Posts Tagged ‘Nuclear energy’


November 17, 2013

Nuclear Roundup 11/17/13

If you are worried about CO2 (I’m not), then you should be pro-nuke (I am).



Japan slashes climate reduction target amid nuclear shutdown

Japan had previously pledged to reduce its CO2 emissions to 25% below its 1990 levels in a (misguided) bid to battle global warming.  Now it is likely that there will be no reduction below the 1990 level because they have pulled back from nuclear power and have re-embraced fossil fuels 

According to  BBC Asia, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said “Our government has been saying… that the 25% reduction target was totally unfounded and wasn’t feasible.”  Japan’s chief negotiator at UN climate change talks in Warsaw, Hiroshi Minami, said “The new target is based on zero nuclear power in the future. We have to lower our ambition level.”

BBC Asia points out…

Since the Fukushima disaster, Japan has been forced to import huge amounts of coal, liquid natural gas and other fuels.

Reuters reports

“Given that none of the nuclear reactors is operating, this was unavoidable,” Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara said.

Japan’s 50 nuclear plants were closed on safety concerns after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima reactors northeast of Tokyo. Nuclear accounted for 26 percent of Japan’s electricity generation and its loss has forced the country to import natural gas and coal, causing its greenhouse gas emissions to skyrocket.

Natural-gas consumption by Japan’s 10 utilities was up 8.4 percent in October from a year earlier and coal use was up 4.4 percent as the companies used more fossil fuels to compensate for the nuclear shutdown, industry data showed on Friday.


United States

As nuclear is shut down in California, CO2 emissions rise.

From Bloomberg

Greenhouse-gas emissions from power generators, oil refineries and other plants in California climbed in 2012 as a nuclear plant shutdown and low hydropower supplies increased the state’s reliance on natural gas.

Power-plant releases rose 35 percent to 41.6 million metric tons last year, according to data posted today on the state Air Resources Board’s website. Total emissions were 437.8 million metric tons, up from 429.3 million in 2011. Edison International (EIX) shut the San Onofre nuclear power plant in Southern California in January 2012, and the state that year faced one of the lowest snowpack levels on record.

“The rise in total emissions is primarily due to emission increases from California electricity generation using natural gas as a fuel,” the board said. “The majority of this additional natural-gas electricity generation is due to a decrease in available hydroelectric generation for 2012 and a reduction in nuclear generated power.”


Movie – Pandora’s Promise

This is a documentary featuring prominent environmentalists that are pro-nuclear.  It is soon to be released by Netflix

Netflix description…  

Former antinuclear activists and groundbreaking scientists speak out in favor of the much-maligned energy source in this provocative documentary that explores the history and future of nuclear power.


Nuclear roundup

October 21, 2013


Abe looks to retain nuclear power in nation’s basic energy policy

Before the LDP [Liberal Democratic Party] returned to power last December and its leader, Shinzo Abe, became prime minister, many members of the committee under the predecessor government, led by the DPJ, had called for the country’s dependence on nuclear power to be phased out.

After Abe and the LDP took over, subcommittee members were reshuffled and there have been no demands from new members for an immediate end to nuclear power.

The existing basic energy policy sees nuclear power as a key source of electricity and has a goal of increasing the proportion of energies that do not emit carbon dioxide, including atomic and hydraulic power, to some 70 percent of the country’s energy mix by 2030.

Read more at Japan Times.


Hungary and South Korea

Hungary, South Korea sign nuclear energy cooperation agreement.

[Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martony] and his South Korean colleague signed a new bilateral agreement on the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Read more at (Hungary’s non-partisan international political daily)


Great Britain

Building to commence on Britain’s first nuclear power station in 20 years

The new reactors, which will cost £14bn, are due to start operating in 2023 if constructed on time and will run for 35 years. They will be capable of producing 7% of the UK’s electricity – equivalent to the amount used by 5m homes.

Read more at The Guardian

David Cameron


Containment is easier for Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR)

February 12, 2013

Check this picture out.  It is a crane lifting a 40 meter wide, 4.5 cm thick dome for the top of a nuclear reactor containment building under construction in China.  The containment building is extraordinarily massive, the dome alone weighs 655 tonnes (1.4 million pounds).

Believe it on not, the containment building’s purpose is to capture a steam explosion.

Steam Explosion

Water boils at 100°C at one atmosphere of pressure, but the boiling temperature goes up at higher pressures.  For example, the water in your car radiator will go to higher than 100°C without boiling because the radiator is pressurized to about 2 atmospheres when the car is warmed up.  What happens if the pressure is suddenly released by a puncture or someone foolishly removing the radiator cap?  See the video below for a steam explosion…

Carnot engine efficiency increases with increasing temperature, so there is a great advantage to running a nuclear reactor (or any heat engine) at high temperatures, which requires very high pressures to keep the reactor’s water from completely boiling.  Conventional boiling water reactors and pressurized water reactors operate at around 70 atmospheres and 160 atmospheres to achieve temperatures of 285°C and 315°C respectively.  If water escapes from the reactor for any reason it will instantly expand to about 1600 times its liquid volume as it explodes into steam.  The containment building is supposed to capture that exploding steam.  It is so massive because it must restrain the steam under great pressure without exploding itself.

Containment building

But this type of massive containment building would not be necessary for a Liquid fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR)!  This type of reactor concept does not use water to transfer heat away from solid pieces of fissioning metals.  Instead, thorium is dissolved in liquid fluoride salts, where it is converted to uranium233, which fissions and generates heat.  One of the beauties of the LFTR is that the liquid fluoride salts can go to incredible temperatures before they boil – temperatures vastly exceeding the operating temperature of the reactor.    Consequently, the reactor operates at atmospheric pressure – no high pressure needed.  In the event of a liquid leak there would be no explosive effect like the water instantly boiling into steam in a conventional reactor.

The LFTR would operate at around 700°C, reaching a much higher carnot efficiency than boiling water reactors or pressurized water reactors.  Yet the fluid medium of the LFTR would not boil until reaching the extraordinary temperature of about 1400°C.

read more…

See the Energy from Thorium website for much more information about this revolutionary concept, or read “Thorium: Energy Cheaper Than Coal,” by Robert Hargraves.


James Lovelock says nuclear better than wind.

January 26, 2013

James Lovelock has worn many hats.  He worked with NASA to make instruments for studying extraterrestrial planetary atmospheres and surfaces.  He invented the electron capture detector for studying traces of various chemicals in gas.  He has been awarded multiple prizes from many academic and environmental groups.

However, he is best known as the founding father of the much-loved (by environmental groups) “Gaia Theory.”  According to…

“The Gaia Theory posits that the organic and inorganic components of Planet Earth have evolved together as a single living, self-regulating system. It suggests that this living system has automatically controlled global temperature, atmospheric content, ocean salinity, and other factors, that maintains its own habitability. In a phrase, “life maintains conditions suitable for its own survival.” In this respect, the living system of Earth can be thought of analogous to the workings of any individual organism that regulates body temperature, blood salinity, etc.”

This seductive reasoning ignores the reality that life evolves, as best it can, to survive in a given environment, and while life may change the environment it does not “automatically control” it to “maintain its own habitability.”  But my point here is not to argue with the Gaia theory.

Lovelock was an icon in environmentalist circles, but since he started publicly endorsing nuclear energy a few years ago his aura seems to be fading.  He has been condemned as being senile or worse (see here or comments here).

In a recent comment (see discussion at Lovelock condemns a single proposed wind turbine in a bucolic English setting, calling it “industrial vandalism.”  But more importantly he goes on to say…

“we should look to the French who have wisely chosen nuclear energy as their principal source; a single nuclear power station provides as much as 3200 large wind turbines.”

I am not one to condemn wind turbines for aesthetic reasons.  In fact, I find that modern wind turbines have their own beauty in their graceful structure.  But Lovelock is certainly right in his comparison of the utility of wind turbines with nuclear energy.

Lovelock closes his comments with this homily…

I am an environmentalist and founder member of the Greens but I bow my head in shame at the thought that our original good intentions should have been so misunderstood and misapplied. We never intended a fundamentalist Green movement that rejected all energy sources other than renewable, nor did we expect the Greens to cast aside our priceless ecological heritage because of their failure to understand that the needs of the Earth are not separable from human needs. We need take care that the spinning windmills do not become like the statues on Easter Island, monuments of a failed civilisation.


WSJ put Fukushima panic in perspective

August 19, 2012

I have been working on renewable energy (photovoltaics) for 16 years as a scientist at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.  It is quite obvious to me that abundant energy, in one form or another, has been the key to human advancement.  This fact is not going to change.  That is why it worries me  when largely uninformed, irrational and panic drive perspectives on nuclear energy come to dominate the issue.

It was refreshing to see a more down-to-earth perspective on the radiation hazard resulting from the tsunami driven Fukushima disaster in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.  Here are a few glimpses of the article “The Panic over Fukushima” by Richard Muller.

Denver has particularly high natural radioactivity. It comes primarily from  radioactive radon gas, emitted from tiny concentrations of uranium found in local granite. If you live there, you get, on average, an extra dose of .3 rem of radiation per year…The International Commission on Radiological Protection recommends evacuation of a locality whenever the excess radiation dose exceeds .1 rem per year…It is worth noting that, despite its high radiation levels, Denver generally has a lower cancer rate than the rest of the United States…Applied strictly, the ICRP standard would seem to require the immediate evacuation of Denver.

The “hot spots” in Japan [after the Fukushima tsunami disaster] that frightened many people showed radiation at the level of .1 rem, a number quite small compared with the average excess dose that people happily live with in Denver.In hindsight, it is hard to resist the conclusion that the policies enacted in the wake of the disaster in Japan—particularly the long-term evacuation of large areas and the virtual termination of the Japanese nuclear power industry—were expressions of panic.

Read the entire article…


An easy climate change / energy quiz

November 13, 2008

Here is a simple, fun, 10 question quiz that covers a sample of climate change and/or energy issues.   Simply check the appropriate box and push the “vote” button for each question.  After you have pushed the vote button you will see the accumulated wisdom of everybody who has answered that question so far.  You can even leave a comment for any question, which I encourage.

Note that several of the questions requiring numerical answers have “order of magnitude” choices.   That is, they require “back of the envelope” type approximations, not high precision.

At the bottom of the quiz you will find a link to a solutions page, with links to supporting evidence, and “back of the envelope” calculations.  If you want, you can look at the solutions first and then take the quiz – but that would be cheating!

After enough people have answered the questions I will post the results at ClimateSanity.

Have fun!


 Here are five false color images of the sea ice in the arctic.  The images represent the ice on five year intervals on July 18th of 1988, 1993, 1998, 2003, and 2008.  Your task is to use your knowledge of changing conditions in the Arctic to put them in the proper chronological order.  Note that each image uses the same color scale (shown in the upper left corner of each image) to indicate the density of ice as a function of position. 

Image 1

Image 2

Image 3

Image 4

Image 5


Question 2


Question 3

In the fall of 2007, after the northern summer melt season, the Arctic sea ice extent anomaly reached its lowest level since satellite monitoring began in 1979.  This was followed by warnings that the Arctic ice could be completely gone by the summer of 2012. 


Question 4

In 1979 the worst nuclear accident in US history happened at Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Middletown, Pennsylvania. 


Question 5

A rising sea level is one of the feared symptoms of global warming.  According to the Jason and Topax satellite tracking of ocean levels, the average sea level rise rate for the last 10 years has been about 3.2 mm per year.  This is interpreted by some to indicate an accelerating sea level rise rate.  IPCC expert Simon Holgate’s 2004 data (Holgate, S.J., and P.L. Woodworth, 2004: Evidence for enhanced coastal sea level rise during the 1990s. Geophys. Res. Lett., 31, L07305, doi:10.1029/2004GL019626.) was prominently featured in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4, Working Group 1: The Physical Science Basis of Climate change, Chapter 5).  In a more recent 2007 paper (S.J. Holgate, “On decadal rates of sea level change during the twentieth century“, Geophysical Research Letters34: GL019626 (2007)., Holgate reconstructed sea level rise rates from high quality tidal gauge data going back to about 1900.


Question 6

NASA Scientist James Hansen estimated a sea level rise of 15 feet for the 21st century.


Question 7

The northern coast of Greenland is at 83.5 degrees north latitude.  It is the closest land to the North Pole.  Satellite data since 1979 has always shown this region locked in sea ice.  If global warming were to result in an ice free arctic sometime during this century, it is believed that this area would be the last place to lose its summer ice.


Question 8

Compact fluorescent light bulbs use only 25% of the energy of an incandescent light bulb to give the same number of lumens of light.


Question 9


Question 10

Since 1963 Africa’s Lake Chad has experienced severe shrinkage.  While atmospheric CO2 levels have continuously increased since 1963, the surface area of the lake has dropped from about 25,000 square kilometers to about 1,500 square kilometers.  This fact has been presented by Al Gore and others as a consequence of anthropogenically induced global warming.  Of course, this evidence must be considered in comparison to how the lake was changing when CO2 levels were not increasing. 


***Click here for quiz solutions***



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