Commentary by Jon Morrow
Let me preface this commentary by saying, Last night I drove a friend’s Tesla model S and it is an extremely cool car. A few months ago I drove a friend’s Chevy Volt, again, an extremely cool car. Their fit, finish, and function, are at, or above, that of their fossil fuel counterparts and so it is unfair to say that I hate these cars simply because they are electric. If I could afford one, I most likely would have one. If I were comparing these cars to cell phones, the Tesla would be an Apple iPhone in a world of flip-phone cars.
A base model Volt cost $34,185 (minus the $7,500 tax credit) and a base model Chevy Cruze costs $17,520. The Volt claims to get an average of 138/mpg and so if you drive 10,000 miles per year for 5 years you are going to use 360 gallons of gasoline. At $3.60 per gallon, that equates to $1,300 of gasoline.
The Chevy Cruze gets 27/mpg city and 46/mpg highway. If we assume all city driving for 10,000 miles per year for 5 years you will consume 1,851 gallons of gasoline. At $3.60 per gallon, that equates to $6,664 of gasoline.
The difference between the price of the cars is $16,665 and the difference between the gasoline usage is only $5,364. The Chevy Volt only starts to make economic sense if you travel on the order of more than 30,000 miles per year and most Americans travel between 10,000 and 20,000 miles per year. Of course, if you are an over the road salesman that travels vast distances the Chevy Volt is a great choice for you. Add in the $7,500 electric car tax incentive and you can begin to get close to making electric cars look attractive to the average American driver, but not quite.
The Tesla Model S starts at $69,600 and is an all-electric car. It has a range of about 300 miles on a full charge. It is not fair to compare a Tesla model S to a Chevy Volt, well, because it is just so much more of a luxury car compared to the Chevy Volt. The Cadillac ELR is sort of the luxury version of the Volt and has a base price of $75,000. The Cadillac and Tesla are in a price range that is outside of the average American’s pocketbook.
The less exciting and much less cool Ford Focus Electric and Nissan Leaf are all electric cars that are in a similar price range to the Volt ($28,000 to $34,000). These cars require a large up-front commitment (like the Volt) in the purchase price of the car, and in many places in America where coal fired powered plants have been closed early because of EPA regulations, and electricity costs have doubled to pay for the early closure, an all-electric car is not looking too seductive right now. Couple the high cost of electricity with a short range and I would gander to say these cars are either “feel good” about yourself cars for the environmentally conscious and those that can afford it or are “bragging right” cars for those pursuing a tech-nirvana lifestyle.
Many environmentalist groups now see the electric car as the answer to grid level storage of electricity to account for the negative effects of the variability of renewables. The theory is that if we all drive all-electric cars – that the batteries in the cars would act as grid level storage and thereby allow a greater use of renewables. The problem is unless gasoline shoots up to the stratosphere in costs and renewables plummet in cost, the electric car just does not make economic sense for the average American (that is not to say it does not make “cool sense”).
The Nissan Leaf and the Ford Focus Electric, more than likely, will never be adopted by high mileage drivers because of their short range and recharge times. They are too expensive for low mileage drivers with the relatively low price of gasoline. This is probably why the Chevy Volt is one of the best selling hybrids (not accounting for government sales).
There is a theory out there that all environmentalists should oppose base-load power plants. Base-load power is normally (and correctly) thought of as coal and nuclear power plants. The theory is we should replace base-load power plants with natural gas peaker plants. The way the theory is laid out sounds reasonable and plausible. By placing many small natural gas peaker plants and renewable plants on the grid and couple that with the battery storage in all-electric cars – we will then have a cheap, clean, and well distributed electrical generation system. The problem with this theory besides gasoline still being too cheap, electricity derived from renewables being too high, battery powered cars having too short of range, and electric cars being too expensive is: natural gas powered peaker plants produce much more CO2 than their natural gas based-load counterparts or baseload nuclear power plants. If the whole idea is producing less CO2, the peaker plant theory just doesn’t work.
An example of the no base-load power theory
An Example of Using the Electric Car for Grid Level Storage
A LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor) has load following capabilities that is able to accommodate the peaks and the valleys that renewable energy creates while producing power at base-load cost and producing no CO2. In this sense a LFTR is renewable energy’s best friend if it does not put renewables out of business due to economic competition.
If a battery technology comes along that can store a massive amount more power, which does look like it is on the horizon, then most likely it would also be used for grid level storage. The economics of a LFTR can make the economics of the electric car look much better because it can radically reduce the cost of electricity. The lower the electricity costs are the more attractive electric cars are to the average American.
Some new Battery Technologies
At the higher temperatures that a LFTR operates at it is possible to produce carbon neutral fuels from seawater. Since carbon neutral hydrocarbon fuel has many times the energy density of batteries, why use battery powered electric cars at all. New Navy technology threatens the entire electric car industry. The thought of combining this seawater to fuel technology with LFTR technology might just make those that own stock in an electric car company shake in their boots.
Commentary by Jon Morrow
Astronomers, astro-biologists, and science fiction writers have long dreamt of terraforming (geo-engineering) planets and their moons — converting barren and alien wastelands into lush and productive habitats for humans and other creatures. These science fiction dreams point to the numerous advantages of distributing life to other planets, solar systems, and eventually to other galaxies, if possible. These dreams argue that such a bold agenda is actually necessary for humans to pursue, if only to ensure the survival of our species from the unavoidable death of our sun. (Our star, like any other, will go through known stages of its existence, eventually converting from hydrogen to helium as its primary fuel source, causing it to expand and destroy at least the first three planets.)
Yet, if greater terraforming/geo-engineering on other worlds holds so much promise, why are we not pursuing it more on planet Earth, for which the feasibility is so much greater, and the costs so much lower — at least, compared to such operations in space? Why are we not transforming our deserts into lush grasslands, forests, and jungles? Surely this would increase the amount of life on our planet, as well as the odds of survival of all species, including those at the brink of extinction. In addition, it would significantly cool a planet that is (in many people’s view) suffering from global warming (whether it is man made or not, even though, personally after this winter, I would enjoy some global warming), and it would absorb a huge amount of carbon, which is the fundamental building block of all life on Earth.
Critics question where we could possibly obtain the fresh water and minerals needed for growing vast tracts of greenery.
The solution: (you guessed it, if you are a regular to this website) a fleet of MSRs (Molten Salt Reactors)
In 2050 there is expected to be about 9.3 billion people sharing our planets resources. Today the world is facing the intertwined challenges of food, water, energy security, and shifting climate problems that are driving traditional agricultural areas to new destinations causing economic problems from drought and famine in some areas, to crop damage from too much rainfall in other areas. None of these challenges are new, and they are not without solutions. At the same time it is clear that we cannot afford a response to one challenge that comes at the expense of another. The greatest challenges of our time are closely interlinked and so solutions will tend to answer many problems.
Today, more than 800 million people are “food insecure”, meaning that they either starve or do not know where their next meal will come from. This situation brings with it large social, humanitarian, and economic consequences. Rising populations by 2050 and third world countries like China and India reaching for first world prosperity status are expected to call for 70 percent more food production globally, and up to 100 percent more food in developing countries, relative to today. Experts agree that it is possible to achieve the increases in food production necessary to feed a population of 9.3 billion in 2050, but only if sufficient and timely investments are undertaken and policies to increase agricultural production are put in place.
Gross investment requirements between 2007 and 2050 for irrigation development and management are estimated at almost US$1 trillion. Moreover land protection and development, soil conservation and flood control will require around US$160 billion, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
The IEA’s Energy Technology Perspectives 2010 presents a baseline scenario assuming no new energy policies. The scenario predicts that primary energy use will rise by 84% by 2050 – and energy-related emissions roughly double – by 2050. Examples of air pollution in China leave little room for doubt that traditional sources of energy are not a solution for 2050 and beyond.
A thorium based MSR revolution has the potential to bring about substantial benefits not just for the environment, but also in enhanced energy security, and accelerated economic development.
Water scarcity already affects a large portion of the global population. And the situation is not expected to improve any time soon: according to UNEP water use for crop irrigation must double by 2050 to meet the Millennium Development Goal on hunger.
Imbalances between availability and demand, degradation of ground- and surface water quality, as well as escalating regional and international competition for water resources are among the key issues that must be addressed.
The livelihoods of more than one billion people in some 100 countries are threatened by drought and more permanent desertification. It is estimated that desertification and land degradation represent an income loss of US$42 billion per year. Further, the barren lands lost annually could have provided 20 million tons of grain.
A LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor), a type of Molten Salt Reactor, could very affordably desalinate massive amounts of sea-water and pump this water vast distances, very economically.
It is estimated that one-fifth of the world’s population does not have access to safe drinking water, and that this proportion will increase due to population growth relative to water resources. The worst-affected areas are the arid and semiarid regions of Asia and North Africa. A UNESCO report in 2002 said that the freshwater shortfall worldwide was then running at some 230 billion m3/yr and would rise to 2,000 billion m3/yr by 2025. Wars over access to water, not simply energy and mineral resources, are conceivable.
Fresh water is a major priority in sustainable development and a major component in providing prosperity. Where it cannot be obtained from streams and aquifers, desalination of seawater or mineralised groundwater is required. An IAEA study in 2006 showed that 2.3 billion people live in water-stressed areas, 1.7 billion of them having access to less than 1000 m3 of potable water per year. With population growth, these figures will increase substantially.
Water can be easily stored, while electricity at utility scale cannot. This suggests two synergies with base-load power generation for electrically-driven desalination: undertaking it mainly in off-peak times of the day and week, and load-shedding in unusually high peak times.
Most desalination today uses fossil fuels, and thus contributes to increased levels of greenhouse gases and potentially to global warming. Total world capacity in mid-2012 was 80 million m³/day (29,200 GL/yr) of potable water, in some 15,000 plants. A majority of these are in the Middle East and north Africa. The largest plant – the $3.8 billion Al-Jubail 2 in Saudi Arabia – has 948,000 m3/day (346 GL/yr) MED-TVC capacity, plus 2745 MWe power generation using gas turbines. The Saudi Saline Water Conversion Corporation (SWCC) takes about 62% of output to supply Riyadh. Two-thirds of the world capacity is processing seawater, and one third uses brackish artesian water. New plants with total capacity of 6 million m3/d are expected to come on line in 2013, according to the International Desalination Association.
The major technology in use and being built today is reverse osmosis (RO) driven by electric pumps which pressurise water and force it through a membrane against its osmotic pressure*. This accounted for 60% of 2011 world capacity of desalinated water. A thermal process, multi-stage flash (MSF) distillation process using steam, was earlier prominent and it is capable of using waste heat from power plants. It accounted for 26% of capacity in 2011. With brackish water, RO is much more cost-effective, though MSF gives purer water than RO. A minority of plants use multiple-effect distillation (MED – 8% of world capacity) or multi-effect vapour compression (MVC) or a combination of these, eg MED-TVC with thermal vapour compression. MSF-RO hybrid plants exploit the best features of each technology for different quality products.
* About 27 Bar, 2700 kPa. Therefore RO needs compression of much more than this.
Desalination is energy-intensive. Reverse Osmosis needs up to 6 kWh of electricity per cubic metre of water (depending on both process and its original salt content), though the latest RO plants such as in Perth, Western Australia, use 3.5 kWh/m3, or 4 kWh/m3 including pumping for distribution. Hence 1 MWe continuous will produce about 4,000 to 6,000 m3 per day from seawater. MSF and MED require heat at 70-130°C and use 25-200 kWh/m³, though a newer version of MED (MED-MVC) is reported at 10 kWh/m3 and competitive with RO. A variety of low-temperature and waste heat sources may be used, including solar energy, so the above kilowatt-hour figures are not properly comparable. For brackish water and reclamation of municipal wastewater RO requires only about 1 kWh/m3. The choice of process generally depends on the relative economic values of fresh water and particular fuels, and whether cogeneration is a possibility.
Forward osmosis (FO) may be used in conjunction with a subsequent process for desalination. The FO draws water through a membrane from a feed solution into a more concentrated draw solution, which is then desalinated without the problems of fouling, such as often encountered with simple RO. FO plants operate in Gibraltar and Oman.
Some 10% of Israel’s water is desalinated, and one large RO plant provides water at 50 cents per cubic metre. It claimed to have the world’s largest seawater RO plant as of late 2013, at Soreq. Malta gets two-thirds of its potable water from RO, and this takes 4% of its electricity supply. Singapore in 2005 commissioned a large RO seawater desal plant supplying 136,000 m3/day – 10% of needs, at 49 cents US per cubic metre, and in 2013 commissioned a 318,500 m3/d RO plant on a build-own-operate basis, costing US$ 700 million, to provide water at US 36 cents/m3. Desalinated seawater will now provide 25% of Singapore’s water, as one of the island state’s Four National Taps, along with local catchment water, imported water, and NEWater, Singapore’s own recycled wastewater.
Saudi Arabia in 2011 obtained 3.3 million m3/d from 27 government-owned (SWCC) seawater desalination plants, 70% of the country’s requirements. Twelve plants, accounting for most of production, use multi-stage flash distillation (MSF) and 7 plants use multi-effect distillation (MED), in both cases the plants are integrated with power plants (cogeneration plants), using steam from the power generation as a source of energy for desalination. Eight plants are single-purpose plants that use reverse osmosis (RO) technology and power from the grid. The UAE is heavily dependent on seawater desalination, much of it with cogeneration plants. Algeria in mid 2013 had 2.1 million m3/d capacity and another 400,000 m3/d is envisaged.
In February 2012 China’s State Council announced that it aimed to have 2.2 to 2.6 million m3/day seawater desalination capacity operating by 2015.
Small and medium sized nuclear reactors are suitable for desalination, often with cogeneration of electricity using low-pressure steam from the turbine and hot seawater feed from the final cooling system. The main opportunities for nuclear plants have been identified as the 80-100,000 m³/day and 200-500,000 m³/day ranges. US Navy nuclear powered aircraft carriers reportedly desalinate 1500 m3/d each for use onboard.
A 2006 IAEA report based on country case studies showed that costs would be in the range ($US) 50 to 94 cents/m3 for RO, 60 to 96 c/m3 for MED and $1.18 to 1.48/m3 for MSF processes, with marked economies of scale. Nuclear power was very competitive at today’s gas and oil prices. A French study for Tunisia compared four nuclear power options with combined cycle gas turbine and found that nuclear desalination costs were about half those of the gas plant for MED technology and about one third less for RO. With all energy sources, desalination costs with RO were lower than MED costs.
The Kwinana desalination plant near Perth, Western Australia, has been running since early 2007 and produces about 140,000 m3/day (45 GL/yr) of potable water, requiring 24 MWe of power for this, hence 576,000 kWh/day, hence 4.1 kWh/m3 overall, and about 3.7 kWh/m3 across the membranes. The plant has pre-treatment, then 12 seawater RO trains with capacity of 160,000 m3/day which feed six secondary trains producing 144,000 m3/day of water with 50 mg/L total dissolved solids. The cost is estimated at A$ 1.20/m3. Discharge flow is about 7% salt. Future WA desalination plants will have more sophisticated pre-treatment to increase efficiency. In August 2011 the state government decided to double the size of its new Southern Water Desal Plant at Binningup plant near Perth to 100 GL/yr, taking the cost to about $1.45 billion. Stage 1 of 50 GL/yr was within the A$ 955 million budget.
At the April 2010 Global Water Summit in Paris, the prospect of desalination plants being co-located with nuclear power plants was supported by leading international water experts.
In the Middle East, a major requirement is for irrigation water for crops and landscapes. This need not be potable quality, but must be treated and with reasonably low dissolved solids.
In Oman, the 76,000 m3/day first stage of a submerged membrane bioreactor (SMBR) desalination plant was opened in 2011. Eventual plant capacity will be 220,000 m3/day. This is a low-cost wastewater treatment plant using both physical and biological processes and which produces effluent of high-enough quality for some domestic uses or reinjection into aquifers.
The feasibility of integrated nuclear desalination plants has been proven with over 150 reactor-years of experience, chiefly in Kazakhstan, India and Japan. Large-scale deployment of nuclear desalination on a commercial basis will depend primarily on economic factors. Indicative costs are US$ 70-90 cents per cubic metre, much the same as fossil-fuelled plants in the same areas.
One obvious strategy is to use power reactors which run at full capacity, but with all the electricity applied to meeting grid load when that is high and part of it to drive pumps for RO desalination when the grid demand is low.
The BN-350 fast reactor at Aktau, in Kazakhstan, successfully supplied up to 135 MWe of electric power while producing 80,000 m³/day of potable water over some 27 years, about 60% of its power being used for heat and desalination. The plant was designed as 1000 MWt but never operated at more than 750 MWt, but it established the feasibility and reliability of such cogeneration plants. (In fact, oil/gas boilers were used in conjunction with it, and total desalination capacity through ten MED units was 120,000 m³/day.)
In Japan, some ten desalination facilities linked to pressurised water reactors operating for electricity production yield some 14,000 m³/day of potable water, and over 100 reactor-years of experience have accrued. MSF was initially employed, but MED and RO have been found more efficient there. The water is used for the reactors’ own cooling systems.
India has been engaged in desalination research since the 1970s. In 2002 a demonstration plant coupled to twin 170 MWe nuclear power reactors (PHWR) was set up at the Madras Atomic Power Station, Kalpakkam, in southeast India. This hybrid Nuclear Desalination Demonstration Project (NDDP) comprises a reverse osmosis (RO) unit with 1800 m3/day capacity and a multi-stage flash (MSF) plant unit of 4500 m³/day costing about 25% more, plus a recently-added barge-mounted RO unit. This is the largest nuclear desalination plant based on hybrid MSF-RO technology using low-pressure steam and seawater from a nuclear power station. They incur a 4 MWe loss in power from the plant.
In 2009 a 10,200 m3/day MVC (mechanical vapour compression) plant was set up at Kudankulam to supply fresh water for the new plant. It has four stages in each of four streams. An RO plant there supplied the plant’s township initially. The full MVC plant is being commissioned in mid 2012, with quoted capacity of 7200 m3/day to supply the plant’s primary and secondary coolant and the local town. Cost is quoted at INR 0.05 per litre (USD 0.9/m3).
A low temperature (LTE) nuclear desalination plant uses waste heat from the nuclear research reactor at Trombay has operated since about 2004 to supply make-up water in the reactor.
Pakistan in 2010 commissioned a 4800 m3/day MED desalination plant, coupled to the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (KANUPP, a 125 MWe PHWR) near Karachi. It has been operating a 454 m3/day RO plant for its own use.
China General Nuclear Power (CGN) has commissioned a 10,080 m3/day seawater desalination plant using waste heat to provide cooling water at its new Hongyanhe project at Dalian in the northeast Liaoning province.
Much relevant experience comes from nuclear plants in Russia, Eastern Europe and Canada where district heating is a by-product.
Large-scale deployment of nuclear desalination on a commercial basis will depend primarily on economic factors. The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is fostering research and collaboration on the issue.
SMART: South Korea has developed a small nuclear reactor design for cogeneration of electricity and potable water. The 330 MWt SMART reactor (an integral PWR) has a long design life and needs refuelling only every 3 years. The main concept has the SMART reactor coupled to four MED units, each with thermal-vapour compressor (MED-TVC) and producing total 40,000 m3/day, with 90 MWe.
CAREM: Argentina has designed an integral 100 MWt PWR suitable for cogeneration or desalination alone, and a prototype in being built next to Atucha. A larger version is envisaged, which may be built in Saudi Arabia.
NHR-200: China’s INET has developed this, based on a 5 MW pilot plant.
Floating nuclear power plant (FNPP) from Russia, with two KLT-40S reactors derived from Russian icebreakers, or other designs for desalination. (If primarily for desalination the twin KLT-40 set-up is known as APVS-80.) ATETs-80 is a twin-reactor cogeneration unit using KLT-40 and may be floating or land-based, producing 85 MWe plus 120,000 m3/day of potable water. The small ABV-6 reactor is 38 MW thermal, and a pair mounted on a 97-metre barge is known as Volnolom floating NPP, producing 12 MWe plus 40,000 m3/day of potable water by reverse osmosis. A larger concept has two VBER-300 reactors in the central pontoon of a 170 m long barge, with ancillary equipment on two side pontoons, the whole vessel being 49,000 dwt. The plant is designed to be overhauled every 20 years and have a service life of 60 years. Another design, PAES-150, has a single VBER-300 unit on a 25,000 dwt catamaran barge.
As an economist, I look at desalination plants that will operate off of natural gas and see potential calamity in our future. Currently, fracking technology has allowed America and other countries to realize an abundance of natural gas, and due to the “law of supply and demand”, natural gas is very cheap right now. Many estimates have put America’s natural gas reserves at between 100 to 300 years, but that was based on the consumption levels of natural gas at the time. When natural gas became much cheaper and we began using more of it and we also realized we could export it and make a profit on it, guess what? It doesn’t last nearly as long. With a much greater use of natural gas and greater and greater exportation expected, the cost is set to rise significantly in 2016 and even more significantly after 2018, and reserves will dwindle in an accelerated fashion. Many experts I talk to believe that to 100 to 300 year natural gas supply to effectively be a 30 to 50 year supply. While the Carlsbad desalination project may seem to be economical now ($1Billion price tag), what happens when the natural gas cycle goes bust in the boom and bust cycle? Water rates will soar! So will electricity rates. But, thorium based MSRs will have more stability in price over a much longer time frame and at a much better price, and dare I say, without any CO2 issues many in California are concerned about.
Additionally, a LFTR can be used to turn trash into fuel when coupled with a technology such as a Plasma Gasifier. Eventually, LFTR can also provide a bridge to produce liquid synthetic transportation fuels from seawater.
With billions of years of supply of the element thorium can I ask again, why aren’t we doing this?
Commentary by Jon Morrow
In the thorium advocacy community, we have all heard the stories as to why “they” will never let thorium-based molten salt reactors (like a LFTR Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor) be built.
Many of us can never identify just who “they” are when these stories are relayed to us.
So many have heard the plight of developing a thorium based MSRs (Molten Salt Reactors) and they just assume some nefarious corporation with its own evil profit motive is preventing the development of this technology. Developing MSRs just makes so much common sense to so many of us that it is hard to conceive as to why we (Americans) are not running at full throttle to develop this technology with so much potential.
The reality is though, that there is not any coordinated effort by corporations acting in their own interest trying to prevent the development of thorium based MSRs. Ironically, it is not “they” it is “us!” It is the orchestrated misperception of a very small and virulently anti-nuclear (and misguided in my opinion) portion of the American public that has prevented the development of new nuclear technologies in America. To reiterate with clarity, it is not a majority of the public that misunderstands nuclear technology, most polls show that it is a very vocal and small minority of Americans. Yet, the perception persist that the American public is anti-nuclear.
If you fear that we will be lacking many vital resources by the year 2050, you are not alone. The estimated 9.3 billion people inhabiting the earth at that time will be very uncomfortable if new and alternate sources of energy such as LFTRs (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors) are not developed to produce vital resources (such as water, clean energy, and fertilizers for food production). Irresponsible fear-based organizations (Physicians for Social Responsibility, Beyond Nuclear, and Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War) propagate doubt and fear in the mind of the public in pursuing any nuclear technology. These organizations and many like them make very passionate arguments that have little to do with evidence that is backed up with science. If we want to make 2050 a much more comfortable place we need to stop worrying about the chicken littles of the world using their megaphones to tell everyone the sky is falling on nuclear energy, because (those of us that believe in unbiased science based outcomes) the science shows the sky is not falling on nuclear energy. To politicians however, the perception still exists that the American public is anti-nuclear because anti-nuclear advocates are so vocal and visible. The old axiom is true the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Politicians are reluctant to touch the nuclear energy topic because it is a perceived hot potato. This means it is very hard to get any politician to take up regulatory reforms concerning nuclear energy as they fear having protesters on the 5 o’clock news at their office. Politicians, even the very educated ones, fear the topic of nuclear energy, because of the very vocal few who oppose nuclear energy.
To those ends, it is very hard to get any politician to support any nuclear technology when natural gas is so plentiful and available and not such a divisive issue.
It is not the big oil, big natural gas, big coal, big wind, or big solar companies standing in the way of MSR development, it is just a tiny, but very vocal portion of the public (that is perceived to be larger than what they are).
Media bias helps Washington politicians and the general public form opinions about nuclear energy. During the Fukushima crisis, ratings for news media increased dramatically as everyone was glued to their television sets or computer screens worried about when the cloud of radiation would affect them. Many Americans do not realize that the Tsunami caused all the death and destruction and not the nuclear power plant. While the perceived cloud of death never made it to our shores in America (or anywhere else for that matter), advertising rates and Nielsen ratings were raised and “big media” reaped the rewards from paying advertisers.
Because nuclear energy and radiation is so misunderstood (due to a poor education system and irresponsible organizations with an agenda) it is easy to make them into the boogey man and get lots of attention (because many know no better). Add to this, the conspiracy theory driven paranoia of the public escalated by those that are entertained by manipulating people with conspiracy theory based websites – and we have a recipe to produce a regulatory environment based upon the unwarranted fears of the public.
Education, education, and more education is needed to break the cycle of fear. Perpetuating conspiracy theories and blaming the non-development of thorium on big corporations, big banks, and other big energy companies needs to stop for any serious grassroots education efforts. Thorium advocates also need to raise their profile by going to mainstream websites and commenting intelligently and posting links to where the public can go to find more information.
We can break the cycle of fear with the public through and we can change public perception by being a vocal advocate and educating our legislators and regulators. If we do not speak up in favor of educated policy then we let uneducated anti-nuclear advocates win.
The Mission: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses and regulates the Nation’s civilian use of radioactive materials to protect public health and safety, promote the common defense and security, and protect the environment.
Well, we do realize there is no “u” in “strategic plan,” but the NRC is drafting its 2014-2018 road map and we want your input before we finalize it.
The plan is updated every four years and is used to guide our work. You may not be aware that all of NRC’s business lines (operating reactors, new reactors, fuel facilities, nuclear materials, etc.) link their annual plans to the strategic plan and all our senior executive performance plans are linked to it as well.
If you’re familiar with our previous Strategic Plan, you’ll notice our mission and strategic goals remain basically unchanged, but the new plan does contain some new components. For example, a vision statement has been added to emphasize the importance, not only of what we achieve, but of how we regulate And there are now three strategic objectives, one for safety and two for security.
Each objective has associated strategies and key activities that will be used to achieve them. For example, this is one of the strategies for the safety objective along with three key activities:
Ensure the NRC’s readiness to respond to incidents and emergencies involving NRC-licensed facilities and radioactive materials, and other events of domestic and international interest.
· Use operational experience and lessons learned from emergency-preparedness exercises to inform the regulatory activities.
· Coordinate with federal, state, local, and tribal partners to strengthen national readiness and response capabilities.
· Employ outreach before, during, and after emergency-preparedness exercises, and increase collaboration and sharing of best practices and lessons learned after emergency-preparedness exercises and incidents.
The goal of the comment period is to take advantage of the collective knowledge of the public – there is a “u” in public, after all — to make sure our plan is as good as it can be.
Why should you take the time to comment? Well, perhaps you are aware of a key external factor that we have missed that could affect the strategies and activities we have planned. Or maybe you have ideas for additional strategies or activities we need to focus on to achieve one of our objectives. This is your opportunity to weigh in and tell us if we are addressing the issues of importance to you.
All comments will be reviewed and incorporated, as appropriate, into a revised plan. The disposition of substantive comments will be included in a Commission paper transmitting the resulting plan to the Commission for their final review and approval.
Please submit your comments online through the federal government’s rulemaking website, www.regulations.gov using Docket ID NRC-2013-0230; or by mail to Cindy Bladey, Chief, Rules, Announcements, and Directives Branch, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: 3WFN-06-44M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001. The comment period is coming quickly. It closes on 04/04/2014. Comments on this blog post cannot be considered, so please use the official channels. More information is also available in the Federal Register Notice.
We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Commentary by Jon Morrow-
The South China Post reported on March 18th that the Chinese government has greatly accelerated its plans to produce a commercialized LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor), which is a type of MSR Molten Salt Reactor. The previous goal set for the development of this reactor was within 25 years and that goal has now been reduced to just 10 years.
In the past, the development of a LFTR by China was due to a massive energy shortage in China. China’s energy shortage is the result of millions of Chinese living in the third world that are dreaming and reaching for a first world lifestyle (that a majority of many Americans and Europeans today enjoy). The adoption of a very shrewd brand of American capitalism by the China government has allowed China the prosperity and wherewithal to pursue scientific endeavors such as the LFTR. These types of projects were previously reserved to capitalist countries like the United States, France, and Canada.
Unfortunately, the economy of America and many other countries has not allowed the pursuit of their own technologies due to their struggling economies. Many economist blame this upon a very expensive regulatory burden that has been imposed upon American companies. Business tend be be like water and tend to flow to countries that have the least costly regulatory burdens. This allows companies to be more competitive in a world with everything else being equal.
The reason given for the acceleration of the LFTR program by the China government is due to smog and air pollution brought on by the massive amount of manufacturing that has left America’s shores and other countries to set up business in China. Many out of work Americans in our struggling economy would like to have that problem. While China is exploiting its natural resources to produce prosperity for its citizens, America has adopted a policy of putting many of its natural resources off limits to protect the environment.
What is particularly ironic is that MSR technology was invented by America and Americans conceived the LFTR, but the same regulatory environment in America that has pushed American jobs overseas also prevents American companies from commercializing its own conceptual technology. A technology that could make many dirtier forms of energy naturally obsolete in a free market economy and give America a competitive edge.
China’s commercialization of LFTR would be a game changer that would allow an already very competitive China to have much more affordable energy and have a pollution free environment.
America’s energy policy is currently largely focused upon the development of renewables, and in particular, those renewable technologies that are not concentrated, base-load, or are power upon demand. Arguably, this means America has set its energy policy upon developing the most inefficient forms of renewable energy (wind and solar as compared to hydro or geothermal), which to economist (that are not scientifically biased and believe in the free-market system), means America is building energy expense and inefficiency into the foundation of its already struggling and un-competetive manufacturing arsenal.
China produces many of the solar panels and wind turbine generators (due to China’s near monopoly of rare earth elements used in their construction) used in America’s fleet of renewables, while China itself has gambled its present day prosperity and its future upon the development of nuclear technologies to provide safe, reliable, and clean energy.
Wind and solar in America struggle just to compete with coal and natural gas, LFTR is predicted to produce electricity at half that of natural gas and coal (and do so with less environmental harm to the planet than the large footprint of wind and solar) while producing no long-lived waste. Many Americans are used to living with Washington making bad energy policy decisions but, many cannot understand why we are aiding the Chinese in the development of commercializing MSR technology. To the layperson and even many experts this seems to be akin to shooting ourselves in our own foot. While America struggles to climb the ladder out of economic recession our legislators have adopted a policy of pursuing clean energy at any cost and a policy of assisting China at pursuing the development of clean and safe energy at an affordably competetive cost.
Shouldn’t we be pursuing clean, efficient, safe, and affordable energy?
Who are the winners in this current strategy?
-Story by Jon Morrow
Cleveland, Ohio- Radiophobia (fear of all forms of radiation) has plagued the nuclear industry since its inception but its rise to prominence hit a fever pitch after the Three Mile Island accident and the movie the China Syndrome was released. Today, we can see that Americans are not nearly as afraid of nuclear energy as they were in the 1970′s – even after an onslaught of miss-information being bandied about on many major websites and major media outlets- about the Fukushima Daiichi accident.
Many experts claimed Fukushima was the death nell of the nuclear industry.
But, according to a recent scientific public opinion poll of 800 Americans conducted for the Energy From Thorium Foundation, 3% of all Americans strongly like nuclear energy, 60% like nuclear energy, 7% dislike nuclear energy, and 30% strongly dislike nuclear energy. 63% of Americans have a positive view of nuclear energy and 37% have a negative view of nuclear energy. So, why is the media so disconnected from the public perception of nuclear energy? Do people trust their media sources anymore? It would seem not!
But a better question may be ”Why are the people that hate nuclear energy so passionate about hating nuclear energy and why are the people that like nuclear energy not passionate about it?” Is it because one set of demographics believes the media and the other set distrusts the media?
The results of the survey are somewhat confusing and so is anecdotal evidence that would seem to contradict the survey. Man on the street unscientific surveys seem to show a majority of Americans believe more people died from the Fukushima Daiichi accident than from the tidal wave that hit Japan. The reality is, and yes, not everything is accounted for with Fukushima, but as it stands right now there were no deaths at Fukushima due to radiation poisoning. The logical question is “If so many Americans believe that thousands of Japanese citizens have died from radiation exposure, why are they so positive on nuclear energy?”
Many will assume as we do that the American public believes that when America does nuclear, we do it right and we do it safely, and that other countries do not have the strict safety standards we have here in America. This may lead one to conclude as the Energy From Thorium Foundation does that the American public has a high degree of confidence in the professionals at the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) and that the majority of the public can ascertain a value in having nuclear energy.
While the media is very anti-nuclear and pro-renewable energy, additional polling shows an even greater disconnect with the media and the public. In another scientific poll of 1,000 Americans, 58% of Americans had a negative view of wind and solar and only 42% had a positive view of wind and solar. Of the 58% that held a negative view of wind and solar, 100% of the respondents cited reasons that they believed that these technologies were not economical. Of the reasons that the public supports wind and solar, only 47% agreed was because of the perceived benefits to the environment. 53% of the public that supports wind and solar does so not because of the technology but because they dislike coal and oil companies and want to break up and put out of business these perceived monopolies.
The poll demonstrates that the public is not that out of touch with the realities of our energy problems and shows that many industry professionals that predicted the end of the nuclear renaissance after Fukushima may of jumped the gun and over-estimated the power of the press.
The Energy From Thorium Foundations feels the results of this poll is encouraging and signals that those that advocate for nuclear technologies need to be more vocal and need to educate the public on mis-perceptions presented by the media.
Jiang Mianheng gave the lead-off presentation at the International Thorium Energy Organization 2012 meeting in Shanghai, sponsored by the Shanghai Institute of Nuclear and Applied Physics and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Jiang Mianheng is the son of former president Jiang Zemin and a leader of CAS. After publication of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors in the July/August 2010 American Scientist he led a delegation to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to learn more about the ORNL molten salt reactors experience. In January 2011 the CAS announced a $350 million 5 year thorium MSR project engaging 400 people.
Videographer Gordon McDowell provided this initial draft of Jiang’s presentation. Jiang explains China’s GDP growth, urbanization, and increasing energy demand and concern about environmental impacts of burning fossil fuels. He presents the potential for using LFTR to solve these problems. You might spot some graphics from the American Scientist article and the Aim High presentation.
After his presentation I presented him a copy of THORIUM: energy cheaper than coal, which he insisted that I autograph.
Our world is beset by global warming, pollution, resource conflicts, and energy poverty. Millions die from coal plant emissions. We war over mideast oil. Food supplies from sea and land are threatened. Developing nations’ growth exacerbates the crises.
Few nations will adopt carbon taxes or energy policies against their economic self-interests to reduce global CO2 emissions. Energy cheaper than coal will dissuade all nations from burning coal. Innovative thorium energy uses economic persuasion to end the pollution, to provide energy and prosperity to impoverished peoples, and to create energy security for all people for all time.
We can solve our global energy and environmental crises straightforwardly – through technology innovation and free-market economics. We need a disruptive technology – energy cheaper than coal. If we offer to sell to all the world the capability to produce energy that cheaply, all the world will stop burning coal. It’s as simple as that. Rely on the economic self-interest of 7 billion people in 250 nations to choose cheaper, nonpolluting energy.
Energy is about 7% of the economy. We, and especially developing nations, can not afford to pay much more for energy. Many environmentalists advocate replacing fossil fuel energy with wind and solar energy sources, blind to the fact that these are 3-4 times more costly! Global economic prosperity requires lower energy costs, not higher costs from taxes or mandated costly wind and solar sources. THORIUM: energy cheaper than coal advocates lowering costs for clean energy – a market-based environmental solution.
1 Introduction: an introduction to world crises related to energy and the environment, and the potential for good solutions.
2 Energy and civilization: the relationship between energy, life, and human civilization, easy energy science, life’s dependence on energy flows, civilization’s progress with the energy of the Industrial Revolution, and the 21st century crises of global warming and energy consumption.
3 An unsustainable world: global warming and its terrifying implications for water, agriculture, food, and civilization; depletion of economical petroleum reserves, deadly air pollution from burning coal, increased competition for natural resources from a growing population, and the solution of new energy technology, cheaper than coal.
4 Energy sources: the character and cost of current and principal emerging energy sources: coal, oil, natural gas, hydropower, solar, wind, biomass, and nuclear.
5 Liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR): the history and technology of liquid fuel nuclear reactors, the Oak Ridge demonstration molten salt reactors, thorium, LFTR, the denatured molten salt reactor (DMSR), builders, and possible contenders for energy cheaper than coal.
6 Safety: the safety of molten salt reactors, comparisons to alternative energy sources, radiation risks, waste, weapons, and fear.
7 A sustainable world: environmental benefits of thorium energy cheaper than coal: reduced CO2 emissions, reduced petroleum consumption, synthetic fuels for vehicles, hydrogen power, water conservation, desalination.
8 Energy policy: current confused policies; failure to reduce CO2 emissions, subsidies, recommendations, leadership.
“This book presents a lucid explanation of the workings of thorium-based reactors. It is must reading for anyone interested in our energy future.”
Leon Cooper, Brown University physicist and 1972 Nobel laureate for superconductivity
“As our energy future is essential I can strongly recommend the book for everybody interested in this most significant topic.”
George Olah, 1994 Nobel laureate for carbon chemistry
“Hargraves’ book contains a wealth of information that I’ve never seen anywhere. Very informative and insightful.”
Steve Kirsch, San Jose entrepreneur and philanthropist
“The book describes mankind’s hope for a sustainable and prosperous future: high-temperature thorium-based reactors. The writing is clear and factual, and the book will helpful to anyone interested in energy choices.”
Meredith Angwin, Director of Energy Education for the Ethan Allen Institute
“A terrific book-length description of the need for energy solutions for this century, leading the reader to the advantages of thorium fissioning in a fluid of of molten salt. He explains the technical basis for how such a power plant works and why it can be cheaper than making power from coal — the dominant fuel for power plants today. This book will be a valuable aid for the many people who will take this demonstrated technology of the 1960s at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee through the rebirth phase and into deployment in this century possibly to dominate the power plants by the later part of the 21st century. Another book about why the molten salt reactor development option was abruptly stopped in early 1970s, even though its demonstration was successful and the use of thorium held great promise is Super Fuel by Richard Martin (2012). For background the reader is referred to The First Nuclear Era by Alvin Weinberg (1994).”
Ralph Moir, retired Lawrence Livermore Laboratory physicist, expert in fusion and molten salt reactors
43 years ago today, man first walked on the Moon.
Three years ago today, I went to Google for the first time and gave a talk there. It was a formative event in more than one way. I met Chris Uhlik, who now serves on the Board of Advisors for Flibe Energy. Chris was one of the people, who, in years to come, was a powerful influence on my thinking and was part of the reason we started Flibe Energy. I met Iain McClatchie in person, and Iain has been another voice of advice and guidance as we have attempted to move the development of LFTR forward. And I got to meet “Google”…seeing the campus and the people, how and where they worked, it also had a lot to do with shaping my thoughts for how a high-technology company could and should be.
I hope you enjoy the interview, which you can download in a variety of different audio files or read the transcript (but I think the audio versions are better).
To that end, eight sites were identified around England and Wales that would be permitted to host new nuclear plants. Each of these sites has or has had a nuclear reactor there previously. Several consortia of utilities and vendors formed to develop new reactors at each of these sites, and one of them, Horizon Nuclear Power, was a joint venture of the German utility E.ON and RWE npower, a UK-based electricity and gas supply generation company.
Horizon had planned to build new reactors at the Wylfa and Oldbury sites in the UK, but today they announced that they would not, citing the global economic crisis and the financial after-effects of Germany’s plan to phase out nuclear power.
Last fall, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) announced that they were pulling out of the NuGeneration consortium, which has planned to build new reactors at the Sellafield site in Cumbria. The NuGeneration consortium still plans to continue without SSE.