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Nuclear Navel Gazing

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I very much enjoyed this article on the possibility of molten-salt nuclear reactors becoming operational in the near future. They are safe, and they can use spent uranium to fuel. For those who know me, I was a physics major back in the day, and badly wanted to go into the field of nuclear power research. I had plans of developing home-based or small community-based portable nuclear reactors that would be cheap and clean. But oil prices hit about $10 per barrel, and I was actually not smart enough to remain in physics, so here I am.

One quick observation about nuclear, particularly given the last post here at TUW – “we” all should be embracing it. Yes, be cognizant of risks and costs, but it is comparatively clean and safe, has very little collateral impact on land use and animal-life, and has better prospects, in my view, for being long-term cost-effective than many other technologies. It is almost startling to see how fast nuclear is dismissed and ignored in climate or just plain ol’ energy conversations. I say almost, until one remembers that very little of the conversation about climate and energy is actually about climate and energy – hence my general malaise. It took me almost six full years to own up to this reality.

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4 Responses to “Nuclear Navel Gazing”

  1. Harry says:

    I sent this to my cousin.

    The government does not need to be in this business. As with any technology, there have to be rules to prevent the China Syndrome, and we have to keep the Iranian and Russian proxy saboteurs from blowing the reactors up. However, much could be done to streamline the permitting process. That may be the understatement of the year.

  2. Harry says:

    The company’s technical paper appears to have considered both the pros and cons, but then I am no nuclear engineer. It would be great to hear from an expert on this. No, not one of the members of the IPCC scientific panel. Yes, a plant that produces 500mw and costs a mere $2 billion sounds cheap.

    Another interesting aspect is that the design works with both thorium and spent nuclear fuel. The company presents a case for SNF because it solves an expensive waste disposal problem. The SNF still has to be transported somewhere from light water reactors, but it does not have to be transported to Yucca Mountain. (Would Disney buy it?)

    The other thing I did not think much about is that uranium is, duh, a scarce resource that is currently produced in some countries hostile to the U.S., like the former and future Soviet Union, and at current prices there is less than 100 years of the stuff. (Haven’t we worried about running out of oil soon, as in 1970?)

    I also did not know that we build (used to build) light water reactors because we took the technology from submarines, which use the ocean as a near-infinite heat sink. The reactors on land have to be located in places with lots of water, like Long Island, along the Susqehanna (TMI), and coastal California. Even if the plant is near water, a big natural disaster like a tsunami can knock out the water pumps. On the other hand, the salt reactors can lose power and they shut down by themselves, leaving a problem, but not a mega disaster. Even Precautionary Principle People should be interested in that.

  3. Dan says:

    Do you have thoughts on thorium?

    Peter Thiel describes it here, but he makes it sound too good to be true.

    http://blakemasters.com/post/23787022006/peter-thiels-cs183-startup-class-14-notes-essay

    (ctrl+f for “God of Thunder”)

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