Discussion of Nuclear Power and Safety

Casual discussion amongst spiritual friends.

Re: Discussion of Nuclear Power and Safety

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Feb 28, 2014 10:49 am

rowboat wrote:
Kim OHara: A big article and it starts with inspiring imagery but what do we see later on?

You and Lyndon both seem to be operating under the belief that I posted the article with stars in my eyes. This is not the case.

Sorry, but that can happen when someone posts an article without their own comment on it (something I need to remember, actually).
rowboat wrote:And the article itself is balanced in my opinion. It is not out of place on this thread; Discussion of Nuclear Power and Safety.

Reasonably balanced and certainly not out of place.
rowboat wrote:My personal opinion is that there will not be any last-minute Grand Repair Schemes from the scientific community.

Agreed.

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Re: Discussion of Nuclear Power and Safety

Postby chownah » Fri Feb 28, 2014 3:12 pm

Kim OHara,
In your estimation are we on schedule to avert the global warming disaster? Seems like a lot of people are saying we are too late already....they say it will be like a train wreck in slow motion...things will just continue to deteriorate over a long period of time i.e. decades. What will we do if they are correct and the disaster starts to build and all of our renewable energy sources are not enough? With an unlimited clean power source it is feasible to sequester carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere and in a worst case scenario you could build underground cities with controlled atmosphere if necessary and at least you could distill pure water from the ocean for agriculture in overly arid regions etc. etc.

We do not know if fusion will work but there is good reason to believe it will. Magnetic confinement fusion research goes in build cycles. With adequate funding you build a facility in five years and do research with it for another five years learning what to do differently in the next facility to improve it.....then you spend five years building the next facility and five years doing research to learn how to make the next facility better etc. etc. We have lost at least two build cycles as a minimum and probably three and perhaps four because of societies short sightedness and lack of funding.....and really if you look at how much is funded yearly it is tiny compared to things like military budgets, organized sports, and pet care. Elon Musk is going to spend as much money on one battery factory as the us gov't spends in one year for the ITER fusion project (if I remember correctly).

I prefer renewables as energy sources and hope they will be developed fast enough but the amount of money spent on fusion is not going to be a make or break amount even if it were channelled to renewables. Fusion will be pursued because there are enough people in the world who crave the amount of power it might produce. My view is that it is better to pursue it quickly.....then either it will work and solve the problem or it won't work and people will stop dreaming of it working....it will not get cheaper if it is delayed....in fact the lack of funding has increased the costs....
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Re: Discussion of Nuclear Power and Safety

Postby rowboat » Fri Feb 28, 2014 8:53 pm

Kim OHara: Sorry, but that can happen when someone posts an article without their own comment on it (something I need to remember, actually).


Yes, me too. Thanks for the reminder. (In this case I was only posting for the general enrichment of the thread.) :thinking:

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Re: Discussion of Nuclear Power and Safety

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Feb 28, 2014 10:59 pm

Hi, Chownah,
You really seem to have two questions in there ...
chownah wrote:Kim OHara,
In your estimation are we on schedule to avert the global warming disaster? Seems like a lot of people are saying we are too late already....they say it will be like a train wreck in slow motion...things will just continue to deteriorate over a long period of time i.e. decades.

Putting the question as you do implies that it is a single event like an egg falling onto the floor and smashing. It isn't. It's much more like the 'train wreck in slow motion' and, sadly, it is already happening. In that sense it can't possibly be "averted" but it can be mitigated in all sorts of ways.
(1) We can make the final state of the world - i.e. when the climate reaches a new balance - less bad by reducing the amount of CO2 that's in the air at that point. A 450ppm world is not going to be the catastrophe that a 600ppm world would be.
(2) We can get to the worst point slower by slowing our emissions ASAP and as much as possible, giving us - and nature - more time to adapt.
(3) We can mitigate the inevitable impacts by planning for them. We know now that we need crops which are more heat tolerant and drought tolerant - we can start breeding for them. We know now that seal level is going to keep rising - we can build levees and move people and infrastructure. Etc.

All of these mitigations will save lives and avoid suffering, and all are far more effective if applied right now.

chownah wrote:Kim OHara,
In your estimation are we on schedule to avert the global warming disaster? Seems like a lot of people are saying we are too late already....they say it will be like a train wreck in slow motion...things will just continue to deteriorate over a long period of time i.e. decades. What will we do if they are correct and the disaster starts to build and all of our renewable energy sources are not enough? With an unlimited clean power source it is feasible to sequester carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere and in a worst case scenario you could build underground cities with controlled atmosphere if necessary and at least you could distill pure water from the ocean for agriculture in overly arid regions etc. etc.

We do not know if fusion will work but there is good reason to believe it will. Magnetic confinement fusion research goes in build cycles. With adequate funding you build a facility in five years and do research with it for another five years learning what to do differently in the next facility to improve it.....then you spend five years building the next facility and five years doing research to learn how to make the next facility better etc. etc. We have lost at least two build cycles as a minimum and probably three and perhaps four because of societies short sightedness and lack of funding.....and really if you look at how much is funded yearly it is tiny compared to things like military budgets, organized sports, and pet care. Elon Musk is going to spend as much money on one battery factory as the us gov't spends in one year for the ITER fusion project (if I remember correctly).

I prefer renewables as energy sources and hope they will be developed fast enough but the amount of money spent on fusion is not going to be a make or break amount even if it were channelled to renewables. Fusion will be pursued because there are enough people in the world who crave the amount of power it might produce. My view is that it is better to pursue it quickly.....then either it will work and solve the problem or it won't work and people will stop dreaming of it working....it will not get cheaper if it is delayed....in fact the lack of funding has increased the costs....
chownah

I'm sorry, but at this point fusion is not going to help us. It is not going to be economically viable for at least twenty years and we need lots of action right now! That being the case, fusion is just a distraction.
Wind and solar are going gangbusters and the technologies are improving year by year. Biomass? Not so good, but likewise improving. Tidal, geothermal? pretty good. And that's the energy supply side. Browse http://thinkprogress.org/search/?query=renewables&x=-1007&y=-127 for the latest news.
We can also do a lot more to reduce demand without other significant impacts, simply by reducing waste and increasing efficiency.
Finally, we can learn to live poorer if we have to - and things may get so dire that we collectively realise we have to, though I hope not.

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Re: Discussion of Nuclear Power and Safety

Postby chownah » Sat Mar 01, 2014 4:22 am

Kim OHara,
Do you actively promote the outlawing of professional sport activities? They are much much more expensive than pursuing fusion and they have no possibility of helping global warming ever.
chownah
P.S. What if renewables are not enough?.....or are you assuming that they will be enough? Seems to me there are two scenarios to consider....1) eventually equilibrium will be reached and the environment will continue to support ecology that will be able to be self sustaining.....or.....2) conditions will come about which will not support self sustaining ecologies....what then?
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Re: Discussion of Nuclear Power and Safety

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Mar 01, 2014 5:46 am

chownah wrote:Kim OHara,
Do you actively promote the outlawing of professional sport activities? They are much much more expensive than pursuing fusion and they have no possibility of helping global warming ever.
chownah

Of course not. They may be a waste of time and money, but there are many worse wastes in the world. I simply dismiss fusion power as a useful part of the solution to climate change because it won't be on the scene quickly enough. (It won't be a solution to peak oil and a potential energy shortage, either, and for the same reason).
P.S. What if renewables are not enough?.....or are you assuming that they will be enough? Seems to me there are two scenarios to consider....1) eventually equilibrium will be reached and the environment will continue to support ecology that will be able to be self sustaining.....or.....2) conditions will come about which will not support self sustaining ecologies....what then?
chownah

That's either/or thinking again, chownah, and it doesn't fit the climate change issue very well. We're in a world where everything is always changing and everything influences everything else. Within that, "climate change" as a concept focuses on a particular kind of change which was unexpected forty years ago and is happening faster than anyone wants. It includes extreme weather events - cyclones, droughts, blizzards and heat waves - and slower changes like sea level rise. It affects our choice of power sources, and that in turn affects energy prices, and that in turn affects how careful individuals are about conserving energy. If affects food production, which in turn affects food prices and political stability (all those refugees from drought-stricken Africa heading for Europe; all those desperate people in the Middle East and Egypt). Very complicated.
As far as energy goes, I don't think the alternatives to renewables look very good at all. Fossil fuels drive climate change, which we can't afford; fission is dirty and dangerous; and fusion is too far in the future to get us through crunch time, i.e. the next ten or twenty years. I am sure the price of energy will rise as these pressures start to bite, and that will change patterns of consumption - how much, I don't know.
Look forward, if you can, to a few decades of rapid and uncomfortable global change.
At the end of it, if we're lucky, we will have a civilisation which knows how to live sustainably at whatever level of technology and comfort we can manage. If we're not lucky ... let's just say our children and grandchildren will curse us.

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Re: Discussion of Nuclear Power and Safety

Postby chownah » Sat Mar 01, 2014 9:57 am

Kim OHara,
The only either or proposition I have mentioned is that either the globe will stop warming and stabilize while life as humans would like to live is still possible or it will not stabilize at a level conducive to human life or it will not stabilize at a level for life to survive at all. Mars once had an atmosphere and abundant surface water (assuming the scientists are correct in this) but now it has neither.....could Mars be a sign of what is to come? The earth has been relatively stable atmospherically for a long long time but there is a new influence which never existed before i.e. human industry. It could be that human industry could send the environment past a tipping point after which processes beyond our present abilities to control will take over and take the environment to a place truly inhospitable. Frankly, the things you describe as being the problem(drought, storms, rising sea level) do not concern me much.....historically if it isn't the Mongol hordes it is drought or flood or plague....dukkha happens. My concern is for complete loss of human habitat.....but of course that would be just another kind of dukkha.........at any rate, money will continue to be spent on fusion research just like it will be spent on professional sports and pet maintenance........I can not imagine a scenario where either sports or pets will be of any help on any kind of environmental problem.......but just like you have said, "look forward to a few decades of uncomfortable global change" and there may very we'll be an important use for things learned from fusion research. You seem to be of the opinion that the next ten or twenty years is a "crunch time". How is that time frame a crunch time....and what if the "crunch" is not dealt with adequately?
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Re: Discussion of Nuclear Power and Safety

Postby lyndon taylor » Sat Mar 01, 2014 10:17 am

Maybe we should be developing ways for humans to breath carbon dioxide?? sorry bad joke....
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: Discussion of Nuclear Power and Safety

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Mar 02, 2014 4:57 am

chownah wrote:Kim OHara,
The only either or proposition I have mentioned is that either the globe will stop warming and stabilize while life as humans would like to live is still possible or it will not stabilize at a level conducive to human life or it will not stabilize at a level for life to survive at all.

That's what you said, but it doesn't include the possibility that climate never stabilises - which is actually the truth. Look at any climate chart and you will find constant change. What's new with AGW climate change is that bigger changes are coming faster. Our civilisation has developed in a period of 10,000 years or so of relatively stable, relatively warm climate. Climate is changing very fast now, away from the conditions we are used to. If we're smart and a bit lucky, we will stop that fast change sooner rather than later so that we have a new set of relatively stable conditions - but still only relatively stable.
chownah wrote:Mars once had an atmosphere and abundant surface water (assuming the scientists are correct in this) but now it has neither.....could Mars be a sign of what is to come? The earth has been relatively stable atmospherically for a long long time but there is a new influence which never existed before i.e. human industry. It could be that human industry could send the environment past a tipping point after which processes beyond our present abilities to control will take over and take the environment to a place truly inhospitable.

I don't think we're likely to end up like Mars but yes, we could end up with a planet that's quite inhospitable to life as we know it.

chownah wrote:Frankly, the things you describe as being the problem(drought, storms, rising sea level) do not concern me much.....historically if it isn't the Mongol hordes it is drought or flood or plague....dukkha happens. My concern is for complete loss of human habitat.....but of course that would be just another kind of dukkha...

One impact of the climate change we're already experiencing is extreme weather, driven by the excess heat in our planetary weather system. Yes, we've always had floods and droughts and storms, but what we're getting is far worse than what we have (sort of) adjusted to. See http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/18/2013-extreme-weather-events and http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-07/climate-report-warns-extreme-weather-events-are-now-norm/4869646 for more and http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/hansen_17/ for the theory behind it.

chownah wrote:You seem to be of the opinion that the next ten or twenty years is a "crunch time". How is that time frame a crunch time....and what if the "crunch" is not dealt with adequately?
chownah

We have two problems.
One is climate change driven by CO2 emissions. It is already impacting us and will continue getting worse for a while whatever we do because of the huge inertia of the weather system. The only way to slow it and reverse it is by reducing emissions, but the infrastructure (and politics) of our emissions also has its own huge inertia. It's like we're in a ship heading for rocks: if we turn the wheel a little bit, right now, we may veer away in time to avoid serious damage but if we wait an hour or two we have to turn the wheel much harder and if we wait longer we won't be able to avoid the rocks.
We should have started turning that wheel twenty years ago ... and the turn might have been so gentle we hardly noticed. At this stage we're already scraping the rocks and we have to wrench it quite hard to avoid being wrecked. And if we don't change a lot in the next twenty years, we're looking at tens or hundreds of millions of deaths, and maybe the collapse of civilisation as we know it.
The other problem is Peak Oil.
Our society was built on cheap energy and it's running out.
wikipedia wrote:Optimistic estimations of peak production forecast the global decline will begin after 2020, and assume major investments in alternatives will occur before a crisis, without requiring major changes in the lifestyle of heavily oil-consuming nations. These models show the price of oil at first escalating and then retreating as other types of fuel and energy sources are used.[2] Pessimistic predictions of future oil production made after 2007 stated either that the peak had already occurred,[3][4][5][6] that oil production was on the cusp of the peak, or that it would occur shortly.[7][8]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil
net-energy-cliff-euan-mearns.jpg
net-energy-cliff-euan-mearns.jpg (84.67 KiB) Viewed 79 times

Chris Nelder wrote:Chris Nelder: What EROI tells us
Declining EROI [Energy Return On Investment] has a “nearly inconsequential” effect on prices until it reaches about 18, then has an increasing effect until EROI falls below 10, when prices jump dramatically. …
And this should send a chill up your spine, because the EROI of domestic U.S. oil production is now approaching 10, having fallen from around 100 in the early days of oil (Cleveland, 2005). Even in the few prospects where we can still drill a well that will produce over 100,000 barrels of oil per day, like the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, the EROI varies from 4 to 14 (Moerschbaecher, 2012).
Hall and Murphy have also found that a given fuel must have an EROI of at least 3 to deliver a net benefit to society because of the associated infrastructure needed to support and use the fuel, and that an overall EROI of at least 10 may be required to sustain a complex society. It takes a significant energy surplus to support things like higher education, entertainment, personal vehicles, a middle class with health care, outsized amounts of credit, and yes, subsidies for low-EROI fuels.
… The researchers conclude that a smooth transition away from oil is unlikely without a deliberate policy effort to steer us toward alternative energy sources and manage the economic effects of depletion.
http://peakoil.com/business/chris-nelder-what-eroi-tells-us-about-roi

Put the two problems together, and you see that we are likely to be fighting a permanent recession while needing to (and finally trying to!) change our whole energy production system. If we don't do enough in the next ten to twenty years, society will be too poor and too traumatised to recover in any reasonable timeframe from the conditions they are by then faced with. At that stage, our children will face new "Dark Ages".
Recovery isn't out of the question but it will be painfully slow and probably come after a very low trough.

It's a depressing and daunting prospect.

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Re: Discussion of Nuclear Power and Safety

Postby chownah » Sun Mar 02, 2014 5:45 am

Kim OHara wrote:"Put the two problems together, and you see that we are likely to be fighting a permanent recession while needing to (and finally trying to!) change our whole energy production system. If we don't do enough in the next ten to twenty years, society will be too poor and too traumatised to recover in any reasonable timeframe from the conditions they are by then faced with. At that stage, our children will face new "Dark Ages".
Recovery isn't out of the question but it will be painfully slow and probably come after a very low trough. "
-------------------

This is exactly why the relatively small expenditure required to investigate fusion reaction may pay off really big in the decades to come. It is short sighted to ignore a technology which very well may be the solution....in the future our grandchildren may very well curse us for not having pursued fusion now or they very well may praise is for having done so.....and the cost of doing this is very small compared to the amounts spent on so many other things....

If fusion research had been adequately funded in the '70's we would almost for sure know by now if it would work....if it had been adequately funded in the '80's we would know....inadequate finding continued in the '90's and the '00's and is continuing into the teens. Remarkable progress has been made...it just has been made very slowly and is still being made very slowly.....progress was held up on the current state of the art reactor for at least a couple of years due to squabbling as to where it would be built for god's sake. China entered the fusion research scene not so many years ago and already it is apparent that their development cycle is much shorter than what is happening in Europe.....China is probably our best bet on this....strange how china has quickly become far and away the biggest producer of solar panels and now they seem to be on track to take the lead in fusion research......
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Re: Discussion of Nuclear Power and Safety

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Mar 02, 2014 6:53 am

chownah wrote:Kim OHara wrote:"Put the two problems together, and you see that we are likely to be fighting a permanent recession while needing to (and finally trying to!) change our whole energy production system. If we don't do enough in the next ten to twenty years, society will be too poor and too traumatised to recover in any reasonable timeframe from the conditions they are by then faced with. At that stage, our children will face new "Dark Ages".
Recovery isn't out of the question but it will be painfully slow and probably come after a very low trough. "
-------------------

This is exactly why the relatively small expenditure required to investigate fusion reaction may pay off really big in the decades to come. It is short sighted to ignore a technology which very well may be the solution....in the future our grandchildren may very well curse us for not having pursued fusion now or they very well may praise is for having done so.....and the cost of doing this is very small compared to the amounts spent on so many other things....

If fusion research had been adequately funded in the '70's we would almost for sure know by now if it would work....if it had been adequately funded in the '80's we would know....inadequate finding continued in the '90's and the '00's and is continuing into the teens. Remarkable progress has been made...it just has been made very slowly and is still being made very slowly.....progress was held up on the current state of the art reactor for at least a couple of years due to squabbling as to where it would be built for god's sake.

It would be great if we had put the money and effort into fusion forty, thirty, even twenty years ago but we didn't. Now, IMO, it won't be ready in time to be useful in dealing with current challenges. I'm not going to argue that research on it should be stopped, but I am going to argue that it's not a solution and relying on it would be counterproductive.
chownah wrote:China entered the fusion research scene not so many years ago and already it is apparent that their development cycle is much shorter than what is happening in Europe.....China is probably our best bet on this....strange how china has quickly become far and away the biggest producer of solar panels and now they seem to be on track to take the lead in fusion research......
chownah

China has acute versions of the world's two problems - peak oil because they are so dependent on imports and climate change because they are on the edge already - overcrowded, with exhausted soil, desertification and now dust-storms blowing in from the West, horrible smog in Beijing and the southern industrial zone ... I don't necessarily like the way the government does things but I am highly impressed that they have managed to keep the country on some sort of even keel for so long. They now see the transition to non-fossil fuels as an urgent imperative - which it is - and are getting on with it asap.

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Re: Discussion of Nuclear Power and Safety

Postby chownah » Sun Mar 02, 2014 9:36 am

Kim OHara,
I agree with you 100% that we should not rely on it.....we should go full steam ahead in promoting renewable energy and perhaps even more importantly on good stewardship and efficient use of all our resources. That way we can hopefully avoid the tunnel and if we can not avoid the tunnel there might be a light shining at the end.
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