IS IT A THORIUM REACTOR? OTHERWISE I’M NOT INTERESTED. This Man Is Trying to Sell His Homemade Nuclear Reactor.
IS IT A THORIUM REACTOR? OTHERWISE I’M NOT INTERESTED. This Man Is Trying to Sell His Homemade Nuclear Reactor.
IS IT A THORIUM REACTOR? OTHERWISE I’M NOT INTERESTED. This Man Is Trying to Sell His Homemade Nuclear Reactor.
Researchers at Tomsk Polytechnic University found a method to increase fuel lifetime by 75%. According to the research team, it will significantly increase safety and reduce the operating cost of nuclear power plants in hard-to-reach areas. The study results were published in Nuclear Engineering and Design.
Previously, a team of researchers from the Russian Federal Nuclear Center – All-Russian Research Institute of Technical Physics, Tomsk Polytechnic University, and the Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics proposed the concept of a thorium hybrid reactor, where high-temperature plasma confined in a long magnetic trap is used to obtain additional neutrons. Unlike operating reactors, the proposed thorium hybrid reactor has moderate power, relatively small size, high operational safety, and low level of radioactive waste.
One of the biggest challenges for the development of remote areas, such as the Far North, is a stable energy supply. According to Tomsk researchers, often the only solution is to use low-power nuclear plants.
However, the reactor refueling, one of the most hazardous and time-consuming procedures in nuclear energy, is a significant problem. “Reduction of refuel frequency will drastically improve operational safety. Furthermore, it reduces transportation costs of fresh fuel or a nuclear power plant to a transshipment site.” Vladimir Nesterov, associate professor of the TPU Division for Nuclear-Fuel Cycle, says.
The scientists carried out theoretical calculations proving the possibility of creating a thorium-based nuclear fuel cycle. Thorium is four times as abundant as uranium. Additionally, thorium fuel has a significantly higher regeneration intensity of fissile isotopes necessary for energy production.
“The achieved results can draw the attention of the scientific community to the potential of the thorium nuclear fuel cycle. We demonstrated that the implementation of this cycle in a low-power reactor installation results in increasing of fuel lifetime by 75%,” the expert says.
In the future, researchers want to continue experiments in the verified software and carry out thermophysical calculations of low-power reactors operating in the thorium-uranium fuel cycle with subsequent implementation of the developed calculation methods in the educational process.
Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.
Russian scientists have proposed a idea of a thorium hybrid reactor in that acquires extra neutrons utilizing high-temperature plasma held in a long magnetic trap. This job was applied in close partnership between Tomsk Polytechnic University, All-Russian Scientific Research Study Institute Of Technical Physics (VNIITF), and Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics of SB RAS. The proposed thorium hybrid reactor is distinguished from today’s nuclear reactors by moderate power, fairly compact size, high operational security, and a low level of radioactive waste.
“At the preliminary phase, we get relatively cold plasma utilizing special plasma weapons. We retain the quantity by deuterium gas injection. The injected neutral beams with particle energy of 100 keV into this plasma generate the high-energy deuterium and tritium ions and maintain the needed temperature level. Colliding with each other, deuterium and tritium ions are integrated into a helium nucleus so high-energy neutrons are launched. These neutrons can freely pass through the walls of the vacuum chamber, where the plasma is held by a magnetic field, and going into the location with nuclear fuel. After slowing down down, they support the fission of heavy nuclei, which serves as the main source of energy launched in the hybrid reactor, ” states professor Andrei Arzhannikov, a chief researcher of Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics of SB RAS.
The main advantage of a hybrid nuclear combination reactor is the simultaneous use of the fission response of heavy nuclei and synthesis of light ones. It lessens the disadvantages of using these nuclear responses independently.
Also, this type of reactor has lower requirements for plasma quality and makes it possible to change up to 95 percent of fissile uranium with thorium, which ensures the impossibility of an uncontrollable nuclear response. Moreover, hybrid reactors are reasonably compact, have high power, and produce a small amount of radioactive waste.
“The hybrid reactor consists of 2 aspects. The main part is the energy-generating blanket as the active zone of a nuclear reactor. It distributes nuclear fissile material that is part of nuclear fuel. Due to this, a fission chain response of heavy nuclei is possible. The 2nd part is placed inside the blanket to produce neutrons that fall into the energy-generating blanket. The atomic combination responses are produced inside this part filled with deterium plasma, launching the neutrons. A feature of the hybrid reactor is that the operating blanket, where the fission responses take location, is in the subcritical state (near-critical). Operating at a consistent power level, a standard reactor is in a critical condition, supported by a control and security system, ” says Igor Shamanin, the head of the TPU D ivision of Natural Sciences and the TPU I sotope Analysis and Innovation Laboratory.
According to Dr. Shamanin, the blanket was based on a principle of a multi-purpose high-temperature gas-cooled low-power reactor sustained by thorium. This principle was developed at Tomsk Polytechnic University and now it is commonly represented in numerous scientific publications.
Currently, the job individuals are considering the alternative to establish an speculative stand based on the TPU reactor, which will consist of a thorium fuel assembly and a neutron source.
The results of current studies on this task are published in the journal Plasma and Fusion Research.
Andrey V. Arzhannikov et al. Fuel Advancement in Hybrid Reactor Based on Thorium Subcritical Assembly with Open Trap as Blend Neutron Source (Computer Simulations),
Plasma and Combination Research (2019).
Scientists develop a concept of a hybrid thorium reactor (2020, January 29)
retrieved 18 February 2020
from https://phys. org/news/2020-01-scientists-concept-hybrid-thorium-reactor. html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any reasonable dealing for the purpose of personal study or research study, no
part might be recreated without the written permission. The material is provided for details functions only.
Scientists Say Theyve Found a Method to Make Oxygen From Moon Dust
| Viktor Tangermann
Posted on 01/18/2020 9:14:41 PM PST by BenLurkin
Their prototype system blends simulated lunar regolith they have yet to shot it with the real thing with molten calcium chloride salt. The scientists then heat the mixture up to 950 degrees Celsius and run a current through it, releasing oxygen a procedure called molten salt electrolysis.
The electrolysis procedure has another useful byproduct: metal alloys. The researchers are likewise examining applications to make best usage of these alloys on the Moon.
The team is looking to design a pilot plant that might be ran on the Moon by the mid-2020s.
(Excerpt) Read more at futurism. com …
One of these days, Alice . . .
… heat the mix up to 950 degrees Celsius
Now that’s a technique. I guess they are going to do that by burning all the Moon Coal with the oxygen they make in this procedure.
Cool. All we need is a thorium reactor up there and there will be a consistent source of power to make air and metals. That would go a long method to making a sustainable outpost on the moon. Or mars for that matter.
Windmills? Sheesh, everybody knows that they will overspeed in the Moon Winds and tear themselves to bits.
Nice attempt, however.
Draper ultimately discovers a rock face cavern for shelter. He figures out how to get the rest of what he requires to make it through: he burns some coal-like rocks for warmth and finds that heating them likewise launches oxygen. This allows him to refill his air tanks with a hand pump and to move around in the thin Martian environment.
“and there will be a consistent source of power to make air and metals.”
The just metal your going to get with calcium salts is calcium. Considering that it reacts explosively with H2O, it’s not an ideal structure material.
Until science figures out how to make people (and the microorganisms that live inside people) much more radiation tolerant, there’s no nest on the moon. More sees perhaps … hopefully … however no long term residents.
Well, it’s not like it rains every day up there.
Saw that film at the theater when it was first realeased. It all seemed practical to me at the time.
Lava tubes. Like the Selenites.
impossible, peta will protest the killing of lunar wildlife simply like they have here.
… oh, wait …
Lots of hydrogen in the solar wind captured on the Moon.
Oxygen has a natural ‘collector’ there.
Water is a really helpful compound.
I’m sure an idiot could beverage a cool glass of water and reject its’ existence LOL!
Idiots have their own whatever.
Calcium does not respond explosively with water.
Opinions posted on Totally free Republic are those of the individual
posters and do not always represent the viewpoint of Free Republic or its
management. All products published herein are protected by copyright law and the
exemption for reasonable usage of copyrighted works.
FreeRepublic. com is powered by software copyright 2000 -2008 John Robinson
Scientists develop a principle of a hybrid thorium reactorPhys.org …
(PhysOrg. com) — The 440 industrial nuclear reactors in use around the world are presently assisting to lessen our intake of fossil fuels, but how much larger can nuclear power get? In an analysis to be published in a future problem of the Proceedings of the IEEE, Derek Abbott, Teacher of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Adelaide in Australia, has concluded that nuclear power can not be globally scaled to supply the worlds energy requires for many reasons. The results recommend that were most likely better off investing in other energy services that are truly scalable.
As Abbott notes in his research study, global power consumption today is about 15 terawatts (TW). Currently, the worldwide nuclear power supply capability is only 375 gigawatts (GW). In order to examine the large-scale limitations of nuclear power, Abbott estimates that to supply 15 TW with nuclear only, we would requirement about 15,000 nuclear reactors. In his analysis, Abbott explores the effects of structure, operating, and decommissioning 15,000 reactors on the Earth, looking at aspects such as the amount of land required, radioactive waste, accident rate, risk of proliferation into weapons, uranium abundance and extraction, and the exotic metals utilized to construct the reactors themselves.
A nuclear power station is resource-hungry and, apart from the fuel, utilizes numerous uncommon metals in its building and construction, Abbott informed PhysOrg. com. The dream of a utopia where the world is powered off fission or blend reactors is merely unattainable. Even a supply of as little as 1 TW stretches resources substantially.
His findings, some of which are based on the results of previous studies, are summarized below.
As Abbott notes, lots of of these very same issues would afflict combination reactors in addition to fission reactors, even though commercial blend is still likely a long way off.
Of course, not many nuclear advocates are calling for a complete nuclear utopia, in which nuclear power materials the entire worlds energy needs. However numerous nuclear advocates suggest that we need to produce 1 TW of power from nuclear energy, which may be feasible, at least in the brief term. Nevertheless, if one divides Abbotts figures by 15, one still discovers that 1 TW is hardly practical. Therefore, Abbott argues that, if this technology can not be basically scaled more than 1 TW, possibly the exact same financial investment would be better invested on a totally scalable technology.
Due to the cost, intricacy, resource requirements, and incredible issues that hang over nuclear power, our investment dollars would be more sensibly put in other places, Abbott stated. Every dollar that goes into nuclear power is dollar that has been diverted from helping the rapid uptake of a safe and scalable option such as solar thermal.
Solar thermal gadgets harness the Suns energy to produce heat that develops steam that turns a turbine to create electricity. Solar thermal innovation avoids lots of of the scalability problems dealing with nuclear technology. For instance, although a solar thermal farm requires a little more land location than the equivalent nuclear power infrastructure, it can be located in unused desert areas. It likewise uses much safer, more plentiful products. Many importantly, solar thermal can be scaled to produce not just 15 TW, however hundreds of TW if it would ever be required.
However, the most significant issue with solar thermal technology is cloudy days and nighttime. Abbott plans to examine a number of storage solutions for this intermittency issue, which also pesters other sustainable energy services such as wind power, in a future study. In the shift period, he recommends that the dual-use of natural gas with solar thermal farms is the pathway to building our future energy facilities.
Derek Abbott. Is nuclear power globally scalable? Proceedings of the IEEE. To be released.
© 2010 PhysOrg.com
Why nuclear power will never ever supply the world’s energy needs (2011, May 11)
retrieved 30 January 2020
from https://phys. org/news/2011-05-nuclear-power-world-energy. html
This document is topic to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of personal study or research, no
part might be replicated without the composed permission. The material is supplied for information functions only.
The human body is a magnificent machine. Our anatomy is the result of millennia of adaptation to the changing environment of Earth, which has turned us into one of the most complex life forms. And while advances in medicine over the past centuries have allowed us to explore the nature of the human organism in detail, we never stop discovering new components and processes within our bodies. Some of those constituents, moreover, would never have been thought to exist in previous times. From explosive elements to cosmic stuff, here you will be presented with some of the strangest, most amazing and largely unknown things that make up your body.
Alcoholic beverages are among the most consumed drinks in the world. Such is the case that currently, about 36 billion liters (9.5 billion gallons) of alcohol are consumed every year around the world, enough to fill more than 14,000 Olympic pools. So it is clear that alcohol and human beings are closely linked to each other. In fact, they seem to be so linked that the human body produces its own alcohol at all times.
Ethanol is a naturally-occurring type of alcohol, created after fermentation of organic materials, and is the alcohol present in alcoholic beverages. In the human body, bacterial populations in the mouth and intestines are capable of producing ethanol endogenously. To do that, bacteria and yeast cause the fermentation of carbohydrates such as sugar in the gastrointestinal tract. This process generates small amounts of ethanol, which is subsequently introduced into the bloodstream.
According to multiple studies, a healthy – and sober – person generally has up to 0.8 milligrams of endogenous ethanol per liter (0.26 gallons) of blood. Methanol, another type of alcohol, has also been detected in human blood in concentrations of 0.6 milligrams per liter. Fortunately, these values are too small to be easily detected in the blood and cause legal problems to the person.
But some people do not have it that easy, especially those suffering from conditions such as the so-called “auto-brewery syndrome” (ABS). Under such condition, an individual’s digestive system is overpopulated with fermentation-producing bacteria and fungi, which can make huge amounts of alcohol from sugar-rich foods. People with ABS can have more than four grams (0.14 ounces) of alcohol per liter of blood, to the point of always being drunk without drinking any alcoholic beverage.
Ozone is an unstable substance. Being composed of three oxygen atoms, ozone tends to disintegrate into simpler molecules in minutes. For that reason, the ozone gas in the atmosphere must be continuously replenished and would decrease until almost disappearing if it were not for certain ozone-producing sources. Ultraviolet radiation, thunderstorms and human activities produce most of the ozone present on Earth. But your body also contributes to it.
Nearly two decades ago, scientists discovered that the human body’s immune system produces ozone as a way to fight biological threats. Our bodies contain a type of cells called neutrophils, white blood cells coated with antibodies, which travel through the body to eliminate infectious bacteria and fungi. To do their job, neutrophils feed their antibodies with high-energy oxygen molecules. The antibodies then transform such molecules into ozone, which is useful for eliminating invasive bacteria. Neutrophils engulf the foreign microorganisms and bombard them with the newly created ozone molecules to destroy them.
Since almost three-quarters of our body’s white blood cells are neutrophils, the amount of molecular ozone produced in each person is significant enough. However, this is not a good thing – ozone in large concentrations is harmful. At 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) above Earth, ozone composes a gas layer that protects Earth’s life from solar radiation. But near the ground, ozone contributes to air pollution, being one of the main components of the so-called “smog”. And in the human body, ozone breaks down cholesterol, creating toxic molecules that accelerate the development of diseases such as atherosclerosis and arthritis.
For humans, cyanide is an extremely toxic chemical compound. It kills in a short time by preventing cellular respiration in the organism. Cyanide’s lethality is more than proven; it has been used as a chemical weapon to kill countless people over the centuries. For that reason, it is surprising to know that cyanide exists naturally within the human body itself.
Various concentrations of cyanide enter our bodies every day, since the chemical is present in the air, water and food we eat. In fact, foods such as apples and spinach are carriers of cyanide. But there is no need to panic – such concentrations are extremely small, in the order of a few micrograms per plant (for the record, a microgram equals one millionth of a gram). In contrast, an intake of 0.1 grams of cyanide is necessary to kill a 70-kilogram (154-pound) average person.
Cyanide is also produced by our bodies. For example, chemical processes in saliva lead to the creation of cyanide gas inside our throats, which is then expelled by breathing. It is estimated that, at any given time, a healthy person can contain up to 50 micrograms of cyanide per 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of tissue. But such compound does not accumulate inside our bodies. Most of it is processed in the liver, and excreted in the urine. Another part is converted into carbon dioxide by our lungs, and like the aforementioned cyanide gas, it is released with each breath.
The processes behind the absorption, production and detoxification of cyanide in the human organism are quite complex. So we must thank our bodies for silently freeing ourselves from such a lethal poison.
Any type of radiation in excessive amounts is harmful to humans. For example, even if ultraviolet radiation is not trying to burn our skin, the background radiation found everywhere will be pushing us to get cancer anyway. But did you know that some radioactive materials also inhabit our interior?
A radioactive element found inside our bodies is thorium, a heavy metal used in electronic devices. While we ingest small amounts of thorium daily through food and water, it usually leaves the organism in a matter of days.
Another of the most infamous substances we carry is uranium. It is a heavy, highly radioactive element that exists naturally across the entire planet. Its biggest uses, as you may know, have been in nuclear reactors and weapons of mass destruction. Studies indicate that an average adult person contains 22 micrograms of uranium in their body, and can ingest about five micrograms daily. The biggest sources of uranium intake are food – especially unwashed vegetables – and water.
Once inside the body, uranium can enter the bloodstream and deposit in various organs, staying there for a few months until being expelled from the body. Two thirds of the uranium consumed is deposited in our bones.
We should also mention potassium-40, a radioactive isotope of the potassium element that we ingest through many foods, but which is beneficial for the human body nevertheless. As you can see, we are pretty radioactive. But do not be alarmed; it is unlikely that you will trigger a nuclear explosion just by sneezing.
Not everything in your body has to be dangerous or radioactive, though. There are also precious elements inside you that make you economically valuable by nature. Even so, it is not advisable that you try to get them out of your body to sell them.
First, we have gold. Most of the gold in an average person is in their blood, with gold accounting for 0.02 percent of it. In total, the human body contains 0.2 milligrams of gold, enough to make a cube of pure gold with a size of 0.22 millimeters (0.008 inches). We also contain silver, another precious metal of low toxicity for human beings. An average person consumes up to 88 micrograms of silver a day, a weight equivalent to that of a few sand grains.
But that is too little to be valuable, right? Well, researchers have found that human feces also contain gold particles and other expensive metals. One kilogram (2.2 pounds) of human waste could contain a maximum of four grams (0.14 ounces) of copper, silver, vanadium, and gold. In view of this, it has been estimated that the waste of one million people could be worth 13 million dollars.
So even while you did not know it, your body has constantly been a money-making machine. The problem, of course, is to mine your own precious metals to make a profit from them, since you might have to resort to some nasty methods to extract them.
It is well known that the human body produces its own versions of some commonly used drugs. For example, our bodies produce endocannabinoids, molecules similar to the chemicals found in marijuana. Our brains also produce chemical compounds called endorphins, which cause the same pain-killing effects as morphine. But the human organism can naturally generate other drugs that, in large enough amounts, would be life-threatening and totally illegal.
One such drug is called dimethyltryptamine, or DMT. This drug is commonly extracted from certain South American plants and can be drunk, smoked or injected. DMT produces serious hallucinogenic effects, with users claiming to have traveled to other worlds or met divine beings after ingesting the drug. However, there is evidence that the human brain regularly produces small amounts of DMT. It is believed that the drug could be released in the body during deep sleep or in near-death experiences.
Another human-produced drug is a substance known as GHB, sometimes called “liquid ecstasy.” This substance has very diverse uses; bodybuilders ingest it to gain muscle, while doctors prescribe it to treat sleep disorders. But GHB can become very dangerous if it is not used correctly.
Among other cases, ingesting GHB along with alcohol can kill a person or leave them in a coma. That is why it is surprising to know that our bodies contain the drug naturally, although in minuscule and non-harmful amounts. GHB is found in many tissues of the body, in the blood and also in the brain, in concentrations of up to one milligram per liter.
It is convenient to warn that both DMT and GHB are illegal drugs and their use is prohibited in many countries. So be cautious when telling someone that you make those substances, even if it is true.
Magnetism is essential for the continuity of life. The magnetic influence of the Sun, for example, protects our planet from cosmic radiation. And without the Earth’s magnetic field, solar radiation would destroy our atmosphere and kill us like ants under a magnifying glass. But magnetic forces are not limited only to celestial bodies. Life forms also generate their own magnetism, and we are no exception.
Electric currents produce magnetism, so every object that has electric currents flowing inside also has a magnetic field. And since humans run on electricity moving through our nervous system, the latter is the one that generates magnetic fields inside and around our bodies. Each of our organs works with a specific amount of electricity, so each part of the body has its own magnetic field.
It is estimated that the strength of the magnetic field on the human body’s surface is one ten-millionth of the strength of the Earth’s magnetic field. The magnetic field of the brain, meanwhile, is about 200 million times weaker than that of our planet. On the contrary, the winner among the most magnetic organs is the heart. It has a magnetic field just one million times smaller than the magnetic force of the Earth. The heart’s magnetic field is so strong that it extends outside the body, and is believed to affect certain biological processes.
As you can see, the magnetic forces of the human body are very small. But that has not stopped some people from claiming that they are magnetic enough to attract metal. What benefits has the ability to stick spoons to the body, on the other hand, is not something well known.
This point is much more comprehensive than the rest, because not only do we have stardust in our bodies, but we are actually made of it. The idea that humans are composed of stellar materials has been around for decades now, but recently we could prove that it is a reality.
At the beginning of the universe, there were only basic elements such as hydrogen and helium. When these chemicals clumped together to form the first stars, heavier and more complex elements began to be produced inside those bodies. Such elements were carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, iron, and sulfur. These elements, in turn, make up human beings almost entirely.
How did these elements get to Earth? When stars reach the end of their lives, they usually explode, ejecting their outer layers with plenty of different elements. After traveling great distances for a long time, the remains of these exploding stars fall to the Earth’s surface, where they mix with the rest of the ground. Then, plant life absorbs such elements dispersed in the soil, and we do the same by eating those plants.
Over the years, the materials formed inside the stars become part of our bodies, which are renewed with such elements all the time. Two years ago, researchers discovered that 97 percent of the atoms in the human body are of the same types as those found in stars. Moreover, 93 percent of the body’s mass is believed to be stardust.
It has been known for a long time that the human body emits light radiation. To give an example, the heat of our bodies produces infrared light, a type of electromagnetic radiation that humans cannot see, although other animals can. Now, when it comes to emitting visible light, one might think that such thing is impossible for us. Like almost all matter in the universe, we reflect light, but we do not emit it, right? Well, that is not entirely true.
In 2009, a scientist from the Tohoku Institute of Technology (Japan) named Masaki Kobayashi decided to investigate human bioluminescence – our ability to emit light. To do that, he recruited five individuals and photographed their naked bodies during 20 minutes every three hours, for three days. The photographs were taken with cameras extremely sensitive to light. The results showed that certain portions of the individuals such as their necks and heads emitted light constantly, reaching a maximum brightness around four in the afternoon.
This is probably a consequence of our biological clock, due to which we spend more energy during the late afternoon. Scientists believe that our bioluminescence is produced by small molecules called fluorophores, which emit photons after interacting with electrons released by cellular respiration.
But if we emit light, why do not we glow as if we were flashlights with eyes? The answer is pretty ironic: the visible light we produce is too weak for us to see. In fact, such light is a thousand times less intense than what our eyes are adapted to detect. But there it is, coming out from us every second. So not only are you made of stardust, but you also shine like a star. Well, maybe not so much.
Matter and antimatter hate each other. When these two substances collide they mutually annihilate, leaving only energy behind. But despite how volatile antimatter is in our universe, we have a bit of it inside us, all the time.
To understand how this is possible, we need to bring back potassium-40, which we previously said exists in the human body. As already stated, potassium-40 is one of the radioactive isotopes or variants of potassium, a soft metal. Such isotope decays – that is, it transforms into another element after its atoms lose energy. To do that, potassium-40 can be transformed into calcium-40, through a process called beta-minus decay.
During this process, a potassium-40 atom loses some particles and generates others, including an antimatter particle called antineutrino. And this is where the math begins. It is estimated that 5,000 potassium-40 atoms decay per second in the human body. Around 89.25 percent of these atoms undergo beta-minus decay. Therefore, at least 16 million antineutrinos are generated in our bodies every hour.
Meanwhile, potassium-40 can also be transformed into the isotope argon-40. This occurs when each of the potassium-40 atoms releases a positron, the antimatter version of the electron. However, this process is very rare, happening in 0.001 percent of cases. But even so, considering the potassium-40 atoms that decay per second, that means the human body generates about 180 positrons per hour.
And this is the result of just one radioactive isotope transforming inside the body. But we also have other elements that decay in the same ways, generating their own antiparticles at every moment. So, congratulations, you are also an antimatter reactor.
With 2019 being a year that great progress was made by multiple firms developing little small modulr reactors, it’s essential to also track the progress in 2020 of projects that will provide full size nuclear reactors.
The year has begun with a waterfall of favorable advancement for nuclear energy tasks large and small. First out of the box is an announcement that SNC-Lavalin, which in 2011 purchased the reactor department of AECL, has landed a agreement with China National Nuclear Power (CNNP) to start work on a two-unit 700 MWe Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR).
The company states the AHWR style is based on the 700 MWe CANDU type (PHWR) design. Improvements are listed as compliance with present worldwide security standards (GEN III), active and passive security systems, and style components that are anticipated to decrease capital expenses and functional maintenance requirements.
The contract is the result of an agreement tattooed in September 2016 to start the style work. Also, the arrangement called for the development of two nuclear reactor design centers, one in China and the other in Canada. The design centers will collaborate to complete the Advanced CANDU type reactor. It is anticipated that the first two systems will be then built in China and then the reactor will offered through export to worldwide markets.
The CANDU type design basis functions a heavy-water moderator and heavy-water coolant in a pressure tube design and can use both recycled uranium and thorium as fuel. This suggests that invested fuel from LWR type reactors can be burned in the AHWR as the fuel assemblies are approximaely 95% U238. India has made significant investments in the development of thorium-based PHWR type reactors as part of its long-term R&D efforts.
Units 1 and 2 of the Qinshan Phase III nuclear power plant in China – majority owned by CNNP – usage the Candu 6 PHWR innovation, with AECL being the primary specialist of the project on a turnkey basis. Building started in 1997 and system 1 began up in September 2002 and system 2 in April 2003. These reactors burn U238.
In a press release, SNC-Lavalin stated the market capacity for this technology in China is significant.
“Each reactor can use recycled-fuel from 4 light-water reactors (LWRs) to create six million megawatt-hours (MWh) of additional carbon-free electrical energy without needing any brand-new natural uranium fuel.”
SNC-Lavalin will produce the top-level licensing basis document (LBD) to outline the licensing procedure along with the regulative and security requirements applicable to the design, analysis, construction, commissioning and operation of the AHWR.
SNC-Lavalin will prepare Safety Design Guides (SDG) and a description and evaluation of the agreed to safety-related design modifications. SNC-Lavalin will likewise evaluation SDGs ready by partner firms included.
Shanghai Nuclear Engineering Research study & Design Institute Co. Ltd. (SNERDI) serves as General Design Institute of project, and as technical manager for this contract to evaluation and accept SNC-Lavalin’s deliverables on behalf of CNNP. China Nuclear Energy Market Corporation (CNEIC) has actually been designated by CNNP as its foreign trade representative for this agreement.
(NucNet) A supplier/vendor for a brand-new system at Czech energy CEZ’s Dukovany nuclear power station need to be selected by the end of 2022, according to media reports which quality the statement to Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš. The EPC would most likely be a separate company.
In July 2019 the Czech government approved a initial strategy for a CEZ subsidiary to build a brand-new unit at Dukovany. Czech energy policy calls for one new system at Dukovany and possibly three more either at Dukovany or at Temelin.
The Czech government, which owns 70% of CEZ, has actually been in discussions with the energy about how to expand nuclear power and to replace aging commercial reactors that are arranged to be permanently shut down in the years ahead.
A secret issue for CEZ might be to buy out minority non-governmental financiers in the utility who are opposed to building and construction of brand-new nuclear power plants.
In September the Ministry of Environmental Defense authorized the environmental impact evaluation for the building and construction of up to 2 new nuclear power plants at Dukovany. The ministry stated the approval was for up to 2,400 MW of new capability at the site.
CEZ chief executive Daniel Benes said the company must have a tender all set by June 2020 and anticipates provides in 2021 from up to 5 bidders. He stated market estimates for the brand-new unit’s cost varied from about $5.9 bn to $6.9 bn, but a last rate would come out of the tender.
Taken together, two 1200 MW systems costsing $5.9 Bn to $6.9 Bn would come in at at a really competitive price of $2500 to $2900/Kw. Benes’ numbers might be extremely positive. None of the companies that have actually expressed an interest in the project are able to provide complete size reactors in this cost variety. The Czech Republic is not India or China where really low labor expenses and a heavily subsidized heavy industry for long lead time components might drive down costs.
According to media reports, 6 firms have actually revealed interest in structure the brand-new nuclear system or units. They are China’s CGN, Russia’s Rosatom, South Korea’s KHNP, France’s EDF, Westinghouse, and the Atmea consortium of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and EDF.
There are four Russia-designed VVER-440 reactor systems at the Dukovany website. The federal government has said they need to be changed by new ones. The Czech Republic has six commercially operational reactor systems. In addition to the 4 units at Dukovany, there are two Russian VVER-1000 units at Temelín. The more recent VVER got in income service in 2000 and 2002 respectively. They are both due for a 20 year license extension.
(Wire services) An authorities of the UAE nuclear energy regulative company said in a declaration at an market conference that the operating license for the first South Korean built PWR system of the Barakah power station might be released in the very first quarter of 2020. Start-up would follow later on in 2020.
Christer Viktorsson, director-general of the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, was cautiously positive about meeting this schedule. He stated that missing unforseen problems, the plant will meet these turning points.
The four Barakah reactors are being developed by the Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO). There have been numerous hold-ups in beginning up the very first system due to problems getting enough staff trained and certified to run the reactor.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded nearly $3.5 million to X-energy to further establish its innovative nuclear reactor. The project will analyze ways to reduce building and upkeep expenses of the designer’s Xe-100 reactor style.
X-energy, situated in Rockville, Maryland, is developing a pebble bed, high-temperature gas-cooled reactor. The granted task will particularly focus on cutting costs through underground construction, the use of pooled off-site resources and streamlined passive security systems that don’t rely on big local water sources or pumps to avoid fuel damage. DOE is funding $3,468,323 of the $7,127,814 cost-shared project.
“Advanced reactors are taking off in the United States with more than 50 U.S. companies presently developing the technology,” stated Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette.
“These private-public collaborations are critical to ensure the success of the next generation of nuclear reactors by making them more inexpensive to construct and run.”
DOE has actually awarded $195 million over the last two years through its U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development financing opportunity. Subsequent quarterly application evaluation and choice procedures will be carried out three times per year over the next 3 years.
(NucNet) The US N uclear Regulative Commission has voted to adopt personnel recommendations to use “appropriately-sized” emergency situation preparation zone requirements for advanced nuclear technologies, consisting of little modular reactors, according to a declaration by the Nuclear Energy Institute.
The NEI said the relocation “demonstrates a dedication to updating policies so they align with the smaller sized size and the intrinsic security functions of innovative nuclear innovations.”
The NRC has modified the procedure for establishing the size of an emergency planning zone basing its radius on the potential effects related to the type of the advanced reactor.
Also, the NRC said it was seeking public comments on the proposed rule for emergency situation preparedness for SMRs and other new technologies. The NRC is proposing to change its guidelines and develop alternative requirements adopting a “risk-informed, performance-based, and technology-inclusive” approach.
The company stated in its declaration that the option requirements would include a scalable method for determining the size of the emergency situation planning zone around each center, based on the distance at which possible radiation dosages could need protective actions. The public and other interested celebrations can usage this rule making effort to comment on emergency preparedness policy issues such as:
• What planning activities ought to use to the performance-based method?
• How need to risk analysis be used to the performance-based technique?
• What particular factors or technical factors to consider are needed when using the scalable EPZ technique?
NEI applauded the NRC action calling is it a “major turning point”
In its press declaration the NEI, which is a U.S. industry trade group for the nuclear energy market, consisting of utilities and item and service service providers, said it was pleased by the NRC’s action.
“This is a major turning point. The staff’s recommendation to define more appropriately-sized emergency situation planning zone (EPZ) requirements for innovative nuclear innovations, the NRC shows a dedication to improving policies so they align with the smaller sized size and the intrinsic safety features of innovative nuclear innovations.”
The 10- mile zone in usage for existing plants was developed 40 years ago; since then, there has been extra research and boosted understanding of the security benefits of sophisticated reactor styles.
NRC regulations on emergency situation readiness were developed in the late 1970 s and have focused on big light-water reactors. In 2016, the NRC began evaluating its guideline making procedure taking into accountant emerging nuclear technologies like SMRs.
It made a big distinction having only 7 prospects on the dispute stage tonight. Practically everybody got time to weigh in on practically every subject, and there was less downtime while the debate unexpectedly appeared to stop dead so we could hear from the folks who had no organisation being there. That said, here are my very first impressions of how everybody did:
Amy Klobuchar appeared like the huge winner, relatively speaking. She got plenty of speaking time, she was clearer than normal in her answers, and she did the best job by far of selling a moderate vision without straight attacking Warren or Sanders.
Pete Buttigieg was the huge loser. I idea he sounded more politician-y and practiced tonight than normal, and his newfound combativeness didn’t play well. Throughout his squabble over fundraising with Warren and his squabble with Klobuchar over experience, I idea he came out on the losing end both times.
Joe Biden had a great night. For one thing, the tone of this debate was louder and more aggressive than past arguments, and by contrast Biden sounded like a cool drink of water whenever he spoke. That’s a great appearance for him. He also did well when he got a little more animated, as he did when talking about migration and Afghanistan.
Bernie Sanders was . . . Bernie Sanders. Even after you account for the truth that I’ve never ever been a big fan of his, he just sounded like he had absolutely nothing new to state. In dispute after debate, all we hear is that he’s somehow going to lead a transformation and then all our progressive dreams will come true. Meh.
Elizabeth Warren had some good answers and some bad ones. I’m uncertain about whether it was smart to just say “They’re wrong!” when she was asked about financial experts who said her two-percent wealth tax would be bad for the economy. On the one hand, yay! She’s most likely right. On the other hand, don’t you have to at least pretend to take the professionals seriously? This is a Democratic debate, after all, not a Republican one.
On the favorable side, “billionaires in red wine caves” is most likely to be the meme of the night.
Andrew Yang revealed some great flashes of humor, and I admire the guts of anybody who’s ready to state “thorium nuclear reactor” on a public stage. But he’s still never ever going to be president of the United States.
Tom Steyer didn’t matter prior to the dispute, and he still doesn’t matter.
I’ll take a wild guess that you don’t need any convincing about the need for action on climate change. You know that since the start of the Industrial Revolution we’ve dumped more than 500 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere and we’re adding about 10 billion more each year. You know that global temperatures have risen 1 degree Celsius over the past century and we’re on track for 2 degrees within another few decades.
And you know what this means. It means more extreme weather. More hurricanes. More droughts. More flooding. More wildfires. More heat-related deaths. There will be more infectious disease as insects move ever farther north. The Northwest Passage will be open for much of the year. Sea levels will rise by several feet as the ice shelves of Greenland and the Antarctic melt, producing bigger storm swells and more intense flooding in low-lying areas around the world.
Some of this is already baked into our future, but to avoid the worst of it, climate experts widely agree that we need to get to net-zero carbon emissions entirely by 2050 at the latest. This is the goal of the Paris Agreement, and it’s one that every Democratic candidate for president has committed to. But how to get there?
Let’s start with the good news. About three-quarters of carbon emissions come from burning fossil fuels for power, and we already have the technology to make a big dent in that. Solar power is now price-competitive with the most efficient natural gas plants and is likely to get even cheaper in the near future. In 2019, Los Angeles signed a deal to provide 400 megawatts of solar power at a price under 4 cents per kilowatt-hour—including battery storage to keep that power available day and night. That’s just a start—it will provide only about 7 percent of electricity needed in Los Angeles—but for the first time it’s fully competitive with the current wholesale price of fossil fuel electricity in Southern California.
Wind power—especially offshore wind—is equally promising. This means that a broad-based effort to build solar and wind infrastructure, along with a commitment to replace much of the world’s fossil fuel use with electricity, would go pretty far toward reducing global carbon emissions.
How far? Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that by 2050, wind and solar can satisfy 80 percent of electricity demand in most advanced countries. But due to inadequate infrastructure in some cases and lack of wind and sun in others, not all countries can meet this goal, which means that even with favorable government policies and big commitments to clean energy, the growth of wind and solar will probably provide only about half of the world’s demand for electricity by midcentury. “Importantly,” the Bloomberg analysts caution, “major progress in de-carbonization will also be required in other segments of the world’s economy to address climate change.”
This inevitably means we have to face up to some bad news. If existing technologies like wind, solar, and nuclear can get us only halfway to our goal—or maybe a bit more—the other half would seem to require cutting back on energy consumption.
Let’s be clear about something: We’re not talking about voluntary personal cutbacks. If you decide to bicycle more or eat less meat, great—every little bit helps. But no one who’s serious about climate change believes that personal decisions like this have more than a slight effect on the gigatons of carbon we’ve emitted and the shortsighted policies we’ve enacted. Framing the problem this way—a solution of individual lifestyle choices—is mostly just a red herring that allows corporations and conservatives to avoid the real issue.
The real issue is this: Only large-scale government action can significantly reduce carbon emissions. But this doesn’t let any of us off the hook. Our personal cutbacks might not matter much, but what does matter is whether we’re willing to support large-scale actions—things like carbon taxes or fracking bans—that will force all of us to reduce our energy consumption.
Solutions depend on how acceptable these policies are to the public. To get a rough handle of what a significant reduction means, the Nature Conservancy has a handy app that can help you calculate what it would take to cut your household carbon footprint in half. If you’re an average household, you need to pare down to one car. If it’s an suv or a sports car, get rid of it. You need a small, high-mileage vehicle (the calculator assumes a regular gasoline car) and drive it no more than 10,000 miles per year. That’s for your whole family. You need to cut way back on heating and cooling. You need to live in a house no bigger than 1,000 square feet. And you need to buy way less stuff—about half of what you buy now.
There are solutions to some of these problems—electrification obviously helps with transportation, and better insulation helps with heating and cooling—but only to a point. One way or another, any government policy big enough to make a serious dent in climate change will also force people to make major lifestyle cutbacks or pay substantially higher taxes—or both.
How many of us are willing to do that? It turns out we have a pretty good idea. In 2018, the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago fielded a national poll on climate change. Only 71 percent of respondents agreed it was happening, and of those, more than 80 percent said the federal government should do something about it.
Then the pollsters presented a scenario in which a monthly tax would be added to your electric bill to combat climate change. If the tax was $1, only 57 percent supported it. If the tax was $10, that plummeted to 28 percent. Those aren’t typos. Only about half of Americans are willing to pay $1 per month to fight climate change. Only about a quarter are willing to pay $10 per month.
And that’s hardly the only evidence of the uphill climb we face. There’s abundant confirmation of the public’s unwillingness to accept sacrifices in living standards to combat climate change. In France, a 2018 gasoline tax increase had to be withdrawn after yellow vest activists—generally an eco-friendly movement—took to the streets in furious protest. In Germany, where the growth of renewable energy has made it possible to shut down old power plants, the Fukushima disaster in Japan prompted the closing of climate-friendly nuclear plants before coal plants—despite the fact that German nukes have a spotless safety record over the past 30 years and are under no threat from tsunamis. In Canada, a recent poll reported that most people say they’re willing to make changes in their daily lives to fight climate change—but only when the changes are kept vague. When pollsters asked specific questions, only small fractions said they’d fly less frequently, purchase an electric car, or give up meat. And a paltry 16 percent said they’d be willing to pay a climate tax of $8–$40 per month.
None of this should surprise us. Fifteen years ago, UCLA geography professor Jared Diamond wrote a book called Collapse. In it, he recounted a dozen examples of societies that faced imminent environmental catastrophes and failed to stop them. It’s not because they were ignorant about the problems they faced. The 18th-century indigenous inhabitants of Easter Island, Diamond argues, knew perfectly well that deforesting their land would lead to catastrophe. They just couldn’t find the collective will to stop. Over and over, human civilizations have destroyed their environments because no one—no ruler, corporation, or government—was willing to give up their piece of it. We have overfished, overgrazed, overhunted, overmined, overpolluted, and overconsumed. We have destroyed our lifeblood rather than make even modest changes to our lifestyles.
Even if we could get wealthy Western countries to accept serious belt-tightening, they’re not where the growth of greenhouse gas emissions is taking place right now. It’s happening in developing countries like China and India. Most people in these countries have living standards that are a fraction of ours, and they justifiably ask why they should cut back on energy consumption and consign themselves to poverty while those of us in affluent countries—which caused most of the problem in the first place—are still driving SUVs and running air conditioners all summer.
This is the hinge point on which the future of climate change rests. Clearly the West is not going to collectively agree to live like Chinese farmers. Just as clearly, Chinese farmers aren’t willing to keep living in shacks while we sit around watching football on 60-inch TV screens in our climate-controlled houses as we lecture them about climate change.
This is why big government spending on wind and solar—everyone’s favorite solution to global warming—isn’t enough to do the job. Subsidies for green energy might reduce US emissions, but even if the United States eliminated its carbon output completely, it would only amount to a small reduction in global emissions.
Yes, we should be fully committed to the kind of framework that congressional Democrats propose in the Green New Deal, which provides goals for building infrastructure and ways of retraining workers affected by the transition to clean energy. But there’s no chance this will solve the problem on a global scale, and 2050 isn’t that far away. We don’t have much time left.
So what do we do? We need to figure out ways to produce far more clean energy, in far more ways, at a cost lower than we pay for fossil fuel energy. As the socialist writer Leigh Phillips warns his allies, “Households need clean energy options to be cheaper than fossil fuels currently are, not for fossil fuels to be more expensive than clean energy options currently are.”
This requires a reckoning. Time is running out, and we can no longer pretend that we can beat climate change by asking people to do things they don’t want to do. We need to focus our attention almost exclusively not on things people don’t like, but on something people do like: spending money. Lots of money.
As the Green New Deal suggests, part of the solution is building infrastructure for what we already know how to do. But our primary emphasis needs to be on R&D aimed like a laser at producing cheap, efficient, renewable energy sources—a program that attacks climate change while still allowing people to use lots of energy. This is the kind of spending that wins wars, after all. And make no mistake, this is a war against time and physics. So let’s propose a truly gargantuan commitment to spending money on clean energy research.
How gargantuan? The International Energy Agency estimates that the world spends about $22 billion per year on clean energy innovation. The US share of that is $7 billion—that’s about 0.03 percent of our economy. (Trump proposed cutting that figure almost in half.) This is pathetic if you accept that climate change is an existential threat to our planet. During World War II, the United States devoted 30 percent of its economy to the war effort—or one thousand times what we’re spending on green tech.
There were three elements to this mass mobilization. First, Americans were asked to make modest sacrifices over the course of a few years. Victory gardens were planted, tin was collected, sugar and gasoline were rationed. Men enlisted and women went to work in factories. The rich paid high taxes and the rest of us bought war bonds. Perhaps there’s a limit to how much we can ask of people, but plainly we can ask something of them.
Second, we built an enormous war machine: 89,000 tanks, 300,000 aircraft, 1,200 major combat ships, 64,500 landing craft, 2.7 million machine guns, and $2.6 trillionworth of munitions in today’s dollars. And it’s worth noting that much of this we simply gave away to allies like Britain and the Soviet Union. This was a global war that required American leadership and funding on a global scale.
Third, we spent money on R&D. There was the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb, but there was also the development of radar, code breaking, computers, jet aircraft, plastic explosives, and M&Ms.
That last part isn’t a joke. It’s true that M&Ms were developed with a candy coating so they’d melt in your mouth, not in your hand, but they provided their first jolt of calories on the battlefield, not in corner candy shops. They were initially produced by a private company in 1941, but for the next five years were available exclusively to the military.
Why mention that? Because there’s never any telling beforehand what research will pan out and what won’t. M&Ms were obviously not as crucial to the war effort as the Bletchley Park code-breaking project was, but they were an unexpected success in their own way. We should commit to funding any clean energy research that looks even a little promising. We should do our best to get commitments from other countries to do the same. If we’re successful, we’ll end up developing cheap technology that can spread quickly around the world and truly address warming on a global basis. Other countries will adopt our technology not only because it requires no sacrifice, but because it’s actually cheaper and better than what they have now. Why wouldn’t they take advantage of our R&D, especially if we give it away for nothing?
So how much should we spend? For argument’s sake let’s be modest and aim for only 10 percent of peak World War II–level spending. That’s $700 billion per year in today’s dollars—a hundred times more than we currently spend on energy R&D, but barely 15 percent of what we spent to defeat the Axis. It also amounts to not quite 16 percent of our current federal budget.
That’s a big number, and we won’t get there at once. It requires a combination of raising money and cutting spending in other areas. The most obvious candidate for cuts is our swollen defense budget—which accounts for one-sixth of all federal spending—but that’s politically risky, and given that climate change is truly an existential threat, we have to continually remind ourselves not to put up roadblocks to addressing it. Maybe we can persuade defense contractors that creating green tech is profitable. But if we have to keep building tanks and missiles for political reasons while we dial up spending on clean energy R&D, maybe that’s just something we have to do.
If an R&D commitment bigger than the Manhattan Project were all we needed, our task would be relatively easy. No one is actually opposed to the concept of R&D, after all, and every climate plan worth the name acknowledges the value of continuing it.
What I’m proposing is not just that we focus on R&D, but that we focus nearly exclusively on R&D—at least at first. That we throw gobs of money at all the projects I detail in the following pages, and any others that seem promising.
Why so much emphasis on R&D? Turns out I share something with those environmentalists who think that talk of voluntary personal sacrifice is mostly just a smoke screen. I first became skeptical of the standard approach to climate change about a decade ago. Since then I’ve watched as, year after year, we’ve done far too little even though we know perfectly well how critical it is. Sure, Europe has a cap-and-trade plan to reduce carbon emissions, but we couldn’t pass even a modest version of cap and trade in the United States. President Barack Obama raised mileage standards for cars and trucks, but President Donald Trump promptly rolled them back. Everything has been like that. There have been a few minor victories here and there, but all of them against a background of relentlessly increasing emissions.
How could this be? It’s not that nothing is happening. There are plenty of dedicated activists, climatologists, and politicians who have worked hard for years to rein in climate change, and these people are heroes. The problem is that the global public—or at least their elected representatives—are plainly reluctant to accept many of the policies the experts propose.
Take Germany. It’s one of the most green-centric countries on the planet, and it boasts both a highly educated, highly productive workforce and a population genuinely dedicated to tackling climate change. Their Energiewende—or clean energy transition—took off in the 1990s, and Germany represents one of the best cases we have of a major economy making a serious effort to address climate change.
But Germany’s progress is tepid. There’s been a massive commitment to wind and solar over the past two decades, which now represent a third of Germany’s energy production, but that’s barely made a dent in their greenhouse gas emissions. The reason is simple. Instead of using green energy to eliminate fossil fuels, Germany has used it to subsidize other priorities: expanding overall power capacity to support a growing economy; increasing exports of electric power; and eliminating those aforementioned nuclear power plants. Use of coal has declined only slightly, and use of natural gas has increased by about half. As a result, progress has plateaued. Greenhouse gas emissions dropped about 17 percent from 1990 to 2000; then dropped only 12 percent more over the next decade; and have barely dropped in the past decade. German households already pay some of the highest energy prices in Europe, but they’ve been unwilling to cut their electricity usage, which has remained stubbornly stable since 2000. And overall power consumption hasn’t declined at all; it’s higher than it was two decades ago.
If this kind of pitiful response to climate change continues—even in a country with the means and political will to really make change—the end result will be the greatest catastrophe in human history or an unprecedented experiment in geoengineering with uncertain and potentially disastrous effects. It’s past time for a radically different approach. As in World War II, a call for modest sacrifice is fine: It produces a sense of solidarity against a common enemy and gives people a personal stake in the outcome. But in the end, that’s not what won the war. It was big spending and lots of R&D.
This approach will require some sacrifice from the progressive community. If we truly accept that climate change is an existential threat, then it has to take priority over other things we’d normally fight for. Desert habitats may be compromised by utility-scale solar plants. Birds will be killed by wind turbines. Labor unions need to accept that some existing jobs will be lost as fossil fuel plants are shut down. Nuclear power is probably part of the answer, at least for a while.
A cold-blooded dedication to stopping climate change means having the willingness to step away from our comfortable shibboleths, accept the criticism that comes with that, and place ourselves squarely behind a plan that has a chance of working. Building out renewable energy will get us part of the way there, but we’ve got more to do and not much time to do it.
This isn’t a rosy-hued proposal. You can find plenty of naysayers for every project I propose funding. Solar presents problems of geography. Wind presents land-use problems. Carbon sequestration requires mammoth infrastructure. Nuclear produces radioactive waste. Biofuels have been unable to overcome technical problems even after decades of effort. Fusion power has always been 30 years in the future and still is. Geoengineering is just scary as hell.
Ultimately, massive R&D might fail. But unlike current plans, it has one powerful benefit: At least it’s not guaranteed to fail.
Over the past 40 years, the price of delivering one watt of solar power has dropped from about $100 to $1. This makes solar one of the most promising success stories of carbon-free power, and a technology that needs relatively little government research help to keep improving. But although the cost is now close to that of the most efficient natural gas power plants, close isn’t always good enough for investors. The price of large-scale solar needs to keep dropping if it’s going to have a serious global impact, and money for both R&D and the massive infrastructure build-outs that the Green New Deal framework imagines can make that happen.
The same is true of wind turbine technology, which has benefited from steady improvements in blade design, tower height, and computer control. Wind farms today supply electricity for about half the price they did a decade ago, and offshore wind is another promising area for expansion. Denmark, for example, has lots of shallow offshore regions that are ideal for wind turbines and produces nearly half of its electricity via wind. But not every country has Denmark’s advantages. It’s difficult to anchor wind towers in water more than 200 feet deep, and creative new ways to build turbines in deeper waters are good targets for R&D spending.
Solar and wind get most of the attention among renewable energy sources, but there are other promising technologies. For example, ground source heat pumps take advantage of the fact that temperatures just a few feet below ground tend to stay the same throughout the year. In summer, they can pump warm air out of the house, and in winter, the underground warmth can heat water. Heat pumps’ only real drawback is that they cost a lot to install, which makes them an ideal target for both research (to lower costs) and federal subsidies (to incentivize installing them in the meantime).
There are less familiar types of renewable energy, including tidal power and geothermal energy, which are not yet always more cost-effective than fossil fuels. But some of them will probably be instrumental in the future, so we should invest in them all.
Nuclear power plants are almost carbon-free and provide steady “base load” power that doesn’t depend on sun or wind. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they produce radioactive waste with lifetimes measured in hundreds of centuries. They’re also expensive and vulnerable to catastrophic meltdowns.
But they don’t have to be. Failsafe technology has been on the drawing board for years and is incorporated into designs known as Gen IV nuclear power. In the last 10 years, the United States has committed $678 million to new nuclear technologies, and boosting this amount could produce commercial reactors virtually immune to meltdowns within a few years.
In China, experimental reactors are being built that use thorium rather than uranium as their nuclear fuel. Thorium is more abundant than uranium, but its biggest advantage is that it produces far less—and less dangerous—nuclear waste than uranium reactors. If their research goes well, China hopes to have commercial thorium reactors online within a decade.
Nuclear power may not be a long-term answer to climate change, but it’s relatively green and the technology is relatively advanced. With additional R&D, it could be made better and safer and could provide a stopgap source of carbon-neutral energy until we have permanent solutions up and running.
It’s not enough to generate electricity cleanly; we also need to store it. Batteries—the kind that power electric cars—have gotten lots of attention, but there are other ways to store power. You can, and we already do, pump water uphill into a reservoir and use it later to power turbines on the way down. You can heat salt into molten form and draw off the heat later to drive steam engines, which turns out to be surprisingly efficient. And there’s compressed air, an old technology now being tried by some utilities. During the day, a solar plant can generate power that compresses air, stores it underground, and releases it at night to power turbines.
There are only two feasible storage options for use in cars and trucks right now: hydrogen fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries. One promising research avenue for fuel cells is solar-powered electrolysis of ordinary water. The cost has dropped by half over the past decade but needs to fall considerably more to become competitive.
Battery technology is the target of intense research. Some research is focused on alternatives like nickel-zinc and potassium-ion, and there’s seemingly weekly news of advances in solid-state batteries and so-called supercapacitors. All of these are prime targets for worthwhile government investment.
Although global warming is primarily the result of CO2 emissions, there are other greenhouse gases. Among them are methane and nitrous oxide, largely produced by farming and ranching. These go under the rubric of “land use,” which is responsible for about 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. This includes deforestation, methane from cows, and nitrous oxide from fertilizers. But agriculture also presents opportunities to remove carbon from the atmosphere, sometimes by measures as simple as changing the way soil is tilled or treating farmland with compost. These methods are called “carbon farming,” and in France there’s a government initiative called “4 per 1,000,” which aims to increase carbon storage in soil by 0.4 percent per year.
Until recently, carbon farming has been a fringe activity, despite the promise it holds not to merely slow the growth of carbon emissions, but to actually remove carbon that’s already there—for example, through massive reforestation. There’s every reason to think that a serious commitment to further research, along with government-sponsored incentives for farmers, could make a big contribution to fighting climate change.
Here’s a disturbing fact: Even if we stopped emitting carbon completely, that wouldn’t be enough. “Meeting the climate goals of the Paris Agreement is going to be nearly impossible without removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” researchers Jan Christoph Minx and Gregory Nemet warned in the Washington Post in 2018. Given how much damage we’ve already done and the near certainty that we’ll increase carbon emissions for at least another decade, we need to figure out how to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere on a massive scale.
According to the International Energy Agency, governments around the world set aside $28 billion for carbon capture projects over the past decade but spent only $4 billion. We’ve given up just when we should be doubling down. The Energy Futures Initiative, a think tank, recommends that the United States commit $10.7 billion over the next 10 years for carbon capture R&D.
The infrastructure to store carbon needs to be built at roughly the same scale as the infrastructure that produced it, which means that pumping even a fraction of it underground would require construction on a scale similar to today’s entire oil extraction industry. That doesn’t seem politically feasible, but even storing a fraction of our carbon emissions could be a big part of the solution.
Carbon dioxide can also be removed from the air, combined with hydrogen, and turned into fuel. The fuel itself emits carbon when it’s burned, but the entire cycle is net carbon neutral. A team of scientists at Harvard recently announced a cost breakthrough, estimating they could do this for less than $100 per ton of carbon removed from the atmosphere—or $1 for every gallon of gasoline we burn.
There are also natural methods of carbon capture. A research team in Zurich, after studying satellite images of the entire globe, estimated that 2 billion acres of land not in use for agriculture are suitable for reforesting; the researchers say this would remove two-thirds of all the carbon dioxide that humans have added to the atmosphere since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Other teams are investigating gene editing that would increase the amount of carbon that plants can store in their root systems.
All of these solutions, from industrial facilities to planting more trees, need intensive research to be made viable. They’re ideal targets for an R&D program dedicated not to dribs and drabs that can disappear with the next Congress, but one that fights climate change like a war.
The world uses about 20 billion tons of concrete every year. Unfortunately, concrete’s main constituent is cement, and the chemical process for creating cement is CaCO3 + heat ➞ CaO + CO2. In other words, the concrete industry is basically a huge global machine that digs up limestone, heats it, and turns it into quicklime and CO2. The industry is responsible for about 8 percent of global carbon emissions.
Cement production can be made more efficient, but that helps only at the margins. What we really need is a replacement as cheap and durable as the real thing. Companies are already working on this, including some that approach net-zero carbon by pumping CO2 back into the concrete during the curing process.
Concrete is one of the world’s most popular building materials, and engineers are naturally reluctant to experiment with unproven replacements. Nobody wants to find out, a decade after a skyscraper has gone up, that a new type of concrete doesn’t age well. That makes concrete a long-lead item in the war on climate change, which means large-scale research needs to be funded now.
This is not a widely loved subject, because it means we’re openly admitting that maybe we’ll fail to stop climate change. And no one wants to say that. But the truth is we’ve already failed to stop it, and we’re vanishingly unlikely to keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius. Even 3 degrees is looking all too likely. Either scenario would require some serious adaptation. Yet the implementation of adaptation strategies is in its infancy.
Part of the problem is that adaptation means something different in every place in the world. In Bangladesh and Battery Park, the problem is storm surges, while in the Sahel the problem is drought and declining pastureland. California worries about coastal erosion, while Kansas fears crop losses from insects.
Half a dozen big US cities have started work on adaptation plans, including New York and Chicago. In 2019, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a $10 billion plan to protect lower Manhattan from rising sea levels. That’s a start, but only barely. With storms likely to become bigger and more frequent, we need to invent better forecasting systems. Restoring mangrove forests can protect some coastlines and restoring oyster beds can help others. Far more preventive work like this needs to be done, and far more funding needs to be committed to it.
The best-known biofuel is ethanol made from corn—which is no more carbon-friendly than gasoline once you factor in its entire production cycle. But that doesn’t mean biofuels are a dead end. The real holy grails in this area are algae-based and have received much less investment than ethanol. One of their many technological challenges is the lack of a scalable method for drying out algae so that energy-storing lipids can be separated out. But the drying process could be replaced by pyrolysis, which involves heating plants to a high enough temperature that they effectively melt into fuel. And pyrolysis isn’t just viable for algae. The pyrolysis of wood chips could theoretically be carbon-negative on a long enough timeline because it would require planting more trees, and the carbon-heavy charcoal byproducts could be returned to the soil.
Even with these innovations, ethanol is a low-density fuel and will be less important as more cars and trucks go electric. But other things will require high-density liquid fuel. Air travel, for example, can’t yet be electric-powered like cars, and by 2050 commercial aircraft will emit about a gigaton of carbon every year, consuming a quarter of the “carbon budget” that would keep us under 1.5 degrees Celsius warming—if flights continue to use petroleum-based jet fuel. We need alternatives.
Less Meat, Mostly Plants
Production of meat—especially beef—is responsible for at least 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. If we replaced three-quarters of animal-based food with grains and vegetables, we would effectively reduce annual emissions in 2050 by more than two gigatons—the equivalent of one-sixth of current emissions.
Sure, people should cut back on meat, and those corn and soy fields could be turned into forests or crops for human consumption. But historically, as poor countries get richer, one of the first things that happens is an increase in meat consumption. This makes recent announcements about plant-based burgers and oat milk more than just a gimmick. And if those products get good enough—and production gets efficient enough—they too could go a long way toward reducing carbon emissions associated with a meat-rich diet.
Fusion reactors use hydrogen as fuel and produce negligible radioactive waste. It sounds perfect, but to make a fusion reactor work, hydrogen has to be heated to temperatures hotter than the sun’s core and held in place for at least several seconds. No one has come close to doing this on an adequate scale.
But fusion power is too promising to give up on. MIT’s SPARC (Smallest Possible Affordable Robust Compact) project, for example, could begin producing power on a small scale by 2025. That’s also the year that ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), a massive fusion project, is scheduled to reach “first plasma,” the beginning of serious testing on a larger scale.
A surprising number of startups have begun work on innovative ideas for creating fusion reactors on a smaller and less expensive scale than megaprojects like iter. They could be good candidates for federal investment.
This is everybody’s least favorite idea: massive engineering projects to cool down the Earth if it turns out we can’t reduce carbon emissions. Some geoengineering proposals sound crazy, like putting a fleet of mirrors in orbit to reflect sunlight back into space. Others are more practical, like mimicking the effect of volcanoes by spraying aerosols of sulfate particles into the stratosphere. This is both feasible and cheap: A program that costs $2–$5 billion per year could reduce global temperatures by a quarter of a degree Celsius.
But while sulfates can lower global temperatures, they don’t do anything to actually remove CO2 from the atmosphere. If spraying ever stops, temperatures would jump. Another proposal, called Project Vesta, seeks to mimic a natural method of removing carbon that normally works over millions of years. It involves grinding up a mineral called olivine and spreading it on tropical beaches, where it combines with CO2, washes out to sea, and falls to the ocean floor. This has the benefit of removing carbon from the atmosphere, but it costs a lot more than sulfate spraying.
Other possibilities include seeding the seas with iron to increase the population of carbon-absorbing phytoplankton, a marine algae, and thinning the cover of high-altitude cirrus clouds, which trap heat.
All of these proposals have drawbacks, including a political one: Who decides? The United States could easily spray megatons of sulfate aerosols into the atmosphere. So could China or Brazil or the European Union. But the result is global and might impact some areas more than others.
Geoengineering is inherently dangerous because there’s no way to know beforehand what the side effects might be—and they could be enormous. And once it starts, there’s no going back. If anything, the very danger of geoengineering is the best argument for continuing to study it. No one can say for sure that we’ll never have to resort to it, and if we do, we ought to be prepared.
The history of science is littered with accidental discoveries. Many of us are alive today only because Alexander Fleming accidentally left open a petri dish containing a staph bacteria and discovered penicillin. This is why an R&D program for clean energy needs to be huge and wide-ranging. We simply don’t know which discoveries are most likely to pan out, and climate change is dire enough that we can’t afford to close off any possibilities.