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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 15, 2014 6:14 pm 
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gcarlin wrote:
Big difference: a private company doesn't put a gun to my head and force me to pay for their failed R&D. I have the option to not buy anything from a private company. If I don't pony up my taxes to the government every year they send men with guns to extract their pound of flesh. Private businesses that have the potential to go out of business if they waste money have much more incentive to keep costs low. In the aggregate, the free market is much more efficient at innovation than any government body.


Thanks to limited Liability this is no longer true.
Start ups often go bustafter a few months, leaving enormous debts which are essentially picked up by society.
You end up paying for it either way, its just not quite as apparent with private companies.

Private companies that fund research are then put in a position to extract enormous profits from the IP they end up controlling. If the state controls IP then that means you essentially control the IP through the democratic process.
No rentiers extracting enormous amounts from a patent for god knows how long.


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 15, 2014 8:47 pm 
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unless they are named solindra the stockholders pay the costs of a failed indivever.


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 15, 2014 10:17 pm 
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E Ireland wrote:

Thanks to limited Liability this is no longer true.
Start ups often go bustafter a few months, leaving enormous debts which are essentially picked up by society.
You end up paying for it either way, its just not quite as apparent with private companies.


At least with private research the people doing the research have a large share of the risk. If what they invest in does not work out they are out of a job. Government workers and private entities contracted by the government have a small share of the risk, sometimes they have no real risk. Without their own future on the line people will pursue any folly, it's human nature.

If the government puts out a bid for people that can turn lead into gold there will be people that will submit bids. The people that get the contract will make every effort to appear to work on the task so as to continue getting the government money. Documents will be produced. Extensive records kept. All to create the illusion of money well spent.

Why would the government even propose bidding for people that can turn lead into gold? Because there are people that won elections that are willing to spend other people's money freely on impossible tasks to divert funds to people that got them into office.

With private entities there might be government backed loans, limited liability corporations, and other means to insulate personal risk from the corporate risk but that is nothing compared to a government contract. Corporations pre-date governments. In effect a government is just a big limited liability corporation.

E Ireland wrote:
Private companies that fund research are then put in a position to extract enormous profits from the IP they end up controlling. If the state controls IP then that means you essentially control the IP through the democratic process.
No rentiers extracting enormous amounts from a patent for god knows how long.


You make it sound like the government gains nothing from successful private corporations. The government gains by tax revenue. In the very least the government gains by having people happy and occupied, people less likely to riot and more likely to vote.

The difference between something like a small business loan and a government contract is the person that takes out the loan also takes out risks. If the person profits from the successful business then so does the government in collecting interest and future taxes. If the person goes bust then, of course, the government loses out on the deal.

As I see it if these electric car companies, solar panel companies, and what not actually, truly, and honestly thought they had a winner on their hands they would not have gone to the government to ask for a grant. What they would have done is ask for a loan, from the government or a bank, or go around soliciting for investors. That way if they win they win big. If they have a loan then they own the IP and they can license that out to make piles of cash.

If these people go to the government and ask for a subsidy under some "green" energy initiative then the government owns the IP, or a share of it. If they win then they don't make so much money because the government takes their cut. If they win the government can hand out the IP to their competitors. What they do get is a guarantee of cash from the government. They know they have some minimal amount of cash from the government. If they don't produce the government does not take that cash away. In fact, if they don't produce then they can go back to the government and claim they need more time and money to produce. There is little to no real incentive to produce.

I do not believe every government funded effort is a scam. Having been in the military and worked for a government contractor I know that there are some things that cannot be made by anything other than a government contract. A canopy that conceals items beneath it from overhead radar does not have a large market, only a military would have any interest in it. If done well enough then it becomes a military advantage that cannot be revealed to adversaries as it could be used against us.

I have family members that have patents that were the result of government funded efforts. I have a personal interest in seeing government funded research becoming profitable. I also know that a large part of that profit would be shared by a government entity. The problem I see is that solar power, wind energy, and electric cars have been researched for a century, perhaps even longer. We have not seen much progress despite gobs of government funds dumped into that research. The Department of Energy has been the government entity behind funding this effort to turn lead into gold for forty years. What do you call doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result?

In my mind the Department of Energy is an example of the inmates running the asylum. They keep throwing money at wind and solar even though the results are terrible. At the same time the Department of Defense has to keep what energy research they are doing under the radar to keep the Department of Energy from killing it. Why should the DoD fear the DoE? Perhaps because they have shown insane behavior in the past.

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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 16, 2014 4:36 am 
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Kurt Sellner wrote:
At least with private research the people doing the research have a large share of the risk. If what they invest in does not work out they are out of a job.

This is the reason for the development of increasingly agressive 'spin-outs' of promising research.
Researchers are then TUPEd (a British term for transferring staff) into the spin out to conduct the research - if the research falls through the spin out collapses and the staff are laid off.... and immediately taken on again by the parent.
The losses run up by the spin off corporation are written off because the parent company are off the hook beyond the £1 they promise to pay as part of the winding up of the company (which is normally a Company Limited by Guarantee), the spin off also has no property other than the now worthless Intellectual Property as they leased all the equipment they used from the parent.
Kurt Sellner wrote:
Government workers and private entities contracted by the government have a small share of the risk, sometimes they have no real risk. Without their own future on the line people will pursue any folly, it's human nature.

That assumes that all Government staff and researchers are purely economic beings that do the job so they can take home a pay cheque at the end of the day.
My own experience of academia is that while these people do exist, for the most part people do research because they like doing research and only seek to obtain sufficient money to allow them to keep doing research - the quality of life experienced by most academics is not brilliant considering their level of training.
And it is one of the most important tenets of science that research and development that is done properly is never really a 'failure'. Null results are still valid results that are worth something - for instance in my first degree's final project we attempted to synthesise a heavily substituted porphyrin system to run tests on it, due to previously unknown steric hindrance problems we were unable to synthesise the porphyrin system so our project report ended up being on a rather different topic to the originally assigned one (about our failure to manage the synthesis and the explanation we developed for this).
Kurt Sellner wrote:
Why would the government even propose bidding for people that can turn lead into gold? Because there are people that won elections that are willing to spend other people's money freely on impossible tasks to divert funds to people that got them into office.

This is primarily a problem with the runaway election process in America that manages to expend billions of dollars every electoral cycle.
This is nowhere near such a large problem in Britain where the entire general election and campaign only costs ~£50m and as such there is far less incentive to obtain electoral funds through corruption and pork barrel spending as electoral parties are already resourced near to the permitted limits already.
In fact someone was pilloried for a donation of ~£100,000 because it was percieved as an attempt to 'buy' the election.
Kurt Sellner wrote:
With private entities there might be government backed loans, limited liability corporations, and other means to insulate personal risk from the corporate risk but that is nothing compared to a government contract. Corporations pre-date governments. In effect a government is just a big limited liability corporation.

While the governemnt is a 'big limited liability corporation' it is a corporation in which all of society can considered to be a shareholder - when you consider that a corporation's only responsibility is to its shareholders my position becomes clearer I would hope.

Kurt Sellner wrote:
You make it sound like the government gains nothing from successful private corporations. The government gains by tax revenue. In the very least the government gains by having people happy and occupied, people less likely to riot and more likely to vote.

That assumes the corporation pays significant quantities of tax, this is increasingly unlikely in the modern world - for instance Starbuck's in the UK supposedly makes a huge loss every year and is for some reason stilll increasing its number of shops despite this.
There is little difference to the UK government whether the breakthrough is made in China or in the UK, in either case it will recieve little to no benefit from the development.

Kurt Sellner wrote:
The difference between something like a small business loan and a government contract is the person that takes out the loan also takes out risks. If the person profits from the successful business then so does the government in collecting interest and future taxes. If the person goes bust then, of course, the government loses out on the deal.

As I see it if these electric car companies, solar panel companies, and what not actually, truly, and honestly thought they had a winner on their hands they would not have gone to the government to ask for a grant. What they would have done is ask for a loan, from the government or a bank, or go around soliciting for investors. That way if they win they win big. If they have a loan then they own the IP and they can license that out to make piles of cash.

If these people go to the government and ask for a subsidy under some "green" energy initiative then the government owns the IP, or a share of it. If they win then they don't make so much money because the government takes their cut. If they win the government can hand out the IP to their competitors. What they do get is a guarantee of cash from the government. They know they have some minimal amount of cash from the government. If they don't produce the government does not take that cash away. In fact, if they don't produce then they can go back to the government and claim they need more time and money to produce. There is little to no real incentive to produce.

I do not believe every government funded effort is a scam. Having been in the military and worked for a government contractor I know that there are some things that cannot be made by anything other than a government contract. A canopy that conceals items beneath it from overhead radar does not have a large market, only a military would have any interest in it. If done well enough then it becomes a military advantage that cannot be revealed to adversaries as it could be used against us.

I have family members that have patents that were the result of government funded efforts. I have a personal interest in seeing government funded research becoming profitable. I also know that a large part of that profit would be shared by a government entity. The problem I see is that solar power, wind energy, and electric cars have been researched for a century, perhaps even longer. We have not seen much progress despite gobs of government funds dumped into that research. The Department of Energy has been the government entity behind funding this effort to turn lead into gold for forty years. What do you call doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result?

In my mind the Department of Energy is an example of the inmates running the asylum. They keep throwing money at wind and solar even though the results are terrible. At the same time the Department of Defense has to keep what energy research they are doing under the radar to keep the Department of Energy from killing it. Why should the DoD fear the DoE? Perhaps because they have shown insane behavior in the past.

I think the problem is the lack of urgency from the top of the administration.
As we saw with NASA if they were given a concrete target and told to go to work they will achieve it.
But this vague "make progress" 'target' given to Government departments breeds a lacklustre view that there is no rush to do anything.
For instance NASA was idled after Apollo and now spends ~$17bn/yr and achieves nothing for it - if it had been given targets such as achieving reductions in orbital lift or somesuch it would be in a far better situation today.
The same thing seems to be happening at the DoE in the US and also at the DECC in the UK.

If we had a crash programme tommorow with the aim of developing something with well defined goals then we would get somewhere - put the political classes who win the elections have no idea what they should be developing and do not want to split their own vote by making choices.
To quote the timeless "Yes, Minister" - 'That means making choices, you will please the people that you favour, but you will infuriate everybody else. One vote gained.... ten lost'.


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 17, 2014 10:07 pm 
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Quote:
That assumes that all Government staff and researchers are purely economic beings that do the job so they can take home a pay cheque at the end of the day.


Not all people getting a government paycheck are purely economic beings, but everyone needs to eat so they will do what they can to make a living. That means people will do research in what they know to be impossible so long as they get paid for it. I heard something on the radio today that sums up many of the problems of government spending, there is nothing as abundant as other people's money. There are politicians that will write checks to fund all kinds of research, and they are willing to do so because they don't have to put their own money on the line.

Quote:
That assumes the corporation pays significant quantities of tax, this is increasingly unlikely in the modern world - for instance Starbuck's in the UK supposedly makes a huge loss every year and is for some reason stilll increasing its number of shops despite this.


Even if the corporation does not pay any taxes the employees will. They will pay income tax, sales tax, property tax, and all kind of fees and fines. The government is very interested in having private businesses be successful and people get employed. That is why they will tolerate corporations not producing tax revenue directly.

Quote:
I think the problem is the lack of urgency from the top of the administration.


That is certainly part of it. In the USA we have an abundance of coal and natural gas. I've seen claims that we have more oil reserves under the ground than Saudi Arabia. As expensive as we perceive energy to be right now it is still cheaper than generations before us could have imagined.

I have seen ample evidence that we don't get any real energy output from wind power. With wind being so unpredictable there must be reserves on hand, and these reserves are not as efficient as base load power. This combination of unpredictable wind and inefficient reserve power supply it is quite possible we are burning more fossil fuels than if we didn't have the wind power at all. But we put up with it because we still have cheap power, the wealth to spare, the promise (or illusion) that things will improve, and politics driving it all.

If there was a real urgency to develop energy infrastructure then a lot of the politics that drive the current government funding of energy infrastructure would change real quick. I think back to the energy shortages that drove the creation of the Department of Energy in the first place. If we had something like that happen again we'd be drilling oil in the USA like no one has ever seen. We'd also likely see the federal government actually start to issue licenses to build up nuclear power.

I was just listening to some people on the radio talk about how close we were to blackouts in the USA this last winter. There was no reserve power generation in certain areas of the nation. The federal government has shut down so many coal power plants, and the winter was so cold, that if just one power plant went down there would have been cascade failures over a large portion of the nation. The federal government is ordering more coal power plants to shut down this year.

Expect to see blackouts in the USA next winter. That should create some sense of urgency.

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Disclaimer: I am an engineer but not a nuclear engineer, mechanical engineer, chemical engineer, or industrial engineer. My education included electrical, computer, and software engineering.


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 18, 2014 4:32 pm 
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Kurt Selner wrote:

"There are politicians that will write checks to fund all kinds of research, and they are willing to do so because they don't have to put their own money on the line."

Good! We just need a few of them to write the check to pay for a LFTR pilot plant.

"Expect to see blackouts in the USA next winter. That should create some sense of urgency."

OK! We'll get that pilot plant yet.


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 18, 2014 8:02 pm 
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The British have been doing the unusual in the nuclear energy in the past. They are still running graphite moderated, gas cooled plants. They also have done so much of reprocessing that they have plutonium to burn-in all the senses of the term. Still, they are not using it to burn the simultaneously recovered uranium or thorium. They are buying the world's costliest PWR.
The Americans, who claim to be the inventors of nuclear energy and run the maximum nuclear capacity have given up on recycling of used nuclear fuel. Some of the states have stopped new nuclear till the used fuel is disposed off.
The French, who led in the fast reactors for some time, have given up on them and may reduce dependence on nuclear.
The biggest uranium producers the Kazakhs, the Canadians and the Australians are not building any nuclear power plants.
For a comprehensive plan and its executions you have to look to China, who need the most energy.


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 19, 2014 5:52 am 
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We have been burning recovered uranium for decades.
Magnox depleted uranium was recycled at the gaseous diffusion plant at Capenhurst to make substitute natural uranium for AGR fuel production - this ceased when it was deemed uneconomic to continue.

The cheapest option for the plutonium at this point is going to turn out to be to do nothing and leave it where it is or to dispose of it by CANMOX.


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 20, 2014 3:34 am 
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The costs and benefits of various things change from time to time. The cheapest option of storing the plutonium may turn out to be costly like a dead stuck.
The best utilisation of plutonium would be to burn it with uranium in fast reactors or with thorium in either thermal or fast reactors. The UK is well placed with plutonium stocks to develop a waste burning fast MSR. India or China would probably jump at the chance of buying it for the fast reactor or thorium burning fuel. It could compete with enriched uranium for this use.


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 20, 2014 8:46 am 
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E Ireland wrote:
The cheapest option for the plutonium at this point is going to turn out to be to do nothing and leave it where it is or to dispose of it by CANMOX.
Use it to make PuFFF the magic fuel for LFTR starter charges.

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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 20, 2014 11:01 am 
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But LFTR starter charges requires that there be a significant fleet of LFTRs on the horizon, which there is not.
Holding onto the Plutonium in the hope that a use will eventually materialise for it is not necessarily the best option.

Disposing of the Plutonium now and setting funds aside to produce replacement fuel in the form of enriched uranium could concievably turn out to be cheaper if the cost of the Plutonium storage is significant - which it is in this case - I believe it approaches something like $800/kg/yr or something absurd like that.


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 20, 2014 3:52 pm 
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plutonium storage costs are more security costs then anything else. You only need to piggy pack onto another project(s) that need similar security.


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 22, 2014 2:37 pm 
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Eino wrote:
Kurt Selner wrote:

"There are politicians that will write checks to fund all kinds of research, and they are willing to do so because they don't have to put their own money on the line."

Good! We just need a few of them to write the check to pay for a LFTR pilot plant.


Since the people that lobby for LFTR don't have the same political currency that established energy lobbies have there is little incentive for politicians to write a check for LFTR research. What I see happening in Canada is encouraging. Nuclear power is not competing with coal, oil, and natural gas, they are collaborating. A lot of people have been convinced that nuclear power will allow them to extract more energy in the form of fossil fuels. I believe we will see that same dynamic occur in the USA soon. Right now coal power sees nuclear power as a competitor, when that changes we will see views on nuclear power change.

Eino wrote:
"Expect to see blackouts in the USA next winter. That should create some sense of urgency."

OK! We'll get that pilot plant yet.


It takes weeks to get a natural gas turbine plant approved by government regulators and built, especially if there are blackouts. LFTR is something that even in a time of war and unlimited budgets would take months or years. The materials required for a production LFTR do not exist in quantity, and there are few people trained on its construction and operation. If that is an incorrect assessment then someone correct me.

What people forget about the legal structure in the USA is that the federal government derives its authority from the states. The federal government can place an effective ban on the construction of LFTR and other nuclear power plants only so long as the states allow it to do so. I have a suspicion that we may soon see states that want nuclear power but the federal government will do what it can to stop them. If enough states decide they want nuclear power then there is nothing that the federal government can do to stop them.

When I went to Iowa State University the nuclear engineering program was in the process of being dismantled, as was the research reactor on campus. If the Iowa government decides it wants to restart the program, and construct a new reactor, then they don't necessarily have to ask the federal government for permission. The state can issue nuclear reactor licenses on its own, it only needs to grow the (political) organs to do so.

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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 22, 2014 7:13 pm 
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Columbia University had a research reactor also. What are the odds of building a research reactor in Manhattan today? ROTFLMAO


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 Post subject: Re: A comprehensive plan
PostPosted: Apr 22, 2014 7:40 pm 
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Don't you need a federal license to own the special nuclear material?


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