Monday, December 28, 2009

South Korean Companies Win Nuclear Bid

South Korea won against Areva in a bid to build four light water reactors. This was a huge victory for the nation as it will bring it recognition in the UAE in addition to proving that it is major world leader in nuclear technology. The reasons cited for the bid being given to South Korea over the French based company of Areva is because Areva has fallen behind schedule and gone over budget in its project in Finland. South Korea also underbid Areva by a significant amount which also was a point in its favor.

For more details, take a look at the Nuke Notes post by Dan Yurman and the original article on the Wall Street Journal.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It is Christmas Once Again

I am wishing everybody an early Christmas since I will be out of town until the 26th. Please reflect on the true meaning of Christmas which is to have a good time and reflect on the happy memories that Christmas has brought you. Some will claim that the true meaning of Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ, but the Roman inventors of Saturnalia and other winter solstice holidays would vehemently disagree on that point. As Christmas was contrived from many cultural traditions across several early cultures, both Christian and not it would be unfair to classify it as a purely "Christian" holiday. This is why many Christian sects forbade the celebration of Christmas ranging from the Puritans of colonial times to the modern Seventh Day Adventists. I feel sorry for those who are not able to experience Christmas since it has always been an enjoyable time of the year for me.

Underneath all of the religious and mythological trappings of Christmas, the ORIGINAL meaning is simply the celebration of life and joy during the icy depths of winter cold. It is a time of food, candy, cookies, gifts, colorful lights, majestically decorated trees, relatives, etc. All of these things go to make our lives richer as Christmas is a day for remembering and bringing joy to others as well.

I sincerely wish you all

A Merry Christmas.

Odds and Ends

I have added the informative blog, BraveNewClimate to my blog roll as it has been recommended to posters on the Energy From Thorium forum. The blogger, Barry Brooks does an excellent job in reporting on developments in climate science as well as critically examining the potential feasibility of "green" energy sources such as "renewables". Take a look at his December 17th post on the potential of the LFTR in Australia.

In other news, Florida might be making the shift from coal power to nuclear energy as Seminole Electric canceled its latest plan for a coal power station. As Seminole Electric has also been considering nuclear power as one of its future energy options, this might be a point in favor of nuclear power. Florida is relatively poor in natural gas, and transporting natural gas over long distances is an expensive undertaking.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Economist on Gen IV nuclear technology

Alright my fellow nukeheads, take a look at this interesting post on different reactor types by the Economist magazine.

"The sixth shortlisted design, the molten salt reactor (MSR), works by dissolving nuclear fuel in a fluoride solution, which acts as both the fuel and the coolant in the reactor core. The molten salt, which has good heat-transfer properties and can be heated to temperatures above 1,000{degree}C without boiling, is moderated using graphite. The circulation of the fuel in this way eliminates the need for fuel fabrication and allows for continuous online reprocessing. It also makes the design well suited to the use of existing fissile material, which can be easily blended into the fuel mixture. And like fast reactors, the MSR can be designed to burn up many of the longer-lived byproducts of the fission process, resulting in nuclear waste that is much less radioactive than that produced by the once-through cycle."

The article is a pretty good introduction to several reactor designs and the technical aspects of each. I recommend it as a primer for those of you who are curious as to where we stand with nuclear research. Happy reading.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Christianity and Politics

At the risk of drifting too far into politics, I would like to comment on the phenomenon of Christian conservatives who have aligned themselves with the Republican party in the American political system. Does the current day Republican party turn many atheist would be supporters away because of its emphasis on religiously motivated social conservatism?

I have watched the documentary "Gay Republicans" with interest as it showed the conflict that arose between homosexual Republicans and the apparent ideology of the current day Republican party. Do Republican atheists feel a similar disenfranchisement with the American GOP? Is this enough to prevent them from voting for or supporting the Republican party during elections?

Speaking from my own experience, I disagree with the Democratic party on many things. However it seems as if the base of the Republican party is formed from Christian fundamentalists, (Often militant ones at that) Young Earth Creationists, theocratically motivated authoritarians, as well as an underlying feeling of homophobia. GOP might as well stand for God's Own Party. However, this could just be personal bias on my part since it seems like you only hear about the trouble makers.

For the atheists that are reading this blog, how much does the religious wing of the modern Republican party affect your viewpoint of the party as a whole? Does it discourage or frighten you? Are atheist Republicans and conservatives a diminishing minority in our political system as a result? Your feedback would be greatly appreciated.

State Regulators Prefer Nuclear Power?

Well, what do you know...many state utility commisioners and regulatory staff think nuclear power is a good balance between energy production and environmental impact:

Link

Who woulda thunk it?

Friday, November 27, 2009

India: The Next Leader In Nuclear Technology?

India has been researching the use of nuclear technology at breakneck speed. India is relatively deficient in coal and it has a lot more thorium than uranium. Because of this, India is currently pushing the AEC reactor design, but it could just as easily develop the LFTR paradigm as well.

China is also planning a large build out for new reactors, but the Chinese are also pushing coal as well as there are quite a few large coal deposits in eastern China. The degree of innovation displayed by Indian nuclear researchers is impressive, as well as the fact that it could make India's economy a force to be reckoned with as cheap energy spurs technological development. In addition, India's nuclear program is not hampered with regulations against nuclear reprocessing like in the US. This puts America at a disadvantage once again as we risk being left behind in the dust in our failure to embrace clean nuclear energy.

Interestingly, when you look at many countries that have an abundance of coal such as the US, China, and Australia, they also have ample supplies of uranium and thorium. However, the availability of coal has lead to its promotion in the national policies of the energy agendas of these countries. This is in spite of the fact that coal causes massive amounts of pollution both from carbon dioxide and the contamination from heavy metals. Injuries and deaths from coal are also a common occurrence from everyday operation in the coal industry.

There really is no longer any reason for the continual use of coal as the baseload energy source of choice. We have had the technology to replace coal with nuclear power for decades, and new reactor designs such as the LFTR are even more impressive than traditional light water reactors. At this point, coal is the soot-covered chain that is holding us back from cheap, clean energy in the form of nuclear power.

Thanksgiving Joy

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving yesterday. I went to my mother's apartment for dinner and thoroughly enjoyed myself. She managed to find a huge twenty-five pound frozen bird at the grocery store two weeks ago. It just barely fit into the roasting pan, but I will remember it as one of the best turkeys I have ever had. Sadly, even if it is just my mother and I for Thanksgiving, our leftovers never really last very long as they are so delicious. Even as we speak, our turkey is already half gone.

Since my parents have separated since August, I am still getting used to not having any animals around. My dog and my three cats have gone to live with one of my aunts since my father has become violently mentally ill and my mother cannot have pets in her apartment. Part of the fun of visiting my parents was petting a large fluffy dog underneath the table as he was asking for handouts. I will hopefully see Joey and the rest of my pets tomorrow.

Anyway, Thanksgiving is traditionally held up as an example of "giving thanks" for our lives and things that we are grateful to have. Although Thanksgiving is thought to be a purely secular holiday, it contains a religious element for many people as well. Prayers are often sent to various gods, thanking them for successes or giving people the opportunity learn from failures as people reflect on the end of the year.

In retrospect, Thanksgiving should also be about enjoying yourself. Late October and November are typically the most drab and depressing times of the year where I live. The leaves have all fallen off of the trees and the grass is withered and brown. The air gets cold and usually brings freezing rain with the chilly temperatures. We can all use a holiday like Thanksgiving to cheer us up with family and friends before the onset of winter.

Atomic Insights Stomps on Silliness

As Rod Adams on the Atomic Insights blog points out, existing nuclear power plants are extremely well run and highly efficient facilities. Their equipment and components are routinely checked and updated as they have to be in order to provide a steady output of power during their operation.

This is why when people like Christian Parenti portray nuclear power plants as being decrepit structures harking from the Cold War era, it is a grossly inaccurate portrayal. A nuclear power station is an extremely durable structure that is built to last. The containment dome is an extremely thick shell of reinforced concrete that can withstand that ravages of time, weather, and the occasional aircraft impact. The reactor itself is operated by highly trained and competent technicians who make sure that everything is operating smoothly. The strong culture of safety behind the nuclear industry speaks for itself, because the accident of Three Mile Island did not result in any deaths or injuries despite there being a core meltdown.

The fact of the matter is, that this sort of fear mongering about nuclear energy is never warranted, and causes people to panic needlessly. The paranoia of nuclear power is what is giving coal and natural gas their business as we see more fossil fuel burners being built to meet increasing energy demand. The nuclear genie is already out of the bottle, so we might as well put it to use.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Replacing Fossil Fuels by Using More Natural Gas?

One thing that I do not understand is why natural gas is being pushed so much by "environmentalists", particularly because natural gas does produce quite a bit of carbon dioxide when burned. Not as much as coal, mind you, but enough to be a major contributor of carbon dioxide pollution. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are hardly efficient and are basically a roundabout way of burning natural gas as natural gas burning generators have to take up the slack when the wind is not blowing or the sun is not shining. There are also vehicles that run on liquified natural gas as opposed to gasoline. If we look at the annual estimated end use statistics for natural gas since 1949, you will see that consumption has risen greatly*.

Consumption Graph

Also, looking at this graph, you can see that the annual wellhead price for natural gas has risen sharply to meet demand since the year 2000*.

Price Graph

Natural gas is as much as a fossil fuel as coal and oil yet much of the renewables paradigm is leading to a rapid increase in natural gas consumption both on the atmosphere as well as depletion of consumers wallets. Because of the rapid fluctuations in price that natural gas is subject to, this increasingly expensive fuel energy source is an impractical alternative for running an energy grid. It will also make coal cheaper by comparison and lead to increased usage of coal in the long run as natural gas prices continue to climb at a much faster rate than coal prices.

To make a long story short, natural gas is a fossil fuel and like all fossil fuels has major disadvantages. The renewables movement only increases our reliance on fossil fuels in the form of natural gas and coal while derailing interest and funding from viable sources of energy such as nuclear power. I do not mean to come off as being harsh in regards to solar and wind power, but the only practical application that either of these two energy sources seem to have is for the operation of small appliances or for pumping water.

*As provided by the US Energy Information Administration.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Those Krazy Katholics Are At It Again

In case you thought that all of the sexual abuse scandals involving the Catholic church were over and done with, we have another round of cover-ups by a Bishop who wanted to hide the misdeeds of the priests in his parish. Refresh my memory, but how many "moral authority" by default cards does a religious organization get before it is considered a degenerate cult? After all of this, I would SERIOUSLY think twice about letting my child be an altar boy if I were a parent and a Catholic one at that.

Oh, and religion turning a blind eye towards sexual abuse is not strictly confined to the Catholics...just look at what self-proclaimed Christian prophet Tony Alamo was doing. The transportation of grossly underage girls across state lines for sexual purposes is hardly befitting for a man who claims holiness in his actions.

Here we see him claiming that this is some sort of government conspiracy against him as well as "Jesus" by extension...



Tony Alamo is found guilty on all ten charges...



Suffer the little children indeed.

Could This Be the Beginning of the Thorium Age?

Lots of exiting things have been happening on the horizon for the future of thorium-based energy, particularly in the form of the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) concept. I would like to draw your attention to a recent Tech Talk sponsored by Google. Kirk Sorensen, an expert on the LFTR as well as being a brilliant man gave an informative as well as enlightening speech on potential of the LFTR in regards to the future of energy. It is quite a long video, but I strongly recommend that those of you who are interested in the future of clean energy watch it in its entirety. Not only can the LFTR provide a cheap source of plentiful, environmentally friendly electricity, the waste heat from an LFTR can be used for many applications ranging from an economic means of desalinization to the production of synthetic fertilizers and fuels with no need to use petroleum or natural gas. Hydrogen can be thermochemically produced from water at the operating temperature of an LFTR, and carbon can be extracted from the atmosphere. By doing this, you can synthetically produce alkanes that form the basis of organic chemistry such as the production of polymers and the refining process of petroleum into liquid fuels. By doing this, you could produce synthetic fuels like dimethyl ether or methanol and they would be carbon neutral when burned since the carbon used for their production was originally extracted from the atmosphere.



Next, there have been a whole series of LFTR-related recent posts over at the fascinating blog, The Nuclear Green Revolution run by Charles Barton, a man whom I admire. His father was a researcher over at the Oak Ridge project during the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) experiments of the 1960's before the MSR project was de-funded for political reasons. He offers a personal insight into both the convoluted history behind MSR-type reactors as well as the political issues that caused the project to be canceled in the first place. Mr. Barton has a series of essays looking at the economic means of lowering the costs of construction and operation of nuclear reactors as well as promoting new nuclear research.

Preface

1. The Keys to Lowering Reactor Costs: Economies of Scale or Serial Production?
2. The Keys to Lowering Reactor Costs: Advanced Materials
3. The Keys to Lowering Reactor Costs: Inherent Safety
4. The Keys to Lowering Reactor Costs: Nuclear Waste
5. The Keys to Lowering Reactor Costs: Labor Costs
5a. Addendum: Estimated US Energy Use in 2008: ~99.2 Quads
6. The Keys to Lowering Reactor Costs: Some Siting Considerations
7. The Keys to Lowering Reactor Costs: Investment Costs
8. The Keys to Lowering Reactor Costs: Research and Development

Confessions of a Nuclear Blogger, Part I

Finally, we have a post by davidwalters over at the Daily Kos comparing the economics of scaling behind the different potential sizes of the LFTR. He also has an interesting analysis of a means of their deployment as well as their potential to be used for naval transportation. An LFTR-powered cargo ship would be orders of magnitudes cleaner than ones that use conventional sources of energy, such as marine diesel which is one of the dirtiest grades of liquid fuel in existence.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Whither the Nuclear Renaissance?

I have heard mixed opinions from the Obama administration in regards to nuclear energy. Energy secretary Steven Chu seems to have a cautiously positive opinion of nuclear power. At the same time it seems the stimulus bill passed in February had the loan guarantees for nuclear construction written out of it while spending billions of dollars on "renewables" even though renewable energy sources by their very nature are both expensive and unreliable. I am left wondering what Obama really plans to do about nuclear power.

He at least acknowledged it during his campaign but when he said in needed to be "safer" it made me think that he was uninformed about how safe nuclear power really is. Very few industries in the world have safety records that could compare to nuclear energy in terms of the lack deaths or injuries in the years since nuclear energy was first developed. The two infamous incidents, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island are frequently referenced by wide-eyed activists but the Chernobyl reactor did not have a containment dome that could have prevented the entire disaster as all new reactors across the world have now. At Three Mile Island, human error and lack of maintenance combined lead to a very serious malfunction, yet the safety systems built into the design of Three Mile Island prevented anybody from being injured or killed by the incident. To drive the point home even further, I have never heard of a single incident of somebody being injured or killed by spent fuel. Yet despite all of this, an embarrassingly large segment of the world population is eager to listen when activists paint the nuclear industry as being a modern day "Frankenstein's monster" poisoning the land and the nearby people with a mysterious force called radiation. Much of the public's imagination (Often fueled by science fiction B movies) has taken to thinking of radiation as being something that causes spontaneous and severe mutations such as animals growing to several hundred times their normal size or sprouting extra limbs. The more "informed" merely think that a nuclear power plant by its very nature will somehow cause the nearby populace to fall ill and be struck down by maladies such as cancer and radiation sickness.

Also, on the face of it, the idea seems rather absurd as to why Steven Chu seems unwilling to consider the MSR designs for Gen IV funding because of proliferation fears. The proliferation risk of an MSR design is quite low because the entire reactor would have to be shut down in order to divert the produced U233 into weapons production. The U233 will be contaminated with U232 and U234 that decay producing hard gamma radiation and terrorists working in a hastily constructed garage or cave would be hard pressed to steal enough for a bomb without instantly dying of radiation poisoning. There is also the question about how a terrorist would manage to steal liquid U233 from the molten core of the MSR which is surrounded by a massive field of radiation especially since you would have to shut down the MSR and reroute the plumbing of the reactor for such an operation. With that being said and done, it would be a lot easier to raid a radiology clinic for nuclear material.

Finally, the appointment of Gregory Jaczko as the new Chairman of the NRC has me concerned. Part of the problem of constructing new nuclear facilities is the inefficient and often nonsensical approval process that a power company must go through in order to obtain an operating license. I have heard some reports that Jaczko is in agreement with some anti-nuclear environmentalists groups and that he voted against renewing the operating license for the Oyster Creek reactor in New Jersey as well as collaborating with Rep. Ed Markey (D) for imposing more stringent regulations on classifying spent fuel when the nuclear industry is already choking on overregulation in general.

This is not to say that previous presidential administrations have been any more open minded in regards to promoting nuclear energy. The Bush administration amidst many of its other problems paid lip service to nuclear power while simply allowing it to languish during its pursuit of fossil fuel energy in the form of coal, oil, and natural gas. In fact, a large part of presidential candidate McCain's energy policy during his campaign was the promotion of "clean coal" of which there is no such thing. Opposition to nuclear power sadly seems to be a bi-partisan phenomenon in the US.

Perhaps I am being overly pessimistic here. I would like to get a discussion going as to what my readers think we might expect in regards to nuclear energy under this administration. Are nuclear energy promotion efforts really being noticed, or are they just a minority in the void of the internet that is too willing to pat itself on the back as coal and natural gas take center stage in the future as they have in the past?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Long Silence is Over

I apologize to my readers for the prolonged absence of new posts. I have been extremely busy this semester and have also had some serious issues with my right eye developing endophthalmitis. It resulted after a minor injury involving a two millimeter long shard of corningware becoming lodged in my right eye after an old pot I was boiling ramen noodles in exploded on my stove. Corningware, because of its partially recrystallized structure, tends to shatter with explosive force rather than merely break when it fails.

I had gotten somebody to drive me to the emergency room where the shard of corningware was removed from the right side of my right eye where it had narrowly missed my lens and cornea. However, a few days later my eye had become infected by bacteria that had probably been introduced into the interior of the eye when it had been punctured. I had been taking some perscribed tobramycin eyedrops as a preventative measure until my eye healed but the strain of bacteria that infected my eye was apparently resistant to it. I went to a clinic where I had to have an antibiotic called polymixin B injected directly into the interior of my eye and had to apply polymixin B eyedrops to the eye three times a day in addition to taking an antibiotic called Zyvox orally. Towards the beginning of the infection, I felt miserable and my eye looked very ghastly indeed. At one point the physician that I was speaking to at the clinic said that if the treatment with the polymixin B and the Zyvox was unsuccessful, I would seriously have to consider enucleation (eye removal) to control the infection.

Thankfully, the treatment worked and my vision in the eye has returned to normal with no apparent permanent loss of vision. I am fortunate that I did not suffer any permanent injury to the eye as I was not sure how I would handle having monocular vision. Everyday activities such as driving a car, reading, or even drawing and painting for my studio art classes became a major challenge as I did not have any depth perception while wearing a patch over my right eye. It was only for four weeks yet I could barely stand it. I do not know how people who have only one functional eye can manage their disability for the long term.

Despite my apparent abandonment of my blog, I have done my best to keep up with the news regarding my fellow nuclear bloggers as well as reading the recent posts on my blog roll. I could not attend the last two AREVA conference calls as I have been extremely busy but I am sure that Dan Yurman over at the Nuke Notes blog can fill me in on the details. I will have more time during the summer so I hope to put up at least two posts per week again.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Here Is Your Chance to Be a Nuclear Technician!

The NEI blog posted something interesting today. Over at NEI they found a nuclear power plant simulator. It is an interesting little flash game that lets you set the control rod and coolant levels as you try to produce as much power as possible without causing a nuclear meltdown. You have two settings to choose from. "Normal" simulates a normal reactor, while "Difficult" simulates a reactor that has fallen behind on maintenance.



The demo version of game itself can be played at AE4RV by following this link. You can also play the full version of the game by downloading it. Consider this a small little indulgence at work or at school when you should be doing other things.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Biology is in BIG Trouble

Creationists are causing a nuisance again. This time, they managed to get the Louisiana Science Education Act passed. This forces the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to let instructors teach whatever nonsense the instructors want to teach in place of established scientific theories. In other words, you can bet that this will be the perfect opportunity for intelligent design and other disguised forms of creationism to rear their ugly heads in the public classroom again. As if to drive the point home even further, the book Explore Evolution, by the Discovery Institute (A well-known creationist organization) is expected to be selected as the biology book of choice all across Louisiana. Shame on you, Bobby Jindahl!

Texas is about to fuck itself over as well. The Texas Board of Education spends massive amounts of money on textbooks every year. If the nutty creationists who sit on the Texas Board of Education get their way, this will have a negative influence on the entire biology textbook industry geared towards high school and grade school. This is because publishing companies will start producing more books that espouse intelligent design and other creationist nonsense in order to appeal to their main customers.

To all Louisianians and Texans reading this post, I suggest you go to your state government and public education representatives NOW and RAISE HELL! The future of science depends on you. Creationists are trying to dismantle science in an agenda to impose their narrow-minded ideology on the entire country.

Do not give up without a fight! The Texas Board of Education votes on this matter next week! The details can be read here on the Bad Astronomy blog.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Impressions of AREVA

I attended the conference call hosted by AREVA on the 9th and it was a very interesting experience. AREVA was looking into setting up a blog of its own detailing its activities and was looking for feedback from members on the Nuclear Advocacy Webring. AREVA's representative allowed us all to ask questions and converse with each other in order to come to a consensus about the direction that it should take as part of its outreach policy.

I was thoroughly impressed with the friendly and open atmosphere during the conference call. All of us shared an interest in the future of nuclear energy and combating the idiotic and silly myths that have surrounded this valuable energy source. AREVA hopes to schedule more meetings like this in the future based on the success of this one.

Finally, I offer my thanks to the nuclear advocacy webring for being so supportive to all of its members. It is important that we work together to help combat the anti-nuclear hysteria that is so prevalent in some parts of the developed world. If we ever hope to take the challenge of helping the environment seriously, then nuclear power is the way forward.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Areva Conference Call

I have been contacted by Areva today regarding a conference call meeting regarding bloggers supporting nuclear power. This is an honor, as I am very grateful for the opportunity to expand my knowledge on the subject by listening to some of the most knowledgeable people on this subject anywhere. I thank Areva for its consideration and for noticing my humble blog.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with AREVA, it is a French-based multinational corporation that specializes in nuclear energy production, nuclear fuel mining, spent fuel disposal, and fuel reprocessing. The majority of AREVA is publicly owned and traded by the French government, so it is largely a public company. AREVA is also part of the Global Energy Partnership Alliance (GNEP), so this is a very high profile company.

AREVA has a presence in several countries across the world. It owns uranium mines in Canada, South Korea, and Niger. It manufacturers reactor components for several countries with an active nuclear infrastructure, including the US. As part of a recent deal, AREVA has even started working on construction contracts with the surging Chinese nuclear power industry.

Once again, I sincerely thank AREVA for contacting me. I am glad that our efforts in the Nuclear Advocacy Webring are not going unnoticed. I will make every effort to attend the conference call.