Saturday, February 05, 2011

Carnival of Nuclear Energy #38 @ Canada Nuclear Issues

Brian Wang points to another issue of the fabulous carnival of the nukes, the latest edition (#38) being hosted by Canada Nuclear Issues blog. Here are some excerpts:
Dan Yurman’s article this week is “Talking about a Sputnik Moment is a Mistake.” Dan refers to president Obama’s call, in his most recent State of the Union speech, for massive funding for research into, among other things, “clean energy technology.” By invoking Sputnik, the first man-made satellite which was launched by the USSR and not the USA, the president intended to spur Americans to new breakthroughs that would make the US once again a world leader in the field. Dan thinks the analogy is off-base. The original Sputnik shocked America into focused and well-funded action, which put Neil Armstrong on the moon in 1969.
Contrast that with today: what response was the invocation of Sputnik intended to produce? Nobody really knows. Meanwhile, China is forging ahead with aggressive development of a Generation IV molten salt reactor fueled with liquid thorium. Such development is stalled in the US (along with the renaissance in large water-cooled power reactors; more below).
Charles Barton, in “Why the Chinese Commitment to the LFTR Matters,” picks up on that theme (LFTR stands for liquid fluoride thorium reactor). He believes the LFTR is superior to conventional uranium fueled water-cooled reactors. Thorium is abundant and cheap, and the LFTR has the potential to greatly improve both economics and safety. China’s interest in it is telling: that country’s economy is exploding, as is its need for huge amounts of concentrated energy. It is critical for that energy to remain cheap.
Brian Wang offers three posts for this carnival. Two, “Kazatomprom will boost uranium production to 19600 tons in 2011 and Areva delays Namibian mine Trekkopje” and “Kazakhstan doubles 2008 uranium production and Namibia Uranium expansion in progress,” deal with uranium production. Anybody who doubts a global nuclear renaissance is taking place should read these posts. Kazakhstan recently overtook Canada as the largest uranium producing country, and Namibia’s output has more than doubled since 2003.
The nuclear renaissance is hugely feared by the competition. This is why opponents of nuclear power are so quick to point to any lulls in the renaissance as proof that it’s not happening at all. Is that accurate? Gail Marcus, in “The Nuclear Lull: What Does it Mean?,” critically examines that claim. Gail formerly held a senior position at the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency, and knows what she’s talking about. As you’ll see, the current lull only looks like a lull if you believe that some of the much-publicized plans for nuclear construction were ever firm in the first place. Not all were.
In addition, at Al Fin blog we learn more about why nuclear power may be the best form of energy for the coming ice age

The UK has learned a lesson about its wind power folly from recent extreme cold weather, and is looking into increasing its nuclear power fraction

More on the regulatory and financial uncertainty which is slowing the US nuclear renaissance to a crawl

It is the avowed purpose of the lefty-Luddite dieoff.orgy movement to choke off all reliable energy supplies to western nations -- particularly the US. This designed energy starvation leads inevitably to worsening economic conditions, a rise in unemployment, popular unrest, and political instability. As all of that is happening in the world's most advanced nations and its only superpower, the situation in the rest of world grows even direr. Only through an honest and unblinking look at who is causing the problem, can problem solvers see a clean way through to a more abundant future.

Update: Holtec International has announced a new design for an "Inherently Safe Modular Underground Reactor" rated at 140 MWe.  More info at World Nuclear News, at Pennenergy, and at NextBigFuture.

Is nuclear power a better fit for South Africa's needs than wind and solar? Yes, but. South Africa is a nation in transition. Thanks to South Africa's corrupt government, most of the transition is in a downward direction. Can South Africa field the necessary team of competent engineers, technologists, electrical workers, security force, nuclear specialists, and all the rest of the competent people needed to safely operate a nuclear power infrastructure? Remember that the average IQ of South Africa is only 72 IQ points, according to the best available studies. The normal curve around such a mean -- assuming a SD of 15 points -- means that the critical IQ level of 115 points needed for advanced technical competence, sits 3 full SDs above the mean!

Nuclear energy is fairly safe, but only if the skilled manpower is available. Otherwise, downward-trending societies such as South Africa might be forced to learn how to "fail gracefully."

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