[CAMWEST-discuss] [LBUG] Gas to liquids etc and possible futures

Danny Hannan danny_hannan at yahoo.com
Tue Jun 10 00:34:08 UTC 2008

G'day Jeremy
Firstly countries that do not have fossil fuels have no choice but nuclear power.
The nuclear industry has many necessary support industries, mining, refining, enrichment, fuel reprocessing, on going waste management (disposal is not an option), and on going security.  Not all of these costs are included in the costs of nuclear power.  Because of government desire to posses nuclear weapons many of these support industries are subsidised.
Once we get to the steam generation coal and nuclear generators are the same.  It is either the coal or the nuclear reaction that produces the heat to provide the high pressure steam to drive the turbines.
The energy cost of the nuclear reactor itself is equivalent to 6 years of electricity production of a similar sized coal fired power ststion.  The decommissioning of the reactor is even more expensive.  There are 3 options, natural uranium, enriched uranium and fast breeder.
The natural and enriched uranium use the 0.7% in natural and 3.5% in enriched isotope U235 to supply alpha particles (helium nucleus) to start the fission reaction of U238 isotope which is then continued by free neutrons generated by the fission.  The rate of the nuclear reaction is controlled by controlling the neutron flux mostly with graphite rods and light and heavy water coolant.  While uranium is a wide spread element rich ore bodies are quite rare and reserves of viable ore bodies are quite small.  The cost of uranium is actually increasing rapidly some 15 times in the last few years to supply an industry that has had very little growth over the last 20 years.  Currently less than 6% of world energy.  Check BP stat review for numbers.
There are not enough uranium reserves to supply a large increase of power generation by natural or enriched uranium reactors for more than a few decades.
Fast breeder reactors use Plutonium as the alpha particle generator to start the reaction which again continues on the neutron flux.  But fast breeder reactors require a much higher neutron flux.  So water cannot be used as a coolant because it absorbs neutrons.  Liquid sodium needs to be used as a coolant and because of the high neutron flux becomes highly radioactive itself.  So a second liquid sodium loop is needed to transport the heat to the water for a normal steam turbine electricity generator.
They are called fast breeder reactors because they produce more plutonium than they use, this necessitates regular reprocessing of the fuel to remove excess plutonium to maintain reaction control.  Plutonium is the starter material needed to produce suitcase nuclear weapons.  A small plug of plutonium is driven by a small explosive charge into a small sphere of U238.  The total mass can be less than 20kg; A security nightmare.
The energy costs of building a fast breeder and the attendant industries is so large and the political pressure so against that I can find no record of a fast breeder power generator being built.  The theory was in place back in the 1970s when I worked for the AAEC.  But the up side is there is enough uranium isotope U238 already out of the ground to run fast breeder reactors for some hundreds of years.
There remains question marks over the total energy profit ratio EPR of all nuclear power.  The accepted EPR for distributed coal fired electricity is 1:9.  For every Joule we put in to the system for coal mining and transport to power grid, sub stations etc we get 9 Joules out of the power point.  The cost of nuclear power is over twice the price of coal fired power which indicates it requires over twice the energy input, bringing the nuclear supplied distributed power EPR down to 1:4.5 or less.  The energy input for fast breeder reactors is higher than enriched with EPR consequences.  And the total energy costs of nuclear power are still not all included.  We need any energy industry to have an EPR of better than 1:7.
If an energy industries have a low EPR the % of our industrial effort required to produce energy grows rapidly.  If it is less than 1:7 estimates are that 50% of our industrial effort would be consumed with producing energy.
Hope that explains the reasons for my scepticism for the future of nuclear power.
If anyone has more information i would like to see it.  Real data on this industry is closely guarded.
 danny_hannan at yahoo.com 

----- Original Message ----
From: Jeremy Portzer <jeremyp at pobox.com>
To: Danny Hannan <danny_hannan at yahoo.com>
Sent: Tuesday, 10 June, 2008 7:53:28 AM
Subject: Re: [CAMWEST-discuss] [LBUG] Gas to liquids etc and possible futures

Why do you feel there is no place for nuclear power in your energy strategy?

Yes it requires some fossil fuel inputs to build a nuclear power plant, 
but these are small over the lifetime of the plant.  We must make these 
investments now before fossil fuels are completely gone.

Yes, there are some waste storage issues yet to be determined but these 
in the long run will be resolved with less impact than the scarring of 
the landscape caused by coal mines.

Yes, nuclear requires significant capital investment but given the 
immense amount of energy output, this capital is well-spent.

Today's nuclear reactor designs emit significantly less radiation than 
coal burning power plants and are much safer for workers and neighbors 
than coal.

It's far from perfect but nuclear power stands to generate considerably 
more baseload power than any of the other methods available today 
(beyond expanding coal), and is greenhouse neutral.  Australia has 
significant uranium reserves (especially if we reduce exports).


Danny Hannan wrote:
> My personal view, based on data collect since 1996.
> See the attached articles and the date and review for accuracy.
> If my accuracy continues we are in for some difficult times.
> We have passed the oil production peak, occurred 1998-2002,  Citigroups 
> calculation of the lowest GDP price for oil and very close to halfway 
> through two different estimates of total oil production USGS 50% 
> probability (2000) and Ken Deffeys estimate both 2.3 by 10 to the 12 
> barrels, only modern extraction methods; high pressure water and gas 
> injection and horizontal brush drilling are borrowing future production 
> to supply current demand.  That will have the effect of a rather 
> precipitous drop in production in the near future.  Causing a global 
> economic depression that we will not recover from.  Oil at 35% and 
> natural gas at 25% of global energy total 60% are almost the only energy 
> source for transport, all aspects of agricultural production, 
> petrochemicals/plastic/synthetics, and extraction of other minerals.  
> Nat gas peak production is only a few years behind oil but its 
> production doesn't tail off like oil it just stops.
> With the cost of all those areas rising rapidly we have no hope but for 
> a depression, anarchy etc.
> Coal is already replacing oil and gas and this will continue pushing 
> additional CO2 into the atmosphere at a faster rate.
> My bet is collapse but forget the gold currency, it has little value 
> other than jewelry.  What will we build the gated communities with.  Who 
> will support the monasteries?  But the most optimistic is the green 
> revolution but there will be population decline.  With 60% of our energy 
> going to disappear in the next few decades at best we will lose 60% of 
> our current population because we will not have the food.  Brown tech 
> and green tech does not fit with the data I have.  There are no viable 
> energy alternatives to supply our current energy levels, to swap to 
> alternative is going to cost a enormous input of fossil energy because 
> the alternative and renewable infrastructure requires such a large  
> energy input in the first place and has only a low energy profit ratio.  
> The most viable is hydro but the worlds rivers are already dammed to 
> overcapacity.  Next is wind in windy locations but in reality 
> sufficiently windy locations are few and often few live there.  
> Transporting energy costs a lot of energy.
> If the world was to feed private motor transport (cars etc) into the 
> scrap market from tomorrow and rapidly built the infrastructure we need 
> to drastically cut our energy consumption over the next 10 years we may 
> have a hope of an orderly future, but it would require a population 
> reduction policy.  Though Australia is an island and probably the best 
> place nation to cope highest energy resources per head, we are part of 
> the whole world and it is a whole world problem.
> There is still a place for some road transport, it is the most efficient 
> in some situations, but these are limited.
> Needed strategies:
> compact energy efficient cities.
> rail and shipping for mass and freight transport
> cycling for personal local transport
> localised production for everyday needs
> energy and water efficiency through high energy/water costs and 
> increasing per unit cost with increasing consumption
> High financial support for renewable energy, research, development, and 
> implementation.
> policy of population reduction
> Note that this would address both climate change and energy depletion.
> Estimates for the global capacity of renewable energy is about 25% of 
> our current consumption but will cost more than our current consumption.
> If we rapidly implement the needed strategies green tech is a 
> possibility, but who is going to sell their car onto the scrap market?
> We are all right Jack, not in my backyard, it's the economy stupid!  My 
> bet is collapse.
> Dan
> danny_hannan at yahoo.com
> ----- Original Message ----
> From: Robert Moore <fractalbug at yahoo.com.au>
> To: lbug at yahoogroups.com.au
> Sent: Monday, 9 June, 2008 10:59:14 PM
> Subject: [LBUG] Gas to liquids etc and possible futures
> Dan, your knowledge is broad. Doesnt appear to be much
> hope if China and India want to emulate the West,
> unless oil prices rise so fast they are forced to back
> off on development. But then we will be stuffed too.
> I found this analysis of where we might be going
> interesting, from David Holmgren on the Peak Oil and
> Permaculture Tour in 2006: (www.holmgren. com.au)
> He talks about 4 general possibilities for the
> future: Brown Tech, Green Tech, Earth Steward or
> Collapse.
> Brown Tech is likely when climate change is "fast"
> [more like 10 years rather than 50-100 years] and oil
> decline is "slow" [decades rather than years]. We have
> enough time and fossil energy to develop nuclear
> power, CO2 sequestration, Bio Agriculture on massive
> scale, supercompact urban centres, population
> stabilisation. This leads to a dominance of the energy
> sector in the economy, a tendency to globalist/fascist
> politics with energy rationing and birth control.
> Green Tech is when oil decline and climate change are
> both relatively slow. We would have time to get wind,
> solar, distributed power, organic agriculture going.
> Politics tending to democratic/socialis t, world
> government and cooperation, with global protocols on
> CO2, trade, taxes, energy, conservation.
> Earth Steward is when oil decline is fast and climate
> change is slow. We get ruralisation, organic and
> garden agriculture (permaculture) , smaller urban
> centres, population decline, small business, coops,
> land redistribution, energy from forest biomass and
> autonomous systems. With oil prices rocketing maybe we
> are on this track now, if not Collapse.
> Collapse is when oil decline and climate change both
> happen fast. We get low tech power, use of forest
> biomass, "oasis" agriculture on whats left, gated
> communities, minimum travel, population decline,
> household barter, gold currency, minimal trade,
> monasteries set up to preserve knowledge, what he
> calls Lifeboat Societies.
> Which future would you prefer? I think I will brush up
> on Permaculture.
> Another analysis is at
> www.richardheinberg .com/museletter/ 177. This is about
> the different perspectives and priorites of Peak Oil
> advocates/activists and Climate Change proponents and
> the need to get them together.
> Quote:
> ...some Peak Oil analysts seem to be of the opinion
> that oil depletion
> constitutes a solution to the dilemma of global
> greenhouse gas
> emissions, or that Climate Change is actually not a
> problem at all.
> This appears to be the view primarily of some former
> oil industry
> geologists, but is probably not that of the majority
> of depletion analysts. The view is rarely stated
> openly .... Nevertheless, it is a notion that
> understandably causes concern and consternation among
> Climate Change activists.
> For their part, many Climate Change activists and
> experts see global
> warming as potentially having such devastating
> consequences, not just
> for humans but for the whole biosphere, that Peak Oil
> seems a trivial
> concern by comparison. They argue that, even if global
> oil production peaks soon, this will provide no
> solution whatever to Climate Change because society
> will replace oil with coal and other low-grade fossil
> fuels—which will simply worsen greenhouse gas
> emissions. Moreover, since the remedies for carbon
> emissions that climate activists propose will
> inevitably lead to increased energy efficiency and a
> reduction in oil consumption, they often feel such
> efforts constitute an adequate answer to the Peak Oil
> problem.
> bob
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