Nobody’s Fuel – an engineer’s guide to saving the planet

Nobody’s Fuel – an engineer’s guide to saving the planet On a road trip to the heart of an ailing planet [sic] with a message of hope. This documentary about nuclear energy may change the way you see the greening of the planet.

HT/Brian RC

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Peter W Watson
January 2, 2021 2:46 am

Nuclear power is the future; in particular PBMRs should be developed. Wind and solar can not supply today’s energy requirements let alone the next century’s.

Reply to  Peter W Watson
January 2, 2021 2:52 am

Wind and solar can not supply wind and solar’s energy needs.

Reply to  DonM
January 2, 2021 3:29 am

…but at least we have juice when the national power company shuts down our neighbourhood to fulfill their contractual obligations to the unneeded, mostly inoperative foreign-owned aluminium smeltery five hundred miles thattaway.
In case you wonder, smelters can never be switched off, they have to be kept warm, even though the world is so overrun with scrap metal, no-one needs to buy expensive “virgin metal”.

Doug Huffman
Reply to  paranoid goy
January 2, 2021 4:01 am

Recycled aluminum must also be re-refined and smelted. But you are right, smelters cannot be allowed to cool.

In South Carolina the aluminum smelters have a dedicated hydroelectric power supply. A common sight on the highway is truck loads of huge carbon electrodes.

Reply to  Doug Huffman
January 2, 2021 11:00 pm

On the same lines my brother-in-law has a plastics factory and the only time it stops running is at Xmas time when everyone has to take there yearly holiday as to close the machines down and then restart them is very expensive. They run twenty four seven for the rest of the year

Reply to  Peter W Watson
January 2, 2021 5:14 am

Never heard of a PMBR. What I want is the fastest build cheapest nuclear right now. I’ll debate technology later. No reactor being built today is bad or dangerous., We have plenty of uranium. We dont need breeders. Design is not an issue. Cost and speed of implementation are. In about 5 years time the world is going to wake up to the fact that renewables are not working and will never work. And that EROEI of fossil is diminishing pushing up the real costs.

We need nuclear in the starting blocks by then.

Breeders didn’t get scrapped because they didnt work, or politics. They got scrapped because they were more expensive. And uranium was cheap. It’s even cheaper today. And whats left over – depleted uranaium and plutonium – is marvellous fuel if your uranium supply gets cut off. Mix em together and put em in a stock reactor.

We just need ANY nuclear the idiots will let us build.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Leo Smith
January 2, 2021 7:36 am

The idiots need to be sidelined- They’ll always be idiots. They refuse any education on fundamental engineering concepts like power density, entire life cycle carbon footprints, AC electrical grid stability.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
January 2, 2021 7:58 am

Jane Fonda and friends continue to do a lot of damage.

Reply to  Leo Smith
January 2, 2021 9:03 am

I agree with your opinion that nuclear is the answer and now is the time however Jimmy Carter blocking breeder reactors was purely political.

The reality is that using highly enriched fissile materials in the next generation of SMR will allow for a much higher on line % and variability of output in a smaller mass producible package. The fear of terrorists getting their hands on “bomb making materials” essentially eliminated by the RARE occurrence of refueling, only every 25 year of so, thus the ability to have specific crews supported by proper security to oversee the refueling and transport of “waste” to reprocessing facilities as necessary.

Reply to  Drake
January 2, 2021 1:33 pm

Current technology, such as pressureized water-cooled reactors are not “safe”. Three Mile Island was only 11 miles away from where I lived at the time. It was poorly designed, required extensive learning and experience to run, with complex and poorly designed controls and work stations. The fact that it was a pressureised water reactor made recovery impossible, due to the nature of the failure and confusion for the operators.

Current designs for much smaller, unpressurized, modular reactors are much better and all are being designed to be “turn it off and walk away safe”. Once they are shut down the reactor will stop and cool off by itself without any electricity, pumps, or other intervention.

Interested Observer
Reply to  Philo
January 2, 2021 11:46 pm

“… confusion for the operators.”

Jack Lemmon did a skit about that but, I can’t seem to find it online. He’s about to retire as the chief Reactor Operator and he tells his replacement:

“Just remember, you can never put too much water in the reactor.”

Reply to  Interested Observer
January 3, 2021 12:40 pm

This sketch: It doesn’t play in Australia, probably because we’re not allowed to have nuclear power here until we figure out what he meant.

Doug Huffman
Reply to  Philo
January 3, 2021 4:26 am

Rank safety-ism brought us TMI. Three Mile Island? No, Too Much Information. The control room had more than a hundred times as many indications and control as the safest of all PWR.

The rest of your drivel is just more ignorant drivel. TMI was just about the best of all possible accidents.

Reply to  Doug Huffman
January 3, 2021 12:35 pm

TMI was so terrible that people growing up only 11 miles away can tell us how terrible it was 42 years later.

Reply to  Philo
January 3, 2021 12:26 pm

Right. So unsafe that someone who grew up 55 miles away is telling someone who grew up 11 miles away how lucky he was to survive the worst reactor incident in US history, 42 years later. Good lessons leaned. Not a single production reactor in the world is “walk away” safe today, but perhaps someday. Luckily, TMI is not “current technology”.

Reply to  Leo Smith
January 2, 2021 9:06 am

I agree. That is the point Michael Shellenberger makes in his recent book. Never mind the fancy new stuff, the nuclear tech we have now is well understood and safe.

Richard (the cynical one)
Reply to  Peter W Watson
January 2, 2021 11:07 am

Wind and solar and dried buffalo dung can easily supply future energy requirements, as long as several billion extraneous persons could see their way to just die already, and if the rest (except for the entitled elites) learned how satisfying it would be to live in hovels, eking out a subsistence existence with their trusty dibble sticks.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
January 3, 2021 3:14 pm

Not quite Back to the Future, but in that direction.

alastair gray
January 2, 2021 3:30 am

He sings from the global warming hymsheet a bit too loudly, but I agree that a shift to Nuclear is nothing but beneficial to humanity so even as an ex fossil fuel devotee I can easily get behind this policy- Never thought to make common cause with Jim Hansen and Bob Geldof but my first priority is to avoid catastrophic bankrupting of Western economies and subsequent totalitarian takeover.

Jim Clarke
Reply to  alastair gray
January 2, 2021 10:53 am

I am beginning to wonder if it is too late. Technically, the Western economy is bankrupt and we are discovering that the totalitarians have already taken over much more than we thought. The global economy is a house of cards that is held up by support beams of imaginary value. As long as we all pretend they exist, the house magically stays up, but it only takes one to decide that it is not worth it to dump more resources into keeping the illusion alive.

David A
Reply to  Jim Clarke
January 2, 2021 10:55 pm

Yes Jim, yet regardless of when or how this global house of cards falls we will be better off with increased nuclear.

Reply to  alastair gray
January 2, 2021 1:37 pm

Technically both China, and possible the EU are bankrupt too. Neither is as transparent as the US is the only difference.
While the US may technically be bankrupt, no surprise given the profligate spending and atrocious COVID policies, the other two can function without it.

Reply to  alastair gray
January 3, 2021 12:37 pm

Great to see Doug’s video on this channel. It’s massive work on his part and all solid data based engineering behind every statement..

Doug is the best in the World on doing this at a law level. IMO. I have followed his work since his global tour in 2008.

He has more than 25 years of professional analysis behind this work. And he communicates the reality of what it means to real people, not techies.

David Mackay, Caesare Marchetti, Vaclav Smil, don’t come close in their communications, too academic and don’t make the simple conclusions for people.

Doug avoids debating the reality of CO2 as a cause of observed climate change, which he understands well, because if you simply state the energy obvious that we need to replace fossil energy with something more energy dense, sustainable and also zero CO2 – this is it. And the safest modality of all. What he wants is arational future enrgy supply to replace fossil, and there can be only one, as he knows. Why have an argument that doesn’t help the rational energy solution with irrational zealots?

And yes, as observed above, inventing great new technolgies when we only just perfected the first one is simply irrational. We don’t need new technology, we need new legislation and energy reality to be established that is grounded in what works, using proven methods and materials we can mass produce to lower the price per unit, which can now be done. Simples.

What we have works great after 50 years of getting it right, and the other technologies mostly require extreme temperatures hence materials technologies. These need decades of development to establish material integrity – for decades at 800 degrees in high radiation fields. That will happen with the Russion Fast Breeder and the TRISO fuelled helium cooled thermal fission reactors. Also happens in super critical coal plants.

BUT, there is no rush when we have passively safe thermal fission reactors we have not yet built in quantity to get the pay back from the first round of perfected thermal fission technology.

WE have LOTS of cheap Uranium fuel, supply is sustainable while rocks erode to the sea, and we DO know what to do with the spent fuel. The only thing slowing nuclear waste processing is its uneonomic to reprocess spent fuel and to dispose of the small quantity of fission waste. So perhaps that needs a subsidy which can become a cost of nuclear power once the backlog os processed. That is a cost that the industry can easily take on itself once the plants are built in volume.

What nuclear energy need now is political will to roll out safe and proven technology. . No new technology required – at least for a hundred years or so. KISS applies.

January 2, 2021 3:44 am

O/T Thanks for the first time since the the change to WUWT website I am able to read the stories and comments without the giant rating stars and the giant +,- and return symbols.

I am pleased to be able to follow WUWT again.

January 2, 2021 4:21 am

The Indian reactor is still a year away – at least. It has taken a looooong time to build.

Coal is not in short supply in Australia. There is probably enough coal sitting in ships off China right now to power Australia for another year or so but would be hard to bring it back home. The globe still has a long way to go to get atmospheric CO2 levels up to a healthy life support level. Imagine the day when CO2 starts to reduce and the global population has lost the ability to recover and burn fossils. How long before plant life struggles to survive. That is a real risk maybe in the next 1000 years. Climate Change is a figment of deranged minds and poses no threat to humanity other than the religious zealotry that surrounds the belief.

All the actual air pollution from burning fossil fuels can be relatively easily controlled by modern technology. Those heavily polluted cites in India and China are the result of using dated technology.

Australia also has the world’s largest proven reserves of uranium so that is also OK.

It would seem a lot smarter for the world to be investing in better fission heaters than the insanity of building wind turbines. I agree on that aspect.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  RickWill
January 2, 2021 7:40 am

“Imagine the day when CO2 starts to reduce….”. Exactly what the nut jobs are planning here in Massachusetts. They’re saying just stopping 100% of “carbon pollution” just ain’t enough- so they talk of locking up all the forests so they can sequester carbon and bring down the level of CO2 in the atmosphere. Of course that means everyone should give up wood as a raw material for buildings, furniture, paper products, etc. And those here saying this already have those products.

Stephen Richards
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
January 2, 2021 8:31 am

How will they stop the oceans emitting GTs of CO² every year

Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
January 2, 2021 9:18 am

And all those buildings made from wood products ARE sequestering CARBON. ANd taking that wood from forests gives more room for more CARBON sequestration. I sit i my LOG cabin surrounded by tons of wood which will sequester the CARBON contained therein for possibly hundreds of years if properly maintained.

Just think of all the poor living in undersized hovels made of continuously deteriorating organic materials due to the environmentalists insistence that they have nothing better. Build a few billion 1000 sq. ft. wood framed houses, sequester a bunch of CARBON. Use wood siding for even more CARBON. Use cellulose insulation for even more CARBON. And if you promise to cover the roof with solar panels, how can the greens complain? The solar output would be essentially worthless, but it is the price to pay for getting anything positive done in today’s world.

The Stupid, it Burns.

Reply to  RickWill
January 2, 2021 11:17 pm

The joke is that there is about a Billion tonnes of coal sitting off Chinas coast but because the Chinees are being obstreperous prats they are letting their citizens suffer major blackouts because their coal is crap.
When I was in England years ago this guy skited as to how he had scored a bag of coal. Sadly for him it was smelting coal and it cost him way more than if he had actually bought the right stuff.

Shawn Marshall
January 2, 2021 4:41 am

Whatever government controls it destroys. That’s why we have the surreality of windmill farms and solar plantations while nuclear development is ignored. Small, fgail safe plants located on the load centers will even eliminate the need for new transmission lines. How many years have we had nuclear subs and aircraft carriers?

John Tillman
Reply to  Shawn Marshall
January 2, 2021 5:58 am

Sixty-five years.

January 2, 2021 6:00 am

In the long run, too much linear thinking is not very productive

January 2, 2021 6:31 am

This documentary is dead wrong in supporting fast breeder reactors. The claim that these reactors are unique in their efficacy in burning uranium is dead wrong. Molten salt reactors can also burn spent fuel from conventional reactors and their residue will remain dangerously radioactive for a mere 130 years, versus the fast breeder reactor’s 500 years. And the cost and safety of molten salt reactors is a fraction of the cost of building and operating a fast breeder reactor. And the claim that fast breeder reactors have an advantage of being available “right now” is just plain dumb : molten salt reactors will be available as small modular reactors within the next ten years and, more importantly , they can be built in factories, very quickly and also installed on sites which require very little preparation and do not require cooling bodies of water. IN 20 years, the capacity of molten salt reactors could be many times that of fast breeder reactors. Molten salt fuel is very proliferation resistant as well. No matter how you view it, molten salt reactors are infinitely superior to fast breeder or conventional reactors, producing power for half the cost. They can also be powered by Thorium if desired. The cost of fuel for any reactor is a tiny fraction of the overall operating costs : a fraction of a cent per kilowatt hour.
Estimated cost of power from a molten salt reactor is about 4 cents per kWhr, roughly half that of conventional or fast breeder reactors. Molten salt reactors are the future, not fast breeder reactors. Anyone with knowledge of these two technologies would reject fast breeder reactors as a very inferior technology.
This documentary is ridiculously ignorant of future nuclear technologies.

Reply to  ColMosby
January 2, 2021 9:17 am

Col, if the molten salt reactor is powered by Thorium then it IS a breeder reactor. Thorium is not fissile, it must capture a neutron and transmute to U-233 before it can produce energy. U-233 is weapons usuable – more difficult to handle than plutonium but it can be weaponized. Other than that, I agree that currently there is no need for breeder reactors. I worked in the Japanese breeder Monju. It had just started and had a fire from a leak in its liquid sodium coolant (liquid sodium reacts explosively with humid air) and was forced to shut down. It never fully restarted. More than a billion dollars US down the drain.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Meab
January 2, 2021 9:37 am
Reply to  ColMosby
January 2, 2021 9:24 am

Molten salt thorium ARE breeders

Reply to  ColMosby
January 2, 2021 10:09 am

Until they actually build one, Molten Salt is still theoretical.
Estimated costs are worthless, since they still haven’t figured out how to build one. Much less have operational experience.

Reply to  MarkW
January 2, 2021 1:51 pm

I think the HOW to build it has been pretty well worked out. What remains, mostly, is the engineering and materials development to make it practical. None of that appears to be impossible. There also are issues with the side processes required to keep a thorium reactor running, producing power, nuclear fuel, and separating the undesired side products.

Since the operation of a molten salt reactor is basically passive- they can be designed to require minimum mechanical equipment, and a passive shutdown if it does get overheated.

Reply to  Philo
January 2, 2021 3:25 pm

My last look at it was that containing the salt causes massive corrosion issues. The best I saw (haven’t looked in about 4 years) was 2 years of up time before the salt vessel had to be changed out. That was just heating the salt with conventional means and testing, they hadn’t even gotten to the point of adding neutron sources to add that brittling factor to the salt corrosion. In four years though, they may have found a solution to the corrosion issues. I would need to do another scroll through the recent literature and see what has happened.

Of course, much of the research winds up not published since the journals have this misguided notion that dead ends and blind alleys shouldn’t be published. I would really value seeing the hundred thousand ways things didn’t work when starting research in an area instead of having to repeat the mistakes made by my predecessors every single time.

Last edited 2 years ago by OweninGA
Loren C. Wilson
Reply to  MarkW
January 2, 2021 9:21 pm

You would be correct if the USAF hadn’t built one and operated it for over a year. Granted, it was a pilot plant-scale reactor but their desired use was as a very small light-weight power plant. Certainly, we are in a much better position than you assert.

The Dark Lord
January 2, 2021 6:57 am

starts with a false premise … that the planet needs saving … it doesn’t …

Reply to  The Dark Lord
January 2, 2021 9:26 am

No, but if you substitute ‘civilisation’ it does.

Fossil energy is there to boostrap us into nuclear power. It wont last a great deal longer

Reply to  Leo Smith
January 2, 2021 10:12 am

We have several hundred years worth of fossil fuels left. We are in no danger of running out even in your great grandchildren’s time.

Reply to  Leo Smith
January 2, 2021 1:53 pm

Mark, several hundred is just a rough estimate, and almost certainly subject to change. There are billions of tons of coal being leftover, which can all be processed for another thousand years or so,

Nick Schroeder
January 2, 2021 7:08 am

Nuclear and other electric “solutions” to the man caused climate change non-problem are ineffective until and unless the transportation sector gets electricated – and the enormous extractive mess and expense of that means – never!!!!!!!!!!

Reply to  Nick Schroeder
January 2, 2021 1:56 pm

Human-caused climate change is insignificant. Stop worrying. The main problem is the propaganda being spouted over “Human-Caused Climate Change”.
The intention appears to use CC as a lever for world-wide totalitarian states, controlled by the filthy rich, politicians, and warlords of some sort.

Reply to  Nick Schroeder
January 2, 2021 3:32 pm

There are a number of synthetic solutions that start with cheap excess energy and end with a stable chemical storage of that energy for transportation fuels. The hard part is the cheap excess energy bit and nuclear is a very viable solution. The “CO2 problem” is nonsense. We need that cranked up as high as we can get it before the next glaciation starts or we face extinction of multicellular life (except for some under-sea volcanic vent lifeforms) due to insufficient photosynthesis.

Walter Horsting
January 2, 2021 7:08 am

More climate alarmism…but nuclear is the correct path:

The Case for the Good Reactor

Jim Whelan
January 2, 2021 8:00 am

I know that most of those on social medai are illiterate and therefore require videos recordings, but themore intelligent among us can READ and can do it 5 to 10 times faster than to listen to a talking head drone on in a video. I refuse to watch a video. Can WUWT get back to publishing actual information rather than links to videos?

Curious George
Reply to  Jim Whelan
January 2, 2021 8:17 am

I am surprised how many people spent over an hour on this.

Reply to  Curious George
January 2, 2021 9:27 am

I was playing a MMORPG while listening to it.

Frank Hansen
Reply to  Curious George
January 2, 2021 9:48 am

I began to listen, but then I fell asleep 😴 I woke up when it was finished.

Martin C
Reply to  Curious George
January 2, 2021 12:58 pm

I turn the speed up to 2x, and have the CC text on; i watched/listened to it in just over 1/2 hour. . . am getting pretty good at listening/reading that fast . . . 🙂

Reply to  Martin C
January 2, 2021 1:58 pm

The video says it is only 15:30min. long. Why 1/2 hour to listen to it? Tons of ads?

January 2, 2021 8:42 am

The planet is just fine. It’s the left wing idiots that need to be educated.

Reply to  Philip
January 2, 2021 10:14 am

You can lead a liberal to knowledge, but you can’t make them think.

Reply to  MarkW
January 2, 2021 3:35 pm

The problem isn’t that leftists don’t know anything, it is just that so much of what they know just isn’t so. (stolen and adapted from Ronald Reagan.)

January 2, 2021 9:03 am

An excellent presentation by Elliot Moray.
Many of the core arguments have been made for years and years but are still valid.
It’s impressive how in Asia the economics of nuclear have advanced AI that it’s practically the cheapest energy option. It’s about competence and experience and not being regulated to death.

His reference to the Russian Beloyarsk successful fast breeder now uneventfully supplying the grid is welcome. They are the clear leaders in that technology. They have sodium cooled fast breeders that have been working reliably for 40 years (the Beloyasrk 600) and plan to work for 20 more. Other newer models like the Beloyarsk 800 are starting operation.

Kit P
January 2, 2021 11:12 am

This retired engineer thinks we have already saved the planet as demonstrated in North America. We should have a parade to celebrate.

Environmental Engineers design systems that eliminate serious pollution.

The 3 most important factors for a power plant is location, location, and location.

no coal, no gas, no oil

Then nuclear plants get built. No uranium and you get good at reprocessing.

January 2, 2021 11:27 am

I blame video’s like this that confuse people into thinking that oil is strongly related to electricity. Oil embargo caused France to go nuclear? (@~16:40). That is terrible off base narrative, and the editors should be ashamed.

Kit P
Reply to  Drew
January 2, 2021 12:25 pm

My first commercial nuke startup replaced an oil fired plant which was built when oil was cheap and the US was exporting oil.

Not that many years ago the US was importing natural gas. Utilities that bet on cheap natural gas were in trouble. At my first startup, a license application for a third and fourth units was being prepared. That was before the fracking boom.

China is building nukes because they have become dependant on imported coal.

So if you do not think the supply of fuel is an important consideration, you would be wrong. First money is leaving your economy. Second some nut job who thinks he is a god can cut your supply of energy with a few diesel subs.

Bro. Steve
January 2, 2021 11:59 am

The narrator is radically mistaken to compare US nuclear plants to the Chernobyl plant. A light water reactor is different from a Russian, graphite moderated reactor.

January 2, 2021 1:06 pm

One giant solar flare and your reactors will all melt down Fukusima x 400. One really poisoned planet then. The current system inherently fragile and deadly. Better to go with fusion.

Reply to  Kenzer
January 2, 2021 3:50 pm

Horse Hockey!

The emergency generators at the plants are not connected to the grid so cooling will never be lost. Unless your hypothetical nuke plants are all at sea level in an earthquake zone with their non-marine generators in the basement, and the solar flare somehow causes a huge tsunami, no Fukushima melt-downs will occur. All that will likely happen is all the production generators would be tripped offline by their internal protection and the grid will be back up as soon as all the transformers can be replaced. (or enough to get essential services back up anyway.) Even if a few production generators are damaged, it doesn’t effect the shutdown and backup cooling. Also, the entire electric power industry has been studying the effects of a Carrington-type event and have plans to isolate key infrastructure when warning of a flare comes. It is one of the many reasons that so much money is spent on solar studies and space weather prediction.

Reply to  Kenzer
January 2, 2021 8:50 pm

Fusion is the energy source of the future.

… and always will be 😉

Clyde Spencer
January 2, 2021 8:01 pm

Considering that the copyright on the web page says 2021, it looks like Lockheed Martin is still in the game:

robin townsend
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
January 3, 2021 6:53 am

a quote from the Lockheed martin website, which earlier proudly referred to its skunkworks expertise.

‘Energy created through fusion is 3-4 times more powerful than the energy released by fission’
Heaven help us.I imagine the lockheed engineeers must have just given up with marketting dept.

January 2, 2021 10:53 pm

Mururoa atoll where the French did their nuclear testing, in NZ produced the same radiation as the iridescent dial of a watch and I can remember how useful they were.

George Ellis
January 3, 2021 6:57 am

“An incredible one in six deaths are related to air pollution.” Lost me right there. 1:58

January 3, 2021 8:37 am

This will fall on deaf ears in western nations due to the political situation.
Renewables is a religion amongst the ruling elite.

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