Gas Price Outrage!

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Postby analog » Fri Sep 15, 2006 6:18 pm

barfle wrote:I have concerns about nukes - that simply means that, in my mind, questions remain unanswered.



Having retired from thirty years in a generating plant I'm hardly impartial, therefore will only take one of your questions, and answer only from my personal experience.

On heat rejection:
Yes, most Nukes dump more heat than similar sized fossil plants.
That's because they operate at lower temperature.

Where I worked the nuclear plant with 516 degreeF steam was about 30% efficient, the fossil plant adjoining with 1000 degree steam was about 40% efficient. Up the road a few miles we had combined cycle plants, which use a jet engine to drive a generator directly, and their hot exhaust gas feeds a boiler that runs another generator. Those darn things can do a shade better than 50% efficient. The heat from a fossil plant goes some out the exhaust stack, the rest either to the body of water or to air via cooling towers if it has them. Nukes of course have no combustion products to exhaust so it's all out one place.

There was a nuke design out there, the Gulf General Atomic plant at Ft St Vrain Colorado, which would have made 1000 degree steam if it had ever run. I thought it was a promising machine, but it had some mechanical difficulties that got compounded by management difficulties. Freeman Dyson spoke well of that design in his "Disturbing the Universe". I'd like to have seen it run.

So, dumping heat to the environment is not unique to the nuclear plants, just they're sorta hogs about it. Some of them have big cooling towers whose shape has become a scare symbol for anti nuke activists. The St Louis planetarium has exactly the same shape, a parabola rotated about the Y axis. It's a practical shape for a building that needs a lot of open space inside.

Where I worked the heat was a boon to the aquatic critters in the wintertime. We added about fifteen degrees to the water. Fishing was great right where the warm water came out, about two million gallons per minute, and the manatees (and later on the crocodiles too) loved it. In summer they'd head for cooler places and it looked barren, but they came back every winter . (All our power plants were popular with winter tourists for manatee watching.) Eventually they closed off the cooling system from the ocean, environmentalists were worried about the heat, and about all you catch anymore is big jacks and sharks. I guess the snappers couldn't get out to the reefs where they like to spawn. But the crocs are thriving and will probably become a menace before many more years. I think they got the manatees.

Maybe somebody here has experience in a plant up north - I imagine the great lakes fish would love a warm spot about January.

You Californians - do whales hang out at Diablo Canyon?

Barfle - here's a link to FPL's PR page, they're not unbiased but might address some of your other questions.
http://www.fpl.com/environment/nuclear/ ... _you.shtml
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Postby barfle » Fri Sep 15, 2006 7:40 pm

Analog, thanks for the link.

I don't know if the warm water is a good thing or not. Clearly, it attracts fish who like warm water, but you were putting out quite a bit of warm water. Too bad it wasn't my swimming pool, but I understand the transport issues.
:wink:

One thing I did notice in the link is that the spent fuel rods are a concern. While fossil fuel fired plants simply release most of their byproducts to the atmosphere, the spent fuel rods are too hazardous for that.

One of the items in Haggis's link said something about recycling the material in the spent fuel rods. While that seems like a good idea, it doesn't seem to have been implemented at FPL.

Like I said, I'm far from being against nukes, and I wouldn't even mind them being close to my house. I'd rather have a nuke than a coal-fired plant any day of the week - I know about them, too, because that seems to be the fuel of choice here near the Appalachian coal mines. Just the trainloads of coal are an eyesore after you get over the awe at just how much coal they carry. I wonder if any of those coal carriers ever catches on fire, but that's another issue.
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Postby shostakovich » Fri Sep 15, 2006 9:24 pm

Shapley wrote:Overly optimistic? Perhaps. But gas prices here in Cape Girardeau are below $2/gal. again.

Conspiracy theorists are convinced the drop in prices are designed to ward off the introduction of alternative fuel sources, or to get Republicans re-elected.

V/R
Shapley


I never thought about warding off alternative fuels. Thanks. But what about this $2/ gallon stuff in Cape Girardeau? Is that the conspiracy center taking care of its own? The lowest I've seen around here is $2.73. Punishment for a blue state, no doubt. :wink:

I have 6 $2 bills. That explains their scarcity. :roll: We keep them for use on art tours. The back of the bill features Trumbull's Declaration of Independence (the one in DC). The first version, much smaller, is at the Yale Art Gallery (the oldest college art gallery in the nation). Our version (Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford) is about half the size of the one in DC with only one door in the back of the room.
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Postby analog » Fri Sep 15, 2006 10:44 pm

Here's an infrared photo of Turkey Point's cooling system, an array of canals roughly nine miles long covering about 22 thousand acres.

http://sti.srs.gov/fulltext/ms2001549/fig0506.gif
Image

As you see we warm up the north end of it. There's some evaporation, and radiant cooling at night.

Check my arithmetic -
sunshine delivers about 250 watt per square meter, so over 22000 acres, that's about
2X10^16 joules per day sunlight falling on that cooling canal area.

We dump 70% of 4400 megawatts, about
2.6X10^14 joules per day added by the reactors.

As huge as the machine is its waste heat amounts to about 1% of sun's heat over that 22000 acres. That puts it into perspective - the waste heat from a nuclear plant could really heat up a few hundred acres. Spread it over a few thousand and it's not much of a change.

The fuel rods, after they're used, are radioactive as heck. That's one of my soapboxes so I won't start, suffice it to say: this country decided in the early 1980's to not reprocess spent reactor fuel because of proliferation concerns. So it's piling up for our kids to deal with. Read "The Curve of Binding Energy" by John McPhee for the politics of that. Pakistan has made it moot anyway. Messy as it is, we need to bite the bullet and just do it. Oops, soapbox alert...

I was once in a deep shaft coal mine and won't go back, nor would I ask anyone to. Watch the coal mine scenes in "October Sky" for a hint.
One of our fuels people told me our uranium came from central Florida's phosphate mine tailings where it's a byproduct. Those mines would operate without our business.

Ten coal trains a day roll through our little town. They tickle my wanderlust - I want to hop an empty headed back toWyoming. Ever read Loren Eiseley?
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Postby BigJon » Sat Sep 16, 2006 3:04 am

All other sources of heat are from the sun. Some has been brought forward to current days, but they all started with the power of the sun. Nuclear is different. We are releasing heat that was never output by the sun, making the net thermal balance of the globe increase. Significant? I'll let that for the science types to decide.
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Postby BigJon » Sat Sep 16, 2006 3:09 am

BTW, nice hi-jack of the thread guys.
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Postby BenODen » Mon Sep 18, 2006 11:58 am

Nah man, it's a tangent! If we could get cheap energy (ok, even nuclear wouldn't be cheap cheap) we could leave oil behind and not have to worry about gas prices!
If only I could fly on my own wings.
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Postby Shapley » Mon Sep 18, 2006 12:51 pm

We had a lengthy discussion on the merits and drawbacks of nuclear power a while back, I'm not sure what thread it was on.

I pointed out that most alternative forms of energy currently available cost more than oil, which is why we still prefer oil. If the cost of oil goes up enough, we'll start developing those alternatives. Similarly, if alternative begin to come on line, they will drive down the price of oil, making the alternatives less attractive. The price of oil will have to rise high enough and show signs of remaining high before investors will be willing to spend large sums of money in alternative energy speculation. Many of those alternative exist now in the design and experimentation stages, but they are not likely to move into a production phase until they show the potential for suitable returns on the investments needed to get them rolling. I'm not sure how high oil prices have to get to spur that investment into action, but it would appear they have to be significantly higher than they currently are.

V/R
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Postby analog » Mon Sep 18, 2006 1:02 pm

Barfle - i didn't mean to dodge your question about spent fuel, just as i said i don't think i'm unbiased.

Here's a photo of the little reactor where I went to school.

Image

To me the blue glow is beautiful. Even though it's radiation induced. The spent fuel from a power reactor is almost as active as in this photo. It's not something a terrorist is likely to sneak home.


Here's two sites, one very pro and one very anti nuke.
http://www.nei.org/index.asp?catnum=1&catid=3 (pro)
http://www.citizen.org/cmep/energy_envi ... er_plants/ (con)

Here's a guy I think does a pretty good job of being fair:
http://www.nucleartourist.com/

Out West there are still some messes left over from the years of Manhattan Project and reactor research that followed.. Haste made waste. I think we learned from that decade how not to handle high level radwaste, but are still laboring under the stigma.

I personally view nuclear power as the price civilization will have to pay if we're to continue our high energy lifestyle through the carbon crisis coming up this century. We'll just have to clean up our mess. The alternative is to shut down western civilization and live like the Amish farmers (which is not without appeal now that i'm retired.)

You see the coal trains go by. A big coal plant installation burns a mile of coal cars a day. Most people have no appreciation of what's behind that wall outlet.

Wind and solar electricity are I feel still in the toy stage. I personally think wind will stay there, but solar cells have made a tenfold jump in efficiency since I started paying attention. Aren't some pushing two percent?

One more tenfold jump and solar cells will be viable. And we need a tenfold jump in battery energy density to make electric cars and home solar electric plants practical. Where's those old Dupont guys -"Better Living through Chemistry"!!!

a.
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Postby barfle » Mon Sep 18, 2006 3:15 pm

I do believe nuclear fission is a useful source of electricity, and if the politics would let it, it wouldn't have the issues with spent fuel rods that it does.

Uranium isn't just a byproduct of phosphate mining. Wyoming has several mines, Washington is having concerns, and other countries that don't have our safeguards in effect have it far worse. The source remains an issue, although we probably could provide for our domestic needs fairly easily.
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Postby OperaTenor » Mon Sep 18, 2006 8:34 pm

You wanna talk about nuclear waste?

Idaho National Engineering and Ecological Laboratory

890 square miles, and don't take a shovel.
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Postby jamiebk » Mon Sep 18, 2006 9:08 pm

How many people would be willing to live near Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository? These waste dispoosal issues just never go away.
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Postby Serenity » Mon Sep 18, 2006 10:28 pm

How come we don't dump this crap somewhere in the Middle East?
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Postby OperaTenor » Mon Sep 18, 2006 11:39 pm

Serenity wrote:How come we don't dump this crap somewhere in the Middle East?


It would spoil the oil, m'dearie.
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Postby Shapley » Tue Sep 19, 2006 8:00 am

And it can be used to make bombs - dirty or otherwise.
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Postby Catmando » Tue Sep 19, 2006 8:06 am

Serenity wrote:How come we don't dump this crap somewhere in the Middle East?


Surely you joust? Dumping your nation's mess into another region of the world? :x
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Postby Nicole Marie » Tue Sep 19, 2006 8:10 am

Since we are back on nukes. A friend of Scotts is a nuclear enivironmental clean up guy (for lack of his true title). He is the person called in to correctly clean up nuclear waste sites. We were out for drinks one day and I asked Mike why the US does not recycle our nuclear waste like other countries? He said it's US governement policy. If we were to recycle it, we could save tons of money. The waste can be used to generate more energy for consumer use. It is also cheaper to recycle instead of spending millions on maintaining the waste dump sites for hundreds of years. The US will not change the policy since there is tons of money to be made in the form of government grants for private companies. It's very possible but it will never see the light of day due to lobby groups and government policy. Unless we demand it, it'll never happen.
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Postby Shapley » Tue Sep 19, 2006 8:10 am

Surely you joust? Dumping your nation's mess into another region of the world?


We have a history of that older than this country. You realize that Georgia and parts of Australia both started out as penal colonies?
Last edited by Shapley on Tue Sep 19, 2006 11:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby analog » Tue Sep 19, 2006 11:31 am

Thanks NM --

The really high level stuff, ie spent fuel, is indeed recyclable. It's a messy job, but as you said other countries are doing it. I was led to believe it was non proliferation issues that made Carter opt out, though I always wondered if he didn't suspect we'd be consumed by profit motive and get sloppy about it - after all it was the early eighties, when people were chopping off their catalytic converters. He may have felt we needed to mature a little, wait for the "Greening of America" so to speak.

The low level stuff - like mop heads and paper towels used in cleanup isn't nearly so dangerous but shouldn't be treated cavalier-ly. The industry got better at handling low level waste during my career. There's no money in that stuff, you just gotta handle it right as part of being decent human beings. Believe it or not, we bottom-of-the-pyramid line workers care about those things, our friends and families live downwind.

AS OT said there's some messes out west in Idaho and Washington left over from WW2 era. Until we tackle those my industry is living with its scarlet letter, IMHO.

a. - a true believer
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Postby Shapley » Tue Sep 19, 2006 11:48 am

Recycling the waste is expensive and labour-intensive, but research into new methods continues:

Argonne National Labs

The problem remains that, while there are markets for many of the radioactive by-products of fission ('by-products' sounds better than 'waste'), most countries are only recycling the fuel materials, leaving the matter of storing the rest, but it is a start. Many other useful isotopes are generated as a part of the fission process which serve useful applications in the medical and industrial field. I think I posted a list of a handful of those a while back. The more of the radionuclides we re-use, the less we have to bury in the backyard. Also, since those nuclides have commercial value, the more of the cost of recycling can be recouped.

As I said earlier, however, the cost to the producers is less if they don't recycle - since they don't directly bear the cost of long-term storage and disposal.

V/R
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