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Renewable Energy: How to power the world without burning dead things

TwoQuestionsTwoQuestions Registered User regular
edited April 2011 in Debate and/or Discourse
Split from a tangent in the 112th Congress thread. How do we keep the lights on after dark without burning coal/oil?

Pi-r8 wrote: »
OptimusZed wrote: »
rockrnger wrote: »
I have never received a satisfactory answer to why we can't just fire our nuclear waste into the sun.

Or dump it on Mars, Voyager style.

Short answer is that it is really expensive to get anything out of the earth's gravity well.
Probably not more expensive than dealing with the NIMBY bullshit we have now.

We really need to get that space elevator operational.

Space elevator is the way to go for this. We don't go the "use the sun as a trash can" route now because strapping all of our waste to a bunch of explosives and sending it into the upper atmosphere is a bad idea.

Our record with shuttles is good, but accidents do occur. I love nuclear (my very livelihood depends on it) and I'm even I'm sorta leary of putting it on a shuttle.

Pi-r8 wrote: »

Or we could use wind/solar energy, and not spend $1 million/pound getting rid of waste product.

Renewables like wind & solar will be great. But they are not there yet. Every locale doesn't have enough wind or get enough sun for this to be feasible. Our grid isn't great, so we can't transport energy from areas with great wind (like the mid-west) to other locales - some estimates place the amount of that energy gets lost in transmission at 60% of what was generated.

Add in that, as mcdermott said, our current battery tech can't store energy of this size and it's pretty clear that wind and solar aren't ready to be our primary solution at the moment.

I'm sure both those things (batteries and the grid) will improve and once that occurs, if we have a brain at all, wind and solar will become more prevalent. But we have a way to go before that's the case.

I love how- in the same thread- you endorse the idea of using a space elevator to launch nuclear waste into the sun, and also say that Renewable energy technology isn't ready yet.

For what it's worth, here's some reading.
Scientific American plan for 100% worldwide renewable energy with existing technology
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-path-to-sustainable-energy-by-2030
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu says wind and solar will be as cheap as coal within a decade
http://smartenergyshow.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/chu-says-wind-solar-competitive-with-coal-in-decade/
(note that it takes longer than a decade to build a nuclear plant)
Nuclear energy costs rising, renewables falling
http://climateprogress.org/2011/04/06/does-nuclear-power-have-a-negative-learning-curve/
Wind energy in Michigan is already cheaper than coal
http://michpics.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/renewable-energy-in-michigan-costs-less-than-expected/

Also, how will all this impact the world politically? OPEC isn't going to like this at all for sure, as are already entrenched energy interests.

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    electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I'm under the impression OPEC isn't much of a player when it comes to stationary power. I mean, it's not like their a whole lot of oil-powerstations compared to coal, and gas is cited as the perfect transition (except for the whole, poisoning all your water and farmland aspect of it's production - but look! Slightly more efficient CO2 pollution guys!)

    In my opinion the real danger is whatever China decides to do. They currently buy about 50% of world coal, and 25+% goes to electricity production. They're building more coal power stations now, but also pushing hard on nuclear power.

    They have got to be thinking that cutting their coal needs down to just whatever they need to make steel would be a wonderful cost saver.

    Which would, incidentally, completely fuck-over my country (Australia).

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    templewulftemplewulf The Team Chump USARegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I'm under the impression OPEC isn't much of a player when it comes to stationary power. I mean, it's not like their a whole lot of oil-powerstations compared to coal, and gas is cited as the perfect transition (except for the whole, poisoning all your water and farmland aspect of it's production - but look! Slightly more efficient CO2 pollution guys!)

    In my opinion the real danger is whatever China decides to do. They currently buy about 50% of world coal, and 25+% goes to electricity production. They're building more coal power stations now, but also pushing hard on nuclear power.

    They have got to be thinking that cutting their coal needs down to just whatever they need to make steel would be a wonderful cost saver.

    Which would, incidentally, completely fuck-over my country (Australia).

    I'm not a Sinopolitical authority, but I was under the impression that China had grave concerns about their air quality after they hosted the Olympics. Is their pursuit of nuclear plants in response to that? Aren't they also one of the leading purchasers of solar panels now?

    Plus, I'm confident we'll figure out battery technology to time offset our power generation. There were a bunch of articles on that ceramic battery a while back. Kind of shill-y, but I'm optimistic it'll turn into a real thing in a decade or so.

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    electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    templewulf wrote: »
    I'm under the impression OPEC isn't much of a player when it comes to stationary power. I mean, it's not like their a whole lot of oil-powerstations compared to coal, and gas is cited as the perfect transition (except for the whole, poisoning all your water and farmland aspect of it's production - but look! Slightly more efficient CO2 pollution guys!)

    In my opinion the real danger is whatever China decides to do. They currently buy about 50% of world coal, and 25+% goes to electricity production. They're building more coal power stations now, but also pushing hard on nuclear power.

    They have got to be thinking that cutting their coal needs down to just whatever they need to make steel would be a wonderful cost saver.

    Which would, incidentally, completely fuck-over my country (Australia).

    I'm not a Sinopolitical authority, but I was under the impression that China had grave concerns about their air quality after they hosted the Olympics. Is their pursuit of nuclear plants in response to that? Aren't they also one of the leading purchasers of solar panels now?

    Plus, I'm confident we'll figure out battery technology to time offset our power generation. There were a bunch of articles on that ceramic battery a while back. Kind of shill-y, but I'm optimistic it'll turn into a real thing in a decade or so.

    It's kind of hard to say where batteries will go. Vanadium redox was looking good for a while, but I'd wager it's more likely someone will develop an efficient hydrogen catalyst and we'll use that on a large scale for peak shaving. There's just more research dollars aimed at it, and it's much more like our current stationary paradigm.

    And yeah - people forget that there are tons of reasons coal is a crappy, crappy energy source. Particulates and heavy metal pollution of nearby waterways aren't things to be taken lightly, doubly so when you're a densely populated country needing gigawatts of electricity in tight spaces.

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    Tiger BurningTiger Burning Dig if you will, the pictureRegistered User, SolidSaints Tube regular
    edited April 2011
    China wants energy, period, and is investing in every kind. They're not dumb. Global supply of energy in the long term is a complicated question. Global demand isn't. It's going up and it's going to keep going up.

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    electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    China wants energy, period, and is investing in every kind. They're not dumb. Global supply of energy in the long term is a complicated question. Global demand isn't. It's going up and it's going to keep going up.

    I don't think they're leaders really plan to run coal into the ground though. I'd wager there's a real desire to get the country off coal, they're just obviously not going to do it at the expense of their economic growth, since the country's stability is essentially based on social contract to keep growth high.

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    DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Does China have ready domestic access to nuclear fuel?

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    electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Does China have ready domestic access to nuclear fuel?

    Well, they have Australia.

    More importantly, you have options with nuclear fuel which you simply don't have with other energy sources.

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    SanderJKSanderJK Crocodylus Pontifex Sinterklasicus Madrid, 3000 ADRegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    There are two basic issues: power generation & portable power.

    The first is relatively easy to keep on providing, but I'm not optimistic about anything being used that is not the most cost-effective. So that's going to be a lot of coal, though wind and solar can be competitive in some areas. Coal plants are relatively cheap to build, they are a decent midterm investment (Coal isn't going to run out that soon). All you have to do is not account for enviromental factors, which the USA and China especially (And the EU to a lesser degree) have been happily doing for decades anyway.

    The second is a whole other bag. Oil will be gone in our lifetime, of that there seems little question. What are cars going to be running on? A decade ago most people would've said hydrogen, but I haven't heard much about that recently. (It could just be my ignorance). At any rate, the conversion to a hydrogen economy is astronomical. In the meantime we're turning our corn into fuel (The US is on it's way to convert half of their harvest into nonfood by 2015) at grievous energy loss and large distortions to the food market. And on the battery side, there are significant limiters on many on the metals used in both hybrid cars and all our portable electronics.

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    override367override367 ALL minions Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    The metal limiters in electronics and hybrid cars are mostly based on self-imposed production limitations by China to keep the prices high though aren't they? As I understand it, the metals in question are dangerous to mine but there are other places, China is just undercutting any potential investment while keeping the supply firmly controlled.

    Oil in the traditional sense is already well on the downslope of its peak, most of what you put in your tank is from refined sludge that would have been discarded 30 years ago. The ridiculous refining process for this sulfur laden shit combined with the commodities market being run by greedy shits makes my blood pressure rise every time I hear someone blame the president for gas prices.

    The same people who profess to love the free market are ignoring that what it is telling them is that they should use less gasoline.

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    Dis'Dis' Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Does China have ready domestic access to nuclear fuel?

    China produces about 2% of the world uranium supply, but production is dropping. So, yes, but not enough to run their entire energy needs off internal nuclear fuel. It doesn't have any Thorium either if that takes off.

    The 2nd and 3rd largest uranium producers (Australia and Kazakhstan) are right next door though.

    Dis' on
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    DemiurgeDemiurge Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Vestas, a danish company and the worlds leading producer of windmills recently moved much of their production to China. So that seems to suggest that China plans to expand that aspect of renewables.

    Honestly my impression of China is that its an incredibly well run economy with competent leaders, political freedoms not withstanding, their overall goal is the prosperity of their people.

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    JihadJesusJihadJesus Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Dis' wrote: »
    Does China have ready domestic access to nuclear fuel?

    China produces about 2% of the world uranium supply, but production is dropping. So, yes, but not enough to run their entire energy needs off internal nuclear fuel. It doesn't have any Thorium either if that takes off.

    The 2nd and 3rd largest uranium producers (Australia and Kazakhstan) are right next door though.
    So if China, a massive superpower whose internal security is completely dependant upon providing double digit economic growth rates for the forseeable future, makes a full investment in nuclear power they'll need a much larger supply and the guys sitting right next door in a tiny little country with poor international alliances happen to have a shit-ton of it?

    Kazakhstan better hope they're not that fond of nuclear power.

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    override367override367 ALL minions Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    There hasn't been any money invested into increasing uranium discovery/mining in a long time because of relatively low uranium prices (until recently) and massive stockpiles of the stuff that we have to burn through.

    We're gonna have problems and relatively soon where we run out of uranium, but we're not running out of uranium like we're running out of oil, there's enough on earth to power the world for hundreds of thousands or millions of years, we just have to find it (or get it out of the sea).

    Compared to oil where we're relatively sure the actual amount in existence isn't sufficient to keep us going at our current rate much longer

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    electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    There hasn't been any money invested into increasing uranium discovery/mining in a long time because of relatively low uranium prices (until recently) and massive stockpiles of the stuff that we have to burn through.

    We're gonna have problems and relatively soon where we run out of uranium, but we're not running out of uranium like we're running out of oil, there's enough on earth to power the world for hundreds of thousands or millions of years, we just have to find it.

    Compared to oil where we're relatively sure the actual amount in existence isn't sufficient to keep us going at our current rate much longer

    Correction: we just have to make it from U-238 or Thorium.

    Bring on the travelling wave reactors or fluid core designs.

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    override367override367 ALL minions Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Well I mean, if we had to we could just harvest it all from the sea and keep building light water reactors. We don't have to though, there's thorium and breeder reactors.

    My point is that even with the current problems with uranium supply, long term it's not a problem for nuclear energy. At least the problems are smaller in that we actually know how to solve them, completely disregarding any solutions that might present themselves once shit directs fan to fucking purpose.

    Sorry, watched Spartacus again

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    Dis'Dis' Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    JihadJesus wrote: »
    Dis' wrote: »
    Does China have ready domestic access to nuclear fuel?

    China produces about 2% of the world uranium supply, but production is dropping. So, yes, but not enough to run their entire energy needs off internal nuclear fuel. It doesn't have any Thorium either if that takes off.

    The 2nd and 3rd largest uranium producers (Australia and Kazakhstan) are right next door though.
    So if China, a massive superpower whose internal security is completely dependant upon providing double digit economic growth rates for the forseeable future, makes a full investment in nuclear power they'll need a much larger supply and the guys sitting right next door in a tiny little country with poor international alliances happen to have a shit-ton of it?

    Kazakhstan better hope they're not that fond of nuclear power.

    A quarter of Kazakhstan being ethnic russians will probably be enough to ward off overt chinese agression, and what do you mean no international alliances? They have numerious links to Russia (the russian space program is based in Kazakhstan) and strong links with the US.

    Dis' on
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    XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I'd like it if it was more affordable to do smaller scale things with current technology.

    i.e. less expensive to install a geothermal heat pump for your home

    I think things like that would go a long way towards helping cut down energy needs.

    Xaquin on
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    wwtMaskwwtMask Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Xaquin wrote: »
    I'd like it if it was more affordable to do smaller scale things with current technology.

    i.e. less expensive to install a geothermal heat pump for your home

    I think things like that would go a long way towards helping cut down energy needs.

    Man, I have dreams of building my next house with wind, solar, and bio-fuel energy generation capabilities, along with geothermal heating/cooling and solar water heating. Unfortunately you have to be very well off to do more than one or two of these things on your house at the same time.

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    spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    wwtMask wrote: »
    Xaquin wrote: »
    I'd like it if it was more affordable to do smaller scale things with current technology.

    i.e. less expensive to install a geothermal heat pump for your home

    I think things like that would go a long way towards helping cut down energy needs.

    Man, I have dreams of building my next house with wind, solar, and bio-fuel energy generation capabilities, along with geothermal heating/cooling and solar water heating. Unfortunately you have to be very well off to do more than one or two of these things on your house at the same time.

    Any one of them is still pretty much out of the reach of the average homeowner. A solar roof conversion can cost $12000 or more up front, and it takes as much as a decade to break even. More if you refinance or use equity to pay for the cost. The price is dropping though... in 2004 it was over $20,000 for the same work.

    China wants energy, period, and is investing in every kind. They're not dumb. Global supply of energy in the long term is a complicated question. Global demand isn't. It's going up and it's going to keep going up.

    I don't think they're leaders really plan to run coal into the ground though. I'd wager there's a real desire to get the country off coal, they're just obviously not going to do it at the expense of their economic growth, since the country's stability is essentially based on social contract to keep growth high.

    That seems like the sensible approach. Any conversion to renewable sources that drives the cost of energy up or retards growth is not going to be acceptable to most of the population.
    I'm under the impression OPEC isn't much of a player when it comes to stationary power. I mean, it's not like their a whole lot of oil-powerstations compared to coal...
    It's more dramatic than that.. I think we get less than 1% of our electricity from oil. It's a non-factor in terms of stationary power generation.

    spool32 on
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    hanskeyhanskey Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I know it's not exactly a renewable source, but what about Natural Gas? We have it in superabundance now that we've got all these new shale plays, and we have trillions more cubic feet to be discovered in other similar shale formations that have not been fully explored.

    It is somewhat popular as a stationary power generation fuel with the possibility of becoming much more popular depending on prices, and CNG is becoming a more viable motor fuel as supply increases and prices fall. Some people in the Natural Gas industry are predicting that Natural Gas could be as cheap as coal if discoveries keep current pace, so that's kind of mind blowing.

    Currently, in Mumbai all 10,000+ buses are CNG and have been now for years, which drastically improved air quality.

    Plus the Bloom Box, which seems to be the only viable fuel cell yet developed for sale to the general public, is Natural Gas powered.

    Edit: What I'm thinking that it would be a good fuel on which to wean ourselves from foreign oil and coal until solar and wind on a mass scale becomes viable. But as someone else mentioned, that won't happen until either storage becomes cheap or necessary or we get much better power transmission infrastructure than we currently possess.

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    DevoutlyApatheticDevoutlyApathetic Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Unless I'm confusing something exploiting the shale deposits involves hydrofracking which is....troublesome at best.

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    hanskeyhanskey Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I'm not entirely sure. I think it depends alot on the specific geology of the shale formation and the strata above. I imagine that some of those shale plays require more aggressive drilling techniques to get to gas initially, but once the drilling is successful and the well is flowing they don't continue that sort of activity. Over the life time of the well, I would think that there should be very little environmental impact as a rule. After all, often the Natural Gas producers only own the mineral rights to the land, and so must not damage the landowner's property or pay stiff fines. At least I think that's how it works.

    Edit: Also, I think that hydrofracking may be a lot less reckless and environmentally damaging than strip mining for coal, or Uranium, but I have no numbers to back that up, just anecdote.

    hanskey on
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    electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    hanskey wrote: »
    I'm not entirely sure. It depends alot on the specific geology of the shale formation and the strata above I think. I imagine that in some of those shale plays more aggressive drilling tactics are required to get to gas initially, but once the drilling is successful and the well is flowing they don't continue that sort of activity. Over the life time of the well there should be very little environmental impact as a rule, because frequenty the Natural Gas producers only own the mineral rights to the land, and so must not damage the landowners property or pay stiff fines. At least I think that's how it works.

    I suggest watching this movie:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZe1AeH0Qz8

    In the usual tradition of well...everywhere, theory and practice diverge at profit.

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    hanskeyhanskey Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Check my edit. No doubt that Natural Gas has an imperfect environmental record, but I'm not sure it's any worse than coal, oil or nuclear. In fact, it might be quite bit better than Oil, or Nuclear.

    However, gassy water does happen and it does suck. I occasionally drive through a town called <TMI> which is a Natural Gas company's property now, because gassy water forced them to buy out all the homeowners.

    Regardless of all that, I think NG could be preferable to coal or nuclear in electric generation, from a safety and environmental safety perspective. I also think that CNG might be a viable car fuel, that would at least be preferable to foreign oil. We are stuck with fossil fuels for now, but we could at least pick the best until solar and wind are truly viable.

    Not that anything other than price will choose what fuels/techniques/technologies we use for the majority of our power generation.

    hanskey on
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    electricitylikesmeelectricitylikesme Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Happily with nuclear power everyone freaks the fuck out about radiation, so we act more carefully even if it's by accident.

    But contaminating ground water and arable farmland with toxic chemicals? No problems!

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    hanskeyhanskey Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Sorry for the confusion. I actually agree that water, ground and air pollution are unacceptable and that our government should rigorously act to prevent those kind of incidents, and help fix any damage when prevention fails. Unfortunately, I can't make the government do that, but I do think it should.

    The scenario you cite is a pretty visible negative result of leaky pipelines, but coal pollution is often just as bad or worse with Mercury loaded fuel, and other heavy metal pollution, on top of having a good deal less than complete combustion which can produce carcinogenic organic compounds, but coal's damaging effects are not covered the same at all in the media.

    Edit: I promise I'm not actually a pawn of Natural Gas, I just sound like it, because I do think using more of it could give us a lot of benefits over our current state of affairs, until we can come up with something better than burning stuff. That's actually why I brought up the Bloom Box. Takes NG and O2 and makes electricity, H2O and CO2 and no burning! To make it really good you'd have to pair it with CO2 sequestration, which always seems to be a no-go outside of the North Sea.

    hanskey on
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    SynthesisSynthesis Honda Today! Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Dis' wrote: »
    JihadJesus wrote: »
    Dis' wrote: »
    Does China have ready domestic access to nuclear fuel?

    China produces about 2% of the world uranium supply, but production is dropping. So, yes, but not enough to run their entire energy needs off internal nuclear fuel. It doesn't have any Thorium either if that takes off.

    The 2nd and 3rd largest uranium producers (Australia and Kazakhstan) are right next door though.
    So if China, a massive superpower whose internal security is completely dependant upon providing double digit economic growth rates for the forseeable future, makes a full investment in nuclear power they'll need a much larger supply and the guys sitting right next door in a tiny little country with poor international alliances happen to have a shit-ton of it?

    Kazakhstan better hope they're not that fond of nuclear power.

    A quarter of Kazakhstan being ethnic russians will probably be enough to ward off overt chinese agression, and what do you mean no international alliances? They have numerious links to Russia (the russian space program is based in Kazakhstan) and strong links with the US.

    No kidding. General good relations with the US aside, China attacking Kazakhstan is basically tantamount to Poland or Germany attacking Belarus or Georgia attacking Abkhazia--it happening means swift and committed retaliation. America is by no means the only country with international commitments it takes seriously. Kazakhstan and Russia have better relations than the US and Kazakhstan, and have a very high degree of economic interdependence (everything from pipelines to manufacturing to mining, making the space program comparatively minor--last I heard, Russia was opening a major cosmodrome in its own nation anyway).

    Speaking of space travel, if you were going to commit to the whole "send spent fuel into space" theory, I think the shuttle would be a less practical space travel platform to do that. I am not an expert on space travel by any means, but the shuttle has claimed the two worst in-air space disasters in history (Columbia in Challenger), in terms of number of astronauts dead. Apparently, measured by the number of people and amount of cargo put up, the Soyuz rockets are not only the safest launch vehicle possible (the last accident was in 1971), it's also one of the cheapest. Sending up stuff you want to get rid off does not necessarily demand a high-capacity reusable vehicle, I think, so the strongest advantages of the shuttle are less important.

    Of course, maybe the stuff is a lot bigger than I imagined.

    Synthesis on
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    override367override367 ALL minions Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    hanskey wrote: »
    Check my edit. No doubt that Natural Gas has an imperfect environmental record, but I'm not sure it's any worse than coal, oil or nuclear. In fact, it might be quite bit better than Oil, or Nuclear.

    However, gassy water does happen and it does suck. I occasionally drive through a town called <TMI> which is a Natural Gas company's property now, because gassy water forced them to buy out all the homeowners.

    Regardless of all that, I think NG could be preferable to coal or nuclear in electric generation, from a safety and environmental safety perspective. I also think that CNG might be a viable car fuel, that would at least be preferable to foreign oil. We are stuck with fossil fuels for now, but we could at least pick the best until solar and wind are truly viable.

    Not that anything other than price will choose what fuels/techniques/technologies we use for the majority of our power generation.

    Nothing is safer than non-soviet nuclear. In fact I think even solar has claimed more lives than western nuclear in the form of bob the engineer falling off a ladder or what not

    Edit: And yes Natural Gas is still better for the environment (and us) than coal. Coal is really fucking nasty on almost every level.

    The most environmentally friendly thing we can do with coal is liquefy it to augment our liquid fuels, since all the carbon and nasty shit can be sequestered in solid form.

    override367 on
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    hanskeyhanskey Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Depends on if Japan counts as western maybe? But that was an "Act Of God" and all too though, and I'm not sure if anyone died of radiation poisoning at this point? How about what about the safety risk of spent fuel? That is yet to be completely handled to most people's satisfaction, but maybe I'm wrong? Also what about uranium mining? There's gotta be some environmental impact to that I would think.

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    override367override367 ALL minions Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Yes Japan counts, Fukishima is bad but its no worse than a medium sized oil disaster or a natural gas pipeline burst or a coal mine collapse in terms of direct harm to humans

    It's not even in the same league as a single day's coal pollution

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    hanskeyhanskey Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I agree with you on the Fukishima disaster's scale, but what about the spent fuel problem? How can we guarantee safety over 10s of thousands of years, when we can't even guarantee that the U.S. will exist?

    Edit: I'm of the opinion that we humans don't do that kind of long-term planning all that well, so I do find that worrying, though not in an immediate sense.

    hanskey on
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    AridholAridhol Daddliest Catch Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    hanskey wrote: »
    I agree with you on the Fukishima disaster's scale, but what about the spent fuel problem? How can we guarantee safety over 10s of thousands of years, when we can't even guarantee that the U.S. will exist?

    Edit: I'm of the opinion that we humans don't do that kind of long-term planning all that well, so I do find that worrying, though not in an immediate sense.

    Well it's been over 50 years that this spent fuel has been a problem so I think we're doing alright so far.
    Given the choice between having to deal with dangerous waste LONG into the future (which we are with new designs that consume it) and disease and death right now, daily I am going with long term care and planning.

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    override367override367 ALL minions Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    hanskey wrote: »
    I agree with you on the Fukishima disaster's scale, but what about the spent fuel problem? How can we guarantee safety over 10s of thousands of years, when we can't even guarantee that the U.S. will exist?

    Edit: I'm of the opinion that we humans don't do that kind of long-term planning all that well, so I do find that worrying, though not in an immediate sense.

    I think we shouldn't decide energy policy on whether or not civilization will be around in 10,000 years.

    The only way a radiation symbol wouldn't be understood is if society collapses everywhere and completely and never recovers. If that happens I'm comfortable not caring that some archaeologist digs into a big collapsed salt mine and gets cancer

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    LaliluleloLalilulelo Richmond, VARegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    The main problem with space travel, specifically rocket travel is weight. The more weight you have (nuclear waste in this case), the heavier your rocket. The heavier your rocket, the more fuel you need. The more fuel you need, the more rocket fuel you need. And so on.

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    override367override367 ALL minions Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Sending nuclear waste into space is a ridiculously terrible idea.

    One rocket accident would spread nuclear material all over the atmosphere, potentially killing thousands

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    SyrdonSyrdon Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    hanskey wrote: »
    I agree with you on the Fukishima disaster's scale, but what about the spent fuel problem? How can we guarantee safety over 10s of thousands of years, when we can't even guarantee that the U.S. will exist?

    Edit: I'm of the opinion that we humans don't do that kind of long-term planning all that well, so I do find that worrying, though not in an immediate sense.
    The solutions to nuclear waste have actually been pretty well known since ... I want to say the 60s (don't quote me on that though), they just have had nuclear weapon proliferation issues until relatively recently. The basic theory is that you can take spent nuclear fuel, and by playing around with it just right, turn it into new nuclear fuel (and a much, much smaller quantity of waste), via a process known as reprocessing.

    The majority of current reactors are nowhere near as efficient as they could be, nor are they set up to handle reprocessing (see: proliferation), but the most recent crop of reactors have made vast strides with respect to efficiency (that is, fuel used compared to waste, and also energy generated as compared to fuel used). They're still nowhere near as good as we know we can do though. For that I'm going to mostly refer you to wikipedia (Gen IV reactors). I am going to note that those designs have radioactive waste with half lives on the order of decades (after which, sure, they're nasty heavy metals, but those are fairly easy to deal with).

    edit: if we're going to suggest rockets, I have a great solution to loft as much as we need to: resurrect Project Orion!

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    override367override367 ALL minions Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    yea, nuclear waste is a short term concern because it would only be a few decades of solid investment in the technology before we stopped producing any waste of quantity

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    LaliluleloLalilulelo Richmond, VARegistered User regular
    edited April 2011
    Yeah that too. We don't know enough about space travel for it to be safe enough. So it's not really even on the table.

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    hanskeyhanskey Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    I'm not sure we should decide energy policy by looking at the extreme long-term either (still short term from the perspective of geological time).

    I think the real reason Nuclear is not more prevalent in the U.S is cost, not safety record. No one can really make rare earth metals suddenly get cheap after all. I don't have numbers on that, but that's what I recall.

    Yeah ... Spacing the waste is a truly terrible idea. It's completely impractical because of fuel cost, and ridiculously risky.

    On the waste issue in general, does anyone know if the depleted uranium bullets favored by nearly every military on the planet are sourced from Nuclear Waste? If that's the case I'd have to say our short term planning is already faulty, and that doesn't bode well for our present or future. Also, over the course of even only a couple of hundred years or even less, given enough change, the waste could leach into water supplies and the like where no one would have any warning signs of containment failure even if they did still recognize the radiation symbol. The salt mines are not the only place this stuff is stored after all, and most containment systems are nowhere near as stable as the salt mines.

    Like I said, not an immediate threat, but we should try to find our way out of that paper bag so we don't harm our species long term survivability. Not that it'll matter because it costs too much compared to the available allternatives, like coal, wind or natural gas.

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    SyrdonSyrdon Registered User regular
    edited April 2011
    hanskey wrote: »
    I think the real reason Nuclear is not more prevalent in the U.S is cost, not safety record. No one can really make rare earth metals suddenly get cheap after all. I don't have numbers on that, but that's what I recall.
    In terms of cost of fuel, I'm pretty sure uranium is pretty cheap as related to energy generated. Building the plants is expensive, but most of the cost is buried in complying with regulations relating to safety. That said, people are still happy to build them. Finding someone to let you build one near them seems to be slightly harder than funding another moon rocket though.
    On the waste issue in general, does anyone know if the depleted uranium bullets favored by nearly every military on the planet are sourced from Nuclear Waste? If that's the case I'd have to say our short term planning is already faulty, and that doesn't bode well for our present or future.
    Not sure where you're going with this, but assuming you're sticking to the radioactivity issue: "The external radiation dose from DU is about 60% of that from the same mass of natural uranium" - wikipedia

    Oh, and to repeat: With what we know we can do we can take the time you need to store the waste down to about a human lifespan (or LESS!). Nuclear power is much, much better for us than coal, I'm not sure how you compare it to natural gas or solar since most of the (environmental/human) costs for those are going to be related to production/mining/installation.

    edit: for cost/kwhr, the two sources I fount that discuss it in any depth distinctly conflict and I'm not willing to put the effort into sorting them out to fix it, so here they are:
    http://www.nucleartourist.com/basics/costs.htm nuclear vs coal, does cover method for getting a number
    http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Cents_Per_Kilowatt-Hour covers most things I could think of, doesn't mention method that I can find

    edit 2: some of the other stuff on that second link is raising all sorts of crazy-nutter red flags for me, specifically all the references to cold fusion all over the front page. The first seems to be on the level, other than having some really bad design and a taste for eye searing colors.

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