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Is there a new nuclear option that Permaculture can endorse?

 
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article

Just in case you just picked up on this thread, up till now the thread had lots of details on the difference between old reactors and the new(old) design. lots of people expressed fears and dislike for any and all reactors but liked the potential to do away with nuclear waste.

the article link above gives a very quick outline of some of the actual stuff happening with the MSR, sort of a what's happening right now--or at least back in 2015 when the article was published.

If you've been following this all along, this may be a nice reality check, since mostly we've been talking theory, but this is at least a preamble to what is actually in the works, as well as a very brief description and history.

please note that they talk about a pebble design, with molten salt as a coolant, and while this specific design has not been the primary focus of the thread thus far, this design might be versatile enough to use nuclear waste eventually, although likely the beginning will start with fresh fuel, just not as dramatically enriched as with existing LWRs.

 
bob day
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Ok students, if you've been following Eriks excellent lessons on how this stuff works, this will take you to the next level.  This article is about a year old and will take you as deep down the rabbit hole as you want to go as far as specifically what is happening.

OK, here's a teaser--This is closer than you might think
 
bob day
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If you followed my last two posts, reading those articles might give you the idea China is making the most out of the technology we have been examining.

this is about 5 months old, some really nice pictures. and a nice update

note- they mention the graphite that was to be tested in the last article as if it is a done deal, but it would have needed a year of testing to match 10 years of use, and by my reckoning they likely only could have had 6 months of testing at the time this article was published, so it could be a bit premature.
You may remember Erik mentioning that the only problem encountered during the oak ridge running test over several years was a graphite rod got stuck once, and even that didn't cause any serious problems, just a nuisance to remove the stuck rod.


 
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Human society, civilization(?), has some characteristics that influence, even control, large scale projects. I think we can all agree that anything that gets done will be done by us. IOW, we, with our various economic and political systems will be the medium through which a big event will become real.

In our venue, what impacts the tech's journey, or evolution or incorporation? My first thought is perceived cost and payback over various time spans because a project the size we're talking about doesn't come about on a good day of high inspiration amoung some smart people over tea and coffee. It's going to take sweat work and that kind of work doesn't get done in the huge scale we're talking about unless people get paid. So, very big long term effort and investment over, say 15+ years. Think the U.S. space program way back when. At present there appear to be two  different types of funding - public and private. Natasha pointed out that this type project doesn't get done privately by reason of lack of capacity and lack of timely payback at acceptable risk. Sounds right to me. So a really large program is probably going to be political. I suspect that freezes the blood of any mature technologist and it should.

Humans live for, say, 70 years with maybe 45 of that productive, somewhat informed, willing to take part and possibly influential. Consideration for the next generation could extend the window of concern about 30 years, maybe. So the people working on, fighting over and making a living off the project can comprehend and factor in 75 years max when they conceptualize the possible benefits, costs and consequences. That's pie in the sky best case. The political horizon seems to be about 4 years...

Politics is greatly influenced by public and private (deep pocket kind of private) opinion. As far as I can tell, this is impossible to predict. Even throwing gobs of money into propaganda doesn't guarantee the result you want when you want it. Haphazard events play hob. To hearken back to the space program, that got it's big startup push from outside events: The Enemy surged ahead of us in a hugely embarrassing and public manner and the guys at the top had to Do Something. And they had to hit the bell, sorta speak, w/in a specific time frame. The seems to be the classic and possibly the only way a society based somewhat on public support can undertake very large works. Dictators have it somewhat easier - reference North Korea and before that the Soviet Union.

Ok. What I am arguing for here that we as developers of technology admit publicly the importance of and be aware of how our marvelous wonders will likely be shaped and used in our world. Ideally this may influence somewhat the particular choices in subject and direction we make. That's about all I can see to hope for. But stating up front that the social, cultural and political power situation should be considered when whether and which tech to boost would be a big step forward.

Eric, Bob. As you see, I'm not trying to do spreadsheet comparisons, not dissing nuclear power. I'm trying to raise the idea that society's interface with new technology needs to be part of the arguments for/against pursuing that technology. It's similar in a way to saying dollars (GDP$) should not be the sole consideration when looking at the health of the our economy. Health and well being of the working class, income differences, availability of jobs for young people... The simple metric (cheap power, GDP$ growth) does by itself provide the best way of evaluating a proposal.

Now, from a different angle. Posit very cheap essentially unlimited power technology. What would the social and demographic consequences be? The environmental consequences? How does cheap power scale globally? We have seen how cheap liquid fuel (gasoline, diesel, natural gas) have defined our transportation and and heavy industry. What of cheap abundant power with no borders? How would that play out? I'm guessing that it might actually _not_ scale, that somebody would create artificial shortages and pricing structures, kinda like the drug companies, but maybe not...

Based on several points you mentioned, the MSR reactors do look like a potentially way better fit for humans than the present reactors and quite possible than most of our present infrastructure. But as you pointed out, also, the concepts have been available for many years and usually in that situation somebody would have grabbed the ball and tried to make hay. Sorta speak. <g>  You mention the lack of government subsidy for research and the like, but if the science is as good as you imply that doesn't seem a strong explanation. You mention Russia and they have a rather different funding setup and yet they don't seem to have done much with this. They are a huge country who could easily accommodate two different technologies if the new one provided cheap power from the waste fuel of the old. But no takers. That's interesting.

Technology is never just a technical problem.


Rufus
 
bob day
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Actually Rufus you have done a very good job analyzing the reason why this tech didn't get funded in the first place. I just put up three posts, look at the first one to get a real concise  history. complete with political villain (nixon) and a conspiracy of sorts to bury the information. I think I'm getting this story right, but Kirk Sorensen  brought this back from oblivion by a couple of happy accidents, finding some old data on a pile of stuff at oak ridge that was about to be burned. then finding a bunch more in a closet of one of the  original scientists working on the project.

Nuclear Technology had been so dominated by light water reactors that they didn't even teach the principles of MSRs in schools for nuclear scientists.  The third post I put up indicates China has made some huge strides and is full on funding this  and will likely be selling us Molten Salt Reactors sometime in the mid 30s.

Anyway, I totally get what you're saying, and a lot of that has to do with  built in weaknesses in capitalism and the corruption of our democracy.  I'm guessing you have some ideas of how Permaculture can change the way we look at money and materialism, but your thought about some middleman or government trying to monopolize or lock up free energy so it never gets to the people is one of my greatest fears as well.

Maybe we're all lucky China is the one that will most likely take us into the era of free energy.  Politicians in this country seem so intent on locking up their power base they can't be bothered with doing things that are actually meaningful on a long term --Although Oak ridge National Lab has been working with China, and they have some kind of shared technology agreement (since we had most of the early data). Thanks to Obama I think, we made those connections, but the Chinese had already downloaded all the data Kirk had resurrected --(he put it out on the internet right away to make sure it didn't get buried again).

I have not yet seen details of the collaboration agreement between Oak Ridge and China, but perhaps they will give us some manufacturing secrets  on graphite improvements and corrosion resistance, two of the areas they have made some progress in
 
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I am irrelevant to this discussion for I have absolutely no connection with or involvement in any sector of the nuclear industry, nor can I offer any meaningful input in regards to things over which I have no personal control nor for which I bear any personal responsibility.

Now since I'm totally out of the loop and not even on a need to know basis, I do have a state of the art geiger counter so we can know what's safe and what's not safe.

I'm just happy our wood stove works.

Energy problem solved.

The only reason people need nuclear produced energy is because they waste so damn much of it.
 
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Chris and TJ , I shall try and respond as clearly as I can. I have some experience communicating with engineers, but if I knew how much economics you know I would know how much to explain.

The fastest and best way to bring a new technology to scale is through the market - lots of people invest their own money and it doesn't require endless meetings with bureaucracies. People tend to get serious and effective when their own money is at stake. But find yourself any investor and ask them how much they would invest without full cost calculations and make sure they don't choke themselves laughing. That leaves any new nuclear proliferation to non-profits and tax payers, slow, cumbersome  and frustrating, but possible. I wish you good luck with that. The arguments that would help you then would be the justness of your cause, not cost calculations. Chris you say there is not sufficient data to make such. Then do not try to make an economic argument because there is none.

South Africa is mining country so the big mining houses congregate here, they do about 40 year cost calculations. That is somewhere about the point that science becomes art. Even climate change predictions like to stay close to about 2050, levels of uncertainty get so high beyond 2070 that even the UNFCCC IPCC (UN scientist climate body) has a whole separate section working on how you measure uncertainty. No of course you can't. But that is science by bureaucracy.

That was all I was trying to say. 1 % of the Japanese taxbill is not small change, yet it may be at least a century before we can measure the full cost of Fukushima. Bearing in mind that the radioactive waste is still leaking into the Pacific, genetic mutations to fish species, effect on ocean harvests, etc , and the effect on us from eating those mutated foods, well I would say at least three generations before the consequences will have stabilized. So then we would have a better idea of costs. in the meantime if you try to make an economic argument  it will merely highlight the weaknesses of the technology.

In my work I have seen shop-owners in squatter camps put up solar panels and charge everybody in the shacks to charge their phones there. They do this because it pays. That doesn't mean solar energy is perfect, there are quite legitimate concerns about recyclability especially with regard to batteries.  But it makes my point that if you can get the economics to work the market takes care of the rest.

I fully share people's concerns about what would happen to nuclear stations and nuclear waste in the case of a zombie apocalypse, especially since I live within a 200 km radius of a reactor. All I am saying is that that is not an economic argument but a political one.
 
bob day
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Hi Natasha,

There are actually a lot of these MSR startup companies  at this point in time, each approaching the design from a different angle, and each gathering a cadre of investors.   So whatever your experience and education tells you about normal investment strategies there is something else going on here..  The culture around this specific technology might be compared to Permaculture in a way.  Some people get infected with it and some don't. Those that get infected with it throw out all the prudent investment strategies and start to go for it. In some ways it is almost as much about philanthropy to the whole human race as it is to the possible financial rewards.That is how I am with Permaculture, my time, money, doesn't go to cars or women, it goes to my ponds and gardens. One could say they are financial investments, but really it's more of a compulsion.

Regulations in this country are the main stumbling block. The nuclear industry here is tied up with vested interests in just about everything that goes into just about every LWR. To change the technology so radically would make them all have to reorganize and retool, and some would go out of business altogether.   Even the regulators are so under educated on the technology there is no way through the maze short of generational change (old dogs trying to learn new tricks) or an act of legislation that could bring the industry to a place where these reactors would be allowed to be built whether they were 1000 times safer than the best LWR or not.

Most of the investment has gone to canada, the netherlands, china, india, and russia is even making a go at it but my understanding is that russia itself has severe economic problems so their projects are stumbling along.

There is already a functional MSR operating in the Netherlands, and  China started collaborating with them last year to do new material tests. If I were a betting man I would bet on China getting there first. but I would throw a side bet on Kirk Sorensen just out of appreciation for his vision and energy to make this part of the general knowledge again after 40 years of oblivion and almost being lost forever.

 
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Natasha, I have no doubt of your belief in the economics you were taught. I also have no doubt that most of what is taught today in schools is subject to the same kind of generational inertia and blindspots, and willful intransigence of vested economic interests Bob mentioned.

If you want to talk economics, perhaps it's a good idea to return to first principles. That way, we get to see the assumptions that underlie the conclusions made in your economics. It is possible that some of them might not apply to the situation, or be in error entirely.

As Bob pointed out, when disruptive technology meets embedded vested economic interests, the disruptive technology is always vilified for the economic disruption it is going to cause, whatever the benefits of the technology concerned. Modern economics is like foresight; it can by hyper-accurate after the fact, to the point where it's astonishing that economic forecasts predicted anything else.

I would be happy to discuss the points of economics involved in bringing new, disruptive technologies to market, and the places where economics is bound to get it wrong based on observer bias and the pressure of Big Business. Who knows? We might actually get an economic forecast that, in what is probably a novelty for the field, gets something right.

-CK
 
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So much of the recent discussion has turned towards the daunting challenges of funding a fundamentally different type of reactor that still necessarily uses materials that have been so problematic for existing reactors.  One logical assumption is that only a tremendous public advocacy, on the scale of the Apollo program, for MSRs will ever make that new/old technology a practical reality.

There is a different route of funding/development that may be able to advance this technology.  Ironically it would be the same force that developed the first PWRs.  That would be the military, specifically the Navy (though the Army has a role to play as well, I will explain later).

A typical Arleigh Burke destroyer, the most common vessel in the US fleet burns over a thousand gallons per hour for normal operations.  This includes propulsion for moving at a leisurely say 15 knots (1 knot=1.15 miles per hour) plus “hotel” services for heating, cooling, lighting, etc.) and power for the truly amazing radar and AEGIS combat system that the whole ship is built around.  

The power demands are only going up and there is no more space for adding fuel tanks.  This means that the destroyer must undergo an at-sea replenishment something like every 3 days.  In turn, this means that the Navy must keep a very large (the worlds largest) fleet of specialized tankers to keep the fleet refueled any place on earth.

And the picture gets worse when you consider that all of those tankers can’t be on station with the fleet at all times.  They must come and go as the tankers themselves empty and those tankers heading out to the fleet or coming back from are tempting targets so they require their own escort vessels—the same Arliegh Burke class destroyers being fueled in the fleet itself.

The short version is that the Navy uses a LOT of fuel to just stay on station, and if they are operating a long ways from port (and after all, this is what the navy does), transporting huge amounts of fuel is part of the job.

One proposed remedy for this is to have nuclear powered surface ships.  The Navy did pay the “first mover” costs to develop PWRs for submarines, and from the 60s through the 90s powered a small number of surface ships (excluding aircraft carriers which today are all nuclear powered) powered by PWRs.  This was a mixed success.  On the one hand, they only needed refueling on the order of once every 1-2 decades or so.  They were fast, and they could maintain that high speed for a virtually unlimited distance.  This meant that they could keep up with carriers when they needed to do a high speed dash to get to a hot spot.  And finally they reduced the burden on the logistics train.

But there were downsides as well.  First off they were much more expensive to buy than conventional ships.  The Navy was willing to overlook this cost if their fuel savings would pay off over time.  Unfortunately they were more expensive to operate than conventional ships.  This was because they needed a rather huge engineering staff to operate.  A typical crew compliment of a nuclear surface vessel was around 500 crew as opposed to 300 for a conventional ship.  And refueling was much more complicated than simply sticking a nozzle in and pumping up the tank.  The ships had to be brought into port, the reactor carefully taken apart, the old fuel removed and stored while new fuel loaded along with a lot of deferred maintenance.  

Since this process was so long, typically a LOT of maintenance and a bunch of ship upgrades were all done at the same time.  This typically took the ship out of service for 1-2 years!  The last US Navy nuclear powered surface ship (USS Arkansas) was decommissioned in 1998 for cost reasons.  Ironically, the decision to decommission was made mid way through the refueling process with much of the expensive refueling already undertaken.

The Navy may well be willing to front the costs for MSRs just as it did for the PWR.  The latest class of aircraft carrier is designed with a “once-through” fuel load which is good for the life of the ship and needs no refueling.  It also produces more power from a smaller reactor that needs a lower manning regimen.  But these are still PWRs and take up a fair amount of space.  An aircraft carrier has this space, but not a destroyer.  

However, many of the designs for MSRs could easily fit on a destroyer.  This could potentially give a ship with 1-2 years worth of fuel to power ships that need 2-3 times the electricity they did in the 80s when they were designed.  They could travel long distances at high speed and keep up with a carrier.  A unique feature of the MSR is that they can be refueled while online, meaning the whole refueling process would be a 1-2 hour event and not a 1-2 year event.  And given the nature of the fuel itself, the flibe nuclear fuel might well be more cost effective than the refined kerosene used today.

This has been a long post, but I am trying to illustrate a point.  The Navy DID pay for the R&D for PWRs for submarines and then modified this for surface ships and aircraft carriers.  The Navy IS paying to significantly improve their existing PWRs, but they are only cost effective for ships 20,000 tons or larger (a destroyer is about 10,000 tons and an aircraft carrier is about 100,000 tons).  Basically, the bigger the ship, the more cost effective a PWR is.

If an MSR could be made more cost effective than conventional fuel, the Navy might well be willing to pay the R&D.  And private industry might well be able to leverage this technology.  Kirk Sorensen is actively lobbying the Navy to consider MSRs for ship propulsion.  This may be a way to side-step concerns made clear by Natasha.

Another long winded post, but thanks much for reading and giving your consideration .

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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The Army too may be willing to front money for a MSR.

Right now, the Army is very seriously considering a nuclear reactor that it could take with it to places like Afghanistan.  Whether or not one actually believes this is a good idea, it is under very serious consideration.  Whatever reactor they develop, basic principles will have to be that it is walk-away safe, so that if the base were to come under attack, all the crew could be killed and the reactor would stand exactly no chance of melting down or overheating.  The fuel would have to be meaningless to any "bad guys" who could potentially get their hands on the stuff.  And needless to say, safety would have to be absolutely paramount.

The reason for this is that after some examinations of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, something like 50% were sustained outside of a typical fight, and were instead as a result of an ambush on a supply convoy.  The routes were well known and attackers could plan with a great degree of certainty.  The single greatest resupplied element was of course fuel--by a very wide margin.  The idea was that if there was a VERY, VERY safe reactor that could be brought in country and operated at high temperatures, it would be able to crack water into hydrogen and oxygen and combine this with CO2 from the air to make diesel fuel (or just about whatever hydrocarbon one wanted).  Theoretically it would be cheaper as well as say in the case of Afghanistan, where we operate fuel guzzling M1's in incredibly remote areas.  At times, trucking in the fuel was too dangerous or impractical so it was flown in, and this produced fuel that was running at $400 or more per gallon!

This is another gray area where one may not like the basic principle (kind of like the nuclear powered bomber--really a terrible idea!), but some real good could in fact come of it.  The fuel for this type of operation would get its carbon straight from the atmosphere, and with a high capacity generator being an integral part, it makes certain battery operations much more feasible than before.

The Army did experiment with using nuclear power for remote power generation in the 50s, but it never took off the way the Navy's nuclear propulsion did.  I have no idea if the Army will in fact develop this technology, nor do I know if the technology will even be a MSR, but the potential for governmental funding does exist.  The civilian PWR electrical station was an offshoot of the Navy's propulsion program.  Governmental via military funding may in fact do the same with the MSR.  Only time will tell.

Eric
 
Natasha Abrahams
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Thank you Bob for your comments!
Chris, I share with you a fundamental scepticism regarding neo classical economics. It is the source of half the problems we have today because it only holds true under certain assumptions, none of which are applicable in the real world. In this sense one can confidently say that our economies are run by psychotic people (have a sense of the real world which is not consonant with facts) whom politicians listen to. I have written extensively about this in my latest report and will be happy to share it as soon as it is launched.

However the market predates capitalism by many millennia and will outlive it. No sense in throwing out the baby as the bath collapses, so to say. Speaking as a farmer I would not be able to make this place pay for itself without markets. So, I am not saying that one cannot find funders for any research effort, but are there any calculations as to the proportion of existing research funding in relation to the amount of investment that would be needed? These comparisons would lead to us asking questions which are slightly different from what is being said:
1. what does it take to bring a new technology to scale?
2. are there certain technologies that lend themselves to scale economics (millions of poor people implementing it because it pays them to do so) better than others?

I would have thought that such questions would be of interest to people developing new energy technologies. In any new research what matters is asking the right questions. In my experience supporting communities to advocate for renewable energy i have discovered one core truth: people are not going to move to save the planet or  even to prevent some danger a few decades away. They are so busy surviving today that that is all they can focus on. So if you want political pressure to be applied you have to address what is in it for them today? And, as i have said, I fear that political power is the only thing that would challenge vested interests in respect of new nuclear technologies.

I guess what i am raising is the issue of technologies which lend themselves to democratic action and which don't. And I think it is fair to ask whether such questions have been considered ?
 
Chris Kott
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Definition of terms time (I have posted google and wikipedia links to this question before; my query is more about point of view).

I have a dumb question for you, Natasha. What existed before capitalism, when did capitalism start, and what is there to replace it?

I don't see anything more useful than capitalism, as long as it can be divorced from what I can only refer to as "consumerism," where debt is more prevalent than capital, and it seems to be working from the other end, but not very well.

If there was a hard cap to the useful amount of money that could be accumulated by any one individual, including a cap on how much could be passed on to each individual offspring, it would make investment of excess capital a foregone conclusion, as it would be the only way to turn the waste of excess wealth into a useful form, in this case social capital and goodwill.

I would like to see the day when billionaires, and even millionaires with over $50 million, needed to donate vast sums of money to public works projects, in exchange for naming rights, or lose it all in wealth and probate taxes. That might not be as amazing a thing as I imagine, and I am tainted by my bias, not being a multi-millionaire or billionaire, but as this is a hot topic in american politics right now, I would love to hear about realistic consequences, both likely intended, and hypothetical unintended ones.

But this kind of economic upheaval might produce the kind of opportunity necessary to take advantage of MSRs as a source of infinitely cleaner and cheaper power.

Going back to some of my earlier prognostication, imagine MSRs growing coral reef-supporting seawalls out of seacrete, or the aforementioned artificial islands, or powering active CO2-sequestering technologies that literally suck CO2 out of the air, powering all-electric high-speed rail, or better, a trans-continental hyperloop for people and cargo, and space launches.

All of these ideas are opportunities for people and families with entirely too much money to slap their names on infrastructure and ideas that will far outlive them.

So I think there are possibilities.

-CK
 
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Chris Kott wrote:active CO2-sequestering technologies that literally suck CO2 out of the air



(Human-created regenerative landscapes!)
 
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Lol, Chris, you tempt me and we will be thread hijacking in a minute :)

Ok my view:
97 % of human history - matriarchy. There will always be some controversy on how one interprets archeological findings. I can say with a high degree of certainty that this holds true for Africa, see the work of Cheikh Anta Diop, Ifi Amadiume and others. Also https://www.hagia.de/en/international-academy-hagia.html
The chief economic feature of original matriarchies (as opposed to transitional forms on the way to become patriarchy) appear to be gift economies, that is to say markets in those days would be thought of as what we today would consider sites of barter. See here: http://gift-economy.com/  These economies tended to have very formal redistributive functions which prevented people from accumulating wealth, kind of like the one you envisage but in a context where levels of inequality were a fraction of what they are today.  There are of course lots of contemporary studies which show that the gift economy continues to operate and can form a considerable portion of GDP (women's free labour, migrant remittances, indigenous cultures of gift giving, etc).

12 000 BC to 5000 BC a transition to patriarchies, except for Africa where this began to happen around the year 0 and we can see a fairly systematic spread from north to south. So like I say for my continent this is pretty straightforward, archeological disputes notwithstanding.

2000 BC - 400 AD Greeks, Romans, Vikings,Mongols: equal parts trading, raiding and plantation slavery.
Feudalism proper ca 1000 AD - 1500 BC (dates are going to overlap because we are talking about different places in the world.) Defined as a class system where people were tied to the land.

Capitalism proper 1500-? Defined as a class system where land has become private property (post-enclosure society). I have written about why collapse is inevitable here: https://khoelife.com/the-politics-of-food/   But that is a very old paper and there are much better new contributions, not least this one: https://jembendell.wordpress.com/2018/07/26/the-study-on-collapse-they-thought-you-should-not-read-yet/  He gives us ten years before irreversible negative feedback loops set in, maybe a bit pessimistic but the paper is well argued. More to the point, I have searched the web flat to find somebody calling him a charlatan and couldn't. In fact, the IPCC quietly revised its estimates for negative feedback loops after his paper was published.

As for what will replace it: is that not up to us? Tyler I think regenerative landscapes are absolutely the thing, in fact bioremediation generally tends to be underrated. We have barely begun to explore its possibilities.


So perhaps to bring us back to the OP, I personally think it would be great if a safe and economic way to reclaim nuclear waste could be found. My comments and questions in that regard are meant to be helpful, in the hope that it could be done as speedily as possible.  Not an engineer, just a farmer who thinks it would good if issues of scaling and adaptability were designed in at an early stage.  




 
Greg Mamishian
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Natasha Abrahams wrote:Lol, Chris, you tempt me and we will be thread hijacking in a minute :)

Ok my view:
97 % of human history - matriarchy.



Ok, Natasha off the rails we go... (lol)

More like 100% of human history - matriarchy.

The huge nurturing benefits dispensing bureaucracies of today are highly matriarchal.
They provide employment education insurance healthcare loans grants subsidies welfare childcare pensions housing transportation food...

...all of the necessities of life to which her children feel entitled.

The question this discussion is actually about:

How can we come up with a new energy source which will compensate for our waste?

I'm an electrician who has worked in thousands of people's homes and businesses for 40 years,
and I can tell you this from decades of my own direct personal experience.

Most people are wasting obscene amounts of energy.



 
Chris Kott
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Can you waste a breeze, or the energy of daylight, strictly speaking, unless you're talking about not harnessing it?

Energy waste is only an issue worth even considering if the energy is expensive, like your labour, or methods of generating electricity that have a concrete cost in dollars, social capital, or the environment. In those cases, it makes every bit of sense to be as efficient in your energy use as possible.

But do we care at all about the solar energy that falls on the surface of the planet without being put to productive use?

Let me put it another way; only a tiny, tiny fraction of the sun's output will ever be put to direct use. It must be prohibitively inefficient by that measure.

The question this discussion isn't actually about how to come up with a new energy source that will compensate us from our waste. The technology is the Molten Salt Reactor, and it won't compensate for our waste, it will eat it to produce around a thousand years of energy at current and projected use, if I am not misunderstanding what is being said here.

I am pretty sure that de facto capitalism has existed for longer than stated, even if trading necessitated gift exchange where that was the only way of envisioning trade.

Matriarchy and patriarchy are ways of describing organisational systems, and not very precisely, might I add. They aren't economic systems.

The gift economy pretty much came about as a result of there not being a good way to store the product of one's labour. If you don't have a way of preserving food, there's no reason to hunt more than you can eat in any one hunt. If there's no currency, there's no way of accumulating it and exchanging, and no real way to judge relative value except subjectively.

It also doesn't address the concept of investment, or what to do with large quantities of excess goods or currency, which only ever accumulated under capitalism. I suppose slavery was an exception to this, as if you owned a slave, you'd own their labour.

I don't think there is another form than capitalism. I don't think any other form does what capitalism does. I think anything that comes after will be shaped away from irresponsible free-market ideology by ideas of social and environmental responsibility, but I don't think that the basic tenets of capitalism will go anywhere.

-CK
 
Greg Mamishian
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Chris Kott wrote:Can you waste a breeze, or the energy of daylight, strictly speaking, unless you're talking about not harnessing it?



I was referring to how people waste electricity.
Waste is what creates demand, and demand is what drives the search for more and more sources.
So while energy seems to be a global problem, it is actually a personal one which can only be resolved by each individual for themselves.

 
Eric Hanson
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I may have to issue a revision to some of my earlier statements.  The general principles have not changed, but a couple of details have.  

My main support for the MSR is directly related to my opposition to coal and its associated CO2 emissions.  The last time I saw a pie chart of sources for US electricity production, coal made up more than half the total with nuclear and hydro each making up around 20% apiece, with all other sources making up the rest (and the rest made up a thin sliver that included solar and wind).

A recent look showed some major changes.  Wind and solar have not changed that much.  But in a strange twist of fate, natural gas is replacing coal writ large—thanks to fracking!

As far as I am concerned, I am neutral on this last bit of information, but a part of me is rejoicing in the sheer irony.  This large scale and increasing use of natural gas to generate electricity has displaced a tremendous amount of coal usage, resulting in American CO2 emissions to actually drop.  CO2 emissions, that unslayable dragon of an environmental problem is coming at least partially under control thanks to shale gas derived from the much hated fracking.  I am not trying to write this as being a supporter of fracking, I just cannot help but not find the irony in one demon being beaten (partially) by another.

On the surface, the reduction of American CO2 emissions is moderate, but this hides an impressive fact.  Look at future CO2 emissions from the year 2010 or so and American CO2 emissions for right now were quite high.  And this was at a time when the economy was expected to be much lower than present (increasing economic output has always corresponded to a increasing energy consumption—though I am sure someone will disagree with me on this).

So while I am not trying to sound like uncritically supportive for fracking, fracking has had real, tangible benefits.

I still support MSR for CO2 reasons, but I must admit that coal, while still a problem, is not as big a problem as I had earlier believed.

Eric
 
bob day
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I don't want to go  to far off topic,   CO2 may be better, but  greenhouse gas emissions are not better for natural gas if you start counting the lost gas in the harvest and distribution of natural gas. While methane ,may not have the same duration in the atmosphere some figures say it is about 80 times worse than CO2-- others say 25 times, but whatever you say, there are a lot of challenges to natural gas fracking because the way the laws are written, the lost methane is not being figured in as an impact, which is why they can brag about lower emissions.
 
Eric Hanson
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Bob,

Fair enough point.  What it does for me is really complicate the overall picture.

Eric
 
Greg Mamishian
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Eric Hanson wrote:CO2 emissions, that unslayable dragon of an environmental problem...



In my opinion CO2 emissions are not an environmental problem because they will help to soften the severity of the coming ice age...

...besides it is impossible for plant life to exist without CO2. ;  )

We won't need a disaster to create a Nuclear Winter when nature will provide us with one.
 
Eric Hanson
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Bob,

This thread has started to go off the rails, so let me help bring it back on track.

My last post was attempting correct (or at least leave room for correction) for statements I made based on dated information.  

This brings me to fracking.  I am not trying to endorse fracking, merely pointing out that natural gas is replacing coal.  But MSR beats either hands down from emissions standpoint and I honestly think from an overall pollution standpoint as well.

Bob, as I think we have demonstrated throughout this post, we see pretty well eye to eye on the MSR issue.  I hope we can bring this thread back into its original direction.  But I have to say, it is a great thread even as it stands now.

Eric
 
Chris Kott
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It has been shown that plants grown in an atmosphere with higher CO2 concentrations are less healthy, and I think it was mentioned that they absorb less of it.

It also tends to produce food that is nutritionally deficient.  I will try to find the appropriate articles,  but one cited findings based on experiments in greenhouses,  whereas the other cited a study done under a forest canopy, in Massachusetts, I believe, where CO2 levels were ramped up and the effects observed.

Most people that discount the CO2 science brush off the effects of ocean acidification in lowering atmospheric CO2 levels and point to the atmospheric layers where we would be seeing higher concentrations if we had no oceans scrubbing it from the air.

This would be fine, except we're heating our oceans and making them too acidic for shell formation

But this is getting far afield. Suffice it to say that GOP talking points about how wonderful it is to oversaturate the atmosphere with CO2 aren't worth the hot air they're spewed with, and are only useful to the oil industry.

Let's get back to how MSRs powered by nuclear waste will clean up our radioactive mess by providing us with a thousand years of cheap energy while we figure out how to get industry off-planet and harvest what we need form the sun.

-CK
 
bob day
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I just lost a post I had almost finished, it was eloquent and challenging.

I will shorten it since I have to get moving, but basically it is this.

We need to find a forum to post a thread on CO2, global cycles of climate change (i have thought about the greenhouse helping us through an ice age as well)

But the thrust of the thread was to get back to MSR's

We hire them to get rid of nuclear waste and they produce lots of energy as they do

We're talking thousands of times the energy produced in the last 50 years, it could be relatively cheap, and as common as rain, less in some areas, more in others, but basically free.

Is this just another arm's race of sorts, tapping the nuclear genie to work it's wonders  in what we think is a good purpose, but it gets so out of hand with so much energy (even though "peaceful") that it overwhelms us?

Would it be better to work our Permaculture, bury the waste and focus on living on the planet?
 
Tyler Ludens
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One of my biggest problems with the idea of permaculturists endorsing a specific type of nuclear technology is that this will be seen as permaculturists endorsing any type of nuclear technology - a sort of bait-and-switch in which the nuke boosters can say "see, permies like nukes so we'll build more nukes!" which don't happen to be the waste-destroying type, but just whatever can get built once people say "yes, okay, we will accept some nukes."  The promise will be that the waste-destroying kind will get built once we build these other ones.

Sounds like I don't trust nuke boosters.  I don't.  
 
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Just got back from more important things and now caught up with the discussions.

In answer to the thread question: ‘Is there a new nuclear option that Permaculture can endorse?

I’d have to say unequivocally no, there is no form of fission energy that fulfils any of the twelve Permaculture Principles, particularly: ‘Produce no waste’, and ‘Use and value renewable resources and services’.

It’s apparent that MSR’s are still in the development stages and have yet to prove themselves economically and commercially viable e.g. perfected, up-scaled to produce meaningful amounts of power, etc. It’s very likely by that time, renewable forms of energy will have progressed so far that MSR’s are uneconomic. Particularly if another ‘nuclear incident’ (catastrophe) occurs and the renewable sector gets all the government subsidies the fission energy sector currently enjoys.

There are some significant on-going challenges in trying to sell yet another form of fission energy: low public acceptance in many countries, possibly uneconomic, continues to produce hazardous wastes, and is not renewable or sustainable.

We live in a cross-over time between technologies. Fission energy, like other non-renewables, remains a stop-gap measure until we achieve something that produces zero or near zero emissions.

As far as energy consumption goes, certain countries need to take a very hard look at themselves and acknowledge how wasteful and polluting they are on a global basis. (Frankly, I can’t believe someone on a Permaculture website actually suggested navies should stop burning diesel and instead produce more fission powered ships! War ships are expensive targets, when they eventually sink the consequences to the nearest community would be devastating.)

First World countries have an obligation to use its share of resources for R&D and create new forms of technology that will benefit everyone. It’s too commonplace for old, damaging technologies to be sold to Second and Third tier nations as profit making, bargain basement hand-me-downs.

As an Aussie, I’m only too happy to mine and export our wealth of uranium and thorium to any silly bugger who wants to burn the stuff and pollute their little patch of Earth, just don’t whine that we’re somehow responsible or have a civic duty to take and store the resultant wastes: buyer beware, no refunds, no returns!

Although a separate discussion topic: when we all have abundant and cheap/free energy, will we then face a spike in population growth? And, how do we deal with that somewhat taboo subject?
 
Eric Hanson
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To be clear on my earlier statement regarding navies using nuclear propulsion, I was trying to point out that we already have nuclear navies.  The United States, Russia, Great Britain, China and India all operate nuclear powered ships in their navies.  Australia recently gave very serious consideration to buying nuclear submarines from the United States.  Nuclear navies are only expanding.  At present, to the best of my knowledge, all of these reactors are variants of the PWR (I think Russia stopped using fast fission reactors, but I cannot say so with absolute certainty).  

As I stated, the US Navy is researching and producing newer PWRs that need no refueling for the life of the ship which will be 42 years based on the reactor lifetime.  These reactors are in my opinion an important improvement over their predecessors as they actually get more power with less fuel.  I was actually hoping that the Navy (and to a lesser extent, the Army) would help pave the way for a vastly better still nuclear technology.  The Navy already paid the first mover costs for the PWR which is what almost all current nuclear is based upon (civilian or military).  I would be pleased if the Navy could see the benefit of the MSR and pay first mover costs for this much, much safer nuclear.  The thrust of the statement was a hope for funding.

I realize that this may be an area where we have to agree to disagree.  I only want this to be a civil discussion and not an angry rebuke.  Doubtless we all have extremely strong opinions to which we are perfectly entitled and while I may disagree on occasion, I not only support these rights to have these opinions but I will advocate for one  to have these rights.  I am not attacking anyone and I thank you for challenging me and doing so in such a civil manner.

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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To everyone,

This has been a very stimulating thread for me.  Bob, thanks so much for bringing it up.  CK, I really have appreciated your contributions to this controversial issue.  I do want this thread to continue on the same civil tone it was born with.  I hope that we can all agree that at this moment, none of us are in any direct position to initiate a new nuclear renaissance or shut down nuclear completely.  This is a place where we can discuss issues/opinions and mull over facts and probabilities.  NONE of us can possibly change the nuclear situation individually.

I also recognize that this may be a strange topic to bring up on a forum dedicated mostly to gardening (though, Permies does leave the door open for this thread), and that some may be uncomfortable with the topic.  Going forward, I am personally going to try as hard as possible to base my threads on facts.  If I express an opinion, I want to have evidence to back it up (and recently I was presented with evidence that changed my initial position substantially on the thread about gas cars vs. electric cars--turns out I was wrong about how much electricity was generated by coal--not nearly what I thought.

Further, I am going to try as hard as I can to only respond to other people's arguments/perspectives/ideas and NOT to the person individually.  So long as the Permies staff is OK with it, I will reserve the right to defend my ideas and challenge others while leaving individuals alone.  I have put forth many controversial ideas (for Permies) in this thread, and if I have offended ANYONE, I am truly sorry.  Nothing I ever stated was ever intended to hurl insults.  Now my ideas are just that, my ideas.  I think I have the right to have these and support others who have similar ones.

I do not want to sound all high and mighty, I just want us to all have a good conversation.  Early in the thread we were congratulated for being able to be so civil and respectful a conversation about so serious and controversial a topic.  Lets keep that spirit going forward.

I love this thread and I love Permies and I hope we can all just get along!


Eric
 
bob day
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Hey guys,

Regardless of  how we define ourselves, what we believe is fundamentally the same, and in the context of nuclear energy fundamentally out of our control, or certainly at this stage of our understanding.

I have seen many posts on here that express extreme reservations about nuclear of any kind, and even though i started this thread with an aim to help others understand what was going on with the nuclear world, I have been reminded of all sorts of other reasons why nuclear is a more complicated issue than just the science.

No one with the ability to build one has actually come looking for my endorsement, but if they did when it comes to nuclear I would need to know the details before I made the commitment.

The bait and switch mentioned earlier already seems to be happening, with the earliest prototypes being set to run on thorium, which is only marginally radioactive, since I have seen scientists bury themselves in huge piles of Thorium  sand, or run  shiny refined balls of the stuff around in their hands  (gloved to protect the Thorium from us contaminating it) and they will turn this stuff into very hot, very dangerous stuff, and the only favorable  comparison is they are more efficient than previous LWRs, so they produce less hot stuff, and it doesn't stay hot more than about 300 years..

With the focus on making energy, nuclear is not in the running for me, and let's say tomorrow they came up with that reactor that was only burning waste fuel, that still needs to be studied carefully, and plans set out to deal with the energy which I would consider a by product or "waste" The fear for me would be that we would abandon other renewables and rely solely on nuclear. At that point we will have neglected our backups.

In general, I'd like to see all  nuclear waste vanish, but in real time it's tough for me to understand the global "need" for energy vs the implementation time of nuclear, vs the time it takes to scale up renewables.

But for a reality check, this is an energy driven industry, these guys are not in the position of "if this type of reactor happens"  It is out of the theoretical and into the real world of nuts and bolts, and like it or not, it looks like Thorium will be the ground breaker, and the waste disposal will come later.

I have mentioned this briefly in past posts, and this thread was never a vote on what should we build because like it or not, the world wide focus is on energy. China has committed to 30 gigawatts of nuclear by 2030 ( 20 will be LWRs, while only 10 will be MSRs of one sort or another)--their goal is not to dispose of nuclear waste, it is to raise the standard of living of their people with energy.

It's at least nice to know that the technology is basically walk away safe, and it is producing less waste. Whether it is the right path, or whether we can think about it in a really large scale system and reconcile it with Permaculture somehow is  a neat question.

 
Eric Hanson
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Well put Bob.

Eric
 
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