The Democratic candidates are divided on nuclear energy

The elephant in CNN’s environment town hall isn’t a Republican politician. It’s nuclear energy.

More than 70 percent of Democratic midterm citizens not just think environment modification is occurring, they’re actually “very concerned” about it, according to an Associated Press poll. Democratic candidates are catering to that with a multitude of climate strategies that, honestly, state a lot of similar things.

Do you think environment change is a huge offer? Examine. Need to the US recommit itself to the Paris environment arrangement? Examine. Do we requirement net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050? Examine.

Should the US turn to nuclear energy as a way to stop burning planet-warming fossil fuels? Now that’s where it gets actually juicy.

All of the 10 candidates who appeared on CNN’s September 4 th climate town hall have actually launched detailed environment platforms, however just half of those bring up nuclear energy — both for and against checking out the nuclear alternative. CNN’s town hall brought those divisions to light. The seven-hour marathon was stressed with arguments on nuclear from six candidates. If nothing else, it assisted to spice up what was otherwise a whole lot of nuance on climate policy that made viewing up until midnight tough for even the most ecologically minded viewers.


US-ENERGY-NUCLEAR-politics

Three Mile Island nuclear generating station, as seen in March 2019.

Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP / Getty Images

Candidates Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Andrew Yang worked to sell nuclear as one of the most promising tools at our disposal to prevent environment catastrophe. Both have indicated that they’re open to building brand-new power plants.

“People who think that we can get there without nuclear being part of the mix, simply aren’t looking at the facts,” Booker said.

He did admit that “next-generation nuclear, where the science is going, [to me], at first, it sounds like science fiction.” He stumbled through a dragged out description of the possible he sees in new innovations to reduce the danger of disasters that took location in Chernobyl and Fukushima. But CNN analyst Van Jones offered Booker credit for taking on a complicated and unpleasant position. “It’s not popular in the celebration. He took that position on, and I idea he sold it.”

Ultimately, Booker said, “I’m a rival.” He told the audience that what “really ticks him off” is the United States losing ground in the field of research and development. “As Americans, [we] need to make the financial investments so that we lead humanity to the innovations, to the breakthroughs, to the tasks of the future,” he said, which relies heavily on nuclear power. His environment plan designates $20 billion to developing next-generation innovative nuclear energy.

Yang’s plan proposes costs $50 billion on looking into brand-new nuclear technologies, and he desires to see brand-new nuclear reactors online as quickly as 2027. “Nuclear, right now, it gets a bad rap in part because the technologies we’re using are antiquated,” Yang stated. “We are working on these new-generation nuclear reactors that usage thorium instead of uranium, and thorium is not natively fissile or radioactive. So the odds of a disaster drop precipitously.”


San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant.

Photo by Will Poor / The Edge

Using thorium as an option to uranium ore for producing nuclear fuel does have some advantages over uranium, Rob Jackson, chair of the Earth System Science Department at Stanford, told The Brink. But it hasn’t been commercialized yet, so leaning on it to broaden nuclear potential customers in the United States is bound to be pricey, specifically compared to the shrinking cost tag for solar panels. Still, Jackson competes, the safety record for nuclear in the United States is “actually rather great” — something a landmark United Nations report backed up globally.

The United Nations report launched last year details what needs to happen to keep the Earth from warming above 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the limit at which most researchers concur we need to stay under to prevent many devastating impacts of environment change. In most of the pathways it outlined to hit that mark, nuclear energy should be ramped up. That report signaled a agreement amongst leading climate specialists throughout the world on the role nuclear energy could possibly play in structure a more sustainable future. When it comes to security, it says that “comparative danger evaluation reveals health dangers [for nuclear energy] are low per system of electrical energy production.”

But nuclear energy isn’t constantly seen as low-risk. The mix of unusual and prominent events like Chernobyl and Fukushima along with growing stockpiles of nuclear waste implies that nuclear energy is still shunned by many voters and politicians.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) calls nuclear energy a “false service.” As the only prospect at the town hall calling for complete abstaining from nuclear energy, Sanders faced some of the most direct concerns on the topic.

“How can you dismiss this innovation?” Marc Alessi, a graduate student studying environment science at Cornell University, asked Sanders.

Sanders pointed to the dangers associated with the radioactive waste nuclear energy leaves behind, which has a especially sordid history polluting Native American lands. “It doesn’t make a entire lot of sense to me to add more dangerous waste to this country and to the world when we put on’t know how to get rid of it right now,” stated Sanders. “I think it is safer and more economical to relocation to sustainable energies like wind, solar, and geothermal.”

Somewhere between hardcore nuclear fans and die-hard critics are prospects attempting to tip-toe around the problem. That consists of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who at least says we should clean up nuclear energy’s poisonous legacy. She stops brief of definitively saying she would axe it from the US’s energy future.


An undated picture reveals the entrance to Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

Photo by Maxim Kniazkov / AFP / Getty Images

As part of her plan to “stand up for Indigenous rights and ensure that Native Americans are provided a voice in the battle to rectify systemic environmental oppressions required upon Native communities,” she calls for “consent by Native communities for any nuclear waste storage project, including Yucca Mountain.” Yucca Mountain in Nevada was first proposed as the main discarding ground for radioactive waste in the United States by Congress in 1987. The Western Shoshone Nation, Native American advocacy groups, and Nevada legislators have actually fought back tooth and nail considering that then.

Despite being asked twice to clarify precisely where she stands on nuclear energy outside of its waste issue, Harris managed to side-step the concern. “My bottom line is that I’m not going to allow the federal federal government to go in and enforce its concerns on any state, it’s going to have to be those states to make that choice,” she responded, pointing again to the battle over the fate of Yucca Mountain.

Neither Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) nor Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) clearly points out nuclear energy in their environment plans. But when pressed during the town hall, both promised not to develop brand-new reactors. Warren said she supports weaning the United States off its existing nuclear energy plants by 2035. Klobuchar stated she would “make sure [existing power plants are] safe and figure out what upgrades we have to make to those plants.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden is curious enough to throw an undisclosed quantity of money into nuclear R&D. He took heat for everything from Obama’s track record on environment to an upcoming fundraiser co-hosted by the co-founder of a natural gas company. That was enough to keep the focus away from his position on nuclear, however according to his environment plan, he wants “to look at concerns, ranging from cost to safety to waste disposal systems, that remains an ongoing challenge with nuclear power today.”


Site  for  rebirth  of  nuclear  power  in  USA

A two-unity nuclear power station in Georgia.

Photo by Pallava Bagla / Corbis by means of Getty Images

At about 20 percent of the United States energy mix, nuclear energy offers the country with more carbon-neutral energy than solar, wind, or any other renewable source. However 59 of the nation’s 97 licensed business nuclear reactors are slated to retire by 2040 if their licenses aren’t renewed. There’s just been one new reactor to come online within the past two decades, according to The Washington Post. 2 more that are being constructed in Georgia are bleeding cash.

“Nuclear energy is out of style,” Jackson stated. “Without government rewards, it’s tough to imagine nuclear contending cost-wise with renewables and natural gas.” However he does point out that nuclear offers another source of energy that doesn’t rely on the weather condition, like wind and solar.

For the prospects who’ve stayed unclear about where they stand on nuclear energy in their released prepares and at the town hall, there could be a great factor. According to Steven Cohen, director of the research study program on sustainability policy and management at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, “Advocating nuclear power as a service to the climate crisis is not a great method for a Democratic primary campaign.” In an e-mail to The Verge, Cohen composed, “Many anti-nuclear activists are Democrats and you danger setting in motion their opposition.”

When you take a appearance at the bigger picture, nuclear energy isn’t simply dividing Democrats. It’s a hot-button subject among environmentalists as well.

Cohen states that if a more secure form of nuclear power might be established without waste and without the danger of crises, it ought to be considered. There are those who believe new technologies are coming near to that, however Cohen is careful. “Many environment researchers are brought in to nuclear as a quick type of carbon-free energy, but I think about the management and political risks of nuclear power to far outweigh the advantages,” Cohen informed The Brink. “In the words of the fantastic ecologist Barry Citizen: ‘Nuclear power is a hell of a complicated method to boil water.’”


.

Nuclear power’s controversial role in the fight against climate change, explained

One of the more vexing and heated debates in climate policy has to do with the role of nuclear power in decarbonization. Is it helpful or not? Necessary or not?

Almost every Democratic candidate was asked the question during the CNN climate forum on Wednesday. There was seemingly little consensus, with answers ranging from the tech-boosterism of Andrew Yang and Cory Booker to the skepticism of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

“What’s the deal with nuclear power?” is consistently the most common question I receive. So, for those joining this conversation concerned about climate change but uncertain of the correct take on nuclear, this post is an introduction.

One thing I hope to convey is that “pro-nuclear” and “anti-nuclear” are not considered policy positions. They are identities, ways of signaling membership in a tribe. You sign up for one team and then scold the other team on social media (you will have lots of company).

If you approach nuclear power as a policy question, on the merits, you will find that, like most things, it’s complicated; there are multiple, overlapping issues involved, and the answers cannot be captured in a single binary.

A side note: Nuclear obviously has a long and contentious history in the US. The fight against nuclear power, bound up with the nuclear-freeze movement, was arguably the seed of the US environmental movement. Until relatively recently, being an environmentalist in the US more or less meant being hostile to nuclear power. But as climate change has become a bigger concern, it has become clear that the environmentalist lens on nuclear and the climate-hawk lens on nuclear are different and can lead to different conclusions.

I’m not going to review all that history (it could fill a book); instead, I’ll approach nuclear power purely through the lens of climate change. From a climate perspective, there are three separate issues to understand: existing power plants, the prospect of building new power plants now, and new, yet-to-be deployed technology in development. Let’s walk through them.


Davis–Besse Nuclear Power Station

The Davis–Besse Nuclear Power Station, in Ottawa County, Ohio.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission, via Wikipedia

Existing nuclear power plants

According to a US Energy Information Administration (EIA) report from June, “there are 59 commercially operating nuclear power plants with 97 nuclear reactors in 29 U.S. states.” Those power plants cumulatively provide about 20 percent of US electricity — and half of its carbon-free electricity, which is to say, as much carbon-free electricity as all renewables and hydropower combined.

(Some people contest the notion that nuclear is carbon-free. They note that greenhouse gases are released by uranium mining and during both plant construction and decommissioning. Without getting into that tangled argument, we’ll just say that nuclear is extremely low-carbon, certainly relative to any fossil fuel.)

America’s nuclear plants are struggling to compete in wholesale power markets against cheaper natural gas and renewables. And they are shutting down: five have retired in the past five years and 12 reactors at nine plants have announced plans to retire ahead of schedule. If current trends in the power sector continue, more will shut down, either because their licenses are up or for economic reasons, in coming years.

To some climate hawks, this is cause for alarm. Each closed nuclear plant represents hundreds of megawatts, sometimes gigawatts, of carbon-free power lost. And while that power could theoretically be replaced by renewables, storage, and efficiency, in practice it’s mostly replaced by natural gas.

For more background on existing plants and the simple argument for keeping them open as long as possible, see this post.

Most Democratic candidates, to my knowledge, have remained silent on the issue of plant closures. Only Bernie Sanders has come out explicitly against keeping the plants open, saying in his plan that he will not renew their licenses. He reiterated his stance at the CNN town hall, citing the problem of nuclear waste. (Whatever you think of nuclear waste, how does it stack up to what every candidate says is an “existential problem”?)

Warren was somewhat more vague, saying, “We’re not going to build any nuclear power plants and we’re going to start weaning ourselves off of nuclear energy and replacing it with renewable fuels — we’re going to get it all done by 2035.”

Warren may have somewhat misstated her own goals, which she recently adopted from Jay Inslee’s plan. Those goals are 100 percent “carbon-neutral” electricity by 2030 and 100 percent “clean and zero-emission electricity” by 2035.

Those quoted words were carefully chosen by Inslee’s team. “Carbon-neutral” allows for some offsets, i.e., emission reductions from other sectors. “Clean and zero-emission” specifically uses “and” to make room for both renewables and nuclear power, or even, say, biomass electricity with carbon capture and sequestration.

The point of that “and” is to allow for an ongoing role for existing nuclear plants, without which getting to 100 percent clean electricity will be much more difficult. (For a longer discussion of this question — exactly what should count as “clean” electricity — see this post.)

A national carbon price would definitely boost nuclear’s fortunes, but most of the policy that stands to directly help these struggling plants is done at the state level. This post has a few examples of states (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut) that have figured out how to compensate nuclear plants for their carbon benefits and keep them open. This post is about a state (Ohio) that has done the same thing in the most corrupt, backward-looking way possible.

Final note: The question of what to do about existing plants is separate from other questions around nuclear. It’s possible to believe nuclear is doomed, that renewables will stomp it out eventually, and still think existing plants should be run as long as possible.


Aerial view of the Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant.

The ill-fated Vogtle Nuclear Power Plant.

New nuclear power plants

The current generation of new nuclear plants is not doing so well in the US, as anyone following the ill-fated story of the Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia is painfully aware. Initial permits were filed to add two new reactors back in 2006. Construction began in 2013. The main contractor behind the plants went bankrupt in 2017. After an endless series of delays (still ongoing) and cost overruns, the total price tag now looks like it may hit an eye-popping $25 billion.

It is extremely expensive to build new nuclear plants in the US. Advocates insist this has as much to do with byzantine bureaucracy and inefficient, bespoke construction costs as it does with technology. They believe that if reactor designs were standardized and rules were streamlined, nuclear could compete.

Last year, a group of scientists — scientists largely sympathetic to nuclear power — took a comprehensive look at this question in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. You can read this post to learn more about the study, but here is their blunt conclusion about existing nuclear plant designs:

There is no reason to believe that any utility in the United States will build a new large reactor in the foreseeable future. These reactors have proven unaffordable and economically uncompetitive. In the few markets with the will to build them, they have proven to be unconstructible. The combination of political instruments and market developments that would render them attractive, such as investment and production credits, robust carbon pricing, and high natural gas costs, is unlikely to materialize soon.

This is not to say that it would be impossible to make nuclear competitive. It would depend entirely on policy, but then, expanding renewables also depends on policy. Any rapid, large-scale change in the energy system depends on policy!

With enough subsidies and incentives, anything is possible, in theory. But given that nuclear has been steadily subsidized throughout its life in the US, the industry has acted in a consistently corrupt and incompetent fashion, recent new plants have been financial and political disasters, and renewables continue to defy even the most optimistic cost projections, it’s not clear that the sweeping reforms necessary to revive a moribund industry will gain much political purchase.

A final note: The question of whether the currently existing nuclear industry can or should be revived and new plants should be built is complicated, but again, it is separate from the two other policy questions at issue. The answers need not be linked.


An SMRsplainer from DOE.

Small modular reactors (SMRs): nuclear saviors?

DOE

New kinds of nuclear power plants

A variety of new and advanced forms of nuclear power are under development. None are currently commercially viable, but some are getting close. The small modular reactor (SMR) being developed by a company call NuScale has already passed the early stages of Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) review (though review is ongoing). The company hopes to build a working reactor in Idaho by 2026. It promises smaller, faster, cheaper, meltdown-proof reactors.

Andrew Yang is extremely enthusiastic about the prospects for thorium reactors and wants to invest $50 billion in them. (Thorium is a more common element than uranium and produces less waste, which stays radioactive for a much shorter time.) There are molten salt reactors, fast reactors, micro-reactors, and, way out at the edge of science, always just over the horizon, fusion reactors.

All of these technologies are in various stages of research and hype. All of them promise cheaper, faster, and safer nuclear power, with a smaller footprint and less waste.

For the record, that PNAS study concluded that no advanced nuclear technology is even close to market viability and none is receiving anything like the support that might make it viable by mid-century (when total decarbonization is needed).

That’s the relevant policy question here: whether government should support the accelerated development and commercialization of these technologies.

There might be an argument against this kind of R&D, but if there is, I’m not aware of it. If climate change is an existential crisis, we need to investigate every possible tool for addressing it. Government-funded research is extraordinarily effective and government support is absolutely crucial to the development of new clean technologies.

The problem here is not so much that anyone opposes R&D so much as the fact that too few people really support it enough to make it a priority. Consequently, the US energy research budget remains abysmally low and advanced nuclear, like almost every promising clean technology, receives only a fraction of the support it should.

Different Democratic climate plans differ in the amount they emphasize and propose to spend on clean energy research. Buttigieg has called to “at least quadruple” the federal energy research budget. Booker would spend $400 billion over 10 years on research Moonshot Hubs in each state. Warren’s “Green Apollo Program” would also put $400 billion toward R&D. So would Joe Biden’s plan. Sanders would spend $800 billion. But there are few details about how much any of that would go to advanced nuclear research.

A final note: The question of whether or how much to support next-gen nuclear technologies through R&D spending is separate from the previous two questions. The answers need not be linked.

The consequences of disagreements over nuclear are smaller than they appear

People love to fight about nuclear power, but the tangible implications of the fights are somewhat less than the rhetorical heat might lead one to believe.

There are people who have taken on pro- or anti-nuclear as an identity, and their positions on the three issues above might be consistently pro or con. But there’s no reason for ordinary people, who aren’t committed to that identity battle, to dogmatically take one side or the other. As I keep saying, they are separate questions.

My general sense is that the emerging consensus is a mix: It’s worth keeping existing nuclear plants open; it’s unlikely the current nuclear industry can be revived; and it’s worth investing in next-gen nuclear technologies.

That’s also my general sense of what’s going to happen, regardless of how people feel about it. States are rallying to save existing nuclear plants; any kind of carbon price, which any Democratic administration would try to pass, would help them as well. Despite nuclear’s considerable cheering section, though, it’s difficult to imagine the political will amassing to plow sufficient subsidies into a dumpster-fire industry to produce a wave of new nuclear plants built with current designs. However, concern over climate change is rising and every Democrat is proposing to boost the research budget; advanced nuclear is likely to benefit from the boost, if it happens.

Meanwhile, Democrats, despite their obsessive disagreements over nuclear, mostly fall somewhere within that consensus. Some of the presidential candidates (Sanders and Warren) emphasize the transition to renewables, some (Yang and Booker) emphasize exciting research into next-gen nuclear technologies, but in practice, I doubt their effects on the nuclear power industry would differ much one way or the other. Ultimately, nuclear’s fate is likely to be determined by economic forces and policy levers that lie outside the president’s control.

Anyway, that is the shape of the nuclear debate, such as it is. The important lesson for most people, those willing to engage in this debate with an open mind and an eye on evidence, is that you don’t have to choose a team, pro or con. There are multiple, distinct policy questions around nuclear power and it is worth engaging each of those questions on their own terms.


2020 Democrats should appearance to Andrew Yang. Nuclear power is the way to go.

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Opinion factor
Released 10:27 a.m. ET S ept. 17, 2019 | Updated 1:55 p.m. ET S ept. 17, 2019

Climate modification is a significant talking point in the Democratic governmental primaries. When will they pay attention to the service that really works?

Want to do something about climate change by lowering carbon emissions? If you’re serious, that “something” has to consist of a massive dedication to the construction of new nuclear power plants around the world, as well as making sure that existing nuclear power plants don’t go offline up until they can be changed by brand-new ones.

Nuclear power is the just major, developed, proven source of power that has absolutely no carbon emissions. Of the carbon-free options, only hydroelectric has a long track record as a significant power source, and you can only dam so lots of rivers; solar and wind are still in the teething phases and are not likely to bring the load any time soon.

Nuclear power is dependable, safe and well comprehended. If you oppose nuclear power but call climate change a crisis, then you’re speaking nonsense, unless you just want to decrease energy usage in America to something like what’s seen in current day Venezuela, in which case you’re just speaking a different kind of nonsense.

A choose couple of are being sincere about what is needed

Most, however not all, of the Democratic candidates for president are unclear on the subject, silent or opposed to nuclear power. However not all. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey has been a “full-throated” supporter of nuclear power, and nuclear power gets a huge boost from Andrew Yang’s climate modification plan.

According to Yang’s plan, “Nuclear power is a important part in the move toward creating sustainable, carbon-free energy for the United States. However, numerous individuals — including some other candidates — dismiss it out of hand. Why does it have such a bad track record? … First, the public’s understanding of its security has actually been manipulated by TV shows like ‘Chernobyl’ and ‘The Simpsons.’ “

USA TODAY E ditorial Board:Phase out nuclear power? Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders locked in absurd arms race

Yang continues: “When the (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Nuclear Energy Agency and National Aeronautics and Area Administration) analyzed the actual risk of nuclear energy compared with other sources, they found that it caused orders of magnitude fewer deaths than fossil fuel-based energy. And that’s not even thinking about the long-lasting effect of environment change from burning fossil fuels. With modern-day reactors, security is significantly increased, and nuclear waste is considerably reduced.”

That’s precisely right. Yang is particularly interested in reactors powered by thorium instead of uranium, due to the fact that thorium is more efficient and more plentiful, and since thorium reactors can’t produce materials suitable for usage in nuclear weapons. Plus: “Thorium reactors produce less waste than uranium reactors. Thorium waste stays radioactive for several hundred years instead of numerous thousand years. Thorium-based molten salt reactors are safer than earlier-generation nuclear reactors, and the possible for a devastating occasion is negligible, due to the design of the reactor and the truth that thorium is not, by itself, fissile.”

If this is a nationwide emergency, nuclear can’t be overlooked

Yang is definitely right to make these points, and he has gotten some well-deserved attention. But it’s unexpected that he hasn’t gotten more, given how much we’re hearing about the crisis nature of climate change. Because if you take environment modification seriously, you have to take nuclear power seriously. As Michael Shellenberger writes in Forbes, if Germany and California had actually based their emissions strategies on nuclear instead of “renewables” like solar and wind, they’d have 100% clean power now.

But they didn’t, and they wear’t, and the concern is whether the rest of us will discover from their error. The International Energy Company reports that planned nuclear retirements will already lead to 4 billion metric heaps of extra carbon dioxide emissions. If it makes sense to keep functioning reactors online longer rather than changing them with fossil fuels, then definitely it makes sense to replace fossil fuel plants with new nuclear reactors.

There’s something of a renaissance going on in nuclear innovation, with small “inherently safe” reactors being put forward to fill gaps in supply. These reactors might be mass-produced on assembly lines for much lower expenses (current reactors are customized on website) and since of their little size could more easily be put where required. 

Sure, people are afraid and invoke things like Chernobyl or Three Mile Island, but when they do, they’re mainly believing about the ridiculously dramatized imaginary variations of those occurrences. (Shellenberger’s column is headlined, “The factor they fictionalize nuclear catastrophes like Chernobyl is because they kill so couple of people”). Yang’s plan specifically recognizes this, noting that nuclear power triggers orders of magnitudes less deaths than fossil fuels.  

And the change could be done rapidly. As Joshua Goldstein, Staffan Qvist and Steven Pinker note in The New York Times, France and Sweden “decarbonized their grids years ago and now produce less than a 10 th of the world average of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour. They remain among the world’s most pleasant places to live and delight in much cheaper electrical energy than Germany to boot. They did this with nuclear power. And they did it fast, taking advantage of nuclear power’s intense concentration of energy per pound of fuel. France changed nearly all of its fossil-fueled electrical power with nuclear power across the country in simply 15 years; Sweden, in about 20 years. In fact, most of the fastest additions of clean electricity traditionally are nations rolling out nuclear power.”

Andrew Yang’s right. So why wait?

It’s basic:Nuclear power is too pricey and too dangerous

It’s time for our leaders to get their heads out of thriller films and start supporting a massive shift to nuclear power. Due to the fact that it’s a crisis, and in a crisis, you do things you sanctuary’t done before.  

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law teacher and the author of “The New School: How the Info Age Will Save American Education from Itself,” is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. 

Autoplay

Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

Read or Share this story: https://www. usatoday.com/story/opinion/2019/09/17/2020-democrat-president-climate-change-andrew-yang-nuclear-power-column/2342031001/


.

Cory Booker Compares Anti-Nuclear Democrats To Republican Climate Deniers

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) compared Democrats who oppose nuclear energy to Republican climate science deniers, highlighting a growing rift in the party over the nation’s biggest source of emissions-free electrical power. 

In a extensive interview with HuffPost, the Democratic presidential enthusiastic said he once shared progressives’ suspicion of nuclear power however ended up being persuaded that reaching net-zero emissions from the utility sector by 2030 was impossible without the source that produces more power than all types of renewables integrated. 

“As much as we state the Republicans when it comes to environment modification must listen to science, our party has the exact same commitment to listen to researchers,” Booker stated. “The information speaks for itself.” 

The remark ― one of the most pointed reviews of the anti-nuclear position in the Democratic primary so far ― grazes a particularly sensitive nerve in the climate policy argument. 

The United States hasn’t certified a new reactor in a quarter century. Yet nuclear power is deeply undesirable. In 2016, Gallup discovered a majority of Americans opposed nuclear energy for the first time given that the pollster began surveying the concern in 1994. If the 2011 meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, stired worry in a generation too young to recall 1979’s Three Mile Island accident, HBO’s new hit miniseries “Chernobyl” exposed viewers to the scaries of radioactive contamination. 

The politics of nuclear energy are tough to pigeonhole. The market tossed its lot in with coal over the past few years in hopes of winning federal subsidies from the Trump administration. Third Way, the centrist think tank, avowedly supports nuclear. Yet so, too, does left-leaning New York magazine writer Eric Levitz, who made an impassioned plea for the progressives to welcome nuclear previously this month. 

In a presidential election, Nevada, where citizens who cast ballots in a definitive early main staunchly oppose keeping nuclear waste in the desert, raises the stakes. 

Senator  Cory  Booker  speaks  throughout  the  2020  Democratic  U.S.  governmental  dispute  in  Houston,  Texas,  U.S.  September  12,  2019.  RE





Senator Cory Booker speaks during the 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential dispute in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 12, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Yet the numbers paint a bleak image of what eliminating emissions from the power sector looks like without nuclear, said Leah Stokes, a scientist and University of California, Santa Barbara assistant professor. 

Over the past decade, sustainable capacity grew at about 0.6% on average each year, Stokes stated. To change the coal and gas plants that still produce a majority of the United States’ electrical power by 2050, renewables requirement to grow by about 2 portion points per year. 

But slashing economywide emissions requires changing combustion-engine cars and trucks, trucks and aircrafts ― the greatest source of carbon dioxide in the United States ― to electric variations. That suggests roughly doubling the electrical power readily available on the grid, requiring the baseline rate of renewables deployed each year grow nearly 7 times faster than today. 

Now consider the climate platforms top Democratic governmental candidates proposed. The strategy Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) launched ― cribbing from erstwhile environment prospect Washington Gov. Jay Inslee ― makes no mention of nuclear power. Throughout CNN’s climate town hall, Warren vowed to start “weaning ourselves off nuclear energy” with the goal of shutting down existing plants by 2035. However presuming existing plants stay open, that would need releasing renewables at 17 times the present rate, Stirs said. 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took an even firmer position versus nuclear power. He led the charge to shut down the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station, which closed in late 2014, and proposed a costs last year to start decommissioning plants across the country. Shuttering nuclear and fossil fuel plants at the exact same time means the renewables would requirement to be deployed at 25 times the existing rate.

“That’s approximately 50% harder than the Warren strategy,” Stirs said. 

Construction of renewables, meanwhile, is slowing as the investment tax credits that sustained the development of solar and wind over the past decade phase out. In 2018, the worldwide buildout of renewables stopped working to increase year over year for the first time because 2001, according to the International Energy Company. 

“That simply reveals you that taking nuclear off the table simply makes it so much harder to get the job done,” Stokes said. “People wear’t comprehend the absolutely brave deployment rates that we’re talking about.” 

In Vermont, where the Yankee nuclear plant produced 70% of the state’s electrical energy, emissions surged after its closure. Due to the fact that the state switched primarily to hydro power, the boost was mainly due to its dependence on wood-fired heating in cold winters and an aging fleet of gas-guzzling pickup trucks, The Boston Globe reported. However in New England total, where the plant produced 4% of the region’s total electrical power output, emissions surged 15% between 2014 and 2015, according to the trade publication UtilityDive

“If we had a president who was going to pull us out of nuclear, we’d be more reliant on fossil fuels,” Booker said. “It’s as simple as that.”

That was the case in South Korea, where the government moved promptly to shut down nuclear plants after the Fukushima catastrophe. Coal-fired generation hit a new high in 2018, though its share of the electricity mix fell 5 percentage points to about 37% in the first four months of this year as South Korean authorities made a new push for renewables. Still, carbon dioxide emissions increased by an yearly typical of 2.3%.

Booker hopes brand-new research study into smaller, more effective modular reactors could allay some of the concerns over existing plants. The upstart firm NuScale Power revealed a design for a modular reactor that takes 1% of the space a traditional reactor, and might be buried deep underground. In July, the business announced strategies to experiment with selling power to ratepayers in Utah. A lots reactors, lined up like beer cans, might power an whole city and cost what the business estimates to be $3 billion to construct. The Department of Energy invested $300 million into NuScale. Booker’s plan earmarks $20 billion for next-generation nuclear research study. 

If we had a president who was going to pull us out of nuclear, we’d be more reliant on fossil fuels. It’s as basic as that.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

Booker, whose $3 trillion climate plan made high appreciation from ecologists, isn’t alone in his welcome of building new nuclear plants. Previous Vice President Joe Biden called for ramping up investment in small modular reactors. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang assured generous investments in brand-new reactors powered by thorium, which produces less radioactive waste than uranium, according to the World Nuclear Association. 

But a heating world raises some of nuclear power’s most significant dangers. Nuclear reactors need 720 gallons of cooling water per megawatt-hour of electricity they produce ― a concern as water resources grow scarcer on a hotter world, as HuffPost previously reported. The threat of violence increases in a warmed world with depleted resources and unprecedented numbers of refugees, raising issues of nuclear sabotage in terrorist attacks or war.

“From transport, to storage, to waste that stays lethal for more than 100,000 years, nuclear plants posture many hazards to our households and our neighborhoods,” said John Coequyt, the Sierra Club’s worldwide environment policy director. “Meanwhile, clean energy from solar and wind is outcompeting unclean fuels and just getting cheaper, while brand-new nuclear plants are outrageously costly, over budget plan by billions, and economically stopping working.”

Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko warned that even mini-reactors will suggest more accidents.

“Every day nearly you see a brand-new story, talking about how we’re not going to resolve the problem of environment change without nuclear reactors,” Jaczko told WBUR this week. “And when I see those things I scratch my head and marvel if they’re talking about the very same market I’ve been familiar with, because I don’t see how nuclear power plants are going to resolve that problem.”

Building new plants will be pricey, and it’s not clear such an financial investment is a much better deal than renewables that continue to grow more affordable. And Democratic governmental candidates, regardless of plain differences on brand-new nuclear plants, are less clear on more pushing, wonky concerns, said Jesse Jenkins, an energy systems engineer and teacher at Princeton University. Those most likely include whether prospects support state or federal aids to keep economically distressed nuclear plants open, or if they’d extend licenses up to 60 years on stations considered safe. 

“If you are taking this risk seriously, then you have to acknowledge that phasing out coal is priority No. 1, phasing out natural gas is the second obstacle, and just after that is complete ought to we be thinking about our nuclear fleet,” Jenkins stated. “The environment concern is crystal clear… and the mathematics is quite unforgiving.”

CORRECTION: An earlier variation mistakenly included a link to an short article about a donation from Exxon Mobil Corp. to Third Way Foundation, which is not connected to Third Method. 


.

The ‘advanced’ nuclear power sector is dystopian

A documentary called New Fire was released promoting ‘advanced’ nuclear power concepts last year. The heroes of the film were young entrepreneurs Leslie Dewan and Mark Massie, creators of a start-up called Transatomic Power that was establishing a ‘Waste-Annihilating Molten-Salt Reactor’.

Problems arose during the long gestation of New Fire. Transatomic Power gave up on its strategy to use nuclear waste as reactor fuel after its theoretical calculations were proven to be false, and the waste-annihilating reactor was reinvented as a waste-producing, uranium-fuelled reactor.

Worse was to come: just previously the release of New Fire, Transatomic Power went broke and collapsed completely. An legendary fail.

Reactor

The Australian parliament’s ‘inquiry into the requirements for nuclear energy‘ is shaping up to be another epic fail. The conservative chair of the query claims that “new technologies in the field are leading to cleaner, more secure and more effective energy production.”

But the ‘advanced’ nuclear power sector isn’t advanced and it isn’t advancing.

The next ‘advanced’ reactor to commence operation will be Russia’s floating nuclear power plant, created to aid exploit fossil fuel reserves in the Arctic ‒ fossil fuel reserves that are more accessible because of environment modification. That isn’t ‘advanced’ ‒ it is dystopian.

Russia’s enthusiastic pursuit of nuclear-powered icebreaker ships (nine such ships are planned by 2035) is closely linked to its agenda of establishing military and economic control of the Northern Sea Route ‒ a route that owes its existence to climate modification.

China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) says the function of its partly-built ACPR50S demonstration reactor is to develop floating nuclear power plants for oilfield exploitation in the Bohai Sea and deep-water oil and gas advancement in the South China Sea.

God-awful

‘Advanced’ nuclear reactors are advancing environment modification. Another example comes from Canada, where one potential application of little reactors is offering power and heat for the extraction of hydrocarbons from tar sands.

Some ‘advanced’ reactors could theoretically take in more nuclear waste than they produce. That sounds fantastic ‒ up until you dig into the information.

An article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists ‒ co-authored by Allison Macfarlane, a former chair of the US N uclear Regulatory Commission ‒ states that “molten salt reactors and sodium-cooled quick reactors – due to the unusual chemical compositions of their fuels – will in fact worsen spent fuel storage and disposal problems.”

The subclass of sodium-cooled fast reactors called ‘integral fast reactors’ (IFRs) might theoretically gobble up nuclear waste and convert it into low-carbon electricity, utilizing a procedure called pyroprocessing.

But an IFR R&D program in Idaho has left a god-awful mess that the Department of Energy (DOE) is having a hard time to deal with. This legend is comprehensive in a 2017 article and a longer report by the Union of Worried Scientists’ senior researcher Dr. Edwin Lyman, illustration on documents acquired under Liberty of Details legislation.

Breeder

Dr. Lyman writes: “Pyroprocessing has taken one potentially difficult type of nuclear waste and converted it into numerous difficult kinds of nuclear waste. DOE has spent hundreds of millions of dollars only to amplify, rather than simplify, the waste issue. … 

The FOIA documents we obtained have revealed yet another DOE tale of huge amounts of public money being wasted on an unverified technology that has fallen far short of the impractical forecasts that DOE used to sell the task”.

Some ‘advanced’ reactors could theoretically consume more fissile (explosive) nuclear material than they produce. Rather of contributing to weapons expansion dangers and issues, they might contribute to the resolution of those issues.

That sounds excellent ‒ till you dig into the information. After Russia’s drifting nuclear plant, the next ‘advanced’ reactor to commence operation might be the Model Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) in India.

Weapons

The PFBR has a blanket with thorium and uranium to type fissile uranium-233 and plutonium respectively ‒ in other words, it will be ideal for weapons production.

India plans to usage fast breeder reactors (a. k.a. quick neutron reactors) to produce weapon-grade plutonium for usage as the initial ‘driver’ fuel in thorium reactors.

As John Carlson, the former Director-General of the Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office, has repeatedly noted, those plans are highly bothersome with regard to weapons expansion and security.

There’s nothing “cleaner, safer and more effective” about India’s ‘advanced’ reactor program. On the contrary, it is harmful and it fans regional tensions and proliferation concerns in South Asia ‒ all the more so given that India declines to allow International Atomic Energy Firm safeguards assessments of its ‘advanced’ nuclear power program.

And if those regional stress boil over into nuclear warfare, catastrophic climate change will most likely result. Fossil fuels supply the best route to catastrophic environment modification; nuclear warfare supplies the quickest path.

Reactors

The ‘advanced’ nuclear power sector isn’t advanced ‒ it is dystopian. And it isn’t advancing ‒ it is regressing.

The Russian government just recently clawed back United States$4 billion from Rosatom’s budget plan by postponing its fast neutron reactor program; particularly, by putting on hold plans for what would have been the only gigawatt-scale quick neutron reactor anywhere in the world.

France recently abandoned plans for a demonstration fast reactor. Pursuit of quick reactor innovation is no longer a concern in France according to the World Nuclear Association.

And funding is tight due to the fact that of yet another failing job: a 100- megawatt materials screening reactor that is 500 percent over-budget (and counting) and 8 years behind schedule (and counting).

Other fast reactor projects have collapsed in recent years. TerraPower abandoned its strategy for a prototype fast reactor in China last year due to restrictions put on nuclear trade with China by the Trump administration, and requests for United States government funding have apparently received a negative reception.

The US and UK federal governments have both thought about utilizing GE H itachi’s ‘PRISM’ fast reactor innovation to procedure surplus plutonium stocks ‒ but both federal governments have rejected the proposal.

Failed

Fast reactors and other ‘advanced’ concepts are often called Generation IV principles.

But fast reactors have been around since the dawn of the nuclear age. They are finest described as failed Generation I innovation ‒ “demonstrably failed technology” in the words of Allison Macfarlane.

The number of operating fast reactors reached double figures in the 1980 s however has progressively fallen and will stay in single figures for the foreseeable future.

Currently, just 5 quick reactors are operating ‒ all of them described by the World Nuclear Association as experimental or demonstration reactors.

Modular

As discussed previously in The Ecologist, most of the handful of small modular reactors (SMRs) under building are over-budget and behind schedule; there are troubling connections between SMRs, weapons proliferation and militarism more generally; and about half of the SMRs under building are meant to be utilized to facilitate the exploitation of fossil fuel reserves.

SMRs aren’t leading to “cleaner, safer and more effective energy production”. And SMRs aren’t advancing ‒ projects are falling over left, right and centre:

  • Babcock & Wilcox abandoned its mPower SMR job in the US in spite of getting government funding of US$111 million.
  • Westinghouse dramatically lowered its investment in SMRs after stopping working to safe US federal government funding.
  • China is structure a demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) however it is behind schedule and over-budget and prepares for extra HTGRs at the same website have actually been “dropped” according to the World Nuclear Association.
  • MidAmerican Energy offered up on its prepares for SMRs in Iowa after stopping working to protected legislation that would force rate-payers to part-pay building and construction costs.
  • Rolls-Royce dramatically decreased its SMR investment in the UK to “a handful of incomes” and is threatening to abandon its R&D entirely unless enormous subsidies are supplied by the British federal government.

 

Zombie reactors

Fast reactors are demonstrably stopped working innovation. SMRs have failed formerly and are in the procedure of failing yet once again. What else is there in the ‘advanced’ nuclear sector?

Fusion? At best, it is decades away and most likely it will permanently remain decades away. Two articles in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists by Dr. Daniel Jassby ‒ a combination researcher ‒ thoroughly debunk all of the rhetoric spouted by combination lovers.

Thorium? There are no essential differences between thorium and uranium, so building a thorium fuel cycle from scratch to change the uranium fuel cycle would be absurd ‒ and it won’t happen.

High-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGRs) consisting of the pebble-bed modular reactor sub-type? This zombie principle declines to die even as  one after another country embarks on R&D, stops working, and offers up. As pointed out, China is structure a prototype however has dropped prepares for additional HTGRs.

Paper reactors

Claims that brand-new nuclear technologies are leading to “cleaner, more secure and more efficient energy production” could just be warranted with reference to concepts that exist just as designs on paper.

As a nuclear industry insider quipped: “We understand that the paper-moderated, ink-cooled reactor is the best of all. All kinds of unanticipated issues may occur after a project has been introduced.”

There’s nothing that can be stated about ‘advanced’ reactor rhetoric that wasn’t said by Admiral Hyman Rickover ‒ a leader of the US nuclear program ‒ all the method back in 1953.

“An scholastic reactor or reactor plant practically always has the following fundamental attributes: (1) It is basic. (2) It is little. (3) It is cheap (4) It is light. (5) It can be developed really quickly. (6) It is really versatile in function (‘omnibus reactor’). (7) Extremely bit development is required. It will usage mainly off-the-shelf parts. (8) The reactor is in the research study stage. It is not being developed now.

“On the other hand, a useful reactor plant can be distinguished by the following qualities: (1) It is being constructed now. (2) It is behind schedule. (3) It is requiring an tremendous quantity of advancement on obviously minor items. Corrosion, in particular, is a problem. (4) It is very expensive. (5) It takes a long time to develop since of the engineering advancement issues. (6) It is big. (7) It is heavy. (8) It is complicated.”

This Author

Dr. Jim Green is the national nuclear advocate with Friends of the Earth Australia and editor of the Nuclear Display newsletter.


.

What Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren get incorrect about nuclear power

At the current climate town hall for the Democratic presidential prospects, both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders showed an exceptional command of the truths, and better still a severe appreciation of the severe urgency of the subject — especially in contrast to their competitor Joe Biden, who was rambling and uncertain (when he wasn’t literally bleeding from the eyes). Either Sanders or Warren would be head and shoulders above any previous president on environment, Barack Obama really much consisted of.

But both have actually dedicated a serious policy mistake. They both disavowed the use of nuclear power, and even worse, said existing nuclear power plants should be slowly taken apart. Sanders touted his (otherwise excellent) climate strategy, which would put a “moratorium” on existing nuclear power license renewals. Warren agreed at the town hall, saying “we won’t be building new nuclear plants. We will begin weaning ourselves off nuclear and replace it with renewables.” This is a bad concern for climate policy.

Now, it’s completely reasonable where this attitude comes from. Nuclear waste is harmful and can remain so for tens of thousands of years, and nuclear accidents can be the things of nightmares. The idea of dying badly from some invisible atomic poison one can neither see nor odor tends to grip the imagination, as demonstrated by the huge success of the dazzling HBO series Chernobyl. If nuclear goes incorrect, it goes very wrong. As a result, numerous environmentalists have actually internalized the idea that nuclear is just as bad as coal, if not even worse.

But this merely is not the case. Not just does nuclear fruit and vegetables near-zero emissions, even if we grant all the worst approximates of how numerous people have died from nuclear accidents, the total is absolutely overshadowed by the ziggurat of skulls stacked up annual just from the direct impacts of carbon pollution. The Chernobyl catastrophe (the worst nuclear mishap by far) killed someplace in between 4,000 and 60,000 individuals, while Fukushima killed about 1,600. On the other hand a recent study discovered about 3.6 million early deaths triggered every year simply by fossil-fuel air pollution alone. As Hannah Ritchie calculates, per system of electrical energy generated, oil is 263 times more deadly than nuclear, common coal 352 times deadlier, and lignite coal 467 times deadlier. (Then on top of that there are a still-unknown however absolutely growing number of environment casualties.)

And as New York‘s Eric Levitz writes, the best example of in history of a super-rapid decarbonization came from a mass nuclear buildout:

Between 1979 and 1988, the French cut their carbon emissions by an average annual rate of 2.9 percent. Over that exact same period, France minimized the carbon intensity of its energy system by 4.5 percent, by far the biggest decrease any country has actually achieved in a single years. [New York]

On the other hand, nuclear is not a climate panacea, as a certain brand name of annoying know-it-all centrist would have it. The most glib proponents of this view represent nuclear as a fast, safe, simple, and essentially cost-free way to resolve environment modification, if just the silly unclean hippies would stop being so irrational.

That is far from the truth. The plain reality is that modern-day nuclear has severe implementation issues. Nuclear plants (at least in their standard American form) are really big, extremely made complex, extremely heavily managed (for excellent factor), and hence very difficult to finance and guarantee. American organizations at all levels, public or personal, have had a hard time strongly with big building projects of any kind of late, be they structure nuclear plants, aircraft carriers, subways, or high-speed rail. Indeed, nuclear has exhibited a bit of a negative knowing curve price-wise — that is, getting more costly over time, while over the very same time solar and wind have dropped like a stone in cost.

The last significant effort to construct a brand-new plant in the U.S. bankrupted Westinghouse and had to be deserted, in spite of billions in federal aids. Present nuclear plants are under hazard from the basic truth that their electrical energy expenses more to produce than natural gas and renewables (at least in present markets). Unlike in the 1980 s when France was structure their nuclear fleet, any cost-conscious climate effort today would be focused around renewables.

Nevertheless, it should be admitted that nuclear boosters still have a major point, particularly when it comes to existing plants. These offer nearly a fifth of all American electricity — the biggest single source of climate-friendly energy, and more than all renewables put together (so far). Provided the severe urgency of cutting emissions, it is senseless to let this source of energy go till fossil-fuel power has been extirpated, and perhaps not even then (it may be smart to keep around some non-renewable baseload capability). As Levitz writes, “We understand what happens when a country dedicated to scaling up renewables decommissions its nuclear plants — it starts burning more coal.”

Finally, there are extremely appealing theoretical reactor designs that should have luxurious research investment. Thorium reactors in particular have the potential to offer low-cost power with nearly none of the drawbacks of current reactor styles. It would likely take a Manhattan Project-scale effort to in fact figure out if they really work, and to take them to the development stage. However somebody is going to have to figure out simply what has actually gone incorrect with American building and set it right — reactors aside, any Green New Deal will require a terrific deal of railroads, transit systems, hyper-efficient buildings, and so on, which just won’t take place if everything expenses 10 -20 times what it should. A T horium Task is as good a place to start that work as any.

At any rate, the environment hour is late undoubtedly. The urgency of the circumstance calls for a ruthlessly ecumenical energy technique. Future decarbonization definitely must rely heavily on renewables — however nuclear should be part of the mix as well, and depending on how research pans out, possibly quite a lot in future.


.

What If We Get Unlimited Supercheap Natural Gas (Methane)?

In a reader comment I shall always treasure, I got this: What’s next, the economics of importing methane by wormhole from Titan?  

There is always the economics of landing an immersible cubic kilometer capacity sphere ship into the methane/ethane lakes of Titan and scooping up a cubic kilometer of Titanian LNG –456 megatons –with a suitable gas core engine the payload might make it home but really the energy squandered is far more than the mere combustion of methane could provide(that incoming tanker would have far over a gigaton explosive yield if deliberately crashed) 

The actual configuration of such a super-super tanker might be, very durable outside hull deorbits with thin membrane bag within, fills it up, boosts to Titan orbit at 1900 m/sec or so (EV 2.639 km/s)  and rendevous with dump station, dump bag and crew, new crew and bag in, bag gets added to tow string, expensive gas core tanker goes back to Titan, ideally three times a day. Dump station would be better in LOQ Titan orbit, at a lower delta V, but the main point is you want to amortize that huge tanker. ideally a thousand trips a year, and the tanker itself might have a dumb frame and switch outable maintenence intensive tug section including the engines and well-shielded crew compartment. (unlike most designs mass for shielding is DEFINITELY not a problem on this baby) .

Although my first thought was a gas core reactor, such as I postulated for the speculative Aldebaran 2 spacecraft  https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2013/08/in-praise-of-large-payloads-for-space.html actually a Zuppero style ordinary low temperature solid core reactor would work for the boost, so low is the delta V.
https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2012/03/friedlanders-idea-for-nuclear-hopper.html  
 For me the definitive approach to the problem of a robust and buildable solid core thermal rocket reactor is Zuppero et al’s 1998 paper on a Lunar South Pole Space Water Extraction and Trucking System.


There, Zuppero et al postulate easily sublimed lunar volatiles that can be captured near the lunar poles and then trucked to lunar orbit 20 tons at a time (throwing away 92.6 tons propellant water per flight, part of which (75.7 tons) gets them liftoff to orbit, part of which (16.9 tons) retros them and enables landing back on the Moon. The dry ship weighs 10.4 tons including a 292 thermal megawatt reactor deliberately engineered for many many cycles for robustness, durability and low maintenance—keys, as it happens—to economical reuse.


The Zuppero et al paper says,

The nuclear reactor mass of 1818 kg (4000 lbs) is considered 50% more than minimum. The reactor must deliver 292 megawatts to the steam at a mixed mean outlet temperature of 1100 K with propellant flow of 155 kg/s. A rocket nozzle area ratio of 200:1 will deliver a specific impulse of 198 seconds.

Unlike there however on a Moon mission you need to boost to orbit  with lunar water and retro down, here on Titan you get the priceless gifts of aerobraking and free liquid cryogens which changes the picture beyond recognition.

 In fact so favorable is the aviation environment in Titan’s atmosphere that a nuclear ramjet ascent might well allow something close to flying into orbit without anything but around 25% of the propellant loadings (at some altitude scooping thin air tends to add more drag than the collected gas gives boost so you need to go back to rocket power).

This article discusses the aviation paradise of Titan, http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=22445
In an environment where gravity is seven times less than on Earth, we’re dealing with an atmospheric pressure one and a half times greater than Earth’s. It was Robert Zubrin who suggested, back in the 1990s, that humans with wings strapped to their arms would be able to fly in this thick and soupy environment. We’ve already seen evidence of this atmosphere’s effect on the Huygens probe, which took fully two and a half hours to descend to the surface in early 2005. 

The paper quoted in the article notes that the same vehicle power and wing configuration will lift 28 times more on Titan than Earth, and 1000 times more on Titan than Mars.  A 250 ton capacity https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonov_An-225_Mriya An 225 on Earth if could fly on Titan could lift 7000 tons.

  I am not depending on that here though you can easily imagine a hybrid mode– seaplane/spaceplane reenters, buoyantly lands in Kraken Mare (levitated by a cubic kilometer of vacuum),  splashdown, crack the valves open and get to siphoning.
Remember Zuppero’s 1st gen reactor was designed for 1100 K. Nerva nuclear tests showed 2800 K to be a reasonable target.  If 2800 K can be achieved and coking can be avoided liquid methane can give an exhaust velocity of 5942.8299 m/sec (606 seconds of impulse) vs 4.5 for hydrogen oxygen chemical fuels.(See Zubrin’s table below) 

 I hope no one will object to the cost because remember liquid methane is nearly free FOB Kraken Mare.  I am giving figures for a gigaton class  tanker but I don’t really think our first exporting station will use gigaton tankers, just trying to get a feel for the ultimate scale possible even if there were 1000 x the official 9000 cubic kilometers of LNG available.  3 flights a day is half a teraton a year of natural gas. For one shuttle.  So dense is the Titanian atmosphere that a very small ascent rocket might need to use a balloon to get high enough to successfully ascend; a very large ship can neglect (within reason) atmospheric resistance.


Robert Zubrin’s Wonderful NIMF paper on exploring Mars with nuclear rockets and compressors from1990 gives nuclear exhaust velocities on common chemicals run through a nuclear rocket:
http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19910012833.pdf

A cubic kilometer 456 megaton ton cargo of Titanian LNG would need around 300 million tons of structure in the ship to also contain the propellant. (If that sounds high it’s not given you want a very robust ship and are also carrying another 500 megatons of LNG as propellant both for ascent and terminal pre splashdown use. My instinct is you could get away with a third that amount of structure but I am thinking of a ship as reusable as an Earthly tugboat (I guarantee the engines will need massive switching out and maintenance in the orbital port) 
Liftoff mass 1300 megatons,  cargo 500 megatons, (includes 40 megatons retro propellant allowance) structure 300 megatons, exhaust velocity 5942 m/sec, (methane) propellant 500 megatons  delta v 2885 m/sec (part of this pays for drag and gravity losses)  Mission delta-v to low Titan Orbit 1900-2700 m/sec (Titan escape velocity  2.639 km/s) 
Zubrin gives 2.4 gigawatts 2400 mw as needed for lifting 330 tons at 2800 K engine temperature. 
~9600 terawatts (9600 thousand gigawatts) thermal are needed for a 1.3 gigaton liftoff from Titan at 2800 K engine temperature. 
Remember the Liberty ship engine discussed in my article here 
https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2013/08/in-praise-of-large-payloads-for-space.html
which had 80 gigawatts each. (Much higher exhaust velocity, less propellant  throughput)  You would need the power of 120,000 of them.  The Phoebus 2A engine fired in 1968 by NASA  put out 4000 megawatts. (4 gigawatts)

  The final 2A test in June 1968 ran for over 12 minutes at 4,000 MW,
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_thermal_rocket#Test_firings

 You would instead need 2.4 million of those engines putting out 9600 terawatts
Roughly modeling the fuel loadings, assume 80 kilo of U-235 or U-233,  talking 192000 tons of U-235. Realistically we have plenty of weight to play with and luxurious margins and plenty of cryogenic coolant available. My feeling is a Phoebus clone engine putting out 80,000 MW is doable, using 80 kilo of U-235.  to keep the ship loading down to 20 tons of U-235. But if not it under 200 tons is comparable to many reactor loadings today (albeit with far more 235)

Fuel

MeV/fission

TJ/kg

1000 MW burn

235U

202.5 MeV

83.14 TJ/kg

0.01208 gram/sec

233U

197.9 MeV

81.95 TJ/kg

0.01220 gram/sec

239Pu

207.1 MeV

83.61 TJ/kg

0.01196 gram/sec

Regarding active thrusting time– assuming 10 minutes will do it, implying fuel throughflow of a million tons a second of propellant methane. Wow.  Also implying

Once  achieving Titan orbit– A second tug tows the bags to a depot where it waits for a Earth transfer opportunity.
   Interplanetary transfer can be by Hohmann boost with a string of pearls, each kilometer sized bag (now in a chilled micrometeor proof shield) is pushed during the once a Earth year transfer season, arriving 6 years later at Earth (time value of money ticking all the way but not undoable).

 Possibly an Orion type tug might push, a Medusa might pull or a wide variety of other tether systems tricks including rotary spin and release (but there is only one launch opportunity for a Hohmann transfer per Earth year at minimum delta v so that’s why the nuclear option, to push the most cargo throughput).  The economics feel reasonable for a far future economy at $100 a ton a cubic kilometer of LNG would then be 45.6 billion dollars but as we’ll see below there is a catch.

Readers new to Next Big Future might ask, why methane from Titan?
2000 plus known  cubic miles of LNG liquid methane and ethane
Youve heard of a cubic mile of oil? (of which in proven reserves there are around 50)  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cubic_mile_of_oil
= 1,300 billion barrels (210×109 m3).
 This corresponds to roughly 43 cubic miles, or 43 CMO.
Natural gas reserves total 42 CMOs (69 years at current consumption)
Coal reserves total 121 CMOs (150 years at current consumption)

CMO, meet CMLNG —Cubic Mile of Oil–Meet a cubic mile of LNG.  We use about 1.25 CMLNGs.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquefied_natural_gas

World total production


Year Capacity (Mtpa)
1990 50
2014 246


LNG achieves a higher reduction in volume than compressed natural gas (CNG) so that the (volumetric) energy density of LNG is 2.4 times greater than that of CNG or 60 percent that of diesel fuel…
The range of heating value can span +/- 10 to 15 percent. A typical value of the higher heating value of LNG is approximately 50 MJ/kg or 21,500 Btu/lb A typical value of the lower heating value of LNG is 45 MJ/kg or 19,350 BTU/lb.


For the purpose of comparison of different fuels the heating value may be expressed in terms of energy per volume which is known as the energy density expressed in MJ/liter. The density of LNG is roughly 0.41 kg/liter to 0.5 kg/liter, depending on temperature, pressure, and composition compared to water at 1.0 kg/liter. Using the median value of 0.45 kg/liter, the typical energy density values are 22.5 MJ/liter (based on higher heating value) or 20.3 MJ/liter (based on lower heating value).


The (volume-based) energy density of LNG is approximately 2.4 times greater than that of CNG which makes it economical to transport natural gas by ship in the form of LNG. The energy density of LNG is comparable to propane and ethanol but is only 60 percent that of diesel and 70 percent that of gasoline


1 billion meters cubic of natural gas is 35.315 billion cubic feet of natural gas or 760 
kilotons of of LNG or 38.847 trillion BTU


Source: DOE Office of Fossil Energy * Based on a volume conversion of 600:1, LNG density of 456 kg per cubic meter of LNG, and 1,100 gross dry Btu per cubic feet of gas.
Liquefied Natural Gas – U.S. Department of Energy

energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2013/04/f0/LNG_primerupd.pdf


So playing with those numbers, a cubic kilometer of LNG is 456 megatons which is the equivalent of  600 cubic kilometers (600 billion cubic meters) of natural gas.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billion_cubic_metres_of_natural_gas
 BP uses standard which is equivalent to 41.87 petajoules (1.163×10e10 kWh) per billion cubic metres


And remember Titan has visible surface lakes of 9000 cubic kilometers which is the equivalent of 456 megatons of LNG x 9000 or  4 104 000 megatons of  LNG like liquids. In other words 4.104 teratons or more than the volume of Phobos
5783.61 km3; 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phobos_(moon)
and nearly 3 times the mass of Deimos
1.4762×10e12 tons



Current market price LNG per ton around $400 in Japan  383 at 7.90 million btus
USA natural gas prices around a quarter of that or $100 a ton. A cubic kilometer of LNG would then be 45.6 billion dollars. Times 9000 that is 410400 billion dollars. $410 trillion.  

 According to the World Bank, the 2013 nominal  gross world product was ~US$75.59 trillion.

So get your Texas petroleum hydrocarbons hat on under your bubble helmet and let’s ride out to the Titan Lake Country mining boom.

New Views of Titan’s Lake Country
Paul Gilster at Centauri Dreams –
Titan has about 9000 cubic kilometers of liquid hydrocarbon, some forty times more than in all the proven oil reservoirs on Eart
hhttp://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=29692

by Paul Gilster on December 17, 2013








NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/USGS
Titan has about 9000 cubic kilometers of liquid hydrocarbon, some forty times more than in all the proven oil reservoirs on Earth. That’s just one of the findings of scientists working over the data from recent Cassini flybys of the Saturnian moon. …That’s part of Titan’s fascination, of course, because it’s similar to the Earth in terms of basic interactions between liquids, solids and gases but completely alien in terms of temperatures.

Just how extensive are those seas and lakes we’ve found in Titan’s northern hemisphere?…. Kraken Mare, Titan’s largest sea, and Ligeia Mare, the second largest, appear along with nearby lakes. We learn not only that Kraken Mare is more extensive than first thought, but that almost all the lakes on Titan are in an area some 900 kilometers by 1800 kilometers. A mere three percent of the liquid on Titan is found outside this region. Cassini radar team member Randolph Kirk explains:


    “Scientists have been wondering why Titan’s lakes are where they are. These images show us that the bedrock and geology must be creating a particularly inviting environment for lakes in this box. We think it may be something like the formation of the prehistoric lake called Lake Lahontan near Lake Tahoe in Nevada and California, where deformation of the crust created fissures that could be filled up with liquid…
.  Because the liquid methane of Ligeia Mare is very pure, Cassini’s radar signal passes through it easily and can detect a signal from the sea floor. The lake turns out to be about 170 meters deep, and in at least one place is deeper than the average depth of Lake Michigan…”

Incidentially I used to live not far from Lake Michigan and  am a little puzzled by that last comment since the average depth is  85 m). Maybe they meant greatest depth? Which is 281 m.  Perfect depth to land dry and then fill the tanker up. In any case since Lake Michigan contains a volume of 1,180 cubic miles (4,918 km³) of water. We are talking about 2 lake Michigans  volume of liquid natural gas.  And my take on the evidence is that this is a drainage sump, a low place on Titan’s surface where the ‘water table’ is poking up. I would not exclude millions of cubic kilometers of the stuff lying deep, though as we see later it hardly matter if your goal is to burn it on Earth.

https://youtu.be/RrGPtCdItBw
The importance of Titan’s methane is that is basically proves that abiotic methane is not only possible in the Cosmos but probable.
Unless you believe in Titanian dinosaurs in which case do I have a kid’s TV show pitch for you.

From say 1744 and early studies of oil 
https://books.google.co.il/books?id=eckUAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA34


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_geology 

Until 1944 when Gerard Kuiper detected an atmosphere around Titan containing methane https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerard_Kuiper#Discoveries  the biological origin of methane was a reasonable hypothesis but frankly since then pathetic to watch purely biotic origin being pushed as the ONLY source of natural gas.
Methane-CH4– is the most stable hydrocarbon IIRC, it is generated by breakdown of more complex ones.  And built up from simpler ones in an abundance of available hydrogen. That alone is a powerful argument for chemistry, not biology being the origin of most of it.

 It may be that geology and astrophysics don’t talk together as often as they should; it could be in my view a historical paradigm that is very hard to get out of because early advocates of evolution really liked the idea of fossil fuel as opposed to abiotic chemistry dominating things in the depths of the earth. It was part of the mental wardrobe they were fashioning to redress the past and although you can understand why they were forceful advocates for their ideas about petroleum and NG geology–really–science is about accepting evidence when it becomes overwhelming.
Is Petroleum abiotic? Dunno, not the discussion here. 

Is methane? Provably.  Titan, dude. Kraken Mare alone is comparable to the Caspian Sea. Of LNG.

The one killer objection to importing the known vast reserves of Titanian methane is not the abundance of methane there but the shortage of oxygen here?
Shortage? Oxygen? Earth? Get real!
But as a cycle its infinite. Once in once out; not so much. When you burn lunar silicon (link below) that’s what happens.
As I point out in https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2012/03/lunar-silicon-vs-helium-3.html 
the atmosphere of the Earth masses around 5 milion gigatons. 21% oxygen is around a million gigatons of oxygen.  
So since methane has 1 carbon  (12 gigatons uses up 32 gigatons of oxygen and makes 44 gigatons of CO2) and 4 hydrogens (4 gigatons H uses up 32 gigatons of oxygen and makes 36 gigatons of H2O )

 So 16 gigatons of methane uses up 64 gigatons of oxygen to make 80 gigatons of products: 44 gigatons of CO2 + 36 gigatons of H2O.

Since 64 gigatons of oxygen  is used up if there is no recycling (you send CO2 through the wormhole to Titan for disposal or up the rotovator
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Momentum_exchange_tether
 that exchanges momentum from space to earth transport  in one scenario (if you can mine the incoming from Saturn momentum that is many times the power of the combustion of the LNG) then burning LNG can’t go on for long. 

If you keep the reaction products on Earth of course you have a 36000 new cubic kilometers of water (negligable against the 1.37 billion or so in the ocean)  and a CO2 disposal problem.

But let’s assume it’s once in once out. 1 million gt oxygen / 4,104 such gigatons in the known 9000 km3 of Titanian LNG is 1 part in 243 or so of oxygen burned or .41 percent.  of the 21 percent.  Hm. Looks like a rounding error And I could use a spare $410 trillion for pocket change…


Well you can see where that dynamic leads.  And then of course the full millions of cubic kilometers of LNG is confirmed on Titan…If the biosphere is allowed to recycle the carbon by definition we are headed for a new level of carbon sequestration.


But wait.   There are other uses for methane gas. Suppose we just import it but don’t burn it?  First of all the energy coming in at minimum escape velocity is on the order of 63 mj kg
1562atmosphere earth 5 million gt so 1million gt oxygen so 10000 gt lunar silicon uses up 1% 30 gt for how many years 333
Atmosphere of Earth – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

all 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide now scheduled for release into the atmosphere would likely warm the Earth to an astonishing 11 degrees Celsius.rtf
Liquid CO2 has a density of1.1470km3.rtf
km ab mtns 400k km3 plus 45-900tw freeze ice.rtf

For the whole Earth, with a cross section of 127,400,000 km2, the total energy rate is 174 petawatts (1.740×1017 W), plus or minus 3.5%. This value is the total rate of solar energy received by the planet; about half, 89 PW, reaches the Earth’s surface.[citation needed]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_energy_consumptionPrimary energyWorld energy and power supply (TWh)[15]
Energy Power
1990 102 569 11 821
2000 117 687 15 395
2005 133 602 18 258
2008 143 851 20 181  2.28 tw full time mine
Source: IEA/OECD

Other RE* 15 284 10.6%
Others 241 0.2%
Total 143 851 100%
Source: IEA *`=solar, wind, geothermal and biofuels

Another use for massive areas of film– aerostat construction! (Giant balloons to support huge masses in the atmosphere like mile wide artificial clouds—notice the small size of huge airliners next to fluffy cumulus masses)

Keith Henson’s estimates (simplifying greatly) show that 120 mw of constant electric power for the hydrogen and 2 mw constant power for the CO2 capture can produce the materials needed from air and water for 1000 barrels of oil equivalent a day.(Synthetic oil through a gas shift reaction using 1/3 of the H to reduce the CO2 to CO, then using the mixture of CO and the remaining H to make the hydrocarbon liquids. So a gigawatt of constant power can synthesize 8000 barrels of oil a day, and in a year that is equivalent to about 2.9 million barrels of oil a year. A terawatt of constant electric power would give 2.9 billion barrels a year. The cost at 10c a kilowatt-hour (today) would be, per barrel, around $240-300 (insurance against absolute civilization-breaking price increases if we used thorium molten-salt reactors or space solar power at that 10c a kilowatt-hour price because those are scalable to more than the entire needs of all the world (15 TW today) or even at USA levels of consumption–(say 75 TW for an all USA standard world. Many other power sources like conventional hydro top out at a terawatt or two real potential—24/7 output.) For that 75 terawatt world, of course I am thinking in terms of a USA standard world of huge cars like a vintage Chrysler Imperial of 1961 or 1970, or the full sized finned Cadillac of 1959 or 1967 but there is no reason to be intentionally wasteful! Even with limitless wealth, all places (think Tokyo) do not have limitless room.

Slides by Keith Henson

The prospect of $300 a barrel oil would basically end business as usual. Carpooling would be an economic neccessity, deliveries might be limited to full truckloads– but there would be unlimited availability at that price, and we would not go back to a horse and buggy economy (locally, quite possible at those prices) or lose the ability to fight wars, travel by air, etc.

There is however, every prospect of nearly unlimited 2c per kilowatt-hour power, or even 1c per kilowatt-hour power or even less from those two sources, Thorium and space solar. At that price, nearly unlimited oil and plastics at $30 a barrel (directly drawing down the greenhouse gas surplus WITHOUT the cap and trade Big Brother nightmare) become profitable and so we may eventually hear whining about Peak Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide instead!

What is interesting is that with such a capability to generate massive amounts of hydrogen, and say hydrogen-rich linings of pressure vessels (balloon-shaped) to enable massive lift, we may be able to build massive aerostats using synthetic methane, ammonia, hydrogen, or even (insulated steam) water vapor—(after all, clouds visibly float). By massive I mean cubic kilometer-scale. Considering that a cubic kilometer of air at STP weighs 1.29 million tons, and a cubic kilometer of hydrogen at STP weighs around 90,000 tons, you can see that with a 200,000 ton envelope we could support a million tons of weight– with 5 tons of cabin per inhabitant, and 5 tons of machinery/support stuff, we could trail a hose (really a plastic film kilometer-wide perimeter) like a jellyfish to suck up moist lower air and supply the water needs of the floating 100,000 person city! 

The walls of the gas envelope –even if say quartz cloth from the asteroids–might be lined with hydrogen containing plastics to avoid hydrogen embrittlement in metal components http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrogen_embrittlement

To generate by electrical means starting with water 90,000 tons of hydrogen (at 48kwh/kg, 48mwh/ton, 48gwhr/kiloton) will take 4320 gigawatt-hours– over half a gigawatt year. At a single penny a kilowatt-hour it would cost $10,000 a gigawatt hour or $43.2 million. That is for just a single 90 kilotons of hydrogen aerostat. But barring leaks (and hydrogen WANTS to escape-) this would be a capital cost. Imagine a 30 terawatt world, with 3 terawatts dedicated solely to hydrogen production for hydrogen aerostats. 

That is 6083 cubic kilometer capacity aerostats filled (1.4 kilometers diameter). At 100,000 people each in a decade 6 billion people could be living in aerial cities. It would certainly cut urban sprawl. One imagines it would cut transportation costs as well—since in principal at 12 miles an hour net groundspeed no location on Earth would be more than a month away.

On board gardens could produce fresh vegetables embedded in Styrofoam, and of course imports of food or other goods from ship is only a cable raise away from a ship or a transportation terminal or even jungle site just the way our current cities are supported. In fact one of the great advantages of this would be the ability of literally moving your float city within view of a great
sight– say Angel Falls http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angel_Falls or the Himalayas or Manhattan. (Obviously they could see you too, but a big floating city cluster might, like a balloon festival, be a wonderful multicolored sight—a feature, not a bug)

If they are going to be fixed, however, having them in a straight line would enable very rapid transportation (vacuum levitation tube) literally world wide at near-orbital speeds (At 100,000 people within 1 kilometer of the station, the density is certainly there to support a one-city effect). And there are other transport modes possible—If 10 kilometers apart, and artfully arranged, the levitated cities and pipelines would enable the kind of Cape of Good Horn to Bering Strait to South Africa rapid transit that has long been a dream of vacuum subway advocates. However, an aerial version may actually be more practical than undersea and underground tubes because of lack of continental drift and earthquakes (and sea bottom quakes) Having such vacuum subways available in the high stratosphere (30 km up at a 99% lift penalty ie 10,000 tons lifted instead of a million with hydrogen) would enable a switching track to orbit, where the exiting vacuum levitation vehicle would punch through the Martian thickness atmosphere at that altitude and be in space within seconds (going for example at escape velocity already)

One interesting application for aerostat cities would be supporting yet another huge user of asteroidal industry produced films and fabrics– the ‘atmospheric skyway industry’ (as yet nonexistent!) Consider a chain of aerostat cities over the Atlantic on a straight line or great circle route. Now imagine each supporting its’ section of a ‘pipeline’ or ‘skyway’ with a hydrogen atmosphere inside.

Assuming a design could be found that could resist the sonic boom, it would be a great way to get hypersonic travel with unique advantages. First of all, a ramjet like craft could fly in it (ramjets top out at about 2 kilometers per second = 4 473.87258 miles per hour) but scramjets could take over above that. (Ramjets would need accelerated start up at the start of the tunnel.) Getting up to speed, it enters the hydrogen skyway and burns—oxygen, liquid oxygen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_oxygen from tanks inside http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/82/Liquid_Oxygen.gif (Typically in a 8:1 ratio (the real-life 6:1 ratio in some hydrogen-oxygen rocket engines is to make sure no precious hydrogen goes unburned– but here oxygen is scarce and hydrogen is plentiful). Although massively disadvantaged by burn ratio, the oxygen is much easier to store on board, very compactly and at high density (liquid hydrogen has a density of .07, (67.8 kg·m-3 ) liquid oxygen 1.14) So although the oxygen weighs 8 times more than the hydrogen, the tank holding it (which can be much less insulated) can be 16 times smaller. 

From Wikipedia SSTO article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SSTO
While kerosene tanks can be 1% of the weight of their contents, hydrogen tanks often must weigh 10% of their contents. This is because of both the low density and the additional insulation required to minimize boiloff (a problem which does not occur with kerosene and many other fuels). The low density of hydrogen further affects the design of the rest of the vehicle — pumps and pipework need to be much larger in order to pump the fuel to the engine. The end result is the thrust/weight ratio of hydrogen-fueled engines is 30–50% lower than comparable engines using denser fuels.

Hydrogen has nearly 30% higher specific impulse (about 450 seconds vs. 350 seconds) than most dense fuels.

This tankage weight problem would be greatly reduced with just having to carry LOX tanks and scooping hydrogen from the skyway tunnel..

Assuming free hydrogen to burn, a surprisingly small (read normal) sized craft can carry a surprisingly large (read normal) size payload to near-orbital speeds. There are also other huge advantages– the atmosphere is reducing, not oxidizing, so little char will occur to heat shielding– hydrogen conducts heat well, and the speed of sound is far higher in hydrogen than in air (at 27 °C 1310 meters per second against dry air at 20 °C (68 °F), the speed of sound rate of 343.2 meters per second)

Mach 7 in air would then be equivalent to Mach 25 in hydrogen. This suggests a certain reduction in stresses (and increase in re-usability) in a craft making its speed run in a hydrogen atmosphere.

A possible advantage would be confining the sonic boom to the tunnel. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oklahoma_City_sonic_boom_tests This has kept supersonic travel from being welcomed world wide (and basically killed the Concorde’s overland markets) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concorde that and the fuel consumption)
Even if only enabling 4500 mile per hour transoceanic travel (1 hour St. Louis to Paris, 3 hours, London to Australia or anywhere to its antipode if a skyway existed) this would be very interesting in terms of a smaller world effect but higher speeds probably are possible as well (not to mention a Single Stage To Orbit reusable craft being practical if it rode on the back of one of them (I am personally skeptical of launches off the back of other craft; accidents have happened that way–

SR71 Sistership, The MD21 Blackbird Accident
4 min – 14 Nov 2007
Uploaded by Blackbird101
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMyC2urCl_4

a better strategy might be rearward ejection from the mother craft as was done with bomb ejection from the A-5A Vigilante, or in the T-Space air launch tests. Or as was actually done with a Minuteman I air launched after drop from the rear of a C-5 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=It7SQ546xRk

At subsonic C-5 like speeds, the delta V savings are not much.

The t/Space version of air launch provided only modest performance gains compared to a ground launch (savings of 335 m/s to 550 m/s in booster delta-V …
www.astronautix.com/craft/cxv.htm From Mark Wade’s Astronautix site

But we can imagine the equivalent of a pop up vehicle– it goes on a ballistic track out of the tunnel, and in space discharges a vacuum-optimized space booster (that need not be streamlined– like a version of the LM Ascent Module that is (neglecting the ramjet/scramjet) A single-stage to orbit vehicle, one engine, already lit before release, very few failure modes.

Discussion of optimum staging velocity– remember ramjets peak at 2 km/sec, scramjets can easily reach 5-6 km sec. A small amount of rocket power would be necessary for reaction control.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SSTO

Analysis shows the optimum staging velocity (the speed at which the first stage is dropped) is very high — possibly 3.65 km/s (12,000 feet per second). This means after separation, the large first stage is at high altitude and headed downrange very fast, which makes it difficult to turn around and get back to the launch point

A scramjet that wished to actually fly to orbit could reach the needed staging velocity and more, and could actually approach close enough to orbital velocity that the last bit could be by rocket.

As actual orbital speed (Mach 25 in air) is approached the thing will pull upward, so the actual ballistic path of the tunnel would be constrained as would top speed– but one can imagine a ‘switching track’ where space-bound craft go sharply upward before using a final kilometer or two a second of rocket delta V from on-board fuel before assuming orbit. As several hydrogen oxygen craft (Saturn 5 second and third stages and Space Shuttle engines pod (not whole Orbiter) with external tank) are theoretically capable of reaching orbit single stage with reduced payloads, and as neither the hydrogen nor the tankage for it need be carried in a hydrogen skyway, that may be a possibility here too.

One can also imagine a nuclear ramjet/scramjet reaching orbit in the tunnel without burning liquid oxygen at all … 3000 degrees Kelvin hydrogen exhausts at 9.8 km/sec and theoretically one could reach orbital speed in the tunnel itself (which presumably would make for interesting stresses on the tunnel walls!–Not to mention the bad 5 seconds when it leaves the tunnel and punches its way through the remaining atmosphere—) The mass ratio would be basically like an ordinary plane. However the nuclear fuel could have no contact with the hydrogen– we don’t want ablating flakes of it cast throughout the long tunnel…

Uses of methane
carbon fiber future process
foam carbon
diamondoidHall achieved the first commercially successful synthesis of diamond on December 16, 1954, and this was announced on February 15, 1955. His breakthrough was using a “belt” press, which was capable of producing pressures above 10 GPa and temperatures above 2000 °C.[18] The “belt” press (see below) used a pyrophyllite container in which graphite was dissolved within molten nickel, cobalt or iron. Those metals acted as a “solvent-catalyst”, which both dissolved carbon and accelerated its conversion into diamond. The largest diamond he produced was 0.15 mm across; it was too small and visually imperfect for jewelry, but usable in industrial abrasives. Hall’s co-workers were able to replicate his work, and the discovery was published in the major journal Nature.[19][20] He was the first person to grow a synthetic diamond with a reproducible, verifiable and well-documented process. He left GE in 1955, and three years later developed a new apparatus for the synthesis of diamond—a tetrahedral press with four anvils—to avoid violating a U.S. Department of Commerce secrecy order on the GE patent applications.[17][21] Hall received the American Chemical Society Award for Creative Invention for his work in diamond synthesis.[22]

——


Appendix 1– statistics on Earth’s fossil fuel reserves
more data on Earth fuel proven reserves in km3 form (~4 km3 per cubic mile)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil_fuel#Reserves
Levels (proved reserves) during 2005–2006

Coal: 997,748 million short tonnes (905 billion metric tonnes), 4,416 billion barrels (702.1 km3) of oil equivalent
Oil: 1,119 billion barrels (177.9 km3) to 1,317 billion barrels (209.4 km3)
Natural gas: 6,183–6,381 trillion cubic feet (175–181 trillion cubic metres),[18] 1,161 billion barrels (184.6×109 m3) of oil equivalent


Flows (daily production) during 2006
Coal: 18,476,127 short tonnes (16,761,260 metric tonnes),[19] 52,000,000 barrels (8,300,000 m3) of oil equivalent per day
Oil: 84,000,000 barrels per day (13,400,000 m3/d)
Natural gas: 104,435 billion cubic feet (2,963 billion cubic metres),[21] 19,000,000 barrels (3,000,000 m3) of oil equivalent per day

tons of natural gas produced yearly in 2004
in 2004, natural gas produced about 5.3 billion tons a year of CO2 emissions, while coal and oil produced 10.6 and 10.2 billion tons respectively
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_gas

Natural gas extraction by countries in cubic meters per year. …..in 2004, natural gas produced about 5.3 billion tons a year of CO2 emissions, while coal and oil produced 10.6 and 10.2 billion tons respectively Total global emissions for 2004 were estimated at over 27,200 million tons CO2 

That above statistic implies actual natural gas consumption in 2004 was a mere 1.44 gigatons of carbon with the hydrogen about 2 gigatons of methane, about 5 cubic kilometers of LNG.

Thomas Gold’s deep hot biosphere paper http://www.pnas.org/content/89/13/6045.full.pdf
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Gold#Origins_of_petroleum
Independently Russian geologists– their own little world of science since essentially the First World War– came up with the same idea
 After first publishing his views on abiogenic petroleum in 1979, Gold began finding the papers on the subject by Soviet geologists and had them translated. He was both disappointed (that his ideas were not original) and delighted (because such independent formulation of these ideas added weight to the hypothesis). He always credited the Soviet work once he knew about it.
http://www.scribd.com/doc/4653767/Abiotic-Oil-J-F-Kenney
Experiments to demonstrate the high-pressure genesis of petroleum… at pressures greater than 30 kbar, excepting only the lightest, methane. The pressure of 30 kbar corresponds to depths of 100 km.(1 kbar 100 MPa). ….Because the H–C system typical of petroleum is generated at high pressures and exists only as a metastable melange at ´ laboratory pressures, special high-pressure apparatus has been designed that permits investigations at pressures to 50 kbar and temperatures to 1,500°C, and which also allows rapid cooling while maintaining high pressures  The importance of this latter ability cannot be overstated; for to examine the spontaneous reaction products, the system must be quenched rapidly to ‘‘freeze in’’ their high-pressure, high-temperature distribution. Such a mechanism is analogous to that which occurs during eruptive transport processes responsible for kimberlite ejecta and for the stability and occurrence of diamonds in the crust of the Earth.


New nuclear power proposition requires public debate

The prospect of thorium being presented into Australia’s energy plans need to be subjected to considerable analysis, writes Helen Caldicott.

AS AUSTRALIA is grappling with the idea of presenting nuclear power into the nation, it appears necessary the basic public comprehend the complexities of these innovations so they can make informed choices. Thorium reactors are among those being recommended at this time.

The U.S. attempted for 50 years to produce thorium reactors, without success. 4 commercial thorium reactors were built, all of which failed. And due to the fact that of the complexity of problems listed below, thorium reactors are far more costly than uranium fueled reactors.

The longstanding effort to produce these reactors cost the U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars, while billions more dollars are still needed to dispose of the highly hazardous waste emanating from these stopped working trials.

The fact is, thorium is not a naturally fissionable product. It is for that reason necessary to mix thorium with either enriched uranium 235 (up to 20% enrichment) or with plutonium – both of which are innately fissionable – to get the process going.

While uranium enrichment is really pricey, the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel from uranium powered reactors is tremendously expensive and really dangerous to the employees who are exposed to harmful radioactive isotopes throughout the process. Reprocessing invested fuel needs slicing up radioactive fuel rods by remote control, liquifying them in focused nitric acid from which plutonium is precipitated out by complex chemical means.

Vast amounts of highly acidic, extremely radioactive liquid waste then stay to be disposed of. (Only is 6 kilograms of plutonium 239 can fuel a nuclear weapon, while each reactor makes 250 kilos of plutonium per year. One millionth of a gram of plutonium if breathed in is carcinogenic.)

So there is an extremely complex, harmful and pricey preliminary process to kick-start a fission procedure in a thorium reactor.

When non-fissionable thorium is mixed with either fissionable plutonium or uranium 235, it captures a neutron and transforms to uranium 233, which itself is fissionable. Naturally it takes some time for enough uranium 233 to accumulate to make this specific fission procedure spontaneously ongoing.

Later, the radioactive fuel would be removed from the reactor and reprocessed to separate out the uranium 233 from the polluting fission items, and the uranium 233 then will then be combined with more thorium to be put in another thorium reactor.

But uranium 233 is likewise extremely effective fuel for nuclear weapons. It takes about the very same amount of uranium 233 as plutonium 239 – six kilos – to fuel a nuclear weapon. The U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) has currently, to its disgrace, ‘lost track’ of 96 kgs of uranium 233.

A overall of two tons of uranium 233 were produced in the United States. This material naturally needs comparable rigid security steps utilized for plutonium storage for apparent reasons. It is estimated that it will take over one million dollars per kilogram to get rid of of the seriously deadly product.

An Energy Department safety examination just recently found a nationwide repository for uranium 233 in a building constructed in 1943 at the Oak Ridge National Lab.

It was in poor condition. Investigators reported an ecological release from lots of of the 1,100 containers might

‘ … be anticipated to take place within the next 5 years because some of the bundles are approaching 30 years of age and have not been routinely inspected.’

The DOE figured out that this building had:

Deteriorated beyond cost-effective repair and significant yearly costs would be sustained to please both existing DOE storage standards, and to supply continued defense versus capacity nuclear urgency mishaps or theft of the material.

The DOE O ffice of Environmental Management now thinks about the disposal of this uranium 233 to be ‘an unfunded mandate’.

Thorium reactors likewise produce uranium 232, which decomposes to an extremely potent high-energy gamma emitter that can penetrate through one metre of concrete, making the handling of this invested nuclear fuel extremely hazardous.

Although thorium advocates state that thorium reactors produce little radioactive waste, they simply produce a various spectrum of waste to those from uranium-235. This still includes numerous dangerous alpha and beta emitters, and isotopes with incredibly long half-lives, consisting of iodine 129 (half-life of 15.7 million years).

No wonder the U. S. nuclear industry offered up on thorium reactors in the 1980 s. It was an unmitigated catastrophe, as are many other nuclear enterprises carried out by the nuclear priesthood and the U.S. government.

You can follow Dr Caldicott on Twitter @DrHCaldicott

Support independent journalism Subscribe to IA.

 


.