucleus.

      So that leaves the Coulomb force, between electric charges.

      BUT ! the Coulomb Force ….. DOESN’T SUCK ….. IT BLOWS ….. !!

      If you have an isolated electric charge; it has an electric field around it, which can be detected by any other electric charge, and manifest the Coulomb force.

      But there is NO stable arrangement of electric charge that doesn’t just automatically blow itself apart; instead of SUCKING itself together like GRAVITY does.

      it’s called ….. EARNSHAW’S THEOREM …..

      There is NO BOX to contain a STABLE, CONTINUOUS LARGE SCALE CONTOLLABLE fusion reaction.

      It doesn’t exist in practice; the entire universe works without ANY box containing it.

      There is even a THEORETICAL BOX that one might try to construct..

      Controlled fusion energy is a farce !


      • Well don’t forget Stephen that there is all of that Helium crap that has to go too.

        People who run continuous chemical processes, understand (I’m not one of them) that you have input chemical components, and you have reaction products, and if you don’t remove the reaction products, sometimes the process can run in reverse and stop. In any case, the reaction products tend to poison the reaction, so it really is garbage from the process point of view.

        So how do you continuously supply Deuterium or Tritium or Hydrogen or any of the other fusible atoms and introduce them to the emsquishenating site, through that huge Temperature gradient, and also extract the Helium and other nuclei, through the same Temperature extremes.

        ANY discontinuous process, simply degenerates to a whack-a-mole machine, and is not practical.

        Fusion is ficsion !!


      • Oh, but if you watch the video that comes with that – not to worry, NASA says an asteroid impact won’t be all that much of a problem.

        Wonder if the TREX network said the same thing…

      • The ones NASA ought to be worrying about are the ones they don’t know about.

        NASA needs to identify all dangerous asteriods in our neighborhood, and they need to develop the capability for us to reach out and contact any such asteriods before they become a danger, and move them out of the way.

        The first job is to find all of them.

      • Even the ones we do know about have to be monitored periodically, since we can’t project orbits with a high degree of accuracy beyond a few years.

  1. “‘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.)”

    Who is this flake? The text of Eisenhower’s 1953 speech is available online, for what it’s worth (see link below). If you’ll take a look you’ll note that nowhere in this speech do the words “cheap” or “meter” appear. Even the word “too” doesn’t appear!

    Anthony, why are you giving this guy a platform?! He’s just embarrassing you!

      • Phrase does not appear in Eisenhower’s speech, but book has it as a direct quote. Could it be that the authors, lefty Peter Kuznick and conspiracy theorist America-hater, Oliver Stone, are not telling the truth?

      • “Could it be that the authors, lefty Peter Kuznick and conspiracy theorist America-hater, Oliver Stone, are not telling the truth?”

        Yes, it very well could be that they are not telling the truth. Stone is a notorious distorter of the truth.

      • To all – I don’t know how old you are (even I’m not old enough, not quite, to remember Eisenhower as President).

        Politicians in those days would frequently not deliver a speech exactly as written – but the written speech is what went into the official records (and usually into the newspapers, too). And they did so deliberately, reading their audience as they went – not just misreading the teleprompter.

      • Writing Observer

        Thank for reminding us that once we had politicians who could think faster than they spoke.

        Guess we haven’t seen that for a while!

      • They didn’t use teleprompters in those days. But it doesn’t matter. This is a practice that continues to occur to this day. And there are good practical reasons for it. Phraseology that works on the written page just sounds too long and bloated when actually spoken.

      • I think this would be a good exercise…how many words one can find that George W Bush ever spoke officially are no part of any record of his “official speech texts”? (especially when considering it few decades in the future)..

        Really no pun intended.

        Just saying.\


  2. “Too cheap to meter”

    My late father in law was the service manager of a large city-owned utility in the south. Part of his job was to lead the meter reading department.

    In the early 70s he sat in his back yard and offered me some eggnog (it was Christmas time) and he told me of the foolishness of the time he and his men were being told by an “expert” from TVA that very soon the electricity was going to be delivered to the customer so cheaply that there would be no need for a meter —- or any of the meter readers. My father in law told me that some of his men were upset and worried that they would lose their jobs. My wife’s dad promised them all that they had just heard a fairy tale by a TVA bureaucrat and to not worry. That utility still employs meter readers to this day by the way.

    I have also heard of the corroborator that would let your car get 100 mpg but the car companies would not release it. (or was it the oil companies?) Some of our readers will have to google “corroborator” no doubt — and I am still waiting for the 100 mpg car.

    Free energy is a dream of mankind that never seems to go out of style. My problem is that having once taught an ugly subject called “physics”, I have trouble dreaming the dream. On the other hand, being Irish lets me believe in unicorns and pots of gold at the end of rainbows. At least I still have that!

    By the way this article and the one before it were a delight to read. Thanks for taking the time to write them both.

    • Actually the meter reader’s jobs HAVE gone away, but not because power is too cheap. Remote meter reading via the power line connections is real. The computer now reads your meter whenever it ‘wants to’. And the billing period can be anything the utility wants it to be.

      • Many of them now are done by wireless. A truck drives around once a month and reads all the meters in my neighborhood. So technically there are still meter readers, I guess.

        Does give me a bit of nervousness thinking about the security on those wireless devices however.

      • NW sage April 18, 2017 at 6:35 pm “Actually the meter reader’s jobs HAVE gone away, but not because power is too cheap. Remote meter reading via the power line connections is real.

        PLC (power line comms) in this scenario are UNRELIABLE. Oncor, the power delivery service in north central Texas use 900 MHz data transceivers in a ‘mesh’ type network. Verification of this with a spectrum analyzer confirms the presence of ‘bursty’ RF comms taking place in the 900 MHz “ISM” band (as it is known in the USA) from these meters.

    • Mark. My father talked to me also in the late sixties and early seventies. He told me that the doomsdayers have always been around but nobody paid any attention to them before. I also heard of the 100 mpg carburetor. Even as a teenager I was appalled that a grown up would believe such nonsense.

      • James, my step dad, who was ex-Navy and an ATT man, was totally convinced of that 100 mpg carburetor. I figured that someone would make a billion off the thing if it really existed. (when a billion was big money)

      • Regarding the 100 mpg carburetor, I am always suspicious of claims that involve large round numbers. Now if it was 97 mpg….?

      • If I remember the story, the claim was that the oil companies bought and buried the patent.
        If that were true, patents are public records and anyone could go down to the patent office and get a copy of the patent and test it to see if the claim was true.

      • Not many carburetors on the road any more. As far as I know, all makes and models of cars and light trucks have gone to fuel injection (at least in the U.S.) There are still a few motorcycles with carburetors though.

      • The four way stop sign and the red traffic light were the death knell of the 100 MPG carburetor.

        The people who believe that every person has a right to drive a car, will not be satisfied until there is a stop sign or a traffic light on every single corner at an intersection.

        They mostly exist to cater to persons who simply are incapable of making very simple decisions.

        And don’t believe that self driving cars are the solution.

        Remember those cars will be programmed by the same maroons who programme the traffic lights now.

        How do you spot an incompetent driver ? Well you can spot one species, if you happen to be behind it and you come upon a “lane closure ahead” sign. It will slow down, instead of speeding up.

        Sure sign that person doesn’t know enough about physics to be allowed to drive a car.


  3. “Too cheap to meter” again.
    Why do some people condemn the phrase so much?
    Think back to those heady days after WWII. The post-war economic boon was in full swing and standards of living were going up, up, and away. Science and technology were zooming ahead at breathtaking speed in all areas, across the board. Wondrous new products and massive efficiency gains were the order of the day.

    For nuclear power in particular, it seemed that the power would be cheap to start. Then experience, economies of scale, new designs, greater efficiencies, would all work together to drop prices right down to the floor.
    Given the times, it was not an unreasonable expectation.

    So what happened?
    Things started with an unreasonable fear of nuclear radiation in popular culture. One cause was the fear of a nuclear war with the USSR. Another big cause, especially in pop culture, was a constant stream of science fiction monster movies featuring *radiation*, which scared audiences coast to coast. The best known of then today is the classic “Godzilla”.
    Then, the Environmental Movement started up and *nuclear radiation* was one of it’s first big plays.
    With these influences, “Regulation Nation” set in, and costs costs started to rise, and eventually would soar. It became a well-known strategy within the environmental movement, that if nuclear could not be killed on rational grounds, it could be killed by driving up costs. This was done, and it was done very effectively.

    Whenever we see a new technology introduced, we see costs go down as the technology matures. With nuclear power, we have seen just the opposite. This makes nuclear power the only technology which has gotten more expensive as it matured.

    • “This makes nuclear power the only technology which has gotten more expensive as it matured.”

      The technology had a lot of help from the government in getting more expensive.

    • Played golf today with a power plant instrument designer. He said systems that take 2.5 years to design for nuclear are designed and implemented in 3 months for fossil fuel plants. Identical systems.
      “We have met the enemy . . . .”

    • Another point is that too cheap to meter doesn’t mean free. Most people were talking about everyone getting a flat bill each month to cover equipment and maintenance costs. They believed that the differential costs of the actual power would be down in the rounding error.

      • Like phone service I guess. It wasn’t that long ago that my phone bill listed every call I made, how long I was connected, and how many cents each call cost me. Now it is one consistent bill, but it ain’t cheap.

    • Nope, they just need plumbing material that will support the 600C salt material without corroding through every two years. It’s just a materials science issue.

      • @Visionar
        The MSRE was a 8 MWth reactor. It used Flibe as a coolant and graphite as a moderator and ran on U235 for most of its short life. It was first critical in June 1965 and was briefly at full power in June 1966. By Dec 1966 it spent 30 days at full power. From Jan 67 to Mar 68 it operated at full power performing experiments. It operated on U233 for 12 months from January 69 to Dec 69 performing experiments such as xenon stripping, fission product deposition, and tritium behavior. MSRE was terminated in Dec 69.
        It never used the Th-U233 cycle to breed fissile material. It did experiments on the removal of fission products. It never generated electricity.

    • And they need to contain, somehow, the free-floating fission products in the liquid circulating fuel, including the gaseous ones, without releasing any. Thats means any. This is akin to de Gennes’ box problem. Good luck with that one.

    • RE: MSR can’t blow up… etc.
      Yes, but you do have to take out the garbage. CONSTANTLY. The simplest MSR design requires the entire hot and very radioactive core to be reprocessed over the course of ten days. The challenge is in materials handling and processing.

      There are more complicated design that reduce the garbage collection, but none eliminate the need. One design (can’t find the reference at the moment) has a fluid loop between two reaction chambers, one with fast neutrons, one for slow neutrons.

    • @Walter

      Comparing MSRs to LWRs is like comparing todays cars to Ford Model Ts. It is not difficult to show that they are vastly superior.

      The comparison that you should be making is to Sodium Fast Reactors. SFRs can’t blow up, are walk away safe, will not melt down (metal fuel, pool design), operate at 525C versus 650C for MSRs and 325C for LWR, and “don’t need Billion dollar pressure domes, no 70-150 atmosphere plumbing or triple redundant cooling systems.” MSR and SFRs operate at atmospheric pressure.

      MSRs claim about a 6x improvement in Uranium efficiency versus 150x for a SFR with pyroprocess recycling. SFR do a better job with waste because they can fission transuranics. Sodium is not corrosive of low cost stainless steel while MSRs are corrosive especially with dissolved U, Pu, and actinides. SFR have a life time of 60-100-200 years, while MSRs struggle with 30 years and often require refurbishing after 6 years. SFRs can use Electro Magnetic Pumps to move the sodium so that the reactor has no moving parts.

      Both reactors can use Brayton SCO2 for energy conversion which eliminates the risk of sodium water interaction for SFRs.

      The huge advantage for SFRs is that they are ready to be built. GE SPRISM, based upon the IFR design and 30 years of EBR II operation, has been available since 1998. There are also huge stockpiles of U238 available to fuel SFRs.

      MSRs are still a research project. What type of molten salt will be used, fluoride or chloride? Solid fuel or liquid fuel. U-Pu cycle or Th-U cycle? Thermal or fast neutron? Extent of fuel processing for fission product removal? How to deal with MSR corrosion (ThorCon 6 year replacement of reactors)? How to deal with graphite deformation?

      Given the near impossibility of building anything nuclear in the US with NRC oversight, you can see why the Greens would prefer MSRs over SFRs. SFRs have already undergone preliminary NRC approval (1994).

      The big push for MSRs began about 2006 when SFRs were becoming a real possibility under Bush II. There was GNEP and the Advanced Burner Test Reactor and the Bill Gates traveling wave reactor. Suddenly a large PR campaign for MSRs started up. And there was a few million dollars in venture capital money for various MSR start ups. Never mind that you need several hundred million dollars to license a design with the NRC before you can build one.

      A rational nuclear policy would start building SFRs for electricity production. It would set research on the Uranium carbonate cycle for hydrogen production from water at 650C as a major priority. If the UC cycle works, there is a huge argument for MSRs that operate at 650C. I think building 10-15 different MSR prototypes at Idaho National Lab would be an excellent idea provided that it could be done with little or no NRC oversight.

      Brayton SCO2 is a very high priority for development. Pyroprocess recycling is a very high priority for development. Spending a lot of time on LWR waste is not productive as the waste is actually fuel for SFRs and some MSRs.

  4. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors is the Sustainable, Safer, Cleaner, Cheaper Energy Wave of the Future But the U.S.A. is missing the Boat, Big Time!

      • It exists. The Chinese should have a Thorium reactor operational by 2020. The U.S. Began Building a Thorium Reactor back in the 1940’s.

      • mickledoo, “It exists. The Chinese should have a Thorium reactor operational by 2020. The U.S. Began Building a Thorium Reactor back in the 1940’s.”

        So does it exist or are you forseeing the future?

      • mickeldoo the head of the Chinese programme speaking at a conference at Oak Ridge last year said he expected the first Chinese commercial design to be operating only in the early 2030s

    • LFTR may not be quite what it seems, alas.
      India & China are pursuing LFTR – China the fast track and India the slower.
      India has the largest known reserves of Thorium on earth – mainly in the sand of its East coast beaches.
      BUT despite this, if they were to take the Chinese approach they would still exhaust the resource in finite time.
      So, instead, they are taking a breeder approach using Thorium to “seed” a breeding cycle that uses very conventional reactors and cycles to grow the available Thorium reserve. This approach is essentially no cleaner or safer than standard Uranium based cycles.
      The Chinese are taking the faster somewhat cleaner somewhat safer approach – but reserve depletion is a major issue – and India may be less likely to part with more than a small portion of their reserves, given the approaches they are taking to conserve them.
      Details of all the above is freely available in on-web documents.

      Here is an extremely good regularly updated document from the World Nuclear Association – “Nuclear power in India” – – April 2017 update.

      • Is thorium that rare? I was under the impression that we low reserves – because there was low demand.
        Why look for something no one wants?

      • “Thorium is 3X more Abundant than Uranium and is Abundant as Lead and Molybdenum.”

        And? What’s your point?

      • And all these years I’ve been calling that stuff ” Molly B Denim ”

        ‘splains why nobody knew what the hell I was talking about !

        There’s something very slippery about that molly b denim !


    • LFTRs offer one big advantage over 235-uranium reactors — they do not produce trans-uranics as a waste product, and transuranics produce most of the long-term radiation that make storage more difficult. But, they still produce shorter-lived (radioactive) fission products, which must be separated from the fuel, or else the fission eventually stops and still-good fuel must be discarded with the fission waste.
      Both the LFTRs (where 233-uranium is bred from thorium and is the actual fissioning nuclei) and 235-uranium reactors breed new fuel. (235 reactors breed plutonium.) But the two processes are quite different.

      • 4 big advantages: 1. Cheaper 2. Safer 3.More Sustainable 4.They can Utilize Nuclear Waste For Fuel.

      • Whether they are cheaper and safer cannot be fully determined until some are constructed and used.
        Mickdldoo probably means by “nuclear waste as fuel” that they can convert some of the 232-thorium to 233-uranium, the fission nuclei in LFTRs. True, but degree depends on design. Also, 235-uranium reactors also convert 238U to 239Pu, which is a fission fuel.

      • @donb

        There is a major difference between the U238 to Pu239 process and the Th232 to U233 process. The half life of Pa233 is 27 days with a large capture cross section for thermal neutrons. The half life of Np239 is 2.3 days with a small capture cross section for fast neutrons. This will degrade the breeding efficiency of U233.

        If the Pa233 is separated from the liquid fuel so that it does not undergo neutron bombardment (it is not clear how to do this in real time), then pure U233 will be produced which poses a serious proliferation risk. Thus the Pa233 has to be left in the liquid fuel where it will absorb neutrons and produce Pa234 and its decay products.

        The objective should be to build a reactor with breakeven fissile material production. Both cycles start with U enriched to about 15-20% U235. The Pu cycle converts fertile U238 to fissile Pu239. The Th cycle converts fertile Th232 to fissile U233. A metal fueled Sodium Fast Reactor produces 2.71 neutrons per Pu239 fission and requires about 2.06 neutrons for breakeven operation. There is a lot of room available for leakage, absorption by structural material, absorption by fission products, and recycling losses.

        A thermal U233 fission produces 2.27 neutrons per fission. Assuming 2.06 neutrons is breakeven for this reactor, there is only .21 neutrons available for losses. There is very little structural material in a liquid fuel reactor so that is an advantage. But losses to fission products will be much higher and losses of neutrons to Pa233 and the loss of Pa233 atoms converting to U233 further reduce the margin.

        A breakeven thermal U233 reactor is much more difficult than a breakeven fast metal Pu239 reactor.

        A thermal U233 reactor is also not able to fission the transuranics creating a waste problem. A fast Pu239 reactor will fission the transuranics.

      • I guess I’m not very good with English.

        I ask where one is, and I get told where one is being built.

        If I asked where I could buy a hamburger, would I be told where a new McDonalds was being built ??


  5. “Twice the thermodynamic efficiency means half the sink side heat exchanger cost and half as much heat dumped to the environment”.

    I never understood this, dumping heat to the environment. In Germany they pipe excess heat to commercial/residential facilities for heating, at least what I saw one one visit. Not that attractive, multiple large pipes snaking around above ground.
    My local nuclear plant, fishing on Lake Ontario out-washes bath water warm water by the river-load flushing into the lake, The heat exchanges (cost wise) are obviously capable of transferring this heat to lake water on mass. Iceland uses excess thermal to heat pools. I size small commercial heat exhangers all the time, a 50F differential I could only dream of, although I understand the efficiency of a 2000F differential is so much better. All I am saying is something could be done with it, a wet T-shirt contest in winter at a minimum, help me out here.

    • I think those contests play a little better with cold water.

      You could grow greenhouse tomatoes … marketing … “Large Lake Ontario nucular tomatos, cheep”.

      • I don’t think it would it would take long for the wet T-shirt to get cold enough for the ummmm, “desired” effect you are looking for !! Of course, if you wait too long, there might be a slight problem….

      • ‘Fusion’ Tomatoes, sounds much trendier, the Cali folk will love them. Add a little Polar Bear rub, exotic! Like our Ice Wine (if you like sugary, syrupy like wine that is).

      • are you speaking of your pipes, my pipes, or every male’s pipe doing this at the wet T-shirt contest?

    • Waste heat can be used, the question is whether it can be used cost effectively and if the public will buy using it. John Q public in the US has been scared to death of anything with nuclear tied in with the name. Secondary systems are not radioactive but convincing the public it’s safe to pump through their home for heat is one tough, uphill battle. Secondly, due to public fears we don’t typically site nuclear reactors in the middle of a city so now that hot water has to be pumped miles away to be used. Just how efficient would that be?

    • So what do you think the thermodynamic efficiency of a practical fusion electric power station would be would be ??

      It seems to me, that the only thing you could get out of a fusion reactor, that could pass through the temperature gradient, would be electromagnetic radiation energy.
      So if 6 KK pseudo BB peaks at 0.5 microns, then a 6MK radiation spectrum should peak at 500 picons.

      Where are you going to get a solar cell with that sort of band gap ??


    • I check every few months. Absolutely nothing turns up since the Google Solve for X talk. The evidence suggests the program was taken dark. Supposition. Skunk works wanted Navy support, didn’t get it, went public, and the Navy panicked, folded, took,it dark, and is funding. All kinds of potential advantages over their current nuclear fleet. All the peripheral stuff on high beta magnetic confinement checks out.

      • It’ll be game changing technology if they can get it to work… and it is allowed to go mainstream.

      • Rud,
        Re: ” ….Navy panicked, folded, took,it dark, and is funding. All kinds of advantages over their current nuclear fleet. All the peripheral stuff on high beta magnetic confinement checks out.” Do you have a link or source for this info? Looks like the public information ceased in October 2014.

        A couple of decades back I worked materials for plasma facing and structural containment systems development for both International Tokamak Experimental Reactor (ITER) and Thermonuclear Physics Experiment (TPX), as a McDonnell Douglas employee in St.Louis.

      • ristvan has joined the stupid contest.

        By the way I have two 100+ mpg carburetors for sale. The second one is free, just pay shipping and handling. That charge depends on how stupid you are and how big your credit line is.

  6. There is nothing wrong with the interim solution of combined cycle natural gas power until someone perfects the next energy solution. Combined cycle works and natural gas is cheap and available everywhere thanks to fracking.

    Nuclear needs to get its capital cost and decommissioning cost down as well as solving the radioactivity problem first. Even fusion is sold as if there is no radiation but the typical tritium-deuterium reaction produces massive neutron radiation. You are dead if you spend 5 seconds anywhere near a real fusion reactor. The materials near it are going to get blasted into non-viable radioactive materials. Some other solution is needed

    • Bill, you might find this interesting

      Aneutronic Fusion

      “Aneutronic fusion is, at the moment, the only way known to science to potentially get unlimited, ecologically safe, non-bio hazardous, radioactive-waste & spillage-free power that is cheaper than any energy source now available.

      Aneutronic fusion can be produced using various aneutronic fuels and various fusion devices or generators. Lawrenceville Plasma physics uses hydrogen – boron 11 as an aneutronic fuel for a device called Dense Plasma Focus. This unique combination comprises LPP’s approach to fusion called Focus Fusion.

      Aneutronic fusion means fusion that does not produce any neutrons. This is extremely important because:..”
      Lack the training to know if this even feasible at all.

      • This quote from the site gives the problem with implementing.
        “At extremely high temperatures—billions of degrees—hydrogen nuclei (protons) fuse with boron-11 nuclei”

        What contains such temperatures to permit continuous reaction on power-level scale?

      • Aneutronic fusion is quite feasible at LPPFusion… the experimental reactor has reached temperatures around 3 billion degrees for the few nanoseconds required. Small oxides do form during the reaction and this inhibits achieving required densities for net fusion energy. However, various strategies are being used to solve this problem, including a new set of internal components made from beryllium. These will be installed this summer.

        For a full description on progress and the final phase of achieving fusion, see these lectures at

        Lectures 5 outlines these challenges and progress in resolving them.

      • DonB… The FF-1 fusion reactor proto-type from LPPFusion is configured for pulsed power, like the power of a car engine… the magnetic fields are produced by the current itself, so no contact with the electrodes. Essentially the plasma confines itself, as opposed to external magnetic forces that are intrinsic to the tokomak (and why that design is going nowhere).

        See… Lecture 3-4 in this album

        These lectures describe the dynamics of the dense focus plasma in detail

    • “Nuclear needs to get its capital cost and decommissioning cost down”
      Reducing nuclear capital costs will occur after the NRC is reformed. Radiation safety standards are based upon junk science. The body has biological repair mechanisms for low dose radiation. It is only at high dose rates that damage can not be repaired. Radiation safety standards need to be increased by a factor of about 1000.

      Walk away safe nuclear plants (Sodium Fast Reactors and liquid fuel reactors) are about 1000 times safer than current Light Water Reactor plants. Current light water reactor plants are the safest method of generating electricity by a wide margin.

      Airplanes kill more people every year than nuclear energy has killed in its entire history. The NRC regulatory model should be replaced with a model similar to the FAA. Practically anyone should be approved within 6 months to build a reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory grounds. When the builders have it working, they turn it over to the NRC for six months. If the NRC cant break it in 6 months, the design is licensed. Any utility can purchase and install the reactor with a standard construction permit similar to a coal or natural gas plant. Every 6 months to 1 year, the NRC would send a team to examine the maintenance records at the plant. Using this regulatory model, nuclear energy will quickly become the cheapest energy source.

    • @Bill Illis

      “Nuclear needs to … solve the radioactivity problem first.”

      I take this to mean the radioactivity of spent nuclear fuel.

      This problem has been solved multiple times already from an engineering perspective. This is a political problem.

      There is Yucca Mountain – not a good solution because 24 of 25 tons of spent fuel is not waste, it is additional fuel.

      There is pyroprocess recycling for use with Sodium Fast Reactors. Pyroprocess recycling does not separate the Plutonium from uranium or other transuranics so the proliferation risk is negligible. The fission products are separated at 99.1% and the U, Pu, and other transuranics are fed back into the reactor. The fission products can be stored for 300-400 years and they will return to background levels of radiation.

      There is burial at sea. The waste is mixed with glass, coated in ceramic, coated in steel and dropped overboard into the Pacific where it is 5 miles deep and has mud flats on the bottom. The missile shape will burrow 50 feet into the mud flats. If some radioactive atoms manage to escape the glass, pass thru the ceramic and steel and emerge into the mud, they are most likely heavier and will sink further into the mud. If somehow they float to the surface, they will be at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean that covers about 30% of the Earth’s surface up to 5 miles thick. The Pacific is already slightly radioactive. I doubt that anyone could even measure the increased radioactivity from this leakage.

      There is burial at sea into a subduction zone. As above but the waste is dumped near a subduction zone. Over time, the waste will sink deeper and deeper into the mantle of the Earth until it reaches a magma level and turns into a liquid.

  7. Just out of college, as a young Meteorologist/reporter for WMBD TV in Peoria, Illinois, I was assigned to coverage the turn on of the first ever private nuclear electric plant, the Dresden plant near Morris, Illinois. It was 1960. I interviewed the President of the Plant’s operating unit. The main quote that we used over and over again on television was, “When enough of these atomic plants are on line, electricity will be so cheap we will simply do away with meters on your homes.” The year was 1960. That quote has stuck with me all these years as well as my believe that if we had moved forward with a full conversion to atomic energy it may have well become true.

  8. The next power source will most likely be Thorium LFTRs, which are capable of producing unlimited power for just $0.03/kWh (50% cheaper than coal and CH4).

    China’s first test Thorium reactor goes online this year and they expect to have a commercial design completed by 2030.

    Fusion reactors will eventually replace LFTRs, but when it will be feasible is anyone’s guess.

    The US shouldn’t spend one more dime on grid-level wind and solar boondoggles, which are 6 times more expensive than coal and CH4 power, and 10 times more expensive than Thorium reactor power.

    • Since as of today, there is not a single Thorium LFTR in operation, how do you know it will produce power for $0.03/kWh and not $0.04/kWh ?

      • Michael– The physics and basic design parameters of LFTRS are well known.

        Thorium is dirt cheap, there is no need for expensive cooling towers, no need for expensive and massive containment structures, no need for water cooling system, (no water is required), very small plant size, etc., they are extremely cheap to build and run.

        The $0.03/kWh is an estimate, however, if addditional revenues streams for rare isotopes and possible use of residual waste heat to synthesize hydrocarbons and ocean water desalination are included, the net cost of power could actually be lower.

        We’ll see soon enough.

      • You are funny SAMURAI: “no water is required” … what are you going to turn the steam turbines with?

      • Thorium Reactors use gas turbines, not steam.

        Gas can be heated to 1,200C in thorium Reactors.

        Waste heat from thorium Reactors is around 750C which is sufficent to synthesize hydrocarbons and desalinate ocean water cheaply.

        Light Water Reactors require 70~100 atmospheres of pressure to effectively drive steam turbines, which is why they are so inherently dangerous, and expensive to build and operate.

        The xenon gas contamination also require fuel pellets to be replaced after only burning 2% of U235…

        LFTRs burn 99% of thorium to energy, which makes them much more efficient.

      • What do they do with that super heated gas? Surely they don’t release it straight into the environment.

      • PS: Heating air instead of gas sounds pretty inefficient. The advantage of boiling water is that vapor takes up much more room than the water did providing a huge increase in volume, it is the increase in volume that drives the turbine.

      • Well I can buy the gas turbine thing, instead of steam.

        The internal combustion engine for example is using a gas ( NitrOx), and the petroleum burning is just heating that gas to raise its temperature and pressure. OK so the effluent of the burnt fuel adds to the air, but remember a supercharger just makes sure that more air gets into your engine than atmospheric pressure allows..
        In principle, you could eliminate the gasoline, and simply heat the air with a laser, which of course screws into the former spark plug hole; it’s a HEAT engine.

        So windmill farms are also gas turbines, it’s just that the sun heats the working fluid, out over the oceans, and the acual turbine impellor sits out in a filed by itself, but with a big long intake duct funneling the heated air in through a valley, and an even bigger effluent duct allows the colder exhaust gas to expand into an even bigger valley behind.

        Well of course the Carnot efficiency is pitiful, but the energy is free from the sun, so who gives a rip if its only a few percent efficient. ?

        So yes, a gas turbine engine can run at a lot higher Temperature than a steam engine, and you can make an analog of the old triple expansion ship steam engines (three cylinder) to cool the working fluid, before recycling it back to the heating chamber, for another round trip.

        Down in Key West, the US Navy has some very fancy gas turbine hydrofoil destroyer type things, that go tearing around the Caribbean at speeds that will get you a speeding ticket anywhere in the USA.
        The tarpon fishing guides say they have seen those things ripping along at over 50 knots, and that apparently is not even second gear.

        I hear tell that they also chat on open channels on ordinary marine or CB frequencies.

        Now why the hell would they be doing that ??

        I think it is to tell the Cigarette cargo ships; “Hey Dude; no matter what the hell you guys are running, we can run you down in nothing flat !! ”


    • SAMURAI April 18, 2017 at 6:12 pm: “The next power source will most likely be Thorium LFTRs

      I will make you a bet that the SunCell makes it to ‘market’ before any form of LFTR does …

  9. “Too cheap to meter” is just bad economics. Even if the electricity were free, the required wires, transformers, and poles will never be. There will therefore be a limit to how much infrastructure can be built. So, how do you keep the customers from overloading the infrastructure? Or, to ask the question a different way, how do you allocate the electricity? You meter the electricity of course.

    • Back in the day phone service was ‘too cheap to meter’. The phone company didn’t care if you were on it 20 min a day or 20 hours. If you wanted more then one line however you were charged more for the additional connection. Of course now with everything going online we are seeing bandwidth and download being measured. It all depends on how much you can use and what it costs to produce.

      If the price of producing electricity goes below a certain level then it makes more sense to charge a flat ‘connection’ service price. But that doesn’t mean you won’t have to pay more to use more. Current household service is rated for the maximum Amperage they are rated for, with a small house maybe having a 100A service and a larger one getting a 200A one. And larger apartment building and Supermarkets of course have even higher rated services. It goes all the way up to 10s of thousands of amps for something like an Aluminum smelting plant.

      So, instead of metering how many kw/h you’ve used the power companies of the future will just charge you a monthly connection charge based on what Amperage service you have. (Based on what the average amount of electricity gets used by services of that rating)

      Still, some places (cough california cough) may continue to meter just so they can continue telling people how much they can have. Regulators and enviro busybodies won’t give up their power over people just because it doesn’t make sense anymore.

      • re: “Back in the day phone service was ‘too cheap to meter’.

        Possibly (likely) a “synthesized” memory (or sarcasm?); On the serious side, I don’t recall a time where this was ever true, excluding perhaps present day (as evidenced by the ‘unlimited plans’ offered by various carriers, but even thee have ‘caps’).

        Do you recall the days of “party lines”? I do. Party lines were a solution to the problem of limited ‘plant’ resources such as too few ‘discrete’ lines (cable pairs) to customer premises from the COm (central office or ‘switch’).

        There were or STILL are (in some cases) resource limitations such as interoffice trunk line capacity which run between switches or ‘central offices’.

      • Jim,
        I had “unmetered” wired phone service for many years. All “unmetered” means is that I didn’t pay per minute for phone usage. I just paid a flat fee per month for phone service, regardless of how many minutes I spent on the phone. Now I have a wireless plan that includes “unlimited” (unmetered) voice and text messages. Only the data usage is metered.

      • When I was a kid back in the 60’s and 70’s, local phone service was a flat fee service regardless of how many minutes you used.
        If you can find a land line, I believe it still operates on this principle.

      • “If you can find a land line, I believe it still operates on this principle.”

        That’s correct. I just gave up my landline last year. $55 per month. I pay about the same for a smartphone, but the smartphone allows me to call longdistance without extra charges. You had to pay extra on the landline.

        I miss the telephone receiver on the landline. It was much easier to talk using it than the smartphone. I saw an ad for a telephone receiver that plugs into an Iphone the other day. I think I’ll get myself one. :)

        One good thing about that landline: I could always get on the internet, even though it was a little slow. At one time, that was an important factor. I was trading stocks and sometimes I just *had* to get online.

        One day I *had* to get online and sell my 1500 shares of Amazon at $35. I should have hung on to that stock, but I was daytrading, so that wasn’t my focus. I think Amazon has gone up a little since then.

      • Haven’t had a land line in about a decade. Even so I don’t remember it being that expensive.
        Could it be that since a large number of people have gotten rid of their land lines, that the cost of the network is being born by an ever shrinking base?
        If so, land lines won’t be around too much longer. There are some pretty basic phones and plans that cost a lot less than that.

      • MarkW April 19, 2017 at 8:52 am

        … If you can find a land line …

        I keep a landline and have POTS (plain old telephone service). In an emergency I don’t have to worry about not being able to charge batteries.

      • The landline did cost about half that much say 15 years ago, but they have steadily increased the cost over the years.

      • You guys have forgotten about those inter-exchange calls – for which you were charged by the minute and you paid dearly (it was called “long distance” in those days)!

        See, those inter-exchange ‘trunks’ were a limited (constricted) resource.

        Didn’t I mention trunks in my first post?

        I think I did …

  10. The problem with fusion is that in order to force the components to fuse, they have to be heated to effective temperatures measured in the hundreds of thousands of degrees, and those temperatures maintained to permit continuous fusion. No material container can withstand such temperatures. Experimental approaches used are magnetic bottles and lasers. Magnetic bottles, so far, have a disadvantage that the magnetic field distorts with high temperature plasma. Lasers can only heat small volumes, insufficient for large-scale power production. I imagine that fusion energy on a large scale will not occur anytime soon.

  11. The small nuclear “Rickover” plants on submarines are a solution looking for a customer. These plants can each power a small city with no large factories. Each module requires but 4 operators. The modules can be separated and operated separately much like a conventional oil energy plant. They are obviously most useful near water. They are so small and tough that damage is unlikely. They are also very easy to contain because of their small size.

    • “The small nuclear “Rickover” plants on submarines are a solution looking for a customer.”

      Yes, that makes a lot of sense. We need to do a little “outside the box” thinking sometimes.

  12. Flow systems must be globally engineered to be globally efficient. Energy is free. That is the easy part, the generation.

  13. twice the thermodynamic efficiency is of course achieved by twice as much cooling and heat recovery circuits .

    nuclear is as cheap t build as anything else, ex of regulatory overburden

    we pay a high price for deliberately fostered fear…

    • Yeah, the early ‘debunkers’ (those that failed to successfully replicate P&F) have been debunked.

      I would refer you to the first five minutes of one of the several talks Dr. Peter Hagelstein has given for several years at a forum held at MIT on this subject.

    • The science of cold fusion is solid for the Palladium-Deuterium system. But that’s a world of difference from commercially viable. Here’s part 1 of 8 of a talk for mostly general audience by Michael McKubre:

      And here’s what a US Navy lab has been doing in cold fusion for the past 20 years: Warning: It’s a lot more technical.
      The Nickel-Hydrogen science is not yet proven (at least in my opinion)

  14. I was going to say, how could you mention the lure of free energy and fusion in the same breath but not mention cold fusion?

  15. Just to say that electricity demand is decreasing in many places, e.g. the UK, thanks to more efficient electric devices and in particular LED lighting (street lighting especially)

    Allied to that the UK is making great strides in demand management and demand shifting, reducing the need for electricity use at peak times.

    And of course solar and wind mean the UK uses less and less natural gas (our coal plant use is now negligible March to October)

    finally, the first offshore wind proposal which needs no subsidy whatever was just proposed in Germany…

    Onshore wind in the UK can now also be built operate without subsidy (but govy is not allowing any more)

  16. Its lovely to dream innit – I was (still am) a bit of a Star Trek fan as well.

    Its always a pi$$er when reality, and other people of course, come into play.
    My example would be the National Health Service (NHS) here in the UK
    It is ‘free to its users’ and hence massively oversubscribed and used. So. like free energy, it still has to come from somewhere and be delivered and that’s where a bottomless money-pit develops.
    So it will be with free energy, unless you’re Captain Kirk/Picard/Janeway/whoever.
    But even they gave their engineer plenty grief. Why? Because they always wanted more.

    Sticking with Star Trek, where did their food come from? They still ate didn’t they. Are we proposing something like they had – talk to a box in the wall and some munchies appears? Energy to mass conversion on demand?
    We better had because we are going to run out of dirt. (Food, or places to grow it)
    The carbon dioxide in the sky is that signal (it is burnt dirt) and that CO2 is relentlessly being sucked into the ocean – from where we won’t see it again for 10’s of millions of years. Only then a small part when it gets puffed out of a Vesuvius somewhere. CO2 ‘fertilisation’ is a desperate attempt by plants to reclaim that CO2 before its lost effectively forever. (Negative feedback)
    And that’s before the dirt simply washes away with the rain, I’ve said it before – Rivers/creeks/streams should NOT run brown/yellow/red after a rain event – yet we have all come to accept that as ‘normal’
    And no-one will take on that idea, or think about it or talk about it because sugar, as a prime part of our modern diet, makes us lazy, can’t be bothered, argumentative and always ready to pass the buck.

    • We are no where close to running out of places to grow food.
      In fact until recently we were feeding more people on less land.
      The only reason why total farmland has been increasing is because of the food to fuel nonsense.

  17. I think nuclear will always be attractive just from the total energy aspect, but the technological challenges arise from that same property. Getting energy from breaking a chemical bond at the rate of 3.6eV per molecule versus breaking a nuclear bond offering energy at 8 MILLION eV per molecule is always going to seem like a challenge worth tackling. But that very property is what will cause many to say ‘not in my backyard!’ And it isn’t difficult to understand. I don’t want my neighbor fabricating TNT in his basement either. Although one could wish the ‘pros’ of nuclear energy were as well known as the ‘cons.’ One ‘for instance:’ The plant at Red Wing MN has been running for over 40 years. Every molecule of fuel used to produce 40 years worth of energy from its two units (at roughly 560 MW each) is still on site. [read that sentence one more time] The recently replaced fuel assemblies are cooling in a pool roughly the size of a handball court [and it is rather amazing to stand on the catwalk over it seeing the blue cherenkov radiation at the bottom of the pool while holding a dosimeter registering… nothing!]. The older assemblies are in dry storage casks on a cement pad about the size of two tennis ball courts. A coal plant that had produced the same amount of energy would have spread 50% of its molecules up the stack and still left behind enough ash to fill the old Metrodome many times a year. For 40 years. To me, that is a manageable issue, and in fact, one of the best things about that source of power. Every Damn Molecule!

    • The only reason why the fuel is still on site is that the government has been taxing the utilities to build a repository, but refuses to build that repository.
      That and the fact that Carter killed reprocessing.

      • And I still wonder why Carter’s ‘rule’ still stands. It is not a law passed by Congress, or a SC ruling. It ought to worth no more than the paper it was written on.

    • re: “Getting energy from breaking a chemical bond at the rate of 3.6eV per molecule versus breaking a nuclear bond offering energy at 8 MILLION eV per molecule ”

      What about taking an electron to a _lower_ energy state or level than is conventionally thought to be possible? Have you kept up with advancements in the area?

  18. Apparently Popovich doesn’t keep up with nuclear technology. THE big 800 pound gorilla in the room is the molten salt reactor, powered either by nuclear wastes, low level uranium that would not be a proliferation problem, or Thorium. The cost will not be too cheap to meter, but will be the cheapest power available. Period. Also totally safe, incapable of meltdowns or ejection of radioactive material to any appreciable area. Can be built in factories very quickly and site preparation requirements are a tiny fraction of those required for todays massive nuclear reactors. These plants can be located in cities, on geological faults, etc. Some designs don’t even require water cooling. Cost estimates are for $2 per watt to build, with levelized cost of less than 4 cents per kWhr, perhaps less than 3 1/2 cents. China and India are going full speed ahead in the development of these types of reactors, and more than a half dozen different designs are being developed around the world. They are the future of power and are not intrinsically new – they have been built and operated as test reactors for over half a century – only the lack of materials , lack of any dissatisfaction with light water reactor designs, and bright ideas prevented them from achieving practicality – previously they had such a constricted reactor core area that they needed to use highly enriched uranium to produce acceptable power output levels. But no longer.

  19. It should be noted that there is no urgency. Man has adequate fuel for generations from existing technology and reserves.

  20. re: “If any nuclear proponents on WUWT have solutions to this problem …”

    Here may lie your problem, Buckwheat; You’re limiting your ‘domain’ such that your ‘range’ is limited as well. IOW, this is a classic ‘domain and range’ problem; limit your scope of ‘range’ (solutions) regarding solving the energy problem to one domain or ‘theater’ (one range of solutions) and MISS another, easier solution RIGHT before your very noses.

    Going further: QM has failed you, and it will take the next ‘replacement’ generation to ‘set things straight’ and correct the erroneous path that was chosen MUCH earlier on (about 100 years ago now).

    ristvan has already dead-ended in this regard, and will not be finding his way out of this dilemma anytime soon owing to commuted rigidity of thought EVEN IN LIGHT OF demonstrated lab results and experimentation over a decade time frame now showing the obverse of his proffered conjecture.

  21. I remember the “atoms for peace” meme back in the ’50s more than I do hiding under desks . And cheap nuclear plants were clearly feasible if you could fit one in a submarine .

    Popular Science would have cover illustrations of one or another peaceful use — like blasting out a harbor where one was needed .

    I only just learned that the Russians really did blast out a lake : .

  22. I never really know what to make a press releases such as the one linked below regarding fusion by inertial confinement at the Z machine at Sandia. Can’t tell if its PR to try and maintain funding, or a promising result. I do know the thing produces some startling effects such as causing the screen image on a CRT to bounce around in my classroom at Sandia back in the late 90’s.

  23. Thorium based molten salt reactors are indeed a very attractive proposition. However, there’s a new kid on the block!
    The old joke about Fusion always being 30 years away has been turned on its head. The problem, as many have pointed out, is keeping plasma at 100 million degrees in a bottle but this has been solved. High temperature (liquid nitrogen) superconductors are now commercially available. Not only do they super conduct without needing liquid helium as a coolant but more importantly they carry on doing so in a high magnetic field strength environment making it easier to keep the plasma stable. This means fusion reactors can now be built much smaller than the experimental ITER experiment which is to all intents and purposes now out of date before it’s even finished. (In my opinion.)
    The latest and to my mind, most promising design uses a molten salt blanket which captures neutrons and more importantly contains Lithium which the neutrons turn into Tritium. (A breeder reaction.) The Tritium is then returned to the plasma to join the Deuterium there to feed the fusion reaction. The molten salt is pumped through a heat exchanger to run a gas turbine. (Cheaper to build than a steam power station although in a commercial plant both techniques could be employed together if the economics suggested it should.) The molten salt is called Flibe from its constituents: (F Li Be).
    Both Deuterium and Lithium are relatively abundant so fuel cost would be low and probably insignificant compared with general running costs.
    In the light of this it’s no small wonder that the Chinese are sticking with coal for the time being since as we all know, in spite of what Al Gore tells us about Mann made Global Warming, we won’t be water-skiing in Lower Manhattan during rush-hour any time soon. i.e. there is plenty of time to carry on with coal until this technology comes on stream. (And if for some reason it doesn’t molten salt fission would definitely be the way to go.)
    Of course, on our side of the pond, that hasn’t stopped our ‘clever’ politicians from buying a huge, splendid, expensive and soon to be obsolete, fission power station known as Hinckley because of the ‘climate crisis’ from, yes, you’ve guessed it, the Chinese. Clever the Chinese.
    Perhaps, on your side of the pond, someone should be having a quiet word in someone’s ear about something called running for a second term because the truth will out.
    Expect to see all sorts of unlikely unexpected new adherents to the Global Warming crisis in the near future as they try to protect their technologies.
    For those who think I’m making this up as I go along (I wish I was that clever!) here are two links.
    The first gives an overview. The part on Tokamaks starts at 38:24. I suggest you first watch the beginning to get a feel for the basics before skipping to the Tokamaks when your head starts to hurt!

    This link is more engineering based but gives a better idea of how it all works.

  24. “Randy Bork
    I think nuclear will always be attractive just from the total energy aspect, but the technological challenges arise from that same property. Getting energy from breaking a chemical bond at the rate of 3.6eV per molecule versus breaking a nuclear bond offering energy at 8 MILLION ev.”

    Actually the energy relased from a one fission U238 is about 200 mev (Strong Interaction), in addition the fission products (2 or more) releases energy of about .01 to 2 mev(weak- interaction

  25. The phrase “too cheap to meter” brings back memories, and some truth.

    I remember listening to my Dad and other adults in 1960 talking, and laughing, about that phrase “too cheap to meter.” They were all in the energy business in one form or another, including utilities such as electricity and natural gas. The government official that speculated about electricity “too cheap to meter” was clearly not serious, nor was he taken seriously by those in the industries.

    The fact was, even then, that energy was only a small part of the price of a utility. Natural gas had the gas itself as only a fraction of the delivered cost, with transmission through high-pressure gas pipelines constituting another substantial fraction, then pressure reduction and distribution as another fraction.

    Electricity, too, had the traditional three parts to the retail price: generation, transmission at high voltage, and transforming plusdistribution at much lower voltages.

    What was also clear even in 1960 was that retail price for industrial electricity was 1.1 cent per kWh, as can be confirmed by examining the US Energy Information Agency Annual Energy Review for 2012, Table 8.10.

    What a nuclear plant must do, to compete with a coal-fired plant even in the 1960s, was replace the coal-burning portion of a power plant with a nuclear-powered system. The nuclear steam supply system, or NSSS as it is known in nuclear circles, had to only a small amount more than the coal-based boiler system to account for the much lower cost of nuclear fuel compared to coal as fuel. The big question was, can a NSSS by built at the same cost as a coal-fired steam supply system? The answer, even back then, was absolutely not.

    For starters, the NSSS had to have larger pumps to circulate much more steam since the steam would be saturated and not superheated. Next, the reactor required expensive alloy metal. Then, a containment building was required. Next, emergency cooling systems were required. Even the cooling water system, the condensers and associated pumps, had to be larger to account for the greater steam rates.

    The only thing the nuclear plant had as an advantage was a supposed endless supply of very cheap fuel.

    Of course, all of that came to pass and nuclear plants cost far, far more than a comparable coal-powered plant.

    But, no one in the industry who was serious ever believed the statement “too cheap to meter.”

    • And of course the cost of dismantling a nuclear plant at the end of its life is vastly greater…

      UK firms involved in this at present have found costs vastly exceed the payments expected…

      German power companies yet to dismantle their reactors are worrying about the cost

      • What about the cost of disassembling a windfarm Grifter, including removing the tens of thousands of concrete from the foundations, removing all the pylons from the power lines and making good all the network of access roads?

        Ah, but nobody bothers about that, do they?

        As I recollect, there are currently around 14,000 of the things, abandoned and just rotting, poisoning the environment and creating massive eyesores.

        But hey, you don’t give a flying dog’s testicle for the environment really, do you?

        You just draw a few quid for fronting up for spivs like Al Gore, “Sir” Reg Sheffield, Chris Huhne and John Gummer by lying on blogs, and who cares what happens out there in the real World.

      • For catweazle — actually, we upgrade the older, inefficient and worn out wind turbines with modern, efficient ones. There’s a booming business in wind farm upgrades. Plus recycling income from the materials in the ones removed.

        The wind across the site hasn’t changed, it’s still as good as ever. Better wind turbines are installed to harvest more free energy from the wind.

        You could look it up; it made the news.

      • Here’s an article on BP upgrading many of its wind turbines in the US.

        “The updates involve swapping out aging equipment, such as gearboxes, drive trains and blades, while keeping existing towers and foundations. BP expects the upgraded technology to improve efficiency and reliability while increasing overall energy output.”

        This is but one of many, many such upgrade projects.

        Technology on blade efficiencies, mechanical and electrical improvements, even tower heights or tower spacing can all be modified or improved to give better economics. The big advantage to an upgrade is much of the infrastructure is already in place and needs zero investment. That would include the power transmission lines.

  26. And then there is the cost of insurance. In Great Britain there is a government cap on liability so in effect there is no insurance for a Fukushima style event. If this was honestly done and the actuaries got to work on real risks the cost would probably be through the roof. Better to stick with coal until molten salt or fusion reactors come on stream in my view like the Chinese.

    • Of course there would no longer be a Great Britain if it had a natural disaster like Japan. Michael would be buried in burning ruble until he drowned in the tsunami. Radioactive contamination would be the least of his worries.

      The US industry is self insured. The public has never had to pay a dime for an accident at a US nuke plant.

      Since I am not scum sucking, ambulance chasing California lawyer like Roger, I do not know what the ramifications would be in the US.

      I once rendered assistance to a boater in California who was under the influence. After getting him, his date, and boat to a marina; he thanked me and gave me his card. He was a personal injury trial attorney. My responsibility to render assistance should have been to call the coast guard.

      Now, the old fashioned way of getting rich in America is to sue someone.

      When Roger or Michael grabs his chest with a heart attack, he wants some x-navy nuke power guy to remember his CPR training. There is real risk in the world but it is not from radiation from a nuke plant.

      • Retired Kit P as a retired electrical engineer I’m aware that radiation from a fission plant is not a problem. Indeed I read somewhere that a coal-fired plant, depending on the coal its burning, often releases even more radiation into the atmosphere! My point is cost. Britain has gone from being the world’s super-power before world-war one to a few submarines, a hand-full of surface vessels and a national debt which on a per capita basis is probably worse than that of the US. It’s done that on fission which is something like 3 or 4 times the cost of coal and as a result we’ve seen our heavy and strategic industries move to communist China and elsewhere where coal is still king.

        … and now we’ve just started building a huge new fission plant, because of, according to the nice lady running our country at the moment, the climate crisis!

        I’m all for nuclear if it can deliver energy cheaper than coal. I think that molten-salt reactors might do the trick. The fuel is cheap and the plants are small. They operate at very high temperatures which makes them thermodynamically more efficient than coal or fission. The technology is already proven. Oh and they’re fail-safe. If they lose power they simply stop working!

        Having said that though I think fusion will eclipse them all due to the invention of liquid nitrogen cooled superconductors that (and this is more important) tolerate a very high magnetic field strength. This new breakthrough now makes it possible to sustain plasma at a steady state. Scroll up to my first comment and check out the links. They’re doing some exciting stuff at MIT!

        Finally, back in the day, as a light infantry officer in the South African defence force I know to keep myself fit which is why at 70 I still bench my own body-weight and regularly run 10 miles although I will admit I’m not that quick and could no longer do this with a Bren-gun and spare ammunition! When my time comes and my heart attacks me or some such as I know it must, I have 5 children and 6 grand-children (and counting) to carry the family flame. My oldest grandson is 13 and already 6’ 4”.

        Oh and we already have a tsunami here in the you kay. They wear pyjamas and night caps in the day-time, speak in strange tongues and love their explosives.

  27. Griff, yes decommissioning costs far more.

    Omaha Nebraska recently closed the Fort Calhoun reactor early due to unending operating losses.

    Now April 18 2017 news article reports an additional US$ 1 billion will be charged to customers to cover the decommissioning.

    Omaha World Herald has the story.

    • Neglecting the fact that the money has already been collected for the decommissioning fund and set aside.

      Of course Roger know that which makes him a liar.

  28. “I am not a student of nuclear power but…”

    How stupid is that! People who bother to study a subject are much less likely to say stupid things.

    Electricity from most sources is too cheap to meter. The purpose of the meter is so government will get its share.

    Coffee is too cheap to charge for. Come to my house and coffee is free. Bring your bill electric bill and I will explain why your electricity is too cheap to meter.

    The cost of electricity to make a cup of coffee less 1 cent and the coffee beans maybe 5 cents. Sit down in a restaurant, coffee is $2-4 and ice water is free. It takes more electricity to make ice.

    So if you made a decision on each use of power for each family member is just too cheap to not use. If each cup of hot coffee , cold glass of soda or bottle of beer that each family member enjoyed each day for 30 days came with a bill separated by product and the associated cost of electricity what would you say?

    Electricity is too cheap to meter!

    The retail cost of a long hot shower is 25 cents. That includes the salaries of engineers like me. Operators of shift, security, maintenance, nuclear fuel, decommissioning and containment buildings, everything. Your power is delivered with 999999 reliability.

    Thanks for all the suggestions on how think you can do it better than the power industry. What I want to know is what you do for a living. I sure I can come up with a few suggestions on how to do things better.

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