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The question of energy is a non-issue speaking technically.

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Peter Morris
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The question of abundant, cheap, safe, polution free, carbon free energy has been solved on a practical, scientific, technical level. The engineers have it. If worst comes to worst, there will not be a society wide collapse due to lack of energy if society so chooses. Well, the nuclear engineers have been brilliantly figuring out how to fix the problems with traditional reactors. They have invented something beautiful.

 

Liquid Fluroide Thorium Reactors.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uK367T7h6ZY

 

This guy makes me want to switch from science to engineering. Oh, and of course the Chinese are building some.

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The question of abundant, cheap, safe, polution free, carbon free energy has been solved on a practical, scientific, technical level.

Julian Simon's "Ultimate Resource" is a good book. Even within fossil fuels, the fears about peak-oil etc. have been overblown. Oil from sands and shale is not something new; people have known about it for decades. It was just that getting it from conventional wells was easier. We have enough fossil fuels to last a long time.

And, you're right, if one expands the field to all energy, then for all practical purpose, we have access to infinite amounts (i.e. compared to what humans will want under any foreseeable scenario). Nukes have been kept in check by fear and politics. Technically, most developed countries could produce a large fraction of their energy from nuclear plants the way France does.

 

A lot of the thinking around energy gets frozen around current technology and current prices. Oil from shale showed that this is poor thinking. Solar might do the same some day. Some people think it will be competitive with conventional sources by 2030 or so. Even if not, the point remains: it is not a question of shortage of energy, but the price of energy. 

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I love the idea behind the 1950s Atoms for Peace slogan "Too Cheap to Meter" even though it was frustrated pretty quickly by the regulatory apparatus.

 

Nuclear-wise, I just can't see the likelihood of the thorium reactors. Uranium is certainly much more finite, but reprocessing is currently prohibited in the US. If that changed, all of the spent fuel could be recycled for the foreseeable future without having to dig as much out of the earth. Plus there's the whole re-use of nuclear warheads going on--plenty more where that came from.

 

I think the future of nuclear energy is in Small Modular Reactors (SMR), which are being built by Westinghouse and NuScale for example, and fusion, which has seen some recent, intriguing work by Lockheed's SkunkWorks (compared to the ITER morass).

 

Personally, I like the SMR notion because it seems the most likely to sidestep the current regulatory regime and change the perception of nuclear energy by putting them all over the place. We shall see.

 

Bill

Edited by bbrown
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I love the idea behind the 1950s Atoms for Peace slogan "Too Cheap to Meter" even though it was frustrated pretty quickly by the regulatory apparatus.

 

Nuclear-wise, I just can't see the likelihood of the thorium reactors. Uranium is certainly much more finite, but reprocessing is currently prohibited in the US. If that changed, all of the spent fuel could be recycled for the foreseeable future without having to dig as much out of the earth. Plus there's the whole re-use of nuclear warheads going on--plenty more where that came from.

 

I think the future of nuclear energy is in Small Modular Reactors (SMR), which are being built by Westinghouse and NuScale for example, and fusion, which has seen some recent, intriguing work by Lockheed's SkunkWorks (compared to the ITER morass).

 

Personally, I like the SMR notion because it seems the most likely to sidestep the current regulatory regime and change the perception of nuclear energy by putting them all over the place. We shall see.

 

Bill

The benefits to thorium reactors are too hard to ignore though. The extreme safety is the main thing. The high efficiency and the abundance of thorium are also great. You don't have to use water, they don't have to be near water. The waste only lasts 350 years. No high pressure. Xenon bubbles away. It's great. China and Japan agree. China is going ahead and building them. Once the technology is well developed, I think it will be used somewhere. I can see why China likes the idea. Powering - completely domestically - China's 1.3 billion population is a good move for them if it can be done as safely as with thorium reactors.

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I think uranium-based nuclear reactors are good enough and have been in service full blast for fifty-plus years with a terrific safety record. Moreover, some of the new concepts use passive safety systems that make the things even safer.

 

Thorium reactors have only existed at the testing and prototype levels, not as a full-scale commercial operation. While the benefits are true, they're not revolutionarily better than uranium reactors. I think by the time uranium reactors have run their course, fusion will be ready to take over.

 

Bill

Edited by bbrown
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Julian Simon's "Ultimate Resource" is a good book. Even within fossil fuels, the fears about peak-oil etc. have been overblown. Oil from sands and shale is not something new; people have known about it for decades. It was just that getting it from conventional wells was easier. We have enough fossil fuels to last a long time.

And, you're right, if one expands the field to all energy, then for all practical purpose, we have access to infinite amounts (i.e. compared to what humans will want under any foreseeable scenario). Nukes have been kept in check by fear and politics. Technically, most developed countries could produce a large fraction of their energy from nuclear plants the way France does.

 

A lot of the thinking around energy gets frozen around current technology and current prices. Oil from shale showed that this is poor thinking. Solar might do the same some day. Some people think it will be competitive with conventional sources by 2030 or so. Even if not, the point remains: it is not a question of shortage of energy, but the price of energy. 

U-238 'yellowcake' is a as finite a resource as oil. For the french, it's primarily mined in the 'Azwan', or the northen flood plain of the Niger River in the upper part of Mali.

 

It's inhabited by Tuaregs, and the seasonal farming there goes back some 20,000 years.

 

French exploitation will become far more expensive now due to the influx of modern weapons; the Tuaregs have always fought back, since 1900.

 

Herbert used this struggle as the basis for his novels, 'Dune'.

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