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Robert Macmillan

 
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Bandidoz
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 1:29 am    Post subject: Robert Macmillan Reply with quote

Came across this post on the SDC site:

http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/forum/index.php?tid=671

Quote:
I am very very scared. Global warming started some time back with a global population of around 4 billion people. In the next fifty years the population will become between double and triple that. Plus, much of that population will move from third world resource usage to first world resource usage. Jared Diamond (in his book Collapse) suggests that we in the rich smug first world have an environmental impact around 32 times that of those in the struggling third world. The bad news for global warming is that they are catching up fast. Diamond claims that if and when those in the third world achieve the current wealth of the first world, the human population?s environmental impact will rise a staggering twelve fold.

The question is not how we can trim 5% off our energy use. The question is how we can remove 95% of our greenhouse gas emissions from our energy use, because the world?s energy use is going to rise, hugely.

There is just one option. We have to stop burning carbon. Not just us, but the rest of the first world and also the third world. Those new nuclear power stations in China are doing far more for the environment than the environmental lobby in the west, whose mission appears to be to stop us adopting probably the one technology that can save us in the 21st century. The opposition to nuclear energy seems to be endemic in the green lobby - rigid, dogmatic, unthinking, religious. It is not based on scientific analysis, makes little comparison between the actual harm done by nuclear and carbon fuels, does not attempt to compare the mortality rates from 50 years of nuclear energy to those of smoking, road transport, malaria, coal mining diseases, poor air quality from 700 million vehicles, third world water pollution and so on. Why do we hear about Three Mile Island but not about Aberfan? When we hear about the cost of cleaning up legacy nuclear fuel, why do we not hear about the billions spent supporting thousands and thousands of coal miners with chronic lung diseases?

The world must rid itself of its carbon addiction extremely quickly or we are going to drown under Antarctic ice-melt. The choice is pretty much nuclear or bye-bye planet.

And I for one can?t wait for the day when the motor manufacturers stop putting internal combustion engines in cars and start putting in electric motors, charged from the grid at night from nice clean nuclear power. Just think how much quieter and cleaner and more pleasant our cities will be. Just think how much tax we?ll save.

More at http://www.robertmacmillan.org/Global%20warming.HTM


On his site, there are arguments such as:
Quote:
8. We have the technology
Remarkably, we have had the technology to replace much of our carbon-burning electricity generation for fifty years. And chosen not to use it. How stupid and short-sighted? Nuclear power stations do not emit CO2. Some countries already have significant nuclear capability. In Japan 55 reactors provide 30% of its electricity, in France the same number of reactors produce about 75% of its electricity. A common belief is that nuclear energy is dangerous. (Just look at www.greenpeace.org ) And yet the history of nuclear power is that of a safer industry than any of the carbon producing industries, even assuming worst case (ie Greenpeace's) estimates of death caused by the Chernobyl disaster. Nuclear energy is safe and we should use it. We are also very close to having fuel cell technology which can replace the internal combustion engine in seven hundred million vehicles on the planet. Don't believe it? How quickly did mobile phone batteries shrink in size from 1990 to 2000? (A. From a brick to a credit card.)


I sent him the following feedback....

Quote:
Hi Robert

Yes you read it right. Nuclear Power is not CO2-free. Although the reaction is, the fuel does not grow on trees within the compound of a reactor site. There is a lot of "Embodied Energy" in the fuel; consumed in the mining, separation, milling and transportation of the Uranium. High-grade Uranium is becoming depleted very quickly indeed, when the uranium-to-rock ratio drops below 1-in-5000 then as much energy is consumed in making the fuel as is released in the reactor. The CO2 is not saved, it's merely moved from the energy consuming country to the mining country.

Also, Nuclear power stations are run flat out. 100%. They cannot easily adjust their output. Hence they can only provide a small baseload contribution. Thus they are not a good complement to renewable energy.

Also, the Hydrogen car idea is a chimera. The whole system is so unbelievably inefficient it's just not worth doing. Vehicles of the future will most likely be powered from Waste Vegetable Oil and other biofuels.

I can forward you technical papers on these issues if you so wish.

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Bandidoz
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 1:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

He has sent the following reply....

Comments please Wink
Quote:

Hi Jason

Thank you for looking at my website and sending me your feedback. Sorry not to reply for a few days.

We obviously differ a little in our conclusions about nuclear energy. I'll take your points in turn, if I may:

>> Yes you read it right. Nuclear Power is not CO2-free. Although the
>> reaction is, the fuel does not grow on trees within the compound of a
>> reactor site. There is a lot of "Embodied Energy" in the fuel;
>> consumed in the mining, separation, milling and transportation of the Uranium.

Agreed, it is not a completely self-sufficient process and it needs energy and this energy will be at least partly fossil fuels. True. However, it produces far more energy than it consumes, otherwise it could not be economic, and thus reduces our dependency on fossil fuels.

>> High-grade Uranium is becoming depleted very quickly indeed, when the
>> uranium-to-rock ratio drops below 1-in-5000 then as much energy is
>> consumed in making the fuel as is released in the reactor. The CO2
>> is not saved, it's merely moved from the energy consuming country to
>> the mining country.

But this cannot be, or the process would be uneconomic as the cost of consuming that energy would outweigh the revenue produced by the nuclear energy.

>> Also, Nuclear power stations are run flat out. 100%. They cannot
>> easily adjust their output. Hence they can only provide a small
>> baseload contribution. Thus they are not a good complement to renewable energy.

Yes, they cannot be switched on and off to match demand, so they are unlikely ever to give us 100% of our electricity. This is also true of renewables such as wind, wave and solar, of course, which give us power sporadically. However, nuclear could give us hugely more than it already does. We produce about a quarter of our electricity from nuclear, France about three quarters. That difference is immense. And that is without any developments on load-balancing or storage, both of which I expect in the future.

I don't believe that any amount of investment in renewables will make a vast dent in our electricity needs in the next 2-5 decades. However, a programme of nuclear power stations built on existing sites with new safer more efficient designs will enable us to produce a significantly higher proportion of our fuel from carbon free sources, thus helping to minimise global warming. Simply decommissioning the existing nuclear plants will inevitably mean significantly higher greenhouse emissions, as well as increased dependency on gas from insecure sources.

I also expect our energy usage to increase significantly into the future, in contrast to the belief of Greenpeace and others. Yes, we can lag our homes a bit better, use energy efficient bulbs and so on. But we will discover a taste for air-conditioning and other new appliances, we will drive more miles and as we get richer, we will care less and waste more. This is the way of the world, I think. My view is that the problem of global warming can't be solved at the level of the individual using a bit less, because it won't happen and it won't make enough difference. It has to be solved at the level of removing fossil fuels from our energy supply and anything that does this has to be invested in, now. I don't frankly care if we use ten times as much energy (which we will, globally) as long as the user pays for it and it is clean. Let's have as much renewable energy as we can get and let's have as much of the rest of it from nuclear or any other non-carbon source.

My starry-eyed solution also has us running our vehicles on electric batteries, or fuel cells. We charge these up at night at off-peak using intelligent metering to keep the overall load on the grid as steady as possible, thus requiring a constant input and not needing those nasty gas and coal burners to keep being switched on and off.

And it's not just us. China and India are going to have an explosion of vehicle use in the next few decades. We have to get them electric engines before they make American and European vehicle emissions look like the warm-up to the big event.

>> Also, the Hydrogen car idea is a chimera. The whole system is so
>> unbelievably inefficient it's just not worth doing. Vehicles of the
>> future will most likely be powered from Waste Vegetable Oil and other
>> biofuels.

I thought well of this solution until James Lovelock pointed out that vehicles need ten or twelve times as much carbon energy as humans. Hence ten or twelve times as much land will be needed for vehicle fuel as required for human food. We don't have that much land.

>> I can forward you technical papers on these issues if you so wish.

Thank you. Yes, I would be interested in them. If you have URLs or pdf's please send them and I can print them easily. If you have paper copies then I will be happy to pay for any copying and sending costs and thank you in advance for your trouble.

Thanks again for your interest and thoughts.

Best wishes


Robert

PS I hope we can sit down for a drink in thirty years time and congratulate ourselves on how we saved the world together, however it was done.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 8:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
But this cannot be, or the process would be uneconomic as the cost of consuming that energy would outweigh the revenue produced by the nuclear energy.


Exactly. Send him the figures on amount of Uranium reserves according to Uranium jobby jooby, how long this would last at current usage rates (3% energy globally??) and hence how long if increased. Also current CO2 emmissions with relatively high grade Uranium and what this might mean when we have to move the lower.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It could be economically viable if not energetically viable if for example fossil fuel energy in Nigeria is 1p /kWh and the power station could sell electrical energy in the UK is 5p/kWh. I believe currently nuclear energy is energetically viable - but of course we are still using the best ores and only doing half the job by not permanently dealing with waste. Where will the energy come from to manage waste in 50 years time?

Quote:
I also expect our energy usage to increase significantly into the future, in contrast to the belief of Greenpeace and others. Yes, we can lag our homes a bit better, use energy efficient bulbs and so on. But we will discover a taste for air-conditioning and other new appliances, we will drive more miles and as we get richer, we will care less and waste more.
His expectations are fantasy in my opinion. With this world view influencing him he loses credibility in my eyes.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 10:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gave him the benefit of the doubt that he as talking energy economics but you are probably correct in reading it as financial economics.

Looks like another case of EROEI blindness, a sad and debilitating condition that not only effects the vision but also the thought process.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 5:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
How quickly did mobile phone batteries shrink in size from 1990 to 2000? (A. From a brick to a credit card.)


Not the first time I've heard this example but, for every person who had a phone the size of a brick (expensive to buy and use) there must be hundreds of people with tiny phones today (cheap and disposable).

Q If you stacked up all the old brick sized phones in one pile and all todays tiny phones in another pile which pile would get closest to the moon?


Q Which pile produced the most carbon during manufacture?


Q Used the most energy during manufacture?

A I think that it's todays tiny phones every time.
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Joe



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2006 5:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

newmac wrote:
Quote:
But this cannot be, or the process would be uneconomic as the cost of consuming that energy would outweigh the revenue produced by the nuclear energy.


Exactly. Send him the figures on amount of Uranium reserves according to Uranium jobby jooby, how long this would last at current usage rates (3% energy globally??) and hence how long if increased. Also current CO2 emmissions with relatively high grade Uranium and what this might mean when we have to move the lower.


There are about 50 years worth of proven reserves at today's global reactor demand level. However, uranium exploration is in it's infancy compared to say oil or gas exploration. 2 key events put the kybosh on uranium exploration 20 years ago:
1. The development of plutonium-powered reactors and the non-proliferation treaty leading to significant amounts of plutonium being recycled from decommissioned weapons flooding nuclear fuel markets.
2. Chernobyl destroyed public confidence in reactor safety, effectively stopping any new nuclear build and killing new growth in global uranium demand.
Put these events into the context of already having discovered sufficient reserves of rich ores to last over 70 years (at the time), and it becomes clear why nobody has bothered looking for new deposits.

So, restarting uranium exploration could lead to significant new reserve discoveries - it is conceivable that we haven't found uranium's equivalent of Ghawar yet.

Also, the cost of uranium as a fraction of the overall costs of nuclear generation is much smaller than that of coal & gas - the majority of nuclear's costs are capital and highly skilled labour - so a significant rise in the price of uranium (potentially to the point where it becomes economical to extract the uranium present in seawater) could be absorbed quite easily. Whether it is still energetically economical to do so at this point is unkown of course.

Add to this breeder reactor technology & fuel reprocessing - the technologies for which exist, but the demand for which hasn't prompted significant development - and the potential exists to make uranium deposits last far, far longer.

Moving to lower grade uranium will indeed increase the CO2 emmissions, but as noted above, this may not necessarily be the case (we may yet discover higher grade deposits in future). Also, if we can design a low-carbon process to extract uranium from sea water, we're onto a winner.

Still, it's difficult to imagine that a 33-fold increase in uranium usage (to make up 99% of today's global energy usage) could be sustained for very long. As ever, we arrive at the idea of a mix of conservation, improved efficiency, diverse energy sources and of course MASSIVE HUMAN DIEOFF Wink
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2006 6:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Joe wrote:
There are about 50 years worth of proven reserves at today's global reactor demand level. However, uranium exploration is in it's infancy compared to say oil or gas exploration.

I'm unconvinced by this line of reasoning. Maybe someone with greater geology knowledge than me can comment but I don't think it's correct to suggest uranium exploration/discovery is analogous too oil exploration/discovery.

The point being that uranium discovery is very easy with no real element of chance involved. Oil discovery is a completely different beast since as we all know it depends on a number of factors all coming together (suitable pre-historic marine environment, suitable source rock, a visit through the 'oil window' not to shallow or deep, suitable cap rock maintained all the while, suitable permeability for extraction etc). Even when all the evidence suggests the factors are in place wildcats are still usually dry.

Uranium on the other hand gives the game away through radiation and high mass allowing discovery through airborne magnetic-radiometric and possibly gravimetric(?) surveys. In other words it?s easy to find unlike oil.


Joe wrote:
Add to this breeder reactor technology & fuel reprocessing - the technologies for which exist, but the demand for which hasn't prompted significant development - and the potential exists to make uranium deposits last far, far longer.


(lifted from my comments in this thread)
It's a nice idea, based on the principle that U238 can absorb a fast neutron and eject an electron to become Pu-239, Pu-239 can even be used as the source of neutrons, the start up fuel.

But it's complicated with the fast-breeder (anything but fast!) cycle involving the three processes of breeding, reprocessing and fuel fabrication all having to work together. The breeding process doesn't just produce Pu-239 from U238, it also produces Pu-241, americium, curium, rhodium, technetium, palladium and some other nasty stuff - this complicated mixture clogs equipment and a smooth-running breeding process has never been achieved on a large scale.

The reprocessing involves extracting the Pu-239 from this highly radioactive mixture, the radioactivity degrades the solvent again clogging the equipment with an outside chance of a critical mass of plutonium forming! The mixture is also hot and gasses - again large scale smooth-running of this process has never been achieved.

Fabricating the recovered plutonium into fuel is also tricky since large amounts of gamma and alpha radiation is given off meaning the whole process of fabrication, transportation and reactor refuelling has be to done by remote control - again a process yet to be achieved in a large scale smooth-running way. Worth remembering that U238/U235 fuel assemblies aren't actually all that radioactive as they are being fabricated and placed into the reactor.

There's a finite amount of Pu-239 around today - waste from existing thermal reactors and from weapons programme so even if the technology worked, there would be a limit to how many could be built and fuelled with the plutonium we have today. I haven't be able to work out how fast the reaction could potentially be - ie how long does it take a single Pu-239 fast reactor to bread enough plutonium to refuel itself and start up another. I suspect it takes a long time, limiting the rate of growth.
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Joe



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PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2006 1:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

clv101 wrote:
Joe wrote:
There are about 50 years worth of proven reserves at today's global reactor demand level. However, uranium exploration is in it's infancy compared to say oil or gas exploration.

I'm unconvinced by this line of reasoning. Maybe someone with greater geology knowledge than me can comment but I don't think it's correct to suggest uranium exploration/discovery is analogous too oil exploration/discovery.

The point being that uranium discovery is very easy with no real element of chance involved. Oil discovery is a completely different beast since as we all know it depends on a number of factors all coming together (suitable pre-historic marine environment, suitable source rock, a visit through the 'oil window' not to shallow or deep, suitable cap rock maintained all the while, suitable permeability for extraction etc). Even when all the evidence suggests the factors are in place wildcats are still usually dry.

Uranium on the other hand gives the game away through radiation and high mass allowing discovery through airborne magnetic-radiometric and possibly gravimetric(?) surveys. In other words it?s easy to find unlike oil.


Sorry, allow me to clarify: I quite agree that technically, oil and uranium exploration are very different. By "in it's infancy" I was referring purely to the amount of exploration conducted so far as a fraction of the total amount of effort required to find the entire endowment (of either resource). To plug some arbitrary numbers in for illustrative purposes we could say something like:

"We've done 75% of the oil exploration that we'll ever do, but only 50% of the uranium prospecting."

The relative ease of locating the different resources is obviously relevant, but in terms of quantifying actual reserves, I'd suggest it's not as important as whether or not anyone's actually done the work on the ground.

I won't pick up the breeder reactor thread if it's discussed elsewhere.
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 03, 2006 10:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sent him the following reply
Quote:
Hi Robert

Sorry for the long delay in replying. Try these for some articles:

http://www.powerswitch.org.uk/portal/images/stories/presentations/flemingonnuclear.ppt

http://www.powerswitch.org.uk/Downloads/audio/03_david_fleming_nuclear.mp3

http://www.uic.com.au/graphics/UprodWorld.gif

http://www.feasta.org/documents/energy/nuclear_power.htm

http://www.energybulletin.net/news.php?cat=7

http://www.stormsmith.nl/

http://www.321energy.com/editorials/deruijter/deruijter050906.html

http://www.energybulletin.net/4541.html

Interesting to see "The Skeptical Environmentalist" on your reading list. When I had a browse through that book, there was no mention whatsoever about Peak Oil, and Lomborg projected oil to remain at $30/barrel into the foreseeable future. From that alone I could see his work was skewed (i.e. not capturing the full picture).

I also picked up Lovelock's "The Revenge of Gaia" recently, and in it he says there is a limited supply of high-grade Uranium ore in the world. He then says there's plenty more low-grade, however from knowing how polluting its use is (in CO2 terms alone) he is shooting his own argument (of "nuclear being the CO2 sticking plaster") in the foot.

The continuation of the present level of Nuclear Electricity can only be maintained for a few decades. After that, we will be forced to adapt to a low energy world, when oil and gas have been more heavily depleted. It merely delays the inevitable, and may provide a false sense of security that "the energy problem is fixed". Not to mention that the waste left behind will have to be dealt with in a world struggling to meet energy and food production needs. Also, note also that nuclear only provides 20% of our electricity supply, and that electricity is a third of end-use energy. In other words, nuclear only provides 6% of end-use energy. Even maintaining existing levels of nuclear generation is not going to plug the gap left behind by oil and gas depletion, and it's not going to make much of a difference in CO2 terms even if it was CO2-free (and we know that it isn't).

I would suggest adding the following titles to your reading list:

http://www.DODGY TAX AVOIDERS.co.uk/Partys-Over-Fate-Industrial-Societies/dp/1905570007/sr=8-1/qid=1159909287/ref=pd_ka_1/202-1951959-7325442?ie=UTF8&s=books

http://www.DODGY TAX AVOIDERS.co.uk/Long-Emergency-Converging-Catastrophes-Twenty-first/dp/1843544539/ref=pd_sbs_b_2/202-1951959-7325442?ie=UTF8

http://www.DODGY TAX AVOIDERS.co.uk/Half-Gone-Global-Energy-Crisis/dp/1846270057/sr=1-1/qid=1159909335/ref=pd_bowtega_1/202-1951959-7325442?ie=UTF8&s=books

http://www.DODGY TAX AVOIDERS.co.uk/Energy-Beyond-Oil-Could-Sixty/dp/1905237006/sr=1-3/qid=1159909391/ref=sr_1_3/202-1951959-7325442?ie=UTF8&s=books

http://www.DODGY TAX AVOIDERS.co.uk/o/ASIN/0865715653/ref=s9_asin_title_1/202-1951959-7325442?%5Fencoding=UTF8&coliid=I1IXAAYNSSMS02&colid=2EM3ILOJCHNXB

http://www.DODGY TAX AVOIDERS.co.uk/gp/product/1844071448/ref=pd_ys_pym_all_1/202-1951959-7325442?ie=UTF8

DVD : http://www.endofsuburbia.com/


Have you seen Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" yet? It was quite staggering to see what's happening with Greenland's ice sheet. It's not melting, it's disintegrating. Also, in the film he states there is zero doubt of climate change being man-made in peer-reviewed articles, as opposed to 50-ish% in the "popular press".

All the best,

Jason

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